"Read Before Use" leans too heavily on the week's metaphorical theme, labels, but in what's now typical fashion (so to speak) for "The Carrie Diaries," it redeems itself with a handful of cute moments.
Mouse, for example, agrees to meet the elusive Seth (Kyle Harris, who is adorbs but looks 30) in the city. Maggie urges her to up the cleavage factor, and Mouse is trying to act all "whatever, who cares" about things. Their non-date date brings them to a performance-art installation with Larissa -- at which attendees place pennies in a jar and a retired porn star shows them her flower of womanhood -- and if that didn't kibosh Mouse's ability to act cazh, Seth recognizing the porn star does it for sure.
But when each admits to the other that they'd rather just go get ice cream (at Serendipity…of course), the date finally starts for real -- and Seth calls Mouse his girlfriend, which is the label she wanted all along.
[Related: 'Girls' recap: Where the magic happens]
Carrie wants the same label for herself, but her father still isn't letting her see Sebastian, although he lets it slip that he "can't" tell Carrie why. She assumes it's because Sebastian's a client of Dad's, and sure enough, she finds a file with Sebastian's name on it -- and the intel that he got kicked out of his previous school for Pacey Wittering with a teacher. Mouse thinks it's gross, Maggie thinks a guy who "knows how to do stuff" is not the worst thing, and Carrie is so swoony about how Sebastian got her an extra set of headphones so they could listen to the new Cars album together, she doesn't know what to do.
…Wait, she does. She knows to sneak out to cute non-date dates in the park with Sebastian; to freak out and run off when the kissing gets intense (it's accompanied by "Drive," and if we recall correctly, that song is about mental illness and not all that sexy, so maybe Carrie has a point); and to look at the porn star's hoo-ha but refuse to show her own, because she's confident! And she's not just going to take this paternal ban on Sebastian!
…Wait, she is. Dad is super-disappointed that Carrie snooped in his files (and also in how obvious AnnaSophia Robb's wig is in this scene), sighing that this is "not the Carrie Bradshaw" he knows. (The one who cheated on Aidan with Mr. Big -- and then kissed Aidan after she and Big got married? That one?) Sebastian is even more disappointed when she confesses that she read his file. He thinks that means that "everyone knows" about the affair with the teacher now; what's more, he mentions that he didn't have a lawyer for that kerfuffle, a key (and sketchy) bit of info Carrie blows right past while blathering that she's decided she's fine with him having more experience than she does.
Sebastian's rationale for deciding to dump her then and there -- and he signals that it's coming by calling her "Carrie" instead of "Bradshaw," although the show trampled its own punchline by over-explaining that -- is not the greatest. He's suddenly annoyed that Carrie always "analyzes everything" and decides that "this isn't gonna happen," because "all this talking and snooping and talking, it's just way too complicated." If anything, he should wig out that her dad has a file on him, but 1) that isn't her fault and 2) it's not like she just got chatty and over-analytical five minutes ago.
…And we're totally getting over-analytical too, because the show needs to keep the romantic leads apart for a while. We get it. And we hope those kids work it out.
Maggie's working out some things too -- like her sadness and anger over the breakup with Walt, emotions she's suppressing because Carrie and Mouse teased her for being a drama queen. Everything comes bursting out in a violent stabbing… of a giant stuffed panda Walt won her at the spring carnival. She turns up at Casa de Bradshaw hoping Carrie can help her with some remorse sewing, but it's just Dorrit at home, trying to find the escaped hamster she shoplifted (we know!) (she named it Morrissey! WE KNOW!) by offering it bologna. Maggie switches to peanut butter for the hamster hunt, while Dorrit sews up Bear Bear and says non-judgmentally that Maggie had some feelings she needed to get out.
What did Twitter need to get out?
dorrit from carrie diaries has the most punchable face ever— chascaaa (@chascaaa) January 29, 2013
Watching The Carrie Diaries with my dad and they just said vagina 10 times........... #awkward— valeria ciric. (@valeriaciricxo) January 29, 2013
School work. CHECK. Fitting. CHECK. Audition. CHECK. Meeting. CHECK! business done just in time to get home to watch The Carrie Diaries!— Shanice Alexia (@ShaniceAlexia) January 29, 2013
Dorrit's having kind of a rough episode -- her father gets a Stouffer's frozen dinner, a French bread, and a pizza, not understanding that "Stouffer's French-bread pizza" is its own thing, or remembering that it's her favorite. She shoplifts a rodent, and it gets away. (We had a hamster of our own at her age, which we only mention because we named it Sebastian.) She does leverage some tattle blackmail on Carrie, and she's very nice with Maggie, and in the end her dad does break down and agree that her mother was right: they could trust her with a pet. Still, Bradshaw pere is pretty darn clueless. He's in agony in the feminine products aisle, like, you had a wife, no? And these daughters probably have gotten their "curses" before? But no, he has no idea what tampons to get, and when Carrie reassures him that she'll handle the Tampax buy the next time, he says, "There's gonna be a next time?"
But in his defense, he's getting barraged by single ladies who think he's totally boring until he reveals that he's a widower. Then he's catnip. Dad's disgusted; his skeezy friend played by Scott Cohen asks if he can use that line for himself.
Next time: It's Halloween, which means oodles of terrible Carrie puns, and it looks like Walt lip-locks a dude!
Totally Awesome '80s
Scott Cohen introduces Dad to the concept of "singles bar[s]."
Carrie has more pairs of printed jeans than a Levi's factory. If you were casting about for a "TCD" drinking game, there it is. You're welcome.
None that we spotted. (Correct us in the comments.) Larissa does have a flash-forward moment by chastising Carrie for not flashing her lady parts, because she could be something big: "I could imagine your picture on billboards -- or the side of a bus!"
And here's all the music that made us feel old-er, "that you heard on the episode":
- The Cars, "Drive"
- Eyeless in Gaza, "Veil Like Calm"
- Felt, "Penelope Tree"
- The Go-Go's, "Head Over Heels" Medium Medium, "Hungry So Angry"
- Red Box, "Chenko"
- The Three O'Clock, "When Lightning Starts"
Star AnnaSophia Robb talks Carrie's many loves:
"The Carrie Diaries" airs Mondays at 8 PM on The CW.