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El Viejo


7 (51st Overall)
November 7, 1986
Repeat Airdate
March 6, 1987
TV Rating
TV-14 V
Guest Stars
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"El Viejo" is the seventh episode of Miami Vice's third season. It premiered on November 7, 1986, and was rerun on March 6, 1987.


Crockett and Tubbs find that the target of their latest case -- a murderous Bolivian drug dealer -- has also drawn the attention of a mysterious, cantankerous old man.


Vince Wilson from Broward Narcotics Division is meeting with Castillo to discuss a dealer named Mendez. Switek is working the case as well and they compare notes. Wilson, with a cover job of truck driver, declines Switek's offer to be backup at that night's meet. Wilson is made for a cop by one of Mendez's goons and blown away with a shotgun. As they leave, Mendez kicks Wilson's body off the dock and into the water.

Two months later at another meet, Rickles (Steve Buscemi) takes Crockett inside a museum to meet Mendez. A security guard stumbles on the deal and Crockett is forced to take him along; an old man (Willie Nelson) also shows up, but Crockett manages to chase him off. Mendez is waiting with the cocaine in his personal snakeskin case, but leaves upon seeing the guard, who tries to run but is shot down. Mendez and his men escape, but the case is dropped in the process. At OCB, Crockett breaks down the setup -- Rickles distributes for Mendez and wanted Crockett to run 50 keys to Baton Rouge, but agreed to two keys as a dry run, which got him the intro to Mendez. A call came into the St. Vitus Dance from Mendez demanding the lost case. The case disappeared from the scene; Castillo will try to find a replacement.

In reality it was picked up by the old man, who is a cowboy of some kind. After pawning an antique Colt revolver, he checks into a luxury hotel, where Gina and Trudy spot him carrying the case. He meets Paco, one of Mendez' goons by the pool, telling him he has the case and to get in touch with someone who makes deals. On the St. Vitus Dance, Crockett is having a hard time dealing with the guard's death when Rickles stops by and gives him a number to reach him when he finds the briefcase. Gina calls Crockett about the old man at the hotel. The old man gets a visit from Paco, who demands the case at gunpoint; the old man takes his gun away and lets him know he can get it back for $10,000. After disposing of the goon he clutches his chest and starts to envision old-time gun fights with Mexicans. Crockett and Tubbs find him collapsed in the hallway; still delusional, he shoots at them before collapsing. Tubbs finds the old man's nitroglycerin and gives him a pill.

The old man is in bed while Crockett and Tubbs search in vain for the case. He tells them about the finder's fee he wants from Mendez; Crockett says Mendez has killed people for much less, but the old man says he'll cut them in if they watch his back. He shows them a sample of what was in the case, and they decide to play along, while Tubbs decides to take the thug's gun to OCB for prints. Castillo wants Crockett off the case if he can't get over the guard's death; Tubbs will watch him while he sets up a new deal with Rickles. The old man, on Crockett's boat, demands to follow them to the meet with Rickles. At a restaurant, Rickles asks someone over the phone what he should tell Burnett and Cooper regarding the old man's finder's fee, but is hung up on without a response.

Mendez refuses to make any deals and orders Crockett and Tubbs killed, so his goons arm up and load into a van. As Crockett and Tubbs drive on the freeway the van pulls up alongside them and the goons start shooting. The old man (driving Tubbs' car) forces the van off the road and it runs into a bus; Crockett shoots the gunman and leaves the wounded driver to die, as opposed to the old man's suggestion to shoot him. They go to the restaurant and beat Rickles up; he insists that the finder's fee is a dealbreaker. The old man tells him the deal will go his way, otherwise he'll sell the case's contents on the street. Gina stops by with the old man's real identity, Jake Pierson, and his address at the Royal Hotel in South Beach, a rather rundown place. They find him living on cat food, and a box with a star in it, indicating he was a Texas Ranger.

They also find several very old guns, and a pawn receipt for his 1936 Colt Peacemaker. Crockett was a big fan of the Rangers and tells stories of how they sent one man in to clear out an entire town, with his backup on his hip; the man that took down Bonnie and Clyde, etc. Tubbs goes back to question the hit man driver, who is then taken into surgery. Castillo orders round-the-clock guards, an arrest warrant for Mendez on murder one charges, and Pierson taken down for possession. Pierson gets a call from Rickles while Gina is on the boat, but he refuses to tell her what was said. Crockett stops by with Pierson's badge, and they talk about his days in the Rangers, when he and his partner took down the Rujeros Gang, a group of gun runners from Mexico; his partner took the bullet that should have killed him, and he returns the favor by taking care of his partner's family to this day. Crockett asks where Pierson's meet is, but then Pierson knocks him out, takes his gun and escapes in Crockett's cigarette boat after exchanging fire with Tubbs.

Pierson was wounded in the shootout, so the hotel manager goes to check on him; Pierson gives him his badge to mail to someone, and a generous tip for the trouble. While Mendez' and his goons arm themselves, Pierson straps his Colt Peacemaker on. The Vice cops arrive at Pierson's hotel room and find him gone, having left his nitroglycerin pills behind. Crockett knows what this means and storms out. In the lobby, Tubbs reads the letter enclosed with the badge, and finds that Vince Wilson -- the Broward cop killed by Mendez -- was Pierson's partner's son, and Pierson has gone to shoot it out with Mendez at the cemetery where Wilson was buried. SRT has the place surrounded, but isn't sure of the situation, so Crockett offers to go in himself. With Crockett's help Pierson shoots down Mendez and his goons (along with Rickles), but is mortally wounded. Crockett finally tells him he's a cop; Pierson says he knew all along, and dies.


Guest Stars



  • This episode was originally set to be the season opener, but was held back as it was felt having the Ferrari Daytona blown up in "When Irish Eyes Are Crying" would make a better start to the third season. Don Johnson also held out for more money at the start of season 3, delaying filming to a point where other commitments for guest star Willie Nelson meant the episode could not be finished in time for the premiere slot.
  • Instead of their usual Bug Van, Switek and Zito instead use a metallic blue Chevrolet Chevy Van for their surveillance in this episode. This van previously appeared in the same role in "When Irish Eyes Are Crying". It's never explained why they have switched to a different vehicle in these episodes.
  • When Switek goes out back with Vince Wilson to see his Peterbilt tractor, Wilson explains to Stan that Broward impounded the truck from "a guy that ran a floating crap game out of the back of the trailer". Interestingly, this foreshadows the same motif of a gambling ring being run on a tractor/trailer as was used in the opening sequence of the season 5 episode "Hard Knocks", an episode which, ironically, also began to highlight the fifth season arc of Switek's addiction to gambling and the toll that it took on him, personally and professionally.
  • The song that played in the intro, "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi, was also featured in the 1991 action film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, which starred Don Johnson.
  • Instead of smoking, Switek likes to chew Red Man tobacco (and in "Back in the World" Switek was rubbing snuff/Skoal, or as he called it the "working man's caviar"). Smoking among the main characters (especially Crockett) was phased out during this season.
  • El Viejo means "The Old Man" in Spanish; Mendez calls Willie Nelson's character el viejo several times during the episode.
  • The Texas Rangers have been in existence since 1835; as of 2022 there are 234 active Rangers, now under the Texas Department of Public Safety. They have been featured in countless movies, TV shows, and books.
  • In the closing credits it states "Crockett's Car Furnished by Ferrari North America" when the fake Ferrari Daytona was used in the episode.


  • In real life, Don Johnson was good friends with Willie Nelson. Nelson sang a duet, "Star Tonight", with Johnson on his Heartbeat album.
  • This episode marks the final appearance or mention of Crockett's pet alligator Elvis until season 4's "Love at First Sight", when Crockett shows a picture of Elvis in his dating video.
  • This episode ends with the same words as the previously aired episode, "Shadow in the Dark" -- Sonny says, "I'm a cop. I'm a cop," both times in emotionally charged situations.
  • Sonny's continuing guilt for the death of the security guard and concern for his family contrasts with Tubbs' "let it go" attitude. This is Sonny's greatest strength and his greatest weakness--he feels everything too deeply.
  • If Pierson really does know "all along" that Crockett is a cop, as he states in the final line, why does he insist Crockett kill the wounded driver of the hit van? Three possible explanations occur: (1) Pierson is more interested in expediency than conscience (an interesting comment on the Texas Rangers that undercuts Crockett's reverence for them). (2) He is testing Crockett to see if he will do it--in which case he would know that Crockett is not a cop. But if he's known all along that Crockett *is* a cop, why would a test be necessary? Maybe Pierson is merely saving face at the end by stating that he had known all along--he can't let this young guy get the better of him. (3) By "all along" he really means from that point on when a real high stakes dealer would no think twice about shooting the guy.
  • The Royal Hotel was, like most of the hotels featured in Vice during this time, renovated after the series ended and is now the Royal South Beach Hotel.
  • This is one of several episodes that does not end on a freeze frame.
  • Willie Nelson's character Pierson was referred to as "old man" many times in the episode when in fact Nelson was only 53 years old at the time.


Crockett's Daytona reappears without explanation

  • Because of the delays in completing the episode and the resultant change to the running order of the episodes, Crockett's Daytona makes a return after its destruction, causing a major continuity goof.
  • When Crockett and Tubbs are driving on the freeway, a shot through the windshield shows both of them wearing sunglasses. In a subsequent shot of them just before the van hitmen start shooting, Tubbs' sunglasses have disappeared.
  • When Pierson forces the van and its shooters off the road with Tubbs' Coupe de Ville, the "Cowboy Cadillac" license plate is missing in one shot, then back in another.
  • When Crockett and Tubbs are talking as they walk out of the Royal Hotel after searching Pierson's room, Crockett can be seen talking in response to Tubbs' insistence that Pierson is no longer a Ranger as they step through the doorway, but his reply is not heard until the camera cuts to the outside.
  • As Jake walks toward the meet in the cemetery, in a wide shot high above the cemetery, a fog machine can be seen releasing fog on the right side of the screen.
  • In the ending credits, under the second screen of "With" supporting actors, Anwar Zayden is listed as "BOLIVAN", instead of the correct spelling "BOLIVIAN", an editing and typographical error.
  • When Pierson takes out his holster the primers on the cartridges in his belt are dimpled meaning they have already been fired.

Production Notes

  • Filmed: June 17, 1986 - June 30, 1986
  • Production Code: 62009
  • Production Order: 45

Filming Locations

  • Miami Beach Post Office, 1300 Washington Ave, Miami Beach (Museum exterior)
  • Barcelona Hotel, 4343 Collins Ave, Miami Beach (Excelsior Hotel)
  • 758 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach (Pierson's luxury hotel)
  • Watson Island next to MacArthur Causeway (St. Vitus Dance)
  • Rickenbacker Causeway Bridge (Crockett/Tubbs car shootout with Mendez's goons)
  • The Royal Hotel, 763 Pennsylvania Ave, Miami Beach (Pierson's apartment)
  • Lincoln Memorial Park Cemetery, 3001 NW 46th Street, Liberty City/Miami (Cemetery where ending shootout occurred)


Jan Hammer Music

  • "Lombard Trial" (Vince Wilson and Switek in front of Wilson's truck)
  • "Texas Ranger" (Scenes mainly involving Pierson)
  • "El Viejo Mix" (Vice searches Pierson's room)
  • "Turning Point" (Crockett/Pierson talk on St. Vitus Dance, ending shootout)


  • "He likes your (snakeskin) shoes, and wonders how you can afford them, on a cop's salary!" -- Mendez' goon to Wilson before Wilson is shot
  • "The poor guy ate a six-pack and cut his gums on the plastic rings!" -- Crockett to Switek on why they had to take Elvis to the vet en route to the stakeout
  • "That's just great, a dealer with a bad ticker!" -- Crockett upon spotting Pierson
  • "This Bolivian, he don't mess around, in fact I don't even think he can spell "mess around"!" -- Crockett to Pierson
  • "He's still breathing, shoot him!" -- Pierson to Crockett in regards to the hit driver
  • "Nah, let him die slow."--Crockett to Pierson, covering for the fact that he is saving the man's life, and also highlighting the difference between Crockett's more compassionate brand of policing and the ruthlessness necessary to be a Texas Ranger
  • "Sometimes the low road takes you where the high road can't!" -- Pierson to Crockett
  • "This old man was a Texas Ranger... These guys were legends." -- Crockett searching Pierson's room
  • "You know what I like about you Rickles? Not a damn thing!  Backstroke..."-- Crockett to Rickles on the St. Vitus Dance. 
Season 3 Episodes:

"When Irish Eyes Are Crying" "Stone's War" "Killshot" "Walk-Alone" "The Good Collar" "Shadow in the Dark" "El Viejo" "Better Living Through Chemistry" "Baby Blues" "Streetwise" "Forgive Us Our Debts" "Down for the Count (Part I)" "Down for the Count (Part II)" "Cuba Libre" "Duty and Honor" "Theresa" "The Afternoon Plane" "Lend Me an Ear" "Red Tape" "By Hooker by Crook" "Knock, Knock... Who's There?" "Viking Bikers from Hell" "Everybody's in Showbiz" "Heroes of the Revolution"