…Why are you here?
Season 2, Episode 1
It’s a brand new season and appropriately, there’s a brand new intro to launch us into the next 13 episode installment of our favorite teen soap of all time! Matt Ender’s sublime theme music remains intact and unchanged, because you just don’t mess with perfection. However, the cast is no longer introduced by name, so we’re treated instead to a montage of scenes, most of which are lifted directly from the episodes to come, including a shoving match on the stairs between Dylan and Chris, Brooke attempting to de-uglify Who Farted at The Avalon counter, Courtney in one of her stupid new headbands trying to console the ever-inconsolable Ashley, and Deadpool holding John upside down by the ankles as he shakes the loose change oot of his pockets (something that doesn’t occur until Season 3, which probably means that they filmed both seasons at the same time). This new introduction isn’t available anywhere online, so let’s waste no further time on such trivialities and jump right into the action, eh?
We open on the exterior of an unfamiliar suburban home. In the basement, Ashley is grief-hugging an oversized pillow on the couch and Courtney is sitting on an adjacent love seat watching TV with her emotionally fragile and flagrantly truant friend. The program ends and Courtney gets up to leave. On her way up the stairs, she pauses to ask Ashley if she thinks she might come to school tomorrow but receives not even a whisper of a reply from the exaggeratedly anguished attention whore. Ashley continues to mope inside of her oversized purple sweatshirt – a wardrobe choice designed to indicate that Hillside’s former star pupil has officially given up hope – as Courtney tries another approach and tells her that she received a letter from Jake today. Though Ashley couldn’t possibly exude more indifference aboot this, Courtney proceeds to summarize the letter just the same, informing her that Jake misses everyone and “he misses me,” our first allusion to the fact that Courtney and Jake have embarked upon a long-distance romance now that he’s in China and thus incapable of spontaneous lip attacks and painfully awkward proposals. Honestly, I’ve been paying only slightly more attention to her words than Ashley has, but even so, I couldn’t help but notice that Courtney indicated Jake will be in China with his mom for six weeks – which means that this entire 13 episode season must take place within that very brief time frame. Courtney returns to the topic of Ashley’s prolonged absence from school and Melancholy Mauve coldly advises her that she won’t be coming back to Hillside because she’s enrolling at a private school the day after tomorrow.
Matt is alone at The Avalon when a completely new Jock Squad enters the café for some post-game soda pops. The slender souse asks them how the game went and they inform him that they won – their fifth straight victory since Matt was kicked off the team. They tell Matt that it’s great to see him and one of them gives him an affectionate punch on the shoulder as he sulks back to his table of solitude.
Brooke enters the locker vestibule sporting a drastically shorter haircut and wearing an uncharacteristically awful top that looks like an official NFL referee’s uniform. Her new sister Amanda calls oot to her, but Brooke is clearly giving her the silent treatment. Amanda pleads with her sister to hear her oot and the conversation that ensues explains the animosity between Brooke and this as-of-yet total stranger to even the most avid of Fifteen aficionados. Apparently, Brooke has transferred her anger at Theresa onto Amanda because her new sister told their dad aboot the whole geography paper scandal even though she promised she wouldn’t. Alright…a couple of things: 1) What the fuck happened to Dutch Boy?; 2) What the fuck happened to Kelly?; 3) Considering Brooke was put on academic probation, how would this have escaped her father’s notice even if Amanda had kept her mouth shut?; 4) Why wasn’t Amanda even mentioned in passing last season?; 5) What the fuck happened to Dutch Boy? (I know that’s the same question as the first, but it bears repeating). Brooke tells Amanda to go ootside and stand in the bus lane until she gets run over, seeming to indicate that no matter what sister she’s addressing, the common theme is that she always wishes they’d drop dead.
Matt’s playing pinball at The Avalon, and just like in last season’s premiere episode, the machine is fully functioning, with moving flippers, a visible ball, and sound effects. Apparently, the budget only allows for the machine to be plugged in exactly once per season. Deadpool enters through the rear door and interrupts Matt’s game with what is either a friendly greeting or a full body check. He asks Matt how he’s doing, then how Ashley’s doing, so the somber sot tells Billy that he hasn’t seen her in a week, adding, “If you happen to see her, say hi for me, okay?”
Dylan, whose new haircut makes me wonder if he goes to the same lesbian barber as Brooke, is studying in the lounge as Courtney walks by, dressed in a black rubber hazmat apron over a pink turtleneck.
Courtney: Oh. Hi, Dylan.
Courtney: Something wrong?
Dylan: Just the temperature. It just dropped aboot 40 degrees.
Courtney: Must be a problem with the heating system, then.
It’s nice to see that Ian Weir hasn’t lost his flair for realistic teen dialogue during the season break. As Courtney starts to walk away, Dylan gets up from the table and asks her if she’s seen Ashley. Courtney confirms that she saw her this morning, but opts to ignore his follow-up questions aboot whether she’ll be returning to school.
Courtney pivots away from Elvis and greets Arseman, who is sitting at a nearby table. The writers don’t even bother to explain who this person is – they apparently expect us to just act like the rest of the cast who all treat her like someone that’s been a part of their clique of Hillside A-listers all along. I refuse to accept this. Who the fuck is this chick and why do they keep springing new characters on us withoot bothering to give us even a kernel of backstory? I found your contact information online, Binkley, you fucking lunatic. Expect to be inundated with endless questions and complaints in the very near future.
Anyhow, in lieu of a greeting, Arseman tells Courtney to relax, noting that every time she’s within 10 feet of Dylan, her whole body goes rigid. Great, another fucking eavesdropper – just what we needed. Courtney responds, “Do yourself a favor…don’t ever, ever get involved with a guy,” to which our new afro-sporting friend replies, “I wasn’t planning to,” which is fucking bullshit because this asswipe will be trying to get into Dylan’s pants faster than you can say, “Did I just miss something here?”. Arseman changes the subject and asks how Ashley’s doing, because she “couldn’t help overhearing” Dylan’s inquiries. Courtney proceeds to tell the thrice-told tale of the tragic little thespian, while Arseman has the audacity to nod her head knowingly even though she just materialized in this dark matter Universe precisely 45 seconds ago. They toy with the idea of throwing her a going away party, then settle on getting a group of people together at The Avalon to ambush the mopey little shit with unsolicited and almost certainly unwanted attention. I’ve got to admit, on this one, I feel you, Ashley. Moping in peace is something that humanity just refuses to afford a person, and it only gets worse the older you get.
Brooke comes down the stairs just in time to hear the whole private school discussion. She feigns shock before inviting herself to the get-together at The Avalon, while Arseman rolls her eyes as if she’s been privy to Brooke’s shit for years as opposed to just the last 10 seconds. Rising from the table, Courtney admonishes Brooke not to tell anyone aboot what she just overheard and Brooke agrees to keep mum so repetitively that she might as well have said, “Fuck that, you disgusting cow, I’m gonna tell everyone in the school and you goddamn know it, so why bother telling me to do otherwise?”
Back in Ashley’s basement, Pink Misery is packing clothes into a suitcase as Courtney comes down the stairs and launches into a futile pep talk aboot how no one at school views her any differently since the cheating incident. Ashley reiterates that she just wants to be left alone, but Courtney presses her to meet up at The Avalon later for “one last slice of pizza” and Depression Fog reluctantly agrees, based on Courtney’s bald-faced lie that it will be “just the two of us”.
Brooke enters The Avalon and walks over to the table where Matt is studying. She sits down and Matt asks, “So how’s Theresa?”, to which Brooke replies, “Oh, my little sister Theresa? She’s fine. Off at that school for the arts having a wonderful time. She’s very talented. My other sister’s very talented, too, in different ways, of course. In Amanda’s case, it’s more of a talent for…well, getting her sweet and charming little way,” effectively filling two glaring plot holes with one big mound of shit. Unfortunately, Matt fails to ask her aboot Kelly, whose rotting corpse is probably laying somewhere beneath the floorboards of the Morgan Estate. Brooke then expresses her condolences to Matt for getting kicked off the team because of his drinking and this of course brings oot the hassle-averse Matt we all know and love for the first time this season. She continues running her mouth until she “inadvertently” spills the beans aboot the fact Ashley’s going to private school and Matt reacts with shock, which makes no fucking sense because he was the one who broke that news to Jake in last season’s final episode. Brooke continues to douse Matt’s wounds in sodium chloride until he gets up and flees The Avalon.
And now we’re at The Avalon again, where Billy is table drumming as Dylan approaches his booth from behind and says, “Hey, rock on!” They engage in some insufferably stupid conversation for a few minutes, none of which is worth repeating here, other than the fact that Dylan casually name-drops Chris like we’re already supposed to know who the hell that is. Jesus, this is a sloppy season transition. “How should we introduce the new cast members, John?” “Fuck, I don’t know, Ian, just act like they’ve been major characters all along. I’m sure nobody will notice.”
Arseman comes down the stairs and calls oot to Courtney in the lounge. These two geniuses still think it’s a good idea to kamikaze their morbidly depressed friend with a fucking surprise party at The Avalon, so they start to plan the guest list. Courtney, check. Arseman, check. Deadpool, check. Brooke…she already knows aboot it, so whatever. Matt? They wonder aloud whether he even knows aboot Ashley’s imminent departure just as the lanky lush materializes in the background. Before they can speak, Matt asks them, “Is this for real?”, which takes them by surprise until he divulges that Brooke told him all aboot it. Matt gives Courtney some shit for not telling him sooner and fucking busybody Arseman butts in to admonish him: “She’s telling you now, Matt”. They tell him aboot the get-together at The Avalon, but Matt astutely guesses that Ashley wouldn’t want to see him, though I’m sure it’s not as personal as he’s making it oot to be. If these two assholes had any self-awareness, they’d understand that she doesn’t want to see them, either. Courtney tries to comfort Matt by telling him that she knows Ashley still cares aboot him, but he brushes it off by saying that she’s got a funny way of showing it before taking his leave.
Back at Hillside, Dylan’s just standing idly by his locker like an idiot when he’s approached by — JANICE! Holy shit, I fucking love Janice, and in short order, I promise you will, too. She nervously introduces herself and tells him that she sits near him in science class, then unleashes a torrent of verbal diarrhea aboot having just transferred here last week and not having any friends yet, until Deadpool just cuts right in between them and excitedly asks Dylan if he’s heard aboot Ashley. Before Billy can announce his news, Janice chimes in, “Ashley who? Hi! I’m Janice!” causing her new acquaintances to walk to a different part of the hallway in an effort to dodge her overbearing presence. Erroneously believing they’re oot of earshot, Billy asks Dylan, “Who’s that?” to which Leather Jacket replies, “I’m not sure. I’m not sure I wanna know, either,” prompting Janice to skulk away in shame.
At The Avalon, Courtney brings two slices of pizza to the table where Ashley is sitting like a lump of clinically depressed shit. Pinky McMope tells Courtney that she’s not very hungry and wishes that they’d gone somewhere else, obviously horrified at the prospect of running into anyone she knows. Beginning with Arseman, Ashley’s obnoxious friends confirm her suspicions by entering the establishment one by one and acting like they just dropped in because they happened to be in the neighborhood. For some reason, Ashley’s icy façade finally cracks at the appearance of Dylan and Deadpool, who advise her that no one thinks any less of her for cheating on the test. Her anger magically transformed into gratitude, she sits back down across from Courtney and Arseman to continue staring at her slice of pizza. Now Matt approaches and asks her how she’s doing. Her response of, “okay, I guess,” seems to satisfy him and he trudges back to the pinball machine. Rounding oot the parade of parasitic pals is Brooke, still in her referee ootfit, spewing her typical insincere condolences and advising Ashley that, “We all forgive you,” before Dylan comes to Pink Denim’s rescue and tells Brooke to do them all a favor and flush herself down a toilet. Arseman advises Ashley that her pizza’s getting cold, but instead she gets up to go talk to Matt in the pinball room.
Matt at his most contrite is surprisingly soft-spoken, and the fact that they’re both whispering at each other for the next few minutes necessitates that I turn the volume on my laptop up to 11. They whisper apologies at each other before Matt asks, “It’s an awful feeling, isn’t it…when something really great gets totally ruined?” I know it’s a common human tendency to romanticize past relationships, but isn’t the passage of a single week a bit too soon for even this drunken douchebag to have forgotten that their entire “romance” was nothing more than a one-sided shouting match? He continues: “I guess there’s no point even dreaming, is there…aboot getting back together? Will I ever see you again?” She whispers that she’ll be back next summer and they’ll probably run into each other before they tell each other to take care.
Matt slumps onto the pinball machine with sad dreams of Ashley and Alcohol dancing through his head as the episode ends with as little fanfare as it began: