Barney Miller:Bus Stop/The Election/Werewolf

Bus Stop

Airdate: October 14, 1976

“Quarantine” placed several characters with a natural affinity toward conflict with each other in a small space, so this episode does something similar by consolidating the guest stars into one crime on a bus.  Not only that, but Dietrich is back filling in for Fish.  Fish comes in unexpectedly, so Dietrich senses a bit of tension as he tries to figure out where to sit.

For the first two seasons the seating arrangement has been fairly lax.  There have always been four desks in the squad room, but with Chano, Fish, Harris, Yemana, and Wojo comprising a typical episode’s roster, the cops would share.  Chano was on the left, sharing a double-desk with Fish, Yemana was in the back and Wojo would be on the right.  Harris and any guest detectives would float.  With Chano gone, Harris has taken his desk, while Dietrich is now the resident floater.  And that’s appropriate, given his role in the show at this point.

Speaking of the roles people play, Fish usually gets the choice line at the end of the teaser, but as he doesn’t show up until after the opening titles, it goes to Yemana.  So Fish enters with a bit of resentment toward the well-meaning Dietrich.  Fish was supposed to go in for the surgery he intended to take at the end of the second season, but changed his mind.

But Dietrich has a tendency to yammer, even when trying desperately to help.  He gives Fish, Barney, and anyone who stands within earshot long enough, some medical advice, he cites his past education as a potential doctor, adding to his resume that previously also included potential actor, and tries to find another seat, slightly annoying those he tries to befriend.  One of the key physical features is his pair of glasses, which obscure his eyes in a way that suggest his own mix of obliviousness and esoteric genius.

Onto the crime: a smug smuggler, Brenner, has burgled a bus and the fallout enters the precinct.  A shifty bus driver, Mr. Strand, is paranoid that he’ll get the blame, Mr. Quentin’s neck has been injured, Miss Lambert is Harry Cranston’s mistress (Cranston is played by Phillip Bruns, best known as Mary Hartman’s father George Shumway in Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), and then there’s Mrs. Pierce.

Wojo has once again attempted to take the exam to make sergeant, which he confides in Barney, right before he takes a statement from Mrs. Pierce (Florence Halop, last seen as a similar firecracker Mable Kleiner in the episode “Massage Parlor”).  Mrs. Pierce is a shameless flirt, making Wojo a bit uncomfortable as he clearly can’t wait to get downstairs to find out the results of the test.

Once again he failed.  So Barney calls him into the office for a pep talk.  When Wojo concedes that he’ll always stay in the same spot, Barney suggests it’s a defeatist attitude.

The victims ID the contraband, except for Mr. Quentin, only claiming injury.  The others decide against signing statements because they don’t want to get too involved, and Mrs. Pierce, for all her spunk, is afraid of retribution.  When they all call it a waste of time, Wojo calls them defeatist, suggesting he’ll try again.

When Mr. Quentin seems cooperative, Barney tries to get him to sign a statement.  But he nervously changes is story.  It’s obvious to Barney and the rest that Mr. Quentin has attempted insurance fraud.  His sad sack delivery garners some sympathy, though he admits that he could have lied on the statement about witnessing the robbery.  To which Barney quotes Hamlet, observing “Conscience doth make cowards of us all,” earning a “Very well put” from Yemana.

An unfinished case, Barney sends the gang to Manhattan South with the perp and the hospital to see if they can get any statements from anyone else.  Try again he says, about this and to Wojo.

The Election

Airdate: October 21, 1976

A lot of people see elections as a game; it is after all called a “horse race” for a reason.  So it’s only natural that Yemana’s fiscal motivation wouldn’t be political, but tied to the odds.  To Wojo’s childlike patriotism voting is so enthusiastic he asks everyone who they’re voting for, despite Barney’s insistence that “the secret ballot is one of America’s most treasured possessions,” knowing that Wojo might not understand if they voted differently.

For everyone else the election is a venue for high stakes.  A Mr. Crippen was arrested for shoplifting lingerie at Siegel’s department store, and wants to be let out so he can vote, Democrat Charles Kaiser Relkie imprisoned his Republican wife, Edna, to prevent her from voting, and Inspector Luger is campaigning for Jake Schofield “our next city councilman,” anticipating a commissionership as a reward.

This episode reveals Harris’ Republican fiscal conservatism, perhaps suggesting he sees himself as a “temporarily embarrassed millionaire,” though he says he doesn’t yield to stereotypes, and would rather broaden his horizons.  Barney, naturally, remains neutral, but also evades the question by stating his undecided status.  Even when the Relkies settle things without Mrs. Relkie filing charges, she turns out to be undecided.  Dietrich is similarly undecided and Wojo himself took a half-hour in the booth.

That empathy for indecision is what let Mr. Crippen slip through Wojo’s fingers.  It was Wojo’s job to let Crippen out to vote, but he slipped away when Wojo thought he was just deliberating for a while.  Crippen does come back and promptly, announcing Siegel’s has dropped charges.  The only unsettled matter is Crippen’s escape.  Barney suggests that the intent could be in question, meaning that Wojo could let Crippen go, both as an act of mercy and as a way to save face.

Mrs. Relkie, having fought for her right to vote, is indecisive.  So Barney give her some very Chano-esque advice to close her eyes and pick.  She could be wrong, but she could also be right.

Meanwhile, Yemana’s litter of calculations has him so disgusted with his chances at a payday he decides to vote for the candidates he likes.

Since this episode aired before the 1976 election, the only race called over the news was Jake Schofield’s seat, which he of course lost by a margin of forty-nine thousand votes.  The public must be served?  Luger thinks that’s a “damn shame.”

Werewolf

Airdate: October 28, 1976

If you ask almost any Barney Miller fan what episode is their favorite, or certainly which episode they remember most, at or near the top of the list would be “Werewolf.”  As Yemana observes, regarding a UFO sighting call he fields, paranormal sightings have the capacity to cheer the squad up.

And the squad needs cheering up since half the plainclothes detectives have swine flu due to the outbreak of 1976.  So our usual crew is at the breaking point, tired having been on watch hours past their bedtime on a full moon.  A nurse Jackson comes in with vaccination shots, to Wojo’s fright, Harris’ excitement, and everyone else’s apathy.

Soon a Mr. Stephan Kopeckne (played by Kenneth Tigar, who previously played Fletcher in “Massage Parlor”) calls in for the one-two to stop him before he kills again.  Harris and Wojo chase Kopeckne into Central Park as he growls, kicks, and ruins Harris’ suit, poorly timed as Harris tries to impress the Miss Jackson.

Wojo laughs at the Kopeckne to Barney, yielding another Hamlet quote from Barney, “The more things in heaven and Earth,” implying the rest of the quote “than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  “Keep your mind open,” he means, as he always does.

But it’s hard to do when Kopeckne eventually rattles the cage in which he’s locked as midnight draws near.  He can feel himself changing and he’s certain he’s a danger to himself and others.  This is a show that prides itself on realism, so it’s unlikely that Kopeckne actually is a werewolf.  That type of character is more likely on Barney Miller’s successor series Night Court.  But Kopeckne believes.  As midnight approaches he thrashes and climbs the cage.  Coming from a relatively small guy, it’s a very big performance.  The usuals from Bellevue come by escorted by Barney

In slightly more mundane news, a couple of tourists, Mr. & Mrs. Fuller, come in having been mugged by a cab driver.  Their possessions are recovered but Mrs. Fuller is game to wait until Kopeckne changes.  They miss the performance.

He’s not the only one that’s not feeling well.  Even in the Marines Wojo would faint at the sight of needles and get embarrassed at the jokes.  In the hope of privacy he asks if they can do it in the captain’s office.  Harris says to forget it, having learned of her plans to marry one of two doctors (one of which was named Freedman, the guy from “Quarantine?”).  “She’s engaged,” Harris tells her.

Everyone has their anxieties.  For Kopeckne it’s the full moon, for Barney it’s the accordion, for Wojo it’s needles, for Harris it’s Jewish doctors, and for Fish, even more than a full day without sleep, it’s going home.

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