Writer: Graham Yost
Director: Fred K. Keller
Original air date: August 25, 1989
Suddenly, this asshole arrives, repeatedly ringing the bell and demanding the key to his room. His name is Hank Sears (played by Richard Milenkovich in his only acting gig), and I hate him. He’s the no-nonsense, impatient, asshole customer that you want to punch in the face. He even repeatedly calls Mr. Ernst “chief”. I hate when guys call each other by high titles; this is seemingly done in an attempt to “elevate” each other. Anyway, I’d call Mr. Sears over the top, but I once had a right-wing nutjob customer that was talking about Canada bombing Chicago and trying to drag me into it. I ignored him, but he was obnoxiously persistent and later went to the service desk, furious, to complain, so I’m going to give this characterization a pass.
Sears shows off his expensive watch and yells at and insults Danny for looking at it (but not Melody). After Danny and Melody leave, Sears complains to Mr. Ernst about teens working for him and about Danny being “shifty”. Mr. Ernst offers the use of the safe for his valuables, but Sears shows off his “friend” instead:
Another guy arrives, and, for some reason, they don’t show us his face at first, I guess to be…mysterious?
The flash temporarily blinds Mr. Ernst, and he panics, but the newcomer, Mel Trout (played by William Kiehl near the end of a long but sporadic career) calms him down.
Buddy explains his camera to Mr. Ernst and adds he could have rigged it to take the picture without the flash. Mr. Ernst is upset that Buddy knew how to get into the safe and didn’t let him know, but Buddy points out that he tried to, but his dad didn’t listen, never listens, and never has time for him, whether it’s for his spy games, chess, or throwing a lasso. Mel and Buddy bond over the spy kit (Mel’s son had one when he was little), and Mr. Ernst gets a bit insecure. He has Mel fill out a registration card but then chases after Buddy when the camera flash (accidentally) goes off in his face again.
In the next scene, Brad is complaining about the salt in her coffee, and Melody says it was Ted’s idea. As a nice background detail, Buddy is continuing his spy games (he’s behind the plant) with Cassie tagging along.
Melody talks Brad into getting back at Ted, and the two of them go off to plot.
Buddy comes out of hiding and talks with Cassie for a bit, and then Mel arrives and offers to show Buddy (and Cassie) how to throw the lasso. We learn his son’s name is Jay. Buddy accepts after initially claiming he has other plans for today (why?).
Later on, Mr. Ernst has set up the chess board in an attempt to please Buddy, but Buddy wants to borrow matches, because Mel is going to show him and some of the other kids how he used to breathe fire.
Y’know, Mel (and Buddy, second-hand) relates a bunch of amazing stuff that he supposedly did, and Buddy believes all of it. Who knows? Maybe he did do all of this stuff, but this guy seems too good to be true.
Sears is ready to get violent with Mr. Ernst, but Mel subdues him and sends him back to his cabin. We get what seems to be some ADR crowd reaction of one guy saying “He deserved that. He deserved that. Way to go. He deserved that.” It’s pretty understated and unconvincing.
Mel apologizes for stepping in, but Mr. Ernst says that’s okay but also claims he could have handled it. He goes to call the police and offers the guests the use of the safe. As the guests are talking about what they’ll have locked in there, one guy says “my ceramic monkey”. I find that really amusing, because, of all of the fucking things to lock in a safe, why that?
Brad and Ted bump into each other, and Ted doesn’t want to be around her. The two of them soon piece together the truth, and Ted declares “Melody is toast”. Melody had declared Ted to be toast back in episode 05 (also written by Graham Yost), so this is a nice turn.
A guest wants to pick up her stuff. Mr. Ernst relates that this is the first crime that he’s heard of at the Bar None – except for “those brutal murders”. I…can’t tell if he’s being serious or dicking with her.
Mr. Ernst tells the angry crowd that he’s called the police (again, I guess), who are on their way.
Sears calls for Danny. Danny and Melody arrive at that moment. Sears drags Danny down to the crowd and “finds” his watch in Danny’s pocket. Was he intending to do so earlier when it was “stolen” but held off for whatever reason (perhaps waiting until the safe was robbed)? I’m confused. Anyway, he calls for a rope.
Somehow, Mr. Ernst gets Danny away and grills him in his office (complete was a rope that isn’t really tied around him) for the sake of the onlookers, who buy it, despite Mr. Ernst’s hammy acting, which, to this show’s credit, Buddy calls him out on after the onlookers leave.
Remember that nutjob customer that I’d mentioned? Well, my bosses didn’t do a fake interrogation of me just to satisfy him, but they took me into a back office long enough to convince him that I’d been removed from the register, so he’d leave the store. Yeah, it was that serious.
This is where Buddy’s previous explanation of the ability to turn off the flash comes in. What I’m wondering, though, is why Buddy lets Mel hold the evidence and, for that matter, why Buddy was the one to confront Mel instead of, say, Mr. Ernst bringing up some legalese regarding the registration form or an exit survey or whatever. Just bullshit until the cops arrive.
Sears arrives and has Mr. Ernst fill the bag. It turns out that he’s Mel’s son, and they’re in on it together. Okay, I admit, I had forgotten about this aspect of the episode, so I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t quite sure how things were going to play out.
Yep, Mr. Ernst is victorious, and no one can believe it. He sends Danny to get rope and tie up Sears (poetic justice). Lest anyone think Mr. Ernst is a badass, he assures us that he got lucky, and Sears knocked himself out, which doesn’t seem to match up with the shadow fight, but whatever. Regardless, springing into action like that was a brave thing to do. Also, Buddy admits he was simply holding his camera tight, and his finger slipped.
As the others come by, Mr. Ernst explains to Danny that Sears had used an old magician’s trick (holding the watch in the palm of his hand) to frame Danny. When Brad offers the soda to Melody, Mr. Ernst takes it. Ted objects, but Mr. Ernst gets Melody to let him have it.
This episode was okay but not that great. While I like the father/son story between Mr. Ernst and Buddy, Mel seemed too good to be true (he shouldn’t have been given such an amazing history), and Sears was just way too hammy – even when he wasn’t putting on his act.
It’s interesting, though, how Ted, Brad, and Melody were mostly relegated to the b-plot. They hardly crossed over into the main plot at all, leaving it to Buddy, Mr. Ernst, and Danny. It’s fun when the series plays with different combinations of characters. It’s also fun to see Melody be an asshole for a change.