The Starsky and Hutch Hen Party

AKA Rebelcat and Elizabeth Helena

Present:

 

The Bay City Stampede

AKA “Murder on Stage 17”

 

original air date Saturday, March 19th, 1977

 

According to the DVD episode guide: "Starsky and Hutch work undercover as stunt men on the set of a new Western movie in order to investigate a series of fatal 'accidents' that has befallen several members of a long-standing group of actors known as the 'Wolf Pack.'"

 

Now maybe it’s just because we’ve both always wanted to go to the Calgary Stampede, but to us this episode just proves, for the second week in a row, that our heroes have always been cowboys.

The Lone Ranger
 
On the actual Stage 17 of ABC (not coincidentally, the usual S & H indoor stage), our first on-screen murder occurs, as an actor in a low-budget Western rides into the sunset when a stunt bomb proves to be the real thing. As no one suspects creepy Water Delivery Guy, despite the man’s description of his job as “juggling a fat glass snake” (potential sequel to Snakes on a Plane, Samuel L. Jackson?), it becomes a case for Bay City Homicide’s finest.

Adding an extra bit of verisimilitude, the star of the unnamed movie is rugged Steve Hanson, played by rugged Rory Calhoun, famous for TV and movie westerns like “The Texan” and “The Silver Whip” (we refuse to ask). More recently, Rory was made famous by The Simpsons’ Montgomery Burns describing Mr. Calhoun as the cowboy who was always “standing and walking.” One thing is for sure, this cowboy ain’t running from the set, despite a series of suspicious accidents which means that his former club “The Wolf Pack” now has a membership of one – him.
 
Starsky is thrilled to be going undercover as an actor whereas Hutch is more interested in discussing the “classic symbolism” of Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman’s artsy films with director Harry Markham. Unfortunately, for both of them, the director played by Jeff Goldblum, with a delightfully unctuous joie de vivre, makes them stuntmen. Because everyone knows that cop training prepares you for all the dangers of stunt work – right?

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Jack and Ennis - you decide!

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Starsky's obviously been watching too much late, late night slapstick.

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Markam's Satanic directorial powers come from his evil red elf.

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Because no one EVER suspects the creepy overall'd bicycle man...

Terror on the Soundstage
 
But enough of the boring ol’ murder case, it’s time for more dramatic irony, AKA “nudge, nudge, wink, wink,” fun on the movie set. While Starsky bemoans the late hours and lack of food for actors, for the second episode in a row Hutch is haunted by the ghost of stage fright past. When Director Markham decides to give Hutchinson a line in the Western, Starsky and Script Supervisor Julie West (remember her?) are both excited by Hutch’s chance for fame. However, our singing cowboy behaves like the camera is stalking him and blurts out “HerecomesMcCoynow.” Sadly, Hutch’s best performance (which sounded like Robby the Robot with stage fright) is ruined by Starsky nervously cracking his knuckles.

Tragically, the viewers don’t get to see the punishment the scowling Hutch has in store for his partner, but feel free to imagine anything with a rating G to NC-17. Instead, we get a brief glimpse of the cackling Master of Disguise, presumably for those viewers too concussed to have noticed the coincidence of a creepy, rotund guy who just appears before nastiness ensues. Meanwhile, after extra prodding from Starsky and Hutch, Steve Hanson’s concussion from too many B Westerns heals sufficiently to allow him to remember the creepy water delivery guy hanging around just before the explosion. Starsky then proves that Hutch couldn’t have spanked him too hard, because he recollects seeing bottled water being delivered today.

Bay City Police Procedurals dictate that after such a profound insight it’s time for Starsky and Hutch to have a midnight snack on Dobey’s desk. Here we learn that not only was the creepy water guy an imposter, but that the studio security guard O’Brien is no longer answering his calls. However, we believe the more important canon points learned here are that Dobey is the sloppier eater of the three (as the mustard on the file is from his lunch), and that Starsky flouts the Cap’s authoritah by putting his feet and his dirty napkins all over his boss’ desk. Unfortunately, any punishment (once again from G to NC-17, boys and girls) must be postponed, as the only cops on duty in Bay City must ride (er, drive) to the rescue of a cowboy in distress.

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Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

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Cute as a button, but still Worst! Stunt! Double! Evah!

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Because no one EVER suspects... well, actually... we're suspectin'.

A Quarter Past High Noon

Despite this ‘stunning’ revelation and being held at gun point, Julie keeps her head and warns Starsky that the killer has her. Fortunately, Starsky and Hutch are too smart for the former “Professor Nutty Buddy,” and figure out that Wally’s going to shoot Steve down like another dog as he walks down the Western Street set. Nonetheless, Hanson refuses to use his stunt double Starsky, perhaps finally realizing they look nothing alike, but we prefer to believe his brave statement: “So I played heroes all my adult life, maybe it’s about time I found out what it’s really like.”

So Steve Hanson performs the classic walkdown ala High Noon while Starsky and Hutch lurk about looking for the sniper. Regrettably, the undercover cops neglect to cover the high ground (haven’t they ever seen a Western?). Luckily, Wally Stone, now disguised as a creepy golf caddy, is a lousy shot and only wings Hanson, and Starsky and Hutch begin the classic chase scene (Torino-less for a change). It’s not clear how the rotund Wally, who has to first slowly climb down the scaffolding Jungle Gym of Doom, still manages to outrun our buff cops. At least, the classic “accidentally dropped hat” explains how Starsky and Hutch figure out that Wally’s escaped into the underground bunker, that the studio built to keep props safe in the event of nuclear war.
 
However, the showdown is not in the classic western style, as Starsky and Hutch take pity on the clearly deranged Wally, and try talking him down. When mentioning his somewhat less deranged sister fails to do the trick, Starsky waxes lyrical about how much he loves Stone’s old movies, and that Wally’s the funniest comedian evah! As a result, Wally puts down his rifle and bursts into tears. Which leaves us wondering if no one can resist a sweaty, intense Starsky saying he loves them (except for that b*tch Rosie, but we digress).
 
The tag scene jumps us forward in time, to a private screening of the film. Everyone seems pleased with the picture, except Hutch, who is upset that his one line was cut. Apparently, he told whole passel of folks, including his mother, about his motion picture debut. Starsky says that he'd just tell his ma that the lead star insisted that the line be destroyed because it stole the show. His helpful pal routine is just an act though, for he gives Hutch the missing film strip, advising him to first destroy the evidence to the contrary. Feel free to add a missing scene regarding Hutch’s retribution (G to NC-17).

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Because no one EVER suspects the creepy water delivery man...

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Rory Calhoun - standing - just like a greyhound puppy. Isn't he cute?

Spagetti and Meatballs
 
Well, the real stunt men sure reckon not. After Hutch almost goes head first through a breakaway balcony railing, and Starsky fails to “sell” fake blows to the gut, the naughty stunt cowboys decide to teach them a lesson. Starsky and Hutch display their undercover fighting skills, gained presumably from the Police Academy and bar fights at Huggy’s, in a hilarious dust-up complete with the dramatic irony of Script Supervisor Julie West gushing “talk about realism!” Director Markham is thrilled when “Spaghetti and Meatballs” fall off the balcony (if Starsky is Spaghetti) and tumble down the stairs (with Hutch as one spicy Meatball). Of course, no amount of pummeling is going to prevent either of our daring duo from charming the little lady, who coincidentally just happens to be the daughter of one of the former (presumed deceased) Wolf Pack members.

Oh yeah, the murders! Lone Wolf Packer Steve Hanson's blasÚ attitude about his best friends dropping like flies is shaken when a cackling man calls him with the news that his real best friend, his dog Friendly, is dead. RC and EH want to reassure readers that despite a very professional performance, the Sheepadoodle or Mutt was obviously breathing on a very comfy bed. Starsky and Hutch dash out in search of the killer’s phone booth, and Hutch talks briefly with a big, folksy guy in coveralls and glasses. Despite being the only one in the vicinity of a nearby phone, Hutch does not suspect him at all, because . . . um, let’s just chalk it up to a post-fight concussion.

Now, Cowboy Steve Hanson finally provides Starsky and Hutch with a list of people, both living and dead, who might hold a grudge against the Wolf Pack and their pets. It’s not clear if he included the deceased because of the well-known superstition among cowboys regarding zombie cattle rustlers (EH swears she read about it on Wikipedia), or it’s the writer, not the characters, who are suffering from a concussion. However, this particular plot hole introduces Wally Stone, who might hold a teensy, weensy bit of resentment against the Wolf Pack because it was at one of their parties that an actress was accidentally, but fatally, defenestrated, putting Wally in jail, and his career in the outhouse. Note to selves, only attend Rat Pack parties from now on …

Hutch is disappointed at the news that Wally’s dead, as he’d be a prime suspect, while Starsky is saddened as he loves the former “America’s Funny Man's” old movies on the Late, Late Show. Both overlook the fact that Steve Hanson’s belief that Wally Stone now Rests in Peace is based on a flimsy rumor from a friend of a friend who’d heard the former comedian/jailbird had died down Mexico way. RC and EH suspect that years of completely reliable tips from Huggy, based on a friend of a friend’s gossip from his cousin Leotis, have lulled our undercover cops into believing such sources to be as unassailable as the Alamo (whoops, we meant Fort Knox, that’s the ticket).

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Or EVER suspects the creepy man with the fake nose...

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I wish I knew how to quit you, Starsk...

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Gee, Dobey got here fast. Does he sleep in that suit?

Blazing Cowboys!

Meanwhile back at the fake ranch, Cowboy Actor Steve Hanson is easily duped by the creepy Irish Rent-a-Cop who informs him the leading lady would like to meet for a nightcap at her trailer. Confident in his rugged charms, Hanson never questions the unlikely scenario that she’ll meet him there later, and that he’s to help himself to as much booze as he wants. Then again, he’s also a little slow on the uptake when the now cackling, fake security guard blocks the trailer’s entrance and sets it on fire with a couple of newspapers and a lighter. Fortunately for Hanson, despite Bay City’s highly flammable aluminum, Bay City’s cops are highly inflammable and save him from a roasting more painful than William Shatner’s (we assume).

It’s best to skip over the next bit of painful exposition where everyone realizes that all of the creepy guys who showed up before these “accidents” are the exact shape and size of the formally dead Wally Stone. After all, this episode is really saved by Starsky and Hutch’s hijinks on the movie set. This time it’s Starsky’s turn for humiliation as he’s used as Hanson’s body double despite the fact they look nothing alike, but who cares? Starsky’s always cute while concussed, and he sure looks it after getting hit by a breakaway chair, collapsing to the floor, and then having Hutch knock a table on top of him. But we’re sure that last bit of slapstick was purely accidental, as Hutch would never hold a grudge against Curly – right?

Hutch then drags the befuddled Starsky off to see Wally Stone’s sister Ruth, because everyone knows the best treatment for concussions is to walk them off. Unfortunately, Wally’s sister isn’t much help as she appears more concerned about her aphid infested plants (an obsession Hutch shares), and writing scripts for her brother who she claims is alive, if only on the TV movies Starsky loves to watch.
 
Tired of his generic creepy guy costumes, the baddie now dresses up as the least convincing nun since … well, ever. Okay, the fact that he’s smoking instead of flying is a pretty big clue. Nonetheless, Julie West was never warned by her Wolf Pack dad to not hitchhike with strange nuns, so as all the After School Specials warned us, she ends up locked up in prop cage. Here she learns the startling truth, that the killer is none other than Keyser S÷ze … oops, we mean Wally Stone!
 
 
 

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Julie should have known she'd end up cage dancing in Bay City.

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"It's your turn to go first!" "I went first last time." "No, you didn't!"

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"I schwear man, I'm ya nummer one fan! M'not drunk, Hutsch..."

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Because no one EVER suspects the creepy man... wait, that's Hutch!

Good Questions to Ask Yourself
 
1.  Does this episode shed new light on Starsky and Hutch's relationships with their respective mothers?  Hutch clearly does talk to his mother at least occasionally, and Starsky apparently lies to his.
 
2. This episode is clearly a thinly veiled reference to the 1920's Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle scandal.  Is it terribly fair of the writers to misrepresent a real tragedy, especially considering the real guy was found innocent, was supported by all his friends, and staged a comeback instead of a killing spree?
 
3. Is there anything a sweaty, intense Starsky couldn't make you do?

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Aug. 24, 2006