Ridin’ Low in My Chair: “The Election”

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March 24, 2014 by billysparrow

“The Election”

Aired: November 18, 1989

In a haiku nutshell: How far would you go/For a trip to Washington?/Not as far as Zack

Trivia that will impress, well, no one: Q: What is Screech’s address? A: 88 Edgemont Road

(image from savedbythebell.wikia.com)

(image from savedbythebell.wikia.com)

Occasionally, I will come across a “Saved by the Bell” episode that I have not seen several dozen times. Granted, it does not happen very often, but when it does, it’s pretty gosh darn exciting.

And so, it was with a fair measure of gosh darn excitement that I watched “The Election,” in which Jessie and Zack compete for the post of class president. Wait, you say, why would Zack want to be class president, and why would he want to run against his best friend, who would otherwise be running unopposed? Well, your answer lies in a conversation Zack overhears where he finds out that whoever is elected class president will be rewarded not only with that lofty title, but also with a free trip to a city that every teenager dreams of visiting–Washington, D.C. Casting aside what a giant waste of educational funds it would be to fly a student from California to Washington, D.C., I take issue with the glee a trip to the nation’s capital would bring to a kid like Zack (though he claims he’s in it for the time off from school). And having been the recipient of a free trip to Washington when I was in college, let me say it’s not exactly a thrill ride. My free time in Washington was largely spent wandering around looking in vain for something interesting, interrupted by a college newspaper conference and time spent with the two guys I was sharing a room with as we watched the free porn previews on the hotel’s PPV system (note to youngsters: this is how old people used to have to watch pornography).

What I’m saying is a trip to D.C. isn’t something I’d be willing to sell out my best friend for. But Zack presses on in his pursuit in a presidential race marked by completely confusing campaign signs. First, there is “Don’t Be Testy, Vote for Jessie,” which neither rhymes nor makes one bit of sense. Then that one’s topped by the similarly baffling “Don’t Be Catchy, Vote for Jessie,” which somehow rhymes even less and is that much more nonsensical. We finally get a rhymer late in the game with “School’s Too Messy, Vote for Jessie.” But perhaps the best one appears behind Jessie as she tries to appeal to the lowest common denominator in a last-ditch attempt to beat Zack at his own game. It reads: ‘Don’t Sit There and Hope, Get Up and Vote.” Why that wasn’t chosen over “Rock the Vote” remains a mystery. And I’ve almost forgotten the most offensive of the pro-Jessie paraphernalia, which comes courtesy of that creep Max, as his half-apron reads “Spano Is My Man-O.” Oh brother. His skills in sloganeering are just as disturbing as his magic tricks.

Perhaps because of a combination of her incomprehensible campaign signs and Zack’s craftiness (he puts together an impressive, fairly high-quality campaign video featuring “endorsements” from Gorbachev and Castro, names that surely appeal to the late-1980s teen voter), Jessie winds up losing the election to Zack, soon after Kelly reminds Jessie that if she loses, she will go down in history with “George McGovern, Walter Mondale, and the Cleveland Indians” (two political names that are sure to tickle the teenage funny bone). This is despite the fact that Zack tries to throw the election after his scheme to get that free trip is discovered and Belding tells him the Washington journey is off the table. Yes, Jessie loses to her best friend who was purposely trying to lose. That has to sting. No wonder she’s such a mess. But she can take solace in the fact that (a) she only lost by one vote and (b) she smoked Jason Bateman (9 votes), ALF (7), Gilligan (6), and the Skipper (2…get it?).

Belding is impressed that Zack stayed in the race and won and tells him the trip to Washington was never off and is, in fact, a go. But Zack realizes how heartless he’s been and cedes the presidency to Jessie in a touching scene that features Jessie’s first if not most memorable cry.

“The Election” also features another first, the first appearance of another excellent faculty member, Mr. Dewey, who teaches algebra (actually, if the episodes had aired in their intended order, he would have been the first faculty member introduced; how said for Patrick T. O’Brien to be denied that honor).

And aside from the excellent trivia nugget of Screech’s address already provided above, this episode reveals Jessie Spano’s middle name as well. I am tempted to make you work for it and watch the episode yourself, but I think you’re a good person and would like to reward you for your goodness. So her middle name is Myrtle. Keep that in your back pocket for Trivia Night. You’re welcome.

All in all, “The Election” is a nice mix of important SBTB trivia and a decent storyline that delves deeper into the psychological maelstrom that is Jessica Myrtle Spano. It picks up the pace after a couple of rough episodes and leads the way for the first episode that aired while I was a teenager.

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