"Every Dream Has Its Price." Originally aired Oct. 18, 1990. The Walsh kids face more money issues, and adults get decent air time!
Synopsis: Although they're still not at the center of the episode, "Every Dream" does at least give the Walsh parents, Jim and Cindy (above), some narrative time of their own. It mainly involves Cindy trying to adjust to life in LA, and to a Jim who always seems to be working; even what she thinks is a present for her turns out to be an exercise suit Jim bought for himself. Still, to help out, Jim hires a housekeeper -- but she does not speak English. Cindy gradually learns to cope. And she overhears one of Brenda's friends declaring that her mother would never be seen cleaning. Still, Cindy is trying to hold onto her Minnesota values, especially when it comes to parenting; when Brenda gets in trouble (see below), Jim is much more willing to shrug it off than Cindy is. And Cindy has to deal more with Brenda's troubles, and is the one that Brenda's friend comes to in order to save Brenda from further parental scorn.
As for the kids, the adjustment to the move from Minneapolis is getting more difficult. Brenda is running into roadblocks from the parental units when she wants to spend money the way her rich friends do. She's also facing competition for the attention of new best friend Kelly, when Kelly's childhood friend Tiffany Morgan (Noelle Parker) shows up at West Beverly. But Tiffany has problems, including a compulsion to shop-lift. Brenda, not knowing about Tiffany's issue, is tempted to boost an expensive vest but -- thanks to the lessons she is learning from reading "Les Miserables" in school -- stops short. But Tiffany sets up trouble for Brenda, first by hiding stolen clothes in Brenda's closet, then by using Brenda as an unwitting stooge in one of her shoplifting schemes. They get caught, and Brenda has a hard time convincing her mother that she's done nothing wrong. She also learns from Kelly that Tiffany has a history of stealing things -- including Steve, when he was Kelly's boyfriend.
"Les miserables, c'est moi," declares Brenda, whose dialogue is especially stiff in this episode. And her problem gets bigger when the new housekeeper finds the stolen clothes in Brenda's closet. But Brenda is reluctant to rat out Tiffany.
Meanwhile, Brandon goes job hunting. At first he is unsuccessful, but he finally gets hired at a tony restaurant. He's basically a bus boy, and getting run hard. Doing so makes him aware of the plight of the working poor. "These guys I work with -- Vietnamese, Israelis -- they're like Grandpa was, coming here with no money. They get completely exploited." Brenda tries to draw comparisons to the Walsh's new maid. But Brandon says the maid is paid fairly while the guys at his job are "working for pine nuts."
Later, on the job, Brandon learns that the workers are not even getting minimum wage. He quits, promising the restaurant manager that there will be an expose in the West Beverly newspaper. Dylan, who is dining at the restaurant when Brandon quits, takes Brandon to ... wait for it ... the Peach Pit! "Real food for real people," Dylan declares. The owner, Nat (Joe E. Tata), offers Brandon a job. He accepts.
Back at the Brenda, she confronts Tiffany, who gives one of those lonely-rich-kid speeches that the show is already using too often. But the talk persuades Tiffany to go to the Walsh house and tell Brenda's mom, Cindy that she, not Brenda, took the stuff. "Why don't you try stealing your parents' attention?" Cindy suggests. A grateful Brenda overhears Tiff's confession.
At the end, Brenda draws on her experience for her paper on "Les Miserables" and why people steal. Cindy says the paper is "beautiful."
Comments: Although I noted above, "Every Dream Has Its Price" -- also known as "Every Dream Has Its Price (Tag)" -- gives the Walsh parents some air time, but that, too, has a price. The episode is very light on the teen players other than Brenda and Brandon -- and Tiffany, a guest star who gets more screen time than most of the regulars. But in showcasing the parents, "Every Dream" is really trying to be something serious, even literary. After last week's reference to Lord Byron, we now get Victor Hugo.
But the episode isn't all that good. For one thing, it feels as if -- Dylan's brief appearance notwithstanding -- it could have run before the second episode, "The Green Room." (See below.) Indeed, Brenda -- surprisingly puffy-faced in this episode --is much more well-adjusted about the money situation in "Green Room," where she makes her own fashionable clothes, than in "Every Dream." Brandon's job-hunting is a step forward, but that storyline is wrapped up too abruptly, with Brandon's promise of an expose and his exiting his bad job for the bound-to-become-the-cast-hangout Peach Pit.
Moreover, "Every Dream" marks the third straight week of A Girl With a Problem -- loneliness and a bad rep for Marianne in the pilot, alcoholism for Sarah in "Green Room" and now shoplifting for Tiffany in "Every Dream." In addition, much the way "Green Room" was capped by Brandon's editorial, "Every Dream" is capped by Brenda's "Les Mis" essay; in both cases, the high praise from another family member includes the word "beautiful." This is awfully early for a show to be spinning its wheels.
As a commenter Annie notes on the post about "The Green Room," the show became less about big issues and more about soap-opera behavior. "Every Dream" underscores why it had to change direction, since its ideas about how to handle big issues seem limited. And that may offer some explanation of why the ratings were not good during the first season.
Items of interest:
The exterior of the Peach Pit has a classy-restaurant look, even if the interior is diner-like. (Apparently this will change in later episodes.)
Nancy Paul makes her second appearance as Miss Rye, the newspaper advisor (in "The Green Room") and an English teacher -- pushing "Les Miserables" -- here. For sci fi fans, she later appeared on the show "Space Precinct" but, according to IMDB, has no screen credits since the mid '90s. After "The Green Room," I expected to see much more of her; she seemed to take a real interest in Brandon.
Next up: "The First Time." Brandon has sex.