Monday, October 21, 2019

The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories #163: The Clues Challenge (2001)


Ned invited both Nancy and George to the Emerson College campus to take part in something called the Big Chill Clues Challenge. It takes place every winter over five days and requires that teams compete to find hidden clues. After Nancy makes out with Ned for a bit, they get into a massive snowball fight and then meet some of the people on their team. There's CJ, who is some big deal athlete, and his girlfriend Dede. Dennis dated Dede until she dumped him for the other guy. They also meet Joy, the president of a sorority that won the challenge last year.

When the group heads over to Sport Mania, the store sponsoring the event, they get to meet Mr. Lorenzo, the owner. He freaks out at some dude following CJ around with a camera until CJ reveals that the guy works for Sports World and is doing a story on him. That's another reason why Dennis doesn't like him. He was the big man on campus the year before but then hurt his shoulder and lost his status. Mr. Lorenzo also gets a message on his computer demanding the clues.

Everyone meets at a local restaurant for a big party before the challenge starts. Nancy notices that their tiramisu has weird white flakes on it and doesn't see the same thing on other desserts. She finds a bunch of crushed up pills near the phone booth and asks the waiters if they saw anything, but everyone just looks confused. Dennis says they weren't his, even though he takes painkillers, and says he doesn't need help to beat CJ.

Nancy and George take the pills to a 24-hour pharmacy to get some help but get distracted by Joy along the way. They follow her across campus and see her doing some suspicious things. Joy then disappears and pops up behind them. She basically warns them to leave her alone and stop following her or else, which doesn't seem that threatening coming from a sorority girl. Ned finds out that the pills were a prescription muscle relaxant, which makes them all suspect Dennis again.

We finally get to the first day of the competition. Nancy tells Mr. Lorenzo what happened, but he doesn't seem too concerned and just says he'll keep an eye out. The first event has people running up a set of stairs. CJ immediately falls down and hurts his ankle because someone put oil on the stairs. Joy comes down with the first clue and gives everyone the eye, so Nancy runs up and gets the clue too. It leads them to a barn out in the woods, but because of his injury, CJ has to sit out.

To get to the barns, they need to navigate around a frozen stream. George is the lightest and fastest, so she gets the job, but her boot comes out of her ski and sends her tumbling towards the water. She manages to grab a bush and stop herself. When they get to her, Nancy finds that someone sawed through her ski. Dede instantly tells them not to blame her, which I find a little odd. They get the clue and go back to headquarters. Mr. Lorenzo doesn't seem to think the accident was that bad and doesn't believe someone sawed her ski either. Okay, he's at the top of my suspect list now.

While hunting for the next clue, they wind up at the bell tower. Someone knocks an icicle off the roof that almost crashes into Grant's head, another teammate. Nancy tosses her bag at his back to make him move, which confuses him and probably makes him wet his pants. She and Ned head to the roof and find a green glove and a file like the one used to wreck George's ski. Conveniently, Mr. Lorenzo had one that went missing. Nancy then hears Joy talking to someone on the phone about their next meeting. Joy asks where she found her glove, denies being on the roof, and storms off.

Nancy has a run in with Dennis because she sees him with a computer. The graphics look exactly like those on Lorenzo's computer when he got the threatening message. One of his friends says he's a computer wiz, but Dennis tells her to back off. Lorenzo listens to what happened but refuses to do anything. He says that since Joy denied it was her, he has to take her at his word. All this despite telling the teams that anyone caught cheating would be disqualified.

The trio head over to Sports Mania to investigate, and George pretends to try on some clothes to keep the sales rep busy. Nancy finds a blackmail note that asks for $1,500 and proof that Lorenzo paid someone that same amount. The whole group then heads to a big party, but Lorenzo shows up and announces that he has to disqualify them. He says he saw one of their members in the woods looking for clues after the deadline. They get other people to say they were there the whole time, and he seems disappointed that they're still in the competition. The whole crew wears the same hats, but Nancy discovers that someone stole her hat.

Nancy and Ned decide to check out Dennis's room to see if he had anything to do with it. Though he comes back early and almost catches them, George plays the ditzy girl and distracts him long enough for them to get away. The next clue leads them to this big ass oak tree that has another clue hidden on the top. Nancy goes after it but almost falls to her death when the top branch breaks. Someone sawed almost all the way through it.

Joy's group shows up, but when Nancy warns her about the branch, she just laughs it off and asks it they want to blame that one her too. While she's in the tree, Nancy goes through her bag and finds the same muscle relaxants used on their desserts. Joy denies it was her and admits that she was meeting someone in secret but that it was a friend who needed help with her chemistry midterm. The chick is a braniac and didn't want anyone to know. Joy also admits to stealing Nancy's hat but just to be a bitch.

George and Nancy see Randy, the reporter, acting really weird and decide to follow him. They see him sneaking into Lorenzo's office in the store. He tells them that he's looking for a guy he wrote about in the past. The guy was at the center of a college sports points fixing scandal and skipped town before police could catch him. Randy believes that the guy is Lorenzo. Nancy then remembers seeing a photo of two of the athletes from the article in Dennis's room.

The final clue leads them to the drama club building. They think it's the new theater, but it's actually the old one, and when they get there, they find Dennis. Nancy asks when he found out who Lorenzo really was, but Ned flat out tells him that he's going to jail. He says they'll have to catch him first and jumps off the roof. It turns out that he went for the old fire escape, but the metal is really weak and starts breaking. Nancy has to climb down and after him to bring him back to the safety of the top of the fire escape and to wait for the cops.

Dennis tells her that his half-brother was one of the athletes caught up in the scandal. He threatened to turn Lorenzo into the police, but Lorenzo paid him off instead. Dennis got all the clues from him in advance and set everything up for the other teams to fail. He even made it look like Joy did everything. Unfortunately, Lorenzo then shows up and says that he has to end them all. He can't afford to keep paying off Dennis and can't have the girls tell on him, so he plans to break the fire escape off and let them all fall to their deaths.

Joy shows up and seems really confused about what's going on, but she's enough of a distraction that it lets Ned jump off the fire escape and tackle Lorenzo. Nancy then grabs the last clue and wins the challenge for Ned's fraternity. In the end, Joy tells them that her team will be back and win next year. Everyone fights over who really won until Nancy points out that because they put away a criminal, they're all winners.

*The last contest had teams cross-country skiing for five miles to find a clue hidden at the bottom of a well. That does not sound like fun at all. One team actually got stuck and needed rescuing, which makes it sound even worse.

*Ned brings the gals tea and muffins the first day of the challenge to get them in the right mood.

*The challenge only takes place during certain hours of the day, and all teams need to check in at headquarters at the end of the day. Lorenzo says this will keep teams from cheating, but I don't know how. They could check in and then go right back out.

*Ned's fraternity throws a luau and asks everyone to wear Hawaiian clothing. Nancy and George wear shorts and tank tops...in the middle of winter.

*I love Dennis's fraternity brothers in the end. They point out that they knew he didn't have the money to buy the new fancy computer he had but never guessed he was blackmailing someone. Well duh.

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