The following is my review of the Wonder Years episode "Heartbreak", and (tongue-in-cheek) speculation regarding said series and its characters.
Ask anyone which episode of the Wonder Years they remember most, and just about anyone will say Heartbreak or Denial.
Heartbreak in particular knocked the proverbial wind out of Wonder Years fans much in the same way Darth Vader's patriarchal declaration to Luke Skywalker at the end of "Empire Strikes Back" did for their Star Wars counterparts. It was a painful blow to both protagonists, but done so artfully, that their pain was well-felt by their respective audiences, and added a very rich layer to the epic sagas.
Sure, Winnie Cooper wasn't the Dark Lord of the Sith, but she broke Kevin Arnold's adolescent heart -- nay -- she shattered it into thousands of pieces. So grievous was the damage, that even when the beautiful Madeline Adams continued to tempt Kevin in the next episode "Denial", he stayed fixed in mind and spirit to Winnie.
What makes this even more special is that not only was Madeline beautiful, but she went out of her way to tempt Kevin; from the first day of school when she presented herself to him as the damsel in distress ("You don't know how hard it is to be the new girl in school!"), until the events of "Denial".
Even in "It's a Mad Mad Madeline World", Kevin marvels aloud at the "coincidence" that he was assigned with Madeline to a cooking project, to which she replies "What makes you think it was a coincidence?"
This is precisely when one must ask, was Madeline completely insane spouting gibberish, or was she an insidious, yet genius mastermind?
Referring back to the episode, "It's a Mad Mad Madeline World", Winnie surprises Kevin with the gift a MedicAlert ID Bracelet or something -- and soon afterward dumps Kevin for "Roger" -- in the middle of the science museum field trip. Sure, Winnie was a bit disturbed, as we could see in "The Accident", but could she really stop on a dime like that?
I don't think so.
Madeline wanted Kevin all to herself. Knowing Winnie was an obstacle to her goal, Madeline hired Roger Dikovian to tempt Winnie Cooper, and get her away from Kevin; a plot vaguely reminiscent from the film "Cruel Intentions". It wasn't so difficult, especially since Winnie's brother's death and her parents' marital problems weakened her mental state
And why didn't Madeline help Kevin in his presidential campaign in "The Candidate"? Why not just covertly help Kevin, or offer him moral support if she were concerned about the sociopolitical blowback of assisting Kevin when all the other girls supported Becky Slater? Because a victory for Kevin would have made her goal more competitive. Everyone would want to date the president, after all.
Finally, on the day of the field trip, the truth would ultimately come out. But what Madeline did not count on was that Winnie was keeping her "relationship" with Roger a secret from Kevin, even while the two social circles were in the same room. So Madeline catalyzed Kevin's breakup from Winnie by appearing to have a tender moment with him just when Winnie entered the area.
And there you have it. Can this episode truly be summed up as "Winnie dumped Kevin"? Or "Madeline's insidious plan was finally coming to fruition"?