Ernie Hudson, Chuck Norris, Funny Money Featured In Lethal Weapon 2.11

by Ben Martin

[PLEASE NOTE: This recap of Lethal Weapon: Season 2, Episode 11: Funny Money DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. It is assumed you have already viewed the episode. If you have not, it is recommended you do so.  Episode 11: Funny Money In  can be seen on Fox On-Demand or via your preferred streaming service.]

After what I like to dub as Lethal Weapon’s “Annual Holiday Special” with Wreck the Halls, the series returns its regular schedule with Episode 2.11: Funny Money. With this return of an action-comedy series inspired by an 80s movie, the show appropriately brings with it a couple of legends of that decade. The first being Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) and the second, “Chuck Norris,” in name anyway. As a 90s kid who grew up watching all the classic films of the 80s, I couldn’t have been more thrilled about such a development. But I wondered, would these callbacks to the film classics of the genre work for the episode or just be cheeky?

The episode opens with a counterfeiting operation in full swing. Rap music provides the soundtrack as a counterfeiter goes about his business with absolute precision: plating,  printing and cutting fake hundred dollar bills. Everything is going swimmingly until  the criminal hears a noise when putting money in the safe. In response, he draws his gun as fear fills his eyes. Cutting to the outside of the building where the counterfeiting is occurring, we see three kids on BMX bikes. The teenagers are trying to make their claim to YouTube fame by recording their tricks to post online. Alas, their dreams of internet stardom are interrupted when the counterfeiter, and his backpack full of cash, come flying out the window. The counterfeiters’  body and his bag hit the ground with a thud; with the funny money maker dying on impact. Stunned, the teenagers sit on their bikes, momentarily shocked. That is, the counterfeiter’s ski-mask wearing murderer peeks out the window. He quickly takes aim at the kids, who grab the bag and scatter.
The next morning, Molly’s (Kristen Gutoskie) alarm wakes her up. She reaches next to her in the bed for Riggs (Clayne Crawford), only to find he’s not there. Upon entering the living room, Molly sees Riggs coming in the front door, quietly and with a puppy. It seems our hero has gotten a canine friend for Ben (Duncan Joiner), who had wanted the dog after seeing him in a window. Molly is hesitant at first, but can’t resist saying yes once Ben walks in on the conversation and sees the puppy. While Riggs may have acquired a dog, Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) seems to have lost track of his son, after going to RJ’s (Dante Brown) dorm only to find he’s not there. Much to his chagrin, Murtaugh discovers that his son is not only missing from his dorm but  has also been missing classes.

From there, the day only gets more eventful when the boys are assigned to the homicide of the counterfeiter. The deceased is identified as Mike Greco. Along with Greco’s body, they also find scattered hundred dollar counterfeit bills as well as the sheets for them. As is typical with counterfeit cases, the Feds soon get involved. Secret Service Agent Hank Peterson (Ernie Hudson) is assigned to assist with the counterfeit case. Peterson quickly proves to be a man who likes not only to tout his expertise, but also to spin long yarns regarding his career.

The agent believes that these counterfeit bills are the product of a counterfeiter known only as “Degas,” (This criminal pseudonym was given to the counterfeiter in reference to French impressionist artist, Edgar Degas.) Obviously, the only thing to do in a case like this is to follow the funny money.
Thus, our heroes and Peterson go to a fancy hotel at which they suspect the counterfeiter(s) are staying. Unfortunately, their hunch is wrong, as the fake money makers aren’t guests at the hotel. Instead, they find a hotel suite occupied by the three BMXing teens, who have been using the counterfeit bills. However, only two of the three kids are in the suite. The otherwise absent third kid flies by on his bike and Riggs goes after him. Despite his efforts, the kid manages to make it down into the subway and onto a train. The teen is crafty as he even manages to give someone a fake one hundred dollar bill to swap clothes with him.
Once the officers get the remaining teenagers back in interrogation, they finally get some pertinent information. Monroe (Dakota Love) tells Murtaugh about the killer and the video. Meanwhile, Nunes (Rio Mangini) reveals to Riggs that his missing friend’s name to be Ty (Nathan Davis Jr.). In addition, Nunes says that Ty tends to bounce from group home to group home. The team quickly puts said information and the teenagers’ video to use. Once Bowman (Andrew Creer) pulls the video, they find footage of a woman in a van yelling at Greco. She is telling him, “IF YOU LEAVE, YOU’RE DEAD TO ME!” Using the video, they manage to trace the van.
Meanwhile, Riggs has managed to trace Ty to an old, abandoned school bus in a junkyard. Once Ty arrives in the bus, he is surprised to find Riggs there. But, before the young man can bail, Riggs tosses him a French Dip, telling him, “I had a place like this once.” Ty gives Riggs back his wallet and the backpack of phony cash. Alas, this peace is soon fractured when the ski-masked gunman strikes again. Except this time, he has a partner. The pair sprays the bus with bullets, but Riggs manages to fire back wounding one of them and causing the gunmen to flee. However, when our hero goes to check on Ty, he finds that the wayward teen has escaped again, this time through a hatch in the school bus floor.
There’s a whole lot of tracking going on as Murtaugh and Peterson trace the van to a studio apartment. To the men’s surprise, the owner of said van and residence is a woman who is confined to a wheelchair. Meaning, she could not be responsible for Greco’s murder, as it happened on the second floor, which is not wheelchair accessible. The woman identifies herself as Nina (Ali Stroker) and admits to being responsible for running the counterfeiting operation. Nina believes Greco died protecting her money plates. Expounding, she says that a criminal acquaintance, Paul Mason (Nelson Lee)  may have something to do with her late partner’s death. According to Nina, Mason wanted to buy her plates and the machine that manufactures them, but she refused; thus, the motive. With this new information, the team is now trying to find whoever stole the plates.

Back at the station, the team puts out an All-Points-Bulletin for Ty. Our hero’s hopes to promptly find the teen is interrupted when he gets a call from Molly. Unfortunately, it seems the puppy, who has been named, “Chuck Norris,” is missing. Riggs reassures Molly that they will find the pup. Now, he hopes to find the dog and the boy. At the same time in the Murtaugh household, RJ comes home, only to find both his parents waiting for him. The college student tries to play off the situation after its revealed that his parents know of his absences. From there, things escalate quickly as RJ reveals that he is dropping out of college and storms out. For the moment, RJ is lost, but Ty is found. This is thanks to one of Riggs’ credit cards being used to purchase a bus ticket. The fraudulent purchase leads Riggs to a bus bound for Albuquerque. It turns out Ty had bought a ticket for a senior citizen using the card. The teenager isn’t far behind as our hero finds him on a beach nearby. Together, the two watch the sunset over the sand.
After the two take in the sunset and sand, they head back to the station, where Riggs convinces Ty to go back into foster care. He manages to do so by telling Ty how he also grew up in foster care after his mother died and things went south with his father. However, the tables quickly turn when Ty hears that Riggs has an emergency call regarding his family. Hearing “family” leads Ty to believe that he had been told a lie. As Ty processes this misconstrued information; Riggs goes to answer the call, it’s Molly. On the other end of the line, she is choked up and has tears in her eyes. Pained, Molly tells Riggs that the puppy is dead because someone broke his neck. Unfortunately, Riggs doesn’t have time to absorb this shocking news as Bowman regretfully interrupts the call. It seems that Ty has run off, again. Ty doesn’t get far though, only to the police station garage. There, he hides is the unsuspecting Agent Peterson’s car.
This little car ride reveals that Agent Peterson is not what he seems. It turns out; the legendary agent had been working with Paul Mason the whole time. In exchange for getting Mason the counterfeiting plates, Peterson will get loads of cash. That’s just not to be however as Peterson finds he’s trunk cracked open, with no bag of plates inside. Ty has made a run for it with the bag, unseen. The boys pull up shortly after that. They find Peterson alone, complaining that Ty stowed away. Riggs goes to look for the boy while Murtaugh stays with Peterson and outs the agent for his corruption and arrest him on the spot. Riggs soon finds that Mason’s men are also on Ty’s trail. The chase leads them all down to an underground tunnel, under construction. Riggs takes out Ty’s pursuers as Ty just keeps running. Finally, Riggs is able to stop Ty and tell him the truth about his family situation. All this is done, just in time to dodge an oncoming train.

When all is said and done, Ty goes to live with Nunes and his family. Such a change of heart is mostly thanks to Riggs’ persuasion. With Ty in good hands, Riggs can finally go home. Alas, as he’s leaving, Riggs finds an envelope with “Chuck Norris’’” collar in it on his desk. After discovering this unwanted parcel, Riggs knows what he must do. Meanwhile, Murtaugh and Trish are trying to come up with a plan for a new path for RJ. However,  they find that their son has taken those matters into his own hands. RJ says he would like to live at home, but get a part-time job, as well as take two classes at the community college. In addition, to these well-laid plans, RJ also intends to get his parents a refund for the current semester’s tuition. This pleases his parents to no end.
Alas, if pleasure is one place; there will always be pain somewhere else. Riggs stops by Molly’s to apologize for the whole situation. Not just the puppy, but, “Pulling (Molly) into his whole mess.” He regretfully explains that he has to leave town for a few days, adding that he may not come back. Obviously, this hurts both Molly and Riggs as a couple; leaving them and us, the audience to wonder whatever will come of this relationship. The episode comes to a close as Riggs finally visits his father, Nathan Riggs (Rex Linn) in prison. Riggs shows his incarcerated dad the puppy’s collar. Then, Riggs tells his father, “When you get outta here I’m gonna’ kill ya.’” With this declaration, a truer one probably never having been spoken, the episode ends.

Coming back to this series post-holidays, I found ‘Funny Money’ to be a decent episode overall. The main issue with this episode is its caper. I mean, we’ve seen crime-fiction in all mediums deal with counterfeiting plots since the genre’s inception. Sadly, Lethal Weapon brought nothing new to this particular crime, nor the stories that can be told involving such. Thankfully, while the episode’s A plot is weak; it’s B plot is very strong! By that, I mean that the emotional stories of the episode are very strong and rewarding for followers of the show. Not only do we get to see Riggs becoming committed as a family man; we also continue to look at the Murtaughs grow and evolve.
Funny Money’ also did something that is not done enough. As you read earlier, the character of Nina is confined to a wheelchair. The showrunners cast Ali Stroker in the role, who actually uses a wheelchair. Stroker uses the wheelchair due to a car accident, at a young age, that resulted in her paraplegia. I myself have Cerebral Palsy, which affects my balance and fine-motor skills. Because of my CP, I walk on crutches and sometimes use a wheelchair. Thanks to living with a unique situation, I appreciate when actors or filmmakers who live with theor own situations, make the most of them and make a living. I commend this series for casting someone who can fully play this character better than those who have not been in her shoes. The same can be said for Breaking Bad’s R.J. Mitte and Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, but beyond those, there, unfortunately, aren’t many examples of such. In closing, I appreciate all these actors because they aren’t letting their unique circumstances hold them back, as I try not to either. I look forward to seeing more work from all of them, as well as this season’s future episodes!

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