Wednesday, 9 April 2008

And The Award For Elephant Balls Goes To...

I picked up the first season of the original Bionic Woman on DVD a little while ago, seeing as how I always liked Lindsay Wagner and because Tower Records were having a sale.

It's as good as I remember, with Jaime filling the usual stereotype aliases (beauty queen, air stewardess, evil doppelganger, etc), with the occasional cameo by Lee Majors to make sure no one had forgotten the Six Million Dollar Man.

I actually had, so I went back to Tower and got the first season of that show. Curiously, I learned that it took three attempts to get Steve Austin onto the airwaves, but Universal obviously felt it was worth the effort. And it was.

So I was ploughing through the first few episodes when I came across one, Survival of the Fittest, that I was certain I'd seen before.


The plot was this - Oscar and Steve have to catch a flight to Washington following an international space conference (during which Oscar had some sensitive discussions with the Russians), but get a flat tire on the way to the airport. Even though Steve changes the tire in twelve seconds, they miss their flight, only to be given seats on a military/cargo transport that will have them in D.C. in good time. So far, so good.

Two men, Cromwell and Maxwell, get on and sit at the back of the plane - they talk about someone named Bobby who'll be there if needed.


Their goal is to kill Oscar before he returns to Washington. Other characters include a loud woman named Mona, Lt. Colby, an Army nurse acting as stewardess, an Air Force sergeant called Roberts who was once stationed at Nellis AFB when Austin was there, a naval yeoman named Helen Maychick and a PFC Robert Barris who quit medicine to join the Army.

One of the hitmen (Cromwell) activates a homing device hidden in his briefcase; the signal is received by a trawler somewhere at sea.

The plane hits bad weather; lightning strikes one engine; the pilot orders the fire extinguished; the engine explodes, dropping off the wing; the pilot sends a mayday and makes a forced landing into the sea.


Steve makes sure everyone is prepared for the landing. When the time comes to leave the plane, Steve finds the door is jammed. The passengers go to the back of the plane where there's another exit, and when they're not looking, Steve opens the door with bionic strength. Cromwell recovers his homing device before leaving the plane. Everyone (except the crew, who are killed) escapes and makes it to the beach, where they spend the night.

I'm thinking - WTF? I've seen this before, somewhere. And then it hit me - an episode of The Bionic Woman called 'Fly Jaime'. I dug out the DVD and sure enough, it's the same story.


Here's the plot - Jaime, disguised as a stewardess, has to help Rudy Wells get out of Brazil with a secret formula and meet Oscar in Washington. The plane is a mixed passenger/cargo flight.

Two men, Reed and Connors, get on and sit at the back of the plane - they talk about someone named Bobby who'll be there if needed.


Their goal is to kill Rudy before he returns to Washington. Other characters include an elderly missionary named Mrs. Griffith, an aging lothario, Mr. Romero, with eyes only for Jaime and a guy named Marlow who quit medicine for undisclosed reasons and now just bums around.

Connors activates a homing device hidden in his briefcase; the signal is received by a trawler somewhere at sea.

The plane hits bad weather; lightning strikes one engine; the pilot orders the fire extinguished; the engine explodes, dropping off the wing; the pilot sends a mayday and (bionically assisted by Jaime) makes a forced landing into the sea.


Jaime makes sure everyone is prepared for the landing. When the time comes to leave the plane, Jaime finds the door is jammed. The passengers go to the back of the plane where there's another exit, and when they're not looking, Jaime opens the door with bionic strength. Connors recovers his homing device before leaving the plane. Everyone (including the pilot, who is not killed this time) escapes and makes it to the beach, where they spend the night.

Anyway, here's the rest of the story:

The following morning, Oscar/Rudy wakes up to find Steve/Jaime missing. One of the other passengers tells him that he/she went to explore the island and that Oscar/Rudy shouldn't follow as it might be dangerous. Oscar/Rudy says not to worry and goes anyway.

He wanders through the brush calling for Steve/Jaime to show himself/herself if he/she can see/hear him.

Steve/Jaime calls out to Oscar/Rudy from an outcropping about fifty feet overhead. Telling Oscar/Rudy to get out of the way, Steve/Jaime jumps down, carrying something in a blanket over one shoulder.













"You look like a bionic Santa Claus," Oscar/Rudy tells Steve/Jaime.

Steve/Jaime produces a coconut and karate-chops it in half. Oscar/Rudy looks on in admiration.

Meanwhile, Cromwell/Connors places his homing device in the bole of a dead tree.

He and Maxwell/Reed return to the beach with wood for the fire, but not before discovering that the island has a poisonous snake problem.

Back on the beach, the survivors share the food supplied by Steve/Jaime.

Steve/Jaime takes charge, organising the passengers. Someone will be looking for them, and it won't be long before they work out the plane's last known position. He/she asks Sgt. Roberts/Mr. Romero to work out a duty roster - the fire has to be kept going at all costs.

Later, Steve/Jaime sees/hears a plane before anyone else. Sure enough, it's a search plane. The survivors throw grass onto the fire to make smoke and the plane turns towards their location, rocking its wings to show that the fire has been seen.

Supplies are dropped by parachute. Food, medical supplies, a radio, pistol and flare gun.

The hitmen order the food to be distributed, making sure they have control of the pistol, but Oscar/Rudy and Steve/Jaime get to the radio first. They contact the plane (one of which also contains Oscar, but that'd just wreck your head) and are told that their position has been passed on and that they'll be picked up at 10 the next morning.

The pilot makes sure to ascertain that Oscar/Rudy is still alive.

Steve/Jaime and Oscar/Rudy go to tell the survivors the good news.

Yeoman Maychick/Mrs. Griffith approaches Steve/Jaime and tells him/her that PFC Barris/Marlow has had medical training but that for some reason he's reluctant to help. Steve/Jaime agrees to talk to him, and, after listening to him tell his tale of misfortune, manages to persuade him to at least help out Lt. Colby/Dr. Wells, if not to do any actual doctoring.

It's later on. Steve/Jaime arrives at the medical shelter to learn from Yeoman Maychick/Mrs. Griffith that Oscar/Rudy got his/her message and has gone to meet him/her. Steve/Jaime is puzzled; he/she sent no message. Who had left the message? No-one seemed to know, it had just been passed from voice to voice...

Steve/Jaime goes to look for Oscar/Rudy, who at that moment is himself looking for Steve/Jaime. Someone hits Oscar/Rudy from behind and leaves him, unconscious, close to where the snake was found earlier.

Steve/Jaime arrives in the nick of time and, grabbing the snake before it can strike the stunned Oscar/Rudy, hurls it bionically against a large rock, killing it.

Steve/Jaime decides it might be best if they don't return to the beach until morning, and so they camp out in the hills.

During the night, Cromwell and Maxwell/Connors and Reed go looking for Oscar/Rudy and Steve/Jaime. Firing a flare in the air, they cause Oscar/Rudy to give away his position, and manage to shoot him, though not fatally. Steve/Jaime throws a rock, which hits Maxwell/Reed, putting him out of commission.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Roberts/Mr. Romero realise Steve/Jaime is nowhere to be found and goes looking for him/her. Steve/Jaime sees/hears him and tells him to go get Lt.Colby/Mrs. Griffith, to hurry, and to bring her back alone.

He does, returning with her to find Cromwell/Connors, who claims to be standing guard. As Roberts/Romero starts to tell Lt. Colby/Mrs. Griffith where to find Steve/Jaime, he is overpowered by Cromwell/Connors, and we learn that Bobby is, in fact, Lt. Colby/Mrs. Griffith. Cromwell/Connors reminds her what's at stake, but Bobby says she knows what to do.

Making her way to the camp, Bobby tells Steve/Jaime to apply pressure to Oscar/Rudy's wound with both hands, then attempts to shoot him/her with a hypodermic. Steve/Jaime reacts, shoving Bobby away; she hits her head on a log and slumps into unconsciousness. Cromwell/Connors runs for it, but Steve/Jaime gets him as well.

Meanwhile, at the beach, Barris/Marlow realises that Colby/Griffith hasn't taken any bandages with her. Taking them, he follows, arriving in time to see what has unfolded. Steve/Jaime tells him he has to get the bullet out. Barris/Marlow says it's not the bullet he's worried about, it's the vein that needs to be repaired, but that he doesn't have the equipment to fix it.

Steve/Jaime asks how he would fix it, and he replies that he'd cauterize it.

"So all you need are two hot wires?"

"Well, yes, but -"

"For the rest of your life, forget what you're about to see," says Steve/Jaime, and, taking a scalpel, cuts open his/her forefinger.

Barris/Marlow is incredulous, but Steve/Jaime tells him to take his/her hand and cauterize the vein. Which he does, saving Oscar's/Rudy's life and reviving his own self-confidence.













The next morning, the survivors are being evacuated, the bad guys in custody. Oscar/Rudy sees Steve's/Jaime's bandaged finger.

"What happened to you?"

"Oh, I cut myself shaving."

There's a humorous moment where Mona (Jo Ann Worley, who didn't have much to do in the episode) realises from Steve that she was on the wrong plane all along/Mr. Romero expresses his undying love for Jaime, and that's it.














As stories go, it's simple enough, and the red herring of 'Bobby' is nicely maintained for most of the episodes. But I mean, come on - the same story in two linked shows? Either Universal had no respect for the viewers' intelligence, or the award for elephant balls goes to...

If anyone knows of any other shows (soap operas excluded) where a script was lifted and dropped from one to the other, I'd be interested to hear.

Thank you and good evening.

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