"The Gamble"
Original air date Mar 26, 1974
Directed by Richard Benedict
Written by Robert Collins

Angie Dickinson as Lisa
ert Convy as Crowley
esare Danova as Harold
eter Brown as Lloyd
oseph Campanella as Vitale
harles Dierkop as Royster
ohn Kerr as Dr. Ullman
ay Adler as Taglivini
irk Mee as the cop
erb Armstrong as Jesse
Police Story, although not a gritty police drama in the mode of Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue, was considered a realistic police drama for its time in the 1970s. It was an anthology with no regular leads. This episode was basically a pilot for Police Woman which began the next year starring Angie Dickinson and Earl Holliman. Charles Dierkop from this episode also became a regular in Police Woman. Although the name of her character was changed from Lisa to Pepper for the series, her persona as a glamorous, clever undercover cop was established in this episode.
Two years out of the academy and tired of the more mundane safe assignments, Lisa is ready to go undercover. And although this drama may have been realistic in terms of the details of gambling operations and the methods for busting them, the time restraints of a one hour show guaranteed that Lisa could skip the tedium of establishing a solid cover for suspicious gangsters and work her way to the top very quickly without ever having to put out to a John.
Her first assignment is to bust a madam by getting the madam or the john state a price for services to be rendered. She quickly takes them both down.
Lisa's second assignment is to infiltrate a high stakes, crooked poker game as hooker window dressing. The police were turned on to the game by a surgeon with a gambling problem who is being threatened for gambling debts he can't pay. However, he also won't testify against Carl Vitale. Some of the reality comes in as Bert Convy lectures his troops on various ways to fix dice and cards.
Lisa gets into the hotel room to watch a high stakes game by pretending to be a hooker. It's here that she meets Lloyd, a likeable character who's been marked for fleecing by the men running the game. When Lloyd takes a little break from losing for a drink at the bar, he and Lisa engage in some mild flirtation. It's hard to believe he's naive enough not to realize she's a hooker (well a cop posing as a hooker) but he treats her like any other girl he's trying to pick up in the very sexually liberated 1970s.
Although it's Lisa's job to be nice, especially to Carl Vitale, she seems to really like Lloyd. Carl tells her Lloyd is worth six million dollars and seems determined to gamble it all away. Once she learns the value of the chips from Lloyd, the police can bust the game. However, when the backups listening over her wire hear Vitale offer her a job shilling for one of his illegal casinos, they decide they can go higher. They let her play it out. When the game breaks up, Angie accepts Lloyd's invitation for a nightcap in his room down the hall.
He chats about teaching her to ski and invites her to Aspen. He's a sweet and charming rich boy, but not the slightest bit sleazy or demanding. In what we think was a cute and realistic touch, she goes into his room much to the surprise of her listening partners who wonder out loud that she doesn't know enough to make a graceful exit. They're even more surprised when she whispers, "Excuse me" in her transmitter and turns it off for the night.
In a rather grim but not graphic scene, we see the surgeon getting his hands crushed under a steam roller. But he still won't testify. In the meantime, Vitale seems to be falling for Lisa a little. In any event, he quickly takes her into his confidence.
Vitale takes Lisa to a casino where she uses Lloyd, who's losing at the craps table, to establish the price of the chips for the purposes of court proceedings. She gets him to give her a chip as a present. It turns out to be worth $500. Vitale decides Lisa will be useful and hires her on. But he tells her to forget about Lloyd because he's finished. Lloyd does look pretty stressed for a guy with unlimited resources.
In the next scene Lisa is visiting Lloyd in the hospital. She clearly likes him because she greets him with a sweet kiss on the cheek and asks about his "skiing accident." Vitale wasn't too happy when he found out Lloyd's millions are tied up in a trust fund and he can't pay off his markers. She urges Lloyd to identify the culprits. When he won't, she says she can't believe he'd let someone break his legs and get away with it. He just responds, "they broke my legs, I tell the cops, they'll break my everything." We'd just hate to see that.
The cops take down several illegal casinos in one night. Although Lisa gets found out by Vitale when she avoids turning a trick with a very powerful mobster, she convinces him that shooting a cop wearing a wire isn't the smartest way to handle the rest of his life.
NiteOwl Review: Police Story was one of our favorite police dramas of the 1970s. We were divided on Police Woman, although most of us preferred Earl Holliman (who has good western credentials, Hotel de Paree, Wide Country) over Bert Convy as her boss. The cute bit where Lisa turns off her transmitter when she joins Lloyd in his hotel room would never have happened once she was a regular on a series. In fact, we're pretty surprised it happened here. It was more the kind of James Bond thing a male operative would pull off. Peter did a number of prime time guest shots during the seventies while he was in the middle of his run as a highly popular character on the daytime drama Days of Our Lives.
We especially liked this one (most particularly the women) because although he wasn't the most admirable character, a gambling addict living off the interest to a trust fund set up by his wealthy father, he didn't have the sleazy or "we know he's going to turn out to be the bad guy" undertone he had to many of the characters he played as a guest star (as in Charlie's Angels or The Magician). Nor was he the egotistical, God's gift to women he played on occasion (as in Salvage). He was more of a lost little boy with a polished veneer, the kind of character that reminded the audience why Peter himself was so successful with so many women.
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