Teenagers & tiaras

Yeah, this is about as scientific as the Love Machine.

Yeah, this is about as scientific as the Love Machine.

The students of Bayside are gathering in a heretofore-unseen auditorium for an assembly that’s being led by…Zack? Did I miss something? Was he reinstated as student-council president? Mr. Belding and Jessie are also on stage, but it’s Zack who kicks off the assembly with the results of the principal-popularity poll; apparently, Belding’s stock is plummeting. Despite the fact that this claim is not backed up with data of any kind, but rather just a red line that Zack has drawn on some enlarged graph paper, Belding seems rather upset about his dwindling popularity. But we don’t have time to dwell on that, because Belding soon introduces the real purpose of this episode: the Miss Bayside pageant. Predictably, Jessie wastes no time hopping up on her soapbox, decrying pageants as sexist, but no one wants to hear it. Including me.

Oh, but we’re going to hear it, as Jessie is holding court on the same topic later at the Max. Although Kelly sagely points out that even Geraldine Ferraro and Sandra Day O’Connor have to wear bathing suits to go swimming (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is debatable), she manages to be convinced by Jessie’s pseudo-feminist rant and agrees not only to not enter the pageant but also to help Jessie make picket signs. Lisa is not having it, though, because she’s a smart girl and knows this is her chance to shine with both Kelly and Jessie out of the way. She resists the advances of Stage Mom Extraordinaire Zack Morris, whose pageant expertise amounts to having every beauty pageant ever televised on tape, including “Miss U-Haul.” Um, can we please watch that instead of Jessie and her tiresome attempts at “politics”? Slater expresses doubt about Zack’s pageant-mom abilities, saying, “You know as much about beauty pageants as I do about wearing pantyhose.” So…a lot? Zack bets him $50 that he can turn anyone into Miss Bayside, and agrees to let Slater pick the contestant. Rookie mistake, Morris. Slater does a once-over of the Max and comes up with…Screech.

Kevin is the best.

Kevin is the best.

Zack is less than thrilled, but a bet is a bet, so he’s got to make the most of it. While studying in Screech’s room, Zack breaks the news to him that he’s the next Miss Bayside. Screech lets Zack in on the fact that he’s a guy, but Zack, clutching a copy of the Miss Bayside rules, says there’s nothing in the rules that says a guy can’t enter the pageant. I’d think the word “Miss” might imply it, but even Kevin, Screech’s robot sidekick, finds merit in Zack’s case. Gender aside, Screech thinks there’s no way he can get the kids at school to vote for him. Wait, so the students determine the results of this pageant? Not a panel of judges whose votes are certified by a Big Four accounting firm? What kind of sham pageant is Belding running here? Anyway, Zack thinks that Screech will have no problem getting votes as long as his fellow students can see his many good qualities, although he neglects to name what those are. Instead, he tells Screech that he’ll “go where no man has gone before.” Screech agrees to sign up for the pageant, but I suspect that may only be because he thinks it will somehow involve him going into outer space.

This is the saddest picket line ever. Then again, given that Jessie organized it, I'm not exactly surprised.

This is the saddest picket line ever. Then again, given that Jessie organized it, I’m not exactly surprised.

The next day, Kelly and Jessie are picketing (or in Kelly’s case, picket-cheerleading) outside Belding’s office. He’s none too happy about it, but he’s even less happy when Zack comes in to register Screech for the pageant. Belding is attempting to explain the whole “Miss” concept to Zack and Screech when Jessie, who had stopped picketing to blatantly eavesdrop on the conversation, bursts in and says excluding a man from the pageant is discrimination. I think your buddies Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg might disagree with you there, Jessie. But Belding, sensing a way to put an end to the inane picket line, agrees to let Screech into the pageant.

Belding’s not the only one who’s not pleased about the latest Miss Bayside contestant—Lisa claims that Screech’s entry is making a mockery of the pageant. Jessie disagrees, and Slater, who has popped out of nowhere to witness this conversation, senses his opportunity to stack the deck against Zack and Screech. He eggs Jessie on until she marches into Belding’s office and enters the pageant herself. Then he hightails it to the Max to let Kelly know that Judas Spano has done a complete 180. Kelly’s all, “Over my dead swimsuit-wearing body!” Slater’s overly gelled mullet is thrilled at this turn of events. Zack, not so much, especially when Kelly informs him that he’s not getting any until the pageant’s over.

Yeah, sassy Lisa!

Yeah, sassy Lisa!

In the locker room, Kelly, Jessie and Lisa should probably be getting ready for gym, but instead they’re standing around glaring at each other. When Jessie asks for her towel (which Kelly is folding for some reason), it provokes Kelly to throw it in her face and then lay into her for being a traitor. Damn straight! Kelly doesn’t get to sit on her high horse for long, though, before Lisa’s letting her have it about always stealing everyone’s thunder. Catfight! My money’s on Lisa. Kelly and Jessie start slapping at each other, but before we can get to any really juicy action, Lisa breaks it up by reminding them that they’re all competing against Screech. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re competing against each other. But apparently the absurdity of the situation is enough to get them to kiss and make up.

The next day in the auditorium, it’s time for talent rehearsal. An extra named Jennie Tyler (whither Muffin Sangria?!) does a baton-twirling routine in some fierce gold boots. She’s followed by Lisa, who plays a pretty sweet violin sonata. Who knew Lisa had a hidden talent? Unfortunately, she’s the only girl in the gang who does. Jessie follows with some insipid performance-art piece about a caterpillar becoming a butterfly that makes my eyeballs bleed just thinking about it. Then there’s Kelly, singing an off-key version of “Blue Moon.” Guess she must’ve taken some voice lessons before she joined Hot Sundae. Screech is up next, doing a pretty decent magic show with the help of Kevin. But he’s soon upstaged by the pageant’s latest contestant: Slater, rocking it out on the drums. Apparently Slater realized somewhere between Butterfly Spano and Pitchy Kapowski that he was backing the wrong horses, so he decided to take advantage of the new men-welcome policy and enter the pageant himself.

Screech is a bit distraught at this latest turn of events. Moping in his room, he’s consoled by Kevin, who inadvertently gives him a black eye in the process. Guess that’s a hazard of having a robot as your best friend. Screech is even more dismayed now that his face has been mangled, but Zack senses a golden opportunity. The next day at school, he starts a rumor that Slater gave Screech the black eye. By the time the rumor works its way through all 12 extras, Screech is in the intensive care unit on life support.

Wow, swimsuits really were absurdly high-cut in the early 90s.

Wow, swimsuits really were absurdly high-cut in the early 90s.

And yet, miraculously, he’s still able to make it to the Miss Bayside pageant. We start with everyone’s favorite—the swimsuit competition—where the ladies model some fetching neon fashions. Well, except for Jessie, who has covered her swimsuit with a trench coat in order to make a “statement.” Yawn. Slater’s up next, wearing a pair of way-too-short swim trunks. He’s met with a frosty reception from the audience, and no amount of muscle-flexing can sway them, so he slinks off the stage. Next up is Screech in a wresting onesie, who gets a standing ovation.

We move on to the final four (once again: Why not final five? Although I can’t say I’m too upset this time, since it means Jessie and Slater have mercifully been eliminated) and the question round. After Jennie breezes by her turn (mistaking Belding’s “Are you ready?” for the actual question), Kelly’s up next, advocating cheerleading as a solution for world peace. I say let’s send her to the Gaza Strip and see what happens. Lisa is asked whether beauty pageants are out of date, and she gives Jessie a big eff you, saying that pageants are just a way to have fun. Screech gets the final question, which is what he learned by entering the Miss Bayside pageant. For some reason, his answer is accompanied by sappy piano music, which helps to stir the heartstrings as Screech says that being cheered for by hundreds of his fellow students was awesome (“hundreds” is a bit generous, I think), but that he’ll never go on to win Miss High School California, so the students should vote for someone else. It’s OK, Screech! Miss High School California isn’t a real pageant anyway!

"Lovely, disarming...not even a girl!"

“Lovely, disarming…not even a girl!”

The other students seem to realize this, because the next thing you know, Belding is announcing Screech as the winner, much to Kelly and Lisa’s shock. If I were them, I’d also be shocked that they don’t even get the courtesy of a runner-up prize. I guess that’s just so Mr. Belding has time to croon the Miss Bayside anthem as Screech takes is victory lap around the stage in a fur-trimmed robe and tiara. As for Zack and Slater’s bet, Slater’s ready to pay up, but Zack comes clean about the rumor and waves away his money. I guess seeing Slater in short-shorts was reward enough for him.

Quote of the episode:
Belding: “You can’t enter a man in the pageant!”
Zack: “I’m not entering a man; I’m entering Screech.”

Grade: A-
Not even Jessie’s grandstanding can ruin the splendor of seeing Slater shamed off the stage while Screech is crowned Miss Bayside. Plus, that locker room kerfuffle was nothing short of magnificent—it’s about time someone called Jessie on her bullshit, and I’m always a sucker for sassy Lisa.

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