Movie magic formed the basis for this week's episode of Criss Angel BeLIEve, but while that might've been the selling point, what was memorable was what happened to Criss and his team once they tried to make things happen for real. Here are five things we learned from "Lord of Illusions."
01) Magic is (almost always) not real. We knew this one already, and chances are if you're reading this so did you, but we're including it for any folks that aren't aware. So many people delight in pointing out how a trick is done, or tearing down a magician because they didn't really make something disappear. But that's the fundamental stipulation of magic: it's deception, entertainment, science wrapped in art. When Criss points out that "Lord of Illusions" involves influencing the audience, he's not telling us anything we don't already know. The real enjoyment of magic is in the moment. (Although, ironically, Criss also somewhat counteracts this argument, as the 'Superhuman' category of magic actually is legitimate, hence the "almost always" part.)
02) That doesn't make it any less dangerous. Okay, so we know Criss has a plan to properly deign the sequence of swords. That doesn't dampen the suspense in this episode one iota. Why? Because he's still got to put himself on that table. Even if you knew with one hundred percent certainty that they wouldn't fall on you, most of us would still be pretty uncomfortable lying there. And as pointed out repeatedly (thank you, Banachek), Criss might have control over one aspect, but he can't manipulate the wind, or about a half-dozen other things. Even when a demonstration's perfectly staged, there's still risk involved, and so it's still worth appreciating.
03) Because things will go wrong. This demonstration was most decidedly not perfectly staged. Maybe 20 seconds after it was over, the so-called "death sword" hit the table all on its own. If Criss had chosen to catch his breath on the table before getting up, or showboated in any way, we'd be talking about him in the past tense right now. That's not only startling, but it reminds us that this is serious stuff, even if it's just entertainment to us. Even when you're the Magician of the Century, even when you have a crack team that spends weeks preparing, even when you have the money and resources to make the magic happen...you can have a bad day. And Criss's bad days are a lot worse than our bad days.
04) When that happens, you have to deal with it. Perhaps most important is watching Criss's response to the aforementioned sword-falling incident. He doesn't just say, "Well, it doesn't matter since nobody got hurt." He knows it shouldn't have happened, and he wants to hold people accountable, including himself. The last few moments of "Lord of Illusions" show Criss convening a team meeting and telling everyone in no uncertain terms that this should never happen again. That's the most interesting beat of this episode - seeing that even these true professionals can make mistakes, and that they confront those mistakes. We almost wish the episode would've been a few minutes longer so we could've seen a bit more of that conversation.
05) It's ill-advised to stick things up your nose. In the interest of ending this on a more humorous note, one of the smaller tricks this week involved Criss and a kernel of popcorn. We don't ever need to see that again. It's just not a good idea in any situation to stick something up your nose. Did no one learn from the cautionary tale of Homer Simpson? He stuck 16 crayons up his nose, got one lodged in his brain, and permanently stunted his intelligence. Granted, he's a fictional character, but we don't want to test that theory, either. Let's move on from this, and we'll probably be skipping popcorn for awhile, too.
The next episode of Criss Angel BeLIEve airs next Tuesday at 10 PM ET/PT on Spike. For more about the show, you can check out BFTV’s in-depth chat with Criss Angel.