Writer: Graham Yost
Director: Fred K. Keller
Original air date: May 11, 1990
In the cold open, Melody joins Brad for some sunbathing by the lake after hard work (at least, on Brad’s part).
After some banter, they realize they’re not alone.
The guys are attacking them with water balloons from the dock.
After the credits, Buddy is trying to tell Danny something, but Danny is too busy air-guitaring to “I am a Viking“, which I’d never heard of outside this episode, but…what an interesting thing to reference.
Buddy shuts Danny’s portable cassette player off and informs him that the newspaper says “Brainbusters”, the (made-up) national TV game show, is coming to Tucson to look for contestants. This is the first mention of Tucson on the series. After some humorous arguing, Buddy gives Danny two test questions to determine if he could be a contestant, both of which he doesn’t know the answer to. Danny says his knowledge is mostly limited to local nature. We learn the host of “Brainbusters” is Wink Wellman, and there’s also a woman named Tawny Dawn, who Buddy has a crush on. They’ll be giving out autographed pictures of Tawny at the tryouts.
Jake arrives with snacks and sodas. He’s unfamiliar with “Brainbusters”, so Buddy explains it. He asks Jake the same two questions, both of which Jake answers correctly. Danny and Buddy want to train Jake for the tryouts next week, but Jake doesn’t want to do it. He spots a heads-up penny and takes it as a sign of good luck, so he agrees to train for “Brainbusters”.
Later, in the boys’ bunk house, Buddy and Danny are quizzing Jake in a “lightning round”.
We get the clearest view yet of the Calendar of Hell.
Buddy reminds Jake that Buddy gets Jake’s autographed picture of Tawny, whose “really important” job is to read the numbers (pertaining to the question that Wink then asks) off ping-pong balls.
It seems Jake has replaced what was apparently Ted’s Jose Canseco poster with a world map, which fits in nicely with Jake’s love of trivia. I’m not sure who owns the hockey mask, though.
Jake get superstitious about a hat being on a bed being bad luck. He says the same thing about speaking Spanish on Tuesday the 13th, which is Spain’s equivalent of Friday the 13th. Danny makes a funny joke about it.
Okay, so it’s Tuesday the 13th, according to Buddy. According to the Calendar of Hell, the 13th fell on Monday in August of Whenever. So the calendar means precisely shit. It’s probably just something that the guys (or maybe just Danny) keep around for the artwork or something. For what it’s worth, June 13, 1989, and August 13, 1991, were Tuesdays, neither of which make much sense. The next candidate is July 13, 1993. Fine, I’ll take it.
Anyway, Danny is surprised to learn Jake is superstitious, but Jake says he’s “not really”. The break’s over, and Jake advises Buddy to not say “penguin” in months without the letter “r” in them, and, fuck, is this seriously our main plot this week?
Jake doesn’t want to talk about his superstition and has Buddy move on to the next category: aardvarks.
On another day, Mr. Ernst apparently closes off the main lodge to guests (we never see anyone besides the main characters (sans Lucy) in this episode), so they can do a simulated “Brainbusters” episode.
The production crew has a bit of fun in this scene, making it feel like an actual, cheesy game show. What I’m wondering is if this is strictly meta or if some unseen characters are taping this, playing the music, and controlling the spotlight. Maybe the unnamed, random female staff members from previous episodes were pressed into service for this.
As the “contestants” enter the “studio”, we learn some facts about them:
From Tucson, Arizona: Danny Lightfoot.
From Allentown, Pennsylvania: Melody Hanson. Christine Taylor is from Allentown in real life.
From Los Angeles, California: “returning champion” Jake Decker. Jonathan Galkin is from Providence, Rhode Island.
Mr. Ernst is playing Wink Wellman and also doing the voice of the announcer, who Danny earlier, perhaps jokingly, referred to as “Jim”.
Brad is, unwillingly, playing Tawny Dawn.
Oh, and Buddy’s also the “judges”.
So how do the contestants do? Danny believes burp gas is responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer. Melody believes cheese causes air pollution. Jake’s the only one to answer the questions correctly. Brad is too stupid to realize the lines under the numbers 6 and 9 indicate which number is which, which allows Buddy to play up Tawny’s supposed importance to the game show. Oh, Buddy wrote the numbers on golf balls instead of ping-pong balls, because fuck me for summarizing this shit.
Anyway, “Wink” calls for a commercial break, Buddy gives the clear, and Mr. Ernst runs off to find a mirror to check his hair. Are they just really into pretending, or is the Blank Slate Brigade really taping this?
Brad asks about Jake’s lucky penny, which he’s tossing. Danny and Melody make fun of each other for their stupid answers. Brad, trying to ignore the stupidity, checks to see if she has any mail. That reminds Mr. Ernst to ask Jake what was in the letter that he got, because that’s totally Mr. Ernst’s business. Jake doesn’t know about the letter. It turns out that Mr. Ernst gave it to Melody, who gave it to Brad, who gave it to Danny, who gave it to Buddy, who gave it back to his dad, who put it in his back pocket and forgot about it.
Jake is really upset at the contents of the letter and blames all of them. He leaves.
Melody discovers it’s a chain letter, and its deadline of Monday the 12th (yesterday) has passed. She’s the only one besides Jake to take it seriously, which proves she’s an idiot.
After the commercial break, Melody is reading the chain letter, and, look, we get an address for the Bar None Ranch! It’s located at 10000 [illegible] Speedway, Tucson Arizona, 85701. Okay, props to whoever wrote it. 85701 is a legit Tucson ZIP code. Speedway Boulevard is a legit Tucson highway. There’s even a 10000 East Speedway Boulevard; however, its ZIP code is 85748. The difference between this address and the 85701 ZIP code is 12.7-15.5 miles and 29-32 minutes, depending on the route. So they fudged a little to not have a real mailing address displayed in the episode, so some business wouldn’t receive mail addressed to fictional characters. Interestingly, Tanque Verde Guest Ranch is located on East Speedway Boulevard as well; it’s 18.0 miles and 37-43 minutes from 85701 and 5.3-7.3 miles and 9-15 minutes from 10000 East Speedway Boulevard. The actual Bar None sets are located on the property of Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, around a mile from the main area.
Anyway, Melody’s freaking out over the letter, because she’s a dumbass. Danny tries to talk some sense into her.
So does Mr. Ernst, who’s setting up a demonstration to disprove superstition to Jake. Mr. Ernst lectures Melody about superstition, but she counters him. Mr. Ernst, pretty humorously, forces Jake to come out of the boys’ bunk house, where he’s been holed up. He comes out with his stupid lucky penny.
Mr. Ernst deliberately spills salt and then blows it toward Jake instead of throwing some over his shoulder.
He also breaks a mirror with a hammer.
Mr. Ernst has a black cat on loan from the pet shop in town.
He carries the cat under the ladder…
…and makes the cat cross his path three times.
Then the cat attacks Mr. Ernst.
Danny knocks over the ladder (which makes me think of “Pain in the Neck” (season 1, episode 13)) on his way to get the cat off Mr. Ernst.
This bit of coincidence makes Jake more convinced than ever of superstition, and he retreats into the boys’ bunk house. The rest of the gang gets the ladder off Mr. Ernst.
The next day (I guess), Danny has called a meeting at the dock. After Melody and Danny insult each other over their stupid answers again, Danny reveals he switched Jake’s lucky penny with a regular penny (while Jake was asleep, Buddy reveals). Melody wants the stupid penny. Brad is confused over why Danny did this, and Melody playfully hits her (this seems to be a thing with Melody). It’s to help Jake get over superstition and try out for “Brainbusters”. He wants to let Jake go a week before telling him. Isn’t that cutting it a little close? The tryouts are next week.
The gang spots Mr. Ernst across the lake, still trying to catch the cat. Oh. I guess this is a subplot.
After the gang has a laugh, Danny (pretty needlessly) explains the rest of the plan, which was obvious. Brad warns against things going wrong making things worse, but Danny doesn’t believe they will.
At lunch or whenever, Jake is walking backwards while carrying a tray of drinks and trips over Mr. Ernst, who’s crawling around while looking for the cat. There is so much wrong with this scenario. The gang warns Jake.
Later, back at the dock, Danny insists to Melody that it was just an accident. They argue for a bit over it.
Anyway, they’re here so Brad can learn to fire water balloons (oh, look, the cold open was relevant), which I guess is suddenly one of her ambitions. Danny suggests aiming it across the lake, because there’s nobody there.
This coincidence causes Melody to hit Danny.
Later, in the main lodge, Mr. Ernst is chasing the cat behind the desk and up the stairs.
The gang gives up hope of Jake trying out for “Brainbusters” and starts taking down the “set” from the (unsupervised) front desk. Where are the no-name female staff members when you need them? Oh, wait, we don’t need them, because there are no guests in sight. This silently explains why almost no one has been seen doing any work in this episode.
Buddy laments his missed opportunity to get masturbation material. He and Danny argue over the power of the penny, and Brad is starting to believe in it. Oh, Brad, how could you?!
During his argument with Buddy, Danny sarcastically brings up “Belinda the Good Witch” while tapping Melody on the head. Christine Taylor (completely unironically) had a poster of Glinda the Good Witch of the North in her hotel room during the taping of the series. Now, I have an image in my head of Belinda Carlisle dressed as a witch, which is awesome.
Danny lectures the others about superstitions and gives the penny to Melody when asked for it. Buddy asks for Danny’s toenail clippings but quickly changes his mind. Buddy accidentally spills the golf balls on the floor, and…
Jake demands to know what the fuck is going on.
A convinced Danny unsuccessfully tries to snatch the penny from Melody.
Danny tries to explain what he did to Jake, but Jake knew (how? wasn’t he asleep?), so he switched the pennies before Danny left the bunk (how?!). Seriously, this explanation makes no sense. It would have been more believable if Jake had set up a decoy penny for Danny to steal.
Jake tosses away his penny, convinced it isn’t lucky after the “week” that he had. Week? How many days have passed since he started carrying it?
Jake has realized he’s not this superstitious all of the time – just when he has something important coming up, like a test. He says it’s just his way of getting nervous, and he admits “Brainbusters” made him nervous. Wait. Is he saying nervousness leads to superstition? Because it sounds like he’s saying both superstition and “Brainbusters” independently lead to nervousness.
Jake doesn’t want them to take the set down, because he wants to try out and has less than 24 hours. Oh, I guess it is the following week already.
Mr. Ernst crawls across the floor, angrily looking for the cat, and the gang has a laugh over it.
The next day, a bandaged Mr. Ernst has finally caught the cat, so he calls up Eddie’s Pet World and Auto Parts to inform them that he won’t be keeping her. The phone call is pretty funny, but it’s always bothered me that David Brisbin doesn’t leave enough time for the unheard other person to speak.
Mr. Ernst is about to return “Terror Kitty” to the store when Melody arrives. Jake aced the tryouts, but, since he’s not 18, he’s not eligible. However, they entered him for the teen tournament this spring (shouldn’t it be “next spring”?), which makes Mr. Ernst happy.
Melody explains this seems to have been a big promotional tour for “Brainbusters”, and they neglected to mention Tawny Dawn would be there in person.
Buddy is frozen in orgasmic bliss and making uncomfortable sounds after shaking Tawny’s hand. Apparently, Buddy wouldn’t let go of Tawny’s hand, so, after about twenty minutes or so, they called in the emergency squad, which involved the fire department. Buddy should be back to normal in a few days.
Danny asks Mr. Ernst where he wants Buddy, so Mr. Ernst suggests the window in order to give Buddy a good view. Danny points out the irony of Buddy saying Danny has the brains of a sea sponge. Melody gives the picture of Tawny to Mr. Ernst to hold up for Buddy (another “good view”, I guess), and then they leave father and son alone.
The pre-credits scene at the end has the guys relaxing by the lake as deliberate tempting targets for the girls. Oh, I guess this was a “subplot”, and maybe Brad was thought to use the sling as a build-up to this. Danny expresses doubt of Jake’s plan. Jake asks Buddy about the Tawny incident. Buddy doesn’t remember the “death grip”, which Danny claims they needed the Jaws of Life for.
Brad tries readying the sling, but the guys “broke the rubber” (Brad’s term). Jake calls the girls predictable and asks Brad where Melody is.
The shot freezes as Melody splashes the guys. This is only the second time that an episode has ended on a freeze frame (the first being when Ted left). However, that’s not what’s weird about it.
The first two stills during the closing credits are not of moments from earlier in the episode (as is usually the case) but reactions from the girls immediately following the splash. This is definitely atypical and a little weird, but it makes for a nice change of pace. How many times have you seen something like this happen? I wonder what the production reason for this was. Did the scene run long, but they still wanted to show the girls’ reactions? Also, the music of the scene runs into the credits, and then it fades to the closing theme music already in progress. Weird.
So ends another day at the Bar None.
This episode was pretty good. I enjoyed the cat subplot more than the main plot, though. Superstition is real. I’ve encountered it from customers at work. Don’t pick up the penny unless it’s heads. Buy something extra if the total comes to $6.66. It’s stupid, but it’s real.
Countdown to the Second Coming of Ted: 14