Monday, October 31, 2016

A Hair-Raising Tale

In the episode of Gilligan's Island that first aired 50 years ago tonight, "Hair Today Gone Tomorrow," Gilligan's hair turned white overnight.

I'll grant you, in some cases that can seem like it happened overnight — but it is never like this.

The event was set up by the fact that Gilligan (Bob Denver) was worn out from doing the castaways' laundry, and the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) warned him that doing the laundry would make him old before his time. Gilligan dismissed the Skipper's warning — until he woke up the next morning with white hair.

They went to see the Professor (Russell Johnson) to see if he could tell them why Gilligan's hair had changed color. But he had no idea. He recommended that Gilligan go about his normal routine, which included doing the laundry. The Professor assured him the girls (Dawn Wells and Tina Louise) wouldn't even notice.

But they did — and fainted in his arms.

Then Gilligan overheard the Skipper and the Professor talking about his condition. "He's suffering from follicular albinism," the Professor replied when the Skipper insisted on knowing "the truth." When the Skipper asked for an explanation, the Professor said it meant Gilligan had white hair.

Gilligan didn't hear that part, though. He heard the Professor say that there was a chance Gilligan had a rare tropical disease that was making him age rapidly, and and it had a psychological effect on him. Gilligan began acting like an old man — walking with a cane, sitting in a rocking chair with a shawl wrapped around him (that would be pretty uncomfortable in the South Pacific).

He gathered everyone together to distribute his belongings, calling the Skipper Sonny (the Skipper, in return, called him Pop).

After that, the girls were talking about what to do about Gilligan. How could they convince him that he was still young and virile?

That gave Mary Ann an idea. What is it that makes a man feel young? she wondered. The answer was obvious. Love.

So she went to see Gilligan, acting as if she was in love with him.

But she couldn't persuade him that he was still in the springtime of his life.

Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer) had an idea that she shared with the Skipper and the Professor. Many women dye their hair when they reach a certain age, she observed, and that makes them feel younger. So the Professor made a hair dye from berries on the island, then he, the Skipper and Mrs. Howell proceeded to apply the dye to Gilligan's hair while he was asleep.

The next morning, Gilligan discovered that he had lost his hair overnight, and he departed to live out the rest of his life on the other side of the island. The Professor thought there had been something in the dye that had caused Gilligan to lose his hair, but he couldn't figure what it was.

The Skipper took over Gilligan's laundry duties. Not long thereafter, he awoke one day to find that his hair had fallen out, too. So he left for the other side of the island.

The rest of the castaways tried to lure them back. The Professor came with wigs he had been given by the Howells. The wigs had been custom made for Halloween costumes, he told the Skipper and Gilligan. The Howells had gone to a Halloween party dressed as George and Martha Washington.

(I have often wondered why the Howells — and the girls, too, for that matter — brought so many possessions with them on a three–hour cruise. After all, no one knew — I presume — that they would be stranded on a desert island. The four of them had many changes of clothes whereas the Skipper, the Professor and Gilligan always wore the same clothes.)

Wearing the wigs, Gilligan and the Skipper tried to ease their way back into the castaways' circle, joining them for dinner — during which it was discovered that the homemade bleach that was used on the laundry had burned holes in Mr. Howell's (Jim Backus) trousers, and the Professor concluded that the bleach had caused the problems with Gilligan's hair and then the Skipper's hair after he took over the laundry.

Nature would soon restore what Gilligan's bleach had taken away, the Professor assured them.

In the meantime, though, they had to put up with some rather unpleasant side effects.