luxken27: (Kids Inc - OTP)
LuxKen27 ([personal profile] luxken27) wrote2011-09-21 11:27 pm

Enduring | Part II - The Story: 1988 (The King and His Queen)


Season 5 brings us the biggest shakeup of the cast to date, with two original members of Kids Incorporated departing (Renee and the Kid), and two newbies joining to take their places (Devyn and Kenny). For the first time since the show’s inception, the KI lineup has been reduced to only two familiar faces – and only one original member, though Ryan was so well-liked that many forgot he wasn’t there from the start =) This is also the first time where there’s such an obvious age difference between the veterans and the youngsters. Even though only Ryan was significantly older than the others, Stacy looked and acted just as mature, causing the subtle divide that had disappeared over the previous season to reassert itself with force.

Stacy has grown into the role of the series female lead with aplomb. She has matured into a vibrant vocalist with a great range, though she sounds best (and most at home) as an alto. Her voice can be sultry or sweet, silly or poignant, but most of all, it’s strong. She’s the best lead singer since Gloria, and she’s definitely treated as such. She has a lot of solos and lead lines in the music this season, both on stage and in the fantasy sequences. She can command the audience with ease, both as a vocalist and as a musician – she’s grown out of her shy awkwardness and emerged as a solid, confident performer.

She’s grown up offstage as well, both in terms of looks and personality. She’s gotten taller and is dressing more fashionably, paying more attention to her hair, makeup, and accessories. Her skirts have gotten shorter (although not scandalously so). She’s also become fond of huge hoop earrings and delicate necklaces. She also seems to have reacquired her charm bracelet... =) She’s gorgeous, and looks to be Ryan’s age, at least from afar – only in extreme close-up do we see the round cheeks and soft features belying her youth.

In terms of personality, she’s finally allowed to shed the dumb blonde persona she’s been stuck with for so long. (I don’t think she’ll ever live down that moment in Season 2 when she admitted to not knowing who the Beatles were o.O) She’s still sweet, but her sense of humor has more bite to it, and she’s lost some of that childish innocence and optimism. She continues to struggle with her schoolwork, seeing it as rather unnecessary if she aspires to be a model/singer/actress. She takes pride in being the prettiest and most popular girl in her class, and is still a romantic dreamer at heart.

Ryan’s character has a couple of radical (and disappointing) changes from seasons past. Perhaps the most striking is his appearance – gone is the spiky hair, the punk clothes, the jewelry, the buttons on his guitar strap. Instead, he looks incredibly conventional, dressing now in polo shirts and jeans, keeping his hair short and neat. There are a few vestiges of his rebellious past, including his staunch love of those Chuck Taylors, which he wears with everything, no matter how (in)appropriate. On stage, he’s gone from an over-the-top rock starish persona to something more toned down and understated, but he’s still a consummate performer. He mixes up the instrumentation this season, playing the piano and the bass, but he always seems the most at home with his black and white Fender Stratocaster.

Unfortunately, in terms of characterization, Ryan is infantilized in this season, shoved into a far more traditional mold of “role model” than he’s ever been before. It’s sad, really – he’s an adult (his actor is 17 in this season), but he’s treated like a child – most notably in his featured episodes, where he cowers in the face of censorship (episode 5x5), is childishly fearful of a school bully (5x9), and is unable to rebel and rage against the machine (5x3). He’s lost so much of his quirky charm – his love of reading, his fount of esoteric knowledge, his imagination – and in its place developed a sudden, intense interest in sports like baseball and boxing. He’s relentlessly optimistic, is almost always reduced to the role of cheerleader, and isn’t given much of an opportunity to share his wit or wisdom. He’s still the unquestionably kind and charismatic leader that he always was, the glue that holds the band together, but it becomes increasingly obvious as the season wears on that this will be his final year on the show.

As a Ryan fangirl, the only reasons to watch Season 5 are (1) because he’s gorgeous, even with short hair and tragic clothes, and (2) for the shippiness, which is in abundance here. What before was merely subtext has become context now – chemistry so obvious and blatant that it has to be acknowledged even by non-shippers. There is at least one shippy moment in every episode of this season. If both of the characters are in a scene together, there’s a 95% chance that they’re standing or sitting beside one another – and a 100% chance that they are so close that they’re sharing personal space, and looking quite comfortable doing it.

Maybe it’s because Ryan and Stacy (and Riley) are the only characters that remain from the original incarnation of the band (or, at least, the one that lasted the longest). Maybe it’s because the producers of the show knew that they were the reason the audience was holding on, as they were the characters we knew the best, having grown up alongside them and become attached to them, whereas all the other band members were new, and young. Whatever the reason, the shippiness is there, and finally acknowledged – not in the least because of two blatant set piece stage performances (detailed below) and, finally, a kiss ♥ ♥ ♥

This season, Ryan and Stacy’s relationship feels real, established, and comfortable. They are at ease with each other offstage and ostentatiously flirtatious on stage. There is an abundance of shared looks, smiles, hand-holding, touching, togetherness, and, of course, the kiss. It’s all unspoken and implicit, but obvious. Alongside those two set piece stage performances, there is an episode – the milestone, the ultimate in shippy context, 5x11 “The Open Book” – that contains a plot that can even be viewed as incredible growth in their relationship (as they deal with a major misunderstanding for the first time), and there is a string of seven straight songs over the course of three episodes that tells the tale of how they came to be ♥

Foundation Episode #12 – 5x1, “The Pickups
In what has become almost a tradition, the first episode of the season establishes a reason for the change in lineup of the band, and cements the new series leads in their roles as leaders of the group. What’s different here is the fact that we don’t even have to wait twenty seconds before we have our first blatantly shippy moment, which will set the tone not only for the episode ahead, but for the entire season.

Shippy Clip #7 – 5x1, “So Emotional

The first song belongs to Stacy, who does an amazing cover of Whitney Houston’s “So Emotional.” She’s an absolute powerhouse, not only vocally, but also in her command of the stage. Much like Ryan’s opening number in Season 3, Stacy is front and center, with the others fading into the background. She moves around the stage with confidence and ease, and has the audience eating out of the palm of her hand. This performance will set the standard for what’s to come on stage, as we have a really noticeable scaling back of the use of the dancers, both as backing musicians and as dancers on the stage. Stacy’s on her own out there for much of the number, but she just nails it – solid.

The shippy moment, of course, comes during the first part of the first verse, when she’s standing so very close to Ryan, whose body language gives him away. This is the part of the verse that she sings to him:
I’ve been hearing your heartbeat beside me
I keep your photograph beside my bed
Living in a world of fantasy
I can’t get you out of my head

He seems to look at her as much as possible (while still keeping up with the chord progression), and even orients his entire body towards her when she’s beside him. This is such a telling nonverbal sign of interest, and an easy way to convey that she holds his whole attention. She looks at him a couple of times as well, and seems to smile flirtatiously as she goes to the other side of the stage.

Compared to her ease and friendly smiles when she’s singing with Connie, and then into the audience, already, here’s a sign that something has changed between them – even if only by the fact that Ryan is so intently interested in her. Also, here is the first bit of blatant/manipulative camera work – there are two angles on Ryan and Stacy, each pulling into a close-up shot with only the two of them in frame, whereas when she goes over to Connie, the same thing doesn’t happen – it’s just one continuous shot, before fading back and having everyone in frame. If that’s not a telling sign that the producers knew which side their bread was buttered on, I don’t know what is, LOL.

In the first scene, the Kids are contemplating their losses, both in terms of friends and in sound on the stage. Stacy fills us in on what happened – Renee is spending a year in England with their cousin Samantha, and the Kid was accepted as an exchange student overseas. Already, in the first shot, here’s Ryan and Stacy standing together, and closer to each other than to the other Kids (and closer than Richie and Connie are standing to each other).

Stacy is a little melancholy about the loss of her sister and her best friend, but still manages to have a cute moment with Ryan:

It’s cute, because he’s smiling at her as he teases her, and we have a rare glimpse at Ryan’s sardonic sense of humor. This is in stark contrast to the way they dealt with the news of Gloria leaving, way back at the beginning of season four. Stacy doesn’t seem quite so broken up over the idea of losing her best friends in the entire world, especially not if it means she can be closer to Ryan.

Ryan tells the others that they need to find new band members, and that they’ll have to work extra hard in the meanwhile to keep up the big sound that they’re used to. While they contemplate where to start looking, they hear some amazing music floating down the street from the park.

The second scene features Kenny singing along with a tape of Billy Ocean’s “Get Out of My Dreams.” It’s a neat sequence, because of the novel way it introduces the audience to these new characters. It features not only Kenny and Devyn, but also the latest addition to the dance corps, a girl named Kimberly who gets up and dances with Kenny during the first verse. The Kids arrive about halfway through his performance, standing behind the gates (again, with Ryan and Stacy standing next to each other) and enjoying the music. As soon as he’s finished, they burst into the park and tell him that they thought he sounded awesome. When Ryan introduces the band to him (like any good leader would), Kenny gets all excited. He’s a big fan and comes to all of their performances. Stacy steps up and tells him that they hope he’ll continue to do that…to which Ryan adds, “As a new member of the band!”

This is the first time that anyone other than Ryan has invited a new member into the band, ever since he himself was added to the lineup. There is no conferring between him and Stacy (or the others), and she approaches him first, turning it into a joint offer, further strengthening their positions as co-leaders of the group. And, of course, once again, they are in frame together :D

Kenny is so thrilled by their offer that he completely forgets about his best friend and partner in hustle, Devyn. She tags along when the Kids bring Kenny to the P*lace and show him around, though she’s muttering under her breath the whole time, making it patently obvious how hurt she feels about being left out. Ryan and Stacy tell Kenny to try out the stage and see how he likes it, and are impressed when he pulls a couple of moves. They’re sitting off to the side by themselves, and both look every inch a group leader.

When Riley wanders in, Ryan goes over and makes a couple of overtures to him, getting him to supply their candidate with a free malted of his choice. That seals the deal for Kenny, and he happily agrees to join the group. The other Kids are ecstatic, and tell him to come join them at practice. Kenny wanders around the P*lace singing a solo (quite reminiscent of Ryan’s own audition for the band), only to come upon Devyn when he finishes. She’s upset that he left her behind, and he’s upset that she’s upset, even offering to quit if it’ll make her happy. She sadly shakes her head no, not wanting him to give up the best thing that’s ever happened to him. That’s when Kenny has his great idea – he’ll take Devyn to the rehearsal that afternoon, and she can have her own impromptu tryout for the band! What could possibly go wrong?

This launches us into what counts as the fantasy sequence, as the Kids and their dancers look over sheet music for “Here to Stay.” It’s an ensemble number, with each band member having the lead on part of the verse. Ryan starts, and Stacy finishes, and as they wander over to the piano where the others have gathered, Devyn comes in. The Kids ignore her, so she takes an interest in the dancers, and is able to immediately pick up their routine. When she bursts out with the bridge to the song, Ryan and Stacy take notice, leading her off to the side to talk to her.

So once again, they’re both there, making a joint effort to talk to Devyn, and taking stock of her abilities as both a singer and a dancer. She goes to finish the dance routine with the corps, and both Ryan and Stacy come back on the scene to encourage her, and end up standing quite close together as the song finishes and everyone else good-naturedly throws towels at Devyn. She pulls Kenny to the side and gives him a big hug, but neither one knows if this little stunt will affect their standing with the band.

The final scene sees Kenny pacing around the park while Devyn worries about her unplanned audition. She’s hoping that she was good enough to join the band as well, while also simultaneously worrying that, by helping her, she might have inadvertently gotten Kenny kicked out of the band for going behind their backs. The Kids file in a short time later with somber expressions, saying they have good news and bad news.

In this final scene, it’s intriguing that we can see both Ryan and Stacy’s hands as they stand next to each other, like there was this very conscious decision to not casually hold hands. This is something that will pop up quite a bit over the course of the season, though obviously this constraint on touching won’t last the duration =)

The final song is a Kenny and Devyn duet, “Who Found Who.” What’s interesting here is the outfits – these are the same outfits, albeit slightly modified to add cuffs to the jacket sleeves, that we saw in the fantasy sequence to Ryan’s fourth season crush episode. I, personally, think they’re pretty hideous (red and purple? Really?!), but interesting for the fact that Stacy is still wearing the buttons from last season =) Pretty cute, a visible symbol of the closeness of a relationship, kinda like wearing your boyfriend’s class ring.

Shippy Clip #8 – 5x2, “Stop! In the Name of Love

The opening song of the second episode is the first ‘set piece’ performance (of many) for the season, designed specifically to draw the audience’s attention to the shippiness that ensues. Devyn and Stacy share the lead vocals for this performance of the Supremes’ mid-’60s hit, and each of them sings their verse to one of the boys in the band. Devyn has the first verse, which she sings to Kenny, and Stacy has the second, which she sings to Ryan. It’s interesting to compare and contrast each girl’s reaction to her “beau,” and vice versa. Kenny has a big smile on his face the entire time, and though Devyn tries to play the ingénue, she’s not quite as convincing as Stacy is at it. Meanwhile, when Ryan finally emerges from the depths of the stage and takes his place beside Stacy, she pretty much can’t take her eyes off of him (and vice versa). You can see, in her expression, the -moment- their eyes meet ♥ There’s a lovely little bit of flirtatious play as well during the bridge portion of her verse to him:

Here is the verse she sings to him:
I have known of your secluded nights
I’ve even seen her maybe once or twice
But is her sweet expression
Worth more than my love and affection?
But this time before you leave my arms
And rush off to her charms
Haven’t I been good to you?
Haven’t I been sweet to you?

What I also find intriguing about this performance is that they didn’t give Ryan a real instrument to play. It’s not like they haven’t added guitar lines before to songs that didn’t originally have them, LOL. The best part of watching this clip, though, is to keep your eyes on Ryan the entire time – yes, you can still see him, even at the beginning :D

Shippy Clip #9 – 5x2, “Faith

The second song of the second episode is an almost manic up-tempo version of George Michael’s “Faith,” as performed by our resident heartthrob. This clip is cute, not only because of the lyric change at the beginning (oh, Disney) but because Ryan gets so into the performance that he can’t really stay still – it’s a great throwback to his more overt performances from past seasons.

The shippiness, of course, comes from the look he gives Stacy when she comes out on stage (lyric: “not everybody has a body like you”) and the fact that when she comes back to sing with him, he leans into her a little bit. This sharing of personal space on stage is something that will come up a lot this season, and this is the first real instance of it.

Shippy Clip #10 – 5x3, “Out of the Blue

The opening song of the third episode is a wonderful solo rendition of Debbie Gibson's “Out of the Blue.” Though I can definitely understand why the song was included in this season, it's always rather mystified me as to why they made this a stage performance. This is the only time that this happens on stage - none of the other Kids even have microphones to lend back-up vocals - they're basically there to clap and sway along.

It's bizarre, but it contains a perfect little shippy moment during the second chorus, when Stacy wraps her arm around Ryan and they share a rather knowing look while she sings:

Now it's you / out of the blue
Love appears / before my eyes with you

She also stays with him twice as long as she does when she crosses the stage to put her arm around Kenny Hmm... ♥

Shippy Clip #11 – 5x3, “Pink Cadillac

The second song of the third episode gives us another great blast from the past, as Ryan enters the stage and slides down on his knees during the opening guitar riff (reminiscent of Stacy’s fantasy version of him from the first episode of the third season). The lead vocals belong to Kenny here, but that’s perfectly okay – Ryan and Stacy are standing together on stage for the duration, and this performance is a great example of how much closer they are to each other than to anyone else, and their proximity in comparison to the others on stage :D

Shippy Clip #12 – 5x3, “Bad

The third episode of the season sees the Kids being wowed by a famous fashion designer, who offers to give them a new, hip look. The band is excited by the prospect, but finds that they’re less than enthusiastic about the final product (which is neon green and orange and so many different kinds of ridiculous OMG). None of them is willing to voice complaint, though, feeling that maybe the designer knows best and who are they to question him? This launches Devyn, the lone voice of doubt, into a fantasy sequence retelling of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” starring Ryan as the emperor and Stacy as his consort.

This is a significant development, because it’s the first time that they’re romantically paired together in an extended portion of another band member’s fantasy – and, considering it’s one of the new band members, that makes it all the more interesting. Devyn didn’t have any interaction with them before this season, even if she was a fan of the band before, so this relationship between the leads is the only one she’s ever known, thus making it quite logical and natural to cast them in these roles. Ryan and Stacy act like a couple, too, both in the scene and in the musical sequence itself. Ryan is great as the (nearly) naked emperor, both managing to rock the look of bright red long-johns and a crown, and to add a layer of dignity to the patently ridiculous character.

It’s a cute scene, both for the comedy and the shippiness – Stacy is constantly touching him (both during the scene and the musical sequence), as if to remind us of her role as his consort. I suppose it makes sense, considering her outfit isn’t all that different from the rest of the court, but it’s still a shiptastic element nonetheless =) And, though Ryan plays this over-the-top character to great comedic effect, it’s a bit disappointing that he capitulates under pressure in the first place. As the leader, he should’ve felt more than comfortable in speaking up and telling the fashion maven that the group didn’t care for the clothes before it even got this far.

Clip of Interest – 5x4, “The Talent Search
The fourth episode of the series sees the Kids enter a Hollywood talent search to cast the latest and greatest teen movie. They are all excited by the prospect of becoming movie stars, but become suspicious and jealous of each other when the idea arises that the casting agent could only choose one of them, instead of the lot. As a result, they compete against each other during their audition, and completely blow it, realizing quite belatedly that their chances would've been better if they'd cooperated with each other, instead of competing with each other.

This is considered a clip of interest for this ship because it contains 3 shippy stage performances, and two very flirtatious scenes. Let's dive right in, shall we? =)

Shippy Clip #13 – 5x4, “La Bamba

The opening song of the fourth episode is a great cover (of a cover) of the Ritchie Valens classic “La Bamba,” performed admirably by Stacy in Spanish. This is also one of the best clips of the season, insofar as shiptastic squee goes, and it’s due in part to Ryan and Stacy’s interaction, and in part to the blatantly manipulative camerawork. Stacy starts the song in the middle of the stage, singing the first verse and chorus there, before splitting off to sing part of the second verse with the two little groups that have formed on each side of her – first Ryan and Devyn, then Kenny and Connie. Though she is supposed to simply be standing between her bandmates and singing to the audience, that is sooo not the case when she get close to Ryan:

Look at their body language! Not only are they looking at each other the entire time (twenty full seconds), but their bodies are completely oriented towards each other. Stacy is, ostensibly, supposed to be merely standing between Ryan and Devyn to sing this verse (compare this to the way she stands with Kenny and Connie on the other side of the stage) – but she pretty much blows Devyn off completely, only having eyes for Ryan, who can’t seem to stop smiling at her nearness.

And did I mention that she stayed with him longer than she did with Kenny and Connie? LOL.

But look at this camera work. We are treated to two different shots/angles of their performance together, both in tight close-up. I’m not completely sure this was a decision made before the sequence was filmed, if only because the looks on Ryan’s and Stacy’s faces (I’m not completely positive they even realized what they were doing, haha), but I thank the producers/editors for this final version anyway. *sigh* ♥ Too cute, too cute!

In the first scene, the Kids come over to the counter after their first set, and Riley tells them about the talent search - and that he told the agent he thought they'd be perfect for the movie. We're treated to this little exchange:

Ryan and Stacy linger at the table while the other Kids have crowded around Riley's counter, so they have a bit of space to themselves. Ryan's reaction to Stacy's bubbly excitement is very sweet - a supportive look and smile - so it comes as a bit of a shock that she decides to tease him instead of reciprocate the gesture. They have a very easy camaraderie, however, as evidenced by her very obviously stifling back a laugh as she gently pokes fun of his outsized ego. The covert little look and knowing smile she shoots him immediately after confirm this. She continues to shoot him little looks as the other Kids act out their exaggerated dreams of stardom, and he eventually gets over his hurt reaction to her rather pointed jabs. All is well by the time they take the stage again, at least... =)

Shippy Clip #14 – 5x4, “Expressway to Your Heart

This performance marks the first time that Ryan plays the bass guitar instead of lead guitar on a number, and it’s the first time the bass guitar is really featured in a performance. (Coincidentally, watching the clip for the first time in twenty years is also what made me realize the songs for the show had been rearranged in a different/higher key, because I know how to play this song on the bass…but I digress, LOL.) Though neither Ryan nor Stacy are featured vocally here, boy do they make a statement with their body language. I think this is pretty much the definition of “joined at the hip” :D

After a short cutaway to the counter, the Kids excitedly head for the storeroom to put together outfits for their auditions with the Hollywood agent. Ryan and Richie drag an old trunk into the center of the room, and they begin to paw through it. Stacy finds a case of stage makeup and begs Devyn to let her make her up in it, to which her younger bandmate happily agrees. She pulls out a necklace and offers it to Stacy as they settle at one of the vanities. Then this happens:

Got to love the way Ryan rockets up from his seat on the floor and makes a beeline for Stacy, LOL. He practically pushes Devyn out of the way, making a casually flirtatious remark as he fastens the jewelry around Stacy's neck. This is not the first time he's taken an interest in her jewelry - he was also obsessed with her charm bracelet during Season 3's "The Gift" birthday episode. I love how they exchange looks in the mirror here, and how he lingers behind her, leaning into her ever so slightly as she smiles up at him ♥

Shippy Clip #15 – 5x4, “Mony Mony

…aaaaaaaaaand we learn the real reason why Ryan has suddenly taken up with the bass guitar – so that he can sing lead on the cover (of a cover) of “Mony Mony,” and have his most rock-starish performance of the season. This is a great clip that reasserts his place in the band, not only as their leader, but also has the show’s resident heartthrob. We see some vestiges of his fourth season swagger, which is really great :D and he also has some choice moments with Stacy on stage – not only with the looks, but also standing back-to-back with her during the bridge – a move these two seem to enjoy, as it will resurface again later in this season.

Shippy Clip #16 – 5x5, “Pop Goes the World

This is definitely one of the more unusual covers that the Kids ever played, but it’s a cute one nonetheless. Stacy starts off by playing the keyboard (and here we go – the third straight performance with Ryan on bass guitar, LOL), before taking the mic and going up front to dance with the dancers. Ryan’s behavior is what makes this performance so sweet – he’s playing the keyboard with her during the first verse, and gives her a little nudge to go out front and dance. She comes back for part of the second verse and he’s there again, his gaze constant on her and rewarding her with a smile when she looks his way. When she grabs the mic and goes out to the front of the stage to finish the song, he follows her so he can be close to her. I just – d’aww ♥

Shippy Clip #17 – 5x5, “Think

Episode 5 sees Ryan going against the principal’s edicts about what can and can’t be printed in the school newspaper. Ryan imagines the worst that can come from censorship, launching into a fantasy sequence set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where reading is considered a subversive activity. Riley and the principal are featured as the enforcers of the censorship laws, while Ryan leads the band and the dancers in rebellious opposition. There is a moment about halfway through the song where Stacy ducks into hiding and Ryan crouches down with her. The next time we see them, they are wrapped up in each other – literally. Ryan is in protector mode, holding her close as they check to make sure the coast is clear. This is the first bit of full-body contact between them, and I like the fact that it happens here, in Ryan’s fantasy – it recalls his romantic side, and his comfort level in showing how at ease he is with expressing how much he cares. This is also the first time that Stacy really features in one of his dreams, and although the contact is brief, it is intensely intimate – and, compared to the way he acts towards her in real life, hints that his feelings for her run deeper than even she’s aware.

Foundation Episode #13 – 5x6, “Kahuna Kids
This is the special episode for season five, and it opens with a bang – Ryan’s rendition of “Heatwave,” a summertime classic originally by Martha and the Vandellas. He’s standing on a platform in the middle of the audience, singing into an electric fan for most of the song. He’s flanked by two dancers, who alternately fan themselves and then him. It’s all very cute, but even this song has a shippy moment, when he ambles back to the stage to join the rest of the band, and sings part of the reprise chorus to Stacy – “my love is like a heatwave / burning in my heart”:

As the Kids stumble over to the counter in the first scene, we learn that the fans in the first number weren’t just for effect – the P*lace’s air conditioner is broken, and so, apparently, is the freezer. As the group complains good-naturedly about Riley’s lack of handyman skills, Ryan suddenly has an idea – why don’t they all go to the beach that afternoon? Connie’s already there on the boardwalk, and the rest of the band agrees it’d be a great idea to join her, so they rush off to do their next number.

Ryan and Stacy are sitting together at the table, along with Kenny, for this scene. They are sitting closer to each other than to Kenny, and again seem to be pointedly avoiding hand contact – either in their laps, or later, on the table. Ryan shares a joke with her about the broken air conditioner, and the next time we see them, their hands are on the table and very close together. It’s ridiculous, really ~ I mean, the fact that it’s noticeable that they aren’t touching says just as much as if they were.

The other thing that’s noticeable about this episode is the camerawork. Ryan and Stacy are kept in frame together at all times during the scenes (and sometimes even during the songs), and the angle of the camera accentuates their close proximity to one another. It’s obvious, to even a casual observer, that they’re closer to each other than any of the other Kids – even Kenny, sitting at their table, looks miles away from both of them – and those aren’t large tables, LOL!

Suffice to say, the camera just adds an extra layer of shiptastic squee, and some of the editing effects are also pretty blatant – but we’ll get to that in a moment =)

The band rushes off to do their second song of the show, a great, high-energy version of the Beach Boys’ “Fun Fun Fun” with lead vocals by Kenny and Devyn. Ryan is the ultra-cool lead guitarist, able to amble around the stage as he pleases. When Stacy appears halfway through the song, the camera cuts to her during the provocative descriptive lines in the second verse – “you walk like an ace, now / you look like an ace.” Hmm…go on, continue to plant the seed in our heads, editors!

The second scene interlude is absolutely priceless. One at a time, the Kids bound down the stairs by the counter, bidding Riley a fond farewell before they hit the beach. Stacy tells him that they’ll say hi to his cousin Barney, who runs the Shell Shack. She and Ryan aren’t in the shot together, but for good reason – he isn’t walking – oh, no, he’s having his minions carry him.

Classic :D Obviously, being the leader of the pack has its perks, LOL.

The third scene doubles as the fantasy sequence – the Kids arrive at the Diamond Park boardwalk, eager to soak in the beach culture. They meet up with Connie and try to figure out what to do first. Ultimately, they decide to change into their beach attire and check out the boardwalk, which is the cue for the cast of thousands to launch into the extended musical sequence.

This is the first time we see most of the cast members in shorts, and some of them can pull it off, but some of them can’t. (Sorry, Ryan – you look better in jeans, and judging by the look on your face, you’d probably agree, LOL.) They have a blast walking around the boardwalk, playing games and buying things, and working up a real appetite. When they reconvene, Ryan puts his arm around Stacy and gives her a little squeeze ♥ They agree, as a group, to hit up the Shell Shack and make nice with Barney.

Two great things stand out in this first scene after the long musical sequence: (1) I’m pretty sure Ryan and Stacy are holding hands to start off with, and (2) when Ryan steers the group towards the Shell Shack, one of his hands is resting on Stacy’s lower back, while the other is lying across Connie’s shoulder. Once again, the nonverbal language tells the tale ~ the closer and more intimate two people are, the more likely that their touching will drift lower and lower on the body. Ryan’s hand on Connie’s shoulder is a friendly gesture, while its position on Stacy’s back suggests a closer relationship =)

When the Kids reach the Shell Shack, they are shocked to find Barney closing down. Riley’s cousin solemnly informs them that the beach version of the P*lace is going under, and if he doesn’t come up with the cash quickly, he’ll have to close down for good. To add fuel to the fire, the city has plans to build a waste treatment facility right on the boardwalk, so they can more easily dump their toxic waste directly into the ocean. This unnerves the Kids, and they wander away alone or in pairs to sing a great cover of Belinda Carlisle’s “Circle in the Sand.”

Ryan and Stacy are, of course, standing beside each other as they learn the fate of the Shell Shack, and exchange worried looks when Barney tells them about the waste plant. During the ensemble song, they each wander away in separate directions, but a shiptastic trick of the post-shot editing brings them together again in a striking, poignant portrait. The group reassembles as the heady song draws to a close, and once again they are looking at each other, and it even appears that she brushes her hand against his leg before he stands up and joins the rest of them in the same spot where they were standing.

The Kids fret over the possible closing of the beloved beach eatery, and wonder out loud if there’s anything they can do. Ryan is struck with an idea to help Barney raise money, and the others gather around to hear his plan. Most of his conversation during this part of the scene is directed at Stacy, and once again, he touches her - this time, on the arm, probably because the others are looking at them, aheh.

The audience finds out what the big idea is in the next scene, which finds the Kids back at the P*lace. They are painting a bamboo-bordered sign emblazoned with ‘Beach Party Tonight: Shell Shack Benefit.’ Ryan rushes into the room, excited to inform the others that everything is in place. Riley has called Barney up and lured him over on the premise of needing him to cover his shift at the P*lace that evening.

Ryan and Stacy have a ton of blatant chemistry in this scene, and yeah…if he gets any closer to her, they’d be sharing clothes, LOL:

Come on – really? LOL, this is probably one of my favorite scenes of the season, precisely because he keeps inching closer and closer to her :P

Barney arrives just as they’re hanging the sign, and he’s surprised but pleased that the band cares enough to help him raise the money he needs to keep the Shell Shack open. Ryan has a little nerd moment, telling him that because the Shell Shack has as much history behind it as the P*lace does, he understands the sentimental attachment Barney has for his restaurant. The others vow to help him do whatever they can to drum up some business – which ultimately turns out to be an offer of playing there for a solid week, and bringing their crowd of fans with them.

The final scene has the Kids and the dancers ready for their big performance in brand-new one-of-a-kind outfits. They are hanging around the counter, either watching or actually doing the limbo. Nicole goes first, and then Connie, and then Kenny – who decides to take a running slide under the lowest setting of the pole instead. It’s a cute scene, another strong comedic performance from the group as a whole.

Barney goes up on stage and announces them (and their week-long gig) before launching into the drum solo of the Sufaris’ “Wipeout,” accompanied by Ryan on lead guitar. Ryan takes advantage of the instrumental piece to move around the stage, showcasing the dancers and the other band members as they move to the beat. They immediately segue into “Surfin’ USA,” a great cover with lead vocals by Ryan.

What’s interesting about this particular performance is the fact that anytime they show Stacy, she’s in frame with Ryan, even though she’s not singing. This is also the first time that we see a modified version of the performance outfit for her as well as Ryan, and it draws a sharp divide between the two of them and the others. This is the first time anyone other than Ryan has a different version of the same outfit, which is pretty significant in and of itself. She is becoming more and more obviously his equal, not only in the eyes of shippers, but for the rest of the audience as well.

Shippy Clip #18 – 5x7, “Who Will You Run To

*sigh* Oh, this clip – it just makes me smile so much =) First of all, it’s a great performance by Stacy – one of my favorites by her, in fact. I like the fact that she’s singing lead and playing lead, which is something we don’t really ever see from her. But, of course, there’s also the shippiness – like the fact that she and Ryan playing the interludes between verses leaning back-to-back, and both of them have huge, happy grins on their faces =) He also looks at her a couple of times during the song when she’s singing a relevant lyric, like he’s actually paying attention to the words and not just the chord changes.

Once again, stage positioning is important – Stacy is front and center, with Ryan to her right and Kenny, Devyn, and Connie crammed together sharing a mic to her left. Only Ryan has the freedom to roam around the stage during the number (and move closer to Stacy, as seems to be his want). Of course, Stacy standing by herself underscores the fact that she is the lead vocalist here, even though there is an equal chance that she’s either on camera by herself or in frame with Ryan as she sings.

Shippy Clip #19 – 5x7, “Say You Will

Okay, remember how I said that there were two distinctly set piece stage performances that played up the chemistry between Ryan and Stacy? Well, here’s the first one. There is absolutely zero context for this performance in this episode, either in the plot outright, or in the thematic musical ties to said plot. Neither one of these characters is even the focus of the episode – this one is Richie-centric, when he decides to run for president of the student body at school against a snooty girl who dismisses his chances outright.

So, yeah. This shiptastic clip (the pinnacle for me, in all honesty) kinda comes out of nowhere, but boy, does it deliver! The setup is interesting, right off the bat – they’ve taken what was a solo lead and made it into a trio, with Stacy and Devyn singing a slightly modified version of the bridge/chorus, while Ryan sings the verses. The clip starts with the girls in frame, each sitting on one corner of the platform in the middle of the audience. As they sing, the camera pans around, and we see that Ryan is slowly walking down the stage steps towards them. Stacy and Devyn look back when the chorus ends and the verse begins, both looking expectantly at the boy they were presumably singing to:
Say you will, say you won’t
Make up your mind tonight
Say you do, say you don’t
Want to be mine
Say you will, say you won’t
Make up your mind this time
Say you will, say you will
Be mine tonight

Ryan’s lyrics are equally provocative, given that he’s staring straight at Stacy as he climbs the stairs – “I can’t sleep / I keep dreaming I’m losing you”:

During this first verse of the song, Ryan is squarely in frame, with a second, wider shot giving us the idea that he’s the prize the girls are fighting over, and here he is on display. He directs the final line of the first verse to each girl, then turns around and descends the steps again as they launch into the second chorus. He walks around to stand between them in front of the platform, where he’ll finish out the song, and this is where it really starts: (1) he walks around on Stacy’s side of the riser, giving her this very intense look the entire time, and (2) she reciprocates, though her expression belays a bit more dreamy-crushy-“I-can’t-believe-he’s-looking-at-me-OMG” sort of feeling :)

They literally can’t keep their eyes off of each other – even after Ryan crosses in front of her to stand between her and Devyn, he immediately looks back at her, and they keep staring at each other for the majority of this chorus. Almost as if an afterthought, he does look over at Devyn for the last half of the last line, to preserve the illusion that he’s supposed to be choosing between them.

When it’s Ryan’s turn to sing again, however, his attention is right back on his girlfriend Stacy, and the camera treats us to a wonderful close up of them, which allows us to really see their expressions. I love it – not only Ryan’s plaintive intensity as he sings, directing each and every word of the verse to her, but also the look on Stacy’s face – if that isn’t the look of love, I don’t know what is.

Ryan pretty much serenades Stacy with the entire second verse:
I get the feeling
I’ve never been here before
No one I know’s ever moved me the way that you do
And I know / this is the real thing
It’s all I’ve been searching for
Put it all on the line
Now I’m hoping you feel that way too
And if you do…

His interest is in her, and only her – if he looks to Devyn at all during this verse, we don’t see it. (There’s an interstitial with the snooty girl running for class president directing her minion to hang posters in the windows of the P*lace, as if to remind us that yes, there *is* a plot to this episode that has nothing to do with the blossoming romance unfolding before us :P). By the time the camera cuts back to the group, it’s a wider shot, but Ryan is still singing to Stacy, who flawlessly picks up the chorus as if in response to his question.

She touches his shoulder and sings to him, and his expression changes in rapid succession, from intense, to flattered, to pleased. Devyn practically has to grab his other shoulder and whirl him around to even get his attention by this point, and Ryan’s expression is equally amusing as he turns to face her. Kenny and Connie join the others on the platform for the reprise, and they end on a solid note, full attention to the audience.

I think it’s obvious who he chose to stay with, hehe =)

I also think that it’s not possible to fake or feign this sort of interest, or to call up those intense, mushy expressions (or big dopey smiles) on cue. I can’t think of a reason why the producers/choreographers/directors would want them to, either, considering the pointed lack of romance in canon [to date]. So, I’m left wondering just how much of this was staged, and how much of it was real. The cameras love these two, and I think it’s become obvious by this point in the season that keeping Ryan and/or Stacy in frame as much as possible = happy viewers. So was it a happy accident, catching these lingering looks and soft smiles and deciding to edit/manipulate the final clip for maximum shippiness? Or did they set this up from the start with their (shipping) audience in mind?

It’s a mystery – but I’m glad it happened. This, to me, is the epitome of the ship, as it’s plainly clear that they are immensely attracted to each other, that the interest is mutual, and yet all the same, they are comfortable in each other’s presence. When I think of young, giddy love, this is exactly what comes to mind – I can think of no better example ♥

Clip of Interest – 5x8, “With or Without You

This is considered one of Ryan’s best performances in the entire series, and it’s certainly not hard to see why. He makes the smash hit by U2 his own, finally having the chance to really show off his vocal range and acuity. He didn’t receive as many good songs in this final season as he had in previous ones, but this was definitely the exception. It’s a gorgeous rendition, and nearly impossible to keep your eyes off of him as he sings =) This is, flat out, one of my favorite songs of the season.

Foundation Episode #14 – 5x9, “When the Clock Strikes Twelve
The final episode of the season (and series) to feature Ryan as the center of its plot is definitely a doozy, as it’s probably the most out-of-character one. It’s the epitome of this new, more conventional and predictable mold that Ryan has been shoved into all season long, and it also serves to infantilize him at the same time. It’s probably my least favorite episode of the season, which is saying a lot, considering it’s the last time my favorite character is really in the spotlight.

Our story begins halfway through the opening number, as a shadowy figure marches into the P*lace and up to the counter, giving Riley a hard time for no apparent reason before storming out. This is a scene in stark contrast with the sugary-sweet song being performed, a great cover by Devyn of Debbie Gibson’s “Shake Your Love.” We aren’t kept in the dark about this ominous guy’s appearance for long, though.

In the first scene, the Kids are sitting in the front of the P*lace, some of them at the counter while others hang out at a nearby table. Ryan is all excited to tell them something, while Riley tries in vain to interrupt him and give him a message. Ryan is dismissive, however, offering to buy his friends a round of drinks in celebration. When Connie wants to know what they’re celebrating, Ryan asks her to guess – all the while very pointedly fidgeting with a baseball cap. Kenny asks if it’s his birthday, while Richie suggests it’s his anniversary (to which Ryan’s reaction is priceless, LOL), and Devyn finally cottons onto the hat, though not exactly for the right reason. Finally, Ryan puts them out of their misery and tells them that he’s made the baseball team at school, and gives a humorous recollection of his actual tryout. The others are ecstatic for him, and Stacy promises to come to all of his games (of course =)).

Finally, Riley is able to break into the conversation and tell Ryan that the ominous guy was looking for him:
RILEY: Ryan, some guy’s been in here looking for you.

RYAN: Looking for me?

RILEY: Yes, that’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!

RYAN: Well, did he say what he wanted?

RILEY: Uh, no, he just said he wanted to see you.

KENNY: Probably somebody else wanting to congratulate Ryan for making the team.

RILEY: No, no, not this guy. I don’t think so.

RYAN: …he didn’t look mean, did he?

RILEY: Uh, pretty mean to me.

RICHIE (skeptically): How mean did he look?

RILEY (pointedly): Oh… real mean.

First of all, on what planet is that a normal reaction for a character who has proved himself to be cool and calm in the face of a stressful situation? Especially one who is and has been the leader of this band for four years now, and has had to make some tough decisions and sort through his friends’ problems with care and aplomb? He crumbles here, visibly distressed as he realizes that he knows the guy Riley’s talking about.

Stacy is on it, right away, walking right up to him, putting a supportive hand on his shoulder and asking what’s going on. Ryan tells her that it must be the guy he beat at the tryout to make the team – the toughest guy in school, a bully named Big Eddie. Her expression of dismay shows us that she also knows talk of this bully.

This little piece of the scene is great, as they’re the only two in frame, and it’s Stacy who expresses her concern for him (and touches him), while the other Kids just kinda look confused. I can’t say I blame them – Ryan’s never reacted this way, completely deflated and defeated by even just a mention of a mean kid’s name. He sinks down into a chair and pulls off his hat, miserably making another stupid baseball pun as he contemplates his situation. The others remind him that they have another song to do, and they’re off to the stage.

The second scene finds the Kids back at the counter, all of them enjoying their conversations and drinks while Ryan stares nervously out the plate glass front door of the P*lace. He’s eyeing Big Eddie with no small amount of trepidation, and sounds freaky and panicked as he begs the others to help him think of something, quick, before the bully comes after him. The others sense his fear and bail, each of them giving an excuse as they sail past him and out the door to safety. Ryan makes a grab for only one of them – Stacy, as she streams out after Connie.

He turns to Riley, his lone compatriot, who gives him the news that Eddie will be back for him at high noon. Ryan scrambles to think of what to do to avoid this confrontation, but ultimately decides he’s not going to run away, wear a disguise, or quit the team. No, what he’s going to do is have a long, extended fantasy sequence, LOL.

Though this scene is kinda painful to watch, the look of determination on Ryan’s face when he refuses to quit the team is a flicker of his old self. His fantasy is similarly familiar, well thought out and authentic, with distinctive roles for all of his friends. Richie is the sheriff and Kenny the undertaker, while Connie transforms into the postmaster, Devyn is a Fine Young Miss, and Stacy is a sultry saloon girl. Ryan fashions himself the Hombre, a cool customer with a big attitude and a swagger to match.

It’s incredibly interesting to think about the roles he’s given to his friends. The younger kids receive standard, mostly background roles, and retain their own names. Only Stacy is different here – she is the Miss Kitty to his Hombre. She holds the only sexualized role in the whole fantasy as the saloon girl, the one person in town that he’s free to be informal around and to flirt outright with, as opposed to Miss Devyn, a prim and proper young lady from back East.

And flirt he does – from the moment she appears =) Miss Devyn wanders over, asking the Hombre how he’s staying so calm in the face of danger, what with the threat of Badlands Ed hanging over his head. Ryan shrugs, telling her that the bully’s in jail, so what can he do from there? Miss Kitty reminds him that Badlands Ed promised to come after him when he got out of prison, but again, the Hombre demurs. He’s really playing up the swagger, an easy thing to do when your feared enemy is far, far away.

Of course, that swagger comes back to bite him almost immediately, as postmaster Connie rushes in and tells them that Badlands has escaped, and he’s headed this way.

The others panic (well, Kenny the Undertaker suddenly looks mighty happy, LOL), but the Hombre, caught up in impressing the ladies and keeping them calm, dismisses their fears. This whole scene is kinda hilarious, as when Ryan contends that he can’t run away because he’s “just not made that way,” Richie comes back with, “well, nothing personal, but we are made that way” and then everybody absolutely scatters. LOL, I suppose there’s something to say for self-preservation!

The scattering takes place during the fantasy sequence number, a KI original entitled “I Need Help!” sung by, of course, Ryan =) He’s seen rushing around to all of the others, pleading with them to stay and back him up/help him face down his mortal enemy. He has great scenes with Stacy, especially, filled to the brim with innuendo and constant, flirtatious contact.

He goes to her more often than the others, always clasping her hand(s) and leaning down so that they’re at eye level. Perhaps with good reason ~ she’s the only one who’s not panicking, and she’s often only a step or two away from him, no matter where he goes around the room, or outside as the others are packing their bags and abandoning town.

The Hombre stops Sheriff Richie before he can leave, demanding to know how he thinks he can go when he’s the only lawman around. Richie concedes his point – that the sheriff can’t just desert his town at the hour of need – so he appoints the Hombre sheriff instead, and hightails it out of there. Ryan’s last encounter is with his beloved Miss Kitty, taking both of her hands in his as they exchange final, desperate words:

It’s important to Ryan that Stacy not think less of him for this uncharacteristic response to a highly emotional situation, and when she assures him that she won’t (albeit in a dream form), he finds the courage to fight this battle, even as she fears for his safety. It’s certainly a high romantic ideal, and quite telling that all it takes is a sweet moment with his girl to fortify his confidence. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter that everyone else has abandoned him – he finally knows what he has to do: face Badlands (and Big Eddie) head on, and deal with the consequences. Maybe it’ll come via diplomacy (as his solo rendition of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” would imply), or maybe it’ll be the result of a showdown. Either way, he’s ready for it.

The final scene finds the Kids gathered in a close knit group at Riley’s counter. Ryan strolls into the P*lace, surprised to see them there, and so early for rehearsal no less. They confess that they’re feeling guilty about the way they abandoned him, because that they’re his friends, and they’ll stand by him through thick and thin. There’s another great little scene with Stacy here as well:

Obviously he’s feeling better, knowing from his dream sequence that he has her support, even if he’s acting out of character.

The clock strikes twelve just then, and Big Eddie strolls into the P*lace. Ryan’s reaction is great – making sure Stacy and the others are at a safe distance, before turning to face his foe himself. (Love that Stacy and Devyn are clutching hands in the background!)

Ryan and Big Eddie square off for a tense moment, and it’s the tough bully who blinks first – he tells Ryan that he wants to congratulate him for making the team, because he deserved it. Ryan’s immediate reaction is one of incredulity, but Eddie reconfirms that “the best man won” as they shake hands and the other Kids cheer.

And, just to show him that there are no hard feelings, Stacy graciously sings part of the closing number to him as she sits prettily atop Riley’s counter.

Shippy Clip #20 – 5x9, “I Saw Him Standing There

The final song of the episode is a cover (of a cover) with lead vocals by Stacy. This particular clip is shippy because of the words of the song, and how they very subtly relate to the character of Ryan – he’s 17 (or, at least, his actor is), which is the biggest reason why this episode is cringe-inducing. One would not expect this sort of reaction to a bully situation from a character who was always way more mature than his years, and who’s on the cusp of adulthood. But, alas.

These are definitely the words of a girl in love, hehe:
Well, he was just seventeen
And you know what I mean
And the way he looked was way beyond compare
I’ll never dance with another
When I saw him standing there

Well, he looked at me
And I, I could see
That before too long, I’d fall in love with him
He’ll never dance with another
When I saw him standing there

Foundation Episode #15 – 5x10, “The Frog Prince
On the heels of Ryan’s final character-centric episode comes one starring Stacy =) In a nod to what little continuity this series contains, this is a birthday episode for Stacy – the third such, in fact, celebrating the birth of either her or her sister. It’s the second birthday episode to appear in this manifesto, too, after season three’s “The Gift.”

Our story opens with another one of those predictive songs – a great cover of Lisa Lisa’s hit “Lost in Emotion.” Already, the stage is set for some emotional turmoil, and knowing that this is a Stacy-centric episode, chances are very good that it’ll be hers to contend with. Sure enough, in the first scene, we see the Kids gathered (as usual) around counter at the front of the P*lace. Ryan, Richie, and Kenny are sitting at one of the tables when Stacy and Connie come bouncing into frame with some good news: they’ve decided that Stacy’s birthday party should have a theme, and it’s going to be medieval – “you know, knights in shining armor and stuff.” The others like the idea, and begin discussing what sorts of costumes they’d like to wear. Richie wants to be a jouster, while Kenny is content being a jester – and Devyn wants to be King Arthur *facepalm* Stacy, of course, will be the beautiful Guinevere, the prettiest girl in the kingdom. She takes a seat at the now-abandoned table with Ryan, who’s prepared her list of “royal subjects,” which he gives to her to make sure he didn’t leave anyone out.

Stacy, aghast, shoots up out of her seat when she sees the name Ethan Green on the list.

This exchange is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, it sheds some light onto Stacy’s characterization, now that she’s a teenager. She’s grown up to be the prettiest, most popular girl in her class – and along with that comes a bit of snobbiness. She’s also a little insecure, afraid that if she invites the class geek, everyone else will absolutely disown her – so, obviously, the social strata of her class and/or school are important to her. She struggles with reconciling her sweet nature with what’s expected of her, now that she’s someone, outside of Renee’s shadow.

Secondly, even though all of their friends pitch in to make a case for inviting Ethan to the party, it’s really only Ryan that convinces her to do it. He’s practical about the matter, but also shows sensitivity – to her feelings, as well as Ethan’s. This is the Ryan we all know and love, so capable in his guidance for his friends towards the right path. He knows Stacy isn’t happy about the idea of inviting Ethan, but the important thing, to him, is that he secured the invitation anyway. It doesn’t even occur to him to leave Ethan out because of his low status at school (at least, amongst Stacy’s classmates). He doesn’t see the limitations of middle/high school social groups, because he’s able to transcend them.

The second song is a great cover by Ryan of the rather obscure “How Can I Forget You,” originally by Elisa Fiorillo. It’s a wonderful performance, a reminder of his place in the band and among his bandmates – for all that he doesn’t care about social status at school, apparently he doesn’t mind the world revolving around him on stage! =) And, of course, there’s a very fleeting moment of the shippy here as well, when, during the first part of the first verse, he glances at Stacy as he sings, “I guess [my friends] love me.” :D

Our next scene sees Stacy walking home from school through the park, and Ethan hurrying to catch up to her on his bicycle. Stacy is polite enough to him, but she’s clearly uncomfortable, now that he’s cornered her. The audience gets to see for themselves just what she’s talking about – and yeah, it’s not a pretty picture o.O

Ethan is thankful to Stacy for inviting him to her party, and he tries to show her, with (dead) flowers and a (melted) chocolate bar. It’s hard not to feel for the guy – if you’ve ever been that awkward kid who can’t seem to do anything right when the object of your affection is nearby, well. I think you can empathize, LOL. He only seems to go from bad to worse, however, getting a dirty napkin stuck in the gooey mess covering Stacy’s palm. He runs off in embarrassment, leaving her in the park to contemplate her choices – and wonder just what her boyfriend Ryan has gotten her into by making her invite such a socially awkward dork.

She sits by the fountain and swirls the water, thinking to herself how she’s the most popular girl in her class…and the most popular princess in her kingdom, as we launch into the fantasy sequence retelling of the titular “Frog Prince” fairytale. Princess Stacy lives in a lovely green kingdom with lovely, amusing, and attentive subjects. There’s Queen Arthura, her ladies in waiting, Kenny the jester, and Richie and Ryan, her court musicians.

Stacy ruminates on her own beauty, launching into her solo, an…interesting rendition of Belinda Carlisle’s hit “I Get Weak.” It’s amusing, inasmuch as she turns what is ostensibly a love song into a self-serving ode, but the cover is quite lovely nonetheless =) When she manages to pull herself out of her reverie, she is startled to find a giant green frog beside her. She snootily informs him that there are no frogs in her kingdom, especially none so ugly as him. The frog demurs, telling her that she may think him hideous, but the others have no problem with him.

Princess Stacy isn’t impressed when the others voice no objection to the frog’s presence. She tells him instead that she didn’t think frogs could speak, to which the frog tells her that’s the least of his abilities – he’s also an accomplished dancer. When the princess is skeptical, he asks her musicians for a song, and proves himself truthful. Stacy is delighted by his antics, and agrees that he can stay in her kingdom…but that’s not all he wants. In fact, he asks that she kiss him, a request that she immediately declines. He tells her that he’ll look a whole lot better to her if she’ll do this one tiny thing, but she remains unconvinced.

That’s our cue for the fantasy sequence number, a very different cover of a season two song (and KI original), “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover.” The frog sings the song to Stacy, who basically avoids him as much as she can – only to find that her friends are also standing around, trying to convince her to give the green guy a chance. During the second chorus, Ryan comes over and takes Stacy’s arm, leading her around the kingdom and straight back to the frog, putting both hands on her shoulders and propelling her forward. Just as in real life, Ryan is the one pushing Stacy to accept Ethan, gently but firmly.

She resists, but only for a moment ~ another burst of the frog’s magic, and everyone has tap dancing canes, which they begin to use with aplomb. (Well, everyone except Ryan, hehe.) The Princess is so enchanted by the frog’s song that by the end, she gives him the kiss he desires, and he magically turns into a handsome prince, as promised.

Princess Stacy can’t believe it, and immediately faints dead away – bringing us all back to the present. The handsome prince is still calling her name, and when she looks up, she sees Ethan and is shocked by his appearance. The boy cleans up well, and apparently realized that he needed to put some thought into his appearance if he was ever going to have a chance with her. Stacy thanks him for making her see that it’s what’s on the inside a person that counts more than what’s on the outside, but of course he has no idea what she’s talking about. Instead, he offers to escort her to her party, which she gladly accepts. When he comments that he’s been told he’s a good dancer, she smiles, telling him that doesn’t surprise her at all =)

So, obviously, Stacy learns her lesson about judging others based on their appearances, and we see that underneath the burgeoning snobbiness, she still has a good heart. Her friendliness is one of her most enduring qualities, so to see it successfully challenged here is a pleasant reminder that, even as we grow up, we hold onto those core characteristics that make us who we are.

Clip of Interest – 5x10, “Prove Your Love

The closing song for this episode is an upbeat performance of Taylor Dayne’s hit, albeit with a few minor lyrical adjustments. This clip is important, because it’s the first in a string of seven straight songs that, when considered together, support the shippy context of the entire season. This is the clarion call:
Prove your love
Got to prove your love
If you want to be with me tonight
Show your stuff
Cause words are not enough
I want to see your body dance with mine

…and it’s one that Ryan will answer in spades, via the next episode.

Because yes.

We are here.

Finally, we’ve reached the pinnacle of this ship – the milestone episode that revolves around (and totally celebrates) Ryan and Stacy’s romantic relationship.

Shippy Clip #21 – 5x11, “Never Gonna Give You Up

This episode starts with what is widely considered the shippiest clip of the entire series. It’s the other blatant set piece performance referenced in the introduction to this section, and there is absolutely, positively no other reason for this performance to have happened, if not to support the existence of this ship.

There’s no denying that the intent of this performance was to showcase Ryan serenading Stacy – directly – with a rendition of Rick Astley’s now-infamous pop hit. Right from the start, we see it, as he walks straight up to her and launches into the first verse, which he directs completely at her:
We’re no strangers to love
You know the rules and so do I
A fool can mimic what I’m thinking of
You wouldn’t get this from any other guy
I just want to tell you how I’m feeling
Gotta make you understand

Hmm, sounds like a reply to me, for the challenge issued in the last song to “prove your love” :D

He leans in very close to her when he declares that he’s “never gonna give you up,” only to be dragged away from her by Devyn, Kenny, and Connie, who hold him in a sort of cage-formation for the rest of the opening chorus. She smiles charmingly at him anyway, and the moment he’s able to get away from their younger bandmates, he goes straight back to her, before detouring off and up to the platform in the middle of the audience, where he sings the second verse while flanked by two of the dancers. When the second chorus comes around, the camera swings back to Stacy (looking vulnerable, no less) as Ryan sings “never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye, never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.” There’s a slow close up of her during this part of the chorus, making even the camerawork patently obvious, at this point.

After Ryan makes his promise, he turns around and goes back to the stage, heading straight for Stacy again and singing the reprise verse:
We’ve known each other for so long
Your heart’s been aching but you’re too shy to see it
Inside we both know what’s been going on
We know the game and we’re gonna play it
I just want to tell you how I’m feeling
Gotta make you understand

And COME ON, it’s all true! That’s the best part – (1) they *have* known each other for a long time, (2) both of them have displayed behavior that suggests a mutual attraction over the last two seasons, (3) Stacy has struggled in the past with expressing mushy feelings, (4) they both know how to play the game, because they’ve been doing it all season long, albeit covertly, and (5) there’s no better way to express such feelings of love than a serenade, especially if you aren’t ready to say it outright. Though, I’d have to say…doing it in front of an audience expresses a level of comfort and confidence that the object of your affection will return those feelings, and it’s pretty obvious by Stacy’s smiles that she does just that =)

For the final loops of the chorus, he invites her to join him on that platform in the middle of the audience, which is important, as it isolates the two of them from their bandmates, and makes it clear that they are both sharing the spotlight here, even though the song is a solo. Ryan’s graciousness in allowing Stacy to go first belies the innate sense of chivalry, which harkens back to his very first episode in season two. The two of them are standing so close together on the platform (and are so tightly flanked by the dancers) that it’s hard for them to move around.

And, of course, there’s the ending – when they turn to each other, clasp hands and grin, and end with a flourish, their hands still linked. It’s hard to tell in the clip video, but in the episode video, it’s quite clear that even after they take their bow, they are still holding hands – so it wasn’t merely for effect on the stage.

I, personally, don’t know how it could be made any clearer, other than outright having an episode that dealt with the consequences of two of the band members having a romantic relationship – a concept strictly verboten on this series, considering its target age range. The producers have given us shippers exactly what we wanted – but they didn’t stop there, oh no! Four of the five songs in this episode are devoted to this ship. Outright. Not covertly, not in subliminal subtext – OUTRIGHT.

It's very interesting that this is the opening song of the episode, as already it gives us a hint as to who the person will be, who ultimately reaches out to Stacy as this plot meanders on. It's also a great culmination of all the flirtatious performances these two have given for the entire run of the season – it's been slowly building to this point, and now, here it is, a cheesy ‘declaration of love’ (and intent), the turning point in the characters’ relationship.

The first scene sets up the story. The Kids are sitting around backstage, each engaged in separate activities. Stacy is off in a corner by herself with her notebook, Devyn and Kenny are reading at one of the nearby tables, but the focus of the scene is on the card game between Richie and Ryan, the latter of whom is receiving some very obvious help from Connie. It’s a funny scene, and great to see Ryan actually engaging with his younger bandmates, especially after such a romantic stage performance. We see some of the same silliness from his last character-centric episode as the battle of ‘Go Fish’ escalates between him and Richie, only to culminate in a silly string war. Richie blasts him with the stuff as revenge for cheating, and everyone hits the floor trying to get away from the ridiculousness. Richie inadvertently backs into Stacy’s corner, and when he spots her, he decides to include her in his assault. She is not happy about that, and tells him to knock it off. The others share a silent look as she marches over to one of the vanities, still intent on her writing. Ryan takes the opportunity to grab the can from Richie and sends him out the door, leading the way back to the stage as they’re ready to perform their next number.

Shippy Clip #22 – 5x11, “Paperback Writer

There’s actually a false start to this song, as it’s Stacy’s solo but she’s not yet on stage. They start over, and we see Stacy running in from the wings, rushing up on stage to take her place beside Ryan to sing the song. Once again, there’s no particular rhyme or reason for this positioning – it’s Stacy’s solo, after all – but again, she and Ryan are clustered together at the front of the stage, pointedly at a distance from the others. There’s no choreography here, so the performance looks more natural, and I think it’s apparent just how close these two are, and how comfortable they are sharing personal space =)

The thematic link to the plot is obvious, as Stacy is working on an English assignment, and she’s singing a song about a man who wants to be a writer. Considering her struggles with school that we’ve seen in the past, it’s not surprise that she also wishes her writing abilities were better. That’s not really the fun part of this performance, though =)

One thing that becomes clearer with repeat viewing is just how much more interest Ryan displays in Stacy – he is always looking at her, and his body is always oriented towards her, and he rewards her with a smile any time she looks in his direction. Stacy’s body language, on the other hand, is a little more scattered - with good reason, considering she’s supposed to be preoccupied with her assignment, but she does deliver a shiptastic performance, devoting the entire third verse to him. Their chemistry is palpable, and gorgeously rendered with the tight-framed camerawork. Even the ending is great!

Still, watching this clip with the shipping goggles firmly in place, there’s an imbalance here. Unlike the first song, where there was a mutual display of interest, here it’s almost all Ryan. He’s attracted to her and he shows it, but her response is a bit tepid. I think this already plants the seed that something’s up with her, even if he’s able to dismiss it fairly easily. Stacy’s always been a bit flighty, after all…

The second scene picks up right where the first one left off – Stacy is back at her vanity, scribbling furiously in her notebook, giving spacey replies as her bandmates shower her with compliments over her performance. Richie appears in the doorway with a fresh can of silly string, and he and Ryan resume their war, chasing each other around the room and spraying with abandon. They both nail Stacy, and when she reacts testily, Ryan redirects Richie and chases him – as well as Kenny and Connie – out the door, leaving her in peace.

Stacy wails that they’ve ruined her favorite blouse with their antics, to which Devyn, still perched on the floor, reminds her that “it’s only string.” Stacy’s having none of it, though, pushing away from the desk and leaving the room. She bumps into Ryan on her way out. He’s come back in to find Devyn, who asks him what’s wrong with Stacy. Interesting that she’d ask him, of all people, but perhaps understandable, if she knows thinks they are together. Ryan shrugs, telling her that Stacy probably just has something on her mind, and wanders back out the door. Devyn spots a piece of notebook paper on the floor near the vanity, and picks it up, reasoning that Stacy will return for it later. She inadvertently reads it, though, and what she sees disturbs her greatly.

The second part of the scene follows Devyn outdoors, where she interrupts the all-out war that’s erupted on the street to tell the rest of the Kids of her discovery. When she tells the others what she read from Stacy's notebook – that she’s thinking of running away, because “she feels that no one loves her,” Ryan doesn’t seem to believe her, wanting to see it for himself. 12 seconds later, after looking over the page, his tone is less derisive and more thoughtful – like he’s piecing together some things that he'd previously dismissed. This makes sense, but at the same time, it doesn’t, because you’d think that if she was his girlfriend, he’d be a little more attentive to her, instead of getting so caught up in his silly string war with Richie, but hey. Less than Ideal Boyfriend =/= terrible boyfriend :P

The others are also piecing together some clues, but Ryan’s not really paying attention to them. He just keeps looking at the note, like he can’t believe what he's reading. It’s a really great scene to read the previous stage performances into. Like – he’s just now realizing that she wasn’t quite as into “Paperback Writer” as he was, and that he couldn’t sustain her attention, even when giving her all of his? Hmm, I’d be worried, too, especially if my SO was thinking about running away and I had no clue. Maybe feel a little guilty, too. The next one is the money quote, though, a very soft... "I don’t believe this letter." Poor guy!

The third song of the episode is a Devyn solo, and the only one that deviates from the overt observation and celebration of this ship. However, when she comes up with her great idea to send everyone off looking for Stacy, Ryan is the first one she directs away, and he goes, still carrying the sheet from Stacy’s notebook. Who would be a better candidate for finding and calming an upset friend than her boyfriend? The others look to him for guidance in this situation anyway, because he’s also their leader, but they respect that his relationship with her is different from their own.

The third scene finds the others conferring in the store room about what to do when Stacy shows up again, none the wiser that they’ve read her story. When Ryan spots her coming through the door, he grabs the letter and puts it back on the vanity where she was working before, but he doesn’t retreat back to the others, until Richie approaches her. Interesting. Then the fun begins!

When Richie goes over to her, he glances over her shoulder and gives her a very awkward compliment about her handwriting when she basically brushes off his question. And then he goes on and on about his own atrocious handwriting until she gets really annoyed. Yeah, it’s bitchy, but it’s also kinda funny :P because good grief Richie is annoying.

Richie finally gets the hint and retreats, so Ryan tries his luck. He walks straight up to her and touches her – specifically, touches the back of her neck, which is a very intimate gesture. Instead of trying to draw out whatever the problem is (like he doesn’t already know, or thinks he does), he instead gives her the assurance that he’s there for her, no matter what:

That’s a pretty massive thing to say to someone, and something that’s more likely to be said (especially so freely) to a romantic partner, rather than a mere ‘good friend.’ She gives him a better response than she does Richie, though I’m a little surprised that she doesn’t look at him here when she replies. Ryan knows better than to force the issue, and he does earn a look as he backs away, with his hand still lingering by her shoulders.

He’s also the only one she seems to have any time for, probably because of the way he approached her. Devyn starts in next, but before she can finish her sentence Stacy huffs up and bolts out of the room.

It’s a great little scene, with very subtle differences – but they’re there. She gives Ryan the time of day at the same time that she dismisses her younger friends out of hand. Part of it is in the words he used and the manner in which he approached her, but there’s also the fact that he touched her, and she allowed him to. (And that we have two different shots of the touch, as if to make it clear where and how the caress takes place, and how long his hand lingers on the back of her neck.) And, when Stacy lands at the park in the next scene and makes her “sometimes I wish they would just leave me alone” statement, somehow I get the feeling she’s not necessarily including Ryan in that tally…

Shippy Clip #23 – 5x11, “Strange But True

Stacy launches herself into the fantasy sequence, which is a weird amalgamation of fairytale tropes. Stacy herself is a mixture of Red Riding Hood (Ryan as the huntsman), Dorothy (Connie as Glenda the Good Witch), Snow White (Richie and Devyn as Hansel and Gretel, who also encounter a witch in the woods), and Wendy (Kenny as Peter Pan). Admittedly, I had to watch the sequence several times to even understand WTF is going on, but basically it seems to be Stacy’s way of reminding herself that yes, she does like these people she calls friends, and that they’re there for her when she's in trouble.

And, of course, there's the end ♥ ♥ ♥ But I get ahead of myself.

Ryan is the first ‘hero’ to appear, fighting the Big Bad Wolf on Stacy/Red Riding Hood’s behalf. Even as he gives chase, he stops and touches Stacy’s shoulder before disappearing. They share a great fleeting look before he runs offstage.

None of the other Kids touch her until the second chorus, when she takes Kenny’s and Connie’s arms as they all dance over to where the villains are. Gotta love that when they’re standing by the well, Ryan again appears in a protective role, looking like he’s plotting a way to get past all the flailing fairytale characters :P He’s also the one that steps in front of Stacy when the villains make a break for her, guarding her with his axe. When the group successfully fends off their foes, each of them disappears, but not without giving Stacy a sweet little peck on the cheek.

Well, the rest of them give her sweet little pecks, but not Ryan :D This is ~the kiss~ and, while it’s not much of a kiss, it’s the only one we get (and the only chance they have to kiss on screen), so boy, do they make the most of it. Ryan isn’t the only one to touch Stacy as he kisses her (Kenny does, too, briefly), but he’s the only one who grabs her like he does – from the side/behind, and again, just as in the previous real life scene, his hand is curled around her neck/shoulder, a very intimate place and way to touch someone. He also really lays one on her unlike the air-pecks the others offer. It’s also in a fairly intimate position, closer to her ear than the more neutral ground in the middle of her cheek. Here, have a closer look :D

What I really like about this sequence is that it *is* her fantasy, her indulgence in wish fulfillment. What role does her subconscious wish Ryan to play? That of conquering hero, protector, and romantic interest. He’s the first to arrive and the last to leave, he’s the only one with a weapon, and he’s the only one that pays as much attention to her as to the cast of villains they face. Obviously, she holds him in higher regard than the other kids, and this is pretty much her realizing that – and realizing that maybe he deserves to know what’s going on with her. The fact that he plays such an important role in her dream is huge – is there a better analogy to the role of boyfriend in real life?

“Boy, have I been stupid!” Stacy says, as she pulls herself from her reverie.

In the final scene, we see Stacy rushing into the P*lace. “I have to tell you guys something,” she begins, walking straight up to Ryan. The others think she’s going to confess about being lonely and feeling unloved, so when Stacy looks at them all in disbelief and her gaze lands on him, what does he do? He touches her, giving her shoulder a comforting squeeze. Interestingly, he’s in frame with her for the entirety of her confession, and the two of them are standing apart from the other Kids and Riley.

It’s only when she confesses that the letter they found was part of a story she’s writing as an English assignment that he backs away, joining the others at the counter. Even when he retreats, he’s still watching her – and I like to think that when she’s looking at the others (out of frame), she’s looking directly at him. Given that they were standing together and apart from the band at the beginning of the scene, it’s obvious that he is the one she seems to be most concerned about, the one she most wants to reassure of being happy when she’s in their (his) presence. It can even be read as a sort of non-verbal apology for being so spacey during their last on-stage performance =)

And, when she exacts her revenge on the rest of them for putting her in the middle of their silly string war, the only one she doesn’t spray is him, LOL!

Shippy Clip #24 – 5x11, “Cherry Bomb

The non-verbal apology theory holds up very well here, because this final song – the last Ryan/Stacy duet, and one very reminiscent of their first from way back in ’85 in terms of stage positioning – is all about these two. They have eyes only for each other from the start, emerging from the wings to meet in front of the stairs, and Stacy does a much better job at giving him her attention here, as compared to their “Paperback Writer” performance. The two seem to drift closer and closer to each other as they walk up the stairs, too, though they do break apart a little when they get up to the stage, turning to face they audience. After the first chorus, they back away, exchanging another little look as they come around their trio of friends set up in the middle of the stage.

They very quickly come back together before the second verse starts, and descend the stairs, again putting distance between themselves and their bandmates. Stacy directs her part to him, and it’s really adorable ♥ When they climb the stairs again they’re still looking at each other, and it seems very possible that they did hold hands at this point, only to have it edited out at the last second. Which is too bad, considering it would’ve been a nice way to come full circle, ending the episode the same way they started it – but I’ll take it =) They’ve ironed out their differences and progressed a little further in their relationship…what more could a shipper ask for? ♥

Clip of Interest – 5x12, “Tell It to My Heart

This is the final song in the string of seven straight that can be directly related to the ship. Stacy issued the challenge to “prove your love,” and Ryan answered it with aplomb over the course of the previous episode. Here is Stacy’s chance to acknowledge that, couched in one of her best performances of the season (and, quite possibly, the series). I like the fact that the milestone shippy episode is bookended by two Taylor Dayne songs – somehow, it seems appropriate, LOL :)

Believe it or not, there are no lyrical changes in this cover – it’s probably the most risqué song they performed, at least during the relatively squeaky clean ’80s years :P There is a very small shippy moment here, when Ryan looks at Stacy and smiles knowingly when she sings the line “as long as I receive the message you’re sending” during the second verse. Yes, I’d say the message has been telegraphed and enjoyed, LOL!! By both parties :D

Shippy Clip #25 – 5x12, “Flames of Paradise

Episode twelve sees Richie in the midst of his crush episode, dealing with burgeoning feelings for Riley’s college-aged cousin. The fantasy sequence for this episode is basically the first chance we shippers have to revel in our pairing as a truly established couple, as they represent the ideal of what Richie longs to have with this girl. It’s a Victorian-era set piece, with the boys of the cast (and dancers) courting the girls, with various levels of success. Richie, of course, is in the foreground, working his charm as best he can on his prized date. Ryan and Stacy are the secondary pairing, as this is a Richie/Stacy duet.

I think of this as an established couple clip for a few reasons – first and foremost, the amount of touching that’s going on is way out of everyone else’s league, LOL. When the song begins, Ryan clasps Stacy’s hand as she stands up, and they continue holding hands until all of the girls do a little twirl and unfurl their parasols. They’re the only ones who hold hands for that particular duration; both Kenny and Richie just take their paramour’s hands when the girls twirl around.

Near the end of Richie’s part of the first verse, we see Ryan and Stacy clasp hands again, as they make their way across the garden to a different bench. This leads us into Stacy’s part of the verse and a great, tight close up of the two, as she twirls around him and leans over him, though as he reaches for her hand, she pulls away, having spotted Devyn and Kimberly gossiping about their scandalous display behind them. Ryan is confused by her sudden withdrawal of affection.

Their misunderstanding doesn’t last for very long, however, as when the cast assembles to walk down the street, the two are completely in sync as they lace their fingers very tightly together and stand up, wandering down the street, where they have another flirtatious interlude during Stacy’s half of the verse. It’s very cute, as she leads him on something of a wild goose chase :D

The two sit together again on one of those tiny benches, enjoying the little show that the dancers put on before them, but when it comes time to sing again, they have eyes only for each other. “I want you back in my arms, yeah / in the flames of paradise…”

Hehe, look at those smiles! ♥ They are so close and happy and into each other that they’re certainly giving Richie one hell of a standard to live up to! And then, the chase at the end... Yeah. Richie's got a long way to go in the romance department, especially if he's chasing Riley’s much-older cousin…:D

Shippy Clip #26 – 5x13, “Crocodile Rock

The final shippy clip of the season is the opening number of the final episode, a great rendition of Elton John’s classic “Crocodile Rock.” What makes this particular clip shiptastic is the fact that Stacy is perched prettily atop the piano that Ryan is playing for the number – and when the chorus of “la”s rolls around, she lies down over the lid, so that her face is mere inches from his. The innuendo is flying - having fun, being alone, tight dresses - and at the end of the song, when their eyes finally meet, they share a giddy smile. It’s a very cute little moment, and a welcome reminder of their intimacy as the season comes to a close ♥

This is also Ryan’s final solo – of the season, and of the series.

Clip of Interest – 5x13, “Heaven is a Place on Earth

It’s fitting, perhaps, that the final episode is bookended by solos from the leaders of the pack – Ryan opens, and Stacy closes, with an up-tempo version of Belinda Carlisle’s hit single “Heave is a Place on Earth.” I consider it a clip of interest, not only because it’s the final song of Ryan’s final season, but because there is so much truth to the song and its placement here. Consider the lyrics:
In this world we’re just beginning
To understand the miracle of living
Maybe I was afraid before
But I’m not afraid anymore
Ooh, baby, do you know what that’s worth?

I suppose, if the final song couldn’t be a duet, it might as well be a love song that celebrates introspective growth. If Ryan has to leave the band now, he can do so, content in the knowledge that Stacy is ready to take his place at the head of the table. And, well, his final season on the show was definitely a little bit of heaven on earth, at least for us shippers :D ♥

BONUS CONTENT: Believe it or not, there are even more shippy moments that weren't featured in this section!

and a postscript: 6x1, “Edge of a Broken Heart

The very first song of the sixth season belonged to Stacy, and what was the choice? How about Vixen’s “Edge of a Broken Heart” – quite telling, considering it is the band’s first performance without her beloved Ryan. In what was a pretty grave miscarriage of justice, Ryan was the very first character who was written off the show and didn’t receive an exit storyline – a trend that would unfortunately continue. Not even when Stacy herself leaves at the end of this season is she given a graceful exit, which is incredibly odd, considering hers was the longest tenure on the series.

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