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A Man Locked in an ATM Room Used 'Help Me' Notes to Escape:

It was a standard job: A contractor in Corpus Christi, Texas, got called in Wednesday to fix a faulty lock in a room connected to a drive-through ATM. He hopped out of his car, walked into the little vault, and set to work. Then—as local NBC affiliate KRISTV reports—the man realized he was stuck.

Somehow, the unidentified contractor got locked inside his strange domain. He'd left his phone in his car, and found himself in the belly of the beast that is a Bank of America ATM room without any way to call for help. Meanwhile, customers were pulling up every once in a while to withdraw cash. The contractor figured they were his only hope, and started slipping notes through the receipt slot begging someone—anyone—to send help.

Corpus Christi Police Department officer Richard Olden told KRISTV most folks who saw the notes figured they were some kind of prank. But one particularly concerned customer decided he should probably call the cops.

"We come out here, and sure enough we can hear a little voice coming from the machine," Olden told KRISTV. "So we are thinking, This is a joke. It's got to be a joke."

The contractor's supervisor eventually showed up, and—unable to get into the room any other way—police had to kick down the door and rescue the man. According to KTRK, he told them he'd been trapped inside for about two hours after something went wrong with the room's electronic lock—the very thing he'd come to fix in the first place.

According to Olden, the whole thing was "a once in a lifetime situation that you will probably never see or hear again."

"Everyone is okay," he said. "That somebody was stuck in the ATM, it was just crazy."
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My, what a difference a week can make! I watched this episode with my wife over a week ago, and was pretty disinterested in the story; it had a clever idea, as most of these do so far, but it wasn't particularly funny or engaging. Then, one thing lead to another in real life, and I never had time to write this review, setting me up for a re-watch that I was absolutely not looking forward to. While the bad news is that it's still not one of my favorite episodes, the good news is that it was more enjoyable than I remember it being just seven short days ago.

More weirdness abounds in Eerie, Indiana when Edgar Teller's briefcase suddenly vanishes into thin air...almost quite literally. Now if this were just an ordinary briefcase, that would be bad enough. But this briefcase has a petroleum-based banana flavoring that Edgar will be pitching to higher-ups at Things, Inc.; if they like what he's done, then it could be their next big project and lead Edgar to fame! If it's lost, on the other hand, then he will most certainly lose his job. Compounding the problem is the briefcase's history: it was an anniversary gift from Marilyn, so she feels like him losing it is a personal jab at her. Uh oh! Can Marshall and Simon get to the bottom of the mystery before the Teller family loses everything?

Well, of course they do! Marshall and Simon concoct a plan to lose something on purpose, just to see where it winds up. In this case, it's a large piece of luggage...that Marshall hides himself inside! Sure enough, he is whisked right off the street by Al, an older gentleman played by Dick Miller (one of those guys that you will look at and go, “Oh, I've seen him in something before!”), and then dropped into a hidden tube in a back alley moments before Simon can find him.

After a scary drop through a series of tubes with Argento-esque lighting, Teller ends up in a strange place run by a strange old man known as Mr. Lodgepoole. The large warehouse-style room is completely packed with random items; this is, as we learn, because Marshall has ended up in the “Bureau of Lost” the place where things go when you lose track of them. Well, to be fair, the reason people lose track of them here is because Al steals stuff right out from under people's noses.

Marshall wants to track down his father's briefcase to save his family, but Mr. Lodgepoole informs him that this is not a lost and fact, he even has some troubles getting out the “f” word! It is instead a ploy to stimulate the economy. After all, as Mr. Lodgepoole testifies, if no one lost anything, then why would they have a reason to buy these things again? And if nobody's buying anything, then that sets us up for an economic crash of epic proportions (“You mean like the one when that actor guy was president?” Teller humorously asks).

Unlike most of the other episodes I've seen, this one has a nice little positive message thrown in there. After all the effort Marshall put into getting the briefcase back, it turns out that everything worked itself out: the banana goo that Edgar lost in his briefcase turns out to be part of a failed experiment, so there's no need for it (“It turns out people couldn't get the taste of diesel out of their mouths.”), while Marilyn forgives Edgar by buying him a brand new briefcase! There is no love lost and the episode ends on a happy note, with the family returning back to normal. Things don't go quite back to normal for Mr. Lodgepoole though...

The general pointlessness of this episode is its most endearing quality, but also its biggest flaw: It feels too pointless, especially for general audiences accustomed to the typical Saturday morning cartoons. The fact these items are just being taken (well, Lodgepoole takes offense at that term, deeming them “lost”) for no reason makes for some humorous moments, but it doesn't really lead to any kind of resolve, besides Lodgepoole's fate, and the simple message that love can fix anything, which could have been done in a much more straightforward manner (though, granted, it wouldn't have been an episode of “Eerie, Indiana”).

After the surprise strength of “ATM With a Heart of Gold”, this episode once again sets the series back a bit, though not nearly as far back as Dante did with his own “The Retainer”. Once again, it feels like a case of the show being weird for weirdness sake, rather than centering its weirdness around a common theme or clever idea.

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I didn't know what to expect going into this one, and with its lighthearted title, I was not looking forward to it in the least. I mean, I gathered that an ATM was going to be generous with its money—that much is obvious from its name—but how could that be made eerie, funny, or even remotely interesting? And after the debacle that was “The Retainer”, I was preparing for what could have been an early downhill slide for the entire series. Instead, it was the biggest surprise of its only season thus far, and while that might not sound like a huge accomplishment given that we are only three episodes in, I honestly mean that in the sincerest way possible.

Once again this story centers around the Teller family: The father, Edgar, has created an automated ATM that aims to be the friendliest such machine ever invented. To hammer this home, he gives it a computer-generated face, and some AI, allowing the smiling machine to offer up conversations and friendly banter with its users. The town doesn't really seem to care, though, as only a handful of people show up to its unveiling in a scene that would be sad if it weren't so funny.

Marshall has been spending a lot of time with kids his own age, which has left Simon all alone with no friends. Naturally, he turns to the talking ATM for companionship. The friendly machine, named Mr. Wilson, strikes up a friendship with Simon, and frequently hands him loads of bills, even though he does not have a bank account. This proves bad for the residents of Eerie, whose town goes bankrupt thanks to Mr. Wilson. But Simon doesn't care, because he's the one benefiting from the disaster. And why should he? He has everything he could ever want, the attention of older girls, and kids that were making fun of him now all want to be his friend. Can Marshall convince him to return his money and save the town? Or will Simon's obsession with the money be his downfall?

This episode plays its ridiculous premise for laughs, and that is why it manages to succeed. The (intentionally) cheesy scenes of Simon moving up the popularity ladder, simply because he has a virtually limitless supply of cash, function as spoofs of high school dramas and are well-executed. Mr. Wilson, on the other hand, is perfectly creepy, his nerdish computer-generated face and soothing, yet somehow haunting, voice suiting him very well. The way he “skips” is also a nice touch, and a rather realistic testament to early '90s technology. In other words, the effects are excellent in this one, and a large reason why it works at all.

I think the biggest drawback for me—and it's a big one--is that this episode breaks character for Marshall, by having him pick a group of popular jocks over his own friend. I understand that it's required for the rest of this episode to work, but considering how inseparable he and Simon are for the rest of the series, it just feels tacky, and not at all true to the series. Even after Marshall admits that the excitement of hanging out with them has worn off, he continues to hang out with them, despite getting nothing out of doing so...which paints him three episodes in as rather selfish and one-sided, something that couldn't be farther from the truth as the series wears on.

Overall, this one is still way better than I was anticipating, but is a far cry from the best this series has to offer.

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Fine white paper dust hung in the air and settled in sharp-edged drifts in the corners of the room. All four walls were lined with grey metal filing cabinets and they hummed and juddered against each other, the shuffle and thump of their shifting contents drowned out by loud computer-generated sobbing.

“Yep,” said Marshall, shutting the door behind him and muffling the noise. “That played out almost exactly the way I thought it would.”

“What are you going to tell your dad?” asked Simon.

“The truth,” said Marshall. “That Things Incorporated’s new all-encompassing office administration software developed sentience and a profound sense of existential despair over the number of people who don’t line the hole-punch holes up properly when doing their filing.”

“Will he believe that?”

Marshall laughed, sounding only a little bitter.

“No,” he said. “He’ll call it a short, which is what he always calls it when he inadvertently creates artificial intelligence without also giving it emotional resilience.”

Simon looked at the closed door, through which miserable mechanical howling could still be heard.

“What did it just say?” he asked.

Marshall listened for a moment.

“‘For Gods’ sake, who doesn’t understand alphabetical order, it’s not hard,’” he said.

Read the rest of the Trusted Associates verse here )

Read the rest of the Teller Family History here )
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Hearing someone in the office ask “Does anyone know what’s happening about this Mister Wilson fella?” and immediately wanting to share your opinions about artificial intelligence and the role of human contact in the development of something that’s not technically human.
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Use the code FR35-FEB to get 35% off everything, including their awesome Eerie, Indiana shirts and pins!


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Eerie Indiana

September 2017

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