This post is a little bittersweet for me. As you may know, I’ve already vowed not to cover the oft lampooned caffeine pill episode, which leaves this episode as the last technical “very special episode” of Saved by the Bell. However, if you’re a regular reader you may also be aware that I have a very broad definition of very special episode. I also flew across the country to go to Saved by the Max, so rest assured that I’ll find a way to keep Bayside around The VSB. (I mean hello, there is an entire wedding in Las Vegas that we have yet to cover! But I digress.)
When I first decided to start The Very Special Blog two years ago, there were a few quintessential very special episodes that sprang to mind. This was one of them. The simple reason for that is that it feels like someone looked at a manual on how to write a very special episode, checked off all of the boxes, and left us with this utterly formulaic masterpiece. We’ve got an ingenue who is so sweet and naive it’s basically like she walked off the set of Nell but with better English language skills (better known as Kelly Kapowski).
There’s the charming, respected authority figure whose poor choices with substances break down the idles of our protagonist. And then there’s this glorious, PSA, in which I’m 99.9% certain based upon no actual evidence that Elizabeth Berkley worked tirelessly with her acting coach to nail her one word line:
Let’s start at the beginning: Johnny Dakota, teen idol, has stopped by Bayside High School to scout it for an anti-drug commercial. It’s the first of many schools that Johnny plans to check out, but the students of Bayside decide they absolutely can’t miss out on the opportunity to have a PSA filmed at their school.
So they decide to win over Johnny Dakota with an anti-drug rap.
The lyrics of which are as follows:
We’re Bayside students
And we’re no fools
We don’t use drugs
Cause it’s just not cool
So if you get the offer
Make sure you refuse
When it comes to drugs
Just don’t use.
Kelly Kapowski (who did not participate in said rap) runs in looking for Johnny Dakota, who has just departed on a tour of the school with Class President/Editor of the School Newspaper, Jessie Spano. Kelly is wearing, I kid you not, an orange unitard with a floral jacket, popped collar. This is weird even for 1991. Anyway, Johnny Dakota is smitten with orange unitard clad Kelly and therefore decides that he should film his commercial at Bayside.
Everything is great until one day, Zack and Slater smell pot in the boys’ room. (Hmmmm how do you innocent Bayside students know what pot smells like.) Soon after Zack has identified the mystery smell, Slater spots the culprit lying on the floor near the sink. They decide they need to hide it because if Johnny Dakota sees it, then he won’t film at Bayside. Unfortunately, Johnny walks in while they’re holding the joint. But he believes that it isn’t theirs, flushes it down the toilet, and offers them parts in the commercial.
Speaking of the commercial, another one of the featured students appears to be moonlighting as a thirty-five year old stripper. I’m not sure what they wardrobe department was going for with this look. Anyway, she tells a heart-wrenching story about her brother getting high and driving to the beach and ending up in a wheelchair. I know this is a very real situation and actually not even a “scare ’em straight” per se but all I can think about is how the way she tells this story reminds me of this poster from my high school chemistry class (which I’m pretty sure is in every American high school chemistry class) about Carol not wearing her goggles. But yeah actually, don’t get high and drive because that makes you such an asshole. Also, don’t drive and text. And don’t drive and text while also holding a cigarette like the idiot behind me in traffic the other day.
It’s good that we have very special episodes. They’re such good conversation starters for hot-button issues. I bet the next time you text while driving and smoking a cigarette, you will think twice about it, won’t you?
Slater tells the heartbreaking story of Len Bias. Then Zack hits us with John Belushi. It’s a powerful one-two punch to my pop culture soul. I’m so sad for literally 30 seconds because then Jesse has a line:
Omg stfu, Jessie. People have REAL problems. Also, you more than anyone need to stay away from cocaine. Seriously, girl. And maybe take up so yoga or meditation because your stress levels are scary high.
All of this anti-drug talk leads Zack and Slater to enact some vigilante justice on a random guy they saw leaving the bathroom around the time they found “the roach.” But there turns out to be no reason to worry because it’s JUST a cigarette. After this Zack and Slater kind of let the whole Starsky & Hutch thing go for a little while. They’re also distracted by a party that Johnny has invited all of them to–even Screech, who somehow throws his back out. Slater’s going to take him home because none of the girls at the party will talk to him, which is weird because Mario Lopez is easily the most charasamtic person on the planet. This is played for laughs, of course, but it mostly just removes any shred of plausibility this show actually had.
While all of her friends are loading Screech into the car, Kelly is left alone with Johnny, who starts smoking and offers to share with Kelly. She’s totally destroyed that her anti-drug teen idol hero is just another casual drug user. Zack comes back in just as the entire room of party guests laughs at Kelly for “just saying no.” This was always my worst fear as a child. The crowd-mocking drug pushers masquerading as friendly people at a social gathering. And while the kids at my high school were most certainly no strangers to heavily mocking others, this never actually happened to me.
This is most likely due tot he fact that no one ever offered me drugs in high school since I’m pretty sure most of them thought of me as a female version of Anthony Michael Hall’s character in The Breakfast Club. And then when I got to college no one really cared who did drugs or not. I also went to like a weird hippie college where people did a lot of drugs but would also like just want to hang out. And if I went to a college where conforming was important and people hazed you and/or made you do weird things to be part of a club, I’m pretty sure I would have cried in my dorm room. But my college experience was seriously more like doing jello shots and then crying for no reason when all of the sugar and cheap vodka hit my system in the middle of a board game. Speaking of board games, I once invented a really great drinking version of Clue.
The next day at school, Zack tells Johnny to call off the commercial because it’s wrong to smoke pot yourself and then tell a bunch of other people not to do it. Now, that’s something I can get behind. Nobody likes a hypocrite. So they all refuse to work with Johnny but then everyone is sad that they can’t make the commercial. Yet it just so happens that Mr. Belding knows the chairman of NBC. So they make the commercial anyway. Things always work out for the Bayside Gang. (Like seriously they are the live-action version of the Scooby-Doo Gang for real ya’ll.)
Very Special Lesson: Okay, I know this was all about drugs. But actually, I think the important lesson here is that people are shady. That Johnny dude was a two-faced creep and not worthy of the Bayside crew #friendsforever
Also, I just found this and I think it’s possibly my favorite graphical depiction of anything ever, so I’m going to leave this here for you: