homeaboutarchivescommentscontacteverything

The Fugitive (3rd season, 1965-66)

1st season     3rd season
2nd season     4th season

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

So there's this guy, Kimble. He comes home one night, and finds his wife's been murdered. They had argued, and neighbors had heard, so cops arrest him and the court convicts him of murder, and sentences him to death — but here's the thing: he didn't do it. Probably the killer was a one-armed man Kimble saw fleeing from his house.

As for Kimble, he's a nice guy, a doctor and almost a pacifist, and yet they're gonna fry him — but here's the next thing: there's a train wreck on his way to death row, and Doc Kimble escapes.

Now he's on the run, as a determined detective named Gerard chases after, and maybe in this week's episode Gerard will capture Kimble. But probably not, because that would be the end of the show.

The Fugitive is old-time commercial television, black-and-white from the 1960s, so there'll be no cussing, and no vivid violence. It's dated — try getting a job on a handshake these days, and with no ID card, like Kimble does every week — but it's the best TV of its time, still holds up great, and sometimes it might even leave you with something to think about.

Here's my in-depth report on the third season, except of course that I try to avoid spoilers.  

S03E01: "Wings of an Angel"

Kimble, now going by the name 'Eagan', is riding a bus across backwater America. The bus comes to a roadblock, and cops come aboard, but they're looking for some bad guy, not Kimble. Well, the bad guy is also on the bus, and immediately there's a knife fight. Both Kimble and the bad guy are seriously injured, so they're rushed to the nearest hospital… which is inside a prison.

Kimble, man on the run, is stuck inside a prison, and if they figure out who he is he ain't getting out. 

"Any cat that has the cops on his tail can't be all bad."

Most of what happens in this episode is astronomically unlikely, but it makes for fine melodrama, with 'special guest star' Greg Morris (Mission: Impossible). 

The set design for the prison hospital must've been by someone who'd never been to a prison — it's huge, clean, looks like the Mayo Clinic.  

S03E02: "Middle of a Heat Wave" 

"I want you to be a thousand miles away from here, almost as badly as you want to be there."

Call him Kimble or call him 'Owen', yet another woman is in love with him. It happens a lot. Ladies all across America, please wait patiently until your number is called.

When 'Owen' tells the latest lady that he's a rambling man and must be moving on, she gets angry, and scratches his face and drives away. And then she's missing, and when she's found, having been beaten and raped, she says she can't remember what happened. Of course, all suspicion turns to Kimble, especially with those gashes on his cheek.

For the '60s, the story treats the victim with reasonable respect. Also, there's a heat wave on (hence the episode's title), and it's cool (or maybe hot) that everyone's fanning themselves and soaked with sweat, but nobody talks much about the heat. Overall, the episode is grim and grown up, but it's a winner...

Until the epilog, which is a painful groaning trip back to what America believed about rape in 1965.  

S03E03: "Crack in a Crystal Ball" 

As 'Joe Warren', Kimble is pumping gas, when trouble drives up and asks for $2 worth of regular.

The driver is Sal Mitchell, otherwise known as Mitchell the Magnificent, a traveling psychic, who uses his great but utterly fake powers to work a con on Kimble. He's figured out who 'Warren' really is, and Mitchell is trying to orchestrate Kimble's arrest by 'predicting' to police exactly when and where Kimble can be found. 

Mitchell's trap is magnificent and well worked out, and yields mounting thrills through the show's last half hour, accompanied by the jarring clanks of guys playing horseshoes in a park.

Dramatically exquisite, this episode was written by Richard Levinson and William Link, who co-created Columbo and Mannix a few years later.

It's not particularly deep, but it's sure tense, and I love that it leaves no room for wondering whether Mitchell the psychic has any psychic ability. He simply doesn't.

And it's time for a word of praise for the show's music, by Pete Rugolo — it's simply perfect, reworking the famous theme for action, for romance, for tension.

J Pat O'Malley plays a delightful curmudgeon who lives in the same boarding house with Kimble.  

S03E04: "Trial by Fire"  

A new witness from the night of the murder comes forward — a man who saw the one-armed man running out of the house, and saw Kimble's car almost hit him. Kimble is skeptical, especially after being set up in the previous episode, but the witness checks out, and seems as reliable as forecasting yesterday's weather. 

There's a hearing, and the judge is convinced, but won't issue a stay of execution and order a new trial unless Kimble turns himself in to the authorities. If Kimble does that, though, and prosecutors find some weakness in this new witness's testimony, it means the electric chair. 

It's astonishing how good this episode is. It offers terrific tension all the way, same as the previous episode, but with more pathos and more to think about. The episode's turning point is progressive, maybe even political, and the conclusion is moving.

When an episode is this good, I always poke around on IMDB to see what else the writer and director have done, but I've poked their names already, because they're both on the regular staff of The Fugitive.

Heck of a cast here too, with familiar and future faces including Charles Aidman from Destination Space and Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, Tommy Rettig from Lassie, Marion Ross from Happy Days, Jacqueline Scott from the original Planet of the Apes, and Booth Colman, famous here in the northwest for his years of commercials as "The Friend of the Family" for Washington Mutual Savings Bank, before it became the biggest bank collapse ever, in 2008. 

S03E05: "Conspiracy of Silence" 

His name badge says 'Tate', but that bow-tied porter at a rich people's resort is Kimble, and strange happenings are afoot. The reservations desk is turning people away, telling them the hotel is fully booked, when there are actually only a handful of guests, and they're all up to something.

Turns out the US military has secretly commandeered the resort, to test a new chemical weapon on its golf course. This is, of course, ridiculous, but that's not important right now. What matters is, this new weapon is supposed to be purely defensive, but something's gone wrong, and people have been contaminated by the fumes.

Meanwhile, the men running this top secret operation have figured out that 'Tate' is Kimble, and they think he's a spy and that he rigged the malfunction.

What with all the spies and suspicions and superweapons, this feels more like Mission: Impossible than The Fugitive, but things usually went right for the Impossible Missions Force, and nothing goes right with this top secret operation.

It's icky that nobody on the show questions the right-or-wrong of chemical weaponry, and of open-air testing it on a golf course. Then again, everything goes so horrendously wrong it makes questions moot, and maybe that's the message here.

Anyway, I always liked Mission: Impossible, and this is a pretty good episode of whichever show it is. 

S03E06: "Three Cheers for Little Boy Blue" 

Well, this third season of The Fugitive started with five good episodes, so it's time for a turd.

There's a rich guy (Richard Anderson) headed back to his home town. Everyone says they love him, they're literally planning a parade, but somebody's threatening to kill him. His ex-girlfriend (Fay Spain) is angry at her father. Ed Asner has a limp, and a grudge. DeForest Kelley is the town drunk. Am I forgetting anyone? Oh yeah, Kimble is the rich guy's chauffeur.

But I don't care about the rich guy, the parade, the ex-girlfriend, her father, the limping guy, or the town drunk. The story isn't about Kimble, and that's the problem with "Saved By a Fugitive" episodes like this.

S03E07: "All the Scared Rabbits"

Mrs Franklin is a young, beautiful, divorced woman (Suzanne Pleshette) who never learned to drive, so she hires 'Joe Taft' to drive her and her daughter 2,000 miles to California. He's a stranger when she hires him, but she says,"You don't ask me any questions, and I won't ask you any questions."

Before they leave in her car, her daughter steals a rabbit from her father's lab. Because yes, Mrs Franklin's ex-husband is a scientist, conducting experiments with "the most deadly types of meningitis," and lets his daughter wander among the rabbits.

Anyone touching the rabbit the girl's taken is in danger of death, so there's a nationwide dragnet to find their car as it tootles westward.

And that's only midway through Act II — it gets crazier. Whatever's the Guinness record for farthest-fetched TV episode, this one's in the running, but it's still pretty good. 

S03E08: "An Apple a Day" 

Dr Kimble narrowly escapes a manhunt in Colorado, but he's injured, so a rural family brings him to a doctor. Only the doctor isn't a doctor, he's a natural healing allopathic herbs & spices practitioner, with a shelf full of crystals and homemade cough syrup.

Kimble is barely in peril, and the episode isn't much more than a treatise against fake medicine and an ad for the AMA. It gets overly melodramatic at the end, but I enjoyed it, especially with lovable old Arthur O'Connell as the quack, Sheree North as his viciously artificial wife, and pre-fame Kim Darby as their daughter.   

S03E09 and E10: "Landscape with Running Figures" 

Working as kitchen help in an all-night diner, 'Carver' is tired, and signs his real name — Richard Kimble — on his time card. That's a big but understandable mistake, and when a co-worker tips him off, Kimble runs.

Gerard gets word of it, and abandons his vacation with his wife to lead the hunt. Mrs Gerard (Barbara Rush) is none too happy about this, pleads with her husband to let Kimble keep running, just this once. It's a touching scene, and maybe the first time Gerard had lost that hound-dog look on his face, but you know what his answer will be.

Lt Gerard runs off to manage the police dragnet, so Mrs Gerard runs off too — furious, she takes a not-Greyhound bus headed away from her husband, and through a series of bad luck moments and coincidences, Kimble is on the same bus.

If you think that's too wild to be believed, you're right, but despite the astronomic unlikeliness of every little thing that happens here, part 1 of this two-parter is quite good, and part 2 gets dopey but bounces back.

Your eyes will roll and you might not be on the edge of your seat, but you won't be snoozing either.  

S03E11: "Set Fire to a Straw Man" 

Kimble works at a trucking company, where the boss is a bit of a tyrant. His sister has a thing for Kimble — every woman does, on this show — but she's kinda nuts, and kidnaps a little boy.

The episode is watchable, but feels like a rerun, especially since guest star Diana Hyland, playing the crazy woman, played the same kind of crazy woman in S02E03, in which she kidnapped a different kid.

Other guest stars: Edward Binns, Joseph Campanella, and Clint Walker.  

S03E12: "Stranger in the Mirror" 

Under the name 'Evans', Kimble is hired as itinerant laborer and handyman at the Saturday Morning Club, an organization for troubled kids. William Shatner is the guest star, and does his patented ... dramatic pause, but only once.

It's another episode full of wildly implausible events, but qualifies as subversive, and definitely as fun.

Directed by Joseph Sargent (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three). 

S03E13: "The Good Guys and the Bad Guys" 

Welcome to Drover City, a tiny town holding its annual "Vigilante Round-Up" — one weekend every year when anyone who's not wearing an old-west outfit or at least a cowboy hat is subject to fake-arrest. Such fun and games!

Kimble is 'Watkins' and he, of course, wanders into Drover City wearing his ordinary duds, so he gets fake-arrested and jailed. Gerard is on his tail, and also not wearing a cowboy hat.

This one's as surreal as en episode of The Prisoner. Guests include Earl Holliman, and Bruce Dern for the fourth time. 

S03E14: "End of the Line" 

When a hitchhiked ride ends at the gates of a Florida prison, Kimble, calling himself 'Mossman', scoots away so quick he leaves his wallet behind.

Then he sees cops coming, so he steps onto a passenger train — and so do the cops. Then the conductor comes by, wanting to see tickets, but Kimble has none, and no wallet either. 

Like clickbait, you won't believe what happens next, but the suspense starts when the show starts, and doesn't end until it ends. There's a cynical unwed mother, a cranky cab driver, murder by milk, and a big plot hole, but let's not mention it. 

Also, James Hong owns the restaurant where Kimble washes dishes.

S03E15: "When the Wind Blows" 

Kimble takes work as a handyman, and gets to know the owner's young son, who has a collection of dead things and hears it when fish scream. Maybe the boy is a budding serial killer, or maybe he's just 'special'. There's no knowing, but he bonds with Kimble.

"He promised me with his eyes."

This is a better than average episode — intriguing, mildly subversive, with plenty of worries and a twist at the end that you won't see coming.

What's most surprising is that Dr Kimble doesn't have the right words to make the kid's emotional or mental problems disappear. You hope the boy's going to be OK, but it remains to be seen — and that's amazing for television.

Written by Betty Langdon, it's the only credit on her IMDB page. Gotta wonder if she submitted this over the transom — and it was nominated for a Writers Guild of America Award.

Directed by Ralph Senensky, who remains alive and hopefully well at 101, and has a blog

S03E16: "Not with a Whimper" 

This one starts with Kimble stopping at a diner, where the worker hilariously smokes in his face, apologizes for the pie, and asks, "Do you really think smog can kill people?"

Kimble is in town to visit an old teacher of his, now an environmental activist who's sick and dying, probably because of pollution from the local textile mill — so he's thinking of blowing up the place.

That's painfully disappointing. About 99.5% of America's homegrown terrorism and threats of terrorism come from right-wingers, and always have, but on TV the terrorists are always, always from the left. 

If you can get past that, this is an adequate ticking time-bomb story. Lee Meriweather guest stars, and there are a few moments with Jack Dodson from The Andy Griffith Show. 

S03E17: "Wife Killer" 

Here's an episode with all three recurring characters — Kimble, Gerard, and the one-armed man. Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) plays a newspaper publisher, and ace reporter Janice Rule (Bell Book and Candle) is a gutsy reporter on the trail of justice for the fugitive.

As often happens, this episode is preposterous in half a dozen ways, and also good. 

S03E18: "This'll Kill You" 

Mickey Rooney plays Charlie, a laundromat manager who tells jokes between the washers and dryers as if the laundry is a comedy club. He's also a low-level hood who's turned state's evidence for investigators, and now the mob wants him dead. His fiancée (Nita Talbot, later from Hogan's Heroes) bats her eyes at Kimble, or rather 'Nick Phillips', who's the laundry's errand boy, broom man, mop-master, and apparently Charlie's best and only friend.

I've never seen anything to justify Mickey Rooney's long-time status as a movie star. He's sometimes adequate, more often a ham, so I winced when he was listed as the 'special guest star' in this episode, but he surprised me, playing Charlie as a flailing but likable schlub.

The episode is more about Charlie than Kimble, but it's solid, and doesn't end the way I thought it would.

Directed by Alex March (Paper Lion). 

S03E19: "Echo of a Nightmare" 

A man named 'Taylor' — a/k/a Richard Kimble — is mugged, his wallet stolen by four young hoods who look like the Beach Boys and ride in a very nice convertible. His week's pay was in the wallet, but 'Taylor' doesn't want to report the crime to the police, which makes one hard-nosed cop very suspicious.

The twist is, the cop is a woman (Shirley Knight, from The Rain People), and even twistier, she's immune to Kimble's usual charms.

All the cops are portrayed as righteous good guys, but that's allowed when a story is this exquisite — tense, complex, smart, plausible. There are old Bogey movies that aren't as good as this. 

S03E20: "Stroke of Genius" 

Beau Bridges plays a teenager who enjoys aiming his rifle at cars on the road, but he doesn't pull the trigger. Until oops, one time he does.

The shot kills a passing pastor, who'd picked up the hitchhiking Kimble. With a dead man behind the wheel, there's a wreck, and Kimble is injured and hides from the cops. This makes him seem like the obvious suspect, so Gerard is called and coming.

Meanwhile, Beau's father (Telly Savalas, in his third different role on The Fugitive) is deputized for the manhunt, and there's nothing Savalas won't do to make sure that his boy isn't blamed. 

Lots of pretzel logic, obviously, but who doesn't like a fresh-baked pretzel?  

S03E21: "Shadow of the Swan" 

Kimble meets a troubled woman who's nothing but trouble, and as 'Keller', he's hired as kennel boy for a veterinarian.

He takes the troubled woman to the carnival, where she's of course attacked by a carny. Kimble fights off the attacker, gets injured, and the woman takes him to her uncle's home to wipe up his wounds. Her uncle is an overprotective ex-cop who'd been fired for brutality. 

Yup, it's another pretzel episode, with a storyline that gets ridiculouser and ridiculouser, but Andrew Duggan is the guest star, and he's always good. Also, there are cute puppy-dogs at the veterinarian's office, so this ep gets a thumbs-up from me. 

S03E22: "Running Scared" 

Kimble stops at a newsstand that specializes in out-of-town newspapers, where for 10¢ he buys his hometown rag and learns that his father has died.

He'd be a fool to go to the funeral, but he'd like to be near enough to offer a hug to his sister. That'll be tricky, though — Gerard's men have already staked out the Kimble family home.

James Daly (Medical Center) plays the ex-prosecutor who got Kimble convicted of murder, and he's — of course — parlayed his fame into a seat in Congress, and now he's running for Governor.

Good drama, gotta love the Kimble family, it's fun sneering at the publicity-hungry politician, and there's a cool foot chase inside a basketball arena. 

S03E23: "The Chinese Sunset" 

'Jack Ficket' is a bellhop at a Beverly Hills hotel you could never afford, and don't tell anyone but actually he's Kimble. A mobster is staying at the hotel, and his uneducated girlfriend decides to better herself with some tutoring from 'Ficket'.

Wayne Rogers and Ned Glass are in the cast, but this episode didn't do anything for me. 

S03E24: "Ill Wind" 

Gerard captures Kimble in the first act, but there's a heavy storm and worries of typhoid. With Kimble handcuffed to him, Gerard takes shelter in a shed, along with a band of locals who know and like Kimble, or whatever his alias is.

One of the locals plays a guitar, like this is an Elvis movie. Another has a crush on Kimble. Somebody throws a pitchfork at Gerard, but misses, but then the shed collapses and Gerard needs a doctor.

Good times.

Directed by Joseph Sargent, and quite well. 

S03E25: "With Strings Attached" 

Kimble calls himself 'Carter' and gets hired as chauffeur-and-gofer for a concert violinist who's tired of playing the violin. The violinist seems to be almost-owned by a very overbearing Donald Pleasence, and the crucial question is, who cares?

This episode isn't about a man on the run. It's about a man playing a fiddle. It's empty filler, something to air between the ads. You'd be better off changing the channel. 

S03E26: "The White Knight" 

'Dan Gordon' rescues a couple after their small plane crashes, but he wants to keep his identity quiet, because he's actually Kimble. Instead he becomes a media sensation, with newspapers and TV hyping "the hunt for the hero" with a sketch drawing of Kimble's face on the front page. And then it turns out, the man 'Gordon' rescued isn't interested in publicity, either.

This isn't a great episode, but it rocks righteously, provides plenty of authority to be questioned, and washes away the bad taste from the violin episode.

Ted Knight, Robert DoQui, and Jessica Walter are in the cast. 

S03E27: "The 2130"

After finding out that his chauffeur was actually Kimble, a rich guy (Melvyn Douglas) invites Gerard to use his company's super-high-tech '2130' computers, to help catch the fugitive. Gerard and Douglas input the entire history of everywhere Kimble's been spotted, to algorithmically calculate his whereabouts with dots and dashes and punch cards, and predict where he'll be headed tomorrow. 

Gerard: My guess is that he'd get on a fast freight, and there are two of them through there… to Salt Lake City, and Portland, Oregon. 

Rich guy: Let's see how you stack up against the computer, Lieutenant.

Computer: Probability one… Salt Lake City, or Portland.

There's a solid story built around the computer, so it doesn't matter that the technology is perhaps not as impressive as was when this episode first aired, circa 1966. What's also cool is that, instead of showing Kimble in one location with one alias, this episode tracks him across three jobs, names, and places.

The almost art-deco computers and printers and sorters brought back memories, because I worked with commercial computers about 15 years after this episode was made. Always thought my time at that job, mounting 45-pound disk drives and frisbee-size tape drives, was the 'early' computer era, but compared to the computer lab where I worked in the 1970s, the tech in this episode looks like Frankenstein's lab when Boris Karloff was on the slab.

S03E28: "A Taste of Tomorrow"

After years on his trail, cops are closing in on Joe Tucker (Fritz Weaver), a man found guilty of embezzlement, who insists he didn't do it. Kimble finds himself in the middle of this other man's manhunt, listens to his story, and believes him. 

The episode starts strong, and works its way toward average. 

S03E29: "In a Plain Paper Wrapper"

On The Fugitive, there's often someone who recognizes Kimble from the posters or publicity around his trial, but usually it's a grown-up. In this one it's a kid — the nephew of Kimble's girlfriend.

The boy and his buddies don't tell anyone or call the cops; they decide to capture Kimble themselves, so they order a rifle by mail order, and get bullets from a shady-looking adult.

If you're hoping for a political statement in favor of gun control, you won't be disappointed. And a quick googling suggests that these days, mail-order guns are at least subject to a background check.

Written by Jackson Gillis (The Man Who Died Twice, and 53 Perry Masons) and John Kneubuhl (The Screaming Skull), and directed by Richard Donner (Superman, The Omen).

And Kurt Russell is back, this time not as Gerard's son but one of the nephew's friends.

S03E30: "Coralee"

Calling himself 'Carter', Kimble is working aboard a salvage boat, when a crewmate is killed in an underwater accident. Everyone suspects — what? That it wasn't an accident, and Kimble did it?

No. Everyone suspects that the man died because he was dating Coralee, a jinxed woman who works at a local diner. Even Coralee thinks her jinx is what killed him.

The episode is half about what went wrong underwater, while the other half is about Kimble trying to convince Coralee and the town that there's no such thing as a jinx.

But being already well aware that there's no such thing as a jinx, this means about half the episode was wasted on me.

Antoinette Bower (Neon Rider, The Sunshine Patriot) plays the jinxed woman, and she's fine, and really, so's the episode, but — come on.

♦ ♦ ♦

And that's the third year of The Fugitive. It hasn't jumped the shark or even come close, but the second season wasn't as good as the first, and this third season wasn't as good as the second.

There are fewer and fewer subversive moments, fewer corrupt cops, fewer philosophical or political statements, and fewer moments that encourage the audience to question authority.

The Fugitive is still good, though, frequently very good, and once in a while fantastic. I've already started watching the fourth and final season.

5/11/2024   

itsdougholland.com
← PREVIOUS           NEXT →

6 comments:

  1. Damn, prolific watcher and reviewer...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for doing these reviews, and thanks for remembering when American television was, with all its constraints, an attempt at art. And, as happens fairly frequently, you got me wondering. So I checked up on series creator and co-writer Roy Huggins. Oh, my. He also created (and produced for a while, and wrote for a while) The Rockford Files and Maverick, two shows on fairly early American television that are entirely worth watching now, and both, not by coincidence, starring James Garner, who was a fine actor and a pain in the ass as an employee. But I digress.

    Mr Huggins was a man of his time, and when the time was right he created art.

    As for the dashing Mr Janssen, he smoked four packs of cigarettes a day by his own count, drank a fifth of bourbon by other people's count, and died at 48 with a fair amount of jingle in his pockets. Heart attack. I didn't stop smoking until I was 66, and the only reason I'm still here is the fine work of a heart surgeon who retired afterwards, figuring that he couldn't pull of any fancier miracles. I digress anew.

    If you've never seen Maverick, find a couple of episodes (make sure they have James Garner in the role -- the series did a little shake and bake with the cast -- and sit down with some smokes and a nice bottle of bourbon. You'll have a good time.

    As for Mr Huggins (remember him?), he was born in the town of Littel, Washington, which is only an hour or so from my house at midnight, and which I've never heard of. If you're a Washingtonian or a geobuff, check it out. It had its day, and one of them was when Mr Huggins was born, although he got the hell out as soon as possible.

    I should note here that Mr Huggins was a commie who named a few names in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee. I envy his politics more than his ratting.

    But he made some fine television.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I didn't know he's named names, nor that he was red. Added to the large pile of things I used to didn't know. Everyone on HUAC was up to unAmerican activities. It's right there in the name.

      Maverick was on in reruns when I was young, and remains easily available. Seen enough to know it was good, except in all the non Garners. There was a movie 20-30 years ago, piffle but pleasant.

      I'm more a Rockford Files guy; loved the tired-of-it-all vibe on that show. Probably not up to a full rewatch, and I'm sorta regretting going all-in on The Fugitive. A lot of episodes are just good TV, but then there'll be a terrific one and I'm all-in again.

      I have happened upon some readings about Janssen, enough to wonder if he was ever happy, and if the show wasn't about the inside of his head as much as anything.

      Delete
  3. You write, As 'Joe Warren', Kimble is pumping gas, when trouble drives up and asks for $2 worth of regular. Doug, even when you're writing about something I don't care about, that TV show, you make it worth reading.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, but go easier on the garlic.

      Pick an episode it's obvious that I really liked, like ep 3 or 4, and if you watch I can almost guarantee you'll like it.

      Delete

🚨🚨 Click here if you have problems posting a comment. 🚨🚨