Friday, November 30, 2012

The Secrets of Isis Episode 16: "Seeing Eye Horse"

The title, "Seeing Eye Horse," (September 11, 1976) is no metaphor.  This episode delivers exactly what it promises.  Award-winning equestrian Noah Schuster has lost his sight, and when surgery does nothing to improve his situation, Andrea Thomas and Rick Mason arrange for the lad to receive a seeing eye horse.  It's a lovely gesture from some caring people, but it also leads to a lot of complications.  Noah's a bit horse-shy after having a riding accident (Isis saves him) and feeling a bit angry as well.  When he blunders into a water cooler and the broken glass reflects enough sun to start a smoldering fire, it's going to take both the horse and the Egyptian goddess to save the day-- unless Noah figures out a way to do that for himself first.

Confined to a single location and apparently taking place over the course of two eventful days (or else one really long one), this is one frantic Isis episode.  And you probably want to stay as far away from Noah as possible in the event his lousy luck is contagious.  Poor guy endures bad news from his doctor (veteran character actor James Griffith, who was once a musician with Spike Jones and His City Slickers, with an acting career spanning decades), a runaway horse incident, the kindness of Ms. Thomas, starting a fire, falling in a lake, being rescued by a horse, then tumbling into a small hollow and briefly losing the ability to walk.  That is one unfortunate kid.  Or, if you prefer optimism, a very fortunate kid when you consider he has friends like Thomas and Mr. Mason.  And let's not forget Rennie Carol, as Ronalda Douglas makes her Isis debut in this episode, replacing fan favorite (this fan anyway) Joanna Pang as Cindy Lee.

Pang's bubbly presence is certainly missed.  I couldn't help but feel a little sad not seeing her in the credits.  Her absence is even more apparent because Douglas only has a few brief scenes and maybe three or four lines total, which means there's a lack of student sidekick action.  Douglas does, however, boldly wear denim overalls in what seems to be a visual challenge to Pang's baby blues.  Shocking stuff for Isis!  My first impressions of Douglas involve her soft voice and gracefully soothing presence.  Pang might have played the same scenes in a more chipper, upbeat way, but Douglas is just so very gentle.  Remember-- Cindy Lee had her own storyline in the show's second episode before settling into the sidekick role.  Let's see if Rennie gets a similar spotlight, and if they develop her personality as distinct from Cindy's.

I only wish the show told us where Cindy went to establish a little more continuity.  Speaking of-- Thomas is still driving that yellow Firebird.  But this year is all about change, and not just switching out student assistants.  Isis gets a new wavy/curly goddess wig, one that isn't as successfully integrated into the character's look as the long, straight one she wore in the first season.  This one appears to be a sort of fall, with Joanna Cameron's real hair parted in the middle and combed back on the sides in an effort to disguise it.  Unfortunately, the wig matches neither the shade nor the texture of Cameron's natural hair.  Her Isis transformation gets a glamour shot cutaway and her flying take-off features a close-up this time, rather than re-using that overly familiar stock footage we're probably all tired of already.  There's a new flying shot as well, but it's a bit clumsy, with Isis viewed in profile.  The head-on view is much more effective.  Still, it's nice to see the producers spending a little more money on the effects, if only for variety's sake.

Brian Cutler must have enjoyed shooting this episode.  He gets to be a little heroic himself.  When Noah's horse-- spooked by a sonic boom from a passing jet-- bolts wildly down the lane, it's Mr. Mason who cowboys up and gallops in pursuit, doing that cool "rein whip" move you do when you're trying to head 'em off at the pass (I hate that cliche!).  Cameron also demonstrates her horseback skills as Thomas shows Noah how to operate Sunny, the seeing eye horse.

Overall, this is a solid sophomore season debut, with the leads providing their usual grounded performances and the guest stars doing their best despite a busy script.  Gregory Elliot as Noah has to flail around helplessly and interact with a horse but he acquits himself well enough.  Kathleen O'Malley as Mrs. Schuster, his mom, has an incredible filmography stretching all the way back to the 1920s, when she was a baby.  She played a nurse in the 1955 Henry Fonda/Jack Lemon/James Cagney classic Mister Roberts, acted in two episodes of Leave it to Beaver, appeared on The Munsters, Twilight Zone, Bonanaza, Emergency!, Mary Tyler Moore, Columbo and Baretta just to name a few.  She managed a western star bi-fecta by showing up in two Clint Eastwood flicks-- okay, Dirty Harry isn't a western-- and John Wayne's The Shootist.

What I don't understand is how they could let Noah just wander around when he storms off after rejecting Sunny.  No one bothers to look for him.  In fact, thanks to some wonky editing, it's almost as if everyone simply disappears from the farm at one point.

Notes-- Thomas drives around with Tut in the backseat of her car, on a bird perch.  She leaves him in there for hours, perhaps even overnight.  Even with the windows down, that's not the proper way to treat your
animal companion.

The scene where she demonstrates Sunny to Noah is pretty neat.  Cameron handles herself in the saddle like a regular Annie Oakley.  I'm guessing Annie Oakley rode horses as well as doing all those trick shots with Buffalo Bill's show, but I'm not old enough to have witnessed any of that first hand so I could be wrong.  Whatever the case may be, Cameron looks comfy and that's saying a lot for someone acting atop an animal, even a highly trained one.  At one point she has to let go of the reins and just sit there while Sunny does his (or her) stuff.  And I'm thinking she and Cutler relished the chance to do that kind of physical stuff.  Looks like fun.

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