So a newly-returned Vietnam veteran is found beaten to death in a park, and it looks like we're about to get ourselves a Very Special Episode about America turning its back on those who serve it. But then, it's discovered that the guy was beaten to death not because he was veteran but rather because he was gay, which is an entirely different Very Special Episode altogether. Did you like how Life on Mars threw you a curve ball like that? Or are you just put off by the Very Special Episode-ness of it all? Yeah, me too. Well, let's grit our teeth and get through this together, then.
Yeah, so like I said, a body turns up in a park, and since the deceased just got back from the 'Nam, the detectives quickly conclude who is responsible for this atrocity -- Hippies. Because if there's one group known for its proclivity toward violence and unchecked aggression, it's Moonbeam and Sunflower and all the other Merry Pranksters. Also, hippies ruin everything.
But while hippies will have to answer for many things before all is said and done -- horrible fashions, the brief popularity of the sitar, patchouli oil -- killing this particular guy wasn't one of them. No, there's another culprit on the loose here, which rapidly becomes clear as further investigation reveals that the deceased enjoyed the company of his fellow man more literally than figuratively.
This, of course, makes Carling -- gung ho about hunting down the perpetrator when there were hippie skulls to crack -- less enthused about brining the killer to justice. But then he gets a talking-to from Gene Hunt of all people, and while Gene may not like gays or hippies or anyone really, he likes murderers least of all. And after Sam and Annie use Detective Skelton as bait -- after all, what gay basher could resist Skelton's charms? -- they're able to capture a roving trio of Neanderthals who happen to have seen the Vietnam vet's unfortunate demise. Turns out he was done in by his commanding officer, who held quite firmly to the belief that what happens in Saigon stays in Saigon.
So what's Sam to do after laying down some 2008 enlightenment upon 1973 (tediously, I might add)? Why, track down the 1973 version of himself, of course, since the victim's family lived in the same neighborhood that Sam did briefly when he was just a youngster. And Sam does manage to see the younger him -- they clap eyes on each other at subway station outside a Knicks game. Which I find confusing, frankly -- I mean, isn't there a Time Travel Paradox that maintains one of them has to die now or that they have to battle each other in a knife fight or that Willis Reed ends up being Sam's father? That's just too heavy for me to think about right now.-- Mr. Sobell
Hello! Mr. Sobell's computer imploded on Sunday evening -- erasing all his work and his recently-downloaded copy of the last Life on Mars episode -- so he invoked the subclause in our marital compact that require us to assume each other's recapping duties in case of emergency. Please do not be alarmed. He will return with your RDA of Lisa Bonet jokes next week.
Speaking of whom, this episode is beginning with the same type of multicuturally-suspect hippie shindig that Denise Huxtable would have loved -- tons of people in silly stoner outfits twirling about to sitar music in the park, a few Hare Krishnas in the mix, some space cadet blowing bubbles. The detectives are walking through the park, and Ray grunts, "I thought Nixon ending the war was going to put an end to this freak show!" No, it did not. And Ray, you will want to forever avoid Berkeley, because said freak show is still going strong there, especially on weekends. Sam prophesies that, "This counterculture will one day be looked upon as a time when politicized youth rebelled against the excesses of the Vietnam war, the excesses of corporate arrogance, and the excesses of racial intolerance." And in looking at the world today, you can tell all those Be-Ins totally worked. Ray protests that politicized youths tend to do things like blow up national monuments and suchlike, but he's really irritated by the fact they "make their own jewelry out of seashells." We all have our one irrational grudge.
Sam then flashes back to playing in the park, and right after he does that, Windy calls out for him, then asks, "You come here to find yourself too?" Before Sam can answer her, Chris nudges him -- "Crime scene's over here" -- and when Sam looks back, Windy's disappeared.
Cut to Ray dripping his lunch all over the bruised body of the murder victim. Sam settles for giving him an "Are you kidding?" look and quickly notes that the man was beaten to death. As Chris goes to roll the body, Sam is a little horrified, but Chris produces the man's wallet with a "ta-daaaa!" flourish and Sam just rolls his eyes at the primitive forensics minds with which he must deal. We soon establish that the victim is Robert Reeves, Jr., and he was in the Navy, a veteran of Vietnam. Both Ray and Chris sigh dolefully, and Chris explains, "The last time a vet was killed, the lieut burned this city down 'til we found the killer. Only thing worse than killing a cop? Killing a vet." Sam looks at the military-memorabilia lighter and broods. Ray is delightfully oblivious; he's wiping his mayo drippings off the corpse and quipping, "Rest in peace, my man, 'cause you just cinched it that we ain't gonna."