“Penguin’s Clean Sweep”
Written by Stanford Sherman
Directed by Oscar Rudolph
Season 3, Episode 20
Production code 1721
Original air date: January 25, 1968
The Bat-signal: At the Gotham City branch of the U.S. Mint, the Penguin breaks into steal a gift for his moll. O’Hara calls Gordon to let him know, as he’s at Wayne Manor, escorting Barbara to a meeting with Bruce to discuss her new position as the chair of the anti-littering committee. Gordon has O’Hara call Batman, so Alfred tells Bruce that a water pipe burst, and he needs a hand with the shut-off valve by way of covering to let him go into the study to answer the red phone.
Batman and Robin head to GCPD HQ, somehow arriving after Gordon has returned, even though Gordon has to travel the same distance and doesn’t have the benefit of a jet-powered vehicle. When they arrive, they bump into Penguin, his moll, and his two henchmen in the elevator. The Dynamic Duo escort the foursome to Gordon’s office, but it turns out that Penguin didn’t steal anything from the mint. Penguin threatens to sue the GCPD for false arrest but Batman points out that he still broke into the mint. Batman offers to drop the criminal charges if he drops the suit.
Gordon wonders why Batman gave him the offer, but Batman thinks they wouldn’t be able to hold him long on such minor charges. Batgirl shows up, claiming to have driven by the mint and found out what happened, and since Penguin didn’t take anything—even though he gassed the mint staff—they decide to head over to the mint and see what he might have left there. (Why they didn’t also arrest Penguin on assault charges in addition to the B&E is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
Using the portable bat-lab (kept in a blue case handily labelled, “PORTABLE BAT-LAB”), Batman discovers that the latest batch of moolah has the bacterium for Lygerian sleeping sickness mixed into the ink. According to the guard, a shipment of money was sent to the Gotham National Bank after Penguin’s break-in. Batgirl heads to the bank while Batman and Robin go to the hospital to obtain the vaccine for Lygerian sleeping sickness. (How a batch of money managed to actually be printed and put into circulation when the entire staff has been unconscious since Penguin broke in is also left as an exercise for the viewer.)
Unfortunately, Penguin is way ahead of them. He’s already at the hospital and has himself and his people inoculated against the sleeping sickness, then dumps the rest of the vaccine in the storm sink. When Batman and Robin arrive, he keeps them at bay with his deadly Lygerian fruit flies (kept in a small box labelled, “LYGERIAN FRUIT FLIES”). Batman and Robin manage to kill two of the flies, and they keep a third in a bottle for safe keeping.
Before Batgirl arrives at the bank, $13,000 of it has been circulated (how this happened in less than two hours is also left as an exercise for the viewer). Batman calls Gordon and urges him to tell everyone to not touch their money. The citizenry of Gotham immediately throw their money away, which leaves Penguin to vacuum it all up, since he’s immune to the sleeping sickness. Batgirl tries to stop him, but is gassed for her trouble.
Bruce calls several of his financier buddies and warns them not to take any cash from Gotham City. Meanwhile, Penguin and his gang are rolling in dough, but they can’t spend it thanks to Bruce calling all his fellow one-percenters. Furious, Penguin calls Bruce and threatens him with releasing five hundred Lygerian fruit flies on Gotham if he doesn’t reverse those calls. Bruce refuses, so Penguin unleashes the fruit flies and heads to the Gotham National Bank, where Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Gordon, and O’Hara are all waiting and pretending to be struck with sleeping sickness. But it turns out that it’s cold enough in Gotham today for the flies to go into hibernation. Sure.
Fisticuffs ensue, and Penguin is stopped. It also turns out that he asked the doctor for a double dose of the vaccine, which doesn’t actually make inoculations work better—it just makes you more likely to contract the sickness, as Penguin discovers when he starts to nod off.
Later, Gordon and Bruce both visit Barbara, but their pleasant coffee is interrupted by a call to Gordon from Bonnie, who transfers a call from Warden Crichton, warning him that Shame is being visited by two women: Calamity Jan and Frontier Fanny.
Fetch the Bat-shark-repellant! Batman keeps an all-purpose bat-swatter in his utility belt, but when a fruit fly lands on Robin’s nose, Batman doesn’t fulfill the dreams of the entire viewership by biffing the boy wonder with the bat-swatter, but instead whips out the bat-tweezers. The Batcave has a Bat-Weather Instrument that can predict the weather—to a degree, anyhow, as it misses the fact that it’s about to rain. We also get to see the Portable Bat-Lab, which apparently consists of a microscope…
Holy #@!%$, Batman! “Holy hypodermics!” is what Robin exclaims when he and Batman head to the hospital. “Holy Rip Van Winkle,” is what Robin literary-references when Batman saves him from the Lygerian fruit fly.
Gotham City’s finest. It never occurs to trained law-enforcement personnel Gordon and O’Hara that they can still arrest Penguin for breaking and entering the mint, even if they can’t get him on robbery. Batman does remind them that B&E is on the table, but it doesn’t occur to any of the dunderheads that there’s also an assault charge to be made.
Special Guest Villain. It’s Burgess Meredith’s swan song as the Penguin (though he will make an uncredited cameo as Penguin two months hence on an episode of The Monkees).
Na-na na-na na-na na-na na.
“Hello, World League of Nations? I’d like to buy a country—what have you got? … No, I don’t want that one—I’m allergic to vodka.”
–Penguin trying to spend his ill-gotten gains.
Trivial matters: This episode was discussed on The Batcave Podcast episode 63 by host John S. Drew with special guest chum, Chris Gould, author of Batman at 45: The Ultimate Tribute to Pow, Bam, and Zap!
Penguin’s moll is played by Belgian actor Monique van Vooren, who was best known at this stage in her career for title role in Tarzan and the She-Devil (she played the she-devil, obviously), and who later would be known for her role in Andy Warhol’s 1973 cult classic Flesh for Frankenstein. She’s still alive, and her most recent credit is the found-footage film Greystone Park from Sean Stone.
Pow! Biff! Zowie! “Nobody catches the Penguin sleeping!” I spent a lot of time watching this episode staring at the screen, tilting my head, and saying, “Huh?” The script can’t seem to make up its mind as to whether or not Lygerian sleeping sickness is fatal, for one thing, which is just odd.
Even if it isn’t fatal, though, the response of the Gotham City citizenry to the knowledge that the sickness is in their cash makes absolutely no sense. If the money was dangerous, people might burn it, they might put it in a jar, they might take it to the bank to exchange it for non-contaminated currency. (Since all the bad currency came from one bank, they can just go to a different branch.)
The one thing I guarantee that no one would do is just dump their cash onto the street.
Which is kind of a problem, as the Penguin’s entire plot is predicated on that response. And it just doesn’t make any kind of sense. Neither does Bruce calling his rich buddies and telling them not to accept any cash from Gotham City—first off, international transactions on that level were made even then by wire transfer, not cash exchange, and secondly, I’m not sure that any millionaire, billionaire, or trillionaire would turn down a major financial transaction just because Bruce Wayne asked them not to…
On top of that, Batman just lets Penguin go after he committed a crime, because he wants to play out what the real big plan is. Well, why do that? Seriously, that’s some sociopathic shit there. It makes considerably more sense to just arrest the bastard…
Burgess Meredith does the best he can—his sardonic wordplay is as strong as ever here—and the opening finally shows that someone other than Bruce can be the chair of a committee or organization in Gotham. (Though really, Barbara? Anti-littering? That’s the best you can do?) But the plot is just dopey and cuts off the air supply to my disbelief, even more than most Batman 66 plots.
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at the first-ever HELIOsphere convention in Tarrytown, New York this weekend, alongside guests of honor David Gerrold, Jacqueline Carey, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, among many others. Saturday will be the launch party for Baker Street Irregulars, the alternate Sherlock Holmes anthology that Keith has a story in; fellow contributors Gerrold, Austin Farmer, Hildy Silverman, and Ryk Spoor, and co-editor Michael A. Ventrella will also be there. Keith’s full schedule can be found here.