"The Captain's Captain / Dog's Life / Romance Roulette"
Original airdate: 11/25/1977
Episode summary: Captain Stubing is stressed out when his belligerent father boards the ship for a cruise vacation. Three gals who reunite after their college years indulge in a dating game that ends with true love. A German Shepherd terrorizes one of the ship's passengers.
Recap: Julie and Doc are at their welcome post, waiting to cheerily greet this episode's passengers. The first to arrive is Don Flanders, who yells, "So long rat race!" at the world he's about to leave behind for the next week, addresses Julie as "fun", and asks her what time the festivities start. Julie tells him he's free to start enjoying all the fun and sun that the ship has to offer now that she's officially checked him in (aka given him his assigned cabin number), and he happily scampers off to change into his swim trunks.
Gopher rushes over to inform Julie and Doc that security just called to report one of their guard dogs missing and asks if, by chance, either of them has seen a German Shepherd aimlessly trotting around the ship. Doc jokes that the only barking he's been hearing lately has come from Captain Stubing, and Julie explains that their boss is extra testy today 'cause his dad is going to be aboard this cruise, and apparently he's a retired naval captain and obnoxious buttinsky. A few seconds later, Merrill Stubing, Sr. reports for his vacation...and when Captain Stubing rushes over to greet his pa, he barks, "Now stow my gear! Ready my cabin! And I'll meet you in your quarters at 1300 hours!" After he marches off to get himself settled, Captain Stubing picks up his pa's luggage, then decides 'ah fuck it' and hands it off to Gopher to deal with.
Beth Luckner sees her gal pal, Toby Chapman, in the lobby area and screechingly rushes over to greet her hello...and the two excitedly gabble while Gopher attempts to catch their names so that he can check them in. The third friend of this college reunion, Regina Parker, shrieks happily and joins in with the banter as Gopher haplessly stands by with his clipboard - until Toby finally takes a break from prattling to complain to her friends that they've been waiting forever for "this clown" to give them their assigned cabin numbers.
Merrill Sr. reports to his son's office and chastises him for spending too little time on the bridge. Captain Stubing assures his dad that he knows what he's doing, as does his deputy captain - but Merrill Sr. grumbles that when he was a captain, he never trusted his ship to anyone...and irrelevantly adds that they didn't win the big war sitting in their cabins. Captain Stubing points out that this is a cruise ship not a war ship, and that World War II (assuming that's the war he's talking about) has been over for more than thirty years. A few seconds later, Gopher enters the office to sheepishly inform his boss that the ship is currently having engine issues, and Merrill Sr. kind of perks up at that inside tidbit and offers his services to diagnose and fix the malfunction.
Don Flanders has changed into his swim trunks and is eager to start enjoying his vacation when he notices a very large German Shepherd sitting atop his bed, making growling noises. He's all, "Say huh?", then coos, "Nice doggie" as he attempts to edge past the pooch - but she responds by racing over to the door and barking ferociously [despite a whole lot of tail wagging] ... and Don's all, "Ack!" and flees to the safety of the bathroom.
Regina is sitting in her cabin, chillin' with some Lord Byron literature, when Toby and Beth burst in and suggest that the three of them go above deck, catch some rays, and play romance roulette, aka a horrible pick-up game that was apparently of great amusement to them during their college years. Regina rolls her eyes and says she thought they gave up that nonsense now that they're rapidly steaming towards middle age - but Toby argues that there's nothing immature or dickish about picking up random guys, having their way with them, then heartlessly dumping them like yesterday's news. Beth concurs wholeheartedly and decrees, "We're playing romance roulette and that's that."
Toby, Beth, and Regina are seated above deck, enjoying some drinks, when Toby decides that the code word for this round of romance roulette will be screwdriver, meaning the three of them will be required to pick up the first three [presumably single] men who order a screwdriver at the nearby bar Isaac is tending. A few seconds later, Doc wanders over and asks Isaac for a refill of this orange juice/vodka concoction that a passenger is drinking...and Beth squeals excitedly before making a beeline over to the bar to ask Doc to specify the actual name of the drink he just ordered. While Doc mutely contemplates his response, a short, bespectacled dork named Morton bounds over and orders a screwdriver...and Beth stares over at him in dismay before she gets the romance roulette ball rolling by half-heartedly using the 'haven't we met someplace before?' pick-up line on him. As the two amble off to get better acquainted, Toby bounds over and achieves success in getting Doc to utter the word screwdriver, and he perks up at her sassy flirtitude and offers to show her his cabin...'cause, yeah, why not spend the day boning an attractive passenger instead of serving as the ship's only doctor when that's what you're being paid to do? Regina is alone by the bar when the ship's plumber, a blue collar hottie named Frank Vallone, walks over with his toolbox to fix Isaac's sink. He kneels onto the floor and asks Regina/whoever might be within earshot to hand him a screwdriver...and she puts the tool in his hand - but then refuses to let it go until he meets her smitten gaze, stares smittenly back at her, and introduces himself.
Don opens his bathroom door and uses a coat hanger to try to drag the telephone towards him - but the commotion wakes the German Shepherd, who angrily barks at Don before grabbing the phone's receiver in her jaws. A terrified Don once again flees to the safety of his bathroom.
While entering the dining room, Merrill Sr. rips Captain Stubing a new one about the ship being off-course by half a degree. Captain Stubing explains that these days, that kind of stuff is all controlled by a new-fangled device called a computer - but Merrill Sr. dismissively barks about how there isn't a computer in the world that can match a human mind, and points out that Columbus never used a computer. The two then arrive at the captain's table, where Merrill Sr. insists on sitting in the captain's chair...and Captain Stubing wearily indulges him.
Doc enters the dining room with Toby on his arm...and elsewhere in the room, Beth is dining with Morton, who happily tells her that his co-workers are never going to believe the kind of tail he's been gettin' on this cruise.
Isaac delivers an Irish coffee to Regina's cabin, and she asks him about Frank the Plumber and how she might get in touch with him. Isaac gives her the number of the ship's maintenance department and adds that Frank is on duty tonight...and Regina stares dreamily into space.
Don wakes up from sleeping in the bathtub all night, then opens the door and attempts to tiptoe past the German Shepherd. She immediately becomes alert and starts barking at him to get his ass back inside the bathroom...which he does - but not before he's able to grab the telephone, take it into the bathroom with him, and urgently call for help.
Captain Stubing complains to his crew that his dad is driving him fuckin' nuts and implores them to think of something that'll keep him out of his hair...and when the crew stares at his bald head in amusement, he growls, "Dooooon't say it." LOL. A few seconds later, he runs into Merrill Sr., who snappishly reminds him that it's impossible to run the ship from the Lido deck...and as Captain Stubing makes a run for it, the crew grabs Merrill Sr. and tries to engage him in a game of ping-pong. When that fails to interest him, he announces that he's off to the bridge to micromanage the job of his grown son - but then is physically restrained by the crew...and during the scuffle, Isaac accidentally (?) spills a glass of tomato juice all over his shirt. It finally penetrates Merrill Sr.'s thick skull that all of their antics is a desperate attempt to keep him from bugging the shit out of his son while he's trying to work, so he says he'll somehow refrain from acting as though he's the ship's captain and is off to figure out a way to clean his stained shirt. A few seconds later, Gopher runs over to report that a passenger has been trapped in his cabin all night 'cause the missing guard dog - who's been accidentally located, by the way - is refusing to let him leave. Gopher, Isaac, and Julie then rush over to Don Flanders' cabin - but are unable to get past the growling pooch.
Toby and Beth tease Regina about how Frank must be pretty hot stuff to keep her so intrigued, but Regina says she wouldn't know 'cause she can't spend time with him while he's on call, and he's not allowed to mingle with the passengers. Toby mulls that over for a few seconds before picking up the phone and calling the maintenance department to report that she just dropped her ring in the sink and needs a plumber asap...and then she and Beth cacklingly scamper off to let nature take its course.
Merrill Sr. enters the ship's kitchen, where a cantankerous kitchen worker tells him that the area is off limits to passengers and that he needs to scram. He explains that he's looking for some sea salt to clean his stained shirt, then chides her for not properly addressing him as [a former] captain. She retorts by throwing salt at him and calling him Buster...and when Merrill Sr. warns that her sassy 'tude could get her fired, she snarls, "Aw, blow it out yer ear" and says she couldn't give two shits what he tells to whom, on account of she's being forced to retire once this cruise is over. She then tears up and complains about being "thrown out for fish bait" when she's in the prime of her life, and Merrill Sr. says he can totally empathize, having been recently forced into retirement himself. She introduces herself as P.J. Muldoon, and warns him to not get any fresh ideas about the PJ part of her name, and he grins and tells her she can call him by his nickname, Stubby...which, nope, I'm not going to bring myself to do in this recap.
Frank is unable to find Regina's "lost" ring in the drain, then notices that she's actually wearing what he assumes is the ring in question on her finger. She apologizes for the false alarm...and he's like, "No worries" and starts to head out - until he notices her Lord Byron book. He tells her that Byron is his favorite and that he dabbles in writing poetry from time to time, and Regina perks up at that and tells him that as an English professor she'd loooooove to read his work some time. He tells her he gets off duty at 10pm and usually goes above deck for some fresh air, and Regina's all, "Kewl!" and agrees to meet up with him later.
Gopher and Isaac are attempting to rescue Don by distracting the German Shepherd with some meat on a stick - but the dog aggressively eats the meet, along with half of the stick. The two halfwits are all, "Ack!" and decide they're going to need to come up with Plan B and race off.
Merrill Sr and P.J. are playing gin in the kitchen until she announces she has to start peeling the potatoes, and Merrill Sr. offers to stay and peel along with her.
Later, Regina meets up with Frank, and he shyly pulls a piece of paper from his pocket that has one of his poems written on it and reads it aloud to her. It's a fairly short lament about being a plumber by day and poet at night, and Regina calls it beautiful and asks if she can keep it...and he says she can if she's willing to pay the price: one dance. She eagerly agrees, and the two start swaying together and looking very into each other.
Beth, meanwhile, is awkwardly dancing with the much shorter Morton and wanking him about awesome he is, and if he could please kiss her. Morton gushes about how truly amaaaaaazed he continues to be that he's getting any action aboard this cruise, then uses the steps of the ship's railing to lift himself to her height before planting a big smooch on her lips.
Merrill Sr. and P.J. emerge from the ship's movie theater, and walk hand-in-hand while looking very much in love.
The next morning, Frank tells Regina, who spent the night in his cabin, how amazingly coincidental it is that they happened to meet while he was fixing Isaac's sink, and adds that he's never fallen for a passenger before. He says he's soooo not into the idea of reporting for work today, and the two lock lips and smooch for what seems like a really loooooong time.
Doc, Isaac, Gopher, and the Captain launch Plan B: Operation Drug the German Shepherd With Sirloin Containing a Powerful Tranquilizer. Unfortunately, they fail to inform Don that the drugged meat is for the dog and not him, so when Don spots the tasty sirloin steak that seemed to magically appear inside his cabin, he sneaks it into the bathroom, polishes it off, then looks really woozy before passing out cold. The crew's all, "Ack!" and rush off to formulate what I can only assume will be an ill-conceived Plan C.
Merrill Sr. drops by the kitchen to visit P.J. and gush about how gorgeous she's looking with the yellow flower in her hair, and she stammers about how bad she is at taking compliments - especially from men with whom she's becoming hopelessly smitten. Mmm hmm..
Julie tells Captain Stubing that Don Flanders is going to be furious at being trapped in his cabin for most of the cruise, and Captain Stubing just kind of shrugs disinterestedly and tells her that he spoke with the SPCA in Mazatlan, and that they promised to dispatch an animal control expert to come aboard the ship, armed with a tranquilizer gun. Julie apologizes for the predicament Don is in - but Captain Stubing says it's not her fault, then swiftly changes the subject by crediting her with keeping his dad away far away from him. Julie says she can't take credit for that 'cause Merrill Sr. has been keeping company with a new lady friend he's invited to dine at the captain's table this evening.
Later, Merrill Sr. enters the dining room with P.J. on his arm and steers her over to the captain's table...and an aghast looking Captain Stubing's all, "The fuck?" and says he's extremely uncomfortable with mixing the downstairs people with the upstairs people. Merrill Sr. snarkishly retorts that, in that case, he and his new girlfriend will enjoy their dinner in the privacy of his cabin.
Beth and Toby are above deck, discussing the imminent dumping of the men they picked up during this cruise. They agree that Regina really got into the swing of romance roulette with the ship's plumber, but hope she finds a nice, "literate way" to dump him without crushing his soul too hard. After they scamper off, Frank, who has overheard their conversation from underneath a nearby stairwell, is staring despondently into space when Regina suddenly rushes over. She apologizes for her lateness, but he just brusquely barks, "See you around" ... and when she's all, "Wha-a-a?", he coldly says that sure they had some fun-filled nights, but "enough's enough". He then storms off, leaving a bewildered Regina staring confusedly after him.
Captain Stubing drops by his father's cabin to apologize for his snobbery in the dining room just now, but then back pedals when he asks why in blazes he couldn't have found someone more suitable for a man of his station in life. Merrill Sr. reminds him that since he's a retired sea captain and not the Prince of Wales, he went out and found someone he likes and who fits into his life, and has proposed marriage. Captain Stubing's all, "Say what?!" and says that while he's glad he found a woman he likes, it's fairly idiotic to marry any woman after only knowing her for a couple of days. Merrill Sr. stubbornly says he's marrying P.J. - with or without his blessing - and that he's A-OK with them staying out of each others' lives from now on. When Captain Stubing storms out, P.J., who was eavesdropping on the conversation from behind a big curtain, says that maybe the captain is right about her lowly status as a kitchen worker, and urges him to find someone else...and says this as though Merrill Sr. somehow has endless options for attracting female companionship.
The animal control expert is about to shoot the wayward German Shepherd with his tranquilizer gun when Don shouts, "Don't shoot!" and urges him and the crew inside his cabin. They're all, "Awwww!" at the sight of the no longer fearsome pooch with her newly delivered puppies, and Don says he's proudly named them after each Love Boat crew member.
Beth and Toby storm into Frank's cabin to admonish him for breaking Regina's heart, and he explains that he simply beat her to the punch, then sourly asks if that isn't how they play their cruel romance roulette game. After they exchange sheepish glances, Toby assures him that Regina really really likes him - just as Regina bursts into the room, looking visibly annoyed that her gal pals have taken it upon themselves to chastise Frank on her behalf. She kicks them out of the room, apologizes to Frank for their behavior, and says she just stopped in to say goodbye. Frank grumbles about being of the butt of the romance roulette joke, and she's shocked that he knows all about that and assures him that whatever transpired between them wasn't a game. She adds that she doesn't want to lose him - but can't seem to put her feelings into words, and he chuckles about how cute it is that an English professor is speechless, then blurts out, "I love you." Regina professes her love in return, and the two agree that truth is far more awesome than playing silly mind games with the opposite gender.
Captain Stubing asks Julie if she happens to know where his dad is, and she sourly tells him that P.J. dumped him, and that they're both miserable as a result. Captain Stubing looks troubled by that development, then asks her to please ensure that his dad is invited to dine at his table this evening.
During dinner, a dejected looking Merrill Sr. is dining at the captain's table when P.J. makes an unexpected appearance in a pretty pink ensemble, and is saluted by Captain Stubing for her many years of service as a kitchen grunt. She happily tells him that she'd be delighted to become his stepmother...and Merrill Sr. perks up at that remark, and beams happily as Captain Stubing toasts their impending nuptials and wishes them many happy years together.
Doc tells Toby he heard about the whole code word screwdriver dating game and assumes he's getting kicked to the curb now...and Toby's like, "Uh, d'yuh" and thanks him for being such a good sport about it. Beth, meanwhile, is wanking Morton about his awesomeness...and, for some odd reason, it doesn't look as though she's ready to dump Little Sexy anytime soon.
Frank tells Regina he found her missing ring...and when she's all, "Wha-a-a-a?", he presents her with an engagement ring. She reacts by happily kissing him, and I'll take that as a yes to his ridiculous proposal of marriage, given that he's known her for less than a week.
Merrill Sr. and P.J. bid adieu to the crew and promise Captain Stubing that they'll keep in touch. Merrill Sr. says that he and his new bride are going to be living in San Pedro, which means if the Pacific Princess ever has troubling docking, he can be reached on the radio. Captain Stubing looks alarmed for a moment, then asks him if he knows what frequency they work on...and when Merrill Sr. stares blankly into space and says he has no idea, Captain Stubing happily says, "Let's keep it that way."
Julie apologizes profusely to Don Flanders for being trapped inside his cabin for most of the cruise and gives him a free ticket for a second cruise. Don generously says it wasn't all bad: he got a lot of sleep, and lost thirteen pounds. He then summons his new pet, the now-friendly German Shepherd, who trots behind him carrying a basket in her mouth that contains her newborn pups...and as the camera pans in on that display of intense cuteness, the crew chuckles joyously.
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