Season 1, episode 19: “Gordo and the Girl”

Oh, boy! I was just thinking last week that we haven’t had any Lizzie/Gordo tension for a while. The last time Lizzie and Gordo made eyes at each other was six episodes ago, in the one where he wore a trilby and verbally abused everyone.

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Easily the most crushing part of re-watching this show has been losing my faith in the Lizzie+Gordo endgame. I remember hating the costume design, dumb plots, and bizarre characterization as a curmudgeonly middle schooler, but I always loved the main trio and was especially rooting for Lizzie and Gordo (do they have a ship name? I’m sure they fucking do, but my one accidental foray in Lizzie McGuire fanfic did not leave me wanting to repeat the experience). Now that I’m an adult with dating experience, it’s legitimately shocking to me to realize what a shit Gordo could be. I cannot think of a single reason why the writers frequently center whole episodes around his selfish and petulant side – it’s not creating will-they/won’t-they tension, it’s creating a lot of “why would they ever?” questions for me.

This week we’re back on track towards the romance I now have no interest in, because Gordo has a girlfriend! This episode straight-up would not stream in Chrome because of Disney’s janky online video player, so if anyone is watching along, try Firefox. But I’m glad I finally got to watch it because I remember this one clearly! It’s a weird one.

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Lizzie and Miranda are at the Digital Bean complaining that Gordo ditched them for some bonding time with his dad when they see him on a date with Brooke Baker, aka Kyla Pratt, aka Penny Proud! Brooke has never been introduced but they seem shocked by this.

Lizzie tries to convince Miranda that there’s no way it’s a date until they see them start kissing and Lizzie and Miranda do an amazingly insane double spit-take.

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At breakfast the next day Lizzie and Matt are both quiet, so their parents each pick a kid to try to pull information out of. Mrs. McGuire fails to get Lizzie to open up about Gordo, but Mr. McGuire gets Matt to admit he’s overwhelmed with schoolwork and struggling with math. There’s a lot of weird synchronized blocking in this scene for no reason other than visual interest. Lizzie and Matt eat their oatmeal in perfect sync and Mr. McGuire drinks his coffee at the same time as Matt drinks his milk when they talk. I guess it’s symbolic of them being in a funk? The show seems to put a lot more thought into clever stylistic flourishes than the actual writing or direction. For instance, I think it’s supposed to be a joke that Mr. McGuire got Matt to talk but it doesn’t play like one at all.

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Gordo is Lizzie’s lab partner for an octopus dissection and lies when she asks about his weekend. “That’s so Gordo,” gripes Cartoon Lizzie. “He’d get an A in lying.” Remind me again why dating this creep is her destiny? Gordo gets a note from Brooke asking him to come be her lab partner, so he ditches Lizzie. They don’t have the conversation about why he does that that any other friends would have here.

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At lunch Gordo tells Lizzie and Miranda that he can’t eat lunch with them because he’s helping someone with homework and walks three feet away to eat with Brooke. None of them have the conversation about why he does that that any other friends would have here. Lizzie and Miranda rant about how weird it all is and then Lizzie says really randomly that they have to make sure Gordo doesn’t get hurt. That’s noble, but they haven’t set up even a single reason why he might be in danger of that. The real issue here seems to be why Gordo is lying to them. But I guess “stop Gordo from getting hurt” sets us up for more hijinks and shenanigans.

Mr. McGuire helps Matt with his math homework and Matt grasps percentages easily, then graduates to advanced math dickery immediately. He bets his dad that there’s a 100% chance he’s about to be reprimanded and that if he’s right he doesn’t have to take out the garbage. Then he’s a total asshole and gets reprimanded and walks away to let his dad take out the garbage. Matt is Satan.

At the Digital Bean, Lizzie asks if Miranda will keep it from her when she starts dating someone and Miranda assures her she’d tell her everything. I want more of this from this show. This moment gets thrown away instantly, but I’d go for a whole scene of Lizzie and Miranda talking about how close they’ll always be.

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Instead, Lizzie complains that Gordo is with someone who’s “all wrong for him,” but we get exactly zero examples to back that up. Is she just jealous? Miranda makes the very logical statement that Brooke could really like Gordo, quirky as he is – they do. Lizzie clarifies that Miranda doesn’t like-like Gordo, and Miranda seems utterly disgusted at the thought. Miranda is my favorite character at this point, for sure. She sees Gordo for what he is. She asks if Lizzie likes him and Lizzie denies it immediately, but Cartoon Lizzie expresses confusion, the first direct hint we’ve seen that Lizzie might like Gordo.

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Gordo shows up and starts to tell them about Brooke but Lizzie interrupts to say they know already. She then brings up that Brooke is probably just using him. What? Why? If that was a real concern, why didn’t she and Miranda discuss that in the several conversations we’ve seen them have about this so far? Lizzie should ask Gordo why he felt the need to lie and hide his relationship, which is a valid question for the characters and for the audience! Maybe Gordo is ashamed of dating a popular girl. That’d be super in-character. I think Brooke is popular – she was seen with Claire earlier and Lizzie said she’s “all wrong for him” – and Gordo is so anti-establishment it would make sense. If they thought Brooke was using him, that should have been established. Otherwise bringing it up here makes no sense.

This accusation, of course, flips Gordo’s douchebag switch immediately.

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He snaps at Lizzie, who responds that he helped Brooke in science and with her homework. Those are fair points, I guess, although they don’t seem like red flags to me. But then, mid-sentence, she demands to know why he hid his relationship from them. He says he needs to keep SOME THINGS in his life private. Man, a lot is happening here. It’s not making sense. Lizzie says they only want to make sure he’s not getting hurt – see how the writers set that up earlier for no reason to heighten the drama and set up for shenanigans? – and Gordo asks if they think a girl like Brooke is too good for someone like him. Man, wouldn’t this hit harder if we had any idea what a girl like Brooke is like?

“It’s just that it’s Brooke Baker. I mean, she’s friends with Claire,” says Miranda, sort of helping me out. “That’s all we’re saying.” What? What are you saying?

This show has such a stupidly dominant class system that you’d think they could define it better if Brooke belongs to a “wrong” clique for Gordo. Isn’t Claire Kate’s right-hand man? By the rules of this school, Brooke should therefore be in with Kate’s crew. But they don’t mention that, probably because the writers think that’d be too much tension. The world of this show puts so much stock in labels and identities – “she’s a cheerleader” is understood to mean “she’s popular and bitchy,” for instance – that any one-word description of Brooke would motivate whatever conflict they’re trying to convey here. “But she’s on dance team/the new girl/Ethan Craft’s ex” would all suffice here.

Anyway, Gordo ends the scene by yelling that Brooke likes him and he came out to tell them he’s happy and he’s honestly feeling so attacked right now!!! And he neglects to explain or mention that he was repeatedly lying to them but tells them they’re bad friends and storms out.

At home Matt demonstrates his new dick move to Lanny by betting him a bunch of candy that Lizzie will yell at him. Then he throws things at Lizzie until she yells at him and takes all the candy. You’re not special, Matt! I, too, could wager that people would react badly to me if treat them like shit. He and Lanny set up an elaborate system to bet all of their classmates out of their belongings. No wonder this little asswipe gets bullied at school.

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Lizzie and Miranda overhear Claire say that Brooke’s going on a hot date at the Holy Rigatoni, a fantastic name for a restaurant middle schoolers would find fancy, and Lizzie automatically assumes Brooke must be two-timing Gordo because he’d never take anyone on a hot date. What? They saw him on a date earlier. A slightly fancier one shouldn’t be much harder to fathom.

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She attempts to figure it out by dropping really weird hints around Gordo, who responds with confusion until Brooke calls him over to walk to science together. That’s Brooke’s first line so far. The show is not helping me get a handle on this character. Lizzie says Gordo’s confusion was proof that he had no idea Brooke was going on a hot date, and Miranda logically responds “Well, I wouldn’t either, with the way that conversation was going.” Lizzie decides they have to crash Brooke’s date at the Holy Rigatoni.

This is all crazytown. There’s a very easy out, though: the show could play it like all of this is stemming from jealousy. Then Lizzie’s baseless accusations against Brooke, refusal to believe that they could be seriously dating, and compulsion to follow them and find a reason to break them up would all make sense. Lizzie is even dressed in green in this scene, to which I’d ascribe significance if the show would give me even the slightest reason to. But nope! I guess that’s too much romantic tension too soon. So instead we get the weird motivation that they’re “keeping Gordo from getting hurt” when the show hasn’t established any real reason to believe he’s heading towards heartbreak.

But it’s a Disney sitcom, and we’re getting to the point at which it’s gotten more generic and centered around crazy situations. That’s how we find Lizzie at the Holy Rigatoni with Miranda in drag as her male date.

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Miranda makes an adorable boy, though.

They see Brooke but unfortunately her date has his back to them. Who could it possibly be? There’s no way to tell if it’s Gordo or not!!

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Except that it’s totally Gordo. They should have had the waiter block him or a convenient tray of food or something. The “mystery” date goes to the bathroom so Lizzie forces Dragranda to follow him. What if it is Gordo, Lizzie? How will he react to seeing one of his best friends stalking him in the men’s room?

We get a brief cut to Matt doing some over-the-phone betting that’s notable because it’s shot at a completely different time of day than the nighttime scene we return back to immediately.

Miranda returns to say that it is Gordo – did she just see him pee? What happened here? – and the girls try to run before he sees them. In one of those moments that one forgets is completely buried in one’s subconscious, their waiter comes over and I was vividly reminded that he has a weird surfer bro affectation despite being middle-aged and in a suit. This character is burned in my brain for some reason. They tell him they’re leaving and he scoffs at what he assumes are first-date jitters and ushers them to a table right by Gordo’s. It’s all very convenient.

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A moment of costume analysis: Gordo and Brooke are both wearing the exact same shade of bright red.

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Why? If Brooke was “all wrong” for Gordo, they should be clashing here. The best way to do that would be through competing patterns. Lord knows this show loves throwing nightmarish patterns everywhere. Instead, they’re both in identical shades of a color that signifies passion. There’s probably no motif here, but a more clever costume designer would have put one in and then doubled down by giving Lizzie and Miranda some visually interesting couple’s costume as well – for instance, putting Lizzie in an exaggeratedly feminine ensemble to offset Miranda’s old-fashioned boy look. So many lost opportunities!

Anyway, Gordo’s date is going moderately not well. Brooke won’t let him interrupt her when he tries to tell her she’s got food on her face, and she asks him to spend more time with her but he says they spend almost all of their time together as it is. This all seems like the most standard middle school relationship imaginable. I’m still not seeing why Brooke is a terrible fit for Gordo.

Lizzie and Miranda try to run away but guess what happens! Guess, because it’s Lizzie McGuire! They have a goofy accident.

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They run right into a waiter and fall on the floor covered in spaghetti and of course Gordo and Brooke see them. Their waiter snaps, “Are you done yet?” to set up one of Gordo’s more petulant and terrible lines: “No. They can’t be done yet. They have my entire life to destroy. This is just one night of it.”

Shut upppppppppppppppppppp, Gordoooooooooooooooooooo!!

A few days later, Miranda and Lizzie hang out in Lizzie’s backyard reflecting on life without Gordo: “No more long lectures about how we care too much about what other people think of us, no more useless information about stuff we never cared about in the first place,” and no more 3-packs of cupcakes unless they wanted to split the third. I see no downsides to losing Gordo, and they get more cupcakes now.

And then guess who shows up! Gordo! And he starts yelling at them. Why would you miss this guy? But then he says he knows they followed him because they care about him. Sure, boundaries mean nothing if you care about people. That’s a valuable lesson. He says he and Brooke broke up, not because of the ruined date, but because he wanted to anyway. He says Brooke was great, but he liked the idea of having a girlfriend more than actually having one and he’s not ready for that kind of commitment. He said he always had to do stuff with Brooke and had no time for himself or for his friends. Sure, I guess.

Costume analysis time again!

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Look at who matches in this scene. Maybe the costume designers do care about their jobs! Maybe they’re signaling that Gordo wasn’t ready for a relationship because he belongs with Lizzie! Of course, they chose cool blues, which sends off really platonic vibes, because their choices are never perfect. I guess it could signal stability, which would make sense if they weren’t constantly exploding at each other. And of course all of this would be bolstered if Gordo matched Lizzie during the date scene and clashed with Brooke. I’m never fully satisfied with these costuming choices.

Anyway, it ends with Lizzie and Miranda begging Gordo for details on kissing Brooke and both kissing him on the cheeks. It’s moments like this that I remember when I think of the show fondly, not times like Gordo sulking about everyone ruining his life. This episode definitely had its ups and downs.

I’ve decided to add a new feature at the end of these recaps – a list of some details that caught my eye that I don’t have space or reason to list while actually reviewing. I hope you enjoy it!

Weird never-popular youth culture slang: “Confucius” for confused, “h n’ h” for dating (maybe it was “h in h”? Hand in hand? I can’t figure it out and there was no context.)

Unnecessary references: I think one of Matt’s betting scenes makes a reference to the 1991 Danny DeVito movie Other People’s Money, which 2000’s kids LOVED

Notable fashion moments: Lizzie wears a brown leather jacket with a red snakeskin bandana on her head and matching snakeskin wrist cuff; Miranda layers an orange tank with glittery fire on it over a yellow long-sleeved tee with plaid pants

Other interesting tidbits: We see a member of Miranda’s family for the first time – her dad pops up in a flashback when she and Lizzie discuss Gordo bonding with his dad; Gordo wears the same outfit when he yells at Lizzie and Miranda in the Digital Bean as he did when he yelled at them with his model airplane; perhaps it is a haunted outfit

5 thoughts on “Season 1, episode 19: “Gordo and the Girl”

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