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"Beverly Hills, 90210" Flashback: "Higher Education"

By admin Published: August 16, 2008

(From The guys who made Cindy Walsh iron her hair!

Season 1, Episode 6. Originally aired Nov. 15, 1990. Brandon has an ethical dilemma, Brenda wonders if blondes have more fun -- and the Dylan-Brenda romance takes a first step. ...

Synopsis: Brandon is working at the Peach Pit when he sees his history teacher, Mr. Danzel (Bill Morey). Brandon tries to make small talk, but Danzel is chilly. Next day in class, Brandon gets a C on his work. Danzel grades on the curve, 10 percent A, 10 percent F, the rest C's -- "for mediocrity," he says. Steve, meanwhile, gets an A.

Brandon is Mr. Crankypants over his C. Andrea offers to study with him. Later, when they do study at the Walsh house (in Brandon's room), Brandon is snotty, calls Andrea condescending and other things, and she storms out. Next class: Another C for Brandon.

Meanwhile, Kelly and Brenda admiringly look at Dylan's backside as they follow him downstairs. (This will be significant later in the episode.) Kelly asks Dylan whether he likes long or short hair; he says he likes blondes -- but he gives brunette Brenda a come-hither look that she seems to pick up on. Chemistry!

Since Steve has gotten another A, he invites Brandon to study. Poolside. Steve reveals that his parents have been divorced twice, as well as married to other people. He also tells Brandon specifically what to study for the next test. On the test, the questions all match Steve's suggestions. Later, he admits to Brandon he is getting advance copies of the tests and quizzes.

As Brenda continues to obsess about her hair, Brandon sees Danzel at the Peach Pit. Now that Brandon is getting A's, Danzel is nice to him. He also praises Brandon in class. (Brandon's father will also praise B's grades, and Cindy will tell him to ease up.)

Andrea, now struggling, asks Brandon to study with her. Guilt-ridden, he declines. Later, he confronts Danzel, complains about the grade curve and how Danzel teaches. Mucho snotty. On the next test, Brandon uses crib notes. Andrea sees him, is disillusioned, they argue.

Since Cindy refuses to give Brenda $300 for a high-grade Beverly Hills hair treatment because she thinks Brenda is beautiful as she is, Kelly does Brenda's hair. It's a disaster: mousy brown with dull blonde sections. Brenda has to go to school with it, although she wears one of her famous hats.

Brandon tells Dylan how much he hates Danzel. Dylan says he learned from Danzel the year before. Brandon says all he is learning is how to cheat. Dylan warns: "Watch out, man. You're flirting with bad karma." When Steve offers Brandon the midterm, Brandon is reluctant. He tries to talk to Andrea. She is still furious with him. Then Danzel zaps Brandon in class, pushing him to go deeper than just memorizing information.

Steve comes to the Peach Pit. Tells Brandon that "everybody cheats," offers him the midterm again. Brandon takes it, as Danzel walks in. After work, Brandon sees Danzel outside, waiting for the auto club to change his flat tire. Brandon changes it for him. Danzel defends his teaching style, points out that his much-mocked wardrobe was chosen by his wife before she died. As Brandon is putting the flat tire in the trunk, he drops his copy of the midterm. Danzel hands it to him, apparently unaware what it is.

Brenda goes jogging. Dylan, passing on his motorcycle, turns and stops to talk to Brenda. He doesn't just like blondes. He obviously likes Brenda. Offers to connect her with a hairstylist who owes him a favor. Brenda accepts. "I like your butt -- I mean your bike," she tells him. (Remember the stairs at school?) She gets her old hair color. Tells Brandon: "Dylan says it looks incandescent."

Midterm day. Brandon and Andrea have studied all night. They acknowledge their friendship and make up. Danzel hands out the midterm, then tells the class to tear it up. Gives them a single essay question instead. Steve looks stunned. Brandon gets through, and has a nice chat with Danzel after the test.

Comments: "Higher Education" is a key episode in "90210" because it begins the Brenda-Dylan romance. And Donna gets to talk more. But in other respects, it is typical "90210." There's the issue of the week -- to cheat or not to cheat. There's Andrea being idealistic and ethical, and Steve once again the bad guy, cheating without any qualms. Dylan is once again the guy with good connections, helping Brenda fix her hair just as he got Brandon a job at the Peach Pit.
But Brandon is almost intolerable in this one -- nasty and ill-tempered to everyone because he has never gotten a C before. Because of that, his cheating dilemma is less compelling, and Andrea's scolding more pointed. If he had been shown as worried instead of nasty, then his decision to cheat might seem morally ambiguous to some young viewers, and his final decision a better lesson. This way, he's just a jerk cutting corners for his own needs.

Coming after "One on One," this is also an episode that shows how disjointed "90210" could be before it embraced its serialized aspects; there's no mention of Brenda's driving and Mondale issues, or any hint that she's still under a cloud for lying to her parents and the police. For that matter, the issue-of-the-week approach works against continuity in character development. Since Brandon learns a separate lesson each week, there's no sense that he can apply what he learned in, say, "One on One" to his life in "Higher Education." (And all those African-American students from "One on One" have disappeared.)

Other notes of interest:

-- Cindy says "California Girls" was big on the radio the summer she turned 17. (To be more of a California girl, she and "Paula" ironed their hair; Paula's caught fire.) Since that was a big hit for the Beach Boys in 1965, Cindy is about 42. The David Lee Roth version hit the charts in 1985.

-- We appear to have finally resolved the issue of how to pronounce Ms. Zuckerman's name. Although Brandon calls her ANN-drea early in "Higher Education," Jim and Cindy are amused to hear it's "AHN-drea," and Brandon introduces her to Jim as AHN-drea.

-- Mr. Danzel was played by Bill Morey, a character actor who was often seen on TV. (Check out his credits over at He died in 2003 at the age of 83.

-- The Peach Pit appears to have a new exterior. And, with Brandon working there, it is being established as more of a regular show location. Danzel eats there, and Steve goes there to give Brandon the midterm.

-- This is the first episode written by Jordan Budde, of consequence here because he later made a TV series pilot called "The Virgin of Akron, Ohio."

-- Dylan's scary blue checked pants make another appearance.

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