Episode 80: The Golden Angel

Starsky and Hutch investigate death threats that a wrestler is receiving before a big match.

Buzzy “Angel” Boone: Steve Oliver, Candy Reese: Lynn Benesch, Tommy Reese: Ray Walston, Hammerlock Grange: Richard Karron, Camille Boone: Hilary Beane, Stella: Paula Victor. Written By: Joe Reb Moffly, Robert Dellinger and George Arthur Bloom, Directed By: Sutton Roley.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This is a strange, uneven episode, with narrative difficulties and an overall sense of the blahs, and you’d think the series has explored the world of wrestling more than enough in its short run (“The Heavyweight”, “Omaha Tiger”).

The first thing Hutch does when Starsky talks about the will is to power up like an appliance plugged into a wall circuit and start in with the smoothly elaborate insulting. He doesn’t even know the details, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

Starsky says that one week “from today”, following his inheritance, he’s going to be a free man. Hutch holds Starsky back from complaining too vociferously to Dobey, telling him to at least wait until the will is read. All very friendly, but what does Hutch really think about Starsky being so ready to quit his job, especially without even talking to him about it? Is he worried about Starsky’s careless, carefree attitude about something so important to both of them, or does he think Starsky’s fortune can’t possibly be real? Perhaps he is accustomed to his partner’s wild swings of euphoria, and is confident that when the time comes he wouldn’t walk away no matter what. Joking aside (and this scene is very jokey) it is unfortunate we are not given any indication of how Hutch really feels about any of this. A very similar situation can be seen in “Targets Without a Badge” in which Hutch, alone on the beach, prepares to throw away his badge – and therefore his police career – without even mentioning it to Starsky. It’s only Starsky’s timely approach and wordless acquiescence that turns it into a mutual act of solidarity. In neither instance does the other say indignantly, “what the hell do you think you’re doing? Weren’t you even going to run that by me?” which is a major failing by the writers and also, to a lesser extent, by the actors, both of whom have improved their lines through improvisation in earlier episodes when they felt let down by the script.

There is a fine line between Starsky’s eagerness to give up his job, abandon his partnership with Hutch, buy a lot of flashy stuff and show off his sudden riches, and his brother Nick’s greedy approach to life. In “Starsky’s Brother” we were encouraged to dismiss Nick and his avaricious ways, but Starsky seems to be cut from the same garish cloth.

When Hutch says “sorry about your uncle” Starsky looks embarrassed, as he should. And when Hutch gives his condolences, does it seem as if he’s doing it knowing full well that Starsky isn’t mourning, not one little bit, and so deserves to be ashamed of himself?

Hutch tells Starsky, “It takes all makes and models to fill that four-lane highway we call life,” most likely considering himself in the upper echelon, in the Rolls and Bentley category, and Starsky not. This metaphor is just a little but ironic, considering what he himself chooses to drive.

Gym Notes: Hutch is excited to be back in a sweaty, dirty gym. “Look at this!” he says, pointing.”Look at that!” and “I used to do that.” His touristy finger-pointing is wonderful (and lightly done too, kudos to Soul for that), and entirely consistent with his earlier claim in “Omaha Tiger” of being a three-time state collegiate wrestling champion. It is hilarious when Starsky flashes a peace sign to some nut furiously punching a ball. A guy in a trench coat stares at them, and Starsky says, apropos of nothing, “I’d walk a mile for a camel.” That’s a Camel Cigarettes advertising logo, but why it’s said here (to Hutch’s happy chuckle) is a mystery. A camel-colored coat, perhaps? Who knows?

What’s the difference between a boxing and wrestling environment? Is there one? With all the posters, punching bags and other apparatus, this place reads more “boxing” than the sham entertainment of old-style wrestling. Although I know wrestling has hit a high spot in terms of popularity during this time, I still wonder if the episode’s writers go the wrestling route rather than the more legitimate boxing route because of its grimy dilapidation, “as stale as yesterday’s mashed potatoes”, an excuse to drag out silly costumes, or perhaps there simply more room for pathos in this twilight world of has-beens.

It’s assumed, for no reason, that the intended victim of the shooting is Buzzy Boone. But why not Hammerlock Grange, who was also in the ring at the time? Nobody entertains this idea for a moment.

When Prop Universes Collide: I normally do not point out details external to the Starsky and Hutch world, but it’s worth mentioning that the poster in Sammy Reese’s office advertises a fight between “Kid McCook” and “Mike Mason” was used in the original Star Trek series in the episode “City on the Edge of Forever.” When Star Trek “Enterprise” did an episode entitled “Storm Front,” they used the same one. This is second-hand information not verified personally.

Hammerlock gives Starsky a painful rundown of exactly what happened when Boone was shot. Starsky goes down hard, and groans. If he fell on his holstered gun, imagine the pain.

Why are people going to the Main Event at the wrestling match going into door marked “Studio 5”?

Perhaps no scene magnifies the dilution of the series in its fourth and final season than the scene between Hutch and Camille, Boone’s first wife, largely because it so strongly echoes the interrogation scenes between Hutch and Simon Marcus in Season Two’s “Bloodbath”. Granted, Marcus is sitting in jail after being tried and convicted of his crimes and Camille is being interviewed in her home, but if you take the two scenes, only two years apart, and look at them side by side, one is struck by the intensity and focus of the Marcus scenes, and the passivity in Camille’s scene. Both Camille and Marcus have information vital to the case at hand. Both are talking in mystical riddles. Marcus has delusions of grandeur and Camille diminishes herself, but both are deeply wounded. Both are filmed in semi-darkness. Both have retreated to a “spiritual” life to escape the rigors of everyday pain. And both exhibit symptoms of psychosis. But here the similarities end. Camille is a suspect, but Hutch has five minutes with her, dismisses her as a nut, and that’s that. We also don’t see Hutch arrive or leave, adding to this scene’s insubstantiality. We don’t hear his report to either his partner or Dobey. He doesn’t use his extensive experience with mental illness. But if he paid attention to what Camille was saying, as he did with Simon Marcus, he might have picked up the clues in both her odd manner and her repeated words. The first half of these repeated words appear to be giving Hutch her motivation for killing, the second half of them are more of a soothing verse for herself in the killing’s aftermath. Here, in order, are all of Camille’s repeated words: “years, change, me, lines, years, change, him, hold onto, here, today, tomorrow, understood, still friends.”

Camille tells Hutch, “Can you predict the path of a vine?…The light and the dark are deceptions, by one we are shadows, by the other, ghosts … but in love we are solid, in love we are true, in love there is reason for all that we do.” This is also strikingly similar to what Simon Marcus tells Hutch: Marcus too has an elaborate but murky rationale for what he does. How I wish the writers could have based this scene on the earlier episode. It might have added weight and substance to a story determined to keep it light. Why this is I have no idea. Perhaps the real mystery here is how Buzzy Boone managed to get two very different women to adore him: alterative-lifestyle Camille, and spunky down-to-earther Candy.

The suspenseful scene in which Hutch opens Boone’s ticking locker to see the gruesome skull is a Sutton Roley classic: good angles, sudden explosive action, and briefly unfocused camera lens heightening the sensation of shock.

“Wrestler Claims Victory in Unscheduled Bout with Dummy” is headline on page three. Is this where Hutch hatches his plan to have Starsky portray the Golden Angel, Hutch focusing in on the key word “dummy”? And does Hutch think up this plan, putting his partner at risk of injury, because of his deep unhappiness with Starsky’s preoccupation with his inheritance?

Hutch and Starsky do not work together very often on this case. Hutch reveals some hidden animosity when he tells Huggy that Starsky is “spending more time talking about the will than he is on this case”. Hutch normally hides his emotions effectively, but it’s clear he’s bugged about his partner being so preoccupied with money, and by extension leaving the force. How different is that, in Hutch’s mind, than being preoccupied by a woman?

Buzzy Boone is eating in nearly every scene he’s in. Despite being at the center of this mystery, he’s not a particularly well-drawn character, but this detail may indicate a casual, pleasure-driven personality and a basic happy-go-lucky approach to life (not even getting shot affects his appetite). “The Golden Angel” is announced as the “Wrestling Champion of the World.” Even taking into consideration wrestling’s dramatic fall from popularity, Boone does not look or act like a champion of the world in any sense. He doesn’t appear to be ambitious or disciplined. He looks to be about 35 or older, making him slightly over the hill, even in the world of showbiz wrestling.

It is very touching that as Mortal Enemies Angel and Hammerlock are being announced, (Hammerlock being “the man you all have learned to hate,”) the two of them are helping each other get ready for the “interview”. Hammerlock helps Angel with his outfit and gently straightens out his halo. Angel smooths out Hammerlock’s moustache. Which leads to what I believe is the over-arching theme of this episode: truth and lies, reality and play-acting. The writers are telling us that these things are not always mutually exclusive. Tommy Reese’s assertion that wrestling is the “goss-i-pull truth” is both far from the truth and yet truth condensed. The “grudge match” masks the true friendship between the two wrestlers. Camille engineers frightening but non-lethal stunts to act out her negative feelings. Masks are worn by everyone, for good and ill.

Veteran actor Ray Walston is truly wonderful in this episode. Natty and crisply elegant, he is stern and smart one moment, and then convincingly cheesy in the next. He lives up to his “Smiling” nickname with ghastly, empty grins.

The scene in which Hutch tells Starsky (and Dobey) that the biggest audience of the year is expected for the fight is a truly odd one. There is a deeply thoughtful, almost philosophical silence as Starsky stands in the doorway, thinking. The silence continues for an unusual length of time. Sad music is heard. The long shot slowly pans in, and then swivels to the back of Dobey’s head as he stands looking out the window. As with much of this episode, the emotional undercurrent does not match the on-screen content. For instance, the pivotal scene with Camille, although nicely staged, is basically a throw-away, while this fairly inconsequential acknowledgement of the bloodthirsty aspects of popular culture is treated with Shakespearean gravity.

The referee “Louis the Nose” is a great, unexpected addition to the story. Hutch can simply not stay away from the theatrical makeup. He looks very much like his alter ego in “The Game”, complete with bulbous nose. He is allowed to vent his more severely annoying traits as well.

Hutch, as the referee, yells to the officials, “Expension, expension,” which is an unknown word.

Was the whole set up predicated on the idea that Starsky and Hutch suspect, or are certain, that Camille Boone is the perpetrator of the heinous acts? This is never commented on, or explained, even in the tag. We are then forced to imagine the entire performance – having Candy acknowledge her “true love”, Angel agreeing to take off the mask, etc, and including the “unexpected” element of Boone, unable to stay away, leaping to the ring – was all scripted by Starsky and Hutch to enrage Camille into jumping up and acting out. But was it? How much of this was intentional, and how much was happenstance?

If Starsky and Hutch suspected Camille was homicidal and dangerous, and if they see her enter the wrestling venue, why didn’t they just nab her as she walked in? They could have easily confiscated her weapon and saved everybody a lot of trouble. Camille most likely would have confessed – loudly, ferociously, and at length. It’s unusual enough for a young, single woman to attend a wrestling match to spot her a mile away, although it’s possible they were fooled by her wig and dark glasses.

Both Lillian Spenser and Camille Boone are wives who don’t like the violence in their husbands’ “sports” job. (here, and in “The Heavyweight”)

Coincidence: Eddie “Omaha Tiger” Bell nearly suffocates Hutch in the wrestling ring, Starsky sharply calls it off, saving Hutch. Now Dobey nearly strangles Hutch in wrestling ring by pulling him through two twisted ropes, Starsky sharply calls it off, saving Hutch.

Tag: it’s rather nice how Starsky orders a flamboyant catered affair to celebrate The Angel’s bout, showing his true generous nature. Buzzy says “deep down inside (Camille) hated me.” This is not accurate, and goes even further to showing ol’ Buzz as a genial, good-hearted moron. Camille loved him, deeply and violently. What she hated was the various losers and parasites (and Candy-coated temptations) of the wrestling world that robbed her of the man she loved. Why she translated this into shooting the object of her devotion is a mystery typical of the Forth Season, in which logic is very often sacrificed for splashy theatrics. She should have shot relentless promoter “Smiling” Tommy Reese instead, or better yet, his daughter.

We know Camille is responsible for the attacks on Boone. But is she physically responsible, or did she hire someone to do the dirty deeds? The timed devices are sophisticated. Planting the flashing skull in Boone’s locker isn’t easy, especially if someone were to recognize the ex-wife (no one did). The shooting is delicate, and specific, indicating a professional assassin. The phone calls are perfectly timed. To accomplish all these acts she must have hired a hitman, similar, eerily so, to the similarly named “Angel” of “Cover Girl”, a guy also proficient with bombs and guns. How good would it have been to have Walter “Angel” Allen escape detection in “Cover Girl”, only to pop up and get nabbed in this episode? But that aside, who Camille hired is left unsolved, and unacknowledged, which is too bad.

Starsky’s uncle’s odd generational birth control issues: the uncle has fifteen children, who in turn have a total of only three children among them. Those three children have an astonishing thirty-two children, an average of just over ten children per family. So what happened with the uncle’s children and their lack of offspring? Oh, and one last nice detail – Starsky’s check is dated Jan. 16, 1979, the day this episode originally aired, and an unusual contemporary element.

Clothing notes: suit jackets abound. Hutch looks great in his earth-tone wardrobe, including soft yellow jacket, sun and moon necklace and tusk necklace. Both Starsky and Hutch look less and less like the hoodlums they were always accused of resembling in earlier seasons; they both look like solid citizens in their corduroy and collared shirts.

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11 Responses to “Episode 80: The Golden Angel”

  1. Daniela Says:

    Merry Christmas Merle, thank you for the gift of remembrance that you give us every time you post one of these amazing posts.
    May your holidays be filled with peace and joy and the new year be filled with great writing! (and yes, health, serenity, world peace and all that too)

    Daniela

    • merltheearl Says:

      And a Merry Christmas to you, Daniela! I’m very touched by your kind thoughts. I wish the same for you, your family and friends. And to all the readers of the Merle blog, have a wonderful holiday, wherever you are.

  2. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    I’ve hesitated to comment on this one because the only thing that I’ve have found worthwhile about this episode is your analysis of it. Kudos to you again on amazing detail and obserservations and the effort you put into your reviews. I love reading your blog and look forward to every new post, but I have to say, this episode was a real bomb in my book. It is, unfortunately, characteristic of Season Four. The season I refer to as “when things went so, so wrong.”
    Thanks again for your comments. Even the terrible episodes are made interesting by your analysis.
    Happy and Healthy New Year,
    Lynn

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you both for for thoughtful comments and for staying with me. As you can tell I am trying to make the best of Season Four and make it as interesting as possible. I could say a lot of disparaging things about the episodes and the season in general (and I have, occasionally, when absolutely necessary), but that’s not in the spirit of this blog, and besides it’s no fun being grumpy all the time. There are always gems among the wreckage to be found, even if you need a microscope.

      • daniela Says:

        Merle, I do appreciate the way you handle every episode, especially the duds, because you do find diamonds even in the worse ones…. I look back at them and appreciate them more because of your posts.
        For instance, starsky’s brother, I would have written it off as bad idea, bad acting by the guy playing the brother’s part. But reading your post brought depth where I didn’t see any. So congratulations to you for doing such a great job. Keep it up!
        Happy new year.
        Daniela

  3. Daniela Says:

    I have to concur with Lynn 100%!
    I also hesitated to comment on this and few of the previous episodes, for the a sense of uneasiness I get from them… They are wasted opportunities to make some good shows like the past ones.
    It’s almost like gold being used to make something totally wasted and useless.
    My uneasiness is also compounded by another thing… When I used to watch the shows as a kid in Italy, I don’t remember if they showed the whole set of 4 seasons and in sequence, Italian TV tends to be random like that.
    When I stumbled on it a year or so ago, I started looking for them on YT and they were not in sequence either.
    I noticed the changes in David Soul’s appearance but didn’t make anything of it, I knew it was done in a period of 4 years so that was the reason, but I didn’t see the sequence in it either.
    Now, reading your blog, which I also appreciate and read with much interest, I am watching them again in sequence and I am noticing for the first time the string of bad episodes that was season 4.
    I am embarrassed for them (S&G), and aghast for the way the show was treated! And I think it didn’t have to be that way… I mean if you look at the episodes directed by Glaser and Soul, they could still do great stuff! The last episode was amazing in the depth of emotions and just great cinematic quality! I still am awed every time I look at the scene when Starsky flat-lines.
    But this treatment for the show in the 4th season is almost like a husband wanting to divorce his wife at all costs and he scribbles mustache and horns on her photo to make her look like a fool or a monster so that he would feel more justified in leaving her.
    I understand they were all tired of it, especially Glaser, but they still could have ended it with dignity and have a good last season.
    And maybe we would have had a remake with the two of them instead of the clownish movie that was made, or sequels of them as older detectives, like many people wish, or whatever, because it didn’t end with such a bad taste in everybody’s mouth.
    And looking at the followers and fame that Soul and Glaser still have, in spite of their careers having somewhat declined from that height, I think that if they had kept it up for few more years, they would have been worshiped by their adoring fans even more and would have been up there with the biggest ones in Hollywood.
    In any event, I do love your blog, and I am amazed that you do manage to make interesting even episodes that don’t shine!!
    So, please keep it up and have a great new year!
    Thanks,
    Daniela

  4. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    I really do appreciate your positive attitude, particularly when dealing with some of the less than stellar episodes of Season Four. The boys still deserve our respect as they were not responsible for some of the crap that they had to act their way through at the time, and despite some poor scripts they still managed to deposit some gems among those episodes. I have to keep reminding myself that although the series was groundbreaking in many ways, it was still the 70’s and television has come a long, long way since then.
    I look forward to your reviews, and know that there are a couple of episodes in Season Four that shine, and should be a bit more pleasurable for you to review.
    Thanks so much for this blog,
    Lynn

  5. Survivor Says:

    Talkin’ Season Four Blues … when I first saw Golden Angel on YouTube a couple of years ago, I didn’t think much of it (and that’s putting it lightly). But oddly enough, my husband John quite enjoyed it. He used to enjoy watching World Championship Wrestling (with US origins) on Australian TV in the 70s.

    John has since pointed out and unpacked the ‘professional’ wrestling genre that this episodes uses down to a tee … such as the wrestlers hurling theatrical insults and threats at each other in front of the ring on-camera, but helping each other with their costumes off-camera; and Starsky’s theatrical flapping entrance to the ring as the ‘Golden Angel’, followed by Huggy exaggeratedly playing a harp behind him.

    John also tells me the referees were part of the act and would dreadfully ham it up with diversions and distractions … and I do like Hutch’s aside comment as referee, ‘I can’t work under these conditions!’ (That just about says it all for Season 4!)

    Utter nonsense but that’s the genre … and a far cry from the kind of, er, ‘straight’ wrestling Hutch did at College (Omaha Tiger). I now watch this episode through a different frame, and that to me has made all the difference in enjoying the show.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Coincidentally I had a very similar reaction to this episode. I just decided that Hutch’s big-nosed referee was the funniest thing ever, and my appreciation for the episode increased dramatically.

      Thanks for the information on the weird world of professional wrestling. I think we forget how popular it once was (and still is, to some degree). Which I guess explains why the series kept returning to it, time and time again. At least they didn’t set an episode in the world of roller derby.

  6. King David Says:

    I find myself skipping S4 whenever I have a S&H-a-thon; only the episodes with an arc are really bearable. Ray Walston wasn’t too far removed from My Favourite Martian when this aired; he was probably pleased to throw off that mantle. Pity we didn’t get Bill Bixby in an episode – he was with Glaser in “Houdini”.
    How fabulous, Merl, that you have noted the repeated words that Camille says; makes a great little psychological element that was ahead of its time, I now think.
    Was all the wrestling and boxing stuff, gym scenes etc, put there, do you think, to make it more blokey? Surely by S4 the producers knew that S&H were heart-throbs to a squillion female viewers…so were they trying to distance themselves from the female admiration and return to masculine, gritty, basic-bloke stuff? The storylines in S4 were removed from their best element: seedy hotels, the dirty, mean streets, the inner-city Bay City life, and their interaction with it and its denizens.
    Still, Merl, you have found the gold in each episode when I saw mostly dross. Thank you.

    • Jon Says:

      Ray Walston was almost 15 years removed from My Favorite Martian, nearly forgotten at this point and probably happy to get any work he could.. His career wasn’t revived until 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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