Episode 11: We're Not Not in Kansas Anymore
By: Carlos Uribe
90210 is a show about wealthy kids who do business and go to college in the zip. Or something.
What if Annie had never moved to Beverly Hills? That's the question that this episode seeks to answer as Annie dreams about how the lives of her friends would be different if she had stayed in Kansas. It's a slightly biased answer seeing as how it comes from Annie's sub-conscious but it does make for a “what-if” situation. There are a few problems with this concept. The first is that the episode makes the mistake of removing the tension that Annie might not survive the shooting. If it had been able to transfer that tension over to the dream then maybe it could have created an episode that didn't seem so pointless. The stakes were never high because it was a dream. It had to end sometime so it didn't really what happened during it. The only plot developments came at the beginning at the end which means the entire mid-section is pretty skip-able. The final problem is that there were some flaws in the execution of the dream. There are scenes that occur outside of Annie's presence. So not only is she dreaming this entire world in real-time but she's also dreaming up scenes that occur when she's not there? It's understandable why the show would want to do these scenes but they simply were not justified by the excuse for the scenario. In other words, the dream felt like it wasn't important because it didn't have any real stakes nor did it really reveal anything new about the characters. Not only that, but it didn't follow the rules of the dream.
So how was the lives different if Annie had stayed in Kansas? She would have gotten engaged to her boyfriend from Kansas. I had kind of forgotten that Jason existed but he was never much of an actual character. He remains bland and forgettable in this episode. What did Annie ever seen in him? What sets her to go to Los Angeles is when she discovers that Dixon has moved to the city and become estranged for her. He's angry at her for holding back his dreams because she kept getting into drama productions. She chases him and manages to come in contact with all of the other characters. The only difference is that they don't know her because they've never met and they're slightly different for that reason. Let's get back to Dixon before we go to them. He's managed to become a successful rapper but under a fake background. He pretends to be from the streets to a tough family. Annie accidentally destroys his dream when her actions lead to people finding out Dixon came from a regular old town in Kansas. This ruins his reputation and sinks an album he needed to sell well. This dream version of Dixon makes sense as he's been pursuing music for the last couple of seasons now. Annie's fears that she's been holding back her brother manifest themselves when she stops the family from following Dixon to Los Angeles or when she accidentally reveals the truth about him. Annie hasn't always been supportive of her brother's career choices so it makes sense she would be scared about this but it's not anything we didn't already know.
At least Dixon's life is going better than some of the other characters. Since Annie never stole the lead role in that play, Adrianna was noticed and she became a famous actress. At least she was famous as now she's just infamous. This is because she never got clean. She can't even stay sober when a movie studio makes it a part of her contract if she wants another job. She runs into conflict with Silver. Silver now runs a major gossip blog that shows no mercy to anyone. Silver wants to post a video of Adrianna being drunk that would violate her career. This would kill any chance of Adrianna making a contract. When Adrianna makes a deal with Silver, it seems to have solved all her problems. Which it doesn't because Silver has no honor and breaks it. What does this reveal about them? They would never have had any real character development if Annie hadn't come into their life. Silver would have remained on the outside bringing her snark to the celebrity world. Adrianna would have remained a mess and become famous for it. These are the obvious choices of what happens to the characters if Annie is removed but it adds revealing anything new. It also simply avoids having their characters actually grow in a different direction than in real life based on who they were in high school. They just stayed their same selves.
The one character who didn't progress as you would expect is Navid. He doesn't become a journalist or a studio executive. All he does is become a member of Dixon's entourage. Which makes sense on some level but it does mean that he remains as useless as he's been in a long while. The writers couldn't even write him a scenario that doesn't depend on someone else. The same can't be said for Teddy. In this universe, he never comes out of the closet and remains a player. This makes sense for the character but it just feels like an easy choice to reset him to factory settings. His wealth does attract Naomi, who is forced to become a gold digger since Jen had succeeded in draining her trust fund a few years back. She's so desperate for wealth that she's willing to be his beard. The final character is Liam who is still dealing with his step-father and is forced into dealing drugs due to a large debt. At least his “what-if” scenario wasn't completely predictable and was actually his own. It still didn't reveal anything new about him.
The final complaint I have of this episode is the ending. Annie brings everyone together at the end of the episode to give them a huge speech to make better people out of themselves. This is supposed to be a moment when the characters realize that they could be more than they are. Silver could be nice and use discretion (or at least not ruin her reputation by not keeping deals), Teddy could come out of the closet, Dixon could allow people in, and Naomi can hook up with Max for money reasons. It's where the dream gets nicely resolved before the writers allow Annie to wake up. That Annie is forced to resolve the problems of these characters means that everything is up to that speech. The problem? Annie might be right but she comes across as completely judgmental. It seems like she doesn't want them to improve because she cares about them but because they're terrible people and she doesn't approve of that. That has always been a problem that the show has had with Annie. She might do terrible things but she's constantly deriding others which makes it really difficult to root for her. Her speech at the end also reminds me of how Captain Kirk from Star Trek would force his own views of culture on alien civilizations. He would force them to change even if it wasn't working for them. Annie is basically forcing an entire world to shift to one she finds more acceptable.
This is a pretty bad episode of 90210. It doesn't follow any rules with it's gimmick, there's a sense that none of if really matters, we learn nothing new about the characters, and most of the “what-if” world is as predictable as you would expect. Considering how epic the cliff-hanger was, this is a pretty disappointing episode of 90210 that brings any viewer back down to Earth on how difficult this show can be.
Annie goes to sleep in her dream and wakes up. We sadly don't get to see her dream-in-a-dream and have an Inception moment. I'm disappointed. I'm also disappointed by the lack of weirdness.
How crazy would it have been if the show pretended to kill Annie off but only revealed it was all Annie's dream?
A funny note: Annie expresses shock that Adrianna is famous in her dream world. I guess she forgets Adrianna is famous in the real world as a pop star restarting her career after it became public knowledge that she stole that guy's songs.
Is this the first episode to reference Ethan in like forever? Glad to see the show hasn't forgotten him since he was exiled to Montana.
Liam's assertion that he doesn't own a bar because he's in college is simply genius.
Megan's appearance in the dream was weird. Has Annie even met her? Is she really that important?
Good news (I guess): Annie survived her shooting
Bad News: Teddy and Silver are definably not friends especially when he discovers Silver forged his signature. How did he discover this? Silver left a line blank...meaning she messed up in her crime.
Worst News: Naomi discovers Max never went to Iceland and has been living with his parents. I don't think their marriage is going to survive.