THE RUNNING MAN

 

 

Episode First Shown: March 30th 1969

After Candy receives a letter from a previous girlfriend, Barbara Parker, begging for his help he goes to Butlerville. Several homesteaders in the town have been burned out and a woman and child died in one of the fires. Barbara’s husband is the only witness.

 

 

This is a very satisfying episode where the real drama is played out in the relationships and minds of all concerned. Definitely one of those deeper, later episodes that we admire.

The story line is an unusual one. Cal Butler in the past had to defend his land from those who might steal it. He has become increasingly mentally disturbed so that he will now stop at nothing to clear legitimate homesteaders off the land surrounding his town of
Butlerville. Once a decent friend of Ben's he has become increasingly corrupt.

With his son and foreman he torches a house where a woman and child are burned to death. The father survives but is ultimately killed as one of only two witnesses.

The surviving, wounded witness is Jess Parker who becomes the running man in hiding. A letter from his wife Barbara to Candy brings Candy and Joe to Butlerville to help. Briefly, they appoint themselves
deputies and lock up the crooked sheriff. Joe visits Cal Butler who is staying in the hotel and recognises what he has become.

Candy and Joe lock Jess (the surviving witness) and Barbara in the jail for safety, get a doctor for Jess and wait for the circuit judge. Before that happens Joe is shot in the arm by a sniper aiming for Jess. Cal, his son and foreman think they have killed Jess but arrive at the jail to find Joe sitting behind the sheriff's desk. In a shootout Joe kills
Butler's son and Butler is safely locked up to await trial.

Yet the real drama is in the range of emotions and interactions between the main characters. There is very well played tension in the triangle of Barbara, Candy her former love and her husband Jess. Barbara and Candy recognise that any feelings between them must belong in the past, Jess resolves any jealousy of Candy and he and Barbara are able to make a fresh start.

 

Jennifer Douglas as Barbara is totally different to Emily (the role she plays in the episode of that name) and portrays a capable, strong woman who is able to make mature decisions about her relationships. Larry Casey does a good job as Jess. David Canary is really splendid as Candy being a good friend.

The meetings between Joe and Cal Butler are excellent and this is the mature Joe who is quiet, analytical and immensely effective. Michael and Will Geer are great together.

Two final points - I wondered how Joe was going to shoot with an injured left arm and he shoots right-handed exceptionally well.

There is a wonderful Joe/Ben feet-on-the-table scene at the beginning when Ben asks Joe if he knows the difference between a table and an ottoman. Joe answers: "Sure I do" to which Ben replies: "Then take
your feet off the table!!" There is also a lovely knowing grin from Hoss which says silently: "He ain't gonna learn Pa!"

A very good episode of high physical and mental drama and very much an in-depth later episode.

Hilary

 

 

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