“In the WENN Small Hours...”

16 August 1997
[Victor and Betty kiss.] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Howard Meltzer.
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Another season begins with an excellent opener with changes galore. "The Entertainment Group/Turtleback Productions Presents" has changed to "American Movie Classics and Howard Meltzer Productions, Inc. Presents". Mary (Eugenia) Stout's name has returned to the credits. Perhaps the most significant change, certainly the most pleasing, is the change of Rupert Holmes' credit from "Developed by" to "Created by."

The graphics were sped up and the music may have been a little more uptempo, but basically I think they simply chopped some off of the end (the "bom bom BOM bom" that usually occurred when showing "Sam Dane" is gone) and put in a new transition. This reduced the opening credits (from the first note to the appearance of the episode title) from 47 seconds to 38 seconds.

The aforementioned episode title is "In the WENN Small Hours..." It's a play on "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and the Frank Sinatra album it appears on, "In the Wee Small Hours." New Musical Express (Magazine: 8/12/2000, p.28) ranked Sinatra's album as #7 on a list of the Top 30 Heartbreak Albums. A Common Reader described it as exploring the theme of unrequited love, tenderness and heartbreak. Like "Magic," it's an episode title that promises much.

In the previous 26 episodes (except for a variation in "Christmas in the Airwaves"), we went from the credits to the radio with a lighted dial and WENN playing. The camera would pan left and up to the "On the Air" sign. For the first time, the radio is turned off and silent. The camera begins panning left, as usual. But this time it reverses and pans right to Betty...things are different.

Betty's asleep on the Green room couch, with a pillow and a blanket. She awakens with a start and calls out Victor's name. But, of course, it must be a dream. Betty thinks she hasn't been getting enough sleep.

However, Victor pops through the door with a pitcher of water and a Dixie Cup.

Betty manages to stay conscious this time but has a problem identifying water. She wets her fingertips in the cup and flicks the water on her face. Apparently, she thinks she's dreaming and that flicking water on her face in a dream will cause her to awaken. She turns to find Victor still haunting her.

"I've already explained it to you." He repeats "You're not dreaming" from the previous episode. "I'm real."

Betty nods her head guiltily. Of course, how could she have forgotten.

Then she tosses the remaining water in the Dixie cup on Victor! LOL!

Victor makes another Oz reference and asks Betty to suspend her disbelief.

Betty points out that Victor was blown up in the in the Blitz.

"Yes, but I'm feeling a lot better now." Victor suggests, "Why don't you try taking some of this water internally?"

Betty, getting a grip on herself, begins using that fabulous mind of hers and conceives a test.

"Victor Comstock and I once took a walk down to where the Monongahela and the Allegheny Rivers meet. It was a clear night. It seemed as if the entire universe was reflected in the water. The Milky Way was a plume of white smoke on a black velvet river filled with shining sapphires. We...Victor and I...looked down into the water and you...he said something to me that I will never forget."

Betty keeps tee-tottering between belief and disbelief while she describes the scene. Finally, more positive, "Can you tell me what you said?"

Any imposter would be sure to believe Victor had said something romantic.

"I think I said something," guiltily, "to the effect that the confluence of the rivers was in fact a misnomer, since in actuality the Monongahela circumvents the Allegheny by some 300 odd feet."

"Victor! It is you!" Betty rushes happily into his arms while he can only feel chastened by the contrast between how romantically Betty had viewed the night ("The Milky Way was a plume of white smoke on a black velvet river with shining sapphires...") and how he had obviously failed to respond to the mood.

Victor, happy for some uninterrupted time with Betty alone, is about to explain what's going on when Eugenia arrives for her Agitato Alert show. It's been about an hour since Betty signed the station off the air (months for us).

Victor explains the importance of keeping his presence a secret. "Betty, I realize the entire world thinks I'm a dead man. But if anyone sees me here...I'm a dead man."

Lester, the usual night engineer, can't make it to Eugenia's show. Instead, C. J., enjoying a Welsh Rarebit at the Buttery, has been called in. C. J. arrives and manages to keep Eugenia occupied in the hallway.

Back in the Green room, Victor continues to explain that he's risking life and limb to tell Betty what's going on. "But if anyone spots me here...I mean anyone...my resurrection will be rescinded. I'll go from being undead to un-undead."

"That's a double negative."

"You're telling me!"

However, entering Studio A, Eugenia overhears Betty and Victor. "Hello? Is somebody here?"

"Where the heck am I going to hide?"

"You're six foot five. That's going to be a tall order."

After Eugenia enters the room, Victor, having hid behind the door, manages to slip out into the hallway. He heads towards the entrance, probably to hide in the dressing room, when Mr. Medwick and Cutter Dunlap arrive.

Cutter Dunlap (played by Malcolm Gets who plays Richard on Caroline in the City) is an adventurer who spent the past 2 years in Tibet. His contract with Pittsburgh Pantry calls for an exclusive radio report upon his return. "I'm disappointing several ladies and a dozen bartenders even as we speak." Since Pittsburgh Pantry has been sponsoring the Agitato Alert since "I Now Pronounce You Man and Wife Again," Mr. Medwick wants to take advantage of having (probably) the only show on the air and scoop the papers before "they can over-exploit your exploits."

Cutter sees the picture of Victor in the hallway and recalls Victor's days back in New York when Victor tried to get Cutter to do a radio travelogue, Sounds Dangerous. "Well then he quit or got fired for having too much talent. What an innovative man." So Cutter had heard that Victor had left New York and perhaps rumors as to the cause.

Soon, a comedy of misunderstandings based on Cutter's complete lack of knowledge of the last two years begins. Mr. Medwick speaks glowingly of Victor in respect of him and in reverence for the dead. Cutter, unaware of the Victor's death, misunderstands. It is the first of many misunderstandings.

Betty and Eugenia emerge from the Green room and Mr. Medwick and Cutter Dunlap. Eugenia thinks it's a nice surprise see Mr. Medwick. "Isn't it, Betty?"

"Ah, I'm trying to quit." Indeed!

Betty leads Medwick and Dunlap to the station manager's office where Medwick knows Scott has some hooch stored. But that is precisely where Victor has hidden, standing on the other side listening. When the door budges back a couple of times, Betty picks up on it.

Betty explains that the police have sealed off the office due to the events of "Magic." Medwick had been at the airport picking up Dunlap and hadn't heard the news. So Betty explains why the police were here. "Because of what we were broadcasting."

"Which was..."

"Um. Code messages to Nazi saboteurs."

"That's pushing the boundaries of entertainment a little bit even for you folks, isn't it?"

"And who did the police arrest?"

"Oh, well, they arrested," a beat of guilt, "the sponsor."

"Why am I not surprised."

Betty manages to steer them to the control room on their way to Agitato Alert. After letting Victor know the coast is clear, he starts to open the door to let her in when Scott's voice is heard from the entranceway.

"Man, oh, man. What a holy rigmarole I just came from with the police." Like the tired Dunlap, the tired Scott seeks the relaxing Bourbon in the office.

Betty tries to steer Scott towards the hottest story in town. "You broke the code! You caught the head saboteur!"

"Hey, you know that's true. I mean, forget about my part in this. This is big, big news isn't it?" His lack of ego in this is admirable. Almost as if he doesn't want his name to make headlines. Although Victor knocking in reply to Scott's knocks as he did when Betty knocks almost gives him away. Betty reinforces the imperative to leave the office alone by using the sealed office story on Scott, also. "It's gotta be the biggest news story that's ever happened right inside this station, huh?"

"Oh, you'd be surprised." Scott sure would be surprised. :)

Once again, Betty convinces Victor to let her in when Mr. Medwick returns to the hallway. Seems Betty succeeded too well: Scott has just leaped on the air with the spy story before Cutter could start his interview. Betty pulls the door shut and makes sure she speaks loudly enough, "I am so glad that you're standing right here next to me, Mr. Medwick", that Victor won't repeat any knocking.

Betty explains that Scott's exciting report will create an even larger audience for Cutter Dunlap. People would call and wake up other people to listen in. After all, "Hardly anyone listens to the radio after midnight on a Sunday." Which is not what someone who's paying good money to sponsor the show would want to hear.

And I assume "after midnight on a Sunday" means that's it's now Monday? If so, where was Maple planning to get "suds" on a Sunday night at the end of the previous episode. And is The Buttery a 7 day/24 hour restaurant?

Betty returns yet again to the station manager's office door and barely manages to convince Victor to open it this time. "Don't tease me, Betty!"

Scott's on the air discussing the war of nerves between Germany and America with Hitler using turncoat Americans like Jonathan Arnold (mentioned in the previous episode) to broadcast propaganda.

Back in the office, we're finally finding out what happened to Victor. "I don't remember the explosion. I came to at the edge of the debris. And there was smoke everywhere and people were screaming. All I knew to do was to get up and keep moving, walking. Apparently, I boarded a double-decker bus on Regent Street and told the conductor I was going to Madison and 52nd. And then I collapsed. They took me to Charing Cross hospital. And...it was the strangest thing, Betty...ten days later when I came to, I was visited more by the military than by medics."

"Why? You were a civilian, a broadcaster."

"The perfect, civilian broadcaster as far as the military was concerned. Presumed dead, no family, no attachments. Well...none to speak of." Victor and Betty exchange looks and smiles.

The previously undeclared feelings are in doubt no more.

"What did they want from you?"

"Oh, they asked me to be the worst American since Benedict Arnold."

Jeff and Hilary are the next to arrive. They've just been released from the police station. Wherever they live (I presume not the fabled Bedside Manor), it's far enough away that there's no "point in going home" since they must be on the air in a few hours. Hilary apparently slowed the process down by signing her statement "Best wishes to one of my greatest fans" and by insisting the mug shot only record her good side. Jeff didn't help by insisting Hilary not be frisked by a male police officer. Hilary didn't mind apparently. Explaining to Scott:

"They wanted to frisk both of us. We had to wait until they could find a policewoman."

"Well, that's understandable."

"It was Jeff who requested it."

Meanwhile, Victor has revealed to Betty what I should have seen coming a mile away. He is Jonathan Arnold. An identity created to protect Victor's name. He's expected to remain in Germany, accessing Nazi documents for the Allies until the end of the war. "If the Allies win, Jonathan Arnold will simply cease to be. If, on the other hand, Hitler wins....I suppose I'll be very nicely positioned to help him rule the world." Which emphasizes just how serious the threat is. Country after country has fallen to the Axis. World domination may have been fodder for the pulps, but now it's become a real possibility.

"The British are bombing Germany. You could be...

"...blown up twice in the same war...in both London and Berlin?" Foreshadowing?

"Victor, you can't go on pretending to be a traitor."

"Oh, but I am a traitor, Betty." A chill runs up my spine. Well, he's back from the dead. All bets are off.

Victor is back in the States for final briefings. "The Nazi's think I'm here to wrap up my personal affairs." Sadly, "Well, maybe I am." By revealing the classified knowledge of who Jonathan Arnold is to an uncleared Betty, he has committed treason...punishable by death. That's how important it was to see her, at least once more.

And that's why being found there would be the very worst thing that could happen.

Cue Cutter opening the door, searching for something a little stronger than Agitato. (How could ANYTHING be stronger than Agitato?) "I sure didn't expect to find you in here."

"Well, I don't think many people would at this point, Cutter."

"I heard I could find some spirits in this room."

Betty quickly explains to Victor, "He means whiskey."

This exchange goes on for a bit with Cutter extolling his steadfast belief that Victor's career wouldn't end after leaving New York. Cutter's every pronouncement is equally valid for someone who had returned to life after being dead and buried.

Victor begins to sense that Cutter is unaware of Victor's "death." "Cutter, you're either a philosopher of truly cosmic dimensions or...have you by any chance been out of touch with the news for the last year?"

Cutter explains his Himalayan adventure and his reaction to one of the few pieces of news he's heard since he arrived in the country yesterday. "They made The Wizard of Oz without Shirley Temple! Big shock there."

"Oh well, there's a lot more on the way." (And perhaps more foreshadowing.)

"Cutter, would you like us to bring you up-to-date on a few other things."

"Yes. Yes! This is fascinating."

Leading, "Betty...?" (Ah, old days. :)

On the air, Hilary's report of Holstom's arrest is following Scott's. It doesn't take long for the events to move more exclusively to herself starting with her birth in Crockett's Corner, Maine, a dubious 29 years ago. Crockett's Corner seems pretty isolated. Perhaps the boredom there is what compelled her to make it somewhere, anywhere else. The glamour of Broadway would be an exciting young contrast for an impressionable, ambitious young girl.

Crockett's Corner in Cumberland County, Maine seems to be just called Crockett Corner nowadays according to Mapquest. [Regular, 40 KB; Zoom, 20 KB]. But you can purchase a map of North Yarmouth from an 1871 survey at Vintage Maine Images which includes Crockett's Corner. In fact, you can zoom in on the web page (look north of Walnut Hill to find CC) and see the name of the local residents. I see no Booths lived in the area in 1871 (although it occurs to me that "Hilary Booth" could have been a stage name).

Victor agrees to meet Cutter for breakfast and Betty escorts him to his interview. But not before setting Cutter up even more. "Did you ever meet someone and know in an instant that this was the one. The one person that you've been waiting for all of your life." Words which seemingly describe the magical rapport established between her and Victor in the pilot.

As Mr. Medwick grabs Cutter to take him into studio A, Cutter gives Betty a wink. Betty returns the wink...fully with her right eye and halfway with her left eye.

In studio A, Scott and Jeff have moved from cards to chess while Hilary has continued. Mr. Medwick removes her so Cutter Dunlap will finally get on the air with Eugenia continuing her hosting duties.

Eugenia ask Cutter about being with people again after such isolation.

Cutter speaks of meeting old friends such as Mr. Medwick and...Victor Comstock. Eugenia is a little disconcerted. "You say you were thinking about him."

"No, no, my eyes are trained for recognition. Although I did doubt it was him for a second when he told me he was wearing nylon stockings. Ha, ha, ha , ha! Men in stockings! The very idea makes me want to drop in on President Pershing and say, 'Look, just because we discovered insect life on the dark side of the Moon doesn't mean we all have to start acting like lunar ticks.' Of course, with the White House being relocated to Kansas for defense purposes I'm not likely to drive out to see the President, or even Vice President Garbo. Even if they make Studebakers that run on tap water now."

Eugenia, with rising trepidation, "C. J., I'm all alone in here with Mr. Dunlap."

"I'm sitting in Tibet alone all those months. I never imagined there'd be so many strange things going on. I mean...Canada joining with Mexico to form the Divided States of North America. The prohibition of jazz, except in Vermont of all places. Edible eating utensils. And then to learn that the Andrews Sisters and the Marx Brothers were the same people. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Except we all walk around with these lead weights in our pockets. I mean things are going crazy."

"And Victor Comstock told you all this in Tibet? Like a little voice inside your head?"

"No, no. He was in the next room just a few minutes ago. And I'm a changed man already. Look! Your Miss Roberts loaned me her stockings. I can't say they feel any warmer, but you know, when in Rome..."

Cutter had thought all the cultural updates Betty and Victor gave him were riotous. Plus, he's been up for hours for the plane flight and is probably a bit hyper. He's still able to speak clearly, but he's had at least one shot of whiskey. All this has made him sound a bit maniacal.

"Why are you looking at me that way?"

Scott and Jeff haul Cutter off to the Green room where he tries to get Betty to corroborate his story. She informs him that Victor is dead. When he insists, she starts to humor him as if he must be delusional, overwrought from his "long ordeal in Tibet." Scott and Jeff pick up on it. Cutter takes comfort in the fact that Betty is suddenly supporting his story. Otherwise, he'd doubt the other things Betty had told him in the hall: "that I'm the one for you and how you want to follow me to the ends of the Earth." This aggravates Scott. Scott and Jeff follow Betty's suggestion to take Cutter back to his hotel to get some much needed rest.

Betty locks Victor and herself into the writer's room for some last minutes together. Victor is concerned about Cutter's reputation. But Betty had cut the relays before Cutter went on air. And she'll concoct a tale of Victor's "crazy cousin Hector who pretends to be" Victor. And offer him a radio series about travel (though I doubt that will be much good to him unless he actually lives in the area).

"That's so good, it's scary...Is this the same impeccably principled, high-minded Betty Roberts from Moosehead?"


"What have I done to you?"

What he had done was take someone who wanted to be a writer and showed her different ways to be inventive and flexible when dealing with crises. Within a few short months, she was able to not just write the shows, but function as the station manager. (Victor was confident she could do it, while she was doubtful. Victor was right.) Scott came along and demonstrated even more solutions to use...some of which she could use and some which she had to convince him not to use (such as airing fabricated news stories). But she's capable enough to show Scott, that if she was so ethically inclined, she could be as "overtly deceptive and deceitful as" Scott: "Well, if you want to jazz things up, you have to leave a little room for improvisation. What's the matter? Did I embroider our story too much?" - "Scott Sherwood of the F. B. I."

Mr. Medwick is furious that no one has called in about the station being off the air since that was the time their exclusive with Cutter aired (although, given Cutter's interview, he should be glad). "Do you realize what that means?"

"Guess it means," Maple volunteers, "nobody's listening."

Convinced the show is now a waste of his money, Mr. Medwick pulls the Agitato show off the air which returns Eugenia back to the day shift.

I don't know how the cast will stay awake after being up all night. Mr. Foley, Mackie and Tom Eldridge arrive but they haven't had any sleep, either. They've been at the police station all night. A cup of Agitato anyone?

Asked how it went, Mr. Foley just shakes his head in disgust.

Tom explains, "He says he doesn't want to talk about it."

Mackie comments, "Now he doesn't want to talk about it. Oh, yeah, sure, now!"

Eugenia worries how her return to the day shift will affect Maple. But Maple explains she's already been doing more acting on air than accompanying them musically. "It's kind of fun to work standing up for a change." Maple did just...strip...didn't she?

It seems, speculating from Hilary's comment and what we saw earlier, that Scott, Jeff and Hilary took Cutter to the hotel. Afterwards Scott left and will arrive shortly. Hilary managed to freshen up and get a change of clothes. And Jeff decided it was more important to watch over the strained Cutter than come in for "Bedside Manor." So Hilary explains to Maple, "...you'll have to be the new maid on Bedside Manor."

"Better than being the old maid."

At the other end of the hallway, Betty sneaks Victor out of the writer's room towards the storage room. "Betty, what I didn't tell you in all the time that we were working together..."

Betty, tearing, "...Could fill volumes."

It seems clear that Victor was about to speak what went spoken only in a glance earlier in the station manager's office. Those three...little words.

But Betty cut him off. It could be that she didn't want to delay him since he had only 8 more minutes until he must meet his contact. But this is shortly disproved when she intentionally delays him from leaving with trivial questions she has already been told the answer to several times ("You can't tell them anything").

I don't think she wanted to risk hearing those words and then never seeing Victor again, killed in a far off land. It would be too painful. But it also be painful if they didn't...well...in the words of a #1 song some 35 years later, "Let's just kiss and say goodbye." So, though she cuts off the words, she delays him from leaving until...in a beautifully filmed shot...they exchange a wonderfully romantic kiss.


But not before two important things happen.

First, he gives her the key to the strongbox in the bottom of the station manager's desk. "In it is the code name and the phone number of the one man who knows everything about Jonathan Arnold."

Second, her, by this time inconsequential, questions whether she can tell anyone, turns up information of great consequence. "What about Scott Sherwood? He's taken your death so hard."

"Who...is Scott Sherwood?"

"Scott Sherwood, the man you sent here to replace you."

"I've never heard of Scott Sherwood."

After Victor seemingly pulls the rug out from under everything we thought we knew about Scott Sherwood, Scott comes around the corner (after an incredibly clear five Betties!) and proclaims, "I've got a great new concept that'll completely change the way you look at everything." What a great line to follow the revelation!

Victor has taken the air ducts in the storage room (ah, those TV and film mega-size air ducts, large enough for even Victor) to meet his mystery contact and Betty is left staring at the storage room where she last saw Victor...pondering the second massive revelation in the past 12 hours.

Rupert's taken the characters he's written so well and expanded them while keeping true to them. Victor is just as noble and self-sacrificing in war as he was in broadcasting.

Scott Sherwood arrived as a con artist who passed off ads as news and pulled dangerous stunts such as appearing as if he were going to jump off the building (tying up police and ambulances that might have been needed to save someone's life elsewhere!) He isn't a bad guy as evidenced by his contribution to the unmasking and takedown of the Nazi Holstrom. He certainly seemed sincere when proclaiming that bad guys like him don't win in the end (implying that people like himself would ensure that). Still, Rupert keeps true to the heart of the character as we suspect a good bit of what he's told us is a sham. And anger is all I felt when viewing the second season episode where he seemed to create a Victor memorial scheme out of whole cloth. The truth or falsity of this remains to be seen.

I think Scott never expected to get as close to his fellow WENNers as he has, particularly Betty. Perhaps that, and the war, will lead to his redemption...or perhaps, sadly, drive him the other way.

Remember WENN continues to deepen it's tapestry. After this episode, almost anything could happen. And it's on a bouncy barrel ride towards the second War to End All Wars.

I want 10 more years of Remember WENN!

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