“Beverly Hills, 90210”…
It was during a hot summer in 1992 that I learned about love, friendship, sex, betrayal, and the right way to wear sideburns. Glued to my television set every Wednesday night, I watched with relish as the zip code appeared across my screen, and as the synthesizers started up to let me know that I was about to be transported to a glamorous place I had only read about in magazines.
I had only been a casual watcher of “Beverly Hills, 90210” beforehand, but it earned my love (as well as ratings) when it began airing an early season in 1992, grabbing viewers who had nothing but summer reruns to watch. The gang had been juniors for two years, and now it was time to crank it up a notch. Yes, this was the season where the show went from an edgy “7th Heaven” send-up to an unabashed nighttime soap, when writers became more concerned about who was going to be making out with who by the end of the episode than the teen issue of the week, and where Dylan and Kelly began their torrid affair behind Brenda’s back.
Senior year was the definitive season for me, and as much as the show progressed from then (and frankly, got really, really boring), that’s the season I’ll always remember. So when I received the third season DVDs from Michelle (she knows me so well!), I couldn’t wait to relive the campiness, the drama, and the bad 90s fashions.
So now that that’s out of my system, I’d like to share one of my most favourite episodes from that season. ¤ C.Ho.
“Castles in the Sand”
Original air date: August 19, 1992
The gang's all here!
We begin with the opening credits, which I could watch forever, on loop, for the rest of my life. The gang’s all here: boy-next-door Brandon (Jason Priestley), his drama queen fraternal twin Brenda (Shannen Doherty), more-than-meets-the-eye ex-slut Kelly (Jennie Garth), mulleted all-American boy Steve (Ian Ziering), bookworm Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris), rebel without a cause – or clue – Dylan (Luke Perry), geeky David (Brian Austin Green), and sweet, fish-faced Donna (Tori Spelling). Brandon and Brenda’s parents, Jim and Cindy Walsh, also get billing, but since the show’s not about them, it’s not that important.
Brenda’s parents, concerned about her lack of respect, manners, or good sense, send Brenda away on a trip to Paris with Donna in the hopes that it will make her grow into a responsible adult or, at least, get her to be less of a whiny, petulant teenager. That, and they also don’t approve of Brenda’s current boyfriend, bad-boy Dylan, and hope that the distance won’t make the heart grow fonder.
After some misadventures in Paris, including Donna’s brief stint as a fashion model and a crusty roommate that the girls win over, it’s time for Brenda and Donna to go home. But wait! During her stay in Paris, Brenda meets and subsequently lies to an American college tourist named Rick (Dean Cain, in his pre-“Superman” days), going so far as to pose as a Parisian girl with a pretty crappy accent. This is because Brenda is wildly attracted to Rick’s idea of a sophisticated Parisian girl falling in love with him. Or because she wants to be an actress. Or because she’s just crazy. Any one of these reasons will do.
The episode starts off with Brenda and Rick doing a lot of exposition in some soundstage that’s supposed to double as a Paris park. She tells Rick that she’s happy that she stayed in Europe with him instead of going back home, and Rick reassures her that he’s not upset that she repeatedly lied to him and pretended to be French. Then she professes her love to him, but accidentally calls him “Dylan.” Brenda wakes up with a start and realizes that it was all a very badly written dream. Donna, sitting next to Brenda on the plane, tells her that they’re almost in New York. Brenda flatly says that she’s excited to see “Rick” when she means Dylan. Instead of slapping the crap out of Brenda for wanting to cheat on someone she is supposedly and obsessively in love with, Donna just rolls her eyes.
Kelly and Dylan: Totally scandalous! Or maybe just mildly shocking, much like the fact that when Luke Perry filmed this show, he was 85 years old.
We’re back on the California beach where Kelly and Dylan have just shared their last night together, for Dylan and Kelly are totally creeping behind Brenda’s back. But since this is 1992 instead of 2008, everyone’s still dressed and there is no post-coital talk involved. Kelly creepily stares at Dylan until he stirs from his sleep. “I’m glad we didn’t cross that line,” Kelly says. Dylan immediately starts yelling at her, asking her if the other night didn’t mean anything just because they didn’t do the dirty deed. “Who fell asleep in my arms last night?” Dylan asks triumphantly, as if they’re playing a game of Pictionary and he just got the right answer. “I know how much you love Brenda,” Kelly replies. “Did I talk about Brenda last night?” By the way that Dylan says this, I half-expect him to add “boo-yah!” at the end.
(Dylan yelling at Kelly and making her feel guilty about their affair will be a current theme for the season.)
Kelly tells Dylan that she wants to shed her class harlot reputation, and asks him to bear with her as she comes to terms with her growing feelings for her best friend’s boyfriend. Just then, Andrea pops up with a group of kids that she’s taking care of at the local summer camp and interrupts their conversation. Kelly hides in her sleeping bag while Dylan shoos Andrea away. Andrea always ruins all the fun.
Question of the decade: What's more horrifying, Steve's shorts of David's music? Answer: Neither. It's actually Steve's mullet.
At the beach house, Steve wears an embarrassingly tight pair of shiny purple shorts and a black tank top as he listens to David’s “music.” David’s “music” consists of a bunch of synthesizers playing on loop. Before we can hear another note, Brandon thankfully interrupts to remind Steve and David that Brenda’s welcome home party is that night. David frets because he has to pick up Donna, his girlfriend, from the airport. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had forgotten about Brenda’s party because no one really likes Brenda.
Welcome home, Brenda and Donna! We were so happy about it that we even spelled it out in colour and everything.
It’s later that night at the Walsh house, and Brandon is with his new girlfriend, Brooke, hanging up a cheap banner that someone printed on their home computer using a Commodore Paint program. The banner paper even has the perforated edges still stuck on it. Steve and Andrea banter, but it’s not interesting. Brenda finally comes home, and it looks like things still haven’t changed – not ten seconds in, Brenda rudely drags her parents to the kitchen to ask them why Dylan isn’t there. Brenda tells them that she wants to know where she stands with her parents on the Dylan issue before rudely leaving again. Instead of slapping the crap out of Brenda for many reasons, her parents merely chuckle and marvel at how mature France has made Brenda.
Shh! It'll be our little secret...until I set my parents' bathroom on fire.
Donna, David and Kelly make their appearance, and while Donna regales the assembled gang with souvenir sweatshirts that read “Les Wildcats” (the school’s generic mascot), Brenda drags Kelly upstairs so that she can give Kelly second-hand smoke in the bathroom. After explaining that she picked up the smoking habit in Paris (“everybody smokes in Paris”), Kelly decides to prod Brenda for some information. “Can you keep a secret?” Brenda asks. “I think so,” Kelly says. Despite her unconvincing tone, Brenda decides to spill the beans about Rick, but tells Kelly that her love for Dylan kept her from backpacking across Europe with some guy she hardly knew who thought she was French. “I was tempted,” Brenda says. “Temptation can be a killer,” Kelly agrees, her eyes shifty. And I have to say, smoking in the bathroom with no ventilation is probably not a good idea for someone who doesn’t want to get caught. But before Kelly can point this out to Brenda, the doorbell rings.
Nothing says guilt-free more than a tasteful macking session in front of everyone you've ever met in your life.
Dylan shares a heartwarming handshake with Brenda’s dad as he enters the house, and Brenda rushes down the stairs to greet him. They totally make out all over the front hallway while Kelly looks on uncomfortably. Dylan is just full of consideration for others’ feelings, isn’t he?
As everyone calls it a night, Kelly and Dylan exchange uncomfortable glances. Brenda innocently asks Kelly to stay for a while, but Kelly begs off. “Night, Kelly,” Dylan says, trying to load his eyes with as much emotion and conflict as he can muster. Brenda is oblivious.
In the kitchen, Brenda gives Dylan a gift from Paris and tells him that she wishes she could go back to his house for a little nookie (the last part is implied), but she doesn’t think she should on her first night back. “I wish I could have gotten you something,” Dylan says, changing the subject, and Brenda points out that Dylan didn’t go anywhere to warrant a souvenir. What Dylan doesn’t realize is that he’s already given her a gift – the gift of cuckold!
Brenda next accosts her parents and apologizes for her bratty behaviour during the summer. “I just want to be part of this family,” she tells them. Her parents are suitably touched. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to thank you guys for sending me to Paris this summer,” Brenda says. Just wait until she finds out about Dylan and Kelly – I’m sure she won’t be so happy that her parents sent her away after all.
Brenda tries to sneak a cigarette in the bathroom, and good lord, won’t this day ever end? Brandon, with his square head and magnificent sideburns, walks in the semi-ensuite from his bedroom and asks Brenda if she smells smoke. Brenda, still not aware that smoking in a shared bathroom with no windows is the stupidest idea she’s come up with yet, next to posing as a French girl, denies this and switches the subject to Brooke. Brandon admits that although she’s great, there’s something off about her, and he can’t quite put his finger on it. What’s wrong with Brooke is that she’s a raging bigot, but we’ll just let Brandon find this out for himself. Unsurprisingly, it takes him all episode to do so.
At Kelly’s house, stepbrother David knocks at her bedroom door. He’s wearing an unbuttoned shirt, and I wish he would button it up. David has the exact same haircut as Brandon. David is the only one who knows about Kelly and Dylan’s indiscretions, and Kelly, in all her pale, ghastly glory, worries that Dylan will spill the beans. David tells Kelly not to worry, and Kelly asks David if he is going to tell Donna about Nikki, a girl he fooled around with at the beach club over the summer. Can anyone in this family keep it in their pants?
It’s finally the next day, and Brandon and Brooke are at the beach. There’s a sand sculpture competition going on, and Brooke wants Brandon to be on her team. There’s also something about Brandon being a sand castle virgin, but that’s just a given. Brooke pouts when Brandon tells her that he won’t be able to help because, you know, he is employed at the beach club and all. Brooke pouts. “I’m sure Steve wouldn’t mind getting in the wet sand with me,” she says coquettishly. Instead of slapping Brooke for being a manipulative crybaby, Brandon makes out with her as Donna and Brenda look on. Donna doesn’t tell them to get a room, but she is totally thinking it.
[ Brenda obsesses some more, while Kelly avoids Dylan and the sun. Part II of the episode. ]