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: “Hitting the High Seas” (Season 2, Episode 12)
Air date: November 27, 1967
Ahoy, mates! The Monkees hit the high seas and rough waters in an episode largely absent of Mike, a stable captain, and a laugh track. Welcome to “Hitting the High Seas,” an episode that Davy Jones said was his favorite in a 1997 interview for the Rhino VHS The Monkees: Our Favorite Episodes.
In an episode written by Jack Winter (a 1962 Harvard graduate and the second youngest member of the class) and directed by familiar James Frawley, Micky, Peter, and Davy are drowning their sorrows in glasses of buttermilk at a random watering hole when they overhear Harry Hooker and Frank Reyolds talking about hiring some new sailors. The boys convince the men to hire them and agree to meet at Pier 3 at 6:00 in the morning. “Pier 6 at 3 o’clock,” quips Davy. Hooker calls his captain and tells him they have hired “the dumbest, dullest suckers in the world!”
This is the first episode not to include canned laughter, which had become a staple of the TV show and comedies at the time. The band had insisted the show get rid of the laugh track, believing their audience was smart enough to know where the jokes were, making the sight gags and punch lines land in silence. Admittedly, it takes some getting used to.
Per their agreement, the boys arrive – complete with handbook and inflatable dolphin – at the pier and are greeted by Hooker and Reynolds. Hooker is played by Noam Pitlik, who would go on to direct TV sitcoms such as Wings, One Day at a Time, and Taxi, and win an Emmy Award for directing Barney Miller. Reynolds is played by Ted de Corsia, mostly remembered for playing a gangster in 1951’s The Enforcer.
The Monkees are given their first order of instructions, and even with conveniently planted signs pointing the way (“MAINSAIL” and “PULL THIS ROPE TO RAISE MAINSAIL”), the boys struggle completing their first task. The episode was actually filmed on an actual schooner — the Seadog, whose only means of navigational equipment was a compass!
Mike takes an anti-seasick pill and ironically gets seasick. His mates instruct him to lie down, and that is the last we see of him for this episode. On the first day of shooting, Mike actually did contract a case of seasickness, making him unable to participate in the filming.
The entire crew reports to the main deck, and the captain orders the boys to the cut their hair. The captain is played by Australian actor Chips Rafferty whose career began in the 1940s. One might remember him as one of the mutineers in Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando. But I digress.
When the Monkees refuse to cut their hair, they are to be punished for disobeying Captain’s orders. Davy protests that the captain is violating Naval law, and when asked who does he think is, he tells them, and the captain associates him with Davy Jones’ locker and makes Davy his cabin boy, while Peter and Micky are ordered to swab the deck.
We next see Davy bringing food to the captain and knocks on several doors marked “CAPTAIN,” only to be introduced to sight gags provided by Micky pretending to be Captain Ahab looking for Moby Dick and Peter attempting to seduce a pretty blonde.
He finally finds the correct room and is kicked out by the captain because he is “in conference” even though he appears to be alone. Back in the hallway, a curious Davy pries open the door and spies on the captain in conference with his parrot “Horace” (voiced by none other than Micky) discussing a plan to make themselves rich.
Davy rejoins his pals who are in the middle of an impromptu rendition of “Tear The Top Right Off My Head.” This Tork-penned tune was recorded during 1968’s The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees but would not find a home until The Monkees’ Missing Links, Vol. 3 in 1996.
Davy believes the captain to be “crackers” and convinces Micky (because he’s the only one who can imitate a parrot — wink, wink) to sneak into the captain’s room that night, pretend to be Horace, and find out what his dastardly scheme is.
As planned, the boys break into the sleeping captain’s room, put a muzzle on the parrot, and Micky goes into action. Imitating Horace, Micky and friends learn the captain is going to rob a fellow ship for all of its gold.
The next morning, Micky attempts unsuccessfully to convince his friends that this is all a fantasy and that the captain and crew are a collective product of their subconscious minds. Sounds like a good spot for a commercial break!
The captain tells his men — now clad in pirate gear — that if anyone is afraid, then he is to step forward. The boys do so but learn their only other option is to be dropped off; not at the next port as Peter hopes, but into the ocean!
Micky suggests a mutiny (as inspired by the aforementioned Marlon Brando), and Peter is seen whispering this plan into the men’s ears. After Micky rallies the crew, he informs the captain of the alleged mutiny, but when the crew fails to respond, Peter confesses that he had literally mumbled into their ears instead of suggesting the plan.
Our boys are found guilty of insubordination to a commanding officer, conspiring to mutiny, and imitating a parrot, and are forced to walk the plank. Thankfully, they’re saved when the ship the captain wishes to rob is spotted in the distance. Micky, Davy, and Peter take advantage of this opportunity to save the ship with a good old-fashioned sword fight to the tune of “Daydream Believer” from their upcoming fifth album The Birds, The Bees, & The Monkees, whose album cover includes color stills from this episode.
“Daydream Believer” would become the third and final Monkees song to peak at #1, but its upbeat flavor clashes with the fighting on board. The fighting comes across as more violent and less swashbuckling swordfight slapstick, and the shots of the sunset seem all too foreshadowing of the series’ ultimate demise.
The boys are then congratulated by Captain Mayberry for saving his ship and are awarded to be his First Mates, but that there will be a new captain — Horace the parrot!
The closing video showcases the Monkees (with Mike) performing “Star Collector” from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd., released a few weeks prior to this airing and the Monkees’ fourth and final album to peak at #1. (If you remember, the song was also featured two episodes ago in “The Wild Monkees.”)
The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and prominently featured the innovative Moog synthesizer. In fact, Micky owned one of the first 20 sold. Our Monkees are clearly more at home performing their music than they are doing the series at this point.
“Love is Only Sleeping” b/w “Daydream Believer” was initially chosen to be the lead single to promote the album, but because of its suggestive title (at the time), it was replaced by “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” also penned by Goffin/King. The B-side, “Words,” would be a hit both on the charts and the TV show.
In the video for “Star Collector,” our boys are clad in matching white sweaters and are in their psychedelic glory with dizzying colored lights and stage fog. These are clearly not the same clean-cut boys in matching red shirts from the first season.
In spite of the rough sailing and the Monkees’ focus on their music instead of their show, this episode would tie with the future “Some Like It Lukewarm” as the highest-rated episode of the second season, both with 11.1 million viewers.