Episode 17: Silence

The phony Father Ignatius tries to pin a series of robberies on friendly deaf-mute ex-con Larry, but Starsky and Hutch don’t believe it.

Father Jonathan Ignatius/Marty: Carl Betz, Larry Horvath: Chuck McCann, RC Turner: Jason Bernard, Jessie: Helena Carroll, Kim: Steve Kanaly, Bessinger: Jack DeLeon, Watchman: Russ Grieve. Written By: Parke Perine & Donald R Boyle, Directed By: George McCowan

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

Dobey is furious that the guys are booking the weeping Larry Horvath.  “You mean you guys busted him for stealing candy?” he says, with maximum outrage. And yet there’s no reason for Dobey to know who this guy is, that he is sweet-natured and deaf and all that. Larry doesn’t appear to be a regular at the station: despite the fact he’s been arrested three times, Starsky and Hutch have never seen him before, and therefore it’s unlikely Dobey has. But if Dobey does know who Horvath is – stay with me here – and knows he already has a record, why the indignation?

On that note, why does Larry feel the need to steal candy in the first place? He and RC have a good, steady jobs as owners of a print shop (“PDQ”, which is a pretty great name). Not even employees, but actual owners. They live over the shop and the rent, if anything, is probably nominal. So why the shoplifting? Larry is an interesting person, both canny and innocent, stubborn and pliable. Lovable, no doubt about it, but there’s also a core of steel to him, the suggestion of violence that is implied but never seen. Larry Horvath as a character has a Frankenstein’s-monster-like complexity. He is a hulking, lonely figure damaged by society’s indifference and cruelty who cradles tiny innocent creatures in his huge hands when no one is looking, incapable of understanding rules, and whose lurching, clumsy attempts at tenderness are misconstrued as dangerous by those around him who think they know better. There must be hidden depths to the man to inspire the level of devotion given to him by RC, who doesn’t suffer fools lightly. All this insight, however, doesn’t change the fact that Larry is still stealing candy from a corner store. If he is stealing because he is childlike and children steal because they have not yet developed societal morality, then we can say he is more blankly innocent than suffering, say, kleptomania, along with all his other challenges? The writers seem to want you to answer “yes”, but I have my doubts.

The Looks. When Father Ignatius demands to know what Larry is charged with, Hutch does one of his priceless reactions, a sort of embarrassed frown that manages to covey frustration, shame, and defensive it’s-not-my-fault all at the same time. Well, he sort of deserves it, which is what Starsky silently tells him with his own complex glance across the room. I asked if you wanted help, you said no, you got mad, so

Father Ignatius already knows the facts of the arrest, because he’s already gone and gotten the charges dismissed by paying for the stolen candy. Why the hard-ass routine, then? Why bluster in making trouble, especially if he’s a criminal trying to keep a low profile? And also, if you think about it, how would he a)know Larry’s been arrested in the first place and b)where the theft occurred? Larry can’t use the phone. He has had no time to contact anyone. Was it RC who went and got the good Father? If so, how did he find out?

Heads up for the Christa Helm cameo as the drive-in waitress. You’ll have to read for yourself the details of her short, brutal life to appreciate what I mean. It’s eerie to see how desperately she tries to imbue this tiny role with something memorable, and she succeeds, too; is it her doom that gives this scene its retroactive power, or the gleam of anxiety in her eyes?

Starsky enjoys Hutch having the miserable job of writing up Larry Horvath for the $42.32 candy stealing, while Hutch enjoys Starsky being mocked for his bad Bogey impression. One could go at length about the intensity of this mutual schadenfreude.

Hutch’s reply to being asked about his forty-hour fast has always been one of the funniest moments in the series. Hutch may fundamentally dislike himself but is superficially vain, and this exchange provides he is capable of self-parody.
Starsky: “You really think eating nothing for forty hours and drinking a lot of water is gonna make you healthier?”
Hutch (dryly): “It’s not just to make me more healthy, it’s to maintain my already fantastic physical condition.”

Torino showdown: Starsky’s own and the bad guys’ 4-door.

Direction Gold Star for George McCowan: Hutch walks with the Torino’s door open, lights flashing, gun drawn in a beautifully staged, color-saturated, iconic scene.

Jessie quotes St. Matthew, “Beware of false prophets that come to you in sheep’s clothing and inwardly are ravenous wolves.” She is saying this about Starsky and Hutch and plainclothes cops in general, but her instincts are way off in regards to Kim and “Father.” Then again, she has been convicted of armed robbery, which perhaps puts her good judgment in question. Or maybe she has lousy judgment in general. (Other than the nice hair, Starsky looks nothing like Paul Muni.)

Starsky walks in the next morning with a tray of food. Hutch makes a sarcastic comment about it but Starsky explains how he’s missed meals and “couldn’t eat that meal you invited me to at your place last night”. Hmm. If Hutch is fasting (for another twenty-nine hours, according to him), it seems odd to invite Starsky over to eat. A bad case of loneliness, to the point of cooking for someone while you yourself are starving? Or is it even darker than that – could Hutch be ensuring, by making some kind of dessicated liver protein shake under the pretense of cooking – that Starsky too will be fasting alongside him?

There’s no rule about eating on duty. There can’t be. Then why does Starsky fall for it? And does Dobey lie because those sandwiches look really, really good?

Either Bessinger has his sport jacket in the car or he makes a stop at his house for it. Apparently he feels the need to dress up his look from the bar to crack a safe.

“Well, well, well, my two favorite detectives,” Father Ignatius says as he walks into the room.  “Holmes and Watson, isn’t it?” One wonders which is which, in his estimation. This Father Ignatius is a cigar-smoking, cold-hearted, rude and altogether un-priestly man. Perhaps Starsky and Hutch assume running a halfway house for former inmates would harden anyone, even a priest. They don’t like him, that’s for sure, but they never really note how odd he is, how badly he’s miscast himself in this role. Kudos, though, for the fact that, when RC makes the sign of the cross outside the burger joint, the guys think bck to all those little details about the ersatz Father and instantly know he’s right.

Starsky should have paid the guy polishing the Torino (played by Assistant Director Eldon Burke).

RC was badly beaten in jail by guards, and the force of his hatred and post-traumatic stress seems to be literally strangling him, but I wonder if his deaf-muteness is more psychosomatic than physical. He makes simple throat sounds when wound up, when trying to help; if properly counseled, would some of his disabilities may be remedied? His gradual – and begrudging – realization that Starsky and Hutch genuinely care about him and Larry is one of the best things about this episode.

Hutch gets into the Torino and starts it before Starsky even gets there. Also, Starsky does a graceful leap over the car’s hood to get to the driver’s side, but when Hutch did the very same thing earlier he was sternly rebuked for it.

When RC says Larry is not only his friend, but his only friend, I can’t help but wonder what Starsky and Hutch are thinking about each other.

People sure got out of the theatre fast. It couldn’t have been more than eight or ten seconds since Hutch made the command before Starsky goes back inside, gun drawn, and the place is empty. There had to be at least thirty people in there, and children, too.

Both Starsky and Hutch get their gun arms tangled in the theater curtains at the Nuart as they enter the auditorium, two sides of the same coin.

How come none of the other inmates at the halfway house know that the Father is a fake? Just how long had his ruse been going on? It would have to be at least a year for the old inmates to leave and new ones come in with no memory of what the father genuinely looks like.

Hutch purposefully fasts forty hours. Starsky ends up fasting the same amount of time. He doesn’t get the candy bar, the hamburger order a the drive-in, the tea or cookies at the Dismas Center, says he missed breakfast, said he wouldn’t eat the so-called meal at Hutch’s the night before, doesn’t get to eat his meal from the cafeteria or the Chinese restaurant next to the Glitter Club, doesn’t get to eat the hamburger meal at the stand with R.C. His fast is finally broken by a mouthful of popcorn before he throws it at the priest. How symbolic is his lack of food? How symbolic is the popcorn thrown at a fake priest? Spurious wafer, spurious priest?

Marty and Kim get Larry ensconced at the theatre with the plan to go to shoot him there later. Surely they could have planned something simpler than that, i.e. drag him somewhere deserted, and do it there. Also, Marty wears his priest get-up throughout the whole nefarious enterprise – didn’t he think this would make him memorable to witnesses?

Clothing notes: Hutch is wearing a periwinkle turtleneck with his brown leather jacket, Starsky wears a blue shirt and his great leather jacket, and also, in several scenes, a remarkable black, red and yellow sweater that his mom might have knit, if she was the knitting type (unlikely).

 

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15 Responses to “Episode 17: Silence”

  1. Shelley Says:

    I wondered if Captain Dobey was mad about the shoplifting bust because he doesn’t want his best detectives wasting their time on relatively trivial criminal activity. That whole scene was entertaining, especially the glances between Starsky and Hutch, and Starsky’s look of consternation when Larry gets to keep his candy.

  2. Jill Says:

    I’m not sure if it was scripted or an ad lib, but when Hutch steps on the car, Starsky rebukes him, “Hey that’s my bonnet you’re stepping on.” It caught my attention as although in the UK, we would call it the bonnet, I always thought in the US the term “hood” was used. I’ve never heard an American use “bonnet” in that context before.

    • merltheearl Says:

      It is interesting, isn’t it? And done in post-production too, Glaser dubbing the original (most likely muffled) line in a studio. I did a cursory search of writers Parke Perrine and Donald Boyle to see if either were British but couldn’t find information. Let’s chalk it up to one of those amusing mysteries. It sure would be fascinating if any writer involved in the series would check in with a comment or two, if only to laugh at my occasionally turgid psychoanalysis.

      • Jill Says:

        I’d just wondered whether there was a remote possiblility of any places or dialects in US where people might have said “bonnet”. Or maybe PMG had ad libbed the line for whatever reason. It is an interesting/amusing little conundrum. I have seen Parke Perrine speaking on a documentary on making of the show, and he was American. I agree it would be great if one of the writers or others connected with show found their way here, and offered a few answers or additional info. But I disagree that they would laugh at your psychoanalysis! Obviously people will have differing interpretations of characters and storylines, which is all part of the fun; but your insights into characters and dissection of episodes are most informative and entertaining. Keep up the good work!

    • rycardus Says:

      I heard PMG being interviewed on a UK radio station a few months ago and he mentioned he had studied acting in England during the ’60s. Starsky uses ‘Britishisms’ a few times over the course of the series – bonnet, grammar school, and so forth – and I wondered if PMG’s personal backstory for his character is his father was stationed in GB during the war and married an English woman.

  3. King David Says:

    Starsky clambers over the bonnet in boots no less, in the pilot! I put that down to Glaser not liking the car, or at least the idea of S&H having that car.

  4. Dianna Says:

    I think someone may have mentioned to Dobey that S&H just brought in a deaf-mute who was crying, and that’s what brought him into the office that S&H use. If Larry’s previous arrests were in another city, no one in this station would necessarily know about it. And thus the indignation. (I also like Shelley’s theory.)

    If Larry is a kleptomaniac, the financial security of the printshop would not necessarily stop him from shoplifting. RC may have seen the incident and notified “Father Ignatius.”

    The nonverbal communication in the first scene make me want to watch it over and over. Does anyone know if the bark of laughter at the end of the scene is Starsky or one of the other detectives in the room, and whether it is scripted?

    RC’s grudging trust of S&H is beautiful.

    I have trouble figuring out how Marty managed to replace the real Fr. Ignatius. Did he have him killed? Why? Did he figure he’d meet a safecracker at Dismas House who would show him how to make lots of money? How long has he been there in Fr. Ignatius’s place? It must have been when Fr. Ignatius was first supposed to arrive, and we know he’s been there a while, because we’re told he’s been under a lot of stress for the past three months. This suggests he was at Dismas House long enough before the three months to have established relationships with the residents.

    Wouldn’t the real priest’s superiors have noticed the substitution? You would expect that some of his superiors and/or colleagues would have visited at some point during his tenure, or at least talked to him on the phone.

    Ignatius is an interesting name for the writers to choose. Odd and Catholic enough to be noticeable and vaguely intimidating, but it’s his last name (“My name is Ignatius. Father Jonathan Ignatius.”) rather than his chosen priestly name.

    Ignatius is a name closely associated with the Jesuits (who were founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola), but Jesuits, as far as I know, don’t do this particular kind of ministry, because they are into teaching and scholarship.

    • DRB Says:

      Starsky can’t book Larry because “I’m busy.” Reading the newspaper, spying on Hutch, interfering with the booking, and getting more amused as the scene plays out. That is legitimate police work, for sure!

  5. Anna Says:

    The telepathic communication between gloating!Starsky and weirded-out!Hutch at the beginning is one of my favorite scenes just for the pure jaw-dropping perfection of the chemistry. These guys are simply magical. I also agree with the memorable excellence of that walk-alongside-the-moving-car scene. I can totally see why they used it in the opening credits.

    Why does Hutch think going forty hours without food while working is a good idea? Isn’t he afraid of fainting the next time he stands up too fast?

    Maybe it was just the crappy quality of the screen I watched it on, but I was distracted throughout the whole episode by the fact that David Soul’s eyes are EXACTLY the same color as the turtleneck he wears here. I mean exactly — it makes them practically light up like gorgeous blue lightbulbs in his face.

    Also, Starsky mispronouncing “Hippopotamus” as “Hoppopittimus” is adorable.

    The ending where Starsky and Hutch – again without saying a word to each other to communicate their plan – hem in and then calmly corner Ignatius in the aisle between them is so hilariously well-directed. One of those gleeful “ha HA!” moments that are always great to cap a climactic action scene in light-hearted episodes with.

  6. Sharon Marie Says:

    A 40 hour fast apparently has built in cheats. Hutch was drinking a draft beer at the bar just before Starsky left to get Chinese.

  7. Patricia Ackor Says:

    Merl, thanks so much for your Direction Gold Star mention. I put an End Note on my ‘flashback’ treatment posted on the SHArchive.net site and I’d like to quote it here:
    For some reason, Hutch’s ‘stalk,’ with the open-door Torino beside him, and Starsky ever-vigilant inside, remains one of my all-time favorites from the series. It was only first season but it dramatized, for me, all the qualities of the partnership/friendship that I found so mesmerizing: total trust in each other, total support, uncanny instincts matching excellent skills, silent communication with complete, instant understanding; in short: Starsky&Hutch, no spaces. They were one. I’d been addicted to the show (pun intended, I guess) since “The Fix” but, after “Silence” I was hooked forever. Evidence the fact that here I am, almost 40 years later, still remembering, with great pleasure, all the joy I found in “Starsky & Hutch.”
    Also, mention was made of how David and Paul leaned against each other more than usual in several scenes in “Hostages.” Here, in the scene in the print shop when they’re trying to convince RC that they only want to help Larry (they’re still in front of the counter, RC is behind it) they’re practically in each other’s pockets: shoulder-to-chest, shoulder-to-back, shifting positions continually as they do their best to convince this Doubting Thomas; it’s pure choreography and it’s perfect.
    I found almost all of S1’s put-downs of Starsky (many of the tags bordered on cruel; his toothache in “Losing Streak” that had nothing to do with the plot, and then he gets the wrong tooth kicked out at the end) difficult to take but this episode, where is he cheated out of eating for the entire show, was almost too much! It’s been said that Paul, himself, wanted Starsky to be the butt of running jokes and “funny” tags but I thought this one came close to being malicious, especially when you add the deliberate unkindness of the tag. Oh well, most of the tags from the entire series should have been left on the cutting room floor, in my opinion. Four notable exceptions come to mind: “Lady Blue,” “Survival,” “Starsky’s Lady,” and “Sweet Revenge.” Is four out of 70 or so a good average? Hmmmmmm, food for thought. (Of course, you’ve probably already thought about it, Merl, and written about it so I shall continue to read……)

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, Patricia. That moment with the Torino is one of my all-time favorite scenes as well. As for the tags, yes, there is a post just on them. You’ll find it if you keep going!

    • DRB Says:

      The Stalk is a good name for that riveting scene. I tried to puzzle out why it is so compelling, and I had trouble even coming up with a descriptive adjective–feral sounds uncontrolled, hunting/stalking seem not quite strong enough. It’s obvious the guys are hunting a predator because there is an element of righteousness in their patrol that is unmistakable. Maybe that is it–the kings of the jungle are on the offense.

      And to continue the metaphor, there are definite moments when Starsky makes his signature rev while braking that makes the car “growl.” (Or maybe it is a sound effect added later) I have never been a car enthusiast so when a car noise is effective enough to catch my attention, it has to be remarkable. I enjoy that little extra aura of danger : “Look out, world, Starsky is arriving.”

  8. stybz Says:

    Not only does Starsky say “bonnet” in this episode but in Hostages someone says “car park” instead of “parking lot”. Car park is not an American expression either. 🙂

    Maybe Paul interjected bonnet because he liked the sound of it and might have heard it used when he was living in the UK in the 60’s studying drama at LAMDA and RADA. 🙂

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