Written by Rosemary Mason. Tx 25th March 1985
Mr Smart explains to E1 about the new timetables and homework arrangements. Natasha (Patsy Palmer) has possibly her first line in the series, which sees her succinctly sum everything up. “Bit of a fag, innit?”
It’s a system that seems to be deliberately confusing, so it’s possibly not surprising that Mr Smart mistakenly heads off for the upper school, convinced that’s where he should be. It’s just a slight problem that it was Miss Washington who persuaded him to do so and when Mr McCartney points out that she was mistaken (mere seconds after Mr Smart has exited the staff room in a hurry) neither decide to rush out and stop him. So you can’t really blame him for being a little miffed with Miss Washington later ….
There’s a fairly rare glimpse of the upper school corridors, which look incredibly dirty and run down. But Mr Smart doesn’t haunt them for long as Mrs McClusky soon sends him back down to the lower school. We haven’t had the old “two classes of pupils try to fit in one room” routine for a little while, so it was clearly overdue an airing.
This gives us a rare opportunity to see virtually all of E1 and N4 together at the same time (normally they tend to have their own episodes with minimal crossovers). E1 might already be present in the room, but Banksie doesn’t believe that possession is nine tenths of the law. Instead, he contends that since they’re older, they must prevail. He makes this point forcibly to Miss Washington, which only serves to highlight the flaws in his character.
The stand-up row between Miss Washington and Mr Smart is good fun, as is Gonch’s plan to bug the staff room. He’s convinced this will enable them to identify the thieves once and for all (presumably he doesn’t consider that they might be able to rob in silence). Once again, security at Grange Hill is shown to be lax in the extreme as the staff room door isn’t locked, enabling Gonch to able to enter and secure a Walkman (hired off Vince for the princely sum of fifty pence per week) under the coffee table. With the tape switched to record, what can possibly go wrong? Mr Baxter making his way to the staff room is a bit of a problem, but Hollo, on guard duty, is able to distract him quite neatly.
The first fruits of their bugging is another episode highlight. Gonch mentions “Grange Hill Watergate”, although quite how many children would have picked up on this reference is debatable. One for the older members of the family watching I guess. They manage to hear Mr Smart asking Miss Washington if she’d like to go out with him for a meal (he’s clearly recovered his equanimity), although this tender moment is cut short after Mr Baxter barges in and complains that once again they’ve finished off all the coffee!
Given that the longest cassette tape available would have been a C120, the most they could hope to record would be just an hour, so it’s not surprising that this is the only useful(?) part of the recording. Clearly if they’re going to catch the thieves red-handed they’re going to have to be very, very lucky ….
Relationships, both real and fictional are key to this episode. Annette and Fay are both shown to have less than ideal boyfriends, although it’s interesting to see that they react in different ways to being left on the sidelines (something which is mirrored later during rehearsals for the school play). Annette is quite happy to hang around, watching Stewpot play football (to his obvious irritation) whilst Fay (once Jean-Paul joins in with the same game) is much less tolerant and heads off home alone.
Elsewhere in the episode, Mr Baxter pops up to remind Fay, and the audience, that her previously impressive sporting career is suffering. And is Jean-Paul worth it? He has inevitable Gallic charm, but apart from that he’s portrayed as rather feckless. And all the time Julian stands on the sidelines, pining. Mmm, maybe all will come right in the end.
The school play, centered around conflict between the mods and rockers in the 1960’s, takes shape. Given what we’ve already seen, it can’t be a coincidence that both Mr Smart and some of the pupils aren’t terribly impressed that the plot is rather male-dominant (reducing the females to little more than appendages, standing on the sidelines). Jackie, pencilled in to play the object of both Zammo and Banksie’s affection (perfect casting!) admits that having two boys fighting over her leaves her cold.