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The Telefile
What Pan Am Taught Us About the '60s This Week

It's about time the hard-working men and women serving aboard Pan Am's Clipper Majestic got a little R&R. "Eastern Exposure" allowed the gang to kick back and enjoy the local scenery in such exotic locations as Rangoon, Burma and Jakarta, Indonesia. Of course, it wasn't all lounging by the pool and drinking fancy cocktails. Kate had another top-secret mission -- one that she almost failed to complete -- that involved delivering a camera to another operative. Meanwhile, she and Laura continued their sisterly squabbles and Ted experienced flashbacks to the incident that got him drummed out of the Navy and spiked his chances at joining the space program. Then Dean had to land the plane in the midst of a wicked storm that had settled over Hong Kong and got into a scuffle with his jealous co-pilot. In the midst of all that personal drama, the episode still found the time to teach us a few more things we didn't know about the '60s, things like...

In the '60s it wasn't cool for a woman to beat a man in a swimming race.
That Navy guy probably thought he was being real smooth when he agreed to a race with Margot in the hotel pool, even saying that he'd give her a half-lap head start. Little did he know that he was going up against the third-place finisher (by a reach) in the Connecticut junior high freestyle state finals. Not surprisingly, she smoked the big lug, which immediately put him in a sour mood and left Laura feeling a little guilty. "Did I do something wrong?" she asked Kate and Maggie on the plane the next day. "They knew I could swim, we told them." "You were swimming, he was trolling," her sister wisely replied. Later on Laura got an instructive lesson in beating the opposite sex sans guilt when Maggie cleaned up at a male-dominated dominoes game. Now that's girl power in action right there.

In the '60s Jakarta was considered "excitingly unrefined."
Geckos scaling mosquito nets, snakes in the bathroom, broken televisions kept in an out-of-the-way backroom, cockfights and bustling markets packed with produce and assorted tchotchkes were some of the sights that the crew during their break in newly independent Indonesia's capital city. 1963 was the right time to visit: two years later, an attempted coup resulted in scores of deaths and no doubt cost Jakarta some significant tourism dollars.

In the '60s the fastest way to send a message from Indonesia to the U.S. was via cablegram.
It's easy to forget in this age of Twitter and instant messaging, but it used to be that you couldn't communicate with a person halfway around the world in real time. So when Kate has to get an urgent message to her handlers in America while in Jakarta, she was forced to spend half the day at a cablegram office waiting for a response and even had to bribe the owner with American money to keep him from closing up for the night. Things like that are the reason why being a spy was so much harder in the old days.

In the '60s, rocket launches were popular enough to broadcast internationally.
The episode's best scene found Ted and Laura watching... well, trying to watch the Mercury 9 liftoff -- the first time a man was sent into outer space for more than a day -- broadcast live from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Thanks to the hotel TV's terrible reception Laura wound up having to stand in the window pointing an ancient antenna up at the sky in an attempt to keep the black-and-white image of the rocket taking off onscreen. That's the lengths to which people used to go to watch the magic of manned space flight, even when they were half a world away. Remind us why NASA had to shut down its space shuttle program again?

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