Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Mysterious Disappearances of Ellie Walker and Warren Ferguson

During the first season of The Andy Griffith Show, Sheriff Andy Taylor was paired with Mayberry's pharmacist, Ellie Walker. Twelve episodes later, she was gone with no on-screen explanation. The two real life explanations given have the lack of chemistry between the actress, Elinor Donahue, and Andy Griffith. Donahue claims that she asked for a release in order to deal with personal issues.

via Mayberry Wiki
I'm a longtime fan of The Andy Griffith Show since I was a lad and I've never been a fan of the pairing because of the difference in age between Griffith and Donahue. Griffith was around 34, while Donahue was about 23. While eleven years isn't a huge deal, Griffith looked much older than his years, so it always seemed to me as if he were a middle-aged man rocking the cradle. But, eh, that's just me. I always thought him and Helen Crump were a much better pairing since they were closer in age, presumably.

Now, what's hilarious is that one apparent fan theory is that Ellie ditched both Andy and Mayberry to become of all things...a groupie. It's based on the sole fact that Ellie's last appearance on the show was an episode called "The Guitar Player Returns" wherein a guitar player reunites with his manager and band. The guitar player never appears on the show again. And neither does Ellie. The idea is that the town is sooo scandalized by her running off, that they decide as one never to mention her again.

[Overly dramatic zoom in]

Or maybe it was something more...sinister. What if Andy caught Ellie two-timing with the guitar player and the Sheriff Without a Gun became a Man with a Gun and a dead body. Could Ellie Walker be lying at the bottom of Myer's Lake, waiting for some hapless fisherman to accidentally reel her in? Is that why Andy abruptly moved out of state at the end of the eighth season?

[Cue X-Files music]

[Zoom out]

Or you know, not.

Then there's Warren Ferguson, the ill-fated replacement of Barney Fife after Don Knotts left the show after the fifth season. The character lasted only eleven episodes in the sixth season before being dropped from the show due in large part with his poor reception by the audience. Like with Ellie, there was never an onscreen explanation for the abrupt disappearance. His final episode was "Wyatt Earp Rides Again", an episode about a guy who's deceived by his manager into thinking he's a descendant of the legendary lawman.

I always liked the Sam Browne belt, though.
via Wikipedia.
Now, Warren did get fired in one episode called "Girl-Shy" where it's revealed that he sleepwalks and tries to act like a Casanova modeled after his favorite actor. Andy ends up firing him because keeps going after Helen whenever he sleepwalks and he refuses to tell Andy about his condition for fear of ostracization. Because apparently getting handsy with your boss's girlfriend wouldn't. This was about six episodes before Warren's final appearance, and the episode ends with Andy finally finding out about the sleepwalking, so he unfired him.

I think Warren's unpopularity was due largely from the fact that many of his episodes were originally written before Knotts left The Andy Griffith Show and rather than rewrite those parts to make them original to Warren, the writers presumably did just enough editing to not make the character come off as an out and out clone of Barney. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough and Warren was probably seen by fans of the show as a discount store knockoff of the more popular and beloved bumbling deputy.

So what might have happened to Warren? It's worth noting that Warren was also the nephew of Floyd, the town barber and one of Andy's friends. If Andy fired Warren later on, then that would have damaged that friendship and there was no apparent coldness between the two after Warren left, so he likely wasn't fired. Also, when Don Knotts left the show, it was explained that Barney had gotten a job with the police department in Raleigh, North Carolina. Maybe Warren left for the same reason?

[Overly dramatic zoom in]

Or maybe it was something more...nefarious. Maybe Warren liked getting handsy with Helen and Andy decided that one more body wouldn't matter.

[X-Files music again]

[Zoom out]

Or maybe it wasn't. What's odd is that after Warren, Andy had no full-time deputy, relying instead on Goober whenever he needed a deputy. I'd say that maybe the town cut his budget, but in "A Visit to Barney Fife", Andy mentions to Barney that his former job is still open. The context is that Andy finds out from Barney's boss that he's going to be fired for his bumbling nature, so maybe Andy was offering him his old job back with the idea that he could arm twist or cajole the town council into upping his budget to pay Barney's salary.

In any case, I don't think either Ellie Walker or Warren Ferguson count as victims of the Chuck Cunningham Syndrome because while they're never mentioned after their final appearances, they're never explicitly written out of the show's continuity. No, I think they exist in that strange abyss of television populated by characters that are abruptly dumped and never heard of again. One day they will find a way out and roam the Earth, seeking their hellish revenge on us all.

Or not.

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