Today's episode sees me going backwards in the series, which is definitely not the first time, but I actually have a reason -- YouTube suspended the account of the beautiful soul who put up all the later Sweet Valley seasons! Pricks! How did the bigshot execs even find out? I'm kind-of paranoid that they're reading this right now. If you are, suits, let me tell you something -- television is for sharing. Sharing and enjoying. You don't get to withhold the last three seasons on this show on DVD from us and then shut down every other way for us to watch it. You big...you big meanies. Yeah, meanies. I went there.
Unlike the Napster, nobody can't shut me down, so here's today's recap, featuring our very first mention of Cheryl "Tatyana" Thomas. It's sort-of but not really based on book #93: Stepsisters, AKA, Oh God, My New Family Is Black and Oh God, What If People Find Out About Their Blackness, AKA, Annie Whitman is a Liz Lemon-esque Pseudo-Racist.
It's the first day of a new school year at Sweet Valley High. Sigh. It's always the first day of a new school year at Sweet Valley High. Liz is all sadsacky because she's walking the halls for the first time without Todd. (They broke up, remember?) Jess is like, "That makes sense, considering Todd had the personality of a pair of shoes." Jess, no, don't say that! You like shoes, remember? I went to the Betty Rizzo School of Insults, so I'd say that Todd has the personality of a wet mop. He even kind-of looks like one with his new hairstyle. Speaking of, Mr. Wet Mop himself comes walking down the hall, and when he sees Liz, he completely ignores her. She's heartbroken. He's mildly indifferent. These two should never be in the same room as each other, even when they are a couple.
Bruce and Lila rush over to where Jess and Liz are standing, because Lila has fabulous news -- Tatyana Thomas, the world-famous model. is starting school today. Liz and Jess are like, "Whoah!" Bruce tells them that he read in the school paper that Tatyana's gone all Lindsay Lohan and her parents decided to enrol her at Sweet Valley High. Because...this school is known for its strict disciplinary action, zero tolerance on partying and drugs, and low mortality rate? If straight-laced Regina Morrow can die from coke here, I give Tatyana about twenty minutes before heading off to the great after party in the sky.
Just then, Tatyana arrives, forcing her way through all the paparazzi outside. Everyone's staring at her, especially Winston and Manny. Winston falls in love with her instantly, even though when Steven Wakefield did it in the books, there were lynchings threatened. The only love interest the residents of Sweet Valley hated more than Cheryl was that vampire Jess was gaga over. But since the TV gang already has its share of black students (read: Patty and Karl the token black guy who sometimes makes an appearance), race does not seem to be much of an issue anymore. Anyway, Manny states that Winston is crazy if he thinks he's ever going to get near the likes of Tatyana Thomas, but I don't listen to anything Manny says as long as he keeps rockin' that Mary Anne Spier haircut.
Tatyana's locker happens to be right near where Bruce, Lila and Jess are standing, and Lila fawns over her like there's no tomorrow. Jeez, Lila, restraint much? Book!Lila would never be so uncool. Bruce hits on her immediately. (Tatyana, that is, not Lila. I freakin' wish it was Lila.) She's like, "Not in this lifetime," and Bruce declares that she wants him. Actually, Bruce, I'm pretty sure she's doing the opposite of "wanting you." Don't be cocky now. Although while telling the girls that Tatyana wants him, Bruce adjusts his belt all weird-like. NuBruce, as well as being king of the faraway, dead-eyed stare acting, is also a bit of a creeper.
Winston attempts to introduce himself to Tatyana, and she slams a door in his face. Literally, in his face. He falls to the floor comically, and Manny has to slap him several times to wake him up. Seems pretty unnecessary, though. I think that's just what Manny's into. Winston declares that he will get Tatyana to fall in love with him by taking pictures of her. What a terrible idea, Winston. Go ahead and ask any upskirt pervert you can find living at a bus stop -- taking photos of women who don't want to be photographed is actually a one-way ticket to the sex offender registry.
In class, Enid and Karl the token black guy who sometimes makes an appearance are gossiping about Tatyana, while Jess and Lila are arguing over whether Tatyana's from Monte Carlo or New York. Oh, Tatyana. I actually went to school with a girl who's now a Victoria's Secret model (she was only a little bit famous at the time), and I'd love to say how ridiculous this storyline is, but it's kinda not. Nobody ever really bothered her too much, but at one point you couldn't have any sort of conversation without it turning to the model girl. If she was as well-known back then as she is now, it'd probably have turned out something like this. Anyway, back to the episode. I'm afraid bullshit needs to be called yet again -- Bruce Patman is sitting in class with the juniors, even though he is very clearly a senior. That's some serious continuity suckage, producers. The books aren't that difficult to read. Liz walks in and spots an empty seat next to Emo!Todd, but Tatyana gets there first. Heh. Liz is forced to sit up the front and away from the ex beau who's not even talking to her anyway. Liz is pissed. Karl says hello to her but she ignores him, probably because he's black. (But maybe not.)
Some random teacher comes in and makes a small fuss about Tatyana being there. It's basically the average new girl stuff, but Tatyana has her bitchface firmly planted on her stupid model head and refuses to even be remotely nice to him. God, Tatyana, woe is you. I have no sympathy for her, because she's just plain a bitch. Apart from that whole paparazzi thing, everyone's been pretty nice to her, and she's all, "Whatever, peasants." Even to Lila Fowler! That shit's just not on in my book.
Mr. Nameless Teacher (who we later find out is one Mr. Perini) gets on with the lesson asks the class what language they speak in Indonesia. Okay, at my school, we did Indonesia in year seven social studies, about four years before these dunces at Sweet Valley. And guess what? Nobody knows what language they speak in Indonesia! Except Liz, of course, who goes on for a bit about Indonesian, smart alecky as usual, when Tatyana pipes up. She tells the class that actually, there are over 200 dialects spoken in Indonesian. Actually, Bitchyana, that's called nitpicking. Once again, I'm torn. I mean, she schooled Liz Wakefield, and that's always, without exception, funny. But I hate Tatyana's limey guts, and that's not funny. Mr. Perini, who previously praised Liz on her "correct" answer, is like, "Shit. Well, okay then," and Tatyana condescendingly tells him not to feel bad -- she only knows because she went there for a magazine shoot. Hey Tatyana, you know how you hate everyone because they're paying so much attention to you? You know what would actually be a smarter idea than bragging about your adventures in modelling? Not doing that. Doing anything but that, in fact. You moron.
At the Moon Beach, Tatyana walks in, seemingly looking for Todd. As in, Todd Wilkins, Mr. Moody Pants himself. I have no idea why. They play some pool, and Todd admits that it must suck being a celebrity. Tatyana says, "People think it's so great, but it isn't." No? Well if you wanted to educate them on a model's tough existence, Tatty dearest, I'd say bragging about your jet-setting, Indonesian-speaking life is not the way to go about it. She says it was her parents' idea to move her to Sweet Valley, so she can get some perspective. Todd quips, "On what, boredom?" then laughs at his own joke. As if he wasn't pathetic enough before. Don't make me feel sorry for you, Todd.
Winston comes along, and Todd introduces the two. Tatyana offers him a smile, which is pretty much the nicest she can be to anyone who's not Todd for some reason. Winston acts all lovestruck, and Todd seems a little embarrassed by this, which proves once and for all that you can embarrass the shameless. Thank you, Sweet Valley High. Then Winston runs off and bowls over a waitress carrying a tray of drinks. Todd actually cracks a smile, which is a nice change from the broody Todd we've been treated to in this episode. Tatyana's like, "Oh, that happens to me all the time." Then, after Todd compliments her cool necklace, she tells him about how she got it during a photo shoot in Nepal. Jesus, Tatyana. Give it a freakin' rest already. You are not the second coming of Tyra. Liz walks in just as Todd is fondling Tatyana's necklace. (Yes, you read that sentence correctly.) She rushes out of the place, leaving Jess and Lila behind.
Lila suggests that maybe Jessica should go after Liz and see if she's okay. Jess's response: "Right, and leave you here to rub elbows with Tatyana? I don't think so!" Wow, so her only sister rushes out of a public place hysterically, but she won't leave because she's afraid Lila will become friends with the supermodel before she does? That is just plain low. And also, "rubbing elbows?" You're doing it wrong, Jess. I'm pretty sure she means shoulders. Because this doesn't make her seem like enough of a sociopath, Jess tells Lila that Amy Sutton (woo, book reference!) just walked in wearing the same outfit as her, and ushers a humiliated Lila out the emergency exit door so she can be alone with Tatyana. Mean, Jess. And also, a little skeevy. Your girl crush is getting stranger by the second.
Lila hurries back to the Moon Beach, dressed head-to-toe in a completely different outfit. She even changed her jewellery, which seems rather unnecessary, but whatever. Lila and Jessica both invite Tatyana to hang out with them over the next couple of days, and Tatyana's bitchface comes back and she tells them that they don't even know her, and from what she knows about them, she doesn't like them. Well so-ree, Tatyana! Sorry that Jess and Lila are being nice to the new girl with no friends. Sorry that they think you guys might have something in common. Sorry that you actually think Todd Wilkins is friend material. You're lucky he hasn't punched you yet. I hate Tatyana so much right now. How the writers eventually turn this egomaniacal whorebag into Cheryl is beyond me.
Jessica and Lila walk off in a huff, straight back to the Wakefield house where they find Liz wallowing in her room. Jess strokes her hair and says, "I knew you were upset, and I wanted to see if you were okay." Yes, that certainly was a very nice afterthought, Jess. She goes on a rant about how mean Tatyana was to Liz, and that she'll regret the day she ever tried to steal Liz's boyfriend. Even though they're broken up? And at least part of that had to do with Elizabeth flirting with the uber-disgusting but thankfully absent Nicholas Morrow. (More like Dickolas Morrow!) I do love how Jess is trying to pass off her hatred for Tatyana as loyalty to her sister. It's such a dick move, but one I've come to expect from her, and love her a little bit for. I think it's comforting to know that even with all the Bruce casting changes and black girl replacements, sociopathic Jessica is but a constant in a world of variables.
Jess and Lila head on over to Jess's room to look for magazines that feature Tatyana. I guess it's part of their plan or something. Jess maintains that she's doing this for her poor embattled sister, actually saying, "Lila, try to understand the strong connection between twins. When someone hurts one of us, we both hurt." Hee! Oh Jessica, you're going straight to hell, but it's worth it to me. During their muck-raking session, Jess and Li both find articles about Tatyana's background that contradict one another -- one says she grew up in Monte Carlo, the other says she's Manhattan's darling. Which is totally a callback to the start of social studies class when they were arguing about that very thing! Jess says that one of the articles is written by some chick named Jenny Allan, who also covered the Prince of Santa Dora's visit to Sweet Valley back in season one! Whoah, that's some fine continuity right there. I'm shocked.
At school the next day, Liz rocks up to see Todd and Tatyana talking like old friends. Or even new friends. The point is, friends. They're friends. Apparently this doesn't even cross Liz's mind. She rushes all the way to the Oracle office to...wait...hold on a second, who's that random teacher man who's trying to get the Oracle staff to be tolerant towards Tatyana? Who? Oh no. No. They. Did. Not. They recast Mr. Collins! He's not even a third of the nasty the old Mr. Collins was! You're just abusing your power now, casting director. This Mr. Collins is younger, and has a tiny, tiny head. No man's head should be that tiny. Karl tells NuCollins that he tried to talk to Tatyana, but she ignored him, even though he's black. It's good to know that Tatyana is an equal-opportunist bitch. Tinyhead Collins suggests that Liz do a one-on-one interview with her. Liz says that she doesn't want to ever do anything like that "because she makes me feel uncomfortable." Fear not, folks, Liz hasn't taken her Annie Whitman pills. She just dislikes her because A) she's macking on her boyfriend, and B) she's a cow. Tinyhead Collins reassures her using nothing but a shoulder-pat. So that's where Liz gets it from! Way to bring the creepiness back, though, you lanky lollipop man.
Liz comes up to Tatyana, and she mistakes Liz for Jess and starts paying her out for being a stalker. Liz tells her she's a twin, and Tatyana's like, "You mean there's two of you? My condolences to your parents." Aw, it's okay, Tats -- they're literally never home, anyway. It's annoying how unlikeable Tatyana is, because that line pretty much sums up how most people feel about the Sweet Valley books. Liz says she wants to interview her for the Oracle, and Tatyana says, "Why would I want to be interviewed for some rinky-dink school newspaper?" And now she's badmouthing the Oracle? God, I wish I could bring myself to loving her. (Using words like rinky-dink won't help her cause any.)
Winston whisks Manny out of class to help him with Operation Make Tatyana Fall In Love With Him. Since when were they even friends, anyway? Last season, Manny was Bruce's little lapdog, but I guess NuBruce cast him out or something. Winston's still using this photography thing to get Tatyana on the line, but he needs Manny's help because "I need practice photographing a model." Hee! Michael Perl can't even say that line with a straight face! Manny and Winston have an impromptu photography session in the hallway, until Bruce walks by, smirks, and says, "I know Cindy Crawford, and you sir, are no Cindy Crawford." NuBruce, you win my respect and some of my affection just by uttering that awesome line. I totally believe Bruce knows Cindy Crawford, too. (Sort-of.) Thankfully this scene is over, because there was really no reason for it except to make me throw up in my mouth. The good news is, I finally figured out who long-haired Manny reminds me of.
(By the by, I innocently Googled 'Francine Frensky' to get that picture on the right, and thirteen pornographic Arthur images came up in the very first search. Thirteen. My faith in humanity, in case you're wondering? Gone. My eyes can't ever unsee Arthur and Buster making a Francine sandwich.)
Jess and Lila meet up in the bathroom, and Jess says that she talked to Jenny Allan, the journalist, for over an hour last night. Jenny, it seems, had all the gory details about Tatyana's so-called perfect life. Tatyana comes in at that moment and bitches about Liz a little bit, and the two of them leave, grinning manically. Because there's a plan a'brewing! Revenge is imminent! Tatyana walks out of the bathroom, only to find Winston there, photographing her. Winston, did you take lessons from Mr. Collins on how to be this creepy, or did it evolve naturally? Tatyana grabs his camera, exposes his film and yells at him for invading her privacy. Which I can actually understand for once. Taking photos of someone coming out of a public bathroom is the single grossest thing you can do, save for actually going into the bathroom after them.
As she comes around the corner, Jess and Lila start reading a Tatyana information packet they got from that journalist Jess spoke to. They reveal that Tatyana's real name is Cheryl, and she's just a poor, toe-up boyfriend-stealing black girl from the country who was in beauty pageants like Miss Brussel Sprout (which she didn't even win), and her dad Walter is the Arkansas checkers champion. So the SVH researcher can correctly identify a tertiary character's father's name, but not what grade Bruce Patman's in? Really? Tatyana is embarrassed by these revelations, but still has enough composure to ask them, "Is this the only way you people have to entertain yourselves?" Well, uh, yeah, pretty much. Just be thankful you're not fat as well, Cheryliana. This scene is lame enough as is, but somewhere along the way the feebs in the sound department added an female voice, seemingly coming from the crowd of people, that just agrees with everything Tatyana's saying. We get a lot of, "Yeah! Right! Really! Leave her alone! You said it!" Excuse me, Random Voice, but who asked you? And why do you like her so much? Nobody likes Tatyana, except Todd, but as far as I can tell he was only psychologically castrated by Liz.
After Tatyana stalks off, Jess gloats some more and tells Liz that she had her back the whole time. Liz is like, "Fuck off, I know exactly why you're out to get Tatyana," then says that Tatyana's right about how pathetic Jess is. Lawd help us. I get that Liz is all saintly and whatever, but Tatyana was really, unnecessarily mean to her. Now that Tatyana's been publicly burned by Jessica Wakefield, however, she thinks it must be friend-outreachy-shoulder-pat time. She rushes after Tatyana, and asks her why she made up her past like that. Because...she's never heard of any celebrity doing this before? Tatyana says that her management made up her whole backstory to add to the fantasy that is Tatyana Thomas. She says she hates it, and she hates her stupid ugly new name. She's like, "And what's with that boyfriend-stealing jab?" and Liz says that Todd's her ex-boyfriend. She is apparently still relatively unsure of what the prefix "ex" denotes. Tatyana tells her that, "I'm not interested in Todd for anything more than a friend. Trust me." Oh, I do, Tatyana. We all do.
Liz reminds her that she was kind-of a ridiculous bitch to everyone, and Tatyana's just like, "Well, yeah. I guess" The two bond over a cookie and boyfriend war stories, and then Tatyana agrees to be interviewed by Liz for the Oracle. Aw, the new anatomically-disproportionate Mr. Collins is going to be so proud. At the very end, Tatyana tells Liz that since she's stuck here til graduation, she may as well make the best of it. Oh, and she prefers to be called Cheryl. Which is good, because that's what she's going to be called forever and ever and ever...because seriously, she actually thinks she's going to leave SVH? And wow, was that not the quickest personality change you've ever seen? Even for Sweet Valley, that was a sprint. Oh, well. I guess it's for the best.
Before I sign off, someone mentioned to me in the comments section of my last recap that NuBruce has this weird habit of keeping his left hand in his pocket nearly always, so I looked out for that especially this time. And guess what?
His new nickname is Hot Pockets.