Recap: Donna bounds into her living room to show Joe her work uniform: a raggedy blue apron that she wears over her regular clothes. He asks her why she has to fill in for Lisa at her grocery store job, then wonders aloud if the girl has any other friends who could do it. I'm wondering why the grocery store doesn't have at least one other trained employee with whom Lisa could have traded shifts. Donna explains that Lisa is too busy with her Rose Queen duties to work her regular shift...and since former Rose Queen hopefuls apparently have to stick together, Donna agreed to help her out. Joe decrees that he'll drive her there and back and hang out at the store during her shift 'cause it's not the safest neighborhood. Donna argues that it's safe enough for Lisa, and Joe flails around for a non-offensive retort and stammers, "Yeah...well. She's local." Donna asks him if by local he means black (um, probably), and he insists that he's just looking out for her.
After Dark. The gang is setting up for a charity auction/casino night to raise funds for a mispelled nonprofit that calls itself "Kid Kare". Valerie goes over to where Kelly's working on something and breezily remarks that it looks like everything's coming together. Kelly just grunts, "Uh huh", so then Valerie snarks back that she and the rest of her sorority flunkies should be on their hands and knees, thanking her for letting them use her club for Charity Casino Night. Kelly robotically replies, "Thank you, Valerie" and Valerie makes a joke about her unfailing politeness before stalking off. Elsewhere, Steve and Clare are playing blackjack while Brandon acts as dealer. They discuss Steve's new internship at a big talent agency that Rush lined up for him...blah blah.
At the Peach Pit, Brandon remarks to Nat how great everything looks for Casino Night. Nat furrows his brows concernedly and asks him if he's going to be gambling, and Brandon's like, "D'yuh" but assures his nosy old friend that he learned his lesson after Duke threatened him over a gambling debt. We then get a long, needless flashback of that Season 3 episode.
Colin finds Kelly sitting at a table, doodling a funny looking cartoon, which is supposed to be a portrait of him. She thanks him for donating his portrait painting services to the Kid Kare auction, and reminds viewers that all of the proceeds will go toward the support of day care centers for poor people. The two start smooching, and Valerie creepily watches them from across the diner.
Talent agency. Steve is in his cubicle when someone calls for his boss, Tammy Kane. She's lurking nearby, so he tells her it's for her, but she says she's too busy reading scoops (?) and orders him to take a message. Steve dutifully tells the caller she's unavailable, then informs Tammy that the caller was Jonathan Erwick, the new head of development at Paramount. She looks mildly intrigued, then instructs Steve to open her mail neatly: no rips. The president of the agency, some guy named Scott, enters the cubicle farm and chews the fat with Steve. I guess they're friends 'cause of his connection with Rush. The two agree to get together for lunch soon...and Tammy, who's still lurking nearby, eavesdrops. She approaches Scott and asks him if Steve could be assigned to her permanently, and he just shrugs indifferently and goes, "Sure." After he saunters off, Tammy discreetly tells Steve to get Jonathan Erwick on the phone.
The 'hood. Donna's behind the counter at the grocery store, filling in for Lisa. It's a run-down little establishment, surrounded by chain linked fencing and barbed wire. A young boy comes up to the counter to pay for a teddy bear (he needlessly explains it's for his little brother's birthday)...but when he finds out the thing costs $4.99 plus tax, he realizes he doesn't have enough money. Dejected, he heads back down the aisle to return it to the shelf, but then stares at it wistfully and impulsively stuffs it under his shirt. As he tries to make a run for it, another employee (Stan) grabs him and yells at him for shoplifting - but then Donna suddenly appears and tells Stan he just paid her for the bear. The kid stares at her in bewilderment, then claims he did, in fact, pay for it, and that he was hiding it under his shirt so that the gangsters outside don't steal it from him...or razz him for carrying around a teddy bear. He exits the store, and Donna puts on her sad face and tells Stan he's just a kid, but Stan grumbles, "He's trouble, that's what he is." Donna goes back behind the counter, and looks very sanctimonious as she fishes her wallet out of her purse and takes out $5 to pay for the stuffed bear.
Joe arrives in his truck to pick up Donna after her shift. She takes off her apron, bids adieu to Stan, and the two head out. They run into the kid with the teddy bear, who introduces himself as Isaiah, and he apologizes to Donna for thieving and explains that he only has $3 in his pocket. He offers it to her, but she tells him to keep it, which he happily does. He assures her that normally he doesn't steal, but he really wanted his little brother to have something on his birthday. Joe mutters that they should get the hell out of there, so Donna gives Isaiah a quick lecture about how he should always pay for things before leaving the store. Isaiah nods amiably and chirps, "Cool!"
Talent agency. Some guy Steve knows comes by to deliver the mail and asks Steve if he's going to "that thing" at the After Dark later. Steve proudly informs him he's running that thing at the After Dark and identifies himself as a KEG man (the other guy's a Delta, not that it matters). After that superfluous interaction, Steve neatly opens a letter for Tammy marked "personal and confidential" and discovers that she's been fired. That's a supremely shitty way to let an employee go. Steve quickly puts a fresh new envelop in the typewriter, types "personal and confidential" on it and sticks the you've just been canned letter inside and seals it so it doesn't look like he read it. A second later, Tammy pops out to gather her mail, then goes back into her office...and then Steve briefly interrupts her to remind her that he has to leave early to host the Kid Kare benefit. Tammy says it's no problem...and once Steve leaves, she looks teary and upset.
Joe and Donna are in the process of fleeing the 'hood, and Joe looks uneasy as he drives past all the rubble and graffiti. Donna says they seem to be driving in circles, and Joe explains that he's unfamiliar with this, uh, neighborhood...so Donna chuckles about how guys never want to stop and ask for directions. In a contrived twist of fate, his truck suddenly runs out of gas, and Joe grimly says he should have gassed up before leaving the safety of the west side. No duh. He manages to pull over, and the two get out to search for the nearest phone and/or gas station.
The Walsh house. Brandon's sitting at the kitchen table, counting a deck of cards. Valerie tells him that's cheating, then reminds him that Casino Night is a charity event. He's like, "Whatever" and tells her about the email they got from Jim and Cindy, informing them that they're not coming home for Christmas. Brandon looks wistful and says he misses his folks. I guess Brenda's staying away too - spending another Christmas in "London". Heh.
Joe and Donna are walking the streets of the 'hood, still trying to track down a phone or gas station. They walk past a bunch of scary guys, and then a car pulls up beside them. A guy wearing a bandana asks them if they're looking for Rodeo Drive. Haha.. Donna giggles so that the friendly gang member will find her adorable, and explains that they're in search of a gas station. Bandana Guy invites her to hop into his car for a ride to the nearest gas station, and when Joe says, "No thanks" he snarls back, "Hey! Nobody was talking to you!" Suddenly, Isaiah appears across the street and calls out to them, pretending as though he's been expecting them for dinner. Bandana Guy and his pals listen to the exchange, then drive off. Isaiah leads Donna and Joe toward his townhouse, and Joe credits him for his savvy street smarts. Isaiah's like, "D'yuh" and says his momma didn't raise no dummy...and seems mystified by how Joe could have run out of gas. Inside Isaiah's house are his two younger siblings, and when Donna asks him where their mom is, he says she's at work. As for a dad, he doesn't have one. Joe uses the phone to contact the Auto Club, then informs Donna that help will be arriving in half an hour. Donna tells him she doesn't want to leave the kids alone, then asks Isaiah what's for dinner. He says he doesn't have enough food for the two of them...plus he wants them gone before his mother arrives home. He doesn't want any trouble with Child Welfare learning about their situation and taking them away. Donna promises not to tell anyone they're being neglected, then ignores Isaiah's plea for her and Joe to leave and announces that they're springing for pizza. The two little kids start jumping up and down, chanting, "Pi-zza! Pi-zza!"
After Dark. Casino Night is underway, and everyone is having a good time gambling. Kelly runs into Lisa and asks her if she's seen Donna, and Lisa tells her that her shift at the grocery store is over and assumes she's on her way.
The 'hood. Donna and Joe have insisted on staying for Isaiah's little brother's birthday party. After he blows out his candles, Isaiah gives him the teddy bear, and the kid woodenly says, "Thank. You. EYE-ZAY-UH." When the kids scamper off to change into their pajamas, Joe tells Donna he really wants to leave, and feels weird about interjecting themselves in these strangers' lives. Donna refuses to leave the kids alone, then self-righteously declares, "Maybe their mother can do it, but I can't." A few minutes later, the unsuspecting mother arrives home, alarmed to find two strangers in her home. Donna and Joe explain how they ran out of gas, and that Isaiah let them use her phone...and then Donna gets all judgey and says she insisted on staying when she realized the kids were home alone, and then ordered some pizza for dinner. She calls Isaiah "a remarkable boy", but reminds his mother that he's only eleven years old. The mother says he's capable, knows all of their neighbors...then stops herself and rhetorically asks why the hell she's explaining herself to Donna?? She snarkishly asks Donna if she's going to call Social Services and have her kids taken away, but Donna assures her she won't do that. The mother tells her she hates being judged, says her family can take care of itself, and asks Donna and Joe to leave them the hell alone.
After Dark. Brandon buys $100 worth of chips, which prompts Nat to once again express his concern. Brandon assures him he's fine, then goes and plays craps with Susan. He gets all intense while playing, which wigs Susan out. Nat suddenly joins the game and bets against him...and when Brandon loses, he glares at Nat and snaps, "Happy now?"
Tammy Kane arrives at Casino Night to talk to Steve, which doesn't thrill Clare. Tammy tells Steve about her firing, then whines about how hard she worked to get the job and that no one else will ever hire her. She begs him to talk to Scott about re-hiring her, which seems like a really dumb idea, but for some reason Steve agrees to do it. Oh, and she wants him to take care of this, like pronto.
Steve tells Clare he has to leave for an hour to perform "a mission of mercy" and Clare snarks something bitchy because she is somewhat bitchy. Kelly goes onstage to get the auction rolling, then introduces Nat as the auctioneer. After his cheesy intro, he starts off with the first "item": a day with Chancellor Arnold. Seriously? Clare says she'd be amazed if anyone shelled out a nickel to spend the day with her dad, and David says maybe there's an eager brown-noser in the crowd who might be interested. Brandon, meanwhile, gets all bitchy when he tries to buy more chips but is told there's no gambling during the auction. Susan notices the exchange and orders him to stop embarrassing her and himself, then declares she's leaving.
Nat is now auctioning portrait painting time with Colin. Kelly offers $300, and looks smugly secure with her bid until Valerie steps forward and offers $400. Kelly is less than thrilled to have competition, especially from her arch frenemy, and the two bid back and forth until it escalates to $600 in Valerie's favor. David looks annoyed, and Kelly snidely asks her what she's up to. Valerie shrugs and says that acquiring a Colin Robbins original obviously wasn't important enough to her to outbid her offer.
Talent agency. Steve finds Scott and asks him if he could reinstate Tammy, and Scott asks him if he's sleeping with her. When Steve assures him he's not doinking his boss, Scott says that if he (meaning himself) were sleeping with her, he could have saved her job. Considering that he's the president of the agency, there's just...so much wrong with what he just said. He tells Steve that Tammy's a lousy talent agent and is costing them clients, then orders him to gently re-break the bad news to her. Um, shouldn't someone from Human Resources be handling the firings?
Donna and Joe arrive at the After Dark, and Donna takes special note of all the expensive luxury cars in the parking lot. She tells Joe they have it pretty good in their fancy zip code, and that tonight was a bittersweet reminder of that. Joe tells her she can't feel guilty for what she has in life, and she insists she doesn't and that she loves her life - especially now that he's in it. Incidentally, she's wearing a really dark shade of lipstick that makes her lips look more scary and ginormous than usual. Joe tells her that she deserves her fabulous life (the hell she does), and Donna replies, "I know I deserve it" (the hell you do) then puts her sad face on again and rhetorically asks him if Isaiah deserves to lose his childhood. Joe shrugs disinterestedly and says that maybe his struggles will turn him into a great leader someday. Donna frets that it'll break him, blah blah...and then the two cut in front of the huge line of people waiting to get inside the After Dark so they can party with their rich friends.
Inside the club, Donna connects with Lisa and tells her about her new latchkey friend, Isaiah. She tells her that she and Joe went to his house and realized that he and his siblings are left alone a lot...and she feels like she needs to do something. Lisa gets irritated and snarks that it's not "adopt a black family" month and that it's wrong to butt in on their bidness. Donna insists that she wants to save this hapless family - and if she does nothing, she doesn't deserve to be on the Rose Court. Donna reminds Lisa that the platform/philosophy of the Rose Court is to help kids - case in point: they're supporting a kids' charity at this very event. She scrunches her huge face with earnest passion and moans, "There has got to be a way to help this family!" Lisa's irritation gives way to glowing admiration, and she smiles and says, "Saint Donna." Donna stares back at her with her brows slightly furrowed as if to say, "Me..? A saint? Well...if the title fits." This scene is easily the most vomit-inducing of the entire series.
Valerie is writing out a check for the $600 Colin Robbins original-to-be when David ambles over. He snarks about all the time she's buying with Colin, then storms off. Flee, David! Flee!
Steve returns to report back to Tammy. He tells her that Scott thinks the world of her and appreciates all of her good qualities...but he feels he's doing her a disservice by keeping her at the agency, and that her potential is being stifled. Tammy gives him a wry look and asks, "I'm dead, aren't I?" and Steve nods and replies, "Totally." He expresses his condolences about her sudden misfortune, and then gives her a pearl of wisdom Rush once told him: always be nice to people on the way up, 'cause you'll encounter them again. Or something like that.
Brandon tells Nat he was right about his gambling problem getting out of control. Nat advises him to take his addiction seriously, otherwise he could lose something important to him. Brandon glumly says he may already have.
Clare ended up winning a small fortune in chips, but she declines to claim any prizes. She tells Steve she only gambled to see if she could win. She then asks him how his boss is doing, and he tells her she's been fired.
Beach house. Valerie drops by to tell Kelly that the charity made $11,000 tonight, and Kelly snarks back that she could have just phoned her with that information. Valerie says she actually came by to apologize in person for the portrait/bidding situation...then explains that it was intended to be a Christmas present for David. Well that's a convenient explanation. Donna suddenly appears and ambles toward the door, looking sleepy. She sadly tells Kelly and Valerie that while it's great they raised so much money for Kid Kare, there's a family out there who doesn't want to be helped...wah wah.
Dorm. A sheepish looking Brandon drops by to see Susan. She's still ticked off at his weird behavior last night, so he explains what happened in Season 3 with Duke and how Nat bailed him out. He says he thought he had his gambling addiction under control, but realizes he doesn't. Susan gazes at him sympathetically and says she'd like to help him...and he just stares at her mutely and gives her a slight nod of the head.
Day care playground. Donna is talking to Isaiah's mother, who only agreed to meet with her after Isaiah begged and pleaded. She tells Donna she's been on the day care's waiting list for two years and lost hope, so Donna tells her that her sorority raised a lot of money for them, and can get the kids enrolled. The mother stubbornly says she doesn't want a handout, but Donna insists she's not a "do-gooder", and that this isn't an act of charity, but one of friendship...which was a tad weird, considering the two barely know each other. The littlest boy shrieks at his mother to watch him as he plays, and suddenly the mother does a complete 180 and concedes, "I guess we all need a little help sometimes in life." She then smiles at Donna, shakes her hand, and says she's not too proud to take that help. Donna gaily scampers over to Isaiah and tells him how happy she is to have met him, and he thanks her for everything and tells her he'll never be able to repay her for all she's done for his family. Donna tells him that she and her sainthood don't need to be repaid; however, she solemnly urges him to pay forward her kind deed when he grows up. Isaiah vows to fulfill that promise, and the two hug...and I retch.