Life, liberty, and the pursuit of really hideous clothing
We open at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, where the staff is gathered for the obligatory morning meeting. This time, Leon "The Poor Man's Danny DeVito" Carosi is preparing them for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, detailing all of the activities that will occur therein, such as the Staff vs. Member Games and the Miss Liberty Pageant. Zack offers up the suggestion that, instead of barrel jumping, they leap over girls in swimsuits and call it bikini jumping. Unsurprisingly, neither Jessie nor Big L is too keen on this idea, although the random extra standing behind Zack and Jessie seems to like it.
Talk then turns to the Miss Liberty Pageant, specifically the lack of participants. When Carosi mentions that there's a $500 savings bond in it for the winner, Kelly naturally jumps all over the chance to rake in more cash to put toward the management of her humongous family. Screech also tries to get in on the action, but Big L puts a stop to that. And really, was being Miss Bayside not enough for him? He has to be Miss Liberty, too? When did Screech become the Jon-Benet Ramsey of SBTB? Anyway, Big L tells Zack that, as the ambiguously titled "social director," it's his job to convince girls to sign up for the pageant.
Zack, of course, takes this as an opportunity to hit on even more of the beach club's neon-clad female population by telling them they'll get dates with him if they sign up for the pageant. He makes no such promise to Stacey to get her to sign up, but he does tell her, "If I were a judge, I'd vote for you." Hey, Zack, better put some salt on those words, because you're going to be eating them later.
Meanwhile out on the beach, Slater is attempting to set up the obstacle course, but he's getting some criticism from last year's obstacle-course champion, Miss Lisa Turtle. Since when is Lisa, the prissiest girl at Bayside, an obstacle course champion? Whatever. Slater informs her that, in fact, he will be winning the obstacle course this year. Screech then shows up in a "Muscle Beach" sweatsuit to try his hand at the obstacle course and promptly gets stuck in the cardboard tube. Lisa and Slater walk away, totally unconcerned that their friend appears to be rolling toward his ultimate demise in the ocean.
Up at the dining room, Stacey finally agrees to sign up for the pageant. Big L happens to be within earshot when Stacey makes her big announcement and immediately erupts with paternal pride. He then grabs Zack and introduces him to his buddy, Mr. Edgewater. When Carosi reveals that Stacey will be competing in the pageant, Mr. Edgewater responds with, "Well, I say, old man, that's fantastic!" So apparently they plucked Mr. Edgewater right off the set of Mary Poppins. Anyway, Big L recuses himself from judging due to the obvious conflict of interest, putting Zack in his place instead. Yeah, I'm not sure making the guy who's trying to romance Stacey a judge is any less of a conflict of interest, but whatever.
Suddenly, now that Zack's a judge, every single one of his friends has come out of the woodwork to enter the pageant, including Jessie (what, no grandstanding about pageants being sexist and degrading to women?) and Lisa (won't she be too busy with the obstacle course?). However, it seems that the scales are beginning to tip in favor of Stacey, who for some reason is modeling her pageant dress for Zack in the employee lounge. She's complaining that the dress, which appears to have sequined firecrackers on it, makes her look like a firecracker. Well, what did she expect? Zack takes the hook of this obvious compliment-fishing and goes in for the kiss, only to be rudely interrupted by Slater, who walks in and sticks his head between Zack and Stacey in what I can only assume is an attempt to get in on the action. Because seriously? Normal people don't act that way when they walk into a room and see two people about to kiss. Anyway, after Zack kicks Slater out of the lounge, he asks Stacey to the big Fourth of July dance. She agrees, but unfortunately, Slater seems to have ruined the almost-kiss moment, so you'll have to hold those "wooo"s for later.
The next day, it's time for the big Fourth of July celebration, for which everyone is dressed in colonial garb, and Jessie is playing the fife and walking as if she has a wooden leg. Don't ask me why. Screech has come dressed as his own uncle Sam, although to the casual observer, he might also be Willy Lowman from Death of a Salesman. The games kick off at the obstacle course, where Slater does an exceptionally bad job on nearly every obstacle, causing Lisa and her questionable athletic ability to totally smoke him. Hey, didn't he set the obstacle course up? You'd think he would've practiced doing it at least once.
Next we're off to the wheelbarrow race, where Big L and Edgewater use some of Craig Strand's race-winning tips to knock Kelly and Jessie over. Jessie cries foul, yelling, "Illegal use of a big body!" Whatever, Spano. Let she who has not sinned cast the first stone. Finally, everyone gets even by throwing each other into a random pit of dirty water at the tug-of-war. Oh, and Lisa and Slater call a truce and agree to go to the dance together. But who cares about this crap? Let's get on to the real drama--the Miss Liberty Pageant!
Hey, remember Stacey's sequined firecracker dress? It's actually the most tame outfit here. Kelly appears to be dressed as a cross between Minnie Mouse and Laura Ingalls Wilder, wearing something polka-dotted with puffy sleeves and a pinnafore, which she's paired with some fetching granny boots. Jessie is dressed as the Statue of Liberty. No, really. Her entire body is cloaked in loose gray fabric. Thankfully, we are spared an explanation of the outfit's political motivations. Lisa, in a red bikini top, a hideous flag-emblazoned leather jacket, and a sequined...uh, policeman's hat, looks like the love child of RuPaul and one of the Village People. Hey, no wonder Slater wanted to take her to the dance!
Somehow, these four fashion victims make it to the final round (whoever heard of a top four? Where's Muffin Sangria when you need her?), which means they each have to say what the Fourth of July means to them. Lisa says it means "fun, fireworks, and 50 percent off at all major department stores." Hey, she's got my vote! Jessie starts blathering about...I don't know, Manifest Destiny or something, until Carosi shoos her off the stage. Stacey says, "I would buy everyone a puppy so that they can feel the love that I feel right now." All right, not really, but she says something equally affected and simpering. Kelly actually says something really articulate and insightful about freedom that I'm too lazy to write out word for word.
Time for the results! Instead of the sort of super-secret tabulation that accompanies, say, the Miss America Pageant, Carosi simply walks over to the judges' table and takes each of their votes one by one, reading it out loud so everyone knows who voted for whom. Nice. Of course, this is really just to create dramatic tension when Zack votes for Kelly instead of Stacey. Which it does, first when Big L fires him (oh, so setting up a competing business while wearing his company uniform is within bounds, but this he gets fired for?), and then when Stacey breaks off their date to the dance after hearing from Screech that Zack voted for Kelly to try to win her back.
Later at the dance, Stacey is sulking at the refreshment table, looking fetching in a polka-dotted slipdress worn over lace-edged bicycle shorts. I would make fun of her outfit, but I'm pretty sure that at the time, I either owned those shorts or desperately wanted to. Anyway, Kelly comes up to congratulate her on the whole first runner up thing, and Stacey fires back a sarcastic comment about Kelly's relationship with Zack. When Kelly learns that Screech is the source of the misinformation, she tells Stacey, "Screech thinks Elvis runs a daycare center for the Muppet Babies." Hey, in Screech's defense, "Nanny" was a very ambiguous character whose face was never shown. It totally could have been Elvis!
Stacey goes to find Zack and runs into her dad, who lets it slip that he tried to rig the Miss Liberty Pageant. After chewing him out, Stacey discovers Zack on the beach, where he's sitting with a bag and his glaringly white Air Jordans next to him. So what, is he waiting for someone to pick him up by boat? I guess it doesn't matter, because Stacey and Zack make up and head back to the dance hand-in-hand, much to the delight of the gang, plus some random tall guy who appears to be Jessie's date. Big L, on the other hand, is not so delighted to see his recent firee. He changes his tune, though, when Zack and Stacey convince him that Zack could sue him for unfair dismissal. They make it seem like they're totally bullshitting him, but really, I bet Ally McBeal would've taken on their case. And won, provided she didn't get distracted by, say, dancing babies or having sex with strange men in car washes.
But before Zack and Stacey can ring up Cage and Fish or whatever the hell that sham of a law firm was called, everyone gets distracted by the fireworks starting outside. Zack and Stacey decide to stay inside, presumably so they can kiss without Slater trying to get in on it, which seems to work pretty well. As they lock lips, we fade into a shot of the fireworks. Wow, that metaphor was almost as subtle as Lisa's Miss Liberty outfit.
Quote of the episode "You're a Carosi! Like yeast, we rise to the occasion!" --Big L, to Stacey, upon learning that she's entering the Miss Liberty pageant
Grade Clare: C+. What can I say? Beauty pageants on this show are really only fun when Screech is in them. But at least we were finally relieved of the sexual tension that had been building between Stacey and Zack for a whole two episodes.