Season 1, Episode 3
“Why, ‘Mudge? Just why?”
A fair question, posed by a dedicated reader who may be rethinking that dedication right aboot now.
Since I have another whole episode to tackle in this post, for now I’ll just offer this quick list of some of the factors that led to my decision to dedicate this blog in its entirety to the analysis of Fifteen:
- People talk too much — WAY too much — an opinion I ‘d already made crystal clear on this page before starting in this new direction. Rarely do we convey useful information with our speech, but we always seem to believe that the personal triviality du jour aboot which we’re blabbing is the most important thing in the world. It isn’t. Whatever it is, I promise you, nobody cares but you. In fact, they’re probably not even listening to you because they are too busy doing the same thing simultaneously. THUS, if I have to listen to everyone’s incessant chatter aboot the excruciating minutiae of their mind-numbing daily lives (which I do, because I’m a person), then YOU have to put up with the fact that I fully intend to continue blabbing on and on and on and on aboot Fifteen for at least the next year of my life. My point? Mock-praising a show like Fifteen may be stupid, cheap, frivolous and childish – but no more so than the excrement that spews from the mouths of 99% of the human race every single moment of every single day.
- If anyone really believes that I can go for 65 posts withoot delving into philosophy, politics, and quantum physics, then that person hasn’t been reading my blog for very long. Despite my initial assertion to the contrary, I will of course continue to interject opinions aboot those topics – but only when I can manage to do so through the vehicle of Fifteen.
- In the past, I have written aboot religion and spirituality an awful lot – sometimes with reverence and sometimes disparagingly, but always with a sense of importance. On Saturday, some guy in Phoenix killed his spouse, two of his children, and a man he believed was having an affair with his wife, while his 3 year old hid under the bed. During the interrogation, he told police that “God told him to handle things this way and God was okay with it” due to his wife’s alleged infidelity. Yay, God! I have washed my hands of religion – Buddhism included – because the alleged significance of mankind implicit in almost every belief system just nauseates me.
- I LOVE Canada. Any mockery towards my lucky northern friends in these posts comes from a place of love, I assure you. Why, you ask? To name just a few of the wonderful things aboot the Great White North: Rush; SCTV; Skinny Puppy; ice hockey; FIFTEEN; Leonard Cohen; MyDangBlog!; socialized medicine; legal weed; Voivod; Neil Young; You Can’t Do That On Television; back bacon; Molson.
- On the off chance that Ryan Reynolds should ever decide to Google himself on a lazy Sunday afternoon and stumble upon this page, my entire silly, aimless life up to this point will have been entirely worthwhile.
- Fifteen kicks ass. It kicked ass when I was a 21 year old angry drunk and it kicks even more ass now that a quarter century has passed.
All good now? Ready to stop worrying aboot my mental state and move on to more important topics like, say, The Dislocated Swede? Great! Then let’s get to it.
The episode opens at Brooke’s palatial mansion. Dutch Boy is still badgering Brooke in her bedroom aboot her promise to be home for Mom’s stupid phone call on Friday night. Suddenly, Brooke opens the bedroom door and shouts down the stairs, “I’LL BE ANOTHER TEN MINUTES, KEL, WHY DON’T YOU COME ON UP INSTEAD OF SITTING ON THE STAIRS LIKE A LOSER!” These quotes are verbatim, by the way. Kelly enters, Dutch Boy splits, and the devious duo catch each other up on the progress of their evil plot. They are the only people in Brooke’s room, but once again they lean in real close and whisper in each other’s ears, so we aren’t yet privy to what they have up their Benetton-clad sleeves.
At his locker, a hungover-looking Matt apologizes to Ashley for screaming at her yesterday at The Avalon. Like every single apology in this show, it starts oot contrite enough, but then goes off the rails and somehow metamorphoses into the diametric opposite of an apology. Here, see for yourself:
Matt: Look, aboot yesterday afternoon, I’m really sorry.
Ashley: it’s ok
Matt: No, it’s not okay. I was acting like a total jerk.
Ashley: you were just upset aboot getting hassled by the coach.
Matt: But that didn’t give me any right to blow up at you and Jake. I mean…okay, it gets on my nerves a little when you guys have a cow every time I talk aboot having a beer –
Ashley: no one was having a cow, matt.
Matt: Let’s just drop it!
They continue talking and Ashley hesitantly voices her concern aboot rumors she’s been hearing that Matt and Brooke are having a secret side-fling. Matt reassures her that he has no interest in Brooke, Ashley apologizes, Matt reminds her that he was the one who was supposed to be apologizing and they continue to sit on a bench apologizing to each other for the next fifty years. It’s always problematic when the director falls asleep on the job and neglects to yell “Cut!”
Now Brooke and Kelly are examining some forged notes they concocted, one from Matt asking Jake to meet him at the mall at 7:30 and one from Jake asking Matt to meet him at The Avalon at 7:30 to discuss something important. They deem the plan brilliant and fail-safe while delighting in its potential falloot.
Grandma Walton and Whisper Wuss enter through the Vestibule To Nowhere talking aboot some shitty Courtney-penned poem over which Ashley is gushing. It’s going to take a while, but trust me, this Courtney-the-Bard-of-Avalon shit is going to culminate in an episode that’s guaranteed to make you contemplate slashing your wrists, but we don’t get to hear the fruits of her literary labors just yet. They approach their lockers and suddenly Ashley halts her obsequious fawning to have a mini-stroke aboot the fact that she forgot her gym clothes again (“…and Miss Leddingham said that if I forget them again, i’m dead!”) She works herself into a sobbing, mouth-foaming frenzy and flees the school, leaving her self-absorbed Amish wannabe fuckhead of a friend to sarcastically soliloquize, “Well, thanks for reading my poem, anyway.” (“She crashes on your couch when she loses her job; you feed her soup when she breaks her jaw; you help her pee when she’s got that thing, ‘cause she’s your BEST FRIEND!!”)
Brooke approaches Matt in the lounge and asks him if this is “nerd-oot time or something” because he happens to be reading a textbook in school. She sits down and asks him what his Friday night plans are. Not yet having received the fake note from Jake, he says that he’ll be taking in a movie with Ashley (“the new one, with Mel Gibson”). As Brooke responds with pleasantries or mockery or who the fuck can ever tell the difference from these little shitheads, a tall doofus with some kind of European tote bag slung over his shoulder wanders into the scene looking lost and staring at a piece of paper. Brooke spots him oot of the corner of her eye and alerts Matt to the “major geek at three o’clock”. Matt acknowledges the geek and explains to Brooke that he’s “from Finland or something” and that his name is Olaf. As loudly as possible, they continue to brutally trash him, yet he seems not to hear any of their mockery even though he is now aboot a foot and a half away from where they’re sitting. Olaf cheerfully greets them and tells them that he “seems to have dislocated himself”, causing his new horrible acquaintances to laugh in his face and imitate his imperfect command of the English language. Politely, he guesses, “This was not the right word?”, setting off even more uncontrollable laughter. Nonplussed and seemingly incapable of offense, Olaf continues to explain that he’s having trouble finding a classroom, so Matt starts to give him an intentionally over-complicated path to his destination. Midway through his fake directions, some hippie chick saunters over (our first introduction to Cindy) and helpfully tells him that his destination is “the portable classroom at the north end of the building”. So there are portable classrooms, too. At the north end of The Hillside physics-defying labyrinth. Christ on a freaking cracker.
The Avalon. A waitress delivers some milkshakes to the booth where Courtney, Matt and Jake are sitting, then pivots and takes an empty soda glass from the table where Brooke is sitting, just feet away. In case you hadn’t already noticed, where ever the hell these kids are supposed to live, there is literally NO FUCKING QUARTER in which you can ever get away from the eyes and ears of every other little petty busybody infesting this godforsaken town. Kelly enters and sits down next to Brooke, obviously bursting with some tidbit of gossip. She asks Brooke if she’s seen Ashley, Brooke says no, and Kelly informs her that she’s at this very moment running “aboot 800 laps” because Miss Leddingham busted her for skipping school due to her earlier gym clothes freak oot. The camera swings back to the other table where Matt, et al are discussing the exact same thing with only slightly less glee. Courtney explains to her as-yet-undisclosed object of infatuation and her pet hamster that Ashley forgot her gym clothes, ditched school and hid at the library, where she was caught by the principal. Jake opines, “Only Ashley would skip class and go to the library. If she had come to The Avalon instead, she’d have been fine.” You must be new here, Jake. Nobody ever leaves The Avalon with their soul unscathed.
Here’s where my linguistic skills are bound to fall short. If there were a way for me to extricate this scene from the larger episode and post it here, believe me, I would. Ashley enters wearing a sweat jacket that’s aboot 10 sizes too large, sheepishly approaches her table of friends and says, “hi, guys. still feel like talking to me?” Ever the gentleman, Jake cedes his seat next to Matt (and his milkshake, apparently) to Ashley. She begins by complaining in an exhausted whisper that her whole body, even her hair, hurts because she “just ran 5 laps”. Kelly was engaging in a touch of hyperbole a few moments ago, you see. A hitherto unexposed side – or, to be more precise, several dozen hitherto unexposed sides – of Ashley begin to manifest themselves in the multi-faceted psychotic episode to follow. She gets progressively animated while mocking Miss Leddingham’s authoritative voice, then segues into an impression of a lecture she received from the principal, Mr. Zimmerman, before momentarily falling into mournful silence again. Matt interjects that it’s not a big deal, causing Ashley to argue that it IS a big deal – she’s never skipped a class in her life. She then launches into a sad reverie aboot how she’s “always tried to do exactly what she’s supposed to do, but now…”, and this is when her brain suffers a fatal malfunction, along with her entire nervous system, which is doing all the acting in this scene on behalf of its host, Laura Harris. She stifles a laugh as she ecstatically marvels at the fact that she now has a “brand new reputation” and she’s gone instantly from being a good little student to a “problem girl”. Then a giggling fit ensues that literally defies description. Her toddler giggles don’t appear to come from her mouth but seem to assault her entire face like an unseen and violent exterior force. She proclaims with great satisfaction, “i think it’s wonderful! *snicker* *giggle* *chortle*”. She pauses. “*giggle*, *snicker*, *giggle giggle*”, pause. “giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle*giggle”, pause. As Matt jokingly tells his friends that “she can be a little weird sometimes”, his fucking mental patient of a girlfriend continues to have oddly-timed seizures of softly maniacal laughter, always falling momentarily silent between each seemingly involuntary fit of lunacy. As I look on in terrified confusion, it takes every ounce of my restraint to refrain from punching myself in the temples. I’ve more than once found myself in the company of people who were tripping out on Ecstasy and none of them approached the level of horrifying emotional maelstrom that Ashley achieves in this baffling sequence.
Just as I suspected, my best attempt did not do this scene justice. Do me a favor, dear readers, and consult YouTube for this one (season 1, episode 3, at the 11:30 mark). I know when to admit defeat, and Laura Harris’ performance absolutely trumped my capabilities as a writer. Touché, Ashley.
To close out the scene, Brooke and Kelly remark from their nearly adjacent table that by 8:00 tonight, “Little Miss Perfect won’t be laughing at all.”
Back at Hillside, Jake approaches Courtney at her locker and apologizes for being 3 minutes late so profusely that it sounds like he has apology-Tourette’s. They’re meeting to work on a geography project but Jake, bless his stupid heart, starts whining about how wrong it is to do homework on a Friday afternoon in an obvious attempt to turn this little meetup into something more akin to a date. Always the trailblazer, Jake suggests milkshakes at The Avalon and off they go but not before running into Deadpool who wants to tag along but instead is treated to the “go away, kid, ya bother me” routine from his loving sister. Incidentally, the dreadful top Courtney’s been wearing for the last several scenes seems to have an oversized lace bib sewn into the fabric and yet this does nothing to dampen Jake’s unquenchable desire for this fugly sperm curdler.
Olaf is sitting on a bench reading Lord of the Flies when Cindy comes by, peers over his shoulder and correctly guesses that ostracize is the word with which he’s struggling. This, of course, serves as the perfect opening for Cindy to start prying into whether Olaf may be feeling a bit ostracized by his new, oddly Finn-phobic peers. Olaf concurs, but not before politely pointing out to Cindy that she’s very…”what’s the word I’m looking for?” “Blunt?” Thank you, Cindy, but I’m pretty sure Aubrey Nealon Olaf already knew that and was just posing his question rhetorically. With that, an airtight bond of shared peculiarity is formed.
Ashley is sitting alone at a booth in The Avalon when Dylan, who up to this point has never been shown to have any connection to Ashley whatsoever, approaches and asks her aboot yesterday’s incident with the gym coach. Ashley tells him the story, but bumps the number of laps she ran up to 10, so all we really know for sure is that she ran anywhere between 5 and 800 laps. Dylan responds by welcoming her into the fold of juvenile delinquency as Matt (of course) enters, strikes a cock-blocking pose and interrogates Dylan as to why he’s daring to speak a few words to his girlfriend. Dylan opts to cut his losses and split, but not before turning to Ashley and in what I can only guess is meant to be an homage to Humphrey Bogart says, “Schee you later, Schweetheart!” We will come to realize that this ridiculous Bogart thing is Dylan’s signature move with the ladies but astoundingly, not one of them reacts by laughing in his strategically-scarred pretty-boy face. Matt sits down and informs Ashley that he won’t be able to keep their movie date tonight because of the note he received from Jake (it’s just as well, Ashley…you probably don’t know this yet, but Mel Gibson is a drunken anti-Semite).
Brooke’s room. Theresa storms in and gives her sister a stern dressing down for failing to show up on time to answer Mom’s stupid phone call. She is livid that she missed her friend’s birthday party due to Brooke’s selfishness. The significance of this scene is that it marks the precise moment that Theresa begins to genuinely despise Brooke, though it’s unlikely Brooke is even mildly intimidated by this goofy tantrum thrown by Blossom of the North.
Kelly is on The Avalon payphone talking to – Ashley! Speaking as if they’re lifelong friends as opposed to antagonistic acquaintances, Kelly feigns surprise at the fact that Ashley and Matt won’t be seeing each other tonight, then suggests that they get together instead. She convinces Ashley to meet her in front of The Avalon at 7:45.
Dylan is in his garage playing what I’m sure they want us to believe is an original riff, but is actually an amateurish note-for-note cover of a segment from Rush’s 2112. Suddenly, the camera cuts to an extended moody exterior shot of the garage-laden junkyard at dusk. This is convenient, because it gives us a long moment to size up the Blackwell homestead. There isn’t a residence anywhere to be found, just three garages and/or sheds rising from the junk. Do his parents live in one of the smaller garages? There’s no bed, mattress, futon, cot, La-Z-Boy, hammock or sleeping bag visible in the garage Dylan inhabits, so where the fuck does he sleep? THESE AREN’T RHETORICAL QUESTIONS, BINKLEY – I DEMAND ANSWERS!
A tie-dye-clad Deadpool knocks on the door and Dylan greets him with confused annoyance or annoyed confusion, because it’s just bad protocol to drop in unannounced on someone as publicly private as Dylan. Finally, Dylan eases up and invites Billy to “make himself at home” even though there isn’t a single chair upon which to park one’s ass. Dylan must have cleared oot such superfluous items to make room for the drum set that he doesn’t play. Deadpool clearly admires Dylan’s near-homelessness as his mentor tells him that he likes it because it’s quiet, “just me and the guitar”. Mm hmm. I’m convinced you do more than pluck oot old Rush ditties on that thing, Dylan, and I’m starting to understand your aversion to unexpected visitors.
Eventually, Dylan invites Billy to try his hand at the drum kit. Deadpool grabs the sticks, dons a shit-eating grin and proceeds to hammer away like Keith Moon with late stage Parkinson’s.
Matt is at the pinball machine, waiting for Jake to arrive (which, of course, he won’t because he’s at the mall waiting for Matt to arrive – this is a complex and multi-layered plot unfolding here). Brooke arrives on schedule and feigns surprise that Matt is here by himself instead of at the movies with Ashley. Matt tells her he’s waiting for Jake. Brooke peers around The Avalon, notes that Jake doesn’t seem to be around and offers to keep Matt company in the meantime. She takes a step towards Matt and he backs away like she’s covered in leprosy sores. After some more flirtation, Brooke holds her hand oot to Matt and asks if he likes her new ring. She wiggles her hand in his face until he grasps it to get a closer look. Take note: Matt grasps her hand at the 22:33 mark in the episode. As Matt nervously compliments Brooke’s ring, Kelly and Ashley enter on cue through the door next to the payphone. They stand in the middle of The Avalon talking aboot how nice it is to be hanging oot together for the first time until Kelly glances towards the pinball room and pretends to be shocked at what she sees, quickly telling Ashley in a panicked voice that maybe they should go somewhere else. Kelly continues to fix her gaze on the pinball room until her dim-witted companion finally gets a clue and turns around to see Matt and Brooke holding hands. Matt notices his girlfriend glaring daggers at him and abruptly releases Brooke’s hand. This happens at the 23:25 mark. For the math-impaired, this means that Matt was holding Brooke’s fucking hand for 52 SECONDS, a veritable eternity no matter whether we’re talking about reality or a shitty Nickelodeon soap opera. Ashley tells Matt to never speak to her again, “ever!” and flees The Avalon while Brooke and Kelly exchange some priceless looks of schadenfreudic satisfaction to take us to the closing credits.
Things are about to get real, y’all. Until the next time.