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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

Life Unexpected – “Criminal Incriminated”

“Really? Because I overheard you today and you sounded like a bad episode of Saved by the Bell which is redundant.”

Lux and Jones discuss a date as "friends."

Clearly, dirty old man Math told Lux cleavage was necessary for JV basketball.

This week’s episode of Life Unexpected is brought to you by Lux’s boobs.

A lot of scoop necks and lean-and-squeezes for Lux as she navigates what is, essentially, an after-school special about cheating. Last season, I noted that one of the themes to this series is taking family sit-com tropes and deconstructing them and recasting the roles to accomodate the childish guardians and the sage adolescent. What they did this week was create a story comparing cheating to the slippery slope usually reserved for drug abuse and then toss in a red-herring-as-backdoor-escape so that Lux comes out of it smelling like a rose.

Sorry if I spoiled it for you, in case you thought Lux’s new penchant for being a Cheater McCheaterson was going to be the catalyst for her Don-Draper-like downfall.

Meanwhile, a lot of ridiculous things happen to the parents, too, including a celebrity golf tournament (lots of celebrity events in Portland despite a dearth of actual celebrities), some wacky trust issues, and a loaf of pot-infused banana bread.

Let’s get the parents’ stuff out of the way first because it’s far less interesting. Cate is real upset about Paige hanging around, because, if house guests are like fish, Ryan’s sister is rotting, diseased, and pungent by now. Cate might be able to handle Paige’s stay if she wasn’t starting a job where she has to not only accept lower pay from the station that fired her but also try to make the show she was fired from work without her. You can almost see the lump of pride slowly pushing down her throat. But Cate has a good case against Paige since she’s a terrible roommate. The living room has become some kind of mutant nest, she drinks an expensive bottle of wine from the wedding, and she leaves an empty pizza box in the fridge (a pet peeve of mine, too — I hate finding Cold Box). Then she also makes pot banana bread and just leaves it out for any unsuspecting consumer (Cate being that consumer). Later, Cate also finds $300 missing from her wallet. Cate blames the destructive force that is Paige. Ryan defends her and suspects that it’s Lux. Tension ensues.

Now, we all know that Lux has a steady income of mysterious origins, the kind that pays Baze’s rent and seems to pop up whenever she needs it. What would Lux need with Cate’s money?

Meanwhile, Baze is trying to avoid his balls being broken by his cougar boss. Their dynamic in this episode features Boss Lady constantly searching for any scrap of evidence of Baze’s existence as a failure so our man tries desperately to impress her. He wants to keep this job he always wanted but gave no indication that he actually wanted until the bar burned down. He has to prove himself to her. How he does it: coming through for a celebrity golf tournament with Ryan and Kelly.

Lucky for him, radio personalities are considered celebrities in Portland.

The highlights for the rest of the episode are these: after Baze tries everyone else (he apparently knows a couple of Trailblazers), he concedes that he needs Cate’s help getting Ryan and Kelly to come out, they come but Cate accidentally bonks Kelly on the head, Cate fills in, it comes out that Baze and Paige slept together (after Baze comes clean about Paige burning the bar down), Ryan gets upset, Cate suddenly cares about Baze sleeping with her sister, one of those famous Heat-of-the-Moment-Patented-Cate-and-Baze-Verbal-Brawls ruins an important client’s appetite for the good walk spoiled, Baze has to charm said client, client is suitably charmed, impressing the Boss Lady, Boss Lady’s tough exterior erodes to show a woman who will probably end up having sex with Baze by the end of the season (just when the time is ripe for drama), Ryan and Cate contribute a ton of money to help fix the bar on Paige’s behalf. One big happy. Credits.

Still awake? Good. Let’s talk about what the heck they’re doing with Lux.

Lux cheated on her English test last episode and didn’t tell anyone, telling us as educated media consumers that this will eventually come down on her. Cate, like any parent, wants to make sure Lux is getting good grades and making sure that she studies. Baze, worried about the girl not adjusting normally, wants her to play sports. Neither of these things conflict and they aren’t necessarily asking a lot of Lux. But this season marks Lux as being slow despite a history of evidence to the contrary (again, she was the sage one to her Keystone Kops as parents) so she has trouble handling everything.

Another difficult English test comes up for Lux and, instead of studying, she decides that it’s time to cheat again. The quote from the top comes from her addressing a few kids in a cheating ring, to whom she shells out a wad of cash (again, from her mysterious income) and demands to be in on it. Needing to cheat bigger and badder every time is usually a trope for drug addiction, like constantly chasing the high. For her, it’s constantly trying to maintain Cate and Baze’s approval (despite the fact that they aren’t really asking a whole lot of her). Remember that episode of Saved by the Bell when Jessie got addicted to caffeine pills trying to do too much at once? It’s like that for Lux except exactly the opposite: Lux is doing everything kind of half-assed and keeps descending down this rabbit hole for cheaters in order to keep up. Where Jessie was cheating to maintain, Lux is maintaining to cheat.

By the way, Life Unexpected is another series that likes to announce whatever style they’re copying, apparently to beat everyone to the punch (see Melissa & Joey and Hellcats).

Lux gets caught. Shocker. Math is her teacher (and, apparently, qualified to be her basketball coach) and convinces the school to go easy on her, despite her being a blight on the school’s record (bong lamp, failing out, now participating in a growing cheating syndicate). The format to this episode, minus the parent stuff, has been like an after-school special in that she sinks deeper until she hits rock bottom where her parents and teachers (the ones that love her most) teach a lesson and learn a lesson themselves. Apparently Lux feels like Cate and Baze, the most lax parents on Earth, the ones that let their 16-year old daughter spend her nights with a dude named Bug, are pushing her too hard. And as little as that makes sense, Math makes even less sense later.

Math is usually the voice of reason. In the old dynamic of the Apartment above the Bar, before the show’s great white-out, Math was the angel to Jamie’s devil on Baze’s shoulder. Usually what he says makes sense and gives the characters he talks to some much needed perspective. This time, with Lux, he decides to go in a different direction. To Lux’s assertion that Cate and Baze want her to be like them, he insists that she actually wants to be like them. And she buys it. What indication do you have that Lux has ever wanted to be more like Cate and Baze? They’re train wrecks and it’s not like they’re disasters hidden behind a curtain of maturity and responsibility. They are open catastrophes. Lux has respect for them and loves them. I get that. But wanting to be like them? For what?

In any case, the cheating thing is resolved and she gets detention instead of being suspended. Math suggests she gets a tutor (I don’t know why she just didn’t ask Math for help in the first place) and, of course, assigns her to Kiddie Kisser Eric the Teacher. Is this show really going to do this? Are they going to toy with an inappropriate teacher-student relationship with its star? Are they going to walk this plank? Because it was weird when Pacey did it in Dawson’s Creek and it’s going to be weirder here with Lux “I’m on the Brink” Cassidy.

I’m not particularly a fan of this show but this was one of the weakest episodes yet. I’m glad they’re keeping Paige around (she’s moving into Jamie’s apartment) since she is obviously the Ghost of Lux’s Future (desperate need to see the world, made stupid by years of hanging out with Cate and Baze) and I’d like to see them explore the dynamic that Baze totally just slept with the older version of Lux. But that’s probably asking a bit much from this show.

Some other things:

  • Jones is back in the picture. How often does this guy need to be punched in the stomach before he realizes that Lux is nothing but trouble?
  • Baze explains to Lux that he wants her to play sports, specifically basketball, because it taught him discipline and setting goals. A bit of history revision. Who is this guy and where is the slacker that poured his assets into turtle racing last season?
  • I was happy to see that Cate didn’t really do anything terribly stupid while she was high. Yeah, she said some things on air that she wasn’t supposed to. But it’s better than saying bad things about Ryan or dirty things about Baze. Cate has a tendency to ruin her life with her mouth and this tendency increases ten-fold when characters in shows like this surrender their sobriety.
  • At least Eric wasn’t naked in his classroom when Math told Lux he was her tutor. Again, why can’t Math help her out? She has a freaking bedroom at his house.
  • The red herring thing I mentioned earlier: so Cate and Ryan blamed Paige and Lux respectively for stealing the $300. Each dealt a wad of cash to other parties in this episode (Lux to the cheaters, Paige to Baze to help pay for damages). What would have completed the after-school special theme is if Lux had stolen it in a desperate attempt to keep afloat, like a drug addict would steal money to get a fix. Instead, it was Paige who stole the money (she who is already demonized as the only smoker, the one that burned down the bar, and one with access to actual drugs) so Lux comes out unscathed, like she flirted with the bad stuff but stayed mostly clean, smelling like a peach.
  • In a cast of brunettes, blonde characters stand out, Paige and Lux being the only ones up to this point (discounting Jones, Lux’s aryan match made in heaven) until the introduction of Boss Lady. Is she the Ghost of Lux’s Future Future? Like after she roams the earth, Lux could settle down somewhere and have a high-powered job like her? If Baze screws around with her, there will be some serious Reverse-Electra complex happening here.

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