Caitlin (Lindsay Felton) is a troubled girl who has bounced from one foster home to another after her father leaving and her mother's death. Her pain is hidden by a tough exterior and troublemaking, which eventually leads to her getting kicked out of Catholic school. Instead of going to a juvenile detention center, she decides to move to Montana with relatives who don't know she exists. As the three seasons progress, she eventually learns to adapt to the place so foreign to her and work out her problems, as well as build connections to the people around her. Of course, they don't trust her at first...
This was Nickelodeon's most famous attempt at a low concept dramatic series, and it was not attempted again until Zoey 101.
Tropes related to the series:
- All Girls Like Ponies: Well, Caitlin would like to think otherwise, but she eventually befriends Bandit, a wild horse.
- Alpha Bitch: Taylor, but her brattiness is suggested to stem from her daddy issues.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Caitlin's karate instructor delivers one in "Side Kicks":Caitlin: "Taylor is just some shallow chick who's looking for an aerobic workout!"
Sensei: "And who's being shallow now?"
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Griffen and Caitlin tended to have these moments when not fighting.
- The B Grade: Averted in "Testing." Griffen is overjoyed to discover that he got an 89 in a standardized test. (As he should be, considering that a grading mistake had him previously believing that he was in the bottom 30 percent.)
- Bait-and-Switch Comparison:
Caitlin: "I'm not getting in the back with that smelly thing (Beat) or the pig."
- In "Boundaries":
Brett: I hear you've added a girl and a wild horse to your family? What's that like?
- Griffen returns the favor in "Beautiful Dreamers" during his comedy routine:
Griffen: Well it's been pretty weird. There's the bucking, the stomping, the whinnying (Beat) and then there's Bandit.
- Catholic Schoolgirls Rule
- Celebrity Lie: Subverted in "All Night Long": It's made to look like Caitlin only pretended to know Danny 'O Donohue (then the lead singer of boy band Mytown) when she fails to get the band to appear as promised. After the dance is over, Mytown does appear and it turns out that she really does know Danny. Their failure to appear on time was due to their tour bus breaking down.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Garth seemingly drops off the face of the earth after the first season despite being an important potential love interest and is never mentioned again. His place is taken by stereotypical bad-boy Will.
- Clear My Name: Subverted in "Making Allowances". Caitlin is (predictably) falsely accused of stealing 200 dollars from a department store and it looks like she's guilty for sure when the money turns up in her bag. The subversion is that she simply runs away, making no effort to clear her name and ends up doing so by accident: the photo she had agreed to take for Griffen showed the real culprit putting the money in her bag.
- Deadpan Snarker: Cailtin and Griffen were both pretty good at this. A hilarious example from "Boundaries":Caitlin: You didn't think I knew the answer, did you?
Griffen: No, I thought you were choking on your words for dramatic effect.
- Delinquents: Several throughout the series, but especially the protagonist.
- Double-Meaning Title:
- The season one episode "Caitlin's Trust" refers to both Caitlin questioning whether or not she can trust the Lowes after learning they were receiving government checks for letting her live with them and the trust fund they opened in her name, which they've been depositing those checks in.
- The title of the series. It refers to her "way" of doing things, as well as her "way" through life...
- Engineered Public Confession: Done to Taylor in "Dr. Truth" after she gives out bad advice as the host of a school radio show. Caitlin comes in and chews Taylor out and Jordan sends it out over the air so that people will hear Caitlin's insight. Taylor is extremely embarrassed that her opinion of popularity (that to be popular, you have to sacrifice your personality) was expressed on the air and wonders how she'll face her friends. Caitlin sarcastically responds "Well maybe they'll understand."
- Fatal Flaw: Caitlin's is that she's stubborn and always has to be right. Pointed out by Dori in "Side Kicks".
- Fire-Forged Friends: Taylor and Caitlin after having to deal with being lost in the woods together. It doesn't last though.
- Fish out of Water: Caitlin
- Whole Episode Flashback: "Truant"
- Flashback with the Other Darrin: In a bizzare instance of this trope, in "Truant", a flashback is shown to Caitlin's expulsion from her Catholic school and the actress who played the school administrator was replaced...by a male actor.
- Future Loser: Caitlin has a vision of herself as this when she considers dropping out of high school in "Truant"
- Garage Band: Griffen and his friends have one.
- Idiot Ball: Caitlin getting scammed at Three Card Monte twice in "Money Walks". As someone who used to run that scam herself, she should have known that she was going to lose money playing it.
- Jerkass: Caitlin's foster parents in the pilot.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Caitlin. Despite what (some of) the people show knows would otherwise like this think, she's more sarcastic and easily annoyed than an actual jerk.
- Jive Turkey: Jordan is the "stereotypical black friend" in every way with this.
- Large Ham: Eric.
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Taylor, on a good day.
- My Friends... and Zoidberg: In "Solar Mates":Caitlin: "Griffen, there are two kinds of music in this world: Music people like to listen to (Beat) and yours."
- "Not So Different" Remark: According to Dori, Caitlin and Taylor have the same Fatal Flaw.
- Old Friend: Charlie Sullivan from "Heartbeat".
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Caitlin had several, including her mother's CD player but most noticeably the locket she always wore.
- Pun-Based Title: In addition to the title of the series, a few of the episodes did this, along with Double-Meaning Title meantioned earlier. For example, "Making Allowances" was about Caitlin earning her first allowance and "Bear With Me" was about an escaped bear being loose in High River.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite Caitlin's anti-authoritarian attitude, a lot of the authority figures she dealt with were pretty reasonable. Notably, the cop from "The Stray" is implied to have cut her a break several times in hopes of getting her to clean up her act, and the seemingly strict schoolmaster went out of her way to track down Caitlin's living relative, giving her an alternative to juvie.
- The Snark Knight: Caitlin had her moments of this. It's one of the reasons Taylor initially hated her, stating that it wasn't normal for Caitlin not to care about having friends.
- Starving Artist: Caitlin's dad, and the trope is deconstructed when his pitiable position and lack of money gets him blamed for a counterfeit scam.
- Tagalong Kid: Julie
- Title Drop: Done in Caitlin's ending monologue of the episode "Heartbeat", though she title drops the episode, not the show:Caitlin: I'm glad I'm not where Charlie is. Because I could be...in a heartbeat."
- Troubled Teen: Caitlin was orphaned as a kid, and spent years in and out of foster homes, living on the streets, and getting arrested. The series kicks off when she's given the choice between living in Montana with distant family or juvie.
- Ungrateful Bitch: Taylor's gratitude to Caitlin for saving her life doesn't seem to extend beyond the end of "Solar Mates", as future episodes have her getting on Caitlin's case when she joins the soccer team and giving her a hard time when she fills in for a friend at the local diner.
- Visit by Divorced Dad: Played straight in an episode with a guest star, when Caitlin's father returns but angers her by forgetting about her hockey game.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: A lot of characters use this for depth / character development, two major characters being Eric and Taylor.
- Will They or Won't They?: Constantly.