Episode 9: Lady Blue

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.


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.


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15 Responses to “Episode 9: Lady Blue”

  1. King David Says:

    “When am I leaving?” Mournful Starsky, expecting to be turfed out soon. Voice of experience? Disbelief that something so thoughtful is for himself?
    I, too, find the thought of Helen and Starsky fighting to be jarring. What if what they were fighting about was not that each had the right to undertake dangerous and potentially deadly cases per se, but that each was so mindful of the dangers that each feared for the other. (Stay with me here.) Not “You can’t do that [because it’s too difficult]” but “Please don’t do that because I care so much about you.” (Or have I just stated the bleeding obvious?
    S&H are always undertaking the dangerous and potentially deadly cases, and they go in together in order to be there to safeguard the other. Could a girlfriend provide the backup/protection of the other partner?
    Aluminium foil has amazing properties: in the Mel Gibson/Joachim Phoenix move “Signs” Joachim Phoenix’s character swathes his head in a foil helmet to prevent the aliens getting to him. (And just as a complete aside, but tangentially related, in many scenes I see such a resemblance between Glaser and Gibson, especially around the eyes. Gibson is a brilliant actor, and would’ve seen S&H in Australia in the seventies; how wonderful if he had been influenced by Glaser in his own portrayals of facial expressions and subtle gestures.)
    The movie “Sybil” was made in 1976, and “The Three Faces of Eve” in 1957; how influential were these two films in contemporary scriptwriting? Was the idea of mental illness really gaining traction?

  2. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    “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?”

    I’d say 1.) entertainment – Hutch is a joy to behold when he’s in his most eloquently peevish moods, and no one could accuse Starsky of being insecure or thin-skinned, so he probably rarely feels genuinely stung by Hutch’s venting mechanisms, and 2.) probably it’s a duty thing? If Hutch vented on anyone else and upset them, he’d feel terrible and guilty afterwards, but he knows Starsky can take it and won’t be hurt by the bitchy things he says. Starsky makes Hutch feel better in these situations, even when his role is to be a passive verbal scratching post, so Starsky likely feels that it’s his duty to let Hutch do what he needs to, that that’s what friends are for, on the same level as Hutch being there to help Starsky through coping with Helen’s death during the rest of the episode. When it comes to his friendships, Starsky operates on loyalty (sometimes rather blind loyalty) more than any scorekeeping considerations like fairness or payback or balancing effort with outcome.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I’ve posed this question (and answered it) many times, but “verbal scratching post” is the best encapsulation of this complex dynamic yet.

      • Grevy's Zebra Says:

        While that “Story of Ping” story has a familiar ring (I’ve never read that particular story, but I’ve read similarly questionable ‘moral tales’ as a kid), I’m not entirely certain what parallels with Hutch you’re talking about. Do you mean that Hutch feels that being friends with Starsky is like getting whacked with a stick every night?

        If that’s what you mean, I’d say that one of the things that might be a source of tension in their friendship is that Hutch seems to be more conscious of their friendship than Starsky is. I’d theorize that Hutch’s view of the intensity of their devotion to each other is “Holy %^%$#^ shit!” whereas Starsky’s is “Well, *duh*” That kind of acute awareness, especially contrasted with Starsky’s easy acceptance, must be somewhat exhausting even for someone as brave as Hutch, to the point of perhaps subconsciously wondering if his life would be less stressful if Starsky would just dump him.

    • Wallis Says:

      I would agree especially with #2. I don’t think Starsky really “gets” anything out of it (not anything of value to him specifically that is equal to what the value of Hutch’s decompression is to Hutch, at least), but that’s simply not the point. Their friendship isn’t about transaction, it’s about duty. Starsky lets Hutch rag on him because Hutch is his best friend, and Hutch is his best friend because Starsky says so — i.e., he is the friend who Starsky is closest to and loves to the point of being unable to separate Hutch’s needs from his own because “Hutch’s best friend” is an integral part of his identity, and vice versa, and that’s all she wrote.

      Being each other’s best friends is not an arrangement contingent on terms, it is just kinda who they are. They are there for each other for ANYTHING the other one happens to need. If Hutch needs to rag on Starsky ten times as frequently and twice as severely as Starsky needs to rag on Hutch, that’s fine because Hutch needs it and Starsky doesn’t — the fact that Hutch *would* make comparable allowances for anything Starsky needed, and they both know it, is enough.

      • merltheearl Says:

        You’re right, even though I think it’s not as simple. In “Starsky Vs. Hutch” the terrifying fissure in the relationship goes against everything we understand and love about them both. I believe the years of easy give-and-take, the effortless assumption of each other’s needs, both positive and negative, this merging of two, had to come to an abrupt and life-changing end. Hutch separates himself from the union after years of kicking at, teasing and tormenting – but accepting – this union. Many fans of the series hate this episode but I feel it is completely necessary, because that painful chapter is always part of the heroic journey toward salvation (which is achieved in “Sweet Revenge” with the union being firmly cemented for all time – cracked, imperfect, but all the more powerful for its imperfections).
        Anybody here grow up with “The Story of Ping”? It was a frightening children’s book I alternately dreaded and obsessed over to as a child. It was the story of a little duck who discovers it’s better to be among his kind and get whacked every night by the herdsman’s stick than be independent in the scary dark world, one of those questionable “moral tales” long out of favor now and not one I would recommend. But the parallels are there for Hutch.

      • Wallis Says:

        Yeah, I definitely agree that’s the case in that episode (and to some extent, for season 4 in general, where they seem almost afraid of their bond, and hyper-aware of its power and unusualness, and itching at it), but I believe that this was the foundation and ideal of their bond, even if the cards don’t actually fall perfectly all the time, and here in season 1, they’re a long ways away from having those kinds of dark and doubting questions.

        (I do dislike Starsky vs Hutch, but not for the fight. The fight was the one good thing about it, in my opinion. I wasn’t impressed with everything else about the episode, or what the fight was *about* not the fact that they fought. It’s a big deal to have them go throughh a falling-out like that, and a big deal like that deserves a situation more serious, less frivolous, with genuine gravitas.)

      • Anna Says:

        Merl, that’s a really beautiful analysis of the trajectory of their friendship and has suddenly made my previously rather low appreciation of “Starsky vs Hutch” go up quite a bit! I do like the idea of them having a big fight, but previously, I’ve always thought it would have worked better if it hadn’t happened so close to the end of the show. Now however, your comment has made me rethink that opinion and realize how meaningful the progression of seasons 1-3 -> season 4 -> “Starsky vs Hutch” -> “Sweet Revenge” -> The End can be when framed in a certain way.

        Don’t you love how talking to people about it makes TV so much better?

      • merltheearl Says:

        Thank you! I agree wholeheartedly. And may I say how much I appreciate everyone taking the time and effort to share such thoughtful, illuminating, and honest thoughts here. I think The Ollie Report has the best comment threads on the internet.

    • Blunderbuss Says:

      This conversation about what Starsky does or doesn’t get out of the partnership and where the basis of their responsibility to each other lies and its path over time is incredible!

      I can only imagine that this mystery – the mystery of what makes this partnership such a source of life and joy to them, why Starsky obviously thinks being Hutch’s friend is the greatest thing imaginable despite the fact that it looks like it would feel like french-kissing a cactus, why Hutch trusts Starsky to love and value so much of himself even though he himself has no idea how those parts of himself could be loveable, why any temporary or not-so-temporary lopsidedness of the elements in their give-and-take is utterly beside the point, how they just seem to see through each other’s exteriors of words and behavior like glass, is something they know and understand together and they never bother to teach it to us, the viewer, doomed to always be on the outside.

      All we can do is catch glimpses of it, in tiny moments, in stunning moments, without anyone to narrate it. This show pretty much qualifies as a triumph of the visual live-action medium just for that. In the way they look at each other in A Coffin For Starsky. In the way Hutch lays his head on Starsky’s in The Shootout. In the way Starsky tearfully asks Hutch if he thinks he likes saying those things to Hutch in Gillian, and the way Hutch’s hands curl into desperate fists in Starsky’s jacket when he cries. In the way they stand together in the laundry room in the Pilot after learning their allies are trying to kill them. Even in the dead, terrifying stare Starsky fixes on Hutch after catching him with Kira. There is no way for one viewer to see the whole sum of their friendship in a complete, objective way. Even if they had spent a whole episode just sitting and talking and explaining every little thing to us in explicit detail, there are no words for most of it. All we have are data points.

  3. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    A couple of nitpicks: Linda Baylor is taken down by a woman (and a woman much smaller than her), not a man. Also, it may be a blurry line, but are several other episodes where the central crime is perpetrated by victims: Monique in The Avenger, Tommy in Vendetta, Alex Drew in The Specialist, and Paul Rizzo in The Heroes. And there are many other victims who commit more minor/less central crimes, like Lonnie Craig.

    I don’t know how much of Starsky’s lack of interest in Pollie is due to pragmatism in that particular scene, since he seems more subdued than focused, but I agree that he tends to be more gruff and practical with damaged people than Hutch, who’s always very gentle and encouraging. Perhaps this difference is another example of Starsky and Hutch’s ability to instinctively balance each other out in each situation they encounter, let the most qualified and capable partner for a certain situation take care of the things that play to that partner’s strengths, which is their default mode, in contrast to their crisis mode: the ability to expand and strengthen when they’re alone and/or their partner is hurt, by drawing on strengths that they don’t usually need to display when they are with their partner.

    Starsky is, however, capable of showing a lot of interest and investment in other damaged characters they encounter in other episodes far beyond what’s pragmatic — recall the entirety of Murder Ward, or the shoplifter subplot in The Crying Child, or Alex Drew in The Specialist. It doesn’t seem very difficult for him, he just doesn’t do it as often or as instinctively as Hutch. Which lends support to my idea that Starsky and Hutch aren’t really all that different deep down (except in a very few strong ways), but simply act differently because they don’t *need* to always embody every strength that they are capable of on an individual level, since they are halves of a “we,” not two “me’s” and they are free to specialize at what each half is better at and then pool their combined traits to create an extraordinary whole.

    • merltheearl Says:

      GZ, you are absolutely right here about Starsky’s gentle ways with other damaged characters and I think I wrote my POV too strongly. I think I will soften it to reflect Starsky’s sincere empathy. I love that you feel as I do that S&H are fundamentally the same despite seeming to be (often emphatically) opposites. And yes, oops, Linda Baylor was taken down by a woman – a good old knock on the head! – so I am grateful for your close reading, and will remove that error from my post. Thank you!

  4. stybz Says:

    This was a great episode. I liked the interplay between Starsky and Hutch, especially when Starsky needed Hutch’s support.

    I agree with what Grevy’s Zebra says about the relationship between the pair. I’m still trying to figure them out and I do agree that they both embody similar traits, but they just instinctively know who is going to utilize them at a given moment, who will be the strong one, the compassionate one, the negotiator, etc.

    I also like what King David said about the fighting. I agree they probably fought about how dangerous the job is. I’m sure Starsky’s protective nature got in the way of her independence and desire to be as good a cop as he is. He probably wanted her to succeed, but couldn’t help smothering her a little and that pissed her off, which would piss him off when she would put herself in danger. She probably broke up with him because she needed to break free and not have him hold her back.

    I wonder if it was he who was more ready for marriage than she was. After all, he had more years on the force and probably more street experience than she did. She probably wanted a career first and marriage and kids would have sidetracked her and delayed things. He was ready, she wasn’t. She probably wanted it, but not at the same time Starsky did.

    As to why Dobey didn’t know at first that Helen was undercover, the less anyone knows the better to prevent leaks. Helen’s department had just found out about her death at that point and probably didn’t have a chance to release the information. Then by the time Starsky and Hutch talk to Huggy about the case, it’s no longer a secret, since the information was released and everyone believed Helen’s cover was blown. And since Huggy is discreet, they feel that they can talk to him about it.

    Merle asked why Dobey wanted to take Starsky off this case and not do something similar in Fatal Charm. I haven’t watched Fatal Charm yet, but I think since this came first and that one is much later, Dobey figured they boys could handle it.

    As for the club being “closed” it probably was just closed to cops. Chairs stacked could mean that they’re cleaning during the slow times. A place that’s open 24 hours has to be cleaned at some point. 🙂

    Cindy’s quick bond with Helen might have came about because of something that could have happened to Cindy early on in the friendship, causing Helen to step in and save the day, thus winning her over instantly. A bond can form pretty quick under those circumstances. Cindy probably wanted someone to love and protect her, and Helen showed compassion that Cindy connected with. 🙂

    As for jumping to the conclusion that the killer was mentally ill, since we don’t see the injuries and since Hutch is protecting Starsky by not divulging all the graphic details, we just have to assume it was pretty gruesome. Television wire is a a bit stiff and sharp, isn’t it? I can’t remember. 🙂 Too many years with cable, I forget what an antenna wire looks like. 🙂

    I can see the “dials” on Pollie’s desk. He’s definitely drawing dials. 🙂

    When Jim says, “Yeah? You’ve been looking for me…” I didn’t see that as him knowing that they were coming. Given Jim’s record he isn’t surprised that cops would be looking for him, especially when he hears that Pollie told them where to find him. I think he’s behaving like an ex-con who has the police knocking on his door every time there’s a crime with a similar MO. He probably didn’t know anyone was looking for him until they arrived.

    As to him acting so cool in front of Starsky and Hutch and not reacting as if they’re a threat to his freedom, I agree he’s a good actor. After all, he did fool the doctors on that test. He must know all the right things to say. I believe that’s a trait of a true psychopath. 🙂 They never think they’re wrong.

    Is Hutch a pushover? Nah. I think Starsky is teasing him, just for fun. 🙂

    Merle you ask a good question about their rasion d’etre with certain people. My take is that they can tell the difference between someone who finds themselves in a situation that they cannot get out of, either because they’re too weak or someone is holding them back. A heroin addict is an unfortunate victim of a wrong turn or bad patch in his/her life, while a heroin addict who rapes women is giving those poor innocent people we should feel sorry for a bad name. So now the rapist will cause the general public to turn their backs on helping addicts because they’ll think all addicts are racist.

    The same holds true for Cheryl in The Bait. She was coerced into running the drugs, because she was in love. Once she learned what she was doing it was too late for her to back out. She was trapped. She would have been beaten anyway had she tried to flee. She might have even been killed. Starsky and Hutch felt sorry for her because they saw the goodness in her and wanted to help her find a better path.

    Arresting victims doesn’t get the real scum off the street (the ones who made them who they are or keep feeding their habit).

    I have to quote this next one. LOL!


    ‘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.’


    I haven’t seen Velvet Jungle yet, so I won’t comment on that. However, this scene plays on Starsky’s butchering of any language including English. In Vampire he asks Hutch, “What does ‘Pas De Toose’ mean?” Hutch tries to correct him by saying, “It’s ‘Pas De Trois’.” But Hutch misunderstands him, because what Starsky is trying to say is “Pas de Toute” which, as he translates it is not nothing at all. LOL! 🙂

  5. DRB Says:

    Reading this blog about the newspaper/rant reminded me of a later episode–“Silence.” Starsky deliberately leaves Hutch to deal with his frustration over booking Larry for shoplifting. It is incredible to watch David Soul manipulating commonplace props with such emotion; I find it hard to believe that looking at a receipt upside-down is worth the grimaces and body language he delivers. And it’s not just the receipt—taking off his jacket, putting paper in the typewriter, etc. –it’s all stressing him because he doesn’t want to deal with Larry. Starsky is once again hiding behind the newspaper and watching with glee and affection while his partner begs Larry not to cry and fumbles through the opening questions for the report. And what a twinkle and knowing grin are directed at Hutch when the trio departs! Glaser’s silent enjoyment really punctuated the whole situation. Maybe that’s why we see Hutch start to tell Starsky off and then just bog down in speechless disgruntlement.

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