In the 90s, one of Nickelodeon’s most popular shows was “Clarissa Explains It All,” about a cool teenage girl and her wacky family and friends. Her parents were former hippies turned professional; her younger brother, Ferguson, was an obnoxious nerd. Clarissa also had a pet lizard named Elvis, and a friend named Sam who always came in through a ladder at her bedroom window.
One of the running gags was that Clarissa and Ferguson’s mom was always making healthy but tasteless meals, usually comprised of tofu and unappetizing veggies. I remember one great episode where the parents went out, and the kids managed to score several free pizzas because the delivery guy didn’t get there within half an hour (30 minutes or it’s free! No one does this anymore).
Like most viewers, I assumed Janet (the mom) was a vegetarian because she had been a hippie. The show never went into the reason. Or so I thought until a friend and I came across an episode of “Clarissa” that could never have played on the air.
My friend and I are both into thrift stores, and recently picked up a bunch of videotapes of old shows from our childhood—Doug, Rugrats, All That, and Clarissa. The Clarissa tape was in what looked to be an official release box, but the cassette itself had no labels and looked pretty scuffed up. We settled in one afternoon with a bunch of snacks to have a marathon, and it began (and ended) with this episode of “Clarissa Explains It All.”
The dad, Marshall, was an architect who’d just finished a big project designing a steakhouse. The owners were so happy with it that they gave him a bunch of high-quality steaks as a bonus. Getting home with the meat before anyone else got there, he hurriedly shoved it into the back of the refrigerator where it would remain unseen. Janet and the kids arrived home at that moment, and asked him what he was doing. “Nothing much,” Marshall said, and the last piece of filet that hadn’t made it into the fridge fell out of his sweater with a plop.
“What’s that?” the kids asked, excited.
“It’s for the dog,” Marshall said. He and Janet were staring at each other.
“We don’t have a dog,” Ferguson said.
“We’ll get one,” Marshall promised, picking up the filet, putting it into his pants pocket and walking out of the room. Janet remained where she was, staring blankly at the fridge.
Late that night, Clarissa was unable to fall asleep and stayed up watching MTV and making her usual acerbic remarks about the videos. There was the sound of the ladder at the window, and Sam climbed in the room. “Is your mom okay?” he asked. “She’s out there scrubbing all the flowers and plants.”
The two of them tiptoed downstairs, where they could watch her through the windows. Sure enough, Janet was on her knees in the garden, wearing yellow gloves as she poured bleach and other cleansers onto the flowers and ferns. As soon as one plant drooped to the ground, she’d move on to the next. Clarissa opened the door. “Mom, what are you doing?” she asked. Janet glanced up for only a moment. “Hi, honey. Hi, Sam. It’s past your bedtime, isn’t it?” She grunted softly as she got to her feet. “My goodness, but those needed a cleaning!”
“See ya,” Sam said, and ran past Janet as Clarissa went upstairs and knocked on Ferguson’s door. “Mom’s being weird,” she said when he answered. “Like, really weird.” Ferguson shrugged and went back to his computer. “Well, that’s menopause for you,” he said, waving Clarissa away as she protested.
The next morning, Clarissa cut school and lurked around the house, watching her mother. Except for not eating or drinking anything for breakfast or lunch, Janet seemed to be acting normal again. Giving up, Clarissa went to her afternoon classes and was called into the principal’s office for skipping. “I wasn’t feeling well this morning, that’s all,” Clarissa lied. “Well, maybe we should have your parents in to talk about this,” the principal said, carefully tending to a flowerbox at her office window. “I don’t think you’d like that,” Clarissa said, having a flashback of her mom in the garden.
At home, Janet greeted the family and told them they all had to wait in the living room until dinner was ready; she was preparing something special. Marshall wanted to help, but she insisted on privacy until everything was done. Several hours later, as they all sat groaning with hunger, Janet finally ushered them into the kitchen.
The table, chairs and windows had been draped with black fabric, and the only light came from several lit candles at the center of the table. The four plates were covered with silver domes, and a glass of red wine was set at each place as well. Janet was wearing a long, hooded black robe, and bowed to Marshall and then to each of the children as she bade them to sit down.
“Mom?” Clarissa asked, her wide eyes looking all around. “What is this?” Ferguson picked up the glass of wine at his place and took a few large gulps before Janet slapped it out of his hand, spilling it. “That’s for after!” she shouted. Smiling and returning to her normal voice, she sat down and held out her hands to Marshall and Clarissa on either side of her. “Your father wanted us to do this, and by Lucifer we’re going to do this.”
“I… I didn’t want this,” Marshall said softly. “Oh, sweetheart.”
“Eat,” Janet said, lifting the dome off of her plate. “Eat!” The others lifted off their domes, to reveal large, bloody pieces of meat.
“This isn’t cooked,” Ferguson said, making a grossed-out face.
“It’s pure,” Janet shouted. “Now eat it!” Picking up the raw meat from her plate, she shoved it into her mouth and chewed noisily, blood dripping down her chin. Holding it in her mouth with her teeth, she talked around it: “Eat!” Lunging across the table, she took the meat from Ferguson’s plate and smashed it into his face.
“Mom!” Clarissa cried, jumping up and trying to pull her mother back. Marshall got up to help her, and they pulled her away from Ferguson. The meat fell from Janet’s mouth and she sobbed uncontrollably as the scene faded to black.
The next morning, the whole family sat around Janet’s bed as she slept peacefully. Marshall, his arms around the kids, softly explained. “I should have known better,” he said. “But I thought she would be over it by now. She’s come such a long way. Both of us have.”
He explained that, in their college days, Janet had belonged to an exclusive sorority that was about more than just sisterhood and service: it was about rituals and witchcraft. He was a member of the associated fraternity, and the two had met during one of these unholy gatherings. The two of them discussed privately that they didn’t want to belong anymore, but there was only one way to get out: death. After awhile, Janet became so immersed in the sorority/cult that she no longer wanted to escape, but reveled in the satanic rituals, a lot of which included sacrificing and eating animals.
Scared that she was descending into madness, Marshall had her and himself “kidnapped” by psychiatrists who specialized in reversing brainwashing. Once Janet was well enough, they moved clear across the country to start their careers and their family. Marshall himself never had any bad effects, except for occasional nightmares, but since Janet had been more “into” the cult, she was more prone to relapse.
“This is all my fault,” Marshall said, hugging Ferguson especially tight. “What she did last night, it wasn’t her. And it was because of me. Forgive us?”
The kids nodded. “Yes, Dad,” they said.
Waking, Janet looked at her family and smiled with tears in her eyes. “I’m so sorry, darlings,” she said, holding her arms out. Ferguson went to her, and the two cuddled and fell asleep.
“I think we’ll be all right,” Marshall whispered to Clarissa. “And I know I’ll never have to worry about you, Clarissa. You’ll never be a conformist. That’s what Mom and I have always loved about you.”
“What do you love about Ferguson?” Clarissa asked, looking at her brother. He was picking his nose in his sleep.
Marshall let out a long sigh, and finally shrugged.
That was the end of the episode. My friend and I tried to look up info about on the Internet, but there was sure nothing about it on IMDB or any other site that we could find. We’ll probably never figure out how that episode got to be where it was; either someone switched it with the tape that was supposed to be there, or the manufacturer accidentally included the wrong one. Since I haven’t heard about this anywhere else, I believe it’s probably one weird person who thought it’d be funny for some kids to find this tape. We haven’t gotten rid of it — yet —but it would cost a lot more than the two bucks we paid for it for us to show it to anyone else.