Season 1, Episode 2: Knight of the Phoenix, Part 2
How can we tell Knight Rider was made in the early 1980’s? When Michael escorts a waitress to a demolition derby, and her young son Buddy immediately disappears, no one is worried. “He’ll turn up,” Michael says, showing off his crack investigative skills by turning his head slightly to the left for one second to look around. Such an innocent, carefree decade, when a young boy could wander away at a crowded auto race and nobody immediately jumped to the conclusion that he’d been abducted/run over.
Another sign of the 80’s: Michael often has the sleeves of his leather jacket pushed up to mid-forearm.
Anyway, in Part 2 of the series premiere, Michael Knight and KITT are hot on the trail of a gang of evil Silicon Valley masterminds who brutally murder cops, callously commit acts of industrial espionage, and fiendishly sponsor demolition derbies for charity. Michael and KITT have entered the race and Buddy, the irascible scamp that he is, has stowed away in KITT’s back seat and pops up mid-derby. KITT finally starts pulling his weight as a super-science car by driving on two wheels, which has the strange scientific side-effect of making Michael suddenly appear to be a heavyset middle-aged stunt driver wearing a giant black wig over a helmet.
More of KITT’s science powers are revealed during the derby, like oil slicks and smoke screens, plus the turbo boost (though it’s not called the turbo boost yet) which allows him to launch himself through the air as if flying off a ramp. All of the other cars get smashed up, Michael wins the race, and he tells the evil Tanya (the woman who shot him) that he’s interested in selling his science car, hoping to lure her into a trap. Tanya discusses it with her evil partner, and they agree that, yeah, Michael is definitely a cop.
Michael stops to use a pay phone (80’s!) to call Devon Miles, and the comical hoodlums from Part 1 show up and steal KITT. KITT drives them to a police station, where he demonstrates yet another power, the ability to throw ethnic caricatures out of himself using slide-whistle technology.
After some good-natured bickering that will become their hallmark, Michael and KITT head to a bar where Michael gets into a fight with all the other derby drivers. Another 80’s staple of television and film is utilized, as the fight is just a montage of goons getting thrown through doors, across tables, and onto floors, with no actual shots of punching. Michael is arrested and KITT is towed to COMTRON (the evil company) headquarters.
KITT escapes COMTRON by driving through a window, then bashes through the prison wall to free Michael. They drive back to COMTRON, and KITT ejects Michael onto a ten-story roof, this time silently (I guess the slide-whistle only works on minorities?). Michael reveals to Tanya that he is really Michael Long, and a security guard shoots him in the shoulder. He overpowers another guard named Baker and takes his uniform to fool everyone into thinking he is Baker, a clever ruse that works for literally zero seconds. Seriously, his plan fails so immediately it must be seen to be believed:
I love this for two reasons. First, it’s always good to see a classic good-guy plan shut down before it can begin. Secondly, the evil murdering boss is familiar enough with his security thugs that he not only knows their names, he can recognize their voices. It’s sweet. I bet every time he comes in for an evil day of work, he says “Morning, Baker! How’s Francine and little Emily?” And he’s genuinely interested, because he’s the evil boss who cares.
Michael escapes the building and is immediately captured by yet another guard, but KITT comes to the rescue. They drive to the airport to catch the evil COMTRON people, who send a fleet of evil truck drivers to intercept them, but KITT just turbo-boosts through one truck and over another. At the airport, Michael crashes KITT into the fleeing COMTRON jet, disabling it. Tanya runs over to KITT and tries to shoot Michael in the face again, but the bullet bounces off KITT’s window and kills her instead. The cops arrive and arrest all the bad people. Michael decides being a crime fighter with a talking car is a good idea, and the deceased Wilton Knight uses The Force to talk inside Michael’s head, reminding him that one man CAN make a difference.
In these episodes, KITT’s body and interior constantly look smudged and filthy. Will they hire someone to wipe him down between takes in later shows? Discuss.
Tally for the premiere episodes:
MICHAEL’S INCOMPETENCE: HIGH
He’s shot in the face, drives through a wall, falls asleep at the wheel, blows his cover, loses a boy, has his car stolen, gets arrested for brawling, allows KITT to be towed, gets shot again, strips a guard naked to steal his uniform and fools absolutely no one, and gets caught by another guard. Not a great start.
MICHAEL’S ROMANCE: LOW
Gets a kiss on the cheek from a waitress.
Collision detection, two-wheel driving, oil slick, smoke screen, turbo boost (x4), ejection system (with comical whistle for ethnics), bulletproof everything, dual sunroof