Knight Rider “Good Day at White Rock” (part 1 of 3)
Let’s return again to the wonderful world of 1982, and drop in again on Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff, natch) and his indestructible, talking Trans-Am. It’s another Knight Rider recap! I know it may seem like my last Knight Rider article was posted in the 1980s as well. Sorry about that! But no worries—what I lack in punctuality I more than make up for with a deficiency of timeliness.
“A Good Day at White Rock”, the third episode in the series, provides a neat little counterpoint to the previous episode, “Deadly Maneuvers”. In some respects, “Deadly Maneuvers” seemed to overreach. The episode promised a lot: Murder! Explosions! Conspiracy! Tanks! Nuclear freakin’ weapons! And yet, the budget couldn’t pay for most of that. Surely you remember the end results, right? No? Car crashes that were heard but not seen? The Army firing range that was “realized” through thirty year old stock footage? And the list goes on.
“A Good Day at White Rock”, on the other hand, doesn’t set its sights so high. The plot is nowhere near as serious or grandiose, and so it’s an episode that could be filmed without its limited budget becoming obvious. “Deadly Maneuvers” talked a good game but couldn’t deliver, while this episode is more modest and unassuming; to my mind, that makes it a better episode.
“A Good Day at White Rock” begins with Knight and KITT busting a drug ring. We open inside a darkened warehouse, where three oily drug dealers are busy weighing and packing several rather large piles of cocaine. A high-pitched turbine sound breaks their concentration, and they look up just in time to see KITT crash through the front of the building.
As KITT tail-slides to a halt, the coke table is knocked over, sending a white plume of the drug billowing into the air. Advantage number n + 1 to being a vigilante rather than a police officer: No need to bother with pesky details like preserving crime scenes. Also, you can get a great contact high from all the atomized coke!
Knight leans out of the car’s window with a machine gun, and the dealers give up without a fight. Presumably, he turns them over to the police, but who knows? Maybe it ended like it did at the SMC Cartage Company. All we know for sure is that Knight cracks wise at the dealers a bit before the scene ends.
Sometime later, Knight manages to track down his mincing sourpuss boss Devon, who happens to be eating lunch at an allegedly fancy restaurant. Devon is already in the middle of his meal of escargot and red wine when Knight orders a cheeseburger and fries, much to the disgust of the waiter and Devon.
Knight didn’t go to the trouble of finding Devon merely to animadvert on the boss’ comestibles, however. Knight, feeling the strain of sitting in his indestructible car while it does all the crime-fighting work for him, has come to ask for some time off. Devon is more than happy to get rid of his millstone for a while, so Knight is off to the titular town of White Rock for a rock-climbing vacation.
On the way to the town, Knight and KITT chat a bit about the concept of a vacation. KITT, suffering from a plot-specific lack of knowledge, has no idea what this thing called a “vacation” is, so Knight tries to explain via analogies. “Kind of like when I put you in neutral,” he says. Ugh.
They pull into a town that should look vaguely familiar. If you’ve seen a movie about an alien takeover that may be an allegory about the red menace, or a movie involving a mutant arachnid and a glimpse of Clint Eastwood, or a movie with Ron Howard as a boy genius and more Beau Bridges than you ever wanted to see, or heaven help you, this or [shudder] even this, then you’ve seen the town of “White Rock” before. Or at least you’ve seen the town square before.
Yep, “White Rock” is really the town square set on the Universal Studios backlot! In between all the trams of tourists and the dang thing burning down every few years, the set was actually used for its intended purpose.
Knight pulls up to the general store, which seems to be filled exclusively with industrial-sized cans of peaches—millions of peaches—and Coleman camping gear. Cans and tents, tents and cans, they’ve got it all!
The proprietor is this week’s lovely single lady, the soon-to-be-target of the Hoff’s utter manliness. It’s Sherry Benson, played by Anne Lockhart. Ms. Lockhart has done a lot of TV (Sheba? I don’t remember a Sheba!), and according to the always reliable IMDb, she was the uncredited voice of the Kelvin’s computer in the recent Star Trek reboot.
Here, she’s pretty, she’s single, and she has an adorable moppet of a little brother, which as we learned in the first episode makes Sherry prime Hoff-hunting material. Well, that and the fact that she’s the only woman in the whole town. It’s not like you have to be good at multiple-choice tests to see how this one is going to work out.
Note that Sherry is wearing a western-style plaid shirt and blue jeans. That seems to be something of a local dress code, as we shall see.
Knight flirts up a storm with Sherry, but realistically? She was hooked as soon as she saw him. He’s the Hoff!
He orders a hamburger (which he does not eat off the floor), and while Sherry goes over to the stove to cook it up, the moppet runs into the store. This week’s adorable brat, Davey, is played by Keith Coogan, Jackie Coogan’s grandson. He’s pretty much interchangeable with Bobby, the adorable brat from the pilot episode. Think enthusiastic ten-year-old with a Dorothy Hamil haircut and plaid western shirt (the second we’ve seen) and you’ve got the picture. Knight offers to take Davey/Bobby for a ride in his car.
We don’t like to talk about it nowadays, but in the 1980s it was perfectly okay for young boys to go riding off with strange men. In fact, it was encouraged in certain circumstances. That’s how we culled the herd back then. Jimmy’s not doing so well in school? Spends all his time playing Berzerk on the Atari? Listens to Air Supply? Time for that last ride, Jimmy! Just hop in the car with that nice man, okay?
On the drive, Knight and Davey/Bobby happen upon his grade school nemesis, Donny. I mean, Donny is Davey/Bobby’s nemesis, not Knight’s. Donny also has a Dorothy Hamil haircut and a (of course) plaid western shirt on, so the only way to tell them apart is that Donny is bigger and meaner. And the only way to tell the bully from Sherry is that Donny has a better figure. Zing!
Donny has an older brother with an (allegedly) bitchin’ conversion van, which all the kids are admiring. Davey/Bobby wants to make them all jealous with KITT, so Knight drops Davey/Bobby off and drives away, only to see the kid being beaten up in his rearview mirror!
Knight pulls a U-turn and heads back to break up the fight, catching the attention of White Rock’s sheriff in the process. Donny’s older brother shows up, too, and he’s also wearing a western style plaid shirt, albeit his is pink. The heck? Did Randy Jones quit the band or something? The brother is named Lonny. Strangely, the third sibling, Bonnie, is nowhere to be found. Her western style shirt must have been in the laundry that day.
Turns out that Lonny, like Donny, is also something of a bully, and he threatens Knight for the capital offenses of touching his van and his little brother. There’s some funny dialogue here, as Knight first tries to placate, and then insult, the bully:
Lonny: Yeah, what about it?
Knight: I don’t know! I mean, I mean, I love it! I mean, it’s so original!
Lonny: [motioning toward KITT] Yeah? Well, yours is dumb!
Knight: Dumb, huh? Your family seems to have a somewhat limited vocabulary.
Luckily, before things can come to blows, Sheriff Bruckner pulls up and steps in. Bruckner is played by James T. Callahan, AKA Walter Powell from Charles in Charge! And he was on this site not too long ago as the warden in the Patrick Swayze episode of Amazing Stories! We’re getting closer and closer to giving Mr. Callahan his own theme month on this site.
Alas, rather than cracking down on Lonny, the sheriff tells Knight to get out of town. He threatens to lock Knight up in the county clink, under the theory that jailing innocent people is a good way to prevent fights, since the local hooligans won’t have anyone to beat up.
Knight agrees to leave, and just go do his rock-climbing thing, but first the sheriff ratchets things up a notch, giving him a ticket for the U-turn! Knight, obviously unhappy, accepts the abuse without much of a fuss, and then takes Davey/Bobby home. He uses the occasion to teach Davey/Bobby a life lesson about choosing one’s battles. Should’ve taught him about choosing one’s hairstyle and wardrobe instead, if you ask me.