25 Aug 2016

Unruly - How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin Chapter 1 - Commentary

Unruly is back!  "How Do We Solve a Problem Like Caitlin" takes a trip back in time to when Caitlin was a wee Jennifer at the Academy.  However, this isn't her start of darkness.

Back in "The New Girl" Chapter 3, each of Laura's new roommates explained why they were were sent to the Academy.  Caitlin humble-bragged about her reasons.  She got into more trouble than she implied, mostly from her parents.  I've always known that both of Caitlin's parents were in the Canadian Forces, Major Anna Kane-O'Shaughnessy and Lt. Commander John O'Shaughnessy.  Anna is a pilot in the Air Command, based out of Greenwood, flying the CP-140 Aurora.  John commands the fictional Halifax-class frigate, the HMCS Hamilton*.  Caitlin played with toy soliders as a child; even her dolls enlisted.

Chapter 1 was written before the American election season went crazy.  I might have avoided naming one of the school board members Bernie if I'd known what was coming.  Bernie is one of those names that shows up in comedy, including that under-appreciated movie, Weekend at Bernie's.  His idea on sending Caitlin to military school isn't exactly a punishment for her; all that regimentation is something she'd lap up and demand more of.  She'd be running the school before she graduated.

Note that Elspeth Stone is the Assistant Headmistress of the Academy in the flashback.  She'll get promoted over the next six years when her predecessor, the poor dear, takes a medical retirement.  Ms Stone is an alumna of the Academy, as stated in "The New Girl" Chapter 1.  I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what happened.  The Academy does do personal recruitment.  It's one of three most likely ways for a girl to enroll at the school.  The typical way is for the parents to enroll their daughter at the school as a last resort.  The next most popular method is for the school to actively recruit, as with Caitlin.  The last is to take in the daughter of an alumna, like with Cassie.  The Academy also does exchanges with other, foreign, schools, usually in countries that have limited journalism or severe language barriers.  Laura is an outside case; she's the first girl to arrive as part of a witness protection program.

One item about the Academy that doesn't get noted often is that the girls are smart.  Caitlin's reading books that are part of university courses.  Most public schools aren't equipped to deal with a student who progresses far faster than the rest of the class, especially now with the almost exclusive focus on extreme testing over teaching imposed from above.  Bored students, like Caitlin, will find a way to amuse themselves, though not to Caitlin's extreme.  Ms Stone is embellishing a bit on the Academy's curriculum, though.  She's not just selling the school to Caitlin but also to her parents.  Outside the room with the officials, she used lines like, "And if you agree, Miss Caitlin will not only be the Academy's problem, she'll be several provinces away and unable to return to seek vengeance."

Clubs at the Academy haven't really come up much.  I've been treating them as something that happens off-stage.  The cast list shows what clubs and teams the girls are on, but with the point-of-view following Laura, not much has been shown.  The Unrulies are expected to join a club starting in Grade 8; Jennifers aren't because they're left to be feral, though they can join one if they want.  If a club doesn't exist, an Unruly can create it if she can get a teacher to supervise.  Methods to get a teacher include blackmail, extortion, and sometimes just asking.

Teachers can chime in on Caitlin's punishment.  Technically, Caitlin didn't do anything to her school, just to the school board.  She's smart enough to do her recruiting where teachers can't overhear.  The restraining order might be a little over the top, but the board really hates it when a student tries a coup d'etat.  They also hate it when one is successful, but they wouldn't be in a position to complain then.  Caitlin should be able to keep up even with the two week suspension.

The title is a riff of the The Sound of Music song, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" except that Caitlin isn't a nun.  The idea struck me and the first chapter came naturally.  It's unlikely that I'll do something similar with the rest of the cast.  Caitlin's flashback has some elements I felt needed to come out.  Which elements?  That would be spoilers, sweeties.

Tomorrow, "How Do You Solve a Problem like Caitlin" Chapter 2.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, ... The Bad ...
Saturday, over at Seventh Sanctum, ... and the Weird.

* I went with the Hamilton because the HMCS Ottawa is a real ship of the class.


  1. Clever insert of Stone there - I didn't pick up on it until you mentioned it, at which point I realized that of course it made sense. The military upbringing might also help to explain Caitlin's ability to organize and stick to a timetable. I don't think the out of province thing really registered for me previously. She doesn't work as a nun though... that's more something for the other school. ;)

    1. I needed someone to represent the Academy and Elspeth was available. It was easier to keep her and explain why she wasn't Headmistress yet than introduce someone new. Caitlin wants to follow in her parents' footsteps, though she's much more ambitious. It hasn't really come up; I knew she came from Halifax but it wasn't anything that became important. Caitlin and Verity at the same school might not be a good idea. ;)