Season 2, Episode 4
“Happy Birthday to Me”
Airdate: June 20, 2016
“Don’t do drugs, kids!”
— Audrey, MTV’s Scream
I’ve been to a lot of parties. Yeah, they involved drinking to the point of puking out one’s spleen and some make-out sessions (thankfully, before the “puking out the spleen” part) and a lot of pot. Scream’s fourth episode of its sophomore season involves two out of the three, which is all well and good but it doesn’t add up to much of anything before petering out and giving us a “shocking” climax that’s shameless ripped off from better material.
Last episode, if you’ll recall, I lamented that Brooke was ruining this show. There were more than a few of you who thought I was being too harsh and that Brooke wasn’t really a piece of broccoli with blonde hair. Oh, fair enough. Maybe you’re ri–OMG: Brooke is breaking up with Jake for the third time in four episodes. “Now you’re not even texting!?!? WTF??? We’re really done.” she angrily texts — only to have “Jake” respond that he’s “waiting for her to beg”. Considering that Brooke likes abuse and pseudo-sexual games, this should be a turn-on — but Brooke ain’t impressed with it and keeps up her combative tone over text message. Please, MTV: spare us NOTHING.
Jake, as you may remember, is very, very dead. He was killed off in the new season’s first episode. He’s been dead for about a week if I’m counting the show’s 24-hour days correctly. In this time, Brooke went from slightly concerned girlfriend, to reporting him missing to nothing at all. But, since Brooke’s incompetence can only fool time and space for so long, Lakewood’s Finest finally clue in to the notion that something’s not quite right. This leads us to an intense scene where Sheriff Acosta makes his way to Jake’s house to see just what’s going on. Turn out the lights, boys and girls, and lock your doors…this is some creepy shit:
(Sheriff Acosta walks up to Jake’s porch and knocks on the front door.)
Acosta: Jake! I gotta talk to you!
(Acosta waits for an answer for two seconds…then leaves.)
I KNOW! I was on the edge of my seat that entire 15 seconds just like you!
These minute details, however, are mere window dressing for Keiran’s arbitrary “birthday” and the “party” that ensues because Keiran’s turning…um…I don’t know. Nobody really gives us Keiran’s overall age and no mention of Keiran’s birthday’s been made in any of the preceding episodes so, yay! Let’s have an episode where Keiran’s having a birthday party just because! This is fucking Glee without the Kidz Bop musical numbers. I cannot emphasize that enough. Keiran’s brother, Eli, can “handle that booze portion of the evening”. He’s got a phony ID that makes McLovin look legit.
Bill Hanstock, a colleague of mine, once noted (and I’m gonna butcher this; sorry, Bill!) that the high school in Fox’s “Glee” was nothing like a real high school because it was written by people who had probably never been to high school and based their idea of high school on some guy describing what he saw in a John Hughes movie. The same logic can be applied to Keiran’s party: “Jake” sends Keiran a bottle of tequila that’s “super expensive” thanks to the “extra anejo” (which, according to Google, is the new black) in it. Brooke accepts this(!) as a sign that “Jake” is “back” from “Mexico” — but trashes the birthday card that came with it, so she’s not totally over things. Guess what? The tequila is not only “super expensive”, it’s also “super toxic” and makes everyone at the party puke.
At the same time.
For extended periods of time.
All over every single part of the house including the front lawn.
And not one neighbor believes this to be strange.
It’s only at this point that ‘Stavo (who, with a name like that, desperately needs a Latin pop album and models clinging to his arm at Ryan Seacrest’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve each time we see him) reveals that there’s probably a powerful drug called “Ayahuasca” in the stuff. Everyone worries but ‘Stavo eases everyone’s fears: “It’s harmless. Once the puking stops, we’ll start hallucinating.” Oh. Ok. Instead of everyone wondering how ‘Stavo knows the Tequila had this drug in it, Noah digs this shit up on Google and finds out that ancient Peruvian natives used it to trip out and become one with “spiritual guides”.
Wait…what’s ‘Stavo doing here anyhow? “I don’t like him…but maybe he’s harmless,” Brooke explains to Audrey, who isn’t convinced. Mainly because ‘Stavo, much like the creepy guy at your local IHOP, spends time menacingly eye-fucking half the cast, including Audrey. It’s also because she saw a bunch of ‘Stavo’s art on his unguarded tablet (what kind of “red herring serial killer” doesn’t guard his shit?) and it’s of the entire “Lakewood Six” and features a gruesome crown jewel: Emma being stabbed in the back of the head and bleeding from every orifice on her face because of it. In the very same episode, Noah explains that ‘Stavo is a comic book geek and loves to draw. Even so, this is weirdly psychotic and even more obvious red herring than Seth Branson’s sudden creeper turn. We can only hope it will pay off. In his own creepy way, ‘Stavo suggests that everyone (and, by “everyone”, I mean The Lakewood
Six Five) will start tripping fucking balls and seeing shit that isn’t there.
Look, I’m real familiar with the “trippy episode” trope. If we wanna go recent, ABC had a couple of wins with LOST (Shannon and Boone) and Betrayal (a couple pops E during a wedding and has a sexually-laced euphoric trip), True Blood did it throughout the first season of their show and USA’s Mr. Robot and Satisfaction had a decent episodes involving drugs and the personality-altering catharsis that each character has as a result.
The difference here? None of the characters in Scream have anything resembling such an awakening. Instead, MTV gives us three hackneyed scenes:
- Brooke breathlessly panting helplessly on a bed while ‘Stavo massages her foot while “Jake” appears out of nowhere like a young, hunky Obi-Wan Kenobi, warning her that ‘Stavo’s gonna try to have sex with her and the only way to stop him is to learn the ways of the Force.
- Audrey sees her dead ex-girlfriend walking around with a noose still around her neck. They make out — only to see Audrey waking up and realizing she’s making out with Noah. Then with Zoe.
- Emma chases her younger self into the woods outside her place (there’s always woods around every house in Lakewood) and nearly gets knifed by The Killer who turns out to be her Dad who’s at the party because reasons.
So, to recap: The Killer, disguised as Jake, sends a bottle of Tequila laced with hallucinogenic properties to somebody’s birthday party hoping everyone will drink the shit out of it and have insanely intense yet frighteningly real hallucinations — only to see most of the party puking while the rest of the Lakewood Six have creepy fever dreams that transform into late-90’s Cinemax-style masturbatory fantasies.
The good news is that Jake’s death is finally revealed to the rest of the characters on the show. The bad news is that it’s so lame and tacked-on and highly illogical and silly as The Killer manages to not only haul Jake’s body up on the Lakewood Theater stage rafters above their also-arbitrary beauty pageant, they also somehow keep the body from dripping blood and clean up after themselves so as not to leave a bloody trail of Jake everywhere — and then dropping his body in front of Brooke while soaking her in blood (a’la “Carrie”) for maximum emotional impact.
How did The Killer lug Jake’s body around undetected all that time? How did nobody in the theater notice Jake in the rafters while doing sound, light and rigging checks? They had to unfurl the banner during rehearsal at some point, right? How did they know that Brooke would be standing in the perfect spot? These are questions you don’t have to ask because Scream just doesn’t care. Things happen and they don’t make sense and you just have to shrug and be like, “Meh…fuck it, hopefully the next scene will be better.” All of this just fails to shock me because the more inspired the showrunners think they are, the more predictable the show becomes. The good thing about Jake’s death reveal is that we can hopefully move beyond Brooke text messaging Jake 800 times a show at 6,000 WPM and get to some meatier stuff.
The episode’s only genuinely human moment, not surprisingly, comes from Noah and Audrey following the party. Noah seems to have such a good heart and it’s telling that he confronts Audrey about their kiss first instead of Zoe who has absolutely zero chemistry. After failing to clear the air with his friend and then getting shot down by Zoe, Noah just stands there, speechless and alone with a look of confusion and hurt on his face and you can’t help but feel for him. In just 24 hours, he had friendship and love only to see it crash, burn and fade into nothing.
Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good here. The episode is disjointed, going from one half-baked idea to the next without so much as a payoff. Because of this, we’re left with another wasted episode that features 30 minutes of padding and which advances nothing except to split Audrey and Noah and give us the true end of Jake. Left hanging is Emma’s Dad who, I swear, has the same two or three lines about “wanting to see Emma” and the appearance of Emma’s little girl ghost and what that means to the overall arc.
It’s not the worst thing MTV’s given us from this show, but it’s close.