Case #1.03: "America, What a Town"

A teenage boy steals a car and drives it to a garage. He and his buddies quickly strip the car down to the frame, which they roll out into the street. One of the boys pulls down the garage door behind them; "Northside High School Auto Shop" is painted on the door.

Nadia, an honor student and athlete from Warsaw, Poland, arrives at the airport amid a crowd of reporters. She's a pretty girl but wearing a long dress and cardigan that makes her look like an old woman. A male government official from Poland explains to the reporters that Nadia won a 4-week exchange trip to the USA through an essay contest. I'm realizing a show like this won't always be 100% accurate, but the foreign exchange students who came to my high school always stayed for the whole school year.

Nadia's host family is standing behind the reporters holding a homemade sign welcoming their guest. Jennifer, the couple's teenage daughter, is scowling. Her mother tells her that hanging out with Nadia might be fun. Jennifer wrinkles her nose and says in the nastiest tone possible, "Girls who win contests in school are not fun." Jennifer's mom chides that they're hosting Nadia for America. Jennifer thinks she'll defect.

At the Jump Street chapel, Jenko assigns Judy to go to the high school that Nadia will be attending. Judy doesn't want to take the assignment; she calls it babysitting. Jenko's hands are tied because the police department is cooperating with the State Department. Doug, in an uncharacteristic moment of insight, explains the concept of trickle-down cooperation. "Why do I feel like the dog that gets kicked in this scenario?" Judy asks. Doug mockingly yelps like a puppy. Jenko tells Judy the assignment should only last a few days; she just has to help Nadia acclimate to American life. Judy agrees to watch out for Nadia in the name of world peace.

Jenko segues into talking about car theft, which is becoming a big business in the area. Car insurance companies have been paying out a lot of claims. Tom, referring to the insurance companies, says, "They're the ones who should be going to jail." An "uninsured doofus" hit Tom's Mustang while it was parked and his insurance company raised his rates. Doug dryly notes: "Maybe you shoulda had uninsured doofus protection." Tom says it won't do any good if you're under 25 and neither will a perfect driving record. 

Jenko interrupts to assign Tom to Northside's auto shop class, which is where the police suspect the stolen cars are being stripped. At Northside, the teacher lectures the class on opportunity and we learn that the school is famous for its shop program. That really isn't too far-fetched; mine was famous for its drama productions. The teacher assigns Tom to work on the end-of-semester group project with Mark "the Mechanic," his best student. What a creative nickname...not. 

Mark is frustrated by the fuel-injection computer in the car they're working on for the project. Tom has a friend who can get them another one for a great price: free.

At Nadia's high school, she discusses the difference between American and Soviet politics in front of the class. She tells the history teacher, Mr. Ramsey, that Poland's feelings are basically pro-American. She even goes as far as to say that Poland may be the only pro-American country left in Europe.

After school, Judy takes Nadia to the local mall. Nadia is impressed, especially by the ATM and the food court ice cream. Despite still wearing frumpy clothes, Nadia somehow catches the eye of a shifty-looking guy in a leather vest. He comes over to their table. Nadia gathers up her sweater, thanks Judy for inviting her to the mall, and goes off with the guy.

Mario, a car dealer, is at an auction house. Mark "the Mechanic" and his friend Stevie are there too. Mario needs more kids to drive cars to auction. He bids on and wins the frame that the boys stripped. Mario wants them to put the car back together and he'll keep 20% of the price once the car sells.

Doug arrives at Northside's auto shop carrying a paper bag. "You forgot your lunch!" he singsongs to Tom. There's really a fuel-injection computer in the bag and Doug has a car key dangling from his ear. Very odd accessory. Tom pulls Doug aside to tell him he thinks the kids are rebuilding the stolen Mercury and asks if Doug has the car's VIN. Doug doesn't have it on him, so Tom tells him the VIN and asks him to remember it. "Give to me again, man. I'm not Kreskin," says Doug.

The teacher comes over and interrupts them, asking who Doug is. Doug says he's a friend of Tom's and was bringing Tom's lunch over because he forgot it. The teacher kicks Doug out of the shop. Doug walks away, mumbling the VIN to himself. Tom asks the teacher where the frames and parts come from and what happens to the car's after they're rebuilt. The teacher retorts that it's none of Tom's "darn business." Ooh, he sure told him!

Jennifer is shocked to see Nadia riding up to school on the back of a motorcycle. The driver is the guy she met at the mall. Nadia's outfit belongs in a Motley Crue video: black leather jacket with matching high heels, fishnet stockings, and a short leather skirt. She has '80s mall hair too. In history class, Judy, along with everyone else, is startled by the drastic change of appearance. Mr. Ramsey asks Nadia if she would be allowed to dress that way in Poland. "Oh yeah, but I'd have a heck of a time finding these pantyhose," she replies in heavily-accented English.

That night on a deserted street, Doug hotwires a car very fast, impressing Stevie and Mark. They drive away in Tom's Mustang; Doug is actually being allowed to drive it, though Tom watches him nervously. Mark and Stevie are planning to open their own garage. It will only service BMWs, Mercedes, Jaguars, and Porsches; the waiting room will have leather couches and a picture window that looks into the service bay. 

Mark and Stevie are trying to raise enough money to place the winning bid on a garage that's in probate. They offer Tom and Doug a job driving cars to auction, making stops along the way to have the odometer rolled back a few thousand miles, etc.

Back at the mall, Nadia is talking to an older man who sells insurance. Nadia wants to learn to drive and own her own sportscar. The salesman offers to let Nadia drive his Camaro. She's excited by the offer and takes the keys. I start having flashbacks to the 1960s educational/scare tactic video "Girls Beware". Before Judy can do anything to stop her, Nadia's peeling out of the mall parking lot with the Camaro's owner holding on for dear life.

In the chapel, Judy bemoans that she can't keep up with Nadia. "You can't keep up with a 17-year-old tourist?" teases Jenko. Judy tells him that "the Rolling Stones couldn't stay on tour with this girl." She runs down Nadia's exploits over the last few days: She tried to leave town with the drummer at a rock 'n roll club. Judy had to pull her away from guys at the mall who were trying to teach Nadia how to shoplift records. "And now," Judy finishes, "she's taken off with some yuppie who decided she needs driving lessons."

Doug's interest is piqued. "What was that girl's number again?" he asks. Tom suggests hooking Nadia up with a guy. Doug immediately volunteers, but Jenko elects Harry to take her to the movies instead. Harry and Nadia sit in the theater making out, ignoring both the movie and Judy. Nadia leaves to get some popcorn.

At the snack counter, another sleazy older guy starts hitting on Nadia. He likes her accent and uses the old "you could be an actress" line. Nadia asks what he does for a living. Sleazebag #2 is an attorney. Nadia asks what he drives. A Porsche. She smiles and says she's always wanted to to ride in a Porsche with an attorney.

Jenko decides to do a little undercover work himself by running down car ads to find out who's selling the stolen 1986 Mercury. The car in question is in Mario's driveway. The registration is in his name, but something seems suspicious to Jenko.

In a car, Tom and Doug share some revelations. Stevie and Mark are brothers and Mario is selling the stolen cars. They've figured out how the scam works: Stevie and Mark steal and strip a car; they roll the frame into the street. The owner reports the car as stolen, the police find the frame, and the insurance company writes the car off as totaled. Mario buys the frame at auction so he'll legally own the car. Stevie and Mark rebuild the car for Mario to sell.

The next day, Tom and Doug reveal that they're cops to the shop teacher. They lay out the details of the scam to the shop teacher. "That's brilliant!" the teacher cries, "This is the best class I've ever had!" What a great role model!

Mark and Stevie now have enough money to buy the garage out of probate. Tom and Doug decide to help them steal the next car so they can bust them. Harry rents a Mercedes, which will be covered by his own insurance but won't have comprehensive coverage. The woman at the rental agency says the lack of comprehensive won't be a problem unless the car is stolen. Harry looks worried because he knows that's exactly what's about to happen to it.

Nadia is missing and her angry handler arrives at the Chapel to berate Judy. Some cops eventually find Nadia dancing and partying in a fountain with several other people, including the attorney she met at the movies. Hopefully he's a good lawyer 'cause he's got some serious explaining to do. In the interrogation room with Judy, Nadia reveals why she's been running around with all these guys. She doesn't want to live in Poland anymore because of Communism; she wants to get married so that she can immigrate to America right away.

Tom, Doug, and Harry ride in Harry's real car. Turns out renting the Mercedes wasn't exactly police procedure, but they did it because, as Doug puts it, "We'd have to wait 3 weeks and they'd give us a Plymouth." They tell Harry not to worry because the boys will rebuild the car. Harry is still anxious; after all, it's his insurance on the Mercedes. They find the Mercedes on the street...and it's on fire.

Tom analytically decides Stevie and Mark must've stripped the Mercedes for parts because they were worth more than the car itself. Understandably, Harry is beside himself. "I'll never be able to get insurance again!" he yells, "Never! You guys made me a high risk!" Doug makes a hilarious politically-incorrect joke by saying that Harry was a high risk to begin with. You know, as an Asian driver and all.

Tom and Doug go to Mario's lot and bust him. They find Stevie and Mark loading a truck with the last few Mercedes parts. They tell them they're cops. Stevie and Mark don't believe them at first. Once they see the badges, they take off through the lot and run over the tops of cars. It reminds me of "Greased Lightning" without the singing and dancing. Doug tries to follow them but very nearly gets stuck between two cars that are parked close together. Stevie and Mark, of course, do get arrested.

Judy goes to the airport to say goodbye to Nadia. The Polish girl is sporting a jean jacket with an American flag on the back, a denim miniskirt, and the fishnets and heels from the earlier scene. Nadia is accompanied by a boy named Chris, who gives her a flower. Judy is visibly relieved that Nadia is interested in a guy her own age.

At the Chapel, Doug gives Harry the last check from the sale of the Mercedes parts. Harry notices that it's short by a lot of money. Tom explains that it's because Jenko has docked his and Doug's pay for not following the proper police procedures. Doug growls in frustration and headbutts the wall. Easy there, big guy; you probably can't afford any more brain damage.

End of episode.

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