Summary: When Hutch gets involved with the ex of a criminal kingpin, he finds himself kidnapped and drugged in an attempt to give away her location. Starsky must track down his friend, the girl, and the kidnappers if he wants to keep everyone safe.
To be a woman in Starsky & Hutch is, usually, to be broken up with, to come to a tragic end, or to be a one-episode girlfriend whose purpose is largely to take the edge off the homoeroticism. There are exceptions, but on the whole, Bay City is kind of a terrible place to be a lady. Now, this is hardly a Starsky & Hutch specific problem— even modern police procedurals tend to give women kind of a bum rush, and watching any retro TV show is going to have an element of masochism if you go in expecting perfect enlightenment.
I bring this up largely because The Fix is an unbelievably excellent episode with unprecedented thematic and dramatic depth— but it does a terrible job of aligning its plot and its emotional core. The episode is theoretically about Hutch trying to protect his girlfriend, but in practice she and Hutch seem like strangers, and every meaningful story beat in the episode is between Hutch and Starsky. This will not be the last time this happens, either— the show’s willingness to commit to Starsky and Hutch as its beating heart without eschewing the vague trappings of heterosexuality means there’s a lot of very lovely women who become third wheels before each episode is out.
So who is our third wheel/human MacGuffin in this episode? One very blonde, very pretty Jeanie Walton, played by actress Leigh Christian. Christian appears to have more or less quit acting in the late 80’s (after briefly replacing Lee Bryant as William Shatner’s ex-wife in another not-really-set-in-LA cop show, T.J. Hooker). She’s… adequate.
For both acting and script reasons, I don’t really buy the relationship between her and Hutch. Supposedly they’ve been dating for a while, and things are starting to get serious, but in practice, our first moments with her are immediately off-putting: she calls from what looks like a mysterious cabin on the sea, endlessly berates Hutch for “leaving her alone,” and nervously asks if he’s revealed her location to anyone— ANYONE, INCLUDING STARSKY— which… seems like it should be a relationship red flag, man! Like, you’re a cop, Hutch! Why aren’t you finding this suspicious!?
So, Hutch, who is clearly much dumber than I thought, goes back home to shower before going to Jeanie’s murder cabin, and is immedately attacked by a bunch of strange men who were hiding in his bedroom. He is carried away, and we cut back to Jeanie, who flips out after getting a strange call from an unknown number.
In the den of horrible knick-knacks (seriously, is this someone’s house? A hotel room? I cannot get over the trifecta of the bright red glowing bull, mournful dog, and rainbow snail), we discover that Hutch has been taken in by the hired goons of one Ben Forest, drug kingpin. Forest is looking for Jeanie, and he has his underlings beat Hutch’s face in in pursuit of that goal. When that doesn’t work, he suggests an alternate plan: they get him addicted to heroin, and then ask him for Jeanie’s location when he’s strung out and in need of another fix.
Possibly the next morning (or perhaps later that week— it’s not made totally clear, perhaps to be able to handwave the whole “how long does it take to become addicted to heroin” question), Starsky, who is in a stellar mood for absolutely no reason, and has been since the beginning of the episode, is asked to locate Hutch. He explains to Dobey that Hutch is probably having a lot of wild beach sex, and not to worry about it. Meanwhile, HUTCH IS DOSED WITH MORE SMACK.
That evening (afternoon? Starsky, are you drinking on the job? What is the timeline of this episode!?) Starsky goes to Huggy’s to show him his luxurious chest hair. Huggy mentions having seen Hutch and Jeanie nervously sneak out the back door a few weeks back, and Starsky begins to suspect something isn’t quite right. He decides to see if he can find his partner.
Can I gush for a moment? I love Hutch’s house so much. I want to live in Hutch’s house. I want to wear bellbottoms and play groovy songs and make weird vegetarian food in Hutch’s house. That Hutch moves out of this spectacularly wonderful hippy shack and into an apartment later in the show is a TRAGEDY, and his taste is BAD for doing so.
Starsky discovers that Hutch left his gun and holster in the closet, and rushes back to Dobey to tell him to put out an APB. Dobey is initially skeptical, but trusts Starsky’s instincts and sends out the bulletin. Meanwhile, HUTCH CONTINUES TO BE GIVEN THE NEEDLE.
This is as good of a point as any to mention that David Soul apparently went full method for this episode, not sleeping or showering, and doing things like purposefully irritating his eyes before filming. I’m usually a little skeptical of method acting, but it’s hard to deny the fact that he looks truly terrible here. The episode doesn’t do a lot to soften the brutality of the effects of heroin, and Hutch’s state here— wide-eyed, animalistic, borderline incoherent— is depressing as hell. I think it’s important to note that, if you don’t count the pilot (which was filmed months before), this is only the fifth episode of the show— the audience in 1975 would have barely known these characters, and to have Hutch completely laid out like this was an incredibly bold choice. Showing that anyone, even a “good guy” like Hutch, could become addicted to drugs and do terrible things under their influence, was even bolder.
And he does do something terrible: he gives Jeanie up. Forest kicks him around and Hutch cowers and whimpers and begs for another fix, because that’s what happens when you’re addicted to heroin, even if you’re of unimpeachable moral fibre when you’re sober.
Meanwhile, Starsky questions a trembling alcoholic informant named Mickey. He’s all over the place, which is out of character. Despite his frequent silliness; Starsky is usually a master interrogator. He threatens Mickey, offers him a beer and then takes it away, threatens him some more, bribes him a little, goes back to threatening— and all the while Mickey insists (I think quite truthfully) that he doesn’t know where Hutch is. Starsky gets incredibly intense here, pushing into Mickey’s personal space and menacing him with very specific threats of violence. This will become a recurring theme in the show: when Hutch is in danger, Starsky becomes the most dangerous man in Bay City, and vice versa.
We cut to poor Jeanie, who is sleeping like all normal people sleep, on the couch, with her watch on, and one arm crossed over her body to rest on her shoulder.
(I feel terrible for this character, because what happens to her is downright horrifying, but the actress seems to have been hired less for her chops than for her very lovely blonde hair. I just wish there was anything to cling onto here that let me believe she and Hutch were serious, but… there isn’t.) Forest’s men break into her beach cabin, Hutch’s information in hand, and kidnap her. She’s brought back to Forest, who tortures her emotionally. He makes her look at Hutch, and explains his complicity, and tells her they’ll let him live if she agrees to be Forest’s girlfriend again. She agrees, and Forest’s underlings take Hutch out to dump his body in the sea. Luckily, they don’t bother to tie him up, and they argue about the best way to dispose of his body in front of him, so he bides his time and manages an escape.
Two uniformed officers spot him and call in the APB, and Starsky swoops in to rescue his partner, who is cowering in an alleyway.
Looking at his eyes, Starsky immediately realizes what’s wrong, and checks his arms for track marks. The other cop assumes that Hutch has been missing because he’s been off somewhere shooting up, and Starsky reassures him that whatever is going on, he’ll take care of it. Hutch clings desperately to his partner, and the other cop mentions offhandedly that he’s still going to have to report this as a drug infraction. Starsky shoots him the same kind of cross-me-and-I’ll-kill-you look he gave Mickey, and tells him that no one will be making any kind of report.
Now, on the one hand, Starsky probably realizes from the get go that Hutch hasn’t done this to himself purposefully. But I would wager that even if he had, Starsky wouldn’t care; right now his goal is just to get his friend somewhere safe to get clean. Furthermore, he probably also realizes that even if Hutch was forcefully made to take the drugs, a heroin charge would almost certainly end his career.
So he brings him back to Huggy’s restaurant apartment, and intends to hide with him there as long as he needs to detox.
Let me remind you, again, that this is Episode 5, not counting the pilot. The show had been airing for less than a month, and the actors had first started working together (briefly) about six months prior, with a large break between the filming of the pilot and the first official series episode. The script for this episode wasn’t even originally written for Soul and Glaser, as it was written before they were cast. And yet: I buy, completely, unequivocally, that these two have been best friends for years. Their chemistry is palpable, and the physicality of their acting here is upsettingly real and choppy and rough.
(On a lighter note, I couldn’t help but think Hays Code in that shot; gotta keep that foot on the floor, Starsk)
Huggy brings them coffee and suggests, rightly, that they should probably let Dobey know what’s going on. Starsky gets Hutch to drink a little coffee, shaking uncontrollably, and then Hutch throws the cup on the ground. Huggy may not be clinging to Hutch, but he is also horrified by these events; it’s really established here that he is their friend, not just informant, and that he’s willing to compromise his own safety for theirs.
Hutch begs Starsky for “help” (presumably, drugs), and Starsky gathers him up in his arms and assures him that he’s going to survive. Hutch smiles a little and closes his eyes, and we see what Hutch does not— that Starsky might not believe his own words. Up until this point in the series, Starsky has seemed like the less emotionally complex of the two; he tends to either be upbeat and cheerful or some flavor of angry. Here we get a revelation that, far from being the comic relief or the buffoon, Starsky has every bit of depth that Hutch has— he’s just less moody. (I’ve mentioned I read Starsky as ADHD, and boy if “mistaken for dumb because you’re usually ‘up’ when you’re in front of people” isn’t an ADHD mood!)
We cut back to Forest’s lavish mansion, where we have a slow, heart-wrenching zoom out on Jeanie.
Her situation truly is horrifying— we aren’t certain of exactly what her history with Forest is, but the implication is that she was probably a sex worker (likely not by choice), and was forced to be his “girlfriend” under similar duress. She agrees to give up her freedom to save Hutch, but even that doesn’t feel like a choice; her dead-eyed staring here is a reminder that she, at best, is able to acquiesce, and even then, she essentially has to dissociate in order to cope. She values Hutch’s life over her own not, I think, because she holds him in exceptionally high esteem or because she truly loves him, but because she values her own life so little.
Forest and Monk, behaving as if there is not a dead-eyed girl in the pool in front of them, discuss the necessity of finding and killing Hutch, and begin concocting a plan.
In Huggy’s apartment, presumably the next day, Hutch is doing well enough that he is standing and coherent. However, he is emotionally in complete turmoil; he can’t remember anything about his kidnappers, he knows he gave up Jeanie’s location but can’t recall doing so, and he is desperate to get out of the apartment and do something. Starsky stands guard, unflinching as Hutch throws things around the room and attempts to punch out the doorframe (in the real world, purportedly David Soul punched the wall so hard the fake door actually fell off. Paul Michael Glaser, who stands entirely still for this, clearly has titanium balls.)
Ignoring the off-the-charts level of tenderness here, the other thing we get in this scene is a reversal of what, up until this episode, have been Starsky and Hutch’s stereotypical roles. Starsky has heretofore been characterized as the “loud” one— he’s brash, he’s argumentative, and he looks before he leaps. Hutch, on the other hand, is consistently the voice of reason, even when being “reasonable” isn’t necessarily the correct choice. But as Hutch unravels, Starsky gets quiet. He’s gentle and soft voiced, but with an underlying steel that Hutch is unable to bend even as he trashes the apartment. When Hutch can’t pick out any details about his attackers, Starsky’s tone shifts, subtly at first, building to a crescendo in which he uses his usual interrogation tactics to get a desperate Hutch to spit out “Monk.” It’s a masterfully done scene, both in terms of acting, and in terms of telling us that there’s a lot more to Starsky than meets the eye.
(But to return to the tenderness— being a Starsky & Hutch fan means never having to hyper-analyze cautious arm touches and moments of charged eye contact, because they just fuckin’ touch each other all over, instead.)
Meanwhile, Monk starts cooking up a plan to deal with Hutch and get back on Forest’s good side. He meets with another criminal underling in the two-dollar-buffet version of the Crystal Palace, and they discuss their plans. It’s a bit of a weird moment, because Monk seems to know a lot about both Hutch and Starsky— he mentions to the other criminal that he knows Starsky would “never let anyone know his partner was strung out,” and therefore would have to hide him somewhere. The continued implication that every criminal in Bay City knows Way Too Much about them is both hilarious and very troubling; in later episodes they’ll do some undercover work, and it always feels a little like the criminals are just playing along. (But at least it’s not quite as bad as the previous decade’s best and most delightful buddy-spy show, The Man From UNCLE, where every time the main characters go undercover, they use their real names.)
Monk comes up with a plan to flush Hutch out by using one of Starsky’s informants, and then we are returned to Huggy’s apartment, where Starsky is finally calling Dobey.
As always, Starsky/Chairs is Paul Michael Glaser’s NOTP. What’s going on with his shoes, however, is completely inexplicable. (Also, the exchange here between Huggy and Starsky is adorable.)
Starsky gets off the phone with Dobey and leaves, following up a lead related to the discovery of “Monk” and a partial license plate. Immediately, Dobey calls back and tells Huggy (who has answered the phone) that when he sees Starsky, to also let him know that Mickey, the alcoholic informant from earlier, wants to speak with him. (I really wish there were more Dobey/Huggy interactions; that the police chief is on a casual first name basis with one of his detectives’ friends/informants is just too fucking cute. “Ah, yes, Huggy, that nice restauranteur you boys hang out with. I like that one.”)
Hutch asks about what Huggy was just told, and upon learning about Mickey, asks Huggy to give him a cab and some money and a gun. Huggy rightly refuses initially, because WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, HUTCH, but Hutch presses until he gives in, at least for calling a cab. He goes to meet with Mickey in Starsky’s place, while Starsky attempts to track down Monk. Starsky watches Monk leave a suburban home in a hurry, and attempts to follow him, but is interrupted by a random passing backhoe. This seems rather convenient for Monk, and I really expected a reveal that the backhoe was owned by one of Forest’s men, or something, but… nope. Just an inconvenient construction vehicle preventing police work.
Meanwhile, seated across from the incredibly surprised Monk, Hutch begins the exciting process of blacking out in the middle of a restaurant interrogation. One of Forrest’s men grabs him and drags him outside, and Hutch headbutts him before he can be shot. Starsky happens to show up just in the nick of time, and a rather oddly choreographed shootout in an alley begins. Hutch scrambles up a wall like a frightened squirrel, Starsky hangs out of the Torino upside down to shoot from beneath the car door, and eventually he clambors over the hoods of multiple vehicles to check if Forest’s man is dead and Hutch is alright.
Starsky stares at poor, beleaguered, exhausted Hutch, stuck up on top of a fence, with absolute stars in his eyes, and has what I can only assume is a bisexual awakening thinking about just how much he loves his bestie.
Eventually Starsky gets Hutch down from the wall, and they share a hug and some lingering eye contact.
At some point, one of the writers must have remembered Jeanie, however, because we next see Starsky pulling up in front of Forest’s mansion, just as Forest and Jeanie are about to leave town. Hutch scrambles out of the car and books him, although Forest assures them his lawyers will get him off. (It’s hard not to feel like he’s right— in Snowstorm, we had Stryker, who evaded capture for decades, and in the pilot, there’s Tallman, who is in the successful process of protesting his criminal charges— Starsky & Hutch usually provides the audience with a happy ending, but it’s frequently a qualified happiness. There is a lingering sense throughout the series that people don’t always get what they deserve, adding a texture of melancholy and regret that does, to some extent, get an eventual reckoning before the series ends.)
With Forest cuffed, Jeanie and Hutch share a tearful goodbye; she tells him that, with everything that’s happened, she needs to go away for a while— and he agrees. This feels like a test, in some ways: she’s hoping he’ll tell her to stay, but he doesn’t. When she says she might come back some day, Hutch suggests that if they’re going to break it off, they break it off completely. Jeanie cries, expressing the realization that if she runs away, Hutch isn’t going to follow. My sympathy for Hutch here changes drastically depending on how you read the scene— if he’s agreeing to let her go because that’s what she is stating she wants to do, and he’s respecting that even if it’s hard for him, this breakup is merely the rancid cherry on top of a shit sundae, because he has had just about the worst week of his life. If he knows she’s playing a game here and just doesn’t care, or worse, sees her as “trouble,” then my sympathy for him wanes a bit, because if Forest has a short sentence, Jeanie is looking forward to a lot of future hardship.
But Hutch is often a little difficult to read, and that’s a big part of his texture as a character; he’s private and inward-focused, so even in the midst of being broken up with, he emotes very subtly. He seems, to me, sad, but not surprised.
It’s a tough, realistic ending to the episode, unhampered by a feelings-smoothing epilogue. Starsky injects a tiny bit of levity, offering Hutch the chance to drive the Torino before the credits roll, but for the most part, The Fix takes a leap of faith and lands it. I mentioned previously that there are Starsky & Hutch episodes that paddle out past their depth— The Fix takes that plunge with aplomb, relies on its greatest assets for strength, and surfaces with the series all the better for it.
Overall Entertainment Value: A tense and compelling episode, with snappy pacing and great performances throughout. As close to perfect as you’re going to get this early in the series. 5/5 Striped Tomatoes.
Very Special Episode Factor: Did you know that heroin is bad? +2 VSEF Points. Oh, but wait. Did you know a heroin addiction can be cured in like 24 hours with coffee? Uh. Never mind. -1 VSEF Points. 1/5 Sweaty Detox Shirts.
Okay, But How Gay Was It: Pretty damn gay. Theoretically, this episode is about Hutch trying to protect his girlfriend, but in practice, it’s about Starsky tenderly holding him and looking at him like his heart’s going to break. There’s a reason poor Jeanie leaves. 4/5 Manly Embraces.