Episode Title: "Girl Meets the Forgotten"
Episode Number: 12
Boy Meets World Episodes Borrowed From: Take the B-plot of Season 4's "Fishing for Virna" with the under-appreciated cafeteria worker with her mashed potatoes (and how that translates to not appreciating your mom) and smash it together with Season 4's "Janitor Dad" about how there's nothing wrong being a janitor, and there you go.
Cory's History Lesson and Relevance: The Great Depression, it's okay. I just recently watched a Ken Burns documentary on the Depression and these "Forgotten" never came up. I mean, by name. I mean, is that a real term for a sect of people during that?
Episode Review: Sorry this took so long, guys. Been very busy. I'm going to try to just power through this one so that I can get to the next one right away and not fall behind.
It's 'Electives Day' at JQA, and electives, in this context, apparently just means one volunteer class you take for a week that you have to come early to sign up for. I feel like this isn't really an 'elective' as I understood them all throughout my educational career, but whatever. Riley's in usual self-absorbed brat mode complaining that Topanga didn't try to wake her up enough, complaining about having to do these electives, complaining about having to go to school and work at the same time which Cory acts like he does too (with a hearty 'How ya doin'?) except... going to school is his work, it's not like he's also got classes to take on top of his job)
Anyway, this whole scene felt very real and definitely harkened back to arguments I would have with my own parents. They were often very dismissive of my complaints when I felt exhausted and overworked because it pales in comparison to how exhausted and overworked they would be, but as a kid of course I couldn't see anything out of my own situation. I make fun of Riley and Maya for being narcissists (and... they are) but in some situations all 12-year-olds are narcissists, and this is one. What I don't believe is later on when Topanga requests Maya and Riley simply bring in groceries and they just refuse and very rudely. No parent would put up with that.
Also, Danielle Fishel is slowly getting a little better and acting like she's trying. Really, everyone's getting stronger on this show.
So, in class, they're talking about the Great Depression, which Riley thinks is the same thing as the Grand Canyon which isn't initially funny but becomes funny later on in the lesson when, after Cory describes what it is, she earnests asks "But, that could never happen to anyone in the Grand Canyon today, could it?". So is Riley's thing about her being smart and studious from the beginning of the series just done now? Because she's routinely portrayed as being the least intelligent of the four. Cory tries to get Riley to see that maybe there's someone in her life she hasn't been appreciating but of course Riley cares about nothing in this world that isn't her or Maya so she assumes he's talking about Maya and Cory gets humorously fed up and leaves. Worst class in the world.
There's a surly heavyset cafeteria worker. They don't get along with her and they make fun of her food and they want ANY elective but Cafeteria duty! Farkle and Lucas make the hugest most impossible mashed potato volcano in the world that actually spews geysers and geysers of gravy lava. It creates a big mess and because for the purpose of this episode Lucas is an asshole, he doesn't think he should have to clean it up and thinks someone should do it for him. Enter Janitor Harley.
So. Harley Keiner. We all remember him, recurring bullying presence from Season 2 (and one episode of Season 3) of Boy Meets World, he of the '50s greaser aesthetic and florid Godfather-esque speech. He's back as the Janitor. During the ramp up to this series, obviously, a big concern was on which Boy Meets World characters would be returning, with the big requests obviously focused on Shawn, Eric, and Feeny, and secondarily people like Alan, Amy, Angela, etc. Some of those people will be coming on, which is great. Harley was not someone I think anyone cared about coming back. He wasn't someone I ever expected Cory to really interact with outside of school, nor someone whose story I necessarily needed finished. The last episode we saw him felt like it wrapped him up well enough. Still, sometimes life does work this way. Someone unexpected from your past, who you didn't even like, ends up becoming a more recurring aspect of your life than some close friends or even family. You never know. So, that's fine.
My problem is that the show doesn't even treat him like a returning character. There's no cue that the audience remembers him, there's nothing in the dialogue that suggests Harley. Take away the one token use of 'Baboon' at the end of the episode, and this janitor character could have been someone else entirely. Now, if Harley has been working there a while, I suppose it is more realistic that Cory and Harley wouldn't be making a big deal about their high school past and catching up because they'd have already covered that, and their relationship is now defined by their current situation. But, they're still TV characters, and I think if you're going to have Harley in a recurring capacity as a janitor, we should have started off with the episode where Harley is hired at JQA to reintroduce us to him and introduce the new people to him entirely. And that could have been a great story!
How about this: Maybe Harley's fallen on hard times (as one may have predicted he might), and is applying for this janitor position as kind of the last stop on a series of downward turns his life's taken. Cory runs into him in the principal's office and, elated that the shoe's on the other foot now, delights in telling the principal what a bully and creep Harley was and how thoroughly he doesn't recommend him, taking some revenge for all the crap Harley put him through. Harley doesn't get the job. You can juxtapose this with some kid story about giving people another chance too, and Cory could realize it was wrong and childish for him to ruin Harley's life over petty resentment about something from 20 years ago and everyone deserves a second chance, and he goes back to the principal to fight to get Harley hired after all. I think something like that would have been the perfect way to introduce him. Or at least something.
Because as it stands, Harley didn't work for me. He didn't really sound or act like Harley, and because Danny McNulty has aged so much (understandable as he was probably like 30 during Boy Meets World) it was sort of hard to recognize him. I honestly believe if Harley's return hadn't been hyped and if they hadn't referred to the character by name, much of the audience wouldn't have even picked up who he is. And for a character return, that's a problem. I think he's in next week's episode, we'll see if that gets better. There's nothing else interesting about the Harley/Farkle/Lucas story, it's just a mini-version of the Riley/Maya/Lunchlady story, so I'm probably all done talking about it.
The Riley/Maya/Lunchlady story is fun enough. Full of not bad bits of her being surly, and Miley being oblivious. Stand-outs include Riley, who frequently gives Maya silent unprompted adjustments to her look, slowly and scarily walks over the frightening lunch lady to adjust her hat. It lasts like 30 seconds and the audience howls and it is legitimately funny. The point is that the lunch lady is actually hard-working and knows her students' very well (even understanding Maya's financial situation), despite how little they appreciate her. Very much similar to "Fishing for Virna" - hope this one doesn't die on us! Cafeteria duty proves hard (and oddly potato-focused considering their must be other food that also needs preparation) and it's like all that happens all episode and Maya and Riley learn a valuable lesson about appreciating what other people do for them. And now the lunch lady is part of their obnoxious "Stop it!" routine.
Episode Rating: Like a 'B' - it was so-so. Kinda funny, kind of a good lesson, but not great.
Episode MVP: Sabrina Carpenter, I'd say. Rowan Blanchard was great too. The episode belonged to them.