Season 1, Episode 8
Episode 8 of 78
Network NBC
Air date February 25, 1994 (USA)
March 19, 1995 (Germany)
Written by Don Kurt (Story)
Bruce E. Kalish (Teleplay)
Directed by Bruce Bilson
Guest stars: Richard Bradford (Special Guest Star)
Patricia Charbonneau
Bryan Cranston
Bill Macy
Episode Guide
The Face
Past Tense

Wheels of Fire is the eighth episode of Viper. It first aired on NBC on February 25, 1994.

Plot Edit

A new subway terminal is being built in Metro City, with the paper, Metro News Daily, also mentioning that Baxley's factory ruins are to be cleared. Two construction workers are then seen underground at the old factory, as they discover a secret access. They go inside to explore, and discover that they're in the Baxley basement. The workers come across a cover, which they remove, discovering an old car.

Meanwhile, at Julian Wilkes' company, Wilkes Technologies, Julian's secretary, Carla (Maria Canals) takes a call from Frankie Waters, who asks her to tell Julian to call him as soon as he arrives, just as Ella Keats (Charbonneau) comes in. A few seconds later, Julian arrives and greets Ella, whom he hadn't seen in 5-6 years.

In his office, Ella presents Julian with her newest invention - a new, revolutionized car battery, and asks him to verify her theories, as a seal of approval from him would help her immensely, as she has a conference with some potential investors. She had already received an offer from Berlin Petroleum, though Julian tells her that Berlin Petroleum has a somewhat tainted reputation. Just then, Carla tells him Frankie is calling again, so Julian accepts the call from Frankie.

Frankie tells Julian about the Baxley, and Julian wants to see it. Frankie then tells Julian to come by the Motorpool after hours. In the night, Julian also calls Joe Astor, who is driving along in the Viper, telling him to come over to the Motorpool. So, that night at the Motorpool, Joe, Julian, Frankie and Ella admire the Baxley, though Frankie can't start it up, as the car has a digital ignition switch, requiring a secret code. Joe then takes Ella home, where she invites him over to her press conference tomorrow.

The scene then cuts to Jack (Macy) pouring whiskey into glasses, telling Garrett (Cranston), the son of his former employer, that the negotiations with Ella over her new battery were not successful yet. Garrett then also tells him about the Baxley, which could implicate both Jack and Garrett's father.

The next day, Ella gives a conference, after which, she is approached by a mysterious stranger (Bradford), who suggests her not to do a deal with Berlin Petroleum. Later, Ella is approached by Garrett Berlin - the head of Berlin Petroleum, offering an investment, and also Howard Simpson (Douglas Rowe), an East Coast philanthropist. After Joe and Julian leave, as Ella is discussing Simpson's offer, Travis (David Parry), one of Garrett's henchmen, walks by him, then accidentally bumps into a man nearby and ends up tripping onto Simpson, before excusing himself and leaving. As Simpson asks Ella for a lunch, he suddenly suddenly collapses.

Meanwhile at the Motorpool, Frankie is singing to himself happily, when suddenly, someone starts up the Baxley and drives off. Just as Joe and Julian get in the Viper, they get a distress call from Frankie. They head out to intercept it, and get a call on Frankie that the Baxley had been noticed by some patrol cars. Spotting the Baxley in traffic, Joe and Julian chase after it. As Joe is about to hit the Baxley with static pulse, the Baxley's driver suddenly pushes a button on the steering wheel, spraying out an oil slick from the behind, causing Viper to slip. Julian then sends out the Probe to follow the Baxley. They are able to find the house the Baxley arrived at. They recognize the driver as the man who pulled Ella over at the conference earlier. The mysterious man, noticing the probe, recognizes it as Julian's, and invites him and Joe inside, introducing himself as Preston Baxley.

Baxley tells Joe and Julian that when he built the first Baxley, many major automakers had offered him partnerships, but he turned them down, being stubborn and arrogant in his independence. However, Berlin Petroleum - then run by Jonathan Berlin, worried about his car's high mileage, started to pressure him by both offering him money and later threatening him. When he wouldn't buck under the pressure, Berlin convinced his investors that his car was unsafe, causing the collapse of Baxley Motors, and taking over the factory, intending to jump his car. Not wanting them to have his car, but not wanting to destroy it, he made sure the factory was empty, then hid the car in the factory's basement and planted explosive charges. However, his wife, then 8 months pregnant, then came to see him, probably to try and talk some sense into him, but just as she walked inside the building, the factory exploded.

In the night, Joe arrives at Ella's house, just as Travis is about to make a hit on her. Just then, Travis blows up Ella's car. After ensuring she is alright, Joe drives to see Baxley, and they have heart-to-heart talk, about Joe having lost Elizabeth Houston (his girlfriend from Pilot), when his old gang killed her by blowing up her house when he wouldn't deliver them the Viper.

The next day, Frankie arrives into the Lair, having just gotten a copy of the coroner's report, revealing that Howard Simpson didn't die of a heart attack, but by fugu poisoning. He also tells Joe and Julian that he learned from Ella's file that she is an orphan, and was placed into her first foster home as an infant around the same time Baxley's wife was killed in the explosion, and then she had recieved a trust fund connected to Jack Surber, the Vice President of Berlin Petroleum. Baxley Motors explosion was reported by Jack himself, having witnessed it himself. Joe deduces that Ella could be Baxley's daughter.

In Garrett's office, Garrett accepts Jack's resignation, just as Ella walks in, telling him that she will not surrender despite his petty tactics, and will not sell her battery. Garrett then pulls out a gun. In the parking garage, just as Jack puts his briefcase in the trunk of his car, Baxley arrives in his car, almost running him over. Jack explains to Baxley that he took his wife to the company doctor, and while the doctor couldn't save her, he was able to save the child. However, before Jack can tell Baxley who his daughter is, he is shot by Travis, who then brings Baxley to Garrett. Seeing Garrett is holding Ella hostage, Baxley offers to make a copy of her battery in exchange of her freedom. Garrett agrees.

Arriving at Ella's home, Joe discovers Baxley just coming out of the house with the battery. Joe finally manages to convince Baxley that Ella is his daughter, and they quickly concoct a plan. Baxley delivers the battery to Garrett, who, however, double-crosses him, telling him that his own engineers will dissect the information. Baxley then pull a gun on Garrett, telling him to release Ella. He unties her from the chair, but just then, takes her hostage, threatening to snap her neck. However, outside, Julian is spying on them with the Probe. Then Travis comes in and disarms Baxley. Garrett then decides to have Travis shoot them as a "couple of competitors, who broke into Berlin Petroleum in an attempt of industrial espionage, but fortunately they were shot by the securityman". However, Travis sees the Probe and attempts to shoot at it, just before Joe busts in, gun drawn. Travis attempts to stab Joe with the tip of his ring containing the fugu poison, but Joe fights him off, while Baxley fights with Garrett. However, Garrett manages to escape. Joe chases after him, while Baxley reveals to Ella that she is his daughter and they embrace.

Joe chases Garrett through the Berlin Petroleum industrial complex in the Viper, and disables Garrett's car by firing the static pulse at him, causing him to crash into a tank; then he pulls Garrett out of the car, just before the car explodes.

At Baxley's house, Joe, Julian, Ella and Baxley talk. Baxley then reveals that he talked to Howard Simpson's widow, who wants to carry on his work and fund them.

Trivia Edit

  • The German title for the episode is "Der Prototyp" - "The Prototype".
  • When the episode first aired in Germany in 1995, it aired in its right slot as the 8th episode, but instead, it followed Episode 9 - Past Tense and preceded Episode 10 - Scoop.
  • The Baxley is a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, which was later modified by George Barris into Batmobile for the 1966-1968 Batman TV series. The car used in the episode is a replica made by Bob Butts in early 1990s.
  • As a reference to Futura being used as the Batmobile, when Joe asks "What is this, Frankie, did you actually trade in the Cuda for a current model?" - in the German dub, Joe instead asks "Was ist los, Frankie, hast du dein Barracuda gegen Batmans wagen eingetauscht?" - "What's up, Frankie, did you trade in the Cuda for Batman's car?"
  • In episode 5 - Firehawk, Julian mentions that he's been thinking of setting up a research & development company so he'll have a legitimate front and a steady income. In the same episode, his loan application was rejected. However, in that episode, he now has set up the company, named Wilkes Technologies.
  • The Baxley is described by Frankie as "thirty-some years old". The Lincoln Futura was built in 1955.
  • As a child, The Baxley was the first model car Julian (and Ella) ever built.

Quotes Edit

Carla: (To Ella) May I help you?
Ella: (Hands her a business card) Yes, I'm Ella Keats, I'd like to see Julian Wilkes, please?
Carla: (Chuckles) Wouldn't we all.
Ella: Excuse me?
Carla: I try to keep him to a regular schedule, but he keeps coming and going at the oddest hours! I never know when to expect him!
Julian: (Wheels in) Carla, could you make come copies of these for me, please? (Hands her the papers)
Carla: How long have you been here?
Julian: About an hour, I came in the back way.

Julian: (To Carla) Any messages?
Carla: Yes, that friend of yours called again, you know, the loud one, Mr...
Julian: Waters, Franklin X. On a matter of some urgency.
Carla: He claims it's ultra-urgent.
Julian: It's never anything less.

Julian: (About the car battery) How's the range?
Ella: Up to 500 miles, on a single 2-hour charge, based on a constant cruising speed of 55 mph.
Julian: I'm impressed. But then, even when you were just my lowly research assistant, I saw great things ahead for you.
Ella: Thanks, Julian.
Julian: You shouldn't have a problem in getting any backers
Ella: Oh, sure, you and I may believe it will work, but try convincing the public, or Wall Street.

Julian: (Answers Frankie's call) What?
Frankie: They found the Baxley!
Julian: What?
Frankie: That's right, Julian, the only four-wheel work of art that ranges right up there with the Rosetta Stone, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Shroud of Turin. And it's in perfect showroom condition! Yeah... showroom itself, though, lacks its usual appeal.
Julian: Frankie, I have to see that car!
Frankie: Of course you do. I'm having it towed down to the Motorpool. Come by tonight, after hours. I gotta go, okay? (Hangs up) Hey, hey! I want the kid's love treatment on it! I find one scratch on her and you guys are gonna be changing the oil in a meter maid car for the rest of your careers. Capisce?

Ella: (Hearing The Baxley has been found) So when do we get to see it?
Julian: We? Oh, I don't think I can...
Ella: Julian, if you do not let me see this car, I will be forced to kill you.

(The Viper's car phone rings)
Joe: Yeah?
Julian: Hey Joe, it's Julian.
Joe: Julian, what's up?
Julian: Look, I need to meet with you right away.
Joe: Now?
Julian: Yeah, yeah, it's about The Baxley. Can you do it?
Joe: Okay, okay, I'll... I meet you at the Motorpool.
Julian: Yeah, that's just where I'm gonna be. I'll see you there.
Joe: Later. (Hangs up) What the hell's a Baxley?

Frankie: (Polishing the Baxley) Can I tell you somethin'? I feel like the guy who touched up the Sistine Chapel.
Joe: (Comes in) What is this, Frankie, did you actually trade in the Cuda for a current model?
Frankie: Joe, this is the only automobile that would tempt me to make such an exchange. And believe it or not, this car is thirty-some years old.
Joe: So, this is the Bixley?
Ella: (Laughs) No, the Baxley!

(Joe, Julian, Frankie and Ella are admiring the Baxley at the Motorpool)
Julian: Well, start her up!
Frankie: I can't. It's got some kind of digital ignition switch, you gotta punch in a secret code. Was this guy ahead of his time or what?

Julian: Ella's an automotive research scientist, I'm doing some consulting with her on a battery she's developed.
Joe: Really? If I'd ever imagined a female version of Julian Wilkes ... it wouldn't have been you.
Ella: Thank you. I think.

Joe: Gotta give that Baxley guy credit though. Really is a beautiful car.
Ella: It was way ahead of its time. And in a lot of ways, it still is.
Joe: Why wasn't it ever on the streets?
Ella: You sound like you've never heard of Preston Baxley before tonight.
Joe: I haven't.
Julian: Well, he was an inspiration to me, he was the reason I wanted to build cars.
Frankie: The man is a demi-god, if you will.
Ella: Baxley designed for a number of auto companies in the fifties, and then he started his own firm so he could create his car of the future. But he only built one prototype.
Julian: Yeah, then the company collapsed under a financial scandal, the car never went into production.
Frankie: That's the official story. Dig this, Joe - that was some thirty years ago, right? The Baxley got a good 60 miles to the gallon. Rumor was that some oil company trumped up the whole deal, so Baxley's little gas-miser wouldn't put a dent into his profits.
Ella: Well, whatever the reason, Baxley went off the deep end when they destroyed his dreams. He blew up his factory, killing himself and his pregnant wife.

Julian: Come on, Ella, I'll drive you home.
Joe: That's all right, Julian, I'll be happy to do that. After all, Ella's place is a lot closer to mine than yours.
Ella: I don't recall giving you my address, Joe.
Joe: No, but it's just that Julian lives far... from everyone. Right?
Julian: Oh. Right, right, it's way up in the hills.
Frankie: And over the river and through the trees. With a moat.
Ella: Well, I'll better ride with you then.
(Joe and Ella leave)
Julian: A moat?
Frankie: Too much?

Jack: (Pouring whisky into glasses) You want a shot, Travis?
Garrett: Come on, Jack, you know Travis doesn't drink.
Jack: Yeah, Travis doesn't do a lot of anything. Doesn't work, doesn't talk, just watches those stupid fish. It gives me the creeps.
Garrett: Then he does to something. So, where do we stand on the Keats' battery negotiations?
Jack: They gave her your offer, she said she'd consider it.
Garrett: Then you haven't closed the deal?
Jack: No, she made some other demands. She wants to be reassured that she'll retain her rights.
Garrett: Look, everything has a price tag. And everyone. All it needs is stepping up the pressure, Jack. Forget it, I think I'll negotiate this deal myself.
Jack: I'm not gonna let you strong arm her. That way of business died with your father.
Garrett: You know, Jack, for an old boy of your mileage, that's an amazingly naïve comment.
Jack: I'll be in my office.
Garrett: Oh Jack, by the way, did you hear the news this morning? Seems your old pal Preston Baxley left a souvenir, hidden beneath the ruins of his factory. Are you ready, Jack? It's the car.
Jack: The Baxley?
Garrett: Yes. All the media's jumping all over this, they've been into the news morgues, they've asked MetroPol for their old files. Oh, Jack, that's right. If I were you, I would keep those heart pills of yours handy. Finding that automobile just might open that 30-year old can of worms that you and my late father thought was sealed forever.

Baxley: I would like to give you some advice. There are people from Berlin Petroleum here. If they offer a partnership, decline.
Ella: Are you an investment counsellor?
Baxley: Just a student of history.

Garrett: I think we can take care of your financial worries.
Ella: I'm not a cheap ticket, Mr. Berlin.
Garrett: Good, I've always admired women with high expense. They have intent.
Ella: Everyone has intent, Mr. Berlin. Your offer is quite generous, but I still have some questions.
Garrett: Such as?
Ella: Well, why back a device that could cost oil companies like yours billions in revenue?
Garrett: That's a good question. You see, our business isn't just oil, it's energy. And these days, one either diversifies or gets left in the dust. Listen, why don't you stop by my office later? The only thing that contract needs is your signature.
Ella: Thanks, Mr. Berlin, I'll think about it.
Garrett: Miss Keats, I sincerely hope that you'll make that right decision. No one else is going to invest in a project with such high risk.
Howard: Now that's not entirely true. I have a check that's burning a hole in my pocket, and I'd like to talk to you, young lady. Would you excuse us?
Garrett: Certainly.
Howard: I'd like you meet a couple of my associates.
Garrett: Jack, who's that man?
Jack: Howard Simpson, East Coast philanthropist.
Garrett: Travis, I think it's time we level the playing field here.

Frankie: (Singing to himself) Found a new car, gonna make it shine
What was theirs, is now mine
Never thought I'd feel so good
Finders keepers, losers... (Sees the Baxley starting up and driving off) Hey!

Frankie: Guys, I am in big trouble! I am a jinx, a pariah, doomed to wander a wasteland for my negligence.
Joe: What happened?
Frankie: Somebody stole the Baxley.
Julian: You lost the Baxley?
Frankie: I should be hanged from my hair until dead.
Joe: Any clue who did it?
Frankie: Zip. It was lunchtime, I was alone, I look up from my sandwich and the Baxley wheels already out the door.

Joe: (After slipping on Baxley's oil slick) Your multi-million dollar machine just got taken out by a load of leaded premium.

Garrett: I didn't want Howard Simpson to get the battery, but how could I have caused his heart attack?
Jack: I wasn't referring to you.
Garrett: Jack, you helped Dad found this company and I respect that. But the world's gone hard, and you have gone soft. And that just doesn't fit in our line of work.
Jack: Alright, I'll talk to the Keats woman again.
Garrett: No Jack, the talking's over. Come on, read the reports. Our own wells are going dry, the Arabs are squeezing us. And without that damn battery, we won't stay ahead of the curve. Are you with me on this, Jack? I gotta have that damn battery!
Jack: What are you gonna do?
Garrett: Give her the creeps.

Julian: I can't believe you're alive!
Baxley: Sometimes, I can hardly believe it myself.
Julian: Oh, this is Joe Astor, Mr. Baxley.
Baxley: Joe. Astor, of course! You drove the Viper for Wilkes when it was still a MetroPol project, before it was destroyed. You two continuing the partnership as independent agents? (Pause) (Laughs) No need to answer, my own past is pitch black compared to yours, and as they say, dead men tell no tales.

Joe: You know, not too long ago, there was a... a woman, and we were... we were very much in love. And she died. I think she died for the same reason that your wife did. Because the man wanted the car. Tonight, someone tried to kill Ella.
Baxley: Garrett Berlin.
Joe: I don't know. What I do know is I can't go on agonizing over the lives of people I love.
Baxley: What man doesn't, Joe? Look, maybe you love because you fight for what you believe in. My own tragedy was mistaking the loss of one battle over the entire war.
Joe: How are you supposed to know? How do you make that call?
Baxley: I'll ask you the question that haunts me. If you could go back, knowing what you would know, would you have given them the car to have her alive? Come on, Joe, the machine or the woman? Choose.
Joe: The woman, of course. I'd get to have her back. How long before the pain of losing your wife went away?
Baxley: I'll let you know when it does.

Frankie: Howard Simpson did not die of a heart attack. He died of fugu poisoning.
Joe: Fugu?
Frankie: Fugu. A blowfish with a toxic liver. They serve it at sushi bars. The chef's gotta prepare it just right, or sayonara.

Jack: Don't lie to me, dammit! You tried to kill Ella Keats last night!
Garrett: Jack, I think your mind has finally gone. Rest is the answer.
Jack: What's that supposed to mean?
Garrett: It means I accept your resignation. Don't worry, you can sign it later. And given your history here at the firm, I'd think twice about going to MetroPol. Sorry, no gold watch.
Jack: Go to hell. (Leaves)
Garrett: I'll save you a seat, Jack. (To Travis) Listen, I wanna make sure he has all the time he needs to clear out his office. Then... turn him into fish food.
Ella: (Marches in, angrily) I wanna talk to you!
Garrett: Perfect timing, welcome. May I get you some coffee? Maybe decaf? Travis, will you excuse us, please? (Travis leaves) So, have you changed your mind about my proposal?
Ella: You are crazy. I will not be intimidated by your cheap terrorist tricks!
Garrett: Excuse me?
Ella: You think I'm an idiot? Cars don't just explode in my driveway, Berlin!
Garrett: Look, if you believe that I've resorted to terrorism to get you to see my point of view, you're mistaken. Now, if we're talking about terms...
Ella: There are no terms! And this isn't about money, I'm not gonna sell my patent for any price, but that's something I know you can't understand.
Garrett: You know what I think? (Pulls out gun) I think that we should re-open negotiations. Please, have a seat, make yourself comfortable, Miss Keats. Sit!

Baxley: Hello, Jack. Long time.
Jack: Baxley?
Baxley: Your old business partner, Jonathan Berlin, was lucky. After you two turned me into a living corpse, Jonathan only had to go on a couple of years before that stroke put him in the ground. But you, Jack, how did you survive the weight of all those secrets, all that time?
Jack: Baxley, there's something you should know.
Baxley: Ah yes, confession's good for what's left of your soul.
Jack: The night you destroyed the factory, your wife called me. She was desperate, afraid you were going off the deep end. She knew Jonathan wouldn't bargain, so she wanted to work something out for you. A way to preserve your dignity. I agreed to meet her, but the factory was already burning when I got there, so I took your wife to our company doctor. He couldn't save her, but he saved your child.
Baxley: My baby's alive?
Jack: I paid off the doctors, the ambulance drivers, I didn't want anything traced back to Berlin Petroleum.
Baxley: Well, where is she, what happened to her?
Jack: I put her through foster homes, arranged for everything that she could ever work.
Baxley: Jack, where is she, what's her name? How do I find her? (Jack gets shot) Jack! Jack, who is she? What's her name? Jack!
Travis: Let's take a walk, dead man.

Garrett: Mr. Baxley, it is an honor to meet you, sir. Your work was some of the best my father ever destroyed.
Baxley: At least you're more truthful than your old man.

Baxley: (Referring to Ella) What do you want from her?
Garrett: Oh, I don't know, maybe her battery design.
Baxley: Give it to him.
Ella: What?
Baxley: Give it to him.
Ella: How can you of all people ask me to sell out?
Baxley: Look, I lost my wife because of my ideals. I just found out I have a daughter whom I never seen because of my stubbornness! I lost everything I had. If you don't cooperate, you'll lose everything you have.
Ella: I'm sorry. I can't give it to him.
Baxley: Are you aware of what just happened in the garage? Then you should understand.

Julian: (Spying on Garrett with the Probe) Keep talking, Berlin. Make yourself a nice, tight noose.

Garrett: Okay Travis, couple of competitors just broke into Berlin Petroleum, in an attempt at industrial espionage. Fortunately, they were shot by our securityman.

Baxley: I should have seen it the first time we met. You have your mother's eyes.
Ella: How would you know that? My mother died when I was born.
Baxley: You're my daughter, Ella. I'm your father. (They embrace)

Joe: (After Garrett's car explodes) Looks like Berlin Petroleum just went dry.

Joe: (about Baxley) For a second life, he's a pretty remarkable guy. He helped me take a look at who I am.
Ella: You like what you see?
Joe: Yeah.
Ella: So do I, so put it there.

Julian: I just spoke to Frankie. He was at the courthouse when they indicted Berlin and his hitman. And I quote: (Imitating Frankie) "Can I tell you something, it's gonna take an abacus the size of the Ritz to add up the years those goons are gonna pull."

(Witnessing Baxley and Ella arguing)
Joe: You can see a family resemblance.