Is it possible to find the silver lining in an episode that makes you go “ugh” for 21 minutes? Judging from my reaction to Jenna’s (Ashley Rickards) crush on Collin (Nolan Funk) in ‘Reality Check’, the answer is yes.
Let’s bitch it out…I have never wanted Jenna and Collin to get together. Back when he was introduced in the premiere, I didn’t like him because he seemed like a narrative construct designed to break-up Jenna and Matty’s (Beau Mirchoff) relationship. So I’ve been dreading this episode for some time – I didn’t know when it would take place, but it was clear that eventually Jenna or Collin would realize there’s a perfect healthy, sexual alternative to their respective partners standing right in front of them and begin to wonder if the grass is really greener on the other side.
Since Awkward. is Jenna’s show, it makes more sense that it’s her. She’s been struggling to “connect” with Matty for a variety of reasons this season, so the appearance of a sensitive guy who reads her papers and helps her overcome her writer’s block is a natural prospect. Whether I think the show should explore this topic or not (for the record: I don’t), here we are regardless.
And so ‘Reality Check’ gives us 21 minutes of Jenna fantasizing about Collin, shuddering at his touch and orgasming to his image in a baseball outfit. It’s not an unfunny episode thanks to the catty exchanges between Mr. Hart (Anthony Michael Hall) and Sadie (Molly Tarlov), as well as the mockery of Kyle (Wesam Keesh) and the sexual confessions of Lacey (Nikki Deloach) and Kevin (Mike Faiola). But it’s not a great episode, either…
On the whole, this is Jenna working through her conflicted romantic feelings with Collin. And while I understand all of the obvious reasons why she might be tempted by him, this episode really makes it clear just how underdeveloped he is as a character. We don’t have any idea who Collin really is – aside from his interest in Jenna’s writing, he remains completely two-dimensional. All we know is that he’s a hot guy in her English class who supports her and likes PDAs in the school parking lot with his girlfriend. But as Tamara (Jillian Rose-Reed) wonders, if this guy worth ruining a relationship over? From what we know of Collin, the answer is “who knows?”
In reality, this isn’t about Collin. It’s about Jenna and Matty. Collin can be dismissed because he’s simply an alternative: he’s offering Jenna things that Matty isn’t giving her (consider how often the boys are contrasted in relation to reading Jenna’s work). The issue isn’t intimacy or physicality. It’s more deep-rooted than that. The fact that Matty doesn’t realize that Jenna’s paper is about someone else is hugely problematic: it proves that he doesn’t understand her writing. What happens when Matty clues in that Jenna’s perfect fantasy isn’t actually about him?
This issue is far from over.
- The other reason I’m not overly satisfied with this episode is that once again Jenna is reduced to a passive role. She doesn’t realize that her crush on Collin is inappropriate or make a decision not to pursue it; she simply sees Collin macking on Angelique and then succumbs to Matty’s romantic dinner. Once again she’s allowing others (or more specifically men) to dictate her life instead of taking control for herself
- I’m interested to hear what others think of the resolution of Ming (Jessica Lu) and Becca’s (Jessika Van) storyline. I’ve always enjoyed the Asian B*tch conflict between the two girls, but I’m happy to see this one put to bed…or rather punched out. After weeks of chess moves, Ming realizes that she’ll never be able to beat Becca at her own game and embraces her “white” girl -ness by resorting to physical violence. Naturally this earns her the respect of the minions
- I know the scene in the Sanctuary between Fred Wu (Kelly Sry) and Ming is meant to evoke a film noir tone, but Sry is way too over the top. Much more successful is the recurring joke about Fred’s name: “Fred” “Fred who?” “Fred Wu!”
- Finally, who has the better celebrity sandwich: Lacey’s Clive Owen/Ryan Gosling mash-up or Kevin’s Charlize Theron/Kristin Scott Thomas combo?
- Sadie (protesting Mr. Hart’s writing assignment): “…so far you’ve only given good grades for pervy porn, which I’m pretty sure is illegal since we’re underage”
- Ming (when Fred invites her to move to Idaho): “I’d rather take my chances with Becca than move to Idaho”
- Tamara (when Jenna confesses her interest in Collin): “You need to end this flirtatiousness yessap – yesterday, as soon as possible”
What did you think of Jenna’s brief stint crushing on Collin? How much hell will break loose when Matty finds out (likely in time for next week’s finale)? Is Ming’s conflict with Becca really over? What are your predictions for next week? Sound off below
Awkward. airs Tuesdays at 10pm EST on MTV