Freaks and Geeks Episode 10 ‘The Diary’
Written by Rebecca Kirshner (Teleplay), Judd Apatow & Rebecca Kirshner (Story)
Directed by Ken Olin
Aired 1/31/2000 on NBC
As most episodes of Freaks and Geeks do, ‘The Diary’ begins innocently, and slowly snowballs into a brutally honest story about identity. The cold open takes this a step farther: it suggests that some of these characters are trying to run away from it, as Kim and Lindsay stand at the side of the road trying to hitchhike a ride into town. Lindsay talks about a whole “other world” out there that she wants to embrace, dreaming about the possible people that could pick them up. Maybe it’ll be an artist, or some creepy guy that will murder them: but it will be someone else from someplace else, exactly the person Lindsay thinks she wants to be.
Reality, however, has other plans: the man who picks them up knows Lindsay’s father, and inadvertently leads her into another uncomfortable situation: having Kim’s mother over for dinner (a scene with probably failed miserably when it aired, not having the full context of the events in ‘Kim Kelly Is My Friend’). She “enlightens” Harold and Jean to the ways of the world today, scaring them into forbidding Lindsay from seeing Kim anymore, and motivating them to pry around her room and read the secrets in her diary, after Cookie efficiently places the seed of doubt in their minds.
As soon as the very amicable dinner between Harold, Jean, and Cookie ends, things start going downhill quickly – as often happens when you mess with the status quo of things. Lindsay tells Kim what her parents said (“You’re not smart, you do drugs, you have sex… dumb stuff like that.”) in the most hilariously awkward way possible, trying to sugar coat her parent’s insults by presenting it to Kim as some off-hand thing that will blow over. Lindsay’s concerned about preserving her identity as the girl who rebels against her parents, although she sheepishly sat around while they forbid her to see her. The conversation itself strikes a bit of a false note (would Lindsay really say those things so carelessly to Kim, or is she just doing it for the sake of the episode’s drama?), but they reconcile it with a number of great scenes fleshing it out through the episode.
Kim realizes this and gets noticeably upset, something Lindsay doesn’t notice until Daniel comes up to her, begging for her to talk to Kim and end their problems. It’s Daniel’s conversations with Kim and Lindsay that really nail the emotional core of this plot: sure, Kim does things to intentionally affect how other’s perceive her (in addition to her awful upbringing), but she’s also a human being, one who Daniel says is like “the rawest nerve there is.” That tough bravado is largely a front: she does “give” what her friends think of her, even in the moments where she tries to fight it. Nobody wants to be told they are dumb or reprehensible: especially from their best friend, something Lindsay finally realizes.
As he often does, Daniel plays the role of seer and shepherd in the episode, pointing out to Kim that she is a girl who does drugs, has sex, and isn’t the smartest cookie in the jar: but she’s also loyal, caring, and soft on the inside, a person who just wants to connect with others. Daniel might be a gas-sniffing dumb ass, but he’s also the freak who provides guidance for others when needed: here, his rationality not only reconciles a friendship, but stands as the connective thread between stories.
This plays out most convincingly with Harold and Jean’s marriage, which goes under the microscope after they read Lindsay’s diary, where she calls them “robots” who love each other out of routine and convenience, not true emotions. Again, this idea of perception is in the air: teenagers rebelling against the progression of life, their eyes full of wonder about their future, often view their parent’s marriage as some kind of negotiated, accepted life, one where colors are dulled and the pleasures are rare. But without the maturity of age (or Daniel’s spiritual insight), Lindsay doesn’t understand that there’s nothing wrong with that: and that’s why we don’t hear her talk about her parent’s marriage at all in ‘The Diary’, instead putting the attention on Jean to explore this idea of suburban sedation.
For Jean, she thinks her husband isn’t happy anymore. Meals are the same, he’s always cranky, and Lindsay’s diary causes her to wonder if she’s been living a life out of convenience instead of happiness. “We need to change, right?” she tells Harold, a wholly rational thought: from the time we’re born until the time we die, there’s always this sense of constant physical change, something our minds manifest into this chase for the unique, always trying to find something new and different to live an experience. But as Harold points out, there is something more than convenience about enjoying things they way they are: if you find something you love and makes you happy, why wouldn’t you try to preserve it for the rest of your life?
He explains this is the worst way possible – comparing his love for Jean to his love for pot roast – but eventually, he sits down and tells her why he likes things they way they are. It’s because of her: he just wants to be with her, and live the world’s happiest version of Groundhog Day. “I think about you when I stock the fishing lure,” he tells her; “My whole life is about serving you.”, in what I’d argue is the show’s single most romantic moment of the series. Then they have sex, and when Kim arrives for dinner, they finally see her with a clear head: she’s Lindsay’s friend, a person who is more than her reputation and her mother’s awful opinion of her (seriously: who hates their daughter that much?).
Identity (as it often does) plays a major part in the geek’s world in ‘The Diary’, when Bill decides that he wants to be the shortstop in gym class, tired of being picked last. This story line is a bit more heavy-handed (it feels very much like the writers telling their gym teachers what they did wrong growing up), but it works quite well in showing us how easy it is to crush a kid’s dream without noticing it, even if you’re saving them from failure in the long run. Nobody thinks Bill will be good at softball (even Bill; the best he can say is “I could be good”), but the point he makes is a great one: how he can he be good if he’s never given the chance? As he tells Coach Fredricks, “you have the power to change everything”: is that true? Probably not, but his perception of Coach drives Coach to actually change: and Bill, Sam, and Neal have their day in the sun as the gym class baseball stars. They only get one out, but boy, is it a fantastic out, set to the music of Rocky as Bill makes an incredible diving catch in shallow left field (don’t even get me started on the baseball aspects of this episode, lest this review go 4,000 words), and they celebrate like heroes of the grid iron.
I love the ending of ‘The Diary’: it’s one of the rare moments on the show when all the story lines get their equivalent of a happy ending (some in a very literal form). For once, an episode of Freaks and Geeks ends with smiles, each of the characters in and around McKinley High finding some sort of peace in their acceptance of self. And for a show that often likes to leave us with dark thoughts, the happy, pizza and sex-filled ending of ‘The Diary’ is a memorable one.
– Bill’s first prank phone call as Mr. Crisp is comedy gold – as is Fredricks having the kids come into class and read Bill’s comments from the second one, the best montage the show ever produces (Alan’s hysterical laughing is great).
– Lindsay and Kim are talking before class, and a still-bitter Nick asks them “could you be quiet, please? Class is about to start.”
– (Spoilers ahead) some of the things foreshadowed in this episode: Lindsay and Kim running away (they’re hitchhiking); Fredricks dating Bill’s mom; and most interestingly, the affair Neal’s father is having, which is pointed out quite overtly when he shows up at night and leaves in a hurry to go back to “work”. Neal brushes it off, saying his dad just likes to come home and change, still a few episodes away from learning the truth.
– no Rosso, Ken, or Cindy this episode.
– Lindsay writes that her father is “scared his penis might fall off if he cleared the table once in awhile.”
– Kim: “did you just call me illogical, Daniel? I’ll tear your head off. I’ll tear your head off and throw it over that fence.”
– “that’s the first out, you morons!”
– Bill just wanted to call a meeting on the mound, my single favorite moment of the series, standing there just looking at the sky.
– Last line is a classic one: Lindsay and Kim stare horrified at Harold and Jean’s bedroom door: “Lindsay… your parents are swingers!!!”