Episode 82: Birds of a Feather

Hutch’s former partner gets into trouble by seeking vengeance against the gangster who pocketed his wife’s savings as a gambling debt.

Luke Huntley: John P Ryan, Anthony Reuben: Allan Arbus, Jimmy: Martin Kove, Doris Huntley: Barbara Stuart, Det. Webster: Charles Cyphers, Gloria: Victoria Peters, Gertrude: Anne Ramsey, Minnie: Marki Bey, Palmer: Sy Kramer, Hotel Clerk: Ruth Forman. Written By: Amanda J Green and Rick Edelstein, Directed By: Charles Picerni.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

While Luke and Hutch enthusiastically greet each other, Gertrude (played by the remarkable Anne Ramsey) remarks to Starsky with dry condescension that it doesn’t seem right to charge her with being a “peeping tom” with “those two guys are carrying on like that in public.” This is an uneasy reference to the grabby physical intimacy that often marks not only the relationship of Starsky and Hutch but with other friends and family members (Jake Donner in “The Plague”, John Colby in “Deadly Imposter” and Starsky’s brother Nick, to name a few). Luke then hugs Starsky hard and Starsky is similarly physical, dabbing Luke’s eyes with his tie as Luke jokes about Hutch making detective first class in seven years (an unusually fast track). Later, when all three approach Luke’s suburban home, Hutch and Luke are again arm-in-arm. At the station, Starsky dismisses Gertrude’s comment lightly, but perhaps this woman, with her polyester pantsuit and putrid scowl, is emblematic of the insufferable ridicule the show has endured over the years.

On a side note, voyeurism and engaging in public displays of affection are not the same thing, no matter how Gertrude tries to swing it. The fact that she compares these, or in fact is excusing or justifying her behavior by pointing out that some sights are worth ogling, is just spiteful on her part.

The Perils of Nostalgia: At The Pits, after another long male-banter session, the sort of bullshit-crap guys indulge in with no women around, Hutch asks about Luke’s wife and Luke makes a disparaging comment about marriage. Hutch is quick to say, “you’ve always been the happiest of couples, huh? Come on.” This defensive remark underscores Hutch’s enduring– and occasionally blinding– sentimental streak. He wants to believe people he admires (particularly married couples) are stable and happy, perhaps as a way of reassuring himself that the misery and dysfunction he sees on the street is not everywhere, and perhaps because he hopes to have the same chance somewhere down the line. He is choosing to overlook or diminish his former partner’s unpleasantness, and his itchy dissatisfaction with himself and his life.

Notice throughout this conversation – and through most of the episode – Starsky maintains a respectful distance, neither contributing to or disagreeing with his partner’s opinions, even when Hutch makes a semi-fool of himself defending Luke and his wife who, while childless, has “enough love for ten kids”. Starsky’s careful glancing at his partner shows a man who is as patient as he is cautious. You can almost read his mind as he watches Hutch hurtling toward disillusionment.

Luke Huntley says, “Cops are on the street more than he’s in the bedroom … I didn’t even give her a kid. I love her like my right hand.” Wait – his right hand? Both Starsky and Hutch admirably resist sniggering at this.

Both Hutch and Starsky have father or mentor figures who weaken and fail (figuratively in the case of Huntley, John Blaine and Mike Ferguson, and literally in the case of Jake Donner) and “best friends” from the past who turn out to be rotten (John Colby) or at least questionable (Ted McDermott in “The Action”). Starsky’s brother is a reprobate. Girlfriends are murdered (Terry and Gillian) or murderous (Diana). “Uncle Joe” Durniak is a Mafiosi. The suits in the LAPD are out to get them (Chief Ryan, etc) as well as a collection of lawyers, fellow officers, and feds. It’s always “who do we trust time”.

Luke is an unpleasant, agitated, gum-chewing, facile character, disparaging his assignment as soon as he gets it and seeming to have a big chip on his shoulder about what he’s entitled to, as well having a grudge against marriage in general and his wife in particular. Has he soured over the years, or has Hutch always been willing to overlook his irritating flaws? Luke boasts that he taught Hutch everything he knows. Can this possibly be true?

Anthony Reuben, played by the slightly miscast Allan Arbus (those soulful eyes can’t quite manage genuine menace), is another suit-wearing crime boss in a nice, paneled office, with ferns and a glittering cognac-stocked bar. However, he is the only one in the canon who comes off as equitable and practical rather than sadistic or scheming. Throughout, he maintains an intellectual composure verging on pleasant, an old-fashioned gangster with an actual moral code.

What time is it when Doris comes home, and moments later, the guys arrive? There is sunlight, and also darkness. There are shadows cast, but evening crickets singing.

Why does Doris wonder if Luke is home, calls out for him, when it is clear his car isn’t in the driveway and all the lights are off?

It seems odd that Doris, a cop’s wife for twenty-five years, would address Starsky as “Mr. Starsky,” after he is introduced as Hutch’s partner. Rank appears to be pretty important to cops, and she would know it. Is Doris making a faux pas when she addresses Starsky as a civilian? There are other examples of title corrections, for instance in “Partners”, when Dobey corrects the nurse, telling her to address him by his rank, and in “Black and Blue”, when Hutch corrects Mary when she calls him “Mister,” saying it’s “Officer.” An entertaining explanation for this – implausible, perhaps, but fun to think about – is that Doris is somehow excusing Starsky from the bad behavior she associates with police officers by seeing him as a man first, a cop second. Luke probably entered the force sometime in the late 1960s, which means Doris has seen the worst the institutional chauvinism, racism and general lousy attitude so prevalent in the department until the “liberated” 70s.

Where has Luke been all these years? Why has Hutch lost touch with him? Luke is nicely ensconced in his bungalow, and he’s still with the department. And yet Hutch has never been to his house and has never met him off-hours. And Luke has to re-introduce him to his wife.

What do you suppose is Starsky’s attitude toward Luke? Marginally friendly, he also accepts Luke’s importance to Hutch without seeming to be bothered by his partner’s hero-worship. Starsky throughout the series is the master of the non-committal, and would have made a great psychiatrist if he hadn’t gone in for law enforcement. But one gets the feeling he is deeply skeptical of Luke and all he represents.

Hutch reveals more of his blind spot when he remarks to Starsky as they walk off, “she got sick in a hurry, didn’t she?” Starsky says, careful as always, “You’re the family friend. How’d you diagnose it?” and Hutch says, “I don’t think I want to.” I’m waiting for Starsky to take out a little notebook and say, “hmm. And how did that make you feel?”

Why, after Luke makes his touching speech to his wife about her troubles are all his fault, does he abuse her in public? He’s rude about her at Huggy’s but in private he’s supportive. Does he think he has to be a macho shit around other men? Does he assume the new breed – the much-younger Starsky and Hutch, both on the cusp of feminism – are not that much different than he is, and fall into the women-are-bad-news category?

It’s nice to see our friend Sy Kramer again, this time as a protected witness against Reuben. Kramer, as in “Cover Girl”, manages to imbue his small role with a remarkably crisp superciliousness, making Palmer not only a major pain to protect, but memorably so.

Does it matter that Jimmy shoots Palmer so that Palmer flies backwards out the window and down several stories? Wouldn’t a “quieter” murder give Jimmy more time to leave the hotel without detection? This way chambermaids are screaming and people are alerted to the grisly scene nearly instantaneously, making a discreet getaway more difficult than it has to be.

Huntley says to Reuben, “either you pay off, or I blow the whistle that you arranged it.” Who is threatening who at this point? And does it really matter? Both have about an equal amount of dirt on the other; Huntley could have spun this differently, but since his goal was to get the money back, he was forced into a corner. He blackmails Anthony Reuben with a tape recording that not only implicates Reuben, but just as strongly implicates himself. How was Luke going to explain his voice on the tape?

Reuben tries to set Luke up as a “high-minded cop with too many years on the force … and too little to show for it … finally breaks down and goes on the take.” Does Reuben understand the situation, or is he making excuses his old adversary? It is somehow difficult to imagine Luke as “high-minded” about anything, but perhaps he really has suffered a significant moral decay. He wouldn’t be the first.

Enraged by Dobey’s skepticism, Hutch yells that “Luke was a cop with twenty-five years on the force!” using a long career as a way of convincing Dobey of Huntley’s integrity. In “Strange Justice” it’s Dobey indignantly using the twenty-years-on-the-force argument to bolster Dan Slate’s honor, a fact Hutch pointedly ignores.

“Where you going,” Starsky says calmly as Hutch rages about Luke’s innocence and then starts to leave. Hutch blows him off. Dobey looks at Starsky. “What do you think?” he asks him. Starsky replies, “What do you think I think?” The two of them look at each other as if they have come to an understanding. But the question remains: what is Starsky thinking? That Luke is innocent? Or that Hutch is wrong? Or that Hutch needs to be left alone? What?

Doris tells Hutch, “I’ve been a cop’s wife long enough to have learned not to ask any questions.” Apparently Luke is of the same school, although asking more questions over the past ten years might have averted the situation. Luke should start with, “Honey, where are your wedding rings?”

Luke’s a seasoned cop. He should have put Jimmy on the floor, or better yet handcuffed him, in order to secure this deadly killer. Standing upright with hands against the wall does nothing, a fact Jimmy dramatically proves.

Hutch has Luke’s photo with him at the murder scene. He’s obviously begun suspecting him long before, and yet he’s kept it to himself, in yet another instance of the two partners being estranged from one another.

Hutch tells Starsky before they get to the warehouse stand-off with Reuben and Luke, “Look, I promised Doris I’d give her the money.” Interesting that money is the motivating factor – and indeed the rationale – for all the death and despair in the lives of these people. Doris tells Hutch about Luke but extracts a promise Hutch will return the money to her, putting Hutch in a terrible moral dilemma. Luke sets up Reuben and Hutch for the money. Luke sets up Palmer for the money. Hutch tries to convince Dobey the money is more important than career, integrity, or even human lives. In the end, it is unclear if Doris gets the money but she sure loses her husband. If Doris thought waiting for him to come home from work was lonely, she now gets to wait out a shameful prison sentence.

Dobey muses, regarding Hutch’s comment defending Huntley, that he’s thankful he would never have to make that decision. Just for fun though, would Dobey make the same decision as Huntley, in his place? Would Hutch?

Hutch doesn’t have one bit of hesitation about taking Starsky with him after Luke asks Hutch to come alone to the meet. We’d all like to think Hutch would have taken him no matter what, but what if Starsky hadn’t come walking up to him in the middle of the phone call? Would Hutch looked for Starsky before he left, or was his decision more of a more well, he’s here anyway, so why not thing?

Hutch lies to Huntley about two things: the time of the meet and coming alone. He must have justify this to himself in some way. Does he consider Starsky so much apart of himself that he doesn’t even make the distinction that bringing him isn’t technically alone, or does he feel at this point Huntley doesn’t deserve honesty? And also, his having a partner to bring seems to accentuate the fact Huntley is deeply, tragically isolated. A partner of his own throughout this ordeal might have eased his burden.

Notice how Hutch doesn’t try to hide Starsky as he walks toward Luke.

Why do Reuben’s henchmen wear suits? What possible purpose can this serve? Does Reuben insist on a dress code, thinking this increases the intimidation factor?

Luke tells Reuben he “preys on lonely people”, that he is evil, but really it’s Doris’ own fault that she got into this mess. Reuben can be blamed only so far: does Doris and others like her have no responsibility in this?

Starsky is, as usual, calm and detached throughout this episode, as he is very often in the fourth season. A quiet conversation between the two of them about the situation would have much improved this episode which has, for all its narrative suspense, a kind of dull inevitability about it.

What is to become of Doris? Her husband is in jail, disgraced. Her fifty grand probably ends up in the police fund as Huntley fears. She’s got a major gambling addiction, no support and is going to be lonelier than ever.

The title of this episode is ambiguous, and with everything in the Starsky & Hutch canon, I’m never sure if the ambiguity is purposeful or accidental on the part of the writers. Frankly, it hardly matters now, because the critical exercise is fun no matter what. The well-known phrase is “birds of a feather flock together.” This means people of similar attitudes and behaviors always end up together, or “like attracts like”. Ornithologists explain this behavior as a safety-in-numbers tactic to reduce the risk of predation. Who might this refer to in this episode? It could be addicts and their exploiters or cops, backing each other up no matter what. It might be husbands and wives, despite the lies, or Huntley and Reuben, sharing a cell. Or Starsky and Hutch, once again united against the world. Or does the title infer Luke Huntley and Tony Reuben are closer in spirit than either one of them would admit? One reading might be that this is Luke’s desperate attempt to make sense of, and control, his out-of-control life. He imagines he and Hutch are two of a kind, basically good men but with no limits, capable of anything if pushed. I can almost hear him saying it. “You and me, we’re not like other people. You threaten the people we love, and we won’t stop at anything – anything – to make sure you pay.” Casting our mind forward to “Sweet Revenge” and this comparison becomes even more troubling. Is Hutch like Luke? My take is that no, he’s not. Hutch has limits, he has a line he will not cross. Not even for love.

Tag: Juxtapose Doris and her gambling activities with Dobey, Huggy, Starsky and Hutch avidly betting over pool at Huggy’s. Jokes about Dobey’s weight, and the final gag, become tiresome, but the tone is light and fun and it’s great to see Dobey and Huggy getting along. But note how Dobey slips into jive talk as they play pool, as if all black men, even suit-and-tie-wearing suburban types, are secretly part of the same ghettoized subculture. Say what?

Clothing Notes: throughout this episode Hutch wears a beautiful pair of off-white pants that average men should not attempt. I also like Starsky’s jacket with epaulets in a nearly matching color. Guest star John Ryan is perfectly outfitted in a series of Death of a Salesman suits, rumpled, ill-fitting and anonymous, reeking desperation so rank you can almost smell it.

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16 Responses to “Episode 82: Birds of a Feather”

  1. Daniela Says:

    good review as usual. I looked at this episode again, recently somebody on youtube posted most of the episodes in single files and no commercials!
    Amazing how the integrity of Starsky and Hutch looks even more sterling when compared to these cops that go bad, and yet they too are not above small lies and small vices….
    I guess they can’t be saints!

    Your post on the music of the show was also very good. I never paid much attention to it, especially background music, but now that I read your post, I started noticing it!
    The best musical parts of the show are, like you said, when both of them sang. Nice and sweet, and very romantic in most cases.
    But I tell you another reason why, that was the best part, coming from another country,: the shows were dubbed, but not the singing, and so that was the only time we foreigners got to hear their real voices! Sweet!
    Daniela

    • merltheearl Says:

      I love your story about the dubbed version of the series – it makes a very nice addition to the Music post. Like most actors both Glaser and Soul had beautiful voices, and it would be sad not to hear them! Thanks for the comment.

  2. Daniela Says:

    well, then I’ll tell you more about watching Starsky and Hutch in Italy, dubbed.
    Italy had the best dubbing artists, most times they are actors themselves who do a great job. But the field is somehow restricted when it comes to tv shows, so many of the tv shows in the 70s and 80s had the same voices. I remember Hutch having the same voice as Roger Moore in the Pretenders and possibly some other guys.
    It was a bit disconcerting, but one gets used to it because that is what you have….
    But now that I live in the US and can actually see and understand the show in the original language, I looked for them in Italian, and sure enough many of the episodes are available on different sites.
    Looking at one or two in Italian, I noticed that the translation of the dialogs is not as accurate as it should be….
    I am sure, with so many shows coming in every season, fast and furious was the operating mode, so some things were literally lost in the translation.

    It’s mostly incidental sentences, so the thrust of the story is the same, but some expressions are not rendered the same way, either because there is no Italian equivalent to the expressions, or because the translators had no idea of what they actually said in English….
    Sometimes references were modified to make sense to an Italian audience.
    So, after watching one or two episodes in Italian, I decided I didn’t like it and I stopped.
    It’s the nature of the beast, in a sense, but I felt like we were somewhat shortchanged….
    And yet, Starsky and Hutch still has a huge following in Italy.
    Is it only the power of the good looks? I don’t know, but I can’t help thinking what following they would have had if people had seen them in their own voices, doing heir own acting.
    Scary!
    Daniela

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write this most entertaining glimpse into the Italian Starsky and Hutch. It would be fascinating to have reports from places around the world where the series was and is loved. New Delhi, Argentina?

      • McPierogiPazza Says:

        It was popular in France where they have a cheesetastic opening theme. Here’s my rough translation (though I’ll happily defer to more fluent speakers):

        Starsky et Hutch, Starsky et Hutch
        Des nouveaux chevaliers au grand coeur
        Mais qui n’ont jamais peur de rien
        Starsky et Hutch, Starsky et Hutch
        Deux flics un peu rêveurs et rieurs
        Mais qui gagnent toujours à la fin

        Starsky and Hutch, Starsky and Hutch
        Big-hearted new knights
        who aren’t afraid of anything
        Starsky and Hutch, Starsky and Hutch
        Two cops who dream and laugh a bit
        but who always win in the end

        Quand les bandits sont tous en cavale
        En voiture c’est poursuites infernales
        Mais Huggy sait où ils sont cachés
        Pour les arrêter

        When the bandits are on the loose
        There are crazy car chases
        But Huggy knows where they are hiding
        to arrest them.

        The country that produced Victor Hugo, Baudelaire and other greats somehow came up with that. The French posts on YouTube with the US versions are full of debate about which is better — the French version or various US ones.

        Since the French don’t have the English “h” sound the show has ‘utch and ‘uggy.

        Huggy Bear is “Huggy les bons tuyaux” which is Huggy Good Tips.

        Looking at Wikipedia in French I see that the voiceover actors, who also did the British show The Persuaders, were comedians who added jokes in places where they did not exist in the original.

        Yes, French fans liked the car too.

      • Adelaide Says:

        McPierogiPazza, this description of the French dub of Starsky and Hutch and the “theme song” had me in stitches of laughter. I was checking my email on the bus and started giggling loudly while reading this comment to the confusion of everyone around me! What kinds of “added jokes” were there?

        I have a hard time imagining a Starsky without the New York accent. O.O Did the dubbing reflect things like that, like, for example, “Les Miserables” where the lower-class French people speak English in Cockney accents despite living in Paris?

  3. Anachron Says:

    Hi, Merle! I love your blog! I’ve just re-discovered S&H — I watched the series in its original run when I was in high school. Now, a lifetime later, there is so much more to see and appreciate in each episode, and your thoughtful and thought-provoking observations and analysis make watching them all the more enjoyable.

    Thoughts about the title: my first impression was that it might be referencing, as you suggested, the similarities between Reuben and Luke, as well as the kinship that S&H share. One could argue that perhaps Hutch and Luke haven’t kept in touch because they’re inherently different types of people, and that Hutch is much more akin to his current partner, Starsky – good, strong, and incorruptible, unlike the disillusioned and susceptible Luke. After re-watching the episode, I think it’s not so black-and-white. Maybe Hutch is not incorruptible by nature, but is so only by choice, or only in combination with Starsky; maybe he’s at risk himself. He spends much of the story blind to his friend’s problems and wrongdoings, and even after the truth begins to dawn he still appears to be conflicted between loyalty to Luke and doing the right thing.

    Starsky is so very quiet, detached, and observant throughout the episode, and seems almost omniscient at times; I can imagine him acting as a plot device – as Hutch’s conscience, or maybe as a metaphor for what is right. In almost every scene he watches everyone, Hutch especially, carefully, knowingly. You mentioned the scene at Huggy’s where Starsky watches the interaction between Luke and Hutch, and that he seems to be able to see where the whole thing is headed. Later, in the hotel room, Hutch asks Webster, “are you trying to tell me that Luke set this thing up?” Starsky, who has been pretty quiet throughout this, looks to Hutch at just that moment, as if he’s checking to see when the truth will register with his partner. And again, in Dobey’s office, he watches Hutch and Dobey intently as Hutch defends Luke. Starsky has no independent action in the story, but moves quietly through it, almost ghost-like, attending Hutch. In dialogue, his role seems to be to move Hutch’s thought process along: “you’re the family friend, how would you diagnose it?” regarding Doris’ claimed illness; “what’s that supposed to mean?” in response to Webster; “what’s going on?” after Hutch produces Luke’s picture – all prompts to nudge Hutch towards an understanding of what really is happening.

    Hutch slowly comes to accept the truth, and tries to persuade Luke that he’s “gotta come in” – i.e., do the right thing. I think Luke’s refusal, with his demand that Hutch come alone to the warehouse, is a pivotal point for Hutch; he’s torn between helping Luke, on Luke’s terms (to “pick up the pieces” and get the money to Doris), and handling the situation properly and averting the complete disaster that will result if Luke faces Reuben alone. Hutch makes his choice – the right choice, to try to head off Luke – and then lies about coming alone. Because Hutch makes the right choice, Starsky, as the embodiment of righteousness, must accompany him — no choice there for Hutch or Starsky. Maybe, on this same abstract level, it could also explain why Luke is so insistent that Hutch come alone: once in combination with Starsky there is no chance that Hutch will ever be persuaded to *not* do the right thing. It’s the flock thing.

    There are lovely visual moments in the warehouse that could tie in with this: after they enter, Hutch moves forward into the shadow, leaving Starsky in stark illumination, a visual metaphor; and when Luke and Hutch talk, Starsky remains a remote and isolated figure in the background, with Luke in the foreground and Hutch caught in the middle between them. Luke may once have been as good and honorable as Hutch and Starsky are, but he won’t be swayed now, not even by Starsky’s direct appeal (“Don’t be a cowboy. We’re here. Let us help”). And maybe, under the right set of circumstances – without Starsky? – Hutch, too, could make the wrong choice. Like Dobey says, you can only pray to never have to face such a decision.

    Sorry for the book; it’s late, and completely over-analyzed, I know, but it was a fun exercise. Thanks so much for your review — I’m looking forward to reading them all (and please don’t stop after you’ve run through all the episodes!).

    • merltheearl Says:

      Anachron, I am impressed by your thought-provoking observations. I agree with you about Starsky taking the role of the moral touchstone in this episode, and although I commented originally on his watchful presence in the Pits I didn’t fully contemplate how he maintains this throughout the entire episode. It’s a subtlety I might have expected from a script written by series veterans Amanda Green and Rick Edelstein. I also am delighted to read your fresh perspective of Hutch’s variable nature, particularly in regard to the danger of his own corruptibility. I believe neither of us are saying he is capable of impropriety or genuine malfeasance, but the fact is Hutch is at war with himself in one way or another throughout the run of the series, and when he says to Starsky “I promised Doris I’d get her the money” he is allowing, albeit briefly, the idea of revenge to overshadow the larger ethical issues here. Under Luke’s sway, Hutch may have weakened. He may have weakened at that moment, in danger of becoming an odd duck like Luke, and it’s only Starsky’s solid presence keeping him where he should be. The staging at the warehouse, as you rightly describe, substantiates this issue. I wish these ideas were better served in this episode, less between the lines and more fully realized, but it’s fun and worthwhile to air them here. I will forward to more of your observations in the future! And of course I always enjoy wardrobe comments, too.

    • King David Says:

      Wow. As Huggy would say, “that’s heavy, man.”

      I am so shallow I didn’t even think of this analogy, but it works very well. Of course it makes me happy that Starsky is again the bastion of propriety and the quiet guardian of Hutch’s conscience, and with your comments in mind I shall have to view it again.
      I don’t warm to Luke at all, and I wonder at the casting whereby someone whom the lads are fond of comes across as so unlikeable. Anyway…
      Yes, it’s Doris’s fault – she made the conscious decision to gamble. However, did she slip into it in a mild way initially as a distraction from boredom? And is the childlessness her fault? Luke says he didn’t giver her a kid (callous words), but perhaps spot on…if so, she was a decent wife to stay. Many may have left to have family with someone else, love or not.
      I believe that S&H see each other as two sides of the same coin, workwise, and each will reinforce the other if needed. They believe they ARE alone, together as a unit, if there is no third party along. Luke must have realised this, as he’s seen them together, and surely there would’ve been some conversation with Dobey in Dobey’s office about the relationship.
      Also, isn’t Starsky also a Det Sgt First Class?
      They are all fairly matey-matey in the police corridor. Starsky allows himself to be manhandled by Huntley.
      Note on the right hand comment: yes, these days I would raise my eyebrows, but I believe it to be a reference to the importance of a person, Mafiosi-style, as in “Joe is my right-hand-man”, and without this person, there is a huge gap, a void, and the Don would feel vulnerable.
      I miss the blue superlights. Adidas had a brown-and-tan version…perhaps they are what Starsky has in S4.

    • Adelaide Says:

      Anachron, what an amazing observation about Starsky’s role in this episode and what he represents and symbolizes for Hutch. I’m not one to be very taken with explanations that rely on making up conjectures that aren’t visibly connected to vibes that I can actually feel in the episodes themselves, so let me tell you that the observations in your comment were so mind-blowingly perfect that I ran over to youtube to rewatch the episode with your comments in mind, and not only is this interpretation very visible in all Starsky’s scenes with Hutch, but they feel absolutely natural and in-sync with the rest of the episode and Hutch’s inner dilemma and emotional turmoil. It’s almost easy to believe that the writers or actors intended for it to be that way, although of course there’s no way of knowing that, given the lack of explicit tells.

      The idea of Starsky acting as Hutch’s conscience and embodying something good – purity, incorruptibility, integrity, whatever – in Hutch’s mind, and the idea that Anna emphasizes – that in this episode, we get a glimpse of an explicitly Hutch-POV, that this, the ever-present steadfast figure in the light, is what Hutch sees in Starsky in times of uncertainty and darkness, is absolutely beautiful and lends an extra layer of depth and poignancy to their “rough patch” of season 4. As if at least some of Hutch’s increasingly troubled behavior during this season stems from frustration and anxiety about his own increasing emotional dependence on Starsky’s loyalty and on their intense bond which has stayed intact – has even strengthened, as though tempered in a furnace – in the face of disappointment, disillusionment, and ugliness everywhere else.

      • merltheearl Says:

        Adelaide, I really appreciate you taking the time to add your lovely and intelligent comments to this discussion – and also to award you the coveted One Thousandth Comment trophy. Congratulations!

  4. Anachron Says:

    P.S. What is with all the ugly beige leather footwear in the first scene? I believe the show switched from Adidas to Nike in Season 4, right? But geez, Starsky, Hutch, and Gertrude look like they all hit the same fire sale.

  5. Anna Says:

    I actually really liked Allan Arbus as Reuben. It’s true he doesn’t exude menace at all, but I found that unique and memorable — his demeanor is of a nice, calm, reasonable guy, and contrasted with his cold, calculating actions, it’s pretty creepy. Mind you, I *was* constantly expecting him to be pulling out a notebook and going “hmm, that’s interesting, how does that make you feel, Luke?” whenever Huntley was sounding off at him, thanks to the 3874374637 MASH reruns I’ve seen in my life, where Dr. Sydney Freeman was one of my favorite recurring characters, so it made me chuckle when you mentioned that Starsky almost behaves like a psychiatrist toward Hutch. I guess both mentor and mentee could use a few good rounds of therapy to get their issues out of their systems, huh?

    I’ve got to disagree that John Blaine had anything in common with Huntley in the “failure” department. Apart from the fact that Huntley’s letdown is a million times more morally defective, they’re just very different animals. Blaine’s reveal was an expansion and explanation of his character, something that gave him *more* depth, *more* dimensions, and changes Starsky by planting a prejudice-destroying seed. It’s not a failure or weakening, it’s a complication of his role as mentor, which is very different from Huntley. Huntley’s reveal is an implosion and collapse of everything Hutch believed or imagined about him into ruins, and forced Hutch to let go of him and all the ideas attached to him. It’s a reduction of his role as mentor, a lesson and warning by example to Hutch to remind him to *not* let himself change too much.

    Your and Anachron’s comments about Starsky’s role in this episode are just fascinating and so spot-on and really adds another layer of depth to this episode. It inspired me to immediate go rewatch it to spot those things. You also recently mentioned in the comments for Starsky vs Hutch that throughout season 4, Starsky has a bit of a mirror/prophet-esque role for Hutch. I think this extremely thought-provoking idea shows most clearly in this episode here, where it appears that Starsky has the feeling that things between Hutch and Huntley are going to go pear-shaped quite early but realizes that trying to confront Hutch about it rather than letting him realize it for himself won’t work. It makes me wish I knew what he was thinking! One of the really interesting things about episodes that focus heavily on the non-partnership-related issues of one half of the partnership over another is the really awesome way we get to see what the partnership means to them as individual people rather than as a duo. In this episode, we get to have a look at what Starsky means to Hutch when it comes to issues that have to do with Hutch’s personal history and relationship with an outside, and nothing to do with their partnership. And when you examine it from this point of view, like Anachron’s fantastic analysis, it’s quite breathtaking and powerful in its implications. It’s so gratifying in a way, makes you go “man, is this part of what Hutch sees in him?” It has some definite role-reversed parallels to “Pariah,” in my opinion.

    Starsky’s quiet, ghostlike presence (at Hutch’s shoulder rather than at his side) throughout the episode, throughout which he exists in a purely auxiliary role for Hutch — he has little agency and nothing of his own going on onscreen with him outside of where he intersects with Hutch’s relationship with Huntley — helps craft this image wonderfully. It’s just too bad it’s so buried that it’s hard to see on a first viewing, or without knowing what to look for. Some shots do seem to indicate that the director had at least an inkling of self-aware intent though — that shot of Hutch talking to Huntley in the shadows in the foreground while Starsky waits in the pool of light behind him is hard to do by accident.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Brilliantly observed, thank you. I hasten to emphasize I don’t think Blaine is a failure at all, either as a man or a mentor. I was implying, in my clumsy way, that there is a larger social deficiency at work here, undermining any chance Blaine may have had to be a fully actualized human being. Like Huntley, Blaine did not trust anyone, he had a destabilizing secret that affected his work and relationships and compromised his actions. The failure was not his, but unfortunately he was the one to bear it. I probably could have explained that more sensitively.

      • Anna Says:

        Ah, that makes a lot more sense! Thank you for clarifying that. Yeah, I guess Huntley and Blaine do have a lot in common at first — their actions just diverge sharply soon after being introduced (well, I suppose since Blaine dies, he doesn’t really “act” and we don’t know how he would have played it if he and Starsky had to confront each other over his secret the way Hutch and Huntley did…a pity. That would have been a fascinating conversation if TV hadn’t been so jittery about non-dead good gay people back then.)

  6. Sharon Marie Says:

    Starsky frequently acts as Hutch’s anchor. Here, though, we see it at its most obvious. He stays back and lets Hutch move forward in whatever he has cooking in his brain at the moment. He knows that interfering will only bring about HutchRage. He watches and waits to reel him back in should the time come. He validates things to Hutch with glances and nods without taking over for him. Starsky knows that when Hutch gets like this he needs to drive his own ship without a second mate back seat driving. If he needs to put the brakes on, he can, but prefers to let things happen naturally because its the only way Hutch will allow the haze to clear. Starsky can lecture him. He can put up signs and buy Hutch a bucket of clues. But Hutch wants to think what he wants to think.

    It was nice to see Hutch in Dobey’s office discussing the case as colleagues, almost as though Hutch was seeking out his advice.

    David Soul in white jeans and a tucked in dark navy blue button down long sleeved shirt. I can take that any day and sure beats those bowling shirts!

    Could have done without the soulful harmonica at times. Sounded like it was going to break into, “Nobody knows, the trouble I seen…”. It was kind of out of place for me.

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