Episode 88: Sweet Revenge

Starsky lies dying in the hospital and Hutch fights to discover who ordered his death, the still-unknown enemy James Gunther.

James Gunther: William Prince, Bates: Alex Courtney, Doctor: Conrad Bachman, Jonathan Wells: Sean Griffin, Nurse: Stefanie Auerbach, Lancaster: Ivan Bonar, Schneider: Lou Felder, Jenny Brown: Beverly Hart. Written By: Steven Nalevansky and Joe Reb Moffly, Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser.


The Hutchinson File: This series finale gives rise to more questions than answers, but it’s a fitting end to a remarkable four years. While the pilot began with Starsky (arriving first, establishing a strong character, dominating our first impressions) it ends with Hutch. Oh boy does it ever. David Soul gives an incredible, highly-charged performance as a man torn between action and paralyzing grief. There isn’t a second in the entire episode in which he isn’t fully committed, and there is no one who is scarier in the throes of rage. The template of the story, in which one is injured and the other seeks retribution, has been employed several times as a complex but easily palatable (and handy) metaphor for the partnership’s durability and invincibility. It allows both men to show the depth of love and care for one another in a way that is intense, tangible, and societally sanctioned. Yet because this episode is the last in the series, there is no certainty of success when a life hangs in the balance. Death is actually breathing down their necks in this one, a foul presence as real as any character onscreen. This time you’re just not sure Starsky is going to make it.

This episode is extremely well made on every level. You can see how much care and love has gone into making this a farewell worthy of the series as a whole, and its perfection can make it difficult to explicate in any meaningful way. Much space will be wasted pointing out this wonderful moment and that one, but this is such a beautiful last episode and so germane to the story arc as a whole in terms of theme and emotional tenor that there is very little to add in terms of critical analysis. It is, I might venture, the only fully conscious episode in the canon.

Here, the events, and the resolution, are fairly straightforward. Clues are found, a call is made, lines are drawn between suspect and victim. But that is not the real story now, or at least it’s not the one that holds the greater meaning. What is in the process of happening is like a chrysalis, hidden from view but miraculous all the same: nothing less, I think, than a transformation, the maturity, the final stage of a relationship. Throughout the series Hutch has been contentious and difficult, a man with equal parts of darkness and light. While there isn’t a doubt of his affection for Starsky, he has recently betrayed him with Kira (“Starsky vs. Hutch”), and has often been berating, condescending or sarcastic, leaving some to wonder why Starsky is so loyal to him in return; we fear the darkness is encroaching on the light. But here he is given a chance to show himself as he truly is, as Starsky has always known him to be: brave, determined, loving and principled.

The title of this episode is unusual. Throughout the series titles have either been descriptive (“Satan’s Witches”, “Murder at Sea”) or nonsensical (“Quadromania”, “Ninety Pounds of Trouble”). Occasionally they give us a contextual hint (“Deckwatch”, “Manchild on the Streets”) or underline a political point (“Velvet Jungle”). But rarely, if ever, does a title tell us how to make up our minds about a contentious point. For instance, “Pariah” is a title that tells us what we already know: Starsky feels like one. But in this case we are talking about a concept the series has tried very sincerely to define: that is, the concept of vengeance and how it adds to or detracts from justice. This episode is not entitled “Revenge”. The use of the adjective “sweet” could be ironic or it could be sincere, it could be political and it could be in direct opposition to the long-running theme of mercy and justice. I believe it may be a bit of all these things – it is there and we have to pay attention to it. Throughout the series it has been stated very clearly that neither Starsky nor Hutch are vengeful. They never act for selfish reasons, even if those reasons are “good”. Time and time again, starting from the pilot movie, we see them consciously reject any notion of personal retribution. True justice, they believe, is the good of the community, despite personal injury. It is a direct disavowal of an eye for an eye-style punitiveness, despite everyone around them howling for reprisal. But also there’s another layer here. The word sweet is whispered in Hutch’s ear throughout, the implication that nothing less than making Gunther suffer as Starsky is suffering, and that Hutch is suffering, will do. How many of us, in Hutch’s shoes, could resist this siren call?

Filming notes: all the stops were pulled out for this episode: real hospital equipment was hired, which helps the hospital and its doctors and nurses look entirely authentic. A very unusual three cameras were used for filming the tag, and Glaser spent a month editing the episode instead of the usual two weeks. Reportedly, Glaser and Soul also wrote much of the episode (uncredited as always). This is the fifth episode directed by Glaser, and his metaphoric, highly stylized approach beautifully highlights the strong bond between Starsky and Hutch. The use of visual tropes is extraordinary and one of the best is the marvelous shot of Hutch in the elevator, replaying his last conversation with Starsky in his mind, with a sign next to him reading “Maximum Load”. It’s a perfect summation of his extreme, crushing burden and I love that Glaser is using something we have all seen a thousand times, only now it is new and meaningful. Soul hung around for the shooting even when he wasn’t required, as they always did for each other when the other directed. Glaser apparently was suffering a bad cold throughout much of the shooting and could only whisper off-camera.

The first scene, a murky boardroom lit only by dim lamps and the glare from a slide projector, is a wonderful encapsulation of what this series has always maintained as the epitome of evil. Disembodied voices droning on about corporate acquisitions, the throwing around of British titles and incomprehensibly profitable shipping agreements, the muted self-congratulation, the accumulation of vast wealth for its own sake, all this is presented as far worse than any young punks stealing cars or robbing convenience stores.

Wonderfully creepy, too, is the acrid, palpable fear of James Gunther shared by all in the room.

We first see Gunther as a disembodied hand clutching a gold necklace. Later, Bates has this same necklace in a death grip. This is obviously an important object, but what is its significance?

Mr. Schneider comments that with “minimal cooperation from Wall Street,” Gunther will do well. Does he mean cooperation in terms of crooked trading and bribes? Or cooperation is terms of being pleased with the way it naturally plays out, as the way the weather “cooperates” for a picnic? In other words, does Gunther control much of Wall Street or not?

The renovations going on at the police station indicate dismantling, reordering: the furniture is in death-like shrouds and the cheery plastic piggy bank the only familiar object left, still in its position of honor between the desks. We are reminded once again that the end is here.

There are many, many significant elegiac details in this episode illustrating Starsky and Hutch’s partnership. Surprisingly, one of these is ping-pong. It really does work as a metaphor: for instance, this is a game entirely dependent on a certain delicate give-and-take. For the game to work, both players must be similarly adept, since merely smashing the ball to an unresponsive partner is no fun at all. Look how perfectly matched Starsky and Hutch are, as their rounds go for a long time without either conceding a point, and 20 to 19 is incredibly close. Hutch somehow finds a ping-pong ball and bounces it impotently as he checks on Starsky’s condition; without a partner, the game cannot be played. There is also an ad hoc quality to ping-pong: it can be played anywhere there is a flat surface, hence the spontaneous game on the desks. You could say the same for this friendship, springing fully-formed from two people of disparate backgrounds and interests. The speed and precision is hypnotic. And the longer it continues without a break, the better it is. Later, the paddles foreshadow the defibrillator pads. Starsky slaps his against Dobey’s lower side as he is leaving, Hutch slaps his against Dobey’s upper chest, both are roughly in position doctor uses them later on Starsky.

There is very little Torino in the final quartet of shows, so it’s nice to see it again here, however briefly.

It’s a mark of Starsky’s strength that the only thing that can bring him down is a machine gun.

The timing of the shooting seems so much more cruel because it happens while the guys are happily joking about plans for Starsky’s victory dinner (Hutch wants to do it “at five a.m.”)

If the aim is to assassinate both of them, then why start shooting when Hutch is standing behind the car? Seems to me they could have taken aim when they first leave the building, walking together.

This episode is meticulously composed, with a half-hidden soundtrack. It’s in the rhythm of Starsky’s heart monitor, the sound of the clock in Gunther’s office, the bounce of the ping-pong ball, the click of the spoon against the cup with Bate’s poisoned coffee, the whooshing of the ventilator, and the sound of Huggy’s footsteps in the hallway.

It’s heartbreaking when Huggy tries to sound optimistic about Starsky’s chances and Hutch says “he’s dying.” In “A Coffin for Starsky” Hutch was the one exploding when Dobey expressed similar pessimism, shouting “It doesn’t matter if we have two minutes, we don’t give up.” But here he’s repeating what he’s been told by doctors, trying to get used to it, make himself immune. He can’t even risk a shred of hope. He can’t afford it, he’ll break into a million pieces. Only rage can motivate him. He’s not even speaking to anyone in particular when he starts talking. “The body can only withstand …” So much is the end of that sentence, but he can’t say it. His voice trails off. For Hutch to be bereft of language is, to me, a sign of his own disintegration, his own form of death.

This is the longest period of quiet in the entire series, which is risky, ambitious, and unremittingly intense. Hutch enters Starsky’s room and is completely lost. He stares at nothing while the room shifts in and out of focus, bathed in a remarkable light that can only be called ethereal. Time passes. He then wanders back into the hall and stands as if he can’t remember what he’s doing there, or where he should be going. He’s broken.

The silence is ended spectacularly with a lot of shouting, furniture-moving, and police radios.

Hutch tells Dobey, “I already got a partner, I don’t need another one.” Hutch isn’t implying if Starsky dies he’s through as a police officer, he’s saying they will never be separated by death. It could be a glimpse into his desperate hope, or there could be a kind of supernatural interpretation, that there is no such thing as death in a relationship as immortal as this one. It could be both, or neither. It could be that this is one of Hutch’s conflicting signals, one moment telling himself and others Starsky is going to die and then in the next refusing to believe in that very possibility.

In “Pariah”, Hutch gently teases Starsky about the car running better if you start it. Huggy does the same thing to Hutch, “Your keys, you can’t drive a car without keys,” after Hutch goes down to find Dobey’s car in the garage.

Later in the elevator he says to Huggy (who has never looked better in a startling rust-colored suede jumpsuit and scarf), “Starsky’s going to die, Hug. Starsky’s going to die and there ain’t nothing anyone can do about it.” He then goes on to say, “At least from their end there isn’t. I’m still here. I’m still alive. They haven’t got me yet. And until then there damn well better be something I can do.” This is an interesting speech in many ways. Hutch is saying a lot of contradictory things, and in there somewhere is a merging of his life with Starsky’s, an acknowledgement that they got one half but not the other, and that “doing something about it” doesn’t necessarily mean saving Starsky’s life, but making the end of that life lead to something good or just.

As an aside, Soul is often filmed in profile during these wrenching scenes. Of course we can see his profile is noble in the extreme. But a deeper reason for this might be he’s often looking off into another realm while speaking rather than addressing the person. He never once looks at Dobey in the previous scenes, and he doesn’t look at Huggy in the elevator either. When he finally does, as the doors close, it’s with shocking warmth and immediacy.

Dobey complains that letting Hutch investigate the case would be “like shooting fish in a barrel”. But here is Hutch, left to walk alone in an ominously dark underground parking lot with no police escort.

Hutch is holding two people who take a bullet meant for him. The first is Billy Harknes in “The Bait” and the second is the guy in parking lot who attacked him with knife. He’s incredibly lucky both times, as bullets can easily blast through more than one body.

This is another instance of Hutch walking in his distinctive forward-tilting way while in total silence (here, and in “Bloodbath”, also directed by Glaser).

The acoustics of the parking garage are employed well, Hutch’s shouting making dramatic echoes, and later the cannon boom of his gun continuing to roar for some time as a kind of evil background music.

Why would Jenny Brown be that Jenny Brown? It’s a common name but Hutch takes Huggy’s word for it and races off, despite how weird it seems that a successful model would get involved in a hit on a police officer. Her participation is a regrettable complication, and unnecessary, in my opinion. Did the writers think it wasn’t a true Starsky and Hutch episode without a pretty girl somewhere in it?

The intensive care nurse who preps the defibrillator has red fingernails, a professional no-no. This is the only detail that doesn’t quite ring true in an episode in which the nurses – mainly tired-looking, older women in cardigans – actually seem like the real deal.

Again we discern the details making this episode so magical: the doctor seems ready to stop and declare time of death when something makes him try once more.

Huggy is the only one with an appetite when Starsky is critically ill. Is it because he is the one that has the most optimism Starsky will be all right? Maybe this speaks to some small but crucial missing element in his relationship with the both of them. Another interpretation could be that a skinny man anxiously eating and a  fat man refusing food is the epitome of the kind of private anguish that turns the world upside down.

Why is Jenny Brown bailed out of jail, but the guy Hutch caught in garage knifed to death? Why didn’t they kill her as well?

Gunther’s lawyer Jonathan Wells, who probably isn’t afraid of much, is nevertheless so unnerved by Hutch’s murderous stare that he does what he says, tells his secretary to hold his calls. Hutch thanks Wells for clearing up “my confusion about prostitutes. Now I know that the high-priced ones can also wear three-piece suits.” Wells pretends not to be affected but you just know it’s going to bother him for years. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a single instance in the four-year run of the series in which a lawyer has proved to be truly honorable. This adversarial relationship might be understandable given the defendant-vs-prosecutor legal system, with Starsky and Hutch being on the prosecution side, but the fact that I cannot come up with a single instance is troubling.

Hutch not only gets Huggy to pay for the call but gets him to read out Bates’ number even though it’s right in front of him. It’s the sort of behavior he’d usually inflict on Starsky.

Throughout the entire show Huggy is seen as confidante, helper, assistant and all-around friend. He’s the one who swipes the receptionist’s call sheet at the law firm that leads Hutch to Gunther, and, in the previous “Targets Without a Badge”, also stole the stationery with the incriminating letterhead (a talent for theft comes in handy). Hutch is thankful for his help but Dobey is unmoved. He just grunts when offered food and ignores him for the most part. The series ends with this relationship stuck where it was at the beginning: with antipathy on Dobey’s part, and confusion on Huggy’s.

Hutch’s joy with the computer print out is really something. You can imagine how good it feels to finally piece together all the shards of this painful case, down to Clayburn’s role in it, and it’s touching that Hutch feels urgently compelled to share this with his partner even though he knows he is unconscious and unresponsive. This is another interesting example of the growing usefulness of computer data bases in law enforcement, still in its infancy here. We see Hutch has been particularly interested since the earlier episode “Huggy Can’t Go Home”, and it makes sense, given his rather analytical nature.

Gunther gives a long soliloquy about the futility of seeking control over an uncontrollable world when there’s a “fly in our ointment”, a speech that goes right over Bates’ head. “I don’t follow,” he says, working on papers right next to the ironically-placed Rodin statuette, “The Thinker”. Gunther goes over to Bates and rests his arm and hand there – presumably meaning he is a thinking man, or at the very least thinking of something important – as Bates says sincerely but cluelessly, “I’m sorry.”

Gunther says to Bates, but almost more to himself, “I wish I had seen him sooner.” The him being the fly, who has a name. Gunther is blaming Bates for the breakdown of the west coast operations; presumably Bates has been responsible for hiring the shooters as well as Jenny Brown as intermediary. What he is about to do, in his mind, is not so much murder as it is a kind of downsizing. “Ah, providence, once again,” he says as Thomas comes in with the poisoned coffee, not only abstracting what he is about to do but distancing himself from it. This is an impersonal act of God, like a thunderbolt or fallen tree or the shifting of a number from one column to another.

Bates thinks there is always a choice in life, Gunther thinks the universe is immutable. This argument over free will vs fatalism has been going on a long time and here it’s perfectly stated. Gunther’s belief in the doctrine that all events are subject to fate and happen by unavoidable necessity – including his own murderous act – is a peculiar kind of psychosis, in my opinion, a kind of magical thinking which absolves the individual of all responsibility.

There’s an interesting echo of this issue of chance and culpability in the beginning of the episode when Huggy says “there’s always a chance (Starsky will live)” and Dobey agrees, but Hutch refuses to believe it. Occasionally I wonder if his statement that there’s nothing anyone can do to save Starsky is another case of lacerating self-loathing. This was all too good to be true. I was never worthy of this. It was always going to end badly. This is what happens when you trust somebody.

Bates should have been more suspicious when Gunther offers to pour the coffee, since it’s so out of character. But does he kill Bates simply because he hired inadequate people to do nasty jobs, or does he dislike Bates’ optimism, his lack of introspection? Perhaps Bates is killed as an example to the rest of them. Fail me, and this is what happens. Sometimes I wonder if Gunther is acting like a deranged parent who kills their own children to protect them from the imagined indignity of failure. One thinks of the horrifying story of Magda Goebbels killing her six children when it became clear the Nazi empire had fallen. There is certainly a Nazi element to James Gunther: his global reach, rigid rules, the climate of paralytic fear of his reign, the Darth-Vader-like grip he has on his upper echelons, the preoccupation with aristocracy, the bunker mentality, the cold-blooded cruelty.

Gunther’s rationalization for killing becomes even murkier when he observes Bates “would have gotten along fine” with his father. Gunther’s list of his father’s attributes (“Nothing can’t be fixed; just put your mind to it”) is admiring, yet he seems to dislike these features in Bates. Perhaps he is thinking the old-school man, like his father and now Bates, are antediluvian creatures incapable of living in this heartless, preordained modern world.

When Thomas the servant says, “he’s arrived, sir” Gunther nods and says “good, show him in”. There’s something in the way he speaks that seems to indicate he’s known all along Hutch was on his way to force a showdown, and that he, Gunther, would most likely be the loser.

Compare the two characters of C.J. Woodfield and James Gunther upon the time of their arrest (“Captain Dobey, You’re Dead”). Both have ostentatious wood-paneled offices. Both react calmly to the announcement of the lackey that “they’re here” and are elaborately polite when hearing the information. Both take a revolver in their hands as if contemplating suicide or shooting their way out of trouble. And finally, following the arrest, the Miranda Rights are given to both men as a kind of triumph of the democratic system.

Imagine what Hutch is thinking when he comes into the room and sees Bates dead in the chair holding a bloody coffee cup, and Gunther talking about him as if he’s alive.

“You gonna kill me?” Hutch says quietly, eyes blazing. “Try it.” It’s not bravado, it’s a dare. Hutch can’t be stopped at this point. He’s on an adrenaline-pumping half-crazy high, and it makes him both calm and brutally sure. It’s a long trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco and he’s been boiling the entire way. Imagine him on that airplane. Imagine the poor guy sitting next to him trying to make conversation.

Hutch believes he is beyond harm at this point, even though Gunther is armed, as are the ten or so goons you know are just outside his door. This is reminiscent of the earlier scene in the elevator when he says to Huggy that they may have killed Starsky but they will never kill him. It reminds me of many ways throughout the series in which Hutch says he is the brain of the partnership while Starsky is the “not too inconsiderable” brawn. We can see this duality in many ways, not only through Hutch’s teasing but through Starsky’s various aches and pains, his toothaches and hunger pangs, his often-remarked-upon hedonism, his general demeanor of either sleepiness or grouchiness or comical good moods, his full-frontal approach to problem solving (vividly illustrated in the funny locked-in-an-airtight-room scene in “Omaha Tiger”). Of the two, Starsky is seen as physical, or corporeal, while Hutch keeps himself aloof and more cerebral through deliberate acts of withholding such as fasting, strict routine, preoccupation with arts and culture, and most potently through a kind of self-imposed isolation, a wall of sarcasm and disdain. Knowing this as we do, Hutch’s dare to Gunther is imbued with a transcendent, almost spiritual power. He is saying, in effect, you can kill the body but you can never kill the mind.

Whether or not this is true, or if Hutch thinks it’s true, is debatable. At that moment it is psychic armor, a tool for surviving the most difficult few moments of his life.

The arrest of Gunther is quiet and matter-of-fact, more sad than triumphant. It doesn’t really matter to Hutch whether he cracks this case or not. The damage has already been done and arresting Gunther is a come-down, a sweeping of junk into the garbage can. The moment Hutch gets Gunther in handcuffs he loses all interest in him. So what, then, is sweet revenge? It can only be the restoration of the partnership itself despite all attempts to put it asunder.

The tag is absolutely wonderful, and a fitting cap to the series. Filming notes: The one significant difference between the filmed episode and the original script is that in the script Starsky is up and around on crutches. During the first run-through of this scene, the champagne bottle Fargas stuffed into his pants exploded, soaking him completely, much to everyone’s amusement. By the time the scene was actually shot, the foursome (and the crew) were just about as drunk as they were playing. Even without this information we can see the mixed joy and poignancy in their faces, the acknowledgement of something wonderful come to an end, with no one knowing what the future will bring. Apparently the water kept spraying the scene even after they cut, and a drunken food fight with the crew spontaneously broke out. They finally changed clothes and had an impromptu party. Glaser kept the bullet-holed jacket, and both he and Soul kept the champagne glasses they toast each other with in the tag.

Is the feast that Hutch, Dobey and Huggy bring Starsky meant to fulfill the ping-pong bet, or is Starsky going to make Hutch take him out again?

Hutch is already very drunk when he comes into Starsky’s room with the stuffed veal under a silver dome. He’s had to bribe an orderly, and makes a joke about “turning him into a bottle of beer” slurring the line until they both start giggling like maniacs. I’m guessing the previous scene went something like this: visiting hours are over but the three visitors don’t want to leave, they’re having too good a time. There’s champagne involved, smuggled in to toast Starsky’s miraculous recovery. Quite a lot of champagne and mostly consumed by Hutch, who been through so much fear, grief, elation, rage, and exhaustion he now just wants to get drunk. Hutch brings up the ping-pong bet and says he could make good on it now. “Now?” Starsky will say dubiously. “Now!” Hutch says, and then commands Dobey to bring the appetizers, and Huggy to bring more booze and “maybe something to make it look more festive in here.” Huggy’s solution is the ridiculous and possibly life-threatening lamp. He himself will provide the main course. “At one o’clock in the morning?” Starsky says, but Hutch has made up his mind and nothing will dissuade him. Starsky takes four painkillers and lies back to wait. And … action.

Good thing there wasn’t an oxygen tank in the room when Huggy strikes a match. Would have been a whole lot worse than water coming down.

And Starsky and Hutch are reunited, “undercover” detectives, and all is right with the world.


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32 Responses to “Episode 88: Sweet Revenge”

  1. Survivor Says:

    Thank you so very much, Merl. This is a beautiful review of a beautiful episode. Your film notes adds to my enjoyment of ‘SR’. I teared up a little reading this, because I am an avid and very sentimental S&H fan from way back when it first aired here in Australia in the late 70s. Our network here didn’t buy Season Four, much to my profound disappointment. Amidst rumours and reports in the entertainment press, I got a sense that Starsky was killed but then resurrected, and there’d be a Season Five. It was only two years ago, thanks to YouTube and now our full set of DVDs, that I got to see how it all did end. Gladly Starsky didn’t die; sadly there was no Season Five.

    Another very special moment for me, among the others you evoke here in your review, is when Hutch arrives at the hospital as Starsky is in cardiac arrest … as Hutch hurtles through those doors, Starsky’s heart begins to beat once more. Two halves of a whole, beating in time with each other anew – resonating with your chrysalis metaphor of this relationship maturing.

    One of the amusing asides for me is the actress who played the ‘Vampire Nurse’ in Texas Longhorn, a nurse again here, tending to Starsky . Goodness gracious me, no wonder Starsky went into cardiac arrest … how much more torment could the poor man stand?

    • merltheearl Says:

      Thank you, Survivor. It’s incredible they never showed the last season in Australia (the only upside is being spared “The Groupie”, I suppose) and you had to wait so long to see the ending. Yes, originally Starsky was to die, which would have been catastrophic for the series as a whole. It would have changed everything from the pilot onward, in my opinion, allowing a shadow of doom to color everything Starsky did.

      I also missed that reappearance of the nurse from an earlier episode, and it made me laugh. The series has a history of minor characters popping up at the oddest times (there is an other nurse here who also appeared in “Ninety Pounds of Trouble”).

      Most of the time I prefer to take a formal stance and keep my more visceral emotions out of the commentary, but I admit I also teared up while writing this.

      • DRB Says:

        “You gonna kill me?” Hutch says quietly, eyes blazing. “Try it.” It’s not bravado, it’s a dare. Hutch can’t be stopped at this point. He’s on an adrenaline-pumping half-crazy high, and it makes him both calm and brutally sure. It’s a long trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco and he’s been boiling the entire way. Imagine him on that airplane. Imagine the poor guy sitting next to him trying to make conversation.

        Wonderful description!! Thanks for the imaginative scene! It rings absolutely true.

  2. Survivor Says:

    Hello again Merl. I think your commentaries work well because you do approach them as you do. They are methodical with a fine eye for detail and insightful understanding of the human condition.

    In relation to your Sweet Revenge commentary, I meant to also say that I love the in-between scene you outlined that leads to the tag. Makes total sense – the guys would have had to cook this up together, because it was a very well co-ordinated meal with Dobey providing the appetiser, Hutch the mains, Huggy the wine and Starsky the venue (and table top – his wounds were obviously healing well). Your scene made me laugh, as did the film notes you added to let us in on some of the behind-the-scenes details.

    Thank you again, Merl, for this commentary and for your blog. I’m still catching up on all your other commentaries – they are making an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

    Cheers, Survivor.

  3. KERRY COPP Says:

    Hello Merl,

    I have read every one of your entries for S and H and have quietly awaited this final instalment for SR. I am not going to wax lyrical about your incredible skills … anyone who reads your stuff knows what heights and depths they can take the reader to. I really really want to know who you are!!! You’re stuff is pure magic and your insights to this wonderful creation of the 1970’s is a joy to discover. I am now very worried what I am going to do given that you have analysed the last episode. You cannot leave us . What will become of the “Ollie Report” now?

    Please reassure me that you will live on and keep on keeping Starksy and Hutch alive for all of us.

    Kerry C

    • merltheearl Says:

      Kerry, I’m very, very touched by your comments. As I began this blog it was purely for my own purposes; I had no idea anyone would either read it, or care about these somewhat overwrought, hyper-analytical posts. The fact that you’ve been quietly reading along means a great deal to me. I assure you I don’t intend to stop now, and have a few character studies ideas floating around, although I’m scratching my head trying to think of new avenues to explore.

  4. KERRY COPP Says:


    Than I guess I will just have to be happy in knowing that you will continue to create your beautiful, eloquent pieces for us all to enjoy. I look forward to them very much.

    Kerry C

  5. Lynn Says:

    Dear Merle,
    I have been waiting for this with a mixture of anticipation and sadness as it is the final episode, and I was not disappointed. I am so glad that you will continue to provide us with more of your exceptional insight.
    This is truly is a wonderful episode and a fitting end to the series. I have to say that, for me, the most poignant scene in the entire canon is when Hutch first goes in to Starky’s room. After watching their closesness and physical contact for four years it is heartbreaking to see him reach out to touch his friend, then pull back, unable to make the contact. He sits in the chair like a broken man and takes in the machines keeping his partner alive. This is the one where I teared up.
    As I look back over the series I have to say that I think that whatever you need to know in life you could have learned from watching Starsky and Hutch: be brave, be loyal, be true to your principles, don’t take yourself too seriously, never give up, and, if you are so lucky as to have the kind of friendship illustrated here, value it and keep it safe as it is truly a rare and precious gift.
    Merle, who ever you are, thank you for all your insights and the honor that you paid to a great series and two wonderful and talented actors.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Lynn, I agree wholeheartedly on both your points: the scene in the hospital room is beyond perfect, and Starsky and Hutch provide a great template for how to be a good human being – and an interesting one too. I try to live up to their example every day, even if I don’t have bullets whizzing by my ears.

      Thank you for your support and encouragement, too. I really appreciate it.

  6. Nadine Says:

    Hi Merl
    Another great review – your blog has been a pleasure to read and re-read as I watch the series again. I loved it as a teenager, but really have enjoyed watching it out as an adult and your insights have provided so much information that I missed.

    I only wish this episode would have been created over 2 hours rather than the 1. There was so much action packed into such a short time – and yet a lot of time must have passed for Starsky to have recovered as well as he appeared. (And as a diehard Starsky fan, I would have loved to have seen more of PMG in the show, rather than directing.)

    I wonder why the writers chose to not have Hutch be “bloodied” when going over to Starsky after the shooting – as partners, friends – I would have thought that for a split second, he would have gone down to the ground to hold Starsky. He seemed almost too “clean” at the hospital when Dobey told him to wash up.

    What did Starsky mumble in the tag that Dobey said he was uncouth – I’ve played the DVD over and over and can’t catch the wording.

    I wish the show could have gone on for more years – PMG & DS portrayed their characters so convincingly – it’s obvious their friendship was genuine.

    Hopefully, you’ll have more posts about the show in the future. Maybe we can start catching all the bloopers in each episode or something to that effect:)

    Thank you again Merl for your efforts in writing this blog – it’s certainly cleared up questions I’ve had when watching the show. Thanks for keeping Starsky & Hutch alive – after all these years. Just imagine if the show would have been around for 10 years or so!


    • merltheearl Says:

      Nadine, I’m so glad the blog has made watching this series more enjoyable! You’ve made some interesting points here. Hutch should have been covered in Starsky’s blood but he isn’t, and I chalk this up to the conservative attitude of television itself at the time. It’s a guess on my part, but there have been many instances in which shooting victims look very neat and clean, compromising realism (and emotional content).

      I also wish Starsky had been a more active participant in this series, which may have been possible in a two-part episode. However, I understand why Mr Glaser chose to put his energies in the director’s chair, and the episode is perfect because of it.

      I looked again at the scene in the hospital room when Dobey says Starsky is uncouth – and you’re right, it’s a mystery! I’d love to throw it out to the rest of the blog readers and see if they can come up with some ideas. Throwaway lines like this are one of the oddities I love the most about this series.

      One last observation about the wonderful tag: notice when Starsky is trying to get Hutch to be quiet, saying “Shhhh!” he puts one hand over Hutch’s mouth and one over his own mouth. To me, nothing quite symbolizes their indivisibility as that small gesture.

  7. Survivor Says:

    Hello Merl and Nadine,

    I also chalk up the lack of blood in ‘Sweet Revenge’ to the show’s apparent aversion to showing too much blood and violence. To wit, we would fully expect a large pool of blood swimming around where Starsky lay, having been blown away by multiple machine gun blasts. Yet all we see are three bullet holes in the back of his jacket, slowly dripping with blood. The power of this understatement is matched by Hutch racing around the corner of the Torino to see his friend’s fallen body and being frozen in that moment of grief and terror, accompanied by a faint sound of laboured breathing. Of course Hutch would have then run to Starsky, there’s no doubt in my mind about that … but that the director chose to cut the scene as Hutch stood there tells us more about the shock and devastation of this moment than anything else could.

    As for Dobey’s ‘uncouth’ comment to Starsky in the tag, I put this down to the fact there were only three glasses for the four of them, and Starsky takes the wine bottle, presumably to drink out of it. It’s then that Dobey tells Starsky he’s uncouth.

    More to say but must dash to work now … Cheers, Survivor.

  8. King David Says:

    It breaks my heart to come to the end of the four series and to know it’s all wrapped up. I have loved Starsky (and Hutch) for over thirty five years, but never saw the ending as I too am in Australia, and had to wait till 2011 to see it on DVD.
    I have learned things from this site, Merl, that I never knew, so it makes viewing the episodes more poignant.
    I know that Glaser particularly was beyond disgruntled that he was tied to this show, and it is evident if you look hard enough. He didn’t like the Torino as the main car, and he was quite cavalier when driving it, so in those episodes where we see little or none of it, perhaps Glaser won the argument.
    Having viewed all the episodes end-to-end and watched the blossoming of the best TV partnership ever, to get to S4, and Sweet Revenge in particular, and have so few instances of touching really, really gives one to understand the meaning of the word ‘yearn’.
    This is a powerful episode, and I read somewhere that Starsky was to have died, which would be expected given the way he was shot, and where. I was comforted by your comment, Merl, that it took a machine gun to fell him.
    The first time I saw that scene with Starsky’s head in the wheel rim and the utterly paralysed Hutch, I was staggered. I can see it as a fine directorial angle that it wasn’t soaped up with pathos, as we would’ve all been in tears, with Hutch clasping his partner and in all probability soaked in blood. The camera angle of the silent huddled body juxtaposed with the so-alive alive Hutch is heartstopping.
    All the scenes in the hospital are well done for the time, and still carry gravitas to us much-more-sophisticated viewers today. It’s all in how unfunctional they become that we understand the enormous loss that is staring us all in the face. I say unfunctional because they have long moments of not being capable of any function. They didn’t move Dobey’s office into the hospital when Hutch was overcome by plague, or even when Starsky was on his last legs in Coffin, so we know that this is very grave. I was moved by the thought that Dobey wanted to be near Starsky in this last tragedy. It gives credence to my thought that Dobey sees Starsky as the strength, the anchor, of the partnership, for all that he loves and relates to Hutch.
    Even though I know Glaser directed, and therefore whatever we see is his stamp, I still desperately wanted to see Hutch touch Starsky as he lay in the hospital bed in ICU, for what may have been the last time he touched the living partner. And too when Starsky wakes up…there’s elation and joy, but no contact. I honour Glaser’s choice and justify it to myself by imagining that Starsky is so fragile that Hutch may be afraid to risk it.
    It it well filmed to have Hutch so beautifully framed as the lift doors close; and great TV shorthand to have the ECG machine arc up again just as Hutch barges through the doors. In the original airing I can imagine that viewers may not have known Starsky survives, and would’ve been holding their breath till that moment.
    Hutch is powerful in all his scenes, and never more so than in Gunther’s office. It’s not ‘Revenge’, or ‘Cold Revenge’ but ‘Sweet Revenge’, and it is.
    Starsky is in pyjamas, not a hospital gown, so were they hospital issue or his own? I was quietly amused to learn that Glaser was a bit inebriated when shooting this final scene, and it does help explain the hands over the mouths bit, the pleasure in which never fades.
    The Torino Award for Excellence in Episode Analysis for you, Merl. And my undying gratitude.


  9. Ffwl Says:

    A very interesting commentary on one of my favourite episodes. One thing I find interesting is that Hutch is dressed in such sunshiny happy colours thoroughout, contrasting with the darkness of his mood. I also like the way he is so happy to be able to share the computer findings with Starsky and how much he needs to do it, and Starsky’s rather indulgent smile before he goes back to sleep

  10. LIsa Says:

    A recent comment in “The Plague” prompted me to write this comment on “Sweet Revenge”, thanks Stybz for the insights that prompted my reassessment.

    Always a favorite, I have grown to love this episode more and more in the last few weeks. In my opinion, it has a good argument for being the best TV series finale of all time. Instead of spending extra time wrapping up a few loose ends and sending the characters on their way, happily ever after (or not), it concentrates on pulling the two leads back together as a unit, putting them through fire as a way of tempering that friendship and then moves on, as if we simply lost touch with two friends from our past.

    Many people have commented on the absence of comforting touch from Hutch to Starsky after the shooting or in the hospital (early on), complaining that this is out of character. At first, smarting from the rest of Season 4, I agreed. Later I chose to respect director Glaser’s (and Soul’s) choices about how the character would react. Finally, I started to realize that this is absolutely how Hutch would behave in this kind of situation. Both characters are extremely tactile and use touch to express their feelings, but Hutch almost always uses touch to comfort another rather than himself. Starsky uses touch to comfort others and to self-comfort, on the very rare occasions when Hutch uses touch for self-comfort he is very gentle and restrained (Gillian, Vendetta) or it is when Starsky offers and all he has to do is accept (The Fix, Gillian). In Hutch’s mind, there is no need to touch if the recipient is unconscious or dead, at that point he moves into his own mind. Starsky is far more likely to be extremely physical in moments of high emotion, even to the point that you wish he’d be a bit more careful (Survival). Hutch can be compassionate, intuitive and empathetic, but at heart is an introvert.

    The early vigil in the hospital is heartrending, Hutch is so alone that Huggy and Dobey are afraid to intrude and stand well away, not daring to offer even a touch. When the doctor comes out and says “He’s in a coma” clearly implying that there is no point in going into the room, Hutch’s look says “do you think that matters to me?” and he goes in anyway (Huggy and Dobey do not). During the long silence at bedside, he almost reaches for Starsky’s hand, but denies himself that comfort and returns inside his own mind. The nightmare in his own mind is why he seeks escape in action. There is no real reason to pursue the investigation at that time even after the attempt on Starsky’s life; an increased police presence in the hospital would keep them both safe until Starsky passes away or is out of danger.

    His small kindnesses to Dobey (“you want something to eat?”) and Huggy (that gentle look as he leaves the elevator), are all he can manage, but show his compassion.

    Watch how Hutch stops his forward momentum toward the window into Starsky’s room by grabbing the door jamb and turning back toward the doctor.

    In a perfect example of “acting is reacting”, Soul conveys the range of emotions from anger to affection with very few words after Huggy shows up at the lawyer’s office (and you don’t even see their faces!).

    Love the slow return of joy to Hutch’s face as Starsky wakes up. Again his reaction is in character, he grabs the nurse in a bear hug, honestly thinking the whole world is as happy as he is. The joy remains whenever he is in Starsky’s presence, but he switches back to grim rage as he leaves the hospital. (I love Merle’s comment about what it would be like to sit next to him on that plane!)

    Nothing more to say about the tag that hasn’t already been said!

  11. Spencer Says:

    Let me chime in with my favorite parts of this wonderful episode. Of course, Hutch’s paralyzing grief was well-played. I loved how he privately admitted his feelings of inadequacy (“I don’t know what to do” about solving the case or about going on without his partner?) to Starsky as he lay in a coma. They were such an inseparable team that Hutch felt completely lost on his own in any event. When Hutch brought the computer printout evidence to show to Starsky, excitedly waving it about the hospital room, Starsky could do little more than smile indulgently at his partner. In that priceless tag, I found it amusing that when Dobey and then Huggy came in to find Starsky and Hutch huddled together in the hospital bed, neither gave any indication that this was unusual behavior. Ha!

  12. stybz Says:

    Well, here I am at the end. As of today I’ve seen this episode in full twice, but the scenes with Hutch alone or with Starsky a few times. 🙂

    Merle, you’re going to breathe a sigh of relief that this is the last episode that I’ll post one of my long-winded comments about. 🙂 LOL! 🙂

    I pondered the question posted in another thread as to whether this should have aired immediately after Targets. I can see it going both ways. On the one hand, our memories would have been fresher had it aired right after Targets. On the other hand it’s a great aha moment so see Gunther re-emerge, and to watch Hutch read out McClellan’s name as well as Clayburn’s from the printout.

    I want to touch upon a couple of themes mentioned here. The first one is revenge and what was the “sweet” part. I see two people seeking revenge in this episode: Gunther and Hutch. Gunther seems to react to any set-back by murdering someone. When he had McClellan and the others killed in Targets, it was for strategic reasons. However, as his empire was being threatened, he veered into madness. His power had corrupted him and he was self destructing. He no longer killed just to protect himself (which could be another aspect of his deteriorating mental state – fear and paranoia), he killed because it was the only way he could exert his power, seeking revenge against those who threatened him. By the time he murdered Bates he was already far gone. Otherwise why would he so calmly and blindly accept Hutch’s presence and introduce him to the deceased Bates? Granted, he actually believed he could just shoot Hutch and move on, but even if he had he wouldn’t have enjoyed it because he not only was his empire disintegrating, but he was as well. His revenge would never be sweet, because it would never satiate him.

    Along those same lines, both times I saw this episode in full (a few months apart) I thought Gunther drank the poison as well, but then he’d have died around the same time Bates did. I also thought he was going to point the gun at himself.

    Hutch’s revenge is for Starsky, of course. Hutch’s is sweeter, because – as we all know and it’s mentioned here – he could never go to the lengths a vigilante (or Gunther) would go to exact revenge. For Hutch, bringing Gunther to justice is sweet, because he leaves with a clear conscience and doesn’t have to worry about regrets or guilt had he acted out something more violent and menacing. He’d go back to Starsky with a broad smile and a weight off his shoulder, reassuring his partner that all was well and that the big, bad guy was in jail.

    The second theme involves the psychic connection between Starsky and Hutch. We’ve all talked about the bond they have and there is a definite psychic link, but we all agree that it’s not without flaws and gaps. Merle, I really enjoyed the topic you posted that talked about how how they alienate each other when they work alone undercover. I totally agree with this. Not only do they alienate each other, but they also falter. They lose that connection when they’re apart. And this is because they never were shown how to cultivate it on a deeper level, to sense each other even when at a distance.

    Unlike other shows that try to demonstrate a psychic link between friends and family members, Starsky and Hutch never sense each other’s presence or lack of it except for the physical. While they know what the other is thinking and have an excellent understanding of how the other ticks, there are times when they don’t have a connection when they should, especially when they’re separated or when one is hurt. And I think it’s because despite everyone around them saying or implying that they’re two halves of one whole, and despite they knowing that they are in synch, neither will admit nor allow themselves to believe that it can go far deeper than that. They never were shown that the idea of not being able to function without the other can be remedied with a little practice. Starsky has tried (ESP in Black and Blue and the failed card trick in Targets), but he needed a good teacher.

    And this plays into what occurs between Starsky and Hutch in this episode. There’s much below the surface that Hutch didn’t realize. And that is what Starsky craves and needs: a tangible contact with Hutch. When Hutch leaves the hospital the first time, he doesn’t stop by Starsky’s room. And once he departs, he’s gone for a while. I’d like to think that Starsky subconsciously sensed Hutch wasn’t there and started to panic (like in Partners when he first enters the hospital room). And this is what sent him into cardiac arrest. And this is why as soon as Hutch returned, Starsky recovered. Again, it’s the proximity that strengthens the bond. Granted, Hutch was out in the hallway, but he was there and Starsky felt it. 🙂

    The same holds true for when Starsky woke up. I have a feeling that Hutch hadn’t said anything to Starsky until that scene. And this is why Starsky wakes. Hutch was present in the room those other times, but made no contact. Starsky might have sensed him there, but he always needed more than his presence. Whenever he’s weak, physically or emotionally, he reaches out for Hutch. Hutch wasn’t touching him or speaking to him, and Starsky needed one or both to recover.

    Perhaps it was a coincidence, but Starsky was lying motionless until Hutch spoke. Then just as Hutch said his first words, Starsky started to twitch. I think in that scene Hutch was trying to say goodbye (but couldn’t), and this is why he was finally speaking to Starsky for the first time. Perhaps he felt ridiculous doing so. Starsky wouldn’t have, but Hutch would. This is why he struggles with the words. He doesn’t know what to say or how to say it, and he chides himself for it, not realizing that all Starsky needed was to hear his voice. And once Starsky did he woke up.

    So while they definitely do have a psychic connection, no one ever pointed out to them how they could really use it to their advantage to really sense each other even when they couldn’t be close. This is why even when one is hurt the other is at a loss. The healthy one cannot connect when the other is one is unconscious. And this is Hutch’s turmoil in this episode.

    Other things I wanted to touch upon:

    I loved the first scene with Starsky and Hutch playing ping pong. There’s a goof when Dobey opens his office door and you can see he has no ceiling. Oops. 🙂 But pushing that aside, I thought it was a fun scene and got a bit of a giggle that the office was being painted, since there was always that unfinished paint job on Dobey’s door frame from season 3 that I spotted in several subsequent episodes. 😀

    Merle, I thought it was interesting that you mentioned a parallel between Gunther and C.J. Woodfield. Had I not known it was Gunther in the first scene (Bates is the giveaway in any event), I would have thought it was Woodfield, because he sounded like him. 🙂

    I think one of the reasons Hutch doesn’t touch Starsky when he first goes into the hospital room is that he’s afraid of accidentally harming Starsky. I do agree with LIsa as well, when she said he was so within himself he couldn’t bring himself to do it. However, I do think that someone might have warned Hutch not to touch Starsky. And that someone might not necessarily have been the doctor, but perhaps a fellow cop at the crime scene. I imagined a different scenario than others did when it came to Starsky lying on the ground unconscious by the Torino. I think Hutch wanted to cradle Starsky in his arms, but the other cops held him back, warning him that he shouldn’t move Starsky, that it was too dangerous. So here he is hours later with that thought in his head, his partner’s fragile state to consider. So he withdraws his hand, glancing at all the tubes and wires keeping his partner alive, the barrier between them that he cannot cross for fear his partner will die if he does. That wall of tubes and wires keeps him away from Starsky, keeps him at a distance.

    That barrier also divides them spiritually, since Hutch believes he’s losing Starsky. He cannot reach out to him, because Hutch feels he’s already lost him. And this in some ways parallels the dreaded Starsky vs Hutch episode. Visually, right in front of Hutch is the wall that’s dividing him and his partner (first it’s the window and the machines, and then it’s the tubes and wires of the IV and respirator). This is what the cerebral Hutch sees and comprehends. In Starsky vs Hutch, it was an emotional divide that Starsky felt as he believed he was losing his connection with Hutch. Both men were proven wrong in both episodes. For Starsky it was the act with the grenade. For Hutch it was Starsky waking up in front of his eyes.

    I think Hutch called the hospital from the precinct during the time when Starsky was in cardiac arrest, and not from Jenny Brown’s apartment, since her place was wood paneled, giving to that dark, haunting atmosphere when Hutch told her he was going to take her downtown and book her. The wall behind Hutch when he’s on the phone is the same color as the squad room. To me it made more sense for Hutch to take her to the station, then once she was out of his sight, he turned his focus back to Starsky and made the call.

    I liked it when Hutch told Gunther that Starsky was still alive and that he would come after Gunther if Hutch was killed. Then if Starsky was killed there will be someone else. There will always be someone else. 🙂

    Someone on Facebook thinks that Gunther was behind the brainwashing in The Set-up. I agree that it would make for a more neatly wrapped up conclusion to that episode. 🙂 Makes me wonder about the significance of some of the companies Hutch reads off to Starsky from the printout. I wonder whether any of them were in The Set-Up or other episodes. 🙂

    As for the “uncouth” line, the way I saw it was that when Huggy asked where his wine glass was, it turned out there were only three. So Dobey – as he’s passing a full glass to Huggy and taking one for himself – was essentially giving Starsky *permission* to drink from the bottle. He says, “Starsky, *you’re* uncouth,” meaning, “You – the man of the hour – will be the uncouth one in the group since there are no other glasses.” He says it with a smile. 🙂

    And with that, I thank you for your patience and apologize for all the reading you have to do (and still do) when it comes to my comments. 🙂 I’ve really enjoyed reading the posts and commentary on this blog, and have enjoyed chiming in as well. 🙂

    • DRB Says:

      stybz, you are absolutely spot on in describing how Starsky stabilized when Hutch blazed through the hospital doors as well as the fact that he awoke from the coma when Hutch spoke. I think we can rule out coincidence when we learn from the blog that PMG took 4 weeks to edit the episode. Instead, we are treated to a peek into PMG’s thoughts about the special relationship between Starsky and Hutch. The fact that Glaser directed the episode gives far more impact that if Soul had directed. Having Starsky’s heart start beating when his friend arrives would have seemed self-serving if Soul had been directing. Instead, there is an emotional resonance that is hugely effective when we know Starsky’s creator thinks this is what would happen.

      When Starsky awakes, I am fascinated to see how little disorientation he displays; he blinks a time or two and then smiles at Hutch. Whether he has any clue about what happened or the whole event is sunk in amnesia(!), it is clear that he is unconcerned. Hutch is here, and all is well.

      Other notes: I was so glad that no one was approaching those hospital doors when Hutch blasted through them. It would have been tragic!

      Hutch’s excitement over the computer print out is funny and touching at the same time. Starsky’s bemused expression is an accurate reflection of what we are feeling; groping for the meaning of the almost incoherent spate of information and pleasure at seeing Happy Hutch.

      And speaking of Happy Hutch, it was good to see Nice Hutch who did not even make up a fake reason for failing to win the ping-pong match. He just accepted it and followed Starsky out.

      There is an interesting salute to the episode on You Tube entitled “Hutch, the Rock.” It is a great exercise in irony. It’s short, so enjoy.

  13. Deb Says:

    I started watching the series again after many years once I caught a rerun on tv. I got so caught up again, I had to dig out the dvds. I had watched this when it originally aired and was enthralled all over again. I found this blog about a year ago and have read and reread so many times. Imagine my surprise and awe to find others who are just as enthralled as myself. I thought I was the only one!
    I cannot compete with how well everyone writes their thoughts, but as long as its not incoherent, I’m good.
    One thing I caught in this episode that always seemed odd was the scene of Hutch calling in to check how Starsky was doing. I also thought it was at Jenny Browns apartment. The close up of the coffee mug got me to wondering. I realized it was the precinct and I had seen that coffee mug before. It then began a game like the light yellow VW. How many episodes was that mug in? It was many thoughtout the series. I find myself looking at the coffee pot whenever they are in the precinct. Lol

    Thanks to Merle for this blog, and to all that add their take on each episode. Everyone continue to find so many things I had missed even with watching them repeatedly. I look forward so much to every installment.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Deb, thank you very much for your kind words. I think your story is familiar to many people who have rediscovered the series after time has passed, and watch it again only to realize how fresh and relevant it is. I also missed that detail of the coffee cup, as I’ve said, and I’m so grateful for the sharp eyes of others. It may sound ridiculous after all the thousands of words I’ve written, but I’m not really a detail person; I tend to be more interested in the emotional side while watching, and this blog was originally an attempt to try something I was not naturally good at. I fail often, but that’s the fun of it.

  14. maria Says:

    i love these guys so much i keep watching them over and over again

  15. BC Says:

    I am writing this as I watch another episode of Starsky and Hutch! I was a fan of this show in the 70’s, but now that I have seen reruns on TV, I am enjoying it even more and had to purchase dvd’s so I could watch over and over. Love their close friendship and humor!! I am happy to know they have continued to be friends over the years. I enjoyed all the comments and insights on Sweet Revenge.

  16. Miche Says:

    Merle, This comment in your analysis: ‘It is, I might venture, the only fully conscious episode in the canon.’ blew me away. Until I read that, I had not thought of it. You are absolutely right. There is an aliveness, a presence in every scene that is unmistakable and that totally captures our attention.

    I have watched many interviews with Paul, old and new, where he talks about his spirituality, how life is a journey not a destination, about being present. After having heard him express at Surcon 2013 that he almost wishes he could have been more conscious back during the series, in order to savor, cherish and protect the important moments – I have no doubt he speaks to his and David’s relationship – I feel reading your comment would touch him deeply.

  17. DRB Says:

    “I’m still here. I’m still alive. They haven’t got me yet.”

    David Soul’s delivery is so masterful that even knowing he’s going to say it (when re-watching the episode) a shiver of dread tightens my spine every time I hear him.

    The context reveals, of course, that Hutch is going into action, and he is vowing not to be stopped. It reveals the strength of his determination–the positive side of his “bloody-minded defiance” as described by Merl in another post.

    But—there is that eerie “yet.”

    Does he mean that he thinks he WILL be killed–that it’s only a matter of time before they do get him? After all, logic dictates that a highly organized enemy able to send 2 assassins into the police garage and another into the hospital ICU have an advantage over him especially when he’s his own. (Just an aside here: as already noted above, Hutch should not be on his own. I thought Dobey meant for Huggy to stay with him, and I wonder if there was some yelling when the captain realized what had happened in the parking garage. It’s not as if help is unavailable. It was great to see the solidarity and support when Hutch tackled the hit man in the ICU; he didn’t even call out, but the 2 uniformed officers raced after the culprit without stopping to question what is happening.)

    Or is it that he is daring Fate or the enemy to come after him instead of Starsky?

    It’s almost as if he is declaring invincibility, but only a short time later he tells Huggy that whoever the enemies are, they are “laughing at this puny little cop chopping at a mountain.” Is it another affirmation of the partnership–that nothing short of destroying both heads of the Hydra (a great simile used by Merl) will bring a victory?

    What fun to exercise the imagination and critical faculties!!

  18. neil walker Says:

    Just finished watching the entire series for the first time in 40 years, and these essays have been a brilliant companion. Thank you so much!

  19. SoulMate Says:

    Like so many others, I returned to the series 40 years later and re-discovered the magic that held me enthralled as a kid. Now, through the eyes of an adult who has experienced life (deep friendship, trust, sexuality, betrayal, anguish, remorse, depression, etc), I see everything about this series in a new light. Reading The Ollie Report after each episode has been a treat. Thank you so much for creating this amazing place to discuss, seriously, the many facets of our beloved Starsky & Hutch.

  20. Andrew Leyland Says:

    This final episode just aired on Forces TV here in the UK and it was a joy to revisit this show and read along. In recent years only Lethal Weapon comes close to matching Starsky & Hutch. Thanks for your analysis which I loved reading after watching the episodes. Sadly, some of the episodes were cut, including THE key scene from Manchild On The Streets and they skipped Playboy Island completely. Still, it was great to see them all again. I had the opportunity to meet, Glaser, Soul and Fargas last year at a con in Liverpool and I felt 6 years old. All the best.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Andrew, you are so lucky to have met the actors! What a privilege. I’m assuming the key scene from Manchild is the slap, and I’m wondering if broadcasters are wary now of the n-word, which is reasonable, although I can’t imagine anyone would be offended by this scene and its power. Skipping Playboy also seems like a reasonable move, although there’s nothing more enticing than the “episode they wouldn’t let you see”.

      I’m pleased you enjoy this blog and that is has added to your enjoyment of the series.

  21. Andrew Leyland Says:

    Manchild being edited was a tad galling simply because of the power of the moment. Starsky’s reaction to such bigotry was shocking, as it was meant to be and an incredibly daring moment, even now. Glaser handled that scene superbly. Playboy Island wasn’t much of a loss! Overall though, I was really impressed with a lot of the writing. Death In A Different Place really made an impression on my wife and I for its handling of such a delicate subject matter, especially for when it was made. Very impressive. Your blog was was a joy to read as I reconnected with my childhood heroes and it really enhanced my viewing experience. Sincerely, thank you for all your hard work.

  22. Seaton Says:

    Fisrtly, Thanks Merle for a thoughtful and loving critique of this final episode. I will return to your blog many times as I rewatch the series.
    Secondly, a couple of minor observations on this episode (sorry if they’ve been mentioned)…

    1. Thanks to DRB for mentioning the YouTube “Rock” video. One of the comments below it points a very poignant moment. Comments here have noticed how Hutch doesn’t touch Starsky when he’s in the hospital, but as the YouTube viewer notes, when Hutch is sitting helplessly next to the bed, there’s a tiny moment where he lifts his right hand to touch Starsky, but then just drops it again in utter loss. Very effective.

    2. In the very last scene, Hutch is wearing the black and white varsity jacket he wore in the pilot. Obviously Starsky can’t be wearing his iconic cardigan, but knowing how important the pair’s clothes were throughout the four seasons, it bookends the whole series neatly.

    3. This may be my ears, but with reference to your comment that “Dobey complains that letting Hutch investigate the case would be “like shooting fish in a barrel”.” I have to say I think he says “shooting a duck in a barrel”.
    It’s a three-way shouting improvisation and Bernie Hamilton just got it wrong and they went with it… Or, as I say, it’s my ears.

    I wish it had been 70 minutes like the pilot, but what a fine episode to end on.

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