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

I was never a huge Knight Rider fan, but I saw the occasional episode. At one point during the fourth season, commercials announced that Michael was getting married. Based on my knowledge of TV tropes, I immediately forecast the following, breaking things down by each roughly 12 minute quarter as separated by commercial breaks:

1st Quarter) Michael Knight meets woman, saves her.
2nd Quarter) They fall in love, montage of happy times, he proposes.
3rd Quarter) Wedding, bride is killed.
4th Quarter) An enraged and grieving Michael hunts down killer, nearly kills him, is stopped at the last moment by KITT.

With some anticipation, I sat down to watch the show. I predicted things in ever more detail as the episode played out, based entirely on what would be the most obvious and thuddingly non-ironic manner things could go. In memory, only my forecasting of events in Neil Diamond’s The Jazz Singer proved as completely and utterly accurate. Seldom would I ever call anything so perfectly; it was a Perfect Cliche Storm.

The bride had to die, by the way, because of what might be called Bonanza Syndrome. Bonanza Syndrome is actually a key factor in the evolution of audience snarkiness, an eventual result of which is bad movie sites like this one. In a less knowing time, this was one of the first commonly observed cliches: to wit, that any woman who became betrothed to one of the Cartwright men on the venerable western Bonanza was doomed to die a quick and purportedly tragic death, or at the very least make a quick departure.

As noted on Wikipedia, “A running gag was that every time one of the Cartwrights became seriously involved with a woman, she died from a malady, was slain, or left with someone else.” However, after Bonanza went to this well a bit too often (to be fair, the show was on for 14 years and a whopping 430 episodes), it became a bit of a joke when the trope was employed yet another time. So many lovers and wives died on the show in this manner, in fact, that series co-star Michael Landon once quipped that the Cartwrights had to be careful with their horses lest they trip over one of the women’s many graves.

With the natural disinclination of any successful TV show to screw with a proven formula, this sort of thing became a fairly common action series trope. Tears would be wrung and (it was hoped) enhanced ratings achieved. And then, and this was the important thing, the status quo would be safely reestablished.

So fondly do I remember the experience of watching this episode that I knew I would review it someday. And with the conjunction of Valentine’s Day and the premiere of the new Knight Rider movie (likely fated to die as quick a death as any of the Cartwrights’ loves), this seemed the perfect time.

Imagine my surprise and delight (not to mention horror), however, when I learned that Michael’s love, Stephanie “Stevie” Mason, had in fact previously appeared on the show twice. Naturally, the only thing to do was to track down all three episodes and document the greatest tragic love story of modern times, a tale that rivals Romeo & Juliet itself.

Season 1, Episode 19: “White Bird”

I hadn’t even started up the episode before I learned something new. As the DVD’s text intro for “White Bird” explains, Stevie was in actuality Michael’s fiancee before his identity change. Which means I’ve actually got to go at least a bit into the background of the character of ‘Michael Knight.’ Sigh. These things are always longer than I intend them to be.

In short, the origin of Michael Knight is reminiscent of that of the literally manufactured hero in the movie Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. Knight was once police officer Michael Long, a man shot and left for dead by a treacherous industrial spy. (This is all documented in the show’s first two-part episode, The Knight of the Phoenix.) Following this, Long’s demise is announced to the world at large.

However, Long didn’t die, although his face was horribly damaged by the bullet. Enter the FLAG Foundation, a subgroup of Knight Industries. FLAG is a private organization set up to fight any criminals beyond the reach of the law, a grouping of miscreants entirely as vague as it sounds. The Foundation gives Michael a new face (that of David Hasselhoff, of course) along with the identity of Michael Knight,* with which he carries on the fight against these shadowy forces.

[*We later learn that Michael now bears the face—not to mention the fabulous hair—of Garthe Knight, the son of the now deceased philanthropist Wilton Knight. For his part, Garthe was a bad guy whose evil ways had broken his father’s heart. He would later pop up to battle his surrogate ‘brother,’ allowing for a tour de force twin performance by the Hoff.

Garthe was the one with the goatee.]

Michael, in lieu of weapons, is supplied with KITT, a shiny black Trans Am equipped with a futuristic AI personality, advanced computer and sensor capabilities, and various other super gizmos. Moreover, due to its ‘molecular binding,’ KITT is virtually indestructible by anything short of heavy artillery. KITT’s personality is dry and fussy, as voiced by actor William Daniels, but eventually he and Michael become best friends. (Really.)

The progam was immediately successful, and inspired many other ’super-vehicle’ type shows, including Blue Thunder (super-copter; first a movie, then a TV show), Airwolf (super-copter), Viper (super-car) and Street Hawk (super-motorcycle). Of these, only Airwolf lasted very long. It ran for four seasons, although the last of those was on cable TV and starred a brand new, not to mention lower budget, cast.

The funniest of the batch, however, was the sadly short lived Mad Max meets Knight Rider program The Highwayman. This starred Sam “Flash Gordon” Jones, who was second bananaed by Australian rules football player (see reader messages below) and then flavor of the second Jacko. Jacko was briefly famous in the States for shouting “Oi!” in a series of Energizer battery commercials.

The Highwayman took place in a (if I remember correctly) post-apocalyptic near future, in which the hero roamed the “outlands” in his futuristic super-18 wheeler, dispensing justice. This was also the work of Knight Rider producer Glen Larson, and co-starred such future sci-fi TV stars as Tim Russ and Claudia Christian.

Knight Rider also spawned a weirdly fecund number of retreads (ha, like tires!), most of which were re’tired’ (ha, again!) with expediency. 1997 saw the direct sequel Team Knight Rider, about a group of five drivers, each of whom had a specialized super-vehicle. A syndicated show, back when that was all the rage (ala Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess), the program lasted only a single season.

Meanwhile, Michael Knight and his boss Devon (Edward “MegaForce” Mulhare) returned for the 1991 TV movie Knight Rider 2000, set in a gun-less future (yeah, right) and bringing the old gang back together. The show was meant to kick off a new series with a female protagonist and her new, red (!) KITT, but it didn’t come about. Anyone interested in this can find the movie on the DVD set for the first season of Knight Rider.

Finally, a pretty much connected-by-name-only program was Knight Rider 2010, part of Universal’s syndicated “Action Pack.” This was a series of rotating TV movie skeins that switched from one show to another, much like the old NBC Mystery Movie that alternated between Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife.

Along with movie spin-offs Smokey and the Bandit (not starring Burt Reynolds) and Midnight Run, the Action pack featured the kung fu show Vanishing Son and the William Shatner sci-fi show TekWar. This was also where the aforementioned Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess started. For its part, Knight Rider 2010 again was set in a Mad Max-ish future, and proved one of the least successful Action Pack components.

Now, of course, NBC is again revamping the original show. This Sunday (a reference due to be dated almost immediately) they will telecast another TV movie again meant as a series pilot. This will be produced by hip Bourne Identity director Douglas Liman (!). The movie, like the previous failed pilot Knight Rider 2000 (a then ‘futuristic’ movie now amusingly having been set eight years in our past), again brings back David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, although here just in a cameo.

The movie is meant to launch a new Knight Rider in the form of Michael’s estranged son, Mike. Val Kilmer (!!) will voice the new KITT, now a Ford Mustang.* As if this weren’t all craven enough, the show will also ape the recent Transformers movie by having KITT be able to change into a ‘battle mode.’ (Although to be fair, many of the previous Knight Rider knock-offs and revamps already did this same thing.) Assuming this movie somehow garners enough ratings to justify a new series, if I were NBC I’d plead with Hasselhoff to come back on a regular basis, perhaps as a replacement for the now deceased Devon Miles.

[*The new KITT was originally supposed to be voiced by Will “GOB Bluth” Arnett of Arrested Development fame. However, Arnett does voiceovers for GMC truck commercials, so Ford requested a different actor.]

Anyway, wasn’t I going to watch an episode of the original Knight Rider here?

Things start with the chapter’s clip teaser, a device that used to play before each episode. I’m not a fan of this sort of thing (or super-long movie trailers that blow every plot device), because who needs to see stuff that is just about to happen? However, I realize I’m in the minority on this sort of thing. Moreover, I’m sure the hardcore fans of Knight Rider, the ones who would actually buy the DVD sets, largely enjoyed seeing these again. I kind of fast-forwarded through it, though.

Then it’s on to the opening credits, in which KITT, his red Cylon eye flashing back and forth—hey, didn’t Glen Larson produce the original Battlestar Galactica, too?—is driven through a remote desert plain as the show’s theme music plays. As things continue, we see action clips and the actor credits in a smaller screen-in-the-screen, meant to be one of KITT’s video display monitors.

Also heard is some establishing narration, a favorite device of Glen Larson: “Knight Rider, a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.” The narrator here is Richard Basehart of TV’s Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, who played the dying Wilton Knight in the show’s pilot episode.

We open in Generic City USA, panning up over a large office building. Inside this edifice, pretty blonde Stephanie “Stevie” Mason is just finishing a phone call. Hanging up, she gathers her gear and prepares to leave. She checks in with her boss, attorney Gilbert Cole. He asks if on her way out she could grab a briefcase left behind by a client, “another wealthy bachelor with tax shelter problems.” The client should be arriving in his car to pick up the briefcase any minute now.

She leaves smiling, and Cole closes the door behind her with a suspicious Significant Look. Anyone familiar with Glen Larson’s shows (hello, Marty) will instantly recognize that Cole is Up to No Good—and not just because he’s an attorney, I mean—and that the briefcase will be the McGuffin that puts Stevie’s life in danger.

Cut to Stevie leaving the building. The promised car turns the corner and approaches her, but before it can come to a halt she is accosted by two men. “It’s a set-up!” a guy in the car yells, and it peels off. A confused Stevie learns that the men manhandling her are federal agents. They grab the case and shuffle her into another waiting car.

Cut to (presumably) that night. Michael and KITT tool down a highway as a Generic Pop Song plays on the soundtrack. Michael hums along, and in response an acerbic KITT observes “Michael, ‘C’ is beyond your grasp, and ‘D’ is beyond your vision.’ Snap! I should note that KITT is making these comments even before Hasselhoff started his successful European singing career. If nothing else, this shows KITT could fill in for Simon Cowell should the latter ever leave American Idol.

Further wince-inducing ‘humorous’ buddy banter is perpetrated, and then Michael stops for a bite. (Since this is a Glen Larson TV show, he stops outside a venue whose plate glass window generically reads “RESTAURANT.”) “Can I get you something?” he quips to KITT. See, because KITT’s a car, and thus doesn’t eat food. “Very funny,” KITT replies, suggesting either that he’s programmed for sarcasm, or should stick to judging singers and not comedians.

However, before Michael can enter the RESTAURANT, a blare of Ominous Music is heard, and he hastily stops to procure a newspaper from a coin box. THE TIMES (seriously) features a large front page photo of Stevie, next to a headline reading “Feds Nab Gangland Link.”

This prominent placement seemed a bit suspect, until I saw that the other front page items were “UN Debates Mideastern Hopes for Early Solution,” “Board Waives Hearing for Two University Teachers” and “Compromise Divorce Reform Measure Passed.” Talk about a slow news day. “Stevie!” Michael gasps. He jumps back into KITT and peels off as a jaunty disco action arrangement of the show’s theme music plays.

Down at Generic Law Enforcement Headquarters, Stevie is being grilled by federal agent Carson James. The briefcase was full of marked bills, she’s told. “It’s illegal money,” James snaps. “It’s dirty.” The money is related to an investigation of bad guy Anthony Solan, who was the fellow in the car. Stevie responds with loyal disbelief when James ties Solan in with her attorney boss, Gilbert Cole.

By the way, since the Feds obviously aren’t treating Stevie like a criminal, but instead a witness, why did they release news of her arrest to the papers? Larson’s shows weren’t cynical enough to have them make her a target on purpose to draw Solan out, so this doesn’t really make sense.

And what’s the timeline here? Is this the next evening? Because otherwise how would the papers have time to print a big story on this already? And if enough time for that has passed—we’re talking over 24 hours since Stevie headed out of Cole’s office at the end of her work day—then why isn’t she being represented by a lawyer yet? Like, you know, her own boss.

Stevie asks why they haven’t arrested Cole if he’s dirty. James explains that “he’s too smart,” and so they can’t prove anything against him. That’s right. This is a universe in which a guy “too smart” for the Feds keeps a briefcase full of dirty money in his private office, and then orders his own personal secretary to go stand out in front of his own office building and personally hand the money to a well-known gangster in broad daylight. The guy’s clearly a regular Moriarty!

In any case, James puts the screws to Stevie. She can either testify that Cole ordered her to take the briefcase out to Solan, or else they’ll prosecute her instead.

Cut to Michael tooling down a city street. He’s still tooling? He (I’m assuming) saw the newspaper story the night before, since it’s now daylight out. Let’s say, to be conservative, that it’s ten hours later. If that’s correct, then he’s probably traveled over six hundred miles since then. That can only mean that he saw the headline in a national newspaper instead of a local one. Seriously? Stephanie’s arrest was national, above the fold front page news?

Cut to a close-up of Hasselhoff strenuously (and wisely) not-acting, as we go to one of those wavy/melty things that augers a flashback. You know when you mock old TV conventions? Glen Larson is the guy you’re making fun of. That guy didn’t have an ironic bone in his body.

Oddly, Michael’s ‘flashback’ consists of a series of still photographs of a smiling Stevie, as her voice is heard saying “I love you” half a dozen times, along with “Don’t ever leave me.” Not really a flashback, technically. If I were to guess, they couldn’t get back the actor who played the pre-operation Michael Long. Or maybe they could, but they didn’t want to confuse the audience by having Stevie saying these things to another actor than Hasselhoff. So yes, Stevie is Michael’s Lost Love from his former life. Man, first season seems a little early to be playing that particular card, doesn’t it?

Michael arrives in the lobby of a police station (why would the Feds be questioning Stevie in a police station?), and has no sooner sat down than he sees a policewoman escorting Stevie out of custody. That’s right, Stevie is the government’s entire case against a gangster so notorious that her arrest is national news, but they don’t bother holding her as a material witness. That’s TV scripting in the ’80s for you.

To the strains of poignant music, Michael introduces himself in his new identity, since Stephanie believes ‘Michael Long’ to be dead. (Hasselhoff towers over her; sometimes you forget what a big dude he is, especially in his ’80s giant hair phase.) “I arranged for your bail,” he tells her. Again, where is criminal super-genius Cole? He’s a lawyer, right? Wouldn’t he have been working to spring the only witness against him from custody ASAP? As it turns out, apparently all it required was somebody posting bail.

Although (unless she’s completely retarded) Stephanie now has every reason to think that people will be out to kill her, she cheerfully accepts Michael’s offer of a ride to her apartment. Did I mention how bad TV writing in the ’80s was?

In any case, I guess Stephanie really *is* retarded, because she still refuses to believe Cole is dirty, despite the fact that he was the one who gave her the briefcase, and has been nowhere to be seen since she was arrested. However, this isn’t meant to reveal how utterly stupid she is, but instead to portray her as a complete innocent.

She and Michael chat away in his car, whereupon I started to get an old sensation. Let’s go back to my review of The Promise, a film that revolves around a plot concept nearly identical to this episode. There, a man meets and fails to recognize the woman he once loved and now believes to be dead, because she’s had her face altered. As I wrote then: “I mean, these two were deeply in love, right? Sure, her face is different. But what about her voice, her body language, even her scent?

And sure enough, as they arrive outside her apartment, Stevie says, “You just seem so familiar to me. Your voice, the way you move…” Exactly! And yet she hasn’t made the leap yet that she reminds him of her old fiancee. (Plus, you know, he has the same first name.) I don’t know, that seems like the sort of thing that would be immediately apparent, especially since at this point Michael Long would have ‘died’ less than a year ago.

For his part, Michael gets curt, putting up the emotional walls necessary to keep from blurting out his secret. Part of the problem here is that, for all the strengths of personal charisma that made Hasselhoff possibly the biggest worldwide TV star ever, the man cannot act. He’s like Keanu Reeves times ten; fine in a very narrowly tailored range (whitebread hunky, basically), but hopelessly bad outside of it.

If you ever get to see Bridge Across Time, his Jaws rip-off TV movie about Jack the Ripper terrorizing modern day Arizona after his ghost is released from the relocated London Bridge—really—check out the scene where Hasselhoff’s ex-cop character bares his Dark Secret from the Past. He really tries to act in that scene, tears and all, and it’s gutbustingly hilarious. Needless to say, his situation here requires acting on several different levels, and as usual, the Hasselhoff Acting Elevator is stuck on floor number one.

Anyway, Michael convinces Stephanie to lie low for 24 hours before contacting Cole, and leaves. As she watches him go, the camera zooms in on her nervously fingering her necklace. A wistful music cue also helps us come to the obvious—and I mean Glen Larson obvious—conclusion that this is a Significant Artifact of the Past, presumably something given to her by Michael back in the day.

Michael is tooling around in KITT. The latter expresses his nervousness over Michael’s condition, having just run an unauthorized check of his vital signs. “Your blood pressure is 190 over 200 and your pulse is 104,” KITT frets.

I fear the day when such nagging nanny-stating devices are installed in all our cars. “Shouldn’t you exercise more? The scale in your seat reveals that you’ve gained four pounds over the last several months. And are those leather shoes pressing against my gas petal? Should you really be wearing the skin of other animals like that? Also, where are we going? Is this trip strictly necessary? You do know about Global Warming, don’t you?”

Despite her promise to Michael, Stevie ultimately can’t resist calling Cole and checking in. Because, you know, she’s a girl, and man, they love to chat. Seriously, though, this is why they’d be holding her incommunicado as a material witness. What if she was in on the whole thing? She’d be completely free to alert all her co-conspirators.

And so she calls Cole. By the way, what’s he been doing all this time? He seems pretty non-proactive for a criminal supergenius. Does he even know she’s been bailed out? You’d think he would. Not only that, but would he even be answering his phone? His secretary being arrested was a front page, national organized crime story. Wouldn’t reporters have been bugging him to death by this point? In any case, he does answer. Finally unsure, however, Stephanie stays quiet before hanging up. Cole guesses that it was her, though, and assumes a Troubled Look.

Cut to a semi trailer truck tooling down the highway. This is the mobile headquarters and repair facility where Michael takes KITT to check in, driving KITT up a ramp into the trailer. Here they skip that shot, however, and Michael and KITT are already inside. Michael is being grilled by Bonnie, the technician character used to provide the show’s regular cast with a pretty girl. She gets all grumpy when Michael refuses to tell her who Stevie is.

Anyway, the audience has to be told too—because if there’s one rule to Glen Larson TV writing, it’s ‘There’s nothing so utterly and completely obvious that it shouldn’t be explicitly spelled out for the viewer“—and so he breaks down and explains that Stevie was his fiance

©e in his previous identity. Needless to say, his revelation is accompanied by some hilariously ’sad’ music.

Then Michael takes his leave. Bonnie looks pensive as he does. Per the dictates of network TV at the time, she was, naturally, a standby, ‘break glass in case of emergency’ romantic interest for Michael.

We do see him and KITT leaving the truck, driving out backward over the ramp and ending up on a highway intersection. Luckily, this is otherwise empty, as he skews KITT all the hell over the place before he ends up pointed where he wants to go. Wow, that’s some precision driving skill there. I’d like a little coffee with those doughnuts, please.

Having checked in and gotten Bonnie to program info on Cole into KITT’s onboard database—ah, the days before the Internet—Michael now returns to Stevie’s apartment. Seriously, he drove all the way out to the sticks to have her put info on Cole in KITT’s database? Couldn’t she have just faxed it? That doesn’t seem all that efficient.

Michael approaches Stephanie’s apartment door, and finds it slightly ajar. This is, for people who haven’t seen a lot of TV from that time period, a sign that Bad Guys had been there. Because Bad Guys never, ever close doors behind themselves. Thus worried, Michael enters the apartment, and as a directorial flourish—seriously, don’t do that—his entering is shot through a handheld camera, suggesting that somebody is inside, since it looks like a POV shot.

Michael calls out, and the camera tracks back as he approaches, and we see they also employed a fisheye lens here. Again, that ’style’ thing? It shouldn’t be tried on a series like this.

Anyway, Stevie suddenly darts from a room, prods him in the breadbasket with a baseball bat, and attempts to flee. However, Michael trips her. She struggles until she realizes with relief that it’s him, and explains. She fled out the back way (good henchmen!) when the goons showed up, and then…what, returned to the apartment after they left? Only on a Glen Larson show would that be a good idea. Also, amazing that she didn’t think to, you know, call the police after this. And where’s Agent James during all this? Seriously, this is the most lackadaisical set of cops and robbers I’ve ever seen.

Naturally, as Michael comforts the panicked woman, he calls her Stevie. Her shocked response is immediate. “Nobody calls me that anymore,” she notes. Which means…what exactly? People don’t just drop nicknames, so presumably the point is that Old Michael was the only one that ever called her that. Maybe, but again, this just makes her lack of recognizing Michael seem even dumber. In any case, New Michael covers by saying her nickname must have appeared in her case files. (!!!) Wow, good save.

They leave the apartment, but are followed by the Two Goons. The latter call in to Solan, and he tells them to follow them. The image reduces and lowers next to an image of KITT, which was the device they used here when they cut to commercial. It’s like the series of stills that would be assembled during an episode of Wild, Wild West’s commercial breaks.

We return. Michael and Stevie are tooling down the highway, on their way to a FLAG safe house. Stevie is amazed by all the gadgets the car has. Michael decides they “might as well deal with this now,” and tells KITT to say hello to her. However, KITT remains silent. See, he’s playing a practical joke on Michael. What a card that KITT is. He’s a regular funny car. Funny car. Get it?

After further prodding, however, KITT speaks up. “Michael isn’t crazy,” KITT assures Stevie. “Not in a clinical sense, at least.” Oh, that KITT is a caution, isn’t he? Stephanie seems at best mildly bemused to be conversing with a talking car (and in 1983, nonetheless), and things move along.

This leads into the “I don’t know why I trust you, but I feel like I know you” thing. During this, Stevie fingers her necklace. Yes, we get it. Luckily for Michael, KITT interrupts to announce that they are being followed. It took him this long to figure it out? They’re way out on the highway now. Some super-car. Michael asks KITT to take photos of the passengers and to record the license plate.

Then Michael puts KITT in ‘pursuit’ mode, which turbocharges it. Of course, there’s no way an ordinary sedan could keep up with KITT. Therefore, once they turn around a curve, they see a flatbed truck blocking the road. This bears what basically appears to be a plywood wall unit, although what they are doing with it (other than blocking the road) remains entirely a mystery.

Then, in a true moronic bit—and remember, I’m speaking in the context of Knight Rider—Michael hits the Turbo Boost. KITT flies through the air, crashing through the wall unit and smashing it to pieces before they safely land on the other side and drive off. Their pursuers are left behind.

Now, I realize that KITT is more or less indestructible. Even so, this whole stunt seems a less than wise course of action, given that Michael didn’t know what the hell he was smashing through. What if it were some priceless art treasure or something? What if the shrapnel from the crate injured or killed one of the surrounding workmen? Anyway, we’re not meant to ask questions, we’re supposed to be gasping, “COOOOOOL!

Best laid plans, and all that.

I have to say, Stevie is remarkably blasé about all this. I mean, here she is, joshing and laughing with Michael and his talking car, chuckling about rocketing through the air (presumably after several seconds in which she assumed she was about to die in a horrible car accident), being chased by killers, smashing through other people’s private property…ah, good times.

For absolutely no apparent reason, when the goons call in to Solan to report that they’ve lost Stevie, Solan reveals that he just happens to know the location of the safe house. I mean, how the hell is that even possible? Anyway. The hoods turn around and head for this.

Meanwhile, Michael and Stevie arrive at a rather grand mountainside house. Calling it a mansion might be a slight exaggeration, but not by much. There they find Devon waiting for them. Devon takes Michael outside, and they run through the episode’s entire plot again. This takes, as you’d expect, about twenty seconds, and was presumably meant to catch up any late arriving viewer who missed the earlier part of the show. Then Devin talks bizarre nonsense for about five seconds (”You’ve chosen to do the most difficult thing a man in your position can do…to help someone you love”) and leaves. Wow, that was an awesome part of the show.

Michael returns to find Stevie fetching out a bottle of champagne (!!) and a large platter of sandwiches from the kitchen. Well, make yourself at home, missy. This seems a rather remote location to keep such a well-stocked larder, but there you go. Private sector safe houses, you know. Much swankier than the government ones.

Again, though, Stevie starts getting that deja vu feeling, being with Michael in front of a roaring fireplace, him opening the champagne bottle. (If you’re on the lam from killers, this is the way to do it, I guess.) Apparently we’ve officially entered the Dead Zone, that portion of badly written TV episodes where they just tread water between the set-up and the wrap-up.

As they lounge comfortably on the floor, sipping their bubbly, Stevie naturally starts reminiscing about the past. “The last time I depended on someone,” she reveals, “I lost him.” At this Michael assumes a Significant Expression. Because *he’s* the guy she lost! Are you getting this? They really wanted to make sure you did.

Then we get a romantic montage—I crap you not—of the two wandering through the scenic mountainside, wine goblets in hand. Their meanderings and inconsequential (and I mean inconsequential) conversations are accompanied by a not terribly good country pop ballad called “White Bird,” apparently sung by a band called It’s a Beautiful Day. Hence the title of the episode, which so far otherwise doesn’t seem to have much to do with anything. Presumably the song’s lyrics (”White bird in a golden cage / White Bird must fly / or she will die“) are meant to be symbolic of Stevie’s plight.

Supporting this contention, Stevie opts to forthrightly enjoy her life. “In the meantime,” she observes, “I refuse to let this gorgeous day go by without picking some flowers.” Again, she’s handling the whole ‘gangsters are out to kill me’ thing quite well.

Michael lies back as she picks from some suspiciously well arranged batches of wildflowers. However, KITT then suddenly announces (I guess Michael’s watch functions as a communicator) that he’s ‘picking up’ two men on the ridge about them, one with a rifle. Again, I’d really like to know what KITT’s sensor capabilities are, because that seems pretty sophisticated. Magical, even.

Michael calls out to Stevie, and they start running. He also calls KITT, telling him to come and provide cover. (Shouldn’t KITT have an automatic protocol to do that, whenever he picks up a sniper or something of the sort?) It’s too late, though, as Stevie takes a bullet and tumbles to the ground. The goons run off, because…I don’t know. They have two apparently helpless, unarmed victims below them. Why not just head down and finish them off?

[Answer: Because if they did, the series’ hero would be dead.]

KITT arrives and swerves to a halt, tossing his passenger door open in the process. Michael dumps Stevie inside, jumps into the driver’s seat and they head off. Then we cut to Michael entering Stevie’s hospital room. She’s unconscious, and lucky her, since this spares her the sight of Hasselhoff attempting a tearful ‘acting’ moment. Cue second commercial break.

Cut to Michael at, I guess, a fancy hotel. He is wearing a suit jacket, and moreover has most of his shirt buttons done, a rare sight indeed. (Oops, he just leaned forward. Cancel the done-up buttons part.) Devon joins him in the dining room and attempts to act all bluff hale-fellow-ish. Hasselhoff, however, has been instructed to act ‘moody,’ and tries to comply.

However, Michael breaks out of it (I think) as he gets back to the matter at hand. Devon reveals that his research indicates that Cole is indeed dirty. Michael expresses his frustration at the fact that despite everyone knowing that Cole is guilty, they are helpless to move against him. Devon tries to calm him down. “It serves no one’s purpose to react from emotion…” he begins.

Michael, however, is enraged and having none of it. “I’m not reacting!” he spits. (You’re telling me! Oh, wait…re-acting. Never mind.) “I’m feeling! Is it OK to feel?! Does the Foundation permit that? Do you?” Wow. Seriously, they should never try to make the Hoff act. That’s just a fight they can’t win.

If this episode is any guide, Devon’s solution to any situation is, “Let’s take a walk.” And so they do, probably to take advantage of the location they got to shoot at here. “I’m not so concerned about Stephanie dying,” Devon admits. “I’m more worried about her living.” Michael is confused by this statement (and this time, I’m with him) and asks him to clarify his remark.

Devon reveals that he’s concerned about what Michael may be planning to do once Stephanie is out of danger. Will he quit FLAG and resume a relationship with her? Devon plays the standard “If you tell her the truth, she’ll always be in danger from your enemies” card. Gee, that’s imaginative.

Devon then starts blathering on about his days in The War. He met a beautiful woman in Paris, and they fell in love, but he then had to decide on pursuing his own happiness or continuing the good fight against the Natzies. And…hey, wait a minute! That didn’t happen to him! He’s just stealing the plot from Casablanca! Ooh, ooh, have him tell the one where he had to decide whether to travel the world as he always dreamed, or stay in his hick hometown and run the family Savings & Loan so that Old Man Potter wouldn’t end up owning the town!

Anyway, I could gas on about how potentially offensive it is to compare the real, epic battle against Nazism to being a guy who fights generic TV bad guys with his talking car. I think we all get that, though. Still, just like Rick in Casablanca Devon in WWII, Michael has a big decision to make.

Oh, and just to end things on an up note, Devon sadly breaks the news that Stephanie has been reportedly twice arrested for solicitation (!), and that in each case she was defended by Cole.

Cut back to the city, as this revelation sends Michael storming into Cole’s office. He confronts Cole, informing him that he knows somebody “salted” the official records with a false criminal record for Stephanie. (Uhm, how would they do that?) “My plan is to start rattling cages,” Michael warns. “And I’m going to keep rattling cages until all the monkeys fall! So you get yourself a real good grip.” Man, you know Michael left the office swearing at himself: “‘Until all the monkeys fall’? What does that even mean? Damn it!

Leaving, Michael calls KITT on his wristwatch, sure that this particular rattled, falling monkey will soon be making a phone call. KITT is to monitor this. Ah, the advantages of being a vigilante. Screw that ‘warrant’ stuff.

Sure enough, super-genius Cole freaks out and calls Solan, noting that Michael has promised to find out who altered Stephanie’s police record. (Again, why would they employ such a clumsy tactic in the first place? Is that the sort of thing that can really stand up to the sort of investigation that the feds would presumably subject it to?)

However, KITT couldn’t intercept the call because Cole has a ’scrambler’ on his phone. You know, KITT’s abilities seem pretty hit and miss, entirely fantastical in one instance and surprisingly limited the next. However, since neither Solan nor Cole said anything particularly noteworthy, he didn’t really miss out on much.

Back at Devon’s mansion, or whatever, he is having Bonnie (apparently Flag’s only other employee) use a com-pu-tor to look up further info. “Cross reference the Union case!” he barks. Wow, the verisimilitude. Amusingly, Bonnie prints the information out on a noisy old dot matrix printer. Admittedly, it wasn’t old in 1982. Still, you’d think an organization that could create what is, even a quarter of a century later, a highly futuristic artificial intelligence, not to mention a process to make metal all but indestructible, could have figured out laser jet technology a bit ahead of the curve.

Here we learn that Cole (*gasp*) worked against union interests by throwing a case for them he was working on. Solan was among the victors, as he was during “Cole’s other major defeat.” Man, Cole must be a pretty freakin’ good lawyer if he only ever loses a case that he purposely tanks on.

Michael enters, hears about this, and turns around to leave. (Seriously, wouldn’t it make more sense for these guys to teleconference.) Before he goes, though, Devin reminds him the grand jury meets tomorrow. Well, that was fast. Plus, isn’t Stephanie still unconscious?

Cut to an evening shot of Michael and KITT tooling down a city street. Michael is next seen breaking into Cole’s office (!), and we get that interior handheld camera shot again, so maybe it was a regular directorial motif. He goes to Cole’s desk, because surely Cole would be keeping something incriminating there. After all, it’s the last place federal agents would think to look if they ever showed up with a warrant.

Hilariously, the first thing Michael looks at is the little at-a-glance calendar Cole keeps right on this desk. Sure enough, upon this calendar, which is otherwise completely sans references of any sort, Cole has scrawled “Anthony Solan” over several dates. What a bombshell! Unless, of course, Solan is actually just his client, in which case it isn’t. (Because sometimes, you know, mob bosses actually have lawyers.) And if their connection is meant to be a secret, then it’s even funnier, because Cole would have to be a complete moron to then write Solan’s name all over his desk calendar.

This vital piece of info established, Michael gets a call from KITT. He is detecting a silent alarm signal from Cole’s office. Again, KITT can do all that, but he can’t decipher a scrambled phone call? Rather than going, Michael leaves the desk without further investigation (and by ‘investigation,’ I mean when he flipped a few pages of Cole’s day calendar) and approaches a drawer unit on a side wall. It would be silly and way too convenient if Michael found anything incriminating in the unlocked top drawer of this. Therefore he doesn’t exhibit interest until after he grabs the top file in the second unlocked drawer. This he pauses to peruse.

KITT informs him that he “senses” (whatever) a security guard approaching Cole’s office. How the hell would that work? Anyway, he continues, this gives Michael “one minute” until he risks being captured. Michael uses a little spy camera to photograph the top file from the second drawer of the unlocked credenza he rifled for ten seconds, and then splits. He ducks the day player who made 50 bucks and kept his SAG membership good by playing the guard for about five seconds, and leaves the building.

Click here for part 2 of this review!