Plot Holes: Along Came a Spider
Slate provides the missing scene!
Those who've seen the Matt Dillon-Neve Campbell-Denise Richards film Wild Things no doubt remember one thing about it: The scene involving Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Denise Richards, and their activities in a Florida motel room. But those with particularly good memories may recall something else about it: The movie relied upon a dizzying number of double-, triple-, and quadruple-crosses—so many that it was tempting, when the final credits began to roll, to conclude that the movie had been utterly arbitrary, that there was no way for the characters to have planned so perfectly and kept so many competing agendas straight in their heads. But that's when the movie did something utterly ingenious: During the final credits, it rolled a handful of scenes that filled in all the gaps in the movie, showing the characters' secret behind-the-scenes plottings. And what do you know: When you fit them into the movie's plot, the whole thing was perfectly logical.
Sadly, few screenwriters are kind enough to provide these scenes, which are a crucial way of testing how plausible any movie's plot twists are. Luckily, as a service to moviegoers, Slate's "Plot Holes" department has offered to take a current film with plot points that may be confusing or obscure and supply the necessary scenes to make them crystal clear. Let's examine the Morgan Freeman thriller Along Came a Spider. Critics have charged that the film contains a plot twist two-thirds of the way that defies any rational explanation. "A few loopholes I can forgive," wrote Roger Ebert. "But when a plot is riddled with them, crippled by them, made implausible by them … I get distracted." The Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan wrote that "[T]he film's coincidences and implausibilities periodically threaten to spin it out of control. ..." Could anything have been done to make the movie work? As it turns out, the answer is yes. As the following missing scene shows, it takes only a page or two of dialogue to show that every one of the film's plot twists makes perfect sense.
(Spoiler Alert: You may wish to stop reading here if you plan to see the movie.)
The scene is set two years before the main action of the film, in the guard house of the Cathedral School, an elite private academy in Washington, D.C. The players are JEZZIE FLANAGAN (Monica Potter) and BEN DEVINE (Billy Burke), both of whom work as Secret Service agents guarding the school's students.
INT: Jezzie and Ben, talking
Say, have you noticed anything odd about that computer teacher, Mr. Soneji?
Like what, Jezzie?
Like the fact that his face would appear to be a patently obvious latex mask, devised by a Hollywood makeup artist.
Oh, right, that.
Well, listen. I've done some research into Mr. Soneji, and I've come to a conclusion: He's going to try to kidnap Megan Rose.
Yep. And I've had an idea: What if we let him kidnap the girl, and then kidnap her from his lair, and then pretend to be him—using the same voice-distortion device that he uses—and then demand a ransom? No one would ever suspect us! The investigators would nab Soneji, and we'd get away with the money! And I can work with the lead investigator on the case, thereby throwing him off the scent! I'm certain he'll be the sort of lone-wolf investigator who'd never bother working closely with the law enforcement authorities to discover any holes in my story. And finally, once we've got the money, I can arrange things in just such a way that Soneji comes after me, necessitating his execution and allowing us to get off scot-free!
Man, Jezzie, that's one seriously complex plan.
Yeah. I stayed up all night working on it. In fact, I even created a nifty graphics program that outlines most of the major points in it. I've saved it on the hard drive of my computer. Pretty much, if you boot up my home computer—BAM! There are my plans, laid out for you to unravel in a matter of seconds. Like most criminal masterminds, I like to store stuff like that on my hard drive.
Do you think that's such a good idea?
Oh, it'll be fine. It's password-protected with a phrase that's nearly impossible to guess, unless you're some sort of supergenius psychiatrist-detective and I happen to have mentioned that phrase and how very, very, very important it is to me. But what are the odds of that ever happening?
Yeah, I suppose you're right. But there are still some things I'm unclear on: How do you know that Soneji's not simply going to kill the girl? And how do you know what sort of voice-distortion device Soneji will be using? And how are we going to manage to kidnap a child from the kidnapper? I mean, won't he hide her, and safeguard her, in order to prevent rescuers from getting to her? Like, what if he hides her on a boat? How will we manage to sneak in and take her from him?
Oh Ben, I was hoping not to have to tell you this: I'm actually secretly a brilliant criminal witch with magical powers of deduction and foresight. And I can fly, look!
[JEZZIE suddenly zips about the room at lightning speed.]
As this missing scene demonstrates, critics who find the film's plot twists implausible are merely being churlish and overlooking the rather obvious psychic-witchlike capacities of the film's villain. For shame, Mr. Ebert! For shame!
Tim Carvell is a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly.
Still from Along Came a Spider © 2001 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.