Today it’s an episode of 1958’s one season wonder, Yancy Derringer. I’m happy to report that yes, the name of the main character is totally Yancy Derringer, everybody calls him Yancy all the time, and it never stops being funny. He, disappointingly, does not have a stolen lucky shamrock that helps him break dance.
What he does have is a derringer in his hat, another derringer up his sleeve, a knife in his belt, and a sword cane. He’s also amazing at hand-to-hand combat.
It’s a little much.
Before we go any further, everybody should know that this show was very much a product of its times. That’s code for “engaging in harmful stereotypes.” There’s a stoic indian sidekick played by a German actor, a hooker with a heart of gold, a revolving door of temperamental Irish lasses, and sometimes (not this episode) a Chinese dragon lady. Yancy also lives on the family plantation, and… yeah…
You should also be aware that Yancy Derringer has some serious fans, despite being only one season long. They see it as progressive and unique for the 1950’s, and that is… their opinion, and they are entitled to it. But we’ve gone in order of show quality for Mardi Gras Week, with Murder, She Wrote and Longstreet easily being the best, and this thing being considerably worse than Bourbon Street Beat. Which you will recall was the detective show that forgot to tell us who the killer was.
Okay! Basic premise: Yancy Derringer is a man’s man, a ladies’ man, man about town – and that town is New Orleans in the 1870’s. Having come back from the Civil War all messed up in the head, Yancy returned to the family home to find it taken over by villains. He decided to reclaim it, and in the process befriended the Federal city administrator, John Colton. Colton hires Yancy to do good on behalf of the city secretly, while maintaining his cover identity as a gambling addicted moron with too much money and frilly sleeves. The second part is easy, but doing good? For that he’ll need help. Preferably somebody who knows how good is done.
Enter Pahoo-Ka-Ta-Wah, a mute Pawnee who communicates using sign language and carries a shotgun for emergencies.
“Wait, wait, wait,” you say. “This is just an offensive version of Zorro, with the beginning of Robin Hood tacked on!”
Pfft, no, it’s different from Zorro because they don’t have the thing with the—look over there!
So, this episode starts with river pirates burglarizing the establishment next to the Blackjack Club under the cover of night. They’re loading crates of booze onto a getaway wagon, and bickering amongst themselves. What they don’t know is that they’re being watched by a man named Matthew Younger. Fancily clad in a top hat and brocade vest, Younger doesn’t know that somebody is secretly watching him secretly watch the river pirates.
Two men emerge from the shadows behind him, guns drawn, and one of them claims that they’re Pinkerton agents. The Pinkerton Agency was America’s largest private security and investigation firm, and it was a pretty big deal until they became super corrupt in the early 20th century; Allan Pinkerton himself had risen to fame when he prevented an assassination attempt on Abraham Lincoln. (Obviously, he didn’t prevent all of them.)
Younger insults the agents for asking him to identify himself.
“What are we doing standing here talking while those thieves make off with an entire shipment of merchandise that just arrived here from St. Louis?” He demands, without pausing or breathing or using any commas. It’s weird.
This incredibly awkward setup is just to get us to a gunfight among the crates, and that gunfight is just to draw Yancy and Pahoo out of the Blackjack Club to see what the deal is. They both put their hands up to avoid being shot, but in a very blasé manner. Midnight gunfights are as much a part of New Orleans as crawfish and hangovers.
One of the Pinkertons is killed, and the goons scramble to make their escape.
Yancy recognizes one of them, and cheerfully calls out: “Why, hello, Marble Fingers!”
“Yancy! No time to chew the fat now,” Marble Fingers replies, like they bumped into each other at a department store. “Drop by the Bucket of Blood sometime!”
Marble Fingers is a terrible crook name. It’s a good enough thematic fit, I guess, since we’ll find out in about five minutes that this guy is a tomb raider, but the rhythm is off. Say some underworld nicknames to yourself, like Mumbles and Squid and Jonesy, then throw in Marble Fingers like he’s part of the gang. Doesn’t work.
The goons make off with their loot, and Younger and the remaining Pinkerton give chase. Just in that lazy way where they run two feet, fire a few shots and quit; the classic half-chase, seen across all genres. (Oh no, they’re several feet ahead of us! We’ll never catch up!)
“Why didn’t you stop those men?!” Younger demands of Yancy.
“Why didn’t you?” Yancy shrugs.
Crime is like the weather; you have to have magic powers to do anything about it.
Younger accuses Yancy of colluding with the thieves, and makes the Pinkerton agent arrest him on a charge of theft. Pinkertons aren’t policemen, but whatever. Maybe he can do a Citizen’s Arrest. We need a law historian from Louisiana to give us the particulars on whether or not this was possible. In the 1870’s, could a private investigator from another state arrest a man in New Orleans without direct evidence? Sounds like it should be a no, but it probably was a yes.
Trying to smooth things over, Yancy tells Younger he’s making a mistake. Unfortunately, he also calls Younger by name, giving everyone the opportunity to be like: “Ah-ha! How did you know this was Mr. Younger if you hadn’t been casing his warehouse for your delinquent buddies?” Yancy tries to explain that Younger is pretty well known as a local businessman, and also owns the warehouse next to Yancy’s favourite casino. He’s seen him around, that’s not a crime.
The Pinkerton, bitter and mean because of his dead partner, holds Yancy at gunpoint and tells him the jig is up.
Thus concludes our clunky opening sequence. Things smooth out a little bit from now on in terms of pacing and staging, but Yancy Derringer was a half hour drama. As is the usual curse of the shorter form, some scenes are packed like sardines, while other scenes feel really clipped and sudden.
When next we see our hero, he’s in jail.
He’s not new to being in the New Orleans lockup, and it shows. He’s quite comfortably sat at a little table, with cigars and sherry, and a candle, and it’s obvious he’s been winning a card game against the guard. Meanwhile, Pahoo is chilling on a cot, wondering about some pretty deep stuff by the looks of it.
According to the show, Pahoo’s name means “Wolf who Stands in Water,” and it took me two seconds with Google to find that, actually,Tskirirara is Pawnee for “Wolf-in-Water” with Tski’ki being “Wolf.” But Google wasn’t around back then, so we shouldn’t judge the show’s writers too harshly. What were they supposed to do, ask an actual Pawnee person? That’s insane.
The guard is flustered because he’s just been told that the city administrator is on his way, and that means he has to tidy up and make the place look respectable. Yancy isn’t worried, though. The city administrator is his secret ally. He doesn’t bother to hide his amusement as the guard tosses the sherry and cards under the cot and tries to get the cell door closed and locked in time.
“Will you quit grinning and try to look like a jailbird? For me?” The guard pleads as a knock sounds on the outer door.
Yancy nods and adopts a solemn, contrite expression.
John Colton – played by the doctor from Little House on the Prairie – and Mr. Younger are led in by the bumbling guard, who has forgotten to take the keys out of the cell door. Colton rolls his eyes at this glaring display of incompetence, and tells Yancy that there’s been a terrible mistake and he’s free to go.
Mr. Younger apologizes through his teeth, and Yancy is like: “If you don’t say it like you mean it, it doesn’t count.”
Younger is all: “Why you son of a—“
Colton interrupts this fight worthy of kindergarteners, and tells Younger that since the charges have been dropped and a formal apology made, he ought to leave.
“Alright, but the citizens of this city have a right to see their property protected!” Younger grandstands, tapping his walking stick on the floor.
“We’re doing our best,” Colton replies.
“And it’s not good enough! Good night, sir!” Younger storms out of the jail in a cloud of self-righteous pomposity, leaving our band of do-gooders to discuss the doing of good.
Except the guard is still hanging around.
“Out, turnkey! I wish to speak to Mr. Derringer alone!”
“Oh sure,” the guard nods cheerfully. “Glad to see everything worked out for you, Yancy!”
“Thank you, friend jailer!” Yancy smiles.
That guard was a nice guy, but I think he should be moved to a different department. Making friends with the criminals is a bad idea, even if they’re the charming ones that are fun to play cards with. Probably especially if they’re the charming ones that are fun to play cards with.
Now that we’re really, really alone, it’s safe to talk about secret agent business.
Yancy begins by announcing that Matthew Younger is an ass.
Colton replies that maybe Younger is an ass because he’s pissed off about having thousands of dollars of property stolen from him. And this isn’t even the first time Younger’s been targeted in recent memory, can you blame him for throwing around some accusations? Besides, Yancy frequents a lot of, um, establishments that are considered not the… kind of places you want to… ahem. (Lots of corrupt gambling dens and brothels is what everyone is trying to not say.) Plus he treats the jail like less of a jail and more of a friend’s house. And, yes that’s all for his cover story, but how is Mr. Younger supposed to know that?
Yancy maintains that people should only be suspicious of real criminals, and not undercover fake ones who are just on their way home.
“Did you at least see the thieves tonight?” Colton asks.
Yup! He saw all their faces, and waved hello at the ones he knew!
Awesome, Colton says, will Yancy please identify them in a court of law?
Yancy explains that if undercover secret agents start identifying people in court, it’s really hard for them to slip back into the underworld. In this era, people did not yet say that snitches got stitches, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a thing.
Colton claims he’s put guards and watchmen and scouts all over the damn place, but Younger is still being robbed. And there’re other theft problems as well, and they all suck, and everyone is blaming him.
“Good luck!” Yancy says, pouring himself a new glass of sherry.
I guess he’s feeling unhelpful because he was wrongfully imprisoned.
Colton leaves, looking less than thrilled with the evening’s outcome. I’m with Yancy on this one, why do anything for the man who just got you out of jail? If you’re going to burn a bridge over small annoyances, burn one that really counts. Go big or go home.
The next day at lunchtime, a young platinum blonde in an awful lot of lip liner is dining al fresco with Matthew Younger, when Yancy and Pahoo happen to pick the same restaurant. But it’s not Younger who starts a conversation with Yancy, it’s the blonde.
Blondes often start conversations with Yancy, as do brunettes, and redheads. (Yancy is not worth the trouble. His ratio of attractiveness to flaws is 1:7, and he’s not a bad looking man.) This particular blonde is one that our protagonist doesn’t seem to recognize at first. He makes his way over to the table, where she cheerfully greets him and turns out to be little Desiree LaChapelle, all grown up.
“Last time I saw you, you were seventeen and skinny. You’re neither of those things now.” Yancy observes, looking down her blouse.
Yancy Derringer is all class, ladies.
Desiree invites our mustachioed river rat to sit with her – but she doesn’t invite Pahoo, who seriously has to stand in the corner while other patrons give him side-eye, and he can’t order anything because he can’t speak, and Yancy just leaves him there like a good friend would – and asks if he knows her guardian, Mr. Younger.
Younger is like: “I know and hate Yancy Derringer. Hello, Yancy, how are you? Never mind, I don’t care.”
“I’m afraid he doesn’t approve of me,” Yancy pouts.
“Then why sit with us?” Younger grumbles.
Here we go. Get ready to feel super uncomfortable.
“Because I approve, and I happen to be free, white, and twenty-one.”
Yes, Pahoo is still not being allowed to sit down.
It’s also just a set-up for a joke, by the way.
“Twenty-four.” Yancy corrects her.
“Twenty-three!” Desiree gasps, without realizing that she’s given away her true age.
This show was congratulated for how it portrayed Pahoo. But he has no real personhood within the stories, he’s one of Yancy’s accessories. And it’s not even relevant to the Tonto argument of giving indian actors a shot at exposure, because he’s being played by a white guy. Every now and then, you can’t help but wonder what was going through people’s minds.
And with that bitter taste in our mouths, let’s continue.
Younger says that his responsibility as a guardian means he can’t just let people like Yancy hit on Desiree, and Desiree tells him to take a hike. Actually she tells him to take “a stroll in Jackson Park,” even though it’s called Jackson Square. (Does nobody actually go to New Orleans when they decide to make a show about New Orleans? Seriously.)
Desiree is not used to asking for help, but she’s been meaning to come to Yancy over a matter of some concern. Has he read about the recent grave robberies?
“Somebody broke into my daddy’s tomb,” she says, fluttering her eyelashes, “and stole everything we buried in there with him. We went to the police, and nothing happened. We went to the administrator, and he said it was a police matter.”
We went to the police dog, but he was chasing a cat, who swallowed a rat, who ate the forms we were supposed to fill out. It’s ridiculous how things work in this city.
“Why’s it so important?” Yancy asks.
I have decided that Yancy is a sociopath. It explains a lot.
Instead of suggesting that the desecration of her father’s burial place and the theft of items associated with his death ritual is deeply upsetting, she says it’s because of his valuable watch. Which, I guess, she was planning to dig out and pawn off at some point?
She describes a gold pocket watch with cherubs on it, and wings on the chain, that played a little tune when it was opened. Yancy says he remembers it, probably because it’s hard to forget a watch that tacky. Desiree says that “Father gave it to him.”
Father gave a watch to Daddy?
So… she had two dads and one of them loved tacky watches and gave one to his husband, and now they’re both dead and the watch is gone? Or her pimp’s grave was robbed and the thieves took a gift her father had given to him? Or she had a step-father who she called Father, and he gave her biological father, who she called Daddy, a watch because… he knew that Daddy hated cherubs but he’d wear the watch to make Desiree think that everything was cool between them? I’m guessing she was supposed to say that her grandfather gave him the watch, but now there’ a confusing mini-mystery afoot.
Regardless, she tells Yancy to keep an eye out for it in “the Forbidden Places.”
Go behind every ‘Employees Only’ sign in town if you have to!
Yancy says he’ll take care of it, and offers to call her a carriage home.
“Aren’t you going to walk me?” Desiree flutters those eyelashes like she’s trying to use them to fly.
Oh, come on, Yancy! You’re perfect for each other! You’re both jerks!
Desiree is not one to give up, and gives him her address, should he ever want to come-a-calling.
And with that, this horrible lunchtime scene is over. Did Pahoo ever sit down? I like to think so, but we never see it.
Time to move on.
The Bucket of Blood at night is a great place. First of all, their sign is a picture of a bucket with nothing in it. No blood. It looks like it was painted by a Smurf; there’s a very cute cartoony quality to the bucket itself, and the lettering belongs on a preschool poster. Then, when you get inside, a piano player is going through the ice cream truck song repertoire like his life depends on it, which it might. We don’t know. There could be some pirate off-screen holding a loaded pistol, being like: “Play Turkey in the Straw as fast as you can! Faster! Damn it, I said faster!”
At one of the tables, a ne’er-do-well is whispering sweet nothings in a lady’s ear, but she doesn’t like them. She knocks him out of his chair with a kick, and is in the process of beating his face to a pulp when Yancy and Pahoo stroll in. Yancy tips his hat at the woman clawing a man’s eyes out, and wanders over to a table where an arm-wrestling match is commanding some serious wagers.
I guess they got bored of the interesting types of gambling. One of the corner tables is probably playing Go Fish… for keeps.
Finally, we find Marble Fingers groping a waitress. He claims that the waitress is his new girlfriend, and when she tries to argue the point, he slaps her. Yancy clocks him in the jaw for this, because he has to do something right every now and then, just to keep the show afloat.
Unfortunately, the waitress and her fake Irish accent are now in love with Yancy. Of course she can’t just thank him for his help and move on, that would be silly! If a man does one nice thing for you, you fall in love with him, everyone knows that!
She should fall in love with Pahoo. Then we’d have a story on our hands.
Getting a better look at her, it turns out that she’s Louise Tate from Bewitched. (Oh my god, I wish I was watching Bewitched right now. Did they ever go to New Orleans? I think I remember one about time travelling and a Southern mansion and a pistol duel involving Darrin and Jack Cassidy? Was that New Orleans or Atlanta? Should have thought of that sooner...)
Louise’s name in this is, disturbingly, Blackeyed Sue. Sue, don’t let people call you that. Don’t let them give you black eyes. You and Pahoo go run off and start a new life somewhere, away from the Yancys and Marble Fingers, where you can be people with hopes and dreams and interests.
Marble Fingers is like: “Why’d you hit me, bro?”
Yancy says that he hit him because hitting people is wrong, and I feel there was maybe a better way to explain this. There are better ways to explain most of the ideas on this show. Don’t sexually assault women and then slap them, Marble Fingers, it is not remotely acceptable.
Sue, in a fit of Irish temper, gets her revenge by calling Marble Fingers a grave robber (true), and clubbing him over the head with a bottle of wine that shatters (awesome, but not lethal enough). Fingers, miraculously, does not go unconscious. But he does take another swipe at Sue, who has a better position this time, and manages to duck.
Yancy decks Fingers again, and is all: “It’s bad luck to hit a lady, and any female in New Orleans is a lady and under my protection.”
Unless they’re ugly. Or fat. Or old. Any reasonably attractive female, who was born female, and is between the ages of nineteen and thirty-five is under Yancy Derringer’s protection. But not if she’s married. Or if she’s got kids. Or if she’s a voodoo priestess, then she’s on her own.
Yancy and Fingers scrap a little, with Yancy coming out on top.
Fingers, angry and butt-kicked, asks why exactly Yancy is here.
“To ask the time.”
Marble Fingers, not noticing how bizarre it is for a man to go through a boxing match and alienate an underworld contact just for the time – like, why not ask the bartender? – pulls out a hideous golden watch covered in cherubs.
Yancy grabs the watch and pulls a gun in one sweeping motion.
Him and his secret guns, it’s not normal.
“That belongs to me, and I didn’t take it from any—“ Fingers starts, but it’s not going to fly.
“Of course you did! It was buried with René LaChapelle.”
What kind of plan was this? On both their parts? Yancy is just bulldozing his way through life this week, while Marble Fingers seriously thought that someone would believe he legitimately owned a solid gold timepiece covered in naked baby angels.
Why didn’t he fence this piece of garbage?
Did he need a new watch that badly?
Did he like the twinkle ballerina song it plays?
So many unanswered questions in this episode…
There’s a tense moment where Yancy asks Marble Fingers to escort him to the door, and all the other patrons look on with steely uncertainty.
“Good night, grave robbers!” Yancy tips his hat, before he and Pahoo slip back into the relative safety of the waterfront at night. (You know your waterfront is doing something really wrong when the deep shadows of the salt-licked warehouses are a better choice than the sing-along tavern full of goofballs.)
“Yancy’s going to have his lights turned out sooner than he thinks.” Marble Fingers announces, before we go to dramatic commercial.
And now it’s time to ask the show, why do we care? Yancy got Desiree LaPeroxide her tacky dead father’s tacky watch back, even though he does not want to sleep with her, he just wants to flirt. Desiree has made herself thoroughly unlikeable, not just to a modern audience but to any audience, through what little we’ve seen of her. Matthew Younger keeps getting robbed, but Yancy has told us not to care about that, and he isn’t solving it because it would hurt his credibility with the local criminal element. Then he goes and hurts his credibility with the local criminal element anyway by pulling this stunt with the watch. Marble Fingers is mad, but established to be small potatoes, and the only reason we wanted him happy was so that Yancy could be free to investigate these robberies that he has decided not to investigate because it would piss off Marble Fingers.
It’s like the plot is a racist snake eating its own tail.
But let’s finish it anyway.
Hey! You know what gets old really fast? Fake Irish accents!
That’s right, it’s time to meet up again with Sue, being chased through the streets by an armed thug who is shooting at her. Why? We don’t know. Necessary to the story? There is no story. Just dialogue and costumes.
So Yancy and Pahoo happen to be walking in the same general area as Sue’s random, unexplained attack by a character we haven’t met – and will not meet, because Pahoo just killed him. Trimming the fat on this thing, Pahoo has finally decided that we need to move decisively and get this episode over with. #TeamPahoo.
Yancy decides to take Sue to Madame Francine’s, which is great, because Madame Francine is the only thing about this show that makes my right eye stop uncontrollably twitching.
She’s a recurring character played by Frances Bergen, the mother of Candice Bergen. Here’s a good time to mention that Yancy is played by Jock Mahoney, Sally Field’s stepfather, with occasional guest appearances from Maggie Mahoney (Sally Field’s mother) as Madame Francine’s cousin. It’s kind of like backwards time machine nepotism? People on this show had very successful daughters.
So, the warm elegance of Frances Bergen aside, Francine is a character who is treated like garbage by the series itself. Gunsmoke had debuted a few years earlier, and brought Miss Kitty into the living rooms of America, as a complicated and engaging love interest. People really liked it, even the letter writing crowd, who simply asked for less overt references to Kitty’s profession. Naturally, all the other shows tried to copy it at least once.
Yancy and Francine take this notion of a subtle romance between a prostitute and her regular client, the town sheriff, and miss the point completely. And also strip it of its irony, and totally fail to convince the audience that Yancy is in any way actually in love with Francine. He, as in so many categories, comes off as a jerk.
Francine herself is great, she’s an established businesswoman who runs a casino/burlesque house/brothel place that never specifies what exactly it is, but seems to be like a Chuck-E-Cheese for rich people with bad habits. Despite all of her success, there’s one department where she just can’t keep it together: she’s in love with Yancy Derringer. Yancy doesn’t reciprocate, but he does sleep with her sometimes, and use her resources instead of his own, and he puts her life in danger a lot because it’s convenient, and he’s frequently introducing her to his flame-of-the-week and explaining to the girl and Francine at the same time that he’s only into casual hookups.
So, this time around, Yancy brings Sue to stay with her. Sue who he just met tonight. Sue who is in love with him.
Seriously, Yancy, cut the crap.
He takes Sue not through a staff door or kitchen entrance, because that would be easiest for everyone, but instead parades her through the casino floor. She’s obviously out of place in her crumpled hat and tattered skirt, and everybody stares. Yancy is bold about it, like: “Let them stare, I don’t care!” Nice and easy for you, Yancy, they’re staring at Sue.
Francine raises an eyebrow at him, like: “Are you the circus now?”
Yancy winks at her as he takes Sue into the back room and closes the door.
To an outsider, this whole thing looks extremely shady and weird.
To an insider, it’s just like one big eye roll.
“Why would anyone want to kill you?” Yancy asks Sue, as if it’s not a thing that lower class women sometimes get murdered for no good reason.
Sue rattles off that “they” caught her listening to their nefarious plans to murder Yancy. And it wasn’t just Marble Fingers making the plans, there was a second party. A gentleman.
“When is my demise to happen?” He asks with a sly grin. Pretty damn quick, if you don’t start doing actual investigation work. What did he look like? Did you notice anything remarkable about the way he dressed or spoke? There are a lot of gentleman in New Orleans, details might help.
“Your what?” Sue asks, like she’s never heard the word demise before. Which is, you know, laughably impossible given that this is New Orleans ten years after the Civil War, and demise was a pretty common way to talk about death, and everybody was talking about death, because this is New Orleans ten years after the Civil War.
It’s like if a character now were like: “Airport security? Is that a thing? What’s sriracha? I don’t know your fancy words. Who is Oprah?”
Death was seriously part of the cultural zeitgeist at that time, and so were all the words that went along with it. Like, if you time travelled beck to 1874, and were all: “Quick! Man on the street! What is the actual difference between a coffin and a casket?” The man would say: “A casket is a rectangular box, whereas a coffin has hexagonal edging. Did you hit your head? Do you need to sit down?”
Anyway, Sue says that the plan is to put out Yancy’s lights tomorrow night, and the person he has to watch out for is a gambling man by the name of Biloxi. The plan is for Biloxi to challenge Yancy to a game of cards at Madame Francine’s – since Yancy is pretty much guaranteed to be there on Tuesdays – and accuse him of cheating, and bang shoot him dead.
Good luck, Biloxi. We’re all cheering for you.
Yancy asks if Sue would recognize Biloxi if she saw him again.
“That’s a fish face I won’t soon be forgetting,” she lilts awkwardly, as the door flies open behind her.
Oh good, Francine is here and she is angry.
She reminds Yancy that the house rules are that clients may not bring in outside food, or women who do not work at the establishment. There are probably screening systems, local kickbacks, reputations, and all sorts of other things to consider. It seems reasonable, even if Yancy thinks it’s a dumb rule.
“Let’s say she works here,” he smirks.
“Let’s not.” Francince replies, as cold and sharp as an icicle.
Kill him, Francine. Kill him and pin it on Marble Fingers!
Sue introduces herself and tells Francine not to look down her nose at her, she’s in the process of saving Yancy’s life.
“Any good reason?” Francine asks.
“Cuz he’s a gent! A real gent!” Sue gushes, “And I like him.”
Francine softens, because it’s a complicated business to like Yancy. Sue has obviously spent a lifetime with horrible men who act horrible, she’s yet to come across the parlor snake adventurer type. She hasn’t seen Frozen; she doesn’t know who Prince Hans is.
Sue can stay for a night, Francine will clean her up and find her some work-appropriate clothes.
“Is she honest?” Francine asks Yancy.
Sue gets angry, either because she’s being discussed in the third person, or because she doesn’t like the implication that an unknown element dragged off the street by a notorious gambling addict might not be on the level. Come on, Sue, I’m on your side, but this is a business. Less suspicious looking people than you steal booze. Be real.
“Honest as the day is long!” Sue proclaims proudly.
“Unfortunately, the days are getting shorter.” Francine quips, because she’s a boss.
She sends Sue upstairs to be bathed, Eliza Doolittle style, and warns Yancy that she’s going to need a longer, proper explanation. Before she can go oversee the off-screen makeover montage, Yancy grabs her arm and asks if she knows a man named Biloxi. She does.
Francine says that Biloxi uses a Colt .31, which is a pretty intimate thing to know. Yancy asks if Francine has Colt .31 he can borrow, as part of a crucial and idiotic plan. A plan he can’t be bothered to explain to Francine, and my rule is: if you’re not going to tell me what the gun is for, you may not use the gun.
Unfortunately, Yancy’s charms are such that Francine just lets him do what he wants.
He’s not that handsome, Francine.
Two women hopelessly in love with Yancy can’t possibly be enough, though. We need to be more annoyed.
The answer, of course, is Desiree.
The next day, Yancy goes to her house to return the horrible cherub watch no one cares about.
“Did you come for courting or visiting?” Desiree asks, with – please stop doing this, Desiree – a flutter of her eyelashes. (I’m starting to wonder if she has some kind of tear duct infection.)
“Bachelors don’t court, they pursue.” Yancy tells her helpfully.
Yeesh. What is that even supposed to mean, Yancy? Do you think married men court? Also, try to seem less like a sex-vulture circling the weak and vulnerable. It's not attractive.
He then surprises her with the watch, which I notice here has an enormous tassel instead of a chain. Like one of those drapery ties you see in Vincent Price movies. There is nothing about this watch that isn't next level ostentatious. Russian cars would turn it down for being a little much. It would perfectly match a bathroom in Trump Tower. Who designed this, and why? I have so many questions, I want a version of The Red Violin that is about this watch and why it exists and where it goes. Is it cursed? I bet it’s cursed. How could it not be? It was literally just stolen from a New Orleans tomb.
Desiree thanks Yancy by smooching up a storm with him, despite the fact that he said earlier he wasn’t interested.
Matthew Younger walks in, and is all: “Zounds, man! I knew you were trouble, but kissing a lady?! Have you no shame, sir? No shame?!”
Younger tells our “hero” to get out of this house at once!
Desiree is like: “This is my house, and I’ll do the booting, thank you very much.”
And then she gives us plot relevant information that would have been really nice to have sooner. Matthew Younger is in total legal control of Desiree’s estate until she gets married. This estate includes her father’s insurance company, which holds all of the policies on the goods being stolen from Younger’s warehouses. Bam. Huge chunk of crucial exposition, thrown like a martini in our faces once it’s too late to duck.
Younger blusters a little: “There’s no profit in it, I simply gave your firm my business. I’m only insured for fifty percent!”
Yeah, okay, but if the stock isn’t actually stolen, you get half your money back on freight and cost, which means your net profits are soaring. Come on, dude, everyone knows how to run an insurance scheme, give us some credit here.
Yancy points out that this type of con is a thing, and Younger is like: “No! No it is not! It’s not the oldest trick in the book, there is no book! I asked some goons and they said it was just a turn of phrase!”
Now that we’re actually getting somewhere, Yancy decides it’s time to leave.
Damn it, Yancy, no! Stay and ask questions!
Desiree extends her hand for him to kiss, and thanks him for bringing her the watch.
“Did you ask him how he got it back?” Younger chuckles.
“No. Nor do I care.”
“It’s quite simple for him, visit the low dives, find his confederates. A man like Marble Fingers? No trouble at all.”
How does Younger know about Marble Fingers being involved? Marble Fingers, who was also seen robbing him. This is one of those “we never told you Mr. Jones had been poisoned” moments. Yancy looks amused. He’s right to, that was a hilariously obvious slip up.
I know Younger hasn’t been a criminal for very long, but still.
Yancy asks how Younger knew Marble Fingers had the watch, and Younger is like: “I… guessed? His crime nickname is Marble Fingers! It’s not like we have a ton of Renaissance statues for him to steal, he had to have got it some other way!”
“A very good guess,” Yancy nods.
Game over, Younger.
I feel like this is sufficient evidence to start a formal investigation. Especially with Desiree witnessing the exchange, but that would be logical, and Yancy Derringer spits in the face of logic.
And also in the face of consistency. Because, all of a sudden, Yancy is narrating.
He has never narrated before.
“Somehow, I got the impression that Mr. Younger was walking a very tight rope, and I wanted to knock him off balance. I decided to go to Madame Francine’s bright and early that evening, to meet the man with the .31 caliber.”
Somehow you got the impression? He practically confessed. And you have Sue to testify to witnessing him – almost guaranteed to have been the “gentleman” she mentioned – conspiring with Marble Fingers and Biloxi to rub you out! This case is over! The audience has no more questions!
Sheesh. It’s the exact opposite of Rex Randolph Gives Up. (Worst children’s book ever.)
Okay, maybe one questions remains. Why borrow a clone Colt .31 from Francine?
Let’s answer that.
As Yancy told us, he shows up at Madame Francine’s way before it’s fashionable to do so. But the place is already hopping, because the party don’t stop at the Madame’s. Sue, who has been buffed and polished, is on wheel spinning duty. Work hard and prove yourself, Sue, and the future is yours!
Pahoo, we see, is packing a secret gun, because secret guns are Yancy’s life and Pahoo only having one, not-secret shotgun has been bothering him. Secret guns are mandatory on this show.
Francine is like: “This thing you’re doing is crazy.”
“You can’t win without betting. Now how about dealing me a hand of poker, old girl?”
My plan, in case there’s any doubt, is letting Biloxi kill Yancy; but we’re going to do Yancy’s plan instead. Let me lay it out for you.
Step One: Yancy plays poker literally all night until it’s time for his assassination.
Step Two: When Biloxi shows up, Sue identifies him by nodding to Pahoo.
Step Three: The most important step. Pahoo pretends to be staggeringly drunk and bumps into Biloxi, knocking him down. The fall will also somehow cause Biloxi’s gun to wind up on the floor, allowing Pahoo to switch it with his new secret gun – the clone gun that has been borrowed from Francine. How on earth would a gun fall out of a holster while a man is on the floor? Shut up, that’s how.
Step Four: Ignore the incredibly racist comments Biloxi makes as he joins the poker game. Play cards with Biloxi for several hours, until the pot is a few thousand dollars; allow Biloxi to frame Yancy for cheating.
Step Five: Get shot.
Yancy goes flying when the bullet hits him, it’s kind of great. Jock Mahoney was a prominent stuntman before he was an actor, and the best thing about watching Yancy Derringer might be watching Yancy fall backwards over crates. Which sounds weird, but is true.
Biloxi flees the scene, even though… wait… this is stupid and backwards. Accusing Yancy of cheating does literally nothing to protect you from a murder charge if you shoot first. If you can get Yancy to think you’re cheating, and pull a gun on you, then if you’re faster and shoot him to save your own life, that’s totally great, no jail at all. You’d have to have your gun ready, and be pretty confident, but the other way does absolutely nothing to protect you in the eyes of the law.
There has never been a defense like: “Your Honor, yes I killed him, but we’d made him the banker for that round of Monopoly, and he was skimming off the top.”
“You are absolutely free to go. The law would’ve been powerless to stop him, and you had to protect your fake property. Next case.”
Biloxi is an idiot.
Yancy is, obviously and to my eternal disappointment, not dead. A small crowd gathers to gasp around his non-corpse while Francine is all: “They murdered Yancy! Nooooo!”
But instead of taking him to the morgue, they take him to a sofa where he can look all smug about the gun-switch. Have to say, he put an awful lot of trust in a man he made stand in a café for half an hour.
Francine reports that everyone fell for it, and Sue tells Yancy that Pahoo is following Biloxi “like his very shadow.” That sounds awesome, so of course we don’t get to see any of it.
Yancy is all: “Well, the best way to follow up a fake death is to pretend to be a fake ghost. I’d better hit Green Acres cemetery.”
“If you’re sure they’ll be there.” Francine replies, leading into more narration from Yancy.
“Oh, they were there, alright. Mr. Younger’s plan had become as transparent as a bachelor’s smile.” (That’s a weirdly self-hating thing to say, Yancy, considering your earlier assertions about being a bachelor.)
“Steal from yourself, hide the goods in Green Acres, let Marble Fingers grave rob all the other cemeteries to draw off the police. Then collect your insurance, move the loot across the Mississippi to be sold elsewhere.”
Needlessly complicated, but fine. Younger is a new criminal, and new criminals like a lot of flourish.
But why wouldn’t the cops be asking how come Green Acres never gets robbed? If you had a town full of cemeteries, and all of them except for one had been broken into, wouldn’t you put a ton of guards there, just by presuming it would be the next target? Or, I don’t know, maybe you would start investigating why crooks would avoid it?
Let’s leave all that alone, though, because there’s skullduggery afoot!
It’s all torches and lanterns and shovels in the pitch dark, as Mr. Younger and Marble Fingers oversee the removable of loot from mausoleums. Younger reminds Fingers that nobody gets paid until the loot is onboard the smuggling ship. Fingers notes that Younger isn’t a very trusting man. After all, who is more trustworthy than a man who slaps around waitresses and steals mementos from the dead?
They gloat a little over Yancy being successfully killed, and Fingers goes:
“I would’ve loved to have seen his face when Biloxi turned up that fifth ace.”
What was the point of framing Yancy for cheating at cards? Why was that a thing we did?
Anyway, Younger goes off to alienate some more armed criminals, as is his way, and Fingers and Biloxi start unloading a fresh mausoleum. Yancy, dressed in spectral white, sneaks up behind them with his Derringer drawn. His dainty little gun, ready for vengeance from the beyond.
“Yancy!” Fingers squeals in terror, once he turns around.
“Oh, but he’s dead!” Biloxi cries, “This must be a banshee!”
So now we know that Biloxi has no idea what a banshee is or how it works, but he believes they're real and is scared of them. That sounds right, from what we know of Biloxi’s general frame of mind.
Yancy tells them to shut up, or he’ll shoot them with his ghost gun. Little does he know that Younger is behind him and doesn’t believe in ghosts. He holds Yancy and gunpoint, and everybody goes over the insurance scam for a third time, in case we’re morons or something.
“Marble Fingers would’ve buried you dead,” Younger smirks. “I think it may be better to bury you alive.”
That is… not a thing that is going to work out the way he seems to want it to.
Backwards magic isn’t real, not even in New Orleans.
Younger forces Yancy into a tomb at gunpoint, but already waiting inside is Pahoo! How did he even know which tomb to pick?! Holy crap, if you were going to start thinking somebody was a ghost, I mean, he must have teleported in there or seen the future or something! What even?!
Pahoo shoots Marble Fingers and Biloxi with a thunderous crack of his shotgun, and it’s loud and smoke curls around him in the shadows of the tomb, and everyone is dead except Yancy and Younger. It makes zero sense and is kind of impossible, but it looks incredibly cool.
Yancy gets up, dusts himself off and straightens his tie. The two of them step out of the tomb to find the city administrator himself holding Younger at gunpoint, because at this point, things don’t even want to try to be believable. How did Colton get there so fast? Why did he come personally? Where are the actual police officers?
It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Younger is arrested, and it’s all over.
Yancy goes back to Madame Francine’s, and is hanging out with Sue and Francine in the back room when Desiree strolls in like she owns the place. No outside women, Desiree. There’s a rule.
Anyway, she thanks Yancy for saving her estate while Francine rolls her eyes so hard she might dislocate them. Never change, Francine.
It looks like Desiree wins the terrible prize that is Yancy Derringer, as she takes his arm and leads him out of the club.
“There are more important things in life than money, and one of them is me.” She says.
Sue goes to knock her out from behind with a champagne bottle, but Francine stops her with a slow shake of the head while wacky music plays.
And we’re done.
I feel pretty good about Desiree and Yancy being the endgame couple in this one, since they’re both wretched and superficial people. Sue needs a chance to make something of herself, and Francine should at least try to get someone better than Yancy.
As for Pahoo, I admire him very much for just shooting his way through the last half of this adventure. If only he had shot his way through the first…