Episode 25: Gillian

Hutch doesn’t know that his new girlfriend Gillian is a call girl in the employ of Al and Olga Grossman, whom Starsky and Hutch are investigating as suspects in a string of murders.

Gillian Ingram: Karen Carlson, Olga Grossman: Sylvia Sidney, Al Grossman: Mike Kellin, Eddie Hoyle: Doodles Weaver, Nancy Rogers: Diana Canova, Joy: Joanna DeVarona, Harry Blower: Richard Foronjy. Written By: Ben Masselink and Amanda J Green, Directed By: George McCowan.


I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is probably the best and bravest episode of the entire series. Of course there are many extraordinary episodes, but this one stands out, not only because it is excellent throughout, but because of a single scene, the unflinching portrayal of loss, shock and rage. It’s rare for men to expose their deepest, most private emotions and it’s even more unusual for a man to risk showing a loss of control, but David Soul does it. Considering the times in which this was made, it’s even more extraordinary, and not just the scene I reference but the episode as a whole. Everything is here: great characters, excellent writing, a clear and explosive plotline with a powerful socio-economic edge, and above all Glaser and Soul’s astounding, uncompromising realization of a very difficult, very painful script. We know this is going to be good from the opening scene in the alley, with its perfect pitch of pathos, grit and humor. “What are you people getting all worked up for?” says Harry, the greasy owner of the Stardust. “Lonely’s nothin’ but an old wino. I mean, who cares whether he lives or dies?” It’s impossible to hear this without a wave of disgust and anger, which is perfectly encapsulated by Starsky’s quiet reply. “Why don’t you look at yourself in the mirror and ask the same question.”

When the Torino blows into the scene, the two guys who beat Lonely to death seem as if they’re going through his pockets. Are they looking for something in particular, or is this just a thug habit?

Eddie doesn’t actually answer Starsky, who has asked if he knew who would want to hurt Lonely. Instead Eddie wails, “who’d want to hurt us? What could we ever do? We’re nothing.” Not only does he echo Harry’s cruel dismissal, his inclusive language implies he, Lonely and every other poor and marginalized person is a single entity. Another single entity Eddie unconsciously defines is Starsky and Hutch themselves, as he continually mixes up or combines their names, which is a comic staple of the series (this time it’s “Starpy”  for Hutch and “Hup” for Starsky, doubly interesting because the names he assigns to them are more like the others’ name than variations on their own.) He becomes, therefore, a facsimile of Starsky and Hutch’s own relationship, and one is reminded of Hutch’s reply at the end of the ransom chase in “The Psychic” when asked who they are: “We’re Lazarus” (and in a larger sense, if asked who they are, either would say “we’re cops”, much in the same way Eddie says “we’re homeless”).

Imagine someone lonely enough to actually be named “Lonely”.

Why was Lonely killed, anyway? If the Grossmans wanted to start making trouble for all the pornographic shops and strip joints in the neighborhood they should have vandalized Harry’s car, threatened him, or even offered him a bribe. Murdering a defenseless “old wino” Harry cares nothing for doesn’t really push the point home. It’s a useless gesture, and dangerous too, because it alerts the cops to their game. It’s interesting to speculate that Lonely might have been collateral damage: the two hired thugs might have been attempting to burn the place down, only to be noisily thwarted by this erstwhile savior. This makes Harry’s dismissal of him even more wrenching.

Starsky asks the veteran street cop to give Eddie a ride to the mission (there is the lovely detail of Eddie, even in the midst of his bewildered grief, remembering “creamed tuna” is on the menu when he can’t seem to remember much else). The cop seems happy enough to comply but one wonders how he views this young detective, half his age, giving him menial orders.

Notice that nearly every time they walk through a door, Hutch opens it but Starsky walks through first.

Throughout the scene at The Stardust, with their casual menace, at ease with themselves, with each other, in maximum moral outrage, one is reminded why these are the coolest guys ever.

Nancy is not Starsky’s type, other than being a brunette. She’s sweet and stupid (although she does ask a very good question, why bowling pins are called “pins”) and not exactly a looker. Neither Starsky nor Hutch are attracted to character types, so how could these two have met? It could be at the alley, although she’s the world’s worst bowler. He’s affectionate with her but both of them seem to visibly wilt when Hutch and Gillian come together, put to shame by a truly gorgeous couple whose sexual attraction to each other could set the upholstery on fire.

When Gillian appears, Hutch the Klutz makes a spectacular, Freudian fall.

“It’s good to meet you at last,” says Gillian. “He talks about you all the time.”
“Not all the time,” Hutch feels obliged to argue, immediately on the defense about how much Starsky means to him and also feeling the need to irritate and demean, the way he later insists the jelly on his toast is boysenberry rather than grape. There is no need to argue about these miniscule points. And yet he does, repeatedly.

How long have Hutch and Gillian known each other before the room with (red) balloons? One night, two? And how did they meet? Did Gillian initially try to ply her trade with him, only to realize fairly quickly he was a cop? Hutch, for all his cynicism, as well as professional experience, can be as innocent of an attractive woman’s dark motives as any other man, so it’s possible he was simply flattered by her approach and decided to pursue it further without any inkling of who or what she was.

Hutch has ordered her shoes before she arrives. How unusual is it that he knows her shoe size this early on, when it’s obvious he knows so little else?

When Gillian confesses to Hutch that she’s expecting any moment now for everything to blow up and destroy them, he reacts as if he’s heard this before. He’s reassuring, but oddly casual; he doesn’t take her intense, teary confession seriously.

Gillian professes her love for Hutch eight times, seven directly to Hutch. Hutch never uses the word in return. Yes he admires her. Yes he likes her, yes he wants her, and very much. But he does he love her?  Does he love anyone? Would he say it if he did? As far as I know Hutch has only ever said the word “love” once (to Starsky, in a jokey I-don’t-really-mean-it way, in the tag for “Survival”, when Starsky buys him another junky car). Hutch by nature is cautious, guarded and secretive. He would take the question of love very seriously, examine it from all the angles. Not trusting himself, questioning his own motives and impulses. Starsky, it seems, is a far more intuitive and trusting and has a clearer, more honest, view of himself. Although as we see in “Starsky’s Lady” he is likewise disinclined to say the L-word, he doesn’t get all tangled into knots over the concept of love. His world view tends to be more black and white, and he exhibits less of a tendency to worry at something until it falls apart.

Note the joyous leap-over-the-hood thing Hutch does when he drops Gillian off at her apartment.

Olga Grossman’s opening line is superbly, acerbically delivered by Sylvia Sidney, and it’s a treat to watch. When her son tells Gillian, “mama made some tea”, Olga says, “Is this all you have? Teabags?” and then, with a cool glance around her, and without a beat, she says dryly, “what kind of davenport is this, anyway?” The only response one can make to this is a slightly discomfited wow. In addition to the wonderful acting we see, it’s important to note Olga’s first line indicates very strongly her personal credo, which is elevate your station at all costs. We see, in this one moment, a woman who has clawed and fought her way into her own version of American aristocracy, a subtly vulgar pretension she mistakes for refinement. This makes her a dangerous enemy indeed, for Olga is not only motivated by money but a twisted kind of social ambition, spurred on by the half-buried dread that she is not good enough, or smart enough, to achieve what she most viciously desires, what we would loosely term “class”.

Three old women are in charge of their own criminal enterprises: Stella and her “Women’s Guild,” in “Golden Angel”, Olga Grossman, and Belle in “Hostages”. One could also include septuagenarian bomb-planter Sarah Wilson in “Savage Sunday”, and not-quite-old Lola as bail-bondsman-murderer in “Bounty Hunter”. An unusual percentage of criminally-minded old ladies, one suspects.

When grilled about who she was with, Gillian retorts, “Robert Redford”. Flash forward to the poster in “Photo Finish”. Owing to the times, there is a consistent thread of comparison to the Redford-Newman camaraderie in such films as “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (referenced twice by Starsky, once memorably in “The Shootout” when he says he and Hutch should go down to Bolivia and knock over some banks) and “The Sting” (remember those fedoras and suits in “The Las Vegas Strangler”?)

I like how Al refers to Hutch as your “big blond friend.”

Al and Olga Grossman mention “this” has happened to Gillian before. “This” is, apparently, Gillian falling in love and wanting to get out of the prostitution business. Gillian is adamant there are no similarities. If Hutch isn’t the first man Gillian has fallen for, would this make her a more or a less sympathetic character? Although, when you think about it, the opinions of the Grossmans are suspect. Both fit the definition of psychopathology, with a bit of nihilism, myopia, drama-queen and incestuous impulse thrown in for good measure. Let’s just put everything they say in the “debatable” category and leave it at that.

Men in their Natural Element: It’s a great scene in the Torino when Hutch is eating toast and they’re doing their usual drive-around. They get the call for assistance Hutch says, “hey.” Starsky says, “what.” “Good morning,” Hutch says, all peace and light and unusual enough for Starsky to give a big grin and say, in perfect mimicry, “hey.” “What,” Hutch says. “Gillian?” “Yeah.” “Quite a lady”. This easy-going, monosyllabic not-quite-conversation shows both men in good moods, at the top of their game, secure in the world. This is tragically echoed late in the episode when they have a nearly identical exchange during the gunfire in the theater, when the world has crashed down around them.

If Starsky hadn’t seen Gillian at the Venus, how long would it have taken either of them to suspect Gillian wasn’t truthful about her life and her profession? And who would have figured it out first? My money’s on Starsky, ever the watchful pragmatist.

Gillian is one complicated lady. Charismatic and assertive, she’s also completely annexed by the Grossmans despite the obvious lack of a debilitating drug problem or threat of serious harm hanging over her head. Why would such a smart, seemingly put-together person fall into such a deep dark hole? One possibility is that she was abused as a child. Such sexual trauma could go a long way to explaining the depth of her self-neglect, and the fact that she accepts the ugly demands put upon her in return for their guardianship. This would make her choice of a police officer doubly interesting: consciously or unconsciously, she has chosen an avenger.

Starsky and Hutch are called to a “415” on Main Street, right in the center of the massage district. Mickey Stinger, beaten. They’re then drawn down the street by a “free shine”, which means Huggy would have known about the attack and also that the guys would be the investigating officers. If the radio call-out is for “all units”, there is no guarantee they’d be the ones to answer, but perhaps the incident falls right in the center of their beat and Huggy knows they would never ignore a call like that.

The scene at Venus Massage is very well written, the provocative language is realistic, viciously funny, and smart. Mrs. Grossman offers “hard candy” to Starsky and Hutch. Joy offers a massage to Starsky to “take that stiffness right out.” Mrs. Grossman disingenuously says her business deals only in whistles and tricks. She gives Starsky the “wolf whistle.” At what point do innuendos become out-uendos?

Starsky calls Hutch, who says he’s going out. “With Gillian,” Starsky confirms. “No, the Boston Strangler,” Hutch jokes. Okay, for a moment, let’s play Freud. Why would Hutch come up with the name of such an infamous murderer? Why would he equate Gillian, even jokingly, with Bad Things? Is this a sign that Hutch has, deep down inside him, an unpleasant feeling about the whole thing?

Note how Hutch feels comfortable enough in his relationship with Starsky to just hang up on him.

Starsky’s window blind is strangely covered in scratches which looks vaguely like a face. Why is this?

Funny that Gillian’s name is commented on, once by Nancy and once by Huggy to Starsky, and Starsky repeats that yes, it’s a nice name. And yet there’s nothing particularly unusual about “Gillian Ingram” as a name, except that it has some tonal repetitiveness.

After the freeze moment in the alley, on the subject of justifiable fear, Starsky reassures Hutch that he too is afraid “every time I pull this thing,” referring to his gun. Much later, in “Black and Blue”, Starsky also tells his temporary partner Meredith, “People who don’t get scared, scare me.” It’s interesting to note that what frightens Hutch so much is the thought that he might have gotten Starsky killed, rather than himself, pointing to Hutch’s extraordinary, unwarranted, and probably unnecessary sense of accountability in this and other relationships in his life (he will blame himself, similarly, for Gillian’s death). Starsky’s advice is valuable. He is telling Hutch to feel what he feels, process it, and move on. He is telling him that negative emotions are not to be avoided, and in fact are powerfully instructive if properly understood and not stuffed into the dark corners. Does Hutch remember it later when he has to power through paralyzing emotions in the aftermath of the murder?

Does Hutch’s temporary inability to do his job tell us a “real” relationship (i.e. love, marriage and possibly children) makes a cop weaker than he would be if he was solitary and autonomous? Hutch has never succumbed to stress-induced paralysis before but he does now, and there are hints it’s because he’s thinking about Gillian, of a possible future with her, and what she’ll do if he gets injured or killed.

Hutch feels vulnerable and exposed walking into the squad room after the incident. He looks around as if he’s going to be accused of something.

One of the many charming and telling details in the scene between Starsky and Gillian at her apartment (other than her choice of sophisticated art prints, indicating intellectual ambition) is when he says giving her money for the mythical boutique makes them “partners”.

Casting Notes: Karen Carlson, playing Gillian, is David Soul’s ex-wife, and is excellent in this role. Apparently Glaser worried whether he and Carlson would get along (much like in the episode, both had heard a lot of the other), but after they met, they hit it off so well that they changed the script which originally had them at odds in the scene in which Starsky arrives at her apartment to give her money. Instead, they developed the gentle confrontation scene which is a one of the highlights of the episode (although how much of the script they rewrote themselves is unknown). This is yet another example of how the series benefits from its loose construction: genuine and unexpected moments are allowed to flower.

What is Gillian typing? She’s most likely lying when she tells Hutch about her journalistic ambitions. But she does have a hint of storyteller in her, so perhaps she’s writing fiction as both an escape from her nightmarish situation and a possible career change. It’s interesting to speculate the crime-scene investigators pulling the sheet from the typewriter and reading the draft of her first novel, something like she loved him with all her heart, but knew it could never last.

And what happens to Starsky’s $1,600 cheque? When he leaves the envelope is sitting on the table.

Gillian exhibits both empathy and a lack of self-pity when she says it must be nice to be Hutch, “in one lifetime you have two people who love you so much”. She’s very free with the word love, using it twice with Starsky and seven times with Hutch. Starsky, like Hutch, never says it back; his only acknowledgement of her observation that “you love him too, don’t you” is utter silence.

Speculate a different path for Gillian if she didn’t hit Olga Grossman after she turned in the three keys. Would she have simply disappeared? Would she have hidden in the area and watched Hutch from afar? Stayed where she was and asked for Hutch’s help in quitting the business?

The whole tragedy, essentially, is set in motion because of Olga’s mawkish self-pity. If she hadn’t been whining to her son, playing up a minor scuffle, none of this would have happened.

It’s Joy from the brothel/massage parlor standing with Huggy when he makes the phone call to Starsky. She does her best to help Gillian, turning snitch on the Grossmans, a brave thing to do especially when wearing little more than a buckskin bikini top. This might explain Huggy having so much information at the shoeshine booth, if Joy was hanging around his bar giving him snippets of information. It’s interesting to imagine the whole situation culminating in that terrible phone call: Joy either drinking or plying her trade at Huggy’s, getting to know him, telling him a thing or two about her gig with the Grossmans, her growing unease about Gillian, her decision to take a risk and tell him about their plans.

The scenes in which Starsky discovers Gillian’s body and then intercepts Hutch, are the most painful and raw moments in the entire series. It’s difficult to write about accurately without lapsing into hyperbole. Filmed in a fluid, single and largely unscripted take, it never loses its shocking impact or explosive power. Everything about it works, and it feels entirely real. There’s an odd off-kilter feeling to the scene, as if any moment the parts holding it together are going to fly apart.

One of the strangest incidents of the can’t-distinguish-one-from-the-other joke throughout the series is when Grossman phones Starsky and thinks he’s Hutch. At that moment, he might as well be.

Filming Notes: Amanda Green (Producer Joseph Naar’s secretary and Production Assistant), who wrote the script, was so moved during this scene that she had to leave, and both Glaser and Soul were really in tears, as was the director and crew; they ended filming for the day afterwards because Soul was too worked up to continue.

When Hutch is in full, grieving rage, he calls Starsky three names, buddy boy, friend and pal. These words, as Hutch says them, are said with hate. In that moment Hutch seems to be saying the friendship itself is the cause of his pain, and it is a terrible and unexpected way to express shock and grief. On some level he may think Starsky has failed to protect him, and it could imply he feels that because he has failed to protect Gillian he doesn’t deserve to have Starsky’s love either. Or is this an act of self-preservation rather than self-harm, Hutch pouring his rage into the one vessel capable of holding it without breaking? Whatever it is, it’s tremendously masochistic and reveals to us the painful depth of his self-hatred. With every “pal” and “buddy boy” you can almost see the self-inflicted whip-marks across his back. It’s only Starsky’s stoicism that keeps him sane until he can gather himself again.

Hutch lashes out at Starsky, saying “you never did like her” and “you never could understand her”. There is absolutely no evidence this is true, so we have to suppose Hutch is using Starsky as a mirror of his own confusion. Because they are essentially the same person, the merging or blurring of identities while under tremendous stress is understandable. It’s Hutch who never understood her, who blames himself for not loving her enough to save her. But how could he ever understand someone as complex as Gillian in such a short time? Her sophistication and confidence laced with trembling anxiety, that mix of intensity and carelessness, the hidden scars. Her eroticism tempered by sexual withholding (Hutch tells Starsky they spent the night “just looking at each other” as if this was his idea, but I’m guessing Gillian has tried to forestall sexual contact as long as possible as a way of reassuring herself that this is the Real Thing and not another instance of exploitation). In a complex way this is a re-enactment of the freeze-in-the-alley scene, in which Hutch tries to explain his inability to act by saying only that Starsky could have been killed. In the moment he uses Starsky as a conduit as a way of accusing himself.

Again, as with Prudholm in “Pariah”, Grossman appears to have underestimated the concept of partnership.

In the theater, separated by about a hundred and fifty feet, with the concussive insult of the pornographic movie and guns blazing, it’s eerie how Starsky and Hutch talk to each other using their normal voices. Starsky says calmly from the balcony, “Hutch.”
“Yeah,” Hutch says, equally calm.
“You okay?”
“I got one.”
“I’ll cover you.”

And finally, truly one of the most terrifying moments in this or any other scene in the entire canon: the sight of Hutch walking up the stairs toward Grossman with an expression of utter rage and loathing on his face with the furious music rhythmically pounding around him. It looks like a horror film. Actually, at this moment, this is a horror film.

Grossman falls, literally and figuratively. Hutch, with every right to act with fatal retribution, chooses mercy instead. Granted, it’s a dismissive, cold act of mercy, but it is still a moment of grace.

The tag: is this trying to imply that stupid girls are more relaxing, and a safer bet, than smart complicated women? Probably. Also, where are this girl’s friends? Surely she’s not bowling alone.

Clothing notes: Hutch looks great in a blue leisure suit in the first scene. He wears his blue plaid jacket and flared jeans. He wears the green leather jacket and green t-shirt. Starsky wears his tan buttoned shirt and great belt. He splits his time between his leather jacket and blue cloth jacket.



54 Responses to “Episode 25: Gillian”

  1. Shelley Says:

    Interesting that the actress playing Gillian is David Soul’s ex-wife. They sure were able to turn up the heat and give an impression of utter infatuation with each other.

    I wonder if this was the woman Hutch was most infatuated with ever. That was a significant lapse when he couldn’t respond to the situation in the alley. Was he off in la-la land? Was he frozen with fear because he cared for this woman so much it made life/death situations more real?

  2. Dona Says:

    There is not much to add to this nice post on Gillian.
    I also think that the revelation of Gillian’s secret life and death to Hutch is probably among the best scenes of the whole series, if not the best, fortunately considered also in the episode “Partners”, giving David Soul the chance for a beautiful silent sigh of sorrowful memory while lying at the hospital.

    “Hutch pouring his rage into the one vessel capable of holding it without breaking” … I do embrace your reading … and so Starsky does, Starsky who doesn’t react to the first blow and even waits for a second one, and almost invites Hutch to hit again, if this is what he wants.
    One partner being the unbreakable vessel for the rage and infinite grief of the other. The closeness between them is here at its best.

    I don’t think Hutch is self-blaming, he’s only trying to figure out and to find the grounds for the despair he’s been thrown into, he doesn’t want to hear what could be the truth, he tries to deny the evidence, calling Starsky a liar, then building up all possible alternatives. It’s a duel of proofs, but the only irrefutable proof is the one which calls for their bond “you think I like saying you …”.

    PM.Glaser often acts using his body in a very graceful way, and it’s not a secret that many women find this as a very attractive character (in the truest “you-know-what-I-mean” meaning, cf. opening of “The Plague – I”).
    Of this master scene I love both actors’ body movements and the very natural final effect, emphasized by the camera angle: Starsky’s body thrown back by the blow, Hutch’s falling under Starsky’s legs, Starsky’s lying without strength (not only physical) and Hutch trying to lift him as he’d do with a heavy dead body.
    It’s nice also the way Hutch’s body, taller, heavier, yields and falls into Starsky’s arms, almost overwhelming him in utter trust, as in the final hug of “The fix”.

    The whole episode is enriched by other beautiful moments: the memorable line “Look in the mirror sometimes …”, the freeze in the alley, the killing glance from Hutch slowly climbing the stairs.
    But also other short lines and glimpses were very nice, like the encouraging agreement by Hutch to try something for that aching shoulder, his soft and amused teasing at the phone, in assuring “Mom” that he won’t be late, Starsky’s bewilderment in calling the coroner’s lab and the crime team and of course his strong denial of doing babysitting to an almost healed (a deadly cute) Hutch in the tag.

    • Blunderbuss Says:

      Dona, you point out so many wonderful little bits of this episode. I especially appreciate your pointing out the meaning woven into the play-by-play visual description of Hutch hitting and manhandling Starsky, because I think this scene is one of the best examples of a scene whose meaning is inseparable from its performance, it could not be properly summarized or translated into prose.

      “It’s a duel of proofs, but the only irrefutable proof is the one which calls for their bond “you think I like saying you …””

      This. This is exactly it, the heart and beauty of the matter. Thank you.

  3. King David Says:

    It’s nearly the end of the day and I can’t think of all the witty and erudite comments I’d like to, but I also add that I enjoy the ‘death’ scene for its depth, Starsky’s inarticulate phonecall. (Why do they use the phones in crime scene locations???)
    And nobody can saunter like Starsky!

  4. Dianna Says:

    Everyone has lots of perceptive comments on this episode! I agree with so much that has already been said. I hope the following is a useful contribution.

    Hutch’s relationship with Gillian is a bit problematic on several levels:

    What happened to Abigail Crabtree? I understand she will reappear in Episode 30, as if she were Hutch’s girlfriend all along.

    How is it that a professional question asker, who makes his living by noticing falsehoods and judging people’s character, would not notice that he had no idea where all Gillian’s money came from, nor what she did when she wasn’t gazing into his eyes. (Maybe she somehow made him think earned her money writing … except that he surely would have wanted to admire her work.)

    As Merle points out, Gillians “annexation” by the Grossmans is perplexing. Olga does state that her son had lifted her out of the gutter, and it is clear that he has had sex with her (in the theater, Al calls out, “You and I both know how sweet it is.”) But that certainly does not seem enough to trap her so badly that she would move to California with them when they left Cleveland. The first scene where we see Al, he certainly is filled with menace, but Gillian does not really act like an abused woman.

    These issues detract from my enjoyment of the range of emotions shown in this episode, which has some very fine moments.

    I don’t actually have a problem with Hutch knowing her shoe size. Because they’re meeting at a bowling alley, he may have wanted to save her a few minutes in line by getting her shoe size in advance. The bowling alley itself, as a meeting place for someone so seemingly elegant and cultured, is the part that I find odd.

    At the bowling alley, the guys are not wearing their usual jackets, and they are not wearing their shoulder holsters (despite Starsky’s assertion in The Fix that Hutch would not visit his mother without his shoulder holster).

    Bowling alley… Nancy’s gutter balls… Grossmans lifting Gillian out of the gutter… connection? Starsky and Nancy taking Hutch to a bowling alley again after Gillian has died seems a bit cruel, unless there is a deliberate story metaphor about gutters. And the last thing we see is Hutch getting ready to get a new girl “out of the gutter.”

    When we see the thugs who worked over Lonely, they appear to be simply plucking at his shirt, rather than rifling his pockets. But I really love Starsky & Hutch’s tender response to poor Eddie here and in Bounty Hunter.

    Can we believe Harry’s story about how Lonely got killed? Maybe the thugs’ instruction were to “kill the first person you see coming out of the shop.” And did you notice the “Lesbian Love” publication behind Starsky’s head in the porn shop shows naked women? I wonder how racy the visuals on the other props are. Who are the “strange people with weird eyes”? I love the guys’ disgust that there is a 50¢ charge for browsing.

    The producer likes having bra-less women shine shoes. “What’s shaking, Pepper?” and then we immediately see exactly what is “shaking.”

    On my first watching, I thought it was awfully convenient that Huggy was right next to the crime scene, but on my second viewing, I saw that Huggy cares about the people in that district, so it wouldn’t be unusual for him to be there.

    I too was bothered by Gillian’s repeated assertions of love being uniformly met with silence.

    Who in the world walks across the hood of their car, ever? Why do these two do it so often?

    I feel that Starsky at The Venus, would have called out, rather than simply opening doors and peering behind curtains, unless he was hoping to find something to peep at.

    Other sweethearts have not gotten between the guys the way Gillian does: Hutch’s fear seems (as Dona pointed out) to be related to his preoccupation with Gillian; Hutch hangs up on Starsky, sounding irritated instead of fondly teasing; Starsky for the first time hides something from Hutch; and of course Hutch’s fury when Gillian’s death and deception are revealed to him.

    And speaking of fear, Hutch’s biggest concern in that moment was that Starsky might have gotten hurt. Later, in Gillian’s apartment, Starsky is obviously panicked when he makes the inarticulate phone call (in King David’s words!). Dead bodies have never panicked him, but this dead body means that Hutch is about to get hurt, and that is terrifying.

    Al Grossman is certainly interesting. Mommy’s boy with facial tics and an aura of menace. Mommy clearly controls him, as if her were a 6 year old. When Starsky & Hutch walk into the Grossmans’ office, Olga exudes her false cheer, clearly expecting her son to obey, and when he starts to lose his temper, she squashes him. Later she talks brightly to him about his future, and they hold hands when they walk together. She expects, and gets, absolute obedience from him. Are we to assume that he developed his menace and his tics because of her?

    In contrast, Starsky is indulgent of his mother in Running, but she seems otherwise irrelevant in his life; we haven’t yet heard a word about Hutch’s mother, but he calls Starsky “Mom” in this episode. Are we being given a message about the appropriate role of “Mom” in a healthy man’s life?

    Thank you so much for your wonderful background notes, Merle. They add a lot of depth to every episode. And your analysis of the fight in Gillian’s apartment is fabulous. I enjoyed everyone’s comments on this episode.

    One final note: Hutch’s jacket is evidently not leather, but some kind of synthetic, because it squeaks when it gets scrunched or rubbed when Starsky embraces him.

  5. Dianna Says:

    Merl asked about the marks on Starsky’s windowshade. At http://www.tv.com/shows/starsky-and-hutch/trivia/season-1/4?sort=oldest, an unknown poster writes:

    “In the last segment of the episode, Starsky is in his kitchen rushing to answer the telephone. There is a window next to the telephone on the wall. The window has a white pull-down shade which has a big sketch of a Starsky self-portrait on it and in the right-hand lower corner Paul Michael Glaser’s initials are there. It can be seen clearly in freeze-frame.”

    • merltheearl Says:

      I appreciate you doing a bit of research for this, Dianna. When I began this blog I made two promises to myself. One was that I would write it without any supplemental internet research. I wanted to create an insular and private experience to mimic, at least conceptually, how it felt to watch the series in the first place, alone in my room. I risked being wrong (and have certainly been corrected by readers) and I also risked asking questions that could easily be answered with a few clicks of the mouse. So I am very grateful you have done what I haven’t – actually looked this stuff up. Thank you.

      (By the way, the second promise was never to use photographs. Because the show is a powerful visual experience, and the actors so beautiful, I felt that supplementing text with pictures was too easy. I wanted the blog to be dense, academic, insular, and dull enough to repel all but the most determined readers. I wonder if I have succeeded.)

  6. Dianna Says:

    I’ve had the feeling you must have done an awful lot of outside reading yourself, because you know so much behind-the scenes information. However, if you would rather I not bring in outside links, I will certainly respect your wishes, because this is such a wonderful blog and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, its creator!

    Everyplace else I look for people who think a lot about Starsky & Hutch, I see webpages filled with Tiger Beat-style photos and lots of noise, so I am glad you have made this place quiet and thought-filled and insightful.

    There have been been several times when I watched an episode and thought, “Ho hum,” and then read your analysis and the other comments here, and then gone back to watch again with new eyes, and really liked it because of my increased depth of understanding.

    I don’t want to gush all over you, but thank you, thank you, thank you!

  7. Jon Says:

    This was the S&H episode that my sister and I agreed on being our favorite. It was so good in fact, it was recycled completely a few years later for Spelling’s Vega$ starring Robert Urich with Priscilla Barnes in the Gillian role.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I’m torn between wanting to see this and not wanting to see it.

      • Jon Says:

        I think you would like it. I believe it’s titled “Love Affair”

        I think the vilian as played by Bewitched star Dick Sargent and his high class organization is actually an improvement over the Grossman’s seedy operation that has one wondering why someone like Gillian would even be involved with it in the first place. To that end, there is a completely plausible backstory of why Barnes’ character did what she did in Vega$.

        However, what makes it inferior to the S&H episode is that Urich’s character Dan Tanna seems completely on his own in the end even though others try to help whereas that S&H showdown with Grossman in the theater emphasises, as well or better than any episode in the series, how they are and always will be there for each other, seemingly relying on ESP to communicate.

  8. hutchlover Says:

    Been re-reading your blog lately, and thought to add a few things:

    Karen & David were still legally – though separated – married during the shows run. They met on the set of Here Comes The Brides.

    Also, this episode is eerily similar to the Brides & Grooms episode of Gunsmoke that DS guest starred in. He played a farmer’s son abt to get married to an ex prostitute/saloon girl named Fran. Of note is that Fran Ryan is the only semi regular Gunsmoke actor in this episode, and that one of the brothers is played by the actor who will try to kill Hutch in Sweet Revenge (the fake orderly pushing thev wheelchair).

  9. Louie Says:

    It never really occurred to me before, since Starsky and Hutch are comparatively much more emotionally open than most male characters at the time…but how often do they cry in this series?

    Apologies if I missed something, but I only count three episodes where S&H really cry…Hutch has his breakdown here, Starsky cries over Terri’s body, and then they both cry over Ollie, in Starsky’s Lady, and just for a moment before the fade-out, they both break down sobbing at the very end of the last scene before the tag in Bloodbath, after the rescue.

    However, there are a lot of moments where Starsky seems to come very close to crying, where you can see from his face or hear in his voice that he’s at the edge…off the top of my head, there the scene here when Hutch is attacking him over Gillian, on a couple occasions in both Rosie Malone and Manchild on the Streets, when trying to control the pain in A Coffin For Starsky, the time where he catches Hutch with Kira, when he visits Hutch in the hospital in The Plague, when Hutch has to leave him tied up alone in Murder Ward….

    But Hutch seems to never do the same thing. I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head when he’s in situations comparable to the aforementioned ones with Starsky where he seems like he’s almost crying, and for some reason I can’t even imagine him doing it! Hutch is just…not the crying type, maybe? Either way, I think that could be part of why his meltdown here is so powerful…because you except Hutch to have any other type of emotional outburst, but you don’t expect him to cry. It’s so raw and broken and utterly devastating to see him that way that watching it almost feels like you’re butting your nose in to spy on a private moment that should be just between the two men.

  10. Adelaide Says:

    Hyperbole? Perish the thought! This is one of those scenes where hyperbolic description is impossible to achieve because there are not words to adequately describe it.

    I’m not sure “stoic” is the best word to describe Starsky in that scene. Hutch’s pain is hurting him almost as badly as Gillian’s death is hurting Hutch, and he’s right on the verge of tears of shame and anguish at the tragedy and the sight of Hutch’s despair. His voice is trembling and cracking during his lines after Hutch punches him. He’s only managing to keep a grip on himself by clinging – almost instinctively – to what he knows is important: telling Hutch the truth and holding him together as they pass through an inevitable gauntlet of horror and agony. Your comment that when Starsky answers the phone and is mistaken for Hutch is so apropos — this scene illustrates without question the concept “cut one and both bleed.”

    The intimacy of that scene leaves me quite speechless. For that moment, you really cannot believe that there is anyone else in the room with them. The power and depth of their emotions and the bond that allows them to survive their emotions is so palpable that it’s transcendent. In a most ironic way, Hutch hitting and shaking and cursing Starsky shows the strength of their relationship as clearly as the most tender and loving of their touches — “pouring his rage into the one vessel capable of holding it without breaking” is the perfect description, and it’s so amazing that it’s so very visible. Starsky’s compassion is so immense that the viewer can feel his heart breaking for Hutch as if it was their own — the viewer feels positively empathic at that moment, as if they were mind-melded with Starsky. The absolute, utterly naked trust that Hutch shows when he falls into Starsky’s arms, stricken with grief and pain so deep it seems almost unbearable to him, clinging to his friend’s jacket like a lifeline, openly needing to be held, is something that I personally have never, ever, ever seen comparably achieved in any other TV show or movie I have ever watched in my entire life.

    For me, this scene is the most absolute definition and fictional embodiment of friendship I can recall having the privilege to see — if an alien came to earth and asked “what is this thing you call friendship?” this is what it should be shown. This is what friends do. This is what friends are for. This is why people have friends. This is why people need friends. This is why people kill for their friends, die for their friends, long for friends when they have none more deeply and intensely than they long for any other social good, no matter how taken for granted it may be when we have them, no matter how misused the word may be — extended to acquaintances or to recipients of superficial affection and admiration, and undermined by the demeaning modifiers “just” or “mere” or “only.” This is what friendship is.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Well, I admit you brought a tear to my eye, Adelaide. Thank you for this moving summation. In writing these posts, particularly this one, I feel a responsibility to keep emotion in check, partly because I have the sense of being a straight man, a foil, and partly because of a heretical (or perverse, depending on how you look at it) calling to provide fans with analytic rather than emotion-driven content. I don’t think anyone would stick with me for long if I wept and swooned as often as I secretly wanted to. But I’ve never felt so confined, so inadequate, as when it came time to write about this life-changing episode. Here my natural reticence is a painful liability, I simply cannot do this episode justice. You have gone a long way to amending that. Thank you.

      • Adelaide Says:

        Aw, thanks back! Your blog has really helped me pinpoint and articulate a lot of things I subconsciously loved about this show but could never explicitly put my finger on. And since I’m just a lowly commenter, I have the freedom to gush 😉

    • Dianna Says:

      Adelaide, that was beautiful. It made me teary too.

      Merl, your natural reticence is not a liability at all. There are plenty of places we could go online to find emotion-driven gushing, but we choose to come here. I delight in your analytic approach partly because it makes posts like Adelaide’s possible!

  11. Sharon Marie Says:

    It bothers me, probably because I am of the female persuasion, that Hutch never tells Gillian he loves her even though, as you point out, she says it so much it’s almost overkill.

    At the Stardust the magazines are out and proud!…. Playboy as well as one behind Starsky called Lesbian Love Stories with quite a salacious picture! (I’m sure back in 1976-77 TVs did not show the detail we get today!) Once again one hangs back (Starsky this time) while the other man handles the dirt bag they are attempting to get information from.

    Sylvia Sidney – Oh my! She was just delicious in this role. She made my skin crawl. I haven’t heard anyone call a sofa a “davenport” except my mother who would have been 90 this year. Wonder if it’s a generational thing or something from the Midwest where she was from.

    I have always been curious as to why they had most of the antagonists (and sometimes anyone from out of town no matter where they were from) in this series sporting a seedy east coast inner city accent- very much like from NJ or Brooklyn. Even the ones that are supposedly from Cleveland. I live 2 hours from Cleveland and spend a lot of time there. They don’t have a NJ accent!

    Love the name plate of the receptionist at the “massage” parlor: “JOY”.

    Starsky readily shakes Mom Grossman’s hand, but Hutch clearly hesitates with discomfort. “Grossman Tricks and Puzzles”, she proudly states really putting the emphasis on ‘tricks’!

    “Terrific” is in every episode of this series! Must be the ‘awesome’ of the day!

    The scene where Starsky confronts Gillian at her apartment about her secret is done very sensitively. She hugs a pillow and subtly rocks back and forth as she thinks out loud about her love for Hutch as well as Starsky’s. Almost childlike for such an adult issue. So very sad. And Starsky is just as sad knowing that Hutch will get that news and will be crushed, and that if she doesn’t tell Hutch then he will.

    Probably the best scene in SH history is right here when Starsky finds her body and then has to help Hutch come to terms with it. PMG’s patience and portrayal of Starsky’s self loathing at knowing everything and Hutch knowing nothing – but not for long- is matched by Soul’s rage on the opposite end of the spectrum. And by the end of the scene, Starsky’s quietly held back patience erupts and he becomes emotional and Hutch’s rage dials down as he slumps into Starsky’s arms.

    Interesting move when in direction they did not have Hutch check to see for himself if Gillian is dead. At the beginning of the episode he was first to reach down and confirm that Lonely was dead. But here he is not the cop anymore. He is victim. And takes Starsky’s word for it accordingly.

    Kudos again for direction by completely silencing the background music and cheesy sound effects of the 70’s the moment Grossman’s name is uttered and Hutch’s anger starts to wind up. From that point on we hear only dialogue and that alone is poignant. None of the sad music is heard again until Hutch’s anger winds down and he is in full grief mode.

    Movie poster: “Bedroom Eyes – filmed in the Virgin Islands” – Set decorators had a ball with this episode.

    • hutchlover Says:

      Sharon Marie, I’m from Cleveland, though I live NW of Chicago now. And ur right abt the accent.

      Also, why Cleveland? After Eliot Ness cleaned house in the late 30’s/early 40’s, there is virtually NO mafia presence. They would’ve been better off picking Youngstown.

      • McPierogiPazza Says:

        Oh, we had mafia trouble in Cleveland in the ’70s! It was mostly Italian mafia, so this little gang in the show doesn’t really fit. There was also Danny Greene, portrayed in the film “Kill the Irishman.” We had a lot of cars getting blown up during the run of S&H, and the spot where a building was blown up in a failed hit on Greene now has a mural now that says “KABOOM!” I live nearby in the former home of the police chief played by Val Kilmer in the movie.

        There are lot of NY/NJ accents on the show that don’t make sense, including for people from Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.

  12. Sharon Marie Says:

    As an interesting side note, I stumbled upon this magazine article of a Karen Carlson interview from 1979. She did briefly discuss this episode. It was filmed during their separation but before their divorce. She describes filming a scene where they are making love (which must have been left on the cutting room floor) and how difficult it was for her.


  13. Dianna Says:

    Karen Carlson has approximately the world’s most luscious hair! Thanks for the link to the interview.

  14. Sharon Marie Says:

    Her hair was immaculate!

  15. Blunderbuss Says:

    Well, I sure need to comment on this, because this is my favorite episode. Not just for That Scene (although That Scene is the core and crown jewel of this episode, and perhaps even of the whole show), but because there is something so breathtakingly raw about the plot — the unflinching, ugly fearlessness, the way it inevitably, implacably, ruthlessly spins out its trajectory to its conclusion, the way it pulls no punches, the way it goes right to the ropes in terms of the sheer brutality of the implications and emotion. It’s not a perfect episode by any means, but its power is such that it leaves more elegant, more skillfully-written, less-flawed episodes behind. There’s nothing wishy-washy or dishonest or timid about its portrayal of the darkest, most difficult to swallow outcome of the situation, and the tragically inevitable ways Starsky and Hutch are caught up in it and unintentionally complicit in it. I think it resembles a tragedy, because it contains the maddening, banal whims of chance, yet most of the story is a foregone conclusion based on the fundamental nature of the characters involved. There are no loopholes or platitudes. There is no justice for the howling unfairness and horror and senselessness of Gillian’s death. There are so many little moments that convey this atmosphere. A couple of the most memorable are the grotesque, undignified limpness of Gillian’s body when Starsky rolls her onto her back to check her heartbeat, and the way Starsky slams the phone against his knee in frustration before hanging up after Grossman calls him at Gillian’s apartment, as if he knows everything has gone to shit around him and he can’t fix it or do it over. There’s a harsh, ugly overlay on top of the tragedy. An aura of “shit, just look at this mess” that makes illusions of sentiment and reverence impossible. Even the shootout at the end contains no triumph — only grim duty. Even Hutch’s righteous anger and vengeance crumples like an untied balloon in the face of his understanding of how inadequate those feelings are to alleviate the horror. The only, only thing that provides any sincere comfort in the darkness or any bulwark of strength in the whole disaster is the blazing love and devotion between the two friends throughout.

    I agree with Adelaide that the scene after Gillian’s death is friendship in its absolute. Holding someone while their whole world falls apart and threatens to tear them apart as well, even as you are dragged into the nightmare alongside them, baring your soul and giving them undying loyalty and compassion. Utterly trusting someone to hold and protect you while you are most vulnerable, when you let everything go, drop every defense and restraint and every scrap of strength you possess. Just so simple and poignant. The two men seem very small, and very alone, and very helpless in the dark, vicious, malevolent jungle of the city and the unstoppable nightmare of the situation. The mental image this scene gives me is of a candle guttering in the midst of a screaming, ravaging windstorm, but staying lit due to the puny hands faithfully cupped around its flame.

    I love Starsky’s last words in that scene, the path forward for when they finally emerge from the other side of the maelstrom, tattered and scarred but unbeaten: “come on, we got work to do.” So humble, so outward-focused, and so perfectly suited to the scene, the characters, and the entire show overall.

    • Dianna Says:

      Blunderbuss, your penultimate paragraph brought me to tears. Your description of their absolute friendship and trust as a candle amid the storm is so eloquent and true. Thank you.

    • Sharon Marie Says:

      What a wonderful canvas you have painted! Perfect analysis of this epic episode. Thank you, Blunderbuss.

    • Anna Says:

      I have a lump in my throat from this, Blunderbuss! The image of their friendship in that devastating living room scene as a candle being protected in a storm is a perfect one and thanks for giving me that mental image. I often feel inadequate when I try to encapsulate and convey the feelings some of the most amazing partnership moments in this show gives me.

      Another layer to that candle image: this analogy would also imply the hands protecting the candle also stay loyally cupped around it in spite of the pain and burns the flickering flame would inflict.

  16. Sharon Marie Says:

    Another quick viewing…. The moment when Hutch freezes in the alley is a rare moment of seeing Hutch ‘naked’ and vulnerable. But when Starsky tried to console him by saying he gets scared too whenever he pulls his gun, for some reason, I don’t buy it. He looks at Hutch as though checking to see if *he* has bought it. Walking in the squad room afterwords, Hutch hesitates and looks around as if saying to himself, “Do they know? Can they tell I froze?”. It’s one of those very short, well directed/acted moments that link to the recent past and what’s coming.

  17. Ruth Says:

    I feel sort of inadequate now after that great review and those vivid comments, and I think I’ll sound all disconnected and rambly, but I love this episode so much I still had to talk about a few things:

    – It’s important that Starsky holds it together at first to force himself to tell Hutch the truth about Gillian and confront him with the inescapable evidence, but it’s only when he himself is brought to tears by Hutch’s attack and emotionally begs Hutch to search his feelings and realize that Starsky would never say things like that to Hutch or about Hutch’s girl if they weren’t true, because they cause him so much pain to say them and he loves Hutch so much he would never hurt him if he didn’t absolutely need to, that Hutch’s rage and denial drains away (Starsky’s also indirectly asking if Hutch would like saying things like that to Starsky if their positions were reversed). Empathy, not just reasoning, is needed to get Hutch through it. I think in that brief moment, Hutch would believe almost *anything* to lessen the agony of Gillian’s death and defamation, he’d probably try to believe the sky is green if it would make it hurt less. But he still can’t make himself believe Starsky could ever wish to hurt him, especially not with Starsky almost crying at the sight of Hutch’s despair without a single move to defend himself or move away from Hutch’s grasping, white-knuckled fists. Trust and belief in their friendship is stronger than logic, facts, and sensory evidence. It is their one surefire absolute.

    – I’m not entirely sure how to react to Starsky offering Gillian money (a LOT of money, by the way, probably more than Starsky can afford) to get lost. On one hand, the level of devotion involved in such an act is breathtaking. On the other hand, it seems pretty damn overprotective. Blowing three thousand dollars (in 1976, no less!) to spare your friend grief isn’t exactly standard operating procedure for friendships, even extremely close ones. I’d say it could imply Starsky doesn’t have a very high opinion of Hutch’s emotional fortitude, if not for the fact that if anything, Starsky tends to overestimate, not underestimate, Hutch’s toughness and strength. So if that’s not it, it must say more about Starsky than about Hutch. If I’m not mistaken (I asked a fandom friend who also comments on this blog to back me up and she agreed with me, but it could be a madness shared by two), Starsky has always been almost alarmingly quick to make huge personal sacrifices for other people, mostly Hutch, to the point where I doubt it’s entirely healthy. I wouldn’t want him to change for the world, but still. It’s enough to make me wonder how he developed that way (the friend I mentioned wondered if Laura Anderson’s “death” had something to do with it).

    – It’s extremely powerful, however, that Starsky does a complete turnaround with Gillian’s death, humbled by the realization that all his overprotectiveness couldn’t protect Hutch. In the scene with Gillian’s body, Starsky straightforwardly, respectfully, tells Hutch the complete truth that he previously tried to hide to spare Hutch’s feelings. This is a character thread that’s never focused on in the episode, but I think it’s *perfect* that it’s never focused on because the fact that that story element is completely subsumed beneath the story element of Hutch’s grief parallels and perfectly enhances the effect of Starsky’s humility and his subsuming of his own feelings to take care of Hutch. I know that there was no such thing as deliberate meta-textual narrative in the ’70s, and definitely not in some mainstream ’70s primetime cop show, but whether by complete accident or by subconscious, instinctive groping for what ‘felt right’ on the part of the writers and actors, Starsky & Hutch accomplished meta-textual storytelling very effectively many, many, many times, and this, in my opinion, is one of them. Another in this same episode is the fact that in the shootout scene, Starsky’s face logically should be black-and-blue from Hutch hitting him so hard with those big powerful hands of his, but it isn’t because that scene was something private and separate from the rest of the world, something that took place in a pocket of space and time reserved only for the two of them. I think that no one else will ever know about it.

    – I also always wondered at Hutch accusing Starsky of not liking and not understanding Gillian. It’s definitely not stemming from any real feelings, since as you say, Starsky and Gillian never showed any animosity towards each other. The level of extreme, all-consuming self-hatred and desolation Hutch shows at her death, in which he is obviously in such excruciating psychic pain that I can hardly stand to watch him, suggests that actually, Starsky may have had reason to be so overprotective before, although I don’t know (and probably will never know) how Starsky could predict how acutely affected Hutch might be at just the revelation of her profession, not even her death. Some understanding of Hutch’s feelings for Gillian, explicit or intuited, must have passed between them in one of those offscreen “he’s told me a lot about you” conversations Starsky refers to in the bowling scene. So it seems to me like it’s the most basic type of denial, with Hutch trying to irrationally, nonsensically claim she’s not a prostitute because Starsky is lying and Starsky is lying because he hates her — simply in order to blindly clutch at some excuse that might reduce the volume of horrible information being dumped on him because he feels like the weight of the awfulness he’s been subjected to in the past ninety seconds will kill him.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Hi Ruth, thank you for your heartfelt comments. This episode is the emotional vortex of the series and it certainly brings up some intense issues about the nature of the partnership. I just have a couple of minor comments in reply: I think Starsky’s motive in giving Gillian the large sum of money (in my memory it’s $1600 and not $3000, but I could be wrong) is primarily to protect Hutch, but it’s also to save Gillian’s life, and maybe, just maybe (I’m going on a non-canonical limb here) to drive a fatal wedge into the Grossman empire. The Grossman’s certainly covet this beautiful woman – they give her a large well-appointed apartment and a modicum of freedom in exchange for her earning potential – and if Starsky allows her to escape it would have serious consequences for them. I’m not saying this is in the forefront of his mind, but it may be interesting to add it to the mix.

      • Ruth Says:

        I believe he gives her $1,600 in the envelope, then says that in a few days or weeks, he can get her $3,000. (Which makes me wonder if he was planning to borrow from someone or hock something to acquire the balance…)

        I always actually saw almost the opposite of the last theory you mention here: that Starsky gets so distracted and focused on protecting Hutch that he fails to stop and think about the larger issue and how dangerous a situation he might inadvertently have just set a match to, or how badly the Grossmans would react to their prostitute jumping ship. Not that I blame Starsky for what happened to Gillian — there’s too many little tragic wrong turns that led to her death to pin in on his influence, and it’s likely she would have eventually left them on her own. But his actions are part of the mess and I’d bet anything *he* blames himself, thinks that if he had just planned it better, did something differently or reminded Gillian that the Grossman’s lethal intimidation tactics could hurt her or told her to call him for protection before she quit, he might have saved her.

        The idea that he was also thinking a lot about protecting the woman Hutch loved, even if Hutch would never see her again, is a ‘duh!’ one though. I should’ve remembered that. That’s how their loyalty always works. “Thy people shall be my people” and all that.

      • Ruth Says:

        Merl, I apologize for cluttering up your comments section with lengthy addendums, but I recently rewatched the scene between Starsky and Gillian on youtube to check the money figures discussed (yes, he said he said he could get her $3,000 by next week, not sure if he meant $3K more in addition to the $1.6K for a total of $4.6K, or $1.4K more for a total of $3K, but big bucks either way…my friend suggested that perhaps this it was the retail price of the Torino, if this is it he may have got it appraised by Merl the Earl or someone that morning or the previous evening, before Huggy’s confirmation call even came in, which could be another layer to his thinking) and I find that I wanted to clarify and add something I overlooked:

        when I said that secretly paying that much money to spare your friend grief isn’t normal for friendships, I meant it isn’t really normal for any typical relationship of any sort (with the exception, perhaps, of older sibling/younger sibling), not because of the level of sacrifice required, but because of the level of unilaterally chosen responsibility involved. The term “friendship,” however, covers such an impossibly broad variety of dynamics, some of them very unconventional, that it’s a very hard relationship to pigeonhole into “normal behavior”. People who speak the English language describe a huge range of different relationships that don’t fall into the categories of familial or romantic as friendships, and don’t really have unique terms to define them more specifically (well, Aussies have the term “mates”, which is a special subset of friend characterized by extreme overriding loyalty, but I don’t think it’s ever used in the northern hemisphere). There’s a big difference between your friendship with a mentor a few years older than you, with a childhood friend you grew up with, with a guy who you haven’t spoken to in years but who you have deep loyalty for because you served in the army/went to college/[insert other deep bonding experience here] together, with someone who you trust and admire and love but interact with for just a few hours each week, and with a guy you share 75% of your life and 100% of your job with.

        So it’s also possible that his decision isn’t because of Starsky’s personal attitude towards his friends and loved ones, but because the sense of responsibility and duty that Starsky may have for Hutch and for taking care of Hutch’s feelings may well be quite different than those of a different pair of best friends who may love each other but have a very different type of relationship when it comes to the separation of their identities or their understanding of what’s reasonable in their obligation to protect each other. I just can’t say for sure because Hutch has never been put in the same position with regards to Starsky, so I can’t compare or contrast their approaches.

        Sorry for the unsolicited extra editorial! 😀

    • DRB Says:

      Witnessing the overpowering scene of the discovery of Gillian’s body evokes such strong empathic grief for Hutch and Starsky in the viewers who love these characters. I cannot imagine anyone watching it once and moving on. It certainly called me back as I experienced what many have described here in very moving terms. I just have a few observations.

      Part of the power comes from the integrity of the writers in showcasing the character of the partners. In the midst of his grief and bewilderment, Hutch’s loyalty and intelligence influence his thinking. He keeps asking why?, and when Starsky tells him why, he is able to think of 3 reasons to maintain his loyalty to Gillian: 1) Starsky is lying. 2) Starsky doesn’t understand. 3) Gillian had another purpose at the parlor, i.e. “doing a story.” But Starsky’s intensity is convincing, and here Starsky’s own strength of character enables him to withstand the firestorm his integrity provokes. It takes tremendous resolve to confront his raging friend, and it shows in the trembling almost inaudible voice when he reminds Hutch, “You’re the best friend I got in the whole world.” This declaration is the strongest verbal expression of his love for Hutch in the entire series, in my opinion; even surpassing other instances in A Coffin for Starsky or The Plague. (The only declaration that comes close to matching this one is in The Game when he says in essence that if Hutch dies, he won’t give a damn what happens to himself.) I am intrigued to notice that Hutch makes an aborted movement towards Starsky at this point of the scene, but it takes the final question,” Do you think I like saying things like this to you?” to finally break through his defenses.

      And, oh my, that wondrous, loving embrace. Starsky wraps his arms around Hutch in an effort to absorb his grief and impart his own strength, and then hugs him even closer as the scalding tears continue. Anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of such an embrace (my grandfather hugged me that way at my dad’s funeral) will never forget it. No wonder Hutch teared up in “Partners” when Starsky told the story of that horrible day. The horror is redeemed by the beauty of a compassionate, entirely selfless love.

      One final note: Anyone who has ever acted even in a minor way (an high school play, for instance) recognizes that such strong emotion is not something you can fake. No wonder everyone was in tears after filming it. The emotions were too real, and that is why we are not likely to see such a scene in other productions. It is amazing that these two men were willing to let anyone else see that deeply into their own souls.

  18. Dianna Says:

    Ah, here I am watching this episode again.

    Right after Gillian says, “I’ll tell him tonight,” Starsky grimaces, stands up, then bends down as if to pick something up. It rustles like paper, and when he glances back at Gillian, you can hear him slapping it against his hand. I believe he has picked up the envelope of money and takes it with him.

    He would have left it behind if the conversation had gone a different way, with a more venal Gillian saying, “Fine! I’ll take your money and leave town!” But instead she protests her love, and promises to tell Hutch, which means she doesn’t need money to start a shop in Cleveland.

    I love the way Gillian clutches the pillow to her chest and rocks back and forth like an inconsolable child. And after she again declares her love, and how lucky Hutch is to have both of them love him, Starsky acknowledges it with the barest nod, and then yanks the door open in a way that clearly expresses his frustration and bitterness about the misery Hutch will feel when he faces the truth.

    This really is a well-played scene, even if it is overshadowed by The Scene.

    Oh, one more thing — when Olga shows the guys her books, I noticed that Stardust Books (Harry’s store) is in the ledger.

    No, I’m not obsessive. Why do you ask? 😉

  19. stybz Says:

    I too loved The Scene and the ones where Starsky wrestles with what to do. I didn’t have a problem with him giving Gillian money. He probably struggled with what would be the lesser blow and thought her leaving town would be better. She could have lied to Hutch and said she needed to go back to Cleveland to tend to a sick relative. She could promise him that she’ll come back at some point. It’s another lie, but Starsky probably felt that since she lied to Hutch already, what was one more to spare him the pain of the truth?

    Interesting comment about Starsky ordering the veteran cop. This is not the first time I’ve heard people comment on this type of scenario on a cop show. We have to remember that age does not always dictate rank. Even in the corporate world, while people may not like it, there are executives that are younger than their employees.

    In this case, we may have to look at the career choices between the two men. Starsky chose to become a plain clothes policeman. I believe he’s also a sergeant, which may mean he outranks the veteran who is still a patrolman, which might have been his career choice. Some cops thrive on being on the streets, in uniform, out on patrol, while others – like Starsky and Hutch – decide they’d like to do more detective work. I figure it boils down on whether you prefer to prevent the crimes as they happen or track down the offenders after the fact, although in some cases Starsky and Hutch are involved in both roles. 🙂

    Also, since they are detectives and they’re in charge of the crime scene, it’s understood that they’re going to boss the uniforms around. 🙂

    I see Hutch’s relationship with Gillian as a whirlwind romance that just knocked Hutch off his feet. If we see it that way, it’s easier to take. Add to it the fact that he could be rebounding from Abby. That’s enough to blind someone a bit. 🙂

    I thought Gillian was a fool to go to Olga before she packed up her apartment. She also hands Olga her key. That was a risk, giving Olga her key and going back. Now, maybe she hoped that everyone would think she already left and wouldn’t be at the apartment, but it was still a huge risk.
    I liked that she slapped Olga. It took some guts.

    I liked how Starsky slowly tried to pull himself up off the floor just before Hutch grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. We don’t see his face, just the weariness of his form, slumping for a moment just before he raises his arm to the top of the sofa.

  20. Dianna Says:

    stybz, I like that interpretation a lot.

    It’s a bit ironic then, that he tries to protect Hutch from Gillian, but is so dismissive of his worries in Fatal Attraction.

    • stybz Says:

      Fatal Charm? I haven’t watched that yet, so I’ll have to see if I change my tune when I do. 🙂

    • Anna Says:

      Interesting comparison – I wonder if maybe Starsky is more protective of Hutch when it comes to emotional harm, but thinks that heartbreak is the only harm women can inflict on a man, so he kind of shrugs Diana off as not worth worrying about in Fatal Charm because Hutch wasn’t in love with Diana.

    • stybz Says:

      I watched Fatal Charm the other night and I feel that it’s a very different situation. I agree with Anna that Hutch wasn’t in love with Diana, which made for a less intense situation and one that Starsky had no clue would be so threatening. 🙂

  21. Sharon Marie Says:

    I think Starsky saw Diana as an unfortunate one night stand for Hutch and not a relationship Hutch was going to invest himself in.

    • Spencer Says:

      My take on the Gillian/Hutch relationship is that it was an intense infatuation, not true love. Although Gillian professes to love Hutch, the frequency with which she does so makes me wonder if she is actually trying to convince herself. While being beautiful and charming, she seems rather unstable and prone to really bad choices. I do believe she sincerely wants to get out of the Grossman organization but it seems as though she latched onto Hutch (being a cop) as a subconscious means to that end. And he, being rather insecure and easily taken in by beautiful yet damaged women, falls for it hook, line and sinker. This doesn’t mean he is any less shocked and devastated by her death, however. Starsky is the agonized bystander of all this drama which PMG plays out beautifully throughout the entire episode.

  22. Tanya Says:

    To Merl, and to all the people who commented here: I can’t begin to tell you how much these comments about this episode mean to me. For a long time, this episode has been, for me, one of those little events in a person’s life that are technically inconsequential but so precious and personal that you can’t really put into words the emotional reaction it elicited from you, or why it was so important. The effect and memory of watching it was so powerful and also somehow delicate that I have always felt the need to hide it away as something I never really discussed even with other fans. It seemed too private a moment to talk about, because anything that could be said of it wouldn’t match my experience.

    But my curiosity finally got the best of me and I read this review and these comments. I am so happy I did, because the commenters here have put many of my remembered reactions and feelings into way better words than I could have.

    If there was one word I had to use to describe this episode, it would be sublime. There’s a je ne sais quois that is impossible to ever forget because the bravery and sincerity of the portrayal of the exquisite love within the brutal, sordid situation makes it almost ethereal. In the review for “A Coffin for Starsky” there is a great point that “love and affection expressed by Starsky and Hutch is so sharply contrasted by the rough characters, lewd or ugly situations, dirty urban settings and grim dank hallways.” I don’t think there’s a single episode where this effect is stronger than it is here in “Gillian”.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Tanya, thank you so much for writing. What struck me about your wonderful comment was how perfectly it matched my own experience, that is, the intensely private experience of this episode, that ineffable, illuminating thing that there are no words for. For all the thousands and thousands of words I have now written on this episode and others I have still not adequately said what this episode means to me. For me, “Gillian” is emotional scaffolding, holding me up when I was in danger of collapse, something that reminded me of the good there was in this world and the strength needed to go out and find it; it was a gesture of love when there was no love to be had for me. Sublime really is the word. Thank you for saying it.

      • Tanya Says:

        That is a really wonderful thing for you to share, Merl. It’s so great to know that other people can understand that experience as more than watching a fictional event, something whose effect carries over into real life. That “ineffable thing” as you call it is something that can’t be translated through a third party unless the other people have already seen it themselves. If someone who’s never seen “Gillian” just read a TV Guide description and asked me “so, why’s this episode so great?” I’m sure my answer would be either nonsensical or a total butchering. It seems like the only answer is “you’ll know it if you see it.”

    • Anna Says:

      Tanya, this comment rings so true. I have discussed “Gillian” with other fans before, but I don’t think I’ve ever been able to really encapsulate the impact of this storyline (especially the main confrontation scene, but I think the unforgettable quality of this episode is not restricted to only that scene) in words. I’ve always had to just sort of assume that the other fans understand it too. “Sublime” is such a good word for it because it’s a word that’s also nearly impossible to explain without referring to examples.

  23. Spencer Says:

    Did I misunderstand the bit when Gillian explained that her father named her after a woman he fell in love with in England? Hopefully, that would have been Gillian’s mother – but she didn’t explain it that way. I find it strange that a woman would agree to name her child after another woman the father of her child was in love with (unless it was an unattainable movie star like Greta Garbo). Maybe that’s why Gillian was a bit messed up in the first place.

  24. Deb Says:

    I won’t comment on The Scene because I could never speak as eloquently as Merle and others have.
    My take on Starsky coming to Gillian with the packet of money is his way of confronting her with the knowledge that he knows about her. Not that he actually believes she will take him up on his offer. I think it was used as a conversation starter without being misconstrued as frontal attack. A way to break the ice and tell her that her secret had to be told without strongarming. It was an emotional strongarming. A way of calmly backing her into a corner.
    Another moment that shows how Starsky is still trying to protect Hutch is in theater when he shoots out the projecter. Grossman plays the film to destroy Hutch further and Starsky puts an end to it.
    Thanks to Merle for pointing out the one word conversations at the beginning and the end. I hadn’t picked up on that.

  25. Kit Sullivan Says:

    This is of course one of the iconic episodes that most casual observers remember dearly.
    To me, one of the things i really liked about this episode is that the new musical style was just really very apparent.
    Whereas I definitely prefer the driving and dramatic Lalo Schifrin score as the theme for the first season, I am not really a fan of the Tom Scott-written “Gotcha!” theme for the second (and fourth) season…although Scott’s theme has become the one most recognized over the years with the show.
    The incidental music used in this episode is listed in the end credits as composed by “Prigmore and Macleod”, but i have never been able to dig up any info about those names no matter how hard i look.
    The music used as the guys screech up to the alley-way and find Doodles Weaver as “Eddie” mourning the loss of his beaten-to-death friend “Lonely”…is just a fantastic piece of music to me.
    However, it is completely different musically from the first season…therefore imparting a totally different “tonality” to the feel of the show over all.
    NOTE: I am not very well educated musically, so it is difficult to express my opinions exactly…but I try!
    This type of music is a much more “hip” and funky style as opposed to the brutal and relentless music used in season 1.
    The same style of funky music is used again during the finale in the movie-house when the giys are closing in on “sonny boy” begins as Hutch begins his climb of the curtains to get to the balcony walk-way.
    And it is of course just a well-executed stunt, but Hutch’s kick to the face of the bad guy is very relaistic and makes me cringe in pain every time i see it.
    Hutch’s dramatic stalking up the stairs while Starsky boxes “sonny boy” in from the top of the stairs is pure magic…improved only by the great musical score used to puncuate the scene.
    For those interested, this bit of music used in this episode (and retracked for use in “Starsky & Hutch are Guilty”) sounds eerily like a hit song from the 1974 called “You Got the Love” by “Rufus and Chaka Kahn”.
    It sounds so similar that I suspaected for years that some of the musicians in “Rufus” must have been moonlighting and written some TV show music!
    Alas, no one named “Prigmore or Macleod” is listed as ever being in the band.
    Of course, the musical director of the TV show may have just instructed some on-the-payroll studio musicians to “Come up with something that sounds like this song” or something like that.
    No matter what, I love it!

    And on a related matter, it sure would be awesome if someday a soundtrack album of all “S&H” music was released, featuring all the theme music as well as the entire library of incidental music used throughout the series.
    “Star Trek” enjoyed a release last year of EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF MUSIC ever usd on the show…along with some usued cues. Hours and hours of music that “takes you back” when you hear it.
    Sure would be awesome to get a similar “S&H” release.
    Much of the music that Schifrin is famous for has been released and rereleased several times over the years: “Dirty Harry”, “Mission: Impossible”, “Mannix”…even “Rush Hour”.
    Why no “Starsky & Hutch”, Lalo? Why?

    It is probably all tied up in licensing issues, but maybe one day if we all keep our fingers crossed!

  26. Louie Says:

    Just a small additional comment. I just read the new comments that were made here since I last read this post a while ago…they are beautiful. Most of what is said here are things that I felt but never could bring into focus in my mind. I had noticed the continuity error of Starsky’s face being unbruised during the shootout scene even though Hutch hit him so hard it really should have been badly swollen. But when I thought about it…I thought that it would have felt weird to see the bruising. I didn’t know why I thought this, but Ruth’s “explanation” of why this error works fits so well. Maybe sometimes we can actually get *more* meaning out of an episode by approaching it as a story with a certain point…not just strictly looking at it like a documentary of something that happened the real world? Maybe it’s good to have a mix of the two approaches…whatever will let us get the most meaning out of an episode.

  27. Anna Says:

    This episode is really magical in a way unmatched by any other episode. I always felt that there was something about it that I could never put my finger on that gave it a quality that made it stand apart, not just from other episodes of this series but from pretty much every other depiction of combined friendship, grief, and comfort I’ve seen in a TV show or movie. The comments here are fascinating as deeper explorations of this episode’s implications and emotional effects, but I still can’t quite pinpoint what makes this episode so one-of-a-kind, “that ineffable, illuminating thing that there are no words for” as merl puts it. Maybe it isn’t a single something, but a perfect storm of a number of different factors that all improbably come together just right to make this episode? I can’t really tell.

    On another note, though, there are so many great scenes in this episode that are overshadowed by THE big scene. For example, the alleyway shootout, when Hutch freezes. I wonder precisely what the narrative function of this scene was meant to be. Is it meant to show Starsky and the audience just how deeply in love with Gillian, and how emotionally compromised by that love he was, in order to lay the groundwork for Starsky’s decision to secretly make Gillian leave town, or Hutch’s explosive reaction to her death? Or was it more of just an aside, to explore how outside emotional commitments can affect their work, that was placed into this episode because it made sense in context here?

    If it’s the former, it’s an unusually deft bit of plotting. In particular, it very subtly but effectively foreshadows The Scene by showing both Starsky’s deep compassion and supportiveness for Hutch, and Hutch’s total trust in and ability to be emotionally naked with Starsky (“I’m scared” he says, without any cover up). When these things (trust, love, compassion, strength/dependence) are echoed in The Scene (“how many years have we known each other, huh? You’re the best friend I got in the world…”), it has much more emotional credence and immediacy because this alley scene is fresh in our minds, I believe.

  28. Miche Says:

    What a treat to have this site to share thoughts and feelings that have been with me for 35+ years, and to know they will probably be understood. I found S&H as reruns in the early 80s. I would watch it as I fixed dinner for my family. I still remember the night I saw the Gillian eps. As I watched the scene where Hutch falls into Starsky’s arms crying, I was floored. Even after all these years, I still remember standing in the middle of the kitchen mesmerized & glued to the TV, it was an unforgettable moment. I don’t know if I put words to it back then but I remember falling in love with those two characters and their relationship. I had never seen two men express love so freely and intimately and it touched my heart forever. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever witnessed. It cracked my heart open in a new way.

    I only caught a show here and there as I had two young kids and did not have means to record back then. Twenty years later I again caught the reruns and became interested in seeing all the eps. I searched online and joined a S&H fandom for a couple of years. I learned a lot about the show and the two lead actors. I believe I managed to see all the eps on VHS tapes although they were many scenes deleted. I purchased the VHS tapes when they came out but the series was not complete. I also purchased through other fans many interviews on VHS that I later got rid of as life moved on, shucks… Fast-forward 20 more years and here I am, with a new-found appreciation for the show, and for DS and PMG.

    I experience a lot of nostalgia getting back into it and reading everyone’s comments here, it is so interesting. I am blown away by everyone’s eloquence and sincerity. I think the fact that DS and PMG are 74 years old this year tugs at the heartstrings. And maybe the fact that I am only 10 years younger hits home. So much life has happened for all of us. For me, learning more about each of them and seeing them together, especially in more informal interviews as in Comic Con this year… has deepened my appreciation for their roles as S&H and for them as human beings. Forty or even twenty years ago, I maybe did not see as deeply what I see today when I watch the show. There is so much love in their eyes, it is hypnotizing and heart-melting. It is undeniably hard to believe it could strictly be acting. When I see them together, it’s all there, the same way it’s all there in front of the camera. DS is the epitome of tenderness, that man has a big sensitive heart, and PMG is emotional and spiritual. I am not implying they are perfect, no one is. What these two men share, as did their characters, is in a league of its own. It is warm, affectionate, deeply loving, intimate and in my eyes, private. I can see why they have both expressed in the past the difficulty of putting into words what others call ‘their chemistry’. It is one of life’s blessings and great mysteries. We are blessed to witness all of it and to have the capacity to be touched by it in a unique way.

    Merl, you rock! I don’t know if you are a serious writer in your every day life but you should be. There are many words I need to look up when I read your comments – my excuse is that I am French 🙂 – but even though the language is very rich, there is a deeper level underlying your words, it does not come across as a desire to be fancy, it is very touching and true. I’m thinking it is the deep love in your heart for the show and for life that we capture. So thank you for the gift.

  29. DRB Says:

    As is usual for me when reading any sort of series, I started in the middle of this blog and jumped forward and back so that practically everything is experienced “out of order.” (I do not do it intentionally.) That explains how the blog about Vanessa’s murder was so fresh in my mind while reading this entry. A reader suggested that Hutch was a battered husband after seeing Vanessa’s vicious clawing of Hutch’s hand. If that is true, then Starsky must know at least some of the situation because the marriage existed when he and Hutch became partners. The theory would certainly answer our questions about why Starsky is so protective. Seeing “the best friend I got in the whole world” through that trauma would naturally inspire Starsky to think almost any sacrifice is worth keeping pain away from Hutch. Mere money is a trifle when compared to guarding Hutch’s heart.

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