My So-Called Life: 1.08 “Strangers in the House”

Season 1 Episode 8
Airdate: October 20, 1994

The episode begins at the print shop that Ginger’s mom owns and Ginger’s dad is her Gal Friday. Ginger’s dad has to go land a new account, Allegany Systems. He thinks it will be a tough sell as they, “Could go with any printer in town.” There are towns with more than one print shop?

They get a phone call. It sounds serious.

We go to school. Ex-Bestie is taken out of class. Ginger peeks through the doorway and sees Ex-B in the hallway talking to Ginger’s dad.  She must an executive at Allegany Systems. She is crying. Yeah, looks like the dad reamed* her on those negotiations! That company should have someone other than a 15-year-old girl handle their vendor contracts.

*reamed ha ha get it?

No, actually, Ex-B’s dad had a heart attack. Ex-B and Ginger’s parents are friends, so they are going to help out the Ex-B family.

Ginger goes to Ex-Bestie’s house after school. She remembers back to when they were little kids and friends. They are not anymore.

Ginger’s parents are sitting with Ex-Bestie’s mom in the hospital lobby. Ginger’s dad is fixated on the monitors that show patients lying in hospital beds. Why are those visible to the public? That seems like a violation of medical privacy. This is 1994 and HIPAA wasn’t signed into law until 1996. It was sorely needed.

Ginger’s parents take Ex-Bestie in for the night. It’s awkward for Ginger and Ex-B because they have barely spoken since ending their friendship. It probably had something to do with growing boobs. It is the opinion of the boys of the school that Ex-B has the very best boobs out of all the boobs, and I can see how that would lead to jealousy and arguing and sexy, sexy pillowfights.

The next morning, Ginger’s parents discuss Ex-B’s father’s prognosis. “He’s still having those extra heart beats and no one knows why,” says Ginger’s mom. It’s because he loves too much. It is sad to think that he could literally die of a broken heart. Rimshot!

In school music room, Ex-Bestie is angry at her boyfriend for not returning her phone calls yesterday. “I left five messages for you—five!” She yells, and breaks up with him. But this was before cell phones. Those messages were left on a genuine answering machine, which recorded onto a little tape that you had to rewind and fast forward though like a primitive barbarian. He probably doesn’t understand how to work an answering machine. I was a teenager back when answering machines were being slowly replaced by cell phones and voice mail, but I still had to use one from time to time and it was fucking impossible. Cut your man some slack.

Ex-B hugs Frizzy Haired Boy and cries into his chest, just because he is the only other person in the room. You know Frizzy is thinking, “So this is what a female feels like. So soft…oh so soft.”

Hippie Friend and Gay Friend see them together. “Comparing instruments?” Hippie laughs and then casually says, “I heard about your dad, tough break.” I dislike Hippie Friend very much.

After school, Ginger enters her bedroom to see Ex-B and Frizzy talking on her bed. Frizzy is her new boy or something along those lines. Ginger is embarrassed because she left a bra hanging on her mirror. Frizzy saw his first bra! Wow, he’s progressing fast. Frizzy Hair is going to be a man by this episode’s end.

To the girls’ room! Hippie Friend hears someone crying in a stall. A girl crying in the bathroom could be any of 155 million reasons, but it’s Ex-B, so the reason is obvious. Hippie Friend wants to use Ex-B’s dad as an excuse to skip school and have an adventure in the hospital. Yup, I don’t much care for Hippie Friend.

Under the bleachers, Jared Leto enjoys a smoke. Ginger tries to confide in him about what has been going on. After Leto admitted that he was illiterate to her, I think Ginger is under the mistaken impression that he is someone she can talk to about things. She hugs him for emotional support, while Leto is surely thinking,“This girl came blabbering about whatever but wants me to hold her, cool.” But Leto breaks it off when his friend comes by.  You don’t want your best friend to see you with a girl, that’s gay.

Ginger, Ex-B, and Lil Ginger are home and hungry.  They plan to order a pizza. Frizzy knocks on the door and then they plan to make him pay for it. Then Ginger’s mom enters. “Here,” she hands money to Ginger, “get a large.” Come on, you need more than one pizza. You have three teenagers in the house! You need at least three large pizzas! I don’t care if 2/3 of the people eating are females, one pizza won’t cut it. The mom must have a lot on her mind with the heart attack. That is the only way I can forgive this.

Ginger’s dad is stressing about getting a heart attack. He is the same age as Ex-B’s dad and lives the same sausage loving life. He is like, “I have to get out of this house!” and does.

Frizzy gets off the phone with the pizza place and tells the girls, “They say they’ll be here in twenty minutes.” “Great,” groans Ginger. I like that remark. It is very real. American teenagers do take the attitude that having to wait to more than three minutes to eat when they are hungry is the most horrible injustice in the world.

Ex-Bestie’s ex-boyfriend calls. Ex-B is happy and makes a date. So they are back together, or never actually broke up. Frizzy is sad and wallows off to wallow. Ginger is shocked too and tells her former chum, “Frizzy is in love with you and you are using him!” Ex-B is like “No, Frizzy is in love with you, and you are using him!” Instead of having a good laugh about how they are both stringing along the same hopeless lad, they fight.

Ex-B returns to her house in a huff. Ginger doesn’t want to eat. Then the mom comes downstairs and says she is not hungry. Sweet, Frizzy gets a pizza all to himself!

Ginger’s dad spent the night in the hospital with Ex-B’s mom. Ex-B’s mom thinks the stress from his job brought on the heart attack. Ginger’s dad is concerned because Ex-B’s dad is in the lumber business and he works at a print shop. And what do you print things on?

Paper. And where does paper come from?

Lumber! DO THE MATH!

The doctor approaches them and says Ex-B’s dad is going to be alive. Sweetness!

Ginger’s dad returns home. He admits to his wife that he is not happy that the print shop is his real job. It’s stupid that he wants to work somewhere else. I mean, your wife inherited a print shop and you guys seem to be doing pretty well with only that single source of income. In five years everyone will have computers with printers, so you may be fucked, but it’s a sweet ride today.

Ginger’s mom fires him, “Cause I love you.” Ginger’s dad is shocked—SHOCKED! Can he collect unemployment? ‘Cause that would be an awesome scam for them to pull. She can fire him; he can go on unemployment; six months down the road, she can hire him back and fire him again six months later. Repeat.

Ginger meets Ex-B in her (ex-B’s) room and they cry. Hey, dumbasses, the doctor said your dad is going to be fine.

Grade: B

I like that the episode was leading the viewer to believe that Ginger and Ex-B would rekindle their friendship, but in the end that is not quite what happened.