Jenna (Ashley Rickards) has another identity crisis as Halloween brings out the sluts and the haters. So what’s with the mixed messages?
Let’s bitch it out…
Awkward. often aims for a feel-good “message”, especially when it comes to Jenna’s voice-overs. This works because it provides the audience access to Jenna’s thoughts, and frequently serves a narrative function by bookending episodes. At times the message is crystal clear, often when Jenna learns from her issues. At times, however, this message is confused (take the recent example when Jenna’s mom told her to play dumb for Matty). Unfortunately ‘That Girl Strikes Again’ falls into the latter category more than the former as Jenna admits that her interest in Matty (Beau Mirchoff) revolves primarily around his abs/looks.
I appreciate that this is a very real element of their relationship – it’s an honest confession in the same vein as Tamara’s (Jillian Rose-Reed) suggestion that sexual compatibility is a key element in her relationship with Jake (Brett Davern). At the same time, we know that there’s more to Jenna’s relationship with Matty than an appreciation of his physical appearance. This is the guy that she’s fought for for two+ seasons. That’s a helluva long time to fight for washboard abs.
This lapse is made more tolerable considering the episode really boils back to self-doubt, an issue that Jenna has long suffered from. It was a prevalent theme in the first season when she wondered why Matty didn’t want to appear in public with her, and it makes sense to bring it back in an episode that features the re-appearance of an iconic first season image: Jenna Hamilton, the girl who attempted suicide, the proof embodied in the mockery of an arm stuck upright in a cast.
While it can be hard to overlook the strange timing of situating an episode airing in the summer around the pumpkin holiday, thematically it makes perfect sense. Jenna’s fragile state is on display – mocked even – as a costume that symbolizes all things “lame” (her words, not mine) at her school. The world of the crashed Halloween party is a refuge: an opportunity to reverse the damage done to her reputation by owning her trauma (much like what I imagine Mr. Hart is trying to do with them in his Creative Writing class).
The change in reception of Jenna’s life story is the real take-away for the episode. It reinforces not only the temporary nature of high school, but also its geographical proximity. This is why people change schools: all you need to do to escape your tarnished character is drive a few miles until you hit a new crowd. While Jenna clearly won’t up and leave her friends and her school, on the days when she makes the “Not” list and cries in the halls because she worries she’s not good enough for her boyfriend (?!), hopefully she’ll remember that the slutty haters populating her school aren’t the final authority on anything (Now if only she would realize that their opinions don’t even matter, but perhaps that’s a lesson for a later episode).
- I like the introduction of Collin’s (Nolan Funk) girlfriend, Angelique (Brooke Anne Smith) for two reasons: 1) she’s actually kind of cool and therefore worthy of revisiting and 2) her presence suggests that the show isn’t using Collin solely as a wedge to cause friction between Jenna and Matty
- I also like the introduction of Austin (Shane Harper) as Angelique’s brother, the sick boy who is clearly hidden away during parties. He’s a different kind of character for the show and there’s an instant chemistry between him and Sadie (Molly Tarlov). A new boyfriend could be great for Sadie, who desperately needs something more than her “I’m poor all of the sudden” storyline
- If anyone gets the short shrift in ‘That Girl Strikes Again’, it’s Rose Reed. At least Davern gets to act high and do a physical comedy bit for Jake’s crash through the glass tale. Rose Reed simply plays one-half of an unfortunate (and boring) conjoined twin in an extended-gag that feels like it exists solely to set-up Jake’s fall and facilitate their ejection from the party. Label this one a misfire
- Finally, Desi Lydic continues to tickle my funny bone with her stupid antics as guidance counselor Valerie, though the “inept adult” routine is starting to lose it’s charm. Am I the only one who found it refreshing to hear Jenna recognize that Valerie is the one who needs counseling? I find it ironic that Valerie dresses identically to Jenna in order to blend in considering that blending in is the one thing Jenna has never been able to do on this series (hence her status as “that girl”)
- Valerie (surveying Jenna’s non-costume)“By the way I’m so caught up in my own stuff that I forgot to ask about your costume: cokehead?”
- Sadie (to Angelique, referring to Austin): “What’s up with Boo Radley?”
- Sadie (misinterpreting Austin’s request for her seven digits): “A million dollars for a f*cking horseshoe?”
Your turn: what are your thoughts on Jenna’s latest existential crisis? Do you like Collin more now? Thoughts on new characters Angelique and Austin? And do you want Valerie to grow up? Chime in below in the comments
Awkward. airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on MTV