There’s a lot of fun stuff going on in the episode: Mary Cherry, Nicole Julian and Hellacious Akers team up to destroy Carmen and her unlikely ally Bobbi Glass. Josh Ford still has a ridiculous haircut. Brooke argues that her completely selfless anti-drug activism is more valid than Lily, Josh and Harrison’s completely selfless pro-rights activism. And then comes a moment for each of them when they realize that all the things they took so seriously before, all these things that make up highschool, are rather unimportant compared to the truly serious things that can happen. This moment comes at the same time for most of them – over-invested in their respective fights (Carmen’s successful run for homecoming queen, Lily and Josh’s fears regarding the drug tests, most tragically, Brooke’s race against Harrison for the same position) – but not for Sam.
I think Popular is at its best when it focuses on the individual friendships, and the first few episodes of the season portrayed a circle of friends slowly changing because of new relationships. Lily is trying to figure out who she with Josh, Carmen is struggling with her difficult home life, a situation mostly ignored by her best friends, Brooke doesn’t quite know who she is when she doesn’t have Josh as context, and Sam is with George now, and doesn’t know what is expected of her. They are all immersed in their own struggles, and seemingly unable to communicate about them with their friends.
There’s a lovely moment even before the big reveal, when Lily and Carmen are both hiding in the Novak and finally talk about their respective issues (FINALLY, because they are meant to be best friends, and yet, they’ve barely shared any scenes). I think it’s a realistic portrayal of that moment when things change in your own life and you’re not quite sure how your friends fit back in, and yet, when the friendship is meaningful, you find a way to work it out and things start falling into place once you do. Carmen decides to face her mum, who explains to her that she is drinking because she is sad, and that Carmen reminds her of how things could have turned out but didn’t.
Sam drags Harrison to the doctor when she realizes that his horrible headaches are probably a sign of something more serious. When he’s not ready to face the results of the test, she gets George to break into the office with her to retrieve them – and then wishes she hadn’t, in a way, because they spell out something she isn’t sure she’s ready to deal with. Harrison has leukaemia, the same thing her dad died of. She more than anyone knows what it means. My favourite scene by far is when she tells her mum, who knows that the only thing she can do is provide the facts, and being factual about it is the only way she can talk about it. Sam knows that time is essential now, that Harrison needs to face his illness, and it falls on her alone to explain this to him. “As scary as this is, you have to face it”.
And then there’s Brooke, righteous Brooke, who, like Sam usually always does, is in this fight not only for selfless reasons (but it’s not entirely selfish either). She thinks she is doing the right thing when she reveals Harrison’s apparent addiction to pain medication to everyone, thinks this is the only way for him to face his illness, except of course she is completely, tragically wrong. In the end, she seems to be the loneliest person: on stage, caught in the spotlight, while Sam takes Harrison to the hospital.
I hope you’ll learn the lesson that a good friend of mine just thought me. When darkness approaches, you have to muster your courage, and harness your strength, and stare it straight in the eye, because that’s the only way you can live with yourself. And now, if you’ll excuse me, my best friend Sam is gonna take me to the hospital.
Short review: I like the episode, but it’s filled with, well, filler material (a live autopsy, a weird musical sequence).
Mary Cherry calls Hellacious the “Leader of our unholy trinity”, and is therefore years ahead fandom.
Brooke’s actually pretty good at being snarky: “Since all the gay chimps in LA have been freed, I’m gonna concentrate on helping people.”
Nicole, about Madonna’s Music: Thank god Madonna introduced the word “bourgeoisie” to our generation.
This is in the near future but for now, Nic is perfectly happy utilizing Joy Ferrara’s alcoholism as a campaign strategy against Carmen. When she isn’t, it actually turns into one of my favourite storylines this season.
Sam: Innuendo is not a boyband with a rotating membership.
“Actually it’s a misdemeanour, I looked it up.”
Most horrible line of the episode: “I am seventeen”. Fucking cancer.
Know your pop cultural references:
JFC how much did that Madonna song cost.
Harrison “almost passed out during Scream 3”.
A Robert Downey jr. namedrop to remind everyone of life before Iron Man.
Turns out Stephen King's Carrie once was Bobbi, the story of a tragic social outcast and her nemesis, Hell Akers.
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