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"Beverly Hills, 90210" Flashback: "Stand (Up) and Deliver"

By admin Published: September 13, 2008

CH
Carrie Hamilton, R.I.P.

Originally aired March 7, 1991. Brandon gets into politics, Brenda tries adulthood. ...

Summary: School, daytime. Andrea approaches Brandon about running for class president. Her preferred candidate has decided not to run, and Brandon is so new that "no one knows you well enough to hate you" when he opposes "popular airheads." Brenda, meanwhile, is bored -- and disappointed when Dylan says he can't take her to the Fallout Club because he has to go see his fugitive father in Mexico; Brenda wants to go, too, but no luck.

Kelly is intrigued by Brandon's running for office; she is turned on by power and his "Kennedy hair." So is Donna. At home, Brenda tries to talk to Cindy about her boredom but Cindy (like Jim) is too consumed by Brandon's campaign. Brenda goes to the Fallout Club with Donna and Kelly; she is impressed by Sky (Carrie Hamilton), a comedian, and starts to befriend her.

Steve advises Brandon to go out with a lot of girls to "nail their votes." Back at the club, Brenda impresses another comic, Jack, with her wit. Back at the house, Jim and Cindy make buttons (which actually look like nametags) and Kelly offers to help the campaign. "Whenever political stuff comes on, you switch to MTV," Brenda snaps. But Kelly persists in wanting to run the campaign, and Brandon has to calm down Andrea (who admits she was the candidate who backed out), and gets both Kelly and Andrea to help.

Brenda goes alone to see Sky again, since Kelly and Donna are helping the campaign. Sky explains that she dropped out of high school at 16 and "when I got out, I had this awakening." Brenda decides to get her high-school equivalency diploma and go into the world. But she needs Jim and Cindy's OK, and they're not happy; they note that when they were young they wanted to go into the world -- Cindy to be Judy Collins, Jim to the Peace Corps -- but Brenda still wants out.

Kelly begins an image campaign for Brandon, trying to get him to resemble "cute politician" photos she has collected. One is of Gary Hart. Andrea notes Hart "never made it to the nominations." Kelly says that was "because he was too cute for his own good." Andrea wants Brandon to discuss issues. Kelly just wants to win. At school, Brenda has to deal with being known as "Brandon Walsh's sister."

"I feel like Ferris Bueller's sister," she replies. Kelly is manipulating everyone -- promising David she will date him if he helps make Brandon a campaign video. Brenda works on her jokes for the club; Michael Miller, another student, encourages her but Kelly doesn't like Brenda talking to Michael because he is running against Brandon.

At the club, Sky says she has to go home to Modesto. Brenda offers to house-sit for her. Kelly shows the campaign video for Brandon; it's all beefcake. Andrea is disgusted. Kelly is getting very turned on by Brandon. "Steve wouldn't like this," he says. "He would love to be in your position right now," she says.

Brenda announces she is moving out -- to Sky's place. Brandon's video draws a crowd at school. Kelly then tries to get David to do her will on the debate -- offering her phone number as incentive. Andrea and Brenda bond over Brandon's "major integrity loss." Kelly dogs Brenda's clothes as bad for Brandon. Brandon sides with Kelly, at least until the election is over.

At Sky's apartment, Brenda finds repo men taking most of Sky's stuff. Jack shows up with love and Franco-American spaghetti on his mind. But Kelly, Brandon, et al., show up to have a campaign party. Brenda confronts Brandon about his lack of positions, and the party collapses when the power goes out.

Debate day. Brandon and Michael Miller talk. Michael is sure he will lose. But he and Brandon bond over the homeless, and Brandon realizes Michael is more qualified than he is. That becomes even clearer during the debate, when Michael knows more about booking rock bands for school than Brandon. Brandon endorses Michael. Campaign over.

Brenda stops home, gets some things, realizes how good it was at home but has a small spat with Jim and Cindy. She goes to Sky's place, where Sky is crying. Confesses she went home to get money because she isn't making it on her own. Brenda sees the importance of being home. She does a monologue at Fallout Club about her experiences, which everyone comes to hear -- including Kelly, who is on her promised date with David, but seeking safety in the group. At the end, Brandon acknowledges that Brenda "had a good experience."

Comments: "Stand (Up) and Deliver" is structurally identical to the previous episode, "Fame Is Where You Find It." In "Fame," Brandon becomes the center of attention through his TV acting, while Brenda is shoved aside -- and put in difficult circumstances by subbing at the Peach Pit. In "Stand," Brandon's political ambitions make him the center of attention, while Brenda is ignored by family and friends, barely noticed even when she decides to move out. And, in both episodes, Brandon's ambitions go unrealized, while Brenda is allowed the showy triumph -- as Laverne the waitress and as a monologist.

While "Stand" is marginally more plausible with a school campaign instead of Brandon's plucked-from-the-park TV stardom, "Stand" is still the inferior episode. And not just because Brenda's monologue at the end so blah. It fails in part because it so replicates the previous episode (and because Brandon's political debate recalls one with Rob Petrie on "The Dick Van Dyke Show"). And its premise -- that Andrea needs an opponent to Michael Miller -- makes no sense because Michael comes across as exactly the kind of candidate Andrea would admire. He hardly represents the "popular airheads," and has no opponent until Brandon steps in.

But "Stand" has several things to recommend it. For one, it is steeped in popular culture, making it seem more contemporary and topical. It also has two effective performances, by Jennie Garth and guest star Carrie Hamilton. The daughter of Carol Burnett, Hamilton had a rocky life and died of cancer in 2002; her charming turn as Sky suggests a performer of considerable promise.

Garth, meanwhile, is terrific. Of course, the script gives her a somewhat different Kelly to play -- one who has more to her than the sad, shopping-and-boy-obsessed daughter of a substance abuser. But Garth hits all the notes. Even though Brenda says Kelly switches off politics, she clearly understands the importance of image in politics, and she certainly knows who Gary Hart was. (Of course, his scandal was tabloid fodder as well as news.) While it appears that David puts together Brandon's video, the message in it is Kelly's idea (which David naturally believes is "brilliant").

She is also stunningly ruthless in her campaign, especially when it involves David, but also when she attacks Brenda's wardrobe (which isn't significantly more radical than it has been in some other episodes so far). And when Kelly begins to make a move on Brandon, Garth plays it as downright feral. You can see why Steve keeps wanting to get back with her. Where Donna is for the most part, well, Donna, Kelly here suggests that she could be much more than she has chosen to be.

Now, all of this is in service of an episode that on balance is severely flawed. But it makes it much more watchable.

Other notes:

-- The title, "Stand (Up) and Deliver," is a nod to big-screen high-school drama "Stand and Deliver," with Edward James Olmos. But beyond the title and high school, I don't see any real connection.

-- My favorite bit in the episode -- and one that suggests Brandon is self-aware about his political activities -- is Brandon's use TWICE of "Damn glad to meet you" in his handshaking. That's, of course, a reference to "Animal House," where rush chairman Eric Stratton routinely and insincerely uses the same phrase.

-- The episode is full of pop-culture references beyond the "Animal House" line: Gary Hart , "Ferris Bueller's sister" (alluding to the 1986 movie), David wondering what Geraldo Rivera would do in his ethical situation (and Kelly's cynically wise assertion that Geraldo "would go for it. Definitely."). When Andrea leaves a campaign meeting in disgust, she says she's going for a sandwich, a soda and "Sex, Lies and Videotape" (1989). When Kelly calls Brenda's outfit "hippie witch," Brenda retorts that "it's 'Twin Peaks.' "

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