Monday, October 17, 2016

Friends and Enemies

Gilligan (Bob Denver): "He treated me like a father."

Mary Ann (Dawn Wells): "He was like a father to me."

Ginger (Tina Louise): "He was like a father to me."

Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer): "He was like a husband to me!"

There is an old Chinese proverb that goes like this: "He who is suspicious of his friends has a tiger by the tail."

Perhaps a more modern interpretation would be Michael Corleone's observation (which may originally have been a quote from Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu although there is considerable difference of opinion on that) in "The Godfather Part II:" "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Anyway ...

There may be some pretty good reasons not to tell someone if he or she will inherit anything from you after you die.

The positive side, of course, is that you receive accolades for your generosity. On the flip side, though, one or more of your beneficiaries may decide it is preferable not to have to wait for tangible proof of it.

At least that seems to have been the point of the episode of Gilligan's Island that aired on this night in 1966 — "Where There's a Will."

Mr. Howell (Jim Backus) — who was, of course, the millionaire mentioned in the show's theme song — came down with a minor malady, and all the castaways came by his hut to give him their best wishes. Touched by their concern, he resolved to remember them in his will.

It was early in this episode, in fact, that viewers saw how truly versatile the Professor (Russell Johnson) could be. He examined and diagnosed Mr. Howell with a stethoscope he made from vines and other material found on the island, and he used a thermometer that he made from the Minnow's barometer. Very clever — but he could never figure out how to patch the hole in the side of the Minnow so they could sail home.

Then, in truly Howellian fashion, Mr. Howell made a big production of announcing his decision, gathering the castaways together to tell them of the revisions to his will and giving a personal copy of the will to each. He could have gone to each one separately and confided his decision. But his ego would have none of it. Like Dustin Hoffman's character in "Wag the Dog," he craved credit for what he had done.

Not long after that, the Howells were walking in the jungle when things began happening — like an arrow barely missing him.

Then he overheard them talking about killing "the old boar."

He assumed they were talking about him; in fact, they were talking about killing a wild boar on the island to make a spare ribs dinner for a party in Mr. Howell's honor.

(An observation here: The island was too small to be on any maps or charts, which was the reason why the castaways were never rescued — at least not during the original three–year run of the series. But it was apparently big enough that the castaways and a wild boar could coexist on the island — and the wild boar was never seen, never even a topic of conversation, until this night in 1966.)

But Mr. Howell had left, presumably to live out the rest of his life in seclusion. He staged his death in quicksand, then hid and watched what happened from a distance.

It wasn't at all what he expected.

The castaways weren't glad he was gone. They held a funeral for him with the only thing of Mr. Howell's they had — the pith helmet he had been wearing when he left his hut and had been found on the quicksand. Before they started the service, the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) asked Gilligan if the grave was the right size. "It should be," Gilligan replied. "It's 6⅞."

(That was a joke I didn't get as a child. I think it's funny now.)

The castaways were genuinely grief–stricken, and each vowed not to accept his/her inheritance.

Touched once again by their love for him, Mr. Howell, who had been watching from a nearby tree, tumbled from the branches, revealing his whereabouts.

It's still probably a good idea not to tell most people that you are remembering them in your will.

Just to be on the safe side.