Our dear, sweet, fashionable Claudia Kishi is having a time, isn’t she? She’s upset because she feels like no one takes her seriously, she has to put up with more Mallory Pike than usual (which we all get is a real burden, that child will not stop talking about her horse fiction, and I’m sorry, but she is no Tina Belcher), and Janine is her sister. That last thing is just a fact of life that Claudia will need to get over, but still, it is certainly not making her week any easier.
Most of her problems begin with what was supposed to be a great time — the first official BSC sleepover that she hosts at her house. The key concept here to remember is that Claudia is the host … and yet, Kristy treats it like another meeting where she’s in charge. Kristy starts spouting off terms like “corporate synergy” and “growth potential” before handing all the girls a personality quiz to figure out how they can play to everyone’s individual strengths. She’s so much fun, isn’t she? You guys don’t even know how badly I’m trying to manifest an emotional HBO ensemble drama called Stoneybrook that meets up with the members of the BSC in twenty-five years when they all return home because one of them died under mysterious circumstances (probably Dawn, she’s into some weird shit) and Stacey somehow ends up married to Logan, but he and Mary Anne are having a steamy, secret affair because they never! stopped! loving! each other! and Claudia hasn’t talked to anyone since leaving town to start a successful fashion line that is currently embroiled in a child labor scandal and Kristy is definitely in some sort of Wolf of Wall Street scenario. Not that I’ve, like, thought about it at all or anything. But yes, Kristy commandeers everything she’s involved in and dials up the intensity to 11 — this sleepover is no different. This quiz doesn’t reveal much we don’t already know: Kristy is “the captain” type, “a born leader,” and Claudia is “the individualist,” one who bucks the crowd. Mallory is so nervous about being wrong that she can’t even complete the quiz, but she can make her obsession with Claudia known. It’s a lot. I guess we do learn something new in the end: Claudia is basically annoyed by Mallory’s breathing and can be a little mean about it, if only in her head.
While the sleepover is not as she hoped, she does have one cool thing happening in her world at the moment: The most popular girl in school, Ashley Wyeth, is hanging out in her kitchen, and she can’t believe she’s been so blessed. Sure, she’s there because she’s studying for a test with Janine, but that doesn’t matter to Claudia. Ashley Wyeth is speaking to her! And she’s so, so nice! And cool! Did I mention she’s cool? Claudia befriends a popular girl named Ashley Wyeth in the novels, but she’s pretty terrible and tries to get Claud to quit the club. This is a fun little reimagining of the character that Dawn sums up perfectly: “This isn’t like an 80s movie; coolness and cruelty are no longer synonymous.” You can still be named things like Steff and pop your collar IF YOU MUST, but you gotta be kind to everyone, okay?
The sleepover ends with Mallory only getting weirder and more annoying by the second and Kristy getting strep throat. Not that Claudia would ever wish illness on someone, but she sees this as an opportunity to show off her leadership skills and be seen differently. But even from afar, in bed, Kristy has other plans for her club. She appoints Dawn, Alternate Officer, as interim President instead of letting the Vice President do what Vice Presidents do. It’s like literally their one job. What, are they just using Claudia for her copious amounts of candy, access to a landline phone, and the proximity to Mimi? I get it but also justice for Claudia!
She doesn’t take it that far, but she does toss out a casual reference to beheading a monarch when Dawn references Lady Jane Grey as someone who used their short stint as a leader to enact change, which is possibly threatening-adjacent. But Claudia’s a good girl, and in the end, she does what most women with problems do — she vents to her best friend. Stacey gives her some not terrible advice: Claudia needs to show Kristy how important having a leadership role is to her. She could do that by taking over all of Kristy’s babysitting jobs for the week. There is, however, one caveat: Kristy was supposed to be training Mallory all week. Stacey knows Claudia’s feelings about even the thought of this but tells her to “think of it as a way to practice tolerance.” Ah, there’s our problem-solving “overachiever” type when we need her.
The first training session is rough. Mallory’s in a suit and is more interested in pitching her apocalyptic equine fantasies than learning about babysitting. She attempts to do the dishes to keep herself busy but ends up breaking everything, including Claudia’s spirit, and wakes up the baby they’re watching. The next time they meet, Mallory’s wearing Hammer pants. It seems like a genuine cry for help if you ask me, and this is coming from a person who listened to the Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em album a lot as a child. Things go downhill fast. Mallory is asking question after question about random things and also trying to use the oven, which feels like a major safety hazard, and eventually Claudia explodes on her. “I’m supposed to be training you, but it feels more like I’m babysitting you!” she yells. She isn’t wrong, but she sees Mallory is deeply hurt by this, and Claudia’s an empathetic artist type; she’s not meant for making people feel bad about themselves!
Things are still awkward between the two during the next meeting — Kristy is back, so at least Claudia doesn’t have to be reminded that she wasn’t chosen as a leader anymore — and Claudia doesn’t know how to fix it. She bumps into Ashley in the kitchen again. The test is over, so Claudia’s confused about why Ashley would willingly hang out with Janine, but Ashley explains: She likes Janine. “She makes things more interesting,” she tells Claudia. Janine talks about things and thinks in a way that would never occur to Ashley. She is always herself, and that is “the epitome of cool.” Mimi teaches Claudia a similar lesson: Mimi loves being a part of a book club still because she loves hearing what people different from her think. Opening herself up to new people “makes [her] think different.” These people are so wise, and Claudia is smart enough to realize how these lessons apply to her current situation.
A good, thoughtful leader listens to what others have to say. Hey, even when Kristy finds out that Dawn was trying to make some changes regarding the fairness of club dues and trying to institute a charitable giving situation for the BSC, she doesn’t just blow it off once she comes back. Does she get annoyed and sigh about it a lot? Sure! But then she listens to what Dawn is saying about things being more equitable and figures out a plan to make it work for everyone. Even Kristy Thomas knows when to listen. So Claudia heads over to see Mallory, apologize for how she treated her, and tell her that she has “a voice worth listening to.” She even reads her horse stories and offers to illustrate some that they could put in their Kid Kits. She also tells Mal to retake the personality quiz and, this time, just be herself. In the end, she’s the curious and uplifting “storyteller.”
Claudia takes what she’s learned about listening to others and applies it to her relationship with Janine. If Ashley can do it, so can see. She tells Janine that if there’s anything she ever wants to talk about, she’s there for her. We’ll see if Janine ever takes her up on that. For now, it’s a very mature start.
• Kristy got her corporate personality quiz from Watson, who uses it at work, and she divulges that Watson is “the cheerleader” according to the test and that tracks.
• If you’re wondering about the other girls’ quiz results: Stacey is “the overachiever,” a born problem-solver, Mary Anne is the contemplative “philosopher” type, Dawn is “the revolutionary” always trying to make change for the better, and Jessi is the goal-oriented “warrior.”
• Jessi finishes the quiz in record time because she knows herself, and honestly, have you ever been more inspired by a pre-teen? Teach us your ways, Jessi Ramsey!
• Forcing Kristy to sit out of the club while she’s sick is a fun move. She can’t let go! She calls people to see how it’s going and isn’t happy until Stacey finally tells her that things have descended into chaos. It’s not like she wanted the club to fall apart, but also she definitely did want that. The girl just wants to feel needed, okay?
• Mary Anne freaking out over whether or not the club should be paying taxes was great, but even better was Dawn’s response to the question: “Not if we’re a corporation. We can just hoard our profits until we’re bailed out by the disappearing middle class.” The Schafer Administration is very anti-capitalist, in case you couldn’t figure that out.
• Glad to see Natalie Barrett is still fucking shit up in Stoneybrook. Someone really needs to chat with her about her codependency on her 13-year-old babysitter.
• Confession: I’m not not watching season two of The Baby-Sitters Club to get some fashion inspiration from this child. That sweater with the neon trimming? I’m already googling it.
• Mimi’s book club is reading Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys if you need a reading recommendation from the coolest grandmother we know.