First up: Props to Niki for Mighty Excellent Recaps -- so good that I'm nervous about subbing for her this time. Wish me luck.
As if willing viewers of all demographics to scream and change the channel to Star Trek: Voyager, the episode's first shot is of a standardized test's multiple-choice answer sheet. Frustrated, a hand vigorously erases one answer and bubbles in a different letter. Pencil-tapping ensues. More uncertainty. This must be a Palm Beach County voter. Instead of voting for president, he or she is filling in the bubbles in the shape of Strom Thurmond. No, wait, it's just Eli stressing about the SAT. On the black-and-white soliloquy stool, Eli points out that "if you think about it too much, you have to move onto the next thing, the next question." We see his fingers caress the strings of the guitar perched on his knee. Back in the classroom, a clock ticks relentlessly and students' nervous eyes dart around the room as they scramble to finish. Eli, distressed under pressure, does the intelligent thing and drops his pencil, abandoning his test in favor of the life-changing academic challenge of cracking his knuckles. If Eli has ten knuckles and he cracks them at the rate of one knuckle per second, how many apples does he have left when he's done? The answer, of course, is twelve. Regardless, B/W Eli appears again to inform us that Rick believes all scores improve the second time around on the SAT. The show intersperses the full-color test-taking Eli with his B/W counterpart's voice-overs about ridiculous SAT questions. He's grappling with the complexities of "greater than / less than / equal to," and suddenly I realize this isn't the SAT at all. It's the fourth-grade aptitude exam. B/W Eli twangs the guitar. We hear Rick tell him that confidence is everything: if Eli believes in himself, he'll do well on the SAT. If not, he'll be making Big Macs and smoking dope behind the dumpster, drinking fryer grease on a dare.
B/W Eli reads another math question and taps the guitar. We flash back to him studying with Karen for the verbal portion. "Remember, if you don't know what the word means, go through the sentence and try to figure out what [other] word would make sense," she instructs him. Eli rolls his eyes. "Replete....nullify..." B/W Eli recites, as though he's studying. "Truncate, taciturn, negate" -- huh? Since when is "negate" a tough word? -- "redundant, tantamount." From the "easier said than done" file she's got tucked away inside the SAT answer book, Karen tells her frustrated son to trust his instincts during the test, rather than over-thinking everything. In the present, we see Eli completely panic as the proctor calls time and asks them to put down their pencils and turn over their answer sheets. She authorizes a fifteen-minute break. Eli wonders if that's enough time to drive to Capeside and see if Andie has the SAT answers as well, as a complement to the PSAT cheat sheet she borrowed.