Saturday, September 6, 2008

TSLOTAT: Episode 8: "Your Cheatin' Heart"

Good morning, extensive fanbase!  The Jawsome Olde Tyme Revue says hello.  You twinkle above us; we twinkle below.  Our revue today is The Secret Life of the American Teenager episode 8, entitled "Your Cheatin' Heart."  It was directed by Keith Truesdell, and this time around, Brenda Hampton is joined in the writin' department by someone named Elaine Arata, another prolific former 7th Heaven writer.  Brenda Hampton likes to keep it in the family.

Meet Mimsy, the wacky grandmother. Mimsy has come to pick Amy up and take her to live with her, where she'll be sheltered from the slings and arrows of her peers, but she decides to hang out for a week first. I knew I was going to like this character right off the bat, because one of her first lines is to tell Ashley, "You know, if anyone had told me that someone in the family was gonna be pregnant as a teenager, I would have said it was you." After going around giving everyone sass the last couple of episodes, it's nice to see Ashley have to take some in return. Also awesome: Ashley refers to Madison and Lauren as Milli and Vanilli. This episode is off to a good start.

Mimsy immediately sees through Molly Ringwald's lie about her husband being in North Carolina. In reality, he's sleeping in his furniture store. A group of onlookers gather to watch through the window as he wakes up and scratches his butt. It's a pretty big store; he probably could have found a bed that wasn't right in front of the window. Perhaps he's just an exhibitionist.

At school, Ben is wandering the empty hall and sees Amy, but she dissolves. Amy is a ghost! Now the fun part is going back and re-watching the earlier episodes to notice all the hints. I think you'll find that Ben is the only character who ever actually interacts with her.

Nah, I'm just joshin' you, but that would be pretty cool. Ben is actually just hallucinating, although he calls it "visual realization." Counselor Mark Molina calls him into his office and tries to talk some sense into him. He fails.

When Ricky talks to Adrian about his desire to be involved with Amy's baby stuff, she uses that as a springboard for propositioning him, then breaks up with him when she's rebuffed. Ricky is trying to get in touch with Amy, so he tries to get her phone number from Milli by complimenting her eyes, but instead Milli runs to Vanilli and tells her that Ricky just tried to seduce her. Vanilli thinks that's ridiculous, and Milli claims Vanilli is jealous because Ricky didn't try to seduce her. Somehow this turns into an argument over which of the two of them is sexier, and Vanilli sets out to get seduced by Ricky.  What just happened here?  Before this episode, both of these girls thought Ricky was sleazy, but all he had to do was give one of them a vague compliment and suddenly they're both fighting over him.

Adrian comes into Mark Molina's office and closes the blinds. Mark Molina is afraid for his chastity, but it's a false alarm -- she actually just wants to find out who her father is.

After a commercial and another hallucination, Ben chats with the Asians about masturbation. Henry is under the impression that Alice doesn't do that sort of thing, but when she disabuses him of that notion (by quoting statistics, of course), instead of just being aroused like a normal teenage male and storing away the mental image for later use, he becomes horrified and jealous of Alice's hand/toys/fantasies.

Adrian corners the weird speech-impaired "ohhh SNAP!" Leonardo da Vinci paper-writing nerd (I should really get around to finding out this character's name one of these days) and asks him where she could get a copy of her birth certificate. In return for that information, she gives him a kiss on the forehead. It's an interesting look into Adrian's sexual favor barter system: she implied that she was willing to fuck Mark Molina to find out who her father was, but this guy's info is only worth a kiss on the forehead. Of course, this is only an indirect clue, whereas Mark Molina probably could have just told her. And she's also propositioned Mark Molina before, even when she wasn't trying to pump him for information, so she probably finds him more attractive than this guy. There are too many factors to conclude anything meaningful; it merits further investigation.

Tensions are escalating between Milli and Vanilli, who have started dressing like sluts (by which I mean slightly less conservatively than they normally dress). Though Ricky initially seems uninterested in trying to get Amy's phone number from Vanilli, he explains that he didn't ask because he knew she wouldn't give it to him because she's "difficult," as opposed to Milli, who is easy. By flirting with Vanilli, he cunningly manipulates her into giving Amy his phone number and telling her to call him (while also letting Vanilli have access to his digits (phone number)). This upsets Milli, who bounces over to the nearest table with a guy sitting at it and tries to seduce him, but is vagina-blocked by some other girl who shows up and sits on the guy's lap (most likely his girlfriend, but I don't want to jump to conclusions here).

Molly Ringwald phones Amy's dad at the furniture store, but he thinks it's Cindy (a.k.a. Adrian's mom). Molly Ringwald says, "Cindy who?" and Amy's dad pretends he thinks he's talking to Cindy Lou, the mother of a kid who wants a puppy for his birthday but will only be getting bunk beds. Then he hangs up and thinks to himself, "I covered that one up pretty well!" Molly Ringwald calls back, but they get on a tangent about how she's whispering because Mimsy is there and then Amy's dad gets upset that Molly Ringwald has told Mimsy that he's in North Carolina. In his angst, he phones an unknown character for help.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mimsy tells Amy and Molly Ringwald that "adoption is not an option." And of course it goes without saying that abortion is not an ortion. Mimsy has promised Amy a honeymoon in Paris as a wedding gift, and she suggests that when the baby is born, it can live in the kitchen silverware drawer for the first year or two, and when it outgrows that, they can upgrade to a dresser drawer. I'm not making this up. In a panic, Molly Ringwald says something about North Carolina, which has become her involuntary response to stressful situations.

Back at the furniture store, we see Amy's dad delivering a monologue to the still-unknown character. The way it's shot strongly suggest that there will be a big reveal that he's talking to a dog or an inanimate object or something, but when the big reveal happens, it turns out that he's actually talking to... a gay guy! Why did that deserve the hokey setup? I'm not sure. Anyway, this guy is apparently the "magical homo" of the show, here to help and enlighten our straight hero. He tells Amy's dad that marriage is a commitment and offers to let him stay in his and his husband's guest room, but Amy's dad opts to continue sleeping in the furniture store because he's afraid they'll stick it to him even though he doesn't want them to. Having anticipated this, the magical homo gives him an alarm clock and vanishes in a great poof.

Ricky and Tom are hanging out. Tom tells Ricky that he (Tom) was adopted. That's all that happens in that scene.

Milli comes over to say goodbye to Amy and tell her all about her and Vanilli's competition to get seduced by Ricky, which confuses Amy as much as it did me. While she's there, she gets a phone call from Vanilli and apologizes to her. Vanilli is framed in much the same setting-up-for-a-reveal way as Amy's dad was earlier, and I was really hoping that it would turn out that all the while, Vanilli had been in bed with Ricky, but my hopes were dashed. The reveal just turned out to be Vanilli's brother Jason, who asks Milli out because he likes her new slutty look.

Meanwhile, Ben and Henry are on the phone with Alice, trying to guess the object of her masturbation fantasies. She hangs up on them and Ben tells Henry that he's renounced masturbation as a result of his love for Amy Jergens. I guess he's saving it up.  Seconds later, Alice walks in (apparently she was right outside the house when they called) and tells Henry that she came over just to tell him he's an idiot. In a shocking twist, the object of her masturbation fantasies turns out to be... Henry! But don't worry, even in her fantasies, they have to be legally married first. Then she has to leave because her mom is waiting outside in the car, having listened to their whole conversation. Henry declines a ride home.

Now Ricky's talking to Grace. We learn that Grace's dad is "constantly doing things he's not supposed to do as a doctor." That doesn't surprise me, and it certainly doesn't decrease his creepiness factor any.

Adrian wants to get a copy of her birth certificate, and Mark Molina has one. In a series of classic misdirects scattered throughout the episode, they've implied that she's going to pay for it in sexual favors, but she ends up just breaking into his office with Jack. In retrospect, this makes you wonder why she carefully checked her makeup and put on more lipstick first, but whatever. Mark Molina catches them, but instead of punishing them, he just gives her the file. You know, if you're going to keep grousing about what horrible delinquents all the students are, rewarding them for breaking and entering and attempted burglary strikes me as somewhat counterproductive. But I suppose Mark Molina knows best.

So in case it wasn't evident from the silverware drawer conversation, Mimsy is crazy with Alzheimer's. This has put the kibosh on Amy's plan to move in with her, because Mimsy is moving into a very nice assisted care complex called Shady Pines. That's the "little complication" that Amy referred to in the promo. Sorry, folks, no miscarriage this time, but maybe next week if you're good and eat all your vegetables. Oh, and Mimsy knows that Amy's parents have split up, but "don't worry, I'll soon forget." Ha! At least she's retained her sense of humor.

Ben phones Amy, but at the same time, he's got another Amy on his bed. That Amy isn't really there, though, as the director is careful to point out to us by starting on a wide shot of the bed with no one on it and doing a weird unmotivated push-in on Ben, then showing Amy on the bed after we cut away to the real Amy. But I think he's having the same conversation with both Amys. She tells him that she's not going anywhere, then he hangs up on the real Amy and pounces on the fake one as the scene fades to black. If you're cheating with a hallucination of the same person, does it still count as having a cheatin' heart?

Final thoughts: Between Mimsy and Ben, there was a lot of mental illness flying around this episode. I know, I know, Ben's not mentally ill, he's in love! But you have to admit it's a pretty fine line he's walkin'. Apart from Mimsy, this was kind of a middling episode with not much that was really memorable. A lot of things seemed to come out of nowhere, such as Milli and Vanilli's fight over Ricky, Adrian's sudden desire to find out who her father was, and of course the magical homo. The revelation that Tom was adopted, while not particularly surprising, was also kind of awkwardly wedged in there (he invited Ricky, who he barely knows, over out of the blue just to tell him that?), and I'm not sure what difference it's supposed to make. But there was nothing particularly offensive, and the subplot with the Asians was kind of amusing, though I had some trouble sympathizing with Henry's indignation.

By the way: notice that, in the scene with the imaginary Amy on Ben's bed, the plush bear that he practiced making out on is conspicuously absent. I hypothesize that Ben has mentally projected the image of Amy onto the bear. This way, while he may have sworn off masturbation, he hasn't sworn off humping that plush bear, which, to his disordered mind, is Amy. I predict that this will be revealed before the season is out.

On the next TSLOTAT: Everyone eats pizza, and Tom orders a hooker.

I'm afraid it's slim pickins this week. Sorry.
  • "You were tiny. You were very tiny." -- Mimsy
  • "I'm really more of a good-time girl." -- Mimsy

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