Rod Belding: Rogue substitute and romancer of flight attendants

This man is clearly drunk with power.

As Zack walks into history class, he informs us that it’s time for the annual class trip. But first it’s time for midterms. Break out the caffeine pills! But this time the hardest midterm in school is not geometry, it’s history, which is being taught by the maniacal Mr. Dickerson, who’s basically Mr. Testaverde without the Micro Machine schtick. Mr. Not-Testaverde grills the class on some very basic 3rd-grade history questions, such as who assassinated Lincoln. Then he laughs maniacally as he tells the class that none of this will be on the test. Well, of course not. This is 10th grade, not 3rd!

Fortunately, the gang is saved by the intercom (has anyone ever been saved by the actual bell on this show?) when Mr. Belding calls the class trip committee to his office. Apparently, this is the day they get to pick their destination. Jessie wants to picket a nuclear power plant. Naturally. Zack wants to go to Vegas, like what the hell are a bunch of 16-year-olds going to do in Vegas? Besides see Wayne Newton, of course. Belding says since they can’t agree, he’ll pick a neutral place.

Later that night, the entire gang is frantically studying in Zack’s room. I can only suspect that Jessie must have given them all drugs because they soon start to hallucinate Mr. Not-Testaverde’s face in everything from their school books to Zack’s Magic Johnson poster. They decide it’s time to take a break from studying to plug a show for NBC…er, I mean, watch Fresh Prince. However, when they turn on the TV, there is Mr. Not-Testaverde in an argyle sweater, rapping about how they’re all going to fail the test. Man, those pills are dangerous!

The resemblance is uncanny.

The next day it’s time for the midterm, but Mr. Not-Testaverde is nowhere to be found, so Zack invokes the five-minute rule. You know, I invoked the five-minute rule in this exact same situation once. Freshman year of college, I had this English professor who was, I swear to God, on LSD. On the day of our midterm, she just didn’t show up, so I said, “Let’s invoke the five-minute rule.” And no one even said, “What’s the five-minute rule?” Why? Because they had seen this episode of SBTB. Anyway, with 5 seconds to go, Belding walks in and puts and end to the fun. He introduces the class to their substitute teacher, a man named Rod who we’re supposed to believe is Belding’s brother. But the class isn’t buying it, and neither am I, based largely on the fact that they look nothing alike. Good job, casting. And do I even need to bring up the fact that brother Rod has never, ever been mentioned before? I didn’t think so.

Anyway, Rod hands out the midterm and then takes a look at it, commenting that it looks pretty hard. So what, is it on a 5th-grade level? 6th? Oooh. Rod says instead of “taking history,” they’re going to “make history.” Then he instructs the class to rip up their tests and yell “Wahoo!” Yeah, it’s a veritable Boston Tea Party. Then he tells the class that they can give themselves whatever grade they want. Well, he says it’s “whatever grade they think they deserve,” but you know they don’t all deserve the A’s they give themselves.

With the strenuous business of “teaching” out of the way, Rod decides to spend the rest of class making paper airplanes and telling everyone his life story, like how he gave up being a pilot to be a substitute so he could “have summers off to follow his dreams.” Uh, and what dreams would those be? I think he really just wanted to be a big slacker and mooch off his brother. Speaking of which, Belding comes on the P.A. and tells everyone that he’s decided the class trip will be camping at Yosemite National Park. The gang is pumped, but Rod warns them about going camping with “Richie” since he once got lost in their backyard.

After school, Rod, Zack and Screech are watching some sporting event on a TV that has miraculously appeared in Mr. Belding’s office. Conversation comes around to the class trip, and Rod tells the guys about his class trip when they went whitewater rafting. Rod heartily recommends whitewater rafting, which, according to him, pushes you to the limit and lets you really find out what you’re made of. Dude, it’s whitewater rafting; you’re not joining the freaking Marines here.

The next day, Zack convinces everyone to back the whitewater-rafting plan. The only problem: Belding, who is up to his ears in brochures about Yosemite National Park and babbling on about waterfalls and deer. The gang can’t figure out how to break it to him, but finally Screech just blurts it out. Belding is hurt that they’d rather go on the trip with Rod, but he agrees to it. I’m not sure why Rod going means he can’t go, but whatever.

Who does this dude think he is, Meriwether Lewis?

Later, the gang is preparing for the trip, meaning they’ve got an inflatable raft in the gym, and Rod is bouncing it up and down as the gang pretends to see deer. As Rod really starts jerking the raft, he tells them to hold on. I think he means to the raft, but Kelly and Zack seem to think he means to each other, as do Pete and Sylvester. Oh, well. At least they’ll all drown together.

After the thrilling ride, it’s time to practice CPR. Kelly and Jessie lie on their backs, and Rod instructs Zack and Slater to tilt their heads back and then says, “Go for it!” Um, what about closing off their nasal passages? What about chest compressions? I’m not exactly CPR certified, but I think there’s a little more to it than “Go for it!” Belding walks in in the middle of the makeout session and orders everyone back to class. Zack stays behind to get his digs in, telling Belding he’s just jealous because Rod is the best teacher they’ve ever had. Um, what exactly has he “taught” them, other than slacking off and making out? I’m assuming they already knew how to do those things anyway.

The next night, it’s time to leave for the trip. Everyone is gathered in the gym, but Rod is nowhere to be found. Zack goes to look for him and overhears Rod and Mr. Belding having an argument about Rod ditching the kids for his weekend fling with a stewardess named Inga. Um, boys? It’s “flight attendant,” OK? Anyway, Belding tells Rod he’s not going to cover for him anymore and orders him out of his school. Rod storms out of the office and somehow fails to notice Zack standing a few feet away from him.

I am shocked that this didn’t provoke another one of Zack’s jealous rages. I guess there wasn’t enough time left in the episode.

Back at the gym, Belding breaks the news to the gang about Rod, but at the last minute decides to lie and tell them he has the flu. Everyone assumes the trip is off and gets ready to go home, but then Belding offers to take them instead, even though he knows nothing about rafting. That’s what guides are for anyway. Everyone is excited that the trip is back on, especially Kelly, who gives Belding a kiss as she makes her way to the bus. What is going on here? Who kisses their principal? Anyway, as the gym empties, Zack confronts Belding about the truth about Rod. Belding says he’s sorry Zack had to find out because he knows how much the kids idolized Rod. Zack says they got “the better Belding,” and then the two embrace. Awwww. But back off, Zack, he’s Kelly’s man!

Quote of the episode
“Wow…a building with two Beldings, one of whom is balding!” —Screech

Grade: B
I’ve always hated Rod Belding. He swaggered into Bayside with his long blond hair and tales of his exotic life as a substitute teacher and totally made the kids dis Mr. Belding. And in the end, only Zack learned what an ass he really was. I hope he rots in the SBTB Bermuda Triangle.

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