By Julie Hammerle and Emma Fraser
Freaks and Geeks
Season 1, Episode 17: “The Little Things”
Original airdate: Jul. 8, 2000
Julie: I don’t know what was going on in the writers’ heads when they wrote this, the penultimate episode of Freaks and Geeks. I don’t know if they knew they were wrapping up the series or if they were hopeful that they were just wrapping up the season. Either way, this episode feels final. It feels like we’re seeing tremendous growth in some of the characters and it gives me hope that they’re going to be OK once they graduate from McKinley High and go off into the real world.
This episode mainly focused on the growth of Sam and Ken (yay, Ken!). Before the start of the episode, the production gods reminded us (and the TV audience, who would’ve been watching this several months after Ken first hooked up with Amy) that Ken has a girlfriend and so does Sam. Ken’s still seeing Amy the tuba player and Sam is still slumming it with Cindy (notice I didn’t write that the other way around).
Both boys are new to the dating game and are navigating through some pretty mature waters. Ken has to deal with some pretty heavy information from Amy’s past — she was born with both male and female genitalia. Instead of turning tail and running, Ken takes time to consider what this information really means to him and to his relationship with Amy. Does it really not matter? Should it matter? If he’s OK with it, does that make him gay? He even consults the brain trust of Daniel and Nick on the matter, and they treat the situation with humor, but also with a great deal of care and maturity. These guys are really good friends when it comes right down to it.
Sam, on the other hand, is dealing with what to do when your dream girl turns out to be more of a nightmare. He has to do the mature thing and break up with Cindy Sanders, even though this is the girl he has been pining for since the beginning of the school year. She doesn’t like his family heirlooms, she’s a young republican, and she doesn’t find The Jerk funny. She gots to go.
I loved the conversation between the two boys in the bathroom. Through Sam’s frustrations about Cindy having nothing in common with him, Ken is able to see that he truly has a good thing going with Amy. And Sam realizes that there’s so much more to being in a relationship than just finding the prettiest, most popular girl. I think both guys learned some valuable lessons in this episode that will serve them well in the future.
What did you think of Sam and Ken, best friends forever?
Emma: As you can imagine I LOVED the bathroom scene, it’s been an age since we had a good one of these and while My So-Called Life gave us endless Sharon/Rayanne bathroom moments Lindsay and Kim prefer to chat under the stairs. So Ken and Sam have conflicting issues with the women in their lives and as you said they’re not remotely similar but they share a moment of clarity. Sam’s simple “So what’s the problem?” when Ken lists off everything he likes about Amy is all that Ken needs to realize what Amy means to him and that her confession isn’t really going to define their relationship (or make him gay).
Amy’s revelation is a pretty huge storyline for a teen episode; in the DVD notes Paul Feig mentions that this episode was nominated for a GLAAD award (for Outstanding TV Individual Episode in a Series Without a Regular Gay Character) and I think it did a terrific job of portraying a reaction to finding out something like this. Daniel is briefly a dick about it when he tells Ken to get rid of her and there’s that horrible moment when Ken overreacts to Daniel referring to Ken and Amy as “guys.” As we have mentioned in the past on multiple occasions along with this one Daniel is a good friend and not only does he forgive his friend for punching him, he also doesn’t betray Ken’s trust and tell Kim and Lindsay about why Ken punched him.
The confusion that Ken feels is understandable; this is his first relationship and this is a pretty big thing to comprehend, even if Amy is happy with who she is. It’s also perfectly reasonable for Amy to feel vulnerable and angry at Ken for how he responds. Ken tells the guys that he thinks he might love Amy and she clearly has strong feelings for him as I don’t think she would have told him about being born packing both a gun and a holster (thanks, boys, for this analogy) if she didn’t. I just really want these two kids to make it and their kiss with awkward tuba involvement followed by Ken enthusiastically cheering Amy on while she played “Hail to the Chief” is several shades of adorable. Our sarcastic boy is all grown up.
Sam deals with his girl problem after his bathroom chat with Ken, but it might not have been the best time to break up with Cindy as she tearily introduces Vice President Bush. I still think Cindy is the worst, but Sam’s timing is off. I also don’t think Cindy is crying because she is sad that it is over with Sam — she’s crying because he’s the one who dumped her, and I’m guessing this doesn’t happen in Cindy’s world. She’s meaner than they initially portrayed her, before I just thought she was purely self-involved but from her comments about ugly cheerleaders and calling the necklace ugly (she likes to call things ugly) she definitely has a big streak of bitch.
Their relationship is a classic case of what you expect not being how things really are and while we have spent the whole season with Sam pining after Cindy he comes to realize that she isn’t all that. This isn’t actually Cindy’s fault (yes, I can’t believe I’m semi-defending her) as Sam is the one who has put her up on a pedestal — Bill has already pointed out long ago how lame she is (citing Miss Piggy being her favorite Muppet as one reason ) once again showing how smart Bill can be when it comes to the ladies. It takes much more for Sam to see beyond Cindy’s looks and it hits him while they are watching The Jerk how wrong they are for each other. Sidenote: I’m pretty sure the scene we see from The Jerk is the one that Bill describes to Vicki in the last episode, and Vicki found it hilarious. Cindy is tactless when she wants to know how much the necklace cost (it’s an heirloom, duh) and she pretty much eye rolls when Sam wants to know if she wants any popcorn asking whether popcorn would make the film any funnier.
What did you think of how Bill and Neal reacted to Sam’s new relationship and his big dilemma?
Julie: Neal’s reactions to Sam’s relationship woes were some of my favorite parts of this episode. Neal was by no means the main focus the hour, but the stuff he was dealing with was so complex and nuanced and real. In the wake of the make out party, he is the only one left in his core group of friends never to have kissed a girl. Bill’s done it. Sam’s done it (lots of times with Cindy, apparently). Neal still has this naive, black and white, right and wrong notion about dating. He believes if you can get a girl to like you (especially one as hot and popular as Cindy), you’re a fool to ever let her go. It’s all about the game and the appearances for Neal. The end game is the girlfriend. Once you have that, your problems are gone forever. Neal doesn’t realize that getting the girlfriend is just the start of your problems.
As far as Bill goes, I love how no one believes he actually kissed Vicki. Bill, the quiet stud.
You’re a better person than I am for feeling sorry for Cindy. I was totally fine with Sam dumping her before her big moment as the head of the Young Republicans club. Cindy needs to be brought down several pegs, and maybe this was a good way to do it. She was definitely more upset about Sam being the one ending the relationship than she was about losing him as her boyfriend. She was basically using Sam to begin with, dating him because she thought he’d be nice to her even though she wasn’t really attracted to him. Sam deserves a good woman who likes the same things he likes, and Cindy needs a little disappointment in her life. Maybe it will make her a better person. Maybe she’ll stop calling people ugly. God, Cindy’s the worst.
Let’s talk about who’s not the worst, namely Mr. Rosso. I’ve always felt for him. He seems like the kind of guy who would be awesome to know outside of school. I bet he has a lot of cool, open minded friends. He’s in a band. He’s just a complete dork at school. I love that Lindsay finally got to see Mr. Rosso outside his counselor’s office (even going so far as to call him kind of sexy. Yikes.)
What did you think of Lindsay and Mr. Rosso sitting in a tree?
Emma: Despite Neal’s incredulous reaction to Sam’s complaint about Cindy by the end of the episode when Sam does break it off he tells his friend he has done the right thing. Seeing Sam in that over-sized turtleneck probably had something to do with it — I am so glad I escaped the hickey trend, someone tried to give me one but I managed to make my excuses and get out of there, sadly Sam has been marked.
Mr. Rosso is quite the hero of the episode, and while I wouldn’t say that he’s sexy, he’s got a good heart and he knows how to spruce up his hippy hair. He clearly cares about the students: he helps Ken with his dilemma and responds well when Ken mentions that he might be gay. Mr. Rosso also cares about Lindsay, and he wants big things for her which is why he makes sure she is part of this big event.
Even though Lindsay is a Democrat, Mr. Rosso thinks this is a wonderful opportunity and at the start of the episode he mentions that he gets paid $12,000 a year and that he’s overpaid. His tone changes throughout as his past comes back to haunt him and this includes an out of character meltdown in front of Lindsay.
It’s not surprising to hear about Mr. Rosso protesting while he was at college and he has 16 scars on his head because of this. Mr. Rosso’s meltdown comes after Lindsay’s questions are rejected by Bush’s people and he’s not even allowed into the cafeteria to hear the Q & A. Lindsay shows why she is special and rejects the question provided by the Bush team and asks why they don’t want to promote a lively debate; it’s a proud day for Mr. Rosso. Ben Stiller is one of the Secret Service agents and Mr. Rosso even helps him with what he wants to be as in a hilarious diatribe Stiller rants about why the VP needs protection as no one ever tries to assassinate them.
Lindsay has another role to play and that’s a free advertising board for her dads store. I would totally be a member of the Weir party and wear an A1 Sporting Goods t-shirt — is a A1 a popular name as it instantly made me think of Breaking Bad “Have an A1 day!”
Can you see Lindsay running for public office one day?
Julie: I *think* the only time I found myself in a hickey situation was freshman year of college. I don’t remember being concerned my neck was covered in bruises. No turtlenecks for this girl! However, back when I was a kid, my cousin showed up a family party covered in hickeys. He married the girl who gave them to him. Sometimes she’s still the hickey lady to me, even now.
Are you supposing that Mr. Weir’s sporting goods business might possibly be a front for a highly successful drug ring? Because if so, I’m on board, and I’m pretty sure that’s where the writers were planning to go if this show had been given a second season. It’s only logical.
Mr. Rosso was working that hippie braid and suit. Business in the front and party in the back.
I think Mr. Rosso is right to assume that Lindsay is destined for big things. She’s a deep thinker. She’s concerned about the world. She may not have many concrete goals, but she does seem to have a good head on her shoulders. However, if she were to run for office, her freaky friendships might come back to haunt her. Now I’m imagining a Freaks and Geeks reunion episode where Lindsay is running for mayor against Cindy Sanders. Cindy, of course, would feel the need to dig up all the dirt from Lindsay’s past. She’ll try to blackmail Neal into giving her the dirt by promising him sexual favors. She’ll try (unsuccessfully) to get Millie on her side. Man, this should happen. This needs to happen.
Emma: These might be the best spinoff ideas yet! I am totally up for Mr Weir as a precursor to Heisenberg, maybe Nick could be his Jesse after he took a shine to him in the last episode? Look at how good he is at peddling sporting merchandise. This reunion idea is also excellent because Cindy Sanders is the worst and even though Lindsay’s friends could cause controversy we also know they make a great cheer team.
And just 1 episode to go! *SOB*