So things have been looking up for me lately, except for how I had to watch this episode.
The chimpanzee from “Mom’s Best Friend” is back, and his name is Fredo, and we’re just supposed to know that, I guess. He shows up at the door and Sam says he forgot that he volunteered the family to watch Fredo for the weekend while his owners are out of town. Can you imagine going through life like Sam McGuire, just blissfully fucking life up for your loved ones and everyone you come in contact with?
I recently found an interview with Lizzie writer Nina Bargiel that revealed that the writers always thought of the Two Big Guys as a couple. I’ve always liked them but now I love them, knowing that. I want an entire series about their relationship. Two Big Gay Guys and a Chimp.
At school, Lizzie and Miranda are having a normal conversation that any tween girls would have – Lizzie saying “So I wonder if Carrot Top is his real name” and Miranda/Lalaine ad-libbing “Right!” – when they are stopped dead in their tracks by a moderately attractive new substitute teacher. There are substitutes other than Mr. Dig?? Miranda and Lizzie both gawk and gasp in his presence and it’s very similar to their starstruck reactions to Ethan’s dirt biking outfit in “Gordo’s Bar Mitzvah,” except about a million times creepier because of how this is an adult male authority figure they’re drooling over.
In class, the teacher introduces himself as “Keith…Ewan Keith.” That was wildly unnecessary. He doesn’t deliver it like a goofy teacher reference joke either – it’s supposed to be legitimately suave. It turns out that Mr. Keith is not only fairly attractive, but also super British! British as hell. He’s so British that it started to annoy me, because the episode description said “A hunky new English teacher from Scotland has all the girls’ hearts going pitter-patter,” but the actor – who’s from Gainesville, which certainly isn’t in any part of the U.K. – isn’t even trying to do a Scottish accent. It’s firmly British. It sounds like he’s deliberately impersonating Rupert Everett in one of his Oscar Wilde romantic lead roles.
Mr. Keith asks what chapter they’re on and Veruca stammers incoherently trying to answer. Miranda babbles words until she comes up with “Fractions?” even though it’s English class. Lizzie looks a bit confused by their idiocy, and calmly volunteers that they were about to begin the poetry unit. He asks her name and she states it smoothly and confidently. You know, because this show is about the bold, put-together girl in school. The one who’s never awkward or fumbling. Right? That’s this show? Oh no, it’s not, because she then flings her arms to throw her books on the floor to remind us that she’s really a big klutzy clod, sometimes, when it’s convenient.
Mr. Keith goes on and on about how poetry is very romantic and passionate, which seems like a weird thing to talk about to relate to middle schoolers. When I was in middle school, we had to memorize “In Flanders Fields,” which is a poem about the graves of dead WWI soldiers.
Jo and Sam tell Matt that he has to learn to get along with Fredo and oddly say that he should treat him like his new little brother. Matt asks if he’ll ever get a little brother for real and his parents stare at each other awkwardly and change the subject. The “jokes” on this show are so half-assed. What’s the punchline there?
At school the next day, Gordo announces he’s going to lean into his 1/8th Scottish heritage to try to cop Mr. Keith’s “brooding Scot” routine. At this point I got completely confused because, again, the actor playing Mr. Keith was not playing him as Scottish. This is thrown into sharp relief in this scene, because Gordo starts talking with a Scottish accent – that sounds nothing like Mr. Keith.
This is what actually happened on a real TV show on a real network: they wrote a script about a hunky Scottish teacher joining the school, they cast an actor from Gainesville who didn’t even attempt a Scottish accent but instead went completely British, nobody thought to remove the references – and later major plot points – establishing the character as Scottish, no one had a problem with the fact that the teenage actor playing Gordo could do the accent that the adult actor playing Mr. Keith couldn’t or wouldn’t, and they made the teenage actor do that accent, further calling attention to how not Scottish Mr. Keith actually ended up being onscreen.
I hate this show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This scene is a nightmare in general, because Lizzie says she enjoyed reading Robert Burns for their homework. They’re reading Robert Burns in middle school? We had a sidenote about Robert Burns in high school when reading Steinbeck, just so we’d understand “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men/Gang aft agley” but…I wouldn’t think middle schoolers would be reading anything written in Scots. I am busting out a lot of italics this recap because I am consistently gobsmacked here!
Lizzie sees Mr. Keith and asks him for help interpreting a line from the poem they read for homework: “But pleasures are like poppies spread/You seize the flower, its bloom is shed/Or like the snow falls in the river/A moment white–then melts for ever.” Oh, really, Lizzie? You had a problem with that? And not the verse before: “Care, mad to see a man sae happy/E’en drown’d acutally’ himself the nappy!/As bees flee hame wi’ lades o’ treasure,/The minutes wing’d their way wi’ pleasure”? Because I would think that would be more confusing, because you’re a middle schooler reading Robert Burns, for some reason!!!
Matt and Fredo become friends and have a montage of fun, but all I can think about is how Jake Thomas later described the chimp as creepy and said working with him was the weirdest part of the show.
Lizzie gets a good grade on her poetry paper and a comment from Mr. Keith that it was “splendid,” and I feel like this should be a bigger deal since last season had a lot of plot points about Lizzie always getting average grades and never excelling in any class. She fantasizes about marrying Mr. Keith until she sees Miranda sucking up to him and goes into catfight mode. “Why is Miranda sniffing around MY future husband?” rages Cartoon Lizzie.
Okay! Fighting over a crush is admittedly a relatable middle school problem, but it has never shown up before. Not when they both had a crush on Danny Kessler in the pilot and not when Danny Kessler disappeared and they both had a crush on Ethan. Miranda was supportive of Lizzie when she asked Ethan to the dance, Lizzie was supportive of Miranda when she danced with Ethan at a different dance, and Miranda encouraged Lizzie to date Frankie Muniz after she, Miranda, originally seemed to be into him. This has always bothered me! But why is this issue only coming up now with a man they both have no chance with, because he’s their TEACHER and they’re both MINORS?!?
Lizzie picks a fight with Miranda, which escalates when Veruca and Kate join. Where the hell is Claire? Doesn’t it seem weird that Veruca is involved with this but not Claire? We haven’t seen her in forever and I miss her high-quality mean-girling. She’s my favorite and I would say that even if she didn’t follow me on Twitter (but she does).
The next day, all of the girls show up with gifts and baked goods and questions for Mr. Keith, and he never says, “This is incredibly inappropriate and you all need to stop.” Interestingly, Lizzie tells Miranda to back off of Mr. Keith and Miranda snaps, “I’m not allowed to like someone?!” and Lizzie snaps, “Not somebody that I like!” and this all goes down in the middle of class, loud enough for all the students and Mr. Keith to hear. Even more interestingly, Gordo doesn’t turn around and say, “Since when do you have that rule? You both always like the same guy because neither of you really have defining personality traits to distinguish yourselves.”
Mr. Keith announces a Scottish heritage festival that the school will be hosting in honor of Robert Burns’s birthday, which definitely seems like an average middle school event that any middle school would have, because of how much middle schoolers fucking love Robert Burns.
Lizzie prepares for the festival and raves about Mr. Keith until her mom says, smiling, “I get it…you got a lil’ crush on your teacher!” What she should say here is anything about boundaries and appropriateness and how middle schoolers don’t date adults.
Lizzie says “All the girls want him to notice us,” and Jo keeps beaming knowingly instead of saying “Wow, that sounds like jail time waiting to happen. Who hired this man?” and Lizzie says that just once, she wants to be the girl who gets noticed! Not Kate or Claire! Her! Well, a) of all, we haven’t even seen Claire in six episodes, so apparently people at this school don’t even notice if Claire goes missing, and b) of all, fuck you Lizzie, you’re the most noticed person to ever walk the face of the earth. Aaron Carter noticed you, and his director who put you in his music video, and Frankie Muniz, and his director who put you in a movie, and the modeling agency that gave you nationally renowned high-profile modeling work, and Ronnie the paperboy noticed you, and so did Tudgeman, and so did Gordo, and so did Corey the Grubby Gulch popcorn boy. Soon all of Italy will be noticing you, you attention-seeking narcissist!
Jo says that it’s hard when boys don’t give you the attention you want, instead of telling her that her teacher should not be giving her any attention other than grading her papers and that she should call the police if he does. She waxes nostalgic about old crushes but says she’s glad she ended up with Sam, so Sam of course bursts through the door at this moment clutching a broken nose and immediately trips over a chair and falls. I continue to be sad about Jo’s life trajectory.
Jo rushes to take Sam to the emergency room and says Lizzie needs to watch Fredo. I’m amazed at some of the plotlines on this show, which is always praised for its “relatability.” Did any of you ever have to skip your school’s Robert Burns Appreciation Festival to watch your dad’s gay friends’ chimpanzee?
At the festival, a woman with a strong Southern accent serves Scottish food and talks about Scottish cuisine. All I’m learning about Scotland from this episode is that Scottish accents are a myth and no actual Scots have them.
Lizzie brings Fredo to the festival and asks Gordo to babysit him so she can hear Mr. Keith’s reading. Gordo agrees but immediately loses Fredo and asks Lizzie to help him search. Lizzie says, “But I’m gonna miss Mr. Keith’s reading! He’s gonna think I don’t like him!” and a dramatic blackout brings us to where a commercial would be on that note. LIZZIE! HE SHOULD NOT KNOW YOU LIKE HIM! HE IS AN ADULT MAN AND YOU ARE FOURTEEN!!!!
For the second time in three episodes, we get a montage so sloppy that it barely functions as a montage. There’s some zany fast-forward footage set to music, then a normal scene at the festival that feels like the montage is over until the chimp shows up, then it goes back to zany fast-forward scenes set to music. To anyone who’s ever seen a montage in their life, it’s jarring because of just how wrong it is. The music should continue under the scene or something to make it feel coherent.
Mr. Keith does a Robert Burns reading and it is not, as I wondered before, a modern translation. It’s straight-up original recipe Burns that no middle schooler could easily comprehend. All of the girls start fighting over the best seat to see Mr. Keith, which turns into an all-out food fight because why not recycle fun plotlines like food fights? What are the writers supposed to do, think of new ideas?
Lizzie asks Miranda to help them find Fredo and she agrees and they end up apologizing for fighting. Lizzie again complains about not getting noticed and Miranda says she feels the same way. Well, Miranda is justified! I’d be jealous as hell if my best friend got as much attention as Lizzie does. Miranda says, “I guess we’re gonna have to work out a system for handling this” but like…why don’t they already have a system for this? They’ve been liking the same guy for all of middle school!
The next day at school, Mr. Keith approaches Lizzie and Miranda to tell them that he’s very impressed with them for being so much more mature than their classmates. “You seem immune to the childish crushes that middle school girls are always getting. You’re the only two in my class that seem grown-up,” he says. At this point I blacked out from the giant airhorns blasting in my ears over an announcement blaring, “PREDATOR ALERT! CLASSIC PEDOPHILE LINE DETECTED!” that I’m pretty sure happened during this scene.
This episode was fucked up, y’all!
Unnecessary references: Someone on the set has a real boner for Braveheart, because we get Braveheart references all the damn time. This week it’s in Tudgeman’s Scottish Festival costume.
I’ll again call out the “Keith….Ewan Keith” as being extremely unnecessary. It’s especially egregious because I think it’s supposed to be a Connery impression as an early signal that he’s Scottish, but he is NOT PLAYING IT AS SCOTTISH. In a super prime example of an unnecessary reference, Mr. Keith also says that Robert Burns “said the fairest hours he ever spent were among the ladies. And this was well before the existence of Miss Britney Spears.” It’s a painful example of writers trying to throw in a hip reference, because it doesn’t really fit at all. Miranda calls Kate “Princess Graceless” for tripping and it doesn’t quite seem that Lalaine gets the reference she’s making.
Notable fashion moments: Lizzie has a hell of a lot of bling in her hair in the first scene.
Later she wears chopsticks as a hair accessory. Maybe if someone had stepped in and explained cultural appropriation to her then, we wouldn’t have to deal with her Halloween costume this year!
Kate looks okay this episode! Her makeup is great. Again, I can’t tell if she’s repeating an outfit because she’s again wearing an unremarkable mustard ensemble that looks identical to about five other outfits she’s worn before.
Lizzie for sure repeats an outfit, though! It’s the weird rock…pirate?…baby shirt from “First Kiss,” again paired with low-riding hiphuggers that seem inappropriate for school.
I kind of adore Lizzie’s Scottish Festival outfit.
Miranda wears a shirt that says ROCK on it that’s different from the shirt that says ROCK in the same font that she wore in “Party Over Here.” Girl loves to rock.
Weirdly, Miranda doesn’t wear nearly as much plaid as you’d expect from her this episode. She tones down the UK paraphernalia significantly too, though she wears Union Jack shoes to the Scottish Festival and a small Union Jack necklace later.
She’s also wearing that design that was SO popular at the time. It looks like the Rock Steady album cover, and Gwen wore that style constantly when promoting that album.
I think it originated with a famous designer, but I cannot figure out who! John Galliano? Isaac Mizrahi? Anyone know?
Other interesting tidbits: So many new visitors to the site lately! Hooray! Welcome!
It’s always a tall order when scripts call for lines like “He’s obviously a Greek god who’s come down to earth!” about an actor, because the show then essentially needs to cast Brad Pitt himself to live up to the hype. Mr. Keith is a nice-looking guy, but it’s still a bit much that the script calls for girls to breathlessly gawk at him and music cues to signal that he’s a heartbreaker and he’s just…a dude. It’s like that episode of Even Stevens where Ruby and Ren scream their heads off because they got tickets to see BBMak or the Zoey 101 episode where she starts a petition to get Drake Bell, of all people, to perform at their school and in both cases the actors have to pretend they’re pining over a real actual musical act that anyone cares about.
Mr. Keith’s accent, which isn’t even the accent he’s supposed to have, goes in and out.
Between this episode and the music video in “Inner Beauty,” I’m very concerned about Lizzie’s relationships with her teachers.
The writers do not give two cold fucks about your ship in the back half of this season. Lizzie likes her teacher and Gordo doesn’t care and there’s no tension there for you to worry about.
The chimp…always…wears clothes. That’s fucking weird, right?
I had MAJOR computer troubles this week, and I’m so, so sorry for the bad quality of some of the screenshots. I’m trying desperately to get it resolved soon.