The Carrie Diaries Recap of Season 1, Episode 3: “Read Before Use” — Dead End For Carrie and Sebastian
So far, The Carrie Diaries has been a delightful appetizer to the Sex and the City series we grew up loving. Grown-up Carrie Bradshaw taught us how to get over being broken up with on a Post-It note, the best way to make a memorable exit, and that some bad boys really can change. Unfortunately for her, the new CW series has taken Carrie (AnnaSophia Robb) back to a wee sixteen. It’s 1984 and she can barely match her pinks, let alone navigate her way from a crush to the real thing.
In Season 1, Episode 3, Carrie can’t tell up from down when it comes to what’s right. She is obsessed with the importance of labels in her life, understanding everything in simple, easily accessible terms. But as we find out in the episode, she doesn’t have the language to translate what she sees to what she does, how she feels to what it all means.
We open up on Carrie trying to squeeze into her size 24 jeans. Whatever, Carrie. Talk to us when you start drinking your weight in rum punch and run out of sizes at the store.
Oh good, a metaphor: “Everyone we know has a label.” Read before use, got it. Carrie Bradshaw in the house, y’all. Cute outfit ,though: peplum top, lip-print cardigan, polka dot jeans. Wait, what decade is this?
Carrie and Sebastian (Austin Butler) have eye sex in the halls and damn, nice casting CW execs. Austin Butler is every high school girl (and creepy writer)’s dream.
Maggie's (Katie Findlay) cool and all, but if our two best friends called us “a drama queen,” like Carrie and Mouse (Ellen Wong) just did re: Mag’s breakup with Walt (Brenden Dooling) (wait, does she actually care? She’s shtupping someone else and he’s gay...), there’d be words.
We never thought we’d say this, but Larissa (Freema Agyman) should maybe take print-wearing advice from the 16-year-old CB. Good thing she’s teaching Carrie French (Boue apparently means bad boy in la francaise). “Men are no good if they’re not bad.” Truer words.
Because the Brad-dad isn’t creepy enough, he’s now shopping for tampons for Carrie and Dorrit (Stefania Owen) in the drugstore. And because this is every girl’s dream of a first conversation (super? super-plus?), Tom scores some chick’s phone number. Because he hates fun and loves sweater vests, he ditches it at the store and runs away. (Side note: why is he the only person on this show who apparently doesn’t dress like he’s in any decade).
Apparently Austin Butler went to the Desmond Harrington school of acting, because he’s all side-sneering and “Of course yeah” when he calls Carrie over to a bench and gives vague answers. He shares headphones with Carrie and he’s super dreamy, for real. Like, if we went to school with Carrie, we would stuff her in a locker and be like “Carrie who? Let’s do it.”
Back in the Bradshaw household, Tom is easily manipulated but not completely out of it,. Carrie tries to find a way around the Sebastian-ban and her dad is all elusive and obviously a lawyer. We can tell Carrie’s had a breakthrough in the case because the music gets all dingy.
Dorrit sneaks into a pet store, as willful teenagers often do when they sneak out, and steals a hamster. Meanwhile, Carrie ups the game by breaking into Tom’s super-not-secure legal file drawer and finds Sebastian’s file. Apparently, he boned an art history teacher at his last school. Raise your hand if you’re surprised this is the background they’ve chosen for him. Really? No one? Good. Moving on.
“But it’s sorta cool he took art history, right?” Yeah, we’re with you, Carrie. Any excuse to keep him out of the “ew” file. Mouse is wearing a tie. We get it, you’re bookish, now take it off. Apparently Mouse is going to meet back up with Seth, the Princeton boy toy who “hotdogged her keyhole.” Carrie counsels her, “Even if you’re not saying it’s a date, you can still dress like it’s a date.” See, Mouse? Even cardigan Carrie wants you to show some cleave.
Maggie trashes all her Walt mementos and we honestly don’t know why she’s so broken up about the, uh, breakup. HE IS GAY AND YOU ARE BONING SOMEONE ELSE. What’s the problem?
“I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard,” Mouse says as Mags tries to dress her. “You need to try a little.” Lord, how we miss the days when we used to be able to get away with saying that to our ill-dressed friends. But problem: “slutty” apparently means a flowered fit-n-flare. It’s white. So...
Chez Bradshaw, Dorrit is way cooler than Carrie, who has just found her hamster. Its name is Morrisey “as in the lead singer of The Smiths.” “You’re utterly devoid of any sense of responsibility,” tattle-tale Carrie tells her sister. Which one do you want to be, Car, pot or kettle? Dorrit is too smart for her own good, so she totally blackmails Carrie into not telling her dad.
In the park, Sebastian is so effing cute and he “brought food” (potato chips) and headphones for Carrie. And who has to sneak out to go to a park? They full-on make out and somehow Carrie isn’t even touching this boy. WTF, girl, get it. And then she totally ruins it by saying “Where did you learn to kiss like that?” “I had a good teacher.”
Since everything is nuts in Carrie-world, she’s apparently allowed to go to Manhattan for a visual art performance with Larissa and Mouse and Seth (who, sorry, looks exactly like Seth Cohen. Great creativity, Josh Schwartz). They’re at the Franklin Furnace because even though everyone looks too clean and well-dressed for this to be accurate (we would wear Carrie’s dress anywhere in the world), the locations are at least historically referential. They’re at a performance art show where a former porn star isn’t “selling her vagina, she’s owning it.”
Because Tom was looking too normal, he’s going out in matching trench coats with a buddy who says things like “all the apples at the singles bar are ripe for the picking,” which is even creepier than you can imagine. Think slick-backed ‘80s Wall Street hair in a non-hot-Patrick Bateman way.
At the art studio, Carrie puts in her penny and stares into the eyes of the “artist,” who shows her hoo-hah to Carrie. “It looked exactly like the drawing in my biology textbook.” Yeah, if the one in your textbook looked like a used porn star cooch... Monica Boxalot, or whatever her name is, gets on the mic, and tries to get Carrie to show the world her “Pink Panther.” This woman would get along great with Tom’s friend.
At the singles bar, a woman also dressed too well for the ‘80s (sweet side part and statement necklace) hits on Tom, inexplicably. Ladies, listen up: this man is never going to please you. “Bastard. First time out and you get a napkin kiss in under fifteen minutes?” That’s a thing? Tom has no game and his friend tries to borrow his “I’m a widower” pick-up line.
Maggie brings the destroyed bear over to Bradshaw’s house, but Dorrit is the only one there, searching for her escaped hamster. They’re on level ground when it comes to emotional intelligence, which is really a lot like watching two drunk nine year olds support each other.
Carrie runs away from the drag queens and shock jocks and Larissa is all “I misjudged you” because Carrie wouldn’t show her box. “I thought someday you’d be on the side of a bus,” Larissa says, and everyone who’s ever seen the intro to Sex and the City knows this is a reference to the show.
It’s totally safe for Carrie to jump on a bus back from New York, so she does. Carrie gets home and buzzkills the freshly bonded Mag-Dor friendship, and instead of being all “I’m so glad you were there for my friend,” she is mean to Dorrit, who is still cooler than she is.
Tom gets home and Carrie tells him the truth about seeing his file, which is a BIG MISTAKE, especially considering he gives her an out by saying “he told you?” about the teacher thing. What is your problem, child? The boy is hot and clearly knows his way around a nude form (art history teacher, remember?), so grow up and enjoy the consequences. Anyway, Tom says “You’re not the Carrie Bradshaw I thought I knew,” and we’re like “get in line, pal.”
Because he took cool dad lessons during the commercial break, Tom finds the hamster and doesn’t get mad because Dorrit brings up their dead mom.
Carrie didn’t learn from how her dad reacted to the file sharing issue, and so she confronts Sebastian, who has no clue that there was ever a court case over his “Extra Curricular Activities” and so this is all a huge shock. And Carrie has no idea how to talk to boys and Sebastian is Mr. Big, saying “why do you over-analyze everything?” In twenty years, he can have this same conversation over poker with Aidan and Berger, etc. He breaks up with her and she’s not nearly as pissed as she should be. She make some reference to “contents under pressure” or whatever as Seb’s label. “Too hot to handle” would have been better.
Tom takes them all to the pet store to buy things and the petshop chick is apparently kryptonited by Tom’s cable knit and totally hits on him.
“Right now, the label on me would say: ‘Heartbroken, extra large.’” What? “The one thing you have to remember about labels: they only matter if you let them stick.” She’ll have years to work on her final thoughts.