Hey, remember how, at the end of last week’s episode, everyone was about to embark on their summer fun? Well, apparently, we don’t get to witness even one episode worth of seeing these characters grow, change and have personal discoveries apart from the insular gossip mill in which they live. I guess that would have taken too much thought and would have required writing above the caliber this show is capable of because, instead, we returned this week to find that three whole months had passed and that everyone’s ready to return to school. Here’s about where they all stand on that:
- Amy is still a fucking bitch and summer school was, apparently, entirely uneventful.
- Ricky and Adrian, despite having asked one another to be in a committed hate-sex relationship with one another, both are fucking other people and lying to each other about it. What happened to the Ricky I thought was turning over a new leaf?
- Ben is back from Italy and he’s not sure what to do about his relationship with Amy because, well, she’s a fucking bitch.
- Grace is back from Doctor Camp with a head full of knowledge and it seems that neither her boyfriend nor her brother really like her all that much now that she knows things about things. I get that the extra-touchy “confidence inspiring” practice is a little odd, but what’s so wrong with her being a smart girl? Is it the blazer they don’t like? I like the blazer. It reads “Ivy League.” Frankly, if I were them, I’d be more concerned about the seeds of an inevitable eating disorder. You all saw the way she chastised Tom about his 2,000 calorie sundae and then surreptitiously took a bite out of the container when he wasn’t looking.
- Lauren’s brother broke up with Madison. Yet more casualties of Doctor Camp.
- Ashley is all ready to start her first day of high school . . . in pajamas. (Don’t worry. The pajamas eventually are shed for a way-too-sexy Gothic Lolita dress that, for some reason, no one has a problem with her wearing.)
- Henry and Alice have discovered both oral sex and sexting. I’m impressed that they can multitask and he can answer texts while he’s going down on her. That man is a keeper.
Is it just me or is it indeed extremely odd that summer just didn’t happen here in the SLOTAT universe? And what’s weirdest is that summer just didn’t happen IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEASON. It’s not uncommon for television shows to operate on their own time scale, but I make a general assumption with shows set in high school that they indeed follow the timeline of high school. When we go back to school in the real world, so, too, do the students of Constance and St. Jude’s, of WestBev, of Neptune High and of Sunnydale High. There are a couple of very simple reasons for this: the traditional September through May television season is the exact length of a school year and because that structure, that 9 month structure, is a reasonable timeframe in which to tell a story about high school students. This is because their lives revolve around going to school. It’s the place of action in a high school-based series, so it only makes sense that the story should be told in accordance with the structure of that setting. So we never see summertime on these series (and the summer-based episodes like the GG forays into the Hamptons kind of suck), and we accept that, because we’ve been off enjoying our summers along with Blair, Chuck, Annie, Naomi, Veronica, Logan, Buffy, Willow and Xander. We reconvene in the fall to go back to school along with them.
I recognize that SLOTAT started in July of 2008, yet we still had to pretend it was September on the show and their summer had just ended. The first season aired in summer 2008, with the second airing in spring 2009 (or the second half of the first season, however you want to look at it) and the third season airing now, in summer 2009. If the show had paced itself better, this season would have started not at the end of the last school year, but at the beginning of this one, this avoiding this whole summer situation. But it didn’t. And since this show hasn’t followed the traditional structure of a high school show in any way, I kind of expected to see at least an episode or two of summer, to see who these characters are away from each other. It was an opportunity both for great writing and great acting, but this show . . . is just not for those things.
I can’t even explain most of what went on in this episode because the conversations were just so bizarre, but two of them did make sense and actually contributed to the masterplot of the show.
1. After not talking to Amy for weeks, Ben accidentally gets them both detention by speaking his thoughts out loud in class (everyone else was wondering about sex, especially Alice, who loves oral). As they sit alone copying chapters in their notebooks, they talk about their relationship and how even though things are bad right now, they still love each other. Ben suggests they find things they can do that include John, as a family. All I can say is that I hope this makes Amy happier, because if I were Ben and I’d just done a lot of learning, thinking and growing in Italy for a summer, I’d return by saying, “Amy, I love you, but you need to stop taking out your bullshit on me. I am nothing but nice to you, and I need you to treat me like a person. In fact, just be a person. Stop being what you are and just be a person.”
2. George tells Anne that he’s probably her baby daddy, and she’s like, “I know. And so does David. But I’m probably going to marry him anyway.” They have lots of adult things to work out here, but their plot always gets shoved into the last five minutes of the episode like some frantic after thought.
As for the rest of the show, well, let me give you a sampling of the kind of ridiculousness that abounded:
David: ‘Morning, Amy.
Amy: It’s not a good morning.
. . . um! that’s not even what he said! . . .
David: I loved school.
Amy: I used to love school, and then I got pregnant at 15, had a baby and now it’s not as fun as it used to be.
. . . but it will be much more fun when her soon-to-be-stepdad bribes her with an SUV, that safest of cars . . .
Adrian: I’m not having sex with Ben!
Ricky: You’re talking to Ben!
Ricky: Talking leads to sex!
Adrian: Everyone talks!
Ricky: Everyone has sex!
. . . truly, the logic here is airtight . . .
“This is the year we get boyfriends.” – Lauren, who asserts that her brother was just a practice boyfriend for Madison
Coach: Future medical students? How many of those students do you think actually make it to medical school?
Jack: I don’t know . . .
Coach: Me neither, but what I do know is that every year I lose a player to fear!
. . . that’s quite a transition . . .
“Oh, jeez. The old pistil and stamen. Could we just get to the nitty gritty? Or could you point me in the direction of a niiiiiice pistil?” – Lauren’s thoughts, being way more forward than I am comfortable with her being
Griffin: Nice attitude. Griffin.
Ashley: Ashley. The teen mother’s sister. Well, I know that’s why everyone’s staring at me. ‘Cause of my sister.
Griffin: I-I’m new here. I don’t know anything about that.
Ashley: Well, uh, my sister’s in the 10th grade and she had a baby last year.
Griffin: Uh . . . wow. Well, you know, stuff happens.
Griffin: Well, uh, maybe you can point her out to me.
Ashley: Well, she’s pretty easy to spot. She’s the really pretty one with the French horn who’s unusually tired.
Griffin: Is she tired from dragging around the horn, or the baby?
Ashley: The baby. And just from being . . . Amy.
Griffin: So, are you planning to get pregnant your first year here?
. . . basically the best conversation ever uttered on this show, which includes absolutely the best icebreaker I’ve ever heard . . .
Coach: I don’t want you to see or talk to Jack Pappas for the rest of the football season. It’s not good for the team. It’s not good for Jack.
Grace: But . . . why?
Coach: I don’t want him distracted.
Grace: The other players have girlfriends.
Coach: Not girlfriends who wanna be doctors. I don’t like those kind of girlfriends.
. . . clearly, they’re smarter than women should be, candidly talking about groin injuries and the like . . .
That’s only a sample of the ridiculata. Truly, I think I laughed more that this episode than most other episodes of this show I’ve ever seen. What the fuck was happening? And why were so many ridiculous things being said in rapid succession? I like this new Griffin guy, by the way. It’s going to be interesting watching him adjust to this world. He’s already said my favorite line ever uttered in this history of this show, so I’m sure he’ll start to fit right in very soon.
This is without a doubt the best episode of SLOTAT this season and probably the best in a very long time. Unlike the past few episodes whose major flaw was focusing entire episodes on only one or two subjects and then hammering it into the ground like a stake, this was a massive overflow of information, with ridiculous conversations colliding in the hallways with other ridiculous conversations, until it almost seemed like Abbott & Costello mixed with one of those Monty Python sketches where everybody but one person in the skit is absolutely out of their minds. (That one pseudo-normal person? Ashley, as usual.) I am often flabbergasted by how open and bizarre these characters are, and it was in full force this week.
As for the sudden shift in time, it threw me off just as much as it did my wife, but I think I’m more forgiving. Why? Because I don’t think it’s a problem with the writers so much as the budget that they didn’t feel the need to open up the show to any new locations, because as we can all very clearly tell, nothing in a long time has taken place outside of a soundstage or the studio’s backlot, with verrrrry few exceptions. Hell, it probably wasn’t even in the budget to give us a montage at the end of last week’s episode showing all of our little teenagers off doing their own thing, even for mere seconds, which I think would have done away with that initial shock at the beginning of this episode (e.g. Grace in a full classroom of soon-to-be-pre-med students, Ricky caring for John, Ben walking past the check-in desk at an airport, stopping and turning around to see that only his father and Betty came to see him off).
Oh, and by the way, nobody in the world knows where the hell Brenda Hampton got that information about Bologna and its infamy in regards to oral sex. We are all baffled. I think someone told her that as a joke, and she took that one little bit of perhaps-false information and just ran with it, much like the weird confidence-building arm-touching doctor trick Grace and Lauren’s brother used all episode.