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Recap / Due South S 1 E 01 Free Willie

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Season 1, Episode 1:

Free Willie

In a high-rise office building in downtown Chicago, three masked robbers break into a brokerage firm. They shoot one guard in the arm and threaten several others before ordering a man to open a nearby vault. Once inside, the thieves steal a yellow messenger bag before heading back out the way they came and parting ways...

Fraser is adjusting to life in Chicago after being reassigned there permanently. Ray goes to pick him up, and Fraser tells him that he's decided to rent an apartment in a run-down neighborhood that is a few minutes walking distance from the RCMP Consulate. Despite Ray's reservations about the building and the local area, Fraser accepts the rent agreement and looks on with pride at his new (rundown) apartment.


His focus is distracted by someone screaming, and he runs to the window to see a young boy stealing a purse from a woman on the street. Benton tells Diefenbaker to give chase while he leaps out a nearby window onto the fire escape and begins tracking the kid from the tops of buildings. Diefenbaker chases the kid while leaping over fences and gates, opening doors and other obstacles before Fraser stops the kid in his tracks. He confronts the boy to give back the purse, but the latter pulls out a handgun and holds him up. After telling him that he's only hurting himself by forcing a standoff, the boy reluctantly hands over his weapon. Fraser points out that the safety was on before they leave.

Ray is incensed to discover that Fraser let the boy go after returning the purse and giving him a "stern talking-to", and even more angry when he discovers that the bullets from the gun Fraser retrieved match one of the weapons used in the brokerage firm robbery.


At the precinct, Detectives Huey and Louis are interviewing the manager of the firm, who says it's possible that one of the robbers might fit the build of a child or teenager.

The boy, Willie Lambert, is brought in for questioning under the supervision of a child case worker. Although Huey and Louis attempt to take the case for themselves, Willy only agrees to speak with Fraser. He tells him that he got the gun from a purse he stole from someone. Afterwards, Ray asks for permission to allow Willy to be released so he can identify the woman he stole the purse from. Welsh gives them the go-ahead and tells him and Fraser (who has agreed to take responsibility for him) that if he flees, Ray will have to turn in his badge and resign.

Willy attempts to flee after being released, but is swiftly chased down by Diefenbaker and brought back to the duo. Willy eventually leads them to a complex where they find the bag — and when they open it to look for the bearer bonds, they only find blank pages. They head off again, but they're tailed by a female robber who calls an unseen assailant and says she'll "take care" of Willy.


The next day, Ray finds out from Elaine (one of the clerks at the precinct) that the female robber Willy identified via sketch is Elaine Morgan, a felon with multiple convictions on her record. They head to the brokerage firm to talk to the manager, Hamlin, about the envelope he found, and he tells them that he has no idea where the real bonds could be. However, Fraser realizes that identified the robbers as male with the exception of one woman without being asked. He brings his discovery to Ray as they leave the firm. They realize Hamlin was in on the plan

Diefenbaker is keeping watch on Willy outside in Ray's Buick Riviera when Morgan and another assailant try to break into the car to kill him. Fearing for his life, Willy hotwires the car while Dief keeps the attackers at bay, and he speeds off as Fraser and Ray run outside. Thinking quickly, the duo grab a nearby horse and carriage and gives chase, along with Morgan and her henchmen. They manage to drive off the attackers in the process, but lose Willie after he stops the car and flees on foot.

After once again explaining their failure to go by-the-book to Welsh, he tells Ray to clear out his desk by 5 p.m. Fraser has an epiphany and realizes that Hamlin used a courier in the building to smuggle out the bonds from the brokerage firm before the robbery, and that he's withholding his share to Morgan because he wants it for himself. After hearing that Hamlin has also taken off to get the bonds back at a local mail depot, they decide to go on a hunch and rush to stop him.

At the depot, Morgan arrives and attempts to retrieve the package herself, but is attacked and knocked down by Hamlin, who steals it from her and runs into the depot. Ray and Fraser arrive as this is happening, and chase them through the front office into the main storage area. Morgan steals the package back from Hamlin and knocks him out, while Fraser and Ray take out the henchmen.

Morgan drops the bonds and scatters them across the floor by accident. In a panic, she hides and takes Ray hostage when he tries to pick up the bonds. Fraser arrives soon after, and she orders him to pick up the bonds. He responds that it isn't advisable, she threatens him again. He then picks them up and tells her that he is honor-bound not to give them to her. He then walks off, forcing her to shoot towards him. Ray uses the opportunity to wrestle the gun away from her and arrest her then goes to check his partner, who reveals that she shot his hat. Ray promises to drive him back to his apartment to get his backup hat before they bring Morgan in.

Ray comes back to the station and discovers that Willie returned to the station after getting lost. Welsh congratulates him on the good work, while Fraser offers to pay Willie a weekly stipend to look after Diefenbaker.

As they go back home, Ray tells Fraser that they have to stop helping every single person they meet...


  • Action Girl: Morgan, the female bank robber who gets the bulk of the screen time.
  • Bank Robbery: Rather than your typical bank teller hold up, the robbers go to the offices upstairs and steal an envelope full of valuable bearer bonds.
  • Batman Gambit: When Ray is held hostage, Fraser proceeds to politely infuriate Morgan to get her to turn her gun on him so Ray can disarm her.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Morgan orders Fraser to pick up the Bearer Bonds, and he suggests she doesn't really want him to do that. When she insists, he picks them up, then declares that as a police officer, he is now duty-bound to return them to their lawful owners.
  • Brick Joke: Ray attempts to follow Fraser across the top of several buildings, but is impeded by the gaps and his own fatigue. He disappears for several minutes while Fraser confronts the boy who holds him at gunpoint, then is seen falling off the building and screaming as they leave, just before the camera cuts.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After Fraser lets Willie go after the chase.
    Ray: Does the word "incarcerate" mean anything to you?
    Fraser: Well, it's from the Medieval Latin, "incarcerata..."
    Ray: Medieval Latin? You let a perp go and you're giving me Medieval Latin?
    Fraser: Actually, "perpetrator" is also Latin, from "perpetrare..."
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When Fraser explains that the money he just gave someone is Canadian, they reply "Well I'm not!" In the pilot, Fraser paid for his co-worker's cab fare and replied to the Cabbie's protest that the money was Canadian with "So is she."
    • Welsh brings up Fraser's actions in the pilot episode when talking about Willy and whether to let him go. He also asks Fraser if the "wolf is involved", referencing that Diefenbaker bit someone during the bar shootout when they were trying to find Francis Drake.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Fraser immediately tries to ingratiate himself with the residents in the apartment building by memorizing their names from the mailbox downstairs and identifying them as he walks by their apartments as they stare at him.
  • Dull Surprise: As Diefenbaker leaps past a pair of homeless men while Fraser is chasing Willie (complete with Reaction Shot).
    Homeless Man #1: Looked like a wolf.
    Homeless Man #2: Yep.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: Played for Laughs. Fraser gets shot. In the hat. He can feel the air flowing in through the hole. Ray agrees that they should go back to Fraser's apartment to grab his other hat.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Fraser takes this as a given, and is proven right.
  • Noodle Incident: After Ray accuses Fraser of coming from a place where people will "fight over ice", the latter begins to speak about something that happened in his past before the former cuts him off.
  • Not Me This Time: The available evidence points to Willie, a juvenile with an arrest record, as being one of the robbers. Fraser and Ray both point out how absurd this is, but the police have to follow the evidence until they can find something proving otherwise.
  • Not with the Safety on, You Won't: When Fraser first meets Willie (chasing him down after he stole an old lady's purse), Willie pulls a gun on him, and Fraser calmly talks him down, before citing this trope.
  • The Oner: During the opening sequence, as the thieves exit the brokerage firm after stealing the messenger bag.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title of the episode is an allusion to Free Willy.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Somewhat difficult for Fraser to do, as he doesn't have a gun, and Morgan doesn't believe him. She eventually agrees to him surrendering his knife and removing his belt.
  • Running Gag:
    • Fraser's habit of giving Canadian money to American citizens (which was first seen in the pilot) is played up here, as he does the same thing three separate times to incredulous responses from the recipients.
    • This episode also marks the beginning of a series-long gag where Ray's Buick Riviera is either damaged in some way or destroyed. Here, the windows are smashed out by Morgan's henchmen and the car is hotwired.
    • Everybody pointing out to Fraser how bad his choice of neighborhood is.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Willy immediately attempts to flee after he's released into Ray and Fraser's care, though he doesn't get far before Diefenbaker ousts him from the bus he was trying to escape in. Subverted later on, when he flees during a chase but eventually finds his way back to the police station because he was lost.
  • Shout-Out: The two other major detectives who work at the precinct are Huey and Louis.
  • Street Urchin: Willie is a mild example. He has a home, but he lives with his sister, who is mostly absent. Fraser ends up taking him into his own home instead.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Fraser realizes that Hamlin (the manager at the brokerage firm where the bonds were kept) is in on the plan when he refers to the attackers as all male with the exception of one woman, despite never being asked about their gender.
  • Those Two Guys: Huey and Louis, two minor characters who work as detectives with the 27th Precinct and have back-and-forth conversations.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Supposedly, even drug dealers are afraid to come into Fraser's neighborhood.
  • Wretched Hive: Fraser's new neighborhood is supposedly so bad that neither cops nor drug dealers are willing to go into it without good reason. Given the tone of the show, it's an Informed Attribute at best.


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