We open with a North Carolina State Police car hot on the chase, in pursuit of a dangerous criminal. The two machines fly down a dirt road in the countryside. The perp pulls off the road and hides in the woods until his predators pass him by, then he takes off in the opposite direction, towards a sleepy little town where he can lay low for a while. Little does he know that Mayberry is no ordinary town, with no ordinary Sheriff’s deputy.
The wanted man, known as Eddie Brooke, lets his guard down when he arrives in Mayberry. He thinks he’s safe in the warm bosom of this friendly hamlet, but then he makes a fatal mistake: he litters in front of Barney Fife. Barney’s eagle eyes spot the crime in progress and he begins to write Eddie a citation. Before Barney can finish writing the state police drive by and Eddie panics. He runs into Barney and the two men become tangled, their bodies intertwining, symbolizing the eternal conflict between law and anarchy. Barney holds the criminal lang enough for the state police, Sergeants Johnson and Miller, to take Eddie into their custody, but not before the thug threatens his captor.
The arrest makes Barney the talk of the town. He quickly begins to glow with pride. Andy offers him the day off to spend with his girlfriend, Thelma Lou, but he declines; he can’t bear the thought of the streets going unguarded. He happily retells the story of his battle with Eddie, describing his innovative, Jackie-Chan-esque use of an everyday item as a weapon, in this case his own body. Aunt Bee and Andy have the idea to throw a party for the conquering hero. Barney’s good time comes crashing down when two unexpected guests arrive at the party. Johnson and Miller regretfully inform the merrymakers that Eddie has escaped. The manhunt begins anew, now with Andy and Barney working hand in hand with the State Police.
They wander the woods, looking for Eddie as they sweat under the sweltering sun. When Andy and Barney take a moment to catch their breath Barney jumps at a sound coming from the nearby bushes, a sound that is revealed to only be a rabbit. Without saying much at all Barney confesses to Andy that Eddie’s capture wasn’t quite as heroic as it seemed. Finally, Andy spots Eddie in the loft of a barn but he doesn’t tell anyone. Instead, he sends in Barney and tells him that the barn will now serve as the center of communications for the manhunt. As Eddie makes his move Andy is watching from outside. He takes advantage of Barney’s skittishness and throws a rock in Eddie’s direction. The noise makes Barney jump into action, accidentally drawing his gun on the crook. Once again, Barney is a hero but this time with a little more honor. The episode ends with a second attempt at a surprise party for the triumphant warrior, with Johnson and Miller in attendance not as bearers of bad news but as two more revelers.
- The crowd that gathers as Barney tussles with Eddie during the first arrest features a very special guest: a black person in Mayberry!
- Eddie is played by Barney Phillips, who is best known for playing a diner cook in the classic Twilight Zone episode “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
The Moral of the Story
This is an episode about courage and heroism. Andy tells Opie that a hero is often born when someone “gets scared enough to do something brave.” Oddly, fear wasn’t really a part of Barney’s first interaction with Eddie. When Eddie collided with him he seemed surprised and confused, but not really afraid. However, when Eddie escapes and puts a target on Barney’s back the deputy is gripped by terror. His fear puts him on edge, causing him to draw his gun at the drop of a hat until he draws it at just the right time to catch the crook. In this case heroism requires courage, and courage is defined as doing what’s right in spite of fear.
So much of society is centered on fear. We think about it all the time. We’re afraid of fascism, communism, nuclear winter, rape, murder, even things as simple as rejection, failure, or uncomfortable social situations. Fear is an omnipresent element of modern life, maybe it always was. However, fear has gone strangely overlooked as a crucial element of one of the biggest issues in the zeitgeist. Too many people fail to understand the role of fear in the torrent of sexual harassment allegations.
Almost every accusation is a story of a man using fear to control a woman. In her detailed account of her experience with film producer Harvey Weinstein actress Lupita Nyong’o repeatedly expresses fear: “I panicked,” “I mustered up the courage.” “my heart was beating very fast.” In the end she plainly explains “That’s why we don’t speak up — for fear of suffering twice, and for fear of being labeled and characterized by our moment of powerlessness.”
Now a seemingly endless number of women are speaking up, and although their harassers are finally facing the consequences of their actions the accusers are also seeing those fears that Lupita described coming to fruition. Many people are quick to dismiss harassment accusers as opportunists looking for a quick buck. I have no idea what these opportunities would be, considering that these accusations are very public, which would rule out the possibility of hush money, and I’m not aware of a single person in the entertainment industry who has gotten a big career boost by accusing a powerful man. Nonetheless, some are still more willing to believe that a woman is lying than that a man is guilty of harassment.
So, in light of the consequences and without the promise of fame and fortune, why would a woman speak out against someone like Harvey? Maybe because they’re afraid of what he will do in the future, because they’re afraid that all the men like him will keep doing what they’ve been doing. Because they’re scared enough to do something brave.