Case #5.08: "This Ain't No Summer Camp"

Open along a wooded trail. A man in a red T-shirt shouts at a group of backpacking-wearing teens to keep up. One falls back to catch his breath. The instructor asks what the kid's problem is. The kid pants that he can't go any further. The instructor hauls the kid to his feet by his backpack strap and growls, "You don't know what you can and can't do. That's why your parents sent you here, so I could teach you."

The instructors give the kids a 5-minute break. It seems a boy named Scott is planning to escape from this trip. A girl named Diane begs Scott to take her with him, but Scott says no. A boy named Tucker gives Scott his canteen. Scott makes Tucker and the other boy promise to take care of Diane.

When the break ends, O'Hanion the instructor notices that Scott is missing. He demands to know where Scott is. "He's gone and you'll never catch him," says Diane. O'Hanion tells the kids there's no escape from Survival Search, the camp name on their T-shirts. Suddenly, there's a loud scream in the distance. The instructors go to check it out, the kids following close behind. They see a rope bridge literally hanging by a thread.
"Oh no!" Diane shrieks, spotting Scott's lifeless body at the bottom of the ravine. Theme song.

At the Survival Search base camp, the teens are introduced to three new arrivals, one of whom is Joey Penhall. Doug stands behind him, wearing Army fatigue pants, boots, and a Survival Search instructor T-shirt. O'Hanion tells Joey and the others they'll be taught the meaning of the words "discipline" and "respect." The teens have to earn the right to go home.

During a bag inspection, instructor Brickman finds two packs of cigarettes hidden in Joey's socks. O'Hanion introduces Brickman to Doug and says Doug has had life experiences the kids can learn from. Brickman shakes Doug's hand: "Call me Brick. 'Nam, Rangers, '73." Doug responds: "Joliet, B&E, '84." They show Doug the confiscated cigarettes. 

Doug asks if Joey knows smoking is unhealthy. Joey snarks that it says so right on the side of the box. Doug thinks the two of them are going to have a lot of fun together; he'll run Joey's tail off. "Do your worst, doughboy," Joey taunts. Doug hustles Joey down the path, screaming at him drill instructor style.

Once out of sight, Doug asks for Joey's impression of O'Hanion and Brickman. Joey thinks O'Hanion could "give Freddy Krueger nightmares" and that Brickman "bites the heads offa live chickens." Doug checks a nearby tent to make sure it's unoccupied. He reminds Joey that he's supposed to find the staff intimidating. Joey mocks Doug's voice and says he sounds like Lurch.

The local PD ruled Scott's death an accident; Jump Street was sent in by the state to investigate the conditions at Survival Search. We learn O'Hanion has been brought up on child abuse 4 times, but never prosecuted. Doug reminds Joey that people are innocent until proven guilty. Besides, Survival Search has an 80% success rate. Doug hears the other instructors coming and tells Joey to give him 50. "I didn't bring any money," Joey replies dumbly.

Doug, of course, means pushups. He tugs on his brother's jacket, urging him to start. Joey reluctantly does so. Doug counts off the pushups. Afterward, Joey goes to his new cabin with orders to take Scott's old bunk. The boy who fell back on the run objects and starts wrestling Joey. The instructors arrive to break it up and order them both to do 50 pushups. "Maybe you'll be smarter than Stowe here and learn your lesson the first time," O'Hanion says to Joey.

Judy and Mac pay a visit to Scott's parents' mansion. Scott's mother says her son wasn't bad, "just headstrong." Scott's father says they're divorced but amicable. They share custody and the mother was upset about the hours Scott kept. Scott's father let the kid do whatever he wanted and had been out of the country on business: "I didn't know she sent him to be murdered in some high-priced concentration camp. And if I find something that proves O'Hanion killed my boy, I'll make sure he never hurts anyone again."

Back at Survival Search, Joey brings a wheelbarrow full of rocks to Stowe, who's stacking them into a crude wall or fence. O'Hanion criticizes the way the wall looks, kicks a section over, and tells Stowe to try again. Joey is assigned to help Stowe. O'Hanion says cheerfully, "Looks like you'll have to work through dinner to get it done."

Elsewhere, O'Hanion asks Doug's opinion of the program. Doug wonders how O'Hanion knows how far he can push a particular kid. O'Hanion replies that he has plenty of experience; the same methods he uses at Survival Search were the ones that helped his son grow up to be a decorated Marine. Doug reminds him that every kid is different. O'Hanion shrugs: "Close enough." He tells Doug it's beautiful to see the rehabilitated youngsters go home to their parents.

That night, Stowe wakes up with a scream. The noise also wakes his next door neighbor Joey. Stowe unconvincingly squeaks that nothing is wrong. 

At the mansion the next day, Judy and Mac watch as a local news crew interviews Scott's father. Interviews broadcast on TV get edited and they need the whole story. Scott's father felt betrayed when his son was sent to Survival Search. The reporter inquires about misdemeanor charges that Scott was arrested for, charges his father got dropped. Scott's dad insists that's just a rumor and ends the interview. Any further questions should be directed to his attorney.

Sexually aggressive Diane flirts with Joey while he's sawing up a fallen tree limb. Joey asks about Scott. Diane reveals that Stowe, first name Jeremy, helped Scott escape; the two boys were close friends. And Stowe will be referred to as Jeremy for the rest of this recap.

Doug calls Joey over and takes him to the place where Scott died. The teens had all been told that the rope bridge was off-limits. As if that ever stopped a kid who wants to escape badly enough. Joey tells Doug about Jeremy's nightmares. "Like the man said, this ain't no summer camp," Doug shrugs. He said the thing!

At base camp, Brickman orders Jeremy to mix some cement to make signposts with. Jeremy refuses. Brickman tosses the bag of cement at him; Jeremy tosses it back and stalks off. The signposts are now Joey's job.

That night in the cabin, Jeremy shows Joey a framed picture of his sister; she and their mom are Jeremy's whole family. Joey tells Jeremy that he has a brother. Jeremy asks if they're close. "Getting there," Joey replies honestly before asking what Jeremy is "in for." Jeremy evasively replies that he's tired.

In the middle of the night, Brickman comes in and tosses a blanket over Jeremy's head. He drags the struggling teen out of the tent. Joey has seen the whole thing and O'Hanion orders him to stay out of it. The next time we see Jeremy, he's tied to a tree a short distance from the boys' tent.

In the staff cabin, Doug asks O'Hanion if they tie kids to trees a lot. "Define 'a lot,'" says O'Hanion before admitting it happens about once every few groups. He assures Doug that Jeremy will be fine except for losing a night's sleep. Doug says, "I knew a lotta guys who were sent to the Hole. It didn't always do them a lotta good." Of course, Doug is referring to his meltdown during an undercover assignment in a juvie prison. Jeremy will be checked on every hour; sometimes it's best to leave a man alone with his thoughts.

Joey sneaks out of the tent and over to the tree. He tells Jeremy to keep his head down so the instructors can't see them talking. Jeremy talks more about his family; he's close to his sister Peggy and their dad sends them a postcard once a year. Joey promises to stay outside with Jeremy all night.

At the mansion, Scott's mother discusses "the incident" that led to her sending Scott to Survival Search. Scott and a girl stole things from a convenience store; Scott took her on a joyride in a stolen car. Hey, It's That Girl: The actress playing Scott's mom also played Mrs. Pagan God in the Supernatural Christmas special. 

Scott threatened to tell his father that mom was sending him off to boot camp. Mom paid an extra fee to basically have Scott kidnapped. Scott's Mom hugs a throw pillow to her chest, expressing guilt that she purposely arranged for him to go to Survival Search during a time he was supposed to spend with his father.

Doug calls the Chapel. Judy tells him about Scott's arrest for joyriding, endangering the welfare of a minor, and shoplifting. A judge expunged Scott's record in exchange for a heavy fine and full restitution. The named of the girl involved was Margaret; witnesses said she got in the car with Scott voluntarily. Doug whispers to Judy about Jeremy; he thinks there's a connection between him and Scott's death. He's not sure he can nail O'Hanion for child abuse.

Joey gathers up some rocks for the next fence. "There's better ways of workin' up a sweat, ya know," says Diane, "So how 'bout it? It's what makes the great outdoors so great." Joey asks if it's necessary for her to come onto every guy she sees. Diane learned it from her mother.

O'Hanion talks to Jeremy. He's sure that Jeremy will be the best graduate Survival Search has ever had, "even if it puts both of us away." That really doesn't sound good...

That night, Doug brings the daily reports to O'Hanion's office, which is a shrine to his son, replete with candles. Doug asks what happened to O'Hanion's son. O'Hanion had enough of the military after fighting in Vietnam; it wasn't the life he wanted for his son. He gave his son free reign and didn't know he was doing drugs until his son was beyond help. He died of an overdose. O'Hanion describes running Survival Search as "my penance, my atonement." Doug says it could also be O'Hanion's deliverance.

In the Chapel, Judy and Mac talk to Jeremy's mother. Her daughter Margaret goes by Peggy; her children have different last names because Peggy was from her first marriage. Peggy's counselor told Mrs. Stowe that Peggy is healing from her depression, but Peggy never revealed why she tried to commit suicide. Said suicide attempt took place shortly after joyriding with Scott.

Mrs. Stowe thinks Jeremy is in New Mexico at an archeological dig camp he's been saving up for. Judy tells Mac to call Doug right away.

Joey has discovered Jeremy is missing from camp; he's going to the ridge to look and asks Doug to bring O'Hanion up there too. Jeremy stands at the edge of the ravine where Scott died, holding his photo of Peggy. Joey arrives and tells Jeremy he's a police officer. "You've been onto me all along, haven't you?" asks Jeremy.

Joey says no, they were looking into possible abuse by Survival Search staff. Jeremy tells Joey that no one can help him. Joey guesses this is about Peggy. Scott, it transpires, raped Peggy and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. Peggy tried to commit suicide after finding out Scott had gotten her pregnant. Jeremy used his savings to enroll himself in Survival Search so he could get close to Scott.

Jeremy cut the ropes on the bridge the night before Scott tried to escape. He's coming apart because he can't live with the guilt. Jeremy thinks his mom and Peggy will be better off without him. "Wrong!" says O'Hanion, appearing suddenly with Doug, "My son thought that. He was wrong too." He wishes he'd sent his son to Survival Search.

Joey manages to grab onto Jeremy just as he steps off the cliff. Doug and O'Hanion help him pull Jeremy to safety. Jeremy begins sobbing in O'Hanion's arms. 

Judy and Mac come to pick up Doug and Joey. "So, Wally, Theodore, did you boys learn any new outdoor skills?" jokes Mac. Judy says Jeremy is undergoing a psych eval and might get a lighter sentence when Peggy corroborates his story. Social Services wants to temporarily shut down Survival Search until the camp overhauls its screening process for teens in need of help. O'Hanion smiles as he watches Tucker and Diane hug their mothers. End of episode.