Episode 34: Bloodbath

Followers of cult leader Simon Marcus kidnap Starsky and threaten to kill him if their leader is not released from prison.

Simon Marcus: Aesop Aquarian, Gail: Patricia Pearcy, Luke: Anthony James, Matthew: Frank Doubleday, Peter: John Horn, Merle “The Earl”: Raymond Allen, RJ Crow: James Brown, Judge Yager: William Bowers. Written By: Christopher Joy, & Wanda Coleman, Ron Friedman, Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser.


Directorial notes: David Soul has rarely looked better than in this episode directed by his friend Glaser. He’s often filmed with the camera positioned below eye-level, tilting up to emphasize his height and innate grace. Scenes such as the stride down the empty hall at the courthouse, the interrogation of Simon Marcus, beseeching the cult members at the storefront, and when questioning Crow at the ranch are particularly noteworthy: not only does David Soul physically (and aesthetically) dominate these scenes, he gets to deliver extended, beautifully-articulated lines of dialogue.

Glaser is an inventive and idiosyncratic director, and the episodes he directs are always fun to watch. There are many visual puns and tricks adding another layer to the story, especially the theme of distortion and misapprehension, which is wound throughout the episode starting with the very first shot to the last. The one of Hutch pulling up in front of the abandoned storefront, a triple reflection shot, is particularly impressive.

Of special note is the wonderfully named Aesop Aquarian, who is mesmerizing as cult leader Simon Marcus (the names in reverse work even better, amusingly enough). Obviously based on Charles Manson, his performance is calm and nuanced. He doesn’t overdo the creepy and keeps his voice silky and hypnotic. You have to look hard to see even a hint of Marcus’ hatred, madness and rage, and yet it manages to permeate every scene he is in. His unflappable introversion is a wonderful foil to the hair-trigger temper of Hutch, and their scenes together are unforgettable.

Merle’s car business has a different name in each of the episodes it is seen in. Earl’s Custom Car Cult and Body Shop, Merle the Earl’s Custom Car and Earl the Pearl Auto Repair. Continuity error, or is it Merle’s idea to keep changing the name of his business? (here, as well as “Jojo” and “Game”.) This goes, too, to the misspelling of Merle’s name on his own sign. Perhaps he changes his mind so often the sign-painters just got it wrong. Merle’s a star with his deathless line (uttered from beneath the car): “I’ve seen cars on Mars, and I’ve seen peanuts in the White House, but I’ve never seen anything so disgusting.”

Merle refers to them as one person, “Starskinson,” when stuck under a car and requesting help.

“It’s tough being a celebrity, huh,” Starsky says as they dodge the press going into the courtroom. An inside joke, surely. They both look frustrated and resigned at being bothered by shouting reporters. Despite this scene, Starsky and Hutch dealing with reporters is kept at a complete minimum throughout the series, even though one would think juggling the media’s demands would be a much bigger part of their job, given all those dramatic cases. It could be a sign of the times that the press is kept at a more respectful distance than we’re used to seeing now, or a choice the writers made, but nevertheless the absence is notable. Even in “The Heroes”, the only episode to deal overtly with journalism, they are merely stock characters in Chris Phelps’ story rather than the focus of it.

Why are Starsky and Hutch in the courtroom at all? This is the sentencing portion of the trial for Simon Marcus and they’re not required to give testimony. I can understand Dobey being there – the arrest being a feather in the department’s cap – but the two detectives? Also, in thinking about this court case, I wonder if any ex-members have given testimony, or if any other “lieutenants” in the cult face similar charges. In these sorts of organizations there are usually others who are just as evil as the bigshot in the center.

What does the judge think when the bailiff brings him the handwritten note: Where is Starsky? From all appearances, nothing at all. I realize he’s obviously spent many hours preparing for and writing his detailed sentencing report, but how can he be so disinterested in such a menacing handwritten note? He just points to Hutch and keeps going. Is he a cool customer, myopic, or merely indifferent to anything outside court procedure? And by the way, how would he even know enough about the detectives assigned to the case to be able to point out one of them to the bailiff? Is that usual?

The courtroom is empty of the various retirees and law students and serial killer fans who would love to see the sentencing phase of this notorious case. This means the judge has decided to close the courtroom to spectators and the press. Of course the judge can do whatever he wants, but it’s fun to speculate why he made the decision in this case. From his sour demeanor, I’m guessing he despises anything that could be termed “hoopla”.

Hutch is amused by Starsky’s odd habit before sentencing. “When it works, stick with it,” he tells Dobey. This absence of disdain is much like his reaction to Starsky’s loss of a pet rock in “Committee”, proof of his true sanguine nature, hidden carefully under outward bitterness and sarcasm. Much of the time these displays are mere performances for Starsky’s benefit anyway.

Marcus has an inverted cross on his forehead during sentencing. He does not have it when Hutch later questions him in prison, which means it was impermanent, that he drew it on during his trial as Charles Manson did during his (an X, either carved into his forehead or drawn on, frankly it makes me too ill to do dig too deeply into the facts).

Twice Starsky’s name is written in red on something as a message. (here, and in “Plague”). One is a threat and one is a reassurance, both are meant to invoke a powerful emotional response in Hutch and spur him to action.

What exactly do the cult members think Hutch can do after they kidnap his partner? You don’t ever want to get him mad. Most importantly, he has no control over the legal system. Even if he withdraws his testimony there is probably a lot of forensic evidence and other eyewitnesses. There’s just no way someone accused of multiple murders in the first degree would ever be freed over one detective’s actions or inactions.

Dobey is shouting in an uncontrolled rage into the police receiver. “One of my men has been kidnapped!” This right in front of a gaggle of onlookers and reporters, which is extremely bad judgement on his part. The chief of detectives losing his cool and making inflammatory statements should be headline news, but Dobey is saved from infamy because the clueless reporter has not heard it.

The interrogation scenes between Marcus and Hutch are really the core of the episode. There are many excellent choices made by the actors and director, including the chalky mint green of the room itself, which flatters Hutch’s chlorinated blondness to an extraordinary degree. The calm and quiet of these scenes, with Hutch’s powerful emotions simmering below the surface, provide a nice balance to the action taking place elsewhere. It’s wonderful to watch Hutch battle an adversary with the same level of intelligence and linguistic ability. It is a titanic clash of wills and every moment is magical.

A note here about the unusual trio of names Marcus’ followers give him. For reasons never explained, they vary between the traditional Simon, the French-flavored Simone, and the quasi-sexual variant of See-men. The last is always at the climax of rhythmic chanting, which causes me to wonder if there is subliminal homoeroticism thrown into the already-pungent mix.

The persistence in this episode of sacrifice, physical torment and a certain sadomasochistic prurience gives a distinct mythological or even Biblical flavor to this episode, even beyond the foggy theology of the cult. Starsky’s capture, restraint, ritualistic bathing and chase through the caves has many classical elements of Greek myth involving descent into the underworld as part of a painful and complex journey of self actualization. Hutch, too, is on a similar journey through hell, but his is more illusory, the dark chambers of a tormented mind in which he must immerse himself in order to find truth. While Starsky’s trials are physical, Hutch’s are psychological – even his desperate aggression against Marcus as he throws him against the wall is useless, and he knows it. Starsky and Hutch, therefore, are two parts of a whole: body and mind. One is below ground, one is above.

Why does Marcus aid Hutch? Because he does, repeatedly. “Start where it stops. Begin your search at the ending.” There is very little chance he feels remorse for what his followers have done. He has no interest in Starsky’s life. He seems to believe he stands a good chance of release, either through a mistrial or charges dropped if Starsky – who is obviously his main witness – is killed or otherwise prevented from testifying (legal impossibility notwithstanding). So why does he provide so many useful clues? Does teasing make him feel powerful? Is he so sure the White Knight will fail? One thing we all know for sure is that cult leaders and other monumentally egotistic ripoff artists love the mind games, and of course Simon is no different. History is rife with sex-obsessed miscreants with God complexes, but here Simon is portrayed with an unusual spiritual, even supernatural power I find fascinating. He’s almost beautiful, and with a charisma that makes it easy to imagine he’s quite good at attracting followers – much more believable than the craven Rodell in “Satan’s Witches”. But if he enjoys tormenting Hutch so much by offering glimmers of hope, then why not point him in the opposite direction and see what entertaining mishaps are caused by that? Or is this an impossibility, since he claims he cannot lie?

Starsky gives a clue to the true extent of the crimes committed by Marcus and his cult when, blindfolded and tied up, he wonders if they’ve given up “molesting children” and are going after cops instead.

This is the first of two frightening dolls built by bomb-makers in the series (here, and in “Golden Angel”). Whose idea was it to go to all that trouble in this case? Rigging a jack-in-the-box with Starsky’s badge is a bit of time-consuming nonsense that doesn’t advance the cultists’ efforts, and shock value aside, all it does is make Hutch even angrier and more determined than he already is. Maybe this points to a basic tenet of the cult’s theosophy. After all, Marcus is also cuffing Hutch around, verbally. Perhaps if we stumbled upon the Book of Simon Marcus we would discover this: Ch 62, V 9: thou shalt prove dominion over those who condemn you as a cat does with a mouse.

As Hutch realizes the blood probably came from a ranch and starts trying to find out where it might be, there’s Ollie sitting on the filing cabinet, staring out with its black button eyes.

We can see the Gail character is based on Patty Hearst, infamous heiress whose allegiance to her captives is a well-known example of Stockholm Syndrome, and we understand her actions, however cruel, aren’t really her fault, that she is probably just a nice girl drugged or brainwashed into following orders. Yet she is more like a whiny, extraneous and annoying bother than a tragic victim. Throughout, she does things supposed to be spooky and culty but instead are eye-rollingly dumb. Why doesn’t she just unbutton Starsky’s shirt? Why cut the buttons off with a big scary knife? If Gail has status within the organization, as it appears she does, why is she always whimpering?

Aside from looking cool, why does Hutch make a 360 degree spin in the dust by the ranch in the Torino and waste valuable time when he goes after van?

“I really like being in deep water,” Starsky says from the bath. “Loosens everything up. Especially the ropes.” Hmm. Seems to me water would swell the ropes, making the knots tighter and more difficult to undo.

The bear, like Gail, is an unnecessary complication. Don’t the writers have enough confidence in a bunch of murdering, molesting, cow-mutilating nutbars? Why throw a bear into the mix? What, burning spears, bombs and communal insanity not scary enough? Of course on a purely metaphorical level the bear could represent the malevolent forces simmering in the unconscious, and we could make a solid point that this is so, but there’s something so very earthy, even brute, about this episode, something that resists the abstract. For instance, the cult members are less spiritual than they are physical, both Starsky and Hutch encountering a violent mass of yearning and despair that feels remarkably carnal. Marcus, who has presented himself as a demigod, nevertheless rots in jail playing useless mind games. So, the bear. Metaphor maybe, but I just feel sorry for this bear and wonder where they got such an exotic animal in the first place and how these idiots can possibly care for him. Was he left over from the old zoo? How could the city lose a black bear? Are they feeding him stolen cattle from Crow’s ranch? Feeding him at all? When the cult is violently dismantled – and you know that’s gonna happen – what happens to the bear? Are there rehabilitation centers able to take him, or will he have to be destroyed? Isn’t the bear as sad a case of Stockholm Syndrome as Gail is? These concerns prove the addition of a bear does not add to a viewer’s concentration or aid in the suspension of disbelief. Although the shock on Starsky’s face when he sees him is sort of worth it. You can read his mind. Oh shit, I’m wet, I’m in a dumb wet bathrobe, I’m injured, I don’t know where I am, I’m surrounded by lunatics, and now there’s a bear.

Starsky’s habit of falling back on charm and flippancy when in mortal danger is one we see often. The glib comments that probably serve to focus his mind and fool his enemies into thinking he’s less dangerous than he really is. I like how one of the followers says, about the bear, “be careful, he bites” and Starsky says, “so do I.”

Why do Simon’s followers abandon the van by the ranch? Dobey thinks it is by accident while Hutch seems to doubt it. In any case, it is a forensic bonanza and a bad move by the cult members, who should be more savvy by now considering they have been operating for years. But of course it doesn’t help the immediate problem.

The second conversation with Marcus is as good as the first, as Hutch goes deeper into the mind, asking Marcus to remember his past. Here, the emphasis is on Hutch’s expressive hands, which he uses to both magnify and clarify his words, and – remarkably – symbolize that he has now given himself over to Marcus. It’s not just a police interrogation trick. At the moment Hutch lays his hands on the table he puts himself deliberately at a disadvantage. He lays his weapons down. He surrenders. This is an extraordinary gesture in a man as headstrong and powerful as Hutch is, and shows his sensitivity and intelligence far better than swinging punches or grabbing the throats of the cult members. He is willing to sacrifice himself, just as Starsky is an unwilling sacrifice. He’s saying take me instead.

Marcus responds. He tells a story about his childhood, and then provides, in riddles, clues to Starsky’s whereabouts. Again, we’re reminded of his remarkably potent spiritualism, which mingles unsettlingly with the shifty, treacherous look on his face. Even more remarkably, we believe his story. However he is trying to manipulate Hutch, this story still has the undeniable ring of truth. It’s easy to imagine Simon Marcus was once a small, underweight boy bullied into making the kind of vows that shifts an unremarkable person into a power-hungry psychopath. I’ll get you all. Two things become clear at this point: that Marcus, despite everything, still believes he’s going to win. And that he may understand faith – he says it often enough – he doesn’t understand love.

Dobey and Hutch sit in all night in the office talking about the clues in Marcus’s speech. They both talk about tapes. And yet are no machines in the interrogation room. Perhaps the writers felt it was an intrusion into the simplicity and power of the scenes to have Hutch operate a tape recorder, pressing “play” and “pause” and changing tapes. Or maybe this is another example of the continuity sloppiness that is both a bane and a joy for close observers.

Dobey shows his derisive and antagonistic feelings for Huggy. Dobey is old school, and obviously doesn’t approve of Huggy’s lifestyle, but it seems if there’s some ethnic discomfort there as well. This is proof Dobey is better suited for bureaucracy than hardcore detective work. He’s downright obstructive in accepting Huggy’s help; when Huggy makes a comment about the old civic zoo, Dobey snaps, “that’s you live, isn’t it”, which is unnecessarily hostile, especially since this is the clue that solves the case. Hutch is annoyed by Dobey’s childish behavior enough to say, “oh, come on” when the squabbling goes on too long.

Isn’t it unusual to have a citizen like Huggy come into the inner echelons of a police station – the office of the chief of detectives, no less – to go through evidence? Why did Hutch feel Huggy would provide something he couldn’t, and how could anyone guess Stony Black, a small-time coke dealer, would be a pivotal clue?

Ever the perfectionist Glaser had himself really tied up and dangling, so that his hands were swollen and discolored by the end of the scene.

It’s too bad Gail is stuck between the two at the end, so the pieta is imbalanced. One wishes Hutch would just gently toe her away with his shoe.

Tag: Why does Merle goes to all the trouble to outfit Hutch’s car interior with the hilarious variety of faux-fur upholstery, including the steering wheel, if he hates the car so much? “Garbage belongs with garbage!” he shouts. Oh yeah? Why the artistic treatment, then, if it’s all a practical joke? From Starsky’s bewilderment we see he didn’t put Merle up to it.

But the real payoff in the tag is the fact it mirrors nearly exactly the episode as a whole. It is the light side after all that darkness. Merle uses the same inventive, synonym-rich style of speech as Marcus does (instead of forest, granite and Polaris, now it’s “in the bottom of the sewer, in the basement of a glue factory”). He also runs a “car cult”. He has been holding the car hostage, transforming it into a more elevated state through extreme measures. Instead of bearskin, there are tiger stripes. He acts in direct opposition to Hutch, similarly pushing him to anger (which may be partially theatrical) and an act of violent retribution. Like Marcus, Merle is immune to criticism and does not listen to authority. He believes he is right above all others. He believes he has a gift that marks him as special, outside society’s rules, which gives him dispensation to do what he likes. The car is covered in a black shroud much like Starsky’s sacrificial black robes.

Clothing notes: Hutch is a sartorial star in this, wearing brown leather jacket, pinkish-brown shirt and tie with aqua, white and brown diagonal stripes, brown slacks and brown shoes. Starsky is notable for briefly having no clothes at all.


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41 Responses to “Episode 34: Bloodbath”

  1. Shelley Says:

    Hi merltheearl, you answered one of my previous comments by saying there is a lot of unintentional sadism in this show. After seeing this episode, I have to wonder how unintentional it is! 😉 They’ve got the poor guy strung up, surrounded by chanting people in dark hooded robes, holding baseball bats, chains and various sharp objects. Yike!

    I thought that Hutch having to be driving Starsky’s car around lent a poignant touch to everything.

    The scene in Dobey’s office made both Hutch and Dobey look dense. They’re going, “Stars . . . sky. Stars . . . sky.” I’m going, “C’mon guys!!”

    Did you understand Simon’s emphasis on “Begin where it ended”?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Simon is intentionally obfuscating when he talks, burying real information with false, so his comment about “beginning at the ending” I take with a grain of salt. Hutch may be right when he says he thinks it may refer to the storefront, the scene of the initial arrest. If this is true, Simon is telling Hutch his followers will give him nothing, a fact that soon bears out. But another intrepretation may be a more philosophical one: Simon may be implying life is an ever-turning wheel, that the beginning of life and its brutal end are one in the same, and so pursuing a logical starting point is impossible.

      What is notable too about these jailhouse conversations is the staging: by sitting together, hands on the table, leaning into one another, it seems as if they are conferring rather than sparring. This makes the lack of information, the cruel misdirections, and Hutch’s quiet frustration, even more poignant.

  2. Shelley Says:

    I watched the episode again to look for some details you had mentioned. I would never have noticed the teddy bear, for instance. What an odd filing cabinet decoration.

    I don’t get either why Hutch does the 360 at the ranch, as it lets the bad guy get away.

    Starsky’s habit of starting to jokingly babble when he’s in a stressful, menacing or uncomfortable situation is indeed noticeable. Like also how he starts telling Gail that he likes showers better than baths, and so on.

    I wonder why Gail doesn’t dress like the others? Has she got some kind of higher status?

    One thing that struck me as exceptionally weird — when the camera would occasionally zero in on one cult member chanting “Simon” (Simone), one of those members seemed to be vigorously chanting, “Semen! Semen!”

  3. Survivor Says:

    Merle, you’ve done it again! Your analysis of ‘Bloodbath’ captures the dark intertwined complexities, strong characterisations and stark confrontations in this episode. I agree with your mythical connection between Starsky’s underworld torment and Hutch’s above-ground torture, seeing S&H as one embodiment. Personally, too, S&H never seem so connected as when they are torn apart, like here. Love your parallels, too, between Simon Marcus and Merle the Earl – now that one I never had thought of before now! Thank you 🙂

  4. Kit Sullivan Says:

    I must have seen this episode 20 times over the years, and Hutch’s dirt-throwing wild 360-degree spin in the Torino has always bugged me as a stupid, pointless maneuver.
    Leave it to my wife to point out the all-too-obvious to me: As Hutch runs for the Torino, he wildly looks all around, trying to spot Marcus’s followers, but he never seems to locate any before he gets in the car.
    His manic, tire-spinning circle creates a dust cloud that serves as somewhat of a rudimentary cover or “smoke screen” to hopefully provide him with a little better chance of making his escape from the ranch.
    At least that’s what my wife got from the scene, and that was the first time she saw it.
    Good enough for me!

    Another point about this episode that kinda’ bugged me over the years is this: Why is Hutch driving the Torino instead of his own car? Is his broken, in the shop getting fixed? He has always displayed a casual indifference to the Torino, never letting Starsky bask in the satisfaction of knowing that his Torino is appreciated by Hutch. It seems Hutch would much prefer to be in his own vehicle, a comfortable and well-known commodity in a stressful, distracting time.
    On the other hand, is Hutch afraid that Starsky will be killed before he can rescue him? Or maybe he secretly belives he is already dead, but hasn’t the bravery to actually admit that to himself. If this were the case, it then makes sense that Hutch would definitely want to drive the Torino, to hold on to whatever “Starsky” essence may be left for him to grab. And he may even be thinking that if he does rescue Starsky, the comfort and familiarity of the Torino may give Starsky a bit of extra comfort in the recovery of a stressful situation.

  5. Survivor Says:

    In response to Kit’s comment, I like your wife’s explanation of Hutch doing the doughnut outside the farmhouse. We also wondered about it, and had thought it was symptomatic of Hutch being addled after the bomb blast. (We also jokingly thought perhaps it was Mr Glaser as director telling his co-star to give the Torino – the car he loved to hate – a good rugged workout … take it for a spin as it were!)

    I also like your comment about why Hutch is driving the Torino. I agree the Torino is a fitter car and it keeps Starsky ever present in all our minds. And I think there is a poignancy about this – especially but fleetingly noticeable when Hutch leaves the cultists after his unsuccessful interrogation, and walks slowly to the parked Torino, giving it a soft pat on the boot as he walks to the driver’s door. A nice touch by both director and actor.

  6. Survivor Says:

    Oh, I also meant to say about the cars, Hutch didn’t drive his LTD in this episode as it was in the shop with Merle the Earl.

  7. Kerry C. Says:

    Ok can’t help myself…got to get into this blurb on Bloodbath after just having watched it AGAIN… Now it occurs to me when these script writers do/did the draft or story, are they like writers in a novel where they might start with a muse running madly in their head and then it unravels itself? Or do/ did they sit down and intentionally plot out a script with all of the necessary threads being pulled… Hutch’s car in at Merles first = fact that Hutch must drive Torino. One is a pragmatic and consequential result of his car being in at the repair shop, the other lures us to the possibilities that we have sentimentalism and devotion by Hutch as an undercurrent. Did we have the LTD (or whatever the Hutch’s bomb of the year was then) in at Merle’s first? or did we want Hutch driving the Torino dramatically all over the countryside in pursuit of Marcus’ men/ coming out of the futile confrontation with the cult members to find the jack in the box in the front seat etc…all to bring him and keep him closer to his beloved Starsky? OR did they just start with Merles as a tag and opener and then follow on from there. Which came first? How much thought I wonder really went into these original scripts versus how much did DS and PMG instill into the takes themselves with their own creative and envelope pushing styles?

    To me Bloodbath will always stand out as a wonderful example of the sheer potency that a Hutch on a mission (particularly a full blown “save my partner” mission) performance can evoke. Calmer and less demonstrative than his partner, he is by no means less threatening or ruthless in his pursuit of what he is after. Quiet menace is his forte.

    Bloodbath was Hutch’s/ David Soul’s platform and I am sure that PMG as director made that a his goal from the outset. I think he more than achieved it….even if (tongue in cheek here) he nearly blew it by spluttering himself silly in the rescue scene. I think he wouldn’t have lost it had not that stupid vapid Gail had not been hanging onto his leg. She stuffed up a wonderful scene and I agree – Merle – she should have been more that toed away – kicked off the platform altogether!

    God to be a fly on the wall at those shoots!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Kerry, I also wonder how the writer(s) come up with their scripts. You’re right wo wonder about the “coincidental” loss of Hutch’s car. My father, a struggling novelist in the mid-1970s, wrote several scripts for a relatively famous television series in an attempt to get some paid work. In his experience (and this may not have been the case for the more upscale S&H) although one person writes the basic script there is a whole roomful of people with various (and nefarious) motives descending on the 20-page script as soon as it hits the production office, ruthlessly changing every aspect of the story to satisfy the cynical, money-driven demands of the studio. In my father’s case, a complex, multi-layered script in which the comical bad guy pulls off a surprising coup – thereby adding dimension to his one-note villainy – was quickly watered down to a standard, forgettable story in which the bland hero again wins the day.

      The writers of “Bloodbath” (gosh how I dislike that title, which I’m almost certain came from studio heads rather than the writers) most likely had more lovely, intelligent details red-penciled by others. Sometimes I wonder about the spirit-crushing work of script writer, watching your work dwindle away as shooting progresses. Or, in this case, “spruced up” with the addition of doe-eyed Gail suction-cupped to Starsky’s leg. And yes, you’re right, a swift kick would not be out of place.

      • kit sullivan Says:

        Having written and submitted several scripts to various series over the years, I too am somewhat familiar with the meat-grinder effect that committe script sriters are subjected to o
        To be clear, I have submitted dozens, yet only one was ever purchased ( a story idea actually). I was not offered to opportunity to turn in a firsy draft. I was only paid for the story idea. I did get to see the script go through many revisions until it ended up “gold”. (Revised shooting script).
        Typically the show-runners are more intimate with the overall needs of a story as it pertains to the overall consistency of the series in whole than any typical random freelance writer. The story arc of the entire season or even the series is also not fully understood by freelance writets, even though the writers guide will dictate most parameyets for them.
        The in-house re-writing process is a neccessary evil, to the utter dismay of any writer who puts his heart and soul into “his” story.
        On tbe other hand, many productions generate thier story ideas internally, and then hand out writing assigments to various writers to “flesh out” the basic premise of the plot.
        At any rate, many story elements are retroactively added to an existing script, that then requires additional or altered scenes to make them “work”.
        I can imagine that the original version of “Bloodbath” had Hutch driving his car during the story, but during rewrites it was decided that having him drive the Torino would be more beneficial to the series overall for several reasons:
        1) the Torino was definitely a “star” in the show, and knowing that the fans like to see that car, it would only make sense to use it whenever possible or appropriate.
        2) having Hutch drive Starsky’s car may also have been chosen for character reasons, to reinforce Htch’s desperate goal to “stay connected” to Starsky. This is good for overall chara

        Once it was decided Hutch would drive the Torino while looking for Starsky, it then became neccessary to have some rudimentary explanation as to why in story-considerations he would not logically be using his own car. Thus, the teaser at Mearl’s establishing that Hutch’s car was not avsailable to him for the duration of this story becomes the plot device that sets up the story’s log
        An established series with some “history”, somec well-fined characters and an overall “personality” will basically only work hard to develop basic story ideas…the rewriting proccess is typically a by-the-numbets proccess as the finished shooting script figuratively “writes itself”.
        Many writers hate the rewriting process that takes thier pridevand joy story elements and sends them through tbe meat-grinder to just become…another typical episode.
        If the show-runners and rewriters are talented, they can find ways to keep wonderful bits of business in someone elsrs story’s, but unfortunatemyly, this doesn’t happen too often.

  8. Survivor Says:

    Such is the recursive nature of writing, be it by one or multiple authors. ‘Begin at the beginning’? Not necessarily, and the beginning is bound to change anyway as the text and its subsequent interpretation evolve.

    For me, the poignancy of Hutch driving the Torino and the connection with his missing partner that this act underscored, were the first and foremost things I ‘read’ in this situation.Then later I joined the dots as to the pragmatic reason for Hutch not driving his own car. The practical detail here hardly matters to me … but that deep poignancy draws me back to Bloodbath time and again.

  9. merltheearl Says:

    This discussion about the perils and joys of writing here has made me very happy.

  10. Dianna Says:

    Wow, what a wonderful discussion. It really enhanced my appreciation for this episode –except for the title. Well, Starky’s name is written in blood, and he takes a bath, therefore “Bloodbath.” Lame.

    I hope my comments also contribute to others’ appreciation.

    Manson connections:

    I did a little looking-up, and a lot of strange things in this story are based on actual events connected to the Manson cult. They spent a lot of time at a ranch, where, like Mr. Crowe, the owner tolerated them in return for sex. Also Manson’s supporters created a lot of disruption in the court, so the judge excluded them, but they hung around outside the courthouse, making a spectacle of themselves.

    Gail is a dead ringer for Squeaky Fromme (the Manson cultist who tried to shoot Gerald Ford), so much so that I didn’t even catch the Patty Hearst connection till I read Merl’s comments. The Fromme imitation is why Gail has a squeaky voice, and the Hearst story answers Shelley’s question about Gail’s clothes: they mark her as different, and this ordeal is part of her initiation to full member.

    Here’s the biggest, weirdest Manson connection: Toward the end of the trial, one of the lawyers on the case disappeared, and his body was found a couple weeks later. It was not an execution-style killing, and nothing was ever proven, but Manson’s followers said it was the first retribution killing, and they killed other people later.

    Manson didn’t “dream” (that I know of) but most people know that he claimed inspiration from the Beatles song “Helter Skelter.” So — Art imitates life imitates art.

    Viewing notes and questions:

    How was Starsky nabbed, with all those police guarding the courthouse? Where were the those courthouse cops when Hutch went looking for him?

    The judge knew who to deliver the note to because even if he wasn’t familiar with Starsky & Hutch from previous courtroom appearances, he would know who they were from the testimony they gave during this trial. But who gave the note to the bailiff?

    Merl’s “quote” from Simon’s scriptures is perfect, and I completely agree. He has another motive besides cat-and-mouse, though: he is trying to extend his control over his followers. The cultists don’t know that he’s feeding Hutch clues; so they think that when Hutch takes the next step, he is independently fulfilling mystical prophecies. (Simon assumes that Hutch won’t arrive in time to stop the execution, however.)

    Water probably would swell rope, but what we see dangling from Starsky’s wrist looks more like a leather thong, which would stretch in water.

    I didn’t consciously perceive the biblical/mythological stuff till reading the discussion here, but now I think the otherwise inexplicable bear is the Minotaur that Starsky finds while trying to escape a Labyrinth. The torches (almost as unlikely as the bear) help elicit an “ancient” feel in the tunnels.

    At the ranch, with all that flammable hay lying on the ground, there should be a fire after the explosion, and we never find out whether Crowe was killed or just seriously injured. I have no theory about Hutch’s 360, but will point out that all the dust kicked up by a vehicle would make the van he was chasing pretty easy to follow.

    When Hutch is sitting across the table from Marcus, one should freeze the frame and contemplate the elegant lighting and the beautiful simplicity of the shot and the intensity of the antagonists’ postures. There is a story there even if you remove the movement and dialog.

    During this interrogation, when the camera is pointed at Hutch only, the shot is made from table level, with a short lens, to distort perspective, which makes his hands very large compared to his face. As a photographer, I noticed this right away, but I did not understand why this choice was made till I read Merl’s always-perceptive comments about the symbolic importance of Hutch’s hands in the scene.

    For continuity’s sake, let us assume that the microphones making the tape recording are permanently installed in the ceiling of the interrogation room, and that the recording is controlled from outside the room.

    After Marcus mentions Polaris, Hutch addresses him exactly one time as “Simone.” People who call him Simon are implying, “Don’t put on airs, you creep,” and when Hutch calls him Simone, it is part of the surrender that Merl describes.

    Having Huggy in Dobey’s office is certainly irregular. Hutch probably requested it because he knows he needs a free-associating partner throwing out ideas so that he can make connections. It sure wasn’t at Dobey’s request!

    Gail in the rescue embrace: Yes, to what everybody said. Just ignore her and focus on Starsky’s face, and all will be well.

    Nice detail: Hutch’s bloody knuckles.

    When they go to retrieve Hutch’s car, Starsky’s bouncy step is either because the writers are unrealistic about how long it takes to recover emotionally from torture, or because Starsky is astonishingly resilient — aided, no doubt, by his unfailing faith that Hutch was doing everything humanly possible to rescue him.

    The resonances in the tag are fabulous, and make a lovely frame for the story. I am not convinced that Starsky was not in on the decorations to the car, because he shushes the “artiste” just before Hutch gets a look.

  11. Anna Says:

    Yet another episode in which the bad guy is the one who tells several genuine and powerful truths among his bullshit: Simon’s characterization of Hutch as the White Knight — either as the archetype of the rescuer of those in trouble or the chess piece from the aggressor’s side who is the only piece that can go in two directions in one move and is allowed to leap over obstacles in its path that are physically insurmountable to all other chess pieces in pursuit of its goal; and Starsky as Polaris — the north star that keeps a fixed position and all through the night reliably serves to point the the same direction towards the topmost part of the earth for humans to follow when all other stars are constantly shifting paths and misleading as they change position and leading a navigator in circles? That is quite remarkable.

    And speaking of symbolism, the connection between this episode and the children’s game “Simon Says” is strong enough for me to believe it must have been intentional.

    • Dianna Says:

      Wow. Yes.

      (I had wondered how Simon intuited that Hutch wouldn’t hurt him, but I see that it runs deeper than the literal story line.)

    • Louie Says:

      Yes! Starsky = Polaris struck me too. A rather broad hint for Simon to give to Hutch, symbolically speaking, given some of the nuances and particularities of Starsky and Hutch’s relationship…if Simson even realized it. Reminded me of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar…

      “But I am constant as the northern star,
      Of whose true-fix’d and resting quality
      There is no fellow in the firmament.
      The skies are painted with unnumber’d sparks,
      They are all fire and every one doth shine,
      But there’s but one in all doth hold his place…”

  12. Sharon Marie Says:

    I have very little to add to the wonderful comments and writing/direction notes. So fun to read!

    As for the inverted cross, watching the DVD on laptop I looked for it and it was there during both jailhouse interrogations. It was noticeably raised as any forming scar would be, but less red each time. When we see him at first in the court room it is very reddish brown. Each time we see him it has less color but is raised more.

    Hutch’s red knuckles…. yes, a great touch. With all the fist fighting they do we rarely see consequences. In real life one good punch will likely fracture a bone in your hand.

    And, yes, “Simone” vs “semen”…. cracks me up each time!

  13. stybz Says:

    I just realized something with the whole cutting of Starsky’s shirt. Gail had to cut his shirt because she couldn’t undo his hands to get the sleeves off. Gail’s fellow cultists (and perhaps Simone himself) probably instructed her not to untie him no matter what. So since Starsky is obviously still tied up when he gets in the bath, that means she couldn’t undo the cords to undress him. So she had to cut the shirt off. This allows for a somewhat dangerous situation. If the scene ended with her unbuttoning the shirt, then we’d wonder how he got it off without being untied. However, by showing her cut the shirt open at the buttons we’re told right away that she’s going to cut the shirt off of him. Also, since we have no idea what she’s capable of, it also drops a hint that she might potentially be a bit twisted and get her jollies using the knife. That wasn’t the case in the end, but it’s definitely added to the sense of danger in the episode. 🙂

  14. Bernie Ranck Says:

    I think Huggy was present at the office because he’s the one that Starsky and Hutch go to for all kinds of information that is needed. He’s their snitch, so Hutch would want him there. I absolutely loved that episode. Well I loved all their episodes. The 360 at the farm was confusing to me as well. I did see Ollie on the file cabinet and thought that was a nice touch, because I wondered what ever happened to it. I loved the fact that Hutch was driving Starskys car because he had just left the courthouse on his mission of rescue. What better way then be driving his partners car. I agree that this was a very special message throughout the show. I would have thought Starsky would have been more beat up then he was. I feel it was a great storyline and as usual, their acting is superb.

  15. stybz Says:

    This has been on my mind for a while and I’m curious to know what others think.

    I have the script from this episode which has some interesting aspects not depicted. They’re only slightly different from the aired version. So to keep this in canon, as Merl prefers we do :), I would like to know what people think happened to Starsky to make him so physically weak in the end.

    We do see what looks like a bruise on his cheek in the truck after he’s been kidnapped. It’s possible what it really is could be just a smear of the animal blood they used in the men’s room, since it’s gone by the time he awakens in the cavern in the zoo, replaced with blood most likely from a beating he got while blindfolded.

    That blood is soon gone in the bath and there are no signs of bruising anywhere on Starsky during that scene.

    After he’s captured a second time, Starsky is seen coughing just before he’s given the water, then he convulses. The only mark on his face is from the burn from the torch flame.

    So my questions are what did they do to Starsky when he was blindfolded and when he was captured again? Also, what was in the water?

    I’m sure this has been dissected in fanfiction, but I’m curious what we’re supposed to come away with, because when he and Hutch fight off the cultists, Starsky is obviously weak and can barely hold himself up as Hutch raises him to a sitting position. Granted, he probably hasn’t eaten anything in nearly 24 hours and hanging around like he was could have caused his arms to be asleep and not as functional.

    FYI, in case anyone is curious, in the script Starsky was kicked several times when he was blindfolded. And he was punched when he was recaptured. They say his mouth was dry during the water scene, but they don’t say what was in the water.

    • Sharon Marie Says:

      I haven’t seen this in at least a year, but I believe my thought was always that he had been getting drugged, including with the water.

      • stybz Says:

        So you think that he was constantly being drugged? Hmmmm…. Both he and Gail seem surprised when we see him drink the water, so I’m not sure about this, but it is something to consider. 🙂

    • stybz Says:

      Following up on my own question with what I conclude might be the intent of this episode and why we’re “left in the dark” about Starsky’s wounds. 🙂

      I watched this again last night and have come to the conclusion that the whole episode is a living nightmare for Starsky and Hutch. All the things we are shown and we question are all a part of Simon Marcus’ dream. The whys and wherefores are inexplicable, because we’re seeing Marcus’ dream come to fruition as Starsky and Hutch’s nightmare. And this is why so many questions go unanswered. 🙂

      1) Who handed the bailiff the note that said, “Where’s Starsky?” when he was supposedly standing in the courtroom the entire time? And why didn’t anyone see it happen?

      2) Where did the cops in the courthouse go? In reality there would be an explanation, but in this dreamworld there is none.

      3) Dobey has a rare personal moment of referring to Starsky as “Dave Starsky” when he orders the APB to be put out on him. Not “detective” nor “Sergeant”. We do hear him call Starsky Dave in A Coffin for Starsky, but that was between him and the two cops and it was in private. This was a public display of his own feelings for Starsky. Dobey is also living Marcus’ dream, his own feelings hampering his judgement to some extent.

      4) Starsky is mentally, physically and possibly emotionally tortured. He’s is blindfolded and has to endure the mind-numbing chanting that reaches a loud crescendo, shouting against it not only because he’s scared but also to combat the sound (resisting its haunting effect, perhaps). He is knocked unconscious at least twice. He is stripped naked by Gail in a lair where accused molesters are nearby (granted, they’re child molesters, but he probably still felt vulnerable sitting there tied up and naked, unless she covered him up). He winds through a maze of confusion and frightening things including coming face to face with a bear and being burned by a torch. And then he is drugged at least once. All the while being told that this was according to plan, according to Simon’s dream.

      5) Whose blood? We believe at first that the blood on Starsky’s face in the truck is his because we don’t know about the bull until many scenes later. It turns out it’s the bull’s blood.

      Starsky is covered in blood during the blindfold scene, only we don’t see it clearly. He also is covered in blood when he wakes up later. Again, we’re led to believe initially that it’s his, but it’s actually the bull’s blood, although we can’t be certain if all of it is, since any cuts on his head could be obscured by his hair, and there are no visible bruises on him until his face gets burned by the torch. Then after his thwarted escape, he’s seen coughing before drinking the drug-infused water. We are not shown, nor told why.

      6) Then there’s the drug itself and what kind of long-term effect it had on him and his perception of things. And perhaps, as someone here suggested, he might have been drugged the entire time he was in captivity, only Gail didn’t know it until she saw him react to the water.

      7) The bear is a mystery until we find they’re at a closed zoo. Could the bear be a lone survivor of the zoo? Who trained it? Did Starsky really see it or did he imagine it?

      8) The “keeper of the flame” appears and disappears, as does the man who grabs Starsky by the hair when he tries to escape. Granted, the man is likely barefoot as is everyone in those robes, but he seemed to materialize, as did gunman outside the doorway.

      9) The scenes with Marcus are dark and vague and foreboding.

      10) That spooky triple-reflection in the window as Hutch heads for the storefront. Hutch himself is transparent in that reflection. Was he really there? 😉 The empty streets are almost ghostlike (sadly some backlot streets do look like a ghost town at times, though :)).

      11) The desperation Hutch feels facing the followers inside that storefront. He goes from begging for Starsky’s life to pleading for their own. It’s a dark place and he feels alone and fearful, especially since at that point he thinks the blood in the men’s room is Starsky’s, and Marcus had told Hutch that Starsky was dying.

      12) Reminder’s of Starsky are all around. The toys on the file cabinet, the jack in the box containing Starsky’s badge…. Hutch drives Starsky’s car, picks up Starsky’s phone, and stares at, then carries Starsky’s badge with him. All are reminders of his missing, possibly dying partner. All are a part of his nightmare.

      13) Hutch refers to Starsky as “my partner” throughout the episode. Would Hutch never say anything other than partner to describe his relationship with Starsky? He calls him buddy to his face and often shows affection, but what does he tell others? Partner takes many levels, but Starsky is more inclined to call Hutch his best friend and “someone close to me,” as he does in many episodes including A Coffin for Starsky, Gillian and Survival. Still, if this hadn’t been Simon’s dream, would Hutch have referred to Starsky as his best or close friend? If yes, is the fact that he doesn’t a way of shielding himself from getting too emotional? Or is he living Marcus’ dream and point-of-view of seeing Starsky has Hutch’s partner. Does Marcus know how close they are? One would think he would, or else why would he play with the two men the way he does.

      14) The beams of light that dance on the edge of the frame when Hutch is driving to and from the farm are very dreamlike and haunting.

      15) In reality Hutch would have been knocked unconscious from that explosion at the farm, but he wasn’t. Was it pure luck or living Simon’s dream?

      16) Dobey’s dark office. A strong metaphor for the darkness they feel and the fact that they’re in the dark mentally as they try to figure out where Starsky is. When Huggy opens the blinds and lets in the light, all comes clear and they’re able to focus.

      17) Gail’s hesitation at the ceremony was predicted in Simon’s dream. She is told that Simon said she would be weak. Then she’s ordered to “Cut him,” to cut Starsky. So she does, but instead of cutting him up, she cuts him loose. Maybe Simon dreamed that as well, but didn’t tell the others? 🙂

      18) And if Simon knew Gail would set Starsky free and if everything that Hutch and Starsky did were elements of his dream, then does that mean he knew they’d survive? Or maybe he misjudged them? We will never know? 🙂

  16. Bernie Ranck Says:

    I would think that by being kicked and punched, which I think they should have left in the episode, he may have had some broken ribs and many bruises on his body including the face. He supposedly list a lot of blood from the beatings too. They say his hands were actually turning color for real because that’s how he wanted it. To be realistic. But I agree. There were very little signs of bruising, blood or scrabbling , which being as fussy as Paul is about realism, that would have been important to him. So how that all got overlooked is a mystery.

    • stybz Says:

      My guess is that Paul may have wanted the bruising and marks, but the censors/ABC might have nixed it. There was a lot of complaints about the violence on the show, although I think part of that problem was that it was too cartoonish. They could never show any realistic blood nor bruising when they should have in most of the episodes when one or both get beaten or battered.

      The fact that we see Hutch’s bloody knuckles to me is Paul’s way of getting away with some realism.

      But this is why I asked the question. 🙂 Given the fact that Paul may have been restricted from showing any bruises or marks on Starsky, what assumptions did he hope we as viewers would make about what happened to him during his captivity? 🙂

  17. Bernie Ranck Says:

    I agree. Just the fact that he was supposedly kicked in the stomach a couple times and that was cut from the scene also. It was by far the best cop show then and now. They did show some blood in some of the episodes like when Hutch was shot in the shoulder, but it was limited. Some blood is ok. We are not talking about showing us brain matter or guts here. But they probably did censor Paul’s ideas. The bloody knuckles was a nice touch tho. But for the weakness and inavailability to defend himself, they must know that we, the audience, would surely notice and question.

    • stybz Says:

      I reread those key scenes in the script last night. I was wrong about the punch when he was captured after trying to escape. He was pistol-whipped several times. That’s a bit extreme to say the least. That wouldn’t have worked at all, as there’s no way Starsky would have been able to walk or speak after that, at least not for a few days at least. So that had to be changed somehow. The question is: What did they change it to? 🙂

      They did change the ending as well, but I prefer how it played out in the episode. The script has a lot more of Starsky battling the cultists (albeit weakly) with Hutch arriving much later. I prefer it the way we saw it with Hutch landing some powerful punches and taking them all down.

      • Bernie Ranck Says:

        I agree with your ending theory. But I wish they would have shown Hutch getting Starsk to an ambulance. Their friendship was way beyond the ending with Gail clutching Starskys leg. Hutch would have hurriedly got him to the hospital. And there, they would have maybe shone the extent of his wounds and injuries. How do you gave the script to read?

  18. stybz Says:

    I always imagined at some point either Hutch or Dobey telling some officers to take her way, which would leave Hutch to ask Starsky if he’s okay. An ambulance would be called, and maybe Starsky would lean against Hutch until they arrived.

    I bought the scripts online. One place, Script City, has a whole collection of Starsky and Hutch scripts. They’ll e-mail them to you, which is really convenient. I was sorry to see that there isn’t one for Murder Ward. I still want to know if there was a scene cut from that one. 🙂

    • Bernie Ranck Says:

      So what all was cut from Bloodbath that we haven’t discussed on here? I love Starsky and Hutches friendship with each other. They have the relationship as friends we all wish we had with a friend. They just click so well together. Great chemistry.

      • stybz Says:

        One thing cut was a threat to Hutch’s mother. Apparently Simon makes a threat against her and Dobey gets in touch with local cops back in Minnesota to make sure she’s safe and in protective custody.

        I need to rewatch the episode and read the script in its entirety to see what else is different aside from what I mentioned previously.

      • Bernie Ranck Says:

        Yeah…I just watched it again. There are things that should have been there to heighten the drama.

    • Sharon Marie Says:

      Had to watch again. Even though I knew the outcome, it still was a bit disturbing! Hutch interviewing Simone while trying so hard to remain calm to elicit information from the wacko was great. Soul was measured with an undercurrent of rushed anxiety. Loved how he put his hands out flat in front of him, palms down, almost willing himself not to lose his cool knowing that Simone feeds off of those emotions. Hutch knew he had to play Simone’s game of the passive control freak to just wiggle into his zone.

      As for inferring if there was drugging, Gail did come right out and accuse the anemic looking, malnourished cult member of “putting something in the water.” And when we see Starsky come to, he has quite a bit of blood smeared down from what we are to assume is a head wound, though once he is bathed we never see that again. He clots well, that Starsky!

    • Anna Says:

      Wow! Original scripts? I gotta ask — do you happen to have a script for The Fix? I heard there were some pretty interesting changes made to the withdrawal scene, and if you have it, it would be so cool if you could share it!

  19. stybz Says:

    I posted the link to the Fix script in that episode discussion. Go there to access it from my Google Drive and read it. 🙂

    Here’s Bloodbath:

  20. Lioness Says:

    Such great comments and insights from everyone! So someone will know the answer to this: why is Ollie the teddy bear in this episode? Was this episode supposed to come after ‘Starsky’s Lady’?

  21. DRB Says:

    “He surrenders. This is an extraordinary gesture in a man as headstrong and powerful as Hutch is, and shows his sensitivity and intelligence far better than swinging punches or grabbing the throats of the cult members. He is willing to sacrifice himself, just as Starsky is an unwilling sacrifice. ”

    This description is certainly apt for the second interrogation. But it is not the first time we see Hutch sacrificing his pride.

    When he confronts the followers in the storefront, he appeals to their self-interest by promising to help them leave Simon’s domination, to escape prosecution as accomplices, to regain their own personalities and lives. All of it falls on deaf ears. That’s when Hutch throws his reserve to the wind. He comes down to their level and gazes beseechingly into faces saying, “I need help.” Only the direst need can wring such a plea from him, but he is willing to beg for Starsky’s sake. That IS powerful.

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