Saturday, February 22, 2014

Episode 2x23 "Home"

The first line of the episode is Cory saying "Come on Shawn, you've lived here three weeks and you've been in the bathroom two and a half of 'em," as he knocks on the bathroom door in the morning. A neat little way to immediately establish how much time has passed since the last episode. Eric's bothered by all this noise, as he's trying to study for the SAT. Looks like both plotlines are continuations from 2x22. As such, Eric's studying is still not going very well, and the test is in three days!

Downstairs, Morgan is having ice cream for breakfast as per Shawn's advice. I am genuinely shocked at how much better her delivery is here than it has been otherwise. Is ice cream the secret to good acting? Move over Stanislavski you old bastard, Ben and Jerry are runnin this shit.

Shawn comes downstairs and grabs some milk from the fridge, and drinks directly from the carton. Amy and Alan disapprove, but they don't want to give him a hard time about it, so Amy marks the carton with an "S", saying it's Shawn's milk now, but it's effectively a warning label for everyone else. Apparently this has been happening a lot.

My only question is what's the point of that can of soda marked with an S? Are you supposed to share cans of soda in the Matthews house? What's more, who the fuck has ever finished an already open can of soda? Just thinking about flat soda makes me gag.

Next, Amy shows Shawn that she's patched all the holes in his deliberately hole-y jeans, and she's bought him a new hoodie the color of honey mustard. He is clearly unhappy, but doesn't want to be ungrateful since she's granting him asylum in her home. Cory comes downstairs in the same jacket that Shawn has just been given, only Cory loves his and thinks it's cool that they'll be wearing the same jacket. The first four minutes of this episode have been extremely in-your-face about how completely out-of-his-element Shawn is.

Pictured: Shawn's element

Later, at school, we see a little "the night after" flirting between Jonathan Turner and Kat Tompkins in the only hallway in the school. Ms. Tompkins, who apparently left some article of underwear at Turner's place, is wearing her bolo tie again, which, like last time, I'm not happy about. She goes somewhere else and is replaced by Feeny in the role of conversation partner. The camera pans over to Shawn who has cut the sleeves off of his honey mustard jacket. Cory tries to understand why Shawn would mutilate such a wonderful piece of clothing, and Shawn's like "look I'm just tryin not to lose my fuckin mind here" and stomps off. Shawn's really had a lot of dramatic exits lately. I hope people don't do that in real life.

Mr. Turner overhears this exchange from a distance because high school hallways are known for being quiet enough for that to happen. Like, if Mr. Turner actually heard that, then everyone in the hallway must have heard it too. But they don't even move, they just keep silently reading their notebooks. Who the hell studies in a hallway? Why am I being so critical today? Did I just rhyme on purpose?

After Shawn makes his exit, Turner turns from Feeny to remind Cory that he's available if the boys ever need help with this situation. And now Feeny reminds Turner to be careful of crossing that line between authority figure and pal. It's five minutes in now and we've been reminded of all the positions and dynamics that were established in 2x22, so we can start to move forward. Personally, I think this is infinitely more effective than a "Previously, on Boy Meets World..." at the beginning. Good work.

The first step in our forward motion is Turner pointing out that Feeny is full of it.

I just noticed that I wrote "Mattews" instead of "Matthews" in the gif, but I'm going to leave it that way for two reasons. First, that's how Turner pronounces it anyway. Second, I ain't no bitch.

That evening in the Matthews kitchen, Eric and his best friend Jason have just finished a round of practice SATs. Eric got a comically bad score. Jason points out that Eric's practice scores keep dropping because he's overworked and stressed out.

That is honestly one of my favorite jokes from this show. No surprise that it comes from Eric and Jason. A more obvious punchline would have been "...what score would I need for that?" or "... well I would look good with a red nose..." or something like that. Those aren't funny at all, but that's what I was expecting. "Is that a four year school" strikes that delicate balance between realistic and unpredictable that's necessary for any really good joke. Add in their perfect facial expressions and Will Friedle's godly timing, and we've got a real masterpiece of a joke.

Jason tries to convince his best friend to get some sleep, but Eric insists that he just needs fresh air and bolts out to the backyard. Defeated, Jason goes home. Mr. Feeny shows up and, sympathetic to Eric's plight, strikes a deal with him. The three super top secret keys to doing well on the SAT in exchange for Eric's diligent help with yardwork over the next couple days.

Later that night, Cory is awoken by the howls of a stray dog "down on the corner", just like the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, and discovers Shawn seated at the bedroom window looking introspective as fuck. They have a pretty depressing conversation about how Shawn envies the stray dog's freedom. Cory starts preaching about rules and Shawn's like "screw the rules I have green hair" and escapes through the window with an expectedly dramatic flourish. This picture is just where I randomly paused the video to type this paragraph, but it's actually a really good shot so I want to throw it in.

The next scene fades in on Turner's apartment where Kat Tompkins and Turner himself are an intimate distance away from each other on the couch. We had a similar scene in the previous episode, and Kat said something like "we've been dating for three months, is this going somewhere?" Now bear in mind that Cory mentioned at the beginning that three weeks have passed. In this scene, Kat says "We've been together now for four months."

Just like last time, Shawn saves Turner from the commitment conversation when he shows up at the door. Only this time, he's been escorted by a police officer. Apparently Shawn and some other rapscallions were going to do some graffiti at the school, and when the cop chased him down he said he was staying at Turner's. Turner decides to go along with the lie and invites his student in, which sends Ms. Tompkins off, but for good this time. Mr. Turner has effectively committed to taking care of Shawn in favor of committing to Kat. That really says a lot about this guy.

Even more of Turner's character is on display as he turns on his you-better-fucking-listen-to-me voice and really lays into Shawn for all the stupid shit he's been doing. As always, it's fantastic.

They both cool off, though, and Shawn ends up staying over. I don't understand why they decided to do this scene twice. It was much more powerful the first time they did it, in 2x22, mostly because it was the first time. The scene in 2x22 didn't even impact the story, really. If this was believable in 2x22, then it also would have been believable (and much more powerful) if this scene were the first time. That sentence was difficult to word. Did that make sense? The point is, Shawn was vulnerable when he went to Turner in 2x22, this time he just got arrested because he decided to be an idiot. If they'd switched those around somehow, or just not done it in 2x22 and saved the vulnerability for this episode, it could have been fantastically amazing.

The next day, Turner brings Shawn to the Matthews house. Cory and Shawn go upstairs while the adults talk in the kitchen. In a miracle of convenience, Shawn's father, Chet, calls their landline from a payphone near Georgia, and Amy puts him on speaker phone. Amy and Alan express their concerns about continuing to take care of Shawn, but Chet tells everyone that he's not coming back any time soon and then points out that Shawn is probably eavesdropping. And indeed he is. Feeling the pain of being unwanted, Shawn yells "I don't need any of you!" and runs upstairs. The Matthews parents follow him up to console him, but Mr. Turner correctly guesses Shawn's plan to bail out of Cory's window. That's a bold guess since Turner shouldn't have any idea which side of the house Cory's room is in, but it works out, and he intercepts Shawn as he drops from the second story.

And FINALLY, this story arc comes to fruition as Jonathan Turner offers to let Shawn live with him after the two engage in a very well written and emotional dialogue.

During the credits, Feeny reveals the three SAT secrets to Eric: get a good night's sleep, clear your mind, and trust yourself. Not exactly the kind of secrets Eric was expecting and hoping for, but solid advice nonetheless. I doubt anyone reading this will ever be taking the SAT again, but there ya go.

OKAY. So let's break this one down. What exactly happened in this episode that didn't happen in 2x22? 

Here's the abridged version:
Eric struggles to study for the SAT, Cory's in the background trying to support Shawn, Chet is gone, Shawn has a hard time and stays with Turner for a night after interrupting a date, and Turner acts as a father figure. By the end, Eric feels better about the SAT, Cory thinks Shawn is going to be okay, Chet announces that he's going to be gone even longer, Shawn finds a place to stay, and Turner further solidifies his fatherliness.

That describes both episodes. The only real differences were Alan's existential crisis in 2x22 and the fact that Shawn goes with Turner at the end of this one, having gone with Cory in 2x22. They're almost exactly the same, and I already talked about repeating that scene at Turner's apartment, which is definitely the biggest problem I have with this episode. 

I really think something happened behind the scenes with either time constraints or budget issues. They're just way too similar. If they really wanted to make it two episodes, they should have focused more on Alan in 2x22, had Shawn stay with Cory and skip the scene at Turner's apartment, then focus on Shawn and Turner in this one.

But that's not to say this is a bad episode. It's a great episode. It's just that it's great for the exact same reasons 2x22 was great.

(I have more to say after the badges. Keep scrolling.)

Plot: 1.0 - See 2x22.

Character Development: 1.0 - See 2x22. And we got a little extra Feeny+Eric time here.

Humor: 1.0 - The Ericlogue was once again the main source of humor, but it was much better this time.

Life Lesson: 0 - There wasn't really a lesson this time. Which is weird. It was a touching conclusion, very emotional, but did we actually learn anything? Doesn't seem like it.

Damn that was long.

3.0 out of 4.0 


And there you have it. That's the end of season 2. It absolutely breaks my heart to say this, but this is the last episode with Jason Marsden. His last line was "I'm going home." Poetic. On the other hand, this is also the last episode with Lily Nicksay as Morgan. I'm sure Ms. Nicksay is a fine actress these days, she was simply too young for this role, and that's the management's fault anyway. Also, HOLY CRAP! WE FINISHED SEASON 2! What a drastic improvement over season 1, my reviews and the show. There's a solid amount of loyal readers out there, and I want you guys to know that you're awesome and I love your comments, upvotes, likes, and tweets. All that shit. That shit rules. Let's celebrate.

I don't actually smoke.

Thank you so much for reading. I'm going to take a break next week, but I'll be back to start season 3 on March 3rd. See you then!

All images used under Fair Use.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Episode 2x22 "Career Day"

If this episode doesn't involve a career day, I am going to feel betrayed.

Okay it involves a career day. And it takes place in Mr. Turner's class because what else are you gonna do in English class. But Cory's not excited! He's using his "this is about to shame the shit out of me" voice to remind Shawn (read as: the audience) that his father is a grocer. Alan gives the two boys a preview of his presentation, and it's looking quite grim. The first to present is Topanga's father, Jedediah, who has chosen to wear the Goron Tunic from Ocarina of Time today. Jedediah is annoyingly humble about his cool job of making guitars for famous musicians, and then plays a little bluegrass to really drive home his superiority over Allen, unintentional as it may be.

Alan goes next and he's all sweaty and nervous and fumbling with notecards. It's cringey, but it's supposed to be, so it works. This would probably be a good episode just with Alan's story, but they went ahead and gave us more. Shawn's father, Chet, shows up at the classroom's door and decides he's going to present next. Chet starts grandstanding and making up shit like inventing the microwave. I think this is the first time we've actually seen Shawn's father, so I'd like to comment on what a great actor this guy is. His name is Blake Clark and he's been all over Hollywood for decades. Most recently he voiced Slinky Dog in Toy Story 3 and played the billiards teacher on Community. He really brings an incredible charisma and fire to the character of Chet Hunter. The show never says it explicitly, but he's essentially a con artist.

You can't tell from the gif, but everyone except Shawn believes these wild stories, even Cory. Shawn, however, is not pleased.

At lunch, the Ericlogue begins as the man himself talks with his best bud Jason about their SAT prep course. Eric comments that he's so focused on studying that all his other senses have shut down. He proceeds to spill his soup onto his lap but doesn't notice (because his senses shut down). This makes the audience laugh for, and I'm not exaggerating, fifteen seconds. It's fifteen seconds without dialogue. Eric is just eating to the sound of laughter for fifteen seconds. It's pretty bad.

The camera pans over to the table where Cory and Shawn are eating, and then Chet shows up with the news that Shawn's mother has taken their trailer/home and run away, "this time for good". Chet says he has to chase after her, and Shawn storms off. This marks one of the few times in the series that Shawn's storming-off is actually justified.

At the Matthews house, signs of stress are continuing to manifest in Eric's behavior, causing him to rethink the idea of going to college altogether. Due to his shame and embarrassment from earlier in the day, Alan gives Eric the "Son, don't be like me" speech to motivate him to go to college. It's not an original father-son moment by any means, but they set it up well. I would be much less interested in this part of the story if we hadn't witnessed Alan's embarrassment first hand earlier in the episode. At the same time, he was juxtaposed with a hippie playing a guitar and a compulsive liar, neither of which is likely to have gone to college either. And surely Alan would know that Chet Hunter is as full of shit as his trailer's septic tank. So it's not quite on the mark, but still thorough and it's obvious that they put thought into it.

And then!!!!!!!!!!!! Something exciting happens. The next scene opens at Mr. Turner's apartment, where he and Ms. Kat Tompkins, his season-long romantic interest, are finishing up a a romantic dinner. Turner thinks it's about to be business time but Kat initiates the "where is this going?" conversation. Turner's got his "oh shit" face on, and is saved by a knock at the door. Our very own Shawn Hunter is here! Ms. Tompkins decides the moment is over and hits the road, while Turner invites Shawn in. They have a chat while Shawn eats some of the dinner's leftovers, and we learn that Shawn's staying at a shitty motel while his dad goes to search for his mom. Turner's being a real cool guy like "hey if you ever need anything, you can always stop by here", and turns his back for a second. Turning back around reveals an exhausted Shawn asleep on the couch.

This scene is so good you guys. If someone had only seen, say, the season premiere, and then watched this episode, this scene would look pretty stupid. But we know better, don't we! They've been steadily building up Turner as a father figure for Shawn for a while now, so this feels very natural. The dialogue is well written, both actors do a great job, and Shawn's trying his best not to show how shitty he's feeling, he's bottling it all up inside, and that's a big part of his character. In the past I've commented on the writers not building up to the big moments, and that sucked, but this time they got it right. Thank goodness.

The next day, Turner is at Feeny's house for some reason, and they're talking about what's happened with Shawn. Feeny advises Turner in a genuinely respectful way to be careful of the line between friend and authority figure. This is the first time Mr. Feeny truly talks to Turner as an equal, quite possibly because it is also the first time Feeny has seen what a good heart Turner really has. It's a wonderfully meaningful conversation.

Alan joins the two teachers outside for a moment, but then Amy calls him back in saying that Shawn's father has just arrived. Turner asks to come along for this conversation, since he'd like to add in a few choice comments for Chet.

Shawn, previously upstairs with Cory, (thinking about it, maybe Turner had just dropped Shawn off and went to talk to Feeny,) comes downstairs to join in the discussion. Unfortunately for Shawny Shawn, his old man's going back on the road to look for Mrs. Hunter, and has come to ask the Matthews parents if they'll watch Shawn. Of course they agree, and it's very reminiscent of that one scene from Fresh Prince, with Will's dad. If you don't know what I'm talking about, shame on you.

The first scene of this episode is readdressed, bringing us full circle, as Turner and Cory both point out to Alan that he's not just a grocer, he's a father. And a damn good one.

William Russ is so fucking perfect at playing a father, I can't even handle it.

During the credits Eric realizes there's a math section of the SAT and freaks out, launching a bunch of food onto Mr. Feeny. .....Didn't we already do a food bit........... Ugh.....

Plot: 1.0 - It's good! Shawn finally has a legitimate reason to be pissy. Showing up at Turner's apartment was well founded and believable. Now, this is the first time we've seen Chet. It might otherwise be hard to swallow the idea that he would just abandon his son like this, but the way he's been played since the very first scene really sells us on how irresponsible this guy is. I can't tell you how satisfying it is that the writers didn't just throw these big developments at us.

Character Development: 1.0 - Shawn and Turner? A+. Chet Hunter? A+. Alan? A+. Feeny too, for seemingly gaining more respect for Mr. Turner. Fuckin spot on here.

Humor: 0.5 - A lot of humor was sacrificed for emotion and plot, which is fine. The Ericlogue was supposed to serve as the primary source of laughter, but it just didn't work for me.

Life Lesson: 1.0 - This is a tough one, because the biggest real lesson here is learned by Alan, meaning that the target audience of this show won't internalize it as much. Either way, Alan learns that he isn't defined by his job. Everyone loves and respects him because of his kindness and his strong willingness to take care of the people close to him.

3.5 out of 4.0 - I don't think there were as many jokes as usual in this review, so sorry for that, but I definitely feel like there was a ton of analysis here. I guess I'm not sure why people read this blog, but hopefully it's a combination of both. Either way, thanks for reading, see you Friday for the finale of season 2!

All images used under fair use.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Episode 2x21 "The Thrilla in Phila"

Okay I guess I was wrong before in 2x14, when Cory said he was entering his eighth year of public education. He is evidently still in 7th grade. That's a weird thing to say if he wasn't starting eighth grade. "Oh maybe he's counting Kindergarten." Well that would make sense if he were starting seventh grade, but that's not it either. It was apparently just the middle of 7th grade when he said that. I don't know what's going on.

Topanga exists in this episode and works for the yearbook now. As such, she asks Cory and Shawn what their greatest achievement in their first year (see opening remarks) at John Adams High was. Is she going to interview every student at the school like this? Maybe that's where she's been all season. Anyway the boys can't think of anything.

First of all, WOAH, that's harsh. And second, what the fuck are you talking about? It's already well established that we in the audience are paying much more attention to this show than the writers did, but this is just nonsense. Off the top of my head, let's see, they both were pretty close to winning the race for class president, they took over and then re-took over the school's radio station, they ruined the dance by pretending to be in a band, and initiated a student protest/revolution. TAKE YOUR PICK. 

BUT FINE. Let's pretend that none of that happened. Besides, Shawn's hair looks so good in that gif that I'm having a hard time staying angry.

Cory decides to blame his perceived lack of achievement on the jocks, who wear their letter jackets around all the time "and therefore get all the girls, what chance [does he] have?" This statement is completely unrelated to his problem of underachieving, but we're not in the habit of making sense today.

Some jocks in letter jackets approach the boys and estimate their respective weights, hoping to find a new lightweight wrestler for their team. Cory fits the bill and accepts the position on the team. The jocks then whore out the girl you see below to be Cory's new arm candy. Her name is Candy.

I'm sure the porn business will be happy to have you in the future, Candy. In all seriousness, Candy is played by Kelly Packard who had three very minor one-or-two-episode characters on Baywatch in '91, '92, and '95, and then returned to play a fourth, but recurring, character in '97 (two years after this episode aired), and that lasted through the ninth season. So that's cool. And it totally looks like those two jocks on the left are about to kiss.

We had that little hiccup in 2x19 where Cory had all the self confidence and Shawn was having the identity crisis, but we're back to form now. Cory's letting his new jock-ness get to his head, and Shawn's being the aloof "why are you doing this dumb shit" guy who just wants his friend back.

In Mr. Feeny's history class, Griffin Hawkins, played by the illustrious Adam Scott, has called in a professional masseuse.

As Mr. Feeny thoroughly scolds Griff in the only hallway in the school, Frankie and Joey make a convenient arrival. It has just now occurred to me that Feeny's class is in the same room as Turner's class. Come on, Boy Meets World. Can you at least try? Anyway, Frankie and Joey brought some fresh lobsters with them per Griff's request. Feeny asks the lackeys what they would do if Griff were no longer around, i.e if her were expelled, prompting a moment of profound insight from our boy Joey the Rat.

Damn. That hits home, JoJo.

In the next scene, Topanga finds Cory at Chubbie's in an effort to finish that yearbook interview because there is literally nothing else to do with your time in high school. Except for everything.

Cory gives her some bull shit answers inspired by his new jock persona, and she scoffs as she walks over to Shawn, who, of course, is also there. Topanga means to ask Shawn where he sees himself in ten years, but Freudian-slips "where do you see Cory in ten years". Shawn's like "haha you like him don't you" and Topanga becomes outrageously defensive, even though she's admitted to Cory's face on multiple occasions that she likes him. So that was a "no" on trying, then.

The other members of the wrestling team inform Cory that he's going to have to fight for his spot, since someone else in his weight class wants to join. I'm 99% sure that's not how teams work. Either way, the newcomer is Joey the Rat, who is looking for a new activity in case Griff goes away somehow. Joey taunts Cory and makes a rat face and rat noises to scare him, or something. I guess they had to explain his nickname eventually, but I would have preferred not knowing.

There's a poorly shot slapstick scene in the gymnasium where Cory and Shawn watch Frankie try to teach sumo wrestling to Joey. Joey's not doing very well, until he just dropkicks Frankie to the ground, which instills fear in "Cory 'The Cory' Matthews", as he's called now. Yes, you say the whole thing, like "A Pimp Named Slickback". Cory must know literally nothing about wrestling, otherwise he wouldn't be worried about getting fucking dropkicked.

So the match starts and Cory sort of lucks into pinning Joey after about 5 seconds, earning him the jacket and the spot on the team. Joey isn't satisfied with this and challenges Cory to a rematch. When our hero declines, Joey calls him a coward and starts chanting "yellow" at him. Then we get a montage of Joey showing up in random places continuing the chant. It's kind of annoying, except that he looks adorable in this chef's hat.

You know, as I was drawing that I realized that arrows are sort of phallic, which gives a new layer of symbolism to that whole Cupid's-arrows-penetrating-stuff idea. Aren't you glad you read this blog?

Candy is looking 90s as fuck in those overalls and backwards hat. Shit belongs in a music video or somethin.

Cory eventually caves to the pressure and agrees to a fight. Thanks to his seemingly endless supply of resources, Griff manages to turn the whole thing into a spectacle in the school's gym. There's a huge crowd, spotlights, a miniature wrestling ring, and he's even got the late Robert Goulet to sing the national anthem. Mr. Goulet was evidently a pretty big deal, but all I know about him is that he was the singing voice of Mr. Wheezy at the end of Toy Story 2. And that's a good enough reason for me to like him.

Further celebrity attendees include Yasmine Bleeth, one of the stars of Baywatch between '93 and '97, and "eleven time heavyweight wrestling champion of the world, Vader", who is also Frankie's father. He's played by the former WWE wrestler of the same name. In real life, Vader was world heavyweight champion only three times. I don't know if that's good or not.

Either way, we've two Baywatch women and a WWE wrestler. This episode must have been a big deal for 13 year olds in the 90s. This must be the "thrilla" referred to in the title. The "Thrilla in Manila" was the final match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for world heavyweight boxing champ back in 1975, which Ali won in an extremely close fight. All kinds of fun trivia today.

...Well this is just ridiculous.

Eric shows up too, and then the fight starts. Joey and Cory do a bunch of illegal-as-shit wrestling moves, and Cory pins Joey again after like 30 seconds. Remind me what exactly is intimidating about Joey. How did he get to be a thug in the first place? I dunno, but I'd put my money on my Butterfly Knife Theory from the 2x20 review. Pinned, Joey tags out to Frankie the Enforcer and Eric accidentally tags himself in for Cory. In a truly marvelous display of bravery and primal instinct, Eric makes some slick moves and pokes Frankie in the eye instead of running away screaming. Vader thinks this is taking too long and tells Frankie to tag him in. Eric is about to have his young life snuffed out by a very very large and sweaty man, BUT WAIT!

Hehhhhh, I just noticed something, look at the guy on the very far right, you can see the sleeve of his letter jacket at the beginning. Watch his face after Feeny flips over. Home boy looks like his acid just kicked in.

So Feeny defuses the situation and that's pretty much the end of that. This whole scene just felt like a giant middle finger to everyone looking for actual substance. They just wanted to show off some celebrities. Where did they get the money for that? I really think they could have built Feeny his own classroom with the money it took to hire these people. It's humorous enough once Feeny and Turner show up, but everything else in this scene just doesn't jive with me. Refer back to the graph.

The next day, in the only hallway in the school, Cory gives back his letter jacket to the lead jock, who is surprisingly understanding and says "you're okay, Matthews." More importantly, as you can see in this picture here,

the Goddess of Hair goes to John Adams High. Look at those curls. How is that even POSSIBLE. We never actually see her face though, and I might not be able to sleep tonight because of it.

Topanga joins the scene, needing to ask Cory a few more yearbook questions, and Shawn takes his leave to give them some privacy. Topanga says she still needs a quote to go with Cory's picture, and he asks what she put for hers. This is something you almost certainly remember if you've watched this series.

"I do my thing and you do your thing. You are you and I am I. And if in the end we end up together, it's beautiful."

It's one of those classic Cory+Topanga moments, and it is cute, but let's be real. That's a pretty contrived setup. What if Cory hadn't asked her just now? Why would she have just let that sit in the yearbook? That's the kind of thing you say to someone's face, or write it in a song or a poem, or something. It's completely meaningless as a yearbook quote. Maybe I'm just too jaded to see the magic in it. But like I said, it's a cute line, even though she says "end" twice within three words.

During the end credits, Cory's in detention with the thugs. But it's okay. "Detention with Griff" is a party! Robert Goulet shows up and starts performing in the classroom.

You can see the chalkboard behind them there, that's where Turner usually teaches from. And during Turner's class, the chalkboard Feeny uses is either covered up by or replaced with a corkboard.

Joey really brought a lot to this episode, and it was awesome to see Blake Sennett thrive. It's always a treat to see Adam Scott's Griff as well. If you have fond memories of Baywatch actresses or Robert Goulet, you'll want to catch this one. On the other hand, if you value and/or respect high school wrestling, maybe give this one a pass.

Plot: 0.66... - Threw a curveball atcha there, huh? That's a new score. But yeah, I liked this one for a while. We've seen Cory try to "be somebody" a few times now, but hey, in real life that's a struggle that never really ends, so that's okay. Joey hasn't had a parallel story like this before, so that was neat too. Unfortunately, they decided to throw it all away and tried to buy my interest with guest stars. Bad move.

Character Development: 1.0 - The romance between Cory and Topanga made significant progress at the end of this episode. Further, we got to see a new side of Joey the Rat (even though in 2x20 he blatantly said that he could never be anything other than a lackey).

Humor: 0.5 - Ehhhhh.....

Life Lesson: 0.5 - It's not a real life lesson, but "all the good lives are taken"... That just... I can't let go of that for some reason.

2.6666... out of 4. 

Only two more episodes left this season. Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday.

All images used under Fair Use.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Episode 2x20 "Pop Quiz"

Cory and Shawn are passing a foam football around in the only hallway in the school because this is a fantasy world where a high school's halls aren't constantly swarmed by students in transit. Cory does a little shoutcasting of his sweet hallway-football moves and tries to pass to Shawn, but his terrible aim results in hitting Frankie the Enforcer with the football. Joey the Rat is there too, reading some sort of note with Frankie, and the two well spoken thugs don't seem to notice Cory's projectile. This greatly confuses our heroes, so naturally they do something stupid.

WHEN WOULD THAT EVER BE AN OKAY THING TO DO? I bet this is how they usually get beat up. Frankie and Joey just mind their own business and then these asshole kids come up like "why the fuck aren't you mauling me", so they have to maul them. "Anti-heroes" if I've ever seen 'em. 

Turns out the note is a letter from Harley Keiner at his new reform schoo-, excuse me, "juvenile boot camp", sorry Frankie. These career-lackeys are having an existential crisis without their leader. Overcome with sorrow, Frankie carries Joey off screen. 

The boys are back to their game of foam-ball-color-commentary but Mr. Feeny rounds a corner into the only hallway in the school and intercepts the ball. In a bizarre move, he doesn't give the boys detention, and instead hands back their exams. Cory got a 16 and Shawn got a 12. Shawn, like me, doesn't understand how that's possible, so Mr. Feeny offers an explanation.

The moral is, Feeny's having trouble getting through to the slacker minds of Cory and Shawn. Mr. Turner comes by and talks to them like they're little puppies to get their attention.

Now I ain't gonna lie.

This is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. There's more to it, but two gifs is enough. It's absolutely hysterical every time I watch it. It's not only well written and acted, but it fits with everything we know about the characters. It's beautiful. And it also means that we're about to see ROUND FOUR of Feeny vs Turner.

Feeny goes off to do Feeny things, but Turner's got a bone to pick with the nice boys. Their book reports were due earlier today, and they didn't turn them in. They haggle a bit and Turner decides to let them bring the reports to his apartment by Sunday afternoon, when he's going to grade them. 

At the Matthews house, Morgan does one of her three funny jokes in the series. She makes a sandwich out of wonder bread, cheese whiz, and lucky charms, and Alan discovers that it's actually delicious. 

Alan proceeds to give Eric two tickets to a water park which he got in a promotion at his store, on the condition that the other ticket go to Cory. Upstairs, Shawn and Cory are trying to work on their book reports but realize that they can go rent the movie versions instead. No points for originality there.

At school the next day, a lethargic Frankie and Joey get trolled a little more by Shawn and Cory, and they ultimately decide that they need to find a new leader. Since this is the only hallway in the school, Eric walks into the scene and, in plain view of Frankie and Joey, asks a girl we saw in 2x17 (they actually kept her name the same) to go to that water park with him. The lackeys look impressed. Further, Eric uses his knowledge of Cory's video-rental-book-report scheme to blackmail the other water park ticket out of him. Frankie and Joey are looking very impressed. 

Aren't they just the cutest.

It's the weekend now and Cory and Shawn arrive at Mr. Turner's house to turn in their book reports. He invites them in to catch their breath while he gets dressed for a date, leaving them alone in his living room. This is a sitcom and it's the 90s, so they make a mess. Not quite Kenan and Kel level of a mess, but it still kinda makes you go "ugh..." Eventually they stumble upon Mr. Turner's lesson plan and discover that there's a pop quiz in his class the next week.

Cory and Shawn pretty much think they've gotten away with murder. To quote, "We finally beat the system! *jumping double high five*".

At school on Monday, Frankie and Joey have decided to make Eric their new leader. They've dressed like folks you'd find at a country club drinking martinis at about this same time of day. And yet, they still don't look as ridiculous as Eric. Either way, Eric, or "Rico" is they've decided to call him, doesn't want anything to do with them.

Look at em. Look at their sad little faces... Frankie just needs a big ol' hug doesn't he. Poor guy.

Turner's class begins and he announces the pop quiz, which is followed by some blatantly pre-recorded groaning. What's the sound version of "stock footage"? "Stock sound" doesn't quite roll of the tongue. 

Topanga doesn't exist again. But the girl who sits next to Cory? Betchur ass she's there. She's always there. ...I think I might love her... Sorry what are we talking about? Well our system-beaters are acting pretty smug about the whole pop quiz ordeal and even came prepared with pencils. Hot dog. 

The next scene opens in Mr. Feeny's office, and we finally get to meet Griffin Hawkins! He's just transferred to John Adams High. Griff is played by the amazing ADAM SCOTT, and I know I said I don't want to use clips anymore, but fuck you, it's fucking Adam Scott.

If that doesn't blow you away then I don't know what's wrong with you. I figure the original Harley Keiner had some personal reason to leave the show, and that fake ass Harley from 2x19 was obviously not going to work, so here's our new thug leader. And I gotta say, my reaction is about the same as that secretary's. He fucking nails every single line. His posture, his face, it's all spot on. The first time I saw this as a kid, I couldn't believe it. This was the coolest guy I'd ever seen in my life. I went to check who the actor was, and then stalked the hell out of his career. At least once a week I would check his IMDB to see if there was anything new. I googled pictures of him just to admire his hair. When Party Down was first announced, maaaaaaaaaaaaaan I was so excited. And now there's all these "fans" of Adam Scott because of Parks and Rec, and don't get me wrong I love Parks and Rec, but they don't know shit about Griffin Hawkins. But we know.

We know.

Griff swaggers his way into the only hallway in the school and draws the attention of all the nearby women as he asks for directions to his next class. Frankie and Joey are very, very impressed.

Well, Joey is. Frankie just looks kinda hungry. Whatever.

Eric brings Frankie and Joey to Chubbie's where, of course, Griff is currently entertaining some ladies. Eric introduces the lackeys, but Griff doesn't seem interested in their services.

Then we jump back to school where Shawn and Cory have just gotten their pop quizzes back. They both aced it, but Cory is starting to feel guilty about what he perceives to be cheating.

We jump back to where we left off at Chubbie's, so I guess this is all happening at the same time, which doesn't seem right, but okay. Some jocks in letter jackets show up looking for Griff. The most obnoxious of the jocks accuses Griff of gaming his girlfriend, and Griff pretty much admits as much with some award winning smugness. Things look like they're about to get violent, but Frankie and Joey come to the defense of Mr. Hawkins.

I've always thought it was interesting that Joey is supposed to be intimidating. He's pretty scrawny, but then again, he definitely looks like the kinda guy who carries a butterfly knife around and whips it around every once in a while. You know what I'm talkin about. Anyway, this convinces Griff of their usefulness and he accepts them as his lackeys. Heart warming, truly.

That resolves the Ericlackeylogue, so we've just gotta wrap up the pop quiz story. The boys confess to having seen Turner's lesson plan at his apartment, and he reveals that he wanted them to see it, that he wants them to get good grades. He goes on to explain that they can get A's whenever they want because he always tells the students about the assignments in advance. They just have to actually listen. Cory and Shawn have an epiphany about the purpose of education while Mr. Feeny looks on from the background. I really like this scene. It's pretty believable and I love that Mr. Turner never talks down to Cory and Shawn, he's always at their level, genuinely trying to get them to listen and learn. 

So why did this work? Great question. Mr. Feeny stops Cory and Shawn so he can find out the answer. Cory says "we heard him loud and clear," followed by Shawn's "yeah, he was talking right to us." That's an excellent thing to say, all in all, and even speaks to a higher real world issue about how impersonal classrooms can be.

As it turns out, Feeny and Turner made a bet on whether this would get Shawn and Cory to actually go open a book. Point Turner.

Plot: 1.0 - What's not to like! The main story is fun, believable, fast paced, and adequately original. The Ericlogue has those qualities as well. Spot on.

Humor: 1.0 - The "nice boys" bit from the beginning would have been enough on its own, but the whole episode is great. There are a few jokes that don't quite land, but not enough to detract from the overall quality.

Character Development: 1.0 - Cory and Shawn are going to open some books, and Griff takes over as the school's kingpin. Awesome.

Life Lesson: 0.5 - There wasn't a real life lesson, but there is an implied life lesson that I'm giving half a point for. And that lesson is to fucking hire Adam Scott to be in your shows, god dammit.

3.5 out of 4.0. This is one of my all time favorites. A lot of the best episodes have those serious moments with important lessons, but this is a shining example of maintaining top quality while also being more relaxed and a little silly.

Thanks for reading, happy Valentine's day, and I'll see you on Monday.

Clips and images used under Fair Use.