Monday, August 6, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #52: “The Mynah Bird” (04/13/70, prod. no. 0218)

Beginning with the Mayberry Mondays write-up I did for “The Race Horse” back in May 2010, I started to tally all of the appearances made by actress Frances Bavier as Beatrice “Aunt Bee” Taylor in her two-season stint on Mayberry, R.F.D.  “The Bee-o-Meter™,” as I jokingly referred to it, was inspired by an entry at the (always reliable) IMDb that listed Bavier as having appeared in twenty-five episodes spread across two seasons…and to be honest, that number seemed kind of low to me.

Well, technically I was right—it was low.  But not nearly as low as the corrected total of Aunt Bee episodes, which, with today’s installment, “The Mynah Bird,” finally tallies at twenty-three.  (Two episodes at the IMDb, “The New Farmhand” and “Emmett and the Ring” are the incorrect credits on her R.F.D. resume—“Farmhand” may have a “[credit only]” disclaimer but this is inaccurate.)  Sadly, Bavier’s character never got a proper send-off—she just disappears and her vanishing act isn’t even mentioned until the fourth episode of the last season, “The New Housekeeper,” when it’s explained she’s moved back to the Mountain State to be with her sister.  (I myself think there was some foul play involved.)

So you Aunt Bee aficionados will need to savor the presence of the most evil woman in Mayberry while you can—meanwhile, our episode begins as most of them do: poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-city-council-head Sam Jones (Ken Berry) is in his office, typing away and neglecting his fields.  Through the council office window, we can see the figure of the town’s gas pump jockey and village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey), who enters the office wearing his usual idiotic grin.

GOOBER: You seen Howard?
SAM: No—was I supposed to?  (Goober sits down on top of Sam’s desk) Oh, hey…Goob—you’re on my envelopes there…
GOOBER: Oh…I’m sorry… well, I was talkin’ to Emmett and he said Howard was headed this way…he’s lookin’ for somebody to take care of his mynah bird…
SAM: MacBeth?
GOOBER: Yeah… (Holding up a stamp) You want it on here?
SAM: Yeah…thanks…
GOOBER (licking a stamp and chuckling): MacBeth…ain’t that a dumb name for a bird?

Said the man named after a nickname for the peanut…

GOOBER: I wonder who he ever knew with a name like that… (He puts the stamp on the envelope)
SAM (laughing): What’s he need someone to take care of him for?
GOOBER: Well, he’s goin’ down to Raleigh for a couple of days to a lecture…it’s a…orinth… (He stops for a moment, trying to come up with “ornithological”) It’s an orinth…it’s a bird lecture…
SAM: I think that word is orno…no…ornith…orn…you’re right—it’s a bird lecture…

Good for a chuckle.

GOOBER (laughing): It’s a mouthful, all right…anyway, he asked Emmett to take care of it…but you know Martha hates birds…so I guess he’s gonna ask you…
SAM: Oh?
GOOBER: Wouldn’t mind takin’ care of it myself…I like them talkin’ birds…I was up at Howard’s the other day, and I said “Hey, MacBeth!”  And you know what that bird said right back?
SAM: No…what?

“Bite me, dumbass!”  (Okay, that’s not really what the bird said—it was “God Bless America.”)

SAM: I gotta hand it to Howard…he’s really done a training job on that bird…
HOWARD (entering the office): Sam?  Goob?
GOOBER: Hey!
SAM: Hello, Howard…
HOWARD: Did’ja hear?  I’m going to get to attend the Ornithological Symposium…
GOOBER (nudging Sam): Boy, he says it right out… (Laughs stupidly)
SAM: Yeah, Goob told me…hey, that sounds interesting…

Sounds interesting” is not the same as “Is interesting,” however.

HOWARD: It’s a big opportunity…I get to swap ideas with fellow bird trainers!
SAM: We were just saying what a great job you’ve done with MacBeth…
HOWARD (modestly): Well…thanks…it’s a lot of sweat and tears, but…uh…well…actually, that’s why I’m looking for a responsible person to take care of him while I’m away…
GOOBER (sitting up straighter in puffed-up mode): I’ll take care of him…no charge!
HOWARD (stammering): Uh…well…er…gee thanks, Goob…

Salvation comes for Howard in the arrival of Sam’s only son and heir to the vast Jones Estate…that lovable rapscallion known here at TDOY as Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster).

MIKE (running into the office): Pa!  Pa!  I hear Mr. Spr… (He sees Howard) Oh…hi, Mr. Sprague!  I hear you want somebody to take care of MacBeth for you…can I do it?  (To Sam) Can I, Pa?
SAM: Well…that’d be up to Mr. Sprague, Mike…
HOWARD: Well, I…I suppose you and Aunt Bee would be watching over him, huh?

“Who told you this kid was still living with us?”

MIKE: I’ll do whatever you say…feed it…clean it…and everything!
HOWARD (after giving it some thought): Okay, it’s a deal!  (He shakes hands with Mike) I’ll bring him over tomorrow…
MIKE: Gee…thanks, Mr. Sprague!  Wait until I tell Aunt Bee!  (He dashes out the door)

Howard probably made the right call here.  Granted, Mike’s not much brighter than Goober—but if something goes horribly awry, Howard can exact restitution from Sam, his father.  But Goober is a bit ticked off about the arrangement—handing Sam his envelopes, he stands up and says huffily to Howard: “I’ll see you…Mr. Sprague…”  He then storms off.

So now it’s time for a little continuity nit-picking.  In the first season R.F.D. episode “The Pet Shop,” Mike goes to work for the titular establishment and is able to convince his father (despite Mike’s long-standing resume of irresponsibility) to allow him to adopt a free dog from same.  But Mike breaks out in a rash because he’s allergic to the mutt, and so Aunt Bee must make Howard bend to her will (eevill!) by manipulating him into wanting to adopt the dog.  This is the last we ever hear of the pooch.  I don’t know if it ran off or was hit by a car…but if we assume Howard still owns the animal—why isn’t he concerned about how the dog will cope while he’s away?  Why is the damn bird getting all the attention?

This might explain why:

HOWARD (talking to MacBeth): To be…or not to be…
MACBETH (squawking): To be…or not to be…
MIKE: Hey!
SAM: That’s really something!
AUNT BEE: It’s so clear!
HOWARD: Well, they’re natural mimics…but if you think that’s something, wait until you hear this… (To the bird) All right, MacBeth…how much are two and two…two and two…?
MACBETH (squawking): Four!
(The others coo in astonishment)
SAM: I didn’t know they could answer a question!
HOWARD: Well, most of them can’t…it depends entirely on the talent of the trainer

Careful you don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back there, Howard.

HOWARD (putting the bird back in his cage): There you go, MacBeth…
MIKE: What should I feed him?
HOWARD: Oh!  I have a list of instructions for you right here…

He proceeds to hand Mike a book the size of an encyclopedia volume.  (Okay…I’m making stuff up again.)

MIKE: Oh, good!
HOWARD: Now…it’s important to keep his cage clean and out of the drafts…oh…and one thing more…no radio or television in the same room…

“If I come home and that bird is singing Call Me Maybe…your ass is grass, young man…”

MIKE: Oh…okay…
HOWARD: Now here’s a list of phrases that I’d like you to repeat to him… (He hands Mike a second list) But no more than fifteen or twenty times a day…
MIKE: Right…
HOWARD: Do it like this… (Clearing his throat) “Good morning, Howard…”
SAM (following Howard’s example): “Good morning, Howard…”
AUNT BEE: Oh…wonderful, Sam!  You’ve learned one already

Day-amn, Aunt Bee!  Nice burn!  Well, Howard has to be moseying…

HOWARD (to the bird): Goodbye…
MACBETH (squawking): God bless America!
HOWARD (disappointed): He never gets that one…well, I’ll see ya!
SAM: Okay…have a nice trip, Howard…
MIKE: Bye, Mr. Sprague!

Just before Howard gets to the door, he remembers that he’s left the bird’s vitamins and food in the car…so Mike offers to go outside and bring it in.  Aunt Bee says goodbye to him and when the two of them leave, she turns back to Sam and sighs.

SAM: Howard’s sure fussy…
MACBETH (squawking): Howard’s sure fussy…
SAM: Oh… (Laughs) We’re gonna have to be careful what we say…
AUNT BEE: Mm-hmm…well…I guess I’d better start supper… (She starts toward the kitchen)
SAM: Yeah…
AUNT BEE (stopping and coming back): Oh, Sam…did I tell you what I heard at bridge today?  Clara told me that Ida Peterson… (She stops, noticing the bird) Well…I’ll tell you at dinner…

Not a bad gag, but there’s a poignancy alluded to here in that with Aunt Bee leaving the series, her best gal pal—Mayberry’s resident blue-blooded snob Clara Edwards (Hope Summers)—is not long for R.F.D. either.  (Her final episode will be in the third season—the previously mentioned “The New Housekeeper.”)  But with a dissolve, we find Mike in his room running MacBeth through his daily phrase paces…and by his side is none other than child pugilist Richard S. “Fishface” Steele, in his semi-regular role as Mike’s cretinous sidekick Harold.  (The last time we glimpsed Harold was in the R.F.D. episode “Mike’s Birthday Party.”)

MIKE (reading from Howard’s list): To be or not to be…
MACBETH (squawking): To be or not to be…
HAROLD: Boy…he’s good!

“Tell me about the rabbits, Mike…”

HAROLD: Hey…can I feed him?
MIKE: I’m supposed to do it…I got some seed…

Most of which you’ve spilled all over your bed sheets.  (I debated not using that one for a bit…and lost.)  Now, it shouldn’t be too hard to guess what’s going to happen next: Harold takes the bird out of its cage…


…which in the above screen cap looks as if the taxidermist has already finished it off.  “Hey!” yells Mike.  “What are you doing…you’re not supposed to handle him!”  Racing over to get the bird, MacBeth takes off out the window but in the screen cap…


…you can see that Steele is patiently waiting for the bird to fly away, flinching a little when he does.  Both kids race to the window to see the bird flying off for Mount Pilot, Siler City and points unknown.


MIKE (yelling): MacBeth!  Come back!  (At Harold) What did you let him go for?!!
HAROLD: I didn’t let him go!  You scared him!
MIKE: You’re the one who took him out of the cage!  Oh, come on…we gotta find him!

So the boys spend a scene or two searching for the bird, with little luck.  Enter the idiot boy’s father…

SAM: Hi, fellas…
MIKE (a bit startled): Oh…hi, Pa…
SAM: What are you looking at?
MIKE: Nothing…come on, Harold…

Another scene dissolve, and our two young morons appear to have given up.

MIKE: Oh…he wouldn’t have come this far…
HAROLD: I know…boy, Mr. Sprague is gonna be awful mad
MIKE: My Pa isn’t gonna be too happy either
HAROLD: Does he do a lot of shoutin’?
MIKE: No…he just looks kind of hurt
HAROLD: That’s the worst kind…
MIKE: Guess I better go tell him we lost the bird…
HAROLD: What’s the rush?

Maybe I’m just getting around to noticing…but that Harold kid has got an evil streak in him.  I see a long career in Juvie in his future.

MIKE: Well, no sense putting it off…
HAROLD: Wait a second…I’m workin’ on an idea…
MIKE: What kind of idea?

“A plan so cunning you could brush your teeth with it!”

HAROLD: How about buying Mr. Sprague another bird?  We could both chip in!
MIKE: No bird would take the place of MacBeth
HAROLD: Why not?  Most mynah birds look alike…and we wouldn’t have to tell him it’s a different bird…
MIKE: But MacBeth can talk!
HAROLD: Well…we could teach the other bird the same things…you got a list of things he says, don’tcha?
MIKE: Hey…yeah!  Come on!

And in next week’s episode…Harold convinces Mike to let him drop an anvil on his head because “it always works in cartoons.”  I referenced the earlier episode “The Pet Shop,” and in the write-up for that episode joked that the owner of the establishment, Harvey Smithers (Glenn Ash), left his lucrative pet shop business in Blue Hill after being investigated by the District Attorney.  But now I’m not so sure I wasn’t joking—because Mayberry’s pet shop is now under new management (with no explanation as to the whereabouts of ol’ Harv)…


…yes, it’s TDOY’s favorite Bowery Boy, William “Billy” Benedict—previously seen in the coda of the episode “Goober’s Niece.”  It’s entirely possible that Benedict is playing the same character here that he did in “Niece” (where he was identified as “Whit” and “Whitmore”—a more formal application of his familiar Bowery Boys moniker, “Whitey”) so because his pet shop owner is credited simply as…well, “Pet Shop Owner,” I’m going to call him “Whitey” because…once again, it’s my blog.  Mike and Harold are staring at a mynah bird in a cage, and are convinced they just might be able to pull this fool scheme off.

MIKE: Boy, he looks just like MacBeth!
HAROLD: Yeah—exactly!
WHITEY (coming out from the back room): Hi, fellers…what can I do for ya?
MIKE: Oh…we’re looking at this mynah bird…
HAROLD: Can he talk?
WHITEY: Not yet…but you can teach him!
HAROLD: Is it hard?
WHITEY: No…not if you got a little patience…you oughta see what Mr. Sprague’s done with his bird…

“Who, if my calculations are correct, should be flying over Rocky Mount by now…”

MIKE: How much does he cost?
WHITEY: Fifteen dollars…
MIKE: Gee…we’ve only got…seven dollars and forty-nine cents

If you little mooks hadn’t broken that copy machine you could have raised enough money to buy that bird by now.

WHITEY: How ‘bout a canary?
HAROLD: No…we gotta have a mynah bird!
(Whit looks apprehensive)
MIKE: We could pay you the rest later?
HAROLD: In ten installments
WHITEY: Well…I guess I know you boys well enough…

“That’s why I’m going to have to ask for a blood sample and a piece of skin from the back of your necks…standard procedure, you understand…”  Whitey lets the kids have the mynah bird, and in a scene dissolve we find Aunt Bee in the hallway outside Mike’s room (which seems to have shrunk a bit since the last time we saw it in “The New Farmhand”), eavesdropping on Mike and Harold.  (Snoopy old witch…)

MIKE (inside his room): Hello…hello…dumb bird
HAROLD (also from inside): For fifteen dollars he ought to say something
(Aunt Bee opens the bedroom door)
MIKE: Come on now…talk!
HAROLD: You look like Mr. Sprague’s bird, now talk like him!
(There is a small pause as Harold’s words start to sink in for Aunt Bee)
AUNT BEE: That’s not MacBeth?


Busted!

MIKE: Well…it sort of is…but… (Realizing the jig is up) No…it isn’t…
AUNT BEE: Well, what happened?
(Both Mike and Harold look at one another)
HAROLD: She’s your aunt!

This gets a hearty guffaw on the laugh track.  Even though the statement is patently false.

MIKE: Well…we bought him at the pet shop…MacBeth flew away and we couldn’t find him!
AUNT BEE: Oh, my!  Oh my goodness!  (She sits down on the bed) Oh, my…Mike…this is terrible!
MIKE: I know…are you gonna tell Pa?
AUNT BEE: Well, he has a right to know!
HAROLD: Mr. Sprague will feel awful…this way he’ll still have a bird…
MIKE: We could teach it to talk!  I know we can!
AUNT BEE: No, but…boys…
HAROLD: Didn’t you ever make a mistake, Aunt Bee?

“I did indeed.  All I remember is an executive saying, ‘Sign right here…and welcome to Mayberry R.F.D…”

AUNT BEE: Well, that’s not the point
HAROLD: Hasn’t some real kind good person ever given you a helping hand?
AUNT BEE: Yes, Harold…but…

Damn…that kid has learned a few things since the last time we saw him on this show.  I’m telling you—putting Mike in military school may be the only way to save his immortal soul.

MIKE: Please, Aunt Bee…don’t tell anybody…all we need is some time…

You keep hanging around that Harold kid, buckaroo, and you’ll be doing time.  Aunt Bee dithers a bit, looking traditionally sad and concerned, and then tells Mike: “We’ll see…”

MIKE: Aw, gee…thanks, Aunt Bee…
AUNT BEE (sharply): I said we’ll see… (She then leaves the bedroom)
HAROLD: What’s “we’ll see” mean in your house?
MIKE: It means “probably yes”…


Growing up in my house it meant “It simply is not going to happen…and you have little hope for appeal.”  So you can see where all that liberal parenting of Sam’s is going to wind up.  Well, for a change of scenery we’re going to whisk you to the Ornithological Society Convention, currently underway in Raleigh…and I’m only disappointed that the participants aren’t wearing little bird hats with beaks as visors.  Howard comes out of the ballroom talking to another attendee, telling him “Yeah, I’ll…I’ll check and let you know after the dinner break.”  He’s then approached by a second man:


I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t recognize him right off.  But if I showed you this picture…


…you know him as character great Bill Erwin.  Despite a lengthy show business career with guest appearances on such classic TV shows as Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone, The Untouchables, The Andy Griffith Show (“Stranger in Town”) and The Fugitive, Bill went to his final reward in 2010 remembered as crotchety senior citizen Sid Fields in the classic Seinfeld episode “The Old Man.”  In this R.F.D. outing, he’s billed only as “Man at Convention”…so I’m going to call him “Sid” in tribute.

SID: Mr. Sprague?
HOWARD: Yes?
SID (shaking hands with Howard): I was fascinated with your talk…

“The parts I stayed awake for, anyway…”

HOWARD: Well…
SID: That must be a very remarkable mynah bird you have…
HOWARD: Oh…thank you, I’m very proud of him…
SID: I’ve heard that mynah birds talk…but it must take real talent to get them to answer questions
HOWARD (trying to be modest): Well, I…I’ve got some special training techniques of my own that I’ve developed…
SID: Remarkable…you know…I got a friend up in Mount Pilot…M.C. on a television show for youngsters…he’s always looking for something like this…
HOWARD: You mean go on television with MacBeth?
SID: Why not?  The kids would love it!  Why don’t I give my friend a call?
HOWARD: You think there’s a chance?
SID: A very good chance!  I’ll phone him right now...

Sid takes his leave of Howard, who becomes a-twitter about the glamour and glory that will be afforded him once the viewing public gets a load of the wondrous MacBeth…and I don’t mean the social media application, either.  “Hey…me on television.” he says out loud to himself.  “Howard Sprague and his talking mynah bird…MacBeth and Sprague…”  He then corrects himself: “Sprague and MacBeth…”

Commercial break!  And then back from peddling Jell-O, we find Mike and Howard in Mike’s room, soldiering on with Project Mynah Masquerade:

MIKE (to the bird): Come on, now…say it…”Good morning, Howard”…
HAROLD: “Good morning, Howard”… (The bird continues to do nothing but squawk) I give up…
MIKE: We gotta have patience!
HAROLD: But Mr. Sprague’s coming home the day after tomorrow!  And he can’t even say “Hello”…let alone that Shakespeare junk!
MIKE: Well, we gotta keep trying…
AUNT BEE (entering the bedroom): Well…how’s it going, boys?
MIKE: Um…pretty good…
AUNT BEE: Has he learned to say anything?
MIKE: No…not yet…
HAROLD: But we’re expecting him to talk any minute now

You kids should have considered taking him around to the humble establishment of fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman), who’s MIA this week (as is our favorite donut doyenne Millie Swanson, played by Arlene Golonka).  That bird would be swearing a blue streak by now.

AUNT BEE: Well…keep trying…time is running short, you know…
MIKE: I know, Aunt Bee…

Bavier then does something that constitutes the first laugh-out-loud moment in this episode.  She bends over the cage and says “Hello?”…and when the bird doesn’t say anything she sort of makes an “Hmm” sound that sounds like shorthand for “F**k it, dude…let’s go bowling.”  (Well, it made me laugh to beat the band.)  But in a scene dissolve, we see an outside shot of the house, and a light being turned on in the kitchen—Aunt Bee has decided to do a little training after hours:

AUNT BEE (setting the bird’s cage on the table and removing the cover): Two…and two…you say “four”…Fouuuurrr

The bird does nothing but hop around on its perch and squawk.

AUNT BEE: You’re a beautiful bird…you’re so sweet, and you’re so pretty…everybody loves you…

Hell, Aunt Bee…why not just dim the lights and pour the wine?

AUNT BEE: I know you can talk if you want to…now, come on…let’s try again…ready?  “Hellloooo…”  “Helloooo…”  (No response) Oh…oooh…oh, this isn’t going to work at all…I’m just going to have to tell Sam that you’re an imposter!

With a scene dissolve, we find Mayberry manchild Goober working under the hood of a car…and a mynah bird lands on top of the open hood.  “Hello,” MacBeth sings out, prompting Goober to respond “I’ll be right with ya.”  “Hello!” MacBeth repeats, and still not seeing the bird, Goober asks “What can I do for ya?”  The phone inside Goober’s office rings, and he goes into answer it—it’s a customer asking about the state of repairs to his car, and Goob tells him it’ll be ready in an hour.  As he goes back to working under the hood, MacBeth tries one more time: “God Bless America!”


Goober looks up, grinning.  “MacBeth!” he says, with a slight space between the syllables.

The scene then shifts to the kitchen at the Jones house.  Aunt Bee is apologetic about the donuts she bought for Sam—she knows he prefers the “crumb donuts” but she must have made a mistake in the bakery.  “We do that every now and then,” she explains, laying down the foundation for what she’s going to have to tell him.

SAM: Oh…these are fine…
(The phone rings)
MIKE (out in the living room): I’ll get it!
AUNT BEE: Well, now people are human…Sam…children as well as adults…
SAM (not looking up from the mail): Hmm…
AUNT BEE: We don’t mean to make mistakes…but…we do…every now and then… (She brings over a glass of milk to Sam)  But the important thing is…the spirit of forgiveness…you know, that’s something I’ve always noticed about you in particular…you forgive people so easily
SAM (putting his mail down on the table): Okay, Aunt Bee…lay it on me…

But before Aunt Bee can lower the boom on young Michael, insuring that even if he were asked to the senior prom he’d still be doing a stretch in his room (sorry about the choice of words, by the way), Mike pops his ugly mug into the kitchen.

MIKE: Aunt Bee…can I talk to you for a second?
AUNT BEE: Well, I…
MIKE: It’s real important!
AUNT BEE: All right… (Getting up from the table) I’ll be right back, Sam…

Out in the living room, Mike tells Aunt Bee what we’ve pretty much guessed—he’s just got off the phone with Goober, who’s told him MacBeth—the real MacBeth—is at the gas station.  Grabbing her purse, she and Mike head out toward the back door but Sam interrupts her departure with “What was it you were going to tell me?”

Aunt Bee is having difficulty thinking on her feet this morning.  “Oh…it was just that…er…well, we have to go to Goober’s station—I’ll be right back!” she manages to spit out.  Mike follows her out the door with a “See ya, Pa!”


Running out to the car, Mike did a little skid-and-slide that sort of made me chuckle, and the two of them quickly speed off in the direction of Goober’s Gas.  Because this is a sitcom, no sooner do they shoot out of sight when Howard’s roadster comes barreling down from the opposite direction—he parks right outside the front, and runs toward the house…ringing the doorbell in the unusual manner shown in the screen cap below (as if he were winding up the house).


I’ve never seen a doorbell like that, so there was an interesting history lesson (and I didn’t have to hear Howard go on about it).  Sam goes to answer the door.

SAM: Well, Howard!  You’re back sooner than I expected!
HOWARD: I’ve got great news!  Great news—wait till you hear!
SAM: What?  What?  What?
HOWARD: The chimpanzee got sick!

“Oh…that must be why Mike and Aunt Bee left in a hurry—to pick up a prescription for Goober!”

SAM: Oh, Howard…please...now, no games…it’s been one of those days for me…
HOWARD: Oh, I’m sorry…I guess I’m all excited…but I’m going on television with MacBeth!
SAM: No kidding?
HOWARD: Yeah!  Circus Party—you know that children’s show in Mount Pilot?
SAM: Yeah?
HOWARD: Well, I met a guy in Raleigh that knows the emcee and it’s all set up!
SAM: Oh, that’s great, Howard!  That’s just great!  Listen, I’ll go up and get Mac…
HOWARD (interrupting): Normally it takes…you know, about three months…but, you know, you got to go through an agent and everything like that…but…
SAM: Yes…
HOWARD: …the chimp got sick…well, I mean, they had to replace the chimpanzee…and they asked me to do it, and I gotta rush right over there right away!

Sam nips upstairs to retrieve the faux MacBeth while Howard is still practicing the act’s billing to himself: “Sprague and MacBeth…gotta nice ring to it…”  Sam brings the bird down with the cage, and Howard profusely thanks Sam for keeping an eye on him…and asks Sam to thank Mike as well.  “Be sure and watch me!” he tells our hero as he heads out the door and on to TV fame.

With a scene dissolve, we find Sam in one of his rare displays of farm maintenance, sawing wood planks near his barn.  Aunt Bee pulls up with Mike in the car, and the two of them get out of the automobile.

AUNT BEE: Sam…the emergency is over
MIKE: I guess we can tell him now, Aunt Bee!
AUNT BEE: We found MacBeth!
SAM: MacBeth?
AUNT BEE: Mm-hmm…
MIKE: Yeah…Goober found him at the station… (He raises the lid of a box he’s carrying to reveal it’s temporarily housing Howard’s bird)
MACBETH (squawking): Goober’s Gas…
SAM: I don’t get it…Howard just left with MacBeth…
MIKE: Oh, that wasn’t MacBeth, Pa…that was the other bird Harold and I bought…
SAM: Other bird?  What are you talking about?  Howard just took MacBeth to Mount Pilot to be on a television show!
AUNT BEE: Oh my

“Sam,” says Aunt Bee plaintively, “why don’t we discuss this calmly in the car…while we’re rushing to Mount Pilot…”  She pushes Sam in the direction of the automobile and as the three of them get in (Sam rather reluctantly) and drive off, the scene shifts to the back stage of the popular Circus Party program, hosted by “Ringmaster Bill.”  “Bill” is played by character Iggie Wolfington (sometimes billed as “Ignatius”), who, although I have seen him on such shows as The Phil Silvers Show, Get Smart and The Waltons, really hasn’t done anything extraordinarily memorable outside of Mayberry (Stacia might remember him from a bit part in Penelope, a film she referenced two weeks ago.)  The most amusing thing about Iggie’s presence is that he appeared in a TAGS episode, “The Wedding,” in which he played the fiancé of Howard’s mom…so it’s kind of a chortle to see him here again working alongside his “son-in-law.”  A woman dressed as a ballerina hands Howard a pith helmet and safari outfit…but she goes unidentified in both the end credits and at the IMDb.

BILL: Oh…I hope you don’t mind the costume…
HOWARD: Oh ho…no…not at all…that’s show biz…heh heh heh…
BILL: You’re a real lifesaver…I mean, stepping in at the last minute like this…
HOWARD: Oh, it’s my pleasure…I assure you…
(A crew member yells out “Ten seconds!”)
BILL: Okay!  (To Howard) I’m sorry we didn’t have a chance to rehearse but…I’m sure you’re gonna do just fine
HOWARD: Well, just…turn us loose…we’ll gab away


One of you will, anyway.  Circus music starts to play, and “Ringmaster Bill” takes his place in front of the TV cameras as a gallery of hopped-up-on-sugar kids applaud wildly.  There is a quick cut to Sam’s car speeding down “The Mayberry Road,” as he passes a sign that reads “Mt. Pilot 9 mi Siler City 12m.”  But back to Circus Party!

BILL: …and a happy birthday to Gary Griffith in Siler City!  Now be sure to pick up your free ice cream cone from Mercer’s Drugs and Sundries… (Cheering kids)  And now we have a surprise for all you kids…and here he is…from Mayberry…a remarkable animal trainer, Mr. Howard Sprague…and his talking mynah bird, MacBeth!

“Don’t be nervous,” Howard whispers to the fake MacBeth as he walks out in front of the cameras, looking like a refugee from a Jungle Jim flick…


BILL: Well, now…Mr. Sprague…could we hear a…a little about you and your feathered friend there?  How long have you been training him?
HOWARD: Well, I’ve had him for about four months…and he couldn’t speak a word when I got him…and…we’ve come a long way since then…
BILL (laughing): Oh, yes…I understand he can speak some Shakespeare…
HOWARD: Yes…yes, and he can answer questions, too!  I have some special training techniques all my own that I developed all by myself… (Ringmaster Bill starts to speak, but Howard cuts him off in his usual long-winded fashion) You see, a mynah bird normally doesn’t answer questions…
BILL (interrupting): Now that’s very, very interesting…now…do you think we could hear from MacBeth?  Do you suppose he could say “hello” to the youngsters out there?”
HOWARD: Aw, yes…certainly…of course, that’s the very first thing I taught him…okay, MacBeth…say “hello” to all the children…hello…hello… (The bird remains silent) Well, I’ve been away a couple of days…it’ll take him a couple of days to get used to my voice again…hello…hello…


Sam, Aunt Bee and Mike arrive at a building whose sign reads “Southern Counties Network: WZAZ-TV Local.”  I kind of have to explain why I laughed at the call letters—I am a native of West Virginia, as many of you know, and the oldest TV station in the state is based in Huntington, with the call letters ‘WSAZ.”  (WSAZ stood for “Worst Station from A to Z.”)  It was also the home for many years of the man I watched religiously every weekday afternoon as a kid—the one and only Mr. Cartoon (aka Jule Huffman).

As Sam gets out of the car, there’s a laugh-out-loud moment listening to him bitch at Aunt Bee.  “I don’t understand it!  I just don’t understand it!  And another thing, Aunt Bee—how come I didn’t know about this?  You should have told me right away!”

“Sam!” Aunt Bee is pleading.  “Will you hurry, the show’s already starting!”

“Don’t change the subject,” he grouses at her.  Looking at Mike, he adds: “And don’t I’ve forgotten about you, either, young man…”  Rarely do Sam’s emotions extend beyond that bland exterior of his, so it’s kind of a treat when he’s pissed (like in “The Mayberry Float”).


Back in the studio…the kids are getting restless, because Bwana Howard (for obvious reasons) can’t get the damn mynah bird to even say “boo.”  Through slightly gritted teeth, he tells the bird: “Come on, MacBeth…let’s have that Shakespeare…to be or not to be…”  There is then a cross-cut to Sam and Company arriving at the station’s registration desk, which is manned by a page played by Steven Benson.  Benson, a one-time child actor who made fleeting appearances in films such as The Seven Year Itch and The Ten Commandments, later did guest bits on shows like The Name of the Game and Cannon.  According to the IMDb, he later went to work behind the camera as a prop man and a technical advisor…and seeing his performance in this episode, it was probably a wise move on his part.

SAM: Uh…where’s the Circus Party show?
PAGE: Studio B…but you can’t go in—it’s on the air now…
AUNT BEE: Oh, young man…we must go in…Mr. Sprague has the wrong bird!
PAGE: I’m sorry…my instructions are when the red light goes on (pointing to same); I’m supposed to keep people out

Do you think they’re going to let a pimply-faced adolescent stand between them and the humiliation of their good friend on local television?  If it were you or I, we’d probably shrug our shoulders and saunter out the door, making plans to go by the Tastee Freeze on the way back to Mayberry.  No—Sam, Aunt Bee and Mike defiantly display some civil disobedience and run right down the hallway where Circus Party is underway, though the page goes after them, protesting as he does so.

Back to Howard’s degradation:


HOWARD (pleading): Come on, MacBeth…two and two…two and two is…it’s fourSay four!
BILL: Say fiveAnything!
(The kids in the audience are starting to pelt each other with popcorn, having become bored with it all)
HOWARD (sheepishly): This…this really is most unusual…I mean…usually, he’s just gabbing his head off…heh heh…
BILL: I should have stayed with that sick chimp

Howard, in a desperate attempt to salvage this fiasco, starts to prattle on about MacBeth’s “feeding habits” but Bill has decided to give him the hook.  “Wait a minute…maybe it’s the lights,” reasons Howard.  “If we could just dim the lights…”

“I wish I could,” laments Ringmaster Bill, in another laugh-out-loud moment.  So Howard is going for broke: “Say something, you stupid bird,” he hisses at the mynah, then he brings out a tiny American flag.  “God Bless America, MacBeth,” he says nervously, waving the flag.

Sam, Aunt Bee and Mike have reached the door to Studio B…and the page puts his foot down, warning them they can’t go in there.  “I don’t have to,” explains Mike.  “The bird will fly to Mr. Sprague.”

Sam opens the studio door, and the bird flies across the studio, landing on Howard’s right arm (the fake bird is on his left).  “What the…?” he asks, and looking over, sees Jones pere and fils, along with Aunt Bee, stage whispering: “It’s MacBeth!”


HOWARD (looking at the bird on his right incredulously): MacBeth?  This…this is my bird!  This is MacBeth!  He’ll talk…I know he will!  Here…say “hello,” MacBeth!  Say “hello”!
MACBETH (squawking): Goober’s Gas…Goober’s Gas…

The kids in the studio go wild, and break out in applause…joined by Ringmaster Bill, and then Sam, Aunt Bee and Mike on the sidelines.  Howard stares into the camera, waving his flag, with that sheepish expression that Jack Dodson does so well.


I’m just going to briefly address the coda because despite “The Mynah Bird” being one of my favorite R.F.D. episodes, the wrap-up involves Mike and Harold…and that’s too much for anyone to endure.  From their conversation, it would appear that both kids were severely reprimanded for their indiscretion involving MacBeth:

MIKE: Hey—did you write your letter to Mr. Sprague?
HAROLD: Yeah…
MIKE: Me, too…sure wasn’t easy to apologize…
HAROLD: I couldn’t even spell it… (Both of them laugh)

“Heh heh heh heh…I’m a moron, Beavis…”

SAM (coming up the walk with some money): Hi, fellas…
HAROLD: Hi, Mr. Jones…
MIKE: Hi, Pa…
SAM: Well, here’s your money from the pet shop…you’re lucky they took the bird back…
MIKE: Thanks, Pa…
SAM: Mm-hmm…
HAROLD: Yeah, thanks!  Hey…wanna go down to the park and get up a game?
MIKE: Okay!  Come on!
SAM: Whoa ho…hold it!  Mike…aren’t you forgetting?  You have some extra chores to do this week…
MIKE: Aw, Pa…it all worked out okay…
SAM: Yeah…I know…
MIKE: …Mr. Sprague got his bird back…
SAM: I know…
MIKE: …and they liked him on TV…
SAM: Mike…that’s…
MIKE: …and we were just trying to save his feelings…
SAM: Yes, I know…but….
MIKE: …and you already bawled me out all the way to Mount Pilot…and all the way back again!
SAM: Mike…Mike…whoo…boy!  If that other bird had talked the way you do we never would have had this trouble in the first place…

It’s not often I say this, but Mike’s mile-a-minute whining over his father’s protests plays pretty funny here.  But now that Sam has the floor, he suggests to his son that “maybe if Harold helps you with your chores, you can finish in time to have that ball game, too.”

Surprisingly, Harold does not object to this arrangement…so he’s either stupider than I thought, or smarter in that he’ll just bide his time until he can really get Mike in trouble…like when they jimmy the lock at the back of the pool hall or something.  (And don’t forget who the deputy sheriff is in that town, so it should be a cake walk.)

I have to admit…I’m surprised that I’ve made it this far, since today’s installment marks the end of the second season of R.F.D.  I’ll start Season Three next week, which is where the real misery will begin because there are some painful episodes to sit through, including “Sensitivity Training” and “Howard’s Nephew.”  (And the first show of the third season, “Emmett’s Domestic Problem,” ain’t no prize either.)  But I’ll do my best to be here…so until next week…bye cartooners!

4 comments:

Stacia said...

Most of which you’ve spilled all over your bed sheets. (I debated not using that one for a bit…and lost.)

HAAAAAAAAhahaha *wipes tears*

I don't remember the good Iggie Wolfington from Penelope specifically, but I am sure I have seen him in something, probably his guest roles in Rockford and MTM.

Bavier was in her late 60s by this time so I can't really blame her for just not coming back for season three, even though she didn't get a send-off. And somehow I doubt she was particularly sentimental about the show.

I am definitely going to have to watch this whole episode, because the idea of Howard making faces and bringing out a small American flag is just too much for me to pass up.

basura said...

That was one fine episode.

I thought it was going to be like the CAR 54 episode when Toody inadvertently has Captain Block's bird reciting "I hate Captain Block" but this was even better.

I figured Howard would pop a vein and attack the Peanut Gallery.

-Rich

Dave Enkosky said...

I nominated you for a Liebster award. http://www.kl5film.com/2012/08/liebster-award-time.html

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

I figured Howard would pop a vein and attack the Peanut Gallery.

Thus making it the best R.F.D. episode ever.

It was one fine episode, though. (I wish I could say the same of some of the others to come.)