51. Girl Meets Permanent Record
In this episode, Riley gets a D in Spanish, and Maya gets an A.
There were no straight-up references in this episode, but this episode concept had a lot of Boy Meets Worlds DNA. Firstly there is DNA from season 7, The Provider with Farkle and Smackle, where they love each other, but one of them is doing better, and it’s bugging the other. Then there is DNA from how to succeed in business where Zay, the one who used to be the sidekick, is succeeding, and Lucas, like Cory, isn’t doing so well. Then there are references to season one, Father Knows Less, where Cory is trying to get his kid a break just like Alan tried to do when Cory failed a test, and just like Alan, he needed to learn to let the teacher do their job. Lastly, there is DNA from Life Lessons where everyone thought Feeny was pushing too hard in the exam schedule, just like Cory thought the Spanish teacher's test was too hard for Riley. However, we learn the teachers know what they are doing and are just trying to get the best out of the students.
I like that they did something new I don’t think we ever saw Boy Meets World characters take a language. I also think there was a valuable lesson learned when they flipped the group dynamics and had Smackle and Zay, and Maya on top. It teaches the kids they can’t just coast. They have to raise their level.
I also thought the interaction between Cory/Topanga and the Spanish teacher was great. At first, I thought it was odd Cory was questioning another teacher the way he did, but it made sense as a father. But he had a lesson to learn as well. Riley needs to earn her grades; being a good kid isn’t enough. She needs to prove herself. So do all the kids, and I think Cory grappling with being a dad versus being a teacher was the best part of the episode, and the Spanish teacher really earned respect by standing her ground and pushing the kids reasonably.
The negative of this episode is that it severely lacked the drama to push it to the upper echelon. Look at all the episodes I compared it to. For example, Father Knows Less had a complicated problem. Cory fell asleep because of Alan and failed, and you can take Feeny's side or Alan's side and have a valid point. This episode doesn’t have a complicated problem. Riley and Cory are objectively wrong, and Riley just needed to buckle down.
This leads me to Life Lessons; yes, it is about Feeny pushing them too hard, but it had serious consequences. The kids rioted, and Feeny nearly left teaching. Also, we saw the kids weren’t putting their best foot forward. We have no idea how Riley got this D. We don’t know if she just struggled or didn’t study or what. We should because that would inform the story. We know Lucas felt baseball would just come easy, so that’ informs how we look at his situation. He wasn’t properly prepared. Zay, who knows he is not great, outworked him. Also, side note-making JV as a freshman instead of the freshmen team says they have potential and isn't bad.
Transitioning to the other two episodes, The Provider and How to Succeed in Business, the lack of success of Cory in both instances affected his relationship. Riley and Maya had no such problem, and Maya definitely threw it in Riley's face a bit, but there was no envy or anything. Yea, that keeps their characters perfect, but it also makes for a boring story. Good stories happen when someone steps out of character when a bad choice is made. Cory and Shawn once got an eleven and twelve on their quiz in their first year of high school and made it to college. Why should Riley be so upset over such a small grade? Also, tiny conflicts can be turned into big deals, but this episode didn’t do a good job of making this feel like a big deal. This episode didn’t have enough depth of conflict. However, It did have important lessons and presented a challenge to the status quo.
Final Grade C+
Homework Father Knows Less season 1, Life Lessons season 3, How to Succeed in Business season 5, The Provider season 7
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