Friday, April 17, 2015

Wishful Thinking

Gilligan's Island took on the subject of superstition 50 years ago tonight.

The Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) was an old salt who knew all the legends and myths of the islands — and seemed to believe most of them, too.

From time to time, the superstition angle would rear its head and form the basis for a plotline. Usually, it worked pretty well, and I must say I found this episode entertaining. But the more I thought about it, the more I had to conclude that it had a fatal flaw in its logic.

When the episode began, Gilligan (Bob Denver) was digging a hole. It's been awhile since I have seen the episode, and I don't really remember the reason for the hole, whether it was to be a new well or a pit for some purpose. I just remember that the Skipper had Gilligan digging a hole.

As he was digging, Gilligan discovered a gem, and the Professor (Russell Johnson) told him it was "$11 worth of quartz." (I can't remember why the Professor was there, either.) The Skipper, however, was convinced that it was the long–lost Eye of the Idol, of which it was said that the finder would be granted three wishes before sundown on the day he found it.

The Professor, of course, was skeptical, but the rest of the castaways began making plans to leave the island when Gilligan's first wish, a gallon of ice cream, came floating up to the island. The Skipper, you see, had told Gilligan to save one wish to get everyone off the island.

The Professor was certain that the ice cream had fallen from a plane or a boat, an explanation that became less plausible when Gilligan accidentally wished for another gallon of ice cream — and it, too, washed ashore minutes later.

The Skipper told everyone to gather their belongings and assemble at the lagoon. They all made it there shortly before sunset, but the Professor refused to participate in the ritual of huddling together while Gilligan wished them home. That was like striking a row of dominoes. As I recall, it was Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) who broke first, saying she couldn't leave the Professor behind. Then Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer) volunteered Mr. Howell (Jim Backus) to remain as their chaperone because it "wasn't proper" for them to stay alone.

Then Mrs. Howell didn't want to leave her husband behind, and Ginger (Tina Louise) gave in, too, leaving just Gilligan and the Skipper. The rest of the castaways prevailed on the Professor to come with them, and he agreed on the condition that, when it failed to work, as he was sure it would, they would stop talking about it and resume their previous activities on the island.

That was when Gilligan realized the gem had slipped through a hole in his pocket, and they all fanned out in teams of two to look for it, focusing on three places where Gilligan had been earlier to gather souvenirs from the island.

This led to one of the funnier scenes in the episode — Ginger and the Professor searching a cave where Gilligan had been earlier. Ginger, ever the actress, told the Professor that he had to put himself in the right frame of mind for searching a cave and suggested that he "think bat."

When that didn't work in the low–ceilinged cave, Ginger instructed him to "think mole."

The castaways finally found the gem and reassembled at the lagoon minutes before sundown.

Gilligan wished that they were off the island ... and the portion of the island on which they were standing broke off and floated into the middle of the lagoon.

Technically speaking, they were off the island.

Believe it or not, that is not that fatal flaw I mentioned earlier. In the context of the rest of the episode, that was actually a plausible conclusion — and, once again, it was Gilligan's fault that the castaways weren't delivered from the island.

The fatal flaw, in my opinion, is that, once the gem had been identified by the Skipper as the Eye of the Idol, there was no reason for the dawdling other than to further establish the gem's validity with that second wish. But then it took what must have been hours for the castaways to gather their belongings and meet at the lagoon. I would have thought they would be so eager to leave that they would be willing to leave everything behind. They could always come back to the island for whatever they wanted. After all, the Howells were rich and would surely be willing to use their personal yacht for such a purpose.

There were other flaws in the story as well.

As I remember, the Skipper told the Professor and Gilligan that the Eye of the Idol had been lost for thousands of years — so, presumably, there were no pictures of it — yet he was able to identify it immediately. I figure it would have been more effective if that second wish coming true had been what reminded him of the legend of the lost Eye of the Idol, and he put two and two together.

It also seemed odd to me that none of the castaways really disputed the Professor's explanation for the ice cream. After all, if those gallons really had fallen into the sea from a plane or a boat, the contents would have melted before reaching land.

But that may have been part of Gilligan's Island's charm. Like so many of the sitcoms of the '60s, it was more interested in entertainment than logic.