In 1977, when other kids were discovering The Sex Pistols, I was discovering The Love Boat. I stayed at my grandparents’ house on most weekends, so on Saturday nights at 8 p.m., I’d settle down on the sofa with the two of them to watch Aaron Spelling’s marine masterpiece. This column is my attempt to reclaim the wonder of those weekends.
Pacific Princess Overtures / Gopher, The Rebel / Cabin Fever
And so we come to the end of The Love Boat’s maiden voyage, I mean, first season. Through the last 25 episodes, we’ve seen Gopher and Captain Stubing butt heads an awful lot. There have even been a few instances of Gopher quitting his job as Yeoman Purser, only to return almost immediately.
This episode features more of the same. Gopher is so bummed out by Stubing’s constant nagging, that he bets, Julie, Doc, and Isaac $50 each that the Captain will chew him out no fewer than 20 times on the cruise upon which they’re about to embark. As the episode progresses, it looks like Gopher’s going to be $150 richer before too long.
Then, he meets Vanessa Summerhill (Eve Plumb, The Brady Bunch) and falls in love. She’s something of a budding Communist, asking him if they have any Lenin in the gift shop and complaining to her father, the wealthy business tycoon Slade Summerhill, that the cruise is “so bourgeois.” She introduces Gopher to the concept of personhood, which is a very Communist-inspired school of thought regarding equality. No leaders! No followers! All persons are equal!
Mr. Summerhill seeks out Stubing’s assistance in preventing Vanessa and Gopher from spending time together. “I don’t want my daughter to throw herself away on a Gopher.” Stubing declines because he doesn’t interfere in his crew’s personal lives (should they really be getting romantically involved with passengers, though?) but when Summerhill pleads to him “as a father” Stubing tries to break it up.
The pair sneak in a few make out sessions and heart to heart talks, though, at least enough to inspire “Gopher, The Rebel” to stand up to Captain Stubing because he’s a “person.” It doesn’t go over well, particularly when Gopher (who insists on being called “Berle Smith”) gets fired and is so worked up about his newly acquired balls that he doesn’t actually realize he’s been fired until he’s telling Vanessa the “good” news.
The whole crew, plus Vanessa, marches into Stubing’s office, who responds with the extremely inappropriate question, “What is this, a lynch mob?” Yeesh. Following Vanessa’s idea of “one person, one vote” (at least for the time being) they all agree to give Gopher his job back. We do get to see Gopher in a powder blue three piece suit before the end. (And yes, he wins the bet.)
Lorraine is seeing her husband Lee off at the dock. He’s going on the cruise as a business trip and one gets the feeling that their marriage isn’t smooth sailing. They never have enough time to talk, something he vows to change upon his return.
After Leo departs, a loud woman named Cora Bass (Kaye Ballard, who could easily play Joanne Worley’s sister) recognizes Lorraine. When she finds out Leo is sailing solo, she’s convinced he’s cheating on his wife and vows to keep an eye on him. Too bad she can’t keep any upon the roving eyes of her husband Herman, who manages to ogle and flirt with fellow female passengers constantly.
Guess what? Cora is right! Leo enters his cabin to find a woman there. At first, it seems like she isn’t supposed to be there, but it turns out she’s his side piece Andrea. She’s thrilled that they’ll finally get to spend some romantic time together that’s not in a hotel room.
But things don’t quite work out that way. When Lee and Andrea are having cocktails the next day, Cora shows up and offers to take Lee on a sightseeing tour around the ship. Andrea is not happy; she’s beginning to get “Cabin Fever.” She’s less happy when Cora shows up at the cabin that afternoon, ready to accompany Lee to dinner. After another day of her dreams of a vacation with Lee being dashed, Andrea has had enough and Lee vows to show her off in public, Cora be damned. Again, it doesn’t quite work out that way and she confronts him about being nothing more than “the spice” in his life, convincing him to try and reconcile with Lorraine. The next day, he does just that and Lorraine, who has known about the affair the whole time, agrees.
Sisters Ruth and Eve are on the cruise for very different reasons. Eve is a widow who has taken over the management of her husband’s electronics company while Ruth is a divorcee who is hot to trot for Doc. Unbeknownst to Ruth, a certain Japanese industrialist named Mr. Yamashiro, who you may recognize as Japanese character actor mainstay Pat Morita. Bad Asian stereotypes abound in both his obviously fake accent and clichéd poor grammar; it’s painful to witness.
His assistant, Ken Davis, portrayed by Gary Collins (TV stalwart and Miss America pageant host) tries to help Yamashiro with the reason he’s even on the cruise: convincing Ruth to sell her company. She is annoyed that he’s there and refuses to sell. More than once. Even after she gets friendly with Ken. Especially after she gets friendly with Ken… mostly because she thinks it’s all a ploy to get her to sell the company.
In the midst of all this, however, Ken shows her his new invention, the one Yamashiro continues to ignore. It’s a voice to text typewriter that impresses her quite a bit. Finally, in desperation, Ken reveals that he’s going to be fired if she doesn’t sell. She accuses him of manipulating her again! Sigh. Ruth, will you ever learn? When she discovers that Yamashiro really has fired Ken, she has a change of heart. They confess their love to each other and she tells him she wants to help him finance his marketing plan for the typewriter!
It Floats Back To You is on hiatus until the Spring, when I’ll be recapping Season Two. Until then, remember to let it flow, because it always floats back to you.
Fun Fact: Does the character Lee look familiar? That’s because he’s played by Antonio Fargas, who portrayed Huggy Bear on Starsky & Hutch.