Recap / Penny And Aggie The Popsicle War D Day
"There has to be a better way to socialize than the way that produces...this. And we need moral people to help us find it."
Penny, having patched things up with Aggie, drives her home, where they begin gathering friends in an alliance against Karen's clique. Meanwhile, at a popsicle party, Helen nervously confesses to Karen that she told Aggie about her mole status. Karen assures her it doesn't matter because, she thinks, Aggie's no longer a concern, and says, "We don't need help any more." Helen, having thus been told the last thing she wanted to hear, wanders drunkenly and despondently through the house. She overhears Bob and Elmer describing to Jack their earlier oral/anal sexual encounter with her in vulgar, unflattering terms, referring to her as a "dumpster." Jack, also drunk, at first reacts with amusement, but then he imagines Katy-Ann disapproving and goes to find Helen. Meanwhile, Cyndi tells Karen she discovered Duane in the act of Islamic prayer.
Helen, trailed by Jack, wanders into the garage, where Brandi and Stan are making love in a car, while admitting their attraction to each other may be more than sexual. They discover Helen bleeding from having crushed her glasses in her hand, and weeping, saying "Why don't I ever...want...what I want?" Stan approaches Cyndi and Karen to see whether they or someone else can take her home. Cyndi, dismissing Helen as a nuisance, suggests Tharqa, but Karen reminds her of her parties' "no fat chicks" rule and suggests Helen just be left to sleep it off. Stan, having realized his allies' true colours, walks off angrily. Brandi, with Stan and Jack, sees Helen home and to bed. Reminded of Michelle's despondent state, Stan is overcome once more with remorse and struggles to explain this to a concerned Brandi.
At the same time, Aggie and Lisa talk a reluctant Katy-Ann, fearful of being caught in another confusing moral dilemma, into watching Charlotte's slanderous video. Aggie, over her protests, says they need someone with high ethical standards to help them create a new social framework that doesn't rely on exclusive, warring cliques.
Penny and Sara go to see Michelle, who to their shock has become almost skeletally thin. Although, as seen earlier in the chapter, Michelle's been able to conceal her eating disorder from her parents, Penny isn't so easily fooled and confronts her. Michelle goes on the defensive, claiming Penny never really cared about her. Penny angrily insists the opposite and grabs her to keep her from running off, pointing out how dangerously thin she is and that her life is in danger. As Michelle's resistance crumbles and her father, overhearing the commotion, rushes outside to them, Penny too breaks down crying and has Michelle "swear to Jesus" that she'll get help. Michelle does so and embraces her, Sara and her father. At this point Stan, who's just arrived with Brandi and Jack, fist-bumps Penny and gives her a grateful smile.
- Adults Are Useless: Played with, in the case of Michelle's parents. On the one hand, they express their concern over her having stopped socializing. On the other, they appear not to notice she's been losing weight at an unhealthy pace until Penny's intervention alerts them. In their defence, one strip early in the chapter shows Michelle avoiding having to join them for dinner by cooking for them while claiming to have eaten already, wearing long oven mitts to conceal her thin hands, and distracting them by feigning interest in her father's business.
- Anger Born of Worry: Penny, when she sees how bad Michelle's eating disorder has gotten.
- Camp Gay: Fred.
- Chekhov's Gun: At the end of Interventions, Sara is seen having just phoned an unknown person. The beginning of the present arc reveals that she was calling Penny to give her a heads-up about Aggie's plan to turn Marshall against Karen, and to let Penny know where they'd be jogging. This answers the question of how Penny both knew to track Aggie down, at the climax of the previous arc, and figured out what had crushed her spirit.
- Enemy Mine: Daphne's apparent attitude towards Penny. In contrast to Aggie, who as of the beginning of this chapter interacts with Penny in a genuinely friendly way, even joking with her, Daphne is civil but more guarded.
- Extreme Doormat: Once again, subverted with Helen. She falls apart after discovering she's no longer needed as a mole, nor as Bob's and Elmer's sexual partner.
- Filler Strip: A teaser of storylines for the year 2009. This was the first of what became an annual tradition for Penny and Aggie and, subsequently, for Campbell's other webcomics Fans! and Guilded Age.
- Friends with Benefits: Stan and Brandi again, with a hint that their mutual attraction is becoming more than physical. In contrast, as of this arc Stan is no longer FWB with Cyndi.
- Heel–Face Turn: Stan abandons his vendetta against Penny when he realizes how much worse her enemies are, and then sees Penny successfully coaxing Michelle into getting help.
- How Dare You Die on Me!: Penny's desperate, angry—and successful—attempt to make Michelle see what her self-starvation is doing to her and those who love her.
If I let you go now, you're gonna beam yourself right back to Planet Rationalization, and meanwhile you're dying, Shelly!
- Imagine Spot: Katy-Ann pictures herself as Eve, with Aggie as the serpent, offering the temptation of a "pulpit" as Forbidden Fruit.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Helen.
- Jerkass: Bob and Elmer.
- Meet the New Boss: Discussed when Aggie and Lisa try to convince Katy Ann to join them in confronting Karen's bullying clique and building a new social structure:
Aggie: This group we're gathering, it's not going to last if the only goal is to replace Czarina Karen with Dictator Penny.
Lisa: It can't be "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss." Wait...technically Penny would be the "old boss"...Pete Townshend, your lyrics are not as relevant to my life as advertized!"
- No More for Me: Nick's reaction to his coffee cup when he overhears Penny and Aggie entering the house, as friends.
- The Power of Friendship
- Put on a Bus: This chapter is Helen's final substantial appearance in regular P&A continuity until the much later, brief arc Bussed Out, in which she literally boards a bus to Boston and to Something*Positive.
- Shipper on Deck: Discussed by Penny and Aggie with regard to Sara, who, as Penny memorably puts it, "has been trying to breed you and me like lesbian mares for most of the year."
- Sign of the Apocalypse: When Lisa sees that Penny and Aggie have buried the hatchet, she says, "But it can't be the Apocalypse today! The Mayan calendar says..."
- Slut-Shaming: Bob and Elmer do this to Helen, despite having been the ones who took her virginity, and while she was intoxicated, at that.
- Weight Woe: Michelle's eating disorder, Played for Drama.