Samantha is spied upon by a two-bit private eye who discovers her powers and plots to blackmail her.

More tedious than entertaining, this uneven episode at times doesn't even resemble "Bewitched," despite the liberal amount of witchcraft that's performed. The number one problem is in the casting of Robert Strauss as Charlie Leach. Overacting, overdoing and literally chewing the scenery with his popped-eyes and cheesy "Guys & Dolls" accent, Mr. Strauss is perhaps one of the few (if not only) guest stars to go so completely over the top as to render the entire plot totally unbelievable.

Adding generous slices of ham to all this is Virginia Martin as his wife, Charmaine, a gum-chewing, wise-cracking moll whose all but ready to break out into "Adelaide's Lament" (from "Guys & Dolls") if someone doesn't stop her. Someone should have stopped her and Strauss...William Asher! Surprised to find that he did indeed direct this, it goes against the grain of everything he had established with "Bewitched" -- REALITY based FANTASY. An often unnoticed but genius trait of "Bewitched" was in the casting of all its weekly guest stars. So many personalities with eccentric character traits, the fine line was consistenly tread in keeping them interesting and larger than life YET always BELIEVABLE and rooted in some reality.

Making up for things somewhat, Mary Grace Canfield debuts with a welcome and very well acted appearance as Harriet Kravitz, Abner's sister. (Sadly, the addition of the character was intended as a temporary replacement for the ill Alice Pearce, who ultimately died shortly after this was filmed.) Just as quirky yet even more judgemental than Gladys Kravitz, this episode would have been better off if it had been written around her -- she's much more interesting. Clunky special effects (a sped-up rocker, a jumping baby carriage) and ridiculous line readings such as Charmaine's, "I wish someone would tell me what I DONE to deserve this" try their best to weigh this episode down to BOMB status. But leave it to Liz to earn a star for the only moment worth watching: why breakfast is Sam's favorite meal!

To be fair to the not untalented Mr. Strauss and Miss Martin (whose scenes look as if they were cut from a bad 1940's gangster B movie) their work here may have geled just fine if "Bewitched" were written in the same farcical vein as a "Get Smart" or "I Dream of Jeannie." But it isn't and it doesn't work here, which makes the decision to make this a TWO-PART episode nothing short of...stupifying. Stay tuned.

GUEST STARS: After her short-lived stint as Harriet Kravitz, Mary Grace Canfield would go on to become a regular on "Green Acres" the following season. Talented Steve Franken (George Barkley) begins his first of seven guest appearances on "Bewitched" with this episode.

LISTEN FOR: After Barkley says, "...investigate his wife!" you can hear a woman on the laugh track actually say "Uh-oh!" A favorite sound byte of William Asher's, this same "Uh-oh Lady" was often heard on the "I Love Lucy" laugh track. Thankfully, other than here, there was never a need to use her again on "Bewitched."

©Review Copyright 1998 by SCOTT VIETS

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