Sunday, March 26, 2017

Andy and Barney's Excellent Adventure

Andy (Andy Griffith): Now, Barn, outside of that meetin' we got with the commissioner, we're really off duty, you know.

Barney (Don Knotts): Off duty? When is a lawman really off duty?

If you didn't grow up in a small town, what I am about to write may not make much sense to you.

But I grew up in a small town in central Arkansas, about a 30–minute drive from Little Rock. It wasn't as small as the Mayberry of the Andy Griffith Show, but it was much smaller than it is today. We knew that we could get most of the things we needed in my hometown, but for some things we had to drive to the big city.

That was the mindset of Barney (Don Knotts) in the episode that premiered on this night in 1962, "Andy and Barney in the Big City." Andy (Andy Griffith) and Barney went to the state capitol to ask for funds for new equipment.

They weren't exactly encouraged by what the commissioner had to tell them. He said the chances of getting their request approved were slim, given that not much happened in Mayberry.

Barney, who told Andy earlier that he believed the city was where he really belonged, decided that they needed to make a felony arrest that would bring them some attention, and he made the following observation that rings so true from my own childhood experiences: "People come here to the city to shop for things they can't get back home."

But what he had to say next definitely was not a part of my childhood.

"We do the same thing. No felonies in Mayberry? We pick one up here."

Barney had his eye on a fellow who was paying particular attention to a guest at the hotel who was carrying a considerable stash of jewels. He didn't realize the fellow was the hotel detective, and he was providing protection for the guest.

A real criminal came into the hotel, and Barney struck up a friendship with him. Barney got the idea that the criminal was actually the owner of the local newspaper and sensed an opportunity to grab the kind of headlines the Mayberry sheriff's office needed to get that new equipment.

The friendship quickly became a partnership.

As usual, Barney — in his blustery sort of way — got it all wrong and nearly allowed the thief to get away with the jewels, but Andy, in his usual way, bailed Barney out.

But there was one thing Andy couldn't change — the fact that Barney, thinking the hotel detective was the thief, had locked the detective in a closet.

One of the delightful scenes in this episode was one of Knotts' own creations. I refer to the scene in the French restaurant when Barney pointed to items on the menu to keep the waiter from thinking Barney was a rube. Andy thought that was too much of a gamble and said he would tell the waiter what he wanted.

"Don't do that," Barney said. "He'll think you're a plain hick."

"There's worse things than being a plain hick," Andy replied, "like being a hongry one."

Andy wound up with a steak, baked potato and green beans. Barney ended up with a plate of snails and brains.

Many years later, Knotts re–created the scene in an episode of Three's Company.