Whether you were frozen for two years or twenty, few things can elicit anxiety in any red-blooded American teenager as the not-totally-made-up pre-midterm jitters. You know, there should be an approachable mascot implemented for this very thing in every high school; like a guidance counselor, but you know, effective.
It’s a new era at Clone High (Max Original), where all are encouraged to introduce their personal shit to the proverbial melting pot for our entertainment, so kick back with some (child-free) pumpkin spice whatever, and enjoy the review.
“Anxious Times at Clone High” Review
In the tertiary episode titled “Anxious Times at Clone High”, it’s pre-midterms but Joan of Arc (Nicole Sullivan) isn’t fretting, and why should she? Joan can’t spell study without her ‘stud’ JFK (Christopher Miller), so they’re like, basically prepared, right?
If the couple is on the hippy-dippy side of the anxiety spectrum, Harriet Tubman is the bookend. The fear of becoming a vacuous “winemom” due to a failed pre-midterm is beyond comprehension. Before Joan can sway her on the ways of the purely physical, a gift from JFK gives her something she didn’t expect; perspective. Move over #winemom, “JoanFK” might be the cringe nobody asked for.
Frida Kahlo (Vicci Martinez) entertains Abe (Will Forte) and the wrenching about his best friend dipping her toe into a portmanteau. His view of the future looks just as bad as Joan, Harriet, or Cleo (Mitra Jouhari) whose face is only half painted. No matter what way you shake it, Outlook Not So Good can only be read one way.
With their fears at a fever pitch, phase two of Operation Spread Eagle has begun for Candide Simpson (Christa Miller). The extra signage telling the student body not to stress only adds chum to the water. Principal Scudworth (Phil Lord) wants credit but craves being ignored even more.
In keeping up the morale of the frazzled student body, Candide introduces a Babadook-inspired de-stress mascot, aptly named Heebie Jeebie. Joan asks her best friend. She doesn’t want a parasitic twin, but the advice he gives is a half-column B, half-column Abe. It’s not totally selfless, and it’s not totally honest, so Pops wouldn’t be happy.
“We need to talk.” The Dear John of the digital age. It’s enough to bring a gym class to a grinding halt when it’s directed at JFK. His stress sweat is hitting an all-time high, which only rings the dinner bell for Heebie Jeebie. A master of avoidance, Confucius (Kelvin Yu) offers JFK an oasis in the form of wood-shop class. JFK’s smitten with the stupid shit he could get into and Confucius is more than happy to roll with it for the Likes.
No one is safe at Clone High. Not even Abe is able to stress dump in the girl’s bathroom. Harriet’s nearly at her breaking point, Cleo’s about to pop. The emotional support opossum of Topher (Neil Casey) is now wall art, this monster needs to be stopped.
Scudworth might be next on the list if he doesn’t play his cards right with Candide. Nothing’s been working yet, so the sympathy angle might get him pinging on her radar. She’s more concerned with plans for the Broad Daylight Swimsuit Dance, so the sacrifice of an innocent bunny will just have to do.
With the creature hot on Joan’s bouncing soles, Abe steps in, sending her to JFK. The creature has Abe already there, but Frida doesn’t want that shit near her temple. She’s cool as a cucumber in gin and tonic. Her ways must be imparted.
After a horrible nightmare, Harriet’s driven from her car by the stress eater. Across town, Frida shows Abe the finer side of not giving a fuck. He wants to know her secret for balance. Creating murals for sick kids isn’t exactly Abe’s cup of special tea, but before he can figure out one, the Heebie Jeebie crashes their hang.
They book it on a skateboard to the school after hours only to find JFK and Joan in the midst of ‘talking’. Harriet confirms that the thing more malice than the mascot. What is it though?
Scudworth’s plan naturally backfires. It’s a red-eyed white bunny and the only one who couldn’t see the carnage coming was Candide.
Trapped, the students take refuge from the Heebie Jeebie under Confucius’ weighted blanket until Joan puts everything straight for the two men in her life. It doesn’t take long for the mascot to just exist as a stress reliever, not an eater, getting the shit kicked out of him. Before it gets to curb-stomp territory, 90210’s Ian Ziering emerges from under the helm. Turns out he took the gig to scare kids into a better approach to mental hygiene.
We wrap at the Broad Daylight Swimsuit Dance, but despite high spirits, this ain’t no neat bow-type deal. Those captured can go all Manchurian Agent with the simple chirp of Candide’s flute, Joan is still with Abe, and the only calm thing is the empty mascot suit.
Strike that. It’s now occupied by the rabbit. Don’t worry, true believers: Heebie Jeebie Will Return.
“The Crown: Joancoming: It’s A Cleo Cleo Cleo Cleo World” Review
The second episode, “The Crown: Joancoming: It’s A Cleo Cleo Cleo Cleo World”, starts off white-hot with a Stone of Eternal Servitude being unearthed thousands of years ago. A crown is forged and the jewel is placed, but its power proves too great for mere mortals.
Cut to Candide, now in possession of this game-changer. With Homecoming on the horizon, control is within grasp, not for The Secret Board of Shadowy Figures but rather for Candide herself. Cinnamon’s ass is on the line, not hers. She’s playing with house money.
Joan and Frida work on a flat so politically loud, the old JFK would want to knock its block off. The new JFK only wants to knock boots with Joan on top of it. Oh, Abe’s quite aware. Cleo courts votes with pumpkin spice lattes and though Joan thinks campaigning for something trivial as Homecoming, who can resist the fucking tractor beam of the “Instructional Boogie”?
Joan can’t be swayed. Not even when told to on rhythmic cue. Cleo ostensibly has constituents, but what good is a crown if its history of bloodshed isn’t upheld? The thing is things don’t have to stay the same if you stay and fight.
In the journey to raise awareness of what you stand for, acknowledging that what you stand against still exists is an extremely handy thing. It’s not giving power to your enemy, it’s merely calling them into the light.
This is Joan we’re talking about here, however. She skips the middle lane and pumps the gas with an accusation lobbed against Cleo’s java, only red lining it when “Blood Pumpkins” trending is the October Surprise nobody saw coming.
After the sanctified ceremony of ballot casting, two victors are announced by Harriet.
JFK and Joan. Of course, it was, but accepting the crown would mean accepting defeat. I guess in Joan’s mind, fighting the patriarchy didn’t include leaving Cleo in charge.
At the Homecoming game, Joan manages to break JFK free from Cleo’s clasp, but can only count on Confucius, so they decamp to the library. Cleo’s sentinels Abe and JFK find her and take her to the Queen, being pampered on by Frida and Harriet.
Sadly, Confucius’ invisibility is useless when he puts Joan on blast for sabotaging Cleo, but it’s no matter. Even with her infernal, I mean eternal Homecoming just getting underway, Cleo’s minutes are numbered. Mr. Butlertron helps Joan break free from her metaphorical chains before suffering one hilarious indignity. Choreographed clones and pumpkin-spiced tsunamis can’t stop what’s coming: the truth.
With Joan’s heartfelt and Cleo’s half-hearted apologies carrying the same amount of weight, it’s politics as usual for the student body of Clone High.
In both intros, Abandoned Pools’ bulletproof, iconic theme is experimented with, first with an unsettling outro and then with a Sousa-esque march. In an era where skipping is as commonplace as binge-watching, I enjoy these little moments for the fans. Title sequences are sadly an overlooked and underappreciated art these days, so it’s nice to some creators still using them as an additional canvas rather than a simple banner.
The absence of Michael McDonald does not mean a Gandhi-less Clone High as Frida’s mural cemented his legacy while also razing any doubts about her functioning as the heir apparent.
True guest spots have an air of nostalgia for me in modern cartoons. It’s not in vogue as much these days, as more celebrities are more likely to lend their voice rather than their likeness to an IP. Clone High’s never shied away from this and Ian’s real cause for mental health awareness keeps the cartoon as socially relevant as ever.
We finally get to spend more time with Cleo but I’m still on the fence. Something in the voice doesn’t seem to have that nuanced balance of vanity with vulnerability for me yet, but hey, maybe it’ll take for the better, not unlike the siren song of the “Instructional Boogie”.
Thus far, the show continues its steady incline. We’re not even halfway into this crucible of crazy, so starting off on a decades-old cliffhanger could be a boon or bane. They could have placed a little more effort into the other clones at the Dance, teeming the world with life, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was a Business Daddy opening the purse strings issue. I’m not going to stress about it.
Famous. Last Words.
4.5/5 Stars. (Both episodes)