If you watched this show with even mild interest during its run, then you remember the punch line that the title refers to, a nice little episode-closer that reminds us once again how endearingly flawed our protagonist can be. It was, quite simply, A Jordan Episode, but after a few consecutive weeks of dealing with the big issues (dads! self-esteem! censorship!) it was a bit of a relief to get back to the giddy love stuff.
We’re seeing Angela’s crush on Jordan through different eyes than we had in the first few episodes. She’s proven herself to be a smart, insightful, analytical young woman, and when she first tells Rayanne that she’s starting to rethink her crush on Jordan, we believe her. He’s still beautiful, and in desperate need of a hug, but after Angela’s still-forming thoughts and ideas about the world have taken her to so many places, Jordan isn’t the end-all, be-all that he may have seemed before. The only thing that makes her declaration unconvincing is the fact that she’s holding a five-page letter to him in her hands while she says it.
They’re on a field trip to a museum, and Angela pulls Rayanne aside to tell her all about this revelation. After handing over the Jordan letter, which was a catharsis and not a letter that was ever meant to be delivered, to her trusty friend Rayanne, Angela checks out some of the art. It was a perfectly executed moment when she spotted Jordan making the
rounds and found a way to be close to him; everyone remembers the exciting challenge of trying to interact with your crush in the new environment of a field trip.
Jordan. Jordan, and every Jordan that’s come before or since, seems to innately know how to reel someone back in just when they’re trying to move on. He has a stilted, but adorable, conversation with Angela in front of a sculpture that concludes with a vague statement that he should hear his band’s new song. Angela’s happiness is momentarily cut down when Rayanne tells her that she lost the letter. (I would have found this particular plot point stupid and unrealistic if this exact thing hadn’t happened to me one and a half times between sixth and tenth grade.) But! The letter’s missing. Jordan just reached out to her for the first time in a while. Maybe he read the letter. Maybe he liked the letter!
This emboldens Angela to talk to Jordan after class, and she gets herself invited to his band practice so she can hear his new song. It’s not all good news though. Our newly-empowered Angela doesn’t let Jordan return the letter to her without a) an incredibly awkward little speech and b) making him address its contents with her. When he says he only read “parts” of the letter, it soon becomes clear that no human being, not even Jordan Catalano, would be able to resist reading a letter that started “Dear Jordan.” Building on The Substitute episode, Jordan lets Angela discover the fact that he can’t read.
This moment is cut short by Jordan’s friend coming in and demanding he go with him right away to”¦somewhere? I’m not sure why it was so urgent they head off together but OK! I think I was a little too young (or perhaps blinded by Jared Leto’s beauty) the first time around to notice this important aspect of his character: he is infuriatingly passive. Every
time his nameless, jerky friend with the drumsticks in his hands (seriously, at all times. I bet he had them with him at the museum.) tells him to hurry up, or come with him, he does it. It could have a lot to do with his insecurity about his reading skills. Oh God, guys like this are catnip for high school girls.
At band practice, Jordan stops ignoring Angela long enough to play her his new song, Red. Ricky accidentally misleads her into believing it’s about her and her red hair. This is only confirmed in Angela’s mind when she and Jordan have a heart-meltingly adorable moment and kiss in his car, after which she dances from the street to her front door. (Again: I’d find this silly and clichÃ©d if not for the fact that this exact thing happened to me, minus the songwriting part)
So what’s going to happen in the third act to mess up all this giddy happiness? As much as I hate to say it, the problems are caused by Angela as much as they are by Jordan. In typical Angela fashion, she can’t let these great moments happen organically. She’s had a taste of the good side of Jordan, and she wants to hit the ground running. Asking him on a date! That requires he meet her parents! How about tonight? Drumsticks hovers in the background, apparently unable to walk to class without his precious buddy Jordan, so Jordan feels rushed and even more uncomfortable in this moment than he otherwise would have been. So he quickly agrees and runs off, instead of sharing his concerns with her. Again, passive.
Was there any doubt that he wasn’t going to show up? The only surprising thing about this scene was how much it actually seemed that he seriously considered going. I felt bad for Angela, both as her own person/character and for the symbol she is of every girl (or woman!) who has been in exactly that position.
How did it all go so wrong? Turns out it’s not just that Angela scared him off with her eagerness to be OMGboyfriendandgirlfriend immediately. “Red” is about his car.