You can always credit "Bewitched" with teaching you something.

Never heard of a gazebo before? (Has anyone since 1966?) Well, if anyone asks, you can always quote verbatim:
It's "a quaint word, a fast going, out of style, that some people (few that they may be) use when they refer to a summer house. Most of them are very small ... the people, I mean." (Hint: To be really effective, be sure to say this as if you had a bad smell under your nose.)

Utterly charming and quaint with it's antiquated "gazebo" theme, this extremely well written and directed episode stands well on its own in spite of the fact this is one of the earliest episodes where Dick York is completely absent -- and I hate to say it but -- he's hardly missed. It's that good!

But how can you go wrong with Marion Lorne, who is at her dearest here, or best of all -- a technicolor baby Dumbo who seems to be as natural as any great "Bewitched" co-star? Whether showing genuine affection for baby Tabitha, or crossing from room to room with the smoothness of a gazelle or simply freezing on cue for pop-in's and pop-outs, this is one elephant who has well earned his Screen Actors Guild card! To quote Tabitha: "Funny Pony" -- indeed!

As typified in this brilliant 3rd season, the fantastical is always grounded in every day real life of a family doing regular things: home improvement projects; going for an outing in the park; applying for a bank loan (and the nervousness that can go along with that); and best of all, dealing with unfriendly strangers (bitchy mothers with stuffed toys AND Mister "summer house" McSnooty himself!) No wonder "toy snatcher" Sam doesn't have the power or energy to pop Dumbo "back to Africa!"

Director R. Robert Rosenbaum keeps the show trumpeting along with fast pacing and a smart use of close-ups capturing every reaction whether it be Sam's disdain for the bank inspector Hawkins ("I never believe what I see on the surface ... I like to DIG!"), or Hawkins' uptight scrutiny of innocent Samantha -- all expertly creating the much needed tension between our heroine and her spy to raise the stakes higher than your average we-have-a-stuffed-toy-on-the-loose episode.

Steve Franken (a "Bewitched" favorite guest star) is at his best here. Oozing self-smugness from every pore, he knows how to raise an eyebrow so far off his forehead that it's almost in danger of flying off his head. Franken and Liz have a terrific "oil and vinegar" chemistry here that works like a charm (it's obvious they have fun playing opposite each other) and the self-congratulatory "skip" he does into the Stephens' living room after seeing the elephant in the den is a hilarious stroke of brilliance.

Liz looks great, sporting several different looks here (especially her red suit with matching black pumps and purse) and a magical costume change which has always been a personal favorite of mine: "I'll wear my brown dress." Not only classic in its execution, but classic in it's result. The witchraft is flawless (check out Aunt Clara popping in with the toy elephant while the real elephant is present -- the real elephant hardly moves!), as are the sound effects and musical motifs (always tight and exciting, especially during this period.)

With Marion Lorne's warm and fabulous presence and the heartfelt care that is put into Aunt Clara and Samantha's extremely touching relationship, this episode proves that Dick York's absence practically goes unnoticed. At least for now.

GUEST STARS: Paul Reed, Steve Franken, Dodo Denny (Willy Wonka)

FAVE QUOTE: SAMANTHA: "Super Soapy Soap: The Soap your Skin loves to Sud!"
AUNT CLARA (to Sam): "Sometimes I think you're very vague, dear."

OOPS: In the opening scene, Sam explains to Clara she was measuring the gazebo to make room for a "rumpus room" even though she was nowhere near it earlier.
The "bank" looks an awful lot like Darrin's office!

LOOK FOR: At the bank, Hawkins refers to an undesirable couple who are not fit to receive a loan. Their name? The "Nelsons".Could this be an inside 'dig' at Jeannie and Tony?
Samantha always reacts kindly and sympathetically to Clara's befuddledness -- even when there is urgency and potential for disaster.
When Samantha is on the phone, it looks as if the elephant gooses her unexpectedly.
The elephant crashing through the "Girl With Broom" painting with expert bullseye precision -- and on cue!

LISTEN FOR: Clara's terrible incantation which she recites beautifully in spite of its non-rhyming ridiculousness: "Hear this wish, hear this chant. Tabitha wants an EL-A-FANT".

© Review Copyright 2008 by SCOTT VIETS

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