Episode Title: Smack in the Middle
Original Airdate: January 13, 1966
You may recall that at the end of our last episode Robin had been captured by the Riddler and the gang and is now unconscious and strapped to a surgical table. As for Batman, he was in a bit of a stupor after having been served some drugged orange juice at the What a Way to Go-Go. Now we pick up the story in part two of, Smack in the Middle.
It is now the next morning and Batman is desperately trying to find out Robin’s location. Meanwhile, the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and Molly (Jill St. John) have created a plaster mold of Robin’s face which they use to make a mask using “instant compound X.” The plan is for Molly to pose as Robin so that Batman will lead the baddies right to the mysterious Batcave. If you’ve seen any of the Mission: Impossible films, well this is Batman’s version of their face mask trick.
Now wait, let’s just pause for a second here. First let me say that Jill St. John looks pretty dang fine in a Robin outfit…and actually, when not wearing her Robin mask she looks an awful lot like Carrie Kelley as Robin in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. However, it’s a bit of a stretch to expect us to believe that Miss St. John’s ample…uh…figure could ever pass for the body of flat-as-a-board Burt Ward. Just sayin’.
So, Riddler stages a car accident which Batman rescues his chum Robin (really Molly) from. He then takes him…er her…back to the Batcave. The Caped Crusader is hip to this jive, though. Spotting a flaw in the mask, Batman uses a Bat-laser to to burn off her gun’s firing pin (in a conveniently off-camera scene). Stupidly, Molly tries to escape by climbing the nuclear power source for the Batmobile and tumbles in (one of the series’ few actual deaths).
Batman soon finds Robin’s true location, but the Riddler escapes. Luckily, Robin overheard a series of riddles that leads them to Riddler’s ultimate plot. Once again, he plans to cause trouble at the World’s Fair (from the previous episode). The country of Moldavia has a Mammoth covered in jewels and stuffed with old postage stamps. Those stamps, of course, are now worth a fortune to collectors and Riddler wants them. Of course, our heroes show up to break things up with one of the show’s signature fight sequences.
I love the wonderfully convoluted nature of this episode. Somehow we go all the way from Mission: Impossible style face masks to an ancient mammoth stuffed with priceless postage stamps! It’s all so nuts I just can’t resist it. The bit with masks is the highlight of this episode for me. Burt Ward just eats up the opportunity to play Jill St. John playing him. The way he stands with his hand on his hip is just priceless. Speaking of masks, the final heist sequence has Gorshin’s Riddler donning a latex elephant mask. It’s actually kind of creepy and gives the character a bit more of a sinister edge while still delivering laughs.
Of course, another highlight of this episode is our first climactic group fight. The format of these is simple: two heroes, out numbered by the villain and his minions, they battle as an instrumental version of the theme music plays, and the whole thing is punctuated by words that flash on screen…such as Krunch, Klonk, Bam, and Kapow! This one sets the standard when it comes to the playful and somewhat goofy violence that these fight scenes are known for. This one is actually quite rare in that the villain manages to escape capture at the fight’s end.
This episode does have one very shocking aspect: a character actually dies. Now, sadly, Molly’s death can pretty much be chalked up to pure stupidity on her part. I mean there’s a big danger sign on that nuclear reactor! Don’t tell me she didn’t see it! Still, that this usually quite lighthearted show kills off its first leading lady is a big surprise. It does however provide a nice reflective moment for Bruce Wayne at the episode’s conclusion. “She’s merely someone I passed like a ship in the night, now vanished like a puff of smoke.”:
Overall, this first Bat-adventure was fantastic fun! Be sure to join us next time when another classic villain makes his debut on the show. It’s Burgess Meredith as the Penguin in Fine Feathered Finks. Same Bat-time…same Bat-channel (superhero).
Emergency Bat-Turn Lever
Bat Laser Beam
Mobile Crime Computer