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.

Would the real shark please stand up?

Maxwell Smart takes to the pool table in "The Dead Spy Scrawls." Squint and you can see Mr. Spock over his shoulder.

Maxwell Smart takes to the pool table in “The Dead Spy Scrawls.” Squint and you can see Mr. Spock over his shoulder.

Episode 18
The Dead Spy Scrawls (original air date: 1-22-66)
Cast:  Shark – Jack Lambert, Stryker – Leonard Nimoy, Professor Parker – Milton Selzer, Informer – Don Brodie, Willie Marconi – Harry Bartell, Vendor – Roy Engel, Agent 46 – Clive Wayne, woman in bus terminal – Rose Michtom, pool parlor groupie/bus terminal guy – Robert Karvelas, man at pool parlor – Hans Moebus
Director:  Gary Nelson
Writers: Stan Burns and Mike Marmer
Producer:  Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis: Max and 99 are tasked with finding an “Electronic Brain” Kaos is using to intercept Control’s secret messages. The device is operated by The Shark, expert pool player and proprietor of Mother’s Family Pool Hall.

The one moment we see Leonard Nimoy in the same frame as Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.

The one moment we see Leonard Nimoy in the same frame as Don Adams and Barbara Feldon.

My thoughts:
The Dead Spy Scrawls is a “what’s not to love” episode.

This is the episode where Leonard Nimoy has a part as a Kaos agent. That’s about all you need to know. Well, actually there’s more to it than that. We’ll get to Nimoy in a bit. Something more important must be discussed first.

The crux of this episode is pool — a plot device many a TV show finds itself revolving

Leonard Nimoy as a Kaos assassin? This seems illogical.

Leonard Nimoy as a Kaos assassin? This seems illogical.

around. Given this is Get Smart, we would certainly expect our star character, the all-thumbs Maxwell Smart, to be a disaster at this game — and he is. He destroys pool cues, tears the felt on the pool table and injures his instructor. It’s painful to watch – especially if you’ve ever had to re-felt a pool table.

Here’s the catch, Don Adams was actually an expert pool player. This is evident in Max’s pool game with the Shark. Be sure to look for the trick shot Adams makes at the end before the table opens to reveal the electronic brain. The scene also gives a nice homage to Adams with the “Three Fingers Yarmy” reference. Adams would go on to make a guest appearance on Celebrity Billiards with Minnesota Fats.

Now back to Leonard Nimoy. He makes a not-exactly-pre-Spock appearance as Stryker, an assassin that eliminates his targets with a bullet-firing briefcase. He’s in a handful of scenes in this episode, but other than killing Agent 46, whacking the informer, shooting at Max and being berated by the Shark, that’s about all we get. There’s one scene in the whole episode where we get to see Adams, Feldon and Nimoy in the same frame. While Star Trek wouldn’t air until the fall of 1966, Nimoy had already donned his Vulcan ears for The Cage — the first Star Trek pilot which was filmed in late 1964 and early 1965.

Agent 46's dying declaration.

Agent 46’s dying declaration.

The episode opens with Max and 99 seeking out Agent 46 in a bus station – they need to provide him with $2,000. He initially communicates via the silent signal system. Max confuses the signals for ones in the spy baseball handbook. By the time they determine that 46 is signaling a blue alert (extreme emergency condition) he ends up shot by Stryker. He then leaves his dying declaration scrawled in wet cement.

Stryker returns to the Shark’s Kaos front – Mother’s Family Pool Hall. Its marketing phrase is “The family that plays together, stays together.” After being chastised for interrupting the Shark’s game, Stryker proceeds to report that he eliminated 46 and plans to do the same to 86. The two then intercept a message from Control using Kaos’ electronic brain. The device is neatly tucked inside the Shark’s pool table and can only be opened when the proper sequence of balls land in the correct pockets.

Back at Control, Parker explains 46’s markings in cement are code from The Dead Spy Scrawls, a message system used by dying Control agents. The scrawl in question translates to PI for “Paid Informer” as well as a Washington, D.C. phone number, which Max traces back to to the informer 46 was supposed to meet. The Informer agrees to sell his information to the tune of $2,000.

Max, who is being tailed by Stryker, treks back to the bus station where he confuses a vendor for his contact and ends up with a $500 pack of gum. The informer then makes his presence known – only to be shot by Stryker. Max is at least able to get three words from the informer before he dies: Shark, pool, mother. The Chief connects the dots that the Shark is their man.

Max manages to convince the Chief to let him infiltrate the pool parlor. The Chief reluctantly agrees, but lines up pool lessons with pool expert Willie Marconi. This does not turn out well — especially for Marconi. As for Max’s buffoonery, well, at least that’s on point.

All hope for the mission, however, is not lost. Just before the Chief can pinch the bridge

The Dead Spy Scrawls - decoded.

The Dead Spy Scrawls – decoded.

of his nose in frustration, Parker and 99 arrive to save the day. Max is outfitted with a Pool Cue Gun and a Remote Control Cue Ball. 99 gets to operate a Lipstick Remote that controls the cue ball.

The episode buttons up exactly how we’d expect. Decked out in a flashy jacket Max, with 99 posing as his girlfriend, show up at the pool hall and challenges the Shark to a game — little do they know Kaos is about to intercept a Control message so the Shark has to be goaded into playing. The scene shows some absurd shots as well as a few legitimate ones. The Shark is none too happy that Max’s trick shot (or should I say Don’s) opens the up the electronic brain. A fight ensues. Stryker ends up shot and the Shark gets a knot on his head.

By the way, Max would still like that $13,000 he’s owed from the pool game.

Watch for:
• Aunt Rose appears in the bus terminal.
• Robert Karvelas is noticeable as one of the Shark’s pool groupies. He also shows up in the bus terminal, but you may have do a double take and squint to catch him.

The Shark accesses the Electronic Brain. Kaos went to a lot of effort to hack Control.

The Shark accesses the Electronic Brain. Kaos went to a lot of effort to hack Control.

Footnotes:
• The episode’s title refers to the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of manuscripts discovered in 1946-47, 1956 and 2017 in the Qumran Caves near the Dead Sea.

• Three Fingers Yarmy, who Max mentions, is a nod to Don Adams’ real last name. Yarmy is also mentioned in the third season episode “Don’t Look Back” and, if you count it as Smart-lore, the name is one of the Easter eggs in the 2008 feature film.

• The character Willie Marconi is a nod to professional pool player Willie Mosconi, who, between 1941 and 1957, won the World Straight Pool Championship 15 times.

• Jack Lambert appeared in a load of westerns, usually playing a tough guy – most notably as compulsive killer Steve “The Claw” Michel in the film Dick Tracy’s Dilemma. He appeared in multiple episodes of Gunsmoke, Daniel Boone and Wagon Train

• Leonard Nimoy is best known as Star Trek’s Mr. Spock and as Paris in Mission: Impossible. Post Star Trek TOS, Nimoy hosted In Search Of. He would later go on to host other similar shows – Ancient Mysteries and History’s Mysteries. He had a reoccurring role as Dr. William Bell in the TV series Fringe. Nimoy has quite the TV résumé pre-Star Trek, having appeared in Dragnet, Sea Hunt, Wagon Train, The Virginian and Gunsmoke. He also appeared in a 1964 episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., “The Project Strigas Affair” with future Star Trek co-star William Shatner.

• Don Brodie also appeared in the first season episode “The Day Smart Turned

Be careful not to confuse the Silent Signal System for the hand gestures in the Control Baseball Handbook.

Be careful not to confuse the Silent Signal System for the hand gestures in the Control Baseball Handbook.

Chicken.” His character rented Max that creepy chicken suit. He began appearing in movies starting in the 1930s and his TV series appearances ranged from the 1950s to the 1980s.

• In addition to a career as a character actor, Harry Bartell was also a radio announcer. He made TV appearances in Gunsmoke, The Wild Wild West, Dragnet and The Partners. He also appeared in the second season episode “Cutback at Control” as Dietrich.

• Roy Engel had a reoccurring role in The Wild Wild West as President Ulysses S. Grant. He appeared in numerous TV shows including Maverick, Have Gun – Will Travel, My Favorite Martian, The Andy Griffith Show, Lassie, Bonanza and Mission: Impossible.

• Both Get Smart appearances by Hans Moebus, as with a lot of the parts he had, are uncredited. In “The Dead Spy Scrawls” he’s seen in Mother’s Family Pool Hall. He also appears in “Back to the Old Drawing Board.” He can also be seen in Bonanza Gunsmoke, Ironside, Bewitched, Mission: Impossible and Batman. He is known for Psycho, Gone with the Wind and North by Northwest.

Glick meter: We get an “And Loving it” as well as a “Would You Believe” which references Steubenville, Ohio. Poor Max is kind of a disaster in this episode.

Oh Max meter: There really isn’t any flirting going on between 99 and 86. Sorry about that.

Control Agents: Agent 46, Professor Parker

Kaos Agents: Shark, Stryker

Gadgets: Remote Control Cue Ball, Lipstick Remote, Pool Cue Gun, Micro Camera, gun briefcase, Electronic Brain (hidden in a pool table).

Episode Locations: Mother’s Family Pool Hall, bus terminal.

The old trick shot in the 60s TV sitcom trick.

The old trick shot in the 60s TV sitcom trick.