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Murder Ward

Despite its grim title, "Murder Ward" has got to be one of the sweetest episodes there ever was.

With most of the SH episodes available on youtube, where it's so convenient to just move the bar along to the scenes one wants, it's not often that I watch an episode of SH from beginning to end when it airs on my local station.  But this is one I love watching.

With it being early in the third season, it almost seems to be a release valve after all the behind-the-scenes tension of the second season, and wondering if there was going to be a Starsky in season three, or if PMG was going to be let out of his contract.

He wasn't released from his obligations, and whatever disappointment that might have been for him, he certainly seemed to make the best of the decision.

Anyway, the episode starts with rompish craziness, where PMG as Starsky as Rudy Skylar,  almost seems to declare "I'm back!"  And then that terrific bonus that could only happen on a SH episode -- Starsky runs smack into Hutch, undercover as an orderly, and the two go down in a delightful tangle of arms and legs.  I mean, their body parts are quite inter
twined.  (I mean, the idea of the actors having to put themselves in such a position before the camera rolled....)

Then Hutch goes into immediate protective mode, wondering what kind of injection was delivered to Skylar's rear end. 

This really is a beautiful, beautiful episode of Hutch's protectiveness toward Starsky.  He gets to put him to bed each night and make sure he's tucked in.  There's that fantastic visual of their silhouettes in the darkness, when Starsky needs Hutch's reassurance that he'll stay near.  There's the look on Hutch's face when he's tying Starsky's feet to the bed, after he's suspected of murdering Switek. 

And then -- a scene to die for -- later, when Hutch is taking the straight-jacketed Skylar for an outdoor ride in his wheelchair, Starsky says there's an itch on his leg, and Hutch dutifully stops and kneels down and starts scratching, asking, "Where is it?"  Of course, it's just a ruse to get Hutch to discover the papers inside of Starsky's pant leg, but the idea that Hutch is so quick to respond to Starsky's complaint is so sweet.

And then, near the end, Starsky gets to be the protective one, when he has to save a drugged Hutch from being knifed, and then try to haul his lanky, unresponsive body around.  And then, of course, to cap it all off, they get the bad guy, and Starsky draws the still-drugged Hutch to him when they're both on the floor, and gives him those wonderful affectionate pats, while hugging him closer.

All this gentle warmth and tenderness amidst a great deal of humor.

The inmate that played at being detective was a bit over-bearing, but the Suzanne Somers character was quite likable, and had some decent lines.  The evil doctor was great for an episode that seemed a cross between "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and a stereotypical mad scientist story. 

Perhaps one reason this episode seems like such a treat is that there was very little violence, and it didn't depend on action, but instead on a lot of lingering gazes and facial expressions.

The series could have used more of that, in lieu of all the running and gunning.

In fact, is it possible that this was the only episode where the Torino doesn't make an appearance?