Knight Rider: The Ballad of Stevie and Michael, Chapter 1 (part 2)

Click here for part 1 of this review

Cut to Michael and KITT tooling through the city. Then we return to Stephanie’s hospital room. Michael enters and calls her Stevie, and says he’s there. “Michael,” she answers dreamingly, rousing from her stupor. “I woke up, and you were gone,” she says as he grips her hand. Lady, you’ve known this guy for like one day now. (OK, actually he’s her former fiance, but she doesn’t know that, even if that is completely ridiculous.) And during that time, he took you to a ’safe house’ where you were shot.

“Don’t go away again, please,” she moans. Seriously, you clearly have some major dependence issues. In any case, he promises not to leave her. Bum bum bum! Is Michael considering giving up his work for FLAG? Well, it’s the show’s first season of a four season run, if that tells you anything. Anyway, cut to the third commercial break.

Cut to a now all but recovered Stephanie (her arm is in a sling, and that’s it; this presumably the day after she was shot and had surgery) in a flat out mansion somewhere. Man, this is the way to live life on the lam. She’s reading with some dismay THE TIMES, the main front page story of which recounts how Cole is putting everything on her. Of course, all this accomplishes is to convince her to testify before the grand jury. They sure don’t make criminal masterminds the way they used to.

They spend a second noting, however, that Cole’s accusations might in fact ruin her credibility with the grand jury. “I’ll take that chance!” she retorts. “My credibility’s intact.” Well, yes, other than the national newspaper headlines naming you as a gangland flunky. Michael then breaks the news about her ginned up arrest record. She turns on the waterworks as she considers Cole’s betrayal. The ability of the actress playing Stephanie to cry on cue no doubt helped her get the numerous soap opera gigs that were her main claim to fame.

Bonnie appears and tells Michael that Devon wants to see him. Michael joins him, and learns that Devon has procured Stephpane’s supposed arrest record. In both cases, she was purportedly arrested by the same cop, one William Donner. “The same arresting officer!” Michael immediately notices. (He is, after all, a trained investigator.) “That’s very interesting!” he continues. Well, not really. Obviously it’s an avenue for investigation. Really, though, how unlikely is it that a prostitute would be arrested twice in a month’s time by the same vice cop? Not very, I would think.

Devon further reveals that Donner was indicted in a recent police scandal, “but it didn’t stick.” (By the way, wouldn’t the feds be working on this exact same trail? They’re the ones who want Stephanie to be their key witness.) Donner then disappeared. Uhm, if he disappeared following a scandal “last fall,” then how did he insert faked police reports into the official record? And aside from arrest reports, wouldn’t there have to be official court records and such, too?

Devon has Donner’s photo, and *gasp*, he’s one of the two men who had been tailing them, and who presumably shot Stephanie. Because, you know, mafia bigwigs generally only have two or three guys working for them at any one time. It cuts way down on overhead. Also, good thing Michael had KITT take their picture for convenient comparison purposes. Devon notes, however, that they still don’t have anything on Cole. I’m not sure why getting Cole is such a big deal, but luckily they are interrupted here by Stephanie, who announces she had a plan.

This bit of brilliancy involves her calling Cole and pretending to ask for his help. She tells him that they intend to take her to “a retreat somewhere in the mountains.” Personally, I myself would probably refer to this as “the same *$~@^#% place I was shot yesterday,” but to each their own.

Cut to Michael and Stevie tooling around in KITT. He gets her to promise that she’ll stay in KITT whenever anything starts to happen. And, given that we’re in the episode’s home stretch, this doesn’t take long. Seconds after they arrive outside the safe house, KITT picks up a car approaching at high speed. Donner and Generic Hood #2 arrive and Donner opens fire with an automatic rifle. The goons circle KITT, firing many more bullets than could be held in a single clip. Ensconced in their wonder car, however, Michael and Stephanie remain unscathed.

Donner calls for GH#2 to ram KITT with their substantial ’80s sedan. KITT worriedly asks Michael if he just intends to let this happen. KITT must move pretty much for the exact same reason Superman in the old TV show would stand there and take bullets to his chest, but duck whenever crooks threw their empty guns at him. You can fake gunfire with special effects; being hit by a physical object, not so much.*

[*However, according to the promo for the new TV movie, CGI has taken care of this. Thus we see KITT Jr. rammed by a much larger SUV, which smashes itself to pieces against Jr. whilst not even budging it, Newton’s laws be damned.]

As the sedan speeds their way, Michael waits until the very last second (wow!) to hit the gas. The sedan crashes past and ends up flipping over somehow. Michael runs over, grabs the staggering Donner and executes the classic, “Grab the guy by his lapels and shove him up against a car/wall/whatever” move. “Where’s Cole?” he demands.

Donner holds out for a couple of seconds, during which Devon shows up (actually, given the timing, he must have teleported in) with a pair of cops. Smiling, though, these stroll off for a couple of minutes so that Michael can beat the info out of their suspect. So much for getting a conviction against those guys. In any case, confronted with Michael’s righteous fury, not to mention the incredible Hoff Coif, Donner instantly wilts. And, moreover, he proves to know exactly where Cole is, although I’m not really sure why that would be.

Because this episode requires a longer coda than most, the ‘action’ end of things is wrapped up quickly. For pure convenience’s sake, both Cole and Solan are at a small airport waiting to leave in a private plane. Yes, gangsters and their hotshot lawyers are always fleeing the country in wee little aircraft, rather than using their vast resources to tie up their legal proceedings for years and years.

Michael arrives just in time, and stops them from escaping (after jumping over a security fence via the expedient of Ye Olde Hidden Ramp) by hitting Turbo Boost and smashing KITT through the plane’s tail just seconds before take off. (!!) Naturally, this results in a spray of debris and a big fireball. You might think the FAA, if not the local cops, would have sometime to say about this, but apparently not.

In any case, this stunt rather amazingly doesn’t kill either Solan or Cole. Michael pulls up and grabs the staggering Cole and for the second time in two minutes does the “grab lapels, shove up against [plane]” thing. “Usually I’d wait for you to swing first,” he explains, because he’s a good guy. However, Cole betrayed the woman he loves, and besides, he’s a lawyer, so Michael just busts him one in the chops.

Cut to Michael and Stevie strolling through some lush mountain scenery. Stevie tells Michael some stuff he presumably already knew. We didn’t, though, so that’s handy. Basically, she’s going to testify, and then go into the witness protection program. See the irony? Now Stevie herself is slated to disappear and start a new life with a new name and identity.

As they talk, Michael notes she doesn’t have her necklace. “I gave it back,” she replies enigmatically. “It’s going to be strange becoming somebody else,” Stevie continues. Here the song “White Bird” has again very slowly been turned up in volume on the soundtrack. And once again, lest we don’t ‘get’ it, they make the connection almost unbearably explicit.

“I read about a bird once, a long time ago,” Stevie muses. “A white bird. [Hey, like in the song and this episode’s title, right?!] It eats, sleeps, spends its entire life in flight. It never lands. That’s its purpose. [Uhm, how is that a ‘purpose’?] Its destiny. To fly forever.” [Cue song lyrics: “White bird must fly / or she will die!” Wow, it’s all coming together!]

Michael leans in for a kiss, then a second, and they part. Stevie takes the back seat of a squad car, and looks at Michael tearfully through the window. [Cue song lyric: “The white bird / just sits in her cage…” Get it?!] Then she is gone. Michael staggers towards the camera, and to the detriment of any hoped for dramatic effect, Hasselhoff strenuously attempts to manufacture a Sad Face. Cue final commercial break.

Back for the coda. To leaven the gobsmacking treacle heartrending pathos, they now inject a note of comedy. (Sort of.) Michael enters the house, which I guess is Devon’s, and finds the latter standing over a very chintzy array of destroyed ‘antiques.’ Supposedly this is the result of the bullets bouncing off of KITT earlier.

Michael apologizes in a purportedly humorous fashion, and Devon assumes a glowering “Why, you!” expression of a sort not generally seen since Mr. Mooney finally snapped and murdered Lucy Carmichael. Which, OHMYGOSH, is a combination of ‘car’ and ‘michael.’ Don’t you get it, man?!

This accomplished, Michael heads outside to sit inside his best friend. Which is, I will admit, on first glance a weird sentence to have to write. “I wonder if she really knew?” Michael muses. “Look in my glove box,” KITT replies. Gee, what could possibly be in there? To my complete astonishment, it was the necklace that Stevie said she “gave back.” [Cue “White Bird” yet again.] Dudes, my mind is now OFFICIALLY BLOWN.

Now, all this was already patently telegraphed and entirely obvious, but needless to say, they don’t leave it there. This is, again, a Glen Larson show. After all, there might be one 90 year old, half-senile viewer out there somewhere who hasn’t managed to put the two or three giant pieces together yet. “Why did she leave it for you?” KITT inquires. “A mutual friend gave this to her,” a verklempt Michael responds, “a long time ago. He’s dead now.”

“What was his name?” KITT asks, because that’s precisely the sort of thing a sentient car might want to know in a situation like this. Anyway, Gentle Reader, brace yourself for the amazing, emotionally devastating revelation that ends our show. “Michael Long, KITT,” Michael answers. “Michael Long.” [Hasselhoff assumes sad expression in an extremely tight close-up. And, scene.]

WOW!!!! Take that, Shakespeare.


As usual for this time period, an era in which the likes of Glen Larson and Stephen J. Cannell reigned supreme over the airwaves, the writing in this episode makes not a lick of sense. Basically it gets by (or at least, got by) because it relied on conventions that TV audiences had been taught to take at face value. Most pertinently, as with 90% of these shows, the villains’ downfall results from their panicked responses after the hero shows up. If they had just sat tight, they’d have been completely safe.

Amazingly, nobody attempts to justify the specific panicking here by at any point saying, “We can’t afford to have somebody poking around right now!” Admittedly, that would be pretty stupid, since here the villains were already being subjected to an in-depth federal investigation. But that’s still how these things usually worked. And again, supposed cool customer and super-genius Cole immediately freaks out after Michael (also known to him as “a guy”) shows up at his office and tosses around accusations for about thirty seconds.

Loose threads also abound. For instance, how did Solan learn of the location of the FLAG safe house? We don’t know. He simply says he knows of it, and his men show up there, and then the matter is dropped. For that matter, Devon never seems particularly interested in how his organization’s ’safe’ house got blown. Considering they must spend tens of thousands of dollars a year to keep the place stocked with champagne and fresh groceries, you’d think this would be an item of concern. On the other hand, maybe the whole thing is really mostly intended as a tax write-off.

Also, in the midst of a federal investigation, why would Cole keep a briefcase full of dirty money in his own office? Why would he send his personal secretary to stand right outside the building (where, in fact, she gets arrested) with said briefcase, with orders to pass it to a guy in a car who just happens to be Solan himself. Because, you know, canny crime bosses also personally attend to errands that would totally incriminate them.

I mean, really, if the Feds had just waited ten seconds—and I hadn’t even thought of this before, bad on me—until after Stephanie had passed the case to Solan, they could have actually caught this major gangland figure red handed with a case full of marked bills. So, good work there, Agent James.

Also funny is the way either Devon or Michael or Bonnie or some combination thereof seemingly spend most of their time traveling to meet one another at various locations, all to exchange one or two bits of information and then split up again. Presumably this was driven by the need to include the show’s co-stars in the ‘action,’ as it were.

Guest stars:

Catherine Hickland (Stephanie): Aside from the occasional guest star role on some prime time show or other (Knight Rider, Airwolf, etc.), Ms. Hickland easily achieved her greatest fame as a cast member on a long series of daytime soaps. These included Texas (a short lived spin-off of Another World), Capitol, Loving, The City (amusingly, The City was a spin-off of Loving; when they knew they were going to cancel that earlier show, they picked a number of characters to move over to The City and then used a serial killer plotline to kill off all the other show’s regulars!), and finally a long, long stretch on One Life to Live that I guess intermittingly continues to this day.

Bert Freed (Solan): Another of the large pool of character actors who appeared constantly in films and TV guest roles throughout the ’60s and ’70s. Among his occasional role of greater interest was the Police Chief in the paranoid ’50s kid’s sci-fi flick Invaders from Mars, and, more pertinently to the readers here, his role as chief bad guy Posner in Tom Laughlin’s Billy Jack. He’s the guy Billy tells he will kick in his face and there’s nothing he can do about it. Freed also originated the role of Columbo in a 1960 episode of 1960 Chevy Mystery Theater, eight years before the character was revamped and introduced in the person of Peter Falk.

Don Galloway (Gilbert Cole): Mr. Galloway was well known at the time by TV viewers as Det. Sgt. Ed Brown, one of the sidekicks of Raymond Burr’s wheelchair bound detective during the seven year run of Ironside.

It should be noted that both Freed and Galloway have nearly nothing to do in this episode. I would be surprised to learn that either had much over a minute of screentime, if that.

Epilogue: Following her appearance here, Stevie’s portrayer Catherine Hickland became engaged to David Hasselhoff. (Hasselhoff himself started as a soap star. His only major role previous to Knight Rider was a seven year run as Dr. William “Snapper” Foster on The Young and the Restless.) By the time Ms. Hickland next appeared on Knight Rider the following year, they were man and wife.

  • Regarding the voice actor switch from Arnett to Val Kilmer: I thought it was General Motors that threw the hissy fit. They didn’t want the guys doing their voiceovers to be associated with a Ford car. (Ah, I used to live in Detroit and I love it when this rivalry erupts in the public.)

    Also, isn’t William Daniels still alive? Shouldn’t he be doing the voice of KITT? It would be like the delirium tremens us Transformers fans got when Petter Cullen (the original voice of Optimus Prime) reprised his role in the movie.

  • mitch

    I remember spending many Saturday afternoons watching the totally ridiculous “Knight Rider” with my brother– great choice for a review, Ken.

    In your list of super-vehicle shows you forgot a late entry, Hulk Hogan’s “Thunder in Paradise,” with its super-boat.

  • James Hold

    We always referred to the show as “the Bionic Car.”

  • Just a minor point – “Jacko” was Mark Jackson, who didn’t play soccer, but rather Australian Rules Football (which is closest to Irish Gaelic football with an oval ball than anything else) for the Melbourne Demons.

    And yes, he was an extremely annoying loudmouth, although an accomplished player.

    Great review, too.

  • Dave Marshall

    …and that’s why Knight Rider was the greatest show in America.

    Great review as always, Ken! Just a slight quibble on behalf of my fellow Australian Jabootu enthusiasts – Mark “Jacko” Jackson of “Oi!” fame wasn’t an Australian soccer player. His sport was Australian rules football, which is horribly difficult to describe to the uninitiated, but basically involves punting an oval ball around. In fact, the game has become something of a breeding ground for NFL punters, such as the Jets’ Ben Graham and the Eagles’ Sav Rocca.

    I hate to nitpick further, but you used “exorcise” instead of “exercise”. All is forgiven, though, as that line gave me a hilarious mental image of Richard Burton in the driver’s sear, being exhorted to get back to his job, while poor KITT works overtime to try and keep its important circuits free of sweat.

  • Thanks for the corrections, guys! Article amended.


  • Most episodes of Knight Rider are available on Netflix Instant Viewing (as are various other Glen Larson productions–Quincy, anyone?).

    Sadly, the second “Stevie” episode is not among them, but this one and the last one are.

    Man, this Internet thingy’s pretty cool.

  • In your list of super vehicles you missed the super cycle in “Super Force” which added yet another embarrassing item to Patrick MacNee’s resume. At least it was only his voice in episodes after the pilot. The show also starred G Gordon Liddy playing a Japanese villain. Really! Though oddly enough, IMDB manages to omit this from Mr. Liddy’s resume.

    By the way, am I the only one who finds Michael’s “until all the monkeys fall” somehow reminiscent of all the “tough monkey” comments in the Trial of Billy Jack? Both feature the word “monkey” in a nonsensical context while trying to sound both tough and cool. Ah, maybe it is just me.

  • Hasimir Fenring

    Garthe was the one with the goatee.

    Could this perhaps be the first instance of the Spock’s beard cliche? I like to think that it is, because it would be nice to give the producers some credit for a show that I dearly loved.

    Because I was round four years old when it ran.

  • Adam Bomb1701

    Don Galloway also played Jobeth Williams cuckolded husband Richard in the 1983 classic “The Big Chill.” Ms. Williams’ Karen had sex with Tom Berenger’s character Sam Weber near the end of the film.
    I used to watch the old “Knight Rider” in the 80’s. My brother and I would joke about how the plots would wrap up neatly exactly 53 minutes into each episode. I haven’t seen the new one, but it’s probably the worst reviewed show this season.

  • Jayson S

    A few things…
    First off, where did Stevie get a baseball bat from? (The one she used to hit Michael with) Seems like an odd thing for a secretary who lives in a small apartment to have laying around..

    Secondly…regarding the car shase scene (where KITT goes through the cardboard wall), I often wondered why all that crap was neccesary? Was Michael and Stevie really in any danger whatsoever? What if, after discovering they were bieng followed, to just have KITT pull over to the side of the road..what are the bad guys going to do? Confront them? Shoot up KITT? Order them to get out of the car? My point is that the car chase scene was totally illogical since the “Fight or flight” instinct apparently kicked in and Michael seemed to forget that KITT totally protects them from any harm short of a nuclear device. So in essence FLAG is going to have to shell out money to replace the wall that was carelessly destroyed when Michael turboboosted through it.

  • Sammy Jo Dyson

    I  read an article once that said David Hasselhoff and William Daniels met on the set only once! During filming, David ran his lines during the initial filming then later, Daniels came in to run his lines as KITT! 

    It was odd hearing they didn’t film with both men on set, perhaps with Daniels somewhere in a sound booth where he would respond, acknowledge the obvious, and/or instigate the conversations between character Michael Knight and KITT but they didn’t do it this way. It was just downright odd, IMHO.

  • Sammy Jo Dyson

    It appears that Ken Begg wasn’t and still isn’t a fan of Knight Rider, which I find rather sad because despite some of the cheesy lines, this was actually somewhat clean, moral, family-type television that was so popular in its day along with Airwolf, The A-Team (Who couldn’t love Murdoch? He’s as crazy as a “bed-bug” but hilarious nonetheless), and others like it, including the predecessors like the Hardy Boys’ Mysteries and others. 

    Anything, even the somewhat cheesy but great television we had in those days is a 100000000% better than the constant and never-ending idiotic “Reality TV Shows” that I wish would die horrible deaths along with the writers! It pisses me off that these same writers went on strike for more money and actually got it only to sit on their rear-ends regurgitating more “reality shows,” or worse – the need to expand CSI, the Original to CSI Miami, CSI New York, CSI Los Angeles along with the same w/Law & Order! There’s Law & Order Criminal Intent, then a host of Law & Order all over the USA as well as the extension to the UK! 

    If it were up to me, I’d have canned the whole lot and hired REAL writers who could come up with an original idea rather than stealing from others only to reproduce the same shows with similar crimes and the only differences are the geographical locations! However, there is some light at the end of a tunnel… Criminal Minds. In the lame attempt – no disrespect to Forest Whitaker because he’s a decent actor but honestly, his talents are more productive behind the camera rather than in front of it, so when Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior came out, I watched about 15mins of the pilot episode then swore I would never watch the show – just doing my part in boycotting the downward spiral that would likely take my beloved Criminal Minds with it; I tend to have Derek Morgan withdrawals when the season ends; and, who in their right mind doesn’t enjoy the flirty banter btw Morgan and Garcia? 

    Garcia: ” You’ve reached Penelope Garcia in the FBI’s Office of Supreme Genius.:
    Morgan: ” Hey it’s Morgan. Need you to work some magic here. I got a program called Deadbolt Defense and a girl who has only a couple hours to live, so what do you know?”
    Garcia: “Then you got a problem Deadbolt’s the #1 password crack-resistant software out there. Your gonna have to get inside this guy’s head to get the password.”
    Morgan: “I thought I was calling the Office of Supreme Genius?”
    Garcia: “Well, gorgeous you’ve been rerouted to the office of too friggin’ bad.”

    Call me crazy but I adore the sexual overtones of banter between Garcia and Morgan; Reid, Hotch, JJ, Prentiss, and even Rossi bring so much to the table as well with their quick wit, slight comedic reliefs, and the much-needed out-of-office influences that prevents Criminal Minds from falling into the dry & factual, which has ruined many crime dramas over the years. — don’t get me started on the series of Bones b/c it’s a lot like CM, plus it goes beyond the crime and the forensic science. Bones has that same excellent balance btw the job at the personal lives of the characters making for excellent programming. Now if there  were more along those lines available on television, it would be a worthy medium but sadly, it’s been taken over by reality television, boring hours of footage wasted on I-think-I-can-sing-better-than-you, I can’t dance, & then there’s the Hollywood Squares 2.0 where we get to see television/movie has-beens attempting to dance, etc… It’s such a waste and writers got more money in their paychecks for this? No, it’s time for slips in the box that match the color of Pepto liquid…