Thursday, September 2, 2010

America's Most Wanted

Night at the Camdens. Annie is reading Ruthie nursery rhymes. Simon keeps interupting, until Annie invites him to join them. He starts reading to Ruthie. Eric comes in. He's been at a boxing match. Figures Eric likes violence. He's in a bad mood because nobody at the tournament knew the words to the Star Spangled Banner. He thinks that people should prove they know the words or leave the country. That's one way to control the population. Ruthie runs out of the room. Eric continues his rant about how the country has abandoned its values. Yes, if only everyone memorized the Star Spangled Banner, there would be no more problems in America.

Ruthie is worried that if she doesn't learn the song, Eric will have her deported. She wants Simon to teach her. There's the predictable amount of "misheard" lyrics-- starting with "Jose, can you see?" This is going to be a fun subplot.

Morning. Annie is making pancakes to try and lighten Erics mood over the National Anthem. The kids are worried that the parents had a fight, but quickly figure out the situation. Lucy has an essay on the Crucible due. Matt asks Eric if he and Mary can go out with John and Keisha Hamilton. They get permission, and Lucy has an opportunity to feel left out. Eric won't give them money unless they know the words to the National Anthem.

Simon is still trying to teach Ruthie the words. She mistakes "hail" for a word she can't say, leading Simon to utter the phrase, "Go to hell" in Eric's earshot. He tries to explain that he wasn't really swearing, but ends up apologizing. Simon takes the opportunity to ask if Eric is still upset about the national ignorance regarding a certain song's lyrics. He still is, so Ruthie continues to worry about deportation.
Lucy's English class. She gets busted doing math homework. She asks for an extension on her essay. She doesn't get one.

Jimmy Moon and Dwight are waiting for her outside her class. Jimmy is not pleased about his friend's crush. I try very hard to care.

Matt is waiting for Mary after practice. One of her teammates reminds him that Mary is the only person on the team who hasn't stolen anything from a diner called the Varsity. She has until some athletic banquet to complete the task. Apparently, hazing is still big in Glen Oak. Matt assures the girl that Mary will take care of it and learns the coolest thing to steal is a glass. I guess their dinner plans weren't so innocent.

Matt joins John and Keisha at some tables. He gives them an out if they don't want to be part of Mary's descent into petty theft. They seem pretty eager to witness the event.

Night. Lucy is panicking about her paper. Mary lets her use her paper from last year as a research guide. This will end well. She decides to eat in her room so she can work on her paper.

The Varsity. The kids are finishing up their meals. Mary is nervous about her task, but gives into peer pressure. She steals a glass, Matt pays their bill and they leave. Oh, Mary.

Morning. Eric has found the offending glass. He thinks Matt stole it, and Matt doesn't correct him. Eric demands he take it back and apologize to the manager. Matt continues to cover for Mary. She seems conflicted about it.

Lucy's English class. The bell wakes her up. Her teacher stops her to let her know that she graded her essay. She got a decent grade. She's relieved.

Matt is actually apologizing to the Manager for taking the glass. The Manager is actually pressing charges for a two dollar glass that was returned.

Eric and Lucy arrive home. Lucy is upset because Matt didn't drop off the cheerleading snacks. Annie's worried that he's not home yet, but Eric is unconcerned.

Mary is considering quitting basketball because of the glass thing. Lucy is thinking about quitting cheerleading because she stole Mary's paper and got away with it. Mary assumes her paper was so outstanding that her teacher would remember a year later. They both feel guilty about their various transgressions.

The phone rings. Annie finds out that Matt has been arrested for petty larceny. For a two dollar glass that he returned. He should have just left on a counter and told his dad he apologized.

Night. The Camdens actually had to pick Matt up at the police station. Eric tries to talk to Matt about the situation, but Matt is pretty upset about the whole think. He blames Eric, and storms out.

Lucy and Mary start to discuss the situation but Matt interupts. Mary wants to confess, but Matt is nobly trying to keep his little sister from getting arrested. He convinces her not to quit basketball, but to stop giving to peer pressure.

Rev. Hamilton is on the phone. He confronts his kids about the stolen glass. He figures out that Matt didn't steal anything because he knows about the ritual stealing from the diner by athletes. Both Keisha and John are grounded for three weeks for their participation. John decides to give Matt a heads up about how much Rev. Hamilton knows. I want to watch a show about the Hamiltons. They seem way cooler than the Camdens.

Matt and John rehash the previous scene. John encourages Matt to discuss the situation with Rev. Hamilton.

Annie is reading Lucy's paper. She recognizes it as Mary's. She bases this on the fact that both papers compare the Salem Witch Trials to the McCarthy hearings. She's surprised the teacher didn't remember. Because no one made that connection before Mary Camden.

She sits Lucy down to talk about setting her priorities. She also forces Lucy to realize that she should be honest about her lack of feelings for Dwight. And confess to the teacher. Annie agrees not to tell Eric.

Ruthie is still trying to convince Simon to help her with the Star Spangled Banner. She's still not getting the words. Simon is as tired of this subplot as I am.

The Varsity. Eric is trying to convince the Manager to drop the charges. Eric has finally met someone in Glen Oak that won't bend to his will. I'm sure he'll come around by the end of the episode though.

Morning. Eric and Annie are discussing Matt's situation. Matt wants to talk to someone about what's happened with someone more objective than Eric. He is not pleased with this idea, but gives permission. Eric wonders what the problem is between him and Matt. Maybe, Eric, that you decided Matt took the glass even though there were three other kids with him at the diner, one of whom lives in your house. Apparently, Matt was the bad kid in season 1.

Matt shows up to talk to Rev. Hamilton. He asks the Rev. to keep the real events a secret until after the court hearing. Rev. Hamilton encourages him to talk to his dad about what happened and how he feels for getting blamed for it. Rev. Hamilton has a plan to make the court hearing go well for him. Mysterious.

Lucy confesses to using Mary's paper. Her teacher is so impressed by her honesty that she gives her another day to turn in her own paper. Looks like Lucy got her extension after all.

She then goes to tell the boys where they stand in her life. She likes Jimmy as a boyfriend and Dwight as a friend. She runs off before they can respond.

Camden Mansion. Lucy and Mary want to go to Matt's hearing. Matt thinks this is a bad idea, but Annie agrees to call a baby-sitter. Matt orders Mary to keep her mouth shut about her participation. Mary wants to tell their parents.

Courthouse. Eric pulls Matt out into the hallway to talk it out. Matt does a pretty good job of calling Eric out on always be angry with him. Eric has a brief epiphany, but doesn't let Matt get too much say. Matt mentions that he has something to tell Eric after the hearing. Eric tries to get him to tell him right then, but Matt isn't budging.

Camden's. Ruthie and the sitter are painting an American flag. The immigrant baby-sitter manages to teach her the song by telling her the story behind the lyrics. Somehow, this actually seems to be working.

Courtroom. The judge calls Matt's case. Eric answers questions meant for Matt and gets chewed out by the judge for interupting. I like this judge. Mary can't take it anymore. She confesses everything in the middle of the courtroom, including the iniation aspect. The parents are shocked. Hey, think of it as practice for when she gets arrested for vandalism in three years.

Just then, the courtroom doors burst open and several athletes from the local high school come in with all the stuff they've stolen from the Varsity. The owner wants everyone arrested. Eric asks to offer an idea. Because he asked, the judge decides he can speak. He offers that perhaps the kids could volunteer at the Varsity instead of trying each case. Because the judicial system is generally overloaded, the judge supports this plan. At least, that's the only reason I can think of for why she'd agree to coerce the Manager into dropping the charges.

She orders all the kids to return the merchandise and sign up with the court clerk for the volunteer list. Eric figures out what Matt didn't want to tell him earlier. He adds that he went to talk to Rev. Hamilton earlier. Eric approves.

Eric thanks Rev. Hamilton for helping out.

Lucy wants to confess to her father, but Annie thinks the timing is poor. She suggests that Lucy help Mary and Matt clean the diner. She doesn't look thrilled, but agrees to it.

The Camden parents agree they are proud of their kids.

Night. The Camdens return home. Lucy starts to tell Simon everything that happens, but he's in a hurry to show them a surprise...

It's Ruthie singing the National Anthem in front of the flag they were painting earlier. Eric is touched. Simon is conducting with lit sparklers. That seems dangerous. As the song ends. so does the episode.


This episode is one of my favorites. It hits the oddly over-protective sibling dynamic. Has the family in a situation that Eric can't fix. And a generally odd syncrenisity about the problems the siblings face. (Lucy stealing Mary's paper and Mary basically shop-lifting.)

I'm surprised the coaches never said anything about the obvious stealing initiation. If the players were all bringing the stolen goods to an athletic banquet, it seems the coaches would catch on and put a stop to it.

Also, what public school has a chaplain at their athletic banquet?

Eric actually seems to have acknowledged faults in terms of his relationship with Matt, that in some ways parallel the tension Eric has with his own father in later episodes.

The subplot surrounding the Star Spangled Banner felt a little forced.


  1. Eric's whole, "Learn the words to the national anthem or get out" attitude is a little scary.

    I'm suddenly getting the urge to rewatch this show. They always scared me in this kind of cult like way. Too bad youtube doesn't seem to have any full eps. Do you watch them online or do you have DVDs?

  2. Yeah, the Camdens are pretty creepy when they get patriotic.

    I have several seasons on DVD. I'm not sure if any are available online. I watched some of season 11 on YouTube, but it's possible that the clips have been removed.

  3. Still trying to imagine a universe in which (a) police respond to a call about a $2 glass, (b) a youth is actually taken into custody as he returns said glass, and (b) any judge actually schedules a hearing in such a case.

    Without a doubt, one of Brenda Hampton's finest efforts.

  4. Yay! You sent me an email about my Banned Books Week project. Which makes me happy for two reasons:

    1-I want people to do the BBW project. But most importantly
    2-I discovered this awesome blog. A little snark on the insanity that passes for family values in the Camden household is long overdue. This has always been one of my "so bad it's good," shows. You start watching and it's a train wreck and you just can't turn it off.

  5. @Dave--The Glen Oak justice system resembles no other in America. It's amazing how out of touch Brenda is for the whole of this series.

    @nikki-- I'm excited to participate in BBW, and I'm glad to know there are others in the world who appreciate 7th Heaven for the train wreck. :)