On 'Awkward,' Jenna Learned The Value Of Shutting Up And Listening — Sort Of

There are certain things that come with first person coming-of-age stories — especially those that air on TV screens over an extended period of time rather than, say, over the span of an hour-and-a-half at your local Regal Cinema. With television shows, audiences have a chance to sit with their favorite characters and watch them grow and change. And with a television show centering around, well, awkward coming-of-age, that process can be even more potent.

This is all a long-winded way of saying something that's been evident since Awkward's very first episodes: Our heroine Jenna Hamilton is a thoroughly flawed young woman. The past few years have revealed her flaws over and over again: Her long-standing habits of bowling over everyone in her life with her insecurities (regardless of the validity of those insecurities), her paranoia, her (not unfounded, considering it's her show) self-centeredness. And watching her come of age hasn't so much been about eradicating those flaws (who among us could do that completely?), but more about reshuffling them, and allowing her to see them for what they really are.

Which is why this episode of Awkward, in which a tooth injury forces Jenna's mouth shut for nearly the entire duration, is a godsend — to Jenna Hamilton and to everyone around her. Because, yes, she's still the neurotic mess she always is, and yes, she's still obsessing over what Matty's thinking. (Girl really needs to learn how to take a break from that without ruining all her relationships, like she did last season.) We even still get to hear what she's thinking, because, as always, the show's voice-overs are tuned in to the Jenna Channel.

But Jenna is still forced to listen. To the younger high school kids she's counseling, to Tamara as Jake dumps her, even to Sadie. And, sure, she still ends up busting out an angry monologue at Matty — it wouldn't be Awkward if she didn't find a way to stick her foot in her mouth and, well, make it awkward. But this time around, it exposes a nerve that's always been there in Jenna's relationships with the people around her: Matty wasn't freezing Jenna out for any of the paranoid reasons she plotted out in her head — he just genuinely had his own shit going on. He found out he was adopted and that his parents had been lying to him his whole life, and suddenly the D.T.R between him and his ex-girlfriend didn't matter as much as it used to.

And, hey, that might be one of the best examples of growing up this show's pulled off to date: Sometimes the things that mattered the most to you at the beginning pale in comparison to what the world will throw at you.

Image: MTV