In last week’s episode, everything you could want in a sitcom about middle schoolers – a relatable problem, endearing friendship moments, funny jokes, and likeable characters – came together for a realistic and touching piece of television. This week we get a body switcheroo!
Lizzie gets dressed for school and realizes that all of her clothes are dirty, which leads her to realize that Matt has played an elaborate prank on her: taking her clothes out of the laundry hamper before they could be washed and hanging them back up in her closet so she’d have no clean clothes. She finds Matt and yells at him, and their argument doesn’t make much sense. She screams about the clothes and Matt is his usual smug shit-eating self about it, but then he randomly switches moods and starts yelling at her for all the problems she causes him. Lizzie is an unlikeable brat and a terrible sibling, but the idea that they equally ruin each other’s lives doesn’t hold water. Matt is always actively pranking and bothering her, whereas Lizzie just reacts with screaming. I think the point of this scene is that Lizzie and Matt both bother each other equally because they don’t understand each other. But the only examples of Lizzie tormenting him that he can come up with are a few accidental things that Lizzie had done on a small number of occasions, which doesn’t compare to the issues that Matt has caused every episode we’ve seen so far.
But I can’t get too hung up on details here, because the crux of this scene is that Lizzie and Matt both yell “FINE! I’LL STAY OUT OF YOUR LIFE!” in unison and that switches their bodies.
I really hated this episode up until this point. I hated it when I saw it on the air as a kid and couldn’t even watch the whole thing. I have not been looking forward to reviewing this one. But watching it now, I was shocked by one thing: Hilary Duff’s Jake Thomas impression is S.T.U.N.N.I.N.G.
I’ve never thought of Hilary Duff as a very big performer, not like Raven-Symoné or Shia LaBeouf in their Disney roles. In most shows and movies I’ve seen her in, she basically plays different versions of herself. But oh man, does she commit to going as big as possible here. It is bananas. It is legitimately uncomfortable to watch. It is comparable to John Travolta’s Nicolas Cage impersonation in Face/Off. It is the performance of a lifetime.
The kids panic, of course, and both try to fake sick so they don’t have to go to each other’s schools but the McGuire parents don’t buy it.
Now comes the point that creeped me out so much that I stopped watching in my youth. They both try on a bunch of terrible outfits as each other, which is supposed to be really zany. Except who wants to see their sibling’s naked body that much? That and the question of using the bathroom always weirds me out in body-switch plots.
Matt-as-Lizzie ends up going to school dressed so flamboyantly that Gordo compares her to Elton John. Matt doesn’t know how to walk in heels, so Matt-as-Lizzie keeps falling a lot and the whole school laughs at her every time. Gordo and Miranda are horrified by this and act like Lizzie’s tanking her reputation even though falling all the time is like Lizzie’s only personality trait.
One extra goes absolutely insane on one of these laughing bits. I love bad extras and this dude is probably my favorite ever.
This episode is disappointing because Matt being in Lizzie’s body really ruins Lizzie’s life, but Lizzie being in Matt’s body…also ruins Lizzie’s life. Lizzie-as-Matt dresses like a nerd, but it doesn’t seem to impact him at all. Lizzie-as-Matt goes to Matt’s school and gets blamed for a prank Matt didn’t even do because everyone knows he’s such a piece of shit they just blame him for everything to be safe, so Lizzie-as-Matt gets subjected to Matt’s punishment.
Matt-as-Lizzie bonds with Ethan and Tudgeman over gross boy stuff. It’s weird that there are no other cool guys in school so Ethan doesn’t have any friends. In scenes where they deal with specifically male problems, they always have to write scenes for some combination of Ethan, Tudgeman and Gordo because there are no other male characters at the school. Note that TUDGEMAN’S HAIR IS ORANGE AGAIN AND IT WASN’T THE LAST TWO EPISODES.
Miranda stresses about Lizzie’s gross conversation topic, but Gordo points out that Lizzie’s actually confident for the first time in her life and Miranda realizes he’s right. This part made me kind of sad. I wouldn’t like my friends talking about my low self-esteem behind my back.
Kate gets super possessive of Ethan, which isn’t really justified. Sometimes the show kind of acts like Kate and Ethan are dating but never establishes that they are. Here Kate hears Ethan say “See you at lunch, Lizzie!” and gets jealous of Lizzie for “stealing her lunch date with Ethan.” Matt-as-Lizzie yells at her and Gordo and Miranda are impressed, even though Lizzie has definitely yelled at Kate on several occasions before because she’s extremely confrontational.
Again Lizzie falls and again everyone laughs and Gordo and Miranda are shocked and confused by her falling. In her next class, Kate pulls Lizzie’s chair out from under her. Again Lizzie falls and again everyone laughs and Gordo and Miranda are shocked and confused by her falling. Wouldn’t it make more sense if Lizzie-as-Matt was falling all over the place?
Though she is the older and ostensibly smarter sibling, Lizzie has a terrible time throughout this episode of even trying to pretend to be Matt. Lizzie-as-Matt rants about not deserving the detention he got for the prank by saying, “I’m a good kid! I follow the rules!” I think this episode would be better if Lizzie just committed to wrecking Matt’s reputation as hard as he was wrecking hers, but that’s at least partially my deep hatred of Matt talking.
Interestingly, Lizzie-as-Matt confesses the body swap to Melina and Lanny, who accept it (I like that! Younger kids would believe something supernatural more readily than teens) but there’s no real payoff for that, because they don’t help them switch back or anything. The three of them join together to figure out who really committed the prank to get Matt out of detention.
Matt-as-Lizzie pranks the fuck out of Kate, subjecting her to a locker full of frogs, slippery banana peels that make her fall, and a bucket of chili that dumps on her head. Everyone laughs at Kate.
At lunch she demands an apology from Lizzie, who denies involvement, and Ethan defends her because a prank like that would be out of character for Lizzie. He’s right! Usually when she bullies people, she photographs it so it can end up on the front page of the school paper to prolong the humiliation of her victim.
Melina, Lanny, and Matt determine that the prank he’s been punished for was committed as revenge against Matt by Clark, a nerdy kid that Matt’s been bullying. Jesus, did Sam and Jo fuck up in raising these sociopathic kids. Lizzie-as-Matt promises to stop tormenting Clark in exchange for Clark confessing to the prank and getting Matt out of detention.
After school, Lizzie-as-Matt tells him that he has to stop breaking some kid’s psyche on the daily and Matt-as-Lizzie suggests that Lizzie be meaner at school to deal with Kate. Don’t encourage her!
That night, Lizzie wakes up in her own body and runs out to celebrate with Matt. He’s vague in acknowledging what she’s talking about, so it’s left ambiguous as to whether the whole body swap was a dream or not. Although Lizzie should be able to check a calendar and see if an entire day has passed.
Wow! What a weird episode. I can’t even evaluate it on any scale that applies to other episodes. I simultaneously appreciated and was made extremely uncomfortable by Hilary Duff’s performance as Matt-as-Lizzie. I loved the terrible laughing extra. I feel sorry for Kate when she’s publicly bullied, which is often. I can’t parse out my overall feelings on this one at all.
Weird never-popular youth culture slang: Matt uses “I’m outty” ironically as Lizzie.
Unnecessary references: The title is an obvious – but really forced – Freaky Friday reference.
Notable fashion moments: A lot of Kate’s costuming is not particularly flattering on her, which I never point out with specific examples because I’m not into the idea of body-shaming a 14-year-old ten years after she was put in an outfit she had no say in. However, this week I’ll shout out her outfit, which is actually very lovely on her! And she’s not wearing the horrific extensions that often cause her hair to look enormous and absurd.
Unfortunately this was this only shot I could get of the full look:
Sorry, Hilary Duff!
A Nancy Drew style is an interesting choice for Kate. The preppiness gives her character an uppity vibe, which contrasts her with Lizzie’s much bolder looks. It still doesn’t make any sense at all to me that Lizzie wears trendier, more flattering clothing than the most popular girl in school, but if Kate always looked like this I’d at least understand the story the clothing was trying to tell – this look makes her seem upper-class, private-school snobby.
Other interesting tidbits: Miranda marvels that Lizzie has “probably the best conversation she’s ever had with Ethan Craft” that day – but Lizzie talks to Ethan all the time! She got to spend the entire day with him during the scavenger hunt, for example.