The Rydell Saga is a current storyline that follows its namesake, Morrie Rydell. Morrie’s underlying plot is currently unknown, with only eight (six released) episodes hinting at it.
Morrie is introduced in this episode. He admits that he’s new to Odyssey, and Zoe says that he’s been a student campaign manager twice at his previous school (which was overseas), with both candidates winning by landslides. She says that his previous school’s newspaper reported that he had “an uncanny ability to understand how to get someone elected.” When asked about it, he says, “I’ve retired from politics. …Politics is tough business. People can get ugly. I’ve seen it.” He eventually acquiesces to run Olivia Parker’s campaign, during which he proves his campaign talent to the other kids, who admit that he’s good.
In response to what Zoe should write about during the peaceful campaign, he says, “Unfortunately, campaigns that seem to get the most press are the ones where the candidates stir up controversy.” Eventually, this does happen between the two candidates (Olivia and her brother Matthew) after Emily Jones (Matthew’s campaign manager) receives a note in her locker about one of Olivia’s campaign meetings, put there by someone who “somehow got the combination to [her] locker.”
At the end, Emily, who didn’t run, is elected by a write-in vote. Principal Vogler says that the vote was driven by someone who sent out texts and emails promoting Emily, but no one knows who it was. In Morrie’s final conversation with Olivia in this episode, he says that he thinks Emily will make a good student body president. Olivia agrees. “Then I guess it ended up like it should,” he remarks before subtly chuckling. He leaves to go meet his sister.
Emily Jones and Matthew Parker attempt to solve a mystery that starts with all 300 lockers at Odyssey Middle School standing open one early morning, with none of the contents disturbed or stolen. Dion Farkus walks up, asking why all the lockers are open and saying that he’s at school early for reasons that are “none of your business.” He is Emily’s first suspect, and her initial theory is that he opened the lockers and just pretended to be arriving. Matthew is obliviously staring at Morrie Rydell’s adopted sister, Suzu, saying that she just moved to Odyssey, he thinks from Japan. Suzu introduces herself, telling Emily that people have said that Emily is very clever and has done very fine work as a detective.
Later, Morrie tells Emily (“our new student body president”) that he loves watching detectives “put the pieces together” and is impressed by Emily and Matthew’s work. He says that although he’s not good at solving mysteries, his sister is. He bets that they’ll find out what’s going on with the lockers.
The two gumshoes learn from Principal Vogler that there are two ways the lockers could have been opened: a list of combinations (guarded by the school secretary) or a master key. Two master keys exist: he has one and Mr. Redekop, the janitor, has the other, and both were accounted for. The school alarm system didn’t go off, either.
The next morning, all the lockers are open again, with nothing stolen. Emily thinks that the perpetrator is telling them, “I’m smarter than you. Try and catch me — if you can.” They skip lunch to talk to Mr. Redekop, who is already talking to Dion, telling him about his cleanup schedule and that he leaves work at 8:00 P.M. Dion scuttles off. Mr. Redekop says that the security system is sets of contact sensors on the doors and windows. He also recalls that Morrie suggested that a hidden camera be set up on a locker at the end of a hallway near the back door in order to catch the locker-opener. He then hands Emily an envelope addressed to her that he found by her locker. It says:
|“||There the pale night queen,
so patient, ever watching,
she sees the pane yawn.
Matthew and Emily decode it to mean a window opens in moonlight, deciding that it’s a message from the mischief maker and that there’s no way Dion could have come up with it. They find a window in a storage room with a broken lock and fiddled-with sensor. They hide as Suzu opens and closes the window. Emily decides that Suzu is the culprit, seeing as their clue was a Japanese haiku. After school, Suzu buys key blanks, a combination lock, and a dial caliper at a hardware store before heading home.
The next morning, many (but not all) of the lockers are open, disturbed, and stolen from. Principal Vogler talks to Suzu, who explains that she solved the locker incident: she created a master key for the lockers with the items she purchased, to see if it was possible. She had found footprints outside the window, and the previous night, she watched Dion enter by it and followed him in, seeing him open several lockers with a key and steal some items. Dion protests that the key was put in his locker yesterday and he was just trying it out.
Principal Vogler declares the case closed, but Emily believes that there are too many unanswered questions.
That evening, Suzu confronts Morrie, asking why the lockers would be open but not stolen from the first two nights and who really did it, if not Dion? “Beats me,” he replies. Suzu counters, “A great deal can be learned from examining a person’s possessions… but what could be done with such knowledge? …Please tell me you had nothing to do with the locker incident at school.” “All right,” he answers, “I’ll tell you that.” “We don’t want things to… go awry again?” Suzu warns. “I want to do what is right, for our new friends, for our family.” Morrie assures her that everything’s good.
Emily runs into Morrie at the library and both drop their books. While Matthew and Emily help pick them up, Morrie says he's doing research for a big school report on the Nazi Enigma machine. Emily shows him her book, a mystery novel by Mary Malloway. Morrie picks a book off the floor and says it must be Emily's, since it's also written by Malloway. Emily and Matthew inspect the book, Writer's Ruse, by Mary Malloway, with the author's picture on the back. "Isn't it nice when you come across something new by a favorite author, espec—" Morrie starts to say, but Emily interrupts, claiming that the book "could be the literary find of the century."
Inside Emily finds a handwritten inscription, which Matthew says should be checked for authenticity: “My Darling Magpie, Ann West and her missing eleven days will soon and sure lead you out of the maze. If you need help, there’s more to come from the pictures with meaning behind them. Love always, Auntie Mary, June 1975” (when Malloway died).
Emily identifies Ann West as a British spy novel author. She also notes that although the inscription reads “Auntie Mary,” Mary was an only child. The book looks like a self-published manuscript, likely the only copy and thus more valuable. Emily finds the code "DBFE23" on the book, a library donor code. She and Matthew split up while Morrie declines to help: Emily heads to Whit's End to ask Whit about the code and Matthew starts research on Ann West.
At Whit's End, Whit talks to Emily about the nature of secrets while his computer loads. After it does, Emily attempts to check the book number, only to find it replaced with Encoding the Enigma, Morrie's book. Whit suggests that Morrie just got the two confused. Emily remembers the donor code, and Whit says it means "Donor Base - Fergus Estate - Lot 23."
Matthew finds Eugene at the library, who tells him about Ann West. Eugene says that her novels were so detailed that some suspected that she was a spy herself. Her "missing eleven days" were a time period in December 1955 when Ann completely disappeared, and she claimed to have no memory of where she was.
Emily returns and she and Matthew find the Fergus Estate file in the library's records. The Fergus Estate had donated several books, but Lot 23 was donated on June 30, 1975, a few days after Malloway's death. Dr. Nancy Fergus donated a large sum of money as well. Emily and Matthew decide to check back issues of the Odyssey Times.
While Matthew heads to the Times, Emily looks all over Odyssey for Morrie, to ask about the manuscript, but can't find him. She meets up with Matthew, who has found a picture of Nancy Fergus with Mary Malloway and Nancy's daughter Maggie. The picture was dated December 5, 1955, during Ann West's missing eleven days! Also, Matthew notes that Maggie Fergus could be "My Darling Magpie," from the inscription. He says that when Maggie was married (with the surname Fredericks) she taught at Odyssey Middle School with Whit. Whit gives Matthew and Emily the address where Maggie lives.
At her house, Maggie Fredericks explains that she always called Mary "Auntie Mary" because she was close to the Fergus family. Maggie then shows the pair of detectives a photo album titled "Pictures with Meaning Behind Them," from Mary herself. "So, what's behind them?" Emily asks. With permission, she removes the pictures and finds writing on the back, which Maggie asks her and Matthew to read. The pictures tell the story of how Maggie was actually adopted by a British spy named Charlotte who found Maggie, the daughter of a spy "from the other side" who had died, in a hotel room. Charlotte changed her name to Nancy Fergus and moved to Odyssey, with the assistance of Ann West, over an eleven-day period. How does Mary Malloway know this? She was both herself and Ann West.
"Wasn't that a satisfying mystery?" Maggie observes. Emily and Matthew call Maggie's bluff by pointing out that if Mary-slash-Ann was trying to be secretive, why would she stop for a newspaper picture? And no one noticed that Mary and Ann look exactly the same? And Mary took pictures during her trip to America even though she was in hiding? And, after learning that she was adopted by a spy and her best friend covered up her heritage, the first thing Maggie says is "Wasn't that a satisfying mystery?"
Suddenly, Whit, Eugene, and Morrie emerge from the shadows. Morrie explains that the four of them (including Eden Hope, aka "Maggie") were following his plan to encourage Emily and Matthew during a dry spell for their detective agency. Eugene planted the info at the library, Dale Jacobs allowed the Times records to be forged, and Connie took the fake photographs. The two detectives thank him for setting it all up. Then Morrie hands over the (fake) Writer's Ruse manuscript. In narration, Matthew says "No one can uncover secrets like Jones & Parker!"
"I have to admit," Morrie types, "they were good. It was a risk to show them a page of my playbook like that, but … it was worth it to see if they could keep up with me. And, of course, they couldn't." He chuckles. "No one could. I shouldn't have expected that anyone would be that good. Not in this town…"
"Dear Lord," Whit prays, "there was something about that moment that wasn't … right. Morrie said he wanted to make Emily and Matthew ‘feel better’." He exhales. "There's more to it than that. There's a secret here that … feels unsettling. You're the revealer of secrets, Lord. If there's something more to this, something I need to do, please … make it clear to me."
Olivia Parker and Suzu Rydell have been made the Odyssey Middle School Drama Club's president and treasurer, respectively. Olivia was chosen because of a promise she made about going to the drama festival at the state capital. Talking to Mr. Whittaker at Whit's End, she says the team is the best group they've ever had, but the club hasn't gone for the past two years because of a lack of funds. The entry fee is $50 per student, with ten students in the club; half of the $500 fee is required up front, by the end of the week; and the rest of the balance is due in two weeks. Olivia thinks they can raise the money; she raised that much for a church program (although the program ended up fully funded without her money, so she hung on to it for later). She asks if Mr. Whittaker can help, and though he says he doesn't believe it was a good idea for Olivia to make a promise like that, he replies that he'd be happy to be a chaperone, spread the word, and set up a collection jar. Then, Morrie walks up and asks Suzu if she's ready to go home. She is, and the two of them leave.
Suzu tells Morrie that she believes raising the $500 will take a miracle. Morrie says "Hmm." Then he chuckles. "What?" Suzu asks. "Just thought of something funny," is the reply.
The next morning, Olivia receives a call from a man named Jordan Winword, who claims he's from an organization called the Student Project Fund. He's willing to provide matching funds for the school drama club to go to the state festival, and although he's not allowed to reveal his source, he says he has it on a good word that Olivia has an excellent team this year and that the club hasn't been able to go for the past two years. Olivia finds it suspicious, but the guy tells her that all she needs to do is text him the entry form after she submits her half of the fee, and the Student Project Fund will pay the rest online. He says he won't contact Olivia until he gets her text.
At school, Olivia tells the club about her call from "the guy." Zoe Grant notes that while the website for the Student Project Fund looks legitimate, it's still weird. Morrie agrees and says they should ignore the guy; he's just a complete stranger. Suzu, however, points out that the guy mentioned parts of the conversation at Whit's End: where the festival is, how good the team is, and the two years since they'd been to the festival. Olivia has an epiphany: what if the guy was hired by Mr. Whittaker? Though he said Olivia shouldn't have promised in the first place, Mr. Whittaker wouldn't be giving them money outright; they'd have to work for it. She convinces the rest of the group that they can raise $25 a piece in a week as long as they work together. And they do!
Olivia texts the guy about his half of the fee. At first she thinks he's just a little busy, but a whole week goes by with no response. She decides to find out what's taking so long, so she goes to Whit's End (where she finds Morrie) to ask Mr. Whittaker about the money. He greets her and Morrie, Morrie leaves to wait out front, and Olivia subtly mentions how busy it seems. Mr. Whittaker suddenly remembers and says, "You're here for the money for the drama club, aren't you? … I'm so sorry; you're right! I forgot all about it!" He drops a jar of coins on the counter. "But this isn't enough!" Olivia tells him. "What about the promise? … the matching funds?" Confused, Mr. Whittaker asks what she's talking about. Olivia, stunned, replies that it's nothing; she's been working too hard. She says thanks and leaves with the $25 worth in coins.
Outside, Olivia tells Morrie that it wasn't Mr. Whittaker. There's no way they can raise the money now. Morrie says she'll have to ask for a refund. Even though Olivia promised everyone, unless she has $250 just sitting around somewhere, there's no other choice. With that observation, Olivia asks Morrie to tell everyone that they're going to the festival. "But where are you going to get the money?" "Leave that to me," she answers as she rushes off.
Zoe and Suzu confront Olivia at her house, with Zoe demanding to know where Olivia got the money. Suzu says that Olivia had mentioned she raised more than $250 for a church program, suggesting that Olivia may have used that money. Olivia hands Zoe an envelope with $262.34 — the money for the church — proving that she didn't take it from there. Zoe presses her further and eventually Olivia blurts out that she took it out of her college fund, a private account she made for herself. She made a promise and needed to keep it. With that, she turns over the club presidency to Zoe, who she says will be much more level-headed.
That night while preparing for bed, Morrie and Suzu are discussing the conversation with Olivia. Suzu explains that Olivia didn't need the drama club to pay the $250 back to her. "Unbelievable," Morrie says. "She really is one of those people who practices what she preaches. At least this time." Suzu agrees. Then Morrie wonders, "Wouldn't it be weird if that Jordan guy called her up after the festival to give her the money?" Suzu stops. "Jordan guy? … How did you know his name?" "I guess Olivia told me." "She didn't tell me!" "Are you sure?" "Morrie! Did you have anything to do with this?" Morrie's response is to explain that Olivia was chosen because she promised they would attend the festival. Suzu believed in her, and she came through. She motivated the club and raised $250. And when Olivia could have done something wrong and used the church money, she made a harder decision and used her money to keep her promise. "And what was it that really motivated her to jump into action?" Morrie asks. "The call from the 'Jordan guy,'" Suzu admits. Then Morrie reaches his conclusion: "So let me ask you: is everything the drama club did, and that Olivia did, and what she didn’t do; is all of that … good?" "Well," Suzu thinks, "I suppose … yes." "Then instead of being suspicious of your brother, why can’t you think of him as someone who brings out the good in people?"
At Whit's End one evening, John Whittaker introduces himself to Anya Popoff, 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.
Related Official Podcasts
|“||Jesse Florea: Morrie also will be appearing in Clubhouse Magazine in the Jones & Parker Mysteries that one of the Odyssey writers, Bob Hoose, writes for the Clubhouse Magazine.||”|
- Official Podcast 265: interview with “The Key Suspect” creative team
|“||Bob Hoose: Let me put it this way: sometimes characters are much like mysteries. […] Sometimes we give clues as to who people are and what they’re doing, and it comes bit-by-bit, piece-by-piece, and we’re continuing to do that. So you’re gonna see these characters and you’ll learn with each show that they’re in, you’re gonna learn more about who they are and what's goin’ on.||”|
|“||Bob Hoose: [Will Morrie and Suzu have an arc like Novacom?] Well, the answer to that is… yeah. It is sort of an arc, of sorts, that will span a number of different albums, and we will slowly start to reveal more and more about especially Morrie and Suzu.
[Will Morrie be Emily’s nemesis in the future?] I think that’s a very good guess.… […] One other thing that I’ll throw out there, for fans, about Morrie and Suzu: […] I’ve also been working on some of the little “mini mysteries,” the Emily and Matthew mysteries in the Clubhouse Magazine, and there are some… references that… could tie to what [the question is asking] now too, just to throw that out as… just another little set of hints.
Nathan Hoobler: […] “Read Clubhouse and keep listening” is what we’re saying.
|“||Phil Lollar: [about a new villain for Whit] We’ve been talking about doing different things with different characters and bringing in different kinds of characters, so… you’ll just have to stay tuned and find out.
Bob Hoose: In fact, we were just talking this morning about another potential villain in Odyssey, and that villain is a… kid.
Related Clubhouse Issues
- Emily’s Nemesis (by Bob Hoose) (2017)
- Mysteries with Suzu (by Bob Hoose) (2018)
- The Nemesis’ Haiku (by Bob Hoose) (2018)
- Interview with Atticus Shaffer (2018)
- Emily’s Nemesis (by Stephen O'Rear) (2019)
- Morrie the Suspect (2019)
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#885: “Further from the Truth” was confirmed to be the sixth official episode in the Rydell Saga. It continues the story from #877: “A Sacrificial Escape”, and will be released in the Adventures in Odyssey Club on January 23, as the final episode in Album #68: Out of the Blue.