Barney Miller: The Bank/The Ghost/Appendicitis

The Bank

Airdate: January 5, 1978

Harris has been looking for an apartment since at least “Burial,” which aired October 20, 1977. Though the airdate for this episode is in the new year, there are clues that this actually takes place before Christmas. But it’s still been at least two months. And Harris’ lease ends during this episode, the same day he’s to start the sublease at his new apartment.

We’ve all been there. What is one supposed to do in that several-hour window in which one is homeless? Harris has hired a moving truck to help move his stuff, as well as kill the time before the new apartment is ready. Ever one not to let the conflict of extracurricular activities and his day job worry him, he has to juggle quite a lot on this particular day. To make matters worse, the sublet has fallen through. Harold and Lois Nemmings were going through a divorce, so they no longer needed such a large apartment. But they’ve made up, leaving Harris out in the cold, as he has to babysit a mover on the clock, while he’s on the clock!

Presumably, Sergeant Wojo can relate as he has had some trouble adjusting to the raise that comes with his promotion. He’s envious of Barney’s fashion frugality and suspicious that his broadened tastes were a contagious symptom from Harris.

Dispatch called in a problem over at Cryton Sperm Bank. Dietrich begins his spiel on the marketability of male gametes before Barney cuts him off. When Wojo and Yemana come back, Philip Hamel has been brought in for some vandalism. His deposit had thawed and gone bad after Philip had a vasectomy. He and his wife, Arlene, wanted to wait until they could afford children. The representative from Cryton, Helen Bateman, is unsure how it happened. At this point, Dietrich gets to continue his lecture when Wojo decries the process as unnatural.

Luger drops by to talk to Barney about accusations that the detectives have passed unsolved cases off to the uniforms downstairs to improve their own records, but as he really believes in the cops of the one-two, the writerly reason he’s stopped by is an oblivious confrontation he has with Harris. He regrettably observes that Harris is about to “shuffle off,” on his way to deal with the stuff in the moving truck. An already stressed out Harris rightly takes offense at this description of his departure and puts on an ironic impression of a minstrel caricature to express his anger.

In my first description of Luger, I described him as the show’s Archie Bunker. But that’s not entirely accurate as Luger feels deep guilt for having said something so offensive to Harris, where Archie might have exacerbated the situation out of bigoted pride. When Harris comes back, Luger apologizes to him with a sincere compliment illustrating the respect he has for Harris. Harris accepts, acknowledging the stress he’s been under. Luger tries to seal it with a jive handshake that Harris forces into a standard one. The awkward attempt at reconciliation is a nice piece of physical comedy.

Speaking of physical comedy, Bateman drops the charges to a distraught couple. Dietrich offers a solution to them by suggesting that some couples find a surrogate sperm donor with a similar physical appearance to the male. It’s at this point it becomes obvious that both Philip and Dietrich are tall men with curly light brown hair, wire-frame glasses, and grey suits. Their similarity is not at all lost on Philip who tries to get his wife out of there as quickly as possible!

Dietrich isn’t done solving people’s problems as he offers a homeless Harris the spare bedroom in his apartment. Harris is down because his ambition has exceeded his accomplishments, as they do for most. Dietrich made a similar offer in “The Tunnel,” but now he skillfully leads Harris to accepting the offer. I’ve described Dietrich as oblivious before, but I think that’s part of the persona he’s fashioned for himself. It allows him to offer the detached lectures he delights in delivering, while maintaining his relatively sunny nature. But here he reveals his self-awareness by telling Harris and Barney he knows how he’s perceived by the others, which makes Harris feel guilty for rejecting Dietrich’s offer. It’s a nice bit of manipulation for the purpose of helping out someone that he genuinely cares for, even if Harris isn’t as willing to reciprocate in any kind of overt way.

But maybe it’s just a way to create an odd couple for added comedic tension.

The Ghost

Airdate: January 12, 1978

Stephan Kopeckne is back! Well, not Kopeckne exactly, but a character very similar to Kopeckne is back, Eliot Porter, who believes a poltergeist is following him. But like Kopeckne, he’s played by Kenneth Tigar, who has a knack for playing characters possessed, or otherwise disturbed, by the supernatural, usually with much hilarious thrashing. This time there is help from the props on set.

Here he complains that a ghost has haunted his apartment and started throwing things. To Harris it’s nothing compared to the host who has haunted him, Dietrich allowing him the use of his apartment. Dietrich has annoyed Harris by growing things. Yemana has a bit more fun bringing back some erotic pastries, you know, cakes that are showing things.

Levitt brings in Dimitrios Stefanos, played by Titos Vandis, who previously played Jacinto Escobar back in season one’s “Vigilante,” and Tricia Morgan. He is a Greek immigrant married to become a citizen to her, a prostitute. A patrolman brought him in for harassing her because he’s fallen in love with her. Though the marriage is one of convenience, he’d like it to be more, and he’d like to help her leave the life. Naturally this character is similarly vigilant, when compared to Escobar. And given part of his mission, Wojo naturally wants to help him in his cause. But when Tricia says she doesn’t want to see him again, Stefanos agrees.

Carl Simms, a man the Department of Immigration with the hobby of trying to guess the ancestry of anyone he meets, has come to try to determine whether the marriage is genuine. Though frustrated with the burden of having to choose who stays and who goes, he has a job. When he asks if the two of them have consummated their marriage, Stefanos doesn’t understand. Yemana picks up the box of erotic cakes to…translate. Stefanos finds such a question dishonorable, so Simms leaves, happy to be freed of the burden.

As to the future of Dimitrios and Tricia, it’s left ambiguous, as it often is on the show. But as it also usually concludes on this show, there’s an added connection, an added level of empathy between the two.

In that spirit, when the two of them leave, and Bellevue takes Eliot Porter, a few more things fall in Barney’s office. So Dietrich approaches what he thinks might be a poltergeist and attempts to establish a rapport with it.

Appendicitis

Airdate: January 19, 1978

If the past several episodes have dealt with Harris’ apartment saga, it’s time to give another character something big. So why not give Yemana appendicitis? The problem was that Yemana ate cooked fish. At least it got him out of filing after Barney calls him out for the total illogic of his system.

Not only does Barney feel bad once he both realizes Barney had the file he was looking for, and that Yemana’s sick, he’s got another problem when a new bounty hunter to the neighborhood, Able Kleiner. Kleiner’s retired, and uses bounty hunting as a money-making hobby, much to Barney’s chagrin.

This prompts Wojo to reference Steve McQueen’s role as Josh Randall in the television western “Wanted: Dead of Alive.” He tells Dietrich, “You’re not the only esoteric one around here.” It appears that Dietrich also has, if not an arc, at least a runner wherein people express their irritation at his know-it-all nature. But the difference between him and say, Cliff Claven, is that he’s usually pretty much correct.

After Wojo takes Kleiner’s information, Barney refuses to give him the wanted posters, even after Kleiner points out that one of the suspects was already caught by the FBI.

Harris and Dietrich have brought in a Howard Altman, addict to white powder…sugar. He was brought in for stealing his next fix after his number was skipped, due to his claim of a medical condition. While Altman rants about the dangers of sugar, Dietrich briefs him on the history of the stuff.

Dietrich’s medical knowledge actually comes in real handy as he advises the squad to put an ailing Yemana on a hard surface before he gets to the hospital. Whenever he has some important message to impart, he prioritizes filing and booking bets on the races.

While they wait for the ambulance, and while Altman waits for candy, Kleiner comes back with news on a possible bounty, Victor Jurasic, wanted for mail fraud and interstate flight for avoiding prosecution. He’d like backup, so Barney hastily grabs Levitt. The two of them succeed in bagging the collar, so Kleiner offers Levitt an award, which Levitt very publicly declines for the benefit of any superiors within earshot that might have the power to promote him. Kleiner’s assessment is that Levitt is a cute, crazy, little person.

The squad concurs.

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