The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia & The Mystery of The Secret Passage

As an avid Clue player, I love a secret passage. 

hqdefaultThis episode starts off with the BSC looking at baby photos of themselves and remarking on whether or not they look like their siblings. “Do most sisters look-alike,” Mary Anne queries. I’m concerned about the quality of education they’re getting at Stony Brook Middle School…

So as it turns out Dawn just happens to have a secret passage chilling in her house. UGH SHE HAS THE BEST LIFE. Great hair. Great step-sister. Great secret passage.

The BSC is working on a photo-history project and Dawn has stored the bulletin board there because it was too big and obtrusive to keep in her room. (Hm… I mean okay fine whatever guess we have to investigate the secret passage somehow). Instead of leaning the bulletin board against a wall in this very spacious passage, Dawn has wedged it in between insulation pieces in a broken-down partial-wall.

Dawn can’t pull the bulletin board out easily, so she pulls while Claudia pushes from the other side. In the process, Claudia finds a taped up “treasure map” in the wall.

Okay finding things in walls is cool. Treasure maps are cool. But you wedged a bulletin board in a broken wall? Like it’s a freaking secret passage. You could have just been like “cool, let’s snoop in the secret passage.” Also, can you imagine a Goonies version of the BSC? Kristy would be like absolutely crazy on the treasure path.

But it isn’t a treasure map. It’s just an old note. The note reads: “I didn’t lose Bettina’s diamond ring. Why won’t she believe me? She’s so mean sometimes that I’m afraid of her. I wish with all my heart I never had a big sister. I vow never ever to speak to her again.”

Claudia decides that “Bettina sounds really evil.” Geez. Harsh, Claud. And they decide the whole BSC will investigate on Friday night at a sleepover. In another big assumption, Claudia decides that these sisters are dead. So they all agree to have a spooky séance, hoping to restore the sister’s spiritual peace.

mv5bmtuwmza5otm1m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmdixndezmje-_v1_uy268_cr870182268_al_The séance is pretty lame, but Kristy tries to spook everyone with a tape recording of ghost noises, which is kinda cool. Then the wind blows their candles out and Kristy tries to hide the tape recorder in the insulation before anyone can catch her red-handed. That’s when she finds the missing ring! The band is broken, so it probs just fell off in the passageway many years ago.

The BSC decides this proves that Bettina’s sister is not a thief. The next day Claudia brags to her older sister that the séance was a massive success. She’s all like, “I bet this letter is two hundred years old.” And her sister is like you idiot, “When do you think they invented transparent tape?”

As it turns out, transparent tape was invented in the 1930s. Since the letter was taped to the insulation, it can’t be any older than that. So the BSC goes to the library and hunts through all of the old year books for “Bettina.” They come up with nothing and decide to try jewelry stores instead.

The jeweler confirms that the style was very popular in the 1950s, but they didn’t keep records of who they sold them to. However, he remembers Bettina and confirms that she married a local grocer. AND OMG IT TURNS OUT TO BE THE GROCER WHOSE GROCERY STORE THE BSC WENT TO FOR SLEEPOVER SNACKS.

Aw wait bummer, the grocer is dead and the store is under new ownership. The new owner thinks that his widow opened a flower shop. So the girls head to a bunch of flower shops. They begin to convince themselves that Bettina must have killed Flora, the little sister, because no one in town remembers what happened to her.

When they finally find Bettina, they think that she is threatening them with gardening shears. And then Flora walks in while they’re all screaming like lunatics. They return the ring and realize the sisters got over it like at least three decades earlier anyhow.

The episode ends with the BSC hosting a picnic to celebrate all of their little sisters. Claudia’s older sister makes cupcakes and Stacey brings a kid she babysits for because she’s an only child. They also invite Bettina and Flora and, surprise, Flora is EMILY GILMORE.

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Very Special Lesson: I tried to be as snarky as possible and yet I find this episode totally heartwarming.

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The Baby-Sitters Club: Dawn and the Dream Boy

Dawn has her eye set on Jamie, a soccer-playing boy with a middle-part bowl cut — the epitome of 90’s Teen Beat cool. So she decides to get him to invite her to The Sweetheart Dance.

He just so happens to be a soccer coach for one of the kids they babysit for. Mary-Anne invites Dawn to come along on her baby-sitting gig, so she can help pick the kid up from practice. But Dawn is all like nah, I have a dentist appointment. I mean, I’m all for dental hygiene but like…this girl needs a date to The Sweetheart Dance, so can’t she reschedule???

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So Mary-Anne goes alone but tries to talk Dawn up anyway. “She’s the really pretty blonde with blue eyes and beautiful skin.” She also calls her a “star babysitter” and says that “Dawn is really great with kids.” Ugh Mary-Anne you’re trying to get Dawn a date to the dance not married-off on the Oregon trail.

But here’s what happens when you go to the dentist instead of talking to your crush. Your crush crushes on the pretty girl who DID talk to him. A very devastating moment occurs when Jamie calls their house to ask Mary-Anne for a date. Dawn answers the phone and this dummy doesn’t even check to make sure he has the right sister. So Dawn gets all ready for her big date only to realize when Jamie comes to pick her up that she isn’t who he was expecting.

Ugh. This is rough. This is hard to watch, guys.

So Dawn freezes out Mary-Anne because she’s somehow convinced that Mary-Anne likes Jamie and somehow orchestrated this whole thing. But like to what end, Dawn??? To embarrass you?? Mary-Anne is the sweetest person in the whole world. Plus, she has to see you at the baby-sitters club AND at home and we know ya’ll don’t do anything else in your lives, so why would she want to destroy you and make her life miserable when she has to deal with you 24/7?

Eventually, they aren’t speaking to each other at all. They’re decorating for the dance (which they’ve also somehow volunteered their baby-sitting wards for) and asking the children to communicate between them. That’s messed up.

But then they transition to sickening sweet passive-aggression, which is much, much worse. Kristy intervenes and tells them to put the situation on ice until after they finish the decorations, at which point she’s going to have “an emergency meeting of the baby-sitters club.”

OH MY.

Kristy makes them each tell their side of the story without interrupting each other. Mary-Anne tells Dawn that she loves her and she loves Logan so she’s not trying to cheat on his ass or hurt her sister. OBVIOUSLY. This resolves everything in 30 seconds and the BSC decides to all go to the dance together.

Jamie asks Dawn to dance and she agrees. And this is truly something to behold. We watch them awkward dance to 90’s Muzak for much too long. I tried to find a clip because I wanted you all to suffer like I did, but this picture will have to suffice instead:

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Very Special Lesson: Look, I’m mad at this episode because Dawn was very much the crazy paranoid jealous girl trope. So just like. Don’t be that trope. For the sake of feminism. Please.

The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and the Missing Jewels

Okay, listen, “JEWELS” is a stretch. Claudia is selling some of her homemade earrings at a crafts fair and this is like one-step up from macaroni jewelry people. Within two minutes, a local boutique owner purchases a pair of earrings and gives Claudia a downpayment to make 4 more pairs.

That downpayment is $50. FIFTY DOLLARS!! And that’s 1990 money people! So it’s worth almost twice as much in today’s dollars. Geez. Well let’s hope she does more with this career opportunity than Stacey did.

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Oh wait, she wants to use the advance to let the kids they baby-sit for buy plants to pot for a plant sale. Smh. You know you’re in a cult when they start taking all your money.

One day, Claudia goes over to Kristy’s house to babysit her little sister Karen because Kristy is busy studying. She also brings over the jewelry she’s been working on, which soon goes missing.

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Kristy immediately blames their housekeeper, Julie. Oh. So like. She’s classist too. Geez, Kristy. So they babysitters decide to go undercover (aka wear brightly colored sunglasses) and stalk her through scenic downtown Rutherford, NJ — I mean Stoneybrook, CT. Lucky for them, the housekeeper is pretty spacey and doesn’t catch them. But they’re also terrible detectives and lose track of her.

In another stroke of luck, Julie walks right into the pizza place they’re hanging out in. They notice she’s wearing Claudia’s earrings but they’re all afraid to confront her.

Meanwhile, Karen keeps trying to get Kristy to check out her tree with cool stuff in it. But Kristy is too busy trying to deal with Julie to see the tree. So I think we all know where this is going.

When Kristy finally works up the courage to call Julie a thief to her face, Julie tells Kristy that the earrings were a birthday gift from Karen. Connecting the dots, Kristy realizes that Karen only wants her attention and was planning to give the jewelry back as soon as she ventured over to the tree.

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Very Special Lesson: How many of these episodes are dedicated to Kristy learning not to be an a-hole? TBH I never read a Kristy-centered book in my BSC days and now I’m remembering why.

The BSC: The Baby-Sitter’s Special Christmas

Happy Christmas in July! This post was originally posted in December of 2014.
The show opens with the baby-sitters perusing many different Christmas socks and oohing and awing indiscriminately over everything they pass. Then this bunch of 14-year olds descends upon a mall Santa’s lap, yet oddly it’s they who look like the creeps here—Jessie casually strokes Santa’s beard while he rolls his eyes and gently shakes his head. Poor guy, he’s just trying to make minimum wage around the holidays.

jessie creeps on santaAfter the mall, the sitters head on over to the hospital to throw a Christmas party for the kids. Everyone has markers and big pads of paper except for Mallory who gets the bitch job of sorting out the paper chain. Dawn wants to make Christmas cookies when she and Stacey babysit some obnoxious little boys, including little Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Dawn gets all self-conscious when she realizes that she’s totally disregarded Stacey’s diabetes. I don’t know how she forgot since Stacey mentions it like every other sentence.

Mary-Anne comes up with the idea to have secret Santa as soon as a couple of the girls complain that they don’t have enough money to buy everyone a gift. She instantaneously passes out slips of pre-cut paper. Probably a quiet power play since Kristy wouldn’t like someone else taking charge. “Oh I’ll just casually have these pre-cut slips of paper to pass out like I just thought of it.”

death by cookieLater on, whilst baby-sitting Stacey starts shoveling cookies into her mouth all cavalierly like she’s not stuffing her body with poison. Who even thought this was a good idea–o give already rambunctious children a ton of sugar? The only reason they didn’t totally destroy the house is probably that Stacey consumed a toxic amount of sugar herself.

Dawn totally outs Stacey at the Christmas party and super bitchily says, “I just don’t like it when people don’t take care of themselves.” Like she’s personally affronted by Stacey’s reckless behavior, but not because she’s concerned about her best friend but rather she doesn’t like it on principle. Dawn and her ideals. To be fair, the babysitters do seem to be exclusively having sweets at their soirees in the episode.

BSC X-masOf course, Stacey ends up on the hospital because all she has eaten in the past day is cookies and chocolate. I knew (of) a couple of diabetic kids growing up and once they were old enough to realize that sugar could literally kill them, I never remember any of them tempted to gorge themselves on it, so I can only assume that this is some kind of risky adolescent rebellion on Stacey’s part.  Drugs seem pretty hard to come by in Stonybrook, so it looks like everyone has to settle for a sugar high. Otherwise, this seems like a pretty serious cry for help. Why aren’t we talking about Stacey’s clearly self-destructive tendencies, instead of being all like “lay off the cookies, Stace.” Everything turns out okay though because Stacey gets to come to the party with all of the other children…which makes me wonder why the babysitters are only throwing a party for young children. Wouldn’t it suck to be thirteen and stuck in the hospital? I’m thinking that these girls don’t actually interact with their peers outside of this club. Would they even be friends if they weren’t also business associates?

Very Christmas Lesson: Don’t make your diabetic friends make cookies that they can’t eat. Ever hear of artificial sweetener, people?

 

The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy and The Great Campaign

Kristy’s baby-sitting a shy kid, Courtney, who is new in town. Apparently in Stoneybrook, third-graders run for student council. And it just so happens that Kristy’s rival’s little brother is running for third-grade student council. Showing a characteristic complete lack of boundaries, Kristy decides to get way too involved in this and becomes the new kid’s campaign manager.

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Sweet, sweet Mary Anne is the only baby-sitter who doesn’t immediately jump on-board to help with this campaign. Similarly shy Mary Anne wants to make sure Courtney is really on board with this, but all of the other baby-sitters are too swept up in Kristy’s new “great” idea to even listen to her.

hqdefault3So then a bunch of thirteen-year old girls swarm this little eight year-old’s house chanting her new campaign slogan “Count on Court!” Kristy micromanages the whole process. (Oh btw she’s supposed to be BABY-SITTING THIS KID not turning her into the Manchurian Candidate). It isn’t long before they’re taking this poor girl to the mall for a makeover.

mv5bmje3mjcxmtk3m15bml5banbnxkftztgwmzc3nzezmje-_v1_uy1200_cr48506301200_al_But even the other sitters know that Kristy is cray. She overrides Mary Anne when she gives Courtney permission to play with a friend after-school before practicing her speech. It seriously feels like middle-school involvement in elementary-school elections should be banned. This has good to be the grade school equivalent of a foreign campaign contribution.

There’s even some shady dealings from her opponent. He tries to sabotage her with a snake in front of the whole school, but she loves animals and isn’t afraid of it, which only makes her campaign more successful.

When Courtney overhears Kristy arguing with her opponent’s older brother, she realizes that Kristy is more interested in winning than helping. The rest of the sitters feel awful that they didn’t intervene earlier.

But seriously, it’s easy to hate on Kristy. However, I love her. I really do. You can tell that she’s got a good heart under all of that overbearing control-freak mania. She apologizes to Courtney and tells her that winning isn’t as important as being yourself. Awwwwww.

Very Special Lesson: (see last complete sentence of previous paragraph.)

The Baby-Sitters Club: Stacey’s Big Break

Okay, so a LOT is happening in this episode. First of all, the BSC is trying to put together “a major Baby-Sitters Club production” of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Secondly, Stacey’s gotten some work as a model for a local department store fashion show!

This is the look her friends convince her to wear to the shoot. I’m not sure even 1990 can be used as an excuse for this:

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Meanwhile, Kristy tries to bully a small boy into wearing tights as part of his “Grumpy” the dwarf costume. Then she yells at the children for not listening to her (she’s the director). Like what is the purpose of this? Why don’t these girls just go to the mall like every other group 90’s teens? Why are they choosing to corral a bunch of kindergarteners into a play that most of them seem like they do NOT want to participate in?

Yo, but this was like my ideal party dress in the early-90’s and I feel like Stacey, at least, is living her best life:
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But sadly, she can’t eat pizza with the rest of the girls because some a-hole grown up at the photoshoot told her to lose ten pounds. To make matters worse, one of the kids she babysits for is all pissed off at her because she missed play rehearsal. But it’s FINE because that kid is rehearsing with Dawn now, so just move on with your new fabulous life, Stacey!

Now Stacey is mad at Dawn for rehearsing with her favorite kid. Okay, dude, you guys NEED to get out more. Thankfully, Stacey rage eats some pizza so we don’t have to worry about her starving herself.

Stacey wins the department store fashion competition and blessedly looks much better than she did when she went to that first photo shoot. I would probably wear this outfit now. It’s classic retro-chic.

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I gotta be honest, I was very sus of this whole situation. I thought Stacey was going to complain about being overwhelmed with the department’s store modeling gig and I was all prepared to be like “GOSH, STACEY IT’S JUST CATALOG WORK!” However things really start to take off for her. She’s about to shoot a commercial and take a trip to LA when she decides that she’s missing too much of The Baby-Sitters Club.

I mean she *claims* that she just wants to be a kid, but she rushes back to the BSC to coach that little girl through her stilted performance of Snow White. So it seems more like she just wants to be a mom.

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Ordinarily, I would be CHEERING for a young girl who decided that the entertainment industry was not for her. But instead I’m like, “Where are this child’s parents?!? Why are they not concerned that her only hobby is babysitting??”

So we watch Stacey observing the play and throwing away her own career aspirations to take care of a child that isn’t even her own, in what I assume is presumably meant to be a happy ending. And eventually, she will grow up and be part of the pay equity problem.

Very Special Lesson: I’m starting to wonder if The BSC may possess some cult-like characteristics. If there’s anything I learned from 90’s television, it’s that cults can be found in many deceptive forms.

The BSC: Dawn and the Haunted House

This post was originally posted during Halloweek 2015.
Things start off ominously in this episode of The Baby-Sitters Club. There’s a sketchy haunted house and Claudia is being super cryptic about something. Actually, it turns out she’s failing out of middle school. Her mom’s set her up with a tutor but she’s going to have to miss out on some BSC meetings. No big deal though, she can just explain the situation to her friends.

Except she doesn’t plan on doing that, she makes some big dramatic deal out of this and says, “I can’t live without The Baby-Sitters Club and The Baby-Sitters Club can’t live without me.” Geez.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 10.37.43 AMAnyway, Dawn and Stacey end up babysitting for this kid who is obsessed with dinosaur fossils. He wants to go hunt bones in the backyard because there are a lot of them by Mrs. Slade’s house. Dawn and Stacey are like wtf?? And this kid is just like, “She’s a witch lady. She talks to animals and turns people into dogs.”

So the baby-sitters decide to take the kids outside to investigate. Yep, that’s right, the people you trust to keep your children safe while you are at the mall are taking them on a literal witch hunt. They evacuate the woods when they find a sick looking dog and a hear strange noises coming from the general vicinity of Ms. Slade’s house.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 11.29.25 AMThen they go to the hardware store to meet the other babysitters! “I just love hardware stores,” Stacey says, “next to Bloomingdale’s there’s no place I’d rather be.” Uh, yeah. Okay. As it turns out, Mrs. Slade is also shopping in the hardware store. She’s purchasing some really creepy stuff too: a lantern (for working late at night) and a shovel (for digging deep). I mean I think it’s pretty obvious that she’s burying bodies in the night.

That night at their spooky sleepover party, they all tell stories about the scariest thing that has ever happened to them. Mallory’s story is about how she was walking home with a group in the woods and THEY ALL LEFT HER to take the road instead. Seriously, I wonder if they make her super sad intentionally.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 11.32.16 AMThen they start talking about how creepy Mrs. Slade is and Claudia tells them all that her behavior is probably perfectly normal. When they bring up the shovel incident, Claudia says, “so she gardens,” and Dawn calls that the “dumbest thing [she’s] ever heard.” Well, no, it’s definitely the only intelligent thing anyone has said about this poor woman. But Claudia gets her feelings her and storms off. They’re all like geez, I wish I knew what was wrong with her! And I’m just wondering how NONE of them have managed to notice that Claudia has been reading a textbook for the entire duration of this slumber party. They are terrible detectives.

Then Stacey goes back to babysit for fossil kid. This time she has Mary Anne with her. Fossil kid is all like hey look, I can see Mrs. Slade through my telescope! And Stacey is all like,” it’s not nice to spy on people,” but then she pushes him out of the way so she can spy on Mrs. Slade herself. She sees Claudia through the telescope with Mrs. Slade. Mrs. Slade is rubbing some kind of herb on their faces, and even I have to admit that’s weird.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 11.06.45 AMStacey calls Dawn to get the BSC over to the Slade house to rescue Claudia. Basically, their plan consists of Stacey telling Mrs. Slade that there is a wounded dog in the woods. So Mrs. Slade is going to go looking for the dog, and the girls will seize that opportunity to “rescue” Claudia. Well, this seems extraordinarily cruel but okay.

Dawn, Jessi, and Kristy enter the house for the rescue mission. They make Mallory wait outside and watch the door. Claudia hears them poking around and tells them that Mrs. Slade is definitely not a witch. She’s a former vet who is now tutoring Claudia in biology. So now the BSC has sent a veterinarian out looking for a hurt dog and Claudia is basically like you jerks, she will stay out there all night.

So the BSC goes out looking for Mrs. Slade. They’re calling for her and nothing works, so then Claudia has a great idea. “I bet she’ll hear us if we bark like dogs.” So then they all howl and it works. Omg. This is the weirdest episode ever. Then they all have to tell her that they thought she was a witch and that they lied about the dog. But it wasn’t a total loss because Mrs. Slade found a bird who needs to have his wing mended.

Halloween Lesson: Don’t call old ladies witches. That’s like breaking a cardinal rule of feminism or something.