21 Jump Street: 2245

This episode starts off like a slasher movie. It’s a prison break, but it looks like a horror film version of a prison break. A picture is worth a thousand words so:Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 7.59.07 PM

But it turns out that it is all just a dream and the horror movie villain is really a guy named Ronnie who is on death row for killing an undercover Jump Street cop. (It’s not someone we have ever seen before, unless you watched the two-part episode with the original murder, so don’t worry about your favorites being killed off.)

And at this point, the episode actually manages to subvert its very special trappings and become a really intense social commentary. I wish I had a pint of cookie dough ice cream right now so that I could eat my feelings is what I am telling you. This episode is genuinely sad.

We flash back to the night of the murder and basically the Jump Street cop showed up at this dude’s home while he was busy chilling with his girlfriend (Rosie Perez) and tried to push him into supplying him drugs immediately. The cop is so heavy handed that it’s surprising that Ronnie doesn’t make him, but he’s so into defending his turf he flashes his gun (still in his waistband). It seems more like posturing than anything, but this Jump Street cop is a rookie, so he immediately goes to grab his weapon. The drug dealer is a faster shot and fatally wounds the Jump Street cop. Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 8.01.43 PM

Then eighteen hours before his execution, Officer Hansen (Johnny Depp) tries to convince him to make a video encouraging other teens not to commit crime.

So it turns out that Ronnie and his girlfriend are both illiterate (guess they never saw that episode of Jem) and they can’t read the newspaper article about the Jump Street cop murder. But Ronnie recognizes his name in the paper and they see the cop in uniform, so they put two and two together. Well, sort of. Ronnie doesn’t seem to realize how bad killing a cop is. He thinks he can easily hide from the cops as per usual. He’s wrong. Obviously.

He and Rosie Perez commit and armed robbery in order to be able to finance their new life together. This is probably the exact opposite of laying low. However, the clerk at the store they rob has already alerted the cops via a secret button. It’s odd that he has a secret button since this is convenience store, not a bank. Then Rosie Perez shoots the clerk as he is trying to reach for the key to the register because Ronnie is trying to bust it open with a screwdriver.

21js103Oh man, then things get really sad when Ronnie has to have a corrections officer write a final letter to Rosie and just hope that someone can read it to her. Then we flash back to Rosie confessing to killing the guy, but she only did it because she thought that he was reaching for a gun. So really they both only killed because they feared for their own lives!

They don’t have any evidence on the cop murder, and they decide to pin the convenience store murder on Ronnie because they know Rosie was just scared and that Ronnie has a lot of prior arrests. They decide that it’s ultimately his fault because he orchestrated the entire thing. Johnny Depp tries to tell the DA that it’s possible that Ronnie killed the cop in self-defense and never intended for Rosie to kill anyone. But Peter DeLuise and the DA want to get Ronnie on other things that they do not have evidence for. The justice system is so flawed!

Ronnie supposedly has a lot of drug money, but he must have a shitty lawyer. The DA is able to try him as an adult (ugh) and then he ends up on death row with Johnny Depp trying to get him to make a PSA about crime. He refuses to do it though, and I think this episode becomes more of a PSA about the poverty/crime/disenfranchisement cycle than one meant to deter teens from criminal activity.

But in a heartwarming twist, Rosie has learned to read and is able to read the final letter herself. I mean I guess that’s as heartwarming as an utterly depressing episode can get.

If this episode made you sad and you want to do something, here are some resources:



21 Jump Street: Pilot

Johnny Depp has a baby face, so no one takes him seriously as a beat cop. But he’s so talented (and cute) that the police department doesn’t want to let him go. Thus, he gets to be in a special program for baby-faced cops (basically becoming a detective even though he was a beat cop .25 seconds ago) that is run out of an old church (located at 21 Jump Street) with an ex-hippie captain and some super hip fellow officers.

This show was awesome. The movies that use its namesake and back story are similarly awesome–managing to lampoon and celebrate the series at the same time. But for now, let’s focus on the 1987 series (even though I cannot wait for 23 Jump Street).

Tom Hansen (Johnny Depp) gets his first case as a Jump Street cop and it’s a real doozy. He has to become a soldier for the War on Drugs in a suburban high school where a tough gang of drug pushers that look like backup dancers from The Jacksons’ Victory tour rule the school with an iron fist. Or should I say, a leather fingerless-gloved fist.

These dudes will mess your shit up in syncopated rhythm.

Usually when I write these posts, I review the episodes instead of relying on my memory. This episode, however, is so embedded in my mind that I can probably recount the whole thing to you right now with no external reference points. You see, I first started watching 21 Jump Street at two and three o’clock in the morning on weeknights in my sophomore year of college while I was building and designing props for the theater department in my dorm room.

I guess I could have worked in the shop, but I was already spending most of tech week in the theater, so I ended up going home when I was too tired to stand up anymore. Then I would sit on the hard carpet of my single dorm room with my Sobo Glue, Bristol, paint, and God knows what else, relying only on sheer force of will and this 1980’s police drama to keep me awake. There’s an odd thing that happens to your mind when it is on the brink of hallucinatory exhaustion. For a moment before you collapse into a sleep-induced coma, everything become incredibly sharp and focused. And that’s why I can tell you this plotline in detail today.

Actually the gang might just be Waxer and this one other dude.

These drug dealers are the drug dealers that everyone warned you about and worse. That dude in the red jacket is Waxer. He’s the ring leader of this whole enterprise and he’s got a scrawny rich white boy totally hooked on dope. That kid’s name is Kenny and Tom Hansen’s job is to become his new best friend and bodyguard. Oh yeah and it’s also to arrest those drug dealers. Tom is pretty nerdy in real life, but as an undercover guy he has to be tough enough to deal with drug dealers and hip enough to appeal to teenagers, so he gets a makeover. That’s how you deal with tackling tough crime!

The school of course is totally powerless and at the mercy of the drug dealers, which in my personal experience isn’t far-fetched at all, unfortunately. But don’t worry, things do quickly become far-fetched in the best possible way.

So hip.

Kenny’s a brat and you’ll definitely hate him, but the fact of the matter is he’s a drug-addicted kid and that’s sad no matter how you slice it. Kenny really does his best to kick the habit because he loves his family, doesn’t want to waste his life, and (I believe) generally recognizes that he is being a huge dick to everyone he knows. Unfortunately, Waxer’s got him on the hook for a ton of money in addition to wanting to sell him drugs forever so as to keep that debt going. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Waxer, like any good businessman, wants his buyer to make good on that debt, but Kenny (though he comes from a rich family) is having trouble paying off that debt. (No one likes to give money to a drug addicted teenager.)

Waxer fancies himself some kind of teenage Pablo Escobar.

So here’s where things get weird. Most drug dealers (once again, I’m speculating) would either a. beat Kenny within an inch of his life so as to really put the pressure on to give them the damn money b. kill Kenny because he is more trouble than he’s worth or c. stop selling Kenny drugs on a deficit because he is not good for it and not worth messing with because he is a rich white kid whose parents have more connections than even the most badass high school drug dealers. I get it, they are a scary gang, but the are not a cartel. Waxer is creepy and aggressive, but he’s definitely like seventeen years old with very limited higher connections–which makes it even more plausible that Waxer would have ditched this Kenny situation a lot earlier.

But this is television and even though Johnny Depp is charming and wonderful, the War on Drugs still needs to tell us to stay away from dope and eat our Wheaties. So Waxer and his gang break into the family home in the late afternoon, while everyone is sitting down to dinner. They proceed to hold everyone at gunpoint with shotguns–which seems to be an insane commonality in the 21st century but for 1980’s high school drug dealers, it seems to be a bit much.

They’re rich but they serve milk from the carton at the table?

Okay now things get a bit hazy for me. I know I said I didn’t need any reference points, but I’m just drawing a blank. Oh well, this is how I remember it however (in)accurate that may be. Kenny steals from his dad, or steals from someone, or does something like majorly obviously bad as a direct result of this home break-in. This leads to a come to Jesus talk with Tom, and Kenny renews his resolve to stop using drugs.

Meanwhile, Waxer has pretty much figured out that he has gotten all he can from Kenny and needs to get rid of him. Kenny meets Waxer one day in the locker room and relapses, but doesn’t realize that Waxer has sold him a speedball. (I’m pretty sure Waxer is trying to take the last of his money and straight up kill him at this point.) So Tom has to rescue Kenny at the last-minute as he is overdosing in the locker room. Then they have another very important and life-changing chat in the hospital room, and Tom tells Kenny he seriously has to stop doing drugs this time. Then he gets to go to rehab. All’s well that ends well! Right? That’s what the War on Drugs taught me.

(Sorry if you love 21 Jump Street and I messed up some significant details! Like I said, this is how I remember it, and obviously my mind is pretty sharp at 3 am!)

Very Special Lesson: Drug dealers will stalk you. No, I mean they will literally stalk you.