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"Hill Street Blues" Jungle Madness (1981)

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Powerhouse closer for the first season

Author: Woodyanders ( from The Last New Jersey Drive-In on the Left
17 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Washington (the supremely cool Taurean Blacque) unearths evidence to clear vicious racist narcotics cop Charlie Weeks (a terrific performance by Charles Hallahan) over the back alley shooting of a black youth while Furillo (the fabulous Daniel J. Travanti) clashes with Chief Fletcher Daniels (the sublimely slimy Jon Cypher) over the investigation. Bates (Betty Thomas) and her new partner Coffey (the extremely likable Ed Marinaro) get to know each other better. LaRue's (an outstanding portrayal by Kiel Martin) alcoholism undermines his ability to do his job and causes his life to fall apart. Hill (sterling work from Michael Warren) comes down hard on a teenage mother who continually neglects her two children. Director Corey Allen relates the gripping story at a constant brisk pace and ably sustains an uncompromisingly edgy and intense tone throughout. This is without a doubt one of the single most powerful and dramatic episodes of the first season, with LaRue's drinking problems providing a majority of the strongest moments (LaRue's big breakdown in front of everyone at the station is especially painful to watch and, in a truly surprising scene, LaRue discovers Furillo in attendance at his first AA meeting, thus revealing that Furillo is a recovering alcoholic). Moreover, there are also a few inspired funny bits, with the comic highlight occurring when the ever daft Hunter (James B. Sikking in hilarious deadpan form) talks to Bates about how he's learning to see everyone more as people instead of men and women. Ken Foree of "Dawn of the Dead" fame has a neat uncredited bit as a hold-up man who attempts to rob a pawnshop Belker (Bruce Weitz) is working undercover at. And the whole show concludes on a potent note with Coffey getting shot by a motorist he pulls over. A superior episode that's essential viewing for fans of the show.

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