By Greg Boyd
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Season 2, Episode 2: “The Two Faces of Rob”
Original airdate: Oct. 3, 1962
“The Two Faces of Rob” might, to me, be the episode that solidifies just how much The Dick Van Dyke Show improved over the course of its first season. Unlike last week’s classic installment, this is very much a mid-range episode of Dick Van Dyke.The story is solid but nothing particularly inspired, and there aren’t really any memorable comic scenes. And yet it’s substantially better than the similar mid-range episodes of the first half of season one. Looking at the list of upcoming episodes, I’m not entirely sure that season two’s high points are considerably higher than those of season one, or even that there are more of them (although there are certainly a similar amount). But if the good but not great episodes are all as solid as this one, that’s where the improvement will really become apparent.
Those middling early season one episodes tended to be built on a handful of excellent comedic moments (Rob singing a German lullaby to Buddy’s dog, for instance). “The Two Faces of Rob” differs in that there are consistent—albeit generally only moderate—laughs throughout, largely courtesy of excellent work from Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke. The premise—as the writers are working on a sketch, Rob calls Laura and pretends to be an Italian named “Dr. Bonnelli” in order to prove his belief that someone can disguise their voice—is unremarkable, but it proves very effective in terms of generating humor. Initially Rob is thrilled that Laura has seemingly failed to recognize him, until he pauses to consider the fact that she was “flirting with a complete stranger”. The look on Van Dyke’s face as he says this is utterly priceless: one of his finest comic reactions to date. After that, he abruptly changes his tune, telling Sally and Buddy that he’s sure she did in fact recognize him.
But did she? When Rob returns home, he finds that she has prepared an Italian style dinner, and is in a romantic mood. And for quite a while, we’re not quite certain whether she’s messing with him, although Moore plays the scene in a way that leaves us pretty sure she is (at times all but winking at the camera), with hilarious results. Rob picks up on none of this, and his uncomfortable reactions are equally delightful. (Perhaps the best among them is the moment when he gags on a piece of garlic bread after she uses the word “carissima”.)
If “The Two Faces of Rob” never reaches the level of consistently hilarious, it’s also never less than very funny. Rob’s return to the office the next day is full of great lines, and some more terrific work from Van Dyke as he tries to figure out whether Laura is simply turning the tables on him after his initial call, much to the bemusement of Sally and Buddy. Meanwhile, Moore provides maybe the biggest laugh of the episode when—after another phone call from “Dr. Bonnelli” asking her out—she turns to Millie and casually says “that was Rob”.
From there, it’s basically just a few more scenes of Rob freaking out (at one point threatening to kill his alter ego, before realizing that he can’t), and then Laura getting the last laugh on him by getting him to admit what he did, then refusing to tell him whether she knew from the start. There are a few stellar lines—including Rob begging Laura to simply “let me live here”—and several more amazing facial expressions from both, plus a funny tag scene in which Laura mistakenly thinks Rob is calling her again. There’s not really anything missing from “The Two Faces of Rob”. It just never quite reaches that next level the way certain other episodes this season will.
- Okay, Sally’s spontaneous singing may have actually been the biggest laugh of the episode. Just so delightfully random.
- No Buddy insults in this one, but his joke about crossing a pigeon with a woodpecker is a gem: “The bird doesn’t only deliver the message, it knocks on the door”.
- Also loved him telling Rob that “I like the way your eyes light up when you go crazy”.
Next Week: “The Attempted Marriage”