Holy Rewatch Batman!

Holy Rewatch, Batman! “An Egg Grows in Gotham” / “The Yegg Foes in Gotham”

“An Egg Grows in Gotham” / “The Yegg Foes in Gotham”
Written by Edwin Self and Stanley Ralph Ross
Directed by george waGGner
Season 2, Episodes 13 and 14
Production code 9717
Original air dates: October 19 and 20, 1966

The Bat-signal: We open at City Hall. (Amusingly, they use a shot of the New York County Courthouse on Center Street in Manhattan rather than New York’s City Hall for the establishing shot.) A tour comes into an exhibit hall that includes the original Gotham City charter, which is vacuum-sealed in a burglar-proof case. However, on the tour are Egghead, his two henchmen (Benedict and Foo Young), and his moll (Miss Bacon), who proceed to put the lie to the “burglar-proof” part by gassing the room and stealing the charter by using an egg-splosive.

Cut to GCPD HQ, where Gordon and O’Hara conclude, as ever, that only one person can aid them in their time of need.

Cut to Wayne Manor, where we get a hint as to why Egghead targeted the charter in particular. Gotham City (Bruce explains to Dick) was founded by three families who landed on Gotham Rock: the Savages, the Tylers, and the Waynes. They leased the land from the Mohican Indians for the cost of nine raccoon pelts. According to the very same charter that Egghead stole, the lease must be renewed every five years, and tonight is the night when a member of each family—on this occasion, Bruce, Pete Savage, and Tim Tyler—gives the leader of the Mohican tribe, Chief Screaming Chicken (yes, really) three raccoon pelts each. Apparently Bruce acquired his pelts by buying the raccoon coat off a 1920s musician who’d fallen on hard times, and cutting it into thirds. Because that’s totally in the spirit of the original charter. (A real man would’ve hunted the raccoons himself and skinned them. Bruce is such a wuss. (And yes, I’m being sarcastic. Honestly, his solution was actually pretty humane, given what he was charged with doing. (Not that it matters much to the poor raccoons… (Damn, this is a lot of nested parentheticals.))))

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Alfred interrupts this history lesson with the news that the bat-phone has buzzed, and Bruce and Dick make their feeble excuses to Aunt Harriet and head to the phone, to the batpoles, to the Batmobile, and to police HQ.

Batman, Robin, Gordon, and O’Hara try to figure out why Egghead stole the charter. O’Hara also comments that Egghead is the smartest man in the world, only amending it with “present company excepted, of course” when Robin tartly says, “second-smartest.” (For his part, Batman says nothing, save that Egghead is certainly the smartest villain they’ve ever faced.)

Robin hypothesizes that Egghead wants to start a war between Gotham City and the Mohican tribe—but it turns out that Screaming Chicken is the last of the Mohicans (a joke the script rarely passes up an opportunity to make). Wouldn’t be much of a war, really.

Batman hypothesizes that it might have to do with the raccoon ceremony. Gordon asks where the three millionaires are. Peter Savage is in his Gotham home, though he spends most of his time in Paris. Tim Tyler is probably watching the baseball team he owns, while they speculate that Bruce Wayne is probably off doing something inconsequential with his youthful ward. (Phrasing!)

 

Cut to Egghead’s lair at the Ghoti Oeufs Caviar Company, where Egghead egg-splains himself. He’s looking for a loophole in the charter that he can egg-sploit to gain control of the city—and he finds one! If the nine raccoon pelts aren’t paid on time by the scions of the Wayne, Tyler, and Savage families, control of the city reverts to the Mohicans and/or their legal representative.

Batman-EggheadGrows03

Batman and Robin head to Screaming Chicken’s Roadside Teepee, which sells blankets, souvenirs, tacos, pizza, and blintzes. Batman provides the traditional Mohican greeting, which starts with the recitation of questions (“How?” “What?” “When?” “Where?”), then continues to turning around twice, hitting each other on the left shoulder, and a pinky swear. Batman wishes to be sure that Screaming Chicken will be at the ceremony that evening, and despite the fact that the price is a bit too low—he thinks it should at least twelve pelts, since the cost of living has gone up—Screaming Chicken says he’ll be there.

After they leave, we find out that Egghead has gotten there first. He has secured an agreement with Screaming Chicken for the lease on Gotham City—but only if the three millionaires fail to pay the nine raccoon pelts. Egghead’s deal is for $100 a month, plus all the eggs he can eat. Egghead even throws in the import/egg-sport concession on all genuine American Indian blankets made in Japan.

Batman checks the Batfile for any new egg-related companies, but there aren’t any since the last time they tussled with Egghead. But then Batman hits on the idea of a fish-egg company, and they find Ghoti Oeufs, which opened recently. “Oeuf” is French for “egg,” but Robin doesn’t get “ghoti.” Batman explains that “gh” is “f” (as in tough or rough), “o” is “i” (as in women), and “ti” is “sh” (as in ration or nation). Robin is suitably impressed, which puts him in a class by himself.

They head to Ghoti Oeufs to find that Screaming Chicken is working alongside Egghead, Bendict, Foo Young, and Miss Bacon. Fisticuffs ensue (during which both Vincent Price and Burt Ward’s stunt doubles are egg-stremely obvious). Egghead manages to get off an egg grenade filled with laughing gas, which covers their escape. Batman and Robin manage to counteract the laughing gas with a sad pill, then head back to the Batcave. Since Screaming Chicken is now working with Egghead, Batman figures that Egghead’s scheme involves breaking the lease to Gotham.

He calls Pete Savage and Tim Tyler, who both reassure Bruce that they’ll be at the ceremony—but both are under threat from Egghead and his thugs. Bruce and Dick, meanwhile, dress up in tuxedos and take their three pelts to the ceremony. The limo picks them up, along with Tyler and Savage—but Egghead is driving the limo, and he gasses the four occupants.

Batman-EggheadGrows06

They wake up in Egghead’s lair. Egghead has deduced that Batman must be a millionaire, as crime-fighting is a time-consuming and egg-spensive hobby. The three present are the only ones who fit the bill, aside from a few aging rock stars (cough) in terms of age but Tyler is left-handed, and Savage speaks with a French accent. (You would think there’s also the fact that Savage spends most of his time in Paris, but whatever.) So he figures it must be Bruce. To prove it, he’s put Bruce in a thought transferer which removes all thoughts from one person’s brain into another’s. It leaves the victim a vegetable—so even if Egghead is wrong, Bruce will be a mindless fop. (Egghead passes up the opportunity to say that that wouldn’t be much of a change from Bruce’s rep.)

However, everyone’s staring at Bruce and Egghead, so nobody notices Dick messing with the electricity, causing the machine to go boom. Only a tiny bit of information trickled into Egghead’s brain, but it was all useless trivia—Egghead finds it inconceivable that someone with that much useless info in his head could be Batman (Bruce managed to compartmentalize his thoughts so that was all Egghead got). He fends off the millionaires with a “radar egg” that will explode at the slightest vibration—and then he rolls it across the floor. Right. But it covers his and his henchmen’s escape. Besides, it’s almost midnight, so the lease will egg-spire.

There’s an incredibly convenient pipe running across the top of the room, which enables the foursome to get out of the bomb’s range. Bruce uses his skills as the former junior marble champion of Gotham City (because of course he was) to set off the bomb so no innocent bystander will accidentally trigger it, then they pootle off to the ceremony.

Sadly, they’re three minutes late. Screaming Chicken now owns Gotham and all its suburbs. Not only that, he’s followed through on his deal with Egghead, so the villain now runs the jernt. He fires Gordon and Mayor Linseed and has Batman and Robin egg-spelled from the city.

Batman-EggheadGrows07

Felonies are no longer felonies in Gotham, with Egghead instructing the cops to ignore his people committing such crimes, but to punish misdemeanors, resulting in tons of tickets given out for jaywalking, littering, and not fastening seatbelts. Since Batman and Robin have been banned from the city, it’s up to Bruce and Dick to save the day. Figuring that there must be some fine print that everyone overlooked, he also steals the charter from City Hall (apparently it’s okay when good guys break the law). However, Egghead was egg-specting that, and has a personal alarm go off when the charter is stolen. He sends the cops to City Hall where O’Hara is following his orders to find Batman and Robin and shoot them on sight. However, he just sees Bruce and Dick and lets them go on their merry way.

They bring the charter back to the Batcave, and sure enough, there is fine print. Yes, if they miss the raccoon payment, ownership of the city reverts to the Mohicans, however Mochians cannot then turn around and lease the city to anyone with a criminal record. They deduce that Egghead will go after the city treasury now that he’s in charge, so they head there. Meanwhile, Egghead and his minions are already there, reveling in their newfound—and tax egg-zempt!—cash.

Batman and Robin show up at Gordon’s office, where Gordon is packing his things, and Linseed is pacing miserably. Linseed informs them that Egghead has put a $50,000 bounty on Batman’s head. Batman tells them about the loophole, and so Gordon informs the police over the radio that they don’t have to take any more of Egghead’s guff. (That is exactly how he phrases it!)

The Caped Crusaders arrive to find that Egghead has already cleaned out the treasury. However, they do find that they left Screaming Chicken behind. According to the chief, Egghead’s plan is to take the money and run to Venezuela. (No word on whether or not he’s also changing his name to “Matilda.”)

Robin alerts Gordon to guard all possible ways of leaving Gotham City, then he and Batman head back to the Batcave, where we find out that somehow, off-camera, the citizenry of Gotham City has forgiven Screaming Chicken. Batman figures that Egghead will be stocking upon AAA eggs, which is what his diet consists exclusively of, before his trip to Venezuela. The only egg farm big enough to satiate him would be Old MacDonald’s Chicken Ranch, and so they head there, to find that Egghead is, in fact, stealing Old MacDonald’s eggs.

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Fisticuffs ensue—and also a good deal of egg-tossing, because why the heck not? Our heroes win, of course. The visiting criminals who were taking advantage of Egghead’s reign have all been captured by the police, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! The Batfile has all kinds of useful info, including what egg companies might have opened recently. Batman carries sad pills in his utility belt in order to counteract laughing gas, because of course he does.

Holy #@!%$, Batman! Robin expresses his theory as to why Egghead stole the charter with the exclamation “Holy Bill of Rights!” When Batman explains the etymology of “ghoti” for “fish,” Robin mutters, “Holy semantics, Batman!” After Batman explains his mnemonic for remembering phone numbers (involving transposing numbers to letters and women he used to date—don’t ask), Robin waggles his eyebrows as he says, “Holy IT&T” (thus dating the episode…). When Linseed informs Batman that there’s a $50,000 price on his head, Robin cries, “Holy recompense!” and when they discover that Egghead has already looted the treasury, the best Robin can do is, “Holy banks.” (Seriously, dude?)

Also William Dozier says, “Holy hypothesis!” with regards to Egghead’s deducing that Bruce is Batman in the recap at the top of “The Yegg Foes in Gotham.”

Gotham City’s finest. As soon as Egghead takes over, the GCPD follow his orders to the letter, including apparently agreeing to shoot Batman on sight if he reenters Gotham City, and also ignoring felonies and focusing on misdemeanors. This means that either they have no ability to think independently, are dogged followers of law and order, regardless of what that law might be, or they’re really enjoying the chance to get Batman the hell out of town for a while…

Special Guest Villain. While horror master Vincent Price continues the streak of famous actors coming in to play a new villain in season two, he breaks the streak in one important aspect: he’ll actually come back! Price will return as Egghead several times in the third season, alongside Olga Queen of the Cossacks, starting in “The Ogg and I.”

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No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Egghead insists that Miss Bacon call him “Egghead” in public rather than “Eggy-baby,” as she apparently calls him in private. Wah-HEY! Of course, she just switches to Eggy-pooh after that…

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

“‘Kemosabe’? I thought I heard just about everything, but—”

“Yeah, Screaming, what’s that mean?”

“Me no know. Me hear it once on radio. Very old word.”

–Miss Bacon, Benedict, and Screaming Chicken taking the piss out of The Lone Ranger.

Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 25 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, author, editor, designer, educator, and podcaster Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg.

For those of you not up on your outdated slang, “yegg” is a term for a thief or burglar that dates back to the early part of the 20th century, but has fallen out of use in the five decades since this episode aired.

Screaming Chicken is played by Edward Everett Horton. While best known for his narration of “Fractured Fairy Tales” on The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, this role in particular was a sendup of his just-as-offensive role as Roaring Chicken on F Troop.

The window cameo this time ’round is Bill Dana playing his character from The Steve Allen Show, José Jiménez. In addition, Ben Alexander, who played Sergeant Frank Smith on Dragnet, interviews a littering suspect by asking her for “Just the facts, ma’am,” which was Sergeant Joe Friday’s trademark query of witnesses on that show.

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Byron Keith returns as Mayor Linseed, with the character finally named (after New York City’s Mayor John Lindsay) for the first time after brief cameos in “The Joker Trumps an Ace” and “The Bookworm Turns.” He’ll be back in “Hizzoner the Penguin” / “Dizzoner the Penguin.”

During the climactic fight scene in “The Yegg Foes in Gotham,” Vincent Price apparently played a prank on Burt Ward that made it on camera, as instead of smashing one egg on Robin’s head, Price went and smashed a dozen. The yolk and shell remain in Robin’s hair for the rest of the scene, and apparently it was all because Ward was being kind of a douche, so Price took egg-straordinary measures to egg-zact revenge.

Pow! Biff! Zowie! “That’s the way the wigwam watusies.” While this episode isn’t nearly as egg-cellent as it could be, it does have its good points. For starters, there are all the in-jokes to various bits of pop culture, from José Jiménez to riffs on Dragnet, F Troop, The Last of the Mohicans, The Lone Ranger, and the song “Matilda.” There’s all the egg puns.

And, of course, there’s the egg-straordinary performance by Vincent Price. Really, what makes this episode is Price, as he is simply magnificent in the role. Price’s voice, his tone, his arrogance, his gleeful delivery of all the many (many!) egg puns, they all add up to a superlative villain.

Plus, he actually figures out that Bruce Wayne is Batman! And his deductions make sense! Batman would have to have serious financial resources and lots of spare time. I like the fact that he figures it out, rather than stumbling upon it, and only Dick’s quick thinking gets him out of having his secret revealed (I suspect that Bruce’s vaunted mental discipline wouldn’t have held out forever if the machine could really do what Egghead said it could do (though if he had such a thing, why didn’t he just sell it to the government or something? It probably would’ve netted him more than robbing the treasury did (of course, you could ask that about most of the gadgets in this show (some people have no sense of capitalism (what is it with me and the nested parentheticals in this one?)))).

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Still, the episode has its share of head-scratchers. The whole egg-schequer thing, the “ghoti oeufs” thing, Batman’s mnemonics for remembering phone numbers involving women he’s dated, plus having Bruce Wayne sitting in a chair while Egghead sits in another chair is pretty low on the suspense-o-meter for a cliffhanger.

More problematic is Chief Screaming Chicken. There’s a fine line between satire and offensive stereotyping, and this episode just keeps dancing all over it. Mind you, there are some brilliant moments. The genuine American Indian blankets made in Japan bit is hilarious, and Batman’s story about Screaming Chicken’s time as a bottlewasher when someone told him to go back where he came from, and Robin sadly notes that this country is where he came from is a biting bit. But there’s the egg-scruciating thing where Screaming Chicken talks like a not-too-bright five-year-old. The fact that it was, at this point, pretty well entrenched in screen portrayals of Natives (especially in comedy) doesn’t make it any less horrible.

Still, it all comes back to Price’s awesomeness. His performance is egg-cellent, egg-straordinary, and egg-citing, and he’s the first of the let’s-get-a-famous-person-on-our-popular-show villains to actually go that egg-stra mile to stand out and be a worthy addition to the pantheon.

Egg-celsior!

Bat-rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido plans to have an egg-cellent time as the Author Guest of Honor at Treklanta 2016 this weekend, alongside egg-stravagant actors Carel Struycken, Tracee Lee Cocco, Jack Stauffer, Java Green, and Lynn McArthur; egg-straordinary fans Bjo & John Trimble; and numerous other egg-citing authors, performers, and fan film folk. (Okay, okay, I’ll stop now…)

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