Recap: Penny And Aggie Celebrity Poker Showdown
"Watch out for ambition, girls. Sooner or later everybody gets tired of being number two."
The feud between Penny and Karen heats up. Karen attends one of Penny's parties and gathers intelligence from Penny's mother Lynda, who explains that she and her husband allow Penny to throw open-invite parties, with the stipulation that they be held at home and under their supervision, so that there are no drugs, alcohol or "shenanigans." Karen uses this information to throw a birthday party of her own, at a childhood friend's beach house, away from parental eyes and thus including alcohol. However, her party is also open to all, meaning that Penny and her friends, as well as Aggie, receive invitations. Penny isn't keen on going, but relents when her friends insist because they'll "look like the bad guys" if they snub Karen.
Aggie, though not normally the party sort, and also harbouring a grudge against Karen, attends in hopes of seeing Marshall again. Karen puts her down in front of others for her perceived political correctness. Marshall apologizes to Aggie on Karen's behalf (but out of her earshot), claiming that Karen "remade her image all by herself" and assumes that anyone can do likewise. Aggie, realizing that Karen lied to Marshall about that, resolves to chat him up some more in hopes of re-establishing a connection. Her hopes are dashed once again when she overhears Marshall giving Karen a swan figurine as a gift, because "swans mate for life."
Meanwhile, Michelle tries to get in a dig about Karen's weight, but it fails. The real challenge to Karen comes when Penny herself shows up. Penny's and Karen's cliques circle the wagons as Penny presents Karen with the Peanuts
book Happiness Is a Warm Puppy
as a gift, in case, Penny explains, Karen forgot to be happy while asking for (i.e., requiring
) Penny's help in remaking herself. She also blasts Karen for attempting to copy Penny's style and status. Eventually Marshall steps in and defends her, claiming that Karen's ambition and drive are precisely what inspire him about her. As girls from both cliques swoon over him, the confrontation ends in a stalemate.
As the party winds down, Karen's acquaintances Samantha Evans (who still believes Penny to be racist) and Meg Macomb (the former queen bee whom Penny took down) talk revenge on Penny, with Karen offering a less-than-sincere objection, thus setting the stage for the later arc "The Popsicle War." Meanwhile, Penny tells her friends she realizes now that Karen hates her not because she's jealous, but because "I did something I don't think she'll ever forgive. I helped her."
This arc introduces several new characters. Penny's new friends Katy-Ann Williams and Brandi Jones make their first appearances, though still unnamed, while Karen's hangers-on Samantha and Meg receive their first lines. The unintelligent Bob and Elmer, two minor characters friends mostly only with each other, also debut here.
- Alpha Bitch: Karen is a straight example, in contrast to Lovable Alpha Bitch Penny.
- Ambition Is Evil / Green-Eyed Monster: Discussed by Penny at the chapter's end. (See page quote.)
- Characterization Marches On: Katy-Ann, in her debut appearance here, is portrayed a couple of times at the party, along with Penny's other friends, as a catty Smug Smiler at Karen. This differs from her depiction in subsequent storylines as a kind, pleasant and mature Saintly Church Christian who tries to stay above teenage politics.
- Chick Magnet: Marshall. Nearly all the girls at the party, including three from Penny's clique, swoon over him at one point or another during the evening. Even the closeted lesbian.
- Double Entendre: Karen, watching a guy flip burgers at Penny's party, says, "You're good at that. Might want you to flip mine. At my party. Flip my...meat."
- Girl Posse: Penny's: Sara, Michelle, Katy-Ann, Brandi and (in this arc only) Helen, a former childhood friend. Karen's: Meg, Samantha and Charlotte.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Subverted. When Aggie learns that Marshall believes Karen's claim to have climbed the social ladder by herself, she's tempted once more to pursue him. She turns to her shoulder angel for guidance, but the angel says only, "I got nothin'. Go get 'im."
- In Vino Veritas: The normally quiet and unassuming Jack turns belligerent and boastful when drunk.
- Just Friends: Penny and Duane. They're now hanging out in this arc, but platonically.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Although, as revealed in The Race Card, Penny is one of the school's top students, she sometimes acts this way in front of her peers, enabling herself to beat the unsuspecting Bob and Elmer at Texas Hold 'Em. Also, this line of Penny's later in the arc:
I think the point is that math is fundamental, 'cause you never know when you'll get stuck on an island
and surrounded by weird numbers that don't mean anything!
- Parlor Games: Penny and Karen play an impromptu, abbreviated version of Truth or Dare during their confrontation.
- Selective Obliviousness: Marshall, with regard to Karen's mean-spirited side. This will be a recurring trope in their relationship.
- The arc title is taken from the Bravo Game Show of the same name.
- Penny, playing poker with Duane, quotes (however unlikely she'd know it) the 1980s Nintendo Entertainment System slogan, "Now you're playing with power!"
- That Came Out Wrong: Marshall manages it in this strip.
- Those Two Guys: Bob and Elmer.
- The Vamp: Karen, revelling in her newfound ability to arouse men, in this strip.
- Wild Teen Party: Jack's drunkenness causes a minor altercation between him and his friends Stan and Rich who try to restrain him. The later arc Behind Closed Doors flashes back to this party and reveals there were also "shenanigans" going on.
- Will They or Won't They?: An in-comic example with Brandi's understated impatience regarding Penny and Duane.
- Your Head Asplode: Happens, figuratively, to this fellow Karen flirts with.
- You Watch Too Much X: When Samantha suggests cutting holes in Penny's blouses to humiliate her, Meg points out that everyone's seen Mean Girls, and that the prank backfired in the movie as well.