My So-Called Life
Father Figures

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Father Figures

Props to Sars, Key Grip, and to everyone on the boards who's been so patient.

The camera pans around the bedroom of a much younger (and still blonde) Angela "Car" Chase. As tinkling nostalgic music plays, the little girl plays with Barbies and then, at the sound of a car in the driveway, tears down the stairs to the front door, where she screams, "Daddy's home!" Graham "Whipped" Chase appears, looking (I have to admit) really attractive in a light beige suit, and scoops L'il Angela up in his arms.

As a briefcase is set down on the ground, we're back in the present day. Graham is at the door calling out to ask if anyone's home; Angela leans her head out of the kitchen doorway and spies on him, not answering. Rayanne "Poly" Graff's head pops up above Angela's and she lasciviously notes, "You never said he had stubble." "He doesn't, usually," says Angela, and wanders back into the kitchen as Rayanne and Rickie "Carnival" Cruz continue spying. At the sight of Graham, Rickie raises his eyebrows in an understatedly appreciative way, then tells Angela he's leaving, and asks Rayanne if she's coming. Rayanne says that her mom promised to pick her up at Angela's later. Rickie kisses each of them goodbye, and books. Rickie comes out into the front hall and runs into Graham, whereupon the two awkwardly exchange "hi"s. Watching through the window between the kitchen and dining room, Rayanne squeals to Angela, "Oh, look! Rickie and your dad are bonding!" Angela mutters something disbelieving. Rickie and Graham each say goodbye to the other, and Rayanne reports to Angela that "they're exchanging fashion tips." Angela throws a dishtowel at her just as Graham walks into the kitchen and asks, "So! Is this the, uh, famous Rayanne?" Rayanne smarts off: "This is the famous Angela's dad." Graham smiles pleasantly and leans over to give Angela a kiss on this cheek; she shrinks away without meeting his eye, quietly complaining, "Dad, your whiskers scratch."

Later, Graham and Rayanne are bonding, for real, over some dish he's coaching her in preparing; he actually tells her she's "in the zone." Over his shoulder, he asks a sulking Angela whether she wants him to make her something else, and she pouts, "I'll have fritters." He offers, again, to make her something else, and she shrugs. Rayanne says that she's "so hungry" and asks Graham, "Do you ever get, like, hypnotized by food?" Graham tells her that "Hypnotized By Food could be [his] Indian name." Okay, he's a maybe philanderer. Still -- heh. He asks Angela if she wants to "flip one," and Angela sarcastically says that "Rayanne can do it." Graham chooses not to read the signs (or to ignore them) and suddenly remembers he has to call his brother. As he dials, Rayanne marvels that she is "cooking something, like, not in the pouch." Speaking as someone who not only had Kraft Dinner for her evening meal, but made it using the microwave instructions, I still feel like that every time I make something from scratch -- and believe me, it's rare. Even if it's something like a grilled cheese sandwich, I feel immense pride when I can get the bread exactly the right shade of brown. Glark --a fantastic, versatile, and natural chef (not unlike Graham, except for the "philanderer" part) -- even acknowledges that grilled cheese sandwiches are the only food in the preparation of which my skill exceeds his.

Where was I? Oh yes, nineteenth-century agricultural technology. No, wait -- My So-Called Life. Rayanne flips a fritter and it lands on the floor. Graham smirks fondly as Rayanne quickly scoops it up and murmurs, "I'll still eat it." Hey, it didn't violate the five-second rule. Graham leaves Neil a message about some guy who gave him "two tickets to the Dead concert." Upon hearing the name of the quote band endquote, Rayanne exclaims, "Oh my God!" Into the phone, Graham tells Neil to save the date, then hangs up. Angela smiles at Rayanne, plainly knowing what the Dead mean to her. To Graham, Rayanne says, "You're into the Dead? This explains so much!" "Oh yeah?" Graham replies, non-committally, shooting Angela a look. Rayanne goes on: "Oh, the, like, undercurrent of connections between Angela and me! You see, my mom's going to the Dead show on Thursday night. She's a former wharf rat! The Grateful Dead is this thing that we totally shared. Before she had me she lived in a bus, for, like, months, with a girl named Pop Tart." There's so much wrong with that sentence that I could start parsing it, but I'd never stop. Suffice it to say that I went to high school with a whole bunch of people who enjoyed using LSD and figured that affection for the Grateful Dead was part of that lifestyle, and because I always despised them, I was never too wild about the Dead, either. Angela seems to have much the same opinion of the band as I do, because she smiles sort of indulgently at Rayanne, as she might to a four-year-old who'd just lifted her skirt up over her head. Graham tells Rayanne that "Angela's not really into the Dead," and Rayanne declares that she will be after she hears Amber's "bootleg stuff." I doubt that very much, based on personal experience. ["Word. The best thing I can say about the Dead is that all their songs sound the same." -- Sars] Rayanne starts yammering on about this particular tape she has of a Dead show in Palo Alto in 1971, and it's about as interesting as when new pet owners start telling you the minutiae of their puppy's poops -- clearly fascinating to them, but really you just want to tell them, "Dude, that is all you; can't we just talk about Survivor now?" But you can't. Graham tells Rayanne that he was at that show, and Rayanne gets so excited that she flips a fritter right at him, though he catches it before it leaves a grease spot on his shirt. At precisely that moment, "Batty" Patty Chase appears in the kitchen doorway and curtly congratulates Graham on his "nice save." Rayanne immediately puts a lid on her good mood, and Patty cocks her head robotically and invites Graham to join her in the other room for a moment. Graham says, "Sure." Angela slowly stirs some batter and watchfully regards her father while AVO explains, "When you're not sure you trust a person anymore -- say, a person you really trusted; say your father -- you start wishing they'd do something, like, really wrong, just so you could be right about them." I was going to say, here, how much I agree with her, but then I realize that I've been fortunate enough not to feel that way about anyone I really trusted. Well, so far. But it's almost what I felt when Matthew McConaughey got arrested earlier this year; it was like a public confirmation of my long-held belief that he was an idiot.

Anyway, Graham follows Patty into the front hall as she cautions him to "bear with" her since she's "upset." Graham immediately makes with the placating: "Look, I know how you feel about her, but she's actually not a bad kid." Distractedly, Patty replies, "Who, that Rayanne person? Please, she's the least of my problems." Graham says that's good, since Angela invited Rayanne to stay for dinner, and Patty dismissively says, "Fine, I don't care, whatever," which in my house would earn a spouse the hand and the crook-neck, if not the finger. Patty's problem (today) is that she got "a really upsetting letter," which she hands to Graham. He reluctantly takes it and then, seeing the return address on the envelope, sinks onto the sofa moaning, "Oh, man! The IRS! It's not...the 'a' word...." and Patty confirms that it is: "I can't believe we're being audited -- at least, Wood & Jones Printing is." This story line is quite dull, but the upshot is that Patty told her dad -- whose company it was, and who just retired, giving her the reins -- before she told Graham, and Graham gets all snitty about it, even though they're auditing the return from a year in which Patty's dad fell ill, and she prepared the return because, according to Graham, "He was too cheap to hire an accountant." Patty makes a guttural noise of great exasperation which suggests that this is an argument they've had on several previous occasions, and Graham asks her to promise him that they'll "handle this in [their] own way." Before Patty can promise, Angela materializes behind Graham and asks, "'Handle' what?" Patty snaps, "Nothing," and then admits that the company's being audited. Angela drawls, "Why? Did you lie about something?" Graham asks her, "Why are you looking at me?" (and she is, make no mistake). Patty assures Angela that no one lied, and that the IRS chooses candidates for audits at random, blah blah blah taxcakes. Angela asks if Rayanne may still stay for dinner, and Graham snaps, "Yes, yes!" Angela makes a "chill, dude" face and snots, "Just checking" as she ambles off. As soon as she's gone, Graham demands of Patty, "Did you see that? Did you hear that? 'Just checking.' Did you notice that tone that she takes with me now?" Patty, who's probably been on the receiving end of that "tone" for at least a couple of years now, says she didn't notice anything. Graham opines that something's not right between himself and Angela, and that she's become distant, and treats him with a "silent contempt." Heh. I have a patent on that, though I did grant my sister a license when she turned twelve. Patty gently tells him that Angela adores him, and that Patty has dibs on Angela's silent contempt. Graham seems somewhat mollified.

After dinner, Graham helps Danielle "Whatever" Chase with her homework. They're sitting close together on the couch, and Danielle tells him that she likes it when he doesn't shave. Angela watches them for a moment with her head down, then rolls her eyes at Danielle's affection for Graham. When Graham makes a noise with his lips and teases Danielle to make her giggle, Angela leaps to her feet and snots, "I can't concentrate in here!" before storming out. Behind her, Patty sifts through the tax papers and finds something she'd been looking for. Who cares? There's a knock at the door and when Patty opens it, we

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My So-Called Life

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