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What Barb From Stranger Things Really Needs Right Now Is A Hug
Also, maybe a few reliable Band-Aids.
The second episode of Stranger Things, titled "The Weirdo On Maple Street," has a lot going on, but there's one moment at the end that's absolutely heartbreaking. But before "diving into" it, let's go over some notable points.
First, let's discuss Eleven, the girl (who, please don't hate me, but I totally thought she was Will during the series premiere) who ends up meeting face-to-face with our guy gang in the woods. Mike, Lucas, and Dustin decide to take her back to Mike's house to at least give her some clean clothes.
Confused, Eleven starts undressing in front of them, which -- to a child of the opposite sex -- is a big, cootie, adult nightmare waiting to happen. They advise her to use the bathroom instead, but she makes it clear that she doesn't want the door to be completely closed in the process. (We'll figure out why later.)
The boys figure that something is definitely wrong with Eleven, especially since her words are so limited -- currently, she's only said "No" and "Yes." Their best guess is that she escaped the nuthouse, and their plan to proceed with this whole "hiding a crazy strange child in the basement" scenario is to have her leave the house the next morning, ring the doorbell, and then let Mike's mom take care of calling the proper authorities.
Back at Joyce's house, she is similarly panicked -- mostly because she lost her son, and got a creepy phone call the other night that fried her phone. Also, she has to make a bunch of Xerox copies of "Missing" fliers, and those things ain't cheap.
Mike tries his hardest to "parent" Eleven (or "El," as he's nicknamed her, as it actually resembles a name George Constanza wouldn't try to name his child) by feeding her a waffle, really pressing her for information. All he can figure out is that she's on the run from some bad guys who might want to shoot her in the head.
Let's jump to Nancy's storyline real quick. Nancy is Will's sister, and is kinda-sorta dating Steve Harrington, the most popular boy at school. Steve has a reputation for being a bit of a womanizer, and Nancy has a reputation for being a gorgeous nerd. Nancy's been studying like crazy for a Chemistry test, and Steve pretty much tells her to chillax: she should be focused on cool stuff, like the parentless party he's having on a Tuesday night. That Steve, what a crazy dude! Tuesday is a school night, Steve!
"It'll be low-key, it'll just be us," Steve says. Oh, Steve. Always making excuses to get into some pants at a beer party. Nancy walks away from Steve for a moment to chat up Jonathan, Will's brother. Jonathan is in the midst of posting one of his Mom's expensive Xerox copies up at school.
"I'm sure he's fine, he's a smart kid," she tells him, before walking away to take her mega-important Chemistry test. On that note, the school announcements state that an assembly will be taking place to dig into this Will situation.
On to Joyce. It's revealed that she's been working at a store for about a decade, since she goes in to buy herself a new phone that isn't covered in burn marks. She pleads with her boss for an advance -- two weeks, and a new phone on the house. Good god, how expensive were these Xerox copies?
While Nancy is in school, her brother isn't. In fact, Mike is back at home making sure El is getting acclimated. He shows her his impressive trophy collection, as well as a dinosaur toy that makes noise! But what El is drawn to most is a picture of the guy gang that includes Will. And all of a sudden, she realizes that she knows Will. "Did you see him last night?" Mike asks, until he realizes -- egads! -- his mom is home! With that, Mike stuffs El into his closet, where she suffers from claustrophobia. See, she doesn't like enclosed spaces, since earlier, she was thrown into an enclosed dark room at the "mystery site" while screaming for her Father. Poor kid.
On to Jonathan's adventures: he went out to find his father, Lonnie, and presumably his brother, Will -- despite the fact that the police told him he'd be best used at home to calm his crazed mother. Unfortunately, Will wasn't hiding out at his dad's place. Lonnie didn't realize how big a deal this whole "your kid is missing" thing was, assuming that Joyce just "lost him."
Father of the year right there, ladies and gentleman.
Obviously the outdoor search for Will is ongoing. And eventually, a piece of cloth is found by a drainage pipe. Likely the escape route El took, to arrive in the woods from the creepy lab that tattooed her in the first place. Back at home, all El can say about Will's location is that he's "hiding." Then, she uses their Dungeons and Dragons game pieces to explain a little more -- Demogorgon, the monster that the guy gang talked up in the premiere episode. (Note: thanks to my husband for correctly identifying this piece for me. You're one in a million.)
Nancy actually uses Will's assembly as an excuse to sneak out and get some kiss time in with Steve at his wild Tuesday party. Accompanying her is her best friend Barb, the stereotypical nerdy worrisome loser. And listen, I paid close attention to Barb, since that was me in high school.
See, Barb isn't cool with this whole Steve situation. "He just wants to get in your pants," Barb says to Nancy in the car, as they park blocks away, at Nancy's request. "Come on, you are not so stupid," Barb adds. Nancy says that Barb can be her guardian, and make sure she doesn't do anything drunk or stupid, since, great -- Barb deserves to have zero fun at this outing. Every teenage girl loves a non-paying, possibly dangerous babysitting gig.
And, here's where two storylines tie together. Jonathan is back in the woods looking for more clues, as his deadbeat dad just wasted his time as usual. From there, he hears a scream; taking action, he soon realizes that the scream is coming from Steve's crazy beer party.
Nancy is all proving her hidden party girl status with the populars, while poor Barb looks incredibly uncomfortable. Especially during moments like this.
Where Barb is all like
Supposedly knifing a beer is a cool thing kids do in the '80s; popping it open naturally is just for squares. Nancy does it, and chugs along to the stereotypical chant of "Chug, chug, chug!," later pressuring an unenthusiastic Barb to do the same. To avoid embarrassment, Barb caves. Of course she screws up.
Such a faux pas in the popular kid world! Barb is annoyed, but also surprisingly nonchalant about it, unaware that the whole "stupid kids cutting into cans" aspect of the night isn't the weirdest thing happening -- there's also a kid out in the woods taking fuzzy photographs of the entire event, having forgotten his brother is missing. Because, girls.
Let's check back in on Joyce really quickly. Joyce is kinda-sorta having an awful night, as she gets another electricity-burn call from Will, and actually hears him say "Mom." So, she was right on the money that Will was trying to call home, and now has way more evidence than the whole "a mother knows what her son's breathing sounds like" claim. Soon after, she hears "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" by The Clash blasting mysteriously in another room. Upon entering, lights flicker and the walls expand. So, haunted times are ahead for Joyce. But, I have a good feeling she'll survive whatever's lurking inside, since she's Winona Ryder.
More important right now is Barb's bleeding palm, and her adult babysitting gig. The gig gets cancelled prematurely, as Nancy decides she can totally change out of her wet pool clothes in Steve's room. We all know what that means.
Nancy tells Barb to go home. Obviously a V-Card is about to get lost tonight, and Barb's meddling will only make it weird.
But Barb doesn't go home. Barb sits by the pool and sulks about her friendship troubles as her poorly-wrapped injury leaks blood into the pool. And as the blood hits the pool and disperses, something happens. Something Barb didn't expect.
Which is that Barb gets taken away by a monster. In a flash, she's gone. And of course Jonathan was fiddling with his camera at the time, and missed the whole thing. Probably he was adding more film to get some creeper shots of a topless Nancy from the bedroom window.
Unlike Joyce's house monster incident, there's no time to prepare for what happened with Barb. Bloody, beaten down, beer-hating Barb. Let's hope that Nancy, at the very least, feels a little guilty over this turn of events, and never forgets what might happen when you leave your wingwoman alone.