Chasing Knight Rider – Season 1, Episode 20: Nobody Does it Better

Quick Hitch:

FLAG’s investigation into a corporate espionage is complicated when a private investigator attempts to find proof of an affair by an employee of the company.

Review and Analysis:

This is one of those episodes where it pays to not follow the onscreen action.  Because, if you do, none of the pertinent questions about this Whodunit really get answered in favor of…things that happen just because.

To “Nerd” or Not to Nerd:

Girls don't play video games...do they?

Girls don’t play video games…do they?

At this point, Bonnie’s electronics and computer credentials have been quite well established.  But this is one of the few times that we find out one of Bonnie’s “quirks.”  In this case, she likes to play video games.  And while she is not a high-level savant who could qualify for video game tournaments, she actually plays them well (at least better than Devon and Michael…which isn’t really saying much).

The amazing thing she does in this episode?  She programmed for this episode for KITT everything in regards to Delton Micronics.  She states that KITT now has the complete personnel files, financial statements, stockholder reports, AND their video games all stored in KITT’s memory.  That she added all of these things to his memory in the short time given is still…wow.

In the 1980s, the computing power and available data storage would have been insufficient to allow even a computer company to store such pertinent records electronically.  Fixed Disc Drives measured their storage capacity in Tens of Megabytes.  Silicon cartridges created for various computer games measured their total capacity…in small kilobytes.  Floppy discs could hold more than cartridges, were also rewritable, but were very fragile and could be erased easily.  This was the technology that was publicly available at the time that Knight Rider graced the screens.

So, much like her programming in “The Topaz Connection,” Bonnie’s resource access in FLAG, as well as her programming capabilities, seem to be considerable – and practically limitless.

To Nerd, Part 2 – Nerdism in Men:

Nerds in the 1980s were either White or East Asian.  It continues as stereotype to this day.

Nerds in the 1980s TV landscape were either White or East Asian. It continues as stereotype to this day.

While Elliot is the businessman who could program (akin to Steve Jobs), Julian was supposed to be the full-time, full-on stereotypical nerd – spends all time on the computer, no interest in sports.  Male nerds on action shows followed the Eddie Deezen model.  In Julian’s case, the only things missing are the pocket protector and taped-up glasses.  You’ll find some of these in the later Knight Rider episodes featuring nerds.

It is interesting to note that women in science fields, as far as Knight Rider is concerned, were to be considered model beautiful, except in cases where they were supposed to be part of the villain sect – then they were older, more mature, and were supposed to give the impression that they were from East Germany or the Soviet Bloc.

The Impudence of Women – and Straw Feminism:

Flannery apologizing for typical "female behavior."  Bad writing beforehand doesn't help.

Flannery apologizing for typical “female behavior.” Bad writing beforehand doesn’t help.

Flannery Roe’s character is what was driving the B-story in this episode.  She is supposed to be a private investigator (not unlike Michael Knight) who was investigating Julian having a possible affair with Connie.  Like most “amateurs,” Flannery has no idea what was really happening (Eliot Stevens conducting espionage for a rival company as revenge for being fired).  And, in TV land, after the requisite demonstration of obstinance, ends up in hot water (kidnapped by Stevens’ accomplices).

Peppered throughout the story is her “interference” in Michael’s investigation in the thefts of Delton Micronics with her “snooping” regarding the (possible) affair between Julian Groves and Connie Chason.  Like most TV Straw Feminists, Flannery believes the worst in men – she opines to Michael that Julian (the man she was investigating) is a “Devious little worm” willing to resort to anything to cover up his affair, including murder.  Compounding this Straw Feminism is her “brave front” tendencies; She often reacts emotionally to Michael’s attempts at explanation (To be honest, however, Mr. Knight is unnecessarily heavy-handed and comes off as trying to Mansplain).  She’ll often, when confronted with the idea that she is in over her head (like when she first sees Connie’s dead body), respond with the “Because I’m a Woman?” question, along with the usual Straw Feminist catch-all, “I can take care of myself.”  Usually, something like that is followed with a scene later when said woman is confronted with a killer – with a gun – who then renders said statement false.

Like this one.  Oh yeah, another Man of Color as a throwaway criminal.  Way to go, guys.

Like this one. Oh yeah, another Man of Color as a throwaway criminal. Way to go, guys.

Also, said woman is rescued by the hero of the show.  Apology soon follows.

In most detective shows, the amateur detective is supposed to be someone stumbles into the action of the plot.  They are intelligent, semi-competent, but not experienced.  Thus, these characters come off as not too bright.  However, they are never really that far from the actual plot AND the hero usually sends the amateur off on a wild goose chase…which turns out to be the one place the bad guy actually is at.  With Flannery, you are supposed to get the idea that she learned how to be a Private Eye by reading Nancy Drew and deciding to make a business out of it, as opposed to Michael’s law enforcement training and years of on-the-job experience as a police officer.

As is often the case with Knight Rider, the women do not get involved in the actual action.  Linda Groves is the passive wife who wants to believe that her husband Julian is true to her.  Connie is the temptress/red-herring who was using Julian to steal company secrets.  Flannery is the woman who continuously interfered with the so-called legitimate investigating by FLAG – because she thought, and wanted to believe, that it was ONLY about a sexual fling.  And Bonnie is…Bonnie.

So, let’s end it with the Hero Contract Clause:

David Hasselhoff does this alot in this series.

David Hasselhoff does this alot in this series.  Also, why does it look like he’s trying to check out Flannery’s more attractive sister?

The Incompetent Police:

Were charges ever filed?

Were charges ever filed?

In action shows where the protagonists are not police officers, having them show up in the first act means that they are in for causing a derailment.  In this case, Flannery gets tripped up by Michael and tries to confront him by pointing a gun at him.  After Michael confiscates the gun and begins to question her, a police officer conveniently rolls up and promptly arrests Michael…just because.  Flannery also uses White Women’s Tears to make the arrest stick.  Michael leaves the police station after the break – and nothing else ever happens.

And What Was With Armand?

His role in the whole scheme was made intentionally ambiguous.  Despite the screentime that is spent with Armand and Flannery for the obligatory KITT Action Scene, Armand is just another Red Herring, although we were given the impression that it was supposed to be Armand who killed Connie – until Michael gets “tough” with Armand after said chase scene.  Then, he spills the beans in which we learn that Armand was Connie’s husband – and that he knew that she was having an affair with another man…and that he did not have a problem with that.

Knocks out the Main Character and Walks Away with Documents.

Knocks out the Main Character and Walks Away with Documents.

While he may have been OK with the idea – and perhaps the reality – of Connie having a fling with another man, he does make the decision to find out who the other man is.  Thus, when she was killed (presumably, by Elliot), he set out to find her killer – and all the signs that Flannery’s notes had put the onus on Julian and his illicit relationship with Connie (which did not exist).  Armand came to same conclusion as Flannery – that Connie was killed because Julian was attempting to cover his tracks regarding said sexual fling.  Armand’s motive becomes one of revenge – over the fact that his wife is dead.

And it was the Victim All Along:

Tried his hand at being "Italian Mad Max."  Fails in spectacular fashion.

Tried his hand at being “Italian Mad Max.” Fails in spectacular fashion.

Elliot Stevens was the mastermind behind the thefts from Delton Micronics because he was being ousted from his position as CEO.  So he used Connie Chason (who was his ex-girlfriend) to have Julian steal the actual programs.  He would then re-take possession and sell them.  This sounds good, especially when you consider that he goes to FLAG to throw them off of his trail.  Even better, Flannery’s own investigation pointing to Julian and Connie having a fling would have allowed Eliot to get away almost scot free.

But, like many episodes of Knight Rider, we never get the sense beforehand that Eliot was being canned from his job.  Or, for that matter, of anything resembling a Board of Directors leading some kind of charge against Eliot.  The only “clue” we get is that Eliot has to deal with a “New Set of Corporate Types Who Demand More and More Profit.”

Sadly, there was never any onscreen evidence that Eliot was supposed to be the mastermind behind the entire operation, except for a moment when he gets angry that Michael hasn’t pointed the finger at Julian fast enough.

Left At the Wayside:

Armand’s motivations.  Much like Devon Miles in “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” Michael dismisses Armand to the police for the sake of the plot, despite the fact that he is also a dupe in Elliot’s corporate espionage scheme.

And Playing No Part in the Actual Plot:

The man on the left, we learn loads about.  The man on the right?  Just another nameless Asian man.  A staple of the 1980s.

The man on the left, we learn loads about. The man on the right? Just another nameless Asian man. A staple of the 1980s.

KITT’s analysis narrows the list of probable suspects down to 4.  When this image appears, KITT mentions that both men have been best friends of Elliot’s since their college days – and all possess at least a BS in Computer Science.  Funny thing is, we never see any of the other programmers during the course of FLAG’s investigation, nor does Julian nor Elliot interact with the other “suspects” in the episode.

The Michael Knight Smash and Crash Spectacular:

The button is pushed.

The keyword of the 1980s.

The keyword of the 1980s.

Left in its wake:

You're not supposed to notice that you saw this same jump 5 episodes ago.

You’re not supposed to notice that you saw this same jump 5 episodes ago.

KITT jumping a ravine that looks…familiar.  However, if you pay attention, the rain that permeates the 2nd and 3rd acts is noticeably absent for this jump.

Also:

The villain attempts to get away driving this:

Seriously, the bad guy drives this to escape a car that can go 250 mph.

Seriously, the bad guy drives this to escape a car that can go 250 mph.

Of course, the rain limits the kind of stunts that you’re going to have safe access to.

The Convoluted Villain Scheme:

After learning of the plan by the New Set of Corporate Types Who Demand More Profit to find a replacement at CEO for Delton Micronics, Elliot Stevens decides to send his talents elsewhere.  Mind you, the decision to replace Stevens as CEO sounds like it would have also meant that they wanted him completely out of company at the very end of it, instead of keeping Stevens on in some high-level capacity.  What those New Set of Corporate Types planned to do afterwards is anyone’s guess.

Yet, there is all of the work that he put into all of Delton Micronics’ IP.  So, he decides to hire his ex-girlfriend (Connie Chason) as a honeypot to ensnare one of his closest friends since the company’s founding (Julian Groves).  Once ensnared, she would get him to steal the experimental programs and source code from Delton, and deliver those to Connie.  Connie then turns around and gives the “stolen” programs to Elliot, who in turn would deliver them to this unnamed rival company.  Obviously fearful that the thefts would somehow get traced back to him, he also decides to have Connie murdered, possibly before the shareholders’ vote to force Elliot out of the CEO position (It is just desserts to someone who decides to take their companies public – live by the capital…lose to the capital).

It is also apparent that he used Flannery Roe’s amateur hour to his decided advantage.  Because her investigation limited itself to Julian and Connie’s meetings, Flannery’s notes never bothered to find anything more.  Thus, when Connie turns up dead, everyone’s evidence would point to Julian despite the lack of physical evidence directly tying Julian to Connie’s murder.  Had Flannery been called to testify regarding the matter, she would have stated her records leading to Julian as a suspect.  While Elliot would use Julian to cover for both the thefts and the murder, Flannery’s incomplete skill set was to be his final cover – completely by accident.

Final Thoughts:

Nobody Does It Better is another exercise in Gender Role Reinforcement.  From the mistreatment of Connie Chason to Flannery Roe’s character development and punishment at the hands of the plot, women tend not to fare very well in Knight Rider episodes.  The only people of color with speaking parts are the Black Officer who arrests Michael Knight on gun possession charges, and Armand, who just thrown away at the end of the episode, even though he had a legitimate grievance against whomever killed his wife.  There is some action show recycling, and Hasselhoff gets to hug the attractive female guest star (but not the one who would be considered drop-dead gorgeous.  She gets killed).

Again, this episode is par for the course in Larson-land; ignore the soft racism and gender essentialism and you end up with a not-too-bad episode of Knight Rider.  The action is softer on action, but spends far too much time having Michael berate Flannery for doing exactly what he’s doing, except she doesn’t have the resources of FLAG to back her up.

Nobody Does It Better for half-and-half.

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