Monday, August 6, 2018

BJ and the Bear S3 E7: Blond In a Gilded Cell

(Shouldn't that be "Blonde"?)
Originally aired on March 3, 1981
Directed by Christian I. Nyby II
Written by Robert L. McCullough

Keep it Rockin', Pasadena

Dante Defoe, celebrated rocker played by Paul Williams, has a big concert in Los Angeles this Saturday. (2 PM) Stacks and that annoying gal (Callie?) deliver some equipment to his people. Dante takes a shine to her. Before you can say "Rainbow Connection," Stacks is kidnapped. She winds up in a large bedroom suite, naked. The room has all sorts of beautiful clothes but no doors. We don't see anyone else but we hear two voices talking as they stare at her through a two-way mirror. B.J. and the gals have to find her! B.J. becomes part of soft rock band called Ghettoway City so he can get a song in the show to keep an eye on the venue. Could Dante have kidnapped Stacks? Who is Pamela Jurgenson? Who is Jeannie Campbell? Will Bear get loaded?

Rockin' With Dante
(As he is enjoyed by Stacks)

Full disclosure: Paul Williams is awesome. Whenever he pops up in something, I know I'm going to have a good time. He also seems like a super cool guy. My one problem with him is his music. Almost without fail I find it cloying to the extreme. I like "Rainbow Connection" when sung by Kermit. And, I like the Phantom of the Paradise songs within the context of the movie. But, most of his music just strikes me as flaccid faux-rock of various varieties. The song he sings here (which is possibly called "Family of Man") is a perfect example. It sounds like a song you've heard many times before. It has very vague lyrics meant to inspire, I think. It's extremely catchy but it just feels sort of...  Oh well. It is what it is. Plus, I believe he performed that song on a Hardy Boys/ Nancy Drew episode where everyone met Dracula.

Stacks hanging around in her new "room"

Having said that, this is the best episode of BJ and The Bear in a very long time. It does something the others this season haven't really done. It focusses specifically on one of the gals in danger. I don't know if it does such a great job but it tries. Stacks (Jeannie Campbell is her real name!) doesn't do much but whimper for BJ to save her. However, she does have some good moments when she's first kidnapped. She thinks Dante did this and this is some sort of bridal suite. She doesn't seem to consider it kidnapping. She dresses in lingerie expecting him. It's kind of disturbing. I believe she's putting a brave face on her situation but it's a bit tough to tell. Still. She does look great though.

Creepy Town, U.S.A.

The whole episode has a nice creepy feel to it. As Stacks cries in front of the two-way mirror, you see a hand touch the other side of the mirror as two (almost Muppet-like voices) croak away on the other side. The moment she realizes that there is no door is kind of chilling. When she tears away a backdrop, she just finds a black wall. So, we're using a favorite trope of mine: the person imprisoned inside a fake room within a real room. Then, there's the moment where her kidnappers step into the room to talk to her for the first time. It's all POV from them. She looks shocked and ends up fainting. When she discovers an heiress in an adjoining room (Pamela Jurgenson) and one of the twins is kidnapped, we realize that these sickos love blondes. And it's up to BJ to find them.

Hey, it's Ghettoway City!
And BJ being strangled by a Burlym'n.

One issue with the setup: Clearly the kidnappers have several "rooms" like this in their home. They're really working hard to make sure these women don't get found. And yet, two of them can hear each other through vents in adjoining rooms. That seems like an Evil Kidnapping Mastermind Design Flaw.

Thank Heaven For Vents!

Grant and Steiger feature in this episode. They are used in an interesting fashion. For once, they have nothing to do with the kidnapping. They're just there to extort the concert promoters for "protection." The two of them follow BJ to the final confrontation with the kidnappers and their huge steel plated bodyguard. Grant actually shows human sympathy to the deranged perpetrators in the end. The heck? It's nicely done because their appearance at the venue as BJ and Callie look for Stacks is irrelevant to the danger at hand but sets them up for later on. You expect them to take advantage of this in some way. But, they don't. They help. This dynamic could work.

We've still got bad cops and action, though

BJ does go undercover in a band here. ("Undercover" is pushing it. But, it's close enough.) He and Ghettoway City sing a song that gets the crowd riled up and excited. It's a song he sung during the 1980 Osmond Family Christmas Show. "People I know I want to be around" is the main line in the chorus. I'm not sure what it's called. I can't say it thrills me but I'm not watching this show for the music. (Which may not be the right attitude but it's the only attitude I've got.) The song is performed three times. Once about a 1/3 of the way through with BJ solo. Once with the band all the way through. Then, at the end, BJ is heard playing the end. That's a lot of this song! By the third time it plays, it felt like padding, which is too bad because the rest of the episode is super strong.
He's going to awaken his Princess

I'm trying not to give too much away. (I may have already.) This episode surprises by wheeling back the comedy, which hasn't been that stellar this season. Or, in fact, ever. It keeps the focus on a rather creepy plot line. (Especially the voice behind the mirror, the looped voice on the telephone and the moment when Stacks's kidnapper kisses her when she's fainted.) It seems pretty hopeless at first. Stacks is kidnapped so quickly, almost matter-of-factly. She's there one moment and then gone. How many women have these kidnappers taken like this? They asked for a $1M for the heiress and then never picked up the money. They've got lots of money of their own (obviously) and are weird as hell. Only BJ and Bear can save everyone and bring this evil to justice. Then, when he's done that, Soft Rock Party, Baby!
Disco Pause!


I like Stack's taste in things


No, don't spoil it...  NOOOOO!!!

The kidnappers are the multiple personalities of Dante. He's never found love and he thinks this is the way to find it. His bodyguard kidnaps the girls. They implant them in these "rooms." It's never stated how any other people know about this. Surely the contractor did? "You want me to build a series of hidden rooms without doors that are filled with two-way mirrors in your mansion basement? Sure. It's going to cost you." Paul Williams has a creepy breakdown with Grant and BJ standing by. It all feels very serious and dark for this show. It hasn't been this dark since "The Foundlings." This is a great episode. Here's hoping they can keep this run going.

 Then, it got weird
Then, it got sweet
Then, Bear got drunk

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