Monday, July 4, 2016

Million Dollar Buff (Season 4, Episode 2)

Episode 80

This is gonna be a good one!
This is the first of twenty-one episodes
that the tough guy/ actor/ writer penned.
He also co-stars in this one. 

It's a beautiful day in Los Angeles and officers Reed and Malloy are enjoying seven at and outdoor eating establishment. Their relaxing meal break is about to get a lot more interesting, though.
There's that Corvette again. 
Reed looks annoyed.
Probably with this chick's atrocious park job.
As the blonde driver sexily walks up to the counter (you know it's done "sexily" because of the sax music in the background), Malloy practically breaks his neck trying to get a better look at her. Perhaps she matches the description of a suspect they're looking for.
Or maybe it's just her choice of microscopic bottoms.
Reed gets a kick out of his partner's behavior, as a married man he is immune to feminine charms (except the ones that belong to his wife, of course).

 Malloy turns back around and notices that Reed has noticed him noticing the girl.
"What's with you?"
Reed, as a married man, is up on women's fashions and decides to share some of his knowledge with Malloy.

"They're called hot pants."
Malloy wonders if his partner has any other areas of expertise.
"Do you have any other startling pieces of information for me?"

"As a matter of fact, I do. Underneath that shiny badge
 beats the heart of a perfectly normal dirty old man."
"Thanks, partner."
The sound of squealing tires brings their attention back to the parking lot, but this time there's no blond in hot pants getting out of classic sports car.
Just this guy getting out of a brown car.
Both Pete and Jim seem to know this man and neither one is happy to see him. Jim declares, "He's back" and Pete's suddenly lost his appetite. Who is this guy? Is he an unpopular detective? Whoever he is, he sure is happy to see Pete and Jim. Even though the sentiment is not returned.

"Malloy, Reed, how's the world been treating you boys?
See you got yourself a new car,"
 says the big man before inviting himself to sit with them.

This is Mr. Jennings Thornton, who is played by the Leo Gordon, a police buff or a private citizen who likes to follow the police. (Here are some definitions of the term from Warning! The first definition is for adults only.) Reed and Malloy haven't seen him around for awhile, Reed thought (or hoped) that Mr. Jennings had gotten himself a new hobby. Sorry, guys, no such luck. Mr. Thornton has been in Miami at the Annual Police Procedures Seminar. After all, like Thornton says, "Once a buff, always a buff".

While Thornton is telling Reed and Malloy about his trip to the seminar, Ms. Hot Pants walks past their table. Thornton looks at her outfit disapprovingly and wonders what the country is coming to. 
No wonder Malloy and him don't get along.
Thornton may not be excited by the hot pants, but he does get excited over police gadgets. Like these thumb-cuffs he picked up at the seminar.
They're flat as a comb and great for undercover work.
Reed tells Thornton that he's got himself a nice new toy there. Thornton quickly corrects him, these are no toys, they're the real deal.

Reed knows they're real, just like the police monitor, radiophone, spotlight, and other gadgets he has. Thornton doesn't get the point Reed is trying to make when he lists all of the gadgets he owns. He looks to Malloy for help.

"What my partner's trying to tell you is no matter how many
 gadgets you pick up, you're still not a policeman.
You're liable to get yourself into trouble someday.
We wouldn't want to see that happen."

Thornton doesn't take kindly to Malloy's warning, he thought citizen involvement was a department policy.
"Involvement, yes. Playing policeman, no.
We don't need vigilantes."
Thornton doesn't like Malloy's attitude and Malloy doesn't like hanging around Thornton anymore. "Time to roll, partner," he tells Reed. They head back to their car and leave Thornton stewing.

Is this Chinatown?

In the car Reed and Malloy's conversation turns to buffs. Reed just can't figure out Thornton. He's retired and has plenty of money, why does he want to chase police calls? 

Malloy's had more experience with police buffs and begins telling his partner a story about a buff they had in 77th Street Division. This buff arrived at the scene of a 211in progress call before the black and white and wound up with a bullet in his stomach.
"Kill him?" asks Reed.
"No, but it sure cured him."
Pete hopes Thornton wises up before the same thing happens to him.

They'll have to wait until a later time to discuss Thornton in more depth. The radio interrupts with a call to see the security officer at Sumner's department store for a 484 report. 
I swear last season it was Summer's department store, now it's Sumner's.

At the store Pete and Jim meet with Dave Walbrook from store security. He's called the police because a $1500 engagement ring was stolen from the jewelry counter. The thief performed a "palm switch", taking the expensive ring and leaving a cheap piece of costume jewelry in its place.
Mr. Walbrook figures it's worth a buck or a buck and a half.
There's also a nervous-looking young woman in the security office. Her name is Jenny Carson and she was working the jewelry counter when the switch happened. Because of her age Miss Carson usually works in cosmetics, not jewelry. Mr. Walbrook would have never allowed her to work the counter, but he didn't know about it until it was too late. The regular clerk was out sick today and Jenny was asked to cover the counter while the supervisor went on break. 

Since she's young and female, Jim will interview her.
Miss Carson knows exactly who it had to be, she only showed the tray of rings to one person.
Jaime Sommers... oops wrong show, sorry about that.
Jenny Carson nervously plays with her rings while Reed questions her.
She showed the tray to a tall woman wearing a white coat with brown stripes who was "middle-aged, at least thirty-five".
[I guess I won't be asking her out later.]
She was also "kinda tall" and had brown suede gloves. Jenny thought it was strange that she had the gloves considering the weather.

Reed (and his tanned, muscular arms) gets a kick out
 of Miss Carson and thanks her for her help.
Although Miss Carson didn't give them much to go on, they'll turn the report over to Bunco. Now that they're through Walbrook needs to have a serious chat with Miss Carson's supervisor.

When they're back in the patrol unit Pete lets Jim know that he saw the smirk he "laid on that Carson girl" and he didn't appreciate it. He doesn't want to hear any more dirty old man jokes from his younger partner.
Jim thinks Pete's generation gap is showing.

There's no more time for jokes now that they've received a dispatch that they are needed at 209 Bethal Street, that's where a citizen is holding a 502. Jim gives Pete three guesses who that citizen might be.
"They're all the same: Thornton."
Any one of Pete's guesses would have been right. They find an irritated Thornton waiting for them on Bethal Street. The buff wonders what took them so long, it's been two minutes and twenty seconds since they received the call. Malloy's not about to justify his travel time to Thornton, he just wants to know where the deuce is.

Malloy can't see the guy because he's passed out and lying across the front seat of his car, a white over gold Mustang. Reed checks out the car while Malloy finds out what happened from Thornton.
But first he shuts Thornton's car door
so he can't hear the police monitor.
Reed looks inside the car and finds evidence of alcohol consumption.
Just because you drive a gold Mustang doesn't
mean you have to drink Gold River, dude
Thornton tells Malloy that he followed the guy as he ran half a dozen stop signs while doing at least fifty.

Malloy thanks Thornton for his help then asks for his address and phone number, they'll need him testify in court. At first Thornton doesn't want to give up his information, but when Malloy reminds him that they won't be able to get a conviction without his testimony, he changes his mind. But he's still annoyed.
"Sometimes I think you people go out 
of your way to make life difficult."
Wait a second, doesn't Thornton 
want to be
 one of those people?
(I used this cap because you
can see the Mustang better here.)

"See you in court."
Thornton leaves in a huff. After he drives away Reed asks Malloy to help him with sleeping beauty.
[Sorry, Pete, he didn't leave any Gold River for us.]

When Pete and Jim return to the station they make a stop in the coffee room and find it full of their brethren in blue, including Mac. Pete decides that this is a good time to make an announcement. 

He lets everyone know that their favorite buff is back in town. A collective groan goes up from the crowd. Mac's not happy about the news, either.
"You got any more good news?"
Malloy doesn't have time to chat with Mac, there are two policewomen saving a seat for him.
[Hello, ladies. Do either one of you have any hot pants and would you like
to wear them out to dinner tonight?]

After their coffee break, Reed's thoughts turn to Thornton once again. He thinks it's funny that the buff spends all of his time trying to be with cops yet he doesn't have a friend on the force. Malloy doesn't think there's anything funny about Thornton. He also thinks Reed would agree with him if he knew more about Thornton's history.

Malloy tells his partner a story about Thornton. The big man once stopped a drunk and decided to rough him up a little when no one was watching. Brinkman arrived at the call in an L car and a sergeant soon after him. When the senior officer showed up Thornton swore out a complaint saying Brinkman beat up the drunk. The drunk was so far gone, he didn't know who hit him. Brinkman had to go in front of a review board to answer for the complaint. Luckily the board believed Brinkman, if they hadn't he would have been set down for it. 
Malloy ends his story with a warning: Thornton would do the same to either one of them. Thornton doesn't like cops and isn't interested in being their friend. "He just likes running around town with a strong arm, rousting people," says Malloy.

That's enough story time for now, Pete and Jim have to get back to catching bad guys. Like the one who is robbing the market at 14101 Delby. 
They race there Code 3 while crazy bongo
 music plays in the background.
 They get to the market, exit the car, and aim their guns on the door to the market. 

As soon as they're in position, a man comes out wearing a long coat and holding a paper bag. Pete tells him to freeze, he's under arrest. The man challenges them to go ahead and shoot.
"This is your last warning. One more step and we fire!
Hands above your head, now!"
The man begins to move his arms, but instead of putting them above his head, he pulls a gun out of the bag!

An all-out gun battle starts in the parking lot of the market!

Pete and Jim take cover behind a car and the suspect hides behind a dumpster. The shoot-out continues, even after the man has taken several hits. It's still raging on when backup arrives. 

Pete tries to convince the man to give up once more fire power arrives, but he wants to hold court in the street and takes some cops with him. When he gets down behind the dumpster again we see his coat is riddled with so many bullet holes it looks like Swiss cheese. 

Reed thinks he must be wearing a flak vest. How else could he take all those hits and still be standing?

Reed and Malloy should be focusing all their attention on this nut with a gun, but they get temporarily distracted when a brown car drives into the lot. Yep, it's Thornton, showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Reed, forgetting that he's in a life or death situation, stands up to yell at Thornton. 
Pete pulls him back down to safety.
As Thornton is driving through the parking lot, the gunman runs out from behind the dumpster and gets mowed down by Thornton's car. Once he's on the ground the officers surround him.
Jim tells him, "It's all over, mister, just lay back."
Hey, wait a second, how'd the Mustang get over here?
Shouldn't it be in the impound lot?
Pete opens the gunman's coat to reveal a flak vest, Jim was right.

After it's all over Thornton let's Malloy know that he's not looking for praise, he's just a citizen doing his duty. Malloy suspects that Thornton isn't here out of civic obligation.

"A citizen doing his duty is one thing,
but you're thrill-happy, Thornton."
Malloy's had it with Thornton after his latest stunt almost got Reed killed. He warns Thornton to stay away from him and his partner. Thornton thinks Malloy is being an ungrateful brat and doesn't hold back in telling him so.
"Two stripes and a star might make you almost a sergeant,
Malloy, but that doesn't give you the right to insult me."
(And there you have your "blink and you'll miss it"
 explanation of the new insignia on Malloy's uniform.)
Malloy responds by telling Thornton to "shove off".

Later, Jim shares what he's learned about the gunman with Pete. The guy is a three-time loser on parole. Pete's pretty sure the habitual offender will get life for his caper today. 
"Guys like that scare me," adds Pete.
They've been shot at, but Pete and Jim still have hours on their shift and calls to handle. Like the business dispute at Fairfax and Vine.

At the parking lot they meet up with the manager, Mr. Rawls. He's got a woman blocked in a spot so she can't get out. Earlier she scraped another car with hers and claimed she didn't do it. When Rawls asked for her license, she said she didn't have it. She then gave him the name of a "cockamamie insurance company" he never heard of. Rawls then told her he was calling the cops and she offered him twenty bucks to forget the whole thing. 

Malloy will talk to the woman while Reed checks out her car and the one next to her. 

The woman thinks the scrape is hardly noticeable and doesn't understand why Rawls bothered the police.
"No bother, it's what we're paid for."
This is hard to notice!??!
While Reed is looking around he notices something interesting in the woman's car.
A white coat with brown stripes and brown suede gloves.
The woman is played by Lynn Cartwright, aka Mrs. Leo Gordon.
You may recognize her from A League of Their Own
 where she was brilliantly cast as the older
 version of Gina Davis' character, Dottie Hinson.

[Hmm, I bet Miss Carson would think that she's middle-aged
and she's tall with reddish hair that isn't very long.]
Reed calls Malloy over to show him what he's found in the car. Malloy takes a look then wonders if she's been jewelry shopping today. He tells Reed to run her plates, he'll see if he can get anything out of the woman.

He gets her name, Jean Edna Tomlin, and her address, which is in Encino. She confirms that she owns the car. But when he asks about the coat and gloves in the car, she suddenly clams up and refuses to answer any more questions.

Meanwhile, Reed runs the plates on the car. When he's done, he sidles up to Pete and passes him a note.
Now Pete's got even more questions for Jean because the car is registered to a Jessica Caldwell at a Burbank address. She explains the discrepancy by claiming she uses a professional name. Pete inquires what her profession is. She doesn't like that at all.

"You better pull in your horns, buster.
I don't take that kind of crack from any badge-heavy clown."
Instead of pulling in his horns, Malloy pulls out his cuffs. Jean or Jessica or whoever she is is under arrest for suspicion of grand theft.

Jim reads her her rights, when he gets to the part about choosing "to give up that right" Ms. Caldwell has something to say.

"I don't give up anything, junior, but you will when my lawyer
gets through with you. That car is mine and I can prove it."
"Who said anything about your car?" asks Malloy.
Now that they've got a suspect in the jewelry case, Miss Carson is called down to identify her. Reed and Malloy are about to find out that this case may not be as cut and dry as they hoped. Mac calls them into his office to tell them they've got problems. Miss Carson can't give a positive ID on the Caldwell woman.
Miss Carson is extremely near-sighted and
she wasn't wearing her glasses at the jewelry counter.
She's almost sure Ms. Caldwell is the woman from the jewelry counter, but she's not positive. With nothing else to offer, Miss Carson gets up to leave the office.
Before Lindsay Wagner was an actress she was a model.
As you can see here, she definitely has the height for it.
According to IMDB, this role was her first on-screen credit.
A frustrated Pete asks the sergeant what happens now. Mac answers that they'll take Caldwell to the jail and search her. If the ring's not on her, they'll have to let her go. Pete has a strong suspicion that they won't find the ring, he knows she's a professional thief.
"Everything on her spells it."
Pete's been trying to come up with a name ever since they left the station, suddenly it comes to him when he's back behind the wheel. 

"Dorothy Parker!" he exclaims out of nowhere.  She's the one who coined the phrase "Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses", the idioms been stuck in his head ever since he found out the Carson girl wasn't wearing her spectacles at the jewelry counter.

Now that he's figured that out, he can move onto the next call with a clear mind. The familiar RTO voice comes over the radio and tells them they'll be moving onto the service alley behind the 9700 block of Woodman where a citizen is holding car strippers. "Citizen holding...", they've heard that phrase before. Jim asks his partner if he thinks it could be who they both think it could be.

"Couldn't be, fate isn't that cruel."
The RTO then adds that 1-L-20 will meet them at the location. They both wonder what that's all about, but know they'll find out soon enough.

Turns out fate is that cruel after all. They roll up to the location and find Thornton holding two boys in the alley. He has them thumb-cuffed with their arms over the hood of his car. The smug Thornton is quite pleased with himself. While Reed unlocks the "suspects" Thornton tells Pete that he's done the officer's job for him, all he has to do is transport and book the boys.
"This better be good, Thornton, or else you
 bought yourself a lot of trouble."
Thornton isn't worried, he only makes "class A busts".

Meanwhile, Reed gets the boys' side of the story. Bud, the blond one, sold his mag wheels to his friend, Jimmy. They were switching out the wheels when Thornton drove up and accused them of wrongdoing. They tried to explain to him what they were doing, but he just kept calling them "young punks" and waving his gun around. If Thornton would have stopped and listened, he would have discovered that Bud had the original receipts for the wheels.

When Malloy hears the boy say "gun" he immediately has Thornton put his hands behind his head. The two teenagers are shocked to see Malloy searching the man they thought was the "fuzz".

That's future TV doctor, Ed Begley, Jr. as Bud. 
Thornton wants to work it out. But Pete just wants to do what the law says, which is arrest Thornton for carrying a concealed weapon and possible ADW. When Pete tells him to put his hands behind his back Thornton thinks he's kidding. Pete makes it clear he's not.

Pete pulls out his cuffs, this is no joke.
As they're walking Thornton to the car, Mac pulls up in 1-L-20. Malloy shows the CO why they have Thornton in the backseat of 1-A-12.
"Our buff had one gadget too many."
If arresting Jennings Thornton didn't make Malloy happy, the news Mac is about to share should do the trick.
He's here to tell them that they got lucky on the jewelry case, they found the ring on Ms. Caldwell.
"Thanks, Mac. It wasn't such a bad day after all."

The End

This one's a little different and I just love it! Instead of the traditional, wind-breaker-wearing bad guy our main villain here is Jennings Thornton. An expert on the mechanics and gadgetry of police work who couldn't care less about the protecting or serving parts. In fact, he only seems interested in serving his insatiable ego as he always looks for thanks every time he makes another "Class A Bust".  Thornton can look for it all he wants, but he won't find any thanks coming from Pete. The conflict between our favorite cop and his least favorite buff gives us a Pete we haven't seen in a while.

The annoyed, exasperated, and irritated Pete is back and I couldn't be happier. It seems Pete is annoyed with everyone this fine day from his partner for making dirty old man cracks to Miss Carson to Thornton to the other significant "bad guy" in our story, Ms. Caldwell. Lynn Cartwright's character is another unusual antagonist, a woman is also a thief. And what a thief she is: statuesque, husky-voiced, and cool as a cucumber. An equal and formidable foe to the experience police officer.

In between Thornton and Caldwell, there's another villain in our story: the gunman from the market. This one is a lot more frightening than the other bad guys in the episode. This cunning criminal with nothing to lose is probably the type of suspect that real police officers face more than annoying buffs or professional yet nonviolent thieves. A sobering bit of terrifying reality in the middle of Reed and Malloy's day.

In this episode that has introduced us to new types of villains we also get to learn about a new aspect of police work: the buff. I knew there were people out there whose hobby was to study police and their work, but I'd never heard the term "buff" before. Nor did I know about the problems an overzealous buff could create for officers. I also never knew that thumb-cuffs were a real piece of equipment actually used by the police. Even in its fourth season Adam-12 still manages to teach me new things.

"Million Dollar Buff" is an episode that entertains, informs, and surprises. It should come as no shock to anyone that it earns the rating of:

Do you agree? Let me know somewhere, out there in cyberspace. See you next time with "The Grandmothers"!



  1. I always found Ms. Caldwell to be a very interesting character. My first impression of her was that she might be a female impersonator, especially when Pete asked her snidely what profession her professional name referred to. She just didn't fit any of A-12's previous female criminal types---like you said, an unusual antagonist. It always fascinates me to see actors in A-12 who show up in other shows, especially those who "made it big" elsewhere, like Lindsay Wagner and Ed Begley, Jr. Acting has got to be a scary profession---never with a really long-term economic reliability factor. I'm so glad they're willing to take the gamble. Thanks for the great blog, as usual!

  2. Another great wrap up, Keely. I did find one glaring error, though. On the screen cap of Reed holding the rifle on the gunman at the store, you wrote "They get to the market, exit the car, and aim their guns on the door to the market." When, in fact shouldn't it have read: "Reed, with his tanned, muscular arms and broad shoulders pulls the shotgun and aims it at the market"?

    1. I totally agree! And how about pointing out Reed's blindingly gorgeous smile as he watches Pete's reaction to the hot pants chick. Swoon!

    2. You are so, right, Nancy & Bogey (?). I will try to do a better job of pointing out Reeds various...talents.

    3. Good guess, Keely!

  3. I was wondering if there was a mistake in the scene where Jennings broke up the trench-coated shooter; he plows in and knocks him over, ending the dramatic shootout. With it all done and information still to be gathered, Malloy just tells Jennings to get lost; but wouldn't the police require a long briefing interview with the buff and possibly cite him for interfering on a police procedure? Leo Gordon was such a tough guy, he really could itimidate the most hard-edged hero. It was also interesting to see more fun interplay between officers Reed and Malloy; I'd swear sometimes it sounds like Malloy doesn't like our straight-arrow and upstanding recruit!