Lynda Carter often says in interviews that a level of Nazi fatigue started to set in midway through Wonder Woman’s first season. The description of the episode that aired December 18, 1976 at least sounds like everyone is going to get a little bit of a break from Nazi-palooza. The episode promises an exciting battle of brains and brawn – the title even has an exclamation point in it, so obviously it’s going to be awesome. (I’m pretty sure that’s what we all thought when we saw the listing in the newspaper. At age 5, you believe everything you read). “Wonder Woman Vs. Gargantua!” (1.7). Gargantua isn’t just a normal gorilla, he’s a hyper-intelligent Great Ape who scientists think might be the missing link between man and ape! And he turns out to be a Nazi.
The title card reads A Nazi-Held Section of Africa, May 1942, which seems unnecessarily vague since the image behind it is a map that clearly reads “The Republic of Congo.” The camera zooms in on the word “Congo” to drive the point home.
We hear exotic woodwinds and jungle-esque drums and animal noises, because Africa, I guess.
Wonder Woman makes her way through the jungle, pursued by a gorilla whose costume includes a mask that was clearly repurposed from the Planet of the Apes, which gives it a form of double-uncanniness.
The gorilla attacks Wonder Woman, lifting her above his head in a really awkward way. She blows the whistle that has been dangling on a cord around her neck, and the signal immediately subdues the ape.
Removing a Mission Impossible-style mask, she reveals that she’s not really Wonder Woman at all! It’s Erica (Gretchen Corbett), Nazi animal behavioral expert and daughter of one of the world’s greatest animal behaviorists. This isn’t a random gorilla attack on Wonder Woman, it’s Gargantua training!
Title In: September, 1942 – 5 Months Later At the Turner Circus, Outside Washington D.C.
Crowds thrill to the acts under the big top.
Out on the midway, which looks just like a soundstage hallway, Gargantua is on display in a cage. A guard talks up Gargantua, telling the crowd that scientists think Gargantua is one of the missing links between man and ape. At first I thought the writers were winking at the sideshow tradition wherein Talkers make exaggerated and/or false scientific claims about exhibits to draw in spectators. But no.
Spoiler alert: we stick with this whole “missing link” mumbo jumbo all the way through the episode.
Don’t call them “Barkers,” you rube, they’re called Talkers.
The circus is infested with Nazis! Erica and Carl the circus guard scheme. Erica is obsessed with capturing Wonder Woman.
That Same Day at the Washington Interrogation Headquarters, Steve Trevor interrogates Conrad Steigler (John Hillerman), Nazi Defector. Diana Prince and General Blankenship observe the interrogation and talk about how they need to take Steigler to a safe location so the Nazis don’t try to abduct him.
The building exterior they show in the establishing shot is actually the U.S. Department of Justice, so I’ll allow it.
Later That Night at a deserted oil refinery in Washington, D.C. Nazi Hans (Robert Loggia) and the rest of Team Nazi Circus plot to rescue Steigler from the Safe House.
There aren’t any oil refineries in Washington, D.C.
At the Safe House Erica directs Gargantua to scale the four-story building and rescue Steigler. Gargantua attacks the MPs and then gets down to the business of abducting Steigler.
After the abduction, Steve and Diana arrive at the Safe House. They question the MPs. The MPs say they were attacked by a gorilla.
Half an Hour Later at the Oil Refinery
Team Nazi bickers about whether they should go back to Germany right away, or use Steigler as bait in a trap for Wonder Woman.
Erica gives Team Nazi a demonstration of Gargantua’s high level of training. She blows a whistle, which compels Gargantua to reach out of his cage, grab a black and white cardboard cutout of Wonder Woman, and smash it to pieces.
The next day at the War Department Etta Candy (Beatrice Colen) and Diana read about Gargantua in the morning paper. Etta tells Diana that Gargantua reminds her of the mid-shipman she’s been dating. Diana wisely chooses to ignore this information.
Diana tells Etta and Steve that she feels bad for Gargantua and hopes no one hurts him. He’s the smartest ape of all-time, you know!
At the Safe House, Dr. Osmond (Herb Voland), the world’s greatest animal behaviorist, examines the evidence.
Later, Dr. Osmond calls Steve and Diana and they meet him at Beta Research Laboratory.
Steve, who is a moron, has trouble connecting the dots. He thinks the MPs are lying, but Diana suggests they’re just traumatized. The evidence mounts. There’s a missing gorilla. Who is a super-smart gorilla. Who is an extreme large gorilla, an almost 7 foot tall gorilla. The MPs report that they saw a very tall gorilla. The MPs claim they were attacked by a gorilla. Someone abducted the Nazi defector by scaling a 4 story building, like a gorilla. They find gorilla hair at the scene of the abduction of the Nazi defector. Oh, and there’s also a huge gorilla footprint in the mud outside the Safe House and gorilla gorilla gorilla goddamn it Steve Trevor why are you so obtuse?
Dr. Osmond finds crude oil on the gorilla fur specimen. Steve Trevor goes out to investigate the abandoned oil refinery on Old Georgetown Road.
Diana calls Etta, who is concerned for Steve’s safety because that refinery hasn’t been used “in a long time,” which is ridiculous since the dialogue in the previous scene established that the refinery was closed so recently that even the War Department didn’t know it was no longer operational.
Diana spins into Wonder Woman and goes to the refinery. She gets there before Steve does.
It’s a trap!
Wonder Woman reasons with Gargantua. Wonder Woman wants all animals to live in peace and freedom.
Outside, Steve and a few jeeploads of MPs arrive.
Wonder Woman convinces Gargantua to reconsider his life choices.
The MPs see Wonder Woman and Gargantua grappling. One of the MP shoots at Gargantua, but Wonder Woman deflects the bullet. When Gargantua steps aside, the MP shoots him. Dr. Osmond saves him and promises to reprogram him. Wonder Woman is glad, because on Paradise Island the Amazons live peacefully with all animals, including animals that most people consider ferocious.
Wonder Woman sure seems to break the first rule of Paradise Island (Never talk about Paradise Island) a lot.
Gargantua and Wonder Woman are now friends.
Back at the Waterfront: Team Nazi argues over whether they should rescue Gargantua.
Back at Beta Lab: Steve and Diana visit Dr. Osmond and Gargantua. Diana meets Gargantua and within moments they’re holding hands, becoming fast friends. Gargantua knows that Diana is Wonder Woman, because unlike everyone else, Gargantua is not stupid.
After Diana and Steve leave the lab, Erica and Carl show up. They abduct Gargantua and take him back to the the waterfront so that Erica can re-re-program him while they wait for their UBoat, which has been delayed by the Coast Guard. Or maybe it’s been delayed because you probably can’t get a UBoat up the Potomac River to the Washington, D.C. waterfront.
While they wait, Erica tries to reprogram Gargantua using a publicity still from the episode where Wonder Woman won the beauty pageant.
Steve goes to investigate something somewhere, leaving Diana at the War Department. Or so he thinks.
Diana spins into Wonder Woman and goes to The Warehouse on Pier 19, where she uses her golden lasso to scale the side of a building and pay Team Nazi a visit.
The waterfront in Wonder Woman’s D.C. is very different from the actual Washington D.C. waterfront. In this episode, it’s a deep ocean port with dozens of piers and warehouses. It’s not any of those things.
Gargantua sees Wonder Woman and attacks! Wonder Woman judo flips Gargantua and then apologizes to him. She tells him he should be free. They bond.
Then, Steve and the MPs show up. You expect them to shoot at Gargantua again, so Wonder Woman can use her bracelets to deflect the bullets, but apparently the special effects budget was all used up by this point.
Wonder Woman talks about “kindness and tenderness and love” while both Gargantua and Steve Trevor look at her with puppy dog eyes. It’s seriously strange.
Two nights later, Wonder Woman visits Gargantua, who is back in his cage at the Circus, which is presumably less Nazi-infested now. Wonder Woman sneaks Gargantua out and flies him to Stock Footage Africa, where they hold hands and make weird googly eyes at each other while sexy saxophone music plays.
Then, Wonder Woman flies back to America in the Invisible Jet while stock footage animals stampede and Gargantua waves forlornly.
Back at the War Department the next morning, Diana tells them she’s late for work because she had to “drop off a friend.”
Holy cats, Steve Trevor didn’t get hit on the head or gassed or otherwise rendered unconscious one single time this entire episode!