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Angela's World

3.19. Episode Nineteen: "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities"


Original Air Date: January 26, 1995

 

"It's like, you think you're safe or something. 'Cause you can just, walk away, any time. Because you don't need her. You don't need anyone. But the thing you didn't realize is, you're wrong. You always wear this much makeup?" -- Jordan
 
"You liked it though, right? It made you like, happy?" -- Brian
 

Synopsis


    Brian's letter causes Angela to forgive Jordan for the "betrayal;" Rickie admits he is gay; Patty meets Jordan; Graham and Hallie obtain financial backing for the restaurant.
 

Analysis

Okay, Cyrano de Bergerac. But what else? By the time "In Dreams" was written, it was generally known that MSCL was going to hiatus, with no (public) answer as to whether there would ever be another episode of MSCL. Assuming the best, new episodes will spring from developments in this episode. Assuming the worst, "In Dreams" will be our last look at Angela. Accordingly, "In Dreams" is a last look at not simply fictional characters, but people whom we have come to love with all their flaws. It is also a first look -- at the rest of the lives of these characters.

ANGELA RECEIVES A LETTER


Angela's dream reveals both her anger at Jordan and frustration at not being able to reach him, for even as her dream-self rails at him, he ignores it. In reality, the opposite appears true as Angela rebuffs Jordan's overtures on the pretext of returning a pen; it is she who is difficult to reach and he who is struggling.

Jordan seeks Brian's help to win back Angela, which Brian cannot resist giving, first with words, then with the letter. As Brian reads the letter in voiceover and Angela thrills to the reading of it, one questions must come to mind: Why does Angela believe Jordan wrote the letter? Angela believes because of the evidence in front of her: The letter is written in his hand. But Angela has seen Jordan's writing before. His sentences in the diagraming exercise were "really short." And he spelled her name with two `Ls'." Angela should not believe that a smooth-flowing, properly spelled and punctuated letter came from the taciturn Jordan; she should know better. But Angela also knows the letter sincerely and truthfully expresses the sentiment that Jordan is sorry for what he has done, and that they should be together. Most importantly, Angela believes because she wants to believe that Jordan is capable of such feelings and such expression.

Digression: Why Doesn't Brian Tell Angela How He Feels?


    Consider the chances Brian has had to tell Angela that he loves her: On the street in the Pilot episode; at his house in "Dancing in the Dark;" in the computer lab in "Guns and Gossip;" in his car in "Father Figures;" on the street in "Strangers in the House;" on the stairs in "Pressure;" under the Christmas tree in "So-Called Angels;" in his room in "Betrayal;" and on the street in "In Dreams." In each instance, he has been alone with Angela in a setting where she would have been sensitive to the earnestness of his feelings. Yet in every instance he holds his feelings in. But in "Betrayal," we get subtle clues to Brian's attitude towards Angela in the scene where she comes to his room to seize the infamous videotape. In the background, we see the self-portrait of Van Gogh, who cut off his own ear in the name of love. We also see a skull, a prop associated with Hamlet, who is traditionally characterized as being unable to take revenge on his father's killer. However, Van Gogh had lost his mind, and a fair reading of "Hamlet" reveals that Hamlet hesitates only when the opportunity is not adequate to exact a full measure of revenge. (Thus, he does not stab the King while he is praying, but kills Polonius, believing him to be the King, when he finds him hiding in Gertrude's boudoir.) That Brian loves Angela, we cannot doubt. But perhaps Brian has never found the opportunity to express his love when he knows it would be truly felt by Angela. End of Digression.

The letter cements the reconciliation between Angela and Jordan, although Jordan is not anxious to take credit:

    "Look, I'm not -- I don't want to pretend like--"
 
    "No, I don't want to pretend, either."
 
    "I'm glad you liked it, but--"
 
    "I didn't like it. I loved it. I loved it."

As Angela and Jordan kiss in the school hallway, Brian looks on.

    "If you analyze why certain people end up with certain other people," He tells Rickie, "It'll make you want to kill yourself!"

We should not miss the allusion to Hamlet's soliloquy in Brian's statement. However, Jordan has words of his own:

    "I have all these dreams where I know exactly what to say, and you tell me that you forgive me."

Ultimately, Rickie tells her that Brian wrote the letter. Angela is crushed, but masks it well, asking for a ride home. When she arrives at home, she sees Jordan's car -- and Brian on his bike.

PATTY AND GRAHAM AND HALLIE AND TONY -- AND JORDAN


No one wants to hear about Patty's dream, a feeling that should be familiar to most mothers. But as the family walks out, Patty smiles and affirms the dream to herself:

    "I dreamed about Tony Poole."

Later, Angela and Danielle are very interested in Patty's dream when they catch her acting like a schoolgirl.

Patty's dream and her telling of it exemplify the theme of "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities." It is an abandonment of the mundane, everyday life as "dream" Patty moves from taking out the garbage to falling into the arms of her high school sweetheart. Princess Di is a recurring figure in Patty's dreams, based on Angela's reaction. Princess Diana's message, that "princesses don't get divorced," indicates that Princess Diana is some form of alter ego that is responding to Patty's desire to be as carefree as she once was.

However, Patty's dream must also be considered in the context in which she tells it, sitting on the sofa, yearbook in hand, her children next to her. When Danielle expresses anxiety about Patty and Graham getting divorced, Angela is critical, perhaps as a mask for the feelings she has regarding her recent "divorce" from Jordan Catalano. Patty offers solace:

    "Sweetie, Tony Poole is someone I knew long, long ago.... [I]t's always tempting to lose yourself with someone who's maybe lost themselves. But eventually you want reality."

At that moment, Graham announces himself:

    "I'm Home!"

Patty clearly prefers her reality to any dream of wilder and crazier days. As for Graham, he is, as he says, "home." In terms of plot, there is no need for Graham to be present to end the scene with Patty, Angela and Danielle on the couch. Therefore, the fact that Graham walks in at that moment tells us that Graham is happy with the "reality" of his life with Patty, Angela and Danielle. Any doubts as to the solidity of Patty and Graham's marriage should be dispelled at this moment. Graham is home, and that is where he will stay.

But Patty has invoked her "dream," by inviting Tony Poole to "drop by," (from Harrisburg to suburban Pittsburgh), and so has Graham. With the investors "waffling" due to Graham's lack of formal training and professional experience, Graham confronts the issue head on:

    "Alright, here's the deal. Tasting is believing. My cooking speaks for itself. I have to do what I do best, which is cook. So I will cook for these moneybags, and that will be that. Right?"
 
    "Right!" Hallie says.

As Patty and Graham prepare for their respective encounters, we learn that neither can be with the other because Patty's meeting with Tony is on the same night that Graham must cook for the investors. Thus, Patty and Graham will both be able to pursue their "dreams," Patty by reuniting with Tony Poole, and Graham by proving himself to the restaurant investors. Graham and Hallie's presentation for the investors is a smashing success, and although Graham and Hallie embrace, Graham pulls back at the moment of truth:

    "Ah, um, I'm racked, I gotta get home."

Again, Graham's choice is clear: Whatever fondness he has for Hallie, he is married to Patty.

Patty's pursuit of her "dream" is less straightforward. Expecting Tony Poole when the doorbell rings, Patty makes one last adjustment and opens the door to meet -- Perhaps Patty got lucky that she got Jordan Catalano and not Tony Poole. The mysterious, romantic, handsome Jordan Catalano, at seventeen, is closer to her remembrance than Tony Poole at forty-two. But Jordan is really just an innocent-eyed seventeen year-old boy eating sandwiches and swilling milk as he stands in the kitchen with Patty. Jordan uses his own words to explain his feelings as he talks with Patty:

    "It's like, you think you're safe or something. `Cause you can just, walk away, any time. Because you don't need her. You don't need anyone. But the thing you didn't realize is, you're wrong."

Jordan's statement shows that he did not need Brian's words to make his case with Angela. In fact, compared to Jordan's own words, Brian's are mere platitudes, cliches he has picked up from living with psychiatrists. Patty absolves Jordan of the "betrayal," just as she absolved Rayanne, and we may wonder why she forgives Jordan when he would have as readily have "done it" with Angela as Rayanne if she had been present and willing. However, Jordan has come into Patty's home, and presumably the "betrayal" would have arisen only if Patty had opened the door to discussion. To then attack Jordan would be inappropriate. Further, Patty realizes that Jordan comprehends the impact of his actions. Most of all, Patty trusts Angela.

This is the last scene in which we see Patty, and we must remember the first scene in which we saw her: In the kitchen, clumsily and inhospitably offering a unopened block of cheese to Angela and her friends. Here, Patty has opened the kitchen to Jordan, making him sandwiches and all the milk, the symbolic food of motherhood, he can drink. In a different sense, Patty, too, has grown to comprehend the impact of her actions on others. Presently, Graham calls to tell Patty that they are in the restaurant business. Graham asks about Tony, and Patty chooses not to tell him that Tony never showed.

    "I have to admit, I'm somewhat jealous," Graham tells Patty.
 
    "Really? Well, I'm really glad." Patty replies.

Thus, Patty and Graham have had the opportunity to pursue their own dreams while preserving, in fact strengthening, their "reality." It is fitting that in the end the providers get to eat their cake and have it, too.

RAYANNE AND SHARON


The rival/friendship between Rayanne and Sharon culminates -- or perhaps begins -- in this final episode, with Sharon's recognition of Rayanne as a friend. The relationship between Sharon and Rayanne has progressed from the pilot episode, first as rivals for Angela's attention, then as grudging confidantes and finally as friends. Their affection for Angela, which initially separated them, now connects them, and we can confidently predict that their relationship will grow beyond Angela.

We can also predict that the new friendship will likely have more impact on Rayanne than Sharon, as it is the continuation of Rayanne's struggle to find herself. The scene in the Girls' Bathroom demonstrates that Rayanne is still struggling in a way that Angela and Rickie no longer are, and at the same time, reveals what is perhaps a large part of why Angela forgives Jordan more readily than Rayanne.

As discussed with "Betrayal," Rayanne's transgression with Jordan was the result of her relapse to drinking. From the first, Rayanne's behavior has been about herself. When she tells Patty what she has done, she realizes that she has hurt Angela, but her thoughts are about herself:

    "I guess you can't hurt someone this bad unless you mean a lot to them."

When she confronts Angela, her thinking is still self-centered:

    "I lost everything."

On the other hand, Jordan's first statement to Angela in apology indicates his realization that he hurt Angela:

    "I did an undefendable thing."

Further, Jordan comprehends the impact his behavior has had on others, particularly Angela. We know he is truly repentant. There have been no such realizations from Rayanne. In the Girls' Bathroom, Rayanne utters the last line we will ever hear her say, and it continues to center on self:

    "I screwed up."

Because her last line reiterates an attitude that stands between her an reconciliation with Angela, it necessary to admit that the friendship may never be repaired. We see evidence of this when Rayanne and Angela meet in the hallway. As much as we may wish for Angela and Rayanne to be reunited, MSCL is a realistic program, and in real life certain wrongs cannot be righted. However, things would be bleak indeed if we left Rayanne alone a window sill. She is troubled, but she is intelligent, perceptive and good-hearted. Sharon, perhaps more so than any other character, understands Rayanne. Her "duh squared" and an affectionate tug on a braid leaves us hopeful that Rayanne may be on the way to comprehending the impact of her actions on others, and that even if there is not rapprochement with Angela, she will not be alone.

 RICKIE AND DELIA


Delia's dream, that she and Rickie are dancing in a vegetable garden, resembles Sharon's in that it involves dancing with someone who is about to become a more significant part of her life. Delia and Rickie then encounter one another in the school hallway, and again in the Girls' Bathroom, "dancing" around one another, and "dancing" around the real issue, which is their feelings for one another. The "dance" culminates in their encounter in Mr. Katimski's apartment:

    "But um, you're gay, right?" Delia asks, after Rickie has suggested a date.
 
    "Well, I -- you know, I--"
 
    "I'm sorry. I didn't--"
 
    "No, It's okay--"
 
    "That came out so rude."
 
    "I try not to I don't like... yeah, I'm gay. I just don't usually say it like that."
 
    "How do you usually say it?"
 
    "I don't usually say it. I mean, I've actually never said it out loud."

Thus, Rickie admits to himself, and publicly, that he is gay. As Rickie and Delia leave to join the others for pizza, Rickie realized that he has accepted himself, and is capable of being accepted and respected by others.

RICKIE AND BRIAN


The important relationship for Rickie, however, is the one he has forged with Brian. Since Brian refused to implicate Rickie in the gun incident, their relationship has progressed, although for much of the story line, they have not been comfortable in initiating conversation.

    "Hey, Brian, could you like, pick a sentence and go with it?"

Both have justified talking to the other only as a last resort. Here, we see the relationship between Rickie and Brian fully mature. It is a man-to-man relationship where both are able to reveal their secrets without fear. Brian reveals to Rickie that he told Jordan what to say to Angela, and later, that he wrote Jordan's letter. Rickie reveals to Brian -- before he reveals to Delia -- that he is gay. As the relationship between Rickie and Brian has developed, Rickie has also experienced his "odyssey," which ended at Mr. Katimski's door. During that odyssey, Rickie found his "voice," and has since been a voice of strength. It is important to realize the "metamorphosis" of Rickie's voice from mere chorus to mediator and voice of reason because Rickie's is the "different voice" of MSCL. It is therefore highly significant that Rickie's voice finds its greatest strength in his relationship with Brian, symbol of the "mainstream."

ANGELA AND BRIAN -- AND JORDAN


While Jordan is gulping down all the milk in the Chase house, Angela confronts Brian about the letter, which he denies having written. Angela suspects she has been the butt of a joke, but gradually begins to understand:

    "Oh, God, I can't believe I fell for it! It's obviously a total lie!"
 
    "No, I meant every word. I mean the person who wrote it meant every word, probably."
 
    "Brian?"
 
    "I didn't write it!"
 
    "Brian, you said--"
 
    "Forget what I said! Forget this whole conversation!"
 
    "How?"
 
    "You liked it, though, right? It made it like, happy?"
 
    "Yeah."
 
    "Because that's probably all that, you know, matters."
 
    "To who?"
 
    "To you know, the person who wrote it."

Angela and Brian stand in the street under a lamplight, echoing their conversation in the street in the pilot episode. In the pilot, they are still children, the boy and girl next door. They stand across the street from one another, talking about the yearbook theme because the issues between them, like themselves, have yet to mature. Here, Angela and Brian have come full circle, and meet again under the lamplight, standing close -- close enough to kiss. Brian can no longer deny, if not declare, his true feelings for Angela, nor can Angela. Forget the conversation? How? Under the lamplight on the street where they grew up, they have left childhood and become adults. A moment later, Jordan comes out and Angela goes with him, leaving Brian behind on his bike, as she has so many times before.

THE MORAL OF THE TALE


As the camera fades to the closing credits, we may wonder, where is the moral? It is, where it so often has been in MSCL, directly in front of us: "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities." Patty dreams to escape, for just a little while, the reality of being "Angela's Mom." But Patty lived her dream once, and as attractive as it is, she prefers her reality. Graham dreams of doing what he does best, and having convinced his investors, he must now take the responsibility of making restaurant a reality. Rickie dreams of finding a place where he belongs, and with that dream comes the responsibility of speaking with one's own voice and accepting oneself, which he embraces fully. Rayanne dreams of being loved, and with that dream comes the responsibility of loving others, which sometimes means self-denial. Ironically, while she has been the catalyst for so much growth in the other characters, she has yet to reach her own dreams. However, we may be optimistic that Rayanne has started down that road.

Brian dreams of Angela, of being able to tell her he loves her, and being loved by her. His dream carries the responsibility of speaking his own words at his own time. He has never been able to do so, and his inability to speak when the chance is at hand is his great failing. However, he has begun to see the effect his words can have. In time, Brian will speak and be heard. Jordan dreams of having the right words to say, and with that dream comes the responsibility of finding his own words. As he grows beyond the label of "rudimentary reader with low literacy skills," he will gain confidence in his own voice.

Angela dreams of "sex or a conversation, ideally both." Thus, as the episode closes, she goes with Jordan, as, indeed, how can she not? To find her dream, she must leave behind childhood and face the responsibilities of adulthood. She must go with Jordan and leave Brian behind. The moral: In dreams begin responsibilities. If we have dreams, we have the responsibility to see that those dreams come true -- one's own happiness is one's highest moral achievement.

 

    Copyright 1997 William E. Blais.
    All Rights Reserved.

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“I cannot bring myself to eat a well-balanced meal in front of my mother.”

Angela Chase, Episode 1: "My So-Called Life (Pilot)"