A quiet surprise, this perfectly executed plot is a blueprint for just how entertaining a well-balanced sitcom can be when under the guidance of expert craftsmanship.

The expert craftsman responsible are none other than writers Richard and Mary Sale and director David McDearmon who together, along with a mighty fine cast, transform what really is a simple tugboat into a sleek, classy yacht sailing on an ocean of glass.

With the hindsight of knowing now that all of these plot devices would soon be used over and over again (Darrin's involvement with a beautiful client; Endora planting seeds of doubt in Samantha's faith; Mistaken identity, in which Darrin thinks Samantha has turned herself into an animal as a means to spy on him; True love conquering all...) it's important to note that it was all done here FIRST. And never done as well again.

Masterfully weaving together more than a dozen scenes with many characters, this episode never feels rushed but rather, strangely comfortable. There is not one superfluous line of dialogue, cheap bit, or questionable moment. Director McDearmon paces the show with ease, allowing moments for not only subtlety and tenderness, but also great comedy (running the gamut from chuckle to laugh-out-loud.) Under his direction, the camera isn't afraid to simply remain still (in what are some of the best Endora/Samantha exchanges ever seen) or travel with easy fluidity (the yacht scenes where Darrin is searching for the cat).

The guest stars are marvelous: Martha Hyer as the "Iron Tigress" is perfect. She conveys the man-hungry female mogul capable of busting a ball or two, yet she still manages to be sexy, charming, funny and yes, even sensitive. Not an easy feat. Another delightful surprise is the character of "Kujo". At first suspecting he may be another stereotype Asian played only for cheap laughs (quite common at this time, when we thought "Orientals" actually referred to people as "Miss-ee"), actor Clarence Lung immediately dispels that assumption while delivering some of the best laughs with an understated, quiet performance ("You get to your party?" "No" "Maybe your party get to other party!")

Liz looks radiant, ESPECIALLY in curlers! York is, as usual, in top form especially in his "chats" with the cat and the pelican. The music is perfectly scored to fit the action without being intrusive, and the detail of costuming Margaret Marshall in a leopard coat (after being referred to as the "Iron Tigress") is perfect juxtaposition to Samantha in jeans, man's shirt and curlers. Even the episode title "The Cat's Meow" carries witty double entendre!

It's exactly this kind of detailed attention by everybody involved which helps steer what seems like an effortless, subtle episode into actually, one of "Bewitched's" best.

FAVE QUOTE: Kujo: "He has all the symptoms of a married man." Captain: "He'll be three miles out. No one can get to him there." Kujo: "Jealous wife make very strong swimmer."

GUEST STARS: Martha Hyer (Margaret Marshall): An Academy Award nominee (for "Some Came Running" with Frank Sinatra), she appeared in "Sabrina" with Audrey Hepburn, "The Best of Everything" with Joan Crawford and was married to legendary movie producer Hal B. Wallis ("Casablanca"; "The Maltese Falcon"; Elvis musicals, and countless other classics).

George Ives (Captain Kelly): Goes on to play "Farnsworth" in episode #102 and "Mr. Slocumb" in episode #139.

Harry Holcombe (Mr. Godfrey): Extremely recognizable in movies and TV, usually playing Ministers and Judges, he appears again in episode #60 ("Samantha the Dressmaker") and eventually as a Judge in episodes #87-88 ("My Friend Ben").

OF NOTE: Unfortunately, neither director David McDearmon nor writers Richard and Mary Sale ever helmed another "Bewitched" episode. Interesting to speculate what some later episodes may have been like if they had.

LOOK FOR: Sam's disappointed "Oh, Darrin" when he tells her he has to cancel their anniversary celebration. Heartbreaking (as only Liz can convey!); Dick York's ad-libs with the Pelican. One has to wonder if the lines "Don't turn away from me" or "Have you been eating fish?!" were actually in the script! Either way, they're great.

© Review Copyright 2005 by SCOTT VIETS

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