The Prince/The Sheriff 1.03

Episode 3: “The Prince/The Sheriff”

First telecast: February 11, 1978


Our latest jaunt to the island finds Roarke commenting, as he so often will during the series, on the glorious weather they’re experiencing; Tattoo retorts with a real mood-breaker: “Would you permit it to be any other way?” Once in a blue moon there’d be some hint at the idea that Roarke could control the weather, at least on his little piece of paradise. Whether by accident or design, anyway, the weather is welcoming, and Roarke and Tattoo are driven off in the jeep to meet this weekend’s guests. This early on, there is still no sign of the rovers that would come to symbolize transportation on the island; quite a few changes would be made to the show over the coming summer.

First to step off the plane is none other than honest-to-gosh royalty. Prince Peter of Anatolia — tall, handsome, rich, and about to be crowned his fictional country’s king — steps off the plane with his flawless, knee-melting smile. (This draws a real contrast between fiction and reality; there are precious few souls who would suggest that most real-life princes are truly handsome, though Prince William is an obvious exception. Fictional princes have stricter rules to follow than most fantasy characters: they absolutely have to be perfect in every way, because evidently, just being royal isn’t good enough.) Roarke recognizes the young man, and somehow you’re not surprised; Roarke strikes one as the type who has close friendships with all the major VIPs on the planet. As it happens, Roarke is impressed with the young king-to-be, since he hasn’t seen Peter since the prince was about Tattoo’s height. Tattoo, naturally, zeros in on the prince having a lot of money, to which Roarke complains, “Must your mind always work like a cash register?” Tattoo shrugs this off with remarkable aplomb. There are some serious oddities in the character that would seem to make him impossible to like: he’s obsessed with money and being rich; he ogles women in the most lecherous ways, and tries to attract them with the worst pickup lines ever; and he’s made to look dumber than a cement block. Yet there’s something about the guy that keeps you coming back for more of his antics.

Anyway…Prince Peter’s fantasy is to spend a weekend as a working stiff, to help him acquire what Roarke calls “the common touch” so that he can have a better rapport with the people he’s about to rule over. As Roarke quotes, “Every nobody would like to be a prince; every prince would like to be a nobody.” Blurts Tattoo excitedly, “Hemingway!” (Mother Goose actually, according to Roarke, but I digress.) Has he been boning up on the guy since having no idea who he was, back in the first pilot film; or is this just evidence of some writer with a Hemingway fixation?

The other guest is a grim-faced man by the name of John Burke, a New York City cop whose fantasy is to avenge the murder of his partner. Burke is convinced he knows who did it, and wants the chance to mete out punishment. Or as Roarke puts it, he wants to return to a time when justice was dispensed more simply…and he seems to relish the whole concept, judging by the tone in which he says this. Greetings and toasts, and cut to commercial.

Act I finds Roarke taking Burke along a dusty island trail (or more correctly, along a Columbia Ranch horse path…which is considerably less than tropical-looking, but much has to be sacrificed to financial concerns) till they reach an arid little valley wherein lies a small Old West town. Burke is a questioner: he wants to know how Roarke did it, and Roarke sidesteps this and other queries with that unique aplomb of his. Having failed in getting an answer to this question, Burke is nothing daunted; Roarke hands him a gun he says Wyatt Earp praised for its many years of good service, Burke quantifies, “According to legend, right?” …and of course, Roarke just smiles. The only thing Roarke will admit to is that this is their best-selling fantasy (the first of several, as will be revealed in future episodes). That’s almost a letdown in a strange way; it’s as if Fantasy Island were a factory, churning out bespoke dreams for the unwashed masses. Hmm… Anyway, when Roarke mentions the Larson brothers — Burke’s real reason for coming and the objects of the revenge he wants — that gets his guest’s attention. Roarke tells him it’s his town, his judge, his jury, his police. For a guy with revenge on his mind, that’s just too tempting; any seasoned viewer of the show will recognize that Roarke is doing this deliberately, so that his one-track-minded guest will be set up to learn a nice little moral lesson. And with that, we leave the town to Burke’s tender mercies for the moment.

We then come in on Roarke and Prince Peter just finishing up an elegant little repast, complete with champagne served by Tattoo. (Tattoo never seems to get to partake of the delicacies, especially the potent potables; he’s almost invariably reduced to the role of servant, which just doesn’t seem fair somehow.) Peter has no idea exactly what’s in store for him; he claims not to be afraid of hard work, but then balks when Roarke tells him to empty his pockets of all identification. As if he could pass himself off as a struggling commoner while flashing his royal ID all over town! Roarke points this out, and Peter concedes with good nature; Roarke then sends Tattoo for what he terms a “royal scepter” but in fact is a fisherman’s gaffe. When Peter remarks upon this, Roarke seems pleased enough to note that since he knows what it is, he at least won’t be starting from scratch.

Back to our nameless little western town, where Burke canters leisurely in on his horse, checking the place out. All the really interesting residents must hang out in the same place, as the camera pans across passersby in front of the Cattlemen’s Club three times! After this loving perusal of the club’s façade, Burke finally makes it over to the general store on the corner, hitches his horse and meanders inside, where he is immediately witness to an arrogant yahoo in cowboy attire blatantly, openly and smugly stealing from the storekeeper. All the cowboy has to do is make a move for his gun to intimidate everybody into letting him have his way; this outrages Burke, but when he protests he is told that another businessman in town was shot for trying to prevent the same guy’s thievery, leaving a wife and children. Burke, disgusted, chooses that moment to let it be known he’s the new marshal by pinning on the six-pointed metal star Roarke gave him earlier. Ah yes, Justice Has Arrived.

Back to Prince Peter, whom we now find mucking out nets on a small fishing trawler. You have to give him credit; he’s really trying hard, and in spite of being a little too handsome, he looks like a nobody trying to support himself. However, his boss — Captain Jamie — is too savvy and is already suspicious of his newest employee. He points out the fact that Peter isn’t the lifelong drudge he claims to be by calling attention to the blisters all over the incognito prince’s palms. However, Jamie’s a good guy and draws the conclusion that Peter’s in some kind of trouble and just needs a little help, which he offers, to Peter’s surprise.

Leaving Peter on that note, we return to the wild, wild west, where Marshal Burke strolls into the saloon, catches the swaggering yahoo boasting about his success with the hapless grocer a bit ago, and thereby manages to get himself arrested in front of an entire roomful of surprised denizens of the town. On their amazement — and that of a woman who will prove significant in Burke’s fantasy — we fade to black.

Act II finds Peter and Jamie carrying some nets off Jamie’s boat; Jamie solicitously checks Peter’s blisters and decides they’re nasty enough that the prince has earned himself a break before they make another foray out to sea. So there’s Peter, looking around him, and what does he see but a pretty blonde woman strolling down the long dock and leaning against the railing, scanning the marine horizon. He’s instantly intrigued and strikes up a dialogue with her; he gleans that her name is Chris and that she’s just waiting while her friend fixes the flat tire on his car. Peter is obviously working up to asking her out, but she’s saved by the car horn and runs off to join her friend, upon which Jamie wanders into view and says he’s seen Chris before, around the “fantasy resort hotel” as he calls it. Peter asks him how he gets there and Jamie tells him flat out that he doesn’t…but that’s not going to stop Peter.

Cut to late evening; at least, it’s after dark. Burke apparently has little else to do besides hang out in the saloon, but the woman who was there earlier spies him at a table and decides to join him for a drink. Before they can talk much, however, a couple of guys come in and belly up to the bar, and Burke immediately recognizes them as the much-hated Larson brothers, Ed and Tom. They must be notorious because Burke’s drinking companion knows who they are; and furthermore, Ed happens to glance around the saloon and sees Burke in the corner. He alerts his brother while Burke gets up and confronts them. Ed is worried, but Tom’s full of bravado and scoffs, “Let him…there’s two of us and one of him!” Ed probably has reason to worry, though; Burke makes it plain that he, as the law, is now in charge, and challenges the brothers to make their move. “To do what?” they want to know, and he says, “To die.” Well, at least he isn’t ambiguous. What he doesn’t see is his female companion’s disapproving expression.

Cut to a swank nightclub, presumably located in the aforementioned “fantasy resort hotel”, with dinner tables for two scattered around and in the back, a small band playing muted 70s disco under a glitter ball with a small crowd of boogiers on the dance floor. At one of the tables sits the beauteous Chris with her date, who is shortly called away by a waiter. They pass the undercover prince, who’s hiding in the lobby and sneaks into the club when everyone else’s back is turned. He makes a beeline for Chris and asks her for a date, which she promptly turns down before telling him to leave and adding for good measure that she didn’t blow all her savings on this trip to end up with a guy who works on a fishing boat. He can’t believe she really thinks that and almost tells her who he is; she sarcastically fills in the blank, suggesting that maybe he’s about to claim he’s the Shah of Iran. (Which speaks of a time before we thought much about the Middle East, caught up as we were in the Cold War with its pinko-commie paranoia and an ever-present worry about how close we were to blowing ourselves out of existence.) Again Peter almost tells her the truth, then checks himself to ask if it’s truly that important to her. She takes offense and tries to leave; Peter follows her with apologies and insists he’s a prince, at which she scoffs, “Oh, you must be the next King Neptune!” Just at that moment Peter spots Roarke and Tattoo in the lobby, and drags them over to prove his identity — only to have them pretend they’ve never seen him in their lives. Peter is bodily ejected from the nightclub and Roarke apologizes to Chris before departing; Tattoo lingers long enough to strike out with her before she storms out as well, leaving Tattoo to try to make his mark on the dance floor. Never say die, mon ami.

And so to Act III. Here we find Prince Peter pacing the floor in Roarke’s study at the main house; a moment later Roarke enters, and Peter instantly lights into him for pretending not to know him and making him suffer such humiliation. But Roarke is not one to be intimidated and refuses when Peter demands to end his fantasy. Peter wants what he wants, as he says, but Roarke is ruler of this realm and Peter is as subject to His Majesty’s whims as anyone else on the island. Peter says he’s worked hard, but Roarke tells him that’s just physical exertion; he’s never truly known the daily snubs and “constant assaults on their spirit” that Roarke says we commoners are so accustomed to putting up with. (Roarke casually elevates himself out of the ranks of these faceless drudges, one notes.) Still, it’s clear that Roarke has a particular empathy for the common man and woman, and gives Peter a beautiful little speech providing a little insight into the everyday life of the working stiff. Peter absorbs this, then admits to Roarke that in spite of having seen Chris just twice, he thinks he’s in love with her. Never has Cupid worked faster than on Fantasy Island. When Peter remarks on Chris’ aversion to his clothing and temporary occupation, Roarke reveals that she had to drop out of high school to help support her family after her father died, and she hasn’t had an easy life. Peter wants to tell Chris his real identity, but Roarke reminds him of the previous failure of that gambit and suggests he woo Chris on a less shallow basis. So Peter takes him seriously and sneaks into the hotel at sunrise to take Chris some flowers. (Number one: How did Peter find out which room was hers?) It takes him three tries to get her to open the door, but at last he does so, not that she’s thrilled about seeing him on the other side of it. (Number two: if it’s six in the morning as she says, then why is she dressed in evening clothes, decked out in fancy jewelry and fully coifed and made up? Did she stay up all night long?  Which leads to number three: if she’s hard up for money, where did she get the formal gowns and expensive baubles?  Maybe they were included in the fantasy, or she used some of her savings to buy them?) Peter is nothing daunted and begs her for dinner out till he wears her down and she agrees. She asks if he’ll then get out of her life after that, but he cheerfully ignores the question and says he’ll pick her up at eight.

Unlike Chris, Burke must have had a good night’s sleep, for he’s just stepping out the door of the marshal’s office looking ready for a hard day of bustin’ bad guys. A young boy, ten or so, obliges him by racing up to him and telling him that the Larson brothers have invaded the general store and beaten up the ever-more-hapless proprietor, and are laying waste to the place right that very minute. So Burke hurries down that way; turns out that the Larsons’ actions are deliberate, designed to draw Burke’s attention, so that perhaps they can lure him into a trap. Burke’s too smart for that (and anyway, it’s kind of a cliché to have the good guy fall into such a snare…it would be just too ridiculous for a tough, angry, streetwise Gotham City cop to fall victim to something so obvious, so the scriptwriter doesn’t even try). Burke comes in by the back door, tells the wounded storekeeper to make himself scarce, and then has a shootout with the Larsons once the poor guy’s scooted out the back door. Everybody’s the usual crappy shot till Tom gets cockier than usual and decides to leave by the front door like any regular customer. Of course, Burke takes him down with a shot in the upper arm, and Tom crashes to the wooden sidewalk, bringing the door along with him. Ed, desperate to escape, takes a flying leap through the window, and both brothers lurch to their feet and start fleeing. But Burke pops out back and around the corner and stops them both in the street; with Tom wounded and Ed much wimpier than his brother, they surrender with no further protest and Burke (who did in fact almost shoot them in cold blood, per his earlier promise) gets ready to take them in…only to be confronted by the ten-year-old kid who accuses him of welching out on his promise to end the Larsons’ lives. Clearly, word got around town about that confrontation in the saloon yesterday. Burke’s a bit torn, but he hauls the Larsons off to jail all the same, despite growing unrest on the street.

Act IV opens on the trawler, where Jamie watches Peter walk on deck in a somewhat ill-fitting three-piece suit he lent the prince for the occasion. He even goes so far as to give Peter some extra cash for his date; Peter is overwhelmed and wants to repay his new friend somehow, to which Jamie kids him that when he gets rich, he can buy Jamie a boat! Peter promptly agrees, and it’s off to take his reluctant lady love out to dinner.

Back in Lawless Corners, Our Lady of the Saloon arrives at the marshal’s office toting a plate of stew for Burke, who’s properly grateful and starts eating while the Larsons and the braggart cowboy are languishing in their jail cells. (Good to see that the original crook didn’t just vanish into nonexistence, as sometimes happens with such minor characters.) She informs him that the townspeople are setting up a kangaroo court and intend to hang the three prisoners themselves. Burke asks her why he should stop them, and she tells him for the same reason he didn’t shoot the Larsons in the street earlier. They have rights, she says, and Burke gets angry: what about the rights of their victims? Of his partner and the family the partner left behind? Their argument escalates till she rips the star off his vest and hurls it to the floor, saying that that’s where it belongs because that’s what he’s made of it. On that note, she leaves, and for the first time Burke starts to have an attack of conscience.

We then join Peter and Chris sitting at one of those little two-seater tables, each with a glass of wine; all the pleasantries must have been exchanged while we were watching Burke and his lady fight it out, for already these two have started delving into Chris’ hangup about money. She knows it’s not an attractive trait in her, but she’s determined not to have to go without; as she tells Peter, “When you haven’t got it, it’s the only thing.” He remarks that he feels sorry for her; she responds that she’s sorry for them both before making her escape.

But there’s exciting stuff going on in Lawless Corners. It’s dark out now, and the requisite lynch mob is gathering, complete with fiery torches, in the town’s main street. They seem pretty orderly, amassing in front of the marshal’s office; the storekeeper who’s been the main victim of our trio of outlaws acts as spokesman and demands that Burke hand over the prisoners. And in spite of what seemed like second thoughts before, Burke looks ready to do it. The jailbirds pick the same fight that Saloon Lady did about their rights, and get the same speech from Burke about their victims’ rights, upon which Ed Larson plaintively reiterates that he and Tom didn’t kill Burke’s partner. Outside the mob starts getting impatient, and the cowboy-hatted thief tells Burke he owes them, which Burke naturally denies. The mob grows more impatient. Burke seems lost in thought; he spies the star still lying on the floor, picks it up and slowly dons it, and then decides to take the high road, informing the disappointed townspeople that there’ll be no hanging tonight. They claim he can’t stop them, but he calmly contradicts that he can and he will. Gently he advises them that the law must be properly upheld and that the prisoners will be facing trial, and they should all go on home for the night. Somewhat surprisingly, the crowd disperses…and slowly Saloon Lady emerges from the background where she’s been listening, crossing the street with a big smile. She and Burke strike up another conversation and he finally learns that she comes from Cleveland and her name is Julie (the first of a number of Julies who will parade across the island in seasons to come). As soon as Burke and Julie close themselves inside the marshal’s office, Roarke and Tattoo emerge from the shadows, commenting on the happy ending. Roarke asks how Tattoo would like to live in the old west; Tattoo finds it passé, commenting that “nothing exciting ever happens here”! They mosey along the dark, deserted street, pretending to have a little showdown and laughing their way home.

The tag opens at the plane dock as always; Burke and Julie arrive first, and Burke admits that he’s learned quite a lesson about how hard it is to wear every one of the many assorted hats in the business of upholding the law. At which point Roarke pulls out a cablegram (how quaint!) announcing that the real murderer of Burke’s partner has been found and arrested: the Larsons were actually telling the truth about their innocence in that crime. When Julie wants to know who’ll be the law in that little old-west town now, Roarke observes that the person in question is probably on the incoming charter; after all, it’s their best-selling fantasy! On this note Burke and Julie depart, though she doesn’t get away without Tattoo kissing her hand and getting a stern look of exasperation from Roarke for his old-world pains.

Prince Peter is back to his rich, impeccable, royal self once more, and while he’s a bit let down that he’s leaving alone, he feels he can’t ask for more than having learned what he came here for. When he says he’s had to give up on Chris, Roarke need only look to one side and there she is, smiling in Peter’s direction. It turns out she was awake all night mulling over their dinner conversation, and now she wants to try, despite her misgivings about his lack of money. As she puts it, “I hate fish…but I love the fisherman!” Roarke injects then that the plane is leaving, and oh, by the way, he wants to pass on Captain Jamie’s thanks for the new fishing trawler Peter bought him. Having caught Peter out and bewildered Chris, Roarke tells the prince to explain it on their flight, calling after them that he and Tattoo expect an invitation to the wedding! Tattoo, watching them leave, wonders if they’ll be happy, and Roarke observes, “Princess Grace is.” This gets a blank “Who is Princess Grace?” from Tattoo; Roarke tells him, only to have Tattoo respond even more blankly, “What’s Monaco?” Really? This was supposed to be funny? Unfortunately it merely has the effect of making you shake your head and roll your eyes and wonder how anyone could be that clueless. One fully understands Villechaize’s complaints about the stupidity of his character in light of this kind of stuff.

But it’s a happy ending, and in fact this episode, while it had its share of howlers, is pretty strong on continuity and makes the characters redeemable, even the Larson brothers (well, almost). It stands up pretty well against other first-season episodes as well as those from future seasons.

  1. Kim-:
    You write so well that you should have been writing for”Fantasy Island!” I really enjoyed your review.

  2. Kim-:
    You write so well but you should have been writing for “Fantasy Island!” Love,

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