Season 1, episode 17: “Sibling Bonds”

The good news is I’m officially past the halfway point for season 1, which is progress. The bad news is that I had to watch this week’s episode and the fact that I watch this show in general. Lizzie McGuire is not a good show, you guys. It’s really not. 

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Lizzie is in the kitchen doing homework as her parents prepare dinner and Matt runs around like a goddamn nightmare. The first half of this scene is him antagonizing Lizzie with magic tricks like making a ball hover and then smash her in the face, Lizzie reacting by screaming at him and/or breaking his magic things, Matt scream-tattling on her to their parents, and Lizzie getting reprimanded. During the entire scene the McGuire parents dish out half-ass scoldings in monotone voices while looking this engaged:

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I hate to say it, but the McGuires are shitty parents. I don’t hate to say that about Sam, obviously, but it pains me to criticize Jo because she seems like a beautiful soul who could have made something of herself. But they’re garbage parents of two big failed experiments in childrearing.

As is happening increasingly often in these recaps, the conflict presented makes no sense. Lizzie’s homework should take precedent here. Matt should be told to leave her alone. Matt is such a hellbeast in general – he reveals in this scene that he’s been stealing Lizzie’s clothes for magic tricks, digging around in her underwear drawer for some reason (???), and eavesdropping on her phone calls, and later in the scene he calls her fat. I don’t know if any human child has ever been so unlikeable.

The next day at school, Lizzie sees Ethan Craft and is so smitten she can’t speak. I get the feeling that a lot of guest writers came in and out of the Lizzie offices, because shit like this happens frequently. We’ve seen Lizzie talk to Ethan plenty of times. This would work on the first introduction of him but makes absolutely no sense at this point in the season. She just stares at him, jaw dropped. When he asks her what’s up, she stammers incoherently.

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The next scene cements my guest writers theory, because Flamboyant Theatre Aficionado Mr. Escobar begins class with the quote “I was feeling sorry for myself cuz I had no shoes, but then I met a man who had no feet” and Lizzie, Gordo and Miranda immediately pipe up with a bunch of zany questions about how the guy lost his feet, in a completely different style of humor than the show usually pulls. Ethan explains that it’s a metaphor about gratitude, and Cartoon Lizzie gushes that Ethan is cute and smart. What the fuck, show?? I thought Ethan’s thing was he was dumb as a brick!

Mr. Escobar agrees with Ethan and says the point is the school needs to help the less fortunate and announces a charity drive.

What the FUCK?

I shouldn’t take it so personally that this show makes so little sense, but the ENTIRE POINT of last week’s episode was that Lizzie was getting too involved in helping the less fortunate. According to IMDB, these two were shot back-to-back, so this isn’t an unfortunate airing mix-up. Why is this a plot point this episode? There’s no focus on charity this time, so they could accomplish the same arc with any other school event. Reusing a charitable school function here doesn’t just feel lazy, it’s a bizarrely wrong choice.

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Lizzie whispers to Miranda that she has too much homework to help out at the tournament (here I would have at least taken a line like “I learned my lessons about charity and I’m never helping another person again after I took back my bed from the homeless shelter” as her excuse so there would be SOME continuity) but Ethan volunteers so she does too. He compliments her commitment – you should have complimented her commitment last week, Ethan! When she was so committed she wore a burlap sack to school! – and she stammers incoherently again.

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At home Lizzie demands fancy cookie ingredients from her mom, who answers in a monotone voice that all they have is chocolate chips. Jo seems really broken this episode. The strain of her terrible family is finally getting to her. Immediately after this, her husband enters the room to find her sorting clothes for the charity drive (even though Lizzie donated all their unused clothes last week, I thought) and sees her putting his lucky jersey in the pile. He yanks it from her hands and yells in her face about it and she has monotone answers like “I didn’t realize it was so special” until he storms away. Sam McGuire: uninvolved, unsupportive, verbally abusive. I’d be shocked if their relationship is still intact by the time Lizzie gets to college.

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Matt comes in to do a stupid magic trick and Lizzie can’t give him the attention he irrationally demands since she’s baking cookies for the charity drive, so he handcuffs her to him. What is wrong with this asshole? Lizzie grabs a meat tenderizer and threatens to beat his face in if he doesn’t unshackle them. What is wrong with this family? And Matt has lost the key.

The McGuire parents see the key before their kids do and decide to leave them stuck together so they can work out their problems. Sure, that seems like a fine alternative to actually setting boundaries for your trash children. Jo says they’ll either learn a lesson or kill each other and Sam says, “Either way we win.” What? How much do these people hate their kids? It seems like almost as much as I do.

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Sam pretends to go to the magic store to get a spare key, then tells the kids he’ll have to drive several towns over to get one since that store was closed for a “magician’s holiday.” That feels like a really complicated lie to keep the kids together, but sure. It’s time for the charity drive, so Lizzie has to go with Matt stuck to her. Their parents promise that Sam will bring the key during the drive.

When Lizzie gets to the minigolf/arcade/fun park thing hosting the charity drive, Miranda says Ethan’s been asking about her. (Asking what? Why she suddenly can’t speak?) Lizzie positions herself by a photobooth so she can shove Matt into it when Ethan comes over. Now she has no problem speaking to him, suddenly. The babbling-around-Ethan plot point was just dropped. She declines his offer of popcorn, but because Matt is a demon sent straight from hell, he pokes his arm out of the photobooth to grab the popcorn anyway and shove it into Lizzie’s mouth while Ethan looks on, horrified, and Lizzie chokes and screams. There is so much secondhand embarrassment in this scene. I wanted to die.

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Ethan then begins to open up to Lizzie about his passion for charity stemming from a period in his life when his dad lost his job. Damn, that’s interesting character development!

Unfortunately it’s completely lost because here Matt decides to use his hand to mash up Lizzie’s face in front of Ethan. Matt can die in a fire. Honestly.

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Jo is volunteering by sorting the donated clothing and finds some really large pants. This is the setup for the first of several fat jokes this episode, which we’re going to skip. She calls Sam and tells him to hold off on bringing the key, since Lizzie and Matt have a lot left to work out. This is horrible. Lizzie is in a social situation where she’s being humiliated by this stupid punishment. I know they’re going to learn a lesson because it’s the Disney Channel, but this whole concept is so stupid. By the way, Sam is at home in his lucky jersey singing “Here we go, football, here we go, football,” which strikes me as something a gay writer would imagine that a heterosexual sports fan would do.

Matt sees a bully from school and drags Lizzie out to the putt-putt tournament to avoid him. Gordo is the announcer, which is nice because it means just enough Gordo this episode. He makes some quirky jokes but I don’t have to see him be weird to women. Lizzie asks about Matt’s bully and sad music plays when Matt says he picks on him for no reason. Really? Now I’m supposed to feel sorry for Matt? Thankfully, Lizzie responds with “I can’t think of any reason someone would want to pick on a great kid like you. Maybe it’s because you go around handcuffing people!” Will Matt learn from this? Of course he won’t.

We don’t get much Miranda this episode, either, but we do see her yell at anyone who won’t donate to charity. Snarky Bitchy Miranda: my dream. She’s even wearing a roller derby t-shirt, which feels very appropriate.

The bully trips Lizzie and Matt and Lizzie starts bellowing all of her problems at him, which include “Kate Saunders sniffing around a guy I like.” I think I figured it out: Hilary Duff is the one who doesn’t know Kate’s last name. Everyone else says “Sanders.” Did she get any direction ever.

She yells at the bully until he runs away and Matt is grateful. They walk along the golf course as acoustic guitar music plays and they learn to appreciate each other. Lizzie says no one gets to beat up Matt but her. Ugh. Matt says he didn’t realize Lizzie’s life was so hard. Sigh. They both say that if they had to spend a day chained to a sibling they’re glad it’s with each other. Barf.

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Kate shows up with a legitimately good insult for once. “It’s true – you are wearing your brother as a charm bracelet!” she squeals. Ziiing! Lizzie must have such a fucking weird reputation at school. She was a bad girl for one week, she was a militant hippie the week before this, and now she’s prancing around a school function with a 10-year-old attached to her arm.

Matt pulls out a trick can of nuts and offers them to Kate, and of course coiled-up snakes shoot out of the can, and of course Kate falls backwards into a lake in her shock. Except for when they cut to another shot and she’s falling forwards.

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Mr. McGuire shows up with the key and for some reason decides to toss it across the lake to them?? It flies through the air in slow-motion and I thought for sure it was going to go right in the lake, because why else would you set up this completely insane scene, but Lizzie catches it and they’re free.

Ethan sees Lizzie and says he heard she spent the whole day with her brother and that that’s really cool, and he invites her to come out with some of their friends for pizza. Wow, that’s the best-case scenario for Lizzie after all of the bizarre stunts she’s pulled today! Will she ruin it immediately? Yes. She sees the bully making fun of Matt again and declines.

Lizzie, you idiot. You deserve no attention from Ethan because you’re a weirdo and a brat, and he’s giving you attention. Beautiful, goofy, sometimes smart Ethan.

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Lizzie then savagely screams “YOU’RE ROADKILL!” at the bully, barreling past Ethan to chase the child away. As in “Lizzie’s Nightmare,” I take the lesson of the episode to be that Matt doesn’t ruin Lizzie’s chances with Ethan – Lizzie does that herself because she’s an unhinged violent maniac. She ends up handcuffing the bully to a statue in the park and leaving him there as the whole park clears out. Presumably the kid will die. Damn, with the kid that got stuffed in the locker, Tudgeman riding his bike into traffic, and this 10-year-old kid abandoned to starve, this makes three episodes in a row to feature an accidental homicide.

Naturally I hated this episode. The charity theme was completely idiotic after last week’s. And I can’t stress enough that I despise Matt and find the Matt/Lizzie dynamic so incredibly irritating. Frustratingly, this week the bloopers were a lot of outtakes from Lizzie and Matt’s fight scene in the kitchen in the beginning. Hilary Duff and Jake Thomas keep cracking each other up. It’s genuinely delightful to see the two of them joking with each other and making each other laugh!

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Jake Thomas’s range was pretty fantastic this episode – from irritating to scared to insecure to pensive to grateful – and as I’ve mentioned before, Hilary Duff is so bubbly and likeable when she’s allowed to be. So forcing them to be screeching brats all the time is such a waste of the actors they have and such a boring trope. I will reiterate: this is not a good show.

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