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Recap / The Wild Wild West S 2 E 16 "The Night of the Tottering Tontine"

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West and Gordon are assigned to protect Robert Raven (Harry Townes), inventor of an important new weapon. They soon discover that Raven is a member of a tontine - an investment group operating on the law of survival. A meeting of the tontine's members is imminent and several attempts are made on Raven's life as they travel to it; additionally, the agents learn that three other members of the group are already dead. They arrive at the meeting with the body count still rising and find themselves trapped in their host's house with a mysterious killer.

Disguises used by Artie:Angus Mc Gordon, Secretary of Doctor Raven(13:20)


Tropes present in this episode:

  • Backwards-Firing Gun: Used in the murder of Harry Stimson (Steve Gravers). It's substituted for his own weapon - by no coincidence, since he's a Trigger Happy Sociopath who enjoys shooting up saloons for fun.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Dexter dies via one of his Spikes of Doom traps, Jim quips that the killer got "stuck in the rumpus room".
  • Bounty Hunter: Harry Stimson used to be one, specializing in killing unarmed men. He gave it up when he got rich, but he's still a Jerkass who likes to lord it over the people around him.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: After escaping the Death Trap described in No Kill Like Overkill below, Jim cracks that he's been "working on the railroad".
  • Closed Circle: The only door out of the Old, Dark House is jammed shut, trapping Jim, Artie, and the victims-to-be within.
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  • Complexity Addiction: Dexter suffers from it; his schemes for murder keep getting more and more elaborate.
  • Dead Guy on Display: After Applegate's corpse is stored in the cellar, Dexter props it up at the door leading to the passageway For the Lulz.
  • Dramatic Irony: Invoked when Maurice points out to Baring that their situation is similar to one of Baring's novels.
    Maurice: As a novelist, I should think you would enjoy the gothic atmosphere here.
    Baring: Let me tell you something, Maurice. I have written a whole bookshelf full of books about characters whose lives are about to be dramatically or suddenly snuffed out. But I do not relish finding myself in a position where I do not know when or where death is suddenly to appear. Through the upholstery of a chair? Or from the depths of a crystal ball? Or yes, even from a wine glass.
  • Gentleman Snarker: Tontine member Archduke Maurice (Henry Darrow), a deposed nobleman who uses humor to cope with his situation. At one point he says that Baring was right to be suspicious of a vintage bottle of wine—not because it's poisoned, but because it's gone flat.
  • High-Voltage Death: One tontine member, Mystery Fiction writer Edward Baring (William Wintersole), finds a book in his room titled The Death of Edward Baring. He opens it—and finds its contents both deadly and shocking.
  • I'm Not Here to Make Friends: Applegate the banker (Arthur Space) uses a very similar phrase—decades before the advent of Reality TV.
  • In the Back: A variation; Applegate is dispatched with a knife hidden in the back of his chair.
  • Large Ham: This week's award for scenery-chewing goes to Lisa Pera as Amelia Mateland, who goes way over the top in the seance scene.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Dexter and his mooks wear hood-like masks that hide their faces as part of their all-black outfits.
  • Nasty Party: The shareholder's retreat. A bunch of not especially nice people who don't much care for each other trapped in a large house on a Dark And Stormy Night - and slowly being killed off one by one.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Dexter tries to get rid of Jim by tying him to a sled (which for some reason gets left off the drawing come freeze-frame time - see above, lower left corner), using rockets to propel it over a cliff, and arranging to have it explode just after it begins its flight.
  • Old, Dark House: Cattle baron Martin Grevely (Robert Emhardt), one of the tontine's members, hosts the group at his very large, not particularly pleasant mansion. It doesn't help that the place is full of Death Traps and Secret Passages that not even Grevely knows about.
  • Sibling Murder: The killer turns out to be Martin Dexter (Mike Road), twin brother of the architect who designed Grevely's mansion. Nobody knew about Martin, which makes it easy for him to Kill and Replace his brother to get in on the tontine action.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The tontine only has one female member—and she's The Mole.
  • Spikes of Doom:
    • Jim gets trapped in a room with a spiked wall—which starts closing in on him. He blasts a hole in the ceiling, then climbs up the spikes to escape.
    • At the climax, Dexter traps Jim in another death room where the spikes are attached to a ceiling fan-like device that descends to ground level. Jim stops it with his jacket, busts out of the room, and knocks Dexter into his own trap.
  • Spooky Séance: Amelia tries to summon the spirit of King Rafakhanan, an Ancient Egyptian ruler, to identify the murderer. He tells her she's "the next to die", but Jim tosses her Crystal Ball out a window just before it explodes.
  • Suspect Existence Failure: Inevitable when Jim and Artie consider everyone at the mansion to be a suspect, and they all start dying off.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: The remaining members of the tontine at Grevely's house. In this case there's not only a mole but an identical twin involved.
  • Tontine: West and Gordon are assigned to protect a government scientist invested in a tontine whose members are being killed off.


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