'THE HEARTBREAK CAPER'
by Marc Scott Zicree
I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell,
Synopsis: During a
Warfield trip to Rome, Mr Milbanks takes James and Tracy to see the
Colosseum - but the three are witness to an attempted mugging of a
lady, Alison, by a masked assailant. The crook steals her purse before
running into the Colosseum. James follows, but the crook attacks him
first with a bulldozer, then with a sword. James manages to retrieve
the purse before exposing the villain as none other than Snuffer. But
at that point the ceiling caves in and James is buried in a pile of old
skulls. Snuffer escapes, but leaves behind a book of matches from the
'La Rotunda' restaurant. James returns the purse to Alison but she
seems more interested in Milbanks, whom she thanks with a kiss on the
lips and takes away for a 'full check-up'. Tracy and James meanwhile
wonder why Snuffer is resorting to stealing purses.
Later, Coach Mitchell is presiding over a painting
class at a museum. Trevor is attempting an abstract, postmodern take on
the Mona Lisa, but the others are less than impressed with his efforts.
Soon the museum's curator, Violet Hughes, arrives - she's an ex-pupil
of Warfield Academy turned art historian, who has recently discovered a
lost mural by the famous artist Benito da Cinzi, which is due to be
transferred to a security vault. Milbanks is taking the class to see it
before it goes, but he soon turns up and tells her he's busy with
another matter he can't talk about. Since he's acting very oddly, James
and Tracy follow him outside to a phone booth, where they overhear him
on the phone arranging to meet someone in secret that evening - at 'La
Rotunda'. Concerned he may have got entangled with Snuffer and
S.C.U.M., they decide to follow.
When they get to the restaurant they're soon rolling around with
laughter as they discover Milbanks is only meeting Alison, the lady
whose purse was stolen, for dinner. He appears to be besotted with her,
and has bought her flowers and chocolates as a token of his affections.
She's thanks him for a wonderful evening, and bids him goodnight. But
the moment he departs she reveals her true identity - it's Ms Fortune!
Snuffer arrives, and we learn that the purse-snatching attempt was
simply a bid to get Milbanks' attention so he'd lead her to the da
Cinzi painting. But as a horrified James and Tracy retrieve I.Q.'s bug
device with the remote control, Ms Fortune discovers it - and they hop
in a taxi to escape. The driver introduces herself as Bella Spumone,
and they drive off.
Desperate to prevent them from returning to Milbanks to alert him, Ms
Fortune hijacks and pursues in an ice-cream truck - which is handily
equipped with a hose allowing them to squirt ice-cream all over the
road, causing the taxi to skid out of control. They end up driving
through a hole a wall James makes with his rocket watch and into the
hand of a huge Roman statue - where they're squirted with ice-cream and
captured by Ms Fortune and Snuffer. They're taken to a factory where
Snuffer ties them up and prepares to boil them alive at the end of a
steam pipe. He starts the machine and leaves with Ms Fortune to
rendezvous with Mr Milbanks, where Snuffer disguises himself as an
accordion player. Dressed as Alison, Ms Fortune emotionally blackmails
Milbanks into telling her about da Cinzi's secret mural, and he agrees
to let her come along and see it.
Meanwhile, at the museum, I.Q. modifies a contemporary art piece to
transmit a call to a corresponding device on James's belt - but he's
too tied up to answer. I.Q. tries tracing James's location but the
signal fails as they're joined by Milbanks and 'Alison'; they're ready
to go and see the mural. 'Alison' persuades them not to wait for James
and Tracy, and the gang heads off to da Cinzi's workshop. I.Q. stays
behind to find a way to help James, and gives Phoebe an inflatable doll
of himself to carry around, pretending it's him, so Milbanks doesn't
notice his absence. At the factory, James cuts the ropes using the saw
on his watch, but can't blast his way out of the room - and the
generator's about to explode. He ties some material to the end of the
pipe, causing it to blow up, balloon-fashion, then uses I.Q.'s bola pen
wired into the generator to pull a roof vent out of place. Grabbing
onto the gas-filled 'balloon', he, Tracy and Bella manage to escape by
flying out of the roof with it.
They bring the makeshift balloon down at the museum, where I.Q. informs
them Milbanks and the others are heading to see the da Cinzi mural.
I.Q. realises that the reason his directional antenna failed was
because Ms Fortune came in the room, and they deduce she must have been
wearing a homing device so Snuffer could follow her. They resolve to
try and trace her device with the antenna, and grab a taxi - it's
driven by Bella's twin sister, Bellissima! On the bus, Trevor notices
that Phoebe and 'I.Q.' are 'awfully close', and suspects they've struck
up a romance - much to Phoebe's annoyance. When they arrive at da
Cinzi's workshop they're greeted by Violet Hughes; she explains that
the mural has been packed up early to be transported to the vault, as a
nearby volcano seems set to erupt and they need to protect the
painting. Although they can't see the mural, they can look at the
inventions in the workshop.
At that moment a huge metal claw bursts through the roof, belonging to
a crane driven by Snuffer! Revealing her true identity, Ms Fortune
leaps on the mural crate as the claw lifts it out of the roof. Mitchell
and Gordo try to stop her but are deterred by laser fire, which bursts
the inflatable I.Q., much to Trevor's horror! The claw comes down for a
second grab, this time snatching a bewildered Mr Milbanks as a hostage!
He's still horrified that his lady friend has betrayed him, and is
still attempting to reason with her as he's lifted into the air. The
taxi pulls up just in time, and James bursts the crane's tyre with his
rocket watch. But Ms Fortune has a helicopter on standby, and the
crooks pull Milbanks and the mural into it. James takes a pedal-powered
ultralight from the workshop - one of da Cinzi's inventions - and takes
to the sky in pursuit; Ms Fortune fires lasers at him, but Milbanks
grabs her weapon and is rewarded by being pushed out of the chopper!
James climbs down in an attempt to rescue him.
Just as the volcano erupts, James uses his watch to blast off one of
the chopper's legs, and ties his feet to it with the bola pen, allowing
him and Milbanks to fall to the ground and ski across the lava field to
safety. Ms Fortune and Snuffer escape with the painting, but when the
crooks open the crate they find it's not the da Cinzi - but one of
Trevor's abstract attempts! Milbanks soon reveals that when he learned
the painting had to be moved early he asked Violet to swap them
temporarily so that 'Alison' would get a chance to see it. Then when
they were uncrated at the vault, Violet could switch them back without
anyone realising they had changed hands. Milbanks thanks James for
saving his life, after which, to Tracy's horror, Bella and her twin
sister grab James by each arm and take him away, clearly having fallen
for his charms!
Review: A highly unusual and enjoyable episode, The
Heartbreak Caper differs significantly from the norm in
several respects. Firstly, much of the plot centres around the romantic
endeavours of Mr Milbanks, a character hitherto portrayed as a mild
antagonist figure whose character is only properly expanded upon here for the
first time. Secondly, a major S.C.U.M. villain disguises herself as a
friendly character; although this also happens in Dance of the Toreadors with
Tiara Hotstones, it's far more pronounced here as Ms Fortune actually
meets, travels with and even romances the regulars. Indeed, romance is
heavily alluded to in other parts of the episode - James's wandering
off with the twin taxi drivers at the end is more than a little
suggestive, and both Tracy and Phoebe are even more vocally
envious/worried for James than usual. Meanwhile, Trevor's comment that
Phoebe and I.Q. appear to be getting close (though Phoebe's actually sitting
next to the inflatable doll!) hints at a plotline that's only alluded
to on one other occasion - in the comic story Friends Like These. Happily
there's no love interest for Trevor, but the twist at the end involving
his mural is a surprising and amusing one - even if it isn't very well
explained. All in all, despite a marked over-egging of Italian
stereotypes, this is a gem of an episode that delivers on plot but
doesn't take itself too seriously.
Highs: Ms Fortune's valiant
struggle to remain as sweet as pie despite all her instincts is
hilarious to watch.
that art is one of the primary themes of this instalment, the artwork
of the episode itself is especially lax at times; in one scene, the
size of James' torso is vastly out of proportion with his head, and see
also Blunders & Bloopers below.
Lines to Remember: 'Alison',
to a departing Milbanks: 'Adieu, adieu. Parting is such...
Bella the taxi driver: 'What's your name?' James:
'The name is Bond. James - ' Tracy: 'It's
James Bond Jr, now step on it!'
Phoebe, on a particularly horrid piece of modern art: 'I don't
know; it just doesn't speak to me.' I.Q.: 'But
if I can adapt it into a directional antenna, it might just speak to
Lines to Forget: 'Alison',
again to a departing Milbanks: 'Arrivederci, my wonderful,
Gadgets & Gizmos: See
'Lines to Remember' above. Also, there's the rocket/buzzsaw watch, a
remote-controlled listening bug on wheels that looks (tenuously) like
an insect, and a receiver built into a belt buckle that allows James to
listen to whatever the bug picks up. A bola pen is also provided; and
bizarrely, I.Q.'s also created a life-sized, blow-up doll of himself -
which Phoebe spends most of the day carting round pretending it's I.Q.!
S.C.U.M. on the Surface: James
explicitly mentions S.C.U.M. as Snuffer's employer, which almost
certainly puts Ms Fortune in the same bracket.
Loco Parenthesis: Is taken to new and unusual lows today, as the headmaster starts dating a senior member of S.C.U.M.!
Transatlantic Translation: Despite their
both being British characters, 'Alison' - or Ms Fortune - refers to the
box of chocolate Milbanks presents to her as 'candy'.
Blunders & Bloopers: In the scene in which Ms Fortune dupes Milbanks into telling her about
the mural, James (or an identical twin) can be seen fairly clearly
walking across the street in the background - but he's still tied up at
In one scene, Trevor begins speaking a good three seconds before his
lips start to move.
Notes: To give credit to the
continuity department, Milbanks' first name, Bradford, is mentioned in this
episode - and thankfully it's the same name attributed to him in Dance of the Toreadors.
The gang would return to Italy two episodes later in Leonardo da Vinci's Vault, and become embroiled in a plot involving the real-life artist on whom Benito da Cinzi is presumably based.