Episode 88: Starsky vs. Hutch

Starsky and Hutch’s jealous quarrel over policewoman Kira interferes with finding a serial killer.

Kira: Joyce Ingalls, Joey Webster: Richard Lynch, Arlene: Topo Swope, Carol: Yvonne Craig, Madame Bouvet: Corinne Calvet, Susan: Susan Miller, Mr. Arnold: Frederic Cook, Minnie: Marki Bey. Written By: Rick Edelstein, Directed By: Peter Levin


Of all the episodes in the canon, this is the most troubling, and complex, and will probably take the longest to sort out. Not because the plot is difficult to decipher – in fact, as if to compensate it’s as simple as can be, recycled from bits and pieces of the two manias, Quadro and Disco, with “Death Notice” along for the ride – but because Hutch’s behavior throughout is so impenetrable. It’s almost as if you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing. Yes, there’s a killer close by, but the violence in Hutch seems far, far worse.

This is not the only time Starsky and Hutch have battled over the affections of a woman. In “The Action”, “Heroes”, “Foxy Lady”, “Rosey Malone”,“Class in Crime” and “Targets” to name a few, there is much light-hearted sparring, but it’s more about the chase than the capture, and more about each other than the woman. Sometimes during these horns-locking competitions you get the feeling it’s more competitive fun than anything else. This is the only example of one staking a claim on what the other already has, and staking it with both aggression and deeply felt but unexpressed shame. Ironic to the point of painful is the mirror-image of the time sunny Abigail accidentally wanders into the wrong camp (“Deadly Imposter”) with the merry who-cares dramatics of Starsky. For years Hutch has been knocking Starsky’s food, insulting his car and his clothes and slighting his intelligence, all in fun we know. Men have a complex and even admirable way of hiding real affection in plain sight through teasing and mock-fighting and Hutch is very good at this, but this threesome is not one of those times, a case of one-upmanship gotten out of hand. This is out-and-out betrayal. And worse, Hutch knows his transgression is wrong and is helpless to stop himself.

There is a strange sempiternal quality to this episode, as if it exists in some alternate universe in which decades and eras coalesce and clash. Hutch spends most of it looking like a “On the Waterfront” longshoreman in a pea coat and cap, and since most of the episode takes place at night there is a featureless gloom to the briefly seen exteriors that would make a howling coyote or gangster saloon car not out of place. Madame Bouvet is dressed in 1940s fashion – crimson lipstick, mink stole, pearls and vintage dresses – as if she walked out of a George Cuckor film.

This nod to earlier eras makes thematic sense, as taxi dance halls, in which men pay to dance with women, had its heyday back in the first decade of the twentieth century and by now are almost extinct. In these venues, men purchased tickets and presented them to each woman he wanted to dance with, and the tickets were redeemed by the end of the evening, with the woman getting a percentage of her take. It was frequently an innocent pastime although many women may have engaged sexually with their customers (it’s certainly encouraged here). There is now only one taxi dance hall in existence in Los Angeles, and it was at one time called the Roseland Roof. I wonder if the Golden Lady Ballroom is based on it.

One of the interesting aspects to the taxi dance hall is that, from its inception at the turn of the 19th century, it attracted a real mix of society, blue-collar workers, new immigrants and the socially isolated and disabled, plus a few toffs along for a bit of slumming. Joey Webster pretty well encompasses all these elements: he’s lonely, poor, an injured ex-serviceman on the margins of society.

The “Dancing Girls” post-it note signs slapped onto the building should be a clue that all is insubstantial, in danger of collapse.

This is the only episode to deal overtly with the Vietnam War. Starsky mentions being in the army (“The Plague”) which would have made him eligible for the latter stages of the conflict, but the horrors of the war have never been addressed until now (although Sonny MacPherson from “Survival” suffers from what they used to call shell-shock but is also consistent with the early stages of Alzheimer’s). This is a particularly relevant episode, as it deals with the aftermath of war on the psyches of the soldiers forced to fight it. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was not even defined in the years following the messy end of the Vietnam War but Webster may certainly be suffering its effects (although I hasten to add that homicidal violence is not one of the symptoms of this terrible condition).

Casting notes: Richard Lynch appears again as a psychotic who is both mentally and physically disabled (here, and in “Quadromania”). Normally such a recent appearance is jarring but he looks so different in both episodes he’s in I keep forgetting it’s the same actor.

This episode has some elements of a contemporary horror being played out in New York: the Son of Sam murders, which happened in the summer of 1977 and transfixed the nation. In that case, as in this episode, the killer is motivated by a hatred of women, lives alone and struggles with mental issues, is tortured by events in his past. Both David Berkowitz and this character were involved in the Vietnam War (Berkowitz peripherally), both stalk and kill women with a particular color of hair (Berkowitz generally went after long brunette hair, this guy goes after blondes), use letters and notes to taunt the police, and is captured due to a little bit of luck rather than skill. There’s even a dog involved (Sam’s dog in the Son of Sam case, and the one here).

The hostility between Starsky and Hutch has been brewing for some time by the time we join them, which makes it even more bitter. In earlier episodes we witness the initial spark of competitiveness – for example when the guys bicker over Chris Phelps in “Heroes” or Lisa Kendricks in “Foxy Lady” – because we meet her at the same time they do. Of course we know men can be competitive with each other over many things, and the affections of a woman is one of those things. But here the fighting has a tired, entrenched feel that is new and deeply troubling.

Hutch is immediately hostile when Starsky approaches. “You’re a little too late with a little too little,” he says. It’s worth noting Starsky doesn’t do anything to ignite Hutch’s aggression, instead wearily acknowledging it, like a song he’s heard over and over again. He seems victimized rather than antagonized – instead of saying something like “get your hands off my girlfriend” or even something lighter like “you sure are handsy today” all he does he shrug and try to talk about the case. This passivity will be useful to us later in the pivotal scene in Hutch’s apartment when we see that Starsky’s lack of engagement is part of the larger problem.

Kira is an interesting character. Because of her beauty – and is Joyce Ingalls a knockout or what – she is probably used to getting what she wants and when she wants it. She’s one of those maddening people who seem carefree and frank but in fact are manipulative, power-hungry, and insensitive. She slyly dispenses information on a need-to-know basis, keeping both Starsky and Hutch largely in the dark as to her motives, inclinations and beliefs. Personally, I think she’s turned on by danger and enjoys causing discord. However, I wonder if she is really intended to be as repulsive a person as we find her now; the average viewer today is more attuned to psychological nuances and can casually – if somewhat inaccurately – throw around terms like “borderline personality disorder” and “narcissist”, all terms that might apply to Kira. But that kind of awareness was not in the minds of the millions of internet-deprived people watching when this series originally aired, and they may have thought of her as more feisty than really liable in any sense of the word, less monster than “free spirit” with every right to act as she does.

Let’s speculate as to how Kira dropped like a flaming meteorite into the lives of Starsky and Hutch. Since Starsky and Kira have been dating a month, it seems unlikely she has been seconded for this particular “Golden Lady Killer” assignment from another department within Los Angeles. Neither Starsky nor Hutch seem to have any connection with other departments within the force (for instance, they know nothing about Lizzie Thorpe, a sergeant in Vice, even though as a woman detective she would be conspicuous). Their workplace socializing is insular, and this operation is only days old, which most likely means Kira is a new detective recently transferred from another division, possibly from another city altogether. Speculate on the troubles she causes, and has caused in the past, with the other males in the force, both here at BCPD and in other departments.

Starsky asks Kira “what has two eyes, two arms, and is crazy about you.” She says, “I give up.” Starsky says, “I wish you would.” Are we to imply from this they have yet to sleep together? If so, this serves to inflame the situation even more, if Hutch eventually sleeps with her first, thus adding sexual humiliation on top of Starsky’s anger and betrayal.

Starsky remarks that Hutch is supposed to be guarding Susan that night. Kira says “lucky Susan.” This is just one of many times Kira says something hurtful or tactless while smiling or laughing.

The police realize there’s a killer targeting blondes. How do they know this, since only two women have been killed? Later on he leaves a note. Has he left notes before describing his mission, including an obsession with hair color?

Hutch is staying at Kira’s house, “guarding” her. Starsky is supposed to be guarding Susan. So what is he doing at the station talking to Minnie?

Kira is not much of a cop if she can’t get away from an unarmed man with a dog.

Hutch lunges out of his hiding place to accost the dog walker, the lecherous Mr. Arnold who doesn’t deserve his beautiful German Shepherd, but he keeps his gun holstered as he shoves it into Arnold’s back. This is extremely eccentric on his part. Afterward, panting with adrenaline, he says “for a minute there, I thought we almost had him.” Really? And you left your gun in its holster? Not likely. What is Hutch playing at?

“What’s a Starsky?” Hutch says when Kira tries to ask him about their schedules. This is about as low as Hutch ever sinks and just hearing it is painful.

What does Minnie really mean when she tells Starsky, “Mother Minnie must have struck the missing chord”? Does she mean she’s hit the mark, or does it mean she’s uncovered something? Mixing metaphors causes more confusion than clarity. She then asks about Kira, “You carrying a torch, Starsk?” Carrying a torch means to feel un-reciprocated love, but Starsky and Kira are dating. It’s only recently Hutch has moved in between them, so carrying a torch isn’t exactly what this is. It’s jealousy, plain and simple. Minnie then asks, “Hey Starsk, is this thing for real with Kira, or are you just playing?” Starsky walks out the door without answering, mostly because he doesn’t talk about his private feelings but also because Minnie obviously isn’t expecting an answer because she yells it across a room crowded with other officers. What’s Starsky supposed to do, answer honestly with about eight sets of ears listening in?

When Minnie refers to herself as “Mother”, it pretty much underscores how she feels about her years-long quasi-flirtation with Starsky we have been watching with amusement in six separate episodes. As in, she has zero romantic inclinations. It also implies she may feel “motherly” not only to Starsky but to the squad room in general, that she is in some way endowed with extra powers of insight. It would be fun to watch the various meter maids and young female patrol officers benefiting from her brassy, smart-alecky wit and advice.

Here, and throughout the episode, is more of the symbolic thunder. Especially obvious is the scene in which Starsky waits in the Torino for the dancers to exit the ballroom. The thunder sounds are so abstract as to be part of the soundtrack.

Hutch, when he returns home to find Starsky sleeping on his couch, seems cheery enough. But there’s an edge that comes close to acute anxiety. He makes facile remarks and bangs around in his kitchen like he’s on top of the world but anyone can see how uncomfortable he is. From cruel jokes to cavalier attitude Hutch seems itchy, uncomfortable in his skin, burning with equal amounts of desire and guilt. The question is: why? Why Kira (Hutch would have his pick of any number of beautiful women), and why now (in the middle of a stressful case, with a lot on the line)? An answer to this would be extremely helpful as we navigate our way through these dark and dangerous waters.

Here, Starsky’s passivity is even more pronounced. Seemingly unable to directly confront his partner about his fears regarding Kira, he instead tries to talk about procedure and schedules. Hutch mocks him throughout until Starsky gives up and leaves. Hutch then, literally and figuratively, burns himself.

Hutch points out the spelling in the threatening note (“spy” and “dye”) and asks Dobey what he thinks it means. Dobey says “it means he’s a bad speller.” “No kidding,” says Hutch. No it doesn’t, people. Anyone, particularly a law enforcement professional, should recognize this as blatantly provocative, the writer of the note mocking the police by providing ciphers and hidden clues.

The idiocy continues: Hutch and Dobey force Mme. Bouvet out of the office, telling her “bonjour, bonjour”, which everyone knows is “hello, hello.” They should have been saying “au revior.” Was Hutch asleep at his desk the year he took French?

Starsky tells Kira, when she asks about his take on what’s going on, “I figure after eight years on the street, you learn to take things as they come … I figure you come into this life alone and you go out alone, in between try to experience everything as it comes, expect nothing, don’t take anything too seriously.” This may be a direct violation of what he would say to Hutch in regards to “me and thee”, even though he has often expressed similar feelings throughout the run of the series, presenting himself, particularly in contradiction to Hutch, as self-contained, lighthearted, accepting, and in need of very little. So why does it now sound so hollow? Starsky tells Kira, “I got over the possessive stage years ago.” This all sounds more like guarding against inevitable hurt rather than offering a heartfelt confession. So when Kira laughingly tells him he’s full of it, is she right?

We get a glimpse of Kira’s powers of persuasion when she tells Starsky she can see something in him no one else can. Apparently we are to believe she has x-ray vision, able to see through his “silly smoke-screen”. He’s testing her, and she can prove it: rather than a callous cop, apparently he has a “heart that’s so full of love it just lights up this entire room.” Starsky is impressed, and more than that, intensely gratified. He’s been down in the dumps so long – feeling second-best, betrayed and confused – and here someone making him feel special. Kira is plying her trade along with every other scammer with a cardboard sign and crystal ball promising to read your mind. For an intelligent person like Kira it doesn’t take much more than a combination of luck and keen observation to divine someone’s secrets, and Starsky’s secret is that he has become desperate for approval, to be told that he is a good person and worthy of love. For most people this is a basic requirement, nothing secretive about it, but Starsky is not most people. He’s never needed reassurance before. He’s always had the upper hand, and I’m guessing that upper hand applies to everything in his life: job, relationships, career. Look at the way brother Nick is the one begging for attention, the various girlfriends who are both pliable and agreeable; look at his sterling reputation, the awards and citations. This is a man who has set his own pace in the world. It’s not that life has been kinder to him than others, and it’s not that he hasn’t faced terrible adversity, because he has. But he has always faced it on his own terms. My opinion is that his partnership with Hutch is so profoundly important because it’s the one aspect of his life in which he is not compelled by either external or internal forces to be stronger and better. He has found someone who is so equal to him that they might as well be one. But now his world view has been broken, he has lost the upper hand and has become vulnerable to self-doubt for maybe the first time in his life. So he is forced to look outside himself for assurance, which Kira seizes on with a kind of predatory skill. This may not have been her primary motivation but my belief is she relishes the idea of being the one with insight, whose loving encouragements seem almost supernaturally sensitive. It’s easy to control the situation you yourself have created, isn’t it? What happens is nothing less than a form of emotional enslavement. It’s an old conjuror’s trick and an especially cruel one, and boy is Kira ever an expert at it.

If Kira plays the tender and sweet card with Starsky, she plays a different game with Hutch. With him, she goes straight for seduction (lots of grabbing and whispering, and she shakes out her hair for him in a later scene). Does she guess this is what will work better with him or she realize there’s no out-performing Hutch in the cerebral department?

Hutch is preening in front of a mirror at the Golden Lady Ballroom, and something drops from his pocket. What is it?

Joey Webster obviously attends the ballroom very often, possibly every night. And yet he’s never under suspicion. He talks about his disability benefits and plays games with the girls – pool and backgammon – rather than dancing with them. Does his disability – and hinted-at sexual impotence – make him less of a suspect to the women, and the police?

It’s a treat to see legendary actor William Sanderson as an impatient denizen of the dance floor.

Hutch says he hasn’t seen this side of Starsky before. “An efficient cop?” Starsky says. “No, a stuffed shirt,” Hutch says nastily. But later Hutch calls himself old-fashioned, which any thesaurus will tell you is just a variation on stuffed shirt.

Hutch watches Starsky drive off to guard Kira. He says to himself in the car, “Keep your mitts off, Starsky.” Now, we can have fun with this by pretending he’s means for Kira to leave Starsky alone – in other words, excising the comma from his statement – but in fact what he’s really praying for is that Starsky stay away from Kira. And knowing they are dating, how does he justify his own demands?

The next thing Hutch says aloud – and he really is an entertaining self-talker (“Bloodbath”, “Fatal Charm”, et al) – is “Six-foot-two, eyes of blue.” Of course the reference is to the lyric of the popular song by Ray Henderson, but he is talking about himself. We know this because he has added a foot to the original lyric’s reference of height. The question is – why?

Starsky follows Kira, Hutch follows Susan. Unbeknownst to them, Joey follows the one girl wearing the wig. Obviously Starsky and Hutch would both know there is a third blonde dancer here, unless this girl lied to police, which seems to me to be extremely unlikely, given her life hangs in the balance. So why isn’t she being protected?

Webster continues his imaginary surveillance of blondes, talking to himself while sitting on his bed polishing a boot, military style. His intensity at a feverish peak, the camera pulls in to him as he continues polishing while verbally speculating on his quarry, and his motions become masturbatory as he speaks. This is a good detail emphasized by director Peter Levin.

Joey’s fixation stems from being betrayed by a honey trap while in Vietnam, a blonde infiltrator he says mocked his manhood and then plunged a knife into his back (yes, yes, the parallels to Starsky’s situation is remarkable). But why would “blondness” be such a dominant factor in his story, particularly as we’re talking about a country whose citizens have uniformly black hair? “No blondes in Vietnam,” he later says to Kira, “unless they dye their hair.” Here, his reasoning breaks down. Where would Vietnamese women get dye during a war (they would most likely wear wigs, if at all), and wouldn’t bleached hair make them look mighty odd if they’re Asian and supposed to melt into the background? How does that work, do you think? Isn’t irregularity an anathema to a spy?

What most likely happened is Joey engaged the services of a Vietnamese prostitute and probably instructed her to wear a blonde wig (otherwise, why would she, since such an aberration might turn off more customers than it turned on). The wig, I’m guessing, was meant to mitigate her “otherness” as an Asian, helping her assume the role of someone he was more familiar with, possibly a girl back home. Whether she was an actual VC spy or not remains unclear. It’s also likely he was already acting strangely – strung out, which was very common in Vietnam, or something else – and got rough with her, and she stabbed him in self defense. The spy stuff, therefore, is pure paranoia, and nothing else.

Using these suppositions, we can now draw parallels between Webster’s spurt of violence, brought on by psychosis, and the romantic complications suffered by Starsky and Hutch. Webster is unable to distinguish between the original girl who betrayed him (whether her slight was imaginary or real), the “spy” he encountered years later in wartime (whether imaginary or real), and the innocent girls at the taxi dance hall (whose “innocence”, in the loosely-defined world of prostitution, is also in question). In his fevered mind everything boils down to immorality of women, their basic untrustworthiness. To him, every woman is waiting for the moment to side a knife between his ribs. While you could easily put Kira in this category, I think that’s immaterial to the important correlation between Webster’s situation and Starsky and Hutch. Which is the breakdown of trust. And I think it has nothing to do with sexual betrayal, and although sexual betrayal is presented here as the catalyst, it is actually the fallout. The cracks have to do with any long term relationship that has become stagnant, vulnerable to outside forces (in Starsky and Hutch’s case, the unending bleakness of their caseload leading to depression), culminating the terrifying fear that the one person you thought you knew may not have your back. Which is every bit a delusion as the one Webster is suffering.

In what may be the single most challenging, complex scene in the entire series, Starsky and Hutch have their talk about Kira. However, it’s not really a conversation, because men in general and Starsky and Hutch in particular are not very good at that. In a way it’s an inverse of the confrontation following the murder of Gillian. In that instance Hutch punches Starsky, which allows for an explosive release of rage and grief, and Starsky responds by holding him. Physical confrontation allows them both to reach a settlement quickly and naturally. Here, they attempt to use language, which puts Hutch at an advantage, but barely. Both flounder in lies, deceit, taunts and inadequate explanations. Nothing is solved, or even properly defined. Starsky uses the shocking word “love” to describe his feelings, the first and only time in the series. Hutch is astonished – not by the idea Starsky might love someone (there’s Terry, after all) but because he spoke the word out loud. In this scene, as in the scene in Gillian, what is not said carries far more weight than what is said. I just wish both men would pay attention to that side of things. Here, though, it isn’t physical but rather largely symbolic gestures. Case in point: Hutch spits out the coffee Starsky gives him, recognized in all cultures as the ultimate in disrespect. Starsky then brushes Hutch’s sleeve at a nearly-invisible coffee splash, which is basically affection in disguise. Hutch bolts and Starsky says – shyly, sorrowfully, and most importantly completely inadequately – “thanks for stopping by.”

Why do you suppose Hutch laughs and repeats it when Starsky admits he was jealous? It seem, oddly, like relief. As if he feels he has finally broken through a wall.

At first Starsky breaks into Hutch’s place to talk about Kira, and now Hutch breaks into Starsky’s place for the same reason. Both private spaces are violated, since neither man has been invited, and yet both are welcomed, at least initially. In both scenes, Hutch throws something at Starsky to begin proceedings. Both offer the other coffee, neither drinks what is offered. In both scenes, the partner who “gets” Kira is cheerful, while the frustrated other is prosecutorial. Both use work as an excuse to leave. In the first instance, Starsky refuses to “work out whatever the problem is”. In the second, he also refuses. Both times his refusal makes things worse for Hutch.

The script by series veteran writer and director Rick Edelstein (who wrote other fine episodes like “Manchild on the Streets”, “Partners”, “Body Worth Guarding” and “Black and Blue”, among others) is like a treasure map, with many tantalizing clues to be deciphered, half of which are in code (and with significant sections torn away). Here is what the map actually says: Hutch wants what Starsky has, and takes it away from him, with predictably terrible results. But is this the correct interpretation or an arrow pointing in the wrong direction? Even though my primary supposition is that Starsky and Hutch are at the end of a long depressive drought, I suspect there are other ways of looking at it, and I offer four very different paths to follow, even if they get you lost in this dark, dark forest.

1. The Suicidal Proposition: Hutch has been watching his partner spiral into an all-powerful infatuation with an unstable woman. Possibly unconsciously, he understands Kira as a destructive element who must be erased from the equation. So he sabotages the affair even though it may ruin their relationship forever because he feels he is saving him.

2. The Substitute: Hutch is using Kira as a conduit or surrogate as a way to get to Starsky, whom he feels is slipping beyond his reach. By sharing Kira, he can at least have a part of what he really wants. Power, indivisibility, whatever you want to call it. (A variant of this is The Holy Acrimony, in which Hutch finally snaps under a years-long resentment over Starsky’s peaceable self-containment, which has found its definitive form in the Perfect Girlfriend.) In both these scenarios, Hutch deliberately wrecks something dear to Starsky as a way of convincing himself he retains ultimate power to define and control the relationship.

3. The Last Staw hypothesizes Hutch is having a nervous breakdown, and so his actions are those of someone not in their right mind. Joey Webster, therefore, becomes a kind of mirror of his own struggles as he suffers seizures of murderous rage against those he feels have deceived him. Joey is still “on the job”, believing he is carrying out orders from a higher power, and so is Hutch, succumbing to a delusion that he must hurt an innocent person as a way of expunging his own darkness, and to right an invisible wrong. Hutch is on his own blond-killing spree, only the blond he wants to kill is himself. This isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds: Hutch throughout this episode is irrational, emotionally unbalanced, and agitated.

4. Lastly is The Svengali, which takes both Starsky and Hutch right out of the equation. Here the blame lies solely with Kira, who has engineered this entire conflict through an extended campaign of subliminal suggestion. This too isn’t altogether implausible, as a cunning psychopath can manipulate people into doing things they would never do otherwise. Starsky and Hutch are overtired, depleted by their recent battles with the department, and enter Kira, bored and looking for excitement.

“I’m having a hard time handling it!” Hutch shouts at Kira, when asked to suggest she is more like a man than Hutch is prepared to admit. He then says “I’m a one-man, one-woman kind of guy.” Is this true? What would Kathy Marshall say, or Sally Hagen, or the more than one woman he admits making love to in a single week? How does Hutch define “serious”, anyway? This “old-fashioned” attitude has been brought up more than once: he tells ex-wife Vanessa the same thing.

Kira says Starsky and Hutch are “two very different human beings” it’s possible to love “in a different way”. This is an interesting distinction for her to make and the absolute antithesis of my own thoughts on the matter, since I think Kira loves both men in the same way: that is, as a narcissist does. Satisfaction can only be achieved through recognition of, and submission to, one’s own powers. But of course it could also imply Kira is more maternal with Starsky, and more of a mistress with Hutch, if that’s how she wants to play it. Is she protective with one, and adventurous with the other? Does she see this as two different kinds of love? This extreme kind of compartmentalization does make sense with someone with her pathology.

Kira is wild-eyed and excited when she proclaims her love for both Starsky and Hutch. Rather than some quasi-liberal free-love philosophy this hints at a deviant sexual kink. Hutch tells her she’s confusing, which is the understatement of the century. She then tells one more whopper of a lie: “life’s a lot simpler than you’d like to admit to.”

Starsky stops abruptly in traffic, causing a tailgaiter to honk belligerently. The honking goes on for some time. The other guy is using the car horn to shout “you’re an asshole!” in a way Starsky is never able to, using any means. Hutch behaves horrendously. This is not up for debate. But why does Starsky play it like he does? Typically a masterful alpha-male type, throughout this episode he prevaricates, hesitates and otherwise holds himself in check. Never once does he accuse his partner or demands Kira be exclusive.

Dobey seems to be suggesting every regular of the ballroom will be hauled in for questioning following the murder. This is predicated on the idea the murderer will immediately immediately return, which is a little optimistic.

Procedural Problems: Harding, the scene-of-crimes investigator, shows Hutch a piece of rubber from the house. He’s carrying it in his bare hands and it isn’t even in a plastic bag.

It’s a nice detail when the shot goes from a closeup of a grenade to Starsky angrily pulling the tab on a beer. Although it isn’t exactly wise to look as homicidal as he does if you’re trying to blend into the dancing crowd.

“You really dance good, you know,” says one of the dancers. This goes against everything we know about Hutchinson, which means either Hutch has been practicing (which I would pay to see) or the dancer is trying to get a good tip for her services.

It’s great that Starsky and Hutch must work together to disarm Webster, one to deliver a kick, one to throw the grenade away (although one hopes no one’s walking on the street at that moment).

The grenade goes off and Kira immediately crawls to Joey without a look to Starsky or Hutch in order to comfort him. What might this tell Starsky and Hutch? And what does it tell us? When Kira sees Joey injured and covered in dust she shows more compassion in that moment than she has during the entire episode. My guess is there’s a substantial egomaniacal element here: when someone is in pain she feels compelled to prove she alone can make it better.

Tag: as with the episode as a whole, the tag is excessively complicated. There is a distinct shift in energy from the gloom to lightness. The pacing is quickened, the jokes have begun. Starsky tells Huggy, “I have a beautiful blond coming to meet me.” Enter Hutch, whose beauty and blondness is duly noted by Huggy. Both men are dressed exactly alike in black leather jackets, black turtlenecks and jeans – this should tell us something – but appear to still be in confrontation mode. Hutch makes exactly the same drinks request to Huggy, right down to the wording. The antagonism, we soon discover, is a bit of theater the two have cooked up between them, although the twinship of clothing and drink orders seems to be unconscious. For an episode in which a lot is made of concepts of separation and difference and a partnership torn asunder, the fact that they appear in the tag as the same person is profoundly significant – and very funny. But the question is why? Why the elaborate set-up, when Kira isn’t even there? Is this for their own amusement? For Huggy’s? Or is it to rile Huggy to the extent he will inadvertently play his part when it comes time to deceive Kira?

It appears they have, outside our periphery, already reconciled. How this happened we are never to know and it’s maddening to be left out of this conversation. What excuses would Hutch have to offer to make Starsky forgive him?

“Whatever happens, I can handle it,” Hutch says. “So can I,” Starsky responds in his Bogey voice.

Kira enters, looking manic, and the play begins. There is a bewildering repartee with Huggy still in the translator’s chair, in which Hutch quotes Shakespeare’s plaintive “The Merchant of Venice” and then Starsky tells Kira, “We’re tired of being treated like objects, having our lives determined for us by women.” Hutch responds, “Loved for our bodies and not for our minds.”

This statement is very interesting, and one wonders if this just posturing for Kira, if they really feel this way, or if they’re playing a joke on her by endorsing this traditionally feminine complaint in the same way Kira endorsed the traditional masculine one of adulterous behavior.

All this back-and-forthing causes Kira’s power to leak away like air from a punctured tire. “We decided if there’s a decision to be made,” Starsky says – narrowing his eyes in what seems like a Clint Eastwood impression – “then we’re going to make it.” We, note – not you. The circle has closed again, all outsiders forced away, the men have the big stick now. Also, this is the third shift in “voice” in as many minutes: Eastwood, Bogart and Shakespeare have all been used to convey information. This is another hint that plain old talking is very difficult for both men, which makes me believe Hutch probably secured Starsky’s forgiveness by arm wrestling.

Kira asks how the problem can be solved. Hutch says, “after a long deliberation we’ve finally settled it.”
They both get up, and turn on each other like a duel in a western. They come close to each other, then turn to Kira. Now, here is where it gets murky – again. Are they suggesting she take them both simultaneously? Or are they asking her to choose one or the other? Call me dense, but I honestly cannot tell which it is. Kira looks at them. “No,” she says. “No.”
This firm refusal (is it my imagination or is it tinged with fear?) goes against her earlier behavior, as she seemed to have no trouble at all loving both men in “different ways”. There is a somewhat comical suggestion this is a purely sexual offer (a sort of let’s go, right now, there’s a room above The Pits we can use) but I doubt this is the case – it seems too simple in an episode as complex as this one is. Whatever it is, it is something they know Kira would never accept. Her vehement response is not only expected, but desired.
“Okay,” they say happily, and leave with arms around each other.

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40 Responses to “Episode 88: Starsky vs. Hutch”

  1. Lynn Says:

    For me this was one of the most disturbing and complicated of the episodes. After four years of watching these two love and protect one another it seems so out of character to watch the relationship teeter because of a game playing female. Hutch violates the cardinal rule of friendship- don’t mess with a friend’s woman, and the fact that it is Hutch doing this is almost unthinkable. I think that your nervous breakdown theory is the only thing to explain it. After all, in Season 4 Hutch starts eating donuts with great frequency, so obviously something isn’t right. I find Starsky’s lack of aggression to be heart wrenching. He is obviously hurt by the actions of his closest friend, a man who has saved his life on numerous occasions, and vice versa. Why confront someone with the fact that they are acting like scum when you know that they know it? You can only hope that they come to their senses and correct the behavior and show some remorse. The scene where Starsky comes to Kira’s apartment and finds Hutch is raw and compelling. When Hutch comes out of the bedroom tucking in his shirt and sees Starsky the shame he feels is palpable. He drops his head and can’t look him in the eye. I think this has to be an all time low point for Hutch.
    When they work together to disarm Joey, once again working to save each other and those near them, Kira’s response speaks volumes. She goes to Joey and doesn’t even acknowledge that S&H put their lives on the line to save her. Throughtout the series when a close call has taken place they have always exchanged a look with one another that says “thanks again for having my back”. Starsky looks to Kira first, then looks at Hutch and I think that the healing begins there. It is back to “thee and me” as the fickle girl ignores them. In that moment they realize they almost lost the best thing they because of someone so not worthy of either one of them.
    As to the tag, I have always thought that they were inferring it was double or nothing. I agree with you, we got shorted on what would have been an interesting make up scene.
    One more thing, (sorry), you make a lot of comments about Hutch wanting Starsky’s attention. Do you purpose that Hutch is the latent homosexual of the duo and that his angst revolves around that???
    Thanks so much. I love reading these and giving it a big think.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, Lynn, for your thoughtful response to what is a tough episode. As for the subject of latency I actually have no opinion about it one way or another. I simply put it out for consideration. The subject doesn’t have the shock value it once had, but also it doesn’t seem as important as it once did either. It’s just one factor among many, and you can tell I love my long lists of factors.

      Now, on to the very last episode!

  2. Anachron Says:

    This episode was nasty. It really hurts to watch them together – Hutch is so unrelentingly mean to Starsky. What is prompting it? They each come across as some combination of burnt out, unhappy, and bored, among other things. Starsky retreats into passivity and maybe depression, and takes an amazing amount of crap from Hutch because I think he realizes “me and thee” is heading for a total breakdown – and he’ll do anything to prevent that. But the whole situation has hurt him badly – in his “you come into this life alone” speech he seems to be reciting what he believes he must adopt as his new philosophy – but it’s so sad and defeated compared to his usual point of view, because Hutch has basically beat the optimism and romance right out of him.

    Hutch, on the other hand, acts out – he attempts to provoke Starsky in order to get a reaction from him, some change from the current state of affairs. His motivation isn’t clear, but I think Hutch is testing Starsky’s dedication – how far can he push him to see if “me and thee” will trump other considerations; but as you say, there also appears to be a self-destructive element in it for Hutch. The boy just cannot do or say the right thing. I guess that puts me somewhere in or near camp 2 of your four hypotheses, with a bit of 3 thrown in. And while I can appreciate the possibility of Kira in the role of total manipulator, evil incarnate, I see her in this episode as very smart (and manipulative), 1970s’ ‘sexually liberated’ woman – this (as well as her honesty about it) shocks Hutch because he’s not the one running the show this time, and he can’t even see the parallels between her actions and outlook and his own.

    Watching the scene where Starsky admits he was jealous, I thought I saw a little flash of triumph or gloating in Hutch when he repeated those words – until, of course, Starsky professes his love for Kira, and then everything seems to shift for Hutch.

    To me the tag has always read that they’re proposing a threesome to Kira, a statement to her that she can’t split them up. And I agree with you completely that it’s annoying to not know how their reconciliation came about. That would have been a great scene to watch, particularly with the series finale following.

    Thanks again, Merle, for your analysis and insight.

    • Grevy's Zebra Says:

      Wow. Your insights about both Starsky’s passive and beaten-down demeanor and Hutch’s destructive and provocative actions are perfect.

      I guess the big questions are *why* they feel this way and how they got to this point. Why exactly does Hutch feel compelled to push the limits so far and where did this self-destructive streak come from. It’s not like he has an obvious basis for doubting Starsky’s friendship, since Starsky has demonstrated his love a hundred times and Hutch has always seemed to treasure and respect it – hell, just recently, Starsky tossed his badge into the ocean to stay by Hutch’s side. And why and how exactly did Starsky get so timid and unwilling to stand up to Hutch and challenge him the way he’s challenged him in the earlier seasons, as if, for some reason, he’s begun to think that this tattered remainder of their friendship is the best he’s going to get.

      Another thing I noted that I’m not sure is reassuring or even more troubling — not during any of their verbally blood-drawing, flesh-tearing fights, is a “break-up” spoken of, or does Starsky tell Hutch that he’s finished with him — as if the idea of breaking up the partnership, even if it turns toxic and violent, is incomprehensible.

  3. Daniela Says:

    as usual the indepth analysis is amazing….
    To me this was just a deam come true episode… Both guys in love with one girl, who loves both… I used to wish I was in her shoes… I could totally understand her predicament… How can one choose between the two?
    So, now that I read this post and the comments following… the episode is spoiled…. 😉
    There is some value to shallow TV watching!
    BTW, now I think totally differently! I know that one can’t love two guys at once!


  4. King David Says:

    Of course you can!

    Kira may have been a bright, modern lady in the liberated seventies, and she knew how to strutt her stuff, but we are not investing our allegiance with her – our allegiance is with the Partnership.
    Call me the most conservatively-minded person in the world, but I still find the idea of ‘bed-hopping’, as it were, by this woman, to be unsavoury. I accept the concept that men may not be repulsed by the knowledge that they are dipping their wicks where others have recently dipped, and I recognise that in the animal kingdom males will kill off other offspring in order to perpetuate their own genes, but S&H were not here out to procreate, nor was Kira on the hunt for the best progeny, so was it all about pure lust or love?
    I believe that Hutch fancied Kira, but since Starsky had established a relationship with her first, did he fancy her for herself or because she was linked to Starsky?
    Would Starsky ever get tired of Hutch taking his things? Their partnership is bound up in that dynamic. Starsky must be entitled, one would think, to have a girlfriend to himself.
    He is so unengaged in so many ways here. It’s troubling to watch. Is Hutch so insecure, that he has to destroy Starsky’s (perceived) relationship with Kira in order to reinforce his own sense of unworthiness? Indeed, has Starsky yet to consummate his relationship with Kira? I believe that Starsky has genuine feelings of love for her (unworthy woman), but Hutch may have more going on in his head.
    Another thought: Kira has heard of this inseparable pair and sets out to break them up just because she can. There’s no benefit to her other than doing something she has been told can’t happen. “How powerful am I?” type thing. Vicious, manipulative, psycopathic woman! And she started with the weakest link, Starsky, because he is a conservative man with orthodox views on life and love, and it wouldn’t occur to him she might be working on her own dysfunctional agenda. Plus, she might have been around long enough to recognise a fellow manipulator in Hutch, and she knows that Hutch would regard Starsky as his own, so she takes Starsky’s attention away, then engages Hutch in a way that would appeal to his vanity.
    I just love the little gesture Starsky makes with brushing off the coffee – a Glaser ad-lib?
    All in all, there are some hard-to-take moments in this episode, and I’m not including the plot holes such as not following the girl with the blonde wig.
    What, I wonder, is in the gift box?
    The scene with Hutch tucking his shirt into his trousers is so dirty, and Hutch is right to look ashamed. It lends credence to the thought that Kira has yet to bed Starsky, but he’s a physical kind of guy…does holding out on Starsky make Kira more appealing and apple-pie? More nice girl? I don’t know…it’s complicated.

    I am truly glad that they left, together, without her. I believe that they had discussed what was at stake, resolved their differences and renewed their relationship commitment to one another, and risked their offer to Kira knowing that she would not accept, as perhaps they too (finally) saw her agenda as not just coming between them and generating hostility, but the permanent fracturing of their partnership.

    A very good script.

    • King David Says:

      Correction: I meant the girl in the raven-haired wig. She was covering up the fact she was blonde, of course.

  5. Anna Says:

    Merl, I heard that originally, this episode was meant to take place earlier in the season, before the Targets Without A Badge three-parter (which was supposed to then lead directly into Sweet Revenge), but due to scheduling conflicts, it was bumped down later and was aired in the chronology we know — right smack in the middle of the ending arc, disrupting it. What do you make of this possibility, if it had happened? How would this episode ring differently if it had come before Targets? How would Targets ring differently if it had come after Starsky vs Hutch? How would Sweet Revenge ring differently if Starsky vs Hutch wasn’t such a fresh memory, and was instead an event buried in the “back there” time before the Really Big Deal that was the Targets arc? With Starsky vs Hutch safely in the past instead of looming in the future, would Targets have more of a vibe of healing and overcoming whatever has been plaguing them all season? Would Sweet Revenge feel less horrific? On the flip side, does the current, disruptive placement of Starsky vs Hutch unintentionally imbue Sweet Revenge, following on its tail, with something resembling sadistic Old-Testament-esque divine punishment for Hutch or even an “It’s A Wonderful Life”-esque event of self-actualizing revelation and insight? Or do you not factor episode placement into the internal significance of the episodes?

    (Forgive me if you’ve already answered this elsewhere — I haven’t rewatched Targets/Sweet Revenge enough times to feel comfortable reading one of your reviews, because I like to be very sure of my knowledge of an episode before reading anyone else’s interpretation.)

    • merltheearl Says:

      Excellent questions! I also knew “Starsky Vs Hutch” was filmed earlier in the series. I have no idea why the producers decided to do this, but I’m wondering if they wanted to add a little extra emotional voltage to the “Targets'” story arc. In that, I think, they succeeded – you’re right when you say the placement of the episode lends a powerful sense of predetermination (Old-Testament-esque, as you perfectly put it). Hutch has struck the partnership asunder, and must then be the one to put it back together again. That said, I wish it had come before “Targets”, perhaps as Episode 82 following “Birds of a Feather”. We could see then that Hutch has created problems by consistently shoring up false and unstable ideas of himself as son (or student), man (or master), and friend (or partner). In “Birds of a Feather” Hutch comes to realize his version of the past is suspect, that he has unwittingly and unconsciously constructed a version of reality that says more about his own need for emotional stability than much else. In “Vs” were to follow this, he would then come to realize he has constructed a false sense of what it means to be a man. Instead of heroic or masterful, he has merely been acquisitive and short-sighted. The present, therefore, becomes unsustainable. By the time the “Targets” episodes come around, he is at last given the chance to re-evaluate himself as a human being and make right the wrongs he has committed – which he does, utterly. This puts Starsky in the interesting position of Oracle throughout Season Four – both truth-teller and mirror.

      By placing “Starsky Vs. Hutch” in the middle of this last arc it becomes quite psychologically crowded, which is why I think it can be harder to stomach than it should have been. Now there is much more of a sense of continuity in episodic television but “Starsky and Hutch” was made to take advantage of repeats, each one fully independent of the other with no discernable timeline. You were supposed to see episodes from Season One slipped in without noticing. Which is why David Soul’s moustache was such an impertinent act of rebellion.

  6. Adelaide Says:

    Okay, I think I’ve lurked on this blog long enough to finally make a comment! What an amazing place! [insert thanks to the person who recommended it to me here]. And this is definitely the episode that gets everyone talking and scratching their heads.

    I actually think all four of your scenarios have some influence on Hutch’s actions in this episode. For #1, I think on a subconscious level, he probably knows Kira is bad news for Starsky. If Hutch really, truly believed on a gut level that Kira was good for Starsky, I think his desire to see his friend happy would have been enough to outweigh his other motives. For #3, I also think he’s definitely not thinking right at all. In fact, I don’t think he’s been thinking right all season. There’s something terribly self-destructive and obsessive in his spiral into Kira, as if he’s acting upon some scenario he’s cooked up in his own head rather than what’s actually happening in the real world (yup, parallels with Joey), and is pleading for attention and help with his confusion in a way reminiscent of his desperate need for Starsky to evaluate and define his worth in The Game. And for #4, Kira’s manipulation IS pitch-perfect — she’s like an author crafting a self-gratifying story for her own pleasure, but she’s using real people and power-tripping at the psychological high of observing her own brilliance and effectiveness. She sets them up with brilliantly accurate perception.

    But mostly, I believe that it’s #2. After all, Hutch has been inflicting a light-hearted, non-hurtful, ephemeral version of #2 on Starsky for the entire show, ever since the Pilot, when he (harmlessly, innocently, unconsciously) revels in being able to SEE the power he has over Starsky, able to turn him in circles and control his actions by using just two words: “Trust me.” And Starsky has not only uncomplainingly taken this all these years, but I believe Starsky doesn’t even really mind it, and Hutch KNOWS Starsky doesn’t really mind it. But now, Starsky is starting to mind, and Hutch is starting to want Starsky to mind. The little, reassuring power games are somehow no longer enough, they’ve progressed to what I’ve heard other fans in this fandom refer to as “prove you love me” games, which never, ever, ever work because they’re Catch-22’s where the act of proving love damages the love being proven, especially when the foundation of your friendship is absolute, got-your-back trust to the point of having merged and irrevocably interlocked identities.

    I think that’s why Starsky is so passive and ineffective here — there is nothing he is capable of that would help. He trusts Hutch, but Hutch is hurting him, but they are so entwined that by hurting Starsky, Hutch is hurting himself worse than he’s hurting Starsky and far worse than Starsky could ever hurt him, so Starsky has no leverage to coerce Hutch with. All he can do is take it and keep taking it and hope Hutch will have mercy, because he gave Hutch that power long ago and he has no desire to get it back if getting it back means explosive destruction of their friendship. And the same is true on Hutch’s side, but while Hutch’s actions are hurting Starsky, Starsky’s inaction is what’s hurting Hutch, and they can’t fix it, because Starsky can’t figure out what to do, and Hutch can’t figure out how to stop…..ok, when described like that it sounds really abusive and unhealthy, but thankfully it IS temporary and contingent on the circumstances of season 4, not an entrenched pattern. Hell, maybe this episode was the best thing that could have happened to them, because it gives them the awareness and acknowledgement needed to set them on the road to recovery, even without the transcendental healing of Sweet Revenge.

    By the way, the sight of Starsky curled up asleep in a fetal position on Hutch’s couch, face hidden, blanketless, in his bright red socks, waiting for Hutch to come home? Possibly the single saddest thing I’ve seen in the entire series not involving Sammy Grovner.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, Adelaide, and welcome to the blog. I appreciate the depth and sensitivity of your comments and for not thinking my analysis of Hutch’s motivation is not too over the top. Your insights into Starsky’s passivity are perfect.

  7. Anna Says:

    Oh, I guess my previous comment wasn’t really about this kind of stuff, but I also wanted to mention: There’s a detail in here that I’m not sure is odd or not — Starsky is lovingly tending to and singing to his plants in the scene at his apartment. What’s up with that? Hutch has always been the green thumb, and the one who does stuff like talking to his plants. When did Starsky take up solicitous plant-tending, much less plant-singing? Is this one of Starsky’s forlorn and inadequate attempts to reach out to Hutch, or did Hutch’s plant-love rub off on him earlier and I just didn’t notice? Add this to Hutch’s donut- and cold canned soup-gobbling and everything’s gone topsy-turvy!

    I also agree with Adelaide: that shot of Starsky sleeping on the couch is SO SAD. I don’t know why, but everything about him looks sad. Even his delightful red socks look sad. I think I made a sad noise at the screen when I watched it.

  8. Louie Says:

    “Svengali” – oh hm, interesting! I know it is just a shorthand term for manipulating someone into acts they normally wouldn’t commit…but your reference to it made me recall learning that the depiction of Svengali’s hypnotism of Trilby was later shown to be inaccurate and a person could not actually be hypnotized into doing something foreign to their fundamental nature…which is interesting in light of this episode.

    I know a lot of fans call the characterization in this episode out of character, but is it, really?

    If it had happened last season, or even at the beginning of this season, I would say yes, it was absolutely out of character. But after all of season 4, all that distance, all that tension, all that evidence of depression and anxiety and perpetually suppressed issues on both S&H’s parts, and how deep and intense their feelings over their fight clearly are…I don’t think it was OOC at all.

    It seemed more like a subconscious cry for help because nothing less drastic was working.

    I love that in all four of your hypothesis and all the comments, not one person on this review posed what would, in real life or with different characters, be the Occam’s Razor answer: that Hutch just really wanted to fuck Kira and cared more about his dick than he cared about Starsky. That’s the one theory that is so absolutely out of the question that no one will even dignify it with consideration.

    In a really, really dark scenario, the darkest paths possible to imagine their characters going down…it’s possible to envision S&H fighting with and hurting each other to the point of all-consuming hatred, but it is impossible to ever envision them becoming *indifferent* to each other. If they are horrible to each other, it would be because they matter to each other so much, even if the way they matter becomes twisted into archenemies.

    They could never just not care. S&H murdering each other in a fit of violent rage would be more believable than suddenly shrugging off their friendship for totally frivolous reasons. I guess that’s why this episode is so fascinating….you *know* there has got to be so much more going on under the surface than what’s explicit.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Louie, thanks for writing in and I enjoyed this comment. I admit to using the shorthand version of “Svengali” with little consideration into the exact nature of the hypnosis-vs-will theories (which are hazy, even among scientists; it seems, upon further research, that no one can say for absolute certainty whether someone can or can’t be hypnotised into doing something they wouldn’t do while fully conscious). As for no one addressing the simplest motive for Hutch’s behavior in this episode – pure sexual greed – I think I did, however obliquely. I said Hutch could have any number of women but chose instead to pursue the one he couldn’t or shouldn’t have, and I just can’t quite make myself believe Kira was so extraordinarily and erotically unique that Hutch felt compelled to have her despite the consequences. He wanted her precisely because of them. This episode does such a poor job of reconciling behavior with motive I am reduced to making up outlandish theories to amuse myself and possible a few other people (although I have a fondness for the “temporary insanity” one). Again, thank you for contributing such an effervescent comment.

    • Barbara Brusatori Says:

      When I watch the DVD’s now I watch Starsky vs Hutch before Targets & Sweet Revenge. I think both were burnt out by Starsky’s depression in Blindfold & Hutch’s depression in Ballad For A Blue Lady that brought them to this point in SvsH. I think in Blindfold after Hutch waved his hand & said later & walked out that Starsky was expecting Hutch to say more & was a little confused when he didn’t. I think it was a wake up call to Starsky what he was doing to himself. In Ballad Hutch was hurting himself & that he was pushing his best friend away at the same time which could have ended his own life in the process. So I feel that both became emotionally involved with Kira & not thinking straight & that confrontation at the door was the wake up call they both needed to heal. Starsky was on his way out the door when Hutch grabbed his arm & tried to stop him & Starsky started hitting Hutch & Hutch kind of pushed him against the wall. When Kira said stop you are both acting like kids & not asking what I think, Starsky & Hutch both had a very emotional amount of sorrow & regretful look in their eyes of what they were doing to each other. I feel this was the beginning of their healing process. Which helped them though the very emotional situation of Targets & how they stuck together, throwing their badges away and even with both of them liking Allison she did not come between them like Kira did.

      I would like to say I was sad to hear that the lady who played Kira passed away from breast cancer years ago. May she rest in Peace. From an almost 11 year old breast cancer survivor thank you for an amazing episode!


  9. Wallis Says:

    Wow, everyone has commented on this so insightfully that I feel like I need to do a rewatch. I’ve disliked this episode for a long time (not because they fight, but because I never liked the topic of the fight — fighting over a woman seemed too petty and stupid to me, I wanted an important fight over an important problem) but after reading this review and the comments, I think I need to rewatch and re-evaluate my dislike, because the pettiness of the subject of the fight is actually pretty important, as it shows that the whole fight over Kira is simply a symptom of the problems they’ve been previously having all season, not a *reason* for their problems in this episode. And there’s thematic logic about it being a woman they fight about (not only is it an ironic dark twist on their pattern of having constant funny, frivolous competitions over women, but women imply romance, which is the one really important emotional need that they can’t get from each other).

    Starsky seems a combination of heartbroken, bewildered, and intimidated throughout this episode. He can’t figure out why Hutch is treating him like shit and is too afraid (of what? where the hell is man who absorbed Hutch’s demons into himself with such strength and openness in Gillian?) to ask Hutch outright, and therefore for the first 3/4 of the episode he does nothing but the emotional equivalent of shrinking back and curling up to shield his internal organs from damaging sharp blows.

    My previous understanding of Hutch’s motivation has always fallen closest to your 3rd hypothesis — he seemed to be in the final stages of whatever anxiety/depression he’s had this season and doing a combination of broadcasting a desperate cry for attention and help and being caught up in fighting an imaginary battle for an imaginary prize and either not realizing how destructive he’s being or not being able to get a grip on himself. But I may have to rewatch and see if anything else fits better.

    I haven’t seen the episode in a while, but I still recall how horribly ugly and intense and painful the confrontation at Kira’s house was, especially Hutch’s palpable shame and Starsky looking like he was about to burst into tears.

    Merl, since you’re always so ready with wonderfully thoughtful hypotheses about character motivations, do you have any hypotheses about what kinds of pressures or developments and motivations may have precipitated their behavior since the start of season 4 in the first place? Because everything in this episode is stuff that would not have been remotely plausible at any other period of the show except late season 4.

    Also, do you have any hypotheses (other than arm-wrestling lol) about how they reconciled? Do you think maybe they hadn’t completely reconciled in the tag, but agreed to join forces to give Kira a “fuck you”?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Wallis, I’m touched to be asked my opinion on this troublesome episode, and I wish I could come up with something impressive. But if I am to be completely honest I don’t think the writer(s) had any hypothesis in mind when this episode was conceived and written, other than the sheer malicious satisfaction of throwing something incendiary into the mix. Rather like gods sitting on a cloud throwing down plagues and hailstorms just for the fun of it. I think everyone knew the series was on its last legs and so there was no more need to solidify and stabilize the partnership in preparation for another season’s slings and arrows. We can make anything up we like (and you can tell I like to make things up) but the fact is I think this episode came out of a general sense of malaise, and perhaps the two actors getting a kick out of being anti-heroes for once and risking the ire of their fans. By the time “Sweet Revenge” came to be made I’m sure they thought back to this episode and hoped to make up for it somehow by showing the partnership as indestructible after all. But wouldn’t I love to have Rick Edelstein join in this conversation and give us some insights. How he could love to see how much intelligent discourse his writing has inspired!

      In my opinion by the end of this episode Starsky and Hutch are utterly reconciled. To my mind the identical clothing they wear indicates complete integration, a merger more total than anything Hutch (or Starsky) may have had with Kira, or any woman. It’s nearly sacred, something incorporeal and thus “higher” in form than any physical union may be. Other than arm wrestling I’m sure this was accomplished with something akin to:
      Hutch: You ok?
      Starsky: Yeah.

      • Wallis Says:

        Haha, I actually meant what did you think the CHARACTERS’ motivations were. Like, what do you think might have happened to them personally between season 3 and 4 that could explain why they changed so much over the course of just one summer, a la your hypotheses about why Hutch slept with Kira.

        (I’ve long since given up on trying to speculate on the motivations of the real people on the production side when it comes to TV shows — so many different and conflicting factors between wanting a good story vs wanting high ratings vs wanting the censors and moral guardians to stay calm vs wanting not to bust the schedule and budget etc etc etc that mold an episode between first draft and shooting script).

        Great insight into the tag’s symbolism though!

      • merltheearl Says:

        I know what you meant, I guess I was trying to sidestep the question because I honestly hadn’t given it enough thought. My guess, though, would be burnout. In a way this fictional issue would parallel the actual one. Too much stress, job frustration, a feeling that no matter what he does he can’t seem to push back the black tide of iniquity; perhaps not a very dramatic scenario but one, I feel, has been hinted at since “Lady Blue.”

    • Barbara Brusatori Says:

      I think it has to do what they both went through emotionally during Blindfold with Starsky & Ballard For A Blue Lady with Hutch that they were both still going through an emotional trying time in their lives & haven’t really recovered from that. So this was the topping on the cake that needed to be worked out. Like the way it ended with them walking out arm in arm as buddies. I think it should have aired before Targets & then into Sweet Revenge!.

  10. Grevy's Zebra Says:

    I know I’m in the minority here, but this is one of my very favorite episodes. You know the phrase “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”? Without season 4 in general and this episode in particular, I don’t think I’d appreciate Starsky & Hutch’s amazing friendship nearly as much. There’s nothing like a really saddening rocky period or a really horrible fight to throw the friendship into sharp relief and to push things to their darkest possibilities to answer that burning question of “what if?” It makes them feel fuller, deeper, realer. And as much as I long for an explanation of what the fuck was Hutch thinking, and how the fuck they reconciled, I actually prefer the episode the way it is — all this delicious room for speculation.

    When I first watched it, I almost cried at their confrontation in Kira’s house. It’s probably the most difficult scene to watch. Because even if Hutch puts on a bit of a confrontational front later on, in that scene, all his…his…whatever the hell was compelling him to do the things he did, it’s all drained away. He’s not really fighting with Starsky, and he’s certainly not fighting over Kira. The fact that Kira thinks they’re fighting over *her,* rather than over the loss of their trust and friendship, shows what a self-centered creep she is. Watching Starsky is excruciating. Although it’s subtle next to Kira’s loud dismay and weeping, he’s literally shaking and breathless and barely holding back tears. You can hear him give a couple of deep, shuddering, almost-sobbing breaths. He’s so stunned and lost and hurt that he barely even knows what he’s saying or doing. Look at his body language — he’s stuttering and fumbling and ducking his head and moving around in a way that’s completely alien to his usual confident straightforward manner. He looks like a man whose ground has just crumbled under his feet and whose entire conception of the world and his identity and place within it has been flipped on its head, because a world in which Hutch could do something like that to him makes no sense to him whatsoever. The expression on his face after he and Hutch stop grappling, when he’s slumped against the wall while Kira yells at them, is the most heartbreaking expression I’ve ever seen him wear, holding himself, as if he’s been stabbed in the heart.

  11. Ruth Says:

    The $64,000 question here is surprisingly simple: “why oh why did Hutch sleep with Kira?” After coming back to this question several times in the years I have been a fan of this show, and after reading some more of your blog and the fascinating comments here, I have two more hypotheses (or extensions of yours) that are somewhat related to the ones you’ve voiced, but have different dimensions to them. Feel free to quibble:

    #1. Proof of power via proof of love. Hurting someone who loves you, especially if you hurt them by using their love for you against them, is the ultimate power trip.

    Being loved by someone makes you extremely powerful because it gives YOU – not them – control over THEIR feelings – you can make their heart shatter into a million pieces just by deciding to do what they trust you not to do. You know those song lyrics, “all I ever learned from love / Is how to shoot somebody who outdrew you”? It’s that. In the kitchen scene, Starsky says, “there’s no problem, not any more” and frankly admits, with an embarrassed grin, palpably relieved, that he was jealous – admitting Hutch ‘won’ as Hutch’s reaction to that line seems to suggest – and that he actually loves Kira. He’s not just saying “I love her”, he’s saying “thank god we’re not going to be fighting any more, since we only fight over women we don’t love and I love her.” It’s a big weight off his shoulders and it never occurs to him that Hutch would ever, ever sleep with a woman he loves in order to hurt him. It’s Starsky freely showing Hutch his unprotected underbelly while offering Hutch all the weapons he needs to tear Starsky’s guts out because he trusts that Hutch would ever do such a thing. And Hutch does exactly that. It’s a dark reprise of all those funny, light-hearted instances throughout the show where Hutch took advantage of Starsky’s trust and gullibility to play innocent little pranks on him or put him down with a well-placed but affectionate zinger. Hutch could not have hurt Starsky if Starsky didn’t love him and trust him – that’s the crux of it. Hutch has always wanted proof that Starsky loves him, and in an incredibly warped, twisted way, Hutch being able to hurt Starsky so, so badly is his ultimate sought-after proof that Starsky loves him and that Hutch has a great deal of power – over Starsky, if not over anything else in his life.

    If this is it (or partially it – his actions are so confusing that I suspect more than one separate factor is at play here), it is something that absolutely HAS to be subconscious, because I can never imagine Hutch consciously, deliberately doing something so abusive – to do so would imply indifference to morality and to Starsky’s pain, and whatever Hutch’s faults are, amorality and lack of empathy are NOT among them.

    #2. Defying fate by uncrossing a star-crossed friendship. It’s a bit like your Hypothesis #1, but Hutch isn’t protecting Starsky from Kira, he’s protecting him from himself.

    After all of season 4, perhaps he thinks he just can’t deal with this friendship thing anymore. It’s a vulnerability that people can (and, like Soldier in Targets I, do) exploit. It makes him worry. It keeps him trapped. It strips him of emotional independence. And one day, because of their jobs and their weaknesses, it’s all going to crash and burn. Maybe he thinks that eventually, he’s going to let Starsky down personally or professionally and he’s trying to show Starsky how dangerous being friends with him is, that it’s a mistake for Starsky to trust him. Or maybe he’s experiencing self-loathing over the past season and is afraid that any day, Starsky too might suddenly realize Hutch is not a good enough cop/person/friend anymore and is going to dump him, so he’s getting the drop on Starsky first — “leave him before he leaves me” sort of thing. Or maybe he’s scared to death that the next time he tells Starsky “jump” and Starsky says “how high?” (like quitting the force alongside Hutch, or risking prison to save him from a false murder rap, or risking being fired to get him off drugs, or risking his life countless times, or….) Starsky’s going to wind up breaking his own neck (or, like leaving Rigger alone to check on Hutch, selling his soul). So Hutch could be subconsciously *trying* to explode their friendship to save Starsky — not from an all-powerful infatuation with an unstable woman, but from an all-powerful and dangerous allegiance to what Hutch erroneously believes is an unstable and undeserving MAN who is on a downwards spiral and will drag Starsky down with him. Or to rid both himself and Starsky from the worry and the pain and stress and the feeling of being trapped by love and duty and loyalty.

    The catch of course is that this gambit is totally batshit. That’s why Hutch seems to be powerless to stop his own hurtful actions. He’s carrying out a mission for what he believes is the best for everyone in spite of what he knows to be true: that there is nothing that could possibly hurt Starsky as badly as the dissolution of his friendship with Hutch. Perhaps these two theories can be combined – he’s afraid he’s useless/bad for Starsky, and he’s so desperate to disprove this fear, by proving that he is in control and that Starsky loves him, to convince himself that the partnership is still worth it. Yet the way he proves this is by nearly ruining it all. Hutch, what are you doing to yourself, silly man?

    Possible? Plausible? Totally nuts? Too damn long? This is a tough episode to assign motive to because everything’s so murky. And it’s not really explaining why Starsky was passive and evasive enough for all this to even work on him, but perhaps Anachron and Adelaide explained it far more concisely than me.

    • Anna Says:

      Ruth, this is a very thoughtful and daring (though totally heartbreaking) analysis of this distressing episode.

      This reminds me of a speculation I think I’ve heard somewhere else before: it’s likely that Starsky is probably fairly accepting and at peace about his intense bond with Hutch, while Hutch probably lies in bed after close calls or stares out the car window during dull moments, worrying and obsessing over it, wondering if it’s healthy for them, whether he’s worthy of it, what he would do if Starsky died, trying to figure out how and why it all works.

      Hutch plays a lot of little games to try to explore and test their friendship, and I wonder if Hutch may have, however unconsciously, been spurred on here by a morbid curiosity (borne of…what? Depression? Fear? Self-destructiveness? Nihilistic boredom?) about seeing exactly what a massive betrayal/falling-out between the two of them would look like.

  12. Mary Anne Says:

    I really hated this episode and Kira. I wanted either Hutch or Starsky to confront her on her behavior, but neither did. If she really “loved” them as she professed she did, she would not have come between them in such a cruel fashion. I actually felt she got a kick out of tearing them a part.

    I also think this episode highlights how competitive men can be with each other. Of course in the past, Starsky and Hutch were playful about competing for a woman, but in this episode, there was something else going on. There is so much in this episode that is obviously done off camera that it’s hard to say what is motivating Hutch to be so cruel to Starsky. It was so sad to see Starksy sleeping on Hutch’s coach after Hutch was with Kira all night.

    I do like the ending where Starsky tells Huggy he is waiting for a “tall blond” and Hutch appears.

    It’s interesting to note this episode is second from the last of the series and in the final episode, Hutch does all he can to save his friend and avenge Starsky.

    • merltheearl Says:

      I think you have nicely restated all the points from my original post. I didn’t much like this episode either, in fact I dreaded watching it when it came to write the section, so prejudiced was I. But isn’t the fun in not just hating an episode, but trying to work out motivation and intention? And also, it’s pretty brave, when you think about it, to have such a distressing and disappointing event right near the end of a series in which we are being asked to laud these heroic and beloved characters.

      • Grevy's Zebra Says:

        Merl, I’m glad to hear you too think this episode is brave in a way. This is actually one of my favorite episodes (although I also find it infuriating and heartbreaking to rewatch), partly because it allows the vague problems with their friendship in season 4 to come to a head and be taken seriously — now it’s a real, big problem that requires acknowledgment and effort to figure out and solve, rather than just a vaguely unsatisfying, uncomfortable period, and that’s somehow more comforting to me (even though it DOES take place offscreen, as Mary Anne says, which is aaaarrrgh), because it’s to be expected that a friendship this intense would also have to weather an intense dark period or two. And by pushing their limits so far, it shows their friendship is strong enough to recover from a blow that would devastate most other friendships. It may compromise their heroism and surface laudability, but this thematically resonates with the morally brutal Targets arc (see: Huggy chewing them out over their culpability in Rigger’s death, and their shame and self-blame and harsh acceptance of responsibility for it). Overcoming threats to the partnership not just from without, but from within as well.

        (I think the best antidote to S vs H is the beautiful ping-pong game at the beginning of Sweet Revenge, where it’s clear that no matter what happened or why, they’ve completely overcome it).

        Also, in my opinion, S vs H makes Hutch’s redemption in Sweet Revenge just that much better — there’s a narrative reason, something more than sheer dumb luck about which direction the Torino happened to be facing, for why Starsky got shot instead of Hutch.

  13. Blunderbuss Says:

    It literally hurts me to watch this episode, I actually feel a tight, desperate, painful sort of pressing in my chest during scenes like their first fight when Starsky wakes up from sleeping on Hutch’s couch, in which you pinpoint Hutch’s barely-sane, uncontrollably self-destroying demeanor so well. The way young children might feel when they hear their parents fighting. Or, after the two of them break apart from wrestling with each other at Kira’s house, when Starsky stares at Hutch with a look of ruined, eerily-calm devastation that transcends both rage and betrayal (an expression so startling that it stuck in my head with photo-perfect vividness for years after I first saw it, Jesus Christ the man’s *eyes*), before subtly flickering down into a shaken, exhausted expression of…something…I want to say ‘grief’, but the expression is too dead and broken for that word to describe it accurately.

    But I can’t say I hate it. Though it has a couple of big, glaring internal flaws, Hutch’s motivation and the mystery of how they made up at the end are the biggest ones of course, I find it too bold, fascinating, elegantly tragic, and written and acted with too keen an understanding of the characters and their relationship, even if this understanding is simply exploited to most effectively shatter them, to genuinely dislike it.

    Before I watched this episode, I had heard discussion about it and had been spoiled for the pivotal events in it many times from many fans, and from what I had heard, I always assumed the episode would be clunky, unsubtle, insincere, and poorly-made, and that the fight would feel stupid and superficial, something like “Foxy Lady” with a nasty twist.

    When I did watch it, I was floored by just how complex, quietly devastating, intense and shockingly *dark* it was instead. And most of all, if ignoring the fact that it feels like the most important one-third of the story has been mysteriously deleted, how unsettlingly in-character it manages to be even though on paper, it sounds like the most absurdly out-of-character thing imaginable.

    I choose to view this episode not as something awful and out of character that shouldn’t have happened, but rather, as the most punishing and horrible test Starsky and Hutch’s friendship has ever had to withstand. Somehow, I find that when I view it that way, it actually enhances the strength of their friendship overall rather than damaging it. However I can only view it that way if I also assume that Hutch has been on a psychological downward spiral throughout the entirety of season 4. Therefore, this episode is a great springboard for some of the most complex, in-depth theorizing and analysis in the whole show, some of which goes well beyond just this episode on its own, and beyond even just season 4, which in my opinion, is only a good thing.

  14. Sugarbush Says:

    This episode probably upset me more than any other episode of any other show that I can remember. I think the reason it makes me so upset is not that it’s a bad episode, but rather, it’s not bad ENOUGH. It’s too convincing an episode to be written off as “dumb shit the execs made us do” (like, for example, the Playboy Island episodes.)

    Because it’s so convincing, but doesn’t give any proper motivation for Hutch’s actions, it kind of alters the tenor of their relationship. It retroactively makes me see certain things Hutch has done during the past four seasons in a different light, because I’m hunting for motivations. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, because it inspires such a complex take on this show and their relationship. But it really frustrates me that there’s no scene of their reconciliation to balance out the fighting.

    Their acting, especially Starsky’s, during the scene at Kira’s house was so powerfully distraught and the sense of anguish and betrayal and destroyed friendship was so convincing that seeing that he’s apparently suddenly forgiven Hutch in the end makes me go “but why would you after he broke your heart like that?” more than “oh good, thank god they’re okay again.” I want to know how Hutch apologized, how he explained himself, and why Starsky forgave him.

    Chronologically, their onscreen scenes together go 1. grenade scene where they first cooperate again, 2. cooperative but sort of tense and stilted bar scene with Kira, 3. very affectionate and sweet ping-pong scene in Sweet Revenge where it’s pretty obvious there’s no lingering ill-will whatsoever. It feels like so much happened in the gaps between them. We don’t even know how much time passed between the grenade scene with Joey and the bar scene with Kira. It could have been a day, or it could have been a week, or it could have maybe even been a month.

    I have to disagree that Starsky and Hutch are bad at talking to each other. On the contrary, I’ve found that whenever they need to, they are very good at talking sincerely and openly with each other. But they usually DON’T need to. They usually each know what the other is thinking and can understand immediately, or with just a glance, or a nod, or a word or two, or a lot of the time they’re thinking on the same wavelength without even having to communicate. But here, they suddenly don’t understand each other at all and are discombobulated by it.

    I think their floundering here is mostly because they feel like they shouldn’t HAVE to explain what they’re feeling, they’re not used to having to explain something as obvious as this. Also maybe they don’t really want to listen to what the other has to say, because they’re afraid of what they might hear.

    • Anna Says:

      “Their acting, especially Starsky’s, during the scene at Kira’s house was so powerfully distraught and the sense of anguish and betrayal and destroyed friendship was so convincing that seeing that he’s apparently suddenly forgiven Hutch in the end makes me go “but why would you after he broke your heart like that?” more than “oh good, thank god they’re okay again.” I want to know how Hutch apologized, how he explained himself, and why Starsky forgave him.”

      I recently watched this episode again, and I have to agree. Yes, Starsky’s a very forgiving person, as we see all the time in previous episodes, but I think that’s because he understands Hutch’s motives aren’t really that bad, not because Starsky’s a doormat who will let his friend hurt him without protesting.

      But in that scene in Kira’s apartment…that was something else. It’s said in a couple of comments above, that Starsky wasn’t just hurt, or angry, or confused. The look on his face seems to say that something inside him had shattered, and that something he believed in had been destroyed. It was so convincing that for a second, I almost didn’t even *want* them to make up because why would Starsky forgive Hutch if he felt that way? Without a scene where Hutch explains himself in a way that changes Starsky’s feelings about Hutch’s actions, the tag kind of does make Starsky look like a doormat, and if I wasn’t such an analytical viewer, it would make me really resent Hutch.

      • Sugarbush Says:

        Anna, sorry it took me so long to respond. I must’ve not had comment notifications turned on for this post.

        I’m not sure if the tag makes Starsky look like a doormat or not. I’ve turned over your comment in my head trying to decide, and I think it comes down to the approach to the episode. If I assume there was an important missing scene (or many missing scenes) before the tag, it makes sense to assume that the forgiveness and reconciliation is complete and solid. However if I assume that only what is said in the tag happened, and they just discussed things and decided to bluff/reject Kira together, Starsky’s forgiveness of Hutch makes me kind of uncomfortable. I know I’m applying my own standards to a character who might have different ones, but I just don’t see why he’d do that. The comment a few slots above me, that says that nowhere in the episode is a breakup threatened or does Starsky tell Hutch they’re through, makes me wonder. Is it at least an option for him? Maybe he really can’t live without Hutch. I’d believe an unexplained forgiveness if Hutch had made any other serious transgression, but not a personal betrayal of trust. I want a better theory for that.

  15. Carl Says:

    I just watched this episode for the first time on “re-run”. I do not recall watching S&H anymore in 1979-80 when the last series ran. Like most, I was shocked at Hutch’s behaviour and first thought Kira was a ‘new girl on the block’, not someone Starsky was involved with. The final scene was a hoot, which I think does imply that Kira could have them both or not at all. It was good to see them buddies again, walking out of Huggy’s bar.

  16. Spencer Says:

    I was very disturbed by this episode the first time I viewed it, but after watching it more closely, I saw things differently and could understand it better. Of course, Hutch acted horribly toward Starsky but I don’t think he realized how serious Starsky was about Kira. I believe he thought it was a mutual flirtation, much as they both flirted with Allison in “Partners Without a Badge,” going so far as to have a group date, as well as in other episodes where they clearly were comfortable with light-hearted competition and sharing. Kira, however, broke the rules by leading both guys on and making each partner think they had something special with her. When Starsky told Hutch that he loved Kira, Hutch was genuinely surprised. I think he realized that Kira was just playing them both. Hutch then goes directly to Kira’s place possibly intending to tell her something like “Starsky is taking this thing way too seriously and you better straighten him out or he’s going to get hurt.” Although earlier he said “what’s a Starsky” (uggh), later he says “we have Starsky to consider.” When Kira explains to Hutch that she feels free to love two men at the same time, her eyes simply sparkle with glee. She doesn’t apologize for leading Starsky on or hurting anyone – she’s actually enjoying herself with the mischief she’s caused. The fact that Hutch does go on to sleep with KIra after all reveals other psychological issues at play – the kind we all love to dissect. As for Starsky’s reticence in directly confronting Hutch about his behavior with Kira, I think that in the back of Starsky’s mind he knows his relationship with Hutch is more important than his relationship with Kira so he walks a tight-rope between the two. Together, Starsky and Hutch eventually come to realize how emotionally flawed Kira really is. Prior to the tag, they have obviously had a lengthy discussion about her and have chosen to stick together rather than have Kira pull them apart (or have one step back so the other can continue in a relationship with her). She perhaps had wanted them to be surprised by each other’s presence at the meeting at Huggy’s, but they were already aware that Kira had set them up. She thinks she has the upper hand but is quickly put in her place. Starsky and Hutch are both in sync again down to their clothing, their drink orders, their catch-and-release banter over her head. In my opinion, they were offering her a three-some and not the option of one or the other. This is one of my favorite tags because of how it displays the partners’ unbreakable bond.

  17. Floss Says:

    I kept it private, but I always disagreed with the other fans I know who hated “Starsky vs Hutch” because they fought. It was hard to see them fight so awfully, and distressing to see Hutch treat Starsky so horribly, but an episode where they fight and one of them hurts the other badly and they then make up, showing that the partnership can survive even that kind of hurt, is as important as episodes where they go to great lengths to save each other from danger.

    My only problem was that it didn’t bother to show us the conversation where Starsky forgave Hutch. Cop-out!

    The comments for this ep are amazing! I was shaken by Louie’s comment that it would be more plausible for Starsky and Hutch to hate each other enough to murder each other in a rage than for them to just drift apart; and by Sugarbush’s comment that this event retroactively colors Hutch’s character in the previous seasons. The first is something I never considered, and the second is something I think I always knew deep down but never really wanted to think about.

  18. Wallis Says:

    I know I already left a comment here last year, but it hit me rather suddenly after a long time that Hutch’s actions here mirror his actions in a scene from long before, the central confrontation scene in Gillian. Merl refers back to it in the second kitchen scene, but I think it goes beyond just that one scene.

    In that short, heat-of-the-moment scene in Gillian, Hutch tries, for just a few seconds, to control his situation by trying to rupture the partnership, assaulting Starsky and calling him a liar and rejecting the friendship between them, because the friendship is causing him extreme suffering in an indirect way — he can’t stand the anguish of the truth behind why Gillian died, and Starsky is the one telling him that truth. Denying the trust and love between them lets him also deny the truth and the burden of Gillian’s death and lies. Trust is a double-edged sword in some situations. It means a person can’t create and believe his own comforting version of reality if someone he trusts refutes it.

    In this episode, I think that something similar is going on — Hutch again tries to rupture the partnership because it is causing him some kind of suffering, in this case not an acute pain like Gillian’s death but probably a more chronic long-term pain about his job and partnership. I think you’re right when you say there is something self-destructive about his behavior here. Friendship and loyalty is a double-edged sword too. It’s an obstacle to someone who doesn’t want (or thinks he doesn’t want) to be helped, but wants to be set free from outside obligations (“free” in the sense of “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”)

    In both situations, Starsky’s ability to absorb the negative energy Hutch unleashes on him without breaking is what saves Hutch, although unlike in Gillian, here it takes Starsky a while to figure it out (I’m guessing, because the episode doesn’t show it) and shore up whatever emotional reserves he has that make him capable of forgiveness in this episode.

    I think out of all the various mysterious depths these two characters have, the source of Starsky’s said emotional reserves is the most mysterious one of all to me. He has no wife, no children, no reliable family, we don’t see any therapist or religious community of his either. How does he replenish his reserves like that? It can’t be that things just bounce off him — it’s plain how hurt and troubled he is by their fighting in this episode, and by other emotional crises in previous episodes. How does he do it?

  19. Miche Says:

    I will admit this eps is hard to watch. No human being is perfect and betrayals happen, even in the best of relationships. What I know at this point in life, is that betrayal is never to another, it is to ourselves. And this clearly applies to Hutch. He let lust take over and that was it.

    There are many scenes in this eps where Starsky tugs at my heartstrings. I feel his confusion and loss as though the foundation, the trust he can always rely on with Hutch is being seriously shaken. It makes me sad writing this but I know that life leaves no experiences out, it’s a totality. What Grevy’s Zebra wrote: ‘you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” is one of life’s hard lessons.

    What I see when I look at Hutch’s expression as he watches Starsky’s devastated look after they wrestle, is the same devastation. I think that in that moment as he watches his best friend demolished and on the verge of tears, the impact of his actions hits home and he’s hurting. What I don’t like is how he picks at Starsky again in front of Dobey. Feeling guilty and projecting that guilt onto his partner?

    This is not to excuse Hutch – I don’t have a favorite – but rather to rationalize how this could transpire. The line with them competing for women has often been fine. Starsky did tell Hutch he loves Kira, but then Kira ’said what she said’ which confused Hutch enough to have him forget what is important. If Starsky had been in a long-term relationship and this had happened, it would be harder to digest. I have a hard time imagining Hutch making a move then. Still, I think Starsky would be capable of forgiving him… with time.

    They both know and have the ability to return to what matters, love.

    As I read the comments here about the scene in Gillian where Hutch hits Starsky, I’d like to share that I never had an inkling of a problem watching that. It has always been clear to me that Hutch hitting Starsky is a painful emotional reaction on his part and Starsky knows that. No rationalization was necessary for me watching Gillian, compared to what went through my mind seeing the betrayal in S vs H.

  20. Seaton Says:

    I also found this episode surprising. Shocking, even. I had all sorts of comments on Hutch’s behaviour, the story arc being disrupted by putting this episode just before the final one, what was meant by the “No” exchange at the end and so on … but anything I wanted to say has been said much better above.

    So can I just ask: When Hutch says “You prick us, doth we not bleed”, and Starsky says “That’s my line”, do you think it’s a reference to his being Jewish? Or have I missed something else that makes it Starsky’s, not Hutch’s line?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Seaton, this is the sort of observation that makes it all worth while to me. Such a small detail, so many ramifications. Yes, I would say there are delightful echoes of Starsky’s Jewish heritage, if he has one (and the series is coy about that). Another interpretation is that Starsky is telling Hutch, albeit in a joking way, that he has been hurt worse by his partner’s actions than by Kira’s. Which would make the pricking, in this case, due to Hutch’s brutal sharpness.

  21. Michael Says:

    “Both David Berkowitz and this character are Vietnam War vets and were deeply scarred by the experience, both stalk and kill women with a particular color of hair (Berkowitz went after long brunette hair, this guy goes after blondes)”.

    For the record, although Berkowitz did serve in the Army (He enlisted in the Army three days after graduating from high school in June 1971), he never served in Vietnam or saw combat. He was stationed in South Korea for a thirteen month tour, and was honorably discharged after three years. During that time, he had his one and only sexual experience with a prostitute and caught a venereal disease. He was trained as an infantryman, but his MOS was changed to clerk typist when he was assigned to Ft. Knox after his tour in Korea. He was honorably discharged in 1974.


    • merltheearl Says:

      Michael, this is great, thank you for the clarification! I’ll change my post to reflect this. I have a bad habit of writing off the cuff, partially based on the fact that I have deliberately avoided any secondary reading/research about the series as a whole, preferring to write my thoughts without external influences. It leads to mistakes like this one. Kee up the eagle eye!

  22. s j forrest Says:

    Hi all, as usual, this review is very nice for me in particular is the most beautiful review you have ever written merl. This for me is a really good and beautiful episode and FLOSS is right when he says that it makes no sense that you fans don’t like it because starsky and hutch fight.For me, however, it makes a lot of sense that Starsky and Hutch argue in this episode and for me the writers did well to include it for the simple reason that it is obvious that sooner or later two male friends fight over a woman,and that particular makes Starsky and Hutch even more believable.
    For me a behaves like this because he believed that this was a simple flirtation between Kira and Starsky and he did not believe that astarsky gli piacesse così so much. Also i must definitely add this episode has a psychadelic music very beatifoul. Above all, the scene in which Richard Lynch is preparing to kill the girl with the wig is beautiful where a really beautiful music begins of 10 seconds. he direction is also very beautiful especially in the scenes where Starsky and Hutch arrive at the victim’s house where it follow them in that strange way, very beautiful also the ending in the way they capture Lynch.In a nutshell, this is a really good episode for me, the plot is well written, the music and direction is excellent, it’s also a nice dark and disturbing episode, especially the scenes where Richard Lynch was acting alone were really scary. For the fans who don’t like this episode, you don’t have to worry about whether Starsky and Hutch are fighting or not, I repeat they are likely to fight, but you have to watch how the episode is made and how it is shot. If you just pay attention if s & h are fighting or not, he hasn’t even heard of watching this show. Now I understand why most of you hate the 4th season, I repeat I find it well done, disturbing and very beautiful.

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