Season 2 actually brings us the first cast change, with Ryan replacing the original male lead of the series. He’s the new kid, so understandably, his character receives a lot of attention (and, thus, a lot of growth and development) in this season. He rolls into town with a punk look and an attitude to match, but we quickly learn that there is more to him than meets the eye. He’s quite engaging, with a mature, coolly self-confident attitude that at turns inspires and irritates his bandmates. He becomes the resident lead guitarist and songwriter, and is a stickler for the band’s rehearsal schedule. He naturally (and quickly) ascends to a position of leadership within the group, and proves himself to be whip-smart, loyal, compassionate, and fiercely protective of his friends. Quite often, he’s also the voice of reason – when Gloria has to stay in the hospital and have her tonsils out, he assures the others that the operation is necessary and completely safe (episode 2x7). When a fast-talking wannabe agent gallops into town and starts promising the world to the band, if only they help out his bogus charity, he’s the lone hold-out skeptic of the scheme (2x8). As the season winds down, we see more glimpses into his nerdy side – his undying love for hardboiled detective stories (2x21), his unabashed enjoyment of ’40s film noir and music (2x18), his fascination with medical textbooks (2x11, 2x17). His leadership skills are also put to the test, when Gloria wins first prize in a raffle and blows off the group to embrace temporary fame and fortune (2x23).
Stacy, by contrast, is still very much the littlest of the group, and, aside from a pang or two of wanting to grow up, seems to enjoy being the youngest. She is sweet, cheerful, and very innocent, quite naturally sheltered from the world by her older sister, Renee, and the other kids. She isn’t as worldly as the others, but no one seems to mind explaining things to her so that she isn’t left out of the conversation. In this season, she’s a cute kid with a big voice, but doesn’t have much in the way of character development beyond that. This isn’t to say she never gets into trouble – she has a precocious friendship with her best friend, the Kid, one that gets them into trouble more often than not, especially with Renee (2x14). She also has a stubborn streak a mile long, as evidenced by her “running away” to the P*lace when she finds out that she isn’t allowed to take the class bunny home for the weekend because of her father’s allergy (2x24).
This season is all about laying the groundwork for friendship between Ryan and Stacy. There is no real evidence to support a shippy view of their interaction, given their vast differences in life experience and maturity. Even during their musical numbers, the two aren’t paired together on stage to sing backing vocals until midway through the season, and though they share an unprecedented five duets, only two of those ping the “d’awww, these two are so cute together!” radar. Nevertheless, there are moments when it’s obvious that they care about one other, both little – linking arms when they visit Gloria in the hospital after her operation (2x7); Ryan trying to find a cure for Stacy’s hiccups after witnessing Renee taking a scary tumble from the stage (2x17); Ryan understanding Stacy’s fear about leaving her class pet alone for the weekend (2x24) – and big. The foundation of this ’ship is a solid friendship, which begins and grows throughout this season.
Foundation Episode #1 – 2x1, “New Kid in Town”
The very first significant moment between these two happens in the very first episode of the season – their first meeting. Mickey, the founder and leader of the band, has moved away with his family, leaving Kids Incorporated in something of a bind. They are only four strong, and three of their members are girls – not exactly the recipe for a balanced sound or group dynamic. Just as they’re contemplating what to do, a striking stranger rolls into frame.
I’ve always found it particularly interesting that Stacy walks right up to Ryan and starts touching him, prodding his clothes and his hair with curious fingers. Even more intriguing is the fact that he just lets her, like he’s completely unaffected by her inspection, or her reaction to him. She stares at him in awe, like she’s never seen anyone quite like him before. Her reaction to him – and his reaction to her – certainly makes an impression, not only on the other Kids, but on the audience as well. Right away, we can see that Ryan is different – ultra-cool in his leather jacket, fashionably ripped clothes, and spiky hair – and this assured, self-confident manner just emanates from him. He apparently already knows something of the group, as he turns to Gloria and addresses her by name, but his attitude rubs the Kid the wrong way. The Kid tells him that if he wants to join the band, he’ll have to audition, and the only way he can earn an audition is to show a little respect.
Ryan follows them into the P*lace, watching – and trying to butt into – a rehearsal, but the Kid makes sure he’s thwarted at every turn. It’s increasingly obvious that if Ryan wants to join the group, he’s going to have to adjust his attitude. Displaying some quick wit, he seeks out the Kid, who has most obviously been mortally offended by his first impression, and mends fences, earning an audition with the group. They aren’t going to make it easy, however – Ryan is thrown directly into the fire, his audition a sink-or-swim live performance with the band in front of their regular crowd. While anybody else would probably prepare for such a nerve-wracking experience by frantically studying sheet music or nervously practicing an instrument, Ryan decides to…read a book?
I like this – it’s unexpected, and it shows us that he’s not just a one-note character. In fact, this scene, where he unabashedly admits that he enjoys reading (and that, despite his cool-as-a-cucumber exterior, he’s incredibly nervous about this audition) gives him a little depth. For someone with a self-assured attitude who looks like a punk, it’s nice to see there’s something beyond that pretense. It’s intriguing to discover this quietly academic side of him. It also introduces one of the most important facets of his personality – his obvious enjoyment in reading, learning, and sharing his knowledge with others.
He proves himself to be chivalrous as well, which impresses the girls:
Ryan nails his audition (of course – there wouldn’t be much of a show if he hadn’t, LOL), and when Riley hops on stage to elicit ovations for each individual member of the band, it’s Stacy who gives him the result of Ryan’s audition. When Riley announces Ryan as the newest member of the group, the crowd erupts with cheer, though no one could possibly be more ecstatic than Ryan himself, LOL.
Foundation Episode #2 – 2x4, “I Love You, Suzanne”
By episode four, Ryan has already built a reputation for being patient, open-minded, knowledgeable, and friendly. The next huge moment for the growth of his character comes quickly, in the form of one of those elusive ‘crush’ episodes, denoting the fact that he’s mature enough to be romantically interested in girls, and thus, drawing a line between himself and the others. Thus far, only Gloria has ever shown interest in romance or flirtation, so this is an ever-so-subtle hint of his age, relative to her (as the oldest) as well as the younger kids in the group.
This episode is actually a great example of the predictive power of the opening song – and it just so happens to be Stacy’s very first solo of the season. Coincidence? =) She covers “Premonition,” originally by Jack Wagner –
I looked to my left, but you were standing on my right
That’s when I knew this wasn’t just another night
I’m getting a premonition / the writing’s on the wall
I’m getting a premonition / it’s got me so confused
…Yeah. Bad things are ahead, LOL.
Riley announces that he has a cousin who’s coming to visit, and shows the group a picture of her. Ryan takes one look and declares that he’s in love:
He starts getting carried away with the “mushy stuff,” causing Stacy and the Kid to leave the room. Gloria practically has to drag Ryan back on stage for their next number; Riley muses aloud that he has something important to tell Ryan about Suzanne (dun dun dun), but then realizes that he's the only one left in the room.
Suzanne arrives, and Riley introduces her to Ryan. Things seem to be going swimmingly, until Ryan learns that she’s blind. Cue total awkwardness. He blows her off, making a total ass of himself in the process:
The others are shocked. Is this the same friendly, mature, open-minded guy they’ve known all these months? Why does her blindness bother him? They try to get to the bottom of it, but Ryan blows them off as well:
He can’t help but be acutely aware of her disability, and how he couldn’t just look good and say a few smooth words in his quest to win her over, whereas for her, not being able to see is just another run-of-the-mill fact of life. The other Kids are still friendly with Suzanne, and decide to help Ryan make it up to her for his original, hurtful dismissal – though she makes it anything but easy for him to apologize:
The two do eventually make up, and end up spending the afternoon together. By the end of it, they are very openly affectionate:
...and also openly “mushy,” much to Stacy (and the Kid)'s chagrin, LOL:
This episode ends with what has to be the most bizarre performance Ryan ever gives on stage (and considering some of the truly cracktastic plots and performances this show contains, that’s saying something o.O). While we, the audience, generally cringe with secondhand embarrassment about what a lovesick sugar high can do to an otherwise cool guy, there is a positive here. Quite obviously, he’s not afraid to make himself look like an idiot when he’s in love, which again – speaks to the whole ‘incredibly self-confident’ thing. It also demonstrates that he’s comfortable being open and expressive in his attractions to girls, allowing his body language to say anything he can’t articulate in words.
Duet #1 – 2x8 “Sussudio”
The first of Ryan and Stacy’s five duets is the opener for the eighth episode. It’s a cute performance, and the lyrics add a very subtle hint of the potential for shippiness to come. They alternate lines of the lyrics:
(R) There’s a girl that’s been on my mind all the time
(S) He don’t even know my name, but I think he likes me just the same
(R) If she calls me, I’ll be there
(S) I’d come running anywhere
(R) She’s all I need / all my life
(S) I’d feel so good if I just say the word
(R) I know that I’m too young, my life has just begun
(S) Give me a chance, give me a sign / I’ll show him anytime
(R) I’ve got to know her, know her now
(S) I’ve got to get closer, but I don’t know how
(R) She makes me nervous, she makes me scared
(S) But I’d feel so good if I just say the word
Foundation Episode #3 – 2x9, “One Glass Slipper”
Episode nine provides a very nice counterpoint to episode four, in terms of the characters and their relative maturity levels. Episode four has shown us that Ryan is an early teen, already interested in girls, and beginning to sort through the trickiness that accompanies romantic relationships. This episode shows us where Stacy is along the same continuum.
The story opens at band rehearsal, where the Kids are all hot to trot to finish up so they can get ready for the party of the year at nearby Lynch Manor. Everyone, that is, except Stacy, who doesn’t meet the 10+ age requirement to secure an invitation. Apparently, an English family has just moved into the prestigious old house, and the party is to celebrate the birthday of a heretofore unknown boy named Alan.
This particular scene is one of the most endearing in the burgeoning Ryan/Stacy friendship, as evidenced by the conversation they have:
STACY: What’s the big deal? It’s just a birthday party.
RENEE: Well, you’re just mad because you weren’t invited.
RYAN: Any kid who’s dumb enough not to invite Stacy can’t throw a very good party.
STACY: I don’t care about the party. I just think it’s stupid to invite kids ten and over.
KID: I guess it’ll just be us old people.
RYAN: Who is this kid, anyway? I’ve never even seen the guy.
GLORIA: His name’s Alan…I think he’s from England. All I know is that his family just bought Lynch Manor. I’m dying to see the inside of that place!
RENEE: Me, too –
RYAN (interrupts, turns back to Stacy): Hey, Stace, are you sure you don’t want to come? I’m sure it’ll be all right.
KID: I’ll get you in.
KID: I’ll do some of my smooth magic talk, and they’ll never know what hit ’em.
STACY: Sorry, but I don’t go where I’m not invited.
RYAN: You know, you just say the word, and we’ll skip that party and stay with you.
STACY: No, that’s okay.
D’aww! How sweet is it that Ryan is the one who soothes Stacy’s miffed feelings, and offers to stay behind with her, missing what is surely the social event of the season? Not even her own sister offered to do that! (Much less her best friend, who was too busy cracking wise to be of much comfort.) And, of course, there’s the fact that he tunes out of the conversation he started in order to give his attention back to Stacy, and the offer to sneak her in or stay behind with her anyway. ♥
The group rehearses their last song of the day, and the others run off as soon as it’s finished, while Ryan and the Kid stay behind to say goodbye to Stacy. She looks hurt when they leave; to comfort herself and/or take her mind off her troubles, she picks up Cinderella, and promptly loses herself in the story.
This episode’s fantasy sequence is definitely one of the best-executed ones of the season. Stacy imagines herself as Stacyrella, caught in a dream world reminiscent of late 1700s France. The other Kids are also imagined into roles – Gloria and Renee are the wicked stepsisters, the Kid is her fairy godfather, and Ryan is her escort at the royal ball:
Ryan’s placement in Stacy’s fantasy is interesting, for two reasons – 1) that he is in what is, at best, a nominal role, guiding her through the ballroom of the royal P*lace where she meets the king and queen and, eventually, Prince Alan…but 2) at the same time, he is in a protective role. So, obviously she appreciates him looking out for her, even when her own sister wouldn’t.
Stacy meets Prince Alan, who declares her his favorite guest at the ball. When Stacy admits that she wasn’t invited, Alan says he doesn’t care – the age rule was his parents’ idea, not his. He invites her to dance (to one of the most gorgeous renditions of “The Greatest Love of All” I’ve ever heard), and just as the two are really starting to hit it off – the Kid drags Stacy away, claiming his magic is going to wear off any minute now. She runs out of the room to the chiming of the clock – and wakes up back in her ratty old armchair in the Garage, surrounded by her bandmates. Turns out, they weren’t having any fun without her, so they persuaded Alan to move his party to the P*lace so that she could attend. The two share a mutual shy smile when they meet (for real), and Ryan, recognizing the moment for what it is, herds the other kids back across the street so that Stacy and Alan can be alone. In one of the great twists in this take on the classic fairytale, Alan returns the “glass slipper” from Stacy’s fantasy, leaving her to wonder if it was really a dream…
This is one of my favorite episodes from season two, and definitely one of the best to display the tone of friendship these two develop early on. Ryan, just like the others, has taken on a protective role when it comes to their youngest band member and friend, and this is a feeling that will only grow as the season (and series) goes on.
Duet #2 // Shippy Clip #1 – 2x10 “Call Me”
The second of Ryan and Stacy’s second-season duets is definitely the first ‘shippy’ clip of them, in the sense of “OMG they are so adorable together!” (It’s also a fairly good example of Ryan’s flail-y style of dance, which is why he doesn’t dance at all after this season, LOL.)
This clip is also special because it is the debut of their ‘signature move’ (second gif). This move will resurface, and when it does…well, let’s just say they’ll be looking at each other in an entirely different way… =)
Foundation Episode #4 – 2x11, “Peer Pressure”
The final important episode from season two is the very after school-special-like “Peer Pressure,” so named (and filmed) in order to take advantage of the wildly popular New Edition song of the same title. Apparently this song made the rounds back in the day, also appearing in the Mr. T’s Be Somebody…or Be Somebody’s Fool (which, coincidentally, co-starred several KI first-season cast members).
Once again, we see the power of predictive music with the first song selection, “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man),” a Kenny Loggins cover with lead vocals by Ryan. It’s my personal favorite of his second season songs, not in the least because of the lyrics:
Looking into your eyes, I know I’m right
Because anything worth my love is worth the fight
We’ve only got one chance / nothing ties our hands
You’re what I want / listen to me
Nothing I want / is out of my reach
Considering who he’s going to be fighting for in this episode? Hmm… =)
It seems Stacy is having an attack of growing pains. For a change, she’s frustrated about being the baby, and acts out by mimicking adult behavior – like wearing high heels (even though she slips and falls) and putting on makeup (even though she makes herself look more clownish than glamorous). When the others admonish her for being “too young,” she lets out a frustrated sigh: “I’m too young to do anything.”
The others are only half-paying attention to her anyway, as Riley has announced that he’s found an opening act for their concert that evening – Doctor Dude and the Interns, a band from a nearby neighborhood. The Kids think they look cool, and everyone but the Kid warms up to the idea of letting them open the show.
When they meet later that afternoon, though, first impressions quickly turn sour. Doc is completely insufferable, criticizing everything from the P*lace, to the Kids’ clothes, to the fact that Stacy is “too young” to be in a band. When he offers a cigarette to Gloria, she coolly turns him down. Sensing the tension between the two, Ryan grabs Doc and tells him he’ll help move their equipment. As they leave, Doc inexplicably tosses his pack of cigarettes to Stacy.
Gloria immediately tries to wrangle them away, but she uses that dreaded phrase again – “you’re too young” – causing Stacy’s frustration to boil over.
Kid, Renee, and Gloria try to teach Stacy about peer pressure, but Stacy’s insatiable curiosity wins against their rockin’ musical number, and she runs off with the cigarettes while the Interns are keeping the other Kids busy.
Ryan and Doc are moving equipment to the stage door at the back of the P*lace in the next scene. The first chance he gets, Ryan rips into the older, supposedly cool teenager:
This is actually a great scene, because it’s a full display of all of the facets of Ryan’s personality – he gets sarcastic when he’s angry, he can spout medical facts and figures from memory (with citations, no less!), and yet, he’s still compassionate, even with someone as obnoxious as Doc. And, of course, the fierce protectiveness he feels towards Stacy, wanting to shield her from pain as much – and as long – as possible.
There’s another interesting aspect of this scene – the boys’ heated conversation is interrupted by Gloria, who runs up and breathlessly tells them that Stacy has taken the cigarettes and run off, and now they can’t find her:
The characters’ actions and reactions are pretty telling – why would Gloria, who is quite clearly the oldest member of the group and has known Stacy longer, coming running to Ryan, all in a panic? She pretty clearly cedes the decision-making to him here. It’s one of the first starkly clear moments in canon that she treats Ryan as her equal when it comes to taking responsibility for, and worrying about, the younger band members. To me, this is the moment when he takes the role of the male lead. His calm and measured response in the face of Gloria’s panic belies a certain maturity of character.
The Kids spread out and look for Stacy, but don’t have any luck. Just as they’re about to give up, who should wander up but – Stacy, of course =) She assures them that she didn’t smoke the cigarettes – she went home and asked her mother if she could, and of course her mother told her no – but not because she was “too young,” but because they weren’t healthy. (Way to go, Mom!) When Stacy mentions that she and Renee wished she didn’t smoke, their mother agreed to try to quit, which cements Stacy’s resolve to never smoke.
And, just to bring both storylines full circle, it turns out Doctor Dude went home with a sore throat, so the Kids won’t have an opening act – but the Doc is interested in borrowing Ryan’s medical books.
It was really nice of Gloria and Ryan to stand back, and let Renee step in and be the big sister. Part of being a good leader is knowing when to let others handle things on their own. Renee can be a little snobby sometimes, but its obvious how much she cares about her sister, especially when Stacy is feeling troubled. Perhaps it is some of that sheltering nature that’s rubbed off on the rest of the Kids, as they all go out of their way to shield Stacy from the unpleasantness of the world – but Ryan especially. He seems to do his best to make sure she’s happy, and is usually the first one to step up and soothe her worries in Renee’s absence.
Duet #3 – 2x13 “Go Your Own Way”
The duo’s third duet is also their first closing number (the final song on the show that’s usually performed with the Kids in matching outfits). It’s my least favorite, because it’s a poor choice for Ryan’s still-high voice. It’s odd to hear him singing the top line, and Stacy singing below him, in a vocal range that is more comfortable for her. I think this would’ve been better as a Kid/Stacy duet, to be honest.
Duet #4 // Shippy Clip #2 – 2x18 “Only You Know and I Know”
The fourth of Ryan and Stacy’s second-season duets is by far the cutest, and their growing comfort with each other on stage is evident:
I’m undecided about how much of that second-verse falling-to-his-knees thing was choreographed, considering Stacy’s gigantic smile when it happens, but either way, it’s really adorable =) Here are the lyrics from that section:
(R) Whenever I think that I know you better / better than I know myself
(R) Ooh, I open up, give you everything / then I say, “Okay, what else?”
(S) When I run away, you always cry / you always overreact
(S) I don’t know how you really feel / but you better know before I get back
(S) Just try to remember / that I’m the one you love
(S) You tell me / ooh try to remember / I’m the one you’re thinking of
Duet #5 – 2x19 “Don’t Lose My Number”
The final duet of this season is the opening song for episode nineteen, and it’s a rollicking good performance. Ryan is starting to display his ability to command a stage in what will become a characteristically understated way, and this is one of my favorite Stacy performances ever.
There is nothing inherently shippy about this performance, other than the fact that they are standing together in familiar territory – like most of their final season duets, they are standing apart from the others at the front of the stage. It’s amazing how reminiscent this will feel in four years, LOL, but for now? It’s just plain cute =)
Also cute is the sweet little exchange they have immediately after this number:
Be still, my little shipper heart! ♥
BONUS CONTENT: Random cute moments from the other episodes of Season 2. Enjoy! =)