Trumbull is host, and his guest is Dr. Voss Eldridge, who investigates paranormal claims for a living. As dinner starts, Trumbull uses his position as host to ban Halsted from reciting his new limerick so Drake reads it for him. The members briefly discuss the meaning before dinner arrives. The discussion during dinner turns to Pulp Fiction, when Rubin and Drake debate over Secret Service Operator 5 and Secret Agent X.
After dinner, Rubin grills Mr Eldridge, and he tells the group about an example of paranormal activity that he hasn't yet disproven with mundane evidence. Henry, naturally, is able to uncover a perfectly reasonable explanation that satisfies him.
These examples are various factors used to create the story:
- Ahem: When Trumbull points out that Henry is grinning, he uses a cough to help school his face back to a neutral expression.
- Adaptation Distillation: In-Universe, Halsted is adapting The Iliad into limericks, one book at a time. The fourth book goes as follows:Next a Lycian attempted a ruse
With an arrow-permitted by Zeus.
Who will trust Trojan candor, as
This sly deed of Pandoras
Puts an end to the scarce-proclaimed truce?
- Central Theme: The idea that deception begins with the person wanting to be fooled is mentioned several times before it is used as the solution to the mystery.
- Clark Kenting: Conversational Troping, while Drake and Rubin debate the finer points of Secret Service Operator 5 versus Secret Agent X, Rubin claims that there are too many traits for anyone to effectively hide themselves. Such disguises really only work because nobody really tries to break the disguise.
- Driving Question: What evidence is needed to prove the supernatural?
- Fairplay Whodunnit: The clues are all presented during the grilling, and, in conjunction with the Central Theme, the audience can deduce the solution by the time Henry coughs. The lightning strike is an additional clue, but can be deduced earlier.
- Fancy Dinner: The Black Widowers meet every month at the Milano, a fancy restaurant in New York City, tonight's entrée is London broil, and the dessert is an ice-cream parfait.
- Framing Device: The Fancy Dinner gives the audience a setting and characters to hear about a precognitive who foresaw a fire occur on the other side of the country before it happened.
- The Jeeves: Henry has Trumbull's scotch and soda ready on a tray as soon as Trumbull calls for him.
- Living Lie Detector: Discussed Trope, Mr Eldridge wonders if Henry is able to determine when people are lying through some special talent. Henry assures him that it was simply more reasonable to assume he was lying than the existence of Psychic Powers.
- Loophole Abuse: Trumbull uses his position as host to ban Halsted from reciting his new limerick so Drake reads it for him.
- Master of Delusion: Conversational Troping, while Drake and Rubin debate the finer points of Secret Service Operator 5 versus Secret Agent X, Rubin claims that there are too many traits for anyone to effectively hide themselves. Such disguises really only work because nobody really tries to break the disguise.
- Mr. Smith: Mr Eldridge explains that he will be calling the young woman with precognition Alice, but it isn't her real name.
- Phone-In Detective: Henry is able to deduce the mystery of Alice's precognition merely from listening to Mr Eldridge's explanation.
- Picky Eater: Rubin is suspicious of food with too much sauce, and requires Henry's and Avalon's reassurances before trying tonight's appetizer. He's quite pleased with the London broil, though.
- Real After All: Defied Trope, while the rest of the Widowers are willing to believe in the existence of paranormal powers, Henry would rather believe Mr Eldridge is lying. He admits that's exactly what he was doing. In the afterword of the story for Tales of the Black Widowers, Dr Asimov states his dislike for the end-of-mystery reveal that the supernatural does exist.
- Medieval versions of the Troilus tale are referenced for having influenced modern recollection of Pandarus, obscuring his deed in the original Greek.
- The plot of Troilus and Cressida, by Shakespeare, is confused for the plot of the fourth book in The Iliad.
- Drake and Rubin debate the finer points of Secret Service Operator 5.
- Drake and Rubin debate the finer points of Secret Agent X.
- Mr Eldridge quotes from Sherlock Holmes: "When the impossible has been eliminated, then whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth."
- Trumbull interrupts Rubin to stop playing Twenty Questions and asks Henry to explain clearly.
- Henry quotes from Thomas Jefferson: "I would sooner believe that a Yankee professor would lie than that a stone would fall from heaven."
- Skeptic No Longer: Mr Eldridge tells the group about a situation involving claimed paranormal powers that he's been unable to dismiss. As he tells the story, gradually each member of the club is convinced, except for Henry.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: Trumbull shouts for Henry, only to find the incredible waiter at his elbow before he's finished calling.
- The Summation: When Mr Eldridge asks if the lightning strike disproves Henry's theory, the waiter informs him that it serves, instead, as confirmation and announces Mr Eldridge as a liar who invented each part of the story as he was going.
- Title Drop: The exact phrase doesn't occur, but Henry is referring to the most obvious factor to be eliminated. Mr Eldridge could be lying.
- With Friends Like These...: Trumbull introduces the rest of the members to Dr Eldridge by insulting their ability to do their jobs.
- Written-In Absence: Gonzalo is mentioned as absent from the meeting tonight, and the next story gives the reason why.