The Wonder Years S03E17 – Night Out

I guess that’s when I realized that love was going to be a lot more complicated — and a lot more simple — than I’d ever dreamed.

Kevin

This is exactly the type of Kevin-Winnie story the show should be telling now: slow-paced, depicting the early stages of the relationship, letting the two build chemistry, giving us lots of warm moments —  really, just showing us that the characters (and the show) are going to build this romance into something special, something worthy of the wait and the characters’ history as close friends.

The Wonder Years has fundamentally been about the loss of innocence that comes with growing up, and, here, Kevin and Winnie are socially pressured into going to an event they both know might forcibly remove some of that innocence that they’re barely hanging on to. This unease about going to the party — which they know could be fun and romantic, but also pushes them out of their comfort zone — drives the two of them apart. It’s as if being formally recognized as a couple actually raises a barrier between them.

An interesting dynamic arises from this conflict — neither character really wants to go to the party, but neither wants to say that they don’t. Kevin comes the closest to saying that he’d rather not be pushed into it, but Winnie insists that she’d rather go. I thought this struggle for the two of them to communicate honestly was done very well.

They finally arrive at the party and they’re relieved to find it completely normal and fun — not the creepy makeout-fest they’d imagined. The barrier around them dissolves and they enjoy themselves at the party. This scene may have been my favorite of the episode; I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it as long as it’s true: It’s always fun to watch the characters just having fun and enjoying each other’s company. How could you not like seeing Fred Savage rocking out to “Shout?”

But then the party gets weird and starts to match the vision Kevin and Winnie initially had of the party. The delightfully creepy Robbie Hudson pressures Winnie and Kevin into the makeout room. In an extended moment of discomfort, the two fidget and shuffle for a minute before Winnie bolts. As Kevin realizes that Winnie doesn’t want to make out, he begins to suspect it’s because she doesn’t actually like him.

Kevin returns home humiliated and goes to sleep heartbroken. He wakes up to a beautifully-shot, angelic vision of Winnie outside his window. “Please don’t let this be one of those dreams where you can’t open the window,” he thinks. Winnie wants to walk and have a chat. Kevin assumes it’s to officially dump him, but then she finally breaks that barrier of poor communication from earlier in the episode: She admits that she didn’t want to be in that room with him; she didn’t want to kiss him.

This seems to confirm Kevin’s suspicion that she doesn’t want to be with him, but then she call him her “boyfriend” and everything changes — in fact, she’s the one seeking remorse. She didn’t want to kiss him then, not with all eyes on them and the magic artificially created.

So, when does she want to kiss him? he wonders.

Anyone could’ve guessed Kevin and Winnie would have their first big kiss by the end of the episode, so the ending didn’t exactly take my breath away. But it was so gently and sweetly told (I especially loved the line quoted at the beginning of the post) that I completely enjoyed it.

In all, Night Out proved that the series can tell stories very well centered around the Kevin-Winnie romance. It’s a predictable affair, but it reconfirms the show’s commitment to telling stories from the perspective of lost innocence and strong character development.

Other thoughts:

  • Paul has a few great moments here but is largely absent from the second half of the episode
  • The episode loses only a small shred of impact because we’ve already seen Kevin make out with a girl (Becky Slater back in Between Me and You…)
  • Wayne really relishes those moments he gets to humiliate Kevin. Jason Hervey really nails these moments.
  • But speaking of Wayne, where was he when Winnie knocked on the window? Still awake somewhere?
  • Props to Greg Davis on oozing the role of the junior high Hugh Hefner with zealous grossness

Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

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