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: “Monkees in Texas” (Season 2, Episode 13)
Air date: December 4, 1967
Containing allusions to popular television Westerns of the day and encompassing an incomprehensible time-traveling premise, this episode takes you for a fast-and-funny ride that leaves you wondering if you just watched Bonanza or The Twilight Zone. But the ’60s were like that with a lot of cross-pollination happening in many series, even between networks.
Speeding up to Mike’s Aunt Kate’s Texas ranch on a golf cart (you knew in the first few seconds this was going to be slightly different), the boys watch as Aunt Kate (Jacqueline deWit) and her daughter Lucy (Bonnie Dewberry) ride up on horses and scurry into her house.
Gunfire then erupts and the boys quickly follow the women into the house where all are identified to each other. Returning fire to three men dressed in black wearing masks, the women are joined in their fight by the boys except for Peter who takes an anti-violence stance, pretending to shoot at the bad men with his finger, proclaiming that his method provides him more ammo than the others.
During the fight, the bad men roll a kitchen sink at the house after Micky sets the gag up by saying they are throwing everything at them but that. Davy runs outside and turns the faucet on in the sink dousing the flames with water from the unconnected sink, and thus saving the day. The bad men realize there are men in there and flee. Slapstick, but cutely effective.
Aunt Kate tells the boys that Black Bart has been attempting to get her land for about a year and that each time he appears, the local rich guy, Ben Cartwheel (Barton MacLane) shows up and offers to buy the land in order to keep her safe from the bad guys.
Meanwhile, Peter and Micky dress up like the locals and go to the nearest town to try to get help. Dressed like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, they continue the allusion to popular Western series like Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and The Big Valley.
Getting no help from the Marshall, they enter a local saloon and encounter a mustachioed stranger who turns out to be Davy in a drive-by gag. Also in the bar are Sneak (Rex Holman) and Red (Len Lesser), who work for Black Bart (alias Ben Cartwheel if you haven’t guessed that by now). Via the usual mix-up, the two boys get recruited into Black Bart’s gang. A few zany sight gags occur with the two Monkees looking like their normal selves.
Sneak later declares that they should attack Aunt Kate’s ranch, so Peter escapes to warn her of the impending attack. Davy jumps on a horse to get help, but lands on the animal backwards and rides to town and finds Ben Cartwheel who then tells Davy to ride back to the ranch to tell Aunt Kate that he will be there shortly with his men. Davy returns to the ranch on the horse backwards.
Mike, meanwhile, has taken a soil sample to the assayer who tells him it contains crude oil and the motivation for Ben Cartwheel/Black Bart’s scheme is revealed. Bart goes to his gang’s hideout and encounters Micky and Peter and discovers who they really are. He ties them up and takes them and his gang to Aunt Kate’s ranch.
Bart has dressed Micky and Peter as members of the gang, but arriving at the ranch, they escape. Bart doesn’t worry though, as he says they can kill them later. They boys get inside the house and tell Aunt Kate that Black Bart and Ben Cartwheel are the same person, but she doesn’t believe them.
Interestingly, when the boys enter the house, Micky turns and gives the bad guys a reverse two-finger sign similar to a peace symbol. In reality, the way he gave it is identical to a British gesture meaning the same as the American middle finger. Somehow, this slipped by the studio powers.
A typical Monkees romp ensues with the bad guys getting beaten and riding off to escape. During this craziness, the gun with the “Bang” flag is shown, Lucy is kissed by Davy, and all kinds of insanity ensues. Accompanying this week’s romp is Boyce & Hart’s “Words.” While a great psychedelic hit and enjoyable, it seems out of place for this scene which then ends somewhat abruptly.
Suddenly then, the show leaps into a slightly edited version of the sublime, but jazzy “Goin’ Down” (the flipside of “Daydream Believer”), which we saw earlier this season in “The Wild Monkees.” Again, a great song, but one which seems to have been an addition out of place with the episode.
The Monkees series was a premise to showcase the boy’s zaniness and their great music and rarely had to make complete sense because we loved them so much. In this episode, they succeeded well, but the ending leaves viewers feeling just a little bit slighted.
Adding to the fun of watching this episode were the many actors who had appeared for years in movies and television playing the supporting cast. For instance, Barton MacLane, who played Ben/Bart, had been a solid supporting actor in major films since the 1930s.
Others had been in successful shows of all kinds (Len Lesser: Outer Limits, Papillion and Seinfeld and Rex Holman: The Man From UNCLE, The Quick Gun, The Twilight Zone, and Mannix), including many Westerns. It was quite fun seeing all these familiar faces.
While we never expected Shakespeare from The Monkees, we did expect a beginning, a middle, and end. In this case, we got just the first two. Nonetheless, a completely enjoyable episode.