If you like John Hughes movies, boy will you understand the basic gist of what this episode is trying to accomplish!
I’ve been dreading this one, and it was simultaneously better than and just as bad as I was expecting.
It begins with a food fight, which is another one of those things that I saw on every single TV show growing up but never experienced in any of the schools I attended. It’s in full swing by the time the episode opens, and the main trio has taken shelter under a table. Gordo and Miranda want to get in the fray, but Lizzie insists that they all stay out of it and then says, “I’m going to go in so I can find a way out,” which is confusing and contradictory. She immediately gets slammed with a meatball and angrily grabs food to hurl back in retaliation.
Just then, Principal Mr. Moseby walks in and yells at Lizzie specifically but no one else, even though she’s on the complete opposite end of the cafeteria from him and there are dozens of students closer to him that he could yell at. From the hordes of food fighters, he singles out Lizzie, Kate and Tudgeman for absolutely no reason other than advancing the plot.
We get one sentence setting up the rest of the episode, and it actually doesn’t set up the rest of the episode at all. Principal Mr. Moseby says, “Not only will you be cleaning this entire cafeteria, but you’ll also be doing three hours of community service at the food bank or writing a report explaining who started the food fight and why.” Dissecting that sentence grammatically, it means that the three randomly selected food fight participants need to clean the cafeteria and have the choice of either working at the food bank or writing a report snitching on who started the food fight and also explaining their motivations for doing so somehow. But Kate says, “So all we have to do is write down who started it and we’re done?” and he says, “That is correct. After that your punishment will be over.”
The rest of the episode is the three of them grappling with the idea of writing down a name blaming someone for the food fight so they wouldn’t have to clean the cafeteria. But….that’s not what the deal was! He said they had to clean the cafeteria, no matter what, and in addition they could either blame someone or do community service. Why didn’t they give Principal Mr. Moseby the line “Until you all can tell me who started the food fight, you need to clean up the entire cafeteria” instead of the weird convoluted line about working at a food bank and writing an entire report about the instigator’s motivations? I hate this show!!
Matt’s class goes on a field trip to an art museum and Matt and Lanny get left behind because they were goofing off. Matt says, “We’re gonna be stuck here all night!” so I was expecting a From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler scenario but sadly it never comes.
Kate refuses to clean and Cartoon Lizzie complains that Kate’s probably worried about breaking a nail. Kate immediately says, “I could break a nail!” even though we’ve already seen a joke about Kate being worried about breaking a nail and a joke about Lizzie being worried about breaking a nail. In the show’s defense, women literally don’t think about anything else.
This is one of those episodes where every single assumption that moves the plot forward falls apart as soon as you analyze it. Kate describes her recollection of the food fight, unnecessarily starting at the beginning of the day instead of during the lunch period. We get a sequence of the day from Kate’s perspective, which involves everyone in school worshipping her – except Tudgeman, who calls her a “dirk.”
In this sequence, the camera shows a food fight breaking out while her back is turned. Kate says it was probably Tudgeman who started it – her rationale is that “no one ever calls me a dirk” even though that doesn’t explain why he’d start a food fight – but the camera doesn’t show him starting it. It shows some kid in a goofy shirt falling, accidentally knocking over a tray and sending food flying. But it shows this while Kate’s back is turned, which makes no sense because it’s supposed to be tracking Kate’s point of view.
I like Tudgeman as a character. I like his weird cockiness. His retort is, “Don’t flatter yourself. I don’t waste food, especially not on somebody like you.”
Matt and Lanny decide to just run around the city wreaking havoc instead of trying to get back to school.
Tudgeman tells Kate that people might like her a little more if she weren’t so hostile all the time, and Kate responds by saying the whole point of her story was that people love her. This is one of those examples of an episode that admits that no one likes Kate, which is pretty different from other episodes when everyone around her gushes about how popular she is.
Kate tries to get Lizzie to betray Tudgeman with her by giving his name to Principal Mr. Moseby so they can leave. Cartoon Lizzie is offended that Kate would think she’d stoop so low, but then Kate offers to do Lizzie’s nails and Cartoon Lizzie considers it. Women! All they care about is their nails. That’s the only thing ever on their minds. The way to a woman’s heart is through her nails.
Tudgeman complains that they’re ignoring him, just like everyone else does, and then shares his side of the story, which makes him look like everyone in school respects and loves him. I can’t keep up with the contradictions this episode. Tudgeman’s version of the day is shot like the Matrix and involves him disproving infinity, then rushing around school mysteriously as everyone fawns over how hot and aloof he is. Kate calls someone a “dirk” in front of him and is embarrassed that he sees her at her worst. (He didn’t even call her a dirk? That was her only reason to suspect him of starting the food fight!) The camera shows Tudgeman seeing the kid in the goofy shirt fall and start the food fight, but his voiceover doesn’t acknowledge it.
Kate falls asleep during his story, and Cartoon Lizzie is astonished that Kate snores even though this episode seems to obviously be acknowledging that Kate is not perfect so she shouldn’t be shocked to find a flaw. Tudgeman tries to get Lizzie to betray Kate by giving her name, but Kate wakes up and catches them. This is a very weird bit where Kate is snoring and then yells “I can hear you, you know!” Was she faking sleeping? If so, why?
Matt and Lanny get into all kinds of scrapes around the city and Jo and Sam, who happen to be out running errands, almost see them several times.
Kate and Tudgeman decide to team up and betray Lizzie. Kate points out that Lizzie didn’t even try to clear her name, but Lizzie responds that she tried to and Kate interrupted her, which Tudgeman confirms. That…didn’t happen. That scene must have been cut.
Lizzie tells her story, which is the only one that starts at home and not at school because they only have a set for Lizzie’s house and not Kate’s or Tudgeman’s. Her day involves her parents spoiling Matt and refusing to punish him, but everything else seems unbiased and normal – she witnesses Kate run into the kid she calls a “dirk” in front of Tudgeman, and that part is unexaggerated and seems like the normal style of the show, for instance. Lizzie spills her drink at lunch and gets up to get napkins. On her way back to her seat, she almost runs into the goofy shirt kid, but walks past him. Her back is turned when he falls and starts the food fight.
Kate rants about wanting to leave the cafeteria and Lizzie realizes that all of their stories had the goofy shirt kid in common. But they didn’t. Kate’s and Lizzie’s backs were turned in the versions we saw, and their voiceovers didn’t acknowledge him. Lizzie says that Gustav shows up in all of their stories, and Kate asks “Who’s Gustav?” so she definitely wouldn’t have mentioned him. Literally the only way Lizzie would have noticed Gustav the goofy shirt kid as a constant would have been if she were able to see the filmed sequences the audience sees this episode.
Sad music begins playing. I had never seen The Breakfast Club when I first saw “She Said, He Said, She Said,” so when I finally saw it a few years later I remembered this episode and realized it made a Breakfast Club reference. So rewatching now with the episode hazy in my memory, I was expecting a lot more Breakfast Club parallels. Here, for instance, I expected Lizzie and Kate and Tudgeman to start understanding each other better. Nope! That does not happen.
Lizzie says that even though none of them started the food fight, none of them stopped it either, and the others concur even though that’s a bullshit thing to blame on them. They also all agree that it wasn’t really Gustav’s fault since it was an accident, but they don’t decide to write that.
Matt gets home to find his parents mad at him, because it turns out they caught him after all but it’s not explained how. Sam calls him out for going to a baseball game and Jo mentions seeing him on a float in the parade OH SNAP HOW DID I NOT REALIZE EARLIER THIS IS A FERRIS BUELLER REFERENCE. This is a DOUBLE JOHN HUGHES HOMAGE EPISODE. Jo yells at Matt but Sam almost decides to let him off the hook since he brought home the game-winning ball. Lizzie’s imagined recollection where her parents spoil Matt wasn’t that far off, honestly.
Lizzie talks to Gordo and Miranda on the phone that night and says that her punishment wasn’t so bad because “there’s more to Kate and Larry than meets the eye.” But…we didn’t see that at all. This episode proved that Kate and Tudgeman are exactly what meets the eye – a prissy narcissist and a delusional nerd, respectively. Gordo and Miranda ask what they ended up writing to Principal Mr. Moseby, and Lizzie hangs up the phone and smiles as a voiceover takes over. Why have her hang up the phone? That only makes sense to make the voiceover transition smoother. It makes no sense in the context of their conversation.
The note reads,
Dear Principal Tweedy,
Earlier you asked us who started the food fight. And the truth is: none of us did. But we all could have stopped it. We all may hang out with different people – I mean, we may be a Kate, a Larry and a Lizzie – but the one thing we should have had in common today was the courage to stop the food fight. So to answer your question, it doesn’t matter who started it. Because we’re all responsible. So we cleaned up the cafeteria. Together.
The Lunch Bunch
Wooooooow. That was the worst Breakfast Club reference I’ve ever seen! We get a montage of the three of them having fun together while cleaning under the voiceover, which is a really dumb thing to tack on the end. It’s the Breakfast Club if it only contained the early scenes of the kids squabbling and then said “but we actually learned a lot about each other” over a montage of scenes we never saw. It’s all telling and no showing. Also, the substitution of “a Kate, a Larry, and a Lizzie” for “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal” is about the laziest writing in the world.
This one sucked. I actually hate The Breakfast Club (don’t @ me) and I still think this was the saddest attempt at a knockoff imaginable. Why lift the premise of sticking strangers from different cliques together in a situation where they have to work together and learn about each other and then show none of the working together and learning about each other? The fantasy sequences, especially Tudgeman’s, were actually funny and well-done, but it all added up to a bunch of nothing.
Weird never-popular youth culture slang: A lot of “dirk” usage.
Unnecessary references: Seriously, this episode would have been better if it cut the final voiceover and didn’t make it a Breakfast Club reference at all.
Notable fashion moments: Kate gets another fussy, unfashionable and unflattering outfit.
Other interesting tidbits: Hilary Duff’s acting really improves over the course of the series. She’s a lot more comfortable and makes a lot more legitimately funny choices. Her work in the fantasy sequences is very good.
(This is probably because, according to a Lizzie producer, Disney thought Hilary was a terrible actress when she was cast, so they brought in an acting coach for her. Good call!)
There was an instance in my middle school in which everyone caused shenanigans. The solution was to punish everyone in the grade, with stern talking-to’s in homeroom and, if I remember correctly, silent lunch or something. I can think of a lot of similar punishments that could have been inflicted on everyone for the food fight. It doesn’t make any sense at ALL to single out just three kids.
The art museum has a shoutout to this episode’s writer, Melissa Gould.
In Kate’s fantasy sequence, Principal Mr. Moseby’s interruption is really weirdly dubbed in. I guess they wanted the line delivered exactly the same in the fantasy sequences as in the first scene? But it’s more noticeable to have it dubbed.
I spy Cardio Punch in the McGuires’ fridge.
The episode doesn’t make it clear that Tudgeman didn’t disprove infinity. It kind of seems like he actually did?
This is the only time all season that the main trio has eaten inside the cafeteria instead of outside. Convenient.
Sam would have had to be playing hooky from work to notice Matt’s Day Off, right?