Episode 22: Bounty Hunter, revisited

When a cop friend of Starsky and Hutch gets shot, apparently by bail jumper Konig, it becomes personal. But the clues just don’t add up, and when the real culprit turns out to be extortionist bailbondsman and her accomplice, who try to keep Starsky and Hutch from finding out before they can silence Konig’s girl, Denise.

Lola Turkel: Lola Albright, Bo Rile: Ramon Bieri, Denise: Sherry Jackson, Monty: Stan Ross, Abby: Ann Foster, Jim Nedloe: John C Johnson, Dorothy Nedloe: Rosalind Miles, Jerry Konig: Jon Cedar, Herman: Zale Kessler, Nancy: Muffi Durham, Eddie Hoyle: Doodles Weaver, Nina: Victoria Ann Berry, Off. Day: Jack Kirby. Written By: Steve Fisher, Directed By: Don Weis.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This is another low-key episode with a solid plot and a nice script; what sets it apart are the many fine characters popping up throughout, including a quirky circus geek Monty, a weak-willed vintage clothing purveyor with a secret, the loveable bumbler Eddie Hoyle, and a cheeky stripper with her eye on Hutch. All of these characters, marginalized in some way, have been sensitively written by Steve Fisher.

The “throw-away” scenes in the beginning are very often the best part of the show, and this one is no exception. The health food argument, the teasing of the happily married cop and his wife. We see the cafeteria for the first and only time (Starsky and Hutch, it seems, are far more likely to be eating hamburgers at dubious fast-food joints). We get another one of the series’ long-running jokes, which is Starsky’s gullibility when it comes to nutty things he reads. I have made mention of this before, but as with most jokes in this complex universe, the punch lines reveal a larger world view. In this case, crocodiles being responsible for killing more people every year “than any other single cause”. Starsky’s so-naïve-it-has-to-be-fake response – “then why would they print it if it wasn’t true” – is, I believe, both Starsky having fun at his partner’s expense, and also the writers reminding us that orthodoxy, or the “truth” as espoused by the Powers That Be (the media, government, religious institutions, even the police department) should always be considered critically, and skeptically. After all, Starsky, hard-nosed homicide detective, has seen more carnage in a week than most people see in a lifetime, doesn’t believe for a moment that crocodiles are mass killers. Hutch’s easily-aroused irritability at Starsky also proves he is more gullible than his partner supposedly is.

Acting Vs. Truth, Belief Vs. Skepticism: Starsky is pretending to believe crocodiles are responsible for what amounts to genocide. Hutch is pretending to believe molasses and wheat germ is the path to salvation. Both are pretending to believe cops can’t have happy marriages. Jim and Dorothy make a pretense of spousal abuse. This is all dizzying. But what is the script trying to say?

The theme of “you can’t believe what you read” is carried through in the next scene: Lola’s business is called “Fair Bail Bonds.” There is absolutely nothing fair about how business is conducted in here.

Did they call Lola because it’s actress Lola Albright’s real name? It does seem like a perfect tough-dame name.

Why does Jerry Konig give Lola $26,000 as partial payment when he plans on not paying the rest back and skipping town? You’d think he wouldn’t bother. Plus, he walks all the way into the room, with Bo guarding the front door – very bad logistics for escaping. If he said nothing, didn’t show up and then skipped the country, as he said he had the opportunity to do, he might have escaped with his life.

Lola wants to call the police and plea to killing an armed and dangerous felon. Her cohort, Bo Rile, talks her into a scheme in which Jerry appears to be alive and well and committing crimes, hoping word on the street (that Jerry is looking to make scores to finance his life on the lam) will filter down to the police. This is a complicated and dangerous plan that seems far more risky and full of holes than just calling the cops and saying they accidentally killed a gun-waving Konig. I’m sure the police would believe them, given their dangerous business. Yet Lola seizes on it, and enthusiastically, and before we know it they are both neck-deep in a labyrinthine and dangerous plot. Does Lola go along with this because she’s bored and looking for excitement? Does she want to put one over on the legal system so she can feel like a winner? I wonder how long she has been in the fraud and extortion racket, and if it has warped her ideas – big ones, like ideas about what justice means, and small ones, like simple problem solving. Sometimes I think Lola is a bit too good at this sort of thing, that she must have done something similar in the past and maybe more than once. Yet surely, if she’s no stranger to such ugly subterfuge, rumors about her would have spread around the street before now, alerting Jerry Konig to the possibility of trouble.

“You know,” Starsky grumbles, “there really ought to be a law that people can only commit crimes during the day light hours.” “We don’t want to bust them at night for breaking them,” Hutch replies reasonably. Hutch is in a good mood and is therefore reasonable, his teasing much less punitive. Sometimes it seems as if they (unconsciously or not) assume opposing temperaments: if one is sunny the other is cloudy, thus maintaining perfect balance. They are very rarely irritated or short tempered at the same time, and therefore can always rely on the other to mitigate.

It’s awfully dicey for a slightly out-of-shape guy like Bo to commit arson and flee right in front of the police, like he does at the jewelers (in the name of poor Konig). It’s only good luck that he manages to escape.

As Dorothy Nedloe is taken away down the hospital, shaken and crying, Starsky and Hutch watch her leave. On their faces, clear as day, is the thought that maybe being a “happily married cop” is not that great after all. At this moment, do they silently thank their single status?

“Sometimes I wonder what the hell’s the point of any of us putting on a badge!” Dobey yells when he comes to the hospital to hear about the condition of John Nedloe. It’s a surprisingly existential outburst from a man who should be used to the high death rate of officers in his city, which proves me point that Dobey is hampered politically by his sentimentalism and his reactionism.

Hutch knows exactly who Dobey means when he rails against the “turkey with fifteen priors that the courts have let loose on the streets”. “Jerry Konig?” he asks, which is extraordinary, given the number of criminals who could fit this description, and also given the high probability that Dobey is exaggerating, given his temper. There’s no hooray for Hutch’s amazing memory: he just gets the file and that’s that.

Hutch actually has to raise a hand against Dobey when he yells too loudly in the hospital. Dobey has a bad habit of spouting off in public (“Bloodbath”), but fortunately he’s more chastened than annoyed.

I love the “Jungle Club” strip joint even though the camera lingers a slightly too long on the gyrations of the dancer, which seems puerile, but the club has a thematic integrity that real life places never seem to manage: plants, cages, rock formations, amber lighting, actual fire from actual torches (this must be a building code violation of some kind), a blinking gorilla, goldfish bowls on the bar. (Filming note: real strippers were used in this scene, which gives it an extra bit of piquancy). As an aside, the babe in the cage with the tiger tail is fully clothed, which is amusing. I like how one dancer refers to the crowd as “animals”, given that she and her feminine cohorts are supposed to be the animals in this particular jungle; that is, they are made to appear exotic, wild and “dangerous”. (This dancer, who also will appear in the opening credits in seasons three and four, is wonderful – funny, warm, a great dancer and charismatic, she deserves at least a credit at the end of the episode! But alas, she is unnamed.) This relates to the quoted statistics in the opening scene: unfairly tarnished by society’s erroneous assumptions about “man-eating” habits, these ladies in reality are, like the crocodile, driven to do what they do purely by necessity rather than avarice.

Also, continuing the theme of nothing being what it seems, Jerry’s girlfriend Denise is a stripper, which is supposedly a bad thing to be, but she proves herself to be loyal, concerned, and “trying to reform” her arsonist boyfriend, according to Starsky.

Hutch throughout the scene at The Jungle Club exhibits a sort of alien-in-a-new-world mentality. He’s contemptuous and amazed, alternately; explorer and stranger both. Starsky, on the other hand, is simply at home, comfortable in this environment, the way he usually is. Starsky’s famous blow-on-the-cheek way of getting Hutch’s attention is an excellent moment, but it’s even better when you realize Hutch was openly derisive when Starsky was similarly diverted by another dancer. But on a related note, why would a blow on the cheek wake up Hutch when more pertinent things – Starsky telling him Konig stutters, the guy on the phone stutters, a key moment in the case – doesn’t make a dent in his consciousness?

Again, Starsky is drawn to the dark-haired girl, Hutch to the blonde. Exogamists they are not.

When Bo attacks Denise with a knotted scarf, ready for strangulation, although he has a gun. Why? Maybe he thinks the neighbors would be likely to react faster to a gunshot than signs of a struggle. Denise makes a valiant effort to fight back, and her bravery wins her several valuable seconds for Starsky and Hutch to hear her scream, bust in and save her. However, they are far, far too quick to assume Bo is there to simply find out where Jerry is. They accept his story even though he is armed, attacked her in the dark, and the attack is vicious and prolonged enough for it to be clear – to Denise at least – his intention is murder. Why don’t these completely unacceptable tactics for a bail bondsman alert either detective? Why doesn’t Denise cry out, “he tried to kill me!” Instead Starsky returns Bo’s weapon and tells him to “bounce”. This seems utterly unacceptable. I get angry every time I see it.

They’re trying to find Konig. Starsky picks up an apple and prepares to bite into it – Hutch takes it and eats it. Trying to supersede Starsky, either in thought or action? Wanting to have what he has, or just being funny? Starsky has a great reaction non-reaction, having been the target of this particular thing many times.

It’s disconcerting when Bo puts his hands on Lola’s shoulders in a way that suggests they have an intimate relationship. It’s not because she’s older than he is (by ten, maybe fifteen years?), but that she’s belittling and cruel to him throughout, and he takes it.

Huggy tells them that Konig’s ex-cellmate and friend Monty used to be a circus geek, and Hutch starts giggling, as if this is the funniest thing he’s ever heard. Starsky demands to know if Hutch even knows what a geek is. Hutch pauses, checking with his inner pride-meter, and admits to total ignorance. Then why the hilarity?

There is no historical evidence of circus geeks forming a union, either in 1932 or otherwise. The other facts are, as Hutch suspects, probably fictitious as well. Starsky’s belief or disbelief in this book is a fascinating conundrum and is a central aspect to his wonderfully complex character. if he’s teasing Hutch by pretending to be ignorant, this may be because saying absurd things makes an irritated Hutch sharper and better focused as a detective. It could also be Starsky amusing himself, for his own purposes, liking the erroneous image of himself as gullible, which could pay major dividends on the street. We can all imagine a two-bit hustler saying, “oh, that Starsky? He’ll believe anything.” But then what about Huggy, who would seem to be the epitome of street smart, talking about Bigfoot and aliens? Huggy’s credulity comes from an entirely different place. This is a guy who has had a tough time throughout his life. He’s had to fight for everything he has. When Huggy talks about imaginative or fantastic things it’s a form of escape, a way for this hard-headed pragmatist to soften the edges of his hard-scrabble existence.

“You guys ain’t got nothin’ on me!” Monty cries, trying to get away. How did he know who Starsky and Hutch were?

Hutch is again eating an apple, and he’s not sharing, when they question Monty. Same apple, or a new one?

Great moment when, in a firefight, Hutch’s watch goes off, signaling it’s time for vitamins. Later, after the excitement, Hutch isn’t so worried about the case that he disregards his diet; he somehow finds them (where? The Torino’s glove compartment? His pockets?) and takes them while all the action is going on.

They chase “Konig” up a staircase, out a back entrance and onto the street. I like how there’s a guy running away from them, seemingly in fear; they ignore him. This must be a tightly controlled set so the background extras have been carefully placed – or have they? Is this guy really alarmed, getting out of the way of cameras, or what? Both Glaser and Soul are momentarily distracted.

“Let’s let him (Monty, circus geek and front desk man) work a little first,” Hutch says. “Good idea, Ollie,” Starsky says, mimicking his remarks in the pilot and other episodes, and thereby assigning a very important distinction between them, although this distinction tends to shift from episode to episode. One partner appears to use the Ollie phrase when seeing the other as the intelligent boss-man Oliver Hardy. It’s a deeply affectionate moment and an acknowledgement of the other’s power and control.

“Jerry Konig” AKA Bo Riley and Lola, leave a packetful of diamonds from the fake jewelry robbery in Jerry’s old room, and judging from Hutch’s reaction it’s a substantial haul. But if profit is your only motive, why leave what could be $100,000 worth of stones to cover a $64,000 bail? It’s not strictly necessary to perpetuate the myth that Jerry is still alive, and keeping the stones could go along way to solving Lola’s financial problems. By now is the game more fun than the outcome?

Hutch says The Red Baron might be dumb enough to fence the super-hot jewelry “Jerry” has stolen, and Starsky says, sotto voce, “he ain’t the only one”. Hutch says “What” And Starsky says “Nothing.” Starsky is gently reproaching Hutch for his superiority, “you who know everything”, and his contempt for the stories Starsky finds so interesting.

By the time Starsky and Hutch get to the vintage clothing store they seem to be enjoying each other’s company extremely. They make jokes and look at each other almost to the exclusion of the person they’re looking for. Also, note Starsky’s modus operandi, in which he pretends to be doing something superficial (in this instance, fooling with a vintage men’s suit) while carefully and perceptively taking in the details of the events around him.

What is Hutch eating in this scene? Throughout the episode, on the orders of Abby, Hutch is preoccupied by vitamins and minerals, and seems distracted by the need to consume them at the right time, and in the right order. He does this even though she can’t possibly know if he does or doesn’t. This seems, to me at least, to take up an inordinate amount of mental energy.

Keeping with the wonderful variety of characters in this episode, this is the first appearance of the beloved Eddie Hoyle, street denizen, odd-jobs man and all around sweetie. “Hey Starchy, Hi Hupp,” Eddie says. “How many times do we have to tell you,” Starsky says, still on a high from something (having fun with Hutch?) “I’m Starchy, he’s Hupp.”
“The sun was kinda in my eyes, and you guys look an awful lot alike,” says Eddie.
The guys love it. “Uh, yah,” Hutch says.

The whole scene at Lola’s is integral to the way the guys work. Hutch, Ollie-like, threatens and does physical violence while Starsky hangs back and waits for the outcome. “Do you have any idea how beautiful your eyes are when you get angry,” Starsky says, then slaps his head, not expecting, or wanting, an answer.

It’s interesting that the guys fudge the truth when they feel like it. They tell Herman the vintage clothing guy that Konig “killed a cop” but they tell Lola he’s in “intensive care”. Which is it? I suspect the latter, since Hutch is awfully sincere when he tells Dorothy that her husband is going to be all right.

The Underestimation File: You can’t invite Starsky and Hutch to a set-up in some out of the way industrial park and just expect to blow them away with a high-powered rifle. I can think of other incidences of this: “Pariah”, at the old zoo, and “The Specialist”, at the oil fields. It just won’t work. They’re sneaky and adaptable. They will always get you.

Okay, I get that Lola wants Jerry to appear alive and well in order to cash in on the forfeited bond. But I would have thought the warehouse fire would have been enough to cement the illusion and keep her safely out of the picture. Why, then the potentially dangerous and ultimately futile call out to the docks? This is an unnecessary complication on Lola’s part. But I like how Starsky calls Hutch “hotshot” as he rolls over the Torino’s hood.

Now, honestly, I am willing to let a lot go. But really, why would a construction site in busy Los Angeles be completely deserted in the middle of the day, unless this scene fall on a Sunday afternoon. And also, does Hutch hot wire the old orange truck at the construction yard? How else would he get it started?

Is it oddly life-affirming – or grotesque – that Starsky is eating Monty’s peanuts at the murder scene?

My, there are a lot of nice middle-class couples wandering around the old Ice House, in a disreputable part of town and also, according to Starsky, closed for five or six years “at least”.

Bo tells Lola, “I get the feeling you kinda enjoy this whole thing.” Lola doesn’t answer. Does she in fact enjoy what she is doing? Lola is quite similar to Mrs. Grossman (“Gillian”), big smile and stiff courtesy masking a pathological temper, but is it really only about the money, or is Lola acting out of more complicated impulses, as Bo implies?

Why does Lola give up the location of Bo and Denise so easily, especially after Starsky and Hutch have finished with her, and turn to leave? At first she comes off as a hard, egomaniacal bitch, but now she suddenly offers up the location for no apparent personal gain. A moment of grace, perhaps? For an episode titled “Bounty Hunter”, she is opaque. We don’t really get a sense of why she takes such risks, and why she’s greedy enough to attempt the murder of two police officers – a mandatory life sentence, or worse – to get what is, after all, a relatively minor pay out. Yes, she has probably pulled this scam numerous times, and I’m sure Bo isn’t the first guy she’s strung along as her “assistant”. She’s used to getting her way and padding her pockets. But what’s her story, really?

When the guys see Eddie at the paint factory, do they realize how close he came to death?

The tag: The veil drops from Starsky’s eyes as he suddenly recognizes the entire diet routine is a ploy by Hutch to get sex. Hutch shows himself to be the master manipulator, which I think Starsky acknowledges and accepts and maybe even approves of. No word, unfortunately, on the fate of Jim Nedloe, the officer shot.

Clothing notes: Hutch wears his collegiate white-and-dark-green or black jacket, plus a periwinkle turtleneck with a suede jacket and his aviator shades. Starsky, unusually enough, finds a deep red turtleneck to wear in the final scenes. I have a soft spot for Dorothy Nedloe’s sister (friend? Aunt?) who wears a superfine denim outfit, blazing afro, and pendulum necklace at the hospital. Huggy looks great in a brown suit and fedora – very Raymond Chandler.

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4 Responses to “Episode 22: Bounty Hunter, revisited”

  1. Survivor Says:

    Thanks, Merl, for revisiting the review of this episode. I agree with your comments about the dancer in the Jungle Club who dances for Hutch as if no-one else was in the room. Her character is named as Nina in the credits and she was played by Victoria Ann Berry. Ms Berry also played a bar maid in The Action; and the Las Vegas dancer who was murdered in the parking lot at the beginning of Las Vegas Strangler Part 1. As an aside, in real life it was she who discovered the murdered body of Bob Crane (of Hogan’s Heroes fame) in 1978.

    • merltheearl Says:

      Wow, Survivor, thank you for your information about Victoria Ann Berry. I feel, and have always felt, a great deal of affection for her and it is so great to give her the respect of a name. I’m saddened by her involvement in the Bob Crane incident but what an amazing story!

  2. Survivor Says:

    I’ve always enjoyed the running gag in this episode that centres on Hutch’s special diet. With a collection of fresh fruit on the Torino’s dash in front of Hutch, we gradually see this fruit bowl become depleted as Hutch eats his way through the fruit during the course of the episode – a little like the Very Hungry Caterpillar (and who wouldn’t be very hungry with the diet he’s on?!). The ‘butterfly bones’, the alarm on Hutch’s watch while in pursuit on the stairs, Hutch taking vitamin tablets and a health drink while on the job, Hutch reclaiming his apple from Starsky and eating it (or another apple) when questioning Monty, Hutch eating a banana then throwing away the peel at the crime scene where Konig’s body is found, Abigail serving up a lean meagre dinner and a highly dubious dessert in the tag, are all moments that nicely progress this gag …. until we get to the punch line in the final scene when Starsky gets to the heart of the matter in terms he can understand and appreciate. It’s cleverly put together and fun to watch.

  3. stybz Says:

    This was not one of my favorite episodes. I didn’t think the plot surrounding Lola, Bo and Konig was well thought out and full of holes. That said, there were some nice S&H moments, but that was about it.

    I think the apple Starsky tries to eat is actually Hutch’s, and we soon see all the fruit and bottled health drinks on the dashboard. 🙂

    I think Hutch laughs at the word “geek” because it sounds funny, it also makes the audience laugh when he admits he has no clue what it means. 🙂 And it’s nice to see a rare moment when Starsky knows more trivia than Hutch, although he made up the part about the unions. 😀

    When Hutch quips to Starsky, “why don’t you check your book?” he’s referring to the book of tales that Starsky’s been quoting from all through the episode (about the crocodiles and the geeks). That’s why Starsky responds the way he does. 🙂

    My theory as to why a construction site would be deserted during the day could be either it is Sunday or maybe they lost their funding and had to halt the work. Or maybe it was later in the day than we realize. 🙂

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