By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episode 3: “Tricks and Treats”
Original airdate: Oct. 30, 1999
Put on your costumes (we know you have a few handy). It’s time to talk Halloween.
Emma: It’s Halloween and unlike MSCL, we don’t get any encounters with dead teenagers. This Halloween episode feels more like what actually goes on: lame pranks and trying to figure out how old is too old to get dressed up and trick-or-treat. Once again I want to start with the younger half of the characters and Sam’s fears of growing up. In a rather unpleasant English lesson, they are informed that books such as the Star Wars novelization are not appropriate for book reports and they should be reading such light material such as Crime and Punishment. This sends Sam into a spiral of wanting to cling to his childhood and he convinces his friends that they should get dressed up and go trick or treating.
This shows that Freaks and Geeks likes to play with what we might expect from a teen show; quite often we are told that teenagers will try anything to act like adults from wanting more responsibility to drinking. As we have seen these boys are in that awkward period (okay, all teen years are awkward) where they are still at the very young end of the teen spectrum. They still like the things that they did at junior high, but they’re also navigating other aspects now that they’re in high school. The opening with Bill’s bet to drink whatever Neal and Sam make in the blender (with Bill’s very specific and hilarious rules as to what can go in the blender) is delightful because of how simple and innocent it is. It’s like the Jackass food/drink challenges but with less butt-sweat. This intro was very funny and this episode is the funniest of the three that we have watched so far and a lot of this came courtesy of Bill Haverchuck.
Not only did he seem to enjoy the drink they had made him—a drink that looked like puke and contained ingredients such as pepper, mustard, sardines, chilli, dairy creamer and after-dinner mints—but he also wore one of the best costumes that has graced any Halloween episode of TV. Yep, Bill went dressed as the Bionic Woman, bra and all. The costume alone would be brilliant, but his role play when he was by himself really made it special. Plus ,I think Bill might be a feminist.
The trick-or-treating goes as well as you might expect; they are berated and looked at with derision by both adults and children. They manage to fill their sacks but they lose all of their candy to their bully. The situation is made even worse when Lindsay eggs her brother from Daniel’s borrowed car. Lindsay doesn’t mean to egg her brother—she thought he was someone random—but the damage is done.
Sam’s existential crisis about his age is one that correlates with both his mother and sister; his mother is trying to cling to tradition and Lindsay continues her ‘who am I?’ internal debate.
I want to get to Lindsay, but first of all what are your thoughts on Sam in this episode? Did you find this episode to be the funniest of the three so far?
Julie: I remember watching this episode for the first time and just being floored by Bill’s Bionic Woman costume. I hope wherever he is in 2013, Bill Haverchuck has good people in his life who celebrate and understand him, because he’s a treasure. Also, thank goodness there was no butt-sweat in that concoction.
That teacher really annoyed me with her snobbiness about what the boys should and should not be reading. At least they’re reading, lady. At least they’re reading. I mean, if you want to assign Crime and Punishment for class, sure. But if you’re going to let the boys write book reports on whatever they’re reading, don’t be surprised if what they’re reading turns out to be the autobiography of Sammy Davis, Jr. On second thought, you have every right to be surprised about that.
Thanks for pointing out how the boys in this episode do the opposite of what we normally see teenagers do on these shows. They’re trying to hold on to their youth. These boys are very mature and sweet and I do not look forward to seeing them make any bad decisions in their lives.
As far as Lindsay’s story goes, man, I felt for her in this episode. I always had this deep-seated fear where if I ditched a family party or whatever in favor of hanging with my friends, I just knew something bad would happen or that I would’ve missed out on the last time I’d be able to partake in that tradition, like my aunt’s pre-Christmas sleepovers or the family gatherings on random holidays. My family did a really good job of developing my guilt muscles.
I did like that the show gave us a little parental character development this time. Freaks and Geeks is much less about the ‘rents than My So-Called Life was, and I miss seeing how the parents going through existential crises feel about raising teenagers who are going through their own existential crises. This episode made Mrs. Weir seem more like a character, but Mr. Weir is still kind of a caricature, albeit a caricature with awesome stories about Korea and cautionary tales about people meeting untimely demises.
Oh, and you mentioned on Twitter how this show made you think about My So-Called Life. How so? My biggest MSCL moment was when Mrs. Weir turned down Mr. Weir’s sexual advances. Patty would’ve never done that to Graham!
What were your thoughts on Lindsay?
Emma: So your MSCL connection was definitely less tenuous than the one I thought of, and I was glad to not get a repeat of the Graham and Patty Halloween encounter. It was Daniel’s red convertible that made me think of MSCL, even if it was a little louder than Jordan Catalano’s red. I’m sure I can also think of a Taylor Swift link here too.
Lindsay’s story continues to be told in a thoughtful manner; she is still finding it difficult to define who she is and is still being viewed as the good girl and the girl who is throwing everything away. Nick is supportive because he’s into her, he backs her up when Kim makes fun of any of Lindsay’s suggestions (which are good suggestions, I’d rather go to the movies than drive around). Kim might be taking a better tone with Lindsay, but she’s still really suspicious of her and triumphantly declares that “I told you should would be a drag.” Lindsay appears to be having a good time when she is stomping on pumpkins (and getting her shoe stuck) and playing baseball with mail boxes, but as we see with her conversation with Sam she is aware of how uncool she is. Uncool to who though? Her family? Her old friends? Her new friends? I think Lindsay would tick all of the above right now and this breaks my heart.
The moment when she realizes that it’s Sam that she has hit is devastating and it would be easy for Lindsay to laugh it off and continue to drive around with them, but this isn’t who she is. So she might not know her position in the world at this time, but there are certain things that she is sure of and her brother is one of those. This episode was super funny, but the egging moment was on the opposite end of this spectrum.
At this point we know the geeks much better than the freaks. Lindsay is our entry point with this group and she doesn’t know them very well either. Unlike Sam who has probably been friends with Neal and Bill for most of his life, Lindsay has only recently started hanging out with Nick, Daniel, Ken and Kim and it definitely shows with how much we really know about these characters so far. Ken is probably the most enigmatic at this point; he’s snarky and can tell when beer has no alcohol in it but other than that he’s a mystery.
(This episode also has a really interesting take on nostalgia, which considering what we are writing about is pretty apt. More on that later.)
How do you think they are handling the characterization of the freaks and geeks? Which character is the one you want to see more of?
Julie: Dur, the car! I loved the scene with Daniel and Millie and him dipping his finger in her Lik-a-Maid (Is that how you spell it? I’ll check later. Or not. I kind of like it my way). Is it wrong that I’m shipping Daniel and Millie now? Dillie or Maniel, that is the question. I’m thinking Maniel. To the FanFic Machine!
Lindsay was definitely being honest when she said she was uncool. She doesn’t quite fit in with her family or Daniel’s group, and now even Millie has a make-out buddy! Millie’s just like Sharon, in that regard. Since Brad Pitt wasn’t on the scene back in 1980, I wonder who revved Millie’s engine. Burt Reynolds?
The egging moment was painful for so many reasons. Of course it was painful to see my dear, sweet Sam hurt, but it also threw a wrench into his relationship with his sister, which to this point had been pretty lovely. People at school were always making fun of Sam and his friends, but he could always count on his big sister to come to his rescue or treat him like a human being. And now she’s throwing eggs at him.
That’s such a good point that we’re really “in” with the geeks right now, but not so much with the freaks. Lindsay is walking on eggshells (ha, eggs again) around them, trying to fit in, and she’s trying to get a read on them as much as we are. To that point, the freaks don’t really know Lindsay either. Back when I watched the show the first time, I really thought Nick was into Lindsay because he was into Lindsay. Now, I’m not sure. I’m kind of getting the feeling that he’s more into her just because she’s a new girl in the group and he wants a girlfriend. And that makes me kind of sad. I remember loving their relationship the first time around.
The character I am most looking forward to seeing more of is Ken, who is just a punchline machine right now. He’s one of the few characters on the show that really doesn’t fit into the high school stereotypes we’re used to seeing on television. He’s the snarky, funny guy’s guy who has little to no game with the women. He’s like a less hot, virgin Logan Echolls. Or am I overselling Ken?
What say you about the nostalgia?
Emma: So to the nostalgia element of the episode, I mean all of Freaks and Geeks could be considered a nostalgic portrayal of creator Paul Feig’s own teenage years and I think the same can apply to most teen shows (Josh Schwartz/Seth Cohen I’m looking at you) and in this episode it ties in with both Sam and Mrs Weir. Sam as we have discussed wants to hold onto his youth, but there is also the element of how trick or treating has changed over the years, particularly with the repeated references to only taking wrapped candy. It’s one of those stories that the media probably over-hyped and then it snowballed as more people discuss it and it becomes a whole big thing; razor blades being put in the candy by disaffected hippies sounds bonkers but it’s just crazy enough to have a tiny amount of truth (Fox News would be all over this story). The inventiveness of turning shit into candy is both repulsive and just the kind of wonderfully disgusting thing that a teenage boy would come up with (and I love the callback to this later on).
The details in the dialogue is one aspect that this show really thrives at and these urban legends feel so familiar. This is where the nostalgic element really comes in; there is a rose-tinted glow to our childhood and so when comparing the present to the past, the past always seems like a better time. For some reason all the negative aspects are forgotten and all that can be remembered is a time when doors didn’t have to be locked and people didn’t put razor blades in candy. As Lindsay says to her mother about people getting egged back in her day, she admits that they probably did, but at least she wasn’t the one doing the egging and it is this line that really provokes a response from Lindsay, not the line about how people are so much meaner now. People have always been mean, but nostalgia makes us forget this factor.
Now to Daniel and Millie; and yes, the Lik-a-Maid scene was great (if not a tad uncomfortable). We had these in the UK but they’re know as Double Dip (which sounds kinda provocative now). Yay for new fanfic ideas too! Millie having a secret boyfriend is yet another way that Lindsay feels inadequate and I could totally see her being into a more clean-cut guy like Robert Redford, but maybe you’re right with the Burt Reynolds theory as he did have an epic ‘stache (I guess he still does).
I’m totally on board with Ken as a less hot virgin Logan Echolls and I’ll happily admit that I currently have a bit of a crush on Seth Rogen. I even went to see The Guilt Trip (I know). Also, I’m really excited with how this show is progressing and I think the next episode we are discussing is the unaired “Kim Kelly is my Friend” which I’m pretty sure we will both have plenty to talk about as we will be delving more into the freak territory and the Kim/Lindsay relationship, something I know we are both anticipating. Wasn’t it fun for those few moments when Kim and Lindsay were both sticking their heads out of the car window without a care in the world in this Halloween episode?!
Julie: Speaking of crushing on Seth Rogen, did you see him on The Mindy Project as the Army guy? So cute. I had kind of gone off Seth Rogen in recent years, but he was just so stinking adorable on that show.
I love everything you said about the nostalgia. What would our parents have done if there had been 24-hour news back when we were smaller (I know CNN didn’t really hit it big until Baby Jessica, and I was about 12 at the time)? I remember getting all the lectures about not taking unwrapped candy (though no one thought to warn us about those stupid peanut butter black and orange wrapped crap buttons). Mrs. Weir in this episode kind of reminded me of my own mom, who never got all that excited about Halloween, but who used to tell us every time we drove past the house at the end of our street, “That house used to give out popcorn balls. Can’t do that today.”
I have virtually no recollection of the Kim Kelly episode, which I’m pretty sure I’ve only seen once. You know I can’t wait for the girl friendships to take center stage. Lady power! (I didn’t just type that.)