My two dads

I didn't even mention the puffed sleeves and pleats.

I didn’t even mention the puffed sleeves and pleats.

We open at the Max, where the gang is bemoaning their lack of funds for the class ski trip. After the stellar fundraising ideas of Lisa pouting and asking daddy for money, Slater charging lonely girls 25 cents to see him flex his muscles, and Screech selling his body to science are summarily dismissed, Zack hits upon the winner: a carnival. Seems to me like the money they would spend renting the necessary equipment to produce a carnival would greatly exceed any profits the random 12 extras could generate, but when they pitch it to Belding, he’s gives it an instant stamp of approval. Now that we’ve got that settled, can we talk about how Lisa is basically wearing a lace-trimmed, acid-washed romper in this scene?

The gang takes their leave of Belding’s office, but he detains Zack to demand a meeting with his father, on account of his failing grades. Zack argues that his mom is the one who always handles the school meetings, but Belding says she has no idea what kind of student Zack really is. Wait, so what have all those school meetings been about, exactly? Or are we to believe that the perm chemicals have finally gone to Mrs. Morris’s head? Anyway, Belding lays down the law: no father, no ski trip.

Unfortunately, as Zack is about to find out, bringing his father to school will also mean no ski trip. When he can get in a word edgewise around Papa Morris’s wheeling and dealing on his giant cell phone, Zack spins a totally transparent hypothetical yarn about a friend who’s having trouble in school, and asks his dad if he thinks the “friend” should be allowed to go on the ski trip. Clearly seeing through this ruse, Mr. Morris says that not only should this “friend” not get to go skiing, he should also be grounded for life. That seems way harsh just for some low mid-term grades, no?

I have no idea what's happening on Lisa's head.

I have no idea what’s happening on Lisa’s head.

And yet it’s enough to pull Zack into a fantasy sequence in which he has been grounded for life and has grown a pretty impressive beard as a result. His equally geriatric friends come to visit him (apparently for the first time in 75 years), where it is revealed that Slater and Kelly have gotten married, and that Jessie looks a lot like Carol Burnett on Mama’s Family. Also, Lisa is inexplicably wearing a purple pom-pom on her head, so it seems her impeccable fashion sense has survived the decades intact.

Not wanting to resign himself to this fate, Zack is strategizing with Screech at the Max when James comes up to read the day’s specials, which he seems to have made up entirely to showcase his range of bad accents. (Since when does the Max serve French onion soup and Indian curry?) James stops chewing the scenery long enough to take the guys’ order, and notices how glum Zack is. Zack doesn’t want to talk about it, but Screech spills the beans about Zack’s failing grades and the ski trip. “If you were my son, I’d let you go on the ski trip,” James says. Because rewarding bad grades is like Parenting 101. A light bulb goes on over Zack’s head.

What could possibly go wrong here? Other than Belding developing a huge man-crush on Zack's fake dad, I mean.

What could possibly go wrong here? Other than Belding developing a huge man-crush on Zack’s fake dad, I mean.

Cut to Belding’s office, where Zack is introducing James as his dad. To the surprise of exactly no one, James has turned the pomposity up to 11, and immediately vetoes Belding’s recommendation of two weeks’ worth of after-school help in favor of two MONTHS of tutoring, an extra six hours of studying every night, and no ski trip. Belding’s like, “Dude. It’s just high school. No one cares about the isosceles triangle anyway.” God, please don’t tell Jessie that. Anyway, at Belding’s request, “Mr. Morris” agrees to ease up on Zack and let him go on the ski trip.

But no sooner has Zack started gloating at the carnival set-up the next day than Belding walks up to tell him that he was so charmed by the fake Mr. Morris that he’s written him a letter inviting him back for another chit-chat so he can ask him to chaperone the ski trip. Ruh-roh! And yet, how hard can it be to intercept a letter to a man who’s apparently so glued to his giant cell phone that he doesn’t have 5 minutes to spare to talk to his only kid?

Can someone please explain why the nerds thought it was a good idea to perch their chess board on top of the toilet?

Can someone please explain why the nerds thought it was a good idea to perch their chess board on top of the toilet?

I guess pretty hard, because the next thing you know, the real Derek Morris is being led into meet Mr. Belding…who is being played in this afternoon’s performance by—you guessed it—his understudy, James. Although I didn’t think it possible, James is even more annoying in his role as Belding, affecting some sort of odd accent that requires him to talk through a tight smile at all times. While Screech stalls the real Belding with tales of a poisoned chess team (not really sure what Belding thinks he can do about that—is he going to personally induce vomiting?), James heaps lavish praise on “Zachariah.” Everything is going well until the walkie-talkie Screech is using to communicate with Zack slips from his sub sandwich (a better hiding place might have been…I don’t know, his pocket), tipping Belding off to the scam. Unfortunately, this is the exact moment that Belding’s computer catches Mr. Morris’s eye, and he asks him what kind of lease he has on it. Wait, did people seriously lease computers in the early ’90s? What a strange and magical time. Anyway, Zack manages to hustle his dad out of the office just in time for James to change into his Mr. Morris attire, so Belding is none the wiser.

Sure, that wasn't obvious at all...

Sure, that wasn’t obvious at all…

Carnival time! Jessie and Slater have set up an arm wrestling booth, but when Slater beats their first customer in about two seconds flat, she tells him to let people think they’re winning so they’ll be more willing to part with their hard-earned cash. A nerd is next, and Slater plays along, not realizing that Jessie’s about to take another page from Craig Strand’s playbook and push their arms down so that the nerd wins. Apparently no one else in the audience noticed the blatant cheating, because they all want a piece of Slater next.

Meanwhile on the other side of the gym, Lisa has recycled some necklaces from the sweetheart dance for her kissing booth, and Zack is hustling some surfer dude at the what’s-under-the-cup game. He ends up getting beaten at his own game, but that’s OK because it’s time for him to gloat some more about how perfect his life is. Which, of course, is cue for Mr. Belding’s new BFF, Derek Morris, to walk into the carnival, eager to close the deal on that computer lease. Just as Zack is about to hustle his dad off and presumably put in an emergency call to James, Slater ropes him into trying to sink Mr. B in the dunk tank. Which, after some ribbing from Belding, he does. Despite Zack’s attempts to head off an introduction by sending Belding into the drink again, the truth comes out.

Two cell phones enter, one cell phone leaves! (Spoiler alert: It's not Zack's dad's, since the is the last we ever see of him.)

Two cell phones enter, one cell phone leaves! (Spoiler alert: It’s not Zack’s dad’s, since the is the last we ever see of him.)

Back at Chez Morris, Zack’s dad comes into his room to tell him that the ski trip is off. Zack looks crestfallen, but surely he could have seen that coming, right? Anyway, Mr. Morris tries to talk some sense into his son, but keeps getting interrupted by his giant cell phone. Zack gets all “Cat’s in the Cradle” about it, which seems a bit hypocritical to me, given how many guest appearances his own giant cell phone has made on this show. Speaking of which, Zack finally resorts to calling his dad from said giant cell phone to make his point. Yes! Dueling giant cell phones! Unfortunately, this moment is far too short-lived, and the rest of the episode is devoted to a “tender” father-son moment that culminates in Zack’s dad blowing off his business meeting to take Zack fishing…presumably in the SBTB Bermuda Triangle, sans giant cell phone.

Quote of the episode
“Do you have brains? Do you have talent? Well, if so, then you are way ahead of Slater!” —Jessie, as a carnival barker

Grade: B-
This episode would have been way better if it had actually taken place on the ski trip, like that episode of Dawson’s Creek where they go on a ski trip and Joey and Pacey do it. And also if James hadn’t been there. It’s always better when James is not there.

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One Comment on “My two dads”

  1. Keira says:

    Welcome back! I discovered this blog about a year after regular updates, and didn’t particularly expect a return. That said, great job! And yes, James free is the way things should be.


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