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Home » Culture and Criticism

21 Jump Street: "Blindsided"

Submitted by on March 21, 2011 – 4:26 PM8 Comments

The Plot: Hanson and Penhall go undercover in one of their habitual guises, the McQuaid brothers, for one of Jump Street's habitual drills: buy drugs in increasing quantities from a couple of middlemen in an attempt to gain access to, then bust, the main supplier. The set-up goes more or less as planned — including a super-foxy uniform-and-mirrored-sunglasses turn for Captain Fuller — but the detectives must remain at the school until the smaller fish either get arraigned or flip on their boss.

It's during that dead time case-wise that Diane Nelson (Sherilyn Fenn) approaches Hanson with $1700 she's saved up. The carefully deployed reputation of the dangerous McQuaid brothers has worked its magic, you see; Diane has heard the rumors that "Tom McQuaid," a.k.a. Hanson, did 15 months in juvie for manslaughter, so she figures he'll have no problem taking her money to assassinate her father. On top of that, she wants him iced because he's bad-touching her, but neither she nor Hanson can really prove that, because Bad Dad is a police officer — he heads up the administrative division, in fact, so even though Diane has tried to involve the authorities, Captain Bad Dad has had domestic-disturbance calls quashed, records scrubbed, etc. Because: bad.

Hanson stalls Diane on an answer while submerging himself in a pointlessly byzantine procedural subplot involving whom he tells about the murder contract and when. This in turn needlessly complicates removing Diane and her younger sister from the home, prompts a lot of beleaguered shouting by Hanson (while offering Fuller a crucial opportunity to show Hanson et al. that he's got their backs), and leads to a climax in which, during the course of arresting Diane to get her out of trouble (I don't…it's…we'll get back to it), Hanson, accompanied by the super-symbolic angry whistling of a teakettle, shoots Captain Bad Dad in the stomach. Accidentally and non-fatally, of course.

Internal Affairs has a hissy, natch, but eventually it all gets straightened out, and Hanson goes to visit Diane in the hospital and comforts her in a somewhat inappropriate way when she sobs that nobody will ever like her because she's damaged. Later, they go for a friendly walk on the beach, and drop a plug for abuse-survivor therapy more smoothly than you'd expect.

The overly complex foundation of the A plot is a lot of telling and not much showing, and it's not like Hanson needs any extra excuses to act like the basics of his job description give him hives, but the episode is still pretty good — some interesting camerawork, lifelike acting from the day players, and a more subdued Penhall who is genuinely funny as a result. Dating as it does from a time before TV had more or less an entire procedural subgenre that revolved around child molestation, it keeps vague on the details, and doesn't show Captain Bad Dad actually doing anything except having a dubious mustache. The script isn't too PSA-ish, for a change (Hoffs, who usually gets stuck delivering monologues about the issue du jour, isn't in the episode at all), and Fenn doesn't give it the most nuanced delivery, but her "Nobody's ever going to like me!" speech is unexpected and kind of touching.

The Holes: Wait, so…okay. Diane asks Hanson to kill Captain Bad Dad. Hanson sits on this for like eight hours, then goes to Penhall's apartment at 4 AM, lets himself in, almost gets shot for his trouble, and unburdens himself to Penhall. Penhall is fairly awesome in this scene: he tells Hanson that he should have called, since if Hanson had called, Penhall could have told him not to come over (heh); during that exchange, he's drinking a beer; the beer is a painstaking mock-up of a can that is most certainly not Budweiser, no sirree. It's a…a Badweezer!

Anyway, the problem is apparently that, now, Penhall is also implicated in…hearing about? a Class-A something something felony that could get Diane the chair, although if they go into work the next day and file a report, I don't think I see what the big whoop is. Of course, they don't do this, exactly; Hanson snoops around some more, impersonating a uniform cop employed by Captain Bad Dad's office in the process in order to get to CBD's file. Then he confesses to Fuller, but acts like Fuller's at fault somehow…and then Fuller pulls every string he can reach to see the parts of the file Hanson couldn't get to, so…wait, what's going on? Hanson did eventually report it; he didn't agree to do the hit, obviously; why is everyone in Fuller's office, standing half in shadow, looking like someone farted?

Not Quite Ready For Their Close-Ups: The late Tom O'Rourke plays CBD; you've probably seen him in a dozen L&O reruns as a judge. Go-to awkward redhead Courtney Gains is one of the small drug fish; Robert Hallak, probably best known for Billionaire Boys' Club, rocks a Steve Sanders mullet as the bigger drug fish.

Ow, Quit It: If I recall correctly, the McQuaid brothers made numerous appearances over the course of the series run, and the phrase is usually shouted, in unison, in an attempt to engineer a catchphrase. Which I think worked, back in the day. It's not that Smurfy here, but if it comes back, it's going to bug.

This episode also marks the debut of Sal Banducci's "Blowfish" nickname, and of Penhall's terrifying sleep attire, as seen above.

Drink: Mullets, mullets everywhere.

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  • Amy says:

    If it weren't for 21 Jump Street I'd never have fallen in love with my celebrity boyfriend, Johnny Depp. Oh sure he was kinda cute in the first Nightmare on Elm Street movie but he gets killed off so really, not impressive. I finally broke down and bought the first 4 seasons of 21 Jump Street a few months ago (in my defense they were on sale at Target) but the further I got into the series, the more I questioned my own sanity. Because even Johnny Depp's hotness couldn't overshadow the awfulness of some of the plots/acting/fashion. Target didn't have Season 5 for sale and I'm not entirely sure I want to buy it now. Then again, I wouldn't want to hurt my celebrity boyfriend's feelings.

    I did like this episode, though, despite the whole "McQuaid!" schtick.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    When I read Connie Willis' incredibly disturbing short story "All My Darling Daughters" I kept flashing back to this epsiode. I didn't even really remember much about it, but the few scenes where Diane is begging Hanson to take the money and help her, and the way she's always holding her little sister in a protective hug, was really creepy, especially back in the day.

    As you said, this was years and years before L&O or any other show even mentioned childhood sexual abuse at all, let alone had marathons. The way it's implied that Diane knows her dad is going to go for her sister any day now, because she's getting too old, her feelings of shame and revulsion and that no one will ever see her as more than damaged goods–maybe not overly nuanced, but they're there.

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Oh, and by the by, thank you for more Jump Street! I was wondering if you'd dropped it for good, glad to see this is not the case!

  • Georgia says:

    Am I correct in remembering that when Hanson goes to arrest Diane, he VERY loudly explains his whole "plan" to her in the kitchen while Bad Dad's in the next room? I know that throughout the entire series everyone around the Jump Street gang is apparently deaf to the cops' loud public discussions of cases, but this felt egregious. I kept expecting Bad Dad to enter the room, all "Thanks for the heads up! I'll be going on the lam now."

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Probably — I almost don't notice that anymore, because they do it in every episode — but we may have been meant to infer, based on the fact that Diane immediately started screaming as soon as CBD entered the room to the effect of "no, Daddy, help me, don't let them do it," that he didn't particularly care what their plan was because he could counteract it by being a captain?

    And after that endless struggle for the gun and the wrangling with IAD, we don't even see CBD again, or find out if he's going to jail, I don't believe. This is one of the better episodes in terms of not being as didactic as some, but they still had some problems with abruptness.

  • Georgia says:

    Of course there's also the problem (this may not come up until the next episode?) of Hanson's face being all over the papers because he shot a cop, which seems like it would wreck any future undercover operations.

  • RJ says:

    "it's not like Hanson needs any extra excuses to act like the basics of his job description give him hives" – HEE

    "…the beer is a painstaking mock-up of a can that is most certainly not Budweiser, no sirree. It's a…a Badweezer!" – snicker

    *sigh* I needed that. :)

  • Shelley says:

    Sars, my girl love for you is SO back on! I'd all but given up on more Jump Street recaps. You've made my day!

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