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Sweet Revenge

It's taken me a lot of years to learn to enjoy and admire this episode.




"Sweet Revenge" was a huge disappointment when it was originally aired.  I was all pumped to see "the grand finale" of a series about the greatest relationship and love story of all time.  And what do we get?  We get the guys separated nearly the entire episode.  That was not what I was wanting to see for a relationship that was noteworthy for the interaction between the characters.  I mean, any dramatic TV series has at least one episode where one character is wringing is hands over "oh, no, I hope he doesn't die" regarding another character.   But only Starsky & Hutch had the uniqueness of the special interaction between the characters.   

And then, many years later, when I was in fandom, I was baffled as to why "Sweet Revenge" was often touted as a "must see" episode when introducing the series to new fans.  I still disagree with that.  Why would an episode about the guys being separated be something that would make other people want to watch a show about a special relationship?  I'd show a potential new fan "The Omaha Tiger" way before I'd show them "Sweet Revenge".

For that matter, I have seen "Sweet Revenge" described as a hurt/comfort episode.  Huh?  How can a show be hurt/comfort when there isn't any comfort?  

So, I've had a lot of discomfiture with this episode.  But I no longer find it boring to sit through.  And the tag is a wonderful finale to the series.  

So, I'm ready to talk about what it is, rather than what it isn't.

But let me gets my thoughts about James Gunther out of the way.  I just don't find him that scary.  He actually comes across as rather cartoonish.  He's just a crazy old man with lots of money.  And yet, I've seen some of the fanfic give him almost God-like, impenetrable qualities.  Yes, he's able to hire people to gun down Starsky -- and his influence goes back to "Targets Without a Badge" -- but "hits" happen every day on the streets of large cities.  It doesn't require an old, crazy man with lots of money.  I know in the episode, Hutch says that Gunther "turned down the presidency because it was a step down in power", but being president doesn't make a person immune from humanity, either.  Quite the contrary, in fact, considering the immense media scrutiny that such a position comes under.  

Bottom line:  James Gunther was presented as too over-blown of a character, which wasn't necessary to have an episode about Starsky on the verge of death, and Hutch hunting down those responsible.

Moving along....

The ping-pong match is a nice thing, especially after I finally figured out what the guys were talking about.  Of course, if two athletic men were really playing ping-pong, they'd be hitting the ball a heck of a lot harder.  Ditto the tennis match in "Long Walk Down a Short Dirt Road".  

Hutch is so sweet when he relents to losing by saying, "A bet's a bet."  Starsky is surprised, because Hutch usually tries to find a way to win, even when he loses.   Starsky was obviously expecting Hutch to not follow through with "paying up" -- even though Hutch probably would have, even after saying no.  But this is a rare moment when he gives in gracefully to losing.  

Though Hutch does try to wrangle a point when he wants to name the date, and comes up with, "How about tomorrow?  At five o'clock in the morning."  Starsky calls him "baby" when he reiterates that he wants a three-course dinner, with broiled lobster "and maybe a New York steak".  

It is funny how these guys have eaten, eaten, eaten throughout the series, and the grand prize in the final episode is more food still.  

Because it's television, we'll overlook the medical stuff, and how Starsky would be hooked up to a ton more machines and tubes, if he was that critically wounded.  (For that matter, in the tag, if you look real close after Dobey appears, the mattress of Starsky's bed doesn't have a fitted sheet.  It's just a naked mattress.)

I'm now able to appreciate the quiet, tense mood of the hospital scenes.  The long scene between Hutch and Dobey is particularly poignant.  When Dobey sends Hutch away, under the guise of "wash up, get something to eat", you have to wonder if he finds it unbearable to be sitting next to such a quiet, forlorn, brooding Hutch.  

A part of me wants to question why Hutch says, a couple of times, that Starsky "is dying", as though he's given up hope.  And yet, I can rationalize that he's trying to prepare himself for a moment that he knows he isn't going to be able to bear.  You have to wonder what's going through his mind, in terms of how he's envisioning a life without Starsky... or if he's able to envision a future for himself, at all.

Of course, it's a great moment when Dobey steps in it and mentions getting Hutch a new partner.  However Hutch might have been trying to emotionally prepare for Starsky's death, he makes it clear that he's already got a partner.  

Huggy/AF actually has some of his finest moments in this.

Starsky has always been incredibly intense, when Hutch is missing or threatened.  Hutch in the parking garage, and in the scene with Jenny Brown, is that parallel.  

Of course, it's a great nod to their special relationship when Starsky's heart re-starts, as soon as Hutch comes bursting through the doors.  In fact, we'll overlook how long that had to mean Starsky's heart wasn't beating... no matter how quickly Hutch got there.

Hutch can't be so intense in that great scene in the lawyer's office, but he still gets in a nice parting line.

I like how Hutch looks more and more haggard as time goes on.  He does seem on the verge of a happy breakdown when Starsky has woken up.  For that matter, if he hadn't needed to catch a flight to San Francisco to arrest Gunther, one wonders if he would have had a mental collapse.

If anyone thought Starsky might die when first watching this, I'd have to think the happy sound track during less serious scenes would have abated that concern.  

With all the indoor scenes, it's hard to know how much time this episode covers before the tag.  It seems maybe two days.  

How easily Hutch takes Gunther down shows, I think, how Gunther really wasn't a very powerful person, especially on a personal, man-to-man level.  He's only powerful when cloaked in secrecy.  

Of course, in the tag, Starsky wouldn't be moving around so easily and, of course, it would have been nice if it had just been Starsky and Hutch, but it's forgivable that the final scene of the final episode would need to include the full cast.  What we do get is really special.

Finally, they end up in bed together.  Under the covers, no less.