Kojak (1973–1978)
8.0/10
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Therapy in Dynamite 

A nebbish helps his therapy group by bombing the nemeses they whine about. Kojak can't find a pattern in the serial murders, especially after an innocent secretary who just moved to ... See full summary »

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(created by), (as Gene Kearney) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
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Steven Keats ...
Danny Zucco
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Louise Linden
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Carla Elliot
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Alex Linden
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Neva
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Mr. Seymour
Peggy Feury ...
Dr. Irene Benton
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Det. Stavros (as Demosthenes)
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Alice Fisher (as Brit Lind)
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Mr. Morgan
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Landlady
Bert Kramer ...
Det. Walton
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Storyline

A nebbish helps his therapy group by bombing the nemeses they whine about. Kojak can't find a pattern in the serial murders, especially after an innocent secretary who just moved to Manhattan is blown up, but he knows there is one because she was killed in a parking space with her name on it. NYPD holds back that the bombs all come in brown paper bags, to fend off serial confessors. Danny Zucco can't wait for his next group to see the joy he's brought to his adopted family. Written by David Stevens

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10 April 1974 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

Alex Linden: I'm not going to, eh, lose you, am I?
Carla Elliot: [smiles] I'm not an account, honey, I'm a woman.
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User Reviews

 
One of the best episodes of TV I've seen
19 April 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I just finished watching this episode. Though my account is mainly dedicated to old films, I had to write a review anyway.

-Warning: I'll be talking about the plot in detail, so spoilers ahead!-

I enjoy watching Kojak because of the titular character's charisma and wit, his banter with the other recurring characters and guests, and the general 1970s aesthetic. There have been some very good episodes in the first season, Die Before They Wake and Mojo in particular, but for the most part, it's more about the entertainment value than about truly outstanding scripts so far. However, this episode took the writing quality to another level, particularly in terms of creating dynamic characters.

One of the things I was most excited about was Steven Keats, who I've seen previously and thought a very good and "arresting" sort of actor. I went into the episode looking forward to his performance and not expecting something as amazing as I got, but his performance was actually a huge part of what made it amazing in the first place. There's a sharp, almost harsh-edged reality to his acting, and it comes out very strongly here, particularly because of his psychological issues; he plays his character so earnestly that when we discover he's so mentally imbalanced as to see blowing up his fellow support group members' "enemies" as a good thing, it's all the more disturbing. The fact that his character never descends into the more stereotypical type of insanity portrayed in crime shows makes things even better - there's no wild-eyed sweating, no ranting about motives, nothing on the surface that appears unsettling until we begin to see what he's been up to, and even then his attitude doesn't change from its slightly awkward well-meaning pleasantness. I especially love the fact that there's a solid explanation to his mental state, one that wasn't outright explained to the audience and one that isn't just "his mother didn't love him". The episode only hints at what he might have gone through in childhood to warp his thinking, which makes things all the more morbidly fascinating.

But aside from this, what makes me truly love this episode is how the other guest characters (particularly in the support group) are equally as well-fleshed out as Danny Zucco. Louise Linden, the bitter wife: the type of character I can so easily hate immediately and stop paying attention to, but her dialogue and reactions were lifelike enough to lift her above a one-line description. Neva, the single woman going from job to job, always with some sort of problem: I absolutely loved how sparkling her dialogue was. Mr. Seymour, the seemingly avuncular baseball fan: the fact that his story about his son's death not only fleshes out his character but also serves to practically break the case wide open is a little bit of brilliance. Alex Linden the ad agency employee and his former secretary Carla are less detailed than these others, but they have their moments to shine and their stories ultimately tie in at the end; I do like the vagueness in their stories as well, particularly the fact that we don't really know if Alex had "worked" to save his marriage at all.

That right there is ultimately what makes this episode great - we don't really know the truth about any of the characters, outside of the fact that what Danny was doing was undeniably wrong. But was Louise at fault for destroying her marriage, or was Alex, or were they equally at fault? Did Neva cause her own problems with a negative attitude, or did they always manage to find her? Did Mr. Seymour drive his son into enlisting in the Marines because of overbearing expectations, or was his son just determined and patriotic? And there are no happy endings. Danny accidentally dies without getting true psychological help; Louise realizes her selfishness but has to deal with her marriage ending anyway; Alex might marry Carla, but we have no idea if they'll be happy; and we just know that Mr. Seymour has baseball and nothing else left to him. Everything is grey.

There are other things I can talk about too. I enjoyed how the support group members didn't fully trust Kojak, particularly after Danny's death; something different compared to how people usually cooperate fully, and it wasn't overdone to the point of stubborn and annoying refusal. There were several beautiful shots - I loved the one through the broken car window looking out at Alice Fisher's destroyed Volkswagen, and the cut from Louise's photograph to her phone ringing complete with the camera refocusing on her in the background. In general, the episode did have good production values, but the writing is what makes it rise head and shoulders above the rest. Hey, normally I like to admire location shots or pretty lighting, but in this episode I barely paid attention to the way the show looked because I was too enveloped by the story!

To close, I have to agree with another reviewer: even if you never watch any other Kojak episodes, you have to watch this one. I'm not a '70s TV connoisseur by any means, but I believe this episode was certainly ahead of its time and treated its psychological issues with tact, not to mention creating characters who I could honestly imagine meeting in reality. Kojak strikes me as lacking the more sensationalized content of some modern crime shows; this episode is the perfect example of its realism, but also manages to be gripping and fascinating throughout.


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