Review: Jessi and the Mystery of the Stolen Secrets (BSC TV Series Episode 9)
We had to wait until episode nine for Jessi to get top billing, but it's worth the wait considering that Nicole Leach proves herself to be one of the more talented actors on the series. She was also one of the more experienced actors on the show, having previously appeared on several episodes of The Cosby Show and was a regular on a television series titled Shining Time Station. Much like Meghan Andrews who played Mallory, Nicole Leach is still a working actor.
Within the Babysitters Club universe Jessi stories often featured a variety of social justice issues--the first novel to be narrated by Jessi had her learning sign language so that she could communicate with a character from the series who was deaf. In later books she would help a kid with a life threatening illness, apologise to a teacher who was being bullied and help a friend who was suffering from Anorexia Nervosa. Jessi was always portrayed as being fairly mature for her age, though it was obvious from her debut in the series that had to be that way. When she first moved to Stoneybrook she and her family encountered their fair share of prejudice as they were the only black family in town. She was also a talented ballerina, but feared that same prejudice may stop her from being cast in lead roles, as she explains to Mallory in Hello, Mallory. Of course, there is a bit of artistic licence at play with her character--in real life, even a very advanced eleven year old would not be able to have quite as many responsibilities and the same insight into people as Jessi did. Within the confines of a series that has strong messages about responsibility however, a character like Jessi is a perfect fit.
Anyway, Jessi and the Mystery of the Stolen Secrets touches on themes of responsibility. For once, Jackie Rodowski isn't the main sitting charge--that honour goes to Matt Broderick a boy of about eight or nine, who is deaf and one of Jessi's regular sitting charges. In this episode some top secret information about the Babysitters Club goes public, which leads to the girls jumping to conclusions before the truth is revealed--and both sides learn an important life lesson.
I couldn't help but notice in this one that some of the kids looked a bit older, and wonder if there had been a break in filming between episodes. Sadly some of the actors, particularly the ones who played Claudia and Mary Anne, are beginning to look too old for the parts they played. I was also amused in one scene to discover that Claudia had a Goosebumps book in her bedroom, beside her Nancy Drew books. (Goosebumps being, of course, the other major series that was published by Scholastic during that era. Goosebumps would also get its own TV series a few years later.) Later in the library, Jessi and Mallory walk past a shelf filled with what looks like Babysitters Club books. (But they may have been other Scholastic titles I suppose ...)
Anyway, this was a fun though slightly predictable instalment in the series. The only part I really remember is where the girls thought that their headquarters may have been bugged ...