The stakes are high when David takes a job in a Las Vegas casino and agrees to help a reporter who’s working on a piece about a gambling scandal.
We open with establishing shots of Las Vegas and a casino. This is no shock given the title, but what makes it special is the music! It’s a wonderful synth-funk beat with a strong bass line that combines funk and disco on a TV budget. There have been five CD soundtracks of The Incredible Hulk released on CD but this track has escaped release? It’s a crime!
We see David (Bill Bixby) is now working at Elder’s Casino as a shill. He’s being trained by a sweet blond blackjack dealer named Cathy (Simone Griffeth). The audience knows these two are clicking when Cathy picks up a copy of The National Register and makes fun of another one of Jack McGee’s Hulk stories, claiming the fuzzy picture of the green muscle man is likely McGee in a rubber suit.
But trouble is afoot. In Vegas, newspaper reporter Ed Campion has a hot story with evidence proving that the Casino’s owner Tom Edler is linked to organized crime. But Edler’s people are on Campion’s tail, and Campion’s wife Wanda is ambushed at the airport when she tries to fly to Los Angeles with the evidence. Desperate, Ed calls his friend and fellow reporter Jack McGee (Jack Colvin) to come to Vegas and take the evidence back to LA.
Edler demands a meeting with Campion at his casino, offering the reporter $250,000 to kill the story. When Campion refuses Edler’s bribe, Edler has his lackey Lee hit Campion with a car outside the casino. But David happens to be getting off work and rushes to offer medical aid. David accompanies the injured man in the ambulance, where the reporter gives David a tape recording of Edler’s attempted bribe and information on an airport locker where Wanda stashed the rest of the evidence. As he slips from consciousness, Campion makes David promise to get the information to Jack McGee, the only man who can help.
Of course David is torn, and the audience is in great suspense. David is the type of man who keeps his promises, but he can’t show his face to McGee, and thus we have the suspense of the episode. David tries to drop the tape at the front desk of McGee’s hotel, and we get a tense scene of David calling McGee on the phone to pass on the information. It’s David’s first direct interaction with McGee since the pilot! McGee knows David’s voice but can’t quite place it, and the episode-long game of cat and mouse is afoot.
Later at the casino Lee recognizes David as the man who helped Campion after the crash. Afraid that Campion may have given David evidence, Edler and Lee interrogate David, first trying to play on his company loyalty, then turning to coercion. But when David tries to escape Edler turns violent and we know what this means…
Hulk-Out #1: David is knocked down the stairs and what comes back up is the Hulk! He knocks around Edler, then rampages through the casino, scaring dancing girls and upsetting a stereotypical gambling southerner complete with 10-gallon hat. But the Hulk is focused on escape, not destruction, and runs out of the casino and into an alleyway where he transforms back into Banner. Again the reverse transformation is accompanied by the green animation.
We see David interrogated by cops who believe him to be a drunk, and then David offers to buy some spare clothes from a municipal worker, but these scenes aren’t coming off as either funny or suspenseful.
Instead, stealing the show this week, is Mr. McGee. Working with Wanda, Jack has been gathering the evidence and doing some actual investigative reporting. I see now that Colvin was perfectly cast as McGee and he comes off as a classic investigator in the vein of Sam Spade. It’s fun to watch, and I do believe I would watch a Jack McGee spin-off where the reporter investigated a new crime every week so long as Colvin was the star.
And this week it is Jack who is the hero, taking the risks to get the information from the airport locker. But McGee doesn’t know there’s an ambush awaiting him at the airport, and David has to take a cab to the airport to try and warn the reporter. Before she can call airport security Wanda is taken hostage by Edler, and I do find it odd that crime-lord Edler does so much of his own dirty work such as kidnapping women and beating up employees. What’s the point of being the boss if you still have to get your hands dirty?
David arrives at the airport too late and McGee is taken hostage by one of Edler’s men, and Lee then captures David. The goons put David in the back seat of their car…right next to McGee! Again it’s suspenseful–David is at gunpoint so there’s no way he can avoid McGee this time! He gets in the car and Bixby plays the scene perfectly, not wanting to look at McGee lest he be recognized, but unable to look away. But the joke’s on us, and David, as McGee is out cold having been hit by Edler’s goons when he tried to make a break for it.
The goons take David and McGee to an obvious soundstage that is supposed to be “the landfill on the south side of town”. There’s not a star in the sky, but the lighting is perfect! The goons plan to kill the two, pushing them into a pit and using a bulldoser to dump loads of sand on the two. Edler shows up with Wanda, another victim for the sand pit. McGee stays out cold, but after the third load of sand is dumped David finally has had enough!
Hulk-Out #2: Rising from the sand we get a hero’s shot of Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk. Even in the dark lighting of evening he is bright green and looks great.
Moments later McGee awakens and is more afraid of the Hulk than he is of the goons that tried to bury him. But while McGee fears the Hulk is a killer, Hulk effortlessly picks up McGee and performs a superhuman Bionic Woman type leap out of the sand pit, dropping McGee safe on the ground.
Hulk then turns his attentions to the goons, throwing Lee for yards into the sand. The second goon uses the bulldozer to attack the Hulk, and Hulk stops the land mover in its tracks, ripping off it’s blade and knocking it on its back wheels. Bested the goons run off.
But now we get the best scene of the episode. Finally face to face with his quarry, McGee doesn’t run. He isn’t even afraid. Instead he walks up to the Hulk and starts to question the monster. He asks if Hulk can understand him, and it gets even more suspenseful when we see McGee ask Hulk if he knows Dr. David Banner. It’s a great moment, and plays well in the preview, though it makes little sense. McGee doesn’t suspect Banner is alive, he thinks Hulk killed Banner and Elaina Marks. It would have made sense for McGee to ask about both doctors, but it’s been eight months since the pilot aired and, without the aid of home video, it’s likely the audience barely remembers Dr. Marks. It’s obvious, but I can’t deny the excitement of watching McGee stand feet from Hulk and invoke the name Banner.
The Hulk cannot answer, but he is calming down, and the green animated glow covers his face–he’s about to turn back into David right in front of McGee!
But while Edler’s goons made a run for it, Edler himself just went to get his gun. He shoots the Hulk in the arm, bringing back the beast’s rage and stopping his transformation. Hulk shot-puts a rock at Edler, hitting Edler’s car door and knocking the man out. Then, before McGee can question him further, Hulk runs off into the desert.
In the dénouement we see David leaving the Casino, saying goodbye to Cathy. In addition to providing exposition that Edler has been arrested, it’s actually a great ending scene, full of quotes with double meaning. Cathy says “You run into [McGee] yet?” and David smiles wryly and says “Not yet”. Cathy gives David a token to play in a slot machine and when it comes up a loser Cathy says “Maybe some day you’ll hit it.” David replies sadly “Maybe I will at that” and he leaves the casino as a different version of The Lonely Man theme plays.
And what a great episode this was. I love the cat-and-mouse between McGee and David. With McGee set up as David’s nemesis this type of direct interaction and confrontation is exciting and ups the stakes. Every time McGee comes to town David’s life is made a bit more difficult, and here Jack is not only in Vegas from the beginning but David is tasked with getting in touch with the reporter. It provides a tense dynamic to the episode that raises the stakes to more than your standard episode.
I just wish the writers had found a better way to create this situation. It’s just an unlikely crazy coincidence that David just happens to be working in Vegas at a casino owned by a criminal under investigation by a friend of Jack’s. I’d have preferred a less unlikely set-up, but that’s a mulligan I can give this episode if the rest of the episode proves worthy.
And it does. Well-written, exciting, and entertaining it gives Colvin a chance to shine in the spotlight while keeping David and the Hulk central as well. A very strong recommend.