Episode 36 and 37: The Set-Up

When Joe Durniak, the protected mob witness Starsky and Hutch are guarding, is killed, the guys uncover a plot much bigger than Terry Nash, a lone gunman seeking revenge.

Terry Nash: Jon Korkes, Joe Durniak: Michael V Gazzo, George Stegner: Eugene Roche, The Black Baron: Roger E Mosley, Thistleman: Darryl Zwerling, Debra: Heather MacRae, Dr. Hank Wachman: Jerry Hardin, Nun: Dawna Shove, Patty Nash: Katherine Dunfee Clarke, Wilson: Angus Duncan, Bumper: Richard Balin, Trucker: Bruce M Fischer, Bank Teller: Sandra George, Security Guard 1: Cedric Scott, Security Guard 2: Verne Rowe. Written By: Joe Reb Moffly, Directed By: George McCowan.

NOTES AND QUESTIONS:

Part One:
This double-episode has a big scope and is very complicated, perhaps overly so. It’s also left unresolved: in fact, some fans speculate the vague “them” in this episode are controlled by none other ultimate bad-guy James Gunther from Season Four’s series-ending “Targets Without a Badge” trilogy. At any rate, these people are a formidable force who not only manage to kill off a maximum-security-protected witness, but also seem to have unlimited financial and equipment resources, people everywhere, and a fortress in the desert. The only clue given to their identity is that Durniak, their target, was a danger to an organized crime syndicate.

In the wonderful driving scene, Starsky is indefatigably chipper while away from the confines of his regular schedules and obligations, while Hutch is singing fan-favorite “Black Bean Soup” at the top of his lungs, apparently sharing his partner’s vacation mentality (you would never see Hutch singing loudly as they drive the streets of Los Angeles, for instance). They have a brief sibling-like spat about the CB radio (“I thought we agree you weren’t going to play with that thing anymore”. “You agreed, I didn’t”, etc) which intensifies rather than sours the happy vibe. Hutch apparently does not know Starsky has given him the moniker Blond Blintz, and acts outraged, even though he really has no cause to (“the blond what?!”). The nickname has been used before and will be used again, why does he insist on being surprised? For his part, Starsky is naively puzzled by the call-out by the Nevada whores. And yet, when Hutch grabs the radio and announces they’re cops (using a flurry of numerical codes which the madame, somewhat improbably, decodes immediately) Starsky laughs in delight, as if Hutch has just performed a charming trick.

Hutch’s 10-17 to the Nevada whorehouse is a risk: 10-17 usually means “conduct investigation” in police code and it would severely compromise their undercover operation if Hungry Mama decided to broadcast the presence of police all over the CB channels.

What do “gold ring” and Starsky’s response, “good saw” mean? The highway cop means “brass ring”, of course, and Starsky’s good natured reply is almost inaudible.

Although the highway patrol says it’s Jeb’s Restaurant they’re headed for to pick up their “real cargo” Starsky and Hutch pull up at a roadside café with a large sign reading “Ham and Eggs” which looks like something out of Dr Seuss.

Starsky is cheerful in the way he was at the beginning of  “The Shootout”, and now as then his attitude puts Hutch over the edge as far as social embarrassment goes. There’s nothing Hutch hates more than his partner lovin’ life. He apologizes to the waitress (as he did in “Shootout”) and tries to fend off what he imagines as a confrontation with the guy at the next seat. It’s as if being with Starsky in one of his happy wanderer moods is the worst sort of torture. This despite the fact Hutch is the guy who claims to love Americana, country music, native vernacular, and the simple life. And yet when Starsky embodies this same spirit of adventure, Hutch acts like he has herpes.

Starsky fools with Hutch with waitress. Hutch orders, a “couple of cups a coffee, couple of sweet rolls.” Starsky then orders “only one” for himself, making Hutch look like a glutton. This is a pretty mild way to get back at his troublesome partner.

Both Starsky and Hutch seem to be carrying important documents in their caps. Starsky checks for the waybills and Hutch the coded dollar bill. What, pockets not good enough?

Joe Durniak doesn’t expect to see “Little Davy Starsky”, that’s for sure. It’s a mix of confusion and joy on his face when he recognizes him; Starsky is cool as usual. When introduced to Hutch Durniak’s first question is how long they’d been partners, and when Hutch says “about seven years” Joe’s reply is very telling. He says, “well, if he kept you around that long you gotta be okay.”
Hutch laughs, modestly, and in laughing seems to be acknowledging this is so. Now, think about it. Hutch doesn’t have a comeback. He isn’t his sarcastic, acidic self. He doesn’t say, “I coulda dumped him, you know,” or “it takes two” or anything to suggest he has any control over the longevity of this partnership. He just agrees with the unlikely fact of it, as if he himself can’t quite believe his extraordinary luck.

The next bit of dialogue is worth repeating verbatim, because there isn’t another case of Starsky’s murky past being aired like this. Durniak says, “Little Davy never knew whether to love me or hate me. I represented everything your father fought against. Some wise-guys, they shot him down one night.”
“Yeah, I know,” Hutch says. (Who wouldn’t want to have eavesdropped on that conversation, when Starsky tells the story of his father’s death.)
“Joey paid for the funeral,” Starsky says, indicating Durniak.
“Your pappa, he was one hell of a man. He deserved better than he got.”
“We better get movin’,” Starsky says, after only the smallest narrowing of his eyes to acknowledge Durniak’s praise of his father, which clearly counts less that it should. “Yeah,” says Hutch, anxious for this whole thing to be over.
“Now let Davy drive,” said Durniak, somewhat urgently, as the guys move to get into place. “I’ll sit here and talk old times with your friend. If you’re not here, he’ll only hear my side. It’ll be nicer.”

Starsky shrugs, as if it doesn’t matter. He easily allows Hutch to get into the back without any fear that something damaging might be said. Now the questions are: why does anyone have to be with Durniak? Why can’t he just ride alone? And also, did Starsky really not know whether to “love” or “hate” this man (this implies powerful emotions), or is Durniak fooling himself, thinking he was more important than he was? Durniak could have been an impartial witness but most likely he was the enemy, in close proximity to those “wise guys” who murdered his father. Maybe one of them. Is it guilt that compelled him to interfere with this family and offer condolences in the form of cold hard cash? Wouldn’t that have compromised his own standing with the mob? Even if it was a rival gang who killed the senior Mr. Starsky, commiserating with grieving victims is frowned upon, to say the least. In doing so, Durniak became an “uncle” figure, maybe even substitute parent, to this willful child and his mother. Maybe all in secret from the Boss, because guys in the mafia do not make a habit of providing restitution and fatherly advice. But maybe there were darker dealings here. Maybe Durniak and his people were Working on a questionable deal with the father, although one hesitates to speculate. Starsky Sr. was most likely on the other side of some shady racket resulting in his murder, his death an injustice spurring Starsky into law enforcement.

What does Durniak mean by having Hutch hear “his side”? Would Starsky dispute the facts of the story? Or has Starsky resolutely refused to hear that story, preferring ignorance to revelation? This sort of fits with the “if my eyes are closed it doesn’t exist” part of his personality. For instance, later on in “Starsky’s Brother” Starsky deliberately keeps himself in the dark when it comes to his brother’s nefarious drug dealing. Even when Nick directly confronts him, Starsky chooses silence over conversation. Whatever it is in this instance, Starsky has no interest in either editing or controlling this conversation or having Hutch kept away from it. Throughout, he has a relaxed, inscrutable look on his face, not hurrying this conversation or involving himself in it too much. Durniak maybe be swept away by sentimentality, but Starsky certainly isn’t.

Starsky and Hutch already know each other’s stories through and through. Nothing is new to either of them. It’s interesting, though, that Durniak refers to Hutch as “your friend”. There’s no guarantee a partner is a friend. Sometimes partners hate each other, or are suspicious of the other’s motives, and it’s fun to imagine Durniak may have some extra intel here.

Starsky knows exactly who “me” is when Hutch is on the other side of the hotel door. You can see him putting his gun away. Hutch replies with bad grace that it’s the “Blond Blintz”. He’s elected to play Starsky’s game, but why? Does he secretly like it? Later, Starsky plays the same trick with Dobey, but it doesn’t work as well.

Starsky is usually shown to be the gullible one, so Hutch really lays it on when he tells the hotel cook cannibalism story. It seems like a lot of work to do just for a minor payoff, and he’s obviously been thinking of that one for a while, but why? Hutch’s way of blowing off steam? There’s something unusually intense about his little game. I like how he’s careful to add “toast, butter” in his list of things, just as Starsky’s eating toast. The chances of hiding any parts of a dismembered body in toast is, what, impossible? But it works, Starsky is grossed out, and Hutch wins.

Throughout the series Starsky is shown to be an enthusiastic eater, mostly of junk food. The joke is he’s the one more likely to be unable to eat, either through duress, injury, a sudden call to duty or other mysterious reasons: here, and “The Pilot” (Hutch refuses to take him to dinner), “The Shootout”, “Silence”, “Bounty Hunter” (Hutch gets Starsky’s apple), “The Heavyweight” (Hutch gets his popcorn),”Iron Mike Ferguson”,”Losing Streak”, “Death Ride”, “Bust Amboy” (Starsky is prevented by eating food he likes, then given food he hates as prank), and others. There are also many times he complains about being tired or is deprived sleep. This is all a giant karmic joke on a hedonist. Likewise, Hutch, who is an aesthete rather than a hedonist, is consistently deprived of those things he desires, namely peace of mind and the beauties of nature.

Durniak says to Starsky that some of his testimony Starsky won’t want to hear, “names, dates, places, some nasty little facts”. Just what might this be? Facts about Starsky’s family? It isn’t explored and nothing more is said about it. Hutch, mindful of Starsky’s private nature, interrupts with a lot of comforting talk about how good it’ll feel when he testifies, and that’s it, subject closed. Too bad for us.

“Those bombs are a trick!” Durniak says. Too bad nobody listens to him.

“I saw a man with a rifle over there!” cries an eyewitness, pointing at the hotel across the street. This seems highly improbable. Nash was over five hundred yards away, in semi-darkness, and moved from the window as soon as the shot was made.

It’s Starsky who sees the drunken security guard isn’t what he seems, or maybe of some use later, when Hutch dismisses him as an irrelevant drunk. He pushes him into the elevator with them by saying, “need a lift?” Unfortunately they don’t detain him after the scene in the apartment, or even question him further, although the guard is the only one to actually make contact with the unseen enemy in a calm way suggesting he’s part of the team and not some terrified victim of intimidation.

Signs that two weeks really haven’t gone by for Terry Nash, because the fruit basket and plants in his apartment are still fresh and he has no mail pile-up. Starsky and Hutch are detectives – why don’t they detect this?

When it all seems too much, in the aftermath of visiting Nash’s apartment, Hutch proposes they all go to his place and “get some sleep, get some food, maybe start with a clear head tomorrow”. This isn’t the first time Hutch is generous with his place, many other unfortunate characters have been welcomed there (“Little Girl Lost”, “Velvet Jungle”, etc) as well as being Starsky’s second home.

The three men discuss the case in a bar. Hutch returns and says a driver’s licence has never been issued to “T, Terry or Terence Nash” and Starsky can’t help but chime in with “Terrific.”

Hutch tells Terry “no one has ever been murdered,” in the neighborhood where Nash insists his wife was shot. Really? Never? Is there any place within the Los Angeles area untouched by murder?

Part Two:

Starsky says wryly, “I bet his carnation wilted” when Hutch tells him he threatened bank manager Thistleman with the FBI and Internal Revenue. How did Starsky know Thistleman was wearing a carnation? Good guess?

Darryl Zwerling as the unfortunate Mr. Thistleman gives a great, Don Knotts-inspired performance as the weak bank manager. This is typical casting, in which the lead actors’ power and magnetism is amplified by reedy, whimpering, skulking or otherwise imperfect secondary characters.

It’s great how Hutch picks out the anomaly with the security camera based on the cigarette smoking of someone at the teller’s window. Also of note is Glaser doing what I call the “slow dawn”, something he’s remarkably good at: his face sensitively captures how it feels when all the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. He takes the subtle approach, raising his eyebrows a fraction and allowing his face to relax into incredulity. Difficult to pull off.

The midnight visit to the psychiatrist is a great scene, economically filmed and essential to the story. Starsky and Hutch must trust this doctor wholly to ask him to open his office late in the evening and tell him the true facts of their puzzling tale. Hank Wachman is an interesting character – intelligent, a straight-shooter, well liked by both detectives, an all-round good guy if he is willing to come downtown and do what is asked of him, no questions asked – and it would have been nice if he was a recurring character, someone they could turn to for insight into other similar cases. It’s not very often we see an expert in another area who is rational and sensible and willing to help, particularly in the medical field. As part of its mandate the series tends to throw impediments into Starsky and Hutch’s path in the form of devious or insensitive professionals, some of whom are simply obstructive and some who are actively criminal.

One is boggled by the way in which these unnamed bad guys got a bunch of nuns to lie so consistently, and so believably, to the police. Or are they lying? The sister who shows them the room doesn’t attempt to cover anything up, she just stands there in silence as the incriminating hanger is pulled from the closet. You would think, if a giant donation to the church steeple repair fund was at stake, she would say something like, “oh my goodness, no, we keep our cloaks in there.” But she doesn’t.

Even in the middle of the crisis, the guys are fighting each other for the attentions of the pretty female “victim” in the dark parking lot. It shows, among other things, an unflagging optimism. I like how Hutch, in the middle of a lot of distracting, emotion-laden activity, keeps his wits about him. Questions everything. Starsky’s quick acknowledgement shows how much he trusts his partner, and how fast he adapts to changing circumstances and new information.

Starsky tells Dobey he is calling from a medical building and that the Torino has just been blown up, but Dobey doesn’t ask if Starsky and Hutch are okay. He just starts in about how much more trouble they are in due to a second set up.

By now there are just too many things happening at once. The shadowy evildoers are overplaying their hand, setting up Starsky with the money and rifle from the Durniak shooting and simultaneously luring the guys into a potentially fatal explosion. Looked at in logical hindsight by any prosecutor, Starsky could not be guilty of the shooting if he was also killed by a bomb, unless it was some kind of crazy suicide. See? These things cancel each other out.

It’s terrible when the Torino goes up in a fireball. It’s as if a loved character has been assassinated. So why is it treated so superficially, and why don’t we see Starsky’s emotional reaction? And also, on a more practical note, we never actually witness Starsky buying another Torino and having the exact pinstriping reproduced – we know his uncle owns a car lot – although this is the sort of stubbornly sentimental thing he would have done.

Dobey orders Huggy to stay outside and watch his car when he goes into the hiding place. This imperious, rude demand is yet another instance in which Dobey treats Huggy like crap, and for no reason. Huggy stays and does what he’s told. He then tells Hutch, “I know we all look alike” when Hutch calls out Huggy’s name into the darkness. Sure, Dobey may be indulging in a little gallow’s humor, and we know he tends to implode under stress, but really, that was uncalled-for.

Why do Starsky and Hutch go bowling with Terry Nash? Nothing they did there that they couldn’t have done somewhere else, and it’s risky to show up in public. Hutch, however, seems to like the idea right away. Or maybe he just likes Starsky’s remarkably sanguine attitude in the middle of all this mess.

Thistleman begs them to believe him when he says his instructions come by phone. He says he doesn’t know who, or why. I believe him. But then he says in the next breath, “Desert Springs”, and says there’s a castle out there. How does he know this, if he only ever talks to a nameless voice on the telephone? Why don’t they push him harder to get more details? How many separate voices were there, was a name ever used, did he ever try to trace the number, what hold did they have over him – did they threaten his family? Threaten the bank? And how was he sure those threats were credible, did they ever pay him, details like that? Thistleman is the only witness they have, the only truly weak link, the only civilian (other than those nuns) they have access to. Come on, you guys, use him!

At this point, when the “we need a plane!” is directed to poor superfluous Huggy, the episode changes course, and in an unfortunate direction. Starsky and Hutch are both very quick to accept the post-hypnotic brain-washing theory, which proves they have a great imagination as well as scientific rationale, and the plot so far is as good as a cracking Lee Child novel. But somehow it all goes wrong. The plot begins to bloat to the point of irrationality. What starts out as a neat case of espionage turns into a castle-breaching, machine-gun-firing swashbuckling black comedy. And it’s a shame, too. Why not keep the action tight and close to Los Angeles? Why the silly castle, and the distracting, goofy Black Baron? Did the writers not have confidence in their story? “Do you know how many people would have to be involved in a conspiracy like that?” Dobey exclaims at one point. The answer is: too many to be believed.

An ostentatious castle in the desert is not the best place to hide a covert operation. It sticks out and is a one-stop stop which is vulnerable to being breached. One would think that a variety of average shop-fronts hidden in the city would be a better hiding place.

I like how Dobey refers to the Baron as “the African chap with the arsenal”. Dobey always has a great turn of phrase.

Who is Terry Nash, anyway? It’s unresolved. A natural follower-type without a strong sense of self (you’d have to be, to succumb so completely to hypnotic suggestion) with a thorough understanding of guns and battle strategy marks him as a member of the armed forces, possibly a sergeant. He’d have to be unmarried, a loner, unremarkable, an underachiever. Either recently discharged or AWOL (although that implies the Army is out looking for him, a complication that might make him untenable for a subject). Or maybe this is a CIA plot, and Terry Nash volunteered for it? Who knows? Do we even care? We never see who’s behind all this, and the absence of an enemy severely weakens our emotional and intellectual investment in what happens. It’s interesting that the writers see fit to leave so much unanswered. It’s the first and only time in the series an episode is open-ended. If I’d been on the production team I might have vetoed the script for that reason. It leaves the viewer with an unsettled, unsatisfied experience, more questions than answers.

If you ever want evidence of David Soul’s true acting skills, witness the scene at the end of this episode in which he lays out the facts for Dobey. The facts themselves border on the ludicrous, and said aloud even more so. If I were to recite them I’d have my audience sniggering and rolling their eyes. But Soul delivers them with absolute authority, he is one hundred percent committed to what he’s saying. Thus the story not only becomes plausible, it’s frightening too.

Clothing notes: Starsky wears his usual brown leather jacket, jeans and Adidas; Hutch wears his black leather jacket and jeans, although he’s awfully fond of a ghastly red-checkered lumberjack shirt in the first part of the episode. Neither wear jewelry.

There is no tag.

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27 Responses to “Episode 36 and 37: The Set-Up”

  1. Shelley Says:

    “What starts out as a neat case of espionage turns into a castle-breaching, machine-gun-firing swashbuckling black comedy. And it’s a shame, too.”

    The first time I saw this particular episode, I thought it was one of the coolest TV shows ever. Right up until it jumped the shark.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Yes, but at least it jumps back again with the incredible “The Psychic”. But of all the episodes, this is the one I would have liked to take a red pen to. I’d keep it to an hour, and concentrate solely on Terry Nash. The core of the story is so good, with the juicy moral implications of a guy hynotised to kill. The Durniak situation would be its own separate episode, and the Baron and Desert Fortress should just disappear forever. I’m not sure what happened here to make it all go so wrong. Too many cooks in the kitchen, maybe?

  2. Shelley Says:

    Oh yes, I just mean this particular episode, not the rest of the series. Part 1 was captivating. Part 2 was such a huge disappointment. They could even have kept it with two parts but it should have been more mysterious and ominous, with the undercover unseen mob able to pull so many strings . . . not the weird “castle-breaching, machine-gun-firing, swashbuckling” debacle.

  3. Andy Lewis Says:

    It’s as if a Part 3 was intended, but never implemented.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I have always felt the same way. Some think James Gunther (“Sweet Revenge”, the last episode) is the mysterious puppet master (both episodes were written in part by Joe Reb Moffly), but you’re right, this episode is particularly unresolved. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Survivor Says:

    An interesting review, Merle – thank you. I can see what you mean about Part 2 (shades of the A-Team, it seems to us) and the story ends without resolution after all that.

    You ask, ‘Who is Terry Nash, anyway? It’s unresolved.’ Ah, yes, but there was a vital clue that was overlooked and never revisited in this episode.

    As Terry walks out of the gun shop early in Part 1, a fellow passes by, takes a double take when he sees Terry and calls out to him, ‘Buddy! Buddy Griggs.’ Terry looks blank and a little hostile. The other fellow continues, ‘Steve Reynolds. 1966. Third Battalion. Khe Sanh.’ Terry sharply replies, ‘Wrong name, wrong place.’ Reynolds retreats saying, ‘My mistake, excuse me.’

    No, no, no! Not your mistake – come back, Steve, and tell us more about who this man really is!!

    I’m surprised that after Terry realises he’s been brainwashed, that he doesn’t recall this encounter in his desperate search for clues as to who he really is. Perhaps this recollection might have been taken up in the missing ‘Part 3’ or a more condensed single episode??

    Ahhh well … one of those ‘What if?’ moments that Starsky liked to ponder.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Survivor, you managed to knock me over. Of course this is the vital clue to the identity of Terry Nash. I remember this scene clearly and yet somehow – perhaps swept away by the following two hours of biplanes, assassinations, machine guns and shifty nuns – forget it completely. Thank you for bringing it to my attention! If you’ll allow me, I’ll rewrite portions of my commentary to reflect your sleuthing – with full credit to you, of course.

      At least it plays into my hunch about Terry as a army man with a strong follower’s instinct. And I think we all wish there had been a part three.

      • Survivor Says:

        Thank you, Merl! This detail certainly does tie into your army hunch, so you were right on the money! Of course I’m happy for you to re-write portions of your review. I just love how your blog gets me thinking … ‘planes, assassinations, machine guns *and* *shifty nuns*’, lol. It probably all got too much for the writers to keep track of in the end! Cheers, Survivor.

  5. King David Says:

    Durniak: “…It’ll be nicer.” Nicer for whom? Durniak to tell tales without interruption or correction by Starsky? Nicer for Hutch to listen to a one-sided story? The story itself will come out nicer? Starsky narrows his eyes and the reminiscing comes to a close. Shutters down.
    I suspect that Starsky snr was a good guy, and Joe Durniak considered himself a bastion of the Mob, and that Starsky snr was a worthy opponent, ie as strong in the way of the law as Durniak was in the Mob. Once again I have put this clumsily, but in filmland, we viewers recognise the construct of a heavyweight baddie approving of coming up against a heavyweight goodie, and for Durniak to acknowledge that Starsky snr met a less-than-fitting end is, to my mind, something in the way of praise for him, recognition of the father’s stature in his world. We learn in various ways how S&H are not on the take, and we believe instinctively in Starsky’s integrity, so I’d like to think that he learned this from his father, even if perhaps he may have been in awe or fearful of him at the same time.
    This is a woeful disintegration of what could’ve been a decent plot, and I too deplore the failure to follow up the Army compatriot angle. Nash never mentions it to anyone, and yet it would’ve been a logical way to get back to reality. Perhaps he didn’t want to? And why on earth didn’t S&H make the security guard at Nash’s apartment leave with them? They can be awfully blabby at times…couldn’t the writers think of another method by which the relevant info is imparted to them? It takes the gloss off the partnership’s professionalism.

    • King David Says:

      I just wanted to add: “a blintz is a thin, crepe-like pancake rolled around a filling of potato & onion, cheese or fruit”. (Thank you Google.) What a gorgeous thing to call Hutch!
      Does Starsky know his man or what.

  6. Dianna Says:

    At the truck stop, I think Hutch wants to casually and quietly blend in, but Starsky is fooling around so loudly and awkwardly that people are looking. Hutch doesn’t necessarily want to ruin a good time; he just wants to have a good time without being noticed by others.

    Durniak wants company in the back of the truck simply because it’s lonely and boring back there, with no windows, and probably no radio, and it’s certainly too bumpy to read! Maybe he wants to get a feel for how much he can trust Hutch. He probably also likes getting to know new people. He certainly seems gregarious.

    The story of the hotel cook certainly does seem out of place. Hutch should be reassuring Durniak that the food is OK, not making him fear that something unwelcome has been added to it!

    When the Starsky, Hutch, and Nash leave the bank after their first visit, Mr. Thistleman watches them leave. Perhaps Starsky pegged him as the bank manager at the time, and noticed his carnation. I can picture one of them saying, as they drive away, “Did you see that stuffy bank manager watching us, with his bright red carnation?” (Followed, perhaps, by some rude joking.) The guys really fixate on it, with Starsky’s line, “I bet his carnation wilted”, and the way Hutch later tells Terry, “The flower must not be plucked before it’s wilted.”

    The nuns don’t have to be in on the plot, and it makes things simpler if they are not. When Nash woke up in the “hospital,” it was 5:30 in the morning, a fact that was stressed. The bad guys could have broken in at, say 2 AM, rearranged things to their liking, and left as soon as Terry was gone.

    Why wasn’t the woman who bombed the car programed to stay nearby and get blown up along with the cars and her victims? Do the masterminds want her to survive, so they can re-use her? What happens to her? Merl makes an excellent point about how the apartment set-up and the car bomb contradict each other!

    This story is odd in that characters refer to race 5 times over the course of two episodes; usually several episodes pass between any overt mentions of race, but in this story Dobey says “We all look alike;” Huggy says, “The English Language is not the exclusive property of the white man;” the Baron dubs Starsky and Hutch “honorary soul brothers,” and makes a comment about a tap-dancing stereotype; Dobey later says, “the African chap with the arsenal.” )

    The really weird thing about Huggy’s comment about vocabulary is the word that brings Hutch up short. Huggy clearly says, “sacrosind,” which is not a word. He probably means, “sacrosanct,” but that is not really the word for this occasion. Is Huggy deliberately speaking nonsense so that he can pretend to be offended? Or is he ignorantly misusing vocabulary he doesn’t really understand? Is Hutch startled at Huggy’s use of a big word, or does he say, “What?” because he can’t figure out what Huggy is saying?

    There is a castle near Desert Springs, CA. (It’s actually in Lancaster, but I’m sure “Desert Springs” sounded much more picturesque.) I looked it up because I couldn’t figure out what the wall is, behind which the foursome take cover. It is a dam, but the lake is dry during the episode, probably because of the season… which would probably make it too hot to be running around the desert with jackets on. Also, the real castle has an airstrip, so they didn’t need to land on the dirt road.

    I was amused at how Starsky projects an attitude of, “Look at me, I’m an aviator!” with the scarf around his neck to top off the leather jacket when they get into the plane, but it soon changes to body language screaming, “Oh my God, we’re going to die!” As soon as the airplane is on the ground, his terror seems forgotten. Good old resilient Starsky! He’s even forgotten that his beloved striped tomato was just destroyed by a bomb!

    The Baron is goofy and improbable, and the assault on the castle is a bit absurd, but I wasn’t as irritated by them as Merl and Shelley were, because this is much less absurdity than the “clown shoes” of the cruise ship setup in Murder at Sea.

    The open-ended, unresolved nature of the story may be an artistic choice (not necessarily the best choice, but possibly a deliberate one). The premise is obviously inspired by The Manchurian Candidate, and the era was filled with fear of cult brainwashing, so perhaps the open-endedness was intended to make the viewer feel a bit unsettled and uncertain. However, Dobey just letting Terry walk is just impossible: The FBI will have no compunctions about hunting him down.

    Hopefully, he will remember the encounter outside the gunshop, and start to track down his real identity.

    • King David Says:

      A very good bit of analysis, Dianna, and I wish I could say I was as good at it as you!
      Thinking of the ‘hospital’, given that it is a Catholic school, are we to presume that Nash got out of what was probably a labrynthine building and didn’t pass anything at all which seemed less-than-hospital-like? He appears to have caught a taxi without issues; did schools back then have payphones? Must’ve been a major op to get all those stage props in place for the ‘hospital room’, and out again.
      I didn’t see this episode in the original airings in the seventies, so got the shock of my life when the Torino blew up; I expected more anguish from Starsky here. And that girl really was odd, but it was more odd that S&H reverted to stereotype and took her at face value. I suppose I’ll have to remember that in the seventies writers didn’t go too deep with the psychology of things, and they were trying to cram this double episode with all sorts of things, and therefore had to be a bit superficial. They relied on us the viewers understanding 1970’s shorthand, but there are annoying gaps when viewed from today’s perspective. I also feel, as mentioned somewhere above, that someone should track down that man who recognised Nash as someone he knew from old days, and learn the real story. How did the baddies enmesh Terry in the first place?
      Perhaps the Baron was an instrumental way for the writers to take the edge off the situation for younger viewers. After all, he could’ve been a serious, dramatic character, and Starsky could’ve been seriously frightened in the plane.
      Does Huggy really say “sacrosind”? Could it be his accent making it sound like that? Perhaps I’ll have to go back and have another listen.
      Always a delight to read other people’s take on my first TV heroes.

      • Dianna Says:

        King David, you flatter me! I always appreciate your comments and observations — such as your noticing that the guy in front of the gun store may hold the clue to Terry’s past.

        You have an excellent point about Terry making his way out of the fake hospital. I hadn’t thought of that, and somehow assumed that his room was right in front, so that it was an easy exit. Re-watching the opening scene, I see there is not any direct evidence of that, but he does look out his window, so if he could see the street, it could orient him for getting out. The brainwashers would not have put him in a room that faced the playground, and they wanted him to find his way out without too much delay, so I think I’ll stick to my hypothesis. The nun in Terry’s school seems genuinely confused, and it’s simpler than having the nuns in on the plot!

        My recollection is that, yes, schools had pay phones, but I expect the bad guys had the taxi waiting for him.

        What Huggy says sure sounds like “sacrosind” to me. I won’t mind if I’m wrong, but it’s still the wrong word.

        I must have watched most of the episodes in the first and second seasons, after which I went off to college and didn’t have TV access, but the only episode I remembered directly was The Fix, so I’m basically watching them all afresh. Lucky me!

      • King David Says:

        It was The Fix that I had kept with me for 35 years, as that harrowing scene with Hutch off his face and making his escape, coupled with that wonderful moment of rescue by Starsky in the alley, that embedded itself in my mind for so long. Old and slow that I am, it only occured to me in 2011 that I could revisit it on YouTube as surely someone would’ve put it up on there, and lo! they had! So, I travelled back to 1976 and enjoyed it all over again, delighted I hadn’t distorted anything after all that time. Then, since modern technology had whizzed by me, I discovered I could buy the DVD set of the whole series, so I did, and enjoyed episodes I remembered from my teens, and joy of joys, some I’d never seen, for whatever reason (non-airing in Australia being most likely.)
        Discovering that Merl had created a forum for analysis of my favourite American cop show (any show, really), was icing on the cake, and I have tried to see S&H as if through Merl’s perceptive eyes, and that ability has migrated over to other spheres, too, so S&H has had a beneficial effect on my life in more ways than one.

        If we treat S&H as real life, and when it was made it was certainly meant to represent that, then we can have a field day with intepreting everyone’s motives and actions. It is always a pleasure to encounter someone who enjoys S&H as much as I do.

      • Dianna Says:

        Gee, King David, you don’t have an Australian accent when you write! 😉

        It was The Fix that burned itself into my psyche as well, but the episodes on YouTube are mislabeled, so the first episode I watched as an adult was Pariah, which is possibly even better than The Fix. I bought m4v files; maybe I should burn them to DVD so I can get slow-motion playback.

        My sister and I used to watch the series together, with me favoring Starsky and her favoring Hutch, and both of us wanting to just swim in the chemistry between them. I wonder now whether I liked Starsky best because I was more like Hutch in our sibling relationship, so I needed my sister’s Starsky. And vice-versa.

        Unfortunately she died young, so I cannot sit and analyze episodes with her. The episode A Coffin for Starsky hits me particularly hard in my adulthood because I watched her get progressively sicker, but unlike Hutch, I was unable to halt the “poison” that killed her.

        All of which is to say how lucky it is for me to have found this forum! Merl’s insights, especially the thematic insights, help me see and appreciate so much more than I could otherwise. I am not into fanfic, nor ogling photographs, so this quiet little analytical corner is perfect for me! Thank you, Merl!

        (I expect that when the semester starts, my rather frantic watching and pondering and writing pace will slow down.)

      • King David Says:

        I was saddened to learn of your sister’s passing, for you would surely enjoy your analyses with her from this perspective, as you were both there in the day. Funnily enough, my (elder) sister fancied Hutch to my Starsky, but I selfishly put this down to her believing he was the more handsome, and the ‘name’ actor. I liked Starsky because he seemed, on the face of it, to be second fiddle to David Soul’s Hutch, as I was always second fiddle to her, I believed. I thought Starsky was so wonderful, and I got so much pleasure from seeing how he was successful too, even if he was the ‘goofy’ one, or the ‘wingman’. And he had that fantastic car!
        As Merl says, everything I need to know about life I learned from Starsky & Hutch.

  7. martianfencer Says:

    Wow, you certainly have an eye for detail! I wondered how they could afford to destroy one of their two Torinos, but I never thought to look closely enough to tell whether they actually had.

    And you’re bending my brain with that interesting conflation of Starsky and Glaser, because I’m sure you know that Glaser hated the Torino(s), and obviously Starsky didn’t know it was a fake…!

  8. stybz Says:

    Maybe Starsky agonized over the Torino later, but had to stay focused on the case. Maybe he had a delayed reaction once the case ended. Just like I’d like to think he had a moment to ponder Durniak and all the events that occurred with him.

    I’ve watched this episode a few times (well, certain scenes :)) and I just recently obtained the novelization which has at least one additional scene related to Starsky’s past with Durniak. It isn’t much, but there’s a scene in Dobey’s office when they’re assigned the case. Dobey tells them Durniak will be giving evidence, which surprises Starsky. Dobey asks if either men know of Durniak. Hutch says he’s heard of him and Starsky says he knows him, then explains how Durniak used to hang around his neighborhood and paid for his father’s funeral. Hutch is in shock. He never heard about it before. Starsky is evasive saying essentially what Durniak says later about not knowing whether to love or hate him. Then Dobey says that this is probably why Durniak asked for them, which is interesting because both the novelization and the episode play out the later scene at the truck the same way.

    This added scene and some other things in the novelization make me wonder if the writer used an older script for the episode as the basis for the adaptation. I say this, because the scene in the hotel when Durniak cautions Starsky about what he’ll say in court plays slightly differently with Starsky saying Hutch’s line about Durniak being able to breathe easier, and Hutch saying Starsky’s line about being honest and coming clean and not worrying who gets named.

    Also what’s interesting is when Hutch is introduced to Durniak in the novel and Starsky says, “He paid for the funeral,” Hutch says, “I know that too.” This is because in the novel Starsky already said it in Dobey’s office.

    I’m glad that scene in Dobey’s office wasn’t used because that means Starsky hasn’t been totally honest with Hutch. However, at the same time, he might be ashamed or unable to deal with this aspect of his childhood, so he never really had an opportunity, nor a desire to talk about it. His discomfort at the truck reveals that.

    I haven’t read the whole novel yet, so I don’t know if there’s anything else. I’ve been skimming to those particular moments that might provide more insight. 🙂

    Oh, and there’s a nice explanation as to how they become truck drivers. In the same chapter in Dobey’s office, Hutch says he doesn’ t know how to drive a truck. Starsky reveals he used to drive one and that he can teach his partner without a problem. Hutch is surprised by this revelation as well. Then there’s a later chapter that gives a quick description of them driving from El Paso and Starsky teaching Hutch the gears. So when the episode as we know it opens, this is Hutch’s first time behind the wheel and hours after Starsky had taught him how to drive. 🙂

    The book is well done. I need to go back and read it more thoroughly.

    Sadly, the novel does not detail the conversation between Durniak and Hutch, which is a shame. It does add a conversation over the CB radio between Starsky and Dobey with Dobey calling Starsky the “Puce Goose” and telling him where to take the truck when they arrive at the hotel. 🙂

    I’d like to think that Starsky and Hutch had a silent exchange of looks after they got to the hotel room with Hutch communicating with his face that all is well and Durniak didn’t say anything that Starsky should worry about. Then again, I doubt Starsky would have worried anyway. 🙂

    Also, the bystander who tells the boys that he saw the shooter in the hotel across the way is described in an earlier moment jostling Durniak as they step outside the hotel. I’ll have to go back to the episode and see if that happens. This could mean the man was an accomplice, and since the syndicate wanted Terry Nash dead or caught, this was a likely scenario.

    I think the whole brainwash aspect was a bit hokey, but I’m usually into plots like that, so it didn’t bother me too much. I did find the ruse intriguing, but I think it fell apart at the end, which is a shame.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I wonder if my self-imposed rule not to consider non-canonical material when it comes to puzzling over the various holes and inconsistencies is useful or not. I own the entire series of those novels (other than an autographed photo they are the only series-related collectible I have), and you’re right, they’re not bad. But does this limitation of mine serve any purpose at all? Sometimes I think I’m too much of a purist – but unless something actually occurs on screen I usually ignore it. Joyce just pointed out the missing scene in “Nightmare” that explains Lisa’s father was as cop, which is how Starsky and Hutch came to know the family, but even that doesn’t count in my book, because it didn’t make it to the final edit. I would be interested to know what others think about this.

      • stybz Says:

        I think it’s a judgment call. I only mentioned the novel, because I wondered if it was taken from the script, and script text has been mentioned in other commentaries, so that’s why I brought it up. 🙂

        I think you should stand my your rule, Merle. 🙂 If for nothing else it does spark a conversation. And even if I or anyone else brings up the novels or the scripts in our replies it’s only to further more discussion and not refute or discount anything you say in your review. 🙂 Your initial review should remain canon and allow for the comments and replies to come up with ideas, theories and other things to try to fill in the holes. 🙂

        As for Nightmare, there is a scene at the hospital that was included in the aired episode, but not on the DVD (much like Quadromania is missing the scene where Starsky hits the window, but it was in the original airing). I’ll elaborate on it in a reply for that episode. 🙂

      • Shelley Says:

        I like the tidbits provided by the blog readers, but I think for the blog itself, sticking with the actual TV show works best. That’s what most people see, after all. This reminds me of the discussion about “Quadromania,” where we’re wondering about why Starsky is so dazed and confused, and it turns out a scene had gone missing. This makes for a fascinating conversation.

      • stybz Says:

        FYI, I got a script from this episode a couple of weeks ago and there are a few tidbits that were used in the novel. However, the script starts essentially as the episode did and Starsky and Hutch’s first scene is inside the cab of the truck with Hutch singing. So if there was any additional expository information about Starsky, it’s not in the version of the script that’s available. 🙂

        The script does mention Starsky’s discomfort over seeing Durniak. Also, it does have Hutch saying Starsky’s line and vice versa in the scene at the hotel room when Durniak tells Starsky he’s going to name names he won’t like to hear. I’m glad they changed that. It makes more sense for Starsky to tell Durniak that if what he says puts bad guys away it doesn’t bother him.

  9. stybz Says:

    I watched the whole thing again and agree that it just doesn’t flow very well. It’s not one of my favorite episodes, despite usually liking plots about brainwashing.

    I felt there were a lot of gaps that needed filling and a lot of puzzling situations that didn’t make sense. I think they needed a bit more time or better writing to make us believe in how Starsky and Hutch conclude that it is brainwashing behind it all.

    I think part one is much better than part two. And despite all my script and novel reading I’ve come to the conclusion that the only reason they gave Durniak a connection with Starsky was to make his trust in the pair more believable when the man from the FBI first accuse them of being involved in this murder. That was all, which is just a shame.

    I do think this is the first episode we hear Starsky call Hutch “The Blonde Blintz”. He calls him that in other episodes in this season, but this is the first one on the DVD where he says it. 🙂

    I agree that them going to the bowling alley while they’re wanted criminals is just ridiculous.

    Two questions about the wardrobe change that occurred the day they “kidnap” the bank manager and grill him about his involvement. 1) Where did they get the clothes? They couldn’t have gone to Hutch’s, because his place would likely be watched, just as Starsky’s probably was, since the murder weapon and money were planted there. So did Huggy go out and buy them clothes? Or did Dobey get into their lockers at the station and get them spare clothing? 2) Why bother? They’re on the run and have a lot more to think about than changing clothes, don’t they?

    The shootout at the “castle” was a bit convoluted. I wanted it to be better. I liked it to some extent, but it wasn’t cleanly executed. It had shades of Magnum PI and The A-Team. I did like the black Baron, but them flying over the house in a noisy plane with none of the guards noticing was just crazy.

    Dobey’s speech in the tag with his sudden change of heart is a bit surprising, not because he changed his mind, but because it was just so sudden. Dobey is a pushover. LOL! 🙂

    I suppose it’s not too hard to sneak Terry Nash out of the compound, since no one really knows what he looks like. Or do they? He has no fingerprints and no record of existing anywhere, so he could easily give himself another name as he left with Starsky and Hutch from the compound. And wouldn’t it be funny if he remembered the name that guy called him outside the gun shop, and told the guys to call him Buddy Griggs in front of the other cops. 🙂

    The question is how do Starsky and Hutch get the charge dropped from the FBI unless the surviving henchmen spilled enough information to clear them.

  10. Blunderbuss Says:

    I would like to apologize in advance for the extremely open-ended comment. Take everything here with a huge heaping tablespoon of salt, since it’s pure wild speculation.

    There are three interesting ways, in three different episodes, that Starsky’s family intersects with organized crime in this show.

    One: Durniak here in “The Set Up.” The relevant facts are that Starsky’s father was shot to death, strongly implied by the mob. Durniak was familiar enough with Starsky’s father to pay for his funeral. Starsky didn’t know whether to love or hate Durniak while growing up. Starsky’s father fought against everything Durniak stood for. And there are a number of “nasty little facts” Durniak is going to say on the witness stand that Starsky won’t like hearing, no reason is given for exactly why he won’t like hearing them.

    What to make of all this? Durniak says a lot about what happened to Starsky’s father, but nothing is ever said about exactly who the man was, what his role was, what Starsky’s opinion of him is, how much he knows about Durniak or about his father and Durniak’s relationship, or why he was killed. Nor whether his father was on the side of the bad guys, the good guys, or some mixed-up place in between.

    Two: Nick Starsky in “Starsky’s Brother.” The relevant facts are that Nick is largely a two-bit crook and a drug pusher, but can hit high enough to become entangled in Stryker’s operation, and that Nick claims his brother was never there for him and that’s why he turned to a life of crime. Starsky knows about the criminal behavior but apparently hasn’t been able to do anything about it, but we don’t know exactly how much he knows. Enough to just make his relationship with Nick uncomfortable, or is there more history, has he had to bail Nick out, has Nick gotten him in trouble, has he gotten Nick in trouble, etc?

    What to make of this? Were the criminal influences that led Nick into crime the same as the ones that were swirling around the Starsky family and Durniak? Given that Starsky knows of Nick’s criminal behavior, does he know about these influences as well, if they exist? How and why did one brother not only escape the criminal influence, but become a successful police officer, while the other didn’t? Is it only a difference in personality/character, or some larger criminal presence/influence more pressing and personal in Nick’s environment, that made them diverge so much? Is Nick’s criminality related to his father’s death? We talk a lot about how Starsky’s father’s death may have influenced Starsky, but what about how it influenced Nick?

    Three: The Andersons in “Targets Without A Badge.” As a child, Starsky was best friends with the daughter of Frank Anderson/Thomas May, another man who worked, more indirectly than Durniak, in connection to Gunther’s sprawling empire. The relevant facts are that they were in hiding, in the LA area, for YEARS while Starsky was also living in the LA area and working as a police officer, often deep in the doings of organized crime, both undercover and not, and Laura/Allison never contacted him until 1979.

    What to make of all this? Is it just a wild coincidence, or a feature of what a bad part of town Starsky grew up in, or not a coincidence at all, that there are only two degrees of separation between him and organized crime on two completely different fronts – Durniak and Anderson? Were Durniak and Anderson acquainted? Were they rivals — or rather, was Durniak a rival of the higher-level criminal forces who employed Anderson? Or were they on the “same” side, as far as allegiances in organized crime go? Could Anderson be one of the “nasty little facts” Durniak mentions in The Set Up, and if so would that lend credence to merl’s idea that the bad guys in this episode are working for Gunther? If Starsky and Laura were friends, were Starsky’s father and Frank Anderson also friends? Could Starsky’s father have possibly known about Anderson’s activities, given how under the radar they were? If by some strange chance he did know, was he okay having Starsky be friends with the daughter of someone involved in organized crime? If he did know, did he only find out after Starsky and Laura had been friends for a long time? Or after the Andersons’ “death”? Could he have found out about the Andersons just before his own death, and that’s why he was killed?

    Is it at all possible that Starsky’s father’s death and the Andersons’ being shuttled into witness protection were connected in any way? We know Laura was eleven, and so Starsky was somewhere around the ballpark of eleven, perhaps up to a year or two older — young boys usually don’t strike up non-romantic friendships with girls older than them, or with girls more than a couple years younger than them — when the Andersons “died.” We don’t know how old Starsky was when his father died, only that he was “just a kid.”

    Is it at all possible that if Starsky kicked the hornet’s nest, he’d find that Gunther, Durniak, his father’s death, and the Starsky family are all tangled together?

    What an epic soap-opera plot this family of Starsky’s has the potential to become! I really wonder what the writers’ intent was in blatantly dangling such juicy and distracting hints about Starsky’s family’s mysterious past in front of the viewer and then not following up on any of it. Maybe, as suggested, this episode WAS intended to be a three-parter, or had a resolution planned for the Durniak/Starsky’s dad subplot that got scrapped in favor of the dumb-ass castle storming sequence.

  11. Kit Sullivan Says:

    Like most here, part 1’s wonderful “Manchurian Candidate” inspired story-line was utterly wasted by part 2’s ridiculous continuation. I assume that each part was either written or re-written by separate writers with wildy disparate writing styles and skills.
    The substitution of the “stand in” for the destroyed Torino scene was far too obvious and cheap-looking even on first viewing. Crisper editing would have gone great lengths in cleaning up that particular scene. It appears to be the early-60s Chevy, or an early 60s Ford of some kind with a quick-&-dirty paint job to (barely) resemble the Torino.
    Of course the producers did not want to destroy one of the hero-Torinos…since the production company didn’t even actually own them!
    Interestingly, I clearly remember reading from more than one source at the time that Ford had been pressuring the producers to replace Starsky’s car with a current and available Ford product that fans could purchase, since the ’76 Torino was the last model-year for Torino production.
    The destruction of the “Mod Squad’s” woody wagon in favor of a newer vehicle was the cited exame of an earlier Spelling-Goldberg production that had done that very thing.
    A “Ford Times” magazine from then ( a small ad-heavy magazine sent to current Ford owners) had an article with a “sneak peak” of a new Ford car being introduced soon on “Starsky & Hutch”. It was a medium blue LTD-II with a slightly different-looking stripe, big mags and tires. it was NOT the Starsky-inspired stripe that was an option on production LTD-IIs though…it was unique and custom.
    The article hinted that it was going to be either Hutch’s new car, or possibly a new recurring-character’s car.
    When this episode played, I assumed it was the excuse to dump the Torino from the show and let Starsky drive the new car.
    Alas, it never happened…probably for several reasons:
    First, all stock-footage drive-bys with the Torino would instantly become obsolete. Certainly it would demand unwanted expense from the producers to film new stock-shots of the new car.
    Second, it would make any future syndication packages of the show a little “messy”. Producers if typical TV series back then did not like to purposely “date” thier shows with obvious “internal-canon” details. Years later, “Miami Vice” would ignore that and just switch cars.
    When I read many years later that “Linda Baylor” (Roz Kelly) and “Nick” ( Starsky’s brother) were both ( at separate times) being considered as replacements for the unhappy and possibly not-returning PMG for future episodes, I then thought that maybe this new blue Ford could have been planned as one of thier vehicles.
    But, in the long run…PMG returned, the Torino hung around ’til the bitter end and the blue car was never seen.
    As nearly 100% of the above is pure speculation on my, I have always wondered what the reality is, or if anyone even remembers!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Well, I for one am glad the Torino stuck around, and not only because it saved a tremendous amount of work for everyone but because the car has a kind of accidental star quality that is very difficult to put words to. I’m glad you have written about the production side of the story, the hardware as opposed to software: it’s not something I am versed in and I always appreciate learning something new.

      • Shelley Says:

        I think it’s an excellent point that the Torino is a star, and changing the cars would have really affected the aura. One of my friends, for instance, cannot stand this show — but he loves that car. Also, Starsky loves that car so much it’s hard to imagine him parting with it.

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