SCORE: 3 out of 4 Tennis Balls
March 17, 1976
Mood Ring: Yellow
Tonight the Bionic Woman was in a beauty pageant and wore a lot of pretty dresses and sang a love song for Steve. I don't really like to watch these contests because the women have to wear bathing suits and they don't even swim. Jaime won but she gave her Miss America crown to the runner up because she had to go home and do real work.
THE BIONIC WOMAN 1X07
Hold onto your tiaras, kids. The Bionic Woman shows us how to balance power with pink.
October 21, 2012
Dear Bionic Blondes,
Mood Ring: Blue
This episode confused me in 1976 because the Bionic Woman was one of my first TV role models who demonstrated that girls could be special for reasons that had nothing to do with their physical appearance. Every week Jaime Sommers was teaching us we did not have to adhere to the pink stereotypes. We could jump up 2-story buildings and capture bad guys and stuff! So how dare they make Jaime enter this cheap beauty contest?
But eventually I grew up (interpret as you wish), and realized girls could get away with being both, because we're *air quotes* complex. We are totally allowed to shake our feminist fists in outrage when women are paraded on stage and demoralized in a shallow pageant, and then we get to turn around and primp obsessively in front of the mirror for an hour every morning before we put on our bionic power suits and go to work. *twirls hair and pops gum* Accept us.
Therefore, accept the fact that as a gender, it is now possible to watch this episode with total forgiveness and actually enjoy it, especially after learning that it was forced by the studio execs—who wanted to launch some Bionic Woman merchandi$e targeted to girls. Of course, we could never possibly have made the connection the Bionic Woman was pretty without the benefit of dragging her through the cosmetics department at Macy's. (Belated snark advisory.)
But in their defen$e, I suppose Mattel’s Barbie had cornered the sissyish, walk-on-your-tippie-toes doll market and needed some serious retail competition. The Bionic Woman Kenner doll came off the assembly line taller and stronger and had a super cool wardrobe, too. (She also did an awesome Farrah impression.)
So tonight, let's raise our martini glasses and watch Jaime Sommers compete on stage in a sparkly beauty contest with these other 70s dolls, and see who really deserves to be the queen. Game on, bitchez!
Cross My Hearth: The Bionic Woman was right on time, tonight! The contest judges shall hereby award her 100 points in the category of promptness, which thankfully doesn't take her current appearance into account, because Jaime's kinda grungy after cleaning out her coach house fireplace. Helen watches in amazement when Jaime karate chops a giant stump into firewood. Sigh. If only Cinderella had someone to take her way from this mundane existence tending to the cinders and ashes, and could introduce her to the glamorous world of lip gloss.
Enter Oscar Goldman, who drops by and tries to flatter Jaime by saying he bets she used to be a beauty contest winner and/or a prom queen. The Bionic Woman immediately assures everybody tuning in tonight that "the beauty queen business never interested me." Yay Jaime!
Nice Try: But Oscar needs to convince her otherwise, because they have a case of a missing defense computer chip connected to a vague message about the upcoming Miss United States beauty pageant. Since Oscar can't put Steve in a dress, he decided to go through all the binders of women at the OSI and selected the bionic woman as the ideal candidate for this job! Oscar then drapes a "Miss California" sash over Jaime and asks her what she thinks.
"I hate it."
Yesss! I'm going to presume, based on Jaime's level of assertiveness, this newest admission of hate lands somewhere between snakes and lemon meringue pie.
Don’t Forget the Fairy Godmother: Oscar suggests Jaime take Helen along as her chaperone. I mean what the heck, it's a dangerous undercover mission that already got one OSI agent killed. I'm sure Steve and Jaime's innocent, elderly mother will have no trouble transitioning from housewife to homeland security. Just smash a bullet proof vest under her apron.
Back To the Future: Speaking of our bionic extended family, it's at this point viewers will probably recognize Oscar has shamelessly ripped off the forthcoming "Miss Congeniality" movie plot 24 years into the future—starring Sandra "Bionic Showdown" Bullock. While I can imagine similar stories must have turned up on TV again with all those female detective shows in the 80s and 90s, could it be possible The Bionic Woman invented this beauty pageant plot concept first? Go Jaime!
Anyway, having Helen along on this mission—completely oblivious to the fact she's even on one— is actually one of my favorite things about this episode. She's so ignorantly enthusiastic. (Martha Scott’s humor was a delight to watch.) At the beauty pageant check-in with Jaime, Helen immediately takes charge, picking up their name tags and demanding TWO copies of the program.
The Fine Print: Upstairs in their hotel room, while Jaime—the travel packing genius—unpacks her suitcase with an episode's worth of wrinkle-free evening gowns, Helen reads from the program. The crowned Miss United States will get to fly to Paris in a private jet immediately after the show for a goodwill tour! But Jaime's all like, yeah whatever, did you read the fine print?
"No liquor of any kind. No male visitors. No telephone calls… contestants must be supervised at all times." WTF, no wonder Jaime has been dodging these contests. Okay Bionic Blondes, this means we must now put down our drinks, turn off our cell phones and kick out any male visitors. This is our new, sympathy role-playing rule 'til further notice. (No fair sneaking them during commercials, either.) If Jaime suffers, we all must.
Helen finally asks Jaime why she spontaneously became Miss California when she could never get her to enter any pageants back in high school. Jaime makes up a story about being nominated by some state committee from a list of 'professional women,' and was appointed as a last minute, non-contest replacement when the real winner came down with the flu. Helen buys it. Wow, that was a little too easy. Pushover Mom 101: What teenager wouldn’t be taking advantage of this in high school? Jaime, I want your life.
Clumsy Congeniality: When Helen remarks the room feels stuffy, Jaime offers to open the window, but lifts it too hard and glass shatters everywhere. Sure—they laugh about it this time, but later when Jaime also smashes a side table during a "eureka" moment, you can tell Helen is nervously calculating all this room damage in her head and dreading their hotel bill at check out. Honestly, you can't take your kids anywhere. (Or, the other parental scolding classic; "Dammit we can't have nice things!")
Orientation Day: In the following scene, the state contestants are gathered in the auditorium, getting the pageant rundown from the lady in charge, Mrs. Belding— a plump and rather pissy house frau that totally reminds me of Mrs. Santa Claus from those Rankin-Bass animations. I'm essentially ignoring her instructions that this is a "pageant, not a competition," and instead am focused on Jaime's lovely beige power suit and first official dress hat of the series. Helen is seated next to her wearing one, too—a little black parson's hat, string-tied under her chin. I'm awarding Jaime 50 bonus points for having this adorable little Amish chaperone with her.
Catching Some Rays: Anyway, then "Mr. Smile" and pageant host bad guy—Ray Raymond, takes the podium. (Seriously, did the typewriter get stuck while naming him in the script? We'll just call him Ray-Ray.) He tells the ladies to split into groups of five. Miss Florida is a total b*tch when our sweet, Miss California asks to be Facebook friends, saying "There's no Miss Congeniality award in this contest, honey. Every girl here wants that crown badly." So as payback, Jaime bionic-listens in on Miss Florida's private conversation with Ray-Ray in the theatre aisle, and catches them co-conspiring to rig the pageant.
The Higher The Hair, The Closer To Jesus: After the commercial, it's time for the talent competition. Woohoo! Jaime's wearing a gorgeous 2-piece, flowey white evening pantsuit, and her hair is styled in a big up-do that makes her look even taller—a sly strategy to capture the judge's attention by towering above all the other contestants. According to a somewhat beastly dressed newswoman during a take that Helen hysterically interrupted when she sprinted through the lobby, they are taping this talent competition early "as an electronic timesaver." But before her big debut on Miss America's Got Talent, Jaime sneaks down to the pay phones to call Oscar.
Almost Crossover Alert: During their phone conversation, Oscar tells Jaime that Steve is in Brussels trying to track down the missing defense chip. Jaime's face lights up. Pause DVD, push sofa closer and resume play because yay important relationship discussions!!
"Oscar, did Steve ask about me at all?" Oscar says he always does. Jaime asks if Steve is seeing someone. "Nothing serious, you know how he feels about you." Jaime starts to explain how she's trying to sort out her feelings for Steve but suddenly she gets busted by the pageant assistant, named Raymond Brady (seriously, his first name was Raymond, too. Will someone get this writer a book of alternative boy names?) We'll call him just one Ray, not to be confused with the double Ray-Ray. Anyway, Jaime has unfortunately broken the outside call rule (yay we can sympathy-turn our cell phones back on now), and Ray forces her to hang up. Dude, how dare you interrupt our romance status update!?
So Jaime's like fine, I'm just going to turn this episode into Bionic Glee and finish my secret message to fans about my private feelings for Steve on national TV. So what better song to choose than "Feelings?" Although it cracks me up every time she gets to the line about "trying to forget my feelings of love" because apparently having amnesia means never realizing you have amnesia.
Back After These Musical Messages: I sometimes run across criticisms about Jaime's talent performance here, so let me just say this about that. I think Ms. Wagner has a really nice singing voice. Would I put her on stage in a duet with Patti LaBelle? Probably not. (I saw this happen once to Amy Grant. Ouch.) But why compose this nearly-nauseating lounge music arrangement in a year when bands like Fleetwood Mac were topping the charts? And then intentionally raise the key of said song midway through, causing it to jump out of the singer's vocal range? Sorry, but I believe this exprobation belongs to composer Joe Harnell. (Note: Any DJ Mixers out there? Take this and do your magic. )
Captive Audience: When Jaime's song is over, Helen's watching from the wings in tears, proud of her little girl’s talent and the fact that the Ausommers just got a long distance love dedication by Casey Kasem. Awww. Then comes my favorite part, when the camera cuts to stock footage of the applauding audience comprised of rich people from the1950s dressed in tuxedos, gowns and opera gloves. *giggle* Because like these are the only people who could stand Harnell's Lawrence Welk arrangement of this song. The rest of the 1950s stock audience footage people left to go rock out at the Elvis concert.
Plant Kingdom: But the adulation for Jaime's talent is not shared by Ray-Ray and Ray, who gather to discuss Jaime's phone call infringement where she was overheard speaking to someone named "Oscar." Could it be the same Oscar Goldman from the OSI? Ray-Ray says there's an "Oscar Mayer that makes wieners." haha. However, suspicions further arise when they recall Jaime was a last minute replacement. Ray-Ray says it. Wait for it. "Do you think she's a PLANT?" Oh, where is Leslie Nielsen from Naked Gun to deliver these double entendres when you need him? Cut to Jaime hiding behind houseplant. #Boom
Windows 2.0: That evening back in their hotel room, Jaime has changed into a really nice wool sweater, blue slacks and black shoes, and has opened the window again, this time to escape this hell hole of teen curfew restrictions. Helen is shocked (Rrright, like Jaime never snuck out like this as a teenager) and wants to know where she is going. "I have to follow someone."
Finally it clicks for Helen, who gasps, "Are you here as a spy?" So Jaime finally fesses up about the pageant purpose, says she has to tail Ray-Ray and asks Helen to leave the window open and cover for her if Mrs. Claus comes by for the bed check. Helen's all nervous and freaking out a bit, but courageously steps up and fulfills her duties as Jaime's newly deputized, runner-up assistant spy.
Meanwhile at the Broom Factory: Miss Florida, the evil witch from the land of orange juice, unfortunately spots Jaime sneaking around outside, so when the clipboard-wielding Mrs. Claus knocks on her door for bed check, she rats on Miss California. Jaime's night sleuthing nets her more bionic eavesdropping on Ray-Ray and additional conspiracy details, but she fails to make it back in time for bed check, and poor Helen is pulling out all the stops trying to stall Mrs. Claus. Helen cleverly turns on the bathroom shower as a decoy and pretends that Jaime's in there.
The Shower Scene: How funny is it when Helen keeps knocking on the bathroom door pleading for Jaime to get out of the shower. Meanwhile, Jaime realizes Helen's ruse, bionic jumps up the fire escape, crawls through the bath window and emerges from the bathroom in a robe with a towel over her head. But Miss Florida is out for California blood, and tells Jaime, "You really do have lovely hair. I just love the color..." and then she yanks the towel off Jaime's head to expose her dry hair. Ohnoshedidhnt! Jaime, I respect that this isn’t a violent show, but pretty please drive a stake through this woman's heart. NOW.
Grounded: Oo Mrs. Claus' bun hairdo is really in a wad now. Lividly, she tells Jaime she just knew she was a "troublemaker" from the start and hereby sentences Jaime to her room for the duration of the pageant. And then she had the gall to accuse the Bionic Woman of being LATE for the talent taping, too! Hey, no fair, lady. I'm the official late decider around here, and the Bionic Woman totally made that gig on time—she simply cut it close.
Which reminds me, time for a station break and a brief word from our spon$ors!
And now, back to our program!
The next day, despite being decked-out in a lovely casual black robe-ish outfit, Jaime has nowhere to go because all of her room exits are blocked by guards, preventing her from getting a message to Oscar about the case status. Helen volunteers, but Jaime says she can't get her mixed up in this Bionic series! Helen insists she wants to help, so Jaime finally caves and sends her down to the pay phones.
Call Me Maybe: But Helen's spy call to Oscar gets interrupted by the snoopy pageant team of Ray-Ray and Ray, so she tells Oscar she'll have to call him back. Ray demands: "Oscar who?" Ummm…gulp. "Oscar Lipschitz," Helen claims—an old beau from college she likes to call whenever she's in the area.
Helen sweetie, #1 I have a rule about using profanity in this blog, and you have just completely ruined my near-perfect record. (cough) And #2, Stop. Everything. I want to know more about this old BF and if your husband Jim knows about these secret rendezvous calls?
Oh, LIPSCHITZ—now Helen gets grounded to the hotel room with Jaime, too. But Helen does manage to relay some information she overheard Oscar say, so that Jaime can piece together the rest of the plot and determine that the winner of the pageant tonight will be the one smuggling out the stolen defense chip nicknamed, the "Falcon," on the private jet to Paris. Jaime decides she'll make a break for the phones again during the show tonight and try to reach Oscar then.
But first we interrupt this program again for another important word from our spon$ors. Because you need to know the cardboard walls of this awesome Bionic Beauty Salon kit—available wherever fine toys are sold—include simulations of Jaime’s wardrobe, a dangerous sunlamp, AND a picture of Steve... (you know, that fella she has feelings for!)
And now, back to our program!
DRUMROLL! Ladies and gentlemen, it's finally here! The Miss United States pageant at last begins broadcasting live, starting with the only ratings category the viewers really tuned in to see… the sexy swimsuit competition!
Ugh. And incidentally, today the Miss America pageant has reformed this category (but not its Speedo mandate) into the more politically correct name "Lifestyle & Fitness." Because everybody knows women always wear bathing suits while jogging and exercising and doing our daily lifestyle things.
The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition: All the beauty contestants are dressed in matching blue swimsuits and are lined up backstage. Helen is standing by Jaime offering her moral support. And then Jaime pretty much sums it up for all of us watching this evening:
Helen assures Jaime she looks fine and then Jaime jokes that she liked her old legs better. Shhhhhh Jaime! If the judges find out these aren't your legs, you could be disqualified!
The 50 Meter: Then Ray-Ray the emcee tells viewers,"Welcome to American's only pageant for beautiful professional women." Which of course must mean these are all professional swimmers, right? What ev. So all the Miss (insert 50 states here) women parade around the stage in their skivvies. Of course Jaime looks lovely, and by my totally unbiased estimation, and the fact I have $1000 riding on this contest, she backstrokes this category for the Olympic win. Then we cut to a new, clapping 1950's stock footage audience, who collectively pull up their bobby socks and agree!
Peachy Keen: While the show then airs the pre-taped talent highlights, back in the dressing room Jaime has changed into a lovely, full length peach colored evening gown, which I think is superb for her "profession" because it also includes a built-in superhero cape. Then she takes advantage of this temporary down time and dashes off to see if she can contact Oscar and find that falcon thingy.
Backstage at the Castle: In a Cinderella twist, Jaime is also wearing some silver, dress heeled sandals that she manages to make magically disappear when her stunt runner-up Rita barefoot-bionics up and down the scaffolding backstage. But darn, Jaime is busted while sneaking down a hallway and gets chloroformed from behind. Ray-Ray and Ray slander-report that “she’s on something,” and carry the unconscious Jaime back to an empty room and place her on the fainting couch, whereupon Ray tries to give her a shot of an additional sedative designed to knock out a “horse.” But he has trouble getting the needle in her bionic arm, causing him to remark Jaime "has the hide of an armadillo." Heyyy, can we stop with these derogatory animal references for the Bionic Woman? Jaime’s a side of beef, mister!
Radio Flyer: Meanwhile Oscar gets worried when he tries to call the pageant receptionist and is told they can't find Jaime. He orders his car brought around and heads to the auditorium, listening to the radio broadcast live on Cyborgs, A Bionic Podcast while en route.
Cinderella, our peach-caped armadillo, awakens and manages to make her silver slippers re-appear, then smashes her bionic fist through the locked door to escape. 500 Angry Bird Falcon points! But not for busting through the door… this is awarded to any woman who can run in heels like this without busting her a*s. (Not that’s what I would consider a suitable category for a beauty pageant.)
Don’t Forget World Peace: When Jaime reemerges backstage, she is forced back out into the live televised event already in progress. Oops, hey look Miss California is feeling better after all! Ray-Ray makes Jaime answer the pageant question on what her ultimate goal is in life. Jaime bypasses the usual ‘world peace’ answer and cleverly uses this opportunity to communicate with Oscar, reciting her very own secret message disguised as a Chinese proverb:
"As the Queen flies to Paris on her Falcon, so must we continue the search for our goals."
Ray-Ray, like any fair and objective pageant host who for years has been listening to these flighty responses from contestants who are either: a). Nervous b). Clueless, or c). Undercover spies —blurts out on national TV, "that doesn't make any sense!"
Excuse me?! Objection! I move to strike this from the judges scores on the basis of the host leading the witnesses. But whatever, because Jaime's rich, 1950's stock footage audience—also members of the wealthy elite—actually hang out with the Queen who flies to Paris on her Falcon all the time. Makes total sense to them! Clap Clap.
Do We Have A Winner? Judges tabulate. Drum Rolls, OMG I am so nervous. This is it, kids… the winner in the Miss United States pageant!
Ray-Ray puts it so eloquently, reminding us viewers at home the levity of this situation before us: That one young lady behind him will soon become a "Queen of talent, beauty and poise." But most importantly, "THE ZENITH OF AMERICAN WOMANHOOD." <---I think this deserves to be in all-caps because… WTF is that?
A "Zenith of American womanhood?" Girls all across America are now hastening through their dictionaries trying to figure out how they can grow up to become this zenith thing they thought was a television set. No matter, I'm sure they will include this all-important zenith womanhood as an accessory in Jaime's Beauty Salon! I hope it comes in pink, too.
The emcee announces the winners… Fourth runner-up: Miss Tennessee. See? You should practice twirling a fire baton without burning the red carpet. 3rd runner-up: Miss Hawaii. Aloha honey. 2nd runner-up: Miss Oklahoma. I completely attribute this loss to your poorly chosen dress. Sorry! 1st runner-up…. Miss Florida! Neeeeners!! (Awww, she makes a gwumpy, hey-they-promised-me-I-would-win-this face)… which means...
OMG Jaime won! Woohoo! So the loser girls get to put the crown and sash on the Bionic Woman and then Ray-Ray walks her down the runway with flash bulbs going off everywhere—and also a gun stuck in Jaime's side that surprisingly nobody else can see. Meanwhile, Ray is holding Helen hostage off-stage threatening to shoot her if Jaime tries anything.
Jaime is forced to continue down the runway, while Ray-Ray sings "You've come a long way woman / it's been a hard pull ma'am / but you're our Miss United States lady / come take your place beside Uncle Sam." Yes he really sang that. Honestly, sometimes these reviews just write themselves.
Now Hear This: While our new monarch Jaime Sommers is on stage waving to her kingdom (or is it queendom?), Oscar arrives and plays bionic hearing charades with her from a distance, asking her questions about the case that Jaime nods or shakes her head to answer. Oscar asks if he wants her to move in. Jaime shakes her head no, worried of course they will follow through on their threat to harm Helen.
After her runway glamour stint is over, the curtain drops, and crowned Jaime—who is carrying a bouquet of roses and a royal wand scepter thingy—along with hostage Helen, are both kidnapped and hustled off by the Ray-Ray-Rays down to the parking garage to make their getaway to the airport. Poor Helen practically gets pushed down the stairs, which causes Jaime to get protectively angry and demand, "You've got me, why don't you let her go?!"
Big Wheels Keep On Turnin: Just as they slam Helen into their getaway car, Miss Florida arrives and demands to know why SHE didn't win the crown. Um, possibly because you're a bad girl, judges sensed your disingenuous attitude and snarky faces, your inappropriately chummy relationship with the host, kissing-up to Mrs. Claus and.. seriously, shall we go on?
Her momentary distraction allows Jaime to bionic kick the car door into Ray, then push Ray-Ray to the ground. Ray starts the car and tries to put it in reverse and run over Jaime, but she bionic-lifts the rear bumper so his tires are just spinning and the vehicle doesn't go anywhere. Oscar finally arrives on the scene to take over for the Feds. Yay!
Falcon Crest: But where's that defense chip, Oscar wants to know. Jaime picks up the big queen wand thingy that Ray-Ray seemed overly interested in grabbing from her earlier, screws off the top, and... Voila! It's a liquor flask!!! No wait, there's a kilo of cocaine! Oh look, there's that defense chip hidden inside. Whew, safely back in the hands of the OSI. Yeah, world peace effin accomplished less than 5 minutes after being crowned Miss United States. I’m pretty sure that’s probably a record.
Election Recount: In the final scene, Miss Florida is sitting on the steps of the stage bawling her wicked eyes out because she didn't win the crown. Actually, she's crying because she feels ashamed that she almost sold herself out like that for her country. Jaime approaches her, very compassionately consoles her, then hands her a sheet of paper with the real tabulated judges results, provided from the accounting firm of Swindlum & Cheatum.
"You mean I won?" Jaime confirms, "Fair and square," then hands her the crown. Miss Florida says she can't accept this now after what she's done. They both laugh and agree the tiara does look kinda tacky. (Kids, this is code for cheap rhinestones. Real diamond tiaras have completely different episode endings.)
Also kids, we may have possibly forgotten to mention that before Miss Florida can take her place beside Uncle Sam, she must first serve 10-20 years in a federal prison for conspiracy to commit treason. (Look, if you want reality beauty pageant TV, you’ll have switch the channel to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.)
But after all was said and done and hair sprayed in this episode, Jaime Sommers proved that she forever gets to keep the original crown for Miss Congeniality—because this takes inner beauty and courage to rise above your opponent’s petty behavior. They could never package this kind of class in the Bionic Beauty Salon.
This was a wonderful fashion episode with 8 different wardrobe changes. From casual grunge all the way up to red carpet formal, I thought the Bionic Woman looked great in everything this week.
Please just this once? I don’t normally do this, but these items nearly scorched my retinas, and since they literally dropped us into the world of judgmental beauty, dude you are just inviting my catty side to surface. (But mostly I’m just grateful they didn’t put any of these on Jaime's wardrobe rack!)
1. Miss Oklahoma’s evening gown: Honey, this is not your dress. Or anybody else's.
2. TV News Lady: Somebody get the kerosene. We really need to burn this.
3. Mrs. Claus’ earrings: Madam, these reflex blue bobs just didn’t go with your magenta pink dress. If you were going for a Christmas tree look, bingo!
4. Helen's evening gown: Sweetie, did we sew this out of the hotel bedspread? The gown style itself was lovely, but this green pattern... Oy. This may be the true definition of “Lipschitz.”
*Toy images and research courtesy mostly from Jim Sherrard’s wonderful site The Bionic Woman Toys.
Watch an original 70s commercial for the Bionic Woman Bionic Beauty Salon.
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