Last year, 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: “Hillbilly Honeymoon” (a.k.a. “Double Barrell Shotgun Wedding”) (Season 2, Episode 7)
Air date: October 23, 1967
A wrong turn, a family feud, and a shotgun wedding. Another week, more crazy hijinks for those silly Monkees!
“Hillbilly Honeymoon” puts the issues and conflicts inherent in Season Two on full display. The plot is reaching, using yet another “exotic” location to showcase what has become a tired trope involving Davy’s love life. And while the “Hillbilly” setting may not as offensive as some of the more blatant racial stereotypes visited in other episodes (see Season One’s “Monkee Chow Mien,” for true cringeworthiness), there’s still not much charm in a biased, stock view of American Southerners — at least not from a 2017 perspective.
Musically, it’s also uninspiring. The one featured song, “Papa Gene’s Blues,” is a great track for sure, but already appeared in three Season One episodes (S1E7, “Monkees in a Ghost Town;” S1E8, “Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth;” and S1E19, “Find the Monkees (The Audition”) — not exactly exciting or new. Written and directed by Monkees veterans Peter Meyerson and James Frawley, respectively, the episode drips with the malaise and fatigue that permeated the second season.
Its saving grace, as is true for so many Season Two episodes, is the Monkees’ self-awareness and the general over-it-ness, which translates into genuine laugh-out-loud moments — and even lets us get to know our boys a little better.
As always, the Monkees have the worst sense of direction and get lost in “Swineville,” a fictional town in the Wild West, flanked by two feuding groups of “hillbillies.” These Hatfields and McCoys (actually the Weskitts and the Chubbers) disagree about everything except this: they all hate strangers. But the boys are safe as long as they remain standing on the thin white line that separates the two warring factions.
The Monkees’ plan to stick to the line are soon thwarted, as always, by a young girl (Melody Patterson) who is overwhelmed by the need to make out with Davy (understandable). They literally hit the hay as she drags him off the line and into certain disaster. Disaster comes fast in the form of the girl’s father, Paw Chubber, equipped with standard-issue dirty face, spitting habit, and redneck rifle. He welcomes Davy to the family, as he not-so-subtly proposes a literal shotgun wedding. His daughter Ella May is, after all, one day shy of 16, and he doesn’t “want anyone calling her an old maid” (he says with a mugging grin to the audience…lolz). So a wedding is necessary. Obviously.
Davy isn’t the only one unhappy about this turn of events — though really, no one should be too surprised considering how many times this has happened to him. Even worse luck for Davy, Ella May has a boyfriend: hammy redneck and enemy of the Chubbers, Judd Weskitt, who drags Davy away at gunpoint.
Mike, observing from the Monkeemobile with Peter, has a wry observation about the situation:
Mike: “Welcome to Swineville, Peter. A happy, sleepy little hillbilly town where seemingly innocent, nice, naive people turn, just like THAT, into a vengeful, hateful mob.”
Peter: “How did you know that?”
Mike: “’Cause these are my people.”
This is the first time somewhat real-life facts are injected into the episode’s silly plot line: Michael Nesmith was actually born in Houston, Texas, and spent much of his childhood in Dallas. Not exactly “hillbilly” towns, and definitely playing to a stereotype by equating them with the fictional Swineville. But, that embellished truth brings in a touch of reality that further blurs the line between the fictional TV Monkees and the real-life band, who were about to release Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd., which featured more independent creative input from the band members than ever before.
Davy’s being dragged off to his death (what else is new?), but Ella May isn’t too particular about who she marries, and declares her love for Micky instead. Paw Chubber also couldn’t care less who marries her — any Monkee is as good as another. Micky demurs, so Ella May sets her sights on Mike, telling him she thinks he’s cute. “So does my wife and kids,” Mike reluctantly replies — another instance of his real life seeping in more and more into the episode; Nesmith was the only married Monkee at the time. Mike and Micky run away together to rescue Davy, leaving a terrified Peter alone with Paw and Ella May.
Meanwhile, Prisoner Davy has correctly answered “what is 1+1,” convincing Judd Weskitt and his Ma that he is, at best, a nasty city slicker, and at worst, the return of the Redcoats. Ma remembers an earlier British Invasion — she was born in 1812, after all — and has stayed alive for an impossibly long time thanks to the double virtues of hate and vengeance.
Judd is about to throw a burlap-sack-wearing Davy into boiling oil, when he’s interrupted by Mike and Micky in full hillbilly cosplay, complete with a pig dressed as a baby in a stroller (yup, they went there). Their scheme to rescue Davy involves convincing Judd that they’re his long-lost cousins Claude and LeRoy…or is it Luke and Ezra…or is it Roland and Clem? Yes! That’s it—as they finally settle on a pair of stock hillbilly names Judd recognizes. Judd is wary but Ma invites her “kinfolk” in.
Judd and Ma test whether Roland and Clem are really their cousins by asking “Cousin Clem” (Mike) to “play your nose.” Back in the good ol’ days, Ma used to accompany Clem on garbage while he played his nose (ohhhhhh yikes, the stereotypes). Mike refuses, as sent his nose out to get repaired and the “cheap loaner” he’s wearing isn’t playable (ok, that was pretty damn funny). But on threat of Judd’s rifle, Mike attempts to play it while Micky accompanies him on the…pig. That segues into the first — and only — song of the episode, the fantastic Michael Nesmith-written “Papa Gene’s Blues.”
Mike (as “Clem”) fascinates Judd with an improvisational explanation of how he plays his nose, while Micky creates a diversion by letting the pig loose, and then they finally attempt to rescue Davy.
Back together, the three Monkees break the fourth wall, read from their script, and figure out what they’re supposed to do next via the stage directions — a wonderful, snarky, self-referential moment that reminds us that Season Two really is a new era. It’s the best moment of the episode, and Davy’s cuteness is nearly overwhelming.
Back to the show, where Paw Chubber and Ella Mae find Davy and force him to ask her to marry him “of his own free will.” Davy has a nice callback to “I Wanna Be Free” — his moments of half-sung banter being the only other reference to a Monkees’ song in this episode beyond “Papa Gene’s Blues.” Before we know it, they’re dressing Davy for the wedding.
Micky and Mike convince Judd that he could compete for Ella May’s hand if only he learned how to be a gentleman. Even his own mother doesn’t believe he can transform, but Micky knows it’s possible with the help of the mysterious “Uncle Raccoon.” And if you’ve been missing Peter, as I have, it’s finally his turn to shine (though in an ethnically-uncomfortable way). Wearing a full-length fur coat and Russian hat, “Uncle Raccoon” pulls a veritable Pygmalion on Judd (…or should we say Pig-malion?), teaching him how to use silverware and compete for Ella May’s hand.
It’s the afternoon of the wedding, and a very nervous Davy is at the altar. Judd, resplendently civilized, bursts in and asks Ella May to marry him, which, of course, starts another gunfight. Davy has a heart-to-heart with Ella May and discovers that of all her potential and interchangeable suitors, she wants to marry Judd, so the preacher covertly marries the two redneck lovebirds behind a haystack. Once Paw Chubber discovers their union, the two houses become joined, a la Romeo and Juliet, and the town feud is over. The happy couple kisses, a jamboree party commences, and the Monkees escape — unscathed and unmarried. Wa-hoo!