Recap: The Walshes are hosting a neighborhood-watch meeting in their living room. The man chairing the meeting is scaring the bejeezus out of all these rich people about how quickly a robbery can occur, and he's doing this because he's a salesman, trying his best to get new customers to subscribe to a home alarm system. Incidentally, it looks as though the Walshes have just signed up. After the meeting adjourns, Mama Walsh chats it up with Mrs. Cooper, a snooty, racially intolerant busybody who lives nearby. Mrs. Cooper whispers to Mama Walsh in a disdain-filled voice that "new people" have recently moved into the neighborhood - and by "new people" she means an African-American family. I'm sure we can all guess who's not coming to dinner at the Cooper house...
West Beverly High. As everyone arrives at school in the morning, some unknown person is roving around campus taking photographs. The mystery photographer narrows in on Brenda and Dylan and takes shots of them as they talk about Dylan's mother, Iris. Brenda tells Dylan that she wants to meet her, but Dylan thinks his mother is too much of a crackpot to be introduced to any of his friends. Since the next episode focuses almost exclusively on Iris McKay, I'll be covering her crackpotted ways in my next recap. Until then, let's move on.
Brandon enters The Blaze newsroom to find Ahn-drea in a rare good mood. She's looking through a stack of photographs and announces to Brandon that, at long last, they've found a staff photographer. The name of this artistic genius is Robinson Ash III. Neither has met the lad, but Brandon is immediately turned off by the pretentiousness of the name. He assumes the kid must be rich, snotty, and arrogant, which is a reasonable assumption since any teenager who would purposely refer to himself as Robinson Ash III to his high school peers has to be at least somewhat self-absorbed. Ahn-drea tells Brandon to go seek out this kid and tell him that he's hired. 'Cause even though she's the editor-in-chief, she's unwilling to do it because of her self-described "intensity" and her general horribleness at interacting with new people. Even on a good day Ahn-drea is a very odd duck...but at least this revelation proves she's somewhat aware of her deficiencies.
Brandon goes to the Tech Room to track down this Robinson fellow. He sees a preppy looking blonde kid and assumes it's him, so when he calls out, "Robinson Ash III?" he's surprised when a short little African-American boy answers back. Since everyone seems to call this kid "Robbie" throughout the rest of the episode, we can assume that the whole Robinson Ash III thing was thrown into the script to self-righteously demonstrate to viewers how even a fair-minded guy like Brandon Walsh can be guilty of stereotyping what a person who has digits after his last name should look like. Shame shame double shame, Brandon. He compliments Robbie on his amazing photography skills, and Robbie tells him how badly he wants to become the next staff photographer for The Blaze. Sounds like a dream come true, except that I'm pretty sure Robbie will become the next volunteer photographer for The Blaze since no one actually gets paid to work on that rag.
Later, Robbie is snapping some photos of the school band as they rehearse. Brandon sees him hard at work and comes over to ask how it's going. Robbie goofs around about how he's afraid that the photos won't be very good, or even in focus...and Brandon falls for it and gets laughed at. But then, a few minutes later, when Robbie asks Brandon for a lift home, Brandon gets the last laugh when he pretends like he doesn't want to be seen in the same car as Robbie, when in fact he's totally up for becoming instant best friends with the kid. This show is so adorably cheeseball in the way it tries so hard to tackle complex issues like race relations in America.
Mama Walsh rings the doorbell of the "new people's" house and meets Mrs. Ash, who is also Robbie's mother. Mama Walsh hands her a plate of baked goods, and the two women have a friendly chat about the neighborhood. Mama Walsh gives her a pamphlet about the neighborhood-watch and informs her about the recent robberies in the area.
Brandon's car. Robbie tells Brandon he's really happy to live in Beverly Hills after toughing it out for so many years in Inglewood, which he refers to as the 'hood. He explains that his family is rich now because his father is the founder/CEO of Papa's Popcorn, a tasty and popular snack. As they pull into the driveway of a swanky white house, Robbie offers Brandon a free supply of flavored popcorn in exchange for rides to and from school. Brandon agrees to the deal, and after dropping Robbie off, he backs out of the driveway. Seconds later he gets his back-end rammed into by a gorgeous young Vivica A. Fox, who plays Robbie's sister. She leaps out of her car and gets all in Brandon's face, blaming him for damaging her brand new car. Brandon wants to follow the proper procedures and exchange information so they can file claims with their insurance companies, but Vivica refuses. She tells him she's going to talk about it with her father, who'll probably slap Brandon with a lawsuit. Geez, Vivica...overreact much? Brandon responds by copping an attitude of his own. He swivels his neck and snipes back that his father is no slouch either (the hell he's not, Brandon) and that when Papa Walsh is done with her, she'll wish she never graduated from driver's training. I'm not sure what Brandon is actually threatening here, but he sure looks funny when he gets hisself all puffed up.
The Walsh house. When Brandon tells his parents about the car accident, Papa Walsh tells him he'll pay for the damage. He wants to avoid offending the Ashes, which could call into question the Walsh family's well established track record of their fair and non-prejudicial treatment of people of all races. Plus he wants to keep their insurance premiums intact. Brandon argues that paying for the damage to the cars goes against his strongly-felt principles, but eventually his whining gets shut down by Mama Walsh, who snappishly orders him accept their decision and let it go. But Brandon can't seem to let it go, because he then complains to Brenda about how incensed he is that Vivica A. Fox will simply get away with hitting his car. He fumes at the thought of her at home right now, gloating about it.
The Ash house. Vivica is embroiled in an argument with her father, insisting that the fender bender was Brandon's fault and that he should should be sued. But Papa Ash is well aware of her reckless driving habits, and so he doubts her version of events. He also doesn't want her making a spectacle of herself by suing the neighbors, and reminds his daughter that they don't live in the 'hood anymore. He also throws in that one of the reasons they moved out of Inglewood was to put as much distance between her and her deadbeat boyfriend as possible. Papa Ash tells her he's going to pay for the damage to both vehicles, then orders his daughter to go to the Walsh house and tell this to Brandon. Vivica is on her way over to the Walsh house when she runs into Brandon, who is on his way to her house to tell her that Papa Walsh insists on paying for the damage. The two suddenly laugh at the pig-headedness of their respective fathers, and soon their feelings of anger and hostility turn to warm fuzziness.
The Walsh house. The security alarm starts blaring in the wee hours of the morning. Brandon isn't able to disarm it, so Mama and Papa Walsh rush downstairs to key in the passcode, but it won't work for them either. After keying it in a few more times, Papa Walsh finally manages to turn it off.
Later that morning, Brandon and Brenda are in the '65 Mustang, on their way to school. Brandon turns into the Ash's driveway to pick up Robbie and almost gets into another accident with Vivica. She's on her way to school, though she doesn't go to West Beverly High - she still goes to her old school in the 'hood. Brandon asks her why she doesn't attend West Beverly High, and then the scene cuts out.
In The Blaze newsroom, Brandon is recounting Vivica's response to Ahn-drea: Vivica apparently wouldn't be caught dead going to a school populated by so many cashed-up snobs. Hee! Ahn-drea points out the irony of someone who deliberately chooses not to attend West Beverly High, while she herself lives out-of-district and is so desperate to attend West Beverly High that she's doing so illegally. Ahn-drea has a real knack of making everything all about her. She tells Brandon that she finds Vivica's life to be a fascinating story and would love to exploit it in the next issue of The Blaze. Brandon tells her he has no interest in having another conversation with this girl, so Ahn-drea suggests asking Robbie to act as a go-between.
West Beverly High. During lunch, Steve sees Robbie taking photographs and remarks to the gang that the kid always has his camera pointed at him. Donna says that he reminds her of a black David Silver, and Brenda blabs to everyone that she thinks Brandon has a thing for Robbie's sister.
Brandon finds Robbie and tells him he'd like to interview his sister for an article in the school paper. Robbie's fine with it, but he warns Brandon that Vivica's not so crazy about white people.
The Ash house. Vivica calls up her boyfriend, Devo, who works at a low-budget eatery in the 'hood called Tamale Heaven. A guy named Ramon answers the phone, and Devo discreetly tells him he doesn't want to talk to Vivica. Robbie, meanwhile, arrives home with Brandon in tow. Mama Ash sweeps down the large staircase, looking fabulous in a fancy white evening gown. Her husband is being honored by the Chamber of Commerce, so the two of them are going out for the evening. Robbie whines that he invited Brandon to stay for dinner, so Mama Ash suggests feeding him some of Papa's Popcorn. That's a pretty skimpy meal to offer a dinner guest.
Back at Tamale Heaven, Ramon passes the phone to Devo, and he reluctantly talks to Vivica. She invites him over to the house since her parents are out for the evening, but Devo is reluctant to show up there because he knows how much her father detests him. Vivica gets angry, challenges him to break up with her, then hangs up on him. This girl is definitely a high-maintenance handful. As she pouts about her boyfriend's lack of enthusiasm to see her, she looks across the room and notices Brandon standing there. The two banter and flirt...and a few minutes later Brandon informs Robbie that he has to bail on their popcorn dinner because he's taking Vivica out for the evening.
Tamale Heaven. Devo and Ramon are discussing the exclusive ritziness of Beverly Hills. Ramon encourages Devo to make his girl happy and go over to her house for the evening. He then advises Devo to class himself up by changing his grease-stained shirt and buying her some flowers.
The Peach Pit. Brandon is introducing Vivica to the West Beverly gang. They're very friendly...except when Kelly whispers to Brandon how hip it is of him to be on a date with a non-caucasian. How un-hip and condescending of you to make a remark like that, Kelly.
Devo is at a pay phone, trying to figure out his girlfriend's address. It's a little weird that Vivica never gave it to him, but OK. Devo has taken Ramon's advice and changed, so he's now wearing a festive, colorful shirt. Also, he went flower shopping and bought a nice-looking bouquet.
The Walsh house. Something has set off the Walsh's security alarm again. Mama Walsh is on the phone with the meddling Mrs. Cooper, who immediately called security patrol. After several tries at keying in the passcode, Papa Walsh finally manages to turn it off. He's starting to look steamed about this very loud, defective piece of shit that's probably pissing off the entire neighborhood.
Night has fallen, and Devo is ambling down a Beverly Hills street, carrying his flowers. A little dog runs up to him and barks, and he irritably tells it to go away. At that moment, a West Beverly Patrol car rolls up, and two officers step out and stride over to him. They ask Devo where he's going, but then barely listen as he explains that he's visiting his girlfriend but doesn't know the exact address. The two officers then grab him and forcibly restrain him while they falsely accuse him of being responsible for the recent burglaries in the area.
The Walsh house. The next morning, Brenda tells Brandon that she liked meeting Vivica and hopes that she liked all of them too. She asks Brandon if the two of them kissed, but he wryly informs her that she already has a boyfriend. Downstairs, Mama Walsh is on the phone with the meddlesome Mrs. Cooper again. She's inaccurately gossiping to Cindy about how patrol officers found a prowler in the neighborhood last night, and that he's a friend of Vivica's.
The Ash house. Brandon stops by to find out more about the incident involving the patrol officers. Robbie answers the door, but he's evasive and moody. He tells Brandon he didn't hear or see anything...and that he just wants to forget about the whole thing. When Brandon asks him how his sister is doing, Robbie tersely says "fine" and then closes the door in his face.
Papa Ash is admonishing Vivica about the incident last night. She tries to argue that she wasn't even home when it all went down, but he doesn't buy Devo's presence on their street as being merely a coincidence. He accuses his daughter of inviting this "thug" to their house, and is embarrassed about what the neighbors must be thinking. He also hates that she's sneaking around with a high school dropout, and reminds her how hard he's worked to buy a house in Beverly Hills. Mama Ash says she thinks the whole thing will blow over, and that soon the incident will be forgotten. She's right about it being forgotten. In fact, as soon as this self-contained episode is over, the entire Ash family will be yesterday's news.
West Beverly High. Kelly and Steve needle Brandon about what happened between him and Vivica after they left the Peach Pit. Steve specifically wants to know if there's any jungle fever happening. It's interesting to note that even though Steve only had about three lines during this entire episode, he still manages to come off as a horse's ass. Brandon irritably tells Steve and Kelly that they should consider getting back together again...and it's not intended as a compliment.
The Blaze newsroom. Ahn-drea is complaining about not being able to put the paper to bed without a sports page. Brandon apologizes and explains that he's behind in his sportswriting because ever since he discovered an injustice in his world, he can't seem to get it out of his mind. He's convinced that the West Beverly Patrol officers are loose canons who had no right to detain and harass an innocent person...and then wonders aloud if they're accountable to anyone. Ahn-drea suggests that he talk to the person who was target of their abuse. Brandon doesn't know his name, so he seeks out Robbie to see if he can squeeze that information out of him.
Robbie is still being standoffish and just wants to forget the whole thing mostly 'cause his parents are still mad about Devo sniffing around their daughter. But Brandon insists to Robbie that this is a breaking news story and kind of threatens the kid's position as staff photographer if he doesn't help him pursue this to a satisfactory conclusion. Naturally Robbie gets mad and threatens to quit photographing for The Blaze. He then accuses Brandon of being a user, and only seeing him as "the new black kid on the block". I'm not exactly sure what he means by that remark, or why he's so pissed off at Brandon because of what went down with Devo, but I'm going to chalk it up to this being a particularly nonsensically written scene.
Brandon's car. Brandon is railing to Brenda about how Robbie basically called him a racist. Brenda just kind of rolls her eyes and challenges him to think about why he's so angry. Could it be that there's a kernel of truth to Robbie's assertions? Hmm...no, I actually don't think so.
The Ash house. Brandon intercepts Vivica just as she arrives home. Robbie obviously told her about the newspaper article because she's suddenly all mad and thinks Brandon only went out with her because he wanted to interview her forThe Blaze. But before Brandon can offer any sort of rebuttal, the Walsh's home alarm goes off again. Vivica snidely tells Brandon to rush home because "some negro might be trying to break into his house." I still don't get why there's so much hostility being lobbed at Brandon because of what happened to Devo.
The Walsh house. Mama Walsh is on the phone with Mrs. Cooper again, who tells her she's going to call the security company. Brandon arrives home and snaps at his mother that he wants the security alarm permanently disabled. Fortunately, the security rep is at the house with a couple of electricians. They're replacing all of the circuits in the alarm so it won't keep going off. Brandon suddenly gets a bright idea and asks the security rep about the incident that occurred last night, specifically if he knows the name of the boy who was harassed by the officers. He gets the information he needs, and then tells Brenda that he's off to the 'hood to chase a story.
The 'hood. Brandon is driving around Inglewood, looking for Tamale Heaven. He finds it, parks his car, and starts walking toward the restaurant. He's immediately confronted by a threesome of tough looking kids. They give him the once-over and advance ominously toward him. At that moment, Devo comes out of the restaurant's back door to throw away a bag of trash. He sizes up the situation, gives the kids a quick lecture, and tells them to scat. Which, of course, they immediately do. Devo gives Brandon a disdainful once-over and assumes he's there to score some drugs. He sternly advises him to return to "his side of the hill", and then goes back inside the restaurant. Brandon trails after him and explains that he's Vivica's neighbor...and asks if he's Devo. He then tells Devo that he's a reporter for his school's newspaper and wants to interview him about what happened in Beverly Hills last night. He notices the horrible bruise on Devo's face and asks if that happened when the cops "jacked him up". Bwahahaha! Devo mocks Brandon's faux 'hood lingo because, yeah, Brandon sounds pretty damn funny when he tries to act street smart. Unfazed, Brandon insists that last night's incident is an important story, but Devo just tells him that he shouldn't feel welcome roaming around alleyways in the 'hood. He then provides Brandon with a brief biography and tells him that he's the only non-criminal of all his siblings, and that he works very hard at Tamale Heaven to make his long-suffering mother proud. He invokes the beating of Rodney King and says that that sort of thing happens so often in L.A. - the only difference in that particular case was that the attack was captured on film. True that.
And then, just when all hope for a Blaze exclusive is lost, Vivica shows up at Tamale Heaven with Brenda and Robbie. Brenda was very worried when Brandon left on his mission in the 'hood, so she went straight to the Ashes to ask for help in locating Vivica's boyfriend. Vivica walks over to Devo and hugs him, and asks if he's alright. They both agree they need to talk...but first it's time for some tamales! Robbie has had a complete change of heart and now thinks that Brandon should write the story about the abuse Devo suffered at the hands of the West Beverly patron officers and publish it in the school paper. He even offers to take photographs to accompany the article.
The Walsh house. The gang is over, along with Robbie...and David Silver for some reason. Everyone is enjoying the various flavors of Papa's Popcorn. Dylan is reading through the latest issue of The Blaze, and says how great it is. He then reads a few lines out loud from Brandon's "eloquent" article.
Mrs. Cooper comes over to express her disappointment at the Walshes for cancelling their contract with the security company. Mama Walsh diplomatically tells the uppity bat to mind her own damn business, and then quickly ditches her 'cause they have company. After closing the door on her, Mama Walsh rushes back to the dining room, where Papa Walsh and the Ashes are seated. The two couples continue to enjoy their delightful visit.
Brandon is driving down the street in his neighborhood and encounters Vivica, also in her car. They stop and briefly chat. She tells him she's allowed to see Devo again, and is currently on her way to the 'hood to treat herself to another tamale...wink wink. She credits Brandon's article in The Blaze for helping inspire her father to rediscover his roots. Boy, that Brandon really is one super awesome guy. The two wish each other a safe drive, and that's the last we ever see or hear from the Ash family.
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Recapper: Isabel K. French
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