Archive for July, 2011

Episode 70: Blindfold

July 28, 2011

Starsky is overwhelmed with guilt when he accidentally shoots and blinds an apparently innocent bystander following a robbery, but the victim, Emily, isn’t all she seems.

Emily Harrison: Kim Cattrall, Sharon: Joan Pringle, Don Widdicombe: Gary Wood, Pinky: Howard George, Kenny: Robin Strand, Doctor: Sheldon Allman. Written By: Pat Fielder and Richard Bluel, Directed By: Leo Penn.


In the Fourth Season one can detect a different quality in the production values of the series. The focus is softer, the light more diffused, and the overall effect seems more lush and film-like than it has been before. Bigger budget, better technology, or changing visual styles?

Hutch is whistling and singing “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” by Kris Kristofferson, although he is probably referencing the Johnny Cash cover, which hit it big in 1970. Another reference to Hutch’s love of country music. Starsky is not in a singing mood however, complaining “only cops work on Sundays” and “ninety-five per cent of crimes are committed between Monday and Saturday”. Hutch lets him go on, perhaps remembering another one of Starsky’s creative statistic exercises in the desert on the way to Las Vegas. When Starsky says no crimes are ever committed on Sunday morning, Hutch says, “maybe the bad guys are all in church,” another amusing instance of the series casting a critical eye on religious matters.

Dispatch says a silent alarm has gone off at the jewelry store. But the two thieves have been patiently blow-torching their way through the company safe for a long time. What sets the alarm off? It’s not the entry; they’ve obviously managed to sneak in through some unsecured back way. Did they get lazy or over-excited, and exit out of the alarmed front door, thinking they could run for it?

It seems Emily is alone in this world. Is it typical for a young girl not to have any relatives? Not even a distant aunt, or a guardian? Are Pat Fielder and Richard Bluel just looking to keep things simple, at the cost of logic?

“I feel like I’m a leper,” Starsky tells Hutch. He was also responsible for the shooting of young Lonnie Craig, in an episode called “Pariah”, which also revealed how he felt at the time. Despite all the gunfire in this series, only two innocent bystanders are shot in the series. Both are women and both shootings involve Starsky. The other is Janice Drew in “The Specialist”.

Why is the doctor so hostile when he comes out to talk to Starsky? He delivers the news of Emily’s blindness in a harsh, judgmental way with Emily’s best friend standing right there, and he’s snide about the necessary paperwork. He must already know the details of the case, that it was accidental, that Starsky meant no harm. And yet he cruelly dismisses both Starsky and Hutch’s gestures of concern. What is his problem? Is he like this with everyone, one of those gifted surgeons who is also a contemptible ass?

Starsky may get some points for trying to empathize with “being blind,” however sitting in one’s house blindfolded as he did for an hour, or blindfolding Hutch for 30 minutes, doesn’t show to how a person learns to cope over a period of time, just like any other change. Note, too, that this episode is not called “Blind”, the implication being this episode is about being impeded, or beset by blindness, the fault of another. Extrinsic rather than intrinsic.

Clever moment when Starsky holds his gun for a second and then chooses something else that shoots. The way I interpret it, his looking at and handling the gun does not reflect a fleeting suicidal thought or an impulse to resign the force. Rather, he is reflecting on the power of his instrument and the instantaneous calamity it can bring into the lives of others. He is, in a sense, in awe at its negative power. His thoughts then turn to the camera, which has the same potential as a weapon to be the agent of transformation and self-awareness, this time in a positive sense. His choosing the camera instead of the gun means he is willing to move forward. If he hadn’t accidentally met Emily in the park, I believe he would have simply absorbed this dark chapter and allowed it to add another facet to his personality, much like he became a different, better, more complex person following the death of Terry.

However, his strong reaction to the shooting of Emily, and his odd choices after seeing her in the park (lying, coercing her into a relationship, allowing himself to be pulled into her life) probably does have a lot to do with Terry. Suffering from undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he might be incapable of separating Emily’s injuries from Terry’s. After all, it was his job that indirectly led to Terry’s death. Coincidentally, she was even blinded in her final moments as well.

Exactly what happened to Emily? Initially she lies in the street with blood at her temple, although if she was actually shot in the head by a police-issue Smith and Wesson .38 she would most likely not survive, or if she did she would not be sitting in a park in a week or two with no scar to show for it. My guess is she was hit by the deflected bullet, its velocity slowed by bouncing off a building.

Kim Cattrall, who of course will go on to star in “Sex and The City” among other work, does a fine job here as the naive Emily. It’s quite a strikingly delicate depiction of a girl who has the unfortunate tendency to allow men (good ones like Starsky, and bad ones like Don Widdicombe) overpower and control her.

Starsky’s flirtation expertise is awe-inspiring. Emily goes from aggressively “don’t talk to me” to holding his hand in under an hour. Later, in “Ninety Pounds”, he performs the same trick with a similarly stand-offish Sid. He should teach a class or something.

Sharon is a mystery. Starsky asks Sharon to step “out of the frame” when taking Emily’s photograph, and she does. She seems to believe Starsky is doing something beneficial for her friend, but does she fully understand his symbolic, subtle request to “stay out”? If so, why does she agree, and withold his Starsky’s real identity to Emily? By all accounts she’s rational and realistic (she has sensible advice later about Widdicombe being “bad news” and urging Emily to tell Starsky everything) but do her actions make her a good friend or a lousy one? By not telling Emily who Starsky really is, not being more forceful about Don, she seems to lean toward the “lousy” category. But by trusting Starsky’s intentions, and not blaming him, she also has good instincts. She is not a meddler, and treats Emily like an adult (maybe the only one who does). In an episode about seeing, are we to believe she is the only one with good vision, or does she have blind spots like everybody else?

Why does Widdicombe waste his time selling his goods to a lowlife like Pinky for? Stealing such a massive collection of diamonds is not something you do without having a ready buyer, preferably some international hotshot. Jewelry can be difficult to fence at the best of times.

What’s the story with Widdicombe and Pinky, anyway? Pinky, facing serious jail time, still lies to cover for Widdicombe at great personal cost, then allows him access to his cash for a “loan” without a peep. Why the loyalty? It can’t be just about the loot – or is it?

If I were to do a “5 Creepiest Villains” list then the manipulative, smooth-talking Don Widdicombe would be at the top of the list. He maintains his suave, smiling demeanor throughout, including while under intense questioning at the station, which seems to me to be the mark of a true psychopath. Way to go, Gary Wood!

This episode is very similar to “Running” and “Rosey Malone”. All three times Starsky is driven to rehabilitate or protect a vulnerable woman and all three times Starsky and Hutch are at each other’s throats, arguing bitterly about personal responsibility versus police procedure. Here the fighting is especially wearisome when Starsky refuses to listen to reason. I don’t know if the writers thought this added to the tension of the narrative, or were unable to write scenes in which the two were cooperative and understanding with each other. It adds a sour note to this episode that is, in my opinion, unnecessary.

Even though Starsky is ostensibly the focus of this episode, it’s really the Hutch show. He does a couple of really incredible things. His hassling of Kenny the Younger Brother is truly menacing. Look at Hutch catch sight of Carlos at the pool table. “How long you been out, Carlos?” he asks, and the hairs on your neck just stand up. His arrest of Pinky at the bar is a master stroke of choreography and completely and creatively unexpected. And then his arrest of Kenny, his physical power as he throws him (very hard) on the car and then leaves him trussed on the hood as he drives back to Starsky. “Don’t move” he says helpfully. Throughout he sustains a steadily simmering anger that keeps him focused and calm. And it’s great to see how that changes to upbeat and optimistic at the tag when he thinks Starsky has returned from his funk.

Why does Pinky go to Huggy to sell his diamonds? Doesn’t he know about Huggy’s relationship with Starsky and Hutch? Wouldn’t Bay City criminals, generally, know this? It’s mentioned several times throughout this episode about the rampant word on the street regarding Starsky “babysitting” Emily, so obviously there is a very healthy grapevine. Wouldn’t the biggest, juiciest grape on that vine be Huggy’s years-long, full-time job as snitch to the two famous detectives?

Standout in the staging department: Starsky holding the mars light in the underground garage, flashing red.

Who has been “blindfolded” in this episode? Well, most of the characters are. Emily, both physically and by her inability to see through Don Widdicombe. Starsky because of his inability to separate duty, guilt, responsibility, and for thinking romance can solve complex and dangerous problems. Sharon is, because she does not tell Emily the truth about Starsky. Pinky, because he has no idea he’s going down for the last time. Kenny, for following his brother into a bad situation. And of course poor Hutch, who is literally blindfolded and the least deserving of its ill-effects.

Emily has the tendency to be both dumb and duplicitous. Dumb because she doesn’t ask the name of the officer who shot her and appears to have no questions about legalities, she doesn’t try to locate Widdicombe, doesn’t show any interest in the stolen diamonds and just generally seems out of it. Duplicitous because she sure doesn’t give anything up about why she was on the sidewalk at that time, doesn’t say anything about Don and Ken and manages to hide her involvement perfectly.

Hutch’s focus on catching the bad guys, Don and Ken, seems more intense than usual. Is it because, as he said to both guys, taking a shot at Starsky was unacceptable? If so, Starsky and Hutch have been shot at lots of times without causing Hutch to amp up his reaction to this degree. My guess is Hutch is angry not only because he’s watching his partner flail around uselessly in guilt, but because there is no “other” in his life to siphon off all his negative energy. (This brings up another issue: that Hutch might be the worst boyfriend in the world, bragging rights notwithstanding. Either he is wholly committed which means the romantic partner must endure his barbs and teasing, or most of him remains subsumed in the relationship with Starsky, which allows him to act out and decompress but leaves the girlfriend out in the cold.)

”Surprise, surprise,” Starsky says to Widdicombe and company as he strolls toward them. This is exactly how he says “surprise, surprise” to Hutch when he shows him the car in the tag of “Survival”.

There is an undercurrent of artistic creation as a saving grace. Starsky takes pictures, Emily makes sculptures. Both acts seem to help. And, by the way, her sculpture of Starsky is very good. Even that troublesome nose.

Emily, after regaining her eyesight, tells Starsky he really is handsome. He replies, “Would I lie to you about a thing like that?” No, but he sure lied about everything else!

Emily’s eyesight returns one hundred percent. Starsky is off the hook. What would have happened with Starsky if she remained blind, or regained only partial eyesight? And how would Starsky’s feeling of responsibility change, knowing she was Don’s lookout?

Tag: Both Starsky and Hutch seem incredibly happy in the tag. You know Hutch is in a great mood when he’s boastful (here, he advertises his “extra-sensory perception”). They share a beer and are very nice to each other. But that doesn’t stop Starsky from playing a very mean trick on his best friend.

Clothing notes: There is a recrementitious amount of khakis in this show, everybody (with the exception of ever-hip Starsky) is wearing them, even Huggy. Hutch is responsible for some pretty spectacular clothes in this episode. He looks like a preppy yachtsman for the first few scenes in striped shirts and a military-style cloth jacket, also wearing pleated khakis and a large Hawaiian shirt (which hides, I suspect, the back brace David Soul was forced to wear following a serious injury). He redeems himself in the classic green leather and jeans, and in the tag is wearing a very peculiar blue-silver leather jacket.
Starsky escapes the contemporary missteps in his usual duds.
Emily and Sharon are wearing matching blue button-down shirts in their last scene together.


Episode 69: The Game

July 14, 2011

Hutch bets Starsky that he can hide from his partner for a whole weekend in order to prove he’s smarter, but the friendly game of hide-and-seek turns deadly when Starsky learns Hutch has botulism but is unable to locate him.

Ray Pardee: Jack Ging, Gina: Suzanne Charney, Anita: Liz Torres, Ernie Silvers: Joseph R Sicari, Babcock: Herbert S Braha, Simmons: CJ O’Neill, Merl The Earl: Raymond Allen, Handsome Lab Tech: David Pendleton. Written By: Tim Maschler, Directed By: Leo Penn.


Script Notes: Hutch was to be the seeker originally, which explains the unlikely fact of Hutch eating soup cold out of the can, but they switched roles to accommodate Soul’s back, still healing from a catastrophic skiing injury.

O.K., Class, Settle Down: Hutch is reading from a scene from Shakespeare’s “Tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra” to Starsky in the opening scene. “When it appears to you where this begins, turn your displeasure that way. For our faults can never be so equal that your love can equally move with them. Provide you going. Choose your own company and command what cost your heart has mind to.” This is an awfully portentous opening and implies a lot without actually saying much. In the play Antony is torn between the Rome of duty and the Alexandria of pleasure and love. He recalls his glory days of heroism when he felt he knew his path, before he was entangled in a messy love affair. He is aware of how far he’s strayed from the ideal, embodied by the struggle between emotion and reason. The fact that this quote talks about faults being equal, and the love of another getting bogged down in the details, is highly suggestive. We could spend hours trying to tie in this quote with what is about to happen – and, also, with the marvelous concoction of the partnership itself – we could surmise this may imply Hutch is bored or maybe feeling purposeless on the job, or we could simply acknowledge this is a throw-away moment, a joke on us all. Did Tim Maschler just throw a dart at a Collected Shakespeare and write down whatever it landed on?

Hutch is lively and feisty in this initial scene and spoiling, albeit in a happy, good-natured way, for a fight. When he makes his little joke he is referring to “The Super Cops”, an excellent 1974 film based on the biography by L.H. Whitmore about two police officers nicknamed Batman and Robin for their superhuman abilities – both as arbiters of justice and extraordinary strength and perseverance. I would imagine Starsky and Hutch themselves are loosely based on this antecedent.

Hutch seems to think Starsky has not heard his Shakespeare quote or understood his pun about being a soup-er cop. Starsky has, in fact, heard and understood both. It’s never clear to me what point these presuppositions about his partner’s deficiencies serves but I’m pretty sure Hutch does not genuinely believe them even if they serve a valuable psychological purpose for him. On the positive side these digs at Starsky’s intelligence and other “faults” might comfort Hutch in some complicated way and make him feel less insecure (He’s not better than me, so we’re equals)  and on the negative side it could very well feed into his self-loathing (I’m such a jerk, I don’t deserve this guy.) The fact that this episode opens with a bored Hutch reading a book and a busy, preoccupied Starsky digging through files and getting his paperwork in order gives a very strong indication this whole “game” emerges from a complicated set of factors rather than simple macho competitiveness (although both machismo and competition are not really simple, are they).

There is no real reason for Hutch to be eating soup from a can. Yes, the script was changed from one to the other in order to accommodate Soul’s severely injured back, because eating uncooked soup from a can is something Starsky would do. But still, you’d think the writers would come up with something more in keeping with his character: sprouts or spinach or something. Dirty greens have killed far more people in recent times than the highly regulated canning industry. Why the script laziness? What could it matter changing a line or two, and a simple prop? Because botulism is the source of the illness, I suppose they had to go with canned food, because that is the usual source of contamination. Death by salmonella is not as likely. Still – soup? Why not farmer’s market sauerkraut, something more likely?

It’s amusing when Starsky, deprived of the chance to explode into the path of the bad guy because of Hutch’s lousy car, urges his body back and forth in the passenger seat as if to will the car to move.

It’s interesting how Hutch absolves himself of any accountability for the busted bust: “I cannot be held responsible for an inanimate object,” he says, mouthful of hamburger. This after four years of blaming Starsky for every single real or imagined malfunction of the ever-reliable Torino. Hutch is the master of reordering the universe for his own purposes. It comes back on him, though, in a lovely subtle way when he says “Rita” when the name is “Anita”. He looks embarrassed, as he should, but let’s not forget Hutch does not believe a single word of his competitive trash-talking. It’s all an act.

Starsky puts down Anita. She’s tough though, and takes it, which is fine because after all that dig isn’t directed at Anita, it’s directed right at Hutch. It’s a provocation, a come-on; he’s trying to get Hutch riled. He likes it. The ride has started, and he’s on it. And on some level Hutch knows it too: note that when Starsky demands to know why he broke first on the pool table, Hutch says it was a “fait acompli”, something that has already been decided (Starsky does the standard Laurel-like “A-who?” response, pretending ignorance). This is a startlingly profound statement, and thrown away as if it means nothing, but we should pay close attention to it. Fait accompli implies that whatever was started early at the station, with the back-and-forth about who is the better cop, the stronger cop, has now reached its apex. It’s Hutch’s move. He started it, just like he starts the pool game. This has always been his decision.

Huggy grabs Starsky’s pool cue and makes an impressive shot. Starsky just lets him do it, with no problem. This from a very dominant male who in any other situation would not appreciate someone taking what is his. He was also a passenger in Hutch’s car during the aborted take-down of Pardee. Why the passivity?

“I am the brains of this duo while you are you are the not-too-inconsiderable brawn,” Hutch says.
“Who wrote that book,” says Starsky.
“Life,” Hutch says grandly. “You’re just going to have to accept that.” It’s then that Hutch, with some provoking from Starsky, comes up with a rather startlingly complete “game” of hide-and-seek, indicating he’s been thinking of this for awhile now.

“The Book of Life” is the name of the article written by Sherlock Holmes to explain the science of deduction in “A Study in Scarlet”. A nice, albeit inadvertent, comparison to himself and Starsky to the Giant Brain Holmes and his side-kick Watson.

“The name of the game is Hutch is dying,” Hutch says to Starsky as Starsky sits on his bed and holds his hands in “The Plague”. It’s a strange sort of precognition, considering this particular episode and its title. Sherlock Holmes seems to shadow this episode, as he also referred to detection (and life, generally) as a game. Holmes is also famously depressed and bored, leading to his drug use as a way of escape; we can draw parallels to Hutch using his own game as a mental and physical stimulant.

Equal Blame: Starsky and Hutch both goad each other at the Pits, and it’s Starsky who first brings up the idea of a bet. It’s also Starsky giving the bet real bite with a monetary reward, but Hutch who ratchets up the amount and provides the details.

Shadow sides: Ignoring his partner’s bravado Starsky has quietly won the pool game, just as he will later win the contest: “Pay the bill, sucka,” he says, but notice how Hutch makes a rather covert glance around then leaves without paying – becoming invisible, as he will later hide in plain sight in the contest he himself has invented.

Starsky tells Hutch, “I know how, where, when you eat, walk, sleep, talk, what you know, what you know and how you know it, and there ain’t no hiding behind that.” Hutch doesn’t look impressed, although he should. It’s what he wants more than anything in the world and it’s why he invented this stupid game in the first place. They’re both grinning at each other at the end of this scene but somehow there is an undercurrent of sadness here. It could be me, but somehow this entire episode is infused with a general sort of sadness that none of the action can quite dispel.

Hutch plays “the Game” with powerful intensity. He submerges to the point of mental disintegration. Throughout the series Hutch has always played elaborate mind games with Starsky, but why does he take it so far this time? Is he trying to recapture something he feels he’s lost along the way? Is this an internal struggle, or an external one? A more provocative reading of Hutch’s motivations might be that the Game has nothing to do with “who’s the better cop” macho posturing and more to do with Hutch trying to get something from Starsky, the way women will parade around in fancy underwear to get their overworked husband’s attention, or neglected children will run away or fantasize about their own funerals in order to conjure the image of their weeping, guilt-ridden parents. Hutch trying to be the focus of attention. Look at me, notice me, find me.

This relates to an episode very late in Season Four when Hutch plays another game, this time with substantially higher stakes and a far greater degree of cruelty, but for motives I suspect may be very similar to here (“Starsky Vs. Hutch”).

Hutch said the game is to start at 8 am, but the phone rings 6:09 am. Starsky is fast asleep. He takes the receiver and brings it under the covers and mumbles sleepily to Hutch, who is taunting and enticing him; is it me, or is this the most romantic thing ever? Starsky correctly guesses what car Hutch is planning to rent –this while half-asleep – and Hutch is both horrified and astonished. He still doesn’t believe Starsky’s neat little outburst about knowing every aspect of him.

The first thing Hutch does is mask is blue eyes and blond hair, and the alteration is startling. But wait: they make their bet Friday night, and by dawn Saturday Hutch has a full make-up kit at the ready, including spirit gum and latex noses? Along with mime, is theatrical makeup another one of Hutch’s nerdy hobbies?

Ernie Silvers sums up the question of who’s smarter. Ernie tells Hutch (in disguise) that both Starsky and Hutch are dumb, “Especially the blond one.” So dumb, “they don’t even know the difference.” The difference in what? In good information versus bad information?

Hutch asks Ernie for clarification, “I thought he (Hutch) was supposed to be the bright one?” Ernie replies, “Yeah, if he is, it ain’t by much.” Even in heavy makeup, you can see Hutch’s comical dismay.

Does Hutch wonder why he doesn’t go undercover in makeup more often when he gets such juicy information?

Merle is a contradiction. He tells Starsky “For money, baby, I’d work on Ben Hur’s chariot and charge him for a ring job,” but he hassled Hutch earlier about working on his dump of a car because of an “image” to uphold. Who is Merle, anyway? Freewheeling artist, shrewd businessman, or a combination of both things?

Merle knows what kind of car Hutch is driving. Starsky may have originally balked at $55 to find out what it is, but considering the financial expense of the fake shooting, it seems it is one Starsky should return and take Merle up on it. And Merle may want to make a buck, but it seems he would tell Starsky for free after hearing the urgent circumstances. Strangely, nobody bothers following the car lead up, one that would have probably had good success.

Starsky and Hutch don’t have a “safe word” or another sort of signal, used in dire situations to alert each other to danger? One that Starsky could have deployed with Hutch to make him stop playing the game? For two police officers who may be needed in an emergency, this seems foolhardy.

Hutch as the old bearded man. Even though he knows Starsky isn’t around he still does a hundred different extra moves: hassling girls, flapping a kerchief, rummaging through garbage. One has to wonder, at this point, what the hell is going on. We’re watching a man thoroughly – weirdly, compulsively, elaborately – enjoying his deconstruction to a tramp, reviled or ignored. And for what?

Huggy, however, pays the “old man” for his Gold Eagle.

“Just think what might have happened, Starsky, if you’d taken the time to be nice to an old man?” Hutch tells Starsky on the phone. Just what might have happened if he did? Would Hutch have forfeited the game or would he brush Starsky away, mumbling and shuffling away to avoid closer scrutiny?

The episode falls into the dark realm of a fairy tale, alluding to the oft-told story of the beautiful woman disguising herself as a hag to test the moral kindness of who she encounters in order to reward or punish them. Another archetypal image is the prince disguising himself as a pauper in order to experience “real” life he feels has been withheld from him. Either would work here as a parallel.

“Simmons and Babcock” are chosen for the take-down of Hutch. This is the only instance other cops who aren’t wearing a uniform. Undercover, or just changed into civvies for the weekend?

Hiding out in a soup kitchen, the notoriously private, hands-off Hutch sits with his head on a stranger’s shoulder while “Swanee River” is being played on a harmonica. He’s immersed in – and enjoying – this folksy milieu. Is this the real Hutch we’re seeing?

“If you keep coming around like this and people will start talking about us,” Anita says to Starsky, pouring him a beer. Starsky has a mean comeback: “I’ve heard worse, but I don’t know where,” he says. Hmm. Hostile and unusual behavior, even though Anita has been nothing but kind to him, and funny too (Liz Torres is one of my favorite character actors and I wish she stayed around; it might have been nice to have a really interesting, no-bullshit woman at The Pits.) So why the hostility? It isn’t flirting, when Starsky flirts the whole world knows it. So a good guess might be something both risky and altruistic: Starsky is trying to harden Anita against him, at least for the time being, knowing he was about to get “shot” right in front of her.

“I’m still here, Rita,” Starsky says, knowing full well what her real name is. Is this conscious error a tribute to his missing partner? Starsky trying to inhabit, at least briefly, Hutch’s spirit? A sort of plea to get him near?

Why would Ernie Silvers give Anita his real name? He doesn’t have to. Plus, he’s put on a tie for the occasion.

Hutch is one cool customer. Despite the reports of Starsky being shot, of Ernie’s personal report that Anita was “crying her eyes out for hours”, he still comes to the hospital (how does he know which one? Good detecting I guess) hidden behind equipment, in full surgical gear, ready and waiting to be conned, with exit strategies already in place. There is no way, if the roles were reversed, that Starsky would be as cool and collected as Hutch is. He’d fling himself through the double doors yelling “HUU-UUTCH” a the top of his lungs and damn the stupid game, which really makes one wonder how the original reverse casting would have worked for the storyline. The only slip – and it’s small – is Hutch saying worriedly in his own voice “yeah?” when Ernie phones the hotel for news on Starsky.

What is Hutch thinking when he peers through the closet door and sees Dobey, Simmons and Babcock discussing the set-up? Does he wonder why the entire LAPD is in on the scheme to bring him in? If it had been you or me, the enormity of this group effort would be enough to convince us that something big was up. Something unusual. But Hutch isn’t us. Instead, he’s thinking damn that Starsky, he must really want to win.

The symptoms of botulism are right here. The initial signs of discomfort – coughing, muscle soreness, intestinal pain, and etc – can come as late as two days following ingestion of the bacteria.

Hutch’s recognition of Gina is quite extraordinary: he sees her across the street, while he’s feeling ill, a woman he’s only seen in a fleeting glimpse days before.

Dobey speculates Hutch won’t come to him when he is feeling ill because he knows Dobey will chew him out. Starsky tells Dobey Hutch won’t go to Huggy either, “knowing Hutch, he figures Huggy’s in on the set-up.” Does Huggy align himself more strongly with Starsky than with Hutch? If so, why? Or is Starsky’s comment just an acknowledgement of his partner’s deep-seated paranoia?

I love how Anita says to Starsky, “Honey, he could walk in here in a Godzilla mask and I’d still recognize that pretty partner of yours.”

She comes up with the name “Ernie Slotkin”, which is so close to “Arnie Solkin” I wonder if Starsky has a moment of horror before clicking into the actual name of the front-desk weasel.

Pardee, overpowering the sick Hutch, enthusiastically degrades him: “You know, Hutchinson, if I was you I’d be getting pretty discouraged by now. I mean, two big mistakes in one week. That must set some kind of record for you.” Funny how a near-death experience makes all the pettiness go away, all the pissing matches that have gone on between him and Starsky. Hutch says, in resignation of all his present and future failures, sadly, almost in elegy, “We do our best.” Which is what he should have said in the first place.

Hutch has an extraordinary moment when he lies by saying he forced Gina to take him to Pardee – he saves her life. Even sick and dying, he is thinking of the welfare of others. He then tries to convince her to leave.

When Starsky hears the clue about Hutch from Ernie, rather than use the desk phone, he goes to the pay phone. Has Ernie hidden his desk phone under the counter after Hutch commandeered it?

Gina is a fascinating character. One might even call her heroic. After all, escaping from the clutches of an abusive partner, and confessing to the police – even belatedly – shows tremendous courage. You can see her fighting with herself as she handles the airplane tickets. She means well, even if she doesn’t have the moral substance to express it. Kudos to Suzanne Charney for her performance of a woefully unprepared woman under tremendous stress.

Starsky wins the game. He wins big. He finds Hutch under extreme duress and saves his life. Does Hutch ever acknowledge this?

The tag in this episode is memorable. When Hutch meditates he imagines the following: white snow, mittens, ice cream, Lake Medley (“Lake Medley,” is a title off the Buddy Holly Story soundtrack, released in 1978), Monday white sale. Why all the whiteness? Is he relieved to be all bathed and shiny and pure again? Also, this is not any form of meditation I am familiar with. Isn’t the whole point of the exercise to empty one’s mind of everything, and not cram more junk into it? Hutch has it seriously backward. Why do you suppose he does? Is this consistent with his personality?

Starsky wants to give this improbable pastime a try, despite the fact he’s so distracted by his partner he throws the record in the oven by mistake – not something he’d normally do. He’s turned on and ready to go, enjoying Hutch’s return to health. Wanting to participate. If Hutch had made a sprout-and-ginseng sandwich he’d have eaten that too.

Hutch is excited by the “result”, i.e. Starsky’s intense discomfort, and it’s quite touching to see how badly he wants Starsky to get to his feelings but I wonder why he suggests “closet” in the first place. Why closet? It comes to his mind so readily when you should be placing yourself somewhere pleasant and restful, like a beach or meadow. And also, while we’re ruthlessly tearing apart this lovely scene, why would suggest a key word at all? If this is meditation Hutch is teaching then such “suggestions” would conflict with the object of the task, which is to achieve is the purity of nothingness. And yet here’s Hutch, wanting to direct and control. Perhaps rather than calling it a meditation this whole thing becomes more like a guided visualization, and a perfectly reasonable exercise to try if you don’t mind someone bossing your psyche around.

Talked into this grueling exercise (another Game Hutch has invented to get closer to his partner), Starsky comes up with a fascinating – and revealing – set of images: mothballs, stuffy, dark, overcoat, his eighth birthday, hiding from his father, heavy footsteps, trapped, “he’s getting closer”. Even though Starsky has done a bad thing, put Hutch’s treasured Buddy Holly album in the oven, this feels like an actual childhood memory briefly flaring and then disappearing again, overtaken by a current and more pressing shame. Was Starsky frightened of his father? Did he hide from him?

Hutch seems to keep his promise not the hold it against Starsky: smoke is pouring out of the oven and he’s not doing anything. Plus the music is joyously ta-dah, as if magic has just been conjured, to the delight of all.