Episode 25: Divergent Paths
Missed last week’s review? Find it here!
The Nein say their goodbyes to Kiri and the orphans and make plans while they walk. They decide to pay another visit to Cleff Tinkertop and try and get more information about the Clockwork Warden killer robot he built. Cleff does his best to give them insider information on the construction of the Deathbot, but it is an incredibly complicated construct. They convince Cleff and Rissa to come to the prison and ask for the Warden’s permission to decommission the robot.
Along the way, still trying to come up with ways to destroy the robot, Beau suggests maybe they use tar to gum up the gears and maybe temporarily blind the thing. They approach a group of workmen in an industrial plaza but, not surprisingly, the gnomes want nothing to do with their plan. So the Nein come up with a fantastical distraction plan to allow Nott some time to steal a bucket of tar. Molly and Yasha attempt to do an acrobatic circus act along the fence, and… things go awkwardly wrong. Molly ends up clotheslining his tenders on the metal fence, to the amusement and bewilderment of the workers. Luckily, Molly’s antics are just distracting enough for Nott and Caleb to secure a bucket of tar.
Pleased with their success, the Nein approach the Gearhold Prison. They gain audience with the Warden, who surprisingly gives them little resistance in their bid to ‘take care of their robit problem.’ He has a group of guards lead them down to the basement of the prison where the bot has been corralled. The guards quickly open the basement doors and lock the Nein in, telling them to knock when the fight is over.
The group takes a moment in silence to take in the scene. The walls and doors all around them are covered in thousands of scrapes and scratches from the Deathbot. There are several bodies, locked behind prison cell doors, or apparently hacked into dust and ribbons when their prison doors finally fell to the machine. Caleb sends Frumpkin to investigate the final room, and there, in the dark corner sits the beast. It sits dormant. Silent. Until Frumpkin’s slight movement seems to wake it. The Deathbot immediately unfolds its dozen sword arms and begins rapidly rolling towards Caleb’s little cat.
The Nein spend the next few harried minutes beating the metal bot to bits. Yasha gets run over, nearly sliced to shreds. Caleb gets impaled through the chest and is stuck to the wall like a sitting duck. Beau tries to step in front and protect her friends but is quickly cut down and knocked out. Molly, seeing an opening to the power crystal, sends his sword through the Deathbot’s body, severing its power supply.
The warden is thankful for their help in dismantling the robot and offers payment of 200 gold for their troubles. Molly and Caleb instead bargain for the release of two certain prisoners, and through some haggling and handing over of Fjord and Jester’s precious gold, they secure the release of the orphans’ parents.
Leading the bewildered Schuster’s home to their children, they reunite the grateful family. Many tears are shed and the family celebrates their fortune. The Nein ask for only one favor from the thankful family. If they could, keep watch over their little Kenku girl Kiri, and raise her with their children. The Schuster’s agree and welcome the sweet girl into their family. The Nein share a rather tearful and emotional goodbye with the tiny girl who they saved in the Labenda swamp. They leave Kiri as she plays her music box for her new family as they welcome her with open arms.
The Nein return to their rooms in the tavern to rest for the evening to process the events of the night. The next morning, after saying their goodbyes to Rissa and Cleff Tinkertop, the group sets off to Shady Creek Run to continue their mission for The Gentleman. They spend the rest of the day travelling, leaving the crazy, exciting, wild city of Hupperdook behind. Making camp for the evening, the group settles in while Fjord, Jester and Yasha keep watch. They spend their watch talking about the events of the last few days, reminiscing over the good times. As they are speaking, a strange silence falls over the three. Jester’s mouth is still moving, but no sounds come out. Yasha tries to call out but her voice is silenced as well. Yasha looks to Fjord who seems to be frozen, his muscles straining, Falchion magically appearing in his hand. Yasha feels her muscles tense, her hand frozen mid reach for her sword. Four dark figures appear from the shadows and grab the frightened Jester, tackling her to the ground, gagging her and binding her hands and legs. Fjord is thrown to the ground, shackled and gagged as well. Yasha feels the hands gripping her arms and fights through the spell, managing to reach her sword and slicing one of the dark figures. She kicks and fights for her life as more figures grab her arms and legs. Jester and Fjord are dragged off into the darkness while Yasha watches helplessly. The chains on her arms and legs go taught as she is dragged off into the night, watching her other friends still soundly sleeping, unaware of the danger.
Yasha, Fjord and Jester are dragged to the base of a caravan of carts. The carts seem small and empty, with no one else in sight. The shadowed figures break, and a slim, brooding, human man steps forward to examine his captives. He insinuates that he will be paid handsomely for the fine specimens his men have collected. The three are lifted up into the carts, and as they pass the threshold of the cart, their vision suddenly shifts. The carts are not what they seem at all. They are much larger than they seemed, with cages filled with other prisoners, packed in like animals. They feel and hear the carts begin to move, leaving the rest of The Mighty Nein behind.
This was an emotional rollercoaster of an episode. With the surprise announcement of Baby Willingham’s birth explaining the absence of Travis and Laura, and the general emotional exhaustion of the entire cast, you could definitely tell this week’s episode was hard on everyone. I felt so bad for Matt who had the perfect story exit planned for Fjord, Jester, and Yasha (Ashley is leaving to film Blindspot again) but of course babies don’t care and will do what they want. Major props to him for doing his best to plan around everyone’s lives while still giving us an exciting and meaningful story.
I found the first half of the episode (I say half but really it’s the first two hours) not as exciting as I’d hoped. The promise of a dangerous fight with a death robot and possibly a prison break sounded like it might be fun. But for the first two hours to be endless planning, a weird side mission to steal some tar, and then just asking for the warden’s permission to kill the robot for a favor kind of seemed a bit….meh? Maybe it was the fact that the group was missing their charismatic Warlock leader, or their wild card Cleric, but the magic wasn’t quite there for this first act. I also have a hard time with episodes when players skype in. The sound quality is usually abysmal, and there is usually at least one technical difficulty mid-episode. That being said, I am glad that Liam was able to Skype in this week given that almost half the cast would have been missing if he hadn’t. I guess I better get used to more skype in episodes as well, seeing as Ashley Johnson will only be able to play over skype until March or April (unless something terrible happens to Patterson).
The entire first half of the episode seems dwarfed by the heartbreaking goodbye to Kiri the Kenku and the out of nowhere cliffhanger kidnapping ending. You’d think fighting a death robot with swords for arms would be the most memorable part of an episode. I didn’t feel like I was too attached to Kiri before the end of this episode. I knew that, as an NPC and being a literal tiny bird baby, she wouldn’t last long with the party and would either die in some terrible accident (she only has 6 HP!) or the group would take up another side quest and find her parents. I thought I was emotionally prepared for a goodbye. I was NOT! That damn Music Box song made things 1000x worse too. I think I was also emotionally devastated that Laura/Jester was not physically present to say goodbye to her bird baby. I have a feeling this may not be the last we see of Kiri, but also, knowing how short The Mighty Nein’s attention span is…they may forget all about her by the time they return to Zadash.
Just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more emotions, I get slammed with the middle of the night, terrifying kidnapping of Fjord, Jester and Yasha. I know that it’s all because of reasons outside of the game, but it still feels so awful to lose them that way. The image of Jester screaming, Fjord unable to move or protect his friends, and fierce Yasha fighting for her life were insane. I will say I am pretty intrigued to find out exactly where this story will lead, though it may be a month or two before we see any of these cast members again. It’s going to be so weird not having Travis and Laura around for a while. I am used to Ashley popping in and out when she can, but missing all three of them at the same time will change the group’s dynamic so much. I’m a bit worried that the life and humor of the group will be so different. Luckily we will still have the Sam/Liam bromance to keep us entertained. And the weirdness that is Mollymauk to keep things interesting. Who wants to take bets on who Beau blows up on next?
Matt did leave us with some hope and excitement for the next few weeks with the announcement of one possibly two guests! No hints or announcements yet, but I am excited to see who will join The Mighty Nein next!! See you guys in two weeks! Maybe in the meantime, we’ll play a little catch up on some episodes of Campaign 1.
Reminders that there will be no new episode of Critical Role or Talks Machina this week due to the cast moving sets.
If you need something to fill the Critical Role hole in your life this week, I suggest watching High Rollers’ newest episode. The show is DM’d by Mark Sherlock Hulmes, who you may remember as Calianna, the half dragon sorcerer. The episode is the first in their brand new campaign 2 arc titled AEROIS. The campaign is set in a futuristic, science fiction/fantasy land and features a homebrewed race and class created by the DM.
You can find the new episode HERE on Twitch or wait for its release on Youtube this Thursday.
Also, congrats to Travis Willingham and Laura Bailey on their adorable baby finally arriving!