Meet Marla Depew, the latest contributor for Beverly Hills, 9021-Whoa! Marla is a Chicago-based stand-up comedian producing a few shows throughout the city including Just Dickin' Around at Hydrate in Boystown and Laughs in the Lounge in Rogers Park. In addition to being funny on stage, she's quite the wordsmith penning Bachelor feminist fan fiction on her blog, Will You Accept This Prose.
Ah, the Peach Pit: home of burgers and fries, a wholesomely dashing teenager racking up Real Life Skills®, and a curmudgeonly high school history teacher who, despite his hifalutin ‘tude and out-of-place formal wear, enjoys diner food on the regular. Welcome to Episode 6: Higher Learning! Brandon’s working his shift at the aforementioned eatery and spots his history teacher, Mr. Denzel/Danzel (they pronounced his name multiple ways throughout the episode). After Brandon serves him his meal, the two start talking about the quiz coming up. Brandon’s overconfident and the teacher’s amusedly smug. FORESHADOWING.
Remember when I mentioned foreshadowing? I was right. Brandon gets his quiz back and there’s a big red C where he thought there would be an A. Guess what ol’ Denzel/Danzel/Grades on a Curve-zel has to say about that? “C for average; C for mediocrity; C for just getting by.” By the look on Brandon’s face, he’s thinking C for Can’t Even Deal. Guess who got an A? Steve “Let’s Goof Off and Talk About Chicks and I’m Still Super Two-Dimensional” Sanders (which Brandon pronounces “Saunders” at one point). A for Ain’t No Way.
Andrea (who Brandon calls “Andrea”) wants to study for the next quiz with Brandon. Of course she does.
Meanwhile, Brenda and Kelly just so happen to run into Dylan in the hall and pop this question: “What do you think guys like best on girls—long or short hair?” Dylan furrows his brow while still managing to raise one eyebrow independently from the furrow and drawls, “I prefer blondes…” The catch, other than him not answering the question correctly: he’s looking directly at Brenda. You guys. She’s a brunette. Kelly’s a blonde. And Kelly is J for Jealous.
Next thing we know, Brenda’s at home looking at herself in the mirror and fantasizing that she has Rapunzel-like tresses if Rapunzel got regular perms and never used anti-frizz spray. Guess who’s behind her in the mirror gazing longingly at her locks? Dylan. Guess who’s actually behind her? Her mom. A for Awkward.
Some good news: Andrea gets her wish and she’s studying with Brandon, who has the decency to pronounce her name correctly from here on out. The bad news: they get in a fight because Andrea’s a know-it-all and Brandon lobs a few insults at her about it, namely “business-like” and “condescending.” T for Truth. Andrea’s outta here like last year.
The next day, Steve and Brandon are hanging out by Steve’s pool talking about what most teenage boys talk about: divorce. When that Real Talk® convo has run its course, the subject shifts to the history quiz. Steve seems to know the contents of the quiz and tells Brandon what to memorize. When Quiz Day rolls around, Brandon notices that the questions are verbatim to what Steve told him the day before. S for Suspicious.
Cut to Brenda, Kelly, and Donna gathered around the mirror in the school bathroom. Brenda hates her hair and Kelly tells her to change it. She’s got more than suggestions; she’s got solutions. A guy on Rodeo Drive will cut it…for $300. In 1990. According to the inflation calculator on dollartimes.com, that would be $558.63 today. I’ll stick to the Hair Cuttery. $30 including tip and they know how to work with my cowlicks. In other news, Donna puts two contacts in one eye.
Brandon spots Denzel/Danzel at the Peach Pit again. He’s feeling guilty because he now knows that Steve stole copies of the quiz. He doesn’t feel guilty enough, though—the next day he aces the quiz and gets praised for it. Now Andrea wants to study with him because she got a C, which throws her into such a tizzy that she convinces herself that she’ll have to forgo Yale for West Beverly Community College. O for Overreaction.
Ruh-roh, y’all: Brenda sees Kelly and Dylan flirting in the hallway. It’s gotta be because Kelly has the hair of a Norse Goddess. Brenda pleads with her mom to let her get her hair dyed, but Cindy won’t budge. Her daughter doesn’t need to change!
At least one of the twins is golden: Golden Boy Brandon, who arrives home to a deluge of praise for acing his quizzes. He downplays it, then lurks on the stairwell as his parents continue talking amongst themselves about his intellectual prowess. F for Feeling Guilty.
When the next quiz day rolls around, Brandon’s swapped feeling guilty for feeling cavalier, slipping the cheat sheet super obviously from a book under his desk. Andrea sees him, not only because she wears glasses but also because she has eyes. When class lets out, she tearfully confronts him. “You were the one person around here–“ she chokes out before storming off to spend the rest of her words on a writer for the Beverly Beat who didn’t cheat on a quiz and break her Nerd Heart® in the process.
Later, Kelly comes over to the Walsh house for a BBQ where the discussion of Brandon’s grades is on the menu. Kelly doesn’t mind even though the twins do. “At least you’re discussing something,” she declares wistfully. S for Secret Shitty Home Life.
After the BBQ, Brenda gets her wish: Kelly dyes her hair and doesn’t even charge her. Apparently the process takes all night, but Brenda doesn’t care—she’ll finally be the Norse Goddess of Dylan’s Dreams! And then she wakes up and looks like the Golden Oreo version of a skunk. Luckily she has a quintessential ‘90s hat with a giant flower in the front. Those make everything better.
Before school starts, Brandon chooses the open-air courtyard to admit to Dylan that he’s been cheating on his history quizzes. Dylan, ever the wise 30-year-old high school student, warns him to watch out. He also divulges that Denzel/Danzel is about to retire. A for AARP.
The courtyard’s abuzz with truths and non-truths on this California morning. Kelly and Donna find Brenda and can’t wait to see her hair. When Brenda reluctantly takes off her giant hat, the two natural-ish blondes doa terrible job of telling her she looks great. She does not.
Over in Cheaterland, Brandon’s back to feeling guilty. He’s also avoiding Steve, who keeps reminding him that the midterm’s coming up. Andrea finds Brandon just to reiterate how angry she still is with him. When they get to class, Denzel/Danzel asks Brandon something about the Native Americans that wasn’t on the quiz…and Brandon doesn’t know the answers. Guess who does? Andrea. T for Typical.
Back at the Walsh house, Brenda’s hair still looks hideous so her mom comforts her with tales of her own struggles to fit in. When Cindy was 17, she and her friend ironed their hair to fit in with the “I Wish They All Could Be California Girls” standard of the time. Apparently the Beach Boys didn’t realize the pressures they’d unleashed on the impressionable female population that translated into Cindy’s friend’s hair catching on fire and then being doused in peroxide. Cindy doesn’t want the same heartache and hairache for Brenda. “Don’t you know how beautiful you are?” she croons to her scowling daughter. Brenda is U for Unconvinced.
Guess whose persistence could be better used studying than trying to convince Brandon to cheat? Steve, who’s at the Peach Pit trying to convince Brandon to cheat. He slips him the answers right as Denzel/Danzel rolls in for his daily dose of grease. Brandon’s getting warier by the day: apparently his career as a future corporate mogul rides on these quizzes just like Andrea’s dreams of Yale do.
Mealtime’s over but the drama isn’t. Looks like Denzel/Danzel has a flat tire, and Brandon just happens to know how to change one. Then, just when we think Denzel/Danzel’s a smug, emotionless automaton in a three-piece suit, he starts opening up to Brandon: he doesn’t like his clothes, either, but his wife picked them out for him. Past tense. She’s obviously dead. Brandon sees the tears in his eyes and begins to thaw like a banana split he forgot under the heat lamp. As he walks away, he accidentally drops the cheat sheet, which is conveniently folded, and Denzel/Danzel picks it up and hands it to him. M for Moral Dilemma.
Next, we see Andrea studying in the library, which is probably the setting for all of her erotic dreams. Brandon walks over to her and they immediately start arguing about cheating. Andrea’s not backing down from her Position of Judgment, while Brandon’s trying to convince her he’s acting in a “gray area.” The only thing gray in that area is Denzel/Danzel’s hair.
Now we’re back to Brenda, who goes for a run with her hair down. A motorcycle passes her before making a U-turn and rumbling up next to her. It’s Dylan, and that rumbling motorcycle matches the rumble in her loins. He notices that she changed her hair, then declares that he likes “blondes, brunettes, redheads, girls in tank tops…” You guys. Brenda’s wearing a tank top. Somewhere Kelly’s nose job is scrunched up with envy.
Brenda admits she hates her hair and lo and behold, Dylan has a friend who does hair. He tells her he’ll take her there, but not before Brenda pulls a Freudian Slip 101. “I like your butt. I mean your bike.” Dylan’s allergic to smiling but you can tell he likes that. “Hop on. My bike, that is.”
Later that night Brenda comes home with her old hair again. She’s found self-acceptance now that she knows Dylan also likes brunettes. Brandon also comes home with something he previously had: his conscience.
It’s the day of the midterm, y’all. Andrea and Brandon awkwardly talk in the hallway and admit that they were both up all night studying. They apologize to each other in the third person. S for Sexual Tension.
Next up: Brandon finds Steve and tells him he’s not going to cheat. Steve is incredulous, which is not a word he knows. Andrea’s proud of Brandon and mouths “good luck” to him, and he responds with a twinkly-eyed grin because, unlike his best friend, he’s not allergic to smiling. Donna arrives in a tiered jean crop top just in time to hear Denzel/Danzel’s instructions for the midterm: tear up the test. Instead, each student only needs to answer one essay question: “What do you think the government should’ve done in the 19th century to save the American people?” R for Relief.