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Death in a Different Place

This is a rare episode where my opinion hasn't changed much in 35 years.

When this first aired, I was pretty excited that there was going to be a "gay" episode.  But my excitement waned within the first few minutes.

This episode seems designed to make the viewer feel extremely uncomfortable, and it pulls that off quite effectively.  Everything is so hot and sticky and sweaty.  The motel John Blaine is murdered in is sleezy.  Back in the 70s, Sugar pulling off his wig is enough to make the average person go "Ick!".  Even the exaggerated close-ups of Nick Hunter running away from Starsky and Hutch seems to add to the sleeze factor.

The point made seemed to be pretty strong:  gay life is a sleezy life.  And even when respectable people get involved in it, it's still sleezy.

Nobody is happy in this episode, except perhaps the bartender at the Green Parrot. 

I've actually never felt this episode was a logical jumping off point for Starsky and Hutch to start a relationship.  Starsky is too conflicted.  I love his little speech to Peter Whitelaw.  In modern times, it seems like everyone wants to polarize things -- you're either for gay rights, or you're not.  I think Starsky's middle-ground approach is more realistic -- he's okay that somebody is gay,  but " you don't have to wear it on your sleeve".  As in, "don't rub my nose in something that makes me uncomfortable.  I won't bother you, if you don't bother me."  In this day and age, that kind of attitude toward any controversial subject doesn't fly.  People are expected to declare themselves blatantly for something or blatantly against something.

And through all of Starsky's trying-to-make-sense-of-it, Hutch is so quietly supportive.  After viewing this episode again today, I can see how one can take the stance that Hutch's quiet comments are hints about his own feelings.  Or not.  Maybe he's just as conflicted, but is more quietly contemplative about it.  After all, it wasn't his boyhood mentor that turned out to be gay.

Yet, in the tag, Hutch does say, "It's no big thing."  Which prompts Starsky to say, "You're not that sophisticated."  Interesting that Starsky considers acceptance of homosexuality to be a "sophisticated" attitude.  Also interesting that Starsky is in the back seat -- which otherwise never happens -- as though it would be too blatant for them to have this conversation while sitting side by side.  Yet still, Starsky does move toward Hutch for the "kisser" line.