Finch decides on Monday morning that 80s Finch has to go, mostly because the picture of him in the Bartlett Dirt is “unnervingly wholesome.” Finch also doesn’t trust this version of him to not mess up with Violet. So, during third period, Finch meets Charlie and Brenda at Goodwill. As Finch and Brenda browse the racks, Brenda tells Finch about making out with Roamer at a party over the weekend. (Though Roamer is Amanda Monk’s boyfriend, he’s also a jerk, and Brenda has loved him for years.) Then, they discuss what Finch is looking for. Finch wants to look sexier—and both Charlie and Brenda realize that this is because Finch has a crush on Violet.
Just like Violet, the experience of seeing his picture in the Bartlett Dirt causes Finch to rethink his identity. But while Violet simply focuses on who she’d like to be, Finch seems mired in self-loathing about his current identity as 80s Finch. The way he perceives and treats himself, in other words, isn’t always kind. Meanwhile, Charlie and Brenda skip class to meet Finch at Goodwill, which shows that they’re supportive of him in their own ways.
Brenda insists that Finch can’t dress to please a girl; he needs to be himself. Finch thinks that would be a great idea if he knew who he was. Brenda continues to talk about Violet in a scathing tone. Finch doesn’t really want to hear it, so he interjects that Violet was in the accident on the A Street Bridge last year, and Violet’s sister died. At this, Brenda looks thoughtful and suggests that Finch dress more like Ryan Cross, which would mean a trip to Old Navy. Finch decides that his new self curses, so he says, “fuck Ryan Cross.” Charlie finds him a “badass” leather jacket, and Brenda comes over with a big pair of boots.
Brenda suggests that Finch should think about his identity as something that should give him pleasure. Finch, however, seems far more interested in shaping himself to please others. This shows how compassionate Finch is (especially to people like his mom and Kate). As he starts to experiment with this new identity, he discovers that it gives him more freedom than 80s Finch did.
By lunchtime, Finch loves “Badass Finch”—girls like him now. When one freshman girl asks him if he’s from London, Finch adopts a British accent for the rest of the day. When he joins Brenda and Charlie for lunch, he tells them all about his life in London and his Irish girlfriend. Walking to class afterwards, Finch almost believes in the story. But when he sees Ryan Cross smiling and talking to Violet in U.S. Geography, Finch comes back down to earth. Violet is too busy talking to Ryan to acknowledge Finch, and Roamer insults Finch for good measure.
For Finch, it’s freeing to invent a life that’s totally different from the one he actually lives. It helps him conceptualize who and what he wants to be: cool, British, and likeable. But because of how cruel Finch’s peers are, it’s impossible for this new identity to be anything more than a fantasy. It doesn’t seem to interest Violet, for one, and Roamer ensures that Finch knows he isn’t welcome by insulting him.
Class is boring, but Violet is the only one who laughs when Finch makes a joke in his British accent. After class, Finch comes up right behind Violet. In his new persona, he’s not afraid of Ryan Cross or Roamer. He says in his normal voice that it’s time to start wandering. Finch suggests they go to Hoosier Hill—now. Roamer mumbles that Finch should try jumping off the belltower again, but Finch ignores him. Violet insists that she can’t miss class, but she agrees to go after school.
Finch’s new identity does have some positive effects: now he’s not afraid of Roamer. This, of course, implies that prior to becoming “Badass Finch,” Finch was afraid of Roamer. This speaks to how much influence Roamer has over Finch’s feelings—his bullying, in other words, is intense and damaging enough to scare Finch and alienate him from his classmates.