Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Case of the Renegade Refugee (including missing scenes)

Happy Easter, everyone! In trying to come up with a subject that would be at least semi-appropriate for the day, I suddenly realized that I’ve never given The Renegade Refugee a spotlight post. (And I even forgot to include it in last year’s Easter post and had to add it later. Oy vey.)

Airing as part of season 5, The Renegade Refugee is certainly the most outright religious/spiritual episode the show ever did. Scriptures and prayers are quoted and a Franciscan retreat is a vital setting.

The episode opens with two intriguing and important facts: a Nazi war criminal is loose in a Los Angeles business, and a man named Harlan is very agitated and on the run. Someone is blackmailing him and a reporter is trying to find out where he served in WWII. Is he the war criminal? Or is there another reason for his anxiety?

Cut from the common syndicated version is an important scene that introduces us to all of the board members. Without it, the first time we see any of them is at the retreat, when Harlan greets one with, “It’s you.” Surely this has confused quite a few viewers. This episode is one of the ones that was cut up the very worst. That introduction scene should have been kept, but then again, so should some other scenes from later on. It seems like the episodes mangled the worst are always missing very important scenes, whereas some of the ones not cut up as badly are sometimes missing things not too important.

I imagine David haters are particularly irritated with this episode, as it’s the one where David tries to help Harlan when he comes to Perry’s office and Perry is still in court. When Harlan wants David’s help David is quick to point out that he’s not a practicing attorney yet, but he will do what he can. He suggests a few things to help Harlan with transferring his assets to his wife without her knowledge, culminating in David having a power of attorney form drawn up to give Perry the power to do what Harlan wants in Harlan’s absence. Unfortunately, David is unaware that he also needs to have Harlan write a letter detailing what he wants done, so the actions can’t be contested later.

Perry is so awesome with David, though. He’s very kind and patient as he explains the problem with what David did. He knows mistakes are made and he’s willing to give David another chance, knowing that David is a quick learner and won’t do it again. Maybe the writers didn’t always handle David the way that would have been best, but I still say it could have been pretty interesting if there had been more scenes like this between Perry and David.

David wants to make up for what he did wrong, so he hurries to catch Harlan and have him write the letter. Instead, Harlan blows him off and runs out, saying he’s going to take care of the problem himself. David finds a copy of a badly drawn map, presumably where Harlan’s off to, and David hastens to get Perry and catch up.

I have to wonder how anyone can find the retreat using that map. It’s so simple and badly drawn and bewildering. Basically it’s just a few lines and squiggles and a “Here” sign. How does anyone know where the lines and squiggles are without more details and names and places?

But Harlan somehow finds the St. Francis Retreat, discovers the other board members and that reporter are there, and is approved to stay there for the weekend by Father Paul.

Around here, another very vital scene is clipped. He and Father Paul talk at night about Harlan’s agonized feelings and Harlan admits he’s come there to kill a man. He thinks that surely Father Paul won’t still allow him to stay, but after a moment to digest the news, Father Paul bids him “Goodnight” and leaves.

When Harlan gets back to his room, he finds the reporter going through his things. They fight, until William Boyett’s character Buck Osborne comes in and chastises them with, “I don’t know what’s going on here, but remember where we are.”

The next time we see the reporter, he’s lying dead near the retreat and Perry, Paul, and David have found him.

I have to wonder why it took them so long to get up there. Were they doing other things before they could go or did it really take them that long to drive all that way? It surely couldn’t be that far away, because it’s still under the jurisdiction of the LAPD and not the Sheriff’s office.

As morning comes, Andy, Sergeant Brice, and other LAPD officers are milling around the retreat. Andy tells the group of businessmen about the murder and that they’ll be allowed to finish their weekend retreat, but then they’ll be escorted back to the city for questioning. He also tells Father Paul that he’ll need to leave a couple of police officers there, but he’ll see to it that they don’t get in the way. Father Paul is grateful.

Under Perry’s prodding, Harlan finally reveals the reason why he was running: he was an American soldier in WWII who ran in cowardice at the Battle of the Bulge. He was hurt by a mortar and left for dead, but woke up, exchanged dog tags with another soldier, and fled. He breaks down as he recites his name, rank, and serial number.

I love how compassionate David is towards him. Back at Perry’s office, Della comments that Harlan must have found it hard to live with himself. David tells her that to hear him, he had died a thousand times since then from his shame and guilt.

Paul goes to Washington to try to back up Harlan’s story. He only becomes further confused when he’s told that Lieutenant Philip Kuyper, which Harlan gave as his real name, was actually a hero and died saving another man.

Of course, Harlan ends up charged with the reporter’s murder. He also apparently embezzled $55,000 from the company. He insists he didn’t steal the money, even though the mysterious blackmailer tried to force him to do so, and that he didn’t kill the reporter either. The blackmailer believed Harlan was the Nazi, which Harlan didn’t contest since he was trying to hide his own past.

In court, one of the other board members, Arthur Hennings, declares that he saw Harlan throw a rock into the bushes on the night of the murder. This leads to another missing scene, as David is upset that Hamilton pulled this surprise witness and testimony out of nowhere without Perry having a chance to know about it and prepare for it. Perry tries to explain to David that it wasn’t wrong for Hamilton to do that. (Perry himself has certainly done it many times to Hamilton!) Perry goes on to say that he and Hamilton are adversaries but not enemies and they’re both working for the cause of justice.

Paul, meanwhile, is still absent, tracking down two survivors from Philip Kuyper’s unit. Perry confronts Harlan about his identity and Harlan insists that he is Philip Kuyper. He wonders if Perry doesn’t believe him but later muses that it sounds as though Perry does. Perry insists that he is examining every bit of evidence in this case as though Harlan is innocent. He says that Harlan should not have to pay the price for his past mistakes by taking the blame for a murder he did not commit. He sets out to try to get Harlan an extension on his self-imposed debt.

Perry drives out to the retreat, where he talks with Father Paul. Father Paul tells him the story of St. Francis of Assisi and how he sees parallels between that and Harlan’s desire to pay his debt. Perry asks Father Paul about the Nazi war criminal, whom Father Paul must know. Father Paul insists he can’t reveal the man’s name, but Perry says what he wants to know is whether the man will tell the truth if Perry gets him to realize that he is holding Harlan’s life in his hands.

In court the next day, Perry cross-examines Arthur. When at last he recites part of St. Francis’s prayer (“For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life”) and asserts that Harlan is innocent, Arthur is deeply moved. Holding his crucifix in his hands, he finally admits that he lied about Harlan and the rock because of being blackmailed by someone who realized he was the missing Nazi. He insists he would not have lied if he hadn’t believed Harlan was guilty and says he isn’t afraid any longer to admit to his true identity.

With this problem solved, Perry proceeds to uncover and identify the real killer, Denver Pyle’s Emery Fillmore, who breaks down on the witness stand when cornered. He admits to a confrontation between him and the reporter and that he struck the reporter, who had figured out not only the Nazi’s identity but that Emery had framed Harlan for a robbery and had embezzled money to invest in the company through a supposedly inoperative small company that he owned. Emery gets up amid orders from the judge to sit down, crying out that everybody should have thought it was an accident. He then collapses in tears exclaiming he’s so sorry.

The epilogue finally solves the mystery of what actually happened to Harlan and who he is. He is willing to turn himself over to the authorities on having run during the war, but Paul brings in one of Philip Kuyper’s friends, who immediately identifies Harlan as him and tells him that while everybody ran, it was only Harlan who ran in the right direction, to pick up a wounded man. They were both blasted by the mortar and thought dead. Harlan suffered a concussion and shock and could only remember running, which he could only equate with desertion. For fifteen years, he has been paying a debt that didn’t even need to be paid. Now, he is free at last. “Welcome home, Philip Kuyper.”

It’s one of my favorite episodes, not only of season 5, but of the entire series. I love the religious/spiritual content and the truth about Harlan’s past. It’s an episode that always encourages me and buoys me up. I just wish it wasn’t so cut up on television!

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