Millionaire Dave Rainey — make that Six Million Dollar Man, Dave Rainey — is stuck in an iron lung. He’s pretty insistent on making sure everyone knows he’s worth six million. I don’t know if people still know what an iron lung is — kids today, with their science and progress! Actually, I never knew what was going inside those contraptions until I just looked it up.
The body from the neck down is sealed into metal tube. A ventilator creates an oscillating atmospheric pressure inside to facilitate breathing. It doesn’t seem like it would work, but people were’t spending years confined in these things for their health. Well, I guess they were in them for their health, but it was no fun.
Dave has a mirror angled over his face so he can see something other than the ceiling. His wife Cindy enters in a striped shirt over a bathing suit and a snazzy yachting hat. Their handsome pal Arnold has invited Cindy out on his boat. In a brilliantly callous bit, Cindy uses Dave’s mirror — his sole lifeline to the horizontal world — to check her hair before boating off with another man.
While Cindy is gone, Nurse Collins turns the iron lung so Dave can see the ocean out their window just in time to see Arnold’s boat go by. The nurse suggests that Dave should get out of the iron lung for 8 – 9 minutes as his doctor recommended. Dave says he would rather just watch the boats. Although, really, who knows what he’s doing with his hands inside that thing.
Dave flashes back to his days before the iron lung. He and Cindy were having fun on the beach. He tells her he’s “seen more cover on a loaf of bread” which I can make no sense of. They start making out and Dave asks Cindy to marry him. He admits he was a mug 5 years ago, but having six million in the bank has changed him.
At Dave’s invitation, Arnold sticks around for dinner after the cruise with Cindy. When he drives the nurse to the bus station, Cindy and Dave are left alone. After a few drinks, Cindy, the director, and the composer take a long look at the electrical cord that poweers Dave’s iron lung. Dave says, “I hope it will be painless . . . however you planned it for tonight. The killing, I mean.” She asks when he first suspected. She does unplug the ventilator, but she is just doing as the doctor prescribed. She slides him out a few inches like a file cabinet.
While she pours herself a drink, she compliments Dave on how well he is taking the news that she is going to murder him. She admits they had a few good years before his disability. She tells him that now he is more dead than alive and, “You know me. I was never meant for those nobler forms of solitaire.” What the — is she talking about masturbation on TV in 1959? After the almost-incest of Touché and the almost-cannibalism of Arthur, AHP’s slide into depravity is getting more explicit. Well, the 1960s are just a couple of months away.
Cindy says seeing him in this condition, she almost thinks he wants to die. He says, “I haven’t figured out yet why a man with six-million dollars would want to die.” He was already worth six-million a few years ago before they got married. What, is he keeping it buried in the back yard? Make it work for you, dude! She says, “I wonder if you know how unfair this whole thing is to me.”
Sadly, despite this intriguing premise, there is a huge lull in the middle of the episode. Brian Keith has never been the most expressive actor other than conveying a coiled spring of rage. He is just a strange choice to play the helpless Dave. I guess it was to contrast his former virility with his current condition, but it doesn’t work. This scene we are observing should be more about the mind than the physical body.
Joanna Moore’s low key performance does not help. Cindy had 5 drinks on the boat and 3 more after they returned. Played slightly inebriated, this just drags the episode down even more. I can imagine this scenario being suspensefully played out with a more intelligent, manipulative Dave, and Cindy arrogantly thinking she is in charge while he works her strings. Unfortunately, these two and the script just aren’t up to it.
There is a twist, but even that is kind of hum-drum. There was just a lot of potential in this one that did not get exploited. Of course, this still might be the best episode I watch this week. The AHP bar is pretty high.
-  Upon further research, I see that he is probably paralyzed . . . I feel terrible.
- AHP Deathwatch: No survivors. However, if IMDb is to be believed, director Norman Lloyd, will be 103 in November and is still working. He was in Trainwreck with the odious Amy Schumer in 2015, and optimistically — dare I say quixotically — has a new series in development for 2018.
- Joanna Moore (Cindy) was the mother of Tatum O’Neal.