The Andy Griffith Show- Season 2/Episode 6: Opie’s Hobo Friend. November 13, 1961. 5 STARS OUT OF 5 STARS.
Another episode centered on Opie. Buddy Ebsen who the following year would become famous playing Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies- plays a hobo in this one who has a big influence on Opie. The episode begins with Andy and Opie leaving the car to head to the fishing hole. Epsen is heading their way and they have a conversation on how the fishing was etc. When Andy and Opie get out of site- David Browne [played by Epsen] reaches into the backseat and takes the bagged lunch they had made.
Flash forward- Andy and Opie are back from fishing and here comes Barney- with Browne. Browne had been hanging around the freight yard. Barney didn’t know that Browne and Andy were acquainted. Browne asks Andy for a coin and does a magic coin trick for Opie. While Andy at this point is looking at Browne as harmless and Opie is impressed- Barney wants to book him. Browne starts to leave- and Andy asks him for the coin back. Browne while a hobo- seems very smart and world wise but he’s not totally fooling Andy.
Next there is Opie out on the sidewalk with Browne. Browne is showing him another trick- how to get a gumball out of a gumball machine without paying. Browne is a slick talker for sure. Next we have Barney bringing Browne in for loitering. Andy says if Browne is employed he won’t be loitering and takes him home to do some trimming at the house.
The thing is Browne while smart and capable- is more interested in talking instead of doing. That evening instead of doing any work- sits with Opie and tells him the first step in doing work is thinking about it and planning it out and of course the best time to start a job is- tomorrow. Opie is clearly under his influence and begins to copy Browne’s actions and talk. He’s rubbing off on Opie. It isn’t until that evening when asked to clean his room and Opie replies ‘Tomorrow is the best time to start anything’- that it hits Andy where this attitude is coming from.
The next morning- Browne is outside and Opie starts on his way to school. Browne tells Opie that instead of doing the trimming- he’s going fishing instead. This gives Opie and idea- instead of going to school he throws his lunch and books under a bush and plays hooky. But he doesn’t count on Barney- Barney sees Opie playing hooky and brings him into the jail where Andy is. Barney knows where he got this idea- when Andy asks him- Opie isn’t talking.
Next the phone rings and there are reports that a chicken dinner was stole from one home and an apple pie from another. They know who is doing this- and of course Barney over reacts- he sees Browne as a dangerous outlaw. Andy is troubled by this but he knows what he’s dealing with.
Andy’s patience is now gone and he goes to pay Browne a visit- at a shack on the edge of town where he’s hanging out at. Browne is pretty out in the open about what he does. He admits to taking the chicken and pie- he doesn’t think its that big of a deal. He explains to Andy that ‘I live by my wits’ and knows how to ‘bend the law.’ When Andy tells him that the problem is -he’s a bad influence on Opie and he doesn’t want Opie growing up this way- Browne replies that he should let Opie decide. Andy wants him out. Andy is direct with him. Browne’s reply is ‘you’re the sheriff.’
The next scene is the best scene in the episode. Barney brings Browne in- for stealing a purse. Aunt Bee’s purse. Browne has had second thoughts obviously about the encounter with Andy on the influence he has on Opie. Browne admits to stealing Bee’s purse. Opie is there watching this and is finally seeing the light. Barney had put Browne in the jail cell when Opie walks up to him and asks him if he really did it. He gives Browne back a fishing lure that he had given him earlier and walks slowly out of the jail.
Andy then approaches Browne after Opie leaves and they had a conversation. Andy realizes what has happened here- Browne decided to ‘get in trouble’ to break the spell he had on Opie. Andy mentions to Browne had the purse he stole was something Bee had thrown into the trash earlier. We hear a train whistle and Andy tells Browne he has a train to catch. Andy is appreciative of what Browne in the end has done for him.
In the final scene we are back at the jail and Barney has a magic book and is trying to learn a coin trick- very unsuccessfully. Opie walks in and does the coin trick perfectly. Barney all the sudden decides he has to go on patrol duty. Andy eggs him on to do the coin trick for him and starts laughing- and an angry Barney storms out.
Another excellent season two episode. It’s interesting- in season 1 the aim seemed to be especially in the first half of the season to make Andy the star – he was over the top- it wasn’t working. Now- Andy while still getting a lot of scene time is becoming the star by being a more laid back figure. Epsen is excellent in this episode as the hobo. Not your typical hobo. I must also note that Andy during Browne’s time in Mayberry- treated Browne with respect. Ronny Howard as Opie- in a lot of shows the kids are just background but even at a young age Howard- as Opie- can more than hold his own and the relationship between Andy and Opie is along with the Andy- Barney relationship the key ones in the series.
Andy Griffith- Andy Taylor
Ronny Howard- Opie Taylor
Don Knotts- Barney Fife
Frances Bavier- Aunt Bee Taylor
Buddy Epsen- David Browne.
Directed by Bob Sweeney
Written by Harvey Bullock