Case #2.08: "Honor Bound"

For once, an episode does not open on the exterior of a high school. Instead, it's a bar/restaurant with a neon sign reading Milestone's over the door. Two men sit at a patio table together. The one in the green polo is talking nonstop while his companion in a gray sweater is paying no attention whatsoever. 

Gray Sweater looks up from the receipt to gripe about how much Milestone's charges for bananas. "I'm in the wrong business," he declares, balling up the check. Green Polo says, "You're not in any business." Green Polo can't stay longer because he's catering a party for 350 people the next day. 

Green Polo walks over to his car. He's just about to put the key in the door when a shadowy figure grabs him from behind. He's thrown into the center of a ring of shadowy figures. Someone begins kicking Green Polo. A male voice tosses out a gay slur before delivering the last blow. Green Polo lies bloodied in the grass.

Harry and Judy are standing over Green Polo's hospital bed. Harry asks if Green Polo can remember his attacker's voice. "Sounded like a kid," says Green Polo with tears in his eyes, repeating the gay slur. Judy wishes him well before they leave.

According to Judy, this makes 5 gay bashings in 2 months. Gray Sweater (now sans sweater) waits by the nurse's station. "Are you trying or is this just to fill out some report?" he asks. Judy tells him that Green Polo (Denny) is in bad shape and suggests that Gray Sweater go in his room for a visit. "They won't let me," snipes Gray Sweater. Family members and law enforcement only are allowed. Judy suggests he sneak in while nobody's looking. That's likely to happen in an ICU.

At the Chapel, the crew gathers around a map of the city. The locations of the gay-bashing attacks are marked with blue dots. It looks random, but all the victims were attacked by men with short hair. The assaults occurred in close proximity to Norton Military Academy. Nobody heard or saw what was coming and "the beatings border on professional."

Tom is doubtful there's a connection, given that all the attacks happened after midnight. A military school must have a curfew. He and Doug are being sent to Norton to find out if any of the students are involved in the attacks. The two of them swap the manila envelopes containing their cover stories. Doug holds up a hand. "Whoa. Wait, wait, wait. Cadets and uniforms and push-ups?" he asks. Yup, just like the police academy. 

Doug gets a kicked-puppy look on his face. "It's about time you got a haircut anyway, Penhall," adds Cap'n Rufus. Harry will be the decoy victim at Milestone's Cafe and wants to know what he's supposed to wear. "What you have on is fine," says Rufus, eyeing the Asian's gray suit with a bright yellow tank top underneath. Judy reminds Harry that "gays don't have a separate dress code." 

Doug is still worried about getting his head shaved. Tom tells him he'll be as good as new in 6 months. Cap'n Rufus has more bad news: "This military school is a live-in situation. No runnin' back here for an update and a slice of pizza." Doug strikes a bodybuilder pose and says, "They haven't built a school yet that can hold Doug Penhall."

At the front gates of Norton Military Academy, Sergeant Major Jackson, a company commander, greets Doug. Doug salutes and says, "Yo, how's it goin', Jack?" He is corrected about the kid's proper title. Jackson disapprovingly eyes Doug's ponytail, dangling fang earring, and loudly patterned pink shirt. "Oh no," Doug groans, following Jackson away.

"Who in the hell taught you how to stand at attention?" barks a middle-aged man in military dress. Tom supposedly transferred from Tulsa Military Academy. The instructor read in the file that Tom has a reputation for getting in fights, going AWOL, and being disrespectful. "It was a confusing time in my life, sir," Tom explains. The man shouts, "It was last month!" 

We can see the nameplate reading McGee on the man's uniform. Does he have a son named Timothy? McGee informs Tom that his days of being a screw-up are going to be over now that he's at Norton.

Doug and Jackson walk through the courtyard. Jackson tells Doug that reveille is at 5 AM. "I'm usually gettin' in right about that time," says Doug. Formation is at 5:20, breakfast and room inspection at 5:30. No morning PT? Doug asks: "You like this stuff?" Jackson replies, "I've been getting up at 0500 since I was 6 years old." He's third-generation Army. 

Jackson continues laying out the schedule: classes from 7:45-12:45, lunch, tutoring/homework at 1:25, sports practice at 3:00, another formation and dinner at 6:45, clubs meet 7:30-8:15, study hall, and free time from 9:15 until lights-out at 10 PM. "Oh, 45 minutes. What'll I do with myself?" Doug mutters. 

They pass a group of cadets lined up in front of a row of payphones. Phone calls are only allowed after breakfast and dinner. Doug can't believe how many rules there are. Helloooo! You're in a military school! 

McGee tells Tom the most important thing at Norton is the honor code: "A cadet will not lie, steal, or cheat, nor tolerate those that do." He will allow Tom to transfer in with his old rank of sergeant. Tom is dismissed.

Jackson and Doug wait outside the school barber shop. Doug wants to know when he can get a pass to go into town. Jackson tells him to talk to the tack officer about a weekend pass. A barber comes to collect his next customer. "Why don't you go ahead?" Doug tells the kid next to him. 

Doug nervously watches another barber working the buzz razor. There's an almost identical scene in Cry Baby involving Johnny Depp. Jackson leaves to conduct drill instruction. The barber comes for Doug, who hastily makes an excuse about having to go get his hat resized. He runs off down the hall.

The Norton mess hall that looks more like a nice restaurant, right down to the white tablecloths. "Check this doof out," says Tom. Doug walks slowly through the room with his tray. He's in uniform but still has his ponytail and earring. "You steal that earring from your mama, little buddy?" asks Tom.

"Why would I wanna do that when your mother gives 'em to me for free?" Doug shoots back. Tom grins wolfishly before tripping his best friend. Doug lands on the floor and drops his tray. He threatens that Tom better look over his shoulder. Tom mockingly makes kissy-faces.

Johnny Depp reaches deep, pulls out his Kentucky accent, and drawls, "At my old school, we'd take a guy like that, hold him down, and cut his hair off with a huntin' knife." He sits back down and begins regaling his classmates with how he got kicked out of military school in Tulsa. It involved him commandeering an academy boat.

Another way Tom had "fun" in Tulsa was "we'd drive over to the dark side of town." The lone black cadet at the table looks up. Tom says they stuck broom handles out the car windows and tried to hit the locals on the sidewalk. He tells the black cadet "lighten up; it was just a game." Terrible pun. Worse timing. The black cadet stands up, collects his tray, and searches for new dining companions.

Harry sips coffee at Milestone's, visibly uncomfortable about the presumably gay man eyeing him up from the doorway. A man in a pink shirt comes over, subtly makes eyes at Harry, and introduces himself as Willy. He asks if Harry is there by himself. "Yeah. I mean, no. I mean, not really," Harry stammers. Judy comes up to the table and Willy decides to leave them alone.

Judy chuckles as she sits down. "This isn't funny," says Harry. She disagrees and asks, "Are you sure you're not putting out some kinda signals?" Ouch! Harry gets up to patrol the block again, leaving Judy laughing at the patio table. 

As Harry leaves the cafe, he sees another beating in progress. "HEY! HEY!" he shouts. The boys committing the assault turn on Harry. He tries to subdue them, but there are too many boys. Judy runs over just after one of them kicks Harry in the head. The attackers scatter and Harry tells her to go after them. She doesn't find them. Judy returns to help Harry up.

Back at Norton, Tom is sound asleep in his bunk. Another cadet knocks on the door and tells Tom there's a phone call for him. Fuller informs Tom that Harry is in the hospital. He wants Tom to come down there ASAP with a yearbook. Tom hangs up to let his instructor know that his brother is in the hospital. He gets permission to leave for a visit.

Tom and Cap'n Rufus sit at Harry's bedside as Harry flips through the yearbook. The younger officers exchange playful barbs about Harry's fighting prowess, or lack thereof. Harry points to the picture of a student named Hank; he didn't get a look at his other 2 attackers. Rufus thinks it's unlikely that anyone will talk because "that's the honor code in action." Sounds more like omerta to me.

Tom's mission is now to ID the other two attackers and get friendly with Hank. He also has to fill Doug in. Harry asks how Doug is doing. "Boy's a natural soldier," Tom replies.

An instructor teaches the boys to march in formation. Doug breaks off from the pack. The instructor demands to know why Doug hasn't had a haircut yet. Jackson promises to drop him off with the barber. The instructor tells Doug he has to learn to march if he wants to go into the Army. "What for?" Doug asks, "I'm gonna drive tanks!" The instructor gives Doug 4 demerits and 20 push-ups.

Doug dramatically bellyflops onto the ground and waits for Jackson to start counting. Doug asks for tutoring in marching while Jackson is on guard duty, which Jackson says will be okay. Jackson is now on push-up #12. Doug says, "15. 20." Jackson tells Doug to do the other 6. Cadets are supposed to help each other, "but that doesn't mean I like you."

Jackson instructs Doug on marching techniques while they walk across campus. Doug takes the opportunity to sneak into the guard shack. He flips through the binder that logs students signing in and out of campus. On the night of the most recent gay-bashing, he finds the names Demerest, Adderly, and Hudson.

Doug, hat literally in hand, reports to the barber for his haircut. The barber puts on his apron and puts a cape over Doug. When he fires up the razor, Doug purposely knocks the barber's glasses off the table and steps on them when he rises to pick them up. He apologizes (quite insincerely, I might add). The barber's spares, it transpires, are at his house. Whoops! 

In Norton's gym, the wrestling coach demonstrates a move called the chicken wing. The boys are wearing gray tank tops and VERY short Norton Academy shorts over gray sweatpants. When Doug smarts off again, the instructor singles him out for a King of the Mountain drill. "Looks more like Queen of the Mountain to me," says Tom. 

Doug successfully pins his first opponent, then moves on to Hank Demerest, one of Harry's attackers. Though wiry, Hank stands no chance wrestling that far out of his weight class. Tom asks for a shot at his partner and they face off on the mat. Instead of wrestling, Tom slugs his partner square in the jaw and Doug goes down for the count. "What the hell was that?" demands the coach. Tom grins: "I won, didn't I?"

Coach tells Tom to hit the showers. Tom is high-fived by Hank on his way out. Doug sits up, rubbing his jaw. In the locker room, Hank compliments Tom on his punch. Tom asks what they do for off-campus fun. Hank has his brother's car and offers to take Tom to town for "a little search and destroy." Tom asks if they're finding women to wrestle. Hank tells him to be ready in 10 minutes and "wear your civvies."

Tom goes to a different part of the locker room. He finds Doug on a bench with a towel wrapped around him like a tube dress. The wrestling coach comes in and thinks Tom is trying to go another round with Doug. He tells Tom to leave. 

After dark, Doug sprints toward the phone bank, where the line is pretty long. He tells the cadet using the phone that he needs to make an emergency call. The guy tells Doug to go to the back of the line. Doug stalks away. He checks a nearby office window, finds it unlocked, and crawls through. The nameplate on the desk tells us it's Commandant McGee's office. Doug dials and has just gotten Judy on the line when several people enter. Jackson watches from the doorway as another cadet ends Doug's call. "Relax, guys, it wasn't a toll call," Doug protests.

Meanwhile, Tom and some other cadets are cruising the streets in a white convertible. The boys drink beer and discuss their plans to go to West Point. 

Commandant McGee comes downstairs in his red flannel robe to deal with Doug. Doug explains that he went to the office to call his father and that he wasn't breaking an entering. Semantics don't matter to McGee at this point. He repeatedly jabs Doug in the shoulder as he says, "You call your father and tell him to get your butt out of here TONIGHT." Doug says he's glad to be going back to public school and now he doesn't have to get a haircut. Makes you wonder if getting expelled was Doug's plan all along. 

Back in the convertible, the boys have spotted their next victim. Apparently they use these attacks to practice military tactics. Tom is worried someone will see them and is told not to question orders. The victim is now approaching Tom. "Run past me," Tom instructs. "Don't turn around, just run past me." 

The victim begins blowing a whistle, attracting the attention of the crowd at nearby Milestone's. The three cadets scatter and retreat in the convertible, leaving Tom behind. One of the men from Milestone's points at Tom: "There he is! That's the guy." The boys swing the car back around to pick him up. 

Back at Norton's dorm, one cadet isn't sure he wants to continue with his friends' newfound "sport." I can't say who because the episode hasn't bothered to make anyone's names known. They eventually decide to shut down the attacks.

Harry and Judy discuss the  problems that have arisen in the case. The gay men who frequent Milestone's are quite prepared to turn vigilante. The witnesses to last night's aborted attack could only describe Tom. Denny, the victim hospitalized earlier in the episode, has died from his injuries, meaning his assailants are now up for murder. 

Cap'n Rufus says the kids are smart and will probably not do any more beatings for a while. He's learned that Jackson falsified the log book to make it look like the cadets involve in the gay-bashing came back to campus before curfew and the assaults.

Jackson is down at Norton's rifle range (with no ear or eye protection, I might add) firing off a few rounds. Doug comes up behind him. He's told the range is off-limits to cadets right now. Doug says he's on visitor status until his dad picks him up. He tells Jackson that he knows about the logbook and shows his badge.

"Adderly and Associates have been playing war games," says Doug, "They're beating up homosexuals for practice." Jackson doesn't know anything. He's figured out that Tom is probably a cop and won't impede the investigation. Jackson stands by the logbook. Doug lets him know that makes him an accessory to murder.

Jackson says Doug doesn't understand. Going to Norton has taught him about honor and that's all that matters. Jackson is going places in life, namely West Point. Doug says he's going to jail for "violating some stupid unwritten fraternity code." Jackson replies: "Maybe...if it comes to that."

At the Chapel, Doug tells the others that he couldn't get Jackson to break. Cap'n Rufus believes Jackson isn't mature enough to weigh morals against the honor code; he'll just follow orders or what he's been taught. Doug realizes Tom's cover could be blown, but believes Jackson won't tell anyone he's a cop. Rufus reluctantly agrees to give Tom more time.

Back to the rifle range, where I count about 3 cadets wearing earmuffs. Tom breaks about 5 safety rules to go over to one of the suspects. He shows the kid a newspaper headline: "Beating Victim Dies." Tom says the place is gonna be crawling with cops soon; the boys doubt it since the attacks were after curfew. They think "Harrison" (Tom) knows better than to break the honor code. The boys trust Jackson to keep his mouth shut. They argue about what they're gonna do.

At an abandoned stadium of some sort, a young man is meeting with Gray Sweater (Woody). Woody is stone-faced but obviously upset about his lover's death. The boy is Ricky, one of the cadets, and it transpires that Woody is his older brother and their father is dead. I would've guessed one of the boys behind the attack was closeted and a self-loather. Ricky is worried that being homosexual is genetic.

"I came here to tell you I know who did those beatings," says Ricky at last. He won't say who or where, though. Woody gives him this piece of brotherly advice: "If you're half of what Dad wanted you to be, you'll do the right thing. Personally, I don't think you can." Woody leaves.

Jackson sits at his desk polishing his shoes. Tom comes in. Jackson refuses to testify, even though he's the only witness. He trusts that the others won't break the honor code and Tom doesn't understand it. "I understand that three of your cadets killed somebody because he was gay," says Tom. "And tomorrow it'll be somebody who's black or Jewish." Given their attitudes, I wouldn't doubt it. This seems to sober Jackson. Tom tells Jackson that he better call McGee and ask for a weekend pass because he's being arrested. Jackson already called.

Tom and Jackson walk to the front gate. For some reason, a color guard of some sort has arrived behind them. Adderly and Demerest are surrendering. Jackson announces that Adderly, Demerest, and Hudson are now restricted to quarters and dismisses them. End of episode.

Color me confused. Isn't Jackson going to get in trouble for, I don't know, covering up for the other 3?

No comments:

Post a Comment