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3.9. Episode Nine: "Halloween"
Original Air Date: October 27, 1994
"Did anyone know Jordan Catalano? That question like, got to me. I mean, I had had seven conversations with him, and one really bad kiss, and one amazing one. But did I like, know him?" -- Angela
"Being the stuff people notice is like, my hobby. It's what I live for. Just don't leave me alone here, okay?" -- Rayanne
On Halloween, Angela, Rayanne and Brian break into the school. While Brian and Rayanne "sleep" together, Angela apparently encounters the ghost of Nicky Driscoll.
A "blue moon," the second full moon within a calendar month, occurs infrequently, hence the term "once in a blue moon" to describe an event that is unusual or happens only rarely. In 1994, Halloween fell during the phase of a blue moon. Halloween is an occasion to "be" someone, or something, else, but to be someone else, one must first know oneself. By dressing up for a festival of the dead, Angela and the others learn about one another -- and the importance of not throwing one's life away.
ANGELA AND JORDAN
It is Halloween, and costumes are the order of the day at school. (Except for Angela, Brian and Jordan.) Ms. Lerner asks the class if anybody knows Jordan Catalano, who is -- once again -- absent. While Angela ponders the implications of Ms. Lerner's general query, her response is less profound when Ms. Lerner asks her specifically:
Ms. Lerner tell Angela to tell Jordan: Get to class or she'll have his butt thrown out of school.
"There are too many good kids, I mean I just don't have time for the bad ones," Ms. Lerner says.
It is a cliche, and as we have seen enough of Jordan to know that he is not a "bad" kid, Ms. Lerner's line suggests that he has been summed up and dismissed. Angela, however, is not so ready to give up on Jordan.
After class, Angela meets Rayanne in the Girls' Bathroom. Rayanne is dressed as a vampire and has brought some old clothing for Angela to put on. The clothes fit Angela perfectly, and it is telling that, unlike everyone else's costumes, which are a radical departure from their everyday selves, Angela's costume is a 1960's version of herself. As Angela fixes her hair to match her costume, we are introduced to the legend of Nicky Driscoll, a boy who died on Halloween night of 1963 while engaged in a senseless prank. As Angela and Rickie exit the Girls' bathroom, Rickie is humming "Blue Moon," a sign that something unusual is in the air. Moments later, Angela finds a ticket stub in her sweater pocket from the Liberty High Halloween Hop on night Nicky Driscoll is said to have died. (But look closely at the ticket -- it says "class of 1963," so it is a ticket for the 1962 hop, one year before Nicky died!) Angela's curiosity is piqued.
"So what else do you know about him," she asks Rickie.
"You know, Nicky Catalano," Angela replies, not realizing her mistake.
"You mean Nicky Driscoll?"
"Why? What did I say?"
"Never mind. I don't know much about either of them."
But the confusion is unmistakable. The next time we see Angela, she is ascending the staircase, looking at Jordan and seeing Nicky. Angela reaches the landing, (itself symbolic for Jordan in this episode because it is between up and down), and delivers Ms. Lerner's message.
"So what's the message?"
"That you're gonna get kicked out of school."
"Like it's doing so much for me."
He leaves, walking down the stairs.
"You're welcome! Don't you even care?" Angela says as much to herself as to Jordan, who by this time has disappeared.
The spell is immediately broken by Rayanne as she pounces on Angela to announce a seance to raise the spirit of Nicky Driscoll. Angela is still dwelling on Jordan:
"I can't even communicate with him when it matters, when it like, affects his life," but the resolution of Angela's difficulty must await the passing of Halloween.
DANIELLE AND THE "RAT"
Danielle is struggling with a love-hate feelings for Angela. She does not like the way Angela treats her, but, like most little sisters, can't help but admire and want to imitate how her big sister looks and acts. Notwithstanding the lack of any mask whatsoever, Danielle becomes a version of Angela, which Patty and Graham find almost too scary to contemplate. At the same time, Sharon is discovering that there is more to life than her boyfriend. As Danielle leaves to go trick-or-treating, Sharon abandons her plans to spend the evening with Kyle and goes with Danielle. As a result, Sharon and Danielle share some fun together, and a moment of seriousness.
"I can't believe I almost missed this! Promise me you won't let boys drain all the fun out of your life," Sharon advises.
"I wish you were my sister," Danielle tells Sharon. "Danielle--"
"I hate her. I do."
"Okay, you hate her. So, why'd you want to be her if you hate her so much?"
Deep down, Danielle must know Sharon is right. The following morning, as Danielle sits at Angela's dressing table, we see that she rather looks up to Angela. Danielle's costume choice creates an interesting parallel to Rayanne, who, as we have been told, "wants to be Angela." However, the scene between Sharon and Danielle also has affected Sharon. Sharon takes the chance to go trick-or-treating and have fun, rather than spending time with Kyle, which she is beginning to view as duty rather than pleasure. On one level, if Danielle wanted to "be" Angela, we may infer Sharon's choice as wanting to "be with" Angela. In retrospect, we know that a break-up between Sharon and Kyle is imminent, and we know that at least part of the reason for the break-up is that:
"it stopped mattering if I wanted to have sex."
Thus, although the scene takes place as Sharon indulges in some "kids'" activity, her decision to do so has an adult undercurrent.
RAPUNZEL AND THE PIRATE
While the kids are engaged in adventures of discovery, Patty and Graham are engaged in an adventure of rediscovery. From the beginning of the episode, Patty and Graham have been engaged in a discussion about Boyd, who was hired to replace Graham and must now be fired. They continue the discussion as they enter a costume shop to rent costumes for Camille's party. The costume shop has the kind atmosphere that gives one the feeling that it was not there the day before Halloween, as though Patty and Graham were "meant" to walk in. Indeed, this is hinted at in their conversation:
"Wow!" Graham says, looking around.
"I told you there was a store here," Patty says.
The savvy proprietress sizes them up and decrees that Patty will be Rapunzel and Graham will be a pirate. The effect of these costumes will be subtly hinted at: Graham's pumpkin soup "needs something." (This is also a clue to the impending lack of confidence in Graham that Patty will display in later episodes.) We know, from a later exchange with Hallie Lowenthal, that in "MSCL-ese," or "Angela talk," that "needs something" means the food does not taste good. This is the single time in MSCL when food prepared by Graham is not declared wonderful. However, it is a trick: Graham can make great pumpkin soup; a printing salesman or a pirate cannot. Later, as Patty and Graham change into their costumes, their conversation accomplishes the metamorphosis. At the beginning of the scene, they are again discussing Boyd, and what to do about him. As they put on more of their costumes, their dialogue becomes more like the character they portray:
"If only there was a way out," Patty says, as she fondles the long hair of Rapunzel, who was imprisoned and escaped by letting her hair grow.
"I'll fire him myself, the filthy cur," Graham says as he puts on his tricorn hat, the last piece of his costume.
"Graham! That sounds so -- cutthroat!" Patty says.
By this time, they are both dressed in costume, and the conversation has drifted from Boyd to each other, as we can see in eyes as they look at one another. Yes, Patty and Graham "christen" the living room, and yes, they miss Camille's party altogether. And the lighthearted tone of the scene is once again a reminder that Patty and Graham are a secure, loving couple.
The point of the scene, however, is that with Graham no longer part of the business, their relationship as co-workers is no longer successful; their relationship "needs something." Hence, they must redefine the relationship. As Rapunzel and the Pirate, Patty and Graham are rediscover each other as a man and woman, as husband and wife. Thus, they rediscover the best part of their relationship. The following morning, when Boyd calls with another excuse, Patty no longer waffles. Refusing Graham's offer to talk to Boyd, Patty fires Boyd.
RAYANNE AND BRIAN "SLEEP TOGETHER"
The only characters who do not to take advantage of a "once in a blue moon" chance are Rayanne and Brian. Interestingly, Rayanne's adventure with Brian is the only "intimacy" of Rayanne's we ever witness. (Yeah, yeah, the "betrayal." But we don't actually see it -- the episode goes to commercial once the stage is set.)
When Brian glances through the door of the Girls' Bathroom and catches Rayanne shaving her legs, he is looking into a forbidden realm and sees Rayanne Graf engaged in a decidedly female activity. It is a provocative moment, the carnality of which is emphasized by the bright red drops of blood as Rayanne nicks herself. The tension is decidedly sexual, not solely in the context of sexuality, but in the context of relations between the sexes. If Brian and Rayanne are ever meant to be together, it is as something more than the comfortable friendship Brian has with Sharon, or the person-to-person relationship Brian has with Angela. Rayanne catches Brian looking, and she understands the implications immediately. She realizes that any feelings Brian might have for her would run much deeper than sexual attraction alone. He will love, and that prospect is highly attractive to her. On the other hand, Rayanne understands better than anyone that any feelings Brian might have for her would be diluted by, and subordinate to, his feelings for Angela. Rayanne, the fatherless daughter, also understands, perhaps better than anyone else, what it is like to not be loved. In short, Rayanne understands that of all the boys with whom she may have dallied, Brian could be the most dangerous, because for him it would not be a dalliance, and for that reason he is completely able to reach her and hurt her. Because Brian was rebuked by Angela as he tried to wipe the ink spot off his shirt pocket, and he has no way of knowing that Angela will be at the school for Rayanne's proposed seance, (other than deducing that Angela will be where Rayanne and Rickie are), it is quite possible that Brian's presence is the result of an interest in, or curiosity about, Rayanne. Indeed, his reason for being at the school ("it's public property") seems as rational as any excuse he has used to gain entry to the Chase house.
For Rayanne's part, her treatment of Brian may well be a defense mechanism to keep him at arm's length until she knows she can trust him. She is derisive, but clearly intends for him to be in on the party:
"There's gotta be a way [into the school]. Ask Brian. Brian knows some clever chess club way, don'tcha, Bri? Oh, my God..."
"You know a way in!"
"I do not!"
"I was just goofing on him! I don't believe it! Brian, you could never risk the risk, could you, Mr. Brilliant Future?
"My life's complicated enough," Rickie says. "Count me out."
"Well, look, we're going in, with you or without you," Rayanne says to Brian. "And if it's without you, then we'll just have to get in and out before the cops come."
Rayanne's power of perception enables her to realize that Brian knows a way into the school, and know exactly what to say to Brian to force the secret out of him. She invokes the cops because she knows that Brian will not allow Angela to get into trouble if he can prevent it.
Rayanne, more so than any other MSCL character, has the innate ability to understand people. Her downfall rests with her inability, or unwillingness, to turn her powers of perception inward. However, Rayanne's encounter with Brian gives her the chance to do exactly that.
Rayanne appears to have a devil-may-care attitude towards life, always looking for the good times. She seems to pay almost no attention to school, and professes to be indiscriminately sexually active. However, if Rayanne is jaded beyond her years, she is also wise beyond her years. Rayanne is clearly resourceful. For example, in "Dancing in the Dark," when Brian confronts Angela about helping with the extra credit project, Rayanne immediately turns the situation to a chance for Angela to meet Jordan. Nor is Rayanne, her penchant for skipping class notwithstanding, altogether lacking in book learning. In "The Substitute," Rayanne knew, without having to "look it up," that the "Haiku for Him" was not a real haiku. But most of all, Rayanne is highly perceptive of the human condition: "People throwing themselves on other people is like, the basis for civilization." That perception enables her to tell Sharon that Brian is "totally in love" with Angela, although Brian has told no one and Angela is not even completely aware of his affection for her. Rayanne's perception also enables her to help Sharon in a practical way when she finds Sharon the bathroom stall crying in "Strangers in the House." End of Digression.
Notwithstanding Rayanne's caution towards Brian, they have their "intimate" moment, precipitated by a second incident where she catches Brian looking at her. This time, Brian's staring causes him to lock them in the school. Brian then compounds his error when he inadvertently turns off the power, plunging them into darkness. Rayanne becomes angry and accuses him of being "hard up" for looking at her legs and letting the door shut behind him. Brian starts to leave.
"Where are you going?"
"Anywhere you're not."
"Brian -- Brian, don't go! I'm scared of the dark, okay. Have fun telling all your little friends."
"You are? I mean, it just doesn't seem like something you'd be."
"Well, I am."
Brian has forgotten the meanness that prompted him to get up to leave a moment ago, and with a sense of genuine concern and interest, asks Rayanne why she is afraid of the dark. However, Brian is beginning to venture a little too closely, emotionally, for Rayanne's comfort. She concocts a melodramatic reason for being afraid of the dark, feigns crying, then laughs at him for believing it. In a sense, it is Rayanne's way of testing Brian, and by reacting with compassion, he both passes and fails. Rayanne realizes he is trustworthy, but still fears being close. However, in the next exchange, Rayanne tells more than she may realize:
"You expected this big explanation! I don't know why I'm scared of the dark. My dad never even came home, so that had nothing to do with it." Rayanne then changes the subject and confronts the situation with Brian head-on: "I saw you watching me."
"What? I'm just, uh -- when?"
"Today. Shaving my legs."
"Well, yeah. Look, um, my hobby is photography. So I'm like, trained -- to notice stuff."
"Being the stuff people notice is like, my hobby. It's what I live for. Just don't leave me alone here, okay?"
Rayanne's response indicates very clearly that she believes that she and Brian are suited for each other. They appear to fashion a comfortable truce, as Rayanne coaches Brian in a lie to his mother over the phone.
The following morning at school, Brian can't wait to talk to Rickie about the night before. But Rayanne got there first, and Rickie tells Brian that in her opinion, the night was "a total waste of time." It is possible, perhaps likely, that Rayanne and Rickie had been referring to the seance that never materialized. However, Brian infers that Rayanne had meant the time she spent with him. Brian's feelings are hurt and he walks by Rayanne without speaking. Because Brian does not speak to Rayanne, Rayanne does not speak to Brian. However, that her encounter with Brian has had an effect on Rayanne will be evident in later episodes. In "So-Called Angels," Rayanne will joke that she and Brian "slept together once." In "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities," Rayanne will be hostile to Brian at every turn. The sharing of vulnerabilities will characterize the relationship between Rayanne and Brian. Rayanne knows Brian's deepest secret, that he is utterly in love with Angela. Brian now knows that Rayanne is afraid of the dark. In later episodes, Brian will witness Rayanne's breakdown at Club Vertigo, and her transgression with Jordan. Rayanne will "counsel" Brian through his most lonely and miserable moment. And, of course, Brian will witness Rayanne's deepest transgression. Unfortunately, each of the subsequent moments will be inadvertent because on Halloween, both Rayanne and Brian throw away their chance to mean something to each other.
ANGELA MEETS NICKY DRISCOLL
But what of Angela? What of her "encounter" with Nicky Driscoll and her concern for Jordan Catalano? Although framed as an other-worldly experience, Angela's meeting with Nicky was clearly a dream which played in Angela's minds as she slept on the hallway floor. Dreams are a mixture of the day's events and the mind's concerns, and the episode carefully sets up Angela's dream. Angela is worried about Jordan's future. Angela is preoccupied with stories of Nicky Driscoll. She finds a ticket to the 1963 (1962) Halloween Hop in her sweater pocket. As Angela roams the school hallway, the colors dim to the grays that dominate dreams. We get a visual cue that shadows are beginning to have substance, when we see Angela's shadow collide with the shadow of the skeleton. Off screen, Angela has run into the skeleton, but all we see are two incorporeal shadows that come into contact, bump and make noise. Thus, the stage is set for Angela's encounter with Jordan's Halloween alter ego, Nicky Driscoll. Just as Nicky threw away his life on a Halloween prank, so Jordan appears to be willing to throw away his life by being thrown out of school. But the difference between Nicky and Jordan is a girl who cares. In her dream, Angela enters the gym and sees it decorated for the 1963 Hop. She listens as Nicky Driscoll's erstwhile girlfriend expresses contempt for him having joined his friends at the cemetery-- just as Jordan and his friends are tearing up the track:
"Nicky Driscoll's going nowhere and I'm not going there with him."
Angela encounters Nicky and tries to dissuade him from joining his friend to play the prank that ultimately kills him.
"No, you're going to get hurt!"
"At least I'll know I'm alive!"
"But you're not! You're not alive! You threw your life away for no reason!"
Angela's encounter with Nicky ends with Angela grabbing for the door to the gym in a dream-like repetition. We next see Angela asleep on the floor. As it is Halloween, we are more willing suspend disbelief, but clearly, Angela has had a dream, and nothing more. Of course, this does not explain the flower in her book....
In the end, Angela draws from her dream about Nicky and knows the right thing to say:
"You're crazy to let her tell you what you are."
"What are you talking about?"
"She doesn't know you, she doesn't know who you are. You can't let her decide what you do."
"Hey, I decide what I do. Maybe I want to get kicked out."
"Maybe you do. It doesn't mean people can't try and stop you, and tell you. I know you think, 'how could someone like me understand?' Only I do."
Angela's inflection of "only I do" suggests that she is the only one who understands how Jordan feels.
It is also important to note a major distinction between Nicky and Jordan. Nicky was a willing participant, an instigator of the prank that killed him. Jordan is a passive observer of his friends' Halloween pranks. Jordan is with them because he does not want to miss out on life, but he wants to escape the yearly ritual of tearing up the track and tipping over garbage cans. Jordan wants more. He takes advantage of the chance and comes to class. "Halloween" is about making the best of one's life and not throwing it away. By dressing up, the characters reveal themselves and at the same time find a chance to discover and experience the best of their world. The opportunity for such revelation and discovery happens once in a blue moon.
Copyright 1997 William E. Blais.
All Rights Reserved.