'The Carrie Diaries' recap: Playing dress-up

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"The Carrie Diaries" -- "Fright Night"
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We're not big fans of Halloween episodes -- they fall so easily into clichés and single entendres about disguises -- but "Fright Night" is a decent one that doesn't haul the "it's okay to pretend to be someone else" bromides out of mothballs until the very end.

Carrie is headed to Larissa's Halloween party in the city; Walt has nicely agreed to go with her. Dressed as Charles and Diana, they find Larissa flying high on two Ecstasy tablets, a tab of acid, and expensive champagne -- and Bennett Wilcox, an "Interview" columnist dressed as a Kubrick Droog. Carrie has eyes for him, but gets sidetracked by trying to keep Larissa from jumping off the roof, then listening as Larissa has her "the city is full of people but so lonely" monologue (nice acting from Freema Agyeman in a done-to-death subplot). It really doesn't matter, because everyone can easily see that Bennett actually has eyes for Walt. Except Carrie. …Wait: Walt doesn't figure it out either until Bennett plants one on him, and despite having taken an E of his own, he freaks out, protesting that he's straight. Bennett gently mentions that it's OK if he's not, and gets called a word that rhymes with "bag" for his trouble.

Wandering the streets and brooding, Walt sees a gay couple holding hands, then intercedes on their behalf when a couple of hoods start to harass the pair. The scene is clumsy and PSA-ish, and we like Walt and this storyline, but the show doesn't have the greatest handle on what it really would have been like for a kid like Walt in 1984.

In any case, he's not hurt, and Carrie pries a guy dressed as a lion off of a passed-out Larissa, then retrieves Walt and has an epiphany about how dressing like a princess doesn't mean she's not still a good friend and caretaker, or something. She reassures Walt that "it'll wear off"; she means the Ecstasy. He doesn't, and knows it won't.

Back in Connecticut, Dad is dressing up as Chewbacca again ("It was an expensive costume!"); finding Dorrit's vandalism go bag on a tip from Carrie; and failing to discipline her for eating the two bags of candy intended for trick-or-treaters. (Then again, maybe that's its own punishment. Depends on the candy.) Nor does he comment on the lip Dorrit gives him while she's watching "Poltergeist." "Isn't that kind of a scary movie?" he asks. "I can't tell, because you're talking too much." We'd still be grounded for that, but again, Dorrit gets punished -- by the infamous tree scene, which sends her scurrying upstairs to ask Dad if they can "maybe hang out a little?" Aw.

And what's Sebastian up to? He's having a party at the diner, which he just bought (…?!) and not inviting Carrie, and then pretending he's not doing anything at all for Halloween until she's like, um, I just heard you invite that extra who looks 35, so what's up with that. It's still uncomfortable, is our point, but that doesn't stop Maggie and Mouse from going to his shindig anyway; Mouse is reluctant, but Maggie points out that they have to go so they can spy on him…and "drink allll of his booze."

Mouse has a better time than she thought she would, though: she whips Sebastian's behind at Pac-Man; she opens up to him about the pressures she feels to succeed as the child of recent arrivals to America ("I grind my teeth at night!"); and she borrows part of his joint to get stoned for the first time. That last bit happens just as Maggie's cop side dish walks in to bust everyone for underage drinking. Maggie locks Officer Side Dish in the bathroom, but he's not into it anymore, protesting that he could get fired or go to jail. Maggie agrees that that's the case…so if he's not going to make out with her anymore, he'd better just leave the party and pretend he didn't see anything amiss, eh what? Side Dish leaves, which allows Sebastian and Mouse to continue bonding about parents and how he's "kind of good at listening."

Mouse is extremely baked by the end of this, so Sebastian does the responsible thing and brings her to Carrie's front stoop. While Mouse examines her own hand in the background (hee!) and wails that she really needs "something crunchy." Sebastian debated whether or not to bring Mouse there, but Carrie assures him he did the right thing. There is much meaningful gazing as Sebastian looks conflicted, and the writers have done a nice job with the character, making him a little broody, but interesting and not too Dylan McKay. When he leaves, he calls Carrie "Bradshaw," and she's delighted.

The episode ends with a rather overwrought "it's fine not to be us" voice-over as Larissa wipes off her bird makeup; Dad watches TV with a sleeping Dorrit; and Walt comes to Maggie's house and launches himself at her, and they have sex at least because, he says, he "needed my girlfriend." Ohhhh, dear.

And Carrie and Sebastian nod at each other in the hallway, so perhaps a détente has been achieved?

Here's what a few tweeters had to say:

Totally Awesome '80s

  • Walt wears a total Cosby sweater in his first scene.
  • Larissa's party features, among other things, indoor graffiti and break-dancing.
  • Bennett makes a reference to the closing of Max's Kansas City.
  • And of course Sebastian's party has a tabletop Pac-Man console…and wine coolers.

Anachronisms

Two expressions, "I'm out" and "buh-bye," weren't in use back then that we recall.

And here's a complete listing of the music from "Fright Night":

  • Anna Waronker, "Somebody's Watching Me"
  • Batrock & Lansky, "Impulse"
  • City Girl, "This Town Looks Good On You"
  • Jerry Goldsmith, "Twisted Abduction"
  • Mackintosh Braun, "Somebody's Watching Me"
  • The Mighty Lemon Drops, "Now She's Gone"
  • Model Citizen, "It's Been A Perfect Day"
  • The Salvation Army, "Mind Gardens"
  • TV21, "Snakes and Ladders"
  • Yazoo, "Situation (12" US Mix)"

Get a producer's commentary on "Fright Night," below:

"The Carrie Diaries" airs Mondays at 8 PM on The CW.

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