Episode 6: Claudia and the Missing Jewels
Well, “jewels” is stretching it. Despite her alliterative name, Claudia Kishi ain’t no Jacob the Jeweler.
We open up with the girls walking along the sidewalk in a big pack, wearing brightly colored . . . somethings. They are either raincoats or art smocks, not sure which. Mary Anne is carrying a big square . . . something, which is decorated with stars and a comet. Whereever could these girls off to and why must they clog up the sidewalk like that?
It’s a flea market and craft fair! Also they are raincoats, because a few of the girls are also holding folded-up umbrellas. Inside the flea market/craft fair, things are in full swing, although this craft fair is like no craft fair I’ve even been to, and in case you are wondering, I have been to a lot. Where do you think I bought my personalized scrunchies back in the day? But at the Stoneybook craft fair, it looks like crafts are being done instead of on sale. There’s a kid painting a shirt, and some other kid drawing a lady’s portrait, and then a little girl reading someone’s Tarot cards, which seems mildly inappropriate, but whatever. The big square that Mary Anne was carrying is a folding table, but even though it’s nicely decorated, they cover it up with 1) a sheet of lace, 2) a sheet of velvet, ooh la la, 3) a bit of yellow, patterned cloth, 4) ugly-ass jewelery.
I first watched My So-Called Life when I was in my twenties in the 2000s, with a good friend of mine who had watched it when it was airing. I remember saying something like, “Oh, of course Angela would ditch Sharon for Rayanne [aside: don’t get me started] and Ricky. Look what a nerd Sharon is, with her floral-print denim ensemble.” And my friend was like, “No, Sharon is cool. That is a cool outfit Sharon is wearing.” It’s startling to realize that for that moment in time, Sharon’s clothes were totally trendy and on-point, and that the feelings I have associated with them come from my seeing them years later on the not-cool racks of Sears and Kohl’s and whatever. Ugly clothes were once cool!
And this is how I feel about Claudia’s jewellery. It’s hard for me to look past whatever the fuck they are and try to imagine these teenage girls being unironically all about them. The girls even convince Claudia to put on a pair of the earrings (to “model” them, in Stacey’s professional words), and I can’t tell if I’m putting my own emotions onto the actor playing Claudia, but she seems incredibly reluctant to do so. But she must have thought they were at least a little cool! They’re bright and wacky and neon and it’s 1990! Right? I just don’t know!
But I can tell a fancy businesswoman when I see one, and one comes strolling into the craft fair looking like an older, east coast Amanda Woodward.
Her name is Olga (“Miss Olga” to Claudia) and she has a shop in “the village” and she thinks Claudia’s earrings are “adorable,” which doesn’t seem like a super compliment or even appropriate for those monstrosities, but whatever. She wants Claudia to make four more pairs and bring them to the store by next week, and she gives Claudia a fifty dollar deposit in cash right there on the spot. Making it rain.
Cut to meeting time, where the girls are gathered around Claudia like they’ve never seen money before. Ladies. You run a very successful business. Please tell me you’ve seen fifty dollars in one place before. The girls are literally huddled around the bill, looking at it and pointing at it like Ulysses S. Grant is Patrick Swayze. There’s a bit of club business where Kristy arranges a sitter for her step-sister, Karen. (True confession: my first foray into the world of the BSC was this book. It’s a shame I live with every day.) Kristy has to write a book report, which is why they need a sitter. Claudia says she’ll do it. And she’ll bring over the jewellery and when Kristy’s done, Old Bossy Pants McBusinesswoman can use her marketing skills to help set it up for Miss Olga. Mary Anne pipes us that she thought Kristy “had help” on the weekend, and Kristy’s like, “Uggggg, you mean Julie.” I’m not really sure what Julie does. Maybe she’s Kristy’s family’s maid? I dunno. We see her with laundry a lot. All I know is that Kristy does not like her. And finally, we find out the girls are planning a plant sale. Okay. Sure. Totally normal thing for a bunch of girls to want to do to raise money. And they’re going to go buy plants and then have the kids put them in pots to sell to adults to put them in the ground? And this is literally all the planning they do. They had come up with the idea of a plant sale previously and then at this meeting they decide to just repot plants and sell them? It seems like that’s the most basic thing they could do for a plant sale. And also, why would the parents buy marked-up plants from the baby-sitters when the BSC just bought them at the local garden center? Huh? I just don’t know. It doesn’t really matter too much, though. What does matter is that Claudia volunteers to give them her deposit money to buy the plants. Uggg, what is happening??
Whatever, moving on, it’s Saturday! We’re at Kristy’s where she’s taken up the whole kitchen table with her book report. Karen is actually pretty adorable in this scene. She has big crazy pink glasses and is all dressed up and has made a May Pole out of a wrapping paper tube and some ribbon. And even though Kristy tries to ignore her, Karen keeps bothering her and getting louder and louder. Aah, little sisters. We are the best ever.
Julie shows up, and Kristy automatically hates her because she ran into her and made her drop her book report on the kitchen floor. Karen tells Julie that Kristy is in a bad mood because Kristy thinks Karen talks to much. And then Julie is very sweet and says, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking if you’ve got something to say.” And then she winks at Karen. And it’s very sweet! She’s good with kids, Kristy! You should get her in the BSC!
Claudia and Karen hang out in someone’s bedroom (I guess Kristy’s??) playing go fish, and it’s very cute! I have a feeling that the actors were actually playing the game, because Karen says, “I’m winning” at one point, and Claudia laughs and says, “I know you are,” and it’s all very sweet and genuine. When Kristy’s done with her homework, she comes and hangs out with Claudia and Karen on the bed, and Claudia pulls out the rest of the earrings she’s made. Karen is tugging at my heartstrings, because she’s trying so hard to be one of the big girls. Kristy’s all like, “Careful, Karen,” and “Don’t touch,” but Claudia is very nice and puts a pair of clip-ons on her. Then all the jewellery goes in a special box, long and narrow and lined, that Kristy had hidden under her bed which she can reach down and grab easily with one hand. IT USED TO HOLD HER BASEBALL CARDS, YOU PERVS!! Anyway, Karen keeps chatting to them about whatever, and Kristy convinces her that they’re going to play hide and seek and that Karen should hide. Kristy counts very loudly until Karen is out of the room and then she says, “Sometimes she drives me crazy.” And I LOL because what a great trick! Every few seconds Karen calls out that she’s hidden and Kristy will continue counting loudly and then lower her voice to talk to Claudia. Kids is so dumb. Claudia, though, says that Karen just wants Kristy’s attention. It’s very sweet. WHY IS THIS SHOW SO SWEET SOMETIMES!?!??!?
Kristy and Claudia leave the bedroom, placing the box with the earrings in it on Kristy’s dresser. Who should come along with a folded tower of Kristy’s sweatpants than the for-no-reason-despised Julie? She sees the earrings and pulls out a pair and holds them up to her ears and admires herself in the mirror. LOOK AT THESE THINGS!
Are those Pop-Tarts??????
Scene change. We see some of the girls and some of the kids with plants and talking about plants and whatever. It’s such an odd side story. But then! We see a quick scene with Julie and Karen, where Karen brings up the fact that it’s Julie’s birthday. Hmm, maybe Karen is thinking of getting her a present. . .
Next scene, disaster strikes! It was only a matter of time. This drama couldn’t build forever. The earrings have gone missing. Claudia and Kristy dig through Kristy’s dresser for a while and then Kristy decides that the best thing to do would be to call an emergency meeting of the Baby-Sitters Club. Oh these girls! For some reason, they all go back to Claudia’s house, even though it seems like they should all stay at Kristy’s and look for the earrings. The girls have Kristy go over the events of the afternoon again, and Kristy realizes that Julie was in the house as well, and she is unaccounted for. She has no alibi but also no motive, but it must have been her! Who could possibly keep their dirty mitts off those earrings? Mary Anne wisely asks if anyone made a delivery that day, as if a UPS driver would come into the house and walk up the stairs and into Kristy’s bedroom and steal only handmade earrings worth $50-ish. God, I love you, Mary Anne! Anyway, they come up with a plan to follow Julie around and, I guess, see if she does anything suspicious. This is a great couple of minutes of television. All the girls are stationed around town, with Kristy and Claudia at homebase at the pizza place. All the girls are in disguises, AKA wearing bright clothing and sunglasses. Mallory and Jessi actually look pretty chic!
In turn, a batch of each of the girls follows Julie down the street at very close range. At one point, Mallory and Jessi hide in front of a bank of gumball machines. They are a few feet away from Julie, in plain sight, crouched down in front of gumball machines. AND THEN JESSI BUYS A GUMBALL! IT’S AMAZING!! THIS IS THE BEST SCENE OF ANY SCENE I’VE EVER SEEN ON THIS SHOW!!
Even though the stakeout doesn’t work and they lose Julie, during this whole scene I just keep thinking about how much fun it must have been for these girls to film. It’s so fun to pretend to be sneaky and pretend to be spies. Lucky girls.
Anyway, they lose Julie and reconvene at the pizza place, and who should walk in but Julie herself, picking up an entire pizza for take out. And she’s wearing the earrings!!! The girls can’t get their shit together quick enough to confront her, and everyone’s feeling very bummed out. And for some reason Claudia thinks she’s going to jail? Who knows.
Later on we’re at the plant sale. I still don’t understand it. Karen keeps asking Kristy if she’ll come look at her “treasure tree,” and Kristy keeps saying she doesn’t have time right now. Because the plant sale is hoppin! There are repotted marigolds and daisies all over. There a bit of hilarity when Jackie Rodowsky pulls a tulip out of the landscaping and shoves it in a pot and then puts in on a table. Although, honestly, that makes just as much sense as the plant sale in general.
Julie shows up, wearing the earrings. It is time. The moment we’ve all been waiting for. The big confrontation that for sure will not go wrong. Basically Kristy is like, “Those don’t belong to you and we know you took them,” with a big know-it-all smirk on her face. And Julie is like, “They were a present from Karen, but have them back. And BTW, you were just pretty rude.” She’s clearly shaken up, and leaves the plant sale. Not even fifty cent marigolds can mitigate the sting. Kristy then stomps over to Karen and gets her to admit that she’d taken the earrings, even though Karen pathetically says she got them from her treasure tree. Uggg, are we ever going to get to see this tree??? Karen then tells Kristy that sometimes she feels like Kristy just doesn’t want to listen to Karen at all.
Karen runs off and after explaining to the BSC what just happened, Kristy goes after her. The treasure tree is conveniently located adjacent to where the plant sale is happening, so for a few minutes I wonder if maybe the plant sale is happening on Kristy’s property because Karen was always going to that treasure tree. After being sweet to each other for a couple of seconds, Karen reaches into the trunk of the tree and pulls out all her treasures: a doll, a weird bead toy, and the earrings! (Side note: I have never in my life seen a tree that has a big hole where you can store stuff. Do they really exist? They must, because they’re such a trope! Please tell me in the comments if you have ever encountered such a tree and what you stored in there and if a squirrel ever bit you while you were reaching in there. Tnx.) Kristy tells Karen that she’s very special, and Karen says that she sometimes feels like Kristy likes the kids she baby-sits for more than she likes Karen. Hugs all over the world. ARE THESE TEARS RUNNING DOWN MY FACE???
Well, now that Kristy and Karen are good again, it’s just time to make amends with Julie. Again, I am flummoxed by her outfit. It’s cute! What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I tell the difference between ugly and cute things??? Is this cute? Yes? I don’t know!
As a way of apologizing, the BSC has thrown Julie a birthday party! They’ve really gone all-out. They gift her with a pair of Claudia’s earrings, which she immediately puts on. Throughout this whole episode, as soon as someone sees the earrings they put them on (they are clip-ons). I think Claudia might be trying to sell those earrings in a place where earrings are not popular. Why is no one wearing earrings??? They also got Julie a cake, and when they pulled it out from the hiding place behind them, I said, “YUM” aloud. I might not understand fashion, but I understand cake. Cake and 90s businesswomen. I’ve got those down.
Well, I think we’ve all learned a few valuable lessons here today. About how confusing fashion is. About how when you assume you make an ass out of you and me. And about not taking your little sister for granted. DID YOU HEAR THAT, JAMES FLANNY?!?!?! However, we still did not really learn about plant sales. I still don’t get it.