Tom and Doug in their McQuaid brothers attire enter a processing room. A shifty-looking kid watches through the window as Doug is patted down. The guard tells them that the youth authority is the end of the line. In a common room, a boy in a black sweatshirt tells Shifty Kid to let the Samurai Boys take care of the new arrivals. Somehow, even though this is supposed to be a maximum-security kiddie prison, the inmates don't have a set uniform.
A staff member in a tie provides chilling voiceover about how some guards wouldn't care if Tom or Doug were found stabbed. The facility operates on the usual merit system. Tom and Doug are silent, taking everything in; Grey Tie escorts them to their dorm. In the hallway, an orderly is dragging around a kid holding bloody gauze to his temple. Doug and Tom are staying in "the Zone," the first level at the lockup. "You will have very few privileges. Don't blow it," Grey Tie advises before he leaves.
Tom sees the room has bunk beds and asks his partner, "You want the top or the bottom?" "This room is too small," Doug says uneasily. He starts to boost Tom onto the top bunk when someone calls out, "Welcome!" It's Shifty Kid and he's brought a lot of backup. Doug tells them to leave because they're "breathin' up all the oxygen." Shifty Kid announces that the Samurai Boys want to see the McQuaids.
Shifty Kid leads them through the halls and tells them a kid nicknamed Hammer runs The Zone. The Samurai Boys turn out to be Booker and Harry, sporting identical black do-rags, tight jeans, and black leather vests. The four cops shake hands. Shifty Kid looks stunned that they all seem to know each other.
Cap'n Rufus is in someone's office. He's not happy that 4 of his subordinates were placed undercover in juvenile hall without his approval. Suit #1 says Jump Street cops are the best people for the job and promises the investigation won't last long. The case on hand is an inmate named Ricky Green who died of a heroin overdose. He also had multiple bruises and a skull fracture; his vein was punctured at an angle that suggests someone forced him to shoot up.
Suit #2 doesn't care about the murder, all he wants to know is how the drugs got in the prison. "And I wanna protect my men!" Fuller shouts. Harry, Booker, Doug, and Tom are as good as dead if any of them cross paths with a kid they busted. Suit #1 assures him, "Nobody in there has been busted by Jump Street." Famous last words.
All the Zone inmates line up single-file. A kid in a black sweatshirt points out each boy, assigning them to shop or class. "Whoever has the hammer runs the block," Shifty Kid explains to Tom, "Matty's the hammer in the Zone." Matty tells Doug and Tom to clean the toilets.
In a classroom, the teacher, Reggie Wilkes, informs the inmates that everyone did badly on the last math test. He offers to go over the problems. He spots Harry and Booker aren't paying attention and calls them out on it. "Why don't you shut up and let somebody else talk?" asks Booker. Mr. Wilkes tells Booker to stand up and lead the class discussion. "Eat it, Reg," Booker says. The rest of the class hoots approvingly.
Booker swings at Mr. Wilkes. The teacher catches Booker's arm, locks it, and drops him so his upper body is across Harry's desk. "You better develop your mind 'cause your body's a joke," advises Mr. Wilkes. Got a little The Substitute action going on here.
Matty sells a kid a pack of cigarettes and a candy bar. Doug asks for a phone call. Matty normally charges $10 for that, but since Doug is new, he'll have to pay $20.
At Casa de Penhall, Dorothy answers the phone. Back at juvie, inmates listen in on the new kid's call. Doug says in a strange, breezy voice, "Hey, baby, it's me." Dorothy asks why Doug is talking weird. Doug says in the same slick tone, "Why don't you cool out, baby?" Dorothy gets upset and Doug apologizes. She asks him to kiss her good night and say "I love you." Doug says, "Listen, girl, I'm in prison. I can't do those kinda things." Dorothy threatens that he'd better. Doug whispers that he loves her. She makes a kissing sound. He picks at his teeth to fake a kiss, says, "Oh yeah? Then the hell wit' you then, girl" and hangs up.
In the juvie cafeteria the next day, Booker tells Matty he wants to take out Mr. Wilkes. "You ain't takin' Reg out with an Uzi," says Matty. Matty's assistant Bloodhound adds, "Man, the brother was karate champ for 7 straight years." Matty likes Reg and doesn't want him messed with. "We mess with whoever we want," Harry challenges. Matty calls Harry a ziphead. Surprisingly, Booker takes exception to that.
Matty advises them to work for him if they want the good life; he has rackets in cigarettes, phone calls, and drugs. He points to Tom and Doug: "I'm gonna drop those two over there. Ya got a problem with that?" Booker says no.
Matty and his orange jumpsuit-clad flunkie wander over to Tom and Doug's table. Matty wants Tom's dessert. Tom takes the lid off his pudding cup and tosses the contents into Matty's face. The staffer who escorted Tom and Doug to their room breaks up the fight and gives all the boys 1 demerit. Bloodhound gets sent to solitary.
Late that night in their room, Doug drums on the barred window with his fingers. Tom asks from his bunk why doesn't Doug go to sleep. Doug jerks on the doorknob and finds the door is still locked. He snaps his fingers nervously. "Don't you wanna talk or something?" Doug asks, sitting on the bottom bunk. Tom wonders if his partner is okay. Doug moves from the bed to a chair and repeats that the room is small. He rocks back and forth. Doug wishes the door could be open because then he'd feel better. He hyperventilates a few times.
Later, Tom sits on Doug's bunk. He's propped up with pillows, halfway asleep. Doug thinks it's ironic that they've busted kids so many times and "now we get to see what happens to 'em." He'd never really thought about it before: "It's like we're sendin' these kids to hell." "Well, what are we supposed to do when they kill some old lady in a drive-by?" asks Tom, "Take 'em out for ice cream?" "What does this place do except make 'em worse?" Doug wonders. I have to agree with him on some level. With this whole hammer system, it's like the kids are running the show; none of the adults who are supposedly in charge seem to be doing anything to stop it.
Tom says juvie is supposed to scare kids so they don't commit future crimes and end up back there. Doug gets uncharacteristically introspective: "Or maybe we scare 'em so much they got nothin' left to be afraid of." He ends up falling asleep in the chair with his head resting on Tom's knee.
In the juvie showers, Booker tosses Harry a bar of soap, but Harry accidentally drops it. The boys whistle as he picks it up. Booker stops by Tom's room to tell him to watch out for Matty and Bloodhound. He learned that the murder victim Ricky Green wasn't very popular. They have to play the game to find out who's smuggling heroin in. Tom informs Booker, "I think Penhall's losin' it. He's claustrophobic; he can't handle the lockup." I suspect his abusive father may have had a hand in that fear.
There's a throwaway sequence of Booker buying cigarettes from Matty in the yard, then cut to Doug and Tom cleaning bathrooms. Doug is unhappy that they're not taking a more active role in the case. He tosses down his mop and storms out of the bathroom.
In the yard, Doug shows off his bench-pressing skills while his fellow inmates cheer him on. Booker approaches Tom with a handful of sleeping pills. "Are you nuts? You think I'm gonna give Penhall drugs?" Tom asks. Booker points out, "If he starts crackin' up in the middle of the night, he's gonna need some help." Tom knocks the pills away. Matty wanders over and pockets the drugs.
In the office, Grey Tie tells Matty that he can't stick the McQuaids on bathroom duty and not give them any yard time. "Everyone gets their fair share," Matty argues. He thinks he saw the McQuaids buying drugs from the Samurai Boys. "That stuff ends today," Grey Tie says, "I got those Samurai guys transferred outta here."
Grey Tie pulls Tom and Doug out of their room. He tells them they both have a demerit and warns: "One more and you get to try solitary." Another guard searches the room. He goes on, "When the Hammer gives you a work detail, you cooperate. That's how this place runs: on cooperation." Is that what they're calling fear and corruption these days?
The second guard finds the baggie of sleeping pills hidden inside a deodorant container. Tom tells Grey Tie that they're his. "Get him outta here," Grey Tie instructs the guard. Doug wants to know where Tom is going. We see Tom being put in a solitary cell. He wrinkles his nose as he looks around.
Later, Doug is alone in his room. Bloodhound and Matty enter, shutting the door behind them. Doug is breathing hard, clearly agitated: "Open the door, man. Open the door!" Doug tackles Matty and slams him against the lockers, knocking them over. He throws Bloodhound to the floor. Matty gets up and comes after Doug. Doug throws the smaller kid over his shoulders and slams him into the wall again. Doug punches Matty once. The guards come in; Matty manages to kick Doug in the stomach as they drag him down the hall.
Sitting in his cell, Tom hears another door open in solitary and his partner's voice. Doug is terrified, begging, "Please don't lock me up. I'm claustrophobic. I can't take it." A guard scoffs. Doug insists, "No, I'm not faking." The door slams. Tom listens as Doug's continual screams of "No! No!" echo in the darkness.
Tom has been let out of solitary and is in the yard. For reasons unknown, he's filling a sock with clods of dirt from a wheelbarrow. Shifty Kid comes over and says, "Matty's doggin' ya, man. You better get outta here." "Where's my brother?" Tom asks. Shifty Kid looks almost amused as he replies, "Heard he lost it in solitary last night. They shipped him off to the county loony bin."
What seems like the entire population of juvie follows Tom across the yard. While Tom's back is turned, Matty swings at him with a hammer. Tom starts punching Matty and hitting him with the weighted sock. Matty doesn't even try to fight back. Grey Tie puts Tom back in solitary, where he hears someone crying and whimpering.
Tom later returns to his room and finds the hammer sitting on the top bunk. "What's this about?" he asks Shifty, who's appeared over his shoulder. Shifty explains, "You're the Hammer now. You run the Zone." He tries to get Tom to see the benefits of both being the Hammer and of being in juvie: "You can do anything you want in here 'cause you're already locked up."
Tom whispers that there aren't any women in juvie. Shifty explains how to get around that: "You lay a $50 across Blind Morty's desk and he'll buzz you into the Tunnel of Love. There's a tunnel that runs right underneath the girls' lockup." He has more advice on life in the juvie jungle: "You better use that power before some young lion tears you apart and takes it away from you." And that doesn't seem at all threatening.
The next day, Tom paces the line, assigning duties. Shifty has appointed himself second in command. Matty, sporting a huge bruise across one cheek, gets bathroom duty. While he's cleaning toilets, a very obese boy taunts Matty and kicks him in the ribs. Matty is knocked off-balance and the mop bucket spills everywhere. He leans against the wall, putting an arm around his side.
In the common room, Shifty introduces Tom to the cigarette dealers, Mick and Fruity. The Hammer automatically gets 2 cartons of cigarettes. "I don't smoke," Tom says. Shifty asks Tom how he kills time. Tom replies by telling Mick to get him all the drugs he can.
Matty's laying on his bunk when his former best friend Bloodhound comes in. Bloodhound steals Matty's carton of cigarettes and spits in his face.
Shifty comes in Tom's with a few joints hidden inside a bottle of cleaner. Tom wants something stronger. "If you're looking for powder, that's your job," says Shifty. He thinks it comes from "the brothers in C Building." After Shifty leaves, Tom listens to the guards break up a particularly loud fight in the hallway. In the cafeteria, someone steals Matty's roll, tears it up, and drops the crumbs in his hair.
Shifty brings Tom a baggie of "Mexican brown" courtesy of Mick. Tom doesn't want go through Mick: "You get the word out that if it comes into the Zone, it's gonna go through me." Shifty warns that Mick won't like that and will want revenge.
Mr. Wilkes tells the boys, "There are books in the library. Nobody's using them." "They got sex books in the li-berry?" asks Bloodhound. Mr. Wilkes tells him that there are sexy women in the library like Cleopatra and Scheherazade. He tries to inspire them: "You're in the joint because you're not strong enough to make it on the outside. You wanna make it outside, you need power. You want power, you gotta read the books." The boys leave.
Matty is the last person in the classroom. He asks Mr. Wilkes to recommend a book: "I want somethin' those power guys are readin'." Mr. Wilkes hands Matty a folded slip of paper and says, "This is a book about a man who chases a whale. You read this book, you can talk to any man."
In Tom's room, he sighs, looking at posters of women in revealing bathing suits, no doubt a Penhall decorating touch. Meanwhile, Matty reads Moby Dick in his bunk.
Two boys argue in the common room; one agreed to fix the other's radio for 2 cartons of cigarettes but the repairman won't give it back. As the Hammer, it's up to Tom to play Judge Judy. Tom asks what Matty would do. Shifty informs Tom Matty wasn't good at this, but "Magic Rat, 2 Hammers before Matty" was. How long has this kid been locked up?
The cigarettes can't be refunded because the kid who fixed the radio smoked them all. Tom asks for the radio, smashes it with the hammer, and says, "Now you're even." Shifty thinks Tom might better than Magic Rat.
A nervous boy in a denim jacket shuffles over: "I want you to kill Meat, man. Ya gotta get him off my back." Tom asks why Denim Jacket wants Meat dead. "Figure it out," Denim Jacket says, his voice barely above a whisper. Meat turns out to be the huge guy who kicked Matty in the ribs. Tom sighs. He probably can't believe he's in this position again.
Tom says Denim Jacket is on his own. "You gotta help me," Denim Jacket says desperately, "Hammer, please." Tom leaves, goes down the hall, and sees Matty reading in his room. Shifty bounces over and says someone in C Building wants to talk to Tom about a deal the next day.
In Mr. Wilkes' classroom, Matty asks why Ahab doesn't just go after another whale. "He's not going after a whale. He's going after God," Mr. Wilkes explains, "[Ahab] says you won't beat me. He says, 'You will not make my life nothing.'" Assigning the book was Mr. Wilkes' way of trying to teach Matty that he doesn't have to get swallowed by the whale.
The boys are gathered around the common room TV watching Looney Tunes. A long-haired guy in a leather vest wants to change the channel. A black kid with Lionel Richie's haircut starts a fight. Blood splatters on the tile floor. A boy who's probably junior-high age watches in horror. Two adults finally pull the boys who are fighting apart.
Tom sits moodily in the corner of his room, drinking what looks like rubbing alcohol, with Doug's words replaying in his head: "We bust all these kids and now we get to see what happens to 'em." He also replays Doug's terror about being put in solitary. Next he hears Denim Jacket begging, "Hammer, please." Tom rips the bathing suit posters off the wall and tosses them on the floor.
Tom tosses some money on Blind Morty's desk. "Hammer's lonely tonight, huh?" asks Morty. Under the facility, Morty gives Tom directions to go to the end of the hallway and wait by the yellow light. I guess red would be too obvious. As Tom waits with his bottle, there's a flashback to him beating up Matty in the yard.
Tom looks up and sees a curly-haired girl starting to take off her shirt. "Don't do that," Tom says, "Sit down. Let's just sit here, okay?" "What's the matter with you?" the girl asks, "Don't you want to get it on?"
More flashbacks: fights, the scared little boy, the kid whose head was bleeding the day he and Doug arrived, hitting Matty. He hears Doug's words about this place making them worse and giving them nothing to be afraid of. A single tear rolls down Tom's cheek, Cry-Baby style. "You're a waste," the girl says digustedly. Pull back to Tom sitting by himself.
In the visitors' room, Tom meets with Cap'n Rufus, who's posing as his social worker. He wants to pull Tom out. Tom says no because he has a meeting with the smack dealer. He slides a baggie of drugs out from his cheek for Rufus to send to the lab. Rufus will come back if he doesn't get a call from Tom by the next night.
Shifty and Tom meet with the heroin connection in the yard. "Man, I can't believe you took out Matty," chuckles the tallest black kid I've ever seen in my life. I'm not sure why it's unbelievable; Matty isn't particularly big or tough looking. The black kid asks what Tom is gonna do about Mick.
"I'll take care of him," Tom says coolly. The black kid smiles; he likes Tom's style. Tom pulls the black kid aside. He claims he was friends with Ricky Green and wants to settle the score. "You already took care of it, my man." says the black boy, "Matty's the one who took out Ricky Green."
Tom goes to Matty's room to talk to him. Matty tells him to leave. Tom asks Matty why he killed Ricky. Matty explains, "He ran the Zone before me. I took him out because I was a slave and I wanted to have it. I didn't wanna wash toilets and eat his crap." "Then why do you eat mine?" Tom wants to know. Matty admits, "I'm glad you're the Hammer now. 3 months and I'm outta this stinkhole." Tom will still be watching his back for Bloodhound and the rest when Matty is free.
Tom wants to quit being the Hammer. Matty warns him that he can't quit: "Hammer's God in here. You give that up and this place'll go crazy. Every homeboy in the Zone'll be tryin' to kill ya for it....You're the game and unless you change it, you're gonna hafta play it out 'til the end."
Later, Tom sits on his desk, twisting the hammer around in his hand. He tosses it out the open door. All the boys freeze as they hear it hit the hallway floor. Morty the staff member picks the hammer up. He goes to the office and pours himself a cup of coffee.
Tom comes in and starts dialing the phone. "What do you think you're doing?" Morty demands, "Prisoners aren't allowed to use the telephone." He threatens to break Tom's neck with the hammer if he doesn't put down the phone. Morty tells Tom, "You could've been the man. Hell, I was even thinking of giving you Bruno's dope action. But you blew it."
Tom thinks he can get the hammer back. Morty doubts it, unless Tom can take out everyone in the Zone. Tom gives Morty $100, but Morty still won't let him use the phone. He pokes Tom with the claw end of the hammer and orders Tom to leave. Tom goes to his room and closes the door.
Bloodhound pokes his head in a different office. He tells the staff member, Mr. Louis, that he thinks something is wrong with an inmate named Froggy. Bloodhound leads Mr. Louis to the cell in question, where 3 boys jump the guard and knock him out. Bloodhound and company leave and lock Mr. Louis in the cell. The inmates are split into two groups on either side of the common room. Bloodhound has a screwdriver in his hand.
Seconds later, a full-scale prison riot breaks out. Chairs fly. Two boys drag Matty out of his cell, one sits on top of Matty, choking him. The noise draws Tom out of his cell. "Eat this, Hammer!" shouts a kid, knocking Tom out. The riot continues.
Later, the staff mills around the aftermath of the riot. Lots of the boys are on the floor, bloodied and bruised. Some of them aren't moving. Mr. Wilkes checks on Matty and says, "He's dead." Cap'n Rufus has arrived to collect Tom. Morty is escorted out of the building in handcuffs.
Tom is still disillusioned about his job: "We send these kids to jail and they come out more screwed-up than when they went in. What's the point?" Fuller reminds him it doesn't have to be that way; kids can make the most of their time in juvie by reading and learning a trade.
"I found out who killed Ricky Green," Tom says, "Funny thing is he was the only one who was usin' his time to change." Fuller apologizes for what Tom went through.
The episode ends with a silent throwaway sequence where Tom meets up with the junior-high age boy when the kid gets out of juvie. We do not know what has happened to Doug.