Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 5 Best Episodes of "The Fugitive"

The Fugitive, which aired from 1963-67, frequently appears on lists of the greatest U.S. television series ever broadcast. Its reputation is well-deserved. The first three seasons are so strong that it's difficult to pare down its best episodes for a top five list. Still, here's how one Fugitive fan would rank them:

Kimbles tries to avoid capture...again.
1. Landscape With Running Figures – Unofficially known as “the episode with Mrs. Gerard”, this season 3 two-parter has Kimble narrowly evading Lieutenant Gerard…only to come to the aid of a temporarily-blind Mrs. Gerard (Barbara Rush). The exceptional script provides a rare glance into Gerard’s private life and the impact of his obsession to capture Kimble. At one point, a frustrated Marie Gerard casually remarks: “Life without Kimble…what a pretty dream that used to be.” Barry Morse, whose character is often used to simply further the plot, takes advantage of an opportunity to shine here.

Suzanne Pleshette as the
concerned mother.
2. All the Scared Rabbits – A divorced mother (Suzanne Pleshette) hires to Kimble to drive her and her daughter from Iowa to California. What they don’t know is that the little girl has stolen a rabbit from her father’s laboratory—and it’s infected with a lethal strain of meningitis. This gripping, suspenseful episode is a great example of an episode where Kimble’s plight takes a backseat to the events surrounding him.

3. Moon Child – When the police pursue Kimble during a manhunt for a serial killer, the fugitive takes refuge in a dilapidated structure filled with dark passageways. At his wit’s end, Kimble is befriended by a young mentally-handicapped girl. This taut episode balances its chilling moments (involving the real killer) with Kimble’s touching relationship with the young girl.

4. Corner of Hell – On the run from Gerard, Kimbles stumble into the hideout of a family of moonshiners. At first, they want to get rid of him, but their plans change when he proves his worth. However, when Gerard tracks Kimble to the moonshiners’ hideaway and flashes his police badge…well, they don’t take kindly to the arrival of the law. This is one of the best of several episodes that placed Kimble in a moral quandary. In this case, does he flee, knowing that Gerard is certain to be murdered? Or does he help the man trying to capture him?
Gerard, bound in a chair, watches as Kimble (far right)
makes a plea to save his nemesis.
5. Dark Corner – Kimble finds a sanctuary on a farm where he is befriended by a young blind woman (Tuesday Weld), who must cope with a devious sister…but all is not what it appears to be. Plot twists weren’t commonplace during The Fugitive’s run and when they did appear, they were typically twists of irony. This atypical episode goes for the shock value and succeeds nicely.

Tuesday Weld plays the blind young woman who
shelters Kimble in "Dark Corner."

Honorable mentions: “The Witch” (a young girl make false accusations against Kimble); “Dossier on a Diplomat” (Kimble finds sanctuary in a foreign embassy); "The 2130” (a businessman uses a computer to track Kimble's whereabouts); and “Nightmare at Northoak” (Kimbles attains unwanted celebrity status when he saves children from a burning bus).

19 comments:

  1. I would definitely have "Landscape with Running Figures" and "Corner of Hell" in my top five...and I'd have to include "Home is the Hunted," the episode in which Kimble returns to Stafford after learning of his father's heart attack. (The episodes in which the doc risks capture in his hometown rank among my favorites, including "The Survivors" and "Running Scared.")

    I'd also have to put the third season opener "Wings of an Angel" (Kimble is trapped in a prison hospital after being injured subduing a fugitive on a bus) in my top 5 because it's choc-a-block with great thesps like Greg Morris (one of my favorite of his performances), Sue "Miss Landers" Randall, Ned Glass, Val Avery, Ted Gehring, Lin McCarthy and Harold Gould. I'd round out the five with "Search in a Windy City" mostly because of that great Pat Hingle performance.

    Others worthy of attention include the 2-part "Angels on Lonely Roads," "Escape into Black," "Wife Killer," "Echo of a Nightmare," "Stroke of Genius," "Ill Windm" the previously mentioned "Nightmare at Northoak" and a pair of episodes that I like only because they're set in my home state of West Virginia: "The Other Side of the Mountain" and "Not With a Whimper."

    I know the fourth season doesn't get much love because of the switch to color (and the departure of Alan Armer, etc.) but I think episodes like "A Clean and Quiet Town," "The Ivy Maze" and "Nobody Loses All the Time" are still worthwhile entries on the Fuge resume. And of course, the 2-part finale "The Judgment" remains for me one of the best wrap-up shows of all time.

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  2. Rick, my husband and I love "The Fugitive" and the precarious situations in which Dr. Kimble finds himself entangled. It is fascinating to watch and see what the characters do when they realize who he is. "The Witch" was one of our favorites because a little girl's lies have serious ramifications to innocent people. "Corner of Hell" is also a favorite because Gerard is in serious trouble and Kimble has a challenge to figure out how to keep him alive in this alternate society. Loved this post because it will hopefully inspire people to check out one of classic television's very best series.

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  3. Ivan and Toto, thanks for the superb comments! I could probably do a Top 20 list of FUGITIVE episodes--it was that good a show. Another good one not mentioned yet is "Nemesis" with a young Kurt Russell as Phil Gerard, Jr. The set-up is a bit of a stretch, but it's a strong episode with a typically fine finish. I also neglected to mention "The Girl from Little Egypt," which is the one that flashes back to the night of the murder (plus, it has Pamela Tiffin!). "Wings of Angel" and "The Witch" are both big faves. I'm also a Greg Morris fan.

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  4. Well, Rick, I had better be able to find The Fugitive on Netflix or someplace -- I never watched it and have seen you and others write about it. This post of yours is the last straw -- now I really feel that I missed something. The episodes are described beautifully and you don't give away anything. I had no idea the series had such good actors appearing. Dark Corner, Moon Child and All the Scared Rabbits particularly caught my eye. If you are a praying man, send up one for me that I can find it for free or for $1.00. Great article for this month's theme!

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  5. Rick, I don't know this show very well, having seen only a few episodes. But THE FUGITIVE's influence is clear even to a novice such as myself. A prime example of the man wrongfully accused in serial format, it's a basis of comparison for numerous other series (e.g., PRISON BREAK). Ideally, I'd watch episodes of THE FUGITIVE in chronological order, but as that may not be possible, it's wonderful to have a 5 Best list such as yours as a guide, to keep an eye out for certain episodes. I know fans of the show will enjoy your list, but it's also a great read for people unfamiliar with Dr. Kimble and his plight.

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  6. It's hard to believe that it's over forty years since this series was made and it still has great impact on people. It was broadcast worldwide and held us all in suspense for four years. I doubt that they'll ever make a TV series with such power to hold a worldwide audience again. It's a classic!

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  7. you can find a ton of episodes on youtube, just type in "retroqueen1985 the fugitive."
    some personal favs are 'ticket to alaska', 'the iron maiden', 'wife killer', 'passage to helena', 'tug of war', and ofcourse the ones with the 1armed man. Great show till this day! Big fan from Toronto.

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  8. While the 4th season was a letdown in some ways (the switch to color, Alan Armer leaving the show as previously mentioned), there were still several worthwhile epsiodes. My top ten from the 4th are:
    A Clean and Quiet Town
    Nobody Loses All the Time
    The Walls of Night
    Dossier on a Diplomat
    Goodbye My Love
    The Evil Men Do
    Ten Thousand Pieces of Silver
    The Devil's Disciples
    and of course the 2-part The Judgment

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  9. You nailed "Landscape" Parts 1 & 2...but to me...I prefer

    (2) The Judgment Parts 1 & 2
    (3) Escape Into Black
    (4) Wife Killer
    (5) The Girl From Little Egypt (for the flashbacks only)

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  10. Hello Rick,
    Thank you for your very astute observations and appreciation of the "Top 5 FUGITIVE Episodes".
    I think Dave would agree with your selections. Each had solid script, great Guest Stars and Supporting cast. As for Season 4; the great Director Alan Armer was "burned out", as was David. Both Quinn Martin and ABC pushed for a Fifth Season, but Dave was both physically and mentally exhausted. To make matters worse for him, he was in the middle states of increasing marital discord with Ellie. He wanted to end the marriage, but his advisors were all against it; "it would be a scandal and hurt the series." Dave was a little sad about the ending of the series, yet on the other hand, he was relieved and looking forward.

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  11. The writer of this left out some of the best episodes listed here:

    Man In A Chariot
    Home Is The Hunted
    The Survivors
    The Iron Maiden
    Escape Into Black
    Nobody Loses All The Time
    Wife Killer
    Running Scared
    Wings Of An Angel
    The Ivy Maze
    Trial By Fire
    The Evil Men Do
    Ill Wind
    The End Game
    Nightmare At NorthOak
    Cry Uncle
    The 2130
    The Final Judgment 2

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  12. It was a terrific show and picking out a "Five Best" was tough and meant omitting some fine episodes. Thanks for listing some more of them!

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  13. you are right! landscapes is best,.. and the two parter with Duvall in season one is also great

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  14. I hope you can reveal an ending for me of a Fugitive episode. I've been watching them via Youtube and enjoying them a lot. However, the episode, Dark Corner, with Tuesday Weld, the ending clip isn't airing! Gah! How does it end??? Do her sister, sister's fiance, and the sheriff find out how evil Maddie really is? How does Richard get away from that farm in SD????

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  15. It's not the best one, but I love the episode Storm Center from season one for several reasons. Mostly because it's different. In most other episodes, Dr. Kimble has his eyes downcast, he's trying to stay obscure, and he's pretending to be someone else. In this episode, his real identity is known very early on. He can be himself, he's not hiding his personality. There's actually humor in this episode. It's 45 minutes of him and one other character and the acting is outstanding.

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  16. am watching the first season on DVD, and the best so far is the "Angels Ride a Lonely Road" 2 part episode. Eileen Heckert as Sister Veronica was Emmy-wining stuff....

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    1. True, she is excellent in that episode and it's a strong one, too. Frankly, the first three season are just outstanding.

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  17. The best series from my elementary school days bar none. A good many of my favorites not mentioned deal with the obvious chemistry Janssen shared with his female co-stars. There were three great episodes back-to-back-to back in season 2: Brass Ring (with Angie Dickinson, sister of an embittered quadriplegic, terrifically portrayed by Robert Duvall), Ballad for A Ghost (with doomed singer Janis Paige portraying a lookalike of Kimball's wife), and The End is But the Beginning (with a love-struck Barbara Barrie willing to do anything to help Kimball - I think my all time favorite relationally centered episode with two of my favorite scenes from the entire series). And yes, Suzanne Pleshette and Janssen had palpable TV screen chemistry in the Scared Rabbit episode ("Joe, do me a favor? Would you kiss me?) Her fluttering eyelashes after the kiss wasn't acting. Then there were the ones with Vera Miles, Lois Nettleton, Hope Lange, and Susan Oliver, just to mention a few of the sixties babes who shared screen time with the good Dr. Kimball. But the last one I'll mention, another all time favorite, allowed Kimball to be a pediatrician again - When the Wind Blows, where Kimball helps a sensitive child and his mother see the boy's odd behavior as a gift to be embraced. Man, what a series!

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  18. Producer Alan Armer wasn't 'burned out', as an earlier comment states...Armer left The Fugitive to work on another QM series, The Invaders, which premiered midway through the '66-'67 season. Martin would occasionally shift producers on his shows...he later did that with Philip Saltzman (moving Saltzman from The FBI to Barnaby Jones in 1973) and Anthony Spinner (Spinner, who replaced Saltzman on The FBI, moved over to Cannon, starting with the 1974-75 season).

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