To truly understand this episode, you have to understand the context it came out of. In 1971, two congressmen released a then-explosive report declaring that ten to fifteen percent of U.S. servicemen in the Vietnam War were addicted to heroin. Soon after, U.S. President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “enemy number one” in U.S. society. The media then popularized the term “War on Drugs” to describe government attempts to combat the drug trade.
But it was really under the administration of President Ronald Reagan that the War on Drugs really took off. I won’t speculate here on why Reagan choose to go after this unwinnable “war” but, suffice it to say, cocaine and, especially, crack cocaine, soon became public enemy number one in the minds of most Americans, and penalties for mere possession were ramped up. The mantra, “Just say no!” was soon coined and beat into the heads of school children around the country. Meanwhile, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush involved the CIA in the War on Drugs, which eventually lead to the extremely controversial invasion of Panama in 1989 on the pretense of ending the drug trade in Panama. Commentators on both sides of the political spectrum have since declared that the War on Drugs was a colossal failure and, if anything, actually made things worse.
The effect was definitely felt on pop culture. In a now infamous episode of Diff’rent Strokes, Gary Coleman’s school is visited by First Lady Nancy Reagan, who conveniently has come to a random middle school to encourage kids to “Just say no!” because that’s apparently all we were lacking to get kids to stop abusing harmful narcotics. An early episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation featured an alien race addicted to narcotics. Cartoons got in on the action with All-Star Cartoons to the Rescue, a thirty minute special where all your favorite cartoons came to preach to you for a half hour about why marijuana was bad (ever wanted to hear Simon the Chipmunk completely ruin your childhood memories by saying “marijuana” or see Bugs Bunny holding a joint? No? Me either.) Even comic books got in on the action when Green Arrow discovers his young ward and sidekick, Speedy, is addicted to heroin and when Harry Osborne trips on LSD in The Amazing Spider-Man.
So, with everyone else doing it, it was naturally only a matter of time before Saved by the Bell got in on the action. Naturally, they do it as ineptly as possible: with a non-addictive substance that, yes, is dangerous in large quantities, but you really have to be negligent to abuse. Saved by the Bell wasn’t the first to do a very special episode on the abuse of legal substances; Punky Brewster tackled the dangers of prescription medications and Family Ties tackled diet pills. But Saved by the Bell may be the only show to date that has tackled the menace of caffeine pills.
So the logical solution is to use half a bag of sugar in it. Who knows. Maybe this episode will be about Jessie on a sugar high and turning into Tori!
Anyway, Zack Morris informs us in a monologue that it’s time for the geometry midterm. For once, the timeline on this show actually fits! Jessie’s drinking so much coffee because she’s hella worried that she’s going to flunk this midterm so she’s staying up late for some hot studying with her Little House on the Prairie doll.
Don’t you miss the days when you could stick a quarter in a jukebox and it would play the exact karaoke version of the song you were thinking of without the trouble of actually pressing buttons? Yeah, Lisa’s not even pretending to press buttons here. Max must have turned into the Great Gazoo and is using his magic for stupid stuff.
Kelly and Lisa join the table and convince Jessie to sing along with them. Oh, this should be good since we established just last week that Kelly can’t sing to save her life!
What the hell do you mean Kelly’s a good singer this week? You mean that, once again, we can’t manage to maintain one minor character trait from one week to the next? Why do I still expect this show to do things like maintain continuity and remember what they wrote the previous week?
Anyway, the guys love the girls singing and Zack Morris says his father (would that be Peter or Derek?) has a friend who’s a record producer who, because of plot contrivance, just happens to be looking for a girl version of New Kids on the Block. I fail to see what the difference would be.
Jessie’s all, “NO! GEOMETRY FIRST!” But we’ve established one of the conflicts, possibly in record time!.
Welcome back, Mr. Dewey! Yeah, I have to admit, he’s one of the recurring characters that I’m growing a special fondness for. He’s like Ben Stein, except without all the crazy creationist bull shit.
Mr. Dewey is passing back Geometry quizes and decides to violate confidentiality laws by announcing everyone’s grades to the whole room because it’s easier to move the plot along when we don’t worry about stupid things like realism. Zack Morris, Kelly, and Lisa all have B+s.
And…*dun dun dun*…wait for it…Jessie has a C! Oh yeah, she’s going spastic, much like she did when she got a bad grade from the Micro Machines Guy, except this time she’s not yet threatening Zack Morris’s life.
The bell rings so naturally Mr. Dewey is off to his tryout with American Gladiators. Hell yeah! I would totally watch that episode!
Jessie is still freaking out about the quiz and her first reaction, naturally, is that this single quiz will prevent her from getting into Stanford because, as we all know, college admissions departments get a full breakdown of every grade you ever receive in every class since preschool. Let’s hope they don’t see that D- for finger painting when she was in kindergarten! But, never fear! Slater offers to tutor her, because the person you want tutoring you in Geometry is the person who has Berber carpet for hair!
In the locker room, Screech has dressed up like a really bad excuse woman for the thousandth time on this show and the girls continue to be unable to tell that it’s Screech in a bad wig denigrating the Irish accent, even when he decides his new female name is Sinead O’Connor. It’s nice to see some things never change, like the girls failing to get a clue!
At Jessie’s house, she and Slater are studying Geometry and Slater put on his best, “I is Smart!” hat so he can pretend to be the smart one this episode.
Zack Morris breaks an entering by climbing in Jessie’s window which is naturally not closed or locked because she figures no one wants to steal her Little House on the Prairie doll. Zack Morris reveals that he and Sinead O’Connor recorded the girls in the locker room and Jessie’s hella pissed for about five seconds until Zack Morris reveals that the producer loves them and thinks Jessie is the best. He must have caught the Miss Bayside competition too. And he leaves as he came in: like Spider-Man returning through the window from a night of crime fighting.
And it’s the evil caffeine pills! Look at how vile they are and how much they could potentially keep Jessie from STANFORD! Why, you can almost see Satan himself jumping from that little pill bottle as he laughs maniacally at another soul destroyed by a legal, mostly harmless substance! Cartoon All-Stars may have gone after the scourge of marijuana and Reagan may have set his eyes on crack cocaine but, no, Saved by the Bell found the real destroyer of lives: caffeine pills! And Slater remembers what Nancy Reagan taught him on Diff’rent Strokes and just says no to these evil, vile, disgusting, life-destroying little tools of Beelzebub! Why, it may lead her to harder stuff, like LSD…or RED BULL!
Seriously, Jessie says she just bought them today and Slater pretty much immediately freaks out despite the fact that there’s no possible way Jessie has taken too many of these pills unless she downed the entire bottle, which she obviously hasn’t done since she just offered one to Slater. To keep Slater from totally spazing out on her, Jessie agrees with Slater and waits to take more until he leaves the room.
The next day at The Max, Jessie is naturally harassing Mr. Belding about STANFORD as he tries to have a peaceful lunch at the restaurant all his students hang out at. Mr. Belding is like, “Chill the fuck out you psycho bitch! There are plenty of other good colleges even if Stanford doesn’t take your caffeine pill popping ass!”
And Mr. Belding is the dean of students…for some reason…
Yeah, as usual with the dream sequences, there’s absolutely no purpose for anything we just witnessed so let’s never speak of it again…except for making fun of Mr. Belding in the comments.
Good lord, I’m only half way through this episode…
In the hallway at Bayside, because of plot contrivance, Zack Morris needs the girls to make a music video for “Hot Sundae,” their new band. It sounds like either the Christian older brother to Hot Topic or a promotional band for Dairy Queen. Come in and get your nipple rings shaped in a cross or Kelly on your ice cream cake!
Oh my God…I’m tripping on LSD right now. That’s the only explanation for rip off of Richard Simmons’s Sweating to the Oldies I’m seeing on my screen right now. Let’s break down this song…
Here’s a message that I’m sending to you.
You can do what you want to do.
A little work never hurt no one.
It’s the only way to get things done.
The writer of this song is the Captain Obvious of songwriting. “A little work never hurt no one/It’s the only way to get things done.” Let’s think of some other suitable songs for Hot Sundae now, such as, “I feel a burning, should I care?/Oh my God, yes, there’s a fire in my hair!” Or let’s go for the immortal, “Sometimes I feel like my head will explode./It’s ok, it’s just The New Class, those toads!”
Oh, but it gets worse. Let’s review the chorus:
Put your mind to it, go for it.
You’re gonna break a sweat!
Rock ‘n roll, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Mind to it, go for it.
You’re gonna break a sweat!
Rock ‘n roll, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
The sheer horrible factor of these lyrics is making my head explode. Seriously, One Direction can write better than this. Selena Gomez can write better than this. Justin Bieber…can sometimes write better than this.
Oh Jesus, there’s another verse…
My love is strong whenever you’re around.
I walk on air, I never touch the ground.
And I’m so happy that you’re with me now.
You’ll never see me in the lost and found.
First, when did this become a love song? The first verse and the chorus give absolutely no hint that it was! Second, why are they Jesus now? What other explanation is there? They walk on air and never touch the ground? Did they steal Marty McFly’s hover board from 2015? Third…why would you look for a girl in the lost and found? Is she like a purse or a cell phone that you negligently leave on a public bus? And what does that have to do with any of the other lyrics?
There’s only one logical answer to any of this. To quote Mystery Science Theater 3000, lyrics by Mrs. Johnson’s kindergarten class. This must have been another of Jessie’s early D projects.
Oh, god, a third verse. Let’s get this over with…
I feel so good whenever you are near.
All my troubles seem to disappear.
You’re the one that I’ve been searching for.
‘Cause every day I love you more and more.
OK, this was actually the strongest of the verses until the last two lines. If he’s the one you’ve been searching for, how can you love him more and more every day? Are you stalking him? Have you turned into the nanny from The Hand that Rocks the Cradle? Wow…these are really bad lyrics.
Well, the only thing worse than the lyrics of this song are the visuals of the video.
Because when I think high energy pop video, I think Richard Simmons and girls dancing around in a gym that just so happened to agree to let Zack Morris film his stupid music video there. And seriously, if Zack Morris is filming this, how is he pulling off a multi-camera professional setup complete with editing that, while it wouldn’t pass muster with anything better than an Ed Wood film, does at least show some competence?
And look. The girls now operate on Looney Tunes physics: they’re able to float in mid-air for no discernible reason.
Good lord. That may well have been the longest three minutes of my life.
So the recording company loves their video because it’s the same company that thought Eddie Murphy should have a music career in which his one hit is constantly mistaken for a Michael Jackson song. But the company still isn’t convinced so they want to see them perform live tomorrow night at, you guessed it, The Max, because we might as well since everything else in Los Angeles revolves around The Max. No record producer on Earth would be this wishy washy. Either they like Hot Sundae or they hate Hot Sundae.
And after the previous long scene, the episode remembered it was supposed to be a very special episode on Lucifer’s demonic wake-up juice, so Slater roots through Jessie’s bag looking for a pen and finds her pills. Slater’s all, “Bleahl bleah! Bleah! Danger!” and Jessie’s like, “Fuck off and quit rooting through my bag!” Yeah, I’m with Jessie on this one.
The next day, Jessie has turned into Speedy Gonzales as she prepares to take her Geometry mid-term. Here’s the thing about this episode. There are lots of times that Jessie is acting bat-shit crazy like this but there’s no laughing from the audience because they want to convey a serious, somber attitude. What ends up happening instead is awkwardness, the same awkwardness you feel when someone trips and falls down but you’re not sure you should laugh because you don’t know whether they’re hurt or not. Seriously, someone needs to remaster this episode with more laugh track.
Jessie’s the first one done and Mr. Dewey is like, “Don’t you want to check your answers?” Jessie is underdetred, though, and replies, “Undalay! Undalay! Areeba! Areeba!”
In the hallway, Slater tries to tell Zack Morris about Jessie’s problem with Apollyon’s harbinger’s of doom. Zack Morris is all, “Even though you saw this with your own eyes and I didn’t, I choose to blindly disbelieve you because it’s the most convenient way to move the plot along. Yay, lady vitamins!”
There’s a brief rehersal at The Max featuring a song that’s not the one we were treated to mere moments ago unless they wrote a fourth verse and changed the melody and key. There’s not much point to this scene except to give Elizabeth Berkley more of an opportunity to overact.
And now it’s time for what is, perhaps the single most infamous scene on this show. See, Jessie’s fast asleep when Zack Morris shows up to take her to the performance at The Max. Apparently caffeine pills make you lose your memory and sense of time.
“There’s no time! There’s never any time!”
This scene has been made fun of so many times and is even the subject of t-shirts, so I’ll just let these people interpret this scene for you…
And, yes, Zack Morris, Jessie being addicted to caffeine is exactly like the time the two of you snuck out to see E.T., just like those teenagers caught up in that horrible street gang are just like the time in second grade one of my classmates stole a french fry from my lunch.
Just to put this in perspective, in a matter of a few days, Jessie has developed this crippling addiction to a substance that it takes a hell of a lot of to cause any harm. Has she been chugging the whole fucking bottle?
That night, at The Max…
And…OH MY FUCKING GOD! THIS SCENE WAS ALL I NEEDED TO SEE THE TRUE DANGERS OF CAFFEINE PILLS! TOO MANY CAFFEINE PILLS MAKE YOU LOOK LIKE DUSTIN DIAMOND! OH THE HORROR! OH THE HUMANITY! THIS SHOULD BE IN EVERY DRUG AWARENESS COMMERCIAL KNOWN TO HUMANITY!
God, make it stop!
Slater suggests that the producer come back another night when Jessie isn’t looking so much like Dustin Diamond, but $5 says we’ll never hear about Hot Sundae again.
At Jessie’s house, everyone has decided to come over and keep her up further after her binge of being up so long. We get some pity parties about how everyone is to blame for Jessie using Satan’s Pills of Doom, Slater reveals he enjoys being abused by Jessie, and Jessie says her mom is taking her to “the doctor” for counseling tomorrow. The doctor. That’s the best this episode could end with. Yeah.
So I’m sure some of you will want to know what I thought of this episode. It’s definitely cheese, pure cheese. It’s unrealistic, horribly acted, horribly written, horribly directed, and not fact checked. But it’s unintentionally funny as shit, even with the horrible song and music video, so I can’t hate it too much. Even Dennis Haskins says he loves making fun of this episode, so what can you say.
Firsts: A very special episode, STANFORD!
And speaking of making fun of episodes, I have two special posts coming up this next week. On Wednesday, I’ll have a recap of season 1 of The New Class. And, on Thursday, watch for my review of the unauthorized off-Broadway parody of Saved by the Bell, Bayside: The Musical! It’s going to be a busy week!