Saved by the Bell Season 4, Episode 26: “Graduation”

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So I guess Zack Morris’s scheme to replace the normal yearbooks with video yearbooks only lasted as long as it was a plot point because we see all kinds of people getting autographs in their yearbooks in the opening at The Max. Seriously, this could have been the perfect opportunity for lots of subtle references to previous episodes for people like us who pay way too much attention to the details of these episodes, but we apparently have more important things to do, like one more foray into the administerial incompetence that is Bayside.

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Our gang’s excited because they’re done with their last final exam and Screech is a moron like usual, which makes what’s to come seem even more far-fetched.

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Jessie’s super pumped because, if she got an A on the final, she’ll be valedictorian and, since intelligence and quasi-feminism are Jessie’s primary two attributes, this would be the best thing in the world for her. Lisa tells her to fuck off with her fake humble bragging while Kelly’s bummed that their high school career is soon to be over.

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Sylvester, Pete, and Ollie come around to remind the girls to be on time for ballet rehearsal. Like usual, our gang is involved in every possible extracurricular activity so naturally they’re also involved in ballet. I’m more confused by Ollie’s sudden reappearance, though. I’m pretty sure this is his first actual appearance in an episode this season. They brought him back for the series finale but they couldn’t be bothered to bring back any real memorable guest stars?

Zack Morris has to run because Mr. Belding wants to see him. He figures Mr. Belding’s going to miss Zack Morris so much he wants to give him a goodbye blow job so he rushes off to see his soon-to-be former principal.

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In Mr. Belding’s office, Mr. Belding reveals the real reason he wanted to see Zack Morris: incompetence. You see, during Zack Morris’s sophomore year, he apparently dropped a class. In the two years that followed, no one bothered to warn him that this lack of a credit would prevent him from graduating and apparently Bayside doesn’t do any graduation audits until it’s too late to do anything about it so Zack Morris is just screwed. He has to go to summer school all because Bayside apparently has the worst administrators on the face of the planet.

Yeah, I don’t find myself defending Zack Morris very often, but this is fucking bull shit and I’m pretty sure Mr. Belding would be fired for allowing such a thing to happen under his watch, but we haven’t given a damn what high schools are really like for the past four years so why start now?

In the hallway, the rest of the gang find out about Zack Morris’s predicament and, in the usual contrived Saved by the Bell fashion, the girls say it’s a shame Zack Morris isn’t in their dance class since the recital counts as the final and isn’t until Friday. This is despite the fact that, two minutes ago, they were super excited to be finished with their last final. So far this is painful as a series finale or a regular episode.

After the rest leave, Zack Morris tells Slater he has a plan to get into the recital. He returns to Mr. Belding’s office under the pretense of asking for advice on a course to take during summer school.

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While there, Pete comes in and tells Mr. Belding he pulled a muscle during rehearsal and won’t be able to be in the recital. This upsets Mr. Belding since everyone worked so hard.

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Of course, in the hallway, it’s revealed that, predictably, Pete isn’t hurt at all but pretended at the beckoning of Zack Morris and Slater, all for a Letterman jacket because that’s incentive to just quit something you’ve been working really hard on. But this is the Saved by the Bell universe so everything has to work out for Zack Morris in the end no matter what the other students at Bayside have to give up.

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Mr. Belding, depressed and desperate to save the recital, says it’s too bad Zack Morris doesn’t have dance experience. Zack Morris claims he’s been taking dance lessons for the last ten years. Mr. Belding promises Zack Morris that, if he dances in the recital, Mr. Belding will makes sure he gets the credit he needs to graduate. After all, Mr. Belding’s been incompetently administering this school up to this point so why care about the fact that a final exam is only part of the final grade now?

At the recital, the nerds suck up to Jessie for no reason, asking for an extra special ass kissing message in their yearbooks from the soon to be valedictorian. Jessie eats up the attention of people she barely paid attention to the last three years her head is practically ready to explode.

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Mr. Lazaar, the dance teacher, introduces Zack Morris as their replacement dancer and, with the girls still in disbelief, Zack Morris immediately starts sucking at dancing, but not nearly as much as a certain inferior gang a few years later.

Also, Sylvester has the sniffles. Yes, this is actually going to play into the plot in a few minutes.

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In Mr. Belding’s office, Lisa shows Mr. Belding the “B” medallion she’s made for the valedictorian to wear. She’s even had Lisa try it on for size. Mr. Belding, continuing in his theme of incompetence for this episode, doesn’t follow education privacy laws so he flat out tells Lisa that Jessie isn’t the valedictorian.

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Yes, that’s right, the stupidest, most incompetent student at Bayside beat out Jessie for valedictorian by a tenth of a point. Screech, proving how stupid he is, runs out of the office insisting he won’t accept the valedictorian and tells Mr. Belding to find another one. I’m pretty sure that’s not how valedictorian works. He’s still valedictorian even if he refuses to give a speech. But why start making sense now.

Lisa chases Screech into the hallway where he says he knows how important the honor is to Jessie so he won’t take it over her. He makes Lisa promise not to tell Jessie that Screch refused to be the valedictorian.

Mr. Belding comes out and delivers bad contrived news to the gang: the nerds are sick so they have to cancel the recital after all. The girls will be graded on their attendance and work to this point but, for Zack Morris, that means that, once again he needs to find a way to earn his credit.

Also, Mr. Belding tells Jessie she’s the valedictorian and, for once, doesn’t violate privacy laws by telling her the reason why.

Mr. Belding and Mr. Lazaar agree that, if Zack Morris can find replacements for the ailing nerds, the recital can go on. Gee, I wonder who’s going to fill in?

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At the recital, we find out Zack Morris’s plan to save the recital: put Slater and Screech in place of the ailing nerds, Screech in a giant red chicken costume. The performance actually doesn’t suck as much as one would expect, especially given that I’ve already reviewed The New Class‘s take on this scene, but Screech in that costume is just terrifying. He even throws eggs into the audience afterwards because…Saved by the Bell has no clue what ballet is really like?

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In the hallway afterwards, this is apparently the first time people haven’t walked out on a ballet performance at Bayside so everyone gets As and Zack Morris gets to graduate. The gang reminisce as they realize this may be their final time loitering in the hallway, but Zack Morris is all, “Fuck Bayside! I’m never coming back unless a rich industrialist we met in Hawaii wants to close the school, but what’s the chances of that happening?” Also, we finally find out that Screech choose to go to Cal U and that he’s upset he won’t have any company there. Oh, Screech, you’re only going to be at Cal U for a year so what the fuck does it matter?

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The rest of the gang conveniently leave Jessie and Lisa alone, where Jessie talks smack about Screech. Lisa lets it slip out that Screech gave up being valedictorian for her and, as Lisa walks away after telling off Jessie, Jessie is obviously moved by Screech’s sacrifice for her.

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And it’s time for the final Saved by the Bell scene: the actual graduation. Mr. Belding says he has more memories involving this class over the last four years than any other class and he’s sure his experiences with them will serve him well as he violates boundaries like never before over the next seven seasons.

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Jessie gets up to give her valedictorian speech but, instead, says that Screech is the real valedictorian and brings him up on stage to honor him. Screech says that he’s not much of a speech person so he brings Zack Morris up on stage to give a speech. Of course, Mr. Belding does nothing to stop all this because it’s completely normal to just randomly bring people on stage during graduation. Why, let’s just allow the whole senior class give speeches while we’re at it!

Zack Morris says he didn’t realize how much Bayside meant to him until it was time to graduate, meaning that, in the space of a scene, he’s resolved his conflict off screen about not giving a shit about Bayside. This would have been a much more interesting plot than the whole ballet thing but why start writing good, compelling stories now when we can just have character development happen off screen and have the characters tell us about it later?

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Mr. Lazaar helps Mr. Belding pass out diplomas because why bring back any of the iconic regular teachers like Miss Simpson, Mr. Dewey, Mr Tuttle, or Miss Wentworth to help out when we can just have a guy help out we only met this episode? God, I hate how cheap this show is sometimes. It’s also a good thing that Bayside doesn’t hand out their diplomas in a sensible alphabetical order and just does it randomly for the most dramatic effect. Jesus Christ, is there nothing about high school this show can get right?

The extras from this episode go first of course, followed by the gang in reverse credits order, each having an emotional reaction to receiving their diploma. Tori and anyone else not having a role in the episode apparently fail to graduate because no one except our six main characters matter in the slightest when i comes to this show.

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Zack Morris and Mr. Belding finally give the audience their long-awaited embrace, hoping for more at the after party. Mr. Belding tells Zack Morris that he know Zack Morris will turn out to be something special and he hopes to be around to see it. Too bad he’ll be with an inferior cast who won’t turn out to be anything special at all.

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Zack Morris gives us the final monologue of the season, proclaiming that the state of California has actually seen fit to grant him a high school diploma despite the fact that the closet he ever came to learning anything at Bayside was when he did a project on his fake Native American ancestry.

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And our episode, our season, and our series ends with our gang and the assembled extras cheering and tossing their hats into the air as we freeze on Peter Engel’s name one more time.

This was pretty bad for a series finale. I wanted something special, not just your run of the mill episode with a half-baked unbelievable plot written by people who never went to high school, much less understand how it functions. I guess this is the mediocre ending we get, though, as Saved by the Bell fades off into the sunset.


And, so, that’s it for Saved by the Bell. It’s hard to believe but this is it for our original series. Don’t worry, though. I’ll have a recap of season four on Wednesday. Also, there’s still three and a half seasons of The New Class left to go so I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. And that’s about it, right?

Oh, yeah. Join me again next Friday as we learn how Zack Morris, Slater, Screech, and Kelly fair in college as we join our gang on The College Years.

16 responses to “Saved by the Bell Season 4, Episode 26: “Graduation”

  1. Awesome review as always! Can’t wait to see you tear The College Year(s) to shreds. Zack and Slater somehow stoop low enough there to make Screech seem like the mature one.

  2. What i liked about this episode is the Screech/Lisa dynamic. Lisa, finally seeing Screech not just as a loser but loveable loser defends him to Jessie. This should of happened a long time ago, Maybe by season three. Not have Screech/Lisa dating, but as loyal friends. Lisa and Screech seemed like they had chemistry for that since they always seemed like outsiders during the whole show.

    So Zack goes to Yale, Jessie Columbia, Slater goes to Iowa, Lisa to UCLA or USC, Kelly community college and Screech goes to Cal. Now I know Cal is a great school but since he was a science nerd, why not go for the fictional gusto and say he’s going to MIT?

    Still, no mention of Tori. Couldn’t they filmed one scene were Zack asks Slater or Lisa were Tori is?

    I liked that Ollie came back for this episode. There were a few episodes I thought they could of used him. (The Academic Bowl)

    BTW, didn’t this episode air months away from the last episode? I think when it first ran, the clip show from last week aired in January, while this aired in May. In fact didn’t this show air in prime time on a Friday or Saturday night?

    I remember they showed this episode before the pilot of the College Years.

    • It aired on a Saturday night right before the pilot to the college years. I’m not sure if the graduation episode was ever rerun Saturday morning

    • Yeah, this episode originally aired in primetime along with the pilot episode of TCY. (To me, this was epic; it was like the Ghostbusters primetime Halloween special.) A few things to note about that:

      The episodes were hosted by Zack, Slater, and Screech.

      The graduation episode actually was missing some footage (minor characters getting their diplomas) to make room for these hosting segments. The longer version (or at least a version with the minor characters getting their diplomas) aired in syndication.

      The graduation episode and pilot were repeated on the week before the TCY series premiere. This airing contained different hosting segments by the guys.

      Before anyone asks, no, I don’t believe I still have my taping(s) of these episodes.

  3. Looking back at the senior year season with all the Toriverse, out of season and clip show episodes there were only eight Kelly and Jesse senior year non clip show episodes one of which didn’t have Kelly

    • The K&J senior episodes have a 1991 copyright, just like the junior episodes, which leads me to believe either 1) they were all taped in one batch, or 2) there was a short break between them.

  4. Screech says goodbye to the lockers and school. But dont worry Screech. In about a year, you’ll be back with a reversed staircase and lockers.

    Seeing Lisa give Screech a kiss on the cheek is like watching the Trix rabbit finally get some cereal.

    • Lisa kissed Screech way too much in the later parts of the show. Christmas at the hospital, Valentine’s Day, here… I might even be missing one. She dances with him in the Date Auction dance too. I understand the writers wanting to cash in on Screech’s crush on Lisa by finally giving him a kiss, but they went overboard if you ask me.

  5. At least when the New Class has a graduation in the finale it will be in an actual realistic setting rather than an empty tiny auditorium with no parents or family present

  6. I think after you finish here with SBTB you need to take on Captain Planet.

    • Or maybe continue on with the Engelverse in California Dreams, Hang Time, USA High, Running the Halls…

      • California Dreams and Hangtime were good. City Guys had its moments. USA High was ok then sucked after James Madio left. One World and Malibu, CA was horrible. And I never saw All About Us.

  7. Almost but not quite, here is some more correct information: The graduation-episode did air first on a saturday morning, to be exact on the 5th of december 1992. It aired as the second episode in the double episodes-hourblock Saved by the bell always aired in.

    First they showed The Time Capsule, followed by this one as the final new episode being aired; all the Tori episodes had already aired, all spread out over and inbetween the Jessie and Kelly-episodes, but the Kelly and Jessie-season was recorded (logically) in one run, with graduation, Isn’t it romantic and The Time Capsule as the final three being produced (in that order). After that, NBC went along for another season (the Tori episodes), and planned ahead so everything was aired in a way that Jessie and Kelly & Tori could be shown pretty much at the same time (by using the power of the hourblock).

    After this, in may 1993, the Graduation-episode had a RERUN ON PRIMETIME (That’s right!), leading us into the pilot of TCY.

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