Episode 76: Black and Blue

When Hutch is shot during a robbery, Dobey pairs Starsky with policewoman Joan Meredith to catch the juvenile thieves ring.

Joan Meredith: Vonetta McGee, Mrs. Greene: Lily Valenty, Vivian: Candace Bowen, Train: Rene Levant, Mary: Susan Kellerman, Elaine: Regie Baff, Bruce: Michael T Williamson, Mrs. Freemont: Judy Jean Berns, James: Maurice Sneed, ER Nurse: Mary Mercier. Written and Directed by: Rick Edelstein.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

There are many references to the colors black and blue in this episode: Hutch picks blue for Starsky to choose in the ESP test, Starsky refers to himself on the radio as Blue Seven, Joan Meredith is black, Starsky’s eyes are blue (something Meredith brings up twice, Starsky himself brings it up as well), there are blue clothes (Nosy Neighbor’s robe, all the denim worn by the cast, Starsky’s robe, Meredith’s outfit in last scene). Vivian says to Meredith, “you may be black, lady, but your uniform’s blue,” implying that these two things are incompatible. Black and blue is a term for bruising, as well.

Opening scene: “You’re driving me home, you got nothing else to do,” Starsky says reasonably to a tired and crabby Hutch, trying to get him to take an ESP test. Hutch picks blue as a color, then tells Starsky he has to guess what number he’s thinking of. Starsky says “I’m getting seven,” and Hutch is shocked that his partner is right, which he ameliorates by attacking Starsky’s future career prospects and love life. He also says “pal”, which is, for Hutch, a peculiarly personal insult. Starsky continues to tease him out of his bad mood, repeating “This is Blue Seven,” into the radio, with a significant look at Hutch, reminding us once again that a large part of Starsky’s responsibilities are to distract his partner and keep his spirits up.

“She was just a kid,” Hutch says after being shot in the hallway of the suburban home. A compassionate response, given the situation, or is it less a plea for leniency as it is a bitter statement of fact?

“It’s just your ESP talking,” a wounded Hutch mumbles as he’s wheeled through the hospital corridors, Starsky at his side. “I only said seven to make you feel better. I was really thinking of two.” This is an out-and-out lie. Hutch can never conceal his emotions that well, and that was genuine surprise on his face in the car. What is the purpose of this competitive, bloody-minded defiance? Is it self-soothing, in a way?

Explore Starsky’s apparent feeling of ease around old women, citing his conversations with Mrs. Greene and Mrs. McMillan and his card playing with Hannah (here, and “Deadly Imposter”, “Deck Watch”).

Hutch is shot in the early morning. Starsky and Mrs. Greene are still waiting for word on his surgery after it is dark. The time on Starsky’s watch appears to read 11:00 pm. Does Hutch’s surgery really take that long? And why is Mrs. Greene waiting for what appears to be well over twelve hours to talk to her doctor? She is obviously an in-patient, as she is wearing a quilted house coat, so I suppose she could have been in and out throughout the day.

That is one screwy nurse who spills the beans that Hutch is going to be all right. She’s a) saying things she shouldn’t b) not asking if Starsky is a relative, the way the doctor did earlier c) attempting to smoke in a non-smoking area d) using very cavalier language, as if nothing is that serious and e) her name-tag is askew. She then bustles off to “OB”, although one hopes she isn’t going to handle any newborns. A real character, and a nice addition to the story.

“What’s wrong with her?” Starsky asks the doctor who’s seeing Mrs. Greene. When the doctor asks if he’s a relative, Starsky replies that he’s a cop. It seems open the door just as well: the doctor gives him the bad news.

Mrs. Greene’s reappearance is doubly touching, because she seems to have assumed, in both Starsky’s and the director’s eyes, the transcendent halo of beauty and goodness. The camera closes in lovingly and reverently, on their intertwined hands. If she did not have direct interaction with other people (she speaks to the doctor, later she is pushed in a wheelchair) I would suspect a fatigue-induced hallucination on Starsky’s part.

This is a particularly racially charged episode from beginning to end. Vivian describes herself as a “pig-tail pickaninny”, a particularly heinous racial insult. Yet she is not speaking her voice, but rather appropriating the racism of the world around her by mimicking it.

Starsky refers to his partner as “Kenneth Hutchinson”, perhaps for the only time in the series; he refers to himself in the shorthand as “Dave Starsky”.

I could do without the provocatively sexy saxophone and leering angle up the legs of Detective Meredith.

Interestingly enough, on the decision of a “new partner”: would Hutch would ever consent to having a new partner when Starsky is either wounded or indisposed? In the final shows Hutch tells Dobey, “I already got a partner, I don’t need another one.” But Starsky, other than a fairly token argument (“do I have a choice?”) starts in with his partner right away. I think on some level it’s the same thing, only handled in the opposite manner, the idea that Hutch is irreplaceable so it’s all academic anyway. Starsky is more mature and emotionally centered than Hutch is, he feels no need to make big statements. In his mind, Hutch is his partner, simple. Nothing can change that. In Hutch’s mind, partnership is a complex entity in which he is simultaneously responsible for and unable to affect – the dilemma of a neurotic and basically depressed person. Starsky is not depressed, nor is he neurotic. He takes on Meredith, he establishes ground-rules, he gets what he gets, he knows Hutch is waiting at the end of it, and that’s it.

This is the first time in the series in which a life-threatening injury affecting one of the partners is not the central point of the story. This is very much a symptom of the Forth Season, which is altogether less emotion-driven than years past. Yes, Hutch’s gunshot is well filmed, and Starsky’s hovering in the hospital real enough, but there is a certain ingredient missing from this familiar recipe. Anguish, perhaps. Something is lacking here, something that should be pulsing madly like a burst artery. Instead Hutch’s shooting is merely a step toward the main plot, well-written and socially relevant, but generic in its way and not what this series is fundamentally about. The story quickly moves on, leaving no room for soapy scenes.

Vonetta McGee is extremely good in this role, and photogenic too. Of course she’s very pretty – apparently it’s against the law to have an important woman on the show who isn’t – but more than that she’s made endearing by the big silly grins she breaks into now and then, belying her crisply no-nonsense manner. She’s perfect as a stand-in for Hutch because there is absolutely no agenda here. She’s not interested in affecting the partnership. Ambitious, conscientious, and dealing with her own issues of identity, she has no time for games. Her later sexual encounter with Starsky (if there is one, and I think there is, although this episode takes an uncharacteristically discreet approach to the subject) doesn’t seem to have made a dent, either. She makes an oblique reference to what went on between them but otherwise forgets it as fast as he does. An interracial sexual relationship is still unusual, even revolutionary during this time, yes, and I appreciate that fact and applaud it too. Such an easy uncomplicated affair is a welcome change from the ugly wounding we see elsewhere in this episode, and it shows it’s still possible to peacefully coexist. But perhaps even more revolutionary would be for Det. Meredith to come in, competently do her job and not succumb to the sexual interest of either Starsky or Hutch.

One of the first “tests” Meredith passes is having cigarettes in her purse for use in interrogation. Later, she also clears other hurdles: standing up to Starsky, getting physical in the interrogation room, guessing the “guardian” issue correctly. Also on the long list of gold stars: she fights Starsky in the park which is both fun and audacious, charms the pants off Huggy, and bravely goes undercover. Dobey really likes her. She sleeps with Starsky but doesn’t let it get in the way. She makes a joke at gunpoint. And best of all, she departs at the end without complaint.

“Just what I need,” Starsky says in frustration, when the perp is transferred and Meredith knows the juvenile system better than he does, “an expert on kids.” Ironic, since Hutch is also an expert on kids, as evidenced by all his actions in the last four years.

“Hutch is never gonna believe this,” Starsky grumbles as he gets out the car to wrestle Meredith. Is he busy inventing stories to amuse his partner later?

Hutch makes a very good point to Dobey about the m.o. of the thieves; Dobey doesn’t seem to want to listen. Why not? Seems to me a cop laid up is the greatest mental resource there is. Intelligent, experienced and bored.

Starsky tells Huggy, “For a man that looks like an Egyptian horse, your house is made of glass.” Meaning Huggy ain’t no beauty either. But when Huggy asks Starsky to introduce him “to his next wife,” is he just using a figure of speech or has Huggy been married at least once before?

There are a lot of racial jokes and/or innuendos in the scene in which Starsky brings Meredith to the Pits. Huggy remarks admiringly that Starsky is dabbling in “cross pollination”, and asking pointedly, “are you telling me you just dropped by for a taste?” Grits in the ghetto, etc. Points to Starsky for his good-natured indifference to all this racial baiting and his lack of defensiveness shows how far off the mark it all is. He doesn’t mind being the object of a generalized sort of antagonism, however hilariously it’s expressed; he understands how bad it is for others and doesn’t feel he has to remind Huggy that he is exempt from the enemy list.

Starsky doesn’t tell Huggy right away that Hutch has been shot. Instead, he waits until Huggy brings up the subject in order to reveal the truth of the matter. This seems less than admirable: Huggy, after all, has also had a long relationship with Hutch and cares about him. Starsky’s holding back is a puzzle. Would he be more honest if Hutch was more seriously hurt? Is this his way of selling himself on the idea that his partner is only mildly inconvenienced, and will be back in the saddle very soon?

Huggy lays out his snitch rules very clearly when he says he’ll help when “somebody gets burned” but not for anything less than that. One gets the feeling this is an imperative he has set out more than once.

More scripted gems from Rick Edelstein: talking about his injury, Hutch muses “another six inches, it would be all over.” The nurse, giving him a shave, says, “Must be grateful for six inches, eh?”

For Starsky to accept and work with another partner, Hutch must be sentient, healthy and himself (i.e. prickly). Anything less would smack of disloyalty, a fact this episode goes out of its way to make as obvious as possible, taking every opportunity to remind us how well Hutch is doing, how he may in fact be actually enjoying his stay in the hospital, short of malingering. “Hutchinson Manor,” Starsky says, answering the phone. It’s Huggy, who asks how Hutch is doing. “Better than me,” Starsky says, driving the point home – it’s all okay.

I like how Hutch grabs himself a banana from the fruit basket and mimes being on the telephone while Starsky is on the real one. And is that banana six inches long, do you think?

When Starsky runs into Mrs. Greene in the hall, the action abruptly shifts into the same intense close-ups it did when they were together in the first place. It’s all so intimate one wonders if there is, in fact, a secondary level of reality here. Mrs. Greene, with her aphorisms and good humor, Old World charm and heavy hints of transcending Holocaust-like suffering, appears to become a symbol of the will to survive, the gross unfairness of fate, and the magic of coincidence. Speaking to her during these tender moments, Glaser has never looked so lovely. His calm demeanor throughout this and other episodes of Season Four occasionally hovers near comatose, reflecting the actor’s general sense of alienation, but here his thoughtful quiet is put to good use.

One wonders, if their roles were replaced, how Hutch would relate to Mrs. Greene. One suspects she wouldn’t get very far with his oppressive, inward, selfish, Nordic personality, his unwillingness and inability to disclose the depth and reason for his suffering.

Meredith also calls Starsky’s car a “red tomato.” Hey, wait a minute, how does she know? Has she been listening to department gossip?

Train is very different from the other Fagin-like head of a gang of kids, Artie Solkin. For one, Train is a businessman, Solkin a self-styled mystic. Train rules with an iron fist, Solkin rules by emotional manipulation. Train treats his juveniles like employees, Solkin believes he is a custodian and caretaker. Train handles maybe ten kids simultaneously, Solkin focuses on one favorite at a time, with others at the margins.

It’s nice to see Maurice Sneed again staked out in the car with Vivian, looking twenty years younger than he did in “Manchild on the Streets”.

Vivian is beaten by Train when it’s revealed she shot a cop, and she cries. But apparently she hasn’t learned her lesson, because she pulls another gun on Starsky, and is ready to kill him. Does Vivian see herself as vigilante? Better, or smarter, than Train?

When she says “I already burned one cop” this is as good as a confession: otherwise Starsky would not have known who the shooter was. Bad move, sistah.

Candace Bowen as Vivian is outstanding here. Blazing with energy, her white-hot rage wipes everything else off the screen. Scrappy, nervy, of indeterminate age, she is perhaps the toughest girl in the entire series, and one of the most interesting. She makes tough-guy Molly from “Little Girl Lost” look like a cream puff. Even though she’s a cop-wasting gangster, it’s still disappointing when she’s stopped cold in her tracks under the light touch of Meredith’s foot. She deserves a good chase and tackle at the very least.

Could Meredith have played this better? Vivian has Starsky at gunpoint, Meredith has a gun at Train’s back. When threatened by Vivian, Meredith drops the gun, drastically changing the power dynamic. If she’d held onto it and backed away, still holding the gun, what could Vivian do about it? It would have been a standoff, and in Meredith’s favor: that gun could have kept both Train and Vivian at bay, at least temporarily.

Hutch comes to a fast realization about the case after calling the answering service in the same way he solved the case during “The Avenger”. By himself, at his desk, in a near-fugue state of fatigue and/or pain, exhibiting an extraordinary access to intuition. If he took Starsky’s ESP test he’d most likely pass with flying colors.

Why does Dobey slide out of the passenger door after Hutch when they arrive at Allied? It isn’t because the door is broken, as he gets out the driver’s side at Train’s. Is he nervous about exiting in traffic?

It’s interesting that Mary (our friend Susan Kellerman, late of “Quadromania”) is a white girl involved in a ring of black thieves. So much is made of Train exploiting black youths that Mary’s race is an anomaly not easily explained. How did he recruit her? Would she be considered part of Train’s gang? What’s her story, anyway?

Why does so much time pass before Train orders the execution of Starsky and Meredith? If he always intended to shoot them, why wait so long? Tied to chairs, backs against one another, looks uncomfortably close to a slapstick comedy, and lessens the tension in the scene.

The racial element in this episode is striking – it’s all anybody talks about. But how genuine is the divide, and is it the sole motive for Train’s actions? He makes the angry remark that Mister White Cop lives in “a fancy pad with fancy cars and fancy clothes” and “you don’t understand what we eat for lunch”. Fancy cars aside, there is no weight to this observation, and it’s odd that Train – relatively smart and observant, a man of the world – would assume a lowly police officer would have more money than he does. Does “White” trump “Cop” in his lexicon? Train believes racial and economic inequities justifies his criminal actions. By robbing middle-class people of their color televisions he has talked himself into believing he is, on some level, a social crusader. Does the fact that he is wearing a fancy suit and handling mountains of cash lessen the impact of his woe-is-me tirade, or is he right to speak on behalf of his impoverished people?

Where, in Meredith’s plea, did she lose Vivian, causing her to listen to Train instead?

In the tag, there is the presumption that Starsky and Meredith will never see each other again. There is a distinct elegiac quality to their mutually admiring but somewhat formal conversation. Other than Meredith moving swiftly up the departmental ladder, why is this a foregone conclusion? There is no reason the two couldn’t continue to date one another. Hutch, however, amusingly reveals his normally hidden jealous streak when he forces his way between them like a neglected puppy.

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28 Responses to “Episode 76: Black and Blue”

  1. Daniela Says:

    nice comment and nice episode!
    I only have one comment myself, ok, two….
    At the hospital Hutch bangs his head twice on the light fixture.
    He didn’t learn anything from the security guy in Dandruff, who did the same thing in the hospital? Besides, what poor design on the part of the hospital architects…..
    And … I understand the cinematography’s need to have the car shadowing another car being close enough to be in the shot, but…
    In general and not just this episode, is anybody paying attention to cars around when they drive or park someplace? Hardly anybody noticing a car closely following them, even when it’s a striped tomato, or people sitting in a parked car doing nothing.
    I would think criminals in the middle of criminal acts and cops setting up stages to catch criminals would be a little more circumspect and more aware of their surroundings.

    The old lady with Starsky? Sweet. I wonder what he was going to say to her, when they wheeled her away and he almost said something and then stopped….
    Hutch terrifying the answering service receptionist? Amazing…
    How can a good looking guy like that be so scary?
    Daniela

    • merltheearl Says:

      Great observations again, and I thought the same thing about the shoddy hospital bed construction. And I always think, as Mrs. Greene is wheeled away, Starsky is going to repeat the same thing she said to him, that it’s all going to be okay. However, coming from her this reassurance has the weight of prophesy, and coming from him it sounds hollow, so he stops himself.

  2. Brenda Says:

    I don’t know if anyone else noticed this, but the scenes with Mrs. Greene were eerily reminiscent of Glaser’s pre-S&H role in “Fiddler On The Roof.”. Her last comment to him, sending him off to “go save the world”, was almost identical to Tevye’s description of Perchik’s (Glaser) actions that got him arrested in the movie.

    I have a hard time believing this was just coincidence. I wonder if it was a tip of the writer’s hat to the previous role.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Great observation. I haven’t seen the movie so I am delighted to hear this. It reminds me of the knowing smirk the two share when, at the conclusion of “Murder at Sea”, there is a reference to Houdini (Glaser was currently starring in a biography of the magician.)

  3. Greenygal Says:

    I actually don’t think the differing reactions to “take a new partner” have much to do with the guys’ different emotional makeups; I think they’re because Starsky is *dying* in “Sweet Revenge”. Starsky knows that Hutch will recover and be back in his accustomed place in a month or two, so it’s not such a big deal (although you wouldn’t know it from the way he treats Meredith at the beginning–this isn’t really the episode I’d pull out to demonstrate the depth of Starsky’s maturity). Hutch thinks his beloved partner is dying and will never be able to stand beside him again; of *course* he’s more upset, and of *course* he responds more viciously to the suggestion of a replacement, because it would actually *be* a replacement and not just a temporary stand-in.

    Plus in “Black and Blue” Starsky has to at least take seriously that he’s received a direct order from his superior, especially since it originated from higher up. Whereas in “Sweet Revenge” Hutch’s future career has to seem spectacularly unimportant to him; if Starsky dies, what does he *care* if he’s put on report?

  4. Lynn Says:

    So great to see another analysis of an episode from you. I have to agree that this one falls short on the usual intensity of the bond between the partners. No one, not even a pushy nurse was keeping Hutch out of the ER examining room in A Coffin for Starsky. Starsky is uncharacteristically passive while he waits for hours not knowing if his partner/best friend will live or die. I think that in general the fourth season ran out of steam. One has to wonder if they had any idea of how popular the series really was, and how lasting the fan base would be. It may not have made any difference to Glaser, but I wish that they had gone out in the glorify of earlier seasons. I will be interested to read your take on the final episode.

  5. Lynn Says:

    This blog is amazing and I too will be sorry to see it end. I rediscovered Starsky and Hutch recently on Retro TV and bought all 4 seasons on DVD. I have been “studying” them along with reading your blog and getting much more out of them then when it first aired. Of course, back in the ’70’s I was more focused on Starsky’s butt in his tight jeans than the acting, but I am redemming myself now with your insights and analysis. It really was a great show, and I still believe that no one before or since has portrayed the friendship that can exist between two heterosexual males like S&H. These guys were so comfortable with each other. They make me think of two litter mates that never got sepearated.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Lynn, I’m glad you agree with me on the point I make in “Yang and Yang” that instead of being opposites, the two are actually very similar to the point of being a merged personality. And I have to laugh at your comment about our focus changing from, or at least expanding from, the distracting physical beauty of the two actors.

  6. Lynn Says:

    You state it so beautifully. I thought I was just getting older, but then, seeing beyond the strictly physical is part of that process as well. Thank you.

  7. Daniela Says:

    Merl, I said it before and I will say it again, I don’t think the blog needs to end because you ran out of episodes. I am sure there is so much more you can distill out of them, just like you did for the special studies.
    I really enjoy the insight and in-depth look at them.
    And yes, my focus shifted too over the years, so now I can actually enjoy them more and get more out of watching the show.

  8. phaedrablue4 Says:

    “She was just a kid,” Hutch says after being shot in the hallway of the suburban home. A compassionate response, given the situation, or is it less a plea for leniency as it is a bitter statement of fact?”

    You know when cops are timed for their shooting quals and targets popup at them, some with guns and some unarmed innocents. I took it as Hutch’s trained reaction was “kid popped up – auto reaction is don’t shoot”. His brain was still processing “innocent” and couldn’t adjust to the gun even though he knew he was going down. He’s in shock when he explains to Starsky why he let himself be shot. If it had been the average badguy he would have fired before his opponent had time to level the gun.

    The light fixture gag wasn’t funny the first time. The director seems to like that gag. In “The Fix” the guys kept awkwardly banging against that painting on Huggie’s wall while Hutch was going cold turkey; it pulled me out of the drama of the moment more than a couple of times.

    Mrs. Greene was going in for Chemotherapy treatment. I’ve been through it myself; it’s less than fun. My impression was that she had been going back and forth from her room for treatment, tests, and consultation. But my mind may have filled in the holes from experience without me really thinking about it.

    “Seems to me a cop laid up is the greatest mental resource there is. Intelligent, experienced and bored”.

    And a captive audience, LOL.

    Vivien is a psychotic. She cries for affect but is cold and calculating. She has absolutely no regard for anyone but herself which means she is completely indifferent to the welfare and rights of others. I get the sense that after she shot Hutch she went out for an ice cream. 95% of kids around the world no matter how tough their life had been would have experienced some level of shock, at least, and shooting another human for the first time.

    Interesting point about Mary – Mary is a connection to rich homes, I mean if you can afford and answering service…, right? Yeah, I don’t recall that they shared how she and Train connected in the first place. What would make Mary risk her job like that for a few $100 bucks a week? Maybe she has a drug habit and Train is her dealer and that’s how they hooked up?

    I always looked at Train’s badmouthing of the rich white man as posturing for the edification of the kids. .

    Train’s a modern day Fagan. Fagan took in unwanted and runaway boys off the streets. Before he ever taught them “the trade” he fed them, gave them clothes and a warm place to sleep. If they were sick when they came I’m certain he ir Nancy nursed them back to health. He was never stingy with food or gin because well fed and warm boys are far more loyal and willing than boys kept cold and fed on gruel. They feel like part of a family maybe for the 1st time. It takes very little prodding before Fagan has a new boy trained and working for the family.

    Train is of similar mind but much more insideous in his training. I imagine the majority of his kids have at least one adult at home that loves them and has high expectations. How would a guy like Train pull a kid like that to the dark side? My guess would be word of mouth about the money that can be made. Money they could bring home to help their moms, grams, or pops. Then filling their heads with racists lies to justify stealing from rich white folks. I am surprised Train didn’t call Meredith “oreo” while he was putting her down in front of Vivien. Train knows an empowered black female cop could turn more than a few of his kids heads back to the right side of the law so he had to try to put her down-to make an attempt to demish her.

    Wanna bet Train spent his off hours social climbing. He looks pretty slick and well dressed. He could have walked into the answering service with a few business cards, maybe posed as a salesman and flirted with both the ladies or offered coffee and one of them bit. He knows avarice when he sees it; I don’t suppose it took long to come to a business agreement. I wonder how many services he contacted before he found her?

    Hmm, I need to go do laundry, LOL.

    Thanks for the great discussion, Merle!!!

    Toni

  9. Survivor Says:

    Love your analyses, Merl. Just came upon your Ollie Blog today. Well thought through and expressed.

    I really appreciate how you systematically work through each episode, providing us with some provocation and revealing interesting snippets of information germane to the episode. (Thank you for your tidbits about the ‘Gillian’ episode – filming Gillian’s post-murder scene; and the initial concerns both Carlson and Glaser had about working with each other. I always had a sense that the line, ‘Oh, he talks about you all the time’ might have been a case of art imitating life.)

    I also very much enjoyed your ‘Starsky vs Hutch’ analysis, and the different possible perspectives you suggested on interpreting the ‘treasure map’ that this difficult and perplexing episode presents. You make some very pertinent and plausible observations about both Starsky and Hutch. Your analysis is leading to interesting discussions in our household. Thanks too for contextualsing the taxi dance halls – very interesting.

    I do think, though, that your analysis here in ‘Black and Blue’ is tough on Hutch …’a neurotic and basically depressed person’ … ‘oppressive, inward, selfish, Nordic personality’. Hutch can’t be all that and only that – OK, he’s Nordic, but what’s a ‘Nordic personality’ exactly?? (Glad I’m from Australia and not Norway reading this).

    But if Hutch is all this – and here’s a question for the ages – why would Starsky have him as his best friend?

    I’m working this question through in my own S&H writing, which is what brought me to your blog today.

    Keep up the great work – and thanks again!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, Survivor, for reading the blog and for your kind comments. I hope you keep them coming. I suppose my unforgivable phrase “Nordic personality” comes from reading far too many Scandanavian crime novels in which everyone drinks coffee and smokes and stares gloomily out the window wondering what the point of existence is while a dark forest slowly fills with dense, claustropic snow … but you’re right, all in all, one must guard against such cultural generalities.

      Several commenters have wondered, if those dark colors I paint Hutch in are true ones, what Starsky sees in him. To me S&H are two sides of the same coin, and they need each other’s attributes to feel complete. We can all see what Hutch sees in Starsky: his stability, calm and patience, his bravery and steadfastness. But the other way is not so simple. I always think Starsky sees Hutch as a challenge, a puzzle, and (this sounds facile, but it really isn’t) as entertainment. And he sees the darker elements – the rage and indignation, hair-trigger temper and scathing cynicism – as powerful weapons for good, weapons he himself doesn’t have. Generally, I think Hutch kind of thrills him. Hutch is like a carnival of turns and loops and sudden tunnels, and Starsky is along for the ride. Even writing this reminds me again how unique and interesting this friendship is.

      Thanks again for joining in the discussion.

  10. June Says:

    “She was only a kid.” Leroy Jethro Gibbs would be throwing a bitch fit if one of his men used emotion instead of survivalism. Surely, a gun is a gun is a gun. I wonder what Hutch would have done if the “kid” was pointing a gun at Starsky? Hmm…….

    This episode was typical of Season 4. Seemingly gone is the bromance, the closeness of the partners that I fell in love with. If Glaser and Soul had fallen out of love (platonic; I’m not trying to be funny) by now, it should NOT have poured over into their beloved characters. I blame that damn moustache for all this……….smug little brown bastard has a lot to answer for.

    Basically, they just wanted to get a gorgeous black Pepper Anderson onto the screen – Vonetta much superior – but why did Hutch have to get shot? Why couldn’t he have come down with hemorrhoids or Bieber Fever or a boil on his butt, for goodness sake?

    IMO, a lot, or most, of Hutch’s irritable/nasty/bitchy comments and behaviours come from Soul, who said he saw Hutch as “white bread” and uninteresting and was probably trying to etch out a more 3D person?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, June, for this vehement and entertaining take on things. I agree Hutch did not have to get shot, but of course the writers wanted to manipulate our emotions as effectively as possible, and nothing does that faster or better than a gun. Personally, I would have had him buried up to his neck in paperwork – perhaps following an audit or legal entangement – thus unleashing a wonderfully pungent stream of invective.

  11. Anna Says:

    I think you’re quite on the mark when you kinda suggest that part of Starsky’s unwillingness to behave as if Hutch is badly injured (in front of him, that is) is because of the ol’ correlation=causation psychological trick people intentionally inflict on themselves when they lose control of a situation: “you’re not in trouble. If you were I’d be all worried, and I’m not, so therefore you must be fine.” Reminds me of that song from The King And I — how whistling when you’re afraid not only fools the people you’re afraid of, but fools *you* into genuinely not being afraid as well.

    I believe I mentioned this idea on another one of your reviews (“The Game”, in response to just how *fast* Starsky realizes that pretending to be shot and dying is the best way to make Hutch come running, and just how fast Hutch realizes that Starsky would come to this conclusion): one wonders if both of them have just been through so many of these terrifying near-death experiences that the specter of suffering and death has taken on an encroaching, inevitable quality, as if they fear their luck is running out, perhaps contributing to Starsky’s stubborn denial. It’s also possible that Hutch – not just the writer and director – may be playing up his enjoyment of his hospital stay for the exact same reasons. Have you ever seen a cat take an ungainly or painful tumble, only to swiftly compose itself and prance off with an attitude of “I totally meant to do that”?

  12. Sharon Marie Says:

    Starsky throws the pedestal of a bird feeder through the window then follows it into the living room…. for which there is no pedestal anywhere. Just disappeared! And those have to be the worst walls ever. They move every time they are touched.

    In the hospital as Hutch is being shaved by the pretty nurse (and he is obviously enjoying it), he trolls for sympathy saying that things could have been different had the bullet been 6 inches in a different direction. The nurse replies, “You must be grateful for 6 inches”. Double entendre delivered and received!

    Even hospital beds in the late 70’s were adjustable and the head could be raised. Why do they have Soul propped up so uncomfortably with one pillow with his head against the headboard?

    Starsky talks to Huggy on the phone in Hutch’s room while Hutch grabs a banana from the fruit basket and holds it to his ear as a phone. Um….. Not sure on that one. And the fruit basket, undoubtedly a gift from Dobey. That’s his go-to hospital gift.

    I love that sweet little old lady. So wise. You know whose ass she needs to kick now? Hutch’s. He is a downer in season four.

    Hutch’s rank is detective sergeant. He corrects the answering service gal and tells her to address him as “officer”. So, I’m on the confusion bus now.

    Tag: Sometimes Dobey gets all the good lines.

    “Speak for yourself. This is *my* office and I wanna watch!”

    • Adelaide Says:

      I don’t really agree with the people here who are disappointed with how Starsky and Hutch behave here when Hutch is injured. I’m disappointed that the episode decided to make the injury-related ‘drama’ so…lame, but given it *was* that lame, the follow up made perfect sense to me. This injury is very, very different from all the other major injuries in the show. The backup is already headed towards their location by the time Hutch gets shot, he gets to the hospital quickly, easily, and without any indication that he’s teetering between life and death, and his surgery goes through without complications. The episode quickly moves from Hutch being shot to Hutch being nice and stable at the hospital. It skips the part that’s usually the crux of other injury episodes – the part where the plot either prevents one partner from getting the other to the hospital (Shootout, Survival, The Game), or stalls the solution (Coffin, The Plague, Sweet Revenge), and goes straight to the part that’s usually glossed over and relegated to the upbeat tag, or the gap between episode and tag, in those other episodes – i.e., the recovery. And here it’s a nice, stable, un-messy recovery. The reason there isn’t as much anguish here as in other injury episodes is because there’s nothing to get comparatively anguished about. Which is lame as heck from a storytelling perspective, because if you’re going to get one of the characters shot, at least capitalize on it! The main plot of this episode could have worked just as well if Hutch had just broken his arm, for god’s sake. But from an in-universe perspective, it’s pretty logical.

      If anything, I was surprised that Starsky reacts as *strongly* as he does. Surely by this point, he’s done this song and dance several times? Surely he’s had to be temporarily partnered with someone else when Hutch was unable to work properly with a burned hand after Vendetta, or a broken leg after Survival, or the aftereffects of Callendar’s plague and botulism? And surely the same has happened to Hutch when Starsky was healing from his wounds in The Shootout or The Trap? Yet Starsky is unusually hostile and miserable about it anyway (when he’s not around Hutch, that is, which is pretty in-character for him, since he can be overprotective of Hutch’s feelings) and bites Meredith’s head off telling her that Hutch is closer to him than his brother, like she’s encroaching on Hutch’s sacred territory or something.

      I have to really disagree with June that the “bromance” (I hate that word but whatever) is gone. Starsky’s illogical touchy and tormented initial reaction to Hutch being out of commission really speaks volumes to me. To me, it feels like he’s overcompensating. He knows that he and Hutch haven’t been getting along very well these past few months, and he probably senses, even this far before Targets or Starsky vs Hutch, that Hutch is burning out with disillusionment and the partnership is under threat from within, and that a frustrating and painful injury is only going to make things worse. That’s what the contrast between his overly cheery and flippant behavior with Hutch and his overly defensive and anxious behavior when he’s out of Hutch’s sight seems to suggest to me. Like I said, Starsky tends to get overprotective tendencies towards Hutch (biggest example: offering Gillian his life savings to leave town just to spare Hutch’s feelings), and I think a lot of what he does and says in this episode (especially that super-patronizing line “my partner’s filled in plenty! *wink*” when Hutch asks him to explain where he and Meredith are going off to. He might as well have said “don’t you worry your pretty little blond head about cop stuff, you wanna get worry lines?”) can be chalked up to that.

      I think it’s just too bad all this stuff got pretty much buried in the second half of the episode, even though I really liked Meredith and her and Starsky’s temporary partnership and thought the idea of it was really interesting. However, the tag, and Hutch jealously popping his head between Starsky and Meredith to grump about whether they’re finished yet, was very cute.

      Also, I laughed at Sharon Marie’s comment that Mrs. Green should have gone and kicked Hutch’s ass too. S & H kinda seemed to need an intervention of sorts in season 4, but they seemed to have no one around who cared enough to give it.

  13. Wallis Says:

    I really like your perceptive description of the unsatisfying effect of the lack of “anguish” as you call it, that is present in most other episodes where one partner is badly injured, but I also think it’s sort of in-character. The entire episode takes place with Hutch stitched up and bandaged and doing fine in the hospital, and while we haven’t seen any post-crisis hospital scenes to compare to this episode, both characters make light of recent injuries a lot in the tags to episodes like “Shootout”, “Survival”, “A Coffin for Starsky”, and “The Trap.” (I think the tag to “The Plague” is an exception.)

    It wouldn’t have taken anything away from the episode if the injury was more harrowing and more central, though. I think it would have made the episode better, putting more fire behind Starsky’s friction with Meredith and his desire to bust Train’s operation, and more tension between Vivian as exploited child and Vivian as Hutch’s near-murderer.

    Merl, I usually like your analyses of Hutch’s character/behavior, but I think it’s too harsh to call him “selfish.” Oppressive and inward, perhaps, but not selfish, which I understand as actively choosing to not factor other people into your personal decisions, or believing other people’s problems aren’t as important as yours.

    I do think Hutch might think that he has a fixed quantity of love he is allowed to distribute, though, and that showing care and attention for someone else while Starsky is injured constitutes siphoning love away from Starsky. I’ve probably said this before, but I suspect Hutch doesn’t understand how love or best-friendship works very well.

    It’s ironic that Meredith’s fling with Starsky is just a casual one-time thing, because I think she was best suited to Starsky out of all the women he’s been with in the past, and I would have liked her to stick around for a while. Do you by any chance have a favorite girlfriend for either Starsky or Hutch?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Wallis, I happily concede to your point that calling Hutch selfish, even in the most general way, is wrong. He is many things, but truly selfish he is not. And if he appears to be on occasion it’s because he’s pretending to be for his own complicated reasons.

      As for favorite girlfriends, of course I love Terry the best. But I have a soft spot for gal pal Kathy Marshall from “Fatal Charm”. And yes, I also think Meredith is great, and would have made a terrific, if charmingly competitive, girlfriend.

  14. Sharon Marie Says:

    Not sure this has been addressed. If so I missed it. But when did Detective Sergeant Starsky become Inspector first grade Starsky?

    • Anna Says:

      Hm. I haven’t seen the episode recently, but I only remember Dobey using the title “Detective Sergeant First Class” which I’d guess is just a more specific law enforcement rank, like “Staff Sergeant First Class” in the army. (I think Hutch has the same rank in “Birds of a Feather”?) I don’t remember what part of the episode they mentioned an “Inspector First Grade.”

      • Sharon Marie Says:

        It’s when Dobey introduces Meredith to Starsky. In the same episode Hutch refers to himself still as Detective Sergeant Hutchinson. It perked up my ears.

  15. Blunderbuss Says:

    Like Wallis, I LOVED Meredith and I would have loved to see her appear again. And yes, it is ironic that she isn’t a serious love interest for Starsky when they are, in my opinion, really well-suited and would have made a really intriguing couple, even if it was just for a few episodes like Hutch and Abby.

    Merl has made the comment that “Starsky and Hutch are not exogamists”, they are attracted to people who are more like themselves. Starsky is attracted to women who are some combination of good-tempered, stable, and tough; Hutch to women who are some combination of troubled, sensitive, and cynical. I think Meredith both fits and kind of defies that rule. She is a lot like Starsky in many ways but she also challenges him and pushes him out of his comfort zone. More than that, she does something unique for him that even Hutch could not possibly do, expand his horizons when it comes to race and gender, and give him the probably quite novel experience of partnering with someone who is spectacularly emotionally un-needy.

    I wonder if Starsky and Hutch’s pattern with their love interests exists in part because Starsky and Hutch spend such a huge proportion of their time and energy with (and on) each other — and their tastes and personalities and behavior are so different. Many of their differences are superficial, as has been brilliantly pointed out time and time again, but a few are pretty fundamental. It would make sense that what they would most look for in a romantic partner is a person who can satisfy something inside them that their partner cannot — not merely someone with whom they can get sex/romance (so, setting aside the whole speculation about whether the partnership could include that element as well), but someone who satisfies a neglected social and emotional need. Starsky and Hutch’s relationship comes pretty close to achieving that rare state of being perfectly emotionally satisfying, but not quite. I think they would both still long for close relationships with people who actually share their own personality traits and attitudes, who can relate to those things through personal experience instead of simply through the deep empathy they have with each other.

    I agree that deep down, Starsky and Hutch are essentially the same person, two halves of a whole, but that has its drawbacks. Balancing and countering each other, behaving differently, is integral to their friendship and partnership and love and trust and need for each other. This is why I can’t buy the idea that Starsky and Hutch don’t really need other people – friends, girlfriends, mentors, protegees, perhaps even children. Even two people with as incredible a relationship as they have can’t be *everything* to each other.

    • Anna Says:

      Oh, now you’ve got me thinking. Of course they love each other, need each other, couldn’t live without each other, never seem to get tired of each other. But I could see Starsky wanting someone around who was more like himself and who wasn’t so…Hutch-ish…sometimes. Hutch is a very demanding friend. Sometimes it seems like he would drain Starsky dry if Starsky had a limit (which he doesn’t seem to) just to find out where the limit is. I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It’s a compelling part of their friendship. But still, difficult. And I could see Hutch wanting to be around someone who was more like himself and who could talk to him on a different level than what Starsky’s capable of sometimes. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, just that the very things that Hutch seems to love and need so much about Starsky are the things that would make it hard for him to interact with Starsky the way he can with some other characters.

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