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On David Soul's birthday, I want to highlight one of his most brilliantly understated performances.




I admit it took me a while to learn to like this episode (beyond the tag, of course.)  I didn't like it at all when it originally aired.  In fact, the second season had a lot of disappointment for me, because the guys were undercover so dang much.  For that matter, it riled me, decades later, when the media referred to Starsky and Hutch as "undercover cops".  They were undercover hardly at all the first season, and it's the first season that had most of the pet-and-cuddle and easy banter.  I wanted to see Starsky and Hutch as themselves, not them acting as other people -- especially when such acting meant they were hardly going to be spending time together.

But "Tap Dancing" did eventually grow on me.  Now, I think it's mostly a fun episode to watch.  And DS/Hutch presents a masterful undercover performance.  

There's nothing wrong with Starsky's portrayal of Ramone -- he just doesn't have much to do.


Charlie McCabe is such a wonderful blend of simple country bumpkin, serious wealth, unsophisticated married playboy, mannerly country gent, and overbearing gotta-have adolescent attitude... and this complex combination is pulled off with no visible effort.  In keeping with canon, if one jumps to fourth season "Ninty Pounds of Trouble", where Hutch gets in a nervous tither about his "acting" job of being hitman Eddie Carlyle... one has to wonder why the McCabe character comes to Hutch so easily.  

We see many of his various characteristics right from the start, when he is so overly-forward in wanting to dance with Marsha.  For that matter, we get a nice moment of Diedre and Ramone -- and that's about as far as Starsky needs to stretch to play a rather uninteresting dance instructor.  In fact, it's quite understandable that Starsky appears a tad jealous that all the attention centers around Charlie.

The hot dog scene.  Oh, my God.  This is one of the most sexually-charged "innocent" scenes between Starsky and Hutch in the whole series.  And that hot dog.  The twisted convultions it goes through, for being an innocent piece of meat.  Let's try to follow its complex life:

1.  Hutch arrives at the hot dog stand, where Starsky is already eating a bag of chips, and orders "a dog". 

2.  Starsky does a little teasing about Hutch's character, and in his Charlie voice, Hutch says, "Well, when you got it, boy, flaunt it."

3.  Starsky then passes to Hutch the hot dog that has been made for him.  After Starsky reports his news about the dead guy's sister, Hutch reports that Marsha has asked a lot of questions including, "How many cows I got."  Starsky questions, "Cows?"  Hutch nods, "Cows", like there shouldn't be anything strange about cows.  (Excuse me, but I just can't help but think that "how many I got" is a metaphor for "how large I am".  I mean, I know Marsha is interested in it being a metaphor for how rich Charlie is, but the way Hutch relays it to Starsky in such a specific tone....)

4.  While Starsky reiterates that Hutch has surely told Marsha all about his needs, and that he's "up to your navel in greenbacks", Starsky takes it upon himself to put relish on Hutch's hot dog,

5.  Then when Hutch says that Marsha is no amateur because "she's taking it slooow and easy," Starsky and Hutch gaze at each other for an extended moment.  And then Hutch says to an enraptured Starsky, "A little catsup."  Starsky is dazed and confused, and Hutch clarifies, "On my hot dog."  It takes Starsky an overly long moment to come out of his daze and realize that Hutch is merely requesting a condiment for his lunch.  

6.  When Starsky then reports what he's experienced as Ramone, he's blatantly flirting in his Ramone character when he says that he's "hinted that he's up for a fast buck", and that he's been called "a naughty boy".   Starsky then proceeds to ask an enraptured Hutch, "Can I have a bite?"  A dazed Hutch whispers, "A bite?"  In a normal voice, Starsky simply says, "Of your hot dog."  Hutch comes out of his daze and realizes that Starsky wants to sample his food -- of his lunch, I mean.

7.  So, then Hutch is eating Starsky's chips, while Starsky is eating Hutch's hot dog (which Starsky himself lovingly prepared), when the Torino's radio beeps that there's a robbery in progress nearby.  Starsky whines and wants to eat (even though he only asked for "a bite"), but Hutch insists they answer the call.  As they're getting in the car, Starsky hands over the coveted hot dog to Hutch, 
oh-so-politely asking, "Will you hold this?  Please?"  (Somehow, the hot dog has now become his hot dog.)  Hutch cheerfully replies, "Sure."  And now the hot dog is back in Hutch's hands.  I assume he ate on the way to the robbery.  Maybe he even let Starsky have some.

**THUNK**  I can't believe they actually aired that!

The robbery scene goes on too long for my taste, but I do love how Starsky makes a few dance moves, relishing the character he's playing, especially since said character otherwise doesn't get to do much.  

The episode manages to make a smooth transition to the seriousness of Marianne Tustin seeing her dead brother in the morgue.  And it smoothly transitions out again, when she guesses correctly that Hutch is acting as a student at the dance studio, and guesses incorrectly that Starsky is "the doorman?"  lol.

The mouse races.  When Charlie blows smoke in Marsha's face, that is just too funny.  And again, it comes across as such a natural miscue -- not like it was intended at all.  

When they get to Marsha's place, Hutch is so fantastic at staying in character, even as he mutters to the air, "What have you gotten yourself into, Hutchinson?"  Well, I doubt he minds a good time, especially when it comes about so easily.  And Marsha herself had a good time, since she later tells the other baddies, "It almost seems a shame to charge him."  She is validating what the first season stewardesses had to say about Hutch's sexual attributes.

Of course, the next morning, one can hardly fault Starsky for being jealous, when Hutch is so worn out.  But it's such a great line when Dobey asks him if he's sure if he was recorded, and Hutch replies, "If they didn't, they shoulda."  That's a little too much bragging for Starsky's taste.

Hutch's scene in the bad guy's office is another stroke of absolute brilliance, with how Charlie handles it.  He's still the same country boy, but now there's an added element -- one of danger, for he threatens that if the bad guy asks for more money, "You're a dead man."  He certainly sounds like he means it.

Once again, we get Starsky's spontaneous dance moves when he's meeting with Hutch and Dobey outdoors.  I love that carefree playfulness about him.  In fact, when they're discussing the payoff in Dobey's office, he's still doing dance moves -- and this time he's wearing Hutch's cowboy hat, which Hutch later takes off his head.  When Dobey calls Starsky "Valentino" and suggests he "dance over to the phone", Hutch has a warm smile of amusement.

From this point until the tag, the episode doesn't have much to offer.  We do find out that Starsky used to drive a cab (and Hutch is sincere in is lack of interest at that moment), but that's about it.  Oh, there is when they catch the main baddies, and as a warning, Starsky says, "Hey, I got a partner."

Of course, in the brilliant tag, Hutch says, "no", that he doesn't want to dance with Starsky, but he lets Starsky literally drag him into it, anyway.  (Hutch always has to be contrary and say no, before doing what Starsky wants.)  I think, in this scene, Starsky finally gets what he really wanted -- to dance with Hutch. Especially since it's a rare moment where he gets to be the boss.  
In "Satan's Witches", when the girls appear while Starsky is fearfully clutching Hutch, they immediately part and shake hands in a "we're not gay" masculine manner.  But here, there's no such self-conscious desire to part as they talk to Ginger Evans; in fact, Hutch keeps his hand on Starsky's shoulder.  

Then, finally, it's Starsky getting the accolades and Hutch is the one who sounds envious.  So, he pays for his teasing... in the most wonderful way.  In fact, the bloopers have the wonderful kissy-face moment from this scene.  What actually appeared on screen took some real balls -- and it's all the more amazing that it was included in the opening credits of subsequent seasons.