After some fascinating asides concerning the water cycle from Lemony Snicket, the Baudelaire orphans find themselves on top of a submarine. Aye, and not just any submarine, it’s the Queequeg! Aboard the Queequeg, they meet Fiona the teenage mycologist, meaning that her area of study involves the study of fungi, and Klaus is smitten. Violet, however, completely distrusts her. After all that’s transpired, one might not fault her not trusting complete strangers, unless one points out that she trusted Quigley implicitly. Phil from Lucky Smells has also re-appeared as the ship’s inept cook.
The Queequeg mysteriously does not feature Captain Widdershins, though he is often alluded to, a phrase which here means that characters talk about him. This exclusion makes sense because he doesn’t vitally affect the plot, but his absence nonetheless comes as a disappointment. Aye, and he added an element of comedy to story. Aye! And he introduced a central theme of the book about decision-making with his motto that, “he (or she) who hesitates is lost.”
Meanwhile, the vile Count Olaf has to rent a sub in this one, rather than simply owning the monstrosity that he does in the book. His mentors, the Man with a Beard but No Hair and the Woman with Hair but No Beard, have rented out a giant mechanical octopus vessel in Esme Squalor’s name. This only widens the growing schism between Olaf and Esme after Olaf’s mentors point out how much better she is at general villainy than Olaf. By now, Olaf’s crew has dwindled down to Esme, Carmelita Spats, and Hooky, who only becomes nicer to Olaf the more that Olaf berates him.
Quigley has ended up in the city where he approaches the newly promoted and busier than ever Mr. Poe for help, but finds Kit using his telegraph. Poe’s secretary, Jacquelyn, ran off to become Duchess of Winnipeg (help the Baudelaires in the Vile Village) and never returned, which marked the loss of another non-essential, but still humorous supporting character.
Count Olaf finds himself trapped in a submarine with Carmelita and Esme and he hates it as much as anyone would. Count Olaf has unwittingly found himself at the head of a family – exactly in the position that he has both always wanted and hated. Hooky, also, rather pathetically reveals how desparately he wants attention by creating a chef’s salad in Olaf’s likeliness. It sort of hurts to watch, but it’s also a hilarious scene.
Klaus and Fiona bond over their love of Herman Melville. I could watch an(other) entire TV show about Melville’s books – or discussions on Melville for that matter, but I am most curious where one can get a dope Herman Melville patch. I have, however, never understood why Violet hates Fiona from day one. Klaus defends Fiona and later uses tidal charts to figure out that the sugar bowl has followed ocean currents down to Anwhistle Aquatics, known cultivators of the Medusoid Mycellium, a poisonous fungus that blooms with the tides, before AA burned down in a fire.
While Klaus and Violet bicker, Sunny makes chowder and then the Great Unknown appears! There’s really two ways of looking at the Great Unknown, either it’s a deus ex machina that’s never really explained or one could view it as a reference to the vague horrors or H.P. Lovecraft. I find the latter, however, flimsy, more enjoyable.
Count Olaf eventually catches the Queequeg because we’re at that part of the episode. Esme wears an uncomfortable-looking octopus dress and refuses to recognize Violet’s ability to potentially captain a ship in some biting dialogue. The Olafs send the Baudelaires into the grotto where the poisonous fungus lives. They don’t find the sugar bowl, but find an improbably dry telegram from from “Fernald” to Gregor Anwhistle threatening to burn down Anwhistle Aquatics. Meanwhile, Hooky runs into Fiona while searching the Queequeg but doesn’t tell Olaf. The Baudelaires return empty-handed, having only glimpsed Quigley running away with the bowl, while the Medusoid Myecellium has unexpectedly bloomed on the staircase that led out of the grotto. Back aboard the Q, they find it inside Sunny’s diving helmet as well.
This season has trimmed some supporting character to give more space to let the ideas of family cohesion strike Count Olaf, who must confront the toxic mess of people with whom he has surrounded himself, while taking his angst out on Hooky. The Baudelaires, however, find themselves constantly frustrated in their efforts, which can viewed an absurdist struggle to find one’s place in the world, or a device to extend the series out to thirteen books. Either way, the tongue-in-cheek anachronisms, the quick dialogue (“I could eat somebody’s arm off.” “I still have two!” “Show-off!”), and the frequent literary references will bring me back next week with “The Grim Grotto, Part Two.”