The Hitchhiker – Joker (04/21/87)

Next up in rotation was an episode called Made for Each Other.  Sadly, disc 1 of the 3rd DVD set is not playing, and it is not online that I can see.  On the plus side, it starred Bill Paxton, so I’m not subjected to his performance.  RIP.

A home movie is playing of George W. Bush clowning around in a Hawaiian shirt, with snakes in a can, an exploding cigar, and the nuclear launch codes.  No, wait, it is Bush doppelganger Timothy Bottoms as psycho Peter (qu’est-ce que c’est).  He was picked up by the cops for being covered with blood.  All they got out of him was an address — the apartment of a woman named Teresa.  The police found her bathroom covered in blood, but no body.

The police question him about Teresa, but all he wants to talk about is his ex-wife Melissa (Kelly Lynch) We get a flashback of Melissa at her office birthday party.  She brings the party to a halt when she says it is not her birthday.  It had started when someone gave the Hot Cops’ least hot cop a few bucks and a fright wig and told him to go to the office as Tarzan to get the birthday ball rolling.  OK, maybe he brought the balloons, but where did the cake and ice cream suddenly come from?  As the party breaks up, we see Peter in the shadows giggling like a madman even though he is hidden from the office, and we already know who he is.  He tells the cop that it was actually his birthday, but I guess Melissa didn’t make the connection.

Seriously, WTF is this thing?

At home that night, Melissa is surprised by a joy-buzzer [1] on her refrigerator.  When she gets out the Orange Juice, we can see one of the few items in her fridge is a huge brown gelatinous blob.  I thought surely this was another prank, but she has no reaction to it.  The camera not only lingers on it, she leaves the door open so we can see it.  She puts ice in the glass, but it is the wacky fly-in-the-ice-cube gag.  Once again, she makes no connection to her high-larious ex-husband Peter.  Peter screams to the cop that Teresa and Melissa are the same person, violating the show-don’t-scream rule on screenwriting.

Melissa goes into a storeroom to change for her yoga class that night.  1980s office dweeb Alan says, “Would that I were a fly on the wall.”  As I was cringing at this subjunctive Shakespearean lament, Melissa replied, “As far as I’m concerned, you are a fly on the wall.”  I’m not sure it makes sense because they do seem to have some kind of relationship.  However, I admire the symmetry and the snappy diminution of him to insect status.

As she is changing, the lights go out.  She threatens to kick Alan, “really hard in a certain place.”  She walks around the storeroom in a really half-assed scene.  She could easily put her blouse back on or remove it completely, but she holds it her chest as she searches the large room and threatens Alan with a harassment suit.  This isn’t HBO, this is TV.  Alan suddenly appears in the aisle naked except for something down below which it is mercifully too dark to make out.  Peter has him at gunpoint and duct-tapes the two of the together.

He is wearing a mask and a hoodie, and his voice is electronically altered,  so I guess it is reasonable that Melissa still doesn’t recognize him as he giggles and dances around and photographs them.  He has also shrewdly disguised his height as he now seems to be 2-3 inches shorter than Melissa in this scene.  The next day the photos are sprinkled around the office.

Blah blah blah . . .

Peter confronts Melissa in her home.  Actually, he breaks into her house and confronts her, then does the exact same thing in the next scene.  It is just a bizarre waste of time.  The script is so inept, it is still not clear if Melissa is really his ex-wife or if he is delusional.  He chases her into the bathroom.  Soon water starts running under the door.  He breaks in to find Melissa has slit her wrists.  As he tells the story, he gets so worked up that he has a heart attack.

The cops did not find her body, but we do.  It is at a motel washing the red out of her hair.  She looks in the mirror and says, “Hello Melissa.”  The home movie continues running and shows a woman taking off a mask and laughing.

Well.  Either this was the most consistently incoherent series on TV, or I’m just not smart enough to watch it.

  • I think it is safe to say that Teresa was a new identity assumed by Melissa after she left her lunatic husband Peter.
  • I assume the woman taking off the mask at the end of the home movie is Melissa, but damn if I can make her look like Kelly Lynch. I’m willing to accept maybe it is the B&W, the poor transfer, the bright blonde hair, the previously unseen big smile and a little face blindness tripping me up.
  • If it is her, didn’t the cops watch this movie before interrogating Peter?
  • If it is not her, is the reveal just to show that Peter really is delusional?  I don’t think this is the case, but it would be interesting since they don’t seem too concerned about logic.
  • And what is the point of showing end of the film?  Having her say “Hello Melissa” at the motel already resolved the question of her identity.  Although her hair is still much darker than the woman in the movie.
  • How did Melissa fake her suicide for Peter?  Those cuts looked pretty real, but her wrists looked OK at the hotel.
  • Where did she get gallons of blood with 30 seconds notice that was good enough to fool Peter and the police?
  • The police say the blood stains were bovine.  What blood stains?  Peter had some blood on his face.  Melissa’s bathroom looked like an abattoir.  Stains is a funny way to describe either.
  • Are they saying this was bovine blood in Melissa’s bathroom?  Then why are they looking for a “body” if there was no human blood?  And WTF did she get cow blood?
  • Waaaaaait a minute.  One of Peter’s “pranks” was to smear blood on a new dress prototype in Melissa’s office.  OK, you can stop waiting — I got nothing.
  • She faked the suicide in her bathroom, so if you’re thinking Peter had some spare blood stowed there, nope.  If you are thinking Melissa smeared her own dress to set Peter up, that’s just too dumb to rebut.
  • Melissa didn’t do anything wrong.  At the end, why is she dying her hair, changing her identity back, and hiding from the cops at a motel?  OK, she is reclaiming her old life now that Peter is no longer a threat, but why run away?
  • In fact, some people might have actually called the cops when someone broke into their house and left novelty items,  sexually assaulted them in a storeroom, and later threatened their life.
  • This is out of the filmmakers’ hands, but the IMDb synopsis says, “Deranged Peter relentlessly stalks and terrorizes Teresa, a lovely young lady who Peter thinks is his ex-wife Melissa.”  But isn’t she Melissa?  She said she was Melissa.

I can’t, as the kids say, even.

I must say Timothy Bottoms was incredibly annoying, just as the role demanded.  He was great.  Kelly Lynch didn’t really have any heavy lifting to do, but she looked great.  Many of these episodes leave me feeling stupid because I think I must have missed some key points.  Surely nothing this incoherent could have been televised.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Do they even exist anymore?  Suffice it to say, it is not a sexual aid although that would be a pretty good name for one.
  • It took three writers to create this.
  • Amazingly, the director went on to work on such great shows as Fargo and Breaking Bad.  Or maybe it was a dude with the same name.  Colin Bucksey? No, probably not.

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