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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This episode has a really terrific and intriguing set-up. It deals with
a woman (Weld) who gets off of a bus wearing a dreadful mask that she
refuses to take off and thus sends the small Texas town into a complete
This episode stands out with some good and memorable imagery. The mask is one, which is incredibly macabre and creepy looking. The other is a scene where the Weld character burns a doll on a stake on the front lawn of her parent's house.
This is also one episode that makes terrific use of its location and nicely interweaves it into the story. A real good example of this is the sound of the wind blowing off the flat and desolate Texas plains as the Weld character talks with a woman who now lives in the house that she once grew up in.
The story touches on some good issues, namely going back to conquer one's childhood demons as well as the need to satisfy ones need for vengeance as well as learning to forgive and move on. The plot though has enough complex and shocking story lines to it that fifty minutes just does not do it justice. This is the kind of story that deserved a two part episode and could easily have been made into a feature length film or hardcover novel.
Burt Reynolds appears briefly as a punk who harasses Weld and then ends up in a fist fight with Buz. Weld is a great actress, but here after she takes off her mask, she doesn't seem quite as compelling. It is really Cloris Leachman who steals the show as the heartless and cold mother, especially at the end.
This episode also features a great line of dialogue. The town's newspaper editor advises Weld that she will have to take off the mask because it will frighten too many people. Weld then points to all the townspeople standing outside and replies "I'll take off my mask when you have them take off theirs."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, I love some of the "off-the-wall" sarcastic dialog scattered in
episodes of Route 66 like the heading I've used here which Buz said to
a young woman inquiring why he was in the fictional Texas town of
Kilkenny Texas (actually filmed in Lewisville,TX). Other funny
diatribes include a seemingly ad libbed spiel about "The Teenage Ghoul
From Fijiama" - a second time to a dead-pan faced sheriff...And,
remarks regarding Buz not hitting everyone in Kilkinny yet and the
protagonist being the one who sprinkled salt on Carthage when they
plowed it under as well as teaching Madame LaFarge (A Tale of Two
Cities)to knit. There's gold in them hills (small details) if you
listen and look!
Enough of the minutia...The episode itself is a stand-out. It investigates a mother's, as well as a communities, alienation of an adolescent young girl, resulting in her being institutionalized and claimed as dead. That's a timeless issue as society still wrestles with the tenderness of being an outsider while coming of age and the horrific possibilities which sometimes arise out of revenge. The way it is handled here is dark, but not to the point of hopelessness as this show never fails to blend plenty of entertainment in with whatever human drama it depicts. There is a ton of imagery embedded in the location chosen to use as the canvas which the story evolves from. Kilkenny (Lewisville) is both typical of small town America and haunting in its isolation.
Route 66 is well known to attract great guest stars, established ones and even, more so, those on the rise. This episode is memorable for Tuesday Weld in the main role with colorful support from Burt Reynolds (using his smart mouth as only he can) and (an amazingly cold mother) Cloris Leachman. Not to forget nice portrayals by Malcolm Atterbury (sheriff) and Harry Townes (newspaper editor) who you'll recognize by face. It all adds up to fairly deep and nuanced story and big-screen quality acting rolled into slightly less than an hour. Wow, and I've not even touched on the singularly most unusual, and compelling, device used...That would be the Kabuki style mask worn by Tuesday Weld for most of the first half of the story. It's disturbing and enigmatic to the "nth-degree"! Brilliant! This episode is rich and a must see.
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