Rich Man, Poor Man (1976) Chapter 9

The brothers of “Rich Man, Poor Man” seem to be going through a change.  Who is good and who is bad?  It’s hard to tell.  Sure, Nick Nolte has to leave the country for pissing off the Mafia, but it’s self-protection.  It’s Peter Strauss as the hard-nosed businessman who is becoming less attractive.  Age and money have given him an ego, but then again, the people around him (his mother, his boss, even Susan Blakely) are also fairly unpleasant people, nothing like the hopeful innocents who celebrated the end of World War II.  As we pick up the story in 1962,  it’s unclear who is to be admired anymore.

Peter is breaking up the financial partnership with Ray Milland, who is as upset as Peter’s mother.  “Who retires at 35?” Ray asks.  “He has no time for anything, not even his mother,” Dorothy complains.  The next step is politics, as local bosses try to draft him into running, not caring what party he’s affiliated with.  He also proposes to Susan AGAIN and she puts him off AGAIN, though her reasons are wearing awfully thin, so thankfully this time, she agrees to marry him!  Yes, in fact, here is a television moment that is different: a wedding begins the episode rather than ending it.  


I’m not entirely sure what Susan’s outfit is all about: turban on her head, fur-ringed around the neck.  Dorothy talks during the wedding, telling an uninterested Ray she wishes her other son were there, but “he’s in South America, the merchant marines.”  Give that about eight seconds to settle in and we’re doing 70s stereotyping without apology.  Nick gets off his ship and there is a man resting on the ground with his sombrero over his face.  


Nick sees a fight going on at the wharf, where insanely muscular William Smith almost kills a guy with his bare hands.  They take an instant dislike to each other.  


In high contrast, Peter is on the golf course, the ultimate rich man’s enclave.  He’s playing with his old pal Tim McIntire, who wants to replace him at the company and is also dating Kim Darby.  Peter tells him Kim is seriously mentally wigged out, but Tim doesn’t believe him.


From there, Peter goes to meet the political bigwigs, headed by none other than Van Johnson (wearing a big wig on his head, FYI).  They want Peter to run, but Peter takes the high road: no deals or anything without his knowledge.  Basically, he doesn’t want to be in any one’s back pocket.  You have to laugh at that sort of naiveté, and I’m sure audiences in 1976 did, as they would elect unknown Jimmy Carter over known quantity Gerald Ford, their first chance to blot the stain of Watergate.  Unctuous Van agrees to the terms, though with a glint in his eye that says, “yeah, whatever.”


Nick meets another seagoing reject, Herbert Jefferson Jr.  Herbert is friendly, but Nick tries to keep to himself.  In comes William Smith, who slings every racial epithet at Herbert Jefferson, with whom he refuses to be in the same room.  Nick doesn’t say a thing, but finds Herbert Jefferson later to explain that he can’t be caught fighting or else someone will recognize him.  


Still going with the fur theme, this time on her peignoir, Susan is very pregnant and very ill-tempered.  She yaps at Peter any chance she gets and though she denies missing her old life, she clearly does.  As Peter is about to leave for the day, Susan starts having horrible pain.  She’s lost the baby.  


Waiting outside his home when Peter gets there is nutso Kim Darby, who tells him, “I wish it were her who died,” not at all what Peter wants to hear, and she continues shouting through the door when he locks her out.  Alone, he can have his first breakdown of the entire miniseries.  However, he always makes conversation swing back to himself, even with Susan at the hospital where he offers to get out of politics if she doesn’t like it, but since he feels he can fix the entire system from within, he wants to keep at it.  She has no choice but to agree.  


At a stopover in the French Riviera, Nick (who kind of speaks a bit of French) and Herbert Jefferson decide to buy a boat in order to give charter tours so they can live there the whole time.  However, the boat costs $15K.  Nick somehow thinks he can get the money and his son and live comfortably there.  


Despite Peter’s warning, Tim marries Kim, giving Dorothy and Ray a chance to bitch to each other again.  Even at her wedding, Kim starts in on Peter.  It’s at the wedding that Susan gets to meet Van and the rest of the political team.  They have their own ideas about what to do with Susan during the campaign, none of which seem to thrill her.

Categories: Romance Miniseries

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