[Julie Klausner is a former writer for Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins and author of the forthcoming book, I Don’t Care About Your Band, also she’s great, so what better person to recap this season of the rebooted Melrose Place? (No one is better to do so.)]
Families, right? I mean, yeesh and also pfft and gahhh. Thank God for ensemble-based TV dramas, whose casts form makeshift families out of shoddy conceits, like “What if the young tenants of an apartment complex smothered with Spanish tile actually talked to their neighbors?” It’s only complicated, Denise Richards, when actual relatives start showing up.
On last night’s episode of Melrose Place 2000, viewers who hadn’t yet put it together that Ashlee Simpson-Wentz’s horrible “Ashlee Simpson-Wentz” character and Sydney’s “Ghost” character were mother and daughter, got treated to a flashback scene in which Ashlee told Sydney precisely that. And Sydney, who is bats and can not be trusted, even in matters of her own mortality, denied it. She’s obviously way off. Ashlee has the same hair color–Feria makes a shade called “CW Russet”–and she even inherited the same style of “arm crossing acting” from her mother.
That shit is in the DNA.
We also learned last night that Michael Mancini’s son, David, whose character arc as an art thief was so tacked on in last week’s end-of-episode montage, I think it was technically in the credits, was born in a trailer to a round-faced dying blonde, as per a photo he keeps in his wallet for broodin’ purposes. This was disappointing to Melrose fans who were hoping David was the son of Lisa Rinna’s character, Taylor, from the original series. But the woman in the picture looks far from Rinna-vated, so unless she pops up in a different incarnation, CW viewers may continue to sleep soundly, free of Rinna-mares.
Meanwhile, Lauren, the broke Med student, actually went through with the offer she got from The Verizon Guy to make love to him for cash money.
So after dipping her toe into hookering waters, she gets a referral from Verizon for another potential client. His friend, “Rick,” becomes “Lauren’s” next “John,” and Rick takes her to a party where she runs into David and Muppet Baby Heather Locklear, Ella, who was there to get herself a new PR client, so she could avoid the chopping block at work. See? Melrose Place is topical, with its themes of the recession and downsizing and the thing and the Pudding Pops.
Moving on to the boring cutie pie couple, the pretty and ‘ethnic, so she can’t do anything fun, like play a villainess’, Riley, and her fiancée, Jonah, the aspiring filmmaker who kind of looks like an emo version of John Krasinski.
They are being “you’re tearing me apart, Lisa!” by Lil’ Locklear, who suggests that Jonah, as an expert in all matters related to cameras, be in charge of installing a surveillance system by the pool to keep track of the in’s and out’s and what have you’s of Melrose Place, or at least the pool. Jonah, because he is a dum-dum who still eats Lucky Charms and turned down a blackmail opportunity that would’ve made him a shit-ton of money in the last episode, says “Okie Dokie,” instead of “Maybe the management company should call Honeywell,” and soon, he’s watching security cam footage of Ashlee Simpson-Wentz floating late at night in the pool just like her dead mother, because she crazy and be shoppin’.
Jonah also sees footage of what looks like Riley and Auggie, the chef we saw washing his bloody Asian pajamas in an alley at the end of the last “whodunit?” episode. The two are just talking, but Jonah still gets jealous, and I was like, “What? This is a waste of my time. I’m sleepy.”
Auggie, by the way, an intense fellow who rinses a stab wound in the shower and wears some low-cut shirts so as to better show off his man-necklace in this episode, is questioned by the police about his relationship with Sydney.
We see in flashback that Auggie and Sydney were in A.A. together, and would make tempestuous, wall-banging love instead of hitting the sauce, which is a technique they call a “substitution” at Weight Watchers, where they dole out advice to people who crave actual sauce. Anyway, the A.A. Twins were a hot ticket until Sydney dumped Auggie, after he told her about his murdered ex-girlfriend, whose name is, I think “Duh-neen”? Like Janine, but with a D. I’ve rewound it five times. Apparently, he “can’t NOT drink” on Duhneen’s birthday, because he feels responsible for letting her get stabbed that night she got stabbed, and Sydney says they have to stop sleeping together, because she loves him too much to see him fail at being sober. Which is a complete reversal of her “let’s do it instead of drink” policy, but, Fuck You, I’m Aaron Spelling.
Which brings us to your pressing, all-caps question. WHAT IS IT THAT ASHLEE SIMPSON-WENTZ DOES FOR A LIVING??? I don’t mean in real life. Obviously she is a PROFESSIONAL SINGER whose actual website is AshleeSimpsonWentzMUSIC.com, because that’s how seriously she takes her love of performing MUSIC with her VOICE. Remember?
Her music note necklace really seals my argument.
But on the show, your question about what her character does for a job is a really good one, and it was definitely first on everybody else’s mind too. And the answer is, she’s unemployed! Until Auggie tells her to come down to his restaurant–which is called “Coal,” like the oven, or maybe “Cole” like a man’s name–and interview for a hostess position. But Ashlee doesn’t get the job because she shows up wearing one of Pete Wentz’s skinny black neckties, and the manager (we’ll call him “Cole”) is like, “I’m not hiring you wearing that! We only wear black Asian pajamas here at Coal/Cole!”
So Ella “Queer Eye’s” her, which is “gives her a makeover” in CW parlance, and Ashlee gets the hostess job. Whew! I’m glad they didn’t make the question of “Will or won’t Ashlee Simpson-Wentz get a restaurant hostess job” a cliffhanger! Also, since she’s on that video floating around in the pool like her dead mom, Jonah and Riley think maybe Ashlee killed Sydney, and they also figure out that Ella has a thing for Jonah and is scheming to get between them. I know, I know. I’m incapable of thinking about Jonah and Riley without yawning either.
Later, we find out that Ella gets the PR client she wanted after crashing that party, so she gets to keep her job. And Auggie flashes back to the night Sydney was killed and we see them struggling after she invokes the late, great Duh-neen, which gave him the angries. We don’t see him kill her, though, and also, he and Ashlee get chummy once she starts hostessing, which is suspicious like Alowicious.
The last scene takes place at the pool, where all the residents of Melrose Place the Place catch each other up on what they’ve been up to, except for Lauren, who makes a point of not telling her neighbors that she’s been a secret hooker, twice.
Ashlee flashes back to telling Sydney that she’s her mom, and has the DNA to prove it, after swiping a sample of “CW Russet by Feria” color-treated hair from Syd’s brush, which was sweet and not at all creepy. Finally, Ashlee offers her a gift of what looks like a lanyard or what I’m told is called a “hair doll,” from the Voodoo tradition, but Sydney won’t take it.
I personally think it’s to Sydney’s credit that she won’t take the hair doll. If Ashlee Simpson-Wentz tried to give me a hair doll, I wouldn’t take it! Not for a thousand clams, I wouldn’t! It might be infected with some Voodoo curse she passes on, like not having any discernable talent, and being related to a creepy dad manager who’s incapable of seeing you out of the shadow of your older sister.
So both Mother and Daughter get mad at each other, and Ashlee tears up, and that’s the last thing we see before we cut back to the scene by the pool Sydney was caught dead in, like some terrible outfit. And as Ashlee dives into the water from the steps of the shallow end, you can’t help but think that anybody’s mother would warn against doing something quite so stupid.