Favorite TV Episodes: The Fugitive "Escape Into Black"


Bored Historian
Aug 26, 2011
THE FUGITIVE 11/17/64 “Escape Into Black”

This is Season 2’s version of “The Girl From Little Egypt”, only it’s a better version of it. One weak point is the accident that renders Kimble vulnerable: he’s in a diner in Decatur, Illinois, where he’s heard the One-armed man might be working in a restaurant when a fire breaks out in the kitchen. Everybody flees except Kimble, who tried to stop the fire by fiddling with the controls of a gas stove that he obviously doesn’t know how to work. There’s an explosion and he winds up with the script writer’s best friend, amnesia. Why didn’t he run? The interesting thing about this sequence is that David Janssen is clearly not doubled when there is a major flair-up of the fire to suggest the explosion. Janssen recoiled backwards and falls. Obviously, he wasn’t as close to the flames as it appears but it still seems a risky scene to put your star in.

Anyway, Kimble winds up in a hospital, not knowing who he is. He gets flashes of a dead woman, a one-armed man, etc. But he can’t add it up. The hospital staff and the local police try to help him find out who he is, which is the last thing he would want- if he knew who he was.

Meanwhile there’s a conflict between the doctor caring for him and the social worker who is trying to find out who he is. The doctor long ago decided he could be a better doctor if he took no personal interest in his patients. The social worker is a bleeding heart advocate for everyone whose case winds up on her desk. They’ve clashed before and are now jousting about what to do with Kimble. Kimble, searching for the truth of his life, agrees with the doctor’s plan to use sodium pentothal to pull Kimble’s hidden memories to the forefront and we again see the flashbacks to the night of the murder and the subsequent trial. The doctor now knows who Kimble really is. He convinces Kimble he’s really running from his own guilt.

When Kimble finds out he’s a doctor who killed his wife, he thinks he may be guilty of the murder. He even goes to a library and looks up the old newspapers and decides the case against him is pretty strong. Meanwhile the social worker finds the one-armed man, who denies knowing Kimble in an unconvincing manner. The man then calls the police to report that Kimble is in the hospital. He escapes but decides to call Gerard to turn himself in. He takes a train headed for Stafford. But on the way he looks out the window and sees his reflection- which becomes the reflection in the original opening credit sequence, which then gets repeated, allowing Kimble’s memory to come back.

The social worker is played by old time song and dance gal Betty Garrett, who was familiar with men in dire straits, having been married to the blacklisted Larry Parks, who got off the blacklist by naming names and thus winding up with the contempt of both sides in that era. The doctor is played by Ivan Dixon and that’s significant because Dixon was black but there’s no reference to that in the script. One break through is to get roles as black characters in stories about racism. But the greater breakthrough is to be considered for all roles with color not being an issue. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen enough for performers like Dixon, who wound up taking the insubstantial role of “Kinchloe” in “Hogan’s Heroes”. Eventually he turned to directing, where it didn’t matter what color he was.

Ironically, at one point Garrett, discussing Dixon’s impersonal attitude, sarcastically says “You wouldn’t want to stain your lily-white coat, would you?” Dixon points out that he could lose his license to practice if he allowed a convicted murderer to escape and says “You wouldn’t want two defrocked doctors would you?” Apparently, he thinks of himself as a priest more than a doctor.

IMDB: "The Fugitive" Escape into Black (TV Episode 1964) - IMDb

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