Case #4.20: "Last Chance High"

In a principal's office, the man in charge is lecturing a gum-chewing tough guy in a studded leather jacket. Marty's highest grade is currently a D in shop. The principal tells the boy he's being transferred to Taft High. "No way, man, Taft is for losers," says Marty. The kid's options are Taft, which is an alternative school, or being expelled from the school district entirely.

Outside, Marty's friends ask if Mr. Byrd gave Marty detention or library duty this time. He tells them he's going to Taft. They don't seem overly empathetic or even upset that Marty's leaving. His friends just head into the building "to catch the last few minutes of math." Theme song.

In an office building, a bearded man rattles off a list of stolen office supplies that includes typewriters, computers, a water cooler, and gold-plated pens and pencils. There's never a sign of forced entry. Doug suggests the thief has a key. All the employees have been polygraphed twice without success. Bearded Boss blames the thefts on the students of Taft High, which is next door. He has no proof, but a woman from Accounting had her convertible stolen from the parking lot. Tom promises he and Doug will do what they can about the burglaries.

Doug thinks this is a job for "the McQuaid brothers," one of their undercover alter egos. Tom wants to send in Judy and Harry. "This is a school full of degenerates, the McQuaids are perfect," Doug insists. Tom says the McQuaids are stupid. Judy and Harry want the case, so they should get it. Problem is Cap'n Rufus is putting them undercover in the office building to see if it really is an employee. "We're too old," says Tom.

Tom also hates wearing a bandanna on his head, something Johnny Depp would later do as Jack Sparrow. Tom says everybody outgrows things and reminds Doug that he has to take care of Clavo now. "One kid and your life is over?" asks Doug. 

When the elevator stops on their floor and the doors open, nobody gets off. There's no room for Doug and Tom. Doug tells them to clear the car. When they don't, Doug steals a donut from the closest person and eats it. He also chugs the guy's milk, splashing it all down his shirt. Everyone hurries out of the elevator.

At Taft High, which looks very nice for an alternative school, Doug and Tom introduce themselves to the principal by flipping his toupee around to give him bangs. A boy who witnesses that gets upset and hangs Tom and Doug on the coat rack in the boys' bathroom. The guy leaves. "Guess he doesn't wanna miss his 17th semester of Math 1," says Doug, "Tom, don't look at me like that. This didn't happen because we're old." "Just get me down!" Tom snaps.

In the art classroom, Marty asks the guidance counselor Mr. Breck what his first class is. "What do you want to be?" asks Mr. Breck. Marty doesn't know. The guidance counselor explains that Marty will be choosing his own schedule. The school fulfills all the general education requirements for high school, but how you do it and in what order is up to each student. Mr. Breck also tells Marty that 80% of kids at Taft graduate.

Doug and Clavo arrive at Casa de Penhall with bags of groceries. "All right, cerrado la puerta-thing," says Doug. He dances around the room, telling the kid he's making pollo for dinner and they're gonna watch hockey on TV. Later on, Doug pulls a completely blackened chicken out of the oven. He tells Clavo he'll make them cheeseburgers and "have 'em ready before they start singing 'O Canada.'" 

Doug gives Clavo a bath and reads him a bedtime story. Doug falls asleep partway through reading the book a fourth time. Clavo turns off the light and covers them both with the blanket.

At Taft, Tom and Doug see the guy who hung them from the coat rack drive up in a nice sports car. They decide to start to a conversation with him. They have a slim-jim tool used by car burglars everywhere and make up a story about Tom locking Doug's keys in the car. While trying to unlock the door, the boy accidentally breaks Tom's driver's side window. He confesses he's never used a slim-jim before and gives Tom money for the repairs.

Tom joins a cooking class where the students prepare the lunches served in the cafeteria. The guidance counselor introduces him to a blond student named Frances. Tom watches curiously as she opens a cupboard and tucks what looks like a small tomato in her sock.

Tom and Doug sit in the schoolyard. Doug didn't get a lot of sleep because Clavo had a nightmare about train tunnels and white worms. Frances joins them and asks if they're coming to group therapy, which some students do on Friday mornings. She explains that a lot of her classmates have screwed-up families, addiction problems, or are "socially maladjusted, like you two." Frances doesn't seem to be any of these things, so I wonder how she wound up in alternative high school. Doug happens to like his maladjustment.

A male student wearing black loafers, white knee socks, and a black-and-red knee-length skirt passes by. Doug hopes that kid goes to group. "I hope he's Scottish," says Tom. Frances informs them that Kevin has been accepted to an Ivy League college and had problems in regular school because he likes to wear skirts. She gets Tom and Doug to agree to go to group.

In group, a girl says a coworker noticed the scars on her wrists and told her boss about them. Her boss was upset because she wrote on her application that she's never been arrested; he didn't understand that being committed wasn't the same as getting arrested. The girl was fired, but she knows she's not a failure.

Frances tells the group that she finished all her history requirements and the other kids applaud. Paulie, the guy who broke Tom's window by accident, got a good report card from his parole officer. Tom and Doug exchange looks. The kids clap again.

Tom and Frances go to the grocery store to get supplies for the cafeteria lunch. Frances has a theory about why shopping carts always have a bum wheel: "feminists...nothing makes a good housewife madder than a gimpy shopping cart." Tom is worried they're overspending. Frances is sure they're nowhere close to $60. "I thought they gave you $100," says Tom. Frances evades that. Tom spots the missing $40 sticking out of her shoe.

Tom brings up that he's seen her hiding things in her socks. Frances tells him spies are considered scum at Taft. "What about thieves?" asks Tom. Frances challenges, "What are you, my mother? I wouldn't do this if I didn't have to." Tom asks why she's stealing. Frances says, "If I show you, you have to promise not to tell a soul." Tom swears "on my brother's eyes."

At home, Frances greets an older woman sitting on the couch and opens her bedroom door. Inside is a twin bed and a playpen. Frances introduces the blond baby as her daughter Emily. She explains that the woman in the living room watches Emily as long as Frances pays for groceries and helps with rent. She figures, correctly, that the best way to take care of her child is to finish high school and get a job. She takes cafeteria money here and there and says she's pay it back.

In the Chapel squadroom, Doug looks over Paulie's file from school. His admission forms say he's 18, but prison records give his age as 22. "That's pathetic, the guy's 22 and still in high school," says Harry. Paulie's record is for breaking and entering, grand theft auto, and burglary. Harry checks his watch and asks, "Aren't you supposed to pick Clavo up from daycare?" "Not until 5:30," says Doug. Harry tells him it's 10 minutes 'til 6:00. Doug drops the file and sprints out of the chapel.

At daycare, Clavo is the only kid left in the classroom. He gives Doug an impression of his hand in clay. Doug apologizes.

At the Taft guidance office, Tom is helping Mr. Breck reorganize his files. The counselor appreciates the help. Tom tells him he likes the idea of a job counting as class credit. Tom asks if a lot of the kids have been to juvie. "Some of them," Mr. Breck replies, "A lot of them got kicked out of school for ditching. Some of them went to class every day and failed out anyway, like Frances."

Tom thinks Frances seems smart and asks what happened. "A lot of personal problems," replies Mr. Breck. He reveals he was also her counselor when she went to regular public school. Frances never missed class, even in summer school, and has realized since coming to Taft how gifted she is. Tom asks if Frances missed school when she was pregnant. Mr. Breck says Frances had a lot of problems, but pregnancy wasn't on the list and adds, "Maybe you were thinking of Maggie."

Tom is helping Doug with dishes at his house. Clavo's handprint is on display stuck to a nearby cabinet. He says Emily isn't Frances's kid; a couple reported their 6-month-old baby missing and the description matches Emily. Not only that, the couple in question are Frances' parents. Doug wonders why Frances would steal her own sister from their own parents. Tom hasn't told Cap'n Rufus about the kidnapping. "Why do you always do this to me?" asks Doug. Tom wants to make sure he's got the facts right. "What do you want, a signed confession?" asks Doug. He leaves to check on Clavo. Tom says he owes Doug one; I'll say he does!

At Taft, Mr. Breck passes back math tests. He praises Marty and Paulie for their outstanding grades. After school, Doug asks Paulie for help in math. Paulie says no at first but eventually agrees. Doug asks if they can study at Paulie's house because he and Tom are living in the car.

In pottery class, Tom talks to Frances about Emily. Frances admits that Emily is her sister and she isn't worried about their parents finding out about the kidnapping; they don't even know where Frances is. "The only thing that mattered was getting Emily away from them," says Frances. Their dad used to hit Frances with a tennis racket and her mom once hit her with a hot curling iron.

Tom asks if Frances ever tried to get help. She did, but nobody would help her, so she ran away. When she found out about Emily, Frances couldn't leave her with their parents. Emily is happy now and Frances will do her best to raise her.

Doug arrives at Paulie's place, which looks like a basement or shed that's a hoarder's paradise. Paulie vaguely states that he collects things, including a working Cyberball arcade game, tape decks, and speakers. Paulie claims to have a night job and offers to let Doug go with him to work. Doug tells him that he has an appointment at 5:30 with his probation officer. Paulie agrees to let Doug go with him the following night. Doug asks if they're gonna study. Paulie has to see if he can find a table.

At Casa de Penhall, Doug has moved a small bed into his room. Clavo is sitting on the floor playing with toy construction equipment. The doorbell rings. Clavo asks who's there. Doug tells him it's some babysitters he's interviewing; Clavo can call if he needs anything. "Dude!" Clavo says, flashing the hang-loose sign. Doug smiles, gives him the sign back, and rolls in a toy fire truck.

Doug asks the elderly lady sitting on his couch if she likes kids. She shrugs. Doug asks why she wants the job. "Money," the old lady replies. Doug says, "Well, that's...very honest. Thank you so much for coming." 

Next, a guy who looks like Mr. Rogers tells Doug he's good with kids because he likes them so much. He seems the type that may like kids a little too much. His hours are flexible as long as he has notice. Throughout the interview, the guy periodically makes dog noises.

A young woman is interested in the job because it will get her out of the house. She's recovering from a bad break-up and doesn't want to be around when her ex calls. 

An old woman puffing a cigarette tells Doug she adores children. Doug gently says he doesn't want anyone smoking around Clavo. The old lady says she can quit anytime. 

The next interviewee is another young woman. She asks Clavo's name and age. Doug tells her she's the first one who's wanted to know and that Clavo is 5. She asks to meet him.

In Rufus's office, Tom has confessed to knowing about the kidnapping and knows he should've told the captain sooner. Cap'n Rufus hasn't found anything to back up Frances's story about abuse. She never called the police in her hometown or went to the ER with suspicious injuries; the neighbors never called the police either. Rufus states the obvious: Emily needs to be returned to their parents and Frances needs to be arrested for kidnapping.

Tom worries that Emily will end up in the hospital if they take her back. He wants Cap'n Rufus to go with him when he interviews the parents. Rufus reminds Tom of the dangers of thinking you're always right.

That night, Paulie asks if Doug is sure he wants to go to work with him. Doug is sure. They drive off and park at a store. "Are we gonna knock this place over?" Doug asks. Paulie says, "If I did, they'd fire me." He goes on that he's the assistant manager on graveyard shift. They're short on box boys and thought Doug might want to apply. Doug can't believe it.

Cap'n Rufus and Tom go to a nice middle-class neighborhood to interview Frances and Emily's parents. Mom cries and her husband comforts her that the girls are okay. Rufus says they'll give Emily to them that night and will arrest Frances for kidnapping. Pressing charges is up to them. Mom doesn't understand why Frances did this. "I think you know why," says Tom, "Frances has spoken to me very openly about the history of abuse here."

"You don't mean in this home?" asks Dad. Cap'n Rufus tells them that Frances claims both parents beat her and that a social worker will be assigned to them if necessary to keep an eye on Emily. Dad says hurting Frances would be unthinkable. Tom wants to tell Frances himself what's going to happen.

Back in the store parking lot, Doug tells Paulie that he's a cop and he knows how old Paulie really is. He can't stay in high school forever. Paulie admits that he doesn't want to have to act like an adult. If he leaves Taft, he'll lose his support system. Doug tells Paulie that life after high school could be better. "What if it isn't?" asks the younger man.

Tom goes to Frances' apartment. Baby Emily is crying. Frances asks him to come back another time. Tom says he can't.

Doug arrives at home to find Clavo on the couch watching something involving a heavily breathing woman on TV. Doug covers his eyes and demands, "Where's the babysitter?" Clavo points to the bedroom. Doug shuts off the TV. Clavo turns around to see what's gonna happen next.

Doug knocks on his bedroom door. We can hear the bed creaking inside. "You have 5 seconds to get in yer clothes and get outta here before I light your freakin' underwear on fire!" shouts Doug. He starts counting down. The babysitter and her boyfriend dash out of the apartment in their underwear. Doug picks Clavo up and gives him a hug.

Tom and Cap'n Rufus bring Mom and Dad to the apartment where Emily and Frances are living. Dad asks Frances to come live with them again. Frances snaps that she won't. "Frances, you know we never hurt you. Why did you tell these officers that we did?" asks Dad. Frances actually ran away because she was tired of her parents saying she was a lazy, irresponsible screw-up: "You never believed in me! And you'll never believe in Emily!" "Honey, I'm sorry," Mom says tearfully. Frances doesn't want to hear it. Everyone except Tom leaves. He comforts Frances as she starts to cry.

On the Taft campus, Tom tells Frances that her parents aren't pressing charges. He thinks their parents care more about Emily than Frances thinks they do. Maybe she can work things out with their parents. Emily will think about it.

In Rufus's office, the captain is practicing his putting technique when Doug enters. Harry and Judy caught the person who was ripping off the office building: the head of building security. Doug asks to be put on desk duty because he can't find a good babysitter for Clavo. Fuller agrees to put Doug on a desk.

Upstairs, Doug joins Tom in the locker room. He rolls deodorant under his armpits over top of his shirt. Tom thinks it's time for retirement. He and Doug do their elaborate handshake, then Tom jumps into his partner's arms Scooby-Doo style. End of episode.

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