SCORE: 2 out of 4 Tennis Balls
April 14, 1976
Mood Ring: Green
I watched the Bionic Woman tonight and there was a new Indian boy at school who kept lying, so nobody would believe him when he saw a man wearing a space suit. Jaime jumped up in the sky and stopped it from flying away and taught us that only Indians can write books about Indians.
January 12, 2013
Dear Bionic Blondes,
Mood Ring: Yellow
Graphic warning, kids—"Canyon of Death" is a terrifying episode title. Well, not nearly as frightening as Motorcycle Boogie was. But we're all gonnnnna die, I tell you! In that there canyon of death! Alas, never mind packing your zombie apocalypse gear, because this episode didn't live up to its name if you were hoping for fatalities. Except for some boy's grandfather a long time ago, nobody died.
When we were not in the aforementioned canyon of possible death, or hyperventilating with Oscar about erotic jet packs (more on that later), for the most part this episode felt like an ABC After School Special. Not that there's anything wrong with that—the Bionic Woman's occasional shout-out to younger audiences using her role as a teacher was part of this show's charm. This time, children learned a lesson on why one should never cry wolf, or hurl racial stereotypes at one's classmates. (On a side note, this was one of two episodes in the series that focused on Native American culture and racial tensions in the 70s, so kudos to this series for tackling the topic.)
The opening scene tonight reveals a young Native American boy sitting under some kind of homemade arbor in a desert canyon area that is designated as a "cultural landmark." The boy is preoccupied meditating and chanting, and thusly does not notice he's being watched by some guy in a silver Buzz Lightyear space suit, lurking behind the rocks.
Riiiing! Meanwhile back at the Ventura Air Force base school, it's 9:00 and and the Bionic Woman comes rushing in after the bell, apologizing to the class for being late. Thirty seconds, to be exact Miss Sommers, and I hope you intend to beg your audience for forgiveness as well.
Jaime swings the blackboard around, and away from class view—and starts bionic-chalking today's lesson about World War I, complete with tele-type sounds and a typewriter "DING" when she's finished. Huh? Class smarty-head Andrew (played by Robbie Rist) returns in this episode, and whispers to his friend in the back of class that the teacher is "doing her funny writing again." (Wait, when did Jaime get a comedy writing gig?) I love how all Miss Sommers' students have just accepted the fact their teacher has superpowers, but never bother to question her about it.
Time To Take Attendance: Miss Sommers announces that before they get to work, she wants everybody to welcome a new student to class named "John Little Bear." But oops, his seat is empty. Hey, I bet this is the same Indian boy we saw… annnd cut to Little Bear Boy, who mounts his horse and bids his grandfather's spirit goodbye and gallops back down the canyon. The Buzz Lightyear man radios to headquarters and reports the boy sighting, and is told by command that if he returns, "you know what to do." Ooo, I bet that's a canyon of death threat.
While Oscar is landing on base in a chauffeured Air Force jet—here to attend a special red carpet premiere of a top secret government project—the Native American boy finally shows up at school 2 hours late. With his horse in tow… um yeah, I guess just tie that up at the bike rack and make sure you lock it? … and meets all his fellow classmates gathered outside for recess. Without even issuing a tardy slip, Miss Sommers welcomes John Little Bear, but he corrects her and says his name is actually "Paco" —which is really more of a Spanish-heritage name, so no wonder this poor kid has an identity crisis.
Anyway, Paco claims he was late because after he left the reservation, he had to fight off a bear that spooked his horse "Tanima" (a name of common Hindu origin; so let's further complicate this). Jaime skeptically points out there aren't many bears around here (and zero stuffed ones anymore, no thanks to her bionic target practice) and politely suggests he should plan to leave earlier next time. The kids all laugh at Paco's tall tales, and Andrew jokes they're going to start calling him "Sitting Bull." Haha but oh you are SO getting detention for that young man. Jaime tells the kids to "knock it off" and recess is over.
In the hallway back, Jaime gets an urgent message to meet with Oscar, so fellow teacher Mrs. Stone has to babysit her class. Jaime reports to some room on another side of the base and watches a little film presentation from Oscar, where he's showing Jaime footage of paratroopers jumping from planes. Jaime looks all bored and says, "Oscar do we really have to watch this? Parachute jumping isn't exactly my favorite subject since the accident." Haha.
But alas, Oscar forces her to sit through more Military Channel stock footage of various invasion vehicles, in order to establish his point that "victory in warfare has always gone to the side with the most mobility." And today, "we're gonna take a quantum leap into Buck Rogers!! Individual, self-contained flying suits!
Oscar smiles excitedly when a scene with a helmeted man in a silver jet suit appears on screen.
OMG I cannot stop laughing at how quatumly fired-up Oscar is about this. Like we've only seen them zooming around Six Flags since the 1960s and you can even buy them on the internet now with a credit card. But whatever, because this is the greatest invention since sliced bread and even bionics! (Please nobody tell Oscar about our unmanned drones today. I fear he might suffer an anxiety attack from the news of this latest military mobility device.) But what makes Oscar's space-agey jet packs so majorly awesome? Because this pack they are about to secretly test is "atomic," so of course no danger of civilian radiation or anything there.
Oscar goes on to enthusiastically claim these prototypes have a range of 400 miles and can outrun helicopters. He's ultra paranoid that if the enemy were to get a hold of this flying suit, "no anti-terrorist defense could stop them!" Okay. Well unless maybe you were an average duck hunter with the ability to shoot a moving target. So providing the OSI can keep an army of Elmer Fudds away from them, I mean these are PRACTICALLY indestructible!
Sitting in the back of the room during this presentation, hired to catch Oscar in the event he passes out from all the technology arousal, is a guy named John Mallory (played by Gary Collins)—who is a contractor for some aerospace company in charge of security for this device. We learn that a couple non-working "practice suits" have gone missing from the lab under his watch, but Mallory claims it was probably just an inventory error. Right away you know he's the bad guy here, especially with such a poorly designed company logo on the back of his jacket. Can we just CUFF him now and get this over with? (insert Law and Order "DUN DUN")
So what does any of this have to do with Jaime, you may ask? Oscar says he'd like to have her around for this jet pack test tomorrow for additional security, and to meet an important General that is due to arrive on the red carpet for this event, too. Because this General also happens to be THE very same guy who ultimately approved her bionic surgery and would like to finally meet her. But despite the promise of this interesting plot scene between the Bionic Woman and her Pentagon budget maker, for some reason they never followed through on this. #Bummer
How do I get transferred to this awesome school? Then we go back to another playground scene where the kids are outside again for what appears to be their second recess of the morning—because in a later scene we'll be visiting Jaime during her lunch hour. Not that anybody's paying attention to the clock here in this slightly lethargic episode...
This time Paco is spinning more stories for his classmates about his Indian ceremonies of manhood, surviving 3 nights alone in the desert without cable. When he mentions visiting his ancestor's burial grounds, Mallory happens by in his Ray-Bans and cautions him about going into to that restricted Canyon of Maybe Death area. After Mallory leaves, Andrew mocks Paco and says he should have "taken that man's scalp." (Heeeyyyyy!) When Paco stomps off because the kids are laughing at him, Andrew hurls more racial stereotypes at him, referencing “Indian warpaths” and “Geronimo.”
Whatwhatwhat? Alrighty, young man. Just because Miss Sommers isn't here doesn't mean you won't be getting detention for this. The Bionic Blonde is hereby sentencing you to stay after school for this bullying behavior. (Alas, we learn to make do with what we have; see cocktail nap.)--->
Now Andrew, I want you to think about your insensitive remarks while you write on the chalkboard like Bart Simpson 100 times "I will never be on the Bionic Woman again. I will never be on the Bionic Woman again…" Because after this episode, oddly, Robbie Rist was never seen in Jaime's class again. Hmmm, coinkydink?
Call Airport Security! So then Jaime and Oscar are leaving their hanger building meeting just as Paco is galloping down the runway on his horse, and Oscar freaks out about this earth-shattering security breach and wants to call campus police.
Jaime's all Oscar this Indian boy is a student of mine and don't worry I've got this… and bionically takes off after Paco. She reaches some jet service area, and accomplishes this amazing feat whereby, when the camera zooms into her ear while she listens for Paco, she suddenly changes into her outfit from Claws, then back again to today's wardrobe. Wow! Then Jaime bionics up some kind of jet scaffold for a birds-eye view and spots Paco hiding under an airplane. Busted! Paco avows he's never going back to school.
At Least They Didn’t Lose His Luggage: Meanwhile, the cargo plane with the jet pack that makes Oscar sing with glee is requesting clearance to land from “Air Force 614.” Wow if the Prez is “Air Force One,” then Air Force 614 must be like laid-off kitchen staff. Or worse, members of congress. I bet Oscar was disappointed his jet pack didn't rank any higher in military importance. Mallory decides to visit his partners in crime in the Canyon of Could Be Death, where they have a special bat cave set up. They all discuss how many millions they'll make from various terrorist groups bidding for the stolen technology, and then Mallory takes one of the practice suits back to Oscar to see if a "hey-look-what-I-found" helps divert his inventory theft coverup.
From the Class of Rydell High: Jaime is now back in the classroom privately talking with Paco's aunt-slash-guardian during their lunch hour. I could not stop staring at this familiar actress—until duh! I finally recognized her as the Latino dancer "Cha Cha" in the movie Grease. Her name was Annette Cardona.
Anyway, she informs Miss Sommers that her nephew Paco has never lived on a reservation, and his alcoholic grandfather was neither a warrior, nor was he buried on tribal grounds. She hands Jaime a (fake prop) book entitled "The Real West" by Marcus Carter—as the misguided source of Paco's wild imagination. Jaime immediately recognizes the book and contributes her Amazon review that this author is a "third rate writer that never got out of Brooklyn." Paco's aunt is appalled! "A WHITE man? Paco's learning about his indian heritage from a book written by a white man who never even SAW the West?!"
Outrage! Seriously, I think this statement was a bit overreaching. That's like saying Doris Kearns Goodwin is not allowed to write her Pulitzer Prize-winning books on American presidents because she was neither a president nor a man. There's this little thing called the ability to conduct good research. Look it up.
Anyway, now as an instantly-discredited blog writer who is not bionic, I hope you will allow me to continue writing about The Bionic Woman television series?
Then our familiar family counselor Dr. Sommers surfaces, and she determines that Paco isn't compulsively lying as much as he's just struggling for some kind of an identity that embraces his heritage. Bingo! She promises she'll work on trying to keep him in school. And then Paco's aunt had to leave and go dance the Hand Jive with John Travolta.
What. We don't get any more afternoon recesses? Then later that afternoon after Paco has just finished telling the class about his grandfather fighting the lesser-known WWI Indians vs. Calvary battles and killing 20 men, the bell rings and school lets out. Whereupon Jaime takes Paco aside to call him on his stretching the truth prob. (However in Paco’s defense, this practice would make him a perfect politician some day.)
Alas, new kid Paco hasn't been around long enough to know one should NEVER bargain with Miss Sommers. (Softball challenge anyone?) So after a heart to heart talk about his identity crisis, he jumps at Jaime's seemingly easy proposition: If she can find him hiding in the desert, he has to agree to stay in class and stop lying for good. If not, she will let him quit school and become a drain on society.
Natch, Jaime finds him in the desert using part horse tracking plus bionic hearing, and in the Canyon of School Dropout Death, no less! Where Paco has been spotted by—and is now running from—the bad guys, and he's trying to tell Jaime about the creature he just saw…. "A silver man with a thing on his back!"
Oh ye boy who cries Dances With Wolves: Jaime at first thinks he's making it up. But then suddenly, avalanche!!! The bad guys start pushing boulders off the fiscal cliff above, and Jaime has to deflect them with her bionic arm and dig themselves out of the pile of rubble. Having witnessed her amazing strength and bionic speed, Paco decides Miss Sommers must be a spirit "sent by the sky father." <--- so is that what they're calling Harve Bennett these days?
Then Jaime tries out an earlier draft of her “No sir, I’m just a woman” line from On the Rum... I mean Run, and says, "Honey, I can do a few unusual things, but I am very human, believe me."
Jaime dispatches Paco to ride like the wind back to the school, and ask fellow teacher Mrs. Stone to contact Oscar Goldman and report the silver practice suit sighting in the Canyon of Almost Death By Falling Rocks. Then Jaime hears the bad guys talking about her in the bat cave, and sneaks up to listen outside—but than BAM! She gets hit from behind and knocked unconscious. I’m gonna have to award 50 Angry Bird points to the bad guy on this one, because I totally never saw that coming. Good editing. But oh no, poor Jaime!
Paco arrives back at the school and is trying to tell the skeptical Mrs. Stone about the man in the space suit, and in frustration, he adds a chalkboard drawing to his presentation—just as Oscar walks in looking for Jaime. Oscar of course immediately recognizes Paco's illustration as his pet jet pack project. Especially when Paco describes the creature as having "2 things on his chest that looked like handles." *giggles* Okay, I think we finally know why Oscar is so in love with this suit.
But oh no, before Oscar can jump in a jeep to rescue Jaime, he gets captured by Mallory. Jaime finally wakes up in the cave from her head injury. Sadly, my prayers to please have this Cave!Bonk concussion reverse her amnesia about Steve were not answered, because instead of asking the bad guy if she could use his radio to call her bionic sweetie, she just sat there to plot her escape while being held at gunpoint.
Then Paco, who saw Oscar get captured and decided to gallop back to Jaime, arrives outside the cave and provides just the distraction Jaime needs to knock the gun out of the guy's hand, whereupon she crushes it. WOO HOO, 1000 points! (Note: refresh browser page to see animated gif below.)
Back after these messages: Shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut last year where 20 school children were fatally shot, I was inspired by the realization that the Bionic Woman would almost always systematically crush any gun she managed to confiscate in her scuffles with the bad guys. I suppose this is open to interpretation whether Jaime did this simply to prevent the weapon from being used against her—or if it carried with it an underlying political statement. I'm choosing to believe both.
As if this mass shooting wasn't heartbreaking enough, immediately afterwards, gun stores all over the country suddenly sold out of semi-automatic weapons and high capacity cartridges—in a knee jerk reaction by hoarding gun owners who fear they'll be outlawed soon. Oh brother. These must be the same people who ran out and bought up all the Hostess Twinkies when the company announced they were ending production.
Here's the thing.The 2nd amendment giving us the right to bear arms was written by a legislature of powdered-wigged guys who owned muskets. They could never have imagined the type of assault weapons available hundreds of years into the future, much less this battlefield arsenal being aimed at innocent first graders as opposed to rabbits or scrimmages with British Red Coats. While most people are not advocating that guns need to be banned entirely, I am all for reexamining this amendment with some common sense parameters. We still enjoy free speech, yet we also have laws to protect our children from hearing swear words in prime time television. Let’s fix this amendment with some reasonable guidelines of decency, too.
Despite the well-intentioned, sensitive approach steeped in shows like The Bionic Woman more than three decades ago, sadly it does not seem to have made a measurable difference in our disintegrating Rambo society. I only know that I appreciate it all the more, every time I see Jaime's unwavering determination to stand up to violence and guns. Crush on, sistah!
No Time For Spelunking: At the cave, Jaime orders Paco to go home while she bionics back to the Air Force Base for the big jet pack demonstration premiere, where the bad guys have already kidnapped the real test pilot and plan to just fly away in the suit with their own pilot as soon as it's powered up. Hostage Oscar can't thwart their plans because he believes they have Jaime in custody and will kill her if he tries anything, so like a good boy, he greets the General when he arrives, and the suit test is launched.
To Infinity And Beyond: But not so fast bad guys, because here comes the Bionic Woman to the rescue! Jaime arrives just as the jet pack is taking off, and OMG this is such a great episode pay-off in the special effects cheese department... as Jaime jumps up in the sky, grabs and HUGS the jet pack guy—while you can plainly see the wires suspending him in the air like a stage production of Peter Pan. *giggle* My mood ring is now turning space cadet-silver. With a side of Swiss cheese.
And then while they are hovering like 50 feet off the ground, Jaime proceeds to just randomly push all the control buttons on his jet pack chest (WTF? I'm not sure—but I think she hit Microwave Popcorn, too) until she finally found the 'Stop' button. Which of course when clicked, immediately causes the jet pack to turn, um OFF? So the guy wearing it crashes to the pavement below.
Jaime manages to land on her feet, but she fell backwards rather ungracefully, causing the judges to subtract 10 points for her sloppy dismount. But I will award her 500 Angry Bird points for her awesome aim and effort. And also because I’m excited to learn that Jaime Sommers frantically pushes all the buttons just like I do whenever my iPhone rings and I attempt to answer it. *says hello to calendar app* *punches iTunes* *hits Twitter* *FLASH!!* *snaps picture* FFfffffuuuuc Siri, which button answers the phone?!! Riinnng, Ring... *hits playlist shuffle* *opens app store* *finds caller in voicemail ten minutes later* (Sigh, it’s the unstoppable curse of the technology-challenged grandmothers for which we must all reluctantly become.) Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. This.
Oscar rushes over to ask Jaime if she's all right. "Think you better call a blacksmith," Jaime jokes. "I hit so hard I'm bowlegged." Haha! But you may want to call an ambulance for that man in the jet suit. His safety wires apparently broke and it looks like they will have to shut down Spider-Man on Broadway again. Oh, and there's probably an atomic radiation leak now, too.
In the final scene, at LAST Jaime got to change her wardrobe... into a similar outfit. (Insert frown emoticon) She and Paco are re-visiting the Canyon of Nobody's Death, and she's trying to convince him she's really not a spirit. Paco is planning to do some more research on his ancestry, but realizes he also needs to "be a better Paco, too." It's a teachable moment where we learn this little arbor Paco constructed is actually a replica of a "Burial Pier" derived from Plains Indian traditions, not his ancestral Western kind. Jaime references back to the ungainly author earlier and suggests they should get some "authentic books written by some real Indians."*
*I suppose it bears footnoting that tonight's Bionic Woman episode was written by Stephen Kandel, a popular television writer who, according to my research, was neither bionic, nor a woman. But we should probably trust his Indian knowledge because he was born in New York City.
And so to the graduating class of Canyon of Death, you may now take another recess. (Except for you, Andrew.) Cheers to another happy ending!
*Not pictured: Tanima the horse, who is now appearing in a series of television “GetGlue” stickers.
Blast, Jaime only had TWO wardrobe outfits in this entire episode. (But enjoy this while you can. Just wait till you see what she wears NEXT week!)
Our Bionic Woman was pretty casual-Friday for her long day at school, dressed in blue jeans with a white, hooded poncho style top, accented with a light blue Navajo-ish geometric pattern. And then later she changed into a collarless striped smock top shirt, worn over a yellow turtleneck, with bell bottom jeans again. Jaime also wore a really pretty turquoise stone necklace to round out her Native American-themed episode.
THE BIONIC WOMAN 1X10
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
Tonight the Bionic Woman plays Space Cowboys and Indians—and tackles the subject of jet packs. Literally.
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