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Let's Compare Scenes: Earthquake and Hurricane Episodes
There’s nothing like a natural disaster to make the teen dramas even more dramatic!
Like with most things, “Beverly Hills, 90210” did it first, of course, with an earthquake rocking Beverly Hills in 1995. “The O.C.” shook things up with an earthquake, too, in 2007, while “90210” had its own quake in 2010. Meanwhile, “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” both went with hurricanes in 1998 and 2010, respectively.
While I normally call this recurring series “Let’s Compare Scenes,” perhaps a more fitting title for today is “Let’s Compare Episodes.” Here we go!
Beverly Hills, 90210
Episode 6.09, Earthquake Weather
The episode starts normally enough with scenes showing the characters going about their everyday lives… that is, until things start rockin’ and shakin’. All of the duos — Brandon & Susan, Dylan & Toni, David & Valerie, Steve & Clare, and Colin & Kelly — are in different locations, with a montage showing each pair seeking safety. Note the name of the pinball game Steve is playing when the quake starts: “Earthshaker!” A little on the nose, no? Brandon and Susan happen to be in an elevator, joined by a woman who then goes into labor. It seems like a really creative stunt… until you remember it was previously done on “Saved by the Bell” three years earlier in 1992. As for Donna, she was driving when the earthquake hit and “didn’t even feel it.” Oh, Donna.
Episode 4.14, “The Shake Up,” and Episode 4.15, “The Night Moves”
It was a bold choice to center the two episodes before the set-in-the-future series finale around an earthquake. The tremors start at the end of episode 4.14 and then 4.15 is focused on the aftermath. Like with “Beverly Hills, 90210,” everyone is scattered when the quake happens, but this one takes place at night, making it a fair bit scarier. There’s also far more damage — and injuries — leading to an entirely different vibe than the “Beverly Hills, 90210” episode had. And the destruction of the Cohen home ends up being a poignant way of conveying the show’s finality.
Episode 3.01, “Senior Year, Baby”
The season premiere gets off to a bangin’ start, literally, with an earthquake hitting on the first day back to school. While you might think that sets up some serious storylines at West Beverly, classes are actually canceled after the quake, so everyone happily leaves school. Tennis-playing Teddy’s knee is injured, though, Naomi is dealing with PTSD from her rape, and later in the episode, Javier dies in a car accident… but that fatal crash has nothing to do with the earthquake. This is also the episode that features Kim and Khloe Kardashian, so there’s that.
Episode 1.05, “Hurricane”
Virtually everyone takes shelter at the Leery home as a hurricane hits the coast of Massachusetts and tensions rise as the hours go by. Dawson argues with Joey and Jen, Grams is far from friendly to Bessie and Bodie, and Mitch learns Gail has been having an affair. The only one not present is Pacey, who ends up at Tamara’s, where he has to hide their illicit relationship from his brother Doug. The climax is certainly Gail’s confession and Mitch’s reaction, which coincides with the height of the storm.
One Tree Hill
Episode 8.11, “Darkness on the Edge of Town”
A life-threatening storm dumps torrential rain on the North Carolina coast, with several characters in jeopardy. Jamie, the show’s youngest, is stuck in an overturned car after an accident, and before Brooke can rescue him, another car comes along and hits them, plunging them into the deep waters beneath a bridge. As Julian attempts to save them, the levee breaks and Brooke emotionally pleads with him to help Jamie first: “He’s just a boy!” Total gut punch, as is a freed Jamie later telling his parents, “Aunt Brooke is dead.” If those parts of the episode are action-driven, it’s a full-on thriller with Katie trying to kill Quinn.
I’d be remiss not to mention two other storm-driven hours of these two shows in particular: episode 4.03 of “Dawson’s Creek,” “The Two Gentlemen of Capeside,” and episode 3.13 of “One Tree Hill,” “The Wind That Blew My Heart Away.” But the weather in the two I’ve highlighted above versus these other ones was definitely more “hurricane” than “bad thunderstorm,” though things do get dicey in “Two Gentlemen.” Here’s something else to consider as we compare and contrast: These watery installments were all shot in Wilmington, North Carolina. Years after these episodes were filmed, the city was hit hard by the all-too-real Hurricane Florence in 2018.
When looking at all five of the teen dramas showcased here, it’s clear they each used these natural disasters as plot devices in their respective episodes. But while “Beverly Hills, 90210” did it first, I’d argue that episode is the least impactful of the bunch — but is matched by “90210” in being unsuccessful. In both of those cases, the earthquake is never high stakes, unlike with the quaker in “The O.C.” Both also lack the emotional components of the hurricane-driven episodes of “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill.” As for “Gossip Girl,” that’s MIA from this examination because the worst “disaster” that show dealt with was a blackout that posed no real danger at all.
So what do YOU think? When you compare these earthquake and hurricane episodes, which teen drama stands out?
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