Married - The Incredible Hulk Classic TV Series.
This two-part episode begins with David seeking the help of Dr. Carolyn Fields, a prominent psycho-analyst and pioneer in hypnotherapy.
David tells Carolyn that he's tried everything from radical radiology to chemotherapy but to no avail. He's hoping that hypnosis will yield better results.
At first, Carolyn is reluctant to work with David. She is in the midst of her own debilitating disease, and must focus on her health to the exclusion of others. But David eventually gets through to her in the following brilliant exchange:
Dr. David Banner: I was involved with advanced genetic research on related deceases at the Culver Institute in California.
Dr. Carolyn Fields: At Culver? Did you work with David Banner?
Dr. David Banner: Quite closely.
Dr. Carolyn Fields: Why did he suddenly abandon his research on diseases such as mine?
Dr. David Banner: His wife died... and after that his work... took on other priorities
Dr. Carolyn Fields: What a shame. His work in the area of my disease was brilliant, it was pioneering.
Dr. David Banner: Thank you.
Dr. Carolyn Fields: David Banner was killed in a lab fire.
Dr. David Banner: [shakes head] No.
Dr. Carolyn Fields: [realizing the truth] Why haven't you told people you’re alive?
Dr. David Banner: Have you read much of Robert Louis Stevenson?
Dr. Carolyn Fields: Treasure Island?
Dr. David Banner: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
David and Carolyn form a working relationship based on the respect and admiration they each hold for the other. They agree that if David helps Carolyn cure, or at least halt, her disease there will be more time for her to help David control his Mr. Hyde within through her cutting edge hypnotherapy.
The relationship builds from professional to personal and David experiences a brief moment of happiness, before another tragic ending.
Why Married is one of the best episodes
I chose this episode for the list of standout episodes for a number of reasons. One of which is that we see David happy for a change. Also for the first time since the pilot, David is helping *as* David Banner. He's not operating under an assumed identity. This is also the closest he comes to the David Banner we saw in the Pilot episode, but with less guilt and sadness.
This episode also brings the focus back on David as a brilliant research scientist.
For the first time (and maybe the last) David is able to remember events that happened while he was the Hulk. This is done through the use of Carolyn's hypnotherapy.
Also, through David's hypnotherapy treatments, we also see just how unstoppable a force the Hulk is in David's psyche.
The themes of the Pilot are heavy throughout this episode.
Once again, just as in the Pilot, David's memories of the car crash that killed Laura provoke a transformation into the Hulk. Also, like the Pilot, this happens while David is sleeping.
In the pilot, David is not present when Elaina dies (he was transformed into the Hulk). In Married, he is again in Hulk form when Carolyn dies, but transforms back in time to be holding her body. It makes for a very touching parallel.
Lastly, there is the casting and the writing.
Dr. Carolyn Fields is played by Bixby's long time friend Mariette Hartley and the chemistry between Bixby and Hartley is easy and real. The plot complication of Carolyn's terminal illness gives the impetus for their rushed romance, so it does not feel artificially hastened but allows for a rapid development all the same.
David and Carolyn enjoy one last strawberry.
Here's one more taste of some of the excellent writing. David asks Carolyn to marry him, and she basically tells him there's no point since they have, at most, only weeks together. His response:
" I once heard a story about a man being chased by a tiger. He came to a cliff. He fell, but he grabbed a branch, and he hung there, just out of reach of the tiger. And he looked down. You know what he saw?
Another tiger, waiting for him to drop.
And then he felt that the branch he was clinging to was coming out of the cliff by the roots. Now while all this was happening, he noticed something: he noticed, growing in a cleft bedside him, a single wild strawberry. And with his free hand he reached out and picked it. And he ate it.
And he thought to himself: what a wonderful strawberry."
Dialog like this can easily come off as hokey and fall flat. But this is where the skill and chemistry of Bixby and Hartley really come into play. Bixby delivers his lines with a quiet realism, and Hartley eagerly hangs on his every word, and they sell it completely. Instead of lame, sad-sac dialog it's a touching moment in the lives of these two tortured souls.
The pacing works well, and the relationship unfolds naturally. By the dramatic (and naturally tragic) end we are left with a feeling that we knew these people and share in David's loss.
It's a masterfully done 2 hours of television drama, especially for the time, that still holds up today.
Reaffirming, not rebooting...
Many television series hit a point where they seem to try to reboot the show, often with a special two hour episode to start off a new season. This usually results in a shift of the premise, and ultimately signals the decline of the series.
Married could have been such a reset, but it wasn't. Instead, what we have is a two hour episode to start a new season that reaffirms the original premise and reasserts the core themes: loss, scientific struggle, avoiding the journalist hound Jack McGee.
Classic T.V. fans may recognize the boy in the final scene as Meeno Peluce, best known for his role in the short lived Voyagers! series in 1982, and The Amityville Horror.