Thank You For Smoking (#26 – Taking Over)

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Analyzing the cover: Olivia and Sean/Peter trying to stop Jessica from barging in on Slammer. I will never be able to tell those guys apart.

The regional cheerleading competition is coming up, and of course, the squad is not ready. Ardith rails against them, saying basically how much they suck. “Could you kids give me an inkling of why you went out for cheerleading?”

Jessica goes out to eat with Patrick and Pres, and a Garrison basketball player makes snide remarks about Tarenton’s team and its cheerleaders. “They couldn’t somersault their way out of a wet paper bag.” Good one. Jessica runs out crying.

At the next practice Ardith goes off on the squad again and says maybe they should drop out of regionals. Jessica loses her crap and tells coach all she does is criticize. Jessica leaves, and coach says anyone else who agrees with her can leave too. Practice ends and Olivia goes to talk to Ardith, who says she needs to have an operation on her knee, which she injured many years ago while running in college. She has been in a lot of pain and maybe has taken it out on the squad.

Olivia goes to Benny’s and tells the rest of the squad, who debate how long Ardith might be out of commission. Sean says they don’t need a coach, they do all the work anyway. “You’re an idiot, Sean,” Tara scoffs. Truer words. As they’re all sitting there, Patrick leans over and kisses Jessica. Their kiss is interrupted by a “hello” from a certain wannabe model who just happens to have walked in at that very moment. “Mary Ellen, who had had Patrick wrapped around her little finger until graduation day last year.” Pres and Olivia greet her enthusiastically, and Mary Ellen says she’s back in town bringing some runway samples to Mrs. Gunderson, her old boss at Marnie’s. Pres decides to give Mary Ellen a big kiss “to break the awkward silence,” but then they both get really into it. “It was almost as if she had come back to Tarenton just to stand there in the hamburger place and get kissed by Preston Tilford III.” Every girl’s dream I’m sure.

Olivia says maybe Mary Ellen can help them with their cheerleading problems since Ardith is going to be unavailable. Pres ushers Mary Ellen away and Patrick “felt nothing at all” when he watched her go. Good, we can officially declare this couple – Mary Elrick? PatrEllen? Matrick? – dead as a door nail. RIP 4evah.

Since Patrick and Pres are business partners and apparently attached at the hip, they along with Mary Ellen and Jessica all ride to the basketball game together. It’s not completely awkward, though Jessica is still intimidated by Mary Ellen and thinking about the fact that Patrick will be sitting with her the whole game.

Everyone goes to an impromptu party at basketball player Ray Elliott’s house after the game to celebrate the win. Tara has had her eye on Ray. Mary Ellen compliments Jessica on her cheerleading skillz, and Jessica can barely talk. “This practically famous and beautiful person was praising her!” Let’s simmer down now, ME is NOT famous except in her own mind.

For some reason Ardith is at their party and has a friend with her named Sam Akins, aka “Slammer.” He used to coach Little League so he thinks he’s qualified to preach to the basketball players about how they need to work harder and jump higher. All the cheerleaders feel uncomfortable in his presence.

Pres and ME drive to the lake, where she starts to cry and says how much she misses Tarenton. She says she doesn’t have any friends in New York, she shares a crappy, tiny apartment with 2 roommates and several cockroaches, she has to waitress because she’s not getting any good-paying modeling jobs and she’s not willing to sleep her way to the top. She’s not ready to give up on her dreams yet, though. They make out, and then Pres takes her home.

The cheerleaders find out that the douchey Slammer guy is going to be their “coach” while Ardith recovers from her operation, even though he’s never even been a cheerleader. At their first practice with him, he makes them run laps around the gym and do jumping jacks until they can’t breathe. He abruptly picks Olivia up to move her somewhere else for a routine and she almost falls. He addresses each member as “hey you” and is abrasive in his “observations.” The squad visits Ardith in the hospital after her operation, and Tara brings up how horrible Slammer is. “He treats us like we’re a ball team, like he can bully us into doing a good job, but we’re artists,” Olivia says. Ardith tells them they’ll survive, and they decide they will just do everything Slammer says for a week. If after one week of being submissive and obedient his attitude isn’t better, then they’ll unleash hell on him.

At the next practice, they all fall all over themselves to obey Slammer’s every harsh command. When Pres and Patrick walk in during the practice, Slammer angrily kicks them out for interrupting, even threatening to call the cops if they come back. Then when practice ends, he calls the squad “six losers” and says he’s starting them on a strict nutrition and exercise program to whip them into shape.

Jessica and Patrick go see a movie and happen to run into Pres and Mary Ellen. Jessica feels awkward and wants to leave, but Patrick says yes when Pres invites them for pizza with him and ME. That doesn’t work out too well either, with awkward silences and Mary Ellen stirring up bad feelings when she asks how the new cheerleading coach is working out. Pres suggests to ME that they not double date with those two ever again.

At the next practice, Slammer is really on a roll, making the squad take off their knee pads and removing the crash pads that they normally put out as a precaution. He insults every single member at some point, and when he goes after Hope, Peter has finally HAD IT. He says he doesn’t think Slammer has any idea what he’s doing, and then Slammer asks what kind of guy would become a cheerleader anyway? That pisses them all off, and when they do their next cheer, Slammer yells something which distracts Hope and she falls. She isn’t badly hurt, and Slammer blows it off as just a little spill and deflects when Tara says it was his fault. “If she can’t perform on Saturday I’ll sue that man,” Tara declares.

Slammer sneaks off to his office, and both Tara and Jessica want to go after him and tear into him. “I hate to sound like my father, but this is a man’s job,” Sean said. The girls stared at him in disbelief. Olivia says that it won’t go well if Sean does it, and Peter needs to take Hope home, so the remaining three girls will go in together.

The girls go in, and Slammer says he’s disappointed in them, any squad in the state could beat them. They tell him that his yelling and over-the-top criticism breaks their concentration, and they need encouragement. Slammer scoffs. “You’re all too sensitive.” Olivia says they’re done doing it his way, it’s not working and they’re miserable. Slammer says they just worry too much. Nothing the girls say gets through to him. They really should have sent in Sean.

Jessica forgot her bag in his office, so she runs back in to get it and catches him smoking. He had just lectured them on the perils of smoking and didn’t believe them when they all said they didn’t drink or smoke. It’s also against the rules to smoke on campus. Slammer tells her that snitches get stitches. Or maybe he just tells her that if she rats on him for smoking, she won’t compete in regionals.

If that isn’t bad enough, when Jessica approaches Patrick’s truck in the parking lot, she sees Mary Ellen in the passenger seat, touching Patrick’s cheek. “How dare he even consider seeing that rotten, beautiful girl again?” She storms to another side of the parking lot, and misses seeing Pres retrieving ME from Patrick’s truck and walking her to his Porsche. Patrick comes over and surprises Jessica from behind, and she lays into him about Mary Ellen. He tells her she’s insecure, and does she want him to hibernate and not talk to any other girl? Patrick says maybe he is still crazy about Mary Ellen, but she knows that’s not true and he just said it to hurt her. She runs over and jumps in Sean’s car, where Tara and Olivia also are. On the way home, Jessica suggests they practice together for the next three nights and get advice from Pres and Mary Ellen.

At their special practice, Pres and Mary Ellen arrive with Patrick in tow. After the practice, Patrick and Jessica both say they just need a little time before they talk. Jessica and Mary Ellen have a little standoff as well where Mary Ellen tries to imply to Jessica that Jessica doesn’t need to worry about Mary Ellen anymore.

Mary Ellen ends up leaving a week early because she got a commercial audition back in NYC. Pres is upset because he wanted to talk about the future, and she says it will have to wait. He says he thinks he loves her. Oh brother. These two are perfect for each other though.

Slammer makes the poor drama kids move all their props for the school play off the stage in the auditorium, because he wants the cheerleaders to practice in the same environment where they’ll be competing at regionals. The ever-present Pres and Patrick are there to help move stuff too. During their practice, something in the wings off stage catches fire, and pretty quickly the flames spread. There’s so much smoke that when most of them get out, they don’t see Jessica, so Tara runs back in to find her. Sean goes after her and ends up finding both of them sick with smoke inhalation. They finally escape, and everyone congregates in the parking lot. As the police chief and principal talk about what happened, Slammer comes over and accuses Pres and Patrick of “handling matches” earlier. They do have matches, which they use to sear nylon ropes, and the chief marches them over to his car and takes them to the police station for questioning. LOL okay.

Jessica goes to the station and filled with worst-case-scenario visions of Patrick in handcuffs, demands to see the police chief. She says she saw Pres and Patrick dispose of matches they used in water, and that someone else, perhaps someone who SMOKES, would have had matches too. Slammer admits he smoked at one point, and the fire captain says they did discover a cigarette butt in the backstage area near paint and turpentine. Slammer insists he stomped out the butt, but the captain says obviously not good enough.

Principal Oetjen says Slammer will have nothing to do with the squad anymore, and Olivia says they don’t need a coach at regionals, “just each other.” Somehow Tara, who has been hospitalized, is well enough to compete, and Coach Engborg even shows up too, in her wheelchair. They compete and shockingly come in second place, but they do win the prize for Most Team Spirit.

Other notes and quotes

  • “Tara stood on her head for a moment and wondered why she wasn’t more interesting.” I do that all the time, just standing on my head, thinking bout life.

Sign of the Times

  1. Someone put a cassette into “the tape machine”
  2. Patrick and Jessica go out to see a movie and the tickets are $4 each

Book Deets
Author: The cover says Jennifer Sarasin, the copyright page says Judith Sachs, is this the same person? I am sooooo confused.
Year: 1987
Page: 172

Grade: C

Next time on Cheerleaders… Will the New Orleans Mardi Gras be too hot for the cheerleaders to handle? Read Cheerleaders #27, SPRING FEVER.

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One thought on “Thank You For Smoking (#26 – Taking Over)

  1. Pingback: All’s Fair in Love and Cheerleading (#25 – Stealing Secrets) – We've Got Spirit

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