In an early April video chat, Martha Stewart demonstrated cocktail recipes for late-night host Seth Meyers while jovially revealing that she is currently holding three employees captive on her Bedford, New York estate.
Meyers sipped scotch in his attic as he watched Stewart wield a cocktail shaker from her farmhouse kitchen and casually discuss the benevolent conditions of the covid-19 prison she has made for her favorite servants:
“We have three detainees, I call them,” Stewart told Meyers.
“Oh detainees, well that’s very charming,” Meyers guffawed politely.
Swirling an Aperol spritz in crystal glass, wearing what appeared to be a black velvet and silk housedress straight out of costuming for a stately grandmother in a VC Andrews adaptation, Stewart responded, chuckling benignly:
“It’s against their will but if they want their jobs, and they want to not get sick, they’re staying here...We make a nice dinner every night. We have a cocktail. We play cards after dinner. It’s horrible.”
The hostages named in the video are called Ryan, Carlos, and Elvira. Here is what we know of their captivity based on proof of life footage from Stewart’s Instagram.
March 19: A Harbinger of Doom
In Stewart’s last photograph from outside her fortress, a ghostly figure seems to portend impending misery, though whether the figure signifies coming ruin for Stewart, her servants, the estate in its entirety, or all mentioned is unclear. Yet the collective “we” in the text accompanying the photograph indicates that Carlos, Ryan, and Elvira had already been detained at the time of posting. Altogether Stewart’s glimpse of James Harris on Main Street seems to have been unsettling enough to frighten Stewart back into the manse before authorities could free the captives.
March 21: Satiated, but for how long?
The ovum of Stewart’s favorite playthings—incarcerated fowl—continue to amuse at the dawn of isolation, but her pacing, along with the stream-of-consciousness catalog of potential divertissement suggests an unquiet mind, never a good sign for captives.
March 21: An empty hole
As winter surrenders itself to spring, Stewart rips a furrow into the Earth’s soft belly, soundtracked by Bachman Turner Overdrive. What secret might be driven into the newly turned soil? To what business is Stewart attending?
March 24: A warning
In this missive, Stewart claims an ink-hued feline, along with her other pets, risks “reprimands for freedom.” There are many ways to be liberated, the words seem to warn, not all of them desirable.
March 27: Birth
A gosling is given.
March 28: Life
A detainee films the disorientation of newly hatched fowl.
March 31: Death
The detainees are fed the flesh of a poultry. Is it a fellow yardbird? The animal’s bones make a broth the color of a setting sun to boil ribbons of beaten egg, perhaps the final reminders that the dead bird ever lived at all.
April 4: Recreation
In an offer of proof that the detainees are extended every comfort, including mental and physical stimulation, as a reward for completing his day’s labor Stewart, off-camera, instructs Carlos, in the art of card shuffling.
“That’s not too good,” she warns. “Do it again, Carlos.”
April 6: An attack
Two small hounds accost a masked man, armed clumsily with a rake on Stewart’s grounds. Whether he was attempting a rescue or an escape remains unclear. What is clear is Stewart’s mirth. “Move around,” she commands the man. The hounds lunge, mouths agape and teeth bared, as the man spins for Stewart and her pets’ diversion.
April 6: A lullaby
Carlos, separated from his own bed these long weeks, helps geese to rest in their new home, lulling them to contentment with promises of candy and, perhaps even sweeter, a new day.
April 16: Epilogue
Sunbeam-colored goslings waddle from their pen, blinking and gasping at the shock of sunlight. “Come on, timid one,” Stewart encourages a straggler, unsteady on feet, seemingly unaccustomed to the descending plank leading to the wider world. It has been nearly a fortnight since the last footage of the detainees, but we must continue to live in the hope of Stewart’s concession that home is waiting for those still inside.
Previously, from her bunker, Stweart promised Meyers a similar release of the detainees locked in her more opulent, human-sized coop: “I’d like them to go home soon...They’re not sick of it yet but when I see the edges fraying, I’ll give them the day off.”
“Look at them,” Stewart tells us, her captive audience, in the video of the stumbling, befuddled birds. “They are happy. Happy.”