Season 4 sees the departure of one of the founding members of the band, in Gloria, and in her place arrive two new young talents, Connie and Richie. It’s the first season in which Stacy is not the youngest band member, and she struggles a little bit to find her place in the group. Renee has ascended to the role of female lead (while Ryan retains his status as the male lead), but really, all four of the veteran cast members turn in very strong performances. The characters are very good friends and it shows – they are comfortable with each other in happy moments, silly moments, and poignant moments. They mesh together so easily, so seamlessly, that it really makes for strong repeat viewing. I think in terms of plot and acting, Season 4 is probably my favorite.
Performance wise, it’s a little different. This year, neither Richie nor Connie are singing their own vocals (though they will in the future), and it makes for a bit of awkward performance, as the sound isn’t as rich or harmonious as in previous years. Choreography on stage has relaxed a little bit, so the Kids look more natural during their performances. There are some experiments to keep things fresh, but mostly, they are starting to hone in on their strengths. There are new faces among the dancers as well, so the age gap between the veterans and the newbies is striking at times.
This season, Ryan is probably at the height of his rebelliousness, especially in terms of his appearance. He has always had different performance outfits from the others during the closing numbers, but this year, he really stands out – his hair is very long (and very spiky), he wears jewelry, dark-colored clothing, black Converse Chuck Taylors, and he personalizes his guitar strap with different buttons. During those closing numbers, he finds some way to stand out in his outfit, be it via leaving his shirt untucked or straightening the collar of his jacket. He’s gorgeous and he knows it, and he has enough swagger to pull off even patently ridiculous looks. His rock star charm is out in full force this season.
At the same time, he’s lost none of the qualities that endeared him to us in previous seasons – he’s a kind, patient, and compassionate lead cast member, and he takes his role as the head of the group very seriously. He’s still the omnipresent cheerleader for the others, and some of his dorkier habits surface again, like his love of reading and doing research (episode 4x8), or his fascination with the 1940s and old Hollywood (4x9). We also see other sides of him, like his competitive nature (4x4), his dry sense of humor (4x11), and his ambition to better himself as a musician (4x3).
As secure as Ryan is with his place in the world (and the band), Stacy is still adrift in the sea of adolescence. She takes Gloria’s graduation hard, and struggles a bit as the season moves on to find her place in the world. She has a fight with the Kid that threatens to ruin their friendship (4x5). She displays an empathetic, patently romantic, still-dreamy persona, as if she’s not yet ready to believe the worst in people. She starts more actively discussing her interests in fashion and acting, and quickly turns into a diva when she’s asked to star in a video project (4x3).
Perhaps what makes it hard to pin Stacy down in this season is the fact that she’s so obviously being groomed for the role of a lead. She is prettier than her sister, dresses more fashionably, and seems far more comfortable on stage. Renee, by contrast, is put into some pretty horrible outfits, and her bookish, shrewish side is played up (4x3, 4x4, 4x11). Despite all this, she is still the lead this season, and the sometimes-contentious nature of her friendship with Ryan adds an interesting dimension to their roles as co-leaders of the band.
As far as shippiness goes – well, here’s where it starts being a bit less subtle and a bit more obviously flirtatious. There is a lot of standing close, exchanged looks, touching, and hand-holding, and, on the meta side, the introduction of blatantly manipulative camera work. This is the first season where both Ryan and Stacy are old enough and interested enough in romance for their friendship to change, and it plays out very much like the confused-yet-giddy first steps of falling in love and figuring out what that all means. Frustratingly, it’s almost all completely subtext, and is made all the more complicated by the fact that both characters have crush episodes this season. Believe it or not, however, those episodes contribute to the reasons why I ship them, because we get a peek into their heads and the ways they act and react to being in love.
Foundation Episode #8 – 4x1, “A Kid’s Line”
The first episode of the fourth season gives us a good look at the group’s dynamic, now that they’ve lost their lead singer, Gloria. She’s studying at music school now, somewhere far enough away that she’s writing her ex-bandmates letters about her experience. The others are torn – they’re happy for Gloria, in that she’s being successful and pursuing her dream, but at the same time, they miss her. Stacy seems to be taking it the hardest, just as she did when Mickey left two years ago. Immediately, we see this soft and vulnerable side to her, and Ryan’s compassionate reaction to the same.
After hearing the latest news from Gloria, Ryan tells the others that her absence means finding new talent for the band. Some guy named Rockin’ Rich sends the Kids a telegram, saying he’s heard about the open spot in the band and is interested in it. He sends along a very impressive list of credits, but Renee suggests that auditions would be the fairest way to fill Gloria’s spot.
They spread the word via the second song, a high-energy cover of Stephanie Mills’s “Bit by Bit.” It’s a great, early solo from Stacy, something that was sadly lacking in the ’86 season. It’s also a good example of the way she is starting to command the stage, in stark contrast to her sister. Renee is more conservative, while Stacy is a carefree spirit.
The band holds auditions the next afternoon, and they are not a success, to say the least. (This is what counts as the fantasy sequence for this episode, and it’s pretty cute – I love all of their individual reactions to the candidates, none of whom even come close to being a good match for the band.)
By the end, both Ryan and Stacy have fallen asleep, while Renee crosses every name off their list, and the Kid just looks embarrassed.
The entire time, there’s a quiet little girl hovering around them, who’s so nervous she manages to spill her malted and her food all over herself, and even fall out of her chair. The Kids feel sorry for her, but at the same time, they’re kinda weirded out by her.
They’re still waiting for Rockin’ Rich, who’s late to the audition, but on his way (and, apparently he’s also Richie Rich, since he keeps sending them telegrams). Renee takes pity on the little girl when she sprawls out of her chair, and goes over to talk to her. Her name is Connie, and she wants to try out for the band, but she’s too shy and nervous. Renee tells her that she was nervous when she tried out for the band, too, but that it was the best thing she ever did. This encourages Connie, who gets up on stage and proceeds to knock their socks off with a one-minute snippet of Madonna’s “True Blue.” It’s amusing – but telling – when Connie walks down the stage steps and over to the table where the Kids are sitting. She gives her attention almost exclusively to Ryan, a subtle hint that he is the leader of the group and thus, the one she needs to impress the most.
The Kids are incredibly impressed by her big voice and seeming ease on the stage. They rush the stage when she’s finished, and after learning her name, Ryan immediately offers her a place in Kids Incorporated. Connie is ecstatic, and, of course, accepts – just as Rockin’ Rich arrives with his truck full of expensive equipment.
These scenes are great, because Ryan and Stacy are standing together the entire time – it even looks like she grabs for his hand when they’re talking to Connie :D Already it’s being established that (1) Ryan is the leader of the band, with the power and authority to invite prospective members to join, and (2) Ryan and Stacy are more likely to pair off together, opposite Renee and the Kid – interesting, given (at least for the moment) he is the oldest and she is the youngest. Ryan and Gloria almost always presented a united front during their tenure as co-leaders of the group, so it’s interesting that he and Renee haven’t fallen into the same pattern.
Rockin’ Rich arrives, dropping names and trying to impress the members of the group. Before he’s even had a proper audition, he’s talking about ways to change the band, to keep up with the latest trends and fads. This doesn’t exactly endear him to the Kids – and neither does his audition, which ends, abruptly, with his latest-and-greatest equipment exploding. Richie brushes it off, blithely assuming that his audition was a mere formality, and Ryan seems to take some relish in telling him that it wasn’t.
It’s funny to see Richie advancing all hot-tempered at Ryan, when he’s half Ryan’s size and obviously no match for him, either in words or in action. Renee informs him that they’ve decided to with Connie instead, and finally, the Rockin’ Rich facade crumbles. He confesses that he’s not a famous rock star, and he’s never played professionally – he’s just the new kid in town, and thought he needed to impress the Kids in order for them to like him. Stacy solemnly tells him that they’d be his friends anyway – if he’s honest with them. Richie agrees, and when he goes up on stage to clear away his busted equipment, he slides behind the band’s drumset and proceeds to impress the hell out of them with his ability on a proper kit. After a short conference, Ryan invites him into the band as well, to be their permanent drummer.
The final song is an ensemble number, in those hideous solid-colored tuxedoes from the New Year’s special *shudder* But, what’s important here is not their unfortunate choice of performance outfit (never to be repeated, thank goodness), but the fact that already, in this first episode, new cornerstones are established. Ryan and Renee each step up as the co-leaders of the band, with deference to him to have the final say. Already, we can see Stacy’s role isn’t all that clear, as she drifts from lost little girl, to on-stage ingénue, into some of the actions expected of a lead cast member. And, of course, there is already a great deal of movement forward between Ryan and Stacy, establishing a new, flirtatious cast on their already close friendship =)
Clip of interest – 4x2, “I Am the Beat”
If ever you need a reminder of how surreal the ’80s were, well, here it is in the space of two and a half minutes :P
In episode two, Riley has invented a Max Headroom-like AI/synthesizer to add a new dimension to the band’s sound. During the band's first session with S.A.M. in the store room, Ryan and Stacy end up sitting together, and at one point, they share a big, dorky, enchanted smile =)
Actually, this entire scene is great, so enjoy a bunch of bonus gifs :D
Foundation Episode #9 – 4x3, “Video Madness”
Of all the Season 4 foundation episodes, this one is probably the most blatantly shippy, not in the least because it starts off with the first truly, obviously, blatantly shippy performance clip:
Duet #7 // Shippy Clip #3 – “Let’s Go!”
Ryan and Stacy’s lone duet this season is a good one, a cover of Wang Chung’s “Let’s Go!” It’s fun to compare their sound here to the way they sounded in Season 2, and note the growth not only in the strength of their voices, but also the richness of the harmony. Ryan has a mid-tenor-range voice, and Stacy is an alto, so their pitch is pretty close together, as opposed to most harmonic duets, where there is a more noticeable range between the lead lines.
This performance is also noteworthy because of the stage positioning. Ryan and Stacy are both on platforms in front of the stage, standing at opposite ends as they sing the opening verse to each other. Halfway through the song, they walk towards each other on stage, meeting in the middle and reprising their ‘signature move,’ a great bit of continuity carried over from the second season. There is definitely more flirtation going on this time around, as is evidenced by the final look these two share during the bridge :) This is what makes a shipper’s heart beat just a little faster, seeing something that is subtle, but obvious, and oh so very sweet ♥
And, just to top it all off, here are the lyrics of said bridge, which Ryan sings:
Meet me on the dance floor
And we’ll dance to the rhythm
Get your feet in motion
And we’ll dance to the rhythm
Dance to the rhythm of love, oh yeah
The Kids are hanging around the counter with Riley in the first scene, chatting amongst themselves. Ryan and Stacy are engaged in their own conversation at the counter, pretty obviously only attuned to each other, when Richie walks up with a video camera and starts recording them. He explains that he’s been given an interactive assignment for English, and that he wants to use the band as the stars of his video project. The other Kids are enthusiastic about the idea, with Stacy dreamily musing that she’s “always wanted to be the in movies.”
The next scene finds the group lounging around backstage in the store room, and once again, Ryan and Stacy are off by themselves, paging through a magazine together. Richie and the Kid come in, and announce to the other Kids the parts that everyone will play. Renee will write, Connie will narrate, Richie will direct, and the Kid will produce. That leaves Ryan and Stacy to be the stars of the project, which they readily (and in unison) accept.
This is a huge development for this ship, as it’s the first time they are paired together, exclusively, by someone else – in real life, no less, and not a fantasy sequence. It’s one thing for them to be dreamed into complimentary roles, but quite another to be asked, outright, for a project that is really going to happen. There is also the implicit explanation that, because all of the other band members are working in off-camera roles, that this video project truly will focus on them, and only them. It’s an overt confirmation of the subtleties of the subtext that have been building over the course of the first couple of episodes in this season. This is the first time they are acknowledged as a potential pairing by their friends, which could be construed as tacit acceptance of their growing interest in (and flirtation with) each other.
The third scene finds the Kids each doing their own thing to prepare for the video. Renee is busy typing up her manuscript, ignoring Connie’s protestations that the narrative doesn’t work for her. Ryan wanders into the P*lace, trying out a few new moves to go along with the song he’s in the middle of composing. Renee is not pleased that he’s late, nor by the fact that he hasn’t bothered to learn his lines. Stacy bursts in next, carrying half a new wardrobe and wearing a feather boa. There’s an ultra-cute shot of her greeting Ryan – “Oh - hello, Ryan darling!” – and grabbing his chin as she passes by him on her way to the table where Renee is sitting. She’s completely caught up in looking good on camera, unable to decide what to wear or how to do her hair.
When Richie and the Kid appear and herd everyone together, Ryan and Stacy sit together on one of the tables near Renee and Connie, giving each other playful little shoves. Richie wants to start rehearsal, but no one can agree on what to do – everyone is arguing over the script, the music, the dialogue. When Stacy says that the most important thing to her is how she should wear her hair, Ryan rolls his eyes and suggests sarcastically, “How about in very tight rollers, Stacy?” They then proceed to have an incredibly flirtatious fight in the background of the scene, while the others are also yelling at each other.
Richie retreats, defeated and discouraged over the others’ continued fighting. As he sings a rare solo (a rendition of “Some Guys Have All the Luck”) he watches the playback of the footage he’s shot so far – the audience, the Kids, when he’s explaining the project, and then their last two days’ worth of fighting. Here we see the flirtatious side of Ryan and Stacy’s bickering, as they can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other or stop smiling, even while swapping caustic remarks. The scene ends with a shot of the group together, and once again, they’re touching (and smiling). Talk about body language saying it all…
In the fourth scene, Richie confides in Riley (who is still angling for a starring role himself) about the disaster that the project is turning into. Riley gives him a great piece of advice about the challenges of being a director. [Incidentally, this is a clever bit of meta, considering Moosie Drier directed several episodes of Kids Incorporated during his tenure on the show.] The other Kids wander in, still snapping at each other, but they all grow quiet when they realize Richie is packing up his equipment. Once again, Ryan and Stacy are standing together, closer to each other than to any of their bandmates. Richie tells them that the project is a disaster because they wouldn’t listen to each other, or play together nicely. As the group begins to see the error of their ways, the gears are turning in Ryan’s head – he knows of a way to save the project, even if it means sacrificing his role as one of its stars.
The fantasy sequence sees each of the Kids taking an equal role behind the camera – Richie is still in charge, as the director, and the Kid is still the producer, responsible for keeping everyone in the right place, but now Ryan has become the lighting director, Renee and Stacy are in charge of hair and makeup, and Connie is a camerawoman. The dancers are their stars, and each of them work together to make sure the filming process is smooth and problem free. The Kids also provide music for the shoot, and have cameo appearances at the end. It’s a cute scene, and there is a bit of flirtation between Stacy and Ryan, both at the beginning, and when they’re working together on the music.
Richie declares their hard work a success, and Riley offers to hold a premiere for the video at the P*lace the next day. Everyone is excited at the prospect, although nobody more so than Riley, who dresses up for the occasion and even sets out glossy 8x10s of himself. He’s adorably nervous about the whole thing, even though he’s not in it – a great scene that reminds us of how endearing he is, a real part of the gang even though he’s not a kid =) Richie comes in with the tape and tells the band that everyone at school loved it, including his teacher. They called it “creative, innovative, and totally dynamite!”
The closing song is actually a showing of the video, a performance which is different from the one we saw filming in the fantasy sequence. It’s a great ensemble number, a cover of Starship’s “Nothing’s Going to Stop Us Now” with lead vocals by Stacy. The performance, set outside in front of the Garage, is intercut with scenes from the other season four episodes, both of the characters themselves as well as their dancers. And, because a shiptastic episode has to end on a shippy note :D Stacy and Ryan are standing next to each other during the performance, with another great lead-in lyric as Stacy makes her way to her spot beside him during the opening verse:
Standing here beside you
Want so much to give you
This love in my heart
That I’m feeling for you
Shippy Clip #4 – 4x4, “Living on a Prayer”
This clip is the first example of blatant camera work contributing to the shippiness of a performance. This is my favorite Ryan song, hands down, of all of his years on the show. It’s pretty much the peak of his look, attitude, and performance as a rebellious rocker, and the best example of the way he can not only command a stage, but also work the crowd. He’s by himself on the platform in the audience for the duration of the song, and his distance from the band only strengthens their backing vocals behind him. It’s a great performance, hands down, with the lovely added layer of shiptastic squee. I mean, really – there is no need to cut to Stacy so much during a Ryan solo, even if she does look particularly attractive…but then again, so does he :D
Clip of Interest – 4x5, “Trouble’s Cooking”
The nice thing about Season 4 is that subtext is apparent even in the episodes where either Ryan or Stacy has only a background role. This episode is a good example of that. Stacy and the Kid get into a fight, and it’s up to Ryan and Renee to sort things out and get the band back on track. Basically, every time Ryan and Stacy are in a scene together, they are standing near each other, touching each other, or exchanging covert looks. In both the first and final scenes, when the Kids are hanging around the counter, Stacy is sitting on one of the stools and Ryan is standing behind her, resting his hand on the back of her seat. This, to me, conveys a certain level of intimacy, in that they are both so comfortable being inside each other’s personal space:
When Stacy and the Kid get into a fight onstage, both Ryan and Renee move to break it up – and Ryan is the one who’s standing on Stacy’s side in that particular mess:
At the beginning of the third scene, when the group is waiting for the Kid to show up so they can start band rehearsal for the afternoon, Stacy is fiddling with the tuning pegs on Ryan’s guitar – and if you listen closely, you can even hear him tell her which way to turn them. And, of course, there is the final scene, where she pretty much can’t stop looking at him =)
Foundation Episode #10 – 4x7, “You’ve Got the Wrong Date”
Season 4 establishes that Stacy is growing up, and finally, she earns her very own crush episode. The first song doesn’t exactly foreshadow good things, and indeed, this episode will bear that out.
Our story opens with the Kids hanging around the counter, both interested in and yet somewhat repelled by Riley’s latest ice cream experiments. He’s designing a new sundae for the upcoming Sadie Hawkins Day dance, which he oh-so-cleverly calls a sun-daisy-mae. Ryan tells his friends that Melissa finally asked him to be her date for the dance, and the Kid shares his conundrum over being asked by four different girls. The only person not participating in the conversation is Stacy, who’s sitting off at a table by herself. She keeps checking the doors, and when a good-looking blond-haired boy walks in, she panics for a second before gazing dreamily after him.
Ryan notices Stacy at her table and walks over, asking her who she’s planning to invite to the dance. Stacy blushes and stammers that she’s not going to invite anyone, what a silly idea, and don’t they have another number to do? She runs off before any of the others can protest, but she’s certainly piqued her friends’ curiosity.
A popular shippy interpretation of this episode is that one of the reasons Stacy has such a hard time asking the object of her affection to the dance is because, well, he’s already taken – there is a cutaway to Stacy after Ryan announces his date, and she’s looking away from the others. When he comes over and asks her about her own plans, her body language is timid and embarrassed, and she pretty much can’t get away from him fast enough. Considering her reluctance to tell him or anyone else what’s going on, it’s just as easy to speculate that she doesn’t want to admit to having a crush on him, as much as simply not wanting to admit having a crush in general.
The second song is a beautiful cover by Ryan of a song that originated on Fame. It’s not only another great performance (and the camera definitely loves him here – no wonder the idea is planted in our heads that maybe Stacy’s crush is on him!), but the song is evocative not only of the theme of the episode, but of all those wonderful, confusing emotions associated with falling in love – both the pleasure, and the pain. And, in fact, Stacy blushes and looks away when she catches the blond-haired boy looking at her. This tips off Renee that something is going on, and in the second scene, she confronts Stacy about it. Stacy readily admits to wanting to ask Jason to the dance, but she’s nervous and insecure, unsure of how to ask him or really, how to even speak to him. This shyness is something new, considering Stacy’s quite forward way of meeting new people in the last couple of seasons.
Renee is only too happy to offer her little sister advice on dating, and tells Stacy that she’ll write a poem for her to read when she asks Jason out. The next scene finds Renee, Stacy, and Connie in the store room, with Stacy pacing as Renee works feverishly. When she finally gets her hands on the final product, Stacy is less than impressed. She despairs over ever having the nerve to ask him out, and then comes up with the brilliant idea of having Renee ask him for her. Renee is reluctant, suggesting Stacy simply be direct instead, but Stacy guilts her into it, throwing her “big sister to the rescue” words back in her face. Stacy tells her she’ll write everything she wants Renee to say, and with much hesitation, Renee agrees to the scheme. She and Connie leave Stacy to her words.
Stacy’s solo is a beautiful rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” She wanders around the room with a dreamy look on her face, thinking about Jason and how wonderful it would be to go to the dance with him. She works diligently on her own poem for her sister to recite, and seems hopeful and excited at the prospect.
The next afternoon, Stacy and Renee wait outside the library for Jason. Renee is wearing a patently ridiculous outfit – she’s dressed as Daisy Mae from the comic strip Lil’ Abner, and is clearly embarrassed by it. Nevertheless, she stops Jason on his way out of the library, and reads what Stacy has written. She only gets halfway through it when Jason interrupts, saying how flattered he is that she went to so much trouble, and that of course he’d love to go to the dance with her. Before Renee can explain the mistake, Jason dashes off. Stacy comes out of her hiding spot, furious with Renee for the mix-up, but Renee is having none of it. She storms off, telling her, “I only did what you wanted, Stacy!”
Stacy ruminates on what a mess the whole situation has become, and sinks down onto a bench outside the auditorium, lapsing into the fantasy sequence. It’s a retelling of the story from the comic strip, of just how Sadie Hawkins Day came to be – all of the unmarried girls in Dogpatch chase the unmarried boys, who don’t want to be caught, because they have to marry the girl who catches them. In an, er, *intriguing* twist, the song Stacy’s singing as she wanders around, lamenting her lack of luck in catching a boy, is Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.”
The fantasy sequence shows us that not only is Ryan out of her reach, but so is Jason – both boys are caught by other girls. Nicole, a dancer, nabs Jason, while (in a rare co-leader pairing) Renee pulls Ryan off the market. In the end, Stacy catches up with her best friend, the Kid, and all’s well that ends well =) This is a nice sequence, because it not only sneaks in an homage to the origin of the Sadie Hawkins Day dance, but because it shows Stacy that no matter what happens, she can always count on the Kid to be there for her. Considering the fight they had two episodes ago, this is great reassurance, indeed.
We fade back to the present day, just in time to see Ryan strolling out of the auditorium. He sees Stacy sitting on the bench, looking all despondent, and so he comes over to see what’s wrong.
This scene is significant for a couple of reasons – (1) it’s the longest scene they have together in the entire episode, (2) it’s Ryan who’s here to comfort her and/or offer advice, instead of the Kid, and (3) the advice he gives her is the same thing that Renee told her from the start. Here, we see Ryan doing what he does best – listening, encouraging, and helping a friend through a conflict. He’s logical, reasonable, practical ~ basically, everything Stacy isn’t, especially when she’s fighting through a crush :P His advice is to be honest and direct, and she really seems to take it to heart. Now, why it suddenly has meaning when he tells her this (and not when Renee did, before this whole fiasco happened) is anyone’s guess, but I think it’s obvious that she respects his opinion, and his understanding of what it’s like to be in love. She gives him a little smile as she steels her nerve, and it’s really a great moment between the two.
As for Ryan – well, this is really the first time he has to acknowledge that she isn’t a little girl anymore, and he does it gracefully. Maybe it plants the seed in the back of his mind that she’s worthy of his interest as something more than a friend. I think he likes to flirt with her anyway, but not until this episode does he even consider that maybe their friendship could lead to something a little more promising.
In the final scene, we see the resolution to both pieces of the storyline. Stacy rushes into the P*lace, where the others are hanging around, and tells Renee that she set the record straight with Jason, and he’s agreed to go to the dance with her. They hug and make up, and everyone’s happy. Ryan asks the Kid if he ever decided which girl he was going to take, and he regretfully confesses that when the four girls realized they’d all asked him, they all asked other guys as well – leaving him high and dry and without a date.
The final song is a great, upbeat cover by Renee and Stacy of the Breakfast Club’s “Right on Track,” a clip that includes an unexpected gem of shippiness. Stacy and Jason smile at each other during the performance (as is customary for these crush episodes), but Stacy looks far more interested/impressed with Ryan when he makes a cameo appearance on the platform she’s sharing with Renee. This appears to have been filmed during the same shoot as “Living on a Prayer,” so both of them are looking especially attractive – especially together ♥
Foundation Episode #11 – 4x8, “Russian 101”
All right, now that we know how Stacy reacts to being in love, it’s time to check back in with Ryan in that department. It’s been two years since his last crush episode, so it’ll be interesting to compare and contrast his actions then with his actions now, especially as he’s grown in confidence and willingness to be openly flirtatious.
The scene is set during the interlude between the first two numbers. The girls are gathered around one of the tables when the boys come down from the stage, settling themselves at the counter. The Kid and Richie request two of Riley’s “world famous” hamburgers, but receive a new dish instead – something called Burgers Romanov, which appeals to neither of them. Riley tells them he created the dish to honor the Russian Youth Ballet coming to town. The girls pipe up, with Renee and Stacy enthusiastically discussing going to see the best and brightest young ballet dancers from the Soviet Union. When Connie asks the boys if they are as excited about it as the girls, they give her matching deadpan, unimpressed looks, turning back to the counter. They’d rather face the unknown entity of Burgers Romanov than acknowledge thinking ballet is cool.
When the girls engage them again, Richie and the Kid disparage ballet for being girly and unathletic. Renee makes some great arguments about the fine skills and stamina associated with dancing, but even Ryan is ultimately dismissive, which I find a little out of character for him. For as open-minded as he is, and as interested in learning new things as he is, it seems odd for him to automatically close his mind to something so intrinsically linked to music as dance. Of course, this scene is all about setting him up for a huge fall, so I guess the mild remark can be overlooked :P
The Kids hustle back on stage for their second number, and during the performance, a tall, lithe girl comes into the P*lace and sits at the counter, taking a shy interest in the music on stage. Ryan spots her and is immediately interested. When the number is over, he makes a beeline for the counter, brushing off the Kid, who reminds him that they’re sitting at a different table.
In contrast to Stacy, who froze and bumbled while in the presence of her crush, Ryan plays it smooth, opening with a gentle tease about obviously not being from around here when he notices that she’s actually eating Riley’s latest creation. They shake hands and exchange names, and Ryan is absolutely transfixed. When Katrina asks him if he likes the ballet, he sputters that, of course – he loves the ballet! He looks to Riley for some help, but the soda jerk wisely stays mum. The look on Riley’s face is priceless as Ryan turns back and gazes dreamily at Katrina.
It’s obvious that the boy has fallen fast and hard. And, indeed, the next scene bears this out: Ryan immediately hits the books, reading up on ballet, the Russian language, and life in the Soviet Union. While he’s alone in the store room, he indulges his inner nerd, trying out a few ballet poses. (I’m sorry, but it’s adorable, especially knowing he has less than zero coordination, LOL.) As soon as he hears the others coming, he drops back in his seat. He greets the others in Russian, and shares with them some of his new knowledge about the Soviet Union. Most tellingly, when the Kid tries to talk about band business with him, Ryan completely blows him off, informing him that he’s meeting with Katrina later and wants to impress her.
Ryan? Blowing off band discussion? Wow. Of all the members, he’s always been the most serious about practicing and getting better, and has taken in active role in making decisions about songs (leads, instruments, solos, etc). Even the others comment that he’s not been the same since meeting Katrina, and that’s not good – for the band, or for him. Renee expresses concern about the intensity of his crush, and how it’s going to affect him when she has to leave town.
This segues quite nicely into Ryan’s solo, which takes the form of a gushy daydream of him and Katrina dancing on stage at the P*lace. It’s sappy and romantic and totally cornball, and the song is what’s become a standard for all of the boys who have crush episodes – a rendition of Dan Hartman’s “I Can Dream About You.” But, as embarrassing as it might be for us to witness, it’s completely enchanting for Ryan, and that says quite a bit about him, in my opinion. He’s very romantic and unafraid to follow even the dorkiest impulses in pursuit of that romance.
The third scene opens with Ryan showing Katrina around. They end up where they first met, at the P*lace, and Katrina declares that it will be her favorite place in town, which spurs Riley to make a corny joke. Ryan leads her away to the stage and tells her about the history of the P*lace. What’s fascinating about this scene is the fact that they’re holding hands the entire time – this is the longest overt example of PDA ever on the show, a full thirty seconds of hand-holding. That’s pretty major in and of itself, but the fact that it also happens in a Ryan-centric episode? Once again, we see that he is very free not only in his verbal communication, but in his body language. He’s not afraid to show the world when he’s in love – or who he’s in love with.
Ryan and Katrina sit on the steps of the stage and discuss how similar their lives are – how much they like their schools, their towns, and their friends. The Kid comes in and breaks up the lovey-dovey fest, informing Ryan that the others are ready to rehearse. Katrina takes her leave, going to her own ballet rehearsal, and promises Ryan that she’ll see him later. As he stares after her, the Kid settles down beside him and tries to talk some sense into him – respectfully, but firmly. The Kid tells him that she’ll be leaving soon, but Ryan disagrees ~ he thinks he’s impressed Katrina so much with the American way of life (not to mention himself) that she’ll want to stay in town, and maybe even go to their school. The Kid argues that, even if that were true, they come from two different countries, so it’d never work…and this gives Ryan pause.
The fantasy sequence for this episode is probably my least favorite ever, because it is so very rah rah ultra-patriotic. That’s the end of the ’80s for you, though, so we haveta endure this love letter to the awesomeness of America. Basically, this sequence pits Ryan and the rest of Kids Incorporated against Katrina and the dancers, each representing one of the nations in question. Ryan’s America is full of rock ’n roll, loud guitars and attitude, while Katrina’s Russia is staid, formal, and traditional. The song alternates between guitar-heavy rock and classical lite, giving Katrina an excuse to show off her ballet technique. The two cultures meet in the middle in the final part of the sequence.
What’s interesting about this particular scene has little to do with the song or its message, and way more to do with subtext for the Ryan/Stacy ship. First of all, these red-and-purple outfits the Kids are wearing (and the modified version in black for Ryan) are actually previews for a set of performance outfits used in the fifth season, so that’s kinda cool. Next, check out a very small detail – the only people who have buttons attached to their outfits are Ryan and Stacy. In fact, the ones Stacy is wearing on her jacket look like they could’ve very easily come from the collection that Ryan used to personalize his guitar strap. Here’s a closer look:
Attaching buttons to a strap is a common thing amongst a certain subset of guitarists, and they choose those accoutrements carefully – so, why would he share his collection with her, unless they were close? This is a detail that will actually carry into the next season, and considering the outfits? It’s like a preview of what’s yet to come, LOL.
But, back to this episode =)
The final scene brings Katrina to the store room, where she discovers Ryan’s personal library. She breaks the news to him that she’s leaving earlier than expected – as in, that night. Ryan is shocked by the news, and the shock doesn’t really wear off, even as they carry their conversation outside the P*lace. Ryan begs her not to go, suggesting that she stay with him instead, and go to their school and dance with the local ballet company. Katrina is firm and practical – everything Ryan usually is, when he’s not letting his emotions get in the way of his good judgment. She asks him if he could do what he’s asking of her – leave his friends, his family, his country behind. He reluctantly agrees that he couldn’t, but doesn’t look any less devastated by the idea that she wouldn’t, either. Katrina tells Ryan that she’ll miss him and kisses his cheek before giving him a parting gift – and a standing invitation to visit her someday in Russia. As she walks away, they share one final, long look.
Ryan opens his gift, and finds that she’s given him an album by her favorite Russian rock band. While he’s staring at the cover, the rest of the Kids come out of the stage door and greet him happily. Their convivial mood sobers quickly, however, when he tells them that Katrina’s gone. They ask if he’s okay, and he says he will be. Ever the optimist, he tells them that he’s glad he met Katrina – he enjoyed learning about her country and her culture, and hopes to visit someday. Still, he is the last of his friends to wander back into the P*lace and prepare for their closing concert.
The final scene of this episode is incredibly poignant. Ryan’s heartbreak is palpable, both in his desperate words and in his wounded look as Katrina kisses him goodbye. There’s a definite sense of loss, beyond two friends parting ways – it really feels like a breakup. The other Kids certainly treat it as such, treading carefully around his feelings when they learn that she’s gone. This melancholy feeling continues into the closing performance, with Ryan standing still and averting his eyes at the beginning of the song, a great guitar-heavy cover of Cutting Crew’s “One for the Mockingbird.” He gets into it a little bit more as the song goes on, and its nice to see the music lift his flagging spirits. When the band joins him in the middle of the audience for the bridge and end of the song, he and Stacy are standing together, and share a long look near the end…making us realize that he’ll be just fine after all, hehe =)
I like this episode, because I think it shows just how romantic Ryan can be, and the lengths to which he’ll go to hold on to the girl he loves. There’s a great range of emotion here, from enchantment to excitement to mushy attraction and ultimate devastation, and all of it is incredibly intense. Here’s a guy who knows what he wants and is not afraid to go after it, to wear it proudly when he has it, and to mourn it when it’s lost. There’s something indelibly attractive about a guy with enough innate self-confidence to show such emotion, to not be afraid to engage in a little PDA or to do endless amounts of research into another’s passion. Oy, no wonder he was the show’s resident heartthrob! ♥
Clip of Interest – 4x9, “When Movies Were Movies”
The special episode for season four has the cast bickering about what sort of movie they’d like to see on their unexpected afternoon off, which launches Ryan into an extended fantasy sequence about Old Hollywood. He is the beleaguered head of a failing studio, and his army of employees similarly can't decide what sort of film will save their sinking ship.
Clip of Interest – 4x9, “Forever Like Heroes and Fools”
His solo is a Kids Incorporated original song, but what’s interesting about this clip is his look – the straight hair, the pinstripe suit, the glasses. It’s definitely a fangirl favorite, and worthy of mention here because his final season look will rather closely resemble this.
Shippy Clip #5 – 4x9, “When Movies Were Movies”
Ryan’s solo is quickly followed by the full fantasy sequence for this episode, where we see cameos by the producers and their families, as well as the cast, dancers, and bunches of extras. This clip is particularly shippy because of the roles they play – Ryan is the head of the studio, while Stacy is his blonde, ambitious starlet, who will do anything to insure that hers is the face at the forefront of his plans - and his mind. It’s very cute, and lends credence to their ever-increasingly obvious interest in each other.
Shippy Clip #6 – 4x13, “Sweet Freedom”
The final episode of the season has a dual plotline – Riley has invented a great new ice cream flavor, and he enlists the Kids to help think up a name for it. All of this sudden interest in names sends the Kid into a spiral of insecurity about his own name, and the others realize that they don’t know what it is – they’ve always just called him the Kid.
When the others try to draw the Kid’s problem with his name out of him, they tell him how all of their names have meaning and importance within their own families, and how everyone in America is descended from immigrants. This launches the Kid into a history of America fantasy sequence. There is flirtation from the start of this clip, as Ryan and Stacy try for the same chair, and then, during the song, exchange a long look.
We get an abridged version of American history here, watching the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, the signing of the Declaration of Independence, and the westward expansion. Ryan and Stacy are paired for this last sequence, as a pioneer couple encountering Indians in the wild wild West. What’s important here is that (1) they’re paired together in the Kid’s fantasy, giving the impression that he tacitly accepts this arrangement, which is huge, considering the fact that he’s Stacy’s best friend, and (2) they’re holding hands the entire time, even though it’s not strictly necessary. And it’s interesting ~ the only other bit of romantic hand-holding seen thus far on the show was in Ryan’s crush episodes…
So here, just like there, apparently he doesn’t mind letting the world know of his interest, and the fact that he’s trailing after her? Hmm… =)
This is the final episode of the fourth season, so we’re left with this indelible impression of them as a pairing, and one that has been accepted to various degrees by their friends.
BONUS CONTENT: Random cute moments from the other episodes of Season 4. Enjoy! =)