Monday, June 23, 2014

Episode 4x17 "A Long Walk to Pittsburgh Part 2"

Some kinda James Earl Jones soundin guy introduces a recap of 4x16 at the beginning of the episode. It's pretty cool, honestly. The most interesting thing is that there's no TOTALLY REAL AUDIENCE LAUGHTER in the parts of the recap where someone says a joke. How can that be?

This one kicks off right away as we see Shawn Hunter vigorously making out with a girl on the couch in Cory's living room. Next to their hormone-saturated bodies is a very disappointed looking girl, while Cory sits nervously in a nearby armchair.

These girls have recently come to America from England, and you can almost see her accent in that gif. Even so, I have never heard the term "rushy boy" in my life, and I watch a lot of BBC. Shawn's girl is named Becky, and the other one is Rosie, and according to IMDB they are sisters, which I guess I should have figured out on my own. The actresses have both done almost nothing else in Hollywood, but Rosie was also in 1x04 and 2x15 of Boy Meets World, as different characters all three times of course, but I don't really remember her.

Anyway Shawn doesn't want to spoil the mood, so he drags Cory over to the couch next to Rosie, but Cory wants to talk about Topanga.

Well that's the first four minutes of the episode. There was a lot of giggling from Becky and Rosie, but not much else.

Cory explains to Rosie that he's been dating Topanga "for sixteen years" and that he "always thought [they] would spend the rest of [their] lives together", which is the most common complaint from fans of this show. He most certainly did not always think that, but the show's been shoving it down our throats for a few episodes now, so there's no use fighting the retcon.

The story makes both Cory and Rosie start crying while Becky and Shawn continue with their fun. The next scene fades in on Cory sitting against a wall in what used to be Topanga's bedroom, so I guess he just broke into the building. Eric shows up at the room's window to retrieve Cory for dinner. That was pretty fuckin weird.

Eric tries to cheer his brother up with a fake story about a girl named Francheska. Alan offers to drive Cory to Pittsburgh that weekend since he sort of needs to go anyway, but Amy is in a very different camp from the rest of them. She thinks Cory and Topanga should just have a clean split and move on, otherwise Cory will never stop feeling so shitty. Cory and his mother are clearly not on good terms right now, and I gotta say I'm siding with her. She's being completely reasonable. But that doesn't matter because we're throwing reason out the fucking window.

Welly, welly, well. This is the moment where you either go "awww" like the audience or "what?" like me. This is a point of no return, of sorts. We're no longer in the realm of harsh realities where this show has been before. We're in fairy tale land now, where "true love" makes nonsense happen. And the thing is, we're supposed to be okay with this. This is exactly why they've been hammering "we would have been together forever" and "we've been together our whole lives", this is exactly why they rewrote history. If we believe that they actually would be together forever, then we would be relieved when Topanga shows up here. If this were the first episode of BMW that I saw, this scene wouldn't be a problem. It's television. But after everything we've seen leading up to this, we know that the writers are way too clever to think this makes sense. They can't honestly expect us to take anything meaningful from this; it's nothing more than feel-good television. And there's nothing wrong with that, but you can get that anywhere. Watch Full House for that shit. That's not what I want from Boy Meets World.

If it wasn't already obvious, Topanga's parents don't know that she's here. When Alan points out that her parents are going to be worried about her, she says "Why would they be worried now? They weren't worried about me when they decided to move." Are you serious right now? She told us last episode that they moved because of her mom's job. It's shitty, but it's not her parents' fault. Amy wants to call Topanga's parents, but Cory's like "No they don't understand us, just like you don't understand us." Holy shitty shit, this is outrageous. Are we really supposed to be sympathetic toward Cory and Topanga right now?

Thank you Alan.

Amy goes ahead and calls Topanga's parents while Cory embraces her and promises that he won't let anyone take her away. Later, in the living room, Cory and Topanga talk about what they've been doing without each other. Shawn shows up, applauds Topanga's strategy of running-away, which really ought to set off a few alarms in her mind, and then he bails. Okay. Alan and Amy join the scene and once again Amy and Cory start to argue.

At least we have Eric's silliness to counteract the way-way-way-too-serious-ness from everyone else.

So Amy doesn't think that Cory really knows what love is, and says that after twenty two years of marriage with Alan, she's only beginning to understand what love really is. Cory counters by saying that, indeed, he hasn't been with Topanga for twenty two years, but he has been with her for sixteen. JEEEEEEEEEEESUS Christ I'm sick of this. Cory goes on to give a whole speech detailing how their relationship has grown over sixteen years, how he knew her favorite color and her favorite food when they were 2 years old, as if that's actually worth something. He is actually seriously comparing growing up with Topanga to his mother's twenty two years of marriage. It's absurd.

That's actually a good conclusion to his speech, and in general I agree with that statement. But the problem is that I don't think it applies to Corpanga. When has Cory ever been a better person because of Topanga? Most of the time that Cory has character development, it's because of Shawn. If Shawn were moving to Pittsburgh and then ran away back to Philly, my heart would be BREAKING. But we just don't have the history with Topanga to buy what they're selling. I mean, this is the same guy who valued Topanga's sweet sixteen party the same as a goddamn wrestling match a few episodes ago. It's not the material itself that I take issue with, I can roll with the whole "soulmates" thing, but it's just not supported by everything else in the show.

Amy doesn't really know what to say now, but that's okay since someone knocks on the door. Apparently Topanga's parents have called her Aunt Prudence to come pick her up, so I guess her aunt lives in Philadelphia. Cory comments that maybe Aunt Prudence will realize "that we're Romeo and Juliet, that we belong together". CORY ARE YOU SERIOUS? We blatantly got rid of the whole Romeo and Juliet thing with Mr. Feeny in Part 1. Ugh. Either way, Topanga comments that her aunt hates the idea of true love and wouldn't even know who Romeo and Juliet were. The audience cheers at the sight of Aunt Prudence, so I have to look her up. Ah okay, it's Olivia Hussey, who played Juliet in the 1968 film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. Very cute, Boy Meets World executive staff, very cute.

By now, apparently both Amy and Alan have been convinced that Cory and Topanga actually love each other, because a one-minute monologue from Cory was more effective evidence than the entire sixteen years leading up to it.

Amy makes the case that Topanga's parents are being irresponsible by taking Topanga out of her home when she only has one year of high school left. EVEN THOUGH it's well established that her parents didn't just flippantly decide to move, they didn't really have a choice. Regardless, Aunt Prudence isn't exactly fond of her sister and brother in law, and is thus unexpectedly open to the idea that they are irresponsible. Prudence asks the kids to let the adults speak privately, so they go outside, where they of course get to talk to Mr. Feeny. He explains that love is really great and all that. Apparently Mr. Feeny believes that these two truly love each other, so I guess it doesn't matter what I think. I guess we just have to accept that history is not as we have seen it on the show, it is as they now claim it to be. I don't want to, but that's the only choice here.

The adults join us outside, and Prudence is like "Hey old man, don't give these kids any crazy ideas" and he's like "Hey fuck off, I'm Mister goddamn Feeny". Prudence is basically taking the stance Amy had earlier, while Mr. Feeny defends the romance of his students. It's quite the showdown. Neither gives any ground, and ultimately Prudence says that Feeny is "as verbose as you are snappy", which makes the audience go "oooooooo" like it's an actual insult or something.

They're totally gonna have hate-sex later.

So even though Prudence still doesn't condone "the intensity or exclusivity of this relationship", she also doesn't approve of taking Topanga away from the home she's had her whole life. So Prudence offers to let Topanga live with her until she graduates high school. And then the audience applauds like they didn't know it was coming. The credits play over a completely black screen with a pretty rockin acoustic version of the theme song.

Plot: 0.75 - In retrospect, I liked part 1. It was actually compelling to think that Topanga was leaving. There really wasn't a whole lot of story in part 2 though. She just came back, somehow. What it did have though was content. Lots of exposition, lots of discussion, so that's worth something. And the part at the beginning with the English girls was fun.

Character Development: 1.0 - Loathe as I am to accept it, Topanga and Cory are officially in True Love ©. From here on out, that is the perspective from which we will operate.

Humor: 0.5 - Really focused on seriousness and emotion, but Shawn and Eric were pretty funny when they were around.

Life Lesson: 0 - Let's talk about this. What are we supposed to take away? That you should travel 300 miles when you're sixteen to be with your boyfriend? Or that if you love each other as much as Cory and Topanga do, then it's okay to travel 300 miles? Well everyone in high school thinks they love each other that much. There is nothing in this episode that can be applied to real life, except what Feeny says about cherishing genuine love. But again, every teenager thinks that they have genuine love when almost none of them actually do. Everyone feels the way that Cory described in this episode, so there's really nothing special to take away from this except "Love is good", but we all knew that already.

2.25 out of 4.0. The two biggest reasons people love this show is for its unique, clever sense of humor, and the powerful life lessons. I didn't get much of either of those things out of these two episodes. There's definitely a good number of fans who love the Corpanga romance, but I heavily prefer the bromance with Shawn, or the brotherhood with Eric, or the mentorships of Alan and Feeny and Turner. Or hell, even the one-off romances. Wendy? Remember Wendy? Fuckin blew my MIND that episode with Wendy, way more than this episode, for sure. If you love Corpanga then you'll love A Long Walk to Pittsburgh, but if not, you won't.

Thanks for reading. I'm sure some people will be upset by my take on this one, and I'm sorry for being such a curmudgeon. I'm going on vacation for a week, starting this Wednesday, so the next review will be posted July 2nd. See you then!

All images used under Fair Use.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Episode 4x16 "A Long Walk To Pittsburgh Pt. 1"

We're at the one and only Chub Chub Chubbie's and Eric has just arrived to spot a very distraught Topanga being comforted by Shawn in the back room of the restaurant, out of earshot. Shawn's brand of comforting includes a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, so Eric assumes an affair is afoot while the sad guitar music plays. The scene fades out and back in at our boys' kitchen. Eric brought home an extravagant meal for Cory, which Cory perceives as one of those death-row-inmate-dead-man-walking kind of last meals, and so he braces himself for the bad news.

Oh Eric. He's never been able to directly help his brother, he always has to make a big show of it, and it's really funny this time. I hope we don't spend too long on the "I wonder if she's cheating, even though we in the audience are 99% sure she's not" thing. 

In the living room, Eric mimes suppuku to give Cory an idea of how serious this news is, and then Eric finally describes what he saw at Chubbie's. Cory receives this news very poorly and tries to call Shawn on the phone, but no one answers. At lunch the next day, Shawn and Topanga are eating together. Cory walks up and they look about as guilty as humanly possible.

They look really shocked to see him here at lunch. Were they planning to just never see Cory again? I dunno. And I guess Shawn has some sort of cartilage piercing now? 

Cory asks to speak with his girlfriend, but she gets up to leave saying that she has to get to "Feeny's history class". What the shit kind of excuse is that? We've seen her and Shawn and Cory together in Feeny's class on many occasions. Why didn't she go to the bathroom, or really anything else in the world that we can't instantly disprove? That was not a smart move from Toboggan.

Once she's out the door, Cory tries to get the truth out of Shawn. Shawn explains that Topanga had a fight with her parents and ran off to Chubbie's, like any reasonable person would, and that he just happened to be there at the time. Maybe Topanga's a stress eater, I don't know why else she would go there. Anyway Cory accepts Shawn's explanation, and later at home he accuses Eric of jumping to conclusions. Eric excuses himself to go tussle with Shawn.

Good thing Shawn lives at Chubbie's now or the first half of this episode wouldn't have happened.

I am definitely a fan of Cory's aggressiveness in this episode. Back in 2x07, regarding Topanga, I talked about how anger was a better emotion than sadness, because it motivates you to act, and that's exactly what we're seeing here. Cory is taking CHARGE of this shit, instead of moping around like he does sometimes. When it comes to Topanga, he ain't messin around. Shawn refuses to give any real details and insists that Cory go talk to Topanga. 

The sad guitar music whisks us away to Topanga's bedroom where Cory is knocking on her window from outside. I guess he took a page out of the Shawn-playbook with that one. He gives her a deep kiss and explains that the two of them have always been able to talk to each other, which apparently breaks down her defensive wall.

Yeah? Even the time you broke up? I'm glad she acknowledges that it's childish and stupid, but I guess we all felt that way in high school right? 

Danielle Fishel does a great job getting her tears up here. I don't talk about her very often, but I should. She consistently nails her lines, and this scene in particular is very well acted. It's hard to gauge Ben Savage in this one though, since he has such a silly voice. He's doing his best to sound sad, but it's not really working.

Anyway Topanga finally reveals that she's moving to Pittsburgh "the day after tomorrow". But they both agree that their relationship is strong enough to survive the long distance. 

I usually like to use the gifs/pictures for jokes, but there really haven't been any jokes so far. 

The writers have impressed me even further by not spending too much time on the fact that Topanga didn't want to tell Cory about her move. She was just scared, so they're not going to linger on it, and that's smart. This episode could have written itself if they decided to that route, so I respect the decision not to.

At home, Cory's mapping out the route from Philly to Pittsburgh, trying to come up with an effective plan for him and Topanga to still see each other. His parents look on with worry, and Amy tries to talk about how "sometimes things happen for a reason", which makes me want to throw up. Cory doesn't listen though, and continues forging his plan. He's essentially in denial, so maybe we'll do a Five Stages of Grief thing. 

Don't worry, the audience laughs at that. So it's a well placed joke about how a lot of teenagers completely misunderstand that story.

Later, Cory's reading Romeo and Juliet in the backyard. Mr. Feeny joins him and tells him to flip ahead to the end of the play.

Mr. Feeny explains that he believes Cory and Topanga have something special, and that they won't go wrong if they follow what's in their hearts. It's a nice sentiment, and the emotional clarinet music is playing, but that's kinda what got Romeo and Juliet on the wrong side of dead. 

Inspired by Feeny's words, Cory runs over to Topanga's and does this whole silly marriage proposal thing. It's pretty funny, and ultimately the couple agree to write letters to each other and visit on weekends. They also talk about how they're both afraid of the other meeting new people they want to date, so this is all fairly realistic, which is cool.

Now Cory is at Chubbie's with Shawn, because that's where Shawn lives now. Shawn explains that the main thing he's learned from watching television is that, in situations like this, the girl or guy never actually moves away, so he's confident that Topanga won't actually move. WHICH IS BULL SHIT CUZ HE DEFINITELY DIDN'T THINK THAT WAY WHEN HE KISSED HER. But fine, he's had a change of heart. Cory is skeptical though.

So that's pleasantly self-aware, a quick jab at the folks at home who think Topanga isn't actually going to move.

Even when she shows up at his house on the eve of her departure, Cory insists that she's not leaving. But with a kiss and an "I love you", she's gone.

The best kind.

During the credits, Eric tries unsuccessfully to console his younger brother. This was awesome, a very real and thorough examination of a strong teen relationship being torn apart by factors outside of their control. Nothing can ruin it now. 

Oh, nevermind. That almost certainly means that Topanga's coming back in Part 2, which kind of destroys all the hard work we did in this episode. 

I was about to start giving points, when I realized that it wouldn't really be fair. A lot of this plot was just laying the groundwork for Part 2, and setting up for the character development we'll see next time (read as: it would have been a bad score). It's a good episode though, and does what it's supposed to, so I'll give a score at the end of part 2 that applies to both parts as a whole.

Thanks for reading, see you tomorrow (Monday) for part 2!

All images used under Fair Use.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Episode 4x15 "Chick Like Me"

Somehow I missed the fact that the judge in 4x14 played the dad on Wonder Years. That puts things in a slightly different perspective, but overall that episode was still the worst this season.

Cory's protagonist privilege has netted him a column in the school's newspaper, which is fine, since no one reads school newspapers except the reluctant parents of the kids who write the damn things. He's writing a "humor column" where every sentence starts with "Is it just me..." and Shawn doesn't think it's very funny, because it's not. In fact, Shawn thinks Cory should write about something more important. I admire that, Shawn, but you need look no further than the news media of 2014 to see that nobody gives a shit about what's important when it comes to the news.

Topanga walks around the corner toward Shawn and Cory, accompanied by a girl named Debbie. Debbie tells Toboomerang the story of her date with some guy who's probably named Brad. He was a real sweetheart, buying her an expensive dinner and acting like a gentleman, and then at the end of the date felt that his previous actions entitled him to her body. Topanga agrees that's real shitty when guys basically put on a show to earn their "reward" at the end of the night. Right on, a lesson for more than just teenagers.

Debbie is played by Katie Wright, who isn't in anything else.

We get a really genuine exchange up next. Shawn asks if Debbie is completely uninterested in making out on a date, and she says "Maybe I am, maybe I'm not, but it shouldn't be expected just because I went on a date." Shawn follows with "Then how are we supposed to know if it's okay?" Debbie says that the girl will let the guy know, Shawn claims that the "letting them know" is never very clear, and Debbie claims that it is clear, but guys are "too busy planning your next move to hear her say no". I really, really liked where that was going until Debbie's last line. I mean, she's not wrong, but Shawn was talking about how to know it's okay to start making a move, and Debbie ends up talking about how he should know to stop. I think that would have been really interesting, especially for teenagers, talking about the signs that tell you to make a move. Or at least, Shawn could have said "how are we supposed to know it's not okay", then it all would have been consistent. Alas, it looks like this is a "no means no" episode, but that's still important.

It's time for class now, and Feeny's talking about the book Black Like Me, written by John Howard Griffin in 1961. Griffin actually artificially blackened his skin to experience life as a black man at a time when race relations in America were particularly strained. That in itself is pretty rad.

If the title of the episode is any indication, this book is going to inspire our heroes to take action. Oh okay, that was literally the next line after I paused it. Shawn suggests that Cory dress in drag and write about it for his (convenient) newspaper column. Cory agrees after hearing Feeny describe the worldwide success Griffin achieved after publishing Black Like Me.

We haven't seen Lonnie since Christmas, but here she is again at Alan's store. I'm genuinely surprised she's lasted this long. Lonnie sells something to a guy who looks like he's 30, and then asks her on a date. She agrees, and offers to cook him a "big 'ol dinner", and then go "eel grabbin" in the river after dinner. Silly Lonnie, you have to wait a while after eating to go swimming. That must be why the guy bolts out the door, he doesn't wanna get a stomach cramp.

Awwwwwwwwwwww. Intelligent Eric is appearing in this episode, apparently. He uses Lonnie's experience with hunting to compare men to the types of critters she tracks in the woods, suggesting a calmer approach, being sure not to scare them off.

Imagine we're sitting at a bus stop together, just you and I, and I tell you that there's an episode of a sitcom where a teenage boy dresses up like a girl. Then I tell you to list the top five most obvious jokes to put in the script. All five of those jokes are in this next scene: Cory comes home with Shawn and some bags of freshly bought female clothes, and explains their plan to his parents. So yeah, the jokes write themselves. They even do the one where the audience laughs at the mere SIGHT of a bra. It's really lazy and easy humor, but I guess there was no getting around it. Regardless, even with Topanga's help, it doesn't go very well.

The 2nd and 3rd buttons from the top on Cory's dress are unbuttoned, and I can't tell if it's intentional or not, but it's pretty distracting and no one comments on it. Not only does he not look the part, Cory can't really act it either. Shawn however, displays quite an aptitude for femininity as he tries to explain it to his struggling best friend. This gives them the idea to have Shawn take on the role instead. At school the next day, he's all dolled up, and it's honestly pretty convincing. He's turning the heads of men and women alike as he walks with Cory to their lockers. After meeting up with Topanga, we learn that Shawn has decided his new name is Veronica.

Just then, the same guy Debbie went out with comes around the corner. He is apparently their "target", and his name is Gary. He's played by Ryan Bittle. Bittle didn't really do anything special after Boy Meets World, but he's currently starring on the soap opera All My Children, so take that how you will.

So I guess their plan is to hook Gary up with Veronica so Shawn can see exactly what Debbie was talking about. Cory introduces Veronica as "Veronica... Wazboyski", and you can actually hear a slow crescendo of audience laughter as they start to puzzle out that joke. Gary is THIRSTY as fuck, and immediately sets up a date with Veronica for Saturday. There's only 7 minutes left, so that's two thirds of the way done and almost nothing has happened. They really put all their eggs in the "how many crossdressing jokes can we make" basket, and they haven't been great. Certainly not offensive, and I definitely respect that, but not particularly funny either.

It's nighttime and we're at the store. I guess Eric and Lonnie waited until after closing to do this. Eric's teaching her how to come on a little (a lot) less strong, and it goes well until she gets too handsy trying to see what brand of shirt Eric is wearing.

You wanna know why this is awesome? This Lonnie story is perfectly placed in this episode. Sometimes the Eric stories are weirdly independent of the rest of the plot, but this is one is perfect. They're showing us that it's not just guys who can come on too strong and disregard the other person's boundaries. She even says "I never woulda thought that bein friendly could drive people away, but I guess friendliness is just different between men and women." That's an awesome line. Eric is enjoying it since he already likes her, but that guy who ran away in terror at the beginning was a fantastic touch.

 We jump over to the end of Veronica's date with Gary at Chubbie's. Gary's bein a super swell guy, all polite and well mannered. Apparently they still haven't eaten, so Gary calls for a waitress, which is honestly like having a waitress at goddamn McDonald's or something, this place is like 5 cubic meters, but whatever. The waitress turns out to be Cory in drag, using a voice like he smokes eight packs a day.

This is actually pretty funny because Ben Savage is selling the hell out of it. After Cory, now Corra, takes their orders, Gary goes into mega creep mode. Veronica's lines are written pretty well here. I'll just use the first one as an example. For coherence I'm going to use "she/her" to mean Veronica. Gary puts his arm around her and asks if she's having a good time. Veronica replies "Little trouble breathing... You're crowding me a bit." So it's believable, right, that blend of "I don't want to be outright mean, but I don't want him to do this". Sadly, Gary keeps putting on different moves, and Veronica responds the same sort of way each time. This calls back what Debbie said in the beginning about the guy being too preoccupied to hear "no". Let's stop for a second to be clear that there's nothing wrong with making a move, but if the other person ain't okay with it, ya gotta throw in the towel.

Oh I guess they're not going the subtle route today, eventually Veronica directly quotes that Debbie line from earlier. She goes over to Corra and explains her discomfort, and makes the grand realization that this is what she's been doing to girls for far too long.

I thought Shawn learned about this in the Dana episode last season, but I guess some habits aren't so easily broken. It's interesting if you think about this episode like Shawn experiencing his first date with Dana from Dana's perspective. Veronica wants to bail, but Corra insists that she stay for the sake of the newspaper column.

Gary comes over and apologizes, and takes Veronica to play foosball. Corra comments that her hosiery is bunching. Gary tries to get all up on Veronica again, in the guise of teaching her some foosball techniques, and it's reaaaaally creepy, but realistic at the same time. He makes a comment about how Veronica is dressed, which basically amounts to "You're asking for it", and she says ".... I just wanted to look nice..." and that is that REAL shit, folks. Just because a girl looks nice, that doesn't mean she's saying "I brought these things for you to enjoy", it's not an invitation to start grabbing whatever you can see. Damn, this is turning out really well. Gary is relentless and ultimately receives a hard punch in the face from Veronica.

That joke gets me every single time.

During the credits, everyone at school is thoroughly impressed with Cory's article. Holy shit, the boys actually pulled off one of their crazy schemes. Nothing even went wrong this time, that was exactly how they planned it. Incredible. "Everyone" includes Debbie, and after hearing Shawn explain what he learned in the ordeal, asks him for a date and he agrees. Cory comments that his hosiery is still bunching.

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED WITH LONNIE? That last scene in the store ended on such a cliffhanger! (heh... cliffhanger... in a store for outdoor gear...) OH GOD THAT WAS THE LAST EPISODE WITH LONNIE. WE'LL NEVER KNOW. Damn, that is gonna kill me.

Plot: 1.0 - I liked it. It's the first cross-dressing episode of a sitcom I've seen that actually tries to do something important with it. The only real event was the date with Gary, and that only took up about four minutes, but the setup leading to it was solid. And the scenes with Eric and Lonnie were spot on.

Character Development: 1.0 - I feel cheated for giving this point to Shawn back in the Dana episode, since I'm now giving this point for an extremely similar development, but whatever.

Humor: 0.5 - It was lacking, but I still laughed enough to be satisfied, especially when Cory became Corra.

Life Lesson: 1.0 - Pretty much everything at Chubbie's. Especially "I just wanted to look nice." That one hits you right in the gut. Rider Strong did a fantastic job in that scene.

3.5 out of 4.0. It's pretty much everything you could ask for. And hey, if nothing else, Cory and Shawn are wearing dresses. Don't miss this one.

Thanks for reading, see you Friday.

All images used under Fair Use.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Episode 4x14 "Wheels"

So I realized the other day, we're just over halfway done! Woooooo... ooo... oo...

Topanga, Cory, and Shawn are at Chubbie's. Cory turns 16 tomorrow and they're all excited about a road trip to Atlantic City, with Cory driving his father's car. So we reflexively predict that Cory will either fail his driver's test and start lying to people, or crash his father's car and start lying to people. I hope I'm wrong. Not much else to say here, except that they make a few dumb jokes.

Gee, did Cory raise his eyebrows and nod after his punchline? I don't believe it.

The next morning, Alan explains to his wife that he's got a "Matthews Men's License Day" tradition ready for Cory, starting with taking him to the DMV for his driver's test. Except it's NOT a tradition. Alan blatantly lies to us about performing the tradition with Eric, since we already saw Eric take the test with Jason in 1x18 (Thanks to an anonymous comment for pointing that out). Morgan bursts into the kitchen and informs her parents that Cory's arrived in the driveway, behind the wheel of a car. He's apparently already passed his driver's test, so that's one overused plot out of the way. But Alan's having trouble feeling excited since his plans are now ruined. I'm getting flashbacks to 1x11 "The Father Son Game" here. A sad Alan is an Alan that no one wants.

So Cory tries to make sure his dad is okay, and then asks if he can drive his car. Alan agrees, thinking he can still spend the day with his son.

With the saddest tone ever, Alan offers to give Cory the keys in a couple hours after he runs a few errands, and Cory agrees. You guys know I love Alan, but I'm having trouble sympathizing here. He never explained these plans to Cory, and it's pretty insane for Alan to think that Cory wouldn't already have plans for his sixteenth birthday.  I understand why he's upset, but it's really his own fault.

It looks to be late afternoon when Alan finally comes home, having taken significantly longer than "a couple hours". Cory's pissed, and the two have a passive-aggressive argument ending with Cory leaving to pick up Topanga and Shawn. Alan's being pretty damn childish, just deciding to break his deal with his son for selfish reasons, but Cory's not blameless either. These two are both pretty stupid for not telling the other about their plans before today. Alan decided to stay home from work today to do stuff with Cory, but what if he hadn't? Cory wouldn't even be able to borrow the car, so both sides of this really needed to communicate ahead of time here.

Cory is about to head out with the keys when Alan reminds him to be back in time for his birthday dinner at Chubbie's in 45 minutes. Cory is reasonably pissed off and doesn't even bother taking the keys.

Eric comes home from working at the store and offers his Season 2 style of insult-advice.

Ain't that the truth.

Eric explains to Cory that he's their father's last son, and is now "old enough to drive away and leave him alone with Morgan", who goes to art class and ballet. That's... A little bit sexist, honestly. Alan and Cory haven't really done anything together in a long time, so I'm not sure what Alan is trying to hold on to, but whatever. We waste some time with the next scene as Cory tries to teach Morgan to play football and how to box so that she can be Alan's "third son".

We jump ahead to the party at Chubbie's where Cory gets another clown burger. Things get really heated between Alan and Cory, and it's honestly kinda scary. William Russ is fuckin terrifying when he's angry. Alan disapproves of Cory taking his friends to an R rated movie, so Cory's like "I really don't care where we go, I just want to go." And then they go.

This whole thing feels ridiculous. They decided they wanted to create a conflict between Alan and Cory, which is fine, but they went with "they're both upset because they expected the other person to abide by plans that they never told them about". It's not even that funny either. Too much effort is going into being serious. How are the remaining folks going to get home from Chubbie's?

Now the gang's cruising to Atlantic City at 18 miles per hour, since Cory's terrified of crashing. His passengers are both insisting that he speed the hell up before they die of old age. It's a really weird shot because it's at night, and you can't see the inside of a car at night, so it looks like their solution was just to have the actors hold flashlights between their knees.

Cory speeds up to 26 miles per hour and comments that he's breaking the law, so I guess this is one of those 25 MPH interstates. Anyway a cop pulls them over almost instantly. So yeah, I was wrong, he passed the driver's test and he didn't crash the car, that's a victory in itself.

The next scene opens with everyone at the police station and I am at a loss. Did the cop walk up to the car window and say "okay just follow me down to the station where I'll write your ticket"? I have no idea how this happened, but we're here. For driving one mph over the speed limit, Cory can either pay the $200 fine, or plead his case before "the judge". Cory responds to each of those statements with disbelief, to which the police officer replies "this is a speed trap". Whatever. Topanga tells Cory to call his dad, but Cory doesn't want to talk to that old jerk, and decides to take his chances with the judge. Nevermind that he could also call his mother for help, who's been sympathetic to Cory's plight this whole time. So today we've learned that daughters and mothers aren't as cool as sons and fathers. I don't think I'm real happy with this one so far.

Next is something awful.

It's some old home movies of Ben Savage with William Russ's voice added over it. It's not even very well done, and it lasts way too long, and this dramatic acoustic guitar is playing in the background. Alan is watching these "home movies" on the couch, looking all nostalgic. I mean, come on now, all Cory did was get his license. This is a HUGE overreaction from Alan.

Woohoo, is that the end of the episode? That should be the end, that's all that needed to be said.

In the backyard, Feeny joins Alan and reminds him of all the wonderful things that come with having kids, even though it sucks sometimes. Buuuuuuut he also says that he's just received a call from Cory, who is currently on trial. As far as Feeny talks go, this is bottom of the barrel. Alan didn't even understand it. Back at the fantastical instantaneous trial, Cory's having a real rough time. But he shouldn't have expected anything else. He already blatantly admitted to speeding, so I don't even know what the fuck we're doing here.

For some reason, Cory explains to the judge why he's mad at Alan. The judge gives Cory a balloon-sword and gives Topanga a balloon-hat.

Yes. The judge is also a balloon artist. Because fuck you.

Then Alan shows up. He and Cory argue some more. Cory doesn't want to have to go to his father every time there's a problem and wants Alan to treat him like an adult. Alan is upset that Cory would ever be afraid to come to him for help. So we still haven't made any progress at all. The judge bangs his gavel and calls the two Matthews men up to the bench. I wonder if the judge is going to settle all of this episode's problems in the next 30 seconds. First, he sentences Cory to two more years of "being a kid", and as for Alan's sentence...

Are you fucking kidding me right now? Who even is this guy. The only person who's allowed to say shit like that is Mr. Feeny. What were they thinking? This is just some random judge/balloon artist in a speed trap. I can't believe they actually put pen to paper and said "yeah this fine". 

After the sentencing, Cory and Alan look at each other apologetically and it fades out with that gentle guitar music. During the credits, the Matthews guys watch some more of Ben Savage's home movies, and then they have like a... wrestling tickle fight or something on the couch. Couldn't make that up.

Plot: 0.25 - Points for not doing the fail-the-test-and-start-lying (although they did do that shit with Eric a while back), as well as not having Cory crash his dad's car. So yeah, pity points for "it could have been worse". There just wasn't anything interesting. Cory and Alan had the same conversation six times, and it was only resolved when a balloon artist gave them some advice.

Character Development: 1.0 - Yeah fine, Alan has to accept that Cory's growing up and Cory learns that he isn't quite the adult he thinks he is.

Humor: 0.25 - I think I laughed once, maybe.

Life Lesson: 0.25 - It's a good lesson. Parents letting go of their kids (or rather, their sons, since it was established that Alan doesn't care about Morgan) and kids not rushing to grow up too fast. But the presentation was awful. You can't delegate the lesson to some one-off character in the last 30 seconds of the episode.

1.75 out of 4.0. Well it had to suck eventually. This was a lot worse than I remembered though. There's just nothing redeeming at all. It's weird, because this was written by Jeff Sherman, who also wrote Shallow Boy, which was amazing, as well as some other great ones. I don't know what happened.

Thanks for reading, see you Wednesday.

All images used under Fair Use.