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Oh, hey, more Dagger stuff. This episode is actually 99% backtracking and covering the exact same content as the last one, only done much more carefully. In fact, cutting out the things we've seen already and only including the new stuff which I had overlooked before, I think this update is actually longer than the last one. That's what I get for wanting to update in a hurry, I suppose.
So, as I said, I'm actually going to start this episode by backtracking a little bit, because, despite the presence of three different walkthroughs, there were a great many things I somehow forgot to do. (Well, a few things I somehow forgot to do, plus one thing I deliberately skipped for the sake of comedic pacing. I wanted that last update to end on the flesh-eating insects, without any random asides bogging it down.)
So, let's rewind back to when we were on our way toward the meeting with the Countess.
First off, I love how there's a large line of people just walking along, filing past the headless, impaled body like it's no big deal. "Got a meeting in the armor room in a few minutes, don't want to be late! Oh, hi, Ziggy."
So, while I happened to run into the Countess along the way, I went ahead and asked her about Watney Little. With all the times I've either failed to save or had to go back to a previous save, this is probably the fourth time I've done that. But hey, I finally remembered to take a screenshot this time!
Actually, it's not so much "I happened to run into the Countess on the way to the armor room" as it is she and I are both heading that way, meaning that I'm seeing her in literally every room on the way there. On one hand, it is impressive that they bothered to program the other characters with anything resembling an actual schedule; I had just assumed they popped in and out of whatever room you were in literally at random. On the other hand, it's more than a little silly to think about that actually happening. "Oh, Countess! I see we're both walking toward the armor room. Come, walk with me, we'll chat about Watney Little and Ziggy and other things along the way. And then, once we're there, I'll just go on ahead of you and disappear behind the tapestry real quick because I'm not really here. Shhhh."
There are a few reasons I'm backtracking all the way to this meeting, and one is this suit of armor. We'll get to that in a moment. Let's do the actual meeting first.
As if on a gameplay-related cue ("Oh, right, you have a cutscene to trigger, don't you? Don't mind me, then,") the Countess wandered off, exiting to the north. I then took my place behind the tapestry, at which point she promptly appeared FROM THE EAST AGAIN, painting in hand, and the confrontation played out as normal. Apparently people can teleport in this game? I take this as a valuable clue in figuring out what happened to Ziggy.
Now, here's a very interesting thing that my newly-acquired third walkthrough mentioned: right after having that epic confrontation with the Countess over her art burglary scheme, but before she leaves the room, you can grill her about Sterling Waldorf-Carlton's diary for some more information. This is the ONLY time you can do this; on any other screen, she's just conspicuously evasive about it (much like with the Watney Little subject above.) Now is the perfect time to press the issue, though, because God knows Laura hasn't laid the accusations on thick enough already.
Except, wait, hold on. Ask her about Sterling Waldorf-Carlton's diary? Since when is that a conversation topic?? I don't see that in my journal anywhere, unless they--
No, they couldn't have....
Oh, NOT COOL, Sierra.
"I know way too much about what you did. I gathered the story from this crucial piece of evidence, which is currently being left unattended in this room, right here. Also, the evidence happens mentions this other person who already doesn't get along with you. Anyway, I'm going to leave you be, now. We'll talk later and I'm sure nothing at all could possibly go wrong before then."
The Laura Bow school of investigative sleuthing, everyone.
This whole business with Sterling is ... kind of a big reveal, but kind of not. It's hard to explain, but here's my best attempt: obviously, we knew pretty much from the beginning that the Countess was a gold-digging black widow. If you think back to chapter 2 (I know, I know; it's been forever, and most of us are actively trying to repress memories from that segment. But just bear with me, here,) this was among our first encounters with her in the entire game, one of the first things to even establish who she is as a character:
This ... really isn't hidden. At all. But it's actually somehow so obvious that it became hidden again!
Look, here's an example of this effect in action:
This was a puzzle from earlier on--in fact, this was the puzzle that allowed us to read (but not take) Sterling's diary. It was locked away in a wall safe, and we needed the combination. The solution was to look at this list of names and old-timey phone numbers, and recognize that "B. Sayff" was such an obvious joke/pun/clearly-made-up name that it couldn't possibly be a legitimate phone number. Instead, that (0527) is the combination to the safe.
You would never figure that out without a walkthrough (or two or three, in my case.)
Why is this?
It is true that "B. Sayff" is an absurd name. But so are the rest of them. With the exception of Ernie Leach, they're all either made up gags or developer names. "B. Sayff", the one we're supposed to recognize as obviously phony, is nestled in between "I. Diditt" and "U. Hoser"!! In that context, its absurdity becomes completely invisible.
This is an excellent metaphor for the Countess, and for a lot of this game overall.
See, there was never a doubt that of course the Countess murdered Sterling for his money. What I hadn't realized until this conversation was that the murder mattered. I had assumed it was just Sierra being macabre but silly, a quick cheap shortcut to establishing the Countess' character, with no more bearing on the actual main plot than her (or anyone's) outrageous accent. This confrontation is actually a huge reveal, not because it establishes that the Countess murdered Sterling (we clearly knew that already,) but because it establishes that Sterling's death is actually a thing.
So. Where were we? The armor, right.
Oh, FINE. Countess, if you would be so kind...?
There we go. As it turns out, someone moved Dr. Carter's body into the armor! Don't ask me how, and definitely don't ask me why. Look, they even put him in the chain coif and everything. That is a lot of work to go through just to hide a body that had already been discovered. Then again, compared to some of the murders we've seen, it's not the most illogical thing to happen in this game.
It should be noted that the walkthrough mentioned examining him, but there is no actual way to do so. The eye and magnifying glass icons do nothing. There is no response to any part of that closeup cutout. In fact, the only thing that gives you any manner of feedback at all is if you exit out of that, then use the magnifying glass on the non-zoomed in suit of armor.
How very helpful.
Oh, Countess, you've randomly wandered back into the room you just left. (You'll have to take my word for it. She's standing behind the armor.) So good to see you again! Care to talk to me like nothing at all is out of the ordinary and I didn't just confront you about being a thief murderer less than five minutes ago? Oh, hey, I have a question about Dr. Carter, seeing as he's, you know, somehow right here in this armor now. Oh? What's that? You have nothing new to say on that subject, despite this development? Well, all right. Nice talking to you, too. Don't be a stranger, now.
So, this was all a gigantic waste of time. Back to Ernie's office, then! I forgot to talk to him in general (the "!" option, as opposed to the "?" option that lets you ask about whatever's in your notebook,) so I'll go ahead and do that now.
Pfff. All right, I will concede that the dialogue in this game can be witty, sometimes.
Well, that's ... awfully inconvenient for just about everyone.
Other than that, he had nothing new to offer. So, back to the mammalogy lab! This just about catches us up to where we were last time, only this time, rather than opening the box, I'm going to loot some things.
Sure, I'll take that, too. It's obviously the solution to the flesh-eating insects in the box; the death screen when they got me last time even made a wisecrack about how much they love fresh meat.
After using the skeleton key to open the trunk, there is about a ten-second span where Laura just stares inside like this. This is when you are supposed to use the meat on the trunk. (Otherwise, you get your flesh eaten.)
At this point, Sierra goes right back to being silly again, by having the insects triumphantly march away, carrying the meat. It even plays a jaunty little drum beat as they march. Don't worry! It's only a pack of flesh-eating insects that were able to skeletonlize me in about five seconds in the last update, that I just now set free to wander off God knows where! I gave them a steak, so I'm sure they'll be fine.
So, now we can finally get into that steam trunk...
...which of course has a skeleton in it. What were you expecting? This murder had been telegraphed since literally before the game proper even began.
The body is picked too clean to identify, but if we look a little closer...
And then a little closer still...
There we go. We pretty much knew this was going to be the real Dr. Carrington, but it's nice to have the official confirmation.
This pocketwatch is valuable evidence for identifying the body and proving the real Dr. Carrington's death! I'd better leave it right where it is, completely unattended, and go tell the Countess.
Oh, or that. That's probably the better idea, yes.
I am torn on whether this murder victim gets the standard treatment--an official number in the list, a Teen Girl Squad title, the gruesomeness and absurdity scores, and all that. Does this one ... count? I ultimately decided against it. Poor real Dr. Carrington; his murder is in this game twice (once in the prologue when he's killed, and again now when you find his body) and I'm not counting either of them, because neither follows the standard death scene format. They don't have the closeup Laura-in-a-black-void scream, and they don't have the closeup screen for the body. Look, Dr. Carrington's skeleton gets the same circular cutaway they allowed for his pocketwatch! That's just lazy.
Sorry, Real Dr. Carrington. If you had tried a little harder with either of your death scenes, you might have made the list. But alas.
Next update: onward to actual new content, perhaps!