Episode 79: Starsky’s Brother

Starsky learns that his visiting little brother Nick might be involved with counterfeiter and drug dealer Stryker.

Nick Starsky: John Herzfeld, Frank Stryker: Antony Ponzini, Victor: John O’Leary, Al: Nicholas Worth, Jake: Eddie Fontaine, Weldon: Stanley Grover, Mrs. Krupp: Joan Shawlee, Bronson: David Moses, Marlene: Elizabeth Brooks, Katie: Liberty Godshall, Carol: Linda Lawrence. Written By: Ralph Wallace Davenport and Robert Earll, Directed By: Arthur Marks.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

It’s a pet peeve of many viewers when surprising modifications or additions are made to characters midway through a series and the audience is expected to accept these changes as a given. Starsky has never ever mentioned having siblings and here comes Nick, younger brother, to change the biography. This could have gone wrong but it doesn’t, partially because the emphasis of the series is on the urgent present without much reflection on the heavy baggage of the past, and partially because John Herzfeld gives a truly wonderful and nuanced performance here and it is to his credit that we come to accept him as a Starsky sibling without too much difficulty. He was carefully chosen to play this difficult role, some say by Glaser himself after he saw Herzfeld in a play with the possibility of replacing Glaser if Starsky was killed off in the last episode. Nick was to reform and become a cop, but that was scrapped, as was the plan to have Roz Kelly join the cast as Detective Linda Baylor (“Fatal Charm”).

Hutch is interrogating Mrs. Krupp, accused of beating her husband with a baseball bat. Of course this is played for laughs even though it isn’t remotely amusing, especially when she mentions her husband is small and frail. Mrs. Krupp also has the bat itself in her hands during the interrogation, an egregious procedural no-no. When the other officer calls Hutch away, he asks her to charge Mrs. Krupp with “first-degree husband beating” and she says, “there’s no such charge!” This is a confusing exchange, as we never know whether Hutch really intends to charge Mrs. Krupp or if he’s merely intending to scare her with a phony indictment.

Short Memories: Dobey is seen eating out of a can of chilli. Hasn’t he learned anything from Hutch’s near-fatal experience in “The Game”? Next, Starsky is picking someone up from the airport and getting ticketed for illegal parking. Hasn’t he learned anything from “The Plague”?

Nice staging as we see only the back of a curly-haired guy in a brown leather jacket trying to pick up a pretty girl. We are intended to think “Starsky” and we do. Then the shot turns to the real deal standing a few steps behind. And first impressions don’t mean everything: Nick looks quite a lot like his brother but lacks that magic recipe, that amalgamation of  elements, some natural and some supernatural, that make up David Starsky (sorry John).

Starsky, with awe-inspiring ease, picks up the girl right from his brother, and to top off this display of chutzpah he uses the pitfalls of his own profession to change her allegiances from brother to brother. She stares at Starsky, mesmerized, and agrees to meet with him that night at a nightclub. Nick is good-natured about this but one wonders if this thrilling display of alpha maleness is just another log on Nick’s bonfire of jealousy. Nick then says to Starsky, “Two years and you’re still trying.” Starsky smirks, “Who’s trying?” At this point Starsky hasn’t seen Nick for four years, so this remark is interesting. What happened two years ago that Nick and Starsky remember?

Nick is very well drawn by writers Ralph Davenport and Robert Earll. Throughout, he is nervous and placating, displaying an exaggerated self-confidence to his brother that withers away to nothing when on his own. He is both ambitious and lazy, vain and insecure. There are similarities between the Starskys: Nick can also be energetic, likeable and quick on his feet. But, in the classic dilemma of someone trying (largely unconsciously) to live up to an older, more powerful and more successful brother, he is missing some essential ingredients, and one of the most important is the internal calm that comes from moral and ethical maturity. Without these this Nick will always suffer from insincerity and lack of impulse control. (And what do you suppose happens to him when he returns to the east coast? Yes, he performed a selfless act, assisting his brother and possibly averting a crime, but how deep does this altruism go? I’m guessing it evaporates as he leans back in business class and looks out the window at the clouds, his mind wandering to unsettled scores and unclaimed money back home.)

Marlene really delivers when she arrives with her gorgeous friends. However, she changes her allegiance with Starsky with startling alacrity the moment she sees Hutch. Starsky, to whom this whole thing was a joke to begin with, couldn’t care less.

Of course Starsky and his brother end up dancing more with each other – actually ending up in each other’s arms – than the girls they were supposed to be with. This is entirely consistent with the theme of the series, that women are merely peripheral to the action and that the real story are male relationships (which, given the current preoccupation with the competitive complexities of female friendships, makes a welcome change). Also, the intensity of the physical affection the two show each other seems out of proportion with the emotional distance of their actual relationship. I can think of three reasons for all this hugging and grabbing: pansexual dynamism, a learned family trait, and – most likely – a  diversionary tactic meant to hide the fact they fundamentally dislike each another.

Coming back drunk from the disco, Nick is singing the Beatles’ classic “I’m a Loser”, with its disturbing words disguised by cheery upbeat music (I am always in awe of this fact, as licensing Beatles material must be extremely difficult, legally). The song is so much like Nick himself, deeply unhappy despite his aggressively upbeat appearance. By singing this song Nick is, consciously or unconsciously, trying to tell his brother something, and Starsky really should be listening to what he’s saying. I think any time someone from your past strides forcefully into your present there is something important going on. Starsky does notice Nick’s expensive new suit, however, and he also comments on Nick picking up the tab for the evening. And yet he outwardly shows no curiosity about where the money is coming from or why Nick is dressed in such expensive clothes or why he has made this trip. I have a sneaking suspicion Nick’s drug dealing – and drug use generally – has been well-known by Starsky for years and perhaps in the back of his mind he is pretty sure where the money is coming from and maybe why Nick is in California and just doesn’t feel like dealing with it. They may have had bitter, even violent fights about it in the past and Starsky is too wary of wrecking this fragile détente they have going to ask too many questions. It’s obvious there is nothing he can do about it anyway, as Nick is a headstrong stubborn sort of guy in no mood to be on the receiving end of brotherly advice, especially at two in the morning, but we also get an unwelcome glimpse into Starsky’s passivity and disinclination to rock the boat, especially if it’s a two-man dinghy and he’s the passenger; later, in “Starsky Vs. Hutch” we’ll see this again with even more devastating results.

Nick asks Starsky why he works so hard in such a dangerous job and for little material gain. “Tell it to me straight,” he says, “don’t you ever get tired of it? Don’t you ever get sick of it?” For all his scheming and prevarication, Nick comes right out and asks the question. He asks it twice. “What for? What for?” There is a little silence as the two stare at each other. Nick breaks it, saying (in disgust) it’s no point in asking. It’s a strange moment that leaves us wondering. Why does Nick interrupt what could have been an honest conversation? He may not want to know the answer, suspecting it would be something he didn’t want to hear, or his disgust could reveal a decades-old communication problem between them, much in the same way Starsky earlier ignored Nick’s suspicious largess.

And was Starsky going to answer? If not, what was stopping him?

What does Starsky reach up and grab on the door frame to his bedroom while talking to Nick? It looks like a dried leaf from some kind of arrangement.

Agent Weldon says pointedly to Starsky, “Maybe there ought to be a law about people like us having families.” Is he referring to Agent Bronson’s lack of children? Starsky’s brother? Or is he possibly thinking of his own children, and the fear of leaving them behind?

In “Velvet Jungle”, Hutch mentions Starsky being “back east” three years ago as they devise the barrio bar plan. Here Hutch mentions Starsky hasn’t seen Nick in four years when Nick comes to visit, two years later. It’s possible these two mentions are the same visit. This would match up to when Starsky had his first case out of uniform. But it is also entirely possible that when Starsky went back east it didn’t include seeing Nick. Nick and Starsky make a point of saying they haven’t seen each other in four years. A season earlier, Hutch mentions Starsky being on the East Coast a “few years” ago. This must be the same trip, as the times match.

Hutch, who has been exhibiting a great lack of restraint so far, finally has enough and asks Starsky, “He’s calling out to you … what’s he trying so hard to make you find out?” Typical Hutch, he is psychologically incisive, asking Starsky to look at things logically. But is Hutch correct when he says Nick wants his brother to understand his situation? Do you think Nick would tell the truth if Starsky asked him?

It’s great when Starsky has had enough of Nick’s facile hey-how-ya-doin’ act. When Nick gives him the exaggerated brush-off at the Pits Starsky gives us a frustrated head-shake that is only partially comic.

Throughout the series, Starsky is consistently portrayed as being an honorable man, loyal friend and conscientious officer. However, Nick accuses him more than once as being a negligent and uncaring brother. In the “The Set-Up” it’s suggested the Starsky family was either protected by or bought off by the mob following the murder of his father. So, deprived of the influence of both father and brother, and surrounded by the temptations of easy money, Nick fell into the influence of the criminal life. But is Nick’s accounting to be taken at face value, or could there be more to the story than we hear? Nick may have pushed his brother away, or alienated him in some profoundly hurtful way. It’s also possible Starsky did turn his back on his family when they needed him, and if this is the case should it alter our impression of him as an exemplary human being? I think not, as I reflect on how many people have a jokey, competitive relationship with family members while choosing, either through tact or fear, to ignore troubling symptoms.

Huggy explains his first name to Nick, “Huggy’s the name and my game is the same. The ladies they love me ‘cause they all want to hug me.” There is never any sign of women expressing affection for Huggy, so can this really be true? And if it is, what do you suppose the “Bear” part means? Hugging a bear is a very, very bad idea, which means Huggy is the stuffed kind.

It’s interesting to watch Nick’s indifference to Huggy’s considerable charms, both before and after Starsky and Hutch’s arrival (unlike his sycophantic reaction to Dobey, whom he calls “sir”). To Nick Huggy seems like a pesky mosquito, swatted away or ignored. He merely bangs the table and demands drinks, calling Huggy a dismissive “garçon”. It could be nervousness or callousness, but either way it isn’t very nice.

Hutch tells Nick Starsky, “I don’t care what happens to you. I care what happens to your brother.” Did Starsky overhear this part at the door? If he did, would this be embarrassing, maddening, or would it merely confirm what they both already know?

Starsky shows up, Hutch leaves. Nick says yeah yeah yeah, he pushed a little weed while here in LA, as if it’s a foregone conclusion Starsky already knows and is getting ready to bust his chops. But how would Starsky learn this information? The only two people who know are Huggy – determined to keep it a secret – and Hutch, who doesn’t have time to tell him. So Starsky must have had to lean on Huggy pretty hard, unless he has other sources.

Right after the argument with Starsky, Nick accepts a dangerous job from Stryker. He said he only provided goods to the needy and soft recreational drugs to the hippie crowd but now he’s playing in the big leagues. Nick is therefore going into this not because of material gain but because of a passionate desire to prove himself worthy to his brother in some perverse way. A big F-You, basically. Which is immature, as well as stupid.

Two arch villains named Stryker seems a little confusing: here and “Snowstorm”. Gilbert Green who played the earlier Stryker also played uber-villain Frank Tallman in the pilot. Along with a lot of naughty gals named Lola and a lot of good girls named Molly, there is a sense the writers had a limited supply of names to choose from.

The first thing Stryker says to Nick, “I like your jacket.” The last thing Stryker says about Nick is to tell his thug to keep it nice after killing him; Stryker wants to give it to his one of his nephews. What, he can’t afford his own jackets?

Nick admits to selling weed to Hutch, and then to Starsky, separately. Starsky is angry, it seems, not because Nick is pushing “a couple of kilos of weed,” (kilos? Doesn’t that seem like a lot?) but because the “harm is you lied to me … and I don’t know what else you might be turning.” This seems to be quite different from the way Hutch understands Nick’s dealing. Starsky sees the bigger picture, while Hutch is facing the immediate problem.

Nick isn’t especially intelligent. Case in point, when confronted by Starsky he says, “Are you working for the Abolitionists or what?” Abolitionism was all about the ending of slavery. What Nick means is Prohibition, and even that is incorrect, as Prohibition attempted to wipe out the use of alcohol, not marijuana, but Nick is probably making a generalized statement about intoxication.

Tag: Huggy is so very not-sober in the tag, jumping all over the place and blabbing excitedly. And if Nick is such a good pool player, why did he lose the first game? Or is that part of the hustle? Starsky must be in touch enough with Nick to know he is “another Will Mosconi,” or perhaps some things never change over time. There is another revenge of the lefties joke (“Captain Dobey, You’re Dead”). Speculate on the secret relief both Starsky and Hutch feel when it’s time to drive Nick to the airport.

Clothing notes. Starsky does not wear his Adidas. He looks great in his disco outfit. Nick, on the other hand, in a brand new suit we are supposed to admire, looks like a junior gangster. Every time Hutch wears a Hawaiian shirt one suspects he is wearing the back brace underneath it. Hutch continues to wear the extraordinary tusk object around his neck as well as a blue ring. Both brothers wear identical outfits – dark pants, bright orange shirts – during the majority of their time together.

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17 Responses to “Episode 79: Starsky’s Brother”

  1. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    your attention to detail is always mind boggling for me. I have to say this is not one of my favorite episodes. Did the writers/producers/stars think for a nano-second that the chemistry between S&H could be replaced by bringing in some unknown brother just to be able to keep the same title to the show? I always found this to be insulting, and again, a gross underestimation of the show’s popularity and it’s fans.
    I always assumed that Starsky heard Hutch’s argument with Nick, because he was yelling and Starsky was right at the door. To me that explained the awkwardness when he came in and Hutch left so quickly. I also thought that losing the first pool game in the tag was part of the con the two brothers concocted. One final opportunity to have a bond of sorts before Nick left.
    Every time I read your observations and take a look at the episodes again I am impressed by how much was going on and how talented the actors were. It’s such a shame that it didn’t have longevity. So much could have been done with it. It’s like the star burned too brightly and too quickly for those involved to handle.
    Thanks so much for this blog Merle,
    Lynn

    • merltheearl Says:

      Lynn, you’re right, it’s inconceivable Starsky didn’t hear the tail end of the argument with Nick and Hutch. I may alter my post to reflect your comments, if that’s okay with you. And thank you so much for your comments regarding the blog. It’s a joy to write and I’m glad someone is out there to read it, and perhaps it can be one small step toward giving the series the respect and admiration it deserves.

  2. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    your blog is a great tribute to the series and a joy to read. It would be wonderful if somehow Soul and Glaser had an opportunity to read it. You are doing a stellar job in recognizing a body of work that seems to have been terribly underated. They really were/are two very talented actors.
    Thank you,
    Lynn

  3. Brenda Says:

    Just want to say that since I found this blog a couple of months ago, I eagerly await every new entry!

    I like this episode because it caters to my fascination with backstory. I love using the clues to try to make sense of the characters’ lives before the show’s timeline.

    Here’s my take. Perhaps Starsky’s relationship with his father tainted the relationship with Nick. It’s been noted before that Starsky’s relationship with his dad may have been strained. His father got in with criminals somehow and got himself killed when Starsky was still rather young (I’m guessing about 8-10), leaving “Little Davey” to take responsibility for his brother, who seems to be about 5 years younger. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a pre-teen, but Starsky probably sucked it up and did the best he could.

    When he was old enough to join the Army (or be drafted into it), he left, leaving young teen Nick back East, open to the influence of the same types of people that corrupted his father. Maybe Starsky is seeing history repeating, but isn’t quite sure what to do about it.

    • Grevy's Zebra Says:

      I don’t see where it’s mentioned that Starsky Sr. got in with criminals? Granted, the common theory that he was a police officer is speculation, but Durniak’s words from The Set-Up were:

      “Little Davy never knew whether to love me or hate me. I represented everything your father fought against. Some wise-guys, they shot him down one night.”

      If Starsky Sr. fought against everything Durniak represented, I’m not sure how Starsky Sr. could have been “in with criminals,” even if he was at some point on good enough terms with Durniak to cause Durniak to pay for Starsky Sr’s funeral and Durniak claims to know some dirty details that Starsky isn’t fazed about (perhaps they could have been old friends who had a falling-out when Durniak turned to crime, or maybe Starsky Sr. started out with criminals early on and then turned straight, or they had some sort of weird professionally-opposed/personally-attached relationship sort of similar to Starsky’s relationship with Nick.)

      • merltheearl Says:

        I agree, but I don’t see where I have said Starsky’s father was a criminal (although other commentators may have). In “Murder at Sea” I speculate his father may have been a union man. Whatever his relationship to Durniak and the mafia it was a close one, even if adversarial. It’s interesting to think about, but I never once imagined Starsky Sr. was a police officer. I don’t know why. Could it be I have a notion Starsky is his own man, whose stubborn singularity negates the idea of following anyone’s footsteps? Possibly. Also I can’t imagine Dobey not using that information to keep his often renegade officer in line through guilt-inducing recrimination. “Starsky, what would your father say!” and etc. Thanks GZ for inspiring these reflections!

      • Grevy's Zebra Says:

        Ah, no sorry — I was replying to Brenda’s comment, not to you 🙂

        Personally, I can see it either way, especially since I speculate that Starsky probably had a bit of a rough youth that would have broken up any systematic footstep following — he is independent, but he’s also not contrary like Hutch, so if he decided he wanted to be a police officer all on his own, he wouldn’t avoid becoming one just because his dad was one.

        Mostly I really wish we had a few more details about Starsky’s and Hutch’s background, especially Hutch’s childhood, because there’s so little for him. And that conversation in The Set-Up..geez, were they *trying* to make things as tantalizing as possible before yanking all clarification away? But then I think about it, and maybe I’m glad there was less explicit background — Starsky and Hutch are both such “show, don’t tell” characters (very rarely described by other people except in a couple of standard “maverick, hotshot, counterculture” ways) and so much of their complexity comes from their behavior, not from information, and I wonder if more fleshed-out backgrounds would have ruined that?

  4. Lynn Says:

    Brenda,
    great sleuthing into the history aspect of the characters. Your take makes a lot of sense. Merle had questioned Starsky’s moral fiber in light of his relationship with his brother. I think you might have nailed it in that he may have had just too much responsibility placed on him (or he perceived that it was), couldn’t handle it and was able to start a new life for himself on the West Coast. And, as we all know, when you get together with siblings old ways of relating come right back. Maybe avoidance was less painful for Starsky when relating to his family, in particular, his brother.
    Lynn

  5. Jill Says:

    Like many others, I couldn’t help thinking where the hell has this brother sprung from; as I always assumed Starsky to be an only child. And maybe one reason he had such a bond with Hutch, was due to finding a surrogate brother in him – complete with incidents of sibling rivalry at times.

    However, if a Starsky junior was deemed necessary, I think the writers missed the chance to flesh out some of the family’s potentially fascinating back story. So, with my mind in fantasy mode, I’ll contemplate that If I had been writing this, I would have had Mrs Starsky remarried following the murder of Starsky’s father; the young David’s resentment and conflict with his stepfather would give added reason for him to be shipped off to live with relatives on the West Coast. Nick would be a product of this second marriage, thus only a half-brother, plus would be a lot younger, maybe 12-13 years younger than David; which would bring more natural distance between the boys. (Of course, Nick wouldn’t be a Starsky – unless Mrs S had married a distant in-law of same name!). But I think if Nick had been a young adult of around 20, when he arrived in this episode, it would have fitted some aspects of his personality more.

    Thankfully the proposed idea of having Nick Starsky take over, in a possible season 5, was shelved. The show would have lost all credibility, I feel, as how could someone who was a known associate of criminals, and a self-confessed dope-pusher and fence, be allowed to join the police? And even if by some bizarre oversight, it was possible, he would then have to go through police academy, rookie training, years in uniform, before even attempting to become a detective. The only way Nick could have partnered Hutch quickly, would have been if Hutch quit the force and became a private investigator with Starsky junior as his sidekick – and I don’t think many of us would have relished that scenario?

    Anyway, that’s enough of my imagination in overdrive. I think it is all credit to the show and its characters though, that it does inspire us to think of alternative endings or back stories! And thanks again for keeping the spirit of it all alive in this blog, Merl.

  6. King David Says:

    I never thought that Starsky’s father was a member of the crminal fraternity; I presumed Nick got into his shady life because he was breaking out of a strait-laced family code. Perhaps he saw that morality and being law-abiding didn’t bring all the things he felt he should have, or at least wanted, including prestige. I feel that Nick is all show and no substance; he hasn’t the basic integrity of his brother.
    It would be natural enough for Starsky to demonstrate some familial affection and history with his brother, as time can dull the sharpness of bitterness and acrimony, but I LOVE the way Hutch says that he doesn’t care what happens to Nick but he DOES care what happens to his brother. We know he cares deeply. He must be wondering how on Earth these two can be related. Or how it is that the intrinsic morality of his partner is absent from the younger brother.
    It is a nice thought that Mrs S remarried and Nick is the product of a second marriage; he’s referred to by the Starsky name, though, isn’t he? That’s where it all goes pear-shaped for me – there’s only one Starsky. It’s as if that’s his first name it’s so inherently him.
    See how Starsky drags Nick by the hair, out of the bedroom, as he shoves him towards the sofa. See also how Starsky is up ready for work after only five hours sleep and probably a fair bit of alcohol.

  7. Anna Says:

    An explanation of the unusually high level of physical affection for two not-so-close brothers is their ethnic/religious background. I don’t mean to stereotype, but I know from observations and stories of Jewish friends that Jewish families tend to be VERY physically affectionate compared to families of more wasp-y heritages (which are considered the “norm” or “mainstream” in American culture) so it wouldn’t be something unusual even if they weren’t very emotionally close. Of course, it was probably in the script to remind the viewers that yes, even though you’ve never seen him before, this random new guys is totally Starsky’s brother, but in my opinion it would have been a little weird for me to see Starsky, who is so physically affectionate to Hutch, to be standoffish with his little brother and would have clued me in that they didn’t really care for each other, therefore ruining the poignancy of their confrontation.

    By the way, this is a complete detour, but your comment about the meaning of Huggy’s name gave me a sudden idea and inspired me to look up the meanings of the other characters’ names. Usually, doing this kind of thing for shows like this is just nerdy on my part, because it’s a 99% sure bet that the characters’ names were not chosen for symbolic meaning, but for their phonetic or cultural associations, or because of the creators naming their characters after friends or family members. Some of the results are interesting though:

    Kenneth (Anglicized form of Gaelic names Cainnech and Cinaed): “handsome”

    David (Hebrew, Biblical): “beloved”

    Harold (from Old English name Hereweald): “leader of the army”

    Vanessa: fictional name made up by Jonathan Swift by piecing together the first syllables of one of his friends’ first and last names (Esther Vanhomrigh), no etymological meaning whatsoever

    Kira (from Ciara, Irish): “dark lady”

    Hmm. I don’t know. Coincidences, or should I give the writers more credit than I previously thought?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Interesting thoughts about cultural heritage and affection – worthy of a thesis, I think. As for names, this series has so many wonderful ones (usually the bad guy names bring out the best in writers) and I know series creator William Blinn named David Starsky after a high school classmate. I have a feeling “Kenneth Hutchinson” was an attempt to go as whitebread as possible to create an interesting balance. Name origins are fascinating and I wouldn’t doubt the writers had etymological intentions. — “Blackbird”

  8. Wallis Says:

    I thought Starsky having a younger brother, and a lousy one at that, was a great and perceptive way of adding a bit of background to why Starsky is the way he is. I think Starsky has an older brother sort of personality (this is a stereotypically broad statement, I know, but I think that it just makes more sense for his personality development to be an older brother than an only child or a younger brother). It also indirectly gives us one of the reasons for why Starsky is so forgiving of Hutch — because next to Nick’s general weak-willed, shiftless, whiny, never-my-fault attitude, Hutch’s maddening foibles are nothing compared to Hutch’s loyalty, integrity, and strength, and Starsky can see that because due to having people like Nick in his life, he doesn’t take that for granted. And if Starsky feels that he has failed Nick, it might be a part of the reason he is so quick to take responsibility for things that aren’t really his responsibility, and blame himself for things that he thinks he should have been able to change. (This is one of those traits that he and Hutch both share very strongly rather than differing on. I think Hutch mixes it into his personal life and love life more, but they are both chronic “fixer-uppers”).

    Of course, I don’t at all view these ideas as full “explanations” of Starsky’s character — I think character traits result from a long list of many different reinforcing factors — but I think it’s a drop in the bucket, at least.

    By the way, that little close-the-refrigerator scene was SO GOOD. That’s the sort of authenticity that makes us believe, in a very short amount of time, that this guy we have never seen or heard of before really is Starsky’s younger brother.

    • McPierogiPazza Says:

      I really liked that scene too. The physical confrontation at the fridge was so true-to-life for siblings. I can just picture the two of them fighting when they were much younger.

      I don’t mind that the brother was not mentioned before. When I lived away from my home city friends were often shocked when I’d mention my brother. These were always people who knew lots about me – really personal stuff – but I never happened to mention my brother to them, just my sister. I got along with him but we only talked a few times a year, so he rarely came up in conversation. (I’m in the same city now, so he’s less of a “phantom” brother these days.)

      Wallis – I like your comment about Starsky as the older brother and how that, and his brother’s shortcomings, have helped shape his relationship with Hutch.

      I got a kick out of the brothers dancing together, though I get antsy during season four disco scenes. I would have been fine with the show never going it a discotheque.

  9. stybz Says:

    Taking a risk posting this before I’ve had a chance to watch it at least one more time. I might return to this thread at some point to add or update my comments. 🙂

    I liked this episode. I didn’t mind the added backstory of the brother, but then again I knew of the brother when I started to revisit the show, so he was in my head as I heard snippets of Starsky’s past in other episodes like The Set-Up. So far there isn’t a conflict, and the fact that we never heard of Nick prior to this episode doesn’t bother me. 🙂

    I think John Herzfeld did a great job as Starsky’s brother. You can tell he and Paul worked on the relationship off-screen to make it believable. The affection at the airport is really nice. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. These guys really do love each other, and they probably got along very well as kids probably until their father was killed. Then their divergent views of life conflicted. I think each brother’s heart aches at the occupation the other has chosen, and each wishes the other would change their ways.

    My take on the two brothers is this (warning: not canon, just a theory). Older brother David (I love how often he’s called David in this episode as opposed to Dave, which I like as well, but it’s nice to hear David) is very much like his dad. He hated what happened in the neighborhood as a kid and has no tolerance for the gangs and mobsters in general. He probably got into fights often as a kid, and that could be why he left. Maybe he was sent away for his own safety (I still need to watch more episodes to see if this theory works or not). Perhaps he ticked off one too many gang members and soon there was a price on his head. And then maybe Durniak funded his trip out to the west coast to save his life and made a promise that he would protect Nick for David.

    Meanwhile, Nick is more like their mother. She probably reluctantly welcomes the help of people like Durniak, mainly because it’s better that they’re friends rather than enemies, and they’ve been good to her family. Nick sees them as role models. Mobsters and gangs have a family mentality that appeals to people like Nick. He wants to belong somewhere and be loved. You can see it in how he interacts with his older brother. He wants to be accepted (I’m a loser) and loved. David craves that too, but has that in Hutch. Also, Nick doesn’t feel he fits in to the nine-to-five world. He’s had a few failed jobs. So he scrapes by and finds comfort working for the big guys, and yet feels a sense of entrepreneurship and independence selling weed and stolen goods to people. His mom probably wants Nick to stay away from the gangs and syndicates, but there’s only so much she can do.

    David probably tried many times unsuccessfully to set Nick right, but David represents something painful in Nick’s life. Their father died resisting or trying to fight off the mob. I think Nick fears David will too, and perhaps that is the wedge between them. They love each other very much, but Nick can’t bear the thought of David dying like their dad did. Perhaps, given the fact that the bad seed is still running the neighborhood, Nick thinks that David’s job is futile and that he could die for nothing, just like their dad. And this is the unanswered question between them. I think they both know what Nick is driving at when he asks David, “What for?” and neither can deal with the reality of it, so Nick drops it.

    I do think Nick goes back to his old ways when he goes back east, and I think Starsky knows that, although he probably doesn’t want to think about it, but maybe he hopes Nick will change a little bit, but isn’t sure he can believe it.

    I’m trying to rationalize why Nick said “two years” and Hutch said “four”. The first theory that came to me was that Nick may not be good with numbers and maybe four years feels like two. I’m more inclined to believe Hutch’s math than Nick’s. 🙂 According to my father every recollection he has occurred twenty years ago until I point out that it’s not the case. 🙂

    My other theory might be a bit out in left field, but maybe this has something to do with Terry? Maybe it was 2 years ago that she died, and Starsky still hasn’t found someone yet. It could connect with the conversation at the precinct when Nick asks if his brother is living with anyone. Maybe Nick is implying that Starsky should have someone by now. It’s a sobering thought and not something to joke about, but that’s the only other theory I can come up with.

    It is interesting hearing Nick sing “I’m a Loser.” It is very telling. It’s also interesting what Hutch says to Starsky about Nick being in town, as if Nick wouldn’t have shown up otherwise. Hutch’s comment about Nick crying for help sounds like he’s trying to tap into his emotional partner’s psyche and get him to hash things out with Nick once and for all and find out what’s going on. I think Starsky and Hutch both know it’s a lost cause, but both are not willing to have Starsky give up on Nick, despite that. Hutch probably sees the downside of the relationship and how it tears Starsky apart, and so he’s doing what he can to help Starsky work things out with Nick and get him on the straight and narrow.

    Back to the song for a moment. I think the Beatles had no control over their catalog back then, and were covered openly and freely by a variety of singers. So maybe the royalties for the song were reasonable at that time? And since Starsky and Hutch was a big hit, the advertisers were probably paying big bucks, so they could afford it anyway. 🙂

    I think the “Bear” in Huggy Bear stands for teddy bear more than a grizzly. I think that’s why he chose the nickname. He’s a teddy bear, but “Huggy” has some affection implied to it.

    Nick’s brush off of Starsky at The Pits is interesting. Starsky’s face is all cut up from the explosion and Nick doesn’t notice, or refuses to. He says, “You look tired.” I don’t think he was aware of the explosion. Had he been he might have responded differently. If he knew Stryker was the one behind it I doubt he’d go work for him again. Instead I think Nick was either oblivious and selfish, or was used to seeing his brother battered and bruised in some way, refusing to face it or deal with it, going back to my theory earlier in this posting.

    I think Starsky is fully aware of what’s happening with Nick, but he’s not ready to address it right away. He’s processing everything, struggling to come to terms with what he’s seeing, and trying vainly to find a way to reach out to his brother and straighten him out once and for all. And I do think Starsky did hear Hutch when he told Nick that he cares more about his brother. Starsky doesn’t ask Hutch what he’s doing there. He already knows and appreciates it. And, later at the station when Hutch is sitting in Starsky’s chair talking to him about Nick, it’s understood that they’ve been honest with each other and Starsky’s been confiding in Hutch about Nick and his feelings about the whole thing.

    I find it telling that Hutch is in Starsky’s chair. It emphasizes the bond they have. He could have sat in his own chair, with Starsky sitting nearby, but they’re at his desk. It’s almost as if they’ve gone into Starsky’s private room and closed the door to have a heart to heart chat. There’s just this deep connection between them that’s intimated by the simple act of Hutch sitting at Starsky’s desk.

    I think Nick’s accusation that Starsky wasn’t there for him is something Starsky probably feels immensely guilty about. I wonder if Nick means it. Again this could be connected to how much Nick hates Starsky’s line of work. Maybe Starsky was a mentor and tried really hard to be there for Nick, but their disagreement about his dangerous job drove that wedge between them, and Nick has never gotten over it.

    The sad thing about Nick is that his word cannot be trusted. He’s a liar, a hustler and will say anything to placate anyone. He tells Starsky he’s only doing small scores to deflect any deeper suspicion his brother already has for him (what else is he turning). He’s downplaying his lifestyle. He does it partly because deep down he does want his older brother to be proud of him. He also doesn’t want to hurt Starsky. At the same time he wants to be his own man and run his own “business” and that means working up the ranks, but he can’t reveal this to his brother, especially his cop brother.

    In the tag Nick lost the first pool game because he purposely played with a disadvantage that he did not reveal to anyone, but his brother probably noticed. Nick insists that he and Starsky will play the next game with a handicap, which is that they will both play left-handed. Hutch and Huggy don’t realize that Nick is a lefty, something which he probably hid from them in the first game by playing right-handed. So whenever it was his turn, he’d mess up and miss a pocket, when in reality he was playing with his less dominant hand. An easy trick in a world full of righties. He fooled Hutch and Huggy. He hustled them. And you can hear him sinking the balls into the pockets one by one as Starsky tells this fact to his friends.

    • Anna Says:

      Wow, what a rich and detailed set of theories about the Starsky brothers’ relationship and history. The great thing about shows with so many gaps, like Starsky and Hutch, is that there’s so much room for many different possibilities. You have enough material here for a whole story, I think. Do you by any chance read fanfiction? I think I’ve heard other people write stories and voice theories about Starsky’s background like this. It’s so amazing how, collectively, many fans speculating together on a common subject can develop really cool ideas.

      • stybz Says:

        Thanks, Anna. I used to read – and write – fanfic, but haven’t done both in a long time mainly because I’ve read some really awful fanfic in other fandoms and there are certain types of fanfic that don’t appeal to me.

        That said, I’m sure there are tons of wonderful theories in fanfic that fill-in the blanks in this episode and others. Perhaps one day I’ll muster up the courage to read them. 🙂

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