Since it's Disability Awareness Month, I thought I'd share a post from my sister blog about an episode entitled "The Buddy System." Expect an avalanche of posts this week because I'm on fall break.
Mournful piano music plays over a clip of students filing out of a school. A kid with curly red hair talks to his curly-haired mulleted friend about music as they walk through the woods. Beethoven put Mullet to sleep. Curly offers him another classical tape. Mullet tells Curly he'll be back after Curly sets up their hideout. It's obvious Curly is socially awkward, so I have a feeling that Curly is about to be the victim of a very mean prank.
A police officer or security guard (I don't know which but the dude has a badge), Mr. Cousins, asks if Mullet has his money. Mullet swears Mr. Cousins will get it. The situation gets more hostile; Mr. Cousins starts punching the kid in the face. After the second hit, Mullet doesn't get up. Curly, hiding behind some trees, has witnessed the whole thing. He falls down a hill into view. Mr. Cousins chases him, but Curly gets away. Theme song. The opening credits reveal a new star has been added: Michael Bendetti. IMDB reveals 11 credits to his name, mostly guest spots on shows like Doogie Howser.
Next we see of Michael Bendetti, he's setting up his desk in the Chapel. Judy and Doug wonder who the new guy is. His desk, it transpires, will be next to Judy's. The officers introduce themselves; Michael's character is named McCann. Sidebar: That was last name of one of my favorite baseball players right up until he left Atlanta for the Yankees. McCann says he's from "here and there." When Judy asks about specifics, he responds, "Here, there, and everywhere." Wow, this guy's friendly...
Fuller summons everyone to his office for a briefing. The only lead on Mullet's murder is Curly. Curly is mentally handicapped and part of a mainstreaming program called The Buddy System in which handicapped teens are paired with underprivileged ones. The goal, according to Fuller, is to give the underprivileged kids "a sense of responsibility and the mentally challenged one a sense of fitting in." The victim was Curly's Buddy.
Fuller reports that Curly was noted as being terrified in the the interviewing officer's notes. He claimed he didn't see anything, but Fuller thinks he did. In a rude tone, McCann guesses he's supposed to be Curly's new Buddy. Doug suggests he or Judy could do it. "No offense, but aren't you guy getting a little too old for that?" asks McCann and remarks Judy hasn't seen 10th grade in a while. I officially don't like this character anymore than Booker. Judy offers McCann some Buddy System brochures; McCann says he doesn't need them. He claims in a monotone that he's thrilled to be on Jump Street. Judy thinks McCann is prickly. "That's almost the exact same word I was thinking of!" says Doug. You and me both.
When McCann's gone, Judy wonders where Fuller finds these people. Doug has a theory: "You look young enough to get carded, you get tagged for Jump Street." He jokingly asks how long it's been since Judy was in 10th grade. "About as long as you've got to live," she jokes back, tossing an apple at him. Doug easily dodges it.
At the high school, McCann gets interviewed by Ms. Kline, the Buddy System's coordinator. In my head, she has a son named Kevin. Curly AKA Christopher comes in. Ms. Kline introduces McCann as Christopher's new Buddy. McCann offers his hand, but Christopher doesn't shake it. He doesn't want a new Buddy. Judy enters, posing as Ms. Kline's T.A.
McCann runs downstairs and tries to talk to Christopher. Christopher doesn't hear him because he's listening to his Walkman. McCann tells him they're assigned Buddies, like it or not, so "why don't you try to like it?" Bullying the handicapped, lovely. Christopher gets upset about being called Chris; he wants to be called by his full name. McCann apologizes; he knows how Christopher feels because he likes Mac better than anyone.
Ms. Kline walks Judy to her car; the older woman doesn't feel safe on campus since the murder. Mullet AKA Gavin wasn't gang affiliated, wasn't part of any cliques really. She's grateful for the presence of the school's security guard Robert. He's instantly recognizable as Gavin's murderer Mr. Cousins.
Robert walks into the empty guidance office. He puts a tape that Christopher dropped in the woods into a tape player. Unsurprisingly, it's classical.
Fuller asks Mac how the case is going. Mac wants to know what the rush is; he's known Christopher for 2 days. Fuller's concerned that the killer may know there was a witness. Mac's strategy with Christopher will be turning up the charm. Doug laughs sarcastically. Fuller thinks they should talk to Christopher's parents; they're divorced and Christopher lives with his mom. Mac will talk to her under the Buddy guise.
Judy suggests letting Doug do it. Mac wants to handle it; he knows the kid (yeah, after 2 days) and the mom might give up a clue that means nothing to someone who's never met Christopher. Doug promises to take detailed notes. Mac gets territorial; it's his case. Fuller tells the rookie they work as a team.
Doug and Judy want to know more about Mac's background. Mac was a beat cop in "New York, New Jersey, someplace like that." Doug thinks the boss is stonewalling them. Fuller tells them to go back to work. Doug wants to go back to the Chapel later and find out what Fuller seemingly doesn't want them to know.
Christopher admires some girls in the hallway. He knows their names are Claire and Tanya. Mac thinks Christopher should talk to them; knowing their names is a good start. Christopher says he gets nervous talking to girls. Mac has an idea: asking Claire and Tanya on a double date. Yeah, that oughta work. They catch up with the girls. It turns out they're both in the Buddy System too. Miraculously, they want to double date. Christopher looks like he doesn't know what to do now that they've said yes. He tells the girls he changed his mind and runs outside. Mac follows him.
Christopher is clearly upset and asks, "Why does everyone think I can't like regular girls?" Mac gets it; Christopher was more interested in Claire. Christopher describes Claire as prettier, nicer, and more fun. Problem is now she likes Mac.
Doug and Judy talk to Christopher's mom in the guidance office. They want to know how Christopher is doing at home after the shock of Gavin's death. Christopher's mom says he's been moody and withdrawn; Christopher really liked Gavin. She thought of Gavin as a good kid. He helped Christopher increase his mental age from 8 to 10. Christopher hasn't said anything about Gavin's death and stopped wanting to visit his friends at the school for "exceptional children" he used to attend. Mom asks Doug if Christopher will be safe. Doug says they'll keep an eye on him.
Robert goes to the music room where Claire and Tonya are doing homework. He asks if they know who the Beethoven tape he found belongs to. They don't, but will send the person to Robert if they find them.
At the Chapel that night, Doug and Judy tell Fuller they're staying late to catch up on paperwork. Once the boss is gone, Doug picks the lock on the file cabinet in his office and gets out McCann's file. Judy opens the folder and finds blank paper. Doug wonders why Fuller had Mac's records sent elsewhere. Just then, Mac comes in to look at the report on Gavin's death again. He sees his coworkers looking at a file with his name on it.
Judy swears they didn't mean anything by it. Doug thinks they're entitled to know who they're working with. Mac says they're only entitled to know if he's a good cop. Doug wonders why it's so hard for Mac to befriend one kid and wants him off the case. Mac, of course, refuses.
The next day, Doug and Judy find Mac shooting hoops in a park. Doug tells Mac he thinks that they both said things they didn't mean. Mac challenges him to one-on-one. Doug's playing style is a wee bit too aggressive. He starts throwing hip and body checks. By the end of the game, Mac has a ripped shirt and a bloody nose. He says he hasn't been beaten up like that by anyone sense his older brother. Doug hasn't dished out that kind of beating since his younger brother. This is only the second time in 5 seasons that Doug's ever mentioned having a sibling. Doug adds that he doesn't talk to his brother anymore.
The two sit down and discuss their jock pasts. Mac's game, of course, was basketball; he made the All-City Honorable Mention list his senior year, which doesn't say a lot about his talent. Doug, as long-time readers know, played football. He tried to play basketball but fouled out all the time.
Mac opens up about his law enforcement career. He was a beat cop in the notoriously safe (read: crime-infested hellhole) of Newark, NJ. He got assigned to a precinct full of cops on the take who didn't appreciate having an honest rookie in the station house. Mac was the first one through the door at a domestic disturbance call that turned out to be a setup and "took 3 hits." Doug is stunned: "They tried to kill you." Are we sure Mac was a cop in Newark and not Farmington? Mac couldn't even bring charges because he didn't see who shot him. That prompted him to move and not trust anyone but himself, both of which are understandable.
Doug reminds him that dirty cops are the exception, not the rule. Mac asks Doug for advice about getting Christopher to talk. Doug tells him not to push the issue. He shouldn't act like he's on a case and instead should "just treat people like...people."
Through the music room door, Mac watches Christopher play the piano; the kid is listening to his Walkman at the same time. Christopher thinks Mac is hassling him and explains he's allowed to be in the music room during his free period. Mac is amazed that Christopher knows how to play songs just by hearing them. The two decide to take turns playing the piano. Think HORSE but with music. Pretty soon, they're both having fun.
Judy goes to the park with three mentally challenged boys who are in the Buddy System. They ask her a lot of questions about what it's like to be a cop so she obviously told them what she does for a living. She wants to know if Christopher's told them anything interesting lately. They haven't seen Christopher in a while; they met him in the woods behind his school near some boulders and he seemed sad. Judy offers them a tour of a police station on Monday. They eagerly accept, though a boy named Brian seems upset that he can't be a policeman.
Robert takes a break from patrolling the halls of Patrick Henry High to watch Christopher playing the piano by himself in the music room. After school, Patrick enthuses about a tape Mac gave him to listen to; he could play the songs while Mac sings them. Christopher thinks Mac isn't such a bad Buddy after all. Mac says Christopher must miss Gavin. Christopher does and supposes "Gavin must've got in really bad trouble with that policeman." He saw Gavin fight with a policeman and that's who killed him.
Unbeknownst to them, Robert's car is parked nearby and he hears everything they're saying. Christopher doesn't want to tell Mac the name of Gavin's murderer and darts away. Robert tries to run Christopher over with his car. Mac attempts to shoot out the tires and misses. Christopher has escaped injury and keeps running. Robert stops his car and chases Christopher into the woods. Doug happens to arrive with his truck and Mac gets in.
Doug parks his truck when Mac points out Robert's abandoned car. The cops run toward the woods. Christopher has hidden himself in what looks like a duck blind. Roberts calls for him, promising not to hurt the kid. "Stop! Police!" Doug and Mac shout. Mac trips and falls, then tells Doug to go on chasing Robert. Doug stops Robert with a flying tackle. Doug takes Robert's gun and sits on the ground trying to catch his breath.
Further in the woods, Mac clutches his hurt leg. He gets up and limps toward Christopher. He tells the kid it's safe to come out and that he didn't lie to him for a bad reason. Gavin's killer wasn't a cop; he was a security guard and "real cops are supposed to help people." Mac asks Christopher to trust him. He know what it's like to be scared, but Christopher shouldn't be scared of trusting Mac. Christopher comes out of hiding and takes Mac's hand. End of episode.
I'm still not sure if I like Mac, but he did kind of redeeming himself by being genuinely nice to Christopher. I work part-time with the disabled and I'm familiar with the challenges it presents. However, it's all worth it knowing that the person you work with has at least one person they can depend on for friendship and kindness.
It's also disappointing that they didn't reveal what Gavin owed Robert money for. Drugs? Gambling? Bootleg Beethoven tapes? The world will never know.