The Hitchhiker – Homebodies (03/17/87)

The episode begins with a bit of German Expressionism; and I believe that expression is ausgezeichnet! [1]  It was an unexpected bit of black & white artistry in a frequently dreary series with rain, fog, shadows, odd angles, Kafkaesque police, and big-ass clocks just scary in their size and starkness.  I guess a whole episode in this style would have been too much, but what an awesome opening!  Alas, it was just a Traum.

Brainiacs Jimmy and Ron have just busted out of jail, but they aren’t exactly besties.  The older, tougher Ron is only tolerating Jimmy so he can help him find a house with a safe containing payroll cash.  They have stopped to hold up a gas station.  Since they are already on their way to a big payday, I assume they’re going to shake it down for some cheese nachos and Red Bull.

Jimmy keeps the elderly clerk occupied with some mindless small-talk while Ron cases the joint.  When he brings some beer to the register, the clerk asks him for ID despite him being 34 years old.  Panicky Jimmy pulls out a pistol, and the old guy awesomely pulls out one of his own.  Ron awesomely pulls the clerk over the counter and throws him into a display.  He takes the pistol from Jimmy and points it at the clerk.  The old man says, “Please, I got a wife and kid!”  I’m on your side, dude, but your kid must be in his fifties by now.

Left to Right: Ron, phallic symbol, Jimmy

The old clerk is again awesome as he turns over some shelves and makes a run for it.  Of course, circling the aisle in a 400 square foot gas station convenience store isn’t much of an escape plan, but he had guts.  Ron pumps him full of leaded.  Apparently his thorough casing of the joint overlooked the two monitors sitting prominently on the counter.  They flee, with Jimmy taking an awesome tumble out the door.

Jimmy leads them to a model home which they break into.  There is supposed to be a safe in the basement.  While Ron goes treasure-hunting, Jimmy checks out the house.  When he spots a creepy kid sitting on the stairs, he panics and tries to get Ron to leave.  In a struggle, they fall over the railing and a gunshot rings out — and you better remember it or nothing else will make any sense at all.  They are busted by the whole family — little Billy, his attractive parents and their hot 20 year old blonde daughter Denise.

Ron demands to know where the safe is, but they deny there is a safe.  Ron takes the daughter upstairs looking for a big score and also the loot, while Jimmy holds the gun on Mom, Dad and Billy.  When Mom & Dad hear Denise’s screams from upstairs, they beg Jimmy to go up and stop Ron or at least close the door.  Seeing the nice family, Jimmy feels a part of him is missing.  More than anything in the world, he longs to be part of a family like this.

Denise gets away from Ron and runs downstairs.  Wanting to help the family, Jimmy points the gun at Ron. That goes about as you expect — Ron takes the gun from him and murders the entire family.  Again, this is awesomely — sorry — executed.

The next morning, a car pulls up outside the model home.  A realtor shows the house to a woman. Inside, we see that Billy, Denise, Mom and Dad are actually mannequins being used as HomeFill to make the home seem more homely.  One is more homely than the others, though.  Among the beautiful, well-dressed family sits sleazy Ron, clearly a real human.

A happy, less-crazy, neatly-dressed Jimmy comes down stairs and speaks to the mannequins before leaving.  The realtor tells the woman Jimmy is on the construction crew.  The crew is around the mannequins so much, they treat them like people.  Especially Denise, I suspect.

The house-shopper sees that Ron has bloody shirt and runs screaming from the house like she has seen black mold.

The episode is just full of interesting compositions, cuts and tracking shots.

The craftsmanship on this episode blows away every other episode so far. The opening black & white scene, a lot of creative camera-work, and some good perform-ances make this one something special.  The ending seemed like a complete non-sequitur until I did a rewind.  I deduct points from myself for that, not from the episode.

Yeah, you could raise a lot of questions about the logic of the denouement, but why would ya?  Just enjoy it — nobody likes a nit-picking dumb-ass giving his . . . dopey . . . unsolicited . . . opinions . . . . or something.

Great stuff.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I originally wrote Scheiss, gratuitously showing off a dirty German word I learned in the gymnasium; no, not das Gymnasium, an actual gymnasium.  But the episode deserved better, even in jest. And also deserved a better jest.
  • What Morgan Reeves (Denise) did in the 1990s:  One Stormy Night . . . interesting; Night Sins . . . steamy; Winter Heat . . . yeah, baby; Half a Dozen Babies — d’oh!
  • This might be the first episode not available on YouTube.  And why does the DVD stick it the 8th track behind vastly inferior episodes (they are not chronological)? Why are they keeping this hidden, man?
  • Title Analysis:  Good job.  Simple, but relates to the mannequins in the house as well as Jimmy’s longing for a home and family.

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