From plucky war orphans to plucky mute war orphans, “The Bushwackers” has everything.
I know, right? I couldn’t believe it either. I thought for sure my notes were wrong, but on re-review it turns out this episode is 100% Nazi-free.
Enjoy, because the place is just lousy with Nazis again in the next episode, but it’s the season 1 finale so it will all be worth it. But for now, let’s get back to The Bushwhackers:
Let’s not dwell on the fact that it’s September 1942.
The map of Texas dissolves into cattle-drive stock footage, which dissolves to a teenager on a galloping horse.
That’s Jeff, tween-age son of Diamond H ranch owner J.P. Jeff busts in on some J.P. – orphan bonding time to tell his dad that 100 head of his cattle have been rustled.
In a bit of cheesy 1970s stunt-casting, J.P. is played by the legendary Roy Rogers.
J.P. isn’t going to stand for his cattle being rustled! Those cows are earmarked for the military! J.P. calls the Sheriff (David Clarke).
At the sheriff’s office: The Sheriff finishes chatting with J.P. and then tells Deputy Walt (Henry Darrow) that J.P. plans to call his old pal General Blankenship (Richard Eastman). Deputy Walt freaks out and talks the Sheriff into going out to the Diamond H to talk some sense into J.P.
Meanwhile, at the Diamond H, J.P. is already on the phone with General Blankenship at the War Department.
The General promises to send the War Department’s Intelligence Team leader, Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner), because obviously Steve doesn’t have anything more important to do in the middle of a World War than deal with cattle rustlers and blackmarket beef.
After J.P. hangs up the phone, he tells Jeff that the War Department is sending Steve Trevor to investigate. Even Jeff knows who Steve Trevor is: he’s a famous War Hero!
Jeff seems to think it’s weird to send a War Hero to investigate a cattle rustling ring. Jeff doesn’t understand that the regular cast was getting pretty bored with the endless Nazi plots and were allegedly threatening to mutiny.
Etta chirps that steak is better for morale than two Betty Grable movies. When Etta isn’t eating onscreen, she’s talking about food. Because she’s the unsexy non-threatening plump gal pal in the office, don’t ya know.
Diana says something vague about the importance of food to the war effort.
Because Steve thinks Diana doesn’t have enough fun in her life, he gives her a 3 day furlough.
We don’t see it onscreen, but we can assume that 3 seconds after Steve is wheels-up, Diana spins into Wonder Woman and heads to Texas in her Invisible Jet.
That Afternoon at the Diamond H Ranch House
J.P. tells the Sheriff and Deputy Walt that Steve Trevor, War Hero, is on his way to deal with the rustlers.
Late That Evening Steve Flies Toward Texas
…In her Invisible Plane Wonder Woman Follows Steve
At the ranch, J.P. teaches his plucky war orphans campfire safety.
Charlie (David Yanez), the Navajo orphan, hasn’t said a word since his father died at Pearl Harbor. His father was J.P.’s ranch foreman.
French orphan Babette (Christelle Gaspart) doesn’t know fire safety. Or acting. She will never work in television again.
British orphan Freddie (Justin Randi) is a fire know-it-all. Or maybe a budding arsonist, it’s hard to say. According to IMDB, Justin won’t last much longer in Hollywood than Christelle.
Carey Wong, who plays Sen the Hong Kong war orphan, doesn’t get much farther.
Kristoff St. John, who plays Linc the Harlem orphan, goes on to a very successful television career, appearing in 1,563 episodes of the soap opera the Young and the Restless among other things.
Meanwhile, at the Ghost Town:
The title writers were really digging the drama of the ellipse in this episode.
Deputy Walt is part of the cattle rustling ring. Consequently, Deputy Walt doesn’t want this War Hero messing around in Mob business.
Later that Same Morning at the Diamond H
The orphans can’t wait to meet a big War Hero like Steve Trevor. Hey, maybe the orphans can find out why the hell Steve is considered such a big War Hero!
Jeff is jealous of J.P.’s new family.
Jeff is played by Lance Kerwin, who goes on to play the role of young Mark Petrie in Tobe Hooper’s made-for-tv adaptation of Salem’s Lot in 1979. We weren’t “allowed” to watch Salem’s Lost when it originally aired but most of my friends had older siblings who used vague allusions to rampant childhood vampirism to inflict terror on us anyway. To this day I retain the compulsion to make small crosses out of popsicle sticks. Kim said we had to make them or we’d be sorry and Kim was much older so she clearly knew what she was talking about.
Here’s a photo of David Soul with a popsicle stick cross, from Salem’s Lot (1979).
Still at the ranch: Spunky Black orphan Linc says grace before breakfast: “Thank you for making Texas a better place than Harlem.”
Are you kidding me? Why are they still flying? Why aren’t they there yet? Did it really take this long to fly from D.C. to Texas in 1942? I’d look it up, but I don’t care enough. Let’s just assume that time moves differently in September 1942 and leave it at that.
At long last, Steve lands at the military base in Texas!
He borrows a jeep and drives straight into a trap.
Who could have seen that coming?
Steve turns into a stunt double who looks nothing like Lyle Waggoner, steps on a trap door, and falls into a pit.
Good job, Steve!
The rustlers cover the pit with a boulder and wipe their hands of this whole war hero situation.
Wonder Woman Arrives That Afternoon at the Diamond H Ranch
Wonder Woman is concerned because Steve Trevor hasn’t arrived yet. Maria the Diamond H’s maid doesn’t know why he hasn’t arrived yet, but Charlie the mute Navajo orphan leads her to the Trevor-Trap.
Wonder Woman lifts the boulder and saves Steve’s bacon. Again.
Steve believes Wonder Woman when she tells him she just happened to be in Texas investigating reports of cattle rustling, even though she uses the same vague explanation about the importance of food to the war effort that Diana used yesterday.
Also, who does Steve think Wonder Woman gets her orders from? If she’s a free agent and not, oh, say, someone who works in his office, who would be calling her to look into something like cattle rustling?
Oh Steve, you are such an idiot.
At the Diamond H Ranch
Wonder Woman is wearing her cape! Wonder Woman and Steve learn that orphan Charlie’s father was J.P.’s former foreman.
J.P. asks Marie the maid to loan Wonder Woman some clothes. Maria isn’t even remotely the same size or height as Wonder Woman.
The Following Morning at the Ghost Town
The cattle rustlers unload the cattle.
In the 1970s, Hollywood loved old west ghost towns. Every Hollywood studio had a Old West set on the back lot, so a Western town location was an economical choice. Know what’s even more cost-effective than shooting on an existing set? Making it a ghost town so you don’t have to hire extras!
In the 1970s, Hollywood really loved old west ghost town jails. Do you think someone is going to find themselves locked up in a ghost town jail before the end of the episode?
Hey, remember that time the Brady Bunch went to an Old West ghost town and got locked up in the jail? Now what was the name of that episode, again? Oh right: it was Ghost Town U.S.A.
At the Diamond H Ranch
Wonder Woman tells the plucky war orphans they can be anything they want if they eat right and exercise. (Seriously. That’s exactly what she says).
Being childlike and trusting, Wonder Woman tells the children about all of her vulnerabilities. The belt. The lasso. The bracelets. Her faith in Steve Trevor’s abilities as a War Hero. All of it.
Then, Wonder Woman demonstrates her Golden Lasso by forcing 10 year old orphans to confess their dark secrets to her.
I wish I was kidding.
At the Sheriff’s Department
Jeff is colluding with the cattle rustlers! He tells Deputy Walt about Wonder Woman! Deputy Walt manipulates Jeff by preying on his insecurity and unstable sense of identity in a ruptured family configuration which has de-centered his relationship with his father.
Deputy Walt sends Jeff home to find out the secret of Wonder Woman’s strength.
Later that Day
Wait…what? We finally cut back to the ranch and they’re just now finishing up breakfast? Well, yes, I suppose that means it’s technically later, just not that much later. It’s also September 1942. Who cares? Let’s just move on.
Steve drives out to the military base to use their scrambler phone to report to the General. Every now and again, Steve does something sensible.
Sort of. Despite being ambushed on that very same road just hours before, he hits the road alone.
Meanwhile, Wonder Woman goes for a horseback ride with J.P. and Jeff. A rattle snake spooks Jeff’s horse and it runs away with him. Wonder Woman rides to the rescue.
J.P. helps the now-injured Jeff back to the ranch.
Deputy Walt and a henchman chase down Wonder Woman, jump out of the car, tackle her horse, and capture her. Okay, fine, they don’t actually tackle her horse, but there’s definitely a gratuitous horse-fall stunt in the scene. Here’s the clip (en español):
Deputy Walt uses the intel about Wonder Woman’s weaknesses to disarm her, but he just chucks all her powerful magical accessories in a pasture.
Luckily, little orphan Charlie was watching the whole time and retrieves the items.
At the base, Steve asks for a background check on Deputy Walt. Even Steve thinks that guy is suspicious.
Next up: a car chase! The rustlers chase Steve, although I’m not sure why and I’m not motivated to find out. I’m guessing it’s because he didn’t stay in the first Trevor-Trap and is still on their trail, but maybe it’s because they know Steve knows that Deputy Walt is an identity-thieving imposter who lied his way into the Deputy job so he could keep the Sheriff from solving the case.
I don’t really care because I’m too busy admiring Steve’s wardrobe. He is dressed to kill in his Western duds.
Back at the Ranch, Charlie breaks his silence, telling the other orphans that Wonder Woman is a prisoner in the ghost town jail.
The orphans sneak into the to the ghost town jail and return her accessories. With her belt back, she now has the strength to bend the bars of the cell and escape.
Oh wait, that’s Mike Brady. He can’t bend the bars of his ghost town jail cell. That’s what happens when you get your accessories from J.C. Penney’s instead of Paradise Island, Bradys!
When Wonder Woman and the orphans return to the Diamond H Ranch, Jeff confesses that he’s been helping the rustlers because “Deputy Walt took an interest” in him, unlike his own father.
Wonder Woman lays a huge guilt-trip on Jeff for being jealous of the war orphans.
Consciousness raised, Jeff vows to learn how to swallow his rage and become a productive member of society.
Back at the ghost town, the rustlers have Steve Trevor locked up.
Wonder Woman goes back to the ghost town, orphans in tow. Wonder Woman lets the orphans help capture the cattle rustlers, because apparently you’re never too young to learn how to take on the Mob.
From shot to shot there’s no wardrobe continuity at all in this episode – even less than usual. I get why Lynda Carter and/or her stunt woman wore boots without high heels sometimes, but it apparently never occurred to the camera operator or director to frame the shots so the boots aren’t visible or obvious. Sorry for the blurry screencaps, but I think you’ll get the idea:
At the end of the episode, Charlie gives Wonder Woman a beaded belt. Charlie isn’t a stereotypical magical native, and his (deceased) father was a character with responsibility and authority if he was J.P.’s foreman, so that’s pretty progressive for the 1970s, although the actor who plays Charlie is Latino, not Navajo. Alas, this bit of pandering at the end edges into White Savior territory: Wonder Woman teaches Charlie how to lasso so he can quit being ashamed of being a Navajo who doesn’t have rope skills.
This episode contains:
Ethnic Parade of Orphans
Feats of Strength
Ghost Town Jail
Mansel in Distress
This episode does not contain: