Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Episodes 61 & 62: The Penguin's Nest/The Bird's Last Jest

Season 2 Episodes 61 &62
Original Air Dates: 12/7/66 & 12/8/66
Special Guest Villain: Burgess Meredith as The Penguin
Guest stars: Grace Gaynor, Vito Scotti
Written by: Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
Directed by: Murray Golden

The Penguin, out on parole yet again, opens a swanky restaurant that seems to be wowing Gotham's elite, including millionaire Bruce Wayne, his youthful ward Dick Grayson, and Aunt Harriet. One oddity intrigues Bruce: guests are to write out their own orders. When The Penguin attempts to steal Harriet's bracelet right under the nose of Commissioner Gordon and Chief O'Hara, Bruce smells a rat. Sure enough, the fiend is baiting the boys to arrest him so that he can get the orders in to famous forger Ballpoint Baxter back at the Gotham pokey. Batman's on to him though and refuses to send the bird back to the pen.

PE: Bruce Wayne looks like he's inebriated in that opening scene. I thought it would end up being a dream sequence. After all, how many times are the Gotham Gullible going to fall for this "Penguin's gone straight and he's a great guy after all" schtick? I mean, I know he's paid his debt to society (at least three months with time off for good behavior), but enough is enough!

JS: I too thought everyone was just a little too cozy in a restaurant run by a former criminal. And once he committed the crime, why couldn't they arrest the Penguin AND contact Batman? But I forgive them that lapse of logic, since it led to the adjacent phone booth scene when the Commissioner phones Batman.

PE: Is it my new high-def TV or did Burt Ward do something to his hair?

JS: The show has reached a new low when poor Neil Hamilton gets a pie in the face just for a cheap laugh.

PE: Batman unveils his newest super computer, The State Pen Occupancy Report which, I'm sure, will go back into the mothballs after this episode. I certainly wish we could keep the same decor in the batcave two arcs in a row. Now the bat-diamond is gone and in its place is a bank of phones, including the bat-transfer phone, just in time to intercept a call from Gordon while Bruce is in the same room as the Commissioner. That'll be back in mothballs next episode as well.

JS: That's the wonders of modular furniture for you. Think of it as the IKEA of the 1960s. I was impressed that this episode features the fastest change from Batman to Bruce Wayne. And Robin's tough guy salute to the Penguin when he's in the low security lock-up... what was that all about?

PE Batman seems to finally be questioning Warden Creighton's rehabilitation methods when the Warden reveals to the Caped Crusader that inmates have access to blank checks through the prison printer!:

Batman: I see. Another first. Another of your... advanced penological techniques. 
Creighton: Right! Why? You think it's unwise, Batman? 
Batman (stammering): I don't know... I've always had boundless admiration for your efforts, Warden... but, something... I just don't know.
JS: And why's the warden wearing his jammies for his afternoon nap.

PE: Vito Scotti (who plays henchman Maty Dee) was the veteran of hundreds of TV episodes (including The Flying Nun, Love, American Style, The Rifleman, Twilight Zone, and the Thriller episode, "A Third for Pinochle"), but he's best known as Nazorine, the baker who pleads for help from The Godfather.

JS: That's right! He wanted Enzo the baker to stay so he could marry his daughter. Wait, aren't we talking about Batman? 

PE: So, Penguin wants to go to jail, he's in court and Batman's got a bout of amnesia and can't remember exactly why Penguin wants to go back to prison. Penguin argues why he shouldn't be going to jail, the judge listens and releases him, and The Penguin's upset he's not going to the pen. I give up trying to understand these things.

JS: Ted Cassidy is our latest drop in window guest star, and it was quite nice that his appearance as Lurch was telegraphed by the sound of the Addam's Family theme playing on the harpsichord as the dynamic duo scaled the wall.

PE: I hope Alan Napier was being paid a bit extra for these episodes where he was playing more than one "role." Batman thinks he may have "made a mistake sending Alfred to that devil's lair." Really? How long before one of these super-villains puts two and two together and comes up with Bruce Wayne aka Batman? These villains aren't as dumb as the elected officials, you know. Hang on. Let me amend that after watching the scene where Bruce and Dick head for their den and come back as the Dynamic Duo right under the Penguin's long nose. And he suspects nothing.

JS: After Egghead had it all figured out, and then dropped it, I knew then that their secret was safe forever.

PE Rating: 

JS Rating:

Next up... The Catwoman! Same Bat Time, Same Bat URL!


  1. Curious as to why this episode -- the first filmed for season 2 -- was put on the shelf for 4 months. Although it isn't the strongest show of the year, and there are loopholes aplenty, it demonstrates the change in humour that will follow the show right down into the shark tank (not that I don't have plenty of favourites in the 2nd season -- can't wait til Catwoman tries to meet her purrfect match!)... Pengie is a crafty one but do all his plans have to rely upon the daftness of Gotham's ignoramuses?

  2. Have you noticed how most of the Penguin stories—including the very first—begin from a premise that he's reformed? Confidence in Warden Creighton's advanced penological techniques is boundless. There's another deja vu moment in this episode: the trial scene in Part II ("J'accuse!") plays as a copy of the TV debate of the candidates in "Dizzoner the Penguin." In both he convincingly twists logic to make Bats look bad (as though, by this time, there was anything logical or good to speak of). But if this episode was the first to be produced in S2, who's copying whom?

    Though not a favorite, I kind of like this episode. Because it's not so over the top, it plays like a S1 episode and seems out of place at this point in the series' development. I'd watch Vito Scotti deliver the weather report. (Watch his reaction shot as he tempts the guard into being shocked. It's terrific.) And shame on John for not posting a cap of—not even commenting on—Grace Gaynor: a sure sign he recognizes the hell-hole he's flung himself into.

  3. I had the impression this episode was satirizing itself, which is why I enjoyed it rather than be irritated by its foolishness. I especially liked the jailhouse scene with Penguin after the Caped Crusaders inform him he's been busted for a petty crime. I thought it was Burt Ward's finest acting since his bad boy routine. I liked his "in your face" salute to Penguin.

  4. "Penguin's Nest/Bird's Last Jest" is a great comeback story for the Penguin after the disastrous two-parter that closed season one. The supporting cast (Vito Scotti, Lane Bradford, Grace Gaynor) is great, and you can tell from their expressions that they're really having fun playing Penguin's mob. Scotti and Gaynor, in particular, at times look like they're trying to keep from laughing.

    Lots of great battles in this one, too. Hindsight being 20/20, I would have worked it where Penguin flipped a switch to release some of the petty crooks in the jail room so they could help him and his gang fight the Dynamic Duo.

    Gaynor's Chickadee character also reminds of a co-worker who worked at my present job until a couple of years ago. At times, her vocal inflections would be similar to Gaynor (I was half-expecting my friend to one day sing out, "Dyamic Duo, loo-oo-oook" the way Gaynor did when she held Chief O'Hara at gunpoint).

    "Penguin's Nest/Bird's Last Jest" is a lot stronger than given credit, thanks to its excellent blend of humor and excitement.

  5. Did anybody ever notice HOW MUCH "Chicakdee" resembles "Harley Quinn" from the 90s cartoons, personality-wise? She's a homicidal maniac!!!

    The bit with the swimming pool and the anti-tank machine gun fire was used in a promo for the show by the local Philly station in the 70s.