Welcome back reader. It’s odd that you are still here, since there must be much more pleasant things to read, but I won’t argue with you since I’m the one doing the writing. Episodes five and six bring us to our third guardian, who, we will soon find out, will be just as helpless as the past adults in the series. At the end of the Reptile Room episodes, Jacqueline made it seem as if Josephine Anwhistle will be an adequate and able guardian. Sadly, things have changed since the death of her husband, Ike. Josephine now is terrified of basically everything. Knocking on doors gives you splinters, using the telephone will electrocute you, cooking on the stove will make the house blow up; her irrational fears go on and on. However, she is not afraid to live in a house which teeters 300 feet above Lake Lachrymose, though she is terrified of the lake as well, since her husband was devoured by the Lachrymose leeches. Still, she willingly chooses to live in this house rather than face her biggest fear: realtors.
Despite Aunt Josephine’s unending fears, as well as her obsession with grammar, a lack of proper heating in her home, and age-inappropriate gifts for the children, the Baudelaires hope to make the best out of a not-so-perfect situation. To be fair, at least Count Olaf is not there, they have proper beds, and Josephine genuinely cares about the children. Violet reminds them that things could be much worse and they should try to enjoy their time here.
Happiness never lasts in the lives of the Baudelaire children, and we all knew that things would not stay calm for long. While Klaus was hoping to get answers out of Aunt Josephine, instead they get more misfortune. Viewers witness the arrival of Count Olaf before he dons his costume of the week. Sadly, the Baudelaires do not accompany Aunt Josephine on her trip to the market, so they aren’t there to recognize notorious man and steer her away from him. Instead, they remain at home where, to make matters worse, they find out only minimal information about their parents from Aunt Josephine’s library.
The owner of the Anxious Clown reveals the involvement of the Snicket family and the secret organization, giving the narrator much more purpose in the show than originally thought. Foolishly, the restaurant owner also discloses information to Olaf about the Baudelaires’ whereabouts and puts Josephine in his direct line of fire. Poor Josephine, once such a fierce and formidable woman, is duped by Olaf’s latest disguise, Captain Sham, whose name speaks for itself.
Somehow, Olaf manages to woo Josephine and she is smitten (I’m not one to judge the girl’s taste, but come on, that hat is tacky.) When Aunt Josephine brings Captain Sham/Count Olaf back to her home, the Baudelaires identify him immediately and accuse him of once again attempting to steal their fortune. The Baudelaires are still young and their experiences have been so traumatic. They have yet to learn that they should not immediately call out Count Olaf when they recognize him, since the adults never believe them. (Maybe we’ll see some more sneaky action in the next set of episodes?) Predictably, Aunt Josephine does not believe the children and goes on her date with Captain Sham, leaving viewers screaming at their TV screens not to trust him.
Worried for their aunt and unable to do much, the children await her return. Morning arrives with no sign of Aunt Josephine. Instead, they hear a horrific crash and see evidence that Aunt Josephine has apparently jumped out the window of her library (The Wide Window), leaving a suicide note riddled with typos and grammatical errors, which is very out of character for her.
Episode six starts off with Klaus rereading Aunt Josephine’s note. He can’t get over the sheer number of errors she made and is skeptical of her death, while Violet is stuck more in the denial stage of grief. The only benefit of having Aunt Josephine out of the picture, (or window, if I may), is that now the Baudelaires can call Mr. Poe. (Because that will be so helpful!) While Poe doesn’t seem to be a fan of Captain Sham, he also does not believe the children, as is the norm. Granted, it is impressive that Count Olaf was able to disguise his leg as a wooden peg. The note that Aunt Josephine left stated that the children were to be placed in the care of Captain Sham, but Mr. Poe isn’t about to let that happen, at least not without excessive (and conveniently time-consuming) paperwork.
Seeing an opportunity to escape Olaf’s clutches, the Baudelaires decide to create a distraction in the Anxious Clown. Due to their rushed exit, the children do not have time to eat their cheerful cheeseburgers and discover the secret message on their plates, hidden by the waiter (who we saw earlier with Olaf), which we can only assume is from the V.F.D. But they also have the waiter to thank for the idea of using an allergic reaction as a distraction to cover their escape. Seizing the moment, Violet has her siblings eat peppermints and the three of them must excuse themselves from the table.
Rushing back to Aunt Josephine’s house in the early stages of a hurricane, which is set to hit Lake Lachrymose that evening, Klaus has time to decipher her supposed suicide note. With the help of the grammar and spelling books that fill Aunt Josephine’s library, Klaus is able to uncover the truth: Josephine didn’t jump out the window, she ran away to Curdled Cave, way across Lake Lachrymose. With Aunt Josephine’s house now ruined, having toppled off the cliff it precariously clung to, the Baudelaires set out to rescue their guardian. They “borrow” a sailboat, traverse the waters of Lake Lachrymose in the midst of the hurricane, and make it to Curdled Cave. It is important to note now that the Lachrymose leeches are not your typical, blood-sucking leeches. If they smell food on your body, they will consume you alive!
Within the cave, the children find Aunt Josephine. She is ecstatic to see them, since she has run out of provisions. She explains that Olaf scared her so much that she ran away, per his instructions, rather than stay and be a responsible guardian. (Good thing these kids are getting better at taking care of themselves.) Aunt Josephine thinks the children are there to move into the cave and stay with her, rather than to rescue her (not that she really needed rescuing, since she left on her own free will). Klaus, however, is able to convince her to leave, since Curdled Cave is for sale and nothing in this world is more frightening to Josephine than REALTORS!
On the way back from Curdled Cave, Aunt Josephine is able to share some memories she has of the Baudelaire parents. They used to create and share secret messages, giving the audience a hint about the spyglass that Klaus had at one point. As things are with this series, their bonding experience with Aunt Josephine is cut short but none other than the Lachrymose leeches! The Baudelaires hadn’t eaten in hours and knew they were safe, but Aunt Josephine had eaten a banana 45 minutes before they left (less than the recommended hour). At first, the leeches appear to be of little threat to the boat until they join forces. (Leeches: Stronger Together!) The boat becomes cracked and begins to sink. Everyone is terrified, but Josephine is at her wits end!
Hope is not lost though! None other than Captain Sham comes to the rescue! Only it’s less of a rescue and more part of his scheme, since he takes the children aboard his ship and pushes Josephine into the waters. (If only the plane carrying their parents above them had gotten there sooner!) While another guardian perishes before their eyes, the Baudelaires are yet again in the clutches of Captain Sham. Mr. Poe is still not seeing past his ridiculous disguise, so Sunny has no choice but to bite through the prop peg leg, revealing Sham’s true identity. Now Poe gets it!
In the chaos that ensues, Olaf escapes yet again, while Mr. Poe attempts to call the police. The orphans, realizing that the adults are of no help to them, leave the town on their own, hitchhiking in the back of a pickup truck heading toward Lucky Smell Lumbermill, which they had seen much earlier in the background of a photo of their parents with Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine. With hopes of uncovering some of their family’s secrets, the children leave Poe in a frantic state.
Good luck Baudelaires! We’ll see you next week!