The most talked about new show of the season opens with the fresh from Kansas Wilson family arriving at their new home in Beverly Hills in… what else? A minivan. Daddy Harrison (and the new principal of West Beverly High), mom Debbie, daughter Annie, and adopted son Dixon seem like the perfect happy family. Of course appearances are never what they seem: this is a prime-time soap after all. As they drive through the perfectly manicured streets of Beverly Hills, Dixon complains bitterly that "this sucks". And I wonder if the opening words of the show ("this sucks") are a hint of what's to come. Fortunately, the new 90210 is a like a sip of Perrier after a hot night at the club: fresh and invigorating.
As the Wilson family arrives at their new home – a mansion – Harry's mother comes out to meet them. Tabitha Wilson is an aging film star of old, who now spends her days writing her memoirs and drinking unapologetically. She greets the children, embraces her son, and ignores her daughter-in-law completely, except to dismissively tell her to move that "crap wagon". Debbie looks insulted but resigned. Apparently, Tabitha's treatment of her son's wife is nothing new.
We cut to the credits, which have been remixed from the original 90s theme minus those mind-numbingly loud guitar riffs. The credits were similar enough to the originals to incite warm nostalgia, but new enough that I wasn't forced to stare at any god-awful Priestly-like side-burns. Thank Zeuss.
And then we're back as Dixon and Annie (who just like Brenda and Brandon are amazingly close friends) head off for their first day at West Beverly High. As they make their way through the student parking lot (which is filled with enough Porsches, BMWs and Corvettes to make Steve Sanders proud) Annie catches sight of old flame Ethan Ward sitting in his car. She's happy to see him but he's just shocked – and so is the girl next to him whose face was in his lap. Annie stares at him in horror for a second before spinning on her heel and heading inside. Clearly, they aren't in Kansas anymore.
Annie is obviously intimidated by all the Prada, Coach, Versace, and Gucci clad students parading through the hallways. "It's like the Oscars and everybody is Scarlett Johannsen!" she worries. "You say that like it's a bad thing," a much less freaked out Dixon tells her.
In journalism, Dixon meets Navid Shirazi, the director/producer of the school's daily newscast (high school newspapers are so last decade). There's a million comments I'd like to make on that name, but none are politically correct enough to get past the site censorship. So let's just leave it at that. Anyway, reading the news is one Hannah Zuckerman-Vasquez, a Gabrielle Carteris (Ex-Andrea, Beverly Hills 90210) look-alike, who is of course the daughter of former Blaze editor Andrea Zuckerman. Sharp-eared viewers who caught the first incarnation of 90210 will chuckle at Mr. Matthews remark that Hannah looks 30 years old. And yes that's an inside joke to all you youngins.
And finally we meet our first Beverly Hills 90210 alumnus, the beautiful Kelly Taylor, who is now the guidance counselor of West Beverly High. (Guess she finally decided to use that psych degree). It turns out she went to high school with Principal Harry, and though we never saw him, we are treated to a (photo-shopped of course) picture of a young Kelly and Harry mugging for the camera. Guess they were old friends, after all. Maybe they met through Kelly's one-time love, Jake Hansen of Melrose Place?
Meanwhile, Annie is meeting (rather awkwardly) some of her new peers. Beautiful, haughty Naomi, who is quite reminiscent of early-Kelly, is assigned to be Annie's "Beverly Buddy" and the popular girl doesn't look too thrilled to be showing around the new kid. That is until Annie earns her favor by trash-talking Mr. Matthews and telling Naomi she doesn't actually have to give her the grand tour. Then we meet Naomi's side-kick Adrianna, who has landed the lead in the school musical. She's unimpressed with Annie's earnest manner and is even less impressed by the new girl's desire to participate in the school play. The snooty girl tells Annie she'd probably be good for scenery. Oooh, burn. Oh and then there's that nasty pill-popping problem. Clearly, Adrianna's got some insecurity problems.
As the girls are having their not-so-friendly-getting-to-know-you scene, Ethan approaches. A red-faced Annie is surprised to find that Ethan is Naomi's boyfriend – because Naomi is very definitely not the same girl we saw "servicing" Ethan in his car that morning. Naomi's a bit surprised to learn that the two know each other and it's all very awkward and uncomfortable, especially as Adrianna pointedly tells Annie what a cute couple the two make.
At lunch time, Erin Silver (but don't you dare call her Erin. First names are just so last decade) approaches Annie and it seems like the two are on their way to becoming friends when Naomi shows up and pulls Annie away to sit with the popular kids. She invites her to her Not-So-Sweet-Sixteen party and warns Annie to stay away from Silver, claiming that the girl is vicious. And it turns out she can be. She's the owner of a YouTube series, entitled The Vicious Circle, a cruel vlog aimed at belittling and insulting her fellow students.
So it turns out that the popular Naomi isn't doing so well in English. She completely forgets to write an important paper for Matthews, who seems less than thrilled with her excuse that she was swamped with plans for her birthday party. He tells her to do it now... or else. Her parents are called in to the principal's office, and rather than show disappointment in their daughter, they try to convince Principal Harry to show Naomi some lenience. He holds firm and as the parents leave, we learn a juicy tidbit: Harry and Tracy (Naomi's mom) have a past. "You know Harry, if things had been different, we could have been talking about our own kid." Well, then.
Meanwhile, Naomi's friend Adrianna is buying pills from a sk8tr-boi type who warns her that she already owes their supplier $200. She snatches the bag and coolly informs him that she'll have the money tomorrow. Uh-oh, looks like someone's got trouble...
After school, Naomi takes Annie shopping because according to Naomi, the new girl's wardrobe is in serious need of life-support. They grab a drink at the Peach Pit, which has been converted into a trendy coffee-shop. And look! Nat is back and he's adorable as he fights with the cappuccino machine. Aw, but I miss the mega-burgers and the fifties uniforms. Who can forget Brenda and her "Laverne" costume. Aw, sweet nostalgia.
Back to the present. Naomi moans when she discovers that (gasp!) she actually has to write the paper for Mr. Matthews after all. Well, it turns out that Annie conveniently wrote a paper on the EXACT SAME TOPIC last year and (gasp!) still has it on her hard-drive. In true, naïve, new-girl fashion, she offers to let Naomi look it over to get some "ideas" for her own paper and see how it should be laid out. Naomi happily agrees. Hmm, is that plagiarism I smell?
On the lacrosse field, Dixon is giving a fantastic try-out and his moves outshine the other players, which doesn't win him any friends. Ethan, at least, is impressed with Dixon's talent and tells him so. George, though, feels threatened by Dixon and pushes him around after practice. Unfortunately, Mr. Matthews (who is also the lacrosse team coach) has his back turned and doesn't see George push Dixon first. Naturally, Dixon retaliates which leads to an all-out fight. At dinner that night Dixon admits to his family that he got into a fight, Annie gleefully announces her party invite, and Tabitha insults Debbie's cooking. Family fun for all!
Meanwhile Naomi, Adrianna and Ethan head over to The Pit, the nighttime hot-spot adjacent to the Peach Pit. I wonder if this is a reincarnation of The Peach Pit: After Dark? Does this mean our old friend Val, owner of the After Dark, may be making an appearance? Ethan tries to pay the cover charge but Naomi flashes a roll of cash, which in-debt Adrianna covertly eyeballs. At the bar, a glammed-up Naomi runs into Mr. Matthews who questions her about the paper. She tells him it's done and asks him why he's always so mean to her. He doesn't answer her but tells the bartender not to serve her because she's underage. "I guess that's me being mean," he says. Naomi glares after him. It's kinda icky that these two have amazing chemistry, though, isn't it?
At the Wilson mansion, Naomi's mom Tracy stops by to "welcome" Harry and Debbie back to Beverly Hills. She is quite tipsy and is full of stories about her wild teenage past with Harry. Debbie sits next to Harry in seething silence and I fully expected to see knives flying at any second. Or at least a glass of wine tossed, maybe some hair-pulling? But I guess that's too low-rent for Beverly Hills so instead we get a stinging barb, and I am thrilled the producers had the nerve to let it through. When Tracy flirtatiously asks Harry to drive her home, Debbie, who has clearly had enough, speaks before he can. "Or I could take you and we can swap stories about Harry's penis!" Tracey tells her she has enough of her own, thank you, and decides to drive herself home.
Back at the Pit, Naomi and Ethan are arguing about what happened in lacrosse practice. Naomi is a little peeved by the fact that Ethan, who doesn't even like George, is willing to lie about what happened in order to keep George on the team and Dixon off. Their argument escalates as Ethan accuses his girlfriend of only wanting to turn the conversation to herself. Naomi runs off, leaving her purse behind. Ethan chases after her and soon enough pill-popper Adrianna arrives to snatch the purse. And it's not just to loyally return to her friend either. Nope, Adrianna's in debt to a dealer and there just so happens to be a fat wad of cash in that bag...
At school the next day Annie can't figure out why people are mooing at her (after all she's thin as a rail) and calling her farm-girl. She's just about to run to the bathroom to throw up that crumb she had for breakfast when Navid shows her a video of herself on YouTube. Apparently, Silver made a nasty video blog about Annie, depicting her as a backwoods farmer with a cow. It's actually pretty immature and poorly made but I can see how some people with low IQ's might find it mildly entertaining. Anyway, Annie feels hurt and betrayed by her new frenemy and heads off to confront her. Silver defends herself by claiming that Annie totally dissed her to go sit with the socialites. Annie isn't buying it and the conversation goes:
Annie: If I hurt your feelings by sitting by someone you don't like then I'm sorry.
Silver: It's not that I don't like her. I hate her. Naomi is the antichrist.
Annie: Well, the antichrist didn't embarrass me in front of half a million people. You did.
Silver watches Annie walk away. Kelly approaches her little sister, gently scolding her about the vlog and asking her to cut it out. Silver tells her that Kelly should understand why she makes the vlog... after all, she knows what Naomi did to her. Kelly tells her "Yes, but this didn't hurt Naomi. It hurt Annie." Silver looks defiant but also just a bit… is it possible… remorseful?
Meanwhile, the fight at lacrosse practice has exploded into a huge ordeal. Principal Harry pulls team player Ethan into his office to ask his version of the previous days' events. Mr. Matthews, who is also present, tells Harry that he knows he can trust Ethan. If Ethan says Dixon started it, then Dixon started it. The boy averts his eyes and lies, claiming that Dixon instigated the fight. The adults decide that they have no choice other than to remove Dixon from the team.
Annie finds a despondent Dixon who is depressed about being kicked off the team. He tells Annie that he feels like lacrosse is the one thing he has in common with adopted dad Harry and now that's being taken away from him. His dejection infuriates Annie and she goes to find Ethan and confront him for lying. She wants to know what happened to the guy she met two summers ago: this new Ethan is a liar and a cheater. She misses the boy he used to be. Ethan looks guilty and ashamed.
Later, Naomi reads her paper out loud and Annie stares at her in shock. Surprise, surprise... Naomi copied her paper, word for stolen word. Afterwards, Annie confronts Naomi about her plagiarism. The other girl seems shocked that Annie is upset: after all, isn't that why Annie gave her the paper in he first place? Annie is angry but is stunned into silence when Naomi hands her a bag containing an expensive dress. Apparently, Naomi bought her an $800.00 dress she saw Annie admiring during their shopping trip "because that's what friends do."
After school, Annie decides to watch play rehearsal. Silver is there, and in a clear bid to win Annie's forgiveness, suggests to the director that Annie be allowed to join the chorus. The director agrees to give Annie a chance and much to Adrianna's distress it turns out that Annie is fantastic. She outshines even the leads and clearly belongs in more than just a background role. After rehearsal, Silver approaches Annie hoping that she might get a second chance. Annie's icy façade melts and despite their rocky start, the two are well on their way to fast friendship.
Annie is still flying high from her performance when Harry shows up, wanting to know why Annie let Naomi use her paper. Oops. Busted. Naomi and Annie are both sent to the office, where a furious Naomi wants to know why earnest Annie spilled the beans – she thought they were friends! She bought her an $800 dress! Where's the loyalty, Annie, where's the loyalty?! Annie defends herself, but Naomi doesn't want to hear it. Very maturely, she uninvites Annie from her party. "As if I care," Annie snaps back. Wow, now there's some biting wit. Naomi's parents are called back to the school where they try to get Naomi out of being suspended for cheating. (Why is Naomi being suspended but not Annie? Nepotism!) Tracy doesn't do her daughter any favors, implying that Naomi isn't smart enough to write the paper on her own. But Harry defends the girl, telling Naomi to prove her parents wrong by writing the paper right now. He hands a stunned Naomi a pen and paper. She sighs, but complies.
While the drama in the office unfolds, even more is playing out in the parking lot. Ethan and George get into it when Ethan tires of George's attitude regarding Dixon. He finally decides to tell the truth, and Dixon is allowed back on the team. Annie is thrilled to tell Dixon the good news, but now Dixon feels terrible. Earlier in the day he decided to get revenge on Ethan by clueing Naomi in to Ethan's cheating. Apparently, he sent an anonymous text message warning the girl of her boyfriend's indiscretions. Great. Now they have another problem. Annie and Dixon decide they have to get to Ethan and apologize so Ethan won't hold it against Annie. And the quickest way to do that is to crash Naomi's party.
Meanwhile, the Wilson's decided to punish Annie for cheating by not allowing her to attend Naomi's birthday party. While discussing it they wonder if it's unfair that they grounded Annie for cheating, but didn't punish Dixon for fighting. They decide to tell Annie she can go to the party but when they get to her room they find that she's already snuck out to the party. Just a few days in L.A. and Annie went from small town good girl to Beverly Hills party princess. Hey Annie, where's Paris? The Wilson's decide to go after Annie but when Daddy Harry arrives at the party he realizes there's no way he'll find her in the crowd... after all, it's not exactly a party at Chuck E. Cheese.
Well, Harry might not have found Annie but he does run into ex-flame Tracy who drops a bombshell on him. Apparently, he and Tracy were a bit of an item back in the day and clean-cut Mr. Wilson was a bit of a Dirty Harry. Hehe. Anyway, so Tracy has some startling news: turns out the summer after high school ended, she turned up preggers. But instead of going the normal 90210 route and getting an abortion, she decided to give their child up for adoption. Which means that he and Tracy share a child. Bet Mom Debbie won't be happy about this one.
While a stunned Harry picks his jaw up off the ground, pill-popping Adrianna is returning Naomi's purse to her – minus the cash, of course. But Naomi barely misses it. She's just happy to have her cell phone back. Cause of course, what high schooler can do without text messages? Oh, but oops there's that text message from Dixon (btw, who gave him her phone number?). Naomi's face crumples just as her dad calls her and Ethan onto the dance floor for a solo spotlight dance. Ever the perfect hostess, she keeps it together long enough to dance an appropriate length of time before encouraging the other guests to join them on the dance floor. She can't get away fast enough from Ethan, who tacitly admits to his indiscretion. Naomi's birthday party is definitely a not-so-sweet one, and the girl is justifiably devastated.
Annie and Dixon feel terrible about the whole thing and even Silver seems a bit uncomfortable with the turn of events. She decides to take Annie to a 'real' party with 'normal' people. Turns out this party is at the beach and the atmosphere there is a lot less glam but looks a lot more fun. Ethan is there too. Apparently, he's a surfer (how Dylan McKay!) and likes taking in the moonlight waves. Annie apologizes to him for her part in the night's events. He forgives her pretty easily for telling her brother... he seems to have taken her earlier harsh words to heart and wants to find that good guy he used to be. The mood lightens and the four friends – Annie, Dixon, Silver and Ethan – have a great time splashing and playing in the waves.
Back at the Wilson mansion, Debbie sleeps peacefully while Harry lies awake in bed all night. Across town, Kelly is also wide awake, talking to the father of her four-year-old son Sammy. The identity of the father isn't revealed, but it's clear that Kelly is a single mom. Meanwhile, Adrianna uses the money she stole from Naomi to pay her dealer and Ethan heads off with the girl he's been cheating on his girlfriend with. Poor Naomi. Her boyfriend's cheating on her, her best friend is stealing from her and her parents don't think she has two brain cells to rub together. No wonder the girls got issues.