Jan 17, 2010
The Greatest American Hero “Here's Looking at You, Kid” (part 6 of 6)
In a back hallway downstairs, Ralph is looking for Bill when he suddenly becomes visible again. He’s instantly noticed by the consulate security guy watching the cameras, so nice to know they’re on top of things, in case you’re thinking of renting out the place.
The security guy starts to report “Unidentified man in first floor hallway, wearing—” …but he can’t even bring himself to describe Ralph’s costume over an open comm, so he breaks off and says, “Never mind!” Wow, so that’s the secret to breaking into secure locations: Wear an outlandish costume too embarrassing for security dudes to describe aloud! That explains Lady Gaga, anyway. You think she wears that stuff just for kicks?
Ralph finds the storage room where they’re holding Bill, and concentrating very carefully, he realizes he can control his visibility and fade out again. Now invisible, he opens the door to the storage room and sucker-punches the guard. Now, that’s really not fair.
On their way out, Bill picks up the unconscious guard’s semi-automatic.
Invisible Ralph: You’re not going to shoot anybody with that, are you?
Bill: Of course not. I’m going to pick my teeth with it.
Bill: Of course not. I’m going to pick my teeth with it.
Man, this guy is made of awesome.
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Out in the hallway, Bill walks toward us, heading for the stairs up to the conference room, and he gets more and more blurry until he’s completely out of focus. Okay, Mister Cameraman? Robert Culp is in fact completely visible at the moment, so you should probably go for the whole “keeping him in focus” thing. You want to try this again?
Upstairs, the bidding is up to 53 million Swiss francs. Oooh, how international! Suddenly, the Supervoltimeter flies off the table (on, sigh, visible wires) and out the door, while Invisible Ralph says butchly, “Stay where you are! My men have the door covered!” My invisible men! That’s right, hire Griffin Security for all your Supervoltimeter-retrieval needs! Our motto: “Our men are everywhere! As far as you know, anyway.”
By the way, looking at this, you can tell that absolutely no thought whatsoever went into where Invisible Ralph actually is when the Supervoltimeter starts moving on its own. Everyone’s crowded around the table, so there’s no way Ralph could have gotten to the device and absconded with it unless he was hanging from the chandelier.
The Supervoltimeter is pulled out of the shot on wires flies out the door. The entire General Assembly of Evil gapes for a moment, then leaps out of their chairs and gives chase to the flying MacGuffin.
Back downstairs, Ralph suddenly becomes visible again, and as Bill gripes about “working with a Cheshire cat”, the two men make a run for it. Meanwhile, the Evil United Nations is stampeding down the deluxe consulate hallways in hot pursuit of the guys, and Red the Security Sidekick is hunting them down as well.
Bill and Ralph make their way upstairs to a bedroom and climb out on the balcony. But there’s no way out from there, because, you know, it’s a frickin’ balcony. Really, “no way out” is pretty much the definition of a balcony.
So there’s nothing else for Ralph to do but to haul Bill over his shoulders and try to fly. He makes a big leap, and yay, they’re up in the air—ooops, no, they’re not. But at least the spot where they crash-land is outside the compound. As Bill grouses about always ending up in traction, we fade to commercial.
So, the episode is almost over, and yet we still have two big plot threads that have been sorely neglected: Ralph meeting Ma and Pa Davidson, and… um… gosh, it was so long ago! What was—oh yeah, the sweathogs’ dabbling in electoral politics, and political influence peddling. There’s only two minutes left, though, so I really don’t see how—hey, wait a minute! That Juanita Bartlett is one smart cookie! The solution is so elegant: this episode’s denouement consists of hulk smashing both subplots together into one big smiley-face! I see what you did there!
Yes, as an example of real-life civics, Ralph is introducing his girlfriend’s dad, the mayor of Deer Lick Falls, Minnesota, to an assemblage of the sweathogs, thus simultaneously ingratiating himself to Mr. Davidson and giving the sweathogs a firsthand look at how politics works. And in a superhuman show of tact, not one of the kids snickers at the name of the town the guy is from.
Mr. Davidson sails straight into a speech, starting with, “Now, as Mr. Hinkley has told you—” [!!] I’m sorry, who? There’s nobody in this episode by that name, sir.
But Tony already has his hand up. Ralph interrupts Mr. Davidson to tell Tony to cool it, but Tony’s just curious as to what Mr. Davidson’s campaign slogan was. Turns out Tony finally came up with one of his own for their slate in the school election: “Chaffey for president, he’s got charm. Vote for him or we’ll break your arm!”
The sweathogs get a big laugh out of this, but Mr. Davidson is flustered. “That’s not a slogan, young man—that’s a threat!” Thank you, Mayor Obvious.
Mr. Davidson starts to get back on track with his speech, only to be interrupted again, this time by the intrusion of a besunglassed Bill (to a chorus of “oh, it’s that creep” etc. from the sweathog peanut gallery). Ralph and Pam get up and walk out on Mr. Davidson as he gets started again, talking about how there are “people in every home” [?]. Well, except in Buffalo.
Ralph is ready for a fight about spending time with Pam and her folks, but Bill’s only shown up to tell Ralph that McGreedy’s been arrested, and to say thank you. What’s funny is that Bill is so calm here he seems positively medicated. He raises his Styrofoam coffee cup and says, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” which causes Ralph, even though he’s outwardly wearing civvies, to abruptly disappear. Wait, say “Kwi!” That’ll bring him back! No, wait, that’s only if he’s been turned into a camel by an ancient Egyptian curse. Never mind.
The thing is, other episodes make a big deal about how at least part of the suit has to be showing for Ralph to use his powers—in the season 2 premiere, for example, when he’s using his abilities to become a baseball star (yes, seriously), he has to expose the red of his suit on his pitching arm. But if you think I’m going to open up a new can of worms with 30 seconds to go on the clock, you’re nuts.
The scene is supposed to end with Bill ripping off his sunglasses and staring in amazement at Invisible Ralph, I guess. Only, I don’t know what happened, because it seems they didn’t get enough footage for a proper ending, so what we get is Bill ripping his sunglasses off, which becomes a freeze frame [?], followed by a cut to a shot of Pam looking on with absolutely no expression that also freezes into a still, and then back to the freeze frame of Bill for a zoom in on his (frozen) face and a fade to black!
Geez, what a dumb and broken end to a very weird and hugely uneven, if historically significant, episode. I feel oddly deflated and in desperate need of some kind of feel-good comfort TV. You know, like The Dukes of Hazzard or something.
Unbelievably enough, after the initial panic over Ralph’s last name, the network’s overreaction only escalated. Two episodes later, Ralph’s last name suddenly became the extremely lame “Hanley”, and later in the season we even see this name on screen. And the sweathogs, from this point on, consistently call him “Mr. H”.
But “Hanley” sounds exactly like the superbland stopgap that it was intended to be (I’d like to think that choosing such a dumb name was Cannell’s screw-you to a network name-change mandate), and by the start of the second season, Ralph’s name had reverted to Hinkley. At that point, we were all essentially invited to forget that everyone around Ralph had been mesmerized into calling him by the wrong name for several weeks. And the easy explanation is right there in the premise: the aliens who gave Ralph the suit were just fucking with him.