Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) Chapter 4

Episode 3 of “Rich Man, Poor Man” was something of a reminder episode, a chance to catch up with the characters without too much happening.  Peter is still trying to work his way through college, Susan is in NYC trying to become an actress and Nick is trying to make a life with family in California, despite a quick affair with the household maid.

Drunken Nick wants to dance with Talia Shire, out with her rich boyfriend, but the rich kids beat him up badly and toss him into the water.  Talia chirps, “I wouldn’t go home with him!” as she helps Nick out of the water and to her home since her dad is out of town.

In his little college town, Peter has an appointment with Robert Reed’s pal Ray Milland, so important he has pictures of world leaders on his wall.  Department store magnate Ray gives him a job, though he’s not happy about it because college kids haven’t worked out well in the past.  “I expect an honest day’s work.  Do that and you’ve got a job.  Fail and you’re gone with the wind,” Ray bellows.  Not only does he work, but he’s on the track team and studies economics with vigor while being harassed by Kim Darby, Ray’s daughter who has the hots for him.

During a study break to ski, Peter helps Kim, who fakes an injury to get his attention.  “It just kin of throbs all over,” she says, trying to be flirtatious when coming off as just annoying.  When he takes her home, Ray doesn’t recognize him at first, but soon realizes he’s the one responsible for the store’s wonderful window displays.  He’s supportive of Peter, especially knowing that his daughter likes him.  That does not thrill Peter.  “What’s wrong with her her?” his roommate asks.  “She’s a nut, that’s what’s wrong with her,” Peter moans.

Peter and his roommate come up with a business idea to start a ski lodge out of an abandoned building, but need $3000 to get it up and running.  Papa Ed Asner is reluctant to give him the seed money, but Mama Dorothy McGuire convinces him by saying, “I feel it.  It’s our chance to have something.  I feel it in my bones.”

While in NYC arranging or supplies, Peter decides to go see Susan’s play, the one where she has one line, which happens to be the curtain line, delivered in just a slip.  “Tell her to bring a friend, a nympho, with money,” his roommate tells him before sending him backstage for a long-delayed reunion.  She doesn’t even notice him, racing into Bill Bixby’s arms and then his apartment.  They are basically living in sin because his wife won’t agree to a divorce.

Nick is arrested for statutory rape of Talia Shire, which brings scowling Ed out to California, with the $3000 it will cost to get him out of the scrape.  She’s pregnant and claims Nick is the father.  Hmmmm, I wonder if that’s the same $3000 Peter needed for his ski lodge idea.  Nick wonders how Talia knows the kid is his.  “Because I know,” she says.  The charges are dropped if Nick will leave town, much to the delight of his social-climbing family members.  “I did it so the one member of the family who is worth a damn won’t have to go through life with a jailbird brother around his neck,” Ed says, saying the slate is now clear with them, “the last time I ever want to see or hear from you.”  Nick yells after him that, “I’m gonna pay you back, Pa, every last scent, even if I have to jam it down your throat!”

A letter arrives from dad to Peter without the promised $3000.

Now we’re cooking again!  After some very slow times, the plot is lurching back, with the brothers pitted against each other by circumstance, not even intentional hatred or disagreement.

How can Peter get the money?  He places a call to Kim Darby.

Nick leaves his family and his job, though not before the rich kids come after him again (although the rich kids look even older than Nick playing teenagers–this in the pre-Botox age).  When one of them insults Talia, Nick beats the hell out of him.

Not only did Nick and Peter have a need for the money, but so do Ed and Dorothy, as the long-planned supermarket is finally about to open, right next door to the bakery, certainly to finally put them out of business.  He comes home to an eviction notice (with two months warning) and Dorothy leaving their bedroom.  She’s hopping mad that he bailed out Nick (referring to him as  “perfect stranger”)  and wasted the $3000.  “I’ve got my price too.  $30 a week, but I want my back pay!  It’s a bargain rate.  $30 a week for 20 years, I’ve figured it all out, it’s $30,000.  You put $30,000 on the table and I’ll talk to you, not before!” she screams at him.  He leaves, with Dorothy shouting at him.

Peter is explaining his business proposal to Ray and Kim when a call comes to Ray’s house from his mother.  “I don’t know where he is.  He’s been gone all day,” she says in a trance.  “This time, he’s gone for good.”  Indeed, what is the most notable failed American dream (remember, the big overall theme of “Rich Man, Poor Man) so far has reached its conclusion.  On a rainy night, Ed takes his rowboat out one last time.  Another one looks to be snuffed out when Talia shows up, in a drenching rain storm, having been tossed out by her father and having lost the baby, to follow Nick out of their small town.

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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