Recap / Penny And Aggie The Popsicle War When She Was Good

"This is your last chance."
— Karen's conscience

In this chapter, Karen comes close to abandoning her schemes against Penny before they've even begun. A Flashback to eighteen months previous shows the passive, pre-makeover Karen ignoring a classmate throwing fake dog-doo at her, then returning home to her then diametric opposite, her aggressive businessperson mother. In the present (August before her junior year), she invites Marshall over when she has the house to herself. A second flashback, to the previous summer when Aggie was giving her makeover tips, sees Karen misinterpret Aggie's then-disinterest in boys as an interest in girls. As a result, back in the present, Karen assures Marshall that she's not jealous of her jogging with him. (She also assumes Lisa, with whom Aggie's spending the summer on a house-building mission, is her girlfriend.)

As they engage in petting, Marshall tells Karen he's finally ready to make love to her. When she reminds him of his earlier claim that they're too young, he says he doesn't feel like a kid when he's with her, because she's helped him grow as a person and open up to people like Aggie and Nick. At this, Karen has an attack of conscience and tearfully tells Marshall she doesn't deserve him, because she's a bully. However, when in doing so she alludes to Penny, the well-meaning but poor-listener Marshall claims that it's Penny who's the bully, recalling how, at Karen's last birthday party, she'd reminded Karen of how Karen had needed her help. He then assures her that any bullying tendencies of her own she might have will disappear once she gets "free" of her.

Marshall adds that if throwing "better parties" than Penny will help with that, he'll support her. He is, of course, unaware that Karen and her clique have other plans for Penny and her friends. Karen, however, feeling absolved, assures herself that he needn't know about such plans right now, that it can wait until after graduation. As she thinks this, there appears a metaphorical image of her conscience flying away.


  • Call-Back: To this strip from The Mockingbird. Also to this strip from Celebrity Poker Showdown.
  • Flashback: To the pre-makeover Karen in her freshman year, and to Aggie mentoring Karen the following summer.
  • Freudian Excuse: The chapter shows numerous contributing factors to Karen's bitter vengefulness unleashed following her makeover: her being the victim of bullying, her "cutthroat businesswoman" mother, and her high-achieving siblings (seen in photographs). However, her attack of conscience shows that she's aware none of this means she must act the way she does. Even so, she chooses to dismiss that realization and forge ahead with her schemes.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Karen's shoulder angels make yet another metaphorical appearance, this time with her good angel and Marshall's having tied up her bad angels so that she can confess to her bullying and put a stop to it.
  • Last-Second Chance: Karen's good angel invokes this trope (see page quote).
  • Mistaken for Gay: Karen, with regard to Aggie and Lisa.
  • Redemption Rejection: Karen, aided by Marshall unknowingly giving her an out, chooses to ignore her conscience's warning, sending it flying away.
  • Selective Obliviousness: Marshall, once again, with regard to his girlfriend. Here Karen confesses that she's a bully and he refuses to believe it.
  • Shout-Out: The chapter title is an allusion to the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem "There Was a Little Girl":
    There was a little girl,
    Who had a little curl,
    Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good,
    She was very good indeed,note 
    But when she was bad she was horrid.
  • Their First Time: With Marshall finally ready, he and Karen come very close to this, only to have to dress quickly when her father unexpectedly comes home. (When they finally do make love, it's alluded to in conversation in a subsequent chapter.)