Analyzing the cover: BRAIN EXPLODES
The squad is all gathered at the hospital for the senior blood drive. While waiting for their turn to give blood, the squad gives Mary Ellen an update on the latest development – Tarenton is getting a mascot and the squad is on a committee to develop it. “Deep River brought this guy dressed like a kangaroo to the last away game, with his kid brother in his pouch, and they were the hit of the evening. Nobody even cared who scored the most baskets!” After that fit of genius, Garrison brought someone dressed like an ape to their next game and it threw bananas at people, so now Tarenton wants to come up with something to top them all and is having a Rivals Game against St. Cloud where they will do a mascot contest.
Jessica says they’re making a giant, waterproof, paper-mache wolf, and the thing has battery-operated eyes and a tail. Shouldn’t they just make a costume for some guy to wear?
Speaking of wolves, David Duffy is working on a story for the paper about how a man walking his dog spotted a real-life wolf in Tarenton. Even though wolves haven’t been seen since “the turn of the century.” Duffy also makes a random comment about dinosaurs and polar ice caps melting. He’s strange.
Pres picks Mary Ellen up at the hospital, and even though they’re supposed to eat dinner at his parents’ house later, they decide to follow Olivia and David to Benny’s for a burger. Mary Ellen thinks about how great their marriage has been so far, how she was worried it would be a big mistake but nothing has changed for them. Right after that sentiment, they start arguing about how Pres has never had to worry about money like Mary Ellen, so he doesn’t understand her, and also about how Pres thinks blood donation is “gross.”
At the end of the night, Mary Ellen needs to go by her parents’ house, so Pres drops her off with the intention to go by Patrick’s and help him with the accounting books for the moving business. An hour later, Mary Ellen calls Patrick’s to talk to Pres, but Patrick says Pres still hasn’t shown up.
Sean and his girlfriend Kate are jokingly arguing about whose school is going to have the best mascot – Tarenton or St. Cloud – when they come across police lights and a wreck. Sean recognizes Pres’ Porsche immediately. Sean runs over to the ambulance asking if Pres is dead, and a worker says, “He’s not dead, but when he wakes up I bet he’ll wish he was.” Ummmm inappropriate.
A state trooper arrives at Mary Ellen’s parents’ house and tells her about the accident. Do cops routinely get sent out to inform families about non-fatal wrecks? I think a phone call would suffice. The cop says the wreck was not Pres’ fault, and he’s in the hospital. Pres is awake when Mary Ellen gets to his bedside. When she leaves his room, she sees Patrick arriving, and he comforts her. “Patrick – so good, so kind, always there when you needed him. Patrick, the one whom everybody in town had suspected she’d marry. Patrick, Pres’ best friend. His rugged face was creased with concern – for her.” That’s a weird response. In the fictional post-series world of Tarenton, these two will have an affair prior to Pres and Mary Ellen’s 1992 divorce. For sure. As Patrick is trying to get Mary Ellen to the cafeteria for some coffee, she overhears a doctor saying it will be a miracle if Pres ever walks again.
The next day, Mary Ellen goes by the cheerleaders’ practice and tells them that the driver who hit Pres is going to lose his license for a long time. She says Pres is still immobile, and they’ll know more after they can run some tests. Diana slinks in and says she’s surprised to see Mary Ellen there. “Imagine being married to somebody who’s going to be confined in a wheelchair the rest of his life. But he always was a crazy driver, wasn’t he?” she says. Where did this girl come from? Somebody should punch her in the face, but no one does. Everyone blows off Diana, who was looking to start their mascot committee meeting, so she decides to take things into her own hands and sabotage everything.
At the hospital, doctors do tests on Pres by sticking his feet with pins. He doesn’t feel anything. The doctor says it might not be permanent. Pres is pissed and pulls away from Mary Ellen, asking her to let him be by himself.
At the next mascot committee meeting, Diana has taken charge of everything and explains to the cheerleaders how it’s going to work. She chastises them for shirking their mascot responsibilities to go visit their “crippled” friend in the hospital. She spends the rest of the meeting berating everyone, including her dumb boyfriend Beef. Yes, his name is Beef.
Patrick visits Pres in his hospital room, where he tries to cheer Pres up. Pres isn’t having it, and since it’s only been like, a day, I can’t blame him. He says that Mary Ellen married him because he’s “a terrific physical specimen,” and now he’s a shell of what he used to be. Mary Ellen brings his new physical therapist Connie in, and he’s rude to her.
Kate, who has been master-minding the creation of the St. Cloud mascot – a man-sized cloud with sneakers and a basketball at the end of a lightning bolt – is avoiding Sean for the time being until the mascot can be unveiled. She’s worried she might accidentally spill details on the mascot to the cheerleaders or to Diana Tucker. Diana sees Kate and hints that Sean might be a spy, which makes Kate worried. The Tarenton group later freaks out when the wolf tail that Hope spent a lot of time creating disappears. Quelle horreur!
Pres goes home but has no will to try and get better. “Mary Ellen says he sleeps till noon, then watches soaps, reads the paper, and plays Solitaire until dinner.” Sounds pretty great to me! Sean comes up with the idea that they should stage a reunion with all of Pres’ old cheerleader friends from the original squad. Olivia of course loves this idea since she probably still secretly loves the old squad better than the new one.
Diana tells the mascot committee that she has dispatched two of their members to find out all they can on the mascot at St. Cloud before the Rivals Game. She also hints at a plan to sabotage St. Cloud. When she chastises Sean for dating the enemy, he happily quits the committee. The rest of the group feel they have to stay to make sure Diana doesn’t pull any dirty tricks. The next morning, the paper mache wolf, which the committee had locked up the previous night, is outside on the front steps of the school destroyed from the rain. Diana blames Sean and also says he was unaccounted for when the tail disappeared.
Mary Ellen and Olivia sit down to call Walt, Angie, and Nancy, and try to get them to come to Tarenton for Pres. Both Angie and Walt say they will come. When Nancy picks up the phone and Mary Ellen tells her who it is, Nancy says, “Mary who?” LOL. She quickly realizes though and asks how Mary Ellen’s sexy husband is doing. ME explains everything, and Nancy regretfully says she’s too busy to make the trip from Rhode Island. ME is pissed. “If all you can think about is your activities and your exciting life and yourself – “ Nancy explains she also doesn’t think she herself would be very inspirational to Pres since they were never close. ME says he did care about Nancy, and if she cares AT ALL about him, she’ll do it. Thoroughly guilt-tripped, Nancy says she will come. Is Mary Ellen at least going to pay for their plane tickets? Jeez.
With the surprise for Pres planned, he continues to be ornery and stubborn. Mary Ellen wants to sit on his lap but he says no because they’re at his parents’ house. She tries to convince him to go back to their apartment, but he doesn’t want to. The whole group shows up at his parents’ house, and he’s thrilled to see his old friends.
Tara and Nancy start talking about Pres’ personality change, and then Tara gets the bright idea to set up her old boyfriend/teacher Nick Stewart with Nancy. Tara comes right out and says she dated him until she found out he was a faculty member, and if I were Nancy that would send me out the door, but she doesn’t seem to mind.
Outside, Patrick and Walt somehow get Pres to play basketball with them in his wheelchair. But then he loses control of the chair and hits his head on the garage door. At that moment, Pres’ physical therapist Connie shows up. He says she wasn’t invited, and she tells him from now on she won’t bother to try and help him anymore. Mary Ellen says Connie was just doing reverse psychology on him and he should give her a chance, but Pres says maybe he’s happy with the way things are.
Both mascot committees get extra time to work on their mascots, and Diana wants to know what problems have arisen at St. Cloud. When she consults her spies, they are not much help: “It’s a cloud, Diana.” Diana wants more details – accessories, dimensions, etc. Meanwhile, Tarenton is trying to resurrect their messed-up wolf.
Pres gets the casts off his legs and is able to move his foot. Pres is encouraged until he finds his leg is not strong enough to stay propped up on its own. “He had failed. That was that. He wouldn’t try again.” When he and Mary Ellen get home, he is rude to her and she snaps back at him to be polite. “I didn’t realize I was being difficult. Just ignore me, why don’t you, and maybe I’ll go away,” he says. Mary Ellen finally flips out on him and says he hasn’t appreciated anything she’s done for him. She starts angrily making dinner, and he says he does give her credit, she’s the only girl in town who could stand to be around him. “Something inside him, some demon of sorrow and self pity, was making him say these things.” Mary Ellen tells him to make his own stupid dinner, grabs her coat, and leaves the apartment.
Sean and Kate are at Benny’s, teasing each other about spilling mascot secrets, when Mary Ellen walks in looking upset and gaunt. Hearing about what happened, Sean drives over to see Pres and begins to try and provoke a reaction out of him. He does so by insinuating that if Pres loses Mary Ellen, Sean will be first in line to go after her. Pres launches himself out of his wheelchair and lands on top of Sean, punching him. “Pres was crying and yelling, and finally, after a while, he just lay there, and he let Sean put his arms around his shoulders.” Sean says he will pick Pres up on Monday to go to physical therapy.
Nancy and Nick hit it off on their date, bonding over their mutual love of melted cheese. Even though Nancy will eventually have to go back to Brown, they want to spend every second together that they can.
Mary Ellen has been sleeping at her parents’ house, and so the gang works with Pres to get her to the medical center when he’s going in for his physical therapy appointment. Angie pretends to be having stomach pains and asks if Mary Ellen can go to the hospital with her. Mary Ellen walks in to see Pres doing exercises with Connie, and they embrace.
Pres does a 180 and puts all his energy into rehabilitation, even reading a book called “Mind over Muscles.” The new and old squads take Pres out to Jessica’s aunt’s horse farm, where her Aunt Madeline introduces Pres to a horse named Confidence that had broken its hind leg. She had been told by a vet to put it down and had a shotgun to its head when something made her decide instead to try and get the horse well. I guess this is some metaphor for Pres, though no one ever put a shotgun to his head. Pres decides he wants to ride Confidence, so everyone helps him mount the horse, and he trots around for awhile. He loses his balance when getting off and falls, but says he’s okay.
Pres keeps progressing at physical therapy and eventually takes his first steps since the accident. He is soon able to ditch the wheelchair and exclusively use crutches. Not long after, he’s able to drive his Porsche again.
The day of the Rivals Game, the squad gets to school and finds the Boss – their wolf mascot – missing. Diana immediately accuses Sean and says she’s going to have him suspended. Sean goes to Mrs. Oetjen’s office. Hope cuts class to go looking for the mascot, and comes back telling everyone she found it. The wolf is in a pickup truck at Beef’s house, which points directly to Diana being behind everything.
As the game gets started, Diana is literally dancing with anticipation of the cheerleaders being humiliated not having a mascot for the competition. But then, after St. Cloud presents its mascot, Olivia and the rest roll out their covered mascot and then present it to the judges. Mrs. Oetjen confronts Diana, who tries to blame Beef, but Beef tattles and says Diana put him up to it. Dumb ole Beef spills everything about how he and Diana stole the tail, left the mascot out in the rain, and then carted it to his house so that no one would know where it was, and how she had wanted to get a cheerleader kicked off the squad so Diana could fill the spot. Then everyone turns their attention back to the judges, who deliver a big old cop-out by declaring the contest a tie. The teams even end regulation in a tie, but Tarenton wins in overtime.
Pres drops Mary Ellen off at the victory party and heads home alone. She is worried about it, but everyone assures her he’ll be fine. When she gets home, though, his car is gone and he’s left her a note saying there’s something he has to go do and he’ll be back in a couple of days. DAYS?! No, that would not fly with me. She sees his hiking boots are gone, and they all freak out thinking he’s gone up to the hills even though that’s where a wolf was spotted. A big group, 12 in all, go out searching for him, and it’s Sean who finds him at sunrise, sitting on a rock. Pres says he saw the wolf, who just looked at him and then went away. The rest of the group catches up and Mary Ellen tells him to never do that again.Pres says he had to find out if he could walk – he couldn’t have just done that in like, his living room??? Pres says he’s been doing a lot of thinking and knows now that Mary Ellen loves him no matter what, and the real Pres is back for good.
Other notes and quotes
- When Diana is looking for her boyfriend Beef Driscoll, she yells, “Where’s the Beef?”
- Tara makes Pres brownies and forgets to put sugar in them. She says she’ll feed them to her dog, but I hope she didn’t because that would probably kill it.
- When the old group is all back together, Angie says it’s better than “chocolate cake with three scoops of ice cream, than a bucket of fried chicken, than pizza with everything on it.” Thanks for reminding us Angie loves to eat. Still shocked she never had an eating disorder storyline as much as everyone teased her about not being a size 0.
- Nancy and Nick despair over their imminent separation as Nancy prepares to return to school, but “they both felt something important had happened. Perhaps, even something lasting.”
Sign of the Times
- When Pres’ condition is unknown, Patrick tells Mary Ellen that Pres will probably be breakdancing in a week.
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Next time on Cheerleaders… Is it time for Tara to say no to cheerleading? Read Cheerleaders #33, SAYING NO.