Freaks And Geeks: S01E08 ”Girlfriends And Boyfriends”

SPOILER WARNING: I’m assuming in these reviews that readers have seen the show.

It’s been too long since my last F&G review. I think I avoided this one for so long because it’s a painful episode. Not in the sense that sad or bad things happen, but it’s just an episode filled with wincing scenes. Between Nick’s puppy-love style crush on Lindsay, which he believes she reciprocates when it’s obvious that she doesn’t, and Sam’s discomfort at having to team up with the odorific and overweight Gordon Crisp instead of his crush, Cindy, I spent a lot of time muttering ”Ouch” to myself as I watched.

But the beauty of Girlfriends And Boyfriends is that it doesn’t romanticize young love, but explores it in all its awkward painfulness, and sympathizes with its characters even as it mines comedy gold from its situations. Leslie Linka Glaser directed (she also did several episodes of Twin Peaks and went on to Mad Men and Homeland), and she knows how to maximize Lindsay’s growing discomfort and unhappiness with Nick’s affection, while at the same time not wanting to hurt his feelings. It’s made worse by the rest of the freaks assuming that she’s thrilled with her new boyfriend, and the signs she sees that they’re not well matched, such as Nick spelling wait W-A-T-E and having no interest in seeing The Elephant Man with her.

Meanwhile, Sam’s crush on Cindy is causing no end of trouble with his friends, since she’s been partnered with Bill, who while he doesn’t see her the way Sam does is not blind to her beauty, either. Although he quickly loses interest after a study session at her house where he’s served healthy snacks and finds that she doesn’t watch TV, Sam is convinced that they are in the middle of a torrid romance. When Sam tries to get closer to Cindy by joining the yearbook club, he’s discouraged to find that she sees him more as a confidante than a boyfriend, complaining to him about her period and admitting that she has a huge crush on Todd, the jock. More cringey moments follow.

But Sam’s new lab partner, Gordon Crisp, turns out to be an intelligent guy who’s aware of his body odor and explains to Sam that it’s a genetic condition. ”Nice people don’t care and it weeds out the jerks,” he states matter-of-factly, and Sam is surprised to find that he’s a fan of geek lore such as Star Wars. He decides to invite Gordon to come see Airplane! with Neal, Bill and himself, and despite some pushback, the four of them become friends. I like Gordon a lot, and was happy to see him become a semi-regular on the show.

The piece de resistance of the episode is Lindsay’s ”date” with Nick in his basement, where he’s lit dozens of candles and put on Styx to set the best romantic mood. When Jason Siegel begins reciting the lyrics to ”Lady” along with Dennis Young, it’s a perfectly hysterical cringeworthy moment. “All guys want to make out,” he tells Lindsay, reassuring her. ”I just want to hold you.” Given their relationship, this is almost worse.

Points Of Interest

*The Allman Brothers’ Band’s Whipping Post is the perfect song to illustrate Lindsay’s anguish as she realizes the problem she’s gotten herself into with Nick.

*Mr. Rosso’s advice on love life is spot on as usual, with his educational ”Dating, Sex and You” pamphlet and his earnest recounting of the dangers of STDs. “One thing led to another and now I get sores on my lip once a month,” he warns Lindsay.1

*Millie makes an appearance, and naturally, she’s even more cautionary than Mr. Rosso, inveighing upon the dangers of teen pregnancy. ”Why buy a cow when milk is free?”

*It’s great to see Sam get physically closer to Gordon as he learns what a cool guy he is.

*”The worst $5.00 I ever spent.”—Mr. Weir’s tale of his experiences in Korea’s red-light district during the war.2

*It’s the fine details: The TIME magazine cover of Darth Vader in Sam’s locker, and Lindsay picking the icing off her Ding Dong.3

*Daniel doesn’t get much time, but the scene where he punches Nick’s arm is priceless.

Next up: We’ve Got Spirit, a much more lighthearted episode