We’re back to season one for the final out of season episode of the series, and we open in speech class with Coach Rizzo substituting as the speech teacher. It’s not clear why Coach Rizzo is the only one available to do this but I have to assume Bayside’s having one of their many financial shortfalls that come from investing in too many junk stocks.
Zack Morris tells us in monologue that their class assignment this week is titled, “My Best Friend.” I’m sure he’ll talk about his left hand. Also, it’s strange going back to these season one episodes since Zack Morris’s voice hasn’t deepened yet and I have to remind myself he was only a budding sociopath back then.
First up is Slater, who talks all about a friend who’s been around the world with him, he’s never had to say goodbye to, and will never leave him nor forsake him. While it would be easy to assume that he’s found Jesus and has been attending ex-gay summer camp, he has a different sort of best friend.
A plastic chameleon he’s named “Artie.” Yes, a fucking plastic chameleon. Slater’s friend, the namesake of this god damned fucking episode, is a plastic chameleon. Oh, they’ll insist it’s real the entire episode but that is plastic I tell you! The audience thinks this is a touching moment, thus proving they’ve always been easily impressed.
At The Max, everyone’s practically pissing themselves over Slater’s chameleon. Well, except for Lisa, who’s a feminine girl so she’s afraid of icky things and shit. Also, hope you caught Max walking by on the left side of this screen shot because it’s the last time you’ll ever see him. This is his sole apperance in this episode: walking by and gawking that someone else has brought an unsanitary animal into his restaurant. It’s a wonder the health department isn’t all over this place.
Slater even shows the gang how he can put a plastic chameleon in his hand and make its head touch his nose. They don’t even try to make it look like the thing did it on its own. They even show Slater adjusting it and it nearly falls off Mario Lopez’s hand at one point, but doing another take would cost too much money so fuck that shit! Screech is amazed by this non-trick, though, and wants to know how it’s done. Okay, so Screech was already showing signs of the idiot he’d later become as early as the first season.
Slater says he got Artie when his dad was stationed in the Philipines. Since then, they’ve been through fourteen schools together. FOURTEEN? Geez, that’s more than one school for ever year you’ve been a student, Slater! Your dad’s commanding officers must fucking hate him to transfer him that often!
Slater decides our episode needs some conflict so he asks Screech if he’ll watch Artie while he’s in San Diego this weekend. We never do find out why he’s going to San Diego but it’s a convenient excuse to push along the plot.
Kelly reminds Jessie that they’re meeting that night so Jessie can help Kelly with her speech but Jessie has to back out because her mother is a quasi-feminist crusader who’s making Jessie chain herself to a gas pump or some shit that night. I’m assuming that this entire family just has more issues than National Geographic. Sensing an opportunity to lose his cursed virginity, Zack Morris invites Kelly over to his house that night instead for some hot “studying,” which is naturally code for “fucking until we’re inevitably interrupted by the plot.”
In Zack Morris’s room, Zack Morris destracts himself from his boner by showing us the cardboard cutout of Kelly from “King of the Hill” again. Jesus, Zack Morris was one creepy ass motherfucker creating cardboard cutouts of girls without their knowledge.
There’s a knock on his door and Zack Morris assumes it’s Kelly but, instead, Screech walks in and tells Zack Morris he needs to leave Artie there tonight because his animals are hungry for plastic. Kelly comes in as they’re talking and Zack Morris kicks Screech out so he can have happy fun time with Kelly.
Kelly wants to make baby faces at Artie but Zack Morris, sensing his opportunity for fucking is passing him by, suggests she put Artie down so they can practice their “speech.”
Kelly puts Artie down under a desk lamp but, before Zack Morris can get very far, Jessie comes barging in through Zack Morris’s window and declares she’s Peter Pan! No, actually, she couldn’t make it to the protest so she’s free to help Kelly practice her “speech,” leaving Zack Morris once again to relieve his own frustration.
I guess two days have suddenly passed because we’re back at Bayside, where Zack Morris can’t get Artie to move. Screech declares that Artie is dead and…good lord, it’s a plastic fucking chameleon! They don’t die! Kellie and Jessie each blame themselves for Artie’s death, Kelly for placing him under a desk lamp and Jessie for leaving the window open so he could get cold. So he either died of heat or cold…or why not both in this crazy, fucked up universe. Also, Jessie says this all happened last night, meaning the gang had a one day weekend and Slater was only gone to San Diego for one day!
Slater comes around to pick up his plastic chameleon and Zack Morris throws it in his locker before Slater can see. He tells Slater he left Artie at home. Slater wants to ditch class so they can go get Artie since Slater hasn’t been able to make love to him the whole one day weekend, but Zack Morris, instead, says he’ll get Artie at lunch and meet Slater at The Max.
Zack Morris and Screech find a pet store that sells chameleons and buy one for Slater. Unfortunately, the girls have the same idea and Slater quickly realizes, with two chameleons, that something’s up. Now either there are a lot of pet shops immediately around Bayside and The Max that sell chameleons or Zack Morris and Screech managed to walk completely around the girls and not even realize it. Either way, something stupid happened here.
In any case, Slater just assumes Zack Morris lost Artie somewhere in his room so he says he’ll come by after wrestling practice and help Zack Morris look for him. Slater leaves and the gang realize Slater’s eventually going to find out everyone’s just patronizing him about his stupid plastic chameleon.
This naturally leads into a shared dream sequence where Mr. Belding, playing one of the cops from Reno 911, bring the gang in for booking as suspects in the death of Artie.
His main witness is Slater dressed in a modified Godzilla costume, and this has to be one of the creepiest things we’ve seen Slater do on this show. He randomly flicks his tongue in and out of his mouth trying to imitate what Artie would do if he wasn’t made of plastic but it really looks like he’s auditioning for a porno. He also speaks with a voice that makes him sound like a cross between James Gandolfini and the Cobra Commander. Oh, to be a G.I. Joe right now so I could put an end to this awful scene!
The gang imagine each of their individual fates for their role in killing Artie, including Screech getting solitary confinement for life dressed as the Monopoly man.
Jessie gets put on ice in a bathing suit since she made Artie cold.
And since he died from being both too cold and too hot, Kelly’s put in a frying pan with some eggs. Does that mean she’s the bacon? I wonder if that’s what Zack Morris secretly wanted to do to her all through the first season!
Lisa just hated Artie so she has to wear polyester or some shit. Strange but Zack Morris doesn’t get a punishment of any type for his role in this stupid situation; just a strongly worded rebuttal. Yay for Zack Morris getting off yet again…
Unlike most dream sequences, we don’t go back to The Max but, instead, to Zack Morris’s room.
Slater goes through all of Zack Morris’s belongings looking for Artie and finds the cardboard cutout of Kelly. Okay, now I know Slater’s completely insane. No one could find something like this and not want to use it against a guy they don’t particularly like who he’s soon to find out killed his imaginary lizard. Someone knows about the cardboard cutout and they don’t warn Kelly of stalker-like behavior occurring.
The rest of the gang come in and Zack Morris finally tells Slater the truth about Artie: that he was never alive to begin with. Slater acts like he takes the news of his insanity in stride but the way he says, “stupid chameleon” and the fact seven minutes are left in the episode just let you know he’s not completely over this situation yet.
Back at Bayside, it’s Kelly’s turn to give her speech about her German Shepherd Freddie. Slater deals with his grief by making random outbursts and sexual harassment during Kelly’s speech. He pisses Coach Rizzo off, who sends him to Mr. Belding’s office so Mr. Belding can actually have a role in this episode besides the minor role in the dream sequence.
In Mr. Belding’s office, Slater won’t tell Mr. Belding what’s wrong and they have a stand-off about Slater’s behavior. Zack Morris and Screech barge in and tell Mr. Belding about Slater’s fake plastic chameleon.
This leads to one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes since “Jessie’s Song” as Mr. Belding and Slater bond over the death of a damn fucking fake plastic chameleon. I swear, it was hard not to laugh as Slater processed his emotions with Mr. Belding. Season one Saved by the Bell was really bad when it came to serious situations. I mean, not “Jessie’s Song” and “Pipe Dreams” bad but still…
And how else could we end this whole damned episode then with a funeral as suggested by Mr. Belding. Zack Morris naturally acts as the officiant because why the hell not. Lisa and Coach Rizzo give testimonies.
Jessie and Screech provide musical accompaniment in the form of a stupid song Screech wrote about Artie and it’s quite obvious this isn’t really Elizabeth Berkley singing. It sounds nothing fucking like her, in any fucking world!
Slater gives a final tribute to his fallen friend and says he’s discovered he has six friends who may just be as good of friends to him a fake fucking chameleon. Oh, and two faculty members at his school with really bad boundary issues.
All of this over a fake plastic fucking chameleon. Fucking hell.