Saved by the Bell: The Mamas and the Papas

Hello! Happy Saved by the Bell Day! I did a cursory Google search and I’m honestly not sure if this holiday is anything more than an attempt to sell sandwiches but hell, we need something to celebrate in 2020!

On that note, let’s talk about gender roles. This episode is from very early in the series, airing way way back in 1989. Zack’s voice hasn’t even changed! Like I think I just heard it crack.

Anyway, they’re all adorable babies. Who for some reason need to spend a class learning about what it’s like to be married? WHAT???

Anyway, curious to know if this was like a “real thing” that people did in school back in the days of home economics. Also curious to know if taking care of an egg in order to be a “good parent” was a real thing.

Okay, so the kids are paired off into “marriages” — this is as heteronormative as you would expect. The couples are (I’m sure you can guess) as follows:
-Zack/Kelly
-Slater/Jessie
-Screech/Lisa

True to form, Jessie and Slater’s relationship is immediately contentious. Jessie won’t take Slater’s last name and he says that one of the important parts of a relationship is “great legs.”

As per usual, Screech is creepy stalking Lisa throughout most of this episode. This causes her to have night terror in which she cannot escape him. Freddy Krueger take note. Incidentally, I have to imagine this is Lark Voorhies felt for much of her time on the show acting opposite Dustin Diamond.

Alright, so the true plot of this episode comes from the weird stuff they’re required to do during class for their “marriages.” This involves running through scenarios…while Principal Belding grades them on how they behave in their “marriages”…I’m sorry…what? This doesn’t feel like it should be legal.

Of course, this turns into Jessie and Slater fighting again. She’s trying to get him to help with the household chores. He’s trying to get her to call him “Tiger Man.” Jessie tells the principal that Slater, “doesn’t want a wife. He wants a maid.” So it seems like this is the point in time where Principal Belding should be “helping” them solve this issue, right? Nah, he just says, “that’s a problem you two will have to work out.”

Up next are Kelly and Zack. Kelly asks Principal Belding to refer to her as Mrs. Morris. Barf. The scenario is that she must tell Zach she has wrecked his car. HIS car? Are they married or not? Is this car a joint asset or NOT? Anyway, Zack pretty much just tries to seduce her the whole time. He’s trying to get her to make out in class. It’s A LOT.

Screech and Lisa are up next. Their scenario is that Screech has been fired and Lisa must comfort him. She responds by doing an offensive impression of a Spanish speaking maid and Screech mistakes this for German. The stress of all this causes Lisa to develop a literal allergy to Screech. Fearing the risk of anaphylaxis, Principal Belding annuls their “marriage.”

If you thought that everything up until this point was extremely strange and disturbing, I would have to agree with you. I’m also not sure how to warn you or prepare you for what comes next, so I’m just going to jump right into it.

Evidently, there are other kids in the class who are not assigned to “marriages.” These kids sit in desk and watch this whole mess unfold. Then Belding tells the “couples” tha tthey will now select children, played by their classmates,  Let’s Make a Deal-style. I’ll pause here until your head stops spinning.

Zack and Kelly end up selecting Screech while Slater and Jessie pick Lisa. Cut to: Screech writing Lisa’s name in toothpaste on the mirror in the boy’s bathroom. WHY WAS THERE NOT A GUIDANCE COUNSELOR AT THIS SCHOOL?

Slater discovers Screech as he begins his slow evolution on the path to becoming the next Green River Killer and offers to help him out by pressuring Lisa into dating him because she “has to listen to her Daddy” in order to get a good grade. Annnnndd I’m going vomit EVERYWHERE.

This transaction involves some kind of quid pro quo, but we cut away after Screech offers to teach Slater how to (literally) inhale a slurpy. I assume this wasn’t the offer Slater was looking for, so I’m not sure where they landed.

In a shock to absolutely no one, Zack is a terrible father. This upsets Kelly, so she and Zack split up. I assume this was how their actual marriage unraveled, unless their Vegas wedding ended in a quickie divorce before they even had kids.

Honestly, this episode could have been titled “Slater is Trash” because he’s trying to manipulate Kelly now by pretending to be a “good father” to Lisa. This is back in the early days of the show when Slater was trying to date Kelly. They must have seriously rewritten his character after she and Zack got together because Slater is truly awful in this episode. And I am UPSET about it.

Anyway, in his ploy to get an IRL date with Kelly, Slater has agreed to be a stay at home dad with Jessie and take the last name of Spano-Slater.

When Lisa still refuses to go out with Screech — because no grade is worth that — Screech announces to the class that he broke up his “parents” because Slater promised him that Lisa would go out with him.

All of the boys end up in the principal’s office and somehow a thirty second conversation turns into a genuine change of heart. They apologize and ask to continue the project. Belding says he will only allow this with the girl’s permission. They agree and they all go on a creepy family dinner date at The Max.

Slater orders for Jessie at dinner because he thinks that’s what’s men do. Jessie tells him a “real man wouldn’t be threatened by a woman who knows what she wants.” He responds by saying, “You’re really a great girl, but I think we should break up before I send you to the moon” — a callback to a 1950’s joke about spousal abuse.

Meanwhile, Zack and Kelly reconcile. Somehow Screech has ended up under the table with his head stuck “on a platter.” I don’t even want to know. Kelly closes the lid and decides that all marriages need some alone time. Wtf. This was so weird. I can’t. I cannot even comment.

I am truly so sorry for that visual. I simply didn’t know how to use words to describe this. Please know that I truly understand if you hate me forever because of it. 

Very Special Lesson: Uhhh. Maybe virtual learning isn’t so bad. At least you would probably be in the vicinity and could shut this toxic shit down if you kid was unfortunate enough to attend Bayside High.

**Also sorry for posting this so late. Hopefully it’s still Saved by the Day at least on the west coast by the time I post this!

OH and in other very important news, Mark-Paul Gosselaar started a podcast with Dashiell Driscoll of the excellent Funny or Die series Zack Morris is Trash, and my personal favorite, A Very Special Episode. Evidently Mark-Paul has never watched the series and will now be going through every single episode of Saved by the Bell for our listening pleasure.

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