Season 1, Episode 7
We are the Grapes of Wrath, we never take a bath. It is our style to seldom smile and never laugh! – VeggieTales
We open at The Avalon where nary a main cast member is to be seen, just the nameless Jock Squad loudly patting themselves on the back for pulling off a close 61-60 victory. An unknown girl sitting at one of the booths joins in the fun until our favorite group of buzzkills enters, instantly obliterating the celebratory atmosphere. One of the jocks says, “Good game!” to Matt, who responds with a sarcastic, “Yeah, right.” Matt, Ashley and Jake trudge over to their usual booth.
Ashley: i’ve actually gotta be getting home soon. i mean, it’s 9:15—
Matt: I DON’T BELIEVE IT! I score 14 points in the first half and what happens? I get benched!
Jake: Yeah, that was kind of—
Matt: BENCHED!! For the entire second half! I’m just sitting there getting splinters in my butt!
Jake: Nobody else understood it either.
Matt: I score 14 points and then my coach accuses me of being selfish! He stands up in the dressing room at half time and tells me I’ve got to put the team first!
Ashley: well, maybe he was—
Matt: I put the team 7 points in the lead – that’s where I put the team! And then I have to put up with that garbage??
Ashley: you can always look on the bright side
Matt: WHAT BRIGHT SIDE??
Ashley: the team still won…even though you weren’t playing
Yeah, that’ll calm your dipsomaniacal boyfriend right the fuck down, Ashley. Matt retreats to the pinball room leaving Jake to pointlessly opine that this probably isn’t a good time to talk to Matt aboot his drinking problem.
Hillside. Les Chiennes enter the school as Brooke is loudly asking Kelly, “Ever see a jaw bounce right off the floor?” She continues describing the scene at Dylan’s garage and how Courtney just stood there with her mouth hanging open, then took off. All the while, Lurky-Loo is eavesdropping from a nearby table wearing an abominable Cosby sweater that is definitely not part of the Garanimals collection because there isn’t a color in the known spectrum that would match this nightmare of wool and vomit. Brooke segues to the topic of the English paper she asked Kelly’s sister to write. Kelly produces the paper but doesn’t hand it to Brooke until she coughs up the $10 fee. This is a bridge too far for Dutch Boy who marches over to the table and admonishes Brooke for cheating. Brooke calls her a little priss and makes tracks, leaving Theresa and Kelly to stare at each other in awkward silence.
I have just now watched the next scene no fewer than five times and I still can’t wrap my mind around it. A close up shot of a girl working behind The Avalon counter near the cash register. Suddenly, Jake enters the shot from the left and Matt from the right, seeming to imply that they just ran into each other, but Matt’s first words are those of a conversation in progress: “I’ve had enough of this, Jake!” They lean on the counter as Matt resolves to have a showdown with Coach Williams and Jake attempts to warn him against it. The girl behind the counter appears to be writing something while they talk. The cake stand is empty, but still somehow disgusting. The camera pans back and forth between Matt and Jake and the next time it focuses on the gal behind the register, we see that she’s placing to-go bags and a juice box on the counter. Their conversation concluded, Matt grabs the juice box (Jake’s treat, I guess) as Jake stays behind to pay the tab with a handful of loose change. In TV time, this is a pointlessly long scene. Jake grabs the to-go bags, counts oot the change and places it on a tray next to the register withoot a word, then takes his leave withoot so much as a “thank you”. The two main cast members gone, the camera for some reason lingers on the employee as she gathers up the change and counts it in silence. Not one single word was spoken between Jake or Matt and the girl at the till even though she was right in the center of the action for the whole scene. The entire Avalon staff reminds me of the Underworld shades of Greek mythology.
Olaf is sitting on a bench trying to teach Deadpool the finer points of chess. I guess the writers realized that it had been a while since Olaf spoke as if English were anything other than his native tongue, so they decide to have him misstate the expression “oot of left field” as “oot of right field”. Olaf notices that Billy looks distracted and asks him what’s wrong, so Green Lantern vents aboot living with his dad for a spell. Olaf offers to be Billy’s sounding board whenever he may need one and Deadpool seems to realize that he wisely befriended the one kid at Hillside worthy of befriending.
Little Twat On The Prairie lumbers over to her locker which is located just two down from Brooke’s. Brooke correctly guesses that maximum antagonism of this homely cretin can be achieved by a simple cheery greeting. She lets Courtney express her pathetic self-righteous indignation for a few minutes, then assures her that her visit with Dylan was completely innocent and it doesn’t take long for Courtney to buy this explanation hook, line and sinker because she’s a…well, you know what she is. I’m running oot of insults for this nauseating asshole. Before walking off, Brooke assures Courtney that “Dylan’s all yours”.
Another shirt-tucking scene in the girls’ locker room, but this time, the fact that Courtney is simultaneously tucking her table cloth into her drapes while Ashley does the same with her more era-appropriate garments prevents me from engaging in more middle-aged-dude creepery. Courtney rehashes the events of the past few hours, then expresses concern that Dylan doesn’t seem to be at school today and hopes he isn’t jeopardizing his concert opportunity with Mr. Zimmerman. Her oversized gym bag stuffed and zipped, Ashley cuts Courtney off because she’s late for band practice and asks her to tell Matt that she’s looking for him if Courtney should see him.
Brooke comes down the stairs and approaches Dylan who is reading a book on the lounge sofa. He explains that he stayed home this morning to finish a book report, even though the only person who was questioning his forenoon whereaboots is nowhere to be seen. Brooke asks him how he always seems to get away with such truancy causing Dylan to launch into another soliloquy aboot how his parents don’t seem to care aboot him very much which causes me to wonder where the hell is Emilio Estevez when we need him to react to Dylan with a sarcastic, “Please…you’re breaking my heart”? Brooke attempts to flirt, I assume, by telling Dylan that “Eddie Van Halen never had to write a book report,” which makes absolutely no sense unless Eddie Van Halen dropped oot of school right after kindergarten. Brooke makes to leave, then stops and pretends to have just remembered something. She fishes in her bag, pulls oot a small wrapped present and hands it to Dylan, saying it was something that she found at the mall yesterday. Dylan opens it with suspicion and reveals a silver-plated music box. Brooke leaves with a smile as Dylan examines and lovingly strokes his unexpected gift.
Matt and the jocks stroll into the lounge and I notice that a girl sitting nearby on the stairs is the same strangely mute cash register attendant from The Avalon a few scenes ago, still wearing the same ootfit. Dylan is playing with his music box on the sofa so, of course, Matt must stir up some shit. He asks Dylan if he “stole the music box or something”, proving that Matt really only has one go-to insult to utilize in the presence of leather jacket wearing rebels (his reaction to Dylan’s use of the word “raiment” in the first episode was to ask him if he “stole a dictionary or something”). Dylan’s hand is balled into a fist as he counter-attacks by saying he heard it was a good game last night, “especially the second half”. Dylan obviously has more of a knack for trash talk because Matt reacts by saying, “You want a piece of advice? Watch your mooth!” Dylan asks if Matt’s looking for trouble and Matt replies, “No. I’m just looking at a wuss with a music box”. Dylan launches himself at Matt and they tussle for a few seconds until the jocks break them apart as the Avalon employee scoots oot of the way to avoid the scuffle. Backing away, Matt shouts, “One of these days, I’m gonna take your head off!” while the gal from The Avalon hides behind a pillar. The scene closes with a few bars of scene-ending music that is far more menacing and dramatic than the actual pseudo-fight we just witnessed.
The Avalon. Jake and Ashley are at a booth talking aboot the events of the previous paragraph, even though they weren’t there at the time. Ashley picks idly at what looks like a blueberry scone while wondering what it could mean that Matt is going around starting fights. Jake reveals that he has a feeling Matt “snuck oot at lunch hour to have a drink”, which means that these two are still circling the drain of Matt’s drinking problem but still haven’t figured oot a course of action beyond whining at each other aboot it. Ashley once again tells Jake that they’ve got to talk to him, but this time she appends the word “now” to the end of the sentence. I’ll believe it when I see it, Dope Whisperer.
Courtney is at Dylan’s locker attempting to console him for Matt’s “unforgiveable” behavior, even though the biggest reaction she can get oot of him aboot the incident is a dismissive shoulder shrug. Dylan tells her to forget aboot it, which of course does nothing to stem the tide of her clingy, repetitive and unsolicited concern. Remember, Dylan, you have no one to blame for the endless and inept flirtation of this walking kudzu vine but yourself. Dylan walks away and Courtney stares after him in an infatuated trance, leading to our next incredible dream sequence:
Dylan emerges onto a neon-lit stage, guitar slung low over his leather-clad shoulder. The crowd – composed entirely of the Fifteen cast and a few of the more familiar extras – goes wild. Dylan high-fives the front row and mouths, “I love you! I love you!” to his adoring fans. A keyboard riff that sounds like it was composed by Asia or Saga fills the arena as Dylan extends his hand to Courtney and pulls her up onto the stage, a la Springsteen and Courtney Cox. Dylan revs up his electric guitar as Courtney dances by his side. I don’t have words to adequately describe this. This is Courtney’s own fucking fantasy, yet she dances more ridiculously than Elaine Benes, bopping around woodenly and throwing elbows like she’s having an epileptic seizure.
Kelly and Brooke are sitting on a bench randomly trashing Olaf for being “pretty weird”. Honestly, this is the only scene that causes me to dislike Kelly for a little while, because come on…why pick on poor Olaf when you could be ranking on Courtney instead? They mock his wardrobe, his (nonexistent) accent, and his fondness for chess as Billy comes down the stairs and overhears them. He asks them what’s wrong with chess and they inform him that it’s “a game for weenies”. Deadpool presses further and asks if they think there’s something wrong with Olaf in general. They opine that he’s “not one of us” but concede that Billy should feel free to be friends with whoever he likes.
Courtney shows up and pulls Billy aside to talk. Before she can say whatever it is she wants to say, Billy asks her what she thinks of Olaf. Completely oblivious to the fact that her little brother is having a social-moral crisis, she tells him to “forget aboot Olaf” and then CHANGES THE FUCKING SUBJECT TO GODDAMN DYLAN AGAIN, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!! Holy shit, do I hate this wench. She’s wondering if Dylan “ever talks aboot her” as Deadpool finally gets a clue aboot her all-encompassing obsession with his mentor in delinquency. Billy thinks this is hilarious, and I find it hilarious to watch him react with hilarity to his sister’s pathetic infatuation. You see, THIS is why Ryan Reynolds is a Hollywood A-lister and Sarah Douglass is probably bagging groceries at a Loblaws in Vancouver. Finally, Deadpool agrees to fish for information aboot Dylan’s feelings for Courtney on the condition that she rent him 2 videos this coming weekend, an arrangement to which she of course concedes. Incidentally, I think this scene was Deadpool’s finest moment for his entire 4 season involvement with the show.
Brooke is in her room voguing in the mirror next to a poster of Madonna’s “Vogue”. Enter Cosby Sweater who proceeds to give her sister some unsolicited shit for making a move on Dylan. Dutch Boy’s got more fire in her loins than usual today, and she threatens not only to tell Dylan aboot Brooke’s ulterior motives, but also to tell her English teacher aboot the illicitly obtained papers she’s been turning in. Finally, Brooke stands up and tells her not to dare even think aboot doing such a thing, instigating a stare-down test of the wills which Brooke wins handily, of course. Defeated, Dutch Boy says that no, she would never tell on her sister, but it would serve her right if someone did.
Billy enters The Avalon and walks back to the booth in the pinball room where his sister is waiting for his report aboot what Dylan thinks of her. He tells her that he didn’t get a chance to bring it up because Dylan was busy with “someone” who was over at his garage. Withoot speaking Brooke’s name, Deadpool generously and with a flair for empathy that clearly isn’t genetic tells her to forget aboot renting him the videos. Courtney is crushed and I realize that this episode is making me smile far more than usual.
Cut to Dylan’s garage where Brooke is asking him if he likes the music box. He tells her that he does. Since Dylan is conveniently holding his guitar for no apparent reason, she requests that he play something and he asks if she wants to hear anything in particular. Yes, in fact, she’d like to know if he knows any songs by The Grapes of Wrath (according to Wikipedia, “The Grapes of Wrath are a Canadian rock band formed in 1983”. Knowledge is power!). Dylan says that he knows a few songs and that they’re “a pretty good band”, so Brooke informs him that they’ll be giving a concert nearby next Saturday in the hopes that he’ll ask her to go. He does, but she declines, saying that she’ll be going to the concert with some guy named Terry, an obviously fictitious 12th grader with whom Brooke alleges to be going oot. She then suddenly exclaims that she needs to go meet Terry at the mall right now and scurries oot the door leaving Dylan to stare at the camera in bewilderment.
Brooke and Kelly are back at The Avalon counter as Brooke explains how she led Dylan on, but then made up a story aboot dating some guy in the twelfth grade in response to Dylan’s invite to the Grapes show. (I just call ‘em “The Grapes” now. Even though I’m completely unfamiliar with them, I think I’ve earned the right to call them whatever I want just for mentioning them so many times on my blog page.) Kelly asks if she’s going to “reel him in” now and Brooke says that she thinks she’ll just “let him dangle for a while”.
There’s precious little time left in this episode, but just enough, it seems, for one more round of deliciously frustrating conversation between Matt and Ashley in the pinball room. Ashley says she wants to talk and Matt says sure while preparing to slip a couple of quarters into the dysfunctional pinball machine. She tells him to stop – she wants his undivided attention, apparently – and he reluctantly obeys, stepping away from the machine. Matt guesses aloud that she wants to lecture him aboot starting the fight with Dylan earlier, but no, this time Ashley is equipped with an unusually firm resolve and she tells him that she wants to talk aboot his drinking. Before he can effectively shout the topic away, she comes right oot and says that she thinks he’s an alcoholic (“there. I said it.”) On a roll, Ashley tells him that she found his flask which is the same thing as admitting that she was snooping through his knapsack behind his back.
Matt: I. DON’T. HAVE. A. DRINKING. PROBLEM. What I’ve got is a girlfriend who won’t mind her own business!
Ashley: but it is my business because I love you.
Matt: We’re gonna drop this subject, okay? RIGHT NOW!
Ashley: no, we’re not gonna drop it. you’ve got a drinking problem and you need to face it.
Matt: I DO NOT HAVE—
Ashley: Yes, you do! i’m worried sick and I can’t stand it anymore!
Matt: Then maybe you need a new boyfriend.
Matt: If that’s the way you feel, then it sounds to me like it’s time you found someone else!
And with that, another episode ends with a close-up shot of Ashley doing her damnedest to look even more distraught than she did the last five times an episode ended on an extended shot of her distraught little face.
Life is unbearable.