By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episode 4: “Kim Kelly Is My Friend”
Original airdate: Apr. 30, 2000
Emma: So I haven’t done that much reading around why this episode didn’t air (I don’t want to influence my reactions too much while we have these discussions, I will be commentary binging when we are done), but per Paul Feig in the DVD booklet it didn’t air because “it was considered to be a bit too harsh compared with the other episodes we had made.” [Ed. note: The episode did eventually air on Fox Family after the show finished on NBC. -NK] While tonally it is darker than the previous episodes I think that it is a mistake to lose an episode that is integral to why Kim Kelly is as brash as she is. In this episode we get to meet Kim’s family and see just how different her experiences have been to Lindsay’s, and it explains why she gives Lindsay a hard time. Kim’s life is chaotic and unstable, her house is being renovated but that just seems like code for not getting things finished in the house. Kim isn’t embarrassed about bringing Lindsay home with her, and in fact she wants Lindsay there as a way to show that she isn’t a massive screw up and she should be allowed to keep her car (complete with leopard seat covers). Unfortunately Kim doesn’t fill Lindsay in on all of this until just before they enter the house so there’s no time to make a vacation home back story sound like something that happened. Lindsay downplays her academic talents and when she screws up with the weekend away story, Kim’s mother thinks that Lindsay is just another waste of space friend of Kim’s.
This dinner scene spirals into a heated domestic argument (and probably one of the scenes that NBC took issue with), and while it doesn’t reach the levels of a full on physical fight, it feels like it could get to the place. It’s loud and Lindsay is caught in the middle of it all, Linda Cardellini does some amazing eye acting here to show her discomfort at the whole encounter. There’s also a hint of wonder as this is completely different experience to one that she has had before. Getting this insight also gives Lindsay the opportunity to get closer to Kim since she now understands why Kim acts the way she does. Kim doesn’t hide that much about being Kim; she’s quick to the boil, she says what she is thinking, and she doesn’t self-censor in front of anyone, and this includes talking about sex in front of Lindsay’s parents (the awkwardness of asking why guys are only interested in sex at the dinner table is amazing).
This good girl/bad girl best friends story isn’t new (we saw it with Angela and Rayanne in MSCL) but they’re not at the BFF stage yet, they’ve barely scratched the surface. This is how I feel about Kim, who I think is a fascinating character and another reason why it’s a shame that this episode didn’t air (but thankfully it gets its rightful place on the DVD) as it reveals so much about her. Kim thinks that Lindsay is her only friend, which sucks because Kim thinks Lindsay is a total loser (“no offense”). The other friend that we see in this episode, Karen (Rashida Jones!) isn’t such a great friend as she has her finger sucked by Daniel. Kim has some twisted boy keeping logic — she has to stay alert and act like a bitch to make sure Daniel doesn’t cheat. That’s right ladies, it’s the other girls you have to watch out for. So Kim isn’t the smartest when it comes to dating (but academically she has only had one D — I love this little piece of information) and this explains why she was so rude to Lindsay when she started hanging out with them.
Daniel manages to sweet talk his way back into Kim’s heart (it’s because he is sexier than Rod Stewart), but before he can there is a scene that also borders on the uncomfortable when Kim repeatedly slaps Daniel around the face. These slaps are pretty hard and there is a fear that he might start hitting her back (he doesn’t). This all occurs in the Weir kitchen and their is a farcical tone to all of it thanks to the presence of Lindsay’s parents. I think this scene is another be one that NBC had a problem with, as it is both serious and has a comic undertone; sometimes it is hard to show these two things co-existing. This is something that you see in shows like Girls, and as this episode was written by Enlightened creator Mike White, I was wondering if it is something that occurs in Enlightened (I sadly have not seen that show). I like the marriage of these two aspects even if it is uncomfortable to watch.
This episode does make me slightly wary of Daniel as he comes across as a bit of a pig. It’s clear that Daniel and Kim are not right for each other and their physical attraction to each other has a habit of boiling over like Kim’s temper. What I really want is for them to make a clean break and see Kim and Lindsay develop their lady friendship (a topic I know we’re both very fond of). Busy Phillips is really terrific in this episode as her mood changes and her rage increases and subsides.
I have a lot more to add but I’ve noticed this is already a mini essay (and I haven’t even mentioned the Geeks story). What did you think of Kim’s back story? How do you feel about NBC’s decision to not air this episode?
Julie: I loved this episode and I love Kim Kelly. I love her horrible family and her brother (Mike White, in a cameo) with brain damage. That fight was incredibly intense, funny, and shockingly realistic, so I can can see why NBC opted not to air it, though I don’t agree with their decision. This episode give us too much insight into Kim’s character, insight we’ll need for the rest of the season. Kim’s stepfather chasing Lindsay out to the car was incredibly frightening and something that should never happen ever, especially not in real life. That guy is a menace and should probably be in prison. I wonder what dirt Kim has on him. I hope it’s nothing too tragic. The way he went after Lindsay suggests that he has the potential to do some great damage to young girls.
Kim and her family are like the perfect storm of every nightmare a parent has about who her children will bring home as friends. Kim’s mother is a mess and married to a horrible man. Her brother is a waste of space and was beaten by the cops for being drunk. Her aunt, whom Kim worships, died of a cocaine overdose. Kim has a freak boyfriend, with whom she has a volatile relationship and lots of sex. She’s loud, she’s emotional, and she’s a flaming hot mess.
But I think this show does a good job of posing the question, do all of these things mean that Kim is not worth befriending? Does the fact that her home life and her love life is a mess mean that someone like Lindsay should not befriend her? As a parent, I think you want your kids to be friends with well-adjusted people from well-adjusted families, and it’s interesting to see that Kim’s crazy mess of a mother wants the same thing. And I think she’s on to something. Kim needs someone like Lindsay in her life. She needs someone responsible, someone with goals. Their friendship is not unlike Rayanne’s relationship with Angela, but I think Kim needs Lindsay even more than Rayanne needed Angela, if that’s possible. Kim truly has no one. At least Rayanne had Rickie (and a fairly decent relationship with her mother).
My own kids are requesting my attention, so I’ll have to stop there for now. What did you think about Kim’s relationship with Sam? I love the the show is exploring the dynamic between little brother and sister’s friends. You just don’t see enough of that.
I think you’re spot on with your comments about the kind of people parents want their kids to be friends with and that Kim could get a lot out of a friend like Lindsay. Hopefully it will make Kim more trusting towards other women and show that not everyone is after her boyfriend (though Lindsay did have her crush moment on Daniel in the second episode). I also think that Lindsay will get something out of this friendship as they both lack self confidence in very different ways (show me a teenager who doesn’t) and I’m really looking forward to how this will develop.
Moving on to Kim and Sam and we saw Kim give Sam a hard time in the pilot and this continues with her friend Karen writing “Geek” on Sam’s locker in lipstick after a mix up. When Lindsay asks Kim to lay off her brother, it’s clear that Kim has forgotten that Sam and Lindsay are related, and that she just sees him as one of the geeks. In a similar way, Sam says that Kim was the one who wrote on his locker when really it was Karen. It’s like both of them forget exactly who did what, they just remember what social group they are and not the individual. This makes sense one respect as at school, particularly if you were in a different year you just remembered who people were by there basic identifiers. To Sam, Kim is a “psycho” because he only sees this one side of her and of course to Kim, Sam is a geek because of his outward appearance and how nervous he gets around her.
Sam sees it as a personal insult that Lindsay is hanging out with Kim and after the egg incident there is still tension between brother and sister. With most shows the younger sibling is there as a side character; this can be for comic relief purposes or as an annoyance. It is definitely unusual as you suggest to see these relationships get explored in this much detail and teen years have many different complicated feelings to navigate, particularly the ones at homes.
Sam is also pissed off at Neal for claiming that Sam is the bigger geek, when Neal is just as intimated by Kim and Karen. Bill is the referee in this battle and I think he gets put in this position because physically he is different to Neal and Sam; he’s just as skinny but his height helps him out. This fight continues this battle of adolescence between childhood and becoming an adult and while girls have boobs and periods to deal with, boys also have physical changes that they expect to happen and of course these happen at varying rates.
Do you think this fight between Neal and Sam was inevitable?
Julie: That’s a great point about how the groups don’t see the other groups as individual people. They are the “freaks” and the “geeks” and the “jocks.” Even though we, as viewers, see Kim Kelly as separate from Karen, Sam and his friends don’t, because, to them, Kim and Karen are both girls who are mean to them.
What I think is so great about this show is that it explores interpersonal relationships with such truth and sensitivity (and humor and a little exaggeration, as we saw with Kim and her family). On a show like Beverly Hills, 90210 or Gossip Girl, we’d probably be talking about how Sam and Kim will totally hook up by May sweeps (and also, Sam would be played by someone like Zach Efron or the 1999 equivalent) and that the freaks and geeks will eventually merge into one homogenous group. But that’s not what Freaks and Geeks is about. My brother was a freshman when I was a senior, and we hung around with completely different groups. I didn’t know his friends, he didn’t know mine (except some of the ones I had had since freshman year, since they were around a lot). There’s this interesting separateness that happens between siblings. You spend so much of your life together under the same roof, but, unlike Brandon and Brenda Walsh, you usually don’t end up the same kinds of people with the same kinds of friends. I love that Freaks and Geeks is willing to explore this and with such nuance.
And, oh yes, Sam and Neal and the big brawl. I kind of can’t believe that Neal and Sam are the ones who get picked on so much and Bill just kind of floats through untouched. He looks the geekiest, but maybe that’s the reason. People figure he’s got it hard enough already. Also, Neal gives off the vibe that he’s a “try too hard,” and that’s just the easiest kind of person to pick on. I loved that Neal and Sam had an actual throwdown. That’s such a boy thing. Girls just get pissy and write notes and coerce all their other friends to ignore you (speaking from personal experience), but it’s so real that those boys would start wrestling with each other. And they’ll probably be fine tomorrow, no big deal. Guys have it so easy.
The other thing that happened in this episode that we didn’t talk much about was that Nick and Daniel also showed up at the Weirs’ house to talk to Kim. I loved that Nick kept stealing Fruit Roll-Ups. Maybe that was a nod to Sam trying so hard to put on weight. If Sam were to eat the Fruit Roll-Ups his mother suggested, would he then grow to be as tall as Nick? Hmm…listen to your mother, Sam. Fruit Roll-Ups. They have what young geeks crave.
Emma: You just gave me flashbacks to the hell that was high school when friends started to ignore you. Getting into a physical fight is bad but it doesn’t come close to the psychological torture that girls can inflict on each other. Are there any of our male readers who would like to counter this with any boy drama they had at high school? Neal and Sam have a brief moment of awkwardness the next day at school, post-fight, but it’s all resolved pretty quickly. Their actual fight is rather comedic thanks to the presence of the chemistry set and Bill’s fear that the chemicals will burn off his flesh — he is adorable with how much he worries about everything. You’re spot on about Neal: he does try too hard. He also pretends that he knows a lot about everything. This includes the very wrong assumption that girls can’t feel horny. This is another observation that Freaks and Geeks gets so right as there is so much misinformation (particularly when it comes to sex) when you’re a teenager as everyone wants to look like they know what they are talking about, when really they don’t have a clue.
Nick and Daniel showing up during TV and ice cream time definitely disrupts what was probably meant to be a very run of the mill night in this household. Lindsay’s dad is king of the cautionary tale and so this scenario must be a nightmare for him and he makes his feelings clear when he mutters that “This isn’t very good.” Lindsay’s mother is the more understanding of the pair but she agrees with this sentiment and it’s not surprising considering what has just gone on in their kitchen. Nick and the Fruit Roll-Ups was hilarious and the use of food as part of the narrative – from the fried chicken dinner at Kim’s to Sam’s carb overload – is a nice touch. I think the moment that is most shocking to Lindsay’s mom is when she gets the phone call from Kim’s mom telling her that Lindsay has also been sleeping around with guys, I think she probably knows that this isn’t true but there is definitely room for doubt.
What did you think about Nick trying to put the moves on Lindsay with his not so subtle attempt to give him a massage?
Julie: I’m sad because Nick is starting to skeeve me out a bit, and I used to think he was so cute. I don’t know what it is this time around. Maybe he just seems desperate. We’ll see in the next few episodes when Nick and Lindsay’s courtship starts to take center stage.
I’d like to think Mr. Weir would use this night as a cautionary tale for his grandchildren one day (Who do you think would die in the story? Kim? Daniel?); but I have a feeling that by the time Lindsay and Sam start procreating, Mr. Weir will have evolved into being quite the cool, laid-back grandpa.