The Hitchhiker – Out of the Night (10/29/85)

A blind Stan Lee doppelganger is walking his dog.  He passes a Bob Dylan doppelganger.  Someone yells, “F*** you all!” since this is HBO and guest star Kirstie Alley is unlikely to take her top off.  We hear a gunshot.  He looks around to see where it came from — the blind man looks around, I mean — this is The Hitchhiker, after all.

We cut to an 18 year old kid running away from a motorcycle cop.  He passes through an intersection which has a traffic jam of old-timey classic cars, then runs into the kitchen entrance of the San Marino Hospitality Inn.  The butcher-knife wielding chef chases him out.  He enters the lobby of the hotel which is filled with Felliniesque menagerie of weirdos, freaks, drama queens, and weirdos.  Did I mention this is set in California?

He sees the chef talking to the cop.  The cop pursues him with his gun drawn, for some reason bringing the chef along.  The cop says, “Are you sure it was him?”  Is he sure it was who?  It’s not like the chef identified someone from a mugshot.  He just said he said he saw an 18-year old kid.  The cop says, “He sure made a mess of things.  I can’t wait to get my hands on him.”

The kid is also packing heat.  He wanders into a bizarre room, made more bizarre by the from-nowhere entrance of Kirstie Alley.  As he spins around, she shoves a puppet in his face and is lucky he doesn’t shoot her.  She shouts, “They don’t like me either, but they’re stuck with me.”  He asks who she is and she pulls a card magically out of the air.  It says:




The card changes before his eyes to say The Amazing Angelica.  He asks how she did that, but she says she has a lot better tricks.  She then pulls dead flowers out of a hat which is not a better trick.  She leaves, and the card goes blank, which is an equivalent trick.

The kid finds himself at the bar, but doesn’t know how he got there.  He asks if the bartender knows a guy name Baxy, same as he asked the chef.  He doesn’t, but the waitress does.  She says, “Baxy can’t help anyone, not even himself.  He’s a major head case.”

The waitress disappears; suddenly there is an older woman sitting beside him and the bar is full of people.  She says the waitress doesn’t care about him, but that is also the kind of girl her son likes.  The kid sees the cop, and asks the woman to help him sneak out.  They go up to her room.  She asks him what happened and he says if he told her, she would hate him.  When she tries to kiss him, he freaks out.  There is a knock at the door and he sneaks out the open window.

Suddenly he appears in an elevator with Kirstie.  As going down goes, that’s better than going out the window.  But again he has no idea how he got there.  She says she is putting on a show tonight and if he comes with her, he will be history around here.  He sees the waitress walk by and follows her as she goes into a sauna.  We get a nice topless scene.  They begin kissing and she slides off his jacket.  His shirt has conveniently disappeared, but his gun has not.  She freaks out when she finds he is not “just glad to see me.”  He leaves and she says he will end up just like his pal Baxy.

Again, suddenly, he is a waiter at the Conference of American Cardiologists.  Again with the suddenly — all the diners become white-coated physicians.  He escapes, and Kirstie again appears.  She drags him before a cheering crowd.  At this point, it is pretty clear what is happening.

Unfortunately, we get an interminable scene — OK, 3 minutes — of Kirstie Alley grotesquely hamming it up in front of a crowd.  It finally ends to reveal the kid is a patient in an operating room — he is Baxy.  As the doctors finish up, they say he had attempted suicide, but will recover.  The surgeon, the same actor as the cop, goes downstairs to inform his family.  He approaches the older woman seen earlier and says, “Your son is going to be fine.”  The girl seen before as the waitress is with her.  I think the producers were worried that people — as I did — would think that was his sister and that he dreamed a topless make-out session with her.  There is a clunky “You must be his sister / No, his girlfriend” bit of dialogue inserted to make it less sexy creepy.

Most impractical operating room ever!

This one actually benefits from a second viewing.  I didn’t care for it on the first go-round.  The second time, however, I was able to see all the foreshadowing, and how an impressive number of lines of dialogue were parallel to what would be happening in the operating room.  Some of the scenes that seemed a little creepy, like his mother kissing him on the bed, could be interpreted as a caring mother, but more-so on a second viewing than relying on my memory.

I appreciated the visual style as it reflected the randomness of dreams.  The titular hitchhiker’s intro was a little off, though.  The kid hallucinates this crazy hospital with all the classic old cars out front.  And there is the hitchhiker right in the middle of it. Was he in the kid’s dreams?  I thought it was weird when he was in France.

No other episode has improved so much upon further reflection.  If not for that god-awful scene with Kirstie Alley near the end, it would have been a success.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Did they mean ONEIROMANCY?  Could this series really be that lame?
  • In Baxy’s imagination, the building sign said SAN MARINO HOSPITALITY INN.  Back in reality, it says SAN MARINO HOSPITAL with an IN sign beside it.  Pretty clever, but you really have to look for it.
  • The chef with the butcher knife was the surgeon’s assistant.  When the kid initially entered the kitchen, we saw him cutting into a fresh piece of meat — again pretty clever.
  • Given some of the bartender’s lines (kill the pain / pump the gas), it is clear that he was intended to be the anesthesiologist.  It is a major faux pas that the director did not get a shot of him in the operating room; at least not a shot without the surgical mask.
  • Why did he dream of a conference of cardiologists when he had a head wound?
  • Written by Marjorie David who also wrote The Legendary Billy B.  Maybe I should go back and watch that one again.  Not gonna happen.
  • The cop was also in the excellent Trial by Fire.

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