The Hitchhiker – Riding the Nightmare (10/05/90)

Teleplay by the writer of the incoherent A Whole New You, and the even more incoherenter The Miracle of Alice Ames.  It’s going to be a long night.

We get a shot of a castle with arches.  Wait they don’t have roman columns on castles, do they?  Maybe a mausoleum?  We see a white horse running through the woods at night, but just barely.  Then a shot of some kind of optical effect, a light?  Another shot of the horse.  The light seems to be some sort of rotating cube.  I have replayed this 10 f***ing times and I still have no idea what it is.  It scares the horse, but just pisses me off. [1]

The phone wakes Tess up just as I’m dozing off.  She has broken a sweat sleeping at her desk.  She tells her secretary to show her visitors in.  Her publisher Jim and reporter Dorothy enter to discuss the Davidson article.  Dorothy wants to use photographs in the article, but Tess wants to use the Clemente List.  This second scene was the first sign of trouble except for the entire first scene.  WTF is a Clemente List?  How is it an alternative to photographs?  I played this scene over and over and could not understand what she was saying.  I got Clemente List from the closed caption, but I guess I need footnotes in addition to subtitles.

Jim wants to see Tess’s version, but it will take her a couple of hours to put together.  Dorothy says, “The deadline is 2:00.  I’d say any pictures are better than nothing.”  However, Tess quotes Jim who always says, “Better nothing than anything but the best.”  Tess promises to have the articles and illustrations on Jim’s desk by 2:00.

She scrambles to meet the deadline, but for some reason her sister Jude is there.  Despite the time crunch, there is plenty of time to talk about Jude’s problems with her husband Gordon.  Jude wonders where he is all those late nights, but Tess assures her Gordon would never cheat on her.

In the next shot, Tess is in bed with Gordon.

She gets out of bed when she hears her daughter Karen arrive home.  She has been made editor of the school paper, just like Mommy, except without the whoring.  Tess says they’ll talk about it later and returns to Gordon.  He says he has to go, and I guess Karen doesn’t wonder why her sweaty uncle is leaving her robed Mommy’s bedroom in the afternoon.

That night, Tess again dreams of the horse and the mausoleum.  This time, she gets on the horse and rides it toward the light.  The director seems to think it is important that we see a necklace with a T on it around her neck . . . but not important enough to give us a decent shot.  The horse jumps through the light which seems to be a portal, arriving on the lawn of a large house, but without Tess.  When the horse stops, the T necklace is around the horses neck.  Jude is standing in front of the horse and sees blood near the T necklace.

Tess again wakes up screaming.  Karen comes to the room after hearing Tess screaming which I guess is why she bangs Gordon while Karen is in school.  But wait, Jude says he has been going out at night.  Tess looks at the T necklace she wore to bed and sees there is blood on it.  WTF?  Is she the horse?  Then who was the horse she was riding?

The next day, Gordon meets Tess on the street in front of her office.  Gordon has bad news — his wife Jude is pregnant.  Tess thinks that is great and sees no reason for their arrangement to change (i.e. she can go on humping her pregnant sister’s husband — who are these people?).  Gordon, however, wants to be faithful to Jude now.  And by now, I mean right now — he still proposes they go away together in a couple of weeks.

That night, Tess dreams of the horse again.  Picking up from the previous cliff-hanger, Jude is still fingering the bloody T around the horse’s neck.  OK, now Jude is riding the horse through the woods.  She gets clotheslined by a low branch and is knocked off the horse.  Somehow this causes real Jude, in the hospital, to sit bolt upright as we all do after a nightmare.  Wait, in the hospital?  Is this 9 months later?

Jude gives us a little exposition that “I lost my baby, didn’t I?”  She blames Tess.  Gordon asks if she spoke to Tess, which makes no sense.  Jude says, “I don’t have to.  I saw.  I know.”  Risking his nomination for husband-of-the-year, Gordon decides that this is the best time to tell his wife — in the hospital with a miscarriage — that he was banging her sister.  Jude quite appropriately tells him to beat it.

He goes back to Tess’s place.  He tells her “she acted like she knew.”  He says he is sorry over and over.

We cut to a nice sunny day.  Gordon is in Tess’s kitchen wearing a nice dress shirt and tie, and calls Karen to get the lunch he packed for her to take to school.  Tess comes in and they are all joshing like Ozzie and Harriett.  After Karen leaves, Tess says “I think we’ve done a pretty good job as parents.”  So I guess Tess’s fling with Gordon has been going on for 15 years.  And he might be the biological father, but exactly what parenting did he contribute as Uncle Gordon?

Tess suggests they deserve a reward for being such good parents.  She wants to go away to a cabin in the woods for the weekend.  “Without Karen?” Gordon asks.  So, is Jude dead?  What happened to Jude?  And she is thinking Karen should know of their weekend getaway?  She knows Mommy is banging Uncle Gordon?

Tess, for some reason, meets Gordon out on the same street she met him when they were sneaking around behind the aching back of his pregnant wife.  She sees that he has brought Karen.  He says he didn’t have the heart to leave her by herself.

At the cabin, there is an argument about bedtime.  Gordon takes Karen’s side and Karen calls Tess a witch before running to her room.  In bed, Gordon and Tess are sleeping back to back.  Tess dreams about that goddam horse again.  Now Tess is the rider again.  She is wearing the T necklace, and this time the horse seems to have not accessorized.  The horse jumps through the light again and Tess falls to the ground.  We now see the horse is wearing a necklace with a K on it.

We cut to another nice sunny day.  Gordon and Karen are at Tess’s funeral.  Karen asks if he is going to leave.  He says, “I’ll take good care of you, I promise.”  And continues, “Do you promise to take good care of me?”  She smiles and we see she is wearing a necklace with a K on it.

Lauren Hutton (Tess) is literally the only person to give a reasonable performance.  The men are especially egregious.  Jim doesn’t have much to do but plays it so pointlessly humorless and aloof that it is laughably distracting.  Gordon has long moments of absolute blankness.  At times, he is still and emotionless, not giving a hint of what he is thinking or of his motivation (see the pictures above).  Tess’s sister is similarly a tree stump with awful 1980s hair.  Karen is very cute; almost too cute.  She also has a strange acting style where fear is pretty close to laughter.

Once again, this series has put me in a position where I feel I must be missing something obvious.  These aren’t stupid people.  Nothing as incoherent as this seems could have made it through the production process.  Just about nothing about it makes sense to me.

What is the horse?  Did Jude die?  How did Gordon become man of the house?  Seriously, that kitchen scene is such a non-sequitur and so tonally different from the previous scene that it suggests a time leap or even a different reality.  And let’s consider Karen.

At times the 14 year old actress shows a strange maturity, and at other times is just a kid.  Gordon seems to have a creepy relationship with her.  He brings her along on a romantic weekend with Tess, takes her side in childish arguments.  Is he a pedophile?  She seems to be cool with that, egging him on at the end.  And would the state really allow the single non-biological uncle with tinted sunglasses to adopt this Lolita?  I guess he could show a relationship by showing he was banging her dead mother’s dead sister, but would that help his case?  Something is going on there that they were either too dense to see, or too scared to commit to.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] After a couple more tries, I realized it was rectangular light.  A tree bisected it so it appeared to be a dash and a dot, then gave the illusion of rotating.  Filmed competently, it could have been pretty cool.
  • I read the original short story.  Not really my thing, but it didn’t shed much light on the episode.  There was no Karen, and Jude was OK with her sister humping Gordon.
  • Mostly it made me wonder how Google Books can just put it online for free.  Sure there were a few pages missing, but is anyone thinking, “I liked those seventeen pages, I think I’ll buy the book to see the other two”?  Readers of this blog are paying customers, although the currency is mostly disappointment and wasted time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.