Team-Up Review: Freaks and Geeks, “Chokin’ and Tokin’” and “Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers”

By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser

Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episodes 13 & 14: “Chokin’ and Tokin’” and “Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers”
Original airdate: Mar. 20 and Oct. 10, 2000

Emma: This pair of episodes actually work very well together as we have a Lindsay story where she acts out of character and the second she tries to stop Millie from doing so and both focus on these friends who have known each other for pretty much their whole lives but have since drifted apart. The other factor that ties these two episodes together is Bill and we get to see his home life for the first time in both of these.

I’ll start with Lindsay and in “Chokin’ and Tokin” Lindsay gets high for the first time. This is after a huge argument with Nick as she thinks that he is too reliant on weed and he calls her out for being judgmental as she has just told him that he is amazing when he isn’t stoned. It all begins when Nick’s dealer Mark tells him that the town is dry (a phrase I haven’t heard since high school) and Nick goes into a panic as to what will happen when his stash runs out. What it does do is it saves him money on eye drops and he hangs out with Lindsay. I wonder if Nick wasn’t so stoned all the time whether he would have a better chance with Lindsay on the romance front? Nick’s a sweet guy but at the moment he’s not all that reliable and can’t even remember when he has made Denny’s plans – though he could totally eat again. Side note: both this and The Killing mention Salisbury Steak this week, which is just a coincidence but both shows have put me off ever having this dish. 

In response to Nick’s accusation and because Nick gave Lindsay his stash during this argument to prove that he can live without it, Lindsay decides to try it for real this time (like Clinton, Lindsay didn’t inhale the first time). Lindsay’s attempts at rolling are pretty horrendous at first (as they should be) and the music cue for this scene is brilliant (the soundtrack for this show is always picked to perfection). As is Harold’s timing as Lindsay thinks that everyone is out of the house. I find it hard to believe that Harold wouldn’t be able to smell it but then again I used to smoke cigarettes out of my bedroom window and I *don’t* think my parents knew, or if they did they never said anything (also if you’re reading this mum and dad, sorry). Awkward. Anyway, back to Lindsay and I think it’s partly due to the timing of her father and the babysitting job that sends Lindsay into a tailspin of paranoia. If she’d just stayed in her room this might not have happened instead she has to go babysit and thankfully she has Millie who can help her.

Nick is a seasoned pro when it comes to smoking weed so his conspiracy theories are all about cafeteria food, whereas Lindsay’s existential crisis jumps to a much bigger level as she becomes concerned that they only exist in the dreams of the dog of the family they are babysitting for and when the dog wakes up they could cease to exist. Millie tells Lindsay that this is because she has no faith and this connects back to the pilot as we found out that Lindsay had a deeply upsetting and profound experience when her grandmother died and she said there was nothing there at the end. Millie wants to prove to Lindsay that there is something and by waking up the dog and everything remaining the same this briefly gives Lindsay faith in something. Millie comments that she is sad that this will be temporary and thinks that their renewed closeness will be gone along with Lindsay’s faith when she is no longer buzzed. While I think that Lindsay probably won’t changer her religious views after this, I do think that the mathletes episode, followed by this one and the next show that Lindsay and Millie are destined to maintain a friendship even though Lindsay is not the same girl she was. We’ve talked in length before with both My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks about shifting friendships, but it is good to mention again that both of these shows capture those feelings of loss and sadness when an important friendship shifts from what it was.

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This fits in with the Bill/Neal/Sam story as this also focuses on friendship and growing up, but before we get into that what did you think of the Lindsay story in “Chokin’ and Tokin?”

Julie: “Chokin’ and Tokin'” felt like a Very Special Episode to me. Actually, I’d go so far as to say it was a Very Special Episode. We had drugs and child endangerment and a scary hospitalization. And Ken. We also had Ken.

With so much time in Judd Apatow’s movies devoted to the pot, I was interested to see how this episode would handle a little weed, especially since this show is geared toward young folks. I think writers handled the topic well, without getting too preachy or too pro-pot. Actually, there wasn’t a whole lot of “Let’s all get stoned because it will be the best idea of our young lives” moments. Daniel wants to stop smoking and focus on getting better grades. Mr. Rosso introduces Daniel and Ken to his friend, Mr. Wake and Bake. Lindsay gets quite paranoid and dysfunctional after she finally manages to roll herself a joint. And Nick is just really, really annoying while stoned. I thought the topic was handled responsibly, but also didn’t devolve into some kind of tragic melodrama where the kid Lindsay’s babysitting goes missing or Nick ends up dead after OD-ing on cocaine once marijuana proves to be not enough for him.

Where the tragic melodrama did happen, however, was in the other half of the story — the geek half. Bill, glorious Bill, has a crush on his teacher, played by Mrs. Apatow, Leslie Mann. She has allergies just like him. In an effort to impress her, Bill runs down his list of allergies, telling his class that if he were to eat a peanut, he would die. Alan thinks Bill is full of shit and hides some peanuts in Bill’s sandwich. Bill eats the nuts and needs to be rushed to the hospital.

This is pretty heavy stuff. The last time Bill ate a peanut, he wound up in a coma. His mom blames herself for his weak immune system, because she was drinking and on the drugs while pregnant with Bill. Bill had just had a little mini-fight with Sam and Neal, who think Bill’s dorkiness is keeping them from scoring with chicks. And now their buddy is lying unconscious in a hospital bed.

(I also want to point out that if this were a Shonda Rhimes show, every character would’ve taken the opportunity, in turn, to bare their souls to and work out their problems in the presence of comatose Bill. I just watched the 752 episode of Scandal. At least in this Freaks and Geeks episode, only Alan delivers a big monologue to Bill, and it feels right.)

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So, Sam and Neal have to deal with the possibility of losing their friend, and what that means. They imagine how awesome it would be if Bill came back as a ghost, but then they realize that that’s not what would happen. He’d just be gone. They’re coming to the same kinds of realizations Lindsay was, but with their friend’s health as the catalyst in place of pot. The boys recognize that they love Bill just the way he is (the same way Lindsay loves Millie). But they, hopefully, will remember the feeling, even if Lindsay does not.

What did you think about Bill’s peanut storyline, and how easy did that flipping Alan get off here? He should be in jail.

Emma: So much on the Very Special Episode front and because this is network TV there has to be CONSEQUENCES but thankfully they focused on the paranoia aspect. Responsible Daniel is so great and this is something we have seen from him several times, he really does care about things (and Ken) despite his slacker demeanor.

Favorite babysitting rule “Please don’t let him ride the dog.” This sounds weird, stoned or not.

Oh Bill, there’s something do wonderfully innocent about him that I can’t imagine why Alan would think he would make up the allergy list, but Alan has his own reasons for hating on Bill and the guys. This stems from a fourth grade incident where they wouldn’t let Alan shoot rockets with them and he used to think they were cool. Rejection might not be the only reason why Alan turned out the way he is and Bill is far too gracious when he forgives him straight away and then asks him to go to the sci-fi convention with them. Alan can’t go through with it and we get to see him adopting the Michael Myers stalker cam pose from behind the bushes at the guys in their costumes (except Gordo who gets changed in the car). But yeah no punishment which is weird, not even a suspension.

Bill reacts well to the whole situation and looks to the positives; he’s helped his friends in the lady department, they go to the convention together, he gets a new Doctor Who costume, Leslie Mann holds his hand bedside (does she have a portrait in he attic?) and his mom called his dad. Bill is awesome.

The scenes in the hospital corridor when Bill is unconscious with both the boys and the adults are both laced with guilt; Bill’s mom Gloria has Jean to offer a ‘bad mother’ story as she accidentally dropped Sam on his head when he was a baby which resulted in a hairline fracture. Gloria is very different from Jean in terms of situation and parenting style and while they might not be friends if their sons weren’t so close, they definitely share a bond. I like that Neal and Sam don’t know how to react when they get hugs off Maureen (so glad to see her back) and Vicki as their friend is in a bad way but they’re the ones getting the attention. It’s ok as Bill gives them a free pass to pretend that he’s still dying.

Now that we’ve met Bill’s mother (who is from Babylon 5) it leads nicely into the next episode. Is there anything more you want to add about “Chokin’ and Tokin?”

Julie: I don’t have much to add about “Chokin’ and Tokin,'” just that this episode felt like it should’ve come earlier in the season. In fact, these two episodes seem like they fit together, but are out of place in the season arc. There’s no mention of Neal’s dad’s infidelity, no mention of Ken’s new lady, and lots of mentions of how obsessed with Lindsay Nick still is. My guess is that these two were supposed to come before the laser light show one, but for some reason they were moved further toward the end of the season.

I really, really loved “Dead Dogs and Gym Teachers,” probably because we were treated to a whole lot of Millie and Bill (Can I start shipping them? Is that OK? It’s more appropriate than many of my other ships).

I’ll start with the Bill stuff since we’ve already discussed the introduction of Bill’s mother in the last episode. She is…not the kind of mom you’d expect Bill to have. I mean, I guess. She’s pretty hot, as Neal points out. We’ve known all along that Bill’s dad has been out of the picture for a while, so it’s not a shock that Ms. Haverchuck is out there getting her date on. Unfortunately for Bill, she chooses to get her date on with Mr. Fredricks, the gym teacher and Bill’s nemesis.

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All along I’ve really liked Mr. Fredricks as a character. He’s kind of the stereotypical gym teacher, but not really. He’s young-ish (in fact, he looks really young to me in this episode), he’s got skills with the ladies (as he explained to Sam back in “Tests and Breasts”), and he really does seem to want to include the geeks in the gym class process, even if he’s not always sure how to do it.

In this episode, Bill’s mom reveals that she’s been dating Fredricks for a while and it’s SERIOUS. After being told off by Bill during gym class, he decides that he needs to figure out a way to endear himself to Bill. Bill’s mom suggests go-karting, and Neal and Sam are on board right away (even if they weren’t initially invited). Mr. Fredricks works hard to make the boys feel comfortable, but Bill is still reluctant to let the gym teacher into his life. Only after Mr. Fredricks explains how much he cares about Bill’s mom does Bill decide to give him a chance, even offering to explain Dallas to him (just during commercials).

I thought this was just the perfect awkward situation. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a kid like Bill whose mom starts dating the gym teacher. Everyone played their parts perfectly. Most cringy was the part when Mr. Fredricks came out of the bedroom in his skivvies and poured himself a cup of juice using the “Bill” mug. There’s a new man in town, Bill Haverchuck.

What did you think of this episode?

Emma: I can see what you mean about them feeling out of order (Bill does joke about his mom dating Neal’s dad but other than that there’s no hint of that story) and like you I loved this episode.

Bill is clearly uncomfortable with how his friends talk about his mom, having know guys who have hot moms this is very accurate (I doubt there is anyone who is thrilled by their friends objectifying a parent in this manner). When Gloria jokes that she’ll have to start dancing again, Bill is very opposed to this but they do seem to have quite and honest/open relationship. This is probably why Gloria feels like it is time to tell Bill about who she is dating and it also shows how serious it is with Mr Fredricks.

All of the stuff between Bill and Mr Fredricks is so awkward; Mr Fredricks thinks Bill Murray is a wiseass, Bill Murray is Bill’s favorite comedian this is followe by the awkward breakfast encounter that youve already mentioned. The pair have an encounter during gym class where Bill steps way over the line (earning himself the title of King from Alan) and this leads to the go-karting which also ends in disaster. Bill crying in the back of his car by himself destroyed me and Mr Fredricks further endears himself to the audience and Bill in a way by saying sorry and telling Bill how much he loves his mom. This leads to the excellent Dallas watching scene. All I kept thinking throughout was if only this had happened during baseball season as this is a sport that Bill loves.

Before we move on from Bill I have to mention what is quite possibly my favorite scene from this entire show and that’s Bill making himself a post school snack and watching TV. It’s such an innocent and lovely moment that captures something I would sometimes do myself (and I’m sure many others did) where you came home from school to an empty house and you were too hungry to wait for dinner so it was the perfect snack time.  I love that the scene shows that there’s no vanity to Martin Starr’s performance as he’s laughing with his mouth wide open with food in his teeth. It’s wonderful.

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Lindsay is also dealing with drama as an unfortunate accident leads to Millie having a moment of crisis. What did you think of this story? Also did you ever have to convince your parents to let you go to a concert?

Julie: Such a good point about baseball. Bill probably would’ve had a much better reaction to the Mr. Fredricks news if he had been playing shortstop instead of heaving bricks at a basket.

Actually, I checked the on the air date for this episode, because I thought the show was kind of off, timing-wise, with the school sports. Baseball is usually a spring sport, while basketball happens in the winter. This episode aired in October of 2000, while “Chokin’ and Tokin'” aired seven months earlier, in March. Apparently, Freaks and Geeks was cancelled after only 12 episodes. The final three episodes (which we haven’t yet discussed) aired in July of 2000, but this episode and the next one (“Noshing and Moshing”) were held until October. That’s one giant mess of a schedule.

That Bill snack scene was just so raw. He gave Linda Cardellini a run for her money in the vanity-free laugh department. What were your favorite after school snacks? I used to make microwave popcorn with, like, a full stick of butter. It was disgusting. What the hell was I thinking. (Just to make myself feel better, my brother, who is now Mr. Healthy Paleo Guy, once had me stop at McDonald’s after school one day so he could get three — THREE — triple cheeseburgers. For a snack.)

Moving on to Lindsay’s story. I can’t even handle dead dogs (especially because I used to have a dog named BoBo, well, Bo. Boromir, if we’re being picky). I actually did tear up a little bit, I’m not going to lie.

So, Lindsay and Kim are driving around town when Kim hits something. They figure it was a squirrel, and don’t go back to check. But, alas, it turns out to be Millie’s beloved old dog, Goliath (biblical name, naturally). Kim and Lindsay feel horrible and start acting really nice to Millie. Kim actually starts to like Millie and enjoys hanging out with her, and this makes Lindsay wary because she doesn’t want Kim and her friends to corrupt Millie. All because she’s “in mourning,” Millie blows off her homework, considers shoplifting, decides to go to a concert unsanctioned by her parents, and almost takes a sip of beer. That’s when Kim finally confesses and it sends Millie right back to her old, innocent life.

The scene where Mr. Weir listens to The Who’s music before making his decision about whether or not to allow Lindsay to attend the concert totally happened to me. In the summer between freshman and sophomore year of high school, my best friend invited me to see the Counting Crows with her at the Riv, which is a smallish concert venue in Chicago. The Counting Crows were totally new, man, and we were so cutting edge at age 15. My dad listened to the entire album and then determined that I could go. Also factoring into me being able to go was that we were getting a police escort to and from the concert, via my friend’s uncle who was a cop. We were dropped off in an unmarked car and picked up in a squad. That was kind of badass. And we both (accidentally) wore jeans, white T-shirts, flannel shirts, and Birkenstocks because we were awesome, obviously.

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So, I’ve gone on for a bit. What did you think of Lindsay’s story? What was your first concert experience?

Emma: That’s good to know about the Freaks and Geeks schedule and yeah that does sound like a huge mess, sounds like the same NBC we know and love today. Paul Feig jokes in the DVD notes that the show got the cancellation call two days after doing a pot story in “Chokin’ and Tokin'”

Favorite after school snack would definitely be cheese on crackers or a cheese sandwich. Basically anything that involved cheese. If there was no cheese (always heartbreaking) I’d switch up to toast with Marmite (weirdly enough all of these are also my drunk snacks of choice).

Yeah the dead dog story is brutal and the photo that Lindsay shows Millie at the end with them as kids alongside Goliath broke me. Kim’s own pet story was also super tragic and showed another reason why Kim has this hard exterior. I liked that Kim’s guilty feelings led her to being nice to Millie, even if this meant that she was leading Millie astray. While Kim’s intentions stem from guilt, I totally understand why she is annoyed at Lindsay who doesn’t want Millie hanging out with them. This is about Lindsay wanting to keep her past and present friends separate (and I also totally understand this) so Lindsay is thinking about both herself and Millie in this situation.

The magic school bus stuff is pretty brilliant and that they’re having a cookout before the concert – do/did people do this? It reminds me of what people do before big sports games, though to these guys music is like their sport.

My first concert experience sadly does not involve anything as grand as a police escort or Counting Crows, instead it was at one of the local universities and I went with my friend who was essentially my Millie (without the religious views). It was the NME (weekly music magazine) Introducing Tour in 1999 and four bands played (Unkle, Idlewild, Delakota, Llama Farmers), luckily my parents didn’t want to listen to their music prior to the event. We stayed in the dorms with friends of my Millie and because she was such a good student I think my parents felt like this was ok. I remember that it was an over 18s event (which we weren’t) but we got in fine and there was definitely drinking. I also remember that we watched Warriors after the gig so spent the whole of the next week saying “Warriors, come out to play.” The same year I went to my first festival and I recall that took a bit more convincing, but I went with the same friend so that helped. Looking back my parents were pretty cool to let their 16 year old daughter go to Glastonbury and I’m pretty sure I still technically owe my mum £85 for the ticket (they now cost in the region of £200).

Your concert outfits sound brilliant (even with the accidental matching), I’m pretty sure I wore super baggie Dickies trousers and a flower Voodoo Dolls skater girl dress over the top. As Kerensa and Noel mentioned terrible chokers in their Wonder Woman review I’d like to point out that Kim wears a choker made out of shells (see photo below), which is also terrible and reminds me that I also had shell jewelry which wasn’t great. Millie’s wardrobe changes for her concert experience as she ditches the pastels and cardigans and rocks the double denim (ripped of course) and band t-shirt.

I love that Jean thinks the song they listen to is completely innocent and is about an accordian, whereas Harold automatically recognizes the innuendo.

While Lindsay is trying to save Millie, Ken is trying to stop Nick from making a fool of himself. Nick has decided the way to win Lindsay’s heart is to write her a song and he’s called it Lady L (no names of course). This is both super cringe and brilliant, Nick is doing this with all sincerity but Ken knows that this isn’t going to win Lindsay back so Ken does the only thing he can to stop Nick from humiliating himself; he destroys Nick’s guitar while pretending he is Pete Townsend. Nick has to sit back and laugh along, but he’s really mad at Ken. Do you think Ken did the right thing? Jason Segel wrote the song and as we’ve seen this is something he has done in several projects since.

F&G ep 14 Kim and Lindsay

Julie: I must be very old, or very American, because I have never heard of any of those bands. Or maybe that’s kind of the point, since it was an introducing tour. Perhaps these bands never went beyond the introductions.

I was thinking about my post-Counting Crows concerts, and I realized that I had a few experiences that I haven’t yet seen televised. My parents actually went with me to a few concerts. They did what Jean Weir wanted to do. My dad and his best friend (who’s awesome, by the way) took me and the best friend’s daughter (also awesome) to Milwaukee to see Pearl Jam. And then my mom drove a bunch of my friends and me out to Davenport, IA to see the Indigo Girls. I’m sure she got an education that night.

As far as outfits go, I loved how Millie’s jeans were so strategically ripped, too. Her pants legs had matching rips. Oh, Millie. Never change.

Also, noting that this show aired in 2000, the boys’ hair keeps getting bigger and bigger, which was a thing at that point. I know a lot of guys I went to high school with had gigantic hair for some reason. And my brother-in-law did the same thing with his mop, and that would’ve been right around 2000, I think. Is this just what high school boys do because they don’t want to get haircuts? Do they realize how not attractive it is (except on Ken)?

Speaking of Ken, his beating up the guitar was perfect. He kept Nick from making a fool of himself and it was a callback to the freaks talking about Pete Townshend smashing his guitars earlier in the episode. Well played, Ken, as usual.

I’m not sure if people tailgate for concerts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Who doesn’t want to load up on beer and pig anus before standing in a crowd of 50,000 people?

Do you have anything to add, now that I’ve used the phrase “pig anus?”

Emma: The latter two bands in the list never amounted to much, whereas Idlewild and a successful career over here and Unkle had one fantastic album (one track features Thom Yorke). These introducing tours are fun and sometimes feature the next big thing, but quite often don’t.

I agree with you on the hair thing with guys and it could possibly be to do with hair cutting fear. Guys who read this can you help us out with this ponderance?

I think concert tailgating and pig anus might be a grand place to leave it. Until next time!

Julie Hammerle is, according to Klout, an expert in the areas of both Morgan Freeman and glasses. Her writing can be found at chicagonow.com/hammervision and you can holler at her on Twitter as well.

Emma Fraser wanted to be Angela Chase when she grew up, but is sadly not a CIA Agent now. Her writing can be found at TV Ate My Wardrobe and you will find her on both Twitter and Tumblr.

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