It’s been a little while since we did a retro recap. But with the 50th anniversary coming up and Vanessa Marcil on her way back for another (hopefully much better) visit, now seems like the perfect time to revisit one of the most iconic arcs from the 90s.
(Also, couldn’t we all use a little reminder of why hearing Brenda’s name used to fill us with love and not dread? Yes, yes we could.)
So, hop in your time machines, kids! Because we’re going back. Waaaaaaay back to a world of pegged jeans, enormous soap opera budgets, and the pop concert/mob mixer of the century — where secrets will be revealed, revenge will be had, hair will be flipped, and hot make out sessions will ensue:
I’LL JUST BE IN MY BUNK.
YOU KNOW, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.
Ah, yeah. Puerto Rico, baby. To set the scene, the year is 1994:
- Lois, Brenda, and their silent partner, Sonny, are having a big concert for Miguel’s triumphant return to his native Puerto Rico.
- Miguel — ex-Menudo heartthrob, hospital orderly, L&B breakout star, and hair-flipper extraordinaire — has recently been reunited with Lily, his childhood sweetheart and secret baby-momma, after previously being torn apart by her evil mobster father.
- Lois is on the rocks with Ned after discovering his double life (and second wife).
- Sonny and Brenda have been dating for a little while and are starting to get pretty serious, but he’s still trying to hide the more illegal sides of his business from her. Because Sonny, even in the 90s, made terrible decisions. He’s also looking to get out from under the thumb of Big Bad Mob Boss and long-time Spencer enemy, Frank Smith.
Got it? All right, let’s go — we open on a long aerial tracking shot of the resort complex in Puerto Rico. It’s very pretty! And not CGI! Or a sound stage!
Sonny, Brenda, and Lois are strolling through an open air lobby. Brenda is wearing a white pant suit over a black tube top. It should be hideous, but just looks adorable. Damn her.
Brenda and Sonny are being all mushy about how happy they are while Lois stands off to the side feeling sad that her husband is a bigamist. Eventually, S&B notice this and come over to cheer her up, like the good friends they are:
SONNY: Yo! Lois!
SONNY: Back in Bensonhurst on the stoop, did you ever picture anything like this?
LOIS: What? Waiting in a four star hotel with my partners, a band, dancers, a choreographer, a costume designer, zillions of outfits, and a singer who’s a rock star who’s somewhat large on the island of Puerto Rico? No, Corinthos — I, um [in unison with Brenda] nah!
I have to say, it is really strange but refreshing to see Sonny so young and unaccustomed to the really good life. But, damn. He needs to stop with the pleated pants.
And right on cue, here come Lily and Miguel! Ugh. Two of the least interesting characters of the 90s. At least Lily ended up providing the basis for drama later on, but let’s be honest: Miguel was basically useless. I mean, I’m sure Ricky Martin is a lovely gentleman with hips that don’t lie, but he was a terrible actor and his stories were all intensely boring.
Anyway, Brenda and Lily hug and seem sincerely friendly. It’s weird. You may recall that Lily’s father had forced her to give up her and Miguel’s secret love child years before and now they were on a mission to find him. (You may also recall that that child was Juan Santiago, who grew up as boring and useless as his bio-dad — nature: 1, nurture: 0.) Brenda asks about the mission status, but Lily and Miguel don’t want to talk about it. The group makes plans to meet up later.
Later! Miguel is hanging out by the pool, practicing (I presume) his hair flips. He is also wearing some super awesome purple swim trunks. Stylish! Lois wanders over in a lovely sarong and an extremely unflatteringly high-cut bathing suit.
He reveals that he and Lily did find their son, but he has a good home with his adopted family (including cousin Sabrina!) so they’re not going to make contact with him again. Which might be sad if I cared at all, but I don’t, so… moving on!
Lois steers the conversation toward the pesky problem of how to forgive your significant other when they lie to you — say about a child you didn’t know you had. Or maybe, I don’t know… a secret other wife? YOU KNOW, JUST AS A HYPOTHETICAL.
Miguel dispenses some new age wisdom about forgiveness, in his typical Blandy McBoring way. Meanwhile, Sonny — in shorts! — discusses the same with Lily, who thanks him for his part in reuniting her and Miguel.
Sonny and Lily’s dynamic is interesting here. They’re platonic but clearly very comfortable together. You can already tell there is genuine like and respect there on both sides. Foreshadowing!
Anyway, they chat a bit about the secret baby situation before heading off to find the others for some serious pool PDA while 90s Madonna plays in the background and lonely Lois sits on the sidelines and broods. Poor Lois. I’d be drinking a lot more if I were her.
(HAHA… who am I kidding? I’d be drinking no matter what. And probably videotaping Sonny and Brenda making out to watch later.)
DON’T JUDGE, YOU KNOW THIS IS HOT.
But eventually Brenda manages to detach herself from Sonny’s lips and comes over to give her bestie a pep talk. Lois confesses that she misses her “Eddie” but hates “Ashton”:
BRENDA: Lo? I don’t know if I should say this. Ashton is Eddie. And Eddie is Ashton. And they both love you and they both want you. Look at me! [gently] Enough already.
LOIS: If you tell him about this conversation I’ll die.
BRENDA: I won’t tell him.
BRENDA: Hey, we’re sisters, right?
Aw, Lois. Aw, Bren.
Later that night, Brenda’s still distracted with worrying about Lois. She wants to dial down the PDA in front of her. Sonny would rather get lucky than think about Lois’ romantic drama, which leads us to… hot tub make outs! Yes, it’s the the infamous Crazy Love montage:
But after they move the party back inside, the post-coital bliss is interrupted by a phone call from Frank Smith. Brenda is clearly annoyed that Sonny has to take the call, and hurries to the door to try and eavesdrop after he leaves the room. Oh, Bren. So young and naive.
Frank tells Sonny that he’s coming to Puerto Rico to meet with him and some other associates. He also levels some backhanded accusations that Sonny’s been spreading his loyalties too thin, which prompts Sonny to make bid for independence. Frank says they’ll meet in person to discuss it. Well, I’m sure that will go over well.
Sonny’s troubled when he comes back to bed, and Brenda can sense it. He, of course, ignores her attempts to find out what’s going on. She pretends to sleep while he sits and broods.
Cut to the Spencer house! Where Laura and Luke are interrupted in bed by a call from Sonny. Luke exposits that he’s been framed for the murder of some mob flunky I don’t even remember. He and Laura think Frank was that one who set Luke up.
Sonny tells him all about the call with Frank he just had. Luke decides to come down as well, although for some reason, he doesn’t want Laura to know about his plans. Not cool, Spencer. I think this entire story proves that nothing good comes of hiding mob dealings from your significant other!
Cut to Luke at the resort the next day, making his entrance wearing what appears to be skinny jeans, his signature afro, and a large, mysterious black bag he refuses to give to the porter. Probably just his expensive golf club collection, I’m sure.
For some reason, instead of a front desk, this fancy hotel has a dude with a clip board wandering around asking people if they have reservations. Luke’s in luck, because it seems Sonny used his influence to get Luke a last minute room, even though the hotel is booked solid for the concert. It pays to know people! Luke asks to use the “house phone” so he can call Sonny.
(History lessen for all you kids out there too young to remember the early nineties — first of all, I hate you. You make me feel old. Second, people back then didn’t carry around cell phones, or know what the “internet” was unless they were fancy FBI agents like Mulder and Scully, and even then, the phones were the size of a grenade launcher and did not let you play Angry Birds.)
IT WAS A DARK TIME.
FOR PHONES AND FOR FASHION.
Anyway, Sonny soon comes down, sporting a hilariously tight white shirt and some more pleated khakis. (WHYYYYYY?) He and Luke do the whole whistling nonchalantly, standing-really-close-but pretending-not-to-know-each-other thing as they make plans.
WORST. SPIES. EVER.
Luke wants Sonny to let him take the meeting with Frank in his place. Basically, so he can kill him. Sonny thinks that plan is clearly stupid. He has idea for how to break free of Frank. Well, Luke thinks that plan is clearly stupid. Each is kind of endearingly concerned for the other. Oh, boys. I loved their friendship.
Elsewhere, Lucy arrives, wearing one of her signature enormous brimmed hats. HI, LUCY! I LOVE YOU!
Clipboard Dude must have some sort of main character radar, because he makes a beeline right over. Lucy doesn’t have a reservation, but she manages to throw Sonny and Miguel’s names around and trick herself into a room anyway. I feel kind of bad for whoever just got bumped out of their room because Lucy couldn’t be bothered to make a reservation ahead of time. Poor form, Coe!
Later that night, Luke comes upon Lucy talking to some parrots and feeling sorry for herself for being all alone. They head out for a drink, each attempting to subtly interrogate the other about why they’re there.
LUKE: WEARING THE MOST 90s SHIRT POSSIBLE.
This leads to some girl talk about Lucy’s burgeoning relationship with Kevin, who is apparently in some kind of trouble he won’t tell her about. I don’t remember what that’s all about — probably Ryan? Or their crazy mother? — but Lucy’s genuinely upset. Even though he clearly has other things on his mind, Luke plays the part of good listener. I always did love their friendship. I hope we get to see them interact a bit on the current show soon.
Meanwhile, also on the island, it’s Sean Donely! Hi, Sean! He’s preparing to tail Luke to find Frank Smith. Wow, the PCPD sure is diligent.
JURISDICTION? WE DON’T
NEED NO STINKING JURISDICTION.
The next morning, Sonny reluctantly gives Luke the location for the meet up. Lucy — now wearing heels and shorts (!) with suspenders (!!) over a sports bra/tube top thing (!!!) — spots them and follows Luke as he nonchalantly whistles his way through the lobby.
At first when I was watching this, I assumed she was trying to figure out what Luke was up to for a legitimate, plot-related reason. But then I realized she’s just being an enormous busybody. Okay. Fair enough.
When he immediately catches her, they have a “was not!” “was too!” fight about whether or not she was following him. Luke eventually manages to ditch her by yelling and pointing for her to stay. Then he takes off in a taxi, completely failing to notice Sean discreetly following behind. Good job, Spencer. (Worst spy ever.)
Meanwhile, Sonny meets up with the rest of the L&B gang. He’s noticeably tense, grilling Lois about the security for the concert, and rude to Brenda when she asks what’s wrong. Way to allay your nosy girlfriend’s suspicions!
At the cemetery where the meet with Frank Smith is set to take place: Luke and Sean both lurk, along with a bunch of gun-wielding goons. You know, as you do.
Back at the hotel, Brenda confronts Sonny about his jackass behavior, throwing in some jealous digs about his friendliness with Lily. But really, it’s Sonny’s business that she’s jealous of. Sonny once again lies through his teeth and denies anything is wrong, to Brenda’s fury. Sonny spots Lucy coming back from a shopping trip and attempts to use her as a distraction from the argument, and you know he must be desperate to get out of the conversation if he’s willingly talking to Lucy instead. (Spoiler: it doesn’t work.)
Over at the cemetery, Frank Smith shows up. Sean promptly manages to trip over an urn and get himself shot for his trouble. Nice to see the competence of the PCPD at familiar levels. But before Frank can finish Sean off, Luke manages to kill him.
Meanwhile, Sonny and Brenda have sort of made up, although he still refuses to be anything but vague about his business troubles. Things are just about to get sexy when Luke shows up, so Sonny promptly banishes her to the other room, where she eavesdrops as Luke reports on killing Frank and rescuing Sean. Sonny plans to go make his power play with Rivera (Lily’s evil dad and coincidentally another of Frank’s associates). He asks Luke to make sure Brenda and the others get away safely if anything goes wrong. Well, good that he’s not warning them at all that this might be a danger! Solid decision making as usual, Sonny!
Long shot of Sonny walking across a beautiful ocean-side lawn while slightly ominous music plays. Seriously, we literally watch Maurice Bernard walk for over half a minute, which doesn’t sound like that long but when you’re just watching someone else walk, it kind of is.
WE GET IT, SHOW! YOU’RE REALLY IN PUERTO RICO!
Rivera is waiting in a villa on the other side of the lawn. He seems friendly enough until Sonny spills the beans that Frank is dead.
While they talk, Brenda — having followed Sonny across the lawn without him noticing (WORST SPY EVER) — sneaks up to the window outside, wearing a little white dress that I think may actually be a shirt, it’s so short. Also, I love her hair. Vanessa Marcil may be the only person who can look back at all her hair choices in the 90s without any shame. (Damn her. Again.)
Bren goes around the corner of the stairs and promptly gets grabbed by a goon. Because she is also kind of terrible at stealth.
Inside, Sonny’s making a power play, telling Rivera flat out that “as of this morning, I am Frank’s organization.” He wants Rivera’s support since they “speak the same language” and respect each other. I have to admit, he comes across as very smooth, shrewd and confident throughout this whole scene, manipulating Rivera with both veiled threats and honeyed promises. And not a stammer or awkward pause in sight! I liked Sonny so much better when he was a savvy criminal rather than a childish bully.
Sonny’s just reached the end of his pitch — and it’s a very good one, too — when Rivera’s goons burst in with a shrieking Brenda in tow. Oops! As soon as she sees Sonny, she starts lying that she was out for a walk and demanding to know who these people are. Sonny gamely tries to play it casual, introducing her as his business partner at L&B who “knows nothing” (which hilariously outrages Brenda even more). But Rivera’s not buying it.
The goons drag her out of the room while Sonny literally facepalms. I hear you, Sonny.
He asks Rivera if this is any way for their partnership to begin. Rivera thinks Brenda should remain there under his “protection” while Sonny reconsiders his position. Double oops! Sonny tries to play it cool, but his face looks a little frozen in panic.
Cut to another scenic walk across the lawn. Sonny stops, looking back at Rivera’s compound as we see Brenda screaming and being dragged across a window. He facepalms again and then takes off running. Run, Sonny, run!
Back at the hotel, we have another long sequence of Sonny wandering through the lobby, searching for Luke. Yes, we’re in a real hotel, writers! Get on with it, already.
Sonny finds Luke outside bird watching or something, and explains the situation. Typically, Luke’s first reaction is to get angry with Brenda instead of, you know, her boyfriend who was lying to her about conducting a back room mob coup during what she thought was a legitimate business trip. Whatever, Luke.
To his credit, though, he doesn’t hesitate to volunteer his services in helping rescue her. They make a plan, and Luke heads down to procure a get away vehicle. Cut to Sonny… walking back across the lawn. Boy, Maurice Bernard really must have been sick of walking back and forth by the time they got through with this shoot.
Brenda is tearfully sitting tied to a chair with two of Rivera’s henchmen standing guard. Sonny hilariously lurks behind a potted plant with his gun drawn and manages to cold cock both of them. Guess these guys are graduates of the the Max and Milo school of mob flunky incompetence.
Sonny unties Brenda while she frantically apologizes. Sonny’s more concerned with getting out of there and hotly manhandles her around the body of one of the guards while she shrieks and is generally (again) the opposite of stealth. Oh, Bren. They run across the lawn, holding hands as goons chase them.
Meanwhile, far down below at the docks, Luke readies his gun and a speedboat.
Sonny and Brenda race through the hotel lobby and into a glass elevator. Brenda’s still shrieking and freaking out while Sonny’s still manhandling her to try and shield her from any shots. The goons climb over the railing to follow then. (Maybe these are the competent ones?)
They all run back outside, down more stairs, past a startled, bikini-clad Lucy… and into another glass elevator. Damn. How big is this resort, anyway?
Lucy watches with binoculars as the chase continues down more corridors and onto a tram — but they’re too late to get inside…
… so Sonny pulls Brenda up onto the railing and up to the next floor (in a pretty bad ass move, if I do say so myself) and just kind throws her on top of the moving tram, before jumping on himself. STUNTS!
The goons catch the next tram and then an exciting TRAM RACE follows, because sure, why not? When they reach the bottom, they take of running again, with the goons following shortly behind.
As they reach the docks, the goons shooting at them, Lucy watches anxiously from high above. Luke’s waiting in the speedboat, screaming for them to hurry up. They take off with Sonny driving and Luke exchanging fire, but he falls overboard after getting winged by a shot.
Sonny brings the boat around to retrieve him but Luke screams at them to keep going. So… they do. I don’t know, kind of a dick move, Sonny.
Cut to the abandoned boat moving off-screen as Sonny and Brenda stumble onto the beach in the foreground, apparently having jumped off and swum to shore. Sonny’s basically half-carrying Brenda by this point. They collapse on the shore, hugging and then getting their From Here to Eternity on — hotly — for several minutes.
Interspersed with making out, we learn that: 1) Sonny’s really glad Brenda’s alive, 2) doesn’t know what happened to Luke, and 3) is probably unconcerned about sand rubbing in unfortunate places. Fade out.
Much later, S&B are now huddling together a little further up the beach. Brenda demands some answers about what’s going on and Sonny’s remarkably forthcoming about the danger they’re now in, sans Frank’s protection.
And then — AND THEN! — this happens:
SONNY: What the hell were you doing there, Brenda?
BRENDA: I was following you! I just wanted to know where you were going and you wouldn’t tell me. I’m sorry.
SONNY: [hugging her] It can’t be helped anyway, sweetheart.
What? A woman apologizing and Sonny not even threatening to kill her or screaming that she’s a faithless whore?
Cut to Lois, Miguel, and Lily backstage. I don’t even know how to describe Miguel’s outfit here, or the fact that they have a conversation about Lily bringing him a handkerchief because he apparently has a huge sweat problem on stage. (Ewwwww.)
Anyway, Lois chats with Miguel and Lilly about wanting to forgive Ned and how good it felt when Miguel finally forgave Lily and Zzzzzz… sorry. Even 18 years later, Miguel and Lily are still terminally snooze-worthy.
That night, S&B sneak their way back into the resort, only to run straight into Lucy, who’s desperate to know what’s been going on. She also hasn’t seen Luke since he went under. Brenda’s worried, but Sonny assures her Luke can take care of himself. Lucy wants to help but he warns her to keep her distance, for all of their safety.
Backstage, they find a pissed off Lois, whose mood only gets worse when Sonny finally lays out the entire situation and the fact that they’re basically all in terrible danger as soon as the concert’s over. He tells her there will be a limo waiting to take them all to the airport immediately after the show. But he’s going to stay behind and settle things with Rivera once and for all. Brenda, predictably, freaks out:
SONNY: I’m gonna let them take me to Rivera.
BRENDA: Sonny… they’ll kill you.
SONNY: Honey, sweetheart, this an area of operations that I really understand.
BRENDA: No, don’t do this — don’t try to pretend like this is a meeting!
SONNY: That’s exactly what it is!
BRENDA: No, it’s not, these men are killers, remember? Let’s just get out while you can, okay?
SONNY: Honey, listen, if I don’t settle it now, they’re going to come after me and kill me anyway. Okay? I gotta walk in there–
SONNY: –act like I’m not afraid, because I won’t be afraid, negotiate a little…
BRENDA: No, you have to find a different way to do this! This is the second time today I feel like I’m going to lose you
SONNY: That’s not going to happen, babe.
Damn, why do I find 90s Sonny so attractive still? He’s kind of a condescending ass? But so confident!
Cut to a car full of sketchy looking dudes easily sneaking their way past the guards, followed shortly by Rivera himself. Good job on that extra security, Lois!
Miguel’s concert begins. There is an abundance of shirtless silly dancing and hair blowing in the wind. Sonny, Brenda, Lois and Lily watch from the sidelines. Lily, who is the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on, watches happily. Everyone else looks like they want to vomit.
Suddenly, Ned shows up, all dimples and twinkly eyes. HI, NED!
He pulls Lois away from the others so they can talk, in full flatter and grovel mode — and she’s eating it up despite herself. Heh. Ned says he envies Miguel because right now he has it all and Ned could have had that too if he hadn’t been so stupid. Lois agrees. So do I. The concert’s almost over and she has to leave, but she comes back to give him a hug. Aw.
After Miguel finishes his last song, he’s rushed out to the limo with Sonny, Brenda and Lily. But their security is quickly overrun with Rivera’s goons, who force the foursome into the limo. When Lois and Ned get out there a minute later, the limo is already gone and no one can tell her where it went. Again, real quality security there, Lois. I hope you paid them extra!
In the car, Brenda is quietly freaking, Sonny is stoic, and Miguel is understandably pissy. Sonny asks everyone to stay cool. So of course Brenda immediately starts screaming at the driver. You really should have seen that one coming, Sonny.
They’re taken to Rivera. Sonny tries to play it cool despite Miguel’s attempts to butt in and Brenda’s continued freak out. And there’s a particularly awesome moment when he and Rivera get into a big, macho, fake-laugh off which goes on just a little too long:
YOU STOP LAUGHING FIRST! NO, YOU! NO, YOU!
Back at the concert, Ned wants to get out of there before anyone tries to come back for Lois. She admits that she’s scared, and really glad he’s still there. Aw!
Brenda, Miguel, and Lily are sent to another room while the mobsters have a chat. Miguel continues to be pissy while Brenda defends Sonny to him. Sorry, Brenda. As much as it pains me, I might be on Team Miguel for this one.
Next door, Sonny bluffs and postures like a mofo, and it seems like he might have managed to turn the situation around. Rivera says he still has business with his daughter and Miguel, though. Except when they bring the others back out, Lily has finally had enough. She lays down the law with her father and threatens to go to the police with everything she knows about his organization.
Rivera is shocked — shocked! — that his relationship with his daughter might have been negatively affected by all this kidnapping and forced adoption and threatening her boyfriend’s life. Long story short, Sonny makes a creepy, paternalistic bargain with her dad to watch over Lily for him, in the hopes that she’ll someday leave Miguel. And then Rivera just… lets them all go.
Well, that was easy!
Back at the hotel: Lois and Ned are looking mighty cozy when the group arrives and interrupts. There is much enthusiastic hugging.
Sean appears soon after and the whole crew makes arrangements to fly home on the ELQ private jet. Because — OH YEAH — Sean and Sonny still need to go tell Laura in person that Luke is missing and presumed dead. I forgot about that whole sub-plot.
On the plane, Sonny gives an abbreviated but mostly truthful account of events. Sean, because he’s not a complete idiot, isn’t fully satisfied. But seems to be letting it slide for now.
Sonny and Brenda cuddle; she’s still troubled, and he’s tries to reassure and distract her. Oh, Sonny. You’ve learned nothing. BE HONEST WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND! Seriously, you not trusting her is driving her insane. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but she’s kind of impulsive and reactionary? Trust me, it is really not going to end well for the two of you, this lying all the time. Really. (He never listens to me.)
And… thus concludes the Puerto Rico saga. Up next on retro recaps: who knows! But there’s a 50 hour marathon at the end of the month with my name on it.