Photo: Liane Hentscher/Netflix
Typical “overachiever” behavior here: Stacey McGill tries to be perfect in every aspect of her life. She wants to be the perfect student — she’s really thriving in eighth grade at Stoneybrook Middle School, by the way — the perfect fashionista, the perfect friend, and the perfect example of a girl managing her diabetes. She puts a lot of pressure on herself to be the best, and it starts to take its toll. Can we just take a minute to talk about how wonderful this show is at talking about important lessons for their core demo (I mean, aside from BSC nostalgists, of course) without ever dumbing things down? Yes, even — maybe especially — thirteen-year-old girls should learn about being kind to themselves and not hurting themselves in an attempt to be the best. This show does that without over-sensationalizing things while also recognizing how savvy kids are. All of this plus a friendship fashion montage at the end? This show is a wonder.
Stacey is feeling on top of the world and very much on top of her diabetes, especially thanks to her wireless insulin pump. She’s a numbers girl, and once she realizes that her diabetes management is a numbers game and there is a formula to keep her blood sugar levels steady, she feels as if she has conquered the whole thing. She’s been doing so well with it, it’s one of the reasons Stacey’s doctor recommends her to be a Youth Ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which means she’ll be a cover girl for their monthly magazine, giving a speech at a fundraising gala, and putting on a fashion show to auction off pouches that can be used for diabetic kids to keep their testing kits, snacks, and juice nearby. When Stacey tells the girls, they’re obviously excited — but when she tells them she wants them to each design a pouch that Stacey and Claudia will make (“I love a BFF collab!” so do we, Claud) and then model them on the runway at the gala, they’re over the moon. Well, everyone except for Kristy, whose “me? model?” rant is pitch-perfect. This young cast is even better in season two, especially in regards to comedic timing. I’m just so proud, leave me alone, okay?
It’s not a surprise that Stacey’s beginning to feel the weight of how much she has going on. During a pouch designing session with Claudia and Mallory (they’re friends now!), Claudia notices how much water Stacey is drinking and is concerned. Stacey brushes it off. Her blood sugar is just a little high, but she has a fool-proof system to keep it all in check. There are never any surprises; that’s math, baby.
But then, while at Jessi’s house to go over what the girls will wear for the fashion show — perhaps the “Degas-meets-McQueen” that Claudia pulls? — her blood sugar is really low, and Claudia notices that she’s been “Spacey Stacey” again; She’s tired and out of it. When they start chatting about Jessi’s protein green juice — Claud is appalled — and Jessi mentions how it’s a formula, just like how Stacey snacks, it only upsets Stacey. Jessi’s formula is to help the ballerina be in peak physical shape — Stacey’s is to make sure she doesn’t fall into a coma. Her disease and not being able to control it are clearly getting to her.
She’s really out of sorts at the gala, too. She wants to please everyone, and admitting that she’s feeling sick, in her mind at least, would be letting people down. She’s only here because she’s been a model diabetes patient. As the girls are getting ready, Claudia again tries to check on how Stacey is feeling, but she immediately snaps at both Claud and Jessi for treating her “like an invalid.” But she knows her blood sugar is really low again. That doesn’t mean that when all the girls come backstage and Kristy says that Claudia told them she might not be feeling well Stacey holds back. She thinks Claudia betrayed her.
But Claudia’s right to worry. As Stacey steps on stage to give her speech, she’s a little wobbly. She can’t get through it, and she asks for her doctor. After that, we get a lovely little scene in which Stacey’s doctor reminds her that “not being ashamed of your disease doesn’t mean you have to love having it all the time. Sometimes it sucks.” Stacey’s going to have good days and bad ones, no magic formula will change that, and that doesn’t make her any less good of a person. The doc’s prescription is for Stacey to be kinder to herself. Really, a lesson we could all use. That and sometimes juice boxes really hit the spot.
Stacey knows she has some apologizing to do, and she especially singles out Claudia and Jessi. She admits being jealous of everything Jessi can do physically, and she knows Claudia was just being a great friend. That’s pretty big of her to be so open and vulnerable with her friends, and can’t we just learn so much from these girls? These life lessons don’t have expiration dates, okay??? The whole thing ends with a mini-fashion show since the girls missed their runway debuts at the gala and then a group hug, and yes, it only took me three episodes to get misty-eyed watching The Baby-Sitters Club this season.
The other major storyline in this episode has to do with Liz Thomas announcing that she and Watson are thinking about having a baby. She tells Sharon about it during a little gossip session, and even though she’s unsure what getting pregnant at her age will entail, she seems pretty excited at the thought of really bringing the Thomas and Brewer families together.
Of course, if you’re telling Sharon this, you’re telling Dawn, and it doesn’t take long for Dawn to ask Kristy how she feels about having a new sibling. Kristy’s upset, but not because of a new baby — but because her mom didn’t think she could tell her about it. She wants to make sure her mom knows that she completely supports this decision, and she really loves their big, blended family. To do this, shenanigans ensue at the gala as Kristy tries to win a baby gift basket to give Liz and Watson. The shenanigans include Mallory diverting the attention of other potential bidders using power tools and Dawn asking Liz lots of questions about interest rates and the Federal Reserve. In the end, Kristy wins the basket, but it makes for an awkward presentation — Liz and Watson are taken aback by Kristy’s enthusiasm for a baby that they are only just beginning to talk about.
But the awkwardness makes way for a nice mother-daughter heart-to-heart about how Liz didn’t want to tell Kristy because she knew she’d be supportive, and she didn’t want to get her hopes up. Getting pregnant at her age could be hard, and there are no guarantees. The pressure of all that weighs on her. And here we are watching children’s programming that is diving right in on a discussion about fertility issues and the genuine emotions tied to that. Again, a wonder.
• Wow, wow, wow, this episode is really trolling its older viewers, huh? First, Stacey’s math teacher is so obsessed with her that when she asks, “Is it weird that I, a grown woman, am consistently jealous of your wardrobe?” Stacey responds, “I don’t know, kind of.” That really cut to my core, okay? But then, when Claudia explains that Stacey is almost too together and mature and needs to just chill, she tells her that she’s “13 going on 35.” The joke’s on her! I’m in my thirties, and I still don’t have my shit that tightly together. So there. Oh, wait, the joke’s still on me.
• Oh Dawn, never change. Here’s her design idea for the diabetes pouch: It should have “an anti-capitalist message because everything in the pouch costs money which is just ridiculous because it keeps diabetics alive and they shouldn’t have to pay for that, something that explains healthcare is a human right and capitalism is really just the poison rotting our society from the inside out … but cute!”
• We really need more Sharon and Richard scenes because things are getting hot and heavy, according to Sharon. By which she means lots of “canoodling and whispering at scheduled times, so he feels comfortable.” How scandalous, Mr. Spier!
• Speaking of, just as Liz assures Watson that they are totally still cool and they shouldn’t take the girls running away from them at the gala personally, Richard whips out coasters he brought from home for their drinks. “Nevermind,” Liz reconsiders.
• Kristy knocking on fishtail braids during a BSC meeting but then trying to learn how to do one by way of YouTube once she’s alone is very on-brand.
• Mallory has won me over with one perfect line about her attempt to do a fishtail braid on herself at home: “It looked like a regular braid that gave up on itself.”
• “When I was their age, I only cared about boys and lip gloss. I still care about those things to an uncomfortable degree.” Same, Liz. Same.