If ever there was an ill-fated three hour tour, it would be that of the S.S. Minnow. The pleasure cruise set out from Hawaii with an eclectic group of passengers including a multi-millionaire and his wife, a Hollywood starlet, a professor and a farm girl. Why these people ended up on the same boat was never addressed. But when the weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed, the fearless Skipper and his first mate Gilligan were helpless to prevent a shipwreck on a tropical island. What followed was a sort of anti-“Lord of the Flies” where everyone got along, made bamboo inventions and there were plenty of bananas to go all around. Gilligan and his friends actually made it off the island fourteen years after being marooned only to end right back on the same island. Those crazy castaways.
But for those first 98 episodes, this bunch desperately tried to get off Gilligan’s Island and back to civilization. They came close so many times and yet with every failure their spirits never dimmed and they were right back in the game. Of course if they were really smart, they would have tied Gilligan to a palm tree and easily made their way back to Hawaii. And what’s with all those clothes for a three hour tour?
Here then are the top ten failed escapes from Gilligan’s Island:
10. Wrong Way Feldman and the Return of Wrong Way Feldman
It is truly amazing how crowded this deserted island actually became. One of the first “inhabitants” the castaways met was famed aviator Wrongway Feldman (Hans Conried). He beat Gilligan to the island by 33 years and had no desire of leaving, especially since his aviation career was not all that stellar. But with the gang’s encouragement, Wrongway gets his mojo back and takes off in his refurbished plane. The castaways can practically taste the rescue. Except they don’t call Wrongway Wrongway for nothing. Once he lands on the mainland, Wrongway can’t remember where he was. Later, Wrongway returned because he was fed up with civilization only to be driven off the island and once again forgetting where it was.
9. The Big Gold Strike
Lo and behold, the Minnow had an inflatable life raft. Of course, you would have thought this would mean that using this raft would have been their first attempt at escape. As the gang gets ready to hit the high seas, Gilligan stumbles (literally) into a gold mine. Mr. Howell is right on top of that staking his claim. Ultimately every one gets their own bags of gold which weigh down the rubber raft and sinks it. Turns out greed isn’t good. If only they had watched the “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” all of this could have been avoided.
8. Smile, You’re On Mars Camera
Right in the middle of the original run of Gilligan’s Island, our space program was gearing up and was all the buzz. Naturally, this burgeoning new technology would make itself onto Gilligan’s Island in the form of a wayward NASA satellite that was supposed to be bound for Mars. After Gilligan busted the lens, the Professor did a MacGyver and fixed the camera. At the moment of broadcast, Gilligan, being Gilligan, ended up getting everyone covered in feathers. Mission Control thought they were seeing Mars natives until Gilligan knocked over the camera. Needless to say, they didn’t bother to trace the signal. (Image: Avelyman.com.)
7. Don’t Bug the Mosquitoes
When Gilligan’s Island first aired, if you weren’t talking about the space program then you were probably talking about the Beatles and their invasion. Not to be outdone by the Fab Four, a rock group called the Mosquitoes dropped on the isle for some much needed R&R. When the rocksters refused to budge, Gilligan and the gang decided to drive them off the island the best way they knew how: by forming extremely annoying singing groups. Once the Mosquitoes checked out the finger popping tones of the Honeybees they were smitten. Smitten enough to get off the island and leave the competition behind. At least this wasn’t Gilligan’s fault.
6. You’ve Been Disconnected
Before satellite communications, before cell phones, before the internet (was there really such a time?) the only way to make a phone call was across physical telephone lines. When a big telephone cable washes up on the island, the castaways try to phone home. Before you can say “coconut cream pie” the Professor has rigged up the cable to make outgoing calls. Unfortunately, they just can’t seem to get anyone on the line that can rescue them before the telephone line washes back into the ocean. Some say this was the inspiration to develop the 911 emergency phone system. Who wouldn’t want to avoid the calamity of castaways being stranded on a deserted island and not being able to place a rescue call?
5. Gilligan’s Living Doll
Despite the title, this episode wasn’t about Gilligan falling in love with a life-size Barbie. Instead a highly advanced silver robot parachuted onto the island. Comedy ensues as Gilligan and the gang tried to make the robot work for them. Ultimately, the Professor was able to reprogram the robot to walk back to Hawaii (was there anything the Professor couldn’t do?). Sadly, thanks to Gilligan’s lucky rabbit foot that he put inside the robot, the mechanical man fritzed out and couldn’t help with a rescue. Obviously the appearance of this robot was an ominous foreshadowing to the now infamous “Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island” reunion movie. That’s the one where the basketball players squared off against a team of robot players. If only those robots had been Terminators; imagine the fun! (Editor: Clip of Globetrotters movie used because a robot clip was not available.)
4. The Friendly Physician
A crazed scientist (is there any other kind?) with the moniker of Dr. Boris Balinkoff lands on the island in desperate need of some specimens to experiment on. Luckily for Boris, this island was chock full of specimens. Back at the doc’s castle laboratory, everyone got to switch their personalities into the body of another person. After a hair-raising escape, the gang is ready to leave in the doctor’s boat but it sinks. At least they got off the island for a little while.
3. Our Vines Have Tender Apes
You just can’t have an ongoing series set on a tropical island without doing a Tarzan rip off. Here, leopard loincloth wearing Tongo shows up to prove he’s a genuine ape-man. In reality he’s a B listed actor studying for the role of a genuine ape-man. When he can’t fool any of the castaways, he runs back to Hollywood with his tail between his legs. (Image: Denny Miller, who played Tongo, also appeared as Tarzan in 1959 – above, image of Tongo not available.)
2. Gilligan Meets Jungle Boy
If you’re going to have one Tarzan story, why not two? This time Jungle Boy is the real deal of a young lad who raised himself on the island. After finding a gas geyser, they stitched up some raincoats for a hot air balloon. Jungle Boy escaped but because he couldn’t talk, he couldn’t tell anyone where he came from. Of course this assumes that Jungle Boy never learned the language. From the coincidence file: Jungle Boy was played by Kurt Russell who would later grow up to lead his own “Escape from New York.”
1. The Producer
Before there was Steven Spielberg, before there was James Cameron, before there was Jerry Bruckheimer there was Harold Hecuba (Phil Silvers). As a Hollywood producer, HH had no rival. While on the prowl for his latest talent, he ended up on Gilligan’s Island where the gang put on a musical version of “Hamlet” to show off Ginger’s talent (as if she needed showing off!). Hecuba saw stars but didn’t want to share them with the castaways. That’s why he sneaked away to mount his musical “Hamlet” and take all the credit himself. Typical Hollywood.
by Rick Bitzman