April 5, 2014 by billysparrow
“The Zack Tapes”
Aired: December 2, 1989
In a haiku nutshell: Hidden messages/Are not the way to true love/But A for effort
Trivia that will impress, well, no one: Q: What is the name of the record store where Jessie buys the Bo Revere tape? A: Spinning Lizard
Another Bayside educator is brought to the forefront in “The Zack Tapes,” and her teaching method is a little suspect. Miss Wentworth (played by Carol Lawrence, a Tony winner for her work as Maria in the Broadway production of “West Side Story”) decides to teach the kids about subliminal advertising by inserting a message into a tape. This message encourages the students to bring her flowers and candy. So, basically, she just wants things and figures the best way to get them is to con her students into getting them for her. Quite an educator that one. I learned about hidden messages in high school too, but at least our crazy music teacher, who mainly dealt with hidden messages that musicians had inserted into music because they were devil worshippers, had the decency not to ask us to bring him candy. And, based on his size, I’m pretty sure he liked candy.
Anyway, once Zack learns about the magic of hidden messages, he is understandably intrigued and figures out a way to use such messages to his advantage. First Zack hoodwinks Mr. Belding into absolving him of his sins with a tricked-up tape of the principal’s favorite jam, “California Girls.” Why would Mr. Belding want a tape of his favorite song, which one would assume, because it’s his favorite song, he would already have at least one copy of? Well, Zack tells him it’s “the new enhanced Dolby version.” Good enough for Mr. Belding. Why would the student most likely to trick him be trying to trick him?
After the success of this ruse, Zack quickly expands his scheme to the nerds. You see, it is time for Bayside’s annual Sweetheart Dance, where guys place enlarged heart necklaces around the necks of their dates and claim them for the entire high school to see. What an exciting idea, no? Did these things actually happen in high schools? (I went to an all-boys high school, so they definitely didn’t happen in mine, and if they did happen in co-ed schools, maybe I am glad I went to an all-boys school after all.)
So, Zack further tests his subliminal message scheme by seeing if he can use such messages to get girls to date nerds, surely the true test of any harebrained idea. Well, it works, as the targeted girls begin fawning all over the nerds, including Alan, the nerd I feel comfortable declaring as my favorite.
With that success under his belt, Zack moves on to the big prize: getting Kelly to go to the Sweetheart Dance with him. With the help of, once again, Screech in drag (this time as the cleverly named Barbara Bush), Zack gets a doctored tape of Bo Revere’s killer jam “Don’t Leave With Your Love” to Kelly. Here’s a non-doctored version (I promise … or do I?) of the song for your aural enjoyment.
This, as an extra bit of trivia because I love you people so much, is the first non-theme song track on the official “Saved by the Bell” soundtrack (yes, of course, I have it…if you’re nice maybe I’ll go into it in-depth at some point in the future).
But back to the Great Sweetheart Dance Swindle. Zack’s plan–and I know this will come as a shock–backfires when the girls figure out what Zack and Screech have done (Jessie borrowed Kelly’s tape in a shocking turn of events, and Screech slipped Lisa his own subliminal message tape). So, naturally, they plot a schoolwide embarrassment of their friend, in which Miss Wentworth plays what Zack thinks is the doctored Bo Revere tape and everyone is subsequently overcome with a desire to be with Zack.
Zack panics at all the attention, especially after he turns to Miss Wentworth for help only to hear her say, “They’re crazy about you, Top Gun” (because one of the messages Zack inserted into the tape was “Zack Morris is a blond Tom Cruise,” which I previously thought was “Zack Morris is the blond Tom Cruise”…you learn something every day). As girls swarm around him like hungry zombies, Zack is relieved when Slater comes through the crowd, only to be further terrified when Slater tells the crowd that he’s going to the Sweetheart Dance with Zack, continuing the hot and heavy flirtation between these two. Zack is finally set straight by Mr. Belding and told that the whole thing was a well-choreographed performance meant to serve as a terrifying public shaming.
And, once again, I feel obligated to point out that the education methods of Bayside are really, really weird. But at least we’ve learned the important lesson that you should not mess around with hidden messages. And that’s one to grow on.