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Today's Special

Today's Special

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1986

Trash

This episode begins in a very strange place: The dumpster in the alley behind the department store. We can't see anyone, but we can hear Sam's and Muffy's voices from inside the dumpster and see debris being tossed around. Then Sam pops up from inside and tells us that it's amazing what perfectly good things people throw away. He shows us a "perfectly good" fountain pen. "Nothing wrong with that!" he says, and then the pen suddenly squirts. "Almost nothing, anyway." he corrects himself and then tosses the pen away. Muffy comes up after having slipped on a banana peel. The peel is on her head when she appears beside Sam.

"Maybe you're wondering why we're in this garbage dumpster," Sam says.

"Something was lost! Something was tossed!" Muffy exclaims.

"Right. Something really important was thrown away. Right Max?" Sam looks down into the dumpster. "I said, 'Right Max?"

A strange man appears.

"This is Max here," Sam says.

"Max Dunphy," the man introduces himself. (Played by Richard Sali).

"If it weren't for Max, we could relax!" says Muffy.

"I didn't mean to throw it out," Max nearly sobs.

"It's a long story," Sam says, so he tells us about it from the beginning when Sam, Muffy, Jodie and Jeff were in the store and they heard a strange noise.

(Flashback)

It is a very loud, mysterious noise and it is coming from the stockroom. Since Mrs. Pennypacker isn't working that night, they have decided they'd better investigate.

Muffy thinks it might be some sort of beast. Jodie is about to go in to see what it is, but Sam insists on going in first, since he's the security guard. So in he goes as the others wait outside the door. Suddenly they hear him struggling and yelling inside.

"Sam!" They call. But he doesn't respond.

"Oh, no, what is it?" cries Jodie.

Sam fights his way back into the hallway. His hat is gone, his clothes are askew, and he's breathing very hard.

"Is it a mon, a mon, a mon . . ." stammers Jeff. Muffy slaps him on the back. "A monster?" he finally gets out.

"No, it's a va - a va - a va," Sam pants. Now Jodie slaps him on the back. "It's a vacuum, vacuum cleaner."

"A vacuum cleaner?"

"It sucked the hat right off my head!" Sam explains. It got his tie, too.

"Boy, that's some vacuum cleaner!" says Jodie. Then they all go in together. Inside is a man in a red jumpsuit with the name "Max" written on his back. They try to get him to turn off the vacuum cleaner but he doesn't hear what they're saying and so he turns it off in order to hear what they're saying. They know his name, and he recognizes them from the store manager's description, though he calls Muffy "Snuffy."

"Are you the new janitor?" Jodie asks.

"Well, I'd like to think I'm more of an inventor actually. And this is my latest invention. The MaxVac 2000. The most powerful vacuum cleaner ever made."

Sam tells him that it sucked the hat right off his head. Max seems quite pleased about that. He goes into the dust bag and pulls out Sam's hat, which now has long dust bunnies hanging off of it. He shakes it off, spreading dust everywhere and making everyone else cough. "This belong to you?" he asks Sam.

Sam puts it back on, even though it still has dust bunnies hanging on it. He tries to blow and shake them off with limited success. "Thanks a lot," he says halfheartedly.

Meanwhile the mime lady is doing some cleaning of her own. Dressed in overalls and a cap which says "Today's Special" on it, she is standing on a ladder, using a spray cleaner, and wiping something clean with a rag. What is she cleaning? We guess it's a window. The mime finishes cleaning, comes down the ladder, picks it up and begins to walk away. "I'm sure it's a window," says TXL. Then crash! The ladder has broken the glass. "Oops! Was a window."

In the children's department, Jeff is building a house of cards. He is about to put the top card on. "Steady!" he coaches himself.

Suddenly, from off camera, Jodie calls out, "Oh, yippee!" Startled, Jeff knocks over the house of cards. Then Jodie rushes in. She grabs Jeff's arm and jumps up and down. Then she sees the collapsed house. "Oh. Did I do that?" she asks.

Jeff tries to minimize it. "It's okay, Jodie. What's all the excitement?"

"Oh, well, Jeff, it came! Oh, I'm so excited! It's terrific! I've gotta go tell Sam!" Then she begins to rush off. Jeff pulls her back. "Wait, Jodie. You haven't told me yet. What came?"

Jodie shows it to him. It's a ticket to a concert by the folk singer Valdy. She's been waiting for it for a long time. "It's right here in my little hand!" she says, and she's bursting with excitement. She begins to sing, "This is my lucky day! Lots of good things on the way. I'm flying high and I'll touch the sky for this is my lucky day!" Jeff joins in and sings and dances with her. When the song is over, Jeff says,

"Aw, cheer up, Jodie."

Jodie looks puzzled. Then Jeff points at her and smiles. "Only kidding! Oh, I think that's great about your ticket. You've been dying to see Valdy!"

"Oh, have I ever. I've gotta go tell Sam about it." She decides to put the ticket on the counter so she won't lose it while she's working. Then off she goes to tell Sam, singing, "This is my lucky day!"

"Boy that is one happy lady!" says Jeff. "And - and here comes one noisy man!"

Max arrives with his MaxVac to vacuum the children's department. He tells Jeff he has made a few modifications and now the motor purrs like a kitten. He turns it on and it roars to life.

"Make that a very large kitten!" shouts Jeff over the din.

Max seems not to notice the noise and tells Jeff that just because the vacuum is "quiet" doesn't mean it has lost its cleaning ability. He brings it over to the counter and demonstrates. "Look at that suction and power!" he says proudly. He is looking away, and doesn't see that Jodie's ticket is sucked into the vacuum. Jeff is on the lower step below the counter and has crouched down to watch the MaxVac, so when Max turns around, swish! Jeff's hat gets vacuumed up. Max quickly fishes the hat out and puts it on Jeff's head, with dust bunnies trailing down over Jeff's face. "No harm done," he says. "Jeff? Yo, Jeff? Hey, fella!" He waves his hand in front of Jeff's eyes, but Jeff fails to respond. "Now what's goin' on here?" he asks himself. Just then Sam comes in bringing Jeff some more cards for his house of cards.

"I didn't do anything. Honest!" says a befuddled Max. "I didn't. He - he just kinda froze up!"

"Yeah, not to worry," says Sam, "not to worry, it happens every now and then. I'll take care of it, don't worry."

"Okay." says Max, a bit shaken. He goes off to help Muffy clean up her room. "I'll see ya," he says, and then looks back at Jeff. "Strangest thing I've ever seen."

Once he's gone, Sam invites us to say the magic words with him to bring Jeff back to life.

"What happened?" Jeff says. But when he sees the dust bunnies in front of his face he says, "Oh. I know what happened. MaxVac strikes again!" Together, he and Sam try to blow the dust bunnies off of his hat.

Meanwhile, Max has arrived at Muffy's place. Muffy's room looks like it hasn't been cleaned in years. Cobwebs are everywhere and thick layers of dust cover everything. That's why she's asking Max to help her.

"Now, just remember, now, the MaxVac is a powerful beast," Max warns her. "She could suction up your whole room. Tables, chairs, the bed - everything! The works!"

"Well, I'm not scared, I'm well-prepared." says Muffy.

"Okay, if you say so," says Max doubtfully.

"Hey, Max, stop your stewing. I know what I'm doing."

"Mouse says she knows what she's doing," shrugs Max. "Okay. Just call out when you're ready for me to throw the switch."

In preparation, Muffy has stuck everything in her apartment down with glue. But she's forgotten to account for herself. As the vacuum purges her room of dust, it also suctions her closer and closer to the nozzle. Fortunately, Max turns off the vacuum just before she is pulled in and goes off to vacuum the computer room.

"No need to thank me, see ya around!" he calls.

Muffy is left panting, "Narrow escape from dusty doom! Nearly sucked into a big vacuum!"


Meanwhile, Jodie has come back to the children's department to discover that her ticket is missing. "It has to be here somewhere!" she says. "I put that ticket right here on the counter, I know I did. Now it's gone. I don't understand it. How could it just disappear into thin air?" She sits on the steps, quite dejected. "Now I'll never see Valdy in concert. All the tickets are sold out." She sighs. "What could have happened to that ticket?"

TXL's screen shape encloses Jodie. "Poor Jodie," TXL says. "Her ticket is gone. Do you remember that ticket? It looked like this." She shows us a picture of it. "And do you remember what happened to it?" She shows us. "Max Dunphy vacuumed it up. So we know what happened to Jodie's ticket. Let's hope Jodie figures it out."

Jeff comes into the computer room to tell Sam what has happened to Jodie. When he gets there, Max is extracting a "few things that the MaxVac happened to suction up."

"A few things?" wails Sam. "Practically everything in my room! Pens, pencils, my lunch! Heh! Look at this, want a handful of dusty jellybeans, Jeff? Yuck!" He displays the dirty candy and drops it onto the counter. He's very upset. "That thing here should be locked up, that's what I think!"

Max admits a few changes could be made. "Maybe cut down the power a tad."

"A tad? I'll make a few changes, just let me at that thing!" Sam says, and begins wrestling with Max and the rubber chicken that Max has just plucked out of the dust bag.

Jeff interrupts the struggle to tell them that Jodie's concert ticket is gone. "She put it on the counter in the toy department. I mean, I saw her put it there myself, just before Max came in."

"I didn't see any concert ticket," says Max. "Of course I was busy vacuuming."

"Yeah. Where can it be?" says Jeff. He and Sam drum their fingers on the vacuum as they try to think. Then they look at each other. "The vacuum!" They say in unison.

"Yeah, I'll betcha that thing of yours gobbled up that ticket just like it did my stuff!" says Sam. But Max has already emptied the bag that would have held the ticket. So Sam and Max hurry off to search the garbage dumpster behind the store.

Jeff is left behind to watch the store for Sam, and he gets to turn on TXL for the first time. He pushes the "on" button and she comes to life. She wonders where Sam is. "He's out in the back alley going through some garbage," Jeff says matter-of-factly.

"How peculiar!" says TXL. Jeff explains the situation, and TXL offers to scan the store to look for Jodie's ticket. While she's busy, Jeff plays with the buttons. He pushes the light button and a light flickers on. Then he turns it off. He reads other buttons. "Heat. Alarm. . . . I better not press that one. JB. Hmm. Wonder what JB stands for?" He glances around and then casually presses it. From the ceiling comes a shower of pieces of candy.

Jeff looks at us sheepishly. "Jelly Beans," he says.

(End flashback)

So now we're back to Sam, Muffy and Max in the back alley. That's why they're in the dumpster, tangled up in garbage. Sam's finger is caught in the ribbon cartridge of an IBM Selectric typewriter. They're all getting irritable and dirty and Max is losing all hope when suddenly he finds something. "It's small. It's yellow. It's the ticket! he cries. ". . . and it's ruined!" It has been blotched with fountain pen ink.

"Oh, no." says Sam, remembering the fountain pen he had tossed aside earlier.

The ticket is unreadable, but Sam hopes they'll accept it at the concert anyway. He puts his leg over the side and tries to climb out of the dumpster but he falls back in, so Max gives him a "boost." Sam goes flying through the air and lands in a bunch of garbage bags.

"Too big a boost?" Max asks.

Sam is sitting there with a big garbage bag in his lap. "Oh, boy. Did you ever have one of those days?" he groans.

Apparently the mime lady has lost something too, and she's going through a basket looking for it. She mimes that she has lost an elephant. A real one.

"A real elephant in there?" TXL scoffs. "Isn't that si . . ." suddenly we hear an elephant trumpeting. "ly?" A big puppet elephant nose comes out of the basket which is now on the table. Then, from under the table comes 'another' mime lady.

The next evening, Jodie is in the children's department, reading in the paper about the Valdy concert. She tried to go, but they wouldn't accept her ticket. She shows the paper to Jeff. Eight thousand fans were there. Jeff wishes she was one of them. She says the ticket lady was kind, but couldn't accept what was really little more than a blotchy piece of yellow paper.

On the counter are four bouquets of flowers, from Jeff, Sam, Muffy and Max. (Sam's flower basket is shaped like a ship.) Jodie is overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness of her friends. "I feel lucky," she says.

"So does the lady that owns the flower shop across the street," says Jeff.

But Jodie also feels guilty. Max feels so bad and keeps apologizing. "And it wasn't his fault at all." He keeps saying he wants to make it up to her.

Muffy is on the floor with a walkie talkie, listening to Jeff and Jodie's conversation. "Oh, Jodie, if you only knew. Has Max got a surprise for you!" She says into the walkie-talkie, "Muffy at her station, what's your situation?"

Max is in the computer room, looking at TXL's screen. On the screen is Sam, standing out on the street looking for someone.

A bit later, everyone is in the children's department when Max asks Jodie to come help him with something. She steps over to the door and in walks Valdy himself! Jodie gasps.

"Hello, you must be Jodie," he says.

"Uh-huh! Oh! You're here! I - I mean, I'm here, we're here together!" Jodie stammers, laughing. "How are you - Why are you? . . ."

Valdy explains that he got a note backstage from Max explaining about how she lost her ticket and how her friends went through the dumpster. So he contacted Max and arranged to drop by the store to meet her.

Jodie remembers her manners and introduces everyone. Jeff manages to stammer out the suggestion that maybe Valdy could, "You know, sing a little?"

Valdy demurs. He has no music and he's not really prepared. Max says he can help out, having made some modifications to the MaxVac.

"The attack-vac! He brought it back!" cries Muffy. Sam hides his eyes.

It's now "MaxVac - Vacuum Cleaner to the Stars!" Max invites Valdy to flip a switch. Music begins. Max explains that once someone tidies up the dressing room, they can do a little rehearsal, using the nozzle as a microphone. "What do you think?"

"I'll tell you one thing about your invention, I like your taste in music. That's one of my songs," says Valdy. He picks up the nozzle and begins to sing. "Isn't anybody keeping anybody warm tonight, isn't anybody out there holding anybody tight?" The microphone echoes and squeals, so Valdy adjusts a few buttons and continues singing, "Isn't anybody saying little things that mean a lot, or has everyone forgot in these playing it cool times, treatin' you cruel times, 'fraid of being a fool times? Just like a fool in love that doesn't know any better . . ."

Jodie mouths the words as he sings, starry-eyed. He sings through a verse and then passes the microphone around, first to Jeff, then to Sam and Muffy, and then to Jodie, and each of them sings along. Then they all join in and sing together in lush harmony, "Isn't anybody keeping anybody warm tonight, isn't anybody out there holding anybody tight?" Valdy goes on alone, "Isn't anybody willing to give a little more than they get, surely love isn't over yet in these playing it cool times, treatin' you cruel times, 'fraid of being a fool times . . ." As he sings, Jodie looks like she might cry. Jeff, too, is touched by the music and is looking misty-eyed. "For the one you love," finishes Valdy, "the one you love . . ." Strange noises emanate from the vacuum. Max inspects the nozzle. "Guess there are a few bugs I have to iron out. Funny, it never did this before." He taps the hose. Suddenly a puff of reddish dirt blows out and covers the bottom of Max's face. Everyone looks startled for a moment, but then Max begins to laugh and then everyone else joins in with hearty laughter.

Quizzes:

  • An animated line drawing takes shape on the screen. What is it? It's the remodeled MaxVac 2000!

Nursery Rhyme:

  • None

Notes:

  • After Sam's first encounter with the MaxVac, Max fishes out Sam's hat but not his tie.
  • I've always thought Jodie shared a bit of culpability by putting her ticket on the counter. Wouldn't her pocket or her purse have been a better choice?
  • Interestingly, when Jeff is brought back to life after his hat was snatched by the MaxVac, Sam's "breath" moves the dust bunnies to one side as he and Jeff try to blow the dust bunnies off his hat. How could a puppet's breath move the dust bunnies? One possibility is that Jeff Hyslop is actually blowing out of the side of his mouth, thus moving the dust bunny in such a way as to make it seem that Sam's breath is moving it.
  • Most of the time we're able to "communicate" with the characters on screen but not in this episode. Though we know what happened to Jodie's ticket, we can't tell her.
  • Sometimes, though they have the same voice, TXL and the narrator seem to be separate entities. For example, TXL's voice reminds us what happened to Jodie's ticket, but later on, Jeff has to explain to the computer what happened to Jodie's ticket and what color it is. Then TXL offers to scan the store to look for it, even though she should know where it is.
  • When Sam is "boosted" out of the dumpster by Max and lands among the garbage bags, it's the closest we've ever come to seeing Sam's whole body at once (except in drawings or in animation, such as in "Buttons"). The garbage bag in his lap separates the upper half from the legs, and it all looks very realistic, as if Sam is all one piece.
  • The mime lady has another great moment here when she mimes cleaning the window. It's so realistic, the only way I knew that there wasn't really a glass there was the fact that the spray cleaner wasn't hitting anything.
  • In her second appearance however, I'm not sure what the second mime lady coming out from under the table was supposed to mean. Perhaps the elephant's nose was supposed to have been a puppet, but if so, I don't know why the second mime lady didn't have it on her arm when she came out.
  • The song that Valdy sings in this episode is called, "The One You Love."
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