This season is really committing hard to actually specifying the time of year for its early episodes, which is sad because the network didn’t commit at all to airing them in the correct order. This one begins with Lizzie gushing, “I love the fall! Leaves changing colors, ducks flying South…” Don’t they live in, like, L.A.? They even kick through a pile of fallen leaves that must have been imported from Washington for this scene.
Kate walks up to invite them to her birthday party on her mom’s orders, and what follows this is so incredibly insane I have to include the full clip.
There’s a lot going on there, but I mostly want to call attention to what sounds like the line “Kate will free you” in the middle of that song. Is this an invitation to a party or cult initiation? Miranda reads the invitation – “She’s turning 14” – like a question, but the director should have pointed out that the line was intended to convey skepticism at Kate’s fake age. I swear to God, no one thinks about anything on this show.
They all mock the party until they overhear people talking about how Kate gave out cell phones at her last party and then they’re in.
Conflict time! Jo says Lizzie can’t go to the party since Kate’s cousin Amy will be chaperoning it instead of a real adult. Lizzie screams about it and Jo snaps, “Elizabeth Brooke McGuire! That tone has ‘grounded’ written all over it.” No, it doesn’t! She’s employed that tone dozens of times! That’s her signature tone! Jo says she doesn’t know why Lizzie’s in such a hurry to grow up and tells her to enjoy being a kid, which is the exact opposite of her advice when Lizzie wanted to Frankie Muniz (which was that Lizzie “has to grow up sometime!”).
Matt bursts in and says he’s going to be on TV because this family can’t leave their house without rocketing to stardom. Lizzie asks, “Is there gonna be a new reality show? Real Stories of the Really Clueless?” Her burns are always pretty bad, but that one was particularly lame. Matt gloats about how he’s going to be famous and Lizzie won’t and Lizzie doesn’t counter with “If I wanted to be famous, I wouldn’t have abandoned my backup dancer work, my modeling career, or my relationship with an actual celebrity!”
Matt and Sam have been discovered at the mall and are now the new father-son spokesteam for Cardio Punch sports drink. This was referenced in a then-nonsensical flashback in “Best Dressed for Much Less.” Jo asks if she can be involved, but Matt says it’s a guy thing and he and Sam high-five because he learned nothing from last week’s lesson on toxic masculinity. Jo seems legitimately sad about her exclusion and upset that her dud of a husband gets to be in a commercial when he doesn’t even like being on camera. It must be hard for Jo to see every member of her family gain fame and success while she hangs around the house doing nothing like the McGuire family’s Rob Kardashian.
Miranda and Lizzie are both banned from attending the party but Miranda says they should lie to their parents and go anyway. I wonder if it’s in a Disney handbook that the main character isn’t allowed to come up with bad ideas and needs to be dragged into them by a friend. Gordo is allowed to go but is bummed because it means his parents trust him to be level-headed and boring. He decides to prove he can be bad and spends the rest of the episode committing minor transgressions, calling attention to them, and declaring “Cuz I’m bad!” It’s a fun and goofy bit that we never would have seen last season.
Matt shows up for the Cardio Punch ad and meets the director and WTF IT’S ZACHARY QUINTO!!
I did not see this coming!! I think I saw part of this episode when I was in middle school and didn’t know who Zachary Quinto was. His performance is phenomenal. He plays a pretentious director with a British affectation and I love every second he’s onscreen.
Lizzie is of course a giant pansy about lying to her mom even though she’s done it so many times now you think it’d be second nature. Their plan is to get dropped off at the mall, take a bus to Kate’s, then get a bus back before Jo picks them up from the mall. Gordo tags along to feel like a rebel, even though he’s allowed to go to the party.
I’ve mentioned before that plotlines about parents being strict never sat well with me as a child because I had a REAL strict mom, and I especially never bought them on Lizzie. She’s getting dropped off at the mall unsupervised!! Without a lecture on how child abductors are lurking everywhere!! However, watching now, I think the actual point of this episode is that Jo is a fine mom with normal boundaries and Lizzie’s just an ungrateful asshole. I can get behind that.
Jo gives Lizzie $10 to get cookies for everyone to appease their sadness about not going to the party and then drops them off at the mall. Take the cookie, Lizzie! I would sit through 2 hours of the sad Sarah McLaughlin dead animal commercial if I had the choice between doing so or spending time with Kate Sanders. But they stick with the plan; they change outfits, make the bus, and head over to Kate’s, where the party is out of control and overrun by older kids. Cousin Amy (Haylie Duff!) is making out with some dude and no one from their school is in sight.
At the video shoot, Sam freaks out at their instructions to scale a high climbing wall and flip around up there for the commercial. It’s weird that they’re shooting the commercial at night, right? Also, the concept of this commercial makes no sense. Sam and Matt said they were chosen because they looked like the average family, but that would make sense for almost any regular commercial but this one, which specifically needs actual stuntmen.
The trio decides to ditch the party and head back to the mall but are accosted by Kate, who’s glad to see anyone she knows at her terrible party. Cousin Amy brings out the cake, having ignored Kate’s request for chocolate, and Kate falls headfirst into the cake accidentally because this is the Lizzieverse, where floors are slipperier and gravity more potent, I guess. Kate yells, “Get away from me, you snakes!” to the random guests. I genuinely have never heard that insult aside from Taylor Swift’s mentions.
Sam climbs the wall but gets paralyzed with fear. Matt shows him it’s easy and they cut to a shot of what I assume are stunt people swinging wildly on the wall because of the badly dubbed lines from Matt over it. Zachary Quinto insults Sam, so Matt rappels down and breaks out the patented McGuire Tone with “Grounded” Written All Over It to berate the director. He storms off set and Zachary Quinto loves it.
Lizzie feels bad for Kate, so she goes to find her and overhears her on the phone with an obviously neglectful mom. Kate says that none of her friends were allowed to come because her mom wasn’t there and begs her to come home. This would be a legitimately touching poor-little-rich-girl motivation if I could stomach any Kate plot at all. Kate says Lizzie must love seeing her like this and Lizzie says she does like seeing Kate as a normal person. This would work if Kate ever came off as perfect and not extremely flawed and if we hadn’t seen Kate humiliated in exactly this way – with food items smothered all over her – so many times before.
Kate says she wanted her party to be just a few friends over for a movie night, so Lizzie invites her to come to the mall with them for a movie. Kate agrees and heads downstairs without even wiping the frosting off her face.
The party is out of control in a Disney-safe way that doesn’t overtly say that anyone is drunk or high but kind of implying that some people are extremely drunk or high.
Kate says she can’t leave her house like this, but she should! It’s Amy’s responsibility and Kate’s already told her mom that Amy invited over a bunch of hooligans. Lizzie says the party needs a mom and decides to call hers, assuming that her mom will be proud of her for being so responsible so they won’t get in trouble. This is one of the worst possible solutions I could imagine here.
Jo is at home crying because she’s not the Kim or Kylie or even Kourtney of the family. She drives over immediately to bust up the party with her buzzkill powers. If I were Kate, I’d be embarrassed but she’s grateful. Jo still shits all over her by calling attention to the fact that Kate’s really 15.
The trio gets grounded. Matt’s commercial comes out and it turns out they’ve noticeably edited his rant to make Matt yell at a dragon for trying to steal his punch by adding in animations and intentionally terrible ADR. It ends with an uncharismatic voice droning “CARDIO PUNCH: the drink of spiky-headed tough kids everywhere.” Terrible in-universe commercials are something I love about as much as terrible in-universe movies, so I enjoy this.
This episode was a hard meh for me. This was the last one written by Cheetah Girls scribe Alison Taylor, who I had high hopes for after “Over the Hill” but whose writing I didn’t like as much this episode or in “You’re a Good Man, Lizzie McGuire.” It’s interesting to me that her scripts always at least began with a focus on somewhat realistic circumstances – jealousy over friends’ extracurricular success, planning a school dance, wanting to attend a cool party – which shows a different approach than that of whoever pitched the idea of Lizzie becoming a model or switching bodies with Matt.
Unnecessary references: Matt says “I’ll be back” in a Schwarzenegger voice before repelling down and berating the director.
Notable fashion moments: Kate is now canonically established as rich – but her clothes look so cheap all the time. It feels like they gave the costume designer a $5000 budget for Lizzie for the second season and $50 to cover Kate for the entire series.
Granted, fashion at the time looked pretty cheap. The early aughts were a real garbage fire even for actual rich people.
But still, crisp button downs or sharp blazers would make more of a statement of wealth than the flimsy two-piece sets she always wears. Plus she looks cold! They just said it was fall!
I would have put money on asserting that Kate Sanders was an outfit repeater at her own birthday party.
But it turns out I’m just mixing this up with about a million other outfits she’s worn in the gold-mustard spectrum.
Miranda complains about her mom being strict wearing an outfit my mom would have never let me out of the house in.
Note Lizzie’s absolutely god-awful airbrushed shirt and insane headscarf there.
Miranda also wears this:
…which is so completely different than the other outfit. I really can’t tell what story Miranda’s costuming is supposed to tell. I wish they’d just say Miranda is the artsy one, like Claudia Kishi, and then I wouldn’t care about how many different looks she came up with every episode.
Miranda and Lizzie change for the party in a mall bathroom and Lizzie’s hair magically gets a lot bouncier.
And Miranda killed ten hedgehogs for her party look.
Cousin Amy wears the “A” version of the necklace that Miranda and Lizzie wore in their music video! That’s lazy.
There are a lot of wacky Y2K looks on display at the party, but this shiny outfit with a beret is my favorite.
Other interesting tidbits: I don’t think we’ve actually had an overt reference to Kate being rich – she’s seemed spoiled before, but this episode shows her ornate house and references the exorbitant gifts from her last party. The show only ever mentioned bras and cheerleading as reasons for her popularity before.
Every once in a while someone in the McGuire family will offhandedly mention their “cousin Riri” and I always enjoy the mental image of Bad Gal RiRi a.k.a. Rihanna showing up at a McGuire family reunion.
Lizzie gives Kate a present and Kate smells it, which was an amazingly bonkers touch.
The license-free stock music added into this episode is pretty bad – it’s supposed to be dance music that the DJ is actually playing, but he’s just playing…stock music. Weirdly, one of the songs there was originally “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” – and not even any hip updated cover version – instead of what really should be playing at a party in ’04, which is anything with Lil Jon screaming intermittently.
There is an accidental upskirt shot in this episode that someone should have been fired for.
I had to play the first scene about thirty times in order to get the recording right and it made me feel like I was going insane.