Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past! On Tuesdays, I will be reviewing the original Fantasy Island, which ran on ABC from 1977 to 1986. The entire show is currently streaming on Tubi!
This week, we’ve got a weird one!
Episode 2.19 “Spending Spree/The Hunted”
(Dir by George McCowan, originally aired on February 24th, 1979)
What a weird episode! This week, we have two fantasies, neither one of which belongs with the other.
The first fantasy is this silly thing where two best friends win a shopping spree. In order to win a bigger prize, Sally Glover (Diana Canova) and Esther Bolling (Lola Falana) have to spend several thousand dollars in Fantasy Island’s shopping district.
(It’s always strange to me how some episodes present Fantasy Island as being a resort while others present it as being a thriving little nation with its own economy, culture, cities, and villages. If you’re a citizen of Fantasy Island who doesn’t work for Mr. Roarke, do you still call the place Fantasy Island or does it have a real name? Do you tell people, “I was born on Fantasy Island but then I came to mainland when I was 11 to study the culinary arts?” My hope is that the natives of Fantasy Island are called Fantasians.)
Sally and Esther are excited to spend their money but then Mr. Roarke adds a twist. They will be competing against each other. The first one to spend all of her money gets a prize. The other one gets nothing. If they both fail to spend all of their money, they both lose. So, of course, Sally and Esther go crazy competing against each other. In the end, though, they both realize that they would rather be friends than for one of them to be a loser.
That’s a nice message but I’m really not sure what their fantasy was to begin with. It seems like Mr. Roarke invited two lifelong friends to the Island and then decided to play games with them for his own amusement. In this episode, we get a return of the vaguely sinister Mr. Roarke who appeared in some of the early first season episodes.
Speaking of sinister, the other fantasy involves Stuart Whitman in the role of Charles Wesley, the world’s most famous big game hunter. (I assume he inherited the title after Darren McGavin died last season.) Whitman’s fantasy is to take part in a great adventure. So, Mr. Roarke hands Wesley a camera and tells him to “shoot a picture” of dictator General Lin Shun (James Shigeta). General Lin Shun rules the national of Chung Tu with an iron fist but he apparently spends all of his time at his compound of Fantasy Island.
Wesley gets the picture but also gets captured by Lin Shun’s men. Lin Shun explains that he will now hunt Wesley through the jungles of Fantasy Island. It’s like a game. In fact, you might call it The World’s Most Dangerous Game! Wesley learns what it’s like to be hunted. Fortunately, at the last minute, Col. Chen (Khigh Dhiegh), the general’s aide, turns against Lin Shun and arrests him. Interestingly enough, it appears that Mr. Roarke is the one who told the colonel to arrest Lin Shun and take over the nation of Chung Tu. Charles Wesley tosses away his rifle and swears that he’ll never hunt again but I’m more interested in the fact that Mr. Roarke has apparently taken over another country.
Like I said, this was a weird episode. The shopping spree stuff didn’t really seem to fit in with Stuart Whitman desperately running through the jungle. This episode also found Mr. Roarke in an uncommonly manipulative and foul mood. This episode left me wondering just what exactly is going on behind the scenes of the resort.
Maybe we’ll find out next week!
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