By Geno McGahee
You never know who you’re going to be picked up by if you go hitching a ride. The 1970s made it out to be a really cool thing, but a lot of people were told “ass, grass or cash.” David Banner (Bill Bixby) has to hitchhike all of the time and relies on the kindness of strangers. He doesn’t do drugs, doesn’t have money, and doesn’t want to give up his ass for a ride somewhere. In THE PHENOM, an 1981 episode of THE HULK, we see Banner finding young Joe (Brett Cullen), an aspiring baseball player, and the relationship immediately seemed strange. I didn’t like the way that Joe was looking at Banner.
Joe offers to drive Banner to Miami, where he is trying out for the team known as “the Roosters”, but wants David to be there with him, desperately. He even notes that “you’re not too bad a catcher” to Banner. Now, there is no way that Banner was the catcher here. He was the pitcher, if anything, but David rolled with the punches. If Joe had fantasies about plowing him, that’s his business.
At the hotel, the talk gets more uncomfortable for poor Banner, as Joe tries to guilt him into staying by saying “I thought we were buddies,” and then saying “have you ever been alone?” Now, Banner’s big thing is helping people. He does it all the time. He can’t help himself. We also learn that Joe can’t read, which adds another element to the show where David can be helpful. You don’t leave an illiterate lonely man. The two get deeper into discussion and Joe tells him about his father dying and how he had to run the farm. I bet there were plenty of sheep bleeding from the ass on that farm.
During tryouts, Joe gets the eye of a sleazy agent named “Devlin,” but I know Devlin’s real name. It’s Benedict! This actor, Robert Donner, played Benedict in the episode “SIDESHOW”, where the Hulk threw him off of a Ferris wheel. Now he’s back to fuck with the Hulk again? Some people never learn. As Devin watches young Joe, he tells his lady friend, Audrey (Anne Lockhart) that he “wants him.” I don’t like the way that he said that either. This entire episode had some strange shit going on. Also strange is that Audrey was played by Lockhart, who was also in the CAPTIVE NIGHT episode as Karen, the store manager. They must have had some of these actors under contract. Whatever the case, if you are in more than one Hulk episode, you are the same person. I don’t care what your new name is. There is only one Hulk universe and you can’t just change up names.
At the game, Banner meets up with a reporter, but thankfully it was not that pain in the ass, Jack McGee. Cyrus (Dick O’Neill) is one of the most popular sports journalists in the world, but he has a terrible drinking problem. Remarkably, Cyrus confides in Banner and asks him to write his articles for him because he’s too drunk to do it. Banner does it after speaking to the editor, who calls Cyrus a “tub of lard.” In this day and age, Cyrus would have demanded money for fat-shaming or would have never gone back to work because he was too traumatized. Hey, the guy was a tub of lard and needed the boot in the ass. Being in management is tough and it doesn’t get any easier when one of your employees is a drunk tub of lard. All’s well that ends well when the editor loves the new article that was written by David. Is there no end to this man’s talent?
Banner takes a job and enjoys it, somewhat. Writing baseball articles is way better than scrubbing toilets or mopping floors. During this time, Audrey is honing in on poor slow Joe. She gets him drunk, wears a low cut top, and convinces him to sign with Devlin/Benedict. He is reluctant at first, but Audrey woos him and he is ready to sign. I don’t think Joe ever got pussy before. That’s why he was so smitten with Audrey and why wanted to bone David so bad. When David found out, he noted that “nice he has that girl now…at least I don’t have to sleep on my back anymore when I’m around Joe.”
As Joe gets ready to sign, Banner interrupt and asks to speak with his friend. Blinded by the pussy, Joe kicks David out and goes back to business, but that’s not good enough for Devlin. He remembers how much of a pain in the ass David was in the other episode. So, he gets two goons, both in Hawaiian shirts to rough him up, and they do. They throw him down a flight of stairs and through a glass window. Fuck you David.
Of course, this act of violence turns Banner into the Hulk and he goes after those two goons in the terrible shirts and throws them around a little. His focus isn’t them though. He’s going after Devlin. He breaks in the door like an insane Jehovah’s witness and grabs Devlin, looking him in the eye and then tossing him out the window into a large pool. For the first time ever, the Hulk smiles. He really enjoyed tossing that guy. I think he holds grudges. I don’t blame him. The cocksucker didn’t learn the first time that you don’t fuck with the Hulk or his friends. It gets frustrating when people keep being bitches.
When Audrey sees that Joe protected her from the creature, she falls for him and then dumps Devlin, but Devlin won’t go away easily. He tells the same two goons that just got fucked up that if Joe tries to get into the stadium, fuck him up. Since he can’t have Joe, nobody can. When David and Joe show up, the goons start throwing punches and once again, the Hulk is back, and once again, he tosses these two scumbags around. Now it gets weirder and this is a strange episode overall…
The crowd watches on as Hulk carries a limp Joe into the stadium and to the pitcher’s mound. How odd. Joe was perfectly fine to walk, but Hulk felt the need to carry him and how embarrassing that must be when he’s in the locker room. “Oh, Joe, where’s your big green boyfriend?” “Oh Joe, suck any green dick tonight?” “Oh Joe, did that green cocksucker bend you over and split you like firewood?” It’s locker room talk people. Get over it.
Unfortunately, we have a little bit of the shitty silly stuff in there. Hulk hits a baseball with the bat and then comes face to face with the mascot for the Roosters, but the silly moments are very few and the episode stays on track, mostly.
THE PHENOM is just an odd entry in this series. They filled it with different things like Joe being illiterate, the writer being a drunk, Audrey being a tramp, and they solved all those problems for the most part at the end. I think there was some man-crushing going on in this, and it happens. You get a bunch of dudes working together, anything can happen. And this is an episode where Banner had no female love interest. When you have lemons, make lemonade. Well, he had grapes this episodes. You gotta work with what you got.
I recommend this one. It’s not great, but it’s not bad either.