This episode is, reportedly, Dennis Haskins’s favorite episode. Considering “Running Zack” is supposed to be Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s favorite episode, I’m not holding out much hope that recommendation will mean anything.
We open by meeting Mr. Dickerson, the history teacher. I swear, what is it with Bayside hiring their teachers from Arkham Asylum? Mr. Dickerson’s quirk is that he gains pleasure from failing his students. He doesn’t even like when people say good morning to him.
So the History mid-term is coming up and Mr. Dickerson assures the class that they will all fail since no one has passed his mid-term in three years. Wouldn’t that be grounds for termination if none of your students are passing a class? The parents need to take this asshole to the school board! Mr. Dickerson even seems to enjoy fucking with the class during a study session. He asks them questions about Lincoln’s assassination and then tells them none of it will be on the test.
Mr. Belding comes on the PA to ask the leaders for the class trip to report to his office. Mr. Dickerson’s logical response is to throw an eraser at the speaker and yell at Mr. Belding to stop interrupting his class. This guy…needs to be psychologically evaluated. Seriously, given all the school shootings over the last couple of decades, if a teacher acted like this, there would be reason to be concerned that his mental instability might lead to violence.
In Mr. Belding’s office, the class trip organizing committee argues over where to go for their trip. Milton, the fat nerd here, wants to go to the Hershey factory and the Ding Dong museum because he’s fat and fat people only care about eating. I should point out for those following my The New Class review that this is either a different Milton from The New Class or Milton substantially lost weight, changed his personality, and failed a lot of classes. I prefer to imagine it’s the second option.
The group argue and it looks like they might break into fisticuffs when Mr. Belding breaks it up. “Fuck this shit,” he tells them, “Since you idiots can’t even agree on a simple place to take a trip, I’ll pick it for you. Oh, and you have to pass that History mid-term from the last scene or you can’t go.”
The gang goes to Zack Morris’s house to study, and we join them right after they took some nasty shrooms, as evidenced by the fact that Mr. Dickerson is appearing to them in books.And on the body of Magic Johnson.
And they think he’s replaced Will Smith on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Way to cross promote your shows, NBC. Zack Morris really wants to go on the trip so he’s actually studying and knows quite a bit about the start of World War I.
The next day at school, Mr. Dickerson is five minutes late for class. There’s a running gag in this scene where Screech keeps saying really dumb things so half the class keep hitting him. I’m liking this episode better already. This should be in every episode. It would make The New Class so much more tolerable if everyone was allowed to beat Screech whenever he said something stupid.
Mr. Belding comes in and tells the class that Mr. Dickerson has taken some “time off” because he lost his last connection to sanity in the teacher’s lounge and tried to give all the teachers Fs and detention. Yeah, he says time off but I’m going to assume that’s subtext for “I fired him because he’s a treat to everyone in this school.” If that is the case, I can’t believe it! One of the bat shit crazy faculty members of Bayside has been fired! It’s a miracle!
You can tell that he’s a free spirit because he has long hair and insists the students call him Rod. He also likes laying on his desk. So Rod tells the students to tear up their tests and throw them in the air reminiscent of a scene from Good Morning, Miss Bliss. Rod also tells the students that he’s going to let them set their own grade. Everyone except Screech give themselves an A while Screech gives himself a B- because he’s a dumb ass.
Rod lays on the desk and tells the gang a story of why he quit working in the airline business so he could become a substitute teacher. Apparently substitute teaching is glamorous because you get summers off. What he doesn’t mention is that you don’t get paid during the summer and what you get paid during the year is utter shit.Yeah, sounds great to me.
Mr. Belding comes in to announce where the class trip will be: Yosemite National Park. I…am utterly shocked. The writers picked a real place that is actually in the vicinity of Los Angeles! I…I’m speechless that something makes sense on this show!
The writers continue demonstrating how cool Rod is by having him watch a Dodgers game with Zack Morris and Screech in Mr. Belding’s office while Mr. Belding is at a school board meeting…which don’t usually occur during the day but, whatever. Zack Morris and Screech make fun of Mr. Belding and it’s apparent they’re gaining boners for Rod. We get some exposition about the upcoming class trip and disturbingly learn that Screech’s mom is packing him three pairs of long johns with locks on the trap doors…to keep the bears out. So is Screech’s mom afraid Screech will be raped by a bear? I guess he does resemble a wild animal.
Rod tells the boys about his class trip whitewater rafting, and this gets Zack Morris excited enough that he brings the idea to the gang. They all return to Mr. Belding to ask him if Rod can lead them whitewater rafting. Mr. Belding is obviously upset that they don’t want to go to Yosemite with him but he reluctantly agrees to let Rod lead a whitewater rafting trip, because substitute teachers lead class trips all the time.
In the gym, Rod has inflated a raft, and the gang is imagining they’re on the trip. Is this their class trip: to Imaginationland? It sure seems that way for a moment until we learn that they’re “practicing” for the trip, because inflating a raft in the school gym is completely the same as riding through rough currents on a river.
This comes complete with Slater and Zack Morris practicing CPR on Slater and Kelly because it’s completely safe to practice CPR on a live person. Mr. Belding comes in and sees this for the foreplay that it is. Turns out Rod and the kids are supposed to be in history class and Rod’s all, “Take a chill pill bro!” Mr. Belding orders everyone back to class. Zack Morris is pissed that Mr. Belding dares to do his job and ensure that the students learn instead of giving in to the irresponsible whims of his brother. He tells Mr. Belding that he’s just jealous that they want to fuck Rod more than him.
We’re back in the gym and it’s time for the trip and Zack Morris tells us they’re going to the Colorado River. I’m…blown away. Once again the writers have picked a destination that’s actually realistic for a school in California since the Colorado does run through California.
And Screech is dressed as the brain damaged love child of Rambo and Gilligan. Oh and the trip is for a whole week. What is it with this school and just randomly taking students out for a week? Doesn’t the Department of Education have anything to say about this?
But, oh no! Milton comes in to tell us the buses have arrived but Rod has not! Zack Morris goes to search for Rod and, as he walks by Mr. Belding’s office, he overhears Mr. Belding and Rod arguing.
Yes, Rod may be cool and rebellious but he’s also an irresponsible jack ass who’s decided to ditch the class trip so he can fuck a stewardess. Rod is like, “They’ll get over it. Tell them I got sick.” Mr. Belding is furious and tells Rod that he should have known better than to let Rod come to Bayside. Apparently Rod has always been a fuck up and always will be. Mr. Belding does something completely unprecedented in the history of Bayside and fires a second incompetent teacher!
Zack Morris gets back to the gym before they notice him, obviously angry and upset that Rod has fucked up their class trip. Before he can tell others the bad news, Mr. Belding comes in and tells them Rod came down with the flu and won’t be able to take them on the trip. The gang is ready to pack it up and leave when Mr. Belding tells them not to worry because he’ll take them on the trip.
After everyone else leave to get on the bus, Zack Morris tells Mr. Belding that he overheard everything and wants to know why Mr. Belding didn’t tell everyone the truth. Mr. Belding says that he knows the students look up to Rod and he didn’t want to ruin that for them. He says he knows that Rod is the more exciting Belding. Zack Morris tells him that may be true, but that Bayside got the better Belding. Zack Morris apologizes for acting like a jerk earlier and the two are off to consummate their new found love in front of squirrels and birds and Screech.
You guys, this might be the best episode of the series yet! We have great pacing, genuinely funny and touching moments, characterization, a coherent and mostly believable plot, and a satisfying resolution. There are no stupid subplots going on to distract us from the main plot, and almost everything is in line with what might happen at a real high school (with the possible exception of the one week trip). I can completely see why this is Dennis Haskins’s favorite episode! Besides the fact that it paints Mr. Belding in a positive, competent light for the first time since Good Morning, Miss Bliss, it develops his character in a way that will influence his actions for the next nine years. It even reverses a cliche: instead of the free-spirited, rebellious teacher being the good guy, he’s an asshole and lets everyone down.
I just have one question. Has hell frozen over? After all, I really have nothing bad to say about this episode!
Firsts: A crazy faculty member is apparently fired.