The Pitch: Gilligan’s Island (Season 5, Episode 1)

Geoff Harris

Season five opens in a television studio. Production Assistants and other workers scurry around like sea crabs. The camera moves to reveal the show’s title, The Chat Boat starring Julie McCoy. A cartoon of the host wearing a sailor girl outfit waves at the viewer. Sitting on an impossibly white couch is the host. She is making small talk with someone off camera. The view broadens and Lovey sits patiently as Julie goes over the sequence for the interview. This has been discussed at least a dozen times prior and Lovey is showing signs of irradiation and boredom. Thankfully, a voice from the booth announces they’re ready to start the show. Julie applies some quick platitudes and then looks at the camera and smiles a toothy grin. The director counts down and the show’s catchy theme comes up. Julie waits for her musical cue and starts speaking in a high energy tone.

“Good morning and happy travels to everyone! I’m Julie and welcome aboard The Chat Boat! We’re ready to make another run and today we are joined by a very special guest! You may have already seen her making the rounds but here she is on deck with us to talk about her new book, Gilligan’s Island, give a warm welcome to…Lovey Howell!”

An audience unseen until a camera sweeps over it, erupts with applause.

Lovey springs to life as well smiling with a practiced ease cultivated from a thousand dinner parties. She even manages an insincere wave that gains even louder applause. Drink it up you brain-dead ingrates, she thinks, basking in the love of the public. Julie makes small talk only finally addressing the book itself. Lovey answers in wispy simple statements until the book is mentioned and then her mood becomes evidently darker.

“You were stranded on an island with strangers. You watched people die, including your husband. You’ve survived so much. Tell us, Lovey, how did you survive?”

Lovey straightens. Her facade of comfort disappearing slightly. ” Well, read the book” she jests. The audience responds with laughter.

Julie laughs and asks again. “Can you give us just a tease of what to expect?” More applause.

“Alright! Alright!” Lovey responds. One quick sip of water later and she continues, “Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do…”

<voice over> “to survive.”

The episode continues with the soon-to-be castaways boarding the Minnow. Ginger insists on bringing a small army of trunks claiming she needs everything “just in case” she encounters fans or the press. She offers to pay extra for the storage. The Skipper is indifferent and has the luggage taken below without accepting any funds. The Howells arrive late because the captain of the boat they were going to take barred them from passage citing “engine trouble.” The truth being that he and Lovey had recently parted ways and he was brokenhearted. Lovey was desperately making alternate plans when Thurston spotted the Minnow and reasoned he could just convince it’s Captain to take them to their desired location. Irony would play a cruel trick on all of them.

Lovey explains the excessive number of trunks Thurston had dragged along.

<voice over> “He’d been becoming more and more paranoid. Thinking people were after his fortune, Thurston converted a small portion, oh say, a million or so, into bearer bonds. He had heard some story about thieves robbing an investment firm in California and it put him in a tailspin of conspiracies in every shadow. Personally, I found the whole nonsense hard to swallow. But he was my husband and I supported him. So, we traveled with all that money stuffed under our clothes everywhere we went. Needless to say, going to the opera was a nightmare of decoy cars and armed security personal. I stopped going after a month. The storm came on like the Wraith of God. A crew of two on a boat which looked like it was better suited for taking drunks out for a day of fishing couldn’t handle it. The cabin was cramped and smelt of salt, vomit, and sweat. God knows when it was last cleaned. A wave comes up from nowhere and slams the hull. Darkness.”

The scene shifts to water-logged people dragging themselves ashore. Luggage and bits of the boat wash up in chaotic patterns of no particular rhythm. These beleaguered Argonauts had been cast out of Neptune’s realm with malice. Within a matter of forgotten minutes, all were accounted for and the slow process of recovery began. That first night, no one spoke more than a few words. Mostly suggestions of what to use for kindling to start a fire and what trunks held clothing which would be sacrificed for warmth. Thurston only spoke when someone suggested they use the bearer bonds as fuel instead of the clothing. Lovey had never seen him that angry. It was alluring to know he still had a fire of his own deep inside the wretched shell he had become.  Roy, The Professor, negotiated a truce and an agreement stating recompense would follow, if and when, they are returned to civilization. Something to do with patients or some such. Thurston agreed, mostly to get the fire started. He would tell her later of his intention to sue the skin off everyone else. Burn money? Liberal scum.

“Between us, it was that red headed harlot’s idea to burn the bonds. ” <Audience laughs> “Go ahead, Ginger darling, sue me from beyond the grave! I’ll write you a check!” <More laughter>

<voice over> “The Professor was the only one who seemed to have any sense at all. He knew what plants were safe to eat, how to draw water from vines, and the construction of huts from straw and mud. The days were long, hot, and filled with bugs crawling all over everything. The boat was a shattered wreck. The electronics were shorted out and there were very few replacement parts in the storage hold. Gilligan kept getting under foot. The young man had two speeds: slow and stupid. If The Skipper fellow hadn’t been around to reign him in, Lovey was certain someone was going to render the idiot unconscious and keep him stashed away until rescue came. Eventually even his guardian angel finally had enough and turned on his sole crewman.”

She pauses and takes a drink from a nearby cup of water. Julie McCoy, perky as a puppy, stared on with a blank smile.

Lovey continues in voice over. “Alright. The radio wasn’t exactly as bad as I had made out. It took Roy two good cloudless nights to determine our location. Interestingly, we had been knocked off course from the boat’s original course but Thurston and I were right where we wanted to be. You see, he had designs on buying some property and this island just happened to be one of a lot of islands up for auction. We were where we wanted to be only on the wrong damn side! I slipped away after dinner and used the radio to contact someone who could get someone else to send help. For all of us, of course. Well, when you conduct business over a shortwave it isn’t always going to come around the way you would prefer. We got a rescue plane all right. Only another of those freakish storms caused it to crash and finished the job on the radio.”

We see Lovey deliberately connecting the radio to the boat’s battery causing a overload.

“How did the pilot know where to land?” Julie asks innocently.

“I had memorized a map I saw while Thurston was going over the potential costs. I’m not just a pretty face!” <laughter>

“Oh. But he survived? It must have been terrifying.”

“He was in bad shape. Roy knew emergency medicine and his skills as an herbalist saved the day once again. His name was Taylor Reeves. I had known him since he was a child.  His father ran Cloud Rider Airlines. Taylor wanted to become a fleet pilot but Thurston snatched him up as soon as he received his license and made him our private air-chauffeur. ” <light laughter>

Julie’s tone becomes serious. “Are you able to talk about what happened next?”

Lovey stiffens, sips her water, and nods.

<voice over> “He was up and about very quickly. It was nice to have news from the outside world. Roy got a receiver working but the transmissions were spastic at best. Clear days were the greatest blessings. Taylor would spend half his time retelling the same information and the other half helping Roy with whatever project cropped up. We had a new member of our family. We were happy. And then…” She pauses for effect, “…weren’t sure when it happened. They came in so quietly. We found him in the morning. There was a discussion of whether to bury him or cremate the body.” <pauses again> “We buried him.”

The audience lets out a noticeable sigh of condolence. Julie pats Lovey on the knee gently then turns to the camera and says, ” We’ll be right back.”

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