November 11, 2014
SVU Thriller, What Winston Saw: All Women Are Evil
Summary: Winston and Denise have been having some unplanned time apart, since she’s been housesitting for her aunt. Winston’s lonely, despite having a bunch of friends and all those female dormmates who used to dote on him. He’s also just started working for Dean Franklin, snagging what’s apparently an in-demand job, though I can’t imagine it involves much more than phone duty and scheduling. Also, I’m sure the upperclassmen were pleased that a freshman got the job. Anyway, this only matters because Dean Franklin is married to the much-younger, smoking-hot Amanda Franklin, who quickly develops a thing for our dear Winnie.
Winston spots Denise talking to Bruce and gets jealous. In most books, their conversation would be completely harmless and platonic, but there is something going on. Denise has asked Bruce to help her out with something, and she’s adamant that Winston not find out about it. Winston’s worried that his relationship with Denise is about to go south. Dean Franklin invites Winston to a trustee party at his house, and Winston asks Denise to go with him. She has a test to study for, so she declines, which leads to a fight. Now Winston’s even more worried about their relationship.
On the party, Winston and Elizabeth spot Denise and Bruce together, even though Denise said she’d be studying. This puts Winston in an even worse mood for a party where he’s supposed to make the dean look good. He ends up spending a lot of time talking to Amanda. Elizabeth, who’s covering the party for WSVU, can’t help but think there’s something fishy there. (Probably because Winston isn’t the kind of guy hot women usually flirt with.)
Winston and Amanda drink champagne together, but when she tries to seduce him, he’s sober enough to realize that hooking up with her would be a very bad idea. Amanda’s determined to change his mind in the near future. Amanda tracks Winston down at his dorm later that night, and this time Winston is barely able to fend her off. (By the way, if their genders were reversed, the ghostwriter would paint male as a sexual predator, but since she’s a woman, she’s just a failed seductress.)
Elsewhere on campus, a guy named Jackson Lowe stops for the night (no, I don’t know why he wants to spend the night on a college campus) and spots Elizabeth hanging out with Tom. Elizabeth reminds him of his former girlfriend, Gina, who was a slut because she slept with another guy. When Jackson found out, he trashed her for not being pure, then slit her throat. Now, when he sees girls who are whores like Gina, he can’t control his urge to kill them.
Sidebar: There is a disgusting amount of slut-shaming in this book. I think we’re supposed to dismiss it because Jackson is completely crazy, but I need to mention it. His whole image as a villain is centered on punishing women who have sex. (Ironic that he targets Elizabeth, the last virgin in Sweet Valley.) I don’t understand why the ghostwriter thought this was necessary. Crazy is crazy; it doesn’t need this kind of motive. We don’t need more male characters who go after women for their sexual habits. Okay, end sidebar.
Elizabeth and Tom split up, and as she’s walking to her dorm alone, Jackson attacks her. From up in Winston’s room, Amanda sees the attack and alerts Winston. Jackson sees Amanda watching him and runs off before he can do any physical harm to Elizabeth. Winston wants to call the police, but Amanda says they can’t – word will get out that she was in Winston’s room. They decide to keep the incident quiet. Fortunately for them, because they’re huge jerks who don’t seem to care that a woman was almost raped and murdered, Elizabeth makes it home in one piece, and Jessica calls the police. Liz doesn’t think there were any witnesses, because wouldn’t someone who saw a horrible crime call for help?
Winston spends the next day nervous about the dean finding out that Winston almost slept with his wife. The dean has no idea, and is actually a very nice guy who just happens to be married to a horrible woman. Winston tries to avoid Denise, who doesn’t get why her boyfriend is acting weird.
Amanda goes to Winston’s dorm again, and he shows her a newspaper article about a waitress being murdered near a bar. He thinks the person who attacked Elizabeth is the killer. Even though he’s right, this is a leap the size of the Grand Canyon, and I doubt a normal person would make it. Anyway, Winston says again that he wants to call the police, but again, Amanda says no. Finally he overrules her, with some negotiation: She’ll tell him everything she saw during Elizabeth’s attack, and Winston will pretend he’s the eyewitness.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth gives her statement to the police, but she never saw her attacker, so they don’t have much to go on. All she knows is that he has a southern accent. As soon as Winston reveals himself as a witness, the police pay him a visit. He gives them the information Amanda fed him, then goes to see a line-up. Amanda didn’t give him much to go on – the guy’s general height, weight, and hair color – and there’s only one detail that could separate the guilty from the innocent: a possible tattoo on his arm. Winston IDs the person he thinks is the attacker, but he turns out to be an undercover officer posing as a decoy.
Elizabeth learns that Winston is the eyewitness and thanks him for trying to help her find her attacker. He feels guilty that he’s covering up so much and can’t really help. Elizabeth notices that something’s off with him and takes it upon herself to find out what he’s hiding. Just before he leaves the police station, Winston runs into Jackson and realizes that he’s the attacker. He follows Jackson to a bar, but is so awkward about everything that he gets kicked out. As he goes, he calls Amanda to get her to come to the bar and ID Jackson. She’s unsure, and is more interested in Winston anyway. Meanwhile, Jackson follows and kills a woman he was talking to in the bar.
Winston hears of the murder the next day, recognizes the victim, and realizes that Jackson killed her. He tells the police, who aren’t sure of Winston’s theory but agree to get a search warrant for Jackson’s car. They assure Winston that he won’t have to testify. Cut to later, when the police tell Elizabeth that the warrant didn’t turn anything up. Oh, and now Winston will have to testify because he’s the only one who can link Jackson to Elizabeth’s attack.
Winston goes running to Amanda, who’s mad that she’s been dragged into all this. This is when we find out that Amanda first met Dean Franklin when she was his student at another college, and he cheated on his wife with her. She doesn’t feel like his equal, because of their age difference, and doesn’t feel appreciated, blah blah, all the clichés you hear when a woman cheats. Now she wants to make her marriage work. No one cares, Amanda.
Bruce asks Winston to meet him, and the truth about his and Denise’s secret comes out: She asked him to let Winston take his Porsche for a ride. This is kind of a lame gift, but whatever. Now Winston feels really bad for almost cheating. But that’s the least of his problems, because it’s time for Jackson to go to court. Winston testifies, using the information Amanda gave him, but gets busted for claiming he saw at a far distance without his contacts in, which would be impossible. Jackson is let go, but not before he realizes that Amanda is the real eyewitness.
At the same time, Elizabeth realizes that something happened between Winston and Amanda. She confronts him and he tells her everything. She’s understandably mad that her attacker got off because Winston didn’t suck it up and turn on Amanda. Winston still feels horrible…and then horrible some more when the police decide that he may be the real killer. After all, he was at the bar near where the second woman was killed, and was around Elizabeth the night she was attacked. Winston continues to not tell the police what happened with Amanda, even though he could end up going to prison. WINSTON, YOU MORON.
Denise goes looking for Elizabeth, who spills that Winston cheated on her with Amanda. Elizabeth, stay out of it! Denise dumps Winston, even though he swears that there was no sex and that he’s not interested in Amanda. Winston heads to the Franklins’ house, desperate to get Amanda to clear him as a suspect, but she acts like he’s a crazy stalker and threatens to tell the dean that he’s obsessed with her.
Then there’s something weird, with basically a missing scene where Winston convinces Amanda to tell the dean everything that happened. But they’re on their way to the theater, so Winston rushes to get there so he can tell the dean before Amanda can. This is only in the book so Winston can be goofy at the theater, saying “Macbeth” a bunch of times in an effort to get the show delayed so he can talk to the dean. Anyway, Amanda talks to her husband first, and Winston ends up looking like an idiot.
Jackson is also at the theater, stalking Amanda, and he manages to get her alone. As Winston’s leaving, he sees Jackson’s truck in the parking lot and puts it together that Jackson’s there to kill Amanda. But by the time he gets back to the theater, he’s too late, and Jackson has claimed another victim. Of course, Winston is a suspect in Amanda’s murder, since he was just seen being weird around her and the police already think he’s the killer. Winston runs to Denise, who agrees to hide him and work out a plan with Elizabeth.
The (stupid, dangerous) plan is this: They’ll follow Jackson to a bar, Denise will flirt with him, Jackson will think she’s a whore, and when he tries to kill her, Winston and Elizabeth will call the police. There’s no way this could possibly go wrong! Except that there are many ways this could go wrong, and it does go wrong. Denise has to drink shots to keep up the charade, and she can’t shake a guy named Squid who keeps hitting on her. Every guy in the bar is a sexist jerk who thinks Denise is only as valuable as her body. Jackson actually saves Denise from getting groped too much by Squid.
Denise takes too long inside, worrying Winston and Elizabeth, who decide to call the police ahead of schedule. Except no one bothered to make sure the pay phone outside the bar was actually working, which it’s not. Elizabeth goes inside to use the phone, but again, women are just objects in this bar, and she can’t get something for nothing. She decides to drive to the police station while Winston attempts to fight the bikers in the bar but gets knocked out instead. I mean, of course.
Denise, who has no idea that she now has no back-up, heads to the parking lot to be with Jackson. Winston comes to, smashes a biker in the face with a beer mug, takes his keys, and “borrows” his motorcycle. As he takes off, Jackson kidnaps Denise. Winston returns and fighting ensues while Elizabeth shows up with the police. Jackson and Winston face off, and Denise decides to do what I call steering into the crazy: She tells Jackson that she knows she’s a slut and won’t be one anymore. This manages to get him to let Winston go, just as the police arrive and arrest Jackson.
A few weeks later, Jackson is sentenced to life in prison. What kind of universe is this where trials happen so quickly? Maybe he took a plea agreement? He probably figured that prison is a small price to pay for ridding the world of a few sluts.
Thoughts: The book title makes no sense. The whole point is that Winston didn’t see anything!
Jessica (who’s barely in this book) gives a great description of Bruce: “a victim of a tragic love affair with himself.”
Jackson calls his car Baby. YOU ARE NOT DEAN WINCHESTER, JACKSON.
The cops are mad that Winston didn’t tell them he wears contacts, like, shouldn’t they have asked him? Isn’t that their job?
“Denise couldn’t help noticing that she was the only woman in the entire place, except for a wrinkled old lady who was sitting in the corner, drinking straight from a bottle of tequila.” Someday, I hope to be that woman.