“The Joker Goes to School” / “He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul”
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Directed by Murray Golden
Season 1, Episodes 15 & 16
Production code 8715
Original air dates: March 2 & 3, 1966
The Bat-signal: We open at 3:09pm at Woodrow Roosevelt High School. The basketball team and the cheerleaders are both practicing in the gym. Also in the gym, Dick is lifting weights. After they run their routine, the cheerleaders are thirsty, so they go to a vending machine that dispenses milk—
—except this one instead gives out piles of silver dollars. Gordon suspects that this totally pointless and victimless crime is the work of the Joker, though to be fair, he has a legitimate concern that the Joker is targeting the youth of Gotham for a more nefarious purpose.
The Bat-phone interrupts the latest in a series of implorations by a city politician to convince Bruce to run for mayor, especially now with the water shortage and the regular blackouts. (They ask him every two years. He always declines, saying his charitable work with the Wayne Foundation requires that he stay above the fray of politics.) Batman heads to the Batmobile solo, as Dick is still at school—so he’s already at the scene of the crime.
Gordon shows Batman some paperwork on his arrival: Joker was released from prison a week ago and immediately bought up the One-Armed Bandit Novelty Company, which makes pinball machines, vending machines, and the like. The people who installed the milk machines have clean records, and they’re just as confused about what happened as everyone else.
They’re interrupted by a call from Principal Schoolfield. The candy machine in the library is now dispensing negotiable stocks and bonds. Batman asks that he call a meeting with the student council (the president of which just happens to be a very bright young lad named Richard Grayson), and he’ll be there shortly.
Dick is at the principal’s office, along with the rest of the student council: Susie (one of the cheerleaders), Pete, and Herbie. The other three are arguing that if you get free money from a vending machine, what’s the point of studying? Everyone’s goofing off. Dick, though, argues that they’re supposed to be student leaders and know better. But then Susie gets a coffee from Schoolfield’s office’s vending machine that has a pile of quarters instead of coffee in the cup. Susie also points out that Dick’s the ward of a millionaire, so he doesn’t appreciate how much this free money means to normal folks (a very legitimate point), though Dick denies that that has anything to do with it.
Batman arrives at the school, where a mob comes to see Robin, only to find out that he’s in school also, though Batman can’t say where to preserve his “secret true identity” (from the Department of Multiple Redundancies Department). He lectures the student council about the Joker, saying that he’s trying to convince the students to abandon their studies and drop out because they don’t need to worry about money anymore, and dropouts are a fertile source for recruitment to be criminals.
At a bar, a drunken customer puts a dime in the jukebox, but instead of the latest 45, it plays the Joker’s voice saying it’s a stickup, and the front opens to reveal a remote-controlled rifle. While the customers put up their hands in fear of being shot, two thugs with stockings on their heads raid the cash register.
Back at the school, Batman is showing the council slides of the Joker—but then the Joker himself appears behind the projection screen, giggling away. Joker says there’s no proof that he gimmicked the vending machines—but Pete points out that he’s loitering on school property, so Batman whips out the Bat-cuffs to arrest him for that. However, he has to have been on school property for more than two minutes, which isn’t up yet—and before it is, he departs, leaving Batman stymied by his jailhouse lawyering.
The Bat-phone beeps, and Batman runs out to the Batmobile to answer it: Gordon tells him about the bar getting hit. But the Joker has an alibi: Batman, who just saw him at the school. Batman surreptitiously tells Dick to fake a headache, go home, and meet him in the Batcave, then—after pleading with the kids to stick to their studies, as nothing in life is free—zooms off to the bar.
The Joker returns to his HQ to meet up with his thugs—both high-school dropouts. Nick is counting the loot while Two-Bits has rigged a bowling game to emit gas on a third strike.
Then Susie shows up—turns out she’s part of the gang, too, working on Joker’s behalf at the school. Using her position on the student council—which apparently comes automatically with being head cheerleader (yes, really)—she has stolen exams from Schoolfield’s safe. But she won’t turn them over until Joker pays her: a rhinestone bracelet, a huge-ass bottle of imported Mexican perfume, and a fox stole.
Batman returns to the Batcave, having found no evidence at the bar. Batman is convinced that the school is a big part of it, so they decide to stake it out. They arrive to a darkened school (it being night-time and all), but Susie is also present, gimmicking Schoolfield’s coffee machine again. She calls Joker (the call sign is “How do you stop a dog from barking in July?” to which the countersign is “Shoot him in June”) and tells him that the Dynamic Duo has shown up at Woodrow Roosevelt. The Joker gives her instructions.
When the pair run into the school, they see Susie, who tells them that she saw a suspicious character in the gym. Robin thinks the milk machine has again been tampered with. Batman puts a dime in, and then the machine shackles their legs and hits them with knockout gas. They’re placed in the back of a gimmicked truck that the One-Armed Bandit Novelty Company apparently made for a Central American dictator, who was deposed before delivery. Batman and Robin are shackled to electric chairs that are hooked up to a slot machine. If the machine comes up three lemons, they’ll be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity. (The other options are three Liberty bells, which gets them their freedom and $50,000 cash, and three oranges, which just gets them their freedom.)
However, before the third lemon can come up, the power goes out (“Just like New York!” Joker cries in anguish, and also just like was mentioned earlier). They then hear sirens, and so Joker decides that discretion is the better part of valor and cheeses it. Batman and Robin are freed by those selfsame cops, and they head to police HQ, which is lit by candlelight. Batman had a microphone on him, which was recording everything on a tape recorder at the Batmobile. While it’s not evidence that will hold up in court (Joker used a voice-disguising microphone to talk to the Dynamic Duo from the front of the truck), Batman can determine the voiceprint patterns in the Batcave.
By morning, the power’s back in Gotham, and Batman and Robin listen to the tape. Robin is utterly devastated to learn that Susie is part of the Joker’s gang. Batman tells Robin that Dick Grayson is going to have to go undercover in the Joker’s gang.
So Dick shows up at the Easy Living Candy Store, where the cool kids hang out on days off, wearing a leather jacket and dark gloves, to show that he’s a badass now. He sets up a minicamera, which Batman picks up on the Bat-scope in the Batmobile (though what Batman sees is from a completely different angle from where Dick put the camera), and talks to Susie and Nick. He plays the role unconvincingly, saying that Bruce Wayne is a skinflint, and that he has to steal dimes from the butler for cigarette money. Nick offers him a cigarette, but Dick declines, saying he’s already smoked two packs today. Before Susie can offer him a place in the gang (citing his athletic skills), Nick tells him to go to the bar that got robbed, where he’ll be able to get plenty of money around 3pm. Susie doesn’t understand why he blew Dick off like that, but Nick saw through the disguise, easily able to tell that Dick’s never smoked a cigarette in his life.
Batman tells Dick that he did great. They head to the bar.
Joker, meanwhile, sets up the jukebox to entrap Dick. He then gives Susie a bottle of Canadian perfume, but tells her not to use it until she restocks the milk machine at the school.
At the bar, Robin puts a dime in the jukebox right at 3pm, just as Nick indicated. The rifle comes out and Joker shoots at Batman and Robin, but they hide behind the Bat-shield, and then the jukebox explodes. Batman actually saw it coming, because he also saw how inept Dick was with the cigarette. Now their concern is Susie: Someone would only go in undercover to talk to Susie if they knew she was part of the gang, which means her life is in danger.
They head to the school. There’s a big game tonight, Woodrow Roosevelt versus Disko Tech (yes, really), and Robin figures Susie will be there getting last-minute practice in. Roosevelt is favored 20-1 in the game, and we hear Joker placing a $50,000 bet with his bookie on Disko Tech.
Batman and Robin arrive at the school and try to convince Susie to turn herself in, but she rebuffs them, going where they dare not: the girls’ locker room. But she can’t resist gloating, so she pokes her head out long enough to say bye-bye and put on some of her new Canadian perfume—which then renders her unconscious, as it’s poisonous.
Two-Bits reports to Joker that he saw them load Susie into a meat wagon from the morgue, with Robin bawling his eyes out. Joker expresses his grief by giving Nick a trick cigar.
Back at the school, the basketball team is determined to win the game for Susie. They stop at the milk machine, but instead of milk, they get the answers to an upcoming state test. Joker, Nick, and Two-Bits show up with a camera, taking pictures of the team holding the answers, exposing them as cheats. They’ll be suspended and unable to play against Disko Tech, leaving the scrubs to play in their place.
But Joker’s betting scheme is done in by Batman and Robin’s universal antidote pills, which saved Susie’s life. In exchange, she revealed the crime, so Batman and Robin put fake answers in the milk machine.
Fisticuffs ensue, and Batman and Robin are triumphant after a Bat-a-rang to Joker’s head. Batman admonishes the basketball team to stick to their studies, as this (Joker unconscious) is the end result of easy living.
Susie goes off to jail—though it’s a juvenile detention center run by the Wayne Foundation, and Bruce even sends her there by chauffeur. Susie is repentant, and Dick promises to mail her every new cheer as it’s created.
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! We’re introduced to quite possibly the most ridiculous piece of Bat-equipment, the Bat-shield! The massive ungainly Bat-shield that takes forever to unfold and deploy and which, even when folded into quarters, couldn’t possibly fit anywhere on Batman’s person!
Batman uses a Bat-megaphone to talk to the schoolkids who try to rush the Batmobile. The Batmobile also comes equipped with an Anti-Crime Recorder (which is just an ordinary tape recorder) and a Remote Radio Pick-Up (an antenna), through which they record the incident at the school, which is then run through the Anti-Crime Voice Analyzer in the Batcave. The Batcave also has its own power source. Finally, we get the triumphant return of the universal antidote pills, last seen in the Joker’s prior appearance, “The Joker is Wild”/”Batman is Riled.”
Holy #@!%$, Batman! When the Joker appears behind the projection screen, Dick cries out, “Holy magician!” While struggling with his algebra homework, specifically the x and y variables, Robin grumbles, “Holy alphabet!” When he and Batman wake up in the electric chair tethered to a slot machine, Robin cries, “Holy Las Vegas!” and after finding out that three lemons get them electrocuted, he mutters, “Holy fruit salad.” Upon learning the devastating news that Susie is part of the Joker’s gang, he laments, “Holy Benedict Arnold!” After they’re shot by the jukebox, he says, “Holy hailstorm!” Upon realizing that Susie’s life is in danger, he utters the rather unimpressive, “Holy murder!” He cries, “Holy New Year’s Eve!” when the Joker gets him in his streamers.
But it’s not just Robin being holy this time ’round. In the recap of “The Joker Goes to School” at the top of “He Meets His Match, the Grisly Ghoul,” William Dozier says, “Holy cow juice!” when they show the part where the milk machine dispenses silver dollars. And when the cops find the Dynamic Duo in the back of the truck, one officer cries, “Holy smoke!” at which point Robin says that if they don’t free them before the power comes back on, they really will be holy smoke (har har).
Gotham City’s finest. Gordon continues to be mostly useless—he’s gobsmacked by the very notion of voiceprints, though that could just be him not being up on newfangled technology (spectrograms were still relatively new in 1966)—but his officers comport themselves quite well. In fact, it’s the cops who rescue Batman and Robin from Joker’s cliffhanger deathtrap.
No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Nick tries hitting on Susie, but she tartly informs him that she became a crook to get the finer things in life. (Burn!) Dick is also obviously sweet on Susie, and she rewards him with a kiss before going to the detention center.
Special Guest Villain. Cesar Romero is back as the Joker, making him the second villain (after the Riddler) to make a return appearance, following “The Joker is Wild”/”Batman is Riled.” He’ll be back one more time in this first season, in “The Joker Trumps an Ace”/”Batman Sets the Pace.”
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“Zing! Boom! Sis boom bah! We’re from Woodrow Roosevelt, that’s who we are! Does anybody scare us? The answer is nix! Come on team, let’s make it six! Yeah!”
The Woodrow Roosevelt High cheer, as performed by Susie and her two compatriots, apparently composed by the poetry professor Miss Browning (ahem), who embodies the maxim “those who can’t do, teach.”
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 8 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, New York Times best-selling author Dayton Ward.
Joker’s bookie is named Pete the Swede, a riff on Jimmy the Greek, a famous oddsmaker. The high school is named Woodrow Roosevelt, after the two presidents who led the U.S. during a world war (Woodrow Wilson for the first, Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the second).
One of the Joker’s henchmen is played by Kip King, a longtime character actor and voiceover actor (he was Tailor Smurf on The Smurfs), and also the father of comedian Chris Kattan. (You can see the resemblance in this episode…)
In 1981, Antônio Camano and Fernando Pettinati did a silly dub of the already-dubbed Portugese version of this episode with silly and raunchy dialogue, called “Bátima: Feira da Fruta” (“Batman: Fruit Fair”—yes, really). It can be found on the Internet, though Warner Bros. has been cracking down on it since the release of this series on DVD.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “I’m a crook, Joker, just like you.” A lot of this episode is well put together. Batman’s tracking down of the Joker is refreshingly free of the usual leaps in logic—the Caped Crusader’s detective work is actually quite skilled. I question Batman’s deliberately walking into a trap that involved getting shot at in the bar (especially since he didn’t even clear the bar of innocent bystanders first), but hey, that got us our first look at the magnificently ridiculous Bat-shield, so there’s that. (Seriously, even when I was a kid and bought into much of the absurdity without question, I thought the Bat-shield was the dumbest thing ever. It took forever to unfold and fold, and where did he keep it?) Certainly Batman is a better detective than Robin is an undercover operative—he was the most unconvincing bad boy in the history of bad boys, even before he botched smoking a cigarette.
I also have to admit to taking a certain glee in a rare burst of competence from the GCPD, who are the only reason Batman and Robin are still alive. Speaking of good detective work, it was really bad detective work to just put a dime in the milk machine willy nilly and let themselves get caught. If it wasn’t for Gotham City’s crummy infrastructure and the timely arrival of two officers, they’d be, as Robin said, holy smoke.
And the Joker’s plan is—weird? I dunno, I kinda like the long-term thinking of creating high-school dropouts to increase recruiting among henchmen, but that’s a lot of money to spend for such a low and uncertain reward. I mean, Joker had to invest in the One-Armed Bandit Novelty Company, and then put all that money in the vending machines—and it had to be enough so that it would get to a plurality of the student body. I just don’t see the value of that part of the plan to the Joker at all. Robbing the bar, sure, and also framing the basketball team for inappropriate behavior to win a big bet, also sure. But whatever money he made on those two won’t even be a drop in the bucket compared to what he spent on coins to leave in the vending machines. And I still bet most of the kids would just take the money and keep on as before.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be at Philcon 2015 this weekend as one of the author guests, alongside Guests of Honor Wen Spencer (author), Richard Hescox (artist), and Murder Ballads (band). Saturday night at 7pm in Executive Suite 823 will be the official launch party for the super-hero/super-villain anthology The Side of Good/The Side of Evil. Keith’s full schedule can be found here.