1×20 Anonymous

….. by TeeJay

It’s the old routine in school, things seem totally normal. Joan has her arm slung through Adam’s as they walk down the hallway, discussing how the cafeteria offers creamed chicken today. Suddenly Iris walks in on them, greeting them. Joan flinches and removes her arm from Adam’s. A conversation between her and Adam about their art class ensues, both trying to be completely cool, but both sounding really awkward at it.

Adam tries to explain to Joan what they’re talking about, since Joan doesn’t know the first thing about drawing techniques. It’s even more awkward now because Adam and Iris seem to be off into their own little world (meaning art class) and Joan is left on the outside, not only physically. But Adam makes it all up to her by asking her to meet him on the roof after class. “I got this life sketch and I was hoping I could use you.” Iris turns away, clearly hurt. “Very Titanic,” she says as she walks into the classroom. Adam tries to reassure Joan. “She’s really okay with this.”

Grace is clearly put off by all this new shared intimacy between Adam and Joan, so she tries to tell Joan that she doesn’t think it’s cool they do the whole cute couply giggling thing all the time. Joan tells her, “It’s hard enough to find things we have in common. I should at least be able to enjoy them.” Grace quips, “Tongue wrestling getting old already?” Joan grows more serious. “No. No. It’s just… Adam’s an artist and Iris is too. I’m, like… nothing. How can I compete?” Grace tells her that Adam broke up with Iris to be with Joan. “You got what you wanted, and you’re more of a mess than you were before.” Grace doesn’t really get it.

Enter PudgyGirl-God. And I love it that they used a pudgy girl to play Her, because people are never all The-O.C.-perfect in real life. PudgyGirl-God tells Joan to help with the yearbook, and Joan’s all excited because she thinks that will be her “thing”, her way to have something that will make it easier to connect with Adam.

Brian Beaumont, the yearbook editor, directs Joan to help with taking photos for the yearbook. And the person overseeing the photo project is… Iris. Oops. Iris hands her the camera manual and Joan asks, “Is this gonna be weird?” Iris answers, “No.” She didn’t know Joan was into photography. Yeah, well, Joan didn’t either.

Up on the roof, Adam meets with Joan. She’s trying to familiarize herself with the camera, not really looking very adept at it. Adam watches her fiddle with it. “I didn’t know you took pictures.” She dismisses it. “Sure. It’s my thing. Did you know I’m one of the photographers for the yearbook?” she asks him. His expression becomes more grave. “Iris is doing that.” Joan smiles at him. “Yeah. But for me it’s more like a calling.” Who are you kidding, Joan? Adam says he didn’t know that. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me, Mr. Rove.” She gives him the sweetest little kiss and he’s all smiles.

“So, what are you shooting?” he asks. Somehow he’s a little in awe. He leans his head back on one of the metal bars behind him, his gaze becoming dreamy. “It’s really cool, you know, what you can do with a camera. Catching passing moments in time, freezing life.” Joan’s overcome by the sweet moment. When she looks at him, he asks, “What?” “I like this. Talking like this,” she tells him. But then she has to run. “Well, I guess I’ll sketch you later on, then?” he asks. “Okay,” she says as she leaves.

Next thing Joan is taking pictures of various clubs and people, some at very weird angles. It’s gonna be a disaster. And it is, once Joan sees the developed pictures. They’re no good. At all. She seeks encouragement from Helen, and Helen tells her that she thinks Joan can do anything she puts her mind to. It does restore Joan’s faith in herself.

At the yearbook, Brian is all brusque with Joan about her crappy photos. Joan tells him she can improve, but Brian needs the photos now. Unknowingly maladroit, he compares Joan’s photos with Iris’s and fires Joan. She runs out of the room, passing a waiting Adam in the hallway. In a teary voice, she tells him, “Please, don’t follow me, I’ll see you later.” Adam can only stand there, frozen, watching her walk away.

A little intimate talk with Kevin prompts Joan to go back to Brian the next day. She asks for another chance, she just wants to help out with the yearbook, not necessarily taking photos. After some good begging, Brian offers her the job as all-purpose handy(wo)man. Run errands, keep the paper stocked, take out the trash. Joan grudgingly accepts.

While Joan is standing at the copy machine, Iris comes walking up, arranging some photos. Joan asks sarcastically, “Enjoy telling Adam about my nose-dive from yearbook grace?” Iris tells her, “I didn’t say anything.” Could it be that Iris has more decency in her than we thought? She tells Joan that she had it bad enough with Brian firing her, how would it help her if she badmouthed Joan? Wow. Thank you, Iris.

Brian comes running, his voice urgent. They’re missing the poetry submissions. Hm… Looks like Joan threw them into the trash. Oops. When Helen sticks up for Joan in front of the whole yearbook staff, things get a little tense because Helen resigns her position as yearbook overseer and expects Joan to do the same. But of course Joan is on a Divine mission, so she knows she has to stay. Sorry, Mom.

Next thing, Joan is going through the dumpsters, trying to find the poetry submissions. When she successfully returns with them, she shows Brian this one poem she thought was the best of all of them. He agrees that it’s excellent. Only problem is that they don’t know who wrote it. And that’s enough for Brian to say he can’t publish it. Joan pleads and pleads, but Brian doesn’t budge. Joan tells him she’ll find out who wrote it.

Up on the roof, Joan is reading the poem again as Adam enters and walks up to her. They greet tentatively, Adam seems a little unsure what to do with the situation. In his sweet, soft voice he tells her, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” Apologetically, Joan explains, “I was on a search, I smell, everyone’s yelling at me.” He breathes in through his nose. “You’re kinda ripe.” He means the smell, of course. “So, uhm, were you gonna tell me?” he asks. She explains why she had to go dumpster diving, but Adam meant why she ran out on him the day before. She stammers a half-truth story about pulling her photographs from the yearbook.

And why is it that Adam maybe senses she’s not really forthcoming? Because he says, “You know, if something’s wrong, Jane, whatever it is, you know you can talk to me.” She assures him, “Of course.” Adam asks about the poem she rescued from the trash and she explains that she’s “sort of the literary editor now” but that Brian doesn’t want to publish it unless she finds out who it’s from.

It’s called Sewer Walking, she starts to read it to Adam:

You and me, we used to talk,
Like a river underground, this sewer
Where we used to walk.
The hole at the end empties out to the pier.
Where paper boats disappear.

Me, I try to send this note,
Float it like a paper boat.
The paper sinks and words are weak.
I try but I don’t speak.

After the first few lines, Adam’s gaze becomes distant, contemplative. It’s like this means something to him. Joan realizes that when she looks at him after she stops reading. “Are you okay?” she softly asks him. He wakes from his reverie. He is clearly moved, sighs deeply. “I know who wrote that,” he tells Joan, “Sewer walking and paper boats. Grace. Grace wrote that.” And that makes a smile form slowly on Joan’s lips.

Joan turns up at Grace’s place, and Grace is not happy about her coming over unannounced. Joan tells her that her poem will be featured in the yearbook, and Grace is clearly baffled. She didn’t submit the poem, she just threw it away. And, excuse me, is Grace putting banana and chocolate sauce on her buttered toast? Ew! Of course Grace doesn’t want her poem put in the yearbook, as much as Joan tries to tell her she has a great talent for writing. Grace finally relents and tells Joan she can publish it, as long as Grace’s name doesn’t go with it. Joan doesn’t understand Grace’s reluctance.

An honest talk between Helen and Joan makes them realize that Joan’s growing up and Helen seems to have a hard time with her doing so. They both end up crying, but Joan tells her, “You have to trust that what I’m doing… There are reasons. And it’s all gonna be okay.” They hug, the temporary rift between them mended.

Up on the roof, Adam is sitting on the floor, sketching on a sketch pad. Joan puts down the cardboard box she’s carrying and sits down next to him. “What are you drawing?” He shows her the pad with a pencil drawing of Joan. “Uhm… You.” She smiles. “I never got a chance to sit for you.” He keeps drawing. “Well, I didn’t need you to,” he explains. He’s lost in the sketch, and after few silent seconds, Joan prompts him to look at her. She feels it’s time to put her cards on the table. “You know how you said I could talk to you about anything and I said I knew that?” she asks. He says yes. “I lied. I think I’ve been afraid to talk to you about almost everything.” He has this worried and confused frown on his forehead. “Why?” “I don’t wanna mess up what we have. I didn’t take back my photos from the yearbook, I got fired. I’m not a photographer, or an artist like Iris. I’m not a literary editor or a science geek. Or anything. I mean, I tried to be, but I’m not. I’m really just digging around in the garbage, trying to find something that matters,” she finally confesses.

He has been listening to her, rapt, and now puts away the sketchpad to turn to face her. Almost in a whisper, he tells her, “That’s what I love about you, Jane.” “Yeah?” she whispers questioningly. “Yeah,” he whispers back. They lean in for a very sweet kiss and they both smile after they separate.

Joan takes a few colored paper sheets out of the box and tells Adam, “Grace can still be anonymous. But everyone’s gonna see her poem. Like Notre Dame. Come on.” She gets up and Adam follows her with a confused frown. What’s she talking about? He soon realizes as Joan starts to throw the yellow and blue and green and pink sheets of paper with Grace’s poem off the roof. They watch them gravitate down and spill into the school quad, the milling students picking them up and reading them as Adam and Joan keep throwing them from the roof’s edge.

In the quad, Grace arrives, picking one of the sheets up herself, realizing what it is. She looks up to the roof and realizes what her friends are doing. The episode fades out with Adam and Joan waving down to Grace, and Grace smiling and happy.