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Birds of a Feather

Another Hutch-oriented episode.  But this is yet another fourth season one that S&H fandom seems sadly reluctant to acknowledge ever existed, even though the guys have a lot of scenes together.  I wrote my novel Private Agendas with the Huntleys and events as a major focus.  I've only come across one other story that included Luke.

Actually, I'm pretty certain that this is the only episode I never saw during the original airings.  I have a vague recollection of thinking that I was going to miss S&H that night, and how weird that felt, but placated myself with the thought that I'd see it months down the road during reruns.  Turns out, the series was replaced in rerun season, so all those fourth season episodes only had one airing in prime time.  Nearly twenty years later, when I was getting into S&H fandom, and someone had sent me all the episodes on tape, I was stunned that I didn't remember anything about "Birds of a Feather", especially since it's so important to Hutch's background.  I now realize that I hadn't ever seen it before.

It starts with Starsky and Hutch guiding a very ordinary-looking "peeping Gertrude" into the squadroom to write up her arrest report.  Hutch then notices somebody in the hall, and happily says, "Luke.  Luke."  He goes out to meet him.  And wow. We get quite an uncommon full body hug, right there in the halls of the police station.

Gertrude and Starsky are watching through the window, and Gerturde says, "You're charging me with taking a peep at a skinny old man with a strawberry birthmark, while those two guys are carrying on like that, in public?"  LOL!   Starsky doesn't quite seem to know what to say, so turns his attention away from them and her, muttering, "Their turn will come, I'm sure."  I'm not certain what that means.  She replies, "I'm sure it already has."  Starsky is then eager to get back to business, asking what her name and address is.  He obviously knows who Luke is, because he doesn't seem curious as to why Hutch is being all lovey-dovey with another guy "in public".

Meanwhile, Luke and Hutch are walking toward Dobey's office with their arms all over each other, Luke explaining that Dobey wanted to see him.  After entering Dobey's office, Hutch refers to Luke as "one of the west side's finest", and Luke indicates that Dobey's precinct has borrowed him for a particular assignment.  When Dobey asks why Hutch is hanging around for his conversation with Luke, Hutch says, "You know that Luke here is one of the prime reasons I'm on the force at all." Whoa.  That's quite a bombshell for us to find out after 3.5 seasons.  But, of course, we don't ever get the details.  How did Hutch and Luke ever meet?  It had to be before Hutch ever thought about being a cop, in order for Luke to influence his decision.  I'm guessing Luke was some kind of father figure; certainly, somebody Hutch admired and looked up to, and wanted to be like.

Luke isn't at all happy in finding out that he's been summoned to "babysit" a snitch named Palmer before trial against Anthony Rueben.  Interesting that he's supposed to guard him at the St. Francis Hotel.  That's the same hotel where Starsky's father figure, John Blaine, was murdered.  Hutch tries to placate Luke with an explanation of how important the case is, and Luke still doesn't seem very happy about it, but goes along since he really doesn't have any choice.

Luke then wants to go get a beer, and Hutch checks Luke's watch -- the same way he does Starsky's -- and notes that it's time to get off work, and, "Let's go pick up my partner."  I love that it's a no-brainer that Starsky is going to be included.

Starsky has finished with Gertrude -- actually, Yvonne, as he tells Hutch in the hall -- and Luke comes up behind Starsky and wraps his arms around him.  Obviously, Luke is an extremely touchy-feely person with anyone he is friends with.  Considering that he's someone a young Hutch looked up to, I can see knowing Luke is an explanation about how Hutch could have had an unloving childhood (which might explain a lot of his unflattering characteristics), while also being able to be a touchy-feely person when he wants to be.  I can see him learning physical displays of affection from Luke.

Anyway, it's again obvious that Starsky already knows who Luke is, and is comfortable enough with him to be playful.  He quips to Hutch, "Taught you everything you know."  Luke then says, "I taught him so good that he became Sergeant First Class within seven years."  That sounds like Hutch was perhaps partners with Luke when he was in blue, in addition to having surely met him before he ever considered being a cop.  What's more, if Starsky and Hutch are the same rank and knew each other at the academy (per "The Deadly Imposter"), then wouldn't that make it equally amazing that Starsky moved up in the ranks so quickly (perhaps under the tutelage of John Blaine)?

Hutch and Luke probably haven't stayed in contact much through the years because, at the Pits, Luke is introduced to Huggy.  What follows is surely one of the most profound conversations that have ever taken place at the Pits.  Hutch innocently asks how Luke's wife, Doris, is doing, and Luke says emphatically, "Take my advice, guys: don't ever get married."  Whoa.

Hutch can't handle that, and asks, "What are you talking about?  You've always been the happiest of couples."   Luke waves a hand.  "A cop's life, you know.  I didn't even give her a kid."  Hutch still can't handle that, and cheerfully says to Starsky, "Listen to him talk.  He's got a wife with enough love for him, for ten kids."   Luke admits, "Don't get me wrong.  I love her like my right hand, Ken" -- uh, okay -- "but... that's my shootin' finger."  He goes on to say, "You guys know what I'm talking about, right?  A cop's on the street more than he's in the bedroom."   Hutch still doesn't want to hear it, and counters, "She still beautiful, huh?"  And Luke takes out his wallet and shows him a picture.  Starsky finally speaks up and quips, "Who's that, your sister?"

The whole scene is fascinating and operating on multiple levels.  Poor Luke is trying to commiserate with fellow cops, albeit ones quite a bit younger than himself.  But they won't play into his "marriage sucks" pity party.  Despite his blatant love for Luke, Hutch has such a fantasy in his head that Luke and Doris have the perfect marriage, that he absolutely refuses to let any of Luke's negativity -- ie, cry for help, in a sense -- penetrate his brain.  Starsky is pretty much silent through the whole thing.  His expression appears a bit puzzled that Hutch is so completely dismissive of Luke's complaints.  Yet, he himself won't chime in and give Luke any support.  Perhaps because he's the one of the three that's never been married, and he doesn't feel he has a right to comment on marriage.  Perhaps because he doesn't want to disrupt Hutch's Polly Anna fantasy that Luke and Doris are the perfect couple.

In any event, I really sympathize with Luke in this scene.  I've certainly had situations in my life where I've tried to talk with friends about things that are on my mind, and they blow me off, in the sense that they've decided my life is perfect, or otherwise enviable, and apparently had decided I'm not allowed to have moments when things are less than perfect.  In fact, I used this same feeling in one of the stories from "The General" established relationship universe, when Hutch was reflecting back on a situation with Jack Mitchell in high school, and Jack wouldn't address Hutch's trauma from having broken up with his first love, because he'd decided Hutch was supposed to be the "help everyone else with their problems" guy, who wasn't supposed to ever have any problems of his own.

But on with the episode.

We get a long scenario of Doris Huntley playing cards at Reuben's establishment, and it's obvious that she's a gambling addict, and over her head with borrowing money from Rueben, so she can keep playing.  She owes him $12,000, which he wants paid back at a thousand per week.  She is a sympathetic figure, however, because her marriage to a cop, and lack of children, has left her terribly lonely.  In fact, once she gets home, she's so lonely that she turns on both the radio and the TV for company.

After drinking at Huggy's, Luke and Starsky and Hutch arrive at Luke's house, the latter two still with their arms around each other.  In fact, Hutch drove Luke's car with Luke as passenger, apparently because Luke had too much to drink.   Starsky quips of the house, "Compared to Hutch's dump, this looks like the Taj Mahal."

Doris obviously hasn't seen Hutch in a while -- and is meeting Starsky for the first time -- and she calls him Hutch, while Luke always calls him Ken.  She feigns illness, since she's not up to having unexpected guests for dinner.  Outside the house, Hutch mentions the sudden illness, and Starsky says, "You're the family friend.  How would you diagnose it?"  At least Hutch is thoroughly honest when he replies, "I don't think I want to."

The next morning, Doris comes clean to Luke that she's spent their entire life savings of $50,000 on gambling, and now owes $12,000 more to Reuben.  He has a brief explosion of temper, but he really does love her, and takes virtually all of the blame for having never been around.  She says she, "Just wanted to be with people.  I felt so useless."  I can think of lots of other healthy ways to be with people -- such as volunteer work -- but, of course, in looking back from a more enlightened perspective -- a gambling addiction isn't something that someone just up and gets over because they want to.

Huntley goes to Rueben, and arranges for the snitch he's guarding to be killed my Rueben's henchman, Jimmy, in exchange for Rueben returning the $50,000 Doris gambled away, and forgiving the $12,000 debt.

Starsky and Hutch are then driving along, and it's such a shame that it's only a voice-over conversation when Hutch says, "I don't believe it.  Finally, a warrant for Rueben."  Starsky replies, "I know you're excited, but do you have to drool on my seat?"  Hutch comes back with, "Hey, what's a little drool among friends?"  LOL!  That's really one of the greatest lines between them, ever.  And it's buried in this episode that nobody ever talks about.

It's obvious that Luke is wrestling with his conscience, and is trying to figure out what he can do to make a win-win situation, for himself, and especially Doris, from the circumstances.

After the snitch is murdered, Starsky at least tries to calm a riled Hutch down when Luke is nowhere to be found.  That's more than he did for Hutch in the last episode.

Hutch goes to see Doris, who is frantically packing, saying that Luke had called and said she needs to stay at her sister's for a while.  Hutch tells her that Luke is in big trouble, and that, "I've known the man a long time.  I love him.  You have to trust me."

Jimmy goes to Huntley to deliver a mere $10,000 with the intent to kill him.  But Huntley ends up turning the tables and killing Jimmy.  (Except, they don't have his face covered up when the ambulance removes him.  Maybe he's still alive?)

The desk clerk identifies the man who rented the room as Luke Huntley, because Hutch shows her Huntley's picture.  It seems really strange that Starsky wants to know where Hutch got the picture from.  I can feel Hutch's exasperation when he replies, "His wife, Doris."  (Is it really that weird that Hutch would be carrying around a photo of a man who is something of a father figure to him?)  At least, Starsky doesn't badger him further, especially since it's obvious that Hutch is now starting to realize that Huntley is falling off the pedestal that Hutch has had him on for so many years.

I just love the scene of Hutch sitting in the window sill in Dobey's office.  I wanted to use that so much in Private Agendas, but couldn't work it in.  Dobey and Hutch are the only two people in the room, and it would be too weird to have Hutch referring to himself sitting in a window sill.  And I didn't have any reason to include Dobey's thoughts.  But it is an interesting conversation.  Hutch is trying to defend Luke with, "It's his wife." and "What would you do?" in terms of having lost his entire life savings, after being on the job twenty-five years.  Hutch seems desperate to hold onto the belief that a domestic family life is to be worshiped  and anything that penetrates that has to be dealt with, and therefore such actions need to be viewed with compassion.  Dobey, at least, seems on board that it's a grey area.  He doesn't try to lecture Hutch about right and wrong.  It almost feels like a father-son chat between the two.

When Hutch is in the squadroom, Luke calls him.  Luke strongly emphasizes that he's talking to Hutch as "family", as though he knows that's what's going to get to Hutch.  I just love that Hutch gives his word that he'll come to meet Luke alone, but Starsky walks in right then, and Hutch doesn't even try to keep Starsky out of it.  To him, "alone" means with Starsky.

On the way to the meet, Hutch tells Starsky, "I promised Doris I'd give her the money."  Surely, he means that he promised Luke he'd give Doris the money.  This is a major ethical breach on Hutch's part, from a law-abiding standpoint, though understandable from a common-sense standpoint.  It's frustrating that we don't know if Starsky is agreeable or disagrees.  He merely says, "I think the only thing Rueben is planning on leaving there is Luke's body."  I think he's hoping there's no money for there to be an ethical disagreement about.

Huntley isn't happy to see them, because they came too early.  He just wanted Hutch there to get the $50,000 and take it to Doris.  He sourly references it going to "the police fund", and since neither Starsky nor Hutch respond to that, we still don't know what their intentions are with the money.  Though one could say that their silence indicates they'll do the proper thing with the money, even though Hutch had made the point to Starsky in the car that he'd promised it would go to Doris.

When he's counting the money that Rueben shows up with, Luke blames Rueben for his misfortune because, "You pray on lonely people."  You know, none of this is Rueben's fault.  No matter how much compassion one has for Doris's gambling habit, she's the one who lost her and Luke's life savings.

Interesting that Starsky and Hutch take care of the three henchmen via a fistfight, rather than gun play.

Even though Huntley safely threw the briefcase with the money aside as the fight broke out, he's so hell-bent on getting Rueben, that he's able to stop him from escaping, and beats the crap out of him.  Hutch has to pull him off, and then holds Huntley while he sobs brokenly in Hutch's arms.

All we find out from the tag, where Starsky and Hutch are playing pool against Huggy and Dobey, is that Huntley is going to have to serve a few years in prison.  (Which Hutch, mysteriously, doesn't seem at all sad about.)

What happened to the $50,000?  Did Hutch hold to his promise to Luke, which is the stance I took in Private Agendas, and give it to Doris; or, did Starsky and Hutch turn in the money, which is at least as equally plausible?

If Luke is in prison, then Doris is going to be even more lonely than she was before.  So, whether she got the money or not, she's going to keep on gambling.

This episode is unsatisfying in some key ways, but I still love it.  It's a shame that it's been lumped into "fourth season", so most fans are content to ignore it.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 17th, 2013 07:43 pm (UTC)
I like this episode, but I like a lot of the fourth season, because the episodes that are good are really good as good goes in the TV world.
unflattering characteristics- Hutch's characteristics just don't bother me like they do others, I guess I ran around with to many guys and he seem just like a guy to me.
I loved this review. I must go look for the scene by the window and cap it.
Your last review got me capping Ballad.
Feb. 17th, 2013 08:39 pm (UTC)
I agree with Nancy. I don't have the problem with the fourth season like so many others seem to. Like every show, there was good and there was bad episodes. This one is in my 'don't mind watching' class. To me, the guys matured in S4, the rose tinted glasses came off and seemed realistic enough to me.
Feb. 17th, 2013 11:51 pm (UTC)
This episode is ok...but for some reason I never much cared for the Huntleys...Luke never seemed to me like he was Hutch's role model and I never really felt sorry enough for Doris to understand her gambling.
Jul. 11th, 2014 08:12 pm (UTC)
I thought the "what's a little drool between friends?" conversation was a voiceover because it's so much funnier that way -- if we could see them, we'd obviously see Hutch wasn't literally drooling. But in a voiceover, we can conjure up the hilarious mental image of him actually slobbering over the warrant even though we know Starsky's comment is metaphorical.

I too wish that Luke Huntley came up in fic more often. I always saw Starsky as probably someone who decided he wanted to be a cop pretty quickly and easily, but Hutch would be more likely that he would be a little conflicted at first. I don't think Vanessa would have married him if he'd been thinking about being a cop from the beginning. So it would be nice to see more fics about how Huntley influenced him in making that career decision.

There are a number of characters who really ought to appear more in fic but don't. At the top of the list for me is probably Laura Anderson -- your best friend died when you were eleven? That ought to be a pretty big damn deal when it comes to backstory, and how that experience might have possibly influenced Starsky's relationship with Hutch.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )