Originally aired Jan. 3, 1991. Brenda and Dylan get closer. Steve learns a valuable lesson.
Synopsis: Brenda is bored, stuck with babysitting and renting "Dirty Dancing" from the video store. But when she sees Dylan, sparks fly, to Brandon's dismay. Jim isn't a fan of Dylan, either, or of his earring.
More sparks when Brenda accidentally sees Dylan in the shower (although Dylan HAS left the bathroom door open) and Dylan sees Brenda seeing him. Since Brenda's babysitting job has fallen through, Dylan invites her to go to "Animal Crackers" at the Marx Brothers festival, with Dylan and Brandon. But Brenda gets testy at the movie when an unnamed blonde is friendly to Dylan. Still, she hangs around and they have fun, eating takeout food at Dylan's house.(Dylan's dad has closed the suite at the Bel Age, for unexplained reasons.)
Later, Brenda tells Kelly about being with Dylan, and Kelly is convinced something is happening. But a lot of the students have sex on the brain because sex-ed class, with a guest speaker, is about to get going; Scott is nervous about it, but David is convinced that sex ed turns girls on. Steve and Brenda are also in the class with Scott and David, but Steve doesn't take it all seriously.
Brandon gets a cold, so Brenda goes out solo with Dylan. Jim is displeased, since Dylan's father is known in business as an "unethical bastard." Back at the Marx Brothers festival, Dylan asks Brenda, "What say we shine on this movie?" They go to Dylan's place, where Dylan's dad is in a furious meeting with associates; he and Dylan have a shouting match. Upset, Dylan starts to get a drink but Brenda stops him -- since he has to drive her home. They argue, yell, and finally Dylan breaks down in tears. "Dad just gets to me," he says. Brenda is touched by his vulnerability and pain. They hug and kiss. Dylan takes her home, but they have connected.
Back at school, Scott doesn't have a sex-ed consent form, because he's afraid to ask his mother to sign. Dylan and Brenda are close, and Brandon doesn't like it. At home, Jim tells Brenda not to see Dylan; Brandon does not defend his friend, but Cindy says "I like Dylan." Still Brenda is upset. She and Kelly make a plan to pretend she is at Kelly's while she goes to bed with Dylan; Kelly advises Brenda about protection and shares from her stash of condoms.
At school, Brandon warns Dylan not to hurt Brenda, and says that she's a virgin. "What kind of jerk do you think I am?" Dylan says. But when Brenda waits to meet Dylan at the Marx Brothers festival, he never shows. "I thought I was special," she laments the next day. "He doesn't let people in," Brandon says. Brandon tells Dylan off, and we learn that Dylan has moved out of the house where he was living after leaving the hotel suite.
Back at the sex-ed story, the teacher's car has broken down so Steve has to pick up the guest speaker, Stacy Sloan. Steve pretends to be the teacher, and tries to woo Sloan. She brushes him off.
Dylan goes to Brenda, apologizes, says he didn't show because he was helping his father pack, that he had to flee the country because he was about to be indicted over securities fraud. They make up, but Jim arrives home, runs into Dylan and argues with Brenda about seeing him. But Brenda stands her ground, and even indicates she would have sex with Dylan.
Sex-ed lecture. Brandon and Dylan patch things up before. Steve is outed by Sloan. After a brief introduction by Andrea, Sloan alludes to her meeting with Steve and then reveals she has AIDS. Urges the students to use a condom and foam during sex, and to make sure their partner is not infected. Steve listens closely. So does Brenda.
Jim and Dylan have a talk where Dylan demonstrates he is a good guy. But when they are alone later, Brenda asks Dylan if he has had unprotected sex. He finally admits he has. He's ready to get tested, but Brenda still says "I'm scared," and they slow things down. For now.
Comments: "Isn't It Romantic?" is another major step in the development of "90210" from earnest family drama into a melodrama with a continuing story. The biggest demonstration of that, of course, is the big leap forward in the relationship of Brenda and Dylan. While there was chemistry before, this episode establishes them as a couple, and gives them both a solid emotional connection; Brenda is feeling something close to love, and hitherto cool customer Dylan reveals his pained and lonely side. That change in Dylan is also setting a tone for future episodes; the bad boy who knows all has a very difficult relationship with his father and, as Jim indicates, his father has a bad reputation of his own.
The episode also continues the recent shift toward greater frankness in language and content, notably with Kelly not only talking about "protection" (a vague word preferred in some TV to explicit references to birth control) but showing condoms, and with the straight talk about AIDS. Of course, Stacy Sloan could also have preached abstinence, but she is talking to an audience -- both at the school and in the audience at large -- that is not interested in saying no. So she at least makes an argument for condom use and for knowing your partner's AIDS history. And then the episode shows how someone does that, by having Brenda ask Dylan directly about his sexual history. And the episode over all is plainspoken about a big issue, and has lured the audience into paying attention with all the romance and arguing before making a hard right turn into the AIDs revelation and discussion.
That said, there were other parts of the telecast that just didn't work. Jim's varying reactions to Dylan don't play well. Scott has been reduced to meekness and idiocy, as if David's inching toward cool required him to become more of a doofus; it's especially unfortunate that, after Stacy Sloan has said she has AIDS, that Scott slips into the lecture and asks foolishly, "What did I miss?" And having Steve and Brenda in a class with Scott and David is an awkward way to move the story along -- even more awkward than giving Andrea her few seconds on camera by having her introduce Sloan. (Donna at least gets her brief screen time a little more logically, as she and Kelly help Brenda dress for her big night with Dylan.)
-- Dylan's father is played by Terence Ford, the brother of Harrison Ford and a successful photographer.
-- Ford is the first of three actors to play Dylan's dad on the show.
-- Stacy Sloan is put up at the Bel Age, the same hotel where Dylan lived in his father's suite.
For previous "90210" flashbacks, see previous posts or the Pages area on the right side of the main page of this blog.