Episode 65: Partners

A high speed chase after two robbery suspects ends in a crash that apparently leaves Hutch with amnesia.

Bonnie Ackerman: Melissa Steinberg, Dr Greene: Ralph Nelson, Marsha Henry: Kathleen King, Henderson: Zachary Lewis, Billy Joe: Ronnie B Baker. Written By: Rick Edelstein, Directed By: Charles Picerni.


Charles Picerni, stunt double to Paul Michael Glaser throughout the series and second-unit director, takes the reins in this episode.

This is a “greatest hits” retrospective and lovely to watch; every single flashback packs quite a punch and as well the framing device of Hutch’s amnesia is interesting and quite touching. However, this episode prompts an observation: the creators and producers of this show are highlighting what they view as the best moments so far in the series, mostly the intensely intimate and emotional moments of affection and deep connection between the partners. So why, one wonders, do the writers ignore or downgrade this very element for much of the time?

Opening scene: while on patrol Hutch is attempting to wax philosophical about spring (he will never learn – this never works) Starsky says grumpily the only spring he feels is the one beneath him, and then proceeds to complain about what Hutch refers to as this “two-ton hunk of junk”. It’s unusual to hear Starsky complaining about the car he loves. Pushed, Starsky snaps that the Torino is “the hottest machine on el road-o” to which Hutch snaps, “well, big deal-o.” Hmm, mean, even for Hutch. One suspects this petty argument is meant to illustrate the risks of taking a partnership – any partnership, from love relationship to professional colleague – for granted, wasting time with dumb insults and meaningless barbs, because in the next second a car chase nearly ends it forever.

Hutch is berating Starsky for breaking the law and running a red light when, while in pursuit, they have every right to do that. But Hutch is correct in the larger sense: there is no need to risk lives for a simple “211”, a robbery. A fact that has many police departments throughout the US and Canada taking a hard look at this very issue.

A Ford Torino against a Mustang – car company wars, perhaps?

Also, there are parallels between Billy Joe/Henderson and Starsky/Hutch, two sets of characters in a car with one man a driving fiend and the other begging to stop.

Of course, none of this would have happened if both men had been wearing their seat belts.

The demeaning depiction of nurses is seriously annoying. In a busy hospital there should not be two nurses helping a single patient into bed. Even though the patient is a handsome police officer, and these nurses have obviously called dibs on him, do they have to be so stupid and unprofessional too?

Starsky sees the bed beside him empty, prompting him to shout “HUUUTCH” in an incredibly loud voice, banging on the bedside button for emphasis. Laudable, yes, but who’s to say both will be recovering in the same room, anyway? It almost never happens that multiple victims of any accident are put in the same room, particularly if one is more seriously injured than the other, and Starsky is naïve if he thinks it would in this case.

Starsky is confident Hutch will recognize his “ugly mug”. Later, when Hutch is wheeled into the room, Starsky says he’s glad to see his “ugly face”. Ugly, apparently, being code for “not ugly”.

Starsky and Hutch’s car accident happens in the daytime. Starsky knows he and Hutch were brought in together, but Starsky doesn’t ask about Hutch until it is dark. Was he unconscious? Or pacified with a lot of lies?

It’s interesting to speculate how this little playlet of Hutch’s would have worked if they’d been in separate rooms. Probably pretty well, since guilt-ridden Starsky would be making half-hourly trips down the hall to check on him to jump-start his memory. But really, what are the chances of an entire two-bed room being vacant in a hospital “short of beds”?

Starsky tries to prompt Hutch recall by mimicking zebra-three: “that’s what Headquarters used to call us.” He uses a quite distinct past-tense. Why?

Hutch’s behavior throughout this episode is revealing, and to me, deeply poignant. In creating a persona of Memory Loss Man, he is able to give voice to feelings normally hidden, feelings that although fabricated for the purpose of annoying his partner still come across as authentic or revealing in some way. This persona is sour, critical, wary and unlikable, which is an interesting choice for Hutch – in reality, powerful, sensitive and empathetic – to make, but then all his undercover personalities share those traits to some degree, don’t they? For instance, he is disdainful when told he’s a police officer. He says it’s like being “some kind of spy” and “a macho power-trip”. In this exchange we are able to learn a whole lot about this sensitive and conflicted man – this may be how he secretly sees himself, or it could be how he feels judged by others.

Starsky is awfully cavalier about revealing Hutch’s past with heroin, although he does it only when a nurse wants to give him a morphine-derivative for pain. As he talks, telling the nurse it’s a mistake to administer the drug, Hutch continues munching on toast and looking like a smug idiot. He doesn’t even twig to the fact Starsky is about to tell a story that will stop him cold, and is, in fact, one of the worst moments in his life. Why is he so slow to catch on? You can see it, though; he stops chewing and looks pensive, but then recovers with disturbing ease. By the end of Starsky’s story he’s started to read the newspaper. A cool customer, this one.

One wonders why Starsky tells the nurse the shocking story of Hutch’s heroin experience rather than inventing something more benign and less personal, then tell the real story (in private) to Hutch, at a later time. I would have. You would have. Simply telling the nurse there’s a danger of an allergic reaction would have been enough. Along with Hutch, the nurse is notably unmoved by this story. She skips the pain medication and goes on with her day, which begs the question: what does she tell the doctor about this disturbing new development? Does she repeat the story, or does she merely jot “no morphine” down on his chart?

Starsky tells the story of the amazing ransom run in “The Psychic”. Hutch is not even in the room, having gone down for a CT scan. He returns just as Starsky is concluding the story, emphasizing his own heroic part in it, and the bewilderment at telling a story to an empty bed is played for laughs. This is a side of the series I have a major beef with: a kind of jokey disavowal of things that really matter, the insistence on a “lighter side” at odds with the searingly brutal content of the story.

Hutch has a lot of repressed anger against the people in his life. He looks positively triumphant after telling Dobey to “lay off the sweets”. And his dig to Huggy and Dobey when they arrive (“you boys wouldn’t be in show business, by any chance?”) is cruel but apt – they really do look a bit like a vaudeville team in their nearly-matching suits, their flowers-and-fruit props. He cruelly pronounces Dobey’s name as “Dopey”. He really seems to relish the insults. It’s either seriously cathartic, or just the fun of acting like someone you’re not. How many people, if given license to act out, would? Would Hutch, without a Starsky in his life, really be such an arrogant ass?

I like how Huggy says with an endearing lack of irony, “I’m no character – I’m Huggy Bear.”

Of course the major question in this episode is why is Hutch just as nasty to Huggy and Dobey, who have no part in his rather weird scheme of “teaching Starsky a lesson” and therefore don’t deserve his anger?

Hutch says, in the aftermath of the dune-buggy story, “I can’t believe I’d be partners with such a horrible, hostile person.” To me this is a fascinating comment, because clearly Starsky is the least hostile person in the world, and the story he just told does not illustrate either a horrible or hostile person, but a determined and brave one. At this point, it becomes clear Hutch’s rage is largely aimed at himself. This charade of his has less salubrious qualities than merely proving a safe-driving point to his partner. What we’re seeing is a kind of disassociative behavior, in which Hutch is using Starsky as a stand-in for his own conflicts.

It’s Huggy who mentions the fight scene in “The Committee”, although where his knowledge of this story comes from is a mystery; I for one can’t quite picture the three of them spending evenings together discussing cases. At the end of this story Hutch says haughtily, “well, that’s a little hard to believe.” He hasn’t said this about more extreme events, i.e. getting injected with heroin by gun-welding gangsters – so why does this story seem farfetched? Is some unconscious part of him unwilling to believe Starsky would ever hurt him?

Huggy is pulled away by the sweetly-voiced call to “Doctor Bear.” What should have been a light moment is undercut by Dobey who says, unnecessarily and cruelly, “You know, I thought he’d never leave.” He then goes to the bathroom. Um, what?

When Hutch says, in full moron-mode, “tell me, in this supposed relationship of ours, have I ever had occasion to punch you in the face?” he draws it out, enjoying Starsky’s discomfort, seemingly having forgotten about Gillian. Is he so caught up in his revenge fantasy he’s forgotten he’s dredging up extremely painful memories? At least, when he hears it, this is the only story that truly shakes him.

In the aftermath of the Gillian story, Hutch is awake in the middle of the night. The insistent ticking of a clock is in the foreground, a sound we’ve never heard before. Could this be purely metaphorical – the ticking of life itself, perhaps? Time wasted? Hutch making up his mind to forgive his partner?

Dobey assigns them traffic duty the next morning – surely Hutch is going to be discharged. If Hutch is injured much more seriously than Starsky, then why is Starsky in hospital as long as it seems his partner is?

The original script was better for once: Starsky becomes despondent after a particularly cutting remark by Hutch, and leaves. Huggy and Dobey then sharply reprimand Hutch, telling him about Gillian, Dobey ending with, “if you forgot a friend like that, you’re in a lot worse shape than I thought.” That sets Hutch reconsidering, and leads to the filmed scene where he tries to make up with his partner and says that earlier he’d heard some stories about rough times he’d had where Starsky stuck by him. When he tells Starsky the truth, his partner first gets angry and begins to yell, but then the stage direction reads, “they recognize the mutual love that exists,” and Starsky forgives his partner with a gruff, “What did I do to deserve such a dirtball.”

But that is not what we get. Instead it’s night, and the two of them are lying side by side. Hutch is beginning to be plagued by a guilty conscience. Starsky, though, has given up. He doesn’t seem to realize what genuinely moves Hutch are stories in which he, Hutch, plays the hero. When Starsky says “there were plenty of times you were there for me” Hutch has a moment of real transformation. He looks astonished, then relieved. “Yeah?” he says. Hutch knows Starsky is a superhero, that he is good and pure. To Hutch, that’s a given. He knows Starsky is a great cop and great friend. That’s why he’s aligned himself with him from the beginning, because he found someone with the qualities he fears he lacks. He doesn’t need to hear stories about how Starsky saved the day. He already feels deeply indebted. But when the tables are turned and Starsky starts talking about how Hutch saved him, Hutch is riveted. He doesn’t believe he is good and pure. He doesn’t think he is a great cop and a great friend. He thinks he is a fraud and a coward. He thinks he is basically unlovable, which is why he pushes so much. Dump-them-before-they-dump-me sort of thing. But when Starsky tells him the story of Terry, and how their friendship saved his life, Hutch is liberated from his self-hatred, and the spell is broken.

“You remember Terry?” Starsky says, and Hutch, shocked into discarding his charade, begins to say “yes”, but Starsky interrupts him with, “you don’t remember anything.” Hutch can disabuse and bury his own pain, but he can’t bury Starsky’s.

It always strikes me how ashamed Hutch looks when he finally admits his lie.

Tag: “Isn’t it wonderful?” the ditzy nurse says, “Mr. Sparsky, he got his memory back!” She really does say Sparsky. Triple mistake. Another mix-up with the names (even though their beds have charts with their names on them!), one Dobey wearily corrects. But how did she find out about the fakery? Surely the boys would like to keep that under their hats, as one never wants to piss off a nurse.

See how Starsky aids and abets Hutch now, after having been his victim. Once tormented, he is now a joyful accomplice. He happily plays along with the continued insulting of Dobey (Hutch, with little extra malice, comes up with “Blimp” when urged to remember Dobey’s name), and you can see him enjoying himself. Drawing it out, getting Dobey to play the fool. When Starsky joins in is seems less like an act of psychological undermining and more like two boys acting out for the fun of it. But still, I always wonder if Starsky is taking the opportunity to express a little hidden anger of his own or if his happy participation is a way of expressing forgiveness; he may be saying, “see, we’re both equally at fault here!” When I was a kid and did something wrong my sister would hurriedly join in (getting paint on herself, jumping on the bed) to redistribute and therefore lessen our parent’s anger. It’s probably the same thing here.

Clothing notes: the only thing worth mentioning is Starsky’s magnificent dressing gown worn in the tag: a cross between hippie and Japanese kimono, complete with sky-blue turtleneck, which he wears with flair after dumping the institutional hospital version in the aftermath of Hutch’s amazing comeback. Hutch also wears a red carnation in his skull bandage, homage to the joys of sick days off work, as well as the re-cementing of a partnership briefly on the rocks.


43 Responses to “Episode 65: Partners”

  1. Daniela Says:

    …so, do you think the doctor was in on this scheme? Or was it something that Hutch came up with as he was regaining consciousness? I mean the doctor said they needed to tell him even his name…. You would think one coming out of an accident like that would not be so quick in coming up with such a plot….
    What’s up with the doctor? No lab coat? They didn’t wear white coats in those days?
    And what is it with Starsky bandage, that switches sides at the beginning of the hospital stay? How could they have missed the backwards film? Was it because he was looking the wrong way but his expression was too good to cut or re-shoot?
    And finally, I am so glad Hutch has a “front” of “nicety” about him, and is tempered by Starsky presence, because he would be unbearable if the amnesic self was his real character!! No matter the amount of good looks, who could stand him? The show would have lasted about 10 minutes!!
    Thanks for another good post!

  2. Shelley Says:

    I sometimes wonder why Starsky even likes Hutch. Starsky is such a sweet guy and seems so light-hearted at times, which I would imagine isn’t the easiest quality to maintain in his line of work. Hutch puts him down and is even outright mean to him often enough that Starsky’s affection for Hutch surprises me at times. I’d think Starsky would get fed up with entire thing.

  3. Lynn Says:

    I have to think that Starsky sees the real Hutch and knows that his prickly personality is just a defensive tactic to hide his vulnerabilities from most people and himself. Granted, he uses it on Starsky often enough, but it’s rare that he bristles in response to it. He knows, loves and accepts his partner, also accepting as part of his make up his need to protect his inner self from any further hurts. Although he acts the child much of the time, I see Starsky as the protector most times. When he’s hurt that’s when Hutch lets his defensives down and steps up to the plate for his partner. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to perserve the partnership, even if it taxes his normal methods of self preservation. He loves Starsky that much.

  4. Shelley Says:

    A further thought . . . I agree that the show too often plays something for laughs when it would be stronger not doing that. If I would’ve been in charge, I would have placed Starsky’s retelling of the ransom run toward the end, and he’d tell it directly to Hutch. Hutch then would feel glad that Starsky recognizes something great that Hutch did. It would be then that Hutch would ask his question about whether there were any times he was there for Starsky, and Starsky would tell him about Terry.

  5. King David Says:

    The bit of footage of the Torino going under the overpass crops up in other episodes; recycling of footage is sooo annoying.
    I agree, Hutch is obnoxious here, but it helped me greatly to have someone point out that Hutch has self-doubts and is insecure. He is willing to push Starsky to the brink of friendship for some perverse desire to see how far the elastic stretches. Good thing it’s a long way. I can only then presume that Starsky is very percipient and deep down understands that Hutch is excoriating himself by inviting the retribution he must know will come.
    I like how the two drivers recognise each other’s driving skill; the battle on the road has become personal and transcends the original catalyst, the 211. In reality, had the Torino crashed at the speeds they were doing on the road, the pair of them would’ve been jettisoned through the windscreen and into oblivion. We must presume that Starsky was able to wash off some speed and somehow lessen the impact in the split-seconds he had available to him. And passengers so frequently come off worse in head-on impacts. Makes sense that Hutch was apparently more injured. He really didn’t need to test Starsky’s love and tolerance, though, so it does reveal a mean streak that Hutch was prepared to go to this extreme just to provoke the feedback he already knew was his by right.
    I liked the dressing gown, too.

  6. Dianna Says:

    I watched this for the first time immediately after spending a while watching lovely tribute montages made by fans on YouTube, and was a bit disappointed to find that when I finally gave in and watched this new-to-me episode (bringing me one episode closer to having no new episodes left, forever) that it consisted mostly of stuff I had just watched on YouTube. I am sure that it would have meant a lot more to me “back in the day,” when our favorite scenes were not available on demand.

    By the time I’d seen the foot-on-clutch/shift gears/tachymeter revving sequence the third time (plus the repetitive overpasses that King David mentioned), I was feeling fairly annoyed. This is not a cheap Hannah Barbera cartoon, and I wish the production team didn’t sometimes treat it like one.

    Despite that, the opening scene was quite tense for this first-time viewer who knew only that there was a crash in the future.

    A minor note: Torinos and Mustangs are both Ford models. The driving duel is just between the drivers, and not two car companies. But do you know who really wins the driving duel? The driver of the cream-colored VW, which we can spot in three different locations during the car chase!

    Oh the lazy editing!

    And even more lazy editing: when the Torino comes to a halt after crashing, the windshield is intact. The breakage only shows up in the next shot.

    Starsky should be really wringing his hands with guilt over hurting Hutch, even if he hadn’t faked amnesia. Instead, he just looks disappointed that Hutch seems to not recognize him.

    Daniela suggests that the doctor is in on the “amnesia” scheme, and I agree. First of all, full retrograde amnesia is really rare, and it would be difficult to fake in front of a medical professional, especially when the patient is pumped full of painkillers. Second, Hutch’s broken arm is fake, as evidenced by his pulling it out of the sling and waving it around when Starsky discovers the ruse and the pair start yelling at each other — which clearly suggests that someone in the hospital is helping Hutch put on his show.

    I picture Hutch waking up in the emergency room and discussing the circumstances of the car crash with the doctor, and the two of them deciding that it might be a good idea to teach Starsky a lesson. This would also explain why the two are in the same room: the hospital isn’t short on beds, but rather the doctor is Hutch’s accomplice.

    Hutch must know that his ruse will come to light sooner or later, which makes his gratuitous nastiness to Capt. Dobey really strange.

    And I wouldn’t call the depiction of the nurses merely “annoying.” It is genuinely insulting.

  7. Anna Says:

    This may be the only clip show in the history of television that I like. More for the framing story than the clips. Mostly I find Hutch’s acting choices when playing the role of Amnesia-Hutch just fascinating — WHY does he decide to act like such a supercilious asshole, especially as he’s clearly playing it up intentionally? Obviously, the writers must’ve wrote him that way to hook the audience and cause Starsky extra pain, but there are several different in-universe motives. Is he just doing it because acting like a dick is fun and he has an excuse? Or does he do it because he’s still stewing in anger at Starsky for the crash and he feels like this is how he *should* feel about Starsky and that this is how Starsky deserves to be treated?

    Or is it because Hutch is a superb undercover actor, always whole-heartedly embracing the full psychology of the roles he impersonates, and maybe he feels that in order to play Amnesia-Hutch convincingly, he has to act the way he thinks he really would act if he really did forget Starsky and his job, and he acts like an asshole because he believes that without the influence of Starsky and his job, he’d really be an asshole? (And then there’s a whole ‘nother layer of acting — on top of Hutch’s acting choices in playing Amnesia-Hutch, there’s David Soul’s acting choices in playing Hutch-playing-Amnesia-Hutch — even his vocal inflections and facial expressions are noticeably different than Hutch’s normal ones.)

    Starsky’s reaction at the end before the tag are just perfect for me. The bit when he goes “I could *kill* you! Why? Why would you do this to me??” in that hushed choked voice, his reactions still jetlagged after the emotional whiplash but swiftly rocketing up to incandescent rage even as he speaks is a great illustration of how love is one of the most dangerously powerful fuels for fury there is. There’s a thin, porous line between loving someone so much that they’re your whole world, and violently hating them, even if it’s just for a minute, for the power they automatically have over you as a result of your love.

    (I wonder if Hutch may have felt the same? Maybe he also woke up alone and terrified that Starsky was dead, and he was extra-furious at Starsky for giving him a scare like that? Maybe he was (initially) so determined to teach Starsky a lesson and make sure he would never drive like that in the future because while Hutch can’t very well control whether Starsky gets killed by a criminal in a gunfight, he *can* control whether Starsky gets killed by his own reckless driving.)

    • merltheearl Says:

      This is a very perceptive and delicate pulling-apart of the emotional strands in this episode, and I appreciate it very much.

      I find myself comparing that scene with Starsky asking Hutch how he could do that do him (a scene Glaser plays slightly comically, in my opinion, as if Starsky acknowledges the folly of the situation, finding the whole thing bitterly funny more than simply enraging) with his scene in the later episode “Starsky Vs. Hutch”. Here, his outrage is direct and honest. In the later episode, in a similar if not worse situation there is no questioning, no head-shaking anger, no demand for the truth.

  8. Wallis Says:

    Your interpretation of Hutch’s low self-worth is a fascinating one and, I think, one that rings very true across episodes. I don’t remember which post it was, but I remember that you once suggested that Hutch’s often cutting treatment of Starsky is because he wants to fray at Starsky’s healthy and secure self-image. I’d like to disagree with that. I think it feels more that because Hutch doesn’t really like himself or see much value in himself, yet knows full well that Starsky adores him, he may feel some level of subconscious disgust towards Starsky for his bad taste because he doesn’t see why Starsky should adore him — don’t you ever raise a mocking eyebrow when someone professes undying love for something you dislike? Hutch belongs to the Groucho Marx school of low self-esteem that only low-self-esteem people who are also very fair-minded people with very high moral integrity belong to: “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.”

    Most of his torment, I think, is kind of a testing and confirmation of their bond’s strength, to give himself security that it won’t splinter, the same way people will tug on a mountain-climbing rope to make sure it will hold, but some of it is him saying “you tasteless moron, stop it, stop it, why do you like me? Why do you want to be around me? Are you stupid or something?” because he doesn’t understand how Starsky can see him the same way that he sees Starsky. He can only value himself when he manages to see himself through Starsky’s eyes and the inverse of the aforementioned subconscious disgust kicks in for him — Starsky is good and valuable and trustworthy, therefore if he thinks Hutch is so damn amazing and and loveable and valuable, it must be true. Which is not the same as believing in himself, poor guy.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I agree, and nicely said. I’m not sure when I wrote that Hutch may deliberately want to cause his friend harm – I don’t think I said that – but maybe you recall my somewhat ingenuous theory in “Starsky Vs. Hutch” when I try to understand Hutch’s atypical behavior by suggesting he wants to bring Starsky down a peg in order to reassert his inwardly-diminished power. But yes, I’ve said much the same about Hutch testing his friendship by continually worrying at it – I love this character and if I sometimes seem hypercritical it’s only because he’s so damned interesting.

      • Wallis Says:

        I don’t think you ever said that he wanted to cause Starsky *harm*, but I remember one review saying something like he wanted to pull him down to his (perceived) level because he was afraid that Starsky might someday wake up and decide he deserved better? I may be wrong, it may have come from a comment rather than your review, so correct me if I am. But anyway, I disagree with that — he seems to do the opposite, constantly trying to give Starsky reasons to leave him out of some strange desire to see where the limits are. I don’t think Hutch doubts that Starsky *is* crazy about him, just that he doesn’t really see *why*.

        I hope none of my comments sound like I’m being too hard on him either! The thing is that it’s fun to talk about fictional characters’ flaws because the flaws, not the virtues, are what makes heroic characters unpredictable and irrational and mysterious in episodic TV shows about bad guys vs good guys like this one. And I think Hutch’s flaws are more interesting to talk about than Starsky’s. I feel that most of Starsky’s flaws come from ignorance/prejudice or insensitivity — simple sources with obvious, gradual solutions. Whenever he mistreats Hutch, it’s usually him failing to do something he ought to be trusted to do (like say, remembering not to stupidly risk his partner’s life by engaging in impromptu drag racing with fleeing criminals) rather than actively doing something to Hutch with some sort of intent. He doesn’t have nearly as many fascinating psychological tangled webs as Hutch that I can see.

    • Grevy's Zebra Says:

      “Hutch belongs to the Groucho Marx school of low self-esteem that only low-self-esteem people who are also very fair-minded people with very high moral integrity belong to: “I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.””

      I have never thought about Hutch’s tendency to pointlessly mock Starsky from this angle before. Very interesting! He does seem to be pushing for an explanation from Starsky, with his desire to hear Starsky tell these stories — a justification for why Starsky likes him, since I guess if he actually asked, Starsky would be at best baffled and at worst hurt and offended that Hutch needed to ask.

      Poor baby! What made him so unsure of himself, I wonder? It’s times like these I wish I knew more about the characters’ backstories. I’m sure it can’t be all Vanessa’s doing, but she’s the only canonical link to his past that provides even a partial explanation.

  9. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    This is definitely one of the most interesting clip shows I’ve seen. Back in the day, I’m sure clip shows were highly appreciated because people didn’t have the ability to rewatch the episodes at will, but now in the age of youtube where you can find almost any episode of any TV show uploaded online, they have become sort of pointless.

    However, unlike most clip shows, the plot of this episode — the amnesia charade — is legitimately really interesting from a characterization perspective. Your interpretation of why Hutch plays it the way he does is pretty fascinating (I just assumed he was really pissed at Starsky and didn’t plan on things turning so emotional and serious, but that assumption of mine isn’t as simple as I thought — why WOULDN’T he expect Starsky to react so emotionally and seriously? What does that say about his self-worth?) But I wonder: why now? What put him so down in the dumps to make him push the charade that far when he’s never done anything this drastic before? (Starsky’s baffled “why? why?” mirrors my thoughts exactly).

    Upon rewatch, this episode has an unsettling air of foreshadowing the troubles that start piling up for them in season 4, which I’ve never really noticed before.

  10. Adelaide Says:

    Merl, your interpretation of why Hutch does this charade, and why he stops when Starsky tells him the story about Terry, is really fascinating. My interpretation was usually a bit simpler — that Hutch was angry and punishing Starsky because he thought Starsky’s recklessness showed he was taking Hutch for granted, and gave up the charade when he realized Starsky really did care and that the whole thing had gotten too serious to play games with.

    Have you ever heard the folksong “The Female Highwayman”? It’s about a woman who gives her fiance a diamond ring as a token of her love, then later disguises herself as a robber and mugs her fiance on the road and demands he hand the ring over. He refuses, telling the ‘robber’ that he would rather die than give up his true love’s ring. The next day, the woman reveals her trick to her fiance, telling him that she wanted to test his character and his love (in some versions, she also says she would have killed him in the road if he had given up the ring, but most versions soften that part a tad).

    It’s one of those things, like this episode, where I technically know this is not a thing that real people ought to do to each other, but is so damn interesting when in the form of a fictional story that I can’t help but find it pleasing.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I haven’t heard of that folk song but it’s truly great. I wonder if, on a minor level, most people have done something very much like that to the one they love, whether it be lover, friend or parent.

      • Adelaide Says:

        Oh absolutely! I think this is one of those things that kids in particular just *fantasize* about. Tom Sawyer running away and then attending his own funeral where everyone is crying over him, stuff like that. And not just kids. It’s a very primal desire, I think. We aren’t telepaths, so no amount of trust is quite as satisfying as proof.

        I believe it’s this exact same mentality that explains why we like to see these characters pushed into extreme situations that unearth their love and devotion to their partner — we like to see them *prove* it. Sure, we “know” that Hutch would hunt down anyone who hurt Starsky, but that’s not enough — we need to *see* Sweet Revenge so we can be 100% sure. Sure, we “know” that Starsky would give his life to save Hutch, but that’s not enough — we need to *see* that rooftop scene from A Coffin for Starsky, to have proof.

    • Blunderbuss Says:

      I actually laughed out loud in delight at the references to The Female Highwayman and Tom Sawyer, Adelaide. That is such a perfect and strangely endearing comparison. Like Louie said, there’s just something so genuine about Hutch’s behavior towards Starsky, even when it verges on cruel or manipulative and could sometimes feel like bullying if anyone else did it, that it’s hard to find it truly bothersome. And perhaps it feels this way because it feels so reminiscent of the hijinks in old songs and stories that would be pretty messed up if real people did it, but work for the song/story characters because they actually are serious and sincere about it. I feel like Hutch is really sincere about all his “how much do you love me? show me, tell me” stuff, as though he truly just needs to see and hear it again and again (unlike most people, who usually have far more unpleasant and less sincere ulterior motives for this sort of behavior.)

      • Adelaide Says:

        Haha, it just sort of popped into my head upon rewatch 😀 He behaved as if he was waiting for Starsky to say the right thing before he stopped faking.

  11. Sharon Marie Says:

    In an interview with David Soul he said that he and PMG came up with the idea for the episode thinking that their filmed scenes would be brief – just a couple days, then they would get a few days off while the rest of the crew did the editing etc. Instead, when they were done filming their scenes a new script was put in their hands. Backfire!

    During the chase scene, as someone else commented, our old friend – cream colored VW Beetle – shows up a few different times!

    Also at a couple points the Torino is shown speeding down and around an intersection and we can clearly see the two guys (or their doubles) up front, but there is a third blonde guy in the center of the back seat. Director possibly?

    When I was 23 and seriously ill in the hospital, they were short on beds too. I got stuck in pediatrics.

  12. Louie Says:

    I also found the premise and the character-related parts of this episode really interesting. I think this is one of the episodes that says a lot about Hutch’s personality through his actions. I kind of wanted to shake Hutch for that amnesia trick, but there’s something so…childlike about his deep desire to know what Starsky really thinks of him that it makes me smile…even though it was really mean.

    I wonder what Starsky meant when he said he didn’t think he had the strength to remain on this earth after Terry died, but Hutch got him through it. Does he mean he tried to commit or contemplated suicide, and Hutch stopped him, or does he just mean he was very, very depressed? Even considering killing himself seems out of character for him….but I somehow feel like he wouldn’t use flowery/indistinct hyperbole when talking seriously to Hutch either.

    • Dianna Says:

      I can’t imagine Starsky contemplating suicide, but he certainly might have thought he might simply die from despair.

  13. Shelley Says:

    I appreciate all the commentary about Hutch’s motivation and complex insecurities since I first commented on this episode way back in 2011. I had about had it up to here with Hutchinson by this episode, and there’s been a lot of great insight offered here.

    • Anna Says:

      Hutch is a kind of puzzling and sometimes frustrating sort of guy, isn’t he?

      In some episodes I sometimes catch myself wondering “why is Starsky so patient with him?” But then, of course, I just think of “Pariah” or “A Coffin for Starsky” or “Death in a Different Place” or “Lady Blue” or “Starsky’s Lady”, and then I remember exactly why 🙂

    • Adelaide Says:

      Oh dear, I hope it didn’t stop you from completing the show, Shelly! I understand, of course, that people can react negatively to characters who are intended to be likeable but not always are, but I think it is fun to come up with explanations that put their behavior in a more understandable or sympathetic light.

  14. stybz Says:

    I liked this episode.

    I share Adelaide’s view of why Hutch did what he did. I think Hutch had hoped Starsky would feel bad, apologize, and maybe even cater to him a bit, while trying to cheer things up by bringing up lighter, more fun moments only to make him squirm for a while until the game was over. Hutch had no idea Starsky would go as deep to talk about Gillian and Terry. In fact, I think if the tables had been turned, Starsky would really have had amnesia (I don’t see him faking it) and Hutch would not have tread through such deeply sad waters. I think Hutch would be more inclined to change the subject before bringing up such unhappy memories. Starsky is more emotionally in touch. He wears his heart on his sleeve, while Hutch keeps his close to his chest. So it’s natural for Starsky to go in deep, no matter how much it hurts, and Hutch forgot about that.

    As to why Starsky would think Hutch would be in the next bed when he first arrived in the room, considering how weak and out of it he seemed when he was wheeled in, it could be he was unconscious for a long time, then groggy for a while and didn’t have all his thoughts straight. The one thing he would expect once in that room was to see his partner there with him, sitting in a chair or on the next bed. But he felt or sensed Hutch was missing. Realization hit, the car accident came back to him and he panicked.

    The switched bandage on Starsky’s brow was a flipped negative and not a continuity mistake. It seems they didn’t have enough footage of Starsky looking at Hutch, so they cheated the scene by flipping the negative so he was looking at Hutch and not away from him.

    • Adelaide Says:

      I actually changed my own initial assumption that Hutch had no idea Starsky would go as deep as he did — the stories about Gillian or the heroin happened early on, and he would have gone “whoa, too far” and stopped the pretense right then if all he had wanted was to scare Starsky a bit. But instead he waits and waits and eggs Starsky on some more, and he doesn’t seem uncomfortable or stuck in an awkward lie he wants to get out of but can’t. It feels to me that was deliberately waiting and angling for Starsky to tell him something more, give him some information he wouldn’t have gotten if Starsky knew he could remember. I do think that, at the *beginning* he had no idea Starsky would go that deep, and all he wanted was to give Starsky a shock and nothing more, but then all of a sudden, Starsky started baring his soul about these serious intense shared memories and describing them from his perspective and I think Hutch couldn’t resist the opportunity to get Starsky to talk about that stuff in a way he wouldn’t have done otherwise. This is why I was reminded of that song 😉

      I like and am impressed with your take on how Hutch would react if their positions were switched. It’s really hard for me to wonder what would be different if they were switched in any of these big distinctive moments, because the interpretation of their personalities rests so heavily on evidence taken from their behavior in those very same big distinctive moments. It’s a chicken-and-egg sort of problem 😉

  15. stybz Says:

    Did anyone notice that they recycled part of the chase scene from The Heroes. I realized that while watching the scene unfold in this episode that parts of it looked familiar. The giveaway was the school bus in the background loading a handicapped person onto the back. I didn’t remember which episode I had seen it in before until I was rewatching The Heroes today and realized that the car Regan was driving is the same red Mustang. Then I saw the shot with the school bus. 🙂

  16. Spencer Says:

    On of my favorite aspects of this blog, Merl, is your attention to little background details. In that regard, I have to say I love the red carnation in Hutch’s head bandage. There has to be a missing scene there, somewhere. ☺️

  17. Tanya Says:

    It is probably just my own strange reaction, but I had already heard that Hutch was faking it before I watched this episode, and when I watched it, I just for some reason got this impression that Hutch didn’t really pull this amnesia stunt in reaction to the car crash. It seemed more that he jumped at this opportunity to pull it. As though he had been thinking about doing something like this (messing with Starsky’s head) already, and got the idea to do it by using a bogus amnesia claim when this accident happened.

    There isn’t *any* evidence in the episode that this is actually the case, (though I’ve watched this episode a few times and there isn’t any evidence that it *isn’t* the case either) and I wonder why I got this feeling when I watched it. Maybe something about Hutch’s deliberate and fascinated way of pushing Starsky into telling him various stories wasn’t really what I’d expect from Hutch just getting revenge on Starsky. If he was punishing Starsky he’d be more likely to flaunt how horribly injured and brain-damaged he was rather than push Starsky into telling him all those stories. Still it is a very odd reaction of mine and I don’t mean it as an argument that this is what is happening in the episode, just thought I would relate my first impression. But I have to disagree that Hutch is in “full moron mode” when he asks Starsky if he’s ever punched him in the face. I think he probably was referring to it on purpose. His shaken reaction could well be more about how Starsky told the story.

    This is the other thing that I wonder: how did Starsky tell those stories? I mean, what did his stories sound like? We see them in the form of cutaway clips, but Hutch had to hear them as Starsky’s words. Did he describe them in detail? Or gloss over things? Did he talk about how he felt during them, did he convey the depth of emotion and the greater implications of those scenes, or just relate what happened? Do the clips represent Starsky and/or Hutch’s memory of the incident rather than the content of Starsky’s stories? I know this is just how television works, but it’s fun to think about!

    • Ruth Says:

      I agree that there’s no evidence for this theory you have here, but, after thinking about it, I think it’s more consistent and makes more sense out of the way Hutch acts here than Hutch’s insistence that he just wanted to teach Starsky a lesson. I’m not convinced about premeditation, that seems too cruel for Hutch, but I agree that he doesn’t really act like his goal is to teach Starsky a lesson about recklessness. He acts as if his goal is to hear what Starsky has to say about him.

      I mean, that he doesn’t focus at all on doing things that would make Starsky feel horrified and sorry and want to be careful. He has fun with insults, but mostly he sits back and waits for several hours for Starsky to tell the next story, and the next, and the next, making nudgy provocative negative comments about police work and Starsky’s character and their relationship. I also think that that the “have I ever punched you in the face?” line is deliberate. Until the realization of how much Starsky needed him and valued his friendship (*not* just relenting when he sees how upset Starsky is about his amnesia) is what shames him into telling the truth.

      • merltheearl Says:

        I respect both Tanya and Ruth and their take on this quite mysterious episode. Not that anyone asked me, but my two cents is pretty much the opposite, that Hutch simply saw an opportunity to make Starsky feel awful about his driving and took it, without even thinking about the consequences. I just can’t see the “have I ever punched you” moment as deliberate or manipulative on his part; I don’t think he ever wants to be reminded of that time again. But then, this is why interpretation is so fun, we all have our ways of thinking.

      • Ruth Says:

        “But then, this is why interpretation is so fun, we all have our ways of thinking.”

        True! Though I feel like I should clarify – I do think that making Starsky feel bad about his driving is the reason he started it in the first place (why I don’t think it was premeditated), I just get the feeling that by the middle of the episode he’s gotten off-track in pursuing a completely different goal. I do think he was trying to make Starsky feel bad, but by later in the episode it seems to me that that isn’t *all* he is doing. Does that makes sense?

        This is really more like filling gaps by molding some brick mortar into them, rather than finding the correct missing piece of the puzzle so I’m not too attached to any one theory 😉

  18. Lioness Says:

    Did anyone notice that the flashback clips were crisper than the originals, both visually and audibly? In the clip from The Fix, the lower rim of Hutch’s right eye looks red. (Hey, I’m a detail person.) Also, when Starsky and Bernie help him up off the ground, I can hear Starsky say something like ‘Poor baby’ or ‘Come on, baby’.

    When the Torino crashes the camera zooms in on Hutch. We don’t see Starsky at all due to a bystander in the way. Obviously, the director wants us to see Hutch injured and unconscious. But I wonder if Starsky was left out on purpose because he was the ‘bad guy’ so to speak. Also, for any other of you detail/OC folks: we see Hutch’s head and 2 hands on the dashboard. But I think one of those hands is Starsky’s as there’s a ring on the pinky finger. This would probably place him lying along the seat behind Hutch.

    I, too, wondered about Hutch asking, ‘Have I ever punched you in the face?’ His demeanor implies that he would never do such a thing. But he knows darn well that he did. I’m sure that he must have agonized over it for a long time and apologized to Starsky many times. I’m sure Starsky downplayed it every one of those times. Yet, Hutch brings it up here. I wonder if Hutch views his physically hurting his friend as the worst thing he’s ever done to him and still needs reassurance that Starsky isn’t secretly harboring a grudge. As someone mentioned earlier, we don’t know what Starsky said or how he said it while telling these stories. Hutch believes he’ll get the unvarnished truth now. And he seems moved by what he hears, although it might just be the painful memories of Gillian.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Lioness, I love your eye for detail. I don’t seem to have that gift, since I never noticed any of the points you mention. I do, however, have a very strong belief that Hutch did not remember he’d ever had the occasion to punch Starsky, otherwise he wouldn’t have brought it up. At this point in his game he’s having too much malicious fun to abruptly introduce the most painful moment in his life, especially in that challenging, almost buoyant tone of voice. To me, it just doesn’t seem like something he would do. He wants to have fun at Starsky’s expense, and given his motives – I’m gonna teach you a lesson about your driving – bringing up a deep and still-bleeding psychological wound he himself has suffered doesn’t fit.

      • Lioness Says:

        Interesting that you believe Hutch doesn’t remember that incident. I agree, he certainly seems smug when he mentions it. If he truly doesn’t remember, imagine his emotions when Starsky tells him about it. And this could open up a whole new chapter in the on-going analysis of Hutch’s psyche: with all that was going on in those few moments, was he unaware of punching Starsky or did he block it from his memory because he was guilt-stricken over it?

      • merltheearl Says:

        I know! If he doesn’t remember, and then is abruptly reminded of it, the resulting shock (and shame) would profoundly impact him even more than simply remembering the incident on his own. It’s like throwing a rock at someone only to have it ricochet and hit you in the head – it’s doubly hurtful because of the embarrassment. Following the story, Hutch looks absolutely devastated. He actually makes a little motion to hide his face. Hours later, he can’t sleep – he’s tormented. He then asks for Starsky’s forgiveness in a typical Hutchinson endearing/irritating way, by coaching it in distancing language: “I heard some stories this afternoon” which means he’s not quite willing to let this pretense drop. At this point – this beautiful night scene – I think the point of the whole exercise has shifted from Hutch teaching Starsky a lesson to Hutch using his injury as a transformative tool for himself. He has become a ghost, eavesdropping on his own eulogies. We all walk around telling ourselves stories about who we are, and why we do what we do, but these (particularly in Hutch’s case) are contaminated by our own prejudices and self-recriminations. Hearing someone else tell the same stories would be a very moving experience. And I don’t think Hutch would ask for – or be open to – any of that without the shame of getting hit by the rock he himself threw earlier when he challenged Starsky to talk about “this supposed relationship of ours.”

      • DRB Says:

        Something I wondered about is how Hutch planned to end the whole amnesia episode. Was he “gradually” going to regain his memory? Starsky is expecting that development, and certainly Hutch’s acting skills are equal to the task of convincing his unsuspicious partner. I agree with the observation that it seems likely that Hutch had buried the memory of hitting Starsky; he certainly is blindsided by Starsky’s description of the confrontation. And Starsky’s painful honesty about the devastation of Gillian’s and Terry’s deaths prompts Hutch’s own painful confession. Of course, this is all speculation based on reading Hutch’s expressions. It is quite possible that he just got into a lot more intense situation than he expected–a very Hutchinson mess that he brought on himself.

        It makes for an entertaining episode, but it is also somewhat frustrating. It’s one of those times when you want to give Hutch a good shake and say, “Just be yourself, for heaven’s sake!”

    • Anna Says:

      Merl and Lioness, this discussion is fascinating! I love your little trip inside Hutch’s head, Merl, it’s beautiful, especially what you say about “eavesdropping on his own eulogy” and why it’s so powerful to experience that.

      Lioness, thanks for pointing out the difference between the flashback clips and the original clips! Starsky does call Hutch “baby” or “babe” in that bit. That’s really endearing. I’d bet it’s an ad-lib.

      He also calls him “babe” when Hutch is dying in The Plague, and in the first part of Targets Without a Badge (trying to wake him after the car explosion). He uses other diminutives too, he calls him “boy” in a couple episodes, and “kid” a few times as well, I think, and often calls him affectionately demeaning nicknames like “blondie” and “blintz.”

      I think Hutch usually sticks to the more even-handed “buddy” — maybe another hint that the superior attitude he directs at Starsky is all fake and deliberate? Though in “The Collector” he calls Starsky “gordo” which sounds like an insult to the un-savvy ear because it literally means “fat” or “fatty” but it is actually used as a term of endearment in Spanish — how appropriately Hutch-like! 🙂

      • merltheearl Says:

        Thank you, Anna. As a follow-up to nicknames, Starsky’s nicknames are imaginative and varied and often refer to Hutch’s appearance (“Blue Eyes” and etc) while Hutch’s nicknames are generally non-specific to the point of generality. Can we extrapolate that Starsky’s childhood was filled with affectionate name-calling among peers, and Hutch’s was more formal?

  19. Lioness Says:

    Love the rock analogy!

    I watched this ep last night and when I posted I was thinking that Hutch’s emotion after the Gillian story might have been due to the return of distant pain at her death. But, I agree, there was something introspective about those few seconds.

    You mentioned again the idea of listening to your own eulogy. During Starsky’s earlier stories, he’s expecting/hoping Hutch’s memory will return eventually. So anyone in that position could over embelish what they say about the listener. But Hutch has the reassurance of knowing that is not Starsky’s style and that he means every word he says.

    (PS: When I get the email that asks me for confirmation, I check the boxes to be notified of additional comments. Does this hold true for the entire blog or just the ones I’ve commented on? Thanks!)

    • merltheearl Says:

      Lioness, you’re right about Hutch trusting that Starsky will say exactly what he means – that’s a great insight. As for WordPress, your confirmation only alerts you to posts you yourself have commented on. As far as I know there isn’t a plug-in to alert you to new comments in general.

  20. DRB Says:

    No deep insights. Just have to mention my 2 favorite moments.
    Love Hutch’s nervous twitch at the corner of his mouth and the strange pseudo chuckle he smothers when he asks Starsky how he is doing (with his confession) Perhaps he is wondering if he is about to receive another well-deserved punch!
    And I hugely enjoy Starsky’s screech of pure rage when the sling is yanked off. Apparently he is so angry that he cannot even think of a good curse word and has to resort to “Oh-h-h!! Your arm!”. He is so loud he completely obscures what Hutch is yelling. Makes me laugh when just remembering; no need to watch again (but I will)!

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