Wherefore art thou, Tony Crane?

"It is the East, and Kelly's relentlessly orange outfit is the sun."

“It is the East, and Kelly’s relentlessly orange outfit is the sun.”

We begin in Mrs. Simpson’s English class, where Zack is filling us in on his latest strategy to win Kelly’s affection. Since girls love poets (his examples: Jon Bon Jovi, Axl Rose, and DJ Jazzy Jeff, so clearly he’s playing fast and loose with the definition of “poet” here, not to mention totally dissing the Fresh Prince), he’s going to work this week’s Shakespeare unit to his advantage to put the moves on Kelly.

But first, Screech gets his chance to try to woo Lisa, thanks to Mrs. Simpson’s apparently selective deafness, which can’t hear the bell or 20 students answering her in unison, but can hear Lisa say Screech’s name when she requests anyone but him as her Romeo. Screech starts out on-script (“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks,” etc., etc.), but soon tosses his book aside and starts ad-libbing so he can get to the kissing part faster. Unsurprisingly, Lisa’s not having it, and she draws a yardstick on him, which Mrs. Simpson gently removes, explaining that the sword fight doesn’t come until later in the play. Something tells me Lisa’s going to jump at the chance to play Tybalt to Screech’s Mercutio.

Having struck out with her first R&J, Mrs. Simpson turns to Slater, but Zack quickly deflects him by threatening to expose his Shakespearean prowess to the football team. Having thus landed the Romeo assignment, Zack wastes no time in conning Kelly into being his Juliet. Her initial annoyance quickly disappears when Zack goes all Leonardo DiCaprio on her, playing his part with such aplomb that Kelly gets all flustered and drops her book. Unfortunately, when Mrs. Simpson goes to retrieve it, her back goes out, and she must be transferred to the school nurse via skateboard (becoming a pack mule for Belding along the way).

OK, yes, his semi-mullet lessens Tony Crane's attractiveness somewhat, but he's still way hotter than Rod Belding.

OK, yes, his semi-mullet lessens Tony Crane’s attractiveness somewhat, but he’s still way hotter than Rod Belding.

Later at the Max, Zack is again working his own brand of Shakespearean magic (“Would that I were that straw…gladly would I be made of plastic and risk drowning in a sea of cola for the chance to touch fair Kelly’s lips”), and manages to convince Kelly to ditch her beach date with Slater to rehearse lines from Romeo & Juliet with him. Screech again tries to ape this tactic with Lisa (“Would that I were that blob of ketchup on your plate, so that you might dip your French fries in my face”), but all he gets is some fries shoved in his face. Well, he asked for it.

The next day in Mrs. Simpson’s class, Belding informs us that Her Deafness is still in the hospital, so they’ll be having a substitute teacher. For some reason, he feels he has to give a lecture about how to behave with a substitute teacher, but don’t they have subs regularly? (Other than Rod Belding, I mean—he’s in a league of his own.) Does Belding give this speech every time? Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, because as soon as the hot new teacher, Tony Crane, walks in, the girls are immediately smitten, and the guys are too dismayed by said smitten-ness to pull any of the pranks Belding was so worried about. I have to admit, even without about two decades of hindsight, I still find Tony Crane pretty good-looking, super-cheesy sparkly-tooth effect or no.

See what I'm talking about here?!

See what I’m talking about here?!

Also inappropriate: the face caress. Not to mention that hat.

Also inappropriate: the face caress. Not to mention that hat.

As the girls look on in rapt attention, Tony Crane says that he likes to teach Shakespeare a little differently, so the students can really feel it. Apparently the best way to feel it is by wearing costumes, judging by the fact that he has donned Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy shirt to play Romeo. He asks for a Juliet volunteer, and the girls all practically trample each other to be first in line. Kelly is the winner, however, and don’t think I didn’t notice how Tony Crane’s hand grazes a liiiitle too close to her boobs as he appoints her Juliet. Uh-huh. And also: If the point is for all of the students to feel the play, how come Tony Crane gets to be Romeo? Shouldn’t one of the guys be puffy shirting it up here? Anyway, Tony Crane is even more DiCaprian than Zack, and the girls melt into a collective puddle as he delivers some more lines from the balcony scene. (I guess the writers forgot that there are actually other scenes in Romeo & Juliet.)

Later at the Max, Zack has decided that if Tony Crane can up the ante, so can he, so he’s procured his own puffy shirt and is spouting off more of his quasi-Shakespearean drivel to Kelly, but now that she’s discovered Tony, she is immune to his charms. Her eyes glued to R&J, she tells him she doesn’t have time to play dress-up, even though that’s pretty much exactly what she was doing with Tony in class earlier that day. Max consoles the guys that Tony probably doesn’t even realize the girls are alive, but Max was not a party to Tony Crane’s Romeo-hogging and almost-boob-grazing, and is proven wrong when the man himself walks into the Max and immediately responds to the girls’ super-obvious jukebox loitering by inviting them to join him. Seeing their stock in Kelly’s affections dwindling before their very eyes, Zack and Slater agree to temporarily join forces in order to overthrow Tony.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which of these dresses was the ugliest, and I think Lisa's may have just edged out the others.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to decide which of these dresses was the ugliest, and I think Lisa’s may have just edged out the others.

Back at Jessie’s house, the girls are indulging in a fantasy in which they are all preparing to wed Tony. Despite the fact that each one is wearing an early ’90s wedding dress more fugly than the last, they are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they’re all planning to marry the same guy as they gush about their planned honeymoons. Finally, Tony shows up (looking pretty dapper in a gray striped ascot; why did women have to shoulder the horrors of early 90s bridal fashion alone?), but only to inform them that he can’t marry them. Not because they’re 14 and marrying any one of them would be illegal (to say nothing of all three), but because he’s only a substitute teacher and will be leaving Bayside soon.

But one can never be too careful, so we see what Zack and Slater have cooked up to try to get rid of Tony Crane: They’ve paid a Fran Drescher wannabe to pretend to be Tony’s Italian fiancée and paw all over him in the hall where the girls can see. Only their plan backfires because a) Fake Fran Drescher accidentally targets Mr. Belding instead, and b) the girls are actually nowhere around during this scene. Also, I guess it didn’t occur to them that Tony’s reaction to his supposed fiancée was likely to be “Who the eff are you?!,” thereby ruining their con. Anyway, under pressure from Tony, they come clean, and he tells them that, despite indications to the contrary, he has no intention of stealing their girls and promises to make things right.

So does Tony Crane only have one non-Romeo outfit, or is he as much of a man-whore as Jeff?

So does Tony Crane only have one non-Romeo outfit, or is he as much of a man-whore as Jeff?

Later that day, the girls have been summoned to the Max by Tony, where they imagine he will propose marriage to one of them. Sorry, girls, still illegal. Instead, he’s re-hired Fake Fran Drescher as his fake fiancée and is introducing her to the “kids” from his class. Fake Fran Drescher can’t resist twisting the knife a little, marveling that the girls (who have segregated themselves from Zack, Slater, and Screech in preparation to receive Tony Crane’s imagined proposal) seem so much younger than the guys. Tony Crane tries to soften the blow with some more Shakespeare, but now that marriage is apparently off the table, the girls are all like, “Whatever.” Parting for the SBTB Bermuda Triangle is such sweet sorrow, huh, Tony Crane?

Quote of the episode
“What a coincidence…she really is his fiancée!” —Screech, upon seeing Fake Fran Drescher with Tony at the Max

Grade: A
As someone who harbored her fair share of teacher crushes, I can totally sympathize with the girls’ affections for Tony Crane, if not their choice of fantasy bridal wear. Zack’s Shakespearean ad-libbing was pretty humorous, too, although I’m glad the wardrobe department upgraded their somewhat lame stash of Romeo & Juliet attire before the costume ball.

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