Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch, Batman! “Fine Finny Fiends” / “Batman Makes the Scenes”

“Fine Finny Fiends” / “Batman Makes the Scenes”
Written by Sheldon Stark
Directed by Tom Gries
Season 1, Episodes 33 and 34
Production code 8733
Original air dates: May 4 and 5, 1966

The Bat-signal: Alfred heads to a fish store that has a special on cut-rate caviar. As he’s testing the caviar, the umbrella over the barrel closes, and then one of the fish store clerks gasses Alfred. (Why the butler of a multimillionaire is bargain hunting for caviar is left as an exercise for the viewer.)

Cut to O’Hara, who tells Gordon that witnesses saw an unconscious Alfred (“the Wayne butler”) being put into a car by people carrying umbrellas. (How passers-by on a side street in Gotham recognized Bruce Wayne’s butler is also left as an exercise for the viewer.) Given that it’s a sunny day out (William Dozier specifically told us at the top of the episode that it was “another lovely day”), the presence of umbrellas must mean the Penguin. And the Penguin means calling Batman.

Bruce puts up a good front, but is obviously devastated to learn that Alfred is the kidnap victim. They slide down the bat-poles, hop in the Batmobile, and head to police HQ. Robin is confused as to why there’s been no ransom demand, but Batman believes that Alfred was taken not for ransom but information: he’s the majordomo at the Multimillionaire’s Annual Award Dinner at which the 1% donate a million bucks each to their favorite charity. The location of the dinner is kept secret—but Alfred knows it, and may give it to the Penguin. They go to check the location of the fake fish store, while O’Hara asks all exits from the parking lot to be cleared for the Batmobile even though they still keep parking on the street? What the hell, man?????

Cut to the Penguin’s hideout, where he’s writing with an umbrella dipped in ink. (Yes, really.) His henchmen are questioning Alfred, while his moll, Finella, is practicing for the bathing beauty contest that Penguin has promised to get her into.

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However, Alfred has no information to give, as the location hasn’t been chosen yet. But Penguin has the Penguin Box, which looks like a steambath with Christmas lights around it, but can also brainwash the subject completely. (In the time it took the henchmen to move Alfred from the cage to the Penguin Box, Finella changed clothes.) When he’s done, Alfred is completely in Penguin’s power.

Batman and Robin find the fish store completely cleaned out, aside from a bit of caviar smeared on the wall and the crumpled-up circular that drew Alfred to the store in the first place. It lists the proprietor of the store as Knott A. Fish, which is an obvious pseudonym for Penguin, since a penguin is not a fish, but as usual it is left to Batman to figure out the blindingly obvious while Robin and the cops stand around with their thumbs in their ears.

Gordon calls to give Batman good news for a change: Alfred has turned up safe and sound at Wayne Manor. (While Gordon tells Batman this, O’Hara can be seen in the background shaking hands with his top officers, all insufferably pleased with themselves for having actually accomplished something for once in their miserable lives.)

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The Dynamic Duo head to the Batcave to find Alfred smelling of fish—which is the inevitable result of buying 20 pounds of caviar, as Alfred archly points out—and saying that he never went to any fish store, but got the caviar where he always does: at the Iranian Embassy. (Ah, the 1960s…)

But Alfred also has a twitch that he himself has no idea that he has. Batman shows him some mug shots, but he doesn’t recognize any of them—not even the Penguin, whom he should recognize from past adventures.

Further investigation is postponed, as it’s time for the rehearsal for the dinner, and there’s a bunch of multimillionaires upstairs.

We find out that the one-percenters choose their charity by giving the money to a woman in a bathing suit wearing a sash that identifies a particular charity. (Ah, the 1960s…)

One of the crab canapés has a fish hook in it, and Alfred fears it must have fallen from his morning coat, which he wore when he prepared them. Bruce and Dick think that’s a clue, so they totally walk out on the rehearsal dinner (without even making a feeble excuse). They check the waterfront for properties owned by Knott A. Fish, and they find that he owns the South Pier.

They arrive at the South Pier, but Penguin is ready for him, having dozens of umbrellas open at once. Fisticuffs—and also umbrella swordfighting—ensue, and our heroes are defeated, and secured to the wall. They put the Dynamic Duo in the vacuum tank with a gigantic reversing bellows (which is labelled with a big sign that says, “GIGANTIC REVERSING BELLOWS”), and the air indicator has the following levels: “full of,” “enough for all,” “elephant,” “gorilla,” “football player,” “dog,” “cat,” “mouse,” “butterfly,” and “no air at all.”

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The chamber is filled with balloons, which will burst as the air gets sucked out. By the time all the balloons are popped, they’ll be dead. Once the indicator gets to “no air at all,” Penguin has everyone leave, as they need to establish an alibi.

Luckily, Batman had a bat-knife in his utility belt that allowed him to cut his bonds and take a vial of bat-oxygen to breathe (all totally off camera), and then he got Robin out once Penguin left.

They’ll have to trap Penguin when he attacks the dinner. Batman recommends Gordon contact Bruce Wayne, as he’s organizing the dinner. (Ahem.)

Later, Alfred drives Bruce to Smith, Smythe, and Schmidt Stockbrokers, where Gordon meets up with him. We go through an unnecessarily complicated sequence where Gordon calls Batman, then calls Bruce while Bruce pretends to be confused by all this stuff. At no point does Gordon realize that Bruce and Batman are the same person despite them both having the same voice and speaking patterns. Batman then tells Alfred that they’ve put the word out on the criminal grapevine that the dinner will be held at Wayne Manor, when in truth it will be held on a large ocean liner. Also the charity of choice will be natural resources, and Miss Natural Resources will jump out of a cake at the dinner. (Ah, the 1960s…)

But this is all to set Penguin up. Alfred passes on the information, as Batman had hoped. He goes to the hotel where Miss Natural Resources is staying and gasses her and her handler, substituting Finella.

Batman is escorting Miss Natural Resources (because Bruce is “out of town,” har har), and he shows up with her corsage. He takes her to the Gotham Neptune, and the multimillionaires have their dinner, with Batman and Robin standing in for Bruce.

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The cake comes out, Finella bursts from it, and the rich dudes throw money at her—seriously, they literally throw money at her! She then grabs an umbrella and gasses everyone. Penguin and his henchmen all take the twelve million while Batman, Robin, and the 1% sleep it off.

They arrive at the South Pier. Penguin puts his share of the loot in the safe (which is handily labelled “SAFE”)—but before he can open it, he notices that Finella is sad. Turns out she’s having a change of heart. She just wanted to be in a beauty pageant, and instead they stole from charity.

Batman and Robin burst forth from the safe, having immunized themselves against Penguin’s gas (which explains why Batman didn’t comment on the substitution, since he met Miss Natural Resources at the rehearsal). Fisticuffs ensue (including the hilarious sound effect “FLRBBBB!”) and the good guys are once again triumphant.

Later, a makeup party is held at Wayne Manor. We see Alfred with Miss Urban Renewal and Miss Save Our Water on each arm (getting him a disapproving look from Harriet), while Dick flirts with Miss Natural Resources. In addition, the millionaires invited Finella to attend as a thank-you for helping Batman and Robin in the end

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Memory Bat-Bank (not the Bat-Memory Bank, which would make more sense) is where Batman stores slides of mugshots. We once again get the Gotham City Plans and Views, which contains drawings rather than photographs of various locations for some reason. Amusingly, the picture of Wayne Manor is labelled “STATELY WAYNE MANOR,” but the Gotham Neptune is simply labelled, “LARGE OCEAN LINER.” Batman and Robin also took Penguin Gas Pills to inoculate themselves against the gas he used. (They didn’t give any to the rich dudes, so I hope none of them was allergic…) Also Batman’s utility belt includes a bat-knife and mini-bat-oxygen tanks.

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Holy #@!%$, Batman! Upon learning that Alfred is the kidnap victim, Dick wails, “Holy Wayne Manor!” (Well, he was traumatized, it was the best he could do…) Upon realizing that “Knott A. Fish” is a pseudonym for the Penguin, Robin bellows, “Holy subliminal!” (Dude, you need to look up “subliminal.” I don’t think it means what you think it means.) Upon learning that Alfred is safely back at Wayne Manor, Robin grumbles, “Holy puzzlers, Batman.” Upon realizing that Alfred was taken to the waterfront, Robin yells, “Holy fog, of course!” Upon seeing Penguin’s toy penguin in the South Pier, Robin utters, “Holy clockworks.” Upon Batman’s revelation that the dinner will be on the Gotham Neptune, Robin says, “Holy rudder!”

Gotham City’s finest. O’Hara says he’s sure that the perp is the Penguin, “or my name ain’t—” And then he hesitates, having apparently forgotten it, so Gordon prompts, “O’Hara.” To which the chief adds, “Chief O’Hara,” as if that was his first name. It’s almost hard to believe these guys need Batman and Robin’s help all the time…

Later, O’Hara wonders why Batman wants to check the crime scene when his people already did so, and Batman says that, while the GCPD is the finest in the land (cough), the Dynamic Duo may succeed where the cops failed. After totally insulting O’Hara’s job performance right to his face, Gordon and O’Hara then go on about how awesome Batman is and how lost they’d be without him. (You ain’t kiddin’, brother…)

Special Guest Villain. Burgess Meredith is back for his third appearance following “Not Yet, He Ain’t.” Along with Frank Gorshin and Cesar Romero (and Lee Meriwether subbing in for Julie Newmar as Catwoman), he’ll return in the Batman film between seasons (which we’ll cover next week), then return to the TV series in the second season’s “Hizzoner the Penguin” / “Dizzoner the Penguin.”

No sex, please, we’re superheroes. One of Bruce’s fellow rich dudes (wearing a sailor cap) says he’s particularly fond of Miss Natural Resources, and how he’d like to make her his personal charity, hubba hubba. And just in general, there’s lots of drooling over the bathing-suit-clad charity avatars.

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Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.

“If I may coin a phrase, there’s many a slip, so zipper your lip.”

–Penguin giving his variation on an old cliché.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 17 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum Michael Fichera.

Julie Gregg plays Finella. Amusingly, given the character’s beauty pageant fetish, she’ll show up again as a pageant contestant (Miss Canary Islands) in season 2’s “Green Ice.” She’ll also make an uncredited appearance as a nightclub singer in the Batman movie.

Harriet comments that Bruce’s great-grandfather founded Yale’s Skull and Bones Club, a notorious “power elite” society at that ivy-league university. (It was actually founded in 1832 by William Huntington Russell and Alphonse Taft.) Among its members are three U.S. Presidents (William Howard Taft and both George Bushes) and the current Secretary of State (John Kerry).

For something so entrenched in popular culture, the “same bat-time, same bat-channel” has not been consistently applied. Here we are at the end of the season, and the cliffhanger ends with simply “same time, same channel.”

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Twitch? What twitch?” The series opened with a couple of inversions of standard superhero formula—Riddler suing Batman, Penguin not having an actual plot, just letting Batman lead him to something—and so it’s kinda fitting that the season ends with another inversion. In this case, it’s starting the episode with Alfred as the victim of a crime.

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Sadly, rather than proving to be another good vehicle for the mostly underused Alan Napier (the way Alfred’s undercover adventures in “Batman Stands Pat” and “The Penguin Goes Straight” were), the Alfred subplot is simply another excuse for cheap melodrama and over-the-top acting even by this show’s high standards.

There are some amusing touches in this season-ender. I love how Finella is constantly practicing for her eventual pageant, constantly posing and walking as if on a runway and waving and checking herself out in the mirror. And Gordon seems to have some residual annoyance at O’Hara for preferring the overrated Maury Wills to the great Honus Wagner, as he is revolted at the thought of shaking his hand after Alfred’s recovered, not to mention the whole part where he feeds the chief his own name…

Also, sure, fine, the cliffhanger is part of the formula, and it has to be there, but this is the first time where it’s actively interfered in the development of the story. Batman’s attempting to foil Penguin’s plot actually proceeds rather smoothly, and is one of the more straightforward plots the show’s done—except for the part where Penguin puts Batman in a silly deathtrap, where everything narratively grinds to a halt. (Though I will say that the actual cliffhanger moment of Batman and Robin bound while balloons ominously pop all around them is effective.) To make matters worse, writer Sheldon Stark doesn’t even try to come up with a good resolution, instead having everything happen unconvincingly off camera and explained lamely by Batman in Gordon’s office afterward.

Finally, this episode is just painfully sleazy. Where the camera lingered on Sherry Jackson last time, it positively leers over Julie Gregg this go-round, while giving her absurdly skimpy outfits to wear. And that’s as nothing compared to the Multimillionaire’s Award Dinner with all the charity avatars in their swimsuits. (Particularly the unsubtly named Miss Natural Resources, who I freely admit is hot.) Just the idea that all these old white rich guys show their dedication to charity by literally throwing their money at a woman who jumps out of a cake makes me want to rinse in a vat of hand-sanitizer for an hour.

Just a bizarre, if occasionally effective, end to the season.

Bat-rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Farpoint 2016 this weekend, alongside special guests actor Sean Maher, author David Gerrold, and other nifty folks. He’ll be doing a bunch of panels—including one on Batman‘s 50th anniversary—as well as autographings, a reading, a self-defense workshop, and two performances, one with Prometheus Radio Theatre (voice), one with Boogie Knights (percussion, backup vocals). His full schedule is here.

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