Matt Shively as Jimmy, Martha Plimpton as Eileen, Noah Galvin as Kenny.
It’s prom season! All three of the O’Neal kids must deal with prom in this season finale, which means their parents do, too. Surprisingly enough, everybody gets what they want, even though they face a few bumps along the way and things don’t turn out exactly as planned.
Kenny thought he’d face a big fight over taking a boy to prom, but VP Murray assures him it won’t be a problem. So instead, he faces another battle: finding someone to ask. Jimmy and Shannon suggest a barista, but only because the barista is the only other gay guy they know. Kenny fantasizes about his perfect prom: love at first sight with a perfect boy and a perfect kiss while ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” plays in the background. When Kenny snaps out of his daydream, the boy from his vision is standing in the hallway. Sebastian is a foreign-exchange student from Sweden. VP Murray introduces Sebastian and Kenny because they “play for the same team.” This time, Kenny doesn’t mind being connected to someone because they’re both gay.
Jimmy and Kenny pair up to create perfect prom-posals for Lacy and Sebastian, respectively, by putting Swedish fish in a balloon connected to a drone. The plan is to have the balloon hover over them, then make it rain candy, perhaps to show how sweet it would be to go to prom with Jimmy and Kenny, the Hemsworths of their high school. (They both think they’re the Chris.) Unfortunately, the boys wait too long. Stuart approaches Sebastian in a box before he jumps out, declares himself out of the closet, and asks Sebastian to prom. Then, Devon rolls out a chalkboard with cheese slices spelling out “PROM?” and asks Lacey. The balloon pops, raining Swedish fish down on Kenny and Jimmy, making everyone look at them. To save face, Jimmy quickly asks Kenny to prom.
Although it was as much to save himself from his own humiliating experience, Jimmy proves once again how supportive he is as a big brother. The O’Neal kids are all really good to each other, despite a sibling rivalry that comes with birth order. Jimmy, Kenny, and Shannon look out for each other and frequently join forces. They have a strong relationship and it’s refreshing to see them working together as a unit.
Shannon faces the other side of the prom problem: She turns down a cute, nerdy prom-posal from Ethan. She doesn’t subscribe to the notion that prom has to be a huge event. She thinks it’s all a scam, like Valentine’s Day. You can be romantic any time, even in a parking lot on a Tuesday night. On the night of the prom, she and Pat watch Carrie instead. Soon enough, though, Pat admits he never went to his prom. No one wanted to go with “Fatty Patty,” which means he missed out on showing everyone how well he could do the Tootsee Roll, the hot dance of 1994. When Pat finds out Shannon rejected a prom invitation, Pat insists she goes. He takes her to prom and confronts Ethan, who’s there with another date, Paula. Pat scares Paula away by playing up his police bonafides — there’s something in her purse she’d rather he not know she has — and by revealing that she was Ethan’s second choice. Shannon still doesn’t want the hype of prom, but when Ethan says her curves look dangerous in her prom dress, she finally realizes why people are constantly searching for the thrill of romance. She’s willing to give Ethan another chance in the future, but in the meantime, she convinces the DJ to play a classic jam from 1994, and Pat finally gets his own prom experience.
The boys decide to sabotage Lacy and Sebastian’s dates, cutting in on their dances in a convoluted ploy to get Kenny with Sebastian and Jimmy with Lacy. Somehow it all works! Just as Jimmy is about to experience his first kiss with Lacy, he spots Eileen, who’s supposed to be a prom chaperone, exiting VP Murray’s office. VP Murray, or Clive as Eileen knows him, had just serenaded Eileen with “Come On Eileen” on a theremin, an electronic instrument played with no physical contact. Yeah, seriously. Eileen’s been trying to dump him, but VP Murray refuses to accept her rejection. She finally decides to act mean so he’ll get the point. As she leaves his office, though, she can’t help but indulge one last passionate kiss, which is what Jimmy sees right before attempting his own kiss with Lacy. He can’t go through with it, and Eileen realizes that Jimmy caught her.
This leads to the two of them talking, and it’s one of the few times Jimmy and Eileen have had a moment together. Eileen thinks Jimmy will be upset that she’s dating, but he actually just wants her to do better than VP Murray. He reminds Eileen that she’s such a catch. (After all, the neighborhood Peeping Tom went to her window first.) Once again, Jimmy proves how sweet he can be with his clumsy compliments. The Real O’Neals definitely needs more one-on-one time with Jimmy and Eileen in season two.
Back at prom, Sebastian breaks away from Stuart and searches for Kenny. Kenny finally gets to dance with another boy and gets his dream kiss. Unfortunately, the kiss didn’t spark the Fourth of July feeling he thought it would. It felt more like the Ninth of August. Even though Jimmy knows that date is National Rice Pudding Day, it’s just a regular day for Kenny. Eileen, clearly uncomfortable with learning that Kenny has kissed a boy, nevertheless assures him this means he’s normal — and that brings a smile to Kenny’s face. Eileen explains there’s no accounting for chemistry. No matter how right the circumstances are, or how wrong her attraction to VP Murray is, chemistry is essential. You can’t force a connection. It’s an important lesson for anyone.
The boys get crowned non-gender-specific prom monarchs and Jimmy eventually gets his kiss from Lacy. Pat has his dance night at prom. Eileen recognizes her growing attraction to VP Murray doesn’t make her a terrible person and she gets to connect with her two boys. Shannon gets a little closer to the rest of humanity. And Kenny is no longer the only gay boy at school, plus he gets his first kiss since coming out. Even if the situation didn’t turn out like his dreams, he finally got to experience mutual attraction, which is always a thrill. The O’Neals may spend too much time together, based on their accidental family night at prom, but it was really sweet to see them come together for each other. The show may still be “controversial” to some critics, but The Real O’Neals is one of the better sitcoms on air. It has heart, humor, and compassion in droves. Isn’t that worth celebrating?