Episode Title: The Sport of Penguins
Original Airdate: October 5,1967
We’re still very early in season three of this series, and already we have our first return villain. Remember, the Penguin (as usual, played by Burgess Meredith) attempted a scheme that involved marrying Barbara Gordon back in the season premiere. Well, this time he has a different lady at his side, one Lola Lasagna, as played by singer and actress Ethel Merman. Let’s get ready for The Sport of Penguins.
We are introduce to Lola in the opening scene as she shows off her valuable racehorse, Parasol, for reporters. Well, right in the middle of the photo op, Penguin waddles in and steals Lola’s parsol…meaning her umbrella, not the horse. A short time later, Penguin shows up at the Gotham City Library, where Barbara Gordon works. He attempts to steal a valuable book all about umbrellas and parasols, but Miss Gordon stops him and calls the cops. Penguin manages to escape, but first he leaves an umbrella that is strangely ticking. Of course Batman and Robin, who just happened to be at Commissioner Gordon’s office when Barbara called, are dispatched to take care of the umbrella bomb.
Later, back at the Batcave, our heroes feed some information into the Bat Computer and somehow end up learning about Lola’s horse, Parasol, and getting a lead the sends them to a local glue factory. Don’t ask me about how they came to that discovery, I rewatched the scene and still don’t get it. Anyhow, Alfred ends up deciding to call Barbara Gordon and fill her in. So Batgirl ends up heading for the glue factory, too.
Of course, our heroes have perfect timing as they arrive just in time to seen Penguin and Lola trying to buy a horse from the owner of the glue factory. You see, they plan on doing a paint job on this nag to make it look like Parasol. Then they’ll switch horses in the next big race. So, the real Parasol, a favorite, will win the race, but under a different name. So…Pengy and Lola will make big bucks at the betting counter. Of course, a fight with Penguin’s men breaks out and our three heroes end up wrapping them up in tape. Penguin escapes, however, but not before smearing glue all over the Batmobile. The Dynamic Duo gets glued to their seats, and even the Batmobile’s Library Paste Bat-dissolvant Switch gets stuck. Alfred has to come rescue them during the commercial break. Meanwhile, Penguin heads back to the library intending to nab the book he failed to steal earlier in the episode so he can sell it and use the cash to bet on his fake horse. Will he succeed? We have to wait until next week to find out.
It’s sad to admit, but episodes like this are the sort that illustrate the decline this series started to experience in its final season. The fun and energy that we’ve seen in so many other episodes over the course of the last two seasons just isn’t there. Penguin’s plot is as convoluted as they come and it’s very easy to completely lose track of what he and Lola are doing. Plus, the way our heroes get to the bottom of things is so lame. There’s no detective work going on here! Batman and Robin just get answers off of cards that pop out of the Bat Computer, which somehow suddenly seems to be able to hear what they say and respond accordingly. The computer is apparently psychic, as well, which is the only way it could know that Penguin and Lola plan on dropping in at the local glue factory.
In general, the cast seem to be in a bit of a daze in this outing. I can’t really say I blame them, since, as I said, the story is a bit confusing. Even Burgess Meredith seems to have dialed back his usual comedic charisma. He just doesn’t feel like the Penguin we know and love. Plus, absolutely nothing is added with the presence of Ethel Merman’s Lola Lasagne. She has no traits that make her anywhere near as colorful as most of the other Gotham villains, plus, she and the Penguin have no chemistry with each other.
About the only strength of this episode is that the show’s newcomer, Yvonne Craig, is giving it everything she’s got. Still, the material doesn’t give her much to work with. Even Batgirl can’t save this one. I guess we’ll have to see if things get better in part two. Oh, and speaking of that, how sucky is it that we don’t even end on a cliffhanger!?! The final scene has Batman on the phone with Gordon. There’s not even text on the screen! We’ve definitely got an uphill battle next time. Join us then for A Horse of Another Color. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero)
Bat Gadgets Used:
Bat Correction Signal
Holy Time Bomb