Back to the Old Drawing Board: A Case of Man Versus Machine

Prepared for anything: Hymie shows his works.

Prepared for everything: Hymie the Robot shows his works.

Episode 19
Back to the Old Drawing Board (original air date: 1-29-66)

Cast: Hymie – Dick Gautier; Dr. Shotwire – Patrick O’Moore; Natz – Ted de Corsia; Dr. Ratton – Jim Boles; Agent 44 – Victor French; Agent 91 – Bruce Gibson; Waiter at party – William H. O’Brien; Party guests – Jack Berle, Dick Cherney, Rose Michtom, Hans Moebus, Hal Taggart

Director: Bruce Bilson

Writers: Gary Clarke (C.F. L’Amoreaux)

Producer: Jay Sandrich

Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis: Kaos wants to kidnap Dr. Shotwire so they can sell his plans for a craft that can explore the surface of the moon to the highest bidder. Renowned scientist Dr. Ratton sells out to Kaos and offers to hand over both Shotwire and Agent 86 within 24 hours via his all-powerful robot Hymie.

Max takes Hymie under his wing. Meanwhile, Hymie takes Max's gun.

Max takes Hymie under his wing. Meanwhile, Hymie takes Max’s gun.

My thoughts: It’s time to get back into talking about episodes. “Back to the Old Drawing Board” is another “what’s not to love” episode. This serves as the introduction of Hymie the Robot, who became popular enough to appear in a total of six episodes and the 1989 reunion movie, “Get Smart, Again!”

The episode begins with accomplished evil genius Dr. Ratton being approached by Natz, a Kaos agent with a heavy grudge against Maxwell Smart. Natz is hoping to nab a nuclear physicist and settle his score with Agent 86 in one swoop.

Ratton, who went to Kaos because the good guys didn’t pay well, offers Natz his mechanical man Hymie. Ratton, by the way, named the robot after his father. Don’t criticize. Ratton made him and he can call him what he wants.

Hymie displays his strength by decking an 800 pound gorilla. Much like quicksand, television has led us to believe that 6-foot-tall gorillas would be a much bigger threat than what they are. Hymie also gets shot by Ratton and provides a ballistics analysis.

His other features include an IQ of more than 200 and the manual dexterity to take apart any missile system in the world. Hymie is also a pretty fine piece of equipment in terms of aesthetics and design. The only thing he cannot do is set up a lawn chair. Like any electronic device, Hymie has a few glitches in his system – specifically he takes everything literally. When told to “kill the lights” he shoots the light bulbs out.

The price tag for this handsome display of technology is $1 million. Frankly, if Ratton was so concerned with money, he could have bypassed Kaos and gotten ahead by mass producing a series of Hymies. This would be a far superior product than talking refrigerators and virtual assistants.

Max has been guarding Shotwire day and night and has successfully made himself a nuisance. As an added bonus, he destroys Shotwire’s model of the moon craft and sets the scientist’s work back six months. We can assume Max probably isn’t going to be on the man’s Christmas card list after this mission.

By some miracle, though, Max is kept on the case and is assigned to work with newby Agent 91. Before Max can meet up with 91, Hymie takes the rookie agent’s place by force. Agent 91 would later be found explaining himself in the Chief’s office. Talk about a bad first day on the job.

Duped, ever-helpful Max decides to take Hymie under his wing. Along with Agent 99,

Dr. Ratton's remote control over Hymie suffers critical failure after the robot imbibes in an adult beverage.

Dr. Ratton’s remote control over Hymie suffers critical failure after the robot imbibes in an adult beverage.

they proceed to go to a fancy dress party held in Shotwire’s honor. In the process, Hymie pickpockets Max’s gun and crushes it. He also manages to cut Max off from contact with Control by destroying his watch communicator and taking Agent 44 out of commission.

The party opens the door to the funnier bits in the episode. The first involves Max’s meeting with Agent 44 who is hiding in a clock. As usual, 44 has a meltdown. His grievances include not being given updated countersigns, repeated assignments in tight spaces and not being able to wear his tux. It’s worth noting that between mentoring Hymie and reassuring Agent 44, Max excels at playing the older brother in this episode.

The episode moves on to Max and Hymie’s “Do exactly as I do” pantomime. In order to remain inconspicuous, Max suggests that Hymie should follow his lead. Hymie duplicates Max’s moves to the letter. The only liberty he takes is to check out a woman that walks by them.

The mimicry draws the attention Max was trying to avoid, so he shifts gears and offers Hymie a glass of bubbly. Hymie succumbs to peer pressure and Ratton looses control over the robot. Ratton’s concern is that Hymie could end up killing everyone in the room. However, a half dozen drinks later, Hymie becomes the chatty, “I love you guys” type of drunk and ends up telling Shotwire his life story. Displeased with his new charge’s behavior, Max ushers Hymie into a closet to scold him.

Max: I think you’ve got the makings of a first rate agent, but only if you obey orders. Now, you were told to stay away from Shotwire, weren’t you?
Hymie: *Hiccups*
Max: Hymie, you’re drunk! Listen Hymie, you’re a nice guy, but you’ve got to learn to hold your liquor. So no more drinking, agreed?
Hymie: *Kisses Max on the cheek*
Max: Just say yes or no, Hymie.
Hymie: Yes or no Hymie.

Frustrated that they haven’t located the Kaos agent that infiltrated the party, Max and 99 decide to vacate with Shotwire in tow. The only problem is that Shotwire just wants Max to go away. Hymie, who is on a first name basis with the scientist (we learn Shotwire’s name is Alonzo), intervenes by revealing he is a robot. Max’s reward for congratulating Hymie on his initiative is a solid punch in the mouth.

Hymie hauls Max, 99 and Shotwire back to Ratton’s lair where Natz decides to have his showdown. Hymie is ordered to destroy Max. Before he can pull the trigger, Max attempts to empathize with the robot. Hymie reacts by crying and eventually shooting Ratton and incapacitating Natz. Apparently evil Dr. Ratton somehow programmed the robot with sentiment.

Hymie: You were the first one who ever treated me like I was a real person. I just couldn’t destroy you.
Max: Of course you couldn’t – and I knew you couldn’t. After all, Hymie, I’m no dummy. What I mean, Hymie, is I’m a good judge of monsters.

At the close of the episode Hymie expresses reluctance when Max asks him to join Control. He states that he just doesn’t like violence.

Hymie: I’d like to work for IBM.
The Chief: Because of your scientific curiosity?
Hymie: It’s a nice way to meet some intelligent machines.

Max helps Agent 44 cope with worker isolation.

Max helps Agent 44 cope with worker isolation.

Watch for:

• Aunt Rose does quite a bit of mingling at the party.

• The closet scene. It’s a pity there are no bloopers from this episode because that would have been a beautiful thing. Dick Gautier in previous writings indicated that the scene took upward of 20 takes because he and Don Adams could not stop laughing.

• One goof that’s always bothersome is how Ratton and Natz monitor Hymie from the built-in camera. Instead of seeing things from Hymie’s point of view, we see Hymie on the monitor as well as Max and 99.

Footnotes:

• King Moody, who would later nab the role of Siegfried’s minion Shtarker, also auditioned for the role of Hymie.

• Comedian and singer Dick Gautier was best known for his role as Hymie the Robot, but also made a number of notable appearances in TV series such as The Patty Duke Show, Bewitched, Wonder Woman and Love, American Style to name a few. While appearing in Get Smart, Gautier had a supporting role in the short-lived series Mr. Terrific. He was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Conrad Birdie in the original Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie. He is better known to 80s and 90s kids for his voice over work on various cartoons including as Rodimus Prime in The Transformers and Serpentor in G.I. Joe. An artist, Gautier also wrote a handful of instructional books on drawing caricatures.

• Actor Gary Clarke wrote this episode under C.F. L’Amoreaux, a reformatting of his given name. He wrote a total of six episodes under that name, including five that featured Hymie. Clarke had a regular role in The Virginian and appeared in other TV westerns.

• Patrick O’Moore’s work goes back to 1934. His bevy of credits include repeated appearances on Death Valley Days (which Ronald Reagan hosted 52 episodes of), Rawhide, Cavalcade of America and Fireside Theatre, as well as roles in a few Humphrey Bogart movies.

• Ted de Corsia was known for playing villains and had made repeated appearances in Daniel Boone, The New Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Wild Wild West, Perry Mason, The Outer Limits, Rawhide and Maverick to name a few. His first role was as Sidney Broome in The Lady From Shanghai. He appears again in Get Smart as Kaos agent Spinoza in the season three episode, “When Good Fellows Get Together.” The character is basically the same as Natz, but for some reason was given a different name.

• The most notable role for Jim Boles was probably as Billy Ray Fox in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, which starred Don Knotts. He also appeared as Easy Archie in the Apple Dumpling Gang, as well as in numerous TV shows from the 1950s through the 1970s. He returned to Get Smart as Dr. Ratton in the season three episode, “When Good Fellows Get Together.”

• Jack Berle did a lot of uncredited work. He’s turned up in the likes of Columbo, Kojak, McMillan & Wife, Here’s Lucy, Bonanza, Mission Impossible and the Dick Van Dyke Show. He makes another Get Smart appearance later in season one in “Stakeout on Blue Mist Mountain.”

• Dick Cherney’s resume included a load of uncredited roles dating all the way back to the 1930s. He has a handful in Get Smart where he also appears in “The Last One is a Rotten Spy” (season one), “Cutback at Control” (season two), “Smart Fit the Battle of Jericho” (season two) and “A Man Called Smart: Part 1” (season two).

• Another uncredited actor William H. O’Brien was an extra in Mission Impossible, Bonanza, Perry Mason, The Untouchables, Rawhide and Peter Gunn. He makes a second appearance in the season two Get Smart episode, “The Expendable Agent” as a scientist.

• Hal Taggart had a career of playing extras all the way back into the 1930s. He repeatedly appeared on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Batman, Perry Mason, The Lucy Show and Maverick.

Glick meter: Max offers a very grating pronunciation of Natz’s name.

Oh Max meter: 99 reserves her pleasant demeanor for Shotwire. It was in the line of duty.

Control Agents: Agent 27 (referenced, not seen), Agent 44, Agent 91. Does Hymie count since he transferred to Control?

Kaos Agents: Natz, Dr. Ratton. Does Hymie count since he was working for Kaos?

Gadgets: The Watch Communicator. Does Hymie count since he’s really a piece of machinery?

Episode Locations: Dr. Ratton’s lair, Control’s garage office and an unnamed swanky party venue.

Remaining inconspicuous: Hymie takes being Max's protégé to a new level.

Remaining inconspicuous: Hymie takes being Max’s protégé to a new level.

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