A Sacrificial Escape
“A Sacrificial Escape” is episode #877 of the Adventures in Odyssey audio series. It was written by Bob Hoose, was originally released in the Adventures in Odyssey Club on July 30, 2019, and originally aired on October 26, 2019.
Emily and Matthew are trapped inside an unfinished escape room in the basement of Whit's End. A mysterious voice insists that the two of them must play a game called "Search for Your Life" to get out.
At Whit's End one evening, John Whittaker introduces himself to Anya Popov, the owner of an escape room business. Whit hired her to set up a portable room in the basement of Whit's End, both to give the kids a new experience and to provide publicity for Anya. As they are talking, Emily Jones rushes into the shop with Matthew Parker and Suzu Rydell in tow. Suzu had just told Emily about the yet-unopened escape room, and, surprised, Emily wanted to see it. Even though Whit was about to lock up the shop, Anya suggests Whit show the kids as a special treat. Whit agrees, and the five head to the basement.
Upon seeing the room, everyone is impressed. More impressive, Anya claims her crew only took a single day to construct it. Excited, Emily asks if she can try it, and Anya enthusiastically agrees. Emily and Matthew enter, but Suzu prefers to wait outside, so she can try it when it opens for real. As soon as they enter the room, Emily notes that it looks like a "mad scientist's lab," or a "steampunk lab" to Matthew. Emily asks Matthew how fun it would be to do things like this together again, as a detecting team. Matthew is hesitant, but just as he is about to respond, the door slams shut. An air valve is heard inside the room. Starting to worry, Emily bangs and yells at the door, asking what's—
"—Going on? Did Emily and Matthew shut the door?" Whit asks. Suzu says it closed on its own. "Impossible!" Anya cries, but when she checks the control box and the safety exit, the former is just bare wire and the latter is welded shut. "Who would do such a thing?" Anya asks. Incredulous, she attempts to phone her crew, but has no cell reception. Telling Whit to assure Emily and Matthew not to worry, using loud voices, Anya leaves. Whit and Suzu yell at the door, but it seems soundproof. Whit thinks he could tap out a message to Matthew in morse code, since he taught it to Matthew. Just then, a click and a beep is heard from the basement door. It locked itself. "Anya?" Whit calls. "Anya's left the building, but thanks for playing." "What's going on?" Suzu asks, as the Mysterious Voice radiates through the basement. "Without the code to unlock the door … there's no chance that you can get out."
"Now that is creepy," Emily says as the Voice growls in laughter inside the room. The Voice explains that there are a few rules about the room. First is the name of the game: "Search for Your Life." That sound of an air valve was oxygen being pumped in. Emily and Matthew have about thirty minutes to solve the room before the air runs out — less if they tamper with the room. Any tampering, and the Voice will siphon some air from the tanks. "Sounds like you're stacking the deck," Matthew observes.
Whit tries to reason with the Voice, asking if he sees how demented the game is. Unfortunately, the Voice doesn't take the insult well, and says that his rules apply to Whit and Suzu as well. There are no tools or gadgets or inventions for "the great inventor Mr. Whittaker to fashion" in the basement. Whit's role in the game is simple: "Watch, wait, and squirm!"
As Emily and Matthew begin to comb the room for any clues or supplies, Whit confirms that the door really is locked, and there's no way they can break in to the room or out of the basement. Suzu wonders about Miss Popoff, but Whit has suspicions about her as well. He never met her before today. Suddenly, he has an idea. There's a power connection to the escape room, so the door should open if the power is shut off. "But the Voice said not to tamper with the room," Suzu replies, and Whit agrees, thinking that the Voice probably has a camera set up somewhere. Whit asks Suzu if her phone has a recorder, and Suzu starts a recording — but then gets a text message. It's a link to a live video of inside the escape room. "Why is this person doing this?" Suzu wonders. "What does he have to gain?"
Meanwhile, Matthew finds a piece of paper that says, "Bubble, boil, and reflect" on the next clue. While Emily goes to retrieve a mirror, Matthew begins to break the news to her that he's becoming disenchanted with the "whole mystery-solving thing." Before he continues, Emily deciphers the clue: When water bubbles and boils, it makes steam, and when she steams up the mirror... a message is seen! "All roads lead to a good read." While the two detectives collect all the books in the room, Matthew tells his partner that he's done. The Jones and Parker Detective Agency is now just the Jones Detective Agency. Emily stops Matthew, encouraging him that no matter what he feels, they can escape the room together.
Outside, Whit is banging on the door, calling to the two sleuths inside. The Voice chides him at first, but then Whit notices a hole in the panel. He starts playing peek-a-boo with it while the Voice yells at him to stop, but then the Voice's video feed goes black. Suzu climbed up onto the escape room and disabled the camera. She confirms that there are two oxygen tanks on top, along with a service hatch — but this one is sealed shut as well. With that, the Voice has had enough and commands Suzu to get down. After she does, he retaliates with a penalty — no power.
After the lights go out, Matthew rummages in a drawer for a candle while Emily gropes through a cabinet for matches. They light a candle, and Emily notices that Matthew grabbed "a mouthpiece for a musical instrument" that was in the drawer. As consolation, Matthew suggests that Suzu replace him as Emily's partner. Emily responds by wishing that Suzu would send them a clue.
Suzu has a clue, or part of one. Matthew just found a reed in the drawer, and the mirror clue had the word read in it. Whit says he noticed a picture of cattail plants, also known as reeds. Whit thinks he knows the solution. He needs a battery; the one in Suzu's phone will work. While he sets up his solution, he asks Suzu to tap out R-E-E-D on the escape room door in morse code.
Matthew receives the clue, and after conferring with Emily, comes up with a theory. He needs either a magnet, or... beakers, water and vinegar, copper wire, a nail, and some aluminum screws and nuts. Just then, a buzzer blares in the room, and the Voice deridingly proceeds to take another penalty — this time, the release of the rest of the air in the tanks. "Oh, but I'm not heartless!" he quips, as he drops an oxygen mask from the ceiling. "Only one of you is allowed to wear it." "You're making us choose who gets to live?" Matthew asks. The Voice, ironically, proceeds to quote John 15:13: "Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends." He adds, "Let's see whether it's true, shall we?" Emily start to call him sick and evil— but he cuts her off. Matthew hurriedly tells Emily to put on the mask, but she thrusts it back to him, saying that he's the one who knows how to escape, not her. Amidst his protests, she cries to him, "You are my best friend in the world, and I'm not letting anything happen to you!" Reluctantly, Matthew dons the mask and instructs Emily to grab the vinegar.
In the final moments, Whit calmly hooks Suzu's phone's battery up to the wires on the escape room door. "Praying this works," he says as he connects the charge, and with a clank, the door is open. Matthew and Emily are free. Matthew built a battery and a magnet to activate a reed switch in the door, which Whit supplied power to with the phone battery. "Very good," the Voice calmly interjects. "Now, weren't you glad I set this little game up for you?" Suzu is angry at him for putting her friends in danger, but Whit explains that it was all a lie. There was enough air in the room itself for Emily and Matthew to survive for hours, without the tanks. The Voice is disappointed that Emily didn't figure that part out by herself, but says that, in the end, it was an exhilarating game, wasn't it? "And such a self-sacrificial choice, Emily! Surely that made you feel... good?" Whit, however, is indignant. "Didn't you find the whole ruse rather ingenious?" the Voice asks, but Whit, naming the multiple laws the Voice has broken, says, "I don't call that ingenious, I call it foolish!" Taken aback, the Voice retorts with, "Well, this 'fool' bested you in your own building [and] can remotely open your basement door and turn your power back on… or not." With a final challenge from Whit, the Voice opens the door, and everyone rushes upstairs.
After Matthew and Suzu leave, Whit makes calls to Mr. Jones and Detective Polehaus, telling the former about Emily and the latter about the Voice. Whit doesn't think there's a lot he can do to track down "the man pulling the strings," who went to great lengths to cover his tracks. Emily tells Whit the mental struggle she experienced while in the room, and Whit sympathizes with her. He tells her she's brave, caring, and self-sacrificial. He's proud of her. When Emily's dad arrives, Whit tells her to head home and to bed, but he requests that Mr. Jones stop by tomorrow. Emily also asks if Whit can use her help in tracking down the person behind the incident, and Whit agrees to let her help. She leaves for the night. Whit begins the search with Suzu's recording of the Mysterious Voice.
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Heard in episode
|John Whittaker||Andre Stojka|
|Anya Popov||Robin Reed|
|Emily Jones||Cristina Pucelli|
|Matthew Parker||Justin Felbinger|
|Suzu Rydell||April Hong|
|Mysterious Voice||Atticus Shaffer|
- PARENTAL WARNING: Intensity of a few scenes.
- This episode is depicted on the cover of Album 67: More Than Meets the Eye.
- In the episode art, Matthew and Emily are reading the words "All roads lead to a good read".
- This episode won the Best Short Form Audio Drama award at the 3rd annual Audio Theatre Central Seneca Awards, held on July 24, 2020.
- This episode is parodied in Official Podcast 364.
Mysterious Voice: But, on the bright side, the sense of peril did make the game more... exhilarating, don’t you agree? To face tall odds and come out the other side... And such a self-sacrificial choice, Emily! Surely that made you feel... good? No need to thank me.
Mysterious Voice: Come now, Mr. Whittaker, didn't you find the whole ruse rather ingenious?
John Whittaker: You've trespassed, tampered with property, held people captive, and broken a few other laws, I'm sure. I don't call that ingenious, I call it foolish.
Mysterious Voice: Foolish?! Well, this fool bested you in your own building. This fool can remotely open your basement door and turn your power back on or not.
Mysterious Voice: What is it your Bible says? 'Greater love hath no man than this than to lay down his life for his friends.' Let's see whether it's true, shall we?
Matthew Parker: The truth is, I've been avoiding talking to you about this for a long time. But I need to just say it. I'm done.
Emily Jones: You're done?
Matthew Parker: Yes. The Jones and Parker is now just the Jones Detective Agency. I'm sorry, Em.
Emily Jones: Let's just get through this! Come on, Matthew, we can do this together.
Mysterious Voice: And we're all going to play a little game of... hmmm, let's call it, "Search for Your Life".