August 31, 2019

My So-Called Life 3, Guns and Gossip: Unraveling

Posted in TV tagged at 1:23 pm by Jenn

So what’s “incomplete” sex?

Summary: Angela’s history class is watching a video of President Kennedy’s inaugural speech (“ask not what your country can do for you…”). She voices over that adults like to tell people where they were when they learned of his assassination. It almost makes her jealous, like she should have experienced something important enough to know where she was when it happened. She feels like the 1960s were a better time, and people knew what they were supposed to do to make the world better.

The girls in the class pass a note around as Brian leaves the classroom with stomach problems. Angela voices over that nowadays, no one knows anything important. In the hallway, Brian spots Rickie tussling with someone Brian can’t see around a corner. The note continues circulating around the classroom, finally making its way to Rayanne, then Angela. Angela reads it, surprised. In the hallway, there’s a gunshot.

Brian comes across the gun as he leaves the bathroom. Everyone runs into the hallway to see what happened. A girl realizes that the bullet hit her locker, piercing the soda she had inside. The history teacher asks Brian if he saw who shot the gun. Angela looks at the note again; it says that she and Jordan had sex (sorry, “complete sex”) in his car.

The bathroom is full of gossiping girls when Angela and Rayanne try to squeeze inside. Crystal, the girl whose locker was shot, says that she could have been standing there; after all, she’d just been there ten minutes earlier. Rayanne notes that no one was hurt, so it’s not a big deal. Crystal says she doesn’t want the school to get a bad reputation. “Like yours, you mean?” Rayanne replies. She says it’s common knowledge that there are always 50 guns at school at any given moment. Obviously, the school is safe if this is the first time one has gone off.

Angela’s more concerned with who wrote the note about her and Jordan. Again, Rayanne doesn’t think it’s a big deal. The two of them write gossipy notes about others all the time. Angela points out that their notes are true, while this one isn’t. Rayanne promises that she hasn’t been spreading rumors. Rickie joins them, claiming that a rip in his sleeve is from a fence it got caught on. He also says he was in English class when the gun went off.

Rayanne taunts the other girls by saying she should get a gun, then yelling, “Bam! Bam!” She thought Rickie was in social studies, not English. He changes the subject to the rumor about Angela and Jordan. “Just shoot me,” Angela says. “We could probably arrange that,” Rayanne says. She thinks the rumor is positive – it could lead to Jordan and Angela getting to the next level. She and Rickie ask for details about the kissing in the car. Angela says they were “introductory.”

At dinner that night, Patty interrogates Angela about her location when the gun went off. She thinks the school is deteriorating and Angela isn’t safe there. Angela says it was just “one stupid gunshot.” Danielle tries to outdo the dramatics of the day by saying that at her school, a kid slipped in a wet spot and fell. Nice try, Danielle.

Later, Patty tells Graham that they should consider putting Angela in another school. Graham reminds her that they can’t put their kids in a protective bubble. Patty would settle for a safe place where they don’t have to worry about guns and serial killers and AIDS. Patty, you’re in for a lot of heartbreak when you get to 2019.

Angela’s paranoid as she and Rayanne spy on a guys’ gym class; she thinks people are looking at her. Rayanne says that’s good, thinking Angela just means guys are checking her out. A cute one says hi, and the girls try to analyze if his greeting had another meaning. Rayanne insists that it’s good that guys think Angela puts out. She wonders if Jordan started the rumor.

Rayanne catches up to Jordan later as cops search a student’s locker. Angela sees them talking, then spots two guys shoving Rickie around. Rayanne addresses the rumor with Jordan, who hasn’t heard it yet. She gets protective, making sure Jordan isn’t making up lies about her friend. He’s not. Sharon introduces Brian to a girl named Gina, who’s impressed that he was an eyewitness to the gun incident. The principal, Mr. Foster, interrupts to take Brian to his office for some questioning.

As Angela passes by, Sharon whispers to Gina, “There she is,” and glares. Distracted, Angela bumps into a cop. Mr. Foster looks over Brian’s grades, which have always been excellent, and says all schools need more kids like him. He’s on the path to become valedictorian, and all his teachers love him. The conversation turns to the gun incident and why Brian was in the hallway. Mr. Foster’s interested in why Brian says he heard a scuffle but didn’t see anything. He hopes Brian isn’t trying to protect anyone. Brian promises he isn’t. He sees Rickie in the hallway as he leaves the office.

A bunch of parents gather for a meeting at the school and assurance from Mr. Foster that violence won’t be tolerated. He needs cooperation from the parents to enact any safety measures put in place. Another parent, Amber Vallon, scoffs to Patty that the people who come to these kinds of meetings are the people who let their kids have guns. A father wants to know what the school is doing to keep guns out. A mother refuses to live with this kind of terror.

Mr. Foster announces that there will be counseling available for any kids who are struggling with the incident. Amber rolls her eyes at the idea of therapy being a solution; they’re just helping kids adjust to the idea of being shot. Patty can’t help laughing. Amber asks a question about what Mr. Foster plans to do, and when she identifies herself and her daughter, Patty learns that she’s Rayanne’s mother. Amber says the guns are the only thing they need to be focusing on right now.

After the meeting, Patty praises Amber for being so straightforward. They’re pleased to meet their daughters’ friends’ mothers. Amber compares a new friendship to finding a new crush. You see everyone else in black and white, and the person you’re in love with is in color. Rayanne sees Angela in color.

Amber continues that Rayanne is fearless and doesn’t think anyone will hurt her. Then she brings up Jordan, complimenting Angela’s taste. Patty has no idea what she’s talking about. Amber knows more about Angela’s crush than Patty does. Amber’s thrilled that after all the time Angela’s spent obsessing over Jordan, she’s finally getting to be with him.

At home, Patty tells Graham how horrible it was to realize that Amber, who’s like a child, knows more about Angela than her own mother does. Graham notes that they can’t be sure that what Rayanne has told Amber is true. Patty says that, even if Angela isn’t having sex with Jordan, she has her own life now. Graham doesn’t want to know if it’s true. Patty hopes she’s not developing her mother’s attitude. Then she decides she’s allowed to get hysterical because Angela’s only 15.

Angela comes in and compliments Graham’s cooking. Patty just asks her straight out who Jordan is. Angela plays it cool, saying she barely knows him and isn’t even sure she wants to get to know him more. She thinks Amber told Patty that she and Jordan are sleeping together. She declares that she hates everyone.

At school, Angela confronts Rayanne, who says she only told her mother that Angela likes Jordan. Does Angela want Rayanne to tell Amber to call Patty and clear things up? As cops frisk a student, Rickie gets hassled some more. Rayanne rescues him and shuts the bullies down when they invite her to go driving. Rickie says he could have handled that himself.

Angela’s history class discusses the gun incident and how the students have the right to go about their lives without being scared. Gina looks at Brian with heart eyes while a jock looks at Angela with interest. Rickie tells the teacher that he doesn’t know what everyone goes through at school. Maybe some people who carry guns do it for protection because they’re victims.

As the jock eyeing Angela gets a note passed around, the teacher asks Rickie if students don’t think the authorities can protect them. Rickie says again that the teacher doesn’t know what goes on at school. If, hypothetically, he felt threatened, he would carry a gun. Angela reads the jock’s note, unhappy with the contents, and walks out of class.

Crystal’s in with the school counselor, talking about how she’d just been thinking about the soda around the time the gun went off. What if she’d gone to get it right then? Maybe she should change lockers. Rayanne sees the counselor as well, pretending that the experience has been scary for her. It would help if she could get a few days off of school.

Brian is brought to Mr. Foster’s office again, this time to talk with a detective. Mr. Foster’s getting a lot of attention from the school board and parents and the media, so he needs some answers to give them. Brian is the only person who can clear things up. What noise did Brian hear that brought him out of the bathroom?

Rayanne catches Brian as he leaves the office and reminds him that snitches get stitches. Sharon is next to chat with him, telling him to spill anything he knows so everyone will feel safe again. Gina wants to interview Brian for the school paper so everyone can find out what really happened.

Brian and Angela both spend time in the counselor’s office, but Angela’s too distracted by the rumors about her to talk about the gun. She’s upset that people have decided something about her without caring what’s true. The counselor notes that if someone is the target of lies, that person can always speak up and tell the truth. People tend to latch on to something that has a kernel of truth, and that’s when they get in trouble.

Patty checks in on Angela at home, announcing that they need to talk. Angela voices over that Patty gave her the sex talk when she was 12, and they still haven’t recovered. Patty wants to have a similar talk now, saying that Angela isn’t ready for sex, but if that’s what’s already happening, Patty hopes she’s being safe.

Angela promises she’s not even close to having sex, “to an embarrassing degree.” Patty’s relieved and says she just wants Angela to be prepared when the time comes. Angela says it never will, at least not with Jordan. Patty thinks that’s why Angela’s moping around. Angela doesn’t want to talk about it, but Patty says she’s there if she changes her mind.

Angela sees Jordan in the hallway at school and pretends to be fascinated with a poster about the Heimlich maneuver. Jordan approaches her, and Angela voices over that this moment was a life-changer. She realized the rumor was right – at that moment, she wanted Jordan so much that she would have done anything.

Jordan tells her he didn’t start the rumor and isn’t the type of person who would. Since everyone’s already talking about them having sex, they might as well have already done it. If everyone assumes they’ve done it, why not go ahead and do it? Angela can’t take her eyes off of the corner of Jordan’s shirt, which is coming undone: “The whole world was that unraveled piece of fabric.” She leaves, voicing over that it’s a lie that we should do what’s in our hearts. If we all did that, the world would stop.

She goes to the bathroom to wash her face, ducking into a stall just as Sharon and another girl come in without seeing her. They’re talking about how Angela and Jordan had sex right outside Brian’s house, at least according to Brian. Sharon believes the story because she knows Brian wouldn’t lie. She laments that Angela’s become a completely different person now and seems confused.

Angela shares her new information with Rayanne, who’s annoyed that Brian started the rumors. She thinks he’s also going to rat on Rickie for whatever it is he did. Mr. Foster asks Brian what he knows about Rickie (the answer: not much). He still thinks Brian is protecting someone. He orders Brian to come to his office after school and tell him all he knows about the gun incident. If not, Brian might be kicked out of school.

Angela finds Brian in the school’s primitive computer lab and asks if Rickie was the one who brought the gun to school. She doesn’t want him to get hurt. Brian asks if it’s fair for him to get kicked out for protecting someone he’s not actually protecting. No one cares about the truth anymore. Angela asks why he started the rumor about her and Jordan. Brian says he didn’t lie to Sharon, but it doesn’t matter, since Angela lied to him about Jordan coming over. She did what she wanted without caring about how it would hurt other people.

Jordan catches up with Angela and apologizes for the weirdness of suggesting that they have sex. She brushes it off, then says that maybe it’s not such a crazy idea. He tells her he wants to make it clear, for the sake of the rumor mill, that he doesn’t have any real interest in her. The two of them mean nothing to each other. Angela’s like, “…Well, thanks for that.”

On her way out of school, Angela spots Rickie sitting in the backseat of a car. He tells her he can’t make it through a whole day at school, so he hides out there. He doesn’t think she has anything to hide from; her life is perfect. She complains that it’s pathetic, but since she has present parents, a nice house, and no bullies, Rickie thinks her life is awesome.

She asks him about the gun, which he swears wasn’t his. Angela warns that Brian will say it was, and people will think he’s dangerous. Rickie says that’s what he wants. The person with the gun was his cousin; he brought it in to sell it. Rickie got mad about that and they fought. The gun fell and went off, spooking the cousin, who peed himself and ran away.

Angela and Rickie laugh but stop when Angela points out how bad it could be when Brian pins the incident on Rickie. Rickie says that he always thinks of Angela as Rayanne’s friend, not his. He thinks Angela just sees him as someone who’s always around. She hugs him, voicing over that sometimes something has to happen to make you realize how you feel about someone.

Brian goes to his meeting with Mr. Foster, and if I were his parents, I would be on the phone with a lawyer so fast, because this is completely inappropriate. Rayanne amuses herself with the idea of Brian going to prison. She again says the whole thing isn’t a big deal. Harlan, a guy Tino knows, has been arrested with a gun twice and nothing has actually happened to him. Brian will be fine.

Angela would like to be put out of her misery, but Rayanne’s having fun. Everyone’s running around upset and rumors are flying, and it all makes Rayanne feel alive. She’s been the center of gossip and loved every minute of it. It made her feel famous. She tries to get Angela to admit that she’s enjoying having everyone know who she is. But when authorities arrive for the conversation with Brian, Rayanne’s enjoyment of the situation falters a little.

Brian tells Mr. Foster that he agrees that they need to protect the school. He tells his story again, stating that he didn’t see who was involved. If anyone tries to question him again, he will sue for harassment. If Mr. Foster tries to expel him, he will paint Mr. Foster as the person destroying the spirit of the school.

At home, Angela tells Patty to drop her questions about the gun. No matter how hard Patty wants to protect her, she can’t. At school, Angela, Brian, and Rickie all wind up walking into the building together. They don’t speak, but they give each other looks of acknowledgment and respect. Rayanne is her usual cheerful self until the students get to the front door. They solemnly walk through the newly installed metal detectors, then try to go on with their day like everything is normal.

Thoughts: It’s so strange to watch this episode from the perspective of a culture where a gun going off in a school isn’t surprising anymore. Rayanne’s attitude almost seems normal – it’s not as big a deal as it could have been.

Crystal saying she was at her locker ten minutes before the gun went off is like people who talk about how they were in New York a week before 9/11.

Rickie, you cannot wear a plaid vest over a patterned shirt. You just cannot.

’90s music alert: the Cranberries’ “Dreams”

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Rivers said,

    This was a good episode. I’d forgotten how damn good this show was. The repercussions of Angela using Brian to get Jordan to come over… the effects of bullying on Rickie to the point where he’d rather people think he’s dangerous and risk being kicked out of school so the bullying would stop… Rayanne sticking up for both her friends at various parts of the ep. Loved the accusatory tone she took with Catalano about the rumor, too. She was right to suspect him from the start even if we found out quickly that he was innocent of it. Too many dudes go the rumor-mill route when they’re sexually frustrated by a girl.

    I also really liked the silent emotive acting she did during the classroom scene when Rickie was going off on the teacher about how he had no idea what really went on in the school. Rayanne knew, and you could see in her face how much she understood Rickie’s pain and felt terribly for him. I’d forgotten how good AJ Langer could be in this show.

    Angela growing closer to Rickie was terrific too. As I watch him with the girls I’m continually reminded of how Patty realizes belatedly what a good person he is and what a good friend he is to her daughter.

    Amber exuberantly talking about Rayanne’s crush on Angela and Patty’s complete bewilderment made me think “Of course you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be completely enamored of someone in high school, Patty — *you* were the one everyone was enamored with.” I liked that Amber and Rayanne clearly have a closer relationship than Patty and Angela do, for reasons Patty doesn’t understand but is jealous of right off the bat.

    We see the first hints of Graham’s excellent chef skills here, and we also see how Patty just takes it for granted whereas Angela seeks out his new concoctions and appreciates the detail of them immediately. Again, it seems obvious that Angela takes to Graham more because he is more like her, especially their high school experiences, whereas Patty was like a beauty queen or something and really didn’t have relatable experiences. I know this comes up later in the beauty pageant episode so I’m getting ahead of myself.

    Krakow… I was proud of him for how he stood up for himself at the end there. Gummersall was good at portraying a really geeky kid who sort of awkwarded his way through existence on every level. So it was a rare treat to see him assert himself this way, and you could see the principal respected it too.

    I graduated from high school the year before this aired, so neither I nor those kids had to deal with active shooter scenario trainings or anything like that. I can’t believe we put our kids through that now… or that it’s just accepted as normal now. What the everliving fuck.

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