December 7, 2019

My So-Called Life 15, So-Called Angels: Homeless for the Holidays

Posted in TV tagged , at 1:29 pm by Jenn

All I want for Christmas is to give Rickie a hug

Summary: Rickie is crying and spitting blood in the snow, his face cut and bruised. He limps down a sidewalk somewhere downtown while a teen girl plays “Silent Night” on a guitar. At the Chases’, Angela’s playing the same song on the piano. Danielle complains that she’s not getting a new bike for Christmas, though Angela got one when she was Danielle’s age. Her parents really don’t care. Patty stresses about Christmas cards while Graham decorates for Christmas.

Angela asks why the family never goes to church. Her parents don’t have a good answer. She asks if they believe in God. Patty and Graham try to figure out what to say, noting that they come from different religious backgrounds. Danielle wants to shelve the religion conversation, since it’s Christmas.

At school, the choir sings “Away in a Manger” in the hallway. Rayanne thinks people are going cuckoo for Christmas, which isn’t a huge deal to her and her mother. The girls are shocked at the sight of Rickie’s bruises, which he says he sustained when he slipped on his way to catch a bus. Angela is skeptical, but Rayanne says Rickie gets beaten up a lot and doesn’t like talking about it.

The girls spot Sharon hanging up fliers for a teen helpline. Rayanne doesn’t think depressed teens will feel any better after talking to Sharon. Sharon snarks back at her, so Rayanne scatters her fliers. Sharon asks Brian to help hand out fliers, reminding him that he signed up to help. Now he wants to back out.

At the Chases’, Patty tells Graham that Brian’s parents went on a cruise, leaving him alone for ten days, including Christmas. Graham notes that the Krakows are Jewish, so it’s not as big a deal as it would be for a gentile family. He asks what Patty wants for Christmas, and she says she wants him to come to church with her and the girls on Christmas Eve. He’s not on board with that.

While taking out the trash, Angela finds Rickie lurking in the backyard. He says he was at Brian’s and wanted to stop by to see Angela. Before that, he was at Rayanne’s. He appreciates how cozy and friendly the house is, especially since Graham’s been trying out new recipes, so it smells homey. Angela takes him to the kitchen for dinner.

Graham and Patty come home from Christmas shopping and pull Angela out of the kitchen to ask what happened to Rickie. They think it’s too late for someone to be over, but Angela says she doesn’t think he has anywhere else to go. Graham suspects that he ran away. Angela asks if he can stay the night, but Patty doesn’t want to get in the middle of Rickie’s family issues. While the Chases are discussing the best thing to do, Rickie leaves.

He goes back downtown, running into Jordan, who offers him a ride. “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays” is playing, adding insult to injury. Jordan senses that Rickie doesn’t want to go home and says he knows a place Rickie can stay. His father used to be abusive, so he can sense that Rickie’s going through the same thing. Jordan finally fought back, and his father backed off. Rickie offers to light a candle for Jordan on Christmas Eve, but Jordan doubts that will change anything. The guitar player is still lurking.

Patty’s worried that she and Graham were wrong not to let Rickie stay. They don’t know anything about him and have never met his family, so how can they know what his situation is? Graham thinks he makes Patty uncomfortable. If Brian came by with bruises, Patty would welcome him to stay. Patty notes that she’s known Brian since he was five, so it’s different. Graham wonders if that should matter.

At school the next day, Angela worries about Rickie, who hasn’t shown up yet. Rayanne says he probably went to stay with his cousin. Angela needs to stop thinking she’s responsible for the whole world. Brian complains to Sharon that people are making too big a deal out of Christmas. Sharon and her cute ornament-shaped earrings tell him that this is the time of year teens need their helpline the most. The stress gives them “actual symptoms of depression, or whatever. Like, total hopelessness and despair.” She begs him to work the helpline on Christmas Eve, since he’s the only one who doesn’t have plans.

In the bathroom, Sharon complains to Rayanne that Brian screwed her over. Rayanne isn’t surprised. Sharon asks if Rayanne actually knows Brian that well, and Rayanne mentions that they slept together once. Sharon recognizes that she’s made too many commitments and promises for the holidays. She also acknowledges that Rayanne’s a good listener. Rayanne credits all the years she’s spent listening to her mother’s problems. Now, though, Amber has an annoying boyfriend, and Rayanne would like to keep her distance. Sharon has a suggestion for where she can spend Christmas.

Angela slips a note into Rickie’s locker, then hears guitar music. She follows it to the band room and meets the guitar player, who says she hangs out there sometimes. When she was in school, she never attended, but now that she’s not in school, she spends a lot of time there. Angela says she loved the song the girl was playing. The girl says she’ll probably be working on it forever. She laments having to go back outside, since she can never get warm. Her worn shoes are to blame; someone stole the better pair she had while she was sleeping.

The girl knows who Angela is and knows she’s friends with Rickie. She tells Angela not to worry about him; she’s been looking out for him. When the bell rings, the girl leaves and Angela runs after her but loses her in the busy hallway. She runs into Jordan, who didn’t see the guitar player. Jordan mentions that he took Rickie to an old warehouse, where he might still be staying. He offers to show Angela where it is.

Brian helps Graham get a Christmas tree into the Chases’ house, but he can’t wrangle an invitation to help with any other Christmas activities. Jordan takes Angela to the warehouse, which some homeless people have turned into a makeshift home. Most of them are young. The guitar player is there, playing the same song Angela heard her playing at school. It’s about being alone and cold and trying to break through the loneliness because someone wants to love you. She shows Angela where Rickie’s sleeping, just one of the dozen homeless people finding warmth in an abandoned building.

Angela asks Rickie why he can’t go home. She orders him to come home with her, but Rickie refuses to sponge off of people who don’t even want him there. She tells him he can’t stay there – tomorrow’s Christmas Eve. Rickie says he’ll spend it with his cousins. He tells her to go home, since she doesn’t belong there. Angela says he doesn’t, either. Rickie won’t tell her what’s going on, saying that the best way for her to help him is to leave him alone.

Angela goes back to the guitar player, who’s now asleep. She takes off her boots and swaps them with the guitar player’s, leaving her the better pair. She goes home to her nicely decorated house, where Danielle lets her put the angel on the top of the tree. Angela assures her parents that Rickie’s okay. Brian’s still there and asks if he really is okay. Graham and Patty eavesdrop as Angela tells Brian that Rickie ran away from an abusive home and is now sleeping in a warehouse with other homeless teens.

Angela’s shocked/offended that Brian didn’t know about the city’s homeless-teen population. He snaps that she seems to consider herself an expert on the situation after going to one warehouse. Angela says the people there are normal, just like them. When she talks to the guitar player, she forgets that there’s anything different between them.

Patty feels horrible about Rickie’s circumstances…no, wait, she feels horrible that Angela went to the warehouse and could have put herself in danger. She thinks they need to do the right thing now. Graham agrees – but first, dinner. The next day, they go to the police to talk about the warehouse and helping Rickie. The officer they talk to is more interested in the warehouse than helping anyone. Graham wonders if they’ve made the right decision.

Patty asks what will happen next. The officer says it depends on whether Rickie is “a runaway or a throwaway.” Patty sees posters for missing children and imagines them and their parents asking for help. One of the posters is of the guitar player. The officer thanks the Chases for being good citizens and advises them to keep their own children close.

At home, Angela’s setting up for a nice Christmas Eve dinner, plus a surprise: She wants to invite Rickie and the guitar player over. Patty orders her to never go back to the warehouse. Angela’s mad that her parents eavesdropped and then went to the police. She wants to warn the teens at the warehouse. Patty tells her this is a serious situation, but Angela gets that. She thinks that the guitar player could easily be her. Patty sharply disagrees.

Later that night, Patty tries to wrap presents but is distracted by the fight with Angela. She says it was the kind of fight that’s so bad, it seems like the fight is having you. She asks Graham to talk to her. He says Angela went for a walk, so of course Patty guesses she’s at the warehouse. The police are already there. Patty heads off to find Angela, leaving as Brian comes by to attempt to spend the holiday with nice people. He watches A Christmas Carol by himself and pulls a helpline flier out of his pocket.

Sharon’s there with Rayanne, who’s actually excited to lend a hand. Brian calls in, saying his name is Steve, but Rayanne recognizes his voice. “Steve” says that his parents suggested he spend Christmas in Denver with his sister, but he wanted to stay home. He thought he would enjoy having peace and quiet while he studied for the PSAT. Now he feels lonely. He’s at his neighbors’ house because he couldn’t take any more of it.

Rayanne covers the phone to tell Sharon that Brian’s crying. Sharon offers to get a supervisor, but Rayanne thinks she can take care of things. She calls herself Jade and turns the call into a sex chat. Okay, Sharon, take the phone away from him. Brian decides this is getting too hot and heavy and says he should get off. Dirty! “Jade” points out that at least he’s not sad anymore.

Patty goes downtown to look for the warehouse but instead sees the guitar player, whom she recognizes from her poster. Angela calls home to tell Graham where she is – not the police station but a church basement. The kids from the warehouse are there, too. So it looks like Graham will be going to church on Christmas Eve after all.

Patty wanders around, looking for Angela, and thinks she’s found her when she sees her boots. Of course, they’re on the guitar player, who says she’s no different from Angela. She had a mom and clean sheets once, too. She invites Patty to ask why she left home. The guitar player says she and her mother had a fight, the kind that seems like it’s having you. Patty asks how she died. The guitar player says she froze. Then she disappears.

Hearing “O Holy Night,” Patty goes into a church, where Rickie’s lighting a candle and praying. He tries to hold it together, but when she embraces him, he cries. They sit in the sanctuary and listen to the music until Angela finds them there. Eventually Graham, Brian, and Danielle join them for the rest of the service. Four women sing about feeling like going home.

At the helpline, Sharon and Rayanne are having a great time together. Jordan spends the evening alone, possibly at the warehouse. After the service, the guitar player watches the Chases, Rickie, and Brian leave the church together, then flies off. Because she was an angel. Yeah, of course.

Thoughts: The guitar player is played by ’90s musician Juliana Hatfield. Anyone remember her? Anyone? No? Okay.

Let’s talk about how much the school sucks if no one ever noticed or did anything about Rickie’s clearly abusive home.

I guess it would have been too easy for Brian to invite Rickie to stay with him, which would have solved both of their problems.

Patty: “You will not believe what Bernice and Bob Krakow did.” Graham: “Oh, I know. But just that once, to make Brian.” GRAHAM! Rayanne would be proud. Also, if Brian has a sister, then it was twice.

1 Comment »

  1. Nick Rivers said,

    I remember this episode being a little bit hokey with the Juliana Hatfield angel thing, but in hindsight it’s beautifully Early ’90s. And frankly, upon rewatch, it’s really well done. Naturally it’s super heartbreaking for Rickie. But I loved it!

    I loved that they had Brian hanging out at the Chase house for Christmas and getting phonesexed by Rayanne (who, to her credit, handled it all actually really kindly).

    I loved how Angela was so sweet to Juliana with the boots and so caring towards Rickie.

    I loved that Jordan came through with a true kindness towards Rickie (again!) and commiserated with his situation in a way nobody else in Rickie’s friend group could.

    I loved that Sharon enlisted Rayanne to help her at the hotline (and how she cringed at Rayanne’s response to Brian’s call, but neither of them ever brought it up to him again).

    I loved how Jordan grabbed Angela’s hand as they walked down the hall to his car so he could take her to where he left Rickie at the warehouse.

    I loved Angela and Brian’s fireside talk about what was going on with Rickie after she finally recognized he really truly cared about their friend.

    I loved Patty’s reaction when she saw Rickie in the church and his reaction to her.

    I loved Angela and Rickie’s reaction to Danielle, and then to Brian, when they arrived too.

    WHY DIDN’T BRIAN HAVE RICKIE STAY AT HIS HOUSE?! Seriously. I know it wasn’t a permanent solution, but it would have made things easier over the holidays for both of them, like you say.

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