A recently widowed woman and David find themselves on the wrong side of jail bars when they are framed for the murder of her crime-fighting husband.
I know Hulk (Lou Ferrigno) teamed up with Thor in The Incredible Hulk Returns and with Daredevil in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk but I hadn’t heard of any team-ups during the original series. But in reading the DVD description of this week’s episode I really wondered if there might be a new hero entering Hulk’s history. After all, the murder of a crime-fighter? I pictured someone wearing a mask and a cape. Unfortunately, Hulk is not teaming up with Power Man or Captain America in this episode; the crime-fighter mentioned is a District Attorney dead long before David (Bill Bixby) ever shows up in Los Santos, Arizona.
David is walking down an Arizona highway, tan jacket slung over his shoulder, when a high-speed chase whizzes past, two police cars pursuing a woman. David, realizing it’s foolish to have a coat in Arizona, stops and ties it to his knapsack and when he continues on the police are driving the other way, passing David again, the driver they were chasing now in custody. One of the police officers, Mike Evans, pulls over and offers David a ride into town, but David has to ride in the back of the car like a hostage. Evans seems suspicious to me, and I’m getting shades of First Blood with a drifter minding his own business being hassled by cops who don’t want the hippie in their town. Sure, the Sylvester Stallone movie wouldn’t come out for several years, but David Morrell’s original novel had been out several years, and honestly I’d love to see that story used as inspiration for a Hulk story. But unfortunately all this has in common with First Blood is that David gets a ride from a corrupt cop.
Evans seems congenial enough on the ride, sharing with David that the woman they arrested murdered her husband. But despite Evans’ conversational nature, it’s obvious trouble is afoot when they get into Los Santos and David asks to be let out at the motel and Evans says “There’s a place closer to the station that’s cleaner and cheaper.” Arriving at the station Evans introduces David to Sheriff Harris, played by guest star Dana Elcar, at this time perhaps best known for being FBI Agent Polk in The Sting but who would go on to be MacGuyver’s boss on MacGuyver.
The sheriff invites David in for coffee, but as soon as David enters the police shove him in a cell. They take his wallet, finding no identification, and tell David he’s under arrest. The officers won’t answer any questions, but in the next cell he sees the recently arrested woman, named Holly Cooper (played by Shelly Fabares, who actually appeared with Bixby in the Elvis Presley movie Clambake a decade earlier). Holly , distraught for reasons unknown, tells David that the police are going to try him for the murder of her husband. David is confused and becoming angry when the police come in saying in David’s bag they found the “evidence” that David is the murderer–love letters showing David and Holly were having an affair causing David to kill her husband.
The police come to get Holly and she cracks, shouting to David that the police will kill them both. David starts to shout, so one of the officers spray him with mace. I know David’s burning eyes are white as we get…
Hulk-Out #1 We have several stages of transformation here, seeing Bixby in the half make-up before the full appearance of the Hulk. In the cell Hulk starts to roar, and when one of the officers comes to check on the noise, Hulk grabs the man through the bars. He pushes the man back, pushing the cell of the door with him, and breaks through a wall where another officer is trying to put Holly in a car. Hulk shoves the officer in a trunk and when Holly passes out Hulk picks her up and runs off into the night.
After a commercial we come back to what could be thought is a different show entirely. A young man named Richie Forrest is trying to talk his girlfriend into going all the way, but she is trying to ward off his advances. This scene goes on for quite too long really making me wonder what this has to do with the Los Santos Sheriff’s Office or Hulk, but soon Hulk shows up, disturbing the kids and possibly preventing a date rape. Once the car drives away Hulk sets Holly down, and sits next to her. We get a reverse transformation that is actually a very well-done fade between various stages of make-up. Human again, David picks Holly up just as Hulk had and walks on.
He takes Holly to a broken-down truck David passed on the way into Los Santos. Several Mexicans had broken down and set up camp while they work on their vehicle. They give Holly water but refuse to help any further.
Once awake Holly tells David the details that her husband Ray was the assistant district attorney. Ray found out the sheriff’s office were doing illegal things, mostly smuggling illegals and drugs across the Mexican border, so the sheriff had him killed. Holly says Ray had files at their house which may incriminate the officers, and Ray’s boss the DA would believe Holly if she had the evidence.
David says he’ll help Holly get the evidence, and Holly points out he obvious–they are at the edge of town, David can just escape. David isn’t going to leave though. He gives the excuse that if they get the evidence then his name will be cleared as well…but his name isn’t David Brown, and he’s already on the run for one murder he didn’t commit, so why not another? It’s because David’s a good guy and he won’t leave a woman in trouble, so back into town they go.
Through a complicated series of events that involve the Sheriff disabling the entire town’s telephone lines and Ray’s longtime friends refusing to help Holly the two fugitives finally make it to Holly’s house, just to be stymied as two officers are already at the house. They see the Sheriff and his deputies walking out of the house carrying a large, ugly, orange tote. They trashed the house in a search and found the unsubtle file tote which held Ray’s evidence. The officers are smug, without that evidence Holly can’t prove anything and she will be found guilty of murder.
After the Sheriff is gone David and Holly go into her house to get the keys for Ray’s pick-up truck. They go in the house to get the keys and Holly finds their wedding album thrown on the floor. She starts to look through the album and I am wondering why we need an emotional scene of her mourning her husband, but it turns out to be plot driven! In the wedding album Holly finds some film negatives–everything Ray had in the file he also made photos of and hid the negatives in their wedding album. With the evidence in their possession David and Holly take Ray’s battered pick-up…but they are stopped again when Evans pulls up, cutting off their exit from the Driveway. Pulling a gun on the two, Evans says “the wife of a deputy DA should know better than to return to the scene of the crime” and begins to arrest them again. While exiting the car Holly leaves the envelope with the negatives on the pick-up’s seat cushion. Evans handcuffs the two fugitives together. He starts to search the truck, though I’m not sure why since Evans knows they didn’t commit any crime, but he almost instantly starts to reach for the envelope. Needing to stop Evans from getting the back-up of the files, David kicks the pick-up door, slamming Evans shins in the process. Evans falls and David and Holly, still handcuffed, jump in the truck. They smash down a fence with the truck and drive away, which perhaps they should have done in the first place when Evans pulled up behind them.
They’re trying to reach the DA’s house, but it’s 15 miles away with nothing in between. Hitting the main highway they encounter one of the Sheriff’s roadblocks. They change course down a dirt road but the officer is in pursuit. For late 70’s television it’s a fairly exciting TV car chase. David is up-shifting and downshifting, fishtailing on hairpin turns. The Sheriff is on his tail, and not able to keep up with the pick-up. When the Sheriff misses a turn, David turns around and runs right at the police car, causing them to drive over a small cliff, going airborne and crashing their car. I almost expected for Roscoe P. Coltrane to check on his dog Flash after the crash as this chase was right out of the Dukes of Hazzard playbook–then it hits me. The Sheriff is basically a slightly more evil, and slightly more fit, Boss Hogg. By this point Dukes was a rating hit, so emulating its action-packed style is a smart move for its lead-in series.
David and Holly arrive at the DA’s house and the happy musical score by Joe Harnell is playing, but I know things aren’t over yet–Hulk has only appeared once! My instant guess is that the DA is in on the corruption Ray was investigating. And I was right.
They meet the DA, Jim, who looks to be a kindly older man. Instantly he tries to tell Holly to turn herself in and follow the rules of the court, but he allows Holly and David to tell their story. Yet despite giving them tea and hearing them out, I can see the telltale signs–Jim has his Mexican house servant drive away their truck, and Jim never gets the handcuffs off David and Holly. When David shows Jim the negatives, Jim says “You hold onto those and I’ll take care of everything else.”
Sure enough, getting a refill of tea David and Holly spot Ray’s physical files, the ones the Sheriff took from the house, in Jim’s house. It has to be those files because there can be only one orange tote that ugly in all of Arizona. Their truck gone, David and Holly flee on foot with their last hope being to walk to the state police.
Trying to keep pace with each other due to the handcuffs they run off into the desert, and the Sheriff and his men get the dogs and give chase. I’m again reminded of First Blood but despite being a murderer Sheriff Harris is no Sheriff Teasle. Harris is much more flat a character, lacking nuance. Plus Harris is just a lackey for Jim, and what evil mastermind is named “Jim”?
But Jim gives the order that this time Harris is not to capture the two fugitives, but to kill them.
We get another chase, this one on foot accompanied by fairly exciting music, and edited fairly well with scenes of David and Holly running intercut with shots of the police cars looking for David. It’s a well-done montage that really conveys the action.
David and Holly reach a dead-end when they come to a deep ravine, the police on their trail led by the bloodhounds. With no alternatives, David and Holly climb out on a thick power cable that spans the ravine, using another cable to steady themselves as they walk. The close-up shots of David and Holly are quite obviously not very high up, shot from the actors’ knees, but the wide shots look pretty good with the stunt people in real danger. But as they get to the other side Holly steps off the cable too soon, and slides down the ravine. She is falling and calling for help, and despite David’s best efforts she’s pulling him with her. David cannot get a handhold, but he can get white eyes.
Hulk-Out #2: Hulk transforms, and his much bigger wrist breaks him free of the handcuffs. Single-handed, he pulls Holly up and starts to carry her while she shouts for David, wondering what happened to her partner in crime. Given that he never let her go, I really thought I was going to have to add Holly to the list of people who know David’s secret, but either Holly was so panicked by the impending fall that she paid no attention to David’s transformation, or she’s just really, really dumb.
The sheriff is still giving chase, and he and his men try to follow David and Holly across the wires. They have rifles and I wondered why they just didn’t shoot the two, but they explain they cannot kill the two until they also have the negatives.
With the police on the wire, Hulk goes and starts to shake the cables, eventually pulling down the cables’ support beams on his side. The sheriff and officers retreat to the far side before they fall, and Hulk roars from a distance.
The cops go to get the dogs to go around the long way while Hulk approaches a frightened Holly, who starts to throw rocks at the green giant. Hulk is confused why the nice lady would want to hurt Hulk, and Ferrigno actually looks sad and bewildered as he lets Holly run away.
But we see a shot of someone’s shoes as the mysterious newcomer comes up behind Holly and she screams…is it the cop? Has she been found by Jim? We don’t know, as we cut away to see Hulk sitting down to pet a fawn. The writers love to remind us that animals with their instinct know they have nothing to fear from Hulk, a lesson humans have yet to learn. The reverse transformation is again shown, with Bixby again in the pale green make-up and eyebrows.
Lost in the desert, shirtless and barefoot, he returns to the ravine fearing Holly had fallen. He arrives to find a group there waiting for him–Holly with the Mexicans, their truck now repaired. Holly has the negatives, and the Mexicans give her a ride to the state police. They have to pass a roadblock, and in an ironic moment the fat, sombrero wearing Mexican talks to the officer while the white people hide in a crate under a tarp in the back of a truck. And irony upon irony, when the Sheriff accuses the Mexicans of being illegals the fat one gives the Sheriff his driver’s license–he was born and raised in Denver Colorado! (I should probably have referred to them as Mexican-Americans, but they were called “Mexican” in the credits, so I went with that).
Free at last, the coda shows David and Holly outside the State Police Department. Holly is going in, and David, in a shirt provided by the Mexicans, has to move on. With a kiss on the cheek David watches Holly take the evidence to safety, and wearing a tan shirt provided by the Mexicans David walks off to some celebratory music. David gets back on the Mexian’s truck and the Lonely Man theme plays as he continues his journey. I don’t know if he’ll ever make his way to Phoenix.
I also find myself wondering–did David lose his tan jacket? His bag was taken by the police, and despite the evidence making it to the state cops David never regained his possessions. The tan jacket has become a fun little item to watch for episode after episode. Has it met its end? Will David need a new coat to walk around the desert in? The questions are endless with Hulk.
Coat aside, this was a pretty strong episode. I saw the twists and turns of the plot coming, and it tries to fool us by having not one but two authority figures turn out to be corrupt, but the truth is in 1978 this may have all been very shocking. By 2012 this is a played out trope so I had an unfair advantage. But I admire the episode for having so many twists and turns, and not being just a straightforward plot. I was really sucked in during the opening scenes wondering who the woman was, why the police said she killed her husband, and why they needed David as a scapegoat. Over twenty episodes into Hulk none have had me more on the edge of my seat wondering what would happen next.
The chase scenes in the episode were good as well. Both the car and foot chase were exciting, and accented by one of Harnell’s best scores.
It had good action and a strong plot. I wish that the villains had been a bit more inventive and fleshed out, but I may be asking too much of any one-hour episode. Still this is a solid recommend.