Friday October 29th, 1965
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Nighttime at a large and imposing mansion, the site of the French Consulate General. Inside the French anthem plays faintly as powerful men mill about. James West greets Senator Hastings at the door. Consul General Potez appears and escorts the Senator into another conversation...Read the full recap
Lower Right: West collapsed on the floor after Emily shoots him!
Upper Right: A bomb timer ticks down the last seconds of Jim and Artie’s lives!
Upper Left: Deadly prussic acid fumes enter Jim's steel prison!
Lower Left: Jim and Artie escort two lovely ladies to the show. “Les Yankees… Formidable!”
The backdrop of the Franco-Prussian War sets the time of this story between the middle of 1870 and the middle of 1871.
Although fingerprints were known to exist prior to 1870, their uses as a crime solving tool did not really begin until very near the end of the nineteenth century – about fifteen years after the time of this episode. Yet Jim West seems very familiar with the concept.
The “Effluvium” of Franconium
Franconium is clearly a radioactive element or substance. Prior to Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity in 1896 the nature of radiation was poorly understood. Effluvium simply means “emission”; clearly, Dr. Ormand did not understand why Franconium caused nearby objects to glow, only that it did so, presumably by something it emitted.
Renard: I foresaw the possibility that it might fall into Prussian hands as a result of bungling, Monsieur.
Jim: (angry) Whose bungling? Or does the Surete always claim to be clairvoyant after the crime is committed?
(Jim has just been shot five times in the chest by a suspect.)
Artie: Jim… you ever think what might have happened if Emily had pointed that gun a little higher when she shot at you?
Jim: I think the box office would have refunded the money…
Artie: Five minutes underwater! Submerged! And you’d still survive! That is, if somebody was trying to drown you…
Jim: What if it doesn’t work?
Artie: Bring it back, I’ll make you a new one…
(A bomb has demolished their hotel room; Jim and Artie barely evaded it by ducking into another room.)
Jim: What do we do now?
Artie: I think we better call the housekeeper. This place is a mess!
(Cluny pulls a lever, revealing a fuming pit below Jim West.)
Cluny: Remember I told you this used to be a tanning factory? It was a simple matter to reactivate the tanning tank. Corrosive lye and all of it for you when he gets through with you! You should have taken the bullet when you had the chance!
Franconium – threat or menace?
Franconium is clearly a radioactive element or substance. Any substance so powerfully radioactive that the safe in which its lead container was stored would become sufficiently radioactive to itself irradiate a key to glowing would be extremely lethal; those anywhere near it would die in hours or days. In fact, mention is made that the Franconium was stored in a lead container. Lead blocks all known forms of radiation to some degree in proportion to its thickness, but the amount used here was certainly inadequate. Radiation was poorly understood (see Notes) prior to the very late nineteenth century, so victims of Franconium might not have know why they were dying, but they certainly would have known that they were dying; radiation sickness is an unpleasant death.
Prussic acid, better known as hydrocyanic acid, is a deadly toxin. However, it does not drive oxygen from the air; it causes cell death by permanently inactivating a mitochondrial enzyme called cytochrome c oxidase. Affected cells cannot process oxygen and die; hydrogen cyanide is thus universally fatal to animal cells. Plant cells produce ATP by a different mechanism, so that part of Cluny’s statement is accurate.
A bomb in a box
Jim explodes some putty to punch an escape hole in a solid, heavy gauge steel box. In such a confined space the shockwave of an explosion powerful enough to open the hole we see would have severely injured or killed the agent.
Just shoot him!
During the final fight scene, Cluny had many opportunities to retrieve Ironfoot’s gun from the shrubbery where he tossed it, and yet she did not do so. Jim was clearly visible to her as he hung from the balcony, yet she failed to warn Ironfoot, an omission that led to his death. Considering that minutes earlier she'd ordered Ironfoot to shoot Jim, one wonders why she did not do so, especially when he was hanging for his life over the lye pit.