Episode 2: Texas Longhorn

Starsky and Hutch try to catch two rapist-murderers before the victim’s bereaved husband, Texan car dealer Zack Tyler, can seek his own revenge.

Zack Tyler: Med Flory, John Brown Harris: Charles Napier, Little Huey: George Loros, Fat Rolly: Michael Lerner, Ray: Nora Denney, Angel: Ann Weldon, Marty: Bobby Hall. Written by Michael Mann, Directed By Claude Ennis Starrett, Jr.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This low-key early episode is wonderful for many reasons. The plot is straightforward, but with a fun kink midway through (the homicidal husband). There are colorful and interesting locations, and a fair amount of realistic street grunge. Starsky and Hutch are invested in the case and deeply moved by the victims. Dobey has an entertaining scene in which he gets to bluster and lose his cool. Dialogue is intelligent, often funny, the characters credible and well-drawn, and as well we get to see the one element the series does especially well: the cameo appearance of a character whose downward spiral in life doesn’t negate her shining morality (beautifully played here by Ann Weldon). Little extras too: a couple of well-choreographed fight scenes, some superb gun action, and a general sense both Glaser and Soul are free from any shred of exhaustion and cynicism, and are simply enjoying themselves, their roles, and each other.

This is the first of two appearances by George Loros as a thoroughly despicable character. His second turn as Earl in “The Psychic” is a showstopper.

Starsky and Hutch is not a show that relies on the big iconic image, no “sweeteners” such as palm tree-lined streets or glamour shots of California surf. Very often there no recognizable landmarks whatsoever. This opening scene – and its follow-up the morning after – of the sinister oil production pumps in the outlying desert is a nice exception. They provide a great backdrop to the scene of murder (of Texans, no less) with their rhythmic plunging. Also, as metaphors of rape, they are particularly graphic. Also, too, they illustrate the relentless and invariable nature of time – as the scene fades to morning they are continuously, steadily working.

Zack Taylor and his wife Emmalou are Country and Westernized to an extraordinary degree. The heavy-handed accessorizing includes the steer horn on the convertible, fancy saddle, fringed jackets, cowboy boots, cowboy blanket in back seat, squash-blossom necklace, shiny belt buckle, ten-gallon hat, leather-tooling on the seats, drawling accents. It seems extreme until we visit his office a scene or two later and realize that was nothing – Zack’s office is crammed to the hilt with every single piece of western junk imaginable, and then some.

Zack is knocked out pretty easily. He’s a big man, a former football player and probably tough to subdue, but Huey appears to do it with one bare-handed punch. Or does he? It looks as if he’s concealing something behind his back as they walk to the truck, but it’s difficult to know for sure.

Hutch picks up a silver toe piece and examines it, then puts it in his pocket. He makes no move to mark the place where it came from, or tell any of the scene-of-crime examiners that he found it, even though this is valuable evidence.

Nice scene of the Partnership Slap when Starsky urges Hutch out of his existential slump by saying, “Well, we ain’t gonna find them standing here,” with the accompanying pat to the upper arm. There are a lot of slaps and pats throughout when one wants to alert the other, but in the tag, when Huggy does the same to Starsky, Starsky looks astonished by the gesture.

When Zack says he’d like “a little touch” of what is probably whiskey, Starsky glances significantly at Hutch. Throughout the series, this continual glancing at one another is a crucial part of the evaluation of a witness, victim, or possible perpetrator. It almost appears to be a kind of code, a purely cerebral language system.

In the Torino, Starsky’s graceful move with toe piece is a sleight-of-hand he will perform throughout the series. Little Davey Starsky must have had a magic set as a kid and diligently practiced.

There’s a fairy tale/Chaucerian quality to this episode (the Vengeful Salesman, the Seafaring Man, The Proprietor Huggy Bear) emphasized by Starsky when he says, as they drive, “You know, this is like Cinderella. We’re the Prince, the silver toe-piece is the glass slipper (slippa), and you and me are running all over our little kingdom to find the dainty foot that it fits.” It’s a lovely touch that he includes both of them as a single entity, much as Hutch will say later in “The Psychic” that “We’re Lazarus”. Later, at the junk shop, Hutch calls out to Marty, seemingly the protectorate of Rolly’s Lair, “do you want to announce us to the Merchant Prince?” Marty, in true Ogre Mode, growls, “you better get outta here or I’ll tear your head off.”

Throwing Doorman Marty through the door and pulling a gun on either a hapless visitor or employee (whom Starsky knows by name) is a great example of the truly fearsome menace that will disappear in Seasons Three and Four, when Starsky and Hutch are less feral and more civilized. This is one of the first and best of the scenes in which the guys are in full intimidation mode. The combination of genial and scary is always exciting to watch.

Marty stays where he has been thrown throughout, lying on the busted-down door, too scared to move and hoping to avoid the third-degree by blending into the scenery. It’s a nice touch. I wonder, though, why Starsky and Hutch don’t turn on him too. He may know something, and might be more breakable than Rolly seems to be.

Note the folk-art painting on the wall of Rolly’s office that looks astonishingly like Starsky. Starsky himself exaggerates Rolly’s hoard by saying, “where did you get all this bizarro junk?” and then grabs a perfectly innocent mixer – hardly bizarro. He then says, “hey, a snow tire!” Seeing how the Torino has probably never seen snow, how does Starsky recognize a snow tire so quickly?

It’s nice that they bring a gift for Ray, a photograph of a Japanese tattooed man, before they ask for information. Ray foreshadows a whole generation of great female tattoo artists but were then extremely rare.

Was Ray actually finished that tattoo before she dismisses the girl? It didn’t seem so, but one would guess the girl wouldn’t really notice one way or another, but she might notice the infections she’s probably going to get without a proper cleaning and bandaging of her punctured skin. By the way, when she saunters off Hutch murmurs, “distracting” before looking directly into the camera. He must be, because Starsky is standing an entirely different angle. It’s a funny little “can you believe I just said that?” moment and not something that would ever get past an editor today.

Hutch seems mightily amused by Starsky’s poetic turn of phrase, calling him “Hemingway”. As they pull up to a phone booth there is a delightful scrap about who has a dime and who needs one, with Hutch again smiling at his partner. Hutch, in this episode, is much nicer to Starsky than usual; even though he pesters and tricks his partner throughout there isn’t the real edge he develops later.

Telephone Tag: Hutch bests Starsky in the dime wars. This is a minor theme played throughout the series, not only with errant phone booths but with candy machines. (Also, notice they are using the phone in the vicinity of the oil pumps. Is there a logical narrative reason for this, or did the film crew just go across the street for expediency’s sake? I’m guessing the latter.) There’s a nice echo of this scene later in the episode when Starsky can’t get through to lockup and Hutch easily dials the call.

Hutch mentions “trace of heroin in the blood analysis,” regarding either Huey Chaco or John Brown Harris. Where did they get the blood? Off of Emmalou’s body? Neither Chaco or Harris seems to have been injured. Were the writers too squeamish, or did the censors change the real word, which is “semen”? Would heroin show up in seminal fluids anyway?

Rolly phones Huggy when he wants to give a message to Starsky and Hutch. If Rolly knows Huggy’s relationship to the detectives, wouldn’t everyone? Wouldn’t this compromise Huggy’s ability to work the streets as a snitch, or even stay alive? Surely he’d have every two-bit criminal after him.

Starsky and Hutch order iced coffees at Huggy’s, but it sure looks like cola or tea when it’s finally delivered to them. They don’t seem to notice.

It’s a great fight scene when The Giant has breached the Cave of the Troll. It’s wonderful when Hutch picks up a little coffee pot but then, when he sizes up his opponent, finds a huge vase instead. And also his plaintive “these cuffs don’t fit him!” is a comedy gem, and beautifully delivered.

Hutch glances at Rolly and says he doesn’t think he’ll live through the night. How does he know?

If Starsky and Hutch are so sure Emmalou’s necklace is at Rolly’s, why don’t they tear the place apart looking for it? Chances are, if it’s worth $1500, it’ll be close by (and it is).

Cut to Dobey’s paneled office, which is soon to change. Starsky has written his own tale of knights and derring-do: “The fiery red Torino fishtails to a halt. We spill on to the street ready for action”.

Huggy, who had a scene not an hour before in which a bad day has rendered him irritable and energetic, has obviously taken a little something to calm him right down. Waa-ay down.

There’s a nice tableau when the guys enter the apartment of the Angel and Hutch observes the bureau: a hypodermic needle, a candle, and a back-and-white photograph of a glamorous past. Angel is a character the series specialized in: the lonely, intelligent, once-successful and now destitute or depraved victim Starsky and Hutch treat with reverence or respect. You can put Sharman from “Running” in that category, along with Carla in “Survival”, Annie Oates in “The Collector”, Roxy in “Heroes”, Belinda in “Losing Streak”, Sweet Alice (various), Marianne in “Ballad for a Blue Lady”.

Notice how, when Angel breaks into song, both Starsky and Hutch watch her with no expression at all. There is very little pity but no judgement either, they are completely accepting of who and what she is, and how she expresses herself. They don’t rush her, listen respectfully, and both touch her hands as they leave.

The scene at the carnival is filmed in a real environment, with real people. This was most likely shot before the series aired and both actors became instant celebrities with screaming fans. After, it must have been a lot more difficult to shoot off-set.

Starsky makes matters worse by playing a game with Cinderella Chaco, sliding the silver toe-piece across the bar instead of walking up and sticking a gun in the back of his neck. Is this a sacrifice of efficiency for the sake of drama? It does look excellent, especially when Huey backs into the barrel of Hutch’s gun. You believe Hutch when he says he will blow his head off. This is not posturing. This is not an idle threat. Huey knows – and we do too – Hutch would most certainly pull that trigger. But I can’t help but wonder if Starsky goes home that night thinking “man, that was a really stupid thing to do, I almost got that poor girl killed.”

The interrogation scene is a very good one, and Glaser is particularly masterful with his quiet voice and simmering frustration. Thank you, Michael Mann, for the dialogue here, which is realistic and bitterly amusing.

Huey Chaco is released because he can’t be held for Murder One. Starsky says they should have held him, Dobey asks, “Hold him on what?” How about holding a woman at knifepoint and threatening to kill her? Nobody seems to remember this crucial fact.

Starsky and Hutch tell Rolly he has to give up Harris because Huey Chaco is dead. Without his testimony, Harris could also be dead at the hands of renegade Zack. Rolly gives them the information, but really, he has no reason to. With Harris dead there’s nothing tying him to either man, and his life gets a whole lot easier. Starsky and Hutch don’t have the necklace, and there’s precious little else out there. So why does Rolly spill the beans? It can’t be conscience. It must be because he’s more scared of the two guys standing in front of him than Harris.

What, oh what does this series have against nurses, anyway? Ninety per cent of them are either rude or incompetent (“Partners”, “Fatal Attraction”, “The Turkey”, “Murder Ward”, “Black and Blue”). Only in “Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty”, the one time where a nurse has every right to snap at an obnoxious Starsky and Hutch, is she polite and helpful. In this episode, this “lady vampire”, is both rude and incompetent. For no reason at all (unless she hates her job, and she might, looking around at the various drunks and losers snoozing in her waiting room) she’s defiant and bad-tempered and gives the police as little help as possible. They should haul her in for obstruction of justice.

Assistant Director Eldon Burke has a hilarious cameo as the blood donor who stares dumbly at Hutch throughout the clinic scene.

When Hutch asks for Zack’s gun during shootout at the scrap yard, Flory’s character gives him the iconic Colt, and a legend was born. David Soul liked this firearm much better and will use it from now on. A note, generally about their guns: Hutch’s gun, from Texas Longhorn on, is the Colt Python .357 Magnum, eleven-and-a-half inches long in total (the longest of the three sizes it comes in). This is an expensive, hand-built gun, long-lasting and extremely accurate with good stopping power. It has been modified with a black-rubber grip, a typical modification for policemen, which gives it a better grip and cushions the recoil. It weighs 45 oz. empty, and 57 full with six rounds. Starsky’s gun from the pilot on, is a Smith & Wesson 59 9mm Automatic. It’s not often used by policemen because of its tendency to jam, as well as its more limited stopping power. It weighs 36 1/2 oz. fully loaded with a clip of 14 rounds. For the show, Starsky’s gun is modified to only be able to fire blanks, but Hutch’s was capable of shooting live ammo, too. The choice of guns gives an interesting glimpse into their characters: Hutch wanting the best, both in terms of looks and accuracy, and Starsky creative and confident enough to take a risk.

Did Starsky hot wire the vehicle at the junk yard, or were the keys in it?

Starsky’s picking up and then dropping the dumpster – a good ten feet – is risky. Harris certainly would be seriously hurt (that giant magnet comes down hard right on his head and back) and maybe even killed.

Filming notes: in the shootout scene at end, one of the few special effects malfunctions on the series occurred when a window exploded in on Glaser but didn’t hurt him.

Dying Zack tells the classic fable about the scorpion and the frog. He says he shot Chaco and attempted to murder Harris because it was his true nature. This doesn’t entirely make sense, as Zack comes off as genial, hard-working and down-to-earth, the type to help two strangers on a dark road, and not some vigilante killer. If Zack means he is a loyal husband above all, would loyalty alone be enough to excuse him? Is it even considered “loyal” to murder another human being, no matter what the reason? Starsky and Hutch would definitely not agree with this, as they make firm, unvarying statements in several episodes about the preservation of human life above all else, including (and especially) the lust for revenge.

Tag: Huggy is so high he’s in danger of floating up and away, but that doesn’t seem to bother Starsky and Hutch, who shrug and accept their friend’s private habits. Unfortunately we never do learn what the “Starsky Special” is, or why Huggy feels inspired to create one. Beer with a maraschino cherry in it as an ode to the Torino? There’s some fake laughter at bad jokes but all is well when Hutch confides to his friend, “I’m beginning to think that everybody in this town is crazy except you and me” and Starsky replies, sensibly, “I was beginning to have my doubts about you.”

Clothing notes: Hutch wears the orange zip-up shirt under the blue plaid jacket, both wear great faded jeans. Starsky wears the Adidas he’ll adopt for the next four years, and there isn’t a leather jacket in sight. Huggy is splendid in the tag wearing a pale lemon ensemble. Dobey looks like a little boy in private school with his navy suit and loafers.

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12 Responses to “Episode 2: Texas Longhorn”

  1. Nadine Says:

    Love Hutch’s little hint of a smile when the girl being tattooed left her seat at Ray’s. Seems like it wasn’t part of the script – just happened.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I’m going to have to go back and see that! There are a lot of these spontaneous little moments – check out the car that cuts off Starsky and Hutch as they try to cross the street in “Jo-Jo”, or the passer-by startled into running in “Bounty Hunter”, two odd moments I’m sure were mistakes. The expediencies and shortcuts taken by the series sometimes works to our advantage!

  2. King David Says:

    I expect they said ‘keep filming; no time for retakes.’
    That tattoo girl has a high pain threshold; no grimacing and flinching. Also, rare (in my world, anyway) for a girl to get a tatt. Spoke of the echelon of society she inhabited. I like how S&H are respectful to the tattooist.
    Starsky is a car enthusiast; it snows back east in winter, and he has no doubt got a subscription to various performance car magazines.

    • stybz Says:

      There’s also the sense of realism that causes the director to decide not to do a retake. If the actors stay in character and can continue the scene despite the mishap, then the scene is salvaged and they can move on. 🙂

  3. Sharon Marie Says:

    As a gal with tats in 2014, seeing the tattoo artist here not wearing gloves working an entirely dry site with cigarette ashes dropping down on the area made me cringe!

    Through the entire episode I couldn’t put my finger on what made the actor playing “Zack” so familiar to me. Finally, it dawned on me. He sounds exactly like Henry Fonda!

    By this episode I really appreciated the recast of Doby. The Doby in the pilot was a horrible cast and just did not deliver!

    I love the casting of the guest actors no matter how small the role, Angel in this episode. One scene and this lady was quite memorable. The guys really let her go as she talks about what she knows. Very respectful. Not interrupting her for the sake of time as they normally would.

    I wonder how far their jurisdiction goes in Bay City. I would think that far out County Sheriffs would respond, not city detectives.

    When they pull up to the blood donor facility, Starsky sees the wino on screen left leaning on the mailbox and mumbles, “Must be waiting for the mail….” Wonder if that was scripted.

    In an area riddled with oil/fuel drums as well as tanks that looked like they contained oxygen or other gasses, weren’t they the least bit worried about, maybe, oh I don’t know, the shooting EXPLODING something? Love how Starsky used a whole row of tanks for protection.

    When the series first aired I was somewhere in the age range of 12-16 for the duration. It aired at 10pm and I was supposed to be in bed by then. I snuck out and watched it in my parent’s bedroom knowing that the creaking stairs would alert me to them coming upstairs!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Sharon Marie, thanks for adding your voice to the discussion. I love your story about sneaking out to watch the show. I wonder if others have similar stories; when the series first aired parents were likely to restrict or refuse viewing because of the so-called violence (never mind the morality, commitment to justice, and sincere empathy with people like Angel).

  4. Shelley Says:

    How did Starsky just happen to be so skilled at operating a crane? Like you, Merl, I thought picking up and dropping the dumpster was a bit much; I was amazed the guy wasn’t done in by getting hit with the magnet.

    I grew impatient with the tale of the scorpion and the frog. It was like the scene came to a screeching halt as Zack told that story, which as you said, didn’t really make sense in context.

    There’s sure a lot of cigarette smoking in this show. I typically forget how prevalent that activity used to be on TV.

  5. stybz Says:

    This one was better than Savage Sunday, but not one of my favorites. I liked Zach and how S&H interacted with him, but somehow the episode didn’t resonate with me all that much.

    I’m wondering if Starsky’s magic trick in the Torino was improvised by Paul and David as an activity to make the scene more unique, rather than it just be them sitting there and talking as they did so many times in the car on this show. It’s so slight, so subtle in its end result that it looks like something that wasn’t scripted. Just like the scene in Snowstorm when Starsky puts on Hutch’s sunglasses. 🙂

    As for why Starksy would recognize snow tires, he’s a car buff and probably enjoys learning the difference between a snow tire and a regular tire. 🙂

    I’m no tattoo expert, but while I agree about sanitizing the area, etc., I think it’s obvious to the client that she needed to exit. Besides some tattoos take multiple sittings, because the skin can’t always handle the needle and needs some healing time. 🙂

    I thought it was funny when Hutch called Starsky “Hemingway”. David is a big Ernest Hemigway fan.

    As for why Starsky and Hutch didn’t tear up Rolly’s place looking for the necklace the first time they were there, that would have been considered illegal search and seizure. He’d cry out for a warrant, and the evidence would have been inadmissible in court. 🙂

    Quote:

    “Is it even considered “loyal” to murder another human being, no matter what the reason?”

    Response:

    Bad guys can be as loyal as good ones, IMO. To me, loyalty can be blinding. You are willing to do anything for the person you are loyal to. Being loyal is a subjective, often singular thing. It does not define you as a considerate or careful person. On the contrary, it’s more akin to love and sometimes even obsession.

    Zach’s loyalty was to his wife, not others around him. Besides, these men violated her, they put their grimy paws and other body parts in an area that didn’t belong to them. Zach wanted to make them pay for their intrusion, for destroying his one and only, for marring and ending her life in such an ugly fashion. Loyalty can have that affect on people.

  6. Patricia Ackor Says:

    I didn’t leave a comment about ‘Savage Sunday’ because everyone had already said anything I could have. However, here, I’ll interject a few notes. First, the series couldn’t use any L.A. landmarks, either in title sequence or ordinary filming because the series was not allowed to be identifiable as Los Angeles. If you’ll notice, they are Bay City PD, never LAPD, as fandom uses. At the time, the LAPD was protected by law from being identified in film or on television, without their express written permission and consent, plus script approval; the whole works. Production companies were, of course, loathe to do that.
    Also, the oil fields weren’t out in the desert, they were actually filmed not far from 20th Century’s studios, in the Baldwin Hills. It’s a sand dune covered, oil derrick strewn area practically in the middle of LA. Nice not to have to leave town for a “location” shot.
    I’m so glad someone mentioned Eldon Burke’s classic “guest starring” role as The Starer in the blood bank; nothing to do with the plot, nothing to do with anything, but it was wonderful and perfect. He has another similar segment in “Silence,” polishing the front corner of the Torino as the boys exit the half way house.
    Also, no one has mentioned what I consider to be the sexiest moment in all four seasons: Hutch sliding Alice’s spaghetti strap back up onto her shoulder. I’d be willing to bet it wasn’t scripted (so much of what they did wasn’t “scripted”), it was a move David made, probably during a rehearsal or early take, and it worked so well, they kept it. Alice shudders with pleasure at his touch, and I’m also willing to bet most female viewers did, too. I often wonder how they got it past the censors.

  7. Leo Says:

    The most important question about this episode is: Who was the girl getting the tattoo???

  8. Kit Sullivan Says:

    Generally speaking, I like the entirety of the first season more than seasons 2-4…although season 2 is also excellent.
    I like this episode quite a bit, and Zack is a great, tragic character. Ned Flory’s slow laconic southern drawl is the perfect inductive acting choice…drawing the viewer into him, anxious to hear his next words.
    To me, “S& H” was produced at the tail-end of a massive sea-change in acting and producing styles in filmed dramas: MTV literally changed everything in the early 80s, and “Miami Vice” was the early first TV show to fully embrace the quick-cut, non stop camera movement and limited dialoque technique…to great effect.
    However, “S&H” excelled in letting the actors ACT, and allowing scenes to progress at its own pace as opposed to the modern habit of racing from scene to scene as quickly as editing will allow, jamming 2 hours of plot into a 1 hour bag.
    “Starsky & Hutch” had plenty of action scenes, but they only served to puncuate the story as it unfolded.
    When the action becomes the story instead of serving the story, you end up with boring, forgettable productions…like most of today’s offerings.
    Both Glaser and Soul are perfectly cast in thier roles, but I must admit that Soul really does have some amazing acting chops when he is allowed the time and opportunity to show them.

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