Once and Again...Once Again
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Summary of Sneaky Feelings
by Manh Tuong Lewis Nguyen
edited by Elizabeth Eccher
Jessie is in class, barely listening to her teacher discuss the book, The Catcher in the Rye. The teacher asks the class what Pheobe represented to her older brother. A boy named Toby surmises that Pheobe is his younger sister. Extrapolating from that wonderful insight, Jessie proclaims that Pheobe represents innocence, which causes the brother to idolize her. The teacher enjoyed her observation.
Jessie is now in her older brother Eli's newly furbished basement bedroom, flipping through catalogues with his girlfriend, Jennifer. Eli, meanwhile, is ignoring both of them. Jessie asks Jennifer if she likes a particular outfit. When Jennifer expresses disgust, Jessie quickly agrees with that sentiment. Jennifer then shows Eli a pair of shoes, but Eli declares that they do not fit with his "no style" style. Eli and Jennifer playfully begin to make out. Jessie still looks on, but Jennifer gently asks her to leave, and says they will play together later. Jessie goes upstairs, happily. [In an interview, Jessie recounts a time before the divorce when the family went camping, and during the night, she and Eli would hear her parents having sex. She never realized her mother, Karen, could be so loud.]
The next day, Karen arrives at her workplace, with Lloyd in tow. She and Lloyd had just had dim sum, and Lloyd is going on and on about the food. Karen is not listening to any of his jokes, and when he tries to kiss her, he misses. [In an interview, Karen admits to not dating much after the divorce.]
Karen is in her office, speaking with Craig, a colleague. While they meet, a young man with a bicycle comes trouncing in. Without introducing himself, he criticizes Karen's ideas about a project and makes a derogatory statement about lawyers. Finally, Craig introduces this rude person to Karen as Dr. Leo Fisher, the one who will be operating the AIDS Housing Project, for which Karen is trying to meet zoning requirements. Leo finds a seat and starts eating his lunch, making a mess, at Karen's table. Craig leaves the meeting and states that he will be too tied up in his own projects to be of much use, so he requests that Dr. Fisher step in. Leo accepts, leaving Karen helpless. Leo then offers Karen a bite of his already half-eaten sandwich.
At school, Jennifer is providing tips to enhance Eli's paper. Eli is getting ready for basketball practice. She asks him where he will be afterwards, but he is uncertain. [In his very first interview in the show, Eli describes his first meeting with Jennifer. He saw her in the cafeteria, protesting the lack of organic products. He liked her commitment. He also recounts the many times Jennifer provided help for him while he attempted to maintain his grades in order to continue to be on the basketball team. Although, Eli acknowledges, Jennifer doesn't even enjoy sports.]
After basketball practice, Eli and his buddies bump into the girls' volleyball team. Eli speaks with one of them -- her name is Cassidy. She has a cramp, and Eli helps her out by suggesting she pinch her lip. It works. Cassidy then asks Eli if he is going on the ski field trip. He is unsure of what this entails. She asks for his phone number so she can provide him with the information. Eli grabs a pen and writes his number on her hand. Cassidy smiles.
That night, Rick drops the kids at Karen's house, in order to have dinner with Lloyd. They recall all the strange things Lloyd does, like calling Jessie "Jesse James." Rick halfheartedly defends Lloyd. [In the interview, Jessie recalls her first reaction to her father leaving the home due to the separation, wondering where he would go and stay. "What if he needed his pillow?"]
During dinner, Lloyd discusses the armed forces with Eli, which prompts Karen's son to finish his dinner quickly and get to his homework. In the middle of cleaning up, Lloyd refers to Jessie as "Jesse James." Jessie plays along. Lloyd then confesses (again) to Karen that her children are wonderful. He suggests they all go bowling Thursday night, but Karen tries to slow him down. Lloyd shows some disappointment.
Eli hears a knock on the door and realizes it is Jennifer. In an interview, Eli states that while he likes her a lot, she is constantly around. Now in the basement studying, Jennifer sneaks up on him and says, "Boo!" She starts cracking up. Eli is none too pleased.
Jessie, helping her mother with the dishes, inquires whether Karen likes Lloyd's sense of humor. Karen hesitates, but states that while it is corny, she does enjoy it. Then Jessie asks if she likes Rick's sense of humor, but the phone rings before Karen can reply. Jessie picks up the phone, and realizes it is a girl for Eli. Panicked, she gives the phone to her mother. Karen, trying to stay away from Eli's affairs, cannot help but ask who it is.
Jessie goes down into the basement to inform Eli of his call. When asked who is calling, she says nothing. Realizing who it must be, Eli quickly leaves to answer it. Alone with Jennifer, Jessie is nervous. Noting her discomfort, Jennifer asks if she is fine and if she would like her to paint her toenails. [In her interview, Jessie emphatically states that she will not get married until she is 34.] While the girls are doing their toenails, Eli returns and reports that he was talking to his basketball coach. Jessie is not pleased by this lie.
The next morning, Karen is preparing lunch for Jessie, who is in a picky mood. Jessie wonders aloud why her mother didn't interrogate Eli last night. Karen tries to be neutral, but Jessie will have none of that. Eli comes into the kitchen, and Jessie leaves the room. Eli sits down while his mother prepares him breakfast. Karen politely asks if things are okay between him and Jennifer. But Eli jumps on his mother and provides no answers. Karen merely warns her son that girls that age are very sensitive.
Karen is now back in the office, where Leo is expressing his disgust over her proposals for the AIDS Housing Project. He comes up with outlandish ways to get pass zoning, but Karen cuts each of them down. Even trying to decide what to have for lunch becomes a conflict, as Leo dismisses each kind of food choice Karen makes, even though it is supposedly up to her what they should order.
Eli and Jessie are at the video store to get something to watch at Rick's apartment tonight. Jessie picks out a dirty movie, and Eli calls her a pervert. Eli strolls down the aisle when he accidentally bumps into Cassidy. She teases him for checking out a romantic comedy. Eli is embarrassed. Cassidy then looks into her bag for the ski trip permission slip. Jessie comes over to interrupt the flirtation. Cassidy cheerily greets her, but Jessie mumbles a hello. Eli tells Jessie to pick up The Philadelphia Story over at the Classics section since their dad wanted it. Once Jessie leaves, Cassidy invites Eli to her house that night to watch scary movies with a group of other people. He says he might just do that. [In an interview, he states that there is nothing wrong with what he is doing... right?]
Well, Jessie disagrees. She interrogates Eli as they get back into the car, demanding to know what Cassidy took out of her bag to give to him. Eli tells her to shut up.
Back at the office, Leo and Karen are still going at it. Leo questions her commitment. Karen becomes angry, but in her interview, she admits to being dissatisfied with her career. Before it gets any worse, Lloyd comes to her office, ready for their date. Karen forgot about the date; she walks Lloyd back to the reception area and tells him that she will be working all night to get this proposal completed. He understands, and they make a pact to spend lunch together with Jessie the following day.
When Karen returns to her office, she notices Leo looking at a picture of her and the children. Now calm, Leo confesses to possessing little to no social skills, and apologizes. He says all he wants to do is help people, which touches Karen...until he insults her again without realizing it. But Karen finally comes up with a way to get the Housing project running--revitalization! With that, Karen and Leo work the whole night writing up a proposal.
Over at Rick's apartment, Jessie attempts to dissuade Eli from going to Cassidy's place, but it does not work. But as he is leaving, Jennifer unexpectedly arriving at Rick's. When asked if he going anywhere, Eli says he is staying put. Rick, oblivious to what is going on, is delighted at the prospect of watching The Philadelphia Story. Now, in the kitchen alone, Jennifer talks to Eli. She notices the permission slip and asks him what it is for. Eli slowly says that it is for a ski trip. When asked if he is going, Eli is evasive. Noticing his distant demeanor, Jennifer wonders if anything is wrong, or if she did something wrong. Eli does not open up, saying that everything is fine. Jennifer hugs Eli, and tells him she loves him. Eli is further conflicted with guilt.
The next morning, Jessie is reading a book in her room. [In an interview, she recalls a guidance counselor telling her parents that she is self-confident and focused -- a report she denies. She then asserts that something bad is likely to occur, since for the past few days, life is moving rather slowly. When this happens, Jessie confesses to overreacting to situations.]
At Karen's workplace, she and Leo finally finish the proposal. They are both extremely pleased. Just as Karen is about to leave, Leo asks her to have breakfast with him. She says she cannot, she has a lunch date with Lloyd and Jessie. Then suddenly, Leo lunges toward Karen and kisses her. They separate, and Karen is shocked. But not shocked enough not to kiss him back. Once they separate again, Karen leaves abruptly, leaving an infatuated Leo alone in her office.
The children, meanwhile, are still at Rick's apartment having breakfast. Rick picks up a ringing telephone. It is Jennifer, but Rick lies for Eli, saying he is not there. Disgusted, Jessie leaves the kitchen. Rick gently gets Eli to confide in him. After Eli describes his dilemma, he asks his father what he should do. Rick says that someone as young as Eli should not have to deal with such a problem. Eli is not particularly sure how to take this advice. Apparently, neither does Rick, as he drinks his coffee with a funny look on his face.
Karen, Lloyd and Jessie go to a sushi restaurant for lunch. While Jessie gets Lloyd to eat all the weird stuff, Lloyd asks Karen how work went. Karen is short with her answers, causing Jessie to play up her role as the good little girl, like swordfighting with Lloyd with their chopsticks.
Back at Karen's house where she and Jessie are taking groceries out of the van, Jessie announces that she likes Lloyd's sense of humor. She then tells her mother about Eli and Cassidy, but Karen tries not get too involved. Jessie becomes upset, stating that she does not understand why people cannot be together anymore. [In an interview, Karen confesses feeling guilty about the divorce damaging her children, and feeling guilty about feeling guilty.]
Hearing music in Eli's basement bedroom, Jessie goes down there and sees Cassidy visiting. She runs up to the kitchen, where Karen notices her daughter crying. Karen then goes down the basement. Eli notices her and introduces his mother to Cassidy.
Karen asks Eli to go upstairs and once out of the basement, Karen tries to persuade Eli to do something before people--Jennifer and Jessie--get hurt. Eli's response: "I'm too young to be responsible for someone." Demanding where he got that from, she does not appear surprised when Eli says his father told him. Cassidy comes up and tells Eli she has to leave. When Eli and Cassidy go out of the house, Eli catches sight of Jennifer walking up the street. And, of course, Jennifer sees Eli and Cassidy. Karen notices from inside the front door, while Jessie looks out the window. Jessie cries and runs to her bedroom. Jennifer, meanwhile, turns and runs back down the street. Eli just stands there, not knowing what to do.
Later that day, Rick arrives at the Sammler residence, and Jessie insists that she cannot sleep in the same house with her brother. Rick gives in and says that Jessie can sleep at his place. As the children leave the kitchen to get ready, it does not take long for Rick and Karen to argue. Karen expresses her dissatisfaction with Rick's advice to Eli, while Rick contends that Karen has extremely high standards for their children. In the midst of the fight, the phone rings. When Karen picks it up, she realizes it is Leo, calling from a highway phone booth, who declares, "I need to kiss you again." Rick, in the meantime, is still arguing. Leo again: "I think we're the same height." Karen hangs up, and is no longer in a fighting mood. Leo then rides his bicycle against the flow of the traffic, happy in love.
With Rick and Jessie gone, Karen and Eli have a small dinner in the basement. Eli finally his mother for advice. However, Karen -- with her own romantic entanglements -- has none to provide. Instead, she holds her son tightly.
The next morning, Karen is having breakfast with Lloyd at a diner. He is talking nonstop, but Karen is not hearing a word. Finally, she interrupts him. She states that she is not being fair to him. But knowing where she is going, Lloyd stops her. In a heartfelt speech to her, he says that is okay:
"It's okay, You're a complicated person and I'm not. You have all of these moods and vestiges of colors. I watch you. I love watching you. You just shine from inside and I see that. I see that. And I think you need to be with someone like me, not because I'm comfortable or safe, but because you deserve to be adored."
Karen, moved, cannot return his affection. Lloyd realizes that. He leaves his chair, pays the bills, thanks the cashier, and leaves -- without saying another word to Karen.
At school, Eli approaches Jennifer at her locker. He asks her why she wasn't in physics class. Jennifer reports she was at the dentist's. Eli wants to talk. Jennifer does not care--she is in pain, and she does not want Eli to ease his. She then demands why he could not talk to her and accuses him of playing games.
Eli then states that he still wants to be close friends, but Jennifer scoffs at this request: "That would be convenient for you, wouldn't it? You could just hang out with me whenever felt like it, and do whatever you want whenever you want."
In a not very intelligent move, Eli cries, "Can we be mature about it?" Jennifer walks away, but Eli declares that he still cares for her. Jennifer responds that he doesn't care for her as much as she cares for him. Eli stands there, crying.
Jessie is in bed reading a book, when Rick comes in. She suggests that he grow a beard to annoy her mother. He tickles her. Despite the laughter it brings, she is still melancholy. She will never see Jennifer again. Rick tries to be optimistic, but even he doesn't believe it.
Amidst scenes of Jennifer passing Eli and the gang goofing around and of Leo and Karen kissing, [Jessie provides her own words of wisdom: "It's just that people act like there's something better out there. I just think that people make things harder than it should be. They just put themselves in this unnecessary torture for no apparent reason. At least to me."]
But she'll learn that reason. In class, the teacher is passing out the new piece of literature, Romeo and Juliet. When she turns her neck, she notices the boy named Toby, who made that obvious remark about the last book the class read. Toby is looking at Jessie shyly, clearly a sign of his infatuation with her. Jessie turns to the front of the class and smiles.
That night, it is snowing and Eli is preparing for the ski trip. Cassidy stands beside him. Eli leaves her for a second to sit next to Jessie, who is sitting on the steps and reading the book. She is still angry. He pokes her. She pokes back. He feigns injury. She doesn't buy it. They begin to play fight when all of a sudden a snowball fight erupts. At the end, Eli hugs Jessie and turns her around. Brother and sister are all right again.
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