Copyright ©2017 by Mike Quigley. No reproduction of any kind without permission.
Episodes without music credits use stock music.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers and the plots are given away!
★★★★ = One of the very best episodes, a must-see.
★★★ = Better than average, worthy of attention.
★★ = Average, perhaps with a few moments of interest.
★ = Below average, an episode to avoid.
S04E01: Poisoned Snow ★★★★
Original air date: September 11, 1975
Director: William Hale; Writer: Paul Savage
Clu Gulager is Inspector George Turner, a narcotics cop, whose girlfriend Maggie Collins (also a cop, played by Janis Hansen) is shot dead when she attempts to make an arrest during a drug transaction. The hotheaded Turner, who describes the people he deals with as "slime" and "human garbage," accuses his partner Phil (Alan Fudge), who was with Maggie at the time of her death, of bungling the operation. Stone says that they shouldn't give women this kind of work, it is too dangerous. Turner was going to marry Maggie soon after a divorce from his wife was finalized. He seeks vengeance, attempting to track down her killer, a guy named Cajun (Tony Geary, later of General Hospital). Turner gets a tip regarding Woody Parks (George Sawaya), distributor of the heroin. He and Phil attempt to bust Parks, but Turner pretends he didn't find any dope in Parks' car and they let him go. In reality, Turner does find the hidden heroin and laces it with rat poison. This has the desired effect of killing Cajun, but it also kills around 30 other junkies with the cops totally run off their feet dealing with this sudden epidemic of death. Turner's action also has extreme consequences, because his own son Andy (a pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill) is an addict who dies after purchasing some of the contaminated heroin. Turner is devastated by the loss of his son.
Phil, Stone and Keller encounter Turner in the basement of the station as he is being taken away in a paddy wagon. Turner, who is unrepentant, says "Nothing's gonna change," and there's "a different kind of poison" on the street now. When Turner asks his former partner "How's it going?" Phil responds, "I'm still trying", and shuts the paddy wagon door. Phil tells Stone and Keller, "He's wrong, you know. Things are changing all the time. Sometimes just not for the better, that's all."
This is a very good episode, with Stone being intense, interesting photography including sequences with the camera in the back of Stone and Keller's car (no process shots) and extreme closeups when Stone is grilling Turner after the latter's scheme is revealed, some pretty crazy driving by Keller, interesting music (albeit stock tracks) and a great cast including several character actors.
- I could see the plot angle culminating in Andy's death coming a mile away, given that the kid was sniffing from a "cold" during a meeting early in the show with his father.
- When Turner mixes the poison in with the dope, his fingerprints are going to be all over the bag, though it is obvious by this point he doesn't care about this.
- There is a reference to Captain Devitt, the Tim O'Connor character (though he is not seen).
- A "real" phone number -- 386-8271 -- is mentioned.
S04E02: The Glass Dart Board ★★★½
Original air date: September 18, 1975
Director: Harry Falk; Writer: Sean Baine
Martin Truax (Lou Frizzell) is taking shots at the $80 million, 35-storey Balboa Towers using a high-powered German "Handel" rifle. As we find out later, he is aggrieved because his property was expropriated to get land for the building, and he feels he was not compensated enough. Truax wants $1 million or he will keep up his attacks on the place, threatening to "destroy" it. When one of Truax's shots kills an accountant, the cops get even more interested than just investigating the shooting angle. Unfortunately, Stone has to contend with an old pal of his, Jacob Keely (Patrick O'Neal), who has been promoted to captain while Devitt is on sick leave. Keely is a "squint," according to Keller, meaning someone who never leaves the office and squints when he goes outside and sees the sun. Stone uses tried-and-true methods including triangulation from high up in the building to try and catch Truax, but finds himself constantly frustrated by Keely, who micro-manages things and interferes with Stone's work. Keely uses a management technique for complex programming he developed called P.E.R.T. (Program Evaluation and Review), which consists of a large flowchart taped to a blackboard with wheels where data relating to the case is entered. When Keely shows this method to the men, some of them roll their eyes. Stone and Keller have a good chance of capturing Truax one evening, but Keely takes command in the helicopter being used to follow the suspect and sends everyone in the wrong direction. This causes Stone to go totally ballistic, telling Keely that he is "what went wrong" with the operation, because he let the shooter escape. Shortly after this, using P.E.R.T., Keely has a suspect named Harlan Jeffers (Paul Pepper) picked up, and everything about him falls into place except the fact that he does not own the rifle being used. With the help of the Balboa Towers' building manager Eli Mason (Joel Fabiani), Stone and Keller add to the lists they already have of people connected to the skyscraper, including those who were responsible for the building's construction. Their last resort is the architectural firm which designed it, and there they find a "nut file" with letters from cranks including Truax, who was complaining bitterly about having to sell his property. Stone and Keller go to Truax's place, where the shooter is undone by his ancient car which won't start and his Airedale Terrier named Scruff. Truax ends up wounded by Keller and is taken into custody.
Devitt returns from the hospital and Keely is promoted to Research and Planning. Keely tells Stone that he is an example of The Peter Principle, having risen to the level of his own incompetence. Stone says the fact Keely is being promoted would counter this criticism, suggesting that Keely planned this move all along.
This episode is good, and when Stone blows up at Keely, it's surprising that even though the two are friends, Keely is technically Stone's superior, so I'm surprised, given his "I'm the boss" attitude (asking for Stone to address him as Captain in front of "the men," for example) that he doesn't take Stone off the case or discipline him in some way. I guess their friendship overrides this. Stone's outburst is undoubtedly one of the angriest he had in the entire series. With his use of computers, Keely was obviously ahead of his time, much to the annoyance of men in the department who found his methods to be counter-productive. But I don't know how advanced computers of the day were. For example, Keely tells Keller to check out employees who work in the Balboa Towers, which currently totals around 2,500 people, as well as people who previously were employed there. Then in the next scene we see Keller with Stone on the way to the building in their car and Keller is holding a large sheaf of computer printouts (not a "paperless" solution already). This is not from Mason, because Keller asks for that in a subsequent scene. So what are these papers? I don't think SOSF was like Hawaii Five-Zero where you can log into a Supercomputer and, starting with a facial recognition search, come up with obscure information in a few seconds like the results of a suspect's driving test 20 years ago or their high school records. Frizzell gives a very good performance as the edgy and irrational Truax.
- Truax's car is a 1953 Lincoln, license number AXO 995.
- Part of Jeffers' alibi is that during the shooting the night before, he was watching the "Blazers" play hockey. Was there such a team in San Francisco in the 70s? Keely discounts this, saying that the "Blazers didn't play last night. Refrigeration went bad. No ice, no hockey."
- Headlines are seen in the bogus San Francisco Dispatch paper: "Building Under Seige" and "Sniper Captured by P.E.R.T. Chart."
- The Balboa Towers is supposedly located at 8th and Saint Andrews.
- When Stone and Keller are driving after their first visit to Keely's office, you can see the shadows of the cameraman and the production crew on the street.
- At the end of the show, because his car doesn't start, Truax is going to take shots at the Towers from the roof of his apartment building, which seems very far away, unlike his previous attempts on the building.
S04E03: No Place to Hide ★★★
Original air date: September 25, 1975
Director: Virgil W. Vogel; Writer: Robert Malcolm Young; Music: Richard Markowitz
When a young woman is shot dead in a laundromat, Stone and Keller find themselves involved with the world of gangs at the fictional and nasty Holton Prison, including those outside who have been paroled but have connections to two bosses in the jail, Carl Metzger (Todd Martin) of the White Brothers and Lafayette Delacroix (Ji-Tu Cumbuka), leader of the black Cadre. Jennifer O'Brien, the murdered woman, was refusing to co-operate in a plan devised by Metzger to smuggle drugs into the prison to her incarcerated husband Robert (Michael Bell) via kissing. Taking advantage of the fact that Robert now feels his life is over because of his wife's death, Delacroix slips him a shiv and tells him to knock off Metzger, but O'Brien himself is murdered. (Metzger and Delacroix are surprisingly chummy in a meeting in the prison shower room later which suggests that the murder of O'Brien was planned between the two of them.) The next prospect for Metzger's smuggling plan is Lou King (Paul Carr), who is in Holton for embezzlement. King's wife Rita (the hot Stefanie Powers) is visited by Holton parolee Jack Constantine (Chris Robinson) who convinces her to co-operate if she wants her husband to remain healthy. Keller enlists the help of Pepper Collins (Stan Haze), a black guy out on parole from Holton who he has had dealings with in the past, to get the scoop on members of the White Brothers who are possible suspects in Jennifer O'Brien's murder. Collins is only to glad to co-operate to "get back at the honkies." Rita, who was pals with Jennifer O'Brien, meets with Constantine at some out-of-the-way location which looks like a garbage dump to discuss the dope smuggling. Joe Max (Ben Frank), another ex-con from Holton who Constantine has "contracted" to knock off Collins also shows up and is shot dead by Constantine when he complains about his assignment. Rita flees the scene but some guy at the dump makes a note of her car license plate, which leads Stone and Keller to her. (Stone already talked to Rita, a friend of Jennifer, once before.) Rita refuses to talk unless Stone makes a deal to have her husband released, otherwise he is as good as dead. Stone makes the deal with a judge late in the evening and he and Keller go to see Rita to tell her, just as Constantine, who has broken into her place, is threatening her with a knife. Constantine is taken away and soon after this, Rita spills the beans.
Stone and Keller escort the Kings to a bus depot in downtown San Francisco near the Columbia Hotel which will take them to the airport and a new life under the Witness Protection Program. Keller gets to imitate Marlon Brando in The Godfather (not very well) when he says that Rita made "an offer that [Stone] couldn't refuse." As they are leaving the scene, Stone tells Keller that King's new name is "John Louis Smith," which Keller thinks is pretty lame.
The subject matter for this show is unsettling and helped by Robinson's slimy performance as Constantine, especially the scene where he demonstrates how he wants Rita to pass the drugs to her husband with a deep kiss, and Martin's menacing portrayal of Metzger. The attack by Constantine on Rita at the end is kind of over the top, though, verging on slasher film territory. There are a few odd things, though, like Joe Max showing up at the garbage dump to talk to Constantine which doesn't make any sense at all. Is this Constantine's default meeting place for people?
- It's an odd coincidence that Metzger, leader of The White Boys, has the same last name as Tom Metzger, described by Wikipedia as an "American white supremacist, skinhead leader and former Klansman [who] founded White Aryan Resistance [and] was a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s."
- The prisoners at Holton are allowed to kiss their loved ones through a small window in the screen between them. I'm surprised that the guards can't figure out that something fishy is going between Rita and her husband.
- After Stone talks to the judge about getting Rita's husband released, he and Keller walk out of the building in a reverse tracking shot which goes on for more than a minute.
- As Constantine arrives at Rita's place and breaks in, piano music by Bach is heard playing on the stereo. The sound of Constantine breaking the window glass is almost inaudible. Rita leaves her key in the deadbolt on the inside of the door, which is not too smart.
- Keller shows mug shots to Stone of ex-Holton convicts who may have a connection to the White Brothers: Abe Sugar (number 2572), Dix Hennessey (566725), Ernie Porter (2527) and Joe Max (215727), all of whom are on probation. Metzger's prison number is D85112. The deputy warden Norderman at Holton is played by character actor Charles Napier
S04E05: School of Fear ★½
Original air date: October 9, 1975
Director: William Hale; Writers: Brad Radnitz, Gordon Basichis & Marcia Basichis; Music: John Parker
When Walter Randolph, a teacher at Manual High School, attempts to break up a fight between two students, he is shot dead. One of the students, Jim Riley (Don Stark), is busted, but the other, Richie Martino (Bob Hegyes), flees the scene. A few days later, Martino still has not shown up, and some other students have also gone missing. Leopold Summers (Maurice Evans), an older teacher who was fired from the school because of his disciplinary methods, has kidnapped Martino and three of his other former students and chained them to desks in a classroom at the abandoned Thomas Paine Academy where Summers himself went to school many years before. In addition to the Chicano-looking Martino, the others are the black Billy Jeffers (Erik Kilpatrick), Randy Pruitt (Mark Lambert) from the poor side of town and the mouthy Judy Harris (Barbara Stanger). Judy was reportedly the one who "ratted out" Summers after he struck a student (Jeffers) which resulted in him getting canned, but Summers says that he won't hold this against her. Summers wants to improve his captives' education on topics like world history, literature and so forth. Keller manages to track Summers down to his old neighborhood and goes to the abandoned academy where he finds the room where the kids are being held, but gets knocked out by Summers and also chained to a desk. When Keller starts to question Summers' methods, the teacher tells him to shut up. Prior to Keller's arrival, Judy got Martino to throw her purse out of the building with a message for help. It was found by some neighborhood bum, who called her father (Geoffrey Lewis) with hopes of getting a reward. The father arrives at the school with a gun and starts fighting with Summers after Judy suggests that the teacher molested her. Stone then shows up and punches Harris out in a particularly violent manner. Summers escapes to the upper floors of the building and Stone pursues him, as hallucinatory audio flashbacks are heard on the soundtrack. Summers falls through a part of the floor which is rotten and is killed when he hits the ground below.
Stone and Keller find themselves back at Manual High. Billy, who was the only student of the kidnapped four to show interest in what Summers was trying to do, has re-entered the curriculum for his final semester. Billy says, "If old Summers thought I was worth dying for ... well, I can try." The school's principal (John Lehne), says "Some good has come out of all this." Pruitt is back and Martino might return, though Judy Harris has dropped out. As they leave the building, Stone talks about how much Summers cared for his students despite his other faults and Keller says while he was chained up, Summers had the kids listening.
This show sort of has an interesting premise, which these days might form the basis for a dystopian movie like Battle Royale. But I thought it was ridiculously unrealistic. One of the major problems is the students, who are supposedly around 17-18 years old. They are typical "high school students" portrayed by actors who are much older, and it shows. As of the date of the episode's broadcast, Hegyes was 21, Lambert was 23 and Stanger was 26! (I can't find a date for Kilpatrick; Stark was 24.) There is no indication how old Summers is supposed to be, but Evans was 64. Considering he sometimes walks with a cane, he seems very agile in kicking Pruitt down the stairs of the building where he lives and forcing the students to do his bidding, albeit at knife or gun point. But think -- how many times have you seen a film or TV show where someone has a gun pointed right in their face and manages to disarm the person holding the gun? You would expect the street-smart Martino to be able to do this, especially while Summers is standing right beside him in the classroom where Martino is chained up. Just because Summers is a "person of authority" doesn't mean the students have to be terrified of him! Another issue has to do with "people going to the bathroom." Summers tells them that they are "rested, fed and allowed personal hygiene." During all of these, the kids might have an opportunity to escape, though when he lets Jeffers go to the toilet, Summers makes sure that the door is locked while Jeffers is inside. Evans does give a good performance as the kindly "old-fashioned" teacher who is seriously deranged because of the death of his wife 10 years before as well as his dismissal from the school system, but it is all for nothing!
- Summers drives a vintage Mercury, model "61-03," which, according to Mike Timothy, is a 1954 Mercury Monterey 2-DR Hardtop. If you watch the one scene where the camera is inside the car, Maurice Evans drives as if he is someone who is not used to driving.
- When Summers looks like he is making a eulogy for Randolph in a funeral home, he is reciting a passage from Thomas Hobbes' Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan, specifically Chapter XIII, Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning Their Felicity and Misery.
- It seems very odd to me that when Harris comes to the police station after Summers calls him to say that Judy is being held captive but she will not be harmed, that the one major clue to Summers' identity that might help the cops -- that he has an English accent -- is not mentioned.
- One of the books which Summers is forcing the students to read looks like it is called "Adventures in Appreciation."
- Harris's father's phone number is 362-0024.
- As Stone and Keller approach their car which is parked on the school grounds at the end of the show, a couple of students are looking in the car like they want to steal it!