“And If I Die Before I Sleep”

10 July 1998
[Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Juan Jose Campanella.
MAIN - Season Four: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13

"...that's the last masterpiece I'm boiling down to a 15 minute potboiler."

"Simmer down, Betty."

With this play on words, we're soon to the set up for this week's plot. (Considering how much coffee is imbibed this episode it's an opportune time to mention experts recommend you do not boil coffee; it induces a bitter taste.)

We don't know what goes on between episodes so we don't know how much Victor and Betty have talked about events since he left for England. But they seem comfortable discussing Victor's death and Betty's reaction to it. The subject comes up in passing as Betty presents Victor with a script for an epic series that would even give J. Michael Straczynski pause: a saga encompassing all of Shakespeare's Italian plays!

Scott bursts in complaining. He doesn't want to tell Pittsburgh about an accomplishment of a competitor station, WTN of Philadelphia. WTN probably has a strong signal since Philadelphia is over 300 miles away and (at least as of "World of Tomorrow") WENN only covers a 70 mile radius. Of course, even if WTN's signal doesn't reach Pittsburgh during the day it probably reaches there at night by bouncing off the ionosphere. (People of the nineties do remember something called AM, right?)

The accomplishment was staying on the air for 53 hours non-stop. Betty considers it a cheap ploy but in what seems to be a continuation of a thread from last week, Victor thinks it's a marvelous idea. Scott can have what he wants. Instead of broadcasting the accomplishment of WTN, he can tell the audience that WENN plans to break the record. Betty can have what she wants, the broadcast of "When in Rome."

"Betty. Scott. I think I may have a way of making you both happy."

"Yeah, but Victor, I don't want you to step aside just because I...Oh, you meant something else."

How much Victor made of this is unknown. Step aside...from the station manager's job? Victor included Betty as part of "both." Step aside...from Betty? Dump her? Golly, what could Scott have been suggesting? An interesting scene to watch three times for all three faces.

[Oh, just a note for continuity's sake. While Victor was in Washington between "Thanks a Lottery" and "You've Met Your Match," the mysterious Dickensian drawing by the light switch in the station manager's office was finally replaced.]

For safety's sake, Victor and Scott double team Hilary. Scott takes care of putting the one and a half lumps in her coffee, including the tricky half cube. "Here's your coffee, sugar."

Scott picks up the representatives from the Gimlet Guide to World Records and soon Mr. Victor Cornstalk and Mr. Sherwood Comstock meet Mr. Charles Abernathy and Nurse Naomi Brumpton.

We're provided with another of Scott's world traveling locations. Des Moines, Iowa. He considers Des Moines as nothing to joke about.

With rumors of only five appearances for JBL this season, it's not particularly surprising to hear Victor announce that the government has a new task for him. :-( But it's something he can work on at the station. :-)

Victor's loving arm rub (reminiscent of Betty's handling of Victor's clothes in "In the WENN Small Hours...") seems to indicate that they have been courting.

Soon it's Monday at 8 AM (the other AM) and the play is the thing.

Nurse Brumpton manages to displace Tom from the coffee making using decaffeinated coffee. But it's not Ingram's decaffeinated coffee, introduced in "I Now Pronounce You Man and Wife Again." It's "Van Winkle Coffee." Sip it and you'll sleep for 20 years.

For the duration of the marathon, Hilary seems willing to treat Jeff decently. Or perhaps she expunged her anger when she gave Jeff a black eye. Or maybe the episode is out of sequence.

"Friends, Romans, WENNmen and women. Lend me your yawns."

Thanks to the parameters of the plot, we get to see some things you wouldn't expect to see on a show limited to the radio station. Such as how some of the cast behave when they wake up in the morning. If we thought Betty was bobcat when she was angry, we now know that Eugenia is a monster when she's awakened.

The hours count down and we continue with radio's most ambiguous drama.

Another stop in Scott's world travelogue: Madagascar. And a stop in Scott's daily travelogue is the hallway where he finds Mr. Abernathy is not doing his normal hawk-like observance of the cast. Instead, he's using the switchboard without Gertie and claims to be calling the home office in Des Moines at 6:15 AM Iowa time. Further, he seems to be nervous about something because he pretends to have a sense of humor. Even fatigued, Scott is suspicious and investigates. (It would have been a good idea to call Mr. Medwick and have him ship over some Agitato pronto, but Scott was tired, after all.)

At hour 33, with the broadcast of the Merrick Beddy-Bye Mattress, the show goes into overdrive. Scott looks like he's facing death and desolation. Jeff and Hilary console each other in what may be their most tender scene yet. Eugenia seeks revival and Mr. Foley sucks his thumb. And Betty manages to lay down horizontally for a nap on a stool surface that doesn't look more than fifteen inches wide.

Scott tries to improvise a cover for Betty's sleeping with some of Mr. Foley's bag of tricks. In her fatigue, Eugenia reveals her intimate knowledge of his effects kit, much to Mr. Foley's concern. :)

Betty is still sleeping 15 hours later when we spot Mr. Abernathy pouring some liquid from a bottle prominently labeled "Valerian" into the coffee pot. She comes to in a state of confusion. Luckily Scott cures her of her blindness.

Maple comes in to the station sick because what she hears on the radio makes no sense. (And this is different...how?)

Victor arrives with the news that he's wanted for a weekly show in D.C. and will spend the rest of the time at the station. (Not as bad as I feared. Perhaps Christopher Murney's absence for much of the season means that JBL will be in more episodes.)

Victor is prepared to do the weekly show. But he's not prepared for the dementia he witnesses in Studio A. Sleep deprivation has turned our cast into a bunch of loonies. While the others were already severely fatigued by the time Abernathy drugged the coffee, Victor is fresh. But not only does he recognize that the coffee smells wrong, but he's able to identify the Valerian.

The WENN word of the week is "Valerian." Valerians are shrubs generally two to five feet high, native to cool, northern temperate regions. It's roots are acrid-smelling and used as the source of the Valerian nerve sedative and antispasmodic. (Hence Victor's quick recognition that the coffee smell was off. As for correctly recognizing Valerian, perhaps it was something he became familiar with during his days of espionage?) Only a few of the species are native to North America. It's named after Valeria, an old Roman province where the plant is said to be common. This ties in nicely with the Italian theme of Betty's play.

Further, it ties into last week's word. The common valerian, cultivated as an ornamental, is native to Europe and northern Asia and is also known as...the garden heliotrope (although it is not related to true heliotrope plants).

Also linking valerian to Rome is the name of one of it's emperors, Valerian, who reigned from 253 to 260 A.D.

The cast is so far into their delirium they haven't realized that the clock has been unplugged for the last few minutes. Scott does notice the clock, however. As Scott revolves around Betty clockwise, he asks Victor, "Am I rotating in a counter-clockwise direction?" Scott has noticed that the second hand isn't moving. Although the clock says 1:56, it's really 2:05. Hour 54 has been reached!!

Maple finds Abernathy still spiking the coffee even though 54 hours has been reached. (Maybe he's sleep deprived, too.) Maple grabs the bottle from him and the nurse. Maple finds the decaffeinated coffee can. And Scott reveals that Abernathy's call had been to WTN who was bribing Abernathy to keep WENN from breaking their record.

Well, no Pearl Harbor surprise this week. It lurks, somewhere in the future.

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