Episode Number: 18
Boy Meets World Episodes Borrowed From: It's its own main plot, but there's a subplot strongly evoking "Bee True."
Cory's History Lesson and Relevance: No class! Yay!
We begin with an absolutely lovely scene between Riley and Maya. It's Maya's 14th birthday (many have pointed out why this is off because a) 14-year-olds generally aren't in 7th grade and b) Riley only recently started being called 13, but whatever... Maya could easily have been held back. I'd have difficulty buying her as only just turning 13 now). There's a lot of funny back and forth here involving Riley being cheerily blunt about both of their eventual deaths, Maya pretending to not understand why Riley got two rings, and Riley being furious and wanting to intervene when she finds out Maya's mom apparently forgot her birthday.
Riley and Maya get a lot of back-and-forth banter-y scenes like this, and sometimes they can be a mixed bags. They're both strong young actresses, but there's just a comic timing to these kinds of things that I think sometimes they're not quite experienced enough to handle always (Lucas and Farkle usually fare even worse). But, obviously, they're growing (Ben Savage and Rider Strong certainly weren't there yet at this age either) and this scene is delivered very, very well. Riley's in her manic head-in-the-clouds sunshine-and-rainbows mode, which is where I enjoy her most. Much like her TV father, Rowan Blanchard is stronger at comedy than drama, and when she has to anchor scenes from an emotional stand-point it usually rings false. It's better when they can use her in this capacity, and leave the drama for Sabrina Carpenter (again, perhaps a by-product of Blanchard being two years younger)
For some reason, the two exit into the next scene via... the front door... when they were in Riley's room. Maybe more time passed than I thought and they left for no reason and came back? I dunno. Anyway, Shawn's here! Audience woos! As I think I said before, while we knew Shawn had one more episode this season, I'm surprised it's so soon, there's only been one episode in between the appearances. They may have wanted to space them out more, so we don't get used to him - since I'm fairly certain it's the last we're seeing of him this season. But who cares! Shawn! Ahh!
Cory and Topanga arrive with Maya's birthday cake and Cory, ignorant of who is standing behind him as is his way, starts talking about how they should give the cake to Katy, in anticipation of her forgetting Maya's birthday. Topanga tries to clue Cory in and, surprisingly, Cory figures out Maya's behind him without looking. Maybe because this exact same thing has happened to him no less than twenty times. In Boy Meets World it happened so often that they had to be continuously inventive about the joke they'd make when Cory realized who was behind him, because they kept using all the obvious ones up. This one's so-so - with him acknowledging how much it happens, being smart enough to realize Maya's behind, but continuing to insult Shawn's mom in comparison ("UH OH! IT'S TUESDAY! I BETTER RUN AWAY!") since why would he guess Shawn's there? Shawn's episodes have featured quite a a few references to Virna, haven't they? More so than references to Chet, which is unusual because of how much more attention Chet got on BMW. I know some of it might be because Maya's issues are right now more with her mom (maybe Chet will become more a reference point whenever we get around to meeting Maya's dad, which I imagine we eventually will) but I also wonder if, with Chet long dead and buried, they decide to re-examine Shawn's relationship with his mother, which pretty randomly got a train run over it after their reconnection in Season 4. I also suspect they may have retconned away the bizarre eleventh hour revelation that she was never Shawn's mother in the first place.
Anyway, this is another excellent scene with the five of them (Where's Auggie? Beats me.) and Rider Strong continues to not have lost a beat in playing Shawn. His delivery of everything is just really good and really Shawn. When the girls essentially ask him if he's seeing anybody, though, Shawn's answer (after confirming "Angela Time?" with Copanga) is to explain that fifteen years ago he was in love with Angela, who broke up with him. Which is stupid. What, is that your most recent relationship? Really? I don't believe that. I get that Angela's a big touchstone for the audience, but I resent the idea that Shawn's not had a real relationship since then because of her. I'd much prefer that she was just the first in a string of failed relationships and that she, specifically, wasn't really a factor anymore. They don't necessarily make this impossible with what they say, so it's what I'll choose to believe, and that they just didn't want to mention a lot of girls so as not to imply Shawn's promiscuous. Even though he's Shawn Hunter. And we all know how Shawn Hunter rolls.
Speaking of Angela, because we're only five minutes in and I've already written the first half of a novella about this episode, I think now's a good time to pause and have an unavoidable "Angela Time" of our own. As a guy who hung around Boy Meets World forums in the interim between the show's ending and now, I know that one of the most hotly debated aspects of the way BMW ended was how Shawn and Angela left things. This continued to be a point of contention when GMW was announced, and it became clear we were going to get some sort of definitive answer after all. It always struck me as obvious that Angela's final episode, "Angela's Ashes", was meant to firmly stick a fork in Shawn and Angela. Their final scene starts at 18:20 in this video.
See? Pretty cut and dry right? 'Goodbye' means it's over, so they better not say it! But Shawn says it. Though Angela acts as though this arrangement is only for a year, Shawn knows better. And, as we've seen, he's right. I never thought there was an implication that they'd get back together after that year because.... well, why would they have had to include all of that in the first place? Show was almost over, just leave them together and not even write this episode.
And I think that was the right choice. Most people don't end up with their high school girlfriend. I didn't, and none of my friends did either. I think I can think of one couple I'm aware of from my high school who actually have gotten married (and, at 26, it's a little premature to say they definitively ended up happily ever after either) Cory and Topanga did end up together forever because it's Cory and Topanga and of course they did. But, like... that's the one you get. You can't do that with their best friends too. It's just too hokey and ridiculous. On a show like this, you need to have some representation of how relationships at that age really work. I, personally, wish they'd been more Winnie Cooper with Topanga and not had her and Cory end up together, but that ship had sailed, so it was left to Shawn.
To that same end, then, I do not want Shawn to wind up with Angela, and I would be extremely disappointed if they did. It's been fifteen years, they haven't seen each other, Shawn seems to have more issue with how often he's been abandoned, not specifically that Angela's not in his life anymore. I would like to see her in an episode, just because she was an important enough part of BMW to warrant a guest shot, and maybe it can provide some Shangela closure. My idea: Angela, who lives in Paris, comes to New York for work and makes plans to get dinner with Topanga while she's in town. Topanga mentions it to Cory, who immediately calls Shawn up and tells him, cajoling him in his Cory way to come and see her and see what, if any, sparks remain. Shawn's reticent, but eventually Cory gets him into the idea, and in a wacky shenanigan, Cory stalls Topanga from going to the dinner and Shawn's going to crash instead. Just as he approaches the table, Angela's phone rings and he overhears her talking on the phone with her husband and kids, and it's clear she's in a happy, stable, loving home. Shawn smiles, decides he's happy for her, and it gives him the closure he needs, and he slips out without her knowing he'd been there.
Good, huh? I think that's damn good. I should write a spec script. I'll find something for Maya and Riley to do too.
Anyway, yeah, no Angela for Shawn. Not now, not ever. It was never going to be that easy for Shawn Hunter to find his 'the one', and I don't think he found her at 17.
Jesus, I'm still in the second scene. Oh well, I think I've already gotten out a lot of what I wanted to say anyway. Anyway, Copanga also tell Miley such an abridged version of the plot of "I Love You, Donna Karan" that there's no context to not make Shawn creepy, which is funny. And even better, Maya and Riley immediately cotton on to the fact that Shawn fell in love with a concept, not a person, and Shangela never had any hope, which is just an amazing conclusion for them both to have come to the moment they hear about her. Just to stick another fork in Shangela. Maya assumes Shawn left Angela because he couldn't commit, but he denies it. Althouuuuuuugh, to be fair, the storminess of Shawn and Angela's relationship does have its origins in Shawn's inability to commit to her once they started college. He led her on so much, she eventually had it, and that's why they broke up the first time and that stormy period dictated their relationship ever after. So... not so blameless, Hunter. Just saying. Still, Shawn and Maya bond over being "stayers" in a world of "leavers."
Riley sees all this, pulls Cory and Topanga in her room, and reveals her intention to magically turn Shawn, Katy, and Maya into a happy family. Then, they basically do the bake sale scene of "Bee True" again, recasting Eric with Riley, and changing "The Godfather" tone to more of an "Ocean's Eleven." It's... not as funny as in "Bee True". And it features what becomes a running gag of freeze frames and text displays of nicknames and steps of the plan that happens throughout the episode - it's not nearly as funny as they think it is, and it happens far too often. Farkle and Lucas show up and become part of it too, Farkle because he's a computer genius even though in NO WAY does that become relevant in anything they do (It's like in the actual Oceans movies, where they keep using that Chinese trapeze guy, even though his specific skill was only relevant to the first heist, but because he was one of the 11, they want to include him, so they have him like... play businessmen and stuff for no reason, rather than bringing in a guy who can do that). Lucas as 'The Face'. Lucas is pretty funny in this one because he's deliberately portrayed as bland, pointless, eye candy that he is. I've got to imagine even the writers know Lucas is an abject failure. Also, the best part of this scene is Cory's delivery of the line "Shawn gave me mine when I was 25 years old. Your mother won't let me wear it."
Oh, also Farkle has this watch that tracks Riley and Maya's every movement, speaking to him in their own voices via Farkle having been recording everything they've ever said, and also forcing their voices to say stuff like "I love you, Farkle." Cory and Topanga chuckle at the revelation of this and warmly declare that they need him on their team, rather than kicking him out of their home, forbidding him to ever come near their family again, and calling the police which would be the right response. I really thought we were past the creepy stalker aspect of Farkle. They need to knock it off. It ruins him.
Everyone reconvenes, and after some weirdness about exactly how much time has elapsed, Cory and Topanga trick Shawn into going off to confront Katy (I'm skipping through this, but the scene of this taking place is fantastic), while the kids hog-tie Maya, who offers startling little resistance. This bit features my favorite line delivery from Lucas ever - him saying "Wanna see a rope trick?" He says it in this kind of sheepish/dumb way, where it's like he knows he's supposed to be distracting Maya somehow, doesn't really know how, and is like "Um...How about this?" It's cute. And it works! Scene's kinda dumb though.
So, Shawn shows up at the Nighthawk Diner, which I like so much more than the stupid bakery they own. Cory and Maya are already there spying when Shawn arrives (which shouldn't be possible, because Riley still had to do the whole tying up of Maya thing before she and Cory could leave, but maybe Shawn got lost?) Anyway, Shawn confronts Katy on everything with Maya, and at first they hate each other, but then they realize they have a lot in common, and Shawn realizes that a) Katy didn't forget Maya's birthday, she was just working a double shift to make extra money to afford Maya's present, which is a locket of her own, in a very nice callback to "Girl Meets Truth") and b) Katy lied to Maya about chasing their father away, so that Maya would still have some fond feelings about her father. I find 'b' a little unnecessary, since Katy being awful wouldn't have given him any sort of pass for also abandoning Maya, and it seemed like the dad was already portrayed as a schmuck before this episode. But whatever.
As for Shawn and Katy as a potential couple? Yeah. Chemistry. It's too neat and tidy an idea, and I don't see how Rider's going to be on this show often enough to be playing Maya's actual stepfather. And I think I'd rather his father figure-ness toward Maya remain honorary rather than official. But they do have chemistry and I'll let it play out more before I pass judgement. And, also, I like Katy. She's a good character. It's probably not a coincidence that her two episodes have been the two best.
Anyway, everyone comes back to the Matthews, Maya learns the truth, and clearly begins to be entertaining the idea of Katy and Shawn ending up together too.
Episode Verdict: A solid 'A'. It's not perfect - the cheesiness with the "The Fixer!" "The Apprentice!" stuff, and everything with Farkle, but it's definitely the best episode of the series.
Episode MVP: Oh man! That's hard! Almost everyone's deserving. Sabrina Carpenter and Rowan Blanchard were both great in this episode, and, though I didn't talk about it much, so was Danielle Fishel. But still, it's really down to Rider Strong, Ben Savage, and Cheryl Texiera. But since Ben was part of the lame part of the episode too, and Cheryl Texiera didn't even show up until the end, I'll give it to Rider Strong.