Writer: Clifford Fagin
Director: Fred K. Keller
Original air date: January 5, 1990
As you can see from the supposed original air date above (and a screencap from the end of the episode below), this episode seemingly aired three weeks after the previous one, being the first episode to air in 1990. We’re in da ’90s, yo! Okay, so this episode was likely taped and edited in 1989, but whatever. It’s Hammer Time!
In the cold open, Buddy brings a lot of paint to Ted and Danny to paint a bench. Buddy says his dad always says “Better to be safe than sorry.” This leads Danny to quote Mr. Ernst as saying “Safety first.” This is a callback to “Pain in the Neck” (season 1, episode 13), “Loose Lips” (season 2, episode 01), and (even though I didn’t mention it in the review) “Crash Landing” (season 2, episode 05).
Melody comes by, excited by the impending arrival of Bobby Rogers, a “big, huge TV star” that is “on that show where he plays America’s first teenage fighter pilot”. That sounds like a delightfully cheesy (in an ’80s sort of way) TV series. (If I had as few entertainment options as I’d had in the ’80s, I’d watch it.) I wish they’d given it a name, though, because Melody’s explanation sounds clunky without one. It’s like an Archie story that I read once, where Archie referred to the “Titanic” stand-in that Betty and Veronica were watching as “that ocean liner disaster movie”.
Anyway, once Melody explains, the guys realize who she’s talking about. Ted refers to him as “that goofy-looking guy with weird hair”. Anyway, Melody has a raging lady-boner for the guy, and she knows he turned 18 on April 10. That would be April 10 of…? Anyway, he’s coming to get riding lessons for a new movie that he’s going to be in, and he’ll be instructed by Brad. Ted takes issue with this, because he’s senior staff. Melody points out that Brad is the riding instructor.
After the credits, Mr. Ernst is on the phone with a guy named Ralph. He’s seeking information on someone but can’t get any details. He gives his regards to Alice (presumably Ralph’s wife) and hangs up.
He calls Lucy and Brad from the front desk to his office. He shows them the Southwest Dude Ranch Guide. Brad’s parents subscribed to it; that’s how she found out about the job here: an ad that Mr. Ernst had placed in it. Wow, I never expected this detail to be mentioned. Since Mr. Ernst seemingly never visited the ranch before the series premiere, I’m guessing the book contained some New York contact information for him.
Mr. Ernst has just learned there’s a representative from the guide in the area, giving out ratings to all of the local dude ranches. Mr. Ernst is nervous and guesses “he’s” traveling incognito. It’s might not be a guy, Mr. Ernst, as you all but admittedly during the phone call with Ralph. I’m guessing Ralph is the owner of another dude ranch in the area. Lucy and Mr. Ernst argue over the merit of his worry. Brad and Lucy futilely try to cheer him up.
Later, as Bobby is about to arrive, Ted confronts Brad and accuses her of having a celebrity crush. He has delusions of future fame, which Brad twists into a prediction of future imprisonment. She says she doesn’t care about celebrity, but Ted doesn’t believe her. Brad brings up her position as riding instructor and insults Ted’s riding.
Bobby Rogers is played by Paul Whitthorne. He was actually 19, not 18, when this episode was taped. He’s from Tucson. “Hey Dude” was his first acting gig. He didn’t have much of a career, appearing in only four more things, the last being “Critters 4” in 1992.
I need to point out, if this is meant to occur on the same day as the cold open, Danny is the only one wearing the wrong shirt, although he could have changed if he had a painting (or horse-shitting) accident or whatever.
Also, I’d caught it too late to mention it in my review, but the same thing happened in “Treasure Teens” (season 2, episode 08), which occurs over the course of a single day: the girls briefly got different clothes early in the episode before reverting to their previous clothes.
Brad is giving Bobby a tour and brings him to the front desk to register. Melody is high on her own juices and has too many euphoric visions of Bobby fucking her senseless to perform her tasks. She also gets a little stalkery right in front of him and has to be dissuaded by Brad.
Buddy and Mr. Ernst come over. Buddy is excited to meet Bobby, despite not seeming at all excited in the cold open or even giving any indication that he knew who the guy was. Mr. Ernst makes a Mr. Rogers joke. Melody gives Bobby the key to his room. Brad takes him to show him where it is. Melody gushes over Bobby, but Mr. Ernst suspects he’s a lookalike critic hired by the Southwest Dude Ranch Guide. Buddy, Melody, and the nearby guests are skeptical. We learn both Mr. Ernst’s wife and mother used to say he was too suspicious.
Mr. Ernst continues worrying about the critic. A man comes over, needing help in finding his room, and Mr. Ernst directs him to Melody and walks off with Buddy, rambling on about the critic. Yeah, guess where this is going.
The “Special Guest” is played by Paul R. Secrest. “Hey Dude” was his only acting gig. He’ll show up three more times, playing Vic Vleck, but we’ll get to the Vlecks later.
Later, Ted is practicing his lassoing, er, “roping” (as the cowboys say) and isn’t very good at it. Danny suggests more wrists and less hips. They goof around for a bit. Danny asks Ted about Bobby. Ted complains about “those star types”. Danny brings up Brad, and there’s more banter for a while until Danny falls off the silly haystack bull.
Nah, they fucked up.
Later, Brad is getting Bobby’s tack (saddle, bridle, and other leather bits) ready for his first riding lesson. She talks about the relative ease of teaching a noob versus unteaching bad habits. Bobby is genuinely funny and not at all like Ted thinks he is. Brad starts instructing Bobby.
Melody, dressed up nice for Bobby, interrupts, upsetting Brad, but Bobby decides to have a “private moment” with his saddle. Melody wants to offer Bobby swimming lessons. We learn staff members are not supposed to flirt with the guests. Has anyone told Ted this rule? Melody thinks it’s a stupid rule and brings up her “right to flirt”.
Anyway, Melody suggestively brings it up, and Bobby accepts her offer to fuck in the pool, er, work on his backstroke. Melody excitedly cops a feel of Bobby’s (and Brad’s) arm before leaving. I guess they’re “touches of gratitude”. Brad continues with Bobby’s lesson.
Mr. Ernst goes out of his way to be extra-nice to guests at a table, suspecting them all.
As Brad and Bobby walk to a table, Brad takes her hand off Bobby for a moment and does this weird waving motion at a seemingly random person or whatever. Odd.
Mr. Ernst walks over to Lucy, who’s enjoying one of those colas that Ted was deprived of in “Bunkmate Battle”. They talk for a bit about the “rambling critic”. Lucy is “almost positive” that Ted removed the dead skunk from the swimming pool. Ewww…
Mr. Ernst apologizes to Bobby, and he and Brad clean Bobby up. Mr. Ernst leaves, and Brad and Bobby resume their lunch. Brad complains about Ted and calls him a dork. Bobby, speaking from experience, says jealousy can make guys dorky. This is a case where being on Nickelodeon makes the characters talk unlike real teens. In real life, if Ted had pulled this shit, Brad would have called him an asshole. “Dork” isn’t even the right term; “jerk” would be closer.
For some reason that I don’t understand, Brad is upset at Melody for saying she’s torn between being jealous and proud of her and demands a repetition from Melody. Seriously, I have never understood Brad’s seeming anger at this one moment.
Melody wants Brad to point out exactly where Bobby’s lips landed. Melody lovingly touches Brad’s cheek and declares herself to be “a fulfilled woman”. This show is dicking with me, isn’t it? The writer was psychic and knew a yuri-loving, lemon-fic-writing guy would be reviewing this series in the future, so he deliberately wrote this moment into this episode.
As it turns out, Melody was hoping her best friend would have a Hollywood wedding. So it was either her or Brad, and she would have been happy with either outcome? Because she would be vicariously fucked nightly through Brad? Brad isn’t in love with Bobby but still has her eye on Tom Cruise. Stay away, Brad! Stay away!
Bobby comes by and talks with Ted. Bobby explains he’s never met the girl that’s next to him on the cover; it’s photoshopped. Okay, he doesn’t use that term, and the timeline is a bit early, production-wise, for it to be Photoshop (it existed but wasn’t released yet), but it’s the same basic thing. This makes the title of the magazine, “Splice”, very amusing. Anyway, it doesn’t bother Bobby too much, but it drives his girlfriend crazy. He’s been with Mary Ann since junior high and shows her picture to Ted. Ted doesn’t feel threatened anymore. Bobby talks about how things are done in “the biz”. He and Ted joke around and end up getting along.
It turns out that Ted is giving Bobby lassoing lessons, because Bobby apparently has to do some roping for his upcoming movie. Ted passes along Danny’s “less hip and more wrist” advice from earlier, and Brad gets a good joke in.
Mr. Ernst automatically assumes Ted is responsible and screams in rage. I love how Brad silently makes a slicing motion across her throat to indicate Ted’s fucking dead as shit. Bobby, however, steps in and takes the blame through a performance that’s a bit over the top.
As Bobby leaves, Mr. Ernst shows up, and we get the culmination of the “critic” subplot. Ted suggests maybe the critic never showed up. Mr. Ernst goes on about him, adding he’s probably wearing a “clever disguise”.
The critic comes over and asks Mr. Ernst for directions to the Circle J Dude Ranch. Mr. Ernst gives unhelpful directions to a gas station to get real directions. The critic thanks him and says he had a wonderful stay. Mr. Ernst dismissively says he’s glad to hear it and goes on about the critic to the staff.
This episode was nice. It focused on celebrity crushes and irrational jealousy, and most of the teens had something to do. The subplot with Mr. Ernst was pretty amusing, but I found it hard to believe he’d be so super-nice to all of the guests except the one that he was looking out for. What a wacky coincidence.