“I don’t think we need to be subliminable…”

Kelly is the meat in a neon sandwich.

It’s the episode where they have the “sweetheart dance,” so Zack, in addition to a shirt that screams “early 90s JC Penney,” is wearing a plastic heart with his name on it around his neck. He explains that once a guy asks a girl to the dance, she has to wear his heart. Honestly! Who has ever heard of a school actually doing something like this? If your school ever did this, I want to know. I’d be willing to bet they got the idea from SBTB, though.

Anyway, Zack wants Kelly to be his date, and of course, so does Slater. I should mention that in this scene, Slater is wearing black acid-washed jeans and a neon-pink tank top. Sexy! Torn between these two early-90s fashion gods, Kelly says she will have to think about it a bit longer.

Lisa comes dancing down the hall holding a boom box with a throng of dancing people behind her, like when did this episode become a Spike Lee joint? She tells the gang that it’s the new Beau Revere song. Beau Revere? Has got to be the dumbest fake celebrity name in the history of this show. It sounds like “Paul Revere,” who, while famous, was not exactly known for his hit teen-pop singles. Anyway, Belding walks up and reminds them about the no-playing-music-in-the-hall rule. Kelly’s like, “But it’s the new Beau Revere.” Belding looks as confused as the rest of us regarding the identity of this Beau Revere character and says that he prefers the Beach Boys. Apparently their name wasn’t licensed. Then again, in the Casey Kasem/Zack Attack episode, Brian Fate refers to “The Beach Buddies.” So maybe they saw this episode and filed some sort of lawsuit against SBTB. You know, because maybe they had signed an exclusive contract only to appear on Full House as Uncle Jesse’s buddies. I’ve put way too much thought into this. Anyway, Belding reminds Zack that he wants to meet with his mother.

Can we send Miss Wentworth a subliminal message to control her hair?

Later, in Miss Wentworth’s class, everyone is bringing her flowers, candy and apples. She explains that this is because she played them a tape with subliminal messages that said, “Bring your favorite teacher, Miss Wentworth, flowers, candy and apples.” She also told them to bring in their single parents so she could jump their bones. Ew. And, inappropriate. Anyway, she goes on to explain how subliminal advertising works, but warns the students that some minds tend to confuse the messages. Cut to Screech eating flowers. OK, from “Bring Miss Wentworth flowers, candy and apples,” he got “Eat flowers?” Why wouldn’t he have eaten the candy? Or the apples? Sheesh.

Zack figures he can work this whole subliminal messages thing to his advantage, both to get Belding off his back and to get Kelly, who has by this time agreed to go to the dance with Slater, to change her mind and go with him. He recruits Screech to help him dub subliminal messages onto tapes of both the Beach Boys and the enigmatic Beau Revere. But how to switch out Kelly’s regular, non-subliminal tape with the new enhanced version…

Well, he looks more like Barbara than Jenna, at least.

Dress Screech in drag and send him into the locker room, of course! This time he’s Barbara Bush, and, to his credit, he does actually look slightly like the younger Barbara Bush. Except she was, like, eight when this came out. And no one knew who she was back then because she had yet to get caught for underage drinking. Anyway, Jessie takes pity on Barbara and offers to get her some gym clothes. While she does, Barbara switches Kelly’s and Lisa’s (which contains subliminal messages about Screech) tapes.

The next day, Kelly finds Zack and tells him that she doesn’t want to go to the dance with a “muscle-bound monkey” and discards Slater’s heart for Zack’s. Ah, so the tapes worked! Either that or Kelly came to her senses and realized that neon tank tops are never a good look. Meanwhile, Lisa is gushing about Screech, calling him all sorts of synonyms for horse, such as “mustang” and “stallion.” Kind of makes you wonder what messages he put on the tapes.

Clearly, subliminal messages must be stronger than I thought if they have so brainwashed Lisa and Kelly that they don’t notice this completely unsubtle high five.

Later at the Max, Jessie is studying while listening to Kelly’s Beau Revere tape. I should mention that this entire time, Jessie has been wearing the heart of some guy called Steve, even though we have no idea who Steve is because he’s never been mentioned. Anyway, Max comments about Jessie going to the dance with this mysterious Steve person, but Jessie says she’d rather go with Zack. Kelly and Lisa show up, and Kelly and Jessie both begin quoting what I assume are lines from Zack’s subliminal message tape. Um, I don’t really think that’s how subliminal messages work, but whatever. Kelly and Jessie soon realize that they’ve been duped. At first, Lisa can’t believe that her “buff bronco” is in on it. But then she realizes that she just called Screech a “buff bronco.” The girls take their case to Miss Wentworth, who prefers getting even over getting mad. Of course.

Finally, Slater’s true feelings are revealed.

The next day during Miss Wentworth’s class, Belding comes on the PA and announces that he’s giving the students a break from learning by playing them Kelly Kapowski’s Beau Revere tape. Ten seconds into the tape, Jessie dances over to Zack’s desk and tells him she can’t live without him. The rest of the class follows suit shortly. Zack escapes into the hallway, only to be met with a gaggle of girls chanting “Zack! Zack!” in a zombie-like manner. The girls all throw their plastic heart necklaces on Zack. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Like, aren’t they supposed to wear his necklace? Anyway, Slater breaks up the crowd by announcing that Zack is going to the dance with him. Finally, their homosexual love affair is exposed! Subliminal messages my ass! We all knew Slater had these feelings for Zack all along.

Panicked, Zack runs to Belding’s office and begs him to stop playing the tape. Belding agrees, but then adds “Did anyone ever tell you you look like a blond Tom Cruise?” Back off, Belding, he’s Slater’s man! Finally, Zack confesses to the whole subliminal messages scam, and Belding reveals that he wasn’t actually playing Kelly’s Beau Revere tape, so the whole school actually is not in love with Zack. Except for Slater, that is.

Quote of the episode
“Zack, I am not a straw. Don’t suck up.” —Belding

Grade: A-
Embarrassed as I am to admit it, I once did a science project on subliminal messages, and I got the idea from this episode. And I won 2nd place in the science fair! So I have to like it. Besides, Barbara Bush is the best Screech-in-drag character this side of Sinead O’Connor.

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