Wow, the uncut version of The Meddling Medium certainly is creepy. It opens with a shot of the house during a storm, and then zeroes in on the family cemetery they have right on their property. The husband’s grave is shown and then the son’s. The camera does a semi-close-up of the latter.
Also missing from television is an entire sequence immediately following, where a fake psychic pretends to be able to read the grieving mother’s background from a glove she owns. The mother then reveals that it is impossible for the psychic to do so, as the glove was just bought that afternoon (perhaps with the specific intention of testing the woman with it). She kicks the psychic out.
Later, the nasty fellow Philip Paisley shows up at the psychic’s place, finds her drunk, and reveals that he gave her the information to try to fool his aunt. He asks her for advice on faking a trance.
I’m unsure what I think of letting the audience know right away that Philip is fooling around. It’s so creepy in the cut version when the viewers have no clue what’s going on once Philip enters his trance. It seems very possibly genuine in the cut version. But I don’t like the opening cemetery shots and the fake psychic’s performance being cut from the episode. And then of course, the latter doesn’t make sense without the little reveal that Philip fed her the information.
There is one thing about the episode that I’ve idly thought before and started to seriously consider after seeing the complete version. It seems to me that once Bonnie gets Philip drunk six months later, he acts awfully upset and disturbed if he’s just been faking all the time. He continues to insist that the trances are real and challenges Bonnie to try to go into one and write a message herself.
Naturally one wouldn’t think that Philip would reveal his deception if he was in control of himself, but since Bonnie got him so extremely drunk one might think something could slip out. And instead he acts genuinely distraught over the matter of the trances. He almost seems as though he wants nothing more to do with them.
I have to wonder, is it at all possible that while he faked the initial trance and maybe some of the others, over time his deception really attracted the attention of spirits (maybe even Thomas’s) and they started delivering real messages through him?
Imagine how seriously unsettling that would be, especially for someone who not only scoffed at the spirit world but had actively manipulated a relative’s belief in it for his own gain—suddenly, one night, a message comes through that he had not written and had no intention of delivering. And he can’t control his hand or stop the message from coming. On succeeding nights, the same thing continues to happen.
He wouldn’t be able to understand it, at least at first, and he wouldn’t even be able to talk about it with anyone, since he had to continue the illusion that every message had always been real. That could definitely explain his angry and overwrought behavior once Bonnie got him drunk, and also his insistence on not contacting the spirits that particular night.
I’ve always kind of liked to think that Bonnie’s creepy message really is at least partially supernatural in nature, and a message from a spirit, even if she does have mild ESP. And the possibility that Philip really ended up being in contact with spirits adds a whole new level of creepiness to the episode.
Of course, being a logical, straightforward Perry episode, no one would want to come out and acknowledge the existence of ghosts by having any of the manifestations be genuine communications. But it would be interesting to know if writer Samuel Newman had it subtly in mind when he wrote the script.
Perhaps I’ll tinker with the idea of a creepy little follow-up story that explores the possibility.