Case #2.13: "Big Disease With a Little Name"

A hand blindly gropes the wooden floor under a bed. Another homage to Nightmare On Elm Street, perhaps? The hand finds its target, a box of cereal, and pulls it up onto the bed. Harley, a thin, tanned teenage boy, eats a handful of the cereal like popcorn. His alarm clock buzzes and he slams his hand down on it.

In the kitchen, a middle-aged woman asks her husband if he'll be driving Harley to school. They've apparently moved 5 times in 3 months. "Dan, please," the wife admonishes.

In the bathroom, Harley dumps pills from various prescription bottles into his hand. He washes down the fistful of medicine with a glass of water.

Back in the kitchen, Dad tosses his newspaper onto the table and stands: "Tell him he can take his motorcycle. He doesn't wanna ride with me anyway." Mom points out that Dad used to tell Harley it was too dangerous to ride said motorcycle. Dad asks, "What difference does that really make now?" Harley enters the room and Mom fakes cheerfulness.

Harley kisses her cheek. Mom fusses over a cut she sees on him. Harley asks his dad "how goes" his hardware store. Dad is more interested in "how goes" algebra; Harley has a D-. Dad tells Harley to get himself to school. Mom warns him to wear a helmet.

Harley zooms through the neighborhood on his crotch rocket. He almost causes a car accident as he blows past a stop sign. Out on the front lawn of the high school, a group of parent protesters wave homemade signs and chant: "No AIDS in school!" Harley arrives and is immediately swamped by protesters and reporters alike. Clearly, he is the AIDS threat.

Harley pushes a particularly hostile protester to the ground. A policeman tries to keep the kid under some semblance of control and suggests as kindly as possible that Harley should consider correspondence courses. "They wouldn't let me lick the stamp," Harley says. He sings a few bars of "America the Beautiful" before making a "shove it" gesture with his arm. Theme song.

Doug tells Tom about the latest woman in his life: "She's terrific, wait 'til you meet her." Tom snaps that even Doug hasn't met her. Doug protests that he's at least seen her from hanging out at the place she works. "And there's been that moment," Doug goes on, "where our eyes meet and we look at each and things are spoken without using any words."

Tom is probably now convinced that he'll soon be arresting his own partner for stalking. Fuller asks to speak to Tom privately. Tom gives Doug some sound advice: Don't call this girl. Doug's parting shot is, "You got no romance in your pants." Um, wow.

Cap'n Rufus wants to talk off the record about a tough assignment he thinks Tom would be perfect for. Tom asks, "I'm not gonna have to wear a dress again, am I?" Rufus has a question of his own: How much does Tom know about AIDS? All Tom knows is it's lethal.

Cap'n Rufus explains that Harley Pulish, a senior who transferred to Huntington High, recently tested positive for AIDS. Tom, like me, wonders what that has to do with Jump Street. Rufus fills him in: Harley has been assaulted by fellow students numerous times in an attempt to keep him out of school. 

Tom somewhat tactlessly asks how Harley got AIDS in the first place. Harley is a hemophiliac, so they suspect it was a blood transfusion. Even a minor beating could prove fatal. It'll be Tom's job to keep an eye on Harley. Tom doesn't want to take the case but agrees to, thinking nobody else will want it. 

We see orcas playfully swimming in a tank at the aquarium. Doug walks around the outside of the exhibit with a blond woman. She's wearing a windbreaker with an orca on it. Doug lamely starts that he's seen her around. The woman points out that he's been to both whale shows every weekend.

"I got a thing about big fish," he says. Silly Dougie, whales are mammals. Trainer Gal introduces herself as Penny. Inexplicably, she knows Doug's name and that he's a police officer. "These guys can't keep a secret," Penny says, meaning the whales. Crazy alert! Abort mission, Doug!

Doug leans on the glass to address Shamu and friends: "All right, you can forget about my Greenpeace donation." Penny says that Tom called to set them up "and if I didn't go out with you, they were all gonna have to chip in and have you put to sleep." Somehow that wasn't a red flag to her?

Penny has a question that must be answered before they can go out, however: Does Doug have a girlfriend? He immediately says no. Penny says, "Don't answer so fast. I'm askin' for the truth here." I think he just told you the truth. Crazy Red Flag #3. 

Doug suggests they go to a seafood restaurant for their first date. "Not in front of the children," Penny scolds, dipping her head toward the tank. Not sure if she's trying to suggest "the children" will get jealous that they aren't getting fish or that the orcas'll somehow think they're supposed to be dinner.

Tom comes into the garage where Harley is listening to loud music and working on his motorcycle. Johnny Depp is sporting a trenchcoat that Castiel would envy. Harley doesn't answer when Tom shouts over the music, so Tom turns it off to introduce himself.

Harley warms up after a fashion, asking Tom if he likes motorcycles. Tom does. Harley tells Tom that he used to race. "You like this kind of assignment? Babysittin' some kid so he doesn't bite somebody or breathe on 'em?" asks Harley. Tom is more concerned with Harley getting the crap beat out of him on a regular basis, given that a hemophiliac could die from getting too bruised.

"I hear it's a real bitch of a disease," Tom finishes. Harley says hemophilia, while a bitch, is just a condition; AIDS is a disease. "You got a hell of a bedside manner," the teen snarks. According to his doctors, Harley has about 2 years at the most to live. Tom lets out a slow breath, unsure of what to say.

"Mind if I smoke?" asks Harley as he lights up a joint. Tom does, since marijuana is illegal and all. "A guy with a death sentence doesn't worry a whole lot about breakin' any laws," Harley says. Harley will have to obey the law when he's with Tom. 

Doug does a quick breath check before his date and is dressed to impress, '80s style: a mostly-unbuttoned blue shirt with a black sportcoat and khakis. Someone is hammering on his apartment door. "Patience is a virtue!" he calls. Doug opens the door while deliberately opening his shirt more.

The woman standing in front of him has curly brown hair and is wearing ridiculously large earrings. In a word, definitely not Penny. Doug slams the door, then opens it again a second later. We can now see the woman is carrying 2 suitcases. "Hi, Doug," she says. Doug weakly responds, "Dorothy Pazino? This is sort of..." "A surprise?" Dorothy guesses. Doug thinks "shocked" is a better word and asks why she's at his apartment. 

Dorothy says she's waiting to be let in, then breezes past him. Inviting yourself works too. She remarks that Doug is still a slob. What a charming lady. Dorothy helps herself to some wine that's sitting out. Doug loses patience and demands, "Dorothy, what the hell is going on?"

Dorothy dodges the subject yet again. It's been 2 years since they last saw each other. Doug and Dorothy were dating until Dorothy abruptly left him to live with some guy named Todd. Dorothy and Todd broke up last week, which still doesn't explain her turning up at her ex's house with luggage. That's pretty much the last thing in the world I'd ever do.

Dorothy wonders why Doug's being hostile. Doug reminds her, "The last time I saw you, you called the cops on me." Dorothy snits, "My pop called the cops." Someone else starts buzzing Doug's apartment to be let in.

Dorothy huffily asks if Doug has somewhere to be. "Oh, this is so bizarre," he says, summing up my feelings about this scene. Dorothy looks back at the wine and flower vase on the table and realizes Doug must have a date. "I can deal with that tonight," she says, "But what about us?"

I don't think there's an "us" in this situation anymore, Dorothy. Good Lord, Doug seems to be a real magnet for crazy chicks. According to Dorothy, Doug agreed that if she ever wanted to rekindle their romance, he'd take her back and love her forever. Penny appears in the doorway at the tail end of this conversation.

Penny worries she's interrupting something. Doug says "no" at the same time that Dorothy growls "yes" and gives Penny the evil eye. Doug lies that Dorothy is his sister. "Girlfriend," Dorothy corrects. Penny looks stunned as Dorothy slams the door in her face. "And people wondered what I saw in you," Doug says, voice soft but with an edge.

At Huntington High, parents are still on the sidewalk chanting: "No AIDS in school!" In the cafeteria, Harley asks Tom if anyone else knows that Tom is a cop. He wonders what Tom would do if he told everyone. "I would thank you," Tom says bluntly.

When Harley sits down at a table, the other students immediately leave. I think it may have more to do with his generally bad personality than the fear of AIDS, but that's just me. Tom thinks someone in Harley's position should be trying to make friends instead of alienating everyone. Harley says that their parents are the ones protesting: "God forbid I kiss one of their daughters. Not a chance, trust me." That last comment could be taken a number of ways...

They talk about death and God. Or at least Tom tries to. Harley responds sarcastically to everything Tom has to say. Usually characters who are deathly ill are cut as tragic figures. Prime example: Darling Haley Joel Osment playing preteen AIDS patient Lucas on Walker, Texas Ranger. Not Harley; he's completely unsympathetic so far. 

Harley finally admits he "wasn't always such a horse's ass." Everyone stopped touching him after he was diagnosed, including his own parents. Harley jokes about getting them his-and-hers rubber gloves for their anniversary.

"I forgot my milk," Tom says. Harley offers up the carton that he's been drinking, complete with straw, his first good deed of the episode. Tom freezes and stares at the carton, then mumbles that he doesn't like chocolate milk. 

Doug calls the aquarium and asks to leave a message for Penny: "I know I called before. I know how many times I called." Oh, Dougie, just hang up and cut your losses. Penny was a lighter blend of crazy than Dorothy, but crazy nonetheless.

When Doug's phone rings, he vaults over the back of his desk chair to answer. It's Crazy Dorothy. She's making meatloaf and wants to know if he wants peas, corn, or carrots with it. Doug says it doesn't matter. Crazy Dorothy counters that it does and asks again. They continue to argue about vegetables.

At one point, Doug says he doesn't care if she serves lizard eggs. "So now you're mad?" Dorothy says. I sure as hell would be if an ex moved in uninvited. Doug tells Dorothy they have to talk about their relationship. Dorothy repeats the vegetable question. Doug stares incredulously at his phone.

Back at the high school, Harley swings onto his motorcycle sans helmet. He tells Tom about how his dad cried when he was first diagnosed but barely talks to him now. "How's that for a death benefit?" he asks and rides off. Tom doesn't see the humor.

Harley stops for a stop sign. Two kids in a car bump his bike from behind, chuckling. They bump him again, knocking Harley to the ground. Harley gets up, goes over to the car, and kicks out the driver's side window. The driver gets pissed and jumps out. Tom happens upon the scene and stops his Mustang. "Here's your boyfriend," taunts one of the guys. Tom tells them to get lost.

After Tom punches one of them in the face, they decide to leave and deliberately run over the front tire of Harley's motorcycle. Tom and Harley get the bike upright again. Tom offers a ride home. Harley opts to walk, pushing his bike and brushing tears off his face. 

The orcas are frolicking at the aquarium when Doug spots Penny and dashes over. He follows her to her office, which has an underwater orca viewing window. Doug wants to apologize. Penny dubs it unnecessary. "Not to you, to the children," Doug goes on, indicating the whales and desperately hoping to win her over with humor, "I'm sorry," he baby-talks to Shamu.

Penny says she and Doug have nothing to say to each other. Doug turns his secret weapon on her: his soulful brown puppy-dog eyes. Penny softens a little, but maintains she's dated enough liars. Doug explains that Dorothy was his girlfriend in high school before she took off and moved in with another guy. But his door had always been open to come back.

Penny points out Doug could've told Dorothy it's too late. Ever the hopeless romantic, Doug says, "Maybe it isn't." Penny expresses her opinion that men are all afraid to commit in case something better comes along. Doug plans on letting Dorothy stay because "I owe her that much." He'll go out with Penny if Dorothy doesn't work out, further proving Penny's point. "Don't even," says Penny as she sits down at her computer.

Harley's place now has a SOLD sign in the front yard. His mom doesn't know where her son is. Last night, Harley informed his parents he was dropping out of high school because "you don't need good SAT scores to get into Heaven." Tom thinks there's still hope. "Hope is all that's left when you're afraid to face what's real," says Harley's mom. Wonder whose attitude Harley inherited.

Harley's mom thanks Tom for spending Tom with him. Tom wants to say goodbye before the family moves. Harley's mom actually does know where he is, but promised not to tell anyone, especially Tom: "You make him feel like a leper. Next time, drink the milk. It won't kill you."

Harley zooms around a concrete race track in a helmet and full leathers. Tom parks his Mustang nearby and makes an incredibly idiotic move by walking onto the track. Harley pops a wheelie and doesn't seem to notice Tom at first. When he looks over his shoulder and sees Tom, he's startled and crashes the bike. Not a major accident, just enough to skid out.

Harley himself slides around a curve while the bike bounces off the track. Tom asks if he's all right. Harley says, "You can check out now, Hanson. I don't need your protection. I never really did." Tom apologizes about the milk.

Harley informs Tom that he can't get AIDS "unless we have sex or share the same hypodermic needle. And I dunno about you, but I'm not interested in either of those options." Good to know. For the second time in two days, Tom helps Harley right his bike, which is banged up but driveable. 

Harley offers to let Tom take a spin on his bike, warning him to watch the clutch. Tom will be fine; he's ridden bigger police motorcycles. Predictably, Tom doesn't make it more than 10 feet down the track.

Tom and Harley share a pitcher of beer while the latter recounts his brief motorcycle racing career. Harley never won a race but somehow managed to qualify for Nationals and place 2nd there twice. Tom finally asks the big question: If Harley is a hemophiliac and has to be so careful about not getting hurt, why the hell did his parents let him ride a motorcycle?

Harley sighs and says he doesn't have hemophilia. His dad told everyone that to cover up the truth. "There are 3 ways to get AIDS: blood transfusions, needles, and..." Harley trails off, "I don't use drugs and I've never had a blood transfusion, so you figure out." The need for police protection at school came about as a direct result of his dad's lie. Harley vows to beat the disease: "And you know how you beat AIDS? You don't let it kill you first." I don't like where this is going. Tom doesn't either.

Tom is Harley's only friend. As such, Tom can't tell anyone that Harley is planning to commit suicide. He even has a day picked out: his birthday, right down to the minute. Harley's birthday happens to be the 8th of the month at 5:46 AM, which is 2 days from now. His method of suicide will be driving his motorcycle off a cliff.

It's dark inside when Doug arrives home. He turns on a light in the living room. "Doug, is that you?" Dorothy calls from his loft bedroom area. Doug climbs up the ladder and sits down on the edge of the bed. He wants to give their relationship one more shot. Dorothy's wearing a mud mask that, aptly enough, makes her look like the Wicked Witch of the West. Doug's smile instantly becomes forced. He pats Dorothy's hip, stands up, unbuckles his belt, and slides his jeans off. That results in this exchange:

Dorothy: What are you doing?
Doug: I'm goin' to bed.
Dorothy: Here?
Doug: This is where I usually do it.
Dorothy: I think this is where we made our mistake last time.

Dorothy wants to wait to have sex until they're sure things will work out. Uh, you can sleep in the same bed with your boyfriend without having sex, trust me. Not to mention it's Doug's bed she invited herself into. Rather than argue with the crazy woman again, Doug grabs a pillow from the bed and tosses it down into the living room. Then he pulls his pants back up, and climbs down the ladder.

Tom tells Cap'n Rufus, "This whole thing has turned into a giant mess." Rufus thinks Harley should be taken into protective custody because he openly threatened suicide in front of a police officer. "I wasn't a police officer when he told me. I was his friend," Tom argues. Rufus thinks he made the threat to see how good of a friend Tom is. 

Near a dam in the woods, Tom perches cross-legged on the hood of his Mustang with a cup of coffee. There's a second cup beside him. Harley rides up. He's angry that Tom wants to stop him and says they're not friends anymore. Tom gives him advice along the lines of "Next time you plan to commit suicide, don't say it in front of me." 

Harley is almost crying now. "I'm glad you came," he admits. "Nobody else would've." Sobbing, Harley asks for a favor. He just wants to be held, to have some human contact. Tom walks over to the kid and wraps his arms around him. Harley clings to Tom as he cries harder.

The whole crew is at Doug's house for a dinner party. "So tell me, Penhall, how's married life treating you?" jokes Cap'n Rufus. Doug takes another slug of wine and says, "I'm not married. I'm in hell." Speaking of which, Dorothy comes out of the kitchen wearing a hideous outfit and bearing a tray of food. She's made meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas, carrots, and corn.

The phone rings. Doug answers it and says, "Hanson, it's for you." Tom takes the call. It's from Harley's mother. She thought Tom should know that Harley died of pneumonia a little while ago. Tom sinks to the couch. Holy unrealistic plot twist. Harley didn't look or even act sick during the course of the episode. Of course, his parents play fast and loose with the truth, so "pneumonia" could be code for "OD'd on pills." Before hanging up, Harley's mom adds, "He told me to tell you it's okay about the milk."

Tom remains on Doug's couch, holding the receiver. Everyone in the background is oblivious to the situation and eating dinner. Tom sniffles once. End of episode.

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