“At Cross Purposes”

4 September 1998
[Gertie and Tom prefer their own clothes, thank you very much.] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Howard Meltzer.
MAIN - Season Four: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13

A silhouette appears on the WENN door that looks like Hilary. The door opens but the person covers their face with a script and then saunters towards Studio A. Too tall to be Hilary, it's...Jeff!

In the studio, Rance Shiloh is airing. An old-timey western piano sound along with crowd noise emanates from the record player (as Eugenia mimics moving her fingers over the piano keys. Perhaps to feel she's contributing.)

Mr. Foley has one of his best scenes yet. Mr. Foley has a highly polished, long strip of wood with which he plans to slide the beer mug as if he was at a bar. Supposedly he sets it off with just enough speed to allow him to race to the other end in time to catch it. He has a mic set up about a foot into the strip to catch the sound of the receding mug of beer. He sets it off (at what would actually be too high a speed). Then we see it going down a strip of the bar. Then we see it passing under the microphone he had set up. Then we see a nice overhead shot. This is followed by a shot that tracks the coasting container in its journey (which also manages to pass a completely new microphone that materialized from thin air in the last few seconds since we saw Hilary walking past the set up). Finally, we see Foley, already in place, catching the glass at the other side.

Despite the myriad of inconsistencies and physical impossibilities I've noted, I enjoyed this sequence. Then Mr. Foley performs great physical comedy as he falls backwards over the "bar." (Perhaps a penalty for trying to fool Mother Nature. :) I assume that when they cut to a longer shot that it was a stuntman we saw. That looked like a pretty dangerous stunt and we wouldn't want Tom Beckett to injure himself.

Outside, Jeff explains why he's dressed in frilly gear: he's acting in Charley's Aunt, one of the most popular farces in the English language. Written in 1892 by Brandon Thomas, Jeff's character, who has been practicing amateur theatricals, is pressed into service by Jack Chesney and Charley Wykeham to take the place of Charley's aunt, Dona Lucia d'Alvadores, as a chaperon while Jack and Charley ask Amy Spettigue and Kitty Verdun to marry them.

Jeff offers thanks that no one can see him on the air as he plays Rance Shiloh. Hilary is used to leaving others to improvise while she's out doing other things. Since Jeff is late getting back from the play, Hilary has been the one to fill air time with Foley and Eugenia. So when Rance Shiloh walks in a dress, Hilary makes certain that the radio audience can "see" him in a dress.

According to a message on the newsgroup, Kevin O'Rourke has said that the early scene with the muffler went on longer. Not only was the muffler explained, but the date of December 7 was revealed. This scene was cut.

It could be that it was cut to meet the new time guidelines Remember WENN operates under. But I suspect it was more of a creative decision. With the date revealed at the beginning of the episode, the audience would watch the episode knowing something our characters did not: that their world would soon be turned upside down. Tension could be built in the audience because they knew the bad news facing the character and the the characters did not.

Another choice would be to slam the audience with the bad news at the same time. The audience could be laughing at the silly put-ons the crew were doing and then sighing with relief that perhaps Jeff and Hilary could be as one once more (and that Scott and/or Maple wouldn't have to head off to California for a court date). Then, SLAM!, the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. Keep in mind that, although the cognoscenti on the internet have been well aware that Pearl Harbor would inevitably arrive, the average WENN viewer at home may not have paid much attention to the dates that have surfaced from time to time on the show. So I suspect Rupert went with the decision to spring the news on the viewer as the same time as the audience so as to bring them from amused to relieved to anxious.

The 25-Years-Later Update . . .

The extended version of the scene with the muffler established the time so that viewers knew it was December, 1941, but specifically not the 7th. That would come, as Kevin said, "in the end."

I have been provided new details by the Great Bird of the Airwaves (a nod to Gene Roddenberry's "Great Bird of the Galaxy" moniker):

In the script for 'At Cross Purposes' I started with a shot of a daily calendar on the WENN wall, which read December 5.

I then made sure the audience knew it was a Sunday. (Sunday professional football, religious music, etc.) Some of the historians in the audience who were keeping track of what year it was might have begun to suspect there is 'something wrong with this picture.'

Later, just as Betty is reading the news bulletin off the ticker, I scripted that we cut to Gertie saying to Mr. Eldridge, 'Tom ... you forgot to rip off the calendar page from two days ago.' And then she tore off the 5, and the 6, revealing it is actually Dec. 7. Cut to Betty running into the room (in her newsboy costume, which was intentionally scripted because, unknown to Betty, she had some big-BIG news to report to her friends).

I was playing a slight-of-hand game with the audience. For those waiting for Pearl Harbor, if they didn't remember that happened on a Sunday, the Dec. 5 might lull them into a false sense of security. 'Unless two more days go by, it's not going to happen in this real-time episode.'

Sure enough, the prop was made and ensconced on the hallway wall. Perhaps the opening shot of the calendar was filmed and then trimmed from the beginning of the episode. In reviewing the episode, now that I knew to look for it, I found it in the background of a couple of scenes! Early in the episode the "5" can easily be made out. Again, later in the episode, it's clear again.

Scott walks in with an automobile muffler that isn't acknowledged. I like that. It lends an air of mystery.

When Scott learns that Victor had to stay in Washington, he thinks this increases his chances of taking Betty to the movies in Victor's stead that night. Perhaps this indicates that since "Past Tense, Future Imperfect" this has been happening.

Scott enter the writers room, badly shaken. Maple thinks there are only three things that could shake up Scott so badly. One would be Betty liking Victor more than himself. Two would be someone giving him tickets to the ballet. (Perhaps referring to some specific incident?) The other would be...Cribby Menlo! Aieeeeee!

Cribby is a process server from the West Coast of Scott and Mape's acquaintance. Apparently, the duo fear he's still after them in regards to an H2O Gasoline scam where Sperry and McGurk set up Scott as the fall guy. Scott thought the water gasoline was legitimate. (Kudos to Michael Waters for spotting Sperry and McGurk as the name of the thugs from Road to Utopia, a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby vehicle from 1945.) Mr. Menlo can pass a subpoena faster than Jesse Owens can pass a baton in the 400 meter relay. (Rodney wonders if "Jesse Owens" is the answer to the sweepstakes for this week. Oh, wait, that's over. Wonder what ever happened with that?)

WENN has received a large amount of clothing for an overseas relief drive and they're stored in the writer's room. This gives Maple an idea.

Doug Thompson has called the station with information for Jeff and Hilary. Pavla has been found! But now she wants to countersue for abandonment! Something that would easily be dismissed once it got to court, but would tie up things in the meantime. They must dodge the delivery of the summons if they hope to wrap up the Pavla situation any time soon.

Betty is barely able to prevent Jeff, dressed as Lord Fancourt Babberly, from blurting out his identity to the process server. Jeff and Tom gradually catch on that Jeff shouldn't reveal his identity. But in explaining what Cribby had heard so far, they end up identifying Jeff as Hilary Booth. (Both Betty and Jeff give the normal I-am-Hilary-Booth-of-course hand wave.)

Betty, Jeff, and Hilary bring themselves all up to date in the station manager's office. If Cribby could give the papers to a faux Jeff Singer, that might solve their problem.

Eugenia pops in to announce she had finished her spiritual music program, "Holier Than Thou," and the football broadcast had started. She’s off to change clothes before she leaves to conduct her conducting debut. Since she thinks it's nothing to shake a stick at, she may not quite understand the use of a baton in conducting. <g>

After eliminating everyone else, Hilary and Betty decide Scott is the man for the job of impersonating Jeff. Betty needs Scott. And Scott has...

Scott has changed into a dress and heels. Maple has changed into a suit and turban. Their plan is to stroll carefree out of the station. Their plan is interrupted one second into its execution by Scott's plummet to the floor. Maple did warn him about walking in heels.

While practicing walking so Scott can get his "heel" legs, they decide on identities to fit their costumes. Maple decides to be a Raja. Scott knows the best way to hide in the open is to pretend to be someone who belongs there, who "comes and goes at this station as they please and doesn't answer to anyone." Maple asks if that person would be...

Hilary Booth (i.e. Jeff) is regaling Cribby with her credits when Scotty and Mapes try to scootty out the door. But Cribby is still looking for Jeff. "You, with the turban. You’re not Jeff Singer by any chance?" Maple claims to be a far eastern country's chief impotentate (potentate) and grand brassiere (vizier). Scott, claims to be Hilary Booth, of course.

It's all easily explained. Hilary is Hilary's sister. Hilary liked Hilary's name so much she stole it for her stage name. Hilary's real name is Maple. Got it? Good.

But Cribby finds the idea of a far eastern sultan being in a Pittsburgh radio station too strange. "Sultana" explains she's adding to her harem and goes in search of her new acquisition. After Betty and Hilary bow out (he's already talked to Betty and Betty sends Hilary off to become Jeff) Maple, as the Sultan, falls down in the hallway trying to get to studio A (and as we all know the geography of the station, most likely falls down in sight of, or at least hearing distance from, Cribby, and lets out an unsultanlike yelp).

In Studio A, the ball game is still going on: "And with the score tied at six even in the first quarter of Sunday pro football..." Turns out it's a Sunday at WENN. I guess that explains the religious music. And I suppose Hilary is there for her "Cat Detective" show. Maple kidnaps Foley for her harem.

Meanwhile, the mobster Jeff Singer (Hilary) shows up followed by Admiral Crichton of the Swiss Navy (Eugenia in her conductor garb), complete with stick.. Then Sultana (Maple) introduces her veiled acquisition (Foley).

Finally, Cribby is finally allowed to speak. First off, he recognized Scott and Mapes right away. And he figured out that Hilary and Jeff were Jeff and Hilary. Turns out that Cribby was hired to serve papers to Pavla. It makes sense that with the difficulty of tracking her down they would hire one of the best.

However, once he caught up to her, he was quite taken with her while recognizing the heart of a gold digger. Having dutifully cared for nothing other than serving legal papers for many years he's decided to take her for a ride. Since it's clear that Jeff is completely serious about ditching Pavla, he'll make sure an annulment is accomplished. He's convinced her that he's rich and he expects to wed her within two months. By the end of the third month as the money is running out Pavla will realize she's been duped.

So Jeff and Pavla's marriage will not have ever legally existed. I said in my walk through of the season opener that I expected the situation to continue throughout the season. I missed it only by one episode.

Betty is still following through on the plan to dress up like a newsboy and deliver some earth-shattering news that might empty the station, at least of Mr. Menlo. A massive count of bell rings on the teletype provides a real major news story.

A Sunday afternoon, late 1941, in the WENNiverse. The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.

Reflections on the trailer for the next episode.

Looks like loads of things chock-filling next week's episode. A scene where I thought Victor said "Hi, Betty" is obviously, on repeated viewings, Victor saying "Bye" to Betty. Foley sends a semaphore message to Eugenia that stuns her. Jeff asks for Hilary's hand in Marriage. And Scott...

Scott joins the Army. It looks like an officer's uniform. Scott may have had previous service. Certainly his cryptography skills and experience fighting the Nazis with the Popular Front make him far more valuable to the military than most of the volunteers showing up. I was a little dismayed to see every motivation for Scott joining up connected in some way to Betty (trying to win her love by being more heroic for instance). Our nation had been attacked. The recruiting offices were full on the 8th of December. Within the year, 38 year old Glenn Miller, rolling in the money and adulation of fame, despite being beyond the age for Army service, had disbanded his orchestra and accepted a Captain's commission in the Army Air Force. I doubt Betty was ignored in his decision process, but Scott is an action man, as ready to use his fists as his wits in any fight. I can't imagine Scott not trying to join up, regardless of the state of his relationship with Betty.

The problem with "Remember WENN" finally reaching WWII has been to have believable reasons for the men not to be away in service. Mr. Eldridge hasn't seen 65 in many years. He's too old. Lester also looks like he might not be accepted because of age. Jeff's injuries from the bombing may have made him category 4F. Due to mass production of uniforms and equipment, it's possible that Mackie might be too short. (Things had become more standardized since WWI.) And, unless he had some special skill to offer, he might be turned away because of age also. We can tell from the preview that Victor and Scott are off. So that just leaves Mr. Foley as the only character that we have to wonder why he's not at the war. (From the semaphore, I would guess he's doing some local duty.)

You know, I almost wonder if Rupert wasn't already thinking ahead to this day when he had Jeff injured in London.

This is Rodney signing off saying, "Remember to cut off those lights!"

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