Recap / Penny And Aggie The New Reality Part One

"I guess I do have a lot to learn, still."
— Sara

In this arc, which follows immediately from the previous one, Sara's life changes as she goes to Hollywood for a reality show audition. Her parents, having received a phone call from the show's producer, Meighan, gladly allow her to go; her mother, however, in light of the argument minutes earlier, warns that their position on respecting their authority still stands. Penny, still at Aggie's house, throws a jealous tantrum upon hearing the news. Then, having gotten it out of her system, she and Aggie, along with Katy-Ann, Brandi and Michelle, join the star-struck Sara at a restaurant. Her enthusiasm soon changes to uncertainty, as of her friends, only Penny urges her without reservation to go. Katy-Ann worries about the impact of reality TV on one's morals, Michelle on one's body image. Aggie and Brandi are concerned that Sara becoming famous could result in more people seeing Charlotte's libellous video. Aggie also reminds Sara, to her discomfort, that Daphne should be part of the decision process.

Later, at Daphne's home, Daphne urges Sara to do the show, saying it's clearly what Sara wants to do. She does, however, admit to worry over whether Sara will still want to be with her when she gets back. Sara assures Daphne that she loves her and, without making lifelong promises, that she won't leave her over this show.

Having received advice from her friends on how to outsmart manipulative film editors, Sara leaves for Los Angeles and is soon hired for a show, Hot Lights, chronicling five teenagers rehearsing Jean-Paul Sartre's existentialist play No Exit, in which she plays the manipulative lesbian Inez. Her co-stars are J'Cru, a perpetually cheerful, terrible amateur chef (as Joseph); the gentle, dimwitted Lucy (as Estelle); Martin, a camera-hogging evangelical (as the valet); and Hilary, the stressed-out, abusive director.

Skypeing with Daphne, Sara reveals that the show's interview segments, despite her role in the play as a Lady Macbeth type, seem to be setting her up as the "good" and "sensible" one; she also grouses about Lucy's slowness. However, she soon comes to feel compassion for Lucy when Hilary's bullying reduces her to tears and causes her to think she's holding everyone else back. Sara intervenes, offering to coach Lucy on her delivery. A further surprise is in store for Sara when she discovers that one of the catering staff on the set is Rich.


  • All There in the Manual
    • The name of Sara's show doesn't appear in the arc itself. Campbell gave the title Hot Lights in the comic's forum in response to a reader's question, but later included it in backstage signage in the "Leted Scenes" appendix to Part Two.
    • Commenting on the united front Sara's parents present in the first strip (with Theo, who was born in America, even mimicking his South Korean wife's formal English), Campbell has said in the forum that Theo, unlike Iseul, doesn't himself have a problem with Sara being gay or in a same-sex relationship, but defers to Iseul's stance.
  • Aside Comment: Martin, aware that at least one camera is on him at all times, exploits this by making a Serious Business comment to the camera about Hilary's ranting, and seguing into a plea for donations to missionary relief work in Haiti.
  • The Bus Came Back: Rich, who will have a significant function in Part Two, here makes his first, if silent, appearance in a year of in-universe time, or two years of real-world time.
  • Ceiling Cling: A terrified Aggie figuratively does this in reaction to Penny's jealous tantrum.
  • Cliffhanger
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Sara.
  • The Ditz: Lucy. Played for laughs and drama.
  • The Fundamentalist: Martin, albeit a relatively gentle version of this.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Played for Laughs with Penny's over-the-top tantrum, expressing her frustration over Sara's Macbeth performance, and not hers, catching Meighan's eye.
  • Imagine Spot: When her parents tell her about the invitation, Sara imagines herself writing her autobiography, playing Willow to Daphne's Buffy, receiving a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and marrying Daphne amid a shower of cash.
  • It's All About Me: Brandi praises Stan for maintaining Sara's publicity website. However, Stan admits he's doing it because she's allowed him to sell photos of her (and presumably keep at least a percentage of the profits). Brandi's Visible Silence reaction suggests she's once again having doubts about him.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: Sara, in response to Lucy's agreeing with Hilary that she's holding everyone back, reassures her with "No. Hilary's kind of a bi—", then, noticing the camera's on her, substitutes the words "bit driven" for "bitch."
  • Manipulative Editing: Discussed. Sara's Genre Savvy friends teach her how to beat this standard Reality TV trick by making subtle daily changes to her appearance.
  • Perpetual Smiler: J'Cru.
    Hilary (to him): The story is about your soul being condemned to Hell forever. Could you please play it a bit less like Mister Rogers on Xanax?
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: Although Campbell has never said so outright, both portions of this arc appear to have been in part a trial run for a Spin-Off set in Hollywood and focusing on Sara. In late 2010, he held an eBay auction for the privilege of having a character named after the highest bidder, in a new webcomic to be launched the following year. The listing stated that names which appeared in the Penny and Aggie cast page would be ineligible, as would the names "Lucy, Hilary or Martin." (In the end, Campbell followed P&A with an entirely different spin-off, QUILTBAG, which starred Sara and Lisa as college roommates.)
  • Prima Donna Director: Hilary, given her bullying, Jerkass personality, shows elements of this.
  • Reality Show
  • Shout-Out: Lucy's physical appearance, when in costume with her hair up, appears to be modelled on that of Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy.
  • So Proud of You: Theo and Iseul tell Sara this as they see her off at the airport.
  • Team Chef: J'Cru. Unfortunately, he's also a Lethal Chef.
  • Their First Time: Sara and Daphne. Implied when Sara says, "We're just going to have to make sure we stay fixed in each other's memories. You up for that?", and then opens Daphne's mouth in close-up.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: This arc, by giving little explanation of the play beyond the characters' names and a couple of hints as to their personalities and motivations, assumes that readers are familiar with No Exit, or else willing to bone up on it. This assumption is even more pronounced in Part Two, leading to confusion for many readers and Campbell's decision to clarify some points of the play (among other matters) in an appendix of "Leted Scenes."
  • Wingding Eyes: Sara has stars in hers when her parents give her the news.
  • Younger Than They Look: Due to a misunderstanding, partially rooted in Campbell's instructions to pattern her appearance after that of director Kathryn Bigelow, Waltrip drew Hilary as a woman of about thirty, confusing some readers. She is, in fact, a teenager like her co-stars.