January 26, 2014 by billysparrow
Aired: September 23, 1989
In a haiku nutshell: Farewell to Slater?/Please say it ain’t so, A.C./Oh, cool, it’s not so
Trivia that will impress, well, no one: Q: Who is the first professional wrestler mentioned in an episode of “Saved by the Bell”? A: Andre the Giant
Oh no! There is some terrible news at Bayside. Major Martin Slater has arrived to tell his son and Mr. Belding that the Slater clan will be relocating to Hawaii, where young A.C. has always wanted to live (or at least he did when they were in Iceland, which joins Bolivia, Germany, and Italy as places where Slater has resided). Will our dimpled dancing hero and recent wrestling champion be leaving Bayside behind?
Surely, the devoted “Saved by the Bell” viewer was overcome by waves of grief when the major broke the news to Mr. Belding (and Mr. Belding was probably even more overcome for, by the looks of things, they completely moved the row of lockers next to his office in order to erect a display case for what he assumed would be the first of many wrestling trophies). I mean, they were just getting to know him, and now it appeared he was being ripped away. The horror!
By the way, I write “they” instead of “we” there because I cannot be certain that I was on board from the get-go with “Saved by the Bell.” You would think a person who’s writing 80-plus essays on “Saved by the Bell” episodes would know the exact moment at which he’d felt the pull of the show drag him in, but you’d be wrong (and, no offense, you really shouldn’t be thinking about this sort of thing anyway).
At the time of the premiere of “Saved by the Bell,” I was 12 and just starting eighth grade, so I don’t know that I was tuned into NBC’s Saturday-morning lineup (though I do remember watching “Camp Candy,” mainly because there has never been a time in my life when I haven’t been willing to watch anything involving John Candy). I was more likely watching whatever wrestling was on (“Superstars of Wrestling,” maybe) and, of course, 1989 was the year that the world was given “RollerGames,” which I was almost as obsessed with as wrestling in 1989. And it is taking all I have to not stop writing this and watch one of the full “RollerGames” episodes on YouTube, probably the one with Warrant as the halftime entertainment. If you can’t resist the temptation, don’t let me stand in your way. I’ll still be here in an hour.
So, anyway, what I’m saying is I’m pretty sure I wasn’t watching this episode when it aired and thus was spared the trauma of thinking Slater would leave.
As it turns out, though, the viewer on September 23, 1989, had no reason to fear. The Slaters stay in town, no thanks to the efforts of Zack, who encourages Screech to somehow contort himself into Mr. Belding’s file cabinet to eavesdrop on the conversation between Mr. Belding, Major Slater, and A.C. Once he has this information, Zack embarks on a plan to ensure that A.C. decides to heed his dad’s wishes and ship off to Hawaii. Zack’s foolproof plan is to tell the girls that Slater is dying, and the only way to get treatment is for him to go to Hawaii. So, their mission is to make Slater think they hate him so he feels no ties to Bayside and thus leaves. Stunningly, this plan does not work, as Slater finds out from Kelly (who, in a decision that can only be categorized as insane, declares that she is willing to check in with her uncle in Honolulu so that she can live there and take care of Slater) that Zack has spread the word about Slater’s alleged demise. Slater then sets Zack up for a meeting with Major Slater, urging Zack to convince the major that Slater should stay (but not before Zack executes the first of many “time-outs” in “Saved by the Bell” history). In his meeting with Major Slater, Zack folds pretty quickly after Slater’s dad gives him the impression that he is dealing with a deranged man, punctuated by the major taking a chunk out of his office desk in an impressive commitment to frightening a high school student (he also brings out what he claims is a live grenade).
Next thing you know we’re at Slater’s farewell party at The Max, where the girls and Screech (as the “Pineapple Princess,” in the second instance of cross-dressing in as many episodes) perform another in the ongoing series of questionable (the hula-ing is fine; the circle dance following it is less impressive) “Saved by the Bell” dances (to rapturous applause from the studio audience). After Zack arrives with Slater’s wrestling trophy (now engraved…aww), Slater tells the girls that he is not, in fact, dying, nor is he going to Hawaii; he was simply getting Zack back. So now Lisa, Jessie, and Kelly (and, one suspects her uncle in Honolulu) hate Zack and Slater, leading to Lisa declaring that even Screech is better than the two of them.
Yes, this is all a little dizzying. And the time and effort these kids into enacting their douchebag plans is something to be applauded — if, in fact, you are the type of person who applauds the actions of fictional high schoolers. And I’m assuming you are if you’ve just read 750-plus words about an episode of “Saved by the Bell.” So, by all means, continue your applause, but be sure to save some for later in the run, too.