There seemed to be a lot of excitement surrounding this episode and it's easy to understand why. Other than his Donnie Barnes physical transformation, Farkle's been pretty under served this season. We're halfway through and no episode has featured him as the main character and with young male additions like Zay and Charlie, plus a stronger focus on Lucas as a character than Season 1 had, it's been easy for Farkle to get lost by the wayside, particularly as he's not part of any of the show's possible romances. This episode sought to rectify that, while also tackling the serious subject of autism. Appealing things all around.
How did the episode turn out? Meh. Not terrible, but not great. There are things I liked here, Farkle seemed to be identifying his own weird behavior (particularly with regards to his fantasy relationships between Maya and Riley) and took steps to grow up and change them, to mature as much emotionally as he has physically between Donnie Barnes and, just, puberty.
He also turned out not to have Aspergers, which is good, because I never really bought that. Farkle's odd, but he's not odd in an autism spectrum way, so that as sort of a hand-wavey 'excuse' never gelled with me. He recognizes other people's emotions, he just hasn't shown much interest in them, and while Eric may jokingly call him 'Robot', he doesn't actually act like one, he's actually a very lively young boy, without issues with eye contact, withdrawn social nature, etc. This isn't very scientific, but I took a quick "Does my child have Aspergers?" test online and found Farkle only fit 4 out of 20 criteria for warranting evaluation, mainly related to insistence on routines and things being done a certain way. But all the social stuff? Nah, he doesn't have it. I'm glad they didn't try to force the diagnosis on him.
Also good was anything to do with Smackle, who seems to have gone through a Donnie Barnes transformation of her own (Donna Barnes if you will, and I think you will). While still as odd and abrupt and not-knowing-how-to-comport-herself-amongst-people as ever, she does seem to be taking some pride in her appearance now, which is good. Smackle's great, probably the best recurring character from Season 1 who wasn't Shawn or Katy and I'm not sure what took them so long to bring her back but I would hope we see more of her from now on. They left her at Einstein Academy (which is good, we don't need yet another JQA group addition) but it seems as if she and Farkle are a real item now, and it was all handled appropriately and even sweetly which is nice to see on Farkle's end.
I also enjoyed Smackle and Lucas' interaction, a continuation of their dynamic in "Girl Meets Smackle" although there was some weirdness at the end there. First off, since when does Lucas walk around in a letterman jacket? Do they even have letterman jackets in middle school? We didn't. It was just so lame, looked way too big for him (for all the jokes about Lucas looking 30, he doesn't, he just looks his age, 16) and you could tell a mile away he was only wearing it so he could take it off to give it to someone else. And what the hell is that, by the way, giving it to Smackle? Is he affirming that, yes, he does have a crush on her after all? That's Farkle's girlfriend, pal. What the hell are you doing? You already have two. Back off. That was a weird moment. Maya's "Lucas. Take a hint." was pretty fun though.
But that's a small thing. So, what didn't I like? Well, the writing was pretty heavy-handed throughout, and just not all that funny or... fluid. The show occasionally has issues where the dialogue just feels choppy, as if written by committee - a bunch of different lines thrown together without the flowing nature of actual conversation. And in this case it was just speech after speech. First Cory gets up and talks, and then Farkle gets up and talks, and then Cory gets up and talks some more. Show don't tell, guys.
It also struck me that all the important, heavy stuff was kept strangely offscreen. We never heard that school psychologist tell Farkle he may suffer from Aspergers, we heard Farkle tell us about it later. We also didn't hear her tell Farkle he didn't have Aspergers, we heard Farkle tell us about it later. There was potential for some real drama in actually seeing Farkle receive this news to begin with and struggling to understand. I don't know why they would decide not to show us this and instead to just cut to Farkle already knowing all about it and already even having accepted it. In general, though this is a situation that could definitely be mined for drama, they did a pretty poor job mining it. It struck me as a lazy episode, they didn't want to go through the bother of writing the dramatic stuff, so they wrote the simpler stuff. They didn't want to show us the lessons the characters could be learning here, so they told us instead. Cory gave a speech about accepting people even if they're different but... who wasn't accepting Farkle? Everyone was, with open arms. Again, no drama. It would have been more powerful if this had made someone uncomfortable around Farkle (maybe Zay, whose affection for Farkle is less sacred) and then we saw them learn they were wrong.
I don't want to get too into this, but I also more or less didn't think Jennifer worked. Minkus either, for that matter. In Sean's and my post about identifying Farkle's mom, we considered Jennifer, and my main thought for why it wouldn't be her is that I didn't get why. If you've thought up Farkle, and you've already decided Minkus is his father (something else I don't like) why in the world would you go "Oh, and for his mother, that chick Jennifer." She's not a particularly memorable character - she had one real episode, and then a second where she was more or less just Vengeful Ex-Girlfriend #1.
And now, having seen the episode, I'm still not convinced it's necessary. She wasn't terrible in the episode or anything, but she wasn't great, and I certainly don't think she added all that much to it. (Neither, for that matter, did Minkus. Really, this episode didn't need Farkle's parents in an onscreen capacity, the scenes with the Matthews and Minkuses talking weren't particularly strong)
I appreciate bringing back the BMW characters who were important enough to us the viewers and to Cory and Topanga the characters, that it would be wrong not to see them: Shawn, Eric and the other Matthews, Feeny, and... that's about it. And I get the desire to bring back people like Jack, Turner, and Angela even if we don't need to see them, because they were still kind of important, and it's nice to at least give them a curtain call or, in the case of Turner, tie up some loose ends. But what I don't want, and think is detrimental to the show, is a revolving door of cheesy returns big and small. I don't want this show, or these people's lives, to be a constant stream of "Gee, I wonder which person from my teenage years is going to show up THIS week." Because of the 15 episodes of GMW this season, only 5 haven't featured a BMW guest star (and one of those is "Fish" which doesn't even count) and that's probably too much.
I'll never begrudge them Shawn episodes or Eric episodes, because they're, in my mind, almost as important to the Meets World Cinematic Universe as Cory, and more important than Topanga. But Jennifer Bassett? Why? Who's this for? What does it accomplish? Why do it? I found it cheesy and distracting. Everytime she was onscreen I just kept thinking "Why are you here? I don't understand this." If they made up for the strangeness of Minkus and Jennifer sitting there as Farkle's parents by great story or performance or something, that'd be fine. But they didn't. They didn't give strong performances, there wasn't a great story being told by them specifically, and they didn't even really seem like themselves beyond one Jennifer-esque line and delivery: "Remember in high school when you were scared of me and called me a monster just because I was bigger than everyone and handcuffed Shawn to the boathouse?"
Well, looks like I went too into it after all. It just really rubs me the wrong way. I found it a distracting and negative part of the episode and, in a larger sense, something I find lame about the series in general. I almost feel second-hand embarrassment for Michael Jacobs that he thought this was someone people would care is back and like created a whole "Oooh, who will Farkle's mom be? You'll neeeeever believe it!" "Surprise! It's fucking Jennifer Whatsherface from that one episode!"
Anyway, all in all, a meh episode. Good stuff and bad stuff. Here's Sean to tell me I'm being ridiculous about disliking the Jennifer aspect so much.
More important than anything else, I hope everyone who voted for Lenny over Smackle feels terrible right now. I was already a fan of hers and wanted her to get past the first round of voting, but after this episode? There's no debate at all. Unless you're Christian, in which case "I just saw Willie Garson on X-Files" is enough of a reason to still choose Lenny.
The C Man and I were at each other's throats over Jennifer's presence. I'm talking savage. ...And we made no progress. He keeps asking "Who is this for?" but... well, it's for me, at least. "An Affair to Forget" is one of the best episodes of Boy Meets World. It's in my top 5. I know perfectly well who Jennifer is. She's fun and I liked seeing her again. Maybe 90% of the viewing audience doesn't know who she is, but who gives a fuck? 90% of the viewing audience thinks Riley and Lucas make a good couple. I don't want the show to cater to those people. I don't care what they think, I care what I think.
That's all in the abstract, though. None of Jennifer's scenes really stood out, and that's entirely the writers' fault, not Jacobs's. They decided that forced callbacks and references to BMW were more important than conveying any sort of emotion between Farkle and his parents. Jen and Minkus spent more screentime with Cory and Topanga than they did with their son. How the hell did that happen?
The biggest flaw with this episode is how lightly they portray autism. It's serious shit. But both Farkle and Smackle are just barely on the side of socially-awkward. You want me to believe they're candidates for autism? It's like how Shawn was an alcoholic for an afternoon. The format of episodic television forces us to simplify these complex issues to the point where maybe we shouldn't have bothered at all. Like always, though, their intentions were good.
But it's definitely not a bad episode. The most interesting thing I saw was Maya and Riley's immediate denial of the fact that Farkle may have Asperger's. (It's obvious to us that he doesn't, but in the show, it was supposed to be a possibility.) It's hard to know exactly what the writers' intentions were with it, but compare it to something like "Well if you do have autism then we still love you the same." You know what I mean? That would be a very Disney "best friend support system" response, but instead we got this panicked "No you don't" from both of the girls when Farkle told them. They were afraid. It was real.
I think I agree with Christian on the rest. It's BAFFLING that they kept the most dramatic and emotional events offscreen. It's almost like they're afraid to have a single scene without a member of the Matthews family. Yeah I just checked. In this episode about Farkle's personal journey, there is not one single scene without either Riley or Cory. And every scene with Farkle also has Riley. Even at the end when Smarckle are having a heart to heart outside the bakery, Riley and co. are eagerly watching them through the window. Even at the beginning, when the guidance counselor shows up! She just talks to him right there in the classroom in front of everybody. WHY DOESN'T FARKLE HAVE A SINGLE SCENE WITHOUT RILEY AND MAYA? This was extremely poor decision making from the writing staff. I'm actually mad right now, now that I've realized this.
And yeah, Smackle's shtick with Lucas was a highlight for me as well. Lucas's reaction works doubly. His confusion at being misinterpreted, but also bewilderment at the fact that someone's rejecting him. The latter may not have been intentional, but I hope so.
Before I forget, Virna was just in this episode of the X-Files I watched last night too, so I need to go back and change my vote against Sergeant Moore. But seriously folks, meh, I still feel okay about voting for Lenny, although this is Smackle's best episode. If I were to vote now, I'd probably go Smackle, but I voted with the information I had at the time.
First off, I certainly don't believe a whopping 90% supports Riley/Lucas. But I do understand what you're saying. While I'd certainly not put it in my top 5, I do like "An Affair to Forget" an awful lot (though, that's because of Cory and Shawn, not because of Jennifer) but I still don't think that warrants a return appearance. You don't think it feels a little cheesy? All these random faces from John Adams (a high school in Philadelphia) being part of Cory's life now, 20 years later, in New York City? Man, I sure do. And I guess Stuart Minkus and Jennifer Bassett randomly being thrown together as the parents of one of the main characters just feels particularly emblematic of that. It cheapens the returns when they're constant and everyone gets one. Next week: Corinna teaches music class and Gambling Dan turns out to be Cory's accountant.
Still, it seems you agree it was bad execution, which is good, and I also agree that it was lame they spent all their time talking to Cory and Topanga. I'd have liked to see a scene between the three of them, maybe even at Farkle's house. It never really struck me as a "Afraid to have a scene without a Matthews" thing, but you're right, I probably can't think of an example of one in the entire series. Even the Shawn/Katy or Shawn/Angela interactions always have Cory or Riley or someone popping their head in. It may simply have been a way to try to keep them involved? Since they didn't really have a story of their own? I don't know.
Also is it firmly established if Farkle is an only child? I assume he is, but it occurs to me I don't know. What about Lucas? I'd like information on that too. It's weird how many only children are in the MWCU - Topanga is (Yeah, yeah, Nebbie, I know), Angela is, Rachel is (as far as we know), Maya is, Lucas is, Farkle is. It's like you gotta be a Matthews to get a brother around here. Never met any siblings of Alan or Amy's either. Don't think Turner had any (Feeny did though.) Let's get some more siblings.
Yeah, I agree it has the same problem a lot of episodes have of only dipping their toe in big issues rather than diving in outright. And yeah, it tends to make me think they should have just left it alone. "Girl Meets Flaws' " flawed handling (pun intended) of bullying is a similar example. Still, I could maybe buy Smackle as having mild Aspergers. She does seem to have difficulty understanding emotions in a way Farkle does not. The way we know that is that she talks about it all the time, haha. Which is great writing right there.
Not sure I have a ton more to say on this one. Meh.
Episode Rating: C+
Episode MVP: Cecelia Balagot
What else ya got for me, Seanie?
It was a little cheesy, yes. And it's probably bad in the long term to have the "revolving door" of BMW guests. But that doesn't automatically stop me from having fun in this single instance.
Off the top of my head, there was a scene with just Shawn and Katy when he confronts her about Maya's birthday. And another with just Topanga and Katy, but they were talking about Shawn, so there's that whole Bechdel test thing. When it comes to the kids, though, IF there is a kid in the scene, THEN there is also a Matthews.
"You gotta be a Matthews to get a brother around here." That's hilarious. And strange. Maybe they're just playing it safe since they casually mentioned Nebbie and Shawn's sister, resulting in a lifetime of dealing with WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM? Once bitten twice shy.
Episode Rating: B-
Episode MVP: Balalalagot.
Stop smothering me.
I thought of the Shawn and Katy thing, but lest we forget, Cory and Riley were there hiding behind menus watching. And Topanga counts as a Matthews. But I think Lucas, Zay, and that bully were by themselves, so there's that.
I guess they could be playing it safe, but, like, they also didn't need to fuck up that bad. Topanga could mention Nebula from time to time, but we didn't have to see her. Stacy's another matter. There's no way in which Stacy existing works. Maybe she's just another half-sibling on Virna's side like Eddie?
I debated between C+ and B- for a while. I'm still not convinced I made the right call. Glad you can represent B- for us.
Yeah, I dunno. As soon as Farkle, for example, mentions his sister, suddenly everyone on the internet is like IS THIS STACY 2.0??! JACOBS IS SHE GONNA BE LIKE STACY LOLOLOL DO U EVER MENTION HER AGAIN. I think it's better that we don't have to deal with that.
And hey, no problem. There's a character named Smackle in the show. Her name is Smackle. Had to be at least a B-. Let's go ahead and have a poll rematch here, why not. The result is set to display after you vote this time since it's just for fun.
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And while we're at it, tell us how you felt about Jennifer's return to the Meets World universe.
And while we're at it, tell us how you felt about Jennifer's return to the Meets World universe.