I want to take a moment to address an elephant in the room. Obviously with this project we are ranking only episodes in the first five seasons of TAGS. It’s not that I don’t enjoy some things from the last few years of the show. There are quite a few entertaining episodes, such as Malcolm at the Crossroads when Englishman Malcolm Merriweather tangles with Ernest T. Bass. Or Aunt Bea on TV, when Aunt Bea wins a bunch of prizes on a game show and becomes a bit too haughty about it. And how about The Battle of Mayberry, when Opie researches a famous Revolutionary War skirmish & exposes the hidden truth, or Opie’s Piano Lesson, when the boy has to decide between piano lessons & football. There are also a few return visits from Barney Fife, episodes that snagged Don Knotts two additional Emmy Awards. Having said all that, it is undeniable that TAGS lost a lot of its magic when Knotts departed his regular role and the show switched to color technology, events that happened to coincide. When I am channel surfing and run across a black & white episode I almost always stop and watch. If it’s a color episode?? Well…then it’s a tossup. Maybe I’ll watch, maybe I won’t. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay.
75 Back to Nature (S4E31)
Andy, Barney, & Gomer take Opie and some other boys on a camping trip. Opie wanders off to pick some berries and Andy goes to find him. Instead of staying with the other youngsters Barney & Gomer also go looking for Opie and manage to get themselves lost. Andy then goes in search of them, and as in numerous other situations, finds a way to spare Barney’s fragile ego and make him look like much more of a rugged outdoorsman than he really is. Really funny stuff from Gomer & Barney.
74 Mountain Wedding (S3E31)
Charlene Darling is set to wed Dud Walsh, but wild man Ernest T. Bass has taken a shine to Charlene and wants her for himself. Andy & Barney are recruited to help deal with Bass, who keeps throwing rocks thru the Darlings’ windows. Andy devises a ruse in which Ernest T. thinks he’s kidnapping Charlene, but it is actually Barney in drag. This is the first appearance of Ernest T. and the only episode in which he & the Darlings appear together. It’s always funny when Barney dresses up like a woman.
73 Runaway Kid (S1E6)
After Opie tattles on his friends for a practical joke they played on Andy the sheriff proceeds to teach the lad about the importance of keeping one’s word. However that lesson backfires when Opie befriends a young runaway and declines to reveal the boy’s real name so Andy can call his parents. All’s well that ends well though, as Andy gets the info when the case is reported by another police department. I adore father/son stuff with Andy & Opie, and Barney is pretty amusing as well.
72 Lawman Barney (S3E7)
Two farmers illegally selling produce on the side of the road ignore Barney’s orders to cease & desist. This blatant disrespect brings Barney down, and it’s up to Andy to help him regain confidence. But after the two farmers learn that Andy’s tale about Barney being a badass is completely false they again defy the deputy’s orders. After a pep talk from Andy the deputy confronts the men a third time with genuine confidence and they respect his authority. Character actor Allen Melvin makes the third of eight TAGS appearances, this time as one of the quarrelsome farmers.
71 Andy the Matchmaker (S1E7)
At a crossroads in his life Barney tells Andy he is resigning from the police force. He feels bored & useless since there’s never any crime in Mayberry. In an effort to prop up Barney’s self-esteem so that he won’t quit and maybe even ask out a woman he’s sweet on Andy & Ellie make up a story about Walker’s Drug Store being robbed. However, much to their surprise the deputy actually arrests a stranger he suspects of the “robbery”. In a twist of fate the suspect, though obviously not guilty of the fake crime, is actually a wanted man in back in Chattanooga. Andy covertly doing things to boost Barney’s fragile ego is a tried & true TAGS staple.
70 Rafe Hollister Sings (S3E20)
As Barney is prepping for a tryout to represent Mayberry in some kind of regional choral concert farmer Rafe Hollister comes into the courthouse. It turns out that Hollister has a beautiful singing voice, and Andy encourages him to attend the auditions. Choir director John Masters chooses Rafe for a solo, but Mayor Stoner isn’t happy because the farmer’s appearance is rather unkempt & dingy. Andy tries to save the day by buying Rafe some new clothes, but they are way too small & tight. He ends up singing in his overalls but is nevertheless a fine representative of Mayberry at the concert. This is the final series appearance for both Mayor Stoner & Rafe Hollister.
69 Cyrano Andy (S1E22)
In the inaugural appearance of the lovely Thelma Lou things are a bit shaky because Barney, who we normally see exude a boastful cool with the ladies, is really uneasy around her and doesn’t know what to say or how to act. When Andy tries to help Barney misinterprets his actions and Thelma Lou decides to use the situation to make Barney jealous. Barney then hysterically hits on Ellie, and she plots to scare him away by actually responding to his advances. Andy tries the same tactic with Thelma Lou. Of course the ploy works and Barney & Thelma Lou find their way back to each other. This is a great episode that makes me sad that Ellie Walker didn’t stick around Mayberry for the long haul.
68 Three Wishes for Opie (S5E14)
Barney buys a fortune-telling game, and after the first two of the three wishes he grants Opie actually come true he mistakenly thinks Opie’s third wish is for Andy & Helen to wed. Of course the deputy gets overexcited and the rumor that Andy & Helen are getting married quickly spreads thru Mayberry, much to the chagrin of the sheriff. Floyd & Goober are also around to provide a laugh or two.
67 Mayberry on Record (S1E19)
A record producer comes to town looking to make a folk music album featuring local artists. As always the citizens get overly excited and agree to invest in the project. However, Andy thinks the guy may be a swindler. Eventually he is able to convince the others of this, but just as they are ready to hunt down the producer he returns with news that he has sold the record and made everybody who invested a nice profit. Future bluegrass stars The Kentucky Colonels appear in this episode.
66 Andy and Helen Have Their Day (S5E13)
Andy & Helen want to have a nice, peaceful Saturday at Myers Lake. Unfortunately Barney keeps showing up to be a nuisance. When Andy is arrested by the game warden for fishing without a license he tries to call Barney to have him bring money for the fine, but Goober gets the call instead. Goober totally screws up the message Andy gives him, and Barney jumps to the conclusion that Andy & Helen are getting hitched…a mistake Barney makes often. This basic idea would be utilized again a couple of years later when Deputy Warren Ferguson & Goober keep interrupting Andy & Helen’s date at the lake.
65 Hot Rod Otis (S4E19)
Andy & Barney become concerned when Otis buys a car. They come up with a hilarious ploy to fool Otis into thinking he died after he goes on one of his frequent benders and wakes up in jail. As it turns out Otis had come to his senses before he ever got drunk and actually sold the car. No one else besides Andy, Barney, & Otis are seen in this episode.
64 The Darling Baby (S5E12)
Charlene Darling & Dud Wash have had their first baby, a girl they name Andelina. Briscoe, Charlene, & the boys come to Mayberry seeking a future husband for the newborn, which is hysterically funny in a creepy sort of way. While jamming a bit with Andy at the Taylor homestead Briscoe gets the idea that Opie would make a great future husband for his granddaughter. Andy disagrees strongly, and Barney is around getting accidently snockered on hooch again. Andy eventually fools Mr. Darling by having Opie sign the betrothal “contract” with a disappearing ink pen, which the old man looks at as some kind of voodoo so he & his family leave as quick as they can. I have always thought that the 1986 TV movie Return to Mayberry missed out on a really cool nod to this episode by having Opie’s wife be a grown-up Andelina instead of some random woman the audience has no reason to care about.
63 A Plaque for Mayberry (S1E25)
The Women’s Historical Society deduces that a descendant of a Revolutionary War hero is living in Mayberry and want to present that person with an award. Much to the horror of Andy, Barney, & Mayor Pike the family member to be awarded turns out to be Otis Campbell. However Otis surprises them all when he shows up to the ceremony stone cold sober and all cleaned up. Otis decides to donate the award to the town, rightfully noting that just because a person’s ancestor was a hero doesn’t make them one, which is the most logical point of the entire plot.
62 Jailbreak (S2E18)
The state police are in town hunting down a thief and they arrogantly request that the local force…Andy & Barney…just stay out of the way. When the crook is caught he is temporarily housed in the jail and Barney stupidly allows him to escape. Andy & Barney deduce that the criminal & his gal pal partner are holed up at the local trailer park, and it seems that they have kidnapped the bigheaded state cop. Barney actually captures a perp legitimately with his quick thinking instead of the dumb luck that usually leads to his particular brand of heroism. Character actor Allen Melvin makes the first of eight TAGS appearances in this episode, and we also meet dry cleaner Fred Goss.
61 Aunt Bea the Crusader (S4E15)
Andy & Barney must reluctantly run Mr. Frisby off of his chicken farm because the county is going to build a new highway. Aunt Bea & her lady friends are horrified and organize a protest. However in the midst of the standoff it is discovered that Frisby has a moonshine still in his basement and of course the ladies become angry that they were fighting for a lawbreaker.
60 Sheriff Barney (S2E12)
A neighboring town in need of a sheriff offers the gig to Barney after seeing a flattering newspaper article. Andy knows that Barney isn’t prepared for the job because sheriffin’ is different than deputyin’, and in an effort to teach Barney that lesson the two switch jobs for a day. After Andy is able to easily solve a dispute that Barney couldn’t between two farmers Barney gets down in the dumps, but Andy is able to reassure him by making Barney believe he has captured the most wanted man in the county, bootlegger Rafe Hollister. Full of bravado again Barney turns down the new job because Maybery needs him. There is a really funny scene with Barney trying to extract information out of a sleeping Otis. The town drunkard jokingly gives the address of his liquor supplier and it takes Barney a second to realize it is HIS address. Did you know that the address given…411 Elm St….is the same as the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas?? Now that might seem like some kind of morbid joke…except for the fact that this episode aired almost two years BEFORE the Kennedy assassination!! This episode marks the first of three appearances by Rafe Hollister, although the actor had previously been on three other episodes portraying different characters.
59 Otis Sues the County (S5E15)
After Otis slips & falls at the jail Barney makes him fill out an accident report, but when the notary public at the bank isn’t around Otis has to take the paperwork to Mt. Pilot to have it notarized by an attorney. That lawyer is a shyster who convinces Otis to sue the county, persuading him that he’d actually be doing Andy & Barney a favor by assuring that the courthouse would receive needed renovations. At the hearing Otis remembers that he actually tripped over his own coat. Floyd is particular obtuse in this episode, to great comedic effect. There is a really funny scene involving Otis & Barney wherein the clueless deputy accidentally becomes intoxicated, something tha happens a few times over the years. The actor portraying the shady lawyer had previously played a thief on the show a few years earlier.
58 The Darlings Are Coming (S3E25)
The Darling family came down from the mountains to visit Mayberry about a half dozen times, and this was the first. They are meeting the bus that is bringing Charlene’s fiancée Dud home from military service. In the meantime though they keep sneaking into the hotel and disturbing the peace with their music. There’s a lot of good singing in this episode. I wouldn’t have minded more appearances by the Darlings.
57 The Pageant (S5E11)
Aunt Bea takes over the lead role of Lady Mayberry in the Founder’s Day play after Clara Edwards has to go out of town, but it turns out she’s a terrible actress. Andy is given the task of telling her about her…lack of ability…but he is spared when Clara returns sooner than expected and Aunt Bea willingly steps aside. Founder’s Day is a big deal in Mayberry, as it is celebrated or mentioned a few times over the years. I’m sure some modern touchy-feely folks may get their knickers twisted about Andy & Barney’s portrayal of Indians, but political correctness wasn’t the cancer fifty years ago that it has become.
56 The Rumor (S4E29)
Barney misinterprets a PDA between Andy & Helen that just so happens to occur in a jewelry store. He quickly convinces Thelma Lou & Aunt Bea that the couple are engaged, which of course they aren’t. Practically the whole town bucks up for a surprise party & gift, which in this case is a redecorated bedroom befitting a married couple. When Andy breaks the news that there is no engagement folks are disappointed but stick around for a party anyway. Barney trying to push Andy into marriage or jumping to the conclusion that he is about to get married is a storyline that is used multiple times throughout the show’s run, and it’s almost always sweet & funny.
55 Opie’s Fortune (S5E9)
After Opie finds a change purse containing $50 Andy tells the boy he can have the money…if no one has claimed it in one week. Immediately after the deadline a man comes forward claiming the lost loot, but Andy doesn’t have the heart to disappoint Opie. However Opie finds out anyway and, in one of those classic mix-ups between father & son, Andy thinks Opie is hurrying to spend the cash when in reality he is preparing to give it back to its rightful owner. Father/son stuff between Andy & Opie is always poignant, a stark contrast to so many of the dysfunctional relationships we see portrayed on television these days.
54 Up in Barney’s Room (S4E10)
Barney is evicted from Mrs. Mendelbright’s boarding house after he breaks her strict rule against cooking in his room. But when Andy & Barney hear that the landlady is about to sell everything and run off with a new beau they smell a rat. It turns out that the guy is a con man out to scam the old lady. They save her, Barney profusely apologizes for breaking the rules, and she agrees to take him back & maybe ease up just a little. This in the only episode with Mrs. Mendelbright, who was portrayed by the same actress who was the first to ever portray Tarzan’s Jane, in a 1918 silent film. Barney gets gooned on hard cider, and it’s always funny when Deputy Fife accidently becomes intoxicated.
53 A Feud Is a Feud (S1E9)
In a nod to Romeo & Juliet Andy tries to end a long running feud between two families who have offspring that want to get married. The feud has been going so long that neither family patriarch even knows what they’re fighting about. Andy does his patented reverse psychology thing by trying to get the two old men to duel each other, but it turns out that both are spineless cowards and that no one in either family has ever been hurt or killed during the alleged feud. All’s well that ends well when the two youngsters tie the knot. Hearing Andy break down Shakespeare for Opie in his down-to-earth homespun way is one of the highlights of the entire series.
52 Man in the Middle (S5E7)
Barney & Thelma Lou get into an argument & break up, only to reconcile the next day. But an offhand comment by Andy (that he didn’t even say) when trying to console Barney explodes into a mess of quarrels among Andy, Barney, Thelma Lou, & Helen. The foursome are the only characters in the episode, which is almost Shakespearean in the way that things get misconstrued & spiral out of control amongst the characters. The infamous night filter is used again, which thru the prism of modern technology looks really silly, although I’m sure 50 years ago few even noticed.
51 Ellie Comes to Town (S1E4)
When pharmacist Fred Walker falls ill his young niece Ellie arrives to run the drug store. She’s a bit uptight and doesn’t immediately get how things work in Mayberry, for example Andy having a key to the store and helping himself to what Aunt Bea needs. There’s also local hypochondriac Emma Brand (later Watson), who demands her pills sans prescription and requests Ellie’s arrest when she doesn’t acquiesce. Despite Ellie’s…rigidity…there is definitely a spark between her & Andy, and the two would go on to become a couple soon enough. She is one of my favorite Andy girlfriends. Emma is one of those delightfully quirky characters that only made a handful of appearances but makes an indelible impression. There’s also some adorableness from Opie here, and that’s always fun.
Let’s take a timeout. We’ll be back!!