Case #3.13: "A.W.O.L."

At a military base, Drill Sergeant Wilcox is giving a recruit named Jack Weaver a hard time while the platoon runs in formation. Weaver goes to the sergeant's office later to talk to him. Weaver, I note, is a young Patrick Labyorteaux, who went on to play Bud in JAG. Wilcox asks what Weaver's malfunction is. Montage of Wilcox screaming at Weaver during various training exercises: "Your ass belongs to the United States Army! We expect you to get your mind right! There's nothing more intimidating than a United States soldier trained to fight, kill, and survive. You will be that soldier."

Wilcox takes Weaver out to the obstacle course. The drill instructor has a pugil stick. Weaver is unarmed. Wilcox begins to hit Weaver various places while shouting over and over, "Defend yourself!" Weaver gets to his feet and disarms the instructor. Before Wilcox fully realizes what's happening, Weaver has hit him in the head and knocked him unconscious. Weaver drops the stick and runs off into the night.

Wilcox arrives at the Chapel and asks to speak to Cap'n Rufus. Rufus smiles broadly and laughs, recognizing his old Army buddy. Wilcox explains that this isn't a social call; one of his recruits took off 28 days ago. Wilcox was hard on Weaver because he thought the kid had a lot of potential to be a good soldier. "I hit him, Adam," he admits. If Weaver isn't found in 2 days, he'll be considered a deserter and the feds will get involved. 

Wilcox made some calls and found out that Weaver's been hanging around at Madison High. Of all the places to hide out when you're AWOL from the military, your alma mater is not a smart choice, especially for a recent grad.

Wilcox knows what Jump Street does. He asks Cap'n Rufus to have his officers bring Weaver in. The kid will be in a lot less trouble than if the MPs or feds find him. However, the case isn't exactly under the jurisdiction of the local PD. "Sounds like something neither of us should be doing," observes Rufus. He agrees to help because Wilcox saved his life in Vietnam.

At Madison, Weaver is doing more than just hanging out; he's in the gym waiting in line to get a yearbook photo taken. Tom and Doug are further back in line. Weaver tells the photographer his last name is Jovi, then starts posing for the camera and making faces. Doug remarks that if the kid had just waited, he could've gotten out on a Section 8 anyway. Weaver leaves the gym. Doug wants to grab him and get the case over with, but Tom doesn't want to spook him.

Weaver goes to the bathroom with a friend to smoke a cigarette. His friend says that Weaver should've used Mick Jagger as an alias. Just after Tom and Doug go into the bathroom, a teacher arrives and sees the pack of cigarettes. "Put 'em out!" the teacher orders. He gives Tom, Doug, and Weaver's friend a week's detention. Weaver has already left through the locker room door.

There's a B-plot in this episode about Judy getting obscene phone calls at her desk from a woman. It's never really resolved, so I'll just focus on the main case.

The students of Madison High gather for an assembly with an Army recruiter named Colquitt. Weaver looks like a deer in the headlights and bolts out of the lecture hall. Tom and Doug chase Weaver, but lose him by the time they reach the gym. They offer to help janitor push the wooden bleachers back into place. Weaver is slinking behind the bleachers and crawls out from under them when the coast is clear. 

In some type of garage or shed, Weaver's friends ask him if he was followed and where he's planning to go. Doug and Tom come in and tell Weaver that he's under arrest. Weaver's friends protest that they're treating him like a criminal. Tom says, "He is one" and puts the cuffs on him.

At the Chapel, we learn that the military base is 6 hours away. If Weaver isn't back by morning, he will officially be a deserter. Tom and Doug will be driving him back. "Don't give them any crap, Private," Cap'n Rufus warns. Weaver snipes from the holding cell that he's still a civilian. 

Tom asks the million-dollar question: "Why'd you join the Army if you hate it so much?" Weaver replies that he never said he hated the Army. Doug asks, "Then why'd you bail to go hang out in high school?" "Because I hate high school," Weaver replies. Tom thinks it's gonna be a long ride and voices my own thoughts by saying that logic isn't Weaver's strong point. "Nothing is my strong point," says Weaver. 

Doug says the Army is similar to the police force. Weaver argues that police officers are trained to save lives, not take them. On the road, Weaver is involuntarily twitching as he sleeps in the backseat. "Think he's dreamin' about chasin' rabbits?" Doug wonders. Weaver wakes up practically screaming and doesn't say why. Tom fiddles with the radio. The only thing that will come in clearly is a Spanish station. 

Doug remembers being nervous about registering for the draft even though it was peacetime. Tom says they're lucky that registering was all they had to do and I have to agree. Doug asks what Tom's choices would be if he were drafted. Tom lists: "Air Force, Navy, Canada, Marines." Doug thinks the Marines do cool chants. "Army has 'em too," pipes up Weaver. He makes up a cadence about joining the Army because he was insane. Doug joins in, then makes up his own off-key cadence about policing. Tom decides to get into the spirit: "I don't know but I've been told! Eskimo--" Doug hits Tom lightly in the chest and says, "Hey! Not that one!" The three men sound off.

At a diner, Weaver says he wants to see a baseball game. Tom tells him, "They're all snowed out today." Weaver asks if they've ever fooled around with a tall, leggy blond or eaten crawfish. Tom points out that Weaver isn't dying. "4 years ain't that bad," adds Doug, "High school is 4 years." Tom tells Weaver, "You made your bed, now sleep in it." Weaver claims he didn't know what he was getting into; he enlisted because his SAT score was 790 and he had no other ideas about what to do with his life. 

On the road, they pass a sign reading that a rest area is 2 miles away and the base is 10 miles away. Weaver asks Tom to pull over. Doug says, "Didn't I tell you to go before we left?" Tom pulls into the deserted rest area. Doug loses Rock Paper Scissors and gets to follow Weaver into the men's room. He uncuffs the kid and turns around when Weaver says he can't pee in front of people. Tom sees Weaver escape out of the bathroom's back door and run toward the nearby woods.

Tom and Doug give chase, but thanks to the Army's PT, Weaver gets far ahead of them. Doug stops at the bottom of a hill and pants, "We're not equipped to do this. Nobody'll blame us if we turn back now." Weaver slides down a different hill. Tom tackles him at the top of the next one, but Weaver breaks free. In an Indiana Jones-style stunt, Weaver grabs a large piece of bark and uses it to slide down the hill on his stomach. Doug screams in frustration. They watch him run as Tom admits they're ill-equipped for this mission.

Doug and Tom hike through the woods. Tom says they're in serious trouble because it'll be dark soon. "Yes, Mr. Den Leader. We shouldn't have gone past the rest area," says Doug. He saw on the news that you should stay put if you get lost so people can find you. "Nobody's lookin' for us," Tom reminds him. Doug knows they don't usually find lost people alive, though. "Good to know," says Tom.

Doug carefully divides a snack-size bag of chips in half. Tom asks if Doug is holding out on him. Doug doesn't appreciate his partner's attitude. "I'm just hungry," Tom says apologetically. "Me too," Doug agrees sadly. They try to sample tree bark but can barely chew it. Further down the trail, they find a berry bush. Doug can't remember if red berries or green berries are poisonous. 

Doug complains that his thumbs are numb. Tom can't feel his face and suggests they start a fire. Doug says they can catch and eat animals after that. Tom adds, "Maybe we could stay and become fur traders."

Doug brings some firewood into a small clearing. He happens to have matches with him because a girl wrote her phone number on a bar matchbook. He successfully starts a fire. He and Tom celebrate. A large clump of snow falls off a tree limb overhead and lands right in the center of the fire. Doug has no more matches. "If things get really bad and you have to eat my dead carcass, will you do me a favor?" asks Doug. "What?" Tom asks. Doug replies, "Starve." Tom sees smoke coming from nearby. "It's Jack," he says, "Let's go steal his fire."

After dark, Tom and Doug approach Weaver's makeshift campsite from opposite directions. Suddenly, Doug trips and falls to the ground with a scream. Tom rushes to his side. Doug thinks his leg is broken. Tom knows Weaver can't be far and calls out for help. "I left you the fire, now leave me alone," Weaver replies, his voice echoing. Tom tells Doug not to move. Angry and in pain, Doug asks, "Where am I gonna go?"

Tom follows Weaver's voice. He pleads with the kid, saying Doug's leg is broken and Tom can't get him out of the woods by himself. Weaver thinks Tom is trying to trick him and throws Tom's earlier words back at him: "You made your bed, now sleep in it." Tom goes back to splint Doug's leg with sticks and move him closer to the fire. From his unseen vantage point, Weaver taunts, "Hey, you guys, Domino's delivers!" and cackles. 

Tom goes back to following the kid's voice. Weaver argues that he's not a criminal because he's never hurt anyone. Near the base of a cliff, Tom finds Weaver in a snow cave the kid dug for himself. They strike a bargain: If Weaver helps Doug get out of the woods, Tom will let him go.

At the Chapel the next morning, Harry and Judy notice that Doug and Tom aren't back. Cap'n Rufus calls Wilcox and explains that they're missing. Wilcox will send a search party into the woods around base.

Tom and Weaver support Doug on either side, helping him limp through the woods. When they stop to rest, Weaver brings the officers some berries. He and Tom build a crude sled out of pine branches to drag Doug on. Weaver leads them to open ground near a road, which he tells them is a tank artillery range. Doug is livid: "We've been chasin' an AWOL guy around an Army base?!" Weaver laughs. Tom and Doug are not amused.

An Army truck approaches. Tom tells Weaver not to run. "You can't do this," Weaver pleads, "You promised. I saved your lives." He starts for the woods again, but Tom catches him by the arm. The truck stops. MPs take Weaver into custody and some other soldiers help Doug into the back of the truck.

In the brig, Wilcox tells Weaver that his plan didn't work; he's still a soldier. Like the kid doesn't already know that. Tom comes into the cell to say goodbye and doesn't apologize for stopping Weaver. Doug is waiting in the hallway on crutches. As the door shuts, Weaver calls another cadence of his own invention: "Penhall and Hanson took Weaver to jail! To make sure he wouldn't fail!" End of episode.

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