Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Blue Moon Over the Pacific

I was just a child when I saw reruns of Gilligan's Island for the first time, but even at that tender age, I can remember wondering how the castaways could get along so well all the time. I found that remarkable — and specialists in human behavior no doubt would find it remarkable, too, that seven people with such different backgrounds, likes and dislikes could live so harmoniously. Whenever one was threatened in some way, the others were sure to provide support. It was all for one and one for all.

Well, I guess anything is possible on TV.

I figured that it would be more likely that, given the confining nature of their situation, the castaways would turn on each other, argue and fight. That, it has been my observation, is more common behavior among humans. It is rare to find one person who empathizes with his/her fellow man — let alone all seven who happen to be on board a pleasure cruise that gets swept off course by a storm and runs aground on a postage stamp–sized island.

No matter how well most humans try to keep their negative impulses bottled up, it has been my experience that eventually it will bubble over.

And that seems to be what happened on Gilligan's Island on this night 50 years ago in the episode "Ship Ahoax." They began to bicker with each other. Gilligan (Bob Denver) and the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) went so far as to draw a dividing line in their hut. Each was to stay on his side of the hut. The problem with that was that the door was on the Skipper's side. The Howells (Jim Backus and Natalie Schafer) were arguing with each other, and Ginger (Tina Louise) and Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) were bickering as well.

Mary Ann stormed out of the hut, nearly running into Gilligan, who had found his way out of the hut without setting foot on the floor and entered the girls' hut, where Ginger, dressed as a fortune teller, began predicting his future. Like most of us would be, Gilligan was skeptical — until Ginger predicted an earthquake and a few seconds later, the ground began to shake. It was an earth tremor that shook the hut. Ginger was tipped off that one was coming because small items in the hut began to shake just before the tremor hit. It happened "all the time," she told the Professor (Russell Johnson).

(A flaw in the logic of the story. If tremors really did hit the island frequently, as Ginger told the Professor, wouldn't Gilligan have been aware of that? Wouldn't they all?)

Nevertheless, Gilligan was convinced and he told anyone who would listen what Ginger had predicted for him.

Yes, Ginger's act convinced him. Trouble is, it convinced Ginger, too — eventually.

The Professor was the only one who appeared unaffected by what he called "island madness," and he conspired with Ginger to convince everyone, as she had convinced Gilligan, that she had a gift for predictions. He removed the batteries from the radio so it would appear to be broken, then while he "repaired" it, he and Ginger listened to the news to get topics for her predictions that would be confirmed for the castaways later when they listened to the news.

The Skipper was persuaded that she was legitimate when she predicted that Army would beat Navy in football, and Mr. Howell was persuaded when she predicted that a heretofore worthless stock suddenly skyrocketed in price — both events that had long since happened.

(Another flaw in the logic of the story. While weekday college football games are commonplace today, they were almost nonexistent in the 1960s, outside of games played on holidays, like Thanksgiving or New Year's Day. Most games were played on Saturdays. The stock market is only open on nonholiday weekdays. It is highly unlikely that both events would have come to pass on the same day.)

The castaways were all convinced that she had the gift of premonition, and she got a little carried away with herself, predicting a fleet of rescue ships would be in the vicinity shortly. And, indeed, the radio did report that a fleet of rescue ships was on its way to search for a missing ship.

The castaways rejoiced. Their salvation seemed to be at hand.

But shortly thereafter the radio reported that the ship had been found, and they were all on their way back to port.

Ginger was ready to give up her charade, telling the Professor that "I'm through conning myself and them," but he encouraged her to continue, saying that she was helping morale. So they came up with a plan for a seance. Each of the castaways would be given a piece of paper on which the message "Please don't tell anyone I'm a fake" would be written. The castaways were told to write down what they wanted to ask Ginger on supposedly blank pieces of paper, but when they read the note, they all retreated, saying they already knew what they wanted to know.

Gilligan didn't look at his piece of paper. He just blurted out his question. He wanted to know when they would be rescued.

"Not soon enough for friends so true," Ginger told him. "Look for the ship ... when the moon is blue."

Back at their hut, Gilligan looked at the piece of paper he had shoved in his pocket and compared it to the one the Skipper had. They both said the same thing.

"What an honor," Gilligan said to the Skipper. "We're the only ones she trusts."

"That's right, Little Buddy," the Skipper replied. "And we're not going to let her down."

With that, the two retired to their hammocks, satisfied that they had been loyal friends to Ginger. They didn't notice that the moon that night was blue.

Or that a ship was passing by their island.