Monday, November 28, 2016

To Rehab a Thief

Ginger (Tina Louise): What did you and your family do for entertainment?

Mr. Wiley (Don Rickles): We used to sit around and watch each other get skinny.

The castaways on Gilligan's Island were always having visitors to their little island who would promise — or at least imply — that they would take the castaways back to civilization but always wound up reneging on the promise.

In the episode that aired on this night in 1966, "The Kidnapper," Don Rickles played a man who had also become shipwrecked on the island. Well, his boat was beached with a bent propeller.

He kidnapped the women on the island, one by one, and demanded a ransom for each, which Mr. Howell (Jim Backus) always paid, being the only person on the island with money.

After Mrs. Howell (Natalie Schafer), Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) and Ginger (Tina Louise) were all kidnapped and returned, the other castaways learned that the kidnapper's plan was to kidnap each in succession and then start all over again, collecting ever–increasing ransom amounts. They decided that something had to be done so the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) and the Professor (Russell Johnson) set a trap using Gilligan (Bob Denver) as the bait — but in typical Gilligan fashion he got scared and tripped the trap. In the chaos that followed, the Skipper caught the kidnapper, and they put him in a bamboo cage.

The Professor and the Skipper immediately began working to repair the boat. They wanted to make it seaworthy for a return to civilization.

While the kidnapper was in custody, Ginger wanted to psychoanalyze him. Ginger regarded her acting experiences as the equivalent of actual experience in other fields (kind of the forerunner to the Holiday Inn Express commercials — you know, "I'm not a doctor, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night ..."). She had once been in a movie about a criminal who was psychoanalyzed in an attempt to get to the root of his criminal behavior, and she persuaded a skeptical Professor to let her talk to the kidnapper and find out what made him tick.

The kidnapper turned out to be quite a con man. He showered everyone with flattery, telling Ginger he thought she and Mary Ann were beautiful, which turned both their heads.

I could see something like that having that kind of an effect on a country girl like Mary Ann, but Ginger was a movie star who must have been accustomed to the attention of male admirers. I had a hard time accepting her response.

The Professor kept insisting that it is difficult to reform a hardened criminal, but Ginger persuaded the castaways to let the kidnapper out of his cage in a demonstration of their faith in him. And that's what they did. Then they threw a party for him. They had the best of intentions.

But the kidnapper didn't. At the party, he robbed the women of their jewelry as he danced with each. He picked the men's pockets, and then he slipped away, escaping on the boat that had been repaired by the Skipper and the Professor.

In a kind of an I–told–you–so moment, the Professor observed that it isn't easy to reform a hardened criminal.

"Come to think of it," Ginger replied, "that's how it turned out in the movie, too."