So it's back to the Monkees again... and hopefully we'll continue to keep a monthly schedule on this feature (well, every four weeks, anyway). We're on to episode #14, "Monkees A La Carte." This episode originally aired on November 21, 1966, and it was written by Gerald Gardner, Dee Caruso and Bernie Orenstein. Songs featured in this episode are "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" and "She," both of which appeared on the Monkees' second album, More of the Monkees, and both written and produced by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
The guest cast features Karl Lukas as Rocco, Dort Clark as the Inspector, Paul Sorenson as Red, Helene Winston as Flora, Jon Kowal as Paddy, Mousy Gamer as Benny, Paul Deville as Pop, Don Kennedy as Policeman, and Harvey Lembeck as Fuselli. You may remember Karl Lucas as Pvt. Stash Kadowski in The Phil Silvers Show, or his four appearances in different roles on Bewitched, or maybe from playing a cutthroat in Blazing Saddles. He also played Cyrus in the Ark II episode "The Slaves." Dort Clark would return for two more Monkees episodes, "The Picture Frame" and "Monkees on the Wheel," also playing policemen. He also appeared in four Bewitched episodes. Likewise for Paul Sorenson, as well as a trio of appearances on My Favorite Martian, but you might best recognize him either from playing Andy Bradley on Dallas or an unnamed Captain in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Helene Winston would also appear in another Monkees episode, "Monkees on the Line." You may best remember Jon Kowal from playing Herm Gossett in the original Star Trek series episode "Mudd's Women." Paul 'Mousie' Garner appeared in 20 episodes of The Spike Jones Show, but you might more easily recognize him from playing Mousie in Surfside 6. Paul Deville's only other role was as Hugh in Moon of the Wolf. The Don Kennedy in this episode also appeared in the Monkees episode "Monkees Race Again," but his most well-known roles in geekdom would be providing the voice of Tansut, the Announcer, and Fake Bill Manspeaker in Space Ghost Coast To Coast, voicing Marlon in three episodes of The Brak Show, and a trio of voices on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Quite a change of pace from a long career mostly playing policemen onscreen, eh? Harvey Lembeck was probably the most famous of the guests in this episode, having placed Cpl. Rocco Barbella on 141 episodes of The Phil Silvers Show, as well as playing Eric Von Zipper in Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Pajama Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. He also played Eagle-Eye in two episodes of Batman, "The Penguin Goes Straight/Not Yet, He Ain't." He also played a gangster in the 1975 Superman TV movie, which adapted the Broadway play, It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman.
The episode begins with all four Monkees eating from one amazingly long submarine sandwich at their favorite Italian restaurant, Pop's. As they eat, the sandwich gets moved back and forth so they can get different meats and so forth. Pop is sitting with them, enjoying watching the foursome eat his handiwork. Suddenly, in walk two gangsters, Fuselli and Rocco. Micky gets up, assuming they want a table, but he's told to blow, and he does so... he blows up a yellow balloon! Rocco pushes him back, then tells Pop to get rid of the punks. The Monkees go to the stage, and the owner says the restaurant is not for sale. Fuselli threatens to rough up Pop's mother, and although she's been dead for 20 years, Rocco assures Pop it won't stop him.
Pop finally gives in, and sells the restaurant, and Rocco tells the boys they're fired. When Davy suggests that Rocco tries being tough with someone his own size, Rocco says there isn't anyone there his size. Micky suggests he should get out of the business, which prompts Rocco to pull out a gun. Davy says, "You're pretty tough with a gun in your hand!" and Rocco puts the gun away, socks Davy in the jaw, and sends the shortest Monkee into his bandmates, knocking them to the other end of the restaurant. Davy then says, "You're pretty tough with a fist in your hand!" and we fade to black for the opening credits.
After the credits, we fade in on the boys at the beach pad. They're meeting, with Mike leading (as he usually does in these cases, this time with a much bigger gavel in his hand than usual), and saying they must do everything in their power to get Pops his restaurant back. Davy, with a bandage on his jaw, warns that Fuselli is vicious and tough... he even wears a pinstripe suit with real pins in it! When Mike asks for suggestions from the floor as to how to proceed, Peter (who's been off-camera this whole time until now) takes his ear from the floor to announce that the floor has nothing to say. When Micky suggests they try the wall, Peter says the wall says to try the ceiling. They're agreed to try to get the restaurant back, according to Mike (Davy wonders, "What vote? Was I out of the room or something?"). Peter's asking the ceiling, and Mike tells him to get down, they've already voted, making Davy ask what vote again. Micky's asked to read the minutes of the meeting, and Micky says, "A minute and 12 seconds, that's a new meeting record!" and they celebrate by throwing papers from the table into the air.
Back at the restaurant, Fuselli is telling Rocco that by the time he's finished, he'll own a chain of restaurants in every major city in the world. Rocco says that's good, he gets hungry on the road. Just the, the Monkees burst in, carrying their instruments. Fuselli sees Mike's guitar case, and of course assumes there's a machine gun inside. He has Rocco open it up, and they see there's a guitar in it. The Monkees say they're there to re-apply for their jobs, but Fuselli doesn't want any musicians. Mike says people like them, but Fuselli says he doesn't like them. When he's told they're cheap, Fuselli says he's beginning to like them. He asks if they can wait on tables, and the other three Monkees say "Sure!" and look at Peter. Peter's tested on his waiting ability by holding a tray as the others stack more and more on it, per Fuselli's orders, then he's told to take them into the kitchen. Micky, Davy and Mike shout encouragement while wearing hats and looking through binoculars as if they're watching a horserace. Peter staggers back and forth and makes it to the kitchen (to the tune of the William Tell Overture), impressing Fuselli. They're hired, and the other three rush to the kitchen to tell Peter the good news. They give three cheers for Peter, and Peter starts to celebrate, too, letting go of the tray... which just stays hanging in the air, until Peter notices, and then it falls.
Next, Fuselli is inspecting his new kitchen staff, all decked out as waiters. He tells them not to have any funny ideas about the law, and tells Rocco to show them how they treat people they don't like. Rocco walks up to Peter and slaps him in the face. When Fuselli asks if he's made himself clear, Micky says, "Oh, yeah? Maybe we should make something clear! This is how we treat people we don't like!" When Fuselli leans in and glares at Micky, he goes to Peter and slaps him in the face! Peter turns to Mike and asks, "What did I do?" and Mike responds, "I don't know, man, but don't do it again!"Fuselli sends them into action, and the boys rush into the kitchen... and it's time for a romp!
The boys, now decked as chefs, are running around like maniacs in the kitchen, prepping and cooking as "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" plays. Peter's tossing pizza dough, Micky's making sandwiches, Mike's cooking pasta, and they're all just basically monkeying around. Often the sped-up action gets interrupted by slow-motion scenes of two of them tossing shiny trays at each other, as if they were jugglers, as well as two of them playing large sides of meat as if they were guitars. Davy gets a few scenes as he's trying to cut an onion that keeps rolling away from him. In one scene, Davy opens the freezer and finds Micky in there, frozen. There's assorted other antics during the romp, too, including Peter tossing his pizza dough into the air, and not having it come down. Finally, Peter shoots the dough, causing it to land on his face.
They realize that just working in the restaurant isn't helping, so they decide to go to the police, and meet with the Inspector. The Inspector's glad they came to him to put Fuselli behind bars, but he warns them that they'll be dealing with dangerous and vicious men! Micky quips, "Gee, you don't look dangerous and vicious, inspector!" They've already captured four members of the syndicate, the Purple Flower Gang, and they need to tie Fuselli to them. Micky assures the Inspector that they're tough, and to demonstrate, he starts swinging at Peter, who runs out! Back at the restaurant, Peter and Davy try to get Fuselli's fingerprints by handing him a glass of wine. Fuselli outsmarts them by holding the glass in a gloved hand. Then, Micky sets up a hidden microphone connected to a tape recorder, to record evidence. He gets what he thinks will work, and calls the rest over, but when he plays the tape back, it just has a recording of him calling them over!
That night, they come back to the restaurant, masked, to blow the safe to get evidence from there, but when the plunger is pushed, the safe isn't blown, but the desk they're hiding behind is! To cover their tracks, they make the safe into a desk in fast motion. Micky turns to the camera and says, "They'll never know the difference!" and we fade to black for a commercial break.
The next day, Fuselli is eating lunch and tells the boys the restaurant is closed today, because he's having a meeting with "the boys". He tells them to get the place ready, A-1 service. Later, the place is all set up, with tables set up in an "L" formation, flowers, candles, breadsticks, the works, and some of the other syndicate members have arrived, Red, Flora, and Paddy. The Monkees realize they they need to contact the inspector, but Fuselli won't let them out in the middle of the meeting. Mike points out that Rocco will be guarding the front door, and Peter helpfully points out the food will get cold, which gets glares and other looks from his bandmates.
Fuselli calls for service, and the syndicate members sit down as the boys start to serve. Fuselli has each of them introduce themselves -- Red O'Leary, bank robbery and protection; Big Flora, fraud and extortion; and Paddy the Fence, drugs and diamond smuggling; and Benny the Book, bookmaking and numbers. Peter chimes in, "Peter Tork, guitar and bass trombone." When Fuselli points out they're all there except for the Purple Flower Gang, the others put their hands on their hearts briefly. The meeting is called to order, and the Monkees start to sit down, but Fuselli orders them out. He tells the syndicate members he's going to kill Davy. He has Rocco pull out a map of the city, and Fuselli says he's going to spread his operation to the north side.
In the kitchen, Micky points out that they've never seen the Purple Flower Gang, and a plot is hatched! When Fuselli asks if there are any objections to his plans, Micky says, "Yeah! The Purple Flower Gang objects!" and we see all four Monkees dressed in pinstripe suits, hats, and disguised with moustaches. Flora asks if they're the Purple Flower Gang, why are they wearing white carnations? Micky responds by saying, "Do know how tough it is to get purple flowers?" They say they busted out of the pen, and sit down. Peter makes the comment that he's very hungry, causing Fuselli to call out for a waiter. They try to convince Fuselli they don't need anything, but Peter persists, asking for spaghetti and meatballs, as well as some ravioli. Fuselli orders four dinners, but Micky says they don't eat anywhere until they check the kitchen, to make sure the food isn't poisoned. Flora says she usually brings a dog to test the food, but he's not there because he doesn't like Italian food.
In the kitchen, Micky, Davy and Mike realize one of them needs to get the Inspector, and they choose Peter (who's disappointed, because he wants to finish his spaghetti). At the door, Peter tries to sneak past Rocco, and Rocco tells him nobody leaves, and his gun says so. Peter responds that his gun says he does, and when he pulls it out and pulls the trigger, a flag pops out saying, "I go." So Rocco lets him leave. Meanwhile, Fuselli is getting some disagreement from Red, who starts coughing, and Fuselli calls for some water. Mike gets up to get the waiter, switches to his waiter clothes, and comes back with the water, then rushes back to the kitchen to change back. A vote is called for on Fuselli's plan, but Flora says they should calm down with a toast first, and now it's Davy's turn to rush into the kitchen, change clothes, and rush out again, and come back changed back. When it's noted that white wine was brought out, Paddy insists they should toast with red, and it's Micky's turn! Micky has to make two trips, because one of them wants ginger ale.
Peter gets to the police station, but when the Inspector sees him, he assumes Peter's one of the Purple Flower Gang. The same gag about how tough it is to find purple flowers is made. Back at the restaurant, they're all in agreement about Fuselli's plan, but since Peter's not back with the police, Mike and Davy say they have new business to bring up. Davy insists that the city should be split more fairly, and starts dividing the map into nine equal parts with a brush and paint, while Micky goes to each of th other syndicate members and suggests Fuselli's trying to cheat them. Mike starts marking up the map with Davy, marking it as though they were playing Tic-Tac-Toe, with Davy marking O's and Mike marking X's, and winning the game. Red accuses Fuselli of being a rat, and Davy and Mike continue playing Tic-Tac-Toe.
At the police station, Peter's still trying to convince the Inspector that he's not one of the Purple Flower Gang. The Inspector wants him to talk. Meanwhile, the syndicate members are arguing over their territories, fighting amongst themselves and tearing the map to shreds. This goes on for a few minutes. At the station, Peter's telling them all sorts of stories about supposed crimes he was responsible for. At the restaurant, the gangsters all pull guns and start shooting at each other, while Mike, Davy and Micky duck. Finally, Micky gets them to stop shooting, and calls a pretty girl on-camera, explaining that the director thought they should have a pretty girl on the show, and then the shooting commences again!
Despite the close range, a lot of shots are fired, while Mike and Davy play Tic-Tac-Toe on the floor, and Micky tries to convince them to stop shooting. Finally, Red is shot, followed by Benny, Rocco, Flora, and everyone else! Just then the police arrive, and the Inspector orders the other three Monkees under arrest!
Then, there's more of a romp of various shenanigans from previous episode romps and more, while a reprise of "Steppin' Stone" is played, most of them clips of the Monkees acting like gangsters, or in prison attire (the shot of them as if they're escaping from prison from the last episode is among them).
We're back to the restaurant, back in Pop's hands again, and Pop calls on them to play for him, and we see the Monkees perform "She." This is obviously not on the stage of the restaurant set, but rather filmed on a soundstage along with other songs at the time. The Monkees are dressed in suits and ties, with Peter playing keyboards instead of his usual bass. Peter really hams it up during this, acting like he has to put all the emotion into the song for his bandmates. There's some stock footage, semi-colorized black and white footage of bathing beauties, parties and the like.
Overall, while this was a fun episode, I don't really consider it to be one of the Monkees' best ones. They'd done the impersonate gangsters bit before, and would continue to do it again in future episodes (this was one of the reasons Mike and the others got tired of doing the show, because they found some of the scripts repetitive). On the other hand, this is one of those rare episodes where the villains are foiled without any direct intervention by the boys, who were ducking under tables and trying to stop the shooting from going on. They could have dealt with the syndicate gangsters in other ways, such as doping their food (Micky was established as having been working on knockout drugs before, after all), and then trying to convince the gangsters to eat it while they're busy talking about Fuselli's plan, with that going somewhat awry when Flora was the first to eat and knock herself out. Once things were settled, Peter could've finally gotten the spaghetti he wanted, and knocked himself out. There's also no real denouement, as we go from the Inspector still confusing the Monkees for the Purple Flower Gang and arresting them right to Pops having his restaurant back. Instead of the extra romp with the reprise of "Steppin' Stone," we could've had a scene at the restaurant with the grand re-opening, filled with customers, and Pops introducing the band as the brave boys who helped him get his restaurant back from the mob, and Mike or one of the others saying it was nothing any other ordinary rock and roll long-haired musician types wouldn't have done (or something like that). The episode kind of felt a bit on the padded side... I wonder if there were sequences that were scripted and filmed that just didn't work out well enough to be included in the final edit?