Sunday, April 12, 2015

Master Keaton Case 3: Strange Tale of Lasagna

Case 3:  Strange Tale of Lasagna




A funeral for a man named Marco Belnini is being held in a cemetery in Florence, Italy.  A middle aged woman, her daughter, and an older lady are attending the funeral.  The middle aged woman looks devastated, the child sad, and the old lady disproving and steely eyed.  We transition forwards in time and see Keaton pull up in front of a rather nice house (Keaton remarks it’s from the end of the Renaissance and from a prosperous Florentine family).

Keaton is here to meet the owner of the house, Mrs. Belnini, whom refuses to let the other woman from the funeral take custody of her granddaughter.  Keaton argues that the girl’s mother has parental rights in the custody battle but Mrs. Belnini absolutely refuses to adhere to the laws.  She claims that the woman started “seducing” another man shortly after Marco was buried.  Keaton doesn’t deny this claim but he does start to try and explain things before Mrs. Belnini cuts him off, stating this factor is incredibly important and that she has set up “the best environment” for her granddaughter to grow up in.  Keaton wants to talk to the granddaughter, Flora, but Mrs. Belnini states that Flora does not want to go back to the home of her mother “that heartless woman.”  Keaton insists he should speak with Flora but Mrs. Belnini has her assistant/bodyguard Franco throw Keaton out the door, quite literally might I add.

Keaton uses some quick thinking and weasels out information from Franco that Flora’s room is upstairs at the corner of the building.  He attempts to get the girl’s attention by throwing stones at her window but fails.  Keaton remember meeting with Flora’s mother, where we learn a little bit more about Mrs. Belnini.  Mrs. Belnini was born into the most powerful and influential family in all of Italy and comes from an incredibly old fashioned family.  Mrs. Belnini is very privileged and always gets everything she wants, which explains why she is so quick to entirely ignore the laws surrounding child custody.  Mrs. Belnini apparently hadn’t even showed the slightest interest in her granddaughter in the past but now that her only son is dead she feels as if she has full rights to her.  Flora’s mother states she was too naïve and regrets letting her daughter visit her grandmother for Christmas holidays last year (yes, Mrs. Belnini has been holding her that long…from all accounts this episode takes place in Summer).  A man knocks on the door and asks to speak to the woman.  Though we don’t see him the man is Allen, and is apparently the man whom the mother “seduced” after her husband was buried.  Allen simply wants to speak with her and help her in any way we can but she turns him away and tells him their relationship is over.  It’s actually kind of sad, we never really meet this character face-to-face but already I can tell just by the acting that Allen does care for this woman.  Keaton is told that the relationship between the woman and Allen is over and that her only hope is to live with her daughter because she needs only one person in her life.

We go back to Keaton tossing stones at Flora’s bedroom window only for him to give up.  When he goes to his car he finds Flora in the passenger seat and we discover that Flora’s mother has hired Keaton as a detective.  Flora says she “really hates” her grandmother and asks Keaton if they shouldn’t be leaving (Keaton’s car has been boxed in by a pair of cars on either side, the joys of parallel parking.) and we hear Mrs. Belnini yelling for Franco to find Keaton.  Flora reveals that Franco was once a boxer, and asks Keaton if he knows how to box.  Keaton attempts to start up his car as Franco approaches and Keaton slams into the bumpers of the cars ahead and behind him, damaging them before he tears off down the street.

We transition to sometime later that night as Keaton attempts to cook lasagna whilst chatting with someone from the college from Case 1.  He says he doesn’t care where or why Keaton is somewhere and that the man “just can’t skip classes for two weeks in a row.”  Now it’s never specifically stated if this episode takes place two weeks AFTER Case 1 or not, but I’ve always liked to assume it does considering the events of Case 4 and then Case 5.  Keaton drops the phone and Flora comes into the room to ask if he’s all right.  Keaton assures her he is fine but says he forgot to get mozzarella and that they can’t have lasagna without it.  Flora freezes at the name of the food and she grows quite bitter, telling Keaton she hates lasagna and that they can eat out.  Keaton begrudgingly agrees and the two eat at a nice restaurant in town.

Flora says that her father Marco made a promise to her that when she was older he would take her out to a nice restaurant and dance with her.  She also admits that he made the best lasagna.  When Keaton asks her why she doesn’t like the food Flora grows quiet.  She looks over as Keaton eats and comments that he’s actually a rather cute guy.  Keaton is a little embarrassed and flustered by this and Flora asks his age but then says she wants to guess it herself.  She guesses that Keaton is younger looking than he actually is and says he must be around 50.  Keaton chuckles and says “Well close compared to you…”  Flora looks out towards the couples dancing in the restaurant and tells Keaton about when she went to her first party.  Flora was 8 and danced with her father as she imagines the scene we see her dancing with a man wearing a suit that looks exactly the same as Keaton’s.  We don’t see the man’s face (we only see him from the shoulders down) but his build is also similar to Keaton’s.  Whether Marco actually dressed and looked like this or not isn’t shown in the episode but I get the feeling that Flora has substituted in Keaton in her father’s place.

Flora asks Keaton for a dance and Keaton, again flustered, says he’s not a good dancer.  Flora gets a little annoyed at this and as the two leave the restaurant asks if he was lying, saying Keaton just wouldn’t want to dance with a little girl.  Keaton says he’s telling the truth and as Flora berates him Keaton spies Franco waiting for them back at their car.  Keaton grabs Flora and runs with Franco giving chase.  Keaton and Flora quickly duck into a train station and Keaton gets a pair of tickets to the end of the line.  As the two run to the train car Flora says she thought detectives were supposed to be cooler and Keaton jokes back that he’d rather dance than risk their necks by running from Franco.

The two manage to catch the train and leave Franco behind and Keaton questions why Flora went to her grandmother’s in the first place.  Flora says that she wanted to punish her mother, but that she’s also angry at her grandmother.  Mrs. Belnini is convinced that her son Marco died because of Flora’s mother.  Mrs. Belnini is apparently using Flora for revenge against her mother, at least, according to Flora.  Flora asks Keaton if he’s married and we discover another bit of Keaton’s past.

At one point in time Keaton was married (we later discover that he divorced his wife when their daughter was 5 just like what happened to his parents.  Flora asks if Keaton is ever lonely and Keaton skirts around the issue by redirecting the question back at Flora, saying she has both her mother and her grandmother.  Flora asks Keaton if he still ever thinks about his ex-wife and Keaton just smiles sadly and says that he does.  Flora says that once you love someone it’s difficult to forget about them even if they aren’t around anymore; pretty intelligent thoughts coming from a girl who is only about 10 or so.  Keaton says it isn’t quite the same thing Flora is talking about however and Flora asks Keaton if he’ll run away with her.  Flora says all of her father’s insurance money is going to her and says that they can tell people she is Keaton’s daughter.  It is here that Keaton reveals another part of his past:  he already has a daughter.  Keaton knows Flora means no harm from her statement and assures her that his daughter might be a little upset with having a new little sister.

Later at a hotel Keaton hears Flora crying in the next room and finds out that Flora had a nightmare.  Flora dreamt that her father was inside his car and fell off of a cliff and that she was sitting in the car as well in the passenger seat.  Flora dreamt that her mother was pushing the car down the cliff and laughing the whole time she did it.  Keaton comforts her and tells her that Marco was drunk and fell asleep at the wheel which caused the accident that killed him.  Rather than be shocked or horrified Flora reveals that she knows this fact and that it really doesn’t matter as only a year has passed since her father’s death and her mother is already trying to marry another man:  Allen.  Flora asks Keaton if it’s wrong for her mother to marry so soon after her father died and wishes she were with her father.  Keaton really doesn’t have an answer for her but tries to cheer her up by saying if she wasn’t there that there would be no one around to listen to his Ultimate Joke.  Flora is intrigued by this and Keaton says one of his old college friends fled to the Soviet Union after hearing it.

Keaton tells Flora that her mother isn’t going to marry Allen and Keaton passes on a little bit of advice of his own before asking Flora if she’ll have any more bad dreams.  Flora asks to hear Keaton’s Ultimate Joke but Keaton says he’ll only tell it to her once they reach Marseille in France where Flora’s mother lives.

Keaton and Flora hitchhike (back in the days where you could do that with some sense of safety) with a nice man in a truck; he even gives them some cheese to make pasta with for lunch, and the two continue on their journey towards Marseille.  That night as they travel Keaton questions Flora about her favorite pastas and asks again why she doesn’t like lasagna.  Before he can get an answer or apologize for the question they are blinded by the lights of a car; Mrs. Belnini and Franco have finally caught up with the pair.  Franco comes towards Keaton and Mrs. Belnini says she feels sorry for Keaton as Franco was heavyweight boxer.  Keaton however seems entirely unfazed by the large man’s approach, something which completely counters his attitude earlier when told about the man.  Keaton dodges a swift jab from Franco and, using his quick wits, asks if Franco had lasagna for dinner as he appears to have cheese on his chin.  As Franco is distracted Keaton trips the much larger man and quickly uses an impressive Judo technique to toss him to the ground.  Mrs. Belnini congratulates Keaton and offers to pay him whatever he desires to have her granddaughter given back to her.  Keaton asks what she’s on about and Mrs. Belnini says she could charge him on the grounds of kidnapping (Really lady now you bring law into this?).

Mrs. Belnini tells Flora that she had discovered Flora’s mother was seeing other men while Marco was still alive.  Again, Flora isn’t fazed by this news and admits that she’s known this for a long time.  We see a flashback from Flora’s point of view as she overhears her mother and Allen talking while she is supposed to be sleeping.  Allen is entirely devoted to Flora’s mother and insists he will do everything in his power to take care of Flora.  Again, we never meet the man face-to-face but he sounds incredibly genuine and it makes me like the guy for some odd reason.  Flora’s mother says it wouldn’t be fair as Flora loves her father and Marco loves her.  Allen laments that Marco is probably drunk, again, and with another woman as they speak.  As Allen and Flora’s mother kiss, Flora’s mother giggles and says Allen tastes just like the lasagna they had for dinner that night.  So here it is, we finally get the answer to why Flora has such distaste for lasagna.

As Mrs. Belnini comments on how awful a woman Flora’s mother is Flora tells her not to talk badly about her mother.  Mrs. Belnini is shocked by this outburst and Flora says it’s her father’s fault for making her mother go to Allen.  As Mrs. Belnini tries to refute this Flora says that her father was always nice when he was around her but any other time he was always drunk and physically abusing her mother as well as flirting with other women.  Flora says her grandmother knows this and Mrs. Belnini remains silent.  Flora simply states she will go to live with her mother.  As Mrs. Belnini tries to argue Flora says she loves her father and her but that she also loves her mother.  Mrs. Belnini says Flora is no granddaughter of hers if she speaks that way and she and Franco (whom has just recovered) get ready to leave.  Flora stops them and asks if she can come visit her grandmother again next Christmas.  Mrs. Belnini simply says Flora can do as she pleases and the bitter old woman and her bodyguard leave, allowing Keaton and Flora to cross the border into France.

Flora remarks that they will be in Marseille soon after they cross the border and Keaton starts to tell her his Ultimate Joke.

“Once there were two little skunks named In and Out.  Sometimes In and Out played outside but other times they played inside.  One day In was out, and Out was in.  Mother skunk told Out to go out and bring In in.  So Out went out and in a few minutes he came in with In.  Mother skunk was quite astonished with her young skunk.  ‘My my Out’ she said, ‘How in the world did you find In so quickly?’  Out just smiled at Mother skunk and said ‘In stinked.’”

Flora and Keaton stop on a bridge and Flora asks Keaton to be honest with her.  She asks him if he’d dance with her when she gets a little older.  Keaton simply smiles, sets down their bags, and buttons up his suit before asking Flora to dance.  As the two dance under the moonlight Flora says that Keaton was lying after all about being a horrible dancer and that his Ultimate Joke actually wasn’t very funny.

 Overall this isn’t my favorite episode of the series but I do enjoy it for the simple fact that we get to see (and learn a little) of Keaton as a father.  Keaton is pretty at ease with Flora, treating her more as an adult than a little girl, and being pretty frank with her about her father’s death.  Flora develops quite a cute attachment to Keaton over their journey (and maybe a small crush) and rather than being an annoying little kid character is actually one I don’t mind.  Flora loves her family even if they all have bad sides to them and I’m sad that we never get anything showing if Flora’s mother and Allen ever get back together or not.  I think, once given the chance, Flora would probably like Allen as he seemed to genuinely want to take care of her and had her and her mother’s best interests in mind.

Mrs. Belnini is a slimy woman that I just love to hate.  She’s not above ignoring the law to get what she wants and even if she did get in trouble it’s likely her large fortune could be used to quickly get her out of it.  We don’t get anything with Franco other than a gruff lackey but we don’t really need that much out of him.  He’s meant to intimidate and be the servant to Mrs. Belnini and nothing more.

 We get a tiny bit more of Keaton’s past in the fact that he was married and has a daughter.  As of Case 3 we don’t find out anything about either woman in Keaton’s life (the wife is left as more of a mystery in the anime while we get a bit more on her in the manga but not much) and Keaton’s daughter will finally appear in Case 5 so look forward to that introduction!
What comes next for Keaton?  Does he keep his job at the college from Case 1?  Does he get fired in spectacular fashion for missing so much work?  Tune in next time!

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