Season 3, Episode 7
A smattering of vaguely grotesque patrons sits in a drab cabaret, facing the small stage whose dim back-lighting transforms the curtain of party streamers into a hazy blur of shimmering trepidation. The phantasmagoric performance begins with a guttural yelp from the twisted and quivering lips of an elderly Vaudevillian chanteuse that’s met by anxiously enthusiastic applause from the assembled gallery of freaks. On each of the tables, next to the flickering hurricane lamps, rests a severed hand, gnarled and petrified from decades of ornamental use.
Did the previous paragraph sound more like a description of a scene from a David Lynch film or a reminder that round 2 of the Hillside Talent Contest is rapidly approaching? Ideally, it should have been the latter, but that’s literally only due to the lack of severed hands present in the nightmare that’s aboot to commence. John Binkley’s imagery may be a tad more subtle, but it’s no less disturbing than any of the subconscious dementia with which Twin Peaks and Eraserhead were indulgently replete.
We open on Ashley studying alone at The Avalon when Roxanne approaches her booth. Ignoring Whisperina’s desperate pleas to be left alone, Roxanne takes a seat and insists that they need to talk. Ashley reiterates that Roxanne can have Chris because he’s a jerk, to which our increasingly inscrutable resident biker chick replies, “Yeah, I know. I think that’s what I like aboot him. Nice guys are boring.” Directly on the heels of her coolly laconic summation of the bad boy allure, Roxanne starts to loudly defend herself against unspoken accusations, claiming that up to this point, she and Chris haven’t been involved as anything more than friends. Ashley doesn’t seem to understand why Roxanne initiated this chat and to tell you the truth, neither do I, but she clearly thinks it’s important to dispel the rumor that she’s the type of person who’d steal someone’s boyfriend. Loath to let Roxanne get the last word, Ashley advises her that if she’s planning to get involved with Chris, she’d better be careful, since he’s been trying to rekindle their relationship.
Courtney and Jake are in the student lounge discussing Courtney’s stupid fucking play that she wrote for English class. Her lunatic of a teacher gave her an A+, so Jake is attempting to shatter Headband’s false modesty by praising her like she’d just penned A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He recaps his effluvium of flattery: “This could get to be a real problem for me – going oot with someone who’s gorgeous and talented!” but Courtney’s tight-lipped reaction signals that things aren’t as rosy in that fickle little brain of hers as Jake’s ear-to-ear smile would lead one to believe. After a long, awkward silence, Jake strokes Courtney’s hair, causing her to cringe visibly, though she’s quick to allay this uncomfortable moment by claiming that his hand is cold. As he gets up to go to class, he asks Courtney if she’d like to go with him to see a play this weekend. Her nervous and non-committal reply to the invite speaks volumes, though Jake is far too dense to read between the lines and pick up on the glaring indications of imminent rejection with which he was just bombarded.
At The Avalon, Who Farted brings a couple of beverages to the booth she’s sharing with Brooke and resurrects the topic of Dylan’s curiously disinterested reaction to her on again/off again mentor’s advances. This is one of those tedious plot lines that never seems to approach any point of closure, probably because Ian Weir is at a loss as to what else he can do with these two increasingly incompatible characters. Regardless, the coffee cake sitting untouched on a plate in front of Who Farted looks fucking delicious. Switching gears, Brooke brings up the talent contest in which Who Farted will be performing this afternoon, claiming that she thought aboot entering, then decided against it so as not to show up the other performers. All the while, Roxanne’s been sitting at the counter with her back to them, but upon hearing Brooke’s arrogant explanation for why she’s not entering the contest, she gets up and storms over to the booth.
Roxanne: You know why Brooke’s really avoiding the talent contest? It’s because she doesn’t have any talent. Kinda tragic, really.
Brooke tells Roxanne to drop dead and exits The Avalon in a huff.
Chris is at his locker wearing a phlegm-toned tie-dye when Dylan taps him on the shoulder and asks if he told Roxanne that she’s oot of the band. He responds in the negative, so Dylan tells him to bring her by the garage after school so he can tell her himself. Chris splits as Brooke approaches and starts in on her pathetic attempts at flirtation until Dylan finally cuts her short and asks if she’s trying to get him to ask her oot or something. Brooke plays coy until Leather Jacket mockingly asks her to lunch at The Avalon in a tone so overtly sarcastic that only a retarded toddler — or the president of the United States — could mistake it for a sincere invitation.
Roxanne is at the soda machine when Chris swaggers down the stairwell.
Chris: Hi, Gorgeous!
Roxanne: Are you talking to me?
Chris: Well, who else? (he puts his apparently cooties-infested arm around her shoulder) Listen, it looks like we’ve got a problem. I was talking to Dylan this morning—
Roxanne: (extricating herself from his embrace) So how are things with Ashley?
Roxanne: I was talking to her before school. Interesting little chat. So I understand that you’re trying to kiss and make up!
Chris: What?! Oh, come on…
Roxanne: That’s what Ashley said. Are you saying she’s lying? Ashley has her faults but I don’t think she’s a liar.
Chris: Okay, maybe the day after we broke up, I asked her if she was sure. That’s all. Really!
Roxanne: You don’t have to get all panicky. It just means you’re not sure you want to start going oot with me.
Chris: That’s not true!
Roxanne: Which is good because I’m not sure I want to start going oot with you! So let’s just see what happens.
Chris: Roxanne, just listen!
Roxanne: Don’t whine, Chris! I can’t stand whining.
Courtney is moping on a bench in the student lounge when Ashley walks by and asks if she’s okay, adding that she looks like someone who just lost her best friend (which is something Headband seems to do every other fucking day, so how the hell can anyone tell the difference?). Courtney sighs her silent assent, then quickly recovers and asks Ashley if she wants to meet up at The Avalon later. Pinky Dinks advises that she’s supposed to meet Dylan there this afternoon, but Courtney is free to join them if she wishes. When Courtney declines the invitation, Ashley sits down and demands that she spill her guts.
Courtney: It’s Jake.
Ashley: what’s happened?
Courtney: Well, nothing’s happened. Not exactly. It’s just…I really like Jake.
Ashley: yeah, that’s pretty obvious.
Courtney: I think he’s just a great guy.
Ashley: well, he is.
Courtney: That’s exactly the problem, because there’s nothing more than that!
Ashley: i think i’m missing something here.
Courtney: I have been trying really hard to convince myself that I like him…you know, in the other way…because he wants me to. But I just don’t! Kissing Jake is like kissing my brother…because that’s what it is! He’s like a brother to me.
Courtney: Ashley, getting involved in a relationship with him was a really terrible mistake. So what am I supposed to do now?
Ashley: oh, boy.
Brooke sees Who Farted at her locker and gloatingly tells her that Dylan asked her oot for a lunch date. In a momentary display of piquant wit, Who Farted asks if she’s sure she understood him correctly, but Brooke insists that Dylan was sincere and suggests that perhaps Who Farted is just jealous.
Roxanne is playing pinball at The Avalon while Chris leans over the machine and tells her that Dylan wants to meet with both of them at the garage, but he’s hesitant to fulfill this request because he knows that Leather Jacket wants to kick Roxanne oot of the band. (Was she ever in the fucking band?) Always the pragmatist, Roxanne tells Chris that Dylan deserves a chance to say what he needs to say. Chris counters that it will almost surely lead to an unnecessary fight, but Roxanne opines that she doesn’t mind a good fight. Finally, Chris asks what will happen if Dylan just kicks her oot of the band, to which she cryptically replies, “Oh, I’ve got one or two ideas. Wanna hear them?” as the incongruously dramatic background score leads me to wonder if murder and dismemberment are among the things she’s been brainstorming for such an eventuality.
Dylan and Ashley enter The Avalon where Brooke is waiting impatiently at a table. As they sit down at the counter, Brooke storms over and goes utterly apoplectic.
Dylan: Is something wrong?
Brooke: You invite me to lunch and then you leave me sitting here for twenty minutes! Then you show up with her and you’re asking me if something is wrong?!
Dylan: (to Ashley) I don’t know what she’s talking aboot.
Brooke: What?! YOU INVITED ME TO LUNCH!!
Dylan: I did not! You started talking aboot lunch!
Brooke: And you said it sounded like a great idea!
Dylan: Just a second…you mean you took me seriously?!
Brooke: Of course I did.
Dylan: Well, how was I supposed to know that?
Brooke: Oh great, and now you’re trying to weasel your way oot of it!
Dylan: Look, why on Earth would you think I’d wanna go oot with you? I mean, when you come right down to it, why on Earth would you even think I’d like you?
Taken aback by the unintended harshness of his own words, Dylan starts to backpedal, but the damage to Brooke’s increasingly fragile ego is done.
Some time later, Ashley says hi to Brooke as she passes by her locker and tells her that she’s on her way to the gym for the second round of the talent contest, which is interesting, because it’s being held in the student lounge and we’re never once afforded a glimpse of this school’s alleged gymnasium. So Courtney thinks the student lounge is a cafeteria and Ashley thinks it’s a gym and I think John Binkley is a fucking maniac. Make of that what you will. Anyway, Brooke accuses Ashley of being in on Dylan’s “prank” and making her look like a fool, punctuating her self-pitying jeremiad with a loud declaration that she doesn’t care and doesn’t need people to like her.
Dispensing of Arseman’s opening stage banter, we’re dropped right into the Talent Contest in progress with Russ wearing a shit-eating grin as he grinds a duotone dirge from an accordion. I assume that we jumped into Round 2 of the contest withoot the usual fanfare because Russ isn’t officially Russ yet, so Arseman would have been unable to introduce him by name.
Arseman: Wow, that was…interesting. It’s not every day somebody plays the accordion. Um, our next act is gonna be Dylan Blackwell doing Hamlet.
Arseman: Yeah, uh…Dylan with Hamlet. Anyway, our next act is gonna be a stand-up routine. Little John DiMarco making us laugh!
Arseman: Yeah, that was a good job. Now, we have something even more interesting. A saxophone player – by our own Stacy Collins! (What are you looking at? I didn’t write this shit. Take it up with Ian Weir.)
After a perplexing round of thunderous applause for Who Farted’s painfully off-key abortion of a sax solo, a mousy bespectacled girl runs to Arseman’s side and hands her a note.
Arseman: A surprise late entry by Brooke Morgan doing a tap routine!
What follows is the most singularly bizarre and confusing scene in the history of children’s television. Brooke emerges from backstage wearing a top hat and cane, unfolds a small square of tap-dancing floor and places it on the stage. The mousy girl enters stage left, steps up to the microphone and takes oot a harmonica. As Brooke begins her clumsy tap routine, the girl in glasses holds the harmonica up to her mouth and proceeds to inhale and exhale withoot moving it left or right, producing exactly two notes in repetition to serve as musical accompaniment. For roughly 15 seconds, Brooke alternately dances and goes tumbling to the ground as the audience intermittently breaks oot in laughter. After one final trip and fall, she finally folds up the square of tap floor and exits the stage.
There’s so much more that needs to be said aboot this scene, but my words just aren’t up to the task. If only Sailor and Lula had been in attendance.
At the garage, Dylan is advising Roxanne that she’s not good enough to sing for his band. In the most nonsensical expression of defiance ever spoken, Chris counters that Roxanne isn’t fired, Dylan is, leaving them free to seek oot a more accommodating guitarist for “their band”. (Incidentally, I’m planning to start a band of my own soon. I’ll need a singer, guitarist, bassist and drummer. Interested parties should inquire in the Contact section – knowledge of the Grapes of Wrath’s back catalogue is preferred, but not required).
Almost as a merciful return to normalcy, we end the episode in The Avalon, where Ashley and Courtney are having the exact same conversation aboot Headband’s lack of libidinous feelings for Jake that they already conducted less than five minutes ago in the student lounge. Ashley tells Courtney that she needs to tell Jake the truth and just as Headband begins to whine that she wouldn’t be able to live with herself, Jake walks into the café. He bends down and kisses Courtney on the cheek.
Jake: Hi, Ashley. Hi, Gorgeous! So how’s it going?
Courtney: Oh, you know…good.
Jake: I’m just gonna grab a milkshake. Can I get you anything?
Courtney: No, no, we’re just fine.
Jake: I’ll be right back then.
Courtney: (to Ashley) See what I mean?
Yes, Courtney. I see exactly what you mean and that’s precisely why I feel that you deserve to be tarred and feathered in the middle of Robson Square, you fucking twat. Unlike the Hillside Talent Contest, that would be a show well worth the price of admission.
Until the next time.
I would be remiss if I failed to provide a word for word transcription of the final joke of John’s stand-up act. Not only did this elicit a considerable laugh from his humor-impaired peers, but it nearly prompted a standing fucking ovation: “My 4th grade English teacher – wooh! Now, get this – his name is William. Yeah. That’s kinda strange, isn’t it?” No, John. No, it isn’t.