After setting up all of the dominoes last week (and subsequently knocking them all down in one move at a surprise 17th birthday party), Awkward. dances around the fall-out for an inspired, if not particularly funny, rift on the telephone game.
Let’s bitch it out…‘And Then What Happened?’ reminds me of the film adaptation of Clue (if you haven’t seen it, track it down for the wordplay alone). The episode picks up the day after Jenna (Ashley Rickards) and Collin (Nolan Funk) were caught in a cheating embrace by everyone, including Beau Mirchoffs Matty at the end of ‘Surprise!’. Instead of exploring how Jenna, Matty or even Collin (ugh) handle things, ‘And Then What Happened?’ spends twenty-two minutes with the B-listers as they try to figure out what went down afterwards.
It’s an amusing idea that’s well-executed: each person contributes their little piece of knowledge about where Matty, Jenna or Collin are when a kitchen fire erupts, a piñata is beaten or a punch is thrown. I reference Clue because the exasperated complaints of the individuals listening to the increasingly fractured tale mimics the same reaction of the imprisoned housegates at the end of each of three separate endings of the cult film. All Awkward. needs is a touch of Tim Curry to complete the experience (seriously, rent Clue!)
This is all perfectly acceptable, if a little underwhelming. I would have liked the episode and its pretzel twisty narrative a great deal more if it had of been funnier, or resulted in a better pay-off. Unfortunately the wacky asides prove to be more…well…wacky than funny. As for pay-off, since the only purpose of telling these tales is to discover whether Jenna and Matty have stayed together or broken up (something even Jenna doesn’t know at this point), the whole thing mostly just fizzles out, leaving the gang to discuss other relevant issues like where minors can buy booze.
Depending on how much you want to read into it, the fact that no one can fully remember the events of the party can be read as a metaphor for the whole break-up. No one has really been privy to the events leading up to Jenna’s infidelity with Collin, so for most of them (aside from Jillian Rose Reed’s Tamara) this act is out of the blue. That Jenna’s friends don’t have their facts straight about the party is simply an extension of their misunderstanding of what’s actually going on in her life (We can also see this as a sign that Awkward. tends to focus too much on Jenna’s romantic relationships at the expense of its supporting cast).
Regardless of its success at driving the narrative forward, having each character contribute their own interpretation (including “insignificant” details such as the impostor status of the guacamole, the triumph of a full range of neck motion and the need to defecate in private) does provide some genuinely nice character beats. This is particularly true of Fred Wu (Kelly Sry), who’s never had this many lines, and Clark (Joseph Haro) and Lissa (Greer Grammer), both of whom have sat on the sidelines the majority of the time. With this in mind, even if at times this does feel like more of a writing exercise than a legitimate episode of Awkward., I don’t mind taking a week off from Jenna’s self-defeated nonsense.
The less said about Collin, the better.
- In a reversal of last week’s triangle heavy episode, ‘And Then What Happened?’ is a Jenna-lite episode (this may mark Rickards’ least amount of screentime in an episode since the series began). Collin remains a cipher – literally showing up to react, get punched, and do little else. Matty, meanwhile, gets a nice showstopper to cap the episode. I gotta say, seeing Beau Mirchoff cry tugs at the heartstrings a little, no?
- Good to see that even during an infidelity crisis Lacey (Nikki Deloach) and Valerie (Desi Lydic) remain complete caricatures
- Leave it to Jake (Brett Davern) to believe that someone like Lacey could actually cook. And yes, baking pre-cooked muffins would definitely result in a fire (no, I’m not writing from experience, but I can unequivocally state that I know how to make things burn in a kitchen)
- I thought Sadie (Molly Tarlov) would reveal that she comforted Matty in a more carnal way, but I guess that ship has sailed
- Finally: with so few scenes at school, Ming’s (Jessica Lu) Asian Mafia storyline takes a breather. Good thing Clark shows up to be the butt of several gay innuendos <snark>. At this point it’s probably best just to accept that Awkward. is capable of sophisticated humour, twisty wordplay, solid sight gags (mostly involving Val)…and surprisingly tasteless jokes
- Val (when Lacey asks her to keep her ears to the street): “That’s where they live, L dog”
- Sadie (elaborating on Matty’s attitude towards Jenna): “That bitch was dead to him on arrival.”
Your turn: what did you think of B-lister driven narrative? Did you find the episode funnier than me? Are you surprised that Jenna and Matty ultimately broke up? Can you believe that Fred Wu actually got some lines?! Comment away below
Awkward. airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm EST on MTV