Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kimble Meets Mrs. Gerard in a Classic Episode of The Fugitive

Generally regarded as one of the best—if not the best—TV series of the 1960s, The Fugitive set a high standard for well-crafted, exceptionally well-performed drama. Although there are many outstanding episodes, my favorite remains the two-part “Landscape with Running Figures” from season 3—or, as it’s better known among fans, the one with Richard Kimble and Mrs. Gerard on the bus.

The opening gets off to a fast start when a co-worker at a 24-hour diner informs Kimble (David Janssen) that the police have been asking questions about him. It turns out that a weary Kimble signed his time card with his real name. With the authorities already alerted, Kimble knows the dragnet will tighten quickly.

Meanwhile, police lieutenant Philip Gerard (Barry Morse)—Kimble’s “relentless pursuer”—has already arrived in town…with his wife Marie (Barbara Rush). When a fellow officer asks what the Gerards were doing, Philip replies: “Nothing special—just a vacation.”

It soon becomes apparent, though, that it was more than “just a vacation.” It was an attempt to repair a marriage weakened by Philip’s obsession with bringing Kimble to justice. In their hotel room, Philip explains that this time is different, that he could really capture Kimble. Marie, brushing her hair compulsively in the mirror, initially feigns interest and then remarks: “Life without Kimble…what a pretty dream that used to be.”

The subplots of Kimble’s escape and the Gerards’ marriage difficulties eventually intersect, taking the story in an unexpected direction. Although the two-parter’s length makes the proceedings more episodic than usual, there are some superb scenes.

One of the best has a hiding Kimble watching as Gerard tries to bribe a little boy into revealing the fugitive’s whereabouts. Seeing the kid looking at a chocolate bar in a vending machine, Gerard borrows a dime from a uniformed officer, puts it in the machine, and selects the desired candy. Kimble, who is literally locked in the adjacent room, can do nothing. But when Gerard pulls the knobs on the vending machine, nothing happens. The money slot has been jammed. Without the bribe, Kimble’s hiding place remains a child’s secret and Gerard’s frustration only mounts.

While much of the episode focuses on Kimble and Marie, it also fleshes out the character of Gerard. Most of Gerard’s appearances in the series serve little purpose beyond moving the plot forward. It’s a credit to Barry Morse that he lets the guarded Gerard occasionally flash the humanity hidden underneath his hardened resolve. In “Landscape with Running Figures,” though, Gerard’s relationship with his wife provides the means to openly explore the nature—and the limits—of the detective’s need to capture Kimble.

Barbara Rush gives a richly-textured performance as Marie, often content to let her expressions voice her emotions. In one of her strongest scenes, Marie calls Philip to tell him about an accident. His immediate response is to think it’s “some kind of test” to see if he would choose her over Kimble. Finally realizing something is wrong, Philip asks if she is okay. Marie, her face filled with disappointment and anger, states flatly: “It’s a little late to ask that.”

One of the strengths of The Fugitive was always Janssen’s and the writers’ willingness to let other performers take the spotlight. It’s not that Janssen doesn’t have the opportunity to shine in “Landscape with Running Figures”—he has several outstanding scenes—but this particular episode is really more about the Gerards. And, in the closing scenes, Marie and Philip Gerard each reveal, in different and surprising ways, how much they still care about one another. It’s a fitting end to one of the best episodes of The Fugitive.

3 comments:

  1. Rick, I am also a big fan of "The Fugitive." The casting was always meticulously done. This story reminds us that Gerard's family also was significantly affected by Richard's escape when the train he was being transported on derailed. It is interesting to think of Gerard as a family man, too. Mrs. Gerard seems so sad in this episode. It is interesting to watch her behavior at its end.
    I am a fan of some of the classic TV programs and really enjoyed your superb review!

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  2. I've seen several episodes of this excellent show, and I'm always impressed by the terrific concept. The TV format was perfect for THE FUGITIVE. Richard on the run allows him the chance to encounter so many diverse people, and staying ahead of the authorities retains suspense throughout the individual episodes, even if he isn't literally running from cops. This is a topnotch write-up, Rick, and will hopefully inspire someone unfamiliar with RK to check out the show. Thanks!

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  3. It's great see comments from other fans of THE FUGITIVE! As I said on our FB page, I'm also really like the episode where Kimble is paired with Lt. Gerard's son...played by a young Kurt Russell.

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