Equal Time (well, not quite) for Andy Taylor's other Deputy Sheriff on The Andy Griffith Show

Otis the Artist
original airdate: January 3, 1966


In this episode, we are introduced to the hitherto unknown artistic talents of Warren Ferguson. In the first scene, Warren gives Opie and Goober the honor of watching him in action at his easel which he set up in the back room of the courthouse. He is creating a sailboat out of mosaic tiles. Opie underestimates the talent necessary to create such a work of art: "And all you do is just paste those little tiles on?" Slightly miffed, Warren makes sure Opie knows "there's a little more to it than that."

Inspired by Warren's enthusiasm, Goober asks Warren if he could put on one of the tiles. After some persistence on the part of Goober, a reluctant Warren agrees. Goober, of course, having no sense of complementary colors despite studying art in Bible school, puts a blue tile right among the white tiles making up the sail. Warren admonishes him for ruining the picture and Goober storms out but not before venting to Andy, who arrived to pick up the mail, "That Warren thinks he knows everything!"

Andy walks to the back and listens to Warren's testimonial on mosaics: "It's done wonders for me, a real safety valve. I get lost in the darn thing and it eases the pressures." Warren thinks Andy should take up the hobby; he tells the sheriff, "The trouble with you is you're, uh, one of these fellows that's always, uh, well, you know, calm on the outside but on the inside you're stewing all the time, huh? huh? huh?" Of course the more Warren badgers Andy, the more Andy proves Warren's point that he is hiding his emotions. "Yes you are," Warren exclaims, "you just blew your top." Andy takes Opie out of the back room. Opie asks Andy if he can get a mosaic kit to ease the pressures of school because "even kids need a valve."
[Note: Despite his father's initial refusal, Opie ends up getting his mosaic kit and Andy will ask him sarcastically, "How's your pressure?"]

Mosaics Demonstration
Goober about to ruin Warren's sailboat.

That night, an intoxicated bum stumbles down the street playing with his dog "Spot," a dog that is a little on the invisible side not unlike "Blackie," the pretend horse little Opie had in the episode Mr. McBeevee. Warren looks puzzled at the inebriate as he stammers into the courthouse. The drunkard complains that "his" cell is locked. Warren intervenes that the cell does not belong to him and asks the boozer his name. After some thought, the dipsy-doodler introduces himself as "Otis Campbell." Warren has heard of the infamous town lush but this is their first meeting. Warren announces that, as the new deputy, things will be different; Otis will no longer be allowed to sleep off his self-induced affliction in the jail while Warren is on duty. There will be no more "molly coddling." Otis does not take the news well and creates a fuss about being escorted out to the point of taking swings at Warren. Warren throws him in cell #1 for assaulting an officer.

Otis & his dog have only one
chance to make a first impression.
Watch out!
"Can I help you?"
Warren at your service.
Watch out!
The well-trained lawman readies
himself for Otis's vicious attack.

Warren comes by the Taylors' the next morning as Andy and Aunt Bee are eating breakfast. The deputy informs them that "Otis checked in" the night before. With a nod, Andy affirms, "Well, it's Friday." Warren has given the matter much thought: "The way I understand it, he's a hard-working, industrious citizen from Monday morning to Friday night and then comes the weekend and, uh...[makes 'drinky, drinky' motion]." Andy agrees with Warren's assessment; so Warren asks, "Have you ever wondered why, Andy?" Andy offers a simple explanation: "I like fishing, you like mosaics, he likes drinkin'... Nothing you can do about it." Presenting an alternative point of view, Warren believes Otis uses drinking as a safety valve and proposes introducing Otis to a "new valve": mosaics. Andy, as usual, is skeptical, but Aunt Bee thinks it's "a very good idea." Warren points out to Andy (somewhat redundantly) that "your modern prisons are not only to incarcerate, they're also to rehabilitate, too." In a sarcastic tone, Andy grants Warren permission to try his valve theory. After Warren leaves, Aunt Bee comments that Warren "shows a feeling for others."

Valve Theory
Warren discusses his valve theory.

Back in the cell, Warren wakes up Otis and forces him to drink a "prairie oyster" consisting of sassafras roots, molasses, a raw egg, and hot sauce. Otis is certain he will hate it until he tries it and gulps it down commenting on its "zip." Warren then introduces something else that repels Otis at first: a mosaic kit. Otis does not want to try it or "cure his problem." Warren explains to Otis that he is "at the crossroads," but Otis emphatically refuses. Warren ups the ante; he will no longer allow Otis in the Mayberry jail and, when Otis says he'll go to Mt. Pilot or Siler City, Warren threatens to "blacklist" him in every jail within 500 miles. The jail being a second home to the drunk, Otis has no choice but to comply.

Andy starts his day at the office and finds Otis alone in his cell working away with the tiles. Andy explains that "Warren's kind of new here and there's a lot of things he doesn't understand." Andy assumes Otis will leave at the first chance but, when he tells Otis he's free to go whenever he wants, Otis keeps working on his picture and begins to whistle.

Later, at the Taylors', Warren talks about the upcoming art class and tries to persuade a disinterested Andy to go. Otis arrives with a pastoral scene he made for Andy which features a large, cartoonish chocolate cow [perhaps it gives chocolate milk] standing next to a tree. Andy and Aunt Bee pretend to like it and Warren compliments Otis for his "wonderful effort." Otis asks where Andy is going to hang it. Andy passes the buck to Aunt Bee who suggests upstairs in the hallway. Otis is visibly disappointed so Warren suggests the spot above the fireplace and even takes down the painting already there ("The Angelus" by Jean-Francois Millet) and replaces it with the Otis original. Pleased, the seemingly reformed drunk leaves. Andy displays his dismay to Warren but the deputy explains that Otis is at the crossroads and, without the proper encouragement, "he'll toss the whole thing aside and go right back where he was." Warren then has an epiphany [I've always wanted to use that word]; he decides to have Otis be a guest speaker at the next evening's art class to "let our visitors hear what art can do for a person." Later, Warren even convinces Goober, the dimmest of philistines, to forgo The Monster That Ate Minnesota in order to go to the class, thus spreading culture throughout the social strata of Mayberry.

Warren finds the perfect
place for the Otis original.
Art display
Warren introduces art to
even the dimmest of philistines.

Warren looking very dapper
for his art presentation.

Before leaving for the class, Andy glares at the Campbell creation and makes up his mind that "there's a limit to what one man ought to go through for another." He takes down the picture and puts it in the closet. Ten minutes after the Taylors leave for the class, Otis comes by and notices his masterpiece is gone. The always honest Opie lets Otis know the new, inglorious location of his work of art. Otis leaves very hurt.

At the class, Aunt Bee finishes her presentation on water colors and introduces Warren's "Fascinating World of Mosaics." Warren comes to the podium visibly nervous as his guest speaker has yet to arrive. After discussing his medium, he explains that he planned on a surprise speaker but, "I guess he surprised me" [cute play on words]. As Warren sums up his presentation, Otis staggers onto the stage with his invisible mutt. An embarrassed Warren tries to whisk Otis off the stage, but the lush insists on having his say: "Every artist has got to know how to have a failure...I know the reason for my failure and so from now on things are going to be different." He then leaves for his "studio."

A day and a half after the ugly incident, Warren is worried. The deputy has not heard from Otis since that ignominious display and even called jails from neighboring towns to find out if the drunk gave his business elsewhere. He then beams when he hears Otis's slurred singing. Otis enters the courthouse this time with a real dog [of course, Otis can't see this dog]. Andy apologizes for removing his picture, but Otis understands and presents an impressive bungalow and palm tree scene made from tiles. Otis announces that he's finally discovered the secret to real art; he does his best work when he's "just a little gassed." Warren is not happy when Otis claims to now have two hobbies.

In the epilogue, it appears Warren's interest in mosaics rubs off on Andy after all. Opie is working on his outdoor scene and Andy takes over the project insisting on using blue tiles in an area of the picture instead of Opie's choice of green. Of the 'Warren 11,' this episode is one of three where Warren does not appear in the closing scene (the other two being Off to Hollywood and The Church Organ).

"I did plan to have a surprise speaker
tonight; but, I guess he surprised me."
Otis returns
Warren is happy to see Otis back
until he finds out he's combined "hobbies."

Yes, you read it right. Warren Ferguson is often criticized by TAGS fans for using his "huh-huh-huh" gimmick too much, so the people at The Revenge of Warren Ferguson (actually, just the one person) have counted EVERY SINGLE "huh?" Warren said during each of his 11 episodes on TAGS to finally set the record straight. Every "huh?" is counted whether it follows a question with the rapid-fire "huh-huh," "huh-huh-huh", or the rare "huh-huh-huh-huh", or whether it is used as part of an observation or conversation (i.e. the sentence "You must think we're real idiots, huh?") Only if it is part of the word "uh-huh" was a "huh" not counted. Did Warren say too many "huhs"? Check the counter and decide for yourself.

7 Huh?s

Note: Includes 1 "huh-huh-huh," said very creatively with a nice use of complementary colors.


Warren Almost Succeeded

Warren lets Otis know he is "O-U-T, Out!" of the jail
system surrounding Mayberry if he does not cooperate.

Several episodes of The Andy Griffith Show dealt with getting Otis on the wagon. Warren was closer to succeeding than anyone else in the series. Otis claimed to have reformed in Aunt Bee the Warden, announcing that he would never touch the sauce again for fear of returning to "The Rock," his name for the Taylors' house with Aunt Bee bossing him around. There was no foundation to this claim and no proof his sobriety lasted beyond stepping off the Taylors' front porch.

An even more doomed attempt was in the episode
The Rehabilitation of Otis. After reading a 25 cent magazine on psychology, Barney thought he was expert enough to dive into Otis's psyche and discover why he drinks. The Rorschach test Barney conducted was a complete disaster and Barney and Otis ended up arguing over whether one of the ink blots was a bat or butterfly. Barney then acted as Otis's sponsor and asked Otis to call him whenever he experienced a craving for alcohol. When answering his late-night call only to discover Otis already drunk and riding a cow, Barney arrested him. Otis was so angry, he left to give his "business" to the Mt. Pilot jail. Andy and Barney ended up driving all the way to Mt. Pilot, when they should have been patrolling their own jurisdiction, to beg the town lush to return. Barney promised Otis that he could come back to "everything just like it always was"; in other words, Otis would have his run of the jail [giving in to an alcoholic's demands is probably not the best way to help him conquer his problem]. Barney actually ended up crying over Otis's departure while holding the drunk's bathrobe [now that's down right pathetic].

Warren's tactics were far less harsh than Aunt Bee's or Barney's; plus, his "valve theory" presented a positive reinforcement. Instead of threatening him with hard labor at "The Rock," or frustrating him with psychological tests, Warren tried to get Otis interested in an enjoyable new hobby. Unlike Barney, Warren was also ready for Otis's predictable response to go to prisons in other counties. His "blacklist" threat forced Otis to try mosaics or lose his home away from home. This strategy actually worked. The only reason Otis fell off the wagon again was because Andy could not stand to have an old friend's artwork that was made especially for him on his wall for even one day.

Andy's Apathetic Attitude

Sometimes it takes an outsider to look at a situation and come up with innovations that insiders may never have thought possible. Andy would admit as much to the meddling yet, at that time, helpful Clara in Opie's Group. At this point in the series, Andy was comfortable with the status quo. In fact, even in the beginning, he was very easy on Otis to the point of giving him a birthday party in his cell in The Inspector. Barney was frustrated at how Andy molly coddled Otis, citing it as one of his areas of disagreement with the sheriff in Andy on Trial. Andy was rescind to believe that Otis would never change and will even tell the drunk he has given up on him in Otis the Deputy.

Andy's quote, "Warren's kind of new here and there's a lot of things he doesn't understand," deserves special mention. I guess, in Mayberry, it needs to be understood that Otis will always be the town drunk and, with this special distinction, should be catered to like a hotel guest at the jail. As someone "new" to Mayberry, Warren saw things differently. At first he took the hard-line but then, after considering the matter, attempted an innovative theory to help Otis lead a richer life thus going "not so much by the book but by the heart" as was the lesson Andy taught Barney. Andy definitely needed a fresh look at his town through the eyes of an ambitious and compassionate new deputy. If Andy had cooperated a little more, Otis may have chosen the better path when he was at "the crossroads." Warren does not get enough credit for his part in this episode.

Fitting into Mayberry Society

Warren Works
Samples of Warren's works of art. I don't
like clowns, but that's a cool cat!

This episode, and also The Church Organ, demonstrated that the Boston native fit very well into the Mayberry social scene. Not only that, he showed he could help enrich the lives of some of Mayberry's most well-known residents. He was involved in the Mayberry art class, sharing a love for art with Aunt Bee. He put on a presentation at the class that might even have included out-of-towners in the audience (Warren, thus, was representing Mayberry to these visitors). If Otis actually showed up to the class sober and told his story, he would have, thanks to Warren's influence, given the visitors, what Warren might call, "one of your unforgettable moments." On a local level, Warren convinced Andy, the town stick-in-the-mud; Otis, the town drunk; and Goober, the town, well, Goober, to go to the class thus bringing culture throughout the social fabric of Mayberry. If he was allowed more time in the series, Warren may have been involved in other Mayberry social events and touched many more lives.

Warren's "Feeling for Others"

Otis makes a travishamockery of Warren's program.
Warren will hold no grudges for this ugly scene.

As Aunt Bee noticed, Warren demonstrated a "feeling for others" during his short tenure in Mayberry. Nowhere was this more apparent than at the end of Otis the Artist. Otis humiliated Warren at the art class. When Otis rambled through his alcohol-soaked speech, an embarrassed Warren turned his head away from Otis and the audience. Warren was trapped in an uncomfortable predicament at an event which meant so much to him because of Otis's inconsiderateness and self-centeredness. When Otis gushed out the word "mooosaics" as if he were about to vomit, one could detect agony in Warren's voice ("Oh Otis, please") and on his face. Otis, an underachieving slob Warren was trying to help, was making a mockery of a very important part of Warren's life that the deputy hoped to share with others. After such ignominy, Warren was still concerned for Otis's safety and called jails in other towns to find out where he was. When Otis returned, Warren showed no ill-will towards the drunk, only empathy and a bright smile in seeing his new friend back. Warren was a better man than most.

You want to check out the next episode, don't ya?
huh? huh? huh?
Sure ya do!

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