The Fugitive (2nd season, 1964-65)

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 The Fugitive (1963-67)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"The Fugitive — a Quinn Martin production — starring David Janssen as Dr Richard Kimble, an innocent victim of blind justice, falsely convicted for the murder of his wife, reprieved by fate when a train wreck freed him en route to the death house, freed him to hide in lonely desperation, to change his identity, to toil at many jobs, freed him to search for a one-armed man he saw leave the scene of the crime, freed him to run from the relentless pursuit of the police lieutenant obsessed with his capture."

That's an awfully long sentence, the introduction to every second-season episode of The Fugitive, read in a somber voice by William Conrad.

I've been watching episode after episode, liking most of them, and loving some. It's as good as I'd remembered from my childhood, sometimes better. This is my report on the second season, but first, an un-important observation:

Most episodes end with Kimble getting onto a Greyhound bus and riding out of town, except it's only a Greyhound bus in the first few episodes of the first season.

After that, in episode after episode, all the buses have different branding on the sides — Metropolitan Lines, Countrywide Bus, Midwest Coach, etc. No matter where he's headed next, Dr Kimble avoids the nation's most famous and well-known intercity bus service.

Why? Did Greyhound send ABC a cease and desist letter, demanding no further association with a fictional criminal? Or did the network want a kickback that Greyhound wouldn't pay?

S02E01: "Man in a Chariot"

Kimble is working as a dishwasher in Indianapolis, and finds a bright but big-ego law professor (Ed Begley), who thinks he could win a re-trial of Kimble case.

Begley plays the professor as a prick of Mount Rushmore proportions, who sets up a mock trial as a class project at the college, to test whether he could get Kimble found not-guilty for reals.

The episode is fun to watch, but it's contrived, and Kimble doesn't have much to do except slyly watch his 'trial' through a doorjamb. I was going to write it off as beneath The Fugitive's standards, but the ep gets better as it goes, and by the end it's ... standard.

S02E02: "World's End"

Kimble gets a message from an old friend (Suzanne Pleshette), who's tracked a one-armed man to Kansas City. But if he's the man Kimble is looking for, it would be bad news, because this one-armed man is dead, and a dead one-armed man can't exonerate Kimble.

The set-up here is poorly written, and it's never quite explained who the heck Pleshette's character is — her family is friends with Lieutenant Gerard, the man chasing Kimble all across America... and she's a romantic interest for Kimble? That's crazy improbable.

And so's the way she gets her message to Kimble — by placing a personal ad in newspapers in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, apparently every big city, until Kimble spots it.

It's a tidy little drama if you can get past those issues, but also, jeez.

S02E03: "Man on a String"

Passing through a small town, Kimble helps Lucy, a woman whose car had stalled. Lucy and Kimble become pals, though of course he remains perpetually chaste. Meanwhile, there's been a murder, and the victim's widow points to Lucy as the killer.

Kimble, going by the name 'Walker', was with Lucy at the time of the killing, and he can vouch for her, so the sheriff asks 'Walker' for identification. He doesn't have any, and it's not a problem. In fact, it's not mentioned again.

Wow. Was ID on demand seriously optional in the mid-60s, as it is in this episode? Nowadays, if a cop asks for ID and you don't have your papers in order, you're going to jail.

Directed by Sydney Pollack (Three Days of the Condor), guest starring Lois Nettleton (In the Heat of the Night), this is an episode with plenty going on, and no dull bits.

S02E04: "When the Bough Breaks"

Going by the name 'Broderick', Kimble is a hobo, riding a freight train across North Dakota, and makes the acquaintance of a mysterious woman (Diana Hyland) with a small child.

Then things get far-fetched again — the woman's husband and child were killed in a car wreck, and she's kidnapped this child to assuage her maternal instinct, I guess.

Again, Kimble is Mr Helpful, trying to straighten all the bumps and bends in this woman's life. Which is admirable, he's a mensch and all, and the episode works as drama, but I'm not particularly interested in these "Touched by a Fugitive" episodes.

Directed by Ralph Senensky, who did seven original Star Treks.

S02E05: "Nemesis"

Now, this is excellent, and much more like The Fugitive I want to watch:

Under yet another alias, Kimble is working at a fish hatchery in Wisconsin, where the mildly corrupt local sheriff thinks he looks familiar, and decides to look through his 'wanted' posters. When the sheriff figures out who Kimble is, he contacts the state police, and they send Gerard, but here's a twist: 

Gerard was off-duty when the call came in, and had his son with him (Kurt Russell, looking about 10 years old). Gerard leaves the boy behind, but the kid wants to see his dad arrest the bad guy Kimball, so he hides under some blankets in the back of the sheriff's station wagon, and of course, that's the car Kimble steals as Gerard closes in.

So he's accidentally kidnapped Gerard's son.

Then comes this, that, and the other plot element, and at the end, as Gerard closes in again, the kid is confused — his father has told him Kimble is a vicious killer, but Kimble says he didn't do it, and in all the time Kimble and the kid been together Kimble has been cordial, even protective, and helped when the kid got himself stuck in a bear trap. 

Little Gerard: Could you tell me something?

Kimble: I thought you knew everything.

Little Gerard: My dad... He says the jury was sure.

Kimble: People have always been sure, Phil. Sure the world was flat. Sure they could make gold out of lead. They were sure that if a mad dog bit them they'd die. Being sure doesn't make you right.

You ask me, that's some dang fine writin', and as often seen on this show, it's subversive. He's telling the boy that his father, and a jury, and authority in general can be wrong. That's basically the point of the episode, and of the series, and I love that.

And there's also Slim Pickens.

S02E06: "Tiger Left, Tiger Right"

Leslie Nielsen is on crutches, says he was seriously injured when he got run over by a truck, and now he can't work, so he tries to kidnap the owner of the company.

Kimble is working as the wealthy guy's groundskeeper, and oops, the kidnappers mistake Kimble for the millionaire, and steal the wrong man. So the question becomes, will the millionaire pay ransom to save his gardener's life?

It's mighty far-fetched.

S02E07: "Tug of War"

Kimble, as 'Kelly', goes to the post office, where a little kid recognizes him from the wanted posters, and tells an adult, who calls the cops. The town is tiny, though, so the phone is on a party line, and there are eavesdroppers. Word gets to a crafty old coot played by Arthur O'Connell, who's the retired sheriff. He puts away his chess game and decides to find Kimble himself. 

Written by Dan Ullman (The Case Against Brooklyn, Good Day for a Hanging), this one's better than most.

S02E08: "Dark Corner"

Kimble is riding a generic Greyhound bus, when it's stopped by police who want to scrutinize everyone's faces and paperwork. This is, of course, unconstitutional but common in America, an outrage that continues to this day.

Kimble darts out the bus's emergency exit, disappears into the night, and takes refuge with a gorgeous blonde blind sculptor (Tuesday Weld), and after that things get very Peyton Place.

S02E09: "Escape into Black"

Hospitalized after a kitchen explosion in Decatur, the fugitive doesn't know his own name. Betty Garret plays the cranky caseworker who cares too much, and needs to ID him so the hospital will know who to bill. She calls the cops, and the Missing Persons Bureau wants to run the mystery man's fingerprints, which can't turn out well.

There's never been a dramatic show on TV where somebody doesn't eventually get amnesia, so it's The Fugitive's turn, but it's not quite ordinary here, because it's written by Larry Cohen (Bone, God Told Me To, Q: The Winged Serpent, etc). And yup, it's pretty good. 

Ivan Dixon (Nothing But a Man) plays the psychiatrist who digs deep inside Kimble head. It's 1964 and Dixon's black, so that's ballsy.

S02E10: "The Cage"

Calling himself 'Parker', Kimble finds a dead body… and diagnoses the cause of death as bubonic plague. I like the tough-guy fisherman Kimble's working for, dislike the trope of false rape allegations from his daughter, and roll my eyes at the plague.

Just in the past several episodes, Kimble's been murder-adjacent twice, kidnap-adjacent twice, been kidnapped himself, and had amnesia. Seems to me there's all manner of dramatic opportunities in simply being innocent of murder but convicted and then escaping. If they'd asked my advice, I'd say ratchet down the ridiculous, please.

S02E11: "Cry Uncle"

There's been a robbery in a small town, and the bad guys shot a policeman, so the whole town is swarming with cops — a tight situation for the man called 'Thomas', who's actually Richard Kimble.

He's taken in and protected by a few kids at the local orphanage, including one orphan adolescent who thinks of himself as a prisoner there. And the rebellious kid gives such a believable performance, I wanted to slap him — the best review I can offer.

Edward Binns, Brett Somers, and pipsqueak Ron Howard are in the guest cast, and with the "orphanage = prison" angle, this is the first time since episode 5 that a story's offered something to think about. 

More like this, please.

S02E12: "Detour on a Road Going Nowhere"

'Stu Manning' is working at Indian Lake Lodge, a fancy resort for fancy people, when he's called into the manager's office. The sheriff is there. Seems the place was burglarized last night, and where was this new guy 'Manning' when it happened?

Everything is very polite, but when the conversation's over, the deputy says, "We're taking fingerprints, Mr Manning. Do you mind?" However long it takes to run the prints against the FBI files — a few hours, maybe a day — that's how long Kimble has to get away.

He gets a lift on the lodge's shuttle bus, and it's a bumpy ride, with two troublemakers among the passengers, and then the phoniest looking bus wreck I've ever seen. Thumb's up for everything but the wreck.

S02E13: "The Iron Maiden"

For a photo op, a Congresswoman visits the construction site of a new launchpad for missiles. One of the redneck construction types says it's no place for a woman, and she says, "That's what they used to say about Congress," so maybe we'll get a feisty woman making some feminist points?

No, in the next moment her high heel gets caught in a boardwalk, and her ankle is badly sprained or broken. 

That's a disappointing scene, but the bulk of the episode is a raging fire in the underground tunnels, where the Congresswoman is, and of course, where Kimble is.

It's a decent episode, but the script's treatment of the Congresswoman is cruel and of its time. It's not political, because she never says anything left or right — the show seems to be dumping on her simply for being a woman in Congress.

Richard Anderson is the guest star, weirdly wearing what looks like the same military uniform he'd wear ten years later on The Six Million Dollar Man.

S02E14: "Devil's Carnival"

Back before binging TV was possible, actors often guested on shows multiple times in multiple roles, and for this one, Warren Oates returns, playing a different character than last time. He's just as screwball, but with a mustache, and Oates is dang good playing screwballs. 

He's Haines McClure, a dreaded desperado and bloodthirsty bank robber on his way back to his home town, where nobody is looking forward to his return. The cops are coming for McClure, so it's unfortunate that on his way, he picks up a hitchhiker… Kimble, who doesn't even have time to come up with an alias. 

S02E15: "Ballad for a Ghost"

Kimble is calling himself 'Pete Glenn', working as janitor and spotlight-man in a night club, but the boss is a prick so 'Glenn' wants to move on. He changes his mind when he sees a poster for the club's next attraction, a singer who looks a lot like Kimble's dead wife.

She's played by Janis Paige (Silk Stockings), and she's great. The drama is almost too much, but not quite, and the plot's surprise twist is plausible, and handled well.

Two things I liked about this one:

First, seeing the lookalike's face gives Kimble a nightmare of his wife's murder, allowing some moments of grief, and in all the show's running and hiding, he's rarely had a moment for grief.

And second, the lookalike is not the same actress who's plays Kimble's wife in past and future episodes. Just looks like her is all. You don't see that very often.

S02E16: "Brass Ring"

Let's have the show's ominous narrator introduce this one: 

"The southern coast of California, where the land ends and an amusement pier juts out into the sea. It's a place where strangers meet, where a new face is not suspect. The fingerprints are still Richard Kimble's, but the name is now 'Ben Horton'."

Our man 'Horton' is working for trinket shop owner Angie Dickinson, and caring for her disabled brother, Robert Duvall. 

Dickinson is mostly known to me from the TV show Police Woman, which I despised, but she's better than that here. Duvall's character is paralyzed, angry at the world, and this is TV so you think by the end he'll either be cured or be happy to be paralyzed, la di da, la di da. This gets darker that than, though.

Written by Leonard Kantor (Tight Spot), directed by Abner Biberman (Behind the High Wall, The Night Runner), and filmed on location at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, to great effect.

In this episode, Kimble got his job as caretaker simply by saying, "I'm sober, and I'm honest." All jobs should be so easy to get — no references, no recommendations, no résumé.

Kimble is always able to find work without a background check, without a Social Security card, and in an earlier episode it was explained that ID isn't required, as long as it's menial work. Things have changed, of course, and there'D be far fewer jobs for a present-day fugitive, but from what I've heard, the show is accurate in that regard. It really was that easy to land a job in the 1960s, at least for white people who looked and dressed 'respectable'.

S02E17: "The End Is But the Beginning"

'Steve Younger', a truck driver, survives a spectacular wreck of his gas truck, but the drifter/hitchhiker he had with him doesn't. 'Younger' is actually Dr Kimble, who then hatches a plan to convince Gerard that the dead drifter was Younger/Kimble, because if Kimble is dead, the chase is over, right?

The episode has its moments, mostly provided by Gerard and guest stars Barbara Barrie and Andrew Duggan, but every single thing that happens is loop-de-loop unlikely.

Also, the truck wreck was 100% Kimble's fault, and the man who died the wreck is simply a plot device of no consequence. 

S02E18: "Nicest Fella You'd Ever Want to Meet"

Kimble, alias 'Clark', is caught with his thumb out, but hitchhiking is illegal in Bixton, Arizona. The sheriff arrests him, jails him, puts him to work on a chain gang, and while he's doing his slave labor, Kimble sees the sheriff use his car to nudge a man over a cliff and to his death.

This second season has, so far at least, been noticeably less distrustful of authority than the first season, but here we have a thoroughly bad cop. Every time he and the sheriff are in the same place, Kimble's life is in immediate danger. 

Pat Hingle is the bad cop, and if you look closely you'll spot Dabney Coleman and Tom Skerritt.

S02E19: "Fun and Games and Party Favors"

"The Senator wants to go to that new little club on Pico."

Kimble (call me 'Beckett') is a chauffeur for fancy people, in a blah episode about a fancy party interrupted by a bunch of be-bop beatnik college kids, while the fancy family's daughter falls for the pool boy.

Features Katherine Crawford before The Doomsday Flight, Mark Goddard before Lost in Space, and Pete Duel before Alias Smith and Jones, but zzzzz.

S02E20: "Scapegoat"

In another episode written by Larry Cohen, Kimble goes by the name 'Hayes', and works in construction. There's an immediate complication, though, when a co-worker recognizes him from another gig in another city… where, of course, Kimble had a different name.

The bigger twist is that since he disappeared as that other guy (Kimble disappears at the end of every episode, of course) the local cops thought he'd been killed, and another innocent man has been convicted of killing Kimble's alter-ego from back then. 

Every element of the entire episode is unbelievable to the extreme, but Cohen makes it enjoyable.

There's a lesson to be learned here, for me. I gotta quit expecting plausible stories on a show about an escaped convict who's never caught. Gotta just accept it when the stories get wacky and beyond wacky, because even the wacky ones can be worth seeing.

So in next week's episode, when Kimble delivers triplets in the back of a not-Greyhound bus, or bumps into President Johnson buying tampons at the drug store, I'm just gonna roll with it instead of rolling my eyes.

S02E21: "Corner of Hell"

With Gerard on his tail, Kimble ditches the truck he's driving — while he's driving it — and runs into the woods, in moonshiners' territory. Gerard wants to chase him, but the local sheriff won't let him: "Lieutenant, them people hate a stranger, they hate a lawman, and they hate a man in a store-bought suit, and you're all three."

The first hick in the woods is Bruce Dern, and as promised, he and his kin are deplorables, and don't take kindly to strangers. And then, Gerard comes charging in.

The story has thrills and a bit of depth, but not as much as it should. It's mostly built around the horror of the hicks, like a warm-up for Deliverance

S02E22: "Moon Child"

There's a murderer loose in a small town, and it's not Kimble, it's a real murderer. Some of the townsfolk have banded together as a vigilante group, and Kimble's welcome to town is not at all welcoming. 

Guest stars: Murray Hamilton, and Harry Dean Stanton, and "Special guest star" June Harding. I'd never heard of Harding, so I IMDB'd her to figure out why she's 'special'. She'd apparently been a regular on The Richard Boone Show

S02E23: "The Survivors"

"This is where it began — Fairgreen, Indiana. Here, ten years ago at the county hospital, Richard Kimble completed his internship. Here he met a nurse named Helen Waverly, and here they resolved to get married. Now he's come back to a town where people have a reason to remember him."

Gee, that seems unwise. Why would Kimble return to a place where he's so well known?

The answer to that question starts like another painfully preposterous episode, but begins making sense, and leads to believable dramatics with the family of Kimble's wife. It's got me crying.

S02E24: "Everybody Gets Hit in the Mouth Sometime"

Is that the best title ever for a TV episode?

Using the fine name 'Douglas', Kimble is working as dispatcher at a truck yard. Jack Klugman plays the hard-nosed boss who orders 'Douglas' to drive a truck, despite the wreck in episode 17. As always, there's a romantic interest (Geraldine Brooks), to keep Hollywood's violinists employed.

Trucks don't have radios yet, so there's a cool chase scene with Kimble driving a truck chasing Klugman's truck, just to give him a message. It's another "Touched by a Fugitive," but it's fine.

S02E25: "May God Have Mercy"

'Reynolds' works as an orderly, at the hospital where Telly Savalas has checked in to receive a fatal diagnosis — and he recognizes 'Reynolds' as Kimble. (To be clear, Savalas doesn't recognize Kimble from S01E18; he's a different character here.) The episode becomes an interesting think piece on the meaning of justice. 

Random thought: Each episode of The Fugitive is a play in four acts, with a title card after each commercial break — "The Fugitive, Act III," etc. And after the fourth act and the last few commercials, there's a very brief "epilog," which ties up any loose ends. It's a little thing, but I love it, and wish more shows did this.

S02E26: "Masquerade"

Through a few coincidences, Kimble is mistaken for 'Mr Hull', a criminal who's about to turn state's evidence in a big scandal. The mob wants him dead, and Kimble just wants to get out of town. He's ill at ease being protected instead of pursued by cops. 

It's a good episode, with a quietly comedic moment when he offers advice for someone else: "Running away won't solve anything."

Edward Asner is the guest star, with Norma Crane (Fiddler on the Roof) as Mrs 'Hull'. James Doohan lurks in the shadows, and hasn't yet acquired his Star Trek accent. 

S02E27: "Runner in the Dark"

Kimble, going by the name 'Burns', is the maintenance man at an apartment complex, called to fix a cranky lady's dripping faucet … just as she's watching a TV game show that uses the Kimble murder case as a question, so his face flashes on the screen.

He's immediately on the run, and hides out in a care facility for the blind, the only place nobody could recognize him. There he meets his opposite — a man guilty in the deaths of two children, but who was found innocent. 

I wish there was more focus on that aspect, and less on the episode's other plotline, about an ex-sheriff blinded in the line of duty, who thinks he should still be sheriff. But that's just me, being a whiner and complainer. This episode's pretty good.

Ed Begley and Richard Anderson are the guest stars, both playing different characters than in their earlier episodes this season.

S02E28: "A.P.B."

"Everyone's an animal. Some are just worse than others. You know what makes them that way? Other people."

Kimble is in a rail yard, looking for a freight he can hop aboard for a ride to his next random destination. He jumps into a boxcar, not knowing it's already occupied by two escaped convicts, and a very good adventure is underway.

The convicts won't let Kimble go, and needing a place to stay, eventually the three of them walk into a rural house, and the convicts point a gun at its two residents, an oldish woman and her adult daughter.

If you've read fiction or watched movies or TV, criminals hiding out in someone's home is a familiar scenario. It's quite well written here, though, by Dan Ullman (S02E07). 

These women held at gunpoint are frightened, but don't act terrified. They behave pretty much the way I'd behave if you pointed a gun at my face — cordial, cooperate, no sudden moves, and no tricks. In my long experience watching noir and crime movies, I've never seen people react more smartly and calmly to such a situation.

The bad guys aren't standard issue either. The smart one seems genuinely smart, and the one who's not so smart isn't stupid, and isn't a complete savage. 

"Please say hello to your wife and your family."

All the cops in this episode are presented as good guys when you and I know they're not, but other than that, this clicks like a metronome. Second best episode of the year, after episode 5, with Kurt Russell.

S02E29: "The Old Man Picked a Lemon"

As 'Wallace', Kimble is a farm laborer at a California lemon orchard, where an accident has killed the owner. He'd always treated the pickers right, but they're ready to quit after the funeral, because they know the owner's son, who's taking over, and they despise him.

Celeste Holm plays the widow, a woman with a perhaps checkered past, but who shares her late husband's love for the orchards and respect for the workers.

She's great, but the best part of this is Ben Piazza (The Candy Snatchers), playing the owner's son as utterly, irredeemably awful. He drives a sports car between the lemon trees, brings a trampy girlfriend home, and announces plans to sell the lemon groves for construction of a new subdivision.

It's nepotism ferociously mocked, with a splendid happy ending.

S02E30: "Last Second of a Big Dream"

'Nick Peters', a/k/a Richard Kimble, is working at a roadside zoo in Nebraska, feeding the animals, cleaning out cages, sweeping up poop, and running the concession stand.

The boss (played by TV tough guy Steve Forrest, from SWAT) tells 'Peters' on his first day, "You know, those cats can kill a man in just under ten seconds, and my workman's comp isn't paid up, so keep your distance."

The zoo is in failing financial straights, so when the boss finds out who 'Peters' is, he figures that having Kimble arrested at the zoo would be the biggest draw for ticket sales since John Dillinger was killed at the Biograph Theater. People came and gawked and bought tickets for years after the Dillinger ambush (and still do today) just to say they'd been there. So while telling Kimble he's protecting him, the boss is actually trying to orchestrate Kimble's capture, long as it happens at the zoo.

There's some philosophical talk about the injustice of animals being kept in cages, but this was filmed at an actual roadside zoo that's awful, so PETA would not approve of this episode. But I do. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Fugitive wasn't as strong in its sophomore season as it was freshman year, but it's still better than you'd expect on commercial TV in the '60s. And it's always at least mildly radical, because that's the baseline here.

The Fugitive was (and still is?) the only crime drama on TV where the police don't get their man at the end of every episode, and the audience isn't hoping that they do. The anarchist in me loves that, and I'll be watching the third season next.


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  1. Fine writeup on Season 2. It's hard to imagine in these days of 12 or 14 episodes a season that QM managed 30 episodes at the quality they did. The shooting schedule must have been back-breaking. Is it possible that Richard Kimble was actually running from QM, desperately trying to get out of 80 hour weeks?


    1. It is impressive, maybe amazing. Making a big-time movie like Harrison Ford's The Fugitive, they had all the money to make all the effects and stunts, a year to perfect the script, and they manufactured an ordinary action movie. The TV show had to do it in a week, thirty times annually, and did it better than the movie, reliably. Quinn Martin should get a posthumous Emmy or sumfin.


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