It is, unfortunately, that time again. Time to delve into the surprisingly charming story about the terrible lives of three miserable orphans. This time we‘ll be talking about episodes 3 and 4, which make up the second story known as The Reptile Room. Spoiler warning for the show and somewhat for the books as well. Trigger warning for child abuse, violence, murder/death, as well as sharp knives, suspicious movie theaters, and, of course, reptiles.
We open with the Baudelaire’s being driven down Lousy Lane – a street infamous for its smell of horseradish and its apples that can make people ill at mere sight – to the house of their new guardian, the man their parents originally wanted them to live with in the first place, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery. The children are disappointed in Mr. Poe for letting them be abused by Olaf for so long.
He assures them that the police will catch Olaf soon. Mr. Poe also tells the children that Dr. Montgomery is their late father’s cousin’s wife’s brother. Just as they did before going to live with Count Olaf, the children wonder why their parents never mentioned Dr. Montgomery and are suspicious he might turn out to be a bad man as well.
When they meet Dr. Montgomery, they find him to be an excited and upbeat person. He tells them to call him Uncle Monty, has made cake for them, and says he is eager to get to know them and make them comfortable. Like Olaf, he is eager to get Mr. Poe out of his house.
However, he informs the children that the reason he wanted to get rid of Poe is because he’s angry at the banker for letting such harm come to the children in the past. Still suspicious, Klaus immediately tells Monty he won’t be able to use their fortune. Monty is not put off by this and understands Klaus’s suspicion after what they’ve been through.
He is disappointed to learn their parents never mentioned him and shows the children a picture of a piano, claiming he and their parents were inside the piano when the picture was taken.
Monty says his assistant Gustav has “resigned” and so the Baudelaires will help him with his research. He shows them his library and reptile collection – including the Incredibly Deadly Viper. The viper seems to attack Sunny, frightening the children and seemingly confirming their suspicions about Monty.
However, Monty reveals the viper's name is a misnomer created to play a trick on the Herpetological Society. It’s not deadly at all and even ends up befriending Sunny.
The children decide they like Monty. Though, while looking through his papers, they find a map of the hedge maze outside his house and see it is shaped like the eye insignia Olaf has tattooed on his ankle. This makes them suspicious of him once more.
While Monty is out buying supplies, Olaf arrives in disguise as Stephano – a new assistant Herpetological Society sent.
The children recognize him immediately and don’t want to let him in, but he threatens them with a knife and they have no choice. During a chase around the stairs, Olaf confirms their parents were in the piano with Monty when the piano photo was taken, and he knows because he is the photographer.
When Monty returns, Olaf tells him a ridiculous story about why he’s here and why he chased the children earlier.
Monty doesn’t believe him but plays along, secretly assuring the children that he knows something is up.
Monty and the Baudelaires go outside to talk out of earshot of Olaf.
The Baudelaires say to call the police, but Monty refuses and insists on handling the situation himself. He says for now they should simply watch and be wary.
Olaf tries to kill Monty by dropping a heavy lamp on him from the window but fails.
Monty and the children discover “Stephano” is trying to study up on poisonous venom. So, to stop him from learning enough to form a new and dangerous plan, they take him along to the movies.
Monty is there to see Zombies in the Snow, a coded film by Gustav Sebald, starring Jacquelyn.
Olaf realizes there are codes in the subtitles and stands in front of the screen, preventing Monty from receiving the message. Uncle Monty temporarily leaves Olaf with the children to ask his comrade who works at the theater to replay the scene.
He does, and Monty receives the secret message, which says the children are in danger and he should take them to Peru on a ship called Prospero. His comrade gives him tickets for the voyage.
Olaf uses Monty’s absence to talk to his henchpeople. He instructs the white faced women to murder Monty. But when they attempt this, Monty overpowers them and ties them up. He then tells the children the odd movie they just watched requires further explanation. When they go to the car, Monty has a confrontation with Olaf.
He reveals he knows that Olaf isn’t really Stephano, but it turns out he hasn’t correctly guessed Olaf’s true identity. He instead believes him to be a spy from the Herpetological Society. Olaf plays along, and Monty tells him to leave. After Uncle Monty drives the children home and puts them to bed, he goes into the Reptile Room, where Olaf is secretly waiting for him. Dr. Montgomery is murdered.
Back to the mysterious couple, who may or may not be the Baudelaires’ parents, we see them follow a tunnel out of the prison.
They believe they are escaping to Winnipeg, but it actually leads them to Peru.
It’s worth noting that, during one of Lemony Snicket’s narrations, we can see an odd flying contraption behind him, outside the window in the distance.
The Baudelaires wake up to find Uncle Monty dead. There is a very clear snakebite on his corpse and signs of venom poisoning. Olaf has taken Monty’s tickets and plans to take the children to Peru, where guardianship and inheritance law is much more in his favor. He uses the knife to threaten them into the car.
While driving away from house, he gets into a freak car accident, crashing into Mr. Poe. Before the children can tell Poe their side of the story, Olaf introduces himself as Monty’s assistant Stephano, and says Monty tragically died from a snakebite and that the children are traumatized and confused.
This leads Poe to dismiss their claims that Stephano is Olaf, emphasizing that he looks nothing like the Count. To put their minds at ease, asks Stephano to show his ankle. When he reluctantly agrees, the children see the tattoo has disappeared.
When Poe insists on calling the coroner, Olaf arranges one of his henchpeople to come in disguise instead. The henchperson of indeterminate gender arrives in disguise as Nurse O Lucafont (another anagram of Count Olaf), who examines body and confirms everything Olaf says about the death.
They claim the venom in his body matches that of the Incredibly Deadly Viper. What’s more, the massive snake is currently missing from his cage, seeming to confirm this. Of course, Mr. Poe doesn’t believe the children when they tell him the snake is harmless and its name a mere misnomer. Stephano tells Poe that, being a rather new assistant, he doesn’t know much about snakes yet, further making it look like any foul play on his part would be impossible.
Stephano insists he should take the kids to Peru, but Poe says they have to wait. When Poe tries to leave to get assistance from an outside source, Stephano says the place is under quarantine so his other henchpeople can pose as police and investigators looking for the missing snake.
Before joining the “investigators” in the Reptile Room and trying to decide where the kids will go next, Poe tells the children to go upstairs and let the adults handle everything. Olaf’s henchpeople take Monty’s body away on a gurney.
The Baudelaires decide to conduct a secret investigation of their own to find the snake, show it’s harmless, and then prove how Uncle Monty really died. Sunny finds the Incredibly Deadly Viper and uses it to play a trick on the adults just in time to save Klaus from being discovered and Violet from being taken.
Her screams cause the adults to run to her, and when they see her playing with the viper, they see it‘s not dangerous enough to have killed Monty. Violet uses a lockpick to open Olaf’s suitcase, where she finds mechanical parts. Using her inventing skills, she puts it back together, showing it to be the murder weapon. Venom samples from the deadly Mamba Du Mal are missing the from cabinet.
In trying to disprove the Baudelaires’ claims, “Stephano” tries to make himself look like a snake expert, contradicting his earlier claim of knowing nothing about them and proving himself a liar. With suspicion now cast on him, Olaf is asked by Mr. Poe to show his ankle. Poe takes his handkerchief and, rubbing the makeup off Olaf’s ankle, reveals the hidden tattoo.
Mr. Poe tells the “investigators” to arrest Count Olaf, only to realize they are all in on it. Olaf and his henchmen are about to take the children when they are attacked by the reptiles and flee the house.
The Baudelaires try to stop Count Olaf from escaping by chasing him through the hedge maze.
Klaus discovers Olaf has stolen his broken spyglass. In the middle of the maze, the children find Jacquelyn posing as a statue. She tells them to go to their Aunt Josephine, a fierce and formidable woman who will tell them everything. In the meantime, she will get the spyglass back.
Jacquelyn confronts Olaf on board the Prospero and informs him she’s taking him to jail. He escapes by jumping into the water, but not before she grabs the spyglass.
The Herpetological Society comes and takes Dr. Montgomery’s reptile collection away. The children confront Mr. Poe and demand to be placed in the care of their aunt Josephine. Mr. Poe reminds them they’re in no position to make demands and must go where they’re told. However, their Aunt Josephine is next on the list. Upon asking about her, the children also discover it was their parents who convinced Mr. Poe to hire Jacqueline.
Returning attention to the mysterious couple, now in Peru, they are in a bar trying to get hold of Dr. Montgomery on the phone. Of course, they get no response as he is already dead by this time. Upon hearing Monty’s name, the other people in the bar turn threatening, and the couple prepares to fight.
Of course, the highlight of the episode is Aasif Mandvi as Dr. Montgomery Montgomery. They could not have picked a better actor to play Uncle Monty, and I’ve never loved that character as much as I did while watching him on screen. I liked watching his portrayal even better than reading about the character in the books. He was an absolute delight and really brings out the sense of love, family, and trustworthiness that Uncle Monty is supposed to embody.
The only complaint I have is they seemed to have made him even more clueless in the show than he was in the book. Considering the secret message he got at the theater about the children being in danger, I find it a bit unrealistic that Monty could still be so deluded to think Stephano was just a herpetological spy and not a more dangerous enemy.
Another pretty big plot hole was the fact that Olaf went to such great lengths to kill Uncle Monty when he had plenty of opportunity to just kidnap the children. Monty even left the kids alone with him in the theater!
I loved the meta humor in this episode, and the comedic attempts to plug Netflix and streaming entertainment. I also loved the not-so-subtle jab at Nickelodeon, who produced the film adaptation and did not treat the author of the books very kindly in the process.
One part that surprised me was when Count Olaf admits to killing Gustav... but says he did so by drowning him. It is possible that Gustav did die by drowning, as the poison from the dart might not have killed him yet when he fell into the water. But why are they glossing over the fact that he will shot with a poison dart? Again, Count Olaf has never killed people via poison darts. That weapon is very infamously linked with an entirely different character in the books. So why did the showrunners choose to use this weapon in Gustav’s death scene?
That’s all for this episode! Join us next week when we dive into The Wide Window (no pun intended)!