Archive for December, 2009

Episode 14: The Shootout

December 31, 2009

Syndicate hitmen Tom and Joey take over a restaurant to wait for their victim, mob boss Vic Monty to arrive, holding captive Hutch and a critically wounded Starsky.

Joey Martin: Steven Keats, Tom Lockly: Albert Paulsen, Theresa: Jess Walton, Sammy Grovner: Norman Fell, Harry Sample: Danny Wells, Robin Morton: Barbara Rhoades, Jimmy Lee: Steve Sandor, Mr. Durant: Jan Arvan, Mrs. Durant: Tresa Hughes. Written By: David P Harmon, Directed By: Fernando Lamas.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

Please see “Character Studies 21” for more on the remarkable guest performances here.

This is an episode with very definite set pieces, formally organized scenes that are very stagey in presentation; you could almost imagine the spotlight upon each one, with other actors paused and in shadow. Each one is perfectly acted and written, and are as relevant and as poignant today as the day they were created. Sammy, the guy at rock-bottom who manages to slip even further, nursing an unrealized love; the Comic’s straight girl, after a life of bad decisions trying saving her own skin at the cost of her dignity and the one person who’ll go to bat for her; Theresa, the good girl fooling herself into making very bad choices, believing she still has control of an uncontrollable situation, and in the end given the opportunity to perform an act of redemption; the Durants, a couple at the end of their lives, experiencing a revelation about a life lived in complacency. The opening sequence with Harry Sample is wonderful as well.

Harry Sample uses religion – or more precisely, esoterica – as a both a hedge against justice and a coward’s mask. He hangs onto it longer than you or I would have, given Starsky’s menace. It’s ironic, too, how he believes Starsky and Hutch’s act is real when they’re the ones with the masks.

“You’re pretty scary when you get mad,” Hutch remarks to Starsky as they take a break during Harry’s interrogation. This is an interesting line because they so rarely comment on each other’s habits and proclivities, except to joke/insult. But is Starsky genuinely mad? Hutch then does something entirely characteristic: he steals Starsky’s candy, forcing him to buy another, then gives it back half-eaten, all the while criticizing his eating habits and pronunciation of “Lugosi”. All of which Starsky takes with enormous good grace.

We then see a recycled shot of the motel in the rain, something the series does occasionally; this time from the pilot episode.

Steven Keats has to be one of the best examples of casting in the series. His handsome animated face goes from puppy-like enthusiasm to dark-as-thunder in an instant. He dominates every scene he’s in, loud, boisterous, laughing uproariously, nearly out of control. There’s something Quentin Tarantino would love about him: the mix of boyish prankster and cruel tormentor.

The scene before the shooting begins, when the guys initially enter into the restaurant, is illuminating on many levels. You can see how hard Starsky is trying to please Hutch, who stubbornly refuses to be pleased as he grumpily dismisses Starsky’s childhood nostalgia. He then remarks to the waitress, “you’ll have to excuse my friend here,” when all Starsky does is compliment the restaurant and its food. And yet, when Hutch points out where the washroom is without being asked – a moment of awareness and empathy – Starsky suddenly glowers at him. “Anyone ever tell you you’re a regular shaft of sunlight?”
Hmm. What is going on here? Starsky seems untouched by Hutch’s sarcasm and bad temper, but then bridles when offered helpful information. Is this a case of passive aggression, or does he just have a really slow fuse? All is well, though: he’s back to amiable when Hutch goes to choose some music. (Although this gives rise to another minor mystery – how Hutch knew the jukebox was free. Most aren’t. And note the song he picks, an Italian folk ditty, proving he’s secretly willing to get into the spirit of things.)

Body Language: I love how Hutch freezes when the gun digs into his back. You read his mind even though he’s perfectly still with no expression on his face.

Starsky sums up the situation incredibly fast, and notice how his first move is to get Theresa out of the way and into the kitchen, with no thought to himself.

Filming notes: Glaser’s unscripted mumbling and twitching was so realistic that costar Steven Keats’ startled reaction, as he comes in through the doors after checking on “the old man”, is apparently real.

One does wonder why Tom Lockly decides to go through the with assassination when two cops walk into the restaurant. If Vic Monty goes to the restaurant on a fairly regular basis, why not wait until next time? It would have been so much simpler. Perhaps rumor has it Monty is going to testify in court, or maybe make an unpopular move in the organization, making this a rush job.

It was Soul’s idea to carry the limp Glaser the thirty feet or so into the back room by himself (which in reality he did twice, once to prove to the director he could do it, and once for the camera). Seeing Hutch lift him from the floor and carry him across the room is really incredible and once again highlights the extraordinary physical ease these men have with each other. In any other situation Hutch would have required help – later he has a very hard time even getting Starsky into a sitting position when he falls off the couch – but it’s not just adrenaline allowing him to heft 165 pounds of dead-weight, it’s an act of solidarity, too.

Tom Lockly is presented as The Intellect, a cool thinker who has masterminded this whole scheme. He sees himself as a man marooned by his own vast intelligence, culture and good taste. But when he says with genuine admiration, “You’re so intelligent you put it together” Hutch replies, “It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence.” Perfectly pitched, the insult is so subtle even Lockly isn’t sure whether it really happened or not. There’s a second of doubt before he pushes Hutch away. Round one to Hutchinson.

As Starsky is in agony on the couch, Hutch asks him, “What time you got?” Without medical attention, frankly not much time at all. Does Hutch understand the double meaning of his question? Does Starsky?

Hutch never really explains what he intends to do when Starsky throws the pitcher of water at the wall, but when Starsky says the situation reminds him of a film he saw once, about a cop tripping the bad guy and getting his gun, is he right in his assumption? Does Hutch intend to follow Joey into the office and attempt to tackle him there? If so, how would he then handle Lockly?

Robin’s attempt to save herself is really a gut-wrenching scene, embarrassing even to watch. Everything is great here: her unnecessary dig at Hutch on the way over – “what should I do – call a cop?” and her humiliated return to his table afterward. Hutch is obviously having second thoughts about his foolhardy plan. He’s never looked as low or as haunted as he does in this scene. “No matter what the move,” he tells Robin, “it’s always the wrong one, huh.” “Story of my life,” she says. As she talks, he’s not so much looking at her as through her. When she begs for his advice he glares off into nowhere, as if disassociating. He has a truly harrowing expression on his face. But even under these circumstances he comes up with extraordinary advice that shows his understanding of other people. “Maybe you have to give a little,” he says.

“The Old Man” is so memorably ancient that Tom and Joey, Hutch and even Theresa refer to him only as such. Is this Old Man part of the criminal gang as well? He must be – he hires Theresa, seems to be known to Lockly, and even though he hasn’t used the gun “in years”, he’s still used it, but on who? Someone foolhardy enough to rob a mafia hangout?

The Old Man helps Theresa by telling her where the gun is kept, so he must still believe she’s on his side. What story does she tell him – that she’s being held against her will?

When Jimmy attacks the gunmen and is subdued by Joey and Hutch, Lockly calmly orders Joey to put him in the cellar. Why, then, does he not order everyone down there? Wouldn’t it make it much easier to control the scene? Hutch knows Lockly thinks having a customer or two around will ease Monty’s fears, especially a policeman, but once Hutch is divested of his shoulder-holster he’s like everybody else, so Lockly’s reasoning falls apart.

“I bet the piggy put a buck in the till and took out a ten-spot,” Joey says with a big grin on his face. This, despite the fact Hutch was very careful to show the fifty cents he removed. Did Joey not see this, or is he just making jokes for the hell of it?

Sammy makes his heart-wrenching confession of love to Robin, looking about as miserable as a man can look.  She’s upset, and starts to cry. But what is the emotion below those tears? Does she love him at all, does she learn to love him, or does she feel sorry for him and secretly repelled? When this is all over, do they continue on to Vegas together, or does she split?

Hutch’s confrontation with Tom Lockly about going in to check on Starsky has to be about a great a scene as there ever was. At this point – exhausted, frustrated – he’s so enraged he’s nearly petulant.  It’s an emotional mix very few people can pull off. And look how long he holds that finger.

Hutch shows Starsky the gun. “From what I understand this thing is liable to go off in my face as anything else,” he says. “You always did want an excuse to get your teeth capped,” Starsky mumbles, and Hutch gives one of the saddest laughs ever and touches his shoulder gently.  Starsky’s comment seems to be the launch-code for the two of them to start bullshitting each other as a way of warding off fear, doubt, and pain.  Hutch immediately begins to play the game, saying, “You know something? You look terrible.” This from a guy who, shortly before, attempted to make Starsky feel better by saying nothing much was wrong with him, that he looked “terrific”. “Don’t let it fool you,” Starsky says. “I played Camille in high school.”

Now, all this joking and fake-insulting is about as loving a scene as one can imagine. Hutch pushing, and Starsky pushing back. This is echoed in other episodes, such as “A Coffin for Starsky”, in which Hutch verbally rough-houses with Starsky as a way of implying things aren’t as bad as they seem. Then Starsky ruins it, the way Hutch will later in “The Psychic”, when he touches Starsky on the shoulder and tells him to be careful. Starsky calls Hutch back from the door. “I was just kidding about the teeth,” he says, in such pain at this point he can hardly get the words out. And then Hutch’s brave pretense is gone in an instant. He’s just decimated by the remark. He leans right in and puts his head on Starsky’s head.

Hutch doesn’t seem to think Lockly’s going to run as he gathers up the guns in the tablecloth and then immediately leaves the scene to go check on Starsky. Lockly isn’t injured, or if so, not seriously. He could have bolted the moment Hutch lost interest in him.

Tag: I like how it’s David Michael Starsky, as announced by Huggy. And evidence, too, that Sammy stuck around long enough to have taught the guys a couple of really bad jokes. Maybe he visited Starsky in hospital, and testified at the any preliminary hearings before the big trial of Lockly, who survived when Joey didn’t. One wonders how Theresa managed to explain her involvement in the whole situation, both to the cops and to the mafia. At the very least she’d be charged with conspiracy to commit murder, and plus Vic Monty’s people would know she set him up, and yet there she is, sitting on Hutch’s couch, seemingly unafraid of any consequences.

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Episode 13: Deadly Imposter

December 29, 2009

Starsky and Hutch help an old friend from their Academy days find his ex-wife, unaware that he’s a hit-man looking for her husband, a grand-jury witness.

John Colby: Art Hindle, Karen: Suzan Gailey, Warren Karpel: Peter Brandon, Jackie: Jana Bellan, Parouch: Raymond Singer, Agt. Buckland: Ned Wertimer, Superintendant: Bern Hoffman, Fifi: Louise Hoven, Nate Garvin: Gene Darcy, Cook: Wally Taylor, Abigail: Ann Foster, Maggie: Georgia Schmidt, Vinnie: Gordon Jump, Russo: Luke Andreas. Written By: Michael Fisher, Parke Perine & Mann Rubin, Directed By: Dick Moder.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

The whole point of this particular episode (and others) is the fact that, when the chips are down – and they often are – Starsky and Hutch can rely on no one but themselves. Old friends, apparent allies, authority figures, and victims-in-need are all capable of deceit, manipulation, and abuse of trust.

Some viewers may have difficulty with the storyline, as heavily dependent on coincidence as it is, but I buy it. Karen’s ex-husband John (perhaps the most common name in the United States at the time) is killed in Vietnam, and John Colby is hired to find her, and by extension her new husband Warren Karpel, now in the witness protection program. Karpel is set to testify against mobster Nate Garvin, and Garvin has hired Colby to kill him before he does. Colby is a brilliant strategist and thinks long and hard about how he is going to accomplish this near-impossible task. He does careful research on Warren, his girlfriend Karen, and Karen’s son. He sees her ex-husband’s name is John, and that he’s still officially missing, although presumed dead. He guesses they’re being hidden somewhere around Los Angeles. The witness protection program is a big wall to breach. He doesn’t have a lot of time. He’ll need resources, but very special resources. People who have the investigative know-how and are powerfully motivated to help, but will not demand a share of the take, or put him at risk. Therefore, these people must help him without knowing they’re helping him. He must have jumped up and high-fived himself when the answer came to him. Then the “John” connection comes to mind, and he has it. His evil plot is probably the most intelligent concoction in the entire four years of the series, far better than anything devised by other so-called masterminds, such as Lola Turkel’s extortion scheme in “Bounty Hunter”, Sharon Freemont’s plan to discredit the detectives in “Starsky and Hutch are Guilty”, or even the brain trust responsible for Terry Nash in “The Set-Up”. Colby’s plan is clever, and best of all it’s simple. The only weak points are these: will his old pals really go to the wall for him, and will Karen say the wrong thing? These points, however, are nullified because John Colby is relying on the fundamentals of human nature. One: He knows Starsky and Hutch are not only extremely loyal, but will become even more protective and determined if Colby gently pushes them away from helping, claiming he’s too much trouble. And, when confronted, he knows Karen is only going to repeat “John?!” and not “you mean my husband, John Willoughby?” (or whatever name it is). See? Foolproof.

Opening scene: Starsky is flirting with an elderly lady, using his flirtation-default, a rather vague Bogey impression, which always seems to work for some reason. You can see Hutch in the background, grinning, enjoying his partner’s ways.

Notice how it’s gym manager Vinnie who calls Hutch to tell him Colby’s in town rather than Colby himself. Hutch is delighted and doesn’t seem to notice this oversight, but I think it reveals something important about Colby’s indifference and manipulative nature.

When Dobey complains about the lack of cooperation between the feds and the civic departments on the big case Starsky gives him one of his philosophical rationales for how things could be worse if everybody actually got along. It’s a neat glimpse into Starsky’s nature: go with the flow and deal with whatever happens, no matter what, and always look on the bright side. He must have the lowest blood pressure of any cop in the LAPD.

Is brushing your teeth in the shower is a sign of a rushed, chaotic mind, or merely a practical one? Maybe a bit of both?

Colby sees Hutch and immediately asks where “the other one” is, meaning Starsky. I wonder why Hutch didn’t have a moment of wondering how Colby knew they were partners, that the other one would be close by at all times. Of course we learn later that Colby had been researching them thoroughly for his own nefarious purposes, but in this scene he should not not have known Starsky and Hutch were partners, unless blabbermouth Vinnie told him. Five years is a long time, after all, to be out of the loop. Hutch doesn’t say, “how’d you know Starsky would be here?” but perhaps he should have. Both Starsky and Hutch have shown, in this and other episodes, that they can be far too trusting when nostalgia is a factor, a perfectly understandable and even endearing trait and one most of us are familiar with.

If Vinnie did talk about them, he most likely went on and on about how the guys are inseparable and loyal-unto-death, all the things that would no doubt fuel a certain amount of jealousy in Colby. Also, maybe in the back of his mind he’s thinking, “good, I get two for the price of one!”

On the side of the laundry bin at Vinnie’s, the one Colby falls in, has “SDPO” on it. Perhaps this is a mail bin, borrowed from San Diego Post Office?

Hutch does a very good German accent. Soul was partially raised there, where his diplomat father ran a sanctuary for East Germans.

The whole conversation about nicknames is a very interesting moment. Starsky, intending to lighten the mood, remarks that they were either called the Three Musketeers or the Three Corsicans, which he amends to the Corsican Brothers with Hutch’s help. Starsky is very off-hand about this detail. He doesn’t even know the phrase “Corsican” – he seems to be saying “Corkscrew”. He definitely isn’t as rosy about the legendary threesome as Hutch is. (Hutch, after all, comes up with “Corsican” right away.)

Starsky mixes up two Alexander Dumas novels. The Three Muskateers is the more well-known book, but he really means The Corsican Brothers, a novel about identical twins who are psychically joined. Which, of course, leaves Colby out in the cold, presuming he’s the third one. There’s no such thing as “The Three Corsicans”. It could only be Two, a fact Colby knows all too well.

Hutch calls Colby “Bum,” refers to him as “Colby,” but calls him “John” seventeen times. Starsky calls Colby “John” once, but calls him a variety of nicknames, all fairly derogatory (“Dumbo”). How does this support Hutch’s knowing/feeling closer to Colby than Starsky did? Or the other way around?

Colby says, “when I was in that prison camp I guess everybody back here thought I was dead.”  Starsky and Hutch exchange looks at this point: obviously they knew nothing about this unpleasant chapter in Colby’s life.

“If you change your mind,” Hutch says to Colby’s refusal of their help in finding his ex-wife, “you could always find us at my place.” Assumptive, yet Starsky doesn’t seem at all surprised by this.

At the party Starsky and Hutch treat Fifi  like crap, and have obviously invited her over because they know she’s going to help out and not because they like her. Fifi, for her part, has such crippling low self-esteem she chooses to ignore being treated little better than a slave and stubbornly interprets it as a triumph, of sorts, to even be invited to a party hosted by the handsomest guys in town. Don’t you just want to slap her a little? Sadly, she’s the best-dressed girl there, in her psychedelic muumuu and flowers in her hair, and she deserves better than what she gets. Contrast this to later in the series when Hutch gently tells a cancer-stricken friend how people who are suffering and disadvantaged “are no less beautiful as you and me” (“Cover Girl”), although I find myself rather enjoying the fact that the writers have made Starsky and Hutch flawed human beings capable of mistakes as well as greatness. It would be boring if they never stumbled, especially if those stumbles are the result of youthful ignorance rather than real cruelty.

I love how Starsky watches Hutch berate the manager of the apartment building. He waits, relaxed, eyes narrowed against the light (which looks super cool, but is probably because Glaser reportedly has an extreme light sensitivity) and with a slight smile. There’s no outward acknowledgement, it’s simple enjoyment.

The rail-thin blonde Starsky feels obliged to ogle on the street has her own thing going with a man Starsky doesn’t expect or endorse; it’s a nice moment of showing love doesn’t always follow the rules. If I were to make some sweeping generalizations, I would venture that Hutch approves because he likes the quirky surprises of romance and Starsky doesn’t because it violates his orthodoxy.

Larry Warwick Realty is a joke on the art/production supervisor.

Huggy’s endless story has some parallels to John Colby (and also, strangely, parallels the UK series “Life on Mars”, an ironic take on cops of the seventies based in part on Starsky and Hutch). Huggy tells Colby: “Guy ends up on the other side of the time warp” he “was in a parallel dimension where all things are the same, only different, like cops are all rogues.” “Guy has a pet called a “parfel.” “He tries to fit in by saying he has been away for a while.” “Then he falls in love, but all the girls are the same, only different” and “he can’t marry a girl because on the other time of the time warp, he’s already married!”

Hutch gets called to the phone at Huggy’s, and it turns out to be Dobey, getting all off-duty officers to report to work.  So Dobey knew to call Huggy’s, and knew enough to assume the Corsican Brothers would both be there. How many times does Dobey assume the guys are together? Also, on  minor note, why does he ask for Hutch in this instance, rather than Starsky? This goes to my (largely unproven) theory that Dobey is more comfortable with Hutch than Starsky, for a variety of reasons. He views Starsky (rightly, if superficially) as iconoclastic, internally-motivated, and self-assured to the point of having contempt for authority. He views Hutch (rightly, if superficially) as predictable, externally-motivated, tractable and logical.

It’s fascinating how so much of Starsky and Hutch’s police work is dependent on sudden flashes of memory or intuition. “I got a feeling we’ve seen her somewhere before,” says Hutch, holding a photograph of Jackie. “Huggy’s?” says Starsky, shooting in the dark. Both of them have extraordinary memories – it’s this that seems to propel them forward in most of their cases.

John Colby tells Huggy, “You know, I was the first one ever to call them that.” Referring to “Husky and Starch” – obviously the blurring of identity goes a long way back, although I don’t recall anybody calling them that, not even poor Eddie, who has all kinds of variations on their names. But when Colby says this, why do I get the feeling this is more bitter than funny?

Now there’s a scene worth seeing: the one where Starsky and Hutch meet for the first time. Would they have been randomly paired for an assignment, or at the shooting range, or in class (“Break up into groups of two and stage a hostage-negotiating scene. You have one hour”)? What would be the initial spark? They have nothing obviously in common, coming from different backgrounds, different experiences. And as well, very different reasons for joining the force in the first place, if we accept the supposition that Hutch joined up as a reaction against growing up in an atmosphere of stifling conformity and Starsky as a way of finding closure for his father’s murder. It would have to be, then, a certain shared youthful idealism. A we’re-gonna-change-the-system sort of attitude, in this post-Serpico world of social and political upheaval. Perhaps both found themselves on the same side during a classroom argument, the crewcut up-tights versus the new wave of street-level liberalism. I can just picture it: both of them sticking up for the hookers and the junkies, saying there were laws worth breaking and laws worth ignoring. Imagine what the teachers had to say on that subject, the nasty “now, that’s an interesting argument, mister Starsky” sort of thing. One gets a picture of what it might have been like during next season’s “Class in Crime” when Hutch becomes an object of intimidation and hostility by the professor.

In a later episodes Dobey remarks on Starsky returning to the academy as a decorated detective only to tell the young recruits to forget everything they just learned.  I can’t imagine that went down well with the brass, although I’m sure the kids got a big kick out of it. Goes to show even then Starsky – and Hutch – have no respect for their elders, for the status quo, for the rules and regulations routinely drilled into young recruits at the academy.

The guys come into the bar and ask Hymie, the cook, where Huggy is. Hymie says, “he’s out back with your friend, Colby.” Yet earlier Hymie claimed not to know who was waiting for Huggy in the alley, only that he seemed “under the weather”. This is script proof-reading 101, people, jeez, unless Hymie is one complicated fellow.

What is that burning can those bookies have? Emil has one and so does Ray Shelby, in Rosey Malone.

Also, in this scene, Starsky raps “SOS” on the doorframe, in parody of the “come in” knock Parouch understands. How would Starsky know this nautical code, when it was Hutch who was in the sea scouts?

Idly, one wonders why it’s necessary to have Starsky read a skin mag – “Ahoy”, charmingly enough – at the apex of this case. Is this to show Middle America what tough guys are all about?

“You ever think of opening up an escort service?” Starsky is needling Hutch after Hutch was sucker-punched by Colby. Macho posturing, sure, but isn’t Starsky subtly reminding Hutch of the dangers of interfering in people’s personal lives?

Colby must know he’s only knocked Hutch out, that Starsky is due any moment. He knows the two of them will put everything together in a matter of seconds. Two questions: why doesn’t he kill Hutch when he has the means and opportunity, and why is he so calm and slow when it comes to organizing the hit on Karpel?

It’s great when Dobey tries to shift the blame to the FBI when he complains their secrecy was the problem all along. Lame, yes, but you have to admire his loyalty.

Hutch tells Starsky, “That’s Colby, I want him.” Is Hutch more eager to collar Colby than Starsky because Colby slugged him in the parking lot or because Hutch was closer to Colby and feels his betrayal more intensely? Or is he more likely of the two to feel the sharp sting of betrayal? Starsky already has an easy approach to life, the shrugging acceptance that people go wrong, as well as a much tougher exterior. The man seems to have a Teflon skin. Hutch, on the other hand, for all his carefully-honed aloofness, can be credulous and trusting, and extraordinarily sensitive.

Later, on the beach, Colby says, “I don’t kill anybody I’m not paid to kill.” Oh yeah? What about poor Jackie?

The final fight between Colby and Hutch: Hutch equips himself admirably, kicking Colby’s ass. There’s an elegiac quality to the fight – Hutch looks resigned, almost existential. Finishing the fight neatly, laying Colby on his back in the sand, in a sort of wonderful reference to Colby’s first scene in the gym. Starsky comes out of nowhere, nipping Hutch’s handcuffs out of his back pocket. Saying laconically, “Forgot something?” Handing him the gun. The whole scene has a quiet, melancholic air to it. The two of them doing what they have to do, all thoughts of payback gone.

Tag: essential Hutch, clever and faintly malicious. If he didn’t know Starsky as well as he did, it wouldn’t work, but he does. He knows exactly the right thing to say to manipulate the situation to his own advantage. “I am David’s partner,” he says to Abby. “I’m more than happy to substitute for him.” It seems to work out for the best: they go on to have what passes for a long-term relationship (weeks, even) and besides, she’s so more Hutch’s type: blonde, tidy, crisply turned out in her suit.

Clothing notes: Hutch wears his black and white athletic jacket throughout, with a grey wide-ribbed turtleneck and no jewelry to speak of, while Starsky is unremarkably attired in a cloth jacket and jeans, but he wears a great powder-blue hoodie, and the iconic Adidas, and at the party wears the loud black, red and yellow sweater he’s been seen in once or twice. In the final scene he shows up in his excellent brown leather jacket and black turtleneck.

Character Studies 4: Environment

December 25, 2009

Accidentally or not, the “look” of the series is one thing producers and writers got absolutely right. You get the feeling this could be set in contemporary times without too much of a stretch. Aside from a handful of throwaway remarks about Watergate and old movie stars (Starsky, in “Death Ride”, reaches for the name of an actress and comes up with “Helen Hayes”), there really isn’t a lot to mark this series in its own time period. The only politics are inter-departmental and insular, such as a continual but vague intrusion of federal agents into local police matters. The mayor is not named – neither is the President, for that matter – and the enduring relevance and popularity of 1970s culture, its language, dress and political agenda, ensures the series magically, and against all odds, retains a look that can seem very now. After all, people still wear leather jackets and jeans, a candy-apple-red Torino is a sweet ride, and murder, last time I checked, is still very popular.

By design or default, keeping the more clownish or transient aspects of pop culture to a minimum has worked very well. Other than Season Four’s understandable obsession with disco dancing (most likely due to executives demanding the series be “relevant”) and unlike today’s television when the indie rock song interlude is a kind of cheap emotional shortcut, the only music-added scene is in “Huggy Can’t Go Home”. There is a definite lack of product placement in the scenes and a near-total absence of chain stores or recognizable landmarks. The writer Dorothy Parker once described Los Angeles as “seventy-two suburbs in search of a city” and among those anonymous, polluted enclaves is Bay City, a collection of seedy bars, parking lots, sad tenement hotels and mom-and-pop eateries. By being both specific and fictional, this invented borough has a spark of believability as it clings to the city’s underside, out of time, out of reality, a microcosm or perhaps a magnification of California itself, with its celebrity wrestlers, desiccated palm trees, various rogues and weirdos, ratty beach culture, blistering heat and the walled-off mansions of criminal emperors.

We are only occasionally treated to anachronisms – “Discomania” is replete with gold chains and polyester, for example, and the fashions in “Groupie” are the worst the decade had to offer – and it has always strikes me as ironic that the first three seasons look more contemporary than the last. The hulking sedans and unwieldy transmitters seem to blend into the general dilapidation of the neighborhood, although someone of a younger generation, unused to these appliances, may notice them more and guffaw at the predicament of finding a telephone booth to make an emergency call. But by avoiding many pitfalls of attempting to be hip or trendy, “Starsky and Hutch” remains essentially timeless. The feeling we get is one of dislocation and reinvention, that everyone is from someplace else, including Starsky and Hutch.

Character Studies 3: Other Cops

December 25, 2009

Starsky and Hutch’s relationship to fellow officers is fascinating. More negative than positive, they are almost always cast by others as outsiders, rebels, iconoclasts.

There have to be other younger plainclothes detectives around, and yet we never see any. Where are the other long-haired, jeans-wearing, slightly-disreputable pairs? With the exception of the tie-and-suit-wearing IA bureaucrats, there aren’t any (even Treasury Agent Kendall from “Moonshine” is another suit, despite the fact he’s supposed to be undercover). In “Snowstorm” and “Birds of a Feather” we meet the Old School guys, nearing retirement and worn out, morally and physically, their crusty suits hanging on by a thread. Corman, Burke and Kalowitz in “Snowstorm” nurse near-pathological grudges against the young detectives, threatened by their power and energy, the liberal attitudes of the now generation, which they choose to interpret as cocky insolence. Like Dan Slate and “Iron Mike” Ferguson, two other hardened veterans who attempt to buddy up to Starsky and Hutch, the moral armor has rusted, flaked and chipped away and is pretty useless now. A quick buck or a legal shortcut is how they manage problems. No, these aren’t peers of Starsky and Hutch. Possibly Simmons and Babcock, two cops hanging around in the hallway during “The Game”, are plainclothes, but this isn’t certain. It’s very possible they had simply changed out of uniform, and were on their way home, when drawn into the Starsky-gets-shot ruse.

Interestingly, the only time Starsky and Hutch are seen to work with younger undercover officers are when those officers are women – and unexpected or unwanted interlopers. They are all brought in from other departments for a special purpose and never seen again. In “Black and Blue”, “Discomania”, Fatal Charm” and “Starsky vs. Hutch” only Linda Baylor in “Fatal Charm” is initially welcomed into the fold, the others must work hard for respect (whether they earn it, or even deserve it, remains a question), and all of them with the exception of Kira are preemptively removed in the heat of the case by the bad guys. Kira is removed by the good guys. We never see any male officer promoted or in a mentor relationship with Starsky and Hutch.

Instead, the majority of the time the hallways of the Metropolitan Division are chock-full of uniformed patrolmen. Their relationship with Starsky and Hutch is varied – sometimes they seem slightly intimidated, or even hostile, as in “Pariah” and “The Committee”, but most times you see them laughing together, as in “The Specialist”, or respectfully working together. Starsky doesn’t have to reach for the name of the beat cop in “The Fix”; the fact that he easily calls him Bernie says a lot about how familiar they are with the bread-and-butter cops around them. “Anything, Bill?” Starsky asks as they go into Huggy’s in the aftermath of a violent shakedown in “Kill Huggy Bear”. Although you can bet Officer Andrews is going to steer clear of Starsky forever more (“Manchild on the Streets”), this is the only time either Starsky or Hutch is violently retributive to a lower grade. Like most effortlessly authoritative and charismatic people, they don’t have to prove anything by “punching down”, as the saying goes. They are always respectful of the uniforms, remember their names, and and remember too what it was like to be on the beat. But no other undercover detectives ever make it to screen. This contributes to the bubble – the idea that they are alone in this particular world, peerless.

Episode 12: Terror on the Docks

December 21, 2009

Hutch’s childhood friend Nancy prepares to marry Billy, who might be behind a series of robberies and the murder of a cop.

Billy Desmond: Stephen McHattie, Nancy Blake: Sheila Larken, Maureen Blake: Sarah Cunningham, Hauser: Henry Olek, Earl Banks: Garry Walberg, Andy Wilkins: Kenneth Tobey, Ted Banks: Robert Redding, Father Delacourt: John J Fox, Ezra Beam: Marty Zagon, Hans Skyler: James Hourigan, Ed Jamieson: Joe Warfield, Jerry: William Martel, Wally: WT Zacha. Written By: Fred Freiberger, Directed By: Randal Kleiser. 

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

Filming Woes: Glaser had a cold and Soul had the flu while shooting, but that didn’t keep them from going into the water themselves in one scene. Glaser also genuinely hurt his shoulder when Soul pushed him out of the truck’s way. While filming the dinner scene at the Blake’s, the set was so cold, people kept eating the warm stew, but by the time filming started, the stew was all gone, so they filled it with chili instead. 

Both Hutch and Starsky have grown up next door with girls who have become like a sister to them, and who are now in need of their help and protection. For Hutch it’s Nancy getting married to a Very Bad Man, and for Starsky, it’s Allison in “Targets Without a Badge”. Allison doesn’t have a mother, and Nancy doesn’t have a father. Both men have nothing but brotherly/protective feelings for them despite what looks like compulsory flirting in the case of Allison.

It’s always interesting to me in the opening scene when they’re all waiting at the church for the rehearsal to begin Hutch isn’t sitting in a pew but in the aisle, on the floor. Perhaps being in a church has brought out Hutch’s rebellious side.

Sometimes it’s fun, albeit in a cheap way, to note how semantics have changed in the intervening time. “..this is my partner, David Starsky.” Hutch introducing himself to the priest. Starsky adds helpfully, “we’re police officers.”

From the Unpleasant Truth department: “With you two dressed like that,” says apple-cheeked Father Delacourt, “what’s there left for the criminals to wear?” This is patently wrong, as both are rather nicely dressed, Starsky in a suit jacket and Hutch in a dark blue hoodie and khakis. Starsky gives a polite laugh but makes a joke that may or may not refer to the criminally salacious shadow-side of the priesthood. “Muslin’s always nice,” he says.

The padre has his revenge on this aspersion on his calling: he makes Starsky stand in for the groom. Starsky rubs his wrist as if the Father’s directing grip was either painful or mildly disgusting or both.

Margaret, whom the priest rather nastily dismisses as “senile”, plays a funeral rather than a wedding march, nicely foreshadowing what is to come.

Why is Starsky there at all? Other than being company for Hutch, he plays no real role in the wedding and doesn’t know Nancy or her mother. The guys could have met up at the station later, unless Starsky is thinking it might be an interesting diversion to tag along. 

“Wipe that smile off your face,” Dobie snaps at Hutch. Hutch has started grinning after glancing at Starsky, who gives him a look that can only translate as giggly co-conspirator, which makes Hutch lose it, momentarily. We’re witnessing the genuine relationship at work – warm and private – which is normally disguised by snarky comments, sarcastic come-backs and mean tricks.

On the Waterfront: Hutch can’t know Billy that well, or else Nancy never talks about him, because he has no idea he works down on there. What does this say about his friendships here, and as a whole? Hutch strikes me as a solitary figure on the whole, capable of forgetting about the people in his life for years at a time. This is not to say he isn’t friendly, or sociable, but that he has enough in his life right in front of him – the job, and his partner – and so must compartmentalize everything else. Those compartments are small and securely locked, I suspect. 

Jerry Green’s a dope. It’s difficult to believe when, instead of firing him for being so ineffectual, they give him a holiday! Look how fast he moves out of the room, probably faster than he’d ever moved in his life.

After the truck near-miss incident, Billy doesn’t seem to be jealous of even notice handsome Hutch cuddling his fiancé. Red flag, red flag.

Cameras are an irresistible draw for Starsky, which is a good thing: he wouldn’t have seen the wrapper otherwise. 

Let’s be frank here. Billy’s really unattractive. He’s rough around the edges, has a sharp weasely face and a creepy smirk. Hutch has it right when he later says, “something about you makes my skin crawl.” I can never understand what Nancy sees in him. She’s a nice girl and can do better. Or can she?

“Man of the cloth,” Hutch calls Ezra, who admonishes him for not having the proper respect in a house of worship. The guys are typically sarcastic, but isn’t this a commentary on the church in general? The Catholic Church and the House of Horrors both as a piece of fakery and an impediment to truth?

Billy Desmond was an Eagle Scout and straight A student at the University for two years, which may help in explaining why he was able to hold Nancy’s attention. But something bad must have happened to turn him so totally crooked. 

“At the time, I didn’t put it together but I saw gum wrappers folded exactly like that at Ted Bank’s apartment.” This means Starsky is having Billy checked out even before he and Hutch go to have dinner at the Blake’s and before he understands the gum wrapper clue. What makes Starsky go down that track? Is it just general paranoia due to his job or is it something else? And just how would he know it’s Billy who folds them like that? The brand yes, but the nervously precise folding habit?

Nancy calls Starsky by his last name when calling him to the phone. Why doesn’t she call him David? Also, why does Banks call for Starsky, rather than Hutch? He’s very specific, asking for him by name.

The conversation with Earl Banks is notably well written, with a great performance by Garry Walberg. The gritty surroundings, the desperate fixation on shoes. The series has always been very good at using these small moments to reveal the terrible repercussions of crime. Two other instances of minor characters devastated by loss that come to mind are Charlie in “The Psychic” and Mack Senior in “The Specialist”.

Why don’t the thugs ask where Ted Banks is? And if they know he is dead, why are they still sticking with Billy?

The scene in which the guys are sitting in the Torino and Hutch is reading from the sports section of the newspaper is one of the most opaque moments in the entire series. “It was a long difficult struggle there, he said. Steve almost quit because he was playing behind Vince … what’s this, some Italian name.” What is Hutch reading about, could it be soccer? Starsky is enjoying himself, whatever it is. This comes off as surreal simply because there is no context offered, and is so naturalistic it could be improvised.

Hutch tells Starsky, “I didn’t hesitate about my own neurosis when I pushed you out of the way of that truck.” Which of the many neurosis is Hutch referring to? Facing death by truck or helping a pal? Knowing Hutch, both.

Why do Starsky and Hutch think Skyler is involved at the point when they see him shot? Unless they know something the audience doesn’t, he is merely an injured victim.

When Starsky throws the wedding cake in Hutch’s face, and later in “Deckwatch” Hutch tastes the pie off of Starsky’s face. Comedy staple aside, is all this dessert-slamming symbolizing the wedding custom, suggesting Starsky and Hutch are really meant to be together?

Starsky was never going to hit Mrs. Blake with the cake; all he ever intended to do was go directly to Hutch. Also, I sort of wonder whether Mrs. Blake would refer to Starsky so fondly as her “future son-in-law” if she realized not only was he not Catholic, but most likely Jewish.

Episode 11: Captain Dobey, You’re Dead

December 20, 2009

Starsky and Hutch try to track down escaped felon and former cop Leo Moon before he can get revenge on Dobey, the cop who put him away.

Leo Moon: William Watson, Edith Dobey: Lynn Hamilton, CJ Woodfield: Lester Rawlins, Rosie: Claire Touchstone, Cal: Eric Sutter, Lola: Taaffe O’Connell, Pommier: Kurt Grayson, Norris: Bill Traylor, Frisco Fats: Lee McLaughlin, Sheila: Marla Adams, Mechanic: Michael MacRae, Fry: Michael Durrell, Ethel: Robin Raymond, Doyle: Marty Davis, Crenshaw: Duncan McLeod. Written By: Michael Fisher, Directed By: Michael Schultz.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

Prison escapes and that prisoner’s declaration of revenge on the person who put him there are always great stories. Sometimes they are fictional and sometimes they are horrifyingly real, as evidenced by the recent high profile escapes in the news. This episode is a straight-ahead depiction of a not-too-smart guy whose lust for revenge makes him easily manipulated into doing dirty work. As with most in Season One, this episode has one foot in the staid cop dramas of the late 60s and early 70s (the staccato and heavy-handed expository dialogue, the fast narrative trajectory) and one foot in the progressive, more psychologically oriented approach that would soon change the way we see televised drama. The plot is classic but the way Starsky and Hutch move through the narrative – sophisticated, unpredictable, nearly feral – is genuinely new.

Time has not been particularly kind to the character of Captain Dobey. Watching now, we’re aware too acutely of how old fashioned he is, and the haunting professional failures (his decade-long inability to bring justice to the case of slain civil rights leader Issac Douglas, as well as his own partner’s murder in “Snowstorm”), the decision to leave his family in the protection of a sole police officer, even the fact that he lies to himself about his dietary habits (understandable), all point to someone who is not all that self-aware. Very often Dobey has to have the case explained to him (“Death Ride”, “Targets”), and very often his unthinking tantrums actually hurt the investigation (“Bloodbath”, “Tap Dancing”). Of course we must acknowledge the triumph Dobey represents and has earned, that of the African-American in a position of power, and as well we must recognize the archetypal Authority Figure (especially one that occasionally dips into comedy, as Dobey’s does) is by its very nature an unfashionable constant, while the heroic figures of Starsky and Hutch have only improved over time. Awesomely progressive then, they still seem radical, and we can thank both the writers and the actors themselves for how fresh and contemporary these characters are. In fact we are only now appreciating just how radical they were and are – their fierce independence, enlightened humanism, and barrier-breaking love and loyalty to one another is still as rare a commodity now as it was then.

A couple of interesting issues arise immediately: one, those guys in the car are dressed very well, and very warmly, for this job. A suit and a sweater vest in what looks like ninety degree heat? As well, they are awfully casual as they wait for escapee Leo Moon. They don’t position themselves by the iron manhole cover, but sit in the car. Moon has to tap furiously to signal he’s raring to get out, and precious seconds are wasted while Sweater Vest gets out of the car, gets his crowbar, walks over and opens the vault; meanwhile sirens are loudly blaring away, which should have sent them scurrying into position long before now.

How does Moon escape, anyway? He seems to have merely crawled through a super-convenient concrete tunnel system, probably some kind of abandoned sewage outflow. It seems very close to the prison and isn’t even secured by razor wire. He’s not even dirty or out of breath.

What Happened Last Night: “Just admit it,” Starsky says to Hutch, swinging his gun in its holster around in a casual way, as they sit at their desks. “You’re just ticked off after what happened last night.”
“No I’m not,” Hutch says, but he’s lying. Determined to win, he throws Starsky a manual on ways to become right-handed. “If your best friend can’t tell you, who can,” he smirks, ever the genius at undermining. “Sooner or later you have to realize this world was designed for right-handed people,” he says, after a particularly graceful lope from his desk to Dobey’s to deliver a typed accident report, “you’re just out of step.”
“I do all right,” Starsky says, all earlier confidence disintegrating.
Hutch regards him coolly. “Aren’t you a little tired of doing just all right?” What precipitates this exchange are never revealed; it’s either a marvelous script extra or lost on the editing room floor, but nevertheless this nice little scene adds much to our understanding of the characters’ complicated, amicable, and subtle dance of not-quite rivalry.

As the photograph of Issac Douglas is developed, we see it bears a striking relationship to the final photographs of Martin Luther King. It’s a great moment when Dobey comes out of the photographic room at the station and stares longingly, not at the pretty young female cop, but at the chocolate bar she’s just bought from the vending machine. The guilt and desire, it’s all about sugar and fat. His sudden craving for junk food comes immediately after a loaded emotional moment, which is both illuminating and touching.

Starsky and Hutch display an impressive social intelligence when they come to the Dobey household to talk about the Moon escape. They don’t frighten the children, they include the wife, and then discreetly leave before a marital conversation has to take place. In fact, throughout the series, they’ve shown similar sensitivities to families, particularly children.

“Who’s the boss around here anyway,” Dobey murmurs to his loving wife. “I am,” she says, but notice he does what he wants to anyway, despite her wishes he stay home.

More expository dialogue as we get a hasty explanation of who Leo Moon is and why he’s gunning for Dobey. And here comes what I consider to be the secret heart of this episode, slipped in as if it means nothing: “We went through the academy together… The beat you guys have now is the one he had.” Here, in the space of a few seconds, we learn several astonishing things about Dobey. One of his best friends was murdered. And another close friend (“we went through the academy together” must be short-hand for the kind of camaraderie that comes from such an experience) was convicted of murder through Dobey’s testimony, which is a kind of cruelly necessary breaking of that friendship. And now, years later, Starsky and Hutch walk the beat Moon once had. Dobey must be both reminded of tragic events and feel as if, on some level, he has rectified the sins of the past. He is a deeply religious man. Does he ever see this turn of events in a spiritual way?

I wish Leo Moon’s crimes were more fully explained. It would be interesting to know how a cop could turn bad, and who exactly he killed, and why. And also how Dobey managed to be in a position to know what happened. Moon and Dobey were not partners, but Dobey was partnered with the tragic Elmo Jackson, whose murder is revealed in the later episode “Snowstorm”. We never know how these time lines intersect, if they do at all, and most times I do not like to draw links too strongly between episodes unless the writers themselves do. Each episode, to me, is its own island. That said, it’s impossible not to think about Elmo Jackson and how his murder, along with Moon’s murderous acts, affected Dobey psychologically. It could be that his intemperate bumbling has a lot to do with his perceived failures. And it’s not too much of a stretch to think that Leo Moon might have been working with Stryker, who eventually had Jackson killed, which would make Dobey even more complicit in events than he says.

“I used to leave my bike out when I was a kid too,” Starsky says genially, after Dobey shouts for the kids to clean up, another example of Starsky defaulting to child status, the free spirit in a world of grownups. “I’ll bet you did,” Dobey says, in a sudden burst of emotion bordering on anger. It’s a jarring moment, and discomfiting. Nerves, or something else? Does Dobey find it upsetting to see harsh police matters intruding on his private sphere? And if this is the case, why express it in such a passive-aggressive way?

Dobey’s house is protected, but he isn’t. He’s allowed to drive himself to the television station and back at night. Sure, he’s a police officer and should be able to take care of himself, but he’s also a civic official who has been behind a desk for some time. Doesn’t anyone see him as vulnerable to attack?

Ignoring a man’s outstretched hand is as nasty as it gets, and it shows that Pommier, even though he is an expert and a trusted henchman, is not one of the cool kids in Woodfield Industries, but rather an outsider who can easily be let go.

The Fat Man’s bad attitude as he wins at pool would eventually get him into serious trouble, wouldn’t it? Cackling and grinning as he beats some poor schlub at pool is eventually going to get him killed. As well, note the tiresome amount of fat-baiting on this show, aimed at this guy and then at Dobey (twice).

At the TV studio, Hutch delights in taunting Starsky about the left-handed “midget” Maxie Malone (such an offensive word I can hardly bear to type it) who ran the show he once attended as boy scout, insinuating it was left-handedness, of all things, that brought the host down in a hail of disgrace. This sort of extended, detailed torture takes a lot of imagination. What did Starsky do to “last night” to provoke this sort of elaborate reprisal? Beat Hutch at darts? At pool? At arm-wrestling? Attracting a girl attracted to lefties?

Isn’t Dobey worried about slander on Sutton’s show when he accuses Woodfield, along with showing his photo, of murdering Douglas? Or is this the reckless behavior of someone who no longer cares about the legal ramifications of lobbing as-yet-unproven accusations?

Going to the massage parlor to track down missing girlfriend Lola, we’re treated to a lovely little scene where the world-weary madam swans around with a cigarette cracking jokes and teaching her girls chess. It’s these details that add so much to the texture of any episode, even if its whimsical view of prostitution is a tad romantic. Although, as an aside, Leo Moon leaving both his name and phone number is a pretty stupid thing to do. The guy’s an ex-cop, but apparently any cop-like skills have rusted pretty badly in prison.

The actual working police aren’t much better if Moon can get the drop on one of them so easily, especially on a clear, quiet street. But while Moon is breaking in, we get to see Edith’s bravery and fast thinking as she wards him off and then dares to race into the night to find out why they were unprotected. I really don’t appreciate Dobey’s refusal to even look at his son Cal in the aftermath, instead ordering him to check on his sister. Hopefully there was a moment we didn’t see where he comforts and praises his son. Rosey’s shy tottling down the stairs and into Hutch’s willing arms shows again how natural and unaffected Hutch is around kids, and how Starsky hangs back, in most cases more effective at acting like a child and not a parent. Their tenderness toward the child – particularly Hutch’s beatific smile – is a beautiful sight.

At the airport, chasing down the lead of the rental plane that brought Moon to Los Angeles, Hutch is seen through an office window nonchalantly stubbing out a cigarette in the ashtray before he leaves. Although the man at the desk touches the cigarette himself while taking a call, it still seems as if Hutch either took it for himself or perhaps used it in one of his patented menacing moves, stubbing out the cigarette of someone he wanted to intimidate.

When Starsky and Hutch hear about the pilot, they immediately leap to understanding the large and complicated conspiracy that is in motion. This is some pretty impressive deduction.

Talking to the Mandalay Airport mechanic, Starsky and Hutch are particularly masterful. Starsky has his thumb hooked in the pocket of his jeans as he comes around and confiscates the tool the mechanic is holding. He does this in a mildly threatening way that would make anyone shake in their boots. Both are asking questions requiring uncomfortable answers. Hutch reaches out – like lightning – to grab hold of the guy’s wrist. Both are calm, focused and controlled, all business, no nonsense about left-handedness in sight.

Leo Moon tells Lola, “The Captain’s never late for Sunday service, right.” Dobey later tells Edith, “We’re going to arrive at church five minutes late, but we get better protection that way.” It seems as if Moon has misread his adversary. This points to a common thread in the series: how criminals, especially the Big Bosses, often crash and burn when over-protected, and over-praised, by their underlings.

The film negative is flipped in the car scene, showing the car being driven from the right side. Is this a glaring continuity error or a crafty comment on left-handedness?

Harold Dobey and C.J. Woodfield are both religious but there is a difference in how they view it. In Woodfield’s mind, religion and patriotism are merged into a militaristic code of conduct, necessary to to stave off the general downfall of American society. Dobey is a humble practitioner.

“Did I ever tell you about my aunt?” Hutch says, apropos of nothing while the three of them – the guys and Dobey – sit around the Dobey table drinking tea obviously prepared by Edith. Dobey has just been pessimistic and Starsky replies with a remark about always seeing on the bright side. Hutch laughs at Starsky, and then, in the aftermath of affection, is compelled to ruin the moment. “She was left-handed,” he says.
“What did your family do, lock her in the attic?” Starsky says.
Dobey demands to know what the hell they’re talking about, and Hutch says, “Did you ever notice about left-handed people, captain, that they’re a little strange.” And allows himself The Hutch Specialty: a smug chuckle. It’s a private, inward gesture both excluding and alienating, as if Hutch is conducting a secret conversation in his head. I always love this scene, Hutch suddenly resurrecting the subject of left-handedness right in the middle of the most complex, most frustrating part of the case. They can’t pin anything on Woodfield, the case is stalled, and so Hutch makes a little trouble, decompressing by casting aspersions at Starsky. And Starsky accepts this detour, instead of fighting back as anyone else would have. He knows what Hutch is doing.

C.J. Woodfield and the Collapse of the Confederate South: Woodfield is a rich old racist, suffering from what looks like the effects of polio and living in a vast suburban pile meant to look as plantation-like as possible. Played to the hilt by Broadway star Lester Rawlins, his slight frame, reptilian face and menacing southern drawl make him one slithery villain indeed. “I’m a simple man from simple roots,” he tells the detectives after an obnoxiously showy prayer as they sit with gleaming silver service and obsequious wait staff. This specious declaration is common to many of the gangsters at the apex of the food chain: they declare themselves to be regular guys who just happen to get lucky in life, whose riches haven’t changed their simple souls. Woodfield is an interesting variation on this because of his diminished physicality and the force of his religious beliefs, which bleat nonstop like Baptist hellfire. I wonder why these two embellishments, delightful as they are, have been added to his character. It could be the withering of his body echoes his moral withering, and it could be that a hypocrite of this magnitude plays well against the Dobey family’s simplicity and piety.

At Woodfield’s “breakfast” Starsky plays it with a measure of social awkwardness and bluntness ordering on rude, while Hutch goes for the smooth superiority that comes so effortlessly to him. He still, however, wants to have a little fun at the expense of his partner – you can see him intercept Starsky for the coffee pot, and Starsky’s annoyance. Hutch eats his oatmeal the proper way, spoon out toward the far end of the bowl, letting Starsky do the dirty work, threatening Woodfield and his crony. When Starsky makes a smart-ass comment about Woodfield serving “this mush”, you can see Hutch grin, enjoying his partner’s crude ways.

Dobey takes his son Cal for granted. He’s sharp with the boy while saving all his affection for his daughter. It puts one in mind of Jackson Walter’s relationship with Junior in “Manchild on the Streets”. Cal, like Junior, is sensitive. He’s putting up with his father without complaint during these extraordinary circumstances; he’s either afraid for him or of him. But, as time goes on, he’s going to become one surly, resentful young man, maybe in trouble, and Dobey will be at fault.

I can do without the sexual undercurrent of Lola’s tackle on the bed, with Hutch smirking, “Too much for you, partner?” as Starsky holds her down. I also wonder if Lola could have played it cool when she saw Hutch at the window, maybe lying her way out of trouble, but that’s pure speculation and perhaps unfair, because it’s clear throughout that Lola is not at all prepared for the dangers of this lifestyle, even Starsky remarks on her lack of smarts.

Is shooting Dobey at a church Woodfield’s idea? There are other, less public ways to do the job. I suspect it is because religion, and its perversion, plays such a big part in this episode, as Dobey declares he’ll give his thanks to the Lord following the shooting death of Moon. Also, the funereal decorations of coffin and hearse are amusingly reminiscent of the curtain swags at Woodfield’s home.

That’s some splendid act of subterfuge that lets Woodfield’s man Pommier sneak into the Dobey home under the auspices of Tri-State Telephone Co., fooling five police officers who should have known better.

Starsky tells Dobey that Pommier worked for Woodfield Industries for twelve years as a pilot and “explosives man”. What on earth would Pommier have to do with explosives in a seemingly legitimate business like that? It’s never said, but I wonder if the illegal awarding of contracts came about through the gentle persuasion of dynamite bouquets delivered to civic officials.

That is one amazing tackle Hutch does from the airplane to Woodfield’s man – fifteen feet at least, hard on the tarmac.

It’s interesting how much betrayal there is in this episode. Woodfield betrays Pommier, Lola betrays Moon, the aircraft mechanic betrays Pommier. In a sense, Dobey betrays Moon by testifying against him.

There are strong similarities between the two characters of C.J. Woodfield and James Marshall Gunther in the last episode “Sweet Revenge”. Both are older, lonely men without friends or family, whose vast empires are about to fall thanks to the relentless, pesky interference of Starsky and Hutch. A quiet servant comes to announce the arrival of the police, each man says thank you and asks to be left alone. There is a gun on the desk, and a moment of silent contemplation before the arrest, which I cannot help but draw comparisons to the cold realization in the Führerbunker. Both men seem to consider suicide at this point, even Gunther, who holds the gun on his lap and later points it at Hutch but in a way that feels more symbolic and sad than defensive. Woodfield arranges the disposal of his most trusted deputy, just as Gunther murdered his, without qualm or hesitation. Both men long for an imperial past when things seemed simpler. Both are beyond reason, psychotic, half in this world and half in some antediluvian fantasy. In both scenes Hutch is the first one through the door. Rights are read in a way that underscores this will be an above-board, fully legal arrest without a hint of vengeance, despite the enormous emotion beneath the surface. Lastly, we can see just how far the series itself has come in the space of four brief years: while well-written and well acted, Woodfield’s arrest is straightforward, a satisfying conclusion to the plot. In “Sweet Revenge”, the entire scene is swirling in a cerebral miasma, half-spoken thoughts and long intense silences, more real than mere reality. It is not satisfying in the traditional sense, but profound and sad. If this doesn’t make you grieve for the lack of a fifth season nothing will.

Tag: Dobey is tricked into admitting praise. We must come to the conclusion that Edith is the intelligent one in this family, no matter how many demure “yes dear”s she murmurs. Dobey refers to himself as “Chief of Detectives,” but later, in “Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty”, it’s Chief Ryan who has the title. Hutch tells Starsky, after learning that Rosey is left-handed, “One out of two ain’t bad,” a statement that remains a mystery to this day. Is he just making stuff up to bolster a non-existent competition persisting throughout this episode? Unable to resist having the last word, no matter what?

Clothing notes: Starsky is wearing a red hooded sweatshirt that looks fresh and modern. Hutch is wearing his green t-shirt, a short black leather jacket we don’t see very often, and the turquoise cargo pants that have made an appearance in other shows.

Episode 9: Lady Blue

December 18, 2009

When Starsky’s former girlfriend Helen Davisson, a cop, is murdered, Starsky and Hutch suspect either Solenko, the thief she was investigating, or the insane Commander Jim.

James March Wrightwood: James Keach, Cindy: Timothy Blake, Polly: Elisha Cook, Dr. Melford: Quinn Redeker, Wally: Tony Ballen, Fifth Avenue: Ed Bakey, Ruby Solenko: Victor Argo, Slow: Richard Karron, Touhy: Jim Gosa, Harvey Ritlin: Gene Borkan, Angie: Lee Pulford. Written By: Michael Mann, Directed By: Don Weis.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

The dream team of Michael Mann and Don Weis will later bring us “The Psychic”, one of the all-time best episodes in the canon. Similarly, this episode is a perfect amalgam of great writing and no-nonsense, crisp direction. Both episodes also give us treasured little extras, those special scenes that enlarge our understanding and appreciation of the partnership, such as the fight about Hutch’s broken-down car.

Why do you think Huggy changed the name from his bar from the proud “Huggy Bear’s” to the more incognito “The Pits” in later episodes? Was this unusual deceleration from capitalizing on one’s name and identity (surely Huggy would be well-known in this rundown neighborhood) or the result of some kind of trouble? Perhaps Huggy inherited a bar with a name with even more cachet than his own, and decided to keep it.

Imagine how desperate Hutch must be if he’s willing to let a guy named “Sneaky Pete” fix his car.

The moment of private joy Starsky experiences when seeing Hutch’s tub engulfed in smoke is memorable: he throws his head back and laughs.  This reminds us how Hutch’s superiority complex and its unpleasant side-effects (such as taking it out on Starsky) is part of a complex and satisfying ritual the two enact through mutual unspoken – or unconscious – agreement. Starsky is thinking, oh yeah, this is going to be good.  He’s probably anticipating his partner’s name-calling, undermining, and other sour psychological underhandedness with what can only be described as masochistic delight. It’s easy to see what Hutch gets out of this – he’s allowed to spectacularly decompress, with no lingering resentments, lucky to have a friend and partner who takes what he dishes out – but what does Starsky get out of it?

Starsky pretends to read the sports section of the newspaper while inquiring casually (to an about-to-explode Hutch): “what were you doin’ in there?” while his mouth twitches in a nearly invisible grin. Which, of course, brings on the expected, and anticipated, temper-tantrum from Hutch, who rails about names and numbers in a speech which has since become a classic moment of the series: “Do you ever think about it, Starsky? Here we go, another day, another dollar, ten-four, five six, tack-two, Zebra-three, they’re trying to make us into digits and I’m tired of it! … Zebra Three, ten-four, forty buffalo and a gaggle of geese …”
“And a partridge in a pear tree, sounds like Christmas,” says Starsky, with the ingenuousness perfectly designed to increase rather than decrease the build-up of explosive energy from his partner.

It’s an interesting glimpse into Hutch’s psyche when he claims “they feed us numbers all day long to try and make us one of them“. He really does have a loner’s distrust of society at large, a paranoid streak that never really goes away. It could also resemble the “crazy” talk of Pollie later in the episode, perhaps reminding us the line between sane and insane is relatively thin.

Starsky says it was a good thing they were called Zebra Three, when they could have been called “Weimaraner Four”. It’s very amusing how he comes up with the name of a relatively obscure dog breed that fast.

When Hutch uses his nasty-nice voice to say to the dispatcher: “hello there fellow person, nice human being, are you calling us?” you can see Starsky, while ostensibly concentrating on the newspaper, suppress a pleased smile at Hutch’s frustration. It’s a truly lovely, subtly acted moment.

Angry as he is, Hutch is also quick to react professionally at the call, proving there is always a rational person in there somewhere.

When the guys arrive at the “dead body” at Lincoln Garden there’s a lovely modernist cedar wall erected between lawn and pond, hiding the patio of a restaurant, which some idiot has defaced with spray paint.

They call out to “Marty” right away, signaling their knowledge of all the beat cops. When they see how that his shock at the murder scene has caused him to neglect his duties they’re sympathetic rather than angry or impatient; they know he’s a rookie and understand that in the stress of the moment things are undone. If Marty had been indifferent to the carnage it would have bothered them more.

After requesting a crime lab team and a coroner’s wagon, Starsky hesitates and then says “thank you,” to dispatcher Mildred, and you can see this is meant to serve as an apology for his partner’s earlier rudeness. However – and this is an extraordinary, inspired Glaser moment – he does it with a mix of reluctance, amusement, and self-deprecation. He’s inwardly berating himself for having to clean up Hutch’s messes while at the same time appreciating his explosive nihilism. Moment over, it’s back to the action.

There’s a great moment in Dobey’s office in which Hutch hands Starsky the Styrofoam coffee cup in exact duplicate to his gesture in the previous scene at the morgue, except here Starsky takes it; one wonders if this is an unconscious gesture meaning, all right, I will accept your help now.  All this is watched closely by Dobey.

Helen Davisson is described by Dobey as a fine police officer until her behavior changes suddenly: she’s insubordinate and often a no-show. Then she abruptly “quits”. Why is the undercover case we eventually discover she’s involved in have to be concealed to such an extent that not even Dobey, Chief of Detectives, has heard about it? If the case had to do with internal affairs, I could see it. But this is by all reports a fairly standard operation to attempt infiltration into a burglary ring. That’s hardly black ops.

Dobey almost takes Starsky off Helen’s case because of Starsky’s personal interest in it. Yet in Linda Baylor’s attack in “Fatal Charm” Dobey tells Starsky and Hutch, “Knowing how you feel about Linda, I’m going to assign you to her case.” Why the difference in how he sees emotional involvement of his officers in these two cases? Does the presence of romantic feelings – even distant ones – make him wary?

Starsky gives a wonderful speech illustrating why he and Hutch are a cut above the rest: “I’m a cop, not a vigilante. And especially because this was Helen, what will go down will be the most professional murder investigation ever run by this department. I’m going to walk that guy into a corner, and a judge is going to imprison him, or institutionalize him, for the rest of his life” (italics mine). It’s not just Starsky’s rationality that makes this such an admirable statement. It’s also the willingness to accept mental illness as a treatable and defensible motive that shows an extraordinary level of compassion, considering the times (and which must have garnered a lot of guffaws in the squad room.)

Geometry Moment Number One: observe the triangularization when Dobey is deciding whether or not to let Starsky work the Helen case. Starsky pleads with Dobey, Hutch reads Starsky, Dobey reads Hutch, who gives a subtle nod; Dobey agrees.

Throughout the series Dobey seems to have more trust in Hutch than Starsky. It’s in evidence here as he lets Hutch make the decision about involvement in Helen’s case.

The scene with the uncooperative guy at the Mellow Yellow is really priceless – the sort of choreography that’s almost psychic – note that it’s not one, but two judicious slams of the door that floor the guy.

The door to the club locked, and the doorman barks “we’re closed” when the sign reads “Open 24 Hours, Seven Days a Week”. Inside, chairs are piled up, lights are low. Strip clubs must be accustomed to girls coming and going all the time; even the death of one of the dancers wouldn’t be enough to bring a profitable business to a close.

Cindy says Helen was “her best friend”, like a “kid sister”. Yet they’ve known each other only three months or so, and have been roommates for less than that. Cindy is obviously one of those clingy, needy people with boundary issues that are ripe for the picking in an undercover operation. It’s easy to imagine Helen, if she was as good a cop as they say, really pouring on the sisterly charm in order to get as much information from Cindy as she could. Plus, she held her nose and dated the club manager, which probably wasn’t very fun. In this way, Helen shows her pragmatic toughness much like Starsky later does in “I Love You, Rosey Malone”. Too bad the best female cop in the entire series is dead before we meet her.

The initial scene with Starsky creating/exaggerating Hutch’s tantrum outside the Pits is repeated here in a mirror image: Hutch gets into the car after the interview with Cindy, in which she shows the guys a photo of her and Helen. Starsky, overwhelmed, leaves. Hutch first asks “you okay?” then proceeds to get into the car and needle Starsky into a moment of forgiveness and gentleness in the same way Starsky needled Hutch into frustration and anger – by knowing exactly what buttons to push. I don’t mean Hutch is exploitative, or even pragmatic. He is not trying to hurry Starsky along so they can get back to work (well, not primarily). Rather, he is doing what Starsky did several scenes earlier: offering himself as both distraction and target. Starsky’s emotions – unprocessed, abstracted – need to coagulate into action if he’s going to heal. Hutch is popping up like a mole at a carnival game. He’s saying, here, hit this. He looks kindly at Starsky and tells him he’s “not the kind of man a woman’s gonna kill herself over. No matter what your mother said, you’re not Rudolph Valentino.” Roused, Starsky indignantly tells Hutch his mother never said he was Rudolph Valentino, but rather “the Paul Muni type.” Hutch feigns ignorance but of course this is a detail he already knows. He gives a sad laugh, a sort of “huh” and Starsky is jolted out of his paralysis; Hutch slaps him on the arm and Starsky signals the end of his immobilization by saying in a business-like way, “ok, look, we’ve got a psycho on our hands, huh.” This will be echoed in the pivotal scene later in Gillian in which Starsky tells grieving Hutch: “we’ve got work to do.”

“The Paul Muni-type” is an inside joke of Glaser and Soul’s that they played often off-camera, which has now been written into the script. Paul Muni may not physically resemble Starsky (or Glaser), except for the luxuriant hair (and the initials), but he was renown for meticulous professionalism, intense immersion into his roles, personal integrity, and public reserve.

It’s interesting Starsky and Hutch both make the assumption Helen’s killer is mentally ill. Other than the unusual detail of the television wire, there isn’t any particular reason this is the work of a “psycho”. Instead of talking to Helen’s current boyfriend – the most obvious choice to make, as most homicides, particularly of women, are caused by a husband, boyfriend or closest male relative – they go right to the San Leone institution to talk to Crazy Pollie.

Outsider artist Crazy Pollie makes some pretty nice drawings. In today’s market, in a good gallery, they could command quite a lot.

I like how Hutch is interested enough to ask Pollie where he’s planning to go when his “dials” or “tiles” – it’s difficult to tell – blast them out of the world. He’s very good with vulnerable, damaged people. Starsky, eminently practical, can’t muster the same level of interest. This is why Hutch, with all his prickly parts – his temper, his arrogance, a certain preposterous bluster, a streak of meanness – will always be deeply lovable.

That’s some awesome driving by Glaser as they pull into the garage where the man is working, looking for James Wrightwood, aka Colonel Jim. He makes a pin-point turn and pulls in an inch from where the mechanic is standing at the work bench. It’s so close Hutch can’t even get around, he has to hop up on the bumper.

Would you hire a guy who just got out of an institution “for the criminally insane” and get him using a blow torch? I wouldn’t.

Hutch tells Wrightwood they’re friends of Pollie and Wrightwood says, “yeah? You’ve been looking for me!” As he proceeds to explain how good he’s been, I can’t help but wonder: the guys have left Pollie from his secure lockdown maybe a half hour or an hour before, and yet Commander Jim knows the cops are looking for him already. It seems to me he really can receive magnetic signals from the ether, after all.

That’s some cool act Jim gives when he insists he’s taken his medication and is living a regular life; this is a guy, we learn later, who has already tortured and murdered one woman, and will soon murder again. How can he be so composed? Does he somehow not see Starsky and Hutch as a threat to his freedom? Does he imagine they’re there for another reason altogether?

Starsky is really thrown by the idea of Jim’s aluminum-foil-cosmic-ray-deflection scheme, in a way Hutch wouldn’t be. He can be more conventional, and therefore more affronted by oddities, while Hutch is more likely take it in stride.

Why would the guys would discuss such a sensitive case in front of Huggy? Isn’t there some kind of presumption of confidentiality when it comes to detective work? There’s a nice moment in this scene when Huggy approaches with the coffee, pours it, and manages to spill most of it on the counter. Starsky takes his cup, and gently touches it to the sleeve of his khaki jacket, absorbing the coffee.  An improvised gesture, maybe?

“Baby Blue, this car could be for you,” Wally tells Hutch, attempting to make Hutch buy the car by noticing his physical appearance. Most do: Hutch is very often called “blondie” and “blue eyes” throughout the series while Starsky is never once called “Curly”, or noted for his similarly blue eyes. As they get into the car, (both guys waving away what must be alcoholic breath) Starsky deliberately – provokingly – says, “take it, Blue Eyes.” Which Hutch does, with gusto, while Starsky is supremely calm.

Note that throughout this scene Hutch’s gun holster is evident. Wally either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

Hutch has his pocket watch with him when Starsky (who always has an accurate watch) asks for the time. The same watch Fifth Avenue lifts. Starsky calls Hutch “pushover” at the end of the scene, either a remark about Hutch not being able to detect his pocket being picked, or perhaps it’s a comment about Hutch being too friendly with this seemingly endless parade of eccentric characters. This is what Starsky called him when the cousin makes him test-drive the car at the lot, throwing him the keys in a peremptory way. “You’re a pushover,” Starsky says. What’s going on, that “pushover” is the best Starsky can do given two very different situations? And besides that, wasn’t scaring the guy witless in order to extract information part of the plan? Is Hutch really a pushover, in any sense of the word?

“Degenerates, bums,” Fifth Avenue calls Solenko and his bunch. “They give an honest thief like me a bad name.” This statement is very similar to Starsky and Hutch’s reasoning in “Texas Longhorn” when they allow the Angel to give them information on the killers of Emma Lou. Starsky and Hutch tell her Huey Chaco and John Brown Harris “give heroin addicts a bad name.” They also treat Cheryl Waite, self-admitted drug runner and possible prostitute, with lunch, an offer to stay at Hutch’s place and help packing for a trip. Where is the line drawn between an honorable bad person and one that is not? Do Starsky and Hutch believe that drawing this line is their raison d’etre as good cops?

If Fifth Avenue is so hard to get a hold of, why does Hutch interrupt Dispatch during the phone number read off and asked to be patched through? Does he figure Fifth Avenue would only use phone booths, and out-of-the-way ones at that, so there would be no point?

While on a stakeout of fancy houses which may be the scene of the immanent heist, Starsky asks the cops-in-hiding, “Cóma está usted?” He says it easily, proving he knows rudimentary Spanish, which makes his long drawn-out scene in “Velvet Jungle” with Hutch trying to teach him a simple phrase like “esta Ramone aquí” very suspicious. He’s pretending ignorance of Spanish in “Velvet” for other, less easily understood reasons. It’s great when the undercover cop says, “your Spanish stinks” (even though it doesn’t; it’s a simple phrase and he says it fine) and Hutch smirks happily.

Starsky’s ability to read an honest confutation is evidenced here: in the middle of a chaotic take-down, he’s able to see that Solenko honestly didn’t know Helen was a cop.

Hutch watches Starsky climb into Helen’s confiscated car. You can read his face: he’s sad on behalf of Starsky, and ready for what might be a long moment of mourning and introspection as Starsky sits in the driver’s seat. It’s often the patience these two show for each other during the hard times that defines the closeness of the relationship, rather than any big gesture.

Hutch leans into the car to turn off the radio and just happens to note the buttons are all set to the same station. It seems to bother him greatly. When they discover another girl has been killed Hutch immediately asks the officer to check the car for the same anomaly. Hutch’s intense reaction to this one small detail in an ocean of details is a quirk the episode does not explain. He doesn’t even know what the significance might be, because it’s Starsky who makes the connection, exclaiming “Commander Jim of the airwaves!” This, too, is a bit of a reach.

Helen was a very good police officer, according to Dobey. Smart, resourceful, and probably physically able. How, one wonders, was she subdued by someone as crazy as Commander Jim? This is not to say a male police officer might not have suffered as Helen did, but there is an underlying message here that female police officers are more likely to be victimized. In the series’ run female officers do not perform particularly well. Sally Hagen (“The Specialist”), Sgt. Lizzie Thorpe (“Discomania”) Det. Joan Meredith (“Black and Blue”) and Det. Kira (“Starsky vs. Hutch”) are all overpowered by a male offender. The shadow of a question remains: did Helen die because she wasn’t physically strong enough? And is this a vivid illustration of a long-held fear (or prejudice) of men in law enforcement?

It’s interesting when Starsky talks about his relationship with Helen and seems primarily to remember the fighting. Constant arguing doesn’t seem like Starsky’s style, and makes one wonder if the affair was as wonderful as he claims it was. Helen was most likely a feisty, spirited, ambitious person – she did, after all, volunteer for a dangerous job and sacrificed her relationship to do it. When Hutch says later in “Hutchinson for Murder One” that his marriage to Vanessa was marred by fighting but was still fulfilling in some sense, you believe it. Starsky, not so much. It would be intriguing to know what they fought about, since Helen, as a cop too, would understand all about strange hours and sudden departures and unexplained absences. Was it just a case, I wonder, of being too similar.

Commander Jim’s tinfoil palace is one of the most strikingly beautiful set decorations we see. It must have taken a lot of work to create those silver stalactites.

It’s amusing, in a sad way, that the psychiatrist insists Commander Jim was sane because he got a score of 76% on the “Wisconsin Multi-facet Index Test”.

It’s very touching when Starsky says that Commander Jim was a victim too, and not just the women.

Psychiatry doesn’t come off very well here or in other episodes (“Murder Ward”). Doctors like Melford are seen as little more than insensitive brutes who care more for statistics than they do for their patients. Case in point: Hutch angrily confronts him about using electro-shock therapy on a man so deeply afraid of “being zapped”, and the doctor just shrugs.

He does, however, try to redeem himself by admitting he knows where Jim goes when the waves hit him. This is information spoken in confidence and they all realize he shouldn’t say it, but Starsky isn’t ready to give him one iota of thanks. He simply glares with hate and says, “beautiful.”

This is the only episode that comes to mind in which the disenfranchised “victim” is also the perpetrator of the crime. Usually the show takes a sadistic sort of glee in bringing down the cigar-puffing kingpins, but in this case Solenko and his gang are innocent, and the mentally ill Commander Jim is to blame. Consequently his takedown is not a moment of either pride or satisfaction, but rather bitterly sad.

Filming notes: after shooting the scene on the radio tower, Glaser who, like Starsky, is scared of heights, immediately scrambled down again, while Soul, who loves climbing, ascended to the top to check out the view until Glaser nervously yelled for him to come down.

Tag: it’s a lovely, domestic scene with Hutch once again trying to help his friend out of his depression. The analogy of the sunset and the ephemeral nature of life is not only apt but gently understated.

There is no date coming up in the evening – Hutch is lying. The candles are for Starsky.

Character Studies 2: Yang and Yang

December 16, 2009

Outwardly the guys couldn’t be more different. Much is made of their differences, physically and economically, as well as their geographic origins, lifestyles, and social standing. Hutch plays the cultured sophisticate, Starsky the tough-guy everyman. Hutch is the idealist, Starsky the hedonist. Hutch himself calls attention to the dichotomy by calling himself the brain of the operation, with Starsky as the brawn (“The Game”). Glaser and Soul were cast for their different looks and acting approaches, in a move I occasionally interpret as the producers cynically trying to cover their bases with fans’ preferences. Yet surely the longest-running joke in the series is the fact that they’re mistaken for each other throughout. Their names are either combined (Merl calls them “Starkinson”), mangled (Eddie calls them “Starpy and Hupp”) or entirely switched (not just their own names but their undercover names: Rafferty, O’Brien, etc). Both act affronted when called each other’s names (“I’m Starsky, he’s Hutch!”) but occasionally adopt the guise of the other when in danger. Two sorts of people mix them up: officious bureaucrats with a bad attitude, and streetwise types who see a badge more than a person. In this way, Starsky and Hutch are deprived of their uniqueness by two opposing groups who judge them as “cop” first and foremost.

Even in the final shows the mayor, giving them an award, confuses them (not once but twice). Hutch’s date makes a joke about mixing them up in the opening scene of “Pariah”. They are given each other’s plane tickets in “Death Ride”. Drug kingpin Amboy misnames them. Even Dobey doesn’t know which one he’s talking to on the phone in “Death Notice”. In “The Fix”, Hutch insists he’s Starsky while being tortured. In “Foxy Lady”, Lisa Kendrick’s inability to tell them apart – the truth, for once, and not a lie, like everything else she says – nearly results in tragedy.  Even in “Partners”, in hospital beds with actual charts written with their names, the nurse gets it wrong. In an interesting twist, in “The Psychic”, Collandra, who is always right, names Hutch as the owner of the Torino.

So, how are two people, looking and acting so differently, continually mixed up, and why is this such an important element in the series? What are we being told between the lines? Because this script detail begins in the pilot and continues pretty much to the end of the series we can surmise it is an important element, maybe even a central one. My view is this happens because they are the same person. Several times throughout the series they refer to themselves as one, as in “The Psychic” when asked who they are by a bewildered cop Hutch replies, “We’re Lazarus.” At the end of “Survival”, when Starsky crouches down to an injured Hutch trapped in his car, he says “we made it” as if both of them had been fighting for their lives. Huggy says one without the other is “like a pig without the pork”. He also refers to Hutch as Starsky’s “better half”, which suggests a deeper truth, as most jokes do. Simply put, they are two halves of a whole. David Starsky is left-handed and Ken Hutchinson is right-handed, a fact that only provides amusing fodder for jokes, it also solidifies the notion this is one brain we’re talking about here, two hemispheres linked by a robust neuron-sparkling corpus callosum, fully engaged and perfectly suited for its environment, with both its abstract, language-oriented (Hutch) and pragmatic, physically graceful (Starsky) parts fully realized.

It’s also important to see that throughout the series the perceived and stated psychological differences between the two are fluid in nature. When attacked or accused one of the pair usually responds angrily while the other stays calm. It changes which partner is the one to get riled: sometimes it’s Starsky (particularly in the first two seasons) and sometimes it’s Hutch (in the latter half, more likely.) There are many scenes in which one holds the other back, usually with a light physical touch, but we can never assume this means one is less outraged than the other. It’s just a way of dividing responsibilities to ensure the best allocation of resources. You get angry now, I’ll get angry later. This is like the hydra of myth, a marvelous multiplicity that is nearly impossible to defeat: you strike out at the noisy distracting one and miss the ominous silence of the other. If we can read this series as a journey toward completion, the fragmented self is in a continual movement toward merging. So many of us never get to this beautiful place. We are stuck in isolation, unwilling or unable to merge with another so completely our own borders begin to fade. But somehow, and improbably, it has happened here. Starsky and Hutch are interchangeable, inseparable, complimentary, and also commingled. We cannot know how long it will last, whether it is integral to the exhilarating danger of being a cop, or whether it is lifelong. But for now, in this time, they are one.

Episode 9: The Bait

December 16, 2009

Starsky and Hutch go undercover as drug dealing pimps and spring Cheryl, a young drug courier, from jail to help them get to Danner, the head of a drug syndicate.

Cheryl: Lynne Marta, Danner: Charles McCaulay, Billy Harkness: Michael Delano, Connie: Akili Jones, Shockley: Dave Cass, Carter: James Karen, Goring: Sy Kramer, Saunders: Ken Scott, Moore: Marc Alaimo. Written By: James Schmerer, Don Balluck and Edward J Lakso, Directed By: Ivan Dixon.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This is a sunny, relatively unserious early episode which contains two classic elements in the series and both are depicted brilliantly. The first is the Rich White Man as the epitome of evil. The second is The Uptight Federal Agent. Danner, with his mansion and pool, his disconnect with the misery his imported drugs are inflicting, is the perfect villain. Agent Carter embodies the Establishment, with its inflexible rules and regulations which must be circumvented – and made ito seem ridiculous – by nonconformists Starsky and Hutch.

Filming notes: cast and crew apparently had a lot of fun making the episode, Bernie Hamilton was even pushed into the pool, clothes and all, at the end, but Glaser did twist his ankle rather badly in the chase scene at the beginning and limped off-screen for the rest of the episode’s filming.

In the first scene there is a panoramic shot of a flat, somewhat surreal Los Angeles neighborhood. Starsky and Hutch are driving in a flashy convertible while in undercover clothes. You can see Hutch crack a mean, excited little grin before he lays into Starsky, the way he’s been dying to lay into him for the last twenty minutes. You see, Hutch is in full asshole-mode, what he would call, stiffly, “my undercover oeuvre.” He’s itching to try it out on someone, anyone, and Starsky, unfortunately, is in the line of fire. “You know what your problem is, boy,” Hutch sings out in a vulgar southern accent. To which Starsky replies (why does he play into this? He knows what’s coming at him) “What.” “Looking rich makes you nervous,” Hutch says triumphantly. “This fine set of wheels intimidates your gross nature.”

Starsky isn’t playing. Instead, he complains about the shoes Hutch bought him (Wouldn’t the police department outfit them in whatever undercover clothes are necessary? Why does Hutch volunteer for the shopping?) causing Hutch to snap into outrage and lose his gum-chewing-cool-customer persona. “I love those shoes!” he says, indignant.

Hutch is irritated because Starsky is counting the money for the set-up. He is similarly, if not identically, irritated later in “The Psychic” when Starsky counts the money for the kidnappers. Of the two, Starsky is seen to be more awed by money. There are many times throughout the series in which he pursues get-rich-quick schemes (the chinchilla in “Hutchinson For Murder One”, the real estate deal in “Heroes”, for instance), he is more anxious to gamble (“Las Vegas Strangler”) fight dime-eating phone booths and candy machines to the point of hoarding change (various), and fully intends to quit upon receiving a “windfall” from a relative’s will (“Golden Angel”). He also can be acquisitive (the posh car in “Class in Crime”, the expensive watch in “The Trap”) and seems overly conscious of the class divide and anxious to get what’s his. But it must be said his ideas about money are somewhat innocent in nature, pure, without guile. Hutch, on the other hand, is far more serious about the subject, more realistic, overtly turned off by the appearance of wealth even though there are suggestions he comes from a higher social class than Starsky. He rejects money in the disdainful way only someone intimately acquainted with its destructive power can, choosing junky cars, peasant-style clothing and blistering social ineptitude which is, in a way, every bit as ostentatious as Starsky’s financial aspirations. His effortless grasp of the vulgarities of the nouveau riche is both amusing and insightful.

Starsky later says, in what looks like a Glaser ad lib (in his vague Bogey impression, judging by the slur), “don’t forget to book my shoes!” as he’s led away in handcuffs at the station.

In both this episode and later in “Tap Dancing”, Hutch defaults to Cowboy Chic when thinking he needs to be either rich/impressive or pathetic/nerdy, two extremes with the same costume.

Starsky does some great comedy running in the alley, waving the dreaded shoes.

Starsky, Hutch and Moore are questioned in the squad room. It seems as if there is only one interview room, and it’s being used at the moment. This seems highly improbable in a large urban police station. It’s a wonder why Moore, who obviously has a lot of experience in legal matters, doesn’t raise a stink about the lack of proper procedure, unless it’s to his own benefit.

Moore claims the guys tried to sell him drugs. But Starsky and Hutch had cash in an envelope, not drugs; Moore slipped the merchandize into Starsky’s pocket. Wouldn’t the most cursory fingerprint evidence point to Moore’s lie?

Starsky and Hutch switch their names around throughout the episode, causing everyone to mistake one for the other. This is very funny, yes, but it also serves a practical purpose: no matter what you call them, you’re going to be wrong. Not being sure of someone’s name is psychologically unbalancing. It undermines your internal compass, makes you question yourself, causing you to stumble. And these are people who are both arrogant and entitled, and not used to being corrected. Both Starsky and Hutch are very astute to employ this little game.

Dobey asks the pair why they didn’t inform the detectives about doing undercover work in their beat. Hutch has a hilarious explanation, even better when delivered with the wide-eyed earnestness of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar: “I figure the fewer people who know you’re cops the fewer people who can tell.” But still it seems odd that the detectives who arrested Rafferty and O’Brien didn’t recognize Starsky and Hutch as cops. There can’t be that many undercover detectives in the city and the two have been in some high-profile cases recently.

At the dockside restaurant, Cheryl and Hutch drink white wine, Starsky, rather conspicuously, drinks water. It could be because he’s driving, or maybe it’s because he doesn’t approve of the wine selection (in both “Rosey Malone” and “Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty” Starsky has proven himself to be quite sophisticated in his drinking habits). If Starsky is of Jewish heritage, another fact left open to discussion, he is reform or nonreligious, as he wears a bib, indicating he has eaten, or will eat, lobster.

Cheryl isn’t your typical heroin mule. She’s alert, white and educated, and if she’s a prostitute – and her involvement with the Danner empire indicates she may be – she’s awfully casual about it. She doesn’t appear to be part of Connie’s “stable” and throughout her time helping the detectives she is never once hassled to get back on the job. With her smart little scarf and perky attitude, Cheryl looks like she walked off an escalator in a Minneapolis mall. Later, she explains her past by telling Starsky a sad story about love gone wrong, but there’s something missing here, the story where she gets a taste of what she’s dealing to keep her in line. Nowadays, of course, no writer could resist a detour into sleaze, but in this case the episode pulls back and refuses to go there. Did the writers feel Cheryl as a drug user lessened the chance of the audience’s rooting for her, or was it a complication they didn’t have time for? And if she is indeed a working girl, even a part-time one, at the conclusion of the story when she packs her bags, how is it that she can just walk away without fearing retribution from her pimp? Those guys, I hear, zealously guard their “property”.

Hutch recognizes Shockley from about thirty yards, a guy he arrested while still in uniform – a remarkable feat of memory.

The obsession of the collector: Danner has taken nine years and two hundred and twelve thousand dollars for one of the only two-known Hawaiian Missionary 1859 stamps. (The actual history of the rare stamps is as bloody and bizarre as the episode’s writers suggest). While this could be a case of admirable persistence or scholarly integrity, the earnest aim of many teenage philatelists in the audience, here it is meant as proof of insanity. This series has repeatedly made the point that consumerism or collecting is one of the hallmarks of evil.

It’s really horrible how easy Hutch is with the “boy” when he talks to Connie. Connie’s a lowlife, sure, but still … it’s creepy, and Hutch seems either insensitive to, ignorant of, or grimly persevering in, the racist overtones. He makes a “cotton” reference and really pushes the southern accent – and redneck attitude – as an intimidation technique. Starsky, on the other hand, is pretty much the way he usually is, just a shade more measured.

Akili Jones as Connie is great here. He has the right mix of muscular swagger and blind self-interest to mark him as guy who will never move up in the world. Plus, he gets to wear fantastic jumpsuits.

Hutch as O’Brien gets extremely angry when Connie pushes for extra money, to the point of snarling and walking off; it’s up to Rafferty to close the deal. Apparently this is all staged, as Starsky saunters into the car and they drive off, both apparently satisfied about how it all played out. But this scene could also be a microcosm of a far larger and more complex issue: Hutch’s temper, and Starsky’s shrugging indifference to it, and how that works to their advantage both professionally and personally.

Notice how Starsky is more clingy to Cheryl than Hutch is. He obviously cares for her, which is quite touching, considering what must be an actual, real-life friendship (Soul and Marta were a couple at the time). Hutch practically ignores her. Later, when Starsky is affectionate with her after she’s been beaten up by Harkness, Hutch stays away.

Dobey looks both unconvincing and clumsy when he shows up at Huggy’s to talk to “Rafferty and O’Brien”. Keep that man behind a desk, please. In his suit and tie and stiff formality he sticks out like a banker at a biker’s convention. When Huggy – who’s just as bad, calling out “Captain!” loudly enough for everyone in the joint to know a cop is on the premises – asks whether Dobey has come down to the bar in an attempt to be “ethnic” it is truly hilarious as well as telling, as it highlights Dobey’s obvious discomfort with all things Huggy represents.

In four years, Dobey and Huggy have only one apparent instance of physically connecting. It is when Dobey slaps Huggy’s shoulder while ordering won ton soup. Which Huggy astonishingly gets, and at no small inconvenience. Huggy performs this menial task, paying for it out of pocket, because he’s got something to prove to the man who holds him in contempt.

Does Connie really invite the guys to his own apartment to score the heroin? If so, this is a very bad decision. Of course, it might be a friend’s place, or one of the girls in his “stable”.

Cheryl continues to accompany the guys as they make their way further into Danner Territory. Why? They don’t need her any more, not really, and when they let her go she seems genuinely surprised. “You two really are straight!” Cheryl exclaims when the guys tell her sh’s no longer needed. “In a kinky sort of way,” Starsky says. The archaic language is amusing, yes, but had Cheryl been expecting to be duped?

“You call me when you make a move,” says Federal Agent Carter. “You got it,” Hutch says, and then does what he always does when he fibs: he widens his blue eyes in the most innocent way possible, the way he did in Dobey’s office earlier. One wonders why the guys are so averse to having these guys as their backup, considering they’re floating such a huge amount of money to the operation. Is it because Starsky and Hutch don’t seem to trust anyone over thirty, especially anyone in a suit and tie, and from out of town?

Starsky and Hutch face off against Connie and two of his meanest henchmen (all sporting knives and what looks like truncheons). Why don’t they pull their guns when threatened, as this would have scared them off? None of them – particularly Connie, swinging away ineffectually – look like real fighters at all. It might be just me, but this fight scene is indictive of the episode as a whole: bad things happen, punches are thrown, shots fired, but there is a jokey, almost merry quality to this episode negating any real sense of danger. It could be the costumes, or the featherweight character of Cheryl, or the slapstick ending.

Starsky commits the cardinal undercover sin by shouting Hutch’s real name during the fight. Later he says, “do you think they made us?” Instead of lecturing him on the mistake – which he has every right to – Hutch merely says he doesn’t know. Sure, he’ll bust Starsky’s chops on his shoes, his car, what he eats, but he’s curiously silent on things that should genuinely matter.

When the guys find Cheryl, they pull their guns, and it’s noticeable that Hutch is not carrying his trusty Python. What, a huge gun like that too hard to hide in the Nudie Suit, or what? Can’t put it in his hat, same as the photograph?

Throughout the operation, Rafferty and O’Brien appear to be buying smack to redistribute to cronies back in Texas (although the “Texas” detail appears to improvised by Hutch when talking to Connie earlier). They purchase two large amounts, then raise it to an astonishing five kilos a week. Harkness doesn’t question this but I will. Purchasing that much heroin is major action. Danner and his people should immediately be wary. Why aren’t these dudes buying direct from the source (in Central or South America or wherever), and also why hasn’t anyone heard of these two before?

What is going on when Hutch doesn’t tell Starsky until they are walking into the warehouse that he told Agent Carter the wrong address? Hutch is awfully sure Starsky will agree to this foolhardy decision, and know what to do when things go sideways, as they inevitably will. Also, it’s notable that Hutch doesn’t have his gun here either, but Starsky does.

Throughout the run of the series two men take a bullet meant for Hutch. The first is Billy Harkness and the second is the guy in parking lot who attacks him with knife in “Sweet Revenge”. Does Hutch deliberately use Harkness as a shield knowing to do so will prove fatal, and would you consider this a homicide, justifiable or otherwise? Is Hutch just unbelievably lucky, as a bullet has a good chance of continuing through a second body, or is all this just a screenwriter’s way of making the story work?

Why, oh why, are those guys wearing suits when they during the ambush at the warehouse? Some sort of Danner Empire dress code?

It’s so funny that every time Dobey tries to talk to the guys about strategy, the restaurant worker is barging through with a tray or coming out with a bag of garbage. The guys roll their eyes. It seems they blame Dobey for the poor timing.

How in hell did the police convince the Henry C. Rash Museum to relinquish one of the rarest stamps in existence? It would have been highly entertaining to witness the meeting in which Dobey talks to the curatorial staff and tells them they’re the key to the biggest drug bust in LA history.

Shockley tells Goring, “I ain’t never had a ticket in my life.” He was, however, busted by Hutch a few years ago. Perhaps Shockley is hoping the double negative will make his statement regarding crime true. Either that or he thinks committing parking violations is worse than committing crimes.

Hutch has tackled Connie, who is unarmed and hurt, but still punches him two more times, which never fails to make me uneasy.

I like how Agent Carter cries out “I got it!” and grins hugely when holding aloft the priceless stamp. He lets his cool demeanor slip and becomes a real, excitable person. Maybe if he’d been like that in the beginning Starsky and Hutch would have liked and trusted him more.

Tag: Hutch does two very typical and hilarious things as he helps Cheryl pack. One, he folds her shirt with overly fussy care (which Cheryl shoves unceremoniously into her suitcase), and two he asks her if she’s watered her plants. The guys have a nice comedy act going where Hutch pretends the luggage is super heavy. Starsky is obsessed with unlikely cultural/culinary combinations, Hutch delights in demeaning this, even though watercress and anchovy pizza frankly sounds delicious (minus the hot and sour sauce).

Cheryl is going to stay with her friend’s parents. Hutch asks her if she will see her own mother and father in Philadelphia, and Cheryl is indifferent to this idea, which I find intriguing.

Clothing notes: Hutch takes his undercover clothes very seriously. Not only is he buying Starsky’s flash shoes, and possibly more than that, he’s taken to wearing Southern Style suits with a Nudie twist: cowboy outfits with studs, rivets, ten-gallon hats, and steel-toed cowboy boots. Plus some very fly cravats: red, white and blue, matching his shirt. But it’s Starsky who wears the star of the show, an unforgettable white suit and dark blue shirt, with buttons undone to the navel. Later he wears a blue suit and red shirt combination that is outta sight, especially when it comes with many medallions.

Episode 8: Kill Huggy Bear

December 13, 2009

When Huggy’s old friend Dewey asks him to deliver some stolen money back to the mob, Dewey’s girl Sarah and her boyfriend rob Huggy, leaving him in serious trouble.

Harry Martin: Dick Anthony Williams, Dewey Hughes: Roger Robinson, Sarah Kingston: Gloria Edwards, Lou Malinda: Hamilton Camp, Angie: Wally Taylor, Roy: Ed Cambridge, Jennie: Marilyn B Coleman, Receptionist: Adina Ross, Jerry: Dan Howard, Sam: Don Peters, Tom: Craig Shreeve, Bill: Cal Haynes. Written By: Fred Freiberger, Directed By: Michael Schultz.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

The store owner doesn’t want the police involved in his liquor store shooting, and his own injury. I like how Starsky says wryly that “the NAACP” will give them a lot of trouble if they let it go.

The witness starts out as a concerned and observant citizen and then complains about losing a dime phoning the police. Hutch keeps his misanthropy under wraps but you can still see the saddened people-are-weird look as he fishes in his pocket for change, and of course this is the one time he doesn’t have any.

Despite having had the Torino for a number of years, Starsky is diligently trying to get Hutch to love it, and Hutch, of course, sees this as a golden opportunity to belittle Starsky. “It’s red,” he finally says, with maximum disdain. Starsky explodes, and Hutch smirks. It’s a small smirk but deadly nonetheless. It says, I’ve done it. It says, I’ve won. The question is, done what?

Why does Huggy use his own pay phone in the bar?

Also, how does Huggy know Lou Malina’s number by heart? How does he, in fact, know it’s Lou’s operation in the candy store? Is that common knowledge in the neighborhood? If it’s such common knowledge, then why does Dewey make such a fatal error?

Why does Starsky refer to himself as “9W21” to Dobey on the Torino phone? It’s nothing he’s ever said before, or since.

Starsky and Hutch note to each other that Huggy isn’t straight with them for “the first time,” regarding the light green Ford parked in his alley. Three years later, in “Huggy Can’t Go Home”, another “first time” occurs when Huggy is asked to cover for J.T. Washington. Are Starsky and Hutch aware they’ve allowed Huggy more than one first time?

Starsky points out that for a hundred thousand dollars, “a guys’ brains could go out to lunch.” It is Hutch who flat out can’t believe that Huggy would be dishonest with them: “Ah, come on Starsky, we’re talking about Huggy!” What makes for the difference in their trust levels? Does Hutch really believe Huggy wouldn’t sell them out for a six-figure payout? That seems pretty naive. In their dealings with him, Starsky is can exhibit more obvious affection with Huggy (he is more demonstrably affectionate with everyone) but seems more distrustful of him. Hutch tends to take the middle ground.

In Sarah’s funky apartment, making out with her boyfriend, there’s a jazz rendition, it sounds like, of the “Starsky & Hutch” theme playing. One can’t help but notice the apartment is bright and well-furnished, with some cool art on the walls and possibly the best coffee table of all time – a white pod with a glass top and real goldfish swimming inside it – and it’s amusing when Starsky later makes an uncharacteristic comment that it’s a “nice place”.

Dewey has smart moments, and not-so-smart moments. He’s quick to catch on to Sarah’s duplicity, but dumb enough to just stand there while Harry glares at him then slowly closes the curtains. You can almost see the words “crime scene” flashing above all this. Dewey has time to run. But he doesn’t.

There’s a mirror above Sarah’s bed tilted for maximum effect, and it begs the question: is this meant to further degrade our opinion of mercenary Sarah? I remember decorative mirrors being very popular at the time, so it may not have been as unusual then as now to have one over the bed, but I can’t help but wonder if this bit of staging misogyny (if that is indeed what it is) implies sexual adventurousness in a woman is held out as proof of moral decay.

Starsky talking to Dobey on the radio, Dobey telling him about the snitch in the storm drain. “Starsky, don’t be cute. If you need help just call for it.” “Hutch is cute, I’m careful,” Starsky says. “What does he want, a date?” Hutch says, overhearing the end of the conversation, which is amusing. But is Starsky right in saying Hutch is generally more reckless than he is? Throughout the run of the series they look just about even on that score. Is this all for the sake of saying something irreverent?

The storm drains of Los Angeles make a great dramatic backdrop to the action, and one of the few times the specific architecture or scenery of the city is put to use.

I love how Hutch starts to flirt with the “secretary” of the health club but then just drops it as if he can’t believe he’d just sunk that low. I don’t mean to disparage this young actress, but I am reminded of the chilling cameo by Christa Helm, who shares with Adina Ross the same vacant, hungry look of someone desiring stardom, and who thinks she may have found it in this small role.

Lou’s office at the health club has to be one of the most obnoxious sets in the series. It’s a combination of paneling, tufted leather bar, showy trophies, French provincial chandeliers and vaguely Deco bronzes that mark Lou as a fraudulent huckster with zero taste.

Hutch must have found the bread story particularly enchanting – he sniffs the loaf and obviously finds it good, although he doesn’t show it at the time. It probably bugs him more and more, which is why he just takes the loaf in the end when he goes. He just can’t resist it.

Two parties steal “bread” from Lou Malinda. He loses his fifty thousand dollars. And Hutch walks out with an actual loaf of bread in the tag. After his Bakery Parable to Starsky and Hutch, which bread loss does Malinda find more unnerving?

Hutch talks intensely and at length about steroid-cases and how to deal with them, but in the end both resort to shin-kicking and hair-pulling to bring down Lou’s goons. Hutch really seems upset at the end, accusing Starsky of abandoning him. “I know that pride of yours,” Starsky says reasonably, but Hutch is so furious he’s inconsolable, and it seems to me this is one of the few examples of Starsky misreading the situation and underestimating his partner’s level of upset. Starsky, of the two, can be more heedless to emotional tenor, and more likely to be far more casual than he should be. (Another example of this is when he makes light of the very dangerous situation in next season’s “Fatal Charm”).

It’s interesting that when Hutch asks, “you come up with something?” as they sit in the dusty bracken, what Starsky comes up with is a surreal discarded wet suit. A metaphor for the confusion they’re both feeling?

Filming notes: Glaser and Soul do their own stunt work in the fight with the muscle-bound giants, and are actually driving the Torino at high speed in the brakeless scene; a camera was mounted on the hood instead of using fake-looking rear projection, which was more common at the time.

When the Torino’s brakes are cut both Starsky and Hutch both yell a lot of pretty hilarious advice: hit the brakes, hit the parking brake, jam into low, drag your feet, put out an anchor, and (finally) jump. Note that they both insist the other jump, a nice little partnership moment.

The chase scene between Harry Martin and the guys is one of the best in the series, mainly because of the dazzling white of the rooftop and the blue, blue sky, and the dumbfounding stupidity of risking death for a few hundred dollars, all of which end up floating away in the wind. As usual the guys chase their quarry without a word to each other, acting with an uncanny knowledge of what the other is doing. They also react to the shooting in silence, and Hutch gestures for the cuffs without a word.

There are two shows early on that feature Huggy and his troubles: this one and “Huggy Can’t Go Home”. Both Red and Dolphin, and Dewey, drive away from a robbery in which they shoot a man in a panic. Both parties involve the “light green Ford” in a minor traffic accident. It is parked in front of Red and Dolphin’s get-a-way car and they run into it. Dewey drives the “light green Ford” into the car parked in front of him. Even more coincidence is that both of these episodes involve Huggy protecting someone and lying to Starsky and Hutch.

Tag: Huggy sure takes his future security for granted when he saunters into Lou Melina’s office with Starsky and Hutch in tow. Does he not think this close association is going to bite him down the line?