By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episodes 15 & 16: “Noshing and Moshing” and “Smooching and Mooching”
Original airdates: Oct. 17 and Jul. 8, 2000
Julie: As we head into the home stretch of Freaks and Geeks (we only have two more episodes after this week), the drama is intensifying, the stakes are being raised, and the hormones are getting CRAZY. These episodes were chock full of all the things (but still not enough Ken. Never enough Ken).
The first episode, “Noshing and Moshing,” finally deals with Neal finding out about his father’s infidelity. Neal has started acting out the way that all teenagers act out when faced with this kind of emotional turmoil — he’s causing trouble, his grades have gone into the crapper, and he’s taken up ventriloquism. The ventriloquism dummy is used to great effect in this episode. First, Neal believes that puppetry is the way into a girl’s pants, which Bill (rightly) informs him is not the case. Then Neal gets into a fight with that big, fat thug who was harassing some girl in the hallway (Yes, I’m name calling. That guy’s a dick). And finally, Neal performs his schtick for his parents’ big annual party and says some nasty things about his dad, the dentist. He ends up telling his mom that he knows his dad is cheating, and his mom reveals that she has known about Dr. Feelgood for a long time, but right now is not the time for her to worry about her marriage. I just wonder how this will affect Neal and his relationship with his parents from this point on. I’m sure he sees both of them in a new light, and not a good one.
Let’s stick with the ventriloquism dummy for a moment. First, I love, love, loved Bill showing off his seductive dance moves for Neal and Sam. Watching these guys exhibit their moves was like watching birds of paradise perform their mating rituals. Secondly, the dummy freaked my shit out. Especially when Neal opened his locker door to reveal the dummy just hanging out there. It took me back to senior year of college when one of my roommates, who was/is a ventriloquist, kept her puppets in her closet. Freaky stuff. Puppets, like children, should be neither seen nor heard.
Where do you stand? Are you pro- or anti- dummy?
Emma: I am definitely anti-dummy and like Bill I would expect something very bad to happen – Morty doesn’t come alive but he does give Neal the perfect opportunity to rag on his dad in the most public of settings. This whole sequence treads the tragic comedy line that Freaks and Geeks does so well; it’s great to see how amused a very drunk Harold is by this stand-up act and how the party has gone from dreaded affair to super fun for both him and Jean. In fact most of the Weirs have a great time as Lindsay gets a smooch from Neal’s older brother Barry who has been away at college and has the allure of someone who has got out of town onto bigger and better things (more on Barry later). Sam has the least fun, but no one wants to see one of their friends imploding and there’s been a lot of weight on the shoulders of these young men in the past few episodes.
The tragedy comes when Neal tells his brother and mom about the affairs as they both already know and are trying to keep the status quo until Neal goes to college. Even though the Schweibers think they are doing the right thing by Neal the happy facade projected at the party can only go so far and the final few shots of the happy Weirs and the miserable Schweibers hammers this point home. My screen got super misty when Neal told his mom about his dad and I think all of the lying is definitely detrimental rather than helping. Barry seems pretty level headed but he has had time away from this mess, he also doesn’t have to live in a house with a vibe as bad as this. I like Barry though and his opinions about fraternities, this seems like his way of rebelling against his father who clearly was in a frat and would stick a meatball up his butt. The whole picking a major is alien to me as we go to university with that all figured out beforehand – I’m sure this will come up more when we cover Felicity.
The final straw for Neal is when he sees Barry kissing Lindsay and I’m glad that he directs his rage towards his father as I don’t think Barry has any idea that Neal is crushing hard on her. This episode also shows why Neal has that cocky, confident streak as it’s the Schweiber way. Still Morty is super creepy and I’m glad I never had a roommate that had a thing for dolls and after seeing The Conjuring last week I now have renewed fear in dolls.
The doll puts Sam and Bill in an awkward friendship position as they don’t want to get beat up for Neal’s new quirk but they also know that their friend is hurting over something they have no control over. If only Neal had taken up funk dancing and learnt some of Bill’s amazing moves.
With the second episode I have a lot more to say about Bill and his ability to not give a shit, but first I want to look at the other acting out story in “Noshing and Moshing ” with Daniel and his punk phase. This is the first we’re really seeing of Daniel’s parents and it’s clear that there isn’t much light and joy in the Desario house; Daniel has an older unreliable brother, a father who is unwell and a mother who knows how to make her son feel shitty about his failures at school. When Daniel gets to school late after running an errand for his parents he encounters a pissed off Kim as she’d left her schoolbag in his car – this leads to an argument and a break up. Daniel just goes along with it instead of telling Kim what had happened, she might be a hot head but from the closing moment of the episode (which also got me teary) Kim will be there for Daniel when he has moments like this. Considering how much Daniel and Kim break-up I thought it was incredibly naive of Lindsay to congratulate Kim on this relationship ending (you should always make sure it is definitely over before you start cheering) but I think for Daniel he needed this time to vent and attempt his best punk look.
What did you think of Daniel’s transformation?
Julie: Unrelated, but related: I’m so excited for Felicity.
Anyway. You make a great point about Barry handling the knowledge of his father’s infidelity so well, probably because he’s off at school and doesn’t have to live with it. That said, I wonder if his obvious rebellion against everything his father holds dear (fraternities, choosing a lucrative area of study like pre-law), is a direct reaction to how much he really isn’t dealing with it that well. Barry seems to be taking his life in the exact opposite direction of his father. I wonder if it will last or if he’ll eventually follow in his father’s footsteps. I actually found myself worrying about Lindsay entering into a relationship with the son of a cheater. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and all that.
I think we’ll have a lot more to say about Bill the stud in the next episode, so I’ll just say that his funk dancing made my weekend.
As far as Daniel goes, I love him. He has a reason for being the way he is (unlike Jordan Catalano, who pretty much leans for no reason — except unexplained illiteracy). Daniel is yet another member of the Freaks and Geeks world who has a pretty shitty family life. Only Lindsay and Sam seem to live in a “normal” home. Well, maybe Ken does, too, but we haven’t seen his family. I think the fact that Daniel is expected to do so much for his family explains how in tune he is to how his friends are feeling. Daniel is generally a good guy, who tries to do the right thing, especially where his friends are concerned. Even if Kim doesn’t realize it, Daniel would never intentionally cause her to fail a test. As we’ve seen in this episode, he’s constantly thinking about other people. His little jaunt into punk life was his way of rebelling, of trying to figure out what Daniel wants apart from his family and friends. If memory serves, we’ll be seeing more of this exploration in the final two episodes.
I feel like all of the kids are experimenting with self-exploration right now. Lindsay is thinking about what the future (college) holds for her. Neal is trying his hand at ventriloquism. Sam is jumping into the dating scene with the cool kids. Bill is debating whether or not French kissing is gross. Nick is trying to take his drumming more seriously. I’m unintentionally launching us right into the second episode. Do you have anything left to say about the first?
Emma: The only thing I really want to mention about “Noshing and Moshing” is how far Daniel goes to fit in with the punk scene and how he’s very aware of his ‘tourist’ status in the club. It’s not just related to teen years but this definitely felt very real when it comes to depicting fitting in. Daniel tries to impress Jenna (the dropout punk girl) by listing off the punk bands that he likes but he chooses all the obvious ones so he goes one step further and rips his clothes, uses all the safety pins he can find and puts a lot of egg in his hair. He even poses in the mirror with snarl face. When he goes to pick up Ken and Nick (who are dressed like they normally do), Ken can’t suppress his laughter which is perfect because there’s no way Ken wouldn’t give Daniel shit.
Ken is the one who seems to get the most out of the experience after he gets over the fact that he can’t get served – not because he’s underage but because he doesn’t look the part – as Ken loves the mosh pit. Daniel loves it until he gets cut on the back of the head and it’s in the grotty bathroom that he has the realization that this is a reaction to what’s going on. Music is an outlet for emotions, but nothing beats a good hug and Daniel gets that from Kim (who is wearing a unicorn t-shirt if I’m not mistaken).
“Smooching and Mooching” explores a different side of growing up as Cindy Sanders has broken up with Todd and has decided that she deserves a good guy for once because of course she does. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, I still thing Cindy is pretty awful but this storyline is brilliant as we get to see a guy in the incredibly nervous inexperienced state for once. A date with Cindy is all Sam has wanted but now that it’s actually happening (and at a make out party) he’s a big bag of nerves and this is understandable. First kisses have been so built up in movies, TV and books and this episode perfectly captures how first kisses come with so much expectation and nerves. Sam is petrified, Bill thinks of the ultimate worst case scenario (what if he throws up in her mouth?) and Neal is confident about his abilities (Morty the dummy gets to experience this, the Hef inspired robe is a nice touch). The argument over who gets to wear the turtle neck is made even funnier by Neal’s being a detachable turtle neck so Bill definitely wins.
What did you think of the pre-party first kiss build up?
Julie: Ken moshing was great because of course Ken doesn’t give a frak and that’s the most punk thing of all.
As far as the kissing goes, I loved it. Of course I did. It was nice to see the boys freaking out over how to kiss a girl. I mean, we ladies (I assume) all fretted over that kind of stuff because we had subscriptions to Teen magazine and knew how much was at stake. That Neal took it seriously enough to use his dummy as a make out partner (ultimately his ONLY make out partner this episode) was the icing on the cake. Actually, no. The real icing on the cake was Neal practicing his bottle spinning skills only to have the bottle land on Bill every single time. Naturally the kid who is most comfortable/excited about kissing is the one who gets shut out.
As far as Cindy goes: Blech. I’m not disputing the notion that she deserves a decent guy, but does she have to experiment with Sam? I worry that she’s only pursuing him because she thinks he’s a nice guy who won’t hurt her. And I worry even more that she’ll get bored and break his heart. Breaking his heart is unforgivable, Cindy. Know that.
Bill wins in so many ways this episode. He gets the magic turtleneck, the bottle keeps landing on him, and he winds up spending waaaay more than seven minutes in heaven with Joanna Garcia. Who knows if anything will come of their little make out session, but it doesn’t have to. Bill got the girl (a girl he didn’t even want, which probably made him that much hotter) for one night, at least.
The other half of this episode focused on Nick moving out of his parents’ house and moving into Lindsay’s. Her dad is shockingly supportive of Nick because he understands what a tough time Nick had growing up. That was a heartbreaking little moment where Lindsay gets upset with her dad not understanding her and her dad revealing that maybe he had a more difficult upbringing than she could ever know. Makes me love Harold Weir that much more for breaking the cycle of choose-your-own-awful-parenting-adventure and raising his kids with so much love and support.
Lindsay cannot stand having Nick in her house. He wears his briefs to bed, her parents are paying for his drum lessons, he’s dancing with her mom in the living room. Have you ever had a friend come to stay with you for a long period of time?
Emma: The conversation between Bill and Vicki in the closet is such a good example as to why Bill is probably my favorite character as Vicki doesn’t even consider that Bill doesn’t want to be in there with her. His biggest fear happened which was the look that a girl gets when she really doesn’t want to kiss you but he doesn’t let this phase him. Instead it prompts the question “What’s it like to be pretty?” It’s a genuine moment that isn’t layered with any kind of snark as he thinks that people are nicer if you are pretty. Vivki doesn’t have a deep and meaningful response as this is how she has always looked but what she says in return highlights why Bill is such a special character as she mentions that whenever she sees him he is having a good time and always laughing. We see this earlier in the episode before Cindy interrupts when they are discussing what movies are funnier and as a group the boys have it pretty together. Yeah they worry about getting beaten up or picked on but when they’re hanging out together there are no pretenses (see also Bill’s funky moves – can we please embed the video at the end?).
Nick staying at the Weirs prompts such a great look at fathers and daughters and this builds on Harold’s difficult time of having a daughter that we have previously when it comes to his children dating. Harold is pretty traditional as his opinions of a female president show (it would be fine if it wasn’t for those three days a month – Lindsay counters that guys get a type of period too). When Lindsay confronts Harold about why he doesn’t act this way with her, it is because she is his daughter and it is torture when he doesn’t know that she is safe. It might sound irrational and he jokes that he’d prefer it if she stayed in the house all of the time. Between this scene and how Harold tries to have some influence with Nick’s dad I think we can put Harold on the Awesome TV Dads list (featuring Spy Daddy, Keith Mars and Coach Taylor).
As you point out it is a heartbreaking moment when Harold talks about his own difficult childhood and that this is his reason for looking out for Nick. Harold also sounds a bit like Will Graham what with his bringing home all of the dogs. Harold is pretty level headed when he talks to Nick about the drums – he talks to Nick in a way that Nick hasn’t experienced considering the way Nick reacts to Harold calling him a smart kid. This is encouragement rather than belittlement and it’s lovely. As is the moment when he bashes the Rush drummer and pulls an old record out that prompts the dance party with Jean.
I’ve never experienced the friend overstaying their welcome, nor do I think I have done this at a friends house (there is an excellent episode of Moone Boy that portrays this rather well). I can understand why Lindsay is reticent about Nick staying and this is before the awkward underwear moment as Nick clearly has feelings for Lindsay still. This is another occasion where Daniel and Kim give romantic advice to their friends. Kim wins best advice with “If he offers to give you a foot massage, run!”
We also got a Lindsay/Sam scene with Sam asking for girl advice with Lindsay offering up something based on her own experience as she tells Sam to not smother Cindy.
Are there any other moments that stand out to you?
Julie: I think you touched on just about everything I thought of. I love the Will Graham comparison. Harold and Will are just trying to help those who need help. I also think it’s easier to be the cool, understanding parent when it comes to other people’s kids. When it’s your kid, you want to make sure they’re really, really doing the right thing. Of course, the way Harold goes about helping Nick (teaching him what “real” drumming sounds like, suggesting lessons, and then helping him pay for said lessons by giving him a job in the sporting goods store) is really a master class in how to drill responsibility into a teenager. I hope he’d make a similar offer to one of his kids if they came looking for support and/or money.
Two more episodes to go!
Enjoy this “How to Dance Sexy” tutorial courtesy of Bill Haverchuck