Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) Chapter 7

Chapter 6 of “Rich Man, Poor Man” wasn’t good for couples.  Talia Shire took the baby and left Nick Nolte, which is actually a plus for the story.  Unfortunately, Susan Blakely’s sick child brought her and wayward spouse Bill Bixby closer together, pushing off the romance with Peter Strauss for which they both had been pining since high school.

It’s now 1958, another four years gone by.  Peter gets a bizarre call from his old friend Lawrence Pressman to meet him the next day because he’s in trouble.  The phone rings mom Dorothy McGuire too, asking who called.  “You mean that Bolshevik?” she pipes in before setting off one her zillionth tirade about her husband having faked his death, still alive somewhere.

Nick heads to Los Angeles to reconnect with boxing manager Norman Fell, after having abruptly left him, desperate for work. At the gym, he meets Norman’s current big deal, arrogant and obnoxious George Maharis and his wife Lynda Day George.  Rusty Nick gets knocked around by cocky George, but blond stunner Lynda takes a liking to Nick.  Lynda tells Nick that she and George “don’t sleep together” when he’s preparing for a fight, which Nick takes as a veiled invitation.  That’s exactly how she meant it.

Over the years, Peter has become a very big deal at what has become an empire fashioned from Ray Milland’s department store.  What hasn’t changed is Ray’s daughter Kim Darby, who still pines for Peter.  To trap him into some time together, she’s moved heaven and earth to secure tickets to “West Side Story” on Broadway.  Broadway fans will know that’s a factual absurdity as “West Side Story” was not a gigantic hit and a year into its run (of less than two years), tickets would have been pretty easy to come by.  “Afterwards, you can take me to supper…that’s so you won’t feel so emasculated,” Kim tells him.  Uh huh.  Luckily for Peter, company lawyer Dick Sargent calls, so Kim has to scoot.

Then comes the mysterious lunch with Lawrence, clearly on edge.  He’s up for tenure, but his leftist politics may kill that.  He swears he’s not a Communist, but he can’t simply admit that because he feels it’s a violation to be asked.  So, he wants Peter to tell the board for it.  “I’m taking a principle stand but I want you to bail me out,” he says frankly.  Making it even more difficult is that Peter’s boss is on the tenure board and his future is in jeopardy if he helps Lawrence.  Success is starting to turn Peter into a member of the stuffy old guard.

Dick throws a party and Susan Blakely is there, but Kim clings to Peter and tries to assert rights over him, getting awfully clingy.  “No wife, nothing like that?” Susan asks him.  “I don’t even have a dog,” he replies.  Susan has also finally shed her drunken husband, but her date to the party is an oaf that sets Peter on edge.  “You and I are going to be married one of these days…it’s ordained, it’s inevitable,” Peter crows, having waited so long for her.

However, Kim isn’t playing nice.  Peter takes the drunken girl to her hotel, but she starts getting aggressive in the cab.  When he rebuffs her, and she screams that he only used her to get in good with her father.  “I just wanted you to make love to me,” she tells him when they get to her destination.  Peter still doesn’t fall for it and Kim launches into a tirade that ends with, “I’ll get you, you bastard,” but starts with another condemnation of his status as a stuffed shirt, the second time in this episode that accusation has been lobbed against him.

Norman and his boxing boys are in Las Vegas for George Maharis’ big fight, a sold out affair.  Nick is still being used as a sparring partner for George, though both he and Norman know Nick could easily beat the hell out to him.  There is a lot more going on with them, such as the scary dude who seems to have control over George and the hotel employee who follows Lynda and reports on her movements to George.  That means he must know all about the tawdry affair Lynda and Nick are conducting.

Meanwhile, Nick has hired a private eye to find his son, but he’s always short on cash and the PI dangles details in front of him as a way to extort money from gullible Nick.

As expected, George has found out about his wife and Nick, so he beats the stuffing out of her in a surprising bit of gore for this miniseries, but one that sets the stage for lots of upcoming brutality in the next 20 or so years.  Lynda tries to warn Nick that George will come after him, claiming George “is a murderer.”  Indeed, George races over to Nick’s motel, but Nick is prepared for him.  In fact, Nick baits George and George lunges at him.  The two scuffle and Nick finally gets to show his real boxing talent.  Normal shows up and tells Nick that George is being supported by the Mafia, so Nick better leave town go as far as the ocean, “cross that ocean and don’t come back for 10 years.”  That’s going to hurt his plans to find his son.  The people in the next room have called the police, so now the mob and the cops will be after Nick, still attracting trouble every time he blinks.

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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