Married with Children... All Things Episodic


0304  -  Poke High

If only it was as easy for me as it is for Bud. A Penthouse, a
nightlight and a pillow named Shirley..." (Kelly)

But it isn't as easy for Kelly, not this time. One of the first episodes
to concentrate almost exclusively on Christina Applegate is carried off
surprisingly well, considering that on paper the episode is a total
reversal of what we would normally expect. Kelly's desperation,
however, is well-played and entirely understandable. As she puts it,
without her sex appeal, she feels worthless, and for the first time
there is a hint of how little Kelly does not respect herself. She
becomes a cheerleader, sacrifices some of her coolness to be with geeks
(as a side note, I thought cheerleaders were usually cool?), and does
some generally quite desperate things. Just as in The Great Escape, when
Al observes his daughter is dressed like a hooker, she once again goes
to extreme lengths when her only pride - her body - seems to be in

"Hey, no-life. I need you to help me get this guy." (Kelly)
"What's the matter? Breakway blouse not working?" (Bud)

Like father like daughter, as this episode reminds us. It is Al that has
made Kelly so desperate, and given her so little (something she
would overtly admit six years later in Shoeway to Heaven). There is a
hidden moral in this episode that, while more subtle and complicated
than that of He Thought He Could, is probably more devastating. Faced
with the loss of his record, Al loses much of his vital spirit. The
flash of defiance which makes him try and karate-chop Matt in the
backyard is gone by the time the families reach the football field and
he sits there with no life in him. Even the grinning idiocy of Steve -
and that's not being nasty, because there is literally nothing to Steve
in this episode - or the spendthrift vagaries of his own wife do not
arouse his ire like they usually do. As Al observes, he has lost
before the fight has even begun. Fortunately for him, Marcy has
temporarily left this world, and Amanda Bearse produces a superb
performance that consists solely of facial expressions reacting to a
thought-track. Loved the way she ran her tongue over her lips, for
example, though it is oddly less effective than a more overt scene such
as that in I'm Going to Sweatland and Banking on Marcy.

"There's nowhere you can go after standing in the boys' shower with a
sign saying SOAP." (Kelly)

Effective, isn't it? This is perhaps the worst thing Kelly has ever
done, surreal or not. Considering that she ought to be the epitome of
high-school cool, I was admittedly surprised by her desperation in this
episode. Does being refused by just one boy make her lose everything?
The answer is apparently yes and, sad though that would be, I'm not sure
it's convincing. Or perhaps it is - I'm not an expert on female
psychology, after all. This, however, is the only criticism I would want
to make of a genuinely good episode. The third season is shaping up to
be a much more inventive one, as the children develop their acting
skills (Bud, too, gets some good moments here) and hence the series
opens up new plotlines. 

Rating 6.5.

By Grail


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