Angels on the Air


SUMMARY

KBEX investigative reporter Joy Vance has been been getting death threats via phone and was recently shot at while investigating a false tip. Her station hires the Angels to find out which of her hard-hitting (lame) stories is causing all the hubbub. Since it's elaborately determined that Kelly's voice sounds the most like Joy's (really?) she is chosen to take bullets and bulletins for their terrorized client, impersonating her on the air. Sabrina is assigned to work with Buck Willis, KBEX's eye in the sky/weather/traffic helicopter pilot, who is known to have a bad temper, drink while flying, and have a hate/hate relationship with Joy. Aside from the drinking Sabrina is not thrilled. Joy does half the Angels' work for them by providing a typewritten list of potential suspects, complete with file photos and motives.

Besides Sabrina's pilot lush, we have: 1) Dwayne Hanson, an unsubtle parody of Charles Manson (get it?) who thinks Joy prejudiced a jury with her story on his stolen motorcycle parts operation; 2) Professor Arthur Croyden, a researcher at Western Pacific University who's sore at Joy for destroying his reputation when she questioned his research;  and 3) deadbeat Ernie Quinlan, who was none too happy with Joy for interviewing his woman in the hospital after a beatdown.

As the designated Angel concerned about domestic abuse, Kelly's adamant about visiting the Quinlan household herself. A priest answers the door; Kelly seems disappointed to learn that she won't be kicking Ernie's ass because he's already died of a heart attack (yeah, right). Without introducing herself, she holds both of the bruised widow's hands and asserts that she should be "just fine now".

Sabrina takes to the skies with Buck Willis in the Pinto-tinted KBEX chopper and, as soon as her weather report ends, he takes her on a wild, nauseating - in his mind, impressive - ride through the greater downtown LA area to his home. Once inside, he lets Sabrina know he is onto (/into) her and attempts to prove his innocence by taking out a rifle and shooting a bunch of bottles. After volunteering slugs from his gun and telling a Nam story about "live and let live," she's won over.

Meanwhile, a Harleygirlfied Kris heads for Dwayne Hanson's Spawn Ranch-like property and feigns hog trouble. Much to the chagrin of his "family", an entourage of hostile hick chicks, Dwayne takes a shine to Kris instead of shooting her. They go for a stroll and Dwayne demonstrates his zest for, and incompetence at, hunting rabbits; Kris surreptitiously digs a stray bullet out of a tree. Evidence! Things take an uncomfortable turn when he suddenly develops an appetite for more than rabbit stew, and doesn't care if the feeling isn't mutual. Kris' karma is narrowly saved  by the bell, er shotgun, as Dwayne's possum-boiling groupies have somehow managed to run a background check and research the rental history on her Harley in the last 4 minutes, revealing she is actually hot blooded PHONY on a cold running rented bike. Hauled to a different area of wilderness for questioning, Kris fesses up to doing a story for KBEX. Turns out Dwayne isn't mad at Joy at all, but owes her a debt of gratitude for making him "famous" on the radio. Some "TV people" show up apparently intending to film a documentary on the Hanson family and Kris is left free to roll on out of there on her nonbroken Hog.

Kris: "My old man cuts out on me, my hog breaks down... it's the pits, know what I mean?"

With Buck cleared of suspicion, Sabrina concentrates on college Professor Arthur Croyden, awkwardly interrupting him from running laps on the campus track and talking her way into becoming a student research volunteer.

Still undercover as Joy, Kelly is lured to a fake liquor store robbery in the middle of the wilderness. Perplexed by this obvious trap (not to mention the identical one Joy told them she originally fell for) Kelly has to radio Bosley for advice to get out of there quick. Before she can get it in gear, a ski-masked gunman begins firing shots at her from another car! Adding to the tension, the radio has cut out and Bosley can't figure out where she is. Sabrina runs out to the helicopter pad where luckily Buck just happens to be standing tinkering with some wires on his chopper, and they fly to the rescue.

The KBEX wagon is rammed off the road and Kelly wisely decides to get out and flail around in the open. Having managed to spot Kelly's car in under a minute despite not knowing her location, Buck saves the day with chopper aerobatics, stirring up dust and running the attacker off. They get the guy's license plate, but a DMV check soon reveals the car is stolen.

Next, Sabrina arrives to test "cold serum" at Professor Croyden's lab, where he's hard at work pretending to examine beakers full of colored water. He's already suspicious, and tries to trick her by asking if she knows a professor who does not actually exist. She wisely evades this but is trapped by exactly the same ploy 4 seconds later with a different doctor's name. Even though he's already acting really weird and is openly suspicious, The Smart One still cooperates in letting him put a needle in her arm.

Kelly, Kris and Bosley sit around the KBEX office having a bull session; the police call to inform them that the car used to chase Kelly was stolen from Western Pacific University! Even though they've known all along that Sabrina would be across town being injected with an unknown substance by their prime murder suspect, there is a sudden epiphany that this is a bad thing. They rush to the Bosleymobile.

Sabrina is beginning to feel woozy, and Croyden straps her down to the table; to no one's surprise, he reveals that he has injected her with something other than his cold medicine. Fortunately it's just truth serum, and she cooperatively blows her own cover. The Professor explains why he tried to kill Joy - for the exact reason Joy told the Angels in the first 5 minutes of the show - and decides that the best course of action now is to add murder to his list of offenses. The rest of the gang arrives, pushes past a completely ineffectual secretary, and bangs on the door just as he has a syringe full of air poised at Sabrina's arm.

Panicked and outnumbered, Croyden throws a chair through the window and makes a run for it. Despite his supposed athleticism, he's no match for Kelly - she has no trouble dodging traffic and chasing him across a football field. He takes a swing at her and she ducks, allowing him to take a spill down a flight of concrete steps.

Back at the office Bosley uncharacteristically puts his foot in his mouth, complimenting Kelly on running "just like a man," and then is talked into a corner by Sabrina and Kris for his filthy chauvinistic ways.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Angels on the Air Episode #30 Season 2, Episode 8 Airdate: Nov 9, 1977 Writer: William Froug Director: George W. Brooks

FILMING LOCATIONS

The Townsend Agency Office

WHAT'D YOU THINK?

Rate this episode:

CURIOSITIES

• Why does Charlie tell Kris that she'll be "working undercover," implying only she will be undercover even though one moment earlier he had just gave Kelly and Sabrina their undercover assignments? How descriptive.

• Why was it necessary to (illegally) record a meeting and have radio engineers analyze the Angels' voices to determine who sounded most like Joy instead of just... y'know, listening?

• Why doesn't Kelly know what a landline is? ("A whatline?") They can't all be The Smart One, but they do all own telephones.

• Again, in what way does holding a napkin over your mouth disguise your voice when making a threat/ransom phone call?

• Why is Kris made to be the biker chick when up until now Kelly has been the "motorcycle person," as Farrah once put it? Yeah, yeah, Kelly had to be the reporter because her voice sounded like Joy's. But Joy could just as easily have been played by somebody who sounded like Kris or Bri.

• How come Sabrina basically accepts Buck's innocence based on his own word? That scene proved only that the rifle he shot bottles with was not the same one used on Joy (if the slug he pulled out of his pocket even came from that gun.) So how about the rest of that giant rack of assorted rifles in his living room? Naah, he's probably telling the truth.

• As with nearly every suspect on this show, Croyden's file photo is nothing more than a frame of film taken from a later scene. Sigh. Furthermore Martha Quinlan's photo, one of the few non-film-frame file photos ever shown,  looks like an Old West daguerreotype and does not much resemble the lady we actually meet 5 minutes later.

• There are three typographical errors on what little we can see of KBEX's case files. No wonder they need a new editor.

• Lucky that Dwayne ran all the way to his bullet stuck in the tree to confirm that he missed the rabbit, otherwise Kris would have had to be observant and find the bullet herself!

• Why'd they bother putting tape over the label on Sabrina's can of Dr. Pepper if they were going to do such a shoddy job that you can still see what it says?

• What was the point of setting up Professor Croyden as a fantastic athlete, stressing that he runs 5 miles per day, only to have him panting and wheezing after 20 seconds of being chased by Kelly? Even Bosley was only a few seconds behind, and hardly seemed winded.

• The very tip of a boom microphone is visible for a second when Bri and Buck are getting into the helicopter to find Kelly.

• Even if Kelly's KBEX wagon was stopped due to ramming-related mechanical problems, why does she get out and start crawling in the desert? Why does she then pose in the dirt as if her leg is broken, but is fine once Sabrina helps her up?

• "Didn't the Bionic Man get started this way?" an exhausted and disheveled Kelly asks Sabrina after narrowly avoiding being run over. "I don't know," Sabrina replies. Not their fault really... why would Jill Munroe/Farrah Fawcett's best friends know anything about a hit show on ABC starring Lee Majors?

• Kelly has more dirt/coal smudged on her face upon arriving back at KBEX than immediately after the chase she got dirty in.

• Considering Croyden didn't even explain the process to Sabrina, how does Bosley know he's injecting her arm instead of, say, giving her pills?

• Why does Croyden keep pushing over tables and throw a chair through the window even though no one was chasing him out of the laboratory? It wouldn't have taken any longer to simply slide the window open.

• Why did Joy need to be in the office wrap-up scene at all? She had only one pointless line, and it seemed uncomfortable for the team to be having their version of an argument with a client present.

BAD GUYS BEAT DOWN SORTA

BIMBOS

SHOTS FIRED AT ANGELS

SHOTS FIRED BY ANGELS

DAYS TO SOLVE CASE

CARS SMASHED

TURTLENECKS

CHARACTER DEATHS

FASHION

Nothing too much to report on here, aside from Kris' stint as a biker chick in boots, perm, and leather vest. (How'd she straighten her hair in time for the next scene?) As the bespectacled graduate student, Sabrina is just an orange sweater away from becoming Velma from Scooby Doo.

Wardrobe Repeats Kris' floral print thing is stolen by Cis Rundle for a job waiting tables in Angels in the Backfield; Kris also repeats her black top in Little Angels of the Night. Kelly appears to be wearing the same pants and vest from the Season 2 and 3 intro.

Angels on the Air Little Angels of the Night

Angels on the Air

Angels in the Backfield

Angels on the Air

Season 2 & 3 Intro

KBEX

The fictional radio station KBEX makes minor appearances in several other episodes whenever news coverage is needed (Haunted Angels, Winning is for Losers, Counterfeit Angels, Marathon Angels, Angels on Skates). And it's not unique to Charlie's Angels - it can be spotted all over various  TV series of the time (Emergency!, Starsky & Hutch and The Brady Bunch) as well as in film (most notably 2004's Dawn of the Dead).

SCREEN TIME ANALYSIS

Angels in nearly every scene earn this episode a high content level, and the balance of screen time per Angel is tipped decidedly toward Sabrina.

  • KELLY
  • KRIS
  • SABRINA
  • BOSLEY
  • HOW MUCH OF THE EPISODE HAS AT LEAST ONE ANGEL/BOSLEY IN IT 89%

ACTION

Only two major sequences, but it seems like more. Kelly's KBEX station wagon is chased by a ski-masked gunman in a car that is in turn chased by Bri and Buck in their KBEX news helicopter. They could have caught the bad guy then and there, but since there were 20 minutes left, they allowed him to escape.

The takedown at the end showcases Jaclyn Smith's track and field skills that she displayed earlier the same year on Battle of the Network Stars, leaving rivals Loretta Swit and Jane Seymour behind in the dust. Even with this knowledge, the scene was impressive but still odd. You know they were aiming for "Wow, Croyden is a great runner, Kelly must be a REALLY great runner!" but instead you're left thinking, "I thought this guy was supposed to be a good runner...?" Kelly doesn't take down Croyden so much as she gets out of the way and allows him to take himself down, but it still looked kinda cool.

BETTER KILL HER JUST TO BE SAFE

The whole Croyden storyline seemed odd and poorly thought out. He was pretty hasty in his decision to drug/murder Sabrina based on her pretending to know a fake professor. Most people might play along just to appear polite/knowledgeable. Who hasn't done that? And once she was drugged, what if she turned out to be a legit student? He would probably have to kill her anyway so she couldn’t tell about the truth serum. Yet again it’s only a thinly veiled variation of the old 40-minute-mark “kidnap an Angel, confess for no reason, try to kill her, get caught” recipe that makes the case end, rather than any actual investigative breakthrough on the Angels’ part. If Croyden didn’t want Sabrina getting close, he could have just said he didn’t want her as a volunteer. No, just kill everybody who approaches! It’s refreshing when bad guys are smarter than this, like in… the one where… hm.

GOT THE HOTS FOR THE SMARTS

As usual, the way the suspects "flirt" with Sabrina and the way they flirt with Kelly/Jill/Kris is like night and day. Although Dwayne's "Hot blooded woman on a cold running bike" bit does NOT sound like it would make a good song (much less an effective pick up line) it's certainly less offensive than "I thought you were Buck Rogers in drag" which is exactly what Buck Willis says to Sabrina the moment he lays eyes on her. Silver tounged devil.

WHEN I WAS AN ANGEL.. WE USED GUNS

Where are their freakin' guns in this? Incident after incident occurs (Kris and Dwayne, Kelly and Croyden, Bri and Croyden) where, if armed, the Angels could have gotten themselves out of the situation in two seconds, but only Bosley seems to be packing heat. In a case based on someone shooting a rifle at the client this seemed like a silly time to leave the revolvers at home.

REPEAT OFFENDERS

Taylor Lacher (Buck Willis) previously played henchman Jeremy ("Use the napalm!") in Angels on Wheels.

Bob Kelljan also wrote Angels in Springtime and Homes $weet Homes.

George W. Brooks also directed The Seance and Angels on Horseback.

Cis sighting: Cheryl Ladd's friend and frequent Angels background extra Cis Rundle appears as a secretary in a few shots of the KBEX office. She's also visible in Circus of Terror, Angel in Love, Angels in the Backfield, Game, Set, Death, Antique Angels, Angels in Vegas, Angel Come Home, Pom Pom Angels, Love Boat Angels, and An Angel's Trail.

OUR TAKE

Greg's Rating: 4 stars I always felt this (like Angels On The Run) was an underrated gem. Kris on a Harley, Bri in a copter and Kelly in a station wagon all in the same ep? Doesn't get much more Angelverse random than that. Add to the mix a faux Manson family, air bubbles almost injected into Sabrina, a bad guy literally run down by Kelly, and a Six Million Dollar Man reference and you have an almost perfect Season 2 episode of CA!

Kenny's Rating: 3.5 Stars OK, I really do like this episode but there are a couple of parts that bug me and they both involve Sabrina. The first one is the scene when the suspected doctor is jogging and Sabrina catches up with him to convince him to let her be his guinea pig, they stop and talk a bit and then he throws his sweaty towel at her, yuck. I would think she would have at least made a face behind his back, I guess it grosses me out because he's ugly. haha. Anyway the next scene is way more cringe worthy when Sabrina lets this doctor, a potential murder suspect, inject whatever into her veins. Why would she do that? Seems out of character for her. Even though she does drink after people a lot on the show. I love Kris and her biker chic shtick. Her interaction with what looks like a cross between Sister Wives and the Manson family is a hoot to watch. Kelly has a good chase scene at the end and Bosley takes some heat back at the office for saying she runs like a man. I like this episode because it makes sense to me, except for the Sabrina thing, and is easy to follow. Unlike other episodes I've seen a thousand times and still don't know the plot.

Anna's Rating: 3 Stars I guess we should be thankful they didn't just cram 8 more minutes of helicopter footage in there, like they would have done if this were Season 5. Though it's not a bad episode, and has lots of little tidbits I love, something about this one never seems totally cohesive to me. Maybe it's that the Angels are separate almost the whole time. And they don't have to work for anything. A prepared list of suspects and motives are immediately fed to them like the cow lowered into the cage in Jurassic Park. There's no hunt. We simply go down the list of 3 suspects in order. One's dead, and it's not the second guy, so it's the third guy. How exciting.

Sabrina and her dueling covers stole the show; though the case introduction made it seem like Kelly was going to be the star, she turned out to be more or less throwaway until the takedown. Kris also had only a single useful scene as the biker chick (I wish she'd have introduced herself as Angel Eyes or Bone Breaker or something), but it was memorable enough to make her seem an integral part of the story even though she did nothing else but sit around at the KBEX office.  In fact, this is one of few times when the minor characters were good enough to actually rival Angels' roles - particularly Buck Willis, who turned out to be very helpful and likable despite the big macho-jerk introduction. Not to mention he saved Kelly's life. Usually thanks are in order, but we never even see them meet.