Archive for the ‘Season One’ Category

Let’s revisit Snowstorm

December 9, 2014

Cocaine missing from a bust and the murder of their informant lead Starsky and Hutch to suspect either Stryker, a drug lord, or two fellow officers, Burke and Corman.

Marty Crandell: George Dzundza, Phil Corman: Richard Venture, Burke: Paul Benjamin, Kalowitz: Bill Sorrells, Stryker: Gilbert Green, Rodgers: Eric Mason, Freddie: Jim Bohan. Written By: Robert I Holt, Directed By: Bob Kelljan.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This is a great, punchy early episode with many wonderful scenes. The story, for all its complications, is tough and believable, there is a strong emotional component to the narrative, the clash between generations is always fascinating, and best of all Starsky and Hutch (and dare I suggest the actors as well) are particularly upbeat. There’s a barely suppressed joy here, much laughter and grinning, little jokes and a general sense that both are fully engaged with this story and enjoying themselves immensely. For instance, in the scene in which Starsky and Hutch are menaced by Stryker in the underground garage, the grim realism of the moment is made even better by Starsky’s laughter at the end of it – you get the sense Starsky (and Glaser, for the line here is a thin one) is saying, “can you believe how great this all is?” As well the talismanic Dalmatian Hutch sees repeatedly, and Starsky doesn’t, is a lovely touch and not something employed ever again. This metaphor for the whim of fate, or maybe a concrete sign that Hutch really is under a lucky star, doesn’t affect the brutal realism of the plot. In fact it adds to the idea that life – and death – is precarious, ineffable and impossible to decipher, much less predict. The fact that Robert Holt gets away with using this magical device in an otherwise gritty, hard-boiled crime story, is a testament to how great this script really is.

The first scene is wonderful for many reasons. One, Starsky is sitting on that garbage can in a neat perch that only youth and graceful athleticism allows. I like the binocular pan of the desolate, ugly landscape of dusty, weedy lots and aluminum shacks. The fact that we see firsthand that police work is largely boring, and that cops get hungry too, is a nice bit of realism and one that was at the time subtly revolutionary for television.

Starsky throws Hutch a sandwich and Hutch catches it expertly like a professional baseball player (and Soul is a very talented one).

When Crandell and his partner drive up to the drop with their contraband and the shark-like green sedan cruises up, Starsky and Hutch quickly take off, leaving the other officers hidden inside the building. They then drive quite a long way away, only to turn around the return for the bust. This always strikes me as interesting but not very practical. The long drive back, dust flying, gives the bad guys extra seconds to look up and assess the situation. They then calculate the risk and go into defensive mode faster than they should have, pulling guns and blasting away. It would have made more sense to hide the Torino on site and simply wait at the scene for the deal to go down, then ambush quickly and silently.

Kalowitz says Edward Crown “had you cold, Starsky,” and notes Starsky should be grateful to Corman for shooting him. It appears Starsky saved himself ably and with plenty of time, making Kalowitz’s statement patently untrue. Is this symbolic of Kalowitz’s limited vision and bad judgment in hanging around Corman and Burke? Even if it’s proven he never took part in this scheme, Kalowitz is still shown to be one of the Old Guard, that is, deeply suspicious of Starsky and Hutch and eager to put forth the idea that his cronies still have what it takes.

Leaving a premonitory bad taste in my mouth is Phil Corman’s quick demand Starsky buy him a drink in return for ostensibly saving his life. Most cops would shrug and say, “it’s nothing” if their actions were singled out, and the greater the sacrifice the greater the nonchalance, and so Corman comes off as a self-centered prat in this small moment. Robert Holt’s script is full of these nice details. The scene continues with Corman’s racist joke at the expense of his partner which pretty much tells us this is one reprehensible human being.

In a wonderfully deft bit of comedy, Starsky and Hutch are sharing a cup of water as they debrief in Dobey’s office following the bust. They continue to hand it back and forth throughout, and then, at the conclusion of the meeting when Starsky gestures for it, Hutch refuses to share. This adroit little comedy bit not only enlivens a dialogue-heavy scene, it allows us to see that Starsky and Hutch exist in a world of their own, a part of – but somehow separated from – the environment around them. Sharing also emphasizes the intimacy of the partnership as well as its good-natured competitiveness (and Hutch’s often punitive sense of humor).

Dobey says the informant has to keep feeding information to Starsky and Hutch until they get Stryker, the big boss. Starsky and Hutch vehemently disagree but Dobey tells them about a statutory rape charge pending against the informant they should use as leverage. It seems to me a mistake that Dobey knows the name of their snitch. They should have – and easily could have – kept that in confidence, although I guess that legally Dobey could have forced them to reveal the name or risk prosecution. Although I can’t imagine Dobey doing that, this is, as we discover, is an unusually urgent case for him. The clandestine, undocumented and “casual” nature of undercover detective work pretty much depends on secrecy. Starsky and Hutch should not have been made to be accountable for unrelated crimes committed by Crandell. They should have kept his identity secret. They want to catch Stryker as much as Dobey does, but I wonder if they would have gone through with the Philadelphia rape charge threat if Dobey hadn’t forced them to.

I love how Hutch slaps Starsky’s back as they go through the door at Huggy’s.

Huggy’s responsible for one of the great nonsensical lines in the series when he announces, “Huggy Bear’s is where the elite meet and come to greet the deet and fleet of feet who are so sweet with the finer things of life, beep, beep, bee-beep, beep.” Equally amusing is the blank look both Starsky and Hutch give him. It’s great, though, the guys have one ready for him at the tag end of the episode: Hutch saying, “He can’t cut loose without his juice,” and Starsky plays along: “He’s fine as long as he does wine,” and Hutch says, “Otherwise he’ll drink turpentine,” with Starsky, joyously adding, “And go blind!”

The guys are walking through the bar toward Crandell. In the foreground is a woman wearing kind of a dumb-looking African-style cloth cap and matching dress. Just as you notice it, Starsky does too, giving what seems like an improvised double-take, Glaser managing to telegraph bemusement and disbelief without changing the blank look on his face. Later, much later, Starsky also notices a guy walking down the street talking to himself. He gives the same look of fatigued disbelief. This ties into his complaint to Hutch that he’s too tired to be Bad Cop. Incidentally, Starsky is much more likely to keep his thoughts to himself while Hutch is inclined to express his opinions and frustrations.

When Starsky tells Hutch to “play the bad guy for a change,” is it because he feels he ends up playing the bad cop more than Hutch, or is it pretty much 50/50? It’s Starsky, frankly, who slides most easily into the menacing role in the interview room, due to his mastery of the slow burn. When barking accusations are called for, Hutch is the one who steps in.

You have to really look for the moments in which Starsky controls Hutch, but they’re there. Hutch is more obviously bossy and manipulative, but Starsky matches him point for point in his own quiet way. It’s Starsky who almost imperceptibly motions to Hutch when it’s time to let Crandell out of the booth. Hutch smiles and obeys.

Also, I like when Crandell leaves Hutch slides from his side of the booth, where he’s been blocking him, and goes to squeeze next to Starsky on his side. There’s no real reason for this except to be closer to him. They share a joke – “I didn’t even get a chance to get into my character,” Hutch, consummate asshole-actor wannabe, complains – and Starsky kicks him lightly and gives one of his all-too-rare big grins. This is a wonderfully unguarded spontaneous moment.

The dog is seen again at night, at the other side of town, as the Torino glides into the underground parking lot of what might be Starsky’s brief flirtation with high rise apartment living (not that there’s much proof in this supposition; this is the one and only time he’s seen here, and it’s not as if the scene is entitled “Starsky Drives Home For a Sec”). Starsky says, “I’ll be down in a second; need anything?” “No,” says Hutch, genially enough. Two questions. What, if this is indeed Starsky’s apartment, is he needing at night in the middle of the case? Money? Bullets? And two, why ask Hutch if he needs anything? Does this imply Hutch keeps something there, like an extra t-shirt? Of course all this is moot if this is a parking garage for a grocery store, or if Starsky is running in to pay a phone bill. While the front exterior of the building nominally resembles the police department, there is a notable absence of police cars. Besides, how and why would Stryker risk entering the underground parking lot of the police station? He’s a lot of things, but nuts he isn’t.

All right, let’s talk about the dog for a moment. This is the first and only time a truly magical element is introduced to the series and it defies all rational explanation. Even Joe Collins’ visions in “The Psychic” can be mostly explained away rationally (I try to do just that in Character Studies 29). The dog is a complete mystery, but it’s fun to look at it from several different angles.

If we want to stay in the worldly realm it’s possible it is not the same dog Hutch sees multiple times. Hutch may be alerted to the unusual sight of an apparently stray Dalmatian and then begins to see Dalmatians everywhere, stray or not. We can all relate to this – many of us hear an unusual word or see something out of the ordinary and then it seems as if we see and hear it everywhere. The human brain is wired to make patterns out of nothing, which is why pure coincidence is such a difficult concept for people to accept. I once heard the same obscure 80s pop song three times in one day in different locations.

It might be an amusing bit of karma that Hutch, who can be a bit of a know-it-all, comes off like a bit of a lunatic when he keeps claiming to see a dog Starsky is sure doesn’t exist. The dog is indeed real, if unusually watchful, staring at Hutch as if to transmit a message. For most of the episode the dog is also a precursor of duplicity. He is first seen as they walk into Huggy’s and talk to Crandall, who, as a three-timing snitch is the very model of duplicity. Second as they enter the underground parking lot to be ambushed by Stryker, who tries to recruit them with bribery. Third just before getting a call to the murder scene – a murder perpetuated by the police officers, a murder Stryker believes is proof that Starsky and Hutch are lying about the cocaine. In the tag, he appears when Starsky and Hutch are slipping out of Huggy’s to avoid paying a bill.

But beyond that, Hutch’s ever-increasing sensitivity to the dog’s seemingly arbitrary appearances means that by the time he sees the watchful, solemn Dalmatian at the really crucial moment, on the street outside Crandall’s apartment, he is fully and instantly attuned to the oddity. (And let’s remind ourselves that the Dalmatian itself is a dog closely associated to both comfort and lifesaving as the mascot of fire stations, known for beauty and intelligence, the canine equivalent to Hutchinson himself perhaps.) Each time the sighting grows stranger and more intense, and now when he sees the dog here he is flooded with adrenaline. And it is this flush of alertness that saves his life. Determined to solve this mystery, he bends just slightly to encourage the dog. The bullet zings past the top of his head.

I like how unimpressed Starsky and Hutch are when they realize the specter in the garage is Stryker, who would most likely strike fear in the hearts of most other men. This masterful seen-it-all bravado (whether it’s real or put on) is still deeply impressive after all these years.

Dobey tells the guys they are under investigation by Internal Affairs along with the three other detectives involved in the case. Now, here is where the plot gets a little complicated. Stryker tells Starsky and Hutch there is one million bucks in cocaine missing. It’s not as if he has informants within the department who were there when the shipment was brought in and weighed, because we find out later the missing cocaine was never part of the “official” bust. It might have been so much easier for Corman and Burke to skim off the top during the chaos of the arrest site at the same time they steal the gun, but we eventually we learn that Crandall himself has stolen the cocaine even before it was baled into the cotton shipment. So how did Internal Affairs even know there was missing cocaine? There may have been solid information about the weight of the shipment from someone inside Stryker’s outfit but Stryker himself dismisses this idea and I’m inclined to believe him. The guy Stryker bailed out wouldn’t know – how would he? So how does Stryker know?

Starsky mentions to Dobey that Corman used the missing drugs to set up a rip-off deal. A large amount of cocaine like that would be carefully monitored by secure lockup personnel but Starsky says it like he knows for sure. This turns out not to be the case, so I’m curious where Starsky got this information and why he repeats it so confidently.

I just know someone smarter than me will point out the obvious. But I admit I’m stumped.

I wonder, when Dobey compares himself and his partner Elmo Jackson to Starsky and Hutch, if is implying they too had the same depth of love and trust. It’s possible he just meant a good working relationship, but even so comparing himself and Jackson to Starsky and Hutch provides a crucial clue to the essential character of Dobey. Later, in “Captain Dobey, You’re Dead!” we will hear a similar story of a cold case and Dobey’s failure to bring a criminal to justice, and how it eats away at him. At the end of the episode Dobey is present at the arrest of Stryker for the murder of his old partner – “and best friend”, he says angrily – in order to provide closure for a long term injustice. I always wonder how much guilt he suffers because of his inability to arrest Stryker back in the day for the torture and murder of that best friend. I wonder if he questions his own ambition, the roads he has traveled since, from fiery street cop to desk-bound administrator. If those failures eat at him, does he in turn eat to smother the guilt? Do those little rages of his – gusting unexpectedly but dying down just as fast – give an indication that he is, at all times, angry on some level? Think ahead to future episodes in which either Starsky and/or Hutch is in danger, possibly in danger of death, how weak Dobey can be, how after a burst of shouting he just seems to give up like the air’s been let out of him. He’s bewildered in “Bloodbath”, and in “Coffin” says, “well, that’s it then” when there is still time to fight. He goes out for the evening when Hutch is suffering a heroin overdose in “The Fix”. He thinks “missing officer” trumps “missing partner” in “Survival”. He seems deflated and defeated when Starsky lies near death in “Sweet Revenge” while Hutch keeps ramping up the energy. And simultaneously he coddles the two detectives, favors them and covers for them, gives them all kinds of leeway, some legal and some not. In a sense he is living through them, enjoying their power and freedom from behind his lonely desk. All these elements are more complicated when juxtaposed with the brutal truncating of this early and formative partnership with Elmo Jackson.

There is no scene that shows the divide between Starsky and Hutch and the rest of the department better than when they are driven off the road and verbally attacked by Corman, Burke, and Kalowitz. Out of nowhere a powerful latent resentment rears its ugly head and the three older and more established cops – in their rumpled suits and ties, about as old-school as it gets – reveal just how jealous and defensive they are. It’s easy to imagine how Starsky and Hutch would rub these guys the wrong way. Kalowitz, Burke and Corman must sit at their local and pound back their bourbon shots and grouse about the bewildering way these “young punks” gain the confidence and trust of informants while overtly ignoring petty crime. It’s interesting how Starsky is singled out specifically as “pushy”, even more so than Hutch. We see this resentment worsen later in “Pariah”, when Starsky is unfairly condemned by fellow officers. Of the two, Starsky seems more visibly shaken by the incident, and not only because the insults were directed at him; in these earlier episodes he is simply more likely to lose his temper when provoked, thus unintentionally living up to his reputation as “pushy”. Hutch is more likely to show his anger in later seasons – here he is cautious and vigilant rather than outwardly angry.
“Buy me a beer, will you?” Starsky says, squinting at Hutch. “Yeah,” Hutch says, agreeable as ever in this episode.

Corman and Burke say they would have only waited another fifteen minutes for the apparently tardy Crandell and they “would have split.” This would have saved Crandell from getting shot five times and dumped in a field. At least for now. Freddie was also after Crandell and there was talk of Crandell getting tortured for information. And finally, Starsky and Hutch were also on Crandell’s tail, wanting him to set up his boss. All three scenarios make Pennsylvania in the winter seem positively benign.

Crandell was dealing with three different people’s “interests” and doing some pretty nifty deals. He managed to rip off Stryker, out-think Corman and Burke, and keep Starsky and Hutch in the dark. His only mistake was not hiding half the cocaine somewhere else and tipping off Corman and Burke on the telephone to its location. Showing up in person, and then digging out both packages from the hiding spot, was a dumb move on his part, but I wonder if that was the only way he was sure to get paid.

Is there anything more gruesome than the phrase “hamburger machine”?

Waiting for Crandell, Hutch and Starsky engage in a little argument about Hutch’s crappy car. The window handle has just come off. Starsky begs Hutch to go to his uncle’s car lot “just have a look”. Hutch says, “you just want me to be driving a striped tomato like you got.” (Stri-ped, amusingly, Hutch briefly channeling Richard Harris) This may be the first example of this phrase, because Starsky is incredulous. “My car is a striped what?” he says. And even Hutch has the decency to back off. At the response to the code 3, Hutch performs an extremely satisfying squealing u-turn, smoke billowing like an angry dragon, and you get an idea why he might like that car.

Times have changed in Los Angeles. This dirt-road-and-ragweed parcel of land does not seem far from the city.

Dobey says he has “something (you guys) might want to see” when he knows damn well it’s Crandell under that sheet. Passive-aggressive, or what?

Why do Corman and Burke bother dragging Crandell’s body outside after they kill him in the shack, and exactly how do they get his body outside? The door is locked and the window seems an unlikely choice, since it’s boarded up. If they kept the body in the shed or even ripped out a section of the floor to dump the body (there was room to stash the cocaine, there might have been room for a corpse), it might not have been found for weeks, even months, and would likely be unidentifiable.

I love how the blood-thirsty conversation between Stryker and his henchman – in which Stryker proposes murdering police officers – is undercut by Sryker urging him to have some cheese and the amoral assassin says, “No thank you, I’m on a diet.”

Stryker’s motivations throughout make sense, but the narrative could use some clarity, as I am forced to make assumptions about why Stryker cares enough about a couple of stolen packages of cocaine he was never going to get anyway, care enough to risk everything and a) attempt to negotiate with a couple of detectives he must know are on the up-and-up and b) kill those same detectives when he feels let down by them. What does it matter to him what happened? My answer to that is twofold: one, he is a proud man, and has a reputation to uphold, so gossip about loose merchandise would hurt his feelings. And two, more practically, cocaine that pure getting sold on the street would dilute his own distribution aims.

Dobey seems surprised hearing Corman and Burke are going to go fishing together. It could be he sees it as a team building exercise, or maybe because he too has a little cabin in the woods and longs to chat to someone about it. But more likely it’s because he knows Corman is a racist little shit and he wonders why Burke is spending time with him.

Hutch is careful to ask where exactly the cabin is. Even if Hutch wouldn’t admit to it if you asked him, this means they are already harboring suspicions about the older detectives.

“There’s that dog!” Hutch exclaims and, when he bends to call him, just misses getting assassinated. Diving to avoid bullets he cries out, “Did you see that dog, Starsky?” Wanting, desperately, to be proven sane. “Yeah I saw it,” Starsky says. “I’m beginning to love that dog, Starsky!” Hutch yells. “Me too, Hutch,” Starsky replies, phlegmatic as usual.

I love the single take when Starsky and Hutch enter the Adams Hotel from one side, Rodgers leaves from the other, and a moment later the guys emerge on the rooftop to find it empty.

I wonder if this is the last time Starsky and Hutch believe in the concept of “brother cops”.

Starsky refers to “button, button, who’s got the button,” an old children’s game in which a button is surreptitiously passed around and hidden.

When Huggy makes his bogus call, which is rerouted to Dobey’s office, he asks for Starsky. Starsky answers and Huggy pretends to think it’s Hutch. “It’s me, dummy,” Starsky says, charmed at first and then realizing this mix-up of them – which will plague them for the rest of the series – is a code-word for danger. Of all the mixing-up of their names and identities by other people, this is the only time in which the mix-up is both deliberate and and extremely helpful.

Endemic racism is an issue on both sides of the law. Crandall treats his partner Burke with cruel disrespect, and Starsky tries the same tactic when he dismisses Huggy as “that black fink”. Both must have an inkling the goons around Stryker are southern yokels – Hutch refers to them as “rednecks” – and so would more than likely believe in such a bigoted dismissal.

It’s mighty strange when Hutch tells a tied-up Huggy he might be charged with conspiracy for making that phone call. Sure it’s a joke, but it’s painful to hear it. Huggy was kidnapped and had a gun to his head and they knew it, and to make light of it seems way over the line, even for acerbic Hutch.

Which department does Hutch call when he says, ‘Hutchinson, send an ambulance to Huggy Bear’s restaurant. Tell Captain Dobey to send over a backup unit”? Switchboard? Desk? Why doesn’t he request the back up directly? At that point they had all the time in the world.

Describe what could be going through Dobey’s head when he gets the call: he knows Starsky and Hutch went to Huggy Bear’s because there was trouble there. He then receives a call requesting an ambulance, backup and no other information.

Starsky is the one who grabs the bottle of whiskey and the glass in the middle of the chaos of the take-down. He pours Rodgers a glass in a way that makes it clear that this is a meeting – albeit bloody and violent – between like-minded compatriots. Then he brings up the name Elmo Jackson. Hutch may know nothing about this turn of events, despite the fact he pours the booze. Quite likely he is thinking only about arrest and prosecution of the thugs who held Huggy. When he twigs to what’s really going down – and, wonderfully, it’s no more than a second or two – he gives Starsky a nod and a particularly warm look to indicate that he believes in, and in fact endorses, what’s about to happen.

I’d like to believe Rodgers’ testimony against Stryker will stick, but it’s awfully tenuous to rely on the memory of a felon who is also angling for a deal, especially when it comes to a decades-old cold case murder.

“Never pick on a man’s partner,” says Hutch. This ties a bow around the idea that Dobey has finally brought justice to his partner’s murder. However, the scene lacks something. It could be Bernie Hamilton’s acting limitations, it could be Dobey’s A-B emotional range, it could be the script’s refusal to risk bathos, whatever it is we do not get the sense that a twenty-year search for righteousness has just ended, or a man’s grief, guilt and private fears can be laid to rest. Instead the moral wrath is saved for Starsky and Hutch on their quest to bring down Corman and Burke.

Starsky remarks that Corman and Burke are like “The NAACP and the Ku Klux Klan having a togetherness rally,” which neatly sums up the contentious, racially-tension-filled partnership. It’s also perceptive: although he was there when Corman made the nasty remark early on to Burke about “totin’ those bales” he didn’t appear to react to it, or even hear it. But of course he did, and tucked it away for later. Also goes to show that although Corman and Burke were partners, with the same dark/light yin/yang as Starsky and Hutch, there is no love or loyalty between them.

The set dec people really go to town with the branches and dead grasses all over the ground. What are they hiding, a parking lot?

Starsky is forced to shoot Burke, who cries out, “we could have made a deal!” “Haven’t you heard by now? Hutch and me don’t make deals,” Starsky says, bundling him up and shoving him roughly back toward the cabin. Not only is it great that he is speaking with absolute certainty on Hutch’s behalf, he is acknowledging, ever so slightly, the gossiping in the department, gossip that Burke and Corman heard and probably participated in for their own purposes.

It’s moving that Hutch looks so crushed when Starsky returns to find he has killed Corman. There’s only sadness and loss, no triumph or told-you-so. They have lost rather than won.

Tag: Dobey reminds the guys that next time they have to do it “by the book” and Starsky lightly dismisses the idea of Internal Affairs having any sort of a problem with how things turned out. But honestly, going off like that on their own to confront fellow officers, resulting in the shooting death of one and the severe injury of the other, is a procedural and political nightmare. It could reflect poorly on the department and result in years of inquests and paperwork.

I like how Starsky says “condemnation” when he means “commendation”. It rather nicely ties in with his much later mixing up of penguins and pelicans in Starsky’s Lady, but also Starsky is acknowledging the fact it doesn’t really matter to Huggy either way. A piece of paper is useless if your upstairs room has been trashed – he’d rather take a monetary donation.

The beautiful dog reappears, which Hutch calls “my dog” and “lifesaver”, but there’s no resolution (and no owner either!) It’s wonderful to see the two of them interact with the dog with such joy and caring. Pretending not to see the dog when Huggy claims to is a nice twist on the mystery. For the first time the dog interacts with them instead of slinking away, and the wagging tail tells us the danger, for now, has passed.

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Let’s Revisit “Pariah”

September 13, 2014

After Starsky fatally shoots teenage felon Lonnie Craig during a hold-up, a man from his past, George Prudholm, begins killing cops in revenge.

George Prudholm: Stephen McNally, Joseph Tramaine: Gregory Rozakis, Eunice Craig: Hilda Haynes, Off. Edwards: David S Milton, Collins: Graham Jarvis, Cecil: John Alderman, Tidings: Jay Fletcher, Molly: Anitra Ford, Officer Lee: James R Parkes. Written By: Michael Fisher, Directed By: Bob Kelljan.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This is a terrific episode with a focused storyline and clear, uncluttered emotional content. The series is always at its best when a crisis allows the partnership to coalesce and intensify and we see it here, in spades. The series is consistently successful, particularly in the first two seasons, of showing how a personal issue can reflect a larger, societal wrong. Here, Starsky’s actions reveal the troubling racial divide in American society. And if we want to pull back our lens even further and encompass the whole classic tragedy, larger than any one society, we can come to understand the pain of responsibility, and the redemptive power of forgiveness.

Like many if not most episodes in the “Starsky & Hutch” canon, “Pariah” depicts shockingly relevant issues; here, it is the shooting death of a young black man by a white police officer, followed by public anger made worse when the police reveal that young man’s sketchy past. We also see the moral dilemma of allowing the media access to the officer’s identity and the procedural details of the investigation, and the incendiary emotions of race and justice, and the similarities to what is happening today is striking, if not depressingly familiar. However, this is where the similarity to contemporary events diverges, as the troubling case of Lonnie shifts to a (white) man’s overwhelming madness and grief, and how he uses a tragic shooting to further his own ends. Starsky, therefore, must not only try to forgive himself, he must try to forgive someone who has caused him tremendous anguish. At the end of the episode I’m not sure he has done either.

The opening scene in this episode is low key and genuinely funny, and a nice start to a brutal episode. In the first season the writers get the emotional temperature just right, and we see it here. Everyone is relaxed and good natured, nothing is rushed, and there is a brilliantly subtle foreshadowing when Starsky muses about “one of those days.” Anitra Ford may be a Playboy bunny (of the year, no less) but she’s also a pretty good comedienne. She comes off as smart, laconic and funny, and you can see Hutch and Molly have a genuine thing going on the way they share a look in amusement when Starsky arrives and it’s time to start the routine. But you have to wonder what she makes of the whole set-up, if she wonders if perhaps this is all a little excessive, this practical joke which has taken so long to organize, to practice and perfect, which Hutch is pursuing with such enthusiasm. Hutch has no real interest in having Starsky adopt a healthy regime. One suspects if Starsky were to suddenly take up a yogurt-and-granola approach to breakfast Hutch would be bereft. Because what he wants is to win, no matter how inconsequential, or fleeting, the prize.

It must not have been much of a party if Starsky so easily believes she doesn’t know his – or Hutch’s – name. Or maybe it’s a sign of the casual times.

The shoot-out at the grocery store is a bit of a puzzle. For one thing, the robbery takes place in a tight-knit poor-to-middle-class black neighbourhood, and the bystander immediately recognizes Lonnie Craig, which means Lonnie and his accomplice were robbing their own friends and neighbors. Which explains the balaclavas, of course, but not the rationale behind robbing people who a) will most certainly recognize you by your voice and mannerisms, and b) that you have had years of friendly interaction with. Of course this happens all the time, especially if people are driven to panicky extremes because of drug addiction, but nothing is said about Lonnie and drugs, (although it’s very probably drugs had some kind of impact on his life, but what impact we don’t know, and it doesn’t appear that Lonnie had a bad habit) only that he was a promising young kid with a loving mother. So why rob a small corner store in your own neighborhood – with your own mother steps away – and be stupid enough to attempt to kill police? Lonnie, if Tremaine is telling the truth, had his own thing going. He was running numbers and had a clientele, and probably plenty of money. He had a comfortable home and a future. So why throw it all away for a two-bit robbery, and in your very own backyard? If this was a matter of friendship (you can easily imagine Tremaine begging and pleading for help “with this one little thing”), Lonnie was prepared to go a very long way to prove his loyalty. A little background would have been nice, if only to paint Lonnie as a hero-worshipping kid who would do anything for his only friend.

It always bothers me when the uniformed patrol officer interrupts Starsky’s professionalism to say accusingly, “He’s just a kid. You killed a kid!” This is immature and inflammatory, and it stops everyone from doing their job. Behavior like this from hysterical bystanders I understand, but from a police officer it’s inexcusable.

“If throwing me to the wolves is what it takes, let ‘em do it,” Starsky says to the furious Hutch when it becomes clear that the coroner’s inquest will be made public.  “Besides, I don’t go down so easy.”  And he gives a very slight grin, and an upward twitch of his eyebrows, and in an instant the world has shrunk to just the two of them, and no one else; Hutch gives an even smaller, less noticeable grin in response – mirroring Starsky’s expression – and for a second there is nothing else, not a sound, not an intrusion, time has stopped, space has contracted, and it is only them.

Is the department right to insist on complete disclosure, including allowing public access to the coroner’s inquest? This is a question not answered here, and not answered fully to this day. Being exposed to public judgment before all the facts are in can lead to erroneous, emotion-clouded conclusions, but institutions policing themselves without outside scrutiny can allow corruption and to flourish.

When Dobey and the DA leave there is a long moment of silence that is all too rare in this series, and every second of it is wonderful.

It’s a great moment in court when Starsky, looking trapped in a pinstripe suit and a rather nice lemon shirt, looks behind him to see Hutch in the gallery. Hutch acknowledges him with a smile, and does the tie-wave motion, which seems to work: Starsky noticeably relaxes.

Stewart Tidings, the bystander/witness who changes his story on the stand, is a notable character. Intelligent and hotheaded, but with a moral core, not above pushing an anti-cop agenda if he thinks it’ll stir up trouble, the paradigm of racial frustration. I love it when he acknowledges he thought Lonnie was trying to surrender because that’s what everyone else was saying, and he got swept up in the group dynamic. It’s extremely difficult to go against not only your original accusation, but the accusations of the angry mob around you, but he does it. Later Stewart elects himself guardian at Eunice Craig’s house during the funeral, standing at the door and refusing Starsky entry. Even though he’s admitted Lonnie’s guilt he’s not yet ready to relinquish his dislike of cops. He does, however, shake Starsky’s hand, showing a facility for change (and grudging forgiveness) that does him credit.

When meeting after the inquest at Huggy’s it’s interesting to note that Hutch and Huggy are having coffee – it must be around 10 or 11 in the morning for The Pits not to be open yet, although it could be later – but Starsky, never what you’d call a drinker, is having a beer.

In this episode we see many scenes of empathy, reassurance and solidarity between the partners. Of particular note is the beautiful scene following Starsky’s giving his condolences at the Craig house, when Starsky is lost in thought behind the wheel of the Torino and Hutch gently suggests starting the car because “it works better that way.”  Then offers one of his sweetest smiles.

It takes every bit of Starsky’s courage to enter that yard and walk up those stairs, and when you think about the danger he faces on a daily basis this is even more poignant; facing a family’s private grief and disapproval is a hell of a lot harder to do than the violent necessity of law enforcement.

Hilda Haynes has such a uniquely beautiful and haunting face – her huge eyes are unreal – that you just cam’t stop watching her.

They chase Tremaine out of the window and down the alley, and lose him. Starsky’s furious. Hutch grabs Starsky’s wrist to check the time – a gesture used more than once, since Hutch often doesn’t wear a watch. “Tempest fugit,” Starsky says as they stand panting after the chase. “What?” Hutch says. “Time flies,” Starsky says, and Hutch, with perfect comedic timing, says (without surprise, even those his apparently proletariat partner has just spoken Latin), “Oh.”

Dobey tells Starsky, after Prudholm kills a second cop and calls Metro, “Your friend called again,” when he is trying to keep Starsky’s head together, which seems unnecessarily provocative to me.

Is the announcer is the same one who is “Michael Jackson” in Survival?

Why bring uniformed officers to get Tremaine at the grocery store? He’s going to twig to it and panic. Also, this points to the major inconsistency of backup. Sometimes, as in this instance, Starsky and Hutch have extra backup they don’t really need. And sometimes, as in “Iron Mike”, they have zero backup when they could really use it  as they attempt to arrest four, maybe five armed felons, at night, with low visibility and in dangerously unfamiliar terrain.

I can’t help but appreciate the sign that reads “The Donut Show.” I would probably stick around and see that show three or four times.

Drug withdrawal turns Tramaine into a big, frustrated baby. He’s twenty-two and has the deep husky voice of an old man. It’s great when, in exasperation during the interrogation scene, he bunches his hands into fists in a tantrum. But of course it begs the question: if he’s needing to score so badly, why was he calmly grocery shopping and examining that salad dressing like a gourmet?

I love how Hutch can stop Starsky’s violent assault on Tremaine with a miniscule lift of an eyebrow. Starsky sees this and relents, completely, all anger evaporated.

It’s always struck me how Prudhom starts killing cops and at the apex of his madness threatening the families of cops, raging away like an Old Testament prophet about taking out “maybe an old granny too” in order to exact his vengeance, without ever mentioning Hutch. Later, much later, he’s going after Terry in “Starsky’s Lady”, again no mention of hurting Hutch. Why not? Why not the one person in the world Starsky really cares about? Is this a case of something being so outside his reality he can’t even imagine it?

Starsky swears for the only time in the entire series, although one can imagine an HBO-version filled with all kinds of imaginative language. Either a method-acting slip or a nonsensical hiss meant to simulate swearing, it happens when Hutch, quite brilliantly – a foreshadowing of his wild guess in “Bloodbath”, again listening to a taped message – picks up on “ex-con” and “in his fifties” and figures the caller might be Prudholm. Starsky says “Shit!” and picks up the phone.

It’s interesting how Hutch and Dobey are eating, but Starsky, heartbroken, isn’t.

Why does Hutch ask Officer Bill in R & I to call “Parole” to get Prudholm’s current address? While Parole certainly has this information, why doesn’t R & I have it? And if R & I doesn’t keep current addresses, then all of those types of questions would require a call to Parole.

The only time Prudholm seems shaken out of his murderous rage is when he calls his own apartment and Starsky says in ten minutes his (Prudholm’s) face will be in every newspaper and on every TV screen in town. Prudholm stops, his hands tremble, then he abruptly agrees to meet Starsky face-to-face. This small moment has always been as bit of a mystery. Does Prudholm change his mind because Starsky has goaded him, or because he’s afraid of having his face and his story splashed across the front pages of the newspaper? Is he mortally afraid of having his grief exposed, and with it his son’s weaknesses and mistakes?

There is much similarity between “Pariah” and “A Coffin for Starsky”. Both have, at their core, a father grieving the loss of a wayward son at the hands of Starsky and Hutch, and both men concoct elaborate schemes that nearly kill Starsky. In both cases the son is involved in drugs, and neither father acknowledges this fact. Both men have been distant fathers: Prudholm in jail for his son’s entire adult life and Professor Jennings (it’s implied but not said) is an aloof intellectual out of touch with both a drug-addicted son and a daughter whose professional triumphs appear to be invisible to him. Both men inflict pain in a horribly impersonal way: Prudholm through taunting phone calls and sadistic “lessons”, Jennings through a proxy assailant. Both think the object of their hate will suffer more if the pain is more mental than physical – Jennings times it so that Starsky has to suffer for as much as 48 hours before succumbing. Both men use elaborate and fussy plans to hinder them. And both men do not get what they are so desperately searching for – lex talionis, to be exact – because torture will never equal justice.

One of the great “there are no words” moments in the series happens when they look at each other over the hood of the Torino before Starsky rushes off.

Such a creepy zoo. All those too-small cages and brutal rocks symbolic, perhaps, of Prudholm’s misery, how he’s been locked away both figuratively and literally all these years. As well, the cruel architecture of this old-fashioned zoo – somewhat remedied these days ad the result of of a more progressive understanding of the mental health of animals in captivity – also echoes how the modern urban world can alienate and make crazy its inhabitants, from poor Lonnie Craig, the “loner” whose only friend (if you can call him that) was a junkie who abandoned him when the going got tough, to Prudholm himself, allowed to fester without psychiatric intervention.

Starsky goes alone to confront Prudholm. Hutch secretly follows, and his presence proves to be life-saving. In the aftermath of events, I wonder if Starsky processes Hutch’s disobedience with relief or irritation or maybe a mix of the two. Yet, when they stare at each other over the hood of the car and Starsky gives that nearly imperceptible nod, he may have known all along his partner would gnore his command and show up, and was acknowledging the inevitability.

The arrest of Prudholm is typical of the series as a whole. Rather than triumphant, the brief adrenaline rush of chase-and-capture gives way to deep sadness. Starsky does not feel like a hero, he doesn’t even have a sense of completion of a job well done. Rather there is a lingering sense of culpability, and the frustration that no matter what they do the parade of human misery goes on. Nothing has been solved, no one has gotten justice, the already over-burdened system will once again required to care for and house the criminally insane. It’s a form of existential nihilism that even Starsky recognizes in these final moments. It’s a moving moment when he actually aims his gun as if to shoot Prudholm in the head, and looks so murderous that even Hutch, who knows full well his partner isn’t going to actually shoot, says quietly, and warningly, “Starsk.”

Tag: Starsky says, “The notion that something’s got to taste rotten in order for it to make you feel good,” implies Hutch is a masochist. Hutch, in “Body Worth Guarding”, calls Starsky a “hedonist.” Starsky replies, “Just so long as I enjoy myself.” Both labels are accurate. There is something in Hutch requiring his atonement, and although Starsky can be broody it’s not at the same level: he’s engaged in the world and contented with temporal things, while Hutch’s punitive routines and habits suggests he has been the victim of a wounding at some point in his life.

I find it difficult to imagine Hutch doesn’t pick up on the booze in the cocktail Starsky makes him; he might be professing confusion in order to allow Starsky his moment, which is a charming act of friendship.

Clothing notes: Hutch looks great in his blue zippered top and later in his caramel leather jacket. Starsky is mostly all-blue in his cloth jacket, and denim shirt in the last scene, great-fitting low-rise jeans, and the Adidas. Both wear clothes than any fashion-conscious hipster would happily wear today. Note that somewhere in the middle of the episode Starsky adds a small gold band to his usual silver pinkie ring, which I can’t help but imagine tells a romantic back-story.

Let’s revisit “Jojo”

July 10, 2014

Starsky and Hutch try to put away a dangerous rapist despite his frightened victims, who won’t testify, and the Feds, who are protecting him as an informant.

Jojo: Stephen Davies, Agent Bettin: Alan Fudge, Linda: Linda Scruggs-Bogart, Stella: Fran Ryan, Dombarris: Robert Riesel, Molly: Terry Lumley, Elaine: Sherry Bain, Merl “The Earl”: Raymond Allen, Sulko: Brad Stuart, Dixie: Jude Farese. Written By: Michael Mann, Directed By: George McCowan.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

There is perhaps no crime perpetuated upon a person more devastating than rape. While it is generally defined as forced or nonconsensual sexual contact, it is purely an act of power and dominance and not about sex. Rape is a hate crime, its psychological and physical effects lasting a lifetime. A rape survivor is not only devastated by her attacker, she can be hurt from within in the form of fear, guilt and shame; she can also suffer from the cruelly misinformed opinions and beliefs from her society at large (I am using the feminine pronoun here, but I understand rape is not at all a gender issue). Rape can be minimized, it can be dismissed. Certainly when this brave and uncompromising episode was filmed rape was not well understood, accepted or even part of the everyday conversation, which makes this even more admirable. In the United States the laws were inconsistent and soft, and there were few resources dedicated to the complicated aftershocks. This episode is especially important in the light of contemporary “rape culture” and “victim shaming” which have now grabbed headlines around the world. Politicians still dismiss rape as a non-crime and in many parts of the world women cannot hold their attackers responsible. Rape is still used as punishment for the imagined transgressions of a woman. Around the world girls and women are defiled and destroyed in an unending nightmare of sexual exploitation. The ghastly and frustrating events in this episode are relevant and contemporary, and a reminder that we need heroic figures like Starsky and Hutch more than ever.

This episode about rape and its terrible aftermath would be special on its own, but there is more to the story of “Jojo” than a serial rapist and his victims. Michael Mann has added a layer of political insurrection to an already potent story as Starsky and Hutch battle the Feds, who are personified by uptight Agent Bettin (the marvelous actor Alan Fudge, in a thankless role). Throughout this series, and in this episode in particular, Federal Agents represent the hulking, overbearing status quo. Rules must be followed, the structure must be maintained at the cost of the individual. There is a strict hierarchy of crimes and at the top is anything that threatens the stability of society, in this case drug use and trafficking. The Big Picture that Agent Bettin sees may be disagreeable, but it is not unreasonable: to him, a single rape victim cannot equal the thousands of people injured or killed because of the dispersal of those drugs. Getting Jojo off the streets is imperative, we all agree with that, and stopping the attack on Molly is the right thing to do. But Bettin is not the bad guy here, as much as Starsky and Hutch would like him to be. If there is evil here it is in his ruthless adherence to duty, his lack of imagination or perhaps an inability to multitask, and not the duty itself.

We can see the bad attitude right off the bat when Hutch calls them “federal space rangers” and Starsky deliberately says “Command Ralph” which actually does sound sillier than Command Robert.

It looks as if the police have not warned the secretary about either their surveillance or the robbery going down, which seems unfair.

These are two ill-prepared, lazy thugs who hold the secretary hostage and prep the area for Dombarris. They move like they’ve been woken from a nap, wear no disguises or gloves, even while using that phone. Jojo gives his real name in front of the secretary and then names his employer. This is inexcusable. My only (non-canonical) conclusion, watching this, is that Jojo intended all along to rape and murder the receptionist as part of his perceived payment for the job. I don’t think he is capable of thinking ahead to the fact this would make Dombarris extremely angry.

Starsky observes that Nick Dombarris won’t trust anyone but himself to drive the truck, and that people who work for him are so stupid “they couldn’t tell a raw amphetamine from a cough drop”. Nick Dombarris tells Jojo he will be at Brooks in two minutes and Jojo is going to rape Molly in that time? It seems like a short window. Does Nick already know of Jojo’s tendencies and fine with them as long as they don’t interrupt the drug heist, or is he unaware he has a rapist on board? Would it matter to him either way as long as the job was done, do you think?

I love how Bettin says, “Stay put. That is an order,” and Starsky and Hutch give each other a look before exploding from their hiding spots at exactly the same time.

Why didn’t the feds with their army of uniforms get in their cars and rush to the scene? If they had, maybe they would have caught Dombarris, who peels out of there in his van. Or maybe they had nothing to charge him with; after all, the heist never took place. The uniforms don’t seem to think this, however: their guns are drawn at the van, and they seem itching to fire.

Terry Lumley gives a great performance as a smart girl whose refusal to testify does not mean she’s weak or self-centered, but rather in a terrible no-win situation the guys understand, even if they don’t like it. They are respectful and gentle with her, but maybe she would be more receptive to pressing charges against Jojo if Starsky and Hutch had talked to her in a different room than “Interrogation.” It is a scary, cold room reserved for criminals, not the most conducive to making her feel at ease and comfortable. It’s a major failing. They don’t take her clothing for forensic examination and she’s forced to wear that horribly disfigured shirt throughout, which seems unfair to me. Neither detective offer her much in way of comfort, either. There is no Styrofoam cup of coffee or a blanket or even a female officer in the room. Even Linda Mascelli gets a cigarette from Hutch.

Why are the guys driving in Hutch’s car during this episode? There’s no reason for the Torino being out of commission and, given the fact the guys have to rush here and there throughout this case, the Torino would be a much better option. Plus Starsky belly aches throughout on the sad state of the car. What if they had to be discreet? Also, there is no rear mirror – it’s been removed at some point, which makes it dangerous to drive. The horn goes when the door is opened. It actually does alert Dombarris, in the end – he twigs to Starsky and Hutch and is able to react – get and load his gun – far sooner than he should have.

On their way to talk to Linda a gold mustang stops right in front of them while they’re walking across the street. “Go ahead,” Starsky says affably to the driver, but Hutch chuckles. Unexpected? Spontaneous? Or just a lovely detail added by the director?

Hutch makes a big deal out of saying “after you” to Starsky as they talk in front of Linda’s door. This is a set up to Starsky being thrown by the surprised Linda while Hutch is spared. “Why does this always happen to me,” Starsky says. “Well, you wanted to go in first,” Hutch smirks. Does Hutch really know what Linda will do? Just a lucky guess?

If Linda is so on edge, why does she work with her back to the door?

Those are the ugliest no-talent paintings ever on the walls of this artists’ studio. Let’s hope Linda didn’t paint them.

Since Jojo hasn’t been identified as her rapist, how does Linda Mascelli know there were “other girls”? Is the fact he sprays them with orange paint a well-known detail? It would be the only reason Linda knows of multiple victims, through the newspapers exhorting the “Orange Paint Maniac Murders”.

Let’s take a moment to think about the central figure in this episode: Jojo. With his head of curls, piercing blue eyes, giggling and nervous chewing, Jo-Jo looks genuinely crazy – Stephen Davies really goes to town on his role. Throughout, he’s nothing short of brilliant. It’s a smart move to make this so-called “petty” criminal (as Bettin would phrase it) so much more striking than the rather bland, forgettable Dombarris. He has a sing-songy childish nickname which fits his impulsive, nonsensical character. He is not an adult and not rational; Hutch clearly says he’s a “psycho” and should be put in a mental institution, yet there is not the tiniest residual of compassion shown to him either by Starsky and Hutch or by the episode’s producers. In similar episodes featuring a mentally ill perpetrator there is a hint of sadness around them, as if they are helpless victims of bad genetics, past trauma or a horrible childhood, not quite responsible for their monstrous behavior. Commander Jim in “Lady Blue” brutally murdered women, torturing and possibly raping them, yet Starsky and Hutch plead for his safety and feel genuinely moved by his death. Artie Solkin in “Vendetta” is a pedophile and an all-round creep, and while neither Starsky not Hutch show him a shred of good will, he is nevertheless interpreted by both writers and the marvelous Stefan Gierasch to be capable of both suffering and even something that passes for love. Jojo has no back story, there are no telling details to allow us to understand him. We never learn the origin of his unusual fetish for orange spray paint (although later in the episode he wears orange pants which match his hair color, so perhaps the color is his “signature”, some immature attempt at recognition). Thrown away like trash, his murder is simply a case of “good riddance”. His character’s superficiality – all flash, no substance – is anomalous to the series as a whole and therefore quite interesting.

Jojo talks to Bettin after hours at the police station. He’s escorted into what looks like a visitor’s room, not in handcuffs and not guarded. I know that charges are pending – Starsky and Hutch would have a limited time in which to find the evidence necessary for an official charge – but this informality is striking. Is it even legal? Their conversation is not recorded and Bettin does not take notes. It all happens under the radar. My legal knowledge is scant, but I wonder if this clandestine meeting leaves Bettin vulnerable to accusations of procedural errors, thereby hurting his own case.

Hutch’s backseat is a mess. There are last week’s newspapers, laundry, hi-protein candy wrappers, large six-spoked wooden wheel, two poster tubes for his roses, an empty cardboard box, a football, a red hard hat, a baseball mitt, high-protein candy wrappers. Oddly, both Starsky and Hutch have a similar wheel: in “Running”, Starsky’s is on his apartment wall. Imagine a conversation or reason they each have this in their possession. Maybe it’s the same one, and they’re sharing. What is Hutch planning to do with his wheel? He starts to tell Starsky, who interrupts him, which is a shame.

I love Starsky’s dive out of the moving car. And nothing Linda did to Starsky equals his dramatic and painful-looking tackle of Jojo over the hood of Hutch’s car – they both crash to the pavement really hard.

The division between the guys and the feds is perfect in the scene in which Hutch says, “Those are people out there, not projections.” Said with his patented blood-curdling sarcasm, the scene is especially riveting. Starsky sits back and lets his partner do the work for both of them.

Linda says Jojo called her last night. She says it wearily, as if cynicism has overwhelmed her, which seems odd. After all, he was just identified as her assailant twelve hours previously, and she was impressed and assured by Starsky and Hutch’s vehement avowal to put him away permanently. When did her distrust of the police happen? When asked what JoJo said she replies alarmingly, “the usual lewd ramblings-on.” Now, Linda could be referring to the “typical” stalker or rapist. But it doesn’t sound like that. Rather it implies Jojo has called her before. If this is the case, this is a frightening detail that makes no sense.

Hutch tells her it was the Feds who put Jojo back on the street. Linda doesn’t ask why. Is she so disinterested in this case that this unexpected detour doesn’t rouse any interest? This makes Linda more passive than I like, personally. I want the ass-kicking ninja back, not this detached bystander.

Dombarris’ industrial loft has to be one of the all-time great sets in the history of the show. For some reason – perhaps to depict him as some kind of rat king in his stuffed lair – Dombarris lives in dazzling, colonial-inspired mayhem. Zebra patterned hammock for two, tiki masks, a large reel-to-reel, African drums, ship lathe walls, several brass hookahs, totem poles, tiger-skin rug, various plants and vines, telescope, French filigree, Oriental sculptures. Tiffany-style hanging lamps, possum fur throw, tiki bar, a blinking light sculpture, and lounging musclemen.

Is Big Bad Dombarris intimidated by his suddenly-returning girlfriend Elaine who orders him around and storms off? He keeps his cool but something tells me he’s either a tiny bit afraid of her or is seriously inconvenienced and pissed off. It’s horrible when the hit he traps Jojo with is the very same girlfriend. Cold, man.

This is the only case of a successful criminal boss-type does not work out of a “classy” office with paneling and ferns; instead Dombarris’ pad is a retro-explosion of thrift store finds. Curious.

Starsky tells Jojo they’re coming into the café to have a “little tête-à-tête” and Hutch says, “your Spanish is improving.” “Thank you,” Starsky says , and Hutch grins. It’s a great little moment and one of the few times Hutch makes fun of his own pretensions.

Starsky is wearing a bright red hardhat when they kidnap Jo-Jo from the street. Something he found in the back of Hutch’s car, and decides to wear.

I love it when Stella the waitress busts Hutch’s chops. He just looks so astonished. He’s so used to being the crabby one, the one who makes trouble, and he just can’t believe it when someone turns the tables. Stella lays into him, perhaps sensing his distaste for his surroundings, and more-or-less manhandles him in a way that obviously pleases Starsky to no end. One wonders, despite Starsky’s rhapsodizing about the café’s “color, a sea of color in a grey world”, he really brought them here in order to set Stella on Hutch. His pleasure, and Hutch’s distress, is pure joy to behold in such a grim episode. This little incidental scene is when the series really shines. Also, throughout this episode Starsky and Hutch get on extremely well. They joke and laugh together, are united in moral outrage, understand each other’s near-invisible signals, and are generally loving. It’s enjoyable to watch and very different than the tetchy edge that develops in later episodes.

Stella calls Starsky “Dick Tracy”. Now, what purpose does it serve to let people in on the fact you’re a police officer? It seems to me it’s a hindrance and not a help.

Starsky threatens Jojo that if he comes near Linda “a lot of bad things are going to happen to you. Fast.” Hutch adds, “We have half a dozen ways to turn you into a disaster area.” Let’s speculate about how true these threats really are and how far Starsky and Hutch would go to hurt Jojo, or any criminal they find repugnant. Throughout the series both are tempted into retributive violence and every single time they resist. But they really have it out for Jojo and have no respect for him as a person. Jojo’s terror is real, and presumably it wouldn’t be if word on the street said Starsky and Hutch were all talk and no action. So how far would they go? I’m guessing it wouldn’t get much beyond simple harassment – getting him evicted, spreading rumors about his instability, tailing him excessively, making his jail time worse that it would ordinarily be. I can’t imagine those “half dozen ways” would amount to anything physical.

When Jojo is driven to the apartment to attack Elaine, he is carrying the can of spray paint even though he does not plan to use it. This means he is both spontaneous and primed at any given moment. I don’t know why but this detail is extra chilling.

It’s funny but also strange when Starsky says, out of the blue, “guess what” and Hutch guesses Starsky’s uncle has a souped-up short for sale. What Starsky meant to say had to do with the memorable souped-up short Dombarris’ man has. This is such a near-miss it verges on the psychic.

Starsky and Hutch race up the stairs in response to a “DB report”?, which seems a tad excessive. At this point, there is no connection between Jojo and Elaine, and a dead body isn’t going anywhere. But they react as they do because they’ve been arguing for hours about Hutch’s car, how Hutch should replace it, and Hutch is getting himself worked up about it. When Starsky teases him about getting to the DB in “two and half minutes – better make it three”, Hutch is so incensed he guns the car and burns rubber to the site. “Temper temper temper,” Starsky says in sing-song voice, grinning at him. It makes me wonder how many people are intimidated by Hutch’s temper, and how important it is that Starsky isn’t. Is this one of the reasons Hutch is so attracted to him, and so loyal? A recognition that Starsky is the one person who won’t be put off or frightened by his rages?

There’s no need to cover the body with a sheet at the crime scene. It might interfere with the scene itself and confuse the detectives. However it does make Hutch’s discovery of the spray paint more dramatic.

I love it when Hutch walk by one of the uniforms at the scene and touches him in the midsection. It’s a lovely gesture of solidarity without making a big deal about it that tells the cop they’re all on the same side here, and you can see the guy appreciates it. He looks down where Hutch touched him and then watches the pair leave.

At Elaine’s the tempers play out the way they usually do: Hutch explodes, Starsky simmers. It’s an act they play over and over, although it is switched up from time to time (I’m thinking particularly of “Targets Without a Badge” when Starsky actually attacks a Federal agent).

As an aside, note that ribbon of smog hanging over the neighborhood.

Why does Bettin come to Elaine’s murder site? There was no connection with Jojo at that point, and Bettin is a busy Fed. Who tipped him off?

Why aren’t Starsky and Hutch notified when Jojo’s body is found? They only discover this by driving by Linda’s place, and when they enter, fully expecting to see Linda dead, no one informs them. Is this Bettin, out to unnerve them and keep them guessing?

It seems like an unnecessary complication to kill Jojo in Linda’s studio. As far as I can tell Dombarris didn’t have a personal beef with her, so implicating her for the murder seems a little like extra work. You have to kill him with your bare hands, for one, and then you have to make sure Linda has no alibi, both things using valuable manpower and time. If Dombarris was irritated by Jojo’s predilections he should have simply taken him out on the street. JoJo knew all kinds of nasty characters. Any one of them would gladly turn on him for a price.

That said, it really is thrilling when Hutch within half a second of seeing Jojo under that sheet, “So Dombarris made Jojo.” His (and Starsky’s) brilliance as detectives is never more obvious in this one tiny moment. Bettin’s sputtering denial and wrong-headed explanations only underlines this fact.

Soul really enjoyed lighting the cigarette to give to Linda. You can see him taking a quick inhale before he extracts it from his lips to hand it over. Hutch should have been a smoker, but this was a role-model situation so it would never fly. But think of the opportunities offered by angry exhaling, the rake of match in the dark, the feisty arguments about smoking in the beloved Torino.

Linda says she walked four hours on the beach, not seeing a single soul. Is Starsky and Hutch’s reaction to her admission surprise that in hours, she saw no one, or that a jumpy woman who was raped on the beach would spend hours there alone? Or are they both wishing they knew of a beach one could go to have that much privacy?

Linda gives a tearful why-me speech when she’s fingered for Jojo’s murder, but why is she surprised? He was killed in her studio, she herself threatened to kill him.

Even so, the lack of any injuries on Linda’s hands would clear her of any wrongdoing, especially since Bettin implies she must have done it bare-handed, and there is no evidence of an actual weapon being used. But I’m quibbling.

I like how Hutch says they’re going “to see a bear.” In this case, the bear is Huggy in a pseudo-padre outfit selling glow-in-the-dark crosses. I wonder if this hilarious scene is in fact a joke about the impotence of the police when itcomes to protecting women. Huggy cries out the usual crucifixes and mezuzah are all well and good in daylight, but when it’s dark “the Good Lord can’t see you.”

Starsky says his uncle Al, who owns a car lot, has a buddy who runs  “Earl’s Custom Car Cult And Body Shop.” Hutch hears the word “Cult” and says it sounds like a religion. Does this make Father Merl the only religious figure of integrity Starsky and Hutch run into in Bay City? Other than the suit-wearing feds, there is no other members of the orthodoxy more reviled than churchmen of all stripes. One wonders what estimate Starsky was getting at Merl’s in the first place, since the Torino was already striped. A different paint-job perhaps?

Merl’s sign reads “Lacquers, Candies, Pearls, Metal-Flakes”, all auto body paint terms but still managing to look wonderfully surreal. Logically, Earl should have been the one to customize the Torino, but obviously he hasn’t because he says dismissively, “I saw that jive cheap stripe you got on your tomato”.

Hutch makes a hand gesture in the middle of the fire-fight with Dombarris, a vague flick of the wrist that never-the-less translates to Starsky as: “get down off the boat and go around, and draw his fire”. Starsky does.

Tag: The humor in this tag is not only welcome but appropriate; the comedy doesn’t feel forced and neither does it negate the grim storyline. Rather it feels optimistic and brave. Life goes on, it tells us, and we have to enjoy the small moments when we can.

Merl is as hilarious here as he was during his earlier scene, yakking a mile a minute in his patented exasperated and colorful street lingo. He’s utterly unintimidated by the police, as he says in disgust to Hutch, “Let me find me something to hit you with.” It’s funny when Starsky says Merl’s refurbished car equals the work of Leonardo and Da Vinci, to which Hutch replies sarcastically, “who?” Starsky is obviously putting on his ignorance, because he goes on to mention (and pronounce perfectly) Rodin. When Hutch stands up to Merl and complains that the car being shown to him is “an old lady’s car” Starsky seems genuinely amused. Funny how Hutch gets all worked up about having a car with “some flash to it”, a car with “juice”, that isn’t “straight” or “quiet”, but who actually prefers crap like he’s driving, a car he insists has “inner flash” and “soul”. Because cars are so crucial, metaphorically, to this series, it’s intriguing why Hutch would insist this is so. Is it a long, complicated joke he’s perpetuating on himself, and Starsky? Does he really not know how bad his car is? Or is he genuinely convinced that the grey and brown, dented, used-up old Ford he seems to love somehow really does have class and valor? Of course we all know his determinedly plebeian outlook on life, possibly in opposition to his upbringing, but still his question at the end – “how much do you want for this piece of … ah (shit?) sculpture?” is not to be taken seriously, as he would never be caught driving something so outrageously stylish.

Starsky and Hutch: the Pilot, Revisited

November 29, 2013

After two young people in a red-and-white Torino are killed by hired hit-men, Starsky and Hutch try to figure out if they were to be the real targets.

Fat Rolly: Michael Lerner, Captain Dobey: Richard Ward, Frank Tallman: Gilbert Green, D.A. Mark Henderson: Albert Morgenstern, Zane: Richard Lynch, Cannel: Michael Conrad, Coley: Buddy Lester, Ms. Knebel: Carole Ita White, Steele: Don Billett, Patty: Karen Lamm, Elijah: Douglas Fowley

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

Viewed in hindsight, this pilot episode is especially rich in thematic content, beautifully filmed and ambitious in scope. Let’s also acknowledge how breathtakingly beautiful both actors are, and not blandly beautiful either but full of character, mature even, simultaneously relatable and impossibly perfect, and how that must have hit the viewing public when this movie debuted in 1974/5. It’s also interesting to see what was right from the very beginning in terms of the characters of Starsky and Hutch and what changed over time, and it always impresses me how Soul and Glaser were able to create such realized identities with so little to go on. So many habits and mannerisms are there from the beginning: the guys’ opposite tastes in cars, food, and exercise, their unity and trust in each other, their swinging bachelor lifestyles and hard-nosed reputations, their unerring moral compass and extreme dedication to the job (“Hutch and me are willing to risk getting burned out on the street, but it would hurt like hell if we lost sitting on our tails,” Starsky tells a roomful of bureaucrats), their reliance on Huggy Bear, and a generalized distrust in institutional authority. Also consistent over time is Hutch’s idealism and Starsky’s practicality. Starsky is the hedonist, Hutch the self-abnegator. Starsky is instinctive, Hutch is disciplinary. It’s only in future episodes do we get a fuller and more complicated picture of this marvelous partnership. That Hutch, despite his car, is flash while Starsky, despite his, is sensible. Or how when cornered by authority figures, Starsky tends to adopt a mock-friendly we’re-all-friends-here attitude while Hutch attacks frontally. How Starsky likes to play the fool, Hutch the sophisticate, both adopting personas that give them a kind of psychic comfort despite all evidence to the contrary. No, these more subtle things will have to wait. For now we are treated to a broad-stroke but surprisingly accurate – and beautiful – portrait of two young men fired up and ready to take on the world.

The episode opens with stunning quiet, a slow pan over the twinkling dark of Los Angeles. Two gangsters sit in a car discussing a John Wayne movie. This grotesque contradiction between the genial conversation and what they are about to do is striking. Also, when they joke about the two kids smoking dope in the car, they compare themselves to John Wayne, putting themselves in the hero category of this particular movie.

The first scenes with the two guys are ripe with the sort of camaraderie we come to expect, but with the addition of a certain amount of newbie tension. They like each other, are extraordinarily at ease in each other’s company, but it’s all performative, more or less showing off, as if they still have something to prove to each other and the world at large and maybe don’t quite trust or understand the force of their loving bond. Given the variable chronology of the partnership as well as the sense they are still getting to know each other thoroughly, one may guess they have been partners for about a year at this point.

It’s kind of cool that an entrance to the gym is in the back alley, and up a fire escape. Also, Starsky does not seem to worry about parking (and then abandoning) his unlocked car in the middle of a high-traffic inner city alley. He also has no problems interrupting the furious punching of a guy fifty pounds bigger than he is in order to joke with his partner; for many first-time viewers in the gawky throes of adolescence this display of ease and self confidence would have been awe-inspiring.

If the bad guys in the opening compare themselves to heroes, Starsky in his conversation with gym manager Vinnie seems to allude to being on the wrong side of the law. He does this by challenging Vinnie: “aren’t you ever curious about what me and Hutch do for a living?” and Vinnie nervously says he doesn’t want to know: “I got no questions!” This idea – that what is good is often bad, and what seems bad can be good, is something the series will explore over its four year run, during which a variety of crooked priests, wise junkies, soft-hearted prostitutes and evil police officers will prove time and time again that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Compare the checklist Starsky and Hutch go through in Hutch’s car to the one they go through right before Hutch’s mad dash to save Joanna Haymes in Season Three’s “The Psychic”. Here, it’s playful and thorough – including a Señor Wences joke, delightfully enough – two guys who can’t wait to get out onto the street and do their thing. In the later episode the checklist is more rushed, shot through with emotion, more a grim joke than actual inventory.

Note the mug book with the pasted-in photographs and handwritten information, including a hand-drawn mustache on one of the mug shots. It’s a relic of the pre-computer age and has a nearly animistic power; I wonder where it is now.

The rousting of Coley is an obviously meant to give us a primer on how this new breed of cop is different than the old guard. They are less interested in arresting people for minor offences than nudging them on the right path. Coley going back on his word to stay out of their beat is more “immoral” to them than the crime he has committed. This liberal attitude is compounded later when they are called into the captain’s office on an urgent matter and interpret it as annoying nonsense, probably nothing more than a bunch of uptight suits lecturing them on accounting matters or fine-print regulations. This is both childish and profoundly revolutionary – ignoring this call may have gotten them killed, since Dobey is calling to warn them about an impending hit, but it also frees them to pursue their own brand of street-level justice.

At the big speech at Fat Rolly’s bar, a scene that crackles with energy and wit (and the scene Glaser auditioned with for the role) Starsky is in charge, both physically and verbally intimidating, with Hutch as glowering got-your-back. Early on, Starsky appears to be the hothead, Hutch the hang-back-and-watch. Throughout the series they change as the situation demands.

I don’t know why, but it cracks me up when Starsky retrieves the pieces of paper and goes through them he says, “Let’s see what we got here.” He pulls out the first one and announces, in an it-figures tone, “French!”

Not that there’s any justification for it, but Rolly is simply not fat enough to inspire so many fat jokes and a cruel nickname.

Up to now, it’s been the Glaser show. He’s shown many sides of his character: boisterous, funny, determined, tough. But abruptly the spotlight comes to Soul, who has his first real moment in the episode, and it’s magnificent, not only because the writing is so good but because we get to really hear how he is able to use that distinctive honeyed voice. “There’s something you should know about Starsky and me,” he says quietly, radiating menace. “We’re not like most partners. You know there’s usually the one guy who’s kind of folksy, who wants the best for everybody, you know the Pat O’Brien kind of guy.” “Yeah,” Rolly says, encouraged by the friendly tone Hutch is taking.
“And then there’s the other guy, the rough-em-up hard-nosed kind of guy. But that doesn’t work for Starsky and me. You see, we’re both hard-nosed, Rolly. And we don’t like it when people don’t give us everything we want.” This is the truest statement anyone has ever made about the partnership. That is, they’re not complimentary, not opposites, not good-guy-bad-guy, not mirror-image. They’re the same person.

Coley wasn’t arrested for something he did – pickpocketing – but Rolly is arrested for something he didn’t do – public intoxication.

It’s said the stolen Torino was driven out to the beach where the shooting occurred. And yet the shooting obviously happened high on a hill overlooking the city. Why the mix-up?

Hutch is mistaken by officious bureaucrats for Starsky in the mistaken-identity briefing.

During the meeting, the men from Internal Affairs and District Attorney Henderson are sour-faced bullies who make their dislike of Starsky and Hutch obvious. When Henderson says the hit may have been an attempt to stop Starsky from testifying he says it angrily, accusatory, as if Starsky is at fault. Of course we find out later what secret Henderson is hiding, but his bad attitude is a puzzle. Is it just because Starsky and Hutch are young and lighthearted, seeming not to take this seriously enough? Does he dislike and distrust them because they’re as close to being hippies as it’s possible to be and still carry a badge?

Why, with two different actors, did they stick with the name “Dobey” after the pilot? It would make more sense, and work as well, to have their captain just be a different man with a different name.

I swear the woman being wrestled out the door and spewing Spanish invectives says very clearly “son of a bitch!” just as she leaves the room.

The squad room is never shown in this pilot episode, but the booking room and other large, busy areas of the police station are, including the mortuary. (A note about the sets: they are beautifully filmed, realistic, and complex. As the series goes on some of this is lost and the sets become cheaper looking, perhaps because of the camera technology used for a television series). When Hutch goes down to see Rolly when he’s released, he spies him making a phone call. Rolly only dials four numbers, which implies he’s dialing someone inside the department. This is a major clue and Hutch should have waited a little longer to eavesdrop rather than interrupting him with a menacingly friendly, “Calling your bookie again?”

One clue that Hutch was married twice (Nancy and Vanessa) is that he tells Starsky that Nancy used to run back inside, thinking she had left the water on. Vanessa would never do that. For one, she’d never make that mistake. For another, she wouldn’t care if she had.

Elijah: a lovely scene in which Hutch gives him a dollar “just in case,” and Elijah, excited, runs to his friend in the alley, thereby smashing a bottle on the ground. One wonders if that smashed bottle, symbolizing the absurdity of fate, was planned, or just a wonderful accident. (Hutch’s giving Elijah the money apparently was an unscripted detail).

“How ‘bout that alley?” Hutch suggests as they try to outsmart their tail. “That’s a fine idea, Ollie,” Starsky says, Hardy-like. This is another long-standing and much-cherished joke, and it foreshadows many of their (interchangeable) partnership quantities: Ollie the obnoxious boss, Stan the long-suffering sidekick.

When does a tail become a chase? And what would be the point of either one? Following the nicely cinematic chase through the gloomy streets, Starsky and Hutch leap onto their pursuers (Starsky riding his like a rodeo bull) only to find out that crime boss Tallmann wants to meet with them at his mansion. It seems to me this could have been accomplished without all the fuss. Same too with the abruptly violent way Starsky and Hutch deal with the two heavies escorting them to the steam room – they are attacked and thrown back down the stairs even though both detectives then politely follow the instructions and disrobe for their meeting. If this is just a knee-jerk reaction to symbolic castration, I’m certain their guns would have been returned to them at the front door on the way out; Tallmann isn’t interested in making enemies at this point and they know it. So if they meant all along to obey the rules, why attack the goons? For fun? To preserve their tough reputations?

There only two notable females in this episode and both involve discomfort on the part of Starsky and Hutch. One is the smirking secretary handing over the towels and the other is Patricia Talbert’s roommate who says she prefers a man to be physically fit. This minor theme of female sexual desire being either embarrassing or pathetic will be restated many times throughout the run of the series.

A Havana cigar in a sauna: is this good for it, or bad? I can never remember the humidity rules. Also, the leather chair worries me slightly, and not only because of the uncomfortable image of a damp bottom getting stuck to it.

Tallmann gives a philosophical speech about the absurdity of being found guilty “two years after I’m dead”. If this is the case, why is he so disconcerted about being framed for the murder of Starsky and Hutch? It would most likely take far longer to prosecute such a circumstantial case as that.

There are many actors in this episode we will get to know well in the next four years: Michael Lerner, Richard Ward, Gilbert Green, Richard Lynch, Buddy Lester, Douglas Fowley and Michael Conrad.

Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall and universal darkness buries all. “Voltaire, 1744,” says Zane. Fat Rolly says nervously, “I knew that.” But in fact it’s from Alexander Pope’s “Dunciad.” Is Zane testing Rolly, or is he just an idiot? Interestingly, this is the first of two examples of hitmen duos, one of whom is a book-reading quasi-intellectual and one is a brutish thug (here, and “The Shootout”). This quote, though, is apt: as Elijah remarks earlier, the end of the world has already happened and this is hell.

It’s great when Hutch makes Starsky repeatedly laugh during their rain-soaked stakeout. As an aside, this looks like the single most uncomfortable shoot in the entire series, wet and cold and miserable. I can easily imagine the two actors, as they rocket to superstardom, being less inclined to do this sort of thing.

On the subject of cold and miserable, this entire episode is shot in a kind of gloomy darkness entirely at odds with the accepted image of Los Angeles being warm, sunny and bright. Was it a deliberate choice to go against that image? The newspaper article that inspired William Blinn was about two detectives who work only at night, and originally he wanted to shoot the series at night as well, but production complications and costs made the idea untenable. Maybe this gloomy cityscape is a way of approaching the original vision.

Continuity error, as Starsky isn’t wearing his famous sweater when he first emerges from the pool.

The guys spend an inordinate amount of time in towels, soaking wet. This is Hutch’s third time in a towel, and Starsky’s second.

“Who are we supposed to trust?” Starsky says when it becomes clear there is a rat in the department. “The same people we always trust,” Hutch says. “Us.” This is a wonderfully intense moment – the audience at the time would see for the first time how truly connected the two are, how deep the friendship is – and variations on this conversation will happen repeatedly over the years.

Two amusing things at the porn theatre: the fact that Starsky buys popcorn, and the old lady putting salt on the tomato and munching away like she’s at a church picnic.

Dobey isn’t as consistently written as the main characters are. Starsky and Hutch suspect Dobey may be in on the plot to kill them, but this is the last time they ever suspect him of anything nefarious. It’s interesting when they rely on Huggy to give him the scoop on their captain rather than relying on their own instincts: apparently he’s “a pretty good cop. But he likes the ponies too much.” This gambling side of Dobey is never mentioned or seen again.

In this pilot episode Huggy is subtly different than he becomes later. Here, he is quieter, more intense, more “other”. When he emerges out of the shadows at the theatre he’s as slithery as a snake. He seems less savory, somehow, and more dangerous.

Starsky mentions a kid he played football with in high school, series creator William Blinn’s inside joke about the origin of Starsky’s name. Blinn also directed an episode of The Rookies featuring a character named Huggy Bear.

Patricia Talbert is identified through her fingerprints. Did she have a criminal record?

Patricia Talbert spells Henderson’s name with a little heart in place of the “o” on her class schedule, a clue that is not commented on but is there to see for the observant viewer, and it speaks volumes about what is going on.

Starsky and Hutch wonder aloud why Patricia’s effects were not entered into evidence. Although we know this is an inside job, the question remains: just how far does Henderson reach into the department? Yes, he is the District Attorney. Yes, he has political power, and is involved in most aspects of policing. But able to squash primary evidence? Able to stall the investigation into a brutal double homicide? This would mean he’d have law enforcement officers willing to do his bidding, from the scene-of-crime investigators to the legal team in his own department, and maybe one or two nosy journalists as well – a Son of Sam-type killing with all the elements of youth, beauty, drugs and sex would be just too juicy not to be front page news. And yet Henderson makes it all go away. Could it be the Bay City police are just too beleaguered by a high crime rate to stand against him? Was it just easier to take the bait he was offering?

Stopped by a black-and-white, Starsky is called “Hutchinson” by the contrite officer. Starsky explodes in the now-familiar “I’m Starsky, he’s Hutch” refrain; one wonders how the police officer mixed them up while looking at Starsky’s identification, unless he was carrying Hutch’s badge. Not outside the realm of possibility, but still. Also, notice how sanguine Hutch is throughout this incident. In later episodes he would more likely be the one to become explosively angry.

The action scenes at the end of the episode are suspenseful and believable, despite the lack of blood. Of note is the loud, almost distorted sound during the gun battle in the underground parking lot, which will be echoed, remarkably enough, in the very last episode of the series, “Sweet Revenge”.

In all the shows in which there is a shooting, fatal or otherwise, wouldn’t Starsky and Hutch be suspended with pay, pending investigation?

The grand old oak is rotten at the core: It is important this series begins with an episode about internal corruption, and supposed good guys who are not good at all. It’s part of a recurring theme of the dangers of authority, and the importance of staying on the outside of orthodoxy. It’s something overtly stated both here in the very first episode, and in “Sweet Revenge”, the very last. That there is a certain rarefied social and political strata that, once grasped, has a cruelly homogenizing effect on all who grasp it. A kind of hellish ledge upon which lawyers, judges, police officers, and criminals from the lowest hoodlum to the most powerful mafioso all sit, clustered together and united in their amorality.

It seems Henderson chose to use Starsky not because he had any specific beef against him but because he thought Starsky was an easy mark: inexperienced, unstable, with peccadillos that made him vulnerable to exploitation. He also thought nothing of using and then discarding a beautiful young woman who had everything to live for. This is the arrogance of the institutional elite, and in this way he perhaps even worse than old-world gangster Tallmann. But why does Henderson bother with this elaborate plot in the first place? If he wanted to get rid of a clingy young girl who could make life difficult for him, why not arrange an accident? He obviously has the brains and the resources to have her drown in the surf or die from an overdose, any number of things that wouldn’t raise the interest of the police. But no, he wants to rid himself of her and bring Starsky and Hutch down, or at least inconvenience them to an extraordinary degree. Just what his motivation is remains a mystery. Does he really despise them all that much, as evidenced in their one meeting near the beginning of the episode? Throughout, Henderson is a murky villain. His death – shot in the hallway – seems beside the point. He drops out of the frame and that’s that.

I wonder, though, how he managed to get everything to work so perfectly. Yes, he got Cannel and Zane off in return for being bad-shot hitmen, but how on earth did he get a car-stealing juvenile delinquent to successfully convince a good girl like pre-law student Patricia to get in a car with him, especially if she was still in love with her professor? And pregnant, to boot? Prior to their ill-fated date the two did not know each other.

Tag: So much for me-and-thee, when Starsky wants to be paid back for paying Hutch’s gym membership by being taken to dinner, and suggests a chili place. Hutch gives him the look. When Starsky says he’s dubious about Hutch following in his car to the place, Hutch says, “Trust me” and then drives in the opposite direction.

Clothing notes: the sweater makes its debut, and I miss the knit cap Starsky wears although it only works for very short hair and not the exuberant mop he eventually grows. He also wears a semi-long khaki army coat that looks great. His clothes seem more East Coast than California, marking him as an outsider in a way Hutch is not; this impression fades fast in the next few episodes. Let’s now take a moment to appreciate what Hutch is wearing during his workout in their first scene together, and what he is not wearing in the second. Hutch is spectacular in his caramel-brown leather jacket and aviator shades. Starsky wears brown suede cowboy boots and not the soon-to-be iconic Adidas.

Episode 9: The Bait, revisited

May 24, 2013

Starsky and Hutch go undercover as drug dealers and spring a young drug courier from jail to help them get to Danner, the head of a drug syndicate.

Cheryl: Lynne Marta, Danner: Charles McCaulay, Billy Harkness: Michael Delano, Connie: Akili Jones, Shockley: Dave Cass, Carter: James Karen, Goring: Sy Kramer, Saunders: Ken Scott, Moore: Marc Alaimo. Written By: James Schmerer, Don Balluck and Edward J Lakso, Directed By: Ivan Dixon.

This is a sunny, relatively unserious early episode which contains two classic elements in the series and both are depicted brilliantly. The first is the Rich White Man as the epitome of evil. The second is The Uptight Federal Agent. Danner, with his mansion and pool, his disconnect with the misery his imported drugs are inflicting, is the perfect villain. Agent Carter embodies the Establishment, with its inflexible rules and regulations which must be circumvented – and made to seem ridiculous – by nonconformists Starsky and Hutch.

Filming notes: cast and crew apparently had a lot of fun making the episode, Bernie Hamilton was even pushed into the pool, clothes and all, at the end, but Glaser did twist his ankle rather badly in the chase scene at the beginning and limped off-screen for the rest of the episode’s filming.

In the first scene there is a panoramic shot of a flat, somewhat surreal Los Angeles neighborhood. Starsky and Hutch are driving in a flashy convertible while in undercover clothes. You can see Hutch crack a mean, excited little grin before he lays into Starsky, the way he’s been dying to lay into him for the last twenty minutes. You see, Hutch is in full jerk-mode, what he would probably call his undercover oeuvre. He’s itching to try it out on someone, anyone, and Starsky, unfortunately, is in the line of fire. “You know what your problem is, boy,” Hutch sings out in a vulgar southern accent. To which Starsky replies (why does he play into this? He knows what’s coming at him) “What.” “Looking rich makes you nervous,” Hutch says triumphantly. “This fine set of wheels intimidates your gross nature.”

Starsky isn’t playing. Instead, he complains about the shoes Hutch bought him (Wouldn’t the police department outfit them in whatever undercover clothes are necessary? Why does Hutch volunteer for the shopping?) causing Hutch to snap into outrage and lose his gum-chewing-cool-customer persona. “I love those shoes!” he says, indignant.

Hutch is irritated because Starsky is counting the money for the set-up. He is similarly, if not identically, irritated later in “The Psychic” when Starsky counts the money for the kidnappers. Of the two, Starsky is seen to be more awed by money. There are many times throughout the series in which he pursues get-rich-quick schemes (the chinchilla in “Hutchinson For Murder One”, the real estate deal in “Heroes”, for instance), he is more anxious to gamble (“Las Vegas Strangler”) fight dime-eating phone booths and candy machines to the point of hoarding change (various), and fully intends to quit upon receiving a “windfall” from a relative’s will (“Golden Angel”). He also can be acquisitive (the posh car in “Class in Crime”, the expensive watch in “The Trap”) and seems overly conscious of the class divide and anxious to get what’s his. But it must be said his ideas about money are somewhat innocent in nature, pure, without guile, more about the fantasy of wealth than its actuality. Hutch, on the other hand, is far more serious about the subject, more realistic, overtly turned off by the appearance of wealth even though there are suggestions he comes from a higher social class than Starsky. He rejects money in the disdainful way only someone intimately acquainted with its destructive power can, choosing junky cars, peasant-style clothing and social ineptitude which is, in a way, every bit as ostentatious as Starsky’s financial aspirations. The only time he deliberately adopts a stereotypical wealthy look is when he’s in a contrary frame of mind, unemployed in “Targets” and as an object of desire in The Green Parrot (“Death in a Different Place”). His effortless grasp of the vulgarities and vagaries of the nouveau riche is both amusing and insightful.

Starsky later says, in what seems like a hilarious Glaser ad lib (in his vague Bogey impression), “don’t forget to book my shoes!” as he’s led away in handcuffs at the station.

In both this episode and later in “Tap Dancing”, Hutch defaults to Cowboy Chic when thinking he needs to be either kingpin or pathetic nerd, two extremes with the same costume.

Starsky does some great comedy running in the alley, waving the dreaded shoes.

Starsky, Hutch and Moore are questioned in the squad room. It seems as if there is only one interview room, and it’s being used at the moment. This seems highly improbable in a large urban police station. It’s a wonder why Moore, who obviously has a lot of experience in legal matters, doesn’t raise a stink about the lack of proper procedure, unless it’s to his own benefit.

Moore claims the guys tried to sell him drugs. But Starsky and Hutch had cash in an envelope, not drugs; Moore slipped the merchandize into Starsky’s pocket. Wouldn’t the most cursory fingerprint evidence point to Moore’s lie?

Starsky and Hutch switch their names around throughout the episode, causing everyone to mistake one for the other. This is very funny, yes, but it also serves a practical purpose: no matter what you call them, you’re going to be wrong. Not being sure of someone’s name is psychologically unbalancing. It undermines your internal compass, makes you question yourself, causing you to stumble. These are people who are both arrogant and entitled, and not used to being corrected. It would be just disturbing enough to cause a little mistake or two. Both Starsky and Hutch are very astute to employ this little game.

Dobey asks the pair why they didn’t inform the detectives about doing undercover work in their beat. Hutch has a funny quasi-explanation, even better when delivered with the wide-eyed earnestness of a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar: “I figure the fewer people who know you’re cops the fewer people who can tell.” But still it seems odd that the detectives who arrested Rafferty and O’Brien didn’t recognize Starsky and Hutch as cops. There can’t be that many undercover detectives in the city and the two have been in some high-profile cases recently.

At the dockside restaurant, Cheryl and Hutch drink white wine, Starsky, rather conspicuously, drinks water. It could be because he’s driving, or maybe it’s because he doesn’t approve of the wine selection (in both “Rosey Malone” and “Starsky and Hutch Are Guilty” Starsky has proven himself to be quite sophisticated in his drinking habits). If Starsky is of Jewish heritage, another fact left open to discussion, he is reform or nonreligious, as he wears a bib, indicating he has eaten, or will eat, lobster.

Cheryl isn’t your typical heroin mule. She’s alert, white and educated, and if she’s a prostitute – and her involvement with the Danner empire indicates she may be – she’s awfully casual about it. She doesn’t appear to be part of Connie’s “stable” and throughout her time helping the detectives she is never once hassled to get back on the job. With her smart little scarf and perky attitude, Cheryl looks like she walked off an escalator in a Minneapolis mall. Later, she explains her past by telling Starsky a sad story about love gone wrong, but there’s something missing here, the story where she gets a taste of what she’s dealing to keep her in line. Nowadays, of course, no writer could resist a detour into sleaze, but in this case the episode pulls back and refuses to go there. Did the writers feel Cheryl as a drug user lessened the chance of the audience’s rooting for her, or was it a complication they didn’t have time for? And if she is indeed a working girl, even a part-time one (and that is a big if), at the conclusion of the story when she packs her bags, how is it that she can just walk away without fearing retribution from her pimp? Those guys, I hear, zealously guard their “property”.

Hutch recognizes Shockley from about thirty yards, a guy he arrested while still in uniform – a remarkable feat of memory.

The obsession of the collector: Danner has taken nine years and two hundred and twelve thousand dollars for one of the only two-known Hawaiian Missionary 1859 stamps. (The actual history of the rare stamps is as bloody and bizarre as the episode’s writers suggest). While this could be a case of admirable persistence or scholarly integrity, the earnest aim of many teenage philatelists in the audience, here it is meant as proof of insanity.

It’s really horrible how easy Hutch is with the “boy” when he talks to Connie. Connie’s a lowlife, sure, but still … it’s creepy, and Hutch seems either insensitive to, ignorant of, or grimly persevering in, the racist overtones. He makes a “cotton” reference and really pushes the southern accent – and redneck attitude – as an intimidation technique. Starsky, on the other hand, is pretty much the way he usually is, just a shade more measured.

Akili Jones as Connie is great here. He has the right mix of muscular swagger and blind self-interest to mark him as guy who will never move up in the world. Plus, he gets to wear fantastic jumpsuits.

Hutch as O’Brien gets extremely angry when Connie pushes for extra money, to the point of snarling and walking off; it’s up to Rafferty to close the deal. Apparently this is all staged, as Starsky saunters into the car and they drive off, both apparently satisfied about how it all played out. But this scene could also be a microcosm of a far larger and more complex issue: Hutch’s temper, and Starsky’s shrugging indifference to it, and how that works to their advantage both professionally and personally.

Notice how Starsky is more clingy to Cheryl than Hutch is. He obviously cares for her, which is quite touching, considering what must be an actual, real-life friendship (Soul and Marta were a couple at the time). Hutch practically ignores her, which is a terrific and amusing way for Soul to disengage from his real life relationship. Later, when Starsky is affectionate with her after she’s been beaten up by Harkness, Hutch stays away.

Dobey looks both unconvincing and clumsy when he shows up at Huggy’s to talk to “Rafferty and O’Brien”. Keep that man behind a desk, please. In his suit and tie and stiff formality he sticks out like a banker at a biker’s convention. When Huggy – who’s just as bad, calling out “Captain!” loudly enough for everyone in the joint to know a cop is on the premises – asks whether Dobey has come down to the bar in an attempt to be “ethnic” it is truly hilarious as well as telling, as it highlights Dobey’s obvious discomfort with all things Huggy represents.

In four years, Dobey and Huggy have only two moments of physically connecting. One is when they high-five each other during a pool game, and the other is here, when Dobey slaps Huggy’s shoulder while ordering won ton soup. Which Huggy astonishingly gets, and at no small inconvenience. Huggy performs this menial task, paying for it out of pocket, because he’s got something to prove to the man who holds him in contempt.

Does Connie really invite the guys to his own apartment to score the heroin? If so, this is a very bad decision, as this leaves him vulnerable to attack in the future. Of course, it might be a friend’s place, or one of the girls in his “stable”.

Cheryl continues to accompany the guys as they make their way further into Danner Territory. Why? They don’t need her any more, not really, and when they let her go she seems genuinely surprised. “You two really are straight!” Cheryl exclaims when the guys tell her sh’s no longer needed. “In a kinky sort of way,” Starsky says. The archaic language is amusing, yes, but had Cheryl been expecting to be duped, maybe arrested?

“You call me when you make a move,” says Federal Agent Carter. “You got it,” Hutch says, and then does what he always does when he fibs: he widens his blue eyes in the most innocent way possible, the way he did in Dobey’s office earlier. One wonders why the guys are so averse to having these guys as their backup, considering they’re floating such a huge amount of money to the operation. Is it because Starsky and Hutch don’t seem to trust anyone over thirty, especially anyone in a suit and tie and working for the government, and from out of town?

Starsky and Hutch face off against Connie and two of his meanest henchmen (all sporting knives and what looks like truncheons). Why don’t they pull their guns when threatened, as this would have scared them off? None of them – particularly Connie, swinging away ineffectually – look like real fighters at all. It might be just me, but this fight scene is indictive of the episode as a whole: bad things happen, punches are thrown, shots fired, but there is a jokey, almost merry quality to this episode negating any real sense of danger. It could be the costumes, or the featherweight character of Cheryl, or the slapstick ending, but this is not a serious chapter in the canon.

Starsky commits the cardinal undercover sin by shouting Hutch’s real name during the fight. Later he says, “do you think they made us?” Instead of lecturing him on the mistake – which he has every right to – Hutch merely says he doesn’t know. Sure, he’ll bust Starsky’s chops on his shoes, his car, what he eats, but he’s quiet about things that should genuinely matter. This shows both empathy (everyone makes mistakes) and faith (Starsky’s skills far outweigh his occasional missteps) that proves what a good partner he is.

When the guys find Cheryl, they pull their guns, and it’s noticeable that Hutch is not carrying his trusty Python. What, a huge gun like that too hard to hide in the Nudie Suit, or what? Can’t put it in his hat, same as the photograph?

Throughout the operation, Rafferty and O’Brien appear to be buying smack to redistribute to cronies back in Texas (although the “Texas” detail appears to improvised by Hutch when talking to Connie earlier). They purchase two large amounts, then raise it to an astonishing five kilos a week. Harkness doesn’t question this but I will. Purchasing that much heroin is major action. Danner and his people should immediately be wary. Why aren’t these dudes buying direct from the source (in Central or South America or wherever), and also why hasn’t anyone heard of these two before?

What is going on when Hutch doesn’t tell Starsky until they are walking into the warehouse that he told Agent Carter the wrong address? Hutch is awfully sure Starsky will agree to this foolhardy decision, and know what to do when things go sideways, as they inevitably will. Also, it’s notable that Hutch doesn’t have his gun here either, but Starsky does.

Throughout the run of the series two men take a bullet meant for Hutch. The first is Billy Harkness and the second is the guy in parking lot who attacks him with knife in “Sweet Revenge”. Does Hutch deliberately use Harkness as a shield knowing to do so will prove fatal, and would you consider this a homicide, justifiable or otherwise? Is Hutch just unbelievably lucky, as a bullet has a good chance of continuing through a second body, or is all this just a screenwriter’s way of making the story work?

Why, oh why, are those guys wearing suits when they during the ambush at the warehouse? Some sort of Danner Empire dress code? It makes it so much harder to throw a punch or run away.

It’s so funny that every time Dobey tries to talk to the guys about strategy, the restaurant worker is barging through with a tray or coming out with a bag of garbage. The guys roll their eyes. It seems they blame Dobey for the poor timing.

How in hell did the police convince the Henry C. Rash Museum to relinquish one of the rarest stamps in existence? It would have been highly entertaining to witness the meeting in which Dobey talks to the curatorial staff and tells them they’re the key to the biggest drug bust in LA history.

Shockley tells Goring, “I ain’t never had a ticket in my life.” He was, however, busted by Hutch a few years ago. Perhaps Shockley is hoping the double negative will make his statement regarding crime true. Either that or he thinks committing parking violations is worse than committing crimes.

Hutch has tackled Connie, who is unarmed and hurt, but still punches him two more times, which never fails to make me uneasy.

I like how Agent Carter cries out “I got it!” and grins hugely when holding aloft the priceless stamp. He lets his cool demeanor slip and becomes a real, excitable person. Maybe if he’d been like that in the beginning Starsky and Hutch would have liked and trusted him more.

Tag: Hutch does two very typical and hilarious things as he helps Cheryl pack. One, he folds her shirt with overly fussy care (which Cheryl shoves unceremoniously into her suitcase), and two he asks her if she’s watered her plants. The guys have a nice comedy act going where Hutch pretends the luggage is super heavy. Starsky is obsessed with unlikely cultural/culinary combinations, Hutch delights in demeaning this, even though watercress and anchovy pizza frankly sounds delicious (minus the hot and sour sauce).

Cheryl is going to stay with her friend’s parents. Hutch asks her if she will see her own mother and father in Philadelphia, and Cheryl is indifferent to this idea, which I find intriguing.

Clothing notes: Hutch takes his undercover clothes very seriously. Not only is he buying Starsky’s flash shoes, and possibly more than that, he’s taken to wearing Southern Style suits with a Nudie twist: cowboy outfits with studs, rivets, ten-gallon hats, and steel-toed cowboy boots. Plus some very fly cravats: red, white and blue, matching his shirt. But it’s Starsky who wears the star of the show, an unforgettable white suit and dark blue shirt, with buttons undone to the navel. Later he wears a blue suit and red shirt combination that is outta sight, especially when it comes with many medallions.

Episode 20: Running, revisited

May 9, 2013

Sharman Crane: Jan Smithers, Vernon DuBois: Robert Viharo, Ella: Lana Wood, Kiko: Guillermo San Juan, Texas Kid: Don Plumley, Packrat: Martin Azarow, Orange: Connie Lisa Marie. Written By Michael Fisher, Directed By: Don Weis.

This is a fine episode because it has many of the best elements of the series: interesting minor characters, good action sequences, rich psychological content, and best of all we see a stable, contented partnership with little or no tension. Starsky makes a risky move and Hutch, other than pointing out the pitfalls, accepts his decision and helps him as best as he can. The action never flags, the dialogue is good, the subject matter is fresh and contemporary (celebrity with a substance abuse problem, fresh as it gets).

This episode is about running away, and running to. Kiko initially runs from Hutch, only to return. Sharman self-medicates to run from her grief, and uses her respite at Starsky’s place to run from decisions about her life. She is running from someone who wants to do her harm, and in the end runs toward her waiting family. Starsky is running from duty, choosing to help in a more personal way. He may also be focusing on Sharman’s distress to run from his own secret wounds. Hutch, (ironically the only one who actually physically runs, as he is a dedicated jogger) stands with both feet firmly on the ground.

As low-life thief Vernon creeps through the hotel it’s difficult – almost impossible – to place Robert Viharo from his future role as the maniacally charming pseudo-Irishman in “Collector”. They look like different people. This series often recycles its guest stars: you can count on at least half the roster being repeat visitors. As previously stated elsewhere, this can be irritating, mostly because it interferes with our suspension of disbelief when someone from one episode is recognizable from another (the most egregious example being Karen Carlson, because of the heavy emotional investment viewers are asked to make in “Gillian”). Here, along with Viharo, Lana Wood as Vernon’s girlfriend will pop up again as Sid in “Ninety Pounds of Trouble”, but I have no issue with the casting because they are both so different from their future appearances.

This episode is about the restorative powers of love, and how crucial it is not to give up on people during hard times, and the scene with Kiko underscores the theme beautifully. Hutch has been a volunteer big brother to Kiko for two years when he’s summarily rejected because Kiko, approaching the acutely self-conscious teenage years, is embarrassed he’s a cop. It’s great how Hutch doesn’t attempt to talk him back into the relationship at all, and nor does he lay a guilt trip like someone else might, the self-pitying ” what about me?” attitude which only makes situations like this one worse, because it suggests the child has both the power and the awareness to fix the situation. Instead, Hutch is respectful, and lets Kiko make his own decisions, gives valuable advice (“It’s just about time that you find out who your real friends are”) and trusts that things will turn out all right.

One gets the feeling Hutch is driving his car, insisting on it, because he doesn’t want the flashy Torino gliding around the canals looking for a bunch of kids. He may think it’s too visually pungent, too much a symbol of masculine authority, or he may not want it to distract from his gentle message.

Hutch shares the easygoing attitude of many – an attitude long changed – when he doesn’t seem to notice, or care, that Kiko is playing with a knife.

Starsky is hard-hearted about Kiko’s defection from Hutch’s tutelage – or, more precisely, he appears accepting, even dismissive of it – which ties in with the fact that he himself can often act like a child, especially with Hutch (“Hey! Look at those ducks!” he cries out while they’re driving). He takes this role because Hutch is always (or is allowed to be, in this complicated partnership) the long-suffering adult. The irony is, of course, that it’s Starsky who goes the extra mile for someone else in this episode, holding on even when when the vulnerable subordinate refuses his ministrations.

There’s a nice shot of the handmade bumper-sticker on the LTD, first seen in the previous episode: “Cops Need Love Too”. Unusually plaintive for Hutch, and not great for undercover work.

Dobey’s explosions into the phone when being bothered for snacks are especially funny because neither Starsky nor Hutch give any indication they play a role in this elaborate practical joke. They don’t even privately grin at each other. It’s all straight – until the end of the episode.

The West Side Psycho has committed seventeen burglaries and three homicides in thirty days? This makes him a seriously deranged, high-profile criminal in anyone’s books. It always seems strange to me that there isn’t more of a city-wide effort to find him. Rather, his case is thrown to Starsky and Hutch along with petty shoplifters and small time hoods. Is this lack of interest because he targets the poor?

Why does this burglar also commit murder, and three times no less? The script tells us he kills because his victims surprise him in the act and therefore could identify him to police, but what about the nurse or lab worker in the first scene? She’s oblivious to his presence, her back is to the door; he could easily make good his escape before she even saw him. The killing is not necessary. It keeps him from getting away with the loot, dramatically increases his chances of getting caught, and apparently rape is not part of his plans. Is he so panicky and illogical because he’s strung out? Also, if he wanted to avoid being identified he could wear a mask and gloves; he does neither.

Vernon is not what you’d call smart. He’s stealing to feed his drug habit, but he’s knocking off rooms in a fleabag hotel because, it’s what, easier than a suburban house with porch lights and better locks? At the Leland Hotel people are so poor they’re extremely unlikely to have much in the way of cash or belongings, so Vernon has to rob three times as many people to get even a meager take.

When he sees Sharman’s diamond bracelet why doesn’t he assume it’s just costume junk, given the dismal surroundings? And if he knew it was real, wouldn’t be bypass someone like Packrat and hold out for a better offer from someone higher up the food chain?

“You still on a downer because of that kid?” Starsky asks Hutch. “Listen, why don’t you take me on a camping trip?” Hutch snaps back at him but Starsky’s method of distraction seems to work: note the smile that Hutch tries to suppress. Of course Hutch eventually does take him camping, and what happens? Witches!

If we needed any more evidence of the respect the guys pay to all people, even those outside the margins, see how Hutch carefully – and with some tenderness – drapes a cloth over Packrat’s body in the aftermath of the shooting.

It’s a nice cut between Starsky’s admiring “she had class. Always did, always will” to the sight of the bedraggled, hollow-eyed Sharman staggering into the street.

It’s another lovely cameo (last seen in “Losing Streak”) by the eccentric Orange, a working girl who never goes anywhere without her loyal Sandy, which might make a lot of her clients uncomfortable, much in the same way her assuming the role as a child to elicit sex makes me uncomfortable.

You might ask how Sharman gets into her room without the key she dropped at Frieta’s, but of course she got into all this trouble in the first place because of habitually leaving her door unlocked. Because she places no value on herself she doesn’t value her space either, although she does kick up a pretty good fuss when attacked, which shows there is a shred of self-respect in there somewhere.

The girl (and the episode) was originally named “Jennifer”, but the writers wanted an instantly recognizable name and ended up borrowing the name of series producer Joseph Naar’s daughter, Sharman. Otherwise Starsky would not have picked up on the engraved name so fast; there can’t be too many Sharmans running around.

They pull up in front of the Leland Hotel and Starsky stares at the depressing hotel in silence for a second. Hutch immediately understands what’s going in and says, “It’s probably nothing that a good drying-out will take care of.” It’s astonishingly empathetic from someone who so often takes delight in being contrary.

“Go!” Starsky orders Hutch when they’re flummoxed by shots ringing out in Sharman’s room. Hutch goes. How often is Starsky in charge? Is it about 50/50?

Hutch displays some amazing visual acuity when he reads off a licence plate two stories up and half a city block away.

Starsky tells Sharman he knows her real name, and “not the name you checked into this dump with” despite the fact he and Hutch don’t know that name either, as they didn’t stop at the desk. However, they both know how the game is played: famous model with a problem, wanting to disappear. Of course she isn’t going to check in under her real name.

Starsky grabs the bottle and smashes it. “You have no right!” Sharman shrieks. She has a good point. He has no right to make decisions for her, to impose himself – a stranger – on her. He has no right to be physically violent, to shout. And he has no right to manipulate the situation, even if it works to her benefit.

Four times Starsky grabs a woman’s upper arms and tells her to “shut up” or “be quiet”. One he even threatens to “bust in the chops.” The women are Sharman (this episode), Emily (“Blindfold”), Fifi (“Deadly Imposter”) and Rosey Malone. All four times are with women he cares about, and all four times he does it for their own good. All these times happen when Hutch isn’t in the room – although here it continues, albeit in a more panicky, pleading way, Starsky seemingly to regret his own actions even if he’s unable to curb them, when Hutch returns and stands in the doorway.

Glaser’s body-language is particularly effective in the scene with Sharman at the hotel. Given that Starsky isn’t as verbally showy as Hutch is, Glaser must rely on movement and gesture to convey the depth and complexity of emotions. It’s all here, and in spades: his lunging at Sharman, the smashing of the bottle, the drop of his shoulders in shame when Sharman cowers on the bed, and in the tight, compressed way he talks when under stress.

When Starsky suggests he take Sharman to his place Hutch is vehement. “What happened to all your talk about kicking your guts out for someone who’s not worth it?” Obviously Starsky’s earlier comment has stuck in his head, rolling around, tormenting him; he shoots it back nearly verbatim. Was he secretly wounded by Starsky’s dismissive attitude about Kiko’s disavowal of him?

It would have been interesting to know how Hutch covered for Starsky when the hotel is swarmed by scene-of-crime officers and others taking witness statements and combing the room for evidence. How on earth could he explain away someone yelling, “I heard shouting, glass breaking, and then that girl was taken down and shoved into a shiny red car driven by that policeman”?

Starsky’s determination to take Sharman to his place for a “drying out” shows us how far we’ve come in the diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism (this episode is careful not to say drugs are in the mix as well, even though Orange says so; Sharman is only ever seen crying out for a drink, not a fix, which may be an attempt by writers to make the viewers better able to identify with her). Abrupt cessation of alcohol can prove fatal, a fact not well understood then as now, and suicidal ideation is frankly dangerous for a layperson like Starsky to handle. Coffee and cold showers don’t cut it, but at least Sharman doesn’t claim to be cured after a few days in Starsky’s bed, she acknowleges she has far to go.

It’s disappointing, from a narrative point of view, that Sharman Crane is famous because she’s a model and not something more interesting – politician, maybe, or novelist, something more cerebral. Because of this fact, the audience is asked to mourn the loss, not of self, but of marketable looks. Of course she’s in danger too, but that seems like an added ingredient, the way fibre is added to sugary cereal to make it seem like a healthy choice. Sharman has been valued solely for her looks, exploited because of them, and in turn is destroying those looks by destroying herself. Starsky tells Hutch “it would kill her” to be hounded by the press if they brought her to the station in the condition she’s in. But isn’t the irony here that among the complicated reasons he has for getting her clean is so that her modeling career – the career that might have played a role in her destruction in the first place – could continue?

What role does modeling play when it comes to Sharman’s troubles? She might have been introduced to drugs and alcohol by the very people who then condemned her for it when it got out of control. She wouldn’t be the first model introduced to cocaine to stay thin, and urged to drink to stay socially pliable.

This is a nice look at Starsky’s apartment, with its warm and inviting jumble of soft furnishings, art, salvaged materials and warm colors: lots of art (drawings of old cars), cushions, rugs, plants and pottery. There’s a blinking traffic signal, and wicker chairs. It shows a private man who takes care of his private space, and apparently spends a lot of time there. This is a side of Starsky we don’t often see.

Why does Starsky park the Torino at his apartment so it blocks three garages?

Motives: Starsky feels such a strong pull toward Sharman that he’d risk his badge to protect her. He talks a lot about her being famous, being a kid watching her from afar, and it’s clear his mother has fanned the flames of this non-existent but intoxicating “relationship” by sending him magazines. But as with most things Starsky, motives are murky. After all, she split after the ninth grade, and not many of us have such powerfully protective feelings for someone we knew back that many years, even moderately famous ones. And not only that, one class (wood shop, amusingly) and one semester of that one year. Starsky is unusually loyal. He has proven that in other episodes. At the risk of cheap psychoanalysis I might suggest this has less to do with loyalty than with Starsky’s lack of insight into his own psyche and the fact that he may in fact be trying to save himself (or, more complicatedly, his carefully nurtured version of childhood and adolescence) when he attempts to save Sharman. When he tells Hutch “everyone that she’s ever loved has either moved away or died” it sounds profoundly personal in a way that may have nothing to do with the situation at hand.

Hutch comes to Starsky’s place and asks for a glass of milk. Starsky offers him coffee. Hutch says yes. Starsky then pours a glass of milk, and drinks it himself. Interesting.

It’s possible Starsky overly identifies with Sharman, who is outwardly successful and privately hurting. It’s possible he too feels let down and abandoned by the people he loves (we get clues of this, from a murdered father to a drug-dealing brother to Helen Davisson, who could have been “the one” only to die on the job). It’s also possible he has an exaggerated, irrational need to save those he feels are weak, “Mother Cabrini”, as Sharman sarcastically calls him, an aspect of his personality that – if controlled – is the reason he’s a great cop. And it’s also possible he has a visceral and entirely unconscious disgust for women he judges as failures, women who reject their own beauty, who stray outside the accepted norms, who behave in ways he feels are unfeminine. All these motives go a long way to understanding his successful partnership with Hutch: here is one person who is mandated to stay with him (through official procedure, shared experiences, common interests, united goals) and so is less likely to leave, who is as powerful – or even more so – than he himself is, and so does not require saving. Here is someone who is, by the very fact he is a man, exempt from disgust.

Are we to make anything from the fact that Starsky forms a lifelong bond with Sharman around the same age Kiko rejects – and then comes to accept – a similar lifelong bond with Hutch?

Starsky has no sexual chemistry with Sharman. The kiss just seems wrong, somehow. “What do you want from me?” she asks, and he answers honestly, “I don’t know.” (Notice he doesn’t say “I want you to get well.” In this moment Starsky is closer than he has ever been to seeing himself honestly – as deeply conflicted. He just doesn’t know what those conflicts are.) She says she knows, and kisses him. He kisses her back, but there’s a brotherly quality to it. Does he kiss her back because this is his default position with all women, is he trying to light a sexual fire, or does he kiss her because not doing so might hurt her feelings? Or is this perhaps a secret pact he’d made with himself as a thirteen year old kid, one he’s determined to make good on? And also, how sad is Sharman that she assumes his only motive is sexual?

Sharman and Starsky have their conversation on the sofa. Sharman is bathed and clean, is wearing nice clothes, is rational, thoughtful, and alert. But yet there is no attempt by Starsky to do what he promised Hutch: namely, bring her in to the station for a formal interview. By doing so, Starsky would advance the search for a murderous thug, possibly saving the life of a future victim. You’d think that would be the priority. And yet, it never happens. Does Starsky keep telling himself not yet, not yet even as he himself is urging her to make a difficult but socially responsible step forward? What’s he waiting for?

One has to wonder if Sharman ever knew the diamond bracelet she obviously holds so dear (after all, it’s really the only thing she has with her) was bought by husband Tony’s illicit funds, and if that changes her attitude toward it. Does she eventually sell it, I wonder, in an attempt to return the money? And was Tony driven to embezzlement because he felt emasculated by his wife’s ability to earn more than he did?

This is Starsky’s chance to help a famous fashion model. Hutch as his chance in Season Four’s “Cover Girl”. Both stories are very similar to the point of replication. Both are girls from the guys’ distant past, fellow high school students. Both men harboured boyhood crushes. Both girls are in serious physical and mental danger resulting from poor choices in their alternative, secret lives. Both girls exhibit a suicidal lack of self-worth despite fame, money, and physical beauty. Both accept help from Starsky and Hutch (Sharman reluctantly, Kate gratefully), then seemingly walk away without a backward glance to resume a presumably fabulous career.

I don’t know that much about the reach of the police departments back in the day, and I certainly don’t expect the script to allude to this, but surely Sharman must have had access to bank accounts during her missing months. Could she have been tracked by the FBI, do you think? Was she ever, in fact, officially missing? It’s possible she was in contact with friends, family or her management team letting them know she hadn’t been kidnapped or killed, which may explain the absence of a full-scale state-wide search.

Starsky admits to Sharman, “Everyday of my life, at some time or another, I say that (I’m not ready) to myself,” telling her sometimes “you just gotta do.” Does he really mean this or is he trying to talk Sharman into making the phone call to her parents? He also makes a similar comment to Carol Wade in “Crying Child”: “Guess sometimes you just have to jump in”.

As Vernon approaches the apartment, Sharman comes out of the shower and – strangely – puts on Starsky’s clothes. The shirt I can accept. Many girls wear their boyfriend’s shirts. But his jeans too? This goes beyond a romantic gesture and toward something else, an attempt to absorb through proximity Starsky’s innate power, perhaps. But it does imply Sharman and Starsky now have a sexual relationship, despite Starsky’s earlier pulling away. This is a detail that makes me a little queasy. Sharman is under intense emotional and physiological distress, and Starsky has too much authority over her. It’s all wrong.

Is might be just me, but when a woman betrays another woman – as Ella does here when she fires at Sharman – it seems particularly nasty.

I like Sharman best when she’s feisty to the point of rude, when she snaps at people or when she stabs at Vernon’s hand through the door. Sober, and nicer, she can be forgettable.

How quickly Starsky understands he’s just a chapter in Sharman’s life, maybe even just a footnote. I can never tell if he wants it that way – after all, he has finished reforming this dangerous creature – or if he is just not the possessive type. As they pull up to the rehabilitation center he seems to have already accepted the inevitability, even though Sharman is outwardly grateful and affectionate. Perhaps he knows her better than she knows herself. He pulls away before she can introduce him to her parents.

Where, exactly, are they? Is this a detox clinic, a hotel, a convenient meeting place? It’s never said.

Sharman said everyone who ever loved her had left her. And yet, her mother and stepfather are there to greet her, loving her unconditionally, no questions asked. And she put them through hell for six months.

The tag: Oddly, Starsky phones his mother from Hutch’s place. If it’s a habit to telephone her every Friday, as he implies in the call, why didn’t he do it before he left his own house? It’s obviously long-distance, and Hutch would be paying for this. Maybe he has also phoned her from every bar and club in town, as he is hardly ever home on a Friday evening, so phoning from Hutch’s place is no big deal. Hutch is playing a beautiful song on his guitar and punctuates Starsky’s attempt to shut his mother up with an ironic pluck of the strings, which is very amusing. From Starsky’s tone, his mother seems to be the superficial type, and just slightly irritating to him. All she seems to care about is Starsky’s failure to get Sharman’s autograph. One suspects she spends a lot of time in a dark apartment with the television on. Starsky is patient with her but dismissive: she’s a duty to him, a probably nothing much more than that.

When Kiko shows up – is this planned? Or completely unexpected? – Starsky is wonderfully nonchalant. “Oh hi,” he says, as if this isn’t a big deal, which is the best way to handle kids anyway. Kiko says he’s sorry, and Hutch is great with him as always, calm and respectful while not talking down to him. Everything is nicely resolved. And it’s shown that the guys really are behind the big joke against Dobey – they giggle like schoolboys.

Clothing notes: they wear their iconic jackets: Starsky in his battered leather and blue t-shirt, Hutch in his collegiate dark-green-and-white jacket. Starsky wears The Sweater during his hole-up with Sharman, when Hutch comes to visit. Huggy looks dashing in denim and striped shirt, with a jaunty little necktie.

Episode 22: Bounty Hunter, revisited

March 23, 2013

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.

Episode 22: Bounty Hunter

February 3, 2010

A fellow officer gets shot, apparently by bail jumper Jerry Konig, but the real culprit turns out to be extortionist bailbondsman and her accomplice.

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. Is she merely bored and looking for excitement? How long, do you think, has she been in the fraud and extortion racket? Surely, if she’s no stranger to such ugly subterfuge, rumors about her would have spread around the street before now.

“You know,” Starsky says, “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.

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 crocodile statistic in the opening scene: unfairly tarnished by society’s erroneous assumptions about “man-eating” capabilities, these ladies are, in reality, ordinary, hard-working, and 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?) she 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 without thinking even though he clearly 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.

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? Being mean, 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 remains moot; if he’s teasing Hutch, playing an elaborate game, is this because saying absurd things makes an irritated Hutch sharper and better focused as a detective? Is this why Starsky does it? Maybe, but what about Huggy, who would seem to be the epitome of street smart, talking about Bigfoot and aliens?

“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 obviously reproaching Hutch for his sense of superiority, “you who know everything”, and his contempt for the stories Starsky finds so interesting, but this brief flare of hot temper from Starsky is initially sparked by Hutch telling saying “why don’t you check your book” for the names of dealers in stolen property. “I knew you were going to say that,” Starsky says curtly. This has always confused me. Is it because there is no such thing as a book, so this comment is a bit of whimsy on Hutch’s part? Was there a book of names, and Starsky lost it?

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? Does this scene fall on a Sunday afternoon, or what? 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.

Episode 21: A Coffin for Starsky

January 27, 2010

After someone injects Starsky with a deadly drug, Starsky and Hutch have twenty-four hours to find both the killer and the antidote.

Cheryl: Jenny Sullivan, Vic Bellamy: Gene Dynarski, Sweet Alice: Nellie Bellflower, Janos Martini: Seth Allen, Prof. Jennings: John McLiam, Charlie Collins: Jack Griffin, Dr. Franklin: David Byrd, Sue Bellamy: Carole Mallory, Mrs. Haberman: Fritzi Burr. Written By: Arthur Rowe, Directed By: George McCowan.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This fan-favorite is the last-filmed episode of the season and the first one written specifically for the two actors. I’m guessing in previous episodes some dialogue was either modified or reinterpreted by the actors to make it more their own because the change is so seamless, so perfect. I have read in the past that the scene in the hospital at the end, when Starsky is about to be taken away, had an entire scripted conversation which was edited by Glaser and Soul into a single mute look. This shows most remarkably how both actors were able to forge an immediate personal bond; this real life relationship is indivisible from their performances, especially here.

Of note, too, is how love and affection expressed by Starsky and Hutch – here in its most pure and urgent form – is so sharply contrasted by the rough characters, lewd or ugly situations, dirty urban settings and grim dank hallways. This, for me, is the series at its best; less successful is the last season in which a persistent upscale luster has the effect of diffusing the emotional potency.

It’s interesting the first line is “I can’t.” Starsky’s voice. “I can’t”, he says. “I can’t let …” This is an important indicator of Starsky’s iron will. I can’t let him get away with it.  And he doesn’t. That’s it, we then hear Bellamy’s evil laugh and the journey has begun.

Notice the four-tube Nixie Clock, Russian-made components glowing amber numerals under a smoked-plexiglas case, on a wood base. A 70s classic.

“Hutch. Help.” Two words, that’s all it takes; not many of us can claim a lifeline like this. Picture the unfilmed scene: Hutch arriving in a panic, breaking in and rushing to the bedroom and encountering his partner with no gunshot wound, no bruising, no signs at all that he’s been injured even though he’s unconscious. (The “pre-shot” must cause his unconsciousness, and not the fatal poison; Starsky is conscious and clear by the time he’s examined). It would be a shocking discovery for anyone but for Hutch it’s amplified by the revelation that he alone will be responsible for seeking justice for this terrible crime. Look at his stunned bewilderment in the ambulance – another great moment for David Soul, who is always able to both condense a great range of emotions into a single gesture or look.

Several times throughout the series we see Starsky parking the Torino at his apartment so it blocks garages. My guess is that he knows these are storage units and not active garages or he would not have done so; Starsky isn’t the selfish type. But even so, it’s fun to imagine a tenant’s council meeting where they argue about whether allow their oddly intimidating neighbor – who keeps such strange hours, whose friendliness is overshadowed by the fact he carries a gun – to park his car in the most inconvenient place possible. I can see the decision coming to “yes” when no one volunteers to be the one to say “no”.

There does not appear to be any doubt by either the emergency response team or Hutch himself that what Starsky has suffered is, in fact, an injection of a paralyzing agent. If Hutch arrived to find his partner unconscious but with no discernible injury all kinds of possibilities would be foremost in their minds: heart attack, overdose, stroke, aneurysm. However, Starsky has seemingly regained consciousness sometime before the rough stuff happens (stomach pumping is the most obvious first step, but that never seems to have happened, luckily) in order to tell them what has happened. Did Hutch’s experiences in “The Fix” alert him faster to the possibility of poison? Did it lead him to first check for an injection site, and be the one to find the tell-tale pin-prick in the arm? I’d like to think so.

I like how Hutch tries to suppress a yawn when the doctor leads him out of the room, a hint of the fatigue he’s fighting.

Notice how Franklin says formally, “I understand you and Detective Starsky have been partners for some time now” and Hutch reacts calmly, saying “that’s right”. But when Franklin changes his tone to the more personal, “yes, he says you were his best friend” Hutch nervously interrupts, actually waving an impatient hand in Franklin’s face to stop him. He says a curt “Doctor, what are you trying to tell me.” It’s a lovely, subtle moment: formality is good, but don’t try anything else. Franklin is unswerving, though: he says, “I don’t think your friend is going to make it.”

Why does Starsky say he “hate soapy scenes” and makes Dr. Franklin give Hutch the bad news? It only takes a second for Hutch to open the door and confront him with the situation. The soap is in the aftermath, and not in the moment of the telling, something he knows he will not escape no matter who conveys the news.

Original script details included Hutch’s realization that he was intended to be Jennings’ first victim, the revelation that Starsky’s toothpaste was drugged, and a lot of dialogue in the farewell scene (including Starsky making the connection about Bellamy’s education), which was replaced by the long look that couldn’t be scripted.

Hutch, when questioning Starsky, says, “what about the voice? Did you … did you fix a pattern?” This sounds like air traffic control. Maybe Starsky is right when he says Hutch can’t handle this. Remember how Starsky confronts Hutch in a similar – if not more difficult – situation in “The Fix” when he tries to make Hutch remember details following a disorienting trauma. Getting into his face, barking out commands. “Names. Names.” This is much more effective and emotionally real than tentatively asking to “fix a pattern”.

The whole conversation with Hutch, Starsky and Dr. Franklin has the undercurrent of sexual assault. In a way it is, because a rapist inflicts pain for no other reason than the pleasure of inflicting it. “Whoever it was wanted to enjoy himself,” Starsky says.  And then, with a touching attempt at bravery he adds, “It’s about as dirty a laugh as I’ve ever heard.”

Hutch tells Dr. Franklin he assumed because Starsky was in the hospital, that he would be treated successfully. Later, he rails about doctors, “You get sick and they can’t even cure the common cold!” While under a great deal of stress, he has now said two opposite opinions in five minutes. Starsky displays similar ambiguous feelings in “Black and Blue” about the medical profession as well: when calling to find out Hutch’s condition after being shot, the nurse comments Starsky apparently doesn’t trust doctors.

We now come to the only scene in this harrowing episode with a glimmer of humor, and it’s wonderful. Starsky’s display of pique as he releases himself from hospital – “You mean you want me to hit the streets with no pants, no badge, no gun – no dignity?!” shows that he, too, uses Hutch as a means of releasing tension, although more rarely. Hutch plays his part admirably by lamely holding up the watch, the only thing he’s remembered to bring, enabling Starsky to hit the roof. It’s a complex but tidy little moment and terrific fun to watch. A lot of things seem to be happening all at once: Starsky blaming Hutch for something he couldn’t possibly be expected to do – Starsky is so sick it’s inconceivable that he’d be released at all – Hutch acknowledging the importance of a watch to his partner, despite his constant scorn on the subject, and the use of explosive temper at the other as a way of decompressing and focusing on the task at hand. We can see both Starsky and Hutch have the ability to absorb tension and transform it into useful energy. Plus, it’s effing hilarious. Also, it’s entertaining to see how Hutch is able to be subdued by Starsky’s criticism. He recovers quickly, though, bitching as they walk down the hospital corridor about how impossible it is the choose between Starsky’s “equally crummy blue jeans”. Fighting back and refusing to apologize is a way of equalizing the partnership again, Hutch indicating he now feels his partner is strong enough to be trusted, and so his retort becomes both a compliment and a stimulus. The whole scene has a joyous energy that practically zings off the screen.

Hutch knows Charlie Collins well when he calls in, is impatient with him to the point of rudeness. When gently remonstrated by Starsky, who as usual plays the peacemaker, Hutch relents and softens his tone. He doesn’t tell Charlie what it’s all about but tells him to check with Dobey and mentions the hospital, which is almost the same thing. Of note is Hutch’s authoritarian ease even though Charlie is at least twenty years older than he is, and has double the experience. Later, bringing in the files, Charlie apologizes for “the static”, but to Starsky and not to Hutch, and then proceeds to hover anxiously in later scenes.

The name ‘Bellamy’ is an in-joke on quiet director Earl Bellamy.

“The way I see it,” says Starsky, “it’s who-do-we-trust time.” And the two of them proceed to give each other a deeply penetrating look. A stops-time look. The look very, very few people will ever get a chance to either give, or receive, in their lives.

Starsky tells Huggy someone broke into his house last night and gave him “a shot”. Huggy doesn’t ask “a shot of what? Bourbon?” which would be the logical thing to say. No, he looks genuinely upset, doesn’t press for details, and quietly gets on with it.

“11:36,” Starsky says, in the office with Hutch and Dobey going through files of suspects. Dobey tries a joke: “I always did think you were a clock-watcher.” Then, when his joke fails, Dobey does something uncharacteristic and tries for informality. “Now Dave there must be something remember about this guy.” This too falls flat. This catastrophe has drawn Starsky and Hutch so tightly together there is no room for anyone else. “You hear that?” Starsky says to Hutch, “he called me Dave.” Hutch has the death’s-door humor ready to go: “The things people will do to get on a first-name basis.”  “Really,” Starsky says, deadpan. This exchange is for their amusement only and has the effect of pushing Dobey even further to the margins, forcing him to do what Hutch refused to do earlier: apologize.

When you think about it, do you wonder why they call each other by their last names? It’s a custom long gone out of favor by the swingin’ seventies. People, particularly California people, are all about being casual and friendly, hugging people they’ve just met, for instance. Granted, the cops sometimes call each other by last name, but usually it’s senior-to-junior, and Starsky and Hutch aren’t cops to each other. Besides, the guys call the uniform cops by their first names all the time (“Fix”, “Lady Blue” and many others). Are Starsky and Hutch exhibiting an old habit from the academy which is hard to break, is this about keeping up formal appearances, or could it be an acknowledgement of some deeper, hidden truth about each other?

Speculate on Dobey’s miscalculation, calling Starsky “Dave” because he wants to be a real friend, even though Hutch, closer to Starsky than anyone will ever be, only uses his last name. Dobey’s social ineptitude in difficult circumstances is one of the more entertaining aspects to his character. It reminds me of a scene far off in the Fourth Season, in which Dobey is so thrilled by a compliment from a FBI bigwig he forgets to lead an urgent meeting (“Targets, 3”).

Dobey announces, “Twenty possibles reduced to these three primes.” This calculation has always made me nervous. Who’s doing the figuring on this one? Someone had to input information into the police computer system, so how did they know what variables to add? How come Prudholm isn’t on this list, and why do Starsky and Hutch accept this dramatic reduction as a given? Would they be tempted to look at the other names in case something rings a bell?

A cop is, for all intents and purposes, the victim of premeditated murder. This is about as heinous as a crime can get and the one thing, other than a child murder, most likely to rile up the entire police department. Surely there must be ten, a dozen, even fifteen other cops racing around chasing down those “twenty possibles”, turning the city upside down trying to find information that might help a fellow officer. And yet the squad room seems blurry, inert. There are no ringing phones or slamming doors. The other detectives, when we glimpse them, are abstract background shapes. Even Dobey is merely blaring noise that passes for language; he may as well just go “blah blah blah” for all the sense he makes. There is only the two of them, isolated inside their own world, intent on each other and their quest. Nothing else matters. This is when the series reveals its true nature: it is, in fact, abstraction rather than realism. For all its gritty detail, this has nothing whatsoever to do with real life. This may be exculpatory of me to say so, and perhaps is due solely to the privileges of hindsight, but to apply the measuring stick of realism to “Starsky and Hutch” is beside the point. Sure, there are continuity errors and lapses in logic, and anyone can point a finger and say undercover cops don’t do this or that, or list procedural errors and oversights. I have done the same on occasion. But when we notice that all extraneous details have been blacked – other officers working the case, or whether someone as sick as Starsky would even be allowed on the premises – shows us how reductionist this series is prepared to go in order to keep its emotional integrity. (However, when issues become distracting – as in the case of “The Trap” and that rickety impractical barn, or the silly prosthetic in “Quadromania” – does it make sense to criticize.)

How did Janos fit in with the “primes”? There is no mention of him ever threatening to waste Starsky or Hutch, and when confronted he seems genuinely weak and ineffectual. He’s merely a purveyor of pornography with a penchant for assaulting women. Yuck, for sure, but does he really fit the profile?

Hutch first notices Starsky starting to suffer as they walk up the staircase to Bellamy’s apartment. See him take note of a brief lag in Starsky’s step, then the sweat Starsky quickly dabs away as they approach; he checks again as they stand in front of the door – a swift, subtle look that’s easy to miss if you’re not intent on finding it. His face gives away very little, and yet you can read his mind: here it comes.

Sweet Alice is one of the reasons Starsky and Hutch is such a groundbreaking show. She’s smart, sensitive and likeable but also frail and obstinate, a well-rounded portrait of a complex person. I like how she says, in a casual way that implies both are more or less the same, “did you just come by to bust me, or just for a little friendly conversation?”

Is that a mezuzah outside Sweet Alice’s door? It can be seen when Starsky is counting to twenty and waiting to knock.

The whole vaudeville scene at the front of the pornography studio is an excellent example of the psychic energy going on. Starsky and Hutch couldn’t possibly have cooked this banter up beforehand – who is “stupid” and who is “creepy” etc. It’s obvious this a mutually gut reaction, both knowing simultaneously what is needed in the circumstance. I figure most of us trundle along in life with a unique set of instincts based on past experiences, genetic predisposition and learned skills. It’s our own psychic recipe shared by no other. But this is not the case with Starsky and Hutch. Somehow, against all odds, and for reasons I will now spend thousands and thousands of words trying to explain, they have forged and inherited the same instincts. Starsky drives this point home with his comment to Hutch that he tell Janos “a funny story”. Hutch knows immediately what he means and goes for it.

Filming Notes: In the alley, for the sake of realism, Glaser went down quicker and harder than Soul (who was to catch him) expected, bruising himself and genuinely startling his costar.

Starsky feels the need to cut through the intense emotion of the scene with an acerbic tale of his aunt Rose who made him just as sick from the chicken soup she couldn’t “get the hang” of, although she made a good won ton. His jokey response to trauma is a mainstay of his character. Does he do this for his own sake, or because he knows it’ll make Hutch feel better?

I would really like to know what a gum movie is.

“Softly,” Starsky says to Hutch, who is railing away about the inadequacies of the medical profession, “don’t antagonize the people I need.” This quiet admonition is enough to stop Hutch in his tracks – he acknowledges his stupid outburst with a nod and that’s that. Later, when Hutch is ill in “The Plague”, it’s Starsky who antagonizes the people they need, causing Hutch to call him off.

The police lab is shown rarely, despite how useful it would appear to be. We see it again in Season Four, during “The Game”, when the effects of botulism are explained to Starsky.

“How you doing, huh?” Hutch says in the lab. “I’m scared,” Starsky says, and you can tell from Hutch’s reaction that he’d hadn’t been expecting – or really wanting – an honest answer. (This is another example of Soul’s uncanny ability to transmit a complex emotion in a micro-second.) Interestingly, Starsky seems to twig to Hutch’s anxiety because he then gives what Hutch wanted in the first place: sarcasm, much like his face-saving wise-ass comment about Aunt Rose earlier. “Just enough time to catch a double feature at the Riverley and finish the book I’ve been reading,” he says. Hutch responds to this with a gesture of nearly unbelievable tenderness.

Why does Bellamy only get a year sentence when caught with the drugs with Jerry? He had already been convicted of pimping, pushing, armed robbery and suspected of two homicides.

What’s the story with the blue carnival dog Starsky has in his desk? I’ve read it actually belongs to Glaser, which means it has the same mystical properties of teddy bear Ollie. It’s spectacularly ugly, and seems to be at the ratty end of its life. Starsky takes it out of the desk drawer and stares at it, as if it encapsulates a memory, then roughly shoves it back in.

Starsky, in a wonderful moment, says “if this was a cowboy movie, I’d give you my boots”. Using 1950s pop culture references to express deep emotion is something Starsky often does. At the hospital in “The Plague”, for instance, he compares a dying Hutch Captain Marvel. This was a kid, I suspect, who spent a lot of riveted moments in front of a television forming an earnest, black-and-white sense of righteousness, which is why he became a cop in the first place. (Hutch has no such illusions; his childhood was compromised and troubled, his boyhood heroes disgraced – as in Maxie Malone).

It’s really incredible that they are, for a very long time, holding hands in the squad room.  Hutch is so reluctant to break the hold that he practically slams Starsky’s hand down on the desk when Mrs. Haberman comes forward with the photographs, exploding “Lady – !” and then, in frustration to another officer, anxious to get her away from him, he says, “Ted, will you …?”

I like how Hutch unloads Starsky from his arms at the doorway to the Bellamy apartment.

Bellamy says, from his hiding place on the roof, “what’s the matter, Hutchinson? You lose your piece?” And then gives the exact laugh the two have been searching for the entire time. Read piece as peace, which means war.

After Starsky kills Bellamy (an example great shooting – it’s dark and he’s so ill he’s lost much of his vision and coordination) Hutch comes up to him. In what is one of the most beautifully staged scenes between them, he gently reaches down and takes Starsky’s gun, then lays his head against the concrete, leaning into him. Harsh shadows and strong light make this all look very noir. Starsky begins to lose consciousness and they both go down against the wall, and it’s almost romantic, although the word seems inadequate, in the way he locks eyes with Hutch as he does so.

Franklin tells Hutch he has to bring Starsky “upstairs”, which I suppose echoes a death/heaven image; Hutch is trying to be professional but doesn’t want to let go. He goes over to Starsky, leans down close, and says “Hey buddy, I have to go now.” Not you, but me. Starsky has something more to say. He says, “hey.” Hutch leans in closer, but there are no more words. Instead there is a long look that speaks volumes.

It’s always surprising to hear Dobey say, “well, that’s it, huh” when Starsky is back in the hospital. Hutch is right to fly into a rage. But notice this is the emotion that vaults him into a moment of transcendent revelation, solving the case. It seems anger helps Hutch as much as it impedes him: the surge of adrenaline clears his mind and allows him to shut out all extraneous information. “We only have two hours,” says Dobey, to which Hutch yells, “I don’t care if we have two minutes, we don’t give up.”

Why doesn’t Hutch drag the professor back to the lab with him? It would seem he would be of some help in diagnosing the antidote.

Let’s analyze the professor’s thinking throughout this whole thing. Why, if he was so angry at Starsky and Hutch because of what happened to his son, did he not just take a gun and shoot them both? Or get Bellamy to give Starsky an immediately lethal shot rather than a slow-acting one? Why take the risk of the discovery of an antidote? If he wanted them to suffer over a period of time, as he himself suffered, and as he believed his son suffered, then why not give them both the shot at the same time? They would be far less likely to solve anything if both were incapacitated, and Bellamy could have easily gotten to them in the same night. Perhaps the professor understood that one of them watching the other in misery was the worst sort of trauma he could inflict, a sort of “watch your loved one die as I had to watch mine die” manner of thinking. And yet, how would he know how much they loved each other? Did he spend a lot of time in secret observation, drawing his own conclusions as to the way to inflict maximum pain? Why didn’t George Prudholm think this way?

Also, why did the Professor not do the injection himself, and instead bring another person into his plan? Did he doubt his ability to creep into Starsky’s house and do the deed? He’s old but he’s not infirm, and besides, Starsky was already compromised by an earlier dose of something. Was Starsky just coincidentally the first to get it, did Jennings just look at a map and think, he’s closer, let’s do him first and then lose his nerve when it came to Hutch? Or perhaps there was a purpose to his actions. He certainly is calculating, cunning, and nothing he did was by accident. Maybe he thought Hutch would be more destroyed by Starsky’s suffering and death than the other way around. Or maybe it was Bellamy’s idea. Maybe he was nursing an even more poisonous grudge than Jennings. After all, it was Bellamy who really “seemed to enjoy himself”, according to Starsky.

The professor’s daughter Cheryl exclaims, “They tried to protect you in this report,” meaning the report of Jerry’s death and the accidental shooting, and Hutch ameliorates this by trying to explain how his gun accidentally went off while they were struggling with Jerry, who was in a drug-induced delirium. Hmm. First, this means it was Hutch who directly caused Jerry’s death, furthering the questions as to why Starsky was the one to get hit. Secondly, it’s unlikely Jerry grabbed for Hutch’s gun, or if he did it was probably a clumsy, half-hearted swipe at it and certainly nothing to worry about. Hutch has faced thugs a lot quicker and more dangerous than a stoned college student whose brain was “soup”. It’s more likely Hutch shot him on purpose – although why he felt forced to do that will always be a mystery. It’s possible his account was slanted to make the events seem more accidental than they really were as a way of shielding Jennings from the true horror of the incident. Possible, but unlikely, since both Hutch and Starsky have a reputation for honesty above all else, and Jennings does not seem to be a particularly close or valued friend. If Hutch has even a fraction of culpability, for whatever reason, this might explain the very slight, but noticeable, shadow over him this whole time – a sense, not of guilt, but frustration that his own actions might have inflamed the circumstances.

Clothes: Hutch wears one of his best outfits of the entire four seasons throughout this show: brown pants with hip pockets, brown shoes (white socks, but all is forgiven), midnight-blue turtleneck, and a caramel-brown leather jacket (collar up, of course). Starsky wears a tan shirt with a periwinkle t-shirt beneath and his “crummy” jeans. He wears the awesome brown leather jacket. Huggy looks great in the “what it is” scene with his red-brown leisure suit, tortoiseshell glasses, and white hat.

 

Episode 20: Running

January 25, 2010

Starsky risks his badge when he takes a witness and an old friend of his, Sharman, secretly home with him to dry her out.

Sharman Crane: Jan Smithers, Vernon DuBois: Robert Viharo, Ella: Lana Wood, Kiko: Guillermo San Juan, Texas Kid: Don Plumley, Packrat: Martin Azarow, Orange: Connie Lisa Marie. Written By: Michael Fisher, Directed By: Don Weis.

QUESTIONS AND NOTES:

This is a fine episode because it has many of the best elements of the series: interesting minor characters, good action sequences, rich psychological content, and best of all we see a stable, contented partnership with little or no tension. Starsky makes a risky move and Hutch, other than pointing out the pitfalls, accepts his decision and helps him as best as he can. The action never flags, the dialogue is good, the subject matter is fresh and contemporary (celebrity with a substance abuse problem, fresh as it gets).

This episode is about running away, and running to. Kiko initially runs from Hutch, only to return. Sharman self-medicates to run from her grief, and uses her respite at Starsky’s place to run from decisions about her life. She is running from someone who wants to do her harm, and in the end runs toward her waiting family. Starsky is running from duty, choosing to help in a more personal way. He may also be focusing on Sharman’s distress to run from his own secret wounds. Hutch, (ironically the only one who actually physically runs, as he is a dedicated jogger) stands with both feet firmly on the ground.

As low-life thief Vernon creeps through the hotel it’s difficult – almost impossible – to place Robert Viharo from his future role as the maniacally charming pseudo-Irishman in “Collector”. They look like different people. This series often recycles its guest stars: you can count on at least half the roster being repeat visitors. As previously stated elsewhere, this can be irritating, mostly because it interferes with our suspension of disbelief when someone from one episode is recognizable from another (the most egregious example being Karen Carlson, because of the heavy emotional investment viewers are asked to make in “Gillian”). Here, along with Viharo, Lana Wood as Vernon’s girlfriend will pop up again as Sid in “Ninety Pounds of Trouble”.

This episode is about the restorative powers of love, and how crucial it is not to give up on people during hard times, and the scene with Kiko underscores the theme beautifully. Hutch has been a volunteer big brother to Kiko for two years when he’s summarily rejected because Kiko, approaching the acutely self-conscious teenage years, is embarrassed he’s a cop. It’s great how Hutch doesn’t attempt to talk him back into the relationship at all, and nor does he lay a guilt trip like someone else might, the self-pitying ” what about me?” attitude which only makes situations like this one worse, because it suggests the child has both the power and the awareness to fix the situation. Instead, Hutch is respectful, and lets Kiko make his own decisions, gives valuable advice (“It’s just about time that you find out who your real friends are”) and trusts that things will turn out all right.

One gets the feeling Hutch is driving his car, insisting on it, because he doesn’t want the flashy Torino gliding around the canals looking for a bunch of kids. He may think it’s too visually pungent, too much a symbol of masculine authority, or he may not want it to distract from his gentle message.

Hutch shares the easygoing attitude of many – an attitude long changed – when he doesn’t seem to notice, or care, that Kiko is playing with a knife.

Starsky is hard-hearted about Kiko’s defection from Hutch’s tutelage – or, more precisely, he appears accepting, even dismissive of it – which ties in with the fact that he himself can often act like a child, especially with Hutch (“Hey! Look at those ducks!” he cries out while they’re driving). He takes this role because Hutch is always (or is allowed to be, in this complicated partnership) the long-suffering adult. The irony is, of course, that it’s Starsky who goes the extra mile for someone else in this episode, holding on even when when the vulnerable subordinate refuses his ministrations.

There’s a nice shot of the handmade bumper-sticker on the LTD, first seen in the previous episode: “Cops Need Love Too”. Unusually plaintive for Hutch, and not great for undercover work.

Dobey’s explosions into the phone when being bothered for snacks are especially funny because neither Starsky nor Hutch give any indication they play a role in this elaborate practical joke. They don’t even privately grin at each other. It’s all straight – until the end of the episode.

The West Side Psycho has committed seventeen burglaries and three homicides in thirty days? This makes him a seriously deranged, high-profile criminal in anyone’s books. It always seems strange to me that there isn’t more of a city-wide effort to find him. Rather, his case is thrown to Starsky and Hutch along with petty shoplifters and small time hoods. Is this lack of interest because he targets the poor?

Why does this burglar also commit murder, and three times no less? The script tells us he kills because his victims surprise him in the act and therefore could identify him to police, but what about the nurse or lab worker in the first scene? She’s oblivious to his presence, her back is to the door; he could easily make good his escape before she even saw him. The killing is not necessary. It keeps him from getting away with the loot, dramatically increases his chances of getting caught, and apparently rape is not part of his plans. Is he so panicky and illogical because he’s strung out? Also, if he wanted to avoid being identified he could wear a mask and gloves; he does neither.

Vernon is not what you’d call smart. He’s stealing to feed his drug habit, but he’s knocking off rooms in a fleabag hotel because, it’s what, easier than a suburban house with porch lights and better locks? At the Leland Hotel people are so poor they’re extremely unlikely to have much in the way of cash or belongings, so Vernon has to rob three times as many people to get even a meager take.

When he sees Sharman’s diamond bracelet why doesn’t he assume it’s just costume junk, given the dismal surroundings? And if he knew it was real, wouldn’t be bypass someone like Packrat and hold out for a better offer from someone higher up the food chain?

“You still on a downer because of that kid?” Starsky asks Hutch. “Listen, why don’t you take me on a camping trip?” Hutch snaps back at him but Starsky’s method of distraction seems to work: note the smile that Hutch tries to suppress. Of course Hutch eventually does take him camping, and what happens? Witches!

If we needed any more evidence of the respect the guys pay to all people, even those outside the margins, see how Hutch carefully – and with some tenderness – drapes a cloth over Packrat’s body in the aftermath of the shooting.

It’s a nice cut between Starsky’s admiring “she had class. Always did, always will” to the sight of the bedraggled, hollow-eyed Sharman staggering into the street.

It’s another lovely cameo (last seen in “Losing Streak”) by the eccentric Orange, a working girl who never goes anywhere without her loyal Sandy, which might make a lot of her clients uncomfortable, much in the same way her assuming the role as a child to elicit sex makes me uncomfortable.

You might ask how Sharman gets into her room without the key she dropped at Frieta’s, but of course she got into all this trouble in the first place because of habitually leaving her door unlocked. Because she places no value on herself she doesn’t value her space either, although she does kick up a pretty good fuss when attacked, which shows there is a shred of self-respect in there somewhere.

Apparently the girl (and the episode) was originally named “Jennifer”, but the writers wanted an instantly recognizable name and ended up borrowing the name of series producer Joseph Naar’s daughter, Sharman. Otherwise Starsky would not have picked up on the engraved name so fast; there can’t be too many Sharmans running around.

They pull up in front of the Leland Hotel and Starsky stares at the depressing hotel in silence for a second. Hutch immediately understands what’s going in and says, “It’s probably nothing that a good drying-out will take care of.” It’s astonishingly empathetic from someone who so often takes delight in being contrary.

“Go!” Starsky orders Hutch when they’re flummoxed by shots ringing out in Sharman’s room. Hutch goes. How often is Starsky in charge? Is it about 50/50?

Hutch displays some amazing visual acuity when he reads off a licence plate two stories up and half a city block away.

Starsky tells Sharman he knows her real name, and “not the name you checked into this dump with” despite the fact he and Hutch don’t know that name either, as they didn’t stop at the desk. However, they both know how the game is played: famous model with a problem, wanting to disappear. Of course she isn’t going to check in under her real name.

Starsky grabs the bottle and smashes it. “You have no right!” Sharman shrieks. She has a good point. He has no right to make decisions for her, to impose himself – a stranger – on her. He has no right to be physically violent, to shout. And he has no right to manipulate the situation, even if it works to her benefit.

Four times Starsky grabs a woman’s upper arms and tells her to “shut up” or “be quiet”. One he even threatens to “bust in the chops.” The women are Sharman (this episode), Emily (“Blindfold”), Fifi (“Deadly Imposter”) and Rosey Malone. All four times are with women he cares about, and all four times he does it for their own good. All these times happen when Hutch isn’t in the room – although here it continues, albeit in a more panicky, pleading way, Starsky seemingly to regret his own actions even if he’s unable to curb them, when Hutch returns and stands in the doorway.

Glaser’s body-language is particularly effective in the scene with Sharman at the hotel. Given that Starsky isn’t as verbally showy as Hutch is, Glaser must rely on movement and gesture to convey the depth and complexity of emotions. It’s all here, and in spades: his lunging at Sharman, the smashing of the bottle, the drop of his shoulders in shame when Sharman cowers on the bed, and in the tight, compressed way he talks when under stress.

When Starsky suggests he take Sharman to his place Hutch is vehement. “What happened to all your talk about kicking your guts out for someone who’s not worth it?” Obviously Starsky’s earlier comment has stuck in his head, rolling around, tormenting him; he shoots it back nearly verbatim. Was he secretly wounded by Starsky’s dismissive attitude about Kiko’s disavowal of him?

It would have been interesting to know how Hutch covered for Starsky when the hotel is swarmed by scene-of-crime officers and others taking witness statements and combing the room for evidence. How on earth could he explain away someone yelling, “I heard shouting, glass breaking, and then that girl was taken down and shoved into a shiny red car driven by that policeman”?

Starsky’s determination to take Sharman to his place for a “drying out” shows us how far we’ve come in the diagnosis and treatment of alcoholism (this episode is careful not to say drugs are in the mix as well, even though Orange says so; Sharman is only ever seen crying out for a drink, not a fix, which may be an attempt by writers to make the viewers better able to identify with her). Abrupt cessation of alcohol can prove fatal, a fact not well understood then as now, and suicidal ideation is frankly dangerous for a layperson like Starsky to handle. Coffee and cold showers don’t cut it, but at least Sharman doesn’t claim to be cured after a few days in Starsky’s bed, she acknowleges she has far to go.

It’s disappointing, from a narrative point of view, that Sharman Crane is famous because she’s a model and not something more interesting – politician, maybe, or novelist, something more cerebral. Because of this fact, the audience is asked to mourn the loss, not of self necessarily, but of marketable looks. Of course she’s in danger too, but that seems like an  ingredient added to the plot in the same way fiber is added to sugary cereal to make seem healthier. Sharman has been valued solely for her looks, exploited because of them, and in turn is destroying those looks by destroying herself. Starsky tells Hutch “it would kill her” to be hounded by the press if they brought her to the station in the condition she’s in. But isn’t the irony here that among the complicated reasons he has for getting her clean is so that her modeling career – the career that might have played a role in her destruction in the first place – could continue?

What role does modeling play when it comes to Sharman’s troubles? She might have been introduced to drugs and alcohol by the very people who then condemned her for it when it got out of control. She wouldn’t be the first model introduced to cocaine to stay thin, and urged to drink to stay socially pliable.

This is a nice look at Starsky’s apartment, with its warm and inviting jumble of soft furnishings, art, salvaged materials and warm colors: lots of art (drawings of old cars), cushions, rugs, plants and pottery. There’s a blinking traffic signal, and wicker chairs. It shows a private man who takes care of his private space, and apparently spends a lot of time there. This is a side of Starsky we don’t often see.

Why does Starsky park the Torino at his apartment so it blocks three garages?

Motives: Starsky feels such a strong pull toward Sharman that he’d risk his badge to protect her. He talks a lot about her being famous, being a kid watching her from afar, and it’s clear his mother has fanned the flames of this non-existent but intoxicating “relationship” by sending him magazines (or so he says; I have my doubts his mother sent them all). But as with most things Starsky, motives are murky. After all, she split after the ninth grade. How many of us have such powerfully protective feelings for someone we knew way back in the ninth grade, even moderately famous ones? And not only that, one class (wood shop, amusingly) and one semester of that one year. Starsky is unusually loyal. He has proven that in other episodes. But in my opinion this has very little to do with loyalty, and a lot to do with Starsky’s inability to have insight into his own psyche. When he tells Hutch “everyone that she’s ever loved has either moved away or died” it sounds profoundly personal in a way that may have nothing to do with the situation at hand.

Hutch comes to Starsky’s place and asks for a glass of milk. Starsky offers him coffee. Hutch says yes. Starsky then pours a glass of milk, and drinks it himself. Interesting.

It’s possible Starsky overly identifies with Sharman, who is outwardly successful and privately hurting. It’s possible he too feels let down and abandoned by the people he loves (we get clues of this, from a murdered father to a drug-dealing brother to Helen Davisson, who could have been “the one” only to die on the job). It’s also possible he has an exaggerated, irrational need to save those he feels are weak, “Mother Cabrini”, as Sharman sarcastically calls him, an aspect of his personality that – if controlled – is the reason he’s a great cop. And it’s also possible he has a visceral and entirely unconscious disgust for women he judges as failures, women who reject their own beauty, who stray outside the accepted norms, who behave in ways he feels are unfeminine. All these motives go a long way to understanding his successful partnership with Hutch: here is one person who is mandated to stay with him (through official procedure, shared experiences, common interests, united goals) and so is less likely to leave, who is as powerful – or even more so – than he himself is, and so does not require saving. Here is someone who is, by the very fact he is a man, exempt from disgust.

Are we to make anything from the fact that Starsky forms a lifelong bond with Sharman around the same age Kiko rejects – and then comes to accept – a similar lifelong bond with Hutch?

Starsky has no sexual chemistry with Sharman. The kiss just seems wrong, somehow. “What do you want from me?” she asks, and he answers honestly, “I don’t know.” (Notice he doesn’t say “I want you to get well.” In this moment Starsky is closer than he has ever been to seeing himself honestly – as deeply conflicted. He just doesn’t know what those conflicts are.) She says she knows, and kisses him. He kisses her back, but there’s a brotherly quality to it. Does he kiss her back because this is his default position with all women, is he trying to light a sexual fire, or does he kiss her because not doing so might hurt her feelings? Or is this perhaps a secret pact he’d made with himself as a thirteen year old kid, one he’s determined to make good on? And also, how sad is Sharman that she assumes his only motive is sexual?

Sharman and Starsky have their conversation on the sofa. Sharman is bathed and clean, is wearing nice clothes, is rational, thoughtful, and alert. But yet there is no attempt by Starsky to do what he promised Hutch: namely, bring her in to the station for a formal interview. By doing so, Starsky would advance the search for a murderous thug, possibly saving the life of a future victim. You’d think that would be the priority. And yet, it never happens. Does Starsky keep telling himself not yet, not yet even as he himself is urging her to make a difficult but socially responsible step forward? What’s he waiting for?

One has to wonder if Sharman ever knew the diamond bracelet she obviously holds so dear (after all, it’s really the only thing she has with her) was bought by husband Tony’s illicit funds, and if that changes her attitude toward it. Does she eventually sell it, I wonder, in an attempt to return the money? And was Tony driven to embezzlement because he felt emasculated by his wife’s ability to earn more than he did?

This is Starsky’s chance to help a famous fashion model. Hutch as his chance in Season Four’s “Cover Girl”. Both stories are very similar to the point of replication. Both are girls from the guys’ distant past, fellow high school students. Both men harboured boyhood crushes. Both girls are in serious physical and mental danger resulting from poor choices in their alternative, secret lives. Both girls exhibit a suicidal lack of self-worth despite fame, money, and physical beauty. Both accept help from Starsky and Hutch (Sharman reluctantly, Kate gratefully), then seemingly walk away without a backward glance to resume a presumably fabulous career.

I don’t know that much about the reach of the police departments back in the day, and I certainly don’t expect the script to allude to this, but surely Sharman must have had access to bank accounts during her missing months. Could she have been tracked by the FBI, do you think? Was she ever, in fact, officially missing? It’s possible she was in contact with friends, family or her management team letting them know she hadn’t been kidnapped or killed, which may explain the absence of a full-scale state-wide search.

Starsky admits to Sharman, “Everyday of my life, at some time or another, I say that (I’m not ready) to myself,” telling her sometimes “you just gotta do.” Does he really mean this or is he trying to talk Sharman into making the phone call to her parents? He also makes a similar comment to Carol Wade in “Crying Child”: “Guess sometimes you just have to jump in”.

As Vernon approaches the apartment, Sharman comes out of the shower and – strangely – puts on Starsky’s clothes. The shirt I can accept. Many girls wear their boyfriend’s shirts. But his jeans too? This goes beyond a romantic gesture and toward something else, an attempt to absorb through proximity Starsky’s innate power, perhaps. But it does imply Sharman and Starsky now have a sexual relationship, despite Starsky’s earlier pulling away. This is a detail that makes me a little queasy. Sharman is under intense emotional and physiological distress, and Starsky has too much authority over her. It’s all wrong.

Is might be just me, but when a woman betrays another woman – as Ella does here when she fires at Sharman – it seems particularly nasty.

I like Sharman best when she’s feisty to the point of rude, when she snaps at people or when she stabs at Vernon’s hand through the door. Sober, and nicer, she can be forgettable.

How quickly Starsky understands he’s just a chapter in Sharman’s life, maybe even just a footnote. I can never tell if he wants it that way – after all, he has finished reforming this dangerous creature – or if he is just not the possessive type. As they pull up to the rehabilitation center he seems to have already accepted the inevitability, even though Sharman is outwardly grateful and affectionate. Perhaps he knows her better than she knows herself. He pulls away before she can introduce him to her parents.

Where, exactly, are they? Is this a detox clinic, a hotel, a convenient meeting place? It’s never said.

Sharman said everyone who ever loved her had left her. And yet, her mother and stepfather are there to greet her, loving her unconditionally, no questions asked. And she put them through hell for six months.

The tag: Oddly, Starsky phones his mother from Hutch’s place. If it’s a habit to telephone her every Friday, as he implies in the call, why didn’t he do it before he left his own house? It’s obviously long-distance, and Hutch would be paying for this. Maybe he has also phoned her from every bar and club in town, as he is hardly ever home on a Friday evening, so phoning from Hutch’s place is no big deal. Hutch is playing a beautiful song on his guitar and punctuates Starsky’s attempt to shut his mother up with an ironic pluck of the strings, which is very amusing. From Starsky’s tone, his mother seems to be the superficial type, and just slightly irritating to him. All she seems to care about is Starsky’s failure to get Sharman’s autograph. One suspects she spends a lot of time in a dark apartment with the television on. Starsky is patient with her but dismissive: she’s a duty to him, a probably nothing much more than that.

Interestingly, this is the second phone call to an emotional mother in this episode. While this may be accidental on the part of the writers, this nevertheless draws an even stronger correlation between Starsky and Sharman as two wounded people trying to make the best of a fractured past and must carefully negotiate a relationship with that past through emotional (single) mothers.

When Kiko shows up – is this planned? Or completely unexpected? – Starsky is wonderfully nonchalant. “Oh hi,” he says, as if this isn’t a big deal, which is the best way to handle kids anyway. Kiko says he’s sorry, and Hutch is great with him as always, calm and respectful while not talking down to him. Everything is nicely resolved. And it’s shown that the guys really are behind the big joke against Dobey – they giggle like schoolboys.

Clothing notes: they wear their iconic jackets: Starsky in his battered leather and blue t-shirt, Hutch in his collegiate dark-green-and-white jacket. Starsky wears The Sweater during his hole-up with Sharman, when Hutch comes to visit. Huggy looks dashing in denim and striped shirt, with a jaunty little necktie.