Thursday, September 11, 2008

TSLOTAT: Episode 11: "Just Say No"

You're entering another dimension, extensive fanbase, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead -- your next stop, the Jawsome Olde Tyme Revue.

Submitted for your approval, The Secret Life of the American Teenager episode 11: "Just Say No," the first season's ultimate episode, not by virtue of its quality but by virtue of its being last. This episode features the triumphant return of Jason Priestley as director and was written by everyone who has ever written for this show (okay, that's a slight exaggeration.  Really, it was just Jeff Olsen, Caroline Kepnes, Elaine Arata, and Brenda Hampton).

We start off with a bang as a whole bunch of stuff happens at once. Adrian and Mark Molina have both disappeared, Ricky tells Amy that he made out with Lauren, Lauren calls Amy a stupid slut in so many words, Amy and Lauren try to pull Madison apart like a wishbone, and Madison tells everybody that Ricky is a mental patient (I forgot to mention that she and Lauren found that out last episode). And this is all just in the cold open!

Getting into the episode proper, Adrian is driving.

Ben goes to Mark Molina's office and finds a weird guy who wears a T-shirt of a vest and tie. He claims to be a shape-shifter and says, "Power is not given, it's taken, and I'm taking this opportunity to compete with Joe." Who's Joe? I'm not sure, but I'm hoping that that's the name of the previously unidentified paper-writing nerd, because this guy has a similar M.O. of being a nerd who sells people information. He's going through Mark Molina's files and trying to get people to buy their permanent records.

Jack tries to warn Grace that Ricky is crazy because he's in therapy, but she's not convinced because she's been in therapy too. Jack tells her to keep that quiet: "You're a Christian and you've been to therapy. You're a crazy Christian. You really want that gettin' out?" Buddy, I think people are pretty well aware of that already. Jack corners Ricky and gives him some tips for getting into Grace's pants (basically, don't bother), to which Ricky scoffs and calls him an amateur. Even Grace's "virgin force field" is nothing to a skilled sociopath like Ricky.

As Ben is walking down the hall minding his own business, Henry pounces on him and tells him that he had sex with Alice, then makes a weird noise. But Ben already talked to Alice, so he knows that the sex was terrible. Alice had decreed, however, that they're going to keep trying until it gets better. She stomps her foot and tells Henry that he has to "get back up on the horse" (her), but Henry runs away, terrified. Deprived of sexual prey, Alice turns her attentions to Ben, growls at him, and tries to experience his sex life vicariously, but since he has none, she just delivers a big run-on sentence and abandons him.

Grace bonds with Ricky over their mutual craziness. She gets all squishy and says she wants to kiss him, and they make a date. Then Ricky hits on Olympic gold-medal gymnast Shawn Johnson, who apparently attends Grant High School. They make some sly references to her not having been around recently because she was in Beijing. Ricky thinks to himself, "A gymnast, Ricky. Think of the flexibility! You stand on the threshold to the magical world of sensual delights that most men dare not dream of." Shawn Johnson rolls her eyes, and Ricky does a cartwheel.

Adrian is still driving.

Back at school, the shape-shifter is selling Jack his permanent record (Jack is upset because it says he's emotionally immature), but Adrian's dad shows up to shit all over everything (figuratively). The shape-shifter tells him what a slut Adrian is and leaves. For some reason, Adrian's dad decides it'll be fun to sit at Mark Molina's desk and impersonate him. Madison comes in and, mistaking him for the new guidance counselor, tells him about how she feels guilty for telling everyone that Ricky is crazy and that Adrian ran off with Mark Molina, and also mentions what a slut Adrian is.

Somehow, Madison comes to the conclusion that the fact that Adrian's father is looking for her proves that she really did run off with Mark Molina, so she tells Jack that, and Jack asks her if she thinks he needs therapy for being emotionally immature. He says he can't talk to his father because he's too much like a surgeon, so Jack can't let him see what's inside of him. Madison agrees that she can't tell her dad anything, then decides that that must be why she tells everyone else everything and runs off yelling, "I think I'm healed!" Jack is Jesus.

Adrian's dad interrogates Grace, who reprimands him for being such a horrible father, and Ricky, who's like "you got nothin' on me, copper." Meanwhile, Adrian gets pulled over by Officer Peter Pan, who calls her dad, who dismisses Ricky and tells Peter Pan to "hold her. I don't care how you hold her, just hold her till I get there." Ricky calls Adrian and tells her to watch out because someone just called her father. Officer Peter Pan returns to Adrian's car and embraces her tenderly.

In the bathroom, Lauren apologizes to Amy for implying that she's a stupid slut, and is like, "Oh, by the way, Ricky was sexually abused as a child. I'm so much smarter than you that I figured that out and got him to tell me about it in confidence," then goes on to tell her how lucky she is to be pregnant at fifteen. Because Lauren is so smart, she's figured out that making you feel sorry for him is how Ricky gets into your pants. Meanwhile, Ricky makes Grace feels sorry for him and gets into her pants. Well, her mouth. Er, his tongue. In her mouth. They make out.

Adrian comes bouncing in to bitch at her dad, who tells her that he just enrolled her in a private all-girls school and steals her car keys. (He's also developed psychic powers, which is how he's able to see that there's a suitcase in the trunk.) Adrian points out that she's all grown up and he's too late, and he responds by being like, "Oh yeah? Well... your friends suck! Even Grace! Plus you're a slut and that makes me uncomfortable. Go to this private school because it's the only way you'll get into a good college even though it's already been established that you have excellent grades here. Also, you should be a politician or a judge. What you want to do with your life is irrelevant." Dick.

Later, Grace comes over to Adrian's to ask her for permission to go out with Ricky. Adrian gives her an ultimatum: "Either you're friends with me, or you sleep with Ricky." That's a pretty high cost for not being friends with her. Grace thinks she can just make out with Ricky, but Adrian doesn't buy it and gives her a bunch of Erotex condoms, which Grace sniffs.

Amy and Ben are both on their laptops reading the Wikipedia article on sexual abuse. Ben takes this opportunity to shoehorn in another reference to his dead mother. Talking about Ricky's molestation gets Amy so hot in the biscuit that she offers herself up to Ben, but he's worried that her baby will be born with a dent in its head. Even though they learned from Wikipedia that that wouldn't happen, Ben wants to wait until after she's had the kid and is all blown out, so they decide to pass on the sex for now. But then they start making out pretty hot and heavy.  I was hoping they'd cut back to them in bed, smoking, saying, "Oops, I guess we got a little carried away!" but the episode ends before we see them again, so it's left to the imagination.  What do you, the viewers at home, think?

Meanwhile, Ashley and George are making fun of Amy's poetry ("You are the full moon at midnight, sending the sweetness of light into my cup of tea" -- I disagree with Ashley; that sounds pretty sexual to me). George tries to give Ashley the sex talk, but she has internet access, so she already knows more about it than he does. But he's already made up his mind to talk about something, so he tells her about the day she was born, when Molly Ringwald acted like a prima donna and refused to give birth at a hospital that wasn't her personal favorite one.

In the series' most disgusting scene yet, Grace's dad is topless. He tells Tom not to hire any more prostitutes because they're scuffing up the parquet floor. Tom tells him not to judge other people because he and Grace's mom cheated on George. Ohh SNAP! (Note: I couldn't include a screenshot of this scene because it's too gross for human consumption. Instead, please enjoy this picture of a talking tub of butter substitute.)

Ricky is at Grace's house baking snickerdoodles. After seeing the big pile of Erotex condoms in her purse, he knows that he's clear for landing, so he starts sucking on her fingers. Grace is like, "Does this count as oral?" (Seriously.) They start to make out some more, but Grace's mom catches them in flagrante delicto.

Speaking of flagrante delicto and things being in other things, Henry and Alice totally did it again, but apparently they haven't made much progress. They both agree that they'd rather be whackin' it.

Molly Ringwald comes home all dressed up and being nice to George, so he knows something's up. He accuses her of cheating on him and she's like, "I did not, and besides, you know, what if I did?" which means she totally did. They start talking about how they don't want to have sex with each other anymore. The most interesting thing is that Amy was conceived under a full moon on a surfboard and Ashley was conceived in a graveyard at midnight (on Daniel Hofstadler's grave). Apparently they used to be into some pretty freaky stuff. But it turns out that all of their marital strife is because one time, George wanted a bag of Cheese Nuffs (?) instead of an apple in his lunch. That drove Molly Ringwald crazy. It was the beginning of the end of their marriage, and now she wants to split up for good. George sits on the couch and splays, then eats a Cheeto, which is probably what a Cheese Nuff is supposed to be. Just say no to Cheese Nuffs.

Elaborate flowchart:
A lot of things were left ambiguous in this episode, so I only added stuff that we know for sure. I was really hoping I'd get to add Shawn Johnson to the chart, but alas, it was not to be. :(

Final thoughts: After the non-stop thrill ride that was last week's episode, this one was a bit of a letdown, especially with all the "season finale" hype, but it wasn't too bad. My main problem with it was that it felt very uneven, with a lot of fun, zany stuff going on in the first half, then it suddenly got heavy and lugubrious in the second. It was as if halfway through, they said "okay, okay, that was a bit of fun, but now we have to move on to the serious business." Also, for a season finale, it left a lot of things unresolved, but the things weren't big enough to make exciting cliffhangers, so it just feels unsatisfying. We really have to wait until January to find out Grace's mom's reaction to her making out with Ricky (I'm guessing it won't be positive), and whether Adrian will go to the all-girls school (I doubt it, but it would open the door to a lot of potential hot lesbo action), and whether Ben and Amy boned, and whether Molly Ringwald and that guy boned, and who that shape-shifter was, and what really happened to Mark Molina? Ending the season on the parents was also an odd choice since, let's face it, no one really cares about them. I get the feeling that this wasn't intended as a "season finale;" that they produced a full-length season and for some reason ABC Family decided to split it in two chunks, and they arbitrarily decided to cut it off at this point even though this was really just intended to be a normal episode. If that's the case, I think last week's episode would have made a much better fake finale, but whatevs.

Despite all that griping, it was a pretty solid episode. The Shawn Johnson guest appearance was hilarious in its complete gratuitousness. The shape-shifter was a fairly amusing addition, although I don't really understand why they created a new character for that instead of just having the usual paper-writing nerd do it. Maybe that guy was unavailable because he's in such high demand. Madison was more likable than usual in her scenes with Adrian's dad and Jack. Plus, lots of hot make-outs.

And with that, the first "season" of TSLOTAT -- and by extension, the Jawsome Olde Tyme Revue's coverage of it -- comes to an end. Over the weeks, we've seen this show go from horrible to a bit rubbish but ultimately lovable. Even though I watched the show primarily to make fun of it, I did actually grow to like it on some level. Stockholm syndrome? Perhaps, but it does actually have moments that are legitimately, unironically good. I'm not too proud to admit that. Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed these TSLOTAT revues. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I do intend to revue the next season (by which I mean the second half of the first season) when it starts airing in January. In the meantime, I hope you'll stick around as we revue other strange and wonderful things.

On the next TSLOTAT: I don't know! I guess I should have retired this feature once I caught up with the revues of episodes I'd already seen, but it's too late for that now.  But I can tell you this: according to, the next episode is entitled "The Secret Wedding of the American Teenager." What could this mean?! See you in January!

  • "BAM! It's a virgin force field that cannot be penetrated." -- Jack
  • "WE'RE GONNA TRY IT AGAIN!" -- Alice
  • "I would think that she's reached that time in the pregnancy when sex is supposed to be really good I just thought that maybe she would wanna do it I mean since you two are in love and everything bye Ben!" -- Alice
  • "I'm having trouble keeping my mouth shut." -- Madison
  • "Sir, it's Officer Peter Pan again." -- Officer Peter Pan
  • "Does this count as oral?" -- Grace

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