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Hutchinson for Murder One

There is so much happening in the first fifteen minutes of this episode, that it's hard to decipher it all.

It's like no line is wasted early on.  Every sentence seems to hold deep meaning.

First, we have Hutch being unusually nervous about the idea of him and Starsky meeting with Dobey about the expenses they want to be reimbursed for.  He's almost like a kid dreading having to explain himself to his father about something questionable that he did -- though I'd think the reimbursement of expenses would be a routine thing.  In contrast, Starsky is incredibly nonchalant, anticipated wealth from breeding Louise aside, and doesn't seem at all concerned about whether or not he and Hutch get properly reimbursed.

The name Vanessa isn't at all common.  And yet when Dobey says the caller is Vanessa, it doesn't even occur to Hutch that it could be his ex-wife.  His surprise at her calling him -- let alone wanting to see him -- is so palatable that it almost makes one wonder if they had an agreement to never speak to each other again after the divorce.  One certainly gets the impression that he had absolutely no reason to think he'd ever have contact with her again.   And he seems extremely hesitant to agree to even the most casual of meetings.

After Hutch was smoking in "The Action", he now is so nervous while waiting for Vanessa at the Pits, that he half-heartedly reaches for cigarettes from Huggy.  But at least Huggy has the right idea and scolds, "You don't smoke."  But it does give more fodder to the idea that Hutch might have once smoked.

When Vanessa and Hutch are talking at the Pits, and the anger starts to brew, some of Hutch's lines are stated so emphatically that it always strikes me that DS is no longer acting, but instead speaking from the heart.

It certainly is clear that Hutch was devastated by Vanessa having left him, and he's unwilling to forgive, since he walks away from her now, and definitely seems the adult in the situation by doing so.

I am always amazed that Hutch doesn't sleep with her.  It would be easy enough to.  I really think it has little to do with being "old fashioned" (since when?), and more to do with an expression of the hurt that she chose to leave him, that he's never recovered from.  Usually, it's the hurt and angry woman that withholds sex.

Vanessa seems wicked all the way around.  I've struggled to find anything positive to say about her (beyond the fact that she makes for a wonderful episode), and I can find one small moment in that, when the bad guys confront her, she says that Hutch is a one night stand.  I get the feeling that she's trying to protect him, because otherwise I don't know why she would think calling him a one night stand would be to her own benefit.  If anything, it seems that if she would have explained that Hutch was her ex-husband, it would have been more plausible to the bad guys that she was in his apartment.

One has to wonder what Hutch said to Starsky when he called him.  It had to be something like, "I need you right away", since Starsky comes at top speed, and yet doesn't know that Vanessa has been murdered.

Of course, it's a great moment when Starsky slugs Simonetti on Hutch's behalf but, really, I can't fault either Simonetti or Dryden for their behavior.  They were just doing their jobs.  Anybody else would have had to reach the same conclusions that they did, based upon the evidence.  And the fact that Hutch was so hostile while being interviewed -- when such a demeanor was unnecessary -- didn't help at all.  For that matter, I don't think Starsky or Hutch did themselves any favors by being so push-button rebellious in the face of IA.

When Dobey forcefully demands Hutch's badge and gun, Starsky is standing there looking at him with his mouth open, like Uh oh, this is really serious.  Whenever I see his expression in a songvid, I always imagine him thinking, "Mommy's in trouble!"  After all, they do fall into a parent-child relationship at various times, but that's a subject for another post.

This is a Hutch episode but, man, is Starsky so blatantly visible.  His loyalty is just incredible.  Whether he's blowing smoke up Wheeler's ass, or being reassuring to Hutch, or making his intentions clear to Dobey, he has no inner conflict whatsoever about how his relationship with Hutch is more important than being a cop.  They're in this together, and he'll run away with Hutch, or go to prison with Hutch, before he'll ever remain a cop without Hutch.

For that matter, for those who want to believe that Starsky and Hutch were already banging each other by this point in the series, there's Starsky telling Louise, "I guess it's just me and you tonight" -- after Hutch goes to see Vanessa -- as though he and Hutch otherwise would have ended up together for the evening; and when Hutch is nervously waiting for Vanessa at the Pits, Huggy calls him, "One tight closet."  (cough, cough)

In the midst of all the drama, this episode really does deserve kudos for how it manages to smoothly include the "arrest" scene at Hutch's apartment, which has such great humorous dialogue and cadence.

Not that the episode isn't without some flaws.  After Hutch is knocked out, one has to wonder why the bad guys don't take him with them to Wheeler, and try to torture the location of the stone from him.  And there's just no way a cop would be given the task of arresting his own partner. To say nothing of how there appears to be no consequences for Starsky having slugged Simonetti, or handcuffing Dryden, or running away with Hutch instead of bringing him in.

Television series are notorious for being very sloppy with the timelines of their characters' past histories.  SH is no exception.  Starsky tells Dryden that he and Hutch have been partners for six years, while in season two's "The Set Up", Hutch tells Joe Durniak they've been partnered for seven years, which would make season three the eighth year.  Then there's the puzzlement that if Vanessa and Hutch have been divorced for four and a half years, then Starsky knew them then.  And yet, he doesn't seem to immediately recognize the name Vanessa either, when Dobey gives the identity of the caller.

One does have to wonder how Hutch and Vanessa got hooked up.  The SH novelizations refer to Hutch as being obviously well-bred, and that shows up in the series in various ways.  Hutch had to have been displaying that breeding when he and Vanessa dated; otherwise, why would she have been interested?  And then, with his desire to become a cop, Hutch obviously pretty much gave up the good life though, again, hints of it pop up later, such as when he's driving that little car in fourth season "Targets Without a Badge".

For that matter, just how long were Hutch and Vanessa married?.  It seems it couldn't be long if they so thoroughly washed their hands of each other after the divorce.  Yet, Hutch speaks of Vanessa leaving him because of her dissatisfaction with his dead-end job of being a cop.  Which tends to suggest that it was a fairly new decision for him.   But if he and Starsky have been cops together for six or seven years, and were separately in blue together before then (as has been mentioned in a couple of earlier episodes).... well, it's just plain asking too much of series television to have characters' pasts make chronological sense.

Anyway, "Hutchinson for Murder One" is one of the very best non-h/c episodes, for a variety of reasons.