Episode #9 - An In-Depth Review

"The Visitor"
[From the Introduction] "Hello! I'm Brian Jacques and welcome to Redwall!" [Matthias/Cornflower footage is shown] "Sit back and enjoy the excitement on today's episode of Redwall!"

[When asked about Redwall Food] "The food at Redwall is, basically, vegetarian. They do eat a fish, just now and again, like in Redwall when Matthias catches the greyling, him and Brother Alf. And Friar Hugo creates 'Greyling ala Redwall' which is beautiful for 'em. I, meself, I like the good basic stuff. Y'know, you could sit down with a... with a big spoon, a ladle, and a wooden bowl, like the moles... Deeper 'n' ever turnip 'n' tater 'n' beetroot pie!"

[Character Spotlight on Warbeak] "At one point in the story, Matthias actually finds what he thinks is a... an enemy. A little injured Sparra. But, gradually, on their journey through the Abbey right up to the Sparra Kingdom at the top of the Abbey, in the rafters, Matthias and this little sparrow, whose name is Warbeak, become great friends. Because, they're like two little kids together. They're pals. And they're made friends... they help each other, y'see? Because it's nice to have pals, isn't it? To make friends and to help each other. And that's the way Matthias and Warbeak are."

[ASK THE AUTHOR Segment] "How did you come up with the funny Sparra characters?"

"Oh, the Sparra. Ah, yeah... Well, I was writing in my garden one afternoon. And it was a particularly nice, warm, sunny afternoon. It was in the British Summer, which lasts one weekend. And, ehm, I was dozing off, actually, in a chair. And these sparrows came along and I started to watch them. And I thought, 'What interesting little birds,' because all they were doing was fighting and arguing and shouting at each other. I began to watch them and I could realize these little creatures were actually talking to each other. 'Get off that. Rrrr...' In a very sharp, short, little... very sharp and cisive little speaker. [makes indistinguishable Sparra sounds] And fly around. And I thought, 'That's wonderful that...' Now, Sparrow. Yeah, Sparra. Sparra sounded better. Sounded more rapid. They're like little machine guns, the way they talk. And so, I decided to have some Sparra's as character and give them this little language. I thought it turned out rather well. Did you?"


The episode opens with Basil setting up a battle plan with pine cones. Down in the cellars, Cornflower asks Matthias for help taking inventory of the foodstocks, like he'd promised, but Matthias says it will have to wait-- Basil is waiting to give him lessons on the art of warfare. He walks off, leaving a very angry Cornflower.

Outside Redwall, Cluny angrily tries to figure out a way into Redwall. He calls Killconey and orders him to find Redwall's weakness-- immediately. Killconey quickly scrambles out of the tent to carry out the order. He goes to a bird and gives it a pendant before it flies off.

Back in Redwall, Cornflower laments to a mousemaid that they're out of nutmeg, the Abbot's favorite. The mousemaid points out that they're almost out of alot of things and need more. On the windowsill sits the bird that was with Killconey. Having overheard the conversation, the bird takes flight.

Outside, we see Matthias' lesson with Basil. Basil stresses the importance of supplies during a siege. Cornflower interrupts them asking if Matthias can organize a foraging party to find some nutmeg. Matthias brushes her aside, saying he's busy and it will have to wait. He goes back to Basil, once more leaving an angry Cornflower.

Meanwhile, on the road, Cluny's horde stops two travelers and their wagon. Farlo the Dormouse and his wife, spice traders on their way to Redwall to sell their goods. When the rats move against his wife, Farlo begins fighting them. Despite gaining the upper hand, Farlo is defeated when Cluny arrives (Killconey's bird on his shoulder) and disarms him. Cluny demands to know his business in Mossflower and, when Farlo explains that he sells spices (like nutmeg ;) to Redwall Abbey, Cluny smiles. He grabs Farlo's wife and says they can make a deal for her life. Solemnly, Farlo agrees.

Later, Farlo arrives with his wagon at Redwall. He's greeted by Constance through a slat in the gate. Upon recognizing him, Constance orders the gates opened and admits him into Redwall. She asks him where Glendul (his wife) is and he uneasily replies that she's taking care of business, but, she'll be along later. Farlo's then greeted by Abbot Mortimer, who whispers his timing is impeccable-- there's a rumor that they've run out of nutmeg. He laughs and says he'll leave Cornflower and Farlo alone so they can do business. Cornflower turns to Matthias and asks for his help in dealing with Farlo, but Matthias (who came off as incredibly thick in this episode ;) says that he's sure she'll do a good job-- pointing out that even the Abbot thinks so-- before running off to join Basil once again. Cornflower glares angrily after him. She and two mousemaids haggle over the price with Farlo, getting him down to ten ("ten" what, I don't know). Farlo compliments her on her bargaining skills and admits that he's always had a soft spot for "beauty as rare" as hers. Quite pleased with herself, Cornflower mutters that she didn't need Matthias at all.

Later, Cornflower is alone in the store room, taking inventory, when Farlo walks in. He apologizes for startling her, but says he has some rare spices-- which he doesn't show to everybody-- that he thought she'd be interested in. Saying it wouldn't hurt to look, Cornflower agrees. After she leaves, Farlo kicks over her lantern, setting the store room aflame. When the alarm of "fire" is raised, Cornflower gasps, but Farlo clamps a hand over her mouth and throws her into his cart. He then grabs his cart and yells to Constance that he must get his spices clear of the fire. Nodding, Constance orders the gate open and lets Farlo leave Redwall. In the distance, Cluny watches smoke rise from Redwall and begins laughing triumphantly, screaming, "He's done it! I have her!!! I've found my weakness!!!"

In the wreckage of the cellar, Mortimer, Matthias, and Basil meet. Mortimer notes that it was fortunate they were able to catch it before any real damage was done and that Cornflower wasn't in there.

Out in Mossflower, Farlo delivers a bound and gagged Cornflower to Cluny. Farlo tells Cluny to give him Glendul and they'll be on their way. Cluny says not until he has her little friend, Matthias. Farlo is outraged, saying that Cluny gave his word. Ignoring the dormouse, Cluny goes over to taunt Cornflower, removing her gag. The second it's off she insults him (the old Winston Churchill joke) and he orders her tied "to the wheel". It then becomes obvious that they're at an old mill. Two rats bind Cornflower to the waterwheel, which begins spinning immediately (dunking her every few seconds).

The next morning, Matthias is studying the remains of Basil's "pine cone battleplan" when an arrow comes flying over the wall, narrowly missing him. Attached to the arrow is the note:
Cornflower will be cornmeal by noon Round and round till she drowns
Alarmed, Matthias runs inside shouting that Cluny has Cornflower. The leaders of the Abbey (Matthias, Constance, Mortimer, and Basil) meet in Cavern Hole to discuss their plan of action. Constance chastises herself for allowing Farlo to leave. Mortimer asks if they can send a party to rescue her, but Matthias says they don't know where to look. Basil agrees, pointing out that Cluny could have hidden her anywhere. Matthias stops and exclaims, "The old mill!" (citing "cornmeal" and "round and round till she drowns" as clues). Basil says that the mill is an easily defensible position and they'd be spotted easily before they arrived. Constance agrees and goes off to find Foremole.

At the mill, Cluny tells the bird to watch the Abbey and report back when the Redwallers are on their way. As the bird flies off, Farlo demands that he let them go. Cluny knocks Farlo to the ground and tells Fangburn (who isn't really Fangburn, though ;) to tie Glendul to the grindstone.

Back at Redwall, Matthias sits with Mortimer in Great Hall, berating himself and saying that if he'd only done what he said he would (help Cornflower), Cornflower would still be here. Driving home the moral lesson of the episode, Mortimer admits that there is truth to what Matthias says. Then, Constance walks in with Foremole who takes them outside to an old tunnel that runs by the river to the old mill. It's very old, though, Foremole warns. Matthias gives the mole crew an opportunity to back out now, but every one of them goes with him into the old tunnel. There's a small cave-in, but Foremole insists that this sort of thing happens all the time and won't keep them from getting to "their" Cornflower. A squirrel (wrong coloring to be Jess) comes and Matthias asks for two hollowed vines. The squirrel thinks it's rather odd, but runs off to find them.

At the mill, we see Glendul spinning on the grindstone as the bird returns. Cluny orders his rats to spread out, saying that the Redwallers should be coming any moment now.

Meanwhile, the mole crew has finished their work. Matthias thanks them and says he needs one more favor-- one of them to accompany him. Foremole salutes, saying it would be his honor and they're off. They come out into Mossflower downstream of the mill. Noticing Farlo sitting by the river, Matthias sneaks up behind him and grabs him, accusing him of kidnapping Cornflower. Farlo quickly explains that he had no choice-- they were holding Glendul captive! He points out that Matthias would have done the same if it were Cornflower being held. They would do anything "to help the ones [they] love". Matthias jumps off of him and tells him he's being silly. Farlo shrugs and says that he sees "he doesn't know" yet. At that moment Foremole walks up proclaiming it to be a trap. Farlo offers his help for Matthias' help in return. "If we work together, we can free them both!" He then shows Matthias the waterwheel with Cornflower bound to it. Shaking hands, they set their plan into action.

As Fangburn sits alone by a fire, Farlo runs up saying he must see Cluny. Cluny comes out from the bushes and demands to know why. Farlo says that he can deliver Matthias to him. He goes on to say Matthias is by the old otters' dam... "He thought he could trust me."

At the otters' dam, a hooded figure sits on a tree stump. Cluny comes up behind him and raises his sword-- only, we see it's Foremole in Matthias' habit. Foremole dives at the last second and escapes underground. While Cluny and his rats attack the hole, Matthias runs up to Cornflower and begins cutting away at her ropes. Cornflower says she's glad he finally decided to keep his promise and Matthias begins apologizing profusely. As they jump to the dock, Farlo runs by and Cornflower cries that he's the one who captured her. Matthias assures her that Farlo's working with them now, then urges her to hurry. They run inside, where Farlo is trying to chew his way through Glendul's ropes. Matthias gives him his dagger and Farlo frees his wife. Cornflower says she doesn't understand, so Matthias explains how Cluny held Glendul prisoner so Farlo would kidnap her. He adds that he'd have done the same for her, then begins stumbling over his words. Farlo applauds him-- "That's it, tell the girl how you feel!" Matthias says they have to go and they run out of the mill. Here they part ways. Farlo winks at Matthias, then he and Glendul escape into the night with their cart. Matthias and Cornflower run to the otters' dam, where two otters wait for them. As they dive into the water, Matthias gives Cornflower one of the hollowed vines. He nods to the otters just as Cluny comes running at them. In a flash, the otters tear down the dam and the water floods the small pool, carrying the Redwallers back into the tunnels all the way to Redwall. Matthias and Cornflower surface in the Abbey pond as the Redwallers gather around them, shouting cries of victory. Mortimer comes up to congratulate them, then asks where Foremole is. Matthias shakes his head and says he doesn't know-- Farlo said he got away, but... As the mole crew hang their heads, Foremole pops up out of the pond to even more cheers. Stepping back, Mortimer, Constance, and Basil all quietly compliment Matthias, observing how much he's grown. Cornflower says Matthias is a true hero... just a bit late sometimes. She kisses him on the cheek and tells him he can make up for it, though. Matthias says he will and Cornflower points out she still has inventory to do. Laughing, she grabs his hands and drags him while he yells out, "NOOOO!!!!!"

The scene fades to the tapestry-shots. 1) Cornflower leaning out of a doorway while Matthias walks by; 2) Farlo putting Cornflower into his cart; and 3) Foremole held aloft by a group of mice while Cornflower and Matthias sit together on a bench.


- This is another entirely original episode (like episode #5). So, everything is one big change. They drew from future occurances, though. Farlo's plight is very reminiscent of Plumpen's (also a dormouse). You'll remember that, in the book, it was through Plumpen that Cluny finally gained access to Redwall. So, they jumped the gun on this one. As I don't know if Plumpen has been removed, though, I can't call it a change.


- There are no new voices to critique this week.


As with episode #5, being an entirely original episode, there were no changes to keep me from just enjoying the show based on it's own merits. This episode was more enjoyable than #5, though. For one thing, it had a far more proactive Cluny. For another, they built the sense of danger up early and the episode was about "putting the fire out", so to speak. With #5, they simply built up towards the end and had you wondering "when will they notice the rats in the circus?". The #9 method was far more enjoyable.

However, the plot left a little to be desired. Matthias brushes off Cornflower time after time and, predictably, she's kidnapped, forcing him to rescue her and apologize for ignoring her. You know, I could have saved myself a lot of work and just used that to summarize the episode. ;) The whole thing was rather cliche and they drew from events in the book here-- the Plumpen connection I mentioned earlier. That's a real complaint I have with them. They draw too much from the books and use them early, so that when they're used at the appropriate time, it makes the Redwallers look like idiots for being fooled by the same trick twice.

Another complaint I have is that they're dragging their heels at this point. This is episode #9-- only four left. And Matthias still hasn't made it to the quarry. Actually, I'll jump ahead a bit. As I write this review I've already seen episode #10-- and, guess what? Matthias still hasn't made it to the quarry. That leaves three episodes. I appreciate the need for original material to keep the series fresh, but this series is an adaptation so they need to get back to adapting.

Here's my last "long-time-coming" nitpick. Matthias and Cornflower. The characters from the show are called Matthias and Cornflower, but they aren't the Matthias and Cornflower. Their personalities, actions, and overall attitudes have been changed for the television series. As I've said countless times in these critiques, it works within the context of the series, but, I'm sorry that the Matthias and Cornflower I knew didn't make it to the small screen.

Ah, complaint, complaint, complaint. ;) On the bright side of things, the music, animation, and voice-acting continue to be top-notch. I've really grown to like Foremole's voice (although it still doesn't beat BJ's rendition). The latest batch of tapestry-shots aren't as dramatic as the early ones (episode #2's would be my pick for the perfect blending of music and visuals), but, they're still excellent. They remain my favorite part of the episode.

That's really all I have to say about this week. Time to start working on episode #10's review.

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