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Throwback Thursday - Teen Wolf - Motel California

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article in which we look back at our favorite TV episodes from the past. 

What I like best about Throwback Thursday is getting to revisit some of my favorite TV and seeing how my perspective changes after time has passed.  The best episodes remain as enjoyable as I remember and sometimes the distance makes the episode even better.  Such is the case with Teen Wolf’s Motel California.  The sixth episode of season 3, which is the best season by far in my opinion, is strong on friendship, horror elements, and pacing.  It was written and directed by Christian Taylor, who ended up creating Eye Candy for MTV and currently executive produces Resident Alien for SyFy.  When brainstorming episodes for Throwback Thursday, I always knew I wanted to highlight this episode but I had already reviewed it for SpoilerTV back when it originally aired.  So for this article, I decided to switch it up a little and focus on how this episode explored friendship.  In particular, I am focusing on the epic bromance that is Scott and Stiles and the brilliant womance between Lydia and Allison, which changed both characters for the better.  If you prefer a traditional recap, you can read the original review here.

Allison and Lydia:

Where we started - 

When we are first introduced to Allison and Lydia, neither appear comfortable in their own skin.  Allison always felt like the new kid, constantly changing schools because of their family business.  Lydia was the popular girl, who seemed to have it all but in truth, had to hide herself in a shell of indifference and brainlessness to be who she thought everyone expected her to be.  What starts as a shallow acquaintance blossoms into a true bond that supports both young women through some very hard times.  Allison finds a place to belong and Lydia realizes that her brains are nothing to be ashamed of, but something that helps her friends survive.  Both characters become stronger because of each other.  Unfortunately, that is still too rare in a TV world that is more likely to make women compete for a man’s attention or a career than to have them support, encourage, and grow from each other.

In this episode - 

As the episode begins, the cross country meet is postponed due to traffic issues in the previous episode so Coach books them into a seedy, sketchy motel.  The others take their keys and head up, but Lydia stays rooted outside the bus.  Allison sees she’s not moving and looks back.  Lydia:  “I don’t like this place.”  Allison:  “I don’t think the people who own this place like this place, and it’s just for a night.”  Lydia:  “A lot can happen in one night.”  She’s not wrong.  By the third season, everyone should give Lydia’s vibes their due because she often senses things before the rest.  It’s clear that she’s nervous and things only get worse when she goes to get towels.  The creepy motel owner shares the motel’s inside joke, a tally of all the people who have committed suicide there - 198 in total.  As Lydia catches Allison up on that fun fact, she gets more and more disturbed.  Allison, instead, seems reassured by the fact that they were suicides and not murders.  Things get weirder fast when Lydia starts hearing a couple plan their suicide through the vent.  Allison realizes something’s up but can’t hear the voices herself.  Lydia runs to the other room but it’s being renovated and has no occupants, which only freaks Lydia even more.  She’s spinning out and trying to convince Allison that she’s not crazy, but she need not.  Allison:  “I believe you.  After everything we’ve been through, I believe you.”  Those simple words say a lot about how their relationship has grown, and it’s the best Allison and Lydia scene of the episode.  I love how Allison goes beyond her logical thinking and says exactly what Lydia needs to hear.

Back in the motel, Lydia is desperate to leave but Allison acts as the calm voice of reason.  She points out that they are suicides again and checks in with Lydia’s spidey senses by asking if the motel is haunted.  Lydia:  “Maybe it is.  You know, I bet that couple made their sucide pact in that very room.  Maybe that’s why they’re renovating.  Maybe they’ve been scraping brain matter off the wood paneling.”  Yuck!  Allison, calmly:  “Maybe we should find out.”  It’s a proactive stance but given their history, I’m with Lydia.  Better to flee and live to fight the supernatural another day.  Instead they head to chat with the clerk but she’s not there.  A new number’s on the wall though, 201.  BEST MOMENT - both turn their heads to look at the number again in tandem.  Now Allison is freaked out too.  As Stiles joins them to brainstorm what’s happening, Lydia again stresses leaving.  Lydia:  “See, it is the motel.  Either we need to get out of here right now or someone needs to learn how to do an exorcism ASAP before the werewolves go crazy and kill us.”  Bwah!  She makes a good point, but Allison and Stiles have their detective hats on and conclude that the Darach is behind it somehow.  While Stiles changes the dynamic slightly, the three of them together make a great sleuthing trio, finding news clippings of the deaths in the room’s Bible.  Lydia:  “Oh, no, look at these two.  They both mention the room 217.  These are probably all the suicides that happened in this room.”  Allison:  “So if every room has a Bible…”  Lydia:  “...there could be articles in all the rooms.”  Stiles: "That's a beautiful thing. Most places leave a mint under the pillow. This one leaves a record of all the horrible deaths that occurred."  Ha!  Together, they even save Ethan from suicide by hand saw/claws with Lydia’s common sense and Stiles and Allison’s tenacity.

Scott and Stiles:

Why it works

Scott and Stiles remain one of my favorite bromances on TV.  In the early seasons, they are often portrayed as a study in opposites on both a superficial and deeper level.  Scott is often more cautious (except in his love life) and more grounded than Stiles.  He deals in reality and comes off as shy and reserved.  Stiles is all over the place with manic energy to spare and little regard for the consequences of his actions.  He deals in the hypothetical and abstract, mind racing at a mile a minute.  What could have been a typical hero and sidekick tale goes deeper through their relationship, being more of an equal partnership than one being more important than the other.  In the end, it is almost always a combination of both of their strengths that gets them out of jams and saves lives.  Scott is usually the brawn and the heart of the duo.  He takes the moral high ground, but he needs Stiles to push him into getting things done and to take risks when Scott is inclined to waver.  Stiles is the theory man but he can get wildly off track.  Scott keeps his ADD in check by keeping him focused.  On other hand, Stiles does have a lot of ideas that work within the confines of Beacon Hills, no matter how far-out they are.  As Jeff Davis always said, the heart and soul of Teen Wolf rests on the Scott-Stiles bromance.   

In this episode

The opposite nature of their personalities shines through from their opening scene together.  Taking in the dismal motel, Scott tries to make the most of things while Stiles bluntly tells it like it is.  Scott:  “I’ve seen worse.”  Stiles:  “Where have you seen worse?”  Ha!  Inside their room, they brainstorm about who the Darach might be.  Stiles has put a lot of thought into it, using important criteria like people who are possibly not dead and questionable mentoring.  Scott:  “So who’s #1?  Harris?”  Stiles:  “Just cause he’s missing doesn’t mean he’s dead.” Scott: "So if he's not dead, our chemistry teacher is out secretly committing human sacrifices."  Um, that may be a little far-fetched.  Scott makes the perfect sounding board for all of Stiles’ crazy theories.  He listens and often mirrors back what Stiles says, helping Stiles gain perspective.  It allows Stiles to think creatively and in Beacon Hills, sometimes the crazy is true.  

Take Matt from season 2.  Scott:  “Well what if it’s somebody else from school?  Like, remember Matt.  We didn’t know that he was killing people.”  Stiles:  “Excuse me?  I’m sorry.  What?  Uh, yes, we did.  I called that from Day 1, actually.”  Scott:  “Yeah, but we never really seriously thought that it was Matt.”  Stiles:  “I was serious.  I was quite serious actually, deadly serious.  No one listened to me.”  Stiles is prepared to go full-on rant, when Scott gently turns the conversation back to the topic at hand.  It’s another way in which they perfectly complement each other.  As Stiles goes through his suspect list, Scott remains skeptical, especially when Stiles names his boss.  Scott:  “My boss?”  Stiles:  “Yeah, your boss.  I don’t really like the whole Obi-Wan thing you’ve got going on, you know.  It freaks me out.  (Scott looks puzzled.)  Oh my God, have you still not seen Star Wars?”  Scott:  “I swear, if we make it back alive, I will watch the movie.”  Ha!  I love that this becomes a running theme throughout Teen Wolf.  Things turn serious though when Stiles mentions Lydia as a suspect, given that Peter controlled her in season 1.  Best Moment - They both pause and then lie back on their beds in tandem, sighing.

The Foursome:  

By far, the best scene in the episode is when Stiles, Allison, and Lydia come down the steps and see Scott holding a flare in the middle of a puddle of gasoline.  It’s this scene, in fact, that embodies Teen Wolf to me and is one of my favorite scenes in all of TV.  Throughout the episode, the werewolves have all been acting strangely.  They are forced to live out their worst memories or fears and it drives them all to the brink of suicide.  After saving the others, now Allison, Stiles, and Lydia must save Scott.  It’s a role reversal that really works and helps shine a light on Scott’s inner thoughts.  The Darach might be intensifying their feelings, but the core of Scott’s anguish has been growing for 3 seasons.  As the 3 friends find Scott, they are struck motionless.  It is Allison who makes the first move towards Scott and the others follow.  She tries to get Scott’s attention but when he finally looks up at them, he is broken.  Scott:  “There’s no hope.”  Allison, soft voices:  “What do you mean, Scott?  There’s always hope.”  Scott:  “Not for me.  Not for Derek.”  Allison reminds him that he’s not to blame for what happened to Derek, but Scott isn’t in a place to hear that.  Stiles switches to logic, explaining that the Darach is making him feel this way, but Scott doesn’t buy that either.  He refuses to look at them, gripping the flare tightly as the gasoline he poured over himself drips down.  (Side note:  Logic was never Teen Wolf’s strong suit, as Scott would already be toast at this point.)

Scott starts choking up as he explains that everyone would be better off if he killed himself.  He takes each death in Beacon Hills as a personal failure, even when the odds are so stacked against him that they couldn’t possibly win.  The burden is so overwhelming that he looks back fondly to his pre-werewolf days.  Scott to Stiles:  “What if doing this is actually the best thing that I can do for everyone else?  It all started that night, the night I got bitten.  Do you remember the way it was before that, you and me?  (Stiles nods slightly, shaken.)  We were...we were nothing.  We weren’t popular.  We weren’t good at lacrosse.  We weren’t important.  We were no one.  Maybe I should just be no one again.  No one at all.”  As Scott finally looks up at Stiles, his pain etches the shadows on his face.  

Scott lifts the flare to his side and Stiles slowly moves towards Scott, pleading.  He looks directly at Scott with tears in his eyes.  Stiles:  “Scott, just listen to me, okay. You're not no one. Okay, you're someone.”  He pauses and clenches his jaw before continuing:  “You're…Scott, you're my best friend.  Okay and I need you. Scott, you're my brother.”  Scott looks at Stiles with a bit of hope.  He is desperate to believe Stiles’ words, as Stiles steps into the gasoline with him.  Stiles:   “Alright so, so if you're gonna do this then, I think you're just gonna have to take me with you then."  Stiles nods, looks at the flare, and puts his hand on the flare too, as Allison cries and Lydia looks back and forth open-mouthed.  Scott visibly shakes, but Stiles gently takes the flare from Scott and tosses it away.  They look at each other, still shaking.  As the four are visibly relieved, Lydia notices the flare roll back towards the gasoline pool.  It sparks and Lydia pushes Stiles and Scott to safety, noticing the Darach in the flames.

Before Teen Wolf became all about the JV Squad, it was the core of Scott, Stiles, Allison, and Lydia who drove the story.  Their strengths combined - brawn and brains, logic and intuition, talent and instinct, caution and courage - make them richer characters and created one of my favorite TV seasons.  It also shows how a teen-oriented show could get friendships so right, where most devolve into melodrama.  While some typical teenage pettiness did come into play throughout its 6 seasons, for the most part, the friendships on Teen Wolf made each character stronger and the trials they faced together allowed them to mature as people.  The best friendships always do.

Original grade:  A-

Current grade:  A

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