Starsky & Hutch Episode Reviewcap — Season 1, Episode 12: Captain Dobey, You’re Dead!

Summary: Captain Dobey’s life is threatened when he goes on a talk show to try and reopen a civil-rights-related cold case; Starsky and Hutch must work to find and stop the criminals endangering him and his family.

Because the budget for Starsky & Hutch was approximately $3 an episode, and $2 of that went to keeping the Torino running, this episode opens with a slow zoom on a building that seems like it could reasonably be a prison. However, I have to assume it is not actually a prison, and in fact some kind of abandoned office building on an old studio lot somewhere, because while there is a cartoonishly fake FEDERAL PENITENTIARY sign on the door, there’s very little in the way of security. My first thought was that this was the yard of the prison, but I cannot think of a single reason a prison would need to label one of its interior doors basically, “YUP, YOU’RE STILL IN JAIL.”

Two men— a hairy guy in a sweater and a fidgety man in a suit— wait outside the prison in a parked vehicle. They both seem concerned, but only mildly so. Eventually, a third man pops up through the sewer, clambors into the car, and they all drive away, having apparently orchestrated a successful prison break.

Meanwhile, back at the Bay City Police Station, Starsky sits with his feet up on the desk, sporting a very modern-looking red hoodie (over nothing?). With a look of mild trepidation and equal mischief, he watches Hutch, significantly less casual in a green turtleneck, typing up a report. When he speaks, playing with his gun and holster like it’s a toy, it’s to pin an emotion on Hutch: he thinks he’s mad at him for something that “happened last night.”

Now… you may recall that the last episode ended with our rather handsy detectives having a candlelit dinner, so you’ll excuse me if this fairly standard screwball-romantic-comedy line sets off my shiptease alarms.  Hutch is immediately dismissive of Starsky’s insinuation, refusing to make eye contact or comment on the matter further. He makes a face that I know I make when I’m lying— the “I’m going to flatten my mouth and look down and try to appear very neutral” face that is a telltale sign of unspoken words and feelings. 

Starsky’s no fool, and his tone changes quickly from teasing to nervous. He asks again, this time more seriously, if Hutch is sure he’s not upset about last night.

Hutch just shrugs, looks at Starsky once more, and then reaches behind himself and pulls out a book. He hands it to Starsky, explaining that it’s a book on “self-improvement for becoming right handed.” Starsky appears a little bit hurt, but mostly quite baffled, and Hutch continues his strange anti-lefty diatribe: he walks past Starsky, muttering, “If your best friend can’t tell you, who can?” and then, coming back to the desk, adds, “Sooner or later you have to see that this whole world was made for right handed people.”

Maybe my queer-reading goggles have cut off circulation to my brain, but… this whole exchange sounds like some kind of bizarre displacement-cum-metaphor to me wherein Hutch is attempting to avoid a conversation about “last night” while simultaneously reproaching Starsky for either the event itself or bringing it up at all. Maybe they fooled around, and to Starsky it didn’t seem like that big of a deal until he noticed Hutch was acting weird. Hutch often feels and behaves distinctly like someone who is in the closet, unhappy about it, and also unwilling to address the source(s) of this unhappiness. Within this framework, it’s hard not to see left-handedness as a metaphor for being queer, particularly if one is reading Starsky as sort of obliviously bi— the kind of late-bloomer bisexual for whom compulsory heterosexuality prevents them from seeing or reckoning with their same-sex desire at all, even when it’s actively occurring. (There is absolutely no way I’m projecting here, not one bit.) Hutch doesn’t want to talk about it at all, because it shouldn’t have happened, and he particularly doesn’t want to talk about it at his extremely straight-and-masculine-coded work. And so, the crack about the “world being made for right-handed people” is a dogwhistle— a call for Starsky to quite literally “straighten up” and behave in a societally expected fashion. 

“Hannah,” you say, shaking your head, “this is a bridge too far. Left-handedness is not a secret code for being LGBTQ+, and you need to stop licking toads.” 

NO ONE CAN STOP ME FROM DOING QUEER READINGS OF OLD TV AND/OR TASTING AMPHIBIANS. (But seriously, the rest of the episode supports this reading, too. Take my hand, and let me lead you to the truth.)

After this exchange, we cut to the police station darkroom (I bet that’s not a thing most police stations have anymore!), where Captain Dobey is discussing the death of Isaac Douglas with a lab tech. Douglas, a civil rights leader and Dobey’s old friend, was killed some time ago, and the case was never solved. Dobey, hoping to keep the case open, plans to appear on an investigative TV talk show later with new evidence. 

Presumably depressed by the fact that every “old friend of Dobey’s” that has ever been introduced is dead or in jail, good ol’ Dobes tries to surreptitiously get himself a candy bar to stave off the creeping nihilism one more day. 

Starsky and Hutch, who are assholes, catch him doing this and steal his candy bar, preventing him from experiencing even the mildest hit of dopamine. Starsky, notably, is reading the book Hutch gave him, which is sort of cute, and mostly sad. He also definitely doesn’t have a shirt on under his hoodie. (Probably because he didn’t go home last night, aye-yoooo.)

Back at home, one mister Harold Dobey frets over what tie he should wear to his speaking engagement.

Dobey’s wife is played by actress Lynn Hamilton; I’ve seen at least one source implying that she was Bernie Hamilton’s real-life wife, but a little digging indicates that’s not true, and their shared last name is merely a coincidence. Bernie Hamilton was married to Maxine King until 1968, and appears not to have remarried after their divorce, while Lynn Hamilton was married to Frank Jenkins from ‘64 until his death only a few years ago. Sometimes, two people just have the same last name.

(In another, unrelated bit of Hollywood coincidence, this episode is directed by Michael Schultz, perhaps most famously the director of the rambling and delightful 1976 workplace comedy Car Wash. I note this because Antonio Fargas quite famously plays Lindy, a high-femme gay man in Car Wash, but… Huggy actually isn’t in this episode at all, so they may well have missed each other on set here.) 

Starsky and Hutch interrupt family time to inform the captain that Leo Moon, an ex-cop who Dobey sent to prison for murder, has escaped. (Moon is the man who crawled out of the sewer at the beginning of the episode, and that’s more or less where he belongs.) Moving outside to discuss the details of the case without offending grade-schooler Rosie’s delicate ears, Dobey explains that Moon once walked Starsky and Hutch’s beat, and that it was his own testimony that sent Moon to jail. Starsky and Hutch explain that Dobey’s house is going to be put under guard, as Moon is likely going to come after Dobey. There’s an adorable moment, as they talk shop, where Starsky tries to right Rosie and Cal’s bicycles, plopped unceremoniously in the walkway, and Dobey yells at him for it. He mutters something about how Starsky was probably also the kind of kid who didn’t put his bike away, implying Cal and Rosie might end up like Starsky if someone else is permitted to do their chores for them. (Dobey, don’t worry. You can’t catch ADHD.) 

Meanwhile, our prison break chauffeurs, Sweaterman and Suitman, deliver Moon to the White Airport in a tiny red biplane. We then cut to a very large fellow in overalls, giggling hysterically as he plays pool to the tune of jangly honky-tonk. He beats the pants off everyone in the bar, taunting them as he does so. When he sees Starsky coming, he runs towards the back door, directly into Hutch. They call this fellow “Fat Man,” which is… unkind, and probably just the show’s usual casual fat-shaming. Ha ha, funny overweight criminal, let’s all laugh, because body shape is clearly tied directly to your level of degeneracy, right? (If I’m feeling rather charitable, I might possibly read this as a reference to 1961 Paul Newman pool movie The Hustler; Jackie Gleason’s ace pool player character, Minnesota Fats, is pretty consistently referred to as “Fat Man” by Fast Eddie. It’s still offensive either way, but at least if it’s a reference, then the joke is a little more complex than just ‘lol, fat.’)

They ask our jolly pool-playing criminal if he knows Lola, Leo Moon’s girlfriend, and initially he balks. He only agrees to provide them with information when they both threaten him and attempt to bribe him with donuts, because y’know what, let’s just double down on the fat jokes, shall we? Starsky, who is always hungry (there really is so much to unpack with regards to the disordered eating and shame surrounding eating in this show) steals one of their bribery donuts on the way out. Way to insult and threaten a guy, bribe him, steal from him, and be helpless in the face of donuts— it’s like a handbook on how to be a cop!

While they wait for the information they need on Lola, Starsky and Hutch go to the television studio where Dobey is recording. Watching from the wings, Hutch discusses how this reminds him of when his Cub Scout troop was on the “Maxie Malone” show. This show must’ve filmed on the Great Lakes but broadcast nationally, because Starsky is familiar with Maxie Malone— he says he watched him all the time as a kid. Hutch seems unwilling to let this be a moment between them (because frankly, how cute is it that Baby Starsky might have seen Baby Hutch on TV back in the day?) and mutters, half-smiling, that Maxie Malone was “left handed, too.” Starsky asks whatever happened to him, and Hutch responds, “He was arrested.” Starsky seems quite surprised by this, and asks what crime he committed. Hutch sighs and provides a cryptic non-answer: “My mother never let me read that part of the story.”

Now, maybe Maxie Malone ate people or something, and that’s why Mrs. Hutchinson didn’t want her son reading about his purported jailtime (assuming all of this is not an elaborate lie from Hutch to begin with.) However, this kind of “my parents didn’t want me to learn something” line is usually a birds-and-the-bees joke, and Hutch’s tone is slippery with innuendo. Left-handedness is once again coupled with deviancy (and implied sexual deviancy, specifically)— much like Dobey doesn’t want his kids to “turn out” like Starsky, Hutch is encouraging Starsky to change his behavior so he doesn’t “turn out” like Maxie Malone.

Immediately, Hutch changes the subject and points into the soundstage, bringing Starsky’s attention to Dobey before he can ask too many questions. They both smile like they’re proud parents. 

And then, of course, Hutch has to ruin the moment, and immediately makes a fat joke about their captain. I bring this up not because I want to fixate on the show’s fat-shaming (although it does need to be addressed), but because this is the second time in as many minutes Hutch has quickly shut down a moment of honest connection with a jab of comedic cruelty. He has a wall around him, and even when he lets other people in, he’s quick to make it conditional. Furthermore, Hutch, as has been established, is a health nut: he exercises constantly, eats 70’s fad foods like wheat germ, and chides Starsky about his supposedly unhealthy lifestyle. When Hutch makes fat jokes, it’s very hard not to read as a reaction to deep-seated fear about his own health and fitness. Hutch’s jokes often feel like a projection of his own insecurities, which leads me back to my insistence that “left-handedness” is code. Both within the context of the show and the context of 70’s TV standards, there’s no way Hutch could (or would be comfortable enough to) directly address the possibility that he and Starsky might share some measure of same-sex attraction, but he can caution Starsky to make his other “undesirable” traits less public, and hope he gets the underlying message.

While Hutch is navigating this minefield of self-loathing, Suitman goes to visit a businessman named C.J. Woodfield. Woodfield, we learn, is mixed up in everything that happened with Dobey’s friend Isaac Douglas, as Dobey discusses him directly on the talk show. He’s a creepy old bat who takes gleeful interest in Moon’s goings-on; he is, in fact, the benefactor who helped get Moon out of prison. He mutters to himself about “ThHE THIngs LEO wiilll DOOooo TO THAT family~~,” and we are left wondering why anyone would ever do business with him. 

Because this episode doesn’t quite know where it needs Starsky and Hutch to be at any given time, on Bay City Fats’ tip, they leave the TV studio before Dobey finishes his interview. The lead is that Lola, Leo’s aforementioned girlfriend, works at a “massage parlor” and should be there right now. They head over to the “massage parlor,” where the aging madame is schooling her matching-robed sex workers at chess.

Initially, she’s quite excited by the prospect of someone getting to have sex with Starsky and/or Hutch, so she’s a little bummed out when they inform her that, no, they’re not there for nookie— just to talk to Lola on official police business. She explains that Lola split after getting a call from Leo, from “a loud place with a sound like an airplane.” They realize that must mean Moon bypassed all the roadblocks they set up, and leave to warn Dobey. The ever-industrious madame insists that they come back for a little fun another time, and they rush out.

Meanwhile, Edith and Cal Dobey are watching Harold on the television. As they start to pack up for bed, Cal asks if he can have some ice cream. His mother points out that he just finished an entire bowl of popcorn, and he responds the way only a teenager would:

You need a little sweet to balance out the salt, right Cal? I feel you, man. Popcorn is just an amuse-bouche. 

As they tidy, Leo Moon stalks around the outside of the house, and the phone rings. It’s Harold, calling to confirm with Edith that all the doors are locked, and to let her know that he’s on his way home. Just as he hangs up, Moon trips the breaker, and the house is plunged into darkness. Edith puts on a brave face for Cal, sending him up to bed, but once he’s out of sight, she tries to call the police. Alas— Moon has also cut the phone line. He breaks the front window, and Cal reappears to check what happened. Edith sends him upstairs to lock Rosie in her room and then bring her Harold’s spare gun. As Moon is trying to reach through the window to open the lock, Edith grabs a fireplace poker and smacks him repeatedly with it until Cal gets back with the gun. He returns just in time for Moon to get the door partway open, and Edith warns him that she has a gun before firing at him.

Now, I don’t particularly approve of firearms in a general sense, but Edith has clearly been trained better in gun safety than the majority of the police officers on this show, because even under immense duress she remembers to warn her attacker before shooting at him. Furthermore, she manages to wing him without killing him, so she’s clearly better at aiming than any cop in any TV show ever, considering how many bodies get “accidentally” dropped throughout the history of police fiction. Maybe she should be the chief of police. 

Remembering that they were supposed to have an officer watching the house, she goes out to see why the hell she just had to have her teenage son lock his baby sister away and get a gun so a civilian could shoot the intruder. She runs to the police car and discovers that he’s been stabbed, and that the Dobeys have been left without any protection. Luckily, at just this moment, Starsky and Hutch show up. Edith, clearly taxed beyond anything she could have possibly been expected to deal with tonight, screams in terror as Hutch throws his arms around her and assures her all will be well. 

We cut, then, to Leo and Lola, who are in some kind of… office warehouse love nest, and where he is bandaging his gunshot wound. He also has a really weird giant pendant.

They discuss their plans to leave the country after Moon gets his money, and we cut back to Starsky, who runs a trace on Moon’s number. Back at Dobey’s house, Moon calls to leave a threatening message, and Harold insists to his wife that she leave with the kids and stay at her mother’s for a while. They two of them step off screen to talk, and Starsky and Hutch are left alone in the entryway of their home. Quickly, they notice they’re being watched: Rosie has been listening from the top of the stairs.

It’s amazing how much the two of them need to go find a small child to adopt*. They convince Rosie that they won’t let anyone hurt her dad, and send her back to bed. 

The next morning, Starsky and Hutch visit White Airport, where Hutch questions the receptionist in charge of airplane rentals. The man admits to having seen Moon, but sheepishly informs them that the airplane license they have on file for the pilot who flew Moon’s plane is fake. Rightly, Hutch berates him for not doing his due diligence, and the man argues that he “knew him,” and therefore didn’t feel the need to check. As it turns out, the pilot is C.J. “Creepy Old Racist” Woodfield’s private pilot. Very quickly, Starsky and Hutch figure out that Leo Moon is probably not out for revenge, but rather, has been hired by Woodfield to pretend he’s out for revenge. (I have… so many questions about this. Wouldn’t literally all of this have been way less complicated and suspicious if Woodfield had just hired an assassin, or something? And if he had, oh, I don’t know, hired anyone other than his private pilot to fly the plane? Why go to the trouble of breaking someone with a known grudge against Dobey out of jail, thereby alerting Dobey to a possible plot rather than just having someone randomly shoot Dobey from a rooftop or something? The man’s the chief of homicide in like, the crime-iest city on the planet. Surely more people than just Woodfield and Moon have it out for him.)

ANYWAY. Whatever. We’re not here for the plot. Starsky and Hutch go to Mandalay Airport to talk to Woodfield’s pilot, Marty Polmier. (Better known as Sweaterman.) He isn’t there, but his mechanic is; Starsky busts out the ol’ police brutality and gets the mechanic to admit that the plane is currently being fixed up for a long haul flight out of the country. (It’s actually a super well choreographed scene— the mechanic gets pinned to the plane’s guts in a way that makes your mouth go a little dry. Nonetheless, the mechanic isn’t even a criminal, so threatening him bodily is real fucking iffy to say the least.) 

Back at the Dobey household, Starsky, Hutch, and Harold have tea while the captain cosplays Mr. Rogers.

We have a continuation of Hutch’s lefty-bashing, which baffles Dobey. Hutch, apropos of nothing, asks Starsky, “Did I ever tell you about my aunt? She was left-handed.” Starsky knows the rules of this game by now, so he asks in return, “Did you lock her up in the attic?” Hutch nods. “Yeah, sometimes.” The Dobester, too puzzled to remain silent, asks what in the world they’re going on about, and Hutch simply explains, “Y’ever notice left-handed people are a little strange?” Maybe even a little queer, right Hutch? (Does Hutch actually have an oddball aunt, perhaps a quirky old “spinster” who has lived unquestioned with a lady roommate for forty years, and who he suspects but could never confirm is the same as him? Is he afraid of ending up similarly alone and outcast, the “left-handed uncle” to his sister’s children?) 

Before Dobey can comment, the phone rings. It’s C.J. Woodfield, who would like Starsky and Hutch to come for breakfast. Second breakfast, I guess. Turns out Bay City does elevenses. 

Woodfield makes them sit very far away, muttering a greasy, sacreligious-sounding grace full of references to America. As mentioned in Pariah, it’s really super cool how none of the social problems from the seventies appear to have been fixed in any way, and now being a self-aggrandizingly religious jingoist is just a de facto American political platform. 

They’re served oatmeal (because that’s a definite crowd pleaser), and Hutch quietly torments Starsky by preventing him from using the milk.

Let me point out, very specifically, that Starsky is trying to grab the pitcher righty, and Hutch snatches it away with his left hand. There’s no winning this argument for Starsky, because Hutch will rewrite the rules to suit his purpose. If Starsky is true to his nature, Hutch will berate him for it. If Starsky tries to align with societal expectations, Hutch will show him the ways he is failing to do so. On the one hand, this is just Hutch being a jerk for fun— he likes getting a rise out of Starsky, and frankly, Starsky usually plays along in a way that indicates he kind of digs it, too. On the other hand, this also gets to my main point about left-handedness as an extended metaphor: there is no personal solution to the “problem” of being a lefty, the same way there’s no personal solution to the “problem” of being a marginalized sexuality. No matter how much an LGBTQ+ person (or a lefty) plays along, they’re always going to be disenfranchised in some fashion until societal expectations change.

Woodfield talks over all of this exchange, droning on about LAWLESSNESS and ANTI-PATRIOTISM and how it’s ruining America. He doesn’t call either Starsky or Hutch a ‘pinko commie,’ but you know he’s thinking it. They ask, point-blank, if his pilot aided and abetted a fugitive, and Woodfield just laughs. Starsky gives him the stink eye, they threaten him and insult his oatmeal, and leave. 

Meanwhile, a gun-toting Leo Moon gets in a coffin, where he plans on hiding outside Dobey’s church, shooting him from the hearse, and then driving off to the airport with Polmier to escape. Polmier tells him he’ll be ready to go if he makes it back. (As with everything surrounding Woodfield’s plot, this seems wildly overcomplicated, but that’s fine. I guess ultimately it does make some real-world sense that this mediocre racist CEO would think his own ideas are so unique and brilliant that he wouldn’t take any constructive criticism on them. “Sir, it seems like a lot of hassle to break someone out of prison in order to—” “Shut up, Steve! This is why I make the big bucks and you’re just an accountant!”) 

Starsky and Hutch receive a call informing them of Marty Polmier’s business address, and they head out to the “warehouse district” to find him. Neither Leo nor Marty is there, but Lola is, and she’s escaping. Starsky provides a complicated show of “kicking out” a clearly unlocked door, and then grabs Lola by the butt. No, not in the way that you’re thinking.

He throws her down, struggling, and Hutch goads him, greasily, “Too much for you, Partner?” This is a real HUTCH, NO moment, because come on, buddy, let’s not equate arresting someone with sex, that’s super gross. The intention is obviously to insult Starsky’s masculinity (because the lefty stuff hasn’t been obvious enough, I guess— seriously, what happened last night?), but there are ways to do that that don’t also unintentionally make light of sexualized police violence. 

Nonetheless, they get the necessary information from Lola, and call the officers who are staking out Dobey’s church. Just in the nick of time, they manage to warn them about the hearse, and a shootout ensues. Dobey’s church must be more or less in the warehouse district, because just as the hearse drives away, the Torino follows behind. They manage to outpace the hearse, cutting it off before Hutch dives out of the car like an actual rubber-boned cartoon.

Please explain how that is in any way more effective than just… getting out of the car normally. 

Hutch’s gymnastics aside, they apprehend Moon, and Dobey orders them to finish the case paperwork while he finishes the church service. 

Back at Woodfield’s office, Marty Polmier is in the process of being coerced into carrying out Dobey’s assassination in place of Moon. As Marty leaves, he cackles and insists that Suitman, A.K.A. Morris, will then kill Marty after that. This is an indescribably stupid plan. Woodfield only wants Dobey dead so he doesn’t discover Woodfield’s connection to Isaac Douglas’ death. He hired Leo Moon because he thought there would be no way to connect him back to him (and then had his personal pilot fly him to Bay City anyway, immediately fouling up his own plan.) Now he wants someone on his payroll to do the murder instead, despite the fact that the police have already asked him about that man’s involvement in the plot. Then, he’s going to have ANOTHER guy on his payroll kill the first guy on his payroll in order to cover the dead guy’s connections to Woodfield. 

Yeah, I don’t even know, man. Woodfield clearly has racism-induced brain rot.

A report comes in that Polmier was last seen at the airfield in a telephone company uniform (so clearly he’s also not the sharpest knife in the drawer), and Dobey remembers that someone was supposed to be going to his house to fix the cut phone line. Dobey runs back to his home to evacuate his family, and Starsky and Hutch run to the airfield to catch Polmier before he flees. They arrive in the middle of a shootout between Polmier and Morris; Hutch catches Morris before he can kill his target, and Starsky intercepts a wounded Polmier. 

At the precinct, Dobey, Starsky, and Hutch all go to interrogate Woodfield’s cronies. On the way through the door, Starsky ushers Hutch past him with a lingering touch on his arm— notably, using his left hand. Hutch’s hand comes to rest on the inside of Starsky’s elbow, totally unnecessary except for comfort and grounding.

This is really the only touchy-feely bit in this episode, and it comes just after Dobey’s family narrowly escapes being blown up. It feels very much like an unspoken agreement that their little lefty feud doesn’t really matter, ultimately. The fact that it happens at the precinct, in full view of other officers, is in direct contrast to Hutch’s inability to discuss “last night” at their desks, and his assertion that Starsky needs to change his behavior to fit into a “world of right-handed people.” 

The rest of the plot wraps up quickly; Woodfield is informed of the police at his door, and dismisses his cronies from his office. He opens up a box with a revolver in it, and appears to be weighing the relative benefits of death and jail when Starsky and Hutch come in. Dobey arrests Woodfield and tells him he’s about to read him his rights, despite Woodfield having denied the rights of so many others through “perversion and corruption of the government.” The shot fades out as Woodfield is mirandized. 

In an adorable and somewhat inexplicable tag, it turns out to be Rosie’s birthday. She and her father and brother play Twister in offensive toy headdresses, and Edith hears the door. Knowing it must Starsky and Hutch (and not, as I would be doing in her position, assuming it’s an ESCAPED CONVICT WITH A GUN and shitting myself), she tricks Harold into complimenting them before surprising him with the identity of their guests.

Rosie is very excited to see her gay uncles, who have brought her a bear (…dog?) as big as she is and another gift, still wrapped. She points to this second gift, lefty, to the delight of Starsky. Starsky asks her if she’s left-handed, which she admits freely. He scoops her up and declares her his new partner, and gloats to Hutch: “Rosie’s left-handed, so what’re you going to say to that?” Hutch’s response to this, “Well, one out of two isn’t bad,” almost seems like it makes sense on first hearing, except that it doesn’t. One out of two what? Hands? Dobey’s children? Is he saying that out of two people, Rosie and Starsky, it’s okay that one of them is lefty and not the other…? Starsky seems to understand this coded message, however, and deflates before the credits roll. 

Since I’ve already gone full bore queer-reading on this episode, I’m going to read too much into this sequence, too. That it’s specifically Rosie who is left-handed matters, because she’s too young to have internalized any preconceived societal notions about left-handedness. (Her response to being asked if she’s lefty is “of course!”) Her age also decouples being a lefty from Hutch’s continued insistence of left-handed deviance and degeneracy. Furthermore, she’s not a stranger, and her father is a police officer— literally someone involved in the legal reassertion of societal norms— so her lefty-ness is neatly left as a quirk of genetics rather than a product of upbringing or purposeful nonconformity. That Rosie’s shares this with Starsky even ties back to Dobey’s earlier insistence that, like his children, Starsky must’ve been “the kind of kid who left his bike on the driveway—” he can subconsciously see something shared between them, even if he doesn’t approve.

Almost like Hutch was never actually talking to Starsky about his left-handedness at all, or something. 

Overall Entertainment Value: I really like this episode. I don’t know if it’s objectively good, exactly, but it pleases me; it’s got a lot of good Dobes content, a weird recurring likely-homoerotic gag, and just the right amount of menace. The plot’s a little janky, but it’s a good caper, and I’m always satisfied by More Dobey. 4/5 Striped Tomatoes.

Very Special Episode Factor: Despite being about an old religious white bigot taking out a hit on a Black police captain for trying to get justice for his friend the dead civil rights leader… this episode really manages to avoid feeling like a Very Special Episode at all. The human drama is elevated over the subject matter in a way that makes it feel much more like a real-world depiction of racism and white invulnerability than a treatise on it. 0/5 White Politicians Quoting MLK.

Okay, But How Gay Was It: If they didn’t fool around the night before this episode, I’ll eat my hat. Captain Dobey, You’re Dead! is the awkward morning-after to the adorable date-night coda of Lady Blue, and no one can get me to budge on that. 4/5 Manly Embraces.

*I have a sort of unofficial ranking in my brain of fictional lawmen and how well they would deal with being told “this is your child, now,” and given a toddler. Starsky and Hutch are easily the top rank on that list. They would make a vague and unconvincing show of being inconvenienced, and then be great dads who would argue adorably about things like whether ice cream for dinner was ever okay. The very bottom of my list is Napoleon and Illya from The Man from UNCLE, assuming they could be convinced to take the child at all and not just drop it off on the nearest kindly stranger. Please, discuss with me how your favorite buddy cop ships would handle sudden unwanted parenthood. The world needs to know.

3 thoughts on “Starsky & Hutch Episode Reviewcap — Season 1, Episode 12: Captain Dobey, You’re Dead!

  1. OK, I have to say that I am totally blown away by your thoughts on this episode and the meaning of the left-handed thing. I looove analyzing this show and I’ve been trying to figure out what happened “last night” since forever and got nowhere, I think, because I was thinking too literally about what could have happened. Like, was Starsky using some kind of right-handed sex toy with his left hand, like trying to use right-handed scissors? It never even occurred to me that the left-handed thing could be a metaphor for queerness. But it totally makes sense and I am in awe over it.

    And I’m also intrigued by this line: “Hutch often feels and behaves distinctly like someone who is in the closet, unhappy about it, and also unwilling to address the source(s) of this unhappiness.” I’d love to know more details about this. I also believe that Hutch is gay, and one reason is because of the scene in Hutchinson for Murder One when Vanessa sleeps at Hutch’s place and tries to seduce him, but he pushes her away and sleeps on the couch.

    This is probably pushing it, but when C.J. Woodfield rants about lawlessness, etc., I wonder if that’s a dogwhistle for homosexuality/queerness. I know he’s racist AF, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was also homophobic, and that would reinforce the “left-handed equals queer which is societally unacceptable” theme of the ep.

    Whenever I watch the scenes of the guys with Rosie, it always looks to me like they’re a couple and she’s their daughter. So adorable.

    I always wonder why more fans don’t realize the implication that Starsky saw Hutch on TV when he was on the Maxie Malone show when they were kids. I think that is the coolest thing ever. And I’ve also always assumed that Maxie Malone was arrested for sex crimes (pedophilia, most likely, since he hosted a children’s show). So I found this line particularly brilliant “Left-handedness is once again coupled with deviancy (and implied sexual deviancy).”

    And then there’s the girlfriend’s name, Lola. A nod to the character in the Kinks song (and yet another reference to non-standard sexuality)? Probably not, but what if it is?

    So if all this speculation is legit, then I think that this episode, on the surface, is about the scourge of racism and hatred of black people, but what it’s REALLY about is the scourge of homophobia and hatred of anyone who is not traditionally heterosexual.

    I’m intrigued by the fact that Woodfield uses metal braces to help him stand when he gets up from the breakfast table. I’m assuming the character is supposed to have had polio as a child, as that would be the most likely explanation, but I can’t help but wonder if his physical disability is supposed to be a metaphor for something. I just don’t know what that something would be. Either way, it’s a nice detail.

    Another thought: when Hutch is teasing Starsky about the left-handed thing in the squad room, Starsky is holding the holster (with gun inside) in his left hand for the entire scene, and continues to hold it when they’re walking in the hallway (as Dobey is buying the candy bar). I believe this is the only time that Starsky holds his gun like that, which is extremely unsafe and probably against police procedure, but I think the reason is pretty obvious: it’s meant as a phallic symbol. Also, in the squad room, he winks at Hutch at one point. There is no reason for that wink except for sexual innuendoey reasons.

    There are two other times in the series (that I know of) where Starsky uses a gun in a seductive, phallic way: in the Specialist (when he sits in the motel room with his legs spread and his gun resting on his stomach, pointing at Hutch, who’s innocently reading the motel Bible) and Ninety Pounds of Trouble (when he fondles the big rifle between his legs as he watches Hutch get dressed in the hotel room).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had exactly the same reaction the first time I watched the episode– “did Starsky like, jack Hutch off with his left hand? And Hutch… doesn’t like that?” XD It was only in the rewatching that I was like OH, IT’S A METAPHOR.

      I think, as you said, this whole episode is laden with subtext related to prejudice– it’s about as close as I think we’re likely to get to a conversation about intersectionality in a 1970’s TV show! The idea that all of these things– racism, homophobia, ableism–all come from similar places and create similar issues seems like a preoccupation of this particular story. (I hadn’t even thought about Woodfield’s implication of having had polio– he’s like a schoolyard bully who needs to pick on people he feels he still has power over rather than address any possible axis of his own oppression, because that would mean admitting he wasn’t perfectly and completely in power/control.)

      Love the notes about Starsky’s gun being a stand-in for his boner– I’d noted the moment in Specialist but somehow missed the other two. It’s amazing how much legitimate character building is done in silence/in the background in this show. It’s hard not to feel like those were very deliberate decisions on PMG’s part.

      Re: Hutch being closeted– I don’t know if I completely read Hutch as strictly gay, but I do think he’s more attracted to men than women, and that a lot of his womanizing feels kind of defensive. He tends to get squirrelly when sex and sexuality come up, more so than Starsky (who I read as so, so oblivious to his own bisexuality), and he spends a lot more time trying to enforce all kinds of rules on himself and Starsky, many of which seem related to how they appear to others from the outside. He just… cares so much about what other people think about him, and has so much internalized shame– I read so much of that behavior as a symptom of homophobic self-hatred.

      But seriously, I love doing analysis like this, and a big part of why is engaging with other fans like this! It’s so cool to piece together different perspectives and different details to come to a greater, deeper understanding (particularly in a show like this one where so much of it is under the surface.) Thank you!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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