Duel of the Dorks (#37 -Acting Up)

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Analyzing the cover: Riding those sweet, red “motor scooters” that will make everyone like them again. I do not recognize the girl in the middle with long hair. I wonder how often they changed models for these covers – sometimes it’s very noticeable that there are completely different people playing these parts for the photos.

The cheerleaders have had a lackluster showing at the latest game, as they watched the basketball team get slaughtered by the competition. It’s funny how the squad always seems to be having trouble getting their crap together during games, but any time they go to competitions they just miraculously clean up in the awards.

As they commiserate at the pizza place after the game, Diana comes by to taunt them. “You’ve heaped ignominy on the very head of Tarenton!” she cries. The squad talks about how St. Cloud has gotten rid of its male cheerleaders, and Diana implies co-ed squads are going out of fashion.

Jessica has been missing Patrick even though she is the one who dumped him. He and Tara have apparently kept their new romance on the down low, because Jessica is suspicious about them but doesn’t know for sure what’s going on. Tara doesn’t really care. “If Jessica was having second thoughts about Patrick, that was Jessica’s problem.”

Olivia’s annoying boyfriend David Douglas Duffy – 3D – has written a column about co-ed cheerleading squads and how they tend to do more risky stunts when guys are involved. He’s gotten a “hot tip” that Deep River, his alma mater, may be reverting to an all-girls squad, joining in on the latest trend. Coach Engborg says it’s true and that Deep River is getting rid of its guys, is training spotters, and is making the stunts simpler to cut down on possible injuries.

Olivia yells at David for not telling her the scoop on Deep River, and when he says he’s working on another hot story, she rages when he won’t tell her what it’s about. She knocks over his coffee cup of pencils on her way out of his office. “People who are crazy about each other don’t keep secrets.”

Diana sees Jessica practicing French in the library and hurries over to make fun of her accent and bad grammar. Diana is apparently an expert in French after spending one whole week in Paris three years before. Then she really goes for the jugular: “I mean, if I were on suspension and lost my boyfriend to a member of my cheering squad, I’d probably want to chuck it all and move to Alaska.”

Jessica misses the bus home and Patrick pulls over and offers her a ride in his van. Tara is inside too. The new couple talks the whole way home, but Jessica ignores them and hurries out of the vehicle as soon as he pulls in her driveway. Patrick feels bad, but Tara doesn’t have too much sympathy for her, telling Patrick that Jessica just needs to get over everything.

Olivia gets a call from former cheerleader and her ex-boyfriend Walt Manners, who says he is coming back to Tarenton. He’s taking a leave of absence from Columbia for the rest of the year and can return in the fall if he so chooses. He’s just too homesick and feels stuck in a classroom. He wants to work and make some of his own money. Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. If I could go back I’d tell myself to stay in college forever, or you know, as long as I could pay for it.

David Duffy has a new radio show for teens called “3-D’s Hits” where he will play music, interview performers and athletes, and then finish up with a gossip segment called “Rappin.” I didn’t think I could hate him more. The show is being advertised on flyers all around town, and there’s a story in the newspaper about it. When Olivia spots one of the pink flyers and goes to inspect it, she flips out that Duffy kept this a secret from her.

At practice Olivia is distracted by her rage over Duffy and ends up falling. She insists she’s okay, but Coach Engborg scolds them for not being more careful. She warns them about the possibility of “revamping” their methods, which they worry implies getting rid of the boys. Duffy walks in, and tells Olivia he thought she’d be proud of his new show and that he wanted to surprise her. She says she doesn’t like surprises. He wants her to go check out a new nightspot with him, but she says she already has a date and storms out.

Tara invites herself to go jogging with Peter, who enjoys his solitary runs. When she talks too much during their first run, he politely asks her to shut up, basically. She says she can tell he has a lot on his mind – worrying about the squad no longer being co-ed – and she wants him to confide in her if he needs to. He hopes she’ll just be a friend to him without interrupting his jogging.

Tara is so crazy about Patrick, she rides with him while he does his garbage collection on a Saturday morning. That is devotion. They go to lunch and then he brings her to school to get ready for the basketball game. He asks if she’s told her parents about him yet, and she says no. He says he hopes they would approve of him, and she says he’s just as good as anybody else in this town. They say more cheesy things and then start kissing, only to be interrupted by Sean knocking on the window. They look and see Sean, Olivia, Hope, Peter, and Jessica all there, having seen them kiss.

Tara and Jessica find themselves alone in the locker room, and Tara chatters on as if nothing’s wrong. Jessica tells her she doesn’t have to try so hard to be nice, she’s okay with everything because she’s the one who broke up with Patrick. Tara says okay, as long as Jessica’s really not jealous, and Jessica explodes that she is totally! not! jealous! “Anyone with eyes can see he’s just playing the field so he doesn’t get stuck in another no-win relationship like he did with me and Mary Ellen. No, I think it’s really important for him to date lots of other people, so he’ll get a better grip on himself and what he wants.” Jessica must have forgotten Patrick is a serial monogamist. Tara almost fesses up that actually, she and Patrick are really serious, but decides it’s better not to rub that in Jessica’s face. So instead, Tara says, “You’re right! Nothing like some variety in life. The guy’s just stuck on cheerleaders!”

Walt arrives during the game with Mary Ellen and Pres. Olivia lights up when she sees him. I assume stupid Duffy makes even Walt look like a winner in comparison. After the game, Walt tells Olivia he’s taking her to the nicest restaurant in town, the Manor. Mary Ellen scolds her that David would be crushed if he knew Olivia was going out with Walt at the same time he’s making his radio debut. Olivia says he doesn’t care about anything as much as he cares about himself. Walt comes back and says he just heard about this new radio show. His parents used to host a local TV show, so he really wants to listen to it with Olivia, and he can comment on how bad Duffy is.

The squad is split on their feelings as they listen to Duffy’s show. Tara likes it, Kate – Sean’s girlfriend – calls it dopey. Olivia calls it Duffy’s Drivel, which Walt likes. During the gossip portion, Duffy tells a long drawn-out story using fake names that is clearly about him and Olivia (“Nick” and “Amanda”), and how he knows Olivia’s been out with her ex-boyfriend (“Jerry”). The rest of the squad thinks it’s great, but Olivia is pissed and assures Walt that the story was about them. “You want to sue?” Walt jokes. He asks how serious she was with Duffy and if she’s going to dump him now that Walt is back. She’s surprised, and Walt asks how she feels about him. She doesn’t know – they haven’t been a couple in over 6 months. Walt thinks they’d still be pretty good together, and they kiss. He says he wants her to spend the next day “seeing the town” with him, even though he grew up there.

Olivia and Walt are at the mall when they run into Sean, Kate, Patrick, and Tara. The 5 of them leave Walt at a motorcycle sales and repair shop (in the mall?) asking for a job, and they all run into David Duffy by the food court. Duffy is annoyed that no one has asked him for his autograph. He asks Olivia what she thought of his show, and she says, “Interesting.” Then Walt comes running up saying he got the job. Olivia deliberately kisses him on the cheek in front of Duffy. Walt puts his arm around Olivia and tells Duffy that they plan to keep listening to his show. Duffy ignores him and asks Olivia to go get a soda with him so they can talk. Olivia doesn’t know what to do, so she bails on both guys, saying she needs to go talk to Coach Engborg. She drags Tara and Sean with her. Everyone leaves the two guys alone.
Duffy: “Guess you’re going to be sticking around Tarenton for awhile.”
Walt: “As long as it takes.”
Looks like we have a Duel of the Dorks incoming.

Patrick is the first to arrive at Tara’s house, where the group is going to gather to listen to Duffy’s show. Patrick tells her that he realizes that he was all about the chase and the challenge with Mary Ellen and Jessica, but with Tara it feels good to love someone who really loves him back. These people move fast. He gives her a box from Marnie’s, which contains a necklace chain. He takes off his school ring and puts the ring on the chain, then fastens it around her neck. And she starts to cry and says she loves him.

Everyone arrives, and Jessica almost immediately sees the ring around Tara’s neck. “It was proof positive that Jessica was out of the picture now, probably forever.” This edition of Duffy’s show involves call-ins from listeners, and then he goes into his new “gossip” story, which is about the only cheerleading squad left in the district that has guys and how times are changing because people only want all-girls squads. Jessica calls it “sexist nonsense” and Tara says he needs “a good lecture…. This is just his forum for saying he’d rather see girls running around in skimpy costumes than see really fine cheerleading.” The group argues about whether or not they should be worried that the squad is going to lose Sean and Peter, and if Duffy knows something they don’t.

Diana tries to rub it in Jessica’s face that Tara is wearing Patrick’s ring, but Jessica realizes that Tara and Patrick really are well-suited for each other. She’s even started noticing other guys, like a French exchange student Jean-Pierre. She silently thanks Diana for forcing her to recognize the reality of the situation.

Duffy ambushes Olivia outside of school, as he hasn’t been able to get her alone ever since Walt moved back to town. He tells her the gossip on his show is wildly embellished or even made up, but she yells at him for playing with people’s feelings, making people think Sean and Peter’s spots on the squad could be in jeopardy. The least he could do was tell her what was real and what was fake. Duffy says he calls the shots on his show without having to clear it with her or anyone, and she says that’s all she needs to know. “Your friends – if you have any, which I doubt – are just grist for your extraordinary creative mill, right?”

At the next practice, Coach Engborg says other schools such as Garrison and Edgemont are also letting their boy cheerleaders go. I seriously have a hard time seeing all these schools doing this in the middle to end of the school year. Engborg says not to read too much into it, Tarenton will still do its own thing.

An article in the school newspaper written by Diana’s friend, Betsy, suggests otherwise, asking who will be the female replacements on Tarenton’s squad and stating that auditions will be held next week. The girls confront Coach Engborg, who says it’s a work of fiction. The girls tell her if the boys are kicked off, they’re quitting too. After school they see Diana and five other girls dressed in leotards. Diana tells them these girls are all getting ready to try out for the squad, and they’d better watch out – the new girls might be so good that the whole squad is replaced, not just the boys. I’m so sure!

Walt is successful at his new job, having already sold a few motorcycles, scooters, and snowmobiles. He gets an idea to give the Tarenton cheerleaders a gimmick without having to get rid of their boys – riding scooters in the gym. He asks his boss to borrow three “red motor scooters.” He goes to Olivia’s house to talk to her about it, and she kisses him on the cheek in gratitude. Duffy calls while Walt is there, and Olivia tells her mom to say she’s sleeping. Walt wants her to dump him once and for all, but Olivia feels kind of bad for how she acted last time she saw Duffy. She really told him off.

Duffy had planned to beg Olivia to return to him – via their fake names from his gossip segment – on the air, but decides to do the decent thing and not talk about Olivia anymore on his show. He plans to write about new characters instead, and goes over to her house to tell her about it since she refuses to answer his calls. When he arrives, he goes up to the door and can see the shadows of Olivia and Walt standing in the foyer. He can hear Olivia telling Walt she likes him maybe more than she did last year, and Walt pulls her close and asks, “But do you love me, baby?” David sees the shadows of their two faces turn into one big blob of a shadow. David leaves sadly. “Stupidly, he’d been convinced that his relationship with Olivia would get better once he was on the air. Instead, he had driven her back toward the guy he thought she’d outgrown a long time ago.” Duffy nixes his plans to rewrite his monologue begging Olivia to take him back and forsake her ex-boyfriend. If she won’t talk to him in private, he’ll make his point publicly.

Walt feels bad about how everything has gone down, so he goes to the newspaper office and asks Duffy to let him buy lunch and have a professional chat. The subject of their discussion is revealed during the next radio show. Walt tells Olivia he can’t listen with the group as normal because he’s got to do something with his great-aunt. As the show starts, David says he has a “friend of a friend” as a guest to clear up some rumors. He introduces Walt under a fake name – Malt Sodas – and they clear up the fact that Tarenton, which has been disguised with the name “Jumping High,” isn’t really going to get rid of its male cheerleaders. Then they get into a discussion about who’s better for “Amanda” – Duffy gives an impassioned plea for “Nick” – himself – and Walt talks about why “Jerry” is the guy for her. “He loves her quietly; no drums, no trumpets,” Walt says.

The squad piles into Patrick’s van and drives to the radio station, where Walt and Duffy are walking out the door – not exactly friends but not enemies either. Olivia thanks Duffy for clearing up the rumor about the male cheerleaders, and then he asks “What about us, Livvy?” Walt asks the same question. Olivia tells Duffy that they need to cool it for awhile. Duffy apologizes for everything and says it isn’t the end for them. Olivia walks back to Walt, “her heart so full, she thought it might spill over.”

At the next game vs. Garrison, the new all-girls cheerleading squad at Garrison does a special cheer about how wonderful they are for being girls, or something. Then rock music plays and the Tarenton cheerleaders come out on 3 scooters, two people on each bike. They make circles with the bikes and then do their cheer to a roaring crowd. They do another routine with the motor scooters at halftime, and everyone loves it. They successfully overshadow the all-girls Garrison squad.

Other notes and quotes

  • Stupid hats worn by David Duffy in this book: an Australia bush hat, a Greek sailor’s cap, a cowboy hat, a Navy officer’s hat, and at the end, when he’s been proven wrong about the cheerleading squad, a dunce cap.
  • Jessica invites Jean-Pierre to their radio-listening session and he says yes.

Book Deets
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1987
Pages: 170

Grade: A

Next time on Cheerleaders… When the cheerleaders tangle with a mysterious fortune-teller, can anyone predict what happens? Read Cheerleaders #38, TALKING BACK.

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One thought on “Duel of the Dorks (#37 -Acting Up)

  1. Pingback: Third Cheerleader’s the Charm for Patrick (#36 – Changing Loves) – We've Got Spirit

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