'OL' MAN RIVER'
by Francis Moss and Ted Pedersen
Featuring: James, I.Q., Tracy, Gordo, Phoebe, Trevor, Mr Milbanks, Coach Mitchell, Captain Plank, Jaws, Nick Nack.
Synopsis: James and his friends are in New Orleans, Louisiana, for a student conference on the environment - and are enjoying an evening out at a local jazz club. But the atmosphere soon turns sour, as a rather large waiter throws a drink over a female customer - before stealing a book she's reading. The waiter is Jaws, and he quickly makes a break for it, as James pursues. Jaws reaches a speedboat with Nick Nack in the driving seat, and the two jet off down the river. But James leaps on his motorcycle, following them along the bank. Using a gizmo installed on the bike, he shoots a grappling hook which grabs Jaws, sending him flying into the river. Nick Nack then loses control and crashes the boat into a bridge, destroying it. James returns empty-handed to the jazz club, apologising to the lady for not retrieving her book. She tells him not to worry, and introduces herself as Dixie Dawn. Dixie's in the neighbourhood for the same conference, as she's doing a study on the Mississippi wetlands. The book Jaws took contained maps of the river's levees, which stop the city being flooded.
At a delapidated mansion down by the river, Nick Nack and Jaws report back to Captain Walker D. Plank, along with the mapbook. Now he has the maps, he's able to proceed with his sinister plan - to flood New Orleans. During the chaos, he intends to break into the nearby US Mint, stealing the printing plates so they can produce counterfeit dollars. At the gang's hotel, Mitchell warns James to be careful if he goes after the crooks. I.Q. provides James with a slew of counter-S.C.U.M. gizmos, and he sets off to meet Dixie down at the waterfront, while I.Q. and the others - including Trevor - go to a jazz festival. James and Dixie head to the conference on board the River Queen, but quickly spot Jaws and Nick Nack sneaking on board. James accosts Nick Nack in a poker tournament on board, but the crook pulls a laser on him. Having wrecked the poker room a bit, Nick Nack runs off, with James and Dixie chasing. As Nick Nacklocks himself in a cabin on the boat, Jaws pushes a pile of crates on James and Dixie - but narrowly misses. Jaws and Nick Nack eventually capture James and Dixie, and tie them to the boat's paddle-wheel as it slowly lowers into the river.
James uses the buzzsaw on his watch to cut through their ropes, and the mini crossbow attachment to pull them to safety. As the River Queen comes to rest at a jetty, James and Dixie watch as Jaws and Nick Nack disembark and take a speedboat into the waterways. Dixie charms a boatman into lending them his own vehicle, and they follow the crooks, but soon get waylaid in the swamp. Dixie spots some reeds that look out of place, and realise they're hiding a secret waterway, which is the one the crooks must have taken. They come to Plank's mansion, where they see S.C.U.M. agents loading what appears to be a fake copy of the River Queen with boxes of explosives. James sneaks into the mansion, overhearing Plank's plan and finding schematics for some kind of transmitter. But he's soon cornered by Jaws. Meanwhile, at the jazz festival, I.Q. wonders whether to try his hand at some impro using his ultrasonic horn - but Trevor steals it when he's not looking, eager to further his own musical career instead.
James uses I.Q.'s air jack to obstruct Jaws, but soon sees that Dixie has been captured by S.C.U.M. goons - and is then captured himself, by Jaws. Captain Plank then ships James and Dixie out to a tiny islet in the middle of the river, and ties the pair to a stake, as alligators slowly approach. Plank speeds off in his boat, cackling. As they're gradually surrounded by fearsome-looking reptiles, Dixie mentions that the alligators don't like high-pitched sounds - and James remembers I.Q.'s ultrasonic whistle. Blowing it seems to cause the creatures to retreat, and James frees himself and Dixie with the saw on his watch. The two paddle away on board a floating log. Back at the jazz festival, Trevor shows off on stage with I.Q.'s ultrasonic horn. Furious that he's stolen his music and his instrument, I.Q. turns up the pitch on the speakers so that the audience is soon wincing with pain. Glasses begin to shatter, and Trevor flees from the stage, but is set upon by an angry mob of festival-goers.
James and Dixie come to a small village on the banks of the marsh, where they come across a large man wielding a huge axe. James is terrified, but it turns out to be Dixie's old friend Big Paul, who's busy chopping wood. James asks to borrow a boat back to New Orleans, but Big Paul lends them a helicopter instead - which Dixie reveals she can pilot. Back at the hotel, James shows I.Q. the schematics he found, which appear to be for a combined transmitter and tone generator. He doesn't know what they're for, but back at his base Plank reveals to his henchmen that they will allow him to remotely control the fake River Queen and detonate the explosives on board when it reaches the vital location next to the central levee. Since the real Queen normally runs in that area, Plank says the decoy won't attract any attention. He then plans to use the real Queen to seize the Mint, and steal the plates. I.Q. soon catches on to what Plank's planning - and he, James and Dixie rush to stop him.
They take a taxi to the central levee, but they're too late to catch the real riverboat. James suggests using I.Q.'s ultrasonic horn to override Plank's tone generator which is controlling the fake River Queen, while Jaws and Nick Nack hijack the real vessel. As Dixie heads off to alert the River Police, I.Q. and James lower themselves by rope from the helicopter onto the deck of the fake, along with the horn, in order to implement James's plan. Plank sees them on his cameras and detonates a first round of explosives, which simply destroys the fake shell of the vessel, revealing a hydrofoil underneath. It's still headed for the levee however, packed with further explosives, so I.Q. plays the ultrasonic horn, causing the craft to change direction.
Meanwhile, the police board the real River Queen, arresting the S.C.U.M. henchmen. Using the horn, I.Q. sends the hydrofoil back up river, on a colllision course with Plank's mansion! Despite the pirate's best attempts to detonate it before the craft reaches them, the boat fails to stop. James and I.Q. climb back up onto the helicopter by rope, and Jaws, Nick Nack and Plank escape as the hydrofoil slams into their hideout, obliterating it. At the airport, Dixie, Big Paul and their friends wave goodbye to James and the gang - and back at Warfield, Mr Milbanks is annoyed they never made it to the environmental conference. I.Q. did win first prize in the jazz festival though, despite Trevor's best efforts. Milbanks presents Trevor with a bill from the festival organisers - for all the glass his terrible playing broke! The gang smirk as Trevor wonders how best to break the news to Daddy.
Review: Deep South clichés run amok in this nevertheless entertaining installment, featuring a rare foray into riverboats by Walker D. Plank. Like Weather or Not before it, this episode has a fairly simplistic plot - flood New Orleans so Plank can raid the Mint during the turmoil - but, also as with the previous episode, the action-packed antics make up for the lack of complexity. As well as the numerous river chases and reptile escapes, there's a good level of humour throughout, with Plank actually managing to achieve self-parody in one of his campiest performances yet. Nick Nack and Jaws are also unusually effective - less squabbling and more sinister. There's a lot of nonsense surrounding the two versions of the River Queen (couldn't they have saved time, money and viewer confusion just by using the real riverboat as the bomb, and raiding the Mint with one of their many speedboats?). But it's made up for by the enjoyable use of jazz music in the episode, particularly as a central plot device in escaping the alligators and controlling the booby-trapped hydrofoil. The guest girl Dixie Dawn also exceeds expectations, proving herself to be both an intelligent student and an expert helicopter pilot. Everything comes to a fast-paced denouement, with an amusing Trevor epilogue back at Warfield. A good enjoyable watch, and an episode that doesn't take itself too seriously.
Highs: Plank's awful accent just gets funnier and funnier as the series goes on. Watch out in particular for his OTT pronunciation of the word 'chaos'. He also calls Nick Nack 'Nicker Nacker'.
Lows: If Plank's plan hinges on the fake River Queen not attracting attention before he detonates it, why does he sail both of the boats up the river at the same time?
Lines to Remember: Phoebe, on Dixie: "Just once I'd like to go somewhere that doesn't have any pretty girls!" Gordo: "Well, there's always Warfield!"
Lines to Forget: James, on the impending alligator situation: "I always wanted to enjoy a southern meal. But I never wanted to be one!"
Gadgets & Gizmos: I.Q. magics up a crossbow function for the watch, as well as a compressed air jack for a quick lift, and an ultrasonic horn and whistle, each of which can duplicate the sound waves from almost any instrument.
S.C.U.M. on the Surface?: Yes. Plank's hideout and the hijacked riverboat are both crawling with uniformed agents.
Notes: This is the first of three consecutive appearances by Jaws.