Ridin’ Low in My Chair: “Pinned to the Mat”

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February 9, 2014 by billysparrow

“Pinned to the Mat”

Aired: October 14, 1989

In a haiku nutshell: Careers are chosen/Slater wrestles with his path/Then destroys Nedick

Trivia that will impress, well, no one: Q: Gino De Mauro, the actor who played Valley’s star wrestler Marvin Nedick, was a regular on what 1988-1989 NBC sitcom? A: “Day By Day”


(photo from Saved by the Bell Wiki)

The writers of “Saved by the Bell” waste no time in pushing their creations to ponder the adulthood that awaits them, as Episode 9 finds the Bayside gang attending the school career fair and plotting their future direction. Screech wants to be an astronaut, Lisa wants to be a fashion designer, Jessie wants to be a lawyer or judge (is there any doubt that her law career would end up in a horrendous cocaine addiction?), Zack wants to be a game show host (and no one really seems to have an issue with this), and Kelly is trying to decide between housewife and actress, seemingly making Career Day a big waste of time for her, as such events usually don’t have booths representing those professions.

That leaves Slater, who is preparing for his big wrestling match with heated rival Marvin Nedick and thus has not given much thought to his career trajectory. He is merely content to be the pride of the Bayside wrestling squad and to be the only man in the history of mankind to nonironically call himself “stud muffin.” When Zack, who has a bet with Nedick for his dirtbike, tells the gang that Slater will be a pro wrestler, Slater readily agrees, until the gang’s mockery makes him reconsider (and, again, no one seems to think Zack pinning his future on dreams of being a game show host is ridiculous). But then Slater sees his fate in his first dream sequence, which takes place at a reunion at The Max (where else?), where Mr. Belding is honoring Zack, Kelly, Lisa, Jessie, and Screech for their achievements. Slammer Slater crashes the party, sporting a blonde wig and spandex with a protruding gut, If this is meant to be a shot at what awaited Hulk Hogan in the future, it pales in comparison to how the Hulkster actually turned out. At least Slammer Slater didn’t have a sex tape (and, no, I haven’t watched it, thank you very much).

Scared straight by this frightening vision, Slater quits wrestling. Zack, in a panic because though he bet his dirtbike against Nedick’s, he doesn’t actually have one, concocts a plan to humiliate Slater into going back to wrestling, and, after a phone call from Zack to Major Slater, the dimpled one takes on a new after-school activity: cooking. This phone call is notable both because Zack conceals his identity to the major by telling him he is Frank Furter, the school’s guidance counselor, a name that apparently raises no alarms with Slater’s dad, indicating that he may, in fact, be an imbecile, and because Zack makes the call on what appears to be a brand-new giant cell phone. Maybe he has multiple phones. What a life that kid had.

(photo from the invaluable resource zackmorriscellphone.com)

Alas, Zack’s plan to humiliate Slater into returning to wrestling backfires when Slater proves adept at cooking in the Cooking Club, under the tutelage of Mrs. Cummings (played by Bunny Summers, who sounds like she could be country club pals with Muffin Sangria), who prefers to eschew actual recipes in favor of singing through the baking process. And, yes, that is as annoying and unfunny as it sounds. Of course, such a thing can be funny. And, as proof, let’s take a moment and watch some masters at work in the Bibbi Babka scene from “Perfect Strangers” (which preceded “Pinned to the Mat” by about 20 months).

Is it sad that I still sing that song occasionally? Do you mind if I ask you not to respond to rhetorical questions?

Anyway, Slater fully embraces his inner baker, even ignoring Nedick’s taunts at The Max (Kelly defends Slater heartily, declaring, “Before you put him down, you should try his Cherries Jubilee”). So, in a last-ditch effort to get Slater to change his mind, Zack puts Screech in Slater’s place for the big bout, hoping Slater will be horrified by the idea of Screech being pummeled and save the day. I think it’s worth noting that the high school athletic association that approved Screech as Slater’s replacement despite the obvious disparities in weight class should really take a look at themselves in the mirror. That doesn’t seem like a very responsible thing to do.

Luckily (and completely surprisingly), after initially showing no desire to spare Screech from his beating, Slater arrives at the amazingly tiny school gym (perhaps it is good that Bayside only appears to have two cheerleaders) just as Screech is in the middle of an airplane spin (a move you rarely see utilized at a high school wrestling meet). He makes quick work of Nedick and then comes to the conclusion that while he doesn’t know what he wants to do for a living now, he’s still got plenty of time to decide. And with that, and Mr. Belding’s cancellation of the dirtbike bet as a violation of Bayside’s strict no-gambling policy, order is restored to Bayside and all is right with the world.

And it didn’t even have to be resolved at The Max, so that’s something new and exciting in Episode 9. We’re almost at double digits! Exciting!


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