Episode 63: Hutchinson For Murder One

Hutch becomes the prime suspect when his ex-wife Vanessa is murdered in his apartment.

Vanessa: Veronica Hamel, Simonetti: Alex Courtney, Dryden: Bill Duke, Boyle: Floyd Levine, Wheeler: Severn Darden, Cardwell: Dan Vadis, Dr. Morgan: Jo Anne Strauss. Written By: Robert Swanson and Jackson Gillis, Directed By: Bob Kelljan.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

Things are never more intense, or more interesting, when they get personal. During the run of the series the episodes in which Starsky and Hutch are personally affronted – through the tragic deaths of loved ones, or eminent danger to themselves – are among the very best. This one is no exception, although it involves what I privately call “the cheat”, an unknown element pulled from the past to take center stage. Here, it’s Hutch’s ex-wife Vanessa emerging from the past like a shark from deep water to make Hutch’s life a misery.

In the first scene Hutch is a martyr with the receipts for the tax man, getting everything into neat piles but grumbling all the while. Starsky enters with Louise, the “chinchilla” he spent “a coupla hundred bucks” on, which anyone with half a brain can see is a sweet little guinea pig. When he says this is all the compensation he needs, Hutch goes into the red zone of scorn, meaning Starsky has won this battle of the carefree child versus the burdened parent. The comedic nature of this scene, and the intoxicatingly easy chemistry between the two partners, provides a nice contrast to the grim events soon to unfold. And while we’re on the subject, speculate on the chance he will actually consent to killing the 50 or so offspring it would take to make an actual fur coat, or selling them all to someone willing do it for him.

Money Matters: Points to writers Robert Swanson and Jackson Gillis when Dobey objects to the scribbled note, and Starsky says hilariously, “they don’t take credit cards at the Bucket Of Blood, Captain.” Starsky goes on to say, “don’t tell me Accounting is into that again,” perhaps indicating they often submit bits and pieces of paper and crumpled illegible receipts to the poor clerks in the accounting offices. Along with accumulated parking tickets, numerous gunshot victims – some innocent, some not – unbelievable amounts of overtime, damaged private property, scufflings with Federal agents, and willful disregard for direct orders, Starsky and Hutch are a bureaucratic nightmare.

Vanessa’s call goes directly to Dobey’s office even though general phone calls to the police department would not be routed to his line, even if she asked specifically for him. Did she icily pull rank with the receptionist? Make up something? Say she was calling from Memorial Hospital, with the results of Harold Dobey’s biopsy?

I like how Hutch doesn’t believe it’s really Vanessa (who else would it be, with that distinctive voice?) and she replies – while wearing, it should be noted, an absolute ass-kicking wolf/coyote coat that would make a hooker cry – “the lady who never darned your socks.”

Vanessa is clearly of a higher social class, and her snooty attitude makes it clear she’d never intimately associate with someone she considers beneath her. This is a clear indication Hutch’s background is definitely more “upper” than “lower”. What can she make of his stubbornly proletariat habits? The lousy car, the country music, his verging-on-hippie clothes and guitar-playing, his blue-collar job? It seems his lifestyle has always leaned to the anti-establishment left, because she’s amused by his offer to meet at a place called The Pits. “You haven’t changed,” she says. Is she disgusted by his traits, or titillated by them? Did she imagine at one time she could cure him? Initially did she bring him home just to piss off her daddy?

If Vanessa comes from an upper-crust background, why is she so desperate to make money now by doing something so dangerous? And why does Hutch immediately assume her proposition involves illegal activity?

Glaser is the master of naturalism, his acting never showy or ostentatious, and he’s especially great here when Starsky realizes who is calling Hutch. Starsky has learned the art of playing it cool from years on the street; the more he’s surprised the less he shows it. Because Vanessa and Hutch were married four and a half years previously, they were still together while Starsky was paired with Hutch, so he witnessed it all: the fighting, the bitter divorce. I always thought Hutch was married twice, initially a youthful lark with the anxiety-prone Nancy, then Vanessa (as referenced in the pilot episode, and here.) It doesn’t strike me as odd that he could burn through two marriages in a short amount of time, given his complicated character. Hutch is a romantic, he’s an idealist and can act impulsively but he’s also emotional, decisive and capable of making the tough decisions in life. Plus he tends to attract, and be attracted to, unstable or damaged women (Abbie is an exception) he feels he can save, which is one of the shortest routes to heartbreak there is.

The first thing Vanessa seems to want to know is how Hutch “looks”. Later, she asks him to join her in her jewelry game: “A good-looking partner is hard to find.” Superficial, dismissive, or is just very good at hiding her true feelings? Vanessa is also an exceptional beauty, so perhaps this was just a physical thing with the two of them, with predictably disastrous results.

Vanessa initially calls him Ken, then switches to “Hutch” when she really wants to win.

“Well, it’s you and me tonight, Louise,” Starsky says in his execrable Bogey impression. This means he and Hutch would be spending the evening together, either working or socializing, probably both, if Vanessa hadn’t ruined things. It’s dark outside. Starsky is apparently coming to work, complete with a guinea pig. Hutch has been working on receipts for a while. Within minutes, Hutch is leaving to meet Vanessa. Are Starsky and Hutch working separate shifts, which seems improbable? Will Starsky be covering for Hutch that night? Or did he leave mid-shift to pick up poor Louise in her shoe-box traveling case?

“I’ll see you at nine,” Vanessa tells Hutch rather imperiously, as she has no idea of his schedule. Hutch leaves immediately. Is this an example of Vanessa saying, “jump,” and Hutch saying, “how high?” Has he learned from experience the only way to survive with Vanessa is to pick your battles? He already looks completely drained after only a phone conversation with her. But another slightly more plausible interpretation might be it’s just 7:30 or 8 when he leaves for The Pits, because he’s had at least three beers and seems worse for wear by the time she shows up. Hutch makes a drunken move to grab Huggy’s pack of cigarettes and Huggy brushes his hand off with a curt, “you don’t smoke,” then abruptly removes his own half-smoked cigarette (and empties the ashtray for extra emphasis). A funny, telling scene, although it’s clear Hutch is a secret smoker if there ever was one.

Vanessa asks for her “regular” and looks at Hutch as a test, to see if he remembers. He does, but it costs him (she looks proud, then quite moved, but also triumphant: way to go, Veronica!). She then gives a detailed description of the drink she wants Huggy to make for Hutch: vodka on the rocks, with a twist and a splash of tonic. “I also remember,” she says proudly. Huggy brings Hutch a beer. Vanessa is consistently ignored, which is, of course, the consequence of being a total bitch. Something about her makes people want to do the exact opposite to what she says.

It’s interesting to note Hutch would once drink something that strong. He’s only ever really seen drinking beer, and the occasional glass of wine. Habitually drinking straight vodka – only a “splash” of tonic? One wonders about how much of that drinking could be blamed on an unhappy marriage. He’s certainly fortified himself for this meeting.

Who’s the Mature One: Vanessa, when she first contacts Hutch, asks how he looks. Hutch, when first talking with Vanessa, asks how she feels.

Hutch says Vanessa left him because “being married to a cop held no future.” He didn’t leave her, although from the sounds of it he had cause to. Loyalty? Determination? Optimism? An inability to admit he’s wrong? And while we’re asking questions, why does being married to a cop have no future? Did Vanessa worry he’d be killed, would the intensity of the job mean less time for her, or was it just a financial thing? Does Hutch’s mention of a “pot of gold” hold the key to a long-problematical mercenary streak?

Where is Vanessa’s luggage? She arrives with nothing.

Good old Vanessa. She says, with maximum scorn, “this is it?” when Hutch pulls up to his apartment. This after weeping and begging for a friend on the eve of her supposed biopsy.

Note Hutch’s car has only one headlight working.

When Vanessa and Hutch have their wary not-quite-argument in his apartment there is plenty of thunder booming off in the background, but not a single drop of rain. Mental weather?

Vanessa says it is Hutch’s habit to go out for his jog at 6:15 am, but Hutch is jogging in “The Collector” at 9:30 when called to Garras’ murder. Vanessa is being a show-off, trying too hard to remind Hutch she knows everything about him. Hutch is rushing off for a jog not because he’s a creature of habit (although he is, and Starsky makes the same point early on in “The Fix”) but because he wants to get out of the apartment before she wakes up. And what do you know, the first thing she does is make another imperial demand. “Make that two,” she says, meaning the coffee. I can just see him uttering “damn” under his breath.

Knowing Vanessa is a big liar, is she telling the truth when she tells Boyle and Cardwell she has cleared missing the flight to London yesterday with Avery Wheeler? In all of Vanessa’s statements, from whether she still loves Hutch, to wanting Hutch as a business partner, to her comments to Mr. Steen in Amsterdam and her knowledge Hutch likes his eggs, scrambled, medium, what is the truth and what isn’t? And does Vanessa even know any more?

Does Vanessa inadvertently sign her death warrant when she makes her pathetic attempt to reconnect, control, and manipulate Hutch? If she’d gone it alone, would she still be alive, even if caught? Wheeler’s goons are very upset when they discovered she’s with a cop. “Take a look at this sucker,” they say with undisguised admiration when seeing Hutch’s .357 Magnum. And then use it to kill her.

Compare and contrast Vanessa and Starsky’s plan to get really, really rich. Vanessa’s plan involves a fake diamond. Starsky’s plan involves a fake chinchilla. Both lose through lack of research.

See how Starsky races to Hutch at breakneck speed, sirens blaring, up over the hood, up the stairs – only to slow down, pause, and then touch the back of Hutch’s neck in silent acknowledgment of his pain. He then slowly and deliberately pours a glass of brandy. “Drink it,” he says. Hutch obeys. And then seems to breathe for the first time since finding her body.

Inside joke: It looks like the name scrawled on the bottom of Hutch’s arrest warrant could be “R.C. Whatshisname”

Simonetti is a boor, all around. He goads Hutch at the initial interview. He makes a lewd comment about Vanessa’s corpse. He gives confidential information to Dr. Morgan as a brag. He crudely goads Hutch in front of Dobey and Starsky. He has an icky voice. He orders Dryden around.

How would the case with Internal Affairs have gone differently if Hutch hadn’t gone into the initial meeting with Simonetti and Dryden seemingly intent on not cooperating? It has already been established they don’t have a history with each other. Dobey has to explain to Starsky and Hutch who Simonetti and Dryden are. And Dryden has to read Hutch’s file to understand who he is. What if Hutch had been more cooperative? Less combative? Given a proper statement rather than reacting so angrily? He storms out in the middle of the interview with an aggressive challenge. He may be distraught, but he is also a professional, and smarter than that. Simonetti and Dryden may be buffoons, but could Hutch have played this better?

After Hutch’s initial interview with Internal Affairs, how aware is he of how the case is stacking up against him? He knows it looks bad with his gun, his living room and his ex-wife. He probably remembers the fight at The Pits. He may or may not remember Vanessa’s scratch across his hand. But he definitely doesn’t know about the diamond. Keep in mind, Hutch has been around the block a time or two and knows most combative ex-spouses don’t need a million dollar diamond as motive, only a physical altercation and anger gone way too far. In fact, the case against him – the one Starsky so passionately refutes – is actually pretty solid. They’re not railroading him, as much as Starsky wants to believe they are.

Is Starsky ever disciplined for slugging Simonetti? Are Starsky and Hutch ever disciplined for cuffing Dryden to the table, handling his gun, disobeying an arrest warrant from the County of Los Angeles and fleeing? Should they have been? If they weren’t, what kept them from accruing some pretty heavy charges? And also, do Simonetti and Dryden keep their jobs? They are never heard from again.

Whenever Starsky wants to humiliate someone, he compares them to women. He calls Simonetti and Dryden (amusingly) “Laverne and Shirley”, asks if the diamond they find in Hutch’s car is their “engagement stone” and dismisses them as “girls”. When he’s demeaning Huggy for his imagined cowardice (although Huggy is being particularly brave, drawing fire from the bad guys) he calls him “grandma”.

What is Starsky doing the hours Hutch is lying, knocked out, in his apartment? We don’t see him checking Vanessa’s flight record, talking to any snitches, investigating the diamond’s path, talking to the Lab about the lack of gunpowder residue on Hutch’s hand or doing anything police-like. Or does he do all this off-camera?

Dobey reminds of Starsky being in the hospital while Hutch was on a case alone. Which case was this, and do these times stick in Starsky and Hutch’s minds?

What are the odds of Hutch being involved in a diamond theft that will eventually involve his ex-wife? Which brings up the uncomfortable possibility that Vanessa, as mule for the stolen property, has targeted him, knowing he would be immediately suspected by the police if something happened. This would make Vanessa seriously psychopathic. Or is all this just a weird coincidence?

When Starsky hands over the warrant, Hutch looks at it for a moment, then slips into anger mode. “You’re awful quiet, buddy,” he says in a dangerous tone of voice. Which begins Starsky’s defense, which is downright scary until you get the gist of things. Hutch attacks him on the subject of loyalty, on friendship, hitting all the sensitive points. One wonders how and why this tactic occurs to them, how they manage it, and how it is they do it so well, and so fast. Why do they imagine this particular routine (a sort of evil mirroring of the beloved Laurel and Hardy act) will get and keep Dryden’s attention?

Starsky and Hutch go to Huggy’s for shelter. (Hmm. Dobey asks Starsky and Dryden to arrest Hutch during business hours; the “arrest” takes about forty minutes. Then they show up at Huggy’s, with Huggy recently asleep and in a bathrobe. This would have to be before he’s on duty at The Pits, a pre-work nap, perhaps. Otherwise it would have to be after 3 a.m, or a holiday). Starsky wants to make a phone call and goes directly to Huggy’s bed, flips over the pillow and grabs the phone for his call. Even though Starsky asks, “is that your phone?” it’s obvious he knows the answer to that very well. How much time has be spent at Huggy’s place?

When Starsky goes to Wheeler (another suit-and-tie-wearing criminal mastermind, in his mahogany-paneled mansion) he makes a case for Wheeler to float some get-out-of-town money. Interesting to note in this lovely, well-acted scene is what I might call the Starsky magic: his quiet, compressed, dangerous, convincing portrayal of a man fed up, and murderously dismissive of, the society he feels has let him down. Starsky is so utterly convincing one wonders how close to the mark this really is.

Tag: Hutch is mightily amused when Dobey tells Starsky Louise isn’t a chinchilla. But unlike other times he’s genuinely amused rather than vindictive. One can easily imagine him taking Starsky out for a consolation dinner.

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24 Responses to “Episode 63: Hutchinson For Murder One”

  1. King David Says:

    I love the mad dash Starsky makes to Hutch’s place. The up-and-over-the-bonnet says how frantic he is.
    Dryden and Simonetti leave one feeling not quite clean. Imagine Mrs D & Mrs S.
    I can’t believe Starsky would be so gullible about Louise’s provenance, so perhaps he has done it for Hutch’s benefit; $200 would be a lot of money, and I like to think that whatever he paid for it, it might’ve been a payment for information received from someone, and he’s merely making up a story to cover the fact.
    I don’t have any liking for the ex-Mrs Hutchinson, but I did like Veronica Hamel back in the day. At least she wasn’t blonde. Since, if the chronology is correct, she and Starsky shared Hutch back when, she realised that she didn’t have the level of comfortable intimacy S&H shared, and by that I mean the free and easy companionship and disclosing of personal details that make up a mateship. She couldn’t compete with the pull that Starsky had, and perhaps what she meant was that “a cop’s wife has no future [in this relationship]” and bogged off.
    Hutch says, in “Fix”, that Starsky can’t tell lies well, except when undercover. He does a sterling job with Wheeler, but he’s not being true, ie is undercover. And he’s not got Hutch present to have to play up to, so he just does the job smoothly and convincingly. Well done that man!

  2. Dianna Says:

    Well, Merl, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one that feels like episodes like this are are “cheats.”

    Starsky does mention that he plans to get a boy chinchilla next week. I like King David’s explanation of why he would pay $200 for this one.

    I sure couldn’t figure out what Vanessa’s real motivations are — at any point during the episode. Why does she want to see Hutch? Why does she pick a fight? Why does she want to go home with him so badly that she lies about a biopsy? Why does she spend so much time showing off how much she knows about Hutch? And why doesn’t she *really* know him? Reaching out and grabbing his face so clearly intrudes on his personal space that I’m surprised he doesn’t angrily shove her hand away. She is good at deadening his will, as was Diana in Fatal Charm and, now that I think of it, Gillian. Maybe Hutch needs to simply stay away from women altogether. Or be chaperoned at all times by Starsky.

    The timeline clues in this episode are really odd. Huggy didn’t even know Hutch had been married, which suggests they’ve known each other less than 4 years. Starsky says that Hutch has been with him “ever since he came into this department,” and in the tag, he says it took him “months” to show Hutch the ropes; earlier both of which suggest that Starsky was a cop before Hutch was, but we know they were in the Academy together.

    When Vanessa gets up after making the phone call from Hutch’s apartment, we seem to see skin all the way up, with the camera rather lingering on her bare bottom.

    The hitmen inspect Hutch’s badge & ID, which presumably bear his name. Is Vanessa’s last name not Hutchinson? Or are they too stupid to notice the commonality?

    I like the subtle thrum-thrum of the soundtrack when Hutch rounds the corner at the end of his run. When he kneels by Vanessa’s body, there is some kind of glass case behind him that says Anna Beck, which is a line of jewelry. Is this something of Vanessa’s (despite her lack of luggage)?

    Starsky’s touch on Hutch’s shoulder is one of those beautiful, subtle solidarity moments that would be all too easy to miss if we didn’t get to watch repeatedly. Another nice detail is the way that Starsky nurses his knuckles after slugging Simonetti.

    Simonetti has the most irritating voice ever. (I looked up the actor, Alex Dryden, hoping this was not his normal voice, and it is not. The hideous supercilious sneer also belongs to the character, not the actor.) Hutch may have intended to bare his soul to IA, but the voice and superior attitude may have grated on him so much that he just couldn’t.

    I think one source of Hutch’s famous prickliness is a deep fear of being abandoned, and this episode heaps abandonment on him. Vanessa left him. The Police Department suspects him. After Simonetti and Dryden search his car, he is anxious about where Starsky is going. The DA wants him arrested, and his own captain sends people to do the job.

    I think that when he realizes Starsky has brought a warrant for his arrest, that he does have a little flash of actual fear that Starsky is abandoning him too. I think that this one time, the distracting fight between partners involves a real spark of doubt on Hutch’s part. That is why Starsky leans down to catch his eye and carefully says, “Have you ever known me to disobey an order of Captain Dobey’s?” Hutch tries to hide his relief, but it is there.

    Interestingly, Glaser’s Starsky accent slips a bit in the scene with Dryden in Hutch’s apartment. Listen for final “r’s” in “car,” “partner,” and “mother.”

    I hope Dryden wouldn’t be stupid enough to try to drag around the table he’s cuffed to. All he needs to do is lift it up, and slip the handcuff under the table leg.

    After entering Huggy’s apartment, Starsky says, “C’n I use your phone,” not, “Is that your phone,” and he says it before he uncovers it.

    How does Dobey get the diamond picture to Starsky? There is no way he can give it to him directly. Dobey is so helpful at this point that I wonder if he was counting on Starsky to figure out some way to avoid arresting Hutch. He has his duty, and he also has what he knows — about Starsky, who he deliberately kept in his office when Simonetti & Dryden arrive with the warrant, despite their clear preference to have Starsky leave.

    Starsky seems to be on the verge of tears when he tells Dobey, “I’ll bring him in.” This scene is a Glaser gem, with Starsky getting quieter and darker and more compressed and more dangerous as he sees that he and his partner have been backed into a corner.

    At Wheeler’s place he says, “If they can bring in my partner on a Murder One, I want no part of this police department…” and he is able to speak with absolute conviction because it is absolutely true. Merl, your description of him in this scene is beautiful.

    Starsky’s smirk, directly at the camera after Wheeler takes the bait, is a delight.

    I love the way that Starsky carries Hutch emotionally in this episode, the same as Hutch carried Starsky in The Pariah. Hutch looks like the walking dead when he and Starsky interrupt Dobey’s meeting with Simonetti and Dryden, but he is positively light-hearted during the mortuary sting.

    BTW, Merl, I noticed a typo in your tags for this episode: you wrote “Bermie” instead of “Bernie” Hamilton, which is only important because it messes up your Search function.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you Dianna for your comments. I can’t believe I missed the comment about a boy chinchilla! I have corrected my commentary to reflect your insightful correction. I like this episode so much I am willing to let a lot slide such as timelines and the motivation behind such a troubled and complicated character like Vanessa.

  3. Anna Says:

    Vanessa slapping and scratching Hutch in the restaurant bothered me a lot more than I think the episode intended it to. Something about the way she did it so fast and without a pause, the way Hutch blocked it so quick, like he knew it was coming, the way Vanessa didn’t drop her hand but dug her nails into his hand without being surprised at herself at all, the mechanical way she goes “sorry, sorry” and the looks on both their faces right after it happened (especially the way Hutch gives her A Look, a distinctive private look that clearly means a particular thing to just the two of them), all combined to just scream that she had slapped Hutch like that in the middle of a fight many times before.

    Kind of lent a much darker slant to (what I presume was) the episode’s intended message that they simply had incompatible personalities and attitudes that were further aggravated by Hutch’s job.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Anna, very rarely does a comment give me the shivers but this one did. The idea – beautifully stated – that this violence, whether physical or emotional, was a staple in their marriage certainly does lend another layer of darkness. I don’t know what I initially thought, seeing that slap; perhaps I even attributed Hutch’s actions simply to cop-like quick reflexes. But you’re right – this has happened before. Hutch, against his better nature, is drawn to difficult women, Marianne Owens (“Ballad For a Blue Lady”) being a prime example. Maybe he feels he can help them, as he failed to help Vanessa either during their marriage or during her sad, short life.

      • King David Says:

        Good gracious Anna, how perceptive you are! I had to rethink my understanding of human relationships after your comment. People have strange relationships, some based on quite weird status quo arrangements, and what is acceptable within the walls of the couple unit. Balance of power is a strange thing.
        I wish I was more clued-in sometimes.

    • Becki Says:

      I don’t really have a fully formed comment here, just some thoughts and impressions I can’t shake. I’ve been sitting here since reading this comment thinking: Vanessa was an abuser, Hutch was a battered husband. Now I can see it running through Hutch’s behavior from the moment Vanessa calls until he discovers her body. I’ve never thought of Hutch as a victim before (even though he certainly was in “The FIx”), but now I’m starting to re-evaluate my memory of past episodes. This is kind of blowing my mind.

      • merltheearl Says:

        This is one of the great dividends of a show with so many narrative and conceptual gaps. We can make these imaginative leaps – as I have done a thousand times. We can make shapes out of those inchoate shadows and maybe even understand ourselves a little better in the process. In my own approach to the subject (sorry for offering opinions when not asked for them) I see Vanessa as a porcelain warrior, whose imperious manner hides a true fragility, and I see Hutch as more frustrated and alienated than victimized, but that’s the wonderful thing about this series.

      • Sharon Marie Says:

        I always saw this as something Vanessa has done before. Hutch certainly predicted it and cut her off. The look in his eyes said, “Not anymore.” Her last word wasn’t verbal, but physical with her fingernails digging into his skin. He didn’t even flinch. Yeah. This is not new for either of them.

        Putting myself back before the show when their marriage ended, I imagine that it dissolved because Hutch finally stood up to her. I also imagine that at this time he became the cop we know in the series: Compassionate, to a point, but hard core when need be… with an edge that says, “I don’t *have* to take it.”

        We could analyze his inner soul as it relates to Vanessa for eons! She did some damage, but her presence in his life, I believe, also gave him the tools to see beyond a person’s fake persona.

  4. Dianna Says:

    I agree, Anna, about the darker tone and what you say about the implied backstory, but I don’t think the writer was telling us they simply had incompatible personalities. There are too many clues to a pervasive darkness in Vanessa. The slap + scratch is certainly one of them. There is also: the way Hutch is clearly rattled after he gets her initial phone call is another; instant assumption that she is into something illegal; his comment about her greed.

  5. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    I guess that Starsky and Hutch must’ve squirmed out of punishment for their handcuffing Dryden and going on the lam ex-post facto — Starsky makes sure to contact Dobey ASAP, and since Dobey immediately helps them, perhaps Dobey also immediately declared Starsky as being on an undercover assignment and therefore justified in running from the police. I’m not sure if that’s at all allowed or possible in real life, but the internal regulations of the BCPD have always been very lax, and perhaps Dryden and Simonetti decided to let it slide in order to avoid having their bungling of their case against Hutch made common knowledge in the BCPD and ruin their reputations with the rest of the police.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Great theory – it makes a lot of sense. I can see Dobey quickly arranging paperwork to make it seem as if an undercover case was going on the whole time. It’s the sort of thing he’d do, while sighing, martyr-like, the whole time.

    • Dianna Says:

      Oh thank you! I wanted it to make sense. I like your theory.

  6. Wallis Says:

    I wonder exactly when Starsky hit upon the plan to go on the run with Hutch instead of arresting him. Did he think of it immediately in Dobey’s office after hearing Hutch was being formally accused, or was his insistence on bringing Hutch in himself because he’s Hutch’s partner, and his promise to resign afterwards all genuine, and he only thought about going on the run afterwards, in the car or the apartment?

    Also, it occurs to me upon rewatching this that Starsky springing Hutch and restraining Dryden to do it could probably be legally interpreted as Starsky kidnapping an unarmed prisoner from under Dryden’s nose.

    • Dianna Says:

      Good question, Wallis. I would guess that he does not have any plan at all when he storms out of Dobey’s office, but that his strategic mind is churning at high speed during the trip to Hutch’s apartment. I’m sure that going on the run is at the top of his list from the beginning, but he probably doesn’t know how to do it. One way or another, he knows that he needs to be in charge when whatever happens, happens.

      I expect he has a head full of partial ideas when he is talking to Hutch, and he hopes he will have a minute to bounce ideas back and forth semi-telepathically with Hutch before Dryden comes upstairs, but Hutch’s mental chaos is so great that his telepathic function is somewhat impaired. When Dryden walks in prematurely, Starsky’s plans suddenly crystallize, as he sees how to set up Hutch’s escape.

      • Wallis Says:

        This actually makes perfect sense for Starsky’s character and I can totally see how you came up with it, even though I wouldn’t have been able to know the first thing about how to figure something like this out. You really know these characters backwards and forwards in a lot of ways, don’t you? 🙂

      • Dianna Says:

        That is quite a compliment. I love them both deeply and for different reasons, and I love their love for each other, so it is easy to slide inside them sometimes. (In the good episodes, anyway!)

        In this particular case, your question made me frame Starsky’s position differently inside my own head. I am involved in a competitive strategic combat sport (fencing), and your question made me look at Starsky’s interaction with Dryden as if it were a fencing bout. He studies the way his opponent’s moves & reacts, he watches for opportunities, and he tries to set up sequences that he can control, building a continuously branching strategy tree, so that when the moment comes, he can suddenly change the pace of his actions in a way that throws his opponent off balance and puts him completely at his mercy.

  7. Sharon Marie Says:

    Like Anna, I was riveted and bothered by the scene at The Pits. Hutch immediately reverts to calling her “Van” and fall into – what I would call – their game of tit-for-tat. Niceties immediately followed by bait as retorts to see who gets riled first.

    Hutch: Looking good, lady.

    Vanessa: Thank you.

    Hutch: Don’t look at me. I got nothing to do with it.

    It seems like uncomfortable, if polite banter at first, but then quickly decomposes into what I assume is a taste of their once marital unbliss.

    Now, by this point, David Soul has been married and divorced twice, was ending a long term relationship and headed to his third of five marriages. There was certainly motivation for whatever emotions he needed to dredge up for this. Veronica Hamel was a great cast for this part. They played off each other so well.

    To the part that makes me cringe to this day. Not because it’s bad acting, direction or writing. Quite the opposite. Soul’s face when she goes to hit him is alarming. Yes, he cuts off her hand either because of history with her or his cop instinct. But his eyes open wide and his face drops as he sees a rage in her that maybe he had hoped was gone, or maybe it’s a rage that he never saw from her before. I don’t think it was a reaction to her fingernails ripping into his hand. It was a reaction to her and her intended assault on him in a very public space. Either way, that slap was done with force. Looks like they agreed that she would haul butt and make it as realistic as possible!

    “We don’t talk. We fight. We hurt each other,” he says as he is trying to leave her at the Pit. I think he met her with that tiny glimmer of hope that she – they – had changed.

    At his apartment Hutch plays nice now that he believes that she has cancer. But when she playfully pinches his cheeks while telling him that one day his ex-wife might be a very wealthy woman he physically withdraws with a shoulder dip, uncomfortably, though fakes a smile when she lets go. Something just doesn’t settle well with him.

    Why does Hutch have a bottle of bubbles in his apartment – the kind we had as kids with the plastic wand in it?

    I love how he drinks from a coffee mug but takes a nicer cup and saucer from the drying rack to serve hers in. I want to think that that’s the only matching cup and saucer in the house!

    Vanessa tells Hutch she has to be at the hospital by10am for her biopsy, then when alone tells her contact in Amsterdam that she has a 10am flight. She knows she has sold Hutch a bag of crap to have a safe place to sleep that night and there will be no wrapping up of her lie – like coming home from the hospital and saying everything is great. She is just going to disappear from his life at 10am and it looks like she has no remorse about this. Don’t like her one bit!

    Hutch wasn’t remotely alarmed, when he found her, that the bad guys could still be in the apartment. Didn’t look around to see if they were still there. Was it shock? Or did he think at first that she could have taken her own life?

    Starsky running in… stopping cold when he opens the door to see Hutch sitting in a chair and an obvious dead body covered by a sheet… gave me sad chills. Merl, you put it so well when you said, “Glaser is the master of naturalism….. The more he’s surprised, the less he shows it.” Whereas Soul has great physical acting abilities right down to facial plays with the camera – the king of double takes – PMG has a way of just tilting his head, looking away, nodding once to bring forth just the right emotion. He is stoic in this scene. Little dialogue yet a lot conveyed between the two.

    That has to be the fastest autopsy on record, right down to the blood type, ethnic skin type of the matter scraped from under her nails and even the magical age of who she scraped, all before the earliest of PCA/DNA testing was in existance! Wham, bang, boom! Vanessa didn’t say what kind of tumor she was having a biopsy on, but I’m not sure they would have had the ability, or want, to rule out the smallest of tumors in her breast or anywhere else…. especially in a few hours time, considering the obvious cause of death being a GSW.

    I love Starsky’s jab at the two IA guys. “Oh. Laverne and Shirley”.

    Simonetti, with his permanent look of disgust on his curled lip and apparent hatred for the world, makes my skin crawl.

    Dobey suspends Hutch and demands his weapon and his shield. Hutch hands over both, but wouldn’t his gun have been taken in as evidence from the scene since it was the murder weapon? Or are we to assume he has an auxiliary gun?

    They searched Hutch’s car. Did they have a warrant? It seems not.

    And…. once again, Hutch leaves his key over the door frame. He should really talk to a cop about how dangerous that is. This is the third season and he keeps doing it. It’s like watching my boys repeatedly forget to feed the cats and then repeatedly wonder why the hungry felines wake them up at night. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

    With regards to Hutch being on a case alone when Starsky was in the hospital and chance that Vanessa is using that to set him up if anything should happen to her…. I will play the coincidence card. I think if she was willing to use him to that extent she would have told the two goons that he was her ex-husband and that he was perhaps on his way back with the gem. She would have used him at that point when it really mattered. But she didn’t. She tossed him aside as a ‘one night stand’ in order to not give him relevance to them.

    Interesting that the warrant is for Sgt. Ken Hutchinson and not just Kenneth Hutchinson, his legal name.

    Starsky has such a pained look on his face as Hutch reads the arrest warrant.

    I don’t think that Hutch’s hurt and angry words at Starsky for delivering the warrant and taking him in is part of their drama to fake out Dryden. I truly believe that Hutch doesn’t see Starsky’s plan until Starsky bends down to him and says, “Have you ever known me to disobey an order of Captain Dobey’s?” The look on Hutch’s face at that point is priceless and his eyes dart back and forth suddenly as he tries to think ahead.

    I’ve read that Starsky and Hutch had been together since the academy, yet in this episode they eluded twice to that not being so. Starsky said that he had brought Hutch into the department, and then at the end he said it took months to show Hutch the ropes and didn’t want to have to go through all that again with a new partner. Have they ever been more specific?

    Well, at the beginning I knew immediately that the poor animal was a guinea pig, not a chinchilla. (I actually held one today!). I assumed that the show had just done a poor job of casting the animal. Was nice at the end to see it was on purpose and Starsky had been duped. but $250? Even in 2014 you can get one as a pet for as low as $80!

    That poor beat up VW beetle is there again. They had about 3 or 4 of them they used in most episodes! My husband actually watches and waits to point out the bugs, like a game of “I Spy”!

    • Anna Says:

      What a great comment, S.M.! Your analysis of Hutch and Vanessa’s fascinating scene in the bar is so insightful I went to watch the scene again after reading your comment.

      When it comes to the timeline, Starsky and Hutch had to have been uniformed cops for at least a couple of years before becoming plainclothes detectives (I think in Pariah it’s mentioned that the case where they busted Prudholm’s son was one of their first cases out of uniform), and rookie cops are partnered with experienced cops, not with other rookies. So perhaps Starsky just made detective first, and then brought Hutch into the Homicide department and showed him the ropes a bit later, after Hutch had made detective as well. Perhaps Vanessa held Hutch back earlier in his career. Like pressuring him into staying on a beat in an easier, more posh neighborhood where he didn’t get as much hardcore street experience as Starsky or something.

  8. Louie Says:

    I really like this episode. The scene with Hutch and Vanessa at the bar is very, very well written and acted. It takes a lot of skill to compress such a telling and distinct portrait of a relationship into such a concise scene, and it really works here.

    This skill is there elsewhere in the episode too. One of my favorite scenes in the whole show is where Hutch finds Vanessa’s body…and we immediately cut directly to the Torino screeching around the corner, siren blaring. They don’t need to show Hutch panicking over Vanessa’s body, checking her, covering her, phoning Starsky, or Starsky responding, or anything. We know without being told that calling Starsky for help would be the first thing Hutch would do…and we know all we need to know from the way the Torino fishtails as it comes to a halt, the way Starsky clambers over the hood, the expression on his face as he bursts in the door, and Hutch’s posture as he sits at the table. The scene of Hutch’s call and Starsky’s response that it provokes in our imaginations is better and less time-consuming than it would be if it were shown.

    A really nice believability detail is how Starsky doesn’t need to hunt around to find where Hutch keeps his liquor…he knows exactly where it is right away…as if he spends almost as much time at Hutch’s place as at his own.

  9. stybz Says:

    I’m wondering if the reason the phone call from Vanessa rang in Dobey’s office could be thought of as part of a joke by the detectives. Perhaps they told the switchboard, “When in doubt, transfer it to Dobey.” 🙂 Dobey’s fielded calls for them before. 🙂

    Dianna asked why the hit men didn’t make the connection between Hutch’s ID and Vanessa’s last name. Maybe she was using her maiden name.

    Sharon Marie, I do believe Hutch was probably carrying a back-up gun and that was what he turned in with his badge. I suppose since he was still on active duty until that point, he needed a weapon.

    I wonder if IA needed a warrant to search Hutch’s car or any of his belongings for that matter. I’m thinking that since IA is investigating him and have just suspended him, it gives them probable cause to search without a warrant.

    I actually thought Hutch’s rage against Starsky was all an act from the beginning. When Hutch glances up from looking at the arrest warrant, he sees Starsky’s pained face. I think he knew right then that Starsky had not planned on taking him in, and had hoped for a way out, but was thwarted by Dryden’s arrival. So he launches an attack, hoping Starsky would catch on, and he does. It’s when Starsky asks him, “Have you ever known me to disobey a direct order from Dobey?” that they both know they’re on the same page. None of the insults Hutch launches at Starsky prior to that sounded authentic to me. I believe it was an act from the start, right when he saw Starsky’s facial expression.

    I agree with Anna about the timeline. I thought the same thing about Starsky being a detective before Hutch. I also think that while they probably would have ridden with veteran cops when they were first in uniform, there might have been a point where they rode together before Starsky got transferred. For some reason either in the pilot or another season 1 episode it seemed they were partners in uniform for a while, but that doesn’t mean Starsky didn’t get his transfer first. And maybe Starsky had to partner with a veteran detective before he was cleared to work cases on his own or with a partner of his choosing, and that’s when he requested Hutch.

    Speaking of timelines, this is the fourth episode in which Hutch has arrested someone without Starsky. First, it’s The Bait, when he was in uniform. Then it was Velvet Jungle when Starsky was back east. The next one was The Trap, the only episode that doesn’t state where Starsky was. And then this one, when Starsky was in the hospital last year. 🙂

  10. Adelaide Says:

    As much as I love this episode and the plot twist of them going on the lam together, it’s also kind of…insane? Logically speaking Starsky really didn’t need to do what he did — he could have gone along and arrested Hutch, with a wink that he doesn’t really believe he killed Vanessa and is just playing along, and quietly worked to nab Wheeler on his own while Hutch was waiting to be arraigned. But somehow this isn’t enough — he won’t even bring Hutch in, even though by them taking off, they put themselves in more legal danger than if they had gone along with IA. I guess I could wonder if it’s because Starsky and Hutch are so cynical about their own police department that they genuinely believe that Hutch’s innocence will never be established if he is arrested; but it doesn’t really seem like that’s what is going on here. It seems more of an abstract statement about the partnership, that any sort of betrayal or violation of their me-and-thee is unacceptable, even if it isn’t a “real” betrayal.

    Starsky is very overprotective of Hutch and Hutch’s feelings, as we’ve seen in many other episodes and as others have pointed out, so it feels a little like he believes that even if Hutch knows logically that Starsky doesn’t want to bring him in and intends to clear him, being arrested by his partner will shatter him emotionally anyway, and he can’t stand to let Hutch believe he would compromise on their loyalty even as far as making a temporary concession to the law. Or maybe it’s that he knows (perhaps subconsciously) that not only is the evidence of his own friendship and loyalty more vital to Hutch’s wellbeing than anything else, even legal status, but also that Hutch puts a very heavy burden of proof on him for this evidence, and that nothing short of putting his own neck on the block along with Hutch’s is sufficient proof. And Hutch goes right along with him! No rejection or berating about “oh no, how could you endanger yourself like that for me, you shouldn’t have done it!” He’s happy and relieved that Starsky does this! Does that mean Hutch really would prefer to risk both of them being kicked off the force or even landing in jail for resisting arrest and aiding and abetting, rather than have Starsky arrest him, even if he knows Starsky doesn’t believe he’s guilty? I’m a tiny bit tempted to say that’s nuts, but again, it just really doesn’t feel that way here. It still feels like a fictional abstraction about absolute loyalty.

    I was reminded of that part of your A Coffin For Starsky review, where you mention that Starsky & Hutch has nothing really to do with reality, and “how reductionist this series is prepared to go in order to keep its emotional integrity.” It seems that practical realism and logic takes a far backseat to the partnership’s inviolability.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Adelaide, I was hoping you would come to the conclusion that, at the moment Starsky slaps the cuffs on Dryden, the show has moved into the realm of the abstract. I’ve felt that way about a lot of the partnership-heroic moments, such as when Hutch leaps to Starsky’s rescue in “The Avenger” without adequate backup. Sometimes, when writing these little essays and carping on about police conduct and policy errors within the narrative, I know on some level these criticisms mean absolutely nothing. Because what this series is about is that big abstract – a relationship that is continually in danger of fracture. The question, then, becomes “how far will he go to preserve this partnership?” not “why didn’t he follow proper procedure?” I’m always impressed by the performances of Glaser and Soul who somehow make these lapses in logic not only believable but absolutely imperative. This episode is particularly wonderful in that regard, and thank you so much for writing about this concept so beautifully.

  11. Laurie Says:

    Fascinating episode. You can watch it over and over and go deeper and deeper filling in between the cracks every time.

    While Veronica Hamel did an excellent job, I still don’t like the reusing-actors bit here. Sometimes it doesn’t annoy me too much, but I dislike it especially in a case like this, where someone as important as Hutch’s ex is being portrayed, and one’s mind just naturally keeps casting back to, “that guy’s sister in the dance episode.” Also: Maybe her being brunette was a sort of shorthand subtext clue for her being not really right for Hutch? 😉

    After being married to Hutch, Vanessa probably knows all the tricks for getting through to the right phone at the station, maybe even Dobey’s direct number, or at least the direct number of someone who can patch her into wherever Hutch is in the department at the moment or something. I know workarounds to get through the phone tree to my own husband at work (he can’t have his cell on the job).

    Dobey tells Hutch it’s a Vanessa on the line, but it still doesn’t seem to cross his mind that it is *that* Vanessa. He must really not have ever expected to hear from her again if hearing the name Vanessa makes him think first of
    “some other random woman by that name”, not her.

    I’m guessing that Starsky and Hutch were actually working on the same shift in the opening, but that Hutch was made to “stay in and do their homework” on the receipts, and Starsky was out checking up leads and talking to sources, etc., as usual, and he picked up Louise along the way somewhere.

    Nice catch on Huggy bringing a beer, even after Vanessa remembers and orders the complex drink that Hutch used to drink. Guess it goes to show who knows him better now!

    What was the original plan she was supposed to follow? If the stone was stolen a year ago in Bay City, where has it been? Did she fly in from wherever she currently lives, receive it at the airport from a Wheeler goon who expected her to get right on a plane to London, and she didn’t, and that’s why they are following her already that night? Or had the stone been moved elsewhere in the meantime and she had already picked it up in some other city? Either way, she hadn’t had it long, because she just verified it the next morning to her connection.

    Did having to come through Bay City make her think fuzzy thoughts about Hutch? (Maybe this was a last-minute romantic brainstorm about how her pot-of-gold life could work out perfectly after all, but maybe Hutch would follow her if she waved big money in front of him along with her lovely self, and her luggage had already gone on to London? Or maybe she had just stored her luggage at the airport for overnight?)

    Did she really call Wheeler and make arrangements to fly out the next day instead, and he did say, “fine,” but had her tracked anyway because he lost trust when she changed the plan? (I think she did, because she seemed surprised when the goons show up, and tells them to call him and check. She didn’t seem to be particularly looking over her shoulder for trouble before they showed up.) And why did she change the plan? Wouldn’t it have been easier to take her flight to London as scheduled, and then, when she had some distance away from Wheeler, grab a quick flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam and then ({meet up with her buying connection there?

    The only thing that makes sense to me is that she really did nurse feelings of love–or what she considers love–for Hutch somewhere down in her “avaricious little heart” and thought maybe after all, she could finally have it all on this deal: her “pot of gold” and Hutch, too. So she figured she could sell a one-day stay-over in Bay City to Wheeler and try to wheedle Hutch into the plan with a pretty face and rekindling of old feelings and a million bucks. When the meet-up at The Pits doesn’t go well (i.e., he doesn’t fall right back into her arms when she remembers his drink, but instead they fall back into their worst old patterns–insert all the stuff Anna said here), she makes up the biopsy bit, on the spot, it seems, to play on his sympathies and get back to his apartment for the night, anyway for another try. (She touches her nose right before the biopsy story, a distinct body-language “tell” for lying.) She probably doesn’t even realize that she is blowing her chances, not just with her behavior at the bar, but with the steady put-downs: “You haven’t changed,” in regards to hanging out at The Pits” or “This is it?” in regards to the apartment.

    She says for the last several years she has been buying and selling jewelry on the international market. I imagine this is probably true. Probably some shadier deals than others. This one, though, looked to her for some reason, like maybe she could get a big score all at once. Apparently she has been traveling in these circles and has been fairly trustworthy to these people until now. But she’s been waiting all along for that pot of gold.

    When she gets Hutch to take her back to his place, and finally gets him to have a drink with her and get a little cozy she floats the idea of him becoming her partner in a million-dollar deal–and in bed–and living her fantasy, but he pleads “cop,” and “old fashioned,” and blows It off. I think at this point she realizes it’s not going to happen, that she’s going to have to get on that 10:00 flight alone, but she still wants to enjoy playing house with him until then as long as possible, so wants him to skip his run in the morning.

    Interesting that someone raised the question as to whether they would have killed her if they hadn’t found out that Hutch was a cop. It turns out, I guess, that there was ‘no future for her’ with a cop. Literally.

    My guess is that she was indeed going by her maiden name (or another name altogether) when being Ms. Jet Set Jewelry Hotshot. Especially since apparently some of it was shady stuff.

    I wonder how she planned to get the stone out of his car if he wasn’t going to drive her the next day? I suppose it wouldn’t have been too hard to manage, but still…wouldn’t it make more sense to hide it in the apartment somewhere so she wouldn’t have to make an excuse to get into the car in the morning? (Lost earring or some such?) I feel certain that she could have found a place for a tiny thing like that, one that would have outsmarted those drawer-flipping, cushion-ripping gorillas.

    One other “what the heck was her plan?” point: When she calls the person she’s dealing with in Amsterdam, why suddenly now at the last minute is she concerned about a 3-week turnaround time being too long, and be willing to suddenly take less money for a faster transaction? Surely she knew all along that Wheeler and his goons would catch on fast when she didn’t show up where she was supposed to in London, and at this point there’s been nothing she’s seen to make her think that the situation is any more urgent than it was before. (And “23658”? My, my, Amsterdam has short phone numbers!)

    It seems to me that Hutch working on the stolen-gem case was just a coincidence that just happened to make him look guiltier. None of the creeps seemed to bring this up or make any connection with each other about this fact, which I think at least one person would have, if it was a factor. For example, if that had something to do with Vanessa being chosen as the mule, or if she planned all along to falsely make it look like she had left it with Hutch and was setting him up.

    Interesting that Vanessa was probably a good share of the reason Hutch drank “the hard stuff” in the past. And when he does actually drink hard liquor in this episode, it’s because of her again.

    Vanessa’s body seems nearer the door when Starsky arrives. Did Hutch pick her up and hold her at some point in grief and shock, then realized he was disturbing evidence and set her back down and cover her before calling Starsky?

    When asked if he knows any reason anyone would want to kill her, Hutch pointedly glares and doesn’t really answer. Does he just get distracted by the other things he starts talking about, like when he last saw her and where they went, or are there just too many theoretical reasons in his mind that he doesn’t want to say?

    I lean toward agreeing that originally Starsky did figure to take in Hutch and then resign himself, if only to give himself more latitude in tracking down the real culprits, and that on the way he came up with this other plan. Why not just bring in Hutch and then solve it himself so he doesn’t get in trouble? I believe that he figured that breaking this case was a tough enough problem that it would require the alchemical fusion of “me and thee” both working the case together and becoming their usual “more than the sum of the parts,” because the case was indeed very damning as it stood. Ex-wife, his gun, his place, public fight the night before, unsolved jewel case he’d worked on, $$ stone never turned up, poor alibi, his rare (2% of population) blood type under her nails. I think Starsky felt “Starsky-and-Hutch” was needed to pull off turnaround on such a tall order.

    I also lean toward thinking that Hutch was too upset to catch on at first, until Starsky gets right in his face and asks if he has ever disobeyed an order. Then he seems to click into the concept.

    Again, we see the “fake argument/interactive commotion” schtick subtly communicated between the two of them to pull a fast one on an outsider who has the drop on them. Also seen in Voodoo Island and Satan’s Witches.

    As to Dryden being able to lift the table leg right over the cuff, I convinced myself that, like my own table, Hutch’s has an angled brace between the leg and the table, and that’s what Starsky cuffed him to–otherwise any moron, much less a police officer, would have just tipped over the table and chased right after them before they finished making jokes about coffee. Anyway, I’m sure it has a brace like mine. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

    I do like the idea that Dobey did some finagling ex post facto to make it into an actual police ploy officially.

    I don’t think that calling Huggy “Grandma” was denigrating him for cowardice. I think the joke was that he was playing the part of someone’s dead grandma by being inside the coffin.

    I just figured the stuff about Starsky not wanting to break in a new partner and all that was just mostly humorous posturing, not serious actual seniority/chronology stuff. As in, “Yeah, I’m really the lead guy of this partnership; I taught this guy everything he knows, and after all these years I’ve got him molded just the way I want him. I don’t want to have to do that all over again with somebody else, haha.”

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