Greek – “Barely Legal”

“Barely Legal”

June 2nd, 2008

Last week, you might remember that I instituted a new rule where I wouldn’t complain about Casey Cartwright.

However, anyone who’s taken a practice LSAT has come across the toughest logic problem of all: when a central character of a series has a lot of screen time in every episode, and a television critic is planning to review the episode despite a desire to no longer speak of his frustrations with said character, what kind of review will he write?

The answer, of course, is a short one. As a result, perhaps to no one’s surprise, the rule is ending. This isn’t to say that the episode is an especially awful one for Ms. Cartwright, but rather that it demands I actually care about her storyline for it to be anything even close to engaging. However, by episode’s end, I actually had some positive things to say, so maybe I didn’t even need the rule!

At the end of the day, though, it’s a weak effort for the series: Rusty and Cappie are busy circumventing the law, Ashley is busy learning the harsh law of credit cards, and Casey is busy learning how to get into law school while ignoring the laws of her new relationships.

And, unfortunately, this episode does little to elevate the series above “barely enjoyable,” something that can’t be said for some of its more accomplished segments.

Unsurprisingly, it’s Rusty and Cappie who provide the most enjoyment in the episode, a storyline that combines the mixed moral messaging of teaching viewers how to get into bars with a fake I.D. and the consequences of living a lie. I’m sure that some parents, already concerned with the show’s messaging contradicting the family side of things, could have some issues with the former point, but the latter at least seems like a logical progression of Rusty’s character.

It’s unfortunate, then, that his big bungle (Where his lie, fronting as a musician, is revealed at a wedding) is pretty much ripped right out of American Pie 2 (Seriously, right out of it), although this time it obviously works out in the opposite direction. If it wasn’t for Dale returning to the series for some rather nice one-liners, the entire storyline felt a bit like a parody of less-interesting teen comedies. Sure, the episode’s other storylines had a lack of light-hearted comedy in their conclusions, but did this one have to devolve so clearly?

Admittedly, it was nice for things to be humorous for a change, especially in an episode where things seem rather dire or serious. In particular, Ashley’s storyline is a rather useless little diversion into how credit cards can result in overspending that never pays off in this episode. It’s a path that we, as viewers over the age of 20, know too well – people get credit cards, aren’t responsible, will crash and burn eventually. It’s a bit too much of a morality tale for my tastes, and hopefully the finale doesn’t throw it into our faces too greatly.

And we finally get to Casey, who decides to follow a path to Law School that she realizes at episode’s end was Evan’s and not her own. While it could strike a streak of independence in a character far too dependent on others, perhaps why I’m not totally writing off Casey, I also think that it made for a frustrating episode that required us as viewers to care about her academic future when she clearly has no interest in it. The show has never been good at balancing these people as students and as members of the Greek system, and it is in episodes like this where it is most clear: when students who want to achieve well become pure caricatures of nerdiness, you know that the show has little love for the academic overachievers.

For the most part, the storyline was handicapped by this, and by the fact that we knew Evan’s idiotic decision to buy-off a potential suitor was going to come out eventually. It’s kind of been tough to watch Evan in recent episodes, considering that from the viewer’s perspective he is pretty much a lost cause. I actually thought Casey’s reaction was quite good, a very simple “I’m not mad, I’m sad for you” that seems to jive with this stage in their relationship. I would have rather she decided to just wipe him out of her life, but I know that’s unreasonable in a show defined by the love triangles in which these characters are intertwined.

I found Casey kind of logical by the end, in particular her discussions with Rusty – he’s never been one to take her crap, and sure enough he tries to talk sense into her before she finally figures it our for herself. While I do think that it is certainly her own fault for her to fall into the trap of wanting to follow Evan, at the same time it feels like a good way to signal her moving on. I think that Casey as a character is not a lost cause, but rather someone who is either stuck in stereotypical romances or, worse yet, self-centered plotting that doesn’t create any sympathy in someone as cynical as I am.

And as that cynical sort, I’m warming to Casey if not the rest of the show’s storylines. This wasn’t an awful hour of television, but it didn’t present much new and compelling, and certainly did little to build much in the way of pathos or suspense leading into next week’s first season finale. And while I know this isn’t Lost, so I wasn’t expecting these huge mysteries, I at least wanted to get some direction other than Spring Break foreshadowing and impending credit crash.

Cultural Observations

  • Right now, Frannie’s impending hookup with Evan is pretty well the only recurring storyline yet to be resolved, and it’s a frustrating one – on the one hand, I like her as a character, but her taste in men leaves a lot to be desired and I’m just sure it will send Casey into a tailspin of epic proportions.
  • Cappie and Rebecca are also storyline-less at this point, so it should be interesting to see if we get any movement on that front (Tough in this case when Ms. Logan was nowhere to be found).
  • Really enjoyed the various tests given to the KTs, in particular the fake party they were going to (And that Beaver was really enjoying) – those scenes always look like the entire cast is having a lot of fun, and I often wonder what would happen if the rest of the scenes had the same feeling.

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