The Baby-Sitters Club
Mary Anne Spier is pure joy and this episode is pure joy and let’s all just bask in it for a moment. It feels very nice and safe here, doesn’t it? Although, “Mary Anne Saves the Day” starts out by reminding us of a less-than-joyful trend on this show: These girls are extremely hard on themselves. Mary Anne especially so. She’s well aware that thanks to her two pigtail braids her dad always makes her wear and her overalls and her wheely backpack, that she looks “like the world’s oldest toddler, or maybe its youngest senior citizen.” More than just appearances, she is basically terrified of everyone and everything. Much of her attitude toward the world at large has been passed on to her from her mostly clueless, always fearful father Richard, who’s been raising her like a glass doll since Mary Anne’s mother died when Mary Anne was only 18 months old. That loss looms large over the Spier household.
Two events occur back-to-back that push Mary Anne toward a quest of self-improvement and confidence. First, during a knit sesh with Claudia’s grandmother Mimi (“Oh, how we rage”), Mimi, who was very friendly with Mary Anne’s mother, tells Mary Anne all about how her mother always spoke up “on behalf of those who can’t stand up for themselves.” It blows Mary Anne’s mind since, as she puts it, just the thought of speaking to someone she doesn’t know “makes [her] stomach fall out of [her] nose.”
At the BSC meeting immediately after, a situation arises that puts that feeling into practice. A call comes in from Richard’s colleague Francine Delvecchio. She’s looking for a sitter for her daughter Bailey and only wants Mary Anne. Special requests for specific sitters go against the club’s mission statement (just when you think you couldn’t love these child entrepreneurs any more, you learn they have a full mission statement), but Mary Anne has a hard time speaking up and saying no and so takes the job.
The other girls are not thrilled and gang up on Mary Anne, telling her she needs to be more assertive, advocate for herself, and quit being such a pushover. Mary Anne runs off in tears. When she reluctantly confides in her father, who would much rather talk about the menu for Thanksgiving dinner than anything having to do with emotions, she tells him that her friends see her as a pathetic baby because that’s what she is. Richard takes this as “his daughter is being bullied” and he wants to do something about it. Guys, when Mary Anne says that “women want to express emotions and men want to find solutions,” please know that my brain exploded. She’s right! These kids are teaching us all so much.
Unfortunately for Mary Anne, Richard’s solution is to call up Kristy, Claudia, and Stacey’s parents and inform them that the girls were bullying his daughter. They’re all grounded and furious about it. In the school cafeteria, they want nothing to do with poor Mary Anne. She sits alone at the lunch table and laments her current situation until who should plop down in front of her but … Dawn Schafer.
Have you been wondering when Dawn would show up? Me too. Here she is in all her California-girl glory, complete with a giant green juice. Her parents recently divorced after her father came out and her mother decided to move from Los Angeles back to her hometown of Stoneybrook. We are all grateful, but Mary Anne especially is. The girls hit it off immediately (much to Kristy’s chagrin — that stink eye could burn holes in the wall).
At her babysitting gig for the Delvecchios, Mary Anne and Bailey spend their time having the ultimate princess tea party. After noticing that all of Bailey’s old clothes tucked away in the closet are much more typically masculine, she realizes that Bailey is trans. Mary Anne and Dawn have a chat later in a lovely scene that provides vocabulary for even the youngest viewers to understand who Bailey is and how important it is to support and love her. Anyway, I love this show.
The next time Mary Anne sits for Bailey, she runs into a huge problem. Bailey feels sick and when Mary Anne realizes just how sick she is, she attempts to call the Delvecchios, her dad, and even the other club members — but no one picks up. This is all on Mary Anne. Terrifying for any 12-year-old, but especially for this specific one, who’d rather let someone else take the lead in any situation. But Mary Anne knows she has to be brave for Bailey. So, she calls 911 and the girls end up at the hospital.
Mary Anne is well aware that she’s all Bailey has as she lays in the hospital bed, sick and scared. So, when the doctor and nurse show up and start using incorrect pronouns, Mary Anne asks to see those adults outside, please. There is no fear in what she does next, chastising them for not taking time to see Bailey and therefore making her feel insignificant and humiliated. Mary Anne may not be able to advocate for herself just yet, but she sure as hell is going to advocate for Bailey. It’s around this time that Richard shows up to see his daughter in all her glory. Once Bailey’s parents arrive and Richard and Mary Anne get in the car to go home, he can’t hold back how moved he is by what happened. “I’m overwhelmed by you,” he tells his daughter. She reminds him so much of her mother.
Richard has gotten a bad rep up to this point for how strict he is (I’m looking at you, Kristy Thomas), but here we finally get a less biased look at the guy. He’s a man who misses his wife and is scared that he doesn’t have what it takes to raise his daughter right. He’s understandably scared all the time. He’s also the first one to admit that he has no idea what he’s doing (who does?!). For instance, it’s not that he demands Mary Anne wear her hair in pigtail braids, it’s just that it was the only way he knew how to do it. When Mary Anne tells her dad that she wants to feel more confident and mature and part of that is through the way she looks, he is totally on board. He wants her to be herself, he wants her to be as proud of herself as he is. Are we all in love with Richard now?
Well, sorry people, but there’s a line. The newly made over Mary Anne (she describes her new look as “grown-up and sparkly”) invites Dawn and her mother Sharon over for Thanksgiving dinner. When they arrive, Mary Anne and Dawn are surprised to learn that Richard and Sharon know each other … very well. They used to date in high school. And they seem happy to see each other. I have never been more ready for a courtship than I am this one.
• Dawn and her mom bring Mary Anne to a new moon celebration hosted by their Aunt Esme, who happens to be the “witch” who lives next door to the Brewers. Aunt Esme is actually a “spiritual healer” who is super into astrology. She also tells it like it is and is wholly welcome on this adventure.
• Dawn is another welcome addition to the team, first and foremost because she is the most supportive friend to Mary Anne: When Mary Anne runs off during Aunt Esme’s ceremony because she’s scared of speaking in front of the group, she assumes Dawn will make fun of her for being a baby, but Dawn does no such thing. She accepts Mary Anne as she is — however she wants to be. Also she says the line, “A new moon share-a-mony is not everyone’s cup of tea” and that is both hilarious and factual.
• The other BSC girls of course forgive Mary Anne, especially once Richard calls all of their parents, tells them about Mary Anne getting Bailey to the hospital, and about how much he loves that his daughter is in a club with “other young women who are such great influences.” Aw, Richard.
• Oh, and Mary Anne’s anthem that plays over the credits? That’s “Mary Anne” by BOYTOY. I have been listening to it nonstop.