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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was completely addicted to this series and this episode was and still
is my favorite. Buzz and Todd were working construction and Buzz is
accidentally hit by a steel beam, causing blindness. At first he's just
feeling sorry for himself but then decides to go to a school for the
blind to get help. His instructor is Celia, who is played by the
wonderful Barbara Barrie. She falls in love with him, but he doesn't
return her feelings. When this is confronted, they both begin to
run...and Buzz falls into the water and somehow regains his sight. Now
that he can see, he no longer needs the school of course, so he says
goodbye to everyone and he and Todd go off to their next adventure.
I have been a fan of Barbara Barrie's ever since.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This would prove to be one of the seminal episodes of this classic
show, both for its quality and the impact on Todd and Buz's
relationship and for what went on behind the scenes in this series from
this point on.
Todd and Buz are working construction when Buz accidentally gets hit in the back of the head by a girder being wielded by a crane. The staging of this scene is interesting. Buz gets hit and falls down what might be the beginning of an elevator shaft. He clings to what looks like a wooden board draped across it. Todd jumps down to the rather flimsy looking board to pull him to the other workers. We then see Buz being taken on a stretcher to an ambulance. Inside the ambulance he regains consciousness. How did he ever cling to the board? How did the board ever hold up the two of them? I suppose it's best to stop wondering and move on.
Buz wakes up in the ambulance and can't see. At the hospital the doctor explains that there's no apparently physical cause of this problem but he's seen a couple of cases like it before where the person subsequently regained their sight just as suddenly as they lost it. One took four weeks, the other six years. Buz is thus plunged into a world of darkness for an unknown time. His immediate reaction is that he doesn't want to live this way and he tells Todd of his intention to off himself as soon as he gets the chance. Todd responds by placing a razor in his hands. Buz holds it for a while and then puts it down. He still wants to live.
The next step is to enroll Buz in a school for the blind. These scenes are filmed at a real such place and we meet the staff these, many of which are clearly the actual staff, non-actors who are actually blind. (On another show they'd all be actors.) Buz is taught things like how to use a cane and read braille. One of them is a blind person who teaches blind people to cook. One got a job as a chef.
Buz begins to adjust but Todd isn't there with him. Buz has to go down this road alone. They have a scene where Buz more than suggests that it's time for Todd to go his own way. Neither actor knew that that was actually going to happen as a result of this episode. Barbara Barrie plays Buz's chief counselor, who teaches him how to get around. A big point is made that she's counted every step around the grounds so she knows where she is going. But she's afraid to go somewhere where the steps have yet to be counted. She teaches Buz to read a person's face and they fall hard for each other.
Another patient, (who may have his sights set on Barbara, as well), reminds Buz that his condition may be temporary and that he will only be living in her world until it clears. Is it fair to let her fall in love with him? Buz attempts to let her down gently but she becomes upset and runs off- into unknown territory. She falls into a river and Buz stumbles after her, falling into the same river. He pulls her out. As he does, his sight comes back and he winds up crying because he can see and thus their relationship has now to inevitably change and probably end. When they part in the final scene, Buz promises that he'll be seeing her again. After he and Todd drive away, she says plaintively "I'll be seeing you".
Barrie reminds me a bit of the great Italian actress, Gulietta Masina, who shone in Frederico Fellini's films, such as "La Strada" and "The Nights of Cabiria". She would have made a meal of a role like this and Barbara Barrie does, too.
That dip in the river turned out to have a huge impact on this series. George Maharis, from James Rosin's book on this series: "I was supposed to rescue actress Barbara Barrie who had fallen into a river. It was a very cold night and the water was freezing. So they gave us both wet suits to wear. Barbara was wearing a trench coat so that was no problem for her. But my jacket and trousers wouldn't fit over the wet suit and my clothes had to match the previous shots. So I went into the water unprotected. You could see the steam coming off my jacket on camera. I began to get sick but I kept on working. The next thing I knew, we were filming an episode in Catalina which was basically a two character story with Joanna Moore and myself. Again, it was a very lengthy, physical show and I was in and out of the water for much of the shoot. At one point, when I looked in the mirror, the whites of my eyes were yellow. Everyone told me I looked fine and I didn't realize how sick I was. With a month left of shooting, I finally saw a doctor. He took one look at me and put me in the hospital. I had hepatitis."
It was the beginning of the end for George Maharis and Route 66 and thus the beginning and end of Buz Murdock, a character vital to the show's success.
Slender storyline that suggests perhaps something of a backstory.
Following a construction site accident, Buzz is temporarily blinded. He
and Tod decide he should go to a rehab clinic where he will be taught
how to deal with his new impairment. Most of the hour shows Buzz going
through the adjustment sessions. These are interesting if not exactly
dramatic or suspenseful. In the meantime, Buzz takes a liking to one of
the staff, the gamin-like Celia (Barrie), which lends the story a
romantic aspect. That's about it except for a jolting mishap at the
lake. Tod only appears briefly at the beginning and end. Thus, it's a
Given Milner's general absence and a narrative with little dialogue, I suspect trade-offs were being made in a crowded shooting schedule. After all, background settings often required filming in different locales along with story lines reflecting the locale. That was a big series strength, but I expect a big headache for the producers. Anyway, it's a slender episode, but also one where Maharis gets to demonstrate an effective softer side, and is notable for that reason.
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