Jason Priestley makes his directing debut in a fairly ambitious episode following the world’s oldest high school students on senior ditch day. Several of the “kids” head out for what’s virtually a commercial for Six Flags’ Magic Mountain amusement park; remainder stay home for some shenanigans at the ’50 s-themed Peach Pit cafe, kids’ unofficial headquarters. It’s one of series’ lighter-toned episodes, and Priestley moves Ken Stringer’s script like a fine-tuned machine.
Secondary storyline finds female kids trying to persuade Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris) to ride scary “Viper” roller-coaster; Donna (Tori Spelling) finally does it by comparing sensation of ride to sex … she thinks, never having actually accomplished same, though she’s come close, twice.
Entire sequence looks like an attempt to get rid of the girls and pick up some product-placement money while the real action takes place back home, though there is another funny moment as Donna foils a purse snatcher by kicking him in the groin, thanking Brenda (Shannen Doherty) for forcing her to take a self-defense class.
Meanwhile, at the Peach Pit, Brandon (Priestley) is forced to man the eatery solo, just as it’s invaded by the Phoenix chapter of the Burt Reynolds Fan Club, led by a baffled blonde Ginger (Cathy Podewell), upset at absence of tour promoter.
The rest of the guys help out, with boastful Steve (Ian Ziering) promising that he can produce Reynolds himself, since Steve’s actress mother played a cameo in “Smokey and the Bandit.”
Mixup results in a long chase, with the gang winding up costumed as bacteria for a mouthwash commercial, arrest of Dylan (Luke Perry), Steve and Ginger for theft of Brandon’s car, and ultimate appearance of Reynolds, in person, to sign autographs and plug “Cop and a Half” and “Evening Shade.”
This all takes place in an hour-long episode, together with some interplay between characters — Dylan’s girlfriend, Kelly (Jennie Garth) used to go with always-in-detention Steve — and opportunity for Podewell, late of “Dallas,” to turn in a good attempt at playing Shelley Long.
Episode reflects contemporary teen life at least as well as anything else on TV, and does so with a sure hand. As for Priestley, if he ever graduates, he might manage a couple of years behind the camera before qualifying for Social Security.