Hail To The Chief

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Express To Terror
And A Cup Of Kindness, Too
The Queen And The Improbable Knight
Hail To The Chief
A Very Formal Heist
The Green Girl
Where Have You Been Billy Boy
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Episode Four
Hail To The Chief
Wednesday February 28, 1979 8pm (Eastern)
Saturday June 16, 1979 10pm (Eastern)

Loretta Swit
Scott Brady
and Victor Buono
Special Guest Star
Roy Thinnes 

Supervising Producer Robert Stambler
Written by Robert I. Holt
Directed by Barry Crane

     Supertrain was apparently ahead of its time in more ways than one.  For the third episode, "Hail To The Chief," we find that 1979 is a presidential election year in the Supertrain universe, a year ahead of our reality and 1980's presidential campaigns.  The title "Chief" does not refer to Amtrak's competing Chicago to Los Angeles service, but to the official occupying the nation's highest office.  Hoping for a victory on his campaign junket is Roy Thinnes as presidential candidate J.J. Phillips.  All is not what it appears however, Phillips has been kidnapped and switched with his mischievous and apparently only recently long-lost twin brother.  The brother is aided in the swindle by Victor Buono and Billy Barty, probably the less said here the better.
     Everything is going swimmingly, until Phillips' estranged wife, Loretta Swit, arrives and quickly notices the change in her husband's behavior.  Odd given that we're told she prefers to have little or nothing to do with Thinnes' character and his regular day-to-day staff, inlcuding guest Scott Brady, never suspect what's happened.  The real J.J. Phillips has been drugged and placed in Supertrain's Baggage Car in a coffin.  One hopes that some oxygen supply is being provided, but all we are shown is Thinnes being closed into the coffin.  The reason for the switch is rather vague.  It has something to do with a plan to reveal that Thinnes was replaced and extort money out of whomever would be troubled by this event.  Given that it still would have been the public's votes for Thinnes as J.J. Phillips that won the election and not his twin, as the voters would never have know about the switch then, wouldn't the kidnappers merely be in trouble for the crime and not really have much of an edge for their demands?
     During the course of Supertrain's trek west, Thinnes and Swit fall in love and decide to double cross both the Phillips backers and the kidnappers.  Thinnes as the twin brother reverses the dirty deals done to get Phillips elected and bad mouths the groups that were helping get the candidate to power.  The kidnappers are told that Swit has figured it out and that Thinnes will take the rap and given them the opportunity to get lost and not get caught.
     The real J.J. Phillips breaks out of his coffin cage and runs half-naked into Supertrain's Parlor demanding help at the episode's conclusion, screaming that he is the next president of the United States.  Sadly for him, he is informed that the public turned on Phillips in the end and he is not to become the next president.  Supertrain, like NBC, has backed a loser here and Swit receives a phone call from Phillips' twin saying all is well and he's escaped as the show closes.

Campaigning for the nation's highest office aboard the nation's supreme train, Roy Thinnes headlines the "Hail To The Chief" episode.
Loretta Swit puts her "Hot Lips" to a cup of delicious Supertrain coffee with fellow guest star Roy ThinnesSwit was a regular at the time on CBS-TV's "M*A*S*H" series.
TV Guide February 24- March 2, 1979
-TV Guide Feb 24-Mar 2, 1979 featuring James Arness then on ABC's "How The West Was Won" series
"Hail To The Chief" TV Guide episode synopsis:
A presidential candidate is secretly abducted by his indentical twin-a man anxious to pose as his office-seeking brother.
The Competition:
ABC aired "Eight Is Enough"
CBS debuted a new drama series "Married: The First Year"