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Friends Forever! Saved By The Bell:
Zack Morris, Meet Penny Belding.

Matt - 1.09.02

I've gotten a veritable ton of e-mail from readers demanding to have their senses shattered and processes of logical thought inundated with another review of Saved By The Bell, and who am I to deny? By this point, I've covered the show enough that I'm gonna skip the few thousand paragraphs it'd take to properly prepare you for the continuous, bold lines of flagrant stupidity found in each and every episode. We've all seen the show, we all know it's dumb. Doesn't mean it wasn't charming and worthwhile in it's own analogy: you step on a thumbtack. It's a pretty bad situation, but you look down and notice that you could've stepped on a desert scorpion that's crawled into your bedroom and is just steps away from your bruised and battered foot. So yes, stepping on the tack was bad, but stepping on a scorpion would be worse. Saved By The Bell was bad, but a half hour later, you could've been watching something far worse like California Dreams instead. In this mighty pathos play, where Zack and Company play the thumbtack to Sly's deadly scorpion, I'm happy to say that Bayside High might be annoying, but it won't outright kill you.

Today's featured episode is a real doozy. It's got everything from a dream sequence to a faked injury to a special appearance by a Bayside teacher - even the inclusion of a super-elusive Belding family member. It's one of those episodes that gives you the rare opportunity to actually feel your brain cells committing suicide - choosing death as a better forage than trying to make sense of what's going on in the tv set. I think the straw the breaks every viewer's camel's back is the show's audience track, which has you listening to 40 seconds of cheering whenever Slater fixes his belt, or 140 seconds of raucous laughter whenever Screech points out that they're all wearing clothes. Fortunately, you can't hear the audience track in my episode review, so I'm pretty sure you'll be safe.

Kelly's birthday is coming up, and she's having a party! It's a good thing this show didn't happen in the following season, where Kelly's entire family was portrayed as paupers too poor to get anywhere without the use of their trusty souped-up milk carton sneakers. If Kelly was so poor, how'd she afford the 30,000 headbands with each scene change? Either way, the big debate today isn't what's in Kelly's wallet - it's who she's gonna take to her party: Zack or Slater. The blonde Beelzebub wins the war this time - either Kelly wasn't too impressed with Slater's 'Love Me Hawaii' style of dress, or Zack simply beat him to the punch. No matter the case, this is cause for severe bragging rights for Zack. He and Slater have been fighting for Kelly all season. It's been a long-standing tug-of-war with neither man coming out the clear victor, and Kelly's usually too busy looking completely and totally devoid of emotion to come out and say 'I don't date Spanish guys' already.

By the way, I don't think I've ever seen Kelly's hair look poofier than in this episode. You'd assume she put her family in the poorhouse strictly by a one-night hairspray sale buying binge with the sole purpose of making her hair look mutantly bouncy for this opening scene.

Mr. Belding's here too, roaming the halls trying to solve his latest problem that involves the students but in no way the school: he needs to find a date for his niece, Penny Belding. Calling her 'Penny Belding' isn't redundant, because if I'm not mistaken, that's what everyone calls her for the duration of the episode. Even when Mr. B's talking about her, he nails lines like 'Slater, as your principal Mr. Belding, I'd like very much for you to date my niece, Penny Belding.' Later in the show, even during a face-to-face meeting, I'm pretty sure Kelly lands the knockout punch of icebreakers - 'You must be Mr. Belding's niece, Penny Belding!' You'd swear that her real name was Pennybelding Belding, but swearing that would be impossible, because you'll be too busy wondering how they let a dwarf play the principal's niece.

Slater respectfully declines Belding's offer, knowing full well that any relative of Bayside's Emperor isn't gonna be Cleopatra. And after we meet Penny, you'd assume Slater would've settled for Nell Carter. I'm not gonna tell you that beauty is everything, but it's pretty hard to look at the gorgeousness going on inside when the sweet candy shell looks like something from our Animalia department. Belding's thirty-minute mission continues...

The kids are in class, this time taught by Mr. Tuttle. Tuttle was the teacher they called in whenever the episode called for a person of authority to appear as the living embodiment of the extinct elk moose. He spoke loudly and sternly, wore bow ties that accentuated his lack of a neck, and generally wasn't as pleasant as the other two teachers found at Bayside. If you think I'm exaggerating that number, just think of all the times Mr. Belding or his brother had to sub for one of the kids' classes.

Tuttle in his omnipotence catches Zack passing notes for Jessie and Lisa, and lands himself in detention. Amazingly, every one of the twelve kids that you see who aren't main stars also appear in any scene set from detention hall. I guess the main players are the only students who don't spend their schooltime vandalizing bathroom walls or putting cherry bombs in the toilets. Anyway, this latest call for Zack to appear in detention is really bad, because it means he'll be suspended from school. We know this because Mr. Belding was seen earlier gloating about Zack being one away from that distinction, actions not really befit for unbiased school principals but totally okay in a place where kids could convert the entire school locker system into a mass clothing sale undetected.

Zack's really not pleased with this whole suspension thing. It might mean his father would have to come out from whatever small cave he hides in 99% of the time to belt the immaturity right outta his ass. Luckily, there may be an out:

Belding negotiates the suspension with Zack: he'll let the detention thing slide as long as Zack agrees to go out with his niece, Pennybelding. Zack is at a real impasse with his emotions here: either have his dad kick the shit out of him, or have himself kick the shit out of him for agreeing to date a troll Belding. Zack decides that he's not the type to pull the trigger himself, and agrees to Belding's terms.

Really makes you wonder how the PTA would respond if they ever heard what deals the principal was closing at Bayside. I mean, how's Richie gonna explain this one if it ever gets out. 'Hey hey hey hey hey hey! Sure he broke the rules, but you don't understand folks, my niece is really ugly. What is going on here?!' Fortunately, there's only a scant 20 kids in this particular high school, and the ones who aren't orphans all have parents who apparently live somewhere in the Philippines.

Kelly does the impossible - exudes some type of emotion. For a second I thought I was watching that one episode where all the kids get high from the mere mention of pot being in the school. Instead, she's really excited about her birthday party - which she informs Zack, happens to be on the same day he has to date Pennybelding. Now, Zack's worked really hard to get this date with Kelly. This is a guy who keeps a life-sized cardboard cutout of the girl under his bed, and no, I'm not making that up. He took the whole panties-stealing thing a step too far, right into the dark and seedy world of manic obsession. Obviously, the entire stability of his psyche depends on this whole Kelly Date going as planned. But he can't get suspended, or he won't make it to the shindig anyway. What's he gonna do?!

He doesn't come outright and explain the situation to Kelly, which would've been a good idea because previous encounters have taught us that it'll take threats of a nuclear holocaust to make the girl even mildly upset. Instead, he lets those ol' mind gears turn for a bit, desperately trying to hatch a plan that'll make everyone happy: himself, his dad, Mr. Belding, Kelly, Pennybelding, Mr. Tuttle, Kevin the Robot, even his arch-rivals at Valley High. This one's gonna be tough...

His first attempt? Fake an injury. It might've worked if he didn't try this on every Thursday of the schoolyear prior. Belding calls his bluff, sharing sympathy for the broken leg but unwavering in what it means: ultimate Morris suspension. Now let's face the facts here. Bayside High, in it's entirety, is run purely on Zack Fuel. If he didn't go to school for a week, the entire place would fall apart. Who would all the teachers direct their lessons toward - what, those other kids? They don't exist! And there's only so many times they could ask Slater for the answers before blowing their heads off in frustration of his rampant, trademark stupidity. (1050 on the SATs, yes indeed, go go me!) Zack gives up the charade and once again agrees to take Pennybelding out for a night she'll never forget.

Elsewhere in the school, Lisa tells Jessie that she's found a great blind date for her to meet up with. She describes him using terms that Jessie would appreciate: he's smart, he's funny, he holds no ill-will towards her for Showgirls, he's cute, and he's not related to Belding. Still, Jessie is a bit suspicious. Blind dates, historically, have been a major blemish towards anyone who participated in them on a television show. The endless stream of bad possibilities run through her curly head...

Oh no. Oh God, no. A Saved By The Bell dream sequence. Only it's even worse than that: it's a daydream sequence. The only thing more terrible that insights into what went through these kids' minds when they slept is what went through 'em when they had temporary moments of a waking coma. This time, Jessie dreams about Zack hosting a Blind Date game show, where the potential honeypots include Screech, Freddy, and Jason. Of course, Jason and Freddy are just extras in really awful costumes, making me question Jessie's personal creativity if this is the best her head can come up with. Actually, I've gotta give her credit for forming an entire comedic sequence in her head just three seconds after hearing the term 'blind date.' She'd probably do great on the $25,000 Pyramid.

After some more coaxing, she agrees to meet up with the boy. I should mention that this scene lasted a number of minutes, and even though it was staged from the girl's locker room, there were no signs of other students or even the passing notion that any of the girls were missing their next class. Didn't these people have homes? I mean yeah, it's great to like school and all, but this is just getting to the point where you'd swear Bayside had three floors: one for the gym, one for the classrooms, and one for the semi-attached condos of anyone in a starring role. It also explains how Screech is able to change outfits from one class to the next.

Jessie meets up with the blind date. He's named Brett - not Brettsmith or Brettbelding, just Brett. And Brett seems like a nice enough guy - he doesn't lick his fingers after a famous Maxxburger, doesn't make any type of sexual innuendo, doesn't tell Jessie that her overcoat is better suited for a security guard - just chats the day away, hitting every topic that Jessie holds dear.

Things get hot and heavy pretty quick, leaving the viewers with a weird scene where the camera does amazing close-ups on both their faces. Upon this, I can tell you that Brett's eyebrows are really nothing to speak of, but Jessie's look sorta like a slug looking back to see what color slime trail it's leaving behind. Also, I'm pretty sure the hair is Clairol #312: Red Claret, lipstick's magenta, and the eyeliner's liquid, not pencil. You learn a lot from amazing close-ups.

Unfortunately, when they rise to say their formal good-byes, Jessie realizes that Brett's approximately seven inches shorter than she is. She's pretty miffed about it, and ultimately cancels their date for Kelly's party. Hey Jessie, it's not Brett's fault you're thirty feet tall. Stop wearing heels. Brett, at this point, has no idea that his height's even an issue, believing all the girls he's previously dated who said size didn't matter.

Meanwhile, Zack uses Screech to solve his problem, figuring that if he has to be friends with the biggest loser on the planet, he might as well milk it for all it's worth. This time, he persuades Screech to pretend he's him during a date with Belding's niece. Screech agrees because, let's face it, even if she is a Belding, it's better than having sex with a holepunched pillow. I have to admit, no matter what personal grievances I have with this episode otherwise, I've gotta thank the producers for giving us only minimal doses of Dustin Diamond. I boycotted The College Years as a whole because of this clown. Random Fact: ever see Big Top Pee-Wee? Remember that part where Pee-Wee turns all the nasty locals into children so they can still run the happy circus? Keep an eye out, one of those kids is a very young Screech Powers. Back before he was national enemy #2.

Zack teaches Screech how to have more 'Zackosity,' a term they made up, so don't blame me. This scene features some of the loudest fake hooting and hollering by a television audience track you'll ever hear. When they both do the sexy pose simulcast, the speakers blew out on my television. It's a good thing they did, or I would've likely broken the television on the whole myself. I'm amazed that anyone, even electronic fake people, could be this wooed by the sight of Zack and Screech in button-downs. Maybe I'm just jealous because girls don't faint over me whenever I wear blue shirts.

Then again, whenever Zack looks at the camera, this chain reaction of mass hysteria like the world has never seen always happens - it's not something new to this episode. The only reaction that rivals it is any scene that features a shirtless Slater. And that I can at least understand, because he's got pecs. But this? I mean what are we screaming about here - they're just holding jackets. The only salvation happens a few moments later when Screech falls down Zack's stairs.

Moving on, Kelly and Lisa convince Jessie that she's being a big gooney moron, and should go out with Brett. She agrees on both counts, a bit hesitant on the big gooney moron part but with 'em 100% on the dating Brett thing. Afterall, she and Slater haven't begun their love affair yet, and she's gonna look mighty silly at Kelly's party if she doesn't have someone to dance with. Even if he does only come up to her shins.

Kelly's Party Time. Yes, it's at the Maxx. You know, because there's only so many places in the universe that exist. If she didn't have it at the Maxx, the only other options were hosting a big party from her bedroom or from Tuttle's classroom. And at least the Maxx has a jukebox. Screech does the unthinkable: brings Pennybelding to Kelly's party, where the real Zack is. Zack's obviously pretty upset with this latest development, and the rest of us are pretty upset because Screech somehow looks even uglier in a blonde wig. I guess the writers sat around one day challenging each other to come up with a way to do it. It's not like they were really applying themselves to the storylines here, making Screech uglier was the only way to really test their brainpower. So I've gotta give them credit for pulling off what a Screech picture and Microsoft Paint made me think was impossible several years ago.

At least one point of happiness comes from the party - Jessie gets over her self-consciousness and dances with Brett. Sure, he dancing with her while standing on the second step of the Maxx, but it's the thought that counts. I'm not sure what they got up to after the party, but I'm guessing he was pretty bad in the sack because we never see him again. Now he's stuck in that hellish abyss of forgotten significant SBTB others, probably playing Scrabble with the black freshman Lisa dated and that homeless girl who moved in with Zack.

Wow, look at her. For some reason I'm reminded of Willow. Pennybelding tells Kelly what a hot and wonderful guy Zack/Screech is, heightening the tension to the point where we, the audience as a whole, collectively falls asleep wondering how Zack's gonna get out of this one. But before Slater has a chance to gloat, Kelly tells the real Zack that even though she should be furious, she's impressed that he went through so much trouble just to make her happy. Then she kisses him on the cheek, which is the show's equivalent of a night of passionate monkey sex. Zack wins, long live the Alliance. That's the end of this chapter in Bayside's long, tedious history. The End.

Episode Stats:
* Special Appearances: Mr. Tuttle, Penny Belding, Midget Brett.
* Characters Who Died Afterwards: Penny Belding, Midget Brett.
* Drinking Game Noteworthies: Zack fakes an injury, Jessie's dream sequence.
* Number of Times Audience Laughed: 182,331,450.

Be sure to check on the upper right side of this page for links to past X-E SBTB article - if you're feeling particularly nostalgic or particular partial to annoyance. Enjoy!

- Matt
AIM: xecharchar

Know someone who'd enjoy X-E? Refer us! There's nothing more personally gratifying for me in doing this than getting letters from people who've just discovered the site. Of course, if that's too much to ask, you can just buy me something expensive from Amazon. It's your choice. Now, some links to sites that've been real cool to X-E and that are worth your time. Please note that some of these have adult content of which I'm not responsible for. And even if I was responsible for it, I'd just tell you I wasn't and make a pouty puppy dog face till you agreed. Stile - EHOWA - Retrocrush


Screech's Birthday

SBTB Board Game

Screech Bio

Belding Bio