Barney Miller: Grand Hotel/Discovery/You Dirty Rat

Grand Hotel

Airdate: October 23, 1975

This is yet another episode without Harris and Yemana, although if you weren’t paying attention you might be forgiven for not noticing anyone else besides Wojo and Wentworth, the one-two’s most enthusiastic detectives.

The episode starts off with Wentworth zealously bringing in a collar that she suspects of armed robbery.  As she relates the tale, she was on an errand when a theatre across the street was robbed.  The suspect has even confessed!  The problem is Lenny Kelso is a frequent confessor, having claimed responsibility for the Brinks Job, the Getty kidnapping, the murder of Albert Anastasia, and the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria, just to name a few.

Embarrassed, but not broken, Wentworth instructs a witness, Miss Heartstone, on how to go through the gigantic collection of mugshot books.  Her enthusiasm catches Wojo’s eye as he says he likes the way she works.  Since it’s delivered with a chuckle, Wentworth finds the statement to be condescending, not complimentary.  Wojo digs a hole for himself by saying that if he wanted to insult her, he’s talk about her hair.

Fish (of the prunes), and Chano (of the trail mix), went to a fancy hotel, the Hotel Greenwich, to investigate a string of robberies.  They had no luck, so Barney sends Wojo and Wentworth to go undercover as a rich married couple.  They dutifully comply, as the show makes a rare venture outside the squad room.

The bellhop mispronounces “Wojciehowicz” as “Wodge-na-witch,” which Wentworth is all too happy to repeat as her own name when ordering expensive room service.  She also flirts that this is the type of place she’d like to take Wojo.  Wentworth’s playful teasing does go over well with Wojo because he insists that he’s the one that would be doing the taking, as he’s a man.  He can’t help but let slip his attraction to her anyway when he suggests she keep her gun under her pillow if she’s going to sleep in what he’s seen her in.  His gender and sexual politics are both backward but it’s clear they like each other.  When the maid barges in, he pulls Wentworth in for a kiss under the guise of remaining in character.

Meanwhile, back at the squad room, the hotel security chief, Huntsinger, brings in a young man he accuses of third degree rape, statutory rape.  This young man, Howard Smith, played by a young Adam Arkin, registered to the hotel with his seventeen year-old girlfriend as husband and wife.  The two of them are classmates at the Julliard and they both live with their respective parents.  And they were both caught up in an enthusiastic episode of the security chief.  He caught them when he saw them through the neighboring room’s door.

Barney lectures Howard to stay out of trouble, which is precisely what he wants to do by dealing with Huntsinger.  He knows that the two kids did something illegal, but it was a relatively innocent act that didn’t deserve such draconian enforcement.  So he negotiates a plea bargain.

Wojo and Wentworth come back with a collar, the maid!  Proud of themselves for deducing her methodology, she hid the in the vacuum, they proceed to book her.  But Barney wants them to give up the collar in exchange for Howard.  One reason Wentworth was so upset was because he happened to remove the “third degree” part of the charge description.  I assume she’d probably be okay if it appeared to fall under the Romeo and Juliet laws, wherein age difference is taken into consideration.

The day over, the witness to the theatre robbery has produced several names; only a few are suspects.  The rest are her adolescent doodles of the names of sex offenders.  I think Wentworth would be far more concerned about Miss Heartstone.

Discovery

October 30, 1975

Hey!  Harris and Yemana are back!  This is also the first episode in which a terrible pot of coffee has been attributed to Yemana.  His coffee is the stuff that nightmares are made of!

Harris and Chano console Fish after he saw Soylent Green (1973), a movie “where they made old people into crackers and fed them to young people.”  The news gets worse for Fish when payroll thinks he’s dead!  So he goes downtown to try to fight city hall.

This systemic problem is played for laughs to leave room for a couple of more serious plotlines: one which involves accusations of a rogue cop from the one-two harassing gays outside gay bars, a systemic issue itself, and a man who climbed to the top of the Washington Arch, who claims he wasn’t a jumper, just a climber, like George Herbert Leigh Mallory (the arch was “there”).

Marty’s fellow homosexual friend, Darryl Driscoll, was arrested under no charges outside the Velvet Room and told to bribe his way out of jail time with fifty dollars.  That extortion charge is pretty serious, but it’s a pretty straightforward issue (no pun intended).  The villains are clear, it’s nothing anyone at the one-two would ever think of doing, so that’s not where the meat of the episode lies.

As is often the case with episodes dealing with sexual issues, the protagonist in this plot is Wojo.  While Nick says it takes all kinds to make a world “That’s why we’re not all Chinese,” and everyone else treats Marty and Darryl with respect, Wojo asks his father figure, Barney, about some of the facts of life.  Unfortunately, as this was 1975, there was still some real doubt about where homosexuality came from.  Barney suggests a psychological incident, Wojo thinks it might be diet.  He even calls gays “the opposite sex.”

Finally a rugged cop, Sergeant Forbes, brings in the hustler.  It turns out he caught the phony cop when he was walking out of a gay club off duty, much to Wojo’s surprise.  Forbes has asked Wojo for assistance in the case, and to report to Manhattan South, which prompts Wojo to ask Barney, in private, if there are any “funny” cops.  Barney suggests that he not jump to conclusions, that he let people be.

The jumper, I mean climber, Mr. Buckholtz, is paranoid because he’s in denial.  He’s been through a divorce and is alone.  But he’s certain he doesn’t have a problem.  Chano and Barney talk Bellevue, which causes Buckholtz to split, so they put him in the cage.  When they finally do bring Bellevue in, with their straight jacket, he threatens to jump…from inside the squad room.  Instead he ducks under Chano’s desk in fear.  There are no answers for him in the long term, but at the very least Buckholtz requests to leave with dignity, to which Barney enthusiastically agrees.

In attempting to diagnose his problem, the detectives posit theories that betray their own anxieties.  Barney suggests “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad,” invoking Longfellow.  Barney’s point, and this applies to both stories this episode, is that people are flawed, that one should never jump to conclusions about what is in their hearts and minds.

You Dirty Rat

Airdate: November 13, 1975

This episode opens with a young black man being booked by Wojo for stealing a police car, a “green and white” as they were known in New York in the 1970s.  It got me thinking about something.  I’ve noticed that, while the show is admirably diverse in its main cast, the guest characters of color tend to fall into very specific categories.  Black and Hispanic characters tend to be jive talking small time hustlers with hearts of gold that Harris, or Chano, respectively, admonish for not getting their lives in order, we’ll see Asian characters later in the series, but they’re presented as relatively exotic, and they too are brought in to interact with Nick, even as potential love interests.  The more complex parts would go to white actors.

Sadly, it’s an issue that hasn’t exactly been solved since then.  If you feel the same way, are part of an underrepresented group, and have the passion and talent for it, I encourage you to go out there and try to get work out there.  Fight for diversity within diversity.

As Wojo fills out the paperwork on his grand theft auto collar, Wendell Frazier, Chano, Yemana, and Fish come in from a stakeout of an apartment building.  They were looking for a drug pusher who ran.  Fish screamed for him to stop—through the closed car window!  Chano tries wrestling with the perp, but he gets away, leaving behind twenty kilos of marijuana, to the interest of Frazier.  As Fish brings the contraband to the downstairs closet he passes out cold from a kidney stone.

Meanwhile, Harris brings in a Mr. Holliman, a homeless man who spent the weekend in a department store.  A very sympathetic figure they have to charge him for trespassing.  They bring him, and Frazier, downstairs for pictures and prints.  Mr. Holliman’s voice sounded interesting to me.  Though I would guess he was playing an American, he looked and sounded a bit like Alfred Hitchcock.  He even had a lot of the same mannerisms.  It turns out the actor is J. Pat O’Malley, born in Lancashire, England.  His accent peeks through every once in a while.

Wojo goes to retrieve the marijuana from the closet and gets bitten by the titular rat on the upper shin.  Chano asks if he was kneeling on the ground.  “No, it just stood up on its hind legs and bit me!”

An elderly exterminator, Becker, from Becker & Son, comes in and of course the obvious joke is made to Barney.  I’ll let you fill in the blank until you see the episode.  In trying to exaggerate the job, he talks with Fish about the size of the rats.  The big ones will tear you apart, he tells Fish.  Of course, Fish believes he’s talking about the stone.

More importantly, two kilos are missing.  With Narcotics on the way, every spare moment is spent searching for the missing marijuana.

Wojo comes back worried about rabies, until the gang tells it’s not as bad as the bubonic plague.  “It could come back.  Everything comes back.” Wojo worries.

“Everything but narrow lapels,” Harris confidently declares, ignorant of how woefully incorrect he would be in just a few short years.

The department store drops the charges and Barney comes up with a reason to give Holliman a bit of money without sacrificing Holliman’s dignity.

And in comes Del Vecchio from Narcotics.  Most of the guest characters from the New York Police Department, especially the ones that could get our squad in trouble, are depicted as overly bureaucratic, incompetent, or corrupt.  Del Vecchio is definitely in that ballpark.  He seems perfectly fine with the possibility the two kilos are missing.  But it’s hard to tell.  Not only is he hard to read, he seems to be having a hard time reading our detectives.  He assumes the two kilos were pocketed, and when Wojo clumsily explains the situation Del Vecchio acts under the assumption that the awkwardness is because of the pocketing.  Even Barney can’t convince him.  Barney is adamant to prove that everything is by the book and aboard, but Del Vecchio smiles and just has them fill out the form however they like.

He’s about to leave with the eighteen kilos, when the exterminator returns with the two kilos, one slightly chewed.  It turns out the rat ate and hid the pot in the basement, with a smile on his face.  Even with the pot returned, Del Vecchio slyly assumes the slyness in the squad.  Chano and Yemana still had to give affidavits.

Frazier returns the next day with some information for sale.  They negotiate a price and Frazier tells them “Fish passed his stone!”

They dutifully hand over the money!

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