The Story So Far:
Michael Knight is a man who doesn’t exist. Four years ago, he was a cop who was shot and left for dead. A private organization gave him a new face and identity and a talking indestructible car with which to continue his fight against the forces of injustice.
One of Michael’s cases brought him into contact with Stephanie “Stevie” Mason, the woman who in his previous life was his fiancée. Stevie also thought her former lover dead, and Michael dared not reveal his secret even as he fought to save her from criminals, and fought as well the longings of his heart. She was saved, but had to enter the Witness Protection Program, and thus ironically be given a secret new identity of her own. After they parted, Michael discovered that Stevie had indeed penetrated his disguise, but had given him up so they could pursue their new destinies….
A year later, a new incident, and perhaps Fate itself, brought Michael and Stevie back together. Now Stevie Mason, she had become the lead female singer of an up and coming arena rock band, Class Action. However, one day she found her new lover, the band’s male lead singer, dead in his dressing room. The authorities called it a drug overdose, but Stevie knew that was untrue.
With nowhere else to turn, she called Michael back into her life. Assuming the role of the band’s lead male singer, Michael investigated in between concert dates and video shoots. The murderers were found and brought to justice, but in the process old passions were reawakened. Even so, Stevie knew that they both loved their new lives too much to ask Michael to give his up for her. Both vowed, however, that in time, this day would come….
The Ballad of Stevie and Michael, Part 3:”The Scent of Roses” Season 4, Episode 12
Apparently they dumped the clip teaser by the fourth season, for we start immediately with the opening credits. These consist of the usual shots of KITT driving through a desert plain, and action clips from the show. Sometime in this fourth season, KITT had been further modified by a band of funky ’80s *snicker* “street” mechanics. As a result, he now has a new speed mode, “super pursuit mode.” Due to this, KITT at this point could achieve speeds of over 300 MPH. This involved the use of rocket boosters and projecting airfoils, which are highlighted in the credit clips.
By this time he’d also accumulated several additional powers (he could generate electric shocks, etc.), many of which in traditional TV fashion he manifested only once in some convenient situation, never to use again. One of these included the ability to drive over water. That also was used once, but only because it was such a pain in the ass to shoot that they never bothered with it again. The street mechanics also turned KITT into a convertible, another feature highlighted here.
As for the human cast, Michael’s giant perm is finally (slightly) more human sized. Foundation technical expert Bonnie has returned, displacing April, the woman who took her place for the show’s second season.
Meanwhile, RC3, a.k.a. Reginald Cornelius III, the chief ‘street’ mechanic, has also joined the regular cast, presumably (pardon my cynicism) to add a black cast member. This proved to be the show’s last season, which indicates that ratings had softened. They may have been trying to reach out to other audience demographics, including kids, with this purportedly hip, streetwise character.
The credit clips now are full-sized, by which I mean there are no longer reduced and encased in a black box as if being shown on one of KITT’s dashboard monitors. TV screens were smaller back then, and it’s possible the actors grumbled about how audiences would barely be able to see them in such a format.
Our show proper starts with a typically clunky establishing shot, of the front of the gate of the “U.S. GOVERNMENT DATA CENTER.” You know the one. Ominous music plays as a van rolls up to the security booth. The guard goes to check the ID card of a Dr. Hanson, but a man with a gun surreptitiously exits the van and KOs him. They drag the stunned guard behind the booth, hit the gate button and enter the complex.
The miscreants park in front of a building and run about a hundred yards to a side door. They luckily draw no attention in doing so, despite the fact that one of them is fielding (I think) a Ruger K-Mini14-F with flash suppresser, a distinctive assault rifle then familiar as the weapon of choice on The A-Team.
Durant, the leader and the guy who impersonated Dr. Hanson (who conveniently for this purpose came equipped with an Amish-style beard), uses explosives to open a door. “Stay on schedule,” he commands as they enter the building, evincing a vaguely French accent. (The actor playing him is Moroccan.)
We and cut away to the semi-trailer truck / laboratory that is the Foundation’s secret mobile HQ and repair center for KITT. In the interior of this, which seems to have grown increasingly lush as the series progressed, Devon receives a computer alert about the break-in. (Man, computer graphics have come a looooong way in 20 years.) I’d like to point out that, aside from shadowy ties with friendly elements in the government, the Foundation has never been an official law-enforcement entity. So I’m not sure why Devon is getting such an alert.
Using one of those old mobile phones with an antennae you manually telescope out, Devon alerts Michael, who is luckily on the road and in the general area of the action. For a guy who cruised the highway and byways of this entire great nation, this proved true a surprisingly large amount of the time. Michael also asks about local police response, although you’d think there’d also be federal involvement, given the break-in site.
“Nothing immediate [in terms of response],” Devon warns. “It would take local authorities over 12 minutes.” Again, what are the odds that Michael and KITT would just randomly be closer to the place than that? Anyway, Bad Guy Leader said they would be at the computer they were targeting in 10 minutes from when he blew the door, so obviously the fact that it would take the police over 12 minutes to respond is meant to establish his super evil-genius credentials.
Michael has KITT “plot the most direct course,” which to be fair is a precursor to modern GPS systems and such. So points on that one. Michael then activates super-pursuit mode, despite the fact that rocket accelerating up to super speed on public roads might not on the face of it seem the safest idea. On the other hand, the show’s producers paid for all the projecting airfoils and whatnot (at a reported cost of a quarter million dollars back in 1985), and by Jabootu they intended to get their money’s worth.
Back to the data center. They come across a guard, although seemingly by random. Wait; shouldn’t there be alarms blaring and stuff, since the break-in has been reported? In any case, Stocker, the guy with the Ruger, mows him down (although his automatic fire noise is inappropriately quiet, given the evident lack of a silencer).
Such overt murderous violence is actually pretty startling for a show of this era, especially one that I believe played in the family hour. I don’t know if Knight Rider got a bit more violent as time went along, or if they just wanted to establish these exact bad guys are extra villainous. Given the nature of this exact episode, probably the latter.
We then cut back and forth Michael and KITT zooming along, to the guys messing with said computer, which mostly involves switching out a circuit board or two. By the way, when Michael arrives at the center, the unconscious guard’s body is still laying behind the booth. Again, why is it that seemingly everybody’s been alerted to the armed invasion except for the people actually at the Data Center?
During all this we get several looks at KITT’s modifications, and frankly they look goofy as hell. To (presumably) reduce drag, even KITT’s nose projected out to elongate the car’s body. My favorite touch, though, is that KITT’s gas pedal now comes framed with twin rows of ‘landing’-type lights. I mean, Michael has been practically living in this car for four years now. I don’t think he would need this much help to find the gas.
Unsurprisingly, the over-elaborateness of the modifications again prove that simplicity is best. Ah, for the days when only the trademark red strobe light on his hood marked KITT as different). Instead, KITT now comes equipped with an emergency braking system, which includes deployable air flaps. All these elements screw around with the classic shape of the car, and add disconcerting splashes of gray and red to the basic black color scheme as well. You can see how these failed to draw in more audience interest.
They arrive outside, and Michael orders KITT to button up, and then heads out on foot. “I’ll try to keep them inside ’til backup appears,” Michael explains. As always, though, he’s completely unarmed, so that doesn’t seem overly likely. However, luck (not to mention the script) favors the bold, so Michael approaches the blown door at the exact second Stocker, the one with the rifle, emerges from inside. This allows Michael to grab the guy and tussle with him rather than just getting his head blown off.
However, and again this is a level of violence indicating that this is indeed A Very Special Episode of Knight Rider, the other guys emerge and knock Michael away. In the process, though, Durant loses his fake beard. Shockingly, and I’m sure it actually was pretty shocking for audiences at the time, Michael takes a bullet or two and tumbles down some stairs.
He is saved from further harm with KITT rushes over and interposes himself between Michael and the bad guy’s guns. With police sirens approaching, the bad guys flee. If I were writing this, an epically pissed-off KITT would have run at least one or two of them down once they exposed themselves. It would actually be interesting to see KITT go functionally insane for a couple of minutes. Sadly, if obviously, this doesn’t happen, though.
KITT calls for immediate medical care. He then pleads with Michael to show some sign of life, with no result. In the next scene he is being carted off, barely alive. KITT follows the ambulance, and KITT, monitoring Michael’s vitals via his sensors, radios medical instructions (patently obvious ones, too) to the paramedics. “Give him oxygen!” he suggest at one point. Gee, thanks, Dr. Goodwrench.
Michael is rushed into surgery, and his prognosis isn’t good. The level of verisimilitude here is intense, as people say things like “We need another sponge here, nurse,” and “Get that blood in here, stat!” Out in the hall, a shocked looking Devon and Bonnie wait for information.
Eventually a grim-faced surgeon—one without a speck of blood on him—approaches them…and then smiles. (Good bedside manner, doc.) “I don’t know how, but he made it,” they are told. Devon and Bonnie embrace in relief.
Cut to a close-up of a woman in a bikini. (There’s some good editing!!!!) She’s poolside at a luxurious seaside mansion. This is presumably the abode f the Bad Guy, who from his German accent will prove some sort of infamous European terrorist.
And sure enough, there the baddies are, discussing how “in a few days” they’ll be selling the information they stole for millions of dollars. Stocker refers to this as “the score of a lifetime.” Durant, however, is rather more blasé. He notes that the millions they’ll reap will only support his accustomed lifestyle, as evidenced by their surroundings, for a year or two.
Durant is the sort of villain you only see on bad TV shows and movies, the criminal mastermind who lives in unimaginable splendor but who is also motivated by the fact that, as Durant notes here, he “bores easily.” For instance, he notes the hottie in the pool has been here a whole day already. “Too long,” he sighs. “Dismiss her.”
Durant and Stocker head through the mansion house (which is indeed incredible) to consult with the third bad guy.This is Klus, Durant’s computer expert, who typically for his kind cares about nothing but fiddling with cutting-edge technology. Klus reports that their East German clients (this being back before the fall of the Soviet Union) will soon be transferring their payment.
Durant welcomes less warmly the news that Michael is still alive, and moreover an agent of FLAG. Considering the fact that, as far as I can tell, FLAG consists of at best half a dozen people—one of whom is a car—his trepidation seems entirely oversized.
A cautious sort (albeit also “easily bored”), Durant orders that their clients be informed there will be a delay in the information transfer (????) until this situation is taken care of. “Michael Knight has to be eliminated first [before the stolen secrets are delivered],” he commands, for no apparent reason whatsoever.
“He’s seen my face,” is the justification for Durant’s overall concern. I actually really doubt Michael did, given he was also being shot at that exact split-second. Also, wouldn’t have KITT been automatically filming all of them anyway? On this show, probably not, but that’s just because the people who wrote it couldn’t be bothered to think anything through.
Back to the hospital, where Michael is out of surgery. As he’s still wearing his communicator watch, KITT apparently senses him rousing into consciousness. He calls Michael over the communicator, and Michael groggily asks where he is. “In the parking lot, Michael,” KITT replies. He reports that he’s been parked there ever since Michael was brought in, nine days ago.
Also sensing that Michael is now basically recovered (!!!), KITT tries to chide him to leaving the hospital. “If you’re going through an emotional crisis, having trouble resuming your life again,” KITT yentas, “I may not be able to solve it, but I’m ready to listen.”
Michael is, in fact, going through such a thing. “I don’t know what life I’m ready to resume,” he admits, “if any.” During this, a Sassy Black Nurse enters, and sees him apparently talking his wrist. “I’ve had patients that talk to walls,” she avers, “but never to a watch!” Michael is given sleeping pills, and the nurse turns on a camera security system before she leaves. KITT monitors this as Michael rests.
Meanwhile, we cut out to the hall to see *gasp* Martoni, Durant’s final henchman, disguised as a doctor. Seeing nobody looking—FLAG can build the most advanced piece of technology in the world, but can’t hire a security guard?—he ducks into Michael’s room. He pulls a rope from his pocket, and prepares to garrote Michael, who remains in a drugged stupor despite KITT’s alarms.
KITT instead cuts into the hospital’s PA system and calls a “code blue” for Michael’s room. Martoni attacks anyway, but this rouses Michael, who fights back. A handy bedpan saves Michael from further injury, and the medics (who take a depressingly long time to respond to the alarm), arrive to call the police and have Martoni taken into custody.
Cut to Michael strolling the grounds clad only in a shortie bathrobe (!), Devon and Bonnie trailing close behind him. “I don’t believe you’re thinking clearly,” Devon observes. Michael, you see, has decided to give up his crime fighting and settle down into a normal life. “I’ve had one incomplete life, already, as Michael Long,” he explains. “I’m not sure I want to live out my life as Michael Knight anymore.”
Devon notes that he may have been too changed by his work for the Foundation to so easily leave it. Moreover, there’s the whole ‘someone is clearly committed to killing you’ thing. Even so, an obviously shell shocked Michael remains adamant.
Bonnie, the Emergency Standby Love Interest–never activated, as far as I know–is clearly distressed by Michael’s decision. Although, oddly enough, they don’t bother to give her any lines in this scene. She and Devon leave, meeting up outside with RC3.
Seeing their somber faces, RC3 notes that they’re acting like Michael’s dead. “He’s not exactly alive, either,” Bonnie sourly retorts. “Michael needs the will to live,” Devon agrees. “A reason to care.Yes, he has a right to that even though FLAG may lose him.” (And after all, FLAG will still have the car, and c’mon, he’s the important part of that duo.) Anyway, Devon vows to find that which Michael needs.
Cut to a small piano bar, where Stevie Mason is the featured act. We find her crooning the Carpenter’s “Love, Look at the Two of Us.” She’s singing, naturally, lines meant to correspond with her relationship with Michael, and where it might go from here:
“Love, look at the two of us,
Strangers, in many ways,
Let’s take a lifetime to say,
I knew you well,
But only time will tell us so,
And love may grow, for all we know….”
If I remember correctly, I came into the episode when it first broadcast past this point. I certainly don’t remember any of the stuff with Durant. And I know I didn’t know about Stevie’s previous relationship with Michael, so it must have been past her introduction here. In any case, seeing this scene for the first time, several things hit me.
First, how the hell did Stevie go from being an arena rock star to a cabaret singer in two years? This is never addressed. They touch on her being a singer with her introduction here, but her past as detailed in the episode “Let It Be Me” is never touched upon.
Second, it turns out Catherine Hickland, the actress who plays Stevie, actually can sing pretty well. Moreover, standards like this are a lot more up her alley then the bad generic ‘rock’ she sang in her previous appearance.*
[*Actually, as it turns out, Hickland did appear on Broadway occasionally, including a 1995 stint as Fantine in Les Miserables. Her future ex-husband David Hasselhoff, as we know, had a middling successful pop career in Europe. He himself went on to star in the occasional off-Broadway show, such as a musical version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that’s available on DVD.]
The other thing you notice is part of what makes this exact episode so hilarious: its pace. I’m not sure why they crammed all this story into one episode, since Knight Rider had often done two-parters in the past. However, Stevie is brought into things at about the thirteen minute mark, with about 38 minutes left to go.
That’s not much time for everything else they need to accomplish here, and the narrative foreshortening this required is part of what makes this episode so fascinating. Anyone aware of TV tropes from the ’60s on pretty much knew exactly what was going to happen here. Despite this, they spend so much time before they get to Stevie that you knew the rest of the episode was going to have to move at an absolutely manic clip.
Stevie is shocked when Devon enters the place, and tells the piano player that she’s taking a break. She rushes up to Devon and quietly states, “He’s dead, isn’t he?” This is actually a nice moment. (On the other hand, it’s notable that the show’s most effective emotional beat occurs when David Hasselhoff is offstage.)
Stevie’s reaction makes sense. There’s no reason Devon would ever contact her outside of something happening to Michael. Although this is a small moment, it’s actual, you know, writing. It plays off what would be Stevie’s natural and ongoing fears about Michael’s dangerous job, especially given that Stevie has twice before had the men in her life killed. Even if one of them did pop back up with a new face.
Her response to seeing Devon thus makes Stevie actually look kind of smart, and moreover indicates a familiarity with human relationships and interactions that was not, shall we say, Knight Rider‘s hallmark. A fact that is ably demonstrated by the rest of this chapter, in fact.
It should also be said that Hickland handles the moment nicely, going small exactly as she should. Those years on the soaps would have prepared her this sort of moment exactly. (And although she never learned this, she also would have been ready had she ever learned that Michael Knight had an evil twin ‘brother.’)
Devon quickly reassures her that Michael is alive, but that’s he been damaged. “He needs you, Stevie,” he tells her. Cut to commercial. (Usually when they went to commercial, the traditional cut-away to the KITT driving through the desert was accompanied by a bouncy bit of the show’s theme music. Here they let a mournful note play out over the segue, and again, it’s a small but nice moment.)
Cut to Michael leaving the hospital. KITT drives up, and again, apparently nobody noticed the car driving itself through the streets of whatever town this is. Hilariously (although fittingly), Michael puts on an “I guess I’ve got to do this sooner or later” expression and puts down his bag. He sits in KITT and gets ready to deliver the break-up. “There’s something I’ve got to tell you,” Michael begins. (!!!)
Actually, it might be more appropriate to compare this to a man saying goodbye to the kid of a long-time girlfriend he just broke up with, and had grown very close to. After all, Michael isn’t ‘leaving’ KITT per se, he’s leaving FLAG. KITT is kind of aware what’s going on, but doesn’t really get it, not having a complete understanding of human interactions.
Like a kid, KITT tries to talk things right. “I don’t understand,” KITT observes. “This is your life.You’re programmed the same way I am.” Trying to speak a language KITT will understand, Michael analogizes that “My computer banks are overtaxed. KITT, there comes a time in you life when you just can’t do anymore, when all your energies have been used up.”
KITT again responds like a kid. “Michael,” he asks, “will that happen to me?” Michael reassures him that he’ll be fine. Then, in what is meant to be a big, tear-jerking moment, Michael removes his communicator wristwatch and places it on KITT’s dashboard, like he’s given back a class ring or something. “Goodbye, pal,” he rasps. I am being completely honest when I say that the actual pathos generated by this scene comes completely from the car (kudos to voice actor William Daniels, who manages to convey KITT’s confusion while staying in KITT’s normal near monotone), and not from Hasselhoff.
“I am not flesh and blood,” KITT replies, “but I am a friend, and I wish you happiness. But I still don’t understand.” “In a way,” Michael admits, “neither do I.Bye, pal.” So saying, he exits KITT and returns to the sidewalk to claim his bag.
Waiting in a car a bit further down the sidewalk is RC3. RC is one of those characters imposed on a show late in its run in a flop-sweaty attempt to shore up ratings. And, as usually happened, RC’s sudden and wholly non-organic insertion as ‘one of the gang’ drew more audience resentment than anything else. The A-Team tried the same thing with another ethnic hunk, Frankie Santana, who was foisted on the regulars for the 13 dreadful episodes of the show’s truncated final season. This sort of thing was ably mocked by the Poochie episode of The Simpsons.
He and Michael banter a bit (again with a familiarity that was completely unearned), as RC tries to convince Michael to attend a final little get-together withDevon and Bonnie. Michael, just wanting to get past the whole thing, tries to walk away, but RC3 won’t take no for an answer. He even threatens to muscle Michael into the car if he has to, and notes that in Michael’s still recovering state, he could probably do it, too. Bowing to the inevitable, Michael stiffly acquiesces.
In a moment both hilarious and yet somehow effective, as the two climb into RC3’s car, the camera slowly tracks back to KITT sitting parked by the curb, his hood strobe playing mournfully back and forth.
RC takes Michael to a pub where Devon and Bonnie are waiting. “Just so you know,” Michael tells them, fearing a sales pitch from them (which actually justifies his earlier trepidation), “this isn’t going to change anything.” Devon and Bonnie promise that they have no intention of trying to change Michael’s mind. “We’ve accepted your decision,” Devon reassures him, and invites him to join them for dinner.
They leave the bar area for a table in the accompanying restaurant, led through by an extra playing the Maitre d’. If you understand how shows are run, it’s amusing to watch this guy. He’s in the scene for the next thirty seconds or so, but they don’t give him even a line of dialogue, even a “Come this way, please.” If they did, you see, by SAG rules he’s an actor. If he has no dialogue, he’s only an extra, and you don’t have to pay him nearly as much. So the guy uses arm sweeps and such to move our characters along, all while remaining comically silent.
The guy brings them to a table, but it’s only set for two. “This can’t be our table,” Michael objects. He is, after all, a detective by profession. He then turns to find Stevie haltingly approaching him.
This is, needless to say, another ‘big moment,’ and they wisely let Hickland carry most of the freight. She tears up as effortlessly as she ever did, and even Hasselhoff manages to at least make his eyes look shiny. “Devon says you need me,” Stevie tells him. “I want you to say it. I need to hear it from your lips.” Michael replies that he isn’t sure if he’s ready, yet. “That’s OK,” she replies. “I can wait around a while.” They fall into each others’ arms.
They leave the restaurant hand in hand, but don’t see KITT waiting outside. He gets their attention, though, when he engages his highly futuristic auto-cassette tape playing system, broadcasting an instrumental version of “As Time Goes By. “Way to horn in on the moment, dude.” What are you doing here,” Michael laughs. “I’m on R and R,” KITT replies.
“Don’t put me through this,” Michael says. “Saying goodbye wasn’t easy.” Ah, a man and his car. KITT reports that he is serious, however. “The Foundation has no need for me until they find a replacement for you. “KITT notes that Michael is out of work, and he represents free transportation. Stevie buys into the idea, which is what I found least likely (imagine an old girlfriend just hooking back up with her former beau, and then inviting the guy’s best friend to join them on a vacation), but inevitably Michael gives in.
Climbing into KITT, Michael tells Stevie they’ve got something new: “Time. No deadlines anymore. “So saying, the happy couple (trio, actually) drives off. However, bum bum bum, a sedan makes to follow them. We can tell this is ominous because of the music.
I should note that up to now, the show had been in danger, after it’s typically goofy opening, of actually being at least potentially sort of good. That’s because for a brief stint, they started going small and intimate.
Those fears are allayed immediately, however, as we move to the next scene, an extended frolic on the beach (hello, Baywatch!) as Michael and Stevie cavort and heal and fall in love all over again in about the most stereotypical romantic montage imaginable. And yes, over this is played the entire Hickland/Hasselhoff rendition of the couple’s theme song, “White Bird.”
For the next half minute plus, not only do Stevie and Michael cavort on the beach, but so too (I swear!) does KITT. Indeed, the scene opens with Michael and Stevie laughing as KITT does joyful Turbo Burst leaps over sand dunes on the beach. (!!!)
Then we get the usual run of ‘oh, aren’t we having romantic fun‘ activities: They drive KITT down the beach. They run into the surf. They fall to the sand, laughing. They feed seagulls. They play Frisbee (good grief, what the hell is Stevie wearing?). Etc. It’s actually kind of amazing that we never see them share some cotton candy, or go to a fair where Michael wins Stevie a huge teddy bear at the ring toss booth.
Even so, the scene is a hilarious, completely unintended but nonetheless perfect piece of self-parody. Again, what makes shows like this so fascinating is that they don’t have a single ironic or self-aware bone in their bodies .Especially humorous are the attempts to indicate the passage of time by continuously changing the couple’s clothes. Instead, the montage seems like it covers a single day, and that the two are just compulsively changing their outfits every half hour or so.
The montage ends with the two silhouetted against the setting sun, as they lean together for a kiss. What? You think I’m exaggerating. Yeah, well, chew on this, brother.
Even after the montage ends, the inadvertent comedy continues. We next see the couple walk romantically down the beach, with KITT literally following at their heels, step by step by step. It’s actually kind of creepy, like he’s stalking them. Moreover, we do see other people on the beach, and apparently nobody finds it weird that a car is driving along the sand, or that, you know, nobody is driving it.*[*Digital clarity and larger screens are not always an old production’s friend. If you look, you can see a large bulge at the rear of KITT’s driver side seat, where presumably a stunt driver was actually hiding and controlling the vehicle.]
“This is just a little too perfect,” Stevie sighs. “This is the way I always wanted it to be for us,” Michael agrees. Obviously they’re just asking for trouble. All they need is for Stevie to say, “You know, I’m only three days from retiring…” Sure enough, to a blare of Ominous Music, we cut to a figure on a hill overlooking the beach. It’s Stocker, and he’s tracking them via some binoculars.
Having confirmed their identities, he sprints down to the road and calls Durant. Durant orders him to kill them now, but Stocker begs off. The beach is too open for him to get near, and from a distance he can’t be sure of getting them before “that car is on me.” (They cover this aspect by having Durant and the others think that KITT is controlled by Michael via remote control.) “Then we’ll have to handle it another way,” Durant muses, as they cut to a rather sizable remote control plane that’s been sitting in his house for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Oh, brother.
Cut to KITT stationed outside a pretty frickin’ swank beach side house (on a private beach, yet) that Michael and Stevie are staying in.I guess she made a pretty decent amount of coin with Class Action before the band broke up, or whatever happened. I know she isn’t paying for this on what she makes singing Carpenter songs in intimate piano bars. (Never addressed, of course, is what Michael’s severance package from FLAG was like.)
Michael strolls out to the balcony and looks out over the beach, and then turns and calls “I love you, Stevie.” (KITT starts playing “As Time Goes By” again. Seriously, dude, you’re creeping everyone out.) Hearing this declaration, Stevie steps out to join him and asks in amazement, “What did you say?” Really, his saying this is a ‘big’ moment? That’s weird. Surely he’s told her he loves her before. After all, they were once engaged to be married.
Perhaps she sensed the Big Moment is coming because there’s only 25 minutes of show left, and they’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
In any case, this is another Key Romantic Moment, and again draws attention to Hasselhoff’s lack of acting chops. “Stevie, I want to marry you!” he blurts. Then KITT yells “NOOOOOOOO!!!” and speeds over and runs her down, over and over again, screaming, “NOBODY IS GOING TO TAKE YOU AWAY FROM ME, MICHAEL! NO ONE!“
I can dream, can’t I? That would have been awesome.
Michael is shocked, however, when Stevie expresses hesitation about marrying him. (That’s right, girlfriend! Keep going!) She’s still not sure that he’s given up in his heart his work with FLAG, something so important to him that it’s “bigger than happiness or unhappiness.”
Michael assures her, though, that he has no intention of ever returning to the Foundation. Realizing that now nothing stands between them being together, Stevie joyfully agrees to become his wife. Then, and really, what the hell, Michael breaks from their Big Kiss to shout, “Now, KITT!” And KITT starts “As Time Goes By” again. Seriously, Michael, I’m not sure this was a moment you needed to bring your car into.
Counterpoising this moment of Utter and Complete Happiness with a Note of Icy Menace (wow!), we now cut back to Durant’s estate. He and Stocker and Klus are messing around with the previously established remote control airplane. As you’d expect, their ‘masterful’ plan is to cram this with full of plastic explosives and ram it into Michael and Stevie’s abode. Good grief, the Joker came up with more sensible deathtraps than that on the old Batman TV show.
Indeed, when I took these episodes over to show Techmaster Paul and his wife Holly last night, Holly listened to instructions to fill it with explosives (“That’s enough plastique to flatten a three story building!”) and added, “And put a shark in there, too!” I mean, really, why not?
Back to the beach. Michael steps out with a little cup of coffee to share a moment with KITT, and just, you know, have a chat. However, Michael then notices the remote control plane flying overhead. (This is actually being personally controlled by a nearby Durant. Why do these guys even have henchmen?) Michael doesn’t find this especially sinister at first, until it starts heading right towards the ‘cottage.’ (Cottage, my ass.)
He orders KITT to scan the plane, and learns about the explosives. Michael runs towards the house to get to Stevie, grabs her, and leads her back out to the beach. Durant and the guys see this, but can’t call the plane back. (I guess I don’t understand the idea of ‘remote control’ as well as I thought I did.)
They insert stock footage of a huge explosion from another movie, but Our Heroes are fine. Durant assumes a “Curses, foiled again!” expression and stalks off. Cue commercial break, with ominous music replacing the normal theme this time.
Cut to that night.Michael and Stevie are sitting on KITT’s hood, mournfully staring at the burned out shell of the house. (Where are the cops and firemen?! When Michael walked out to KITT he said “Good morning,” so this much be at least twelve hours later. I guess perhaps it’s so much later than the authorities have all come and gone, but surely there’d be crime scene tape around or something.)
Michael tells her that obviously someone wants him permanently out of the picture, retirement or no, and that this won’t be over until he’s dead or the culprits are behind bars. Stevie, however, is committed to sticking with him to the bitter end.
KITT reports that he’s receiving a call from Devon. Devon relates that Martoni, the guy arrested after trying to kill Michael in the hospital, “let slip” (well, that’s convenient) that Durant “has put a hold on all activities until Michael Knight is dead. “Michael is flabbergasted, unaware that his recent run-in was with this notorious criminal.” Half the agencies in the world are looking for him,” Michael spits, “and he singles me out?”
Devon reports that it was Durant with Martoni at the Data Center, and that he thinks Michael saw his face. (Apparently Martoni “let slip” a whole lot of stuff.) Michael admits that he never saw Durant’s face in the confusion. Devon replies that it doesn’t matter. “Durant is obsessed with the thought that you can identify him,” he explains.
Michael still resists being pulled back in. “Let Martoni identify him!” he shouts.” Martoni will never talk about Durant,” Devon responds. (All evidence to the contrary.) “Nobody ever has and lived.” In the end, forced back into the game, Michael and Stevie meet with Bonnie and Devon in the mobile HQ.
Although Bonnie insists she’s done numerous computer searches trying to tie Durant to Martoni. (Uhm, aren’t they already tied together; isn’t that the point?) Even so, Michael insists she try again.
The problem may be related to then current computer technology. Bonnie types away at the keyboard, and on the monitor we see big green letters spelling out “E. MARTONI: NO INFORMATION AVAILABLE.” Really? Even now that he’s been arrested for attempted murder? Man, Google really sucked back then.
However, the continued, even if entirely fruitless, searches garner the attention of Durant. Klus, his own resident computer genius, is tracking Bonnie’s computer searches. “The Foundation’s running another series of checks on Martoni,” he warns. Durant is calm, however, knowing that nothing ties him together with Martoni (or so they keep saying), and that the latter will never talk, knowing it would be his death warrant.
(Uhm, again, so how would anybody know all the stuff about Durant’s involvement that they’ve already established? That’s an awful lot of info to ‘let slip.’ Indeed, wouldn’t just never saying the work ‘Durant’ have been Martoni’s number one focus during all of this?)
Back at Mobile HQ, Bonnie’s body language reveals that she’s pissed that Michael has questioned her ability to type something like, “SEARCH: E. MARTONI” into the computer. For this part, Michael asks Devon if he would show Stevie the Foundation gardens. (I guess the Mobile HQ is now parked at the regular HQ, which seems to be missing the point a bit.) This is because he wants to see KITT’s record of his shooting at the Data Center—at least KITT did film that, as you’d expect—and wishes to spare Stevie the sight.
Durant’s in the film, but apparently too far back to identify. Bonnie says she’s gone over the tape a zillion times, and couldn’t glean anything that would fix Durant’s identity. However, Michael is the star of the show, and so he does the first time around. At one point, he points to the shiny metal briefcase Durant is carry. In it, there’s a fuzzy reflection of Durant’s face.
Bonnie asks KITT to extrapolate Durant’s image from the blurred reflection. (During this, they zoom in on the briefcase with no image degradation. So why didn’t they just do that with the background of Durant in the background of the shot but looking directly into the camera?) KITT says he can do this, but it will take time to do all the necessarily complex calculations this will entail.
Cut outside to an Emotional Scene between Devon and Stevie (the second such this show, and a sign that somebody recognized these work better when Hasselhoff is not involved), in which Devon confides that he’s come to love Michael like a son. They are interrupted, however, when Michael and Bonnie run out with the 100% perfect representation of Durant’s face that KITT extrapolated. (Wow, that did take a lot of time! It seems like, oh, five or ten minutes since Stevie and Devon went to stroll the gardens.)
Hilariously, the only problem is that the image quality sucks because it’s a photo printed out on, that’s right, a dot matrix printer. Again, their labs have whipped up an indestructible self-aware car, but they don’t have a laser jet printer, which were in fact on the market even then? Still, at the time I’m sure audiences were impressed with this super-science.
Devon is shocked by the picture, and now we learn of why Durant was so obsessed that no one ever see his face. He is, in fact, a double agent previously known as Kurt Rolands. “He was licensed to kill by both sides,” Devon reports.(!!!) Anyway, with the heat on, Rolands faked his own death, since then has managed to stay anonymous behind his new identity.
The good news is, with Durant / Rolands’ identity now confirmed, Michael should no longer be a target. Michael turns things over to Devon, who presumably will use his contact in the world’s intelligence communities to get them going after Durant. In any case, the wedding is back on.
Bonnie asks if, as a wedding present, she may be allowed to plan the wedding. Naturally Stevie agrees, and even asks Bonnie to be her maid of honor, and for Devon to give her away.This is pretty silly, especially since it was established back in “Let It Be Me” that Stevie wasn’t in witness protection anymore. It would make more sense for Michael to ask Devon to be the best man. But then there wouldn’t be a role for RC3, you know. (Not that there should be.)
Now, this is where it’s really, really getting hard to believe this won’t be a two-part episode. (And why wasn’t it? You got me.) I haven’t hidden the fact that Stevie and Michael’s story ends in tragedy, and after they got married. Then, of course, Michael will have to track down Durant.
So you’re the producer / scripters, and you decide to do all this in one story. So how do you budget the time? How about with Stevie and Michael’s wedding not even taking place until there’s less than 16 minutes of running time left. Good grief.
Cut to the prelude of the wedding—as I noted, time’s a’wastin’ now—to find a mortified KITT with tin cans and shoes tied behind him. “RC,” he complains, “this is embarrassing.” RC points to his tux.”Hey, you think you got problems? Check me out!” It’s true!A young black man from the ‘hood in a tuxedo?! What could be more incongruous?!
We spend a few seconds—but only a few, gotta hurry, clock’s ticking!!!!—on Stevie and Michael’s respective pre-wedding jitters.Then it’s on to the actual marriage ceremony.This is outside and seaside, which is beautiful but perhaps a tad open considering that somebody’s been trying to kill the groom for a while now. Moreover, there’s no security of any type apparent. Again, FLAG’s resources seem bizarrely limited at times. If nothing else, you’d think Devon could call in a few chips and have some off-duty cops stationed around the place.
Michael and Devon pause outside to have a Moment, as really they should. Then, looking over the aisle, lined with a small quantity of anonymous guests whose presence remains unexplained, Michael remarks, “Everything is just so perfect.” Dude, you’re just asking for it now.
Michael heads down the aisle with RC to stand before the minister (or something; he’s a young guy also wearing a tux) before the flower trestle that here acts for an altar. Then Stevie appears, and needless to say, the show makes sure she has a very elaborate and beautiful wedding dress. Devon takes her arm, and they begin down the aisle. [Less than 14 minutes of show left.]
One amusing point, although it may be an accident since they don’t make it clear, is that the set-up allows KITT to be close enough to ‘watch’ the wedding. Anyway, Stevie joins Michael, Devon removes her veil and steps away, and the vows are read. This isn’t exactly the Luke and Laura wedding, but it’s OK, other than a mercifully brief ‘comedy’ moment when RC has trouble getting the wedding rings off his little finger. The vows themselves are a bit brief, but tick, tick, tick.
The vows said, the minister pronounces them man and wife. They kiss, and the officiator introduces them as a married couple for the first time. There’s applause, and before they’ve taken three steps, Durant (‘disguised’ with a fake pencil mustache—oh, yeah, that’s really going to throw people off your trail) comes steps through a side door, a pistol in his hand.
We go to slo-mo and they put a heartbeat noise over the soundtrack (!!). Seeing him, Stevie throws herself in front of Michael and stops his bullets with her teeny-tiny little frame. Man, Durant should get a better gun. Needless to say, he immediately flees rather than taking another two seconds to finish Michael off, too.
RC and Devon, in slo-mo action mode, run to intercept the villain. They are, however, somewhat handicapped by the fact that nobody at FLAG ever carries a gun. Durant tosses a few more bullets there way, and then climbs into the exact same Ford van they used to invade the Data Center—it even still has the same license plates!!—and speeds away. Well, not ‘speeds away,’ really; he’s in a Ford van. Meanders off, I guess. By the way, why isn’t KITT interceding in this? I guess because the script requires Durant and his cronies to escape for now.
Meanwhile, Michael is cradling Stevie in his arms, although naturally she hangs on just long enough to Big Her Love a Final Farewell: “Michael, remember how much I love you. ” (At least they didn’t drag it out.)
She expires, and Michael is left to try to express his profound grief, somewhat handicapped by the fact that he is, after all, portrayed by David Hasselhoff. The camera somewhat awkwardly raises its view, and comes to rest on a spray of flowers (although not the titular roses) as a dramatic music cue sounds. Cut to commercial.
We skip the funeral (!), and just see Michael and the FLAG crew are taking their leave of a lump of flowers (OK, there’re some roses here, at least) standing in for her grave. Good grief, they couldn’t even spring for an ersatz tombstone? Michael announces that he’s off to track down Durant on his own. Devon pleads with him not to, assuring him that the Foundation and “every law enforcement agency in the country” is hot on his trail.
Again, you have to wonder how effective these three episodes would be with somebody who could act (or, in the case of the second chapter, sing). Michael, of course, is here supposed to be in an implacable, murderous rage, capable of anything. And, naturally, we don’t buy it for a minute. Anyone who actually thought that this episode might end with Michael killing Durant—and I mean intentionally killing him, not via some convenient accident or something—must have never seen a single TV show in their life before.
So Devon tells Michael he can’t do this, but then actually allows Michael to ride off in KITT. We then cut to Michael interrogating Martoni. Why would the police let him do so? Uhm…look, a fluffy dog! Michael is so enraged that he does that thing where he grabs Martoni’s lapels and shoves him into a wall. However, it’s the threat of pretending that Martoni has squealed to him (Durant doesn’t know that his true identity has been uncovered, so Michael could spread word that Martoni sold him out) that actually gets him to squeal.
The confrontation scene here is a stitch, mostly because this show is just cartoonish by its nature, and again because the set-up forces Hasselhoff to try to act, which he really isn’t that good at. He’s not good at projecting any intense emotion, frankly, and rage is probably one of one the ones he’s worst at. At one point to look mad he just bugs his eyes way out and frowns, and man, it’s not working. Then, as he prepares to leave, Martoni begs him to beat him up a little, so that it doesn’t look like he caved. Michael just goes anyway, and I think, “Dude, just slam your face into that table there a couple of times. Yeesh.”
Anyhoo, frightened by the intense righteous wrath of one Michael Knight, Martoni had coughed up the address of an auto body shop that Durant works through. He also mentioned a big guy in a leather vest. So enraged and out of control is Michael that when he arrives there—knocking driving through a stack of tires and some garbage cans as he parks KITT, such is his anger—that he actually kicks the guy in the head (it’s a pretty good kick, actually; I’m surprised Hasselhoff could get his leg that high) and punches the guy a couple of times to soften him off.
Again, though, they have less then seven minutes of show left at this point, so conveniently Durant contacts Michael over a radio set-up in the shop. Michael tells him he’s coming for him, and he’s coming alone. Durant, figuring he’ll have to eliminate Michael at some time, suggests a final confrontation. Michael jumps back into KITT and heads for the location Durant gave him. Suspense music plays on the soundtrack.
Michael orders KITT to shut down any communication or tracking devices FLAG could use to track him. KITT complies, but expresses concern as to Michael’s plans. As the music continues to boom, Michael and KITT proceed to the warehouse address Durant has provided. You’d think Durant might pick a spot where KITT wouldn’t be a factor, but nope, it’s a big, open warehouse space.
Again, this is one of those bits that makes you wonder what these guys thought they were doing. This is this episode dealing with this big emotional thing, of Michael quitting FLAG and marrying the recurring love of life and then losing her. And yet they were still apparently worried viewers would get mad if the episode didn’t feature a bunch of explosions and stuff.
So, sure enough, there’s Durant with Stocker and Klus at the other end of the warehouse, up on a big scaffold platform and standing next to a goofy multiple feed rocket launchers. Is this ludicrous device cheapening the death of Stevie? Shut up, man, it’s totally awesome!
(On a side note, Michael asks KITT to crosscheck the three men with the photo they have, so that he knows he’s got the right guy. Well, here’s a hint: He’s not the two taller, blonde ones, and, oh, yeah, he’s the guy you watched kill your wife a few days ago.)
So Michael and KITT drive around, trying with little success to suggest that they are dodging missiles and not just driving past set pyrotechnic charges. Meanwhile, their desperate run through this gauntlet is aided by the fact that the missiles never land in the middle of the aisle they’re driving down, but always to the sides. That’s handy!
“These rockets are being fired by those men on the tower,” KITT reports. Why, then the rockets aren’t just a coincidence! Sparks fly! Boom! Swerve! Boom! Swerve. Rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat again.
Finally, though, they get in under the missile launcher, and only at this instant does Durant and his henchmen seem to ponder the idea that putting themselves on a raised platform with spindly support legs might not be the best idea versus a guy driving a bullet-proof car.
Down goes the scaffold. Klus and Stocker are conveniently knocked out by the fall, which wasn’t really that far. Durant tries to limp off, and rather conveniently, didn’t bother to bring a gun with him. So Michael jumps him and starts pummeling Durant to that near-death state you see on TV. You know, the one where another blow or two will be enough to kill him, but if otherwise left alone he’ll fully recover in short order. It’s like hit points in D&D, I guess.
Then, in perhaps the most glorious moment in television history, Michael is saved from killing the man who murdered his wife, and (supposedly) staining his soul in the process, when he is talked out of it by his car: “Michael, Michael, stop it! You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself!” And…that’s all it takes. (LAAAAAME!!!) Michael disengages and staggers away, his virtue secure.
By the way, for the record, I would have been able to live with myself. Just saying.
You know, this was the Greatest Moment in TV Ever, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have been even better. Here’s how I would have written it:
Durant is One Magic Punch away from Death. Michael raises his fist to deliver the fatal blow. Then KITT dramatically swerves to a stop nearby.
KITT: “Don’t go it, Michael! You wouldn’t be able to live with yourself!”
Michael, fist still raised: “I’ve got to, KITT! It’s Justice!”
KITT: “Justice, Michael…or Revenge?!!”
[Michael deflates, lowers his fist and drops the unconscious Durant to the floor. He staggers over to KITT and exhaustedly drapes himself over KITT’s roof.] Michael, with extra husky voice: “Thanks, buddy!”
Take that, Tolstoy!
Anyhoo. Lest the audience is mostly made up of troglodytes like me, all yelling, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, just kill the guy, he murdered your wife!“, Michael (three guesses) grabs the now rousing Durant by his lapels, throws him against the inevitable wall, and promises him a fate worse than death at Michael’s hands. “You’re not going to die today,” he snarls. “It’s too easy. If you’re lucky, you’ll be executed after the trial. If not, you’re going to watch your life rot away in a mirror of a prison cell!” Then he punches Durant in the face. So take that, Wife Killer!
(You know, if death is really the easy way out, and a life in prison a worse fate, wouldn’t every guy sentenced to life in prison just kill themselves?)
The show’s coda features KITT and Michael at the beach. Michael is playing in his head flashbacks from his and Stevie’s earlier romantic montage, of course, which are again accompanied by their rendition of “White Bird.” Then we are treated to a bit we didn’t see. As they stroll hand in hand, Stevie tells him a story. (In her first appearance, she also told a story, which tied into the whole ‘white bird’ thing.)
“You know, when I was very young, I heard something and for the life of me I can’t seem to get it out of my mind. [Quoting] “You may break, and you may shatter the vase, but the scent of the roses will hang around it still. The scent of the roses will linger forever. Forever.”*[*Actually, that’s technically not true.]
I guess this means that Stevie will linger with Michael forever. So I guess her being killed is OK, then. By the way, they couldn’t even tie this into the episode title correctly. The title is “The Scent of Roses,” whereas Stevie twice here says, “The scent of the roses.” Would it have been that much work to get these references to match?
His reminiscing completed (for all time, as far as I know), a heroic tune is heard on the soundtrack, and Michael runs back up the sand to KITT. “Where are we going, Michael,” KITT asks. “We’re going home, KITT,” Michael replies. “To family.” He climbs in, adds (lest we don’t ‘get it’) “We’re going to the Foundation,” and he and KITT drive off into the future.
A future of ten more episodes, admittedly, but still.
Although I mock (and for bloody good reason) the end scene between Michael and KITT when the latter talks him out of murdering Durant, the fact is that in terms of the show’s loopy internal logic this is entirely correct. In fact, the real problem with this episode, it could be argued, resides in the lack of attention paid to KITT’s bond with Michael.
As I noted, I’d have loved to have seen KITT mow down the guy who shot Michael (especially since he was merely a henchmen, and it wouldn’t have impeded the plot). However, there’s more to it. We see Devon and Bonnie nervously waiting in the hospital while Michael’s in surgery.
Meanwhile, KITT is presumably parked somewhere nearby by his lonesome, fretting. KITT is sentient, in a fashion, after all. Wouldn’t the lack of attention from the only small group of “friends” he knows kind of screw with him psychologically? Perhaps KITT would now realize just how much he’s considered to be merely a thing by everyone other than Michael?
In fact, that would have been a far richer motivator for KARR, the evil KITT predecessor who occasionally showed up to challenge Our Heroes. KARR was malign because he lacked KITT’s (basically Asimovian) programming to protect humans. However, what if he were so sophisticated that he instead grew to resent exactly this sort of neglect? Maybe he also bonded with a driver, only to lose the guy and go nuts.
After all, what does KITT do when he’s parked in lots and alleyways every night? He doesn’t just turn off, does he? If I were writing this, I’d make explicit that KITT was given something to do during his downtime to keep him occupied, as this ‘idle wheels’ situation might have been exactly what drove (ha, drove!) KARR insane.
Speaking of not getting human emotions, what’s up with the time budgeting on this episode? Seriously, you bring back the love of Michael’s life, one of the program’s only recurring guest stars, and allow her and Michael to finally get married, only to then have Michael tragically lose her.
So, having decided to do this really big deal story, you then write the script in such a way that both the wedding and Stevie’s death occur in a span lasting just about five minutes?! Good grief, they allow nearly twice as much time for Michael to track down Durant, and he’s merely the villain of the week. What a stupid-ass way to go about things.
I don’t want to beat this into the ground, but the program had done several two-parters in the past. If ever a story seemed to require one, this was it. And even if you were stuck for some reason doing it in a single episode, would you leave everything important in the show for the final fifteen minutes of running time? What that hell?
Another weird timing issue is that this was telecast right in the middle of the season, the twelfth of twenty-two episodes. This kind of story really seems like a natural season ender. In fact, I wonder if they knew they were going to be cancelled anyway, if they might not have let Stevie stay and alive, and Michael settle down with her.
And even if not, and they did think there would be another year, wouldn’t this story, with Michael experiencing a crisis of the soul, and all the tragedy, followed by his return to FLAG and revived commitment to fight evil, have had a lot more punch as the season finale?
This is especially true because Knight Rider was on in a time when the old rules were still largely observed. Modern viewers are probably more likely than those of that time to be shocked when Stevie gets killed here. In contrast, most contemporary viewers would have assumed that would happen. As I noted, this was such a regular trope—the hero finally falling for a woman, only to immediately and tragically lose her—that it actually became a bit of a joke on Bonanza.
The reason for this being that such episodes, which often saw the hero actually get married, raised the dramatic stakes in a way few things could. Meanwhile, the subsequent demise of the love interest would then safely reset the show back to square one. Sadly, the DVD I rented with “The Scent of Roses” ended with that episode, so I couldn’t check out the next one to see if they even bothered to mention Michael’s recent travails. However, clearly they didn’t have any longtime effect on the show, as indicated by the program’s next three plotlines:
- An embittered electronics genius gains control of KITT’s programming and turns the car on Michael.
- A family logging outfit is unable to sell its timber because the local sawmill is buying pirated timber that was out on national park land.
- Michael suspects a magician of two murders, but the man has a perfect alibi–he was on stage performing at the time.
I really tend to doubt during any of these that Michael spent much time mooning over his lost love, or seemed in any significant—or even noticeable—manner changed by all he experienced here.
So why didn’t this show cap off the fourth season? I think because the program itself was in danger of being cancelled. I assume they knew going into the fourth season that ratings had to improve or they’d be gone by the next year. All the signs of desperation are there. The newly introduced minority hunk character to ‘broaden’ the show’s appeal, the screwing around with KITT to make him ‘cooler’ (while achieving the exact opposite), and, finally, employing the corniest rating stunt in the book: marrying the hero and then killing his wife.
They must have figured they’d get stronger than better ratings for such an episode. However, such rating would have done them no good at the end of the season. By then, it would have already been decided if the show was coming back or not. It didn’t, and thus this chapter of the Michael Knight story came and went and left our protagonist exactly the same as it found it.
Frankly, Stevie deserved better.
Knight Rider went off the air following this fourth season, although it inspired many and varied knock-offs and spin-offs in the years ahead. David Hasselhoff and Catherine Hickland’s love story also ended, albeit less tragically than Stevie and Michael’s, in divorce in 1989. Ms. Hickland remarried in 1992, to another soap opera actor. His name? Michael E. Knight.
Thanks, as always, to Jabootu proofreader Mr. Carl Fink for helping make this at least somewhat readable. (He can only do so much; he is human, after all.)