Monday, March 26, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #34: “The Caper” (11/10/69, prod. no. 0211) [Twisted Television #3]

Today’s installment of Mayberry Mondays is going to do double duty: not only is it our weekly visit to that famed sleepy little North Carolina hamlet, but it also marks another chapter in a semi-regular feature I do here at TDOY entitled “Twisted Television.”  This episode of Mayberry R.F.D.—the vanilla pudding of TV sitcoms—may not seem to be all that “twisted” at first glance…but I think when you stop to consider the ramifications of what has transpired once it’s all over, I might gain a supporter or two in my contention.

You see, the premise of The Andy Griffith Show was simple: a homespun philosopher is employed as the sheriff of a small Southern burg where crime is at a relative minimum, so instead he is often called upon to solve the conflicts of his friends and neighbors—who consist of those lovable “eccentrics” we’ve heard and/or read so much about in Southern folklore.  When Griffith left the airwaves after eight seasons in 1968, the focus shifted to someone who could very well be called “Andy Taylor-lite”—a poor-but-honest dirt farmer named Sam Jones (Ken Berry) who has been elected to the town council and must continue to solve the conflicts of those same friends and neighbors (who haven’t already moved away, that is)…and still remain crazier than bedbugs.  The township of Mayberry no longer has any official law enforcement—the first show of the second season, “Andy’s Baby,” establishes that the former sheriff has moved to Charlotte and now works as a “state investigator.”  It would therefore stand to reason that with the total absence of police authority—save for an “acting deputy sheriff,” who’s really the local gas pump jockey (George Lindsey), and whose idea of killing the better part of an afternoon is riding up and down on the hydraulic lift at his gas station—Mayberry would be the most dangerous town in North Carolina.

You can follow along on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

In our opening scene, pedantic country clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) is rifling through a file cabinet, looking for information on a house that an out-of-towner is interested in purchasing.  The would-be buyer is played by one of the true character greats: Herb Vigran, a veteran of radio, TV and movies whose resume threatens the very bandwidth of the IMDb.  Herb never really had what one would call a regular role on any weekly TV series (the closest he came was several appearances on Gunsmoke in the 1970s as Judge Brooker) but it often seems as if he was in at least one episode of every show that ever aired and he guested on most of the biggies: I Love Lucy, Dragnet, The Jack Benny Show, etc. (his distinctive voice could be heard on the radio versions of many of these series as well).  In the pantheon of legendary character actors, few of them can come close to equaling Vigran’s legacy.

HOWARD: Ah…here we are…that’d be around…280 or 290…that’s what the taxes have been on that property, give or take a few school assessments…
HERB: Well, that’s…not too bad
HOWARD: No, no…I think the Clancy house would make a good buy…think you might close the deal on it?
HERB: Well, I don’t know yet…my wife favors moving to a small town, but…I’m still city…I’m a longtime Greensboro man, you know…
HOWARD: Ohhh…oh…
HERB: Uh, tell me about your police department…my wife’s a little skittish on such things…

Howard laughs nervously, as if this isn’t the first time this question has come up with regards to prospective new Mayberry citizens.  How does one finesse the issue that the person in charge of protecting “the big M” was held back three times in sixth grade?

HOWARD: Well…we actually don’t have what you’d exactly call a police department…
HERB: You don’t?
HOWARD: No…no…we had a sheriff, but he moved away—and since then we’ve been getting along with a deputy sheriff
HERB: Just one?
HOWARD: Yeah…heh…fellow by the name of Goober Pyle…

Howard probably thought that this guy wouldn’t know Goober from any of the other village idiots that dot the landscapes of various small towns across this great land of ours…but neglected to factor that The Village Idiot Weekly has a circulation of close to 3,500,000...and Goober’s been its centerfold four times since its publication.

HERB: Uh…Goober…Pyle…uh…isn’t he the one I just bought some gas from?

“Ha ha ha ha…no, that’s Goofus Pyle…Goober’s incredibly stupid twin brother.  It’s a natural mistake…”

HOWARD: Yeah…yeah, that would be the same gentleman…
HERB: Uh…wears the funny hat and reads the comic books?

Note to Howard: the next business before the council should be the forced relocation of Goober’s Gas-Up to an area on the opposite end of Mayberry.

HOWARD: Well, that…might be a description of him, yes…
HERB: You mean he runs the gas station and he’s a part-time deputy, too?
HOWARD: Well…you see, sir…
HERB: I see…very clearly…and thank you…good day!

And with that, the out-of-towner sprints to his car…and I’m guessing he doesn’t stop until he gets to Raleigh.  (By the way, the reason why I referred to him as “Herb” in the transcribed dialogue is that Vigran turns up in another R.F.D. later this season, “The Mayberry Float,” and he’s identified as such.  I like to think in my own Toobworld-ly fashion that this guy eventually changed his mind about Goober the doofus deputy and moved to Mayberry anyway.)  Howard chases after him in an attempt to persuade him that Mayberry is the place to be (“Mayberry has many cultural opportunities!”) and he runs into Sam, who is entering Howard’s office.

SAM: Hey, Howard…what are you sellin’?
HOWARD: ‘Lo, Sam… (Shutting the door) Well, there it is…there goes your answer…
SAM: Wha…answer to what?
HOWARD: Mayberry’s stunted growth factor!
SAM: Hmm…
HOWARD: We’ve never been able to attract newcomers to Mayberry in any significant numbers and I think I’ve finally been able to put my finger on one of the major causes!

Anyone with a semblance of sanity would be scared sh*tless to spent a night in this burg with all the psychotics we have around here running loose!”

SAM: Oh…our population's has been holding its own though, Howard…I mean, we lost a little ground when the Allenbys moved out with their eight kids but outside of that we’ve been doin’ fine

“And once the Duggars build their summer home here all that extra government money we’ll get from the revised census will be gravy!”  But Howard is serious (you can tell by the “double secret probation” look on his face) about the pressing issue of “white flight” from this bustling N.C. metropolis:

HOWARD: Sam…could we call a special meeting of the council tomorrow?
SAM: Well, sure, Howard…why?
HOWARD: Good!  I’ll want the floor for a closed session discussion concerning Goober Pyle

Earle Hagen, the longtime musical composer of not only R.F.D. but Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. and the Andy Griffith and Danny Thomas shows (not to mention many others), missed a great opportunity to stick in a “dun-dun-DUN!” here.  It would have been hilarious.

Here is your Mayberry town council: Sam, Howard, fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman), capitalist swine banker Cyrus Tankersley (George Cisar), and token black resident Ralph Barton (Charles Lampkin).  (What happened to resident bluenose Clara Edwards [Hope Summers]?  Oh…I forgot about that nasty children-in-the-oven incident.)  You know, the makeup of this government body might go a long way toward explaining why folks steer clear of this town unless they absolutely, positively have to have a pecan log from Stuckey’s.

HOWARD: So, I repeat, gentlemen—how can we ever expect our town to blossom to its full fruition if our totally inadequate police protection is driving people away?
SAM: Gosh, Howard…I think Goober’s been doin’ all right…
EMMETT: Yeah!  We know he ain’t no Wyatt Earp, but he’s been kinda keepin’ things under control…

Goober as Wyatt Earp?  Hit it, boys…and may Harold Adamson have mercy on me…

I'll tell you a story a fictionalized story
A tale of a small Southern town
Its goal might be progress
But one man is clueless
We're plannin’ on puttin’ him down
Goober Pyle, Goober Pyle,
Goofy, child-like and dumb
He'll pump your gas and he'll pump your tires
Still he cannot walk and chew gum

Please…hold your applause till the end of the post.  And now back to our story:

HOWARD: But that’s because we’ve had a crime-free city this past year…I just wish you could have seen that guy’s face when I had to tell him about our part-time deputy…you know, it really shakes your civic pride to hear an outsider refer to your entire law enforcement body as “that guy in the funny cap who reads comic books”…
RALPH: Well, it so happens that Goober’s been goin’ to the Sheriff’s Academy a couple of nights a month…and he worked under Andy, too…

“And he spent all day at that carnival claw machine getting his new sheriff’s badge…no, I for one can sleep peacefully knowing that Goober’s on the job and is the last line of defense between my house and the Mongol hordes heckbent on raping and pillaging the female members of my family.”

HOWARD: Look, fellas…I want you to understand that I don’t have anything personal against Goober…I mean, I like Goober a lot

“Some of my best friends are morons!”

HOWARD: I’ll even ignore the fact that we’re…we’re hindering our feasible urban expansion…but the important thing is the realization that from a protection standpoint this town is wide open!
CYRUS (noticeably blasé): I think you’re exaggerating the situation…
HOWARD: Well, now I’m surprised to hear that coming from you of all people, Cyrus—the president of our bank…I mean, you should be more concerned about protection than any of us!
CYRUS (scoffing): Nobody’s gonna rob the Mayberry Bank…we’re small pickin’s compared to the…banks in these other towns here…

“And besides, by the time you yokels realize that I’ve embezzled every last cent of your life savings, I’ll be a million miles away skiing at Adelboden!”

EMMETT: Look…we can settle this thing in short order…take a vote!
SAM: Okay…Howard?  Would you make a motion?
HOWARD: All right, I…I move that…the council authorize…itself to…make arrangements for a full-time, authentic sheriff!
EMMETT: I second it!
SAM: All those in favor signify by the usual sign…
HOWARD (raising his hand): Aye!
SAM: Opposed?  (He, along with Ralph, Cyrus and Emmett raise their hands and shout “No!” then he slams down the gavel) Motion defeated…

So on a 4-1 vote, the township of Mayberry decides that law and order isn’t such a big deal.  The implications of this ruling, it seems to me, are staggering.

1)     If this decision was made in support of Goob—that he’s fulfilling the minimal requirements of policing (up until the time he ends up shooting his dang fool head off with his firearm)—what does this say about Mayberry?  That they’re willing to settle for inefficient law enforcement, putting the lives of citizens in the hands of an incompetent, irresponsible bungler?  Do you mean to tell me that Mayberry is now completely crime-free—that on the day Andy Taylor packed up and left town with wife Helen all the deviant behavior went with them?  It would seem to make sense to me that criminals would be breaking their collective necks to get back to that burg: “Hey, the good sheriff finally left town—let’s ransack the jernt!”

2)     If the decision is a vote of “no confidence” on Sheriff Pyle, which would suggest that a replacement for the departed Andy Taylor needs to be found P.D.Q., the city fathers seem to be sending a signal that law enforcement is low on the totem pole of legislation.  “Well, yes…we could pay for a competent peace officer…but I don’t think we could justify that sort of expenditure to our constituents, who elected us to shrink the size of government.”  And if that means jeopardizing their existence with the threat of rampant lawlessness?  ”Well, there’s always privatization…”

3)     Anyway you look at it, what this all seems to indicate is either Andy Taylor was a vital element of Mayberry government or he wasn’t.  If he was, then allowing a nincompoop like Goober Pyle to be the town’s sole law enforcement body makes a mockery of his legacy.  If he wasn’t, then keeping Andy on the payroll for eight years was a wasteful expenditure—the only purpose being to make a classic, funny sitcom (well, up until the point Don Knotts left).  It’s like we’ve all been living a lie.

HOWARD: Oh…all right, you guys—but you haven’t heard the last of this, not by a long shot!  (As he gets ready to leave) This is too important to this town!

As the remaining council members ruthlessly mock Howard since he’s left the meeting, Sam suggests to the guys that they keep mum about the gathering to Goober in order to spare his feelings.

EMMETT: What do you think Howard’s gonna do about it now, Sam?
SAM: I don’t know, Emmett…don’t know what he can do…

Howard walks down the street, past the Mayberry bank—licking his wounds, yet vowing to fight another day…he even mutters to himself: “They just don’t realize…stubborn, blind…”

…and with a faux film noir music theme in the background, that’s when he concocts a scheme worthy of any big-city super villain!

Oh, sorry about that…that last screen capture was a shot of Emmett in his fix-it shop, actually repairing something without any of those other idiots in there bothering him.  I have no idea where that came from, and I’m sorry it was so upsetting to witness that.  Enter Goober.

GOOBER: Emmett Clark
EMMETT: Oh…hi, Goob!
GOOBER: I wanna ask you a question and I want a di-rect answer…was there a council meeting this morning or not?
EMMETT (evasive): Uh…well, Goob…
GOOBER: Mrs. Manners said she passed the council office and looked in…

Judith Martin lives in Mayberry?  Oh, hang on a sec…that’s Miss Manners.

GOOBER: …and all the council members were there except me
EMMETT: Well…yeah, there was kind of a council meeting…
GOOBER: Well, why wasn’t I informed?
EMMETT: I can’t tell you…

Yes, you can see where this is headed.  He can’t tell him…but he will.

GOOBER: I hate to throw my weight around…but if necessary I’ll go to the sheriff’s office and I’ll get my badge and my cap and my gun and I’ll make you tell me!

Whoa!  Settle down there, Buford Pusser!

EMMETT (placing a reassuring hand on Goob’s shoulder): Goober…even if I could I wouldn’t…because I’m too good a friend of yours…
GOOBER: It was about me, huh…?
EMMETT (pulling his hand away): I didn’t say that!
GOOBER: They said I done somethin’ wrong?
EMMETT: Goober, it was nothin’ about you personal…even Howard said that when he brought it up!
GOOBER: When he brought what up?
EMMETT: Now, Goober—don’t get all worked up…Howard was only thinkin’ of the good of the town…he wasn’t just tryin’ to throw you out of your deputy job!
GOOBER: Howard’s tryin’ to get me fired?  (Moving menacingly toward Emmett) Well, what did he say?
EMMETT: Now, Goober…don’t try to pump me!  We made an agreement that I wouldn’t say nothin’ at all to you about it and I’m not going to blab anything even if my whole life depends on it!

This…is what societal breakdown in Mayberry looks like.  Pathetic.

I sit corrected.  This is even more pathetic.  Driven insane by years of paper-pushing, document-stamping and arguing with Goober and Emmett that it’s “statute of limitations,” not “statue”—Howard has now decided to embark on a life of crime. 

For a brief moment, I wondered where Howard acquired the gun…and then I remembered that this is the South, where they’re available as “impulse items” in the checkout line of any grocery store.  (Okay, I’m only slightly kidding about that…and besides, Howard’s only shoots milk.)  The one man capable of stopping him is right outside his office—Goober “The Disciplinator” Pyle.  He hollers Howard’s name a few times while his prey waits silently behind a locked door.  After Goober gives up and goes away, Howard continues his plans (while a hilarious jazz score plays on the soundtrack) for the biggest heist in North Carolina history…

…the Mayberry Bank.  Like a ripe peach waiting to be plucked.  And speaking of peaches (nice!), I’m sure you’ll recognize the fetching female teller as Hilda Witherspoon (Linda Meiklejohn), steady girlfriend of lawman Pyle…last week, she was but a mere icehouse employee—and now she’s moved up to the position of teller at Mayberry’s most distinguished financial institution.

CYRUS: Hilda…I think you’ve worked here long enough to leave you alone for a while…
HILDA: Oh, certainly Mr. Tankersley…

I’m beginning to suspect the real reason for Hilda’s rapid ascent in the banking world…and it’s not because she keeps all her stacks neat.  Cyrus exits the bank, nonchalantly walking past what I would think—given the small town environs—he would recognize as Howard’s car.

Somebody may have to help me off the floor here.  Howard enters the bank in full robber regalia, ready to lock-and-load because this two-bit financial depository is going down, baby!

HOWARD: All right…this is a stick up!  (Hilda, who had her back to Howard, turns around startled and puts both hands in the air) Come here, come here!  (Hilda sort of semi-scoots her way over to the desk, hands still up) Fill that up!
HILDA: With what?
HOWARD: With money!
HILDA: Oh!  Oh! 
(She puts her hands down and starts for the drawer)
HOWARD: No you don’t!
HILDA: What?
HOWARD: Don’t touch that alarm!
HILDA: I wasn’t going to…honest!

Hilda puts her hands up in a “scout’s honor” gesture and then “crosses her heart” with the other hand, which I found adorable (hey—Millie [Arlene Golonka] isn’t in this episode, I have to have something nice to look at).  She stuffs several wads of bills into a paper sack that Howard hands her, and then after he’s decided that’s plenty he tells her to face the wall.  Now all he has to do is make a clean getaway…notice the hours of the bank on the door, by the way—I’m surprised Cyrus doesn’t spend more time at Emmett’s…

Throwing the money into the back seat, Howard gets into his ride and starts ‘er up.  And starts ‘er up.  And starts ‘er up.  Goober shouts at him from across the street.

GOOBER: Hey, Howard!  Howard…I want to communicate with you… (Howard furiously continues to try and start his car, to no avail) Sounds like you ain’t getting’ no gas… (He notices Howard’s panty on his head) Hey, whaddya tryin’ to do—slick down your hair?
GOOBER: I remember I usta do that as a kid…I’d swipe my one of my mama’s stockin’s and wear it in bed to train my hair back… (An exasperated Howard removes the panty hose from his head) Now, Howard…what I want to communicate with you about is your complainin’ about me bein’ the deputy sheriff…now, Howard—you know as well as I do that nobody gets away with nothin’ in this town…

Howard, more frightened than he’s ever been in the history of Mayberry sitcoms, desperately tries to get his motor to turn but Hilda has already run out of the bank, yelling “The bank has been robbed!”  She spies Goober by Howard’s car and babbles incoherently to him about the robbery…prompting Goober to shift into policing mode.

GOOBER (reaching into his pocket for a pad and pencil) Gimme a description…
HILDA (near tears) Yeah…
GOOBER: …and I’ll bet I can nab him before he gets out of town…now what is it?
HILDA (hysterical): Well…he was tall (She holds up one hand high over her head) as they say…and he was wearing a green sweater… (She suddenly notices Howard in the car) Oh!  That’s him!  That’s him!  The guy was wearing the same green sweater!!!
GOOBER: Hilda, this ain’t no time for jokes!
HILDA: I’m not joking!  Look!  (She pulls Howard’s stocking out of the car) There’s the silk stocking he was wearing!  (She peers into the back seat) Oh!  There’s the gun…and there’s the money he took!
GOOBER: Is this some kind of a trick on me?
HILDA: No!  Look in the sack…that money was stolen from the bank!  Well, just don’t stand there…do your duty!

And cue the sad trombone!  I have to tell you…not only is this the sorriest I have ever felt for Howard…it’s also the loudest and longest that I have ever laughed at an episode of Mayberry R.F.D.  Over Howard’s insistences that he can explain why he tried to knock off a bank, Goober grabs him out of the car and parades him through the streets of Mayberry, attracting a throng of Mayberryians who will be able to gossip about Howard’s shame for generations to come.

For one brief shining moment…I thought maybe mob rule would break out and they would hang Howard from the highest point in the town square.  But as is so often the case…we simply aren’t that lucky.

Back from the shilling by General Foods, Goober tries to pacify the inquisitive crowd with a sort of impromptu press conference.  The guy standing next to Emmett is wearing postal garb, which makes me curious as to what’s become of George Felton (Norman Leavitt), the town’s up-at-the-butt-crack-of-dawn postman.

EMMETT: Goober…are you really gonna book him on bank robbery?
GOOBER: I have no statement to make at this time…
HILDA: Goober, when you talk to the newspaper--remember I was the one who told you he robbed the bank!
GOOBER: Hilda…it just so happens I knew it all the time!  I was just leadin’ him on!
RALPH: Have you got him in a cell, Goober?
GOOBER: Where else do you put a hardened criminal?

Goober disperses the crowd and then goes back inside the courthouse, leaving Emmett and Ralph to ponder just what hath Howard wrought.  “Well, I guess we both know why Howard did it,” observes Ralph sardonically.

“Yeah…he said he wasn’t gonna give up on this thing…” is Emmett’s only response.  Back inside the courthouse…

“Nobody knows…the trouble I’ve seen…nobody knows…my sorrow…”

HOWARD: Goober, what are you planning on doing with me?  (Pause) Goober?
(Goober is bent over reading a book, and he rights himself)
GOOBER: Well, the first thing I’m gonna do…is see how many years they give a vicious bank robber!
HOWARD: Goober, you know very well why I robbed that bank…I wasn’t actually robbing the bank
GOOBER: Oh, of course not…you was just takin’ the money out of it…I guess you figured it’d be a cinch in a town where they got such a dumb deputy…huh, Howard?

Goober continues to give Howard grief until he finally demands to make his one phone call, as he’s entitled.  Howard asks Sara to connect him with Sam, but is told he isn’t in his office (he’s probably *snicker* out working in his fields somewhere):

HOWARD: I’m going to call Emmett…
GOOBER (putting his hand down on the phone receiver) You’ve had your one phone call…
HOWARD: But I wasn’t connected!
GOOBER: Well, it don’t make any difference—one phone call is one phone call!
HOWARD: But Sam wasn’t in his office!
GOOBER: Well, tough luck, Howard…back in that cell!

As Howard’s humiliation continues unabated, we drift back outside to where Emmett sits on the ledge of the window of the council office, waiting for Sam to pull up in his pickup:

EMMETT: Hey, Sam!  I’ve been waitin’ for you to get back!
SAM: Why, Emmett?  What’s up?
EMMETT: I got the whole story—I was one of the first ones to know!
SAM: What?  What?
EMMETT: I got an eyewitness account of the whole thing
SAM: Emmett, will you tell me what happened?
EMMETT: Howard Sprague knocked off the Mayberry Bank!
SAM (flabbergasted): What are you talking about?
EMMETT: It’s true!  Goober’s got him locked up!
SAM: Really?  Oh, no…

Sam’s got that “Damn it, I have to do the Andy Taylor thing” look on his face again.

SAM: That Howard…he had to go and try and prove something, didn’t he…
EMMETT: Yeah, that’s what Ralph and I figured…
SAM: Does Cyrus know about it?
EMMETT: Not yet…he’s been away from the bank…

Sam tells Emmett he’s going over to the courthouse to see if there’s anything he can do to help Howard out, and inside the taunting of Howard continues full-throttle, with Goober leaning back in his office chair:. 

GOOBER: I wonder how they treat the prisoners in the federal pens
HOWARD: Goober…
GOOBER: I imagine it’s not too hard…you get a half-hour off every day for recreation…I guess the fellas need that after working all day in the jute mill…I understand it gets a little easier after you’ve had ten years of good behavior…they take the…chains off your legs…

Just don’t drop the soap, Mistah Sprague…that’s all the prison wisdom I can impart to you.  Sam enters the courthouse.

HOWARD (as Sam walks in): I tried to call you…
SAM: Howard…that was a pretty stupid thing you did…
HOWARD: Yeah, but I did it for a purpose, Sam…
SAM (yelling): Well, I know that!  But it was just plain silly, Howard…
HOWARD: All right…be that as it may…will you tell this nut to let me out of here?
GOOBER (angrily leaping to his feet): Don’t you call me a nut!  There happens to be a law against callin’ an officer a nut!
SAM: Now Goob, look …why don’t you just let Howard…
GOOBER (interrupting him): Sam, there ain’t no use in you asking me to release him ‘cause I ain’t gonna…
SAM: Well, what are you gonna do with him?
GOOBER: I’ll let you know as soon as I make up my mind…
SAM: Aw, Goob…why don’t you just let Howard out…
GOOBER (again cutting him off) I ain’t doin’ it, Sam—and I don’t have to, neither!  I got full authority…

Goober strides over to the desk and produces a framed certificate that offers solid proof of his sheriffing credentials…ironically, one of the signatories is the man currently looking back through iron bars, Howard Sprague.  (“You will respect my author-i-tay!”)  Disgusted, Sam exits the courthouse so he can regroup and decide another course of action…and that’s when Cyrus has decided to return to town, presumably having just evicted an orphanage.

CYRUS: Look…I just heard about it…has he still got Howard locked up?
SAM: Yeah…yeah…
CYRUS: Well, that’s ridiculous…knowing why Howard did it, I’m not bringing any charges…and I’m the injured party!
SAM: Yeah…I know, Cyrus…I know…
CYRUS (stopping Sam): Now…wait a minute… (Gleefully) Why don’t we go in there and give Goober a good boot, huh?  Make him let Howard go?
SAM: I know nothing’s gonna happen in there…but Goober’s not gonna let Howard go until he starts crawling…and Howard’s not about to do that…
CYRUS: Sort of a stand-off, huh?
SAM: Yeah…

Well, crap on a popsicle stick…this episode has ceased to be any more fun.  With Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor (Frances Bavier) away in West Virginia, administering to the needs of her sick sibling, Sam has had to tap into his darker nature during her absence and come up with diabolical methods similar to hers to get idiots like Goober, Howard and Emmett to bend to his will.  (Not that that is an all-day project, you understand.)  So before you can say “federal fiduciary reserve,” he concocts a scheme (with Ralph’s help) to mend fences between Goob and Howard by calling an emergency meeting of the Mayberry Star Chamber, er, I mean Town Council.

SAM (addressing Goober, Howard and the council): The purpose of this meeting is…not only to see that…that the law can take its course…but also…to try and avoid a situation that might be regretted…
GOOBER: Well, I don’t regret nothin’!
HOWARD: Well, neither do I…I’m merely trying to shake this town out of its apathetic state!

“Your honor…despite the overwhelming evidence, my client did not commit a capital crime.  He was merely attempting to shake society out of its apathetic state…”

SAM: Well…anyway…the whole thing started when Howard…as a member of the city council…asked the council to replace Goober…as Mayberry’s law enforcement officer…right, Howard?
HOWARD (sheepishly): Yeah…that’s right…
SAM: Uh-huh…yeah…and you felt that…uh…Goober, as a law enforcement officer, was totally incompetentcompletely inefficient, irresponsible bungler…isn’t that right?
HOWARD: Uh…now wait a minute, Sam—I don’t think my words were quite that harsh…

Yeah, Sam…I think those were my sentiments, which has me a little worried because I didn’t think you could hear me through the TV set.

SAM: No, but that’s the way you felt, isn’t it, Howard?  I mean, didn’t you feel that he was pretty much of a dud as a deputy…I mean, a real nincompoop who could never be expected to carry out the law properly?

Wow…this is really weirding me out!  I wish Millie was in this episode; I could test my new powers on her… (“Millie…come to Rancho Yesteryear…and bring donuts…”)

HOWARD: Aw, now wait a minute, Sam—I never said anything like that!
SAM: But the idiotic way he arrested you!
HOWARD: No…I mean…
SAM: Well, didn’t he make pretty much of a farce out of it?  Wasn’t that your point?
HOWARD: Well, I mean…he was just doing his duty!  I mean, what would you do if you saw a man running out of the bank with a sack full of money, huh?  What would you do?
GOOBER (interrupting): Well, uh…I didn’t actually see you come out of the bank, Howard…

Pliable as Silly Putty.  But we must make certain Goober is fully under:

SAM: Goob…when you arrested Howard…you felt that…rather than being the honest man you always thought he was…he was, in fact, nothing but a…a common thief…a crook…a…a double-crossing cunning criminal, is that right?
GOOBER: Well…that’s a little strong, Sam…I mean, just because he stole some money
SAM: Well, that would make him nothing but a rotten thief, wouldn’t it?
GOOBER: Sam, I don’t think you oughta talk about Howard that way…
SAM: Look, we’re just interested in the facts, aren’t we?
HOWARD: Listen, Sam—there’s a lot more to life than just plain cold hard facts!
GOOBER: You’re durn right!
SAM: Do you wanna get on with this hearing or don’t ya?
GOOBER: Well, I ain’t so sure…
SAM: What?
GOOBER: I said I ain’t so sure!
SAM: Whaddya mean, you’re not sure?
GOOBER: Well, clean outcha ears!  What do you think that means?
SAM: You mean, you want to drop it?
GOOBER (defiantly): Well, I just might do that!  Right, Howard?
HOWARD: Well, I don’t know, Goob…that’s up to you—I mean, you’re in charge here…
GOOBER: Then I say drop it!

Apparently those were not the droids you were looking for.  Trying to conceal how smugly satisfied he is that the Jedi Mind Trick succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, Sam stolidly listens as Goober admonishes him: “And I wanna be honest with you, Sam…I didn’t see no reason to have this hearing anyway.”  Huzzah! Goober and Howard are buddies again!

GOOBER: Did you leave anything in the cell, Howard?
HOWARD (after a pause): Yeah!  I think I left my gloves!

As Sam restrains himself from high-fiving the other council members after completion of riff mending between Goob and Howard (the two men decide to hit the diner for a cup of coffee, but before Goob exits he warns Sam: “…you’re gonna get in trouble one of these days stickin’ your nose in other people’s business…”), I become melancholy at what could have been: an alternate universe in which Howard not only gets away with his crime, but is forced to become a fugitive as he drives from city to city in the South, taking on new identities with each stop and eventually having to work menial jobs once the bank haul has been spent.  (I’ll even throw in Hilda as his devoted moll!)

I’m going to skip the coda this week because despite the fact that I think “The Caper” may well be the funniest of all the R.F.D. episodes I’ve seen (though “Howard’s Hobby” and “Goober and the Telephone Girl” aren’t far behind…and there’s still “The Mynah Bird” in the future) I don’t care much for the wrap-up (Goober tells Sam about an idea he has in which he’ll have Hilda the teller take pictures of bank robbers since the bank can’t afford the system used in big city institutions)…in fact, the episode sort of goes downhill once Sam and Ralph decide to get Goob and Howard to kiss and make up, and I’m still disturbed by the notion that Mayberry continues to exhibit an appalling laxity toward law enforcement (heck, if they don’t use the courthouse at all why not raze it and put in a Target?)…so much so that it seems to suggest The Andy Griffith Show itself was one of the biggest shams in the history of sitcoms.  (Okay…I don’t really mean that.)  Plus, with Aunt Bee still visiting in the Mountain State (“Oh, those West Virginia hills/How majestic and how grand…”) the Thrilling Days of Yesteryear patented Bee-o-Meter™ hasn’t budged from its previous reading of three appearances in Season 2; fifteen show-ups overall.

“The Caper” also marks the last appearance on the show from Mayberry one-percenter Cyrus Tankersley; one can only speculate that the Mayberry Bank’s Board of Directors booted his ass after hearing about how the bank was robbed and the man responsible was let off with a slap on the wrist.  Actor George Cisar, who passed away in 1979, left behind a rich heritage of movie roles and TV appearances…and even though he’ll be remembered for the introduction of free checking in Mayberry it’s not even his most prolific TV role—that honor goes to Dennis the Menace, on which he played Police Sergeant Theodore Mooney (not to be confused with the Lucy Show banker of the same name.)  Next Monday…we’ll get an old visit from a familiar Mayberry face…only he goes by a new name.


Stacia said...


Et tu, Ivan? Seems like I'm having to go further and further to get my daily requirement of profanity on the internet.

I kid, of course. The name of the kindly gentleman who uploaded MRFD to YouTube means I don't have to go very far for profanity at all!

arguing with Goober and Emmett that it’s “statute of limitations,” not “statue”


I confess that I went to YouTube to check out the jazz score, which WAS hilarious, and in the process discovered your joke about Howard's gun shooting milk was no joke at all. Frightening. Even worse is that I got sucked into the episode immediately and watched the whole dang thing.

Nobody does Shame Face like Jack Dodson. Speaking of my beloved Howard, I've been pronouncing Howard's name "sprog" all this time.

Toby O'B said...

As always, thanks for the mention and it was a Toobworldly situation that needed attention. I prefer my shows to keep their inner worlds tidy, with as little repeat casting as possible.

And Herb Vigran is near the top of my all-time TV character actor list. In fact, I wrote about one of his characters in the Dick Van Dyke Show earlier this month. (And now that I think of it, such a combination of those characters might be in order.....)