Holy shit, I didn’t see this one coming at all. Seven episodes into the second season of this show, they straight-up recycled a plotline! Remember “Misadventures in Babysitting?” Yeah, this is basically that episode.
The first four seconds of this one are Lizzie chatting on the phone, happily making plans with her friends. If you’re watching along, savor those four seconds, because it’s the only time Lizzie will be pleasant this entire episode.
Fairly often on this show, actors give such varying performances that it feels like they’re playing completely different characters from week to week. That’s a big problem this episode. A manic version of Sam runs around screaming with excitement for the Super Sports Expo, which Jo had forgotten about. Since her usually disinterested pushover of a husband is dragging her to this event, she tells Lizzie she has to babysit Matt and Lanny that afternoon.
This week we don’t get the super giggly Lizzie of “Mom’s Best Friend” or the actually emotionally nuanced and extremely likeable Lizzie of “First Kiss.” Nope, this episode is Rude Brat Lizzie all the way. You’ll know her from her greatest hits such as “Sibling Bonds,” “Working Girl,” and, of course, the last babysitting episode. This version of Lizzie responds to slights with glaring or eye-rolling, screams at everyone in her vicinity, and snaps at anyone who tries to help her. It is UNPLEASANT, and in this episode it’s pretty unrelenting. This one even doubles down by having Cartoon Lizzie offer only moody complaints instead of any jokes.
Sam says goodbye to his most prized possession, the signed Walter Payton football he got at the previous year’s Super Sports Expo that is very important to him even though he’s never mentioned it before, and Lizzie says, “Dad’s talking to the football -” (pause in which I guessed the punch line) “- again!” Lizzie sulks while her mom gives her babysitting instructions and again I marvel at how someone as charming as Hilary Duff can seem so unlikeable.
As soon as their parents leave, Lizzie stands up to yell that the real ground rules are that Matt and Lanny can’t bug her, no matter what. “If you get your little head stuck in the toilet, DON’T BUG ME!” she yells at Lanny, and Matt says, “Don’t worry Lanny – what are the odds of you getting your head stuck in the toilet -” (pause while I wondered if they could possibly use the same punchline twice in two minutes) “- again?”
Matt and Lanny play catch-the-football outside, a game played by Matt and no one else I know besides Tommy Wiseau. You can see where this is going, but admirably the episode gets there in a less obvious way than I was expecting. They lose Matt’s football. They tried to play with the autographed one but Lizzie takes it and yells at them.
She hides it in the closet so they can’t get it. (This show often treats Matt like he’s 5 and not 11.) Matt and Lanny try to get a board game out of the closet and a bowling ball falls on the football and smushes it.
This is kind of clever because neither Matt nor Lizzie is directly responsible for ruining the football – it’s kind of an accident but they both contributed to it. However, Lizzie yells that Matt should have asked her to get the board game and Matt says in a sad little boy voice that they didn’t want to bug her. Yet again we get a characterization that is completely at odds with what we’ve come to expect. Normally I would think that Matt would have tried as hard as he possibly could to bug Lizzie. But it’s cool that we get some sort of consequence for Lizzie being a terrible sibling!
Miranda and Gordo come over and the trio tries to see if the football is fixable. But Matt has disappeared with it. Gordo makes a lot of jokes and Lizzie and Miranda yell “NOT HELPING, GORDO!” a lot. Gordo’s mostly a useless putz this episode, which is another similarity to the last babysitting episode.
Conveniently, Sam and Jo called to say they’ll be delayed a few hours because of a flat tire, which gives the trio time to find Matt and Lanny. Lizzie yells at Gordo that he has to stay home to man the phones in case Matt calls. It’s moments like this where a director could step in to say, “Hilary, you’re playing every scene with snark and anger. Let’s tone it down here when you’re asking your best friend for help.”
Jo’s phone call with Lizzie made her suspicious, so guess what she wants. She wants someone to go check on them! Just like the last babysitting episode.
We get a weird, weird, almost-but-not-quite sepia-toned montage of Matt and Lanny searching for someone to fix the football set to old-timey tack piano music. I watched this montage probably eight times before realizing that this was probably intended to be like a distress scene in a silent movie. In the end a priest and rabbi declare the football dead and say Matt and Lanny need a miracle or replacement. It’s kind of a weird bit. Matt yells “Shalom!” mispronouncing it, and runs off to replace the football.
Time for another montage! This one feels more totally appropriate for the show. Gordo’s main character trait this episode and no other time is that he’s hungry and just wants to eat all the McGuires’ food. He’s basically the Very Potter Musical version of Ron Weasley this week.
He makes a giant-ass gross-ass sandwich set to a Dance Dance Revolutionified version of “In the Hall of the Mountain King” (trust me, you know it). The point of this montage is that Gordo uses up all the McGuires’ food to make his monstrosity of a Dagwood, then takes the money Jo left her children and orders a pizza. I wonder if anyone ever laughed out loud at jokes like this on this show.
Lizzie panics over Matt’s well-being and realizes she actually cares about him – which, again, was covered last babysitting episode – and Miranda consoles her. There’s a really small detail here that I liked: Miranda takes Lizzie’s arm in hers while she calms her down. Why do we get a nice friendship moments like this every 15 episodes or so, and Lizzie yelling at her friends and treating them terribly every other episode?
Sam’s softball buddies The Two Big Guys come to the McGuire house to check on the kids for their parents. I expected Gordo to maim them since this episode is all about parallels to the last babysitting episode, but he just distracts them with pizza and bad jokes. The Two Big Guys sort of sit there and grunt in Chicago accents a lot, as per usual. Interestingly, The Two Big Guys might be the most consistent characters on the show at this point.
Matt and Lanny try to convince the Rick Moranis-looking clerk at the comic book store to just give them a new football for free. Obviously this doesn’t work because of capitalism.
Miranda and Lizzie find Matt and Lanny by asking themselves where two geeks would end up, and Matt says they went there because they asked themselves what Lizzie would do in this situation. Matt (or the sad little boy version of Matt that exists in this episode for some reason) says Lizzie would never get in trouble but if she did, she would try to fix it. If he was trying to be like Lizzie, why hasn’t he screamed at anyone yet?
I guess you can’t beat the original. Lizzie storms up to the poor man’s Rick Moranis, addressing him as “Mr. Comic Book Guy,” and busts out that disrespect for adults and other people’s feelings we’ve come to know so well. In possibly her rudest moment to date, she does a nasty impression of him when he points out that the football is damaged. But in a weird resolution, he ends up trading the deflated Payton football for an intact Dick Butkus-signed football. That seems like a bad business decision. Who’s going to buy the smushed football, autographed or not?
The kids rush home and climb into Lizzie’s room, I guess by climbing a tree. The Two Big Guys run upstairs to check on them before Lizzie can get in. Here it gets weird, because the McGuire parents arrive. Everyone crowds the stairs, obviously panicked and guilty, except Gordo, who stays to help Lizzie through the window. The Two Big Guys say they couldn’t find Lizzie, so the McGuire parents barrel upstairs to find her. Lizzie breathlessly opens the door, obviously trying to make it seem like nothing was going on. Except it clearly was, and what it looks like is that Gordo and Lizzie were alone in a room while everyone else guarded the door, stalling her parents from walking in on them. That would not fly in my house.
Lanny puts the new football in the old one’s place and does a delightful touchdown dance. I wish Lanny could be the youngest McGuire instead of Matt. Can you imagine a Disney sitcom where the youngest wasn’t an obnoxious maniac and was instead of silent weirdo and the whole family just accepted it?
Sam discovers the football and throws a fit until Jo reveals that the old one was actually “a Walter Payton football autographed by Jo McGuire” because the real football had fallen into the fireplace months before. That sounds suspicious, like the destruction of the leg lamp in A Christmas Story, especially since the McGuires never light the fireplace. Despite the fact that they actually increased the value of the football by trading a forged one for a real one, Jo still grounds the kids. No wonder they’re both such amoral assholes. None of the lessons they get taught make any sense.
Lizzie and Matt have a nice moment, and I hate it, and that’s the end.
This episode is a really good example of what makes me despise this show. There is nothing likeable, admirable, or relatable about Lizzie this week. She’s just massively unpleasant from start to finish. She really embodies the “Disney Channel Acting School” tenets of loudness and disrespecting authority in this one. And I never enjoy episodes where Matt is supposed to be a normal kid because the show hasn’t earned that at all. This is one of those weeks where I really just feel bad for Miranda and Gordo for being Lizzie’s friend and wish the show could be about them without her.
Notable fashion moments: Lizzie only has one outfit this episode, but they make it count. She wears a shirt that looked so familiar I felt like a friend of mine actually owned it, but I think it might just be because that image is fairly popular. Weirdly, it’s a kid staring at a naked baby doll. And she wears the bracelet version of her favorite necklace again this week! It’s so interesting that this season’s costume designer chose to actually give her character favorite accessories.
She also wears the weirdest jeans – the pattern on the side is sparkly – with a huge sparkly belt buckle.
Miranda wears a camo jumpsuit. With the same bracelet as Lizzie! omg, do you think the charms say BFF on them??
Remember how I said fashion got super patriotic around 9/11? This look is an extreme example of that, but definitely of the moment. She wears American flag dog tags with this!
Other interesting tidbits: For the not athletically inclined like myself: Walter Payton was a real football player! I had to Google it to see. Peyton Manning was huge at this point, so I assumed it was a fake name made to sound like his.
I always like to check since there were so many writers on this show, but several episodes around this time have no “Written By” credit.
Help me solve a question I am dying to have answered, everyone! Lizzie’s room has these big, handmade collages, which is a pretty nice, realistic touch. I think they have pics of celebrities on them. IS THAT LARGE BLONDE HEAD AARON CARTER’S?