Episode 41: The Committee

After Starsky apparently takes the law into his own hands, leading to a staged breakup with Hutch, he is invited to join a vigilante group of cops led by Internal Affair’s own Lieutenant Fargo.

Lt. Fargo: Alex Rocco, “Dirty” Nellie: Helen Martin, Ginger: Angela May, Sam Garner: William Bogert, Willits: John Ashton, Billings: Michael MacRae, Off. Knight: Bill Cort, Off. Williams: Tony Young, Millie: Muffi Durham. Written By: Robert I Holt, Directed By: George McCowan.

I’m in a particularly pessimistic frame of mind these days and it’s cathartic to revisit one of the most astute and cynical episodes in the canon. We see it all here in spades: the fascist broom sweeping away society’s “undesirables”, the surging anger of the white working class convinced his world has been irreparably damaged by so-called liberalism (in this case uniformed officers suspicious of long-haired detectives), back room deals made by powerful but unseen forces, the perverse belief in reactionary short cuts to justice (mainly by executing those who step out of line), the poisonous hatred inside the institutional elite. I see this episode as a political fable. Evil grows when those in power use expediency to solve problems, when they have lost their humanity, when they see criminal acts as the disease itself rather than as symptoms of a larger and more complicated afflictions of poverty, ignorance and mental illness (all of which are rectifiable, at least in part, if we really want to get serious about it). We cannot build walls and shoot those we feel have failed us, and we cannot squash the rights of the people to achieve our aims, however laudable they seem. We also must retain our humanness, quirks and all – emblematic of Starsky’s pet rock – if we are to survive.

As is typical, the first scene keeps it overtly casual, even humorous, while covertly laying out the thematic intent of the episode with the brisk precision of a lawyer’s writ. Here, Starsky and Hutch’s off-hours are soured by the trembling rage of a slightly-drunk Officer Knight (the drunk part is solely my supposition) who not only does not see or understand that the two detectives are actually strategizing (i.e working), but is convinced their unconventional (read: hippie) ways undermine the very fabric of a law-and-order society. It’s quite a shocking intrusion out of nowhere, and by Starsky’s laconic pleasantries we can see that this has happened more than once. Knight, who has been watching Starsky’s playful interaction with Huggy for the last twenty minutes or so (and irritated, no doubt, by Hutch’s errant cue poking into him) accuses them of “goofing around” instead of making the streets safer, then demands to know how they would feel “if a 78-year old man died in your arms after you’d been mugged by some junkie with twenty-three priors”, as if Starsky and Hutch are somehow responsible for – no, have actually somehow worsened – this situation. This long-standing grudge has a back story that I would love to see.

One wonders why Huggy doesn’t even touch the milkshake delivered to him, since it’s probably free (“He’s chocolate, I’m strawberry,” says Starsky, with a grin), but maybe the real question is why they’re drinking milkshakes at all in this tough cops-only hangout where tequila shots are probably the way to go. Incidentally a place not normally frequented by Starsky and Hutch. What are they doing here? Is The Pits temporarily closed, which explains why Huggy is out of his comfort zone? Will they ever be allowed back again after exposing the members of the committee, obviously longtime regulars of the place? And why is Huggy dragging around a carpet bag worthy of Mary Poppins? Not very cool.

I’m at a loss to explain what game Hutch is playing. It appears to be table shuffleboard, as there are pucks, or shuckles. But that game is played with a player’s hands sliding the pucks along the surface, and Hutch is attempting to play with a cue. Is this some imaginative combination of pool and shuffleboard? Something else? Hutch just goofing around?

The cop-bar must be located in the basement of the suburban-looking restaurant.

“This makes us even for the information on the drug bust, huh?” Starsky says, accepting the pet rock Huggy sells him. It’s funny that Hutch is so caught up in his sarcasm about pet rocks he doesn’t seem to see the transaction for what it is, a payoff for information, which is proof once again that Starsky knows how to play, and Hutch, who is ironically playing a another game by himself, doesn’t. Instead, he razzes Starsky about coming over to his place to buy old 78 records. Which of course leads to another question: what’s he doing with 78s? Isn’t that a little old fashioned? So many questions.

Nellie’s absurdity amuses Hutch to no end, and it’s sweet to see how affectionate he is with her. And there’s a couple of gems hidden in the whole pet-rock exchange: one, that Huggy has been hawking his rocks there before. And two, that Nellie’s little comment – “it bit me” smacks of a joint venture in salesmanship, the plant in the audience who adds legitimacy and urgency to the pitch. Are Nellie and Huggy a team?

More on this fascinating opening scene: Knight’s accusation that Starsky and Hutch spend too much time goofing around and not enough time busting heads is an interesting – and rare – glimpse into what some of the boys in blue think of the plainclothes detectives. There seems to be jealousy, resentment, and a lot of willful misinformation about the way Starsky and Hutch work. The idea is echoed later when Starsky is called up to Internal Affairs and remarks to Hutch that “we’re not exactly their favorite team.” In the earlier episode “Snowstorm” the collective antipathy of Burke, Kolwitz and Corman was more overtly about the generation gap; here, it’s more political. It would be fun to see a “third-party” episode from the point of view of the regular cops on the beat, watching Starsky and Hutch from a distance. It seems as if, post-“Pariah”, their reputations have not improved too much. Later on, during the fake-fight scene, we see tables of uniformed officers witnessing the strife and yet not one officer stands up to defend Hutch or to calm down the scene. Is this because nobody wants to be involved, or do they just not care that much? This is not at all like the respectful relationship with the uniforms we see in other episodes, with Starsky and Hutch on first-name basis with those they work with.

The number 78 has an odd recurrence: Hutch’s records, the old man mugged. Something worn out and down to a bad end, maybe?

It’s also fun to watch what Starsky does when confronted with people who try to intimidate him: he slows down, acts casual, almost sleepy, while Hutch is immediately, and dangerously, defensive.

I would like to know how “Dirty” Nellie got her nickname. I hope it has nothing to do with the state of the bathrooms in her bar.

It’s Dobey himself on the radio telling them about the screams coming from the warehouse. I wonder what it is about the scene that tells him the situation relates to the case Starsky and Hutch are working on. Perhaps a witness gave a description of the two men.

Chasing Willets and Billings, Starsky holds his gun in his usual unusual way: fingers between barrel and body of the gun, not useful if sudden shooting is required.

Doppelganger moment: Hutch goes after the blond, Starsky goes after the dark-haired assailant. Also, I’m a bit surprised the rape victim seems to understand Starsky, when he goes to her, is a good guy and not a bad one. If it had been me, I’d be punching and biting if he tried to touch me.

It’s an old story about what real justice is, in terms of the law. Lawyer Sam Garner taunts the two detectives by saying their desire for moral rectitude comes close to vigilantism, and they counter by saying the system is too strict and inhumane. Neither of them, strictly speaking, is correct – it’s only when objectivity and humanity are in balance can we be a truly just society. Too much of one, and empathy is lost. But too much of another, and we run the risk of impartiality. I think Starsky and Hutch, on a better day, would accept this to be true. But this is not a good day.

In the office with Dobey, Starsky shows his best side when he calls the escaped Billings a “sicko” and says he should be in jail, or a hospital. Even in this small instance we can see that both Starsky and Hutch are aware of the role that mental illness plays in criminal behavior.

After confronting Willets in the courtroom, Starsky changes from his “court” jacket (corduroy with elbow patches) to his old leather jacket. Hutch stays the same.

In the apartment when the two rogue cops are given their assignment, there are several points of interest. A new gun is given to an officer, which makes sense in terms of ballistics, but where is the officer’s regular firearm? Also, that officer handles the holster with its gun, turning it up and down as if to stretch out the leather holster, and the image is suggestive of an erection. Which, if on purpose, is genius. Also, we get our first glimpse of pouty Ginger, who stares out at … well, at us. Fourth wall broken. It’s very strange.

Consider Hutch’s frame of mind when he orders Starsky a tuna burger with lots of mushrooms. It takes a lot of forethought and imagination to be that mean, and one wonders how much of Hutch’s conscious life is dedicated to inventing ways to either annoy his partner or distract him from his woes. On the same subject, he replies with “who cares?” when Starsky says his rock is “igneous” (which he pronounces, charmingly, “ignatius”). That is, formed by lava. Starsky looks at him and says, “you know, you’re very hard to get along with, sometimes.” Hutch pretends not to know what he means.

Sam Garner says he thinks the person responsible for gunning down three wanted men might be a cop, and he’s ready and willing to do anything he can to blow the lid off of a fraudulent investigation – note Lieutenant Fargo nervously chewing on a knuckle, hearing this, and starting to make ugly plans in his head. Confronted by his obnoxious personality, it seems as if Starsky and Hutch don’t listen or care about his suspicions, but later we see that Hutch has weighed this very carefully in his mind, which does him credit.

“Sorry Starsky,” says Lieutenant Fargo, “but I thought you should hear what the man had to say.” Starsky is the sole focus of the attention, both in Fargo’s office and later in Dobey’s. Why? It was Hutch who arrested Willets, who later claimed to be roughed up. Why the attention on Starsky? Yes, he makes a passionate speech in the hallway of the courtroom about justice, but it’s obvious Hutch shares his feelings. Still, everybody seems to really want to pin the blame on Starsky. What does this say about the attitudes toward Starsky as a person and a cop, as opposed to Hutchinson? Do people in and around the Metropolitan Division see Starsky as somehow more violent, or impulsive, than his partner? Similarly in “Snowstorm” the three older cops zero in on Starsky and call him “pushy”, wounding his feelings. If anything, Starsky is less likely to lose his temper than the notorious intemperate Hutch, and also less likely to do anything that might be construed as unconventional or renegade. As for Fargo bringing together accuser and defendant in his office, this seems like a grievous breach of conduct, procedurally speaking.

I think it’s interesting that Hutch tells Fargo, “You probably brought the man in here just to see Starsky’s reaction would be.” Hutch has terrific instincts, and his instinct in this case is to suspect something’s afoot. Hutch allows himself to be mollified by Fargo’s manipulative speech, and bonus points for that suggestion of a wink and a grin, the “secretly I know you’re one of the good guys”. Everyone wants to believe they’re understood and appreciated, and Hutch is no exception.

Starsky is hilariously fidgety when Hutch uses the phone. “Come on, this is Sunday!” he cries out. Another instance of Starsky’s holy-weekend position toward working, although they’re working anyway so why the impatience?

“You’re thinking what I’m thinking?” Hutch says to Starsky about one second after the shooting of Willets. Starsky looks shocked, then thoughtful. So, let’s break it down: within one second after a car chase and shootout Hutch has come to the conclusion that this chase was too odd, and likely set up by someone – probably within the police department – by telling Willets that Starsky and Hutch were about to hunt him down and kill him. Precipitating his flight, and the suicidal action of firing on Starsky. So this is a set-up, and a complicated one at that. From within the department. To get both or one of them called a vigilante, in order to distract attention from the real vigilantes. Who are most likely other police officers. No other explanation for why Willets is running. All this passes through Hutch’s head in a second. And in Starsky’s too, a second later.

It’s chilling to hear both Starsky and Hutch use the word “buddy” in contempt to each other. Hutch, the alarmingly good villain, is even more horrible in his sarcastic use of the word.

This episode’s power is predicated on one thing: how grievously transgression it is to break up the partnership. This is manipulated by the decision to leave us in the dark as to the ulterior motives for the fight. Interesting, though, that the other cops are so quick to assume this is, in fact, real, that the pair have destroyed their relationship over a difference in opinion. Do they really think Starsky and Hutch are just like everyone else, and therefore have essentially the same utilitarian working arrangement as they do? Don’t they see them as having a deeper, more substantial bond?

The horrible fight the two have at Nellie’s bar is painful to watch, but it’s worth noting Nellie’s intelligent, watchful face as the drama unfolds. You can see that she’s taking everything in, and not accepting anything at face value. This is one canny bartender. Also worth noting is Starsky’s fleeting expression of concern and regret as he leaves (when seen in hindsight, of course).

Dobey says Willits has no convictions, yet he is listed as an accomplice on Billing’s arrest record.

Ginger was arrested, Hutch remembers, four years ago. According to her police record, she was also arrested about a year ago. Did Fargo get her off of that charge as well? Also, how in hell did Hutch remember her? The entire operation – from bar fight to dinner plans – has taken less than an hour, and Hutch has to pull one face out of tens of thousands in his memory banks.

Starsky’s apartment is stellar. It has great original art plus Matisse prints and others, lots of books, great textiles of all kinds, camera, plus lots of fruit for Dobey (he must be home some time to have fresh fruit); it’s all very urbane and sophisticated, in an earthy sort of way, cozy in a way that suggests Starsky enjoys his home. The tree stump side-tables are very fashion forward. Starsky appears to be a more domesticated sort than Hutch, or at least more deliberate in his decorating.

There’s a uniformed officer guarding Willets in Starsky’s bedroom. The way I see it, Starsky, Hutch and Dobey are united in the belief that cops are behind the spate of vigilante-style murders, so I would love to know why this particular officer has their trust. And let’s face it, Starsky is being very generous when he allows Willets to lie in his bed. He’s going to launder those sheets several times afterward to get rid of the stink, both literal and figurative.

It takes Starsky a moment to choose the wine for Ginger. That means he has a few bottles. When he finally brings it over she pours it and then says, “You have good taste.” If Ginger really does have a taste for wine and isn’t just making an obsequious, flirty comment (which is likely, I admit) this is in startling opposition to Starsky’s reputation as an unsophisticated rube.

Angela May playing Ginger is duplicitous and scheming. So, apparently, is Angela May in real life. She seems like a particularly miserable creature with her bee-stung pout and cringing, intensely squirming sexuality. That Pekingese-flat face and big weepy eyes are oddly compelling, and Ginger as a person isn’t all bad – she pulls back at the last second and urges Starsky to get out. (Angela May filed a paternity suit against David Soul several months later, but it was disproved.)

“Starsky,” Ginger says. “What is it. Polish?” “Something like that,” Starsky says, in the same offhand taciturn way he says to Nancy’s mother in “Terror on the Docks” when she asks if he’s Catholic and he says “no”.

Ginger mentions “maternal instincts” prompted her to kiss Starsky – which is really, really off-putting. But she isn’t the only woman to feel that way: Dr Kaufman in “The Plague” had a similar response, as did Kira in “Starsky vs. Hutch”.

Wouldn’t Starsky, Hutch and Dobey, when hatching the plan to catch the vigilantes, to bring the guy from top in on it from the beginning? Yet they don’t, staging the “show” in Dobey’s office at the beginning of the episode seemingly for Fargo’s benefit, showing they didn’t trust him even from the beginning. Yet, why wouldn’t they trust him, when he made such a passionate and convincing speech about being a cop for twenty-five years and still fighting for justice, etc? Seems to me there’s a missing scene in here, the one where the guys sit in the Torino and talk about how Fargo, despite all evidence to the contrary, reeks of something nasty.

Clues to just why Starsky and Hutch withheld their suspicions from Dobey can be seen in the fact that Dobey tells Fargo some details about the undercover case. He precedes this with the statement “No secrets between friends.” It’s a major tactical error. Hutch is far more comfortable in the role of undercover – coolly telling Fargo they have nothing on Ginger, while Dobey is nervous acting against IA and makes it clear he’s a weak link in the investigation by spilling information he shouldn’t.

What exactly does Hutch want Dobey to do when he hands him the phone? Give Fargo some fake name, drawing attention away from Ginger and the ongoing investigation? He thrusts it at Dobey with such authority I always immediately put myself in Dobey’s shoes and break out into a sweat thinking, “now what do I do?”

One of the main frustrations with the show is the lazy habit of casting the same actors in very different roles, sometimes only months apart. What, did they think no one would remember Alex Rocco when he shows up later as the hit man Callendar in “The Plague”? He’s a distinctive face and voice, and a noticeable so-deadpan-it’s-almost-wooden acting style, and it’s a shame the producers don’t consider how disillusioning this is. (Helen Martin also has another memorable appearance as Mrs. Fellers in “Manchild”, but at least both roles were relatively minor ones). The other really bad instance of this is casting Karen Carlson as both Gillian Ingram and Christine Phelps. Only Season Hubley doesn’t bounce back after “Starsky’s Lady” as a perky waitress or a gangster’s girl.

The sunset when they take Starsky to pick up Garner is really spectacular. And the fact it hasn’t changed when they exit the apartment shows you how fast they film.

Why are Williams and Knight planning a kidnap and murder while in uniform, and driving a squad car? I can see why from a cinematic standpoint, but from a practical one it makes no sense. Why not do it on their days off, in regular clothes, in a stolen car? Garner’s hair and possibly blood evidence is all over that squad car now, and sand in the tires would be traceable to the tunnels.

If I were Knight I wouldn’t be so quick to accept Starsky as a fellow committee member, not after working in his vicinity him for so many years, watching his bleeding-heart liberal hippie ways. Yet Knight is so sure of himself and his cause that he brings him in with all the pompous self-righteousness of the true believer.

Paul Michael Glaser is truly extraordinary in the tunnel sequence, and for the reason I admire him so much as an actor: he says very little as shocking, inexplicable, and truly sadistic facts become real to him: that he is expected to murder an innocent man, that the people he trusts and believes in – fellow officers – are really and truly a part of this, and that Fargo himself not only is involved, but knows of Starsky’s opposition to their plans and intends to torture and humiliate him to become “one of us”. Glaser’s face is relaxed, even slack, throughout, but we can read his emotions as clearly as if it is subtitled on screen. His eyes widen, then soften in bewilderment, then become hard as facets as he comes to a resolution about what he must do.

At the very end Hutch’s attitude toward the pet rock is nicely improved. Starsky is panicked: “I lost my rock,” he says, and dashes off into the darkness of the tunnel. Dobey is confused. “What’s he talking about?” Hutch’s reply is friendly, amicable. “He lost his rock, captain,” he says, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, worthy of sympathy, but also amusing himself by downplaying the absurdity of the situation. Where is the cynicism? With Starsky not in the picture, there’s no need for it, and besides it’s more fun pretending to Dobey that he’s the crazy one for not knowing the score.

Tag: The episode ends abruptly, and without a joke, the clock simply running out. It’s great that Garner is not reduced to apologizing or making a speech about how he’ll change in the future or how the law needs to be responsive to victim’s rights, he simply reverts to his old irritating stuck-up ways which makes me love him even more and wish he’d popped up in other episodes. This series is not interested in sermons, and neither Garner nor the detectives give us one, but all the same there is a persistent optimism here and in other episodes that tells us that good will always triumph. I like how Hutch looks for a place to put his wrapper and then shoves it under Dobey’s phone. Dobey recommends them for a medal of valor for their work in this case, and he does that shy smile that shows how uncomfortable he is with soapy scenes.

Clothing notes: strikingly, Hutch wears a crushed-velvet black turtleneck in the scene in Starsky’s apartment. He’s also beautifully decked out in a blue turtleneck early on that makes his eyes turn to sapphire. Both wear leather jackets and Starsky wears a favorite burnt orange shirt with the white patch. Otherwise, all is usual, with the exception of Starsky wearing a nautical black-striped shirt in the tag (quite possibly the same one he wears in “A Long Walk”). In the hair department, Starsky’s is truly luxuriant, especially in the tag.


32 Responses to “Episode 41: The Committee”

  1. Dona Says:

    “When [Hutch] laughs at his partner’s ways, and pretends to abuse or ridicule him, this is between only them.” … I love this comment of yours, you could catch one true point of what deep friendship is.

    Anyway, the fight scene between them, announced by a ‘crescendo’ of rage in Starsky, since he left Dobey’s office, really did strike me. They perfectly acted and I jumped by surprise when I discovered that it was all planned.

    I like your blog, for the depths you reach in analysing the acting, the scripts and the ‘under-the-lines’. Thank you so much for sharing.
    (PS sorry if my comments are not clear, english is not my mother tongue)

    • merltheearl Says:

      Dona, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you like the blog. And your comments are more than clear, they’re beautifully said! I appreciate it.

  2. King David Says:

    “Everybody seems to want to pin the blame on Starsky. What does this say about the general attitude toward Starsky as a person and a cop, as opposed to Hutchinson? ” In another episode, Starsky is accused of being particularly pushy. Starsky has been my favourite for over thirty five years, so I always look for the best in him. I suspect, having read your wonderfully analytical reports (over and over) that you and I both know that Starsky has an inner core of integrity, is intrinsically decent, perhaps a man sometimes forward of his times but not as polished and amenable as Hutch. That is clumsily put, but I see Starsky as somehow having less artifice in the world he occupies, and Hutch is somehow smoother and definitely chocolate-box prettier, which for strange reasons of human nature, encourages others to gravitate towards him and feel better about themselves because of it. Perhaps simultaneously, other officers want the friendship that Hutch is so capable of giving, and they resent that he lavishes it so overtly on Starsky, and that he is capable of reciprocating it to the degree he does, ie the sacred partnership, that they transfer hostility and ungenerous feelings onto Starsky for their own envious feelings. Starsky is more likely to make an affectionate touch on someone else, with a happy disregard to personal boundaries, but he can be very limited with his gestures when in the presence of someone who exudes negative vibes.
    They’re both diamonds; it’s just that Hutch shines a bit more.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Very interesting take on Starsky, and his ridiculously pretty partner. Starsky most definitely has less artifice than Hutch, he is more grounded and honest, and more direct. Usually, his only weapon against attack is silence. What I mean by that is, he is far less likely to verbally spar when confronted, and more likely to withdraw into himself. I wonder if this makes him an easier target than verbose, hair-trigger Hutch.

      • King David Says:

        Yes, a good point to wonder. People don’t generally want a mouthful of aggro from another, and might, if not too astute, mistake Starsky’s withdrawal into silence as a weakness. Hutch is seen to be showily explosive on more than a few occasions, which would suffice to repel boarders, as it were.
        Starsky spends such a lot of time on pleasing Hutch and adopting the attitude of the lesser mortal, so that on the rare occasions we see him let go with both barrels it’s breathtakingly lethal.
        Does he find his rock, I wonder? Perhaps Hutch will have to buy him another. Hutch, as a touchstone, is too big to put in your pocket.

      • Anna Says:

        I’m not sure about that. While Starsky does tend to be silent or laconic rather verbally respond when attacked, and certainly isn’t as easily provoked as Hutch, when he’s pushed past a certain line he’s also way more likely to respond with physical violence (especially if the person being attacked is someone else rather than himself, especially Hutch) and require Hutch to calm him down or hold him back. Just count the number of times Starsky has hit or otherwise assaulted someone who wasn’t physically attacking or resisting him in an impulsive fit of anger (Pariah, Nightmare, Survival, Manchild, Murder One…I’m probably missing some) versus the very small number of times Hutch has done the same thing.

    • Dona Says:

      I agree, Starsky’s defence is often silence while Hutch’s defence is an explicit sharp reaction. But talking about the general attitude people might have towards these, I feel that withdrawal into silence is not seen as a weakness. On the contrary, it’s the evidence of solid ground, so solid that there is even no need to discuss. A sharp reaction, often judged as an attack rather than a basic emotional state, might be seen as a weakness, the inability to argue.
      Maybe, this apparent weakness of Hutch, the suspect of a hidden fragility, is what attracts in him. Definitely, Hutch is a daily challenge for people who choose to stay close to him. I must say an intriguing, although exhausting, challenge.
      I spent over 35 years trying to choose my favorite, and ending with none of the two. Probably I love both just for what they are and in the same way.

  3. Dianna Says:

    I actually watched the episode twice before reading this blog, and I still managed to miss a lot, including Starsky’s intense silence in the tunnel. I don’t have any answers to Merl’s questions about things in this episode, except that maybe the milkshake is Hutch’s rather than Huggy’s. I can’t figure out what “gigantic gun” you mean in the tunnel scene.

    Merl suggests that the point of the story is “how grievously transgressive it is to break up the partnership.” I think this may reflect into many aspects of the story, with many things coming as pairs or partners. The most important is the question of justice of the law vs. right and wrong, but there are lot of other things that come in twos: Huggy & Nellie, 78 records & a 78 year old man, Willits & Billings, Fargo & Dobey (“no secrets between friends!”), the two pairs of cops in the booth at Nellie’s, and significantly, “the Original Centurion” and Knight.

    Fargo tried to pair up with Ginger, by making her part of the plot, but failed; Ginger claims to be paired up with Millie, but isn’t; she tries to pair up with Starsky, but he is suspicious; and Huggy tries to pair Starsky up with a rock, and it saves his life.

    Look how similar the names Willits and Billings are: both contain “illi” and end in “s”. The names’ first syllables, Will and Bill, are common nicknames for William, and Williams is the name of the second vigilante cop. Are these more deliberate pairings? The pairings of Centurion & Knight and Williams & Willits may be the reason these two cops go by their surnames.

    There are an awful lot of (pairs of) blue eyes in the courthouse hallway scene! But why did Willits accuse Starsky of beating him up when it was Hutch he fought with, and Starsky never touched him?

    It’s funny that when Starsky said he thought the rock was Ignatius, I thought he had come up with a name for the rock, like Herman or George. I’m a geologist, so I really should have caught that he meant “igneous”!

    When Dobey tells the guys they don’t have to look for Billings anymore, why do they instantly guess he is dead rather than captured?

    For all of Hutch’s backseat driving when Starsky decides to keep an eye on Willits, Starsky does whatever he feels like. Hutch says “That’s not very good on your suspension,” but it is one of the gentler moves Starsky makes with that poor car (compared to, for instance ramming Willits’s car a little while later). A large portion of Starsky’s household budget must go straight to Merl(e) the Earl for bodywork — which might explain why his mirrors are sometimes chrome and sometimes red!

    Willits might not have gone to his car in order to run off. He might have been heading to the store for some milk, but when he saw the Torino on his tail he got spooked, because of Billings’s death. If his initial intent was to jump bail, he would have closed his garage door so it would look like he was home. However, I admit he looks rather rushed walking out to the car, so he may have been unnerved by his partner’s death, without the need for someone to “warn” him that Starsky wanted to kill him. From the change in the trees, they gain a lot of altitude during the car chase. Perhaps Willits is headed to Big Bear.

    Was the altercation in Dobey’s office for Fargo’s benefit, or did they stage it so that they would be overheard by other cops in the hallway? A scene discussing why they didn’t trust Fargo would have removed a first-time viewer’s shock about the fight. However, if they were so deep undercover that they didn’t want Internal Affairs to know about it, why is Dobey such a blabbermouth? Sheesh! (I am sad that I knew, before watching, that there would be a faked fight between them, because it removed an important part of my first-time-viewing experience like Dona describes. It’s so hard not to read episode descriptions when they are right in front of me!)

    At Starsky’s (new) apartment, the door is too far back for Hutch to see Ginger in the car. Why does Starsky say that there are only three who know, when Willits and a guard cop also can see what’s going on?

    Reused sets department: The outside of Ginger’s apartment building is where Gillian lived; the telltale Y-shaped palm tree is only partially obscured by the Torino.

    Why does Ginger talk about maternal instincts when she’s trying to lure Starsky with sex? The resulting kiss is businesslike and harsh, nothing like the way Starsky kissed Terry in Starsky’s Lady.

    Why does Dobey snap at Hutch, “I can read!” Does he know on a subliminal level that he has just leaked potentially lethal information?

    Starsky runs a stop sign when he is driving the squad car.

    Perhaps his tapping the guns together at the end makes the two guns another “partnership.”

    I love Hutch’s acceptance of the rock at the end. He knows Starsky has just gone through something harrowing, and he trusts perfectly that there is a reason for Starsky to care about finding it, that he will learn why later, and that Dobey will be left in the dark.

    Notes on clothing notes: I am trying really hard to refrain from commenting on how Hutch’s face set off by black, as here, and especially in the tunnel in Survival, is practically heart-stopping; I’m trying really hard because this wonderful blog is a refuge from people panting over the two characters’ looks. I also note that I have failed.

    Note to King David: Your observation that the rock is like a talisman of Hutch is brilliant, and informed my comments about the rock. And what a wonderful description in your March 7 commentary!! You sell yourself short on your ability to make insights. (I had to look up “aggro”, because that’s not an American usage, at least not one that I have heard.)

    • Becki Says:

      I was so downhearted when I read Merl’s “Ignatious” explanation. Of course it’s correct and makes perfect sense given Starsky. But I too thought he had named his pet rock Ignatious. And since I named my chihuahua Ignatious, it made me SO HAPPY to think Starsky had given his pet the same name.

      • merltheearl Says:

        Maybe he fully intended to give his rock that name, Becki, what do I know? Whimsy is not usually Starsky’s style, but we can draw any conclusion we want if they bring us joy. I am now imagining a chihuahua named Ignatius and am utterly charmed.

  4. Anna Says:

    I was sure the “breakup” scene was an act immediately the first time I saw it (I’ve watched so many old shows I almost never get taken in by these tropes anymore). They really did sell it like a pro though. I wonder how they planned it out? They must have had to know how they were perceived by their fellow cops in order to pull off a believable falling-out without arousing anyone’s suspicions. What do the roles they play say about their reputations? Did any of the other officers who heard about the fight fall into “pro-Hutch” and “pro-Starsky” camps and argue with each other before it was revealed to have been all been just an act? And what was the aftermath like? IA with Merl that the vigilante ring must’ve been bigger than just those three — how long did it take to bust everyone? Were any friends other than Fargo among those who got busted? Was there a big public scandal?

    What also interested me was that it didn’t seem like Starsky was lying when expressing his anger. Exaggerating, but not lying. I don’t think he had to do much acting to make any of his various resentful rants and disgusted outbursts about the system ring true, because it seems like that’s what he really thought, and he was just lying by omission by letting the Committee assume that this meant he was willing to defect. Just like in “Hutchinson for Murder One” where even though he’s technically lying, you get the impression he’s not *really* lying when he tells Wheeler that he wants no part of this police force if Hutch goes to jail for something he didn’t do, he doesn’t seem to be saying anything here he doesn’t secretly kind of agree with.

    On the other hand, he must’ve been faking it pretty hard while seducing Ginger. She has got to be one of the most uncomfortable and unappealing women in this series, and I don’t mean appearance-wise, just her demeanor. Like there’s ants under her skin or something.

    • Dianna Says:

      Anna, I don’t really think he works very hard to seduce Ginger. He seems very passive to me with respect to seduction, completely letting her take the lead and acting amiable rather than eager; and he keeps asking her why she really invited him, which seems rather incompatible with trying to seduce her.

      • Anna Says:

        Yeah, sorry, I meant “be seduced BY” her. Typo there. I would still have a hard time keeping a straight face and not cringing away from her, y’know.

  5. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    Reconciling the confusion over the guys’ opinion of Fargo: my theory of must’ve happened is that Hutch didn’t trust Fargo, and therefore insisted that Fargo be kept in the dark while they had their fake spat in Dobey’s office. Starsky, on the other hand, did trust Fargo, but there was no reason for him to oppose Hutch over a harmless precaution, so he went along with misleading Fargo, but he was still totally not expecting Fargo to really be involved with the vigilantes. That’s why Starsky was so stunned and shaken in the tunnel by the reveal that Fargo was in the committee, while when Hutch realized the same thing after Fargo slipped up about Ginger, he wasn’t surprised at all. (This also fits their patterns of Starsky being more reluctant to suspect his fellow cops of wrongdoing than Hutch.)

    • Dianna Says:

      Perfect! Thank you! Yes!

      Although Dobey is in on it too, and he goes along with the fake spat. He clearly trusts Fargo, or he wouldn’t have let slip about having a man undercover, so maybe Hutch’s pitch to Dobey was that he wanted people to overhear a scene that did not sound rehearsed.

      I do love this episode, and you have enriched it a bit more.

      • Grevy Says:

        Aw glad to be of help! Thinking up little offscreen explanations for stuff that isn’t completely clear in TV shows is a longstanding favorite habit of mine. It’s very enjoyable for me, although my sister, who had to put up with me going “I wonder if…” at the TV screen all the time when we were kids, may disagree.

  6. stybz Says:

    I finally got the DVDs and watched this episode a couple of times. I love the analysis. I just have one minor comment. 🙂


    “The sunset when they take Starsky to pick up Garner is really spectacular. And the fact it hasn’t changed when they exit the apartment shows you how fast the production team films.”


    Not that it’s a big deal, but scenes are often filmed out of order, so the drive up and the drive out could have been done back to back using the same camera positioning allowing for immediate movement and no rearranging of the camera or delays of filming the activity that occurs in between arrival and departure. 🙂

    I just love chatting about filming techniques. 🙂

    • merltheearl Says:

      Great point. I readily admit I know nothing about filming techniques, except to watch the agonizingly slow process in my own neighborhood. But I love hearing about it from someone who knows.

      • stybz Says:

        I love the film industry and worked in it for a while, so I enjoy talking about it. 🙂

        Incidentally, I’m curious where you get your film notes from? 🙂 Did someone from the crew share some on-set trivia?

      • merltheearl Says:

        I wish I could say yes, stybz, but these are merely things I recall from various untrustworthy sources. I’ve apologized more than once for inaccuracies, so I probably shouldn’t include them, but usually the details are so lovely I can’t help it. No libel suits have come my way yet!

  7. stybz Says:

    Ah. Thanks, Merl. 🙂 I do enjoy them, but will keep an open mind. 🙂

  8. stybz Says:

    I watched this again to check on the quote below:

    “Give me a piece,” Starsky says when asked to shoot Garner. Why do they not see the gigantic gun? The question is answered near the end, when Starsky pushes Fargo onto the Ford (really hard) and reaches into his back waistband for his gun and then – inexplicably – taps the two guns together before placing them on top of the Ford. What – shaking out the sand? Superstition? Transference of spiritual energy?


    First, Starsky and Hutch knew long before the undercover operation that the victims were all killed with different, untraceable guns, not knowing that they were already confiscated guns from the lock-up. So for Starsky to use his own would be risky. Earlier in the episode when Knight and his partner are given the assignment to kill Billings, they’re handed guns (placed on the table as they get their assignment). They didn’t use their own, despite showing one of the cops at the crime scene playing with his gun in his holster while Doby was on the radio. He probably figured no one would notice that he was carrying a different gun than his police issued one, as he probably had no time to go back to the station or to “Ginger’s” place to have it returned.

    Second, while there is definitely something shiny in Starsky’s waistband, I don’t think it’s a “gigantic gun”. The gun Starsky pulls out at the end is Fargo’s, not his own. When Starsky gets Fargo to drop his gun, he pulls out the handcuffs and cuffs one of Fargo’s wrists, then leans down, picks up Fargo’s gun and sticks it in his waistband. That’s what he pulls out and taps against the other gun at Hutch’s car. He then tosses both of them on the roof. If one of them was his own gun, he’d have either kept it where it was or held on to it, not discard it on the roof.

    There is definitely something shiny in his waistband before he picks up the “piece”. It’s either his belt or the handcuffs he pulls out at the end to cuff Fargo. I’m inclined to believe they’re his handcuffs, which is a nice bit of continuity since often on cop shows the cuffs seem to appear out of nowhere. 🙂 It’s too quick to be sure. However, when he bends down to pick up the piece he’s supposed to use against the lawyer, his rear waistband is in full view of Fargo and the other cops. Surely, they would have seen a gun, if there was one, and taken it out or told him to toss it.

    As to why the tapping? My guess it was as some had concluded to get the sand out of them. They both were on the ground at some point. 🙂

  9. Adelaide Says:

    Is the “you’re very hard to get along with sometimes” comment the only other time Starsky ever directly points out Hutch’s prickliness, apart from the “you’re mean, you’re really mean” line in the Las Vegas Strangler? I really can’t think of any other instance where he says anything like this.

    I have to agree with Anna and disagree with Merl — when it comes to actual demonstrable events and actions, Starsky IS more likely than Hutch to openly do and say renegade and unconventional things, especially at this point in the series (it changes a bit by season 4, I think). I’m not really sure where the idea that Hutch is more likely to be renegade comes from — I don’t recall off the top of my head any instances prior to this episode (or for that matter, prior to the end of season 3) of him doing something openly (where other cops/officials can get wind of his actions) renegade and opposed-to-regulations without Starsky’s equal involvement except once or twice — the misleading-the-feds trick in The Bait, and maybe his actions towards Artie Solkin in Vendetta — but there’s several where both he and Starsky do something renegade together with both of them equally enthusiastic about it, or Starsky is the one who pushes for it more, or where Starsky does something renegade alone. They’re *both* pretty damn renegade, but Starsky’s definitely more obvious about it. And Starsky’s more insolent towards authority, who probably resent him more for that (another thing — I also don’t get the assertion that Starsky would “make a great chief of police” or “can charm the brass.” Huh? What? He has always, repeatedly, demonstrated that he absolutely zero patience for the brass, or bureaucratic red tape, or with making nice towards with any form of authority, as has been mentioned in other reviews! The sort of person who would make a good chief of police is someone good at pasting on fake smiles and ass-kissing and discreetly conniving and making things look good for the press and listening politely and speaking reasonably to people they secretly think are idiots. That’s not Starsky in the slightest.)

    So it’s totally logical for people to peg him as the more rebellious and uncontrollable half. But you’re definitely right that this is where the other characters’ superficial understanding of Starsky and Hutch comes in — because Hutch has more of a veneer of being calm and cool and collected, and more likely to use words than actions, people think his actual attitude and opinions are less rebellious, less insolent, and less dangerous, which isn’t the case. Hutch probably has an even *more* deep-seated (and intimately knowledgeable, given his apparent social class) disgust for PR and authority and official department policy and whatnot than Starsky. It’s just bubbling more under the surface and concentrated into purely verbal acid that is more easily forgotten by people who don’t respect what he has to say. Starsky blows up fast and cools down fast, getting it all out of his system each time and re-energized to go another round with the next idiot who pisses him off, which is more memorable for outside observers than Hutch’s seething and frustrated sarcastic outrage. I think a buildup of this into a head of steam is a big part of what led to Hutch’s character development in season 4, and it really blasts the lid off in a whole string of dramatic choices — some great, some really terrible — at the end of that season.

    Very interesting and sharp-eyed observation of Starsky’s more-than-meets-the-eye knowledge about certain “sophisticated” things, though! Starsky seems more unevenly-educated than across-the-board uneducated. Given his confidence, his strong-willed personality and tenacity, and the jam-packed bookcases I spy in his apartment here, as well as, I’m pretty sure, in “Running,” “Rosey Malone” and “Fatal Charm,” I’d even venture that he’s largely *self*-educated.

    Speaking of which, it’s rather strongly implied in the Omaha Tiger, etc, that Starsky has no college education at this point, which suits his character, but I’d bet if he ever did take night classes to get a degree in, like, criminology for a lieutenant’s position or something later on, he’d probably do quite well (now wouldn’t that be something fun to see? Hutch waiting around making excuses because he refuses to get promoted ahead of Starsky, and Starsky playing dumb so Hutch can have the pleasure of schooling him in all kinds of theories out of books and espoused by coddled academics when they probably both know from hard experience that half of it is bullshit. That’s what the imagination is for, I guess…)

    • merltheearl Says:

      I must say you have quite a cynical view of the chief of police, but I guess it’s more in keeping with real life than fiction; in my (largely fictional) hypothesis, Starsky shows great promise as a leader and a negotiator, fair to the officers under his command as well as being remarkably unflappable in public – I can’t help but think of his scene in Plague pt 1 in which he effortlessly takes command of a difficult situation. Add to this a supernatural calm, and to me at least he would make a stellar chief. But I suppose, alas, there are other and less savory political realities to consider.

      As for who is the more unconventional or renegade than the other, I suppose everyone has their ideas on the subject. Let’s celebrate all those ideas!

  10. stybz Says:

    I watched this one again last night and caught something quite funny.

    Huggy Bear says, “You have *required* a new member of your family.” It’s easy to miss, and the captioning on my TV said “acquired”, but it’s definitely “required” and you can see his mouth forming the RE and not the A. 🙂

  11. Blunderbuss Says:

    I’ve always thought this episode should have been the first half of a two parter or something. It’s such a cool idea — the head of Internal Affairs – the department intended to be the enforcers who watch the watchmen and prevent abuses of power – as a vigilante cop himself? A ring of vigilante cops roaming the city and hidden in plain sight? It just begs for more details! A bigger conspiracy! A more dangerous ordeal with more dirty cops coming out of the woodwork after Fargo gets busted! With attempts to silence and threaten Starsky and Hutch to stop them from uncovering their crimes! And more background on how Fargo became the way he is! Ach, missed opportunities…

    Also, while I’m positive the writers never had this in mind at all, the self-styled “hatchet man” of IA getting caught doing this does lend rather more credence to Starsky and Hutch’s somewhat irrational antipathy towards IA later in “Hutchinson for Murder One.” By Starsky and Hutch’s record within this series of exposing departmental corruption, it seems that, ironically, the two of them have been more effective IA officers than the *actual* IA officers.

  12. Ruth Says:

    I start to wonder just how corrupt the BCPD is if even Internal Affairs is falling apart from the inside out because even its apparently really conscientious head, with a great record and reputation who had all his friends fooled, is out murdering criminals (and probably letting bad cops who wrongly murdered criminals off the hook). If we are going to ignore the real life things, like the reset button in episodic shows, and the way all big events revolve around the main characters in TV shows, it logically follows that this kind of thing doesn’t just keep happening in the same place to the same people by accident. Does the BCPD just attract terrible cops due to being full of crooks in the first place? Or is there something about this city that’s so awful it drives regular cops around the bend? Has everyone been in Gunther’s pocket (or Gunther’s rivals’ pockets) all these years? Are Starsky and Hutch the only two completely clean and incorruptible cops in the whole force? Sure seems like it sometimes. I wonder if that’s part of how they became so “me and thee” in the first place. That is what a lot of the Pilot seemed to be all about, and what the 4th season’s ending storyline seemed to be all about. Any thoughts?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Great questions Ruth. I’m far from the final word on the subject, but I feel quite strongly that we should have a fair amount of practical amnesia when watching. I’ve always thought that it’s not fair to the series, or the writers, to keep a count of murder victims and crooked cops. It causes us to feel the sneaky and unwelcome sense of skepticism which (to me) is the death of imagination. It’s something I’ve wrestled with as well and I certainly hope I haven’t written a version of that jokey “better not be a girlfriend, you’ll wind up dead!” I think, from your comment, you agree with me. It’s just not feasible to be realistic, otherwise we’d be watching Starsky and Hutch do paperwork for 80% of each episode. As for how many times the narrative of the Corrupt Insider was used, to me it’s just because this series is interested in upending both tradition and institution and this was a way to do political damage without seeming to be political, most likely as a way to get the green light from the Spelling Empire. I do sometimes wonder why the circle was rarely widened beyond the DA or Internal Affairs to include the press corps, the prison system, or any other fun places. Or maybe it was simply easier to write stories that were easily understood by the lawyer-hating public, I don’t know. But I can’t bring myself to believe the writers thought of James Gunther as Ultimate Evil until some bleary 3 a.m. writing session when trying to finish the first draft for “Targets”. Sometimes I wonder if a suggestion was made to make Frank Tallman from the pilot episode behind the “Target” murders, which would have been a nice bookend to the series, until it was agreed that Tallman was altogether too genial to fit the profile of a true psychopath.

      • Ruth Says:

        My apologies if I came off as overly facetious, merl. I admit that I was writing pretty tongue-in-cheek, but I would not have mentioned it if this pattern of institutional corruption did not (accidentally) actually make *sense* in Starsky and Hutch’s world, almost enhances it, and makes me wish it *was* more deliberate.

        I could also have joked about, for example, the fact that Starsky and Hutch’s faces are shown in newspapers and newscasts so often that in reality it would ruin their capacity for undercover work. But that, in my opinion, is pretty much irrelevant to the central ideas of show, and breaking the rules of episodic amnesia in that case would unfairly detract from rather than enhance the integrity of the viewing experience. I certainly cannot blame the writers for not being able to look into the future and see how the conventions of TV would change!

  13. Louie Says:

    I think I might kind of wish Starsky and Hutch came to blows during a fight genuinely more often. It would be interesting…their relationship is so intense that it seems it would be natural for that passion to come out in anger as well as affection and caring.

    But then maybe, that would dilute the “specialness” of the scenes where they do hit each other…part of what proves how devastated and out of control Hutch is in Gillian, is him actually hitting Starsky…hard enough to knock him sprawling. In Starsky vs Hutch that also shows how wrong things are between them…Starsky hits Hutch when Hutch tries to touch him after Kira. It’s like hitting is breaking the rules.

    In The Committee it’s also used to play on the audience’s expectations, but sort of different. I really like that moment after Starsky hits Hutch, and he pauses and looks down at him with a shaken, regretful expression. On first viewing it looks like his remembered friendship with Hutch is warring with his supposed anger and betrayal…but on second viewing we know he’s actually worried he hurt Hutch and didn’t like hitting him even as part of an act, and let the act slip for a second.

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