Thursday, 2 April 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Penultimate Peril, Chapter 12

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At last we’ve reached the penultimate chapter of The Penultimate Peril. When we left the Baudelaires on Tuesday they were watching as Olaf snuck Justice Strauss out of the hotel lobby, just as they realised that the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard were sitting at the concierge desk taking care of the trial.

Now we get to see what the Baudelaires will do next!

What Happens?

The Baudelaires are caught peeking by the two villainous judges. After an argument about whether or not the gathered crowd should remove their blindfolds, the Baudelaires sneak away and join Olaf and Justice Strauss in the elevator. Olaf takes them to the laundry room to retrieve the sugar bowl; Klaus actually helps him open the Vernacularly Fastened Door. Then Violet offers to help Olaf get his boat off the roof. Finally, and shockingly, Sunny makes a very dark suggestion.

Thoughts as I read:

I’m not entirely sure what the picture for this chapter means. It shows two washing machines, or perhaps a washer and a drier. Ones full of frothy bubbles while the one next to it just has clothes in it. There are clothes and socks hanging around all over the place as well as a basket which has a bottle of something sticking out the top of it. The contents of the bottle is obviously poisonous and flammable. This probably means that the Baudelaires will be hanging out in the laundry room of the hotel and may even catch a glimpse of a certain sugar bowl.

We get a teeny tiny bit more information about the woman with hair but not beard; she has a crooked finger because it was broken at some point in the past. This incident would apparently require another thirteen books to tell in full so we won’t learn any more about it.

It’s little bits like that which make this series perfect for fanfiction writers. It’s like the Harry Potter stories, there’s so much depth to them, with little bits from characters who obviously have a bigger part to play in the world than we ever see. Perfect for other writers to take up the reins and speculate on what else has happened in the past.

But I digress, the woman is pointing the crooked finger at the Baudelaires because their peeking has been spotted. They immediately start pointing fingers right back, pointing out how bad the court is and the fact it’s being run by ‘notorious villains’. Violet goes on to beg everyone to take off their blindfolds so they can see the kidnap taking place right under their noses.

The woman with hair but no beard (TWWHBNB from now on because I’m not typing that out every time she speaks) explains away Justice Strauss’s silence by saying she’s eating saltwater taffy and so there’s an argument about whether the crowd should take off their blindfolds or not. TWWHBNB claims that the children are trying to get the noble people arrested but there are some rumbling of dissent in the audience, as people like Charles and Jerome seem inclined to believe the children.

This sets off more arguing with nobody actually removing their damn blindfolds. Seriously people!
Luckily this does give the Baudelaires a chance to slip away. They’d probably have managed it as well if TWWHBNB hadn’t pointed out the fact that the children were heading for Olaf and Strauss. This poses a problem for the crowd since they can’t see where the Baudelaires are without removing their blindfolds. The man with a beard but no hair (TMWABBNH) tells the assembled people that the children are going towards the elevators but it’s really just a big game of blind man’s bluff because the people are all going to wind up grabbing each other instead of the children.

Sunny manages to stop Olaf from getting away by sticking her foot in the door of the lift, so it can’t close. I should probably add here that Olaf has armed himself with a harpoon gun so the Baudelaires aren’t in a very good position for negotiation, especially as Olaf threatens to announce to the room where the children are. Violet counters this by pointing out that she can yell to everyone where Count Olaf is. Justice Strauss isn’t able to say much at all during this exchange since she’s still gagged.

The children have very little choice but to join Olaf in the lift. Thankfully he fills us in on his plans, so we’re not left wondering. These plans involve collecting the sugar bowl from the laundry room, exposing everyone in the lobby to the fungus and then escaping via the roof. This means that the children either have a chapter and a half to stop him!

Remember the lock Sunny put on the laundry room door? Well Olaf has figured out how to open it. He’s got a hostage after all. He does very kindly ungag Strauss so that she can object to all of this. She does so by producing Jerome’s book, Odious Lusting After Finance, which apparently contains all the evidence she needs to have him put away. This might have worked, had her fellow judges not been TWWHBNB and TMWABBNH.

The children point this out, but she says it couldn’t be true because she’s known them for years and told them everything she knows about the Baudelaires. Gee, thanks Justice Strauss. Olaf fills her in and she starts to cry as she realises just what she’s done. It’s great that she’s feeling guilty right now, but they’ve really got bigger things to be worrying about, like the crazy harpoon wielding mad man that they’re with!

As Strauss knows so much about the Baudelaires, Olaf threatens her with the harpoon and demands that she tell him what the medical condition that the children share. Surprisingly it’s Klaus who volunteers the information. If you remember back to shortly after it appeared that Aunt Josephine had died, the children escaped from Mr Poe and Olaf by taking advantage of their peppermint allergy. Klaus types this in to the device on the door. That’s one question down.

The next question is about the weapon which made Olaf an orphan. He starts to type in some random letters which Klaus points out don’t actually spell anything, so Klaus makes him tell them what the weapon was. It’s poison darts. Interesting that this has come up again, considering Kit Snicket told them about a time when the Baudelaire parents were involved in something with poison darts. I was expecting the answer to this one to be ‘fire’ actually so the poison dart angle has taken me by surprise.

Klaus has also figured out that the final question ‘the famous unfathomable question in the best-known novel by Richard Wright’ is probably quoted in Jerome’s book.

“You can’t read that entire book!” Count Olaf said. “The crowd will find us before you finish the first chapter!”
“I’ll look in the index,” Klaus said, “just like I did at Aunt Josephine’s, when we decoded her note and found her hiding place.”
“I always wondered how you did that,” Olaf said, sounding almost as if he admired the middle Baudelaire’s research skills.

Yikes! Olaf is admiring the Baudelaires now. It’s definitely time to worry.

Sure enough the answer is right there in the index and Klaus has soon flipped to the right page. Sunny’s curious about why her brother seems to have suddenly gone over to the dark side so he tells her, as he types, that the sugar bowl isn’t going to be in the room. And he seems to be right as well.

Inside the room are washing machines and the end of the funnel that the sugar bowl should have fallen down, but no sign of the bowl itself. I’m not entirely sure how Klaus has figured this out and neither is Olaf. The latter is most definitely not happy about the one thing he’s after not being where he thought it was. He immediately starts threatening to harpoon everyone and set of the Medusoid Mycelium. I’m not entirely sure what he thinks that will achieve, but we’ve already established that he’s kind of crazy.

Part of his plan also involves pushing the boat off the roof so he can sail away, though Violet has to burst that bubble as well, by pointing out that the boat wouldn’t survive the fall. She then, rather surprisingly, offers to get it down for him and so it’s Klaus and Sunny’s turn to cast their sibling shocked looks. I have no idea what’s going on right now but it’s quite exciting!

She gives her reason for helping him as ‘Every noble person has failed us. Why shouldn’t we help you escape?’ which still seems like a pretty poor reason for helping him, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt in case this is all part of some bigger plot. She immediately explains that she’ll use the laundry room sheets to make a drag chute and so it’s her turn to be on the receiving end of Olaf’s respect for her talents.

As they leave Sunny asks her sister why she’s doing this and Violet replies that Olaf will be able to take them with him. I’m not entirely sure why they would want to follow Olaf, but he seems to have escaped from most of the situations he’s found himself in, so perhaps that’s his special talent. In which case, perhaps it will rub off on them and they’ll be able to get away without any repercussions.
Olaf is curious about what Violet thinks he’ll take the trio away with him and she points out that he’ll need a crew. He agrees to this but Sunny stops them and says ‘One more thing’ following it up a second later with ‘Burn down hotel’.

Rather drastic and very Olaf-like.

I think Olaf’s tipped the Baudelaires over the edge!

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