1.14 Ranger Jarod
Original air date: February 15, 1997
Written by: Steven Long Mitchell & Craig W. Van Sickle
Directed by: Ian Toynton
When Jarod impersonates a forest ranger and joins in the search for a young student lost in the woods, he finds himself falling in love with the female ranger who’s his partner.
Jarod’s Discoveries: The Three Stooges, Star Wars, Smokey the Bear, Sex
Jarod’s Occupations: Ex-Green Beret, Search and Rescue Volunteer, Sherpa
Jarod’s Aliases: Jarod Forest
While impersonating a forest ranger, searching for a man lost in the woods, Jarod meets a woman who also grew up torn away from her parents…and falls in love for the first time.
In an Oregon diner, Jarod sees his first-ever episode of “The Three Stooges,” and is surprised to learn the comedy’s appeal is mostly limited to men. A few minutes later, after bumping into an attractive woman named Nia, Jarod also sees a TV news story about forest rangers searching for a missing ornithology student…and the next time we see Jarod, he is volunteering for search duty. A bit later, at a ranger station, Ranger Conrad briefs Jarod about the missing student, Victor Simpkins, and a report comes in that Simpkins’ base camp has finally been found. At the camp, Jarod senses several things about the scene are not right, then talks to Simpkins’ mother, Inga, who says her son was studying the nesting patterns of eagles. Soon, the searchers are paired up in teams of two, and Jarod’s pleased to find his partner is Nia. As they begin to search through the woods, they run into a nervous man named Bob, who hasn’t seen Victor, but says he is searching for his own missing partner, Little Bob. A bit later, as they continue to search, Jarod finds a carabiner stuck in a cliff face, which Inga later identifies as her son’s. That night, most of the rangers camp out, but Nia invites Jarod back to her cabin. There, she dresses the cuts Jarod suffered in a fall as he was grabbing the carabiner…and, later, Jarod watches old tapes of a Centre experiment in “sexuality,” when he, as a boy, was first introduced to young Miss Parker. Then, disturbed by the feelings Nia has awakened in him, Jarod calls Sydney and says he needs to talk about women.
Much later, Jarod is awakened by Nia, who is having a nightmare in which she cries out, in Spanish, that she doesn’t want to “disappear.” The next morning, Broots plays back a tape of Jarod’s conversation with Sydney and tries to identify a radio station playing in the background. And as Broots plays the tape over and over, Miss Parker is increasingly intrigued by the idea of Jarod with a woman. Meanwhile, Jarod asks Nia about her nightmare, but she says he must have misunderstood. Later, as Jarod and Nia resume their search, they run into Bob again. Bob says his partner, Little Bob, ran off a few days ago, after being spooked by a low-flying airplane, and then by a dynamite blast, when Ranger Conrad was clearing some stumps. Just then, another ranger radios to say they found Victor’s backpack by a nearby river. When Jarod and Nia get there, however, Jarod realizes the clues so far seem to be deliberately directing the search down river…so Jarod decides to stay put. And then we see Victor, stranded in a nearby cave, calling weakly for help.
Later, back at Nia’s cabin, she catches Jarod watching old tapes from the Centre, and realizes the boy in the footage is Jarod. Then, late that night, Jarod has an inspiration, wakes Nia, and drags her back out to continue their search. Nine hours later, Jarod finds what he was looking for, Simpkins’ real base camp—up on a high ledge where it would be easier to see the eagles he was studying. Later, as Jarod and Nia hike back through the woods, they find the wreckage of a small airplane, which contains traces of an illegal drug cargo and cash shipment. Jarod also sees two sets of footprints, and realizes Victor stumbled on the drug plane and was chased off by someone else—most likely Ranger Conrad, whom Bob had said was blowing up stumps that day. That night, as Miss Parker also reviews the old tapes of her and Jarod’s first meeting, Jarod and Nia camp out in an old mill. Huddled by a fire, Jarod tells Nia how he was taken from his parents as a child, and she tells him how she was also taken from her parents in Argentina, and never saw them again. Bonding over their mutual pain, the two of them kiss, and then begin to make love (the first time ever for Jarod). In the morning, Jarod’s awakened by a pig wearing a baseball cap—Little Bob—with big Bob right behind him. Bob explains they’re hunting truffles, and recently found a mother lode in an old mineshaft, but lost out when someone blew the entrance closed. Jarod and Nia rush to the old mine, where the two sets of footprints come to an end. They realize Conrad must have chased Victor inside, and then blew the entrance closed, trapping him. Quickly, Jarod starts pulling rocks away, and soon, they find Victor inside, barely conscious, but alive.
Back at the Centre, Broots finally identifies the radio station in the background of Jarod’s call, and back in Oregon, Bob calls Ranger Conrad to say he has found Victor…then hands the radio back to Jarod. A bit later, Conrad finds Jarod at the mine, and when Jarod accuses Conrad of trying to kill Victor, Conrad shoots at Jarod and runs into the mine. Jarod chases him, then sets off another explosion, which traps Conrad in the mine, just like he trapped Victor. Jarod, however, promises to free Conrad…in a few days. Later, Jarod says a reluctant good-bye to Nia, and a bit later, when Sydney and Miss Parker finally arrive at Nia’s, he watches their conversation from the nearby woods, then walks away, alone again.