“Little Boy Dead” — March 10, 1988; written by Fred McKnight; directed by Vincent McEveety
There’s very little humor in this episode, and nearly all the drama centers on Lieutenant Abigail Marsh after she shoots a 12 year old in a run-down part of town. The Simon brothers and their mom support Abby through the grueling ordeal that follows, with Rick and A.J. helping to clear Abby’s name. But for a while, things don’t look too good.
The trouble has occurred because Abby chased a suspect into an apartment building after a nearby liquor store had been robbed. As she turned a corner and looked upstairs, the suspect’s gun was being aimed directly at her. Abby ended up shooting and killing the person holding the gun, who was not the suspect, but instead a young boy. Of course, the suspect had given the gun to the kid, but it becomes a matter of proving it.
Proving it is harder than they realize, when most of the people in the apartment building refuse to step forward. Abby goes through a lot of turmoil; she is placed on suspension and ordered by the department to undergo counseling. She just wants to leave San Diego and be with her family in Colorado; during this process, she realizes the Simons are her family, too. A break in the case finally occurs when an older woman named Bessie Copland (Maidie Norman in her last screen appearance) calls A.J. with the intention of ratting on the killer. But the killer is there and offs her before his identity can be revealed.
It’s up to another woman, the mother of the killed boy, to right the wrongs. She is portrayed by Joan Pringle who does an extraordinary job with a tough role. She is supposed to be grieving the loss of her son but conflicted about loyalties in the ghetto. The final scene where she takes the law into her own hands is powerful, and the episode ends on a very serious note because of it.
“Sudden Storm” — March 17, 1988; written and directed by David Moessinger
This episode gives viewers a lot to ponder– and I believe this is what good television does. It uses a very tragic situation and offers insights into the show’s main characters. And as the final shot indicates, this is a close family unit and any pain that one of them experiences, they all experience together. They suffer together, and ultimately they heal together.
The plot focuses on catching an unknown assailant who has entered Cecilia’s home one stormy night. After turning the lights off, he enters through a kitchen window, uses a pillow to cover Cecilia’s face, then assaults her. The rape scene is brief and is intercut with the Simon boys on separate dates. Abby Marsh is having dinner with A.J., who gets a call from his mother and quickly learns she’s in distress. The scenes that follow, where A.J. and Rick comprehend what has happened, and they see Cecilia in her hospital room after she’s been examined, are simple but intense. All of the leads do a stellar job portraying the aftermath.
But the episode is more than just a story about a violent physical act. It’s also a mystery, because they have to find out who the culprit actually was. I thought it was excellent the way David Moessinger, the scriptwriter and director, set Rick and A.J. both up on a path of vengeance. Parallels are drawn between their actions and lynchings. At one point, Abby tells them about an officer whose daughter was raped– a man who killed a suspect shortly before the actual attacker stepped forward to confess.
So we have a mystery about the rapist’s identity going on, but we also have Cecilia’s two sons attempting to find “evidence” against two separate men they think might have been responsible for terrorizing her– a handyman with a history of mental illness (A.J.’s suspect of choice); and a chiropractor who’s a frequent date of Cecilia’s (Rick’s suspect of choice). What’s interesting is they are both wrong; and we’re told it’s a third person they know– someone they never would ever have suspected.
“May the Road Rise Up” — April 7, 1988; written by Richard C. Okie; directed by Vincent McEveety
This is a touching episode that easily could have served as the series finale. Perhaps when it was made, they had not been renewed for another season and thought this was the end. I think what I love so much about the story, aside from the heartfelt performances rendered by the main cast, is the way these characters represent real American people who have dealt with real American tragedies. It has even more gravitas when we look at the issues our country has had with national security in the years that have followed. The heroism of a Jack Simon, and I am sure there were many men like him who valiantly and quietly protected the nation, is even more powerful when it is reflected in the hearts and minds of a wife and the two sons he left behind.
Richard Okie’s script saves the best part for last, where it is revealed how the Simon patriarch met with a tragic death and lived out his final days. But the first half plays like a mystery, where Rick & A.J. are convinced their father might still be alive. They deal with government cover-ups in their quest to find answers. At one point, Abby Marsh helps them get their dad’s grave exhumed. Cecilia shows up, not too happy this is happening, and when the casket is opened, the result is most startling.
The actor who plays Jack Simon’s boss is Joseph Sirola, and he brings a measure of dignity to the proceedings. Eventually he takes mother and sons to the real grave, and when they go into the place where Jack’s final moments occurred, we get some very honest and very real emotions. As I watched the last scenes, I couldn’t help but feel the writer cared– he made it a point to give these three closure and to give viewers a better more fleshed out picture of who the Simons are and where the road has brought them.