By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episodes 11 & 12: “Looks and Books” and “The Garage Door”
Original airdate: Feb. 7 and Mar. 13, 2000
Julie: This week we’re discussing two episodes of Freaks and Geeks, and I loved this one-two punch a lot. The first episode, “Looks and Books,” was mostly light and funny, while the second one, “The Garage Door,” delivered some really poignant emotional moments.
Plus both episodes had a lot of Ken. Yay, Ken!
Let’s start with “Looks and Books,” because it came first chronologically. Novel idea, huh? In this episode, Lindsay steals her parents’ car to help the freaks pick up some speakers. She gets into a wreck and finds herself grounded and questioning her friendships with Daniel, Kim, and the rest. She ends up having a crisis of conscience, wondering if she shouldn’t go back to the way she used to be, if she shouldn’t re-befriend Millie and rejoin the Mathletes. She does both (plus she starts dressing like and extra from Little House on the Prairie). In another show, I feel like this whole episode would’ve been done as a dream sequence, a “What if Lindsay were to go back in time and be the girl she was,” but Freaks and Geeks takes it very seriously and touches on some pretty heavy topics.
For instance, can you go back to the way you used to be? For Lindsay, by the end of the episode, it seems the answer is no. She tries hanging out with Millie and the other Mathletes; but, even though she still hearts math, Lindsay has outgrown the team. And these girls, whom her parents hold up as shining examples of people with whom a teenage girl should associate, are mean and destructive in their own way. They’re mean to each other. They talk about one another behind their backs. They’re more “frenemies” than friends. Lindsay recognizes this, and realizes (thanks to Kim, Ken, and Daniel coming to her Mathletic competition and holding up a brand new bumper) that even though her freak friends have their own faults, they do genuinely care about Lindsay and want her to succeed. And Lindsay realizes that they need her probably even more than the Mathletes do.
But I liked that Lindsay didn’t throw Millie out with the Mathlete bathwater. Millie does care about Lindsay. The two of them have history together. Like Angela and Sharon on My So-Called Life, maybe they’d never hang out with each other’s respective friend groups, but they could still hang around with each other and have a friendship outside of everyone else. I think this is a very mature realization for a couple of high school kids. It’s so easy to ignore people from other cliques and shut out the friends who no longer fit your agenda, but I love that Millie and Lindsay are mature enough to realize that they still do mean something to each other.
I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’m rambling. It happens. What did you think about Lindsay’s story? Did you ever wreck your parents’ car? I never did, but I do remember that awful feeling of driving everyone around, wanting to seem cool, but also being freaked out that people were being noisy and distracting in the back of the car.
Emma: “Looks and Books” definitely felt like looking back and forward for both Lindsay and Sam. Lindsay as you said attempts to go back to her old life after falling out with her current friends but finds that she has moved on from that. We got to see a different more competitive side to Lindsay, this is Lindsay as a mean girl which was in part was thanks to Shelly saying that Kim was pregnant but also because Shelly had taken her spot. As you mention, these girls despite outward appearances, are just like every other teenage girl–insecure and willing to bitch behind a so-called friends back. It definitely made me think about Sharon and Angela’s friendship on My So-Called Life, and I’m glad that Lindsay told Millie they would always be friends, just not how they used to be. No big drama here in the end.
The trio of Ken, Kim, and Daniel once again show enthusiastic they can be about school events given the right motivation–last time it was thanks to getting beaten up–this time it was because they wanted to cheer on their friend. It’s a shame that Nick pretended he was there to kill time but as we see in the next episode things are still complicated between him and Lindsay thanks to his very obvious feelings.
I am glad that Lindsay confronted them because I think they have been taken advantage of her, but maybe they hadn’t realized to what extent. Lindsay has allowed them to do this to try to fit in, and this was particularly true when she paid for all of their fake IDs. There is less hero-worship from Lindsay towards them now. It’s also good to see that they value her friendship and not just because they can get her to do things that benefit them.
Lindsay, in her post-crash anger, yells at her friends about their lack of direction and while they all pretend it doesn’t bother them, both Kim and Daniel do some soul-searching. Daniel asks Harris whether he would describe Daniel as a loser–he wouldn’t but that’s only because Daniel has sex. When they’re discussing their potential careers none of them are particularly sure what they really want to do–though Nick wants to be a DJ and a lumberjack and Kim says she wants to be a lawyer who puts the police on trial, both of these sound like excellent spinoff ideas.
I have a driving confession in that I can’t drive (actually I can I just don’t have a license) and it’s a really dull story as to why I don’t: all my friends drove so I never learnt when I was 17/18, then I had lessons while I was at university and they were just too expensive to continue. I live in a city so I can pretty much walk/bike everywhere and so I still haven’t got my license yet. I know I should but I just really hate driving (my instructor wasn’t good at settling my nerves). So while I haven’t crashed my parents car I’ve definitely been in situations where there have been too many passengers in a car and it’s probably sucked for the person driving.
What did you think of Sam’s story and his Parisian Night Suit?
Julie: Oh my, yes. I want to watch “Nick Andopolis: Lumberjack DJ” and “Kim Kelly: Police Lawyer.” Those would be amazing shows. Heck, those would be amazing as one show featuring Kim and Nick as roommates who fight the police and belittle other people’s taste in music.
There’s no shame in not driving, especially if you don’t have to. I hate cars. Nowadays, I’d rather walk everywhere (though not as convenient where I live). I was the first of my friends to turn 16 (when we can get our licenses in the States), so I was very excited to be able to drive…my parents’ sexy, old, white minivan around the Chicagoland area. I was living the dream.
I, too, loved Daniel, Kim, and Ken at the Mathlete competition. They really do get riled up by school stuff. I think they just like to be included. I think they also like to be loud.
I also agree that Lindsay and her friendships with her freak friends are starting to even out. She has seen them at their worst, and no longer holds them up on this pedestal where they have things all figured out and she’s just a naive teenager. She has a lot more figured out than she gives herself credit for.
You know who else has things figured out (segue)? That guy who works at the leisure suit emporium. He’s not the most handsome guy in the world, but he wears natty duds and he styles his hair and you know he’s swimming in all kinds of tail. At least that’s what he tells poor Sam Weir, who just wants to start dressing like a MAN. Too bad the man he starts dressing like is Neal’s Florida grandfather.
While the storyline of Sam trying to change his looks in order to catch Cindy’s attention was played for laughs, it brought back some cringe-y moments for me. In high school, it’s so hard to be both in-style and unique. You want to stand out, but for the right reasons. It’s like the time I did my hair in an ill-advised pompadour (did I tell that story during our My So-Called Life chats; I feel like I did). Sam will figure it all out eventually. I don’t worry about him. And, oddly, the often delusional Neal is totally right about himself in this episode. He has cultivated a look for himself. He dresses nicely and he’s well-groomed.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you ever wore that you thought would be SO COOL?
Emma: Figuring out what kind of look that you want can be disastrous, especially in Sam’s case where he is trying to impress a girl and instead he gets humiliated in front of the entire school. I love that it starts with his hair and his attempts at feathering deserve an A for effort. Instead what Cindy gives him is a remark that seems to be payback for Sam’s attempts to compliment Cindy’s hair in “Girlfriends and Boyfriends” where she ends up taking it as Sam telling her that her hair is flat–this time Cindy is the one telling Sam he has flat hair. The advice that Sam gets from the guys is that he needs to change his clothes as well as his hair to get Cindy’s attention and as you mention it can be hard to be both stylish and unique in high school. There are some people who can pull off any look and it’s all about the confidence as Mr Rosso tells Sam later. When Sam arrives at school in his Parisian Night Suit he quickly goes from feeling amazing to humiliation in a jumpsuit.
As I went to school that had uniform throughout it was less daunting in terms of what you wore to school everyday, the only time it became an issue was on non-school uniform days where you hoped that you didn’t wear the same as someone else, or worse forgot that it was non-uniform day (luckily this never happened to me). The one item of clothing that I thought was SO COOL was a pair of plaid trousers that I thought made me look über-grunge but that my dad said I looked like one of the Bay City Rollers which made me paranoid for the rest of the day. Also I remember there was a bindi wearing phase during the mid-90s which looking back on it was terrible and probably offensive. I seem to recall your ill-advised pompadour story and on the same note I’m sure I have mentioned my own hair disaster when I got super short blunt bangs. I think we all need terrible fashion stories in high school, though I’m glad none of mine are as extreme as Sam’s jumpsuit disaster.
I’m glad that the boys are continuing to hang out with Gordo and his comments about feeling like Secret Service are brilliant. Sam’s day continues to go downhill as he has to get up in class and the teacher in an attempt to make the situation better doesn’t really have too much of an impact. It’s down to Mr. Rosso who saves Sam from an Alan beating and then shares some words of wisdom–would Mr. Rosso get fired today if he shared stories like this?
John Francis Daley gives good mortified face in this episode (much like Linda Cardellini) and I really appreciate how much he throws himself into whatever they give him–on this occasion it is the dancing in front of the mirror holding up his jumpsuit.
Favorite random Bill remark of this episode: when Neal is talking about lighting farts Bill asks “What if the flame goes back inside you? Do you explode?”
You mention how Neal has cultivated a look for himself and in previous discussions Neal’s confidence has come up. This might be a good time to move onto the next episode “The Garage Door” where we get to see more of Neal’s family life and a storyline that is likely to rock his confidence and general outlook on life.
Any other thoughts on “Looks and Books?”
Julie: Cindy hates flat hair. Flat hair is by far the worst kind of hair a person can have. Do not even look at her with your flat hair.
I don’t think I have anything else to add about “Looks and Books,” except that I also had plaid pants in the ’90s and they were AWESOME.
Now on to Neal and his cool-guy dad. Hrmph. This guy. No dads on Freaks and Geeks are allowed to be that cool and hip and get away with it. I could always sense that there was something sinister lurking beneath his smarmy facade. He’s a cheater. He’s cheating on Neal’s wife with…some lady. At least one lady. Who knows how many more garage door openers he has strewn about his car and dental office.
Sam catches Neal’s dad in the act of hugging at an electronics store while there with his mom to check out Atari systems. Dr. Schweiber tries to play it off like this woman (who is obviously many years his junior) is a former college friend. Sam smells something fishy; and instead of keeping his promise not to tell anyone about the hug, he tells Bill and, finally, Neal. Neal doesn’t believe it at first, but suspects that Sam is probably right once he finds an extra garage door clicker in his dad’s sports car. Neal asks his friends to help him find the garage, and the three geeks ride around on their bikes until after dark, looking for Neal’s dad.
Man, this was just a rough storyline, for both Sam and Neal. This is probably the most adult thing that Sam has ever had to deal with–what do you do when you have news that you know your friend should know, but which you also know will crush him? Dr. Schweiber’s transgressions also force Sam to see his own father with new eyes. Mr. Weir may be a huge dork, but he’s a faithful dork. The post-Atari hug between Sam and his dad is just heartbreaking.
And poor Neal. He’s always been Mr. Confidence, and a lot of that comes from his dad (played by Chandler’s boss from Friends, and Josh Malina’s boss from Scandal. I’ve seen a lot of this actor in the past few days). Dr. Schweiber is Neal’s idol, and now Neal is forced to see his father as a fallible human who has been stepping out on his mom. Worse, his dad tried to get Neal’s best friend to cover for him. This guy just plain sucks.
I think we know where I stand on the whole Dr. Schweiber thing. How much were you aching for Sam and Neal? (Thank goodness Bill was there to hold everything together and be the voice of reason.)
Emma: Now to Neal and the heartbreak of parents letting down their children. This whole storyline is what Freaks and Geeks excels at as we deal with heartbreak and friendship. While there is tension when Bill and Sam tell Neal about seeing Dr. Schweiber (yes to the Scandal sighting which I also had this week)and Neal says some pretty harsh things – particularly to Bill, whose dad he hasn’t spoken to in a few months – this is a solid friendship group.
Dr. Schweiber puts Sam in a really shitty position not once but twice; first at the electronic store when he first asks him to lie and then when he schedules him an early dentist appointment. Dr. Schweiber is the adult in this scenario and should know better, instead he tries to exert his power when Sam is in a vulnerable position all to try to protect his cheating ass. I’m pretty sure Dr. Schweiber is the worst person we’ve encountered so far and you’re right, in this environment never trust a cool dad.
The scene with Sam and Lindsay continues the great run of scenes there have been so far between the Weir siblings–these scenes don’t happen often but when they do they knock them out of the park. It’s such a funny and sweet scene as Sam asks Lindsay if their dad would ever cheat on their mom; when Harold appears in socks, boxers and t-shirt, Sam and Lindsay can’t stifle their laughter as the prospect seems ridiculous. We can be pretty certain that he wouldn’t cheat on Jean either after his emphatic declaration in “The Diary.”
Sam’s reaction to the Atari gift from his parents destroyed me, there’s so much relief and sadness in that hug and those tears.
I think we’re going to see a slightly less cocky Neal and its clear that he gets a lot of mannerisms from his dad, particularly his habit of doing impressions.
A couple of other thoughts on the boys–they really do tell each other everything, including the time Bill went to fart but accidentally let it go all the way. Delightful Bill. My favorite Bill line of the episode is also related to this body function as when Neal asks them to guess what was at the end of his bed that morning, Bill guesses that it was a turd. Amazing. That actually made me snort laugh like a 12 year old.
We’ve got something HUGE to discuss, not Ken’s sideburns (which are huge) but Ken’s crush! Our boy is all grown up. What did you think of the various freaks love entanglements?
Julie: A turd. Classic Bill. Just begs a host of questions. Whose turd, Bill? Who would leave a turd at the end of Neal’s bed? Probably his dad, because he’s such a jerk.
I think we should move on to happier things, namely the fact that Ken, OUR KEN, likes a girl. I think this episode is probably why I loved Ken so much during my first Freaks and Geeks go around. He’s been hanging around with Daniel this entire time, and I just figured that he was hooking up with the honeys as much as Daniel was. But he wasn’t. He was just waiting for the right tuba girl to come along.
There’s so much goodness here, so many things that give me the warm fuzzies. First of all, I love Ken for loving a band geek and being proud of it. So much of adolescence is about “liking” the right people, inserting yourself into the “right” groups. Tuba Girl Amy is not part of the freaks’ group, but Ken likes her anyway. And the best part is, he’s not ashamed of it. He doesn’t try to hide it. He fully admits it. Way to be your happiness, Ken!
Also, I love that his friends don’t give him shit for any of it. Daniel is genuinely happy that his friend has finally found a girl to like. (I also love that it seems Daniel never resorted to the “What are you? Gay?” trope that probably would’ve found its way into most other television shows.) Daniel is super supportive of his friends, and this is not the first time we’ve seen this. Yay for positive male friendships. This show has it all.
I have to run, but would you have found yourself stroking Ken’s sideburns?
Emma: This episode is in part about the loss of innocence for the geeks when it comes to finding out that our parents are fallible in the most explicit way and so it is good that the counterbalance has Ken showing feelings for a girl for the first time. Like you this gave me the warm fuzzies, from how Ken behaves to how Daniel reacts and attempts to help his friend get the girl. This has varying degrees of success as Daniel asks Lindsay to talk to Amy on Ken’s behalf, which she does (I also love Lindsay’s reaction to finding out that Ken likes Amy for real, it’s part disbelief and part amazement). Daniel has some other tips for Ken that are less successful as he tells Ken that he just needs to keep staring at Amy and this will make her kiss him. Ken wanted to simply ask Amy whether he could kiss her and it turns out that this is all he needed to do. While I’ve never been a fan of sideburns (beards yes, mutton chops no) Amy seems to like them, even if she does insult them when she first meets Ken (not to go all playground but he did start it).
Both Daniel and Kim dish out plenty of dating advice in this episode, which in a way makes sense as they are the only ones in their friendship group who are currently part of a couple. While Daniel’s words of wisdom don’t work for either Ken or Nick (more on that in a moment) the way he is dealing with Kim by not indulging in arguing does work for them and they end the episode smooching in the laser dome. As we’ve previously mentioned they’ve done a good job of dialing it back with the fighting between these two, not that they don’t still have disagreements, it’s just not as extreme as it was in “Kim Kelly is my Friend.” Also Kim does have a point as no one wants to sit in the same seat where their boyfriend might have done stuff with another girl, though in the end it doesn’t matter and Kim moves on from this insecurity.
If Kim was to bring out a dating manual I would like it to be called “Don’t be Mean, Just be a Bitch” as this is how she tells Kim to act around Nick so not to lead him on. Daniel has told Nick to give Lindsay the cold shoulder as she’ll come running if he does and it turns out that both Lindsay and Nick are terrible at this. Lindsay wants to be nice, because that’s how she is and it was only in her battle with Shelly for the Mathlete role that we’ve seen a darker side of Lindsay. Nick is still totally in love with Lindsay of course and so he can’t ignore her and when he tries to it doesn’t go well. The end is heartbreaking as not only has Nick got the wrong night for Pink Floyd (which he was beyond excited about) but he’s surrounded by his friends making out and he can’t even sit in the seat next to the girl he likes because she doesn’t like him in that way. I was worried that Lindsay might give him a sympathy kiss but she’s learnt from the last time.
Who gives out the best advice on this show – Mr Rosso, Daniel, or Kim?
Julie: I would read “Don’t Be Mean, Just Be a Bitch.” And then I’d give it to my daughter. I’d give my son “7 Ways to Feather Your Hair.”
I also worried that Lindsay would give Nick a sympathy kiss. I think I actually said (by myself in the living room), “Don’t do it, Lindsay.” Thankfully, she listened to me. That would’ve been a mess. Nick needs to move on, and kissing him won’t do it. Maybe now that he knows for sure that Lindsay is not into him, he can focus his attention on someone or something else. Like learning how to read a laser show performance calendar.
You know, I think Mr. Rosso, Daniel, and Kim all give good advice in their own ways, which is funny because these people seem like the least likely candidates for reasonable suggestions. Mr. Rosso is a dork, but he has lived. He does remember what it was like to be young. Daniel is very tuned into his friends and knows what they need. Kim may not do very well in school, but I think she is very smart about people (even if her own love life is kind of wonkus). They’re good people and I have hope for all of them in the future. I especially have hope that someday Mr. Rosso will wise up and cut his hair.
Emma: I think the only thing I have to add is something I noticed when I was editing screenshots and that Neal has the number plate I FLOSSEM for his red sports number, so if we hadn’t already worked out that he wasn’t a cool dad then this would be a giant arrow pointing to the word jerk.