Happy Halloween! Why is it we say "happy" Halloween, anyway? Is Halloween even supposed to be happy? These are the questions that cause me to lie awake at night. Early in the episode, we turn back time to an All Hallows Eve of yore when, Jim Dale tells us (in rhymed verse), Ned discovers that his father has started a new life with a new family. As a result, Ned hates Halloween, a fact that Olive uses against Chuck when the latter covers the Pie Hole with Halloween decorations galore. Olive has a few cards up her sleeve, as a matter of fact -- another being what she thinks is her big discovery that Chuck faked her death. While celebrating her upper hand, however, Olive is sidelined. She sees on the news that a former associate of hers, a competitor she raced against back when she was a professional jockey (YES!), was killed in a mysterious way. Concerned, she hires Emerson to seek out the truth. So, off Chuck, Emerson, and Ned go to the morgue to put the touch on the dead guy, who has allegedly been trampled by a horse in an accident. He is pretty jacked up, complete with a horseshoe imprint on his FACE, but thankfully, Chuck can translate his garbled speech, owing to her adolescence spent in orthodontic headgear. According to the dead guy, he was killed by another jockey, John Joseph Jacobs...except, here's the scaaary twist: John Joseph Jacobs has been dead for seven years! The newly dead jockey further mumbles that he was killed by JJJ's ghost and that this ghost will kill agaaaaaiin!
Upon hearing the name of this supposed ghost from Emerson, Olive promptly faints. The reason? Back in the day, John Joseph Jacobs had been the unbeatable golden boy of horse racing. Unfortunately, during one fateful race, he fell from his horse and was trampled to death by the riders just behind him; namely, Olive, the dead guy in the morgue, and two others. Is the ghost of John Joseph Jacobs out for revenge? Chuck, Emerson and Olive go in search of the truth. What they find is another of those four trampling jockeys, killed by the "ghost." When Ned arrives to give this guy the touch, he finds out that each jockey, including Olive, has been keeping a secret: shortly after the race in question, the four surviving jockeys discovered that JJJ's saddle had been sabotaged. Against Olive's better judgment, the four of them kept it on the down low. Turns out, however, there is no ghost. Don't act so surprised. John Joseph Jacobs survived the race and has been living in his mother's basement for seven years! Yeah, because...mama crazy. She's the real killer, and when Olive and Chuck discover it, Mrs. Jacobs tries to kill them both. With a horse. Ned and Emerson come to the rescue. In the midst of all this, Ned tries to come to terms with his abandonment by his father. On a trip to his old neighborhood, he stops by to talk to Chuck's aunts and finds out about Chuck secretly sending the pies.
Before I begin, a huge thank-you to the incomparable djb for slipping back into the recapper seat last week on my behalf. While he was slogging through the stuff about assorted birdhouses in various souls, I was riding carnie rides in East Georgia. If you think pigeons with bedazzled wings carrying messages to people with no arms and/or legs is weird, try looking out over the graves of the Confederate dead from atop a Ferris wheel while a toothless carnie takes a smoke break below while leaning on the control stick. Suffice it to say, my inner ear is still not quite right.
Tonight, we learn more about Young Ned's miserable childhood, post-dead-Mom. Jim Dale busts all kinds of rhymes to deliver the brutal truth: Ned spent his time at boarding school waiting to hear word, any word, from his absentee father. Week after week, he confronted the sour school postmistress, only to wind up dejected again and again when no mail would come. Ah, "but then one day before All Hallows Eve," JD trills, "she gave him the nod. It was hard to believe." Ned approaches, bathed in the light of the postmistress's glowing pumpkin, only to receive a generic "We've Moved" postcard from his father. Dejected, he sneaks away from school, cleverly disguising himself as a ghost under his cowboy bed sheet (with Digby at his side, similarly disguised). What he sees when he arrives at his father's new house is worse than anything he could imagine -- his dad, who wears a fedora like he's Dagwood Bumstead or somebody, has remarried and now has an instant family with two new sons. Ned stands solemnly under his sheet as his father comes up, not even recognizing him, and gives him a Honeycomb Chew, like he's just some random trick-or-treater. Poor Young Ned.
Jim Dale barely even has time to weave a mournful rhyme, however, because we must move quickly on to the Dead Guy of the Week. Have you noticed that, thus far, none of the Scooby Doo cases in which the crew has become entangled has concerned a dead woman? Well, hold on, there was Chuck, yes. Forget I said anything. Anyway, suddenly, we are with an unfortunate blacksmith, clanging away on an ACTUAL anvil (which has got to be the first time on TWoP that word has ever been used in its literal sense), just minding his own business, making some horseshoes, when from the darkness storms a sinister horseman riding a fire-breathing steed! The beast rears back and strikes the blacksmith to his death. (At this somewhat frightening moment, my doorbell rang for the 300th time, even though I had turned off the porch lights, and I had to go fling a Butterfinger at a tiny Hispanic Spiderman. He was cute, but I was busy, and dammit, Halloween should be over by 8 PM ET.)