Thursday, September 4, 2008

TSLOTAT: Episode 7: "Absent"

Listen up, extensive fanbase. After writing the last The Secret Life of the American Teenager revue, I was feeling a little burned out because that episode was so bad. I was having trouble getting up the motivation to write the next revue, especially since I couldn't even remember anything about the episode (not a good sign). So I went to (formerly tvtome) to try to jog my memory. I wasn't very successful, but while I was there, I couldn't help noticing the reviews for the previous episode, which I deemed the worst episode ever (up to that point). The worst review gave it an 8.0/Great, and they ranged up to 10.0/Perfect, with somebody elaborating: "It was one of the best episodes. It might have been the best episode." The same user gave the real best episode, "Caught!", a 6.9/Fair.

I have to say, this rattled me to my very core. Okay, I can understand that if for some reason you were seriously emotionally invested in this show and not watching it primarily to make fun of it, you might think "Caught!" was a bit silly. But even in that case, there's no way you can tell me that "Love for Sale" was a good episode!

The point of the story is that this experience reaffirmed my commitment to writing these revues, because if people are going around proclaiming that to be the best episode, the world needs someone to set the record straight. I may not be the hero they deserve, but I'm the hero they need.

Okay, let's get down to business. Today's episode is "Absent." One notable thing about it is that it's the first episode on which a writer other than Brenda Hampton is credited; this time, she shares that credit with Jeffrey Rodgers, apparently another 7th Heaven alumnus. And the director is Anson Williams, better known as Potsie from Happy Days. Seriously! As shady as these characters may be, at least they're fresh meat; let's hope that they can breathe some new life into this show's already tired premise.

Picture it: Amy's house. Amy's embarrassed because she's fat, so she wants to quit school and go live with her grandmother. Molly Ringwald tries to reassure her by telling her that she's not alone, followed immediately by Ashley walking in and saying, "We're alone!" I'm not sure what she's referring to, but I'll let it slide because I like that structure of joke so much. Plus, it's quickly followed by this exchange:

Amy: "You're gonna be late for school."
Ashley: "Yeah, well at least I'm not gonna be late for my period."

As the paper-writing nerd would say, "ohhh SNAP!" That Ashley is developing quite the acid tongue!

After the opening titles, there's another long coffee-making scene. Just so you guys don't think I'm kidding about these coffee scenes, I took the liberty of timing this one, and there are fully 48 seconds between the establishing shot and the first line of dialogue. My fiancee hypothesizes that this is supposed to be a sort of "parallel structure" thing with the scene at the beginning of "Love for Sale," which also featured Amy staring at somebody for a long time while they made coffee. It was weird and unnecessarily drawn-out in that episode too. Maybe the editor just really likes coffee.

Amy's dad apologizes to her for not having talked to her more about where babies come from, though she seems to have figured that out pretty well on her own. They cry and Amy's dad says maybe it's time he moved back home.

Ricky is talking to his social worker and Babu Bhatt, who tells Ricky that he's a very bad man for not taking responsibility for knocking Amy up. Meanwhile, the Sausage King gives Ben permission to skip school. Ben uses this opportunity to call Amy and threaten to kill himself if she leaves town to live with her grandmother, while simultaneously whining about his dead mother. He's a gifted emotional extortionist.

Ricky decides to skip school too (hmm, could the episode title have some sort of significance?) and hang out at Adrian's place. Adrian has to turn in a paper, but she's going to come home at lunch so she can at least get a little bit of school-skipping in. As she leaves Ricky alone in the apartment, he surveys the place and ponders what to steal first.

Ashley, who is also skipping school, gets tired of Amy's whining and asks her why, if she hates being pregnant so much, she had unprotected sex in the first place. Amy asks Ashley to promise not to have premarital sex and make the same mistake she did, and Ashley scoffs, "Are you kidding? I have condoms; I'm not an idiot." ZING! Amy's in a bad mood because she's mad at Ben, and Ashley says that being angry with a guy who loves her despite her being pregnant by another guy is at least a step up from feeling sorry for herself. She's on a roll today. Amy is like, "Oh no she di-n't!"

Back at Adrian's place, Amy's dad interrupts Ricky making a sandwich. We know from the previous episode that in the world of TSLOTAT, interrupting someone making a sandwich is always a harbinger of trouble, and this scene is no exception. Amy's dad finds out that this is the guy who knocked Amy up and gets all "bad cop" on him, claiming that he could murder him and get away with it because people would understand, which I'm pretty sure isn't true. Ricky isn't too impressed with his macho posturing, though, because he's just got the dirt on Amy's dad's affair with Adrian's mom. I was hoping he'd assume Amy's dad was having an affair with Adrian, but alas, it was not to be. Amy's dad calls Ricky a worthless piece of trash, to which he responds by waiting until Amy's dad leaves, then yelling, "I'm not a worthless piece of trash!" and wiping his nose on his sleeve.

At school, there are more people in attendance than you might expect given the ratio of main characters playing hooky. Grace stops Adrian and apologizes for the skirmish at the abortion clinic. For some reason she's decided to try to be friends with Adrian, and she's acting even more insane than usual. Adrian's hypothesis is that she wants to use Adrian to try to get closer to Ricky. I can see where she's coming from with that (Grace's parents did forbid her from dating Ricky in "What Have You Done to Me?"), but Occam's razor suggests that Grace just really is insane.

Next we find Ricky in his therapy session with Winston Zeddmore, and he's James Deaning all over the place. Or maybe it's more like Michael Landoning (cf. I Was a Teenage Werewolf). At any rate, Winston tells him to open the door to self-respect, and go on in. Then shut it firmly behind him and lock it. Ricky says that he doesn't know how, but Winston tells him he thinks he does. Ricky takes the commercial break to try to figure out Winston's metaphor.

Adrian comes home from school. Ricky isn't there because he's seeing Winston, but Amy's dad and two large men come out of the bedroom (you can make up your own joke for that; it's beneath me). It turns out that Amy's dad has brought Adrian a desk as a gift. Adrian is like, "I don't even own a book, let alone many books that would necessitate an entire desk. What am I gonna do with a desk?"* She soon figures out that the desk is a bribe to keep Adrian from telling Amy that Adrian's mom is the "other woman," especially because Amy's dad is about to dump her. Adrian kicks him out, then caresses the desk and does a little wiggly dance.

The Asians are back! I missed them. They're not at school either. They come to see Ben, but it turns out it was an elaborate ruse set up by Ben and Henry wherein Ben leaves them alone in his room, and Henry immediately tries to seize this opportunity and have sex with Alice. Alice isn't down with this, but she says maybe on his birthday if he doesn't beg, then quickly renegs on even that.

Ricky comes over to Amy's and says that he wants to have some say in the baby stuff after all. Meanwhile, Ben whines to his mother's grave. The Sausage King shows up and reminds him that he's talking to an inanimate object. That guy rocks.

Adrian shows up at Grace's house after Ricky reminds her that she doesn't have any friends. Grace's dad, Tom, and I keep trying to figure out why she's really there. Grace gets really excited when she finds out that Adrian got a new desk, but Grace's dad makes a suspicious face (pictured) when he's eavesdropping and hears that she got the desk from Adrian's mom's boyfriend. Is there a reason that that would be significant to him? I can't think of any, but the relationships between the characters on this show are too convoluted for me to keep track of without an elaborate flowchart.

Amy's dad tries to move back into the house, but gets into another fight with Molly Ringwald, and she throws him out. Meanwhile, Ricky is trying to convince Amy to let him control her life, and she throws him out. Then Ben shows up. As they embrace, Amy says, "That bump? It's not me. It's the baby." Ben also has a bump he doesn't want to claim responsibility for. In his pants. (It's his penis.) As the episode draws to a close, Ben begs Amy not to shut him out, because he doesn't want to be absent.

Final thoughts: While not a great episode, this one was at least tolerable, and compared to the last one it was fantastic. Once we got past that initial coffee scene, Potsie did a decent job. Not much actually happened, but we got to see Ricky and Amy's dad really ham it up, Ashley had some amusing one-liners at other characters' expense, and the Asians returned to their old glory, complete with Alice spouting sexual statistics. The only thing that worries me is the Grace and Adrian stuff. As I see it, there are a couple of ways it could go. Adrian could corrupt Grace, or Grace could purify Adrian, and I'm afraid it's going to turn out to be the latter, as this looks like just another increment in the slow pussification of Adrian over the last few episodes. But maybe I'm not giving the show enough credit, and they'll end up making out or something. Gradrian foreva!

On the next TSLOTAT: We finally get to meet Amy's long-foreshadowed grandmother, Mimsy! Thank you, Brenda Hampton, for making us laugh about senility... again. Also, according to the promos, there's a "little complication." But I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you.

And coming soon on the Jawsome Olde Tyme Revue: An elaborate flowchart.

  • "I'm a man! I know how hard it is to get a woman to have sex!" -- Amy's dad
  • "I'm forgetting what happened between you and Jack. I have the power to do that." -- Grace
  • "Yeah, it's me, what do you want. Leave a message! Not that I'll call you back." -- Ricky's voicemail greeting
  • "I know everything, and I have condoms." -- Ashley
* Adrian actually is one of the least stupid characters on the show, and as we learned in "What Have You Done to Me?", she reads plenty of books. But I couldn't resist making that joke.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

nice post DISTANT, don't you love to be a young ? i wish to stay young forever...
thnks for the lovely post :)

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