We’re blitzing towards the finale, episode order be damned, and there is only one thing that matters at this point: get! Lizzie! and Gordo! Together! Miranda is gone! Maybe she’s dead for all we know! School doesn’t matter! Plot points don’t matter! Gordo likes Lizzie and that’s what this show is all about now!
For those of you watching at home (are there any of you?), the file for “Clue-Less” is badly damaged in Disney’s Fucking Terrible Online Video Player™. The sound is all messed up, constantly cutting in and out or being replaced with static. It’s pretty awful, but luckily you can watch it on YouTube.
It begins with Lizzie walking down the aisle in a wedding dress, leaving the audience to be all “Whaaa? Huh? Is Lizzie getting married?,” a hilarious joke setup already employed by this show once before, in “I Do, I Don’t.” Jo appears, wearing a maid costume and screaming in a Cockney accent, to announce that there’d been a murder. It’s a murder mystery party, get it? Not a real wedding!
A flashback to a few days before shows Ethan running up to Lizzie to ask her if it’s possible to throw a party while his house is being fumigated for bugs. Lizzie says no but offers to throw the party for him. This is where Ethan makes no sense as a character. He doesn’t seem to have any of his own friends, even though everyone in school is obsessed with him, and he always comes to Lizzie with problems like this, though they’re not supposed to be very close. It’s so bizarre that he doesn’t have his own crew and party with people like Kate and Claire.
There’s a very weird joke here, because Ethan says, “There’s gonna be a wedding at the party, and people fighting over money, and someone’s gonna get iced!” and Lizzie, not realizing it’s a murder mystery party, asks “There’s gonna be, like, no drinking, right?” Is that a reference to icing people, like with Smirnoff Ice? Bros Icing Bros? I don’t know if that game was around in 2002.
Before the party, they all meet up to pick characters from a hat. The guests file in, and again it’s puzzling to try to analyze Ethan’s social circle. Kate arrives and Ethan says, “Gotta invite her.” I don’t know why, except for the sort-of relationship the show sort of establishes them having. Kate brings Cousin Amy, but she gets only two lines the entire episode, so I don’t know why her random character was brought in over someone like Claire. Maybe the Duff family just requested more screen time for Haylie, or maybe that part was supposed to go to Miranda before her family got abducted in Mexico, never to return. Gordo shows up, which I buy because he and Ethan always got along. Veruca shows up? Ethan says she invited herself and he was too afraid of her to say no. Aww, Veruca’s nice. That’s unnecessary. And then Tudgeman, of all people you could want at a party, shows up and Ethan says, “He saved my life once! Pulled me out of the way of a parade float.” I’m assuming that’s a flashback to another episode that hasn’t aired yet, because usually we get an over-the-top flashback scene for absurd statements like that.
In my favorite part of the episode, Ethan picks his character and announces that he’s Clive McGuffin (I see what they did there), heir to the McGuffin fortune and fiancé to Penelope Featherstone. Gordo then picks his character and reads, in an annoyed voice, “I’m Penelope Featherstone, the blushing maiden that Clive is making his own.” I love it! I wish he stayed Clive’s blushing maiden. But he gets to pick again and gets Aubrey Carstairs, Lord McGuffin’s old war buddy.
Kate is a sweet old children’s book author. Cousin Amy is “a bored, tempestuous heiress” (how can one be both bored and tempestuous?). Veruca is an acclaimed theatre actress. Tudgeman is a Brazilian-born Hollywood actor. And Lizzie, to her delight, is Penelope Featherstone.
Randomly, this party brings out Season One Gordo once again. He complains that he’ll be stuck being the best friend no one notices and yells that this is going to be a dumb party where everyone will drool over Ethan and no one will notice him. It’s….Ethan’s party. What kind of asshole doesn’t want to go to other people’s parties because it means the host will be the center of attention? Lizzie is excited about the party, having read a lot of Nancy Drew books, and Gordo gets competitive about beating her. The number of red flags in this scene is bananas. Guys who feel angry when other people get attention they feel they’re entitled to are bad news. So are guys who get competitive and ruin the fun for attention.
Everyone shows up to the party in fantastic costumes that middle schoolers probably couldn’t assemble and most of them stay in character almost all of the time. Kate continually breaks character to complain about having to pretend to be nice, which is annoying. Tudgeman is particularly enjoyable as a lothario, though he attempts to hit on someone who turns out to be Ethan’s very young stepmom Tawny. Tawny says a bunch of dumb stuff all episode, which is a bit confusing because she’s not related to Ethan but they’re both just as dumb, and she occasionally embarrasses him, which makes me sad for him.
Since everyone is in character, let’s pause for a moment for a ranking of accents from best to worst:
- Hallie Todd, doing Cockney, is excellent as always
- Rachel Snow (Veruca), doing heightened RP, is very impressive for her age
- Clayton Snyder, doing RP, is my favorite as per usual
- Adam Lamberg, doing RP that lapses into Cockney on occasion, goes in and out slightly but does well when he has it on
- Kyle Downes (Tudgeman), doing a Brazilian accent, commits very hard and handles the Spanish phrases thrown into his dialogue
- Ashlie Brillault, doing her best, somehow manages to place much higher than I’d expect
- Jake Thomas, doing what is definitely German for a few lines and British on others, is an actual child and does well with that taken into account
- Haylie Duff, not even attempting an accent, is still better than…
- Hilary Duff, who’s a real mess and throws an accent onto about every tenth word and half the time that accent is Southern
Matt bursts through the front door – who knows where he was before this – in a Sherlock Holmes cape and deerstalker, and Jo tells Lizzie he should get to play too even though it’s Ethan’s party. I wish Matt were written out instead of Miranda. Lizzie finds another clue and Gordo literally jogs up to “well, actually” her. Lizzie feels pretty bad about this, so Gordo laughs at her and tells her to try harder.
Tudgeman and Veruca’s in-character flirting leads them to fall for each other IRL, breaking character to make eyes at each other. I like them both individually and together and this is the only bright spot in this damn episode for me besides cool costumes and Hallie Todd being a gem.
Lizzie flirts with Ethan and has a good time and finds a clue. Cue Gordo, running over to snatch it from her hands. When she asks why he’s being a dick, he says she’ll have to choose between solving the mystery and pursuing Ethan. I haven’t hated Gordo this much all season, but boy do I hate him this episode. If he were a real friend, he’d let Lizzie enjoy her time with Ethan because that’s what she wants. Using the fact that he has a crush on her to justify ruining her night is absolutely unacceptable.
Adam Lamberg busts out his old Dirtbag Gordo characterization to snarl “too bad” at Lizzie when she tells him he’s being a dirk.
Dude is being a stone-cold dirk, for real.
Matt tries to show everyone at the party Lizzie’s pajama bottoms, which is sort of embarrassing but not really, but Lizzie threatens to give him a wedgie so he stops. We just saw that convenient threat used to move the plot forward two episodes ago, but it somehow gets Matt to disappear for the rest of the episode so I’m on board. I don’t know why anyone even bothered to write him in this one at all. Jake Thomas must have had something in his contract about appearing in every episode.
Lizzie pulls Gordo outside to ask why he’s being so mean to her and Gordo continues to use the game as his excuse for it. This is red flag #150 or so, for anyone counting – Lizzie personally asks him to stop treating her like this and he ignores her.
After a clue-hunting montage where they both race to find clues and seemingly no one else even attempts it, Lizzie finally finds the last clue and almost runs downstairs to announce that she’s solved it, but Kate intercepts her.
This next scene makes me legitimately furious. Kate, allegedly because her nice person character has rubbed off on her, pulls Lizzie into her room to yell at her for not getting why Gordo is taking the game so seriously. She says Lizzie treats him like a doormat, a pretty loaded accusation with no basis in truth. Kate treats Ethan like a doormat, often yelling at him and telling him what to do, but Lizzie doesn’t walk all over Gordo. And it’s shitty to suggest that not feeling the same way about a friend who likes you = walking all over him. Lizzie says Gordo is acting out for attention and makes the great point that “He doesn’t have to be obnoxious to get noticed.” Kate breezes past this to drop the drama bomb that Gordo wants Lizzie to notice him, because “everyone at school can tell – Gordo’s had a crush on you for, like, ever.”
Lizzie is uncomfortable, so she runs downstairs to make her announcement. But during her speech explaining who did it, she notices that Gordo feels bad that she’s winning. Cartoon Lizzie says Gordo’s not being immature, he just wants to impress her. Him trying to impress her is immature. So she decides to throw it! She purposefully accuses the wrong person! Lizzie solved the mystery with her own brain and then played dumb to make a man feel better so he wouldn’t be upset at being beaten by a girl!
Gordo jumps in to explain it smugly. He makes the right accusation and everyone showers him with attention. Fuck Gordo and this episode.
Oh, and the killer was really the maid because she was having an affair with Lord McGuffin and had purchased a fancy boat ticket out of there, and none of that really jives with class structures of 1920s England.
Lizzie pulls Gordo outside at the end of the night to tell him he did a good job because he’s so smart. I HATE THIS. She specifically tells him he impressed her to make him feel good. Stop catering to his emotions, Lizzie! He doesn’t give a shit about yours. Gordo steps in closer to her and almost asks her out, but Sam runs outside to yell about something on the Food Network. None of the male characters on this show are redeemable.
I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Ethan is great.
Gordo leaves and Lizzie realizes she feels “all flushed and light-headed” so I guess she officially likes this asshole too now. I hope she sees her mistake soon.
This. One. Was. Bad. It’s a shame, because the murder mystery setup was fun and the costume and set design was all great. But the way it sets up Gordo and Lizzie’s relationship is legitimately unhealthy. Gordo treated her badly all episode, even when she asked him over and over again not to, and she finally decided to give him what he wanted because he was only doing it because he liked her.
I’ve had to readjust my expectations for Gordo this season, because he’s been written as much goofier and much more supportive, and Adam Lamberg has been playing him completely differently too – more easy-going, funnier, and more attached to Lizzie. But this episode resets all the things that made me hate him and his relationship with Lizzie last season.
Weird never-popular youth culture slang: “dirk” all over the place
Notable fashion moments: I LOVE THE MURDER MYSTERY PARTY COSTUMES. I WANT TO WEAR ALL OF THEM ALL AT ONCE ALL ON TOP OF EACH OTHER.
Look at Veruca’s peacock feather turban!
I especially loved how the costume designer worked Tudgeman’s signature polo into his costume, actually making it look debonair.
Cousin Amy looked great, even if she didn’t need to be in this episode. Notice that even in the 20s, ladies be filin’ their nails.
However, Lizzie’s look was not very 20s. Amy’s hair has been fashioned into a faux-bob, but Lizzie’s hair and makeup are both pretty starkly 2002, with slightly smokier eyes than usual.
Lame. I’m pretty sure the thinking here was that Lizzie needs to look relatable and like herself when she finds out Gordo likes her. Ugh. I bet Gordo is one of those guys that tells girls they look prettier without makeup without realizing they’re wearing a ton of natural-looking makeup.
I liked that Gordo, for the first time, wears a suit that manages to make him not look like a total dweeb. I wish that didn’t happen for this episode.
Other interesting tidbits: This episode was my first introduction to the concept of a murder mystery party and it made me want to throw one. It’s been almost fifteen years and I still haven’t, even though it’s aggressively up my alley.
Adam Lamberg does a good job with scenes where he’s supposed to be nervous around Lizzie. He’s a good actor and has a great handle on what the character should be. I’m sad that the writing never supports that.
One of Hilary Duff’s attempted British pronunciations is saying “mur-ter” for murder, hitting the t very hard.
Clayton Snyder is a national treasure. I’m so glad Disney is finally giving him his own show even though he’s almost 30 years old. He deserves it. On close rewatch, I get to see all the weird choices he’s always making, in every frame he’s in, and it’s one of the only pleasant experiences of this entire project. And blessedly, he’s even in an entire murder mystery party web series right now! This is the universe’s reward to me for having to rewatch this one.