MSCL: Betrayal

If you remember anything about this show’s original run, then you’ve been dreading this episode. I certainly had been. (All that’s left now is to dread the final episode, which is only two weeks away. Sad face.) It is, after all, the Rayane and Jordan Do It episode. Let’s get started.

We open with Angela’s ecstatic realization that she’s over Jordan Catalano. As we watch her dance around her room, celebrating her (and our) liberation from all things Jordan, it seems possible that Angela can throw her thoughts and energy into more interesting productive things. Anything, really. Anything other than Jordan. Angela decides to focus on that dude Cory, who I guess we’re supposed to remember from about seven episodes ago.

Angela tells Rayanne and Rickie about her revelation while they wait for Rayanne’s audition for the school play. Don’t ask me why they thought this was a good idea, when just months earlier an open mic night at a coffee shop nearly gave Rayanne a nervous breakdown. Still! Rayanne nails it. Her pitch-perfect audition also marks the first time we’re really hit by the fact that under the elaborate costume Rayanne wears, what with the hair, makeup and clothes, she’s incredibly pretty.

Brian, meanwhile, has been roped into shooting the end-of-the year video for the yearbook. (Oh! Speaking of reappearing after a multi-episode hiatus, here’s Delia with like two lines!) Sharon tells him to go “where people hang out” to get some candid footage of people, ya know, hanging out. He picks what again, looks like a freaking bar where all the high school kids are shooting pool, standing around, sitting in booths. Oh, and it’s a school night. (What kind of suburb is this, anyway?) Apparently Jordan and Rayanne are the only people drinking, though, so they sneak out to Jordan’s car to drink”¦ aaand then bang in Jordan’s car. I mean, Red. Good thing creepster Brian’s there to capture it all on film!

Next comes the fallout: Brian tells Sharon, Sharon tells Angela, Angela runs to Rickie and then Brian. Rayanne and Jordan have a perfectly awkward interaction at school in which they seem to agree that their hookup was a terrible mistake. What really impresses me about this show so many years later, even when a lot of the earnestness and convoluted setups seem trite and dated, is the way it’s able to change your sympathies for the protagonists. Just when you’re sure you’re on Angela’s side, you’re forced to acknowledge what’s going on with Rayanne. Like Rickie, we see that Rayanne’s actions didn’t happen in a vacuum.

While I like the richness of the supporting cast, it does seem like as the weeks have gone by, we’ve lost track of Angela a little bit. In hindsight, this may have been part of what prevented the series from getting anything more than a devoted teen following. It’s hard to tell who, exactly, this show is about anymore. They’ve even thrown Angela’s usual episode-closing voiceovers by the wayside, which has kind of left each week kind of hanging with the closing credits.

This week it’s most jarring because, by the time Angela shows up at school in full Rayanne Mode and throws herself at Cory, we have no idea how she got to that point. We literally see one bathroom conversation between her and Rickie and a tense quiet moment in gym class, and suddenly our Angela is showing up at school with tiny braids in her hair and asking the poor dude in overalls to get drunk with her.

Side note: did anyone notice that as the episode progressed, Rayanne was wearing less and less makeup, and her hair and clothes got smoother and simpler? The result, by the final scene on stage with Angela, was that she looked incredibly innocent and vulnerable. Excellent work by the wardrobe people.

And I’m not sure the final scene held up well for me. Why did Mr. Katimski feel the need to pull someone in to read the missing girl’s lines, anyway, when she had one line in that scene? This scene made me sob when I first watched it, and watching it again made me feel the way you do when you look at your old diary entries. You remember how it felt to care that much about something, but while it tugs your heart-strings a bit it feels kind of remote, and it doesn’t hurt the way you remember.

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