The Batman 66 Episode Guide 1×25: The Joker Trumps An Ace
The 1966 Batman television show was one of the most successful and influential adaptations of comic books to mass media of all time. Over the course of three seasons and 120 episodes, the series became a cultural force with its unique combination of tongue-in-cheek humor, thrilling superhero adventure and celebrity guest stars, and shaped the way the public would view the Caped Crusader for the next five decades. Now, in the midst of a well-deserved renaissance of the show, ComicsAlliance is proud to present The Batman ’66 Episode Guide, an in-depth examination of every single adventure, arch-criminal and deathtrap cliffhanger of the series.
This week, the Joker's on a crime spree with international implications... The kidnapping of the Maharaja of Nimpah!
Episode 1x25: The Joker Trumps An Ace
Script: Francis and Marian Cockrell
Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Original Air Date: April 6, 1966
Special Guest Villain: Cesar Romero as The Joker
One of the things I've mentioned before about this series is how the plots the villains come up with are a whole lot more complicated than viewers might remember. In some cases, in fact, they go right in to needlessly complicated, like last week's story, where we had to start with an off-screen robbery at a wax museum just to wind our way towards a plot to steal a secret Incan treasure. Either way, there tends to be a whole lot going on with this stuff.
I imagine that's largely a function of the show's two-episode format. When you're trying to get an hour of television out of an eleven-page story that ran in Detective Comics, you're probably going to end up adding a few red herrings and additional heists just to fill up time, and before long, that becomes the way the show's made --- and because of that, you end up with stories that seem built less around criminals who want to get away with their crimes and more around how they want to outwit Batman and beat him at his own game.
And that, in turn, becomes the show's signature: Ruthless, murderous criminals who are utterly dedicated to crime who just want to beat Batman. It's something that's usually at the core of the motivation for all the arch-criminals, but it's never more apparent than when Batman's facing off against the Joker.
The ultimate example of that --- and the high point of television as a medium --- is, of course, season 3's "Surf's Up, Joker's Under" where the two characters literally having a surfing competition against each other for control of Gotham City's impressionable surfers, but this week's adventure and the Maharaja of Nimpah are about as good an example as you could ask for of a plot that's all about outsmarting and humiliating Batman in the name of crime.
We open on Gotham City, per Desmond Doomsday, at "one of its most exclusive fur salons," where a morning of one-percenter shopping is interrupted by a holdup man in a slouch hat and cape who soon drops his disguise to reveal that he's the Joker. With the aid of a gang of armed henchmen, he robs the place, stealing a single hairpin, and tying up the patrons with trick confetti and departing with a pretty decent joke:
"What are more mink skins used for than anything else? To hold minks together!" You really gotta hand it to the guy, he's got the right material for his venue.
Back at Police Headquarters, it seems that the hairpin has joined a hole from a golf course on the list of bizarre items that the Joker has stolen lately, although that raises the question, is it really possible to steal a hole? Aren't you just making it bigger? In order to steal the hole, wouldn't it have to be gone, which would mean you were filling it up, in which case you're not so much stealing as doing some highly specific littering? Crime is weird, y'all. Crime is weird.
And in this case, it's clearly weird enough that the cops have to call in Batman, pulling Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson away from an afternoon of putting together a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces facing down. When they arrive, though, they're greeted with a puzzle of a different kind: a brown paper package, tied up with string, that opens to reveal... well, I guess you could call it a "clue," if you didn't want to spend the time necessary to refer to it as "inflatable racist caricature."
The balloon is accompanied by a recording of the Joker asking, "Did you hear what the maid said when the duchess asked if she'd given the goldfish fresh water that morning? 'No, your highness! He hasn't yet used what he had yesterday!'"
This, for the record, gives us one of the all-time great O'Hara Faces:
Stafford Repp may actually be the most underrated part of this entire series. He is a delight.
Alas, the duchess and her well-intentioned maid will have to wait. Before long, Batman finds himself occupied with the golf course robbery, suddenly remembering that the Maharaja of Nimpah has recently arrived in Gotham City, "and he's so rich, he plays golf with jewel-inlaid solid-gold clubs." This, as the sportsmen among you will note, is actually a pretty bad idea. The best golf clubs tend to have a relatively light weight and use hollow titanium heads --- Gold weighs almost five time more than titanium, and a solid club would be impractically heavy, and not nearly as sturdy.
But that's rich folks for you.
Effectiveness aside, they're most certainly more valuable than a standard set, which makes them a prime target for the Joker. And sure enough, he's at the country club, peering out over the fairway from the height of a forklift and doing absolutely nothing to remain inconspicuous.
The Maharaja, accompanied by his retinue --- including a caddy with the considerable strength necessary to carry a full set of at least eleven solid gold golf clubs, estimated weight of around 300 pounds --- has begun his golf game alongside the Mayor --- not yet named "Mayor Linseed" in this episode.
When the Maharaja sinks his putt, the hole explodes into knockout gas, KO-ing the golfers and prompting Batman to stoically inform the owner of the country club that "this COULD be an emergency." And it is: The Joker's men arrive on a golf cart to steal not only the clubs, but the Maharaja himself, using the aforementioned forklift to load him up into a laundry van and spirit him away. Interestingly enough, it's just the henchmen doing the abducting; we don't actually see the Joker himself.
The Batmobile, of course, gives chase, but the Dynamic Duo soon discovers that they've been duped by an optical illusion:
Inside the toy truck, Batman and Robin find yet another joke: "Did you hear about the kid who wanted to sell his dog for $50,000? He got his price, traded it for two $25,000 cats, but you can't make a deal like that for the Maharaja because we've got plenty of cats already!" And at this point, we all realize that these "jokes" are an exercise in diminishing returns.
The clue about having plenty of cats leads Batman and Robin to the Katz, Katz, & Katz refinery, currently occupied by the Joker and his gang, meticulously arranging the furniture while they wait for Batman and Robin to arrive through the refinery's unlocked front door. If it seems like the Joker's making things easy on Batman, it's because he is --- the whole thing's a trap, luring the crimefighters into a captivity aided by a set of massive mirrors.
The Joker's men lasso Batman and Robin, and at this point, Cesar Romero launches into a strange talk-singing poem set to music that has been referred to online, very charitably, as a rap:
Circle now and intertwine,
Neatly wrap these guests of mine!
No more will they jeer and scoff,
I'll cut their circulation off!
If they do not see the joke,
Pull the ropes and let them choke!
It's not exactly 36 Chambers.
As Batman and Robin are tied up --- and the contents of their utility belts neutralized "for at least an hour" with a "funny ray," something that seems a lot more complicated than just, you know, taking them off --- the Joker's moll, Jill, expresses a reluctance to actually kill them. When he responds with, "Have you gone soft, my little savage?" it sounds for all the world like he's calling her "my little salad," and I'd encourage you to refer to your loved ones using that phrase from now on. It's very cute.
The Joker poses a questions to the Dynamic Duo, asking if they're good swimmers who are capable of staying afloat for an hour. Robin responds that they can, as long as nothing's weighing them down, and the Joker agrees to give them a fighting chance: If they can stay afloat for an hour, he'll let them go. He locks them in the refinery's smokestack, and begins to flood it --- not with water, but with deadly gas!
ROBIN: But you can't float in gas!
JOKER: No, but you can drown in it.
And with that, Batman and Robin are trapped in a smokestack slowly filling with deadly gas, with their utility belts neutralized and no room to throw the Batrope --- and nothing for it to catch on the sheer, fifty-foot walls even if they could! By Arch-Villain standards, it's a pretty straightforward trap, and one that may just be lethal!
Be here next week, dear reader - the worst is yet to come!
Index of Episode 1x25:
- "Holy Jack-in-the-Box!"
- "Holy Taj-Mahal!"
- "Holy tee-shot!"
- "Holy shrinkage!"
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