Friday, November 22, 2013

F TROOP Fridays: "The New I.G." (1966)

 

F TROOP FRIDAYS: Number One



F TROOP: THE NEW I.G. (Season One, Episode 21; Original Air Date 2/8/66) Starring Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, Ken Berry, Melody Patterson, Frank de Kova, Don Diamond, James Hampton, Bob Steele, John Mitchum.  Guest Stars: Andrew Duggan, Marilyn Fisk and Ed Prentiss. Directed by Charles R. Rondeau.  Written by Arthur Julian.


By the time THE NEW I.G. aired on February 8, 1966, F TROOP had really hit its stride.  Ancient Hekawi medicine man Roaring Chicken was no longer around, but his replacement as Chief Wild Eagle's aide de camp, was even funnier.  Crazy Cat (Don Diamond) was the official "Assistant Chief" who was overly eager to ascend to the top spot.  Crazy Cat openly wished a speedy trip to the "happy hunting ground" on Wild Eagle, adding one more self-centered layer to the show's cynical first season humor that was ahead of its time.

Special guest villain Andrew Duggan as The New I.G.
To this day, shows centered around rascally scoundrels (i.e. EASTBOUND AND DOWN) provide the same key element F TROOP proved necessary for viewers to sympathize with less than honest protagonists: weekly antagonists who were far less sympathetic.  Lest we lose the ability to care about (and root for) the rogues running O'Rourke Enterprises, THE NEW I.G. pits them against a truly heartless visiting officer: arrogant, genocidal Major Chester Winster (Andrew Duggan).  The episode opens with Bugler/orderly Hannibal Shirley Dobbs (James Hampton) giving Captain Parmenter (Ken Berry) a haircut and shave.


Despite the Captain's reticence (he sent an urgent request to Washington for a Barber's Manual), it must be said that from the limited evidence we receive here, Dobbs appears to be considerably better with a pair of scissors and a razor than he is with a bugle.  The shave is interrupted when we learn that the treaty with the Hekawis expires in a week on "Saturday the 23rd"--on the same day as the Captain's six month "anniversary" with Wrangler Jane (Melody Patterson).  Since this is a 1966 sitcom, and actress Patterson was still only 16 (!) we know one thing that won't be happening on Anniversary Night.  Nevertheless, the Captain presumably leaves the evening open for celebration later by scheduling the renewal pow-wow for Saturday morning.



Treaty renewals are a piece of cake for the "Scourge of the West" thanks to the happy business deal between the Hekawis and O'Rourke Enterprises.  That is, unless out of town beauracracy intervenes, and thanks to the aforementioned Major Winster, it will.  A gifted inventor who created the Chestwinster '76 rifle, Winster nevertheless believes that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" and he sets out to send a message to all the tribes by wiping out the Hekawis--after letting the treaty expire.  Showing off the invention that took ten years to perfect, Major Winster declares it to be "The Gun That Will Win the West" as his superior General Morgan hopes (cringingly to the modern audience) out loud that "those Redskins never get their hands on this amazing weapon".


Too late, General: the Hekawis already have it--courtesy Sergeant Morgan Sylvester O'Rourke (Forrest Tucker) and Corporal Randolph Agarn (Larry Storch).


Treason?  Well, if you want to get technical about it, treason was pretty much a weekly occurrence during F TROOP's first season.  But it was always treason on behalf of capitalist ingenuity, something that government beauracracy was apparently hopelessly outmatched against in 1866.  O'Rourke and Agarn are receiving their first shipment of 24 toy rifle replicas of the Chestwinster '76, produced by the hard working Hekawis and soon to be the hottest item for O'Rourke Enterprises.  Saddened by the realization that the Indians will always be the losers at "Cowboys and Indians", Wild Eagle is placated with visions of silver dollars up to his feathers and plans of a "Toy Massacre Set" for the near future. And it is back to Fort Courage for the Sergeant and Corporal, their duties for both employers (the official reason for their visit was to discuss the treaty) fulfilled.

Can't beat the delivery!
Back at the fort, we see some government efficiency for once, as the Barber's Manual has already arrived and Dobbs is reading it.  After O'Rourke and Agarn enter with news that Wild Eagle is ready to schedule and sign, Major Winster's arrival abruptly interrupts the Captain's second shave.


This is an inauspicious first meeting, and to make matters worse, the Major has already conducted a solo inspection of Fort Courage, including an encounter was with the primary lookout, ol' 20/900 himself, Private Vanderbilt.




Add this to the fact that not one of Fort Courage's finest gave him a second look when he rode in, and Major Winster concludes that they'd "do better to put the uniforms on the horses".  Nevertheless, he is willing to overlook these red flags in his Custeresque search for glory, ordering the Captain to let the treaty expire and wipe out the Hekawis.  Naturally, the Captain and his non-Coms are aghast at this suggestion, with the differing views of the room's ranking officers expressed in words of wisdom:



WINSTER: The only good Indian is a dead Indian.
PARMENTER: Starve a cold, and feed a fever.

Major Winster concedes that they should, at least, give the Hekawis the opportunity to sign a new treaty, so he decides that the U.S. Army will lay down such tough new terms that they will never sign.  "Then, we can wipe 'em out with a clear conscience!"


So the battle lines are drawn at the episode's midpoint, and Major Winster appears to be a formidable threat to O'Rourke Enterprises.  Formidable enough, though?  We shall see.  Let's recap the Sarge's record to date through 20 episodes.  In "Scourge of the West" we learn that he's already ridded Fort Courage of two Captains and a Major prior to Parmenter's arrival.  Beginning with the premiere, we've watched "nosy" Second Lieutenant Hawkes, Major Bentley Royce and Colonel Watkins try to get to the bottom of things without success.  Hell, even Generals Grant (who found himself impersonated by Agarn) and Custer visited Fort Courage with the same results.  Not one was a match for crafty Sergeant O'Rourke.  There's something to be said for home fort advantage.

Anyway, as we fade into Act Two, the big day has arrived, with Chief Wild Eagle coaching his tribe on the finer points of projecting friendliness and melting the hardened heart of Fort Courage's newest visitor.


Well, she looks friendly enough if you ask me....

Not to the Major though, who is convinced that a Council of War was just interrupted.  The Chief has already dipped his feather pen in the ink, and has an answer for each of Major Winster's "new terms":


No tomahawks, knifes, arrows or guns?  No problem: "Hekawis vegetarian."  A 7 P.M. curfew?  "Why so late?"  To Winster's chagrin, it is smooth sailing to a new treaty, sealed with something a little better than a peace pipe.


Which unfortunately sends Parmenter staggering backward, collapsing the one tepee that our business partners don't want the officers to see:


Uh, does the Major notice that crate under the wreckage?


As Wrangler Jane would put it, you can bet a bucket of buzzards he does.  And back at the fort, he's ready to attack the Hekawis for breaking the "new treaty" by hiding the rifles, undeterred by Corporal Agarn's explanation that "they use the guns to keep the birds away from the vegetables".   Major Winster claims he even saw HIS gun ("that will win the West", he reminds us again) in the crate, and pulls rank to lead an immediate attack. 

Much like John Wayne tried to reason with Henry Fonda in FORT APACHE, O'Rourke voices rational opposition to the unknowing outsider ("It would be wholesale slaughter!" "And retail, too!").  There's more than just business to consider, too.  The proposed attack would also end up sending all of F Troop to the happy hunting ground as well once the Shugs, Sioux, Apache and Comanche got wind of it.  On a more immediate front, though, it looks like the end of O'Rourke Enterprises and the Hekawis on this solemn Saturday.

But the Sarge has an Ace in the Hole: permission from the Major to pass out new weapons that "just arrived": The Chestwinster '76's! 

The Gun That Will Win the West!!!
Let's see John Wayne top that!  (To be fair, Cochise didn't need the extra help.) With this revision in supplies, the freshly armed F Troop led by Chester Winster is off to the Hekawi village, ready for action.


While on standby, we have more words of wisdom from Major Winster ("A rifle is of no use without a trigger finger") that actually make Chief Wild Eagle's sayings look wiser than ever.  The Major seems vindicated when they all see rifles "looking exactly like ours", and with blood in his eye, he gives the order to CHARGE!



Wild Eagle and Crazy Cat immediately raise their hands, but the attempted surrender doesn't placate Winster, who orders the men to fire anyway!  And they do:



Which gives the Major that expression we so often we from superior officers who dare to visit Fort Courage.  You know, the "who farted?" look:

I ain't workin' for Mel Brooks!
While the stunned Winster freezes momentarily, Parmenter and O'Rourke agree that it's time to consider the better part of valor.  F Troop surrenders, with the Captain apologizing and offering to go back to the old treaty.  Despite a brief insistence by Winster that he wants to "die with his boots on", he is eventually talked out of it.


And the third "try" is the charm, as the Hekawis win their first battle with the U.S. Army, making them 1-2 (they agreed to "lose" in SCOURGE OF THE WEST and OLD IRONPANTS earlier).  At this point they're 0-2 when "attacking" Fort Courage, but 1-0 now at defending their own camp.  Hey, I told you home field is very meaningful.  O'Rourke and Agarn hash things out with the jubilant victors (causing both Crazy Cat and Wild Eagle to faint at the mere prospect of "real guns with real bullets" attacking them) while Captain Parmenter provides some needed assistance back to the fort for the shaken Major Winster.

PTSD, before we knew to call it that!
In the tag, the troopers give Winster a farewell salute as only they can, while he warns that he'll be back after figuring out what went wrong with his rifle.  But while he recovered enough to up a good front, his threat would prove to be an idle one.  Major Winster never returned to Fort Courage.  In fact, a mere nine episodes later (JOHNNY EAGLE EYE) there was already a new Inspector General.  Apparently that look of shell-shock above was genuine and lasting.  The rundown:

FIVE NEW THINGS WE LEARNED:

The Flaming Arrow Marshmallow Roast was one of the hottest items in the history of O'Rourke Enterprises.

The Hekawi lookout is named Cross-Eye Hawk, and he apparently has the same trouble hearing that Vandy has.

Private Vanderbilt doesn't know how to square dance.  

The Army Barber's Manual has an entire chapter on "How to Stop the Bleeding".

Hekawis smile a lot.  Kiss a lot, too!


NUMBER OF TIMES WE WERE REMINDED THE CHESTWINSTER '76 WILL WIN THE WEST:

Five, twice by Agarn and thrice by Winster.  However, Agarn states a 180 after the Hekawi attack is decided.

WISE OLD HEKAWI SAYING:

From Crazy Cat, for once: "You show me raccoon with nose in mud, and I show you squirrel with nut in tree."  The usual voice of wisdom, Wild Eagle, concludes he has "nut in tribe".


NUMBER OF TIMES O'ROURKE COULD BE CHARGED WITH TREASON:

Two.  First he gives the Hekawis the real cutting-edge rifles to duplicate, and then he sabotages the climactic battle.

PC, OR NOT PC?

General Morgan's "Redskins" comment and Winster's sentiments indicate the latter, but when one looks at the big picture, genocidal racism is decisively routed by peaceful coexistence by episode's end.

BOTTOM LINE:

As noted in the original review of Season One of F TROOP (here's Part Two), this was a show that was hitting on all cylinders by this time.  Don Diamond was really coming into his own to make the ensemble complete, and his interaction with DeKova was beginning to rival the much-lauded Tucker/Storch chemistry.  Add in a cold-blooded, stone-faced Duggan providing television's answer to Lt. Colonel Owen Thursday and THE NEW I.G. is F TROOP at its subversive best.  (**** out of four.)

F TROOP currently airs on Me-TV Monday-Thursday nightly at 9:30 ET/8:30 CT

5 comments:

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Let me be the first to comment: while I had one or two people suggest that the next TV project at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear be F Troop, I knew there was no way I could do it the justice that's been afforded here. Congrats on the inaugural post, Hal, and I'm looking forward to those that follow. (I will also be a bit sad, knowing that I have to put up with Jimmy Hampton on The Doris Day Show instead of enjoying him on F Troop.)

Hal said...

Thanks for the kind words Ivan. I'm going to have a lot of fun writing these too. Won't be in order as you can tell, but I hope to have a lot of these done before F Troop's 50th birthday in '15. :)

Ray Sagastiano said...

What was the name of the actress who played the hot little Indian Maiden?

Hal said...

Thanks for reading, Ray! I'd like to know her name myself; she isn't credited on the episode or on imdb. If I can solve this F TROOP mystery I'll be sure to modify the post/cast. If anyone else out there knows the answer, please chime in!

Hal Horn said...

Ray: after some careful research, and comparing the footage here to her other appearances, I am convinced that Marilyn Fisk Tucker (Forrest's wife) was in fact the Kissing Maiden in THE NEW I.G. For some reason she was uncredited here but credited in her other two F TROOP appearances later.