Boarding houses were apparently much more popular in the 1950s than I ever realized. Or maybe it is just a dramatic device that enables AHP to assemble colorful oddballs in a scene; like when an episode is set in England.
Norman Logan and William Tritt are two fairly odd balls having breakfast at Mrs. Merrell’s Boarding House. Tritt receives a telegram. He tells Logan that if it is another telegram from him, “I shall slap your face.” It is indeed from Logan who is sitting within slapping distance. Logan smirks as Tritt reads the wire: “When are you going to pay me back the $200 you stole?”
Logan again confronts Tritt as he is leaving for work. Ten months ago, Logan deposited $324 but bank teller Tritt only credited him for $124. He suspects Tritt used the extra $200 to cover a screw-up on someone else’s account. If he works at Wells Fargo, it is probably a fake account; if he works at HSBC, it probably belongs to a terrorist; if he works at Bank of America, I’ll be surprised if he can find his way to work tomorrow.
Tritt tells him he cannot afford to make a mistake. “I’m going a long way at that bank,” he says. Having risen to the position of teller at age 51, I’d say he has bigger problems.
Logan goes to the bank that day to cash in some bonds. It just so happens that Tritt now handles that function — say, he is moving up. He has a seat at Tritt’s desk. After fumbling the bonds as he waits, he notices that Tritt’s desk has an unusual drawer which actually opens on the customer’s side. When Tritt comes to his desk, Logan has a big smile. He says he will cash the bonds later and cheerfully exits the bank to Tritt’s befuddlement.
Logan’s next stop is at a toy store where he buys the most realistic toy gun in the shop. He returns to the bank. When Tritt joins him at the desk, Logan furtively pulls the gun on him and demands $10,000. When Tritt goes to get one of those canvas bags with the big $ on it, Logan stashes the gun in the secret drawer. Tritt manages to alert the guard who pulls a non-toy gun on Logan. Tritt is delighted at this turn of events and tells the guard to take Logan’s gun.
Of course, the guard’s search comes up empty. Logan helpfully removes his overcoat, scarf, and jacket to be searched. He takes the suspenders off his shoulders and offers to drop his pants, but the bank president stops him. When no gun is found, Tritt looks like a boob. Logan looks magnanimous for not suing.
A month later at dinner, another telegram is delivered, but this time to Logan. He drives Tritt crazy by not opening it at the table because that would be rude. Tritt tells the group that Logan is taunting him, that this is just part of a ruse to get him fired. Logan tells him he has a persecution complex and opens the envelope. He tells the other boarders it is from his mother. Tritt snatches the telegram. It says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
Later, Logan comes to the bank again. This is a fairly plot-intensive episode. Rather than give a rote play-by-play, I’ll just say there are more shenanigans at Tritt’s expense and Logan gets another chance to drop his pants. This guy is always about 5 seconds from taking his pants off. I’m starting to think that was the real reason behind his ruse.
This is a tight little episode. It is stuffed full of throwaways in the background, yet has a complex story unwinding in the foreground. I liked the Christmas setting even though it seemed to last for months. There was the “Christ-mas Spirit” of not prosecuting Tritt for his first breakdown, the tunes whistled by Logan to irritate Tritt, the centerpiece and tree that come and go with the season, the heaping snow drifts outside the bank, Logan slipping on some ice.
The other boarders are really non-entities, but the script gives them bits of business. There is old, and I mean old, Mrs Merrell, bits about bad eggs, and later counting the oysters in the oyster stew. One of them is even played by J. Pat O’Malley who was in every TV show ever made since 1864.
90% of acting seems to be in the casting. Philip Coolidge is perfectly cast as the nervous, shifty Tritt. Dick York is far more successful here than he was in Vicious Circle. There, as a supposedly menacing thug, he was laughable. Here, as the smirking tormentor of Tritt, he is charismatic and amusing.
Despite the lack of a murder or cheerleaders, a great episode.
- AHP Deathwatch: No survivors.
- Also dead: Sadly, Elizabeth Montgomery. Only relevant here because she played Dick York’s wife in Bewitched, but it’s an excuse to link to a hot picture.