If you followed the show from the beginning, you know that there were originally three Winslow siblings: Eddie, Laura, and the youngest one named Judy. But in season four of the series, the character of Judy disappeared without any type of explanation or acknowledgement. On seasons after, it was as if the family had only had the two children, Eddie and Laura.
It always bothered me that a character could just disappear, but supposedly it was because the character of Steve Urkel was so popular and taking up so many storylines, so, between him and the other two Winslow kids, there was no reason for the producers/writers to keep Judy around.
I hadn't thought of it in years, until my friend Amy and I were hanging out with a new friend of hers, a guy named Robbie. He has the hugest collection of movies and TV shows I've ever seen—not just DVD's, but also a ton of old videotapes. His hobby was finding obscure and weird stuff, which I guess is how he came into possession of something he showed us one day: an unaired "Family Matters" episode where Judy's exit is actually explained.
Even being a comedy, "Family Matters" had some episodes where they dealt with serious stuff—bullying, guns, racism, etc.--but this episode was way out there. Before he started the tape, Robbie would not even explain what we were about to see. I know I wouldn't have believed him, or if I had, I wouldn't have wanted to watch it.
It started off like usual, with Steve Urkel coming over unannounced and annoying everyone with a new invention—it was a robot dog that could do all the tricks of a regular dog along with special stuff like reading your mail and doing laundry. Of course it went haywire and bit Carl in the butt, at which point he grabbed the robot and drop-kicked it through the kitchen window. That was the end of the opening sequence, and it immediately cut to the next scene without showing the opening credits.
It was the end of the school/work day, and (almost) everyone had gathered around the table: Eddie and Laura, Carl and Harriette, Grandma Winslow, and Aunt Rachel and her toddler Ricky. With all the eating and talking going on, it was a few minutes until Harriette asked the kids where Judy was. "Eddie was supposed to pick her up," Laura said. "No, it was suposed to be you, I had basketball practice," Eddie said. That morning, Harriette had asked one of them to go by Judy's school and walk home with her, and each kid thought the other one had done it.
Since school had been over hours ago, a worried Harriette jumped up and got on the phone to start calling Judy's friends. Carl shouted at Eddie and Laura, asking them how could they be so irresponsible and forget about their sister. Harriette hung up from a call, and as soon as she did the phone rang. Grabbing it, she listened to the person on the other end. "Carl, it's for you," she said, holding the phone out to him.
Walking over to the phone (remember the days before cordless?), Carl continued his lecture to the kids, finally stopping to talk to the person who'd called him. "Yes, this is Officer Winslow," he said, and listened for a few minutes. His expression changed slowly from an angry frown to a slack mouth and huge, frightened eyes. The phone slipped out of his hand and down to the floor. "Carl, what is it?" Harriette begged, shaking him.
The scene cut to the front of an elementary school, the one Judy attended. There were a bunch of police cars parked in front, with their lights flashing but the sirens were silent. Yellow crime scene taped cordoned off the student pickup area, and the wooden benches there. A group of police officers stood around one of the benches, obscuring it from view, while shaking their heads. One of them, her face turned away, looked pale and sick.
The Winslow family car drove up to the scene, going so fast that when Carl braked he still slammed into one of the parked police cars. Running over to where the cops were standing, he struggled to get through as they pushed him back. "You don't want to see this, Carl," one of them said. Carl broke through and saw what they were all looking at: a bench empty except for a blood-splattered pink dress and a binder—also covered in blood—that said JUDY WINSLOW in large letters. Harriette, who had been slower getting out of the car, ran over to see for herself and fainted as Carl stared up at the sky, screaming and crying.
At the police station, Carl and Harriette sat wrapped in blankets as the chief spoke to them. "You know there's been a pattern of this, Carl," he said, not looking at the Winslows but staring off into space and stroking his tie. "Cops' kids getting kidnapped, held for ransom or even worse. I'm sorry this had to happen to you. Please let us know if we can help with anything." Harriette started to speak, but the chief held his hand up and simply walked away. She turned to Carl, who had fallen asleep and was snoring. "But what about the body?" she whispered.
At home, Laura heard the doorbell ring and ran downstairs to answer it, skipping multiple steps at a time. It was the mail carrier, who handed Laura several small-to-medium sized boxes all stacked up together. Carrying them to the coffee table, she dropped a few on the floor and bent over to pick them up. At the same time, Ricky came running into the room. "Presents!" he shouted, grabbing a box and ripping it open in spite of Laura's protests. He picked through tissue paper and made a face when he pulled out what was inside: a severed child's finger. "This is gross," he said, throwing the box and the finger to the floor.
Sitting down on the couch, Laura, hands shaking, took another small box from the table and opened it. She began to laugh hysterically, then cry, as she realized what it was: one of Judy's braids, coated in blood.
Late that night, the whole family sat in the living room. The TV was on but only Harriette remained awake, watching the news. It was a report on the discovery of Judy's body, found outside of an abandoned warehouse in the city. Emergency staff rolled the gurney right behind the news anchor; Judy's body was covered with a white sheet that was staining through with blood in several places.
The morning of the funeral, everyone dressed silently in their rooms, not speaking until they were in the car. Harriette turned around to look at Eddie and Laura, who sat with Ricky between them. "I will never forgive you," she said. "Never!"
The funeral was packed, with the Winslows sitting in the front row of the church, and many of Carl's fellow officers in the rows directly behind them. The chief who'd talked to them at the station gave the eulogy on the family's behalf, talking about how sweet and smart Judy had been. "We're doing everything we can to find out the truth," he said, "But what's most important, is to remember. And to forgive." Two officers, who were standing up in the back of the church, whispered to each other throughout. "You know why they had to have a closed casket?" one of them said. "Head chopped off. Nothing can fix that."
Afterwards, a small gathering was held at the Winslow home. Only a few work friends of Harriette's, and a few police officers, mingled quietly with the family. Carl, with a silent Harriette by his side, thanked the chief for giving the eulogy.
"Of course," the chief said, scarfing down a deli sandwich.
"Anything I can do." He burped. Laura came up to the group, pulling her mom to the side. "Mom," she said. "Please forgive me. Please!" Harriette walked away from Laura, upstairs to Judy's bedroom. Laying down on the bed, she pulled the blanket over herself and cried.
The chief excused himself from the gathering, stating he had an early shift the next morning. Back at his apartment, he undressed to his boxers and sat down on his bed before reaching into the drawer of his nightstand. Pulling out one of Judy's braids, he held it under his nose like a mustache and smiled.
The tape ended there—there were no closing credits either. Amy and I were disgusted, but Robbie thought it was so over the top that it was funny. "It's not as if anyone really got killed," he said, "And they scrapped it, didn't they? Besides, it's cool being in on a secret." The video had cost him a lot of money, as the network had gone to great pains to keep this episode hidden from the public.I wish I wasn't in on the secret. How traumatic it must have been for the cast to lose one of their "family" that way, and for the young girl who played Judy to have her character disposed of in such an exploitative way. I don't hang out with Amy when she goes to Robbie's house anymore.