Season 1, episode 20: “Educating Ethan”

Two terrible Gordo episodes in a row? Why are the writers so invested in making me hate Gordo?

This week we get Gordo auctioning off his dessert at lunch to raise money for a new stereo, explaining his calculations for how long it’d take him to pay it off if he sold a dessert a day and bragging about how good he is at math. While Cartoon Lizzie registers disgust at his ego, real Lizzie points out that he should work as a tutor and raise the money much quicker.

I wish this episode called more attention to how Gordo is book-smart but street-idiotic and that Lizzie complements him with social skills and practical know-how, but spoilers: they’re gonna squander the multiple opportunities to do so. Gordo decides to take her advice and then tries to eat Miranda’s dessert like the dead weight he is in this group.

The next day Ethan walks up with one of the tutoring flyers and asks if Gordo’s the guy to speak to and if he tutors math. Gordo grabs the flyer from him, goes back to reading a book, and dismissively answers Ethan’s questions. Ethan says he failed the last test and his parents think he can use a little help and Gordo sort of scoffs at him for failing. Lizzie and Miranda enthusiastically gesture to Gordo and Ethan to try to get Gordo to get the hint that he could tutor Ethan. Uh, no shit? Ethan is straight-up asking for Gordo to tutor him. After a lot of dumb mugging and gesturing, Lizzie finally says “Gordo could tutor you!” and Gordo looks absolutely perplexed by this idea. Dude, you set up a tutoring service! Why is this so confusing?

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He finally agrees and Miranda and Lizzie are excited to have an in with Ethan, but Gordo says that Ethan is a giant fucking idiot and probably needs a whole bunch of tutoring because he’s a dummy and they shouldn’t like him. Okay, but counterpoint, asshole: he’s not you or Tudgeman, so he’s easily the greatest guy in this school.

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At home Matt is playing with some kid named Oscar we’ve never seen before. What happened to Lanny? Surely Matt can’t have more than one friend. Oscar’s thing is mostly repeating everything Matt says, which is as annoying as it sounds. Matt and Oscar have destroyed the entire house, so they’re bored. Sam and Jo recommend that the kids help around the house but Matt shoots that down, and because they don’t have spines or parenting skills, his parents accept this. They suggest he help a neighbor who needs some yardwork done. Matt adores this idea and immediately demands superhero costumes for him and Oscar.

Upstairs, Lizzie and Miranda gab on the phone with Gordo, who says he has to hang up to go tutor Ethan. Both girls scream their faces off like they had no idea this was going to happen. It was just established a scene ago! This episode is a mess. Gordo hangs up but the girls decide to crash his tutoring session so they can hang out with Ethan.

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Matt and Lanny get their costumes together and become “Mattman” and “the Incredible Oscar.” “The Incredible Oscar?” If they introduced this character just for this episode, you’d think they could have come up with a name that fits more easily into a superhero pun. “Mattman” is obviously a play on Batman, for example. Although he’s dressed like Superman. You know what? I’m done analyzing this. They’re Mattman and the Incredible Oscar. Great. Whatever.

Both kids seem about four years too old for this premise to make any sense. Just a few episodes ago, Matt was embarrassed to be seen in his Safety Patrol Hall Monitor belt, but now I’m supposed to believe he’s running around in public in tights and a full superhero costume? Also, I’m not buying this demon hell-spawn as having any desire to play the good guy. He should be a supervillain if anything.

Sure enough, they see an old lady and immediately grab her bags of groceries out of her hands and run away, “helping” her with them. When she yells “Thieves!,” they don’t realize she’s referring to their delinquent asses and immediately threaten a jogger and a passerby. Later they see a girl who’s fallen on her bike and they pick it up and throw it into the road to “save” her from it. Yeah, this is about the level of usefulness I’d expect from Matt.

Lizzie and Miranda show up at the Digital Bean and try to get Gordo to let them hang out with him and Ethan during the tutoring session, but he won’t let them. Any time they get close Gordo gives them his trademark “I hate you and probably all women” glare.

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Of course, he and Ethan are there to study, not hang out, so Lizzie and Miranda are being ridiculous trying to interfere. They should just hang out with Ethan afterwards. But the show wants conflict here, so it has Lizzie and Miranda try out all kinds of dumb schemes just to sit down at the boys’ table. It’s a really low-stakes hijinks sequence. They finally scoot their entire table over, smashing into Gordo and Ethan’s table and spilling their drinks all over the books.

This is an obnoxious move, I’ll admit, but as ever Gordo’s meltdown far eclipses the mishap. He asks Ethan to leave them alone for a minute, then yells at Lizzie and Miranda that they wouldn’t even be there to hang out with just him if Ethan’s weren’t there. This  doesn’t make much sense since they hang out with Gordo constantly, so they probably would be hanging out with him if he weren’t tutoring Ethan right now. Miranda says that maybe they could help him tutor Ethan, and Gordo LAUGHS IN HER FACE and snaps, “You must be joking. If I need to go shopping, then I’ll ask for your help.” What a sexist jerk!

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He makes fun of their B-range grades and Miranda says “I guess we’re not smart enough to hang out with you!” to which this fucking asshole replies, “Good, cuz I’ve got work to do.” His rightfully insulted friends storm off. Ethan returns and says Gordo could use a tutor on how to deal with the ladies. Or how to be a decent human being, Ethan! Teach him that! Seriously, why isn’t this episode about how Gordo’s smarts aren’t worth anything if he’s a nightmare of a human being?

The next day at lunch Miranda complains about how terribly Gordo’s been treating them, but Lizzie feels guilty that they used him to get to Ethan. As always, I side with Miranda. Lizzie decides to go apologize – while Gordo is in the middle of tutoring Ethan. She’s learned nothing. Gordo is impatiently snapping at Ethan for not understanding a problem. Lizzie offers to help and says Ethan should try visualizing the problem as something real. She suggests hair scrunchies and yells, “Who’s got hair scrunchies?” Everyone stares at her until she yells, “Ethan needs hair scrunchies!” and every girl in school rabidly rips a scrunchie out of her hair and flings it at Ethan. I laughed. That was good.

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Gordo snarls, “Lizzie, we’re studying math, not beauty supplies.” Gordo is outright misogynistic this episode.

Lizzie uses the scrunchies to demonstrate the problem for Ethan and he starts to understand and then says Lizzie should be his tutor. She should be! She’s patient and kind and doesn’t make her pupil feel like an idiot. Gordo, of course, gives her this look:

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At the Digital Bean, Miranda berates Lizzie for not taking Ethan up on his offer, but Lizzie says she doesn’t want to hurt Gordo. Miranda points out what a dick he’s been, but Lizzie says that’s not worth giving up on their friendship. She even says they still owe Gordo an apology for being obnoxious while he was trying to tutor. Way to be the bigger person, Lizzie! Just then Gordo shows up and Lizzie begins to talk to him, and Gordo cuts her off to demand an apology. When Miranda points out that Gordo also owes them an apology, he disagrees and launches into a rant about them.

I’m just going to say it: Ethan > Gordo. Sure, Ethan is definitely an idiot (the show has stopped spinning the Wheel of Character Traits for him every week and settled on Ethan as a dummy with a hint of wannabe gangsta) but he’s easygoing and sweet. Gordo makes me want to punch him constantly. We haven’t even seen an episode of Gordo being there for Lizzie in a while to balance out any of this! Gordo’s good deeds to date: borrowing a costume shirt for Lizzie to wear on Picture Day, stopping Kate’s sabotage of Lizzie’s rhythmic gymnastics performance. Gordo’s asshole deeds: yelling at her day in and day out during their marriage project, rejecting their friendship when they made nostalgia cool, and throwing temper tantrums at least three times. Sorry if you were shipping Lizzie and Gordo in middle school, guys. Your fave is problematic.

In math class, a substitute teacher makes a speech about how he doesn’t believe in quizzes but ends up giving the class a quiz anyway because he has to since he’s not their real teacher. Ethan comes out of class dejected because he failed it, and Gordo yells at him, “That’s impossible! I tutored you!” because Gordo sucks at everything about life besides math. The substitute teacher says that since Ethan has been working so hard lately, he’ll give him a chance to retake the quiz. What? Why did they have a whole scene establishing this teacher as a substitute if he’s going to say that? How would he know that Ethan’s been working hard or have the authority to re-administer a quiz?

Gordo snaps that he SUPPOSES he can help this STUPID FUCKING IDIOT go over fractions for the BILLIONTH TIME, but Ethan asks Lizzie for help since she’s not blatantly insulting his intelligence in front of him. Cartoon Lizzie swoons at the sound of Ethan saying her name. I’ve thought this several times before, but Hilary Duff should’ve had a career in voice acting after this show. She’s insanely good at it. Her voice is expressive and sweet and she has a much looser, sillier style when voice acting than when in front of the camera.

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She meets Ethan at the Digital Bean and tries to help him visualize the numbers with jellybeans. Okay, this is exactly how Sam McGuire taught Matt math one episode ago, down to a gag of the pupil eating the teaching tools. I don’t think this is an intentional parallel of Ethan being as dumb as a fourth grader – I think it’s just honest-to-God laziness and an inability to think of any other way to depict tutoring onscreen. Ethan says he doesn’t get it when it’s jellybeans but might if it were cheerleaders and he lightly flirts with one of the cheerleaders. That’s kind of douchey behavior, maybe? Cartoon Lizzie gets very hurt by this, but Ethan is still a way better person than Gordo in my book, so I’ll let it slide. Lizzie again bellows that Ethan is in need and a stampede of cheerleaders rushes over, and I appreciate this goofy gag as much as I did when it was scrunchies. The cheerleaders-as-visual-aids thing is pretty unrealistic, but I’m okay with it because the show does use it for a pretty good visual joke, having the cheerleaders literally contort themselves into a math problem.

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Gordo, who’s watching Lizzie from a corner like a goddamn psychopath, is impressed by Lizzie’s teaching abilities.

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Ethan ends up passing his quiz and Gordo ends up apologizing to Lizzie. She apologizes for stealing his student and Miranda apologizes for using him to hang out with Ethan. “I guess none of us got an A in friendship,” concludes Gordo. Yes, that was the line. Good-bye, everyone! I’m going to go light myself on fire.

Weird never-popular youth culture slang: Miranda calls Gordo a “dirk.” I can’t remember if that was ever actually used in real life, or if it was just really popular on the Disney Channel.

Unnecessary references: Matt quotes the “you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry” tagline when introducing the Incredible Oscar.

Notable fashion moments: Miranda wears a crocheted tank top with a tic-tac-toe board on it and it is next-level.

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Other interesting tidbits: The McGuire parents talk to Matt and Oscar like they’re toddlers in this episode very frequently. It’s like there were guest writers who didn’t know Matt’s age, but I checked and that wasn’t the case. The director of this one, however, did direct some of my least favorite episodes: “When Moms Attack,” “Adventures in Babysitting,” and “Between a Rock and a Bra Place.” Maybe he’s responsible for all the fuckery this episode. Also, Hilary Duff and Lalaine both pronounce the word stereo like it rhymes with “cheerio,” which absolutely baffled me.

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5 thoughts on “Season 1, episode 20: “Educating Ethan”

  1. “I’ve thought this several times before, but Hilary Duff should’ve had a career in voice acting after this show. She’s insanely good at it. Her voice is expressive and sweet and she has a much looser, sillier style when voice acting than when in front of the camera.”

    She did do at least one voice acting project after Lizzie McGuire. Unfortunately, it’s the worst animated movie ever made: Foodfight.

    Like

      1. Not that she was the worst part of the movie (other aspects are FAR worse), but she was definitely not at her best with her acting skills. Just listen to the way she reads her lines in the battle scene with Eva Longoria, it sounds so fake and completely laughable.

        I wonder what possessed her to want any part of this movie whatsoever.

        Like

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