Writer: Alan Goodman
Director: Fred K. Keller
Original air date: December 8, 1989
Before I get started, I want to make a correction to my review of last week’s episode (“Teacher’s Pest”). Mr. Ernst didn’t stand up and walk around during the confrontation scene. I think I confused him being eye-level with Buddy at one point as him getting out of his chair and kneeling (as he had in “Goldilocks”), but he was really seated in his chair, and his boots were behind his desk until the big reveal. My fault.
In the cold open, Danny runs by and pauses briefly, wondering what Mr. Ernst is doing. He’s painting a sign to direct the guests to the crafts hut (which we’ve never seen or heard of before). Danny has finished some filing and offers to help with the sign, but Mr. Ernst declines.
Brad interrupts to mention some guests in Bunk H are willing to switch. Mr. Ernst thanks her but is annoyed at the interruption. Brad offers to help, but Mr. Ernst, frustrated, declines. Brad is annoyed at Mr. Ernst’s tone.
Melody and Ted come by, and Melody interrupts. Mr. Ernst goes on a mini-rant about not needing help with his sign. Why didn’t he just paint it in the privacy of his office and then bring it outside? Judging by his “painter” hat, he seems to want the attention – just not the interruptions. Anyway, he apologizes. They needs vases to put flowers into and set on the dining room tables. Mr. Ernst offers to help them go through storage (the first that we hear of it), but they decline and say they’ll find some themselves.
After the credits, Ted is dumping some garbage, finds a deflated soccer ball, and goofs around for around forty damn seconds, pretending he’s a sports star. There is one cute moment involving the ball, and even the background music gets in on the gag. Ted’s playing for “Arizona”, which is more insinuation that he’s a native.
“On Bar None ground, I write these clues. You won’t believe your eyes.
Where many feet travel but no one walks, I’ve hidden a surprise.
When sunrise shines on cactus flat, take steps of even measure.
Start beneath the gilded step, count three, and find my treasure.”
Ted assumes it’s a treasure and jumps to the conclusion that he’s rich. As Lucy works, she and Ted try to decipher the meaning of the clues. Ted is annoyed at Lucy’s lack of enthusiasm. Lucy threatens Ted with potato-scraping duty in the kitchen if he doesn’t make sure that the supplies are ready for the evening cookout. Lucy brings up the possibilities of the treasure being found eons ago, never being found, or being a joke. Lucy wants Ted to forget about it and not mention it to anyone else.
By the way, you can see that calendar turned to August in this scene more clearly. It’s definitely a 1990 calendar, but the year is blacked out. I watched “The City on the Edge of Forever” recently, and even “Star Trek” did this crap. WHY PUT A CALENDAR IN A SCENE IF YOU WANT TO KEEP THE TIME PERIOD VAGUE?
Anyway, Danny and Brad are skeptical, but Melody is intrigued, and Danny soon becomes so as well. They spend some time trying to decipher the riddle. Brad makes fun of the whole idea of clues, maps, and burying “perfectly good money” in the first place. Y’know, she has a point. After some haggling over their share, Ted gets Melody and Danny in on the quest, but Brad insists there’s no treasure.
I have a hard time believing even Ted would be this interested in a treasure hunt, let alone all four of them. This sounds like a case of the typical “kids show” trope of having teens be interested in stuff that only little kids would be interested in.
And no one has stopped to consider the oddity of a paper supposedly leading to buried treasure being found among the modern garbage in the garbage heap.
Anyway, we learn Brad has a little, strapless dress.
Everyone else – even Ted – wants to quit.
Buddy shows up and makes a joke about treasure, and Ted shakes him down for information – just like a little kid would. He then makes Buddy keep his mouth shut – but has to cut Buddy in to do so. Buddy is no help in deciphering the riddle. Ted wants to bury Buddy wherever they find the treasure (if they find it), and the girls agree. The teens leave Buddy to fill in all of the holes.
In his office, Mr. Ernst is doing the important task of playing with a figure. He’s summoned Ted (or anyone else) to his office and lectures him about hard work (which apparently wasn’t getting done while the teens were digging up the desert).
Believing he’s found the “gilded” step and the “cactus flat”, Ted determines the treasure is buried under the floor in Mr. Ernst’s office. He then does a celebratory cheer and dance – just like a little kid.
After the commercial break, Ted explains everything to the others in the boys’ bunk house. Melody wants to tell Mr. Ernst, but Ted wants them to dig up the treasure themselves. Danny and Brad think it’s wrong, but Ted brings up Mr. Ernst’s desire for publicity and how everyone will want the treasure. We learn Ted’s never been in a museum (not even on a school trip), because he gets carsick riding the school bus (he has a note from his doctor).
Later, Mr. Ernst is out of paint and tries to go to his office to get some more, but Buddy intercepts him and stalls him with bullshit about a diseased cactus. Mr. Ernst asks Buddy if he’s been drinking water from the lake again. I’d like to know what’s in that water.
In the main lodge, Melody intercepts Mr. Ernst and says he can’t go into his office because of poor lighting. Finally, Mr. Ernst hears a loud noise (the not-as-loud noises weren’t strong enough clues that something was amiss) and goes into his office.
Ted, ever the quick thinker, bullshits a story about a lifelong dream of becoming a musical-saw player. Mr. Ernst believes it, thanks to Danny and Melody getting in on the deception. There’s a humorous moment where Melody “recognizes” Ted’s playing as “An American in Paris” by George Gershwin. This indicates Melody is a bit cultured and doesn’t listen to just rap, Bon Jovi, and Guns N’ Roses.
The “treasure” turns out to be a bunch of Mr. Ernst’s poetry (this revelation greatly upsets Buddy, who I guess finds it wimpy). Sometimes, late at night, it calms him to write down his private thoughts. The discarded clues were for somebody to someday read his poetry, but Mr. Ernst had decided it was enough to have written it. Everyone except Buddy (who’s still coping with the poetry revelation) apologizes, which Mr. Ernst accepts. The teens will put the poems back in the hole and destroy the clues. Mr. Ernst wants to send them off, but Ted and Danny are confused over the lack of punishment, which Lucy would have done. Danny brings up scooping up horse poop, and the girls are upset over Danny giving him ideas.
The punishment is for Ted to fill up all of the holes while the others write a poem about the West, but they’re stuck. Inspired by a comment from Ted, Melody wants to turn the poetry-writing into something fun. This could be a callback to her rapping “skills” in “The Competition” (season 1, episode 05). They each contribute something to the spontaneous poem. Here it is for your enjoyment(?):
“The way-out West, where the bandits roam, who would gamble, cheat, and wager”
“The greatest thing to be today is an American teenager.”
“We work and we work until we can hardly take one step further”
“But only when we’re not too busy getting away with murder.”
“Your cowboy boots may take you off in many different courses.
Just keep your boots away from stuff that’s from the rear of horses.”
“I used to skateboard every day; it really was my favorite.
This desert would be much better if they’d only come out and pave it.”
So ends another day at the Bar None.
This episode was pretty childish in that no teens would actually show any interest in “buried treasure” based on a riddle on a note found in the trash heap. “California Dreams” did (er, will do) something similar, and it didn’t work there either. I did like Mr. Ernst talking about why he writes poetry, though.