Season 2, Episode 12: Cowboy Ernst

Writer: Dean Young
Director: Fred K. Keller
Original air date: January 19, 1990

Before I start on the episode, I have an interesting note about the writer, Dean Young. This episode of “Hey Dude” was his first writing credit. It was the only episode of the series that he wrote. Nine years later(!) (after doing some producing), he wrote two episodes of “Mad About You” and story-edited another episode. From 2001 to 2003, he wrote six episodes of “King of the Hill”. Twelve years(!) after that, he wrote one episode of “Community”, which he did some producing on. He’s definitely had a very odd, sporadic career, and this is where it all began.

25-01-strollIn the cold open (which starts with Melody speaking, getting us into the story right away), the teens are taking a stroll to the lake, and Melody is having them take a stupid (Brad’s term, but I agree with her) personality test in a teen mag. While Melody adds up the scores, Ted is confident, but Brad says tests like these have no validity. Ted says they’re “completely accurate”. If you’re at all interested, Danny got an 84 (a fun and spirited person), Melody got an 87 (a warm and pleasant personality), Brad got a 98 (a sparkling gem), and Ted got a 65 (the personality of asparagus). Ha.

25-02-asparagus 25-03-corralAfter the credits, Ted jumps the fence of the corral and meets up with Danny and the girls. Danny calls him “Asparagus”, and the girls laugh. Ted claims he was in a bad mood when he took the test and wants Melody to re-test him when he’s in a “really great” mood. Melody agrees, and Brad and Danny continue making fun of Ted.

25-04-surveyorsDanny spots surveyors, and the gang wonders what Mr. Ernst is thinking about building this week. This soon turns to wishes of more stables (Ted), bigger bunk houses (Danny), an Olympic-sized pool (Melody, appropriately), or…

25-05-Brad-daydream…a huge spa with mud baths and Swedish saunas, and facilities for a body rub – a place to get a really good herbal wrap (Brad, in orgasmic bliss, completely missing the point of dude ranches).

Brad decides to go to Mr. Ernst to ask what’s up, and the others follow.

25-06-Ernst-shakesIn his office, Mr. Ernst finishes meeting with a real estate agent. They’ll meet again on Thursday for the signing. The real estate agent is played by Robert Barlow Ramsden. “Hey Dude” was his only acting gig, and this is his first of two appearances, each time playing (presumably) a different character.

After the agent leaves, Mr. Ernst tries on his cowboy hat but says “Never looked right.”

The teens come in, mention the surveyors, and then make the same guesses as to what’s being built as they had in the corral.

25-07-Ernst-considersMr. Ernst is initially surprised at Brad’s spa idea but then actually considers it.

25-08-Brad-justifiedBrad feels justified.

Mr. Ernst tries to ignore their inquiries and instead talks about his days as a college journalist (Scoop Ernst uncovered the big scam in the college cafeteria; they were trying to stretch the meatloaf with sawdust), how cockroaches can live up to 15 years (bullshit; it’s up to a year), and the theoretical lifespan of surveyors. As they make their way to the front desk, the gang figures Mr. Ernst is being evasive.

25-09-surveyorOne of the surveyors shows up and asks Mr. Ernst if they can take a few measurements; this is the only building that isn’t coming down; they’re turning it into an “authentic fritters stand”.

The two surveyors are played by Michael Fleming and Rene Lopez. I assume it’s Fleming in this scene. Fleming had a long career, stretching from 1961 to 1997, playing bit parts. He’s also done theater acting. Lopez doesn’t seem to have an IMDb entry.

Mr. Ernst tells him to come back later and then admits to the teens that he’s selling the Bar None. They’re going to build a mall in its place. Dumbass Melody gets excited until Brad points out that she won’t be here to enjoy it. Mr. Ernst insists it was strictly a business decision, but Brad doesn’t seem to believe him. With the money from the sale, he’s going to finance his new business venture.

25-10-girls-disappointedI love how Melody doesn’t even wait to hear the idea before she reacts appropriately. Brad doesn’t seem any more enthusiastic but asks what it is. Because it’s not patented yet, Mr. Ernst is very secretive about it and keeps it locked up in the safe.

25-11-sodErnst’s Miracle Desert Sod. He wants to grow grass in sand – but hasn’t figured out how yet.

25-12-Melody-faceRalph at the Circle J calls. Both he and the ranch had been mentioned, separately, in “Superstar” (season 2, episode 10), and now it turns out that he’s the owner. Mr. Ernst looks at the teens with suspicion as he takes his sod showpiece away from the desk and into his office. Brad decides to see what Lucy has to say about this, and the others follow.

25-13-Buddy-gunBuddy interrupts his dad’s phone call by squirting him through the window. Buddy overhears his dad admitting money wasn’t his only reason for selling; he loves it here, and he’s always fancied himself a cowboy, but he’s no cowboy; he’s an accountant from New Jersey. Wait. In the series premiere, Buddy said he’s an accountant from New York. Which is it? I guess he could be “from New Jersey”, and he commuted to work in New York. Mr. Ernst fails the see Buddy continually looking through the windows.

25-14-Ernst-shaves-grassMr. Ernst spills his sod idea to Ralph while trimming the grass with an electric razor. Ralph laughs at the idea.

25-15-gang-LucyThe gang catches up with Lucy in the corral. She’s heard the news (Mr. Ernst made her promise to not tell the teens) and isn’t happy about it. This is the third time that she’s been kicked off a ranch, because it was sold to developers. She’d fought it every time, but it never did any good. She says the money that this land is getting these days is too much for ranchers to resist, and she doesn’t see a way to change Mr. Ernst’s mind if money is his only reason.

25-16-Melody-LucyLucy is about to go and look for another job, but Melody asks her why she keeps looking for ranch jobs after being kicked off ranches. Lucy says she’s never thought of doing anything else; this is what she knows and loves; a ranch hand belongs on a ranch. This single-minded focus on ranching isn’t much, but it’s the most characterization that Lucy’s gotten in the series so far.

25-17-Buddy-gateAs Lucy leaves, Buddy swings by (literally). The girls think the ranch being sold is good news for Buddy, because he wanted to move back to New Jersey. Buddy claims his dad is going to make him mow the eventual desert-turned-lawn. Buddy relays what he’d heard his dad say over the phone about not being a cowboy. Ted has a plan: convince Mr. Ernst that he’s a great cowboy, so he won’t leave. We learn Mr. Ernst used to think horses get milked. I wonder if he tried it out. Ted wants to make Mr. Ernst feel like John Wayne, which is a callback to season 1, episode 04 (and perhaps season 1, episode 03, and season 2, episode 03), even though Ted’s already learned John Wayne was an actor that disliked horses in real life. He convinces the others to join in. This starts a recurring “gag” for the rest of the episode, where Buddy asks “My dad? [insert description here]? Are you nuts?” It’s not funny, and even the other characters eventually find it annoying.

25-18-water-gunAfter the commercial break, on another day, Ted fills a squirt gun with water in the corral. The plan is for Ted to have a water duel with Mr. Ernst. However, Buddy says he’s seem his dad do practice draws in the mirror and lose to himself. Just such a thing happened in “Goldilocks” (season 1, episode 03), although Buddy didn’t witness it.

25-19-Ernst-wheelbarrowMr. Ernst comes by with a bunch of sod. Ted makes an appeal to Mr. Ernst’s inner cowboy to have a showdown with him. Mr. Ernst agrees. Ted decides to savor the moment of being in the Wild West.

And then the showdown (which reminds me a bit of the Ted/Melody confrontation in “Employee of the Week” (season 1, episode 12)):

25-20-showdown-1 25-21-showdown-2 25-22-showdown-3 25-23-showdown-4 25-24-showdown-5 25-25-showdown-6 25-26-showdown-7 25-27-showdown-8 25-28-showdown-9 25-29-showdown-10 25-30-showdown-11 25-31-showdown-12 25-32-showdown-13 25-33-showdown-14 25-34-showdown-15 25-35-showdown-16 25-36-showdown-17 25-37-showdown-18 25-38-showdown-19 25-39-showdown-20 25-40-Danny-ropeLater, Brad compliments Danny on roping the stupid haystack bull, and Danny says “It’s all in the wrist.” (callback to season 2, episode 10). Buddy comes by and reports on the gunfight. The backup plan is to have Mr. Ernst throw a lasso. Mr. Ernst comes by with his stupid sod and apologizes for Buddy’s squirt gun, saying they make things so poorly these days. Danny and Brad talk Mr. Ernst into showing them how to throw a lasso, despite him never having done so before. Danny wants to savor the moment.

25-41-Ernst-rope-1 25-42-Ernst-rope-2Following Danny’s earlier instruction, Brad compliments Mr. Ernst’s epic fail. To Mr. Ernst, however, this is definitive proof that he’s not a cowboy.

25-43-meetingLater, Ted convenes a meeting at the boat house, and the girls think so little of it that they play with a beach ball. Danny compares Ted to broccoli, but Brad corrects him. After some banter, Ted reveals his plan is to make Mr. Ernst look like a real wrangler, but Brad has Buddy shoot it down through the use of his catchphrase.

25-44-Ted-snakeTed’s plan is to have Mr. Ernst save a horse-riding Brad from a rubber snake. Ted takes them over to the fence to show them how they’re gonna set it up.

25-45-Ernst-comes-out 25-46-Ernst-thinksUnfortunately, Mr. Ernst wasn’t out in the desert with his sod, as Ted had thought, but in the…boat house…with his sod showpiece. Whaaa…?

25-47-Ernst-sodLater, Mr. Ernst is at the corral with his sod.

25-48-Danny-impressed 25-49-snakeDanny sees a snake on the ground and compliments Ted, despite the fact that this doesn’t look anything like the fake snake that Ted pulled out earlier and is moving its head on its own. Danny quickly gets out of there as Mr. Ernst approaches, but Mr. Ernst sees him and smiles in amusement.

25-50-Buddy-barrel 25-51-Melody-signalsBuddy, hiding in a barrel, signals Melody over a walkie-talkie, and Melody tells Brad to ride.

25-52-Ernst-BradMr. Ernst good-naturedly greets “Bradley”, aware of their plan.

25-53-snake 25-54-horse-scaredThe horse sees the snake footage from earlier and gets scared.

25-55-Brad-horse-scared 25-56-Ernst-readyBrad begs Mr. Ernst to help, and the “cowboy hero” agrees to “save the day”.

25-57-Ernst-snake 25-58-Ted-snakeTed arrives late with “Mr. Snake”. Mr. Ernst, in a nice twist on the squirt gun comment from earlier, says they make these things realistic-feeling nowadays.

25-59-gang-celebratesMr. Ernst admits he’d overheard them. It made him have a change of heart (besides, his sod was turning brown), and he called the real estate agency an hour ago and called off the sale. Even though he’ll never be a cowboy, he’s going to stick with the ranch.

25-60-Ernst-faintsTed calls him a cowboy hero and shows him the rubber snake. Mr. Ernst realizes what he’s holding and faints.

25-61-Danny-snakeDanny notices the lack of a rattle and picks up the snake. He says it’s a bullsnake.

25-62-gang-helps-ErnstThe gang helps Mr. Ernst to his feet, and Ted calls him a real cowboy hero. As they walk away, Buddy says “My dad, a cowboy hero. Of course.” Then he runs to catch up with them.

25-63-gang-sittingThe pre-credits scene at the end has Lucy thanking the gang for saving the ranch – and her job. We also get the resolution of the “personality test” subplot. This time, Ted got a 55 (the personality which makes an onion seem interesting). I know I was on the edge of my seat.

25-64-Ernst-spurs 25-65-Cowboy-BenMr. Ernst shows up in an outfit that makes the one that Doc dressed Marty up in look authentic by comparison. He wants to take Smokey out for a ride and insists on being called “Cowboy Ben” from now on (twenty bucks says it’ll be back to “Mr. Ernst” by the next episode).

25-66-dumbassSo ends another day at the Bar None.

This episode had some nice moments, but it could have been better if Mr. Ernst had a solid alternative in place to running the ranch. The sod thing was bullshit. Also, it makes Mr. Ernst seem a bit selfish. When you own a business, you have to consider the people in your employment and how it will affect them, not just your own lack of enthusiasm and desire to move on.

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