Awkward. opts for a double dose detailing the final stages of Jenna Hamilton’s (Ashley Rickards) downward spiral, but has the damage she’s created doomed her recovery?
Let’s bitch it out…3×15 ‘A Very Special Episode of Awkward.’
Not gonna lie – this may have been my favourite episode of season three. Perhaps it’s because Sadie (Molly Tarlov) is used as a surrogate mouthpiece standing in for the audience, but man did I love the take-down of Jenna Hamilton…err…Jenny. While Sadie’s language is a little saltier than I might use, it’s more or less right on the nose. After weeks of watching Jenna become increasingly unlikable, watching Sadie and the other students unintentionally skewer her bad behaviour is great.
Val’s (Desi Lydic) ASS – After School Special – video is the perfect opportunity to deconstruct the issues that have taken hold of season three. There’s something cathartic in watching Sadie (and by proxy the series) mock Jenna, even as it anticipates the intervention that will arise in the second episode. Unlike that failed attempt – more on that below – this one is initiated by Jenna’s peers: Tamara (Jillian Rose Reed) and Ming (Jessica Lu) therapeutically improv their roles as “concerned friends” to role play through their feelings about Jenna’s behaviour. Is it an awfully convenient plot device to spring at this exact point in time? Absolutely, but that’s besides the point because it works like a charm.
The result is that everything about ‘A Very Special Episode of Awkward.’ feels reminiscent of the Awkward. we knew and loved in season one: there’s snappy dialogue, there’s snarky sarcasm, there’s even inane high school projects. Most of all, though, there’s drama in even the most minor decision. After five episodes of poor choices, 3×15 sets the stage (literally) for a dramatic intervention that will decide whether Jenna continues to destroy all of her relationships or if she makes her way home.
- There’s a hint of the darkness behind Collin’s (Nolan Funk) exterior as he offers Jenna harder “recreational drugs”. Jenna’s basically on pot overload as the episode begins, tokking up in the Sanctuary before class, which clearly indicates that not only did she fail to learn from her drug bust, she’s progressed much further since then. Before episode’s end she’s moved up to Speed. Bad combo, J!
- Love that Val has to watch her own footage to realize that “Jenny” is actually Jenna. It’s such a Val thing to be so absorbed that she completely misses the real situation directly in front of her
- Valerie (describing her project): “The after school special. Or ASS for short”
- Valerie (when Lissa asks if she can play the lead): “Only if we go with stripper or eating disorder”
- Tamara (when Val bribes Jake and Ming with mental health tickets to act in the ASS): “I don’t need the pass!”
- Sadie (voice-overing her monologue): “Maybe my sidebraid was cutting off the circulation to my brain”; “I had become a hard core bitch…who was also boring and lame”; “I’d become an addict and a loser”
3×16 ‘Less Than Hero’
This episode is significantly darker than ‘A Very Special Episode of Awkward.’, which makes it difficult to process considering it follows immediately afterwards. For all the humour in 3×15, there are also a few dangling plot threads. One of the most significant is Mr. Hart’s (Anthony Michael Hall) ‘Hero/Villain’ piece for the school paper. At the end of ‘A Very Special Episode of Awkward.’ when Jenna decides to villainize Val for suspending her, it’s clear that not only will this be a defining moment in their relationship, it will clearly become something that Jenna will come to regret.
It’s satisfying then, that Mr. Hart doesn’t simply accept the paper. He asks Jenna to reconsider submitting it, suggesting it is “cruel” (which we can only take to mean really harsh considering who’s saying it). This whole plot point is a tease, though, since nothing is resolved by the end of the episode. If 3×15 introduces Jenna’s story as a loaded gun, then 3×16 pulls the trigger but we’re still waiting for the casaulty. As it stands, we merely know that the story is now out there: Jenna confirms to Hart she wants it printed in ‘Less Than Hero’ before strutting out in her latest hooker wear to party at an “only in Hollywood” club. The preview for next week’s episode suggests that the shit will hit the fan when the story goes viral (in paper form? What is this: 2000?). Regardless, it’s clear that her character assassination piece on Val will play a significant part in Jenna’s recovery as she’s made to pay penance for this dark patch.
Before she can recover, however, Jenna has to hit rock bottom. That’s what makes ‘Less Than Hero’ a difficult twenty-two minutes to watch. There are attempts at levity (notably in the failed intervention and the completely out of place B-plot featuring a random Presidential campaign for Brett Davern’s Jake), but on the whole this is a dark, dark episode. Watching Jenna talk back to Kevin (Mike Faiola) and tell Lacey (Nikki Deloach) that she’s a lousy mom? Telling Val that she’s a terrible guidance counselor? Hearing her call the women in her life the “Sisterhood of the Blathering Skanks”? That’s a whole bunch of “yikes”.
This is so far from the Jenna that we know that her words feel like a slap in the face. It’s almost satisfying to see this girl get her comeuppance at the Pop Up Club when Angelique (Brooke Anne Smith) shows up and Collin is revealed to be both a threesome coveting douche and a major drug peddler (last episode Speed, this episode E!). It’s inevitable that Jenna ends up having to call the last person she intends (although he’s the first we anticipated). I’ll confess that her heart to heart with Matty (Beau Mirchoff) had me to screaming at the TV, if only because Jenna doesn’t deserve to be comforted by him (at least not yet). But that’s Matty for you – all he ever wanted to be is Jenna’s hero.
- We haven’t seen Angelique since her break-up with Collin in 3×10 ‘Redefining Jenna’ but it feels like forever, doesn’t it? These split seasons are wreaking havoc on my sense of time
- The Tamara/Jake stuff has been a long time coming, but using it as a B-story to Jenna’s spiral is a really poor decision. Not only does it feel out of place, it feels incredibly light weight in terms of stakes. Every time Tamara mentions glitter or posterboard, all I could think of was what Jenna was doing
- One hilarious moment: Valerie’s lengthy pause imagining living with Jenna. It probably included unicorns, rainbows and braiding each other’s hair
- I didn’t catch the author of the book Mr. Hart offers Jenna, but it’s a bit hilarious that MTV is developing a new series with almost the same name
- Finally, there really is a Twitter account for @yourharshtruth, but it does not appear to have tweeted anything…yet. Let’s hope the marketing geniuses at MTV realize this is a fun promotional tie-in for the series
- Sadie (opening the intervention): “Jenna you have a problem: you’re an asshole”
What did you think of the Awkward. double dose? Do you agree that ‘A Very Special Episode of Awkward.’ was like a return to the Awkward. of old? Were you shocked by how dark Jenna went in ‘Less Than Hero’? Is anyone surprised that Collin turned out to be a huge a-hole? What will Jenna need to do to make things up to everyone moving forward? Comment away below
Awkward. airs Tuesdays at 10:30pm EST on MTV