Today’s episode, “The Moon Rocks,” doesn’t quite confront controversy but nevertheless addresses a topical subject: close to two years after man first landed on the moon in 1969, interest in the artifacts brought back from that expedition was at a fever pitch…and that contagion will soon spread through television’s favorite small town. The plot is set in motion when poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-town-council-head Sam Jones (Ken Berry) arrives at an unnamed state university for a city manager’s conference (he later mentions in the program about driving back to Durham, so it sounds as if it’s Duke)…and because this is a sitcom, he fortuitously finds a parking place right outside where he’s supposed to be (I’m guessing none of the students on the Duke University campus have cars). But that is not all he finds, dear friends and neighbors…
…he conveniently runs into an old friend in Pete Winslow, who cordially invites our hero to step into his office. And with that invitation, let’s get a better look at the actor who will be essaying the role of Master Peter Winslow this week.
PETE: So tell me—what brings you up here?
SAM: Well, I’m up here…er…attending a city manager’s conference…
PETE: Oh, yes…seems to me I did hear about you becoming a big wheel down there in…uh…what is it, Weaver City?
? No! No…please…Mayberry… Weaver City ’s a bad word… Weaver City
“Hey! My wife’s family comes from
asshole!” During the course of their
riveting conversation, we learn that Sam’s buddy Pete works for NASA—his reason
for being at Duke is that he is overseeing a series of moon rocks displays
around the country. Weaver City
SAM: Uh…you wouldn’t happen to have an extra one lying around…that we could show in Mayberry…do ya? Old pal? Old buddy?
PETE: Uh…no way…old pal…old buddy…
SAM: Uh…that’s too bad…that’d be a great thing for a little town like ours…
PETE: Yeah, I know, Sam—but I’m workin’ on a real tight schedule…
SAM: Hey…do you remember, uh, Howard Sprague? The guy who went fishing with us that one time?
PETE: Is he the guy with the nasal condition?
Every episode…one laugh-out-loud moment. Sam, knowing what a fanatical rock hound Mayberry’s pedantic county clerk (Jack Dodson) is, would really like old buddy Pete to make a stop in Mayberry so that Howard could get a glance at a genuine moon rock (Sam sort of owes Mistah Sprague a favor, since Howard is “holding down the fort” in his absence.) “Say, Pete—as long as you’re driving to Atlanta anyway…how about stopping by Mayberry and at least having lunch with me, huh?” asks Sam, as he slyly sets his trap.
“Now that I can do,” assures Pete. “And while you’re there, we could…pull down the blinds and…we can show a moon rock to Howard,” finishes Sam, successful in trapping his prey yet blissfully unaware of the picture he’s now burned onto the retinas of everyone that’s tuned in.
Pete agrees to the arrangement—but stresses that the display is only for Howard’s benefit. So why does Sam call Howard with the news, knowing full well Mayberry’s all-too-curious phone operator Sara could be listening in? Because this episode would have only been three minutes long if he hadn’t.
HOWARD (on the phone): Moon rocks?!! Would I! There isn’t an amateur geologist in the country who wouldn’t give his eyeteeth to see a lunar sample! Wow…what a feather in my geological cap that’ll be!
“I’m getting a stiffie just thinking about it!”
HOWARD (still on the phone): What? Oh…sure…oh, sure—I understand…certainly…tell your friend he has nothing to worry about…mum’s the word…mum’s the word…yeah…okay…see ya tomorrow!
You know what’s coming. Howard turns around and finds…
Cue the sad trombone!
HOWARD: Goober! How long have you been standing there?!!
GOOBER: Long enough to hear you say “mum’s the word” and all that—what’s it all about?
“You realize that I now have to kill you, Goober. This just isn’t your day, pilgrim.”
HOWARD: Nothing…nothing, just forget it…
GOOBER: Okay…if you don’t wanna tell me…
HOWARD: That’s right—I don’t…
Howard, Howard, Howard. You surely know by now that the only surefire method of getting Goober to move on to another topic is with the use of a shiny object or perhaps that antique coin the Bowery Boys always used to hypnotize Huntz Hall. Because the curious Goober takes less than an eye blink to ask Sara the operator where that call to Howard came from, and he soon confronts him outside the Mayberry Foodstuff Emporium, where Howard is purchasing groceries from an unidentified tradesman.
GOOBER: Howard! (He startles Howard slightly) He’s in on the big secret, too—huh?
HOWARD: No, he isn’t! Goober, will you please drop it?!!
GOOBER: I’ll bet
knows…I’m gonna ask her what she knows about moon rocks! Alice
HOWARD: Will you please not mention it to anyone!!!
HOWARD: Because nobody’s supposed to know they’re coming here!
GOOBER (loudly): Moon rocks are comin’ to… (Howard puts his hand over Goober’s mouth)
Two ladies walk by at this moment in time, and kind of give Howard a quizzical look as they witness him with his hand clasped over Goober’s mouth. (Good for a chuckle.) Howard then tells Goober that he’ll fill him in on the “moon rocks” details if he’ll just keep his big bazoo shut.
“I can keep a secret as good as you can,” responds Goober hurtfully. But in a scene dissolve, we find the mentally challenged grease monkey at his humble gas station pressing his pants…and because there’s not nearly enough idiocy in this scene, he is soon joined by fix-it savant Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman).
GOOBER: I’m ironin’…what does it look like I’m doin’?
EMMETT: I know that…heh…you’re pressin’ your deputy sheriff’s uniform—there must be a new crime wave…kindergarten kids been puttin’ slugs in the gumball machine?
GOOBER: Very funny…well, it just so happens that I may have to guard somethin’…
GOOBER (quickly): Nothin’…I mean…I’m just…gettin’ prepared…in case somethin’ valuable comes to Mayberry…
EMMETT: Fergus the Jeweler gettin’ in some new zircons?
Fergus the Jeweler? I’ll bet those TV commercials are a riot. (“He went to Fergus...”) “It ain’t no use you pumpin’ me…my lips are sealed,” he assures his friend…and then he becomes aware of the arrival of two yokels outside when one of them calls out: “Hey, Zeke—what’s the name of this burg?”
“Oh, it’s them wise guys from
,” grumbles Goober as he sets
down his iron. And with that, let’s meet
GOOBER: It’s Mayberry, and you know it, Eddie!
EDDIE: Yeah…I keep forgettin’…couple of gallons, Goob…but don’t put any of that Mayberry water in my nice clean radiator…
TOM: Try to hurry it up… (Coughing) This smog here is killin’ me!
Let the battle of half-wits begin!
GOOBER: You guys are a laugh a minute…
We should be so lucky.
GOOBER: …of course, you need a sense of humor to live in
… Weaver City
EDDIE: Say, Goob—didja hear the news?
GOOBER: What news?
TOM: Don’t tell him, Eddie—it’ll break his heart!
GOOBER; Don’t tell me what?
EDDIE: Oh, nothin’…except that we’re gettin’ a new library in
… Weaver City
TOM (holding up fingers): With two wings…
What…so it can fly?
GOOBER: A library, huh?
TOM: Yeah! We can read over there!
EDDIE: You can hear about it on TV tonight…you do have TV here, don’tcha?
GOOBER: Darn right we do! We got everything that
has…and more! Weaver City
TOM: Except a new library…
EDDIE: Of course, Mayberry does have the new dump…
“Yeah? Well, why don’t you drive down there and dispose of yourselves?” Okay, enough of this witty banter…you know what’s coming, and I won’t disappoint you…wait for it…
GOOBER: Is that so? Well, we’re gettin’ the moon rocks!
“Moon rocks?” asks Tom. This is bad, this is very, very bad—but Goober has compounded his fox paw by shouting this within listening distance of Emmett “Gabby” Clark. “So that’s what why you were pressin’ your uniform, huh? That’s what you’re gonna be guardin’!!!” Emmett says excitedly.
TOM: You mean they’re bringin’ ‘em here?
GOOBER: No! I mean…they ain’t here yet…I mean…it’s a secret…you ain’t supposed to know—forget I said anything about it!!! You, too, Emmett!!!
Goober turns around in Emmett’s direction…no Emmett. That’s because Mr. Clark has borrowed Mr. Pyle’s phone to tell his beloved spouse Martha (played by Mary Lansing, when they allow her to appear on the program) all about the secret moon rocks.
As I have mentioned so many times on the blog in the past…I grew up in the town of
WV—which I have previously calculated was actually smaller than the fictional
Mayberry. And I also know that if you
had planned to reveal anything remotely secretive to anybody in that burg the
only way to accomplish it was to use the freakin’ Cone of Silence.
GOOBER (entering the council office with Emmett in tow): Howard…Howard…you might as well know—Old Big Ears here found out about the moon rocks!
GOOBER: Well, you tell him this ain’t gonna be no public showin’…
HOWARD: Well, how did he find out about it, anyway?
GOOBER: Well, that don’t make no diff’rence—just tell him he ain’t gonna see ‘em…
HOWARD: That’s right, Emmett…Sam arranged a private showing for me because he knows I’m interested in things geological…
EMMETT: Are you tryin’ to tell me he ain’t even gonna let Mike see them moon rocks? His own boy?
“He’s not taking any chances. That kid might eat one!”
HOWARD: Well, he’ll probably let Mike see them…
EMMETT: You see—that makes two…already you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about…
GOOBER: Seems to me if he can show ‘em to two he can show ‘em to three…
! How did you find out about it?!! Alice
MYRTLE: I thought I’d make a green cheesecake! Wouldn’t that be clever?
GOOBER: Yeah! That sounds good!
I kind of laughed at this scenario…not because of the dialogue, but because I’m very impressed at how Alice—who was a pathetic wallflower type just demobbed from the service in “The New Housekeeper”—has fully blossomed into the take-charge Aunt Bee role. As for Myrtle (Maudie Prickett)—sadly, this is her last time on Mayberry R.F.D. Prickett, best known as gal pal Rosie Hammaker to Shirley Booth’s Hazel Burke on the sitcom Hazel, seemed to function merely as a sounding board to Aunt Bee when Frances Bavier was still on the program.
HOWARD: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You’re all jumping ahead of yourselves! Sam said it was just for me to see!
GOOBER: Yeah! He’s too nice a guy!
MYRTLE: And we are taxpayers!
EMMETT: Yeah, it’ll be a big thing for the merchants… (Turning to Howard) Are you sure you just ain’t tryin’ to hog the whole show?
Howard’s protests are ignored, because
Will Howard tell Sam that Project Moon Rock has snowballed into a genuine clusterfudge? Well, he makes a sporting try at it but Sam waves him off, wanting nothing else to do but put his briefcase in the office and head back to
tending his crops the
bosom of his loving family. Instead, he
opens the door and finds…
…it’s apparently Election Night in Mayberry. Much milling around and people discussing at tables, which did make me laugh.
EMMETT: Oh, it’s gonna be a big boost to the business community!
MYRTLE: Thanks to you, Sam!
SAM: Well, you’re welcome! Now what are we talking about?
As my BBFF Stacia has stated before—no one does “shame face” better than Jack Dodson. This laugh is punctuated by Sam’s turning to him and saying “Howard…” before Howard interrupts with “I tried to tell you…” as he points outside.
GOOBER: Besides—this could be the biggest thing that ever happened to Mayberry! We figgered there wasn’t no sense in wastin’ it on Howard…
SAM: Wasting what?
EMMETT: The Mayberry moon rock display!
GOOBER: At the museum!
HOWARD (sheepishly): Yeah…they want me to show my rock collection, too…
MYRTLE: And I’m going to make one of my green cheesecakes! (Laughter in the room) Get it, Sam? Green cheese?
“See, Sam—you can’t keep the Mayberry kids out of the Space Age,” observes Howard.
“I think we should have a big banner across the street like when Art Linkletter came through,” Emmett offers up. (I’ll bet that’s the only time in his career when Linkletter discovered that the title of his show was a misnomer.)
Sam, being the responsible parent in the room, now has the unpleasant duty of having to explain to everyone that he’s turning the car around and they’re going right back home. “Now…my friend from NASA was going to stop by here for lunch—and as favor to me, he was going to show the moon rocks to Howard. And I promised to keep it a secret. Now somehow, it seems to have gotten out of hand,” Sam complains, staring straight at Howard.
“Well, there’s no harm done,” counters Emmett. “Yes, there is, Emmett,” Sam continues. “I made a promise I can’t keep. So there’s only one thing I can do…I’m going to call my friend, and tell him what happened…and call the whole thing off.” The reaction from the room is comparable to Sam telling them there’ll be no ice cream for dessert.
SAM: Nobody is going to see any moon rocks…
HOWARD: Except me, of course…
SAM: No, Howard…especially not you…not now… (He goes out the door)
HOWARD (plaintively): But Sam…
Normally I would feel sorry for Howard…but this is kind of his fault. He could have avoided this by saying, “Hey, Goob—let’s go out to the new dump and shoot rats.” And then just made sure he was the only one who returned.
Well, Sam’s soliloquy brings on a commercial break, and upon returning from shilling for General Foods we find Sam enjoying a leisurely country breakfast. A man must eat a hearty first meal of the day when he’s got a day of chores a-waitin’…so Sam is just having toast, lightly buttered.
“I can’t figure out what went wrong…there was enough rat poison in that oatmeal to bring down a polar bear…”
Alice! You’ve clearly been taking night courses at the
Irene Shreve School of Guilt. Sam’s
position is that the matter is no longer under discussion because “we covered
this whole thing last night and there is nothing I can do about it.”
MIKE: Hi, Pa…
SAM: Okay…let’s hear it from you, too…
MIKE: Well, gee whiz, Pa…I wanted to see the moon rock!
Sam is having little luck explaining to either relative that it’s simply not possible to have a public showing of the find of the century in a little pissant town like Mayberry. But he is amenable to driving Mike down to
over the weekend so they can see it there.
“I don’t know, Pa,” replies Mike. “I don’t think I wanna see it if my friends can’t.” Mikey me boyo…do you think for one second that Harold or Richard wouldn’t sell the playing cards in their bicycle spokes for a chance to see the moon rocks without you?
SAM: Mike, the man in charge said no!
MIKE: Well…maybe he can talk to his boss…or maybe you can write to a senator or something…
SAM: Look…why don’t you hurry up with your breakfast and…I’ll give you a ride to school…
MIKE: I think I’d rather walk today…
“Yeah…I’ll walk to Mr. Sprague’s office. And see what kind of paperwork I have to fill out to have my name changed.” Well, public opinion on Sam’s decision is not in his favor in town, either. Sam has to listen to Emmett bitch as the fix-it man cleans a painted sign from his window announcing that he’ll fix vacuum cleaners as part of a “moon rocks special” for the princely sum of $3.98.
EMMETT: …the Mayberry economy ain’t exactly boomin’, you know…moon rocks would have been a big help…
SAM: Yeah, I know that…
EMMETT: Yeah…gettin’ our hopes up and then shootin’ ‘em way down…you know—I voted for you because you were supposed to be a doer…only now that I think back on it…you ain’t done so much!
This is an interesting conversation. Sam Jones’ first appearance in Mayberry was on the old Andy Griffith Show, in an episode entitled “Sam for Town Council.” The plot has Emmett planning to run for a vacant council seat, and a small chunk of the Mayberry power structure—including Sheriff Andy Taylor hisownself—is repulsed by the notion, so they talk Farmer Jones into running against Emmett Clark. Sam wins the election—and Emmett eventually comes around to acknowledging that the people have spoken…the bastids.
Now…between that episode and the one I’m dissecting now—there has never been another election in Mayberry. Which is surprising—you’d think the writers would have come up with at least one idea for such an episode…but instead they frittered away their time with idiotic outings about bicycle clubs and toupees. And the makeup of the town council changes at the whim of each episode; eventually, Howard, Goober and Emmett are all on the town council despite my disbelief that any serious-minded voter would make a check next to their name. (Then again…when you consider some of the bozos in public office now…maybe it’s not so hard to believe.) What I’m trying to say here in my typically longwinded fashion is that with the absence of any kind of election on R.F.D. this can only mean that Emmett voted against himself in the episode “Sam for Town Council.” That means even he knows if he were to hold public office it would bring down the very foundation of civilization as we know it.
Emmett ticks off a list of Sam’s disappointments, starting with his failure to get Miss North
to come to Mayberry’s Fourth of July picnic.
“No, and I didn’t get us Expo 70, either,” says Sam angrily—a reference
to the World’s Fair held in Osaka, Japan that also featured a moon rock from
the Apollo 12 mission on display. Just
then, a couple of women walk by and give Sam the cold shoulder…suggesting that
when there is finally an election in Mayberry Sam will need to start kissing
hands and shaking babies. (Wait…that
can’t be right.)
A scene shift finds us in the
, where Howard is kvetching
to Sam about all the hard work he did putting together his rock collection,
categorizing and printing up note cards.
(Something I have a feeling he enjoyed better than sex.) Goober, also on the scene, chimes in: “What
about me? I’ve been bustin’ my brains out
readin’ that pamphlet on security precautions.” Mayberry
Howard spent the bulk of his time mounting a nice tourmaline stone that he found in the god-awful second season “
Springs” story arc that was mur-der getting
through. Sam is at a loss for words, and
Goober tells him: “Say somethin’ nice…you already broke his heart!”
SAM: Well…that’s…that’s very nice, Howard…
GOOBER: Show him that atheist you dug up in
, Howard… Mexico
HOWARD: That’s amethyst, Goober…
Yes, I laughed out loud at that. “Oh, what’s the difference now, though,” whines Howard. “It’s bad enough I don’t get a chance to show the folks my collection but now I don’t even get to see a moon rock!”
SAM: Oh…come on now…they…they’ve got a very tight schedule for showing these rocks! NASA isn’t going to change that just for us! W-What do you want me to do—do you want me to write our senator, like Mike suggested? Or maybe I should wave a magic wand, huh?
HOWARD: There’s no use in getting defensive about it, Sam…this isn’t an election year…
Howard decides to leave his rocks in the museum for a couple days—“Might as well give folks a chance to see them at least.” Both Howard and Goober are ladling a lot of guilt on Sam about this fiasco even though it’s typically not his fault (the only blame to be shouldered is that he still lives in Mayberry when he should have bolted years ago). Finally Goob and Howard admit that maybe they were a little bit at fault, and Sam says the best thing for everybody is just to forget about the whole affair and put it behind them.
“You can count on me,” Goober remarks in his usual stupid fashion. “As a lawman, I’m trained to keep my mouth shut.” (Too…many…sarcastic…comebacks…can’t…decide…which…to…use)
The quiet lawman emerges from the museum and prepares to mount his bicycle when the two members of the
chapter of MENSA ride up in
Eddie’s jeep. Weaver
GOOBER: I can’t talk now…I’m busy!
TOM: You don’t look busy…
GOOBER: Well, I am!
EDDIE: We came all the way down here to see it—thought we were gonna see it today!
GOOBER: Whatever gave you that idea?
TOM: That’s what you told us!
GOOBER: Well, what’s the difference? (Condescendingly) In Mayberry, we don’t have to brag about every little bitty thing that happens…I’ll see ya around…
TOM (getting out of the jeep): Hey, Goob…now level with us… (Eddie gets out of the jeep, too) Mayberry is gettin’ a moon rock, ain’t it? Or did somebody just make that up?
EDDIE: Some guy who’s jealous ‘cause
’s gettin’ a new
library… Weaver City
GOOBER: We do, too, have moon rocks!
EDDIE: Prove it!
Back against the wall, Goober escorts the two men into the museum…and tries to pass off Howard’s
tourmaline as the “moon rock.” For a
brief shining moment, it looks as if he might successfully pull off the
charade…but then Eddie, the brighter of the two, notices the card underneath
that reads: “Tourmaline, .” Palm Springs, California
GOOBER: Well, ain’t you ever read Buck Rogers? I mean, everybody knows that the moon originally busted off from the Earth…
TOM (hooting): Oh, boy—did you hear that? The moon came from
! (He starts cackling) Palm Springs
EDDIE (patting Goober’s shoulder): Good try, Goob…good try…
TOM: What did you say the name of this burg was?
! Phoneysville, USA
Goober has gambled on his superior intellect (ha!) and lost. In a scene dissolve, Goober sits forlornly at the table in the council office as Sam, Howard, Emmett and
look contemptuously at him. The Goob
tries to explain that he did what he did “them guys were sayin’ bad things
“Well, they’ll be sayin’ worse now,” counters Emmett. And how—as Howard reads from the latest edition of the Weaver City Daily News:
HOWARD: Listen to this: “Promises, promises…green with envy about the new Weaver City Library, Mayberry promised the moon and delivered the usual nothing…did they really feel the substitution of insignificant rocks from
would fool certain citizens from Palm Springs ? Or were they
hopefully trying to gain fame by perpetrating the biggest fraud of the
century?” Now we’re going to be the
laughingstock of the county! Weaver City
Oh, now they’ve done it. Now they have done it. Nobody, I repeat, nobody disses the rock collection of Howard W. Sprague! “I guess I done a dumb thing,” Goober says apologetically and without any trace of a startling revelation.
“All of this wouldn’t have happened if somebody had come up with the moon rock like somebody promised,” Emmett continues to piss and moan. Sam, knowing he’ll probably hear this bullsh*t for the rest of his life in Mayberry, decides that now is time for decisive action—he’ll make one more final plea to his pal Pete. “Want me to come along and help ya?” asks an eager Goober. Sam tells him no…but it would be funnier if there was a “hell” placed in front of it.
Pete would love to help his old friend out…but his hands are tied. He and Sam discuss the matter back and forth until they are interrupted by the ringing of Pete’s phone. Pete answers it, has a few words with the party on the other end and even gives Sam a look during the conversation. Having completed the call, Pete looks at his friend:
SAM: What? Swing what?
PETE: That was my boss on the phone…I just got an order to set up a moon rock display in Mayberry…
SAM: No…you’re kidding!
PETE: No…no kidding…tomorrow morning…come on…what did you do?
SAM: Well…uh…I don’t know, Pete…I don’t know! I just…but…everybody said I could do it, and…you know something? I guess they were right…
Behold the moon rock display! As predicted, it proves to be a sensation in a town where the installation of a new flag pole is considered big doin’s. Goober, dressed in his deputy sheriff duds, is providing “security” while the rock is on display, and Howard is proudly showing his collection to Mike and a few nameless school chums. The kids aren’t at all impressed with the Sprague collection, however, and hurriedly get back in line to see the moon rock again, prompting this priceless Howard reaction.
Pete’s boss, Charlie Hendricks, has made an appearance at the Mayberry display and Pete introduces him to Sam…
HENDRICKS: I…uh…flew down to see that everything was all right…
SAM: Oh, everything’s just fine…I want to thank you for everything you’ve done…but if you don’t mind my asking, Mr. Hendricks—how did all this happen?
PETE: Yeah…I’ve been wondering about that myself…
HENDRICKS: No big mystery…I, uh, got a phone call from your senator…respectfully requesting that I, uh, get a moon rock for Mayberry…
SAM: Our senator?
HENDRICKS: Mm-hmm…oh, it happens every now and then…seems he got a letter from, uh, a disappointed little boy here in Mayberry…and it…kind of got to him…
SAM: No kidding? Boy…it must have been Mike! (Laughing) How about that boy?
HENDRICKS (pulling the letter from his pocket): No…that…that wasn’t the name…I’ve got the letter right here…it’s kind of hard to read this…childish handwriting…it’s from a little boy who kind of has an…unusual nickname…Goober Pyle?
Yeah, you can’t tell me you didn’t see that coming. I especially enjoyed the reference to Goob’s “childish handwriting”—because he’s practically illiterate! (Okay, that’s a little harsh—I’m sure both his parents were married.) Sam runs over to tell Goober this little tale but Mayberry’s fearless deputy sheriff is too busy cackling at a joke Howard’s made: “One small step for man…one giant leap for Mayberry.” (Eight more episodes of this to go, and our long national nightmare will be over.)
The coda on this one is kind of amusing: Goober is reading (see what I mean?) a reply he received from the senator regarding the moon rock events to Howard and Sam at the gas station—“And it ain’t one of them mimeographed ones, neither.”
GOOBER: Says he appreciates me callin’ attention to the problem…gives me some personal advice, too…he says America needs young men like me…wants me to work hard and mind my mommy and daddy…of course, I always do that…here’s the big surprise—it says right here…if I ever wanna go to West Point, he’ll gimme a letter… (After a pause) I never knew they took guys my age…?