Hail To The Chief
Wednesday February 28, 1979 8pm (Eastern)
Saturday June 16, 1979 10pm (Eastern)
and Victor Buono
Special Guest Star
Supervising Producer Robert
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.