Episode Title: When the Rat’s Away the Mice will Play
Original Airdate: February 17, 1966
When we last left the Caped Crusaders they had been captured by the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and the River Rats Gang and are now spinning faster and faster on a couple of giant wheels. In just a few moments the very flesh will be ripped from their bones. Things seem hopeless. Let’s see how they get out of it in our next episode…When the Rat’s Away the Mice will Play.
The opening credits of the episode roll as we see our heroes spinning around and around. Then, suddenly, we see sparks flying from the control panel of the machine. Then there is an explosion and the wheels stop. Batman manages to free himself and then releases the beleaguered boy wonder. Robin asks how Batman was able to stop the machine. Batman explains that as the Riddler’s men were dragging him, he barely managed to get the cutting torch out of his utility belt. With this he was able to short-circuit the device. Of course, this was all unseen by us…but it was so obvious I’m ashamed I didn’t think of it!
Our heroes have escaped, but of course, the Riddler believes he succeeded in killing off the Dynamic Duo. He figures that nothing stands in the way of his ultimate scheme. From his hideout, Riddler watches a TV broadcast of King Borris (who he had kidnapped and released in our last episode) visit the Queen of Freedom monument. The king presents to the city a miniature replica of the monument for the museum that is housed inside. He doesn’t suspect, though, that the River Rats have planted a bomb inside the small statue. A note is then delivered to Commissioner Gordon demanding one million dollars or the Queen of Freedom will be blown to smithereens.
Of course, Gordon knows that Batman and Robin are still alive, though Riddler thinks they are dead. Batman advises payment of the ransom to bait a trap for Riddler. The only person who can supply that kind of green so quickly, though, is Bruce Wayne. Bruce loans the money to Gordon and delivers it personally. While Bruce is at city hall, Gordon is visited by BATMAN! Turns out it is one of the River Rats in disguise. “Batman” lays out a plan instructing Gordon not to have any cops around for the money drop.
A short time later, the real Batman and Robin figure out the riddle that Riddler told them before he tied them to the spinning wheels. “Why is a woman in love like a welder?” It’s obvious, both carry a torch. They realize that the bomb is in the replica statue of the torch carrying Queen of Freedom. So, the heroes lie in wait for Riddler to pick up the money and the final fight ensues.
This episode has some classic moments that make this one a complete joy. First, the way Batman and Robin get out of the cliffhanger is wonderful. In many ways it’s an homage to the cliffhangers we would see in old serials that played in movie theaters. One week you’d see what appeared to be the hero dying in huge train crash. But the next week a new scene was added showing him jumping off the locomotive just before the crash. Here, Batman simply reveals that, though we never saw it, he did manage to get out a cutting torch to short-circuit the machine. It’s brilliantly goofy!
This episode’s best moment, though, is something we rarely see: one of the main villain’s henchmen stealing the show. The character of Whitey, played by Roy Jenson, is the henchman who impersonates Batman. Jenson has been on tons of TV shows and appeared in many movies, including Chinatown. He is hilarious when impersonating Batman. To start with, he’s a bit heavier than Adam West, so his gut flops over the utility belt a bit. He also has a slightly slurred way of speaking which gives the impression that this Batman knocked a few back before crawling through the window. His eyes also seem to be slightly out of alignment which looks a bit wild through that cowl. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but fake Batman manages to steal a bit of the spotlight from Gorshin’s Riddler.
The final fight in this episode is a great climax. It starts with Riddler finding a note from Batman which contains a riddle: “What squeals louder than a caught rat?” The answer, of course, is “several caught rats.” The rats put up a good fight. One even gets tossed across the room like a paper airplane by Batman. In HD you can see the wires. Who cares, though, it’s a fun fight sequence.
Once again, this episode proves that the Riddler stories are often among the best for this series. Next time, though, we are introduced to a new villain. Actor David Wayne makes the first of two appearances as the Mad Hatter in The Thirteenth Hat. See you next week. Same bat time, same bat channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
Bat Rope (Used by Fake Batman)