Rerun Junkie Episodes–“To Kill or Be Killed”

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the Season 3 Hawaii Five-O episode discussed in Episode 34 of Book ’em, Danno. Do not read this post if you haven’t seen the episode and don’t want to be spoiled for a fifty year old show.

Trigger Warning: This post also contains mentions of suicide, so please take care of yourself accordingly.

In the third season Hawaii Five-O episode “To Kill or Be Killed”, the death of a soldier just returned from Vietnam sparks a search for his draft-dodging brother in an attempt to find out the truth about the soldier’s death. It seems draft-dodger Michael had gone to talk to his brother Jack just before Jack either jumped or was pushed from his apartment balcony.

According to their General father, Jack was the perfect son who’d sacrificed friends and his girl to enlist in the military and serve is country. Meanwhile, in the initial interview with McGarrett, he doesn’t even mention Michael, something Steve asks him about later. Though the General says he didn’t think it was relevant even though he knew Michael had gone to see Jack just before he died, it’s pretty clear by his demeanor in his son’s anti-war pad that’s he’s not exactly proud of the kid.

In Five-O’s efforts to solve the mystery of Jack’s death, they discover that someone had Jack under surveillance. Turns out that it was the army. The General pulls ranks to hear the tapes they made, but even he is stonewalled. The officer in charge can only assure him that Michael didn’t kill Jack. It’s a heartbreaking scene, watching the General as he begs to hear the surveillance tape so he can finally know what happened to his son.

The final scene in the office with everyone listening to the tapes is devastating. And the very end…infuriating.

We knew that Michael was going to talk to his brother about being drafted. He was struggling with it and needed advice. The tape revealed that he found Jack in his apartment about to kill himself with a gun. They struggled for it and after Michael got it away from him, Jack explained that he was involved in a terrible incident in Vietnam in which his squad wiped out a bunch of innocent villagers (hence the army surveillance once he got back). Jack was overcome with guilt about it. Michael thought he’d talked him out of suicide, but after Michael left, Jack jumped from the balcony.

The war destroyed him.

And what is General Dad’s reaction to hearing the tape?

He tells Michael that an incident like what Jack was involved in was a rare mistake and that he should still serve his country like his brother. But Michael chooses to go to jail instead and General Dad declares he’s lost both of his sons.

Yes. He disowns his son for not serving after his other son died as a direct result of his service.

I very nearly broke my no-spoilers-without-Dan rule on the podcast because I so wanted to discuss the final scene. The ending of this episode makes me viscerally angry. You’re not a real fan of the General because he lauds one son over the other, but his heartbreak is so genuine that you can’t help but feel for him. And you think he just might have a change of heart after what he’s heard on that tape.

But no.

I think what pisses me off the most is that it’s such a believable reaction. The denial of a man who has dedicated his life to the military being confronted with the brutal reality of how his blind service contributed to the death of his son. He can’t accept it. He can’t accept that he has in anyway participated in a bad thing, that war is not the glorious, brave mission to keep the world safe like he’s been told and like he’s told his sons. War is brutal and ugly and destructive and takes more peace than it gives. Vietnam in particular stripped away all of the spit shine that made war look like a valiant act.

The General can’t handle any of that.

He’d rather have a dead son.

It’s a crushing final blow to Michael who ends up losing his whole family to not only do what he feels is right, but to also avoid the same fate as his brother.

Not every episode is guaranteed to have a happy ending, but when it comes to those unhappy endings, this one is certainly one of the most effective.

Police Involved Shooting

In the world of cop shows, there are two kinds of very special episodes: a cop gets shot or a cop shoots somebody.

This post is about the latter.

Here’s how the episode usually goes: One of our cop heroes shoots somebody. There is then an investigation into the shooting in which there’s an underlying implication that this investigation isn’t fair because our good guys always have good shoots. There’s some drama. Then our shooter is once again declared a cop hero.

Obviously, there are variations and not every episode follows this format, but that’s basically it for many of the episodes I’ve seen.

The police involved shooting episodes of Dragnet and Adam-12 are probably the most technical I’ve ever seen due to Jack Webb’s dedication to the manual. While we do have that little bit of angst that comes from our hero being questioned, there’s still an objectivity about it. This is how the process is supposed to work. Jack Webb very much so believed that police officers were meant to be held to a higher standard which is why these episodes stand out. This treatment of our good guys isn’t exceptional -it’s routine.

Despite Jack Webb’s good intentions, this sort of intense scrutiny is an idealization of what we’d like to believe happens during these investigations, but we know doesn’t.

I pointed this out when I was covering the Hawaii Five-O first season episode “And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin” on Book ‘em, Danno that the investigation into Danny shooting the supposedly unarmed young man and him subsequently getting arrested for murder was idealized. It’s only in the most extreme circumstances that a police officer is arrested for this kind of shooting today. You can’t tell me that it happened more often when there wasn’t the prevalence of video.

A first season episode of Starsky and Hutch called “Pariah” dealt a little with the public fallout of a police involved shooting. Starsky ends up shooting an armed robber who turns out to be only sixteen. The kid’s mom is devastated and Starsky feels incredibly guilty over the death. The public isn’t exactly thrilled with the circumstances, particularly one guy with an agenda who says if Starsky is cleared, he’ll start killing cops. Starsky is cleared of any wrongdoing because of course and the killing spree begins and will continue until Starsky resigns. So this is an example of taking our very special episode and upping the ante by adding in public scorn and then throwing in a vendetta for good measure.

The police involved shooting episodes are always very special episodes because they’re the only episodes in which the violence our heroes inflict on the criminals is ever questioned. In any other episode, they’re offing the bad guys without even the slightest mention of the paperwork. Every other shooting is completely justified, no question.

One exception to this rule (at least that I know of because I haven’t seen every cop show–yet) is Barney Miller. Possibly because it’s a comedy that primarily deals with the mundane and oddball aspects of police work, the show had a unique take on the police involved shooting.

For one, perps weren’t getting shot every week. The members of the 12th precinct got shot at more than they shot and even those instances ended up funny and mild. So, they didn’t need a very special episode about a police involved shooting to separate it from all of the other police involved shootings that were never questioned.

Because in the entire run of the show, there were only three episodes in which a member of the 12th shot someone. In the first season “Hero”, Chano infiltrates a hostage situation in a bank and ends up killing the two would-be robbers. It’s quickly apparent that Chano isn’t handling it well at all despite the incident being considered a good shoot. By the end of the episode, he breaks down into sobs in his apartment.

Dietrich has a similar reaction to his shooting in the seventh season episode “Resignation”. After shooting a suspect in the backside, Dietrich decides that this part of the job goes against his morals and attempts to submit his resignation. Though Barney susses out the real root of Dietrich’s angst, which goes a little sideways from just his morals, it still illustrates the negative effect of a shooting on the firing officer.

In the eighth season episode “Inquiry”, Wojo faces an investigation after shooting a suspect, winging him in the arm. In this episode, there’s doubt that Wojo was justified in the shooting, particularly with his history of being rough with suspects. We’re also introduced to the then-current requirements for the investigation: Wojo is suspended, put on desk duty, has his sidearm confiscated, and advised of his rights before he’s questioned. What’s startling is that during the questioning, a clearly frustrated Wojo admits that he was trying to kill the suspect. Which is what the police are trained to do. Center mass. Shoot to kill.

Everything turns out in Wojo’s favor, of course, but he’s still rattled and to be honest, so are we. Our Wojo can be rough, but a killer? It’s hard to believe. It’s harder to acknowledge that our good guys were trained that way.

Which is probably why the police involved shooting episodes of Barney Miller are so much more impactful than the very special episodes from other cop shows. They aren’t shooting it out every episode. There’s barely any shooting during an entire season.

Which is more true to life than you might think.

But this is fiction.

And in fiction, tension comes from putting our heroes under the gun.

So to speak.

Have Yourself a Jeanette Nolan Christmas

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that Jeanette Nolan is one of my favorites, so it should be no surprise that I could find a way to elevate your holiday TV viewing with her presence.

Here are two Christmas-themed episodes of television shows featuring this holly jolly lady.

Okay, maybe she’s not so holly jolly in “PS Murry Christmas”, a Season 17 episode of Gunsmoke. In between appearances as Dirty Sally (and three years before her spin-off series of the same name), Jeanette played Emma Grundy, strict headmistress of a group of orphans that included Erin Moran, Jodie Foster, Willie Aames, and Todd Lookinland (Mike “Bobby Brady” Lookinland’s brother). In her employ is a handyman by the name of Titus Spangler, played by Jack Elam. That casting right there guarantees a hit.

When Titus, who is Jack Elam and therefore anything but subtle, embarrasses Emma in front of the orphanage’s benefactors during their annual Christmas visit, she fires him. The children, orphaned and impoverished, decide that going on the lam with Titus is a much better life and they convince him to take them along. Naturally, they all end up in Dodge City with Emma following. The plight of the children comes to light when Titus is arrested and Miss Kitty attempts to give the children a decent holiday with a party at the Longbranch Saloon, a gesture Emma refuses. It seems like she’s a straight up Scrooge, but there’s something a little more to Miss Emma than meets the eye.

It’s a sweet episode. You’ve got cute kids, the meaning of Christmas, and Jack Elam being Jack Elam. And at the heart you have Jeanette Nolan playing this very uptight character that goes beyond the stereotype of a heartless orphan-minder.

Jeanette isn’t who she seems to be in the MacGyver Season 5 episode “The Madonna” either. MacGyver takes a break from saving the world to try to bring a little holiday joy to some kids at an underfunded youth center. Sadly, the place is in danger of closing due to those lack of funds and kids like Katherine Isabelle (of Ginger Snaps fame) and Alessandro Julio (who went on to play Lt. Felix Gaeta on the 2004 Battlestar Galactica series) won’t have a place to go. And it’s tough out there on them streets! As we witness a couple of young punks roughing up an old homeless lady who appeared not long after a Madonna statue went missing from a local church. Nothing suspicious about that.

Turns out that everyone BUT Carol the homeless lady is short on Christmas spirit. MacGyver has a case of the holiday blues. The youth center needs $9,000 to stay open. Cynthia (Roxanne Reese), who runs the center, is at the end of her rope. Breeze (Charles Andrew Payne) has no love for the holiday he’s never had. The man who carved the Madonna, Vincent Battaglia (Anthony Holland), is all over sour. And Father Pat (Jackson Davies) isn’t too hopeful about the missing Madonna being returned before Christmas morning. Hell, even the Santa ringing a bell for money is down on his luck.

MacGyver works to both find the missing Madonna for his friend Father Pat and help the young people work to put on their Christmas show to get funds for the youth center, where Carol is now staying. And she helps out in her own special way.

It’s also a sweet episode with cute kids and Pete dressed as Santa and it ends just like you think it will (happy endings all around), but that doesn’t lessen the enjoyment. And Jeanette Nolan shines as the fount of Christmas Spirit. I mean, she takes a broom to a drunken Santa Claus and hustles 8 ball. Can’t get more spirited than that.

So, deck your halls, jingle your bells, trim your tree, and have yourself a Very Merry Jeanette Nolan Christmas.

Rerun Junkie Episodes–“The Peace Pipe”

If you’ve never watched Emergency!, you should. It’s a fun show with a lot of daring rescues and medical drama. It also features a frenemy relationship between paramedic John Gage and firefighter Chet Kelly. These two know how to get on each other’s nerves and many times take delight in doing so, usually with Chet acting as the thorn in Johnny’s side.

In the season 2 episode “Peace Pipe”, Chet spends the episode aggravating Johnny about his Native American heritage.

While you could easily dismiss this episode as Chet just being annoyingly racist (in fact, John does call him a bigot at one point), what you cannot dismiss is that Johnny effectively destroys all of Chet’s stereotypes, something that really hadn’t been done much at the time.

When this episode aired in October of 1972, Gunsmoke was in its 18th season and Bonanza in its 14th and final season, two popular Westerns that had spent decades depicting Native Americans as either noble savages or just plain savages, but either way, something less than white men and their much more progressive ways. At the same time, Hec Ramsey was just beginning its Sunday Night Mystery Movie rotation run. The show centers on a lawman at the turn of the 20th century using the latest techniques to solve crimes. Innovative, but the depiction of Native Americans was largely the same as it had been. Emergency! directly ran against another Western at the time the episode aired, Alias Smith and Jones. So, the TV viewing audience knew well the depiction of Native Americans in Westerns back in the olden days, but their exposure to contemporary Native Americans was limited.

Enter Johnny Gage. Not only was the character Native American (as is the actor Randolph Mantooth), but he was a Native American in the now. He wasn’t living on the reservation, but he’d grown up there. He wasn’t some noble savage, but he had a deep respect and honor for his heritage and traditions. For the most part, his life didn’t differ that much from your average, everyday white guy. Instead of being some distant “other” locked into a specific long-ago time, he was an actual person existing in the present.

The whole back and forth between Johnny and Chet starts with Chet going on about the historical significance of a Western they’d just watched. According to Johnny, however, the whole film is nothing but propaganda to make white guys feel more comfortable and ignores that they were land-grabbing treaty-breakers. Chet does us all the disservice of warning Johnny that his “hot Indian blood is beginning to boil” before letting Johnny know that he’s got some Native blood, too. When Johnny correctly guesses that it was a Cherokee princess on his mother’s side, he tells Chet that they call it White Man Royalty Syndrome.

Later Chet asks Johnny why he left the reservation since according to the anthropologist he’s reading, it’s suppose to be “against his cultural instincts to leave the tribal environment.” Johnny then enlightens Chet on the nature of anthropologists. When he was growing up, they’d come to the reservation to observe them in order to prove whatever their latest theories were, get federal grants to write their books, and then do it all again the next year. Chet, of course, defends the scientists, in particular the one he’s reading. As it turns out, Johnny knows him. He spent ten years and five and a half million dollars studying how to eliminate a tribe’s poverty problems, pointing out that if a small portion of that money had been given to that tribe, they wouldn’t have the poverty problem to begin with.

Chet decides to apologize for joking around about Johnny’s Native heritage and swears no more jokes about it, which Roy protests because he likes a good joke. As John and Roy argue about Johnny’s perceived sensitivity, Chet again wants to apologize, this time for putting friend against friend. He then produces a peace pipe and says they should smoke. This time Johnny tells him it’s not funny and walks away.

In a final act, Chet apologizes for making a joke about the peace pipe, while holding a fire ax adorned with a feather. He then proposes a treaty, which Johnny scoffs at. This last bit is interrupted by an emergency (because that is the name of the show) in which the firefighters and paramedics have to retrieve an injured and unconscious man from a bit of scaffolding as a sniper shoots at them. Johnny gets the idea to use a tarp to help conceal them as they rescue the man. Back at the firehouse, he explains to Chet that it was Native instinct because everyone knows how much they love blankets, effectively ending the prodding from Chet because it’s only fun if Johnny isn’t in on the joke.

The real joke, though, is how even today the history of indigenous people is still white washed and their lives stereotyped. But at least for an episode in 1972, some harsh light was thrown on it.

***

Sadly, Tim Donnelly died suddenly September 17th. A Jack Webb show frequent flyer, he turned up on Dragnet and Adam-12 several times, including two memorable stints on Dragnet, one of which saw him don a super hero costume and another featured him as the pot-smoking father of a child who later dies of neglect and scarred me for life as a kid. He also often turned up in things directed by his brother Dennis, including the film The Toolbox Murders. And he was pitch perfect as the sometimes annoying, sometimes obsessive Chet Kelly.

Station 51 won’t be the same without him.

May he have safe travels beyond the horizon.

Rerun Junkie Episodes–Lysistrata, The Patriarchy, and Gilligan’s Island

As I mentioned in my post about educational television, I learned about Lysistrata thanks to Gilligan’s Island.

In a first season episode titled “St. Gilligan and the Dragon”, Mrs. Howell invokes Lysistrata to kick off a battle of the sexes. While the play had the women refuse the men sex, a 1960s sitcom couldn’t get away with that sort of raciness (it could barely handle women’s navels) and instead had the women refuse to do anything for the men.

The women move to a different part of the island and predictably, the men can’t hack it doing women’s work while the women get along just fine. Do the men realize the error of their ways and go to the women to apologize? Of course not. Instead, they come up with a plan to scare the women into needing their help through a dragon-type monster they some how made from paper mâché. The women stumble onto their plan and meet the monster with force (led by Mrs. Howell, who remarks with a joyful viciousness, “We’ll kill it and send its head back to the men!”).

In the end, the women are scared back to the men due to a downed weather balloon that’s billowing in the jungle like some weird, large lady bug looking caterpillar whatsit. Gilligan “kills” it, and kills a chance for rescue. Because after all, Gilligan ruining their chances to ever return to civilization is the theme of the show.

As a kid watching it, I was like, “Wow, these guys are dumb. The girls shouldn’t be scared!”

As an adult watching it I’m like, “Wow, these guys are dumb. The girls shouldn’t be scared!”

Yes, the words are the same, but the tone is different. When I was a kid, I thought it was funny. Run-of-the-mill sitcom tomfoolery. Today, it’s still funny, but in the “oh sweet Mary, this shit is ridiculous” kind of way.

In true sitcom fashion, the men absolutely go to pieces without the women. The implication is, of course, that they’d never had to lower themselves to learn “women’s work”, which is a little baffling considering that Skipper, Gilligan, and the Professor are bachelors. How the hell did any of them survive? I suppose the answer is barely because attempting to do it in the face of some adversity is a complete disaster. Mary Ann can make a coconut cream pie, but these men can’t cook a fish without turning it to ash.

And then there’s an extended fantasy sequence in which they all imagine the women doting on them and needing them.

I’ve come to view this episode as a glorious illustration of the patriarchy. The men believe they deserve to be worshiped simply for being men, but in reality, they would have starved to death without the women. The men are incapable of taking care of their own basic needs because it’s somehow considered unmanly to do so. They’re entitled to be catered to by the women because of reasons. Meanwhile, a woman’s request is framed as nagging. They’re unreasonable and emotional and they can’t survive without the men to protect and provide for them, except that they pretty much do. In fact, in the day to day, the women are the ones keeping this clownshow from going full Lord of the Flies circus.

And so, their progress and independence has to be undermined in the most absurd way: by scaring them with a monster. Sitcom logic, to be sure, but it could just as easily be seen as a metaphor for the big, bad world that could easily devour the women alive. After all, that’s a man’s role: to protect women. Never mind the fact that the monsters are usually men. Kind of like the men pretending to be a rogue dragon from a Chinese New Year celebration. The men create the problem and then the men “solve” it.

Just think. If it hadn’t been for that downed weather balloon, the men might have actually had to apologize.

Rerun Junkie Episodes–“The Fugitive”

You can blame Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast for this. And then you can go listen to Tom Elliot and The Twilight Zone Podcast (and support him and the show on Patreon!) because both the host and show are damn nifty.

In a recent episode of the podcast, Tom discussed The Twilight Zone episode “The Fugitive”. While I encourage you to give the whole episode a listen, particularly if you’re not familiar with the episode at the heart of the discussion, I’ll give you a quick rundown here:

J. Pat O’Malley plays Old Ben, a kindly old man that plays with the neighborhood children and has a particular kinship with one little girl with a lame leg named Jenny. Jenny has it pretty rough. The other kids don’t like playing with her because she’s a girl and she wears a leg brace. The aunt whom she lives with is horribly abusive towards her. Old Ben is a bright spot in her life.

Old Ben can do magic, like turn himself into other things, because he’s really an alien. When two men show up looking for him, he first tells Jenny it’s because he’s a fugitive. He then heals Jenny’s leg and leaves. In an attempt to get Old Ben to come back, the men zap Jenny into a kind of coma. He shows up to heal her and that’s when the real truth comes out: Old Ben is actually a king. In the end, he takes Jenny with him to his planet. Rod Serling’s closing narration informs the audience that the picture Jenny left under her pillow for her aunt to find is of Ben’s true form. He’s actually a young man. And her aunt will never guess that her niece will one day be a queen.

The discussion of this episode brought up an uncomfortable, but valid interpretation of the relationship between Old Ben and Jenny, insinuating that Old Ben’s interest in Jenny was more than platonic and the fact that he’s actually a young man in disguise doesn’t really make it better since the king in the picture could easily be nineteen or twenty and Jenny is only about twelve. It makes certain scenes and some dialogue rather squicky and distasteful when viewed in this particular light.

Now, like I said. It’s a perfectly valid interpretation of the episode, though I don’t think it was all written with that intent. It was meant to be something like a sci-fi fairy tale. And I’ve never even thought of it in that light when I’ve watched it. That could, of course, be my J. Pat O’Malley bias here. I love that man and I really need to write a post on him. It might be why I always looked at Old Ben as a kindly grandfather figure, someone who went an extra mile to be caring with Jenny because she had so little caring in the rest of her life. Even the reveal at the end didn’t sway my perceptions. I never took the relationship to be anything more than innocent.

And that’s probably because of the fairy tale aspect of the story.

Little girls are groomed from baby-age to be princesses and aspire to be queens. That Old Ben was really a young king and wanted Jenny to be his queen is supposed to be every little girl’s dream, age of consent be damned. We’re actually taught to look for someone older to take care of us. That this would be the ending to this fairy tale isn’t at all out of the norm.

It also plays on another trope common in children’s stories: the abused/neglected kid somehow being special and escaping their situation. That’s what the story really struck me as. That fairy tale of escaping some hostile situation that you, as a child, are powerless to change. That Jenny became queen later never felt that important; you could have left it out all together and the story would ring just as true. If Jenny had been Danny, there would never have been a need for any postscript crowns.

And if Jenny had been Danny, I doubt that as many people would arrive at the less-than-innocent interpretation of the episode because people still struggle with the idea that boys are also sexually abused.

There’s a societal conditioning concerning gender roles that I think plays into both interpretations of the episode. Old men prey on little girls. Little girls want to be princesses and queens.

And while the episode is definitely a product of its time, the lens we view it through hasn’t aged as much as we think.

Rerun Junkie Episodes–Favorite Christmas Episodes

Bah humbug.

Yes, we’re all very aware that Christmas isn’t my favorite time of the year. Too many years working retail and running the holiday gauntlet have put a permanent crimp in my holiday spirit. And that goes for my reruns, too. I find most Christmas episodes to be too saccharine and overly-sentimental. They run that commercialized holly jolly through the society-approval filter and trim it with some moral lessons and it’s just enough to be nauseating.

However, there are a few episodes that have captured my heart, either because they forego these tropes, skewer them, or dress them in a silver pantsuit that’s absolutely to-die-for.

“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”, The Golden Girls– The women are all planning on spending Christmas with their families. The bemoaning of the commercialization of Christmas leads them to exchanging homemade gifts, including Rose’s whittled maple syrup spigots and Blanche’s “Men of Blanche’s Boudoir” calendar, opened the night before they leave. On Christmas Eve, Blanche and Dorothy show up at the counseling center to pick up Rose, who is working a morning shift, only to be held up by a Santa (Terry Kiser), who demands they all celebrate Christmas together. Thanks to Sophia, they’re able to get out of that jam and to the airport, only to see their flights home cancelled. Later, at a diner, the women realize that they already are spending Christmas with family.

The ending is a bit sweet, what with it snowing in Miami and all, but Rose hitting “Surfin’ Safari” on the jukebox instead of a Christmas song saves it. Though I’ve always found it bizarre that they decorated the house, tree included, even though they wouldn’t be there for Christmas, I’m glad they did. They have some really lovely decorations and the tree is gorgeous. And Blanche’s pantsuit is fabulous.

“The Christmas Show”, The Monkees– The Monkees, in their forever pursuit of the next gig, end up getting hired to mind Melvin (Butch Patrick), a disgruntled forty-year old trapped in a twelve-year old’s body, while his aunt is away on a Christmas cruise. Turns out, Melvin isn’t much for Christmas. When the boys try to get him into the holiday spirit, they end up blowing through all of their money and aggravating Melvin to the point that he goes home. It’s only then that Mike realizes what’s been missing the whole time.

It could be a typical “lesson of Christmas” episode, but it’s The Monkees. They don’t do typical. Instead, they do madcap that involves them chopping down their own tree (while apparently stoned), Peter wrecking a department store while shopping for toys, Micky and Davy dressing as Santa and his elf and going down the chimney, a happy ending, and capping the whole thing off with an a capella version of “Riu Chiu”. It’s zany and sweet and the crew getting their time in front of the camera during the credits is a lovely gesture.

“Dear Sis”, M*A*S*H– In a letter home to his sister, Father Mulcahy expresses his frustration in not feeling very useful. Most everyone in camp has the holiday blues, but it seems that it’s hitting Father Mulcahy the hardest as nothing he does is really helpful. He even ends up decking a combative patient (who hit him first, so he had it coming). It’s only during the Christmas party in the mess tent that Father Mulcahy realizes that he has made something of a good impact, first when Charles thanks him for having his mother send him his old toboggan cap, and then later when Hawkeye singles him out during a toast.

M*A*S*H did several Christmas episodes during its eleven year run, but this one stands out to me for several reasons. One, it centers much of the episode on Father Mulcahy, which didn’t happen very often. Two, instead of singing a traditional Christmas song, Hawkeye leads everyone in singing a lovely version of “Dona Nobis Pacem”. And three, the episode ends with one of my favorite lines from the series. As the party is broken up by incoming casualties, the voiceover reading of Father Mulcahy’s letter to his sister says, “You know, sis, it doesn’t matter whether or not you feel useful when you’re moving from one disaster to another. The trick, I guess, is to just keep moving.”

“The Christmas Story”, Dragnet– A local church’s baby Jesus has gone missing from its nativity scene and Friday and Gannon are on the case. The statue has little monetary value, but it’s sentimental value can’t be measured and the parishioners would be very sad to go a Christmas without it. Being diligent detectives, Friday and Gannon follow a tip provided by an altar boy (Barry Williams) that leads them to a suspect (Bobby Troup), but he only borrowed a friend’s car and got into a little fender bender; he didn’t take any baby Jesus. Dejected, Joe and Bill go to the church to let the padre know they didn’t find the baby Jesus, but they’d keep looking. Just as they start to leave, a little boy pulling baby Jesus in a wagon comes into the church. It turns out that he’d prayed to baby Jesus for a new wagon and promised Him that if he got it, he’d give Him the first ride.

I’m not one for religion. I tend to cringe and shy away when people ram home the “Christ” in Christmas. But this episode is an exception and it’s all in the handling of the case and the ending. Our detectives are pursuing this matter seriously, as they usually do, but the justice is less nabbing a thief and more doing right for a congregation. The little boy who took the statue was fulfilling a promise, something that is more in tune with the holiday spirit than any of the sappy treacle that often gets splattered on the screen.

“Christmas with the Addam’s Family”, The Addam’s Family– It’s the common holiday problem that all sitcom parents face at one point or another: Santa. Pugsley and Wednesday are told by the Addams’s unkind neighbor that Santa doesn’t exist. The family bands together and elects Uncle Fester to play the role to restore the children’s faith. When he gets stuck in the chimney, each member of the clan takes it upon themselves to prove that there really is a Santa.

This could easily be a mediocre, overly-sweet episode, but this is the Addams family. This delightfully loving family is weird and wonderful and only they could pull off a Santa overload with such sincerity.

“Operation: Silent Night”, Magnum P.I.– While ferrying Magnum, Rick, and Higgins to their various destinations before he catches a flight home to New Orleans, T.C.’s chopper crashes on a deserted island that the Navy uses for target practice. Though Rick is convinced they’re all going to die, everyone else is pretty confident that they’ll get off the island soon enough. T.C. works on the chopper while Higgins forages for food and Rick and Magnum gather firewood for a signal fire. They end up discovering a downed Japanese WWII plane, which Higgins salvages to create a boat, which later sinks. Rick falls in a bog that he thinks is quicksand, which causes him to imagine his own funeral. T.C. despairs over his inability to fix the chopper and as such, he’ll miss his flight home. And Magnum, who was going to play Santa to some orphans, dons the outfit once again and provides the group with a Christmas tree to boost their spirits. All the while, the guys are unaware that off-shore, a Navy commander (Ed Lauter) with no Christmas spirit is about to bombard the island for practice.

What I love about this Christmas episode is how it’s so tangentially related to Christmas. There are obvious Christmas references and elements (Magnum dressed as Santa is hard to ignore), and there’s even a Scrooge in the form of the Navy commander insisting that his crew do drills on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day. But the episode isn’t dressed up in garland and lights and bows. There’s no heavy-handed true Christmas spirit bashing us over our heads. It’s four friends coming together in a difficult situation not because of some of magical holiday emotion but because that’s just what they do. There’s also the nod to another December holiday celebration. In addition to Christmas, T.C. also celebrates Kwanzaa, which he educates Higgins (and the audience) about.

Okay, I might have gone on a little long, but don’t for a minute think that’s because I’m having a change of heart about Christmas or Christmas episodes.

Oh no. Does my heart look three sizes bigger to you?

Rerun Junkie Episodes–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 9-12

Here we are. The end of our journey through some of my favorite episodes from each season. You can read the previous entries here and here.

The episode selection for these last four seasons was difficult, as were the previous seasons, but maybe for slightly different reasons. I haven’t watched these seasons as much and for me, there aren’t as many standout episodes. After season 10, there’s no Chin Ho. After season 11, there’s no Danno. So, yeah. The subjectivity is high here, kids. Consider yourselves warned.

“Heads, Your Dead” Season 9, Episode 7. Air date: November 11, 1976. Directed by Bruce Bilson. Written by Herman Groves.

Based on a real-life case, hijackers get themselves hired to be the crew of luxury yachts, then murder the owners and steal the boats to sell elsewhere. Danno and Officer Sandi Welles are sent undercover to investigate. Sandi, along with a group of people, is taken hostage by the hijackers and their fate rests on a flip of a coin.

A big part of the reason why I like this episode is because I like Officer Sandi Welles (Amanda McBroom) in it. I also like bad guys. They’re pretty ruthless. There’s a certain amount of psychological terror involved in telling your already terrified hostages that you’re going to throw them overboard and whether or not they get a life raft depends on a coin flip. But that’s what makes it so compelling.

“The Descent of the Torches” Season 10, Episode 5. Air date: October 20, 1977. Directed by Charles S. Dubin. Written by Alvin Sapinsley

An archaeological dig reveals tunnels that could lead to the grave of King Kamehameha I. And someone is so convinced of it that they dress up in a royal robe and mask to frighten off and eventually kill members of the dig.

I very nearly picked “A Death in the Family”, but honestly, it’s not really a favorite in the sense that I enjoy it, but more in the sense that it ripped out my heart and dumped it on the steps of Iolani Palace. Anyway. The reason why I picked “The Descent of the Torches” instead is because of the Hawaiian culture. This episode gets into that and I really like it. Let’s face it. For the majority of the run, it’s a pretty white show. There are some Hawaiian faces and there’s the presentation of life on the islands, but not too much on the Hawaiian culture. Yes, there are better episodes in this season, but this one scratches an itch for me.

“Stringer” Season 11, Episode 17. Air date: February 22, 1979. Directed by Ray Austin. Story by Paul Williams and Robert Janes. Teleplay by Robert Janes.

Members of Tony Alika’s Hawaiian kumu mob shoot out a tire on a police car that’s trailing their out-on-bail boss, causing an accident that kills one officer and nearly kills my much-adored Duke. The whole thing is caught on film by a “stringer” (free-lance photographer) named Tim Powers, who decides to try to blackmail Tony Alika and the political boss he was making a deal with.

I really need to do a whole post on Tony Alika, as he was a recurring villain during the 11th and 12th season and I’m always looking for a reason to write about my beloved Ross Martin. But I went ahead and picked this episode for my season 11 favorite because of the Paul Williams aspect. Not only does he get the story by credit, but he also plays the stringer of the title. A man who’s probably known more for his songwriting, I always love it when he shows up in things. He’s small and interesting and hard to ignore.

“Woe to Wo Fat” Season 12, Episode 19. Air date: April 5, 1980. Directed by Barry Crane. Written by Frank Telford.

The final episode. Three scientists who all attended a space-based, laser defense symposium have been abducted. McGarrett impersonates the fourth in order to be abducted and find out what’s going on. Of course, it’s Wo Fat going on.

Wo Fat is another character that deserves his own post. Khigh Dhiegh portrayed Steve McGarrett’s arch nemesis throughout the show’s 12 year run. But, when it comes to favorites, I have to give my pick to the last episode of the series. Not one of the best episodes maybe, but endings are always hard. And it’s only fitting that the last episode feature the final battle between McGarrett and Wo Fat.

I hope you enjoyed some of my favorite episodes and I hope these posts tide you over until I actually get around to doing my Book ’em, Danno podcast.

Until then, relax…

Rerun Junkie Episodes–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 5-8

It was only after I put this post together that I realized the episodes I picked featured three written by Jerome Coopersmith and two directed by Charles S. Dubin. I suppose this could be used as evidence of me liking their work.

Anyway.

Reminder that the process of picking one favorite episode from each season was difficult. If you’re curious as to how I couldn’t have possibly picked “Hookman” for season 6, it’s because I sort of wrote about it already. And you can read about my favorite episodes from seasons 1-4 here.

“I’m a Family Crook–Don’t Shoot!” Season 5, Episode 13. Air date: December 19, 1972. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Bob Sweeney.

The Lovejoys are a family of grifters who come to Hawaii to work their magic. They end up stealing the briefcase of a collector for a mob protection racket which contains the collected protection money and his ledger. Naturally, the mob wants this briefcase back. And Five-O would like it, too. Shenanigans ensue.

This episode got the nod for this blog post because it didn’t seem right to pick the “V for Vashon” trilogy. That deserves its own post. But that’s not to say that “I’m a Family Crook–Don’t Shoot” didn’t earn it’s place as a fave. It’s Andy Griffith and Joyce Van Patten as con artists. How can you not love that? What’s more is that even though they’re “bad guys” in the sense that they’re criminals, you still really like them. You definitely don’t want to see the mobsters get them, but you also don’t want Five-O to throw them in jail. It’s a fun episode that provides some real tension once the mobsters go after the Lovejoys’ daughter.

“Draw Me a Killer” Season 6, Episode 2. Air date: September 18, 1973. Written by Walter Black. Directed by Charles S. Dubin.

A mentally ill young man fixated on the Judy Moon comic strip believes that he must repeatedly save the heroine and ends up murdering the comic villains’ real life look-a-likes. When the young man spots (and begins to stalk) a woman who resembles Judy Moon, things get intense. In order to flush out the killer, Danno allows himself to be drawn as the next villain.

Mental illness wasn’t necessarily handled with the deftest hand back in the day. Hey, it still isn’t now in the present. But this episode was an interesting take on someone whose grasp on reality wasn’t the best. There’s no doubt that our killer (played excellently by Elliot Street, who was also played the mentally challenged son of baseball player Pernell Roberts in a season 3 two-parter) is dangerous. But the character is also sympathetic. After all, he’s only moved to murder in order to save someone. Unfortunately, he’s mixing up fiction with reality through no fault of his own. His boss, played by Audrey Totter (The Postman Always Rings Twice), helps provide a little more dimension to a character that could easily just be a run-of-the-mill “skitzo”.

“Welcome to Our Branch Office” Season 7, Episode 11. Air date: December 3, 1974. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Charles S. Dubin.

A pair of con men break into Five-O headquarters and take pictures of the offices. They replicate them in an abandoned building and then hire and train men to act like the real Five-O. It’s an elaborate scheme meant to extort money from wealthy businessmen. Naturally, McGarrett isn’t thrilled to find himself and his men accused of strong arming folks.

This is another fun episode I enjoy purely because it is fun. First of all, the masterminds behind this fake Five-O scheme are Cameron Mitchell (Swiss Family Robinson TV show, The Toolbox Murders) and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler himself). Talk about a fun couple. A good part of the episode shows the two of them getting together the fake gang and setting up the fake office. And the one victim who ends up reporting the fake Five-O has a wife who wears a magnificently loud dress. He also says that it was definitely McGarrett he saw. Which is hilarious because, with the exception of Danno, NONE of the look-a-likes look that much like their counterparts. Danno is the exception because James MacArthur took on a dual role to play his double, parting his hair on the wrong side to emphasize the difference. It’s an entertaining episode that provides a nice break from some of the more serious ones.

“Retire in Sunny Hawaii…Forever” Season 8, Episode 9. Air date November 7, 1975. Written by Jerome Coopersmith. Directed by Bruce Bilson.

Danno’s Aunt Clara comes out for a visit. When a man she became friendly with on the flight over is attacked by two men and ends up dead, Five-O is on the case. Aunt Clara’s quality time with her nephew now involves being used by Five-O in a ploy to catch the killers and unravel the whole illegal scheme.

Again, subjectivity plays a huge role in my choices of favorites, and this is definitely one of those episodes. Danno’s Aunt Clara is played by James MacArthur’s real-life mother Helen Hayes. I’m a sucker for things like that. Seeing mother and son work together onscreen is a true delight.  Throw in TV guest star journeyman Ian Wolfe as the unfortunate Mr. Miller and Charles During as Havens, and the episode comes together so well that you wish Aunt Clara would have visited more often.

You can read the final installment of favorite Hawaii Five-O episode posts, seasons 9-12, here.

Rerun Junkie Episodes–Hawaii Five-O Favorites Seasons 1-4

If you’ve been listening to Eventually Supertrain (and you should be!), then you know that Dan and I sometimes kid about me doing a Hawaii Five-O podcast called Book ’em, Danno because I can often make connections between Hawaii Five-O and The Green Hornet.

Now, I don’t know if my lazy self will ever go through with such a threat, but it did give me the idea to do a blog post about my favorite episodes. And when I was going through the seasons picking out my favorites, I realized that I needed to show some kind of restraint.

So, here’s what I did.

I picked one episode from each season that I love and would recommend to someone else. I tried to pick ones that I haven’t already mentioned on the blog. Since there are twelve seasons of the show, this is going to be split up into three different posts with four episodes a post. And even though this show went off the air the same year I was born, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers.

Believe me when I say that this wasn’t easy and I will most likely be writing about the episodes I’m not mentioning here.

Until then…

“One for the Money” Season 1, episode 17. Air date: February 5, 1969. Story by Robert Sampler. Teleplay by Palmer Thompson. Directed by Paul Stanley.

McGarrett receives a cryptic letter and a photo of a woman with her face crossed out. The woman’s been stabbed to death. After a second victim/letter/photo combo appears, it looks like there’s a serial killer on the loose. Both victims were employed by the same company, run by a woman named Martha. Her two nephews, Charlie and Arthur, also work for her. It turns out this killer has quite the agenda involving this company.

This is a delightfully twisty episode. Aunt Martha is played by my favorite Jeanette Nolan and the nephews are played by Farley Granger (Strangers on a Train) and Paul Collins (JAG). Between the captivating story and the guest cast, it’s an excellent episode that keeps you on the edge until the very end.

“Most Likely to Murder” Season 2, episode 21. Air date: February 21, 1970. Written by Robert Hamner. Directed by Nicholas Colasanto.

Police officer Lew Morgan’s wife is murdered. As Lew’s friend, this case is pretty personal for Danno. It turns out the good cop’s wife was having affairs and it’s her latest lover, a criminal, that’s the favorite suspect. Five-O needs to find him before the apparently grief-stricken husband finds him first.

Another tightly twisted episode featuring a mustache-less Tom Skerritt as Lew Morgan. Sam Melville (The Rookies) plays number one suspect Gary Oliver and Linda Ryan, who plays one of Gary’s former lovers, Gloria Warren, appeared on the show eleven times over twelve seasons, only playing the same character twice. She also inspired me to get my own pixie cut. Anyway, Danno’s personal involvement in the case gives the story a nice weight, creating a couple of good gut punches towards the end.

“Over 50? Steal” Season 3, episode 11. Air date: November 25, 1970. Written by E. Arthur Kean. Directed by Bob Sweeney.

Lewis Avery Filer is an insurance investigator forced into early retirement. In apparent revenge, Filer steals from businesses insured by his former employer using a variety of tricks and disguises that captures the attention of the press and all of our hearts. Okay, except for Five-O, who has a devil of a time catching up to him. Filer returns in season 4’s “Odd Man In”.

If you were to ask me what my all-time favorite episode of Hawaii Five-O is, I’d probably blurt this one out. Hume Cronyn is Lewis Filer and he is having an absolute ball with this character. The cleverness of the crimes and the likeability of the character really has you on his side. He’s a crook you can love! And when you find out his ultimate goal for the money, you really don’t want him to be caught. Filer is just as much fun when he comes back in “Odd Man In”.

“Goodnight, Baby-Time to Die!” Season 4, episode 21. Air date: February 15, 1972. Written by Abram S. Ginnes. Directed by Alf Kjellin.

A convicted murderer who’s been threatening a woman has escaped from jail. McGarrett and company go to the woman’s house to both protect her and hopefully catch the convict. As they wait, they receive calls and updates about the man while McGarrett talks to the woman about her connection to the killer.

This is one of those episodes where I can only tell you to watch it. The first time I did, the swerve broke my neck. No joke. It’s a very well done episode featuring Beth Brickell (Gentle Ben) as Carol Rhodes, the target of escaped convict LB Barker, played by William Watson (Gunsmoke, M*A*S*H). It’s a taut thriller of an episode that’s still good on repeated viewings.

Read about the favorite episodes from seasons 5-8 here.