Original Air Date: May 2, 2010
Amanda – Sr. Reviewer
Okay, truth time: what was your high school prom like? Were you royalty? A wallflower? Did you dance the night away with friends, or spend your evening making moony eyes at your date?
Well, whether good or bad, I can guarantee it was better than one young woman’s prom. In the first part of a two-part season finale, we experience an ‘80s prom in all its glory, exact a little extreme revenge…and see a blast from the past. Let’s get started, shall we?
“Almost Paradise,” in addition to being this episode’s title, was the theme of McKinley High School’s 1989 prom, which featured the coronation of one Felicia Grant as prom queen, and her boyfriend, the obviously drunk Cole Austin, as king. Their seemingly perfect night ends tragically when Felicia was the victim of a hit-and-run while walking home. Lilly and Stillman agree to take another look after the principal, Steve Burke, and another teacher find a leftover disposable camera buried in with decorations from that night and develop the film. One of the photos shows Felicia posing in front of a clock fifteen minutes before her death, which occurred too far away for her to have walked: someone gave her a ride.
A dig through the evidence box reveals few clues, other than silver paint chips on Felicia’s dress, and notes indicating that most of the prom kids were at an after-party. Lilly and Scotty talk with Felicia’s best friend, Susie, who recalls some friendly banter with Felicia being interrupted by the consummate geek (complete with thick glasses). He approaches her with a piece of paper and tells her that he got her letter, and he likes her, too. Felicia’s befuddled stare and the hysterical laughter of a group of jocks (including Cole) reveals to the geek, appropriately named Corky, that he’s been had, and, furious with Felicia, he storms out. Susie says Corky was never seen again after that night.
Vera and Jeffries track down Corky, now a karate instructor, who says he joined the Army the morning after prom, which he calls the worst night of his life. He admits to his fair share of problems, but insists he wasn’t the only one who had them. While hiding in the parking lot after his humiliation, he saw Felicia and Cole, making out in his silver Mustang. Cole wanted to go all the way, but Felicia wasn’t ready; it didn’t feel right, and she wanted to apologize to Corky. Cole wasn’t thrilled, they argued, and Felicia fled the scene, with Cole in hot pursuit. Corky adds that Cole, whose father owned a car dealership, drove a new car every month.
By sharp contrast to the now-buff Corky, the still-arrogant Cole is balding, overweight, and in a dead-end job when Vera and Jeffries catch up with him. (Don’t you just kinda love it when that happens?) He claims to have spent the hours following the prom bowing to the porcelain gods, and says he remembers nothing after being crowned king. He insists that there wasn’t a problem with Felicia; all she needed was a little reassurance. In a flashback, we see the two of them in the hallway talking about the future. Cole, sounding a lot like Barney Stinson in this moment, is convinced it contains nothing but “more awesomeness,” but Felicia’s more concerned about being a good person. They’re interrupted by Susie and her date, Lee, who asks if there’s a problem. Felicia quickly avoids them and tells them to scram, and Cole explains that Lee was obsessed with Felicia, and gave her the creeps. Back at the office, while Vera’s been digging up Jeffries’ old prom photos and posting them around the squad room, Jeffries has found something far more interesting (and relevant to the case, but less amusing): Felicia’s high school yearbook, which contains a borderline creepy poem from Lee.
Jeffries confronts Lee with the yearbook, and he explains that he and Felicia were old friends, but once she made cheerleader, she forgot he existed. He says he took her best friend to the prom to get a rise out of her, but then realized she wasn’t worth the drama. He recalls a moment at the prom where they argued, and he told her she was the one who changed; he was still the same guy. Felicia insisted that being popular wasn’t all it was cracked up to be: everyone wanted to be her, or be with her, but nobody loved her. She pointed out that he came to check on her in the hallway, and that must mean he still cared. Lee’s cornered, and he admits it. He’d noticed her looking miserable lately, and she was touched: he was the only one who had. They hugged…and that’s when Susie caught them. Livid, Susie stormed off in typical high school drama queen fashion, and Felicia took off after her. Lee’s got one more bit of insight for our detectives: he and Susie weren’t at Fairmount Park making out, as she’d claimed. She went to the after-party without him.
When Scotty and Lilly confront her, Susie admits to the lie, saying she was embarrassed over her childish behavior. In a flashback, we see Felicia clearing the girls’ restroom so the two of them could talk, then groveling, telling Susie that Lee was actually the guy she lost her virginity to. It was long ago and way over, and Felicia urges Susie to go for it. Susie’s not interested in her sloppy seconds, but that’s not what Felicia meant. “You’re the only thing in this ridiculous place that matters to me,” Felicia insists, and begs Susie to say they’re okay. Susie says it, but she doesn’t mean it: she tells Scotty and Lilly that she went to the after-party, told Cole about Felicia and Lee, and then hooked up with him as revenge.
Predictably, Cole doesn’t remember hooking up with Susie, and when Scotty and Vera confront him about new paint on the front of his Mustang, he insists he rear-ended a truck. He says prom night was the highlight of his stellar high school career. It was supposed to turn out different, he insists angrily. In a flashback, we see Cole and Felicia arguing about Lee. She breaks up with him, and he’s stunned: they were meant to be together. He insists that everything will be fine at Penn State next year, but she’s got another bombshell for him: she’s not going to Penn State, but Berkeley. Cole eventually figures out that this means he’s not getting any tonight, but he’s got no hard feelings. He just wants some pictures of her to remember things by. Cole tells the detectives that he took the pictures about 11:30, which is45 minutes earlier than the clock in one of the pictures indicates. So what happened during those 45 minutes…and who took that picture?
Jeffries gets to the bottom of it, realizing that Principal Burke only gave them 23 of the 24 pictures on the roll of film. Fortunately, CVS kept the negative: one that showed a picture of a silver Volvo registered to Burke himself. Lilly and Stillman confront Burke with this, the glowing recommendation letter he wrote for Felicia to attend Berkeley, and credit card records from repairs to his Volvo. Burke finally admits that Felicia wasn’t just any other student to him. He recalls seeing her alone outside the school and, after finishing off her roll of film for her, offering her a ride. After she shared with him the details of her crazy night and her trepidation about the future, he comforted her. Thus reassured, she told Burke she didn’t think of him as a teacher, and he definitely didn’t think of her as just a student, a point he proved by kissing her. She fought him off, they argued, and she split, only to have Burke run her down from behind. Crappy motive, but at least he didn’t bludgeon her with a random convenient object. The montage shows us Burke being arrested, Cole waxing his beloved Mustang and still living in the past, Susie seeing Felicia, and Jeffries getting revenge on Vera by finding Nicky’s own high school prom photos. (Who’s the brunette? I could’ve sworn he was supposed to be with Megan!)
Meanwhile, Scotty, doing some digging on what he claims is an old Narcotics case visits one Hector Cruz in jail. After some typical cop-bad guy trash-talking, much to our surprise, they shake hands: they’re old friends, having grown up in the same neighborhood. Scotty appeals to Hector’s concern for his family and reveals that there’s a “new fish” on the block; a known snitch. Hector, appropriately worried, hatches a plan for how to take care of the fish, and Scotty washes his hands of it. “You do what you gotta do,” he tells Hector. A bit later, we see Scotty in the prison yard approaching the “new fish:” none other than Jimmy Mota, his mother’s rapist. Thusly tagged, it’s only a matter of time before Mota’s shanked in the prison showers.
As if that’s not enough drama and intrigue, Lilly innocently takes some groceries to her father…to find her estranged sister Christina already there. Stunned, she walks out, but later, at her father’s request, she meets Chris at a diner to “hear her out.” Christina, armed with a photo of the two sisters at the beach as children, explains that she took a plea deal on the credit card fraud charge from five years ago and avoided jail time; she’s now trying to clean up her act and get an apartment near family, but she can’t get a lease with a felony on her record, and needs a co-signer. Lilly refuses; she wants to trust Christina, but can’t. I don’t blame her, frankly. After surprising Scotty with the news and learning from him that he hasn’t heard a thing from Chris recently, she feels vindicated when her father calls soon after, saying Christina and jewelry are both missing, but her vindication turns to horror when she goes to the hotel where Chris has been staying and discovers the room ransacked and Chris missing.
Since this is the first of a two-part finale, we naturally have lots of questions. What do you think of the resolution of the Scotty storyline? What happened to Christina? And, most importantly, who looked better in their high school prom photo: Jeffries, or Vera? Leave your TwoCents in the Comments section, then stay tuned for the second part of the finale!