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Arts and Entertainment

Morning After Report: 90210 Episode 4 'The Bubble'

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(Left) Shenae Grimes as Annie and Jessica Lowndes as Adrianna and (right) Jessica Walter as Tabitha on 90210 on The CW. Photos: Michael Desmond/The CW

Instead of calling this week's 90210 "The Bubble" they should have called it "The Nap" because, frankly, it was a snoozer. Chock full of lots of talk and no action, it left me wondering if the residents of West Beverly Hills got too close to a field of our state flower, the Golden Poppy, and experienced en masse its mildly narcotic properties. Either that or someone in the halls of WBHHS was passing out Xanax.

The episode's many pressing and relevant themes--class consciousness, race relations, broken friendships, generational differences, the inability to make things work with a soulmate, and a family torn apart by adultery--seemed muted this week, lost in an endlessly repeated section of some horrible contemporary musical theatre number and the hypnotic power of Naomi's bad fashion and otherworldly hair. If it weren't for the ultimate payoff of finding out that, yes, there is a God, and He has a name, this 90210 zealot might have given up all faith in network programming. So let's see if we can muddle through and extract some lessons, and get to the big-time baby daddy bubble bursting. It's why we're watching, right? Okay, here goes...

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At the core of this week's 90210 there exists a very serious problem that is being ignored by the residents of West Beverly Hills, and it's a problem that is affecting the community's youth. The problem? The West Beverly Hills school system does not have a program in place for hiring substitutes, which means if one teacher is ill, has an emergency, or needs a day off, the schools are left crippled, flailing, and helpless, and the principal must rely on his personal connections and friendships to solicit help.

This ugly bruise on the otherwise glorious and glossy apple of the WBH educational system was revealed when West Bev High's drama coach had to leave town and the school play's future was instantly placed in peril. You'll be relieved to know, however, that Principal Wilson/Dad (Rob Estes) came through--his mom happens to be a somewhat eccentric star of a previous era (Jessica Walter), and his good old buddy Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) has an old pal who happens to be an actress (Shannen Doherty) and evidently they both happen to have very flexible schedules and don't mind that the job doesn't pay. Theoretically, this should be where the inherent drama of drama kicks in, but for some reason we're left learning the following: a) Grandma is a little bit of whore b) old people are funny c) despite having no budget or system in place for substitute teachers, WBHHS can afford to get the performance rights to a very contemporary musical and d) the CW only shelled out the bucks for one song, which means we're going to hear this one effing song a lot. "Mama who bore me" = Mama, you bore me. Yeah, that's about it for that storyline.

Angelenos hoping to see more glimpses of our beautiful city were sorely let down this week, since the only location they rented out was ye olde Peach Pit, aka the Kokomo Cafe (incidentally, not in Beverly Hills, but, however, on Beverly). We sure did get an earful of where people might theoretically go instead of, before, or after going to the Peach Pit, including Century City's year-old resto Craft. There is also, apparently, a new pizza place in Silver Lake that is so good it's "New York good." We also learned that in magical television land, the under 21 set can party down at two very popular music venues, because Vampire Weekend is playing a "secret show" at the Avalon and Sea Wolf is playing this weekend at Spaceland, and all the cool kids (okay, one cool kid with "industry connections") are going. Who needs to be of legal age, right? Wheeeee!

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LtoR: Jessica Stroup as Silver, Tristan Wilds as Dixon, and Shenae Grimes as Annie on 90210 on The CW. Photo: MICHAEL DESMOND/The CW

But secretly, the people of West Bev don't go anywhere but the Peach Pit, and I think it's because of the Dr. Pepper. That shit is good, and they have it there, and it's the best thing to order, and I can't stop thinking about it, and everywhere I look I feel like someone is gently nudging me and whispering "Dr. Pepper, Dr. Pepper," and basically if I don't have some Dr. Pepper today I don't know if I'm going to make it. I think they called this one "The Bubble" because life is just one big effervescent glass full of tasty Dr. Pepper... Why can't I stop thinking about Dr. Pepper? Strange...

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I'm going to attempt to distract myself by talking about the people from the old 90210 now.

Since Brenda Walsh came to save the day and help direct the school play, this means she can sit with Kelly and dish about all the people they used to know, or at least one person and one deity. Following our first (and let's hope not only) gratuitous "Donna Martin graduates!" reference, we are privy to some intel: Donna is doing great, and "her baby" is cute. I guess Donna reproduces on her own, like an amoeba. Apparently we are still not allowed to mention David--you know, the guy she married in the finale 8 years ago. If things were cool between the Silvers and the Taylors (and they are so not, see last week's episode) and Donna got knocked up by her husband David, then Kelly wouldn't need to ask Brenda--someone who just came into town after years away--how things were, since she'd be that cute baby's step-aunt. Maybe David got back on speed and things got ugly... so many secrets in Beverly Hills!

But one BIG SECRET got blown out of the water last night, and may well be your water cooler topic of choice this morning (unless you work somewhere where water cooler talk is serious, and you're busy discussing the collapse of Lehman Brothers or Sarah Palin's latest scary speech). Though many of you, like me, may have been convinced by the middle of the second act that Kelly's baby daddy was, in fact, God, it turns out God goes by a whole different name in Beverly Hills. Referred to reverentially as "He" and "Him" again, Kelly's divine baby daddy purportedly spends His time being a global "do gooder" and takes up residence "all over." Ah, so He is ubiquitous--possibly omnipotent--and works to spread goodness around the world. Sadly, though, He is also ruining Kelly's game, not showing enough interest in His offspring, and in a way coming between BFFs Kelly and Brenda* once again.

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So there is a God, kids, and his name is Dylan McKay.

You can exhale now. (I pumped my fist, let out a big loud "I KNEW IT!" and then wished I had a nice cold Dr. Pepper to slurp on as soon as Brenda dropped the D-Bomb.)

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After that big reveal, everything else going on is pale in comparison. Sure, we learned that whores have feelings too (Naomi's dad's mistress loves Naomi's dad) and get to live in Malibu beach houses. And we learned that it's not easy--just every now and then--to be the black kid in a white family. We also learned that the Lakers play off season, only guys hold grudges, Nat is only allowed to go near the young men and not the ladies, there's only one place to get a job in Beverly Hills and it's at the Peach Pit, and, better yet, you don't need any training and can start the same day.

And really, isn't all that and a refreshing Dr. Pepper enough?

*For those hoping that Brenda remains as troubled and bitchy as she was in the early 90s, you might be dismayed to realize that, of all the nutjobs in the 90210 zip, she is the most calm, level-headed, considerate, and together out of everyone. Weird, huh?

90210 airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW

Get caught up: Episodes 1 & 2, Episode 3; or go retro.

Other photos:

Shannen Doherty as Brenda on 90210 on The CW. Photo: Jaimie Trueblood/The CW

LtoR: Joe E. Tata as Nat and Tristan Wilds as Dixon on 90210 on The CW. Photo: MICHAEL DESMOND/The CW