Freaks and Geeks Episode 2 ‘Beers and Weirs’
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Written by J. Elvis Weinstein & Judd Apatow
The problem with most second episodes of television shows is they spend too much time re-establishing the story beats and relationship dynamics between characters from the pilot, just in case there’s a few million extra people tuning in after hearing about the first episode (spoiler: this very rarely happens… these days, most shows are lucky to maintain an audience through the second episode). ‘Beers and Weirs’ has a much better way of handling the second episode of a series: throw all the characters in the same location and observe their interactions. It’s a really organic way of adding complexities to the relationships on the show, all under the conceit of a high school trope – partying when the parents go way – with an absolutely ingenious twist.
The funny thing about ‘Beers and Weirs’ is that Lindsay never wants to have a party at her house. She’s starting to hang out with the freaks, but she’s not quite yet ‘one of them’, offering to hold the party in the hopes of sliding her way into the group – and more importantly, cuddle up next to Daniel, who is having girl (aka Kim Kelly) problems as usual. She has the party out of pure peer pressure, naive to what might happen at ‘a freak party’, walking blindly into what we all know is a disastrous situation.
In a plan to ‘save’ her, the geeks decide to sabotage the keg, and secretly replace it with a keg of fake beer they acquired from a cashier amused by their plans (Allen Covert, of many terrible Adam Sandler films). Why? They all have their reasons, but they’re united in their plan to save Lindsay, after a thoroughly lame improv performance (led by Harry and Millie) and melodramatic speech from Mr. Rosso about drinking (Daniel: “I love being told not to drink by our pothead hippie guidance counselor”) scares them. It’s an adorable little subplot, the three little brother musketeers uniting to save Lindsay, who everyone thinks is ruining her life by hanging out with the likes of Danny, Ken, and Nick.
It adds an emotional layer to the farce the three play on Lindsay and “her guests” (as she says disgustedly to Millie when Daniel’s 30-something ‘friends’ show up); underneath the hilarity of an entire party pretending to be drunk is an organic connection between Sam, his friends, and Lindsay, who look up to her (and for Neal, have been in love with her since she was 5) and want to make sure she’s safe, and nobody ends up like John Bonham at the party.
The party that’s not quite a ‘party’ also parallels Lindsey’s current mental state: everyone at the party is drinking, having a great time under the guise that they’re drunk, even though most recognize they aren’t. By pretending to be in an altered state, they’re all deceiving each other (and themselves), acting a facsimile social role to look ‘cool’. Separated from it, we can see how ridiculous and forced their behavior is (Lindsay: “I gotta PEEEEE”), but it’s a sharp observation of high school life: we’re all acting these roles of ‘freaks’, ‘jocks’, and ‘geeks’, pretending to fit into some mold that we really don’t, and in retrospect, everyone kind of looks like an idiot. In a way, we’re all pretending to be drunk in high school, and we can’t see how silly it is until we’re mentally removed from the situation to reflect on it.
There’s another interesting sentiment to the episode that plays into this idea of identity in high school, personified in Lindsay’s conversation with Daniel inside her room. Up to this point, we’ve seen Daniel as the carefree slacker, wasting away his high school days until he started living the depressing lower middle-class life he felt he was predestined to live. He’s looking at all her trophies, and when she gets embarrassed about having them (“I was such a geek” she tells him), his reaction reveals a big emotional hole in Daniel, and shows just how different the two of them are. Daniel’s never won anything in his life; shit, he’s probably never really participated in anything long enough to even be eligible for one – and Lindsay’s all but ready to throw them in the garbage to look cool in front of him, never realizing what made him interested in her (in what form initially, we’ll never know of course) was that she got to live the life he never did.
In later episodes, the show would really dig into who Daniel was and what a sad future he had ahead of him, and ‘Beers and Weirs’ establishes some of this, showing what a dissonance there is between Lindsay’s upbringing and Daniel’s. It’s a depressing reminder that some kids just have a shit life growing up, and presents us with a motivation for Daniel to include Lindsay in their group: he didn’t want to feel like such a loser anymore, even if he could only be smart and talented by living vicariously through Lindsay, instead of being able to accomplish it herself.
The other highlight of the episode is Bill (of course), who gets plastered by himself, alone in Sam’s bedroom with a keg and his favorite guilty pleasure Dallas on television. One of the great recurring gags on Freaks and Geeks is Bill spending time with himself, and the cutaways from the party to his solitary beer fest in the bedroom is one of the show’s most memorable little throwaway bits. It’s topped off when he tells Sam “That’s very dominant” after he barks out order to him -a single line that’s personally one of my favorite moments ever on the show.
What’s really striking about ‘Beers and Weirs’ is how it breaks down the high school construction of cliques and social hierarchies, giving the party an almost fantastical quality despite the uglier undercurrent (people breaking stuff, spilling shit all over the place, the old guys picking fights and being weird). Freaks, geeks, and cheerleaders alike are all together, and interacting in meaningful ways; when Millie breaks out in song (singing “Jesus Is Alright With Me’ to prove that she can have the most fun sober), Kim and others openly ridicule her, but Nick’s willing to sing along and jam out, even though he doesn’t really know the words. Like Sam’s conversation with Ken (where he asks him to make sure “she doesn’t get into too much trouble”), it’s an interesting show of affection between people that would never interact otherwise: Millie and Sam feel their moments are genuine, and even though Ken and Nick do try and deflect with humor, there is a bit of sincerity that shines through, giving impressive depth to the forming relationships on a show in its second episode.
It’s hard to say an episode largely devoid of the Weir parents can be truly memorable, but ‘Beers and Weirs’ is full of so many great little character interactions, it’s hard to argue against it. Where most shows struggle in second episodes, ‘Beers’ excels, riding an exceptional script and showing faith in its actors and characters that most young shows aren’t willing to do.
– the poster of the unicorn with a pink bush is hilarious.
– after trying to feel up Lindsay, Nick makes a lame attempt at justifying it: “John Bonham just died!”
– For the sake of keeping the episode under 2,000 words, I didn’t talk much about Lindsay’s conversation with Neal, which is a great example of the honest character moments Freaks and Geeks made its trademark. He completely fails at confessing his love to her (which he probably knew would bomb), but he was able to be there for Lindsay when she needed it, allowing him to see her at her most exposed. Such a touching, raw scene between those two – and Linda Cardellini and Samm Levine play their respective roles perfectly.
– Nick enlists Sara’s (Lizzy Caplan) help to get Lindsay out of class (initially freaking her out, thinking something happened to her parents). He tells her she has a “cute necklace”, a tiny little precursor to events later this season.
– how does Sam know how to tap a keg?
– Daniel: “You win a lot, don’t you?… Why is it so stupid; you look pretty happy there.”
– Cindy: “I’m the designated driver!!!”
– Kim continues to be a bitch, hooking up with Daniel in Lindsay’s bed, which puts to rest any thoughts she might have had when he slept on her shoulder during assembly.
– Neal tells Lindsay as she cries “You’re so perfect… the world is your oyster.”