Last night’s Lifetime movie The Cheating Pact examines what happens when the struggle for the perfect score on a standardized test turns deadly. And it often does, as I’ve heard from my friend Nobody. I’m betting high schools everywhere will start using this movie to convince kids to just study for their tests and avoid cheating at all costs. Because you’ll probably be framed for murder and have to use your lower scores anyway, so what’s the point?
Our protagonist is Heather (Daniela Bobadilla), who’s 17 years old (big surprise) and preparing for the College Entrance Test, which this movie uses in place of an actual test name like the SAT or ACT. This one’s the CET. That’s like if I made a movie that focused on a scandal at a fast food restaurant but instead of saying Buger King or Taco Bell I just said Fast Food Restaurant the whole time and maybe abbreviated it to FFR. Heather doesn’t do so great her first time taking the test, which sucks because she really wants to go to an expensive school despite the fact that her mom has a bunch of bills and a checkbook strewn across the kitchen counter, the number one sign of poorness. If she wants a scholarship, she’ll need a better score. But how? Studying? Shut up, that’s too hard.
Heather’s BFF Kylie (Laura Ashley Samuels), a rich girl living in the shadow of her Yale-educated sister and compelled by her mother’s immobile eyebrows to get into a good college, suggests they pay a smart kid to take the test for them. They decide it should be Meredith (Laura Wiggins), the smart girl Heather used to be BFFs with who is basically just Taylor Swift in the “You Belong With Me” video. And she has the same name as Taylor’s cat, so I suspect this must have been a reference just for me to enjoy. Kylie gives Heather $1,000 to pay Meredith in the hopes that she’ll end up doing it for Kylie too once she sees how lucrative it is. Since Meredith’s brother has Unidentified Leg Brace Disease (ULBD) and the insurance won’t cover his treatment, she agrees.
Kylie’s boyfriend Jordan (Max Carver) makes a fake ID for Meredith to use, and she proceeds to act as suspicious as possible at the test site. Almost saying the wrong name? Check. Letting hundred dollar bills fall out of her pocket? Check. Writing her full real name on the exam booklet before realizing and erasing it? Check. Get it together, Meredith! Your brother has leg braces for some unspecified reason and he needs your help! But it all works out because Heather gets a higher grade and her mom (Cynthia Gibb) is super proud of her. Also Meredith is really happy they’re friends again, because I know all my best friends pay me to break the law for them.
Unfortunately the plan doesn’t work out as Kylie intended because Meredith agrees to take the test for Jordan instead of her. Since Jordan can be a girl’s name too, Meredith doesn’t have to buy a mustache and pretend to be a guy, which was very disappointing from a viewer’s perspective. Because Jordan signed up for a test nearby, a nerdy guy named Scott (Cory Kahane) from their school sees Meredith use his name, and after the test he tells her he’s disappointed in her because he looks up to her. Really, buddy? You look up to a nerdy girl in your class? Okay then. Luckily Jordan beats Scott up and gets him to keep his mouth shut. Plus, a teacher (Jamie Luner) at the school becomes suspicious that cheating’s afoot, but since Jordan’s family gives so much money to the school the principal naturally just says forget about it.
Meanwhile, Kylie is taking a relaxing bubble bath to unwind after a long day of not studying when her mom (Paula Trickey) informs her that if she doesn’t get into college, she’ll have to get a job after high school and stop relying on her parents’ money. This sends Kylie into rich girl panic mode, so she blackmails Meredith into taking the test for her, explaining that what she did for Heather and Jordan was a felony punishable by things she obviously spent time researching when she could have just spent that time studying for the test. But whatevs. Kylie goes to the test site with Meredith to make sure she goes in, but Meredith is all sassy now so she purposely flunks the test.
At school, Meredith feels betrayed when she finds out Heather used Meredith’s money to pay her because I guess it was special when she thought it was Heather’s money or something? I don’t understand her logic. Anyway, they fight over the ID cards but later Heather calls to apologize and they make up. Here’s where things turn deadly. Kylie rushes over to Meredith’s house to yell at her and try to get the fake IDs back, and when Meredith goes to call the cops on the phone which happens to be sitting at the top of the stairs (the most convenient place to keep a phone, I’ve found), she and Kylie have a Frodo-and-Gollum-style struggle over it that ends with Meredith falling over the railing to her death. Kylie then does what anyone would do in this situation. She steals the ID cards and runs away.
Heather shows up at Meredith’s house for their BFF time, and she finds Mer dead on the floor. She calls 911, and when the cops arrive after three seconds to respond to Meredith’s original 911 call she somehow assumes it’s from her call, because apparently cops have the ability to teleport these days. Heather then confesses to the cheating under pressure, and the cops investigate her, Kylie and Jordan. Kylie and Jordan pretend to be each other’s alibis and Kylie’s mom covers for them once she finds out the truth. It also helps that when they ask the test proctor if he saw Meredith or Kylie at the test site, he doesn’t remember nerdy Meredith but definitely remembers hot blonde Kylie lurking outside the room making sure Meredith went in. Leave it to a pervy test proctor to totally skew an investigation.
Heather manages to convince Jordan that it was all Kylie’s fault, and the two of them go to her house to persuade her to confess. This is when Kylie accidentally stabs Jordan with a huge knife. She is really bad at accidentally killing/injuring people. For some insane reason, Heather thinks it’s a good idea to wrestle Kylie for the knife (even though it was obviously an accident), and she’s pointing it at Kylie when the police walk in. Well isn’t this just perfect. While the police arrest Heather, Kylie locks herself in her room and refuses to confess until she has a moment of meaningful eye contact with Heather’s mom and decides to admit to everything. We then do not find out what happens to her. Something tells me she won’t be going to college, though.
It’s implied that Heather is just fine afterwards and doesn’t get expelled or prohibited from graduating or barred from college because of her cheating, but she does end up having a pleasant lunch with Meredith’s father. So I guess the moral of the story is, if you cheat you could end up getting framed for murder, but then your rich best friend will probably end up confessing to it and you’ll go to college anyway, so it’s not that bad? But you should probably not do it because someone did die. What a complicated but wise lesson.