Episode 87: Targets Without a Badge, Part 3

Allison May (Laura Anderson): Hilary Thompson, Thomas May (Uncle Frank): Bert Remsen, Judge McClellan: Peter MacLean, James Gunther: William Prince, Dep. DA 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.

With the current economic crisis in the United States and around the world this episode, and the story arc as a whole, is curiously prophetic. Unscrupulous mortgage dealers are not your typical evildoers in this series or on television generally, and so it’s fascinating the writers decided to concentrate on this silent and deadly enemy as the apex of the crime meridian. Yes, drugs were the first symptom, but the disease itself is far worse – and so much greater – than that. James Gunther’s financial scheme is reponsible for the death, not of body, but soul, in the form of poverty, humiliation, economic vulnerability and loss of faith in the democratic and judicial process.

Starsky and Hutch have never needed Huggy more than they do now. They’ve been stripped of all authority and are aware they’re sinking deeper into a miasma of a case. So why does Hutch treat Huggy in such an imperious manner? He demands Huggy get a suit and go rooting around in people’s private business with nothing more than a terse “Car. Suit. Salesman. Refinancing.” Unless he knows Huggy would be embarrassed by anything as mushy as a thank you, this seems like questionable behavior.

The Man Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: In the following scene Hutch redeems himself by approaching Mardean with his usual emotional directness, but here his gentle voice is particularly effective as he urges her to talk about “how we felt, how we still feel.” He’s not afraid to face difficult things head-on but somehow he does it in a way that makes the other person feel intimately included rather than confronted. Sometimes I think Hutch would make as great a therapist as he is a detective, someone who understands and has experienced what it is to be in torment, but who is not the least bit squeamish about it. In this way he manages to get her to their side by being, I think, authentically himself: powerful, insightful and brave.

It’s another fun-filled trip to the Marlborough Health Club (“The Action”), and Starsky and Hutch’s four – count ‘em, four – trips to a sauna as part of a criminal investigation (“Pilot”, “Murder on Voodoo Island”, “The Action” and here).

Starsky and Hutch should have stayed behind to question Alex and Marty thoroughly after the beating at the Trojan Spa. As mere civilians, are they afraid of getting into trouble? Are Alex and Marty too beat up to be coherent? What’s the reason for this seemingly lack of common sense? Still, the guys deserve credit for fighting in nothing but towels, especially Hutch, whose cover-up during the brief conversation beforehand is what I would call in dangerously negligent.

Am I missing something? Where did the hillbilly truck come from?

Hutch comments to Starsky, “It’s a pity that even after four years, it doesn’t get any better.” To what is Hutch referring? Time as cops? Being yelled at again by federal agents? Their contracts with Aaron Spelling?

The agents are easily dismissed by the guys, who suggest they get a warrant. This is the first indication that being freelancers without the badge is, in fact, to their benefit.

“I’m all for doing my part to support mass transit, but this is ridiculous”, crabs Hutch as they exit yet another bus. They are then subjected to two more so-called humiliations: the crappy truck is towed, and the street cleaner douses them in water. This merry-go-round of different vehicles, all worse than the last (culminating with the pimp-mobile), is an interesting subplot. The writers seem to think it’s important to divest Starsky and Hutch of the Torino just as things get really bad. This begs the question: is this missing Torino (shiny, fast, eye-catching, robust) an instrument of both literal and figurative power? Without it, they seem comically at the mercy of whatever degradation the world throws at them.

Just how does Huggy pilfer the stationery from Capricorn Mortgage? This extraordinary bit of detective work is never explained. Also, despite what Huggy says, isn’t it unusual for a simple piece of company letterhead to have on it a list of both the board of directors, founding members and operation officers?

When Huggy makes a racial comment to “Blondie” regarding his chances of having a relative on the corporate board it seems to come out of nowhere, but perhaps is understandable.

Cringe-o-Meter is high when Huggy sets his glass of orange juice down on pool table’s felt, a pool table no-no.

It’s the same female police officer with the attitude problem again, and here the merry background music alerts us to the fact that this is supposed to be the amusing snippet of the show. It’s deeply irritating, but salvaged by how Starsky and Hutch respond to the situation, which is entirely in character. Starsky reverts to harmless flirt, Hutch to more direct sarcasm.

“You guys are a perfect match,” Huggy says when Hutch complains about the furry dashboard on their giant black limo/pimpmobile. Does he mean Hutch and the car? Hutch and the fur? Hutch and Starsky? Is he implying that Hutch has a tacky side?

Given the car, Starsky immediately assumes he’s the driver; Hutch assumes he’s the passenger. What does this say about their partnership, and their relationship as a whole?

Starsky comes to a complete halt while sitting in the driver’s seat. Hutch digs at him a little to get him going, but until the phone call jolts him into action Starsky seems to be semi-comatose. It’s one of those odd-but-fascinating moments that makes this show so enjoyable.

Starsky and Hutch are stood up by Thomas May at the Trojan Spa at 10:15 pm. Yet it isn’t until lunchtime in front of Rutt’s Hutt that they think of going to see May, and even that is because of Soldier’s phone call. Why don’t they go roust him sooner? Do they feel guilt an earlier visit may have saved May’s life? Or they may have gotten info from him that would have solved the case differently, or faster? As well, the unpleasant question remains: did Thomas May set up Starsky and Hutch to be murdered? Would he have done such a thing?

Soldier is at a public phone booth, yet he’s nonchalantly polishing a gun with wicked silencer on it in full view of any passer-by.

How do Starsky and Hutch gain entry into the May home? It could be a case where utter confidence opens doors, but more likely it’s the warm relationship they have nurtured with the uniforms at the crime scene.

Hutch has to be ordered to remove his hat when talking to the bitchy desk officer, but when seeing Thomas May’s body he immediately, and respectfully, takes it off.

Thomas May is ostensibly a suicide, and only moments have passed since the shooting occurred, yet Captin Dobey is already there. Two issues arise: one, just how would the shooting be discovered so fast, unless a neighbor overheard the shot? Solider would have to use a gun owned by May to do the job, a gun without a silencer. But this is a guess, because is no hysterical witness at the scene. And two, Dobey’s presence may be result of the FBI informing him that May is a person of interest, and therefore his death is immediately suspicious and potentially calamitous. But we learn later the FBI brass has no knowledge of May or his troubles. This, for all intents and purposes, is a mundane everyday suicide. So who tipped Dobey off?

Gunther shows a deeply unsettling contempt for his lieutenant Bates throughout their stilted conversation. You can almost see the revulsion, a fact that will come in handy in the final episode. Later, they have an extraordinary scene together in which Gunther snaps his fingers as a substitute for speaking.

I hope Dobey does something more constructive than saying “and so’s an old man lying dead in his living room, he’s real. Real dead.” He knows Starsky and Hutch better than anyone. Do they sit down and hash out the case in an attempt to make sense of the whole thing, or does Dobey dismiss them as over-imaginative kooks? It better not be the latter.

Hutch feels the case went bad because they did everything people told them not to do. One thing he doesn’t blame is Starsky, nor does Starsky appear to blame Hutch. Instead Hutch is more interested in analyzing the big picture. This is his particular strength – Starsky is more of a details man – but are his conclusions correct when he blames them both for going where they shouldn’t? Yes, their actions accelerated things, and yes Gunther’s sticky antennae was alerted to movements in the air. But wasn’t all they did necessary, even laudable? Given more information they may have made smarter decisions – hustling Thomas and Allison into hiding, for example – but that doesn’t guarantee the police department would have cooperated or that Judge McClellan would have been stopped, or even that Thomas May would have done what they asked of him.

When the guys confer quietly at Hutch’s apartment, they share a beer.

It’s great that when Starsky and Hutch burst in to the agents’ office they are dressed like their iconic selves, in a way we haven’t seen since they lost their jobs: leather jackets, collars aggressively up, and jeans. For a couple of seasoned federal agents, Smithers and Waldheim are pussycats when guns are pushed into their backs: they get scared and spill the beans without hesitation. They should have been thinking: what are these morally conscientious ex-detectives going to do, murder us in cold blood inside a federal building? I think not. Apparently both men think this is not only possible, but probable.

Filming notes: Glaser got so carried away while filming this intense episode he smashed Angus Duncan’s hand through a window during one scene, requiring twenty-five stitches.

When Dobey is stuck with the food bill at the Pits, can he write it off as a business expense? Would this make Starsky and Hutch his newest snitches?

Clayburn gives Starsky and Hutch mixed messages about the difficulty of proving McClellan’s guilt. First he says it will “be hard.” Then he says it “won’t be hard.” Did he say these two conflicting statements because he is stressed out and having to think on his feet? Or is it something else? Seeing how most lawyers in this series prove to be sneaky and crooked, why are Starsky and Hutch so trusting of Clayburn – Hutch in particular? Is it because he is so casual in his manner, nearly to the point of goofiness? He allows his secretary to boss him around. He is perennially late for appointments. He is colloquial in his speech. He flatters both Starsky and Hutch a lot.

It’s good to see the Mandalay Heights fair grounds again (“The Psychic”).

It’s touching when both hesitate when Soldier demands one of them be a hostage, but not because neither of them want to do it but because both of them want to spare the other.

Following the shoot-out, a touch on Starsky’s midsection is all Hutch needs to do to convey an enormous amount of emotion.

Why don’t Starsky and Hutch wonder why Clayburn is so anxious to implicate McClellan when the two men have been “very close personal” friends for the past ten years?

Why, oh why, when they finally do the matinée – something Starsky has been pining for since part one – is it a cheesy porn flick? Is it because of their strange job interview? And why on earth would two – three – men see something like that together? Isn’t that a more solitary pastime? When Starsky comments, “I could have been in this movie,” regarding “The Story of X,” is he more excited by the thought of simply being an actor, or of being an actor in a porn film? What does Hutch think of this? Also, the absence of the patented Hutch Sneer is particularly noticeable: all he does is note that Starsky is “much better looking than that guy (on screen)”. You can just barely make out Starsky (or Glaser’s) grin as Hutch pulls him from the seat.

Hutch is off the force but introduces himself to Sheriff Oates as a detective. Oates asks Starsky and Hutch if they are back on the force. Starsky answers evasively, “we’re trying to keep a low-profile.” Was the use of the word “detective” a slip of the tongue or are Starsky and Hutch using the title to get information from Oates? Peter Jason as the star-struck officer gives this tiny cameo a great deal of charm and wit.

Starsky, Hutch and Dobey need to catch Clayburn before he leaves the country. Dobey says Clayburn’s flight, “is a legitimate worry, the way rumors have been flying.” What rumors? If Dobey has heard something, has he bothered to share it, or does he keep it from them because they aren’t cops anymore?

Why does Bates know Soldier has been dead at least two days, but hasn’t told Gunther? Is it a weird sort of power play?

For all the time it took for Hutch to tell Nancy who to call and what to say, he should have just done it himself. It appears to be some sort of punishment for her sedition.

Starsky, don’t pick up the discarded gun with your bare hands, please.

Is it me, or is the revelation that DA Clayburn is on the dark side one of the bitterest plot turns in the entire series? He’s a genuinely attractive and quirky character. Plus, Hutch really likes him.

One of Gunther’s most senior people is arrested at the airport, the mysterious Karen. One suspects, from her ice-cold manner, she won’t break under questioning. But it would be interesting to speculate what explanation she gives for shooting Clayburn, if anything.

The avuncular mayor’s speech when returning Starsky and Hutch’s badges seems like it should end with, “I now pronounce you husband and wife.” One of my favorite details in this episode is how that beaming public face shuts down when the cameras are off, which is remarkably chilling given the happy vibe in the scene. He then mixes up their names, and also gives out the wrong badges. Hutch is amused. “You’re never gonna believe this,” he says to Starsky, and it’s a weary joke, as if in acknowledgement of the many times it’s happened.

The mayor says Starsky and Hutch “challenged a powerful enemy and emerged victorious.” Allison asks them, “Well, didn’t you?” Starsky replies, “Who knows.” Why isn’t anyone else thinking this same thing? It’s obvious someone other than Clayburn killed the judge and Thomas May. This conspiracy has too many tentacles to think it’s so easily wrapped by with the arrest. Joking about a vacation and pulling poor Allison in two directions is a moment of simply blowing off steam and not an indication either detective thinks this case is over.

Clothing notes: Starsky is wearing two rings on his left pinkie rather than one. Hutch wears his tusk in combination with the sun-and-star necklace. It’s sad to see those Adidas gone but they were destined to wear out eventually. Both wear brown earth-shoe crepe sole runners. Hutch wears three extraordinary hats in three of the four parts of this story. Here, it is a cowboy hat.

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16 Responses to “Episode 87: Targets Without a Badge, Part 3”

  1. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    As always, incredible detail in your analysis. I like that you pointed out the touch of the mid-section after the shoot out. It seems to me that that has always been a way for the two to express emotion to one another without a word being expressed. There’s usually a meaningful look that goes with that. I have always enjoyed the ritual of opening a door. One of them will stride up to it forcefully, swing it open, and then the other will go right in. No hesitation as we normal mortals experience in the same situation. They are a fine tuned machine and always seem to know what the other is doing. It is a rare pleasure to see that kind of rhythm and timing between two actors.
    Great question on the driver item. I have always felt that Starsky was really the stronger of the two, but the partnership is so well developed that it is difficult to see. I think that the fact that he does the majority of the driving speaks to that. I also think that he’s quite happy letting Hutch be the frontman some of the time. Like a great leader, he doesn’t need to draw attention to himself.
    God, I miss those guys. Can’t they make a geriactric comeback? I would definitely pay to see it.
    Thanks so much Merle. A pleasure to read and ponder as usual.
    Lynn

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you for your kind comments. It’s interesting you consider Starsky to be the frontman of the duo, and I wonder how many others feel that way. It’s a tribute to Glaser’s acting skills that he manages to convey authority almost in spite of the script. Me, I think it might be an equal partnership, with each taking the lead depending on the circumstances. But it sure is fun to think about. And I laughed, Lynn, at your idea of a geriatric return. I’d pay big money to see that too!

  2. Lynn Says:

    Merle,
    You’re probably right about the equality, but I always sense that Starsky is the quiet leader, the moral compass so to speak. When he explodes Hutch seems to watch and let it ride out. When Hutch explodes Starsky seems to bring him back to a calmer place. He seems to take care of Hutch more than vice versa.
    I know they brought a lot of themselves to the roles, and it just appears that Paul Michael Glaser is a force to be reckoned with. I’m just guessing though, never met the man. He oozes quiet self assurance. I don’t pick up on that so much with David Soul. Both wonderful actors, and, I’m sure, wonderful human beings.
    Lynn

    • merltheearl Says:

      Yes, I agree with you completely, and it’s such a wonderful irony that Starsky, who so often acts like a child, is the stabilizing force, while Hutch, outwardly intellectual and rational, is secretly insecure and temperamental. Lucky for us both Glaser and Soul were such amazingly perceptive and generous actors, even though they were never appreciated or rewarded for it. Which, to this day, makes me so mad.

    • King David Says:

      Lynn, you are my new best friend! I have always thought this is the core of the dynamic.
      I was barely thirteen when I first saw S&H, and this element struck me at once, and has never wavered. I can bring an adult’s perception and understanding of psychology to this show in a way I couldn’t back then, but this belief is unswerving – that is, that Starsky is the anchoring force, and allows his prima donna partner his antics because they complement each other well in their police work, but each has something the other needs on a personal level.
      Just as an aside note: Soul was cast first, and they hunted for Starsky. I believe that the producers originally favoured Soul, as the known quantity, the drawcard for viewers, and hence more energy went into his character in the beginning. Glaser must have blown them away with his subtle insinuation into the role, and so once the writers began writing for DS&PMG, they had to bring more of their own interpretations into the drama.
      There’s no way on Earth I can see DS being called Starsky – it just doesn’t ring right, even though I believe he was angling for that role initially.
      Starsky is not pretentious, is generous with himself and his affections, stable, wonderfully silly and juvenile when it will serve him, but OMG he is masterful when in serious mode – a favourite is in the car on the way to meet Prudholm in Pariah. That face is grim and resolute, set in stone. I can still thrill when I see him swing into proper determined action. It never fades.
      I had a great idea (to me, anyway) for S&H to be retired, living in a nice upmarket retirement village complex, and being the in-house security detail. Plenty of scope for S&H antics, with accompanying hunour when they can’t quite live up to their own legends. Plus, as I mentioned, it would give them relevancy for their re-appearance.
      I live for the day…

      Like you, Lynn, I miss them as I would miss my next breath.

      • Lynn Says:

        King David,
        Thanks for you validation of my thoughts about the relationship. They were a team to be reckoned with, but I see Starsky as the rock of the two. Don’t get me wrong, Hutch steps up to the plate when Starsky is hurt or missing, but it is with a desparation that you know he knows that he is saving himself as well.
        I do miss the boys, and wish for another reprisal of the roles, but time goes on and they are roaring into their 70’s, so chances are slim.
        Lynn

      • King David Says:

        Yes, I live in mortal dread that we may lose one or other of them before something eventuates. PMG will be seventy this coming Monday 25 March. Can you believe that!?
        Using the flimsiest of threads to hang my favouritism on, I watched Plague again yesterday, and was really aware, with Merl’s analysis under my belt, of just how strong is Starsky’s character. Glaser really infuses him with such force and barely-controlled menace (in Roper’s house particularly), and I cannot recall any time when I felt the same degree of edge from Hutch.

  3. Lynn Says:

    Well said Sir.

  4. Anachron Says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. One of my fave scenes was the confrontation with Smithers and Waldheim. As unlikely as the set-up may have been, I thought the scene was excellent, mostly because of Starsky – he was really scary. PMG was brilliant in his intensity. I can completely believe that he got carried away with poor Angus Duncan – after I read your post I replayed the scene and you can hear glass breaking, so it may have been that very take. And the scene in the apartment, with Hutch’s query of “how tough are we?” had such a combination of weariness and self-contempt, along with a quietness and intimacy, it was quite naturalistic and believable. As was the scene in the movie theater.

    What I did *not* follow was the sudden leap, in the theater scene, pulling Clayburn into the forefront. Now, I thought Clayburn was rather waffly in the scene where they discussed going after McClellan, but neither S nor H seemed to have any serious doubts about the DA at that point in time. But then in the theater Huggy jumps right in, linking Clayburn and McClellan – where did that come from? S&H aren’t surprised by Huggy’s news – in fact, Hutch contributes what he knows about the Clayburn-McClellan connection, and Starsky confirms “that’s it,” indicating that he’s familiar with all of this. Did I miss something, or was a scene cut where the light bulb goes off about Clayburn? (maybe they discussed it when they were procuring the hillbilly truck?) Like you, I thought Clayburn was an appealing character. Starsky and Hutch liked him *and* had faith in him, and I think a scene in which they come to realize that Clayburn is playing for the bad guys would have been worthwhile.

    One odd, small detail caught my eye because it was so out-of-character: in the scene where the boys are in the pimpmobile and Soldier calls, Hutch tosses his coffee lid out the window. We see it twice, once in a close-up and later in a long shot. Hutch littering? Is that what he does when he can’t pitch trash into the backseat of his Ford? It’s just so . . . disillusioning . . .

    The overall story is so very good – I think I appreciate it even more, knowing what happens in the next episode. Some of the directorial choices struck me as being out of place – as much as I appreciate the boys in their towels (“dangerously negligent,” indeed!), I’m not sure how well blending the very stylized, almost campy approach taken in the end of the sauna scene with the realism of the dramatic scenes works in the big picture. I’m planning to watch all three parts back-to-back to get a better sense of how everything flows.

    Thanks, Merle!

    • merltheearl Says:

      Just when I think I have covered all the bases, I find even more revelations in the comments. Thank you Anachron for another thoughtful analysis (I also love how Hutch says “how tough are we”; in fact that entire conversation is very touching).
      On a lighter note, the guys have littered several times throughout the series – I believe a notable example is to be found in “Deadly Imposter” – which for some reason it always cracks me up, mostly because it seems so unthinkable now, along with smoking in restaurants (and driving a car that gets 15 miles to the gallon).

  5. Anachron Says:

    You’re right, it seems so out place now, but not so much out of character as I thought, huh? So much for my trying to read some symbolism into it . . .

  6. Daniela Says:

    without getting into the details of the 3 parts analysis and episode, I’d just like to say that this set was one of my favorites, especially part 2 where you see the guys in their every day life, so to speak…
    I liked that.
    One thing never ceases to amaze me though…
    How much of a clumsy clutz both are when they are off duty!
    The whole scene at the employment agency is funny, but compared with some of the scenes where they are “cops” and chase people up and down roofs, construction equipemnt, check out counters and such and they do it with amazingly smooth grace and gymnastic virtuosism, that scene is even funnier!
    Thanks for your insight, it’s always fun to read this!
    Daniela

  7. Anna Says:

    Great review as usual, and the comments are nearly as interesting as the review! I too think they are professionally equals, trading off on leading/following, but I think that on the whole, for the bulk of the show, Starsky is just *slightly* more so, kind of a quiet stabilizing force, more self-assured and clear-sighted, and in spite of his rather hot/violent temper, more emotionally grounded, and it’s more often his authority that pops out when they’re pushed — though he’s not too good at (or desirous of) working all by himself except under great pressure. I don’t know if anyone has felt similarly, but I remember that when I first watched some reruns of this show when I was a (way too young) kid, I was actually somewhat afraid of Starsky, because I found him really intimidating in his serious scenes, which were always a big contrast to his sweet or funny scenes. That scene where they waylay the FBI agents is a great example. He’s just really, really scary sometimes.

    Hutch is not at all less naturally strong or less capable, he is simply more insecure, and more showily bossy to make up for it, because he (erroneously) believes he’s not good enough the way he is naturally and thinks he needs to constantly improve or make himself look like he’s got the upper hand, and is always harping on the one strength he really does believe in, which is his intelligence — I say “erroneously” with confidence because it’s quite clear that most of his insecurities abruptly evaporate in episodes like “The Shootout,” “Pariah” or “Starsky’s Lady” etc, situations where he has no room for them. He rarely, if ever, gets tripped up or held back by any of his negative quirks and foibles when he’s really, really badly needed, which suggests they’re mostly all in his head.

    I think it’s “Starsky vs Hutch” and “Sweet Revenge,” (as well as this three-parter) that allows Hutch to unearth some of his destructive insecurities that have built up, and to prove to himself that he is a good cop, a good friend, and a good human being, and the two of them really truly become equals on all levels, not just the professional level.

  8. Deb Says:

    This three parter was like a breath of fresh air for season 4. It epitomized what we loved about the series from the beginning. The action, the car chases, the story, the emotion, the comedy, and most of all the friendship. It makes it triplely sad to know the series was almost over. To see the series get back to what made it so great, only to be no more. Except for us who watch it from beginning to end repeatedly. (I’m starting to worry myself over that)
    The scene in the porn theater immediately took me back to the very first time we met Huggy, in the Pilot. They were all in a porn theater talking about corruption in the ranks. It kind of bookends the whole series. Its like we have come full circle.

  9. DRB Says:

    Just a little different slant on the crabby police lady. Maybe she is just determined to withstand the fabled charms of the heart throbs? Apparently it is hard to do although she makes a start by glaring Hutch into removing his hat. Unfortunately, it all goes south as the guys effortlessly dodge her sarcasm. The struggle is more than a little unfair–2 to 1–but she hangs in there as she gives the applications to, of course, the wrong man. However, Starsky’s swift reversal saves them from having to re-submit the paperwork with the right signatures on the forms, and the defeated foe stares resentfully at the departing heroes😋

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