Case #4.13: "Research and Destroy"

In a dingy alley, a young, probably homeless man stands against a brick wall, coughing harshly and sweating. An unseen man says, "You don't look so good." The redhead pulls out of a wad of money, but the other man has questions for him. The redhead gripes that the guy never had questions before. The unseen man asks, "What's your normal dose of street-grade heroin? When did you last eat?" Ginger Junkie doesn't know his usual dose and thinks he last ate the night before.

The unseen man scribbles his answers down on a pocket notepad. Ginger Junkie leaves the alley and sits in an unlocked car parked nearby. He locks the passenger door. A fellow junkie rattles the handle, angry that Ginger is holding out. Ginger Junkie shoots up. His breathing quickly becomes labored and he slumps back, dead or unconscious.

A cop rifles through Ginger Junkie's things. A paramedic takes Ginger's pulse and informs him that Ginger isn't dead. The cop finds a bunch of printed slips of paper that all read PFISTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. I highly doubt Ginger is a student there. Theme song.

At the Pfister Institute of Technology, a group of students has gathered on the quad to watch other students toss objects off the roof of a nearby building. I gather it's some type of physics project/competition. A young Hodges from CSI Vegas sneers that a fellow student's project won't protect the egg inside from cracking when he drops it from the roof. What a dick! "As God is my witness, this egg will survive," says the other nerd.

Judy, Tom, and Harry watch as the egg cradle is dropped. Sadly, Young Hodges' prediction is correct. He suggests the other nerd change his major to liberal arts. On the ground, Judy wonders whatever happened to keg parties. Harry says they're too busy discovering cold fusion. "And synthetic heroin," Tom mutters. A group of guys whisper and stare and point at Judy. There's one woman for every 10 guys at PIT.

Harry and Tom work on something in a chemistry lab. I won't even pretend to know what they're doing. Science montage. Tom double checks something in his lab book and doesn't notice one of his beakers boiling over until it's flooded half his desk. The professor looks up, raises his eyebrows, shakes his head, and goes back to grading papers. Another student listening to a Walkman rolls over on his skateboard to help. He puts on a pair of thick gloves and dumps the beaker's contents down the sink.

Skateboard Boy asks Tom where he transferred from. "MIT," Tom replies. Skateboard Boy thinks that explains everything. He introduces himself as Courtney, adding that everyone calls him Cortex. Another Asian student eyes Harry from across the lab. 

In the PIT cafeteria, Courtney introduces Tom to Young Hodges. Young Hodges buys the day's notes from another guy, then a set of spectrometer results from Courtney. Courtney explains that a 13-year-old genius gets research jobs from companies and he farms out the extra work to them. Young Hodges asks if Tom wants in on the research. "I'm saving myself for Dow Chemical," says Tom. 

A balding man watches the three college kids. Courtney advises Tom to stay away from the guy and describes him as a "major sleaze." Elsewhere, Judy sits down and opens a textbook. 3 guys ask to sit with her. The guy whose egg cradle broke says, "Can't you see the lady's trying to study? Shoo." He sits next to Judy and introduces himself as Elliott. Judy tells him she's not interested. Elliott asks her out to a Gershwin retrospective anyway. He gives her the ticket and says creepily, "Take it home with you. Look at it, touch it, be with it." He winks and leaves. Judy looks unsettled.

Outside, the balding man approaches Tom. "You're new," he says. Tom tells him not to start on the MIT jokes. The balding man says, "You look a lot more adventurous than most of the guys around here, Tom." He knows Tom's name because it's his business to know things. He offers to give Tom some excitement: "I don't have my stuff with me right now, but meet me behind the dorms tomorrow night at 10:00." Tom agrees.

"It's too easy," Tom tells his coworkers at a bar, "It's like the guy had a big flashing ARREST ME sign on his forehead. He asked me if I wanted a little excitement in my life." "Maybe he's with the chess club," Judy suggests. Elliott, smoking a pipe and dressed like a stereotypical college professor, invites himself to join their group. "Judy, it's so good to see you tonight," he says. He asks Harry and Tom to excuse them. Judy looks to them for help. Tom and Harry make up excuses about having to go do homework.

Elliott tells Judy she looks "uncommonly lovely" in her hideous Cosby sweater. Young Hodges is at the bar too but steps outside. Harry goes over to the Asian guy seen earlier who's with his girlfriend. A drunk is calling the Asians names. He pours beer over the Asian man's head. Harry knocks out the drunk. Harry asks if the other man is okay. Unidentified Asian says something to his girlfriend in a foreign language and they leave. 

In the same area of town from the night before, Ginger Junkie's friend wanders the street. It's clear he's jonesing bad. He lights up a cigarette in an alley to calm his nerves. "Are you a smoker?" the same unidentified voice from earlier asks. Junkie's friend asks, "Are you the man?" "Yeah, I'm the man," says the dealer. We see him for the first time and it's none other than Young Hodges, smiling like the bat-weasel he is.

Judy doesn't think the unnamed Asian student fits the profile of a drug dealer. Harry says they're not looking for an ordinary dealer; they're looking for someone with knowledge of chemistry. He thinks the other Asian has made him as a cop. Harry sends Judy into the library with a pack of nerds as a decoy while he breaks into a locker. The other Asian sees Harry and ducks out of sight around a corner. In the locker, Harry finds a newspaper written in an Asian language along with some textbooks. He closes it again.

In a different lab, Courtney gets ready to inject a rat with something. He catches the look on Tom's face and says, "If you found one of these in your dorm room, you'd work it over with a baseball bat." Tom argues that's different. Young Hodges comes in and Courtney tells him that Tom is against animal research. Tom asks what great truth could be worth torturing another living thing. "There is no truth, only knowledge," says Young Hodges. Young Hodges asks when Courtney will finish a project for him. Courtney says the next day. "Just make sure you have it to me before ditch day," says Young Hodges. He invites Tom to lunch but Tom declines.

Tom meets up with the balding dealer behind the dorms that night. Balding Dealer knows Tom wants more than to work for IBM the rest of his life. His enterprise needs people with special technical skills and street smarts. Balding Dealer hands Tom a large envelope and reminds him to be discreet. Tom asks how much he owes. "If this works out, I'll owe you," says Balding Dealer. Tom opens the envelope and finds a CIA recruitment packet inside.

The next day, Harry, Judy, and Tom eat lunch on the quad together. Tom gives them the recruitment spiel, "Travel to exotic places, meet interesting people, and kill them." Later in his career, Johnny Depp would play a CIA agent in Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Tom asks Harry about the Chinese student. Harry thinks he can get the guy to talk if he gets close to him. A car horn startles the trio, but it's only Elliott driving what looks like a vintage Rolls Royce. "If you two leave, I will shoot you," Judy threatens.

Elliott greets Judy warmly. "What did I tell you last night after you tried to shove the gold chain into my purse?" she asks. Elliott wants to know if they should be "airing out our dirty unmentionables in public." Tom and Harry leave. Judy tells Elliott she's not attracted to him; in fact, she finds him repulsive. Elliott wants to take her for a ride and talk it over. Judy groans in frustration. 

At the dorm, Harry knocks on the door of Room 317. Unidentified Asian opens the door and shuts it when he sees who's on the other side. Harry knocks again, calling that he's not leaving. Unidentified Asian opens the door and says, "I know who you are and you can't stop me from doing what I'm doing. You'll have to kill me." Harry is confused. Unidentified Asian says, "Tell them you failed." Harry asks who he's talking about. "Your masters in Beijing," says Unidentified Asian, closing the door again. To quote Samuel L. Jackson's character from Kingsman: "So freaky how there's no recognizable name for the Chinese Secret Service."

Inside Unidentified Asian's room, Harry wonders why UA thought he was from the Chinese Secret Service when Harry isn't Chinese. UA thought that Harry was recruited from a Vietnamese refugee camp in Hong Kong. UA got a threatening letter from the Chinese government after he sent American newspaper articles about Tienanmen Square to his relatives back home. The letter told him to go back to China at the end of the current school year, even though he's not ready to graduate.

Young Hodges is in an alleyway giving a soda to the junkie seen earlier. The junkie reports that he didn't throw up, so "it was a bum high." Young Hodges asks what makes a good high, but the junkie can't explain it. He gives the junkie a vial, "an improved version of what you had before." 

Harry wonders what will happen to UA if they don't help him. Judy says it's out of their hands because they don't work for the State Department. Harry suggests UA could marry an American citizen. Judy gives him a look. Harry adds quickly, "I didn't mean you." Judy spots the balding CIA agent playing one of the cafeteria's video games and thinks he might help. A man in a tuxedo comes over to their table with a singing telegram for Judy from Elliott. Unfortunately, we don't get to hear what song it is.

The junkie from earlier, AKA Smoker, is lying in a hospital bed hooked up to life support. Fuller explains to Tom that Smoker has Parkinsonism, which mimics the advanced stages of Parkinson's. He was found with a vial of fentanyl in his pocket. 

In the animal research lab, Tom asks Courtney what he knows about designer drugs. Courtney doesn't know anything about drugs, period. Tom wonders if he would be able to change the chemical makeup of, say, morphine. "You're not trying to get me to do something I shouldn't be doing, are you?" asks Courtney. He thinks it could be done by synthesizing molecules and testing the product by trial-and-error. 

Harry and UA walk around campus. Harry doesn't think UA should worry; getting a letter doesn't mean the Chinese government will send anyone after him. UA has felt a presence recently and thinks they have. UA insists he's not afraid, rather he's aware. UA unlocks his dorm room and finds it's been completely trashed.

At the campus bar, Tom asks what Harry knows about ditch days. It's apparently a PIT tradition where all the seniors leave campus for the day and underclassmen try to break into their rooms by solving riddles. They're waiting for Poole the CIA agent. Poole sits down and says he's disappointed in Tom for not telling him that he was undercover; a relationship has to be built on honesty. "You're a spy," Harry says incredulously. Poole says he'd be the laughingstock of the CIA if they knew he tried to recruit an undercover cop.

Harry asks if Poole can somehow help Unidentified Asian, AKA Sang. Poole says the CIA can protect Sang if he's willing to work for them. Harry gets up to leave. Poole makes a comment about Harry having a chip on his shoulder. He then backpedals and says he can't "officially" help Sang, but he can give Harry and Tom the name of the Asian spy on campus who's been harassing Sang.

In the animal research lab, Courtney hesitantly asks Young Hodges why they can never look at other guys' projects. Young Hodges has power because he's the only one who knows anything and "power rules the regime." Young Hodges is graduating and thinks Courtney could be a suitable replacement. He advises Courtney to get used to being only a small part of the project because that's how it'll be when he starts working for a corporation. Young Hodges wants to finish his work before ditch day tomorrow. He hands Courtney a folder and tells him to have someone run the compounds.

When Courtney leaves, Young Hodges creeps over to one of the desks and opens a drawer. He takes out a length of rubber tubing and a syringe, which he puts in his backpack. Elsewhere in the school, Young Hodges dictates into a tape recorder that all his data so far in anecdotal; in order to complete the research phase, he must "gain some subjective understanding of its consumer appeal." This will be accomplished by shooting himself up with it. Young Hodges prepares to give himself the injection.

The next morning, Elliott parks his classic car and heads for the quad. He bumps into Judy. He tells her that if she successfully breaks into his room, she'll find "a fabulous token of [my] affections with your name engraved on it." Someone in a VW van calls for Elliott to hurry up or they're leaving without him. "Let the games begin," says Judy.

Montage of the underclassmen solving riddles around campus set to Devo's "Whip It." I guess "She Blinded Me With Science" would've been too on-the-nose. Courtney is partnered with Tom. He doesn't think they can get into Young Hodges' room because his riddles are the toughest. "I guess you're right. I mean, after all, you're only 13," says Tom. Courtney challenges, "What's that supposed to mean? You'll never get in without me."

On the steps of a building, Harry runs headlong into Sang's lady friend. He helps her pick up her books and asks what her major is. "Organic chemistry," she replies. Harry asks her to be his partner so he can solve the riddles Sang left. She says she can't because she has something important to do. "More important than ditch day? What are you, a secret agent?" That was subtle, Harry. Asian Girl agrees to be his partner.

The first clue Young Hodges left for Tom and Courtney is a calculus equation. The teenager quickly solves it, which leads them to the location of the next clue: the library. Courtney asks the librarian if Young Hodges left a message for 'To Whom It May Concern.' The librarian hands them an envelope, which contains a floppy disk. Courtney puts the disk in one of the library's computer. The disk contains a video poker game; if they win, they get the next clue. Courtney doesn't know how to play poker, but Tom does.

Outside Elliott's room, Judy's partners tell her it shouldn't take them more than half an hour to solve the equations written all over Elliott's door. Elsewhere, Harry and the Asian girl open the combination lock on Sang's room. She's surprised to find Sang inside and asks him a question in Chinese. "You know what's happening here, Li," says Sang.

Brief inconsequential flash to Tom's computer poker game in the library, then back to Sang's room. Li says Sang is the traitor, not her. Sang asks what the Chinese government offered her if she cooperated: a phone, a car, the apartment of someone she turned in. Li feigns that she doesn't know what he's talking about, then says Sang would have done the same thing.

Harry flashes his badge. He tells Li that he could arrest her for breaking and entering, maybe even a civil rights violation. Her bosses in Beijing probably wouldn't like hearing she got arrested. Harry offers her a Raylan Givens style deal: "Get the hell out of my country...tonight." Li exits. Harry thinks he bought Sang some time.

Back in the library, Tom wins the computer poker game. Their next clue reads: "Hickory dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock." This must mean something to them, because they jump to their feet and "Whip It" starts up again in the background. Tom and Courtney stand on the quad with a bunch of ropes and rock-climbing equipment. An envelope is taped about halfway up the clock tower.

Tom rappells down the tower. Courtney shouts that Tom should hurry; the seniors will be back soon. Tom grabs the envelope and rips it open with his teeth. Inside is an index card that reads THE KEY IS UNDER THE MAT. 

Elliott opens his dorm room door. He finds his beloved car has been disassembled and partially reassembled in the middle of the floor. 

Tom and Courtney look under Young Hodges' doormat, but there's no key. Tom tries the knob. The door is unlocked. Courtney sticks his head in the door first and his jaw drops. "God," he says. Young Hodges is sitting motionless in his desk chair, tubing loosely draped over his arm.

An uniformed police officer herds a crowd of curious onlookers away from Young Hodges' room. Cap'n Rufus watches the paramedics wheel Young Hodges out of the room. He's still alive. Tom informs Rufus that Young Hodges is their chemist; he hands the captain a stack of paper that he thinks is the recipe for the synthetic heroin. They didn't find any more of the heroin. Courtney helped make it, but he didn't know what he was doing. Tom tells Rufus about the tape Young Hodges made.

Harry puts Sang's luggage in a taxi. Sang is leaving town to stay with a cousin in some undisclosed location. Harry tells Sang that he might not be able to go home for a long time: "America is a great place to be, but you've gotta let yourself be here. If your head is somewhere else, it can be real lonely." Sang says China will always be his country. He thanks Harry for helping him: "You will always have my friendship." They shake hands. Tom asks Harry if he thinks Sang will be okay. Harry doesn't answer. End of episode and I'm disappointed that we didn't find out what happened to Young Hodges. Recovery? Jail? Life support?

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