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Thread: Listening for 50 years

  1. #1
    Sorry, but due to technical issues, this one is a bit late too!

    Tonight 50 years ago, CBS aired S05E16 "The Listener".

    Robert Foxworth guests as psychiatrist Eric Fowler who is being stalked by a really smart, dangerous man called Cerberus. The guy taps into everything imaginable including Fowler's clothes (how the dude is able to do this, is beyond me).

    What makes more sense is the taps into Fowler's office and home. Cerberus speaks to the doctor through stereo equipment. Fowler calls in Five-O and they bring along Che Fong (Harry Endo). They find a microphone and the whole ordeal ticks Cerberus off.

    Through detective work, they figure out Cerberus can't be too far away from Fowler. What makes things so much more worse, is that Cerberus is calling Fowler's patients. He tells one boy (Radames Pera) that he's dying but Fowler and his mother (Lisa Pera) are hiding it from him. Another, he drives her (Linda Ryan) to suicide by reminding her that she killed her daughter.

    A third patient, Mary (Patricia Herman), is also harassed but by this point, they know what Cerberus is up to and Fowler is with her when she receives the phone call. Mary is instrumental in Cerberus' capture because she cleverly keeps him on the phone so Five-O can track him down.

    Turns out Cerberus (Greg Mullavey) is the postal carrier for Fowler's office! It takes everything McGarrett has to not beat the living crap out of the guy.

    Mr. Mike's review is so much better than my summation.

    This is one of those 'meh' episodes for me. It's not bad but it's not exactly super memorable for me either. It does hold its own compared to other Season 5 shows that have aired thus far including The Vashon Trilogy and "The Child Stealers". But obviously, the bar was set high in this season.

    I think the issue is that there are some flaws in the episode. For one, towards the end, McGarrett has Fowler and Danno trade clothes. This was pretty physically impossible. It would have made more sense to have Danno take Fowler's jacket and part ways without Cerberus being aware.

    Secondly, this came to me as I was writing this, but just how in the heck did Cerberus plant bugs into Fowler's clothes without the doctor knowing!? That's nuts! Yes, in the course of the episode, we discover Cerberus broke into Fowler's house but still - this seemed to be a dumb and overkill plot device.

    Finally, when does Cerberus have time to do all this crap!? Being a mail carrier, they're on a schedule and they can't deviate much. Someone was bound to notice their mail being late or not delivered. Yes, this was in the decades before Informed Delivery, but I would think someone would notice their stuff wasn't being delivered properly!

    Regardless, Happy 50th, "The Listener"!!

  2. #2
    I watched this one last night. I last saw it in the 1990s.

    Before I give my impression of the episode, I want to mention something from my own life which sprung from this episode, before I ever watched Five-O.

    I used to call telephone party lines when I was younger. They were fun -- kind of like chat rooms, except on the phone. I met various friends and girlfriends on these lines, some of whom I'm still in contact with. One of the friends I met was a guy named Sean, who lived in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.

    Sean's name on the lines was "Psycho Brains", and it took awhile until he told me his real name. He had a gimmick, where he would yell out loud in a psychotic voice, "HAVE YOU EVER LICKED THE BOOTS OF A FULL BLOWN PSYCHO?!", and then he'd start pounding buttons on the phone over and over while yelling "YUK YUK YUK YUK YUK YUK!"

    Once I got to know Sean, I realized this was all just an act, and he was a (mostly) normal guy. Eventually I went over to his house and met him in person. I asked him where he came up with the "licked the boots of a full blown psycho" line, and he said he made it up.

    Well, as we know from watching this episode, that wasn't true. Sean must have seen "The Listener" episode of Hawaii Five-O and stolen that line, and replaced the high-pitched tongue-motion sound by Cerebrus with "YUK YUK YUK YUK"!

    I met Sean in person in early 1991. By mid-1991, I heard he was talking to my ex-girlfriend from earlier in the year. Even though Sean and I weren't close friends, this bothered me a little bit, because I just didn't like the idea of him dating her so soon after me. I called him and asked about it, and he said, "Todd, I just talk to her. I don't have any interest in her. I know you cared about her a lot. I wouldn't do that to you." He sounded sincere, but I wasn't sure if I believed it. My ex was really pretty, and he was talking to her a lot. He hadn't seen her in person yet, but I had a feeling if they met, he wouldn't keep his hands off for my sake.

    Well, Sean either was lying or couldn't help himself. I heard from someone who knew my ex that she met Sean and had sex with him. I never bothered to call and confront Sean about this. After all, she wasn't my girlfriend anymore, and hadn't been in several months. When she and I broke up, she didn't know Sean, so he had nothing to do with it. Still, I didn't really have a desire to talk to him again, and I think he realized that I knew about it, so he didn't call me, either.

    About 3 years later, I heard that Sean had died in a motorcycle accident. I learned about it maybe 6 months after it happened.

    About 2 years after learning of his death, you can imagine my surprise when I was watching "The Listener" and I heard those words: "How does it feel to lick the boots of a full blown psycho?", followed by a psychotic noise! I thought maybe I was imagining it, and actually rewound the tape to make sure I heard it right.

    At the moment I wished I could have called Sean and told him I knew where he got it from, and asked him how big of a Five-O fan he was. I had long forgiven him by then.

    Anyway... I'll do the review in my next post.

  3. #3
    I can separate a good Five-O episode from a bad one, by judging how engaged I am with the story. If it's really holding my attention, I know it's a good (or perhaps great) episode. If it's somewhat holding my attention, but I'm frequently annoyed by its flaws, I feel it's an okay episode. If I can't wait for it to be over, or if it's really getting on my nerves, it's a lousy episode.

    I was very engaged with "The Listener". For the first half, I was asking myself why I didn't remember it as one of my favorite episodes, especially because of the "full blown psycho" line which was personally connected to me. I thought that perhaps I just didn't appreciate it well enough when I first viewed it while in my mid-20s.

    However, as the second half of the episode wore on, I realized why it wasn't a great episode. As Mike noted in his review, it was too repetitive. Cerebrus kept outsmarting Five-O over and over, and in fact Five-O made various bumbling mistakes which allowed him to come out on top.

    When Dr. Fowler dropped the bag of cash for Cerebrus, why was the idiotic plan involving two Five-O cars getting off the freeway and trying to find it? Wasn't it obvious he would take the cash and run? Why wasn't the helicopter (seen later in the episode) utilized for this operation? And why didn't they at least make an attempt to sweep the area? It was embarrassing to see the guy still up on the hill, staring at Five-O looking at the empty bag.

    And when they came up with the clever hospital ruse, how could they not have just listed the fake patient in official hospital records? Why did they have to manually warn each employee, thus accidentally leaving the chaplain out (who of course Cerebrus chose to call, of all people)?

    The way Cerebrus was caught was also a bit disappointing. It was via an old fashioned traced phone call, and the only problem solving involved was guessing whom he'd be calling (which wasn't hard!) I would have much rather that the hospital ruse worked to catch Cerebrus, as at least it was creative and clever!

    I knew that it was likely that Cerebrus would at least get punched out at the end. He was too sadistic and obnoxious to where any ending without him feeling physical pain would be unsatisfying.

    I think Mike's rating of 3 stars was fitting -- great first half, and not-so-great second half.

  4. #4
    Five-O Home Page Author Mr. Mike's Avatar
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    Mar 2019
    Vancouver, B.C.
    Todd, that is a sensational story above; I think you are trying to give Prince Harry a run for the money, LOL.

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