By Cory Robinson
The episode starts off with single mom Barbara Paxton moving in to a low rent subdivision aptly named Sun Country which is in Arizona complete with no air conditioning, after getting over a messy divorce with her ex-husband. To make matters worse, her two children Lance and Dennis (played by Seth Green and Joshua Rudoy respectively) take their frustration on the divorce out on any new babysitter that their mom hires with such examples as: scalping off their hair, almost killing their dogs, and putting laxative in their hot cocoa. The two are so rambunctious that almost no sitter will watch over them until Barbara manages to find one sitter in the phone book that will look after her boys.
That sitter’s name is Vanessa (played by Mabel King best known for What’s Happening, The Jerk, and The Wiz) who has a thick Jamaican accent but claims that she is from a faraway place in the islands with magic in the winds complete with dancing and singing all the time. The boys write her off as some weird cook but things change when they try to prank her by putting a bucket full of water on top of a door barely open enough so that when Jennifer comes in, the water will pour directly on her. The prank goes south however when Jennifer enters the boys’ room and the bucket filled with water pauses mid-fall and ends up landing on the boys when they try to investigate the bucket, drenching them in cold water. Lance is furious about what has happened but doesn’t believe that some sort of magic is involved and instead believes that something happened with gravity causing for the bucket to pause.
The boys then decide to get back at Jennifer by convincing her to play hide and seek by getting her to hide in the closet thus giving them the opportunity to trap her and try to SUFFICATE HER WITH SMOKE. The plan backfires again literally when as the boys start lighting a fire, they are transported into the closet and switch places with Jennifer thus having them in a situation in where they almost pass out due to the smoke, but Jennifer lets them out in the nick of time. Dennis is now convinced that Jennifer is magical but Lance is so stubborn with the situation that he is convinced that all she is doing is tricks and she must be stopped at all costs. The boys then decide to throw a couple of toads at Jennifer but then gets back at the boys by transforming the toads into two giant lizards which scare the boys into finding a way to get rid of Jennifer.
Jennifer warns the boys about duppies, who are evil spirits who are trapped between the land of the living and the land of the dead who spends eternity tormenting bad children while living in their closets. This just irritates the boys enough to wage war against Jennifer but before they can find her, the living room turns into a Native American campsite complete with irate Indians who want to kill the boys for being bad. The boys try to run in their closet but they are greeted by a duppy who is trying to eat the boys but before he can the boys beg Jennifer to make the Indians and duppy go away but Jennifer just laughs while chomping on a cigar and claims that she has no part of this and that all of this is their imagination.
The episode concludes with Barbara coming home to find the boys well behaved while relaxing with Jennifer on the couch. Barbara is relieved that the boys not only kept the boys at bay but also that they beg their mom for Jennifer to come back tomorrow. Jennifer agrees and leaves the house but not before the family glances out the window to see that Jennifer has disappeared into thin air as if she used magic.
This actually wasn’t a bad episode given with the goofy plot and the same theme of childhood imagination and wonderment that the show keeps using episode after episode but it comes together really well. The acting was really great with Mabel King being the stand out and the script by Mick Garris was pretty good as well. What really made this episode work was the direction by Joan Darling that made the episode over-the-top and goofy, but in a way that wasn’t too much where it made other episodes in the past feel obnoxious and instead found the right level of balance to make it an enjoyable episode. The episode has a nice moral about even though kids should behave that they should also let their imaginations run wild from time to time which could make them at their most happiest. Overall I would say that this is an episode that viewers should watch as it can strike a chord in most people and it’s just clever enough that makes it one of the better episodes of the first season.
Come back next week as I take a look No Day at the Beach with Charlie Sheen losing it in World War II instead of Vietnam.
You can watch the episode here at the NBC site: http://www.nbc.com/amazing-stories/video/the-sitter/2909104