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Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Bullshit Aptitude Test

We open in the gym, where the gang and the requisite 12 extras are sitting at tables, No. 2 pencils at the ready. This is because, as Zack helpfully explains to us, they are about to take the SATs. Zack acts as if he, along with the rest of the viewing public, has never heard of the SATs before, which is merely the beginning of the complete and total bullshit that will plague us throughout this episode.

Mr. Belding paces around the room, lecturing the kids that this is the most important test they'll ever have to take. I personally think the SAT comes in second to the driver's test, but no one asked me. Incidentally, I hate how TV shows act like you can only take the SAT once, when everyone knows you can take it as many times as you want to keep improving your score. I guess that doesn't really convey the same level of dramatic tension, but whatever. It's still bullshit.

Cut to the test-taking. Jessie is filling in her answer sheet with vigor while thinking about how much she wants to go to Stansbury. Hey, what happened to Stanford?! Guess the caffeine pills must have affected on her short-term memory. Kelly, meanwhile, is staring at Jessie in horror, aghast that she's already on the third page when Kelly is still on the third question. Hmm, that does make me wonder if perhaps Jessie isn't employing the patented Andie McPhee standardized test-taking method. Then again, perhaps if Kelly spent less time staring at Jessie in horror and more time actually taking the test, she'd be a little further along. A few rows back, Slater is reminiscing about his oh-so-healthy breakfast of Twinkies and Ding Dongs, while Zack has become mesmerized by none other than Mrs. Ben Stiller herself, Christine Taylor, who is sitting at the desk in front of him.

Several weeks later (according to the captioning, although it would not be outside the realm of possibility in the SBTB universe for the test scores to have come back the next day), the gang is gathered at the Max to reveal their scores. Well, this just seems like a fabulous idea. To cut to the chase, the first four scores revealed are: Screech, 1220; Kelly, 1100; Lisa, 1140; Slater, 1050. Everyone obviously thinks Slater's score is embarrassingly low, which makes no sense at all because it's only 50 points lower than Kelly's. Next, we come to Zack, and the gang is amazed to learn that he has a score of 1502. Hey, now we know who the real Andie McPhee here is! Everyone assumes that since Zack got such a great score, Jessie's must be even higher, which it most decidedly is not, at 1205. While Jessie freaks out, I would like to take this moment to point out that I got a higher SAT score (1240) than 5 out of 6 of these people.

Later in the hall, Christine Taylor is congratulating Zack on his high score. In this scene (and a couple of subsequent ones), Christine Taylor is wearing flowered leggings with a matching oversized flowered sweater. I like to imagine that Ben Stiller sometimes gives her shit about having worn this outfit when they're hanging out at home. You know he does. Anyway, Zack takes advantage of his newfound genius to invite Christine Taylor over for a study date. Meanwhile, a random bimbo-ish extra comes up to Jessie, babbling that she made a 1280 on her SATs. OK, now I don't feel so proud of my score, if random bimbo-ish extra beat me. But hey, I got a 30 on my ACTs! Take that, random bimbo-ish extra! And what is up with everyone announcing their SAT scores at the drop of a hat? Who does that? What bullshit.

Conveniently, a college fair has been set up in the gym on the same day everyone received their test scores. Zack, Jessie and Christine Taylor are all in line to talk to the Stansbury rep. As Christine Taylor fawns all over Zack, Jessie makes pukey faces in the background, which may be the one thing Jessie has ever done that I think is awesome. Belding comes into the gym and starts making a big deal over Zack's test score, calling him "Mr. SAT" and introducing him to Mrs. Billingham, the Stansbury rep. He also introduces Jessie, pointing out her straight-A average and spate of after-school activites. However, when Mrs. Billingham finds out Jessie's SAT score, she tells her condescendingly that there are plenty of other colleges that would take her as she fawns over Zack, whom she has not asked about his grades and/or after-school activites, I might add. Which is why I will now be referring to her as Mrs. Bullshit.

That night, Zack is wearing one of his more elaborate geometrically patterened sweaters (which you just know Ben Stiller often makes fun of, too) and getting ready for his date with Christine Taylor by breaking in his beanbag chair, turning on the Muzak and spraying some Binaca in his mouth. Whatever happened to Binaca? Do they still make it? Or did it get eclipsed by those new-fangled breath strips? Anyway, Christine Taylor arrives and lets Zack convince her that both dimmed lights and a massage are conducive to studying. His grand seduction plan fails, however, when Bob, Christine Taylor's 40-year-old boyfriend shows up for some study help, too.

Meanwhile, Jessie is moping at the Max. Kelly points out that they shouldn't be worried about college stuff because they're only juniors, apparently not realizing that junior year is pretty much the crucial one when it comes to college decisions. Anyway, Mrs. Bullshit walks in, and Jessie pipes up a little too quickly and a little too loudly with "I knew you'd change your mind," which makes it all the more embarrassing when Mrs. Bullshit reveals that she's there to talk to Slater. When Jessie finds out that Mrs. Bullshit is recruiting Mr. 1050 to play on Stansbury's football team, she goes...well, apeshit and storms out of the Max. Slater says it's a good thing Jessie didn't find out Stansbury had offered him a car. A car?! Wow, that's like in the 99th percentile of bullshit.

Zack arrives at the Max, fresh from his non-date with Christine Taylor, as does James, fresh from an audition for Julius Caesar, which he apparently screwed up by yelling "With or without anchovies?" Since when does a caesar salad come with anchovies in the first place? As the gang frets over what to do about Jessie, Zack gets one of his ingenious ideas and tells James he's about to play the role of a lifetime. I'm thinking it might not be such a great idea to cast in a starring role an actor who can't even get through a freaking Shakespeare audition without messing up (not to mention a waiter who doesn't know what's on a caesar salad), but maybe that's just me.

Cut to the hallway, where Slater is stalling Jessie as Zack sneaks James into the gym, where he is posing as a Hhhhharvard rep. I would wonder how Harvard got into the show whereas Stanford obviously had to be cut out, but it's pretty clear that they stipulated their name could only be used if everyone pronounced it in an incredibly obnoxious manner. Which is why James is waxing poetic to Mrs. Bullshit (whom he calls Mrs. Billy-Goat-Cheese-Ham) about Hhhhharvard's presence at Bayside (which he calls Bay-Dock-View-Side). You'd think an actor would be able to remember things like names and places, but I believe we've already demonstrated that James is not exactly skilled at his craft. After a few minutes of this nonsense, Zack escorts James out of the gym, beating him over the head with his Hhhhharvard sign on the way out, a gesture which Mrs. Bullshit would have to have been blind not to notice. In fact, the only person not blind in this scene is apparently Jessie, who bumps into James and sees through the whole ruse at once. This causes her, and the rest of the gang, to tell Mrs. Bullshit where she can shove it. Which is pretty easy to do when you're dealing with a fake university. Otherwise? Bullshit.

Meanwhile, James is in Belding's office, posing as Stanley Alan Taylor, president of the SAT board. For no other apparent reason than to provide a sight gag when it begins to fall off, James has donned an extremely fake beard for his new role. Mr. Belding must have somehow fallen victim to the same random bout of blindness as Mrs. Bullshit, because he totally fails to notice the falling-off beard as James lectures him to stop challenging Zack with difficult classes. (How Dennis Haskins kept a straight face during this scene is beyond me, since apparently Mark-Paul Gosselaar and the guy who plays James couldn't manage.)

Having been freed from his schedule of nerd classes, Zack (wearing a blazer and glasses he must have received from the same Department of Unnecessary Costuming that provided James with his beard) exits Belding's office and gives all of his advanced calculus and college-level Russian books to Jessie. Someone must have given her a long-overdue dose of Valium, because she tells Zack that it doesn't matter that he got a 1500 and she got a 1200. Zack wastes no time pointing out that his score was a 1502. And with that, it's official: Bullshit is to this episode as stink is to a monkey.


Quote of the episode
"Man, Zack's smarter than Doogie Howser!" --Screech

Clare: B+. This is a notable episode (who among us hasn't compared our SAT scores to Zack Morris's?) but one that, in the post-high school era, ultimately requires too great a suspension of disbelief if one is ever to get past all the bullshit. Besides, haven't the ACTs made the SATs obsolete by now?

10:01 AM

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