Welcome back friends and fellow GT fans. It’s time for another review. This episode is entitled ‘The Houseguest’. An old friend of James shows up, claiming he owns a successful grocery store but, in fact, he is a compulsive gambler and broke. Hope you enjoy the review.
The Evans family are relishing over the huge supply of ham they had. (why couldn’t it be the chicken from the previous episode they planned on having with Girdie Vincent). James goes to answer the door and it’s Ernie Harris, a childhood friend of Mississippi. He referred to James as “Patches”, his nickname as a child (James was so poor he wore patches on his pants). Ernie claimed he was in Chicago on business and dropped in to say hello. Florida offered him some ham and he had a meal with them. Then he excused himself to check in a hotel and James and Florida insisted he stayed with them. They gave Ernie their bedroom while Florida moved in with Thelma and James moved onto the couch with Michael and J.J..
James found it extremely difficult sharing the couch with the boys, especially J.J.. He insisted on sleeping on the left side while James slept on the right with Michael in the middle, claiming he was getting crushed. James moved into the middle but J.J. complained that he was used to sleeping next to Michael, shifting over and putting J.J. in the middle. When J.J. and Michael were saying good-night to each other and James, this caused him to almost blow a fuse and yell out a very stern knock it off. He said the only sound he wanted to hear was his own snoring. There was a knock on the door and when J.J. answered, two evil looking thugs grabbed him and shoved him around the hallway until James came out and stopped them. They were looking for Ernie to collect a debt he owed them.
The hoods stated that Ernie rolled cold dice for $5,000 and took off before paying the debt. James said he hasn’t seen or heard from Ernie but J.J. let it slip that he was there. James then confessed he came by, said hello and good-bye, and then took off (truth was, Ernie did go out claiming he had a business meeting). Just as they were leaving, Ned The Wino came out of the elevator and accused James of having a pajama party and declining to invite him (this was probably done to add some comedic relief to a relatively intense scene). The next morning, James confronted Ernie about the incident and he admitted to his gambling addiction, the previous evening he lost his ring to a dice game. Willona came in to borrow their valued salt and pepper shakers (a gift from Ernie’s parents) for a party she had that evening. When Florida went to get them for her, she found them missing. It turned out Ernie took them and was on his way to pawn them. The family confronted him about his evil habit and he denied having a problem. He also admitted his wife hassled him over it and left with their two kids. James also realized he lost his grocery store to gambling as well. Then he challenged Ernie to take them and reminded him if he took those, he was one sick man. He left, but came right back and took the salt and pepper shakers, promising he’d give them back with interest.
Original airdate February 18, 1975
Written by Elon Pickard, John Fenton Murray, Norman Paul and Jack Elinson
Directed by Herbert Kenwith
Guest Stars Thalmus Rasulala, Ernie Barnes, Ernie Wheelwright, Raymond G. Allen (2nd appearance)
This is the second episode in a row that deals with harsh reality. This one is about the evils of gambling and, same as alcoholism and drug abuse, can control and consume one’s life. What I always revered about Good Times was, in addition to being funny, the morals the show taught. It displayed that not having much money does not necessarily make a person turn to crime, or, sink to desperate measures in order to survive.