Last night’s Lifetime movie Deadly Daycare featured a character who was out to get revenge after a car accident. Wow, I’ve never seen that in a Lifetime movie before. Except that I have, several times. It’s almost as common as the “woman who can’t have children and therefore has to steal other people’s” trope, which this movie also happens to employ. These movies are like the opposite of a box of chocolates — you always know what you’re gonna get. But at least this one featured Christy Carlson Romano. (Think she still remembers when we went to the moon?)
The car accident that causes all of this involves Rachel (Kayla Ewell, aka MAUREEN FROM FREAKS AND GEEKS) and her husband Daniel (Bryce Johnson). Rachel was pregnant at the time, and she was worried she’d lost the baby, but everything turned out fine and now she has a little three-year-old girl named Mia, out of whose mouth I understand zero words. Rachel and Daniel are separated now, and Daniel, a city attorney, breaks the news that he’s having money problems. So Rachel has to put Mia in daycare while she goes back to work as a courtroom artist. (Aww, is that how they met? Why don’t they make a rom-com prequel?)
Rachel’s friend Melissa (Kimberly Arland), who never makes another appearance in the whole movie, suggests a daycare for her. And by that I mean she sounds like one of those people in commercials who for some reason know every detail of the product they’re selling and are really eager to tell people about it. Rachel visits the place and decides it’s perfect for Mia.
This is after she she meets daycare teacher Gabby (CCR), who recognizes her from somewhere. Rachel doesn’t think they’ve met. The whole movie rides on the fact that Rachel doesn’t remember Gabby. When you find out that Gabby and her now-handicapped husband Troy (Tyler Rice) were the other car in that horrible car crash, the one that killed Gabby’s daughter, that seems kind of preposterous. Relatives and lovers of car crash victims, I can buy. But not the very people you crashed into.
Even though Mia was perfectly fine with being left at daycare (so much she almost seemed happy to be rid of Mommy, and I started to suspect she was the villain), Rachel worries about her. A lot. She logs in to the daycare’s security cameras in the middle of court and frantically calls over when she doesn’t see Mia right away. I mean, it’s good that she’s vigilant because she actually has every reason to be (hence the “deadly” in the movie’s title), but in the current context, it’s a little much.
Gabby believes that God brought her Mia so that she could steal her away and raise her as her own. She tells her husband this, and he’s supportive of her. But in the way that husbands support their wives joining book clubs, like, “What’s that, honey? Oh yeah, that sounds fine. Now let me watch the game.” Gabby starts pulling Mia aside where the cameras can’t record them and telling her that her name is Crystal (her dead daughter’s name) and that she’s her mother now.
Gabby’s assistant Rebecca (Michelle DeFraites) overhears her talking to Mia and asks her what’s going on. Gabby gets offended and threatens to fire her. Then Rebecca goes and talks to Barbara (Caia Coley), the daycare director. This is a sign that Rebecca is going to die. And she does, thanks to Gabby’s husband Troy running her over with his car. See, kids? Handicapped people can do anything. Except, apparently, remember to take the handicapped placard off their rear-view mirror. Oops.
Meanwhile, Gabby is getting worse and worse at hiding her crazy. She stops by Rachel’s house to drop off a jacket that doesn’t even belong to Mia and then forces her way in to peek into the pans on the stove and pry into their personal lives. She also assumes she’s staying for dinner, and when Rachel says she didn’t invite her, she awkwardly shows herself out. Daniel is over to witness this, and he thinks Gabby is mega-weird. When he hears that Mia has bruises on her arm, he suggests it might have been Gabby. Rachel is shocked he would suggest that the creepy woman who just invited herself over for dinner could possibly hurt their child. How dare he!
What finally gets her suspicious is Gabby’s response to Rebecca getting run over, which is basically to say, “Meh, she wasn’t a very good assistant. Good riddance.” She also casually mentions that her husband is handicapped, and Rachel just so happens to have heard from the cops moments ago that the car that hit Rebecca had a handicapped placard. Could it be? Oh my gosh, really? Gasp! (Side note: Do any other parents ever come to this daycare to pick their kids up? Because it seems to just be Rachel.)
Rachel decides to buy a secret camera to put in the corner of the daycare she can’t see in the security feed. She sits in her car watching it on her tablet, but she falls asleep. Goddammit, Rachel! You had one job… which happens to be drawing courtroom sketches. Why aren’t you doing that right now? No matter, she eventually wakes up to the sound of Gabby scolding Mia and calling her Crystal, and she races back to the daycare. (I thought she was going to get into another accident. Oh, the irony.)
Rachel finally remembers where she knows Gabby from and realizes that she’s dangerous, so she tells Barbara to call the police. Barbara seems to have no idea that Gabby is doing anything bad, which makes me wonder what the hell Rebecca was saying to her that day that she approached her. Did she pull the classic “I have something to tell you, but I can’t tell you right now, so I’ll wait until another time, by which point I’ll have been killed” line?
They realize that Gabby has fled, so Rachel decides the best place to go would be back to her own house, where Daniel happens to be waiting for her. Gabby gets a ride there from Troy and knocks on the door. Because Lifetime characters are the dumbest people in the universe, not only does Daniel shout “Who is it?”, but he actually answers the door, after sending Rachel and Mia upstairs to hide. I realize that was necessary for the plot, but really? It’s like movie characters think it’s against the law not to answer your door, even when an unstable woman is trying to steal your baby.
Of course Gabby has a gun, and of course she goes into a big speech about how he got off easy for the accident because he’s an attorney. And of course Troy drives off because he’s done dealing with her, and of course Gabby shoots Daniel so she can go looking for Rachel and Mia. Rachel ends up pulling the old switcheroo and getting Gabby to chase her when she’s just holding a baby doll.
The police finally get there, but it takes them approximately forever to get around to the back of the house. That’s enough time for Gabby to try to shoot herself but fail. She’s arrested, and Daniel and Rachel end up getting back together, because “fate set our path.” Really? Was Gabby’s daughter dying because you were on your phone while driving part of your path? That’s nice.
Also, did they arrest Troy for killing Rebecca? Where did he go? Hello?