Brenda stalks across the Walsh yard, carrying a plastic bag and wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and runs into a tank-topped Brandon working on Mondale in the driveway. Wait...shouldn't it be like November in show time by now? Oh, right, we're in Los Angeles. Brandon comments on the unseasonably warm weather before asking Bren about her plans for the evening. Apparently she's baby-sitting, and after she puts the tots to bed, she's planning on watching Dirty Dancing for the 57,000th time. (The bag contains her video rental, like if she loves the movie that much, wouldn't it make more sense to buy it?) Anyway, Brenda waxes poetic about how Patrick Swayze is a single girl's best friend (or at least he was in the early '90s) until Dylan slides out from under the car, all dirty. I mean that literally and figuratively, as he immediately gives Brenda a slow once-over. They banter a little while before Cindy calls Brenda to the phone, telling her that her baby-sitting job has been cancelled. Hearing the news, Brenda somewhat inexplicably moans, "I have to call Kelly."
Ah, I see, it's so she can accept a blind date with Kelly's dweeby cousin. Because I know the first thing I would do after Dylan McKay was so obviously hitting on me is accept a blind date with a reported dweeb. Fortunately for Brenda's stupid ass, Donna has already claimed the dweeby cousin for herself. Kelly asks what Brenda plans on doing instead, suggesting that she may need a bubble bath. Brenda saunters out to her balcony (funny how this house only has balconies when it's essential to the plot, isn't it?), takes in a lusty eyeful of McKay, and tells Kelly, "That's not all I need." Oh, Patrick Swayze, we hardly knew ye.
It seems Brenda's not the only member of the Walsh family interested in spying on Dylan. Jim comes out to the driveway and immediately begins peppering Dylan with questions about where he learned to work on cars and how he managed to afford his Porsche. Dylan deflects them all like a pro, then asks if he can run upstairs to take a shower.
Cut to Brenda storming into her bedroom, yelling at Brandon to shut the bathroom door. Naturally, it's Dylan who pops out from behind the shower curtain, giving Brenda a nice view of his wet, naked body and also possibly (or at least it seems from this vantage point) Little Dylan. Embarrassed (yet not so embarrassed that I'm led to believe she actually did see Little Dylan), Brenda retreats to her room, but continues to have a conversation with the now-towel-clad-but-somehow-still-sopping-wet Dylan about her plans for the evening. He invites her to a Marx Brothers movie with him and Brandon.
At the movie, Dylan runs into some bimbette he knows whose name he can't remember, which he claims is because she keeps changing it to things like "Gertrude" and "Beatrice." Likely story, McKay. Girls with hair teased that high do not go by "Gertrude." Later at Dylan's pad, the threesome is rocking out to some really loud music. There's a knock on the door, and this seems like the prime opportunity for Papa McKay to arrive home and totally bust on Dylan (although why he would knock on his own door is beyond me), but rather it's just room service from the hotel. Only apparently Dylan and his dad don't live at the hotel any more, Dylan just gets one of the employees to hook him up. Wait, so they're not at the hotel anymore? But the establishing shot looked like it was of a hotel. Are they living in a different hotel? Why do I even care?
The next day, Kelly and Brenda are discussing Brenda's non-date date in the hallway before segueing into a mention of the sex-education class Brenda happens to be taking with none other than Steve Sanders. What could be better than that? Oh, did I mention David and Scott are also in the class? David assures Scott that sex-ed class is a total aphrodisiac for women. Yeah, I know in 8th grade when they made us watch that video of a woman giving birth, it really turned me on. Or made me never, ever want to have sex and adopt all of my children. It's hard to remember. Anyway, Steve is obsessed with the way their teacher touches his beard when he talks about sex, but because this fails to have any payoff later in the episode, it's the last time I'll mention it.
Back at Casa Walsh, Brandon conveniently has a cold, leaving Brenda to go out with Dylan alone. Hmm, I suspect foul play here. Anyway, when Jim finds out what's going on, he blows a gasket, saying that Dylan's father is known as an "unethical bastard" in "financial circles." Ooh, that Dylan must surely be a bad boy, then! I hope Brenda doesn't get caught up in any insider trading!
In line for the movies, Brenda and Dylan are Annie Hall-ing it up. Their flirty conversation is pretty lame, so let's just cut to the chase: Dylan has a lot of experience in relationships. Brenda doesn't. Gee, you think this will come up later in the episode? After the movie, Dylan takes Brenda back to his place, where he finds his father (or someone pretending to be his father, because that sure ain't the Jack McKay I know and love/hate) in the midst of a business meeting. FakeJack pulls Dylan aside, living Brenda to stand there awkwardly with the suits, and the two have a screaming match in which the phrase "vital importance" is bandied about. I know we're supposed to believe this is a huge blowup, but in my book, if you're using phrases like "vital importance," you're not that angry. Anyway, Dylan comes storming downstairs and goes straight for the Scotch. Brenda gives him the what-for, telling her that he's her ride home, so Dylan storms out of the room instead.
And now, it's the scene we all know by heart. Brenda follows Dylan out of the hotel, trying to calm him down. He screams at her. She screams at him. Dylan throws a potted plant on the ground. Brenda runs away, and he chases her. It is about now that I'm expecting the dulcet tones of Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" to kick in, for this is the scene that I credit for making me fall in love with that song. In fact, I can practically hear the "Bum-ba-dum-bum, bum-ba-dum-bum" echoing in my head, yet on the screen...nothing. I am so bewildered by this that I can barely watch the rest of the scene (fortunately, you know the drill: they cry, they hug, Dylan confides in her about his daddy issues, they kiss). After much Internet research (seriously, I spent way too much time obsessing over this), I have come to the conclusion that this song must have been used once in a clip segment about Brenda and Dylan, with this scene leading it off. But we'll never know for sure.
Anyway. Post-kiss, Brenda and Dylan are sitting outside her house in his car, talking some more about his dad. Brenda says she couldn't imagine having such an estranged relationship with her parents, that she tells them everything. Everything? Like about her plans to go skydiving? Or that older guy she was dating? Yeah, Brenda tells her parents nothing.
The next day at school, Brandon is walking with Dylan when they run into Brenda. Dylan and Brenda immediately begin acting all couple-y, which in their case means being really impudent and sarcastic. Although it's really beyond annoying, I have to say, impudent and sarcastic looks good on Shannen Doherty--she's completely radiant. Hmm, that explains a lot.
Later that night at Casa Walsh, Cindy is talking about some couple she knows who went to a spa and "ended up totally potatoed." "Potatoed?" Jim repeats disbelievingly. "As in baked, mashed, fried..." Yeah, I'm with him on this one, only I would've added "julienned," because I firmly believe that any time you have the opportunity to use the word "julienned," you should. Anyway, Cindy claims that "potatoed" is a synonym for "relaxed," although how she or anyone else could have arrived at that conclusion, I have no idea. But we have no time to dwell on it, because Brenda has brought her newfound rudeness home, and she saucily informs Jim that she will be going out with Dylan that weekend. Predictably, Jim takes issue with this, and when Brandon fails to help her argue her side, Brenda storms out of the dining room, closely followed by Cindy, who tells her husband that she likes Dylan. Has she ever even talked to Dylan? Anyway, sensing that he's fighting a losing battle, Jim pretty much threatens Brandon into the Keep Brenda Away From Dylan movement, which seems really unfair to me. In fact, it seems kind of like something that...oh, an unethical bastard would do.
Upstairs, Cindy and Brenda have a heart-to-heart about sex. It's a lot more boring than it sounds (the words "meaningful connection" are used so much I began to wonder if I was watching an episode of The Bachelor), so I'll spare you the details. On her way out to meet Kelly, Brenda pauses to bitch at Brandon for not sticking up for Dylan. I'm still not sure how Brandon got dragged into the middle of all of this. I mean, usually he'd put himself there, but he actually didn't this time. Anyway, over at Kelly's, Kelly's is giving Brenda the lowdown. By which I mean she's giving her condoms. Brenda seems pretty uncomfortable talking about safe sex, which, if I remember correctly from all the teen magazines I read as an adolescent, is the first sign that you're not actually ready to have sex.
The next day, after witnessing Brenda and Dylan rolling around on the school lawn at lunch, Brandon decides it's time to go do Jim's dirty work. He starts yelling at Dylan about how he has to be nice to Brenda because she's sweet and romantic and, oh yeah, a virgin. Brandon says "virgin" like it's some kind of rare tropical disease. Anyway, Dylan responds to this barrage with, "What kind of jerk do you think I am?" Um, the kind who breaks flower pots and forgets the name of random bimbettes? Or maybe the kind who stands someone up on the second date? Oh, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself.
So after some weird speedy scene of Kelly and Donna trying a bunch of different outfits on Brenda, we see her waiting...and waiting...and waiting in front of the movie theater. In fact, the movie seems to have let out by the time Brenda figures out that Dylan's not going to show. I know she's new at all this relationship stuff, but it really shouldn't have taken her two hours to get the picture. And did it ever occur to her that maybe Dylan was just tired of the freaking Marx Brothers film festival? I mean, this would have been their third night in a row to go. Is there nothing else to do on a date in L.A.?
The next day, Brenda is sitting in her room, forlornly staring out the window. And what do you know? Her balcony is suddenly mysteriously absent! Anyway, Brandon comes in, and Brenda tearfully recounts the sorry tale to him, letting it slip that she was planning to "spend the night" with Dylan. Apparently Brandon doesn't relish hearing about his sister's sex life as much as he does his parents', and looks a little uncomfortable about this. Brenda says she's determined to find out why Dylan's blowing her off.
Which apparently means she's also going to send Brandon to do her dirty work, because she's staying home from school (pathetic!), and Brandon and his suede vest are confronting Dylan in the computer lab. The two get into a yelling match in the tiny room, and apparently everyone else in there is deaf because they appear not to notice. Then again, Brandon is routinely yelling in libraries with seemingly no consequence, so maybe his voice is at a pitch that only full-time cast members can hear. Anyway, Brandon accuses Dylan of blowing off Brenda just to spite him. Um, self-centered much? Dylan assures Mr. Modesty that this has nothing to do with either him or Brenda, settling for the vague "Something came up" excuse. Unsurprisingly, this does not placate Brandon.
Outside in the parking lot, the sex-ed teacher appears to be having car trouble...coincidentally, just before he's supposed to pick up their assembly speaker (who, according to Steve, is a "sex expert") at the airport. Unsurprisingly, Steve volunteers for the job. And for some reason, he decides it would be a good idea to pose as his teacher, although won't the speaker be meeting his teacher at the assembly tomorrow anyway, thereby blowing Steve's ruse? I guess it doesn't matter, since his efforts to put the moves on her are wildly unsuccessful anyway.
Over at Casa Walsh, Brenda is in the midst of the pity party that necessitated a day off from school when Dylan stops by. He says he feels terrible. Brenda responds that he looks terrible. Actually, considering some of the fashion disasters that Dylan has donned this season, I think the white T-shirt/cargo pants/leather jacket ensemble that he's working now is actually pretty hot. Anyway, Brenda proceeds to rip him a new one for his behavior, and instead of turning and running out the door as fast as he possibly can in the face of her no-holds-barred bitchery, Dylan comes clean: His father is being indicted for securities fraud, and Dylan had to spend Friday night helping him flee the country. Sounds like a pretty good excuse to me. Brenda must think so, too, as they commence making out on the couch.
Dylan's already made it to first base and is eyeing second when we hear the crunch of tires on the driveway. Ruh-roh! Brenda and Dylan try to sneak out the back, but unfortunately, that's the door Jim has chosen to use, too. Dylan wisely beats a hasty retreat, leaving Brenda to bear the brunt of her father's wrath. Jim just happens to have some supplemental materials with him to prove his argument--a folded-up newspaper that contains news of Dylan's father's exploits. Brenda tries to reiterate that Dylan is not his father, but Jim insists that she deserves a person with better values. By which I guess he means a person who has the good sense not to have a criminal for a father? Brenda takes this to mean a guy who won't try to have sex with her, and she spells it out for Jim: All boys her age are going to want to try to have sex with her. Seriously, yo. Jim acts like he's never been a high-school boy before, or that he doesn't have another kid who actually is one. On that note, Brenda calls him on his double standard of not treating Brandon this way when he started having sex. Jim says it's different for girls. Which I guess it is, because of the whole pregnancy thing, but come on. Are you telling me if Brandon got a girl pregnant, Jim would just let him walk away? What kind of values are those?
The next day at school, it's time for the big assembly. And, as I predicted, when the speaker meets the real sex-ed teacher, the jig is up for Steve. He looks shocked and embarrassed, but surely he could have seen that one coming. Speaking of things we all saw coming, the speaker is not there to give the kids sex tips, but to tell them that she has AIDS. The gang looks appropriately sobered, particularly Steve. The speaker talks for about five minutes, most of which consist of her telling them to practice safe sex so they don't get AIDS, too. I wonder how much she got paid for this. Seems like a pretty sweet gig. Other than the having AIDS part, I mean.
Dylan comes to the Walsh house to pick Brenda up, and finally seems to make some headway in convincing Jim that he and his father are not the same person. So it's too bad for Dylan that, now that's he's managed to win over both Brenda and her father, the AIDS lady has convinced Brenda that she's not ready for sex (which I could have told her about 15 minutes into this episode, but whatever). She tells Dylan that they need to slow down. She's scared of these feelings. She's scared of what she saw, of what she did, who she is. But most of all, she's scared of walking out of this room and never feeling again the way she feels when she's with him. What? Brenda's not the only one who's seen Dirty Dancing 57,000 times.
The verdict Despite the Crowded House disillusion, this episode is still probably one of my all-time favorites. The scene where Dylan takes out his frustration on a harmless flower pot is without a doubt one of the most classic 90210 scenes of all time. However...
Fashion citation ...that doesn't excuse the fact that in it, Dylan is wearing a black acid-washed duster jacket over his coral-colored shirt. Not even Crowded House could help me get past that atrocity.
Upstairs at Casa Walsh, Cindy is veeeeery slowly removing her wedding bands...to remind us that she's married? Give us a little foreshadowing for the rest of the episode? Anyway, she and Jim are discussing the anniversary dinner they just had at some chi chi Beverly Hills restaurant. Cindy says it's their first anniversary away from home, and Jim points out that this is their home now, like seriously Cindy, isn't it about time to jump on the Beverly Hills bandwagon? Anyway, Jim's catching up on some work, but since it's his anniversary and all, he's willing to put it aside for a quick romp in the sack. However, Cindy kills the mood with the four words all guys love to hear: "Can't we talk first?" Considering that she was asking Jim about the ties she gave him before he tried to put the moves on her, are we supposed to assume that Cindy has some sort of neckwear fetish? Kinky! Fortunately, we're spared a glimpse into this little-known side of the Walsh relationship when Jim decides he'd rather work than indulge his wife in anything silly like foreplay. (Assuming you consider talking about ties foreplay, that is, which apparently Cindy does.)
The next morning, Brenda displays an uncanny ability to pay attention to the lives of people who aren't her when she comments to Brandon on the tension between Jim and Cindy. Brandon blows it off, saying, "They're married! They're supposed to be crabby." Well, that's a ringing endorsement of marriage right there, isn't it?
At West Bev, we learn that the nameless, [mostly] faceless DJ is resigning his post, midway into the semester. Ignoring the fact that this makes absolutely no sense, David, egged on by Scott, dreams about giving it a shot, but quickly abandons his vision when he finds out his idol, Steve Sanders, is trying out. Elsewhere, a teacher we've never met (or maybe she's the newspaper adviser; I don't know) is trying to talk Brenda and Brandon into doing a university study on twins. Brandon's initially skeptical, but once he finds out there's money and time off from school involved, he signs up faster than you can say Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
At a garden center with Ana, Cindy is being stalked by the paparazzi. Oh, wait, it's just an old college friend, Glenn. Cindy gives him a warm welcome, then introduces Ana as her "assistant." Really? Anyway, Glen's a hotshot photographer, he lives in L.A. now, yada, yada, yada. Cindy invites him to dinner...
...Where he is wowing the fam with stories about Tiananmen Square. He modestly (which is to say, not so modestly and actually kind of pompously) tries to bow out of telling any more tales, but Cindy eggs him on, saying, "We never get to hear stories like this...especially not from my boring, stick-in-the-mud accountant husband." OK, so she actually doesn't say that last part, but it's implied. As Glenn begins to talk about his days on the college literary rag with the stick in the mud himself, Jim runs off to do more of his boring accounting work, leaving his wife to stay up until the wee hours, chatting in front of the fire with a more-attractive (not that that's saying much) photographer whom, by the way, she used to date. Great idea, Jim. As he watches suspiciously from the staircase, Cindy and Glenn sit very close to each other on the couch, where he promises to "show [her] [his] L.A." Dirty!
Oh, apparently he meant that literally. And apparently Glenn's L.A. consists of a person jumping on a trampoline, a few run-down stores, and a bunch of ugly murals on the sides of buildings. Cindy seems enamored by it, though. Back at his studio, Glenn goes in for the hard sell. He comments that Jim and Cindy are like night and day. Cindy shrugs this off with a, "You know what they say about opposites." "We attract," Glenn responds with a Meaningful Look. OK, so I'm confused. Didn't he just try to discredit Jim and Cindy's relationship by saying they're not enough alike? And now, in the same breath, he's trying to pick her up using the exact same tack? Is he working some Jedi mind shit here, or what?
Meanwhile, at the twin study, Brenda and Brandon are sitting in a room with a set of goofball identical twins who are dressed exactly alike. Even though they're presumably in high school. And seriously, is this the entire study? Two sets of twins? I'm no scientist, but I'm guessing you're not going to be able to draw any reliable conclusions from a study of four people. Also, it's worth noting that the moderator of the study is none other than Mrs. Teasley, West Beverly High's future guidance counselor. Only she's masquerading under the name "Harriet Strathmore." And she's apparently calling her study "Noah's Ark of Scientific Sin." Yeah, this is totally legit.
Later that night at Casa Walsh, Cindy heads to bed wearing an ugly nightgown, a red headband, and a green face mask. And she wonders why Jim never wants to have sex with her! Oh, but wait, he does...right after she tells him, "You sound just like my father." Unsurprisingly (or maybe surprisingly, given her secret necktie fetish), Cindy does not consider a resemblance to her father to be a turn-on, so she shuts Jim down and goes to sleep. With her face mask on. That doesn't seem like a good idea. I mean, we saw what happened the last time someone in this house tried an all-night beauty treatment.
The next day, David has apparently resurrected his dream of becoming the school DJ, and he tries out this smooth rhyme on Scott in the hall: "Yo, West Beverly, my name is Dave/And I'm gonna give you all the songs that you crave/And all the babes are gonna be my slave/And all from a guy who don't even shave, word." This succeeds in getting things, mostly wadded-up paper, thrown at him from passers-by. Too bad they didn't have any ripe fruit available. Elsewhere in the halls, Brenda invites Kelly to tag along to Glenn's opening, presumably so she can have more people there to spy on her mother with her.
Back at home, Brenda begins her suspicious circling of Cindy, who is trying to decide between two outfits that are pretty much equal in their hideousness. I would advise that she go out and get something from wherever Brenda picked up her cute black dress, but I fear she somehow purchased it from the future, because it's way too tasteful for this early in the '90s. Kelly and Donna help bring us back into the correct time period at the opening, though, Donna wearing what appears to be a sequined bra over a sheer black top, and Kelly looking like she's been caught in a rogue fishing net cast by Liberace. Brandon and the girls briefly discuss the art before Brenda brings things around to the real purpose of the night: spying on Cindy. When Brenda spots her leave with Glenn, she's none too happy about it.
Nor should she be, because they're totally making out outside! All right, so Glenn starts it, but Cindy doesn't do much to resist. Apparently Brenda's spying is confined to the four walls of the art gallery, though, because she's totally missing this, the one tangible piece of evidence in the entire episode to suggest that her mother's considering a dalliance with another man.
Back at home, Cindy's making like Juliet on her balcony, moodily listening to some bland '90s pop that's echoing throughout the house. Which Brenda is using as Exhibit A of her mom's weird behavior as she rehashes the events of the night with the besequined catch of the day, aka Kelly. Gee, too bad Bren was too lazy to walk outside and therefore missed her mom actually kissing another man. Anyway, Kelly gives her the low-down on what it's like to be a divorced kid, after which she warns Brenda that the sex is the first thing to go. Brenda says she doubts her parents even have sex. Cindy overhears this and looks sad, but come on. Don't all parents realize that their kids have to at least maintain that illusion? It's a survival thing.
And yet, Brandon has somehow escaped unscathed from the evil clutches of Darwinism, because he apparently thinks about his parents' sex life all the time. After their bickering comes to a head in front of Mrs. Teas--um, "Professor Strathmore" at the twins study, Brandon informs Brenda as they stomp across campus that of course their parents do the nasty. "What do you think it means when their door is locked?" he asks. Um, in what instance would Brenda and Brandon be trying to gain access to the Walsh parents' bedroom at night? (Because you know Jim's a no-sex-except-at-night kind of guy.) Are they afraid of thunderstorms? Are there monsters under their beds?
Anyway, after a brainstorming session at school with Kelly and Donna (during which the suggestions of trashy lingerie and clubbing are tossed around) Brandon and Brenda come up with the solution to fix their parents' marriage with a romantic dinner, cooked by them. Hey, it worked in The Parent Trap! Only this time, Jim and Cindy get in a big fight before dinner is even served and both storm out, leaving Brenda and Brandon stranded, bowls of food in hand, at their eavesdropping posts just outside the dining-room door.
Jim's gone upstairs to do more work (surprise!), and Cindy's left to go to Glenn's (surprise again!). Only she's not there to have an affair; she's there to tell him, with a great deal of blubbering, that she can't have an affair. Too bad Brenda and Brandon don't realize this when they see her exiting his house, where they have arrived to do a photo shoot with Glenn. Ruh-roh!
The next morning, the twins deal with their newfound (assumed) knowledge in a very mature way, by being overly friendly to Jim and overly mean to Cindy. I mean, I guess it's not their place to bring the supposed affair to light, but couldn't they have pulled their mom aside and told her what they saw and asked her what was going on? God, even Donna handled her mom's affair better than this. That's pretty pathetic.
You know what's not pathetic? Jim, going over to Glenn's studio and telling him in no uncertain terms to stay the eff away from his family. Go, Jim! Who knew he had it in him? Hmm, maybe he's not just a sex-at-night kind of guy...but best not to think too much about that.
Back to an instance in which we can use "pathetic" and "Donna" in the same sentence, she's apparently trying out for the school DJ job and is horrifying everyone with her totally lame rap, like since when is rapping a component of a DJ job? I just assumed David was doing it because it's his schtick, but apparently it's required? I know this was the Vanilla Ice era and all, but that's wack, man. Anyway, Steve is up next, and he totally chokes, so David comes to his rescue, first by making fun of him, and then by busting out a rap that's only slightly less lame than the one that got him pelted with balls of paper the other day. (Although this one does name-check Vanilla Ice, so it might actually be lamer.) But apparently compared to Donna, he's golden, because we all know David gets the DJ gig, though it's never stated explicitly in this episode.
What is stated explicitly in this episode, however, is another inappropriate comment from Brandon about his mother's sex life. When the twins pull up to see Glenn leaving their house (he came to break off his "mental affair" with Cindy, which they both claim is more dangerous than a physical affair, but I beg to differ; I'm having a mental affair with Jake Gyllenhaal at the moment, and my boyfriend doesn't seem to mind at all), Brandon says with disbelief, "Man, Mom having a nooner!" Brenda the virgin has no idea what a nooner is, so Brandon not-quite spells it out for her by saying "It ain't food!" And really, shouldn't she be able to figure it out from the context clues? Anyway, although Brandon levels the super-mean insult "sleazemeister" at Glenn under his breath, he leaves the Walsh house unscathed, and Cindy pulls Bren and Bran into a hug, saying, "I'm so damn glad to see you two." Watch that language, Cindy! Man, one little brush with adultery, and she's a total bad girl.
And it looks like Jim has some surprises left in him, too--he comes home from work early (well, earlier than his usual time of 10:30) and whisks Cindy off for a fabulous mini-break weekend. Brenda proclaims this the most romantic thing she's ever seen. So clearly she hasn't seen the episode where she and Dylan have sex at the spring dance yet.
The verdict Aside from Brandon, is there really anyone who cares about Jim and Cindy's sex life? I didn't think so. As a general rule (the exception, of course, being The O.C.'s Julie Cooper-Nichol-Roberts-TBD), when a teen drama stops focusing on the teens and starts in with the parents, it's even lamer than David's rapping.
Fashion citation Kelly, for her gold, sequined fishnet...dress? Tunic? Whatever it was, I'm out of crackling one-liners to describe it. But it was hideous, trust me.
"The guy gives new meaning to the word hemorrhoid"
At the Peach Pit (which still doesn't look as peachy as it does in later episodes), Brandon is busing the counter while sneaking glances at a large textbook. We soon learn that the textbook is for his history class, taught by none other than the crotchety Mr. Denzel, a Peach Pit regular. When Brandon reveals this not-so-amazing coincidence to Nat, Nat advises Brandon not to let Denzel get to him. Brandon says Denzel doesn't bother him. Nat smirks like he's seen the rest of this episode.
West Bev High. Brandon's in Denzel's class, holding a quiz with a big fat C on it. Denzel lays down the law: He grades on a curve wherein 10 percent of the students get As, 10 percent get Fs, and the rest get Cs. Seems pretty harsh, but I had a high-school English teacher who graded on how much you kissed her ass. Seriously. Life's not fair; might as well learn that in high school. Right, Brandon? Um, no. Brandon raises his hand and meekly says that some people who got Cs only missed three or four questions. "Some people," Brandon? You mean like you? Denzel says something about "the morass of mediocrity." I like him already!
Out in the hall, Steve and Brandon are complaining about Denzel and his morass. Steve claims he "gives new meaning to the word hemorrhoid." I don't know what that means, and I'm fairly sure I don't want to. Oh, but what's this? Steve got an A on his quiz! Donna expositions that Steve is some sort of idiot savant when it comes to history, but I ain't buyin' it. Ahhndrea comes out of class then, and she and Brandon exchange their usual barbs, this time about whether he can cover the swim team meet against Beverly. Oh, woe are we, the pressures of West Beverly High, blah, blah, blah, etc. Kelly and Brenda walk down the stairs and immediately hone in on Dylan. Did someone order a love triangle? Kelly turns on the charm, getting Dylan to admit that he prefers blondes, and yet he can't take his eyes off of Brenda. Somehow, the latter fact makes her exploits in the rest of the episode that much more stupid.
Back at home, Brenda's staring at herself in the mirror, imagining that she has some insanely ugly crimped, frizzy blonde hair that's driving Dylan and his Carhart jacket wild with lust. Cindy walks up and tries to tell Brenda how beautiful she is. Why Cindy ever thinks she can say anything to Brenda that won't result in an immediate argument that ends with Brenda stomping off in a huff is beyond me. Up in Brandon's room, Brandon and Ahhndrea are studying. Or rather, Ahhndrea is regarding his Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar with disgust while Brandon uses the bathroom. That's probably a better use of their time, because once they actually start studying, it devolves into a big argument. Why Brandon and Ahhndrea ever think they can have a conversation lasting more than five minutes that doesn't turn into an argument that ends with both of them stomping off in a huff is also beyond me.
So Brandon gets a new, more laid-back study buddy: Steve. The guys are chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool in Steve's backyard pool when Steve drops this study-question science on Brandon: Name the five tribes that made up the Confederacy, whose primary aim was universal, perpetual peace. Like, are we really supposed to believe that Steve just pulled that one out of his ass? Well, apparently Brandon does, and therefore he is shocked--SHOCKED!--to find that same question, verbatim, on the next day's quiz. In other news, Mr. Denzel doesn't know how to use commas correctly. Not so smart now, are we, tough guy?
After the quiz, Brandon confronts Steve in the hall and accuses him of cheating. He denies it vehemently, but back at the Sanders pad, he totally cops to it. And seriously, Brandon, if you want to get someone to admit to something, try not accusing them at the scene of the crime. Anyway, Steve assumes his usual role as the devil on Brandon's shoulder and convinces him it's "just a quiz."
In the West Bev High bathroom the next day, Brenda is sporting hideous crimped hair, I guess in an attempt to recreate the fugly wig of her fantasies. Kelly speaks for all of us when she tells Brenda that "that isn't a hairdo; it's a hair don't." Kelly and Donna talk up some stylists, but then reveal that a visit, even with a guy who "will take anyone" will cost Brenda a cool $300. I'm so sure Cindy's going to go for that. Suddenly, Donna looks in the mirror and realizes she's wearing both contacts in one eye. It took her that long to figure it out?
Later at the Peach Pit, Brandon's trying to avoid Denzel. But there's no need--now that Brandon's doing well in his class, Denzel is super-chatty. And the next day in class, he leads the room in a round of applause for Brandon, who didn't miss a single question on his quiz. Dude, what an amateur cheater. You've got to miss at least one, or else it looks suspicious. I like to think that Denzel is hip to Brandon's game and is doing this to give him a guilt complex. If he is, it totally works, and it's compounded by the fact that Brandon's cheating landed Ahhndrea a C. Before she can start bawling about it, though, Kelly and Dylan come giggling down the stairs as Brenda looks on jealously.
Back at Casa Walsh, Brenda's giving Cindy a guilt complex of her own about the hair thing. Cindy balks at the price, then claims that women are spending hundreds of dollars to get their hair to look like Brenda's does naturally. And seriously, Shannen Doherty may not have the most attractive face (especially in this season, when she hasn't grown out of her baby fat and it sort of resembles a pancake), but her hair color? Is gorgeous. Anyway, Brandon comes in, and everyone finds out about his A on the history quiz. Because he tells them. I guess that's kind of akin a serial killer having a "signature" or something, right? Otherwise it just seems like a stupid way to heap more guilt upon yourself. Brenda follows Brandon upstairs, ostensibly to chat about Denzel (which she pronounces DAN-zel), but really to ask leading questions about Dylan and complain some more about her hair. Like that's not getting old already.
At the Peach Pit picking up his paycheck, Brandon runs into Denzel again. Apparently his guilt has gotten the best of him, because he decides that this would be the perfect time to lay into his teacher about how unfair the curve is and how history should be more than the rote memorization of facts. Which I agree with to some point, but come on, this is high school. How much can you really expect? This is basically what Denzel argues in return.
The next day during the quiz, Brandon stares at Denzel (whose nameplate reveals that his name really is Danzel, like why is Brenda the only one who can pronounce it correctly? Whatever, I'm sticking with Denzel) for a while before oh-so-stealthily pulling some crib notes out of his backpack. How Denzel fails to notice this is beyond me, but Ahhndrea does see it, and she's none too happy about it. On the walk to the newspaper room, they argue about Brandon's cheating, which he doesn't bother to deny, although they're yelling very loudly in a crowded hallway. Dude. I can't believe I'm about to say this, but you could learn something from Steve, Brandon.
Back at Casa Walsh, Kelly and Brenda dye Brenda's hair with something that looks like liquid rust. Kelly claims the dye has to stay on all night. Oh, this isn't going to be good.
And it's not! The dye has not only colored Brenda's hair an unfortunate shade of orange, with some skunk-like blond streaks up front, but it's also turned it into a huge ball of frizz. Brandon tries to get the family to lie to Brenda about the severity of her mistake, but unlike her brother, Brenda is not stupid, and she ain't buyin' it. Thank God Blossom hats are still in fashion, and Brenda can cover up most of the mess with a floppy burnt-sienna one that's approximately the same color as her hair.
In the West Bev courtyard, after exchanging some words with Dylan about how much Dylan learned in Denzel's class (though he doesn't elaborate on what he learned and how), Brandon runs into Steve, who offers him a copy of the midterm. Brandon turns it down, and Steve walks away, shoving the test loosely in his back pocket, where I'm sure it won't fall out or get nabbed by someone or anything. Brandon's sudden change of conscience isn't getting him anywhere with Ahhndrea, though, who is still ignoring/yelling at him.
Things only get worse for our hero in Denzel's class, where the man himself is picking on Brandon. Brandon looks uncomfortable, but what exactly did he expect when he decided to yell at his teacher at his place of employment? Ahhndrea comes to Brandon's rescue, but she does it in this goody-two-shoes, holier-than-thou way that's beyond annoying. And she wonders why she doesn't have any friends. Nobody likes the teacher's pet!
Back at the Walsh abode, Cindy tries to start in with the I-told-you-so's, but Brenda's having none of it. "Mom, you don't understand me," "It's different in California," "I don't fit in": you know the drill.
Later that night, Steve shows up at the Peach Pit and again offers Brandon the test. This time, angry that Denzel tried to do exactly what Brandon told him he wanted him to do (i.e., make him think), Brandon takes the test. But after hours, he comes across Denzel, who's sitting in the parking lot, waiting for the Auto Club to come change his flat tire. Brandon offers to do it for him, and as he does, Denzel tells us all a sob story about how his dead wife picked out a bunch of suits for him because she knows how much he hates shopping. It's all very sweet and sad. Brandon looks appropriately chagrined, then guilty as hell as he drops his copy of the midterm and Denzel hands it back to him. Knock knock! Who's there? It's Brandon's conscience!
At the library, Brandon finds Ahhndrea, and the two have yet another fight about his cheating. Brandon says that Ahhndrea takes such a personal interest in everything he does that sometimes it's like they're a couple. Ahhndrea could not be quicker in rushing to deny this. Hmm, methinks the lady doth protest too much. Anyway, although they are practically screaming at each other in the library, no one appears to shush them. What kind of library is this, anyway?
Brenda's leaving the house to go for a jog, and Cindy somehow convinces her she doesn't need a hat. Not even to hold her hair back? Anyway, while she's jogging, Dylan rides up on his bike and notes that her hair is "different." If by "different," he means "different than anything ever seen before on a human head," he is absolutely correct. When Brenda reveals that she hates the color, Dylan says he knows a guy. Then, for no discernible reason, Brenda Freudian slips, "I like your butt." She clarifies that she meant his bike. "Hop on," Dylan responds. Dirty! Oh, wait, he meant the bike, too.
Back at Casa Walsh, Brandon confronts Jim and Cindy about their academic expectations for him. Jim says that all he wants is for Brandon to smile again. And for him to get an A. Well, he doesn't say that last part, but come on. Does Brandon really think his parents expect any less of him? Am I supposed to feel sorry for him here? What parent wants their kid to aspire to, as Denzel put it, "the morass of mediocrity"? Upstairs, Brenda's hair has returned to its normal color, thank God. She glows to Brandon that "Dylan says it looks incandescent." Um, so he thinks it resembles a lightbulb? Nice compliment, McKay.
In the halls of West Bev the next day, Brandon and Ahhndrea finally make up, moments before the midterm. Speaking of the midterm, Denzel passes out the test, then instructs the class to rip it up. So one conversation with Brandon, and the guy's suddenly Rod Belding? Oh, apparently not. He's giving them a pretty challenging essay question on what the government should have done to save American Indians. Yay, essay test! I love essay tests. They're so easy to bullshit.
Brandon's the last one to finish his test, and he complements Mr. Denzel on his new teaching strategy. Given to him by Brandon. Someone's a little full of himself, huh? Denzel gets a few jabs in at Brandon's expense, letting him and the rest of us know that he knows that Brandon is (or was) a big, fat cheater. Brandon responds by complimenting Denzel on his suit. Denzel says it's hideous. "Yeah," Brandon agrees, "but you wear it well." Get a room, you two!
The verdict: Now we all know why Brandon's generally such a sanctimonious prick: He's completely inept at being a bad boy. What we don't know is why Cindy continues to try to talk sense into her utterly senseless daughter. Come on, Cindy! Why not just let Brenda make her frizzy, burnt-sienna bed and lie in it for once?
Fashion citation: Donna, for showing up to her history midterm in an oh-so-appropriate ruffled denim midriff top.