Spenser: For Hire: Season 2, Episode 19

The Road Back (21 Mar. 1987)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama
8.2
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When Spenser is protecting someone, he gets shot. He then learns that there a chance that he might lose the use of his injured arm. So he has therapy while waiting for the surgery that ... See full summary »

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Title: The Road Back (21 Mar 1987)

The Road Back (21 Mar 1987) on IMDb 8.2/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
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Kip Niven ...
Dan Mahaffey
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Karl Shore
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Dr. Hambrecht
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Miss Westmore (as Heather Menzies)
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Tommy
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When Spenser is protecting someone, he gets shot. He then learns that there a chance that he might lose the use of his injured arm. So he has therapy while waiting for the surgery that could fix it. And at the same time, the man he was protecting, not wanting to let anyone else get hurt is willing to give to the people who were trying to kill him. Written by rcs0411@yahoo.com

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Crime | Drama

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21 March 1987 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Heather Menzies-Urich, Robert Urich's real-life wife, appeared in this episode as Spenser's physical therapist. See more »

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Spenser: A strong willed man, whose confidence is severely tested...
17 May 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

In this episode, we see Spenser both different, and the same. How is he the same? He is Spenser the fighter - tough guy with strength and courage - courageous against the powerful to help the weak. We see his desire to help some poor people (including a young Frank Whaley) who are being evicted from their tenement building, as well as the local congressman who is trying to prevent it, via legislation to build a homeless center for them. For this, Spenser is targeted, by a slumlord, with violence - including a pair of assassins who try to kill Spenser. In the gunfight that ensues, Spenser manages to stop (permanently) one of the assassins, but is severely wounded by the other one. Though Spenser survives the attempt, it soon becomes apparent that he may lose his right arm. Naturally, being the fighter he is, Spenser refuses accept this possibility - he continues to work out, and look for the surviving assassin. Equally important, he rebels against accepting help from his friends Lt. Quirk, Sgt. Belson, and D.A. Rita Fiore, beautifully illustrated when they try to cook for him one night and he can take no more of their "help" (i.e. cutting his food for him), he walks out of his own home, leaving them there to finish dinner). Spenser will not even take help (other than information) from his friend Hawk. Seeing how Spenser is now, essentially, a one armed man, Hawk wants to help - he tries to counsel Spenser on this ("I've known you as a tough man Spenser, known you as a brave man - seen that many times. But I have never known you as a fool"), but Spenser is determined to go it alone and find the remaining assassin before the assassin finds him (the two assassins were brothers, and the surviving one wants vengeance).

How is he different? In the way he faces his own vulnerability. There is a wonderful scene with Spenser and Rita, where she apologizes (and apologies don't come easy for her) for the way she treated him at the dinner (Rita: "I was patronizing you, coddling you. I was treating you as if you were helpless. It was wrong of me." Spenser: "It was awful" (smiling warmly). And I was so good about it." Rita: "You could have been better" (smiling warmly back at Spenser)). And then, when Rita asks to stay with Spenser, "to be with" him, to look after him while he faces an uncertain future, Spenser declines, but he does so gently, caring deeply for her feelings (she is as vulnerable to him, emotionally, as he is vulnerable physically). Spenser looks her in the eye and tells her the truth: "You are the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. I want you in my life. But right now, for the first time, I'm not sure what that is". Such vulnerability being shown by such a tough guy! And, by the way, what a pleasure it is to see a man and a woman, attracted to each other, talking openly and honestly about their feelings. Theirs was truly close friendship between a man and a woman, that both were willing to let develop into something more.

Later, with the help of a wise physical therapist, and a boy who is handicapped, Spenser is able to see things in a different light, able to at least consider the possibility of leading the remainder of his life in a very different way. There is a wonderful scene where, via photos in an album, he looks back and reflects on his life. He is moved to call his father on the phone, just to hear his voice and suggest he will soon come visit him. And telling him he loves him. And then... he is visited by the assassin, and manages to vanquish him using nothing but his wits, his one good arm, and a very high window. He also manages to convince the congressman to stay the course (the congressman, seeing what happened to Spenser, had decided to call off his plan to build the homeless center in the face of the intimidation from the slumlord's hired thugs). Then he goes to visit the slumlord to make his feelings known with his words, and his Berretta 9mm – he can still shoot with his other arm, even if he is not as accurate as usual ("I'm not very good with my left hand") - convincing the slumlord that he, Spenser, is prepared to visit his vengeance upon him ("I see the anger in your face". "Anger like that can drive a man to revenge".)

At the conclusion, he shows his surgically repaired right arm to Rita when she comes to take him home from the hospital (once again, he is at his most vulnerable in front of her), and she shows him (with a warm, intimate kiss) that he could not possibly have pleased her more than he did in sharing that moment with her. And in the final scene, we see Spenser and Hawk, and what a deep friendship between two strong silent types looks like. So there you have it: Robert Urich as Spenser, tough on the outside, but thoughtful, reflective, and compassionate to others on the inside. Avery Brooks as Hawk, who is, well... Hawk. And Carolyn McCormick as Rita, a determined, dedicated professional D.A., but woman enough to let her guard down and share her true feelings with Spenser.

One more note: The physical therapist was played by Heather Menzies, wife of Robert Urich. In addition to playing the scenes with her husband, she is quite good – balancing warmth (to show him that he is not alone in this) and determination (reinforcing the need for him to come to terms with what he is facing). All in all, this is one of the best episodes of the entire series.


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