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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rage before booty

Zack walks into Bayside wearing Screech's Arabian Nights costume. But this time they haven't struck oil; he's trying to throw girls off his scent until he can determine who Kelly is asking to the "Girls' Choice" dance. (I guess the name Sadie Hawkins was trademarked or something.) After witnessing Zack and Slater's veritable pissing contest over her, Kelly seems to enjoy it and therefore decides to put her decision off for a little while longer.

Later in an empty classroom, Zack is plying Lisa with magazines and pumping her for intel. It seems current polling has Zack and Slater tied, with Rodney Carter ("if his face clears up") as the dark horse. Hmm, if I were Kelly, I think I'd skip the dance altogether rather than have to pick from these less-than-savory choices. Zack attempts to get more info out of Lisa with a bribe of Bon Jovi tickets, but quickly revokes them when that well turns out to be dry.

But all hope is not lost—later at the Max, as Zack and Slater are bragging about how many girls they've turned down (so I guess Zack has given up the disguises now?), Lisa waltzes in to let Jessie know that Kelly is in for their slumber party. Slater offers to turn up in his nightie, curlers and pimple cream (of course he does) and is quickly rebuffed, but Zack is not so easily deterred. He tries to get Jessie and Lisa to agree to out Kelly's secret (i.e., who she's taking to the dance) post-slumber party, but no dice. He should've coughed up the Bon Jovi tickets again—I bet Lisa would've gone for it.

So, onto Plan B: bugging Jessie's room. Good thing Zack has a 24-hour all-access pass via the tree outside her window. Screech is a bit hesitant about this plan (although it seems to me that the ideal time for hesitation would have been before they snuck into Jessie's room), but once he's reminded that he'll get to hear Lisa's innermost thoughts, all fears of revoked library cards are immediately quashed. While Zack sits on Jessie's loveseat stroking a gigantic rag doll (yeah, I don't know), Screech plants the bug. Unfortunately, Jessie starts up the stairs as he's putting on the finishing touches, and he gets tossed out the window, while Zack dives under the bed. He acquires a pantyhose hat, but is able to scurry out of the room undetected.

Later that night, Screech and Zack are listening in on the slumber-party conversation, as Lisa and Kelly wax poetic about their love for Michael Jackson and Dennis Quaid, respectively. Dude, seriously? I was like 9 when this came out, so I'm hardly an expert, but there HAD to be hotter guys to choose from in the late '80s. Anyway, Random Brunette Extra cuts to the chase and asks Kelly who she's taking to the dance. Kelly muses that "there's something mysterious about A.C. Slater, but Zack Morris is kind of cute in a playful way." Why is she using their full names? We all know who she's talking about. Anyway, Kelly says that if pressed, she'd probably pick Zack. This causes a celebration next door so excessive that the girls are immediately on guard. Zack tries to pass it off as cheering for the Lakers, but Lakers fan extraordinaire Kelly knows there's not a game that night, and therefore the girls aren't fooled...especially not when they find the wire for the bug.

After smothering the microphone under a pillow, Jessie gets up on her soapbox (because apparently we can't have an episode without Jessie's soapbox) about privacy violation. Dude, it's not Big Brother here, it's Zack freaking Morris. Lisa and Kelly seem to agree—Lisa thinks it's romantic (I wouldn't go that far), and Kelly thinks they should get even (that's more like it). After a quick pow-wow, the girls gather around the microphone and, in the most stagey way possible, reveal their deepest, darkest secrets. After Lisa's fake tale of shoplifting lipstick is dismissed as boring, Kelly "reveals" that she suffers from attraction-induced rage blackouts. Before she can detail exactly how she dismembers her intended, Jessie cuts the wire, leaving Zack freaking out. He says there's probably nothing to worry about, but Screech cites Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and gives him a good-bye hug.

The next day at school, Screech has come dressed like Michael Jackson, breathy voice and all. (Opening line: "I'm not like other boys." Seriously, why is Michael Jackson still Lisa's dream man? I could maybe see it during the Thriller years, but we were veering into pedophile territory by this point.) Anyway, Lisa tells Screech to get lost, but as he moonwalks away, he's nabbed by Mr. Belding, who cites him for a dress-code violation. So I guess the Bayside dress code has a no-sequins clause?

Jessie appears in the hall and, after giving Random Redhead Extra a surreptitious thumbs-up for no discernible reason (since Random Redhead Extra doesn't appear to be involved in this scheme at all), she intercepts Zack and spins some yarn about how she had to spend the whole weekend taking care of Kelly after the fallout of her latest rage incident. Jessie takes her leave (giving another thumbs-up on the way out to Random Brunette Extra, who also appears to have no role in the scheme, so maybe Jessie just likes to play it fast and loose with the thumbs-ups), and Slater wheels up in a wheelchair, his entire leg in a cast. If I were Zack, I might be suspicious that the cast appears to have been applied over Slater's pants, but I guess he's too freaked out at this point to notice. Slater lets it slip that Kelly beat him up, then tells Zack to be careful, because Kelly likes him even more. Slater doesn't even wait until he's out of sight to start smirking, but again, Zack's too freaked out to notice.

Cut to Belding's office, where Zack is digging through his files to find dirt on Kelly. I'm surprised Belding leaves his door unlocked when he knows Zack Morris is afoot. Anyway, it seems Kelly's file contains a diploma from the Riverside Home for the Criminally Insane. Ruh-roh! Belding walks in, and instead of sending Zack straight to detention for being in his office unattended, he listens (albeit while laughing hysterically) as Zack begs him to save him from Kelly "The Killer" Kapowski. "It's like Fatal Attraction—she loves me, and she wants to kill me," Zack pleads. I think that's oversimplifying the plot of Fatal Attraction, but whatever. Belding assures Zack that there's probably nothing to worry about—unless, of course, she's been institutionalized. Dun, dun, dun. Wait, so is Belding in on this, too?

Later, in health class, Zack is distracted from today's lesson of "The Colon: Your Friend for Life" by a note from Kelly, telling him that he can run but he can't hide. (Zack also doesn't seem to notice Lisa openly smirking at him from the next seat, like seriously, could the gang be any less subtle about this? Geez.) As the bell rings, Lisa distracts him by shoving his books and papers off the desk, and soon, the only ones in the room are Zack, his wad of pink notebook paper (really?), Kelly and a Louisville slugger. Zack nervously backs away from Kelly, although I can't tell if he's more scared of the bat or her high-waisted plaid Hammer pants and raging split ends. She chases Zack around the room with the bat, declaring her love for him, but he manages to evade her. As soon as she gets one of her telltale headaches, he begs out of the dance and books it out of the room.

At the dance, we see that upon rebuffing Kelly, Zack has accepted a date with Rhonda, the shot-put record-holder who's been stalking him for most of the episode. By the way she's whipping him around the dance floor, it seems to me that Rhonda could do a lot more damage than Kelly "The Killer," but I guess Zack's willing to take his chances. Kelly arrives with Slater, whose cast is now over a different pair of pants, which I'd think would be an immediate tip-off, but it's not until Kelly pulls out the bug and comes clean that Zack realizes he's been had. Speaking of being had, it seems Rhonda's not quite done with him yet—she grabs him and plants a forceful good-night kiss on him. Hmm, I sense she has a future with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.


Quote of the episode
Zack: Mr. Belding, my life is being threatened by one of your students.
Belding: Just one? You're losing your touch.

Clare: A-. Not that I don't enjoy it when the tables are turned on Zack, but the gang has a few things to learn about running a proper scam. How Zack didn't pick up on their open smirking and needless "secret" signals is beyond me.

3:20 PM

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hawaii lame-o

We begin with an unusually long establishing shot of a skeleton in biology class. Pay attention, kids—you know what they say about the skeleton introduced in the first act. Anyway, Lisa comes into class, all aflutter because local DJ "Rappin' Ken Kelly" is at the Max, and he's giving away two tickets to Hawaii to the tenth caller. Fortunately, Zack is armed with his giant cell phone (which is sitting out on the desk, presumably because it's too large to be stashed away anywhere), and he plans to warm it up by securing a date to Hawaii. Because what parent of a high-school-age girl wouldn't jump at the chance to send her halfway across the globe with a member of the opposite sex?

While Zack's chatting up "Gretchen," Belding walks in and announces he'll be substitute teaching today. Those budget cuts are rough, eh, Richie? Belding explains that the regular bio teacher is having emergency surgery, just as Zack is laughing hysterically at something his lady-friend has said. Belding is somehow unable to see the giant cell phone attached to Zack's ear and expresses shock at Zack's response. Zack helpfully clarifies that he was talking to the person on the phone, earning himself a terse reminder of the no-cell-phones-on-school-property rule. Zack doesn't care, though, because he's got a plan to win the trip to Hawaii.

Cut to the Max, where Zack and Screech are wearing hard hats and fake mustaches, pretending to be phone-company employees. Despite the less-than-professional phone logo adorning their yellow jumpsuits, Rappin' Ken Kelly assumes they are legit and gives them free rein to tinker with the phone lines. Of course, we're talking about a guy who talks in a DJ voice even when he's not actively DJing, so perhaps it's not surprising that he so easily fell prey to a Zack Morris scam.

Despite nearly shocking himself, Screech manages to get the phone lines intercepted so that they ring directly to him...crouched underneath a booth. Yeah, because that's not obvious. Also, I always assumed that there was a wall on the other side of the Max booths, but now we find out that's not the case. Is the Max actually much bigger than we ever imagined? I feel misled.

Anyway, Screech starts intercepting callers, dismissing everyone (including Lisa and Tori, and I assume Slater, since we saw him standing by a pay phone earlier) until Zack gets through. So I guess we're to assume that Ken & Co. have already taken calls one through nine, then? Yeah, that long pause before caller ten isn't suspicious at all. To his credit, Rappin' Ken Kelly does start to express some disbelief, but before he can check out the phone lines and uncover Screech's not-so-secret hiding place, Zack is patched through. He's caller number ten, but he's still got one more hoop to jump through—he's got to be at the Max at 4 to answer some trivia questions. Which could be a problem, since ol' Richie busts Zack talking on his cell phone on school property (why didn't he just take it across the street, since clearly no one is expected to be in class at this time?) and escorts him to detention.

In detention, Belding is going all Mr. Myagi on a bonsai tree while Zack watches. Zack excuses himself to go to the bathroom, but instead heads to the locker room, where he offers Slater a free trip to Hawaii in exchange for a favor. One would assume Zack is not giving up his own ticket to Hawaii, and therefore Slater will be joining him on this romantic vacation (presumably while wearing a mini grass skirt, if his enthusiastic reaction when Zack mentions them is any indication). All he has to do is pretend to be injured so that Zack can pretend to take him to the hospital and get out of detention. Unfortunately, Ox comes along and ruins the whole thing, outing Slater as a faker, which means he can say good-bye to his romantic trip with Zack and hello to detention.

Time for plan B: Zack sees Tori and Lisa walking by and, via paper airplane, makes them the same offer he made Slater. Wait, I thought there were only two tickets to Hawaii in this deal. How can Tori and Lisa both go? It doesn't really matter, because they are even worse scammers than Slater (next time you call the principal pretending to be someone's mom, Tori, I'd suggest not using the phone five feet away from him) and are also given detention for their trouble.

Fortunately, Zack remembers Belding's notoriously weak stomach and begins taunting him with the cow brains and frog intestines trapped in jars of formaldehyde at the back of the room, sending Belding racing for the bathroom. Zack retrieves his phone and calls Screech, giving him a "crash course on Hawaii" (how long was Belding in the bathroom, anyway?) so that Screech can pretend to be Zack for the trivia contest. You know what that means—break out the blond wig! Screech saunters into the Max, and we see that he has not gotten much more successful at being Zack Morris since his last attempt. Ken somehow ignores all the stares of disbelief from the random extras and asks Screech/Zack what's the first thing he'll do when he gets to Hawaii. This is enough to stump Screech, and he runs off to get the answer from the real Zack, who is listening incredulously on his Walkman.

In detention, Belding won't let Screech talk to Zack, so he calls Belding a doofus to earn the right to stay in the room. Zack is not amused, and points out to Screech the fallacy of his plan. Having exhausted his entire supply of friends, Zack turns to the only person left for help—his buddy Skeletor. While Screech distracts Belding with bonsai-trimming advice, the gang dresses up the skeleton in Zack's hoodie and Screech's blond wig. Meanwhile, the real Zack makes a break for the Max, where he proceeds to annoyingly answer Ken Kelly's trivia questions with way more information than necessary.

Back in detention, Screech has pruned the bonsai of all of its leaves, and Belding finally notices "Zack" dozing away in the back of the class. Despite the gang's pathetic attempts to dissuade him, Belding goes to wake "Zack" up and ends up dislodging Skeletor's head from his body, which causes Belding to scream like a girl. OK, that was pretty funny.

Back at the Max, it's time for Zack's final trivia question, which is convolutedly about bonsai trees. Because Zack spent most of his time in detention figuring out how to get out of it, he can't come up with the name of the trees, so Ken Kelly decides to award the trip to the next person who walks through the door and can answer the question...which of course is Belding. He's thrilled to have a replacement anniversary gift for Mrs. B (and I'm sure Mrs. B is thrilled to be getting a trip to Hawaii instead of some stupid miniature tree). Zack is less than thrilled that the only trip he ended up with is another all-expenses-paid vacation to detention.


Quote of the episode

"What are you doing—landscaping for the Barbie mansion?" –Zack, to Belding

Clare: C+. This episode was basically a retread of Cut Day, and not a very entertaining one at that. (Who thought I'd actually miss Grahamdhi and his burnt-sienna pants?) It does get a plus, however, for the pure entertainment value of Belding's girly scream when he thought he'd beheaded Zack.

10:32 AM

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Not so hot for teacher

Jessie welcomes us to a student assembly by announcing the cancellation of the talent show, due to the untimely death by termites of Muffin Sangria's ventriloquist dummy. Man, Muffin Sangria just cannot catch a break on this show! After everyone has laughed about this for way longer than is warranted, Zack (who, once again, despite having no discernible leadership role at Bayside, is helping to preside over the assembly) introduces Slater, who pimps the upcoming football championship with Valley.

Finally, it's Belding's turn to announce the winners of student-teacher week slots. Apparently the only classes at Bayside are foreign languages (clearly they're not picky about which ones), English, math, history, and gym. What about economics? Or drama? Or completely implausible science? Anyway, Kelly is named as the history teacher, which is handy because she's just decided that it's her life's calling to be a teacher. Screech and Lisa are put in charge of gym—based on what qualifications, I don't know. Seriously, why are the writers occasionally trying to make Sporty Lisa happen? Is it because Lark Voorhies loves wearing spandex so much? Zack, meanwhile, is being made to eat the words of his essay (verbatim: "Why be a teacher when you can be principal? It's the easiest job in the world; you don't do anything. Ask Belding."), and he and Richie are switching roles, Freaky Friday-style.

Later at the Max, after Kelly waxes poetic about the joys of teaching, Zack lays out his plan for effective principal-ing, namely enlarging the peepholes in the girls' locker room. Eh, I suppose it's no worse than blackmailing your students, although I am surprised that Kelly, Jessie and Lisa raise no objections whatsoever to the presence of locker-room peepholes.

The next day in class, Slater is at the blackboard, reviewing football plays with his teammates. I'll spare you the inane dialogue that ensues. Teacher Kelly enters and immediately gets her bitch on, telling Slater to call her Ms. Kapowski and take his seat. After an awkward introduction, she starts grilling the class on facts about World Wars I and II, during which she nearly gets slapped in the face by Jessie and her heil-Hitler-style hand-raising. Kelly finally tells Jessie to quit sucking up and asks Slater for the answers, which earns her nothing more than a couple of wisecracks. The other football players, Bull and Ox, don't know the answers either. What I don't know is why all the football extras are named after barnyard animals. Kelly's, teaching is interrupted by an announcement from Principal Zack, who calls two bimbos from history class to his office.

In Belding's office, we see that Zack has wasted no time in plastering it with Paula Abdul and LL Cool J posters. Heh. Nor does he waste any time hitting on Heather and Gina, the two bimbos he's called into his office. Man, I think Heather's even dumber than Ox, if that's possible. Can someone fix them up and send them far, far away from here? Once the bimbos take their leave, Belding enters, wearing a Texas tuxedo (I figured he would've gone for a hideous JC Penney sweater for his Zack transformation), to get his date book. When he starts rifling through his desk, Zack sends him straight to detention.

Up next on the principal docket is Slater, who's come in to complain that Kelly has the audacity to give her class a test when the football championship is right around the corner. Call me crazy, but if this test was scheduled before Kelly took over the class, wouldn't Slater have already known about it and therefore already been studying for it? Anyway, at the very mention of the word "test," Zack calls Kelly into his office and feeds her some bull about how he wants students to be free to learn without the pressure of tests. Apparently Kelly learned nothing about Zack in all those years of dating him, and totally buys this load of crap. In fairness to Kelly, Zack was pretty convincing here, although I think that's due in large part to the suit he's wearing.

Case in point: Jessie, without the benefit of witnessing Zack in the suit, sees right through this whole no-test scam. However, Kelly (whose earnestness is really just off-the-charts annoying in this episode) continues to defend Zack—until Slater and the other football players, upon hearing about the cancellation of the test, let it slip about the scam. Pissed (but not too pissed to deliver her message in the form of a cheer), Kelly declares the test to be back on.

The next day in history class, we see that all of the football players have skipped the test. Big Pete asks why the rest of the class should have to take the test if the football players don't have to. Kelly says it's because they care more about their education. Wrong! The correct answer would be, "Because anyone who doesn't take the test gets an automatic F." Does Kelly know nothing about teaching?! Anyway, without the impending threat of failure looming over their heads, the rest of the class books, too—including Jessie, who cites the lack of a curve as her reason for leaving. Very few tests I took in school were actually graded on a curve, so this excuse seems flimsy at best. Belding, on the lam from detention, wanders into Kelly's class and sees that it is devoid of students. Instead of offering her a little advice on coercion, he simply tells her to take the matter up with Zack.

Already in the midst of an argument, Kelly and Slater storm into Zack's office, interrupting a rousing game of paddle ball (so it seems Zack's essay about principals doing nothing was at least partially correct). Anyway, once Zack hears that Kelly has violated his no-test policy, he immediately lays into her about how disappointed he is. She flips the script on him and says that she used to believe in him as a boyfriend, friend and principal, but it turns out she was wrong. Again, I'm not sure which Zack Morris Kelly has been acquainted with all these years, but it definitely isn't the master scam artist the rest of us know and love.

Zack calls Belding into his office and attempts to resign as principal, but Belding is having way too much fun rearranging pencils, mooning crossing guards and blowing straw wrappers at people to give up his week of being Zack Morris. Again, Richie is minimally helpful in the advice department, and merely tells Zack that being principal isn't about making friends. What happened to "the last three letters of principal are P-A-L?" I know I've heard him trot that one out before.

Later at the pep rally, Kelly, Jessie and Lisa are performing an unusually violent cheer that includes the phrase "Bite 'em in the head." I suspect Jessie is behind this one. When—and more importantly, why—did they let her back on the squad? Anyway, after Screech (who is also apparently the football coach now?) and Slater deliver some rousing words, Zack takes the mike and rains on everyone's parade by saying that the football players who cut the history test are suspended, effective immediately. Wait, aren't the nerds, bimbos and Jessie suspended as well? That seems unfair.

Post-suspension, Zack and Kelly are throwing a pity party in Zack's office when they're interrupted by an angry mob (led by Lisa and Screech) breaking the door down. Despite threats of violence from the football team, Zack stands firm on his position, telling Slater that his first duty at Bayside is to get an education. Unlike Zack, whose first duty is to run as many scams as possible in the span of four years. Anyway, Slater finally backs down and apologizes to Kelly, and the angry mob disperses. Kelly laments the fact that she was never able to give the test, since she bought little smiley-face stickers and everything. What grade does she think she's teaching here, exactly? Then again, given what we know of the oh-so-challenging nature of Bayside's history curriculum, perhaps smiley-face stickers are appropriate. Anyway, Zack hatches a plan for the players to make up the test during the game, which is starting in half an hour. Again, are the rest of the test-skippers not going to be held accountable for their actions? Whatever.

During the test, Screech keeps running in with hints to test answers thinly veiled as game updates. Finally, after Kelly threatens his life (there sure is a lot of violence in this episode), he takes off for good. We see the football players huddled around Kelly's desk, waiting for her to grade the tests. Wait, I thought their playing in the game was only contingent upon them taking the test, not passing it. It seems unfair to make them hang around while Kelly doles out her smiley-face stickers, especially since Bayside is getting creamed by Valley in the meantime. It doesn't really matter anyway, since, as Zack tells us over some stock footage of, like, the San Francisco 49ers, once Slater and the other players rejoined the game, Bayside made a miraculous comeback and won, 28-21. Go Tigers?


Quote of the episode

Belding: "I just came to get my date book."
Zack: "You shouldn't be dating; you're married."

Clare: C. Zack and Belding's Freaky Friday antics were somewhat amusing (well, until Zack started getting all serious about being a principal), but take that away and you're left with bitchy/earnest Kelly and a football-driven plot. I'll pass.

1:08 PM

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Indian bummer

The gang and the requisite 12 extras—half of whom are wearing standard-issue Bayside tracksuits—burst into the Max, cheering for Zack, who has apparently just kicked ass at a track meet. Among the tracksuit wearers are Jessie, Lisa and Slater, which I guess means they're on the track team, too. Seriously? Well, I guess that at least explains how Lisa did so well in the Malibu Sands obstacle course, although it still doesn't answer the question of why Slater did so poorly.

Anyway, talk turns to the latest project for Miss Wentworth's class, which is researching your family tree. Lisa reveals that her great-great-great-great grandfather was a slave, which appears to shock the gang, even though I'm pretty sure they know Lisa is black. Slater's ancestors were bullfighters, which explains where he gets his penchant for flamboyant outfits. Jessie's ancestors are dead, and that's all she's saying. I wish that's all she'd say for the entire episode, but alas, we are not to be that lucky. Zack has no idea who his ancestors are (aside from Adam and Eve) because, predictably, he has not given a single thought to this project yet.

But he's in luck, because a giant antique trunk has mysteriously appeared at the foot of his bed, and in it is a photo of a Native American chief (or possibly Screech's Aunt Hannah, depending on who you ask). Based on something his mom might have mentioned once, Zack intuits that this must be his ancestor, and thus his project research is complete.

The next day in class, Lisa is giving a presentation about her ancestor, who helped free other slaves on the Underground Railroad. She even has a map of the Underground Railroad as a visual aid. Very impressive! Not so impressive is Jessie, who, under extreme duress, slurs that her ancestors were seafaring people who sailed around the world the end. With some prodding from Miss Wentworth, she finally admits that her ancestors were slave traders, and immediately starts genuflecting to Lisa, who's basically like, "Um, hello, idiot? I'm not a slave, and you're not a slave trader. Shut up!" Unfortunately, despite being reaffirmed by Miss Wentworth, this message doesn't quite get through to Jessie the first time. (Or the second or third or 10th or 20th. Dear God, here we go.)

Next up is Zack, who uses Screech as his visual aid, painting him in lipstick warpaint and giving him a tomahawk that he uses to chop up Miss Wentworth's apple. Unsurprisingly, Miss Wentworth is not too happy with Zack's totally offensive presentation (though, blantant racism aside, it really wasn't that much worse than Jessie's), especially when he tries to claim that Burbank is the ancestral home of the Cherokee tribe. She keeps him after class and chides him for being disrespectful, then orders him to go see a friend of hers so that he can prepare a real presentation by Friday, or else the big track championship against Valley is off the table.

Said friend turns out to be Chief Henry, an aging Native American surfer dude who, as far as I can tell, lives in Zack's garage, which the producers have attempted to disguise with some bookshelves, a couch, and a desk. Zack cuts right to the chase: He only needs enough info on the dude in the photo to make Miss Wentworth happy, and he doesn't have time to chat. Chief Henry loads him up with a stack of books randomly pulled off his bookshelf, one of which I'm pretty sure is a dictionary, and sends Zack on his not-so-merry way.

Zack has toted the stack of books all the way to Belding's office, I guess for dramatic effect, which seems like a whole lot of unnecessary effort to me. However, it appears to have the desired effect on Belding, who, for the first and only time in recorded history, takes Zack's side without being scammed into it and calls Miss Wentworth into his office to ask her to give Zack an extension. Considering that Zack's project was due yesterday, hasn't he already gotten an extension? Oh, and apparently he already had a month to work on the project in the first place. Miss Wentworth points this out, and lays down the law again: No project, no track meet.

Zack has no choice but to crack the books, which he's doing the next day at the Max. Having already finished their projects, Slater, Jessie, and Lisa decamp to another booth, where Jessie offers to buy Lisa a soda and a salad to make up for her ancestors' slave-trading. Because nothing says reparations like lettuce and an ice-cold Coke! Geez, at least spring for a burger and a milkshake. As Jessie continues to try to apologize for something she didn't do, Slater tries to work the groveling to his favor and is told, "Mind your own business, bull killer." He corrects Jessie that it's "bullfighter." What exactly does Slater think happens at the end of a bullfight? Anyway, Lisa agrees to let Jessie take her to the mall, although she doesn't seem sold on Jessie's proposed idea that she carry Lisa on her back. Yeah, I'd say that's going to be awkward for everyone involved.

Zack has located the photo of his ancestor in one of Chief Henry's books, so he heads back to his, Chief Henry's apartment to get the full scoop. Chief Henry tells Zack that the story of his ancestor isn't in any book. So why'd he give Zack half of his bookshelf, then? Also, how do we know Chief Henry's not just pulling this story out of his ass? Anyway, he spins some tale for Zack about his mighty warrior ancestor and his battles with the white man. Zack wonders why we can't all just get along. Tell it to Rodney King, dude. Anyway, apparently Chief Henry, using the mad beading skillz he picked up at UCLA, has made a special beaded headband for his buddy "Running Zack." Zack is touched, and blows off track practice to head with Henry to the beach and hear more about his ancestors.

The next day in class, Screech has donned his terrible Italian accent to tell us about his ancestor, a "dashing, debonair Italian lover and spy." Uh-huh. This goes on for way too long, so let's just say that Screech's attempts to hit on Lisa and another random extra during his presentation make it clear that none of his ancestor's skills with the ladies were passed down to this generation (though he does seem to make some inroads with Miss Wentworth...but I'm not sure that counts, since we all know how desperate she is).

Zack is up next, but he's not in his seat, which no one seems to have noticed until now. However, that's just because he's making another dramatic entrance, this time in full Native American chief regalia, which elicits a bunch of eye-rolls from his fellow classmates. However, by the end of the presentation, they are totally enraptured by Zack's tale of Chief Whispering Wind and how he surrendered to the white man to save his people. Also enamored is Miss Wentworth, who gives Zack the green light to go forth and run. Unfortunately, when Zack calls Chief Henry to give him the good news, he is informed by Chief Henry's...uh, social secretary (I have no idea who this person on the phone might be, given that the Chief is divorced and appears to live alone in Zack's garage) that Henry kicked the bucket that morning. You know, despite the fact that he was healthy enough to boogie board the day before. Perhaps it was a shark attack that did him in?

Later, everyone's at the Max for a pep rally, during which all the members of the gang who are on the track team get to make a speech, including Slater in a pair of way-too-short shorts and Lisa "Flo Jo" Turtle (whatever), who has ditched the tracksuit for an outfit from the Get Down and Go For It video for the occasion. Lisa also gets her own special cheer from Kelly, the lone cheerleader holding it down at this meager excuse for a pep rally. I thought Zack was the star of the track team, not Lisa? Alas, Zack is nowhere to be found, a fact that, again, no one notices for an inexplicably long time.

It turns out Zack is still in Miss Wentworth's class, mourning the death of his "close friend," Chief Henry. Uh, Zack, I hate to be the one to point this out, but you met the man two days ago and have spent a grand total of a couple of hours in his presence. Still, he is shaken enough that he tells Kelly he can't run in the track meet the next day.

That is, until Chief Henry visits him from the afterlife in a dream. I have to say, death really agrees with Chief Henry, or at least with his wardrobe—his standard ratty T-shirt and leather vest have been replaced with a white suit. (I'm willing to overlook the turquoise bolo tie; the guy is dead, after all.) After some chit-chat about the perks of death and the outcome of Zack's project, Chief Henry leaves Zack with the cryptic message that the answer to his problem (i.e., whether to run in the track meet or not) is in his hands. Hey, good thing Zack happened to fall asleep clutching his beaded headband, as it seems to tell him what he needs to know.

The next day in the hall, Jessie again is attempting to make up for her ancestors' wrongdoings, this time offering to pave Lisa's parents' driveway. Personally, I'd like to see that, but Lisa's holding out for a car. When Jessie says that's crazy, Lisa's all, "And you offering to carry me to the mall on your back wasn't, nutcase?" Finally, when Lisa threatens her with physical violence if she doesn't back off, Jessie blessedly shuts up.

Meanwhile, Belding is attempting to rally the troops, who are none too happy that their star runner has gone AWOL. Ah, but Zack's not finished with his dramatic entrances for this episode, and he makes one more in his tracksuit behind Belding, which elicits a loud cheer from the group. As they all file off to the meet, Kelly asks Zack what changed his mind. He shows us the back of his headband, which Chief Henry embossed with the words "Beat Valley." God, that guy must be a trip in the SBTB Bermuda Triangle!

Quote of the episode:
Zack: My ancestors? Adam and Eve!
Screech: I didn't know Adam and Eve's last name was Morris!

Clare: C-. Look, it's bad enough when Zack has to learn a Very Important Lesson, but it's even worse when someone has to DIE for him to do it. Wouldn't another dance have sufficed? Also, it's a high threshold to meet, but I think Jessie may be at her most annoying in this episode.

9:36 PM

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Teenagers & Tiaras

The students of Bayside are gathering in a heretofore-unseen auditorium for an assembly that's being led by...Zack? Did I miss something? Was he reinstated as student-council president? Mr. Belding and Jessie are also on stage, but it's Zack who kicks off the assembly with the results of the principal-popularity poll; apparently, Belding's stock is plummeting. Despite the fact that this claim is not backed up with data of any kind, but rather just a red line that Zack has drawn on some enlarged graph paper, Belding seems rather upset about his dwindling popularity. But we don't have time to dwell on that, because Belding soon introduces the real purpose of this episode: the Miss Bayside pageant. Predictably, Jessie wastes no time hopping up on her soapbox, decrying pageants as sexist, but no one wants to hear it. Including me.

Oh, but we're going to hear it, as Jessie is holding court on the same topic later at the Max. Although Kelly sagely points out that even Geraldine Ferraro and Sandra Day O'Connor have to wear bathing suits to go swimming (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is debatable), she manages to be convinced by Jessie's pseudo-feminist rant and agrees not only to not enter the pageant but also to help Jessie make picket signs. Lisa is not having it, though, because she's a smart girl and knows this is her chance to shine with both Kelly and Jessie out of the way. She resists the advances of Stage Mom Extraordinaire Zack Morris, whose pageant expertise amounts to having every beauty pageant ever televised on tape, including "Miss U-Haul." Um, can we please watch that instead of Jessie and her tiresome attempts at "politics"? Slater expresses doubt about Zack's pageant-mom abilities, saying, "You know as much about beauty pageants as I do about wearing pantyhose." So...a lot? Zack bets him $50 that he can turn anyone into Miss Bayside, and agrees to let Slater pick the contestant. Rookie mistake, Morris. Slater does a once-over of the Max and comes up with...Screech.

Zack is less than thrilled, but a bet is a bet, so he's got to make the most of it. While studying in Screech's room, Zack breaks the news to him that he's the next Miss Bayside. Screech lets Zack in on the fact that he's a guy, but Zack, clutching a copy of the Miss Bayside rules, says there's nothing in the rules that says a guy can't enter the pageant. I'd think the word "Miss" might imply it, but even Kevin, Screech's robot sidekick, finds merit in Zack's case. Gender aside, Screech thinks there's no way he can get the kids at school to vote for him. Wait, so the students determine the results of this pageant? Not a panel of judges whose votes are certified by a Big Four accounting firm? What kind of sham pageant is Belding running here? Anyway, Zack thinks that Screech will have no problem getting votes as long as his fellow students can see his many good qualities, although he neglects to name what those are. Instead, he tells Screech that he'll "go where no man has gone before." Screech agrees to sign up for the pageant, but I suspect that may only be because he thinks it will somehow involve him going into outer space.

The next day, Kelly and Jessie are picketing (or in Kelly's case, picket-cheerleading) outside Belding's office. He's none too happy about it, but he's even less happy when Zack comes in to register Screech for the pageant. Belding is attempting to explain the whole "Miss" concept to Zack and Screech when Jessie, who had stopped picketing to blatantly eavesdrop on the conversation, bursts in and says excluding a man from the pageant is discrimination. I think your buddies Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg might disagree with you there, Jessie. But Belding, sensing a way to put an end to the inane picket line, agrees to let Screech into the pageant.

Belding's not the only one who's not pleased about the latest Miss Bayside contestant—Lisa claims that Screech's entry is making a mockery of the pageant. Jessie disagrees, and Slater, who has popped out of nowhere to witness this conversation, senses his opportunity to stack the deck against Zack and Screech. He eggs Jessie on until she marches into Belding's office and enters the pageant herself. Then he hightails it to the Max to let Kelly know that Judas Spano has done a complete 180. Kelly's all, "Over my dead swimsuit-wearing body!" Slater's overly gelled mullet is thrilled at this turn of events. Zack, not so much, especially when Kelly informs him that he's not getting any until the pageant's over.

In the locker room, Kelly, Jessie and Lisa should probably be getting ready for gym, but instead they're standing around glaring at each other. When Jessie asks for her towel (which Kelly is folding for some reason), it provokes Kelly to throw it in her face and then lay into her for being a traitor. Damn straight! Kelly doesn't get to sit on her high horse for long, though, before Lisa's letting her have it about always stealing everyone's thunder. Catfight! My money's on Lisa. Kelly and Jessie start slapping at each other, but before we can get to any really juicy action, Lisa breaks it up by reminding them that they're all competing against Screech. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that doesn't change the fact that they're competing against each other. But apparently the absurdity of the situation is enough to get them to kiss and make up.

The next day in the auditorium, it's time for talent rehearsal. An extra named Jennie Tyler (whither Muffin Sangria?!) does a baton-twirling routine in some fierce gold boots. She's followed by Lisa, who plays a pretty sweet violin sonata. Who knew Lisa had a hidden talent? Unfortunately, she's the only girl in the gang who does. Jessie follows with some insipid performance-art piece about a caterpillar becoming a butterfly that makes my eyeballs bleed just thinking about it. Then there's Kelly, singing an off-key version of "Blue Moon." Guess she must've taken some voice lessons before she joined Hot Sundae. Screech is up next, doing a pretty decent magic show with the help of Kevin. But he's soon upstaged by the pageant's latest contestant: Slater, rocking it out on the drums. Apparently Slater realized somewhere between Butterfly Spano and Pitchy Kapowski that he was backing the wrong horses, so he decided to take advantage of the new men-welcome policy and enter the pageant himself.

Screech is a bit distraught at this latest turn of events. Moping in his room, he's consoled by Kevin, who inadvertently gives him a black eye in the process. Guess that's a hazard of having a robot as your best friend. Screech is even more dismayed now that his face has been mangled, but Zack senses a golden opportunity. The next day at school, he starts a rumor that Slater gave Screech the black eye. By the time the rumor works its way through all 12 extras, Screech is in the intensive care unit on life support.

And yet, miraculously, he's still able to make it to the Miss Bayside pageant. We start with everyone's favorite—the swimsuit competition—where the ladies model some fetching neon fashions. Well, except for Jessie, who has covered her swimsuit with a trench coat in order to make a "statement." Yawn. Slater's up next, wearing a pair of way-too-short swim trunks. He's met with a frosty reception from the audience, and no amount of muscle-flexing can sway them, so he slinks off the stage. Next up is Screech in a wresting onesie, who gets a standing ovation.

We move on to the final four (once again: Why not final five? Although I can't say I'm too upset this time, since it means Jessie and Slater have mercifully been eliminated) and the question round. After Jennie breezes by her turn (mistaking Belding's "Are you ready?" for the actual question), Kelly's up next, advocating cheerleading as a solution for world peace. I say let's send her to the Gaza Strip and see what happens. Lisa is asked whether beauty pageants are out of date, and she gives Jessie a big eff you, saying that pageants are just a way to have fun. Screech gets the final question, which is what he learned by entering the Miss Bayside pageant. For some reason, his answer is accompanied by sappy piano music, which helps to stir the heartstrings as Screech says that being cheered for by hundreds of his fellow students was awesome ("hundreds" is a bit generous, I think), but that he'll never go on to win Miss High School California, so the students should vote for someone else. It's OK, Screech! Miss High School California isn't a real pageant anyway!

The other students seem to realize this, because the next thing you know, Belding is announcing Screech as the winner, much to Kelly and Lisa's shock. If I were them, I'd also be shocked that they don't even get the courtesy of a runner-up prize. I guess that's just so Mr. Belding has time to croon the Miss Bayside anthem as Screech takes is victory lap around the stage in a fur-trimmed robe and tiara. As for Zack and Slater's bet, Slater's ready to pay up, but Zack comes clean about the rumor and waves away his money. I guess seeing Slater in short-shorts was reward enough for him.


Quote of the episode:
Belding: You can't enter a man in the pageant!
Zack: I'm not entering a man; I'm entering Screech.

Clare: A-. Not even Jessie's grandstanding can ruin the splendor of seeing Slater shamed off the stage while Screech is crowned Miss Bayside. Plus, that locker room kerfuffle was nothing short of magnificent—it's about time someone called Jessie on her bullshit, and I'm always a sucker for sassy Lisa.

11:08 AM

Monday, March 07, 2011

Pimp my niece

Zack is in the hallway, slurping down a Big Gulp and admiring his latest detention sentence. He's surprisingly chipper about it, but that's only because he's been chosen as Kelly's date for her birthday party that weekend. Kelly's party is apparently the social event of the season, as everyone is all a-twitter about lining up dates for it. Jessie tells us that since this is the '90s, it's acceptable for women to go to a party alone. Yes, because unescorted women were unheard of in the '70s and '80s. Slater responds to this statement with one of his usual rant-baiting sexist remarks, then comments on how cute Jessie looks when she's being all pseudo-feminist. Get a room, you two. Oh, but not yet, because Lisa's got her eye on a date for Jessie, in the form of her neighbor, Brett. (Sadly, Lisa is not neighbors with Brett and Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords, which would have made this storyline much more palatable.)

Speaking of dates, Mr. Belding is cruising the halls, trying to sucker any warm body into taking out his niece, Penny, on Friday night. After most of the extras literally run away from him, he hits up Slater. Slater asks what Penny looks like, and Richie responds, "She's a Belding." Yeah, I'm not sure I'd lead with that, especially considering that, thanks to Slater's brief fantasy sequence, we can officially award Dennis Haskins the dubious honor of Least Attractive SBTB Cast Member in Drag. (And considering what we've seen of Mark-Paul Gosselaar, that's quite a feat.) Anyway, Zack and Slater bow out of the date with Penny, and while Screech is willing, Belding basically tells him, "Only if you're the last man standing." Screech runs off to buy a pager in preparation for that eventuality.

While they're chatting, Zack asks Belding to sign his detention slip, which elicits a crow from Belding about how one more detention will equal suspension. Zack quibbles with the tally, but Belding reminds him of his last infraction, which was trying to sell the school to the Japanese. Since when do foreign investors take meetings with high-school students? Anyway, Zack swears his ninth trip to detention will be his last. He seems pretty confident for a guy who was bragging about how much he gets sent to detention not five minutes before.

Cut to biology class, where Lisa starts to fill Jessie in on Brett, but gets cut short by the bell. Zack strolls in just as Mr. Hudson (who seems to enjoy talking like Daddy Warbucks for some reason) to introduce today's lesson on dominant and recessive genes. Meanwhile, Lisa's writing Jessie a note about Brett, which Zack gets caught passing. Daddy Warbucks puts him on the spot, asking what color eyes the offspring of one brown-eyed and one blue-eyed parent would have, like how is Zack supposed to know this when Daddy Warbucks never mentioned which gene was dominant and which was recessive? He advises Zack to check his notes, so Zack reads from Lisa's note: "A really cute babe with brown eyes who goes to private school." Good thing Lisa included the totally irrelevant fact of Brett's eye color in that note! We'll just assume the private-school gene is also dominant, as Daddy Warbucks lets that pass without comment. He moves on to blood type, and again catches Zack in the act of note-passing, but unfortunately Jessie is not as helpful as Lisa and has neglected to weave in any information about Brett's blood type in her response. Instead, Zack's answer to the result of combining O with AB is "I won't go out with him unless I meet him first," which earns him his 10th trip to detention.

Belding's in his office, scraping the bottom of the nerd barrel in an attempt to come up with a date for Penny when Zack walks in with his detention slip. When Belding realizes what it is, the Hallelujah Chorus echoes through the room (no, really) as he rejoices at the thought of a whole Zack Morris-free week. The jubilation is cut short by his wife, who calls to bemoan the fact that he still hasn't found a date for Penny. Why, exactly, Penny needs to be pimped out so hard by her relatives, we will never know. Anyway, it seems Zack is starting to rub off on Belding, because the next thing you know, Belding's blackmailing Zack into taking Penny out. Zack at least manages to get Belding to cough up $20 for the date. Things seem to be going pretty well for Zack until Kelly saunters up to him in the hall and breaks the news that the Max was booked on Saturday night, so the party's been moved to Friday. Ruh-roh! Also, the Max was booked? With what? Since when is it in such demand for private parties?

The next day, Zack limps in to Belding's office on crutches, his leg in a cast, and his head in some sort of...cast headband? Yeah, I'm not sure that's how they treat head injuries. Belding knows a phony cast when he sees one, and calls Zack out for running the skateboard-accident scam before. He tells Zack to pick up Penny at the mall, and to carry a red rose so he'll know who he is. How You've Got Mail of him. Perhaps Zack should carry a copy of Pride and Prejudice as well. Also, why wouldn't Belding just show Penny Zack's yearbook picture so she'd recognize him?

Meanwhile, in the girls' locker room, Jessie is still unsure about this whole blind-date thing, envisioning that Lisa might set her up with the likes of Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees or Donald Trump. While I appreciate the fact that the Donald is being lumped into the same class as horror-movie villains, I'm disappointed that they failed to spring for a Trump wig for Screech in the fantasy sequence. Anyway, Jessie reaffirms that she needs to meet Brett first before she'll go out with him. I fail to see how meeting a guy for lunch is any less of a date than going with him to a party, but whatever. Lisa drops off Jessie at Brett's table at the Max, where the two commence with some of the most inane first-date banter I've ever heard. However, it seems to frost Jessie's cupcakes, because after about 90 seconds, she's inviting him to Kelly's party. He accepts, and the two start undressing each other with their eyes for an uncomfortably long time. Everything's hunky-dory until Brett gets up to leave, and we find out that he's about eye level with Jessie's boobs. Seems like a win-win for ol' Brett, but Jessie's less than thrilled and tells Lisa the date is off. Didn't we already cover Jessie's Height Issues in the Casey Kasem dance party episode? Do we really have to go through this again?

Zack drags Screech into the boys' bathroom to hatch his latest scheme, which is that Screech will pretend to be Zack and go out with Penny instead. Considering how eager Screech was to date Penny a couple days ago, it's kind of surprising that he puts up resistance to this, but he eventually acquiesces. Unfortunately, Zack still has not learned that you should always check the stalls before you do sort of any secretive plotting in the bathroom, and after he and Screech leave, Slater pops up and tells us, "It's incredible what you can hear standing on a toilet." He neglects to tell us why he was standing on the toilet in the first place.

Cut to Zack's bedroom, where he's giving Screech a lesson in Being Zack 101. Apparently, being Zack is a lot like being a Brooks Brothers runway model, as the lesson involves wearing khakis, a blue blazer and Docksiders, and walking while snapping your finger, followed by a dramatic jacket take-off and pose. Screech masters it all until the big open-the-door-and-lean-against-the-door-frame finale, which sends him careening down the stairs. This is probably a good time to wonder why, exactly, this scheme has to involve Zack and Screech dressing in matching outfits.

The next day in the hall, after an intervention by Lisa and Kelly to make Jessie realize what an idiot she's being about Brett (which involves Lisa telling Kelly she can't come to her country club because of the new "rich people only" rule, like isn't that always the rule at country clubs?), Slater sets his own scheme into motion, convincing Screech that Kelly would be heartbroken if he didn't bring Penny to the party.

At the party, Kelly and Zack are twirling around on the dance floor, while Slater's standing by the requisite bowl of red punch, already gloating over what's about to happen. Which is that Screech is going to walk in with Penny Belding who, by the way, is totally cute. Screech has embellished his standard-issue Zack outfit with a blond wig for "that extra bit of Zack-osity." We can only assume that the wildly patterned red tie he also added is for extra "Screech-osity." Anyway, Zack makes a beeline for Screech and tells him to scram.

Meanwhile, Jessie's been glued to her booth all night, refusing to dance with Brett. He's finally had enough, and goes to dance with Lisa. Using her magical matchmaking abilities, Lisa gets them to dance together. Blah, blah, blah, Jessie's tall, Brett's short, Jessie's a jerk, Brett's nice. All you really need to know is that they make up and slow dance awkwardly. Now let's get back to the real story!

Despite being told by Zack in no uncertain terms to get lost, Screech and Penny are still at the party, tango-ing away. Slater cuts in and tells Screech that Zack needs to talk to him. With Screech out of the way, Slater points out Kelly to Penny and tells her Kelly would love it if Penny told her how much fun she was having with Zack. Which she does, even slipping in her plans to take "Zack" back to Belding's house and have her way with him. Hmm, it seems our Penny is a little bit of a tart. Maybe Belding should lead with that the next time he's trying to get high-school boys to go out with her. Kelly rears up to insult Penny, but is apparently unable to come up with any of the various synonyms for "slut" that girls have been hurling at one another since time began, and finally settles on "un-nice girl." Oh, Kel. Still, it's enough to stop the party in its tracks, after which Penny and Screech beat a hasty retreat.

Kelly realizes there's something fishy going on (I can't believe the matching outfits didn't tip her off earlier) and confronts Zack, who tries to lie about it for some reason instead of just coming clean about the Belding blackmail. Finally, Kelly asks him point blank, "Did you tell Belding you'd go out with his niece?" Zack admits that he did, although he omits all of the details about blackmail and making Screech his doppelganger. Kelly's basically like, "That's the sweetest thing anyone's ever done for me." You mean accepting a date with another girl on your birthday? Man, Kelly really needs to raise her standards. Or are we supposed to believe that the same girl who couldn't come up with a better insult than "un-nice girl" worked out all of the stuff Zack left out by herself? That seems about as plausible to me as Screech getting lucky at Belding's house, but according to Penny, that's exactly what's happening right now, so...okay.


Quote of the episode
Belding: I've got a real problem, guys.
Zack: Just wear a hat, sir.

Clare: B+. Although it was totally unnecessary, the sight of Screech dressed like Zack was pretty humorous. If only it hadn't been for Jessie and her stupid insecurities, this episode would have been a solid A.

8:24 AM

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Karma chameleon

Zack kicks off the episode with some exposition about this week's speech-class assignment, the topic of which is "My Best Friend." Substitute teacher Coach Rizzo (a possible relative of Coach Sonski, judging by his over-the-top Brooklyn accent) intros Slater, who starts his speech with, "Okay, check it!" Fine oratory technique. Using approximately 27 cliches in the span of three sentences, Slater introduces us to his best friend—his chameleon Artie, whom he pulls out of his shirt pocket for the grand finale. Slater must have this chameleon well-trained, since most of the lizards I've ever seen would not be content to just hang out in a shirt pocket for an indefinite amount of time.

At the Max, Slater is demonstrating more of Artie's talents, such as how he can raise his head long enough for Slater to give him an Eskimo kiss. The gang is enchanted, minus Zack, who thinks it's ludicrous (word) and Lisa, who thinks it's disgusting (double word). Slater happens to be skipping town for the weekend, so he asks Screech to watch Artie. Why doesn't he just cart him along in his shirt pocket, if Artie's so happy in there? Anyway, as Slater and Screech skip off to scour some windshields for Artie's dinner (and Lisa leaves to vomit upon hearing about Artie's diet), Kelly attempts to reconfirm with Jessie their plans to work on Kelly's speech that night. But no dice: Jessie's off to chain herself to a gas pump with her mom, presumably as practice for later chaining herself to an oil derrick. (Where's Franklin when you need him?) Fortunately, Zack knows nothing says "booty call" like "study date," so he jumps right in to help.

Later at his house, Zack is admiring his cardboard cutout of Kelly (Sporty Volleyball Model) in advance of their date when Screech shows up with Artie. Turns out the rest of Screech's pets find Artie pretty tasty, so he needs to find a new home for him, stat. Zack reluctantly agrees to take over chameleon-sitting, and manages to shove Screech out the door just as Kelly arrives. Kelly immediately grabs Artie's shoebox and commences with the baby talk. Zack tells her to give it a rest so they can work (read: so he can hit on her), so she tosses the shoebox cavalierly on the desk. Zack has just started to work his mojo on Kelly when Jessie comes careening through his window (nearly trampling poor Artie in the process; I'm not entirely sure that wasn't what led to his ultimate demise), explaining that she and her mom ran out of gas on the way to the gas protest, and her mom refused to fill up. That doesn't explain how they got back so fast, but let's just assume they ran out of gas in their driveway. Anyway, Kelly and Jessie beat a hasty retreat, leaving Zack with nothing but a chameleon and a cardboard cutout for company.

The next day in the hall, the gang notices that Artie is starting to resemble said cardboard cutout—stiff and inanimate. In other words, dead. Which is really bad timing, since Slater's just gotten back from San Diego and is dying to see his BFF. Zack and Screech shove poor dead Artie in a locker (it appears to be Lisa's, which is NOT going to be pretty when she opens it again) and manage to put off Slater until they have time to procure an Artie replacement. Unfortunately, the girls have done the same thing, and Slater is presented with two Arties at the Max. Although the gang really needs to do a better job of coordinating their chameleon substitution, I am impressed that they managed to also find two shoeboxes identical to the one Slater originally had Artie in. Despite Zack's attempts to pass off the duplicate chameleon as Artie's new girlfriend Artesia, Slater knows something's up. Unfortunately, he just thinks it's that Artie's lost in Zack's room, and promises to come over and look for him after wrestling practice.

Knowing they can't keep up the ruse for long (although I feel they could at least try letting one of the replacement Arties loose in Zack's room for Slater to find), the gang imagines what will happen to them if Slater finds out about Artie. Which is that he will dress up in a crocodile costume, talk in a weird raspy voice with an indeterminate accent, and give his tongue a Gene Simmons-worthy workout while meting out their punishments. Which are: Screech must grow old playing Solitaire (with actual cards—that is punishment!), Jessie will wear a ridiculously high-cut bathing suit while sitting on a block of ice, Kelly will jump around in a frying pan with some eggs (what, no bacon?), and Lisa will be forced to dress like a suburban grandma. I guess Zack doesn't get a punishment, or his is too awful to show (actual prison?), because we cut out of the fantasy sequence as he's crying to Sheriff Belding that they didn't mean to do it.

Later that day at Chez Morris, Slater is on a rampant hunt for Artie, from which not even the discovery of the Kelly cardboard cutout can distract him (though it did slow him down for at least a few seconds). The gang shuffles guiltily in while Slater's in the closet (heh), and when he sees them all standing around avoiding his gaze, the jig is up. Kelly offers up the shoebox containing the actual Artie (maybe it was in her locker?), and Slater is surprisingly glib, quipping, "It's just a dead lizard."

Ah, but a river of pain runs beneath his tough-guy facade, as we learn the next day in speech class. Kelly gets up to talk about her German shepherd (seriously, do none of these kids have actual human best friends?), which prompts some relentless heckling from Slater. Coach Rizzo sends him to the principal's office, where Belding puts on his therapist hat and attempts to get Slater to open up. His method of choice appears to be a staring contest, which is surprisingly ineffective, so it's a good thing Zack walks in and gives Belding the dirt. Belding finally breaks Slater down by telling him the story of his parakeets Sonny and Cher, and how Cher flew the coop one day when Belding left the cage open. Yeah, but she went on to win an Oscar for Moonstruck, whereas all Artie's going to get is a poorly attended funeral in a Bayside classroom. Eh, better than nothing.

Artie's shoebox has been all tarted up in red fabric and a pink rose for the funeral, over which Zack is presiding. After less-than-comforting eulogies from Lisa and Coach Rizzo (which basically amount to "At least he was color-coordinated" and "I'm sure he was great, but I don't really know"), Screech and Jessie deliver a rousing rendition of the soon-to-be-classic "Oh Artie Boy," complete with Carnegie Hall-worthy vibrato and Casio keyboard accompaniment. Following this fine musical interlude, Slater comes through with the only touching tribute of the service, telling Artie what a good friend he was, but not to worry because now he has other good friends. Yeah, so good they'll kill your chameleon.


Quote of the episode
Lisa: Get that thing away from me! The only time I get this close to lizard skin is when Anne Klein puts a buckle on it.

Clare: B-. You guys know how I feel about Slater-centric episodes, but this one is kind of a classic. I still can't listen to "Oh Danny Boy" without mentally changing the lyrics to "Oh Artie Boy."

8:44 AM

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