In recent reviews, I’ve wondered if I’ve gone a little hard on Gordo by comparing him to a whiny, r/redpill-reading men’s rights activist. This episode comes in with a resounding “WOW, NOPE:”
Yes, it’s our plucky underdog himself in the mark of a manbaby, the badge of a bro, the frippery of a fuckboy: a fedora! Well, technically it’s a trilby, but technically the phrase “m’lady” died out centuries before either of those hats became popular and technically men aren’t oppressed and don’t need activism, so there’s a lot of wrong going on among the modern proponents of this haberdashery.
This episode is a doozy. Lizzie and Miranda find Gordo listening to some copyright-safe Frank Sinatra-sound-alike music. The entirety of this episode can be summed up in this opening snippet of dialogue.
GORDO: Hey pally. Charlie. How’s your bird?
LIZZIE AND MIRANDA:
GORDO: (impatiently) I just said “Hey, how’s it going?”
LIZZIE AND MIRANDA:
GORDO: (condescendingly and impatiently) It’s how they talked in Las Vegas in 1960?
MIRANDA: Can’t you just talk normal? Like “Hey dawg, what’s the dilly-o?”
GORDO: (impatiently and rudely) That’s how everybody talks. I’m not everybody!
Yes, Gordo has decided out of nowhere to be into 1960 Las Vegas culture – specifically – for the sake of nonconformity. Cartoon Lizzie explains that when rollerblading was a fad, Gordo picked up unicycling. When chocolate cappucinos were a fad, Gordo got into a zen rock garden. Wait, why do middle schoolers drink cappucinos and also how is his zen rock garden a pushback against that fad?
Lizzie, actually being a compassionate friend for once, says she worries that people might make fun of Gordo for being weird, and in return Gordo flicks some money at her, calls her “doll,” and asks her to get a CD for him. Points for commitment! Gordo’s into the misogny of the 60s too. Lizzie and Miranda have my exact reaction to this.
This whole setup is actually a clumsy plot device, not a deliberate homage to the golden age of chauvinism, because Gordo says he has a podiatrist appointment and Lizzie and Miranda have to get him the CD. That’s shoehorned in so that the two of them can then be mocked on the bus by some kid we’ve never seen before for having such doofy music. Suddenly out of nowhere Ethan swoops into frame, gets right in the kid’s face and says “Yo. Vince. Give it up.” I don’t know that I can explain why, but it’s AWESOME.
Lizzie snaps, “Vince is a foot fungus,” and Ethan says, looking at Vince but speaking in this blank, distant way, “Fungus.” Ethan is so amazingly weird in this scene and I fucking adore it. He has a boombox with him, because sure, and puts on the Frank Sinatra CD despite Lizzie and Miranda’s protests. Of course he thinks it’s awesome and Lizzie and Miranda pretend to be experts on it to impress him. This scene is the best scene in the episode. Ethan is so weird and I love weird Ethan. He’s not quite as dumb as he was the last time we saw him, and the actor is making strange choices that I could not support more. Hilary Duff and Lalaine are also very cute as tittering idiots when Ethan shows them attention. But the real MVP of this scene is a terrible extra in the background, who never stops glowering at the camera the entire scene.
HE’S DOING THAT THE WHOLE TIME, IT IS INSANE AND I LOVE IT. Of course one of my favorite moments of the series so far was a complete mistake.
This next scene, however, is a sharp decline. It’s also insane but in a bad way. It’s just a scene of Lizzie and Miranda telling Gordo they like the Rat Pack era now and want to learn more about it, but this scene is shot with all the dialogue thrown off rapid-fire even though there’s no motivation for it. There’s no beats taken, just dialogue spoken as fast as possible. It’s exactly like the flower shop scene in The Room, especially because the lines make no sense. It starts with Lizzie and Miranda both talking about liking this stuff and Gordo being glad about it, but halfway through Lizzie and Gordo begin discussing him teaching them more about it but Miranda just starts listing things that are quirky about Gordo for some reason. She just keeps interjecting crazy things into their conversation and everyone is talking as quickly as possibly and the cameras keep cutting back and forth to everyone’s faces like a fever dream with a ton of “swoosh” sound effects every cut, and it’s impossible to follow. It ends with her shouting, “And there’s the way you blink your eyes so much! You always blink! You just did! You did it again! You did it again!” and it is CRAZYTOWN.
Back at home, Matt’s apparently not in school again, because he’s home playing with Lanny. Hey, it’s Lanny! He was referenced in the Aaron Carter episode, but that one was definitely shot later. This episode is clearly his real introduction. Lanny is Matt’s friend who never speaks. I remember thinking that was a funny shtick when I was a kid, but rewatching it I’m realizing that Lanny’s silence basically makes him a stand-in for Matt’s stupid invisible friend Jasper. Matt says a lot of things like, “What’s that, Lanny?” and “That’s a great idea, Lanny!” when Lanny never says anything. Any setup that requires Matt to have a lot more dialogue is never okay with me. Also, both of the McGuire parents are super rude about Lanny and talk about what a weirdo he is right in front of him, which can be uncomfortable, or talk to him in baby voices to lure him into talking, which is also uncomfortable.
Matt and Lanny are trying to set a world record, so we’re going to skip over the montages that will be interspersed over the next scenes. It’s kind of nice seeing Matt play with another kid, which reminds me that he’s an actual child and not a demon sent from sitcom hell, but it’s not nice enough that I’d choose to keep it in the episode or Matt in the series if I had my way.
Lizzie and Miranda go to school in 60s thrift shop clothes and drop 60s slang into their conversation. Gordo is impressed but worries that the 60s thing might become a trend. Considering this episode predates Mad Men, it’s remarkably prescient. Ethan comes in and there’s a big reveal, underscored by music, that he looks completely Rat Pack-tastic now.
Just kidding, he looks barely different. I do love his stupid cheesey smile, though. He asks where Gordo got his cool 60s shirt and Gordo lies about it being a present from an aunt who lives abroad and Ethan looks both crushed but also like he recognizes that life is like that sometimes and you can’t let it get you down. Clayton Snyder’s choices are so bizarre and beautiful in this episode. I want to mail him a fan letter. Lizzie and Miranda tell him where they got their vintage clothes and he vows to go get some.
By the next day it’s a full-on fad at the school. I kind of…like this episode? For once it doesn’t seem to be making a statement about middle school or growing up, and Lizzie’s horrible personality isn’t front and center. Granted, the silhouettes in general and some of the specific pieces vary wildly from mid-50s to mid-60s in some of these group shots, but every trend gets diluted by idiots. Also, the costume designers incorporated the generally horrific Spice Girls aesthetic of the show into the 60s outfits they feature most prominently, which is well-done even if I hate the usual aesthetic otherwise.
And then enter Kate! I hate this show again. Kate is very sweet and happy and bubbly in this scene, asking Lizzie and Miranda for their help in teaching her about “the whole lounge thing” so she and the rest of the dance committee can plan a Rat Pack dance. Lizzie and Miranda are perfectly nice back and agree. None of it makes any sense. I think the subtext is supposed be that Kate is being manipulative and fake, and Lizzie and Miranda are honored to be asked to help with the dance committee because it’s some kind of status symbol, but none of that is in the scene so I’m grasping here.
Of course, Gordo is a sullen sulking jerk about the whole thing because he never wanted his interests to become mainstream. It’s painful how lifelike Gordo is sometimes. This episode is also incredibly prescient in predicting hipster culture.
Later Lizzie goes over to Gordo’s house to work on homework and finds Gordo playing with some radio-controlled planes his aunt gave him even though he’d told Lizzie he hated them. She brings up the Rat Pack dance and Gordo takes the opportunity to yell at her for making the dumb thing he liked cool. I take back what I said about liking this episode. Now Gordo’s horrible personality is front and center.
He yells that no one else even understands Rat Pack culture and they’re all a bunch of posers just pretending to like it, and actually it’s about ethics in Rat Pack journalism!
The next day, Kate leads a meeting of the dance committee and the show gets a lot of points for me for listing “trilby hats” on the board in the background instead of using the incorrect but more common misnomer. The show does not get points for Kate’s acting here or ever. The actress really struggles with her lines for this scene, as if she didn’t fully memorize them. Lizzie and Miranda are put in charge of gathering music, costume and food ideas, but they both worry that they can’t do it without Gordo’s help.
This scene is a really good example of what I mentioned earlier about the costumers combining the 2001 horror show of their normal design with the 60s looks trending at the school in this episode. The period accessories in Miranda’s hair are used here to create one of the show’s signature over-the-top hairstyles, and Miranda’s outfit looks like she’s mixing new thrift shop duds with pieces she’d already have (for instance, we later see she’s wearing big clunky Doc Martens with this clearly 60s-referencing ensemble). It’s a good blend of her personality with this style.
Lizzie and Miranda find Gordo flying his stupid planes sullenly and alone. Lizzie tries to butter Gordo up before asking for his help and Gordo sullenly plays with his plane and Miranda finally blurts out what they’re there for. This show would be so much better if it acknowledged that Lizzie and Gordo were both selfish monsters in different ways and had Miranda to be their tough-love third wheel constantly calling them on their bullshit until the two of them realized that they should be in a destructive and terrible relationship to spare other people from having to deal with their personalities. Miranda is my favorite of the trio by far at this point.
Gordo refuses to help them, of course. “The Sinatra songs were all called ‘Leave me alone,’ people used to wear ‘I couldn’t care less,’ and their favorite food was ‘goodbye!'” snaps the sullen crybaby, furious that other people like the thing that made him special. Gordo has never been more punchable than this scene. He accuses Lizzie and Miranda of not caring enough about the era like he does and blames them for the fact that he has to play with stupid planes he hates. Lizzie is actually fully reasonable and – without breaking out her bratty screaming voice – says that he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want to do and that it’s no one’s fault that other people like something he liked first. What is happening? I’m…siding…with the protagonist? What show is this?!?! Miranda points out that anyone is “allowed” to like something and Gordo yells that’s not true and the whole school is full of “mindless trendoids following the herd.” I think the word you’re looking for is sheeple, you asshole.
Gordo all but calls Lizzie and Miranda idiots and when they get insulted and point out that he’s being unreasonable, he goes completely over the edge and glares at them with hatred while shoving his plane in their faces while the propeller spins and almost chops their faces off. They both shriek and he keeps doing it with this stupid face:
What a dick!
Matt and Lanny end up failing at all of their record attempts, so they inadvertently set the world record for most failed record attempts. Great, now Matt is a world record holder and Jet Li’s sidekick. The McGuire parents offer to take the boys out for ice cream to celebrate and ask Lanny what he wants. Matt says Lanny only eats pumpkin. I want to point out that the show made this exact same kind of joke about his stupid invisible friend Jasper. Sigh.
Cut to the Rat Pack Dance, where a big vintage sign advertises “the Orient.” Damn, they’re committing to the sexism and racism of the period.
Ethan is impressed with Lizzie and Miranda for pulling the dance together and the whole thing seems like a success, but they’re bummed because Gordo isn’t there to enjoy it too. Who cares, Lizzie? Dance with Ethan. I would. I’m obsessed with him. Instead they decide to leave – but guess what! Gordo totally shows up!
Miranda brings up how he’d insulted the dance just two scenes ago and he says, “I never said that.” Lizzie chimes in that he did and brings up more of the horrible things he said. “Wasn’t me! Must’ve been someone else,” says Gordo. “We were there,” says Lizzie, and he replies, “Nope. You’re mistaken.” Great! Add gaslighting to the list of reasons I hate Gordo!
He then says he’s glad he has friends to teach him lessons like not giving up on what he loves just to be different, and Lizzie says they’re lucky to be friends with a nonconformist who doesn’t care what anyone thinks. These are all good lessons but at this point I hate everyone involved so much that they don’t really land for me. Lizzie and Gordo make eyes at each other.
Miranda is basically like “cool, we all learned a lesson, can we just dance,” and I stand by my wishes for her character. They all dance and it’s cute, or would be if I didn’t want Gordo to be shipped off to a different planet.
And that’s the episode, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out a particularly delightful blooper this week. There’s always bloopers under the credits, and they’re usually stupid, but this week we get to see Adam Lamberg fuck up a scene and sigh, “son of a -“ and Hilary Duff is shocked – SHOCKED! – that her co-star could have said a curse word after that! And she yells “Ohhhhhhh!” really nervously at the concept of almost hearing the word “bitch.” It’s absolutely adorable.
Anyway, this episode had a lot of flaws. Kate and Lizzie’s normal dynamic was absolutely gone. Lizzie wanted to help Kate with the dance and Kate respected Lizzie’s knowledge of “lounge stuff” and there was no indication that Kate is usually Lizzie’s nemesis. That was bizarre. But mostly, this episode’s problem was making Gordo so fucking unlikeable! I understand the point they were trying to make, but instead it was like we tapped into this really cruel, unstable part of his psyche and got to see a hidden ugly side to Gordo. He was so superior and condescending, but also full of rage and blame about everyone else taking his interest. The scene where he kept shoving the propeller blades in Lizzie and Miranda’s faces made him look actually unhinged, and the weirdest part is that they didn’t have him play it like a tantrum, as if he was so frustrated he was waving his plane around like a baby, but instead like this mean, focused, hate-filled rage where he stared into Lizzie’s eyes while trying to hurt her. It was off-putting!
And yet….I don’t hate this episode. It might…be one of my favorites so far. The whole premise was so silly but in a really fun way. While they were making a statement about middle schoolers following dumb trends, the way they did it felt more like a satire and less like old people trying to tap into the youth culture. That’s not the case with episodes like “Bad Girl McGuire” or “When Moms Attack,” both of which seemed to be trying to tackle some real issue middle schoolers face and came off as corny and Disneyfied. None of the changes in this episode were intentional, of course, and were in fact just instances of the stunning lack of continuity on this show, but things like the toned-down relationship between Lizzie and Kate, Ethan’s lovable goofiness instead of outright stupidity, and Miranda’s sassy bluntness all worked really well. And Lizzie didn’t scream at anybody! She didn’t even scream at Vince the Foot Fungus! She was actually likeable! It’s crazy. I wish we saw episodes like this more often. Or better episodes than this. Ones that were good in general and not just in places. That’d be good too.