This has been a very big week around here for a number of reasons (hello, new visitors!) but the biggest one is definitely that A LIZZIE MCGUIRE WRITER FOUND THIS BLOG!!! And doesn’t hate it, I think! Lizzie writer, you are really cool and you made my week.
I’ve been managing a lot with this blog lately, which was a bit overwhelming this week – so much so that I began to wonder if it was actually impairing my ability to function. Because this episode confused the shit out of me!
First of all, Miranda’s hair has shortened about six inches since last week. At first I thought this episode was maybe shot for season one, but then they actually acknowledged the passage of time for once, placing this in their eighth grade year. So I have no answer for that one.
“And The Winner Is…” begins with a cold open so confounding I had to pause it to make sure the video player hadn’t accidentally skipped to halfway through the episode. Lizzie, Gordo, and Miranda all burst into class yelling some variation of “No, it’s all YOUR fault!” at the top of their lungs. This particular type of squabble is unprecedented for the show. Sometimes Gordo will explode and the others will feel bad until he apologizes, or Lizzie will explode and the others will accept it as normal and she won’t apologize. Miranda-centric conflicts are pretty rare, on reflection, and usually involve a perceived slight, like Lizzie accidentally stealing her crush or implying Miranda is jealous of her, and they never result in screaming – just lots of Lalaine’s Serious Acting.
My point is that this kind of fight is very different for this friendship, so I expected this to be a “How Did We Get Here?” cold open like in “Picture Day” and then the episode would jump back in time, lead up to some epic fight, bring us back to this scene, and resolve it. Nope!
Adding to my fucking confusion is the fact that Tudgeman is in the scene AND HIS HAIR IS ORANGE NOW?!
So I also thought that we were going to get some zany explanation that justified that. Nope!
Finally, the timeframe of this episode threw me a lot. This opening scene seems to take place during a school day, but when Mr. Dig (the school’s only teacher) says he hopes they came to class prepared, Kate says there better not be a test because she’s already late for a manicure. Why would she have a manicure scheduled for the middle of a school day?
I was more confused within the first minute of this episode than I have been since the Aaron Carter one.
Anyway, this clusterfuck of a cold open (which lasts several minutes longer than the average cold open on this show) is meant to set up that Mr. Dig has prepared a test/scavenger hunt, and everyone needs a partner for the scavenger hunt, but our main trio isn’t talking. Kate grabs Gordo so that he’ll get her an A, Tudgeman gloms onto Miranda because I think he has a crush on her… and Lizzie partners with Ethan! This was actually a delightful reveal – Miranda and Gordo squabbling and picking other partners out of spite and suddenly Lizzie and Ethan appear from the throngs of students, backlit as if emerging from Heaven itself, as an electric guitar solo blares and they saunter forward like rockstars.
Miranda is shocked by this partnering, and Lizzie snarks, “It’s a good thing you ditched me at the Digital Bean yesterday, or else I wouldn’t be partners with Ethan Craft. That’s right. Ethan Craft!
(Ethan, for what it’s worth, remains the perfect dumb brick of defiant support here. I fucking love every choice Clayton Snyder ever makes.)
Putting aside the fact that Lizzie could very well have partnered with Ethan because 3 is not divisible by 2 so one of the main trio would have needed an outside partner anyway, I guess we can deduce that the great fight catalyzing this episode was caused by some missed coffee date. Miranda yells “I didn’t get the message!” and Gordo snaps “I didn’t even get the call!” This all seems very trivial and also like a misunderstanding? Mercifully, the opening credits start here, which was a relief because this cold open was ruining my life.
Mr. Dig gives the class the first clue for the scavenger hunt, and the class determines that they need to be at the post office the next morning. Again I was confused by the timeline here, because that either meant that this class got to skip school the next day or this class had to devote an entire Saturday to a scavenger hunt instead of taking a test in class during the week. Both seem nonsensical, but it turns out it was the latter.
The next morning, Miranda calls Lizzie to demand an apology but Lizzie also demands an apology so they resolved nothing.
Downstairs Ethan is chilling with the McGuire parents. I can’t believe Lizzie wastes time on the phone with Miranda and doesn’t seem more psyched to have her crush in her actual house for the first time. This is the extremely famous “I don’t repeat” scene. (That quote even used to be Clayton Snyder’s Instagram bio! Much better than Lalaine’s actual current Twitter bio, “Finger it out on the way,” which I am not lying about.) I don’t remember ever seeing this episode, but I definitely remember this scene – I feel like I caught this part when it was on and probably just left the room when Kate or Matt came back on screen. Plus, this clip was on Disney commercials all the time, forever. The McGuire parents ask why Ethan’s hair is so shiny, and he says he ignores the “repeat” in “Lather, rinse, repeat” because it’s a ploy to get you to buy more shampoo.
Watching this scene now is super fascinating. Both of the McGuire parents seem to want to fuck Ethan. It’s extremely compelling. How I wish I had the space to write an in-depth, second-by-second analysis of their 32-second exchange, and all of the strange tension contained within!
Lizzie and Ethan head out and Lizzie leaves behind Mr. Dig’s “treasure map” for the scavenger hunt. Matt finds it and decides to go find the treasure – even though Sam straight-up tells him it was Lizzie’s for a class project. This entire plotline is pretty weak, because the scavenger hunt is clues-based (students start at the post office, find a clue that tells them where to go next, and keep going to new locations for new clues until the end) so a map to all locations totally undermines the point of the clues, which are in turn the entire point of the test. But who cares? This means Matt will be running from place to place all episode, which is boring, so I can ignore it!
The McGuire parents realize that both kids are out of the house. Sexy music starts to play and it. gets. WEIRD.
Jo starts listing chores they could do together in a sultry voice. I guess the joke there is…they should be talking about sex but they’re not. Okay, that’s a limp joke, but fine. Then she says, still in her sultry voice, that they could have a pillow fight – and smacks him with a pillow. The joke is…it’s unexpected for him to get hit when she was seemingly trying to seduce him…with talk of a pillow fight…and …chores? Then Jo switches from her sultry voice to a weird little kid voice and they pillow fight, and I can no longer attempt to understand this scene. WHY IS ANY OF THIS HAPPENING?!
Beautifully, I can kind of ignore the entire main plot of this episode. This is lucky, because I already have so much else to ramble about this week.
Here is a CliffNotes version of the scavenger hunt plotline:
- The three pairs all go from place to place, basically all at the same time, so the scavenger hunt seems pretty easy/not very educational.
- The clues aren’t even that educational! A sample clue is “the opposite of the Boston Tea Party + the opposite of analog” (so, Digital Bean). That’s not a real test question! Also, Matt, a child, handily solves all of them.
- This must be the most walkable town on Earth, because no one has their parents drive them for this challenge.
- Everyone has tensions with their dumb partners.
- Lizzie does not take this opportunity to impress Ethan and instead yells at him a lot.
- Lizzie, Gordo, and Miranda ruin their partners’ days by ranting about their nonsensical feud: Lizzie left a message for Miranda requesting that she call Gordo and invite him to the Digital Bean and that they both meet her there. Miranda never got the message. Now Lizzie blames Miranda and Gordo for ditching her, Gordo blames Lizzie and Miranda for not inviting him, and Miranda blames Lizzie and Gordo for blaming her for a dumb miscommunication. As is often the case, I am #TeamMiranda here.
- All of their partners advise them that they’re being self-absorbed idiots.
- Kate has an interesting monologue about how she doesn’t have any close friends. I’m always weirded out by revelations of actual character motivations, because they happen so rarely on this show that they seem non-canonical.
- The whole thing devolves into hijacks and shenanigans, like Miranda and Tudgeman dumping tennis balls on Lizzie and Ethan somehow and Kate and Gordo removing the screws from Miranda and Tudgeman’s scooters somehow.
Meanwhile, in the Ambien-induced nightmare of a parental subplot, Sam and Jo chase each other around the house with pillows, shovel food into their mouths like toddlers and play video games in a sick blanket fort.
I’m not at all clear on the point of this subplot. Is this what the McGuire parents always do when they’re alone? The way it was introduced just made it seem like they lost their marbles. It was very disconcerting to watch, and if you don’t believe me look at this.
Matt wins the scavenger hunt but yells at Mr. Dig when he learns that there’s no treasure because screaming at strangers is a McGuire child trait.
The scavenger hunt has an actual finish line for dramatic effect. The three pairs all rush toward it, with Ethan and Lizzie in the lead. Lizzie stops and says that she has to apologize right that second because her friends are important to her, so she can’t beat them. Ethan begs her to apologize after they win and asks Lizzie to help him since he never get A’s, but Lizzie said she has to “do the right thing.” How nonsensical and self-absorbed!
Lizzie yells, “I’M SORRY!” right as the other two pairs are about to reach the finish line, stopping Miranda and Gordo in their tracks and screwing over their partners. Lizzie makes a big speech about friendship while saying “it doesn’t even matter whose fault it is” that they’re fighting, even though it was fucking entirely Lizzie’s fucking fault. Then Miranda and Gordo apologize to Lizzie, even though it was fucking entirely Lizzie’s fucking fault.
Lizzie insists they cross the finish line “together, as it should be,” so these three douchebags link arms and cross together, without their partners, even though they easily could have included them in this.
However, it was all useless anyway. “Nina and Jeremy got here first,” Mr. Dig tells them, so none of them get the A for the semester that the winners get. Notice the names: Nina and Jeremy! The Bargiels! They write for the show! I am the only person who would notice this!
So no one involved gets an A, but Gordo says it’s okay because “there’s no A in ‘friendship’” – WELL THERE IS IN “ASSHOLES” – and Sam and Jo go back to being boring and bad at parenting.
This episode was a mess! I can’t begin to explain why, either, because no one wanted to take credit for writing it. Usually a “written by” credit appears after the opening title sequence, but not this time. Instead we get “executive story editors – Nina G. Bargiel and Jeremy J. Bargiel” at the end. From what I can tell, that means that a lot of writers contributed to the script and Nina and Jeremy Bargiel picked up the story fragments and pieced them together. Interestingly, the director of this episode never worked in directing in any capacity other than Lizzie McGuire episodes. All of this might explain why this episode was so bizarre. It feels like it was maybe too long of a script, because exposition and jokes all got cramped together in a very frantic way, or maybe there were just a lot of fuckups at every stage of the process.
Weird never-popular youth culture slang: Ethan says “Gomez!” enthusiastically when Lizzie asks “You ready to roll?” My only explanation for this is that perhaps the line was actually “Let’s gomez!,” which does seem like the sort of weird slangifying of average terms that this show likes, but I am reluctant to accept this explanation, because it means that Clayton Snyder messed up that line and I adore him and don’t want to call him out if so.
Notable fashion moments: Miranda wears an interesting red and brown camo jumper ensemble. It seems to take on the 90s revival of the 70s and update it for a 2000s emo.
Tudgeman wears a turtleneck under his usual polo. An interesting difference between the season 1 and season 2 costume designers has been that in season 2, the characters are often dressed for cooler weather. Matt wears a chunky knit sweater in this episode, too. I wonder if they legitimately changed their shooting schedule or location to require this, or if Cathryn Wagner was trying to make the costumes more relatable to people living outside of California.
Lizzie wears a bracelet version of that necklace she always wears this season. Miranda is back to dressing in plaids and Union Jacks.
Lizzie wears a very Coachella-esque hairstyle (white girl appropriative of Native American culture).
She also wears those jeans with the pre-faded butts that were popular for some reason.
Mr. Dig wears a tie with a map on it while teaching history, which was a great bit of character development through costuming. I love the idea that he has a rack of novelty ties, all corresponding to different subjects he might sub for.
Other interesting tidbits: Thrice now they’ve implied that Tudgeman has a crush on Miranda, but they’ve never developed it and I wish they would. Another famous Ethan bit from Lizzie commercials shows up in this episode when Lizzie says Miranda and Tudgeman can talk the talk but not walk the walk and Ethan retorts, “Yeah! Cuz I can walk and talk.” Sometimes Ethan is so dumb he kind of seems like he was modeled on a stoner character.
Right? No one can be as dumb as Ethan, but lots of people can be that stoned. His insight into the shampoo industry is actually thought-provoking! That’s not stupid, but it’s not really smart – but boy is it stonery.
The acting is so much better this season, and Gordo continues to be way more likeable. I liked a goofy bit they did with him pretending to be happy with his partner. It was really just a height gag, but I laughed at how he sold it.
The McGuire parents were supposed to take Matt to mini-golf and a movie that day before he ditched them for a treasure hunt. There’s no way Matt deserved so much fun.
Jo says, “I’m so glad I married you!” during her weird childish romp with her husband, which was an honest-to-God relief since I’ve worried about their marriage and her happiness a lot here.
The writers seem really intent on showing off Hilary Duff’s rollerblading skills this season.