The Austere Academy
The Austere Academy Plot
Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are sent to a depressing and stressful boarding school called Prufrock Preparatory School. The buildings and classrooms resemble gravestones and their motto is “Memento Mori”, a Latin phrase that means “remember you will die”.
The Baudelaires meet Vice Principal Nero, who is quickly revealed to be pedantic, cruel, and mocking towards them. Nero claims that an advanced computer system will keep Count Olaf away. He also reveals that without a letter from their parents or a guardian giving them permission to live in the dormitories, they are forced to live in the “Orphan Shack”. The shack is small and disgusting, painted green and decorated with pink hearts to humiliate them, has vicious crabs and an odd tan fungus dripping from the ceiling. Nero refuses to make an exception for the Baudelaires to live in the dormitory where each student has a bowl of fresh fruit every Wednesday because Mr. Poe is technically not their guardian.
The Baudelaires are forced to deal with several bad situations, such as their horrible living space, Nero’s mandatory six-hour violin recitals and condescending behavior, and nasty children. Most notably, there is a rude and violent girl named Carmelita Spats who bullies the Baudelaires for being orphans and having to live in a shack. Sunny is too young to attend school, so she is forced to serve as the school’s secretary. Violet’s teacher is Mr. Remora who tells long and boring stories along with having an obsession with eating bananas, while Klaus’ teacher is Mrs. Bass, a woman who is addicted to measuring objects.
The Baudelaires meet and befriend two other orphans, Isadora and Duncan Quagmire, after being defended by them from Carmelita during one of her bullying sessions. Isadora and Duncan are actually two members of a set of triplets. Their brother Quigley died in the same fire that killed their parents. The Quagmire children keep notebooks on hand, as an aspiring journalist Duncan likes to write down facts and aspiring poet Isadora likes to write in couplets. When the Baudelaires share their misfortunes with the triplets, the two reveal that they, too, stand to inherit a fortune, through the Quagmire Sapphires.
Count Olaf, disguised as “Coach Genghis,” shows up and fills a role as the new gym coach. The Baudelaires wish for Genghis to take off his turban to reveal his unibrow, but Nero allows him to keep it on due to “religious reasons” and does not wish for Nero to violate his religious beliefs. To hide his eye tattoo, Genghis also refuses to remove his shoes because he claims his feet smell, although this might not be a lie as Count Olaf has poor hygiene. Violet convinces her siblings to pretend not to recognize Olaf due to the reasoning that Olaf would just get his way with Nero. Violet says they could use their time to find out what Olaf is up to and to see if his assistants are nearby.
Olaf forces the Baudelaires to run laps almost every night for S.O.R.E. (Special Orphan Running Exercises) due to the vague and nonsensical reason that “orphans have the best legs for running” and are extremely nasty. As a result of S.O.R.E., the Baudelaires begin sleeping in class and failing their classes due to exhaustion. Nero informs them that if Violet and Klaus don’t pass comprehensive tests and if Sunny is unable to staple with homemade staples, they will be expelled from school. He tells them that Coach Genghis is willing to homeschool them.
The Quagmires devise a plan to help the Baudelaires: Isadora will dress like Violet, Duncan will dress like Klaus, and a bag of flour will take Sunny’s place during S.O.R.E. Meanwhile, the older Baudelaires can study from the Quagmire notebooks while creating staples for Sunny. Violet and Klaus pass their tests and Sunny staples satisfactorily but Genghis comes and says the Quagmires were impersonating the Baudelaires during S.O.R.E. which is the same as cheating. Nero gleefully expels them.
Poe arrives and is disappointed to hear the Baudelaires are cheating. Despite getting into an argument with Mr. Poe, Nero refuses to let the children stay at the school. Poe asks Genghis to remove his running shoes for the Baudelaires, causing Count Olaf to flee. The Baudelaires, having trained in routine running, chase after Olaf remarkably well. Violet manages to take off his turban revealing the unibrow. Sunny manages to untie his shoes, revealing the tattoo.
Meanwhile, Isadora and Duncan are being kidnapped by the white-faced women and are smuggled into a nearby car. Isadora screams for Klaus’ help, but one of the women bites Klaus’ hand and shuts the car door. Before the car drives away, the Quagmires try to tell the Baudelaires about something called “V.F.D.”
Lemony Snicket mentions that Count Olaf would eventually force the Quagmires into puppy costumes so he could sneak them onto an airplane without anyone noticing. The book ends with the Baudelaires weeping for their abducted friends while the adults argue.