Monday, September 8, 2008

TSLOTAT: Episode 10: "Back to School Special"

Welcome to the Jawsome Olde Tyme Revue; we got fun and games. We got everything you want, and extensive fanbase, we know the names. Today's revue is The Secret Life of the American Teenager episode 10: "Back to School Special," the penultimate episode of the first season. The episode was written by Caroline Kepnes and directed by Keith Truesdell, and if I'm not mistaken, this is the first time that series creator Brenda Hampton hasn't had any sort of writing credit on an episode.

It's the morning of Amy's first day at her new slut school. Molly Ringwald and George (Amy's dad; I've decided to start using his name now that I know what it is) have a heated (no pun intended!) argument over the proper time to apply cheese to lasagna relative to the heating of said lasagna, and then she's off to Chicago because Mimsy somehow got on the wrong flight and is in danger of ending up in "Tim-BUK-tu" (George's words). George tries to send the girls to school at 6:30 and suggests that they eat a bar of soap for breakfast.

After the opening titles, Ben finds Henry sleeping in a pile of his own filth and wakes him up by crashing cymbals. Henry has really let himself go in the one day since Alice dumped him, and he's become smitten with Ashley after staring at her all night. He explains: "I'm conflicted! Ashley's pretty, but Ashley isn't Alice, and Alice is Alice, but Alice isn't Ashley. I think I ate too many preservatives." I've taken the liberty of preparing a chart illustrating these relationships.

Grace's dad enters their kitchen, casting shadows from the sunlight in two different directions. TSLOTAT takes place on Tatooine: confirmed! Grace wants to invite Jack to lunch because although she really likes Ricky, he's with Adrian (and every other girl in the school), so she's decided to settle for the only other guy who's been willing to go out with her (and that was only because his stepdad told him to). Her dad smugs it up as usual, declaring that the lunch is actually about sex, because "It's not just food... ever." To accentuate the point, the camera tilts down to the sandwich Grace is making, which we now know is more than just a sandwich. (Note: I'm not sure if I should count this as a sandwich-makeus interruptus scene, as featured in "Love for Sale" and "Absent," because Grace doesn't ever really stop making the sandwich. Your call.)

Adrian is flaunting her jubblies again after a night of the devil's business with Ricky, but he spoils the mood by mentioning that Amy's having his baby, which causes Adrian to close her robe in indignation. They argue about who has more daddy issues, and Ricky says that he wants to be involved with his kid so they won't grow up like her. Adrian attacks him and then they start making out. Hate sex! But before they can get down to business, the doorbell rings several times. It's Adrian's dad, who's like "Whoa, I don't remember those."

After a commercial, there's a bunch of dialogue in Spanish that I don't understand. All I picked up was that something is important. Adrian's dad kicks Ricky out. It turns out that this guy's an assistant district attorney and a freelance asshole. Even though in the last episode, which as far as I can tell took place last night, he told Adrian to stay away from him because he had a family and he'd made an agreement with her mom, he's now changed his tune completely and has made an agreement with her mom that she's going to move in with his family. The dude is so pissed off that Adrian wanted to meet him that he's going to punish her by having her move in with him, and presumably try to cure her of her rebellious ways. This doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. How is it that the reasons he gave for not being able to see her at all last night have now become the reasons that he should live with her? And furthermore, what's the point? Sure, he'll get in maybe a year of two of being a dick to her, but she's already pretty firmly set in her ways, and once she turns 18 he won't be able to do anything to her. But beyond that, why would he even care? He's ignored her for this many years and suddenly he decides she's turned out badly and needs his influence in her life because her mom did a crummy job raising her? What a complete tool. Fuck this guy!

Madison and Lauren talk about how Lauren made out with Ricky, and the phrases "made out with" and "tell her" are repeated several dozen times. Here's some sample dialogue:
L: Why would I tell her I made out with him? She didn't tell us when she had sex with him. So why would I tell her if I made out with him? It was just making out. Oh no... you're not gonna tell her?
M: No, I'm not gonna tell her. But you should. You're afraid to tell her, aren't you?
L: Maybe.
M: I'd be afraid to tell her that I made out with the father of her baby. I'm afraid to tell her that you made out with the father of her baby. So I'm not gonna tell her.
L: Well if you're not gonna tell her, then why should I tell her?
M: Lyle's cussing!
Then Jason shows up, as foreshadowed by a shot with a lot of negative space on the right side of the frame for him to walk into. He takes these two to school (even though they're already at school) about how they were crappy friends to Amy because they told everyone she was knocked up and got her sent off to slut school. Grace pops in to say that it's terrible that people call it slut school and that Amy's not going to be attending Grant High School anymore, then wanders around saying good morning to random people in the hall. Then Alice walks by wearing a short skirt and talking to Jack about Dan Marino, then defining the word "earnest" for him. They hold hands and skip off into the sunset, shocking and disgusting Grace and Henry. As a grim finale, Amy shows up at school, apparently having been dissuaded from going to slut school by George. Ben runs up to her and is all "blah blah mush mush blah."

Amy is all moping around about how she doesn't want to be at either this school or the slut school, because you know, she's received such harsh treatment from her peers. Oh, wait... she hasn't! Despite everyone at school knowing about her pregnancy, we've yet to see a single instance of anyone reacting to it with anything but support or indifference. I guess the writers must have realized the flimsiness of Amy's reasoning for not wanting to go to that school, because in the next scene we see some guy we've never seen before beating up Ben for calling it "alternative extension school for independent women" instead of slut school.

Madison and Lauren are still debating whether to tell Amy that Lauren made out with Ricky, and Lauren is like, "I don't exactly trust either of us to know what the right thing to do is anymore. I'm gonna call my dad." Get ready for a shocking twist, because Lauren's dad turns out to be...

WINSTON ZEDDMORE! OMG, Ricky totally made out with his therapist's daughter! When she tells him this, he does the same classic "stare at the phone in disbelief and then hang up on the person" gag that Amy's dad when he found out she was pregnant. He panicked! Lauren thinks she got disconnected, and Amy gives her the evil ojo (I think we're supposed to assume that Ricky told her that he made out with Lauren, but I'm not sure).

Molly Ringwald calls Amy and reacts with surprise when she answers. She starts asking questions about the new school and Amy stutters up a storm and says she has to go, revealing that something's up. So Molly Ringwald calls George and asks him if he talked her out of going to the slut school. He crinkles some plastic that conveniently happens to be there and says, "Bad connection!" Molly Ringwald says, "You're on a land line," even though she's on a cell phone. George is like, "Aaah, I can't hear you!" and hangs up, chuckling to himself about how he fooled her.

George and Grace's dad (George's ex-wife, in case you forgot) are both in the principal's office, verbally sparring with such witty ripostes as "blah, blah, blah, blah" and "not that it's any of your beeswax!" Things get more awkward when Adrian's mom shows up. When Adrian's mom finds out that Grace's mom is George's ex, she flips out and is like, "So you've been married before. You never told me. So I guess you've cheated before. You've ruined a marriage before." Apparently, she's okay with ruining other people's marriages, but only if they haven't ruined previous marriages. Interesting moral code. But there's a twist! It was actually Grace's mom that cheated on George! OMG! Grace stops by and overhears this and George tries to cover it up. Everybody leaves except for George, who chats with the sassy receptionist until Winston shows up and asks her to pull Ricky out of class. She seems to have a thing for Winston, as she starts acting all sultry and says, "Mmmmhmm."

Winston introduces himself to George as Lauren's dad, and George says, "No you're not. I've met him. You're not Lauren's dad. What's going on around here?" But it turns out he's her real dad and she lives with her stepfather. Then George is like, "What's the big emergency with Ricky Underwood? You sure Lauren's not pregnant?" and Winston's like, "Excuse me" and turns to look in a slightly different direction so he doesn't have to talk to George anymore.

Adrian and her mom yell at each other in Spanish. Maybe this dialogue contains the secrets to making the Adrian's dad plot make sense, but I doubt it. Pretty soon they go from angry to mushy and Adrian's mom promises not to let her dad take her after all, but she still thinks they should help her "make some changes." Mark Molina provides his expert counseling by nodding when Adrian looks at him.

Ricky tells Grace that Ben got beaten up because it's stupid for Amy to be in school here, so Amy, who was hiding behind the curtains, emerges and is like, "I know that, and I won't be coming back!" Then she leaves. Ricky convinces Grace that because Jack has a new girlfriend and Adrian may be leaving school to live with her father, the two of them should give it a go. Grace considers this (pictured) as we go to a commercial.

Molly Ringwald calls George back to bitch at him for not taking Amy to the slut school. She's hanging out in a bar because the hotel in Chicago was overbooked, and I guess they have rooms by the hour, so she's waiting for one to open up. She hides her wedding ring as some guy approaches and recognizes her. Uh oh! Back at home, George admits that he probably should have put the cheese on the lasagna before heating it up. He wonders to Ashley where Ben's sidekick (Henry, though George continues to call him Harry) was when Ben got beaten up, and Ashley says, "He's cute, but he's a geek. He was probably plugged into something when he missed the fight." That statement will turn out to be more accurate than she knows.

Winston fires Ricky as a patient for making out with his daughter, and also threatens his teeth.

Jack shows up at Grace's and explains his motivations for going out with Alice: "We just have a lot in common. We both love football; we both wanna have sex, but not with each other; and we wanted to make you and Henry jealous." I thought Alice made it pretty clear before that she didn't want to have sex; she was happy just whackin' it to Modern Bride magazine. And I'm pretty sure that she never liked football before and that was just made up for convenience in this episode. Whatever the case, Jack has once again decided that he wants to date Grace again, but Grace shoots him down. She also takes off her chastity ring, telling Tom that she thinks it was hypocritical of her parents to ask her to wear it when they probably had sex before they were married. She says she still plans to live her life as a Christian, but come on -- the ring is off and she's mad at her parents. The stage is set for Grace gone wild.

Now we finally find out what Henry was plugged into: Alice. They totally did it! I'm not sure how they suddenly got from "maybe on your birthday after we're married if you don't beg" to "let's buy a family size box of Erotex condoms" (seen in the picture), especially while they were broken up, but there they are. They both think it was a bad idea because it wasn't that good, which proves that they were never in love, though Henry thinks using a ribbed condom (for her pleasure) might help. Alice cries.

Adrian has decided to run away, and she wants Ricky to go with her. Ricky is like, "What? That's stupid." Adrian's like, "Fine, go be a Christian or whatever. I don't need you!" Then they make out. Hate sex!

Amy helps Ben hold a steak to his eye as the Sausage King extols the virtues of meat and implores Amy to keep going to her regular school: "Otherwise this was all for nothin'. I mean life is tough, and that's why it's good to have someone you love by your side holdin' your hand, so you can walk away from the rest of the world together."

The next day, Amy and Ben walk away from the rest of the world and into Grant High School together. The maudlinness gets cranked up even more as Grace comes up to them and says Amy should never feel alone there and that she and all of Amy's friends will walk her to class. Amy doesn't think she has any friends, and Grace is like, "I bet you do!" Oh man, what does she have planned? They start walking, and a couple of marching band members play their instruments. Others join in, and soon Amy and Grace are leading a whole parade down the hallway to class. That'll stop her feeling self-conscious!

Back to school, special.

Final thoughts: What a roller coaster ride! Seriously, this was the best episode since "Caught!", possibly even better. We now know that all those episodes where nothing much happened were because they were saving it all up for this breathtaking showstopper. The only thing missing was the paper-writing nerd. It would have been cool if they'd made him the guy who beat up Ben or something. But aside from that, this episode had it all, and it was the first time that I've been genuinely excited about things that happened. Winston was Lauren's dad! Henry and Alice got their collective bone on! Grace's mom cheated on Amy's dad! Amy's mom might cheat on Amy's dad as well! Grace took off her chastity ring! Adrian walked around in her bra again! Ben got what was coming to him! If every episode were like this, this show could go from one that I watch just to make fun of to one that I watch partially to make fun of and partially because I'm actually into the story (like Degrassi). Next up is the season finale, and this is going to be a tough act to follow.

Elaborate flowchart:
New additions include Henry and Alice boinking, Winston (Ken Fields) fathering Lauren, and Alice sort of barely dating Jack (represented by a dotted green line).

On the next TSLOTAT: I don't know; I haven't seen it yet. But here are my predictions: Grace fucks Ricky, Amy's mom fucks that guy from the bar, Adrian runs away but then changes her mind and submits to her dad, the Sausage King gives somebody advice, and Ben says a lot of mushy stuff to Amy and they ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Also, apparently, Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson guest stars.

P.S. It seems that ABC Family will be doing a marathon of all the episodes leading up to the season finale, starting Tuesday at 3 p.m. (Eastern). If you've been reading these revues but haven't actually seen the show, this is a good chance to get up to speed, so Tivo it or something. They're also doing the same thing tonight at 6, but without the finale.

  • "Technically you were only a slut for two and a half minutes... or less." -- Ashley
  • "So you're gonna offer yourself up to him over a sandwich." -- Grace's dad (but he's talking to Grace, not Adrian)
  • "I'm sleeping with your mother." -- Grace's dad
  • "But then I remember, he has to sleep with you and I'm okay! [fist pump] Ha ha ha ha!" -- George to Grace's mom
  • "Maybe I was just curious as to where I got my brain from, 'cause it wasn't from you!" -- Adrian to her mom
  • "You're in a bar, huh? Well la-dee-da." -- George
  • "I hate myself." -- George


nearby said...

These jawsome revues deserve comments.

distant said...

I agree.