"Birds of a Feather" is the 52nd episode of Batman: The Animated Series. It depicts the Penguin's first serious attempt to go straight after a prison sentence, but is forced back into crime when he runs afoul of two selfish socialites.
Penguin's up to his old tricks again, this time robbing a museum of its paintings, with him taking a particular interest in a picture of ducks created by John James Audubon. As usual, Penguin tries to keep a high class image with his victims and then Batman arrives to stop him. Penguin tries to escape, but it's simply no use.
After some time, Penguin is released from jail and insists that he has learned his lesson and he's ready to rejoin elite society. However, he finds that no one is waiting for him outside of the prison and he ends up having to take a bus filled with less than savvy people and a rude driver into Gotham.
Elsewhere, Veronica Vreeland mopes over her falling social status. Her equally-vain fellow socialite, Pierce Chapman, suggests that she throw a party. Veronica agrees, but thinks that she needs something special to spruce up the party. Pierce reminds her of the Joker crashing a friend's party and then shows her a news article of the Penguin's release. Believing that this will bring her back into the eyes of her peers, Veronica makes plans to invite him.
Penguin returns home expecting to find his own peers waiting for him. However, he finds that only Batman is there waiting to warn him to stay out of trouble. After Batman leaves, Penguin receives a call from Veronica and she asks him out on a dinner date, to which Penguin is more than happy to accept.
Out at the restaurant, Penguin loudly makes bad jokes and eats small fish whole, upsetting all the restaurant patrons. Furthermore, his presence causes people to walk out in fear that he'll rob them. Penguin doesn't notice this, but he does suspect that Veronica has ulterior motives for inviting him. Veronica assures him that she's just interested in him and his unique traits. Penguin is enchanted and asks for the check, but is told that the meal is free if he'll just leave. Penguin takes this as a gesture of respect for his status and leaves even happier than ever.
As Penguin and Veronica leave, a trio of thugs notice them and decide to mug them. Unaware of this, Veronica takes the opportunity to invite Penguin to her party which he readily accepts. Just then, the thugs make their attack and Penguin starts to fight them off with his umbrella. However, one of the thugs manages to get hold of Veronica's necklace which Penguin takes back. At this moment, Batman arrives and takes down the thugs. However, he mistakes Penguin for their leader and attacks him as well. Veronica clears things up with Batman, much to his surprise.
Later, Pierce talks to Veronica about the failed mugging and jokes about Penguin's lack of style. Veronica, however, thinks that it was touching as she's not used to having someone rush to her rescue as the Penguin had. During the conversation, Bruce arrives and asks about who they're talking about and learns that Veronica is only dating the Penguin as a publicity stunt. Bruce advises them not to cross the Penguin like this, but Pierce dismisses this.
The next night Veronica and Penguin head out to watch the opera I Pagliacci. Penguin mimics the tune in his horrible singing voice much to Veronica's dismay. Still, she puts on a happy face and allows him to kiss her hand, in spite of her disgust. Bruce starts to feel a little more sympathy for the Penguin.
Veronica's party gets underway and Penguin wastes no time socializing with the guests. Though he thinks that he's being witty and refined, they are appalled. Pierce finds this greatly amusing but Veronica is starting to feel guilty about what she's doing to Penguin. Meanwhile, Bruce watches as Penguin steps out to admire a piece of jewelry that he thinks is stolen. However, Penguin shows Bruce that it's actually a gold penguin which he wants to give to Veronica as a gift. Taken aback, Bruce starts to believe that Penguin really has reformed. Unfortunately, when Penguin goes in to see Veronica he overhears she and Pierce talking about their bad joke. Outraged at being played for a fool, Penguin hits them both with knockout gas and kidnaps Veronica despite Bruce's attempt to stop him.
Pierce goes to the police, and a particularly annoyed Commissioner Gordon who tells them they are waiting for the ransom note. Pierce tells Gordon that sometimes he wonders why they pay his police force prompting Gordon to snap that this is all his and Veronica's fault. Suddenly a ransom note is sent to them. It is one million dollars and Pierce has to deliver it himself. The police escort him to the drop off point, but the Penguin expected this and calls him on a pay phone instructing him to a new location. When Pierce follows these instructions, he falls into the sewers where a duck boat is waiting for him.
The boat takes Pierce to the opera house where he's chained to a platform and Veronica is tied to a chandelier. Penguin takes the money and Veronica offers him more if he'll let her go. Penguin furiously refuses, saying that all he really wanted was "a little friendship" and now she has to pay for using him. Finding a bat-tracer in the money, Penguin prepares to cut the rope holding the chandelier Veronica is chained to which will kill both her and Pierce. Veronica insists that she really was growing fond of Penguin and she's still willing to try to be his friend but Penguin refuses to believe her. Batman arrives and stops him from killing Veronica. A fight ensues and Penguin jumps onto a fire-breathing dragon prop and sets the opera house ablaze. The rope holding the chandelier catches fire and it falls but Batman manages to save her and Pierce. Penguin tries to continue the fight, but Batman stops him.
Later, the police arrive and take Penguin into custody. Veronica once again repeats to Penguin that she really was getting fond of him, but he coldly rebuffs her and the police don't blame him.
Home video releases
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin: The Penguin (VHS)
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Poison Ivy/The Penguin (DVD)
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Two (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Blu-ray)
- When Pierce walks backwards out of the phone booth, the setting around him is different from what it was in previous shots.
- In the end credits, Penguin is erroneously labeled as "Penquin."
- When Penguin is seen in jail, the newspaper clipping on the wall reads, "Caged Again", with the word "Again" right beside "Caged". However, in the next shot, the word "Again" is printed underneath the word "Caged".
- The Penguin's monocle changes from white to blue a few times throughout the episode.
- When Pierce faints from Penguin's gas, the screen blurs to show that Pierce's vision is impaired. However, this shot is made from a third-person view and not Pierce's actual perspective.
- This episode marks the first appearance of Veronica Vreeland.
- This was the final story Chuck Menville had written for television. The episode aired a year after his death.
- This episode also marks the only time in the original series that Penguin changes tuxedos.
- The Museum Robbery was adapted into the stage "Fowl Play" in the game The Adventures of Batman and Robin for SNES.
- Penguin's quote: "'Tis better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all" comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam".
- The opera that Penguin and Veronica go to see, I Pagliacci, holds similar themes to this episode.
- This is the first time that one of Batman's enemies seriously tries to go straight. It also shows that the Penguin was willing to reform and would not have returned to crime had Veronica and Pierce left him alone.
- The duck boat that Pierce lands in is a nod to the Tim Burton movie Batman Returns.
- The streets Pierce to which is sent are named after comic artists Steve Englehart and Mike W. Barr.
- The plot of this episode shares some similarities with the French play Le Dîner de Cons, in which socialites invite an "idiot" to a high society party for the sole purpose of mocking him. However, the play originally premiered on September 19, 1993, seven months after this episode.
- Bruce's line "Maybe the rumors of your reform are not exaggerated" is a paraphrase of Mark Twain's famous (mis)quote "The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated". The actual line was "The report of my death was an exaggeration."
- John James Audubon is revealed to be Penguin's "personal favorite" artist, since his artwork is mainly based on birds.
|Bob Hastings||Commissioner Gordon|
|Sam McMurray||Pierce Chapman|
Prison Guard: What's the matter, Penguin? Maybe the cream of society's curdled, huh?
Penguin: (rescuing Veronica's necklace) That's too fine a collar for a mongrel like you.
Penguin: Sorry about the intrusion, sir, but at least you've been ransacked by a man of impeccable taste.
Pierce: He fenced with his umbrella? How droll.
Veronica: Well, keep it under your hat, Brucie, but I've just snagged the Penguin for my party.
Penguin: So you're the president of Gotham First Federal. I hope you've beefed up your security. Those time locks were easy to circumnavigate, as I recall.
Penguin: (riding a dragon) And who says opera has to be boring?
Penguin: I suppose it's true what they say. Society is to blame. High society.