Barney Miller: Dog Days/The Baby Broker/The Accusation

Dog Days

September 28, 1978

Barney usually gets on Wojo or Harris’ case for being late, but he arrives at the one-two just before Harris, undermining his moral high ground. But Barney’s under a lot of stress, surprising the other detectives, who usually find him quite unflappable. Wojo happens to mention that Liz called for Barney, sparking an urgency in Barney as he’s upset Wojo didn’t tell him right away. Since the events of “Quo Vadis?” in March of the previous season, Liz and Barney have separated.

This story has a twin in a case that starts the episode. A Carolyn Slade comes in looking for her husband, whom she suspects has run off. Harris is charmed by her beauty and is clearly motivated to help her out, but finding her husband would mean losing her. For her part, she’s charmed by his erudition, mistaking an “original thought” of his for a line from “Annie Hall” (1977). Barney’s warning to Harris to be careful is dripping with subtext and frustration, layered into the usual sage advice. What might be a dip into the territory of “Rape,” is far more complex for the subtext. And here, the husband appears to be merely neglectful.

Meanwhile, Harris’ moustache hasn’t grown back yet, so he’s wearing a false one, which doesn’t hang very well. Harris eventually takes the moustache off, conceding both that and any possible romantic relationship with Slade. However Harris provides her with her husband’s current whereabouts…which she strongly and consciously forgets.

Wojo fields a call, reporting a dog fighting racket, so he and Yemana go check it out. The dog is a German Shepherd named Max, owned by a Joseph Lasorda, played by Joseph V. Perry, formerly Leonard K. Hauser in “Community Relations” and Building Inspector Gardino in “Rain.” Lasorda acts like the Max’s fighting manager. The dog bit Wojo, who is afraid he might have rabies, but Barney and the rest try to keep him calm. The prognosis for rabies is nearly always fatal after the onset of symptoms, so Wojo was correct to be scared and want treatment immediately. When asked by Morris the dogcatcher about shots, Lasorda is oblivious, worrying Wojo further.

In another sign of Barney Miller’s perennial relevancy, Dietrich cites the ancient Greek and Roman games as the origin of the barbarism of both dog fighting and the NFL. But the whole squad has to worry when Max enters the squad room and starts barking. Lasorda tells Yemana that Max wants him let out of the cage, so Yemana grabs the keys, opens the door, and locks himself in the cage with Lasorda!

When the rest of the squad returns, they’re held hostage by the dog, Levitt the most terrified of all. Barney pleads with Lasorda to ask his dog to stand down, resorting to readying his revolver in order to shoot Max. Lasorda’s an odd character as he clearly seems to care for the dog on one hand, but clearly has no respect for the dog’s rights to have vaccines and not be a prize fighter. He takes Barney’s bait and calls the dog off.

As often happens on the show when the detectives face real danger, Liz calls, both inconveniencing the situation and confirming her worst fears about the job.

We don’t actually see or hear Liz in the episode, and won’t for the most of the duration. It’s a restriction that surely stems from Barbara Barrie no longer being part of the cast, as arcs like this were one of the defining aspects of her character from the development stages of the series. But on one hand it works. It isolates Barney from Liz in a visual an aural sense, showing us his loneliness and frustration.

And in that frustration, Yemana notices that the line light has gone out on the phone, signaling the end of the call with Liz. So he enters Barney’s office saying as much, Barney complimenting his detective work. Yemana asks Barney to come over for dinner, followed by Wojo asking if they all want to go out for drinks. So Barney calls them in, touched by their concern, but stubbornly stoic as always. Being a leader and role model to one’s crew is a lonely business.

The Baby Broker

Airdate: October 5, 1978

Not only has Harris lost his moustache, he loses a trick question battle of wits with Dietrich, administered by Yemana’s trivia book. Yemana attempts to ask Barney the same question, but Barney’s frustrated enough that he takes it out on him, asking him to do some work, not realizing it’s before the start of his shift. The two having it hardest this season do seem to be him and Barney.

Levitt’s been having it hard too, as he’s been working thirty seven hours straight. The drowsy cop tries to help, at Barney’s request, eventually seeming superhuman in his energy. Barney suspects drug use and lets Levitt know that he shouldn’t feel expected to perform in such a way that would be detrimental to his health.

On his way to work, Wojo went to East Side Terminal to see a girl off to Boston and witnessed an altercation. He brought all three parties to the one-two. A couple, Harold and Harriet Adelson attempted to keep an Ana Schlesinger from leaving the country because she’s carrying their baby. It’s unclear if Wojo has used his often hasty judgment, or if this is a legitimately dangerous legal matter, so Wojo makes clear he’ll look into it.

It certainly appears to be the latter as Schlesinger clearly doesn’t want to give up her baby. But things seem even sketchier when the Adelman’s lawyer, Philip Kubrick, played by Michael Durrell, previously Howard Altman in “Appendicitis,” admits to owning a building with pregnant foreign women in dormitory conditions. Wojo cites law that says that lawyers can’t make money for securing babies, but Kubrick’s arrangements obscured that fact to the Adelmans.

Schlesinger doesn’t speak much English at all, so Dietrich translates. She wants to keep the baby, but won’t press charges against the Adelmans. But the Adelmans do try to keep in touch with Schlesinger, so that they can at least share some responsibility for the baby.

Dietrich offers in vitro fertilization as a possible solution to their fertility problems, without the implication that he’d be a suitable donor, as in “The Bank.”

A complaint of lewd conduct has been made against Henry McDowell, played by Ivor Francis, previously Mr. Unger in “The Recluse” and Lattimer on Fish, by a Miss Adrienne Fontana. But McDowell is a professor, compiling profanity for dictionary on the subject. He wanted to compile the reactions to such words. That seems a dangerous game.

Not much is made of this plotline, except for the giggles of using slightly risqué words. The complainant doesn’t even bother to follow up on her complaint.

The Accusation

Airdate: October 12, 1978

Update on Barney’s situation: He’s moved into the Greenwich Hotel, Room 320.

Update on the Harris Moustache Saga: it now looks like the best I could grow. Someday it’ll be back to its full strength.

Update with Wojo: he tried to let Barney know he was late because he was staying in Boston with the woman from the previous episode. But he’s in earlier than Barney as he books Rubin, played by Michael Tucci, previously Fred in “Hash.”

It’s as if this show was serialized!

But this episode’s real drama comes from the Dietrich storyline. He brings in a complainant, Ms. Doris Whittaker, whose mailbox security was compromised. As she looks through the mug book, she’s charmed by Dietrich’s dry sense of humor and very awkwardly tries to reciprocate by showing her affection for him. Since there’s no luck with the mug book, she requests that Dietrich escort her home.

Before he can return, Internal Affairs calls with a complaint from her that he came on to her. The charges prompt laughter from the squad, incredulous that someone they only know as a detached dispenser of information could even be passionate enough for such an act.

Dietrich explains what happened, which included Ms. Whittaker disrobing in front of her of her own volition, after which he left “I figured it was the thing to do.” But Barney wants to be sure Dietrich didn’t say anything that could be misconstrued.

That’s not good enough for Scanlon, back from Internal Affairs. Though he doesn’t quite have the same motives as Arnold Ripner, he’s just as litigious and paranoid. A veteran of vice, he’s succumbed to corruption, and like most paranoid people, expects the same bad behavior he commits in everyone else he sees.

Whittaker doesn’t appear to have meant any harm. There were several possible motives for her accusations. Among the cited possibilities were mental instability and delusions and extrapolations of what happened. But she shyly confesses it had to do with pride. It appears that her sexual anxiety was both the cause of the actions as they took place as well as the form of her explanation of the events. After dropping her charges, she considers another ride home, but nobody volunteers. She’ll take a cab.

On a less serious note, a Rabbi Joseph Greenblatt, played by Eugene Elman, previously Mr. Kaufmann in “Sex Surrogate” and Eddie Schuman in “Evaluation,” he’s brought in for operating an illegal casino. What started out as an innocent “Las Vegas Night” fundraiser for a school snowballed into a full-blown long-term operation. It was going so well he “didn’t have the heart to stop it.” He only “had a suspicion that the continued use of the equipment was illegal. He decided to remain blissfully ignorant to its legality.

The confiscated gambling paraphernalia was placed on Yemana’s desk, so that he could dream, even if it’s a temporary dream. While Yemana awaits the inevitable, Rubin gets thrown in the cage with Greenblatt, where Rubin assumes it’s what passes for the council he was granted.

The rabbi’s wife, Ruthie, bails him out, so all’s well.

The day over, Dietrich senses that Barney could use some company after another phone call with Liz. So he asks Barney if the two of them could go grab a bite. The two of them would probably help each other out in their commiseration, if only they could settle on a place to eat.

This is the second episode directed by Max Gail.


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