If Fox gets the rights to Donovan’s “There Is a Mountain” and plays it while Tori Spelling climbs a hillock in Calabasas — which we are supposed to pretend is a treacherous cliff in the Andes — in search of a poncho-wearing, Phish-following, Elizabeth Gilbert–y enlightened Shannen Doherty, the only living human who can save the soul of the Beverly Hills, 90210 reboot … is this camp? We’re not quite sure, but the part of us that thinks “jfc, yes” is all in.
So far, BH90210 has been giving us mid-’90s teen thriller, but this week we are being served mid-’80s John Hughes. “The Photo Shoot” throws the spooky mystery to the Santa Anas, instead focusing on the gang and its need for the return of Beverly Hills, 90210’s prodigal daughter, Shannen Doherty. Head honcho Christine Elise is demanding Shannen’s presence pronto so the reboot can re-create the original’s iconic campaign photo in anticipation of its launch. For anyone keeping track, we see Luke Perry in the original cast photo on display in Fox studios, but he’s conveniently removed from the weird charcoal sketch of the original photo that’s used to re-create the shot at the end of the episode.
But first the gang has to face the music. Gabby finally gets the group therapy she’s been championing thanks to a cameo from Carol Potter, who played Brenda and Brandon’s mother on the OG 90210 — now rocking a bomb-ass bob in her natural grey — and is apparently now a licensed therapist. (A quick Google search corroborates this. Sadly, she is not accepting new clients.) The session quickly devolves when the “Jason and Jennie boned” beans get spilled. And thanks to Jason’s BH90210-sponsored night terror of the week (an Alien meets The Big Sleep black-and-white sequence featuring Jennie G in a pregnant belly on the bar of the Peach Pit), he eventually comes clean to his also-cheating-and-now-pregnant-with-another-man’s-baby wife, Camille.
So what happened to the I Know What You Did Last Summer vibes from episode two? Where is the Playmobil mutilator? Only Jennie seems concerned, and accepts the studio’s offer for a personal bodyguard, hereby introducing what we like to call a “mid-season love interest.” The show wisely shelves Jennie’s smoothie-loving daughter this week and replaces her with a generically handsome Hallmark Channel white guy (Brendan Perry, no apparent relation to Luke). We maintain that Fox should have cast poor ole “you’ll never work in this town again” Ray Pruit, i.e., Jamie “How Do You Talk to an Angel” Walters, but alas, here we are yawning along with Bodyguard Wyatt.
Also, given that there’s just less menacing music this episode, what are we to make of Beautiful Boy? BAG took the bait by hiring BB as his assistant and quite literally handing our red herring the keys to his kingdom. BB proves to be a better guardian to BAG’s children than his pop-star wife, and since BB covers for her parenting mistake, she is now co-signing his creepy “I’ve only got dead eyes for BAG” forever mood. Could Beautiful Boy be modeled after BAG’s allegedly estranged IRL son with former 90210 co-star Vanessa Marcil? This is camp.
Jason tries to harness his emasculated rage by forcing out the reboot’s head writer, Jack Carlisle, who just so happens to be the poolside blackmailer who blames kamikazes for his impregnating Jason’s wife. J gets Tori to suck it up and fire him, but Carlisle’s slow Grinch-smile-in-rewind means we haven’t seen the last of him. To clarify: This is soap, not camp.
And poor IZ, as Ian Ziering is so painfully referred to, is so depressed by his divorce and disillusioned by the current gender dynamics in the workplace (can’t a guy compliment a PA on her beautiful eyeballs?) that he embarrasses himself in front of the new female writer for the reboot. Suddenly it’s Ian versus #MeToo. Woof. This is not camp.
BH90210 is at its best when it centers Tori Spelling, who just gets it (paging Scream 2). She’s been playing a version of herself for so long that she’s now demanding Andy Cohen give her a job because she practically invented the genre and needs that filthy lucre. This time we get to see Tori propelled by the galvanizing force that is no-nonsense exec by day, queer spiritual guide by night, Emily Valentine — okay fine, Christine Elise. Christine is 100 percent that binch and artfully side-coaches Tori, and later Gabrielle, to their full potential (successful producer and liberated queer, respectively). Gab and Christine even match on Not Lesbian Tinder, here called Madame 4 Madame. Guess Fox couldn’t product integrate with Scissr, but this is 2019 lesbian camp and it is finger-lickin’ good.
The episode culminates with Tori’s wilderness quest to retrieve Shannen, who is peacefully perched on a hilltop in Peru. Ever Aaron’s daughter, Tori finally nabs the elusive do-gooder by admitting she’s not a baby tiger, a sea lion, or an Amazon river dolphin, but she does need rescuing. Cut to our triumphant producer ushering Shannen with an E onto the Fox soundstage. This relieves an exasperated Christine, who had just moments earlier proclaimed, “I picked the wrong week to stop vaping!” We could not figure out if this joke (?) was a peach or a pit, so we’ve declared it both and neither, and frankly we would’ve worn it to the Met Gala. Thank you, Susan Sontag, and thank you, BH90210.
• Praise Spell, Tori gets her Romancing the Stone moment.
• Finally! Let’s put it to bed: Joe E. Tah-Tah, not Taytuh.
• Ian draining the bar mat into his glass was a good, quiet bit. Damian will always, forevermore, be down to smash IZ.
• Can we please request that the actors be in the same room? Christine Elise and Tori Spelling’s first boardroom scene felt very obviously patched together.
• We would like to personally apologize to the actor who was forced into Peruvian James Eckhouse territory.
• Jason Priestley seems to have an ever-expanding list of synonyms for testicles: “That kick in the nuts was a real kick in the nuts.” Stop this.