Rewatching 21 Jump Street! Hey, remember a couple of episodes back when Penhall got married? Then his wife was deported to her native El Salvador? The writers finally remembered that happened, because now here’s the follow-up — season four, episode twenty, “La Bizca.”
What’s goin’ down: Penhall gets word that his wife, Marta, was apprehended by soldiers and subsequently disappeared. He and Hanson head into war-torn El Salvador to find Marta and bring her back to the states.
Here’s Hanson: Hanson treats the trip like a vacation at first, getting drunk off of kickass South American beer. Then he experiences the harsh realities of war, seeing death up close when the rebels’ camp is bombed by soldiers.
Penhall’s prerogatives: Penhall and Hanson end up in a rebel camp, where they’re attacked and captured by soldiers. The two cops are flung from one violent encounter to the next. After all the violence and brutality, Penhall finally meets up with the rest of Marta’s family, only to learn that Marta died just a few days earlier. Bummer.
Undercover blues: There are rebels disguised as soldiers and soldiers disguised as rebels, not to mention the CIA running around and fears that communist agents are hiding in the shadows. Nobody can trust anybody.
Goin’ to the chapel: The episode begins with Hanson and Penhall already in El Salvador, so there’s no mention of whether they asked for time off, or if they’re breaking the rules by being there.
Torn from today’s headlines: The writers continue to explore the Salvadoran Civil War, which had been going on for about a decade. Two years after this episode aired, the United Nations finally brokered a peace agreement between the government and the various guerrilla groups. Allegedly, human rights violations were everywhere, and it was, generally speaking, not a happy time.
Trivia time: The always-great Richard Roundtree (a.k.a. “Shaft”) plays a friendly American who bumps into our heroes, and he may or may not be with the CIA.
“Bizca” in the episode’s title means “squint” or “cross-eyed,” referring to Marta’s sister, who says she always used to fire her gun cross-eyed.
Jumpin’ or not? “If only I came two days ago…” Here’s an episode that doesn’t pull any punches, with a lot of shocking deaths and horrific violence. Even though I usually prefer the fun episodes of 21 Jump Street over the serious ones, this is an hour of grim darkness that actually works. It’s jumpin’!
Next week: Declare independence.
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