The Greatest American Hero “Here's Looking at You, Kid” (part 5 of 6)

Cut to that evening, outside a restaurant. An overlay of plinking piano music on the soundtrack tells us this is indeed Fine Dining. I hope they remember to ask for Cassie; she’s always a pip. There’s a car pulling into the lot, and—oh my god. Oh my god! It’s a fricking AMC Pacer! I haven’t seen one of those goldfish bowls since I was 7! I feel like I’ve died and gone to, well, 1981. Gah, what a horrifying fate that would be. Imagine spending eternity listening to Endless Love and nonstop Natalie Wood jokes.

Caption contributed by Mark

look look look omg look

Inside, a fussy maitre d’ with, of course, a French accent approaches Pam with a bucket of champagne. Why am I suddenly looking around for Mr. T?

Caption contributed by Mark

“Would you like to see the menu? Or would you like to meet the Dish of the Day?”

We now get another reminder of history intruding into our little story, via the single most jarring edit ever seen in a piece of filmed entertainment that’s not actually a hundred years old and patched together with cellophane tape.

Fussy Maitre d’: Excuse me. Miss Davidson? Compliments of Mister
Pam: Oh, is he here?
Fussy Maitre d’: He telephoned earlier.

I think the film flapping around in the projector on that one sliced my cheek open pretty good. I’m going to have to fix this wound up, can you give me a minute?

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Okay, I’m good to go. Where were we? Right, the Davidsons leaping to conclusions about the unreliability of their prospective son-in-law Ralph Vrooooarrrrr, only not really, because he has more sense than to propose to their daughter.

Dad calls for a toast to—say, what do you suppose Mr. Davidson wants to toast to? Yes, he proposes a toast to hardware. Can you see me shaking my head? ‘Cuz I am. The conversation actually stays stuck on hardware for some time, while Pam keeps looking away to a nearby potted tree [??]. I think she’s meant to be looking toward the reservation desk, where the phone is, but, um, she’s not, she’s looking at a tree.

Finally, Fussy McMaitre d’ returns to tell her she’s got a call, which turns out to be Ralph. But she doesn’t believe he’s calling from the restaurant’s payphone, and accuses him of ducking out on meeting her parents. Eventually, Ralph has to psst! psst! her attention over to the payphone, which she watches hang itself up.

He explains about his invisibility and asks her to make an excuse (and pay for dinner), but just as she’s getting really unnerved and saying she can’t deal with all this, Ralph abruptly fades back in to full visibility. And he blames the uncontrollability on “loose wires”, which is kinda funny. He tells Pam to go back to her seat, so he can “run the gauntlet” through the dining room to get out of the only restaurant in the universe without a back door.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Good, you’re visible again. …Maybe you should make your costume visible, too?”

This next scene was mortifying for me to watch as a kid, just because it looked so embarrassing for Ralph. It’s kind of wince-inducing today, too. Flailing his arms (Ralph does a lot of flailing in this episode) and flapping his cape, Ralph bursts into the dining room, adopts a grand voice, and addresses the diners at Les Frères Heureux thusly:

Ralph: Rrrrrrhhaaahh!!! Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please! Thank you! On behalf of the Janus Playhouse, I am happy to announce the opening tomorrow night of Sylvia Thornton and Bradley Birkstaff in George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Suuuuuuperman! [laughter from the diners; the maitre d’ starts quickly hustling him out] That’s the Janus Playhouse located on Rodeo Drive, south of Beverly Boulevard, parking in the rear!
Mr. Davidson: [looking after him in amazement] Hollywood weirdo.

I actually just noticed the best part of this, which is that when Ralph first makes his entrance into the dining room and starts his speech, the snooty maitre d’ tries to warn him off by pursing his lips and wagging his finger at him! Wow, this guy was really inside this role, you know what I mean? It comes as no surprise to me that the résumé for this actor, Roger Etienne, consists almost entirely of roles like “French Waiter”, “Captain” (as he’s billed here, as in, the captain of a wait staff), “Maitre d’“, “Chef”, etc., etc. I’ll bet when people see him sitting down in a restaurant they can’t process what they’re looking at, and probably feel a little faint. I would.

Caption contributed by Mark

William Katt is the Winged Victory of Samothrace in J. J. Abrams’s Pantheon!

Cut to Ralph glumly boarding a city bus. (Why isn’t he flying? He doesn’t like flying. Remember?) He sits down next to a guy who immediately climbs out to get away from him. Then Bill starts yelling at Ralph over the Zippo walkie-talkie, and the rest of the passengers scramble to get as far away from this costumed freak with voices coming out of him as possible.

Finally, Ralph tells Bill over the Zippo that he’s on a bus, and while Bill is ridiculing this concept, Ralph smashes the Zippo and grins meekly at his fellow travelers. A reverse angle shows all of the passengers crowded at the front of the bus and staring at him in horrified consternation, as if he’d just hauled out his dick and pissed a long stream of Cheez Whiz out of it.

Caption contributed by Mark

Even dressed as a superhero, Art Garfunkel always encountered nothing but scorn.

At the consulate, Bill is going for the old car trouble gag again. He actually asks the guys at the security gate if they have a phone, but they just stare at him. Signage on the gate, by the way, tells us that this isn’t the consulate for any particular country: the sign just says CONSULATE. You know, just in general. Maybe they rent it out, like to groups who feel like being a sovereign nation for a week or two.

But it turns out the security guys aren’t so dumb after all—they’ve recognized Bill from when he was parked in front of the Lamer Agency earlier. They gather around him, and Bill engages in some hardboiled banter with the red-haired Security Sidekick from the top of the episode. During this exchange, Bill is revealed as a Fed, and the guards haul him inside. Bizarrely, we get fifteen full seconds of watching Bill being taken up the driveway, through the gate, and toward the consulate before the fade to commercial. Fifteen seconds is a long time.

By the way, does Security Sidekick look familiar to you? Look carefully. Hint: you might have to dress like a Jedi to buy auto parts from him.

Caption contributed by Mark

—“Are you really willing to beat up a Fed?” —“Does a hobby horse have a wooden dick?”

After the break, Ralph shows up at Bill’s car, but the security guys are lying in wait and run out after him. Ralph hightails it toward some bushes, fading out in the process. The guards, perplexed, return to the gate. Don’t you hate it when you’re chasing some guy and then he just evaporates? Invisible Ralph, who now knows Bill has been captured (he heard the guards refer to him as “that Fed’s partner”), gets a vibe off the Fedmobile, and sees where Bill is being held inside the consulate.

Interestingly enough, Ralph now decides to take the direct approach: He walks straight up to the gate, lifts the latch, and opens it! Not only that, but as he walks unseen past the mystified guard standing right at the gate, he actually says “Excuse me”!

Now he goes into the consulate (this whole section is done in shaky Invisible Ralph-Cam, of course) and walks around. He gets into an elevator and ends up in the private quarters, where he witnesses a consulate security guy arguing with McGreedy’s Security Sidekick (yawn). Down the hall, the conference room is filled with the requisite Auction Bidders of Many Nations.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Can we get this out of the way quickly? Kobras has called a meeting for 4:30.”

In the back of the room, the consul is flipping out over McGreedy kidnapping an FBI agent, whose presence surely indicates that the Feds know all about their little covert superweapon deal. The consul tries to call the auction off, and you can imagine how sanguine the villain is about that. They don’t call him McGreedy for nothing!

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he’s nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: The Greatest American Hero "Here's Looking at You, Kid"

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  • Guest

    Pfft, Adam Baldwin would be a terrible pick. Sure he’s got great moments, but he works best as a growling man of few words. Bruce Campbell on the other hand…

  • The J-Man

    I love these “Greatest American Hero” recaps! Please do more. The first season episode, “Fire Man” is an interesting one for all the verbal gymnastics the characters go through to avoid saying “Hinkley”. Instead they say things like:
    “Villicana’s teacher”
    “The lady-lawyer’s boyfriend”
    “This guy”