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1987

A Runaway Spell

Amazing! Simply amazing!" Sam declares loudly. He is wearing a magician's turban and standing in the children's department with Jodie, Jeff and Muffy. "That's what this trick is we're about to see. The one, the only, the phantasmagorical disappearing feathers trick!" In an aside he adds, "That's what they call, uh - uh, getting the audience ready, Muffy."

"We're ready Sam," says Jeff. "We're ready!"

So Sam puts a cloth over a fish bowl full of feathers. "AlaKazam, AlaKazee!" He says, waving a magic wand, and pulls the cloth off of the bowl. "And the feathers are gone! Ta-da!"

Only they're not gone. "There they . . . there they are." Sam says, confused.

"Face it Sam," Muffy says, "That trick's not great. It wasn't even worth the wait!"

'Well, come on, Muffy, it's not nice to laugh even if my trick didn't work very well." So he tries again. Jodie puts the cloth back on the fish bowl, and Sam gives his magic wand a good shaking, but the feathers still don't disappear. Jodie kindly suggests he try card tricks.

Disappointed, Sam retreats to his computer room and continues trying to make the trick work, but it simply won't. To his surprise, TXL offers to help.

"You, TXL? I need a magician, not a machine!"

"Waldo the Magician programmed some magic spells into my circuits." TXL explains.

"Oh, he did, did he? Well, he's not supposed to do that. Magic spells, huh? Hmm. I suppose it wouldn't hurt if I had just a teensy weensy peak here. Let's see now, uh . . ." He pushes a few buttons and reads the words that appear on the screen. "AlaKazam, AlaKazoo," and as soon as he says it, the feathers disappear. "Almost the exact -" he begins, and then he jumps, realizing the feathers are gone! He tries it again. "AlaKazam, AlaKazoo!" Then, pop! The feathers return. "My successful sorcery! I just can't wait to show the others, TXL!" Then off he goes with the bowl and the wand.

"Mr. Crenshaw!" TXL calls after him, "You have not turned my magic circuits off! Mr. Crenshaw? Mr. Crenshaw are you there? If my circuits are not turned off, I am programmed to release a magic spell! This is a final warning!" The side chute opens, and out slides an exotic looking bottle with smoke coming out of it. "Emergency! Emergency! A magic spell has escaped from my circuits! A magic spell is in the store." A big blob of what looks like fog rises from the bottle and into the store.

Meanwhile, Sam is in the children's department. "Now this time my magic trick will be even more amazing because this time, it's gonna work!" Jeff and Jodie cross their fingers. Sam says, "AlaKazam, AlaKazoo!" Pop! The feathers disappear.

"Your feathers trick is very clever!" says Muffy. "But changing Jeff is the best trick ever!"

"Changing Jeff?" asks Jodie.

Sure enough, Jeff has suddenly been changed. He is dressed like a knight and has a sword in his hand.

"Jeff? Hey, Muffy, you're right. Jeff, how did you do -" Jodie begins. Then she smiles. "Sam, oh what a great trick, getting Jeff to change while we were busy looking at the bowl of feathers."

Sam finally turns around to see Jeff. "Whoa! But Jodie, I didn't get Jeff to do anything. Oh, my noble knights Jeff, what are you doing dressed like that?"

"I do not know this Jeff ye speak of," says Jeff in a British accent. Then he begins to sing. "My name, my name is Arthur the king, a legend from days gone by . . ." The others join in and sing of his deeds in Camelot. "My plot is what you'll love to recite when you look inside my book!" He holds up a book and points to it with his sword. "So give me something brave I can do, start a dangerous quest, fight a dragon or two or a very poor king will cry . . . yes a glorious king am I." Then he says: "And now, I must leave thee to seek out my friends, so that we may meet, at the r-r-r-ound table." He strides out of the children's department.

"Um, Art! Art!" Sam calls after him. "My goodness, that's very strange, Jodie. If he wanted a round table, why didn't he go that way and go up to the furniture department?"

Jodie laughs.

"Jeff's acting too strangely for this to be a trick," Muffy says. "Do you think that our Jeff might really be sick?"

"Oh, Muffy, I don't know. Sam, are you sure it wasn't your trick that changed Jeff into King Arthur?"

Sam is sure.

"Well, then, I'd better go see if Jeff really is all right," says Jodie and she runs to find him. Sam says the magic words again, but when he pulls the cloth off of the bowl, the bowl is still empty. "Rats!" He says. "The feathers didn't come back!"

But they have. They're all over Muffy.

"Sorry about that, Muff!" Sam says.

In the meantime, "King Arthur" is in the stockroom. "But can ye not see that I am the king?" He asks Mrs. Pennypacker.

"Oh, whatever you say, Jeffrey, but I'm very busy tonight and I don't have time to play charades."

Then Jeff suddenly becomes himself again.

"Goodness gracious me!" Mrs. Pennypacker exclaims.

Jodie and Sam rush in.

"Don't worry, King," says Sam. "Jodie and I will help your highness find the round table, eh, m'lord, eh, sire, eh, where's your sword?"

Jeff is perplexed. "Sword? Sam, what's going on? And what would I do with a sword? And what would I do with a round table? Jodie, is Sam all right? I mean, why does he keep calling me King Arthur?"

Jodie explains that that's who Jeff had said he was. But Jeff remembers nothing.

"Well, if you don't believe us," Sam says, "ask Muffy. Muffy? Muffy where are you?"

All at once, Muffy "sails" into the stockroom on a pirate ship. "Muffy what are you doing in that boat?" asks Jeff.

"Ah-ha! My name is really Captain Hook, a pirate from Peter Pan's storybook. I'm very bad, oh yes indeedy. I'm nasty, mean and very greedy."

"See, Jeff, that's the same thing that happened to you. You thought you were King Arthur, now Muffy thinks she's Captain Hook, the pirate." Jodie explains.

"Something very strange is going on," says Mrs. Pennypacker.

"There is something strange going on," Sam agrees. "Just wish I knew what it was."

The mime lady isn't turning into a storybook character, but she is reading a storybook. She's going to pretend to be a character and we're supposed to guess which one. As she mimes the story, TXL narrates: "She cuts her finger on a spinning wheel and falls asleep until a handsome prince awakens her with a kiss. Do you think she's Sleeping Beauty?" The mime is laying on her couch with her eyes closed. "Is that who you are? Sleeping Beauty?" TXL asks. The mime opens one eye and nods.

Then an animated frog comes on screen. "Ribit. Maybe I could play the part of the handsome prince!"

The mime's eyes pop open in horror.

Later, a normal Jeff and Muffy are in the children's department, discussing what's happened to them. Since it has only happened to a mannequin and a mouse, they figure that maybe it doesn't affect people. Jeff snaps his fingers. "Oh boy, wait 'til Jodie hears our brilliant deduction."

Just then, Jodie skips in, wearing a blue dress with a white apron. She has long straight hair topped by a big bow and is carrying a lollypop.

"Then again, Muffy, maybe our brilliant deduction is, uh, totally wrong," Jeff admits.

"Excuse me," says Jodie in a very high-pitched voice. "But have you seen a white rabbit? You see, I'm looking for one."

"Jodie?" Jeff says.

"Oh! My name's Alice. How do you do?" She soon explains that she is from the book "Alice in Wonderland," and that in her story she follows a white rabbit to a place called Wonderland.

Suddenly Sam arrives. He has become the white rabbit! "Hello there, everybody!" He says in a scratchy, nasal voice. "The famous white rabbit has arrived! Who are your friends, Alice? I don't remember them from our story."

"You know," giggles Muffy, "Even though this is confusing, I find Jodie and Sam quite amusing!"

"Oh, they can't be from our story, why they don't even know our names," Jodie says, and then she sings, "My name, my name is Alice of course, while young, you must understand, while out for a stroll, I fell down a hole and ended in Wonderland!" Jeff and Muffy join Jodie and Sam in singing about what happens in "Alice in Wonderland." When the song ends, "Alice" takes a bow, and turns back into Jodie. Sam is also back to normal.

"What happened?" Jodie asks. "How did I get here?"

"Jodie?" Jeff and Muffy ask.

"Yeah."

"You were behaving like Alice in Wonderland."

Sam thinks that sounds amusing.

"Sam you were even funnier, a big white rabbit is what you were!" Muffy says.

Sam is doubtful. "A big white rabbit, aw, go . . ." But before he can say "on," he sees he still has a carrot in his hand. "Oh no!"

"It's true Sam. Something is making us turn into storybook characters," Jeff says. "You know, it's just like one of Waldo's magic spells."

"But that's impossible," says Sam. "I mean, Waldo isn't here."

Jodie thinks that maybe there's a clue in Muffy's copy of Waldo's magic book. Muffy goes off to look.

"Oh, but hurry, Muffy, before one of us changes - again!" Before she can fnish her sentence, Jeff changes. He is wearing mideval garb and carrying a tuba. He looks at it, puzzled, until it changes into a flute.

"Who do you think he is?" Sam wonders.

"I don't know," Jodie says, "But I sure hope he's not the Pied Piper of Hamelin," she says as Jeff begins playing the flute.

"Yeah, me too, but why don't you want him to be the Pied Piper of Hamelin?"

"Because Sam," Jodie moans, "whenever the Pied Piper played, everybody followed him." She begins following Jeff. "They couldn't help it!" She nearly whimpers. "Oh, Sam!"

Sam is following too. "Yeah, I kind of feel that way myself Jodie. Oh, my." He's halfway out the door and he lets out a tiny "Help!" over his shoulder. "Would somebody - stop me - from following this, uh, HELP!" He shouts out again as the three of them disappear from view.

In her mousehole, Muffy is looking at Waldo's book, but she can't find anything helpful there. "To the others I will go and sadly tell them I don't know." Then, poof! She changes again. "Ah-ha! My name is Robin Hood, a famous person who is good. Robin Hood helps those in need, each day I do another deed. In a forest is where I stay . . ." Then she looks around at her apartment. "Oh! Well, I wonder where I am today?"

Sam finally returns to the computer room. "Oh, puzzling problems, TXL, you'll never guess what's going on in the store."

"A magic spell is changing everyone into storybook characters?"

"No - No, no, no, no! A magic spell is changing everyone into sto- That's right. That was a good guess. How did you know that TXL?"

"Because I'm responsible, Mr. Crenshaw." TXL then explains how the spell escaped from her circuits.

"Oh, mischievous magicians. That Waldo should never have programmed magic in your circuits in the first place." He starts off to tell the others.

TXL worries that the spell might affect her. "So far, the spell only works on people and mannequins and mice. You're a machine, so you won't turn into a storybook character," Sam reassures her.

"I hope you're right Mr. Crenshaw," TXL says as he leaves, "Because I feel very funny." Then, poof! A woman's face appears on her screen.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall," says the woman, "I'm the one who tells you all. I'm the mirror from Snow White, and a magic spell has escaped tonight."

When Sam reaches the others, Jeff is placing the flute, which he has retained from his stint as the Pied Piper, on the counter. Jodie is annoyed when she hears that it's all Waldo's doing.

"Yeah, yeah. But what are we going to do about the spell?" Sam says. "I mean, we can't even see it or anything, you know."

Jeff suggests they call Waldo and ask him to come get the spell.

"Good thinking, Jeff. I think the telephone is working in the stockroom." Sam says.

"Why not use the one at grandma's house?" Jodie says, off screen.

"Yeah," says Sam. Then he and Jeff look at each other. "Grandma's house?" They say in unison and turn to look at Jodie. Sure enough, she's changed into Little Red Riding Hood.

"Oh! Startling storybooks! Look, it's happened again, Jeff."

"I'm trying to find a shortcut through the woods." Jodie says.

Sam starts to tell her, but Jeff reminds Sam that the Big Bad Wolf is waiting for her at that shortcut.

"Oh, yeah, right, Jeff. Listen here, Ms. Hood. That shortcut is very dangerous, because there's a big, bad, scary, nasty and not at all nice wolfie waiting to eat you up."

Jodie gasps.

"Wait a second," Sam corrects himself. "Don't worry, Little Red. Don't worry. See this isn't the woods, this is the store, and there are no wolves here, right Jeff?" But Jeff has turned into a big, hairy, scary Big Bad Wolf. "Oh no! This magic spell is becoming a real bother you know that?"

"Little Red" ducks behind the counter and tells Sam to hide, too.

"Hide? Don't be silly." He looks at the wolf and makes small talk as the wolf lays out a checkered tablecloth on the toy counter. "You're not really the Big Bad Wolf are you?" The wolf nods. "Oh, gosh. I was afraid he was going to say that." The wolf brings out salt and pepper shakers.

"Well, have you read any good storybooks lately? Like, uh, like, have you read that one about the three little pigs?" The wolf pulls out a knife and fork. "You know, the little pigs with the three houses and the uh, the little fat legs?"

The wolf points the knife and fork directly at Sam.

"Oh boy, Jodie! Jodie come on, this is serious!"

Jodie pops up from behind the counter, no longer Little Red Riding Hood. "Oh no!" She shouts. "Oh, Sam's in trouble, what am I gonna do?" She snaps her fingers. "I've got it. That's gotta be Jeff!" So she climbs over the counter and snatches off Jeff's hat.

"I'm very old and I'm tough!" Sam is saying when the wolf freezes.

"Gosh that was awfully close," says Sam. "I've had enough of this." He goes to find Waldo's phone number.

Jodie says they'll meet him in the stockroom. "Just as soon as Jeff is himself again."

Soon, Jeff returns to normal, but Jodie has his hat, so he's still frozen. Jodie puts the hat on, and, somewhat nervously, says the magic words.

Jeff is surprised when he hears that Jodie took his hat off.

"Yeah! Well, you see, I had to because you were gonna bite Sam."

Jeff laughs. "Jodie! Why was I gonna bite Sam?"

"You were the Big Bad Wolf!" Jodie tells him. Then she suggests they get to the stockroom before they turn into someone else.

Then they do. They're Tweedledee and Tweedledum from "Alice in Wonderland."

"My name, my name is Tweedledee and my name is Tweedledum. Two of a kind and if you don't mind we won't tell what book we're from!" Jeff and Jodie sing. They have big round bellies which they shake back and forth and they sing with characteristically dopey sounding voices. "We bake two cakes and both have a half, it's greedy to have a whole one . . ." They sing. They each pull a bundt cake out of their pockets, break it in half, and unite their half with the other's half, so that each has one cake, half pink and half brown. Once they finish their song, they turn back into themselves.

"Well, so far, so good, Jeff, at least nothing's happened yet." Jodie says. Then they see that they're each holding cakes. They look around, puzzled, wondering what happened.

Sam is in the children's department with Muffy and Mrs. Pennypacker. He is on the phone trying to reach Waldo Jeff and Jodie get there, but Waldo is away on tour.

"And while he's on tour," says Muffy, "Here we all sit, wondering which one of us the spell will hit!"

"Well, I'm still the same," says Jeff.

"So am I," says Mrs. Pennypacker.

"Me, too," says Jodie.

Poof!

"And I haven't changed a bit," says Sam, in an odd voice. "I'm still the same old Merlin the Magician!"

"Merlin the Magician?" Everyone cries.

He explains that he's a friend of King Arthur's and from the same book.

Muffy has an idea. Why not ask Merlin for help since Waldo's away? So they explain that a magic spell has escaped and is changing them into characters from books.

"Oh," says Merlin, "How novel!"

Jeff gives us a look.

"Good friends, worry no more. Catching runaway spells is Merlin's specialty. The first step is to make the spell visible." Merlin says some magic words and all at once, the spell appears as an amoeba-like thing floating between Jeff and Jodie. Together they lunge for it, but merely wind up grabbing each other.

Merlin explains that you can't catch a magic spell with your hands, so he makes the bottle from the computer room appear in the stockroom.

"Now, in order to catch the spell, you have to mmm, mmmm," begins Merlin, then, suddenly, he's Sam again. "You have to, you have to, uh, oh my. I - I, uh, what're you all looking at?"

"Well, you were just about to tell how to catch the magic spell!" Muffy says.

"Oh! That was nice of me. I wonder what I was going to say!"

Since Merlin's gone, Jodie suggests they try to chase the spell down and catch it in the bottle. So everyone spreads out, looking for the spell, all the while turning into various storybook characters. As they run, we hear this song:

"So we must catch the magic spell, find its trail and follow, put it in a bottle, and give it back to Waldo we must catch the magic spell, find it's trail and follow, catch the magic spell, tonight . . . Check all the hallways, soon all the magic clothes will be unwearable, search through the stockroom, before the magic spell does something terrible!"

They all run willy nilly, alternately chasing the spell and turning into characters and chasing each other. Mrs. Pennypacker changes into the wicked witch and scares away the Big Bad Wolf who was chasing Little Red Riding Hood.

Finally all five of them are in the children's department, all of them are storybook characters, and as they look at the spell floating above them, they continue singing. "We will not be sorry, when all these funny people go back inside their stories," then pop! They're themselves again, and they continue singing, "We must catch the magic spell tonight!"

But for all their effort, the spell is still loose.

Jeff has an idea. "Why don't we use a little of our own magic? Why don't we use this?" He picks up the Pied Piper's flute and begins playing. The magic spell follows him, and he leads it towards the bottle. It sits on the top of it, and Jodie quickly puts in the stopper.

"Got it!" Jodie says triumphantly. "Way to go, Jeff!"

Mrs. Pennypacker takes the bottle and hurries off to mail the bottle to Waldo.

The rest are relieved to be free of their alternate personalities. Joyfully, they sing, "No claim to fame we'd rather be us and we're happy the spell's in a jar. Not a rabbit, nor a Red Riding Hood, not a wolf or a king, Robin Hood who is good, we just want to be who we are, yes, yes, yes, our own names are better by far!"


Quizzes:

  • A young girl dressed as a magician is trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat, but all her rabbits are hiding. Can you find them? (One is spinning his ears around like a fan, another uses his ears to provide a mustache in a painting, another is disguised as a candlestick and another is under a lampshade). "Maybe this magician should learn another trick!" says TXL.
  • Where would (animated) King Arthur live? A log cabin? An old stone castle? A modern house? (When Arthur enters the castle, it's only a fa�ade, with "Prop Dept" written on the inside. "I hope they build the rest of the castle soon," says TXL.

Nursery Rhyme:

  • None

Notes:

  • When she's about to release the magic spell, TXL, says to Sam, "Are you there?" Perhaps she meant, "Can you hear me?" She should have been able to tell if he was there or not.
  • Jeff asks Jodie, "Why does [Sam] keep calling me 'King Arthur,' even though, in fact, Sam had not called him by that name, but only as "king," 'm'lord," and "sire."
  • Muffy's "Robin Hood" costume was first seen on the 1985 episode Daisies, when Muffy was dressed as a woodland elf.
  • The face on TXL's monitor was undoubtedly that of Robyn Hayle, the voice of TXL. It is the only time we ever see her. Possibly because there aren't that many storybook characters a computer can turn into, TXL remained the magic mirror throughout the episode, much longer than anyone else remained in their character.
  • Mrs. Pennypacker only changes during the "Catch the Magic Spell" sequence, in which she is seen several times as the wicked witch from Snow White.
  • During that sequence, everyone sings about catching the magic spell even when they're storybook characters, though, presumably the characters wouldn't have known about the magic spell.
  • The "Catch the Magic Spell sequence" was brilliantly done and undoubtedly quite difficult to put together with everyone necessitating several changes of costumes.
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