Mod Squad: Season 3, Episode 11

The Judas Trap (8 Dec. 1970)
"The Mod Squad" The Judas Trap (original title)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Crime | Drama
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The head of a local campus ROTC is murdered, and the main suspect is the man's mentally disabled teenage son, whom he had frequently beaten. However, Pete and Linc, who have befriended the youth, believe he is innocent.


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Title: The Judas Trap (08 Dec 1970)

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Episode cast overview:
Tige Andrews ...
Don Porter ...
Dean Prentiss Markham
Dana Sterling
Margaret Markham
Sid McCoy ...
Police Psychiatrist
Richard Webb ...
Col. David Sterling
Wayne Heffley ...
Det. Sgt. Smith
Bob Golden ...
Trap Shooter


The head of a local campus ROTC is murdered, and the main suspect is the man's mentally disabled teenage son, whom he had frequently beaten. However, Pete and Linc, who have befriended the youth, believe he is innocent.

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Action | Crime | Drama




Release Date:

8 December 1970 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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An Award That Should Have Been
21 October 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The nighttime scene opens in a young boy's bedroom.A teenager with short, bristly hair rises from his bed and sleepwalks.

In another bedroom an older man is making a person-to-person call when a rifle is fired in through the door.The man falls,mortally wounded.Before dying,he mutters "Dana" into the phone.

At the scene,police question Prentiss Marcum(Don Porter),neighbor of Col.David D.Sterling,the murder victim(Richard Webb),and are startled that the other bedroom(with 8th-grade textbooks)belongs to Sterling's 17-year-old son,David D.("Dana")Sterling,Jr.(Barry Brown.)

Marcum cares for Dana when Sterling is at the Pentagon; he's appalled to find the mentally-handicapped Dana missing.Marcum's wife,Margaret(Marj Dusay)is out of town.

"Mod Squad" undercover officers Pete(Michael Cole)and Linc(Clarence Williams III)are running in the park.Pete notices a teen-aged boy,still in pajamas,confusedly stumbling around.Pete encounters the boy who recoils in terror.

Pete determines that the boy(whose pajama top is bloody)is not mentally sound.The boy(seemingly in shock)is unresponsive.Pete invites the boy back with them to his apartment.

At Pete's apartment,the now-chatty Dana tells them that he excels at geography,has a good memory for faces,and counts cards when playing card games.(Dana Sterling is not mentally retarded,but autistic.)

Pete offers Dana some clothes to wear home.When Dana removes his shirt on the stairs,Pete and Linc stare,horrified,at welts crisscrossing the boy's back.Dana admits his father beat him,but loyally avers his father is "really a great guy!"

A psychiatrist examines Dana,who insists his father isn't dead because "he hasn't seen his body."The doctor believes Dana didn't kill his father.Police still feel Dana is the primary suspect.

Pete insists Dana stay with him.Dana tells Pete that when his father (a widower)goes to the Pentagon he stays with "Uncle Prentiss"(whom he likes),but dislikes "Aunt Margaret," Prentiss's wife(who never liked Dana.)

The police discover that Col.Sterling made the person-to-person call to Margaret Marcum at a motel in Bakersfield,California.

Dana asks to visit Lewis Park.Dana shoots skeet,shattering every clay pigeon released.Pete becomes horrified when Dana suddenly wails:"My father's dead!Somebody shot my father!"

Back at the apartment,a tearful Dana admits to Pete that his father was very abusive but he still loved him.

Marcum is questioned about his wife.He admits she was leaving him,and was intimate with David Sterling.

The police bring in Margaret,who confesses David told her he would beat Dana into submission if he objected to David's relationship with Margaret.

Upstairs at Pete's apartment,Dana sees a cruiser pull into the driveway,realizes Pete is a policeman and flees.

Pete goes to Marcum who says he hasn't seen Dana(who is hiding inside.) Pete remains at the Sterling apartment,figuring Dana might return.

Prentiss Marcum shows his true colors, eliciting from the trusting Dana the distasteful story that Sterling beat Dana,who resisted Margaret's coming to stay with them.Dana tells "Uncle Prentiss" that "Aunt Margaret" should stay with him.

Marcum presses Dana to determine how much the boy remembers.In a series of hallucinatory flashbacks,the story unfolds in Dana's tortured mind. Finally,Dana sees Prentiss handing him his own gun(which Prentiss used to kill David Sterling)and tries,mesmerically,to convince Dana he killed his father while sleepwalking.

Dana remembers and tells Prentiss,sealing his own fate.

Margaret,who hears the story,threatens to call the police.Marcum grabs Margaret and backhands her,allowing the frightened boy to escape to his own apartment.Prentiss breaks down the door; Dana,terrified,picks up a rifle and threatens to shoot.Marcum sneers; the gun is unloaded.Marcum had to load Dana's gun with his own bullets to kill David Sterling.

Dana then wields the gun butt defensively.Prentiss follows suit,advancing on the boy - but falls flat on his face;Pete trips him.(Pete,inside,heard the guilty admission.)

Prentiss attacks Pete,who beats him savagely.Pete hurries to Dana,huddled in a corner;the boy is sobbing piteously...

At the station,Capt.Greer hands Pete a letter from Dana.

Dana is flourishing in a special school,having the potential to attend college someday.

The letter ends on this touching note:"I never had a are the one I would choose.I hope you feel the same about me...your friend, Dana."

Of all TV dramas,this heart-wrenching episode is the likeliest to provoke tears.

In this challenging role,Barry Brown(one of the most promising young actors of the 1970's)was superlative - extraordinarily convincing as Dana Sterling,the mentally-challenged boy cruelly victimized,yet so winsome and charismatic he instantly won your heart.(Dana Sterling was Barry Brown's favorite character.)

Harve Bennett,the show's producer,was so impressed with Brown's meticulous characterization he nominated Brown for an Emmy.

Reportedly,Barry Brown acted in one scene with such emotional intensity that the cast applauded him enthusiastically at the end of his performance.

Tragically,this sensitive,intelligent young actor(who,at age 19,was listed as co-starring in this drama with Don Porter,a highly-respected character actor)was overwhelmed by the twin demons that haunted his life - depression and alcohol - and committed suicide in 1978,at the age of 27.

This "Mod Squad" episode not only represents the police shows that entertained the American public nearly 40 years ago,but also showcased the impressive talents of a handsome,star-crossed young actor,Barry Brown,and what might have been for him,as well as for the world of entertainment,had the Fates been kinder...

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