luxken27: (Kids Inc - OTP)
LuxKen27 ([personal profile] luxken27) wrote2011-09-21 08:21 pm

Enduring | Part II - The Story: 1986 (The Prince and the Dreamer)


Season 3 is a special treat, as it features the strongest incarnation of the cast to ever grace the stage on Kids Incorporated. There isn’t really a bad musical performance in the bunch, and all of the characters continue to develop their own signature style – both in performance, and in their collective friendship. We see them working together to investigate Riley’s sudden, strange behavior (episode 3x2), to help a lost boy find his way back home (3x5), to help Renee’s cousin with her Shakespeare project (3x7), and to help each other through various trials and tribulations (3x3, 3x4, 3x8). This is also the first time we really see friction between the band members, when they pick a collective fight in episode 3x12 that takes a stranger to come and fix. There are also some vestiges of the show’s cracktastic past (3x13), and plenty of old familiar tales retold in that special KI style.

This is also the first season that was produced for and shown on the Disney Channel, so there are a few changes – the major one being, a season is only half as long as before. They didn’t skimp on character development, however, managing to pack quite a punch into their thirteen episodes. [This was also the first year to feature a “special” episode, a celebration of the innocence of childhood with a more ambitious plot, more elaborate costuming and sets, special guest stars, and cameo appearances by the three producers of the show and their families. The “special” episode tradition will continue through the 1989 season, and it will pop up a couple of times in this manifesto, albeit not for this season.]

In this season, we really see Ryan becoming more comfortable in his role as the male lead of the cast. He is the character the others turn to when facing conflict, and stands out as a steady, practical, responsible voice of reason. When Riley begins mysteriously disappearing at night, he gives the keys to the P*lace to Ryan (3x2). When the others find out that Riley is attending school at night, Ryan expresses his respect for their lovable soda jerk for wanting to further his education. When Gloria decides to take on an after-school job to make up for the deficient in her allowance, Ryan is the only one who raises concern about how it will impact her time – not only with the band, but with schoolwork (3x4). When Renee suffers through her crush episode (3x3), Ryan offers wry encouragement, saying that “the signs are starting to look a little familiar.”

Ryan doesn’t really receive any featured attention in this season, but there is development in his character that is seen in the way he interacts with the others. He’s caring, compassionate, patient, and encouraging with his friends, and with the strangers that inevitably cross the Kids’ paths. He’s still a nerd at heart, revealing an interest in computer science and holograms (3x2). Musically, he really shines here – his voice has dropped, revealing a rich mid-tenor tone, which earns him quite a few featured performances. He is also beginning to develop his performance style – gone are the days of flailing like a dork; instead, he appears relaxed, confident, and flirtatious, able to both shine brightly in the spotlight, and fade gracefully into the background. We also learn that he likes taking the lead during the group’s performances, and makes all of the announcements on stage (3x12).

By contrast, Stacy receives a lot of featured plots and personal growth. We see that she’s still a dreamer at heart (3x1, 3x7, 3x11, 3x12), and still not very interested in romance, wrinkling her nose at the idea of love poetry (3x2) and teasing her sister mercifully during Renee’s crush episode (3x3). She is the center of the strangely childish “special” episode (3x13), but she does a lot of growing up this season as well. Most of her character development happens during the foundation episodes in this season, and will be discussed in greater detail below. What is important to note, however, is that this is the last time she embraces the role of being the baby of the group – by the end of the season, she is ready to grow up and join the rest of her bandmates in adolescence.

Whereas Season 2 was pretty much all about developing the bond of friendship between these two (and, really, between Ryan and all of his bandmates), Season 3 isn’t quite so clear cut. We’re still on the friendship side of the equation, but there are signs that it has the potential to become something more. Ryan and Stacy are more likely to be paired together for background vocals, or be standing beside each other during the onstage performances. This season also features the first time they’re paired together for a fantasy sequence. There’s definitely an uptick in the amount of touching they engage in – everything from friendly shoulder pats to hugs (and at least one instance of covert hand-holding). Their interaction in the holiday special “Rock in the New Year” is also worthy of note, as there are a couple of casual, comfortable, prolonged instances of laying hands on each other’s shoulders.

Because we see so much more from Stacy’s point of view, it’s my contention that this is where Stacy begins to develop a crush on the increasingly prince-like Ryan, but it’s not yet so intense or awkward that she readily acknowledges it. Ryan, on the other hand, is still settling into the role of elder statesman, and still sees Stacy as a kid, albeit also a close friend. Though he makes it obvious that he cares for her, those feelings don’t necessarily translate into romantic interest.

Foundation Episode #5 – 3x1, “O Lucky Me
The real foundation for the shippy part of this ’ship is laid in the Season 3 opener. This episode is notable not only because of the forward movement in the character interaction, but also as a perfect example of the way the songs interweave beautifully into the storyline, adding subtlety and nuance to the themes of the plot. Season 2 made obvious the power of the predictive opener, but this is really the first episode of the series that uses all of its songs as strengths – to open, enhance, and ultimately wrap up the storyline.

The first song of the episode is a cover of Huey Lewis’s “The Heart of Rock n’ Roll” with lead vocals by Ryan. Right away, we can see that he has a newfound charisma, and seems much more relaxed and confident taking command of the stage. His voice has dropped, so he has a much easier time singing lead and carrying the melody. The Kids’ sound as a group has improved, and the others’ backing vocals contribute to a strong harmony at the chorus.

It’s interesting to see his stage positioning, relative to the other members of the band – he’s the only one free to move around, not tied to a stationary microphone. Two of the other Kids are also playing instruments, but have very clearly been relegated to the background. It’s subtle, but sends a strong message that he has come into his own as the male lead. It helps that he also looks older than the other Kids, save Gloria of course.

In the very first scene, he only reinforces this notion, taking the lead in the group discussion about the arrangement of a new song. Everyone is contributing to the conversation, save Stacy, who is lost in a dream world. When they finally manage to pull her out of it, she confesses that she’s trying out for the lead role in the school musical, a rock n’ roll version of The Wizard of Oz...along with fifty other girls, and she doesn’t like her odds. Ryan immediately shifts into cheerleader mode, patting her on the shoulder and telling her to think positively. Gloria muses that she’s equally worried about doing well on two major tests that she’s cramming for, and could really use some good luck. Stacy latches onto the idea, wishing that she could find a good luck charm, or something equally magical.

Even though Ryan doesn’t believe in magic himself, he indulges Stacy’s wish, telling her that she’s “sitting on a trunk full of it now” – the dusty old travel trunk taking up space in the store room was left behind by a famous magician who used to perform at the Palace. Stacy hops up and she, Ryan, Renee, and the Kid open it up to see what’s inside. (Notice the fact that he touches her again, albeit briefly, as the other Kids lift the lid :D) Everyone is joking as they poke through the musty old props, and suddenly Stacy strikes gold, finding a huge, gaudy faux ruby ring that she immediately decides is a good luck charm.

Ryan tries to dissuade her, telling her that “there is absolutely zero basis in the entire body of scientific thought and theory throughout the ages that supports the existence of a good luck charm.” It’s interesting for a couple of reasons: ( 1) he makes it clear that he disagrees with her about the probability that she’s really found a magic ring, but (2) he does so in such a way that it isn’t a scoff or an outright dismissal. His tone is neutral, instead of condescending or patronizing. This is something Ryan is very good at – displaying his intellect without making others feel stupid. The others know that he’s smart, and though they may tease him about his esoteric interests, they also respect that he knows what he’s talking about.

Stacy feels comfortable in stubbornly disagreeing with him, believing that she’s found the key to unlocking a universe’s worth of good luck. Her confident declaration of the same is seemingly verified when Riley shows up with a message for her – news that she’s won the raffle at school, and her prize is a new bicycle. The others congratulate her as Stacy stares down lovingly at her ring, more convinced than ever that luck is on her side.

The second song is a cover (of a cover) of Freda Payne’s “Band of Gold,” a great choice considering the setting of the faux ruby, and its foreshadowing of the trouble a ring can bring to its bearer. The girls share lead vocals on the song, which is fairly amazing, because (1) both versions of it were solos by the original artists, and (2) it shows that both Stacy and Renee have developed into strong vocalists, able to sound equal to the phenomenally talented Gloria. Here are Stacy’s lead lines:
You took me from the shelter of my mother
I’ve never known or loved any other
We kissed after taking vows
That night on our honeymoon
We stayed in separate rooms

Isolated by itself, her verse is a very idealized, innocent vision of romance, straight from the fairytales starring princes and princesses that we all read as kids – they meet, they fall in love, they get married (and finally kiss)…and then the story ends. I don’t know that kids understand the appeal of marriage after the big, white, dream wedding, especially if they’re still wary of even being friends with the opposite sex, much less anything else.

Of course, it isn’t fair to isolate her verse from the rest of the song, which actually tells the story of a young bride who’s jilted by her husband on her wedding night, but I thought it interesting that this was the only verse pulled for her lead. It seems strangely age appropriate, LOL. (Gloria sings the much more risqué third verse.)

The second scene is actually two separate scenes. In the first, Stacy is sitting at the counter with the Kid, rubbing her ring like a genie might appear as she studies her lines for the play. The Kid expresses his own skepticism about the power of the ring, but Stacy’s belief in her good luck charm is simply reinforced when news arrives that she’s one of the finalists for the lead in the play.

The next scene skips ahead to later that day. Stacy is rehearsing her lines with Gloria, while Ryan and the Kid play basketball nearby. Stacy is ecstatic when she’s able to not only remember her lines, but the simple choreography that goes along with it, and showers effusive praise on her magic ring. Gloria gently suggests that maybe it’s more Stacy herself contributing to her good fortune than the ring, but Stacy is having none of it. She stoops down to pick the ring up when she drops it, just as the basketball from the boys’ court comes flying at her. Ryan (and only Ryan) rushes over to make sure she’s okay – it would’ve hit her if she’d still been standing – but for Stacy, it’s just another example of how awesome the ring is. She can do no wrong as long as it’s in her possession!

Which, of course, means she’s about to lose it. (I mean, come on – what other way could this story possibly go? :P) Gloria, still nervous about her tests, asks if she can borrow it while she takes them. Stacy is hesitant to let the ring out of her possession, especially as her tryouts are right after school. Gloria assures her that she’ll bring it straight back when she’s finished, giving Stacy plenty of time before her audition. Stacy eventually relents, giving the ring to Gloria with a hug and a smile (and a solo).

Scene three finds Stacy nervously pacing the front room of the P*lace, fretting over the fact that Gloria hasn’t yet arrived to give the ring back. Riley tries to make a joke to soothe her nerves, but it falls flat. Gloria arrives, but both discover – to their combined shock and horror – that the ring is gone. Gloria’s pocket has a hole in the bottom, so it must’ve fallen out somewhere between school and the P*lace. She vows to go search for it, leaving Stacy to freak out and jump to the conclusion that if the ring was a good luck charm, then losing it must mean bad luck is going to befall her. As if to confirm her worst fears, she hits her head as she rushes out of the double doors of the P*lace, which launches her into her fantasy sequence.

This is a great scene from start to finish, and it’s built on the back of a great song – “Highway to the Danger Zone.” Stacy walks out into the street, only to see that her bandmates and their dancers have transformed into a cleaning crew, who are diligently working to clean up and repair the facades of nearby buildings. Stacy is eager to join in and help, but everything could possibly go wrong, does. She’s hit in the head, soaked with water, and covered in paint. Her broom breaks, her foot gets stuck in a mop bucket, and she falls over on a freshly painted bench. It’s a real comedy of errors, but what’s interesting (from a shipper’s perspective, at least) is the role she’s assigned to Ryan in this little dream.

While all the others are nondescript in their matching black uniforms and red caps, Ryan is wearing a slightly modified version of the same (only he looks much cooler), and is playing his guitar. At the apex of the sequence, he jumps over the bench and lands very smoothly on his knees, just in time to rip into the guitar solo. It’s very much a dreamy move, the sort girls swoon over when it’s executed on stage. It’s a weird juxtaposition to the rest of the dream. He appears in the first segment (and, in fact, is the one who unknowingly soaks her with water), but then transforms into this dreamy version of himself, appearing just when she’s at her lowest (literally).

So, now we know that she has a ‘fantasy’ version of Ryan, and we know exactly what it is and how she uses it to comfort herself. This, to me, is the proof of her burgeoning crush. No one else stands out in her dream but him. Of all her friends, he’s been the least dismissive of her claims about her belief in the ring’s magical powers, and it seems that is quite clearly sticking out in her mind.

Stacy awakens from her nightmare, but her struggles continue as she tries to cram in some last minute practice, only she can’t really remember her lines through her panic and despair. Ryan and the Kid are watching her, and both do their best to encourage her, in spite of her anxiety. They seem to bolster her spirits, and she agrees to try out, even if she’s convinced she’ll never win the part. Her confidence isn’t helped any when she trips over one of the chairs on her way out the door.

Stacy seems to have reconciled herself to her losses when she returns from the audition, happy that she managed to stay upright and recite all of the right lines. Gloria apologizes again for losing the ring, but Stacy is philosophical about the matter – “It’s okay, Gloria. I guess that ring wasn’t meant to be mine…and I wasn’t meant to be Dorothy.”

Ryan enters the P*lace just then, carrying the latest edition of the school newspaper and wearing a huge smile. He gives Stacy the good news that she won the part after all, and praises her for doing it on her own, without relying on a good luck charm. The others congratulate her excitedly, and Gloria laments that she didn’t do so hot on her tests, and she had the ring.

Ryan isn’t quite finished with his little congratulatory speech: “It goes to show you,” he says, “that hard work, confidence, and the right attitude pays off. But,” he continues, reaching into his pocket, “just in case you need an extra special little bit of help, once in a great while – I found your magic ring in the schoolyard.”

Stacy looks ecstatic as she takes the ring from his fingers, and my little shipper’s heart melts, just a little bit. How adorable is it that he went back and looked around for it, even though he didn’t believe in its power? He knew how much it meant to her, and how much losing it had hurt her. Even though he was proud of her for deciding to audition without it, it is amazingly sweet that he found it and returned it. It’s the sort of princely action that justifies her idyllic fantasy of him, showing him to be very thoughtful, considerate, and kind.

The only thing that tops the handoff of the ring is the little arm-around-the-waist hug at the end, which really brings the story full circle. D’awww, of course a shippy episode has to have an equally shippy ending!

And then, of course, there’s the final song – another Ryan solo, this time a cover of Mike & the Mechanics’ “All I Need is a Miracle.” Oy, talk about the icing on the cake ~ this is another great example of Ryan stepping up and delivering in his role as a lead character. He is isolated even further from the rest of the group, standing alone on a platform in the middle of the audience, and he absolutely shines in the spotlight by himself. The song is a great fit, not only to his voice, but to the episode, and the foundation of the ship:
I knew you were never right
I’ll admit I was never wrong
I could never make up my mind
I made it up as I went along
And though I treated you like a child
I’m going to miss you for the rest of my life…

There is a tinge of the bittersweet to this song – but that’s actually a true forecasting of how this ship will grow and mature. It won’t be the easiest road, or the swiftest…but the foundation has been laid, with a coating of new, deeper attachment on top of a solid layer of friendship.

Clip of interest – 3x4, “She Works Hard for the Money

This is the first time Ryan and Stacy are paired together for a fantasy sequence, although there is no obvious shippy connotation. The two are customers at the soda foundation, along with Renee, Kid, and the dancers, with Gloria as their lone, harried, overwhelmed server.

Duet #6 – 3x5 “You Belong to the City”
Unfortunately, due to a copyright claim by Glenn Frey, Ryan and Stacy’s lone third season duet is not available on YouTube anymore. Which is too bad, because it’s a great rendition of the song. Ryan and Stacy share lead vocals, alternating verses, with Gloria singing the bridge. The clip is available for download from Aris’s site.

Foundation Episode #6 – 3x9, “The Gift
Just like the first foundation episode of this season, this one opens with Ryan on lead vocals, this time in a great cover of the Hooters’ “And We Danced” – only this time with more guitar and less synth, LOL. This is the first performance where we really see his flirtatious brand of charm start to emerge, one that he’ll cultivate for the next season and a half. Once again, stage positioning is important – he’s in the middle (and, for the first verse, the only one who’s lit in the spotlight), but Stacy is standing on his left for the entire performance.

A clever bit of camera work during the bridge of the song has the two of them in frame, giving us an expectedly shippy context for the lyrics:
The endless beat / she’s walking my way
And the music plays when she says,
“Are we getting too close?
Do we dare to get closer?”
The room is spinning / she whispers my name
And we dance

The song is interspersed with shots of Riley, working hastily in a darkened room, hanging a banner and lighting candles on a cake. As soon as the band finishes its number, Gloria, Ryan, and the Kid rush to the store room and hide in the dark with Riley. Renee and Stacy walk in a few moments later, and are well and truly surprised when the others tell them that they’re throwing them a birthday party. The girls wander over to the big table in the middle of the room, and Ryan circles around so that he’s standing by Stacy. This is interesting, considering the other members of the band (and Riley) are standing on the opposite side with Renee. Stacy and Ryan are also standing much closer to each other than anyone else.

As the sisters blow out the candles on their cake, Riley and the Kid note that it’s weird that the two of them have the same birthday. They reply that they don’t – Stacy’s was the day before, and Renee’s is the next day – so Ryan affirms that they decided to split the difference and celebrate today. Gifts are distributed, with Riley handing two special ones out, saying that they came special delivery just for the girls. The presents are from the girls’ grandmother: Stacy receives a charm bracelet, while Renee opens her box to find a fine gold necklace. Ryan helps Stacy fasten her bracelet around her left wrist, and then the two of them admire it. Before the girls can open any other gifts, however, Riley hustles the band back out on stage.

The second song, a cover of Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You,” is transformed into a gorgeous trio, performed by Gloria, Renee, and Stacy. The vocals are heavenly, and really display a nice range in each girl’s voice, as well as a rich harmony when all three are combined. It’s a very sweet love song, with a moment near the end where Ryan looks at Stacy on stage while she’s singing. It’s one of those very subtle moments that the ship is built on – both of them tend to shoot looks at each other when the other isn’t looking. Incidentally, Stacy’s lyric when he does it? “I’m mad about you / lost in your eyes / mad about love / you and I…” Hmm…too bad she didn’t see him! =)

The second scene finds the Kids back in the store room with Riley, this time enjoying some of the birthday cake. The birthday girls have opened everyone else’s gifts. The Kid realizes that the two of them didn’t exchange gifts, and asks them why. Stacy explains that they have a deal not to get each other anything until they’ve taken stock of their other gifts, and then they buy each other the perfect present. When Gloria asks them what the perfect gift will be this year, they answer in unison: “I don’t know.”

Ryan puts down his cake and draws Renee to the side, motioning for the Kid to join them. He suggests that the perfect gift for Stacy would be a charm for her bracelet, and Renee agrees that it’s perfect – until she checks her money, and realizes that she’s broke. Meanwhile, Gloria suggests to Stacy that she get Renee a pendant for her new necklace. She readily accepts the idea, until she checks her cash, and finds little more than a couple of nickels and a button.

To me, it’s pretty damn significant that Ryan (1) is the one who suggests the perfect present, and (2) suggests buying a piece of jewelry, albeit a small one. And, even though Gloria suggested that Stacy invest in a piece of jewelry for Renee (thus creating a nice parallel, with each cast lead being the one to ‘solve’ the perfect present conundrum), it seems like the prospect of buying a charm for a charm bracelet takes a lot more thought. Charms are so personalized to the person who will receive them, and they are usually chosen very carefully, to represent some aspect or hobby that said recipient already enjoys, instead of which gemstone they like best. Obviously, Ryan had a good look at Stacy’s bracelet in the previous scene – and, well, what guy automatically thinks about giving a girl a piece of jewelry for a special occasion, unless there’s some interest there? Maybe it’s friendly, but there’s definitely interest =)

And, really, from a shipper’s perspective, this episode is win-win, no matter how the cast splits up. We have two great, distinct possibilities – either Ryan and Stacy work together and cuteness ensues, or Ryan helps Renee pick out the perfect gift for Stacy, and cuteness ensues. The idea that he’d rather buy for her than work with her is kinda sweet, really – it shows that, well, maybe he wants to impress her. Or maybe he just wants to buy her things.

Either way, all signs are pointing sky-high for some forward movement for this ship!

The next scene finds our two separate factions conferring over what to do. Renee, Ryan, and the Kid are standing outside the P*lace looking in rather mournfully, where Stacy and Gloria are sitting at the counter, looking through a magazine. Outside, Ryan apologizes to Renee for suggesting the charm, but then comes up with the brilliant idea of trying a new store that just opened nearby. The Kid agrees, offering some of his smooth fast talk in order to get Renee a great deal. Inside, Gloria points out an ad for the new store down the street to Stacy, and they agree to give it a try – which launches us into the fantasy sequence.

The fantasy sequence is pretty cute. Stacy and Gloria walk in first, taking a seat on a plush piece of furniture. Renee, Ryan, and the Kid come in soon after, sitting (of course) on the opposite side from their bandmates, and are soon overwhelmed with the selection of goods and finery, not to mention the service. Each girl tries on several different things, and then the inevitable happens – they run into each other. Everyone seems a little shocked and embarrassed, though I’m not sure why. Gloria and Ryan are quick to beat a hasty retreat, but the Kid wants to stay behind and watch the awkward sparks fly. Ryan drags him away, and Renee and Stacy part company, both especially desperate now to find the perfect gift, now that each knows the other is actively looking.

Meanwhile, back at the P*lace, Gloria finds Ryan and the Kid, and the three of them compare notes – only to realize they were all in the same boat all along. They seem pretty apprehensive about what’s going to happen, since both girls are broke but still intent on buying her sister the perfect present. They worry that maybe it’s getting out of hand, and/or that maybe one of them will end up disappointed.

The final scene finally arrives, with the Kids waiting nervously in the store room for Renee and Stacy to exchange their gifts. Both girls nervously tear into the wrapping paper, and are surprised and pleased when they realize what they’ve received. Renee has given Stacy a beautiful charm for her bracelet, and Stacy has found the perfect pendant for Renee’s necklace. It looks like all’s well that ends well, until Gloria asks Renee about her necklace, and Ryan realizes that Stacy isn’t wearing her bracelet. (He certainly seems fixated on that thing, LOL.)

And, in a twist of fate worthy of (and no doubt influenced by) O. Henry, the story slowly trickles out:
STACY: Well…

RENEE: Well…

KID: This I gotta hear.

STACY: I wanted to get Renee what she wanted most –

RENEE: – and I wanted to do the same, but I just couldn’t afford it.

STACY: You couldn’t? Neither could I!

RENEE: Why didn’t you tell me?

STACY: Why didn’t you tell me?

KID: C’mon, get back to the story. It was just getting interesting!

RENEE: Well…I traded my necklace so I could get Stacy the charm.

STACY: You did? I traded my bracelet so I could get you the pendant.

RENEE: Why didn’t you tell me?!

STACY: Why didn’t you tell me?!

KID: I’m so glad I don’t have sisters. They’re weird.

When the Kid points out that they could probably trade in their gifts to get their original pieces back, both girls reject the idea – each declares love for the gift her sister gave her. “Besides,” Stacy adds cheekily, “this will make shopping for us next year a whole lot easier!”

The scene ends with what has become the customary group hug, and this one includes a glance and a smile between Ryan and Stacy (d’aww), as well as a joking remark about his present. Somehow, I get the feeling that she’s not going to have to wait until her next birthday to get her bracelet back…=)

The final song is a great, high-energy rendition of Patti Labelle’s “Stir It Up,” with lead vocals by Ryan and the Kid. The Kid sang this song by himself in the first episode of the ’85 season, so it was interesting that he shares vocal duties this time around. Ryan’s performance is in stark contrast to his closing song from the first episode of this season – he’s very playful and flirtatious. It’s in rather nice parallel to his development in character that he’s willing to expand his range of emotion on the stage as well.

(This is also the infamous clip that erases all doubt as to whether or not the Kids were singing live during their on-stage performances. I’m not sure how the edit of Ryan without a mic made it to the final cut of the episode, but there it is, LOL.)

Foundation Episode #7 – 3x11, “Peter Pam
The last foundation episode of the third season moves away from the shippy aspect of the characters’ relationship a little bit, but still contains an integral storyline that sets the stage for the long game, so to speak.

The opening number picks up right where the last number of the last foundation episode leaves off, with another high-energy cover lead by Ryan and the Kid. This time it’s a rendition of the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” a really cute clip that showcases the dancing abilities of the female half of the cast. Their manic energy seems to have dissipated by the time the first scene rolls around, as we see Ryan, Gloria, Stacy, and the Kid sitting around the large table in the store room, each of them lost in their own reading material. (There’s a great nod to second season continuity here, with Ryan rereading his detective stories compilation, while Stacy curls up with a fairytale.) Renee bursts into the room, excited to share the news that her mother is going to have another baby. Her friends are surprised and pleased and immediately begin discussing possible names, with Ryan and Gloria oh-so-modestly offering up their own. The only person who doesn’t seem overjoyed or enchanted by the idea of a baby is Stacy, who pointedly stays out of the conversation, and even gets up from the table and moves away as the happy, speculative conversation continues.

Gloria notices this and goes over to her, asking her what her thoughts are on the idea of having a little brother or sister. Stacy seems torn as she explains that, while a younger sibling would be great, she’s always been the baby of the family and she’s rather gotten used to the idea. She doesn’t want the situation to change, and she doesn’t want to grow up. Gloria reminds her that it’s inevitable for every kid to grow up, except for maybe Peter Pan.

Riley comes into the room at that moment, nursing a nasty head cold and an equally poor attitude. He snaps at the Kids that their break is over. Gloria and the Kid tell him that he doesn’t have to be mean just because he’s sick. The dialogue here really lays it on thick, the foreshadowing for the fantasy sequence. Stacy just outright says it as the other kids leave the room: “I wish I was Peter Pan. Then I’d never have to grow up.”

The Kids perform their next number, and as they’re receiving the applause for their performance, Stacy lapses into her fantasy of being Peter Pan – er, make that Peter Pam, with an ‘m’!

The difference between this particular fairytale retelling and pretty much every other one used on the show is the fact that only Stacy is a willing participant in the fantasy – the other Kids are dropped into the universe as themselves, and are completely confused as to what happened, where they are, and why they’re wearing weird clothes. When they ask Stacy what’s going on, she tells them that her name is Peter Pam, and they’re all in Never-Never Land. She happily informs them that they’re here so that they’ll never have to grow up, and they can stay Kids Inc forever! As the others exchange incredulous looks, Stacy simply beams. It’s her fantasy, and she’s having her way – she never has to grow up, and she never has to face the idea of her friends growing up, either. The fact that the others are less than enthusiastic about the prospect is lost on her, but not on the audience. Obviously, the gap of maturity has shifted – it no longer divides group leaders Gloria and Ryan from the others. Now, Renee and the Kid have also crossed over that bridge, leaving Stacy standing by herself on the other side.

As if that wasn’t plain enough, the game Stacy decides they should play is hide and seek, and she happily volunteers to be ‘it’. Just as she’s finished counting and is on her way to look for her friends, Tinkerbell (the KI logo fairy in a fairly nifty cameo) comes by to warn Peter Pam of approaching danger. She doesn’t believe her until she hears the growls and roars of Captain Hook, who apparently shares Riley’s head cold. She calls out for the other members of the band, and together they face down Captain Hook and his nefarious band of dancers-turned-pirates. The other Kids aren’t afraid of him, but Stacy panics, wanting to run away from the situation.

This launches into one of the most lavishly choreographed scenes of the series, as Peter Pam and her KI bandmates fight Captain Hook and his pirates, during a rare Riley original solo. The Kids eventually gain the upper hand, and defeat the nefarious outlaw pirate and his minions. Peter Pam is ecstatic, but her friends are pointedly less so:
KID: Does that mean we can go now?

STACY: Go? What do you mean, go?

RENEE: I think the Kid’s right. We should all leave Never-Never Land now.

STACY : Leave?! Never! No one ever leaves here. Kids love it here because they have fun, and never have to grow up.

KID: Well, I want to go! I have a brilliant career waiting back home for me, as a superstar.

RENEE: Yeah…and if we don’t leave, and stay here forever, then I won’t be able to be the first woman president.

RYAN: Yeah, I hear that college can be fun – I’d like to be old enough to check it out.

GLORIA: Yeah – and I’d just die if I didn’t get old enough to get my driver’s license! I’ve already got my first car picked out.

ALL: A baby blue convertible.

KID: Please don’t say the word “baby” – that’s what got us here in the first place.

RYAN: I think what we’re try to say is, we want to grow up – and that we’d like you to come us, Peter Pam.

Each character’s reaction is interesting, as is the way they are constructed in this fantasy sequence. The Kid and Renee are impatient to leave, and want to order Stacy around, perhaps like they always do in real life. She’s closest to them, as they are her sister and her best friend, so they are used to speaking shortly with her. Gloria and Ryan take a more mature approach, not really pushing, so much as pointing out the advantages to growing up. Their arguments for wanting to return to real life revolve around universal rites of passage instead of personal ambitions.

Ultimately, it is Ryan who invites Stacy to grow up, and join them on the journey to adulthood – and he does it with a kind smile and a reassuring look. I think this is a huge turning point: we are literally seeing Stacy throw off the final vestiges of childhood. Renee and the Kid are concerned with being pulled back to a place they’ve only recently left themselves, and Gloria is mostly worried that Stacy is too afraid to take the leap. Ryan’s response is simply a steady stream of encouragement, belying his belief and faith in her. It’s quite telling, I think, that he has ensconced himself so firmly in her life – not only as an idyllic, princely figure, but also as a calm voice of reason. We can see her fantasy of him changing and evolving, incorporating all of these real aspects of his personality, moving from dreamy and unattainable to something more in line with reality.

Stacy runs away to think about what her friends have said (leading into her solo rendition of Phil Collins’s “Take Me Home”) and ultimately comes to the conclusion that they’re right, of course – growing up doesn’t have to be scary or bad or seen as a loss. She runs back to tell them, and they are ecstatic over the idea of returning to their real lives. Tinkerbell sends them back, and we see that the entirety of Stacy’s fantasy has happened while they’re still receiving a standing ovation from the audience.

The other kids are astounded when they hear about Stacy’s sudden change of heart, in regards to her impending big sisterhood. When Ryan asks her what changed her mind, she tells them it was their trip to Never-Never Land. They, of course, have no idea what she’s talking about, but Stacy shrugs – while she’s trying to convince them it really happened (and that they were really there), she notices the logo fairy and greets her as Tinkerbell before running off to get ready for their final song. The others share a collective look of disbelief and begin questioning their own sanity, as they’re pretty sure they saw the logo fairy, too. It’s a cute, if somewhat surreal ending, and plays nicely off the idea that they aren’t aware of what they did for most of the episode (or that they even have a logo fairy, for that matter).

And, just to bring it all full circle, once again, the closing song features lead vocals by Ryan. Considering that all of the episodes that constitute the foundation of the ship from season three have plots that revolve around Stacy, it’s curious that Ryan is featured so heavily in the musical performances. These are the only episodes, in fact, where he sings lead or is half of a duet for more than one of the five featured performances. I don’t think you have to be a tinhat to recognize the subtext in this season…=)

Clip of interest – Holiday Special, “Rock in the New Year
Only one holiday special was produced during the entire run of Kids Incorporated, and fannish speculation tends to agree that it was meant to be a special send-off for Martika (Gloria), who was embarking on her pop career after three successful seasons as the female lead on the show.

This is an hour-long special episode that combines an original plot (the Kids preparing for their huge New Year’s Eve concert) with remembrances of their previous year's resolutions (in the form of clips from previous seasons). It opens with the Kids rehearsing for their big New Year's Eve show, and there's some cute flirtations between Ryan and Stacy right away:

Between songs, the Kids discuss their excitement about their upcoming show. In spite of her character's major growth this season, Stacy still has her share of f dumb blonde moments...though Ryan has the good sense to look awkward, even as he corrects her.

The Kids eventually finish their rehearsal, and head out to finish prepping for the big show. They unexpectedly run into Riley (check out where Ryan slides into the picture in this scene :D), who informs them that his latest invention has exploded inside the P*lace, ruining everything from the electricity to the plumbing to the freshly-waxed floor. He tells the band that they're going to have to cancel their concert, and they are livid.

In the midst of the stuff they managed to salvaged from the P*lace is the list of their resolutions from the previous year. Stacy digs it out, and temporarily gets the band's mind off their current troubles. They each read through their resolutions and reminisce via mostly second-season clips :D They start with Ryan's:

and end with Stacy's. Ryan gives her a sweet, supportive pat on the back, and its pretty much too cute for words ♥

Eventually, however, the Kids return to the problem at hand. Nobody wants to cancel the party, but what choice to they have, with the P*lace out of commission? And it's all Riley's fault, too...

It seems that half-hug while recalling her resolution has made Stacy much more comfortable touching Ryan, because she pretty much follows him around during this scene, LOL:

Ryan realizes it first - maybe they were too harsh with Riley before...

...and they make an extra-special group resolution for the coming year, to be better friends with each other (and Riley) than ever before! =)

After making up with Riley, they collectively decide to move their big bash to the Garage, and they all pitch in and work together to clean it up and get it ready for the party. Afterwards, as they revel in the afterglow of a job well done, Ryan and Stacy seem extra close ♥

And, of course, their concert goes off without a hitch, and is a huge success. All's well that ends well, especially when it ends with a covert exchanging of looks... ♥

BONUS CONTENT: Random cute moments from the other episodes of Season 3. Enjoy! =)

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