“Jersey Strong” (1.4) recap: Crime And Punishment

The next day, Jayda gives a lecture to young women at a local high school.

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Jayda: I need you to listen up. Real talk. My last three years of high school, I was locked up on charges of aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a weapon. I’m not proud of it… I don’t judge. You like to party? I understand. But let me just give you outlets.

Young girl in the audience: Are you still gang-affiliated?

Jayda: Gang-affiliated, what does that mean?

Young girl in the audience: You still in it?

Jayda: I’m Piru. Period.

A murmur of approval ripples through the crowd, but the principal look incensed. Shaking his head and making wild eye contact with the other faculty, he begins walking toward the stage. Jayda, sensing something is wrong, tries to backtrack.

Jayda: But listen. I don’t want ya’ll to get it misunderstood. They’re my homies, and they respect that I changed my life and I love them for that.

The principal and his henchmen continue moving towards Jayda, muttering ominously into walkie talkies. Jayda’s speech is finished. Later, Jayda goes to see Principal Mills about speaking further with the girls of Shabazz High School. He lectures Jayda about presenting gangs as a BAD thing. Honestly I don’t think he’s out of line; blurting out a gang slogan in the middle of a High School presentation is inappropriate. Jayda gets teary-eyed about how much she cares about her ex-gang buddies, but agrees to try not to present gang membership as a positive thing.

Over at Penn State, the family goes for waffles. Maggie and Brooke give Nicole some light shit about her non-stop texting with Justin. Nicole rolls her eyes.

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No one understands her. No one can truly understand what she and Justin have.

Back at the restaurant, Brooke is now really annoyed with Nicole’s non-stop texting. Brooke and Nicole are on each other’s shitlist. Nicole glares malevolently at Brooke while Brooke fluffs her hair anxiously. Poor Brooke. She doesn’t know that Nicole would happily shove her off a cliff to get to Justin. Teenage girls have a vast capacity for love and evil, often simultaneously. They should not be engaged in direct combat, or they will shoot to kill.

Evening comes, and Nicole’s attitude still dominates the conversation. Brooke is gearing up for a fight, Maggie is drinking a suspicious looking liquid from a plastic cup. Maggie takes her daughter side, saying, “Brooke was getting too much in Nicole’s business, and it was out of line.”

Ah. The problem seems to be that Brooke wants to act like Nicole’s father; but she is not Nicole’s father. Brooke and Maggie seem a bit buzzed. They briefly yell at each other, then Maggie slams the door and goes back inside with her children.

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Brooke: Coming in with teenagers, I struggle with what my role is. If I was a blood parent, or if I was a man, I would sit them down and let it be known. But I walk on very thin ice.

The next day, Brooke is thrilled to be back at work, where she has control. Jayda and Aljahmeir stop by to talk. Jayda wants Brooke to help Aljahmeir get over his fear of public speaking. She helps him polish up his upcoming presentation on Malcolm X. After giving a charming presentation, the family visits Creep’s family. His grandmother is getting worse and Creep is devastated. She lived with him growing up, and he idolizes her as the “strongest women he knows.” In an insanely cute moment, Layla comforts her father with skipping.

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At Brooke’s Office, Kwadir practices typing Braille.

Brooke: I don’t care what that kid did, whatever drugs happened, he still did not deserve a bullet in his head.

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Very well spoken. Justice means the punishment should suit the crime. Shooting a teenager in the face and leaving him blind is not an acceptable punishment for doing or selling drugs. Kwadir now wants to attend college and teach at a school for the blind; that’s the dream Brooke is fighting to preserve.

Days later, Creep is still staying with his family. His grandmother passed in her sleep, and Creep is visibly disturbed by the loss. Jayda is left alone with the children. When they tried to visit Creep, his mother turned them away. Her bitterness towards Jayda endures even in the face of tragedy.

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