Season 1, Episode 05: The Competition

Writer: Graham Yost
Director: Ross K. Bagwell, Jr.
Original air date: August 11, 1989

The cold open involves Danny and Ted coming into Mr. Ernst’s office for a meeting, which, after a bit of banter regarding his previous (horrible) advertising idea, he finally gets to the purpose of:

05-01-drawingTed says it’s a man on a pig, but Mr. Ernst, upset, insists it’s a horse. His plan is to create an ad in the desert for the ranch, inspired by desert drawings in Peru that people fly in from all over the world to see, viewable from the air. He also blatantly talks about bribing the pilots to call the passengers’ attention to the ad.

Danny, probably in jest, suggests making it big enough to see from the space shuttle, and Ted can’t take it anymore:

05-02-Ted-laughMr. Ernst, however, seriously considers it. He even recruits Danny to work together with him on it. Danny isn’t pleased, and Ted feigns disappointment. Mr. Ernst says they’ll get started right after breakfast.

05-03-Melody-makes-bedAfter the credits, Melody is making a bed and busts out an impromptu rap, which she subjects Brad to:

“My name’s Cool M. I work on a dude ranch.
People eat so much here, you’d swear it’s a food ranch.
They eat lotsa eggs, they eat lotsa butter,
Enough cholesterol…to make your whole heart flutter.”

05-04-Brad-rolls-eyesBrad rightly tells “Mel” that it’s awful. Melody insists Brad just doesn’t understand rap. She calls Brad “too old” and “outta touch”. Brad takes issue with that. Melody challenges Brad to name two rap artists. Brad names “Run DMV” and “L.L. Cool Bean”, which is pretty funny, but then Melody kind of ruins it by sarcastically guessing who they are.

05-05-Melody-shirtBrad asks Melody if she’s seen her yellow silk shirt, and Melody remembers she borrowed it. It’s “a little wrinkled”. Melody apologizes, but Brad is upset, and they get into it over age, maturity, and taking care of things properly. Brad leaves, upset.

Back at the meeting, Mr. Ernst believes the problem is they’re going to get too many guests. As he does lofty calculations, Ted and Danny are understandably confused. The scene ends with a dumb gag where Mr. Ernst is worried that repeatedly tapping a marker against his chin might have left a spot.

05-06-Ernst-marker05-07-Brad-rosterBrad checks the duty roster on the board outside Mr. Ernst’s office and finds out that she has to wait tables, which she hates. She offers to switch with Melody for bathroom detail. Melody says a “mature person” would do whatever chore was assigned. Okay, I understand Melody is upset, and maybe Brad was a bit harsh, but Melody did screw up. Brad is upset, and Melody basically calls Brad a rich bitch that thinks she’s above serving others, using words similar to those in their discussion back in episode 03 (but mean-spirited). Brad says she’s lousy at it and spills things. Oh, I guess that ballet-waitressing crap didn’t work after all. I’m mildly surprised that Brad’s problem wasn’t hand-waved away. The two of them argue a bit more, and then Ted comes out and gets them for Mr. Ernst.

In the office, Mr. Enrst is looking over the ad with Danny and says they have to use stones, because rain could wash away lines in the dirt. Wait, back in episode 03, Mr. Ernst was certain that it never rains out here. Anyway, Mr. Ernst decides on painted whites, which will stand out and “last for generations, so that, centuries from now, people come from far and wide just to look at the Ernst Line Drawings”. Yeah, um, delusions of grandeur much?

Ted and the girls come in. Mr. Ernst says they need another staff member that is capable of leading overnights. Both girls immediately volunteer at the exact same time and are pissed at each other. Mr. Ernst needs only one. Melody cites her length of experience working here, and Brad cites her age and maturity. Y’know, this got me thinking. Christine Taylor was 18 when this episode aired and 17 when it was taped. I can’t find any information on Kelly Brown’s date of birth. Anyway, Mr. Ernst says they need to be tested, but he can’t do it on account of “creating the next wonder of the modern world”, but Ted has volunteered.

05-08-Ted-pleasedSurely, no problems will stem from this whatsoever.

Ted has typed up a 20-page syllabus, but the first 19 pages are ridiculous, MacGyveresque jokes (at least, I hope he was joking). The first test is in first aid.

05-09-Melody-goodMelody has done a good job.

05-10-Brad-badBrad, however, bandaged the victim’s entire head and amputated her entire arm to stop the spread of poison from a snake bite – and the wrong arm at that. The only thing that she did satisfactorily was the leg. Yeah, Melody wins this round. After Ted breaks up some trash talk between the girls, it’s on to orienteering.

05-11-Danny-toilingIn the desert, Danny is toiling away at setting up the Ernst Line Drawings. Mr. Ernst spots a plane and wants Danny to hurry up and finish, or they’ll “lose customers”. He also waves and calls at the plane as if he thinks they’ll notice. Yeah, no.

Mr. Ernst invites Danny to come up and take a look, and Danny says it still looks like a man on a pig. Danny suddenly spots Brad, waves, and gets off the ladder, shaking it and tipping it over.

05-12-Ernst-ladder 05-13-Melody-needlesDuring one of the tests, Melody gets an assful of cactus needles…

05-14-Brad-ribbonand Brad finds a ribbon.

They’re dead even. The winner will be decided by the final test: a night in the desert – alone. Brad tells Melody to be careful of the cacti. I don’t know if this is related to the cactus gag from earlier or not, but, regardless, Brad’s like “It’s on, bitch!”

05-15-Brad-insults-Melody 05-16-suppliesAfter the commercial break, Ted is listing the things that the girls get to take with them: pack, blanket, compass, canteen of water, length of rope, knife, and match. Ted breaks up Brad and Melody’s trash talk and tells them to get changed, so they can head out.

05-17-Melody-blindfoldTed drops the girls off separately and tells them to count to one-thousand before they take their blindfolds off. Unfortunately for Melody:

05-18-DangerThis is named after executive producer Geoffrey Darby.

05-19-Brad-blindfoldTed sticks a rubber snake in Brad’s pack.

When she doesn’t respond well to his flirting, he takes her compass.

05-21-Melody-dropsMelody drops her stuff while counting, and the bag falls down the mine shaft.

05-22-Melody-screamsShe immediately realizes something’s up and screams at Ted.

Brad hears Melody’s screams and takes delight in them. She skips ahead in her counting and takes off her blindfold early. She finds the snake and freaks out.

05-23-Brad-snake 05-24-Brad-screamsShe screams at Ted.

05-25-Melody-climbs-downMelody ties one end of her rope around a piece of wood and climbs down the mine shaft to retrieve her pack.

She also comes up with a new rap:

“His name is Ted.
It’s gonna rhyme with dead.”

No, it already rhymes with dead, Melody.

05-26-wood-looseUnfortunately, the piece of wood comes loose, and Melody falls.

05-27-Melody-shaft05-28-Brad-concernedMelody screams for help. Brad is checking her pack for her compass when she hears the screams. At first, she’s delighted, but then she grows concerned and runs to find Melody.
05-29-Melody-despairIn the shaft, Melody is in despair over possibly no one finding her. It’s a nice performance where she answers her own question without saying aloud that she’ll die. I just wish it went on longer, because Brad finds her immediately.

05-30-Melody-wristThe girls catch each other up on what happened. I like that Melody doesn’t know exactly why she fell, guessing the knot came undone. She hurt her wrist when she landed hard, so she can’t climb back up.

05-31-Brad-ropeBrad lowers her rope for Melody to tie around her arms and climb up with her good hand.

05-32-Melody-gets-rope 05-33-Brad-tied 05-34-Brad-rescues-Melody 05-35-Brad-wraps-MelodyThe girls make up, and Melody will talk Brad through wrapping her wrist.

05-36-stashLater on, when they stop to rest, Melody admits to stashing chocolate and graham crackers in her blanket, and Brad admits to stashing marshmallows. They decide to make s’mores. Fun fact: this episode (supposedly) originally aired on the day after National S’mores Day in the United States.

05-37-moon 05-38-fireI’m guessing they didn’t want to actually tape scenes in the desert at night, so we get a voice-over of the girls as they’re camping. They chat for a bit, mostly about what to do to Ted, and they get a bit frightened over a howl heard in the distance.

The next day, while hiking, Melody talks Brad into trying out rap.

“My name’s Bad Brad, and I work on a dude ranch.
People eat so much, you could call it a food ranch.”

“And if it smells so bad, you could call it a crude ranch.”

“And if they all went naked, you’d call it a nude ranch.”

05-39-Brad-Melody-hikingYeah, it’s really stupid, but it feels like something that real teens would make up, unlike, say, the Cinderella rap from “Saved by the Bell”.

05-40-Brad-leadsBrad leads the way, unsure, with Melody’s compass. Wait, I didn’t see Melody take her pack out of the shaft with her. Maybe they retrieved it later.

Later, Brad realizes the compass is broken, and Melody remembers she dropped it when she walked into the cactus. If she’s talking about the needle-butt incident from earlier, I didn’t see her drop a compass. She must be referring to some off-screen incident.

Melody realizes the ranch is two miles away. She first explains it by science, amazing Brad, and then she points out the Ernst Line Drawings, which read “The Best Dude Ranch in the West – Bar None”. The girls decide to dick with it.

05-41-girls-mess-adBack at the ranch, Ted tells them that neither of them passed the test, because they helped each other.

05-42-eat-snakeMelody tries to make Ted eat the rubber snake, and Ted says he’ll recommend to Mr. Ernst that both girls take overnights as a team. They agree to it. They also want Ted to do Melody’s bathroom detail and Brad’s turn waiting tables, or he chews rubber. After jokingly considering the snake, Ted agrees to do the chores.

Wait, weren’t those yesterday’s assignments? Were they postponed to today due to the testing? Or was Brad looking at the following day’s assignments?

05-43-photoThe pre-credits scene at the end has Mr. Ernst and Danny returning from a plane ride to check out the Ernst Line Drawings. Ted reads the ad off a photograph: “The Best Nude Ranch on[sic] the West – Bar None”. Brad and Melody laugh, and then Melody excuses them, and they quickly get out of there. Mr. Ernst sends Ted and Danny out to fix the ad.

05-44-nudistsPredictably, a nudist couple shows up, and Mr. Ernst, not thinking anything strange until the man walks right past him, sends them to the front desk to register. He then nervously waves to the woman and goes into shock.

05-45-Ernst-shockedSo ends another day at the Bar None.

This episode was pretty good, silly moments and all, and even the ad subplot proved useful to the main plot in the end. Ted was an ass for taking Brad’s compass, but there’s no indication that he actually knew about the mine shaft.

I love the spotlight on Melody and Brad’s friendship. Christine Taylor and Kelly Brown both give good performances. I wish this could have been a two-parter to more deeply explore the rift that develops between them and give Melody a longer period of hopelessness in the shaft, perhaps exhausting her supplies and having a breakdown.

Overall, a nice episode.

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