“Reader beware, you’re in for a scare!” That’s how every entry in the original 64-volume run of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps began. For people like me, who grew up obsessing over every scary story in the series, the phrase is synonymous with quality spooky fun. The fifth episode of the new Goosebumps series, now streaming on Disney+ and Hulu, breaks the show’s format a little bit by focusing solely on the original story that has thusfar woven together some of the classics. And since this is a written recap, the title feels extra fitting – “Reader Beware.’
Episode 5: Reader Beware – Written by Mariko Tamaki
Nora (Rachael Harris) asks a nurse in the mental health ward when she can see her son. She is told to keep taking her medication and resting and she will get to see him soon. Slightly panicked, she sits down in a chair and is annoyed by the sound of another patient drumming their fingers. When she looks up to tell them to stop, it’s not a patient, but Harold Biddle (Ben Cockell)! “I want him,” the ghost says as Nora screams. Outside of the mental health ward, we see Mr. Bratt (Justin Long) spying on Nora. “She doesn’t look so good,” he grins at a nurse who asks if he’s lost.
Colin (Rob Huebel) has invited Nora’s son Lucas (Will Price) to stay with him and Margot (Isa Briones) until his mom is released. “I wish I could see my mom,” Lucas tells Margot as she helps him get settled in the guest room. Since she was taken in, he’s only been allowed to speak with her over the phone. When Margot hears the sound of car doors in the driveway, she looks out the window. It’s her mom!
Sarah (Lexa Doig) sits at the dinner table across from her husband Colin, with Margot and Lucas between them. Lucas asks Sarah if she’s living in Seattle permanently. “No, that was temporary, I’m back now,” she says, which takes Colin by surprise. When he steps away to get wine, Margot asks her mom to tell her what’s going on. “There are some other things I need to take care of first,” Sarah says, adding that it’s complicated.
Isaiah (Zack Morris) is hanging out with James (Miles McKenna) and tells his best friend that he broke up with Allison. James asks if he’s told Margot yet, and he says he’s going to tell her when she gets there, but he wonders if she has feelings for Lucas.
Margot and Lucas walk to James’ house together and he leads her the long way as she vents about her mom. “She could actually come through for me right now and she just chooses not to,” Margot complains, worrying her mom doesn’t like her. “That’s not possible,” Lucas says, as he stops at a playground. “It’s actually the spot where I’ve broken every bone in my body,” he explains. “I want you to know that even when it feels totally hopeless and you’re hurting, stuff gets better.” At the end of his speech, Lucas tells Margot he’d like to kiss her. She kisses him.
Isabella (Ana Yi Puig) is already at James’ house when Margot and Lucas finally arrive. Margot shares the news that her mom hasn’t explained anything yet.
The next morning at the Biddle house, Nathan looks at Harold in the mirror. “It’s time for them to learn the truth,” he instructs Nathan, who closes up the scrapbook and puts it in his bag.
Sarah visits Nora in the hospital, who is surprised to see her back. “Does Colin know?”, Nora asks anxiously, learning that he does. Sarah asks how Nora got herself into this mess. “I was trying to protect the kids, something you know nothing about,” she respoonds. She reminds Sarah that she called her to tell her he saw Harold, adding that she saw him again yesterday. “He asked me where he is,” Nora explains. “He said he wants him back. He’s looking for him, Sarah. And he’s coming for our kids. He’s looking.. For him…” Sarah’s jaw drops.
Mr. Bratt finds Margot in the school library and he hands her the scrapbook. “Your mom’s name is Sarah, right?,” he asks. “Your dad said she went to school here.” He tells Margot that he found the scrapbook in his basement while cleaning andtells her that her mom is in it. When he walks away, Sarah opens it up to a memory set in that very same library. Suddenly she’s in 1993 watching a scene play out between Harold and young Sarah (Alex Felix). She asks him if he’s coming to photo club. He picks up his Polaroid camera and takes a picture of her as he gets up to follow her.
With that memory having just completed itself, Margot is back in the library. Ms. Dowling (Terry O’Sullivan) asks if she’s ok. “Where was the darkroom in 1993?”, Margot asks. The teacher tells her it became the A.V. Club, so Margot rushes there. Inside, she opens the scrapbook again and sees Harold showing her mom the photos he developed. They’re of some of his favorite things, including the mask and his camera. Sarah invites Harold to hang out with her friends that weekend, adding “You’re cooler than you think.” The memory ends.
“You’re drugging her?”, Sarah asks Victoria (Francoise Yip) in her office. Victoria tells Sarah that Nora is sedated because she’s a danger to herself. “So you expect me to believe that you actually think you’re helping her?” Veronica reminds Sarah that Nora was talking to the police about ghosts. “She says she saaw Biddle, hat he’s looking for him,” Sarah tells her. “Exactly why she needs to be helped,” Victoria responds, adding that Nora risks losing everything if she can’t keep it together.
Outside of school, Margot meets up with her friends and shows them the scrapbook. Isaiah had flowers in his hand and things seem tense between him and Lucas. “My mom knew Biddle,” she announces. She takes them into the school theater, the setting of the next memory. Isaiah doesn’t want Margot to open the book, saying it’s too dangerous. Lucas counters, saying she can do what she wants. “I have to go back in,” Margot says, saying this is their only chance to know the truth since her mom won’t talk. When she opens the book, she alone is transported into the memory. Harold and Sarah talk on the stage. “I think someone’s trying to hurt you,” Harold tells her. “I can’t explain it.” Sarah tells Harold that Ben is waiting for her. “Please, don’t leave me,” Harold begs as Sarah runs out of the auditorium. And then Harold’s eyes make contact with Margot’s. “You can’t go either, Margot,” he tells her coldly. “I’m not gonna let you leave me.” Harold bursts into flames. “Come with me.”
In the real world, Margot’s eyes have turned solid black and she’s unresponsive to anything going on around her. The pages of the book flip to the Biddle house. Lucas thinks the only way to get Margot out of her trance is to take her to there. Isabella gets a dolly from the A.V. Club to help wheel her to James’ Jeep.
As Sarah is leaving the hospital, she passes her husband Colin. “I was visiting Nora,” he tells her when she asks what he’s there for. “We should probably talk,” he adds. Back at home, Sarah tells him she thought they were on a trail separation, but Colin says that was months ago. “I wanted you guys to come with me,” Sarah argues, but Colin brings up that wouldn’t have been right for Margot to change schools so close to graduation. She never told him why she needed to leave town, just that she needed to. “I love you and I’m always going to love you, but I don’t see how this is going to work out,” Colin says, declaring their marriage over.
Sarah cries in her car before going back into the hospital. “Colin told me everything,” she tells Nora, adding that it’s ok. A nurse tries to escort Sarah out since visiting hours are over, but she insists on telling something to Nora before she goes. “You’re not unwell, they just want you to think you are,” Sarah quietly tells Nora. “The medication they’re giving you is for people who are seeing things that aren’t there, but that’s not you. If you want to get out of here, you have to stop taking the pills and stop talking crazy. They don’t understand. They don’t believe you, but I do. You’re right, we need to protect our kids. We’ll figure this out.” As Sarah is escorted out, a nurse brings Nora her pills. She has to take them in front of the nurse, but Nora hides the pills in her cheek and spits them out when she’s left alone.
Margot is with the burned ghost of Harold at the Biddel house. From the outside, she watches a group of teenagers ring the doorbell, then run and hide. Harold opens the door and he can’t see anybody there. After he goes back inside, they do it again. This time, the teens run around the side of the house and sneak in through the backdoor. Before Harold closes the door, the ghost leads Margot inside. The lights go out and Harold lights a candle. He goes to the basement and locks the door as the teens run to the door, banging on it and scaring him. And then, Margot finds herself in Harold’s shoes, falling down the stairs, watching as the candle set fire to the rug and the entire basement. She looks up the stairs and sees Harold watching her as she coughs. And then the door opens and Isaiah runs downstairs to rescue Margot.
Isaiah and Margot exit the house in the past, with James, Isabella, and Lucas standing outside. They all followed her into the scrapbook. “There were other people in the house,” she tells them. They turn around and watch the teens who tormended Harold run out of the back door. “I found it,” one of them says, carrying a chest. We have to get him out,” Sarah demands, but her boyfriend Ben (William Chris Sumpter) stops her as fire erupts from the basement window, a screaming face visible in the flame. “Harold’s gone,” Nora (Taylar Hender) says. Victoria (Michelle Mao) asks if they should call someone.“No, Biddle’s dead, it doesn’t mean we have to ruin our lives, too,” Eliza (Samantha Blaire Cutler) responds. The teens grab the case they stole and run off into the night.
“Did we just find out our parents are murderers?”, James asks the group, stunned. “Biddle is getting back at us for what our parents did to him,” Isabella realizes out loud. “He’s getting revenge!” Isaiah asks his friends what was in the case. “You wanna know what’s in that case?”, Mr. Bratt asks from the front porch in the present. “Come inside. I’ll tell you all about it.”
By now, I think we can all guess that Slappy was in the case. An the fact that the next episode, premiering Friday, October 20th, on Disney+ and Hulu.
Episode 6 – Night of the Living Dummy
Mr. Bratt tells the teens about Harold Biddle and the history of the house. In this decades-spanning story, the teens get closer to discovering the truth about what’s haunting Port Lawrence and who might be responsible for it.
Songs Featured in This Episode:
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