Route 66 was a show I'd heard of, but never actually seen, since it hasn't been in syndication, at least not that I'm aware of, but thankfully it's now available on DVD. In this installment, the recently dearly departed Suzanne Pleshette is Lotti Montana, a migrant worker who suddenly runs away from a revival meeting, leaving her daughter behind, and catches a ride with Tod and Buz in the pouring rain. She begs them not to stop in the town of Sparrow Falls, even though the next town is 200 miles away. When they are stopped by the police, Tod and Buz want to know what she was running from. They find out that she killed a man eight months earlier, but they are convinced she had a reason, and find a lawyer to help her, a lawyer with issues of his own. Along the way, Buz gets into his usual fisticuffs, but there is something here that you probably won't see on a network TV show today. The preacher from the revival center finds her in jail, tells her about God's forgiveness, and the two pray. Lotti gets down on her knees with her eyes closed, and devotes herself to Christ. The scene was dealt with sensitively and sympathetically. That was 1960. Imagine seeing something like that on network television today. A great show. Catch it if you can.
Route 66 did not shy away from religious topics, but that is not surprising considering its cultural context. Watching "The Strengthening Angel" through the eyes of 2008, however, I was impressed with the open spirituality of this episode. Not only does the beginning take place at a Christian revival, but the show also presents a woman's spiritual conversion in great detail and unequivocally shows her faith in God to be the key to her social redemption. I was impressed by the unabashed faith presented in this episode.
Another notable feature of "The Strengthening Angels" is its willingness to tackle hot-button issues of the time, namely single motherhood, rape, and civic responsibility. That's what makes this episode an archetypal example of what Route 66 has to offer.
There is a small blooper when it is all too obvious that it is a stunt double fighting John Larch, instead of George Maharis. That aside, this is a deeply moving, well written episode that deals intelligently with the themes of sin, guilt, forgiveness and redemption. Suzanne Plesshette plays a woman with a past who hasbriefly found refuge with a traveling tent Revival minister . Interestingly, the minister is played by the very gifted , versatile character actor, Harry Townes, who was an Episcopalian minister in real life. She is picked up by our heroes, cleancut, erudite, Tod and two-fisted beat hipster Buzz, who unwittingly take her from the frying pan into the fire. The episode is thought provoking, and blessed with a genuinely poetic script by Sterling Silliphant. I can only second your other two reviwers. I an more convinced than ever that the real "golden age of TV drama began in 1959, when The Naked City ( also written by Siliphant) premiered, and ended when the fugitive finally found the one-armed man.
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