Freaks and Geeks Episode 15 ‘Noshing and Moshing’
Written by J. Elvis Weinstein
Directed by Jake Kasdan
Aired 10/17/2000 on FOX Family
On a macro level, Freaks and Geeks is a show about acceptance. There are a lot of facets to this idea; accepting identity, acceptance of the shit piles life starts handing us in high school (and continues to do for the rest of life), and most importantly, accepting the fact that there are some things in life we can’t change. People die, people judge others by stereotypes – the world is a shitty place, and Freaks and Geeks is about coming to terms with that, and finding the moments of joy in life and holding onto them dearly.
Through this lens, ‘Noshing and Moshing’ stands as one of the strongest thematic pieces the show ever did – from Lindsey to Neal and even his brother Barry (a one-off character we’ll never see or hear of again) exemplify these ideas in some way for another. The easiest of these to parse out is with Neal, who begins processing his feelings from ‘The Garage Door’, struggling to reconcile the idea that his parents could be happy while his father was out cheating with various women (as Barry notes, he saw her with a red-haired woman; Sam saw him with a blonde). So what does he try to do? He begins to obsess over ventriloquism, expressing his anger through a lot of rude jokes “told” by Morty (his “figure”).
All of Neal’s angsty behavior is paralleled with Daniel’s through the episode; feeling as trapped in a shitty life as Neal is (we get a brief glimpse of his mother, who does not seem like a pleasant woman to live around). He breaks up with Kim, gets yelled at by his parents, misses class as he usually does – but instead of picking up a doll, Daniel decides to become a doll, dressing up like a “punker” to try and win the attention of a drop out working at the local liquor store.
Both Neal and Daniel’s ventures end horribly: Daniel bleeds from various areas of his head and face, and Neal eventually breaks down at his father’s party, embarrassing himself and revealing to his mother and brother that his father is cheating on them. They both already know, having come to terms with the cost of having a family with a man like Vic. It may not be the best thing in the world; but there is happiness to find there, as Daniel learns after his horrible experience in the punk scene.
Smartly, the episode doesn’t try to trample on the idea of individualism that’s so important to the core of Freaks and Geeks – even when Daniel’s being laughed at or Lindsay’s being called a burnout by some bully, ‘Noshing and Moshing’ never goes so far to say don’t take chances in life – in fact, it encourages them, if only because of the important lessons that come out of the eventual embarrassment and shame of being in high school, and that we often find truths about ourselves (and life) when we’re not ourselves.
Barry’s presence in the episode is really what seals it for me: college is the one time in life we get a chance to redefine ourselves. As he notes, he’s not a little wimp when he goes to college; if he wants to be the classy, attractive Jew, he can do that. There aren’t all these high school or adult life stigmas attached to college life – Sam is like a visionary from a strange land, a man with no real identity (he keeps insisting that he doesn’t know what his major will be) but free of the societal shackles of life before and after college to find oneself. However, Barry’s ultimate comfort in who he is, comes from his acceptance of who he was: he didn’t redefine himself as the debonair Yiddish speaker – he just finally at the stage in life where he could (and needs to, as the show suggests often with its older characters) accept himself.
But he’s the only character living in that dream world: Lindsey may find him attractive for the moment, but that’s all it is, a moment. A moment in between having a lot of detention for no good reason and driving her wasted parents home after an embarrassing end to a party. It’s a moment – but it’s those moments that we hold onto that help us get through the every day shit of life. Although ‘Noshing and Moshing’ gets wrapped up in the personification of everyone’s struggles, the points it ultimately makes are very simple – and very effective, presented to us through a trinity of facades: the “happy family” party, Neal’s ventriloquism, and Daniel’s short-lived punk moment. We can try to be somebody completely different – but it’s only until we accept who we are and what life hands us that we can find the happiness in anything.
– Lindsay’s diatribe against the “no studying in detention” rule is one of my favorite Freaks and Geeks moments.
– Ditto what I said above to Bill’s “sexy” dancing.
– “Pick on someone your own size; there’s a bus in the parking lot!”
– Lindsay notes that she likes her friends, but they don’t “inspire or challenge her.” With challenge and inspiration comes self-defintion: is Freaks and Geeks saying Lindsay’s made a huge mistake?
– Daniel: “I’m going to class. It’s called Wednesday.”
– I don’t know why Mr. Rosso has such a terrible cold in his only scene, but it makes for some great comedic gags.
– Harold: “I was right about something! We should take a picture of this moment.”