Thelma the Waitress is worried that Mrs. Mannerheim is late for dinner. The elderly Mrs. M strolls in wearing a dead fox around her neck which was the style at the time. She confides in Thelma that she never takes the medicine the doctor gives her, which probably explains her longevity. “When the time comes, the Lord will take me. Medicine won’t help.”
Mrs. M asks her to sit down for a chat. She asks Thelma about her living arrangements at the rooming house (“crummy, but cheap”), and confesses that she is very sick. Apparently having never seen AHP, Mrs. M tells Thelma that she has put her in her will. After Mrs. M’s death, she will be able to quit this job, and move into a nice apartment. That’s all well and good, but can I get some water over here?
Thelma didn’t mention that she lives with her musician boyfriend Arthur. Apparently having never seen AHP, Thelma tells him about being included in Mrs. M’s will. Arthur has immediate plans for the money, like starting his own band. When she estimates the haul might be $50k, he leaps up and starts blowing his clarinet.
Mrs. M continues coming to the diner, but starts complaining about the service. Thelma tries to hold her tongue, but is getting a little ticked off. Arthur is getting a little peeved too, waiting for months for the “old bag” to die. Thelma claims to still like her, but Arthur can see the signs, and has a plan. Thelma initially thinks he is crazy, but comes around. She will put a little something in her tea, so that over time it kills her.
When Arthur goes to the drugstore to get some poison, the pharmacist asks him to sign his name. Arthur is no fool — they could trace that right back to him! So he checks six books about poison out of the library — nothing suspicious there. After pouring through the books for days, he decides on Anatine, which must have been around page 3.
Suddenly, the clarinet player is Walter White with the flask and coiled copper tubing dripping a distilled poison into a beaker. The next day, Thelma puts a small dose into Mrs. M’s tea. Mrs. M drinks it down as Thelma looks on nervously. Over a short period of time, this should kill her.
This goes on for a six months, driving Arthur crazy and making Thelma sick with guilt. One day, Mrs. M is too ill to come to the diner, so Thelma brings a tray up to her. Thelma forgot to bring the milk and Mrs. M asks her to go get it. There is an argument, then Thelma tells her off. When Mrs M threatens to take her out of her will, Thelma strangles her.
The coroner testifies that she was strangled. She is asked why Arthur has blown town, but she insists he had nothing to do with it. Thelma is held for trial. Mrs. M’s doctor tells the coroner that he had prescribed Anatine — a poison in large doses, but with some medicinal value in lower doses. He says he suspected she was not taking the medicine. “Actually, Anatine was the only thing keeping her alive.” Those words echo in Thelma’s mind as she is escorted from the hearing.
Kind of beautiful because if Thelma had been nice and done nothing, Mrs. M would have died sooner. Less obvious: If Thelma had been super-nice and insisted Mrs. M take her prescribed medicine, the double dose would also have killed her.
Not a classic, but a solid episode. I rate it an 18% tip.
- AHP Deathwatch: Amazingly, the oldest cast-member Mrs. Mannerheim (Celia Lovsky) is still alive at 120 years old. Just kidding, they’re all dead.
- What the hell? Mrs. Mannerheim was the old Vulcan chick in the Star Trek episode where Spock gets horny. Her character’s birth-date is given as 2122 so we are five years closer to that date than to the actual birth-date of the actress.
- Definition of Anatine: Resembling a duck.