LETHAL WEAPON takes a look at the intense world of college athletic recruiting in “Unnecessary Roughness.” This was almost a straight up crime story. Crime stories depend on interesting and inventive villains, identifiable stakes, and under resourced out-of-their-league detectives. “Unnecessary Roughness” only had time for one of those elements. The victims this week were two kids, one on his way to college.
Jesse Raines is a local quarterback receiving attention from college football recruiters. His cousin, Steve, is his long-time friend who genuinely looks out for Jesse and his future. When Jesse lets his guard down at a party, it’s Steve who protects him from girls who just want to post a bunch of photos of Jesse drunk on social media. When a jealous a-hole, Carson Tate, gets in Jesse’s face just for talking with one of the girls, it’s Steve that steps in and deescalates the situation even though Carson has a gun tucked under his shirt. Jesse has a great abundance of potential but he also has a rare true friend. Steve tells Jesse to lay down in the back of the car as they leave the party, but someone drives by and opens fire on their vehicle a moment later.
Jesse gets hit in the rotator cuff and Steve is killed. Riggs and Murtaugh take the case. The thematic connection to the Lethal Weapon team is the uncertainty of future. Riggs is coming off his hotel stay with Karen Palmer. They don’t show them together during this episode, but Riggs gets calls and notes from Karen. Whatever happened, she wants to keep going. She is his future for now. Riggs struggles with this, he feels like it’s a cheat against Miranda. Riggs reaches for the bottle, but puts it back. Later, he reaches for another bottle and chugs it down, blows almost three weeks of sobriety.
Roger’s uncertainty comes from home. Trish hasn’t looked for new work yet. She takes things slow, checks out some hobby classes, takes some runs. Meanwhile, Riana keeps a running calculation of the family economy. Murtaugh’s city pay isn’t enough to keep their house much less put the kids through college. She’s anxious about the finances and adds to Murtaugh’s own worries. At work, Murtaugh asks Captain Avery how long he can work before being forced to retire. The heart surgery, the baby, a new partner, Trish quitting the firm; like Jesse, this isn’t what Murtaugh had planned.
Witnesses from the party lead Riggs and Murtaugh to Coastal College, a local school. Murtaugh recognizes their head of security, a former LAPD detective, Mike Ramos. He helps identify Carson Tate and where to find him. Ramos tells Murtaugh how great the security gig is: The Salary is three times what he was making at LAPD, he gets a company car, free tuition for the kids, and many other perks. This checks all the boxes for Murtaugh. Carson’s gun is not a match for the murder weapon. Jesse’s mom doesn’t help much, she works a lot, but Jesse’s neighbor, Devante tells Riggs that Steve stood up to a man named Benny Barns.
Jesse’s mom describes Benny as a manager, but Benny tells Riggs he was just a mentor, looking out for Jesse’s interests where the recruiters were concerned. Benny had a fight with Steve about interfering with recruiter negotiations. Ramos reaches out to Murtaugh and tells him he plans to retire soon and he told his bosses Murtaugh would make a good replacement.
Baily and Riggs surveil Benny and see him meet with Walter Hancock, a powerful Coastal College alumnus. Baily stays with Benny but Riggs follows Hancock to a fancy restaurant where Hancock sits down for a dinner meeting with Murtaugh. Hancock is there to discuss the security position with him. That is until Riggs wrecks in and accuses the man of murder. Baily and Cruz discover recent debt paid in Jesse’s mother’s accounts. She gets defensive when questioned about taking money from recruiters. Again, Devante helps identify another player, Wendall. The tires from Wendall’s car match skid marks from the crime scene.
Jesse confronts Wendall about killing Steve, but Jesse’s no longer a viable recruit. The shot to his rotator cuff ended any chance he had to play football again. Wendall and his team beat Jesse, throw him in the trunk of their car, and drive to the football stadium to stage his suicide. Riggs and Murtaugh arrive in time to save Jesse, but their investigation crushes the Coastal College recruiting program.
Murtaugh convinces Jesse that he can still go to school and find a way to make his life better. Murtaugh was a also a gifted athlete with college prospects he lost with a knee injury. Life didn’t turn out the way he planned but it still turned out well. Trish tells him and Riana not to worry. She’s only been off the job for a week and she has enjoyed the time but will be looking for work soon. Trish wants to make sure she finds work that makes her feel the same way Murtaugh does about being a detective. Riggs goes back to the hotel to spend another evening with Agent Palmer. Crazy, yes. Stupid, no.
Season 1, Episode 16 (S01E016)
Lethal Weapon airs Wednesdays at 8PM on Fox
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor