, Kent Thomas and Holly Snow. Since there is a fairly certain plan as to the progress of the series, tropes relating to the as-yet unwritten second and third seasons are featured below in spoiler tags. As it chronicles the high school experiences of many characters used in other stories, the series serves as a sort of prequel (or sequel) to those stories; among the sequel stories/series are
Now that the author has turned the focus more to other stories, this series is bordering on
at this point (August 2015). However, since characters in this series are relevant to my larger 'verse (see above), I will still update character info and plot points as needed, even if the storylines themselves are never actually written down.
- Above the Influence: Jimmy subverts the trope when he takes advantage of a drunk Samara on the anniversary of her late sister's birthday in "The Performance."
- Absolute Cleavage: When the gang is at a Coolest Club Ever in "The Renewal," this is why Jimmy suggests it will be easy to find their classmate Stacey Milano. He tries using his hands to demonstrate their size, but this doesn't go so well.
- Adults Are Useless
- All Guys Want Cheerleaders: Josh used to date Stacey before he met Vanessa, and Kent falls for Jessie shortly after meeting her.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Perhaps the reason so many of them are drawn to Milo, including Samara, Nicole (Rivers), Holly, and Stacey.
- All Men Are Perverts: Lex insists that this is true in "The Switch," and Melanie and Terra agree.
- Amicable Exes: After having a short relationship in the first season and dealing with their unresolved feelings all through season two, this is what Kent and Holly eventually become in the third and final season.
- Amoral Attorney: Rebecca Clark, referred to Jimmy by Rod.
- Analogy Backfire: In "The Censor":
: "Did you seriously just compare sex to Pearl Harbor
Rusty: "Well, Kate Beckinsale does have that effect on people."
- Anyone Can Die: In rough chronological order: Cameron, Scott, Skylar, Nicole Sullivan, Sam Greene, Sloane, Rusty, Rod, Gina, Jimmy.
- Arc Number: 27
- Aroused by Their Voice: Rick's reaction to hearing Samara's voice on speaker phone in "The Birthday."
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In "The Collision":
: "Melanie won't apologize to Lex, [Claire] won't forgive Samara, I finish the mile five whole minutes after everyone else, I get blood on my shirt, and Rusty hasn't even shaved his beard
yet! Today sucks
- Auto Erotica: Stacey and Andrew in "The Distance". Later, Rowan loses his virginity to Kristen in the back of her van.
- Babies Make Everything Better: Subverted with Tina and later Sloane, both of whom get pregnant and have their lives ruined - or in Sloane's case, ended - because of it.
- The Baby Trap: One of Milo's conquests, Tina, tries using this in an effort to make him monogamous, but after the baby is born it is revealed that she was lying about who his father was, and in any case Milo continued being The Casanova regardless.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Kent and Claire start out this way (much to Jimmy's chagrin), but it gradually stops as time moves on and they get to know each other.
- Beta Couple: Claire/Jimmy serve as a negative foil for Kent/Holly in the first season.
- Beauty, Brains and Brawn: Lex, Melanie and Terra are the beauty, brawn and brains of Holly's friends from dance class.
- The Bet: Milo bets Tom he can deflower the latter's cousin Carrie when she visits for an episode. Tom, who wouldn't ordinarily tolerate such an act, goes through with the bet because he knows his cousin - and he wins. And he gives Carrie the money.
- Better as Friends: Rusty went out on one date each with Holly and Claire in middle school, and that was the end of that. At least for a little while.
- Blackmail: A favored method of Jimmy's, used several times over the course of the series.
- Big Applesauce: Samara's family is from New York. In the third season, there is an episode in which she, Holly and Claire visit New York City over winter break. When the series ends, Samara moves on to NYU.
- Big Fancy House: Surprisingly averted with Kent and his family.
- Blackmail: Jimmy's usage of this (a Scarpia Ultimatum) on Claire and indirectly Kent in "The Twist," is arguably the turning point of the entire storyline.
- Black Comedy: Mark tries to cheer up a depressed Holly:
Mark: "I euthanized a rabbit today."
(Beat. Holly is still depressed.)
Mark: "That usually works. This must be serious."
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Rick's first three lovers: Iris, Mila and Cassie. Also, Milo claims to have once had four-way sex with just such an ensemble, and considers that night his greatest accomplishment.
- Boy Meets Girl
- Breather Episode: "The Valentine," immediately following "The Charm," is a Lower-Deck Episode focusing on the amusing antics of the younger kids. Subverted at the end when we learn that Kent and Holly have just broken up.
- The Bro Code: Mike supposedly violates this for dating Iris after her breakup with Rick, but it is Rick himself who really breaks the rules by sleeping with Mike's ex Cassie and taunting Mike with the video of it.
- Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: While Kent isn't unhappy to the point of constant brooding thanks to good friends like Tom, Holly nevertheless expands his horizons and generally makes him feel better about himself.
- Buffy Speak
- But Liquor Is Quicker: Stacey is mentioned as a frequent victim of this, and Jimmy uses this method to sleep with Samara on the anniversary of her late sister's birthday.
- California University: Played realistically, with the gang separating to attend different universities across the state (or country) at series' end.
- Call Back: In "The Pinch," John (with Adam and Stacey) says "Mind if we join you?" before joining Holly and her friends for lunch for the first time, echoing Kent's "Mind if I join you?" from "The Crush".
- Calling the Old Man Out: Kent does this to Rod frequently, to little effect.
- Cannot Spit It Out: In "The Noodles," when Kent first tries to tell Holly he likes her, it backfires...and he ends up telling her he likes Claire instead. More severely, Claire's inability to tell Jimmy she loves him back is one the factors that helps drive him over the edge.
- Catholic School Girls Rule: Invoked by Holly and Jessie in the second Halloween episode, both of them vying for Kent's attention.
- Caught with Your Pants Down: Discussed in "The Cross," when Jimmy and Claire are having phone sex.
Jimmy: "...unlike you, I'm not ashamed of anything. If my parents were to catch me in my room right now with my pants down, listening to you, I'd tell 'em to fuck off."
- Celeb Crush: Several characters have the benign type: Kent likes Alexis Bledel, Holly likes Eric Bana, and Claire likes Johnny Depp and Adam Brody.
- Change the Uncomfortable Subject
- Character Filibuster: Samara is prone to doing this almost Once an Episode, much to the annoyance of everyone else, but other characters, particularly Claire and Kent, will engage in a sizable speech if someone pushes their buttons enough.
- Chekhov's Gun
- Chekhov's Gunman: Chad, who occasionally buys pot from Rusty, turns out to be the real father of Tina's child. More importantly, Faith, who Jimmy sleeps with while still involved with Claire and later frames for Skylar's murder, is released from prison nearly two years later when her innocence is proven and joins the others in taking down Jimmy.
- Club Stub: In "The Club," Kent's attempt at creating an on-campus nature club fails spectacularly when no one shows up but himself - and later, Claire, who's trying to hook him up with Holly for the Homecoming Dance. Ultimately, the club shuts down after one meeting, and Holly ends up going to the dance alone.
- Cluster F-Bomb: In the name of realism.
- Coitus Ensues: In "The Treasure," this is what happens shortly after Claire threatens to cut Jimmy off until he proves himself. It happens again in "The Performance."
- This is also basically Milo and Kristen's M.O., yet the trope is subverted when the two of them finally meet and nothing happens.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Done by Jimmy to Nicole Sullivan before killing her, simply because she thinks that Kent and Claire look cute together.
Nicole: "I don't know anything!"
Jimmy: "This isn't about what you know. It's about what you think."
- Coming-Out Story: Subverted with Melanie, whose coming out is subject to little more than mild shock from her friends, and is only a minor plot point in the associated episodes.
- Played straight with Milo, who confesses to Claire his occasional relationships with men after she steals his phone and talks to one of them.
- Comically Missing the Point
- Conflict Ball: Lampshaded by Rusty in "The Switch," when Holly and Claire agree to swap boyfriends for a day so each girl can lessen their suspicions about the other's boyfriend.
Jimmy: "Why are we doing this at all?"
: "For the contrived conflict. Why else?"
- Confusing Multiple Negatives: In "The Stickers," when Kent and Holly are discussing not being on any Friending Network:
Holly: "You know what? You should make sure not to look for me sometime! Then you can not add me as a friend and we can not see each other every time we don't log on!"
Kent: "I'll be sure to not do that."
Holly: "I know you won't."
- Continuity Nod
- Cool Car: Kent receives a Porsche for his 16th birthday from his parents, and although he accepts it, he ultimately plans on replacing it with something more suited to his lifestyle.
- Coolest Club Ever: "The Renewal."
- Cool People Rebel Against Authority: Both subverted and played straight with Milo.
- *Cough* Snark *Cough*
- Country Matters: Beginning in "The Switch," when Rod first calls Claire this for her overreaction to Kent's kissing of Holly (despite having not met either of the girls yet), the word is tossed around more frequently than it should, mostly in reference to this incident.
- A Date with Rosie Palms: Alluded to many times by these Genre Savvy teenagers. Most notably, in "The Distance," an increasingly frustrated Holly leaves an embarrassing message on Kent's relatives' machine. Such are the perils of Kent not having a cell phone.
- Dating What Daddy Hates: Claire and Jimmy begin to adopt this approach to their relationship in "The Parents," after Jimmy has manipulated her into having sex with him. She's hoping for a Love Redeems outcome, but instead, it gets worse. Kent and Holly are in a similar situation, his father convinced that just because her mother cheated on her father, Holly will do the same to Kent.
- Daydream Surprise: Most notably, Kent in "The Censor."
- Deep South: Tina and her family come from Arkansas, hence their conservative morals.
- Department of Redundancy Department
- Detroit: Jessie's family hails from Detroit, where her father worked at a car dealership.
- Diamonds in the Buff: Holly takes a picture of herself in the tub wearing only Kent's birthday gift for her (a turquoise necklace) in "The Distance." This doesn't become important until much, much later.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud??: In "The Collision":
Melanie: I think I'm a lesbian. (everyone does a double take, and the girls sitting next to her scoot to the side) I just said that out loud, didn't I?
- Dinner and a Show: When the Thomases and the Hummels have Thanksgiving dinner for the first time together. Naturally, most of the conflict comes from Rod being a Politically Incorrect Villain.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In "The Sin," when Kent pulls Holly in for their First Kiss, Claire immediately calls him a rapist and inadvertently (via Rowan) ends up getting him sent to the office. The misunderstanding is cleared up, but not before Rod finds out and the trope is taken even further.
- Rick joins this camp when he sleeps with Cassie and sends the video of it to her ex-boyfriend Mike in response to Mike beginning to date Rick's ex Iris.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Rusty and Claire both have moments of this in "The Distance," when they both spend the day with each other in their underwear to get back at Jimmy.
- Double Meaning Title: Frequently (e.g., "The Treasure" refers both to the episode's theme and to the movie the gang sees in it).
- Drama Class: Holly, Claire, Rusty, Tom, and Samara are all in this class at school from the beginning; Kent and certain others join them in the later seasons.
- Dramatic Pause
- Drugs Are Bad: Averted with Rusty (a sympathetic drug dealer who provides marijuana to his friends), played straight with Jimmy, who begins taking harder drugs with his descent into villainy.
- Dysfunction Junction
- Even Evil Has Standards: Rod isn't a fan of Jimmy being a murderer, but he helps the boy anyway since they both hate Claire.
- Everyone Can See It: Said by various classmates of Kent and Claire, though both of them vehemently deny any such attraction.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Averted with the main cast, played straight with several supporting characters.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: At some point, almost every straight male character alludes to some degree of attraction to Samara. Later, a similar situation occurs with Jade.
- Everybody Must Get Stoned: In "The Renewal."
- Everyone Owns A Mac
- Evil Gloating: Jimmy brags about cheating on Claire right after she finally tells him she loves him in "The Charm."
- False Rape Accusation: In "The Sin," Claire calls Kent a "rapist" when he kisses Holly by surprise. Rowan overheard, and shortly afterward, Claire and Kent are pulled out of their history class and sent to the office for disciplining. There they settle their antagonism, but not before Rod learns about it, and he decides that Claire should be severely punished for what could have happened.
- False Start: How Kent and Holly's relationship begins.
- Fangirl: Several, primarily Mila (Twilight), Emily (Justin Bieber, KidComs) and Dana (Star Wars). However, only Emily's fandom could be considered shallow, with Mila scoffing at the more obsessed Twilight fans and Dana having inherited a deep-rooted family love of Star Wars.
- Finishing Each Other's Sentences
- First-Name Basis: The high school drama teachers, Roger and Diane Bowman, get this from their students due to the laid-back True Companions nature of their class.
- First Kiss: Kent and Holly share this in "The Sin".
- Five-Man Band: Rick's circle is a classic example:
- Flyover Country: Josh and Mila lived in Oklahoma City before moving to Los Angeles, and Jimmy spent the early years of his life in Lincoln, Nebraska.
- Forceful Kiss: Although the kiss Kent plants on Holly in "The Sin" isn't really forceful, it's treated as such by Claire, who calls Kent a rapist for it.
- Frameup: Faith is framed and imprisoned for Skylar's murder.
- Freudian Slip: How Kent finally admits his crush on Holly in "The Censor".
Kent: "Melanie, when I told you that I liked Holly, did you believe me?"
Melanie: "You didn't tell me you liked Holly. You told me you liked Claire."
- The Fun in Funeral: In "The Pinch," Samara brings a CD player to the church to play "Supermassive Black Hole" after her speech. Relevant to the ceremony, in that it was her and Cameron's song, but still jarring.
"Dude," some random male student in the crowd remarked, "this funeral rocks."
- Garage Band: Two examples: Holly and Josh's acoustic duo, and Tom, Oriel, and Kristen's ensemble.
- The Ghost: Several characters are handled this way before eventually appearing, such as Oriel, Rosalyn and Vanessa.
- Gilligan Cut: Frequently.
- Girl of the Week: Once Milo enters the picture, they start to appear.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot
- The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Sloane and Nicole: they start out on a more or less even plane, but due to Jimmy's influences Sloane falls down the social ladder hard and fast, while Nicole remains unscathed.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Inverted: Claire aborts her baby while Sloane brings hers to term. Played straight with Tina, who comes from a religious upbringing, albeit one she rejects, and finds the idea morally objectionable.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Rusty makes it his goal to get Kent out of a mild case of this in "The Censor."
- Hair-Raising Hare: Holly is pathologically terrified of rabbits as a result of her father telling her stories of the damage they've done in his native Australia.
- Halloween Episode: "The Sin"
- Happily Married: Marcus and Sandra (Rusty's parents).
- Happy Marriage Charade: Rod and Gina. They finally divorce at the end of season two, when it comes to light that Rod has had another kid (Tyler) through one of his affairs.
- Hand or Object Underwear: In "The Distance," when his mother walks in on him naked and Claire in her underwear, Rusty is using his Guitar Hero guitar in this way.
- Hero of Another Story: Rick and Kristen in Benefits, set several years after the end of this series; Terra; Dana and Carrie. And others, eventually.
- High School
- High-School Dance
- Hormone-Addled Teenager: In "The Stickers," Kent, Holly, Claire and Rusty make a pact to stop talking about sex until one of them actually loses their virginity, in an attempt to subvert the trope. It goes about as well as you'd expect.
: "This is a stupid pact."
- Hypocritical Humor
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode is titled "The ____".
- If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Upon discovering that Holly is dating Milo, both Kent and John separately say this to her new boyfriend. After things end badly between them, John delivers on the promise.
- Imaginary Love Triangle: Jimmy imagines one between himself, Claire and Kent, and this is what eventually drives him insane.
- I'm Going to Disney World: In "The Charm":
Holly: "So, Jimmy, now that you've just played Cupid, what do you plan to do next?"
Jimmy: "I'm going to Disneyland!"
- Incoming Ham
- Incompatible Orientation: Jessie and Claire.
- Incredibly Lame Pun
- Informed Judaism: Samara.
- Insistent Terminology: Kent insists that Holly be referred to as "beautiful" and not "hot," because it sounds classier.
- Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!: In "The Noodles," Rusty records himself and Samara watching 2Girls1Cup and posts it online. Hilarity Ensues. Later, in "The Cross," ex-boyfriend Cameron wants to get back at her in a similar way, by hijacking the school news feed. Jimmy has other plans.
- Insult to Rocks: In "The Club":
Samara: "Oh, yes. I'm not even going to waste my breath expanding on the thought. They suck."
Claire: "Straight from the horse's mouth. They suck, Jimmy!"
Jimmy: "Let's not insult the horse by comparing it to Samara."
Samara: "I'm going to kill you in your sleep."
- I Resemble That Remark!:
Kent: "Milo, I think you have a gambling problem."
Milo: "Five bucks says I don't."
- I Uh You Too: When Jimmy tells Claire he loves her, her decision to not tell him the same until she feels it is one of many things that helps to drive them apart. When Holly tells Kent she loves him over the phone while he's in New Jersey, he chooses not to respond until he gets back to California.
- Ivy League for Everyone: Subverted, with only one named student (Jeff Barnes) going to an Ivy League (Columbia); additionally, the Hummel parents are both Dartmouth graduates. However, at series' end Terra leaves for Northwestern and Samara for NYU, so prestigious schools are certainly represented.
- Jock Dad, Nerd Son: Rod and Kent.
- Joisey: Kent's parents are originally from here, and that's where the rest of his family lives, including his godparents, Aunt Theresa and Uncle Calvin, who specifically reside in Pemberton, part of the Philadelphia metro area.
- Just Friends: Josh and Holly; John and Stacey; Kent and Rosalyn.
- Keeping Secrets Sucks: The entire premise of "The Twist."
- Lampshade Hanging: Rampant.
- Land Down Under: Mark is originally from Melbourne, and his daughter Holly sometimes speaks in the accent.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Tina experiences both kinds within a year. In 2008, she becomes pregnant after having sex with Milo, but this was not the intention (and the child isn't his). In 2009, while married to the father of her child, she has sex with Milo again, as she hopes to have his baby. Naturally, she can't get pregnant despite much effort.
- Law of Inverse Paternity: Played straight with Tina, who hopes Milo is the father of her child, but he isn't. It's more complicated with Sloane, who hopes her child is Rick's and strongly implies that it is, but because of this Jimmy kills her and tries to do the same to the newborn.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In "The Renewal":
: "...I know this is our lives and not some TV writer's script, but does anyone else think the whole 'Person A cheating on Person B'
storyline is starting to get ridiculous here?"
- Lets Wait Awhile: Kent and Holly are this way while dating, and so are Claire and Jimmy, although as part of his growing antagonism towards Kent, Jimmy becomes less patient as time goes by, enough to invoke a Scarpia Ultimatum to get Claire to finally sleep with him.
- Lingerie Scene
- Living Lie Detector: Samara shows traits of one. Most notably, when Jimmy makes a Suspiciously Specific Denial of any infidelity in "The Renewal," she changes his nickname from "Time Bomb" to "The Big Bang."
- Literary Allusion Title: From RENT.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Initially happens to a depressed Scott, which indirectly leads to Sloane cheating on him with Jimmy. Two years later, the same thing happens to a drug-addicted Jimmy, once again leading to Sloane cheating, this time with Rick.
- Long Distance Relationship: Tom and Oriel, who live an hour apart in La Crescenta and Long Beach, respectively. Later, Melanie and Kristen.
- Los Angeles: Specifically, set in the Glendale area, at the eastern end of the San Fernando Valley.
- Lower-Deck Episode: Several.
- Love Dodecahedron: Discussed in "The Renewal," before any cheating has even been revealed, as a result of Samara continually suggesting that this is what's going on.
Jimmy: "Nobody's cheating on anybody!"
- Love Makes You Dumb: Lampshaded by Holly in "The Renewal":
Holly: "The lot of us, we're all pretty dumb."
John: "Now why would you go and say something like that?"
Holly: "We're teenagers, and we're in love."
John: "Point taken."
- Love Makes You Evil: Jimmy, insofar as his relationship with Claire can be called "love".
- Love Redeems: This is what Claire attempts with Jimmy in "The Treasure."
- Lysistrata Gambit: As mentioned above, Claire attempts this in "The Treasure" to get Jimmy to improve his ways. It doesn't work.
- Ma'am Shock: In "The Sin":
Claire: "Are you messing with Texas?"
Rusty: "No, ma'am."
Claire: "Did you just call me ma'am?"
- Malicious Slander: Claire calls Kent a "rapist" in "The Sin" after he surprises Holly with their first kiss. Thanks to Rowan, this simple overreaction gets she and him both sent to the office, at which point they settle their antagonism, but not before Rod finds out and Claire goes home with a new enemy. Months later, Jimmy and Rod team up based on their mutual hatred of Claire.
- The Mall: In "The Mall."
- May–December Romance: Milo and Sally (Tina's mother), later Rod and Ashley.
- Mid-Season Twist: In "The Mall" (episode 7), Kent is hit by a car and he (informally) begins a relationship with Holly. It becomes formal in the very next episode, "The Sin."
- Murder Is the Best Solution: Suggested by Jimmy to Cameron about Samara in "The Renewal."
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Jimmy's ultimate plan for Kent. But first, he kills Scott to ensure that he will have Sloane all to himself.
- Must Have Caffeine
- My Girl Is a Slut: Jimmy coerces Sloane into sleeping with Skylar so the latter can finally lose his virginity and so Jimmy can have an alibi for murdering Cameron that night, by saying he was with her that night.
- Naked People Are Funny: Rusty in "The Distance."
- Narrative Profanity Filter: In "The Treasure," we're told that Jimmy insults Claire's mother quite loudly when she won't give him a ride home with the other kids after the movie.
: (speaking into his cell phone)
"No, Dad, that wasn't me."
- Near-Rape Experience: Milo, when Holly rejects his advances.
- Nephewism: Milo.
- New Transfer Student: John, Milo and Jessie enter the cast this way.
- Nice Guys Finish Last: Kent invokes this trope as justification to not bother talking to Holly when she appears on the bus with him and Tom in "The Mall". Luckily, Tom convinces him otherwise.
- No Bisexuals: Averted and discussed.
- Noodle Incident: The circumstances surrounding Kent and Holly's breakup; Stacey's "lesbian incident"; that time Milo brought a supermodel home for a tryst; and others.
- N-Word Privileges: Pam, apparently.
- Offscreen Breakup: Kent and Holly at the end of the "The Valentine." Becomes a serious Noodle Incident for both sides.
- One Steve Limit: Averted. There are two people named some variation of Sam, but one (Samara) is a student and main character, while the other (Sam Greene) is an adult and only occasional supporting character. In addition, there are also two minor supporting characters named Nicole: the first, Nicole Sullivan, is a classmate of the main cast members, while the second, Nicole Rivers, is the older sister of another classmate, Sloane. The trope is played straight after Nicole Sullivan and then Sam Greene are killed by Jimmy.
- Only Child Syndrome: For most of the main cast.
- Operation: Jealousy: Attempted in "The Noodles," when Holly recruits Josh in order to help Kent say what he meant to say before.
- Ostentatious Secret: In the beginning, Kent openly admits to Holly and her friends that he's hiding something from them, and will tell them when he's ready. Then Claire finds out what it is in "The Twist," he only allows her to tell one person, and she picks the wrong one. Kent finally opens up after that to avoid further misfortune for anyone else.
- The Other Rainforest: Dana is a wildlife student at Humboldt State University, among the redwoods in northern California, and her influence is what ultimately persuades Kent to go there for his college education.
- Overly Narrow Superlative: In "The Treasure":
- Poke the Poodle: In "The Counselor", John and Holly sneak into an R-rated movie (Doomsday) for their first date.
- Precision F-Strike
- The Punishment Is the Crime: Kent's response when Milo confesses to his Near-Rape Experience with Holly.
- Put on a Bus: Josh, Stacey and the other students in the class of 2009 (Milo excepted), as they head off to their respective colleges.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Given by Samara.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: After Jimmy cons Claire into having sex with him, everyone treats him differently, as they should.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Claire is red, Holly is blue. A literal example occurs in "The Charm," with these as the girls' respective dress colors.
- Rule of Three
- Running Gag
- Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Kent and Holly have elements of this.
- Scarpia Ultimatum: Done by Jimmy to Claire in "The Twist," when she reveals to him the then-secret of Kent's wealth and he threatens to tell everyone or else. They both end up losing their virginity.
- School Play: As most of the cast are in or eventually join the high school drama classes, this is inevitable.
- Secret Relationship: Kent and Claire towards the end of the second season. It's borderline romantic, but not entirely a secret: their parents know, and so does Jessie.
- Seinfeldian Conversation
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Kent and Jimmy, respectively. Rusty bridges the gap between them.
- Sexual Karma: Jimmy's drug addiction eventually leads to erectile dysfunction that results in Sloane leaving him after two years together.
- Sex with the Ex: Josh and Stacey after they are left by Vanessa and Adam, respectively.
- Shaped Like Itself: When Kent first visits Humboldt County:
Kent: "What smells like weed?"
Dana: "Probably the weed."
- Shirtless Scene
- Shotgun Wedding: Subverted; when Tina becomes pregnant with what seems to be Milo's child, both her conservative family and Milo want to be sure that the baby is in fact his before getting married. These suspicions prove correct, and Milo gets off scot-free while Tina ends up marrying the real father.
- Shout-Out: Plenty. Several character names: (Jack Dawson, Nicole Sullivan, Mark Snow, Veronica Taylor). Holly's parakeets are named Pinky and Brain, Kent's golden retrievers are Beamer and Shelby, and his own parakeets are Chip 'n Dale.
Kent: "What are you talking about? You and Oriel are inseparable! You never fight!"
Claire: "Where are Holly and Jimmy?"
Rusty: "In the club."
Claire: "What are they doing there?"
Mark: "Holly's no gold digger."
: "Good news, everyone!
: "It's just a number
, Kent. Also, I think you might be reaching a bit here."
: "Yeah, I know but Weird Al's
my favorite artist, which makes that
my favorite number, which means I'm going to notice it everywhere
Jimmy: "Am I wrong?"
Jimmy: "Am I wrong?"
Rusty: "You're not wrong, Jimmy, you're just an asshole."
: "I know you're both shamelessly competing for my affections, but I sure appreciate that you can work together to make Big Lebowski
references when you argue."
- Shout-Out Theme Naming: "The Charm" introduces both Adam Vegerano and Eve Rowland. Likewise, "The Counselor" introduces two different types of counselors: guidance counselor Sherry Lewis (mother of Vanessa and doubling as an Unfortunate Name) and Amoral Attorney Rebecca Clark.
- Show Within a Show: In addition to the several student plays featuring the heroes, there's also The Swanson Princess, a fictional Disney Channel show watched fervently by Emily.
- Sibling Triangle: Scott ends up in a brief one between his girlfriend, Sloane, and her older sister, Nicole, after they engage in Three-Way Sex per Jimmy's suggestion. Besides the Squick factor both sisters admit to, it becomes worse when Jimmy's plan to sleep with a disgruntled Sloane afterward comes to fruition.
- Sidetracked by the Analogy: In "The Dance," while Samara, Jack, and Cameron are watching Stacey grind up against Adam:
Samara: "[Adam's] last name is Vegerano. And right now, I'll bet he's got a great big banana just waiting to—"
Jack: "Aren't bananas fruits?"
Samara: "I wasn't finished!"
- Sleep Cute: Kent and Claire have such a moment towards the end of the second season. Gina even photographs the two of them together expressly because they look so cute together.
- Sleeps with Everyone but You: Invoked. Kristen would gladly sleep with Melanie, but Melanie won't go for it unless Kristen actually attempts to make it a monogamous relationship. Cue the Character Development for Kristen.
- Something Else Also Rises
- Sorry, I'm Gay: Jade says this to rebuff the advances of all the men that flirt with her. It backfires when she ends up being asked out by Melanie, and she has to clear things up during the date.
- Spell My Name with a "The": Jimmy, aka "The Big Bang."
- Spit Take
- Status Quo Is God: Lampshaded by Kent at the beginning of the third season.
- A Storm Is Coming
- Sweet Home Alabama: Mike spent his earliest years in Huntsville before his family moved to California; Cassie was much the same, except she came from Memphis, Tennessee.
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: Both for chapter titles and in-universe, sometimes concurrently.
- Take That: Michael Bay, Nickelback, and Twilight are frequent targets, though fans of each exist in-universe with varying amounts of sympathy.
- Teen Pregnancy: Claire, who aborts Rusty's baby with Kent's financial assistance, and Sloane, who carries Rick's to term before Jimmy kills her. Also, Tina, who lies about Milo being the father.
- Thanksgiving Episode: In the first season, Holly and Kent meet each others' families and Claire opens up to her own about her flawed relationship with Jimmy in "The Parents," set on this holiday. In the third season, the Thomases and the Hummels spend the holiday together, following the earlier reveal that Kent and Lex share a half-sibling in Tyler due to Rod's infidelity years ago.
- Their First Time: Jimmy and Claire consummate their relationship in "The Twist," with bad results. Kent and Holly attempt to lose their virginity in "The Charm," but the consequences of Jimmy's revelations earlier prevent them from thinking clearly and they are unable to continue.
- There Are No Therapists: Subverted. Vanessa's mother Sherry is a counselor at the high school, to everyone with a last name starting with P through T - meaning Kent, Holly, and Samara are all among her assigned students.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Invoked in "The Renewal," when Jimmy and Cameron are discussing solutions to the latter's frustration with ex-girlfriend Samara:
: "And you don't think this
Jimmy: "There's no such thing as overkill. There's just kill."
- 13 Is Unlucky: In "The Birthday," Tom remarks on the fact that Kent (December 14) and Holly's (December 27) births are separated by only thirteen days.
- ˇThree Amigos!: Holly, Claire and Rusty; Rick, Mike and Iris.
- A Threesome Is Hot: Subverted. We don't see it, but when Jimmy suggests this to Scott as a solution to his problem, it ends up ruining Scott's relationship with Sloane (although it does fix the original problem). Of course, this was the plan from the start, enabling Jimmy to sleep with Sloane in the aftermath. After they break up, Samara and others invoke the idea that we're supposed to feel sorry for him about this.
- Played straight with Milo, for whom this has happened on more than one occasion.
- Teen Drama
- Tempting Fate
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Claire is the tomboy, Holly is the girly girl.
- True Love Is Boring: Lampshaded by Claire in "The Performance":
Claire: "The world can always use more happy couples."
Jimmy: "So, how are Kent and Holly?"
Claire: "They're happy, so, not much to tell."
- Turn of the Millennium: Set from fall 2007 (when Kent and Holly first meet) to summer 2010 (shortly before they head off to college).
- Two Gamers on a Couch: Rusty and Claire act this way in "The Distance," the twist being that they're both lacking in clothing.
- Two Girls and a Guy: Holly, Claire and Rusty.
- Two Guys and a Girl: Rick, Mike and Iris.
- Two-Teacher School: Averted.
- T-Word Euphemism: Insisted by Kent when discussing with his classmates his father's use of a certain word in reference to Claire.
- Uptown Boy: Kent's relationships with Holly, Jessie, and Claire.
- Valentine's Day Episodes: One per season, starting with "The Valentine."
- Vapor Wear: Stacey in "The Renewal."
- Very Punchable Man: Andrew in "The Renewal," who exists solely to have sex with Stacey before getting punched out by John. Until he returns in a few later episodes.
Jimmy: "Sweet, I get to punch somebody." (except he doesn't)
- Villain Team-Up: Jimmy and Rod, starting in "The Charm," when the former comes to the latter based on a shared desire for revenge against Claire.
- Visit by Divorced Dad: Claire gets one in, naturally, "The Parents."
- Viva Las Vegas: Lex's older sister Brooke attends UNLV and works as a stripper to pay her dues there.
- Waxing Lyrical
- Wham Episode: "The Charm," the mid-season finale of Autumn, in which, after Claire finally tells Jimmy she loves him, he immediately rejects her and gloats about his affairs with three other girls, two of whom are at the dance that night with other dates. Shortly afterward, Jimmy begins his secret collaboration with Rod.
- Who's Your Daddy?: Sloane's baby is either Rick or Jimmy's, implied to be the former's. Likewise, Tina's is purportedly Milo's, but when a paternity test reveals he isn't, she finally confesses to the identity of the real father.
- Whole Plot Reference: One episode later in the series is a retelling of The Hangover; naturally, Stacey is involved.
- The Windy City: Terra's family is from Chicago, and she moves back there along with boyfriend Alex at the end of the series.
- World of Snark
- Wrong Name Outburst: In "The Twist," Jimmy claims to the others that Claire shouted Kent's name instead of his in the moment; Claire insists she was just mumbling incoherently. Needless to say, this combined with what instigated the sex helps to drive a wedge between them.
- Your Cheating Heart: Jimmy cheats on Claire (three times) after becoming suspicious of her relationship with Kent. Through backstory, we learn that Holly's mother Pam cheated on her father Mark; Claire's father Walter cheated on her mother Lisa; and Kent's (still-together) parents are both notorious cheaters to this day.
- Barely subverted with Rick when he and Iris break up before he has the chance to cheat on her with Mila. Later, Rick sleeps with Sloane (and possibly puts a bun in her oven) when she turns to him to escape from Jimmy's corrupt ways.
- Invoked as a means of breaking up a couple when Kent and his friends convince Milo to sleep with Ashley so Rod will end their relationship.