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Recap / Mystery Science Theater 3000 S05 E12: Mitchell

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It's Bigfoot!

"My, my, my, my GOD!!"
Crow, reacting to the squick-y love scene that accompanies the Thematic Theme Tune.

Film watched: Mitchell

On October 23, 1993, the edited-for-television release of Mitchell was featured as an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Particularly mocked were Mitchell's alcoholism, slovenliness and uncouth behavior.

According to the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, actor Joe Don Baker was very angry at the MST3K treatment of Mitchell, and threatened physical violence on any of the cast or crew should he ever meet them in person. However, this didn't sway them from later featuring (and happily mocking) another of Baker's films, Final Justice, and hurling even more vicious insults at Baker. Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo and one of the head writers) later said that Baker likely meant it in a joking manner. Mike Nelson felt that Baker was less annoyed by the episode than being repeatedly asked about it, and that his "threat" was more of an attempt to discourage reporters than directed at Best Brains themselves.

Joel Hodgson, however, said at one of his "Riffing Myself" stage shows that Baker was approached by Shout! Factory for an interview for their DVD release of the Mitchell episode, and Baker explained that he disliked MST3K for using his real name in their jokes, instead of his character name, making the jokes seem more personal and direct. Until Baker himself goes on the record, MSTies can decide for themselves which version they find is most plausible.

This episode is notable for being the final regular episode to star series creator Hodgson, as well as the introduction of his replacement Mike Nelson (who had been the head writer since Season 2, and previously appeared on-screen as characters like Torgo and Kenny).

The episode is available in the Gizmoplex here, on Shout! Factory here, and on the MST3K YouTube channel here.

The Segments:

  • Joel has built a toothpick replica of Monticello, which Crow and Servo want to destroy. He allows them to destroy it, but they leave it alone, as Servo says it ruins the fun. It seems that the model is safe, but by Commercial Sign, Crow and Servo are at it.

Segment 1

  • Joel briefly shows off his Daktari stool. The Mads don't have an invention this time, but have a new temp, Mike Nelson, who's helping them with their audit by the Fraternal Order of Mad Science.

Segment 2

  • Joel leads Crow and Servo on a hike to the SOL's refuse trench so they can field strip and reassemble themselves. Gypsy stays behind on the bridge and answers an accidental transmission by the Mads. Frank and Dr. Forrester plan to murder Mike, but Gypsy concludes that Joel is their target.

Segment 3

  • Busily planning for a way to get Joel off the SOL, Gypsy tells him about his impending death and her plans. Not paying any mind to her manic state, Joel assures Gypsy that he's not going anywhere. She then tries to gain the help of Crow and Servo, though the two are busy bouncing on pogo sticks and singing old TV theme songs. Nevertheless, Gypsy soldiers on.

Segment 4

  • Gypsy enlists Mike's help in her plan. Through Deep 13's computer, he provides the location of an escape pod, "Deus ex Machina", hidden inside a box of hamdingers. Mike initiates the escape sequence after conquering the command line interface and tricking Frank into giving him the keys.

Segment 5

  • Gypsy initiates the escape sequence as Joel tries to read a letter. He suddenly drops down from the bridge to the pod, which launches back to Earth. Transmitting from the pod, Joel tells the 'Bots that he's taught them as much as they could learn about Earth, and presents a plaque for them to remember him by. After Servo disagrees with his choice of quote, Joel bids farewell for good, prompting the 'Bots to panic. Back in Deep 13, an infuriated Dr. Forrester panics because Joel's escape means his experiment is ruined. When pondering who he could possibly find to replace him at this hour, Mike shows up with his time card, asking for it to be signed. Dr. F gives an evil laugh and soon asks Mike what size jumpsuit he wears, having found a new test subject after all.

The status quo-shattering Mystery Science Theater 3000 presentation of Mitchell contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: TV's Frank inexplicably calls Dr. Forrester "Steve" early on in the episode. This wouldn't be the first or last time.
  • Actor IS the Title Character: Two rapid-fire examples from the opening credits of the film.
    Tom: Mittens? A cop movie called Mittens?!
    Crow: Joe Don Baker IS Mittens. He's a cop!
    Tom: Mithril?... Oh, it's Mitchell.
    Crow: Oh, the Martha Mitchell story.
    Tom: Joe Don Baker IS Martha Mitchell.
  • And Starring: With the incoming change of host, "And presenting Michael J. Nelson as Mike Nelson" is added at the tail of the cast credits.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: When Forrester realizes they already have the perfect replacement for Joel on hand.
    Forrester: (prolonged, contagious Evil Laughter) Are you thinking what I'm thinking, Frank?
    Frank: Yeah, you're not gonna sign his time card, are you?
  • Big "NO!": One from Joel and the bots during the sex scene. Understandably.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Joel's reaction when Mitchell's gun falls down his trouser leg.
  • Bond One-Liner: Since the movie doesn't provide its own: "So long, chum!"
  • Brain Bleach: invoked
  • Catchphrase: Said during any action scene, ie. the kind they'd put in a trailer and follow with the movie's title: "Mitchell!" Also the movie's many inaction scenes. Also the final riff by Joel (in the theater, for the episode, and capping off Joel's tenure as host).
  • Changing of the Guard: Joel makes his farewell in the episode and one Michael J. Nelson takes over for the remainder of the series' original run.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Mike the temp, who's introduced helping with the Mads' audit and ends up being Joel's replacement when the latter escapes.
  • Contagious Laughter: Dr. Forrester, an oblivious Mike, and an even more oblivious Frank all laugh together when Forrester stumbles on the idea of using Mike as their next test subject. At least Mike has the excuse of this being his first time down in Deep 13 (although he did just help the Mads' previous prisoner escape).
  • Continuity Nod:
  • Creator Provincialism: Hamdingers were canned ham patties made by a Wisconsin company during the 1970s and early 80s that apparently were only distributed in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. Since Google wasn't around in 1993 and most of the audience hadn't heard of Hamdingers, there was lengthy (and sometimes heated) discussion among MSTies trying to establish what exactly they were.
  • Deus ex Machina: Literally the name of the escape pod that Joel uses to leave the Satellite of Love.
  • Discouraging Concealment: Joel escapes from the Satellite of Love on a single-seat escape pod. No one had noticed this escape pod before, despite living on the S.O.L. for years, because it was hidden in a crate labeled "Hamdingers"—a Midwestern-exclusive snack food that apparently no one likes.
    Gypsy: There's an escape pod in Dock 14?
    Mike Nelson: According to this, there's a single-occupant escape pod called the "Deus Ex Machina".
    Gypsy: How could I not see it? Darn! Stupid! Darn!
    Mike: I wouldn't blame yourself, Gypsy. Apparently it's in a box marked "Hamdingers".
    Gypsy: Well, no wonder we didn't see it. Nobody likes Hamdingers.
  • Dramatic Irony: Because he was the one to find it among the clutter in Deep 13, Mike is the one to deliver Joel’s last movie.
  • Driven to Madness: The Stop Copying Me segment from the movie drives Tom crazy even before Mitchell.
    Kid: What did you say?
    Mitchell: What did you say?
    Kid: Did you say something?
    Mitchell: Did you say something?
  • Driven to Suicide: Servo suggests that Mitchell should turn the gun on himself after killing so many people.
    Servo: You know, it’s about this time in any killing spree that you really ought to turn the gun on yourself, you know?
    Crow and Servo: Turn it! Turn it! Turn it!
    Joel: Guys, come on.
    Servo: Do it! Do the deed! Do it!
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: After Mike asks for Frank's keys (while helping out with Gypsy's plan to get Joel back to Earth), Frank asks why Mike needed them, to which Mike responds that Frank's (car) lights were on. After Frank points out that he has no car, Mike then proceeds to ask why Frank gave him his keys, tripping up Frank entirely.
  • Dude, Not Funny!:
    • Joel and the 'bots react badly to Deaney casually using the Mexican racial slur "wetback". To the film's credit, it's to show that Deaney's a racist slime.
    • Crow suggests raiding Joel's candy cache, but Servo states it's too soon after his departure.
  • Edited for Syndication: Invoked. At one point, the film's credits speed up at a moment, but returns to normal.
    Joel: Hoyt, what happened?
    Servo: Nitrous.
  • Evil Laugh: When Frank and Forrester decide to kidnap Mike. Mike joins in too, oblivious to what they're laughing about.
  • Exorcist Head: When Joel comes up on the Hexfield after the escape pod is jettisoned, rather than turning fully around, Crow spins his head behind himself.
  • Face Palm: Joel does one during the "Buzz off, kid" scene.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Had Gypsy not stayed behind when Joel and the bots went out to explore the satellite, she wouldn't have been there to hear Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank plot to murder a certain problem they currently have (that's Mike, by the way). By that same token, had TV's Frank not leaned on the keyboard during this discussion, Gypsy wouldn't have gotten the call in the first place.
  • Freak Out:
    • The first one is when Gypsy overhears the Mads and thinks they are plotting to kill Joel.
    Gypsy: Jumpsuit...? Fool...? THEY'RE GOING TO KILL JOEL!!! THEY'RE GOING TO KILL JOEL!!! THEY'RE GOING TO KILL JOEL!!! HELP! WHAT DO I DO!? WHAT DO I DO!? I GOTTA GET HIM OUTTA HERE! THEY'RE GONNA KILL HIM! HELP!!! [to herself] Easy, girl! Take it easy. Calm down, breathe through your nose... Here we go... That does it. Easy does it... Okay... Okay... Okay... Okay... Okay... Okay... [starts shouting again] THEY'RE GOING TO KILL JOEL!!! [Gypsy screams and faints]
    • The 'Bots do not take Joel's departure well. "PANIC!" Even Gypsy, even though she spent the episode engineering his escape.
    • Shortly after TV's Frank is shown having a silent huge one upon realizing Joel has managed to escape.
  • Faint in Shock: Gypsy does this when she thinks the Mads are going to Kill Joel, even though they acutally planned on killing Mike.
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: When Gypsy starts kicking herself for not realizing there was an escape pod on the Satellite of Love all this time, Mike calms her down by revealing it was hidden in a box of Hamdingers. "Nobody likes Hamdingers."
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: At the episode's end.
    Forrester: Frank, can't you see we're ruined? What are we gonna do?
    Frank: Well, we could send someone else into space.
    Forrester: Who are we gonna find at this late date to send into space?!!
    Mike: Could you guys sign my time card?
  • Is This Thing Still On?: A variant: TV's Frank unknowingly leans on the keyboard in Deep 13, calling the SOL as he and Dr. Forrester discuss killing Mike.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Practically literally: after Joel escapes, Dr. Forrester and TV's Frank decide to, instead of killing him, have Mike be Joel's replacement.
  • Kuleshov Effect: Used to great effect (in homage to fellow Cyber Cyclops HAL-9000) as Gypsy is shown to read lips on Forrester and Franknote  and suddenly come to realize the Mads are planning to kill someone.
  • Jizzed in My Pants:
    Mitchell: (after spilling beer on Greta) Sorry, the beer got a little excited.
    Crow: (as Greta) That's okay. We can just cuddle.
  • Mistaken for Murderer: Sort-of: An actual plot by the Mads to kill Mike is mistaken by Gypsy to be a plot to kill Joel.
    • Which turns out to be a very happy accident for Joel, who gets to return to Earth. Less so for Mike, whose life is spared because the Mads now need him as a replacement.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Crow wants to remind us that the otherwise-unimpressive car chase scene contains "Hot merging action!"
  • Oh, Crap!: TV's Frank's reaction to Joel's escape from the SOL, including a Loud Gulp when Forrester shows up.
  • Put in a Pod: Farewell, Joel Robinson.
  • Reverse Psychology: Joel uses this to protect his toothpick model of Monticello from Tom and Crow. Then they smash and burn it anyway.
  • Riddle for the Ages: You wanna know what this week's fan letter is about? Too bad! Joel gets dumped into the escape pod before he can read it.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: Mike managed to pick the absolute worst time to get his time card signed.note 
  • Running Gag:
    • Confusion at the loads and loads of Mafiosi in the film.
    • References to Linda Evans' various ex-husbands (Yanni taking the worst of it).
    • Mitchell constantly being hungry, drunk, slovenly, confused, or all of the above.
    • After determining the unnamed burglar at the beginning looks like Johnny Mathis, Tom Servo sings several of his signature songs.
    • Merlin Olsen gets a lot of cracks about his famous time as the FTD Florists spokesmen.
    • Joe Don Baker's short-lived '70s series Eischied gets several cracks (though his most famous role in Walking Tall (1973) is strangely barely touched on).
    • The show's running gag of bashing low-end appliance company Gold Star makes an appearance. Gold Star is now known as the much more premium brand LG.
    • Benton is a lousy butler.
    • Servo "narrating" the movie's many wide aerial shots accompanied by uptempo horn music, as though they're scenes from a 3M industrial film.
  • Shout-Out: Several.
    • Tom Servo misinterprets the confusing title card as saying "mithril" before correcting himself.
    • "Mitchell, will you stand up, please?" is a reference to the "How Not to be Seen" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    • The riffers reference virtually every 1970's cop drama (or thereabouts). McQ, CHiPs, Dirty Harry, the list goes on.
    • The scene where Gypsy overhears the plot to kill Mike is a parody of the scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey where HAL reads the astronauts' lips.
    • When Gypsy is trying to puzzle out a way to save Joel, she scrawls the letters "P. O. E." on a whiteboard—a reference to Dr. Strangelove.
    • Joel quotes from 7 Faces of Dr. Lao in his farewell message plaque to the 'bots.
    • "Sorry folks, I can't come back, I don't know how it works, goodbye!"
    • Joel and Tom sing a little Pink Floyd at the beginning of the movie.note 
    • Crow says Mitchell looks like Grendel.
    • Upon seeing the title, Crow thinks it's a biopic of Martha Mitchell. Which actually would probably make for a pretty interesting film; she was the wife of Richard Nixon's attorney general and became infamous for her colorful comments to the press, ultimately playing a large role in breaking the story of how big the Watergate conspiracy was with the administration trying to silence her by saying she was delusional from her alcoholism.
    • Servo jokes that the one exciting thing about the car chase is that Vanishing Point is being filmed on the other side of the canyon.
    • "Let's rip off the last scene from Key Largo, Mitchell!"
    • As some hitmen pursue Mitchell on foot in the early stretch of the climax, Crow notes one of them resembles Andy Kaufman and starts to mimic Kaufman's Foreign Man/Latka Gravas voice: "Get back here, you're so stupeed!" When the hitman is shot in the face, Crow signs off on the gag with "Tank you veddy much!"
    • Crow claims the "Buzz off, kid!" scene was "the inspiration for Cop and a Half!"
    • Cummings and Gallano meeting at a park prompts Servo to sing a reworded line from "Saturday in the Park".
      Mobsters laughin', really smilin', a man sellin' heroin!
  • So Much for Stealth: As Mitchell is trying to covertly break into Deaney's house, Joel and the bots gleefully point out all the cars driving by (the producers obviously didn't block the nearby streets for the shoot).
    Joel: (as a car drives by): Hey, Mitchell!
    Tom: (as Mitchell): Go about your business.
    Joel: (as another car drives by): Mitchell!
    Tom: (as Mitchell): Shh!
  • Spy Speak: As syndicate leaders Cummings and Gallano meet in a park.
    Joel: The... spotted cuckoo bird is flying backwards?
    Crow: It's a cold day for pontooning.
  • Stealth Pun: Joel's last invention exchange. "It's a Daktari stool!" "What do you think, sirs?"
    TV's Frank: Dak... tari... stool? Whatever.
    • For those who don't get it: "Dark, tarry stool (feces)". Fortunately, Joel's invention is simply a small sitting stool with a zebra-print paint-job, like the one memorably used on a Jeep for Daktari.
  • Stylistic Suck: The launching of the Deus ex Machina, and the "static" that interrupts Joel's final transmission on the hexfield viewscreen.
  • Take That!:
    • At one point in the movie a man who bares a resemblance to Harlan Ellison is shown being processed at the police station desk. Crow jokes that they've arrested Ellison, to which Joel remarks "Good!"
    • Dr. Forrester tries to get Joel back on to the Satellite of Love only to find he's already landed safely in Australia. He and TV's Frank both hope that at the very least, he landed on Yahoo Serious.
    • The reason no one spotted the escape pod is that it was concealed in a box of Hamdinger which no one likes.
  • Tempting Fate: Mike asks Frank about the guy and the cute robots he sees on the Deep 13 screen. It isn't too long before he finds out.
  • Viewer-Friendly Interface: Averted - Mike has to laboriously type into a DOS-style command line interface to give Gypsy access to the SOL's escape pod.
    Mike: Let's see, uh... C... colon... backslash... c... uh, back... manual.exe. I hate these things.
  • Wham Episode: Joel leaves. Duh. But, what is a bigger shock, this happens mid-season.
  • Wham Line: "Say, Mike - what size jumpsuit do you wear?"
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Viewers of the MST cut may be wondering what happened to Deaney. He tried to run Mitchell down, but flipped his dune buggy and got himself 'sploded in a scene that was removed from the MST3K version. The opening credits are showing a portion of that scene, incidentally, where Mitchell smashes one mook's head with a rock before boosting his buggy. Deaney's death is mentioned on a radio newscast Mitchell is listening to while staking out Cummings. His disappearance is amusingly lampshaded by Servo during the movie's climax with him randomly commenting, "Hey guys, wasn't John Saxon in this movie?"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: The 'bots' reaction to the inscription of the plaque Joel left behind.
    Servo: Joel leaves, and his last words are from a George Pal movie?!
  • With Lyrics: When Mitchell is chased by Deaney,
    Joel: Mitchell, Mitchell!
    Servo: You're high on the sammich!
    Joel: Mitchell!
    Servo: Heart's poundin'!
    Joel: Mitchell!
    Servo: Vein's cloggin'
    Both: Mitchell!
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: "Okay... I assume you tried to gain control of the escape pod in Dock 14."

"He's such a super dude, the American dream, like the guys on the movie screen."
Joel: Mitchell!
—Joel's last line in the theater

Dr. Forrester: Of course I'll sign your time card, young man— In fact, I think you're going to be working for me for a long, long time. Push the button, Frank...
* Frank pushes the button.
Dr. Forrester: Say, Mike, what size jumpsuit do you wear?
Mike: Uhm...

Mitchell: Buzz off, huh?!
Kid: Buzz off!