Episode Title: Penguin’s Clean Sweep
Original Airdate: January 25, 1968
As we inch closer to the end of this series, we will begin to see the final appearances of some of the iconic guest villains this show is known for. Today we bid farewell to that waddling criminal the Penguin, as portrayed by Burgess Meredith. He’s still got one more caper up his sleeve, though, in today’s episode, Penguin’s Clean Sweep.
As our story opens, Penguin and his gang have shown up to rob the Gotham City Mint. Of course, the Caped Crusaders are called into action and when they show up at City Hall, they find Penguin and his gang getting out of the elevator. The crooks are taken to Gordon’s office, however there’s a problem…Penguin didn’t actually steal anything. He threatens to sue the city for false arrest, but he’s still guilty of breaking and entering. So, Batman agrees to drop those charges if Penguin will forget about the lawsuit. The crooks then leave just as Batgirl shows up. She helps the Dynamic Duo determine that if Penguin didn’t steal anything from the mint, maybe he left something there instead.
The three heroes head for the mint where they find all the employees fast asleep. They use the Portable Batlab to find that the money has been infected with Ligerian Sleeping Sickness, using a bacteria carried the the Ligerian Fruit Fly. Unfortunately, some of the money has already made it into circulation. Batgirl heads for the bank while Batman heads to the hospital to get the vaccine for the sickness. However, Penguin is already at the hospital insuring that he and his gang are the only ones inoculated. Batman and Robin show up, but not before the remaining vaccine is destroyed. Penguin then makes his escape by releasing three deadly Ligerian Fruit Flies. Batman uses a big bat shaped fly swatter to take care of them.
Meanwhile, at the bank, Batgirl finds out that the infected bills have made it to the public. Batman ends up sending out a warning to the radio and TV stations about the money, so people start dumping all their cash out on the street like garbage. Who’s there to pick it all up…why Penguin and his gang, of course. Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne has been calling various international bigwigs to tell them not to accept any Gotham City money. This causes problems for Pengy since he can’t make any of the big purchases he had intended on. In retaliation, Penguin announces he’s going to unleash 500 Ligerian Fruit Flies on the city.
Later, Penguin returns to the Gotham City National Bank where he finds Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Gordon and O’Hara all asleep due to the fruit flies. Or are they? The heroes soon wake up and the obligatory fight ensues. It turns out that the temperature in Gotham City was a mere 45 degrees, which was too low for the fruit flies to handles.
This is an episode that starts very strong and feels much more like a season two episode. It’s got a wonderfully convoluted plot from the villain. The idea of people throwing out their money because they fear it is infected, only to have it scooped up by the bad guys is classic. I love how this is portrayed, as well. We see an old woman dump her purse out in the street, then we see a man dump a bucket full of bills out his second story apartment window. Why we even see bank robbers go back and return the money they just stole because they fear the Ligerian sleeping sickness. I also love the idea of having the big threat be a bunch of flies. The opportunity to see the All-purpose Bat Swatter was reason enough for this plot device!
Even for all this episode has going for it, sadly this is still season three. After the mid-episode commercial break, things really start to drag. There’s also a really lame cop-out on Penguin’s part just before the break. His men get the jump on Batgirl with some knock-out gas, but rather than take her back to their lair and put her into some sort of cliffhangery situation, they leave her on the street because they are too busy scooping up piles of money. Lame!! Still, I will say that Burgess Meredith is very much at the top of his game as Penguin for this swan song. His squawking and sputtering is as classic as ever, though it actually does look like Meredith is a bit slimmed down from some of his other appearances. I don’t know if he usually wore padding or not, but this bird is much more svelte than usual.
So, Penguin’s final appearance is a bit of a mixed bag, but still far better than the average season three installment. As for the teaser of next week’s villain, we get a brief glimpse of a baddie we’ve only seen in one other story, ready to make his one and only return appearance on the show. Join us next time for the return of Cliff Robertson as Shame in The Great Escape. Same bat-time, same bat-channel (superhero).
Bat Gadgets Used:
All-purpose Bat Swatter
Holy Rip Van Winkle