Monday, July 15, 2013

The Fugitive: A Classic Kimble-Gerard Episode

Lt. Philip Gerard and Dr. Richard Kimble.
The similarities between The Fugitive's detective Lieutenant Philip Gerard and Inspector Javert from Les Misérables were there from the beginning. Mel Proctor, author of The Official Fan's Guide to The Fugitive wrote that series creator Roy Huggins intentionally borrowed from Victor Hugo's novel: "Huggins described Kimble's pursuer as a man from the state attorney's office and said the chase would embody the characteristics of Javert's pursuit of Jean Valjean."

Barbara Rush as Marie Gerard.
Some of the series' best episodes are those that pair Richard Kimble (David Janssen) with his dogged pursuer (Barry Morse). Sometimes, their interaction is centered around another member of the Gerard family. In the excellent season 3 two-part episode "Landscape with Running Figures," Kimble comes to the aid of Mrs. Gerard (Barbara Rush), who has become temporarily blind following a bus accident. And in "Nemesis," Kimble steals a sheriff's car in which Philip Gerard, Jr. (a young Kurt Russell) is hiding in the backseat. These episodes and others cause Gerard to reflect--if only for a moment--that Kimble may indeed be innocent of murdering his wife. But in the end, that's a moot point, for Gerard is only concerned with capturing the man that escaped while in his custody.

The best episode that focuses solely on the Kimble-Gerard relationship is "Corner of Hell" from season 2, which William Conrad describes in his opening narrative as a "grim encounter with truth and irony." The episode starts with Gerard in hot pursuit of Kimble (who's driving a truck, perhaps his most frequent occupation during the series' run). When Kimble comes upon a police barricade, he smashes through it, drives down the road, and runs off into the woods. He doesn't see a rickety wooden sign stating: "Keep out! This means you."

The sheriff refuses to pursue Kimble any further, explaining to Gerard that the woods are full of moonshiners, whom the local law officials choose to ignore. When Gerard insists on a manhunt, even if he goes on it alone, the sheriff replies: "Them people hate a stranger. They hate a lawman. They hate a man in a store-bought suit. You're all three."

Guest star R.G. Armstrong.
Meanwhile, Kimble encounters a family of moonshiners led by the tobacco-chewing Tully (R.G. Armstrong). When Cody (Bruce Dern), the clan's resident trouble-maker, gets injured in a fight with Kimble, the former physician tends to Cody's wound. That earns him a little respect, which only grows when Tully learns that Kimble is running from the law (it helps too that Tully's daughter has taken a shine to the good doctor).When Gerard appears at the moonshiners' camp, Tully assures Kimble: "You'll be safe. You can watch how we get shed of somebody we don't really want around here."

The moonshiners scuff up Gerard and vandalize his car, but the real trouble starts when the detective is falsely accused of assaulting Tully's daughter (the real culprit is Cody, of course). The moonshiners are prepared to lynch Gerard, when--in a touch of brilliant irony--Kimble has to intervene to save his pursuer.

Barry Morse and Bruce Dern.
GERARD (who's tied to a chair and sounding desperate):  Our system of justice may not be perfect, but it does give every man a fair chance to defend himself.

TULLY:  How 'bout that, Doc? You get a fair chance in court?

KIMBLE:  Yes.

TULLY:  You mean he's speakin' the truth. You're a killer?"

KIMBLE:  No, I couldn't prove my innocence--but they let me try.

The outcome of "Corner of Hell" is obvious, not only from a practical series standpoint, but also because the viewer knows Kimble to be a noble man. Still, the episode turns the tables for once and lets Gerard experience the horror of telling the truth when no one will listen.

In the episode's closing scene, Gerard proves that--despite this experience--nothing has changed. His final words to Kimble are: "The truth is you're still guilty before the law."

And Kimble understands what that means, that Gerard will continue his relentless pursuit--just like Javert. "He'll keep trying," Kimble confides to Tully. "As long as there's a chance, he'll keep trying."

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This post is part of Me-TV's Summer of Classic TV Blogathon, hosted by the Classic TV Blog Association. Go to http://classic-tv-blog-assoc.blogspot.com to view more posts in this blogathon. You can also go to www.metvnetwork.com to learn more about Me-TV and its summer line-up of classic TV shows.

17 comments:

  1. I love "The Fugitive," and "Corner of Hell" is a brilliant example of why. It is fascinating to see who will learn the true identity of Dr. Kimble and what he/she/they will do with the information. As you mentioned, with the moonshiners community, they have their own "laws" and ways of handling situations. We see Richard instill and maintain the calm that is needed to survive. Over and over again we learn why he is a wonderful doctor and how sad it is that he is unable to pursue his gift because a one-armed man murdered his wife.

    Dr. Kimble saving Lieutenant Gerard truly is ironic. The strength of "The Fugitive" relies on the excellent performances of David Janssen and Barry Morse and they are assisted by a remarkable cast of supporting actors and strong scripts. I hope your post encourages others to check out this unforgettable classic television show.

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  2. Great piece, Rick. One of the strengths of The Fugitive is how, despite the fact we know Kimble's always going to escape, the writers manage to inject either suspense or a deeper underlying meaning (or both) to the story.

    That's not an easy thing to accomplish - witness all the season-ending faux "cliffhangers" we see today, where we already know the star isn't going to die because he's signed a new contract. The Fugitive knew we knew Kimble would escape, so they chose to go with something deeper and more substantial.

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  3. Great job Rick! THE FUGITIVE was the number one hip show to watch when I was in high school. Just about everyone would be talking about it the next day at school. Have not seen the show in years but I love connection, which I obviously never knew about way back when, between Gerard and Javert. I don;t think I could watch the show now without keeping that in mind.

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  4. One of the greatest television dramas, "The Fugitive" can't help but be enjoyed and admired by all.

    I appreciated being reminded of this heart-stopping episode.

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  5. Great piece. I am sort of a Fugitive newbie, and that's a shame. I can tell by reading this wonderful post that I've been missing out!

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  6. The Gerard-Kimble dynamic is what made this show great. These were both decent men with purpose and ultimately there is a mutual respect that shines through in each actor's portrayal.

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  7. One of my very favorite shows. I enjoyed your look at this great episode.

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  8. Though I 've never seen an episode of The Fugitive, I enjoyed this piece and will definitely seek it out. Me-TV is perfect for that, actually.

    I think the reason I have never watched The Fugitive is that it never ran locally in syndication when I was growing up (1980s). It wasn't until the Harrison Ford movie in the early 1990s that I became familiar with the story.

    The Incredible Hulk TV series seems to have borrowed some elements The Fugitive, so I definitely know I love the concept.

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  9. Riveting. If I've watched a handful of episodes of The Fugitive in my life I've watched too many. Not sure why that is but the series always had outstanding writing, given the outcome of the main character was always the same. I'm making a note of this episode title to try to catch it.

    Greta choice for the blogathon, Rick and your narrative style is compelling.

    Aurora

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  10. I remember that I loved watching The Fugitive. I need to go back and re-visit the series..

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  11. Rick, I was really pleased to read about this particular FUGITIVE episode, with Gerard finding the tables being turned on himself, even if he was still his stubborn self in the end. You've got me eager to catch up with this classic, too!

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  12. I'm so glad this show is airing on Me-TV--now I have a chance to catch up with it. Thanks for the reminder of the best of TV.

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  13. Really enjoyed this post, Rick! THE FUGITIVE is another all-time classic that has been a late discovery for me. I've only seen several episodes from Season One so far, but I'm finding this is one program that lives up to its hype. The Kimble / erard dynamic is one of the reasons this show is so compelling, and any episode where they meet face-to-face has got to be special. This one sounds terrific - Bruce Dern always gives great psychopath.

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  14. The topic of The Fugitive is one that I could on about enough to deplete my allotment of Internets bandwidth...but it's certainly no secret that I am a huge fan of the show. I remember when you mentioned "Corner of Hell" in a previous post of your favorite episodes of the series, and the last time I saw it on Me-TV I smiled, thinking about that.

    Great cast in this one, too - particularly from the incomparable Bruce Dern, an actor that a buddy of mine in college could do an impression of that was positively uncanny.

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  15. Great post! Never thought about the "Les Mis" connection, so great job. I must admit that I never watched "The Fugitive" ... certainly a hole in my TV resume. I rarely watched hour-long dramas in reruns. It was always comedies, for some reason, which is not the case with my current TV viewing. I'll have to look for this now ...

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  16. Rick, "The Fugitive" was one of the TV's great dramas, fully deserving of your eloquent prose - an insightful reflection on its "Les Mis" premise and the "Corner of Hell" episode. I haven't seen the series since Richard Kimball was finally exonerated in the finale. I suspect all of America was watching and breathed a deep sigh of relief when his name was finally cleared. David Janssen brought such depth and soul to Kimball - a man noble in his suffering and single-minded in seeking justice. I enjoyed Janssen in "Harry O" later, though it didn't last - and was very sad when he passed away much too young. However, immortality will be his thanks to "The Fugitive." Excellent piece, Rick.

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  17. I've never seen the original series, but am very impressed they paid homage to "Les Miserables" with its theme of the vindictive lawman forever chasing the fugitive.

    This sounds like a particularly thought-provoking episode, from a time when television didn't always pander to the lowest common denominator. (Oops - did I say that out loud?)

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