Episode 62: Class in Crime

Hutch goes undercover as a college student to investigate a college professor who teaches a class on the “philosophy of crime” and is a suspect in the shooting death of a former student.

Professor Gage: Peter MacLean, Mickie: Rebecca Balding, Catlin: Michele Carey, Rachel: Gloria Torres, Ralph: Carl Anderson, Stanley: Robert Girard, Mary: Sherril L Katzman, Melanie: Susan Heldfond, Mike Todesco: Robert Rodriguez, Manager: Connie Sawyer. Written By: Don Patterson, Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser.


From the very first frame you know this is going to be a special episode, kept nicely off-kilter by the idiosyncratic direction of Paul Michael Glaser. The image is out of focus before the gloved hand shoots into the frame and the action begins. The view continues to challenge us as Mickie, wonderfully played by Rebecca Balding, breaks the sacred fourth wall by staring right at us when first appearing as the mime. This is followed by other similarly mesmerizing details: the mime’s movements overlaid with the sounds of clicking, as if she’s a machine. Gage putting on the same white gloves as the mime. Extreme close-ups, the shooting, a falling victim (who wears the identically frozen expression as Mickie’s mime as he falls dying to the sidewalk), and the hyper-sexualized scene in the van following the murder.

David Soul badly hurt himself in a skiing accident right before this episode was shot, as evidenced by the bruising on his face hidden by makeup, his stiff movements, and the little use of his right arm. The next five episodes were altered for his comfort, and he had back surgery during the hiatus of the show. This serious injury, I believe, is a catalyst for the general decline of the joyously tough-guy element of the series. As Soul becomes less physically resilient, the episodes themselves become less muscular and more cerebral. We’ll discuss this in depth at the start of Season Four, but for now the shadow of impairment or destabilization should be carefully considered in this and future episodes.

Michelle and Gage are lucky the police haven’t organized themselves enough to cordon off the street, stop traffic, and start corralling witnesses.

Professor Gage is a complicated guy. Like many villains in the series, he seems to make things harder than they should be, and for reasons of his own. Entertained by perversity and conundrum, he makes puzzles of everything he does. He has a superman complex but his triumphs are self-made and false. For instance, the shooting of Allan Richards. Why the elaborate staging? Why in public, and on a busy street? How can he be sure Allan will show up and stand in exactly the right place to be shot? Even a marginally competent bad guy would assassinate Allen on some lonely park path or in his home, but Gage is a megalomaniac and a sociopath, so he must manipulate events to emphasize his imagined super-powers and intensify the rush of victory. For a recipe like that, he needs a lot of ingredients. Danger, timing, precision, absurdity, and eroticism.

Strangely, Mickie continues her mime act even after Allan Richards is shot. She should have gently blended into the background to avoid detection but no, she stares at the body for a long time, then robotically totters in full character. It’s a glimpse into a true amoral personality. Like Gage, fo Mickie murder is entertainment. A man’s life means nothing. In the van later, she assumes a ridiculous, chilling Cockney accent – for no reason – and says she looks forward to being a more “active participant” in the next murder, all the while taking deep, sexual drags on her cigarette.

Nice detail: Gage and Starsky playing the same radio station at the same time.

The girl (and possibly her friend as well) doesn’t even know what Starsky does and yet she agrees to spend the day with him. Talk about a casual pick-up.

Starsky is beeped because he’s the one carrying the pager. Severe budget cuts, or is the police department very sure Hutch will be close by at all times?

Perhaps inspired by his date asking if he’s a doctor or a Roto-Rooter employee, Starsky complains about how much a plumber makes and the steady hours, saying “when he’s off, he’s off”. Well, not exactly: a plumber is sort of the policeman of trades. When emergencies happen, even at 2 a.m., they too are the recipients of a hysterical phone call.

Hutch makes a comment about getting back to the girls at the dock, Rachel and Mary. Starsky says, somewhat whimsically for him, that the names sound like a “small college back east”, to which Hutch, predictably, corrects him about William and Mary. “They were married.” “To who?” “To each other, what do you think.” This is another excellent example of how tension is dissipated through a mock-quarrel.

And then, out of the blue, we get one of the loveliest images in the series: the silhouetted forms of the two men as they walk silently down the long hallway. It’s pure magic and you wish it would go on forever. And it has Glaser’s fingerprints all over it: imaginative, deliberate, and above all silent.

Gage leaves the distinctive, expensive rifle on the scene. At first I thought this was of his egomaniacal touches, but now I think it’s the one piece of evidence that he really could be a professional hit man and not some kind of crazed hobbyist. It’s better to just leave the (most likely untraceable) weapon at the scene than risk getting caught with it, especially since Gage chooses often crowded public spaces in which to stage his killings and must stroll away in full view.

“The wife sends regards,” says Officer Todesco. Starsky looks slightly irritated, Hutch says, “Oh thanks.” It’s an out-of-context remark hinting at pages and pages of back story, which we do not get. Officer Todesco seems a little hostile. Judging from Hutch’s reply, is it something to do with Mrs. Todesco and the handsome detective? Starsky and Todesco’s shared interest in leather, as evidenced later in the car showroom?

It can get repetitive pointing out all the lovely Glaser-directed moments, like pointing out all the insanely colorful fish at an aquarium (look at that one! oh, that one!) but this one is worth mentioning: the shot of the gleaming car as it shifts focus to Starsky’s profile, then Hutch’s (and the requisite irked comment from Hutch). Nearly every scene in this episode begins with a similarly posed moment.

Starsky tells Hutch while he sits with Catlin in the expensive car, “Did you know these things are so quiet that you can actually hear the rustle of silk stockings against the leather. I love the smell of leather.” Hutch answers him, “Well yeah, you and Todesco ought to write a book together.” A book about what, exactly? A shared love of the smell of leather? A shared appreciation for fine cars? Or something else?

During the entire scene at the Mercedes dealership with Catlin, Starsky seems drunk on endorphins. He’s positively sleepy. At first both are attracted to the magnetic but certifiably nuts Catlin, but once Starsky hones in on her Hutch gives up the pursuit while simultaneously developing an aversion to her, possibly as a way of convincing himself he didn’t want her in the first place.

Catlin is very strange. Starsky is drawn to her. Mickie is very strange. Gage is drawn to her. Both women are hyper-sexual, predatory, and theatrical. What does this correlation tell us, if anything?

Thank you, writer Don Patterson: “He was murdered in broad daylight,” says Hutch, referring to Allen Richards. Catlin says, with astonishing insight, “Nighttime is for women.” Both detectives seem impressed and slightly taken aback by this. Starsky gives a funny look to his proffered – and ignored – gold shield. Hutch offers, “Polish it.”

Private Jokes: the Rookies episode Jack is watching, “Blue Christmas,” which originally aired in December of 1974, a show Soul guested in at one point.

Jack is sitting in his chair waiting for his top salesman and partner in blackmail to arrive. He’s got a loaded gun on the arm of his chair. It’s never clear whether he’s just the nervous type – afraid Gage will coming looking for revenge, or perhaps he’s heard somehow about Allan’s murder (although, if he had, do you think he’d be sitting with his back to the door?) – or if he is planning to kill Allan Richards and take the whole lot for himself.

Note the discordant jazz-style music following the killing of Jack, nicely underscoring the sense that none of the parts fit together.

It’s interesting two such different people met in a college class on criminology. Jack is much older than Allan, almost Gage’s age, but they struck up such a tight relationship they not only share this deadly pastime, but Jack hires Allan to work at his showroom and considers him his “top salesman” to boot. What was the connection between them? Did they discover, upon meeting each other, a similar shadow side? Both men are drawn to crime (Jack “never misses” reruns of The Rookies), both are not above snooping into someone’s secrets. Both are good liars, naturally deceptive, financially motivated (at least in part, even though Jack owns a profitable luxury-goods business), and risk-takers. Both have serious ethical deficiencies. Both exhibit a fair degree of narcissism – not only challenging Primo Narcissist Professor Gage but convinced they will best him. Those must have been some pretty intense chats over beers at the student union building.

Hutch, true to his admirable eye for detail, notes the handkerchief used to chloroform Jack smells like White Shoulders perfume. This is a distinctive touch and it makes me wonder if Gage is playing with the police as a sideline to the main event, offering tantalizing clues he figures they’ll never figure out as a way of amusing himself. This would also explain leaving the rifle behind. If he really is a professional hit man, as Richards and Morgan believe (and I have my doubts that he is), did he also bait the police as part of his “professional” duties? I can easily imagine a series of puzzling items abandoned at the crime scenes that would leave detectives scratching their heads.

Note that Mickie says Morgan’s gun was pointed in her “plastic face”. It’s a robotic/machine reference that makes this “romantic” scene even creepier than it already is.

Hutch on his own is a very studied, methodical man. Just like he will be later in “The Avenger”, looking at the identity kit in the late-night squad room, he’s searching Richards’ apartment in a very thorough, inward way. You can nearly hear him thinking. I like how he takes a mask off the wall and looks through the eye-holes at the books on the bookshelf as if looking through the victim’s eyes in an attempt to understand him; it’s a psychologically centered approach to criminal investigation which seems very progressive.

It’s here, as Hutch moves through the apartment, that we again notice the music in this episode. As with everything else, it’s sophisticated and quite different from the usual standard fare.

Hutch is okay with Starsky wasting precious time on a case and also shagging a potential witness. Both have a history of ignoring, overlooking or excusing each other’s entanglements, even when it results in sloppy police work. Is Hutch’s easy-going reaction payback for Starsky’s tolerance during the Anna Akhanatova episode?

Gage’s choice of words reflects his bizarre beliefs in the relationship between murderer and victim. He uses two-word combinations, “killer” and “killee.” And the even worse one, “victor” and “victim.”

Is Professor Gage an apologist and proponent of the philosophy of Ayn Rand? Is this episode in fact a criticism of “Atlas Shrugged”? Could be. Many of his statements seem to echo Rand’s beliefs of Objectivism and her so-called “rational self-interest”. Basically, Rand believed a man attains objective knowledge through inductive and deductive logic, that the moral purpose of life is the pursuit of one’s own happiness, that the only social system consistent with this morality is total respect for individual rights above all else, a respect embodied in the idea of capitalism as its triumphant achievement. Rand also put forward the notion of the ultimate goal of human life is to transform metaphysical ideas into a physical form in a grand gesture or work of art. Rand’s “virtue of selfishness”and her views on the primary focus on the individual’s perogative to pursue his own well-being have interesting echoes in Gage’s lecture. His criminal behavior – the elaborate set-ups, his deep, sensual satisfaction in their completion, as well as his unflagging ownership of his own actions – could be his own monumental “work of art”.

“When we break the rules, there is that salacious part of us that knows it and does it by choice.” Thus speaks Professor Gage, who goes on to imply that murder is an exercise in the breaking of illogical rules, much as voting is the exercise of our democratic rights. That is, an implied act of heroism, and for a greater good.

More interesting direction: Starsky and Dobey hash out the aspects of the case, Hutch walking in midway through the conversation with the answer to their question. Everyone is flattered by the unusual lighting, particularly Hutch. It’s a slats-making-shadows dim light that is never seen before (and never repeated in this notoriously ill-lit series). It adds to the feelings of noir and looks more cinematic than televised. Also, echoing an earlier meeting between Dobey and Hutch, it’s staged as a stylized pyramid, both men tilted inward to the center. This time, Hutch’s entry causes the two sides to fall away. It’s choreographed very well.

Peter MacLean has appeared three times in the series (all of them, even the judge in “Targets”, similarly smoothly controlling alpha gangster-types). I’ve often wondered what it is about him the producers felt was so type-castingly criminal. Whatever it was, in two guest-starring roles they use the same handwriting when needed. We see the same backhanded, left-slant writing when Matt Coyle writes the note about Smiling Johnny’s pick-up at Schultz’s bar in “Iron Mike”, and on the blackboard in Professor Gage’s classroom – it could be MacLean’s or the same set director, but the continuity is striking.

One of the most fascinating scenes in the series is the one in which Hutch is publicly humiliated by Gage when arriving late to his class. It’s rare to see Hutch at any kind of a disadvantage, denuded of both power and prestige. Unable to flash a badge or fight back with his considerable verbal skills, he’s forced to accept Gage’s condescension and appear humbled by it. It’s actually quite painful to watch, like seeing a cheetah forced into a cage; you just want to see Hutch stand up and demolish the guy. The fact that he doesn’t shows how Hutch is able to do what it takes to figure out a perplexing case, and check ego at the door. Gage, misinterpreting his prey’s vulnerability, attacks with relish, telling him the apology is Hutch’s “own sense of limiting convention under the guise of insincere politeness.”

It’s fun to imagine Starsky being undercover as the student instead of Hutch. One imagines his very different approach to the situation. Stalling for time with attempts at flirtatious charm until ridiculed into defensive shouting, a sort of “oh yeah? So’s your sister” kind of thing. He does, however, have a strikingly similar scene with Mickie when she finds him in her house. Mickie is similarly lecturing, indifferent and cruel, and Starsky (like Hutch in class) tries to talk himself out of the mess using apologies, excuses, and invented justifications – physically and psychologically making himself smaller as a way of backing out of a tense situation.

Unlike the previous episode, “Satan’s Witches”, which looks at if it was slapped together for a buck-fifty, “Class in Crime” is sleek and expensive-looking. The locations are sensitively chosen, and of a far better quality than typically used. For instance, Gage’s beach house, without doubt, is the most striking private location in the entire series. The Pacific Coast Modernism is lovely to look at: driftwood, wooden doors and reclaimed windows, large wood deck with a collection of fine plantings, modern art and large wool weaving on the wall. It’s “real” in a way most locations in the series are not.

Gage frames the written threat by Jack and Allan, another sign of an inflated ego mixed with suicidal carelessness. Hutch mimics it successfully on the blackboard, leading the professor to speculate, erroneously, a “lower-middle-class” ruffian.

Outside the classroom, Hutch regains the upper hand over Gage. He’s abrupt and contradictory as Gage was with him, and asserts mastery (“make it two hours”) by making up his own rules, even specifying what Gage is supposed to wear. This reassertion of superiority is not for himself, but for the good of the case. He needs to keep Gage off-balance, and coming on strong in direct opposition to his earlier mildness in the classroom is exactly the right choice.

Starsky asks Hutch how he can possibly win over this well-armed psychopath. “I’m counting on you,” Hutch says, then takes Starsky’s sunglasses. These small transgressions illustrate a deep level of trust.

Starsky gets into position to observe the meeting at the beach; he scans the landscape with binoculars, obviously looking for Mickie, since he was careful to check the house for her earlier, only to note her absence. It’s interesting that Starsky and Hutch suspect her despite having no evidence of her involvement in the case and, statistically speaking, killers like Gage rarely work with their girlfriends or wives. There must have been a conversation between Starsky and Hutch linking her with the female mime at the initial crime scene, and her earlier obstructive behavior.

Hutch arrives at the beach and Gage tells him he has the blackmail payment. How does Gage know how much money Hutch was asking for? They never discuss it, so perhaps Gage is thinking of the original amount demanded of him by Richards and Morgan.

During the beautifully filmed beach scene does Gage actually believe Hutch when he says, “uh, because I’m selfish”? To me, this seems as transparently false as the flattery Gage offers with his soothing, “you are much smarter, Mr. Hutchinson”. Gage loves pretense and irony, he admires duplicity and what he would consider “intelligence”, and Hutch is exhibiting all these traits in the way he talks. Here, Hutch reveals his sensitivity to this and other complex situations necessitating a subtle, chameleon-like personality shift. Simply put, he’s able to change his personality a degree or two in order to get what he wants. Here he’s just challenging enough to pique Gage’s interest without arousing his defenses. Not easy. Being engaged in this manner – by someone who might well be his equal – gives Gage a rush, and he isn’t as observant as he could be: he misses seeing Starsky, for instance, and carries on the conversation longer than he should have.

With all of Gage’s supposed smarts, he never once thinks Hutch might be an undercover police officer. He’s very trusting that this mysteriously appearing older non-student (a simple check of Hutch’s admissions forms would show he only signed up for one class) was who he said he was. Could he really be that naive?

Let’s hope Hutch is wearing a wire, because otherwise his beach conversation might be tossed out of court as hearsay. The only crime, then, would be Mickie’s attempted murder, although she could very well claim they had been stalked and threatened by Hutch, and she was simply defending herself.

When Mickie falls and is picked up by Gage, she exactly assumes the pose of the mime she played in the beginning, right down to the staring eyes.

“You could’ve killed her,” Gage says to Starsky as he cradles Mickie. “Yeah, I could’ve,” Starsky replies, “but I didn’t.” This is implies compassion, but the fact is Starsky had no control of whether he killed her or not. In the effort to protect Hutch he simply fired like a maniac into the brush, not caring who or what he was shooting at, or what the outcome was. Wounding her was simply lucky.

And so the question of motivation is left unanswered. Why exactly does Gage kill? Jack and Allen refer to him as a professional, which implies multiple murders. If so, why the combination of college professor and hit man seems awfully time-consuming. Wouldn’t one of those be enough? Is murder just another intellectual exercise to Gage or is it a nasty but practical solution to a new problem and a chance for Gage to finally act upon his and Mickie’s fantasy? And also, what exactly were Allen and Jack blackmailing Gage for? It’s never revealed, although it’s the linchpin upon which the whole plot revolves. We are supposed to guess they caught Gage committing murder, or maybe found evidence of this, and instead of going to the police like normal people they decide to give him a little taste of his own sour medicine. But it’s far more likely Richards and Morgan were simply crime nerds whose imaginations got a little too feverish as they sat in a bar comparing notes about their horrible professor. (“He sure knows an awful lot about murder!”) Does anyone remember “The Children’s Hour”?

Tag: There’s a great tangle worthy of a silent film comedy when Starsky rushes to get the fishing rod and traps Hutch while doing so. But then he loses it – tricked by a fish – and Hutch slams a net over his head in retaliation for an expensive loss.

Clothing notes: Hutch wears a dark leather bomber jacket and caramel corduroys, plus a black pea-coat and black turtleneck in the penultimate scene. Starsky wears some truly heart-stopping jeans as he tours the beach house.


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26 Responses to “Episode 62: Class in Crime”

  1. Shelley Says:

    Heart-stopping jeans indeed. I’ve wondered if they (in this case Glaser himself) intentionally film him strolling around from the back like that, or if it’s just catching my eye 😉

    I can see why someone else here commented that they watch the show and then read the Ollie Report and then watch the show again. I notice so few of the finer points that you do!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Directing yourself must be a strange experience, for sure! Thank you for your kind comments. Class in Crime is one of my favorite episodes, especially the uncomfortable classroom scene.

  2. Daniela Says:

    I also wondered about the search on the deck scene… It seems like a space filler, it really doesn’t do anything except showcase the jeans…. Or their content….
    I have seen Glaser wear those jeans in other episodes, but here… I guess natural light did something to them….
    I liked this episode a lot also, I don’t know if it was the directing, which was very good, or Hutch in black turtle neck and pea coat with wind ruffled hair…..
    The directing was so good that for the first time I noticed it!
    Maybe if they had left Glaser and Soul direct themselves all the time, the series might have continued!! And with better results!
    PS I am so glad to see more comments here! It’s about time this blog got more of the visible traffic it deserves!

  3. King David Says:

    Glaser, as Starsky, never wore a pair of jeans badly, but some were more heart-stopping than others. I like best the faded, worn, low-rise ones with that wonderful wide leather belt. Why oh why don’t we see that today?
    I noticed the breeze ruffling Hutch’s hair (who wouldn’t?) but I always feel as though it’s a chilly day.
    ‘I like the smell of leather’, even more than the rustle of silk stockings? That’s full of suggestion…
    Had Soul & Glaser done more directing, it may have had the effect of taking them out of the action, and perhaps the producers weren’t prepared to chance it. Too bad, because in the end we lost them altogether. Soul & Glaser do really frame each other well when each is directing…I have learned to look at each scene from this POV.

    • Shelley Says:

      When Merl mentioned slipping up one time and saying something about eye candy, I noticed you asked where . . . I suspect this is where.

      I read an interview with Glaser where he says that the show had some really good stories, but all people want to talk about is that car. Naah, what people want to talk about is those blue jeans, baby.

      • merltheearl Says:

        Right you are, Shelley. I’ve resisted making references to the subject because it isn’t really the direction of this particular blog, but yeah, that phrase just wrote itself and I kept it in. I sympathize with Mr. Glaser. You write about Nietzsche and Objectivism and all anyone ever wants to talk about it those jeans. (If I used emoticons I would put a smiley face here to clarify that I’m joking, because I really do get it).

  4. Alex Says:

    I’ve been reading this blog for a month or so now and decided to comment so I can thank you for enriching my viewing pleasure. I recently bought the series on dvd and am working my way through each episode. Didn’t find your blog at the beginning so I’ll probably re-watch the series with your blog in hand. Such a treat. Thank you.

    This episode is not one I remembered from 30+ years ago which is surprising because I remember being impressed with Paul Michael Glaser’s direction way back when. The PMG-directed episode that stuck with me all these years is yet to come. Deckwatch. Don’t know why I was so taken with it to the point I remember 30+ years later that he directed it but I’ll soon find out. It’s 5 episodes away. Oh, another PMG-directed moment that I can’t wait to revisit is the ping pong ball Hutch drops on the phone in Sweet Revenge. Says something for a director when a moment is indelibly printed in a viewer’s brain.

    Thanks again. This blog and your readers’ comments have made revisiting my favorite series infinitely more pleasurable.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Alex, thank you so much for writing. I’m glad you enjoy the blog and hope you will comment again. I completely understand about that single arresting image; to me that ping pong ball is one of those unforgettable moments, so powerful that when I saw it again after many years I felt a real shock. I thought I had dreamed it somehow.

  5. Dianna Says:

    I suppose it is shocking to not be in awe of an episode that was directed by one of the leads, but the first time I watched this, I didn’t actually enjoy it that much. Reading Merl’s essay and the other comments here, once again, increased my appreciation a great deal when I watched the it again.

    Frankly, Glaser’s directing, though quite beautiful visually, is sometimes a bit distracting . The low lights in the office, for instance — Why?

    Gage probably knew Richards had a reservation at that particular restaurant, and used the mime act to lure him out onto the sidewalk, where he could pick him off. However, the crowd watching Mickie does not seem to be enjoying her show, and Richards’s face is as blank and expressionless as the mime’s. After he is shot, there are a couple of screams, but then everyone just stands there. He is clearly still alive, but no one offers him assistance, or even moves in an urgent way.

    That boat that Starsky is sitting in with his date is not in the water. It doesn’t rock a bit, even when he climbs out. Starsky may in fact be in the habit of not telling his pickups his profession; it seemed an awfully natural way for him to proceed when he was with Rosey Malone.

    I do like the pun in the title: There is a college course offered about crime, and the criminal likes to think he is very classy.

    The only TV shows playing in any episode are the news, and cop shows. I am sure that The Rookies was chosen as the object of Jack’s obsession as a nod to Georg Stanford Brown, who directed some S&H episodes, and whose character looks directly at the camera when Jack is watching the show.

    Merl notes that Starsky seems almost drunk at The House That Jack Built. Being surrounded by so many really fancy cars must be really distracting for him, and with Catlin’s sex-drenched sales methods, it is impressive that he remained aware of his case at all, and yet he does, and in fact uses his infatuation with the cars/Catlin to get the information he needs.

    When Hutch asks what he found out and Starsky responds by talking about the fancy car’s bad cornering, this must be an in-joke for those who know how much Glaser disliked the Torino’s handling.

    Was Hutch’s late arrival to class deliberate, as Gage accuses? Did he intend to slip in quietly or did he want to draw attention to himself? When Gage taunts him, we hear the sound of laughter, but the faces of the students are quite solemn, even expressionless.

    My first impression was that Gage suspected Hutch was a cop, especially since we had just come from Gage’s house where Mickie had figured out that Starsky was a cop. Allen and Jack supposedly graduated from college “last year,” but Allen is 28 years old. Maybe he and Jack are “late bloomers,” and this helps Gage identify Hutch as a blackmailer instead of a cop.

    Gage’s lecture does not sound like a first-day-of-class lecture, especially with his “Oh, come now!” admonishment to the students. He also calls on Ralph by name, but perhaps Ralph has taken a course from him before. He is so arrogant, with his sneers about “your freshly scrubbed faces,” that the students must give him terrible teaching evaluations, which makes it a bit surprising that he has kept his job at a small private college, because such places usually value teaching ability highly. Maybe the other faculty were afraid he would kill them if they didn’t give him tenure? Which makes me wonder whether he was an academic first or a hitman first. I could make an argument either way.

    I wonder whether Hutch’s decision to meet Gage undercover is because of irritation at Gage’s arrogance, and wants to make him feel stupid.

    In a post about another episode, someone commented that we each view these them through the lenses of our own experiences, and that was certainly true for me, watching this episode. Since the time this episode was made, I have never lived more than a half mile away from a college campus, the first of which was in Southern California, and was perched on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean, about 80 miles away from Pepperdine University, where this was filmed.

    Thus, when Starsky went out on the deck at Professor Gage’s house, instead of admiring his jeans as Daniela evidently did, I was overwhelmed by nostalgia, watching and hearing the ocean swells.

    Also, I was amused that Hutch specified that he would meet Gage 200 yards north of the house, because the coastline runs east-west here, even though most people line it up in their minds as north-south.

    My Southern California experience also made me notice that the iceplant where Mickie fell was quite trampled, so this was definitely not the first take of the scene.

    When Hutch is fishing, and we see the pier from above and behind, we can clearly see that the railing is painted red and emblazoned with “NO FISHING”.

    It is unusual for Hutch to be the partner excited about a piece of technology or equipment, making it particularly ironic for his fishing pole to be lost.

    Questions & perplexities:
    Why is Dobey so involved in making decisions about this case?

    How can Starsky justify entering Gage’s house without a warrant??

    Do Gage and Mickie use murder as foreplay?

    Hutch says excitedly that he saw the textbook from the Philosophy of Crime course, but he also saw a lot of books about mime, so why not enroll in that class as well?

    What is Todesco’s job? If he is a detective, why does he have to keep handing cases over to Starsky & Hutch?

  6. Dianna Says:

    One more thing: a thought exercise.
    What if Prof. Gage had been hired to kill Vic Monty in Shootout? Or had been hired to kill Hutch in Survival?

  7. merltheearl Says:

    I’m glad you added your interesting addendum because I realized that somehow a section at the end had been erased. This has to do with the fact that I don’t personally see Gage as a professional killer at all but rather a bogey man tormenting the imaginations of his poor students. I went through my notes and pulled out the paragraph and re-inserted it.

  8. Wallis Says:

    I still don’t get what Starsky saw in that irritating saleslady. I mean, I know he only slept with her because she was hot, not because he liked her personality or anything, but she was also skeevy and creepy as hell, definitely something ‘off’ in her behavioral makeup, which contributed nicely to the memorable off-kilter near-surreal aura of uneasiness running throughout this episode, but was also enough to outweigh her hotness in my opinion. She seems like the type who might easily do something really awful and unwanted to her partner in the middle of sex just because it seemed like a fun idea to her. Usually Starsky has better taste than this.

    Although tbh, that story element was totally worth it for Paul Michael Glaser’s legs. 😉 And for the close-ups in the nose-to-nose charmingly intimate half-telepathic conversation between those two gorgeous men. They’re always good-looking no matter what, but they’re really, really gorgeous when they’re directed meticulously and with care. Not a whiff of a rush job in a single shot of this entire episode.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I agree – Caitlin is off-putting as a character; I honestly can’t see her appeal. But then again this entire episode, more than most, is populated by extreme and even grotesque personalities.

    • Dianna Says:

      You are right that Catlin is just too weird. But I doubt that Catlin herself is what is attracting Starsky. I think he is near ecstasy in the presence of all those sexy cars, and Catlin becomes the hot cars personified.

      (Since this is an episode directed by the man who knew Starsky best, I think we can expect it to be a true representation.)

  9. Sharon Marie Says:

    I found the entire Caitlin-Starsky pairing to be out of place. Almost as though it was an obvious excuse for PMG to be off camera.

    Continuity: When Starsky and Caitlin are sitting in the car at the showroom and Hutch is talking to them through the open window, Hutch has the desk calendar with hand written notes on it. Sometimes the date is the 3rd. In other camera angles it’s the 4th.

    I didn’t see too much evidence of Soul’s injury until the scene when he is at Starsky’s talking to him through the barely opened door. The angle and lighting are just right showing the obvious bruising and swelling to the left side of his face, but you have to look fast. They did a good job of concealing it through the shooting.

    Peter MacLean was in 4 episodes of S & H. I know they loved to recycle guest stars, but 4 times is too confusing, especially with an actor so well know for guesting on shows and not necessarily having their own series.

  10. stybz Says:

    This episode was one I really needed to watch twice. It had some nice elements to it, although I thought some of the writing was odd. Then I realized it was mainly Catlin, who was odd anyway. I like Dianna’s analysis that it was being in the presence of all those cars that got Starsky caught up with Catlin. 🙂

    Merl, terrific analysis and comparison of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and this episode. I have the book, but haven’t read it yet, but have heard about her theory and watched The Fountainhead. 🙂

    I thought Paul did a great job directing this episode, though I felt the mime scene to be a bit odd. I think it would have worked better if Mickie/Michelle/Megan didn’t leave the scene in such an obvious way, but I suspect it was scripted, and Paul had to work with that.

    I noticed that when Allen was watching Mickie through the window the people flanking the window were frozen like dolls themselves.

    Mickie was wearing Isotoner gloves. 🙂

    I wonder if Rebecca Balding suggested the British accent just to add some sort of spice to the scene. Besides, her face is still painted (i.e. she’s still wearing a mask) and in some ways she’s still hiding behind it and maybe the accent helped her get into the character of the mime in her mind.

    I’d like to believe both Starsky and Hutch have beepers, but since they were on a double date that day, they tossed a coin and Starsky lost. So he had to carry his around just in case. 🙂

    I liked the mentioning of a “small college on the east coast” (I knew Hutch would say William and Mary). 🙂 A hint of things to come. 🙂

    I think the white shoulders perfume was on the cigarettes and not the cloth with the chloroform.

    Did anyone notice that when Hutch enters Allen’s apartment the mask on the wall in front of him moves? You can see the string. Someone was behind the wall pulling it. LOL! Nice touch. Too bad about the string, though. 🙂

    I think Hutch using the mask was a bit funny, but it also represented seeing Allen’s apartment through the victim’s eyes. 🙂

    I wish they had shown Hutch looking at the class in crime books as well as the mime books, but I guess they wanted us to believe that Hutch looked through the other books on the shelf once he was done with the mime books.

    I thought it amusing when Hutch said the graduating class at the college was “only 400 students”. I realize the reference is to its small size vs larger universities, but 400 is still a lot of people, as Dobey rightly points out. 🙂

    Dianna wrote: “Maybe the other faculty were afraid he would kill them if they didn’t give him tenure?”


    I’d love to know what that piece of art (etching?) on the wall of Gage’s classroom is. Is it Picasso? Escher?

    Tight jeans aside, searching the deck establishes the house and its proximity to the beach so that we the audience has a sense of geography. It also gives us a chance to see Starsky do a search like Hutch does of Allen’s apartment. Plus, Paul got to be artistic and use a nice, long take with the camera zooming in and out as he walked all over the deck.

    Did Starsky have a right to be in the house? No, but he probably couldn’t get a warrant. This could be another reason why he spent so much time outside. Maybe he hoped to find something that would allow him just enough to get the warrant. When he couldn’t find anything outside he had to enter the house. He probably would have used the lie about the Mercedes even if Mickie had answered the door.

    I thought Gage’s use of “Hutchinson” interesting. Hutch is the outsider on so many levels. He’s the only student not called on by his first name. He’s non-matriculating, he’s older than the other students, and he’s more willing to challenge Gage and not be so wide-eyed and accepting as his classmates. Gage enjoys that.

    When Gage calls him “Hutchinson Ken” it reminds me of the film The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming. When Walt Whittaker (Carl Reiner) introduces himself to Soviet sailor Lt. Rozanov (Alan Arkin) he says, “Whittaker… Walt”. Since Rozanov has no idea about that style of formal introduction, he assumes that’s his name, Whittaker Walt”, and calls him that for the rest of the film. Technically they’re enemies and at first they both see each other as such. But then they find a common ground. In this episode Hutch is Gage’s enemy and his equal. We all see how evil Gage is and how he’s using his propaganda on his students, but he sees Hutch as an interesting challenge. So he depersonalizes Hutch by calling him Hutchinson Ken. It would have been too friendly calling him Ken, I think, although Hutch does tell him to do that when they’re on the beach. This is when Hutch lets Gage think they’re on common ground. 🙂

    As for how easily Hutch plays the game, my personal experience is if you have a professor like Gage who challenges the way people think and puts forth an alternate theory, it can be quite easy to act it out, as Hutch is doing in this instance. I had a prof in college who more than once showed us film footage, broke us up into groups and gave us a question to discuss and answer. Then when it came time to share it with the class, he wasn’t interested in the answer, but how we interacted with each other. He wanted to know about that. So the third time he did this, my group had no answer to the question. So I said, “Why not lie? He’s not interested in the answer, so why not make one up?” They were horrified. I’m not a liar by nature, but I thought that aspect alone would spark an interesting conversation afterward. In the end I think I surprised him, because after that he completely changed his teaching style for the remainder of the semester. LOL! 🙂

    Like Hutch, Starsky also acts out Gage’s theory by responding to Gage’s, “You could have killed her” with “I didn’t.” In reality there was no way he could have known where the bullets were hitting. Given who they are, once Gage was out of sight Starsky and Hutch would have most likely breathed a collective sigh of relief that she survived.

    In the end Gage’s belief of the victim willing themselves to be one is shattered when Starsky shoots at Mickie.

    So what is her name anyway? Mickie? Michelle? Gage shouts Megan when she falls.

  11. Lioness Says:

    When the guys pull up to the crime scene, the detective says nothing, just points to the room in the bldg across the street. Mime-like. When the guys enter the room where the shooter was, the CSI guy doesn’t speak – turns his head and points elaborately as if his hand was a gun, like a mime.

  12. BC Says:

    A couple of observations:

    I thought the clicking noise of Mickie’s hand in first scene sounded similar to Gage loading the gun.

    Did anyone notice when Hutch and Gage were conversing about the beach meeting, a person in an orange-hooded parka passed behind them 7 times; at least it looked like the same parka or maybe it was the university color and lots of students had one? 🤔

    I also really enjoyed this episode with “Glaser direction.”

  13. Dario Says:

    It was a nice surprise seeing Carl Anderson in this episode. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence that his few lines seem a wink at his Judas role in Jesus Christ Superstar. Anyway, I miss him so much. ❤

  14. Laurie Says:

    As BC said, I thought the clicking mime hand in the beginning was deliberatly made to sound like a rifle clicking into position, echoed later when he does load the gun, matching the echo of the white gloves. It shows what a well-oiled team these two are.

    To all the reasons Merl gave for doing the murder that way, I think having Mickie be involved was part of it. Also, Alan was the one who especially liked mime, so they likely figured it was a way to get Alan to stand still in that spot. Odd thing–Mickie claims she was in danger of being nicked because she was 65 yards away when Gage says the shot was 70 yards, (Todesco says 71), but she was farther away than Alan.

    Hutch’s girl is quite dim. When Starsky says they were beeped, she asks if it hurt. And not jokingly.

    Yeah, the whole Todesco thing makes one wonder. Were there scenes that were cut? Or was it just the old actor’s tool of making extra backstory in their head to make the characters feel more real?

    I, too, found Jack sitting with his back to the door quite odd. I suppose it was to make Mickey’s entrance more theatrical, but it didn’t make that much sense. Jack’s phone message indicated that he was nervous and wanted Alan to show up so they could run through things better before meeting with the professor. I don’t really think he most likely intended to off Alan and take everything for himself. He seemed far too jumpy. I think he would much rather have had a two-to-one advantage at that point than twice the money. I’m guessing he may have had a gun at hand constantly since they sent the note to the professor.

    Interesting that at that point, Catlin already knows that Alan is dead. Does Jack? Did the same someone tell him? Was he the one that told Caitlin? Or was she part of the plot all along in some way? Did she tell him? Or choose not to? She seems awfully reluctant to tell the boys everything she knows about the case, or even tell them who told her Alan was dead.

    How did Gage and Mickie know where Alan was going to be at 12:00? Did he always eat lunch at the same place? Did Catlin set him up to be there? Enquiring minds want to know. Did Jack know by the time we see him that Alan was dead? Or was he just nervous because Alan had not shown up early at 2:00 instead as he asked him to? The long cigarette ash, another PMG bit, showing his distraction.

    They really played up the White Shoulders joke. When Hutch looks at the cigarette butts and chloroform rag, he seems to think that the perfume is on both. Starsky doesn’t pick up on what Hutch means and says Jack must not have gotten much sun. Then when Hutch says it’s perfume, and it’s like someone took a bath in it, he seems to indicate both the rag and the cigarettes. He says, “mix that up with a little chloroform and who the hell is going to fight back?” (That’s some perfume!) Later Hutch says that Jack OD’ed on chloroform. Since Starsky picks up the gun by the barrel it took me a couple of viewings to figure out that it was just the chloroform. She didn’t shoot him.

    Merl says they met in class, but I never felt sure of that. Alan had worked at the car place for two years. When did they graduate? When did they start school? Did they have Gage for one of their final classes? Did they try to blackmail him shortly after that? I would think so. Otherwise, they probably would have lost touch with what he was doing by a couple years later. I’m guessing that Alan helped Jack through school. So getting the job might have been his reward, but I don’t see how the timing of that would work. Unless they met part way through school and Jack was struggling so Jack offered Alan a job if he helped him the rest of the way? Or did they work together, and then both decide to go back to school and get their degree?

    They graduated together, so two somewhat older students starting together as friends would kind of make sense, especially if they were only perhaps going for an associate’s degree, perhaps? I don’t know. It makes my brain hurt. Sometimes I think these shows should have been mapped out buy a person with a calendar before the script was shot.

    Does Starsky say he’s going to “check out Catlin the weirdness”?

    When Starsky first said, “Not worth it,” I thought he meant bringing Catlin home. Then it turns out he means the car isn’t worth the money. Again, the White Shoulders bit comes up. Starsky says the lipstick doesn’t match and “her shoulders are white but, no perfume.” I find this scene kind of funny, as they both seem to be playing with the fiction that Starsky brought her home to check into clues about the case.

    The class is in its second day, not the first, so the professor might have known a few names by then.

    What does Dobey say after they listen to the tape? Sounds something like he “knows a dozen car men…{something something} professor.”

    I think that by the time Starsky went to the beach house, it was pretty clear that Mickie was in on it. Innocent people who don’t know their SO is up to something don’t tend to go the “get, a warrant, call my lawyer, and rock and roll” route. Starsky says he rang the bell, but I didn’t even see a bell.

    Why does Hutch get so excited when he realizes he saw a book Gage’s class at Alan’s place? It shouldn’t have been a shocking revelation. They’d just said that it was one of the classes they took together, so why is it suddenly an amazing big deal that he had a book from that class, along with mime books from the other class they took but no one was particularly thunderstruck over?

    Yes, Gage should have been suspicious of Hutch on general principles, but there are a fair number of older students who audit courses. And it probably wouldn’t seem so odd once Hutch claimed he was a friend of Alan and Jack’s, who were also older students, especially Jack.

    I wonder why Starsky did not keep up the pretense of wanting to buy the car and instead just said he didn’t have the money, and let his story fall apart?

    It seems to be stretching things that they aren’t able to get a warrant. Dobey says that a note on the wall isn’t exactly evidence of murder, but when you have two guys that were murdered, a tape that says they were going to meet a murderering professor whom they were blackmailing, and a note on their professor’s wall saying that they know something–and they were his non-favorite students. Seems like grounds for reasonable suspicion to me.

    Gage seems to pooh-pooh to easily the idea that someone would go to the authorities with information for a variety of reasons and not necessarily be in trouble for it. A person could just send the information in anonymously to stick it to the guy for not doing what they asked, for example. Sure, they lose “clout”, but they haven’t lost much else. They didn’t have anything to start with. If the guy won’t pay them, they have no more “opportunity for compensation,” anyway.

    Is Gage doubly horrified to see Mickie fall because his philosophy tells him that he chose it? (And/or she did?)

    It does sound like he says “Megan” when he shouts her name at first, but I think that’s partly because of the echoing effect and the way the sound is slowed down. In the echo, it does sound like “Mickie”.

    As to, “You could have killed her!” “Yeah, I could’ve, but I didn’t,” my first thought was that once she started falling, he didn’t keep shooting. Which is probably what Gage would have done. My other thought was that the writers were saying that it was random. Implying that life is not as deliberately chosen as what Gage was trying to say in his classes all the time.

    I’m going to have to disagree with Merl here on the professor actually being a killer. Would even a weird guy like this, who hadn’t really killed anyone before, who just theorized about it a lot, have actually gone out and murdered two former students just because they got some dopey idea that he was an actual killer, when he wasn’t? Why? He’d probably let them spread the rumor around in hopes that would make his class as more popular, actually, but that’s about it. He’d have nothing to fear from the police. If there were no murder, there would be no evidence, no body. It would be a joke.

    And there’s no way that the calm, seductive scene after Alan’s death was the first time they had ever really killed anyone. It totally screams, “Ah, another fine accomplishment we pulled off perfectly again, just like the last 10 times, with some extra flips and turns put in for extra fun and difficulty points.” I just can’t believe that before this it was all theoretical stuff they’d fantasized planning , and that pulling it off this smoothly in reality these first two times was no particular big deal to them. And that he would risk not using the scope so near her for no particular reason if that was really his first time doing it for real.

    Same with Jack’s death and their mellow, enjoyable discussion of it afterward. And what are the chances that a non-killer college professor would just be conveniently that good with a gun at long ranges without a scope?

    At one point Hutch says that, “Yes, some pro has done their homework.” And Gage himself says “the sign of a true professional is the ability to improvise.” Starsky says in the car right before Hutch goes to meet the professor, “This guy’s a pro.” So yes, personally, I think we are meant to believe he is indeed a pro.

    I noticed that in the credits Mickie is listed as “Mickie Marra.” I don’t remember her last name ever being referenced. Was there a deleted scene? Is this just to show us that she is decadently living with the professor and they are not married? Or is it to show that she is not the mime professor, who had a different name?

    Usually when they give both names, both are used in the show somewhere. But then I noticed that Todesco was also called “Mike Todesco” in the credits. I don’t think they ever used his first name. So maybe there *was* more shot for this episode than was used, including more Todesco story?

    (No offense to Starsky’s jeans, but Hutch in the black turtleneck, coat, and sunglasses was what made me go zing.)

    • merltheearl Says:

      Holy smokes, Laurie, and I thought I had an eye for detail. This list of observations far outdoes anything I ever did. Thank you for all these salient points. I agree with you that there is a strong possibility Gage is the killer, I suppose I just like the idea of floating ideas around.

    • stybz Says:

      I think Dobie is saying, “I know a dozen car men with the alias of Professor.”

  15. Laurie Says:

    {Merl, when I went to put in my thoughts on Quadromania, it said comments were closed. I hadn’t seen them be closed on any other episode. I hope that this was a mistake or something temporary, because I had a lot of things in my notes (before I saw that) which I wanted to talk about, many of which weren’t mentioned before, and having nowhere to go with them, was quite disappointing.}

    • merltheearl Says:

      I have now changed the status of this entry. I closed comments because of a bothersome thread (none of those comments made it onto the site). If it resumes I’ll pull up the drawbridge again, reluctantly.

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