| Season 1, Episode 4|
Episode 4 of 78
|Air date|| January 21, 1994 (USA)|
April 2, 1995 (Germany)
|Written by||Darrell Fetty|
|Directed by||Bruce Bilson|
|Guest stars:|| Parley Baer|
John Cothran Jr.
Safe as Houses is the fourth episode of Viper. It aired on NBC on January 21, 1994.
The episode opens outside the courthouse, where Outfit kingpin Nate Benedict (Shearer) is about to arrive, being indicted for racketeering, bribery, extortion and murder, after having been acquitted of all wrongdoing before by the city, county and state levels for several years before. At the Viper Lair, Joe, Julian and Frankie watch it on the TV, the Viper team having led the FBI to the evidence against Benedict. However, after Benedict is brought to the courthouse, two Dodge Caravan minivans pull up, and a few masked goons come out, taking Benedict hostage and dragging him to the car.
Having witnessed it, Joe heads out in the Viper. Encountering the minivans, Joe starts chasing after them. As he is about to take out one, at a turn the vans suddenly stop, and the masked men open fire. Taking cover behind the Viper's door, Joe witnesses Benedict being moved to another van, and one goon, dressed as a police officer, blows up the van Benedict originally left in, creating a roadblock.
Back at the Lair, Joe says that he figured it out it was a setup. The burnt-out van is now seen on the TV, with the reporter saying that MetroPol and County Coroner have identified that the charred body removed from the car was Nate Benedict.
A week later, Frankie is seen showing Joe and Julian a discarded MetroPol interview tape with Gloria Jackson (Rose), as a clue to Joe's theory that Benedict had faked his death. Gloria is talking about a company named Neo Vista Development taking of her childhood hometown of Mesa Rose with less than honorable practices. The day after Benedict's breakout, a new Neo Vista executive had shown up in the city. Having seen the video, Joe gets in the Viper and drives off towards Mesa Rose, after Julian hands him a new utility remote, that allows him to operate the Probe, should he get separated from the car.
Arriving in Mesa Rose, Joe attracts the attention of a police unit and gets pulled over. Faking engine trouble, Joe obeys. The officer tells him that semi-trucks have been driving through the town at 70 mph 10-15 times a day, and so that he wouldn't be obstructing them, asks Joe to fix his car and move on as quickly as possible. A boy (Hendershott) then walks up to Joe, offering his grandfather's garage to him to fix the car. The boy's grandfather turns out to be Finch (Baer), who gives Joe a tool-kit to "fix" the Viper, and introduces his grandson as Tyler "TJ" Jackson. Just then, Gloria walks in, and chastises TJ for wandering off, unhappy with Joe suddenly randomly showing up in town. Once alone in the garage, Joe calls Julian, who had just finished a public records search on Neo Vista, discovering about its Outfit-connected shareholders, and the company's corporate office being relocated to the Mesa Rose bank building. Finch offers Joe the executive suite in his boarding house.
In the suite, TJ comes in, telling Joe that he had him figured out as the Defender's driver, before Gloria stops him, as she doesn't want him to believe in urban legends and tells Joe off for walking around with a gun in front of a child. Later, Finch tells that he had gone out of town to visit his best friend, Lewis Kincaid, whom he hadn't seen for a few weeks, but was stopped at the gate by Neo Vista goons, claiming to be Kincaid's "new hired help", before telling him to leave, as Lewis didn't want to see anybody, and threatened to run the Jacksons over with a bulldozer if they didn't sell their land.
In the Neo Vista office, the goons are discussing that while Finch wouldn't be a problem as everybody thinks he's senile, Gloria would be a problem, as she had filed a formal complaint at Metro. To kill them, three masked goons cause a short with the building's old electrical wiring in the middle of the night, setting off a fire. Joe wakes up to the smoke and barely escapes, waking up Finch, before spotting three goons in masks, and gets knocked out by another goon.
In the morning, the two police officers seen earlier are questioning Joe, Finch, Gloria and TJ about the fire. However, the cops tell them that they see no evidence of a deliberate arson and claim that Joe didn't get knocked on the head, but took a fall after tripping over; and also had checked on Kincaid, with one of the hired men telling him that Kincaid wouldn't be back before next week, he can't arrest anyone without solid proof, and even claims that Joe could have started the fire himself. With Joe helping the Jacksons to restore the house, Gloria also starts to warm up to him.
As Joe goes to visit the bank building, he is confronted by two Neo Vista goons, who try to provoke him into a fight, but he keeps his high ground and walks off, impressing Gloria. He then calls the Lair from the boarding house's old video phone, asking Frankie to find information about the dead body found in Benedict's getaway car though dental records. TJ is dismayed that Joe didn't fight back, but Joe tells him that it wasn't worth it and the goons were trying to provoke him.
During the night, Joe comes back to the bank building, encountering the same goons, provoking them to a fight. One goon then punches Joe, only to turn out it was a hologram projection of him, and the real Joe is around the corner, knocking him out. Also knocking out the other goon, Joe tranquilizes them before breaking into the building, and starts looking through the Neo Vista files. Gloria has followed him, still having a few doubts about his allegiance, before helping him find the information. They discover that Neo Vista is planning to turn Mesa Rose into a haven for international fugitives, just as the alarm goes off. Gloria is able to make a copy of the list, while Joe leaves the room and is arrested by the two police officers encountered before. With one officer taking Joe to prison while the other tends to the goons, Gloria is able to quietly slip away.
As Joe tells the officer about what he found out from the Neo Vista files, the officer reveals that the city police is on Neo Vista's payroll. Joe escapes from the cell by guiding the Probe to the jailhouse and using its laser to cut through the window bars, and creating a hologram of himself lying in the cell's bunk. Gloria and TJ head over to prison, arriving just as he breaks out, bringing him back to the house, just as the officers discover the ruse, and when Benedict arrives later on, he is none happier, and tells the cops to seal off the city.
Back at the Lair, Frankie arrives, telling Julian that he found out at the morgue that the dead body was Lewis Kincaid. However, they can't call Joe as the phone lines are down in the city and he can't get any readings from the Defender.
In the early morning light, the Neo Vista goons are ready to attack Joe and the Jacksons, who are currently working on the Viper in the garage. As the police officer shouts at Joe to surrender, Joe tells Benedict that the Neo Vista files have already been uploaded to FBI and U.S. Marshal's Office. Benedict thinks Joe is bluffing, and they start shooting at the garage. Just then, they hear the sound of a car approaching. Joe sees that it's Frankie's Barracuda, and opens the garage door while Finch distracts Benedict by shooting at a propane tank, causing an explosion, allowing Frankie to drive into the garage. Julian is also in the car, and comes out to repair the Viper.
Morphing the Viper into the Defender mode, Joe drives out of the garage and defeats Benedict and his goons, who are then arrested by U.S. Marshals. Frankie and Julian then leave, as Joe lingers behind for a bit, seeing TJ try to explain to Gloria about the Defender, but she tells TJ that they can thank Joe without exaggerating. Joe leaves back for the Lair, and TJ tells him that should he need any help fighting criminals, he could always call him. Saying good-bye to the Jacksons, Joe drives back to the Lair, where he discovers that TJ had made a drawing of the Defender and left it in the car for him.
- The episode was dedicated to Marc Yobs, a 32-year old rising film production executive, who was killed with his girlfriend, Karen Osterholt, on January 17, 1994 in the Northridge earthquake, when his Sherman Oaks house at 3855 Sherwood Place, built on a hill and supported by stilts, collapsed and slid down the hill.
- Gloria has a Ph.D. from Cornell.
- Finch claims to have had a Viper once, that belonged to a friend of his whom he used to help to work on the car 10 years ago, to which Tyler comments that he was unaware Vipers existed back then. As Dodge Viper was first released in 1992, it would set the episode to take part in early 21th century. However, Finch says that his friend's car could have instead been a Ferrari or a Porsche, or a souped-up hot rod, but he remembers the car was red.
- The officer bringing Joe to prison claims that Butch Cassidy once slept in the jailhouse.
- At the bank, during Joe's confrontation, a custom 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, named "Chezoom", built by famous hot-rodder Boyd Connington, is seen parked in front of the bank. Also, in the background, a then-brand new Dodge Ram pickup truck can be seen, indicating a possible product placement.
- The Mesa Rose police jeep is a 1975 Toyota Land Cruiser (FJ55).
- Benedict's car is a 1976 Jaguar XJS Coupe.
- In Germany, when originally broadcast on ProSieben in 1995, the episode aired out of order - 10th, after Scoop and preceeding The Face.
- The German title for the episode is Die Gangsterstadt - "The Gangster City".
- Frankie: (Watching Nate Benedict's arrival at the court on TV) That's right, tough guy. Uncle Sam's dishing up justice on a proverbial platter and this is a dish you can eat without your paid-for politicians and judges you keep in your back pocket.
- (Frankie is showing Joe and Julian the MetroPol interview with Gloria Jackson)
- Frankie: The name is Gloria Jackson. Educator, writer, and a single mom of a 9-year old. (Plays the tape)
- Gloria: (On video) My father still lives in Mesa Rose. It's the little town where I grew up.
- Frankie: (Pauses) Mesa Rose, out in the middle of nowhere, a 100 miles from nothing. It's a small mining town the Interstate bypassed 22 years ago. (Play)
- Gloria: Well, several months ago, dad started sounding senile to me, so I took a sabbatical from teaching to go home and take care of him.
- Frankie: (Pause) Gloria Jackson's father, Mr. Edwin Finchem. Local gas station owner and boarding house proprietor. Known to his friends as "Finch".
- Joe: Frankie, why don't you just let it roll so we can find out why you're showing us this?
- Frankie: Joe, this is all pertaining detail. I'm just trying to fill you guys in on the big picture here, please work with me!
- Julian: You said you had a lead on a big case.
- Frankie: By making a point of reviewing the data that MetroPol marks for discard and disposal, I came across our first clue that gives guidance to Joe's theory that Benedict is still among the living. Watch, and be amazed if you will. (Play).
- Gloria: My father's eccentric, so when he started raving about some conspiracy in Mesa Rose, I gave it a little thought, and then my son and I moved back there.
- Officer: Mrs. Jackson, this sounds like it's out of our jurisdiction.
- Gloria: Well, all I'm asking of Metropol is to investigate a company called Neo Vista Development. The corporation records show that they're based out of the city.
- Officer: We'll need a formal complaint to a specific charge. What is the company doing?
- Gloria: They're taking over. They're systematically buying up the entire town of Mesa Rose and all the land around it.
- Officer: Lady, buying land is not illegal.
- Gloria: Well, the way they're doing it is. People like my father, who refuse to sell, are harassed, threatened and physically bullied. The town has become a hangout for thugs who look like they should be on wanted posters. And the Neo Vista Development executives are even scarier. Last Tuesday, a new one showed up and...
- Frankie: (Pause) Tuesday. The day after Benedict supposedly was killed. (Play)
- Gloria: ...from the way everyone acts around him, this man is in charge.
- Frankie: (Pause) Point of interest, this woman is a professor of sociology, specialising in urban decay and modern day mythology. A professional cynic, not likely to be making this stuff up.
- Julian: Frankie, just let us see it!
- Frankie: Okay, okay, Julian, don't get your fender in a bender! (Play)
- Gloria: Look, I really can't explain it to you, but I have got a bad feeling about him. He is middle-aged, he wears nice clothes, he drives an expensive car, but he carries himself like a street hood. The thing I noticed first about him were his eyes. The way he looked at me was like some predatory animal.
- Frankie: (Stops the tape) Now, what does that sound like?
- Joe: Sounds like I better take a ride out to Mesa Rose.
- Frankie: (Grabs the belt containing the remote control from Julian) Wow, it looks like a little belt buckle!
- Julian: Frankie!
- Frankie: You know, Julian, with this technology we could make a million bucks! Big market ability. Tiny tool kits, car alarm controls, TV and stereo remotes, I'm telling you, this is like a Swiss army knife for the modern age!
- Joe: (Takes the belt) Thanks, I think I'll keep my old Swiss army knife, just in case.
- Gloria: Why don't you tell me, why are you carrying a gun? For protection? I mean, has the world really become such a vile dangerous place that normal citizens have to carry guns to protect themselves?
- Joe: I hope not.
- TJ: The Viper Defender guy can do anything. He could even come here and help us, if he wanted to.
- Joe: Maybe he still will, when the time is right.
- Gloria: In the city, every time T.J. saw a Viper sports car he'd ask if the driver was the Defender in disguise. I'm afraid since we've moved back here that his fascination with that foolishness has gotten worse.
- Joe: Why'd you call it that?
- Gloria: I believe in positive role models, Mr. Astor, not fantasies. A major part of my career's been spent debunking folk tales and urban legends such as that one.
- Joe: What's so bad about a nine year old who wants to believe there's someone out there who's trying to make things better? A lot of what's good in life can't be proven as fact.
- Gloria: A mythical vigilante doesn't fall into that category.
- Joe: And you want TJ to be a realist?
- Gloria: To survive in the times we live in today he has to be.
- Joe: Maybe. But we all need hope.
- Gloria: When Neo Vista first moved in with their talk of hotels and casinos, the entire town got excited thinking it'd be another Las Vegas. But instead of revitalizing the community, they bought everybody out and killed it.
- Joe: (pointing to the computer) What is this?
- Gloria: (opens the file) Reservation deposits. There is no room for the locals, Neo Vista's turning the entire area into a private resort, catering to a select group of very wealthy clientele.
- Joe: Can you make a copy of that?
- Gloria: Sure. What did we find?
- Joe: That's a select clientele alright. This reservation list reads like a who's who in international fugitives.
- Gloria: They're turning Mesa Rose into a haven for criminals?
- Frankie: The morgue, my friend. Hey poking around dead people in the dark, not my idea of having a good time!
- Wilkes: You got the dental impressions.
- Frankie: Oh yeah, and you owe me lunch on account I lost mine.
- TJ: Mom, you should have seen it! The bullets were bouncing off and he was using this missile launcher...
- Gloria: Mr. Astor's car? TJ, you mean the police, don't you?
- TJ: No, mom, it was Joe!
- Finch: Yessir, he done it all by hisself before the police even got here.
- Gloria: Dad, you're even worse than TJ! We can thank Mr. Astor for his extraordinary help without exaggerating.
- TJ: Mom, don't you get it? Joe's the... (Sees Joe signaling him to be quiet) You're right, Mom. I don't have to exaggerate. Joe's a real hero.
- Gloria: Yeah. I suppose we do need heroes. All of us.
- (Joe begins to leave, TJ follows him)
- TJ: Joe, when you're fighting the bad guys, if you need any help, you know you can call me.
- Joe: Thanks, TJ, I will. But you take care of your family, okay? They're a good one.