Hello friends! I am writing this on a rainy day, looking at the magnolia tree in the yard that is thinking about blooming. It’s so close! Just like we are, maybe, possibly close to returning to a world where the events of THE CAPTIVE NANNY are remotely plausible, even by the standards of Lifetime movies. I hope you and your loved ones are vaccinated or on the way to it, and that we can soon watch a movie where a plot revolves around a big show at a concert venue downtown and not sadly think to ourselves, “lol. Lmao.” But until then, you can read this and dream. (Content warnings for kidnapping, stalking, murder, and adoption-related trauma.)
We open this Marvista production with a scene of a young woman weepily recording her last words into a fisheye lens. No one should have to go out at such an unflattering angle, but she says something about how she’s being held here, and then she is murdered in an off-screen fashion. So long!
Then we meet the real protagonist of this movie, Chloe, as she babyproofs her house and checks her profile on Nanny Portal Dot Com. Chloe and her partner Rob have a meeting with a counselor from an adoption agency, because being a mom is all Chloe has ever wanted to do, please give her a baby, for the love of god, Chloe needs baby. She can’t carry it herself because of medical reasons, and she grew up in foster care after her parents were arrested when she was eight, and they died in prison a few years ago. Both of them? At…the same time? Okay. This never comes up again, but it’s good to get your tragic exposition out of the way early. Chloe explains that she’s been nannying for 15 years, and that Rob just got his dream job managing the Supercell, a big music venue downtown (oof!!). The counselor gingerly says that with Rob working nights, and Chloe working days and also seeming like extremely desperate and needy, maybe they wouldn’t be the best fit for a child right now. After the counselor leaves, Rob picks a fight with Chloe about why his love isn’t enough for her, and maybe he doesn’t want a kid right now anyway, and Chloe immediately packs a bag and leaves.
Chloe goes to her best friend Stephanie’s house for solace. I thought maybe they were sisters, but now that I’m thinking about it, they didn’t call each other “sis” in that first scene, so they’re definitely just friends. Stephanie, who is very pregnant, tells Chloe that she knows she’ll figure it out, just like she did in this fortuitously placed photo of the two of them in their teens, wearing homemade t-shirts of their favorite boy band, Blank Slate. When I was watching this movie and taking notes, I didn’t even write down the part about the boy band because I thought, “oh that doesn’t seem relevant.” I have never been more wrong in my entire life! That night, Chloe can’t sleep and she checks her messages on Nanny Portal, replying to a woman named Emily who thinks she’d be a great fit for her kid. Also, someone is standing outside Stephanie’s house, but they’re wearing a hoodie so obviously their identity is an impenetrable mystery.
In the morning, Chloe arrives at Emily’s very nice house to interview for a live-in nanny job. Emily and her partner Michael explain that they’ve never had a live-in before, but Emily’s clothes shop is taking off and she won’t have time to homeschool their son Tommy. I hope her boutique sells joggers and soft sweaters with pockets. They have some very specific rules: Tommy is not to be “taken out,” ever, and also Chloe would have to tell them whenever she leaves the house herself, and she has to use the phone they give her, “so you don’t waste your own data with our crazy check-ins!” I’m adding “worrying about my data cap” to things I hadn’t even realized I’d forgotten since last spring. Chloe agrees to these conditions before she even meets Tommy, because she needs somewhere to live, and then they go looking for the child she’ll be caring for, who is “a bit of a hider.” This is Tommy’s only character trait. He’s like nine years old and he simply adores a good hide. Chloe eventually finds him under the basement stairs and he asks her not to give up his hiding spot, and also who she is, in that order. He loves hiding and is indifferent to knowing who the people in his house are.
Having found Tommy, Emily shows Chloe to her room, up a staircase with a door that locks with a keypad. All the doors have keypads. Michael says they were installed by a previous owner, and Chloe asks if the previous owner was the president. Yes, and be careful, one of them is still linked to the nuclear arsenal. Chloe unpacks the suitcase she took with her when she broke up with Rob, and one of the things she saw fit to save from the wreckage of her former life was: A Jar Candle. She notices the nightstand is bolted to the floor, and rattles it around a bit because that’s kind of weird, right? and Emily comes back into explain that they did that when Tommy is a baby. Hm. Chloe, continuing to unpack, notices that her friend put the homemade boy band t-shirt in her suitcase last night. Aw. Emily is like, ah, yes, Blank Slate, heard of it, yes, and then she goes to bed.
Overnight, Chloe gets an annoyed text from her ex-boyfriend and gets out of bed to get a glass of water. What’s this out the window? Why, it’s Emily, wearing a sequined jumpsuit and robe, and dancing around a fire pit! She is absolutely going to town on this sequined jumpsuit midnight dance, but she stops when Tommy screams because he’s having a night terror.
Chloe and Emily both rush to Tommy’s room and Emily soothes him with a song they sing together, complete with little hand motions. Chloe recognizes the song as a deep cut by Blank Slate, and they bond over that a little. What is a “deep cut” by a real boy band? What do only the true Backstreet heads know? I wouldn’t know, I was too busy listening to nu metal and the Smiths when I was fourteen, like a really cool youth. But let me know!
The next morning, Emily shows Chloe the keypad codes to get out of the house, which I guess seems normal to Chloe although it does not seem normal to me, and she and Michael leave for work. What does Michael do? I don’t know. Sometimes we see him strumming a guitar and he says that he has “projects” so I’m going to say…he makes theme songs for podcasts? Alone in the house, Chloe suggests a game of hide and seek (Tommy’s a hider), but Tommy would rather go to the playground. Chloe reminds him that she’s not supposed to take him out, ever, and he replies it can be their secret; Sylvia used to take him to play with other kids. Sylvia? Who’s Sylvia? Who indeed. Chloe agrees to take him to the park, it will be their little secret. As soon as they arrive at the playground, some random woman saunters up to Chloe and oh, this lady knows all about Tommy and Emily and Michael. She especially knows all about Emily, who once hired her husband to do a plumbing job and then accused him of being a spy for a boy band who was infiltrating her family, and Emily even called the police on him. Also, Tommy has definitely had a live-in nanny before. This is this woman’s only scene and she doesn’t even get a name, but she sure is ominous. Good for her.
When Chloe and Tommy get home, Emily is waiting for them and she is furious. The first rule of the house is that Tommy does not go out! He is a ghost orchid! He is Rappaccini’s daughter! But then Emily softens and fetches some wine for herself and Chloe, so she can explain why she has these rules. Okay, so, you know Blank Slate? The boy band? That keeps coming up even though I was so sure it wouldn’t matter? Emily was in a relationship with one of the Blank Slate boys, Baz Martin. Baz! All the names in the world, and the screenwriter chose Baz. She designed some costumes for them, but after five years she just couldn’t deal with the high-flying boy band lifestyle, and they broke up. So, if Chloe was in her early teens when she made that I <3 Blank Slate shirt, and let’s say Emily is a few years older, maybe she was 20 when they were at the height of their fame, she was probably doing their costumes when they were like, eight to ten years past their peak? I can see how that would wear on a person. Anyway, after they broke up, Baz was obsessed with Emily and followed her on dates and into her home, and the cops didn’t believe her, so she had to make her life small, especially since she had Tommy. If Baz found out she had a kid, who knows what he’d do? Chloe believes all of this, but also asks why Emily would sing a Blank Slate song, and not just a Blank Slate song, but a Baz song, to her kid, if she’s terrified of this man who destroyed her life, and Emily explains that she’s tried to reclaim it. Okay. So, now that Emily has fed her this very believable story to justify imprisoning her child, is Chloe still in? Yes, absolutely! She still has nowhere else to live, so!
Chloe is still forging ahead with the adoption process, despite the fact that she is living in a small room in someone else’s house, and she sends off another application to another agency and then calls her friend Stephanie. Or maybe sister? Friend? Sister? Friend. Frister. Chloe calls her friend Stephanie to tell her about the family and the Baz stuff. Stephanie thinks this is all extremely weird, and points out that they’re probably listening to her calls, and Chloe brushes her off with a world-weary “all families are weird.” Yes but most children are allowed outside sometimes. She says some more reassuring things to Stephanie and then goes to bed, only to be awakened in the middle of the night by Emily looming over her crooning a Baz song and clutching her phone. She has news! Baz is playing a surprise show at that venue Chloe’s ex-boyfriend manages! This is indeed all news to Chloe, especially the part where Emily knows where her ex works. Emily keeps asking her if she knew about the show, because it really seems like quite a coincidence, her having this incredibly tangential connection to Baz Martin, but Chloe swears she didn’t know. Emily tells Chloe that it must be “hard to understand, for anyone who’s never been loved like this,” but she needs to protect her family, and if Chloe doesn’t get on board she’ll fire her and badmouth her to the adoption agency. All for a guy named Baz. Doesn’t seem worth it to me, Amelia.
The next day, Chloe and Tommy play hide and seek (you know what Tommy is? he’s a hider). While hiding under a desk, Chloe finds a manila folder with a bunch of printed out Nanny Portal pages, and actual glossy photographs of her and her family and Stephanie, but before she can think this this through, Tommy calls her down to the basement. He’s staring at a locked door because he heard someone in there. Chloe scoops him up and calls 911, but before the cops arrive, Emily is there. It was her in the basement, because sometimes when she says she’s going to work, she’s actually just going down to the basement to work in a locked room that no one else is ever allowed into, because Tommy and Michael can be so messy. It is completely normal that she has this forbidden room of secrets.
After Emily brushes off the cops, she and Michael have a chat with Chloe about when to call anyone other than them for help, which is never. What if there’s a fire? No. What if Tommy is seriously hurt? No. What if Tommy is on fire? No. They don’t want anyone there, period. I appreciate a “do not call the cops” policy as much as anyone, but this seems a little out of control. Chloe agrees to this, and then asks if she can go visit her friend Stephanie. Yes, but Michael has to drive her. He needs to keep an eye on her, plus Chloe’s little captive nanny feet simply cannot reach the pedals.
Stephanie and her husband Kevin, who is a cop, listen to Chloe’s concerns about her new employers. They have a whole long conversation that just brings up a bunch of theories that don’t pan out and balls that get dropped. The only real piece of information Kevin has is that Emily applied for a business license, listing an address just a few blocks away. Stephanie and Chloe decide to walk over to check it out, followed at a creepy distance by Michael, who is tracking Chloe’s cell phone. Obviously. Anyway the address is just a dusty empty storefront. “It’s creepy, Chlo, these people are creepy!” declares Stephanie. Honestly Emily’s extremely boring outfits are a dead giveaway that she doesn’t design clothes for boy bands or have a boutique. The only interesting outfit she ever wears is the one she dances around the firepit in. We need more of that Emily.
Michael brings Chloe home in time for dinner, and as Emily brings the salad out because what’s a dinner on tv without a big salad, Tommy finds a ticket to a 2002 Blank Slate concert just like, under the dining room table? I think he was hiding under there. He’s a hider. Emily panics and drops the big salad (oh no, their roughage!) and demands an explanation from Chloe. Where else would it have come from! Why would anyone save a ticket stub! They must be SICK. And sick people get quarantined, as we know, so Michael and Emily lock Chloe in her room, take her phone, cut off her wifi, and move her car behind the house. Just then, Stephanie texts Chloe’s phone to tell her that they figured out Emily has changed her name, her real name is Chelsea Collins. Emily texts back, “I already know, she told me :)” and if I ever text you using an old-timey smiley emoticon like that, that is NOT me, I have been KIDNAPPED.
After letting Chloe think about “what” “she’s” “done” until morning, Emily and Michael bring her a bucket with some bottles of water and toilet paper in it, and ask her how she knows Baz. She stammers that she doesn’t know Baz. She’s never met anyone named Baz, no one has. Michael holds up her homemade Blank Slate t-shirt and glowers at her. Chloe proposes a new plan: she’ll just quit! The end. No more captive nanny. They scoff that obviously they won’t let her just run back to Baz and report everything she’s learned over these past, uh, two days, and then take her suitcase and lock her in her room. There’s still the matter of their child, and Emily and Michael explain to him that yes, he can hear Chloe screaming, but she’s just screaming about how safe she is! And if Tommy wants to keep her safe, he can help by not telling anyone she exists, just like he didn’t tell anyone about his last nanny, Sylvia. Okay, Tommy?
Speaking of Sylvia, at some point before she was murdered, she made that recording from the first scene of the movie on a teddy bear nanny cam, stuffed the teddy bear into the mattress in the nanny’s room, and wrote “MATTRESS” on the underside of the throw rug that Chloe trips on, allowing her to unravel this whole scheme. She watches the video on her laptop and is brought up to speed on the plot of the movie she’s in, about how Emily is obsessed with Baz Martin and assumes everyone around her is a Baz plant (or, Blant). Sylvia also says there’s something important in Emily’s secret basement lair, and the keycode is 2126. She wraps up by saying that she’s so sorry she can’t do more to help the next nanny, and then Michael (I think?) murders her, off screen. Then we get a montage of several days passing in Chloe’s room, and her hair just keeps getting bigger. It’s so big! She should be proud.
One day, Tommy comes to Chloe’s door to tell her that someone is here to see her. It’s Stephanie! Michael tells her that Chloe is out with Tommy, and Stephanie just has a lot of questions that she needs to get out, starting with, “why does Chloe’s phone always go to voicemail?” and ending with “why would my best friend appear to not know about the human baby I just birthed?” Chloe tries and fails to get Stephanie’s attention from her room, and asks Tommy for help, but Tommy is a pasty and soft child, no help at all. Stephanie eventually leaves, but not before declaring that she’ll bring her cop husband back if she has to. Her husband: he’s a cop. Tommy: he’s a hider. After Stephanie leaves, Emily brings Chloe a glass of water and Chloe says that you know what, okay, she does know Baz. She met him at a concert once, in her homemade t-shirt. You got me! Emily sneers that obviously Chloe was sent to keep tabs on her, and she didn’t tell her about the show because she’s afraid of losing Baz to Emily. I just cannot emphasize enough how many times they say “Baz” in this movie. Emily leaves but comes back in the middle of the night for more of her looming and babbling about Baz, and what it was like to live in his light, and how Chloe needs to get Emily backstage at the show. It is in Chloe’s best interest to be useful.
In the non-captive area of the house, Emily texts Rob and Stephanie from Chloe’s phone, while Michael proposes simply killing Chloe, since she doesn’t have any information and her friend is too nosy. Emily widens her eyes and says that no, Baz hurt her too! They’re a team! Making her pee in a bucket is just a thing you do to rookies on your team. Michael brings Chloe a sandwich but then sees the “mattress” note on the rug and finds the nanny cam bear. A thing I worry about is: what if I am kidnapped, or stranded, or otherwise severely deprived of food, and the only food I am given or can find is meat? What if someone locked me in my room for ten days and then brought me a turkey sandwich? Would I eat the turkey sandwich? Would I have to? Would I eat it and get sick from it and then tell them I was a vegetarian and would they then say, “oh, silly captive, we would have made you a PB&J if we’d known”? I don’t know! Anyway, Chloe pleads with Michael that he doesn’t have to go along with his wife, who is just making this all up. He takes the teddy bear and leaves but forgets to lock the door, so Chloe picks up her sneakers and follows him downstairs.
There’s an argument going on downstairs, in which Michael is taking the stance of “you’re taking Baz’s side against mine, and can we please just kill Chloe, I’ll do a better job this time” and Emily is entrenched in “our FAMILY is in DANGER.” It isn’t. A very Yakety Sax-esque scene ensues as they go to talk to Chloe and then try to find her hiding spot, with Tommy’s help. Doors open, they close, the stealth is on the level of a Zelda game, Chloe grabs the flash drive out of the teddy bear and hides in Tommy’s favorite spot under the basement stairs. Tommy finds her there, of course, but agrees to keep her secret so that she can go check out the vault. It turns out that it’s a whole-ass shrine to Baz Martin in there. Emily has even included Chloe’s homemade shirt, which is just rude. There’s so much Blank Slate stuff on the walls and it reminds me of merch stands at shows and I miss shows so much. Oh god. When Chloe turns around, Emily is waiting for her with a gun, telling her that if she doesn’t help her, it’ll end very badly for her, and Rob, and Stephanie. She knows all about Chloe, like, she knows the first names of her ex-boyfriend and her best friend, see! Everything. They’re interrupted by the doorbell, because Rob heard his name and was summoned. Rob’s here now!
Rob and Chloe sit at the dining room table, Rob looking normal and Chloe in the same cowl-neck sweater and leggings she’s been wearing for, let’s say, ten days? with ten days of bucket-peeing and not showering behind her? So she looks great. While Chloe insists that she’s tired but fine, she just wanted to see him to see if maybe he could get her boss into the Baz Martin show, Emily ominously slices cucumbers in the background. Rob doesn’t think he can do that, the security at this show is really strict, because Baz has an intense stalker. Oh word? Emily offers her guest a plate of the cucumbers she sliced and brightly suggests a staff credential. Rob is baffled but says he’ll try, because those cucumbers are top notch.
On the night before the Baz show, Emily asks Michael if he can go get donuts from a specific shop near the first place they lived together. Sure, it’s two hours each way and he’s “got that little gig” (The Daily needs some new interstitial music), but okay. This doesn’t seem like a wild goose chase at all.
After Michael leaves for the most special donuts in the world, Emily gets dressed up in her best black sequined vest and Blank Slate backpack and does us all the courtesy of dropping by Chloe’s room to explain her plan. Emily’s plus one will be Tommy, who “is” “Baz’s” “son.” They tried to have a child for so long and it weighed on them so much, so it will make Baz so happy to see his miracle baby! It is useless to point out that this timeline doesn’t make sense, it’s stalker logic. Chloe tries anyway, and asks her to not bring Tommy into this, but Emily just tells Tommy to hug Chloe goodbye and thank her for reuniting their family. When Michael finally returns home with a sad paper sack of donuts, he finds Emily’s wedding ring on the counter, and Chloe tells him the code for the vault so he can finally figure out the whole thing, which he had so much opportunity to figure out before. So many Lifetime movies operate on the principle that it is normal for one member of a household to have a room that no one else is allowed into. We have fairy tales about that! Very dark ones! Michael! Read about Bluebeard! Once Michael sees the vault, he cuts Chloe out of the chair she’s been tied to, and they take off.
Emily shows up at the Supercell with her child in tow, and Rob is, again, baffled. Why did you bring your son? Where is my ex-girlfriend? He reluctantly agrees to let her into the venue so Tommy can use the bathroom, even though once they get inside we see a poster with Emily’s face on it, warning “DO NOT LET THIS WOMAN IN.” Tommy points out that that lady looks like Emily, and she replies “no, sweetie, that lady has blonde hair.” Well, it fooled Rob. Emily grabs a wardrobe rack and sweet-talks her way into Baz’s green room with it, and then finally, FINALLY, we meet Baz.
This sizzling creature does not want to see Emily, or Chelsea, whatever her name is. He does not want to meet her son or entertain the idea that actually it’s his son. This Adonis of a man does not want to have a gun aimed at him. He just wants to sing some pop ballads and ooze sex appeal through that grey henley. We all see it, right? We’re on the same page? Yeah. Emily tells Tommy to go hide (sigh) while Baz pleads with her to leave him alone, he’s had to design his whole life around keeping away from her. Emily gets very heart-eyes and replies, “you designed your life around me?” People who are allergic to peanuts design their lives around peanuts, Emily. Get over yourself.
Chloe and Michael arrive at the Supercell and tell Rob to call the cops while they run to the green room. Baz is still in there, bravely and foolishly insisting to the woman holding a gun on him that he does not love her, Chelsea, let it go. When Michael bursts into the room, Emily shoots him in the arm. Chloe goes to look for Tommy before Emily can find him, and also ends up getting shot in the arm for her trouble. When the cops finally show up and tackle Emily, she asks Chloe if she thinks Baz will forgive her, and Chloe just says, “……..Emily.” What else can you say!
Now it’s some indeterminate amount of time later, and it’s snowing, and Chloe and Stephanie are taking a walk, with Stephanie’s baby in tow. It’s pretty funny that we never learn a single piece of information about this baby, other than “it exists.” The point of this scene is to show us that Emily and Michael are in jail now, so Tommy is in the same boat Chloe was in as a kid, and that Tommy is, I guess, Chloe’s kid now? And she and Rob are back together? Neither Emily nor Michael had any living relatives? They just hand over the kid to the nanny of like two weeks? This seems like a decision that the courts were not involved in at all, like Chloe just went, “ah, okay,” and tucked Tommy in her pocket and headed to Rob’s. So that’s, the end, I guess!
Finally, if you have read this far, I just want to quickly apologize that it’s been a while since the last newsletter, and even longer since the last subscriber-only issue. I! Have been! Depressed! I am sorry about that, and hopefully I will be able to write some more jokes a little more quickly in the future. We’ll see!