Warning: This is a Tori episode.
In the alternate reality where Kelly and Jessie don’t exist, new-girl Tori suggests that Bayside implement an anonymous Teen helpline. Basically, these kids just give really bad advice to their peers with no adult supervision. Everything is going okay until Zack gets a call from “Melissa.” (Also, guys. You may have known about the unsightly gum infections smoking can cause, but did you know that smoking can cause sinusitis as well? Thanks to the poster behind Zack’s head, we can all remember to just say no.)
He breaks all of the rules of teen line. He asks for her last name, where she lives, and of course–if she’d like to go out on a date. They decide to meet at the Max. When Zack arrives, he’s found that she’s already sitting at a table, and he’s like woah she’s hot. And then he realizes she is in a wheelchair and he’s like woah that freaks me out.
My first instinct here is to make fun of Zack for being insensitive, yet again. But this was the early 90’s and the Americans with Disabilities Act had only been enacted a few years earlier. For 30 second I tried to be understanding, but then he qualified Melissa’s help with the teen-line as cool because she can give great advice “even though she’s handicapped.” Like wtf, you dick.
Then he embarrasses the hell out of her at their movie-date that night. He gets on a soapbox about literally everything, including asking the dude sitting in front of Melissa to “slump down” because she’s in a wheelchair. I’ll point out that Melissa wasn’t complaining about having trouble seeing the screen. The following day, he gets super defensive when Slater asks him, “how was your date with Melissa?” Zack think that Slater is curious about the date only because Melissa is handicapped. Like okay, clearly Zack is delusional.
No one’s ready to call Zack out on his crap just yet, so we head to the max to plan a way to save the Teen-line. (Oh yeah, I should probably mention that they’ve just learned the budget’s been cut.) Zack says he has an idea and Screech gets creepy, as per usual.
So then they decide to raise money with a wheelchair basketball game. But instead of involving actual kids in wheelchairs, they Bayside gang decides that THEY should play a game of basketball in wheelchairs. It’s kind of like a really offensive version of The Harlem Globetrotters.
At the end of the game, Zack makes a speech about how remarkable Melissa is for living life in a wheelchair. After that, she doesn’t want to talk to him anymore and he’s all like aw man, why doesn’t she like me wahhhh. And Tori is basically like, it’s because you’re an insensitive turd.
I know I’m putting it in writing, but if you throw this back at me I will STILL deny it: I kind of like Tori in this episode…
Anyway, Zack takes Melissa to a dance and manages not to be a total prick. He’s learned his lesson, and grown as a person! Until the next time he’s a jackass and we somehow find it endearing…#teamslater
Very Special Lesson: Melissa is a person who is in a wheelchair not a wheelchair person. Shut up, you know what I mean.