Knight Rider “Knight of the Phoenix” (part 3 of 4)

After the commercial break, there’s another driving montage, as Knight heads to “Millston”, California, which is supposed to be the center of Silicon Valley. Knight starts talking to himself about wanting to hear some music, and this is when the car decides to manifest its latest super power. The car starts talking to him, in the voice of actor Bill Daniels.

Knight is freaked out, and stops the car, yelling all the while. The car, which has now given itself the name KITT, says that there’s no need to yell. “I am scanning your interrogatives quite satisfactorily.” Knight, still playing the jerk, threatens to quit the whole revenge program if KITT isn’t muzzled. He tells KITT to play some music and shut the heck up. Lastly, Knight refuses to let KITT put the car on “Auto Cruise,” even though he’s agitated and tired.

Later on down the road, Knight does indeed start to get sleepy. He full-on nods off, and KITT tries to wake him up by gently calling to him. Having no success, KITT takes over the driving, regardless of what Knight said before. Of course, they pass a couple of cops in a police car, who decide to pursue. The cops are hilariously broad southern hick stereotypes, which is kinda weird to see just outside of Silicon Valley. As we’ll see later on, in the Knight Rider universe, there are lots of rednecks.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 3 of 4)

Eventually, Knight wakes up and pulls over. He follows KITT’s instructions and feigns deafness and a kinked neck to explain why it looked like he was sleeping, and why he didn’t pull over right away. Breaking the stereotype momentarily, the hick cops buy it and send him on his way. Glen Larson says that this scene is what told the network and the public what the whole series would be like, so it’s clear that we’re not supposed to take any of this too seriously.

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Knight finally makes it into town, and happens to find a bar right by the very company where Tanya, Wilson, Gray, and Lonnie—remember them?—work, COMTRON. As he gets ready to go into the bar, Knight and KITT have another one of their spats, which leads to this priceless exchange.

Knight: You’re about as much fun as a divorce! Which is not a bad idea!
KITT: I want custody of me!

While Knight is drinking beer and watching Lonnie and some other COMTRON employees inside the bar, out in the parking lot, it’s comedy relief time! Two guys roll up next to KITT in a nice blue ’67 Firebird, and decide that they want to steal the car. The Hispanic Comic Relief Guy tells the black Comic Relief Guy that it’s not a real good idea to steal a car in the middle of a crowded parking lot in the daytime, so they call it off. Unfortunately, the Comic Relief dudes will be back, and they get less funny every time. These two were allegedly added to the episode after it was mostly complete, in order to pad out the run time by seven more minutes. Seven minutes of watching KITT drive through the desert, or even seven more minutes of Knight and KITT or Knight and Devon bitching at each other would have been far preferable.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 3 of 4)

Back inside the bar, Maggie, a pretty waitress in a sarong and a bikini top, brings Knight his latest round of beer. Knight starts asking questions about Lonnie, COMTRON, and Tanya. Maggie seems to know something about COMTRON, too, but she has a cow when Knight mentions Tanya. She dumps a drink on Knight’s lap, and her boss fires her. Maggie storms out, and after patting his crotch dry, Knight follows her.

Lonnie, who Knight didn’t recognize, follows. She overheard Knight asking about Tanya, and says she knows her. Knight tells Lonnie he has something to sell Tanya, and asks Lonnie to pass the message on. Mission accomplished, I guess, because Knight gets back in KITT and drives off.

Later on that night, Knight rolls up on Maggie as she leaves the bar. Why is she still there? Did it take her that long to clean out her locker? She’s understandably cheesed off at him, but he wants to make nice. Maggie is hesitant—apparently, Tanya and the group of valley girls she runs with are responsible for Maggie losing her job at COMTRON, and also for killing her husband in a faked accident.

She gets in her convertible VW and backs into KITT, which of course causes not a scratch on KITT, but does cause the bumper of the bug to fall off. And then—steam?—comes out of the back of the VW. Huh? She must have had a block of dry ice strapped to the engine block or something. But wait! Knight offers Maggie a chance to get even with Tanya. She agrees, and they drive off in KITT.

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 3 of 4)

Maggie and Knight arrive at her apartment, and are let in by her housekeeper Luce, who decides that Knight and Maggie are totally going to get married. Maggie’s son, Buddy, wakes up and asks if Knight is going to marry his mom. Wow! Told you that the Hoff had some serious mojo going on! Everyone just expects any attractive, single woman to want to marry him.

During their conversation, Knight learns that COMTRON is sponsoring a special demolition derby the next day, one in which brand new cars will be entered instead of clunkers. Do you see where this is going, at all? Knight promises to be back at 10 AM the next day to pick them up, so they can come to the race and watch him win it! Buddy, still not in bed, yells for joy.

The next day, Knight pulls up to a phone booth to put a phone call in to Devon. Why does he need that? KITT doesn’t have a phone? He does, actually, but they’re just not going to use it until later. While he’s calling, the two Comic Relief goons in the blue Firebird appear on the scene, delighting in their second chance to steal KITT. Funky Comic Relief music plays while the goons case the car. The Comic Relief goons try to pick the lock on KITT and the result is that their lockpick gets bent. Then the black Comic Relief guy tries to kick in the window, only to hurt his foot. Finally, the Hispanic Comic Relief dude tries to throw a brick through the window, only to have it bounce back into the black guy’s face, knocking him out. Komedy!

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 3 of 4)

His bitchy conversation with Devon over, Knight heads back to KITT. The Comic Relief dudes are still crumpled on the street beside the car. Knight must still be upset by Devon’s snarkiness, because he doesn’t notice them at all. He also doesn’t have to unlock the car—he just opens the driver’s side door and gets in. Unintentional Komedy!

Later on, a large crowd gathers at a track to watch the “COMTRON International Demo Derby”. A lot of brand-spanking-new 1982 cars—the fodder for the derby—are lined up, ready to go. Knight, Maggie, and Buddy pull up in KITT. Knight promises to get Maggie and Buddy tickets in owners’ row, and goes off to enter the race.

Back from securing owners’ row tickets from Tanya, who didn’t recognize him, Knight finds his way back to Maggie and KITT. They can’t find Buddy. Oh, no! Where could he possibly be? They aren’t super concerned about a missing ten-year-old in a huge crowd, though. Maggie just walks off without him.

The race starts, and KITT suddenly grows racing harness seat belts, and Buddy pops his head up from the back seat! Who could have seen that coming? Early in the race, Knight uses KITT’s capabilities to perform some cool stunts. One time, KITT pops up on the passenger-side wheels to squeeze between two other cars. Looking into the car during the stunt, we can see that the stunt driver is a passable substitute for Hasselhoff, but Buddy is played by a floppy, stuffed dummy. Sort of an upgrade in acting, actually.

Southern hick drivers are driving many of the other cars. Told you they were thick in Silicon Valley! A couple of them yell back and forth between their cars, formulating a plan to knock Knight out of the race. Knight pushes the “Pursuit” button and KITT rockets up to 100 MPH, easily sprinting between them before the two cars can close in on him. Now he’s in the lead!

The hicks ram the back of KITT, which of course does nothing. Buddy decides it’s a good time to press a random button on the dashboard. He presses the one labeled “C”, and that happens to make an oil slick spurt out of the back of the car. They should really label those buttons better. Hick number one slides on the oil and that seems to be enough to put a slightly upscale American-made 1982 sedan out of the race.

Knight scolds Buddy and tells him not to press any more buttons, so of course that’s what he immediately does. He presses “D” and that causes a smokescreen, which in turn causes another car to swerve off the track and crash into some hay bales. Another car out! Cars were kind of fragile back then, huh?

Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix" (part 3 of 4)

There are also actual collisions in this demolition derby, believe it or not. Some Lincolns and Caddies ram into each other, and at one point there’s a nice stunt where two cars simultaneously run into another car, using it as a ramp and flying into the air. Just because you can see the actual ramp doesn’t mean it’s not a good stunt.

Eventually, the second hick and Knight are the only two left in the race. They both race right towards one of the pileups, with no apparent way through. Knight guns it and KITT flies right over it. He crosses the finish line first and wins the race. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the second hick crash into the pileup.

Mark M. Meysenburg

Mark teaches at Doane College, a liberal arts college in Crete, Nebraska. Most of his teaching involves computer science, but Mark also occasionally teaches mathematics and the history of science; he has also been known to offer three week courses on the worst movies ever made.

Mark’s bad movie obsession was kindled in the early 1980s by the Medved brothers, then fanned to full flame by late-night showings of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Who could have predicted the long term effects of satin-pajama-clad, mincing alien menace?

Mark’s other interests include homebrew beer and wine, and practicing and teaching martial arts.

Multi-Part Article: Knight Rider "Knight of the Phoenix"

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