Analyzing the cover: I guess this is supposed to be Mary Ellen and not some 40-year-old admiring herself in the mirror, but I have my doubts.
Jessica and Melissa are the only cheerleaders without dates after the latest basketball game. They go to Dopey’s together for a hamburger, and Jessica talks about how relieved she is not to be tied down to any guy after breaking up with Patrick. As she’s about to pay at the register, a really hot guy accidentally steps on her foot, then hits on her. She is annoyed. Melissa comes out from the bathroom, and Jessica tells her about the gorgeous guy who knows all too well how good he looks.
Patrick picks up Tara and says he needs to drop off an armchair at Mary Ellen and Pres’s house. Is he obsessed with those two, or what? At their place, Tara feels non-glamorous (just like Jessica did, ugh) as she’s still in her uniform while Mary Ellen is wearing the latest fashions. Pres raves about Patrick’s photography, and Pat says he likes taking pictures of his cheerleader, meaning Tara. Weirdo Mary Ellen takes that opportunity to say how her parents still have some great photos that Patrick took of her when she was a cheerleader. Tara notes in her head that Patrick sure does like the girls in red and white. “It was true, she was cheerleader number three in his life. He had gone from one to the other, and now her.”
Peter gets home from a double date with Sean to find his mom not home. She finally gets in past 1 a.m., saying the new hospital administrator Ben Eldridge offered her dinner after she worked long hours. Peter thinks this is very strange.
Melissa is practicing ballet at Bodyworks when she sees a gorgeous male gymnast across the hall. She keeps thinking about him as she works out, then notices him in the doorway, watching her. He introduces himself as Todd Eldridge, new guy in town, and says he hopes they have some classes together. Melissa already has a huge crush, even if Todd did kind of brag about the rich neighborhood he lives in, next door to Pres Tilford’s parents. She’s got it so bad already she drives past his house to see what it looks like. Just… no. Did I do this in high school? …. Maybe. Do I cringe in shame at the memory? YES.
Tara decides to make over her bedroom to be more sophisticated, like Mary Ellen. She spends the day buying new furniture and rearranging her room. When all is said and done, she feels better about herself. “It may not be as great as Mary Ellen’s place, but it’s better than Jessica’s.”
Peter and Sean go out with Kate and the new girl Peter is seeing, Corey, at Pinelands Spa to play tennis. There they run into Todd, who Peter immediately does not like. He wonders if Todd gets his self-centeredness from his father, Ben, the hospital director.
At school, Jessica has the same French class as Todd and realizes he’s the guy who stepped on her foot at Dopey’s. Todd likes how demure Jessica is, the opposite of Melissa, who he’s seen driving past his house a couple times. He likes the attention, but prefers a challenge. After class, he finds Melissa and flirts with her as they walk to their next classes. Peter and Sean see them, and Sean admires how Todd doesn’t waste any time. Peter is doubtful: “Melissa can’t handle a guy like him. He’s way out of her league.” Dang, Peter. Way harsh. Peter thinks Todd is up to something. Tara, who has come to school with her hair in a french braid and dressy clothes, almost slips in her high heels as she walks past Sean and Peter, and Sean has to help catch her. Sean calls her “Glamour Girl.”
The squad talks about Todd, who has come into the gym during their practice. Jessica can’t believe all these girls are falling all over him. “He’s so obvious, no one can take him seriously. You know that type, right Sean?” Haha. Melissa thinks no one understands Todd like her. Oh brother.
The girls give Tara a hard time about her fancy hair and outfit, and she tells them all to shove it. Melissa tries to wait around for Todd after practice, but Peter warns her about Todd and offers her a ride home. Jessica is the one waiting outside for her mother when Todd pulls up in his car. He says Coach was looking for her with a message from her mom that she got caught up at work. He asks Jessica to show him around town, and he ends up trying to park with her. He kisses her, and she tells him to take her home.
Todd is obsessed with Jessica, but still loves the adoring way Melissa looks at him. After a session at Bodyworks, he kisses Melissa and asks her to watch him at the next gymnastics demonstration. Peter and Sean see this happen as they drive by. Peter’s mom is continuing to go out with Todd’s dad, which makes Peter squirm.
The next day at school, Todd is waiting for Melissa at her locker and has a gift for her – a sweatshirt with ballerina slippers on them. Sweet. After they part, he finds Jessica and asks to walk to French with her.
At the gymnastics demo, Todd is jealous when he sees Jessica walk in with Sean and Peter: “She’d soon see that he was twice the man either of those guys were. Even if thing didn’t work out with the cute senior cheerleader, he always had Melissa.” Sean says he hopes Jessica knows to see through him, and Peter remarks that Todd is coming on strong to Melissa too. Jessica thought Melissa would have more sense than to fall for his lines.
Despite all this talk, Jessica agrees to get a Coke with him after school. She kind of likes that the guy the whole school is talking about is paying her attention. In the locker room, Todd asks Sean if either he or Peter is interested in Jessica. When Sean says he’s dating Kate, who Todd met at the Pinelands Spa, Todd remarks she doesn’t seem like Sean’s type. Sean is tempted to rip his head off, but simply says, “You don’t know her.” Todd backtracks, and Sean asks about Melissa. “Don’t tell me you never went after more than one at a time, Dubrow,” Todd says. Sean concedes that maybe he did. Todd also mentions something about running errands for his mother – his parents are still married, even though Peter’s mom has been seeing Todd’s dad? Sean makes a mental note.
After their Coke date, Todd kisses Jessica again, and this time she agrees to let him take her home after practice the next day. When Melissa sees Todd at Bodyworks again, he continues to overtly flirt with her, keeping her on the hook: “Nobody in Tarenton was lucky as she was.”
Peter gets in an argument with his mom after she suggests he makes friends with Todd. Todd’s father has been telling her how he wants Todd to fit in and get to know people. Peter says Todd is an idiot and his mom only cares because the Eldridges are rich.
Tara runs into Mary Ellen at Marnie’s where she has been buying a bunch of new clothes. Mary Ellen mentions a photography exhibit at the junior college that Patrick was excited about, and asks if Tara will go even though it’s a school night. “I’m not a child, Mary Ellen! Of course I’ll be there.” Pretty sure Jessica and ME had this same exchange in the past. Tara is upset that Patrick never told her about it. She confronts him, and he said he didn’t think she’d be interested. Tara yells at him that she’s tired of hearing about Mary Ellen and she’s not just another cheerleader. Patrick is super confused what she’s talking about, and tries to calm her down with a kiss.
The squad has a bad practice, and Hope suggests a girls’ night so they can all bond with each other again. Tara thinks she’s outgrown that kind of stuff. Instead she’s going to the photography exhibit, a lecture, and asks Patrick to show her how he develops film in his dark room.
Todd asks Jessica to go with him to Dopey’s after school, but she has cheerleading practice that she can’t skip. He’s upset that Jessica doesn’t seem to be desperate for him, so he asks Melissa to skip instead. She won’t do it either, but he kisses her in front of Diana Tucker and Holly Hudson and hopes the word gets back to Jessica. He meets up with Jessica after practice, and they talk about what must be Tarenton’s 100th game against Garrison that season. He wants to take Jessica on a date after the game, and she says yes.
Later, Todd is at Bodyworks with Melissa again and helps her with some of the cheerleader moves that are causing her problems. He realizes he likes her too, and hopes somehow he can keep his two-timing under wraps. Todd suggests maybe she should quit the squad and join gymnastics with him, then asks her to go to the pep rally with him Friday night. Peter comes by and tries to warn Melissa again, who proclaims that she’s 16 and it’s about time she falls in love. Her response to Peter reminds me of that scene in “The Little Mermaid” – “But Daddy I love him!!!” Meanwhile Jessica thinks to herself that she’s actually having fun with Todd because he doesn’t know the meaning of the word love. She feels no pressure. She just worries Melissa might get hurt.
Peter meets Ben Eldridge and tries not to vomit all over him. He complains about it later to Sean, who still hasn’t told him that Todd’s parents are still married. Then they run into a blonde woman who asks them if they know Todd, and to pass along a French textbook he left at home. Peter puts it together that this is Todd’s mother, and that Sean already knew that Todd’s dad was married. Peter is furious with everyone and leaves. He wonders if his mom already knows she’s seeing a married man.
Sean makes an excuse for Peter at their practice with the pompon squad. The two groups are doing a special performance together. Coach asks Todd to fill in for Peter, but Todd doesn’t want to do it because then he’d be smack in the middle of Melissa and Jessica. His gymnastics coach makes him go, and so he does his best to avoid eye contact with both girls. “He felt like he was in a soap opera.” Peter finally shows up and tries to murder Todd with his eyes.
After another bumbling practice, Tara tells the girls she’s skipping their sleepover for more important things. Melissa tells Jessica she’s thinking of quitting the squad because she’s just not comfortable, and Todd has her considering the gymnastics team. She admits she and Todd are seeing each other a little and raves about how wonderful he is. Jessica can’t believe Melissa is letting Todd talk her into quitting cheerleading: “Melissa, you’re not the only girl in the world. Todd’s been taking me out every afternoon.” Melissa says Jessica doesn’t care about him the way she does, and that Jessica said she didn’t want anything serious. “Todd’s proven he isn’t serious, wouldn’t you say? “ Jessica asks. Melissa runs away.
Jessica cancels her date with Todd, which he takes as encouragement that she’s jealous. Melissa asks him about Jessica, and he plays it off as just a few causal Coke dates. He keeps encouraging her to switch to gymnastics since she’s only an alternate on the cheer squad. After the group does their performance with the pompon squad, Melissa tells Coach she wants to quit. Coach offers her a few days to change her mind, but Melissa doesn’t think she will. She leaves with Todd.
Tara goes with Patrick to develop film, and the process drags on way too long for her liking. She asks if he would have liked her if she wasn’t a cheerleader, and he says of course he would. “Sometimes I feel like I’m dating a stranger. I’d like Tara Armstrong back,” he says.
Peter is all set to confront his mom when she comes in with a man named Matthew Lanza. She says Matt is the hospital’s PR director, part of the team that has been working so hard with Dr. Eldridge. They’ve all had to work long hours the last few weeks. Peter’s mom says since they are done with their project, she’s invited the Eldridges and Matt over for dinner. It turns out his mom is actually dating Matt. She says Ben Eldridge is happily married and laughs that Peter ever thought that’s who she was dating.
Jessica tries to guilt trip Melissa about quitting the squad and says the only reason Todd wants to separate her from the squad is so he can continue to date her and Melissa both without conflict. Melissa yells at Jessica for trying to steal Todd. This girl is a lost cause.
After the basketball game, Jessica and Todd go to Dopey’s, and Peter convinces Melissa to go there with him and talk. Jessica has a plan. As Peter and Melissa pull up to Dopey’s, Todd pulls Jessica into a kiss. Melissa is mad at Jessica, but Peter points out, “It’s about time you realized it isn’t Jessica’s doing, it’s Todd’s.”
Jessica hosts the planned sleepover, unsure if Melissa or Tara will come. Tara is getting tired of playing sophisticated lady, but she wants to prove herself by attending a lecture with Patrick, Pres, and Mary Ellen. Melissa does show up to the sleepover and says she’s fine, maybe Todd was more Jessica’s type than hers. Jessica proclaims that they are both too good for Todd. “He kept telling me I was his ‘one and only,'” Melissa says. “How corny can you get?” Todd actually shows up to the house, and Jessica’s stepdad says Todd wants to see “his one and only.” Jessica and Melissa march to the front door. “Here we are, Todd. You said you wanted to see your one and only, but we’re a little confused. Which one and only did you mean?” Todd groans, and Melissa tells him she’s staying on the squad where she belongs. Todd says he’s sorry and leaves.
Tara is terribly overdressed for the lecture and feels like a moron. She almost starts to cry, so Patrick takes her outside and asks if she wants to break up, if that’s why she came – to meet someone else. She says she came to learn more about photography, she wants to know something Mary Ellen and Jessica didn’t. They’re both so perfect and pretty, and Tara wants to be special. Patrick says he’s been confused by her all week, and they have something deeper than he did with Mary Ellen or Jessica. Tara asks if “the old Tara” could have a ride to Jessica’s for the sleepover. Patrick makes her promise to talk to him about her feelings next time. He drops her off at Jessica’s, where she asks the girls to help her take out her french braid and update her on the latest gossip.
Other notes and quotes
- Tara wants to modify her cheerleading moves so that her french braid won’t get messed up. This causes problems when she’s not “springy” enough.
- Olivia mentions going on a date with Walt, but no mention of Duffy. If only that absence could last forever.
- Hope is also still seeing bad boy Tough Tony Pell.
Author: Leslie Davis
Next time on Cheerleaders… Is the best way to prove that you are mature enough for true love to quit the team? Read Cheerleaders #40, GETTING SERIOUS.