1×15 Night Without Stars

….. by TeeJay

Awww, how cute. Adam got tickets for him and Joan to go see The White Stripes. He says he dialed the phone until his fingers were bleeding. Duh! Ever heard of a redial button? So he and Joan are gonna go. And Joan is totally stoked about Jack White. He’s hot, she says. “So is his sister,” Adam says. “Girlfriend,” Joan corrects him.

They walk up to a huge poster that says “Volunteers 2 work with kids”, a kind of grumpy looking girl with long, dark hair standing in front of it. And Joan realizes that this must be the assignment God wants her to do. She walks up to the girl, saying, “Hi.” And the girl answers, “Hello,” clearly not very enthusiastic about having to recruit volunteers. And her voice is kinda… squeaky.

Adam only has eyes for the pin stuck to her jacket. “That’s a cool pin, yo.” And the girl sarcastically quips, “It’s, uh, four hangers crushed and soldered together.” Adam is really impressed and Iris starts to be flattered by the attention he devotes to her art, but Joan soon breaks them up. “Right, neat-o. Hi, I’m Joan.” We learn that the dark-haired girl’s name is Iris. While Joan fills out the application form to work with kids, Adam asks Iris if she’s in fifth period art. She says yes. “I never noticed,” Adam tells her. She smiles at him. “I know.” They share a cute smile and Joan eyes the whole exchange very suspiciously. Is there something going on here?

And, hey! Adam is wearing his burgundy hoodie! I love that hoodie! Oh, but back to the story. Next we see Adam and Iris in Mrs. G.’s art class, and, look! Iris is suddenly sitting next to Adam! Gee, how did that happen? And why is it that all the Adam/Joan shippers start rolling their eyes as soon as a) Baby-Voice opens her mouth and b) Adam’s face is full of wonder and admiration when she does? Well, at least it is here, when Iris has something to say to Mrs. G. about the topic they’re discussing in class.

When Joan joins the children’s workshop, she finds maybe 10 kids around the age of six. Iris explains to her that they’re all children of domestic violence victim parents whose kids have to be taken care of while the parents are in group therapy. Iris also explains that this is art therapy for the children. “Drawing helps to defuse the trauma.” When Joan realizes that Iris put her on the schedule for Thursday night, Joan is torn. Thursday night is the White Stripes concert. No way she can work with the kids on Thursday night! But when she wants to change the schedule, there’s LittleGirl-God telling her, “Stick to the schedule, Joan.”

Joan sits down opposite Her, telling Her that Adam would kill her if she had to cancel. She doesn’t want Adam hating her again. LittleGirl-God explains again that She doesn’t make Joan do things. Joan can totally go to the concert if she wants. Yeah, right. Like she will, if she knows that this assignment is important somehow.

And she just has to find a way to break the news to Adam. Oddly, she chooses AP Chem class. Could you have picked a less private and perfect situation, Joan? She explains to Adam that she has to work on Thursday night and can’t get out of it. He’s disappointed, of course he is. “I bought the tickets because you wanted to go,” he tells her, then shrugs. “It’s fine. I’ll find someone else.” And it’s so not fine, you can read it all over his face.

After AP Chem is over, Grace, Joan and Adam leave the classroom. While Grace and Joan talk about Luke, Adam sees Iris standing by her locker, so he walks up to her, engaging her in conversation. Of course Joan doesn’t like it, so she tries to awkwardly break up their moment. But it doesn’t quite work because Iris asks Adam if he’ll walk her to History. And he does, smiling, enjoying her attention and approval. Joan is both shocked and disgusted. So is Grace. “What is up with Rove and Cousin It?” They both don’t like Baby-Voice. Yeah, I wonder why.

So, next morning Iris catches up with Joan in the school hallway. “Adam invited me to the White Stripes concert tomorrow,” she tells Joan. Wow, way to break the news, Iris. Joan pretends to be all cool about it, but of course she’s not. And Iris can’t help but notice. “I sort of sensed this weird ‘item’ vibe between you two.” Oh, uhm… Nah. “Yeah? No. No, no, we’re… we’re just friends.”

And how come you’re suddenly so jealous, Joan? He would have let you have his whole heart and soul after that party when you danced together in the street. Without any question, any hesitation. Are you really surprised that he’s turning to the one woman whose approval and attention he has? Come on, you’re keeping him at arm’s length, Joan, you don’t expect that to not backfire before long, do you? And it doesn’t stop there, Joan actually asks if Iris likes him. And she concedes, “Enough to go see some band I’m not into.” Ah, there you go. Too late now, Joan. It’s already started.

In the Girardi household, the topic of the evening is dating. Luke talks about it, Kevin talks about it. And then Joan and Helen talk about it. And Joan being Joan, it’s more like a monologue, she has to voice what’s going on in her head because she somehow can’t make sense of it. “Mom, please! I know you think I’m dating him, but I’m not. I mean, we kissed once, and please don’t ever repeat that to me or anyone else, because I’m already grossed out, I told you. But it was just a kiss, you know? Just a… one-time kiss. That doesn’t mean we’re dating, does it? Right. I know. Of course not. It’s just… I think Adam kind of thought that it did, and he was kind of, you know, about it, and–and I–I was sort of… you know, too. And now he likes someone else! This Iris. And I don’t know what he sees in her. I mean, she’s all… you know. I want him to be happy. I’m not one of those people who gets all perky when someone else is miserable, or maybe I am, but… but I do think Adam should be happy, just not before I’m happy. I mean, he can be happy with someone else after I’m happy with someone else. Does that make me a total maggot?” She doesn’t even give Helen a chance to answer anything other than “Well” and “Oh” and “Yeah” and just plows on, “Whatever. The real question is, should I try to get him back? I mean, what if he falls in love with her and then I realize that I really do like him, and it’s too late? But if I break them up and get him back and then realize that I really don’t wanna be with him, then he’s gonna hate me again, which I could not stand because I really like him. Oh. There’s just no good answer here.”

Joan finally pauses for Helen to start explaining, “Honey, you are dealing with a lot of emotions–” But Joan interrupts again before walking off. “Mom, I can’t have this conversation now, okay?” Helen looks like she wants to say, “Have my kids just all gone nuts?”

Next morning in school, Adam surprises Joan at her locker. Joan tries to be all cheery. “Hey, how’s it going?” Adam shrugs. Then Joan changes her mind and shuts her locker, basically blowing up in Adam’s face. “How could you ask Iris to the concert without even telling me?” Adam’s confused. “The only two people I know in this stupid school are you and Grace.” And Grace can’t go because she has political issues with the White Stripes, he says. And does Joan want him to go alone? No, she tells him. But why didn’t he ask Friedman? Ah, and here Adam has a point. You go, Adam, tell her. And he does. “So you don’t want me to go on a date… unless it’s with you, but if I ask you out on a date–a real date–you wouldn’t go.” Joan has a hard time explaining herself. What’s to explain anyway? Adam’s totally right.

The only thing she can come up with is that they don’t really know anything about Iris. Oh, but fear not, Joan. Adam does. “She lives alone with her mom, she’s an amazing painter, and she likes these, uh, weird French movies that were made, like, 50 years ago.” I can see how that would be just your thing, Adam. Joan isn’t perturbed by the way Adam speaks about her and keeps coming up with negative things to say about Iris. And could it be that this is somehow the emergence of a bit of a more confident Adam, leading up to the Adam we have come to love in season two? Because he actually confronts Joan. “Why are you doing this, Jane? I like her. A lot.” He walks off, leaving Joan standing there, thoughtful and surprised. See, Joan? Too late now.

In art class, Helen can’t help hearing what Joan told her. She butts in on Adam and Iris helping each other with their assignments. And Helen tries to find something to rag on Iris about her art, how it’s not textured and if that’s really the shade of green she would like to go with. And when she realizes it’s totally out of line, she tries to gracefully retreat, but Adam and Iris still share a knowing look.

In art therapy with the kids, they all gang up on Joan, begging for her to make a piñata with them. Joan says they can’t, but then this girl tells Joan that Iris wouldn’t let them make one either. Wait a minute? This would be the total opportunity to go behind Iris’s back and annoy her. So, yeah, let’s make a piñata, kids!

Iris breaks up their little piñata party just as it is finished and the kids are starting to beat the paper-mâché container with a stick to get the candy out. She freaks, yelling at Joan, but Joan tells her to chill, they were just having a little fun. “Fun?!” Iris yells. “Swinging around a stick and beating things? My father thought it was fun, too, just a little fun, beating us with a stick just like this. First my mother and then… Why would you do this?” When Joan realizes what she’s done, tears spring to her eyes. She runs after Iris, who’s standing in the hallway, crying.

Joan apologizes to Iris, she really didn’t know why she would have a problem with it. The kids were having fun, they wanted to do it, she tries to explain. Yeah, well, Joan knew what kind of family background they were coming from, Iris is right to tell her that. But Joan didn’t think there was any harm in a little innocent (or not so innocent) fun. Joan doesn’t know what to do, she really wants to make it up to Iris. So she asks how the concert was. They end up sharing an almost cute moment when they laugh about the fact that the White Stripes aren’t sister and brother. And Joan realizes that maybe she was a bit unfair towards Iris.

Adam and Joan meet again in the hallway outside the kid’s art therapy room. It’s all a bit awkward, Adam explains to Joan that he’s there to wait for Iris. And if he had known Joan would have been there, he wouldn’t have… well, he doesn’t say what he wouldn’t have. Just before Adam is about to go, Joan calls him back. “I was a real jerk to you.” (Yeah, dude! Unchallenged!) And even though Joan’s the guilty party here (well, mostly), Adam still makes you feel bad for him. He admits that maybe he rubbed the whole Iris thing in Joan’s face. And even though he likes Iris very much, he still clearly likes Joan very much too. “How’s this gonna work?” he asks worriedly. He doesn’t wanna mess things up with Joan, he so doesn’t. Joan shrugs. “Guess we’ll have to see.” He looks at her, surprised. “So, you’re okay with me and Iris?” She gives him a brave smile. “I have to be.” Just then Iris joins them and takes Adam’s hand. Joan watches it painfully, but tries to be cool about it.

And there’s LittleGirl-God, telling Joan about how everyone has those ugly feelings inside of them. They carry it around like a weight. But they can also set it down when it gets too heavy. That’s great advice—for anyone. And it’s kinda cool and kinda cute when LittleGirl-God offer her hand to Joan, saying, “Come on. I’ll walk you home.”

Trivia (by TeeJay):
This is the first episode where DogWalker-God appears. And why is that important? DogWalker-God is played by none other than Russ Tamblyn, father of Amber Tamblyn. He will pop up in later episodes as well, always with that flock of ubiquitous dogs around him. There’s another reappearance just before one of the milestone Joan/Adam moments in episode 1×19. But we will come to that later.