"The Congressman Was Indiscreet / Isaac's History Lesson / Winner Take Love"
Original airdate: 1/27/1978
Episode summary: A reporter falls in love with the disgraced congressman she's secretly stalking for a salacious exposé. Isaac gets a stern lesson in appreciating his racial heritage the way Captain Stubing thinks he should. A pageant contestant gives up her Ambassadress title to make her sulky boyfriend happy.
Recap: Captain Stubing informs the arriving passengers that this episode of The Love Boat will feature a beauty pageant to select an Ambassadress at Large who will be tasked with traveling around the country to promote the cruise line for a one year period...and a few seconds later, the contestants arrive, along with their minder, Waldo Linden. Waldo introduces himself to Captain Stubing and thanks him for agreeing to be the pageant's Master of Ceremonies, then introduces each of the ladies: Rita, Suzy, Theresa, and Alma. He suddenly exclaims, "We've lost Jeanette!" - just as a leggy blonde rushes over and explains that she got lost in the engine room, where the men there voted her "most likely to -", but didn't say what. [Um, what?]
Robin Brandt checks in with Julie - just as a man who's going by Jim Smith gets his cabin assignment. Robin chuckles about what an "original" alias Jim Smith is, then reveals to Julie on the down-low that he's actually Congressman John Whitcomb, whose wife is divorcing him 'cause he cheated on her with a chorus girl...and that because of his philandering, the House of Representatives is considering impeaching him. A quasi-interested Julie's like, "Mmm...OK" then asks her about her dinner preference, and Robin says to please seat her at the congressman's table.
Virgil Gibson, an extraordinarily cheerful African-American man, boards the ship while performing a singing/stand-up routine that starts to wear thin pretty quick. The young African-American woman behind him, Stephanie Hayden, grumbles at him to shut it and just board the fucking ship - just as Isaac rushes over and mistakes her for one of the Ambassadress at Large pageant contestants. She huffily informs him that she's a doctorate student, not "a piece of cheesecake", then glares over at Virgil as he continues to cheese-tastically sing/dance his way onto the ship.
Rita is less than thrilled with the tiny cabin she's been assigned to share with both Suzy and Jeanette...and after she and Jeanette rush off to throw confetti as the ship sets sail, Suzy's boyfriend, Rick, drops by and is all, "Surprise! I'm on this cruise too!" Suzy nervously reminds him that, as per the pageant rules, she's required to be an unfettered virgin who shan't be caught in any kind of canoodlishly compromising situation. Rick moans about how he couldn't staaaaaaaand to be away from her for three days, and she's all, "Three days?!" and informs him that if she wins the Ambassadresship, she'll be on a whirlwind of PR-related travel for an entire year. She adds that the experience will be a pathway for her to break into doing commercials...and that she could earn up to $5,000, a vast sum which would make a super nice wedding present for the two of them. Rick eventually perks up at the mention of wedding, and leans in for a smooch.
Robin gets a call from her editor (Frank), and she tells him she's working on a juicy story for the paper about a certain Congressman John Whitcomb, who boarded the ship alone. She saucily adds, "But he won't be for long."
Virgil Gibson is holding court with the crew and teaching them the art of hamboning...which Isaac gets all into and expertly performs with an increasingly rapid tempo.
Robin approaches "Jim Smith" and addresses him as Congressman Whitcomb, and he mumblingly replies that she must be confusing him with someone else. Robin clucks sympathetically about how a man's private life should remain private, and John wearily says he wishes the press believed that. Robin tells him she's one of his constituents who voted for him in the last election and would happily do so again...and John sadly replies that she likely won't get the opportunity 'cause he doubts he'll be in Congress for much longer. He then changes the subject and invites her to join him for a drink in the Starlight Bar.
Captain Stubing tells Waldo he's concerned about having to deliver all the jokes that are written into the script he gave him, but Waldo tells him he has lots of experience writing for comedians and breezily assures him he'll be great.
As the Ambassadress pageant gets underway, Captain Stubing introduces the contestants with the requisite misogynist jokes one would expect to see on the '70s primetime sitcom generally accepted as a main forebearer of jiggle television. As everyone applauds, Waldo tells Captain Stubing he was terrific and reminds him that tonight is the evening wear/interview portion of the competition...and the newly confident Captain Stubing says he'd like an advance look at the script so he can "punch it up".
Stephanie ambles past the crew as Virgil is giving them hamboning lessons and sits at a nearby table with her stack of books. When Isaac wanders over to engage in what he hopes will be some giggly back-and-forth flirtitude, she irritably tells him how annoying it is to watch Virgil constantly making a horse's ass of himself. Isaac shrugs and says that Virgil just seems like a nice old man, to which Stephanie sneers, "Really? Then how long before he starts strumming on the banjo?" before collecting her books and storming off in a huff [the first of many times she's going to storm off in a huff 'cause of how much Virgil grates on her].
Suzy drops by Rick's cabin, where the two coo 'I love you' at each other. Rick urges her to sneak back to his cabin after her roommates have fallen asleep, but she reminds him about how disapprovingly the pageant judges frown on contestants engaging in any kind of immoral hanky panky. Rick's like, "My penis can't take much more forcible abstinence!" and gives her a long smooch in the doorway of the cabin as she exits, a PDA that just happens to be witnessed by her pageant rival, Rita.
Isaac ambles down the hall and is checking out Rita's derriere when he bumps into Stephanie and her armload of books on black history. She snootily informs him that she's currently working on her dissertation, and that she has a book about the slave families of Virgina she thinks he'd find fascinating. A few seconds later, Gopher rushes over and asks Isaac if he could give him some hamboning tips, prompting Stephanie to snarl about Isaac giving his co-worker "an advanced hamboning class" before she huffily storms off.
Robin calls Frank to tell him she doesn't yet have anything new to report on the philandering congressman she's currently spying on and needs a bit more time to flesh out something remotely substantive - but Frank tells her she has one hour to file a salacious story...and if she fails to come through, he's simply going to make up a bunch of shit and take that to press.
At the Starlight Bar, John tells Robin that he came on this cruise to briefly escape all the press scrutiny regarding his extramarital shenanigans. He laments the flak he's gotten for his relationship with Nicki, aka the chorus girl with whom he allegedly cheated on his wife, and really hates having every orifice of his life probed in a way that makes him feel as though he's perpetually undergoing a rectal exam. Robin airily tells him that everyone makes mistakes, and John furrows his brows as he replies, "I never admitted to making a mistake", then asks her how she'd feel if a reporter were watching them right now...before leaning in to give her a chaste cheek kiss. He chuckles about how that cheek kiss would surely result in an explosive headline along the lines of Congressman and His Conquest Live It Up On the Love Boat, and a jarred looking Robin stares back at him in mute sheepishness.
Captain Stubing introduces the evening wear/interview portion of the Ambassadress pageant, then delivers a series of jokes he wrote, which prompts Waldo to shake his head and remark, "I created a monster." Captain Stubing informs the audience that he's going to ask each contestant a question that begs some kind of silly, sweeping declaration of how they plan to simplistically bring about world peace, then asks Jeanette about her main life goal. She replies that she wants to bring all of the people in the world in a room together so they can live in harmony...and everyone applauds that unimplementable decree.
John apologizes to Robin for prattling on and on about his problems, then says she's the first person he's met who pretends to be interested in hearing his side of the story...which is that he and his wife were living separate lives and had been planning to divorce long before Nicki came into the picture. He bitterly adds that the press made it look as though he were cruelly dumping his wife for a chorus girl, then declares that he truly loved Nicki...but, for whatever reason, their relationship didn't work out. He goes on to tell Robin that as Chorus Girl-gate was unfolding, he had been working on some landmark tax reform legislation that could benefit millions of Americans - but it's now under a cloud because of his personal scandal. Robin furrows her brows and says she never heard a thing about this legislation in the media, then remarks on how important it is for him to get his version of the story out to the public - but John just shrugs and says he's mostly just resigned to resigning. Robin suggests that he might find it easier to do battle if he weren't in this fight all alone...and John stares pensively into space at the prospect of obtaining an unexpected ally.
Rick sneaks Suzy back to his cabin for some unauthorized lovin', while Rita and Waldo (to whom Rita has tattled) lie in wait in the nearby corridor. A flustered Suzy puts the brakes on their foreplay and tells Rick it'd be dishonest of her to hit the sheets with him and then pretend to continue to be the unfettered virgin she has to pass herself off as in order to be a lawful pageant contestant...and as she's exiting the cabin, she's confronted by Waldo, who haughtily informs her that she's just been caught red-handed of conduct unbecoming of the Pacific Princess cruise line and is therefore being disqualified from the pageant. Suzy reacts by bursting into tears and racing off down the hall.
John escorts Robin to her cabin, gives her a goodnight smooch, and asks her if he'll see her in the morning. She replies, "You bet" before going inside and taking a phone call from Frank, who harasses her about why she hasn't yet submitted her article on the disgraced congressman she's currently stalking. Robin lets it slip that John told her he's considering resigning, but asks him not to print that juicy tidbit and promises to call him in the morning with the full story.
Elsewhere, Stephanie is mopishly sitting by the pool area when Isaac ambles over and seats himself next to her. She expresses her deep sadness about the horrific manner in which their shackled ancestors were brought to America aboard a ship that was very much unlike this luxury liner. Isaac's all, "Yeah, that was awful" and changes the subject to how much he'd love to be boning her on this beautiful, moonlit night. Stephanie rolls her eyes and haughtily retorts, "I'm trying to get you serious about our people, not me", and Isaac attempts to lighten the mood by handing her an apple. Stephanie chuckles at the non-subtle teacher-student dynamic their friendship has taken on thus far...and Isaac leans in for a smooch - just as a singing Virgil appears as he joyously leads a line dance of the crew and passengers that snakes its way around the pool. Stephanie rolls her eyes, thanks Isaac for the apple, then huffily storms off while Isaac stares after her with an expression of irritable wistfulness etched across his face.
Jeanette summons Waldo to her cabin citing an emergency, then emerges from the bathroom half-naked as she coquettishly tells the minder that she can't seem to zip up the back of her dress. A weirded out looking Waldo says she maybe should have asked one of the other girls to zip her up, but she ignores that and says, "I suddenly have an itch on my back. Can you scratch it?" Waldo takes the bait, then is so overcome by being in the orbit of the sexy woman's half-naked bod that he gives her a from-behind hug while moaning, "You're making me craaaaaazy!" ... and Jeanette reacts by punching him in the face and snarling, "What kind of girl do you think I am?!"
Isaac tells Stephanie that the Virginia slave family book is totes awesome, and she smiles approvingly and says that their people have a rich, valuable culture...and that they need to spread the word about black poets and philosophers instead of perpetuating stereotypes, a not-so-subtle jab at the cheese-ball hamboning entertainer Virgil Gibson. She derisively adds, "People think all blacks are like that", then saunters off - just as the crew scampers over to the bar and gushes to Isaac about what a great time they had line dancing with Virgil last night. Isaac haughtily retorts, "I have more important things to do with my life than dance" ... and says this as though his entire existence doesn't revolve around serving drinks to Love Boat passengers, and never without a side of corny bartender banter.
As Suzy weeps about being disqualified from the pageant, Rick tries to convince her it's actually a good thing 'cause now they can have sex and she no longer has to feign virginity. He suggests they get off the ship at the next port, get hitched, then honeymoon for the remainder of the cruise. Suzy perks up at that sudden change of plans and gives Rick a happy smooch - just as Jeanette bursts in to inform Suzy that after tricking Waldo into admitting that he's a male floozy with no morals, he had no choice but to re-admit her into the pageant. A thrilled Suzy's all, "Yippee!" while Rick sulkily stares into space.
Robin tells John she's falling in love with him, and he reciprocates those feelings [despite a complete lack of chemistry between the two] - but warns that if she hooks up with him, she's putting herself in the line of fire. A few seconds later, Gopher enters the lounge to announce that a stack of today's newspapers are available to anyone who's interested...and Robin decides it's as good a time as any to confess to John that - surprise! - she's a reporter who works for a rag named Scuttlebutt, then asks Gopher to hand her today's copy. She glances at the front page and mutters, "Oh my God.." as she and John read the headline Whitcomb Quits, Dancer Splits and note that the accompanying article cites a secret source aboard the ship. John correctly assumes that Robin is that source and storms off - just as Julie enters the room to inform Robin that she has an incoming call from someone named Frank. As Robin beats a hasty retreat, she angrily informs Julie that she's going to tell Frank where he can shove his reporter job.
Virgil prances over to the bar where Isaac and Stephanie are sitting and invites them to his cabin for an impromptu party he's throwing later. Stephanie haughtily declines, as does Isaac...and when Virgil amiably shrugs and says, "OK, boss", Isaac snappishly rejoins, "I'm not your boss." Captain Stubing, who just happened to be within eavesdropping distance during the exchange, asks Isaac if he can have a word with him - but then has to put a pin in that when Waldo appears and hands him the script for the final competition of the Ambassadress pageant. Julie pulls Isaac aside to ask him whaddup with his bitchitude towards Virgil just now, and he wearily replies, "I've seen about all the shuffling I can handle."
Captain Stubing hosts the talent portion of the contest, the stated purpose of which is to test the contestants' ability to perform in the spotlight. The contestants deliver a series of silly looking, culturally appropriated performances that wouldn't make it to air in this day and age - except for Suzy, who expertly plays the piano. As the impressed judges exchange approving nods, Rick looks alarmed by the likelihood of his fiancée winning ...then more alarmed when Captain Stubing announces Suzy as the cruise line's new Ambassadress. An elated Suzy runs over to the mic to receive the tiara and deliver her acceptance speech - but when she notices that Rick is sulkily shuffling towards the nearest exit like the sourpussed little baby-man he is, she abruptly changes course and announces that clinging onto her insecure fiancé is somehow sooooo much more important to her than winning this contest. She takes off the tiara and runs over to Rick as everyone applauds her self-sacrifice...and a confounded Captain Stubing's all, "Er, OK..?" before announcing that the first runner-up will be crowned Ambassadress, and declares Jeanette the winner.
John apologizes to Robin for angrily walking out on her earlier, and Robin informs him that she quit her job at Scuttlebutt to protest Frank's chutzpah in publishing her story prematurely. John tells her he'd rather she kept her job, 'cause he's going to need a friendly journalist in his corner when he wages war to keep his congressional seat...and Robin tears up and leans in for a grateful hug.
Captain Stubing asks Isaac whassup with all the black history literature he's been burying his nose in this episode, then includes Stephanie in his reprimand about how "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" as he chides the two for missing out on a living version of black history. As they stare back at him in mute befuddlement, he describes the great accomplishments of a peanut vendor named Virgil Gibson, aka the greatest pitcher the Negro League ever saw. He goes on to explain that Virgil jokes around and performs all the damn time 'cause it's his way of getting along with everyone and keeping the mood light. He says it's trailblazers like Virgil who made it possible for other African-Americans to go on to play baseball in the major league...to which Isaac reacts by solemnly adding, "And to tend bar on ships", while Stephanie sheepishly remarks, "And teaching in colleges." Isaac hang-doggishly asks Captain Stubing where Virgil's cabin party is being held, and Captain Stubing tells Isaac and Stephanie to just follow him.
As Captain Stubing, Isaac, and Stephanie arrive at the impromptu party, Virgil is prattling endlessly about his career as a baseball pitcher, and how he struck out Babe Ruth during an exhibition game at Yankee Stadium, yadda yadda. Isaac interrupts to apologize for his rude 'tude towards him earlier, and Stephanie adds that she's been studying black history for years, but - thanks to the stern schooling she just got from Captain Stubing - realized there's a big gap in her education and therefore would suddenly looooove to embrace hamboning and asks if he could teach her this style of dance...and naturally Virgil is more than happy to oblige.
Jeanette bids Suzy and Rick adieu and says she's very excited about her Ambassadress gig with all the travel and commercial-making opportunities it has to offer...then adds that she plans on marrying Waldo once her reign is over. As a confused Rick and Suzy are all, "Say wuh?", she explains that Waldo, who has no idea that he's her future husband [and might not be so interested considering she punched him in the face], is one heckuva back scratcher.
As the pageant contestants file off the ship, Waldo thanks Captain Stubing for being such a great Master of Ceremonies. Stephanie, meanwhile, offers Virgil a ride home - just as Isaac plants a big farewell kiss on her lips and tells her how much he digs her. As Stephanie blushes at being so publicly smooched, Captain assures her that PDA is perfectly OK, 'cause on The Love Boat they're all one big happy family...and when Isaac grins as he cheekily asks, "Dad, can I use the ship tonight?", everyone joyously chortles.
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