Yes, that's right. Sam Woodruff has entered TV Land, and not just as a one-off character like poor old forgotten Ken Matthews, either. Sam Woodruff is here for a three-episode arc! If the ridiculous title of this episode made you cringe even slightly, I must warn you that there are a number of name-based pun titles coming your way in the next few weeks, including 'Sam Kind of Wonderful' and 'Win Sam, Lose Sam.' Clearly this doesn't impress anyone, 'specially not Todd.
Another warning: the Sam Woodruff you are about to see here is not the Sam Woodruff you're used to. They pretty much created a different character with completely different traits, put him on a dirt bike and called him Sam Woodruff. Truly. Words can't describe the desecration of such a beloved character, but I'll try anyway.
We open on some kind of dirt bike race. Lila, Liz and Jess are all watching Todd compete, and I take offence to this for two reasons. Number one -- why is Todd a bike enthusiast again? His girlfriend's near-death experience, subsequent personality-altering coma and almost-rape by Bruce Patman was supposed to guilt him into giving up his love of motorbikes for the rest of his life! It's like you don't even care, Toddles. And number two -- why would Lila and Jess go to watch Todd Wilkins race dirt bikes? They don't even like him.
Jess and Lila are trying to work out which one of the riders is Todd. Lila seems to think that watching a dirt bike race is like watching horse-racing, so she's come in gloves and a hat. She even has classy little binoculars. God, I love her. Liz gives us some exposition about how Todd is practising for the "big race" next week. I assume this is just a small race, then. Lila judges all the guys on their outfits, noting that while number 14's tangerine and aqua number is awful, "number 3 has a wonderful sense of minimalism." No seriously, I really, really love her. Jess demands to know why Lila suddenly has a bikie fetish, and Lila concedes that since her boyfriend (and personal trainer) dumped her, she's been having abandonment issues. Aww! Jess says that she's also been having man troubles of late, most of which she caused herself by dating her boyfriend's best friend and brother at the same time. That's what we in the real world call asking for it, Jessica.
Liz suggests that they might meet some cute guys today, and Lila's all, "Think of the dry-cleaning bill!" Jessica and Lila make an awesome chick pact to enjoy their freedom from the evil clutches of men. It's all very Thelma and Louise, only without all the fun double suicide. Just then, Todd rides over to them, muttering something about how he's going to need a lot of practice for the race next week, and Lila says he was great. Then she corrects herself, saying she doesn't actually know anything about the sport, but he looked great. He thanks her for her kind words. Ew, not more Lila/Todd love! The Christmas hug last week was one thing, but this? They are not friends, scriptwriters. They can barely stand one another. Will you just foronce please read a Sweet Valley High book right through the end? Please?
To their left, another rider, uh, stops riding or comes in for landing or whatever the dirt bike lingo is. Something something pit stop, I don't know, whatever. This is barely a sport. The rider takes off his helmet, and Jess falls in love. Because it's SAM WOODRUFF! Remember how it's SAM WOODRUFF? God, I'm so excited! And you guys -- Sam Woodruff is not that bad-looking. He even looks a little like the Sam from the Kidnapped By The Cult book cover, only with different hair. I'm actually a little impressed at the casting right now. (For a change.) Jess demands to know who that fine flavour of stud muffin is, and Todd tells her that it's Sam Woodruff -- he's new in town and an excellent racer, but he's kind-of a dick. Which, bullshit! Sam Woodruff was never a dick! He was charming! Charming! You lie, Toddles!
As if to prove Todd right, Sam comes along and tells him that if he tightens up his turns, they could probably have a real competition. Todd's reaction = freaking priceless. He just glares at him for a good couple of seconds, then sarcastically thanks him for the advice. Hoo boy, if looks could Todd-punch...
Sam walks off, saying something about how he calls 'em like he sees 'em, and Todd schitzes out and yells, "Ohh, I'm gonna nail that guy next week!" No, Todd. There is only one man on this show you're allowed to "nail", and his name is Winston. Liz pulls Todd away, probably so he can go sit in the chill-out corner she's no doubt created for him by now, and Jess tells Lila that she's not gonna let Sam get away with talking to Todd like that. Cut to Jessica walking up to Sam and saying, "I really liked the way you talk to Todd back there." AHAHAHA! Legitimate comedy from SVH TV is rare, but when it happens, it rocks so hard. Anyway, Jess turns on the ol' Wakefield charm, and Sam shoots her down and walks off. Gah, no! Sam is supposed to swoon for Jessica! Swoon! Literally every single person Jessica has ever set her sights on in this TV show has fallen madly in love with her, but the one person she needs to get with immediately brushes her off? WRONG, writers! They're supposed to fall in lurve and live happily ever after until Jessica accidentally kills him. That's the way this fairytale goes. You cannot change it; it's just what's supposed to happen.
Back at the Wakefield house, Jess is talking to Lila about how "dangerous" and "different" Sam is. I love that anyone in Sweet Valley who dares ride a motorbike is immediately classified as being dangerous. I mean, we all know Todd is, but that's for largely different reasons. Lila's like, "Whatev, just be back in time for that movie we're going to," and Jess pooh-poohs all that girl power talk from before. She asks Lila if she actually thought she was serious, and you guys, the look on Lila's face. I think it's supposed to be more of teh comedy, but it's just heartbreaking. I am in disbelief at Jessica's callousness. Sure, be a bitch to Liz -- she deserves it (and how!), but Lila doesn't.
Downstairs, Liz and Todd are playing a thrilling game of Chinese checkers. Sigh. They're even more boring than they were last board game night. I mean, there's nary a Jenga puzzle in sight! Jess tells them that she's off to put some gas in the Jeep, when really she's sneaking out to go stalk Sam. I find it incredible that Jessica actually has to lie to Elizabeth and not her parents. I mean, seriously, how hard it is to find some parent actors? This is getting ridiculous. Lila comes downstairs, grabs some popcorn, and sits down with Excitement Squared over there. Todd looks at her strangely and says, "Aren't you going home?" Fuck you, Todd, this isn't even your house. Lila says there's nobody at Fowler Crest "except for the night butler, the gardener, two cooks and the guy that cuts the calla lillies." She then says that talking to her servants makes her feel empty. Not in a mean way, just in an I'm-aware-that-I-have-very-few-friends-a
Liz asks Lila if she wants to come to the Moon Beach with her and Todd. (Because they've just discovered that they're playing freakin' checkers on a Saturday night, I'm guessing.) Todd, who's seated behind Lila, mouths "No!" and then quickly pretends to be doing something else when Lila turns around to look at him. I can't work out whether it's the greatest thing I've ever seen Todd do, or the worst. Because I mean, it was pretty funny for SVH (and especially Todd) standards, but this is Lila Fowler we're talking about here. Apparently Todd only likes her when she's complimenting his mad dirt bike skillz. Anyway, Lila accepts Liz's offer, Todd grunts a confused, "What?" at them, and they all head on over to the Moon Beach.
Jess goes to some kind of auto repair bikie whatever place (I am so out of my element with this whole dirt bike plot, aren't I?) where Sam is repairing his bike. I guess he works there. I have no idea how Jessica managed to find out where Sam works, but there you go. She tells him she was just in the neighbourhood, and he says, "Doing what? Getting your hubcaps stolen?" Did Sam live on the poor side of town in the books, too, because I don't remember that. I remember Jess being scared to tell her parents about the dirt bike thing, but as far as I can recall, he was never Betsy Martin's neighbourino or anything. Anyway, Jess tries to impress Sam with her knowledge of some motorcross champion who may or may not be real, and then admits that she's not exactly a dirt bike expert. He suggestively asks her, "Well, what are you an expert on?" Holy shit, scriptwriters, could you get this character any more wrong? Sam is not a trashy date rapist, okay? He was hardly in the series before the magical vodka incident ended him, but he still remains beloved. He was Batman! Don't trash his memory now.
Somehow, the scriptwriters hear me, and Jess and Sam start flirting cute. Which I think means I can defy both space and time, so, awesome for me. They talk about who's flirting with who, and Sam adorably calls Jess out on stalking him, and there's romantic background music and everything. Aww! Then Sam ruins it, reverting back to his creeper ways by attempting to rub grease off Jess's chestal area. Goddamnit, Sam, you were doing so well, too.
At the Moon Beach, Lila is talking to Liz and Todd about how her masseuse pointed out that her relationship with her personal trainer "was just another example of her self-destructive tendencies." See? Again with the human emotions! She's even aware of them, too. Todd looks like he either wants to kill himself, or Lila, or maybe go on some sort of rampage whereby he kills the both of them and all the other Moon Beach patrons. Or maybe that's just how his face is now, I don't know. Lila grabs the last piece of fried cheese off the plate, and then this exchange happens:
Lila: "Mmm, Todd, this fried cheese is fabu!"
Todd (eerily calm): "Then why don't you order some?"
Lila: "Thanks. I'm not that hungry."
Todd (still eerily calm): "Funny. I still am."
Turns out passive aggressive Todd is far scarier than rageaholic Todd ever was. Funnier, too, but definitely scarier. Lila goes to order him some more food, and the second she leaves, Todd leans over to Liz and says in no uncertain terms, "Get me away from her." That's some nice gratitude there, Wilkins. She's ordering you some food! Where's the love! Liz tells him to suck it up, because Lila's feeling lonely tonight. Liz is actually pretty damn nice in this episode. Usually I'd snark this idea she has that she's the saviour of the lonely, but Lila really did look as thought she wanted to hang out with them. Liz reminds Todd that Lila's boyfriend just broke up with her.Todd's all, "No kidding; I wonder why!" Todd, fucking shut up, okay? The only reason you're not desperate and dateless right now is because you found the one woman in the world weak-willed enough to keep putting up with your bullshit. Although, he does get some points for this:
Liz: "She needs some friends!"
Todd: "No, she needs some deaf friends!"
Dammit, why is Todd only awesome when he's dissing Lila? Liz tells him, "I'll make it up to you later," then blows him a kiss. Bam chicka da-da! Methinks Todd is going to end up thanking Lila by the end of the night. Who knew Liz Wakefield could be so suggestive, and in public, no less. Anyway, Lila comes back with the food and invites herself along to the movies with Todd and Liz. God, she must really be lonely. Todd appears to be mighty pissed with this turn of events.
Just then, some random dude in a leather jacket comes to talk to Todd about the dirt bike race next week, ominously suggesting that he stay away from Sam Woodruff because the guy's trouble. It's a really weird scene, and not just because it's completely out of place and interrupting all the Todd/Lila hilarity. It's just...poorly acted and looks like it was shot by incompetent film students. (Even more so than usual.) Anyway, Liz demands to know why this Sam fellow is such bad news, and Todd says that some of the other "bikers" (his word, not mine) told him that Sam is fresh out of a stint in juvie. No wonder he was so keen to touch Jess's boobie. Liz is crazy shocked.
Lila, who so far is the only one who knows that Jessica is keen on him, asks Todd what Sam did, and Todd said he beat up some guy, "like, blood, guts, the whole thing." Hey Todd, have you met Todd? Apparently the kettle is much blacker than the pot, because the guy Sam beat up almost died. Lila quickly tells them that Jess went to the garage where he works to see him, and the three of them haul ass outta that booth like they're Power Rangers or something. I'm imagining that Todd's warming up his punching fist as we speak. Also, may I just say one thing before we all head on over to the garage? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON HERE? Juvie? Attempted murder? Sam Woodruff? No, no and no, writers. This has to be slander or something, right?
Back at the garage, Jess is still hanging around. She gets on a bike that Sam says needs a test run and asks if he needs any test passengers. Sam practically jumps at the chance to mount
her the bike, and asks, "Didn't your mom ever teach you not to accept rides from strangers?" Well, uh, no she didn't, Sammy boy. I'm pretty sure Jess and her mother have never actually had any sort of contact beyond that whole "birth" debacle. It should be noted that Sam looks especially creepy in this scene. I get that it's supposed to amp up the tension, but still. He looks like he's just waiting for her to drop the soap.
Todd, Liz and Lila arrive at the garage and very stealthily suggest that Jess come home with them, wink wink, nudge nudge. Todd says nothing, but you can see that he's just biding his time. Sam asks if there's a problem, and Todd immediately stands up and is all, "Why don't you tell us, Sam?" He's setting his punching fist from 'stun' to 'kill'. No wait -- he has some sort of giant spanner in his hand. Oh great, Todd has a weapon. Code red, everybody, Todd Wilkins has a weapon and he's itching to use it! Evacuate the children first! No time to save the elderly; they've led full lives! Jess demands to know what's going on, and Lila tells him that her studly biker man is actually Prison Fun Ken, and she's just setting herself up to be his Conjugal Visit Barbie. She doesn't actually say that, of course, but I think I may have just ruined Barbie for everyone.
At school the next day (yes, that's where they left off. Sam didn't even try to defend himself or anything, apparently), Todd and Liz are thanking their lucky stars that they finally got rid of Lila last night. He doesn't seem to really get the same kick out of being in the Almighty Fowler's presence as much as everyone else. Just then, Lila walks down the hall and spots them immediately, like "a Gucci-seeking missile." Heh. Todd. Liz tells Lila that Jess is mad at all of them for what happened with Sam last night, and Lila excitedly says that it's great they're all in the same boat. Todd's reaction: "Well, I wish it were a bigger boat." Ha! Seriously, I'm convinced that Lila brings out the best in Todd, because he's owning the funny today. Lila gives the two of them matching pagers so she can reach them day and night, and Todd and Liz attempt run off to the Oracle office with some ridiculous, long-winded excuse about cleaning pictures out of the filing cabinet or some boring shit they know Lila'd never be up for. Instead, Lila says that it's perfect, and a frustrated Todd yells, "Why?! Why is that perfect?!" I tell ya, this is just the greatest B-plot ever.
That night, Jess rocks up to Sam's garage wearing a short skirt and long boots. Because that's what I'd wear to confront a guy I thought was fresh out of juvie. Actually, she's come to apologise for her lying liar friends and all their lies, and Sam tells her that they weren't lying -- he really did go to juvie. WHAT?! No he did not! I read that series of books, and no he did not! I'm so uncontrollably upset that they made Dirt Bike Boyfriend into a poor delinquent. The one stereotype the books avoided! Jess says that everyone makes mistakes, and hey -- she shoplifted once, and sometimes she eats grapes in the grocery store without paying for them. Whoah, step back there, Miss Crime Spree USA. Sam actually says to her, "Well I'm so glad you understand my situation." Finally! Literally, every time someone in Sweet Valley has a problem, one of the twins always fixes it by saying, "Oh yeah, that's exactly like the time I did something so not at all like your situation and is really a tenuous link at best, but seriously, I totally know exactly what you're going through and how to fix it," and the recipient is always so grateful that said Wakefield saved their life. TV!Sam may be a cheap, bitch-ass imitation of Actual Sam, but at least he's attitudey about it.
As if to prove my point, Sam actually get a little monologue where he tells Jess that she's only using him because she thinks he's "dangerous" and she wants to stir her friends by dating him, thus getting all the attention she so badly craves. Wow. Has anybody every actually deconstructed a Sweet Valley character so succinctly before? Of course, the awesomeness doesn't last long -- Jess yells at him for judging her without knowing her, while having the gall to be mad at her friends for judging him without knowing him. Then she storms off, and Sam looks guilty. Stupid Wakefields always have to be right, even when they're wrong.
While all this is going on, Liz is tucked up in bed doing homework or something equally boring. She calls Todd and complains about how Lila is driving her insane. They even do the whole split-screen thing, which is always fun. As they're talking, Lila calls Liz and talks about her ex-boyfriend some more. Liz tells her she's on the phone with Todd, then hangs up. Of course, the second Liz tells Todd about "the six million dollar mouth" calling her, Todd utters the fateful, "better you than me" line, and gets a call from Lila himself. He hangs up on her without even saying a word. The two of them whinge about how they hate call waiting, then there is a slight pause, and...surprise! Lila pops into the frame between the two of them because she's got three-way dialling! Todd laughs his creepy passive-aggressive laugh, and I laugh my normal something-is-funny laugh.
The next day, Liz and Todd hide out in the Oracle office for an hour after school to avoid Lila. They sneak out, then jump at the sound of a door opening. Turns out it's just some random teacher who looks a little like Robert Redford. (I'm so annoyed that they found an actor that looked like Robert Redford and didn't use him as Mr. Collins, but okay.) Todd and Liz breathe a sigh of relief and turn around, only to come face-to-face with a deadpan Lila. It's hysterical. You really need to watch this episode for yourselves. (It's on YouTube!) She feigns being mad at them for their lack of communication, then reveals that the batteries in her pager died. Liz tells her that they forgive her, and Todd says, "Yes. Goodbye." While I really don't like this Lila-as-the-fool thing (Enid is apparently on holiday), I love how great all of Todd's reactions are.
Todd and Liz finally tell Lila that they don't want to hang out with her 24/7. She's a little disappointed, and tells them that she'll have to hang out in Maui with her cousins this weekend instead of them. Todd and Liz stop in their tracks. I do love how Todd has to clarify that she's talking about "Hawaii Maui." That's some nice work there, Carmen Sandiego. Lila tells them not to worry about her -- she'll just have to do all the jetskiing, parasailing and windsurfing by her onesie, and the good news is that the two first class plane tickets she bought them are fully refundable. Oh man, this is awesome! I was so afraid that they would just blurt out that they don't like spending time with her, and it'd turn into a movie-of-the-week, tell-us-your-feelings thing like it always seems to, and Lila would be downhearted. But no. I should've known better. Todd and Liz = owned. Lila was the best friend they ever had, and they never even realised it. Thank you so much for this storyline, SVH TV. I just...thank you.
Jessica is at the Moon Beach with some gossipy cheerleaders, stirring her Coke with her straw and pretty much looking sadsacky. Just then, Sam comes in and asks her if she wants to have a talk. She does, and the two go for a ride to the lake. (Secca Lake? They don't say specifically, but how many lakes could there be?) Sam tells Jess that the reason he was in juvie is because he beat the ever-loving shit out of his mother's abusive boyfriend. Oh, the ol' beating-up-the-abusive-stepfather chestnut! A staple of any good-guy-in-jail storyline. He tells Jess that the violent boyfriend wouldn't let his mother testify at his trial, and so he got hauled off the to big house. Apparently they're still together, which is not quite the upbeat Sweet Valley ending I'm used to. Where's the comeuppance? Where are the just desserts? Anyway, Jess and Sam make out and...that's the end of the episode. Like literally, bam! End credits! Doesn't matter that they just dropped some issue-heavy drama on us -- if your half-hour is up, then your half-hour is up, I guess.
And so begins the Jessica-hearts-Sam arc of the TV series. Sam lovers wanting to express their disappointment at the way his character was ABSOLUTELY BUTCHERED, go nuts. That's what the comments section is there for.