This past summer, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Monkees as a band by counting down our top 50 Monkees songs. Now, we’re celebrating The Monkees TV show by profiling each and every episode — exactly 50 years after it first premiered.
Tonight’s episode: “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” (Season 1, Episode 8)
Air date: October 31, 1966
Although “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth” was the eighth episode shown, it was actually the first episode produced after the pilot was picked up by NBC. It’s also the first episode directed by the series’ co-producer Robert Rafelson.
Our story begins as Davy Jones does a somersault down a sand hill, (ya know, as people do). A small child asks Davy to watch his horse (because where else would you have a horse but on a beach?) and as Davy agrees, the boy runs off. Davy quickly realizes that he is going to be stuck with the horse.
Meanwhile back at the Pad, Peter has, to quote Mike, “reached a new low” with his latest culinary effort — cream of root beer soup. (Actually sounds kind of good to me.) Micky suffers a strange reaction to the cream of root beer soup and begins to turn into a werewolf.
The effects of this cause him to one, gnaw Mike’s hand (Mike kindly complies, even salting it for Micky), and two, howl like a werewolf. The effect of that is that it draws a visit from the Monkees’ landlord, Mr Babbit, who thinks they’re keeping a dog in the Pad.
This is the first appearance of the Monkees’ landlord, played by Henry Corden. Corden was an actor and voice actor who appeared in the classic Fred Astaire movie musical The Band Wagon, as well as many TV shows. In fact, he was one of the actors to portray Jeannie’s dad on I Dream of Jeannie, another Screen Gems production.
He was also the voice of a multitude of characters on cartoon series’ like Johnny Quest and The Jetsons, probably best known for his portrayal of Fred Flintstone. He took over after the original voice of Fred, Alan Reed, died in 1977, and voiced Fred for nearly 30 years, until his death in 2005.
Mr. Babbit accepts Micky’s explanation that he was only pretending to be a werewolf (“You know how sometimes you’re a werewolf”) but warns,”You’d better not let me catch you keeping a real werewolf in here!” at which point Davy shows up with the horse.
Davy explains he can’t return the horse because he doesn’t know where to take it. Mike complains they’ll get in trouble because the landlord already thinks they’re keeping a dog, which confuses Davy because “a dog doesn’t sound anything like a horse.” Micky tries to straighten Davy out by doing his werewolf imitation. Unfortunately, Micky’s howling brings a second visit from the landlord.
When they can’t get the horse to move to hide him, Mike tells Davy and Peter to go hide in the bedroom. Davy thinks Mike is confused:”He already knows about us. It’s the horse we have to hide.” Mike assures them he knows what he’s doing and Davy and Peter leave the room.
Mike answers the door, and the angry landlord enters, insisting they tell him where the dog is. He makes a search of the room, almost completely missing the fact that there’s a horse standing in it. When he notices the horse, Mike convinces him the horse is Peter and Davy in a costume. The landlord leaves, impressed because”with a costume like that, they could win first prize.”
Mike and Micky attempt to remove the horse “before [Babbit] gets back and starts thinkin’.” When the horse won’t budge, Peter tries luring it with a salami, while Davy goes to find their horse costume. (Why do they have a horse costume? I guess this episode’s air date was Halloween.)
The horse likes Peter’s cream of root beer soup, but when he drinks it, he passes out. Davy concludes that the horse is “just plain tired,” while Mike calls the vet, Dr. Mann, played by comedian and actor Jerry Colonna in his last acting appearance. Colonna was most famous for being Bob Hope’s sidekick on Hope’s radio show.
He also appeared in several of the classic Hope and Crosby “Road” movies, and was the voice of the March Hare in Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland.
Mike suddenly appears in the vet’s office, and after a confusing conversation about singing monkeys being hoarse, Mike finally explains to Dr. Mann that he has a sick horse.
They proceed to the Pad, where Dr. Mann accidentally examines the horse costume, now inhabited by Peter and Davy. The horse is hidden in the bedroom, but when there’s a knock at the door, the Monkees hide Dr. Mann in the closet. Peter and Davy pretend to be a horse again, and Micky tells Mike that if things “heat up,” he has a smoke bomb he’ll throw down from upstairs.
It turns out to be, not the landlord, but a neighbor named Miss Purdy, who’s brought cake. Apparently, she’s afraid of horses, because when the horse walks in and starts to eat the cake (I thought this horse was too sick to walk?), she faints. Mike calls for help for the fainted Miss Purdy, which prompts Micky to throw down the smoke bomb.
With the room now filled with smoke, everyone rallies to help, including Dr. Mann, who is, for some reason, now wearing the horse head (the costume one, that is), frightening another faint out of the reviving Miss Purdy. It doesn’t help when he removes the head and explains that he’s a vet, because that causes her to faint too.
Mike opens the door for some fresh air, only to find Mr. Babbit, who immediately spots the horse. The Monkees cover by Mike shutting the door, Peter replacing the costume head on his own, and reopening the door to Mr. Babbit. When Peter says hello from inside the horse costume, Mr. Babbit becomes the next to faint.
Cut to the beach, where Davy’s riding the now apparently recovered horse. The mystery kid shows up again, and Davy dismounts and sends the horse off to who knows where while he has a heart-to-heart with the kid. The kid explains that he can’t keep the horse, Jeremy, because his dad says the horse is too expensive to take care of. He asks Davy to speak to his father, who will listen to Davy because he “talks good.” (Maybe he could give the kid a few lessons.)
The Monkees drive out to the kid’s farm (in a Jeep — where’s the Monkeemobile?) and make a deal with the boy’s father. If they pay him the original cost of the horse, $100, he’ll let the horse stay. (I’m sure that even in 1966, $100 wasn’t going to pay for the upkeep of a horse for long. But they do have a farm, and hey, what do I know?) Somehow, they’re paying this $100 by working for the farmer. I suppose that saved him the cost of hiring someone else.
The next morning, the farmer wakes the Monkees, sleeping in his barn. The boys get to work on their chores, which seem to include burying Peter in the straw they’re forking. (I’m not sure if they’re forking it into or out of the wagon. They don’t seem to be too sure either.) Micky teaches Peter how to call the hogs with a “soo-ey!” that can be heard all the way back to the Pad, convincing Mr. Babbit that they’re now keeping hogs, but only succeeds in bringing in the chickens back at the farm.
When the Monkees are told to milk the cow it turns into a game of pass the pail, and the episode’s first romp featuring the Nesmith-penned “Papa Gene’s Blues.” In the middle of the song, Mike imagines himself as a bull fighter, and somehow gets the cow milked. I don’t even want to know. But, of course, the Monkees spill the milk on the farmer anyway, which prompts him to send them packing.
As the guys are preparing to leave and pondering how they can help pay for the horse, the rude neighbor, who appeared when they first got to the farm, arrives again. He tells the kid his horse is “not good for anything but eating.”
Davy defends the horse, saying he “moves along alright.” Rude neighbor guy then challenges Davy to a race against his horse, Charlemagne. The bet is $100 against Mike’s guitar.
And it’s back to the beach for the horse race and a romp featuring another Nesmith tune, “All The King’s Horses,” which wasn’t released until it appeared on Missing Links Vol. 2 in 1990. Davy is wearing jockey silks, and did in fact work for short time as a jockey before becoming a Monkee.
Of course, Davy wins, and the winnings are handed over to the farmer. He invites the Monkees to visit anytime. When Peter offers to help with the chores, the farmer jumps a little and assures them that just visiting will be fine.
The ending finds the guys back on the beach where another random kid asks Davy to watch his pet. The pet looms into view, and when it’s revealed to be a camel, Mike, Micky, and Peter grab Davy and hurriedly drag him off. And with a reprise of “Papa Gene’s Blues” and an abridged romp, the episode concludes with the Monkees onstage and a happy ending all around.