"The Fugitive" Smoke Screen (TV Episode 1963) Poster

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Plot summary
ynot-1624 December 2007
Kimble, working as a farmworker, is disliked and distrusted by the others, who suspect him of being a cop or immigration agent. Paco (actor Alejandro Rey), an illegal immigrant, is one of his tormentors.

A forest fire emergency leads to Kimble and others working on fire control. Paco's wife, Maria, follows the men to the fire scene. She goes into labor and is seen by the nurse, Doris (actress Beverly Garland), at the first-aid tent. The nurse declares Maria needs emergency surgery, but there is no doctor, and the fire has cut off the roads. Kimble wants to help, but an eager radio news reporter is snooping around and threatens to uncover his identity.
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Well-Staged and Suspenseful
dougdoepke7 February 2014
This entry has unexpected application for our own period, given the issues over illegal immigrants from Mexico. Here, Kimball is working as a farm laborer but is shunned by majority of Latino co-workers who suspect him of being an undercover immigration agent. Eventually, he makes friends with one of the co-workers, Paco, and his pregnant wife Maria. The couple, however, is undocumented, and somewhat surprisingly, the script has us sympathize with their lack of "papers" much as we sympathize with Kimball's fugitive status.

It's a pretty good episode. The forest fire inserts are well done, along with the location farm filming, each providing a strongly realistic effect. Also, that fine underrated B-actress Beverly Garland delivers a strong performance as the embattled nurse who must deliver Maria's baby in the field when what's needed is a hospital for a Caesarian delivery. But it's really Dr. Kimball who's put on the spot. All in all, the plot with it's remote radio broadcast seems more contrived than usual, but each plot element does fall into place providing for a generally suspenseful 60-minutes.
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There's a great need for some doctorin'.
MartinHafer4 March 2017
While Richard Kimble has taken many, many jobs over the four seasons of "The Fugitive", I was surprised by this episode because he obtained a job working the fields with migrant workers. He didn't exactly fit in here like he did with most of his other jobs and identities. And, it turns out I am not the only one who thinks this way as the migrant workers don't feel he belongs here and they treat him like dirt. Eventually you find out it's because they assume he's actually working for the police or Immigration and Naturalization Service looking to catch illegal aliens!

Things take an interesting twist when a huge fire breaks out nearby. The field workers are encouraged to volunteer to fight the inferno and Kimble, being a real do-gooder, volunteers. This is when he learns the reason the other workers didn't like him, as one of the illegals confides in him all their concerns. This man also has a HUGE concern...his wife is REALLLLY pregnant and it's not going well. Little do all the folks know that this hated man is a doctor...and obstetrician! But how can Kimble help without compromising his identity?!

This is a decent but generally unremarkable episode. Apart from taking a pro-illegal slant, which was unusual for the 1960s, the show is an average and enjoyable installment.
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St. Richard Fightin' Fires, Birthin' Babies, and Contendin' with Vexin' Mexicans
GaryPeterson6730 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"Smoke Screen" was a major misstep for the series and the weakest episode thus far, a plummet from the previous week's excellent "Decision in the Ring." I'm surprised "Smoke Screen" enjoys a high 7.4 rating from 66 users as of this writing. Its characters are unlikeable, its story is contrived and clichéd, and its plot twists unbelievable.

Richard Kimble, aka Joseph Walker, is "topping onions" alongside a couple dozen Mexican migrant farm workers who have prejudicially singled him out for bullying. The gang's ringleader is Cardinez, an especially sadistic predator who, played well by Pepe Hern, is abundantly loathsome. Another worker, Paco, played by Alejandro Rey, tries to kill Kimble with a shovel. In his defense, Paco may be uptight because he has a slightly unhinged and desperately needy wife named Maria who is expecting her baby at any moment. Rounding out the rogues' gallery of primary players is Beverly Garland as Nurse Doris Stillwell, a shrill and condescending 'angel of mercy' a million miles away from Florence Nightingale.

The story is a series of contrivances and clichés. Once the migrant workers' conspiracy against Kimble is established, volunteers are sought from among the farm workers to fight a forest fire raging nearby. Paco joins the volunteers over Maria's objections, so Maria stows away in the back of a truck. In the midst of the flames and billowing smoke of the forest fire, Kimble spots his tormentor Cardinez on the ground unconscious from smoke inhalation. We know from previous episodes that no person is too despicable to be left to die, so unsurprisingly Kimble scoops up Cardinez and carries him to safety on his back like a latter-day St. Christopher. And--contender for the biggest cliché in television--whenever there's a pregnant lady in the story, you can bet she'll go into labor at the least convenient time.

And she does. And it's complicated by the fact that Maria needs a Caesarean. Efforts to drive her to town are thwarted by the roads being closed because of the fast-spreading fire. Nurse Ratched--I mean Stillwell--takes this opportunity to emasculate Kimble, shrieking that a real man would have driven through the rangers' roadblock. The contempt Nurse Stillwell has for Kimble is astonishing. At first she uses him as her pack mule to lug her supplies, then as her chauffeur. When Kimble to save Maria's life takes a tremendous risk and reveals himself to be an obstetrician, Stillwell boils over with condescension, laughing derisively at the possibility this farm worker could be a doctor. Of course she quickly reaps the whirlwind she's sown, and finding herself scurrying to meet Kimble's barked demands for morphine.

If there's a cliché exclusive to THE FUGITIVE it's the obligatory epiphany when those suspicious of Kimble suddenly and wholeheartedly profess their belief in him. The epiphany is ridiculous when it unfolds too fast, as it does when after a couple sentences from Kimble Paco suddenly "sees the light" (these sudden conversions from mistrust to trust beg comparisons to religious experiences). It plays out better with Nurse Stillwell, who is slower to believe, though once she does her unflagging faith in Kimble prompts her to risk her career by falsifying the official birth record. Couple that with Cardinez going on national television and falsely claiming to have performed the surgery and delivered the baby and you have two textbook examples of situational ethics.

There is a scramble to rehabilitate all the nasty characters from earlier in the episode; for example, the now-fawning Nurse Stillwell denies ever seeing Kimble. And we learn Cardinez was terrorizing Kimble only because he and the other Mexicans suspected him of being an undercover immigration officer. In Cardinez's sun-baked brain, the way to win sympathy and favor with an immigration officer would be to systematically abuse him, which explains why Cardinez is a migrant farm worker and not a surgeon. Until suddenly he is. What a country!

The one bright spot in the episode is the subplot of cub reporter Johnny Peters and his fatherly boss Harry. It was inspiring seeing this Jimmy Olsen-type kid get in a little over his head but step up and rise to the occasion. Harry's encouragement, counsel, and genuine delight at Johnny's success proved the highlight of the episode. And Johnny learned many valuable lessons in addition to reporting on natural disasters, from how eyewitnesses will lie to your face to how seemingly kind strangers will build up your confidence one minute and tell you to "shut up" the next.

It's noteworthy that neither the director nor the writer of "Smoke Screen" was asked back to work on THE FUGITIVE. This was the sole directorial effort on the series by Claudio Guzman, who was a couple years away from busily directing 51 episodes of I DREAM OF JEANNIE. Writer John D.F. Black has numerous one-shot scripting credits for series including HAVE GUN-WILL TRAVEL, COMBAT, MANNIX, and STAR TREK (for which he wrote "The Naked Time"). Ed Robertson's book "The Fugitive Recaptured" quotes series producer Alan Armer as saying Black's "script needed a lot of work" and "the script needed rewriting," so Black isn't wholly to blame for what was likely a "too many cooks in the kitchen" rewrite by committee. The awkward inclusion of Lt. Gerard, for example, wasn't in Black's original script. Armer recalled, "we worked Gerard into the plot to remind viewers that Gerard was going to be a major part of the series." Talk about contempt! The producers had as little confidence in their audience--spoonfeeding them plot points--as Stillwell did Kimble.

I'm happy to report that the dismal "Smoke Screen" will recede in the rear view mirror as the series quickly picks up speed and regains its momentum in the very next episode. Unfortunately, sitting beside you will be a pair of psychopaths. Oh, well, "from the frying pan to the fire" is an adage that well describes THE FUGITIVE.
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10/29/63: "Smoke Screen"
schappe12 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Kimble has become a migrant worker but finds nobody trusts him, perhaps because of his obviously incongruous background for such a job. They think he's an undercover man working for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Then they get pressed into service to help fight a forest fire and the pregnant wife of one of the migrant workers is a stowaway on their truck. When she starts having labor pains and there are complications, the nurse in the firefighting camp can't do anything for her and all roads are blocked by the fire. Conditions are too severe for a helicopter. Kimble tells the nurse he's a doctor. She doesn't believe him but when he starts giving specific instructions that make sense, she decides to do what he says. They save the mother and baby and everyone is happy until a reporter shows up who wants to do a story on the migrant worker who saved the baby.

The pregnant lady is played by Pina Pellicer, a Mexican actress who'd gotten a big break when Marlon Brando cast her in his film "One Eye'd Jacks", (1961). Both he and she thought it might be her ticket to international stardom. It didn't turn out to be and "Pellicer committed suicide on December 4, 1964, aged 30. The presumed cause was depression." (Wikipedia)
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