The Baby-Sitters Club
Clang all the glasses, people, I have a big announcement: I’ve found my Valentine this year, and it is this episode of television. If it’ll have me, that is. There’s just so much to love about “Mary Anne and the Great Romance.” From seeing an iconic literary couple go on their first date to Malia Baker’s great performance (The comedy! The tears! This kid!) to another great Liz–Kristy conversation to a nice scorching of Valentine’s Day as a holiday to everything related to one MR. RICHARD SPIER (the casting of Marc Evan Jackson in this role remains a gift). This episode, especially as a look at a single father and daughter navigating her first relationship, is such a winner. My Valentine is the best, folks.
Let’s go through it. We know that since summer camp Mary Anne and Logan have been dialing up the flirtations by way of ramen emoji and, as Dawn informs us, discussing who they’d cast in a film version of Wicked. These sweet dorks are so into each other, and finally, five days before Valentine’s Day, Logan asks Mary Anne to be his girlfriend. Did book readers cheer? It felt very momentous. Of course, Logan doesn’t really think about the pressure starting a relationship days before Valentine’s Day can bring (he’s young, he will learn), and things don’t go as smoothly as perhaps either of them assumed taking their relationship to the next level would.
A big part of that is because Mary Anne is adamant that nothing will change now that she has a boyfriend. But things start changing immediately. Stoneybrook Middle School has some weird “couples lounge” where people in couples eat their lunch to separate themselves from “the singles.” The other couples in this lounge are very intense. They’re speaking in unison and celebrating anniversaries every week. Like, you just know whenever this Oliver kid fights with his girlfriend, he spends the night listening to Sour on repeat and sobs while singing every lyric. Mary Anne is not a fan of this crew, but she feels obligated to sit there because, as she explains, “much like a pre-Megxit Meghan Markle, [she] now had duties and responsibilities in her new role.” When the other couples start talking about Valentine’s Day plans, you can see Logan scramble to show them he and Mary Anne belong, and he blurts out that he made dinner reservations at Salvatore’s for the big night. Come on, Logan. Even Kristy knows Salvatore’s is the restaurant where people get engaged. It is way too much for eighth-graders on their first date.
Lunch isn’t the only thing that changes for Mary Anne. Although the girls of the BSC are thrilled for Mary Anne — okay, well, Kristy is fine with the whole thing, which is about as good as it gets with her and romance — they do start treating her a little differently. They assume Logan would walk Mary Anne from school to the club meeting (Kristy’s nod as Mary Anne says “that’s so old-timey and creepy” is perfect), and they plan a Galentine’s party and don’t even think to include Mary Anne since she’s supposed to be going on a date that night. Mary Anne would much rather watch rom-coms in her sweatpants with her best friends than go on some stupid date, which, like, welcome to your 30s, girlfriend. Everything’s changing, she feels like she’s losing her friends, and she doesn’t want to choose between them and Logan.
Then inspiration strikes: She hasn’t told her dad about her and Logan yet, and she is sure that he’ll forbid her from going on that date once she does. She is very, very wrong. In the first of two great Mary Anne–Richard scenes in this episode, Richard has prepared note cards to speak to his daughter about allowing her to go on her first date. When Mary Anne calls him out, he explains that the last thing he wants to do is mess up this moment. “I may or may not have asked my therapist to help me strategize,” he admits before realizing he really doesn’t need to share these types of details. But the real kicker here is when Richard tells Mary Anne that he doesn’t need note cards to know that he trusts her. I don’t know, I guess we’re all tearing up now because Richard Spier’s superpower is emotionally devastating women over 35.
As heartwarming as this moment is, Mary Anne would’ve appreciated Richard holding out for like one more week on all this personal growth stuff because it means she has to go on a truly excruciating date. She’s bummed because she and Logan used to be so open with one another, but once they slapped on the boyfriend-girlfriend label, all that comfort disappeared. And the awkwardness of this date starts even before they run into Richard and Sharon at Salvatore’s. That’s how bad it is! It’s so bad that Mary Anne would rather have a double date with her father and his girlfriend than be alone with Logan. IT BAD. It ends with Logan getting a text that his mom has arrived to pick him up, and he cannot run out of that restaurant fast enough.
At home, Richard wants to make sure Mary Anne is okay, but she is in tears. Let’s talk about how the mere fact that these two can be so vulnerable with one another like this shows such growth in both of them individually and as a family unit. Aren’t you so proud of them? Richard’s therapist should really be charging more. Richard does not hesitate when his daughter unloads about losing her friends because of her boyfriend and losing Logan as a friend because they decided to date and are completely lonely in a relationship. Instead, he sits down next to her and tells her what she needs to hear. She is beloved by her friends “in an almost concerningly aggressive fashion,” and that if she wants, she can go back to being just friends with Logan. Or they can be “friends who like each other.” It’s okay to do that. He also opens up about his relationship with Sharon, which, come on, is a huge deal for this guy! She wonders if Richard and Sharon are just “friends who like each other” because she thought they would’ve gotten engaged by now. He explains that he and Sharon have some baggage, and Sharon isn’t going anywhere, but they are doing what works for them as a couple. “We’re just us,” he says. And he’s so confident in it because he and Sharon have talked about how they’re feeling. It is a very smooth — especially for Richard — way to impart some fatherly advice without feeling too advice-y. Ugh, aren’t you just so proud of the Spiers?
Mary Anne’s talk with Logan goes better than she could’ve imagined. He’s been feeling the same way she has, and they agree it might be better not to label their relationship. “We’re just us,” they say in unison (the couples lounge would be so proud).
And as for Richard and Sharon, well Mary Anne and Dawn are going to get a little taste of their wish to be stepsisters: Their parents announce that the Spier house is infested with termites, and while it’s getting fumigated, Richard and Mary Anne are going to stay with Sharon and Dawn. Dreams do come true, I guess?
• The other story line in this episode checks in on Liz Thomas and her pregnancy journey. She’s hopped up on hormones, and it doesn’t seem to be working. Karen thinks there’s a “Crying Lady” ghost haunting their house, but Kristy discovers it’s just her mom, hiding in the bathroom where she can safely let out her feelings. She’s been pretending everything is okay, even with Watson, and that’s not right for anyone. She loves that Kristy is there for her if she needs anything, but she knows she needs to handle what’s going on with her husband. Liz and Kristy Thomas forever!
• Mary Anne’s voiceover that concludes that Kristy–Liz conversation has a line about Liz being on a roller coaster, and the way this show continues to deal with fertility issues in a way a younger audience can grasp is very cool.
• Can we talk about how much Sharon loves Richard? The way she looks at him when he tells his “perfect croissant” story and how proud she is of him for settling a case outside of court? This is love.
• Kristy is basically the Cristina Yang to Mary Anne’s Meredith Grey, reminding her that Logan might be great, but he is not the sun, er, sorry, he is not number one. Mary Anne is.
• When Stacey begins spouting off dating advice as if she is the only one in the know, Mary Anne has the best response: “Stacey, with all due respect, I watched you pretend to twist your ankle in front of a guy to impress him and then cry over his dirty whistle for a week. I think I got this.” Even Mallory, who you’ll recall was in Sea City with them, knows how embarrassing that whole thing was: “It was tragic, I’ll tell you later,” she whispers to Jessi, who needs the dirty deets.
• Sharon asks Logan what his love language is, and his response is “I guess mine’s English.”
• Dawn loves that Mary Anne is embracing the no-label type of life. She tells her that she believes whoever she ends up with “could be anywhere on the gender spectrum.” Her only dating requisites are being environmentally conscious and having good oral hygiene.
• “Andrew is watching WALL-E for the 900th time. He says he enjoys the silence of it.” The Brewer kids are so strange, and we should cherish them.
• “I love you two, but we have all got to get on the same page about what constitutes a big announcement around here.”