Season 1, Episode 15
Date of airing: January 11, 1995 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 9.5 million viewers, 6.4/10 in Households
It was a solid episode, but also a confusing one, because stories managed to intersect with each other morale-wise, while other stories were weirdly forgettable. The former was the most interesting part of the episode, but mostly because it was all about how women were treated in this world by men, and how the women were about to take control over their lives again. Julia got small loads of sexism from her drivers ed teacher during the beginning of the episode, and Claudia had to deal with the fact that she is not enough boy to play the lead in a musical about an orphan boy. It’s intriguing to me that a television show from 1995 actually brought up the sexism thing and made it part of a pair of stories, despite the fact that the morale of that lesson didn’t come through clearly, as Julia’s story was mostly focused on Justin anyway, while Claudia’s story turned into her form of sinning and her efforts to make things better again by becoming worse (and sick). In fact, it was just during the drivers ed scene at the beginning when it came through, when Julia specifically mentioned the sexism and Justin was defending her or playing along (it could have been one or the other, because I’m not quite sure what he was doing). And even though the morale came through in that scene only, I must say that PARTY OF FIVE knew what it wanted to do here. The other intersecting morale story was the way men were treating themselves around women. Julia learns from Libby that she should hang around the guy she likes, and after a little bit of time the first kiss will happen, and Charlie proves to Kirsten that guys only think of that one thing when they hang around with women a little too long. Okay, in this case the two stories were different, because the morale came from the point of view of both genders, but it was nonetheless the same morale: Guys are assholes (except of course you have a crush on that guy).
The entire drama between Charlie and Kirsten was a huge annoyance though. Once again they can’t trust each other, and once more they risk their relationship just because one of them decided to be a little stupid about a little too much drama. Okay, it’s Charlie who was the stupid boy here, and I was reminded yet again that he is still the selfish asshole character and probably the most unlikable one from the Salinger bunch. The way Charlie went nuts because another guy showed interest in his girlfriend made me furious in a negative way, and I wondered how Charlie was even able to get all the women he wants when he is such a jealous beefhead all the time. The guy cheats on his girlfriend and a few months later he finds it of importance to scream at his girlfriend who was almost doing the same — the hypocrisy was strong in the future plane crash survivor and all it did to me was causing pain in the back of my head because those eyes of mine really wanted to roll out the back of my skull. Yeah, I’m not wondering any longer, why he could never hold a relationship for long, but after this episode, he definitely does not deserve to end up happily ever after. On the other hand, it’s consistent character development and behavior, and the problems in Charlie and Kirsten’s relationship show that it’s not a relationship for eternity, and that the next break-up is pretty much waiting behind the horizon. They should be lucky they didn’t get married, because the divorce papers would have been signed already.
The Julia/Justin drama in the meantime… I already mentioned once before that Justin is the right-kinda guy for Julia, and that the two should have started dating before she decided to grow up fast. But now that Justin is dating Libby, things got expectedly and stereotypically complicated, and I’m not quite sure whether I should like it or not. First of all, I’m happy Justin and Libby are back (especially Libby), because I almost thought they were entirely forgotten. Secondly, I’m kinda happy Justin and Libby are dating, and the writers were focusing on it. Sure, they were focusing it in a way writers focus on plot devices, but it worked to get Julia out of her headspace and towards some action. Normally you don’t see her making moves towards the guy, especially one that doesn’t necessarily show interest in her and needs to be told that she finds him to her liking. Also, I liked the chemistry between Justin and Julia — they work much better as a couple than Charlie and Kirsten currently do, which probably says a lot.
I couldn’t do much with Bailey’s story though. It seemed like the D plot (though Claudia’s story was fourth-tier, and Claudia’s stories are almost always fourth-tier), and it seemed like it was completely unnecessary. I have no idea if Will is just a too perfect guy for this world that he can’t even cheat on a test, or if he is just jealous of his BFF, because he doesn’t have a girlfriend and probably never will have, as Will is essentially just a recurring character (despite being credited in the main intro), and writers don’t care about recurring characters. The story did make Bailey a bit of a crappy character, since he apparently is unable to see what kind of trouble Jill is creating for him and how Bailey is slowly being pulled towards the dark side (now more than ever with the stash of weed in Jill’s locker). Seriously, Bailey can at least think about what Will is trying to tell him. But at the end of the day, their fight on the basketball court was pretty over the top and only served the narrative. I can only hope that this isn’t the way they split up, although it would be an easy way to remove Will from the fold and have space and time for the opening credits.
And finally, Claudia. Just in case she will never make it as a violinist, she will be an actress. The writers opened up another road to the future for Claudia, which is fine, because she is 11 years old, so why the hell not? I have no idea why she would feel so evil and sinful, after she accidentally brought a virus to Artie, and suddenly had the main role of Oliver to her name. She was bitching about not having the role for the entire time, and during the final third of the episode she was bitching because she caused to get the role herself after a little bit of evildoing? Damn, Claudia changed her mind pretty quickly. The simplest thing to do here would have been Claudia accepting the role and saying sorry to Artie later. It’s not like pre-adolescent teenagers are gonna be fighting for weeks to come. That’s what puberty is for, and I’m already interested to know how the writers are gonna handle Claudia’s puberty. Suddenly I’m glad the show was renewed and got a chance to win a Golden Globe during the following year.