The mind’s a funny thing.
There are some things I’ve watched a million or so times as a kid, I can’t tell you a thing about them, save that I watched them.
Take the Smurfs. Every Saturday I was right in front of the television, watching their latest antics. Fanatically. Even in rerun. Today, I could tell you the plot of one, maybe two storylines. Mainly because they sprung directly from Peyo and I’d read the comics.
Then it goes the other way: stuff I’ve seen only once and I can give you, if not the whole story, then enough to give you the gist.
Couple of examples, neither quite fair, as I hunted most of the stories they were based on down as an adult. First there’s Afterwards, an episode of the tv series Mystery (kind of, sort of). I knew more or less beginning, middle and end for years. Decades. Only saw the show the one time.
Perhaps more impressive, there was this episode of the Horror anthology Dark Room. It had three stories and I could have told you about each one of them. The last one, an adaptation of Robert Bloch’s Catnip, caused me to hesitate looking under beds for weeks afterwards.
Okay, I fib. I still don’t like looking under beds.
I’m sure the reason these stories stuck in my mind and so many others didn’t is the Horror aspect. For instance, I can tell you right where I was standing when I saw the ending of John Carpenter’s The Fog. The family was over at a friend’s house, it was time to go. I was on the stairs between the living room and the house’s foyer, scared out of my mind. Burned right into the grey matter.
Now why do I bring this up?
For years, there’s been this scene from an episode of St. Elsewhere that I couldn’t forget.
St. Elsewhere, for those not in the know, isn’t exactly a Horror show. It’s a hospital drama.
But I remember where I was when I watched it. Upstairs at my aunt’s house. It might even have been the first run of the episode.
I remember certain details from the story, like an obnoxious doctor making rude comments about a sleeping patient and the patient remembering them on waking. Then there was this Z. Z. Top dream (I think my fondness for the band stems from this episode.)
And I remember this curly-haired doctor having a nightmare.
For the most part, the nightmare excepted, it couldn’t even remotely be considered scary.
Yet that one scene, the second to last scene in the episode (which no doubt helped stick in there) I remembered as being damn scary. Curly Hair has his dream one last time. He forces himself into this room he found so terrifying and has a confrontation with someone he knows. At the end, for some reason this someone ends up appearing in a ski mask.
I know. You’re sterilized with fear from that description. Me too.
Last night it sort of popped up in my thoughts, and I said to myself, “Self, the internet is a wonderland of information. Let us seek out this episode and find out just what it was that made that scene so memorable to you.”
Know what I found?
It’s damn hard to find out any information about St. Elsewhere.
You can have the finale episode’s ending spoiled for you nine ways to Sunday. You can have the various connections to the various TV shows pointed out to you. But actual information on a given episode? You’re on your own.
Hulu actually has the show, but only first season. This episode? Wasn’t first season.
Yet I persevered. I discovered the name of the episode (“Sweet Dreams”) and a host of other information, such as the guy Curly Hair talks to at the end was a recurring character who turned out to be (or might have been, it’s not very clear) a Ski Mask wearing rapist. Which gives context to what I was seeing.
Which I wouldn’t have had at the time.
As I didn’t watch a lot of St. Elsewhere.
Finally I managed to find the scene in question on YouTube. Curly Hair (Jack) has a chat with the dead Ski Mask (Peter). They have a little chat about the Afterlife (which Peter says he can’t discuss) and a little pep talk for Jack, which sounds a bit ominous to my ear. Maybe it’s just reading up on what happened in the series.
Then it comes. Jack’s heading out of the room (no doubt beginning to wake up) and he asks the big question: “Who shot you?”
“That’s not important,” Peter says. “What’s important is that I deserved it.”
The ski mask appears and Peter starts laughing. And this, I must say, is creepy as hell.
I’m just surprised it was creepy enough to linger for twenty some odd years.
But like I said, the mind’s a funny thing.