The College Years Episode 14: “A Question of Ethics”

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In the cold opening, Zack Morris enters to the audience exploding in orgasm at his mere presence. He brags about being in a class other than Archaeology, Ethics! Fortunately, it’s in the same lecture hall as Archaeology, too, so there’s no need to build another set. He says the professor is super easy, but that would make for a boring episode so Slater comes in and announces that their professor won the lottery and ran off with the soccer coach, because it’s apparently ethical in the Saved by the Bell universe to ignore a teaching contract as long as it’s convenient.

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In her place is what has to be my all time favorite character from the Saved by the Bell franchise, Dr. Arthur Hemmings, played by Robert Guillaume. Guillaume is most famous for two roles: Benson DuBois on the ’80s series Benson, and the voice of Rafiki in The Lion King and its related spin-offs, which makes me wonder whether casting for The Lion King was really group therapy for ex-Saved by the Bell guest stars.

But why is Dr. Hemmings my favorite character ever? Oh, just you fucking wait and see! Oh, and Dr. Hemmings is greeted as ominously as he deserves by the power in the lecture hall blinking as lighting strikes. Already he’s more bad ass than most one shot characters.

After the credits, Dr. Hemmings tries to ask those in his class paid to speak for that episode, Zack Morris, Leslie, Slater, and Alex, basic questions about ethics such as would you steal someone’s idea if it would benefit you. Rather than answering the damned question, they act like the complete thoughtless morons they are, answering a simple theoretical scenario with idiotic remarks about Slater not wanting to design fashion and shit.

Now we see why Dr. Hemmings is my favorite character ever. He tells Slater he’s such a fucking moron he’ll be hauling manure for a living one day, Alex learns she has no intellect to speak of, Leslie is told to shut the fuck up and quit sucking up, and Zack Morris is an idiot for not knowing who Machiavelli was. Okay, maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch, but, still, the other three are spot on! Dr. Hemmings tells the class that fifty percent his classes fail because Cal U is full of complete morons who can’t reason out basic ethical dilemmas.

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Back at the suite, the gang study all the new books Dr. Hemmings assigned. Now, I only had one professor ever quit a course and, as I recall, their replacement had to use the old professor’s syllabus because it was considered unethical to force the class to change course midway through. What about that: a class on ethics acting unethically. Oh, Saved by the Bell, you never cease to amaze!

In any case, the gang whine and complain about how unreasonable it is that Dr. Hemmings wants them to actually learn about ethics and shit, unlike lottery woman who just wanted them to pretend they were astronauts I guess. Slater says that there’s so much work that he’s lucky that, in their universe, they can randomly get someone to cover work for them when they have other things to do, so he looks long and hard within the suite for someone to cover his job at the student union.

Well, he’s doing his best to ignore Dumb Ass by asking Kelly, but she says that she doesn’t like waiting tables anymore because it’s icky. I suspect she’s really still having flashbacks about the mild mistreatment she received at the so-called sleazy restaurant she worked at in “Dr. Kelly.”

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Since the producers aren’t springing for any guest stars that could fill the role, that leaves Screech, and he insists he’s not such a complete dumb ass that he can’t wait tables.

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Unfortunately for all of us, Screech is such a dumb ass he doesn’t know how to wait tables and quickly annoys Clara, one of the waitresses, who’s returning after previously appearing briefly in “The Poker Game.” She wants to murder Screech but hasn’t found the right opportunity yet.

Slater complains to Mike that he doesn’t have enough time to study for the ethics midterm and Mike tells him to just ask for an extension since professors are people, too.

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But when Dr. Hemmings walks in, Mike has a flash back to his own time with Hemmings when he was forced to do horrible things involving thinking! Either that, or Mike’s passing gas in this scene. It’s hard to tell with Bob Golic’s acting.

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Leslie approaches Dr. Hemmings in her mascot costume and asks him for an extension on her midterm. Dr. Hemmings tells her no immediately after insinuating Alex might be a crazy woman in a bird costume. Oh, Dr. Hemmings, how right you are! Yeah, not giving an extension is supposed to be an unreasonable thing here, but every university I’ve been associated with has refused to give extensions without extenuating circumstances. How horrible Dr. Hemmings would expect people to do their work and not let extra-curricular activities get in the way!

Yeah, the writers are trying their damnedest to make Dr. Hemmings out to be an unreasonable tyrant but, really, he just comes off as being one of the more enlightened in this franchise’s history. It’s just a damn shame Screech isn’t in his class so we could hear the truth about what a fucking dumb ass he is.

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Speaking of which, Kelly tries to help Screech out by showing him how not to be an idiot and carry his food so it doesn’t get squished. Instead, Screech sends Kelly to deliver the order and, no kidding, she continues doing Screech’s job for him for no pay most of the rest of the episode. Kelly, I know you’re not always the character in this franchise with the most common sense, but why do you not punch Screech in the fucking face!

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In lecture the next day, Dr. Hemmings tries to teach the class about Immanuel Kant. Unfortunately for him, his class is still in full-on stupid mode and can’t answer basic questions. Hemmings basically says Zack Morris is too much of an idiot to pass his midterm. Oh, my, yet another truth spoken by this very wise man!

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As you can tell by this screenshot, Leslie has a mature reaction when Hemmings says he won’t tutor Leslie, even after she drops that she’s a Burke and they donate lots of money to Cal U. Now, this might be the only unreasonable thing Dr. Hemmings does in this entire episode, but even this is well within Dr. Hemmings’s discretion to not give up his free time to tutor morons who have done so many unethical things over the years.

Zack Morris is next to suck up and Hemmings basically tells him to fuck off with his self-entitled idiocy.

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As he leaves the room, Dr. Hemmings drops a paper, and Zack Morris soon realizes it’s a copy of the midterm. Of course, he will do the ethical thing in Zack Morris’s world and share the midterm with everyone who has a speaking role in the class.

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Back at the student union, Screech, doesn’t know how to take basic orders. Mike jumps over the counter out of frustration and takes the next customer’s order, which leads Screech to make a remark to Clara that might be considered sexual harassment if it came from someone other than Screech. As Mike points out, Screech couldn’t sexually harass himself. This is the most fucking self-aware episode in the history of the franchise, I swear.

In any case, like Kelly, Mike continues to work for free most of the rest of the episode because he gives a damn about Screech for some reason.

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In the suite, Slater, Leslie, and Alex find out about Zack Morris’s copy of the midterm. Slater and Alex want to use it but Leslie takes it, tears it up , and throws it away, declaring that it’s the ethical thing to do. She even takes the trash can to the dumpster to make sure they don’t look at it.

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At the student union, the manager promotes Screech to assistant manager because he’s more awesome than she originally thought he would be. She obviously doesn’t know Screech very well, but it’s kind of scary how his performance as assistant manager mirrors his later performance as Mr. Belding’s administrative assistant.

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One by one, Zack Morris, Slater, Alex, and even Leslie sneak out to the dumpster looking for the midterm, declaring that they can’t fail this exam.

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But then Screech comes in, singing the Sesame Street theme song, and dumps garbage on them. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. In any case, I suspect that Screech’s version of Sesame Street would be rated MA and restricted to viewing by only the criminally insane.

While covered in garbage, Zack Morris monologues about slimy he suddenly feels about it all.

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Back at the student union, it’s Fiesta Day, and Screech managed to scare off every single customer because he sucks so much ass. One by one, Kelly, Mike, Clara, and the extras all quit because they’re tired of working while Screech stands around looking like a dumb ass, and Screech fires himself when the manager comes around trying to figure out what the hell this subplot was actually about.

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In the most predictable and cliched resolution to the main plot, Dr. Hemmings reveals that the real test was to see whether the students would cheat. See, he strategically placed copies of the midterm for every student so they would have to make an ethical choice. Except…he didn’t leave one for Slater, Leslie, or Alex. He just assumed Zack Morris would show them a copy. Maybe he’s psychic, too.

Well, the rest of the episode is the gang debriefing their experience on this. It turns out Zack Morris was the only one that didn’t actually cheat and, in his only definite misstep, Dr. Hemmings says that’s because Zack Morris has character. Yeah, that’s why he’s exploited all his friends and random strangers throughout his time in this franchise. Well, I guess even someone as awesome as Dr. Hemmings has to be wrong sometimes.

In any case, Dr. Hemmings needs to guest star on The New Class and tell them how stupid and derivative they are and how Screech needs to crawl in a hole and never emerge.

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During the credits, Mark-Paul and Robert Guillaume mess up their lines in the most unfunny goofs ever released.

4 responses to “The College Years Episode 14: “A Question of Ethics”

  1. Poor Robert Guillaume slumming it on TCY. The guy was a three time Emmy winner. A one time Tony nominated actor and voiced a character that at the time the episode was made was the biggest movie of the year. And he’s doing a guest spot on TCY.

    Well everyone needs a pay check.

  2. I think you meant Anthropology.

    Interestingly, this is the only episode of TCY that’s out of order. According to the production codes, it was taped between “A Thanksgiving Story” and “Teacher’s Pet”.

    • No, interestingly enough, when they introduced Lasky, they said he was a professor of archaeology. It’s just the writers don’t know the difference between archaeology and anthropology.

  3. So the success of this test hinges entirely on each student’s attitude to littering? They’d have to pick up a random piece of paper they stumble across and check it’s not important before throwing it out. They’d also have to be the sort of person who’d only do that on the one occasion though or they might find it suspicious. You’re also relying on them not speaking to anyone else the class about their find.

    I mean clearly it worked – a 100% success rate in this class – but sheesh it seems like he had a lot of luck on his side.

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