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"Beverly Hills, 90210" Flashback: "East Side Story"

By admin Published: September 4, 2008

(from the official Jason Priestley site)

First aired on Feb. 14, 1991. Brandon learns about love (again) and stereotyping.

Summary: Jim and Cindy are planning a big party for Chick Schneider, a new client for Jim and a clothing manufacturer who, according to Brenda, makes "all those wipeout pants Dylan wears." But something else is going on, as Brandon sees Jim and Cindy in deep conversation with Cindy's maid/assistant, Anna, and another man, who proves to be Anna's cousin, Richard Rodriguez (John Vargas). Anna's niece has had some trouble in school, and the Walsh family is going to let her use their address so she can go to West Beverly. Brandon and Brenda are cool with the idea.

At school, David is trying to get MC Hammer on the phone, to ask him to play at West Beverly. Meanwhile, Anna's niece, Karla (played by Karla Montana) arrives and turns Steve's head, and Dylan's head, and finally Brandon's. Well-meaning, Brandon is patronizing, telling her "don't be put off if the kids are a little more competitive than you're used to." She's an ace in all her classes. Brandon then says she should have a good shot at a scholarship -- which Karla takes as a stereotypical reference, but Brandon huffily explains that lots of kids, including him, will need financial aid. And she cools off when he mentions that he is going to work. (Still, she sums up her life with a vague, "it's complicated.")

At the Peach Pit, Karla meets the other kids but has eyes for Brandon. But she is uncomfortable with the stares from the bus boys. Brandon drives her home; they talk about the differences between where Anna lives and West Beverly, about the bus boys (who stared, Brandon insists, because she's pretty), how "complicated" her life is and whether Brandon is "sweet or a real smooth operator." But after he leaves, Richard appears and warns Karla to be careful.

Brandon is smitten, and nervous when Andrea sees the address Karla is listing. Andrea fears "a whole chain reaction" if one student is found to have faked an address. Brandon asks Karla for a date; she declines, repeatedly. Later, though, he offers to drive her home; they go dancing and, at night, kiss -- while Richard spies from the shadows.

Party day. Jim and Cindy wonder if they should tell the kids "the truth about Karla." But they can't. Brandon wants to invite her to the party, but doesn't get a chance, then sees she is working with Anna; Brandon is indignant, and refuses to come to the party, but Jim talks him into it -- even though Brandon stops speaking to Jim and Cindy, only to the guests.

Brandon tries to make out with Karla upstairs. Offended, she goes back to work. Brandon overhears Schneider talking about a new factory in Mexicali, and accuses Schneider of exploiting his workers. Jim demands an apology; Brandon does not oblige then but will later. Meanwhile, Karla leaves, telling Brandon that "it wasn't a good idea for me to come here."

After the party, Brandon sulks. Brenda tells him he has been "unbearably obnoxious" and that there may be things he doesn't know about. Brandon goes to Jim, wanting the whole truth because "I never felt this way about someone before." Jim doesn't spill, insisting that he talk to Karla. She has left Anna's home, but Anna tells Brandon where to find her. Anna explains that her father is a college big-shot in Pomona and she has been in hiding because she witnessed a drive-by (and Richard is the prosecuting attorney); the case is now done and she can go back to her old life. Brandon still wants to see her, but she says Pomona is "the other side of the world." She fears that being with Brandon will make her forget "who I am and where I come from."

Kelly and Donna show up in the same Schneider outfits, to their dismay. Brandon tells Andrea he likes that they are "not interested in each other romantically," getting a sad Andrea look after he walks away. David, still trying to get MC Hammer, calls Debbie Gibson by mistake -- then calls back Gibson to fawn over her.

Comments: In the annals of episodes where Brandon is a self-righteous jackass, this is one of the biggies. He patronizes Karla, flies off the handle about her working, insults Jim's client based on no evidence and is really pompous about his lack of prejudice. But to achieve all that, the show has to jump through some awkward hoops -- and suggest that Jim and Cindy aren't all that smart. When Cindy says it never dawned on them that Brandon might be attracted to Karla, they're ignoring something that Brenda has picked up on -- that "every girl you meet suddenly becomes your next true love." In fact, that line is a pretty pointed commentary on the series' approach to Brandon's love life so far. As is the one about Brandon being "unbearably obnoxious."

That said, Brenda the supposedly terrible liar doesn't even blink when Brandon says he has "a professional relationship" with Andrea through the newspaper -- while Brenda knows from the "Slumber Party" episode that Andrea needs a steaming hot plateful of Brandon.

Or words to that effect.

Anyway, the show does a moderately good job with the issue of stereotyping, especially at the end, when we learn that Karla is not remotely "a poor girl from the barrio who is looking for a white knight." By that point, plenty of viewers have had the chance to make wrong assumptions about her -- just as Brandon has. But Karla's finally brush-off of Brandon doesn't quite work; better that she had told him that he's nnot ready to see past her, or other people's, stereotypes. And by then, Brandon has been such a jerk, he deserves more of a comeuppance.

Other notes:

-- When this episode aired, Debbie (later Deborah) Gibson was 20; her most recent LP was "Anything Is Possible." The single of the same name peaked at 26 on the Billboard charts. For more, see

-- The establishing of Donna as a dope continues, with her big scene involving her not knowing the difference between a taco and a flauta.

-- Awkward lines include Luke Perry having to say of Brandon that "he's really flipped for her in a major way." Brenda refers to Brandon getting a "come on baby, light my fire" look, which suggests Brenda has been trolling Jim and Cindy's music collection instead of her own.

-- Karla Montana is yet another actress whose screen career faded not long after "90210"; her IMDB credits end in 1994.

For other classic "90210" flashbacks, see below or in the page on the right rail of the home page. My notes about the new "90210" are also below.

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