Free Willie is the first episode of Due South's first season.
Storyline: After a young purse snatcher named Willie witnesses an armed robbery, Fraser is determined to prove the boy wasn't involved.
First Air Date: September 22, 1994
Directed by George Bloomfield
Three heavily armed individuals march into a brokerage firm on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago, terrorizing the occupants, shooting a guard and seizing an envelope full of bearer bonds. The job complete, they go separate ways.
Ray Vecchio drives Benton Fraser to his newly rented apartment in a rough Chicago neighbourhood, but Fraser has scarcely given the apartment a once-over when a screaming woman in the street outside draws his attention. He spots a teenage boy, Willie Lambert, running away with an old lady's purse, and gives chase along the rooftops. Ray follows him, whilst Diefenbaker pursues Willie at street level. Finally Fraser catches up with Willie and retrieves the purse - and a gun Willie draws out of nowhere. Ray, though livid that Fraser let Willie go with a warning, gets the gun analyzed and finds that it was used in the brokerage firm robbery.
Since Willie's build is similar to one of the robbers caught on the security camera, Fraser and Ray bring him in for questioning. He maintains that he found the gun in a bag that he stole from a woman the previous day. Lieutenant Welsh allows Fraser to hang onto Willie as an informant, on the condition that Ray will lose his shield if they lose him. Despite Willie's best efforts to cut and run, Ray hangs onto him (physically) until they find the bag in the possession of an old street woman. All the bag contains, however, is a sheaf of blank paper. Rather than let Willie disappear again, Fraser takes him to spend the night at his apartment.
The next day, on the way back to the brokerage firm, Ray converses with Elaine Besbriss to get an identification on the woman from whom Willie stole: one Caroline Morgan, a repeat offender from Florida. At the brokerage firm, Fraser leaves Willie under Diefenbaker's guard in the back of Ray's car whilst he and Ray meet with Hamlin, the manager. Hamlin lets it slip that he knows one of the robbers was female, in spite of their full-covering disguises. Outside, Willie is attacked by two husky men bearing crowbars; he sees Morgan watching from a car across the street. Diefenbaker holds off the attackers whilst Willie hot-wires the car and makes a run for it. Morgan and her henchmen give chase, with Fraser and Ray pursuing in a commandeered horse carriage. They head off both vehicles outside a park, but Morgan gets away while Willie disappears.
Welsh gives Ray until 5 p.m. to clean out his desk, causing Fraser to have a eureka moment - that Hamlin sneaked the bonds out of the firm via courier before the robbery. Fraser and Ray hasten to the package depot, where Hamlin and Morgan are about to split their ill-gotten gains. At the last moment, Hamlin drop-kicks Morgan and escapes into the storeroom of the package depot. In a running fight, Fraser, Ray, and Diefenbaker knock out Morgan's goons, but Morgan snatches the bonds from Hamlin's possession - only to lose her footing and drop them all over the floor. When Ray happens upon them, she holds him at gunpoint; Fraser arrives and warns her that he is honour-bound not to give her the bonds if he gathers them up. As he tightens the screw, Morgan fires on him, giving Ray an opening to knock her out and arrest her.
Back at the police station, Ray finds Welsh playing cards with Willie, who charges a fee - which Ray gladly pays - for protecting his job. Fraser appoints Willie as Diefenbaker's caretaker as he starts to adjust to his new life in Chicago.
Ray Vecchio: Fraser, you do not want to live in this neighbourhood. Cops do not live in areas like this. Most people we bust won't even live here!
Benton Fraser: Why? It's central, convenient. I can walk to work in seven minutes.
Ray Vecchio: Not without backup.
Benton Fraser: 231. It's just up on the right.
Ray Vecchio: Look, do me a favour and let's turn around and I'll take you back to your hotel.
Benton Fraser: Oh, we can't. I checked out. The windows wouldn't open.
Ray Vecchio: Fraser, this is Chicago. The only reason to open a window is to get a better aim.
Benton Fraser: She shot my hat, Ray.
Ray Vecchio: [mock concern] She shot you in the hat?
Benton Fraser: I can feel air coming in through the hole.
Ray Vecchio: She shot you in the hat, all right.
Benton Fraser: How does it look?
Ray Vecchio: It doesn't look good.
Benton Fraser: We'll have to go home and get my other one.
Ray Vecchio: We can do that, Fraser.
Benton Fraser: You know, Ray, when I was a young man my father told me one thing to always remember about thieves... Actually, he told me two things, but I've forgotten the other one. Anyway, the important one is that, despite the adage, you will rarely find honor among thieves.
Ray Vecchio: You can't remember the other one?
Benton Fraser: It was something about tying a wallet to your underwear. I was very young at the time.
(Fraser holds the door for several people.)
Benton Fraser: After you, sir. After you.
Ray Vecchio: Do all Canadians grow up longing to be doormen? Because that would explain the uniform.
Willie Lambert: Fraser, you know crack dealers are even afraid to come into this neighborhood?
Benton Fraser: Good night, Willie.
Willie Lambert: Fraser, why is this money pink?
Benton Fraser: Good night, Willie.
Lt. Harding Welsh: Ah yes, the Mountie. I thought they sent you back up to the Yukon.
Benton Fraser: Well they did, sir, and then they sent me back here again. I'm afraid I'm not all that well liked up there, sir.
Lt. Harding Welsh: By "up there" you mean...?
Benton Fraser: Pretty much all of Canada, sir.
- Fraser's pronunciation of the word "lieutenant" as "lef-tenant" is the traditional pronunciation of the word, still in use in Canada.
- The title of this episode, "Free Willie", is a play on words from the 1993 film Free Willy.
- Just before the cleanser salesman comes into frame, there is a shot of Fraser from the Due South Pilot where his strap is on the wrong shoulder.
- "It's All Over" by the Headstones (Picture of Health)