“Louie’s Lethal Lilac Time”
Written by Charles Hoffman
Directed by Sam Strangis
Season 3, Episode 18
Production code 1718
Original air date: January 11, 1968
The Bat-signal: Dick is holding a party for his friends at Bruce’s beach house in Ambergris Bay. Bruce has asked Barbara to chaperone with him. Dick and his friends find a huge chunk of ambergris, but before they can go try to find more, Louie the Lilac and two of his thugs show up to take the ambergris—and also to kidnap Bruce and Dick.
This is kind of a problem, insofar as Gordon’s call on the bat-phone is met with Alfred reluctantly telling him that Batman and Robin are out of town and unreachable.
Louie’s moll Lotus is thrilled at the ambergris, but she still needs glands and follicles and scent pouches from deer, beavers, civet cats, and muskrats. Louie—who sounds almost bored by the whole concept of cornering the market on perfume, soap, and cosmetics—sends his boys out to get the animals. Bruce—a famous sportsman and animal expert—will extract the needed body bits. Louie also plans to ransom Bruce and Dick for a million dollars.
Gordon, lost as usual without the Dynamic Duo, decides to put together a highlight reel of some of their exploits because—well, honestly, it’s totally unclear why they’re watching this highlight reel, though it’s all stuff that could not possibly have been filmed. (Hilariously, none of it is from “Death in Slow Motion”/“The Riddler’s False Notion” or from “Penguin is a Girl’s Best Friend”/“Penguin Sets a Trend”/“Penguin’s Disastrous End,” all episodes in which Batman and Robin were actually put on film as part of the plot…)
Alfred speaks to the press about the kidnapping, then is paid a visit by Barbara, who says that Louie the Lilac kidnapped Bruce and Dick. Her being a witness to the kidnapping is apparently not a good enough reason for her to tell her father that, since he apparently won’t trust her eyewitness account. (Nor that of Dick’s friends.) She gets Alfred to promise to let her know if he gets any leads, and when he gets Louie’s likely HQ from the Bat-computer, he passes it on to Barbara.
After dealing with a snooping maintenance man, Batgirl heads to Louie’s hideout, where she’s met by Gordon, O’Hara, a bunch of cops, and also the empty Batmobile (sent there by Alfred via remote control). The cops have the place surrounded—and then they stand around, since they figure Batman and Robin are inside. (They’re sorta right.) Batgirl goes in on her own, but Louie takes her out in half a second. Louie puts Batgirl in a macerating vat, which finally convinces Bruce to perform the operations on the animals in exchange for her life. Bruce asks only for two glasses of warm water.
Bruce and Dick are locked in the basement with the two glasses of warm water, at which point Bruce takes two pills out of his ascot, which unfold into their costumes in the water. They break out of the basement just in time to keep Batgirl from being boiled in oil (since Louie had no intention of keeping his part of the bargain, being evil and all). Fisticuffs ensue, and our heroes are triumphant. Batgirl goes to get the cops from outside, allowing Bruce and Dick to change clothes. They say that the Dynamic Duo continued onward, and Alfred remote drove the Batmobile away to make it convincing.
Gordon is exhausted from all that standing around outside, and tells Bruce, Dick, and O’Hara that he’s taking a vacation—but Bruce informs him that there will be a civic dinner in his honor next week, which was supposed to be a surprise. But the real surprise will be Nora Clavicle…
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Bruce has a two-way wrist radio on his watch—just like Dick Tracy! The Batmobile once again travels through Gotham via remote control. Bruce has recently perfected quick-unfolding costumes, complete with fully stocked utility belts, that unfold in warm water, thus allowing our heroes to make a quick change and save the day. The belts include a bat-laser and a bat-grappling hook.
Meanwhile, Barbara has a secret Batgirl room instant transformer (handily labelled “SECRET BATGIRL ROOM INSTANT TRANSFORMER”), which disguises her Batgirl closet as a normal storage room, er, somehow. And next to it is the secret Batgirl room instant re-transformer (similarly handily labelled), which restores it to its usual crimefighter’s closet. She also has a Batgirl vat-opener in case some day she was imprisoned in a vat—which, to be fair, was always a likely occurrence once she decided to get into the costumed crimefighting biz.
Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy finishing touches!” is the best Robin can do when they put their quick-unfolding uniforms on.
Gotham City’s finest. Apparently, Barbara thinks so highly of her father that she is convinced that if she told him about a kidnapping that she and several other people witnessed, he would dismiss it.
Then again, their solution to a hostage crisis is to stand around and wait for Batman to tell them what to do, so perhaps Barbara is right to take matters into her own hands…
To be fair, they do manage to figure out Louie’s hideout on their own, which is a pretty impressive accomplishment for the GCPD…
Special Guest Villain. Milton Berle returns, following “Louie, the Lilac.” It’s not clear why this villain, in particular, deserved a return engagement when, for example, Joan Collins—who was way more interesting—didn’t, but such are the vicissitudes of life.
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“You mean the stuff given forth by whales from which they make perfume?”
—Dick’s hugely awkward reply to Bruce’s mention of ambergris that cleverly avoids calling it whale vomit.
No sex, please, we’re superheroes. At the Wayne beach house, Bruce is wearing an apache (a variation on an ascot), Dick is wearing an orange shirt that could be used to signal ships in fog, along with shorts and moccasins, while Barbara is wearing a very hip and sexy red number. The three faces of 1968 sex appeal, ladies and gentlemen…
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 61 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Joseph Culp, a.k.a. “Captain Scotland,” host of The Highlander’s Heart podcast.
Nobu McCarthy, the former Miss Tokyo and a character actor who often played Asian roles, plays Lotus, Louie’s moll. Former child star turned character actor Percy Helton plays the janitor.
While Madge Blake does not appear in the episode, Harriet is mentioned.
The reel Gordon’s detectives put together of Batman and Robin’s exploits include scenes from “Come Back Shame”/“It’s How You Play the Game,” “Green Ice”/“Deep Freeze” (WILD!), “The Curse of Tut”/“The Pharaoh’s in a Rut,” and “The Zodiac Crimes”/“The Joker’s Hard Times”/“The Penguin Declines.”
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Those muskrats and muskdeer sure are musky.” The most somnabulent performance by a villain since Art Carney mumbled his way through “Shoot a Crooked Arrow”/“Walk the Straight and Narrow,” Milton Berle is practically checking his watch to see if it’s time for him to go home yet—or better yet, to the local bar—as he can barely be arsed to inflect the words he speaks. He doesn’t even have the swagger that he had in “Louie, the Lilac,” he’s just reading his lines as worst he possibly can.
On top of that, the episode is almost entirely filler. Barbara visiting Wayne Manor to talk to Alfred is a pointless scene—they could’ve just had Alfred call Barbara with the info from the Bat-computer—the highlight reel of (much better) past episodes serves no plot function whatsoever except to fill time, and the bit with Barbara and the maintenance guy is not only pointless, it’s patently absurd (this is the first time a bat-device has actively violated laws of physics, I think) and concludes with one of our heroes threatening the maintenance guy with gun violence if he invades her home again. Yeah. Any one of these things would be obvious filler, but three such scenes in a half-hour episode?
Of course, the actual plot calls for the kidnapping of several animals, the wrangling of which is so not in the budget. They’re, of course, unseen in the basement, and the producers can’t even be bothered to loop in some animal sounds, because, y’know, that would be an effort. And it’s pretty obvious that everybody’s given up on effort in this episode.
Keith R.A. DeCandido recently announced one of his niftiest new projects, which will be out this summer: Orphan Black: Classified Clone Report—From the Files of Dr. Delphine Cormier. This reference work is the ultimate companion to the BBC America TV series, and will be released alongside the airing of the show’s fifth and final season. More information on Keith’s blog.