The book starts out with Elizabeth being questioned at the police station. Ned wants to make sure Liz understands that “as long as no charges have been filed against her, she is under no legal obligation to answer [the police’s] questions.” Um, Ned? She wouldn’t be obligated to answer their questions even if she had been charged with something. Haven’t you ever heard of Miranda rights? Or, y’know, seen Law and Order? Elizabeth doesn’t have to say a word. Liz insists that she wants to answer their questions and help as much as possible and her father lets her, which is stupid of both of them. If you are ever arrested, please keep in mind that the police are never on your side. Their job is to collect evidence to use against you. Why would you make it easier by answering their questions? When arrested, the only words that should ever come out of your mouth are, “I would like an attorney, please.” And never accept the drink they offer you, either, because they don’t need a warrant to take your fingerprints and DNA from the cup. The Wakefields are idiots.
Well, anyway, Liz just keeps on insisting that she doesn’t remember a thing about the dance, and the accident was just a loud noise and a crash. One of the cops reasonably points out that, if Liz doesn’t remember anything from the dance, how can she know she wasn’t drinking? Mr. Wakefield gets really angry at that for some reason, even though it’s a good point and Liz is going to have to think up an answer to that question sooner or later, if she’s going to go to trial. The police put her in a cell, and I guess the judge won’t come arraign her until the morning, because she has to spend the night there. She’s harassed by a drunk inmate, but a hooker with a heart of gold (No lockup is complete without one!) protects her and encourages her to cry it out.
Ned calls Steven to tell him that Liz is sleeping in jail with the happy hooker (Not like that, people! Who do you think she is? Pamela?), and Steven wants to go home right away. Ned insists he stay at school, says that they’ve hired the best criminal lawyer in California, and tells Steven everything will be sorted out really soon.
Jessica, as she does in times of stress, has retreated into sociopathy. She figures that’s what happens when someone dies: you shrivel inside and never feel again. Very healthy. Jessica stares at Liz’s door and crazies: “Even though Jessica had played that silly joke on Elizabeth and Sam, the accident obviously had nothing to do with Jessica. It was all Elizabeth’s fault.” Obviously. She decides that she’ll start to feel better if Liz is punished for Sam’s death. She makes up her mind to forget the magical vodka incident ever happened, and focuses on planning her revenge on Liz.
Jess’s revenge begins at school. Liz is out on bail, and only Enid will talk to her. Jess pretends like she’s her old self, laughing and joking with her friends, but she doesn’t seem to get that it’s creeping them out. Amy is the most worried. Jess slips a copy of the newspaper in Enid’s bag. When Enid leaves her bag on the lunch table while she gets her food, Liz goes through the backpack, finds the paper, and runs away crying when she sees her photo and a story about her arrest on the front page. Liz thinks Enid had the paper on purpose to upset her (Like Enid would’ve assumed Liz would snoop through her stuff? Well, maybe. We are talking about Liz Wakefield, after all.) Jessica chuckles insanely at the sight of her sister in tears, but that was really lame revenge. She has a better idea after school, though, when she sees Todd walking to his car all alone. Dun dun dunnnnnnnn!
Todd sits at home, kicking himself for being such a dick to Elizabeth. He didn’t call her right after the accident because he was too shocked that she’d run off with Sam during the prom, and now he’s just sort of in the habit of not calling her, so he doesn’t feel like he can, but he wishes he could, and this is all so stupid. Just CALL her if you want to, Todd. Jesus. Well, anyway, Jess calls him and sobs about how she didn’t know where else to turn, and she’s never felt so alone in her life, and she misses Sam so much. She lies that her friends just act like everything is normal and are only interested in themselves. Todd feels guilty and selfish for being so busy not calling Elizabeth that he never thought about how much pain Jess must be in. I wouldn’t put myself out over Jess too much, Todd. She did falsely accuse you of attempted rape just earlier this school year. He asks if she wants to go to a movie, and Jess agrees. Todd is pleased, because maybe by becoming close to Jess he can make contact with Liz again. Jess silently begs Sam for forgiveness, explaining to him that she doesn’t even like Todd, but has to do this to hurt Liz. She’s sure Sam would be sympathetic to that aim.
As Jess and Todd leave the movie, they’re spotted by Amy and Caroline Pierce. Amy is really worried by this: Sam’s only been dead a few weeks, and Jess doesn’t even like Todd as a friend, so what are they doing together? Amy gets more and more creeped out by Jessica throughout this entire book, but any time she tries to point out to people (Caroline, Lila, anyone who will stand still long enough to listen) that Jess’s behavior is weird, abnormal, and unhealthy, she’s blown off. She starts to get rather urgent about it, actually, but still no one will listen to her. Caroline gets the best line of the book: “Elizabeth’s gone into hiding. And who can blame her? She would have felt humiliated to have an overdue library book. Can you imagine how she must feel about killing her sister’s boyfriend?” Awesome! Killing a kid in a drunk driving accident is so embarrassing!
Bruce hears a rumor that Ned is trying to keep Steve away from the family for a little while: Ned thinks Steve is too volatile and his presence might harm Elizabeth. WHAT? As far as I can tell from book 95, Steve is the only person in the entire family who currently gives a shit about the twins’ mental health. Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield are more like, “Liz is having a nervous breakdown and Jess is a complete sociopath, but eh. Not really our problem.”
Ned sucks. He tries to tell Steve that the twins are just fine, but Steve points out that one has a dead boyfriend and the other is on trial for involuntary manslaughter. Ned doesn’t really have a comeback for that. Steve says he knows his dad’s worried Steve will argue with the hotshot defense lawyer, and that his temper will upset people, and Ned is like, “Pretty much, yeah.”
Todd meets Jessica at the movies, wondering vaguely how he got into this situation: going out with Jess when he wants to be with Liz. I can tell you how, Todd: you agreed to it! This is not something that just happened to you, or that you were forced to do! If you don’t want to go to the movies with Jessica, TELL HER NO! He is so stupid! After, Jess invites him for a walk on the beach. She lies that they’re at the special spot where she and Sam used to go, and sobs. Todd hugs her, and says he knows how she feels because he misses Liz too. Liz is not dead, Todd, so…not quite the same. Jess is enraged that he only cares about the person who killed Sam, but she pretends to be all, “Oh, you’re so supportive, Todd!” Enid and Olivia see them out together and are like, “What a bitch. And poor Liz.” No hate for Todd, though? That’s bullcrap.
The best defense lawyer in California, Alan Rose, comes over to meet with Liz, Ned, and Alice. Steve decides Mr. Rose is an asshole because he says things like, “Time is money.” But, you know, the Wakefields are paying hundreds of dollars an hour for this man’s services, so maybe Steve should get over himself. Liz insists that all she remembers from her magical vodka blackout is light in her eyes and glass shattering, and Mr. Rose tells her he can’t help her if she won’t give him more than that. Steve shouts that his sister doesn’t drink, and Mr. Rose points out, “The alcohol in her blood didn’t get there from osmosis,” making me love him. Ned is like, “I don’t like what you’re insinuating!” Mr. Rose is all, “I’m not insinuating anything. If you people can’t even deal with a discussion of the basic facts, I’m out.” He packs up his stuff and leaves, advising Liz to plead guilty in exchange for six months in juvie. So, it looks like Ned and Steve are Liz’s lawyers now, except Steve is a college freshman. Those pesky details!
Alice is going off the deep end, cooking and cleaning like a maniac and insisting to everyone that everything is fine, just fine, perfectly fine. It’s what she did when Jess was shipwrecked too, so yay for character continuity. Steve thinks Liz’s memory of the accident is slowly coming back, because she’d never mentioned a light in her eyes before. If there was light in her eyes, it must have come from someone else’s headlights, so maybe another car was coming toward them.
Todd is at least smart enough to realize, vaguely, that he’s headed for trouble spending time with Jess when he really wants to be with Liz (though not badly enough to JUST CALL LIZ ALREADY, I note) so he starts screening Jessica’s calls. She rings him up, like, five times in one morning, and when he finally answers she sobs that Saturdays were always the day she’d watch Sam race dirt bikes, so she’s having a really hard time. Todd feels guilty for avoiding her, which is exactly what she wants him to feel, so he cancels his game of chess with his friend (Todd plays chess? Say what? Is he sure he’s not thinking of Candyland?) and takes Jess for a walk instead. While they’re out together, Liz sees them and is heartbroken. Todd almost goes over to her, but Jess starts crying again so he stays by her side to comfort her. What an idiot.
Jess seethes in her room about Steven and how he cares about Elizabeth but not her. Steve proves her wrong by coming in and sweetly expressing concern about how she’s doing with her grief over Sam, which Jess neatly parries with her insane “Everything is just fine! Ha ha ha ha ha!” act. All she has to do is laugh a little and toss her hair, and Steve is convinced that she really is okay. He tells her he’ll always love her and be there for her if she needs him, and as soon as he leaves Jess drives over to Todd’s and sobs all over him about how Steve left without even saying goodbye or trying to talk to her about Sam. It’s like Steve doesn’t even care! Steve only loves Liz, not her! She’s straight-up evil, yo.
Jess looks so much like Liz that Todd can’t help but hug her. Weird. Meanwhile, Enid and Liz drive by on their way to somewhere and see the twins’ jeep parked outside Todd’s house. Enid tries to make her feel better: “I’m sure Todd’s just being a sympathetic friend. You know what he’s like. He wouldn’t abandon Jessica when she needs him most.” Sobbing, Liz rightly points out, “He abandoned me. He didn’t think I need a sympathetic friend.” Enid has to concede the point. Todd is horrible. The next day, Jess rubs it in Liz’s face that Todd’s taking Jess out now instead of Liz. She makes Liz cry.
Jess and Todd go to the beach again, and Jess puts on one of Liz’s sweaters. It confuses Todd, and he’s a very unhappy boy as he walks along with her. He wants to cry, he misses Liz so much.
SO HE MAKES OUT WITH JESSICA, PRETENDING SHE’S ELIZABETH. What a sick freak.
At the same time as all this is going on, Steve has been trading notes with Billie Winkler, a prospective new roommate. He shows up one day to find Billie moving in and guess what, you guys? Billie is a GIRL! A hot girl! Gasp! Shock!
That family in Ohio who hired Margo to be a nanny? Their name has changed from Rossi to Smith. Hee. I have to find my laughs where I can, you see, because there’s nothing funny about this storyline yet. Margo locks little Georgie up in his closet for a few hours, and he screams and cries that he can’t breathe. She beats him up, and tells him she’ll kill him and feed him to the dogs if his mom finds out. He sobs and promises that he won’t tell, and begs her to not hit him anymore. Child abuse is not hilarious. The voice in her head tells Margo that she’ll find her real family in California. They’re all waiting for her and love her, and she was stolen from them by an evil witch and put in someone else’s life. California is where her real life is.
Georgie shuts himself up in his room, refusing to come out until his mother gets home, or Margo will hurt him again. Margo sweet talks him, telling him about the picnic she’ll make for him if he comes out, with cookies and chips and cheese crackers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This tempts him to open the door, and when he does, she twists his arm so hard it almost breaks, and forces him to show her the key to the safe.
Margo takes the jewelry and drowns Georgie in the pond. There’s a really long, gross description of it (after it’s done, his body floats in the dirty water “like a fat, dead duck.”) But it all worked out just like the voice said it would. Margo hops on a bus west, knowing that the police will be after her as soon as the kid is discovered.
In Texas, Margo gets off her bus. An old lady asks Margo to watch her stuff while she goes to the restroom, and while she’s gone Margo finds a newspaper from Sweet Valley in the lady’s purse. It’s the issue that Jess had slipped into Enid’s bookbag, because Margo thinks at first that there’s a picture of her on the front, but it’s Liz. Margo looks just like the Wakefield twins, but with dark hair! The voice tells Margo that she should go to Sweet Valley, so Margo steals the money and train ticket from the purse, and then goes into the bathroom and murders the old woman by bashing her head against the tile wall.
Anyway, Nick admires how “elegant, understated, businesslike, original, and flamboyant” he looks, and he doesn’t understand why he hasn’t got a girlfriend. After all, he’s practically perfect in every way: hot, nice, loyal, smart, funny, rich, interesting, kind to animals, and doesn’t drink, gamble, or drive too fast. So why do all the girls run in the opposite direction? Seriously, Nick, maybe it’s because that recitation of your awesomeness rolls off your tongue a little too easily, hm? Anyway, he gets the envelope from the Hunks show, and Olivia’s application on his behalf been accepted. He thinks the idea is pretty funny, and decides he’ll do it.
Nick and Liv go to the show taping. There are three girls, and he has to go on a date with each one and then they report back on the next episode. He looks at them with apprehension: the first one is wearing black, so Nick figures that she probably eats bugs. What? The second giggles a lot, so Nick wonders if there’s hyena blood in her family tree. Bestiality, Nick? Really? The last one looks really nervous and blushes when Nick looks at her, so he decides he hates her too, because she’s too shy. What a jerk.
That motorcycle that almost wrecked Lila’s car (which I’ll mention later in the recap)? It belonged to Jakki, bachelorette number one. As she speeds towards Morrow Manor, he prays for her to not be dressed all in black. Why would that matter? I should mention that Nick himself is wearing green pants, so not so much with the scorning others’ fashion choices. He thinks various mean, judgy thoughts while he waits: he didn’t buy her flowers, because he didn’t think any Sweet Valley florists stocked Venus Flytraps, and he didn’t make reservations at a nice restaurant, because any respectable maitre d’ would think they were there to rob it. Obviously no fancy restaurant has ever served a patron in black before. He couldn’t take her to the Dairi Burger, because she probably drinks blood, not milkshakes. The only good place to take a girl who wears black clothes is a cemetery. Is Nick brain damaged or something?
Jakki, it turns out, is awesome. She sussed Nick out as a judgmental bore from the first, and spends their whole date messing with his head. She tears up his lawn with her motorcycle, and then makes him ride bitch all the way to her favorite biker bar, where she then insists he buy her a beer. He tries to order himself a mineral water and the bikers all laugh at him, so he prissily assumes they’re all convicts because they have – GASP! – tattoos. Jakki tells him she’s signed him and his green pants up for the mud wrestling contest. He runs for the pay phone and begs Olivia to pick him up. While Nick waits, I swear to God, a guy with facial piercings asks him if he’s a narc. BWA!
Date two, the giggler, is named Susan. Nick consoles himself that at least she looks like she goes out in daylight. He wears a suit and brings flowers to her house, but she answers the door in jeans, flip flops, and a sweatshirt. She asks Nick, “Do you want something?” like she’s never seen him before, so he reminds her about the show and their date, using small words and thinking that she’s probably mentally challenged. Nick cancels their reservation at the French restaurant he’d planned, and instead they go to a place called Bobo’s Burger Barn, where you can draw on the placemats. Nick thinks it’s stupid, but I personally think that a meal with Nick Morrow would only be improved with a side of hangman. My brother’s favorite hangman word is antidisestablishmentarianism, but I think there are too many letters. It’s too easy. My favorite is zoo, because I’ve never, ever lost with it. Anyway, this burger place is “the only place that would allow Susan in in her flip-flops.” Oh, please. The Dairi Burger has a dress code, does it? Who knew Sweet Valley was so fancy? Anyway, the stupid girl giggles like a maniac through the whole date (Nick has a creepily violent fantasy about shoving the crayons in her mouth to shut her up), and then Susan tells Nick she has a boyfriend (named Tampa!) and just went on the show for laughs. Nick is not amused.
Date number three is named Ann, the girl who blushed when Nick looked at her. Nick is fed up with the whole game since he had an awful time on his first two dates, so he doesn’t make any effort at all. He wears the same clothes he had on to do lawnwork earlier (the Morrows have a butler but no gardener?) and doesn’t bother to get directions to her house, so he’s super late picking her up. Ann answers the door looking stunning in a white sheath dress, and politely tells Nick she’s not quite ready. Nick is kicking himself, because it seems she’s friendly and hot and he’s already screwing it up. Ann comes back in casual clothes, and they’re off. I seem to remember being impressed when I was younger by how graciously Ann pulled off the clothes change.
Everything goes wrong. Nick forgot his wallet at home (he didn’t have it in his jeans while he was mowing the lawn, and he left without getting it) so Ann has to pay. After dinner, they get a flat tire and Nick doesn’t know how to change it so Ann has to. They go to the amusement park and she talks him into going on a roller coaster even though he says he doesn’t like them, and he throws up on her. He’s miserable when he drops her off (though not as miserable as she is, I’d guess, since she’s the one covered in vomit) because he liked her and he’s sure she’s going to trash him on TV tomorrow.
At the studio, Jakki says that Nick was the most boring date ever: they weren’t even at the club for two minutes before he wanted to go home. Susan just giggles, and finally chokes out that Nick did everything wrong. Ann, however, gives quite a glowing report for a girl who’d been puked on. She talks about the restaurant on the beach, and then the wonderful time at the amusement park. Nick made her feel like a princess, apparently. She needs to get some higher standards. She tells Nick she’d like to go out with him again, if he lets her do the planning next time, and they make out.
Pam calls and begs Bruce to listen to her side. He’s kind of like, “Why would I believe a a slutty slut like you?” but he doesn’t hang up because he still loves her, as you’ve probably guessed by the respectful, nonjudgmental way he’s treating her. He reluctantly agrees to meet her at the Box Tree Café the next night so she can tell her side, but I don’t know why they couldn’t just have that chat over the phone. Whatever. Just as well, since the scene in the café is one of Bruce Patman’s finest moments in this entire series. And by finest, I mean he is the biggest douche in the universe. Bigger than Nicholas Morrow, even.
In 1BRUCE1 on his way to meet Pamela, Bruce thinks that maybe the gossip about her isn’t true, because she has kind eyes. Girls who have the sex can’t be kind, you see; only virgins are allowed to be good people. He thinks about buying her flowers, but then changes his mind. After all, she broke his heart by having sex with her boyfriend before she even knew Bruce existed! How dare she! He finally gets her a rose. And then he throws it out the window.
Pam’s story: her life is a mess because of a kid named Jake Jacoby. She dated him for a couple of months, and was in love. He said he loved her too, so they should “go all the way.” How quaint. She wasn’t ready, so he kicked her out of his car and never spoke to her again. She found out the next day, though, that he’d told pretty much everyone at school how easy she was, and all the most popular boys started asking her out. They’d drop her when they figured out she wasn’t going to sleep with them, but obviously nobody wanted to be the only one who couldn’t score with Pamela, so they all kept the rumors going. Apparently that’s what she’d been doing the morning that Bruce showed up with his Imported Cheese Basket of Apology: asking Jake to set the record straight. Jake, needless to say, found that idea hilarious.
So it turns out Pam is really a virgin! I know how relieved you all are that she’s a nice girl after all, instead of a dirty whore. Oh, and she also has some big news for Bruce.
He never finds out what that news is, though, because she doesn’t even get to tell him her tale of woe. They’re interrupted before she even gets started by a group of Big Mesa boys who ask Bruce if he’s so hard up that he has to scrape the bottom of their barrel. They tell Bruce that Pam is a piece of trash, and ask Pam if she’s being real nice to Bruce, because he’s a big shot. Bruce asks if they want to take it outside, and Jake says Pam isn’t worth fighting over. Bruce thinks to himself that, even if the rumors aren’t true, this is how it would always be because Pam has such a shitty reputation. He doesn’t feel like spending the rest of his life fighting kids in parking lots because of her, so, like a gentleman, he throws money on the table and bolts, not even turning around when Pam smacks Jake across the mouth and screams that he’s a liar. All right! If there had been a pool, she’d have pushed him in. Pam goes home and sobs, because if Bruce would rather believe a creep like Jake than her, then he obviously never loved her to begin with. Well, duh, Pam. You only went out on two dates. Am I the only person who remembers that part? Anyway, we find out that her big news is that she’s transferring to SVH. Drama!
Bruce is furious with himself for not standing up for Pam (Apparently once he’s had a chance to think about it, he decides she’s worth fighting for after all. Too late, sucker! She hates you now!), so he thrashes someone in tennis at the country club. He’s relieved when he goes to the men’s locker room after because, “This is the one place he felt safe from Pamela.” He wishes he could just stay in the locker room until his broken heart is mended, and I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about this scene’s extremely odd, rather obvious subtext, but I’m too lazy to think it up.
Lila is so nervous about meeting her mom, Grace. She makes Amy look at every single outfit Lila owns, because she’s so worried about her mom not liking her clothes, or her. Amy is bored that Lila won’t talk about anything but Grace. She’s also kind of worried because Lila seems to think Grace’s presence will solve every single problem she’s ever had. She tries to gently bring Lila down a few notches – “It’ll take a long time for you and your mother to really get to know each other.” – but Lila insists, “As soon as we see each other, everything will fall into place. Then everything will be fine again.” She thinks Amy is implying Grace won’t love her or be proud of her, but Amy insists that’s not what she meant. Oh, Lila. You don’t need a mom, you need a doctor. And possibly some medication. Amy thinks she needs Jessica. Grace calls just to tell Lila she’s thinking of her and loves her. Lila is so thrilled that she cries, but I’m kind of like, too little, too late, bitch. You couldn’t have made that call at any point in the last fourteen years?
At school, Lila bores everyone stupid talking about how smart and rich and successful and elegant and all-round perfect her mother is, but her friends all humor her because they can see how much it means to her. Jessica almost goes insane on her, because she doesn’t think Lila’s mother is important at all. The only important thing in the whole world is getting revenge on Elizabeth for taking Sam away, but Jess barely manages to hold on to her fragile façade of sanity.
George Fowler has to work late the night Grace is arriving. He couldn’t even leave the office early on this one occasion? What an asshole. Lila looks at her reflection and prays that she looks like a daughter someone could love. Of course you do, Lila! We all love you best! As she backs down her driveway, a motorcycle speeds around the corner and almost hits her car. (That would be Jakki, Nick’s date.)
Grace looks just like Lila, but blonde. She’s elegant and gracious and ever so happy to be there with her daughter. Grace tells Lila that she wants Lila to know everything about her, including why she left and hasn’t been in touch. Unfortunately, they’re interrupted by Grace’s stereotype boyfriend (he introduces himself to the Fowlers as her lover – hee!): Pierre the high-strung, foppish, self-absorbed Frenchman. Of course his name is Pierre.
The next morning, Grace comes to Lila’s room with coffee for girl talk, and Lila is relieved that stupid Pierre isn’t around. She asks her mom to tell her about Paris, and as Grace describes her life and friends and stationary business, Lila realizes that Grace’s life really is in France, and this is just a visit to California. Her every-fourteen-years visit. My heart breaks a little. Grace finally gently broaches the subject of John Pfeifer (boo!) and Nathan the Counselor, but just when Lila is about to open up to her, Pierre calls and demands Grace’s immediate attention. The travel has upset his digestive system, and she says she’ll be right there. Grace says she’ll be back as soon as she can, and Lila coldly tells her not to bother: “You haven’t been my mother for the last fourteen years. What makes you think I want you now?” Quite right. Grace says she can explain, but Lila kicks her out and then cries. Poor Lila.
Lila goes shopping and buys practically everything at the mall because she’s so angry with her mom. When Lila gets home, her mother is there with her dad. She spies on them around the corner, and her mom is crying. Lila feels sympathetic; she hadn’t thought until now that Grace might be in pain too.
To be continued in #97: The Verdict. Fastest manslaughter trial ever!