Friday, 23 August 2013

Episode Analysis - S2 E20 You Never Had It So Good

Writer: Frank L. Moss/Stirling Silliphant
Director: James Sheldon
Director of Photography: Jack A. Marta
(Details from - click on the episode title above for more cast and crew) 

Screencaps are from the Shout Factory edition of the series.

This is one of the first Route 66 episodes I watched, and it confused me no end with the switch between Tod and Buz. But now I know better than to be confused.

Tod and Buz are in Phoenix, Arizona, working in construction. Not far away those who run the construction company, David Leland Fisk (Peter Graves) and Terry Prentiss (Patricia Barry), are trying to build their own success. This is not one of the deep Route 66 episodes, but it still says a lot about the serious issues of gender and class and glass ceilings. Buz typically shouldn't be able to climb the corporate ladder because of where he comes from. Terry Prentiss can't climb as high as she'd like because of her gender. They should both be trapped by circumstances, but Terry is ambitious and uses every weapon in her arsenal to get ahead in business. It's just unfortunate for Buz that he's one of those weapons. It's interesting to see that it's easier for a working class, uneducated man to climb high in the company than it is for a woman who is already employed in a very responsible position with the trust and respect of her colleagues. The ending is rather ambiguous as regards gender equality. It's hard to tell if business or romance will win out after the credits roll. But this is probably very fitting for the time. It would be a fairytale indeed if it worked out too smoothly.

This is a Peter Graves episode, so I'm in danger of taking too many screencaps before I've even started. I remember already taking screencaps from these, but I don't seem to have uploaded a post, so I have no idea... Anyway, I love this see-through, write-on table, and I love watching Peter Graves do things left-handed, so I'm happy. He's playing David Leland (Lee) Fisk, a big land development boss.

Lee wants someone to invent him a clock stretcher so there are 28 hours in the day. I like this clock, too. 

Then we get to watch him having his jacket put on by a lovely female assistant. I suppose when you're that high up in a company, every little helps. I think the building opposite is the one being built, that Tod and Buz are working on in this episode. This is why this on location filming works so well. I should be trying to find out where this building is and get modern pictures of it, but I'm too distracted by Peter Graves.

'Miss Terry Prentiss, Controller.' That says a lot. She has a man's name and she's a controller, and we know who she'd like to control. There's a very husband and wife feeling already about this. He goes to take his leave of her before he catches his flight, but she's not there, so he'll call her tonight...

Off he goes to catch his helicopter. We get to see some broad, manly back. Yum.

This is even more husband-and-wife. Terry Prentiss (played by Patricia Barry) drives up honking as he gets in the helicopter, for some last minute discussion which we don't hear because of the sound of the rotor blades. I like the fact that we're not privy to this discussion.

It could be an argument, it could be anything. At times she seems to be pleading, and then he is reassuring her, and whatever it is is settled. This works so much better for remaining unheard.

She seems exhilarated by the wind from the rotors as she waves him off. They are husband-and-wife. They just don't know it.

This is pretty – the helicopter against the building, with the title over it. And it fits perfectly with the jaunty, high-flying music and feeling. And hey, I think I've found that building. The Meridian Bank Tower, originally the Guaranty Bank Building, completed in 1960, which was at its completion the tallest building in Phoenix.

And here is is today, thanks to Google Maps.
It's hard to get a view similar to the one we see because of where the roads are, but you can see the big name plate square thing on the upper right of the building here. The place has been embellished a bit since Route 66, though.

We pan from the completed building to the one under construction, which is where our boys are working, although we don't know that yet. I'm not sure where this is in modern day Phoenix. I could probably find out, but I don't have the time right now. Perhaps it's in the picture above somewhere, but I suspect I'm looking the wrong way.

Terry seems every bit as high-flying as Lee, with her big office, her big chair, certificates on the wall and mounds of paperwork on her desk. It's the start of 1962 and she's big in business instead of growing babies and making cookies. Well done.

She's a multi-tasker (and left-handed too. This episode is full of lefties – look for Lynda Day George later.) She can talk on the phone and sign papers and be gleeful at having sold a concept to her boss. So that's what the conversation by the helicopter was about. She's trying to get new blood into the business, someone they can train on the job.

This is where she first hears about Tod, who's working on the building out through the window behind her, but she's bewildered as to why a Yale graduate (as he seems to be in this episode) is working as a labourer. He seems perfect for her recruitment.

So this is where we get our first glimpse of Tod, all shiny helmeted and smiling, and on the phone being sardonically un-interested in an opportunity that's being presented to him.

Buz is also shiny helmeted, and a supplier of coffee and doughnuts. I suppose they need something to keep themselves going through the day. Buz is intrigued about the phone call. Tod is cagey.


Tod is really enjoying stringing Buz along, not gratifying his curiosity over the phone call.

Now we find out why Tod is having such fun teasing Buz. Buz has fallen for Terry Prentiss, even though the head office building is five miles away and she doesn't know he exists.

Poor Buz... He's confident he'll think of something, though.

Finally Tod tells Buz about the phone call. 'That was just the omnipotent hand of personnel beckoning old dad. They said, Eli, bring your sheepskin and come on down. We want to give you some tests.'

Buz is gapey. 'I know, but for what?' He's eating his doughnut with his mouth open, underlining the difference between working-man-Buz and Yale-Tod.

'I don't know,' Tod says. 'I told them I wasn't interested. I had enough tests at Yale to last me a lifetime, and – er – I want to get my callouses standing, not sitting.'

But then he has an idea... You can almost see the light bulb ping on above his head.

Now it's Buz's turn to hold out as Tod tries to grab his interest. 'I don't think I can endure the strain of the suspense,' he says in his lovely mock-British accent. But Tod grabs him with two words. 'Terry Prentiss.'

Meanwhile, my attention is caught by the beauty of the light and the way you can see the whole city in the background going about its real daily 1962 life...

Now Buz is intrigued. He shoves a whole half doughnut in his mouth and follows Tod like an intrigued man...

(Let's add a couple of images of Buz and his doughnut that my friend Diana took, because I didn't really make the most of the doughnut eating here, and these pictures need to be included.)

(Doughnut interlude over.)

Next thing we know, 'Tod Stiles' arrives at Terry Prentiss' office.

Buz seems unusually diffident...

Terry asks him if he intends to just stand there leaning against the wall. Buz probably knows he looks pretty like that. She also reassures him that the chairs are treated, so his nasty dusty construction-worker ass won't leave a mark. (She doesn't say this in so many words.)

Buz is emasculated by the big boss lady even to the point that when he reaches for her cigarette lighter as she picks up a cigarette she, shock, picks it up herself! This is, I presume, a mark of great independence only shown by very feisty women.

Buz goes from looking a little put out to rather pleased. Perhaps he's growing to like the idea of a dominant woman. I can't see it lasting, though.

Terry reads through Tod's resume and brings up one of the big questions of the series – did Tod ever graduate from Yale? Here she says, 'Graduated magna cum laude three years ago.' Now, that's pretty concrete, you'd think. But at other times episodes say he didn't graduate, and so we are left in limbo. I'd like to think he had. Buz is evasive when she asks him what happened.

'You see, it's been a terrible three years, and, er, I'd like to talk about it except it – you know – wells up in me,' Buz tells her, acting all sweet and vulnerable and trying to get her alone out of the office.

They're a long way away from each other in this office. That desk is like a sea between them. Terry tells Buz that the right man could make this job the most important one in the company (except for Mr Fisk's position.)

She's closed the gap. She's offering him candy. He must think he's well in there...

'Well, where would the world be if nobody was home watching the shop, right?' Buz asks her when she tells him her major was in business administration, like Tod's. I'm assuming this is a slight dig at her high-flying office position when she should be at home baking children and raising cakes.

She's seducing him with all her business talk... But she still wants to know why he's a labourer, with that background.

So now we get one of Buz's famous, oft-repeated speeches. It's a good one.

'When you chase yourself from one day to the next. When you're both the pied piper and the kid that digs the music, the kid that follows all those way out notes, you go where it takes you, no matter where, no matter what.' This is the oft-repeated bit. But he goes on. 'Like now. When I finish my little story you're gonna be back in that leather chair and your eyes – your eyes are gonna be as tough as that leather, and you're gonna ring for the state militia and have me tossed right out, right outta my job, too, but I don't care, because it's been worth it, and I'd do it again tomorrow if I could. You see, from the first day I saw you, three weeks ago on that project, I almost fell off the eleventh floor, until I walked in here a few minutes ago and I wondered to myself, she's the controller. I wonder what she controls. Just this company, or herself too?'

And that is Buz's seduction technique. He tells her how he's pined for her, trying to work out how to meet her, and he doesn't even know why.

'It's just that now and then certain people have just got to get together and then, well, you just see – just see. Maybe something. Maybe nothing. But the important thing is that it has to be given a chance.'

That sums up Buz. He sees a chance and he doesn't worry so much about losing face or things going wrong. He explores it, and sees what happens. But what about the first bit? The pied piper bit? He's the pied piper and the kid who digs the music. He's enticing himself on this journey and loving every minute? Is that what he's saying? There's no one making him go but him, for his own pleasure. It's the exact opposite of the ride that Terry will take him on as the episode progresses...

Buz confesses that he's not Tod after all. But Terry has been playing it cool this whole time. She knew he wasn't Tod because she has a picture of him on his resume.

Buz doesn't seem quite sure what to make of this... But she wants him to take the aptitude test anyway, and he quickly regains his composure and becomes cocky enough to get her to ask 'please.'

So, while Tod is doing this...

...Buz is doing this.

He's taking it in his stride. He even finds time to wink at Terry.

Tod is obviously thinking of Buz in the main building.

While Buz finishes the test before everyone else.

Later... Tod and Buz are getting ready for a night out with Beth and Bibi (lovely). Tod is explaining what everything in that test meant, because Buz is just a streetwise slob, not a Yale graduate. Once the test results are in, Terry will have him 'bagged and tagged,' Tod tells him. But Buz isn't bothered by this because it's not serious. I think all he needs to know about him and Terry is that he's a man and she's a woman.

Inside, Buz is trying to remember his date's name. Outside, his date is doing the same. Look, it's a very young Lynda Day George of Mission: Impossible fame! She's very perky, and starts pairing their names, 'Bibi and Buz. Buz and Bibi. Bibi-Buz. Wow!' Yeah, she's going to be a barrel of fun.

Tod is looking towards the car with the girls in it – but another car honks as they walk out, and Buz sees Terry drawing up.

Buz can't resist...

...and Tod is left agape. 'He wouldn't do that to me,' he murmurs. But he would.

Tod is left trying to explain, 'He has this very sick mother... High temperature...'

'High cheekbones, too,' Beth comments.

Poor Tod is left on the pavement...

Meanwhile, Buz and Terry are out in the wilds somewhere. Buz has learnt by now not to try to light her cigarette for her.

'Does the silence embarrass you?' Terry asks.

'What silence?' Buz asks in his sultry way. 'I've been listening to you.'

'Your speed is all – forward, isn't it?' she asks him. I don't think she knows quite how to deal with him. She's as used to men like him as he is to women like her.

She seems to be embarrassed by the silence. She asks if he'd like some music, but he tells her he doesn't need it.

'You know, a person a could learn to dislike you intensely,' she tells him.

She's convinced the test today tells her exactly what he meant when he said he didn't need music – but our Buz is more complex than that.

'You see, I don't need music when I'm happy,' he tells her. 'And I'm happy with you – right now, sitting here, who knows where, who knows why, but if you really listen you can hear all kinds of music in the air. Brass bands on summer excursion boats, bongos from Basin Street, jazz from 42nd Street, or some stylish kid belting out a ballad on a penthouse saloon. Hi-fis from coast to coast. I can even hear saxophone cases slamming shut at 2a.m and tired sidemen crossing parking lots, wiping off the windshields, and they're wet before they drive home. So, who needs radios?'

The thing is, you believe him, too.

That did it. He's got her.

She's still playing him, though. She laughs at him, and then asks if he wants to kiss her again. This is as much a test as what went on earlier.

Buz is equal to her, though. He's pissed. He throws the keys out of the car and gives her her own multiple choice question. She's in dangerous territory. If she'd picked the wrong man she could be in real trouble.

Luckily for her it ends in smiles, rather than a nasty assault out in the desert.

Ah, Lee is back. It's been too long. Buz has come to meet the boss for a spot of clay pigeon shooting. What fun!

Men do manly things with guns. Buz tries not to be out of his depth. His experience of shooting comes from tin ducks and clay pipes at Coney Island. But Lee is very friendly and approachable.

Buz misses...

Lee hits, gives Buz a little advice, and...

Buz misses again.

Peter Graves' hair is being ruffled by the wind, and I am swooning. He's talking about how great Buz was in his test, about how he's a very aggressive person – but I'm watching the hair and the smile and all those things.

Buz misses again.

Peter – sorry, Lee – looks very happy out here. It's the only place he gets a break from the office. And Buz, it seems, is a fresh new type compared to the standard graduates they get.

This time, Buz gets the clay pigeon.

And Lee has a thoughtful look on his face, as if he's thinking perhaps they have got the right person after all.

Buz is not nearly so confident. 'What – what do you think I know about advanced management techniques or urban planning, or – or – architecture or mortgages, or – or any of those other kind of foreign words that Terry whispered in my ear?' he asks.

But Lee reassures him that it's their job to teach him.

Buz hits the pigeon again. Go Buz! The banter goes on, but we learn interesting things about Buz, so let's write it down.

'I'm one of your labourers. I've had fourteen jobs in the last sixteen months. I get up in Duluth and go to bed in Detroit. I've never made more than $122.50 a week. When they pushed me out of high school and put that diploma in my back pocket the bells rang from the Bowery to Riverside Church. Nobody every figured I'd make it – least of all me.'

'Everybody gets born the same way,' Lee says pragmatically.

'This whole deals gotten out of hand,' Buz says – but he's still hitting the pigeons.

Hearing about how it was all so Buz could try to get a date with Terry gives Lee pause. Also, he looks very pretty in the wind.

Now Lee's missing the pigeons. And has pretty hands.

Lee is still willing to give him a try. But he warns him, 'But don't let the numbers dazzle you. Think before you reach, because there's a price. With me, and with all my people, the division between work and leisure, between discipline and freedom, all gone, erased, wiped out. No boundaries. No place to hide. With this outfit you don't build a life – you unbuild. You strip down your private life and you start fresh, as you must with any project. And then you go, out and up. If the native material is good enough you stay up. If it isn't the whole project's a wash out. You decide, Buz.'

Wow, that sounds like a barrel of fun.

But still, Peter Graves is pretty.

We're still getting assailed by Peter-Graves-prettiness, this time at the top of his building against the lovely light from the window, as Terry comes to see him about her marvellous find.

This light is made for him, not her. Clever light. She's talking about copper (how Buz is 'a bit raw, but so is copper before it hits the smelters.') He's talking about cabbages.

'Did you and I, Terry, ever talk about cabbages or only about kings?' Lee asks, gazing out of the window.

'Well, I never knew you were interested in cabbages,' Terry says in her chirpy way.

Perhaps Lee is a Lewis Carroll fan, like Spock.

She gets out yet another cigarette (I suppose it's stressful at the top of the pile.) She lets Lee light it. Now this is significant, and he doesn't even know it. Lee is waxing philosophical, remembering how his father used to tell him, 'In this world no one who's strong can expect to be liked. The most he can hope for is to be respected.'

So we get a little glimpse into what makes Lee the man, even if he's only in this one episode. He's probably been brought up to achieve, to be a man. To talk about kings, and not cabbages.

He's bothered, in the way men are over women. He thinks she's never really talked to him. She replies, 'Not more than twelve hours a day, seven days a week.' All she can think about is business. He's probably thinking about sex. And cabbages. I recognise that sigh he gives when she wilfully misinterprets him.

Cunning, she asks him if Buz told him about 'last night.' His reaction is something of a double-take. He's definitely thinking about sex, and so is she, behind her strategies and wiles.

She really is cunning as a cunning fox that's been to cunning university. Again she's pretending to misinterpret him, thinking he's worried that she's letting her feelings for Buz get in the way of her job. Of course he's worried she's getting into a relationship with a man that isn't him, and that's exactly what she wants.

Enter Buz. I wonder if his ears are burning? He's come to accept the job. Both he and Lee have their doubts, but they will all try. A promising start, perhaps.

Terry is well pleased. Spider, spider, spin your web.

'Cremers Select English Woolens & Worsteds.' If they were that English, they'd spell 'Woollen' correctly. But Buz looks very pleased to be here.

Everything's going on. He's even having his name put up outside his office door as Tod comes to visit.

It's all late-night, high-rise work that turns into kissing sessions, and getting money out at the bank for Buz, now. (See how cunning I was to get the capture as it faded from one to the other, thus saving two screencaps?)

Buz's wallet isn't big enough for all his money, poor thing.

Doesn't Buz look in his element?


Or should I say 


Buz is being coy and silent when Terry asks him why he didn't speak up in the meeting. He's not been saying anything for four weeks. He knows he's being manipulated, and he's playing with her as much as she is with him. He puts on a lovely piece of music, which, as far as I can tell, is the same piece which is also played in And The Cat Jumped Over The Moon and Even Stones Have Eyes. That piece I can never remember the name of. If it's not, it's very similar.

He changes the record to some nifty jazz which is actually the theme music that runs through the episode, and is chirpy and superior while she rails at him for not putting forward the concept they've discussed.

'Well, you see there was only one thing wrong with that. You see, it was your concept, not mine.' He wants to know why she didn't present it. She tells him it was because she wanted him to get the credit. 'Why?' he asks astutely.

Of course it all ends in kisses, even though he won't promise to bring it up at the next meeting. It's hard to know who's manipulating who the hardest.

But finally he does, very reluctantly. And we get to see Peter Graves' hands in the foreground. (When I say 'we' I mean 'I,' because I doubt most of you are here for Peter Graves' hands.) Terry is no end of pleased.

It's a very, very impressive proposal. You get to see Lee being impressed rather than Buz putting the proposal to him because you get lots of Buz in other episodes.

At first he seems very hesitant, but he starts to warm to his topic. Good old Buz. He may be a fish out of water but he tries his best to breathe the air. It's not a very environmentally sound plan, though. They want to fill an entire swamp in Florida and build on it. Lucky Florida. But the profit will be five and a quarter million dollars, and that's what counts.

Meanwhile, Tod seems to be dating both Beth (who is a lovely acerbic wit) and Bibi, when Buz comes to meet him in his wonderful brass-buttoned jacket that makes him look like a sailor.

Buz's buttons are so bright you practically get lens flare from them. We find out that Tod has sent him a message. Tod asks if he wants a drink. This feels very much like a break-up.

'I knew it was going to be hard, Buz, but not this hard,' Tod tells him.

This really is a break-up. Tod wants to move on.

This is the moment when Tod says, 'I'm trying to tell you I'm leaving,' and walks off to the juke box to put the episode theme tune on. Buz looks like he's been slapped. In a minute Tod will say, 'It's not you, it's me,' and then someone will start crying.

Buz is sad. But Tod tells him, 'We always knew some day you'd have to find a new boy to drive you where you were going, or I'd have to find a new passenger.'

The homoerotic overtones here are huge. Or close guy-friendship, at any rate.

'If that's not what we were travelling around the country for, then what?' Tod asks. 'So, one day one of us or both of us would finally light. You know, you drive around looking for the truth and sooner or later you're gonna find some. So – er – one for the road.'

This is such a bad break-up that they part with nothing more than a 'keep in touch,' and 'sure.' No manly hug-with-a-slap-on-the-back, no handshake. Nothing. Oh dear. Tod is left with his beer and peanuts, and Buz has a flight to catch.

Except you can tell from the way that Buz sweeps into the office that things aren't going to go that way. He wouldn't ditch Tod for another woman.

We get to see Lee through that table again. I love stuff like this.

Then Buz appears through the glass, needing to talk to Lee alone. Someone else is getting the Dear John letter today, it seems...

I just like the light here.

Buz is coming out of the storm cellar. It's like an extreme version of the closet.

Lee is rather taken aback when Buz calls him 'Mr Fisk,' not 'Lee.' Dear Mr Fisk. I'm afraid we can't meet like this any more...

Oh, okay. It's the storm cellar of his conscience.

'What kind of architecture is that? A storm cellar?' he asks. 'A man's conscience should be clear, above the ground like one of those glass houses you build, right?'

It's mixed metaphor time. 'Well, people who build glass houses,' Lee begins.

'Shouldn't wear a millstone around their neck,' Buz finishes, proving that people have been using plural pronouns for a long time to refer to a gender neutral idea of personship. This metaphor is like one of those weird people you put together with cards of different body parts.

Lee needs a drink. Buz is quitting. Buz doesn't want a drink. In fact, in this freeze frame it looks like he's about to pull out a revolver and commit murder. But actually he's just pulling out a cheque to pay back all of Lee's money.

Peter Graves makes George Maharis look short. I'm sure he's not trying to do this, but he does.

Lee gets Terry in to the office... Now, there's an entrance. She looks like a cat that's just got a mixed metaphor but has come out sailing anyway. As the doors close she even gets a kind of halo about her head.

They both look rather accusing. Lee tells her there's a glass out for her. He's used to drinking with her, obviously. Married couple. Yes.

Lee is a little like someone who's caught someone out being naughty. I don't have a good metaphor for this that doesn't involve children. But anyway, it's just what he has done. He shows her Buz's severance pay ('only he's severing us'), and you get the feeling she knows the game is up.

'When did you find out?' Terry asks him, as Buz watches from the other room. This whole thing has been about Lee and Terry all along. (Do they deliberately both have gender-ambiguous names? I like to think they do.) He knows that all the ideas were Terry's, not Buz's.

Finally it all comes out. 'I want Smitty's job,' Terry says. She left pieces out of the puzzle on purpose, so Lee would realise it was her ideas that Buz was presenting. I do feel quite sorry for Buz. She played Lee perfectly.

Buz is irritated.

Here it is. When Lee asks why she did all this, she tells him. He ignores her advice.

'And what about the year before? The Mitchell deal? You stood to make at least two million dollars on that one, but because it came from me, a – a mere woman – you hesitated just long enough to let another company snap it up. You needed a lesson, Lee.'

I'd say he's had a lesson. She was denied her true potential because of her gender, so she used all the weapons in her gender's arsenal to get what she wanted. Fair's fair. But still, poor Buz.

This is Lee realising how completely he's been had. He seems proud of her, and the fact she's made him five million dollars.

Buz is not such a gentleman, grabbing hold of her arm to pull her back to him. She assures him that all the time they spent together was real.

'But don't you see, that's just part of me – part of what I am. You never got beyond that. You never found the most important part of my life. If you had. If you'd had the insight to take that part prisoner too, then you would have known all of me, and then I would have forgotten everything. My job, my ambitions. Everything but you.'

Now, there's a mixed message in what at first seems to be a straightforward, powerful speech. She seems at first to be reminding him that she's not just about one thing – sex, or business, whichever angle you're looking at. Then she does the typical woman thing of implying she would give up her career for a man. Which is it, Terry?

'Well, you're not alone, Buz. I've loved her for five years,' Lee confesses. But if he'd asked her to marry him she would have said yes just because she was ambitious and wouldn't pass up the president of the company.

'Terry, I want to marry you,' he tells her plainly. We knew that. But if it's a choice between marrying him, or Smitty's job, she'll take the job.

Buz gets to listen to their romantic banter, as Lee promises to hound her for her hand in marriage, and she promises to hound him for his job, by promoting him upstairs. I can't help but wonder if both will happen. Buz seems happy enough to have been around to see this little match spark off, despite how he was treated.

So there's Buz, in his old coat, sitting on his suitcase, outside a hotel, waiting...

And here's Tod. The break-up is unbroken.

Things are back where they should be, Tod in the driver's seat, the suitcases side by side. Tod has driven for eleven hours from Denver to Phoenix, just to pick him up. Tod asks him why he sent the wire collect.

'Well, suppose I'd paid for it?' Buz asks. 'Where's the urgency?'


All's right with the world. Don't get hepatitis, Buz. Tod needs you.