Akward. S02E02: "Sex, Lies, and Videotape"
The only thing worse than hiding a secret from those closest to you is the threat of that secret jumping out of the box on its own. And it was the choice—of whether to beat the secret to coming out eventually by revealing it to those it was being kept from, or to keep quiet and just hope the box would hold it in—that formed the deeply emotional backbone of "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," the second episode of Awkward.'s already incredible second season.
There were two secrets clawing at their shackles in "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," and the dynamics of both were three-pointed. At the base of each triangle were two people who held the secret (Lacey and Jenna; Jenna and Matty), with one of them bearing the majority of the weight of responsibility. And at the top of each triangle was one oblivious person (Jake; Kevin) that didn't know the secret was so close to them. It was a perilous situation times two, and all through the episode we could feel the triangle-shaped secret-structure teetering on the verge of collapse, potentially flattening Jenna like a pancake beneath the rubble.
Of most importance to Jenna was keeping her past with Matty hidden from her new open relationship (like, holding-hands-in-public relationship) with Jake, and it wasn't a matter of if the secret will get out, it was a matter of when. And Awkward. could have played this as some sort of internal struggle with Jenna batting angels and devils on her shoulders, trying to do the right thing, but instead the show tightened the screws with an external force: the Sanctuary security cam.
It was a way for Awkward. to have its delivery sushi and eat it too. The camera was just a threat, a possibility, a pinhole that all the school's secrets could squeeze through. And it also happened to be a perfect way for show creator Lauren Iungerich to put her characters in motion without blowing her load in the second episode and yeah sorry that sounded gross but I swear it's a figure of speech.
Jake, meanwhile, continued to exhibit ridiculously authentic high-school (and beyond) guy behavior by trying to pretend Jenna not being a virgin and loving someone before him didn't bother him. Dudes will be dudes, and we're overly protective of our egos. But our brains are also a bit slow and stubborn when our hubris takes a gut-punch, and it took Jake a little while—and some advice from bestie and rival Matty—to realize that Jenna is his now and the past shouldn't affect the present. At least not until he finds out that it was his best friend who was all up in that. For now, Jenna, you got lucky and you're off the hook.
Poor Matty is playing catch up with his feelings, and he's serving as the supportive ear for Jake to unknowingly bitch to about him. After Jake said Jenna loved the guy she boned, Matty wasted no time in returning the L-word to Jenna, but it was too little and a lot late. But come on, Matty, there's playing it cool and there's playing it the way you did. It was a sweet gesture but it was poorly timed. And it's more likely to push Jenna away than make her do a 180. (Also, shhhh! I'm rooting for you!)
In the end, Jenna was able to siphon the secret out of Jake's mind by telling him she didn't love the other guy anymore, and it was a nice piece of duct tape to put over a fissure in a dam. The question now is how the tide will shift from Jake to Matty, because we all know it will. And what about Jenna's choice of words? "I am totally invested in you." That's not love, that sounds more like a contract that's subtly indicative of her indecision if you ask me.
I don't know about you guys, but the way the other secret played out—Lacey's admission of writing the letter—ripped my heart out and shamed it to tears. Jenna vs. Matty vs. Jake is great and all, but Jenna vs. Lacey is SERIOUS BIZNESS. Kids, hunky boys come and go, but moms are FOREVER. And what made the spilling of this secret so much harder to watch was the lifelong bond between mom and daughter that it shattered; we're at step one in Jenna ending up in heels and little else on stage at the local Scores in two years. Doubly painful: Lacey's inability to own up to her mistake, obliviously choosing instead to hide her guilt under casserole dishes full of crumpled potato chips, chicken, cheese, and Jenna's other favorite munchies. But the real killer was watching Jenna react to the situation. There will be no passing of salt and pepper at this feast fit for Jenna, just the passing of eye daggers as an unbelievably bright daughter cannot for the life of her understand how the person who pushed her into the world could destroy hers so easily. I love Ashley Rickards, but until this episode I wasn't really on board with this Emmy push others have been making for her. Then she teared up and confronted her mom. ACTING!
The episode's dueling secrets also allowed the writers to play both possible results. Jenna never had to tell Jake about Matty, but Lacey did end up telling Kevin about her part in the letter. Round of applause to Nikki DeLoach, who made Lacey's admission both gut-wrenching and believable after spending most of the series playing a buffoonish caricature full of silicone and bad intentions. It was a very humanizing moment for Lacey, who can get overlooked in this series. When Awkward. needs to get serious, it does and does it very well.
I was also a big fan of Ming's Asian invasion. The Chinese students as some sort of Stonemasons society and Ming's fascination with "her people" opened up the school a ton, and there was clever play with stereotypes as many were both reinforced and toppled at the same time. This show does a good job at playing with high-school cliches and transforming them into something fun while gently poking the envelope. And really, it was just nice seeing Ming be something other than the tag-along third musketeer. Jessica Lu was fantastic and owned her scenes in ways we hadn't seen before.
This was another fantastic episode of Awkward. that laid the groundwork for Season 2's dueling storylines of Jenna at home and Jenna at school. I love that one of those secrets came out early, and we'll see the staggered effects as the fallout from one secret spreads while the other continues to build tension. This is great stuff and television writing at way higher than a high-school level.
1. What was the biggest moment for you in "Sex, Lies, and Videotape"?
... a) Matty saying, "I love you" to Jenna
... b) Lacey telling Kevin about the letter
... c) Valerie's blackmail earning her the place of Vice Principal
... d) Jenna and Jake super-DTRing at the end
2. Asian clique: funny, racist, or other?
... a) Funny! Am-ASIAN!
... b) Kinda racist! Chinese bookworms? Been there, seen that.
... c) I feel like I should be offended but I was too busy laughing.
... d) It's 2012, people, there's nothing racist about this and it's a non-issue.
3. Matty telling Jenna he loved her after hearing she was in love with him was...
... a) Too soon. Play it cool, keep that in your back pocket, and play that card when the time is right (i.e. when Jake and Jenna are having issues).
... b) Romantic! He couldn't fight that that feeling anymooooore...
... c) A sign that he has no game.
... d) Rude! Matty needs to take a step back and not ruin his BFF's life.
4. Has your preference for who Jenna should choose changed since the Season 1 finale?
... a) No, I'm still Team Jake/Team Matty (please specify which in the comments), same as I was before.
... b) Yup, I can see Matty's a changed person and he deserves another chance!
... c) Yes, Jake has proven that he's a great guy for Jenna!
... d) Hey, I'm just here to watch the fireworks as Jenna goes back and forth. Pass the popcorn.
THE JAKE VS. MATTY-o-METER
Matty's needle moved a lot more than Jenna's this week, but this isn't his meter. Jenna is all about Jake right now, but for how long?
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom