Hate the playa and the game

Don’t try to be Brandon Walsh, Zack. It won’t end well.

The guys pull up next to some early-90s hotties in the Malibu Sands parking lot in Slater’s convertible (which is now mysteriously black) as a Zack voiceover waxes poetic about gorgeous curves…but it soon becomes obvious he’s not talking about the babes, but rather the cherry red Brandon Walsh-mobile sitting behind them in the parking lot. As Screech and Slater try unsuccessfully to flirt with the girls, Zack caresses the ‘Stang and plucks the “For Sale” sign off of it. Um, I think you’re supposed to write the number down, not just take the sign with you. Zack is probably one of those people who rips pages out of public phone books, too.

Meanwhile, at the front desk, Lisa tries to commandeer the phone for personal business, but Jessie swiftly cuts her off. Hey, maybe she actually learned how to be a conscientious employee as a result of her brush with being fired! Zack, on the other hand, clearly did not, as we see him greet Leon “The Poor Man’s Danny DeVito” Carosi by calling him “Mr. Greasy,” which is but one in a series of rude nicknames Zack will employ for seemingly no reason in this episode. After serving Big L his breakfast (swiped from a Mark Twain lookalike at the next table), Zack races off to the server’s stand, where he pulls out his giant cell phone and calls the number on the “For Sale” sign…

Which, of course, rings directly to Carosi’s giant cell phone. (Which is so giant, I might add, that it doesn’t even resemble a cell phone. It looks like he just brought the cordless from his house to the Malibu Sands dining room.) Anyway, after some friendly banter between Zack and Big L about Zack’s “jerk of a boss,” which somehow neither of them are able to distinguish is coming from the same room even though they’re like 20 feet away from each other, Big L lets his name slip, causing Zack to shriek, “Carosi!” and immediately hang up the phone. Big L apparently isn’t deaf enough to have blocked out that, and so Zack’s attempts to negotiate the price of the car down to $1,500 are quickly shut down: Big L won’t budge a penny from his ludicrously exact asking price of $2,006.52.

That is, until the owner of rival club North Beach saunters in to make their annual $500 wager in the big inter-club volleyball match. It seems Malibu Sands is on a 10-year losing streak, like why does Carosi keep betting on these games if his team sucks so bad? Hearing that the exact price difference of the car (well, give or take $6.52) is on the line, Zack immediately pulls Big L aside and assures him that Malibu Sands can win the game this year, based on the evidence that Kelly is the school’s volleyball team captain (solid), Slater is all-city in four sports (less solid, since I’m assuming volleyball isn’t one of them, although I don’t know what the other two that aren’t wrestling and football might be), and Jessie and Zack are “really good” (totally weak). Carosi is equally unconvinced, until Zack assures him that they’re undefeated.

But how can they be undefeated if they’ve never even played a game, you ask? Oh, because that means they’ve never lost one, as Zack explains to the equally confused gang. This twisted logic doesn’t really matter, though, as Zack’s already got Carosi and his apparent gambling addiction over a barrel, and demands afternoons off for practice, plus a lowered price on the car, both of which Carosi gives into. Awesome—now Zack can add blackmailing his boss to his resume, too! Man, this summer job is really expanding his skill set.

Oh, Tad. Why didn’t they let you just standing around looking pretty?

Later in the day, the gang is having one of their afternoon practice sessions when Stacey walks up to check out the famous “undefeated” team. She’s pretty skeptical about their volleyball prowess, and even more so when Screech assures her they’re going to “win by 10 touchdowns.” They are soon joined by Tad and Todd, two surfer dudes from North Beach, the latter of whom has apparently been carrying a torch for Stacey for quite some time. After some truly painful trash talk (seriously, this Tad guy is easily the worst extra ever to appear on SBTB, if not in the entire history of television), the gang challenges T&T to an impromptu scrimmage. As they hit the court, Coach Kelly pep-talks, “Let’s remember our strategy: Win!” Hey, great strategy! Why don’t other teams ever think of that? Anyway, the scrimmage is cut short when Screech gets beaned so hard in the head with a volleyball that it gives him some sort of concussion that causes him to think Zack is Kelly and that they’re playing football (although given that he thought the latter before, I’m not sure how bad the head injury really is).

Later, Slater and Zack are sitting on the lifeguard stand, moaning about how they’re going to lose, when up walks a 6’10” young lad named Gary. Man, what are the odds?! Apparently Gary has a thing for Kelly, and so Zack wastes no time in pimping out his ex-girlfriend to nab himself a secret weapon for the volleyball game. The next day, he informs Big L that he’s hired Gary—needless to say, Carosi is indignant about Zack’s assumption of power, until he gets a load of ol’ Gar in a comically small Malibu Sands uniform. Big L is so excited by Gary’s height that he immediately decides to call the dude from North Beach and double—nay, triple!—the bet. What’s that they say about pride going before a fall, Big L? Nah, never mind, it’s probably not important.

In the employee lounge, Kelly and Gary are being all glowy about their upcoming date. I’m glad Kelly seems to enjoy being on the receiving end of Zack’s continuous pimping efforts; God knows it won’t be the last time. Big L and Stacey soon join the gang, and there’s such an abundance of fate-tempting pride talk that fate can no longer hold out and sends in Screech to drop a huge water bottle on Gary’s foot.

Later, the gang is all gathered in the reception area, acting like it’s a doctor’s waiting room because the show was too low-budget to actually spring for a doctor’s waiting room set. Gary comes hobbling in on Kelly’s shoulder with a cast on his foot (what, the show couldn’t even afford some prop crutches? Come on!), which the gang tries desperately to hide from Big L. While they do manage to distract him with a pretty convincing game of “mind volleyball,” Screech soon shatters the illusion by letting the truth about Gary’s foot slip. Zack is forced to admit that the team isn’t quite as great as their lofty reputation, so Carosi informs them that if they don’t win the game, they’ll all be fired. You know, given that Big L is consistently threatening termination over the most trivial, lawsuit-inviting matters instead of the approximately 52 legitimate offenses the gang serves up in each episode, I’m starting to think that he’s just as bad an employer as they are employees.

Tell me you wouldn’t want this lady on your volleyball team! She probably knows more about the sport than all of these idiots combined.

Over at the girls’ beach house, it seems that living with Jessie “Oscar Madison” Spano is getting on Lisa’s last nerve. One by one, she picks up all the clothes that Jessie has left strewn all over the living room…and tosses them out the door. Go, Lisa! Can you shove Jessie out while you’re at it? Zack and Slater were apparently standing down-wind of the clothing purge, and walk in the door with a mouthful of blouse, bearing pizzas. They’re there to celebrate their imminent failure with a little cheese and pepperoni, but before they can dig in, Screech arrives with a few ringers for the volleyball team. These are: Ava, a five-year-old who’s the best athlete in her class at Happy Valley Preschool; Ida, a spritely 80something who once played for the Olympic volleyball team; and Big Pete, a nerd who goes to their school whom they don’t seem to recognize. Disappointed with the choices, Zack reluctantly picks Big Pete as Jessie moans loudly that they’re doomed. Uh, Jessie, your new teammate is standing right there. Also, they totally should have gone with Ida. I don’t care how long ago it was, she was a freaking Olympian. Besides, the old girl still looks pretty damn spry.

The next day, the gang is in the employee lounge, combing the classifieds for new jobs (or, in the case of Slater, claiming to look for new jobs while actually reading the sports page). Just as Screech is reminiscing about his job the previous summer as a taster at Happy Kitty Cat Food (why are all the fake schools and businesses so cheerful this episode?), Zack walks in with a telegram that’s ostensibly from the dudes at North Beach, calling the Malibu Sands crew “losers” and claiming they’re going to “bury [them]” at the game tomorrow. Eh, seems pretty mild as far as trash-talking telegrams go (Tad was almost doing a better job in person), but Zack reads it with such an incendiary tone that it motivates Kelly to grab her Official Volleyball Coaching Clipboard and Yellow Pencil and hustle the gang back out to practice. I don’t need to tell you that Zack sent the telegram, right? (I was beginning to wonder if mail doesn’t actually exist in the Bayside/Malibu Sands universe, and therefore the only way to communicate is via telegram or giant cell phone, but since most of the telegrams on this show are fake and originate with Zack, maybe it’s just that Zack somehow got his hands on a bunch of blank telegrams. The world will never know.)

Anyway, we’re suddenly at the match, where Big L gives the team a rousing pep talk: “Remember, it’s not how you play the game; it’s whether you’ll be working here next week or not!” I guess Pete doesn’t really care about the job he’s had for all of two days, because just as the team is about to take the court, he begs out, saying all the practice has given him blisters. I told you they should’ve gone with Ida! An Olympian would never be felled by measly blisters! Anyway, Stacey happens to show up at just that moment, attired in early-90s neon volleyball-wear, to say that she’ll take Big Pete’s place on the team. Gee, Stace, maybe you could have volunteered your skills at some point during all the Gary/Ava/Ida/Big Pete madness, you think? Whatever.

Juicy Fruit, it’s gonna move ya!

The game itself is your basic Juicy Fruit commercial montage (intercut with shots of Carosi clutching his hat in desperation and Lisa manning the scoreboard while also maybe getting a little too friendly with Gary) until we hit a 13-13 tie, at which point Stacey proves her usefulness to the team by agreeing to go on a date with Todd, gobsmacking him so much that Zack is able to serve the ball right into his shoulder. Match point! Cue the slow-motion sequence! Cue the dramatic music! Zack rears back for the serve, which Tad returns with a shot that goes up through the hole in the ozone layer, does a few loops around the international space station, then plummets back through the stratosphere (or so the dramatic music and dramatic shots of Zack and Kelly following the ball’s progress would have us believe), at which point Zack spikes it back and wins the game! And the car! And the girl! (OK, not the last one, but he and Stacey do have a hug that lasts conspicuously a little too long.) Anyone else really want a piece of gum right now?

Quote of the episode
“Don’t you know fat people are supposed to be jolly?” —Screech, to Big L

Grade: C
It’s not that this episode was badly done; it’s just that 90210’s volleyball-tournament episode was soooo much better. I mean, if Zack’s going to ape Brandon Walsh’s car choice, the least SBTB could do is attempt to live up to the glory that is “Sex, Lies & Volleyball.” Plus, the gang’s dismissal of Ida was totally ageist.

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