Episode 86: Targets Without a Badge Part 2

After Lionel Rigger is killed and they resign from the force, Starsky and Hutch look for work. But a meeting with a girl from Starsky’s past unwittingly involves them again with the same powers they had tried to bring down with Lionel’s help.

Allison May (Laura Anderson): Hilary Thompson, Thomas May (Uncle Frank): Bert Remsen, Judge McClellan: Peter MacLean, James Gunther: William Prince, Clayburn: Ken Kercheval, Agent Smithers: Richard Herd, Agent Waldheim: Angus Duncan, Soldier: Robert Tessier, Karen: Lee Bryant, Bates: Alex Courtney, Policewoman: Barbara Ann Walters, Mr. Gore: Darryl Zwerling, Miss Evers: Catherine Campbell, Flower Girl: Sandie Newton, Blaze: Gino Conforti, Nancy: Joan Roberts, Fred Oates: Peter Jason, Marty: Chuck Hicks, Alex: Charles Picerni, Mardean: Troas Hayes, Mayor: Dave Shelley, Mrs. Swayder: LaWanda Page, Dodds: Ben Young. Written By: Joe Reb Moffly, Steven Nalevansky and Jeffrey Bloom, Directed By: Earl Bellamy.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

With this intense double episode, the stage is set for the final episode in the series, “Sweet Revenge”. In this, the biggest, most serious, and difficult case of the series, Starsky and Hutch’s powerful and still unknown enemy continues to call the shots as the guys unwittingly close in on him while trying to help Starsky’s old friend. But while Starsky and Hutch are reinstated into the department at the end, they continue to be bothered by the question of who is behind everything, a question only solved in the series finale.

No longer cops, Starsky and Hutch still spend every waking moment together. They look for jobs together, go to counseling together, eat together, and go back to Starsky’s place to discuss the facts of Thomas May’s case. No professional partnership any more, and they’re never more intensely “together” than in this episode.

The opening scene is truly wonderful as Starsky passes the time with a 1930s-style sand dance in the street while kicking a can. He’s graceful and without a trace of self-consciousness. I like how he misses the can at first, then incorporates that into the movement. Starsky seems to have moved up in the world since we saw his pad last. This is a distinctly upper crust neighborhood, with winding roads, parkland, and big houses. Oddly, the Torino isn’t parked in what might be “his” space, but rather precariously perched on the narrow shoulder of the road.

Hutch pulls up driving Nash Metropolitan convertible we later learn he has just purchased (probably for a tidy sum, since it’s in excellent condition and very collectible, which means unemployed Hutch is not worried about money). The car – and its name – the umbrella, tweed suit, hat and jaunty humming are all powerfully ridiculous. Hutch has gone all Wooster in his few days off the force. As he pulls up and begins fussing with his umbrella and scarf we realize this is another kind of dance, about as loving and selfless as we ever see throughout the series. Hutch knows exactly what he’s doing with his silly props. He’s giving Starsky both a distraction and plenty of ammunition. He’s saying: here, take this and run with it. Do your best. His ingenuous question, “nice little car, huh?” is like lighting the fuse.

And why is Hutch sacrificing himself by offering to be the subject of ridicule? Because he feels responsible for the situation. All this – the car, umbrella, striped scarf and hat – is his elaborate apology for the loss of not only their jobs, but their place in the world. And to Hutch’s way of thinking, it’s an eye for an eye world, which means he must personally suffer the same punishment he feels he inflicted on the partnership. When Starsky at first refuses to take the bait, Hutch pulls him back. He is going to do this, no matter what, he’s going to take his lumps. “No wait a minute,” he insists. “You didn’t tell me what you think.” And Starsky accepts the challenge. Look how his cutting words – “a grown man wouldn’t drive a car like that” is tempered by the amusement in his eyes. “Not a grown man,” he adds. Yes, it’s a mild rebuke, but it’s sort of perfect how he attacks the one thing Hutch has prided himself on for years, namely his maturity.

Note the guy out for his morning walk, happening upon this inscrutable scene. He stares, uncomprehending, before heading off.

Considering how many bombs/assassination attempts these guys have endured, Starsky’s reluctance to search the Torino is mighty puzzling. Maybe he’s just so aggravated at Hutch’s tweediness he can’t think straight. At least he comes to his senses eventually when Hutch’s voice changes from an annoying harangue to genuine caution. Good thing too, for the cat, at least. Although I don’t know why the cat is a signal to stop looking – they hardly started. Contrast this with the wordlessly long search in “The Specialist”.

Why do you suppose it’s assumed they will drive together to their appointment?

Are they really looking for a job? With their police credentials, experiences, and commendations? Wouldn’t they at least apply with the FBI, or some international security firm? What sort of jobs were they going for, anyway, something in hairdressing? Maybe dance instruction?

The Employment Development Quandary: And here, again, is our distinctive old friend Darryl Zwerling playing another nerdy, hopeless type. Starsky asks Hutch how he did on the aptitude test, which seems to ask questions such as “if you were a farmer, which would you raise, cows or goats?” and “if you were married, would you take another woman to lunch?”. This is not any test I am personally aware of, which means the California Labor Branch has some very odd ideas. Starsky and Hutch seem to have fallen into a funhouse of impossible exams, collapsing furniture, houseplants, indoor murals and squeaky blondes.

Hutch, once again, is mistaken for Starsky by the guy at the employment office.

Between his time at the Playpen in “Vampire” and here, Starsky has learned to pronounce “debonair”. Of course the joke is Starsky has always known how to say it. He just says it wrong because it annoys his pal.

Hutch appears not to want Starsky in on the “great opportunity” he finds in the newspaper, jerking it away when Starsky attempts to see it (he’ll do the same thing later in Allison’s house when he finds the photo album), but a second later he says with a grin, “I think we ought to check that one out, huh?” meaning he meant for Starsky to join him, all along. Why the mixed messages? Is this just a habit with Hutch, or what? Then Starsky tries to talk him into going to a matinée at least once, and Hutch says in a mean way, “Alone?” and Starsky gives him a wounded “hey.” Throughout the entire run of the series, can it be that Starsky only nears his limit twice, once in “The Shootout”, when sarcastically calls him a “shaft of sunlight” and once in “Little Girl Lost” when he calls Hutch on his cruel streak?

There are some great psychic moves in the scene in which they stop the chase using that poor man’s car, allowing an open the door to crash the motorcycle. They never even look at each other throughout, much less make sure each other is on the same page, but it all works seamlessly. The cops are strikingly nonchalant when arriving to clean up the scene and make arrests – no “who the hell are you guys?!” or anything. Starsky and Hutch stroll away and there’s no attempt to hold them for questioning, or even have them give a witness statement, an explanation, or anything.

I like how Starsky half-remembers Allison as she walks away. He’s bothered, but doesn’t know why, and his thoughtfulness is nicely underplayed.

Gunther remarks that Starsky and Hutch won’t be alive much longer as long as “if they follow their present pattern”. What pattern is that, exactly? Drinking coffee and looking for jobs?

It is not the Year of the Dog, as Blaze says on the phone. That won’t fall until January 25, 1982. Perhaps Blaze is making an altogether naughtier reference.

The scene in the pornography studio is hilarious. It’s fun to see Gino Conforti, late of “The Fix”, in another priceless sleazoid role. The whole double-entendre of “we do everything together” and Hutch’s shy admission that he can do handstands (and Starsky’s charming nod in response to this – turns out he’s proud of Hutch’s handstands) coupled with Blaze’s oozing enthusiasm for their talents as a “team” and how “fit” they look is a great little set piece and actually a bit disconcertingly adults-only, even now.

I would like to know what sitting position aggravates sinuses.

Huggy seems to have calmed down somewhat by the time they come around The Pits again. “I’m just sounding off, is all,” he apologizes. What changed his mind? Did their resignations shake him, just a little?

Let’s ignore for now the fact both Starsky and Hutch buy the improbable coincidence of Allison appearing – alone – in a place like The Pits so soon after they meet her. Starsky, in his focused and quiet way, gets up to talk to her. Hutch blusters, trying for time, wanting to get her before Starsky does. So he suggests a stupid game. Starsky watches him the way a charmer watches a cobra, listening patiently to Hutch and then following orders by hiding his eyes and thinking of a number. Hutch thinks sucka and dashes off to introduce himself to Allison. But of course Starsky is acting. He plays dumb, the way he always does, with every assurance things will work out his way in the end. He’s just going to let Hutch blunder around until he gets tired and then he himself will quietly step in and get what he wants. What Huggy thinks of all these mind games is difficult to determine, yet he’s watching the whole thing very closely.

The seduction of Allison seems abstract, somehow. She’s reduced to all-purpose Female and the flirty come-ons seem by rote. It’s as if the frustration level of the two jobless detectives is so high it has to seek an outlet, and fake sexual acting-out is as good an outlet as any other.

Hutch’s description of the pornographic movie he was almost in, the “passion of a woman or a man and his friend” is remarkably, and hilariously, suggestive. His comfort level with Allison, to entertain her with this potentially embarrassing anecdote, is a little surprising. I’m not sure I would tell that story to someone I have just met.

Why does Starsky purchase three tickets to the Boston Symphony? And why the Boston Symphony, anyway? Why not the Los Angeles Symphony? Do symphonies even travel?

When Starsky recognizes Laura Anderson the wind is literally knocked out of him. A huh, like an exhale. It’s a great, spontaneous moment.

It’s strange to hear Hutch call Starsky “David”.

Allison says she heard about Starsky from the newspaper reports about the Judge McClelland case. While this goes to show how much publicity the case received – one can imagine the “Tragic Murder Leads to Brave Cops’ Resignation” headlines – I’m sure they’ve figured prominently in other stories, in other years. Hadn’t she heard about them before? She says she’s lived on the west coast for most of her life, probably in and around Los Angeles. Starsky and Hutch have been in plenty of high-profile, much-lauded cases, ones she most likely would have heard about before now (“Cops Expose Satanic Murder Cult” is one headline that springs to mind). Or is she smudging the truth because she doesn’t want to seem completely selfish?

Allison tells the guys they were easy to find. But in fact how easy would it have been? No detective would ever have his name in a telephone book, or have any personal details well-known to the public. It’s not like Allison could do an internet search. Overt sniffing for information would alert any number of people, and perhaps get back to Starsky before now. Because they resigned from the force, they would not be hanging around the department, so she couldn’t stake them out there. And just how would she learn about their habitual visit to The Pits? One explanation I can come up with is going to the police department and fenangling her way into someone’s confidence, probably through a combination of lying and sexual enticement, possibly while pretending to be a journalist (which entails fake credentials, a further complication).

Allison’s explanation for her trickery is “I had to believe in you (Starsky) again.” Just how does flirting, playing helpless, and setting one against the other for her affections bring about trust and belief? Surely coming to Starsky straight, and telling him her problem and asking for advice would be far more effective, and also faster.

Hilary Thompson is appealing as Allison/Laura. Very few women can get away with tricking the guys into helping her and not looking manipulative or unscrupulous doing it, but she manages. She has a vulnerability that doesn’t come off as overly sweet, and once the charade is dropped she’s refreshingly direct and honest. It’s interesting how Starsky’s attitude changes when he finds out who she really is. Subtly, almost invisibly, his body language turns from flirtatious to brotherly. Hutch, too, simultaneously loses interest, even though the door is now wide open for him. Sympathy turn-off? It couldn’t be simple professionalism, because neither Starsky nor Hutch appear to have difficulty mixing romance with the job. Could it be it’s much less fun without the competition? Or did he not want to seem like an opportunist?

At Washington Square Towers, Hutch hesitates and loses the elevator, for no apparent reason. He tries to blame Starsky.

The guys treat the flower delivery girl like an innocent pawn rather than part of whatever criminal activity is going on, which is an interesting assumption to make. They confront her directly, and when she denies all knowledge – lying, obviously – and they drop it. They don’t follow her van or attempt to get any further information.

Both Starsky and Hutch display a very specific response when confronted or bullied by men in suits: they degenerate into sulky, disingenuous, naughty boys. Starsky corrects the FBI agent’s grammar, which is just the sort of snotty thing Hutch would do.

It’s a tactical error when the two agents treat Starsky and Hutch badly, threatening them to leave the case alone. Agent Smithers even tells them the case is above their intelligence. Every Psychology 101 student knows the very worst way to get a determined person to leave something alone is by goading and condescension. Where were these guys during the “Effective Communication” class at Quantico?

Starsky and Hutch’s horror of mass transit is really comical. They act as if they’re riding on a pile of manure. “Dear diary,” Hutch calls out to no one in particular as they exit. “Today my friend and I went for a ride on a bus.”

The engine is stolen right out of Starsky’s Torino. Is this a metaphor for how Glaser feels about his own powerlessness with the show?

What the hell is that police lady’s problem? This is meant to be a light moment, but instead is extremely unpleasant to watch. It almost feels like a skit illustrating how any power at all, even the most minor kind, turns women into humorless bitches.

Starsky and Hutch put together a plausible scenario involving mortgage loan companies and escalating rates leading to unscrupulous foreclosure. With the current economic crisis ravaging the housing market, this is a strikingly contemporary problem.

It’s amusing that, with the temporary loss of the Torino, the only car at their disposal is little Belle. Does Hutch regret his purchase?

Thomas May is unremittingly hostile, yelling at Starsky to leave him alone, and it’s here that Starsky’s calm demeanor is at its most mesmerizing: nothing May shouts has any effect on him. Sometimes it seems as if Starsky has a special absorbent layer, one able to soak up all negativity and then expel it later without touching the inner man.

Starsky and Hutch call Dobey, “Captain” even when they aren’t cops anymore. The scene ends quietly, with no tag.

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16 Responses to “Episode 86: Targets Without a Badge Part 2”

  1. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    I have been so looking forward to your next installment and I wasn’t disappointed. I am anxious to read your analysis of the last episode, but as that may signal the end of this blog, I will be patient.
    Unlike most of the 4th season, I really enjoyed these last few episodes. This one in particular seems to have just the right blend of relationship magic and some goofiness without going too far. I marveled at the scene where they jumped into action to stop the criminals on the motorcycle. The magic was in the way they worked together without any verbal communication or even a look at one another. I remember reading somewhere that Soul said that he and Glaser got to the point where they knew what each other was doing without even having to look at one another. I would like to think that this scene illustrates the partnership at it’s finest.
    I never thought of Hutch opening himself up to ridicule as you point out in the scene with his new car, but it does make sense. Despite his prickly responses to Starsky throughout the series, he cares for him and is fiercely loyal, so I’m sure quiting the force is weighing heavily on him. Of the two, I think police work was more viseral for
    Starsky than Hutch. Hutch would know that and feel a huge obligation towards Starsky for joining him in resigning.
    The scene in the porn studio was one of the funniest in the series. The only one to top it for me was the one where Starsky got drunk on moonshine. Another example of the physical ease between
    these two actors and their perfect timing.
    Thank you,
    Lynn

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you so much, Lynn. I’m so glad you’re enjoying this blog. I know I somewhat overstate my case with Hutch and the car, but it was just too fun an opportunity to pass up. I keep thinking someone’s going to write in and tell me I’m full of it, but no one has so far. An episode like this one makes the short four-year run even more painful, doesn’t it?

      Thanks again.

  2. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    Yes, it does leave one wishing there had been a lot more. I look at some of my favorite series today that have been around longer than S&H, but there is still something missing. The essence and appeal of that show was the relationship between the two. The car, the chases, the shoot outs were all extra props as far as I’m concerned. I can’t think of another show before or since that showcases a relationship like theirs. Sometimes I ponder this and wonder why it’s so appealing to watch (over and over, LOL) now. I think I’ve come to believe, quite simply, that S&H illustrates just how special and rare it is to have such a friend in your life, someone you trust with your life and who always has your back. I would love to see those two do something together again.
    Thanks Merle,
    Lynette

    • daniela Says:

      I think the fact that both actors were gorgeous also helped a lot. A rare combination of good looks, good acting, good characters and a lot of good stories.
      Daniela

  3. Lynn Says:

    Good point Daniela. The eye candy factor was certainly a huge plus. Starky’s jeans were a pleasure to watch as well, and I think that their acting was underrated. They really did a great job.
    Lynn

  4. Nadine Says:

    Agree totally with you both – it was a wonderful relationship between the two of them and it’s too bad that it only was for 4 seasons. It would have been nice to have had a closure movie after many years apart rather than the movie released in 2004.

    Hey, it wasn’t Starsky’s jeans – it was Starsky:) True – some of those jeans were heart-stopping – but let’s not forget the opening scene in Nightmare in the laundromat – wow, 30 plus years later and we’re still dreaming!

    Thank goodness we have 4 years to watch over again and thanks Merle for this great website – your analysis of each show is awesome and helps explain some gaps. Looking forward to more stuff – even when you run out of episodes!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you everyone for joining in the discussion. I actually have a bit of closure in mind as the last paragraph in this blog, as I have been doing some snooping around in and around Bay City for information. More to come.

    • King David Says:

      It is a great relationship they have going on there, and am so thankful for the release on DVD.

      Yep, you’re right; it’s THAT man in THOSE jeans, and driving THAT car. The whole package works for me. Starksy has the iconic accoutrements that Hutch doesn’t have. The car, the Adidas Superlights, the cardigan (albeit only a handful of times), those low-rise jeans & belt.
      True, Hutch has that college jacket, the dark-with-white-sleeves one, but there are more Starsky items for us to hang our nostalgic thoughts on than there are Hutch. Would a Colt Python do it, do you think? The battered beige Ford isn’t quite so pulse-stirring, a guitar is a bit generic. I admit, I am biased, can you tell?

  5. Wallis Says:

    Almost all of the “there are no words” moments of sublimity in this series are moments that are focused on the friendship between Starsky and Hutch or involve their partnership and mutual togetherness in some way. Maybe it’s just me, but IMO the moment where Starsky recognizes Allison as Laura is one of the small handful of such moments that have nothing to do with the partnership. It’s breathtaking, and utterly believable and convincing. You absolutely *know* when you see it, that yes, this is Starsky meeting his supposedly-long-dead childhood best friend again, despite the fact that she’s never been mentioned before that scene. Such deep naturalism in these sorts of moments of retcon are rare in any TV show, and seeing this scene kind of makes you realize how superficial a lot of them are (by comparison, the revelation of John Colby’s betrayal in The Deadly Imposter seems positively fake). The authenticity of the scripting and acting of that moment and Starsky’s subsequent struggle with his world being turned upside-down is enough to make me wonder if anyone on or associated with the production team has personally had an experience like it and contributed their experience to the crafting of that scene. And enough to make me really, really hope that Allison and Starsky’s friendship resumed and continued after the case.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Wallis, you’re so exactly right. That moment of recognition is so perfectly realized by Mr. Glaser, one of his finest acting moments and so him, in that he excels at the subtle. I really came to love Allison as well, so let’s say they remained dear and good friends and Starsky was godfather to her twin girls, shall we?

      • Blunderbuss Says:

        Yes! An excellent idea, merl. 🙂 And I too hope that Starsky and Allison remained close after this episode, it’s such a lovely, lovely story that I really want it to stay and really wish it could have been fleshed out more. Though I would guess Allison had to be whisked back into hiding for her own protection during the prosecutions no doubt taking place between this three-partner and Sweet Revenge.

        I need to see this episode again, because I don’t remember how Hutch reacted to Starsky and Allison’s reunion or Starsky’s revelation. I also forget if he indicates that Starsky has told him about Laura Anderson or if this is the first time he’s hearing that Starsky had a childhood best friend who was killed tragically young. Anyone wanna help me out…? *nudge*

        Speaking of which, I find it really sweet that both Starsky and Hutch had sibling-esque female friends when they were young. It shows a certain level of open-mindedness and nonconformity about how they believe men are allowed to be friends with another person, qualities that are echoed in their adult friendship with each other.

      • merltheearl Says:

        As far as I can see, Hutch merely processes the information and moves on, with no indication that he’s either heard this story before or not. This series isn’t great for recording private conversations between the two, and we have to use our imaginations about what was said on the drive home. He is, however, quick to acknowledge that Laura engineered the meeting for her own purposes, but he says it in a kind, non-judgmental way and allows her to explain (which she does while touching both of them, one hand on Hutch’s knee and holding Starsky’s hand, which I found rather affecting and lovely). I agree about the sibling-like friendships both had when young, and how refreshing that is.

      • Blunderbuss Says:

        Ahhhh, that is interesting. There are so few times I can remember one partner telling the other things about his past that the other partner didn’t already know, that if Hutch *didn’t* know about Laura, I think it would be a pretty big deal. If there’s no indication either way, I feel that it’s more likely Hutch did know about her already. The death of a friend is an incredibly important moment in the life of a child. I wonder how her apparent death might have affected Starsky? So many things to wonder about in this show…

  6. Spencer Says:

    The job-hunting scenes (including the silly car) were completely farcical unless one understands that Starsky and Hutch were not serious in their attempts to find new jobs but merely going through the motions as a kind of penance. I love the sentiment that although they’re no longer partners on the police force, “they’re never more intensely “together” than in this episode” – the “me and thee” concept being stronger than ever. They continue to refer to themselves as “partners” (which they couldn’t do in this day and age without it being mistaken for something else) and apparently never even consider taking jobs separately. In their minds and hearts they could never be anything other than detectives and partners. Incredibly sweet.

  7. McPierogiPazza Says:

    Yes, symphonies tour, both within the U.S. and internationally. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic play each other’s cities.

    The horror about public transit is silly but so spot on for most of the country, especially Los Angeles at this time.

    “The engine is stolen right out of Starsky’s Torino. Is this a metaphor for how Glaser feels about his own powerlessness with the show?” Or how much he hated the Torino!

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