My intent is to rewatch two episodes of The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. each week. This week we meet Socrates’ sister and an Orb scholar. Saddle up and prepare to ride with the Chin That Won The West. Spoilers ahead.
The DVD set is in production order, not order of airing. So Episode 2 for the rewatch is “Socrates’ Sister” which was actually the fifth one aired. I’ll let Bruce Campbell introduce it.
The episode begins with Brisco and Lord Bowler in hot pursuit of John Randolph. They are still rivals at this point (which came across odd since this aired out of order). Brisco ends up lassoing Randolph while Bowler ends up in the lake created by the recent damming of a river that submerged the town of Gravesend. But Randolph claims they have captured the wrong man...
Jack Randolph is in custody but the Treasury plates he stole are still missing and Randolph’s unknown partner could flood the area with counterfeit money. (Remember paper money? You need a plate to print each side of the bill.) Furthermore, Randolph has hired a top-notch East Coast lawyer to represent him. That lawyer is Iphigenia Poole, played by Judith Hoag. (Ma and Pa Poole went all in on the Greek names. In case you’re curious, Iphigenia was the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra.)
Meanwhile Professor Wickwire (minus his daughter) is in San Francisco to raise funding for his latest invention - a diving suit. How long until the submerged town and the diving suit meet?
It turns out Randolph was writing Iphigenia love letters and the infatuated lawyer helps him escape from jail. But Randolph was playing her and dumps Iphegenia at the first opportunity.
Brisco sends Bowler on a false trail while he follows Randolph. Brisco ends up captured by Randolph and his secret partner - a very much alive Pete Hutter (no explanation given). Brisco and Iphigenia are tied up and put in a death trap worthy of the ‘60s Batman show. A length of rawhide is tied running from around the pair to the trigger of a rifle. Pete soaks the rawhide in water where the heat of the sun will dry it out, causing the rawhide to shrink and pull the rifle trigger (and squeeze Brisco and Iphigenia to death as well as shooting them). Randolph and Pete ride off, taking Brisco’s horse Comet with them. It would have been easier to just shoot the pair but then we wouldn’t have the cliffhanger of seeing the trigger being pulled by the shrinking rawhide...
Brisco squirms and stretches the rawhide binding them so that the rifle shot misses but cuts the binding.
Pete has one of the Treasury plates but Randolph hid the other one in Gravesend before the town was submerged by the new dam. If only there was a way to dive underwater to recover it. Oh, wait! The professor has just the thing they need.
Comet escapes from Pete and brings Socrates to Brisco and Iphigenia. The three (and Comet) are now hot on the trail of Randolph and Pete, who have grabbed Professor Wickwire and his diving suit.
Randolph descends into the lake in the diving suit while Pete is on a raft with the professor. Brisco is about to make his move when Pete spots Lord Bowler trying to sneak up and begins shooting.
Brisco swims out to the raft while Iphigenia and Socrates goe to rescue Bowler, who can’t swim. Brisco grabs the plate from Randolph and bashes a hole in Randolph’s helmet, flooding the suit and drowning Randolph. On the raft, the professor gets Pete’s pistol. Remember how touchy Pete is about anyone touching his piece? The professor tosses the pistol into the lake and Pete dives in to find it.
Iphigenia is ready to accept punishment for her role in Randolph’s escape but Brisco has already talked to the Feds explaining that she was instrumental in recovering the Treasury plates. She is cleared of any wrongdoing.
- Sadly, this is the only appearance of Iphigenia Poole on the show. Like her brother, she wa a fish-out-of-water Easterner in the Wild West and a possible love interest rival to Dixie Cousins.
- But the episode does introduce Yvette Nipar’s character Ellie,”a feisty tavern proprietess” as the synopsis describes her.
- “Socrates’ Sister” is a straightforward Western with no fantastic elements. Several diving suits had been designed well before the episode’s year of 1893 though Professor Wickwire’s suit is an advanced one. The next episode will balance things out by diving deep into the fantastic…
The Orb Scholar
Episode 3 “The Orb Scholar” was in fact the second episode aired. This is also mostly straightforward Western for the first 2/3rd but then the fantastic kicks in like a startled mule. Here’s Bruce:
After a montage of what happened in the pilot episode we go straight into...
In Socrates Poole’s office Brisco tells Poole about a lead on John Bly placing him in Poker Flats, Colorado. The lead is a note from an old acquaintance of Brisco’s, Donovan Joe. Years ago Brisco and Donovan Joe were chasing the Swill Brothers (remember them because you’ll see the brothers in the next episode). Joe abandoned Brisco in a canyon where he was ambushed and almost killed. Donovan Joe is now the sheriff of Poker flats and Brisco is willing to to forgive Joe.
Just outside of town Brisco and Comet foil the attempted robbery of an old man, Professor Coles, in a wagon. When Brisco brings the would-be robbers to town, he is the one arrested by the chief deputy, Puel, who says the robbers are actually fellow deputies.
Brisco finds Lord Bowler also in the jail. Bowler was following his own lead that brought him to Poker Flats. When he recognized a known outlaw tending bar Bowler tried bringing him in for the bounty but Puel arrested him instead. Brisco also notices Coles has sketches of the Orb in his notebook.
Sheriff Joe returns to his office and frees Brisco, Coles and Bowler. So all is well between Brisco and Joe right? Nope. Despite Brisco’s assurance that he’s not holding a grudge Joe says it’s only a matter of time before Brisco will come after him because Joe actually set Brisco up to be killed in that canyon. Joe has Brisco seized and dunks him in a well as a warm-up to Bly’s arrival. Bly wants to know where the Orb is. Brisco doesn’t know and is dropped into the well...
The well leads to an underwater stream that carries Brisco out of town.
Bly finds a page from Coles’ Orb notebook and is looking for him. Bowler is thrown in jail again. This time he’s to be hanged as a warning for anyone else looking for Bly. Bowler manages to escape during the night.
Brisco finds Bly at an abandoned saloon outside of town. Bly plays on Brisco’s Daddy issues (a man named after his father and hunting his killer is going to have a few) and toys with him until Joe shows up with a captive Professor Coles. It turns out Coles has the Orb in his wagon. Bly goes to retrieve it but first he shoot Brisco in the gut.
Now the fantastic stuff starts.
Coles and Brisco are still in the abandoned saloon with a single remaining guard. Coles does a Jedi mind trick on the guard making him think the saloon is on fire and the guard runs off. Coles then leaves.
Bowler finds a dying Brisco and tries to comfort him. Coles returns with the Orb. He had told Bly the wrong place to look for his wagon. Coles tells Brisco it’s not his time to die and to touch the Orb. Brisco draws out one of the rods and blue lightning races around the wound. When Bowler checks on Brisco he realizes Coles is gone. In town Bly senses that Brisco isn’t dead. (What is Bly’s connection to the Orb? We’ll see later.)
Bly rides off. Brisco returns to town and captures Donovan Joe. The old sheriff gets his star back while Joe, Puel and the rest are thrown in jail. Lord Bowler stands to collect a tidy sum of $1800 from the bounties on them. Bowler is also a little freaked out by the Orb stuff. He and Brisco ride off looking for Bly.
- The villainous deputy Puel is played by Robert Picardo. So it’s possible that The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. is actually a holodeck novel on USS Voyager.
- Brisco’s wound and recovery via supernatural means reminded me of what happened to Professor Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Jeffrey Boam, one of the creators and executive producers of Brisco County, also worked on the script of that movie though the episode script is credited to his partner on the show Carlton Cuse.
- Brisco and Bowler’s relationship starts to thaw in this episode. They are still rivals but by the end of this episode they aren’t as antagonistic. But since this episode aired before “Socrates’ Sister” it seemed odd when they were so antagonistic in that episode.
All images via screencap