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'My So-Called Life' finale nostalgia recap: Help me, Brain

Season 1 | Episode 19 | “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” | Aired Jan 26, 1995

As we kick off the finale of My So-Called Life, all of the characters are literally dreaming about something. In Angela’s recurring dream, she keeps getting stuck to the floor while trying to catch up to Jordan Catalano, which surely isn’t a metaphor for anything.

Sweet Delia had a dream about Rickie, although not that kind of dream.Patty had a dream about her ex-boyfriend, Tony (featuring a cameo by Princess Diana). Sharon had a dream she was in a water ballet for charity with Rayanne. You know, the usual.

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The tables have turned quite a bit in 19 episodes: Jordan is now obsessed with Angela, specifically with getting back on her good side. He tries to make small talk with her after English class (his band is back together and called Residue now), but she’s not having it. Later, at his tutoring session, Jordan vents to “Brain” Krakow about how Angela hates him and he can’t even blame her for it. Brian encourages him to just apologize, finding it ironic that Jordan can approach any girl for her number but is afraid to tell Angela he’s sorry. Jordan begs Brian to help him figure out what to say to Angela, and he begrudgingly agrees.

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Meanwhile, Delia has a crush on Rickie. Word gets back to him, and he is clearly both perplexed and flattered by this information. Rickie laments how much easier his life would be if he could just like Delia back, heartbreakingly calling it his “chance to be straight.” Later he even asks her on a date, which confuses Delia, too; she assumed he was gay. Rickie finally agrees—”Yeah, I’m gay”—realizing it’s the first time he’s ever said it out loud. Delia is honored, and Rickie tells her that if he were attracted to girls, he’d be attracted to her. It’s a really nice scene.

At school, Jordan approaches Angela and uses Brian’s words: “I did an undefendable thing. I created my own prison and I have to exist in it. Maybe I had a wish, or whatever, to punish you. An unconscious wish. You’ve heard of them, right?” Angela is flabbergasted by his eloquence, and delighted that he’s clearly ready to have a real, adult conversation with her. But Brian didn’t prep Jordan for anything further, so he runs away. Brian suggests Jordan write Angela a letter, which quickly leads to Brian agreeing to write it for him. After copying it in his own handwriting, Jordan slips the following (damn good) letter into Angela’s locker.

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Dear Angela,

I know in the past I’ve caused you pain, and I’m sorry. And I’ll always be sorry ’til the day I die. And I hate this pen I’m holding because I should be holding you. I hate this paper under my hand because it isn’t you. I even hate this letter because it’s not the whole truth. Because the whole truth is so much more than a letter can even say. If you want to hate me, go ahead. If you want to burn this letter, do it. You could burn the whole world down. You could tell me to go to hell; I’d go, if you wanted me to. And I’d send you a letter from there.


Jordan Catalano

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Angela is beyond moved. Brian is anxious to hear what her favorite part was, but Angela dismisses him, saying it’s “too personal.” Oof. Jordan seems to be about to tell her the truth until she says she loved the letter, and they start making out in the hallway as Brian looks on, devastated. If it wasn’t built on lies, it would be a rather romantic reunion.

Brian confesses to Rickie that he wrote the letter, and Rickie accuses him of using Jordan as much as Jordan is using him—to express his true feelings toward Angela. He doesn’t want to tell Angela the truth and go back on his promise to help Jordan. Poor Brian is such a Hufflepuff.

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Elsewhere in the episode, Rayanne laments her lack of friends to Sharon, who admits she considers her a friend herself and enjoys how “unshockable” she is. Aw. In the restaurant B-story, the investors are wary of first-time chef Graham, but he and Hallie Lownthal, who is the one thing I will not miss about this show, put on a spectacularly successful dinner, winning them over.

As they celebrate their win, they come very close to kissing. Patty is supposed to have dinner with her ex-boyfriend, but he ends up canceling and she hangs out with Jordan, who stops by looking for Angela instead. He drinks nearly a carton of milk and says some pretty sweet things about “needing” Angela. It’s very Joyce and Spike.

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Rickie tells Angela that Brian wrote the letter. She pretends to have figured it out on her own already, attempting to hide her crushing disappointment. At home, Brian rides his bike past Angela and she stops him, demanding to know if it’s true. While he first pretends he only proofread it, he slips, saying, “I meant every word. I mean, the person who wrote it meant every word.” He tries to cover, but Angela catches it. He asks if the letter made her happy. She says it did, and Brian says that’s all that matters to the person who wrote it.

As they’re standing there, having a moment, Jordan emerges from Angela’s house, asking her to come with him. Although Angela is looking at Brian in a way she never has before, finally getting it, she ultimately gets in Jordan’s car with him as the series sadly comes to an end.

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Best Angela-ism: “It’s so weird when you see someone you just dreamed about. Like it’s gonna show.”

Claire Danes Cry-Face Count: 0.

Most Ignorant Teenage Moment: Honestly, the entire letter situation and how it is handled by all three involved parties.

Angst-o-Meter: 9/10. It’s no “Betrayal,” but the emotions in this one are just so real.

Thank you all so much for reading and following these recaps! I have truly loved writing them.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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