The Cell Within
13 (103rd Overall)
March 10, 1989
Tubbs is held prisoner by a best-selling author who is a supposedly reformed ex-con that he put away.
PlotEditA drug dealer in an underpass is offered a score from a white limo. When he approaches it he's knocked out and dragged inside, leaving his drugs and money behind. Meanwhile, Tubbs is at a book signing for the high-profile autobiography The Cell Within. The book's writer, Jake Manning (John P. Ryan) and his collaborator, independent filmmaker Robert Phelps (L.M. Kit Carson), discuss the book and how Manning, who was put away by Tubbs years ago, turned his crazed ramblings into something heartfelt. Manning appears very happy that Tubbs is there and tells Tubbs that he went through hell in prison, but without him the book would not have been.
Manning invites Tubbs to a dinner party for the following evening. In the squad room the next day Crockett expresses skepticism at Manning's "reforming" as he leaves on a fishing vacation with Billy, with a rod given to him by Castillo. Castillo also warns Tubbs about Manning, given his violent past and threatening to kill Tubbs at one point. Tubbs says that he feels Manning is geuine and decides to attend the dinner, but Castillo gives him some parting advice: "Go armed."
Tubbs is picked up at the docks by Manning's assistant, former boxer "Battling" Barry Gay (Richard Gant). Along the way they talk about his classic fights and how he met Manning in prison; the writer made Gay his personal assistant and has been very good to him since. Manning eagerly awaits Tubbs at his house; they continue to discuss his prison experience and writing until Manning asks Tubbs to do picture association with some videos he has. Most of them, in Tubbs' view, have to do with crime, deviant sex and professional dishonesty. One shows a man named Jason Lane who once was imprisoned for child porn but recently won a humanitarian award from a college which named its school of journalism after him. Manning talks about how sociopathy is now normal with the need for instant gratification, and that society does not need vigilantes so much as forceful, "enlightened" people who understand there is no crime without punishment. Manning grows excited by the discussion and an unnerved Tubbs asks when the other guests are arriving. Manning admits that Tubbs is the only guest, correctly guessing that Tubbs would never have attended had he known that. When Tubbs tries to leave Gay shoots him in the back with a tranquilizer dart.
Tubbs wakes up in an exact replica of the cell Manning was in, monitored and taunted through an elaborate surveillance system. The next morning Castillo is concerned that Tubbs has not shown up for work or even called in. The team talk about Phelps' getting Manning his parole and their TV deal for his book. Castillo has Gina call the parole board for Manning's address while Switek helps Castillo find Phelps.
Manning takes Tubbs on a tour of his "dungeon," which contains other prisoners: Mason Jackson, an ex-con who once offered to kill Tubbs for Manning; a hooker named Anna (Maria Pitillo) who propositioned him; Eddie, the drug dealer who was kidnapped earlier; and Rhoda King (Robin Bartlett), Manning's prison psychiatrist, whose methods he believes attempt to excuse all the evil in the world. Manning continues with his twisted definition of crime and punishment, trying to appeal to Tubbs' own sense of justice, before deciding he needs time to think about it and throws him into a cell of his own.
Castillo meets Phelps to discuss Manning, but Phelps is uncooperative, believing that Manning's image as a sociopath is a lie perpetuated by the police; Manning, in fact, worships Tubbs. Nevertheless, he gives Castillo Manning's address but asks him not to send in "a bunch of goons to jump him." A wall in Tubbs' cell slides back, revealing that Manning has Jackson strapped into an electric chair. Manning, dressed in makeshift priest's robes, reads a few choice passages from the Bible before executing Jackson in front of a horrified \Tubbs.
Manning tells Tubbs he has the same fate planned for everyone in his dungeon, to prove his methods work. Tubbs tells him that if he really wants to make a difference, he should go after the real criminals, like corrupt politicians, dirty judges -- people who deserve the juice more than the small-time punks in his "prison." Tubbs tries to bargain for the others' lives by telling Manning they could be a perfect team in regards to fighting crime, but Manning refuses to release Anna because she's a prostitute who has defiled sex, which Manning calls the most sacred act. Tubbs asks to talk to Anna to prove her crimes are not her fault and Gay puts Tubbs in Anna's cell. The strung out Anna tries to come on to Tubbs, despite his attempts to make her play the innocent girl in order to save her life. Castillo learns about Rhoda's disappearance and discovers the address Phelps gave him is bogus, so he orders the team to stake out Phelps.
Tubbs gets Anna fixed up like a virgin and Manning is impressed (to the point that he strikes Gay for objecting), but insists on speaking with Anna alone. Tubbs begins working on Gay trying to sow seeds of doubt about Manning. He says that Gay is excluded from Manning's circle now that he's a big star and that Gay will take the fall for this while Manning makes his book and movie deals.
Phelps spots Gina and Trudy staking out his apartment building and takes off in his car, allowing Switek to tail him. Manning and Anna talk about her life and Anna says her father molested her and made her do bad things, which is what led her to become a prostitute. Tubbs attempts to get Gay to help him but when he balks, Tubbs knocks Gay out with a paperweight. Meanwhile, Anna tries to convince Manning she is pure, but when she lets his hand slide up her skirt without protesting she gives herself away. Tubbs grabs the keys and releases Eddie and Rhoda, sending Eddie to get help. When Tubbs goes back for Anna he is jumped by Gay and Manning gets control of Gay's gun. Gay punches Tubbs out; he awakens in his cell to find Anna dead on the bed.
Tubbs insists that Eddie is going to the police and Manning should give up while he has time. Manning reveals that Eddie was stopped by Gay, who got carried away and killed Eddie. Manning expresses disappointment that Tubbs does not share his convictions, concluding that words are not capable of expressing how good it feels to mete out punishment; outraged, Tubbs screams at Manning that he is sick and twisted. Manning, desperate, asks Tubbs to try and feel what he feels about crime and punishment, and to experience it firsthand by executing Rhoda. Tubbs tells Manning that he should be the one lying dead instead of Eddie. Manning wants Tubbs to talk to Rhoda and realize what she is for himself. She freaks out at the thought of being next to die and Tubbs promises he won't let anything happen to her.
Switek has tracked Phelps to a boat; Castillo calls in a Metro police boat to pick him up and continue the pursuit. Tubbs tells Manning that Rhoda understands what she does is wrong and begs him not to kill her. Manning informs Tubbs that he will be the one to throw the switch, and Rhoda begs for her life. Manning, disgusted, starts to throttle Rhoda while Tubbs watches helplessly, held at gunpoint by Gay. Phelps arrives at Manning's home and tries to force his way in setting the alarm, which distracts Manning and Gay. When they leave to check it out, Tubbs begins working on the electric chair's control panel. Phelps, concerned at Manning's behavior, is taken to the dungeon to watch the execution of Rhoda and freaks out, telling Manning that he didn't mean for him to "literally" do any of the things he spoke of. Manning, realizing that Phelps was only pretending to believe in his cause, tries to force him at gunpoint to execute Rhoda. Phelps cannot bring himself to do it so Gay throws the switch, but Tubbs' rewiring of the control panel causes it to electrocute Gay. Tubbs jumps and wrestles the gun away from Manning, who runs out of the house but is confronted by Switek and Castillo. Tubbs and Switek shoot Manning when he reaches for something, in what turns out to be a suicide-by-cop. Just before dying, Manning tells Tubbs, "You've finally done it. I've never been free, Rico."
- Don Johnson as Metro-Dade Detective James "Sonny" Crockett
- Philip Michael Thomas as Metro-Dade Detective Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs
- Saundra Santiago as Metro-Dade Detective Gina Calabrese
- Michael Talbott as Metro-Dade Detective Stan Switek
- Olivia Brown as Metro-Dade Detective Trudy Joplin
- Edward James Olmos as Metro-Dade Lieutenant Martin "Marty" Castillo
- John P. Ryan as Jake Manning
- Robin Bartlett as Rhoda King
- Maria Pitillo as Anna
- Richard Gant as "Battlin'" Barry Gay
- L.M. Kit Carson as Robert Phelps
- Crockett appears only briefly at the beginning of the episode, his absence for the remainder explained by his taking his son Billy fishing.
- This is considered one of the best episodes of season 5, and is the last true "Tubbs episode", where the action focuses solely on Tubbs; although "Too Much, Too Late" would also focuses on Tubbs, it was not broadcast during the show's original run due to its then-controversial dealings with child molestation.
- This episode and the preceding one, "Jack of All Trades", were filmed simultaneously due to the shortened shooting schedule allocated to season 5, a result of a writer's strike. The process worked because Crockett is the central character in the previous episode, featuring in most of the scenes, while Tubbs is the focus in this one.
- One of the paintings in Manning's house is (supposedly a replica of) "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X" (1953) by Irish painter Francis Bacon.
- Jake Manning's book The Cell Within appears very briefly in the 1991 film Cape Fear. It can be seen on a shelf in Max Cady's cell just before he is released from prison.
- The timeline of the Tubbs-Manning backstory is very unclear. Jake Manning was in prison well before the time Tubbs arrived in Miami in 1984, meaning there is no way Tubbs could have busted him in Miami as a Metro-Dade Detective. Of course it's possible Manning was busted when Tubbs was with the NYPD, then moved to Miami to plan his revenge, knowing Tubbs was there, although this also seems implausible as a convicted murderer would never be told the location of the officer who arrested him. Furthermore, Tubbs' employment with an undercover division of the police force would impart even tighter secrecy on his presence in Miami.
- Filmed: January 16, 1989 - January 23, 1989
- Production Code: 63902
- Production Order: 103
- Under the NW 12 Ave bridge on NW S. River Drive, Miami (Opening where Gay knocks out Eddie and takes him in the limo)
- Books and Books 296 Aragon Ave, Coral Gables (Manning's book signing, now called Fifteenth Street Books)
- 1201 NW South River Drive, Miami (Tubbs and Gay meet at dock)
- 3570 Battersea Road, Coral Gables (Manning’s house-external)
- Sterling Building, 927 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach (Gina and Trudy chasing Phelps)
- Sterling Building, Suite 110, Miami Beach (Phelps Editing Room)
- "Like St. John of the Cross, I learned that everyone has a dark night of the soul, not just us criminals, but every single human being." -- Manning to Tubbs
- "God help you...you are a...sick...twisted man...yeah...yes, you are SICK! SICK!" -- Tubbs to Manning
- "You blame their actions on their childhood...rather than admitting that evil exists - and must be punished!" -- Manning to Rhoda
- "Who gave you the right to judge?" -- Tubbs to Manning
- "Nobody ever gave me anything, Rico. I took it. I had to." -- Manning in response
- "I've...never been...free, Rico." -- Manning's final words
| Season 5 Episodes:|
"Hostile Takeover" • "Redemption in Blood" • "Heart of Night" • "Bad Timing" • "Borrasca" • "Line of Fire" • "Asian Cut" • "Hard Knocks" • "Fruit of the Poison Tree" • "To Have and to Hold" • "Miami Squeeze" • "Jack of All Trades" • "The Cell Within" • "The Lost Madonna" • "Over the Line" • "Victims of Circumstance" • "Freefall" (Series Finale)