Writer: Clifford Fagin
Director: Fred K. Keller
Original air date: September 21, 1990
I guess there was a rule that, every once in a while, there would be an episode with a totally batshit insane plot. Such is the case this week. What’s surprising, though, is the writer of this episode: Clifford Fagin. He wrote some good, down-to-Earth episodes previously. Of course, he also wrote “Suspicion” (season 1, episode 11). “Magnum Ernst” is definitely his weirdest script yet.
And it’s a minute longer than previous episodes. Yeah, the episode is nearly 25.5 minutes long, although there’s only about thirty more seconds of actual story. The closing credits run around 1:15. I don’t know why they suddenly decided to increase the running time.
In the cold open, Mr. Ernst walks outside and inhales. He says he loves the smell of sagebrush in the morning. Okay.
He then trips over Danny, who was crawling around on the ground. Danny helps an angry Mr. Ernst up and explains he was following a horn toad, and it went under the porch. Danny has an idea for The Bar None Museum – A Living Desert (a “fascinating” collection of the local flora and fauna). Danny says it’s “a good money-making idea”. Mr. Ernst brings up his Aunt Kathleen’s reptile farm (before they put in the interstate) as an example of a “thriving business”. Her main attraction was “The Tattooed Man” (his Uncle Jim).
Before Mr. Ernst can bore Danny (and us) too much with his story, Buddy comes by with exciting news: he just saw a walking roadrunner. Danny has Buddy take him to him.
Mr. Ernst spots the “horn toad” (which is actually a lizard) and hops after it on all fours. Yeah…
Melody and Brad make a pointless appearance in the last few seconds of the cold open, confused over their boss’ actions. Brad decides she doesn’t wanna fucking know, and they move on.
After the credits, Jake and Buddy spot the sheriff’s car at the ranch, and Jake gets on Buddy’s case about stealing soda cans and recycling them, because “they belong to the guests who drank them”, not money-seeking Buddy.
The sheriff, who is unnamed in the episode but called Sheriff Cody in the closing credits, is having emergency ass surgery (seriously), so “Ben” will be covering for him for a few days.
Sheriff Cody is played by Jay Floyd. “Hey Dude” was his first of two acting gigs, the second being a bit part in a 1997 movie called “Girl Crazy”.
Buddy and Jake are proud of Mr. Ernst for doing this, and Jake gets a legit funny line in when he calls his uncle “Wyatt Ernst”.
But lets back the fuck up for a moment, shall we? Why is Mr. Ernst, of all people, filling in for the sheriff? Isn’t there a deputy that could – and would be more qualified to – do the job?
Second, this episode is making it seem like the Bar None is located in some backwater town like Mayberry or some shit. The sheriff is implied to have jurisdiction of the entire county. Pima County’s population is primarily concentrated in Tucson. In 1990, Tucson had a population of 405,371 people, which is nearly three times the 2010 population of the backwater county that I live in. That’s a decent-sized city! The Tucson Police Department is headed by a police chief, not a sheriff. But this stupid episode isn’t about to let facts get in its way.
Anyway, Sheriff Cody will be “right down the road at County General” (which isn’t a real hospital in Tucson) if Mr. Ernst needs him. So…in the same general area as the Snake Eyes Ranch and T.R.O.T., right?
Sheriff Cody gives Mr. Ernst his “official sheriff’s starter package”, which includes a .38 gun and a radio to contact “Marlene back at the office”. They’re really pushing this podunk image, aren’t they?
At Mr. Ernst’s insistence, Sheriff Cody swears him in: “Do you swear to execute the duties of the sheriff and to keep the uniform pretty clean?” “I do.” “I now appoint you acting sheriff.”
Sheriff Cody also gives Mr. Ernst a siren to…stick on top of his Jeep or truck, I guess. The sheriff leaves, Mr. Ernst accidentally drops everything, and the siren goes off. Hilarious.
Mr. Ernst starts to “sound like a cop”, which worries Jake and Buddy.
Ha. Anyway, I remember this shot being used in a Nickelodeon commercial for “Hey Dude” back in the early ’90s – not for this specific episode, just for the series in general. It had Western music playing, and there was a tough-sounding narrator.
Brad is upset over “Sheriff Ernst” (a.k.a. “Mr. Sheriff”) giving her a ticket for parking a horse in a “mounting and dismounting zone only” for a minute while she ran to the tack room. Mr. Ernst claims there’s “nothing [that he] can do about it now”, because it’s “in the files”. What the shit kind of reasoning is that? Anyway, Brad is so pissed that she’ll write her congressman – and her parents.
After Brad storms off, Lucy tries to talk to Mr. Ernst about his behavior. He admits he pissed off a guest this morning by giving her a citation for smoking in a non-smoking area. Lucy suggests educating the public through the use of signs or something. Honestly, I wish she’d just tell him to stop with this fucking bullshit. Why is the “sheriff” limiting his patrol to the Bar None, anyway? And am I the only one seeing a similarity to Ted’s power trip in “Inmates Run the Asylum” (season 3, episode 01)?
Lucy makes fun of Mr. Ernst for carrying around a squirt gun, but Mr. Ernst was nervous, because he “never held a real gun before”. Bullshit. See “Perfect Father” (season 1, episode 07):
Besides, he continues, it was heavy. We learn Lucy grew up on a ranch with seven brothers and learned early on how to handle firearms. Lucy offers to give him an introductory lesson. Mr. Ernst is pleased but has her keep the squirt gun thing a secret.
Where the fuck did he get that? It’s not the sheriff’s gun, and he said in “They’re Back” (season 4, episode 01) that they have no guns on the ranch.
Anyway, Mr. Ernst brings up John Wayne, who seems to get quite a few mentions on this series. Lucy gives him some pointers and then pulls up a target.
When the fuck did she have time to make/find this?
Anyway, the “sheriff” shits his pants and gets knocked over by the gun’s recoil, which he explains as taking “evasive action”. He gives the gun to Lucy, and she advises resuming after lunch. He does a bad John Wayne impression, and she helps him walk away.
Jake is doing yoga, I guess because he’s the “weird” one from California, home of alternate lifestyles or some shit.
Jake’s “yogurt” is making Danny “nervous”, although he seems more annoyed than anything else. Danny works on cages for the animals. We learn Danny has “painful memories” of nasty falls and contorted legs.
Buddy brings by his contribution to the museum: Mr. Cactus Head. I don’t even…
After some banter, we learn Danny hasn’t caught any animals yet, opting to build the cages first. Jake gets on Danny’s case.
My feelings exactly.
Later, Melody and Lucy’s conversation is interrupted by:
A guest (uncredited) wants Melody’s attention, so Lucy goes over to deal with the “sheriff”. He’s “undercover” on a “police sting operation”. He’s been studying the “little-known felonies”, and he says, in this county, paying money to a fortune-teller is illegal. That’s bullshit. Yeah, there are a background check, a license requirement, and hefty fees (or, at least, there was as late as 2008), but it’s not illegal.
Anyway, he’s waiting for someone to slip him a “fiver”. I assume he means a $5 bill and not weed or a handjob. After some bullshit palm reading (Lucy will be either an acrobat, which interests her, or a laundromat), Lucy points out that Mr. Ernst is engaging in entrapment, which is illegal (this shocks Mr. Ernst) and not nice to the guests. She seems to assure him that he’s got the Bar None’s “criminal element” under control.
As if on cue (what is this, a sitcom or something?), a guest runs out of her room, calling for help and claiming she’s been robbed.
After the commercial break (which comes very early in this episode), a crowd gathers around the guest, whose name seems to be Miss Vanderdibble, although the closing credits call her “Miss Dibble”, which I’ll refer to her as, because “Vanderdibble” is such a silly name.
Miss Dibble is played by Katherine E. Roberts. “Hey Dude” was her sole acting gig.
Mr. Ernst asks what’s going on. Brad explains something’s missing from Miss Dibble’s room, and Miss Dibble clarifies it’s her silver charm bracelet; it’s special to her and has her name engraved on it. She demands someone call the police immediately.
Mr. Ernst has to convince her that he’s “the police”. She basically accuses him of being high as fuck, which is awesome.
Hang on. Who’s that girl next to Brad? Is she supposed to be a staff member? She’s wearing khaki shorts, but I don’t see a badge. Is she the same staffer from “Dueling Ranches” and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”?
Anyway, Mr. Ernst questions Miss Dibble, who explains her bracelet went missing from the top of her dresser near her (always locked) door while she was out mountain-biking. Her door and windows were still locked. Mr. Ernst suspects an “inside job”.
Suddenly, another guest yells out that her needlepoint is gone. Everyone runs over to her. Mr. Ernst declares this is a “conspiracy”.
The old woman is hyperventilating, so Brad has Danny give her a bag, which she has the old woman breathe into. I love Betty’s reaction, which roughly translates to “I so don’t give a fuck.”
Danny had stuck a banana peel from lunch in the bag and forgotten about it. Brad tries to comfort the woman, Ida Rill from Kansas. Ida Rill is played by Frieda M. Emme. “Hey Dude” was her sole acting gig.
This is the second of two episodes where IMDb credits Toby Huss as Mr. Ernst, which is so obviously wrong.
Brad gets Mr. Ernst to assure the guests that he’ll find their stuff. Betty and Lucy try to comfort Miss Dibble. Everyone encourages Mr. Ernst.
They shouldn’t have.
Jake provides nature documentary-sounding narration and drums up some “suspenseful” music as Buddy and Danny look on. Okay, that’s pretty funny. There’s even some “wilderness”/”tribal” musical score going on.
Mr. Ernst has trouble communicating with Marlene over the radio (translation: they’re not paying for an additional actor to do a voiceover), and he’s carrying the squirt gun again.
His dad being “the heat” makes Buddy nervous, and Jake agrees. Jake adds, other than a general concern for global warming, he used to be a pretty laid-back guy. Danny points out that Jake “break[s] into a sweat” when the FBI warnings come on at the beginning of home videos. Jake admits he has a problem with authority figures. The three guys speculate for a while on the crimes and perpetrators.
Danny goes off “to hunt the elusive desert salamander and other potential candidates for the living museum”, and Buddy joins him. Jake spouts some bullshit Tarzan quote to them as they leave and then continues drumming.
Later, in his office, Mr. Ernst collects hair samples from everybody (starting with Jake) to send to “the boys in Forensics” to match up with the hair sample that he took from “the scene of the crime” (he doesn’t specify which one). He’s farming out this work to Mr. Rodey’s chemistry class over at the junior high. As ridiculous as that is, the writer does at least have Jake specify it’s a summer school chemistry class to prevent the timeline from exploding.
The “sheriff” proceeds to interrogate “Dog Breath”. Basically, it’s like when he interrogated Danny in “Perfect Father”, except now he’s totally serious about it.
Melody interrupts, much to Jake’s gratitude. Okay, that’s pretty funny. Jake accidentally gets fingerprinting ink on his face, and Melody is ashamed of Mr. Ernst for fingerprinting his own nephew. Mr. Ernst insists it’s all “part of the investigative process” to stop “this rash of burglaries”. Mr. Ernst proceeds to grill Melody, making her nervous.
Buddy comes in and announces he and Danny just caught the thief.
The others rush out the door in excitement, and Melody (the “nice” one) shoves Buddy out of her fucking way. He lands on the couch.
Outside, Mr. Ernst confronts the thief, going into a Dirty Harry impression (which also seems to be a recurring thing on this series, albeit not as much as John Wayne).
It’s a packrat.
Danny had staked out his nest…for some reason…and discovered Miss Dibble’s bracelet and Miss Rill’s needlepoint. Mr. Ernst is envious of Danny, because he always wanted to go out on a stakeout. Miss Rill rightly asks why a mouse would want her needlepoint, and Miss Dibble asks if this is usual behavior for mice. Buddy says it is. Melody wonders how the mouse got in and out of the guest houses. Jake guesses the mouse must have crawled through a hole in the wall. Mr. Ernst bullshits a bit about the scope of the “hole in the wall gang” and puts his hand against the cage. The mouse seemingly bites him, and Mr. Ernst says “Rats”, makes a vegetarian joke, and growls at the mouse, and let’s move on, shall we?
The next day (I guess), during breakfast…at the front desk, Mr. Ernst laments having to give up his bullshit sheriff job.
Melody brings by donuts and gives the “sheriff” first choice. He can’t decide between frosted and jelly, so she gives him one of each.
Mr. Ernst again laments the impending loss of his bullshit sheriff job but expresses his appreciation to Melody for her daily donut delivery. This is the first that we’ve heard of it, but most of this episode occurred during a single day.
Brad arrives with coffee and Sheriff Cody. Sheriff Cody, upon seeing the donuts, says he’s died and gone to Sheriff Heaven. Okay, legit funny joke. Melody invites him to help himself. He comments on the “interesting taste”. Melody explains it’s the “oat brand”, which helps keep his cholesterol down. They banter for a bit. Sheriff Cody declares “Ben” is his “standby sheriff”, because he did a “crackerjack job” at “keepin’ the peace”. Who the fuck did he hear that from? Whoever it is is a goddamn liar.
They banter for a bit more, and then Mr. Ernst returns the “official sheriff’s started package”, but Sheriff Cody lets him hold onto the badge for “next time”, which delights Mr. Ernst. Lucy gives Mr. Ernst an undeserved compliment on his performance as sheriff, and Melody and Brad say they’ll still bring him his donuts and coffee, respectively, every morning. Mr. Ernst says he’ll still be able to take a snooze every once in a while in the station wagon. Say what? What station wagon? And when has Mr. Ernst ever been shown to sleep in it? Melody says “the [police] force will be with you”. Hahahahaha. Shut up!
Sheriff Cody returns with a forgotten ticket for Mr. Ernst. A few weeks ago, Mr. Ernst double-parked and blocked old Judge Reinhart’s Chevy. Melody humorously offers Mr. Ernst another donut to cheer him up.
The pre-credits scene at the end has the grand opening of the Bar None Desert Museum (a.k.a. Bar None Museum of the Living Desert).
Buddy unveils the animals, which even Mr. Ernst hasn’t seen.
The girls are like “What the fuck?”
Mr. Ernst is angry at Danny for not rounding up anything cool in “2,000 square miles of desert” and says he can’t ask the guests to pay to look at this shit. Danny tries to explain this as a “start”. We learn the Bar None’s season ends on Labor Day (the first Monday in September), which is considered to be the unofficial end of summer. We also learn Danny and Buddy gave Mr. Ernst free admission. Oh, they featured a rubber snake, a “barn kitten” that lives on the ranch, and a seemingly dead turtle. Lucy insults the museum, and Melody agrees. Oh, the packrat “broke out of jail”. Danny reveals the final animal:
After they leave, Danny yells it’s a stuffed skunk.
So ends another day at the Bar None.
This episode was pretty fucking stupid and completely unrealistic. There were some funny moments, and I like that we got some more backstory on Lucy, but overall what the fucking hell? I can’t believe this is from the same guy that wrote “The Good, the Bad, & the Obnoxious”, “Teacher’s Pest”, “Superstar”, “Datenite”, and “Ride, She Said”.
Countdown to the Second Coming of Ted: 4