Case #2.11: "Christmas In Saigon"

In the Chapel loft, Doug and Harry quote the famous "I coulda been a contender" scene from On the Waterfront. It's unbelievably funny to see an Asian guy doing a basically dead-on Marlon Brando. Doug's in his usual letterman jacket, Harry a suit. When they finish, an assembled crowd cheers and applauds. 

There's a large Christmas tree in the corner. "Not bad, not bad," says Blowfish, who's dressed like Santa. A girl dressed like Mrs. Santa passes carrying a tray; Harry and Doug each snag a cup of eggnog from it. He compares Doug's impression of Brando to its intended target (On the Waterfront) and Harry's to "late-model Brando" circa The Godfather.

They all toast with their eggnog, except Tom because Blowfish left him out. Judy didn't want to miss "Dueling Brandos" at the office party, but she has to leave. She's flying home to Chicago to spend Christmas with her parents. 

Doug pulls a brochure out of his jacket and asks Tom, "You comin' with or not? $800 and all the single women you can..." He trails off. "" Tom shakes his head vigorously. Judy kisses Doug, Tom, and Harry on her way out. 

Tom tells Doug he already has Christmas plans: going to his mom's and decorating the tree. Doug asks if Tom will be bringing Amy; Tom thinks so. Blowfish cries, "Watch this! Watch this!" and does his infamous party trick against a glass tray.

Harry asks if the captain's going back East for the holidays. Cap'n Rufus plans to "spend a traditional Christmas watchin' college football players kick the hell outta each other in meaningless Bowl games." Blowfish asks Rufus to place bets for him; his in-laws are coming so he won't be able to watch.

A man and middle-aged woman enter, both wearing trenchcoats; they're Miller from Internal Affairs and Hogan from Immigration & Naturalization. They're looking for Harry. They tell him that he has to accompany them downtown. Cap'n Rufus asks what's going on. 

"Merry Christmas, Captain," says Miller, handing over a folder, "We have reason to believe H.T. Ioki is an alias." Doug cries, "What are you? Nuts?" Miller believes Harry committed fraud when he applied to the police department. "You're not Harry Ioki?" Doug asks. There's a long pause before Harry admits he's not.

Miller explains that H.T. Ioki is deceased; Cap'n Rufus knows that because Harry received some death benefits by mistake. Miller informs Rufus that the real H.T. Ioki has been dead since 1967. The department discovered this during a routine check through the new Social Security database. 

"Who the hell are you?" the captain demands of Harry. Harry doesn't answer. Rufus goes on, "Where the hell are you from?" Harry, who'd been staring at his lap, sits up straighter and says, "Vietnam." He was born in Saigon and lived in a neighborhood near the central market. It wasn't a good area back then. 

Someone knocks. "Come in!" Cap'n Rufus snaps. Miller tells Harry that his best chance to help himself is telling them everything. Miller turns on a tape recorder. Harry stands up, takes a deep breath and says, "My real name is Vinh Van Trahn. I was 14 years old in April of 1975 and I lived in Saigon. It was 5 days before the fall of the city."

NOTE: Harry narrates the flashbacks, which will be summarized because young Harry also speaks during them. Harry will also always be referred to as Harry.

Flashback. Harry is sitting on a floor watching S.W.A.T. on a black-and-white TV. An older Asian man, presumably Harry's father, comes down the stairs and pushes back the beaded curtain to enter the kitchen. He talks to a woman (probably Harry's mother) in Vietnamese. All Vietnamese conversations in the episode are subtitled in English.

Harry's dad went to the American embassy and they were packing all the equipment. The family has to leave the city and not tell anyone. Harry's mother doesn't want to leave her siblings, nieces, and nephews behind. Harry's dad agrees that his wife's mother may accompany them. Harry overhears the conversation and heads for the door. Back in the kitchen, Harry's grandmother refuses to leave the country; she's old, will slow them down, and there's no time to argue. 

Harry goes to find his best friend Tai to let him know the Van Trahns are leaving Vietnam. He finds him at the market, where Tai's mom had been a baker. Tai's father was killed in the war and Tai was passed around to various relatives after his mom died. 

Harry and Tai walk to the hut where Tai lives. There's a Star Trek poster on the wall. Harry tells Tai that he's leaving the country. Tai says that his family probably will too. The teens make a plan: If Saigon is overrun by Vietcong, they'll seek shelter near the tanks at the presidential palace.

Back to present day. Blowfish, Doug, and Tom are in the squadroom and they've been listening to Harry tell his story. "I still don't get it," says Blowfish, "If you're Vihn Van Trahn, who's H.T. Ioki?" Cap'n Rufus explains, "He's an infant. Died in San Francisco 20 years ago." He knows that Harry went to Frisco right before applying to the police department and wonders how Harry got access to death files. Harry posed as a reporter for a student paper and then used the dead infant's Social Security number on his police application.

Blowfish asks Harry why he did that. Harry thought the department might be prejudiced against a Vietnamese refugee since a lot of police officers are military veterans. Blowfish wonders why Harry didn't legally change his name. Harry planned to and even filled out the paperwork. 

Blowfish leaves for an early dinner at home. He happily tells his coworkers that his in-laws are currently snowbound in New Jersey. Miller returns with good news and bad news. Good: Harry's not suspended. Bad: There'll be an internal investigation to determine if a review board will be necessary.

Cap'n Rufus gets a little hostile and leaves. Miller warns Harry not to be late to his hearing. Doug points out the bright side, "They can't take Christmas away from you. Come on, you're gonna be late for Hanson's mom." Harry doesn't want to go. Doug and Tom drag Harry out of his chair. They have a funny exchange:

Tom: What are you gonna do? Wander the streets on a cold, dark night, desperate and lonely?
Doug: Only to find yourself drinking alone in a bar.
Tom: Hitting on some strange woman who has nowhere to go for Christmas.
Doug: Who charges you for her company. I think I saw this movie. Ioke...or whatever your name is, it's Christmas and Mrs. Hanson has a tree to trim.

Tom parks the Mustang in front of Widow Hanson's. The outside of the house looks festive with Christmas lights around the gutters and a wreath on the door. Tom gets out of the car holding a present for his mom. Amy is worried about not getting Widow Hanson anything. Tom solves the problem by removing the card on the box that says "Love, Tommy." Harry and Doug playfully scrap in the yard, Doug poorly singing: "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire!"

In Widow Hanson's living room, Amy hands over the present. Tom fibs that he hasn't gotten his mom anything yet. Widow Hanson sets down the present without opening it and turns to Harry. "I heard about your problem with the department," she says. Tom scolds her.

Widow Hanson asks what they're supposed to call him now. Ioki says that Harry is fine. "Can they deport you, Harry?" asks Widow Hanson. For the second time in a minute, Tom sharply says, "Mom!" Widow Hanson plows on, "You told me he was depressed. He doesn't look depressed." Harry explains he can't be deported because the refugees were all given resident alien status and green cards.

Doug makes the politically incorrect comment: "Here's your green card; go open a restaurant." Tom changes the subject by asking Harry about what they watched on TV in Vietnam. Harry rattles off the list: Wild Wild West, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Combat.

Flashback. Harry's dad tells Harry to pack 2 bags because they're leaving in the morning. Harry can't tell anyone they're fleeing the country. Father and son hug. Harry goes to the market and gets bad news from Tai: his family will remain in Vietnam. The next day, Tai slips into line with the other refugees and gets through the gate of the American embassy.

Back to present. Miller says this is the most interesting Internal Affairs case he's ever seen. But Harry lied on his application, which is a fireable offense. 

A lawyer named Jeff shakes hands with Harry and Cap'n Rufus. Jeff tells Harry, "A high-profile case puts more pressure on the review board not to make an unpopular decision." Jeff also defended Rufus during his recent DUI case. Cap'n Rufus is still a little hostile: "I spent 13 months over there. We don't know who you were then and I still don't know who you are now."

Flashback. Refugees gather on a riverbank to be evacuated by boat. A translator tells everyone to stay with their families. Tai has slipped in by putting on an American uniform. Harry's parents are elsewhere gathering the family's belongings. Tai and Harry hug. VC soldiers begin firing on the beach. Tai is gunned down. Harry runs for the safety of the water and starts swimming.

Present day. Harry tells Cap'n Rufus the hardest part was climbing the ladder when he got to the boat. He searched the boat for hours but didn't find his parents. He later learned that they were both killed on the beach. It was the first time Harry had been on a boat. Their destination was a refugee camp. 

Flashback. Title card reads ANDERSON AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM. A burly, mustached cook brings a big pot of rice out to a serving line. Harry compares the food situation to "having 150 people show up for dinner at your house on a Tuesday." Harry bypasses the line, approaches an airman, and says "Hello" a few times; he learned English from the sailors on the ferry and from watching American TV. The airman introduces himself as McCay.

For reasons not sufficiently explained, Harry ends up being allowed to serve food to the other refugees. Harry visits McCay at his desk and asks if he has food. McCay interprets the question wrong and replies that he already ate. Harry grabs McCay's arm and drags him outside.

McCay asks where they're going. Harry points toward the mess tent. "You're still hungry? You've been eatin' on the line all day." says McCay. Harry repeats, "Hungry" and points in the opposite direction of the mess tent. McCay gets the picture. He could get in a lot of trouble for feeding refugees after hours. McCay unlocks a supply truck and gives Harry a big can of something to hide. Harry serves whatever's in the can to the people in his tent.

Present day. Judy calls Harry from a payphone and says he should stop blaming himself for Tai's death. Judy's having a lovely trip to her hometown: It's raining, Dr. and Mrs. Hoffs are fighting, and her best friend is getting divorced. 

Tom thinks Cap'n Rufus should be more supportive of Harry. Rufus is upset that Harry lied to all of them. He tells Tom about his Army buddy Reggie, who was killed in Saigon when a 14-year-old boy rolled a grenade under their Jeep. Rufus chased the kid but couldn't find him. Tom still thinks Harry had good reason to lie. When Tom leaves, Rufus angrily knocks over his coffee mug. 

Flashback. Harry's green card was sponsored by a Methodist church in Saint Louis. He lived with a woman named Bessie Mason, who liked to be called Grandma Bessie. 

She comes into the living room while he's watching S.W.A.T. and asks, "How are you ever gonna learn English watching policemen shooting each other?" She changes the channel to Sesame Street. Harry went to high school in Saint Louis. After graduation, he applied to the police department under his assumed name. 

Present day. Cap'n Rufus wakes up in a cold sweat, his dog tags around his neck. At Harry's review board hearing, Jeff lauds Harry's exemplary police record and numerous commendations. The department has 2 pending discrimination lawsuits. He calls Rufus to testify. Rufus has sympathy for Harry and fully supports him.

At the Chapel, Cap'n Rufus hands Harry a sheet of paper. It's one of Harry's name change applications; Rufus found it in Jenko's old fie cabinet. Jenko stamped and filed it before he died, which shows Harry made an effort to correct the error on his application.

Doug cheers, "Ioke! You're as good as back! Now gimme the 10 bucks you owe me." Tom elbows Doug in the stomach. Miller says, "Happy Ho-Ho-Ho" as he leaves. Cap'n Rufus admits he would've done the same thing with his department application if he'd been in Harry's shoes.

In Cap'n Rufus's office later, he has his feet up on his desk and is watching a Bowl game on a miniature TV. Tom comes in and says, "I'm not one to be cynical, Captain, but a Christmas miracle?" Jenko never filed things. Tom and Rufus share a look. 

At Widow Hanson's house, it's a Jump Street family Christmas dinner. Blowfish is there with his wife; the baby Blowfish are wreaking havoc somewhere in the house. Tom goes in the kitchen to stop the madness and the elder Blowfish boys throw food at him. Harry calls for a toast. Doug salutes Tai, Tom mentions Rufus's friend Reggie, and Cap'n Rufus adds: "To everyone else we left over there." They all clink their champagne glasses together.

End of episode. 

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