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Red, Red Whine

Opening credits: Hey! A new shot at the end of the end of the credits! All six black-clad teens stand, alt-rock style, on a rocky embankment overlooking water. I take this to symbolize the increasing push to make this a truly ensemble show, one that stands up and proudly admits, "When we're canceled, we are all very much canceled. No spin-offs, no hair dye commercials, no Teen Steam-esque self-help exercise videos for fat girls who need television stars to help them motivate. Just canceled. Together." Good for them.

Still in the process of waiting for the indispensable Flood Light Operator Guy's flight to land at LAX, the "writers" have compensated for his absence by scripting fourteen consecutive scenes of preestablished couples making out. Again. Fade in on Michael and Maria writhing in ways that make even the close-captioning editorialize, "Oh, come on, now. Phooey," but they are soon to be interrupted by the arrival of Max, Liz, Isabel, and Alex. The ensuing sequence is a verbal reiteration of the opening scene, one that we might have completely forgotten during those three lavishly long thirty-second commercials. That's how dumb we are. Renee is back. Max preaches acting normal and doing nothing. Michael trusts no one. Maria's hair is different, yet remains questionable from a fashion perspective. And so I'll ask again: Does any of this sound familiar to anyone? Oh, wait, I forgot about all of the jump-cutting and red backlighting that so complement the dialogue. A series of six really pensive close-ups do nothing for the scene but distance me further from it as I drift into a really long mental exposition about how much better their skin is than mine, and when I put down the oil-free soap and rejoin the action, they've come to the consensus that they have to hide The Most Interplanetary Paperweight in the Universe, and they have to hide it at Guerin Manor. Maria forlornly observes that "I thought this was all over with." Yeah, sister. Sing it. Those Wednesday night ratings were just plain awful.

Outside at school, Alex "'I wish I were big' but I think I may have already used that nickname and I'm too lazy to comb old recaps and look it up" Whitman disregards Isabel's firmly-in-check why-can't-we-not-be-friends sneer while observing Max and Liz necking at lunch. Yeah, hot lunch at public school pretty much brought out the Casanova in me during my own secondary education. How often would I gaze longingly into my lover's eyes before picking up a morsel of food and asking, "Oh, darling. Would it please you to savor just one more nibble of Steakum With Cheese while I pour you another sparkling glass of Capri Sun?" Good times, good times. But times are not so good for Alex and Isabel, who bemoan their own face-sucking-free situation. So against my version of what Alex's better judgment should rationally be, he remains steadfast in his pursuit of Isabel, unshaken even by the shock collar encircling his neck that emits a small but painful electromagnetic wave when he comes within a fifty-foot range of her, as per the judge's orders. But right smack in the middle of telling her that it would be nice to "have someone" with whom he could share "common bonds," the consolation couple is presently interrupted by the arrival of the world's remaining supply of dark-hued eye makeup, carrying with it a girl who calls herself "Tess." Yeesh, another character, another nickname. Here we go again. Let's see: egregiously overwrought facial make-up. Kinky blonde hair and hair-related extensions. Clownish over-enunciation, lady-killing potential, and a taste for the wilder and sweeter things in life. I don't know -- Tesla? Whoever she is, she alters the flow of conversation rather dramatically from her first second on-screen. Tesla asks if she can join them. Alex pretty much tells her to scram-o-la, but Isabel tells her to stay, using that transitional masterpiece, "Are you the new girl?" Yeah, the new girl. That's her. They chat. The conversation is riveting, I'm sure. They talk about social classes at West Roswell and the dynamics of the eraser room. Alex becomes quiet. Tesla uses real sugar on her yogurt and Isabel points out that she does that too. "I can't stand people who use fake sugar," she barks abruptly. Hey, new best friend, you need a quarter for that judgment call? Isabel and Tesla are now best friends. All of which really puts a damper on my now-conditional love for Isabel, who I presume will consequently be spending most of her already limited screen time accessorizing with skank.

Interior Chez Evans, where Max and Michael "Wu-Tang" Guerin ramble on. Oh, I'm sorry, did Michael already have a nickname in this recap? Well, then, that must have been before he began wearing his latest gangsta-gear hat in the hope of achieving a hip, edgy aspect. And I tell you what, it's working. He is totally legit in every kind of street-cred way, hanging out in that suburban kitchen, drinking a long, tall glass of -- what is that, orange juice? Anyway, Michael, nice hat. The headgear section at Urban Outfitters must be, like, empty. They once more discuss the dynamics of the Maria situation. He says she wants romance and commitment, that things are getting frosty, that "she went to the French Club meeting today instead of meeting me in the eraser room. The French Club. What the hell is that?" Well, Michael, I think it's the club where they . . . oh, never mind. So Max rambles off generic dating advice culled from every Isaac Hayes song in existence (you gotta treat your woman right, you gotta take her out, you gotta make her feel good), only to be silenced by the abrupt resurfacing of Tesla, barely cleaned up and refreshed from her grueling first round of making me absolutely hate her. Max and Michael glare speechlessly, perhaps as if to express their star struck wonder at the sudden arrival of this early-nineties glam-rock legend, right there in the middle of the kitchen! Michael is predictably rude, Isabel turns up for some quick damage control, and Tesla renders the leitmotif pretty darn heavy indeed with her insistence that Isabel not "forget the sugar." We know. You like things sweet. You said it four seconds ago. ["Was that a Def Leppard reference? Because it sure sounded like one to me." -- Sars] She retreats to Isabel's room, mercifully far enough hidden in the depths of Chez Evans that the remaining three can share an in-earshot-to-anyone-with-ears conversation about not being able to trust a stranger.

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