“The Joker Trumps an Ace” / “Batman Sets the Pace”
Written by Francis & Marian Cockrell
Directed by Richard C. Sarafian
Season 1, Episodes 25 and 26
Production code 8727
Original air dates: April 6 and 7, 1966
The Bat-signal: The Joker robs a fur store, tying the customers and staff up in streamers, and then stealing all the hairpins from a socialite’s hair. This is reported to Gordon, who reveals that Joker previously stole a hole from a golf course. He calls Batman, which interrupts Bruce and Dick doing a jigsaw puzzle upside down (it helps test visual memory).
While they were en route, a package was delivered to Gordon. Batman opens it “carefully” (he listens with a stethoscope then, after insisting he’ll open with extreme care, he slices the wrapping open with a pocket knife), then Robin, Gordon, and O’Hara stand behind the Bat-shield while Batman opens the box.
It turns out to just be a blow-up doll of some kind of Asian caricature that’s actually pretty danged offensive looking. It’s also hiding a tape, which has a recording of the Joker telling a stupid joke about a goldfish. Somehow, this leads them to the conclusion that he’s going after the Maharajah of Nimpah, who is playing golf with jewel-encrusted gold clubs at the same golf course from which Joker stole the hole.
Joker is already at the golf course, taking a look around the fairway from his perch atop a raised forklift (hidden by trees). Batman and Robin arrive (to the consternation of two guests of the country club), and are lead to a terrace by the club’s owner, Mr. Prescott. It was Prescott’s wife whose hairpins the Joker stole earlier, and he informs Batman that the Maharajah has started his golf game, playing with Mayor Linseed. The Maharajah needs assistance to lower and raise his corpulent form to check his shot in the hole.
When he sinks his putt, a yellow gas emits from the first hole rendering the mayor, the Maharajah, and the latter’s retinue unconscious. The Dynamic Duo sees this from afar, and their response is to stand and watch for several seconds before finally going to the Batmobile. They drive onto the green just in time to watch the Joker’s goons take both the golf clubs and—using the forklift (did I mention his corpulent form?)—the Maharajah. It’s just the henchmen, though—the Joker himself is nowhere to be seen. (This will be important later.)
But by the time they catch up to the truck, all they find is a miniature version of it—the truck itself seemingly vanished. Inside is a bad joke about cats, dogs, and $50,000, and they figure it indicates that Joker’s hideout is the Katz, Katz, & Katz Refinery, which has been abandoned for years. (Wouldn’t that be a better hideout for Catwoman?)
They arrive to find the front door open. Working their way through the darkened refinery, they eventually hear Joker’s laugh, and they find the Clown Prince of Crime himself playing poker with his thugs. But they’re actually looking at a mirror image—which was also how the truck disappeared on the golf course—and the thugs are able to ambush the Dynamic Duo and tie them up while the Joker sings a silly song at them.
Jill, his moll, thinks they don’t deserve to die, and Joker decides to give them a fighting chance, against the better judgment of his thugs (who think giving them a chance to live will be the biggest mistake of his criminal career). He shoves them in a smokestack, which he plans to fill. If they can survive for an hour, he’ll let them go. To make it more of a challenge, he neutralizes the devices in their utility belts. (Why he doesn’t just remove the belts is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
They get out of the ropes in due course, but then realize that Joker intends to fill the smokestack with gas, not water. (Robin angrily complains that they can’t float in gas, but the Joker gleefully reminds him that they can drown in it.) Jill is devastated that Joker went back on his word.
Then the Dynamic Duo go back to back, interlock their arms, and climb up the sides of the smokestack. The Joker gets rid of the gas and is furious to see no bodies. Our heroes climb out of the smokestack onto the roof. The Joker and his gang drive off in the van, and Batman and Robin head back to the Batcave, examining the hole and the hairpin the Joker stole, and realize that the gas the Joker used can only be found at Ferguson’s Novelties. They head to the shop as Bruce and Dick, figuring it’s a front for the Joker, and best to be inconspicuous.
Sure enough, it is a front for the Joker’s operation, and it’s where they’re keeping the Maharajah. Bruce is able to determine where the back room is where they’re keeping their prisoner.
They head back to the Batcave after taking a picture of the front of the novelty shop. In the Batcave, they examine the photo—which they, for some reason, took the time to get framed—so Batman can show Robin how hard it is to break into it. However, he spied a grille that covers an air duct that leads to the hills behind the shop.
Under the cover of darkness, the Dynamic Duo search the hills for the duct, find it, and leap down, bursting through the grille and declaring everyone under arrest. But Joker was ready for them, and he has a panel for defense against such a surprise attack, conveniently labelled, “SURPRISE ATTACK DEFENSE PANEL.” (Every novelty shop should have one!) He activates it, which sends confetti, streamers, and honking noises throughout the room.
Fisticuffs ensue, and Batman and Robin take care of the thugs, but the Joker and Jill escape.
Batman calls Gordon just as the Joker contacts Gordon via the police band with the ransom. The Maharajah asks for Batman’s help in paying the ransom with a personal check of the Maharajah’s. Batman, unwilling to risk the Maharajah’s life, reluctantly agrees.
The next day, they meet at the Gotham City State Bank (yes, it’s really called that). The Maharajah writes a check to Batman (“One T,” Batman cautions as he fills it out) for $500,000, Batman endorses it, and the bank gives over a suitcase full of money. But then, while the Maharajah babbles, Batman surreptitiously sticks him with a bat-arrow. Fisticuffs ensue, and it is soon revealed that there is no Maharajah: it’s the Joker in a fat suit and one of False Face’s masks. Turns out that the Maharajah was never in Gotham City, it was all a plot to get the half-million bucks, and also to tarnish Batman’s name by having it be on a bad check.
Not an hour later, Gordon calls on the Bat-phone. Alfred is rather surprised, as they only just finished putting the Joker away, but Gordon insists, so Alfred interrupts Bruce and Dick’s tea with Aunt Harriet to take the call. They’ve heard a rumor that Batman is running for governor of California, but Bruce assures him that that will never happen. (Why, they’d sooner elect a washed-up old actor!)
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Bat-shield is back! The best part is that Robin folds it up, gestures as if he’s going to hide it under his cape, and then very obviously just drops it to the floor behind the table in Gordon’s office. Batman uses the teeny-tiny yellow bat-binoculars to investigate the golf course. The metal analyzer in the Batcave is of little use but the hyperspectrographic analyzer identifies the gas the Joker used on the golf course. Batman uses a bat-arrow (which is too long to fit in any of the utility belt sections) to poke the fake Maharajah and determine that he’s wearing a fat suit.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy jack-in-the-box!” Robin cries upon seeing a giant blow-up doll emerge from a box. “Holy Taj Mahal!” he utters after getting a load of the Maharajah’s jewel-encrusted golf clubs. “Holy tee shot!” he screams when they lose the Joker’s gang after they kidnap the Maharajah. “Holy shrinkage!” he says when they find the toy truck. “Holy spider-webs,” he mutters when they walk through the abandoned refinery. “Holy eight-ball,” he laments when they’re tied up in the Joker’s rope. “Holy smokestack!” he observes upon realizing that they’re in, erm, a smokestack. “Holy impregnability!” he screams when realizing how hard it will be to break into the novelty store. “Holy camouflage!” he exclaims upon realizing they can get in through the air duct. “Holy molehill, they went into the mountain,” he wordplays upon discovering that Joker and Jill have gotten away. “Holy Golden Gate!” he grumbles when Gordon calls to ask if Batman’s running for governor of California.
Gotham City’s finest. Gordon and O’Hara stay very late at the office waiting for Batman to call. In fact, Gordon’s undone his tie and has fallen asleep on his office couch when the call finally comes in. Doesn’t the poor bastard have a home to go to?
Special Guest Villain. Back for his third and final appearance of the season, following “He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul,” is Cesar Romero as the Joker. He won’t return until about a third of the way through season two in “The Impractical Joker.” It has the odd feature of Romero doing a little chant-like song. Romero was also a singer, though this was hardly the best showcase for that talent. Not surprising that this was never done again…
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“If my trigonometry is correct, then based on this photograph, it should emerge right here.”
“Gosh, Batman, I’ll never neglect my math again.”
–Batman drawing a triangle on a picture and trying to pass it off as trig, with Robin being reminded that you do use math in real life.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 13 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum Kevin Lauderdale, author, journalist, poet, and podcaster.
This is one of two stories by the husband-and-wife team of Francis & Marian Cockrell, who will return to pen “The Minstrel’s Shakedown”/”Barbecued Batman?” in season two. They were both veteran screenwriters, though they only sometimes collaborated. Something else they collaborated on was their daughter, novelist Amanda Cockrell, author of, among other things, Pomegranate Seed.
This is the first of two appearances by Byron Keith as Mayor Linseed, a play on John Lindsay, who took office as mayor of New York City at the beginning of 1966, swearing his oath of office just eleven days prior to Batman‘s debut. He’ll be seen again later in the season in “The Bookworm Turns.”
Joker’s truck is labelled “Let Gayfellow take you to the Cleaners,” which I mention only because Cesar Romero was referred to as a “confirmed bachelor,” which was often Hollywood code for “homosexual” (SEE ALSO: Liberace). I only even mention it because the truck doesn’t really make any sense, as it doesn’t track with either of the Joker’s hideouts in the episode (a refinery and a novelty shop). Then again, it just fits in with everything else in this story that doesn’t make sense.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “If they do not see the joke, pull the rope and let them choke!” What a mess of a story. The Joker robs a fur shop just to steal the hairpins of the wife of the golf club owner? And a hole in the golf course so he can gimmick it with a gas to render the Maharajah unconscious?
And then in the end the Joker is the Maharajah? Basically, it was all an elaborate con to get half a million dollars and disgrace Batman. Er, okay, sure. But if that’s the case, then why try to kill Batman in the smokestack? If he needed Batman for the Maharajah scheme, why try to gas him to death? Also, how can a check made out to “Batman” actually be cash-able by a bank?
Plus we have a truly offensive performance by Dan Seymore as the Maharajah (or, rather, Joker disguised as the Maharajah), with his weirdly broken English and all the weak-tea fat jokes, both visual on the golf course and verbal from Aunt Harriet in the tag.
Speaking of the tag, what the hell? Alfred and Bruce are confused by the Bat-phone ringing at the end of an episode, as if criminals all work on a timetable, and agree not to step on each others’ toes. (“Hang on, Riddler, Joker only just went back to jail. Let’s give it a day before tormenting Batman.”) All so we can get a stupid joke about the California gubernatorial election. (It was a big thing in 1966, as incumbent Governor Pat Brown’s popularity was declining—plus he was running for a third term after saying he wouldn’t—and a bunch of candidates on both the Democrat and Republican side were promising to “clean up” California, still reeling from the Watts riots and antiwar demonstrations at UC Berkley. Eventually Ronald Reagan won in a landslide.)
I meant to mention this in “True or False Face” / “Holy Rat Race,” but there were times when it was really obvious that Victor Paul, Burt Ward’s stunt double, looked about as much like Ward as Madge Blake did. The False Face two-parter had a couple of shots where the use of the double was blindingly obvious, and “Batman Sets the Pace” had a couple as well, both the first shot of the pair of them climbing up the smokestack, and most of the shots in the novelty store fight scene, where director Richard C. Sarafian probably thought all the Joker’s streamers and confetti would disguise the faces (they didn’t).
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Arisia 2016 this weekend in Boston, Massachusetts, along with guests of honor John Scalzi, Johnna Y. Klukas, Pablo Miguel Alberto Vazquez III, and Venetia Charles. His full schedule—which includes a tribute Batman on its 50th anniversary—can be found here.