Landing his plane, Don boards a tug, sets out for the cave, goes down as a diver and discovers a mine field.
But Scorpion agents board the tug and battle the crew, while Don, on the ocean floor, signals desperately for help...
Here’s how Don (Don Terry) “signals” for help, by the way: “Red! Red! What’s wrong with my airline?!! Stop clowning around, you hosers!” Moan, moan, moan. Well, one good thing does result from all this—Mike Splendor (Wade Boteler) finally gets to throw a few punches, and one of them sends henchman Spike (Ethan Laidlaw) into the drink.
While Splendor goes back to manning the air pumps, “Red” Pennington (Walter Sande) calls down to a gasping-for-air Winslow via radio telephone:
RED: Don…Don…are you all right, Don?
RED (to Splendor): He’s all right!
SPLENDOR: Oh, fine!
RED: He wants to come up… (To the crew) Stand by to bring up the diver!
Don’t forget the diver, sir…don’t forget the diver. (Couldn’t pass up an ITMA reference.) But what about poor Spike?
Hang in there, buddy. Don is brought to the surface, and as Red and the others remove the helmet his first words are “Who was farting around with the air hose?” (No, not really—I made that up.)
RED: Some Scorpion agents jumped us!
SPLENDOR: What did you find down there?
RED: Observation mines?!!
It’s a good thing Spike is still in the water; clinging to that rope…otherwise he’d be missing all this plot exposition.
RED: What are you going to do about it?
RED: Well, let’s get busy!
How do you know there is a “control shack,” Don? Maybe it’s a control bungalow, or a control grotto. (Writers be lazy!) Winslow orders the tug captain to get going, and then gives this one last bit of exposition to his compadres:
So Spike, having been tipped off to the plot of this chapter, starts to swim away from the tug…and a quick screen wipe finds him striding up to the mine entrance, sopping wet. (I swear I’m not making this up.) How he managed to beat Winslow and Company back goes unexplained (maybe the guys on the S.S. Mickey broke out some brews and fishing equipment and partied like it’s 1943) but he takes the elevator down into the shaft (no elevator operator around, which I found strange) and heads for the secret headquarters of Scorpion, LLC…where brains heavy Spencer Merlin (John Litel) is holding forth with the two dry henchmen, Barsac and Corley, as radioman Parker (Ray Teal) looks on.
BARSAC: I’m telling you, M-22…we had Winslow and his entire gang under control…when the 620 came barging down on us…we had to get away!
MERLIN: And you don’t know what happened to Winslow…?
SPIKE (entering the room): I do! They pulled him up! He’s on his way to the warehouse to radio the
to send a landing party to attack the mine! Eureka
MERLIN: Barsac…you and Corley get down to that radio station…
“Tell them if they don’t start playing I’ve Never Been to Me at least once an hour we’re pulling our ads!”
MERLIN: …cut the power line…do anything you have to, but stop that radio call!
PARKER: Hey, what about Winslow’s two girlfriends we’re holding prisoner in the intercave room?
Two girlfriends? Don is awfully broad-minded.
MERLIN: I nearly forgot about them…
I can see why this would be the case, because they were apparently kidnapped sometime between this chapter and the last. There is a quick cut to Mercedes Colby (Claire Dodd) and Misty Gaye (Anne Nagel) cooling their heels in some sort of holding cell.
MERCEDES: There is! If Don ever finds out Merlin’s holding us as prisoners…
Okay, we know the girls are okay…back to the action:
MERLIN: Now get down to that radio station!
SPIKE: I’ve got to get some dry clothes!
MERLIN: All right—make it fast!
Yes, because little things like this make me laugh like a hyena…well, I laughed like a hyena. A dissolve finds Barsac, Corley and Spike barreling out of the mine entrance—all three of them dressed the same, because that makes it easier for the stuntmen. Another dissolve shows Don, Red, Mike and John Blake (Ben Taggart) just now getting off the S.S. Widemouth. (They had to be doing something in the meantime…either that or Spike could give Johnny Weissmuller and Buster Crabbe some swimming competition.) Yet another dissolve finds the four men entering the warehouse, where Don calls out for Misty and Mercedes. Seeing no sign of them, the quartet march into the radio room, where the ever faithful Seaman Chapman (Peter Leeds) sits dutifully at his post.
CHAPMAN: I don’t know, sir…they haven’t been around all day…
“You know how women are…all shopping and sh*t…”
CHAPMAN: He’s been tryin’ to reach you for the last hour, Commander…
CHAPMAN: Aye aye, sir…
CHAPMAN: Commander Winslow, Rondana…calling cruiser
…Captain Tilbert…come in, please… Eureka
TILBERT (on radio): Captain Tilbert…
States … Eureka
TILBERT (on radio): I’ll head out for the North Reef and put a landing party ashore at once…any further suggestions?
“Yes…mail your Christmas cards and packages early…” Before Don can continue with the conversation, there is a cut to Corley atop the power pole—unfortunately, he cannot read what it says on the other side. But no matter: he takes out a pair of shears and cuts the cable, ending the transmission between Don and the
SPIKE: Well…Winslow’s radio will never send another message…
(Splendor and Blake come running up to the power pole where Corley cut the wire)
BARSAC: Look…Winslow’s Irish stooge and Blake…
Honest to my grandma—the first time I heard him say that I could have sworn he said “Winslow’s Irish stew.”
SPLENDOR (to Blake): Aw, sure—there’s no use tryin’ to do anythin’ with those wires…
BARSAC: Here’s a chance to take two more of Winslow’s gang…
If you have a passing familiarity with cliffhanger serials, you may be aware that many of them—even the good, classic ones—often concocted what was called a “recap” chapter. This chapter would consist of ample footage from previous installments (allowing them to cut a few corners in the production budget), and would usually involve either the heroes or villains reminiscing about what they did in the past to foil the machinations of the good or bad guys.
Don Winslow of the Navy does not need to resort to this kind of cinematic chicanery…but then again, they don’t have to. They are able to generously sample of a lot of stock footage courtesy of the U.S. Navy, and this is no more evident than in “Caught in the Caverns.” It’s sixteen minutes long; the opening credits eat up about two minutes of that, and I’d be willing to bet at least seven minutes are made up of crew members scrambling off the cruiser and getting into boats (this is the “landing party”) while other scenes of sailors sending semaphore messages are spliced in. This is a positive boon to the lazy writers, who really only had to come up with seven minutes of plot for this chapter…which we now return to, back in Merlin’s lair:
BARSAC: We captured Splendor and Blake…we put them in the intercave room with the two girls…Winslow’s radio is completely out of commission!
MERLIN: Good! How far did he get with that radio message?
BARSAC: He radioed the
to send a landing party to attack us at once! Eureka
MERLIN: He sent that landing party to a sure death…
BARSAC: You mean the mines?
MERLIN: Certainly…take Corley and get to that control shack as fast as you can…
BARSAC: And blow up every boat that tries to pass the mine…
MERLIN: Right! (Corley and Barsac take off) Spike…round up all the miners…cover the beaches in case of any of that landing party should get through…
“And change that shirt you’re wearing…it clashes with your tie.” Merlin puffs out his chest in pure supervillain fashion, muttering “I’ll teach Winslow what it means to attack me.” But he’s forgotten that he’s merely the second-in-command in this operation, so to make sure no one in the audience has forgotten this either, it’s time for our weekly visit from you-know-who.
MERLIN: We have failed to intercept the cruiser and the transport…they are now about to put a party ashore to attack the mine and the village…
SCORPION: You have bungled this job, M-22, to the point where your only chance of success…is to fight to the death…you know the penalty if you fail…
I’m going to take a stab at a guess here…more death?
MERLIN: Yes, Master…that’s what we’re preparing to do now…fight to the death!
To the death! Keep in mind that this residual force from the
is going up against a henchman named Spike and a few men who work in a gold
mine. What’s the over/under on this
turning out well for The Scorpion?
More stock footage follows; it’s essentially a repeat of what we saw earlier, with a few shots of the mighty mining force taking positions on the beach as the landing party starts to approach the island in boats. There is then a cut to the warehouse radio room:
RED: I called the Pacific Hotel and they haven’t been seen there since this morning! Couldn’t get a trace of them!
“They’re out somewhere on Tangita with a couple of johns.”
RED: That’s where I’m going!
“Let me explain this to you one last time…I’m the hero…you’re the sidekick.” Don tells Red that he’s got to go out to the 620 and radio Captain Tilbert about that mine field he’s liable to sail through. “We can’t stand a chance of having an entire landing party wiped out!” he pleads with Red.
In the meantime, faithful Seaman Chapman wants to know what he can do to help. Don tells him to scout around the mines and look for any sign of the girls while he (the hero) heads out to locate the “control shack” that operates the mines. “We can’t take a chance on Lieutenant Pennington not reaching the 620 before Captain Tilbert makes his attack!”
It would appear Don knows his ginger-haired buddy all too well…for in the next scene, Red is trying to start up the motorboat…with no success. Nothing more comes of this other than Red grabbing a wrench and opening up the back to see what’s wrong, so we’ll move on to The History Channel’s The Battle for Tangita…as an unnamed henchman editorializes while Barsac looks through a periscope.
“We can’t stand a chance.” “We can’t take a chance.” “We haven’t got a chance.” I don’t want to say anything before all the facts are in but it sounds to me as if this thing were being written on the fly. A self-assured Barsac chuckles and says, “They won’t land…once they get over that minefield, it will be the end of them.”
Spike can be spotted among the platoon of miners, and he brings his hand down in a signal for the firing to commence. Meanwhile, Barsac has farmed out the operation of stopping the landing party to the previous underling, demonstrating that when the indicator hands are at zero he’s to pull the patented Evil Scientist Switches and blow them ships up real good. You are no doubt asking yourself: “Why would he entrust this task to such a minor league staffer?” Well, as stated previously in our serial hypothesis, Barsac is apparently a relative on The Scorpion’s payroll…and when the eventual you-know-what hits the proverbial fan, he’ll no doubt escape serious retribution in the form of The Scorpion’s deadly sting.
The tension begins to mount as close-ups of the indicator are intercut with shots of the miners and landing party exchanging gunfire. But soft! In the distance is Don Winslow of the Freaking Navy, who is running toward the control shack at top speed. How has he managed to locate the shack, when in earlier chapters he was constantly stymied by the whereabouts of several other bad guy outposts in the jungle? I suppose he could have heard the gunfire and pinpointed the location…but he lobs a live grenade in the direct pathway of the shack, which to be honest is kind of a hundred-to-one shot…
Don arrives at the mine entrance. The Scorpion’s agents, realizing security is a top priority, have a single man guarding the elevator—the henchman called Rocky, whom we met in last week’s chapter. And he has his back turned to Winslow, so Don essentially taps him on the shoulder and then sends him to the floor with a sock to the jaw…despite Don’s previous record of not being able to punch his way through Cool Whip. Don then descends to the bottom of the shaft and instinctively pushes his way past the barrier to the mine’s secret Scorpion clubhouse.
BARSAC: We haven’t got a chance…
There’s that “chance” thing again.
MERLIN: Yes, we have…all I have to do is blow out the main lateral tunnel and plug up the entrance…no one can reach us then…
Merlin pulls a switch, and a loud explosion sends Don to the floor of the tunnel. He pulls another switch, and Don just narrowly misses being explodiated. “The last one,” Merlin muses. “It’ll take a month to dig into the mine after this one!”