Case #3.16: "High High"

This episode opens with a montage of students practicing ballet, guitar, cello, modern dance, and drama. In between expressing themselves, they're buying, selling, and using drugs. 

At the Chapel, Cap'n Rufus passes out undercover identities and inquires if anyone has heard of Creative Arts High School. "Like the one in Fame?" asks Judy. "Oh no, somebody's not stealing tights, are they?" asks Doug. Rufus explains that the school has a severe drug problem. The city is threatening to pull the school's funding unless that's addressed.

Normally, admission to Creative Arts is strictly by audition. Cap'n Rufus is bypassing that using the school's affirmative action policy for low-income students. Harry asks what programs they're all being put in.

Harry is the latest addition to a modern dance class. He's horribly out of step during the routine they're practicing. The teacher pulls him aside to ask how many years of dance training he's had and if there's a routine he's good at. Harry tells her yes. The other students snicker as Harry demonstrates the limbo. "Try the film department," the teacher suggests.

The film teacher is a black guy with dreadlocks, a Rastafarian accent, and John Lennon glasses. He tells Harry that making a movie is like demonstrating how you see life. He asks Harry to define what art is. Harry lists singing, dancing, and acting. "They're all visions of life," says the film teacher, "Art is life seen through the artist's eyes." He gives Harry a video camera and assigns him to spend the day shooting. The next day, he'll be taught how to edit the movie and put it to music.

Doug and Judy are in a drama class. The teacher has the students lying on the floor doing breathing exercises. Then they stand up, roll their tongues, and scream on cue. The teacher tells them to remember their anger and let it out. Doug screams as loudly as possible, but he's the only one. 

The teacher asks stiffly what Doug was feeling. Doug answers, "Anger. Anger at all this bull! When are we gonna act?!" "When you get in touch with your feelings," the teacher replies. Doug argues, "I am in touch with my feelings. They left a message." The teacher snaps, "I know you are new to this class, but you must connect your heart with your head if you have any hope of being an actor!" 

After class, Doug is approached by a kid wearing what looks like a black leather fez or yarmulke. "You wanna get in touch with your feelings?" says Black Hat, "I got anything you need, man. You wanna go up, down, sideways?" This is almost too easy. Doug asks Judy if she has money; she does. "Then let's talk," he says to Black Hat.

Tom joins a class where the students play in a rock band. He tells the teacher, Mr. Sharp, he plays guitar and saxophone. Mr. Sharp explains the class is about music theory, discovering new music, and of course playing music. He asks Tom about his opinion on new music. Tom claims not to have one. 

Mr. Sharp tries to spark a class discussion by stating, "Rock and roll is dead, a wrinkled old prune of a whore that has no business being kissed by a young man." Tom loves rock and roll, so put another dime in the jukebox, baby. The teacher wonders why kids don't get their own music that people over their own music that nobody over age 25 understands. "'Cause art is dead," says Tom. Mr. Sharp praises his answer.

Now they're ready to play some music. Mr. Sharp assigns Tom to the drums. Tom doesn't know how to play them. Mr. Sharp says Tom can't be a "real" musician if he can't play the drums. The kids start playing.  A kid wanders in midway through the piece and picks up his guitar. He plays a pretty decent solo.

Booker is in an auditorium with two older teachers, a man and a woman. The man asks if Booker's ready to choose a specialty. "I'd like to try that dance class," says Booker, eyeing the girl spinning onstage. The woman asks, "Any particular reason?" "I think I'd look good in those leotards," Booker replies, "There's a lotta women in this class and I get along good with women." "Those are hardly reasons," scoffs the female teacher.

Booker notices a group of kids who are wrapped in plastic and doing some kind of skit. "Performance art," the male teacher explains. He goes on that the goal of the medium is "to blend art with life until art is indistinguishable from life." "That's why I do!" Booker says, "I'm a freeform, poetic kind of performance artist." 

The performance art teacher, Mr. Thurmer, scolds his students. "Your piece is strange, but where's the truth? Green Acres is strange, but is there truth?" "Of course there is," says Booker. Mr. Thurmer asks Booker to describe his work. Booker uses two words that don't go together at all: S&M haiku.

Booker demonstrates by getting onstage and putting his arm around a plastic-covered mannequin. "My friends always ask me, why don't you watch TV?" he starts, "I tell them: Because it gives me..." He puts on a pair of sunglasses, drawing from the David Caruso School of Acting. "A headache." Booker pushes over the mannequin and breaks a couple of nearby TVs with a sledgehammer. The three teachers look either stunned by Booker's stupidity or impressed.

The drama teacher gives the students the odds that only one person will go on to make a living as an actor. He assigns the class to pick an inanimate object to become. One girl wants to be a tree; Judy chooses a pencil. Doug snorts with laughter. "What would you like to be?" the teacher asks him. Doug wisecracks, "A piece of paper so [Judy] can write all over me."

The teacher questions Doug about the reading assignment, which mentioned Spencer Tracy. Doug says that Tracy said acting comes down to remembering your lines and not bumping into the furniture. Doug has a special assignment for the next class: do a 2-minute scene from any well-known play. 

In the student lounge/cafeteria, Tom talks to a kid named Jimmy from Mr. Sharp's music class with. Jimmy assures him that Mr. Sharp picks on all the new kids. He offers to teach Tom some tricks to play better.

In performance art class, a boy in a trenchcoat recites some terrible spoken-word poetry while standing in front of a pile of garbage. Booker tells the kid he liked the poetry. The kid saw Booker's audition and says, "That's the great thing about art. Sometimes you can't tell the difference between art and bullcrap." The kid starts to like Booker after Booker is able to finish a poem he's reciting. He asks if Booker likes to get high or play hoops. Booker likes both.

On the basketball court, Trenchcoat (Dave) takes a kid named Rupert aside, buys a baggie of drugs from him, and gives it to Booker. Dave suggests Booker get high behind the building before the game. Booker says he'll get high afterward.

Montage! Harry is in the dance studio, filming girls stretching out for ballet. Tom is in the music room playing guitar. Booker is hanging out with the performance art kids. Dave invites him to drink wine and recite poetry. That night, they sit in a heavily spray painted car with some other performance art kids having the kind of discussion that makes sense only to hipsters. A choice quote is "Fear strangles the sweet breath of living." Dave tells Booker to get high before the next basketball game. Booker protests that he'd be too messed up to play. 

The Jump Street cops all turn in the drugs they managed to buy. Tom thinks they found the source: the entire school. Fuller whistles. Blowfish doesn't understand how there could be such a huge amount of drug use in such a small school. "Pressure to perform," Fuller guesses. Judy theorizes that location could be a factor; Creative Arts isn't in the best neighborhood. Booker is uncharacteristically insightful: "These kids feel life so intensely it's gotta be scary. Maybe this is the only way to deal with the pain."

Jimmy shows Tom some different ways to use his fingers on the guitar. He tells Tom he listens to everything, even opera, because you can't learn unless you listen. Tom, for some reason, seems surprised to hear that the music teacher at a performing arts school also plays an instrument. Mr. Sharp is in a band that performs at a club called The Lizard. And how terrible of a pun is it that the music teacher is named Sharp? 

Tom invites Jimmy to score drugs with him. Jimmy doesn't do drugs; "that's what keeps you from making great music." Tell that to Motley Crue, Aerosmith, and Jimi Hendrix. 

In the drama classroom, Doug and Judy have a disagreement while rehearsing. She leaves, saying she's not embarrassing herself by being his scene partner. "One of these days, Alice," Doug mutters, "One of these days." Black Hat comes in. He sits in the auditorium by himself all the time because "an empty theater, it's a trip." He waxes poetic about the thrills of acting: "You can go anywhere, you can be anything. What could be better?" As a former drama/musical theater geek, I have to agree. Sadly, I only had one major speaking part in my career: Queen Antonia in The Tempest

In a bathroom just off the basketball court, Rupert passes out drugs to Dave, Booker, and the rest of the team. Again, Booker says he'll do it after the game. "Just try it once, man," says Dave as he snorts a line off the filthy sink. Third montage of the episode: Booker's basketball game is intercut with Tom and the band playing their music. Harry tapes the game from outside the fence. Despite being high as hell, the art students manage to defeat the neighborhood kids.

Blowfish has calculated what the cops have scored from Creative Arts High: 123 grams of cocaine, 3 1/2 pounds of marijuana, smack, a tube of glue, and over 1,000 pills of various kinds. Cap'n Rufus asks the janitor how he's so up on drug terms. "Dragnet reruns every night at 8:00," Blowfish says. Harry doesn't understand why kids with so much potential are doing all these drugs.

At The Lizard, a few music students and Tom have some beers while watching Mr. Sharp play saxophone with his jazz band. Jimmy is onstage too, playing guitar. One of the music students tells Tom that Jimmy is the biggest drug dealer in school.

The next day, Tom joins Jimmy in the music room for more guitar tutoring. He compliments Jimmy on the good weed he sold him, then asks why Jimmy deals even though he doesn't use. Jimmy needs the money; he's getting out of the business once he finishes recording his music. Tom suggests that he take over the business and give Jimmy a cut of the profits. Jimmy says no.

In drama class, Doug and Tom start to do a scene The Honeymooners. The teacher cuts them off, reminding Doug that he was supposed to do a scene from a play. "Anyone can clown, anyone can mimic, that's not acting," says the teacher. He tells Doug what elements made Jackie Gleason's performance on the show so memorable and gives him a scene from a different episode to do. Doug gestures to Tom, "He doesn't know the lines." The teacher tells him to do it anyway and to lose the ridiculous golf hat and sweater. 

"I want to hear you do this character with your voice," the teacher instructs, "I want to see a little man who's never realized his dreams." Doug turns in a much more subtle performance this time, telling his wife Alice that he failed some sort of test again. The teacher jumps in to play Alice's part. The rest of the class applauds as they end the scene with a hug. 

After school, Doug talks to Judy about how drama class made him look at The Honeymooners in a whole new light. He can relate to Ralph feeling like a failure because of what's happened in his past. "And that's what made you so good," says Judy, "You made me think of times I let myself down." Doug thinks it must be hell for the kids to drum up their emotions like that and relive it every day. Judy says, "They want to feel it and express it so we can feel it too." 

Tom sits in on one of Jimmy's recording sessions. He's amazed by the kid's talent. So am I if the actor is really playing guitar that well.

The auditorium is set up for some kind of talent show. Harry is acting as MC. The first part of the show will be "a video presentation while Dennis Buckwell (Booker) reads his poem 'Oblivion.'" The students are impressed by Booker's writing. Booker goes on, "The second part of our piece is this: As nearly every student in this room has either possessed illegal narcotics or sold them to undercover officers, you're all busted." Harry and Booker flash their badges. Uniformed officers enter. 

The final portion of the "show" involves a local judge stepping out onto the stage. His performance piece is called Due Process. The students will be bussed to the courthouse, booked, and arraigned. The school itself has been placed on probation and will be permanently closed if the drug trade continues at these levels. "That's all, folks," the judge concludes.

Jimmy has evidently been sentenced to community service, an obligation he's fulfilling by teaching kids to play the guitar. Tom stops by to see how things are going and is glad Jimmy hasn't violated his probation.

Booker goes to the basketball court. He nearly catches Dave shooting up in the bathroom. Booker heard Dave dropped out of Creative Arts. Dave did: "too many cops." He accuses Booker of being a hypocrite because he saw Booker snort heroin with them. Booker explains that he faked it. 

However, Booker didn't fake his apparent high: "I'm 22 years old. I'm in the moment every second of every day. I feel things and taste things that can never see through your wall of dope." Dave rolls his eyes: "Save your preach, cop. I reject everything." Booker leaves. End of episode.

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