I know, I know, I just posted about Route 66 a few weeks ago. And I told the world that I was watching all of the episodes in their proper order from the very beginning.
But over on the Route 66 group that I joined on Facebook, several fans kept mentioning one episode in particular...one called "The Thin White Line." This is the episode where Martin Milner's character, Tod Stiles, accidentally ingests a psychedelic drug that sets him off on a wild, mind bending ride in the streets of Philadelphia. I caved. I mean, just look at the accompanying terrifying screenshot that's being used on the IMDB for this particular episode. The rest of season one could wait...
My poor guy! Anyways, more than a few weeks after I initially watched this episode, it still haunts me, so I simply had to blog about it. I can totally understand why it's considered a fan favorite. I mentioned in my first post about Route 66 that it was a groundbreaking show ahead of its time. Well, "The Thin White Line" may have been the first time that drug use -- at least, of psychedelic drugs -- was portrayed on television. The drug is actually referred to in the program as an experimental "chemotherapy compound", not LSD. However, LSD's roots go back to the 1940s and a lot of experimental research was taking place with it during the 1950s. In an interview that co-star George Maharis gave in 2007, he mentioned that the show's main scriptwriter, Stirling Silliphant, had probably heard enough about the drug to work it into a storyline. Keep in mind, "The Thin White Line" aired on television in 1961 -- a good five years before LSD became a more recognized substance.
The hour starts off innocently enough. Tod and Buz are dancing with a couple of cute girls at a hotel suite party (at a Philadelphia Marriott) and are having a swell time. But one of the party's guests is an uninvited crasher -- a goony lunkhead that stole the host's girlfriend for a dance and then ordered the "boy" to bring him a beer. The seething party host is in the kitchen with a college friend who has brought along something to teach the crasher a lesson -- a sample of a drug that will make him go ape and start babbling nonsense for a few hours. At first the host is hesitant to actually follow through with the spiked beer, but his ego wins over. His weaselly little friend then pours an EXTRA amount of the drug into the glass, for good measure.
Out in the hotel suite, the host repeatedly offers the beer to the party crasher, who growls his decline and tells him to come back later. Before he has a chance to bring it back to the kitchen, Tod snatches the glass and gulps it down in a few swallows. It isn't long before he's become incredibly drowsy and unsteady on his feet, struggling to stay awake to dance with his date. When the two guys that spiked the beer call Tod's date to the kitchen to speak with her, Tod decides to take a nap on the couch, unnoticed by Buz and the other party guests.
|Noooo! Don't do it, Tod!|
Meanwhile, Tod has abruptly awoken and it takes him a moment to realize where he is. When he sees the lunkhead party crasher (who insulted him when he tripped and fell into him) he attacks and punches him, disrupting the guests. He even gets physical with Buz before running out of the party and across the hotel's ice skating rink and through a garden area with water. Before long, he's gone from the hotel's property and has disappeared into the night with no way for Buz to catch up to him.
The police are called to the hotel, as well as the college researcher who's been studying the drug that Tod ingested. Buz and Tod's date learn that the drug's users experience several stages over the course of hours. The first is sleepiness, followed by paranoia, then euphoria. But in a chilling moment, the scientist warns the police that "what comes up must come down." He then informs everyone that even the happiest, most well adjusted people that have tried the drug often experience deep despair followed by a strong desire to kill themselves.
|This is your brain on drugs...not exactly "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds", folks!|
There's also some creative camera work I appreciated during one segment to give the illusion of the drug's effects. Well, I said in my first post about the series that it was ahead of its time, and it was. I don't think you need to actually be a fan of the show to appreciate "The Thin White Line." Here's Part 1 if your curiosity has been piqued -- and you can watch all parts on YouTube.