When this show’s at its best, it’s cute and fun. When it’s at its worst, it’s an infuriating mess of terrible characters treating each other badly and contrived plot lines that make no sense.
And then some weeks it’s in the middle and it’s just really boring.
That’s what we get this week. I didn’t despise it, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t one that will stand out as a highlight in anyone’s memory.
It starts with the main trio at the Digital Bean discussing their most embarrassing moments. This had to be hardest for Lizzie, whose inability to go anywhere without a pratfall causes her to embarrass herself almost daily, but she comes up with a time she did a math problem on the board in class and split her pants leaning down to get a piece of chalk she dropped. “Ohhhh…. I remember that!” says Miranda, as if she can’t even keep up with all of Lizzie’s mortifications. Gordo mentions the first (and last) time he went bowling, when he sucked so badly that he got tense and his fingers swelled up and he had to get the ball surgically removed from his hands. Miranda says she sang in a holiday pageant and threw up onstage onto another performer. Damn, Miranda, are you me? I did the same thing in my first show!
Unfortunately, Ethan shows up right as she’s talking about what a gross idiot she was, giving her a new most embarrassing moment. “Don’t sweat it, Miranda,” Ethan says kindly. “The holidays are tough on everyone.” ETHAN! I love you, you gentle buffoon. Ethan thanks Gordo for a good movie recommendation and Gordo suggests he come to a special showing of Psycho that Friday. Ethan says he’s going bowling that night, so Miranda blurts out that they are too. I continue to wonder how their friendship functions if Lizzie and Miranda both have a crush on the same guy, though I also wonder if Miranda will soon discover she likes girls.
Lizzie later raves about how excited she is on the phone, causing her dad to realize he doesn’t know anything about her anymore. He decides to try to show her he still cares and is a cool dad, very upsettingly calling himself “the real Sam Shady,” and comes up with the idea of doing a dinner with just Lizzie to reconnect.
Meanwhile, Matt is hanging out on the couch complaining about problems with a bully to Lanny who is….lying next to him naked under a blanketWHATISHAPPENING?!
Matt lists a couple issues with that bully Haywood that Lizzie left for dead a couple episodes ago, finally revealing that Haywood took Lanny’s clothes and hung them up the flagpole. So Lanny’s just gonna hang out naked on your couch? Why don’t you give him some of your clothes, Matt? They decide to work out so they can fight the bully. Yeah! Fight! Fight, fight, fight! It says a lot about how horrible this character is that I always get excited at the possibility of seeing him pulverized.
Sam finds Lizzie and uses a lot of dumb slang to try to chat with her on top of the ironic hip-hop beat the show always busts out when white people get urban. Finally he gets to the point and gets really nervous asking her if she’d have dinner with him. Lizzie says they have dinner together every night, and he gets more nervous. This is kind of uncomfortable direction. I get that he’s worried that Lizzie will shoot him down, but staging it with this nervous awkwardness makes it feel like he’s asking her on a date.
“I’m talking just the two of us, like a daddy-daughter date night,” he finally says.
Weird! She says sure and Sam is relieved and excited and as he leaves the room Lizzie stands there confused, eating cherries. That is not the food I would have picked if I were to stage this scene. I’m uncomfortable!
The next day Miranda finds Gordo reading a book called The Dude Strikes Out by Jeffrey Lebowski. We’ll put that one in the ol’ “unnecessary references” column. He’s freaking out about bowling after his incident. Miranda says Gordo just needs to relax and offers to become his new life coach and teach him the art of chilling out. Holy shit! This scene passes that Disney Channel Bechdel test I made up! Gordo and Miranda have a conversation about something other than Lizzie!
They meet up with Lizzie later. Miranda is giving Gordo a cookie every time he says something optimistic about bowling. When they talk about it, Lizzie realizes that bowling is on the same day she said she’d have dinner with her dad! OH NO! WHAT WILL SHE DO? IS THERE EVEN ONE WAY AROUND THIS?!
Yes. There is. She’s bowling on Friday night. They can have dinner on Thursday, Saturday, or Sunday. Or they can have brunch or lunch on Saturday or Sunday. They can spend all of Saturday or Sunday together! Or both!
Seriously, this is such a bullshit plot point for conflict’s sake. The writers weren’t even diligent enough to insert one line for Sam like “Maybe we could have dinner on Friday night, before I leave on Saturday morning for that two-week business trip for my job as a liaison to tween pop stars” into that scene where her dad asked her out. There’s no reason they can’t just spend time together on a different day this same weekend, but everyone in this scene acts like it’s fucking Sophie’s Choice.
Matt and Lanny hate working out, so they decide to try out “invisibility” (painting themselves to match a wall) as a tactic for avoiding Haywood the bully.
It doesn’t work, as they learn when noted dummy Sam McGuire notices them, but we do get this very weird image:
Sam asks Lizzie where she wants to go on Friday, and she is so pained to have to call it off. “I’ve given it a lot of thought, and maybe we could reschedule,” she stammers, instead of just saying “I realized I already made plans for that night, but how about Saturday or Sunday or literally any other night?” Very sad music plays, but Sam says he understands and Lizzie should go with her friends and have a good time. Lizzie gives him a hug and thanks him for understanding and says he can drive her to the bowling alley and they can hang out then. Sam is sad, and I would be too if I was born into a family too dumb to understand how to schedule multiple plans.
Miranda continues to coach Gordo, this time in an outfit that reinforces my theory that she’s the one who introduces weed to this group:
She instructs Gordo to visualize himself as a bowling ball and as the bowling pins. There are some freaky visuals in this scene.
They get interrupted when they see that substitute from the last episode crash into a tree on his scooter. His name is Mr. Dig and he’s kind of a Dead Poets Society type. Earlier in this episode, he ran into Lizzie in the hall and gave her an impromptu motivational speech about life being unpredictable. Here he tells Gordo and Miranda that it doesn’t matter that he crashed because it’s all about the experience. Neither of them seem to learn anything from this, even though it seems directly relevant to Gordo’s plight. In this scene, Miranda calls him “Mr. Digs” and Gordo calls him “Mr. Dig.” How is this show so consistently bad about surname continuity!
Matt and Lanny test out a bully trap on Lizzie by having her walk onto a gob of superglue or something and then wrapping her up in cling wrap. Mrs. McGuire rescues her and helps her clean off the glue, giving them the opportunity for a Heart-to-Heart Talk. Lizzie asks her if her dad understands why she cancelled on him and her mom says he knows that her friends are more important to her and it’s totally fine that she’s obnoxious and selfish and hates her family. I don’t think this is supposed to play as Mrs. McGuire being passive-aggressive or using reverse psychology on Lizzie, but it’s pretty cold.
Lizzie feels terrible even though her mom specifically tells her not to. She’s all like “Have dinner with your friends! Don’t feel bad! Your dad doesn’t understand that you’d rather do shots of lava and chase them with hydrochloric acid than spend even a minute with us! Have fun bowling!” and Lizzie still feels bad. Shocking.
At the Digital Bean, Gordo and Miranda are lounging in chairs that have been rearranged in the set to be against the cool chalkboard wall. Half of the Digital Bean scenes are against this wall, so they just change the furniture for whatever suits the scene. You can tell it’s the exact same wall because someone wrote “Robin smells!” on it. Sucks to suck, Robin!
Gordo continues to complain about bowling, and Miranda tells him it’s fine to do something for fun even if you’re terrible at it. Good advice, Miranda! Stay Gordo’s life coach forever. Maybe he’ll end up bearable. Lizzie shows up to complain about how guilty she feels about ditching her dad. This conflict is so lame. I can’t.
To raise the stakes, Ethan walks by and asks if she’s still going bowling with him on Friday. She says “Yes” but then trails off in an “….I think….” when he leaves. The tension! I can’t stand it! Will she blow off Ethan for her dumb family again!? Will she ruin her dad’s life until Saturday morning when he asks if she has plans and she says no and they reschedule?
Cut to: the bowling alley! And Lizzie is there! I’m shocked, actually. She passed up an opportunity to hang out with Ethan in favor of bonding with Matt once, and Matt is basically an 80-pound mosquito. Note that Lizzie is killing bowling and the fashion game.
That is a belt buckle with her initial on it. Bold! Miranda cheers on Gordo’s gutter balls and they talk about how “life is about the journey,” so I guess Mr. Dig’s weird lesson did sink in. I wish I’d seen signs of that earlier, but okay.
Lizzie says to Miranda that she’s so glad she figured out the easy solution for her conundrum with her dad…
…and her dad shows up with snacks! He’s been here the whole time. He was just getting snacks. That was the easy solution. Sure. Great. She pulls him aside to tell him she’s glad he came with them and she’s really sorry for how she acted. What? You acted fine, Lizzie. For once in your life you didn’t throw a tantrum. Sometimes you have to reschedule things!
Then her dad starts embarrassing her and she screams at him and they laugh and high-five so I guess their dysfunction and abuse and complete inability to reschedule dinner dates works for them. That’s the end. Dumb.
Weird never-popular youth culture slang: “coolie” for cool.
Unnecessary references: The Big Lebowski.
Notable fashion moments: Lizzie wears a shirt that says “BRICK HOUSE” on it.
Other interesting tidbits: The writers really struggle to come up with ways to show Ethan is dumb. Gordo tells him life is a journey and Ethan responds, “Yeah, okay, but my ride’s coming later.” It’s always that dumb, even when they clearly write the scene to lead up to a dopey Ethan punchline.