Michael investigates the murder of media mogul who is found dead with one of his models. What he finds is something much bigger, and the only clue he has is the word Topaz.
The Topaz Connection takes a turn and sends us to the land of beautiful women. But, this being the 1980s, the phrase “Ripped from the Headlines” hadn’t taken hold yet, so we have to settle for situations that are familiar, but different – somehow.
Who is this Guy?
From the outset, he is supposed to be an amalgam of Larry Flynt and Hugh Hefner. The magazine “Escape” is supposed to be Playboy Magazine. During its height of publishing popularity, Playboy was most well-known for its nude models whom, at the time, often faced public backlash from religious conservatives, reactionaries, and many prominent feminists. Mr. Hefner is also famous for his many public relationships with his models.
The other thing that Playboy was known for was the articles which it published in its magazine. In fact, the familiar joke about men who read Playboy “for the articles” is often voiced by people who never really read any of the articles in the magazine (as often the nude models were enough to chase people away). Often, the magazine would secure interviews with politicians all over the world and ask them relevant questions regarding politics and international events. Other times, journalists would cover infringements of the US Constitution by government actors on all levels.
Trouble Under the Gun:
Phillip Royce’s murder was supposed to be the beginning of an investigation of the conspiracy to cover up an FDA-approved drug that did not perform to expectations. And the side-effects that the drug induced were swept under the rug.
But, let’s go back to the scene of the murder in question. Given how this episode plays out, what’s wrong with this picture?
The second person who was murdered.
We learn nothing of value regarding her life, except that she was just some “Young Girl-Woman” (according to his daughter, Lauren). Although she was found with Phillip, her own history and connection to him was never discussed. Neither, it seems, was the possibility that she may have been the motive behind the double murder.
Instead, it’s all about Phillip and the Escape Magazine lifestyle. And while it should have been just filler for the tabloids – and fodder for the “Entertainment Section,” we get this:
A headline that would be found on the National Enquirer front page. And even there, the only indication that someone else died along with Mr. Royce is from Devon, Michael, and Bonnie talking about the circumstances surrounding the murder scene.
Sometimes, when you’re trying to get the audience to focus in on a theme, there is a tendency to have the main characters perform a slipshod service in doing so. This is one of those times. Even if you had Bonnie or Devon or KITT put in a line or two about how the woman found had a history with Phillip but nothing more was found in her background to indicate foul play, that would have been more than what the episode gives. As it is, it takes much inferring that the woman in the bed was the same woman that called Phillip Royce at gunpoint.
So chalk it up to a missed angle here.
As if we needed a weekly reminder that Bonnie is considered extremely attractive, one of Escape’s photographers mistakes Ms. Barstowe for a cover model who performed a photoshoot with him (Miss June). In keeping with her outlier status, she is never approached by any of the staff of Escape to do a photo spread.
Could this be considered a victory for women? Depends on how you look at it.
To Nerd or Not to Nerd:
For some reason, Bonnie programs KITT with every single magazine ever released under the Escape banner. This marks the first TV instance both of mobile electronic porn and “online” porn.
Also, in the 1980s, there was no such thing as scanning. Even the state-of-the-art digitizers of the time were of extremely low quality and couldn’t hold a candle to even a USB-powered portable scanner of today. And since Escape Magazine goes back decades, it is possible that we can file this under ‘Amazing.’
The Impudence of Women – and Straw Feminism:
Much like Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death, we are treated to multiple instances of Angry Straw Feminists who look to burn Michael Knight to a crisp.
First on the platter:
Lauren Royce. Like many Knight Rider episodes, she is the Woman thrust into Leadership in Man’s Domain. The first encounter alone is one where Lauren is angry at the world. To work off her stress, she takes a pistol and goes target shooting. When the second amendment demonstration doesn’t give her the catharsis she’s looking for, she takes her anger at the world out on Michael. Michael, as always, allows the woman to vent her rage, and even uses the oft-repeated quip, “You’re like all the rest.”
And, like Action Show Straw Feminists before and after her, she is going to find the killers on her own; she refuses to rely on a
Big, Strong Man Trained Private Investigator with Access to Law Enforcement Resources to help her. Even after she get shot at by a sniper when she goes to meet with the contact Phillip Royce had previously worked with, she immediately bolts for Las Vegas in a private jet after Michael drives her to the airport.
But, not to, worry. When they “reconcile” in Las Vegas (after, of course, KITT arrives there before Lauren’s jet plane), Michael and Lauren go out on the town and have a good time. When their relationship heats up, Lauren is kidnapped by a ruse created by Anne Tyler, Bob, Hagen and George.
So, when Michael saves the day:
He gets to have physical contact with the attractive female guest star.
But that’s not all, folks:
Anne Tyler was the first model Phillip photographed as the Monthly Escape Model. She stayed with Phillip from the beginning, working with him to help launch the magazine. But when she realized the he had no intention of marrying him, she decides to see to it that his reputation is besmirched in the worst way possible. She joins in a plot to have him killed, and that the circumstances include a woman dying with him. When she vents to Michael in her righteous anger, Michael uses that disarming ch arm to give her the usual comeuppance: Phillip’s expose was codenamed for and protected by Anne Tyler in many ways.
Phillip Royce codenamed the story “Topaz.” The name was for Birthstone in November. November also happened to be the month that Anne was the photographed Escape Model. So, Royce’s 6-digit access code was…her measurements. I suppose her birthdate was too complicated a 6-digit number – and would have made a little more sense if Phillip was supposed to think more of Anne than Anne realized.
Finally, in keeping with the idea that Women don’t belong in the service of evil, we never learn what exactly her role was in the actual plot to kill Phillip or Lauren. She was just another angry woman who got herself latched on to a plot to cover up a deadly drug.
And yes, Michael goes for it:
The Humorous KITT B-Story:
Because this is supposed to be the Futuristic Car that everyone wants to drive, we get these scenes where people get themselves around KITT – and hijinks ensue. In this case, we get a number of Escape Models and the Photographer who want to use KITT as a prop for some photo spreads. As the model rubs KITT’s hood, KITT…purrs (well, his scanner attempts to emulate ‘flushed cheeks’).
Also, KITT does this:
Helps an old lady to win a jackpot by manipulating the computer to “hit the jackpot.” Casino jackpots on slot machines being rigged in favor of the house aside, I still don’t see how this could be construed as doing something good. She spends quite a bit of money at the casino for whatever reason, and she is down to her last coin. This is when KITT rigs the machine to give her the pot. I wonder if that would make her stop gambling, or would she press her luck even more. Not good.
And in the denouement:
The Red-Herring Filled Plot:
Dializine was the drug at the center of the story. The FDA approved the use of the drug for whatever medical use it was made for – but then “independent testing” showed possible side-effects. Of course, we are to assume that those side-effects include something like death, because no one spells out how serious the side-effects were. Also, a drug showing side-effects, even deleterious ones, only means that the drugs are recalled and retested for verification.
Whatever Phillip Royce and Private Investigator George Olin discovered turns out to be enough that the President of Parkway Pharmaceuticals, Paul DeBrett hires a contract killer and has a publisher killed (another staple of Action Movies and Shows). One would think that a drug that was funded by public money would not cause a drug manufacturer to go bankrupt if the drug turned out to be faulty. But it seems like the go-to plot is for a corporation to be over-leveraged enough that the corporate officers involved skip things like Chapter 7 and go for the .357 instead.
No word, however, on what happened to all of the employees involved in the company after the President was arrested and Parkway became embroiled in the drug scandal. Also, no word on the subsequent lawsuits – and whether they were certified for Class-Action status.
The Michael Knight Smash and Crash Spectacular:
The end-all button is pushed:
And we get this:
One car in the ditch, and:
KITT jumping another ravine.
Earlier in the episode:
Mind you, KITT was not done accelerating. That is speed at work.
Michael making a rash decision to try to jam the rudder…with his jacket.
If he didn’t care about the property of the plane and wanted to save Lauren’s life, he could have jammed his jacket into the port turbine of the plane when he had the chance. As it was, we still have 15 minutes to go – and a woman to serve comeuppance to, so Michael gets injured here.
We’re starting to see another pattern here. In Battlestar Galactica, the writers often killed wives of the characters and masked it as drama. While women were poorly treated, the only angry Straw Feminists on that show were Siress Bellaby and Lt. Sheba. Here on Knight Rider, however, this seems to be the staple of how women would be portrayed on this show. They’ve toned down Bonnie’s Angry Woman tendencies, but seem to ramp them up on almost anyone else.
The real problem is that the anger serves little purpose but the make the women’s actions seem irrational. And with the plots being as bad as they are, it shows the amount of care given for these characters. And that is none.
The back-end plot is passable. But the fact that the President of the mid-sized Pharmaceutical manufacturer hires a contract killer to silence a journalist because of a story that could possibly force him to shelve a drug after an investigation? Action Show exclusive, thank you very much. But par for the course here.
The Topaz Connection is standard fare for Knight Rider. Some of it good, some of it, not really.