Episode 53: The Plague: Part One

Starsky races the clock to find hit-man Thomas Callendar who’s carrying a deadly virus that has infected Hutch and threatens the city, while Drs. Kaufman and Meredith work to find the answer and keep Hutch alive.

Dr. Judith Kaufman: Janet Margolin, Callendar: Alex Rocco, Dr. Meredith: Frank Marth, Helen Yeager: Jean Allison, Richie Yeager: Patrick Laborteaux, Roper: Al Ruscio, Jake Donner: Walter Mathews, Virginia Donner: Natalie Norwick, Lt. Anderson: Paul Kent, Doctor: David S Milton. Written By: William Douglas Lansford, Directed By: Bob Kelljan


“The Plague” is notable because it’s the only two-part episode to deal with a partnership-threatening crisis – in this case, Hutch contracting a potentially fatal illness. Two hours allows extra time to build and develop the story but writer William Lansford is careful never to let extraneous events intrude or the emotional intensity to slacken; because of this, “The Plague” is, to my mind, the only really successful two-part episode. The series is never better than when depicting one partner supporting or saving the other from near-certain doom. These episodes are crucial because they intensify and distill the emotional bond between the two characters through socially-acceptable narrative means, allowing both actors to express what is normally hidden between the lines or – more often – disguised as jokes, subtle gestures or substitutive bitchiness (I’m talking to you, Hutchinson).

In the very first scene Starsky and Hutch are seen flouting a rule: the white zone is for immediate loading and unloading of passengers only, no parking. Differentiating between genuine rules and discount-when-necessary rules is a scenario repeated throughout the episode (and the whole series) in this amusing instance and in more serious ways too. In this episode Starsky is the rule-breaker: not only parking where he shouldn’t (and being outraged when caught), but writing on the hospital window, going into Hutch’s room when told not to, paying a risky visit to Roper, and going against accepted police procedure to make a televised plea to Callendar offering immunity.

In a premonitory conversation, the guys talk about how long they want to live. Starsky wants his full, regularly allotted lifespan but Hutch is going for near-immortality: a hundred and forty-eight years. It’s a lovely encapsulation of their personalities: Starsky the optimistic rationalist, Hutch the imaginative extremist.

Even while expressing skepticism about National Geographic article Starsky seems to believe just about any other odd supernatural-type trivia (vampires, ghosts, lucky charms), causing Hutch many hilarious eye-rolling moments throughout the series. Hutch, on the other hand, is prey to more scientifically-minded, New Age fads: biorhythms, extreme dietary restrictions, meditation (I am aware, of course, meditation is not a fad, but its widespread acceptance of it in popular culture of the time can be loosely linked with such karmic kookiness as Yogic Flying).

I love the pre-9-11 attitude toward airport security, the mix of sexism and power-mongering Starsky and Hutch so casually (and effectively) employ. Parking in a restricted zone? Yep. Guns allowed beyond security? Definitely. Flirting? Encouraged. Rank-pulling on airport security? Sure, why not. The guys are so dominant and easy in their authority the security personnel end up apologizing to them.

Another likeable, and much-repeated motif: Starsky asking the time, and Hutch grabbing his wrist to tell it.

Hutch’s eventual catastrophic health failure happens in large part because of a purse snatcher the guys insist on capturing even though they have no jurisdiction at the airport. They should have alerted airport security, or simply tailed him until help arrived. A purse-snatching is hardly a federal offense, and yet they act as if their lives depend on apprehending the thief. It’s worth speculating on the irony this energetic but entirely unnecessary take-down is the catalyst for the events that follow.

Do you think Starsky was successful in talking the guy out of towing his car from the airport?

Callendar, the hit man, is well-named: this is definitely a show about racing time.

How well does Hutch know Mrs. Donner anyway? He picks stuff off her sweater in a very primate-like way when they are at the hospital. It’s a very odd, intimate gesture and quite distracting.

Mrs. Donner says the worst thing about being a cop’s wife is waiting “waiting until he comes home for supper, maybe some junkie stabbed him, waiting for him to get home from Europe, waiting until the doctor comes and tells me that my husband is going to be all right.” Is waiting the worst thing about being a cop’s wife? Is she on the verge of discovering something even worse lying at the end of that wait? Do Starsky and Hutch listen to this and think, I’ll never put someone through that?

Starsky and Hutch are put in quarantine – together. Why does an isolation room have two beds? It seems the best way to isolate something is to keep it apart from any other variables. Of course, I have made the point before that this series is not primarily about realism, that it is best understood and enjoyed for the metaphoric or abstracted ideas that live between the lines and outside the margins. Even though I will myself point out procedural errors and question the logic of many aspects to the series, mostly because it’s fun to be pedantic, I do understand what’s going on here, and why we must accept that this refusal or inability to separate implies the partnership itself is inviolable, no matter what the circumstance. And that to understand one is to observe the other.

Dr. Kaufman says they have to go out looking “for every one Jake Donner came into contact with since stepping off that plane” to find the source of the infection. Why since landing in Los Angeles, and not at any European cities Donner may have visited? Or someone on the airplane, who may have gone on to another destination?

Dobey says, “That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone call them gentlemen,” after Dr. Kaufman asks for Starsky and Hutch as such. Watch Hutch’s expression: annoyance, embarrassment, and weary acceptance, as if Dobey’s bluster is entirely expected.

Huggy, looking great in his pale denim leisure suit and cap, complains it’s hard enough to talk to them “sotto voce” at the bar, now he has to talk to them out in public. Hilariously, neither Starsky nor Hutch remark upon Huggy suddenly breaking into Italian; they seem to take it for granted.

Dr Kaufman starts to really enjoy her time on the streets with the guys, dealing with characters like Sister Magda, the hooker with the snappy: “So bust me or trust me, my rent was due, like, yesterday” and the colorful Big Benny (played, wonderfully, by an actor named Little Angie), newspaper seller and numbers runner. She likes the colorful street life, likes the two detectives and their work, and you can see they likewise enjoy showing her what they do. She’s nonjudgmental and open to new experiences. Both Dr Kaufman and Starsky and Hutch are never happier when working, and the eccentric denizens of the street don’t faze her in the least. It’s interesting to compare her ride-along with that of Christine Phelps in “Heroes”, who should have been more like Dr. Kaufman.

The pretty girl at the newspaper stand overhears Dr Kaufman say Big Benny might be infected with a fatal disease, and she doesn’t run away like any sensible person would. Instead, she’s blasé. Maybe she doesn’t know what the word “contagious” means.

This is funny: “She can’t make her rent money in the hospital,” Hutch says. “Don’t bet on it,” Starsky says.

Hutch remarks that “eight possibles” are in the hospital, under quarantine. This indicates they’re showing symptoms already. Yet Dr. Meredith says they haven’t found the carrier yet. How does she know this for sure? Is Kaufman using a strict chronology as an identifier – i.e. Donner must have had contact with the person within moments of landing in LA?

Dr Meredith makes a big deal about hurrying the lab technicians out of the room before telling Kaufman and the guys about the how serious the virus is, how they’re going to have to put the entire floor of the hospital under quarantine. Why does he do this? Surely the information is vital to the people who have just left the room. He then allows Kaufman to make the announcement over the phone. At the end Hutch jokes that Dr Kaufman is a “coward” but it seems Dr Meredith is an even more pronounced one.

At the risk of sounding tiresomely academic, I must make the observation that the jokes in this series are always unusually perspicacious. Never random or nonsensical, the mock-insults, gags and light witticisms always hint at an underlying and often tension-filled truth. A case in point: they discover it’s Thomas Callendar who is the source of the plague: “He travels in Europe a lot,” Hutch says, “with the beautiful people.” Starsky, alerted by the word “beautiful”, feels obliged to say, “And I’m stuck with you,” to which Hutch replies genially, “right.” It’s a lovely moment: Hutch too preoccupied with events to act either vain or disputatious (because it does take a lot of effort maintaining that fractious facade) but Starsky taking a stab at it anyway, as if hoping to see a little of the ol’ Hutch Magic.

Was there $5000 in the envelope Thomas Callendar gives to his roof-top contact? Or was it just plain paper? Callendar doesn’t take the money back when he leaves.

Starsky and Hutch meet with the two doctors at their hotel. Their suite, if in fact they’re sharing, is incredibly luxurious: a roomy living space with antiques and plants and paneled walls. How do you suppose two scientists are afforded this sort of opulence? Will the Center for Disease Control get a huge bill?

So why is the thermos in the Torino’s trunk as Starsky and Hutch watch Roper? That’s rather inconvenient, since they’re both drinking coffee from it.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Starsky complains as they stake out the gangster, unconsciously echoing Virginia Danner. “I thought I finished that routine in the army.” (Typically, Hutch lectures Starsky about living to a hundred years and developing some “patience”, like the zen master he is). From the sound of it, Starsky may not have seen a lot of action in his stint in the army. If he served during the final days of the Vietnam War, he may not have gotten out of training camp at all.

Callendar’s nice shoes give him away to Hutch. Later, when he comes to the hospital, he is wearing ratty tennis shoes. Was Callendar’s mistake of the nice shoes because he was sloppy when he wasn’t feeling well? Or for another reason?

Starsky might have arrested Callendar if he hadn’t been so worried about slowing the car down for Hutch (an admittedly cool dive through the passenger window).

Interesting to note that Dr Meredith is even more upset than Dr Kaufman when Hutch gets the diagnosis. He looks utterly grief-stricken. Yes, he could be sorry on behalf of his friend and colleague Kaufman, and he could be anxious about losing an important factor in the fight against the disease, but I suspect there’s more than one doctor infatuated with the big blond beauty. Notice how, when breaking the news to Hutch, Meredith mumbles a semi-incoherent explanation, while Kaufman briskly gives it to him straight.

Note Starsky’s stricken silence. It’s a classic Glaser moment: reserved, underplayed, but with a real fire in his eyes that is very affecting and natural. Glaser has a very coiled, muscular presence. To be effective he doesn’t need to jump up and down and do a lot of shouting to make a viewer’s hair stand on end. Just a look will do it.

Starsky’s roadside speech to the detectives after Callendar was seen running off into the desert has all the elements of the very best cinematic speeches. To me, it stands up to any classic, over-praised film scene. It may seem plain, almost minimal, but it derives its power from both the modesty of the genre and the medium, as well as the spare, compressed quality of Glaser’s performance. Without any bells and whistles, it’s absolutely present, in every way. Every element is perfect. Glaser believes what he’s saying, the extras believe it, the viewer believes it. You can practically feel the sun baking the asphalt, the hot desert wind. The hard-working sergeant who becomes the sounding-board for Starsky’s frustrated outbursts. The truck driver bewildered by a tsunami of emotion he can’t comprehend. It all works.


29 Responses to “Episode 53: The Plague: Part One”

  1. Shelley Says:

    We talked in a different comment about the weird aspect of casting the same actors in other parts, and you mentioned this particular instance in ‘The Committee.’ I’ve mostly gotten to ignore this by thinking of it as a theater group, but the casting of Rocco here is jarring.

    I’m confused about why the plague seems to hit everybody real fast except for Hutch, or am I misunderstanding that? Why does the doctor re-check Hutch’s blood anyway? How does he know the symptoms will start in 48 hours, when Hutch has been walking around perfectly fine for days?

    • Shelley Says:

      P.S. I see you had similar questions that you raised in the blog for Part 2.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Good questions about the speed of the infection, and Meredith’s actions. I’m pretty sure these inconsistencies are purely for the sake of drama. Hutch takes longer to get sick – and is sick longer – than anyone else because it’s so compelling. Also, I like your earlier comment about the detail of Mrs. Yeager saying her husband is Canada. The extreme bitterness in her voice is not just annoyance at Starsky’s personal question, is it? Something else is going on. I always thought he had another family up there, a wife and kids in Montreal or something like that, and she found out. But then I have an overactive imagination.

  2. June Says:

    Agree about Starsky’s motivational war cry speech. Better than the oft-quoted Fugitive lines “doghouse, outhouse etc).

  3. June Says:

    This article seems to allude to what Hutch was talking about: a survey taken in Georgia, Russia, about longevity.

  4. King David Says:

    Dramatic tension demands of us the viewer an awful lot of acceptance, wouldn’t you say?
    Perhaps they chase the thief because they like showing off to each other, and exhilarating in their physical fitness? (Irony: Hutch loses his fitness because of it.)
    I can’t let this post go without mentioning the “No parking in the white zone” bit, because had one of those OMG moments when I came to S&H again after thirty+ years a couple of years ago. In the movie “Flying High” (US audiences know it as “Airplane” I believe), as the car pulls up to the airport, the PA is saying this very announcement! It then degenerates into a comedy gag, and is very funny (as is the whole movie with brilliant comedic writing), but when I saw this episode after such a long hiatus I couldn’t believe the scene. I was astounded. S&H was so well-known in the public consciousness that it could get satirised.
    Anyway, back to Plague:
    The whole planeload of passengers should’ve been quarantined, and all persons from anywhere along the route. Still, as a plot premise, we can accept it as credible, just.
    Waiting is awful, if you are unsure of the outcome. Waiting, fretting, stressing, imagining the worst…(hang on, someone else is waiting, fretting, stressing, imagining the worst, and knocking himself out to avoid the horrible possibility).
    I hadn’t thought before about the isolation ward for two; what I had always felt awful about (I would hate it) is the observation window whereby everyone can see you all the time. (Same as Sweet Revenge) even though I understand the purpose. I suppose the medicos figure that S&H are equally contaminated so may as well stay together. I can see Starsky pining if completely isolated.
    I do like the ‘speech to the troops’ because it sounds note perfect – cadence, gravitas, personal angle. How many of the troops know S&H by name and/or reputation? Here they see the knife without the fork, the cup without the saucer, and that must register, surely.
    Starsky hasn’t got a tool or prop to take with him on his rounds, that keeps Hutch in our minds in the way the Torino does in Bloodbath. Oversight? Unnecessary? If Starsky had worn a recognisably-Hutch jacket, would this have been too much?

  5. Dianna Says:

    When I started watching this, and saw the first disease transmission via blood, I thought the writers had managed to anticipate the AIDS epidemic (the first known cases in the US were the following year), but then it turned out to be more like a really deadly flu or a faster-moving but less horrible Ebola virus (which first appeared in Zaire and Sudan in 1976). Lansford worked as a journalist, so it is just possible he had heard of Ebola and was inspired by it.

    Alex Rocco’s reappearance was really annoying, and I had to really fight with myself to not see Callendar as “Lt. Fargo out on parole;” I have no idea why I was bothered more by this than by Karen Carlson being reincarnated as CD Phelps.

    When I see an “unconscious echo” in an episode (in this case, Merl mentioned Starsky complaining about waiting at the stakeout as an echo of Virginia Danner), I start hunting for a concern that affects all characters, and indeed, everyone in this episode embodies some aspect of waiting, particularly in the first half:

    The first voice we hear is a recording telling people not to wait at the curb at the airport. Then the guys wait in line and Starsky opines that 148 is too many years; they check how long they have to wait for Jake; they wait in quarantine; Richie waits by Callendar’s bedside; when we see Callendar grasp Richie’s hand we begin waiting for him to get sick; Callendar’s contact waits for him at their meeting place; the truck driver waits for Starsky to arrive and question him.

    This element of waiting in the second half is dominated by waiting for Hutch to sicken and possibly die. In addition, Dr. Meredith tells Starsky they have to wait to put any information on the TV; Roper has a guard always waiting at his gate; Starsky and Dr. Kaufman wait for Callendar to call in; and Starsky, as well as Roper’s thugs, wait for Callendar to come to the hospital.

    (This does not discount Merl’s fine observation about Starsky pulling rank repeatedly, and I note that Helen Yeager also eventually manages to pull “mom” rank and get into Richie’s quarantine room. I see pulling rank as a second concern of all the characters.)

    When the guys are together in quarantine — perhaps all the isolation rooms have two beds — I was a bit embarrassed to find myself riveted by the gap in Starsky’s gown when he walks toward the door to retrieve their lunch. He’s certainly not wearing boxers.

    Dr. Meredith says, “We’re from the DC headquarters,” and Dr. Kaufman clarifies, “Disease Control, in Alabama.” The place they should be from is the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, which is in Georgia, and has been since its inception, and has had that name since 1970.

    Merl asks why the technician are rushed out of the lab. I think the real question is why Starsky and Hutch are allowed to stay! Shouldn’t the two investigating doctors have a private conference as they are making their decisions?

    The doctors’ luxurious hotel suite — and the cops’ capacious apartments, and the large comfortable homes where the single mothers live… I would just chalk it up to Hollywood. Or perhaps the doctors’ agency paid for a meeting room on the conference level of the hotel for the duration of the investigation.

    I love Merl’s description of Starsky’s stricken silence. Yes.

    Dobey says “I love Hutch as much as you do.” Baloney. That is simply not possible.

    When Starsky goes to the roadside stop, other than police vehicles, we see only a pickup truck — nothing that would be driven by someone you would term a truck driver, and who is stressed out because he is “a half a day late and a load short.”

    I am surprised Starsky doesn’t have to show any identification when he shows up, because the cops there are a combination of sheriffs (tan shirts with star badges — you can read the word “Sheriff” on the Sergeant’s arm) and Bay City cops (blue shirts) and possibly Highway Patrol (motorcycle cops). Maybe one of the BC cops said, “Here comes Sgt. Starsky. I recognize his striped tomato.”

    King David, Starsky doesn’t need a prop to remind us of Hutch, because he’s not missing. Starsky knows right where he is, and drops in on him periodically.

    I was trying to work out the timetable on this episode. Jake says he’s felt bad for the “couple days” he’s been home, and Starsky, Hutch, and Judith want to find everyone he contacted in the past 48 hours, and the number 72 hours is mentioned for a quarantine, but I lost track of it after that. Maybe somebody else will be more successful.

  6. King David Says:

    Ah yes, Dianna, Starsky knows very well where Hutch is, but I had hoped that as Hutch’s health is declining by the minute, Starsky would’ve carried with him some sort of talisman to act as a touchstone, to provide comfort in what is a distressing situation, and perhaps also provide some calm in the same way that rosary beads can become the focus for when one says prayers.
    Yes, I know it’s lame, but I always hope.
    And I agree that no-one could love Hutch as much as Starsky in the same way, but I like the fact that Dobey thinks he does and that Hutch is a recipient of that love. Compare and contrast it with how desperately Dobey tries to keep it together when it’s Starsky’s life on the line (Sweet Revenge)…he even loses his appetite!
    I too lost the timeline and how many people had been exposed…I just suspended my disbelief and enjoyed the story.

  7. Dianna Says:

    I haven’t seen Sweet Revenge yet. He loses his appetite? Wow.

    I just thought Dobey looked clueless because he thinks he’s inside the partnership. Maybe it’s more generous to think that he loves Hutch like a son, while Starsky loves him like a brother.

  8. Wallis Says:

    No clothing notes? For shame! They both look so damn stunning in the last act of this ep, especially the scene where they get the news of Hutch’s infection, Hutch all in light blues like his eyes, with one of his gorgeous loose buttoned shirts and those cowboy jeans that amplify his height and slenderness and elegance so well; and Starsky all in dark, with that awesome leather jacket of his and his great necklace combined with him bristling with overgrown black curls to make him look badass and intense as hell.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Wallis, I laughed when I read this. I thought maybe my obsession with the clothes gets a little tiresome, and it’s nice someone points out when it’s missing. I agree completely about the great look of this episode. The clothes Hutch wears are basically unwearable for 99.9% of the population, such is his enviable body type.

      • Shelley Says:

        Not tiresome. At all.

      • Dianna Says:

        Definitely not tiresome. Your clothing notes make me pay attention to something I would not normally keep track of and would only notice subliminally.

      • Anna Says:

        Well, the clothes are a pretty legitimate part of the show, in my opinion. On one hand there’s the period aspect: who doesn’t like to appreciate (or laugh at) those ’70s fashions? On another, Starsky and Hutch’s personalities, with all their envelope-pushing and hippie-ish insistence on not looking like cops, as many characters have said, are conveyed partly through their clothes and it’s a valid annotation to the character studying you do.

        Also, with your gift of attention, you ought to feel a duty to slightly increase the amount of pleasure in the world by helpfully reminding people to get an eyeful of Starsky’s jeans. Call it a public service.

  9. Anna Says:

    Merl, can I just say I love your repeated little insinuations that various dudes in this show are madly in love with Hutch? Because to be quite honest, it makes so much sense. Hee.

    Starsky’s still, quiet intensity in the final scenes — in the hospital with Hutch and the doctors, with Dobey, and with the searching policemen, are just plain awesome. This is the kind of thing that elevates scenes from part of a run-of-the-mill enjoyable hour of television to something that sticks in your head for years after you first saw it. I like your description “coiled,” Merl. It’s the perfect adjective to describe him here. And his voice when he says “Hutch?…I’m gonna find Callendar.” Spoken very soft and simple, but with an undercurrent that clearly means “I’m gonna find Callendar if I have to dig through hell with my fingernails and boil the oceans off the face of the earth to do it.”

    And Hutch outright tells him to go ahead and do it! I love that. Something I really like about these guys is that they don’t bullshit around being self-deprecating and insulting the other’s choice of friends by pretending to be surprised or undeserving when the other expresses devotion to them. They each know and feel they have the right to assert the fact the other one loves him just as fiercely.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Very perceptive. I’m thinking of all the extraordinary things they do for each other over the years, from Starsky hiding Hutch over The Pits in order to detox in “The Fix” to Hutch making excuses for Starsky’s long absences in “Running”, even Starsky throwing his badge into the ocean in “Targets Without a Badge”. And never is there a moment where the other feels undeserving or reluctant to accept help. They simply trust the other will do everything and anything to help.

  10. Louie Says:

    I love Hutch’s reaction to the news of his illness. It feels so naturalistic somehow. Like it’s so easy to believe someone like Hutch would react exactly like that, with that very Hutchlike mixture of anxiety, frustration, rationality, sarcasm, jokeyness, and bravado.

    I also love Starsky’s “speech to the troops” at the end. It’s wonderfully directed and set, and makes him look desperate and badass at the same time. And the writing and acting is so perfectly Starsky: no showiness, no fuss, no frills, just honest conviction and feeling in exactly as many words as are necessary. Henry V, eat your heart out 😀

  11. Adelaide Says:

    Unfortunately for Starsky, he would most likely have been of army service age in the mid-to-late ’60s, the height of troop deployment in the ground war in Vietnam, as I believe (though I could be wrong) even a very lowball calculation of his and Hutch’s amount of experience in the police force to rise to detective by 1972-1974 (the dates on how long Starsky and Hutch have been partners are all contradictory, but they are all longer than the the length of the series) would mean they had enrolled in the academy before the year 1970 (direct U.S. involvement in Vietnam ended in 1973).

    I don’t know about the amount of action implied — most war vets I’ve heard from have said one of the worst parts was the tense boredom of anticipation and waiting that stretched between outbreaks of violence and chaos — analogous to the situation in this episode that Starsky’s complaining about. And Starsky usually downplays or plays sensitive personal details close to the chest. Of course, there are still a lot of different options for where someone in the military might have gone, even during the escalation, but on the other hand, it might complement some stuff about his personality. Like that deathly-serious steely side even though he’s naturally innocent and goofy, which is so very different from Hutch, and which he shows so memorably at the end of this episode.

    I wonder, like with many other similar throwaway lines, what the writers’ intent was with dropping such a loaded backstory-hint into a casual moment without clarification. Maybe they just didn’t want to risk upsetting any viewers during a period when attitudes towards the military were pretty conflicted, but I have a similar “what did you guys meeeaaan” reaction to the mention of Hutch’s brother-in-law (who is this sister and why do you never mention her? Is she as embarrassing as Nick Starsky? Also, how DID you become a sea scout while living in Duluth? ‘It wasn’t easy’ is not an answer!) And don’t even get me started on that head-scratching conversation with Joe Durniak.

  12. Darren Read Says:

    Note as S&H are chasing Callendar’s car, a truck pulls out in front of them causing the Torino to skid to a halt, you can clearly see major crash damage to the left side and rear of the Torino. And did Callendar live or die in the end?

  13. stybz Says:

    I saw the chase of the purse snatcher as purely a knee-jerk reaction. In their guts Starsky and Hutch are there to help people. They’re doers. As soon as they hear someone is in trouble, no matter how trivial, they act. Since they saw the purse snatcher, it was a natural response to chase him. They’re not the type to stand around and shrug their shoulders and say, “Nah, let airport security deal with it.” 🙂 It’s like in The Heroes when they’re told to ignore the radio. When the first call comes in, both men exchange a concerned look before the radio is switched off. They want to answer that call, but they were ordered not to. If CD had not been in the car with them, they would have ignored the order. 🙂

    I think it was Hutch who managed to talk the guy out of towing Starsky’s car. I wondered if Hutch was sneakily trying to loosen the cables when he was kneeling under the car to say they were loose, but Starsky didn’t catch on, because he was angry.

    The question about Hutch’s cleaning of Mrs. Donner’s sweater is an interesting one. I found it odd too, but then I thought of two things. First, it made me think of the scene in Nightmare, when Hutch runs his hand on Lisa’s mother’s neck and through her hair while Starsky is consoling Lisa at the courthouse. I found that to be a bit too affectionate, unless maybe they were dating and we didn’t know it. Along those same lines, I found his sweater cleaning to be also crossing a line here. However, my second thought was maybe he was intentionally distracting Mrs. Donner. I have more to say about that in the second half of this episode, but I think this goes along with Hutch’s nature to keep emotions in check. His way of helping people deal with painful situations is to cheer them up or make them think about something else (e.g. joking with Starsky about having 7 hours left in ‘Coffin’). So maybe in this instance he said, “There’s something on your sweater. I’ll get that for you,” as a way of her reacting to his distraction of kindness and lessening her agony somewhat.

    It is not unusual to put people together in quarantine. Yes, there’s a risk one might have the disease and not the other, and perhaps exposing an otherwise healthy person to the disease, but since Starsky and Hutch work so closely together, it made sense to keep them together. I found it odd that only one got it and not both. Of course, for the sake of the plot it was more interesting to only have one fall ill, but they never give us an indication as to why that’s possible, since both men got close to Jake Donner. Starsky was cradling his head when he collapsed. We’re usually shown how someone contracts the illness, and we didn’t see how Hutch got it, unless Starsky had some sort of immunity that they could have explored. 🙂

    I think one of the reasons Dr. Meredeth asked for the lab workers to leave is because he hadn’t made the announcement to staff yet and probably wanted to do that separately to give them a chance to decide if they wanted to volunteer their time or decline to take the risk and be transferred to another ward.

    Quote: “Maybe one of the BC cops said, ‘Here comes Sgt. Starsky. I recognize his striped tomato.’”


    • DRB Says:

      As you remarked earlier, the guys are helpers. Much of their careers revolves around helping those in need. You can think of numerous examples, I’m sure. But Hutch also helps in small ways. He demonstrates this several times, and interestingly enough, almost always he helps a woman. In “Bounty Hunter” he is busy in the background of the girlfriend’s apartment putting items in the closet, picking up the lamp, and straightening items in the kitchen area while Starsky gets information from her. In “The Bait” he helps Cheryl pack and is concerned about her plants. In “Losing Streak” he helps Mrs. Rankin pick up the scattered items after the bad guys wrecked her place. So helping Mrs. Donner look neater fits right in with his history. I’m not sure whether this trait is part of his passion to restore order (I presume all law enforcement share this characteristic) or if it simply means his mama raised him right!

      My favorite example of Starsky’s helpfulness (outside of his extraordinary care for Hutch) is in “Crying Child” when he is so determined to help the unemployed dad find a job. It was endearing to see him constantly on the lookout for employment opportunities.

      On another subject: I appreciate the comment that Dobey loves Hutch as a son. I believe he sees both men as family, and they return the affection though I doubt that they think of him as a father. I suspect they see him as a fuddy-duddy uncle who would leave a huge emptiness if he wasn’t around. And while on the subject of loving Hutch, I enjoy Huggy’s earnestness when he calms Starsky down (in part 2) by reminding him, “I got Hutch in my heart, too!”

      • merltheearl Says:

        All these observations are great, and I agree wholeheartedly. My only thought is that Hutch is picking lint off the sweater of a woman in a hospital waiting room while her husband is currently dying. This is quite weird. I would lean more toward Hutch being a compulsive organizer than an amiable helper. And I love him more for that.

      • D. McMenamin Says:

        I love the observation about the fuddy duddy uncle!

  14. Ruth Says:

    I agree with Adelaide’s analysis of Starsky’s experience in the army. The situation he’s in and talking about is lying in wait before an ambush and anticipating a struggle upon an enemy sighting, waiting for tedious hours for the moment of action to arrive. That, to me, sounds exactly like the kind of situation someone who was in combat, or at least stationed near enemy territory (possibilities: as a guard or mechanic or ambulance driver for a hospital unit?) would be likely to connect to army experiences.

    Someone who spent his army time sitting around somewhere stateside or otherwise away from all the action would probably say a line like that while buried up to his neck in paperwork or trudging through some dull task for keeping order.

    (Of course, we can’t know anything for sure, but that’s definitely the impression I got.)

  15. Blunderbuss Says:

    Oh that line: “Hutch…? I’m gonna find Calendar.” Sends shivers down the spine. And how he waits to catch Hutch’s eye and holds his gaze there until Hutch acknowledges him and turns his life over to him with “well, do it, buddy…” And the eye contact between them in that exchange, so much goes back and forth between them silently in a couple seconds. The way Hutch’s mask slips and he looks down for just a split-second, the way Starsky’s expression doesn’t change until after Hutch replies, the tiny nod and hint of a smile…

    The moments where Starsky shifts from partner to papa wolf as soon as Hutch is physically or emotionally compromised are always memorable and speak volumes about the layers of their relationship.

  16. Seaton Says:

    Given that everyone knows that David Soul never left the series, that there are 13 more episodes in this season and then a whole other season, what is amazing about “Plague” is how much genuine tension about Hutch’s condition there is in this story. Quite a feat.

    A note on the missing clothing notes for this episode: I was 13 – 17 when Starsky and Hutch was originally on British TV. I grew up near a place called Guildford where there was a huge clothing shop called Moffats (possibly): everybody went there because of there enormous range of what we could loosely describe as bomber jackets, from leather to satin … It was a Saturday morning search for a Soul or a Glaser. The clothes in Starsky and Hutch are absolutely essential and the notes on them are always welcome. They possibly deserve a whole other site.

    Thanks for this site, by the way, it’s always good reading.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Seaton, thank you. I was originally somewhat abashed to include the clothing notes, thinking it might be a bit superficial. But I cannot divorce the look of the show with its content, so I’m glad you and a few other readers find it interesting. If I were ever to do another S&H project, it would be a purely visual one, as I’m fascinated by the clothes, hair, environment and interior design.

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