Case #2.01: "In the Custody of a Clown"

This episode will be a tough one for me to watch. I have coulrophobia, or in layman's terms, clowns freak the hell out of me. I marched in my town's Christmas parade last year and hid behind one of my guy friends to avoid being seen by Ronald McDonald. I'm 22 years old and a trained medical professional, but I can't stand clowns. I don't even know what made me scared of them in the first place.

Anyway, the first scene shows kids hanging out in front of Lafayette High School. Two boys snatch a blue backpack from a boy who looks about 4 years too young for high school. Is this another case of a bullied boy genius like T.J. Henderson on Smart Guy?

The bullies play keep-away with the backpack while the young-looking boy charges each of them in turn. He chases them down the stairs. Across the street from the school sits a black sedan; its driver wears a truly horrifying clown mask. 

One of the bullies starts to wrestle with the younger boy while other students cheer. The bully stops fighting him, then tosses the kid's backpack over the school fence. He asks how Blue Backpack ever made it to 9th grade and condescendingly pats his cheek.

The clown behind the wheel of the sedan revs the engine as the kid goes to retrieve his backpack. He drives onto the sidewalk and gets out of the car. Blue Backpack screams for help and tries to run away. The guy in the clown mask grabs him and drags him into the sedan's trunk. The bullies see the kidnapping and...try to run to their former victim's aid? The sedan speeds away.

At the Chapel, we see Doug's mullet is longer and more feathery than last season. He and Tom walk into Cap'n Rufus's office. Spencer Phillips, the FBI agent from "Low and Away", is back. The kidnapped boy's name is Brian Sheffield and this may be a case of parental abduction; the kid's divorced parents have a history of breaking their custody agreement.

Jump Street's job is to establish the nature of the crime so the FBI can get involved if necessary. Tom and Doug aren't happy about doing the FBI's legwork just to have to turn the case over. Fuller hopes a parental abduction is all it is.

Tom interviews Brian's mom. She says Brian's never run away before and thinks her ex kidnapped Brian because it's happened in the past. 

Brian's dad is questioned by Harry. He says the past kidnapping was bogus. All he did was take Brian with him on a business trip to Dallas; his ex-wife overreacted and hired a PI to find him. Harry points out the custody agreement doesn't allow Brian's dad to take him out of state.

Doug talks to witnesses during gym class at Lafayette. Two identify the car as a "dark blue '70 Lincoln something." Nobody thinks the kidnapper was old because of how fast he moved. One witness reveals that the kidnapper wore a clown mask. 

Brian's mom wants her husband arrested for kidnapping due to photos she has of Brian and his dad in Dallas. Tom says they can't use those pictures to arrest the ex-husband for allegedly taking Brian from school. 

Brian's dad claims not to have seen Brian in months and doesn't know anything about photos of them in Texas. He says his ex needs to let Brian get out in the world and have fun. 

Brian's mom says his dad is irresponsible and lets Brian drive even though he's not old enough for a license. Tom asks if Brian's seemed anxious recently. Montage of responses: Mom says yes, Dad says no.

Back in the Lafayette gym, Doug asks what Brian was doing before he was abducted. One boy admits to teasing Brian, but is adamant it's not his fault "some perv" snatched him up.

Return to Sheffield edition of Family Feud. Mom says Dad tried to get everything in the divorce settlement. Dad says Mom was the greedy one.

In gym, the boy tells Doug that Brian had a few pairs of jeans and cassette tapes in his backpack. How does he know? We never saw him open the bag. 

Mom reports to Tom that Brian's toothbrush is missing. She begs Tom to find her son and bring him back. She says he hates his father. Dad argues that Brian hates his mom.

At Judy's apartment, she gives her waiting mother a hug and asks where her dad is. Mrs. Hoffs says Judy's dad couldn't make it. She wants to take her daughter out to dinner with her brand new credit card. Judy, ever the liberated woman, says it's important for women to have their own line of credit and is glad her mom has a card now. 

Mrs. Hoffs gripes that Judy's dad, Dr. Hoffs, is intolerant and resistant to change. Judy asks if everything is okay with their marriage. Mrs. Hoffs tells Judy that she and Dr. Hoffs are now separated. Judy looks stunned.

At the Chapel, the detectives bemoan their lack of solid leads. Brian doesn't seem to be in Dallas according to the Dallas PD. Doug hands a phone to Cap'n Rufus as another tip comes in. The janitor at Lafayette found a ransom tape.

Cap'n Rufus and Phillips play the tape for Brian's mother and father. Brian tearfully says his captors won't let him sleep and are barely feeding him. The kidnappers want $75,000 in cash in 24 hours. He tells them not to call the police or he'll be killed.

Brian's mom wants to know where they're going to find $75,000. Dad says they'll have to mortgage Mom's house. She demands who'll make the payments on it. Phillips says the FBI will handle getting together the ransom. Cap'n Rufus doesn't want to pay until they know Brian is still alive. Phillips tells Rufus it's not his call. Brian's parents argue some more.

Cap'n Rufus sighs as they leave the house. I'm only recounting what the Sheffields are saying and it's tiring. Rufus will have someone find out where the tape was bought. Phillips want him to turn over the case because the FBI can assume Bryan's been taken across state lines. 

At a state park or campground of some sort, the kidnapper's black sedan pulls up to the guard shack. The park ranger asks the driver (now sans clown mask) how long he'll be staying. And holy hell, the driver is the same actor who played Charlie, Tom's old partner! Wonder how the writers are gonna explain this particular coincidence. 

Grandpa Charlie, as he will henceforth be known, says he'll only be there a night or two depending on the fishing. The ranger checks Grandpa Charlie's driver's license and fishing permit. While getting the paperwork, the clown mask falls out of the glovebox. The ranger either doesn't notice the mask or is unaware of the kidnapping case.

The ranger remarks that there's a lot of camping equipment for such a short stay. He walks to the back of the car and notes the lack of license plate. Grandpa Charlie produces it from the passenger seat and explains that it keeps falling off. The ranger tells Grandpa Charlie the rate for camping and assigns him to Space G.

Grandpa Charlie parks at the campsite and looks nervously around before popping the trunk. He pulls a blanket off Brian and helps him out of the trunk. Brian smiles and cries, "We did it, Grandpa!" Grandpa Charlie says it's time to go fishing.

That night at the campsite, Brian records another ransom tape. I've never heard a calmer kidnap victim in my life. Grandpa Charlie shows Brian a picture of some property he bought, where they're planning to build a bait and tackle shop. If Brian helps build the store after school and on weekends, it'll be done by next year.

Next year isn't good enough for Brian. He wants to hire contractors. They'll just up the ransom to pay for it. Grandpa Charlie objects. Brian reluctantly agrees with his grandpa. He still wants to keep up the kidnapping charade because he feels like he's in his parents' way and they hate him. Grandpa Charlie says the parents hate themselves, not Brian.

A man named Robert leaves a message for Mrs. Hoffs on Judy's answering machine, saying he misses the sound of her voice. Judy asks her mom who Robert is. According to Mrs. Hoffs, he's just a friend. Judy doesn't believe that story.

Mrs. Hoffs (Dolores) tells Judy that her dad left because he didn't feel he could trust his wife anymore. Judy asks her mom point blank if she's sleeping with Robert. Dolores doesn't answer.

Harry goes to a park to make the ransom drop. Grandpa Charlie watches from a nearby bridge. Fuller, Phillips, Tom, and Doug are supervising the drop from a cliff. Grandpa Charlie instructs Harry to pick up the walkie-talkie sitting at the base of a cherub statue, put on a waiting life jacket, and bring the ransom to the waterfall. 

Tom asks Doug if he thinks Mr. and Mrs. Penhall would've paid $75 grand to get Doug back if he was kidnapped. Doug doesn't seem to be listening. Grandpa Charlie tells Harry to leave the money and walkie-talkie next to a pine tree beside the waterfall. He tells Harry the lining of the life jacket is filled with explosives. Fuller shouts for Phillips to call the bomb squad. 

Grandpa Charlie instructs Harry not to turn around and to walk back to the statue. Brian creeps through some brush wearing a life jacket of his own to grab the bag of money. Fuller spots him and tells Bryan to move slowly. He reassures Harry that the bomb squad is coming.

Back at the campsite, Brian counts the ransom. It's only $600, ostensibly because his parents need more time to get the rest. Brian is angry that they were tricked.

In the Chapel, Cap'n Rufus and Phillips examine the "bomb," which was just 4 road flares and some telephone wire. Rufus thinks they're dealing with an amateur. The cassette tapes were purchased at a drug store in Michigan, where Grandpa Charlie rents a summer cabin. Judy's at her desk with Dolores watching her work. Judy's phone rings; it's her dad, but Rufus summons her before she has a chance to talk. Judy hands her mom the phone and asks her to write down Dad's flight information.

Judy reveals that there was a falling-out with Grandpa Charlie after Brian was denied permission to attend his grandma's funeral. Cap'n Rufus wants photos and fingerprints from Grandpa Charlie. Phillips tries to start an argument over jurisdiction. They're interrupted by Judy's mom shouting, "How dare you put me in that position?" Judy introduces Dolores as her mom. Doug tells Dolores that she raised a nice young lady.

Dolores thanks Doug, starts to leave, and plows right into Blowfish. Fuller bets Grandpa Charlie's fingerprints will be on the walkie-talkie batteries.

Grandpa Charlie wants a better plan before things go further south. He's brought Brian some books and newspaper clippings about other famous kidnappings. Inexplicably, he also has Brian's birth announcement. Brian wants to know what his parents were like when he was born. The Sheffields were love-crazed and tried to elope.

Grandpa Charlie starts reading aloud about the J. Paul Getty kidnapping. Brian is excited by the $2.5 million ransom paid to Getty's kidnappers and wants to follow that blueprint. That is, until he learns about Getty's ear being cut off. Grandpa Charlie has another plan for letting the cops know they're serious.

Tom and Doug stand in front of a mound of dirt by the high school. A white wooden cross that reads "RIP Brian Sheffield" has been driven into the ground. Grandpa Charlie left behind the $600, a note demanding the rest of the money, and a rubber ear from the clown mask.

Mr. Sheffield waves the ear and tells his ex-wife her dad is nuts. Cap'n Rufus informs the parents that the details were borrowed from the Getty kidnapping, as if they care. He asks Brian's mom if she's willing to follow the note, which instructs her to deliver the ransom. Mr. Sheffield doesn't want her "driving down back roads and tossing money out of windows." Cap'n Rufus has another idea and asks Brian's mom, "How good is your father's eyesight?" Tom looks nervous about where this is going. 

Tom drives down the road, wearing a blond wig, pearl earrings, and a dress. Doug and Harry are laying down in the backseat. "They don't pay me enough for this," Tom gripes. Another car is following them. It flashes its lights even though it's daytime. Grandpa Charlie's signal. 

Cap'n Rufus 
and Phillips watch Grandpa Charlie pass from their car. Rufus radios Tom with instructions to pull Grandpa Charlie over in half a mile. Grandpa Charlie flashes his lights again; Tom tosses the money bag. Brian pops up from a ditch to grab the ransom. Tom suddenly fishtails the car and screeches to a halt. Harry and Doug bail out of the backseat.

Grandpa Charlie drives away with Tom in pursuit. Harry and Doug run down to the ditch to grab Brian. He manages to dodge them and smirks like a gargoyle from atop a stump while he watches the cops run through the woods. Grandpa Charlie is forced to stop by the police roadblock. Tom gets out of the car to frisk Grandpa Charlie.

In Cap'n Rufus's office, Phillips asks if the locals can handle getting a conviction or if they'd rather turn over Bozo's ear. Rufus is not amused. Grandpa Charlie is in the squadroom regaling the Jump Street Crew with a story about a famous Dodgers/Cubs game he attended. Tom, for reasons unknown, has ditched the wig but not the dress. 

Cap'n Rufus
 comes out to say the court will be easier on Grandpa Charlie if he admits to Brian's involvement in the phony kidnapping. Grandpa refuses to give up his grandson. Life behind bars is worth keeping Brian away from two people who don't care about him. He agrees to tell them where Brian is hiding, though, since he knows his grandson is alone and scared.

At the campsite, Doug zips Brian inside the tent and flashes his badge. Brian wants something to eat; Tom promises he'll get it downtown. Brian asks if Grandpa Charlie is going to jail. They planned the kidnapping together and Brian doesn't want to go back to his parents. Doug tells the kid to ease up; him and Tom are just doing their jobs. Tom feels like hell about this.

Judy and her parents come out of a hotel, arguing about Dolores's boyfriend. Dolores claims she and Robert just go to the theater and have a drink after the play. Dr. Hoffs asks why there's a charge on her credit card bill for what it costs to get a hotel suite. Dolores has to choose: Robert or him. Dolores claims the charge in question was lunch for 4 at the hotel restaurant.

Judy tells her parents to grow up. Dolores says the marriage isn't worth saving if her husband doesn't trust her. She and Robert are just friends. She's been taking aerobics and going to plays to have a life of her own outside their marriage. Dr. Hoffs softens and asks to go out for a family dinner. Judy smiles.

In the courtroom, Tom and Doug approach the prosecutor and introduce themselves as the arresting officers. The prosecutor says the case against Grandpa Charlie is a slam-dunk. Tom tells him there are extenuating circumstances, but the prosecutor doesn't care. Tom and Doug leave to make a phone call.

Judge Desmond takes the bench. Brian watches forlornly from the front row. Grandpa Charlie has chosen to act as his own attorney. He asks Mr. Sheffield why he wouldn't allow Brian to attend his grandma's funeral. Simple, it was Dad's weekend with the kid and they had tickets to a ballgame. Tom and Doug have returned.

Mrs. Sheffield testifies that she felt a sense of relief that her father was the person who kidnapped Bryan. Grandpa Charlie's turn to question her. Mrs. Sheffield objected to her ex having weekend custody because he was brainwashing Brian by taking him to power clinics. Mr. Sheffield begins arguing with his ex-wife and Grandpa Charlie from the gallery; Brian supposedly never told his dad he didn't want to attend the clinics.

Grandpa Charlie makes an impassioned plea before the court. He cares what Brian wants. His parents are just using him to toy with each other. The prosecutor objects to the parents being cross-examined when Grandpa Charlie is the one who committed a felony. Judge Desmond says Grandpa Charlie is just making his case.

The prosecutor says a bonded justice courier will be arriving soon with the ransom tapes. The courier turns out to be Blowfish. Cap'n Rufus glares at Doug and Tom. Doug sinks down in his chair. Blowfish produces the rubber ear from the evidence envelope. Turns out he's not a bonded courier, which means the ransom tapes with Brian's voice on them are now inadmissible as evidence. 

Judge Desmond says this case will be a misdemeanor unless the prosecutor has other evidence. He doesn't. Judge Desmond has the family come up to the bench. Grandpa Charlie is found guilty of illegal restraint, but not abduction, and gives him a 2-year suspended prison sentence. Grandpa Charlie will also be on a 6-month restraining order keeping him from Brian.

Brian negotiates with the judge who somehow thinks the brat is cute. Brian will remain in his mother's custody. Blowfish is fined for contempt of court. Court is adjourned. 

Doug grabs Tom by the head and kisses his partner on the cheek. Tom shoves Doug away. Now we know who they were calling. Cap'n Rufus tells them to get their smiles in now because they won't be so happy when they get back to the Chapel.

Doug, Tom, and Blowfish are lined up in front of Cap'n Rufus's desk. Rufus tells Blowfish not to ever interfere with the squad's police activity again. Blowfish asks if Rufus will pay his contempt fine. "Get outta my office!" Rufus replies. 

Cap'n Rufus is angry that his officers tampered with evidence and obstructed justice. Not like it's the first time. Or has he already forgotten Judy and the porn case? Rufus understands that they didn't feel Grandpa Charlie deserved to go to prison, but they still broke the law. As punishment, Tom and Doug will be suspended without pay for 2 days.

End of the most unnecessarily convoluted episode so far. Also a very disappointing beginning to Season 2.

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