Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Ferret (Season 4, Episode 6)

Episode 84

"1-Adam-12, 1-Adam-12, see the man. Possible 459 there now..."
 Reed picks up the mic. After she says the address,
he'll roger the call and they'll be on their way.
"104 East River Street..."

He raises it to his mouth getting ready to say, "1-Adam-12, roger"
 after she gives the code.
"At the rear of Atherton Manufacturing..."
Realizing that the RTO is not done yet, he lowers the mic and stares at the radio.  He looks at his partner, as if to ask "Do you believe this?'. When he's sure the broadcast is finally complete, he rogers the call and hangs up the mic.

I wonder who'll be driving to Atherton Manufacturing. I mean, Malloy will probably be out for several months to heal from his broken leg and ruptured spleen. Right?
Wow. OK, Malloy is superhuman or something. Anyway they arrive at Atherton and park in the lot. Just as Malloy is getting out of the patrol unit, a black luxury sedan rolls up and parks next to them. Before the black car comes to a complete stop the back door opens...
and almost hits Malloy!
The man who almost took out Malloy is Curtis Atherton, the owner of the plant. He not upset that he almost injured one of L.A.'s finest, but he is upset that there aren't more policemen at his plant. He thinks there should be three or four police cars responding to the call. After all, they may have the Ferret trapped inside the building.

[The Ferret? Mr. Atherton, I think you want animal control, not the police.]
Obviously, Malloy has never heard of the Ferret, the ecological crusader who has broken into Atherton's plant at least a dozen times and caused a great deal of damage. He's broken in today and security thinks they have him trapped inside. 

Reed and Malloy go inside the plant to look for the wily Ferret. Once they're inside, they split up. While Reed is walking amongst some machinery he hears footsteps behind him.

He quickly takes off in the direction of the footsteps and finds himself chasing a small man wearing a security guard uniform. The man disappears down a hallway then slips behind a door. He locks the door before Reed can grab it.
The face of the Ferret.
Does anyone else wish the Ferret had a theme song like The Nanny?

Something like this:
He was working at a college on the L.A. scene
When his job was yanked 'cause of budget cuts by the dean
What was he to do, where was he to go??
He had to rely on his merit.

So over the 405 freeway to the Atherton plant
He was there for a protest, but he did more than chant
He had style, he had flair. He went where?
That's how he became the Ferret.

Reed gets a good look at the Ferret before he scurries out of the building. Reed runs back down the hall and tells Malloy to take the front, he'll take the back.
Where he chases the Ferret through a maze of pipes and steam.
But, the Ferret is too quick. He gets on a scooter in the parking lot and drives away before Reed gets anywhere near him.

Malloy catches up to his partner and together they watch as the Ferret scoots away.

[Well that sucks.]
When they return to talk with Mr. Atherton, a reporter is there to record their conversation.
The reporter, Mr. Spence, is played by James Bacon, a real-life reporter and columnist who specialized in writing about the entertainment industry. He also appeared as a reporter in "Log 76: The Militants".

Atherton has no idea why the Ferret is harassing his company, they've been ahead of every anti-pollution measure passed by the state congress. He has a theory that the Ferret is really a disgruntled ex-employee, not an ecological advocate. He's going to have his staff gather the pictures and records of all employees who were recently let go. Atherton would appreciate it if Reed could come by and take a look at them since he got a good look at the Ferret.
Reed assures Atherton, "If he's in there, I'll recognize him".
The reporter, Spence, follows Pete and Jim to the black and white. He asks Jim if the Ferret wears a cape and a little mask. Pete doesn't appreciate the newsman's light-hearted take on the story.
He'd like Spence to take it easy on this story.
But Spence knows a good story when he sees one and the tale of Ferret is too good to pass up. He scoffs at the idea of going easy on this one.

After they roll away from Atherton, Reed is feeling anxious about having his name linked to an "anti-pollution Zorro who calls himself the Ferret" in a splashy news story. It's the last thing he needs right now.

Malloy knows that the type of article his partner fears may be a very real possibility with Spence writing it. 

Reed will have to put his worries aside as they've just been called to 257 North Dover Street to see the man about a 415. 

When they arrive on Dover Street they spot a man running up the sidewalk. He quickly ascends the front steps of a house and begins banging on the door.

What is growing in the front yard of this house?
After parking the car, Malloy jumps out and asks the man what's wrong. The man, Mr. Dent, explains that his wife, Sue Ellen, is about to give birth and "something ain't right". All three of them hop in the car to go check on Sue Ellen.

When they arrive at the Dent's house, Sue Ellen is unconscious.
Malloy can hardly find a pulse.
Rather than wait for an ambulance, they load Mrs. Dent into the patrol unit and take her to County General. 

They get to the hospital and a doctor examines Mrs. Dent. He immediately orders that her hemoglobin levels be checked. As the nurse tends to Sue Ellen, the doctor leaves the examine room to ask Mr. Dent an usual, yet important question.
He wants to know if Mrs. Dent has been eating clay.
Dent equivocates on his wife's eating habits, he won't even give a straight answer when confronted wth the fact that she is almost comatose. He believes she'll be alright because they have a "strong mojo working". 

Although he didn't give a clear answer, Dent still gave the doctor enough information for him to form a hypothesis about what has happened to Sue Ellen. The doctor speaks privately with the officers and shares his theory with them. He thinks the Dents are under the care of a witchdoctor and "scared to death". 
The guy playing the doctor reminds me of Orson Welles. Am I the only one?
(Actually, the doctor is played by Marvin Miller. Miller was an actor and radio announcer, just like Welles. He was also the announcer for the radio version of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.)
This is Welles, at one point he and Miller at least had similar facial hair.

Reed asks why the doctor inquired if Sue Ellen was eating clay. The medical man explains there is a superstition that if a pregnant woman eats clay from the Mississippi River Valley she will have an easy childbirth and a healthy baby. In fact, the opposite is true, most babies born to women who eat the clay are stillborn or seriously retarded. The doctor fears a similar fate for the unborn Dent child.

He has seen a lot of children born to women who eat the red mud of the Mississippi, almost thirty-five percent of the women who give birth in his hospital engage in the risky behavior. He would like to quell the distribution of the clay by getting one of the suppliers. If Pete and Jim could get into Dent's apartment and find the clay and the name of the supplier, he would sign a complaint.

Before they leave Malloy has one last question for the doctor, he wants to know what a "mojo" is. The doc explains that it's a prop used by witchdoctors and voodoo men. Usually it's nothing more than a bat's eye encased in plastic or a gold-plated beetle. The spookier, the better.
[Huh, I wonder if it's a good thing if a mojo is rising.]
Back at the Dent's abode Reed and Malloy search for the clay while Dent goes on and on about the power of their mojo. Malloy knows he's found what they're after when he discovers a box with a Mississippi postmark in a kitchen cabinet.
[Pay dirt! Or clay, you know what I mean.]
While Malloy goes next door to use a phone Reed asks about T. Leland Sabeth  the addressee of the package. Even though Sabeth could have seriously harmed their baby, Dent is not willing to disclose any information about him. He warns Reed not to mess with him, either. 

Dent doesn't think there's anything wrong with what Sabeth is doing. He was happy that his wife could get the clay in Los Angeles. Women in his hometown have been eating clay and having babies for as long as he can remember and he wanted Sue Ellen to be able to do the same.

After Dent is done extolling the virtues of the clay and the mojo, Pete walks in with a grim look on his face. Jim knows something is wrong right away.
"What is it, Pete?"
"I just spoke to the doctor, Mr. Dent. Your little boy was born dead."
Dent can't believe the news is true, they had the mojo working for them.
Pete and Jim will take him back to the hospital to see his wife.  According to the doctor, she should be OK.

When they're finished taking Dent back to the hospital, Reed asks if they have time to see T. Leland Sabeth.
"We'll make time, it's part of the initial investigation," answers Malloy.
T. Leland Sabeth's mailing address, 2300 South Arden, is also the home of World Temple of the Soul. The sign above the door says "all are welcome", let's see if Pete and Jim are welcomed.

Pete and Jim walk into the psychedelically decorated temple and interrupt some sort of ceremony. A group of followers are sitting in a circle on the floor while a man in a red robe and headdress speaks gibberish from a podium.
Red seems to be the preferred Mark VII color for cults.

Remember this one?
Reed thinks the proceedings look like a
 Halloween party, I tend to agree with him.
Despite the sign out front, the man leading the party is not very hospitable towards Pete and Jim. He tells the congregation not to worry, "The devils will be purged". He then removes his large red hat and steps down from the pulpit. He walks to the back of the room to see what the police want.

When Malloy asks the man if he is T. Leland Sabeth, he corrects him, he's Reverend Sabeth. Sabeth admits that he gave the clay to Mrs. Dent then asks about her and the baby. When Malloy tells him that the baby was born dead, Sabeth is quick to point out that he is not a doctor.
"And just what are you?" retorts Malloy.
Sabeth replies that he is a reverend, a man of the cloth. When he notices that his group of followers are watching his exchange with the police, he tries to move their conversation to another room. But Pete is just fine staying where they are.
"What's the matter? You afraid to let these
people see you for what you are?"
Reed, for one, is not afraid to be honest with Sabeth's followers. He steps towards the group assembled on the floor and addresses them directly.
[Jim, don't go shooting off your mouth again.
That always gets us into trouble.]
"Listen,if you people need medical help, go to County
 General, the doctors there will treat you.
"If you can't pay, the county will pay the bills for you."
Oh snap, T. Leland Sabeth did not like Jim laying that knowledge on his flock. As retribution for his PSA, Smith puts a curse on Jim!
[Double, double toil and trouble...]

[Oh, that's cute.]
After that Malloy knows it's time to go.

When they're back in the patrol unit, Jim can't help but chuckle at the idea of Sabeth putting a curse on him. 

Pete thinks they'll be able to put a hex of their own on Sabeth with the doctor's cooperation. They'll turn the case over to detectives so they can start working their "mojo" on Sabeth  Before they can turn it over, however, Jim has to finish the report. He asks Pete to find a shady spot where he can write. 
So Pete parks here.
Does "shady spot" mean something different in California?
Soon after they park Mac drives up and stops behind 1-A-12. The sergeant comes up to the passenger side window carrying a newspaper. Reed asks if he can see the sports section. But Mac tells him he'd be more interested in the front page since he's all over it.
[Dammit, I told Spence he didn't wear a mask and a cape!]
Mac wanted to warn Reed about the article before he walked into the station and a barrage of jokes at his expense. 
Malloy's already thinking of a few jokes of his own.
The article paints the Ferret as a roguish folk hero who fights corporations and the pollution they create. Reed is cast as the villain of the story, the cop who has pledged himself to capture the likable rascal. Ever since the article has come out the station switchboard has been lit up with calls from irate citizens who think they should lock up Reed, not the Ferret.

Jim is not happy that his picture and name are all over the front page. He complains that he was only doing his job and now he's "the creep of the week". Pete thinks he should take it easy. He asks Jim if he would crack wise if the tables were turned and the article was about him or Mac. Jim reluctantly admits that he would make at least one joke. Pete then gives him another reason to lighten up. 
"You know it is pretty funny."
Just then a green car swerves in front of the black and white prompting Malloy to comment, "There's a candidate for a moving violation". He tries to attract the driver's attention by honking his horn, but the person behind the wheel makes no effort to pull over. He tries the reds, but the driver still doesn't slow down or stop.

Malloy wonders if the car is hot and tells Reed he better call it in.

He does and there are no wants or warrants on Ocean Sam Ida 267.
They finally get a chance to talk to the driver when the green car pulls into a gas station. They approach the car and find that the driver is an elderly woman with a hearing aid. They also discover that she may have a problem with her eyesight.
"Good afternoon, fill it up with regular and don't forget the windshield."
(Hey, it's our old friend, Alma Platt. She was also in "Log 55: Missing Child" and "Log 14: SWAT".)

This brings a smile back to Reed's face.
After they're done explaining the difference between a police uniform and gas station uniform, Reed and Malloy receive a call to see the man at Atherton Manufacturing Company about information regarding a 459 suspect.
"1-Adam-12, roger!"

The receptionist at the front desk of Atherton Manufacturing recognizes Officer Reed from his picture in the newspaper. She then tells them to have a seat in the alcove, Mr. Atherton is tied up and won't be able to see them for a few minutes.

While the boys wait in the alcove, a man unknown to the receptionist walks in wearing coveralls and toting a large bucket. He hands a note to her then says, "This is some of the pollution you are dumping into the river. Ask Mr. Atherton if he likes the smell of it." He then proceeds to dump some nasty-looking pink goo on the floor. The receptionist screams, making Pete and Jim aware of the disturbance.
[Does this mean we have to get up?
These chairs are kinda comfy.]
The Ferret drops his bucket and runs out of the building. Reed and Malloy spring to their feet and chase after him. 
This time they catch him!
Mr. Atherton, who has untied himself from his pressing business matter, comes outside to confront the Ferrett a.k.a. Ralph Salisbury. He begins by asking a rhetorical question, "This ecology kick is great fun for you dropouts, isn't it?". Then he goes on to defend his company's actions by arguing that the goods they manufacture help the economy.
Atherton is also upset about the waste that Salisbury dumped in his lobby.
Salisbury counters by pointing out that their manufacturing process is creating toxic waste that is being dumped into the river, a river that is now devoid of fish. It may take Atherton hours to get the smell of the waste out of his lobby, but the river will probably never be rid of the pollution his company has dumped in it. Salisbury claims that Atherton's company is an ecological disaster area. 

Atherton wants to know what makes Salisbury an expert on the subject.
"What do you know about pollution and ecology?"
Salisbury's answer leaves Atherton speechless.
"I have a doctorate in the field."
With nothing further coming out of Atherton, Pete and Jim begin walking Salisbury to the car. Before he gets in the backseat Salisbury proves just how deeply he is concerned about pollution. He asks Jim to pick up the tissue Atherton discarded on the sidewalk after trying to clean the sludge off of his shoes.
I am outraged, this is shot from entirely the wrong angle.

The End

The more I think about it, the more I'm surprised by the Ferret; the character and the episode. Ralph Salisbury is not like other protestors we've seen on Adam-12 and Dragnet. He's not an uninformed, strangely dressed kook that is part of a mob who hates the police.  He's a passionate, well-educated kook who works alone. Yes, he does run from the police, but that may be more to protect his identity than to avoid arrest. Once Pete and Jim do catch him he doesn't threaten them or spit in their faces. I actually kind of like him and would like to know more about him. He should have been given his own spin-off with a catchy theme song.

The more I think about this episode, I'm also shocked by how much I dislike the Dents. I think they were intended to be innocent yokels who get taken by a witchdoctor preying upon their ignorance and superstitions. But, I can't stomach what I see as their reckless disregard for their unborn child's health. 

I may have been more understanding of their plight had Mrs. Dent's clay-eating been attributed to pica (a condition where pregnant women have a compulsion to eat non-food items, sometimes attributed to a vitamin deficiency) instead of superstition. But the story, as written, made me angry at everyone involved except the doctor. 

But, did I like "The Ferret" overall? I find it to be an interesting commentary on the time that gave us Earth Day, increased awareness of women's health issues, and scary (sometimes violent) cults. I also like that we get to see Jim being the grumpy one who can dish it out easier than he can take it. I would definitely put "The Ferret" on my "Would Willingly Watch Again" list and give it a rating of:

Do you agree? Let me know somewhere, out there in cyberspace. See you next time with "Truant".



  1. Good episode. You never mentioned that the ferret was Jims old buddy! I feel sad for the Dents. Some people grow up learning one thing only to find out to late it's wrong. Maybe some women did ok by eating the clay?? Maybe those that had problems just wasn't talked about by others ? Anyway I feel for those that are ' uneducated ' in this world. If I hadn't been watching Pee Wee Herman again with my grand daughters I would have missed the 'magic words'!!!!!! Very cleaver!!!!! And as for the cameraman messing up that shot of REED from the WRONG SIDE😡😡😡😡😡 How dare he!!!!!! 😛😛👮🏻👮🏻 As usual great job Miss Keely!!!!!! PS I heard you may be visiting our favorite brown haired( white now) blue eyed police officer soon!!! Is this true????????👏👏👏👏👍👍👍😬🌺🌹💐

  2. Love your interpretation of the high priest's incantation! Reminds me of an old Heineken beer commercial. Something like, "Put a straw in your Heine so you can tell it from other people's Heines". I kinda liked the Ferret - - - he was so earnest. You're right that he played Jim's old buddy who was so unfairly treated by Wells. I hadn't made that connection. I had always thought he reminded me a lot of Arnold Stang, a character in some old show, always the very earnest butt of some other character's jokes. Can't remember what show it was. As for the Dents, I think Diane's right. They were uneducated, totally fair game for charlatans promoting a long-held superstition that what they were doing was the best thing they could possibly do for their unborn child. It really was a commonly held belief at one time (well before my time, I think, but I had heard of it.) Maybe somewhat like today's tendency of some parents to believe that their child should not be subjected to the vaccinations that had, until recently, nearly eradicated some very dangerous childhood diseases. You are going to see KENT again next month, right? (You lucky girl!) I sure hope you can get him to tell you all about his character, the plot, and the outcome of "Woman's Story". (Maybe you could "interview" him and record the interview! Wouldn't it be great to be able to hear the story told by him, in that wonderful voice?) Swoon - - - Several of us, including you, I think. want so much to know about it. His character seemed, from the trailer and the excerpt, like a traitorous, yet sad and somehow pitiable adulterer. I want to know if he was really a bad guy! (Never saw him in a villainous role, and have a hard time imagining him as a "bad guy".) He seems so believable in the trailer and excerpt, though, that he seems equal to the challenge. I just want him to turn out to be a good guy in the end!

  3. I thought "The Ferret" was a pretty good episode; after such a dramatic nail-biter such as "The Search", this one does present a lighter story, albeit the tragedy involving the Dents and their superstitions along with Sabeth keep it from being too lighthearted.