Logically, the progression of titles in this mini-series being what it is, Beware the Baby-Sitter breaks the pattern, when it should obviously be called The Baby. In part because it follows The Wedding (much like The Verdict followed The Arrest), and in part because it does actually feature a baby. The baby plot is stupid as all get-out, incidentally. But I digress.
When last we left the residents of Sweet Valley, Grace and George Fowler got re-married, Jessica was starting to get over Sam’s death and become more like her old self, Elizabeth was starting to get over her involvement in Sam’s death and become more like her old self, and Margo’s next step in her ridiculously elaborate plan to take over Not Convicted Felon Elizabeth Wakefield’s life was to hire some handsome guy to date Jessica. In our next installment, we have a day-care center, a costume party, a stupid bet, and a tote bag shaped like a hippopotamus. Spoilers to follow…
This book is stupid, let’s get that out of the way. Now with the trial over, and Jessica and Elizabeth back to form, and Lila’s parents together, and Bruce and Pamela together, and Steven and Billie together, and Olivia Davidson and stalker guy together, and Nicholas Morrow and his TV date together, all the loose threads are tied up and this is setting the stage for when Margo makes her final move. But Margo doesn’t make her final move until the next book, so we have to have weird filler in the form of this B-plot.
Winston Egbert’s parents are out of town! He’s all set to live up the bachelor lifestyle, but no sooner than he’s started eating a sandwich in the living room (what a rebel!) then his new neighbor drops by. His suspicious new neighbor is not actually Margo in disguise, like you’d expect, but something even worse: a convenient plot device who has to go to South America immediately so she can release her journalist husband from customs or some such nonsense. Because she’s new in town, she decides to leave her baby with a neighbor that carried her groceries one time. Because she’s an idiot, she does not wait to see if said neighbor is actually home, before leaving her baby in the care of said neighbor’s teenage son, to whom she has never before spoken. I’m pretty sure this is the same path of stupid decisions that led to Margo being a serial killer. Anyway, now suddenly Winston finds himself caring for an infant. The mother claims she’ll be gone only overnight, but I think you and I both know that will not be the case. We have a book to pad, after all. And why not ease all of the death (five and counting!) with the levity of wacky childcare shenanigans.
When the neighbor doesn’t show up the next morning, rather than do anything at all sane or reasonable like call the authorities, or even his vacationing parents, Winston decides to keep caring for the baby himself. He is so ashamed of what this will do to his reputation (to which I can only say: ???) that he even goes so far as to hide the baby in a closet when his girlfriend makes a surprise visit. But then cheerleader girlfriend Maria Santelli (not to be confused with Maria Slater) calls all of her popular friends (Lila and the cheerleading squad, sans Jessica, who is too busy with her handsome boyfriend Black Lightning and wisely can’t be bothered with this stupid plot) and they all show up and coo over little baby Daisy. Winston and Amy make a secret bet over who will be the best baby-diaperer at the end of the week, the winner gets to choose the loser’s masquerade costume. This is supposed to be funny only because Amy loses and has to be a nun. I’m not sure why that’s supposed to be funny. Amy’s a bit of a gossip, but pretty solid all around.
Winston eventually decides that he can’t keep missing school because that is Suspicious when his parents are out of town, so rather than call anything resembling an authority to take care of Daisy, he decides to bring her to school in a duffel bag and pass her around from student to student in an elaborate plot. I DON’T EVEN KNOW. This does bring us the actually amazing section, however, where Lila is taking care of Daisy in the courtyard. Lila attempts to teach her how to say “Porsche” and “Charge it”, artfully cons Principal “Chrome Dome” Cooper into believing Lila completely belongs in the courtyard when she’s supposed to be in French class, and she gets to watch Daisy untie Bruce Patman’s shoelaces while he’s cutting class to air-drum to The Who on his “portable compact-disc player attached to headphones.” You are welcome.
Jessica and Elizabeth strike up a tentative friendship when Jess gives Liz a ride home in the Jeep. This is the first time Liz has been in the Jeep since the accident, but if you’re waiting for a dramatic flash of memory, keep waiting, ’cause it doesn’t happen. This Jeep is clearly magic, because first Jessica had a rental (Elizabeth’s license was revoked, after all), then the Jeep was miraculously repaired, then the next book Jessica was driving their mother’s station wagon. Ah, whichever. It’s a car belonging to the Wakefield twins, it ought to be a little bipolar.
The truce goes so far as Jessica borrowing a sweater, just like old times, and Elizabeth doing Jess’s laundry, just like old times. But as she’s digging around for dirty clothes, she finds the letter that Todd wrote her, the one Jessica hid. All bets are off with Elizabeth/Todd now, and Elizabeth refuses to speak to Jessica again, as this is the last straw. She somehow manages to make Jessica feel incredibly guilty, over admittedly a decently crappy thing to do, but nowhere near the levels of destroying the car and killing someone’s boyfriend. Elizabeth should shove a sock in it and just be grateful Todd is still alive. If I seem callous, remember that Todd has been moping around this entire time without ever once saying a word to Elizabeth, not even to break up with her, but instead dates her sister, and waits around for her to give a secret signal she doesn’t know to give, in response to a letter she doesn’t know he wrote, because he’s too much of a chump to say ‘Hey Liz, I’m sorry I put my tongue in your twin’s mouth while you were on trial for murder’ to her face. A letter for which he can’t even be bothered to pay twenty-nine cents in postage. I hate Todd.
Look, I’m just saying, they’re all at fault here, in this crappy situation, but at least Jessica has grief as an excuse. Todd and Elizabeth are just idiots and need to get over it.
Olivia Davidson is still with her weird boyfriend, who lives in a large house (the one he lured her to under false pretenses to get her to date him). They decide to throw a masquerade. As you do. Margo, meanwhile, has been stalking the Wakefield family and is kind of in love with Alice Wakefield, who is the perfect mother, and beautiful, and Margo is jealous of Ned for having Alice’s love. She disguises herself as Elizabeth and manages to fool Alice for a hot ten seconds before running away in elation. But her main plan is to slowly duplicate Jessica’s wardrobe, including a few things she buys for James to give to Jess (read: plant), so Margo can look like Jess at the masquerade.
Jessica goes in a pink gown as Cinderella. Moments before the party, she and Liz realize by pure accident, Elizabeth is also going in a (similar) pink gown as Cinderella. Meanwhile, Margo is also going in a pink gown as Cinderella. (These people lack imagination.) The only difference is Margo’s earrings, which are rhinestones to match the ones Jessica was supposed to wear. Instead, Jessica is wearing pearls Sam gave her, in commemoration. So there are three identical blond girls dressed nearly-identically at this shindig.
Mimes had always given [Elizabeth] the creeps, for some reason. Maybe it was the way their painted faces couldn’t quite hide their real expressions. And this mime struck her as particularly eerie, somehow desperately sad and demonically evil at the same time.
Also this, with Steven and Margo-as-Jessica:
“Great costume, little sis,” [Steven said], swatting her playfully on the backside as he walked on.
Why are you slapping your sister’s ass, Steven? Why. The Wakefields are messed up people. Margo will fit right in.
Elizabeth, she who is terrified of mimes, has been for the past few books having dreams, in between the ones about Sam dying, of someone who looks like Jessica, but isn’t Jessica, coming after her with a big ol’ knife. Elizabeth can’t know she’s prophetic, obviously. Then at the party, she comes face to face with someone in the courtyard, dressed as her sister, but she realizes between the not-Sam earrings and the cold, cold eyes, that it isn’t Jessica at all. This mysterious vision disappears before Elizabeth can puzzle this out. Margo, looking like Jessica, manages to fool Todd, Lila, Amy, Bruce, even Steven, by sheer virtue of being catty.
Crappy Teen Detective Josh Smith has made his way to Sweet Valley now, and is trying to pick up Margo’s trail by going to this costume party to ferret out information. He is dressed as Sherlock Holmes. I kind of hope he gets stabbed. In any case, he spots Jessica, mistakes her for Margo, and lunges at her in a fit of crazy, having to get pulled off by everyone. I told you, he lacks subtlety in any capacity. He gets away without getting into serious trouble, but now he realizes that Jessica and Elizabeth are in danger of being Margo’d.
Also while this is going on, Margo is pulling time as Mandy Field, Child Enthusiast, as a caretaker with the Project Youth Little Darlings Day Care. She’s using this position to threaten little children into giving her information about the Wakefield clan, because if Sherlock Holmes could use a network of homeless ruffians as informants, Crazy Margo can use a network of terrified toddlers. At one point Winston makes a semi-responsible decision re: baby Daisy, and drops by Little Darlings, only to meet up with Margo, who decides that killing Daisy will get perfect revenge on Elizabeth for having the good fortune of being raised well. Makes sense to me! At one point she shows up at Winston’s house (though he swears he never gave her his address), offering to take care of Daisy for a few hours while he goes out and runs the errands he must need to do. Winston “was a little uncertain, but he couldn’t think of a single reason why he shouldn’t take advantage of the offer.” MAYBE BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW HER NAME, YOU UTTER IMBECILE. If Winston gets stabbed, he’ll have deserved it. But he does not get stabbed, and Margo gets stopped by a doorbell just before smothering baby Daisy. Winston returns the baby to her parents. And Margo finds a way to lure Ned and Alice away from the house for two days, thus setting herself up to become… The Evil Twin.