This is another episode with conflicting titles. Netflix says it's "Astro", IMDB says "Astro Division". I just call it the "Helicopter Episode From Season 2, Not to Be Confused With The 2-Part Helicopter Episode From Season 6".
Good news, Ed Wells has a new assignment. Bad news, it's still with the LAPD.
Deciding who pays for coffee everyday can get pretty boring, so Reed and Malloy have made a game out of it. As far as I can tell, they both flip coins at the same time, the one whose coin is "tails" pays for the coffee. I think, they don't really explain the rules.
|They flip coins. Reed loses.|
|He asks to see Malloy's coin. A particularly jovial Malloy presents his coin for inspection.|
While Reed pays for the coffee, Ed Wells enters wearing an LAPD baseball cap as opposed to his usual policeman's hat. Malloy thinks this is hilarious.
|"Looks like you're gonna play little league this year."|
(I wonder Malloy would think of my local PD, they wear ball caps as a part of their regular uniform.)
Wells corrects him, he'll be playing the "big league, upstairs" today. Meaning that he has signed on to be an observer to Astro, the helicopter unit. Wells brags that being part of the helicopter unit takes a "little know-how, and a stout heart, and a keen, keen eye." From up in the air, he'll be able to see everything.
|Apparently, there's some other officer named Grant standing beside Reed here. Grant thinks that Wells will only be able to see "dollhouses, toy cars, and ants" from 800 feet up in the air.|
Before they leave the coffee room, Reed tries again for free coffee. He challenges Wells to a "flip off", but first they trade coins.
|Reed loses again and he's not happy.|
|Malloy just wants to enjoy his coffee.|
At roll call Mac briefs the officers on the helicopter. The department had been using the helicopter on a limited basis, but now the limitations are off and it is operational as a regular patrol vehicle.
Let me give you some history on the LAPD helicopter unit, or the Air Support Division as it is now called. And when I say, "give you some history", I really mean, "let me cut and paste this bit about the history of the Air Support Divison from lapdonline.org".
The Los Angeles Police department’s airborne law enforcement program began with one helicopter in 1956. This helicopter, a Hiller 12J was assigned primarily for traffic patrol of the City’s freeway system and was assigned to the traffic Enforcement Division. In 1957 after a full year in operation, the "Helicopter Unit" flew 775 hours.
In 1963, a second helicopter was added to the fleet and two years later a third was added. In 1968, a turbine powered Bell 206A Jet Ranger was added to the fleet. This helicopter significantly decreased police response time. As a result, the "Helicopter Unit" began to respond to unusual occurrences and other police emergencies.
At the end of Mac's speech he introduces Lt. King, the man in charge of the helicopter unit. He begins his talk about the helicopter by comparing it to the two-way radio. When the radio was introduced, a lot of people felt it was a new, expensive toy the department had, but now the officers would not be able to do their job without it. A lot of people feel the same way about the helicopter. He is here to show them that it is not a toy, but an essential law-enforcement tool.
|This is Lt. King, he's played by Kenneth Tobey. Tobey was also on a show called "Whirlybirds". I've never seen it, but it's about helicopters.|
Lt. King gives them some facts surrounding the use of the helicopter. In a division that used the helicopter in conjunction with the patrol cars, robbery and theft decreased while arrests increased.
King goes on to point out that the helicopter is not meant to replace the black and white patrol car, it is a tool that can assist the patrol officers with their operation on the ground. However, the helicopter is only effective if the patrol officers communicate with the air unit.
After inspection, Pete and Jim hit the street. Their first call is unknown trouble at 1623 Hickory Street, which Jim points out is a "pretty ritzy section".
When they arrive at 1623 Hickory a Chinese man speaking either Chinese or heavily accented English shows them to the basement of the residence.
|Pete asks Jim, "Did you get any of that?".|
Jim replies, "Are you kidding?".
They finally understand that he is trying to tell them something about the mushrooms he grows in the basement. Pete, who can't understand where this is going or what this is all about, asks his partner if he knows anything about mushrooms. Jim answers by telling his partner all he knows about the edible fungi, "They look good on a steak".
|[You're no help whatsoever, junior.]|
Pete tries to gather more information about why they have been called. He tries to break the language barrier by shouting his questions at the Chinese man. He asks if someone tried to steal his mushrooms.
|"Take them, put them in their pocket!" shouts Pete while pantomiming the action of putting something in his pocket.|
It becomes clear that the man is attempting to tell them he heard something while tending to his mushrooms. He bangs a stick to illustrate what he heard. He then shows them the real reason they've been called. Pete has a feeling that this has nothing to do with mushrooms.
|He takes them to a large wall safe.|
Pete is beginning to understand what this is all about. He asks how many people live in the house.
Pete gets it now, the residents of the house are locked inside the safe. He tells Jim to call the station and get the lock and safe crew from SID (Scientific Investigation Division) and an ambulance out to their location quickly.
|Jim uses hand gestures instead of shouting to ask for the phone.|
Shortly after the Chinese man leads Jim upstairs to use the phone, another man comes downstairs to see what's going on. This man is Dr. Vincent Patrick, a neighbor and friend of the homeowners, Frank and Judy Laird. The Chinese man and his wife work for the Lairds. The wife called Dr. Vincent. Pete, hoping for a quick resolution, asks if Dr. Patrick knows the safe combination. Unfortunately, he does not know it.
|Pete thinks the Lairds were robbed and forced into the safe by the perpetrators. Jim confirms this theory, the upper level of the house has been ransacked.|
Sgt. Bing from lock and safe arrives and goes right to work. He listens inside the safe and hears moaning, Bing then has another man from his crew drill a hole in the safe door to let in some air. He determines that they will have to cut the safe open with the torch.
Except, that won't work. Another plainclothes officer rushes downstairs to tell Bing that Laird had a tear gas capsule with a fusible-linked trigger installed in the safe. If they use the torch, it will set off the tear gas. The elderly Lairds, who are already fighting for air, would not survive the tear gas. Bing can't understand why the Lairds didn't open the safe themselves from the inside, Pete theorizes that they may be injured.
Bing decides to "drag" the lock, they will pull the spindle and manipulate the tumblers by hand. Normally, they'd "punch" the lock. Bing describes that they would, "smack a drift with a sledgehammer and drive those tumblers right out of there". I'm not really sure what all of that means, but I do know that sledgehammers and tear gas capsules don't mix well.
Medics arrive and begin pumping oxygen into the safe. The Lairds may be in there for awhile and they will need all of the help they can get.
|Bing shows Pete his tool. Pete doesn't look impressed with the size of this man's tool.|
Lt. Bing works on the safe through the commercial break, commenting that, "The guy who designed this one was mad at the world". He hears a loud noise and pulls his tool out of the door, hoping for the best.
|The safe door opens and the medics pull out the unconscious Lairds.|
Dr. Patrick examines the Lairds and announces that they will both be all right. Bing then discovers why the Lairds did not open the safe from the inside, the interior lightbulb had burnt out. Mr. Laird, who had quit smoking on his doctor's advice, also did not have a match to illuminate the inside of the safe. Bing asks Dr. Patrick how much the Lairds are worth, Patrick estimates one or two million dollars.
|"For my money, forty cents would have been well spent."|
We next see Malloy and Reed in the patrol car. Reed watches the helicopter flying above them and wonders what it is like up there. Malloy tells him that he might find out in five or six years, which would be 1975 or 1976.
|Look at that, Malloy was only off by one year!|
They then receive a call of a 211 in progress at 1423 Oxnard, they are told to use caution because the suspect is armed. Malloy races to Oxnard with the red lights on and siren blaring. When they arrive at the scene, a man tells them that the suspects are in an alley out back and one of them has a gun.
|Reed and Malloy get to the alley just in time to see the suspects escape on a motorcycle.|
They race back to the car and the same witness gives them a description of the suspects. Once inside the car, the radio dispatcher tells them to switch to tac 2. Wells, in the helicopter, meets them on tac 2 and lets them know that the suspects have been spotted heading West on Oxnard.
|Notice the name on the building in the background.|
Wells continues to give them updates on the suspects' movement from his aerial vantage point. He directs Malloy until 1-Adam-12 catches up with the suspects on a footbridge. Then something very strange happens. Malloy gets out and chases one suspect while Reed slides over to the driver's side and takes off after the other suspect. What? Is Reed injured, why is he not chasing the suspect? Has he finally had a long overdue talk with his senior partner and told him that he can't do all of the running? Did they flip coins in the car and Reed finally won? As it turns out, this is one of two mysteries in this episode.
|Do you see that black cord around Reed's neck? What is that? I've never seen it before this episode.|
A dramatic stand-off between Malloy and the suspect takes place on the bridge. He shoots at Malloy, then jumps underneath the footbridge. Next, Malloy silently stalks the suspect. All that can be heard in this scene are his footsteps and the helicopter blades in the distance.
|Malloy searches for the suspect.|
When he realizes where the man is, he climbs beneath the bridge and closes in on the suspect.
|Wells' eye view of the bridge from the helicopter.|
Malloy climbs under the bridge where all of the shrubbery is located.
|"You've had it mister, give it up!"|
Wells, once again, provides assistance from the air. From the helicopter, he commands the suspect to stop and throw down his gun. Knowing that he can't get away from the all-seeing eye in the sky, the suspect complies.
|This criminal cross between David Hasselhoff and Michael Landon thinks that helicopters are "dirty pool".|
Malloy and Reed have gotten all dirty chasing suspects around so they return to the station locker room for fresh uniforms. Wells, who has been working above the dirt and grime this shift, enters the locker room to tease his fellow officers.
|He walks in and says, "Ha! The twin moles that walk like a man."|
What does that mean!?! Forget what I said before, there are three mysteries in this episode.
He then tells Reed and Malloy what he witnessed after the helicopter left our dynamic duo. The helicopter unit came upon two guys digging a hole in a vacant lot, they then pulled an engine out of the hole. It seemed suspicious so they called a black and white. Wells doesn't know how the story ended, they were called to the other end of the district before the black and white got there.
After Wells leaves, Reed tells Malloy that he can live without helicopters. Malloy reminds him that it wasn't too long ago that cops used to think they could live without something else, the two-way radio.
|"That was before my time."|
|[You little jerk, I'm never chasing after a suspect again.]|
Once they're all clean and spiffy, Malloy and Reed make their way to the coffee room where Grant is telling a story about two guys in a truck with the "dirtiest automobile engine you've ever seen". Seems Grant was in the black and white that the helicopter called to investigate the guys pulling the engine out of the hole. The engine was not stolen, it belonged to one of the guys in the truck! He tried to throw it out two months ago, but the garbage men would not take it. After the cops told him to get it off the street, he buried it. Now he was unearthing it in order to exchange it for a new engine.
|Malloy and Reed listen to Grant's story.|
Although they've just heard a most exciting story, Reed and Malloy still need coffee. They decide to play the coin flip game again. Reed loses again.
|This time Reed is a double loser, the machine takes his coin without delivering any coffee.|
The credits roll and the two partners continue to shoot the breeze at the coffee machine.
|This is my favorite screen cap from the whole episode. It's like they've stopped being Pete and Jim here and they're just Marty and Kent sharing a joke. I wonder what they're laughing about.|
I like most of this episode. Not all of it, but most of it. Let's start with the parts I enjoyed.
Just like last week's episode, I like that I learned about another aspect of police work. Before I watched this one, I never really thought about how police helicopters were used. I knew they existed, but I never thought about what the police did with them. After I heard Lt. King's speech on how the helicopter worked together with the black and white, I thought, "That totally makes sense. why didn't I understand that before?". Later in the episode, King's speech is brought to life when Wells helps Malloy and Reed close in on the suspects. His direction from the air made this chase easier to follow and more exciting than the usual car chases where you only hear sirens and squealing tires.
This episode not only had a thrilling part that kept me on the edge of my seat, it also had some comedy that made me chuckle. I really liked the part with the Chinese man, and not because of his inability to speak English. I laughed out loud at Malloy's attempts to communicate with him through shouting. Did he not understand that shouting English at a foreign person doesn't magically translate it for them? Maybe he did know that and just shouted out of frustration. Either way, a frustrated Malloy is always funny.
Here's what I didn't care for so much. That story about the engine buried in the dirt, what was the point? If it was to show how the helicopter and patrol units worked together, it really wasn't needed. The part with Wells, 1-A-12, and the suspects on the motorcycle did a much better job of illustrating this.
I would have also liked some more explanation as to what was going on with the lock and safe crew. I didn't understand everything they were talking about and I have the internet and Google at my fingertips to look up a meaning for every word of dialogue. 1970 audiences without such access to information must have been even more confused. Unless combination safes were were more widely used back then and everybody understood how tumblers and locks worked.
I found "Log 34: Astro" mostly high-flying with a few pockets of turbulence, so I give it a rating of:
Do you agree? See you next time! KMA-367