Profuse apologies for not getting up the weekly adventures of
Oh, and nephew Davis also brought over his extensive set of Thomas and Friends railroad tracks, which we worked on for a good part of the afternoon. We don’t really have the room needed for a honkin’ big layout—and the card table we build it on can only hold so much, so most of the time we find ourselves frustrated that we’re unable to reenact the “golden spike” moment of the construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Such is life.
As this week’s episode opens, we find chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Aggie Thompson (Fran Ryan) dutifully performing her menial household tasks…and for a woman who’s about to lose her job in another six weeks she doesn’t seem too concerned with working up a resume for her next employer. She is swabbing down the family kitchen when she is interrupted by the telephone ringing, and is momentarily flummoxed at having to stop what she is doing to answer it (the fact that Lord Nelson, the faithful family sheepdog once the property of the family on Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, is barking up a storm does not help matters either). Fortunately, handyman Leroy B.
AGGIE: The way Nelson’s been carrying on, you’d think it was for him…
(Leroy walks over to the phone and picks it up)
LEROY: Hello? Just a minute…it’s for you, Nelson…
What??? What kind of wackiness is this? Lord Nelson gallops over to where Leroy is standing, and the ranch hand puts the receiver up to the dog, who barks a few times.
LEROY: Anything else? Fine…thank you…bye… (He hangs up the phone, and as Lord Nelson runs out of the kitchen he prepares to follow)
AGGIE: Wait a minute…if you think you’re going out of here without telling me what that was all about…you got another think coming…
LEROY: Oh, that was the vet…he wanted to check on how Nelson was after those shots last week…?
AGGIE: Uh-huh…and did Nelson tell him?
LEROY: Heck no, Aggie…dogs can’t talk…you ought to know that…
AGGIE: I thought I did…
“I’m warning you, Dobbs!” Leroy explains to Aggie that the vet could tell how Nelson was by listening to him bark, and a relieved Aggie cracks: “For a minute there I thought you were giving me the Gaslight treatment…” Leroy is puzzled by the reference (which is sort of odd, since it was previously mentioned he was a movie magazine fan) and Aggie doesn’t bother to explain it to him because slowly ticking clock. Back to her work, the ringing of the phone interrupts her again and she mutters that this call had better not be for the stolen dog.
|"I'm what? Fired?!!"|
Two weeks ago in “The Uniform,” Doris argued with her father (Denver Pyle) that the reason her youngest kid (Tod Starke) had to tell her a bald-faced lie about being accepted into the school choir was, and I quote, “We didn’t give him any room to fail…” Apparently the necessary tweaks to the reward system in that household still have not gone into effect.
In case you’ve dozed off during the narrative, Billy (Philip Brown), Toby and the elder Webb are attending a Father-Son picnic…with grandfather Buck having to fill in for the boys’ deceased father. A scene that follows the Billy phone call finds Aggie dumping a bucket of hot water into a tub by one of the breakfast table chairs as The Widow Martin (Doris Day) enters the kitchen after a grueling day in the garden.
AGGIE (still pouring): First aid for the athlete…he’ll need it…
AGGIE: If I know him—he’ll need medical attention…
AGGIE: Do you wanna bet?
AGGIE: An even three million…
AGGIE: It’s a deal…
Oh ho! More clues to The Singular Case of the Sacked Servant continue to pile up! Well, at this point in the narrative the boys and Buck arrive back at the farm—the kids come in first, for reasons that will be apparent in a minute…
BILLY: Yeah! I’m starved!
AGGIE: I packed you enough food to feed an army…what did you do with it?
“Fed an army.”
TOBY: Yeah…you couldn’t help it…
“You’re old, and should have been put out to pasture ages ago…”
“Even though you really suck at that, you little (expletive deleted).”
BILLY (to his mom): It wasn’t his fault…
TOBY: Yeah…he can’t help it if he doesn’t know how to run…
BILLY: Or jump…
TOBY: Or anything…
Kids…he’s in the room!
Doris lightly scolds
her sons that they’re being too hard on the old man but Buck agrees that
they’re right—he’s not much of an athlete.
(“Though you might want to think about who makes it possible for you to
shove pie and shortcake down your gullets, you little nincompoops.”) Since they came in last in every event, the
kids have devised a cunning plan to insure that next year they’ll be back for
seconds when it comes to bragging rights.
BILLY: We won’t need Grandpa next year if you could get married again…
TOBY: Yeah…to a good runner…
Grant’s available… Cary
TOBY: Is he a good runner?
He’s more of a walker, if that film I watched with him and Samantha Eggar is any indication.
BILLY: But it’s a pretty good idea, isn’t it, Mom?
AGGIE: It would be nice having Cary Grant hanging around the house…
AGGIE: How about Rock
Not necessarily a laugh-out-loud moment…but the mention of two of Dodo’s former movie co-stars did make me smile. Buck explains to the kids that
won’t be marrying anyone any soon because “in order to marry somebody, you got
to get to know them—and to get to know them you gotta go out with them.” Miffed that her father has essentially
described her love life in terms of a cloistered nun, she takes the piece of
fruit she was nibbling on and throws it into the tub of water, drenching
The scene shifts to the boys’ bedroom. It is late at night.
|"Billy? Do you ever think about...death?"|
“Though it won’t be too terrible…in fact, I have grown quite fond of seeing my underpants flap proudly at half-mast.”
TOBY: You think if we exercise Grandpa he’ll be better next year?
BILLY: No…I think we’re just too late…
TOBY: What are we going to do?
The solution is that
Doris must marry
a good runner…and to Billy’s mind, the man who fits that description is a
deputy sheriff (and former star quarterback) with the unfortunate name of
“Ubbie Puckum.” To any of you out there
named “Ubbie” or “Puckum”…it is not my intention to poke merciless fun of your
name—though in my defense I will say I’m able to walk a mile in your shoes
having been branded with “Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.” all my life. (No, the “G” does not stand for “Walter.”)
Toby thinks this is a great idea—if
would agree to become Mrs. Ubbie Puckum, “we wouldn’t have to worry about
burglars!” The kids’ voices are
apparently starting to carry down the hallway, because we can hear Doris
tell both her sons to knock that noise off.
The next morning at breakfast, Aggie is piling up a mess o’flapjacks
when Buck enters the kitchen, looking a little ragged—he barely has the
strength to pick up his gi-normous coffee cup.
Aggie can’t resist teasing him, and Buck is on the defensive:
AGGIE: You don’t look so good either…
“And you certainly have the figure for that last one…”
AGGIE: How could he have overdone it? He finished last in everything…
And now that Buck’s emasculation is complete,
suspiciously cheerful sons enter the breakfast nook, and their mother invites
them to dig in.
BILLY: Mom—do you know Deputy Puckum?
The two masterminds look at one another with evil grins, and then the scene shifts to what presumably is the Cotina police station. A uniformed man sweeps the floor, but upon spotting a mirror over a wash basin takes the time to fish a comb out and go to work on his hair.
That actor is character great Noam Pitlik—a man you’ve seen in countless reruns of Hogan’s Heroes, Ben Casey, The Fugitive and The Flying Nun…and in recurring roles on I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster (as Bentley, one of the construction guys), The Bob Newhart Show (as Mr. Gianelli) and Sanford and Son (as Officer “Swanny” Swanhauser). But in 1973, Noam put his comedy experience to work behind the camera, and helmed episodes of sitcom favorites Taxi, One Day at a Time, Wings and many others. Pitlik directed 102 episodes (out of 168) of the classic comedy series Barney Miller, and for his efforts in the episode “Fog” he won an Emmy for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Comedy Series.
As Mr. Puckum grooms his coif, his superior, Sheriff Ben Anders, wanders out of the office and stares at him in disbelief. He’s a recognizable TV face, too—character actor Frank Maxwell. Many, many guest appearances dot Frank’s small screen resume; such shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, Rawhide, The Fugitive and The F.B.I. Maxwell, a one-time president of AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), also had a recurring role on a bizarre sitcom entitled The Second Hundred Years (as Colonel Garroway): the premise on this one had Monte Markham playing two roles—first, as a prospector named Luke Carpenter who’s buried in an Alaskan avalanche in 1900 and when found sixty-seven years later has been so cryogenically preserved that his son Edwin (Arthur O’Connell) is actually physically older!
Maxwell’s longest-running TV gig was as the employer (Duncan MacRoberts) to Our Man Higgins, another also-ran in the sitcom sweepstakes seen on NBC than ran a single season (1962-63) but did have the novelty of featuring My Fair Lady’s Stanley Holloway playing the titular butler. (The show had originally appeared on radio as It’s Higgins, Sir—replacing Bob Hope’s show for thirteen weeks in 1951 and featuring It Pays to Be Ignorant’s Harry McNaughton.) Oh, and I didn’t know this about Frank until I did the research—but he was apparently married at one time to Maxine Stuart, whom we sadly bid farewell to on June 6 of this year at the age of 94. One of the iron ladies of TV, Stuart had regular roles on such series as Norby, Room for One More, Executive Suite, The Rousters, Hearts Afire and The Pursuit of Happiness—but will remain forever immortal as the bandaged patient (before she’s transformed into Elly Mae Clampett) in the classic Twilight Zone episode “The Eye of the Beholder.”
The third member of this law enforcement trio is actor Carl Byrd in the role of Deputy Dan Case (Deputy Dan…has no friends)…and the only reason why I’m not going to go on at great length about his show business accomplishments is that I’m simply not familiar with his work. His last credit, according to the always reliable IMDb, is a bit part in the 1984 film Irreconcilable Differences—there’s no other info on him, so if you’re reading this, C.B…I’m sorry you had to be in this episode.
ANDERS: Did you go out to the Henry place like I asked you?
PUCKUM: Yes, sir!
PUCKUM: That little gal of his sure is cute…didn’t take her eyes off me the whole time I was there…
Probably never saw sh*t stacked that high.
ANDERS: Ubbie…what about the stolen cattle?
PUCKUM: Oh, they weren’t stolen…I found ‘em out in the brush—it was a break in his fence…
PUCKUM: Yeah, I thought I’d have to fight her off before I could get back here…
Deputy Dan shakes his head as if to say: “Do you believe this cracker?” Outside the police station, Billy and Toby watch Puckum go through his grooming ritual…with Toby remarking “He sure combs his hair a lot.”
“Yeah, but once he ran the 100-yard dash in ten seconds,” counters his brother. (Imagine how fast he could have done it if he hadn’t been combing his hair.) So the Brothers Martin go inside and meet-and-greet with Sheriff Anders and his crack team of lawmen (and I call them that because…well, you know how that joke goes), then start dropping hints about needing a lift home. (Puckum confuses the boys’ identities in several attempts to mine laughs.) Anders offers to help them, since he’ll be going that way but Billy insists it has to be “Playa” Puckum, on account of “my mom wants to get to know him better.”
Schwing! That gets Li’l Ubbie’s attention, and he tells the kids to wait out in his car. Then it’s a little more combing, a couple of splashes of Hai Karate and we’re off to the races…
PUCKUM: Well, you fellows know Doris Martin…comes from the big city…got lots of class…I mean, I’ve been wanting to get to know her better but…I figured maybe it’s not for me, you know…
CASE: Your modesty amazes me, Ubbie…
PUCKUM: And all this time she’s just been waiting for me to make the first move…that poor kid…can you imagine what she’s been going through?
I’d say a case of Scotch, if you seriously think she’s set her cap for you, Pucko. “Doris Martin—your dream is about to come true,” he brays as he heads out of the station. Sheriff Anders stares at his remaining deputy.
ANDERS: Will you tell me one thing, Dan? Why do I keep him?
CASE: Because beneath that shy and modest exterior, there’s a good police officer…
“…and a man who is very devoted to his uncle, the mayor.” The scene shifts to the outside of Webb Manor, where Deputy Puckum is pulling up to the grounds (with the siren on) as chickens scatter every which way but loose. Doris, Buck and Aggie come out to the front yard from all directions—concerned at first, but Ubbie assures them that there’s no trouble…he was just bein’ neighborly and drivin’ the boys home.
PUCKUM: Nothin’…just thought I’d give the kids a thrill…and let
Doris get to know me
Doris stares at
Ubbie with a “Say what?” expression)
PUCKUM: Why what?
PUCKUM: Well…uh…I thought…uh…I mean…they…uh…
PUCKUM (as he drives off): Arrivederci, folks!
Hasty banana to you, too, douchebag…
BILLY: Well…did you get to know him better, Mom?
TOBY: Are you gonna marry him, Mom?
And so has Buck, who stumbles over to the porch wheezing and laughing as
Doris lectures the kids on the horrible,
horrible thing they’ve done. “Do you
mind if I pick my own friends?” she asks them.
They are sent into the kitchen for their daily milk, with Billy
grumbling “There goes the football game…”
Still on the porch, Buck continues to have his laughing jag…and I’ll admit I did laugh out loud at this because Pyle’s laughter is infectious (he should have laughed through entire episodes—it could only help) and he stamps his foot while chortling, which is very funny.
Back from the Ralston-Purina break, we fade in on a shot of Deputy Puckum in his patrol car outside
PUCKUM: Want a ride home?
BILLY: No, thank you, sir…
“We thought we’d engage in frivolous child-like pursuits with our school chums as opposed to climbing into a car with someone we’re not too sure about.” But Ubbie is on a mission, and he’s not taking no for an answer—he orders the boys to get into the car.
The next scene is similar to the previous one—Ubbie pulls up to Webb Farms, siren a-goin’. Inside the kitchen, Aggie cries out “Oh, no!”—a subtle indication that Puckum is starting to make this a regular habit. The boys come tearing into the house, almost as if they came close to experiencing an ordeal with a guy who’s on a short list for NBC’s To Catch a Predator.
TOBY: Grandpa—this time he really made us!
BILLY: He practically forced us at gunpoint!
TOBY: And he’s waitin’ outside to talk to Mom!
BILLY: I told him she wasn’t here but he wouldn’t believe me!
“Make them stop, Grandpa! Make the nightmares stop!” Buck reassures the kids that every thing is okay, and asks Aggie to serve them up some…yes; you guessed it, freshly baked cookies. “After dealing with Ubbie Puckum,” notes Aggie, “it’s the least they deserve.” Buck will go upstairs and tell
A scene dissolve finds the Puckster on the porch admiring himself in the shiny metal of his service pistol as both Buck and Doris appear at the front door;
PUCKUM: I’m a little disappointed in you…
PUCKUM: I expected you to give me a call…
PUCKUM (smiling as he walks over to her): You don’t have to be shy with me,
Doris…we got a lot in common…
PUCKUM: Just ‘cause I’m a small-town deputy don’t mean I don’t know my way around…
GPS in the
PUCKUM: I’ve been to
…now there’s a
Well, the mating dance continues from here on out—Ubbie wants to take
PUCKUM: I like to take a date someplace she’s never been…you’ll love it…they got the best French dip sandwiches you ever tasted…
PUCKUM: Would I kid you? (Pause) Know what the secret is?
PUCKUM: Nah…the onions…whole thing’s smothered in onions…knock your hat off!
“You don’t have to worry about that,” she whispers seductively. “Because they all go to bed early.” Yowsah! Ubbie’s gonna get himself some widow lovin’! He agrees to make it , and leaps off the porch toward his car, floating on cloud nine. This means, of course, that he does this time-honored bit of comedy…
I should probably say here for the record…I don’t think anyone’s endorsing that idea, Buck.
AGGIE: Don’t ask me…I just quit…
AGGIE: I’ll send you a check…
“Keep it up, old lady—and I will fire your ass faster than you can say ‘Doris Ziffel’!”
has the situation well in hand…and she invites Aggie to sit down with her and
Buck so that she can spell out the details of her eevill plan…
A scene shift finds a merry Ubbie bounding out onto Doris’ porch, clearly sated with the marvelous meal she cooked (though it was probably Aggie’s doing) and looking forward to getting busy in the porch swing, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
PUCKUM: Sure was a fine supper, Doris…just fine…
Ubbie’s reaction to this? Complete unbridled hilarity, so I’m guessing that phrase hasn’t caught on in
Phoenix yet. “That’s a good one—you make that up?” he asks
her. Hoo boy. “That’s what I like about city girls—they
crack jokes a lot,” he beams. (If only
she could do that more often on this program.)
Ubbie starts to make a move on Doris (in getting away from him, she bangs her head on one of the porch supports—that did make me laugh) but is interrupted by Aggie, who asks the deputy if there’s anything else he wants. “We want you to feel right at home,” she tells him, “now that you’re practically one of the family.”
Ubbie gets a little nauseous at this, so
asks if they could look through the scrapbook he brought over…and the two of
them situate themselves on the porch.
“You’ll get a kick out of this,” he assures her. “It’s the pigskin career of Ubbie
PUCKUM (putting his arm around her shoulder): That’s what the fans used to call me…the Cotina Cannonball…’cause the way I tore through the line…now…this picture shows me making my first touchdown…
Well, this explains things a little clearer. Ubbie may be a stud muffin, but he’s also a commitment-phobe.
is gushing at the pictures in his scrapbook and purring about how strong he
is…and then she asks him if he likes children, because she knows he “will make
a wonderful father.”
PUCKUM: It’s awful warm out here…
DORIS: You know, you may think four is too many…but you shouldn’t feel that way about it because I’m thrifty…I’m a good cook and I make all my own…I made this…
PUCKUM (suddenly getting up from the swing): You suppose…uh…I could have a glass of water?
PUCKUM: Well…it won’t be easy…but you’ll get over it…
PUCKUM: I’m no good for you,
Doris…we’re from two different
worlds…yours is peaceful and quiet…mine’s gunplay and danger…
There are only two kinds of horndogs…the quick and the dead. “It’s a jungle out there,” he goes on. “My job is to tame that jungle.”
PUCKUM: When I say goodbye in the morning…there’s always a chance I may never come back…
PUCKUM: It wouldn’t be fair to you,
Doris…so…no tears…let’s just say…auf wiedersehen and goodbye…
And…Ubbie falls over the porch railing.
Doris and Buck have retired to the living room—Buck is reading his paper, while
Down the stairs come those lovable, adorable urchins—and they’ve been motherhenning another idea!
TOBY: See…I told ya…
BILLY: Then as long as you’re not going to get married…we’re stuck with Grandpa…and we just gotta get him in shape…
TOBY: We’re going to train him!
BILLY: Right…Grandpa…it’s not that we don’t like you the way you are…
TOBY: We really do…honest!
BILLY: But we just gotta do better next year…
TOBY: Yeah…a lot better…
BILLY: Great…first thing we do is put you on a diet…’cause you’re fat…
“Look, you little…if I want any sh*t out of you I’ll squeeze your head…” Buck tells the kids that if he starts dieting and running every day he might not make it to next year. But when
conjures up the spirit of Ubbie Puckum, he tells the boys to go upstairs and
get his tennis shoes. (Fat-shaming your
grandfather…what are kids coming to?)