Tuesday 22 January 2013

Popular - Now everybody's heartbroken.

Popular: 2x19 I Know What You Did Last Spring Break!

So here’s the thing: I had forgotten about the Sam/Harrison thing that dominates the last couple of episodes of the show. Maybe I originally left out a couple of episodes; maybe I later watched the out of sequence, whatever it was, I did not recall this storyline the way it actually unfolded, so these last couple of reviews are me discovering something about Popular the first time rather than recapturing in hindsight and in full knowledge of what is to come. 
The other thing is that I loathed this storyline when it started, but now, at the point of escalation, I appreciate the fact that the show chose to call out Harrison John. And this is also where things get complicated, because there is a conflict here: a conflict between having a general opinion on the Nice Guytm thing and caring about Harrison John as a character who’s been close to my heart for nearly two years now. 
The idea about the NGt is that there is this guy, and it’s always a guy, let’s not kid ourselves, who has fallen in love with a girl, treated her “nicely”, which I guess means not overtly disrespectfully and like a friend, and then did not get what he considered his prize for no acting like an asshole. The thing that is so awful about the whole concept, the concept of “I did all these nice things for you and yet you would not hook up with me” is that it treats human relationships and intimacy like a trade, a turns women into token machines – you put something in and automatically receive something for your effort. This is what Harrison is doing to Sam McPherson, basically, telling her not to talk to him or approach him as long as she insists on dating George Austin instead of him, despite the fact that they’ve been friends for ages. BUT. On a more personal level, and the level it somehow works, because we are supposed to care about the characters, Harrison is just this guy who’s fallen in love with his best friend and, as is his nature, is now angry that she doesn’t feel the same way about him, even though he’s been through so much and they’ve gone through a lot of things together. I don’t think the story would work if it weren’t for the fact that we’ve seen so much of them before their great fall-out. It’s horrible to think that Harrison would be willing to throw away their friendship, even use it to blackmail Sam – but on the other hand, this is Harrison, who’s just survived cancer, who can be aggressively stubborn, and, not unlike Sam, he often needs to be called out on acting hypocritically. I Know What You Did Last Spring Break! is an extraordinary episode, because for the most part, it almost forces us to side with Harrison – we almost exclusively get his perspective on the whole thing, especially since George is absent for most of it – but then, in the last third, completely dismantles him, and calls him out on every single thing he’s done.  
The other thing that disturbs me about the NGt is that it assumes that friendships are worth less than romantic relationships. In Harrison’s eyes, the fact that Sam doesn’t feel the same way about him, or at least isn’t willing to break up with someone who’s been great for her so far, devalues their previous connection, even though they had a solid and supportive friendship before. The horrible thing about this is that whenever Sam insists that she cares about Harrison – cares about him as a friend, as someone she’s been with since they were both children – Harrison insists that it means nothing because she isn’t willing to hook up with him (“well we used to do a lot of things before you broke my heart.”) I hate nothing more than when a narrative presents this dynamic as somehow romantic, a guy falling in love with his best friend who resists and finally, through persistence, they get together, happy end. There’s nothing romantic about pressuring someone into a romantic relationship and essentially holding a friendship hostage in the process. The whole thing is particularly gross on Harrison’s part because Sam makes it pretty clear that her decision isn’t necessarily based on how she feels about him, but on the fact that her relationship with her current boyfriend is great and she won’t cheat on him, or break up with him for no real reason. 
But, still following the expected dynamic, Sam and Harrison find themselves in quarantaine together, presumably for some disease Harrison picked up in Yemen during spring break, and the tension between them eventually leads to a kiss… that George Austin, on a mission to save his beloved from certain death, witnesses. George feels terrible, Sam feels terrible, Harrison is right back to being hurt and angry because he doesn’t immediately get exactly what he wants and he feels like he knows better than Sam what she is feeling.
Harrison: Here. You’re free, go and infect George, like you’ve infected me with your indecision and your fear. I insist, go on, because as of now, I am taking away your choice. I am no longer available for you to toy with and torment.  
This is a really hard piece of monologue if you’ve ever cared about Harrison John; because it contains a line about taking away Sam’s choice, and a line about how she’s somehow seduced him into acting like a complete asshole with her feminine vile, and he interprets her decision not to immediately jump into a romantic relationship with someone she’s considered her best friend so far as “torment”. 
Except, in fact, and this is where this episode gets surprisingly interesting and artfully steers away from the cliché, Harrison spent Spring break hooking up with Brooke McQueen over their shared heartbreak (Jamie cheated on her), and Brooke forces him to tell the truth because she doesn’t want to risk her relationship with Sam over this secret. 
Sam: You lied to me, you did lose it.
Harrison: Sam, it just happened.
George: Just like the kiss between you and Harrison, Sam. So I guess everybody’s gotten back at everybody else so now everybody’s heartbroken.
Brooke: I’m sorry, Sam.
Harrison: Sam.
Sam: No, now it is my turn to say I never wanna see you again.
Everybody’s woken up, with a terrible hangover.

Random notes: 

Hi Jane Lynch. Sometimes I picture Ryan Murphy’s basement (not really but) and you are in there, surrounded by other actors and actresses, unable to escape inevitably being used in his next “project”. RUN, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

The premise of the episode is fairly similar to that of that other Ryan Murphy scripted and directed episode – caged in school due to a suspected outbreak of a deadly disease, a psychopathic serial killer forces the character to reveal what they’ve been up to during Spring break. But for posterity’s sake: 

Mary Cherry auditioned for an obscure role in a chicken-themed slasher movie, 
Josh and Lily spent a romantic weekend in school, but ultimately almost got blackmailed by Nicole Julian into a threesome (okay, maybe Nicole/Lily is a crackship I’d jump…maybe), Sam almost broke up with George because George failed to tell his grandmother that he is dating a white girl, because he thought she didn’t like white people dating her grandsons, Harrison was maybe in Yemen, Jane Lynch, travel agent, lost her chance to go on her dream holiday because a group of irresponsible high school students refused to get on a flight destined to crash and turned into a psychopathic serial killer. 

JFC even Nicole Julian’s pyjamas are the gayest. 

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