The Equalizer (1985/1986) – Back Home, and Out of the Past

It’s Christmas in New York, but that doesn’t mean Robert McCall (Edward Woodward) is expecting a silent night. Back Home was written by Joel Surnow and Maurice Hurley from a story by Neil Cohen, and it first aired on 18 December, 1985.

His son, Scott (William Zabka) is still in Paris, and trying to organize a ski trip for his dad to join them on, but in the interim, a group of older citizens reach out to him in order to deal with their slum lord building owner who is working at driving them out. Being on a fixed income in a rent-controlled apartment, they can’t afford anywhere else.

McCall investigates and finds that the owner is a banker, Guthrie Browne (Frank Converse), who is using thugs to intimidate and push out the tenants. McCall turns to his friend, George Cook (Charles Hallahan) for assistance in the building while getting info about Browne from Lt. Warren (Fred Williamson).

McCall plays a long game with Browne, interrupting his bank, and tucking his ex-wife and son into the building, which is a great move considering he’s targeting his ex-wife for a hit so that he can get full custody of his son, who he is using for his own business purposes.

This time around McCall uses less violence and more brains and plans, and it works incredibly well and shows that ever since the show started and despite its episodic nature the character has grown.

As the episode ends, McCall discovers a happy Christmas for himself after all.

Out of the Past features some very recognizable guest stars, there’s Stephen McHattie as the primary baddie, Eddie, and Brad Dourif as his pal Fenn. Written by Cyrus Nowrasteh, this episode was first broadcast on 15 January, 1986.

Eddie is ill, and has just been released from prison, where he was sent by testimony by Walter Wesley (Barry Primus). Eddie is following and harassing Walter, but nothing that can draw the attention of the police. Walter’s wife, Kay (Sandy Dennis), comes to McCall for help.

There’s one catch.

Kay is McCall’s ex-wife.

We learn that not only did they have Scott, but they lost a baby which didn’t help the relationship. We also find out that Walter may have been more involved than just being a witness to Eddie’s crimes.

McHattie plays it violently and to the hilt, even taking out his parole officer (James Gammon!), but he’s definitely not ready to confront McCall, who may be able to resolve the issues with Walter and Eddie, but the chasm and faults between McCall and Kay will always remain.

It’s a nice reveal about the loss of the child that definitely impacted McCall’s and Kay’s married life, and Woodward plays it brilliantly. The character is becoming wonderfully layered, well, at least for episodic television of the 80s.

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