Spring break, ah, that id-based holiday. That time of the calendar year when those with hormones raging participate in all things debauched and bacchanal. Is morally dubious at play? Oh, I don’t know, does cocaine smell good? In the seventh and eighth episodes of Clone High (Max) titled “Spring Broke” and “Sexy-Ed”, the clones go on a gambol in the desert and love doctors C.J. Scudworth and Candide Simpson gamble with budding teenage romance.
In the seventh episode, “Spring Broke”, Confucius (Kelvin Yu) and the gang are en route to Arroyo Fest. While Abe (Will Forte) sulks, Joan swaps spit with JFK, Topher (Neil Casey) enjoys some seafood, and Frida (Vicci Martinez) gets hyped for teen pop phenom Mila Brûlée, shockingly finding common ground with Cleo (Mitra Jouhari). What are the odds? Harriet (Ayo Edebiri) is stoked because a secret admirer of hers is attending, so Arroyo or bust!
Joan (Nicole Sullivan) asks JFK (Christopher Miller) out on a date to get a better understanding of him, as the couple knows only one meaning of the word deeper. Mere miles away from the Fest, the bus literally overcomes one trope only to be done in by a more ludicrous one. It’s a quick buildup-punchline sight-gag to cap the cold open and I’m here for it. Putting on her best Captain Miller, Joan’s in a daze, observing the mayhem. Peanut butter anyone? Scudworth (Phil Lord) and Mr. B make haste with all the supplies. With a “JFK, R U OK?” expelled from Joan’s lips, I’m thinking this could get funky.
JFK’s brain increased in size as a result of the crash and if they’re taking this into Flowers for Algernon territory, I’m here for it.
Cleo and Frida refuse to lose with Miss Brûlée as the only thing that matters, so they conscript Abe. Topher warns of the hills having eyes, but nobody’s worrying at the moment. Further away, a very pronounced JFK proves more useful and understanding than he’s ever been. The explanation is silly, but it’s giving Joan the vapors. Like life itself, there’s always a catch. The lack of sun drains JFK’s newfound mental acuity and consequently Joan’s interest. It’s not time for her to jump back into the deep end of the denial pool.
Cleo and Frida are baking in the sun with janky, maudlin third wheel Abe. Ditching him was the plan, but the local cannibals had other ideas. JFK triangulates, but it’s of no use. Even more useless is Harriet’s contact, most likely a catfish. Even Joan and her temporary King of Camelot know time’s running out. The scorching, arid gully isn’t enough to keep JFK smart. They need more radiant heat, and though Confucius’s roundabout admission warms Harriet’s heart, JFK’s minutes are numbered.
He provides Confucius with emotional counsel before once again going for the ping to Frida. Her, Cleo, and Abe staving off the hoard is tough work, so that’s a no-go. JFK once again experiences a lapse in intellect and grows acutely aware of his predicament. He’s down for the count, but though Joan’s holding his head like in the back seat during that ‘infamous incident’, this is his story she doesn’t want to repeat.
After a bit of the ole ‘toot-toot’, Scudworth and Mr. B are riding high in every conceivable fashion. Like every good blowout, the party must invariably come to a crashing end, right? Fuck that. With nostrils like Hoovers, Scudworth, and Mr. B wreck house. They’re on a Fear and Loathing trip, treating Vegas as if it were their own personal Miami, giving way to one of the weirder, more psychedelic sequences.
The heavens open up vengeful clouds because you can’t stop what’s coming, only ride the wave. The desert missed the rain like JFK missed cracking juvenile and the final act Force Majeure unites all, literally as the flash flood leads to Arroyo Fest. There, waiting looking like the May Queen is Mila Brûlée to kick off the festivities. While Cleo and Frida snag a better view, at the charging station, Harriet shows up to Confucius’s party of none. Abe sacks up, apologizing to his bestie Joan. Friends once again, a crisis averted, inevitability doesn’t always have to end on a sour note, but if the cold open joke was a portent, shit’s about to get funkier.
In episode eight titled, “Sexy-Ed“, all mourn the death of JoanFK. They will jointly take care of the class tortoise, poor, adorable Shell Silverstein. The only thing sadder than JFK humping his tears away (you can’t spell jackanape without Jack) is Abe thinking he has a shot with newly single Joan.
At the Board of Shadowy Figures, it’s revealed that Confucius isn’t revealing any hidden traits of note shining through for future world leader, though Harriet’s gaining on front runners Joan and JFK. The Board might have a power couple in their midst so Scudworth and Candide (Christa Miller) must goad the collective student body to ‘hit the books’. The library seems like the perfect place to start. JFK’s a wreck, barely fit to dispense any advice on first love to Confucius, but neither is Joan to Harriet. Frida clowns both Abe and Topher on how to chat up girls but is tongue-tied around Cleo. With oysters for lunch, what could possibly go more right?
The school’s teeming with nervous teen energy, a virtual breeding ground for hookups, though Joan and JFK seem more on the straight out-and-outs than in-and-outs. Their legal counsel Sacajawea (Jane Schmieding) and G.W. Carver (Donald Faison), respectively are of little help with the sole custody of Shell Silverstein hanging in the balance. It isn’t long before the tongue-wagging between the two debate team captains turns wordless.
In grand style, Confucius beefs the declaration of love to Harriet. This is not Ten Things I Hate About You but the truth is stranger than fiction. His fumbled feelings are actually reciprocated, calling for a max rager. On the opposite side of the pond, Joan, like a tortoise to water, must take to her suffering before she can control it.
In the classroom, sex ed teacher Miss Grumbles explains the only chemistry that matters in a classroom, pairing students up. Joan sidles up to Carver while JFK goes to Sacajawea. Abe hasn’t anyone, though Miss Diane’s found a partner in him with Topher convincing him to drop trou with her before pursuing Joan. The situation doesn’t have to remain, though. Joan gives back the tortoise in order to straighten things with Abe, currently dealing with the now husk of former Miss Grumbles. Frida isn’t fairing any better, as shucking oysters has her floundering around heavy-hint-dropping Cleo. What’s a girl gotta do?
At the party, Topher wants Joan and has the leverage against Abe to buy him a shot, making her heart-to-heart all the more uncomfortable in a house of hookups. Thankfully, Cleo opens up to Frida leading to the tie-ing of tongues in a more productive manner. Something’s off and JFK knows it, eventually releasing custody of the tortoise to Joan at the bottom of an actual pool. He’s showing signs of growth, but his inevitable lay with the sisters Brontë only proves that history, does, in fact, repeat. Whew, I need a cigarette.
As a side note, I love the little comments in Confucious’ FlipFlop. They go from Confucius’ family flaming him to some guise flaming Abe to Mila lovers. The FlipFlop scenes are always worth the pause. Comedy lies in the details, we all know that.
I dug the parallel of a bristling C3P-O and beeps of reason R2D2 emphatically shown in Scudworth and Mr. B, respectively. The John Williams-esque track was a nice connective tissue in a cultural nod those in the know would enjoy. I was also digging a little Scooby Doo nod several moments later. The Flowers for Algernon throughline was cookin’, the In-N-Out burn was crispy (like their fries should be) and the music from Mila Brûlée was catchy. Ensconced in flowers, was she a Kali Uchis or Ariana Grande proxy? Who cares? I’m here for it.
Speaking of, the proceeding episode featured a very sax-y opening that would have Kenny G sprung.
“Sexy-Ed” is a long-deserved shot in the arm to every TV teen drama that infuriatingly skirted around the naked truth; teenagers fuck. Burying one’s head in the sand only results in looking foolish and the perpetrators of that illusion looking just as (looking at you Dawson’s Creek). Teens today go through the same barrage of sexual and emotional bullets their ancestors did. It was just, back in the day, teenage romantic representation in the media had all the sizzle of a cold fish. Calling attention to the fact isn’t being crass if it can open up the floor for further dialogue, or sea shanty in this case.
The youth want to feel represented. Clone High’s never kowtowed to the lowest common denominator because it trusts its audience and treats them like adults. Thankfully, it’s also treating Cleopatra like one. I’m seeing a side of Cleo I haven’t before called a 3rd dimension. I’m finally seeing a person, not just a painted image. I really fucking ship both Cleo and Frida hard as well as Confucius and Harriet. Why should certain things like focusing on white couples in teen dramas still be a thing? Kudos, writers, for studying TV history, lest ye repeat it.
The Max Original continues to sail on with surprising aplomb and with only two episodes left, this serpentine loom of fate could weave our favorite Clone High characters into a cliffhanger worthy of rivaling the MTV Original… and I’m here for it.
4/5 Stars (Both episodes)
ADDENDUM: Maybe it’s just me, but did anyone else tie these two episodes together by the use of seafood as well (shrimp and oysters)?