If you were wondering about the title, this particular phobia is a fear of Friday the 13th, the date, not the franchise. With that out of the way, it should give us a clearer picture of what to expect from this latest episode of Inside No. 9. Gareth Beckman (Reece Shearsmith) has a fear of Friday the 13th. He’s faking an illness to evade work, saluting an observant magpie in the garden, and his wife Dana (Amanda Abbington) leaves with a concerned grimace. He’s even calling a local radio station requesting that Dermot O’Leary gets his facts on Friday the 13th correct.
The local postie (revealed later as Sue – played by Samantha Spiro) delivers a parcel for him but requires his signature – a risk he reluctantly takes – despite not intending to step foot out of the house. The parcel would remain at the sorting office all weekend otherwise, so Gareth signs for the parcel. However, Sue’s pen isn’t working. Despite asking her to stay at the door, she makes a case for using his toilet. Gareth relents, only to let in a stray black cat – and at the same time – leaving Sue trapped in the loo after the door handle breaks off from the inside. After failing to recover the cat with a bean bag and a shower hose, Gareth finds a ladder barring the staircase – leaning into the superstition that walking beneath a ladder could lead to catastrophe. Barry Styles (Steve Pemberton) is a locksmith who comes to repair the bathroom door – bringing his tools to ensure kids don’t pilfer them from his van.
The episode stages one Mr. Bean-esque calamity after the next. Gareth’s tie becomes caught in the disassembled ladder – and he has to cut himself free with scissors. The ladder knocks a horseshoe (allegedly a symbol of good luck) above the door – right before Barry returns to the house, bringing the ladder and Gareth (halfway up it) falling to the floor. More interruptions follow – taking Gareth’s day from bad to worse. Barry’s granddaughter Bethany (Aida Kiiza), bursts into the house, followed by her mother Shelley (Moyo Akandé), and Barry’s daughter-in-law. She’s preparing for band practice, glammed up to the nines in a glitzy dress and peacock feathers. With Sue freed from the toilet, Barry runs up the charges for fixing the locking mechanism (£150 plus labour tax). If the thought of Gareth’s bank account draining is horrifying enough, he discovers the screws from a mirror have been removed in the bathroom. If the mirror breaks – that’s seven years bad luck.
Bethany slams the door – trapping Gareth, Barry, and Sue inside. After kicking his way out, he finds Dana and Doctor Marcel Rogers (Leon Herbert) in the living room. To help Gareth handle his Paraskevidekatriaphobia (kudos to the cast for tackling that word in the script), Dana and Marcel have hired members of the Little Marlow Amateur Dramatics Society, Barry (real name Rob), Sue, and Shelley to perform an exposure therapy session. Marcel encourages Gareth to reveal details of an “inciting incident” that occurred on October 13, 1978. On a school skiing trip in France, Gareth, suffering from a stomachache, stayed behind as his friends boarded a coach. The vehicle left the road after catching black ice, killing all onboard and leaving Gareth with a survivor’s guilt associated with the date – Friday the 13th.
Gareth is challenged by those around him to shatter a glass mirror – freeing him from his guilt and putting his compulsions to rest. Following this, there’s a surprise cameo from Dermot O’Leary, who appears at the door and rewards Gareth with a cheque for £130,000, after becoming their one-millionth caller to the radio show. For once, the episode could be heading toward a happy ending. Right before Gareth wakes up in bed, and finds the bedside calendar marked Friday the 13th. For a moment, it appears the episode has set up the old “it was all a dream” twist. Not quite. Thankfully, it’s not a dream. Gareth opens the parcel received the day before and finds a yellow umbrella. He opens it indoors as a “final test” to ensure his fears of Friday the 13th are gone. He hands Dana the umbrella as he prepares to listen to his pre-recorded radio interview with Dermot O’Leary, and she leaves for work.
In the background, we watch Dana walk down the drive as Gareth settles down with a brew, headphones on and the interview underway. Life is good. That’s until Dana is fatefully struck by a car and sent rolling across the road, an incident Gareth fails to witness. Gareth’s good fortunes were never going to last, that much was clear, but the ending is cruel and twisted. In a sentence, this was the best episode of the new series so far, an Inside No.9 story brimming with sharp dialogue, witty humour, a cameo, and a devastating finale that’ll leave you reeling as you mime along to the lyrics of Kylie’s “I Should Be So Lucky.”
What did you think of Inside No.9? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below. For more Inside No.9 content, take a look at the FlickLuster review for “Mother’s Ruin.”