“The Zodiac Crimes” / “The Joker’s Hard Times” / “The Penguin Declines”
Written by Stephen Kandel and Stanford Sherman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 2, Episodes 37, 38, and 39
Production code 9733
Original air dates: January 11, 12, and 18, 1967
The Bat-signal: O’Hara is showing off the rare art map to Gordon—it’s a map of rare art, not a rare map of art, just to be clear—that shows where all the rare art is in Gotham City. His insistence that it’ll improve their ability to fight crime is interrupted by the Joker, who is on the windowsill for some reason. Keeping Gordon and O’Hara at bay with his magic wand—which emits an electrical charge—he steals the map, which he announces is the first of his Zodiac crimes, and to look for eleven more.
The Joker escapes in a helicopter, and Gordon immediately phones Batman, a call that interrupts Dick’s tuba practice, which comes as a relief to all music lovers (starting with Bruce, who looks rather pained while sitting uncomfortably close to the tuba—in truth, 14 miles away in Gotham City proper would be too close to the awful tuba playing). Our heroes head to the Batcave—after Dick extricates himself from the tuba—and thence to GCPD HQ. They conclude that Joker will be committing crimes that correspond to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which Robin starts to list before Batman interrupts him with annoyance, and grumbles, “etc., etc., ad infinitum”—which is a stupid thing to say, as “ad infinitum” means it goes on forever, and there really are only twelve of them.
Batman finds a two-way listening device, through which the Joker admits that he’s listening in, and also provides a clue to his next crime: “I don’t feel rejected with a fortune in treasure still unprotected.” Then the spy device self-destructs.
The first Zodiac crime has been committed: the rare art map’s acronym is “RAM,” and the first Zodiac sign is Aries the ram.
At Joker’s hideout, he takes delivery of a box—which contains Penguin. Joker snuck him in town via post so Batman wouldn’t know he was back in Gotham. He then calls Batman at Gordon’s office (Batman suspects that Joker is calling for him on Gordon’s line—it would’ve been really hilarious if it was Gordon’s wife calling or something…) and gives the Caped Crusaders another clue: “Taurus, the bull, is next on my show and you’ll soon be singing a song of woe.”
Batman thinks it’s not Taurus, but rather Gemini, as “sing a song of woe” indicates singers, specifically Gotham’s latest singing sensation, the Twins. Batman and Robin show up at the Twins’ rehearsal (Robin decided to either have an epileptic fit or start dancing, it’s hard to tell by the way Burt Ward gyrates), but the twins are actually Joker’s moll, Venus, and one of his henchmen in disguise. Then Penguin shows up, the fake Twins gas Batman and Robin long enough to allow them to escape. Our heroes go after the more critical prey, Penguin, who lures them to a car with a crane, and then Penguin abandons it, leaving Batman and Robin stuck on the car alone.
Meanwhile, Joker’s after his real target: two twenty-carat diamonds, also known as The Twins, which he and Venus steal successfully.
Batman and Robin wind up back in the Batcave, holding the wigs used in the Twins disguise, and run them through the Bat-analyst, which determines that the wig is 98% human hair, but also 2% silk, which means it must come from Harry’s Hair Lair. Harry is a golf buddy of Bruce’s, so he is able to get the address of the purchaser of the wig, which leads him to Joker’s HQ—but Venus is the only one there. After Batman fails to convince her to turn Joker in, the phone rings, with Penguin saying everything’s set for tonight, though he provides no other details. Batman tries again to talk Venus into helping them, and this time she agrees, taking them to the performance of Leo Crustash, the famous operative singer.
Joker comes on stage, prompting Batman and Robin to run on stage as well. Penguin tries and fails to drop sandbags on them. (At no point does Crustash stop singing; at no point does the audience react in any way to this interruption.) Fisticuffs ensue, but Joker uses the confusion to kidnap Crustash, who hits two Zodiac signs in one shot: Leo for the lion and Crustash for the crustacean (not Cancer the crab for some reason). However, Batman and Robin are able to capture Penguin.
A sculpture of the Virgin Bereaved is Joker’s likely next target, since Virgo the virgin is the next in Joker’s sequence. Batman and Robin wait for him at the museum, where several of the statues turn out to be Joker’s henchmen. Fisticuffs ensue, and our heroes are triumphant until Venus throws gunk on them that renders them unconscious.
Batman and Robin are tied to a horoscope stone that is right underneath a meteorite. Venus repents her actions, a bit too late, while Joker sets up thermite to cut through one of the ropes holding the meteorite up.
Joker buggers off, but Batman has managed to loosen his hand enough to grab his batarang. He tosses it at the thermite, which knocks it to the pedestal next to him, and he’s able to use it to free himself and Robin.
Gordon and O’Hara get another visit from Joker, who comes in the office door, meaning he just walked through police HQ. He uses gas to freeze Gordon and O’Hara in place—probably used on the other cops he encountered, too—which enables him to steal the marble statue of Justice outside police HQ, which hits Libra the scales. Joker himself steals a police car to get away, using the police radio to give conflicting reports as to where the tow truck that stole Justice is. Eventually, it becomes clear that the reports are false, and Batman cuts into the police frequency to tell the cops to disregard reports on that wavelength—which prompts Joker to blow his cover and declare shock that the Dynamic Duo are alive.
Joker’s next target is the Durand Golden Scorpion, for Scorpio the scorpion which is at the same jewelry store that housed the Twins. Venus comes into that jewelry store disguised as “Agent Brindle,” investigating the crime, using that cover to steal the scorpion and glue the owner’s feet to the floor.
Our heroes deduce that Joker’s next target is Sagittarius the archer—which Batman figures will be a golden Bowman, specifically Basil Bowman, a millionaire buddy of Bruce’s. Sure enough, the Dynamic Duo arrive in mid-kidnap, but Joker holds them off by threatening Venus’s life.
Joker and his thugs get away, leaving Venus behind. She claims to be ashamed of all the crimes she’s committed, and is willing to help Batman catch the Joker. She starts by leading them to the Platter-porium, a record store, only to find Joker’s thugs waiting. Fisticuffs ensue, trashing pretty much every piece of merchandise in the store, but they are able to rescue Crustash. However, he did pay the Joker a hundred thousand dollar ransom, though he then didn’t free Crustash as promised.
There are only three Zodiac signs left: Aquarius the water bearer, Capricorn the goat, and Pisces the fish. (Actually, there are four left, as Joker has yet to do an actual Taurus crime.) There’s a meeting of the Society of Zoologists, which is meeting at a park fountain that contains two rare fish. Figuring that he’s hitting that next for Pisces, and Batman, Robin, and Venus head to the park.
However, their arrival is of little use, as Joker shows up, his henchmen throwing red herrings at them while Joker steals the rare fish. Our heroes give chase in the Batmobile, leaving Venus behind—however, she’s captured by one of Joker’s thugs. Meanwhile, Joker fires on the Dynamic Duo, though they’re protected by the Batmobile’s bullet-proof casing. They arrive at Joker’s warehouse hideout, where they are caught in a fishing net.
Joker puts Batman, Robin, and Venus in a pond, tied up and ready to be eaten by a giant clam. The clam swallows Robin first, but before he can be fully masticated, Batman manages to break out of his chains (which are purple, because Joker) and pry the clam’s mouth open.
Meanwhile, Joker frees Penguin from prison just as Joker gets the news that Batman and Robin are still alive. Joker admits that he needs Penguin’s help to stop Batman once and for all—and also to steal Gotham’s entire water supply.
Leaving Venus behind in Bruce’s midtown apartment, the Dynamic Duo head back to the Batcave, where they deduce that Joker’s Aquarius crime will involve the water supply.
While Joker sabotages the water supply with his Joker Jelly, which will turn all of Gotham’s water into strawberry jam, Penguin prepares to suborn Venus at Bruce’s midtown apartment.
Upon seeing Joker Jelly coming out of the Batcave spigot, Batman and Robin immediately take the Bat-copter to the reservoir. They reassure Gordon that they’ll figure it out and not to pay the ten-million-dollar ransom Joker demands.
Penguin sends many flowers to Venus at Bruce’s midtown apartment and then arrives in person to flirt outrageously with her, also giving her a bottle of expensive perfume and offering her champagne (especially since the water tap is only providing Joker Jelly). He also claims he wishes to go straight, but he needs to have his criminal record in the Batcave destroyed. (Venus at no points questions why official criminal records are kept in a secret location.) Penguin says that Batman would never believe that he went straight (which has the ring of truth, given the number of times Penguin has claimed to go straight and was full of it), so he can’t just ask, as Venus suggests. Venus—who has, at this point, had quite a bit of champagne—agrees to ask Batman for a trip to the Batcave.
After restoring the water supply via a chemical reaction delivered by an exploding batarang, Batman checks on Venus, who asks to see the Batcave. Batman agrees, gassing her with bat-gas, as per policy. She’s overwhelmed by how groovy the place is, but then Joker, Penguin, and all four henchmen jump out of the trunk. (How they all fit in the trunk is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
While Penguin and Joker play with the Batcomputer, Batman uses the Bat-spectograph Criminal Analyzer to examine the criminals’ bone structure and store it for future use. Batman knew they were in the trunk the whole time, and also deactivated Penguin’s umbrella gun. Fisticuffs then ensue, including one part of it at the atomic pile, but our heroes are eventually victorious.
After the bad guys are Bat-gassed and brought to jail, a nice night at Wayne Manor includes Harriet reading Bruce and Dick’s horoscope (with a mention of “Venus ascending,” heh heh), and then Alfred totally trolls our heroes by feeding them clam chowder…
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman has an antenna-shaped thingie that can suss out listening devices, and he also holds a mini fire extinguisher in his utility belt. He keeps a portable Bat-lab in the Bat-copter.
They have mobile phone Bat-plugs in their utility belts. They also have exploding batarangs for reasons passing understanding. When Venus comes to the Batcave, Robin proudly shows her the Batcomputer, the Bat-spectograph Criminal Analyzer, and the Bat-radar. There’s also a negative ion attractor, which Batman places in the trunk to deplete the power source of Penguin’s umbrella gun.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! Robin mutters, “Holy astronomy” before listing the signs of the Zodiac, thus proving himself a moron, since the Zodiac is astrology, not astronomy. He wails, “Holy mashed potatoes” when faced with being crushed by a meteorite. He mutters, “Holy sonic boom” when commenting on how fast the tow truck with the Justice statue must be travelling to have been on all those streets. He shivers, “Holy human pearls” after being in the clam, but this time Batman corrects him, saying that pearls come from oysters, not clams. He cries, “Holy holocaust” when reminded by Batman that Joker’s water-supply sabotage will make it impossible for fire trucks to put out fires, as the hydrants will also only emit Joker Jelly.
Gotham City’s finest. The cops don’t recognize Joker as the driver of one of the cars, and when Joker claims to be various cop cars, none of the real cop cars say, “Hey, that isn’t me!” at any point.
Also O’Hara is in the shower when the water supply is replaced with Joker Jelly, thus subjecting us to O’Hara dressed only in a towel and covered in red jelly, a sight I will be seeing in my nightmares for decades to come.
Special Guest Villain. Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith team up for the first time since the film as the Joker and the Penguin, respectively. Romero appears in all three episodes, with Meredith appearing only in the first and final parts, billed as an “Extra-Special Guest Villain,” similar to Catwoman in “The Sandman Cometh” / “The Catwoman Goeth.”
No sex, please, we’re superheroes. Venus is all over Batman, including coming really really close to kissing him when she’s telling him where Joker will strike next. Meanwhile, Penguin turns on the charm to seduce Venus.
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“Very ingenious, Joker. A crime almost as good as one of mine.”
“One of yours? Those piddly escapades? Ha ha ha!”
“Ha yourself, you cornball crook!”
“Why you waddling little pipsqueak!”
–Penguin and Joker not playing well together.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 37 by host John S. Drew with special guest chums Glenn Greenberg (former Marvel Comics editor), Jim Beard (editor of the essay collection Gotham City 14 Miles), and Robert Long (independent filmmaker).
This is the show’s first three-parter, done as a way to try to goose ratings. There will be one more this season, two stories hence—”Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend” / “Penguin Sets a Trend” / “Penguin’s Disastrous End”—and there will be one more in the third season. TV Guide announced that the show would in future be doing three- and four-parters, though the four-parters never came to pass. Adam West also said in his memoir that the plan was to edit this and the next three-parter into a theatrical film for overseas release.
Because the episode was three parts, the end of “The Joker’s Hard Times” had William Dozier urging people to tune in “next week” rather than “tomorrow” for the first time ever.
The rare art map is totally a map of New York City, just in case the multiple NYC references and stock footage weren’t enough…
Terry Moore, who plays Venus, is best known for her role as Jill Young in Mighty Joe Young. The delivery boy is an early role for Rob Reiner, then known mostly as Carl Reiner‘s kid, later known as Michael “Meathead” Stivic on All in the Family, still later known as a popular film director. Also Joe DiReda plays Mars, worth mentioning only because he was in one of my favorite M*A*S*H episodes, “A Night at Rosie’s,” as a drunken major.
Batman and Robin discuss the time Joker poisoned the water supply in “The Joker’s Provokers” earlier this season, even mentioning Alfred’s role in saving the day.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Don Juan Penguin is on the loose!” I really wanted to like this story more than I actually did. Elements of it work very well. The Joker’s Zodiac scheme is actually a pretty good one, although the lack of a Taurus crime still stands out like a sore thumb, and having getting into the Batcave be the Capricorn crime doesn’t really track just because Joker calls Batman a goat. Still, it’s a series of crimes that the three-part structure gives room to breathe. I like having Venus’s change of heart come, not at the end, which is when it usually comes for molls if it comes at all, but midway through so that she can actually help our heroes out. Having said that, her backing-and-forthing isn’t entirely convincing, not helped by Terry Moore being unable to settle on a tone for Venus, making her a criminal mastermind one minute, a repentant woman the next, and a total bloody idiot the next…
On the one hand, this team-up works better than the unconvincing pairing of the Sandman with Catwoman because we’re dealing with two bad guys who have a long history on the show in general and who have teamed up once before, alongside Riddler and Catwoman, in the movie.
Unfortunately, Penguin is just as unconvincingly tacked onto this story as Catwoman was in “The Sandman Cometh”/”The Catwoman Goeth.” You could remove Pengy from the story and it changes absolutely nothing of consequence—his only real significant scene is when he tries to seduce Venus, but even that could have been done in other ways. Heck, you could just have had the Joker claim to have come around to Venus’s point of view about reforming.
The biggest problem, though, is that there is very little interaction between Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith. The interaction we do get is comedy gold, mind you, as they have a delightful over-act-off, but there’s not nearly enough of it. This story should have taken more of a cue from the movie, which put the villains together as often as possible. Instead, we get only a few scenes, and Penguin completely absent from the middle part all together.
Keith R.A. DeCandido‘s latest story is “Right on, Sister!” in Limbus Inc. Book 3, a shared-world horror anthology that also includes novellas by Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, David Liss, and Laird Barron. It’s edited by Brett J. Talley and published by the fine folks at JournalStone.