Naomi: Keep Your Friends Close

But why are we in the school in the middle of the night? Do they not lock the doors?

It’s been an odd first season for Naomi. There are lots of little things that don’t quite make sense, and some of their choices are a bit odd. Now there’s a mystery and a change in format as the show takes on the air of one of those confessional/reality shows. Personally, this isn’t a style I like, which made it a bit harder for me to get into “Keep Your Friends Close.”

Last episode ended with the surprising news that there was an alien at Naomi’s parents’ anniversary party. Besides Naomi, that is. This left Naomi, her best friend Annabelle, and Annabelle’s boyfriend and all-around UFO enthusiast Jacob with a few questions. Who is the alien, why are they there, and what other secrets are they keeping from Naomi? When the episode starts, we’re back in Naomi’s high school, with our titular hero watching as someone gets wheeled out on a stretcher. This kicks off the first of many interviews conducted by an off-screen, unseen voice. The voice starts asking Naomi about aliens in Port Oswego, and leads to her commenting about secrets.

The episode skips around between the interviews, the big party (and again, why are so many of Naomi’s friends at an anniversary party for her parents?), and the school. At the party, Naomi, Jacob, and Annabelle try to plan out their next steps, with Naomi starting to show signs of (possibly justified) paranoia. Jennifer, Naomi’s mother, comes to the door to talk about the surprise she knows Naomi has been planning, and there’s a lot of awkward tension. There’s even more when Nathan also finds his way up to Naomi’s room, and she stops him from coming in by distracting him.

Downstairs, Naomi does a fun, humorous toast for her parents, because of course she can do anything and everything. As she speaks, Naomi looks around the room and wonders who is hiding things from her. Oddly, the one episode they spent getting to know each other seems to have brought Nathan and Anthony from barely tolerated rivals to friends who hang out. Annabelle and Jacob get their turns being interviewed, where she goes on about how much she likes the McDuffies’ relationship, and Jacob continues his oddly snack-focused criteria for judging things. Back at the party, Annabelle, Jacob, and Naomi come up with a new plan involving social media, and several of the adults’ utter lack of understanding about it.

Training in his weird dojo under the tattoo shop (why is that a thing?), Dee gets interrupted by an unexpected visit from Commander Steel. The two have a tense conversation full of verbal fencing before Steel finally leaves. Combing through people’s feeds, Naomi and company narrow down the suspect pool regarding who could have stolen her disc to three surprising choices: Anthony, Nathan, and Lourdes. This leads to Nathan being interviewed, Annabelle taking Naomi to task for not sharing some details about her relationship, and trying to narrow the suspect pool. They eliminate Anthony after something that happened earlier in the season, decide to try and use some of Naomi’s powers like a lie detector (doing something Daredevil has been doing for years), and decide to try a party game to get some info out of their suspects/friends. Weirdly, but then what isn’t weird here, Esme is also at the party. Esme is the girl that Naomi ran against for student government, and they’ve never seemed particularly friendly.

Worried by his visit from Steel, Dee meets up with Zumbado. They talk over the potential threat to Naomi, some concerns about her parents, and proper party attire. Naomi is amused when her two protectors show up, and there are a lot of jokes about Dee being dressed up over the next few scenes. Dee and Zumbado give their warnings, and then Zumbado cautions Naomi that, if there is a hidden alien present, they might have a good reason for it. Jennifer takes her turn being interviewed, talking about it being a fairly tame party, and then Dee and Zumbado find the elder McDuffies and share their concerns. For reasons I’m not entirely clear on, the decision is made that Greg and Dee will stay at the party while Jennifer and Zumbado go sneak on to the base and pry into Steel’s files to see why he’s suddenly so interested in Dee and Naomi.

Greg gets interviewed next, and comes off as affable and friendly. The teen group plays a really mild version of Never Have I Ever with Annabelle, Jacob, and Naomi directing the questions to fishing for info about who might have been sneaking around the other night. Because an alien who steals things wouldn’t lie in a party game? We do learn an interesting tidbit about Lourdes’ past, but the three would-be investigators aren’t subtle with their questions and manage to tick off most of the kids there.

Anthony gets interviewed about the party, and then Nathan and Naomi have a tense scene outside. Naomi is really bad about covering her tracks and lying. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I wonder if this is bad writing or Naomi’s weird influence I’ve theorized having made it so she hasn’t had to develop too many actual social skills. Nathan gets more interview time about his status with Naomi, Dee tries to talk some sense into Naomi as she gets worked up about someone lying to her (like she hasn’t been doing that), and Annabelle brings word of some progress from Jacob. Jacob has been able to narrow down the suspect list, and the next step, courtesy of some weird conspiracy site, is to take pictures with some special film.

After Anthony talks to the unseen and unidentified interviewer about his photographic skills, he lies about having seen Commander Steel at the party, which is revealed the next moment. Steel is one of the many party crashers at this event, and he and Greg have a long, loaded conversation. It’s a night of veiled hints and exchanges. Then Jacob and Annabelle take their turn lying to the interviewer about Commander Steel.

The next scene was really odd, even for this show. It made me wonder if they had a different plan in mind and things ended up getting cut. As part of some other weird attempt to keep people at the party, Annabelle and Jacob try and draft Dee into a murder mystery game. It’s a weird, awkward scene played for laughs, and Dee, despite being on Earth for at least 20 years, seems utterly unfamiliar with the concept. After a good bit of setup, this is never referenced again. This is also another opportunity for Annabelle to babble about Agatha Christie, which has been an obsession for her since… well, the start of the episode.

As part of Jacob’s new “find the alien” plan, Naomi has run off to the high school with Lourdes. Among the issues here are Naomi “needed a ride” although we’ve seen her drive, and why is the high school open in the middle of the night? If it’s not open, are they breaking in for this? They finally find the special chemical they need in the dark room and have a heart to heart about each of them hiding things from the other. As another aside, the special red lights in a dark room are only for if there’s unexposed film there. Which there couldn’t have been since they opened the door to get into the dark room. Zumbado and Jennifer go on their own mission (seriously, how long is this party?) and bicker about various issues around Naomi as they sneak into a military base with no apparent effort whatsoever. Barely an inconvenience, really. They stop arguing when they find something important and worrisome.

Naomi gets asked why she was in the school so late (but no mention of how), and she tells the interviewer she needed a text book for a test. She and Lourdes hear something and Naomi sends Lourdes back to her van so Naomi can go talk with Nathan, also in the school after hours. Naomi accuses him of lying and hiding things (again, pot, meet kettle) and he reveals what he’s been up to, which ends up ruining what should have been a really nice moment. Good job, Naomi. Later, Nathan tells the interviewer he was upset but should have stayed.

Naomi has a big confrontation with someone which ends unclearly until there’s more jumping back and forth. Eventually, we learn what happened to the person wheeled out by medics, who the voice is interviewing everyone, what happened in the final showdown, and a big secret that’s been kept from everyone until now, including the audience. It was a weird note to end on.

What I liked: Mary-Charles Jones, who plays Annabelle, delivers a lot of good lines, and her performance as Annabelle is one of the ongoing enjoyable points of the show. Anthony is generally pretty entertaining as well. The running joke with Dee’s suit was at least mildly amusing.

What I didn’t: This episode had so many bits that made no sense. Most of them I mention above, but they include the lighting in the dark room, the school being open at night, Naomi needing a ride, Naomi being so hypocritical about people keeping secrets, the murder mystery set up with no payoff, and the ease with which Zumbado and Jennifer snuck on the base. They also had a minor run-in that should really complicate things later.

I’m really thinking I’m going to drop this show at the end of the season. It seems to be making less sense as it goes. I’m giving this one a 2 out of 5. C’mon guys, this show had potential at the start. It’s too early to lose that entirely.