In this feature I take a look at one episode that marks a high point in a television series. It’s not necessarily the absolute best a series has to offer (that’s always debatable), but it’s an episode that remains lodged in memory long after I first watched it.
I still remember watching Freaks and Geeks back in the year 2000. I remember Bill almost dying of his peanut allergy, Mr. Rosso telling Lindsay he envisions her speaking with world leaders, and Sam breaking up with his uberpopular girlfriend. None of those moments are found in “Smooching and Mooching,” but the episode is such a good time, it doesn’t matter.
The freak storyline is about Nick losing his drum set and fleeing his father’s house. He eventually ends up at the Weir household, and Lindsay is vexed by her parents inviting him to sleep over. Mr. and Mrs. Weir show Nick love and support, and Lindsay wonders aloud why her father is so soft on Nick. Mr. Weir points out that Nick’s father is a hard man, and Grandpa Weir acted similarly. Lindsay says, “Yeah I know the feeling.” Mr. Weird gives her a serious look and says, “Lindsay. Trust me, you don’t.” It’s a fantastic line delivery. There’s so much unspoken there.
Upon rewatching the series I found myself regularly annoyed by Lindsay, because she has every advantage available to her – good parents, a middle-class lifestyle, a big brain – yet she constantly veers off her scholastic path for… reasons? I’m glad Mr. Weir points out how easy her life is and how she needs to push herself.
Alright, let’s get to the real fun of the episode. Sam’s crush Cindy asks Bill if Sam might like her. Bill, the ultimate wingman, says it’s hard to tell. Champion status. Really, the geek crew overall is great. At the lunch table they’re all genuinely happy for Sam, and Gordon says that Cindy is the one who should be thankful, because Sam is a catch. That’s too wholesome.
Cindy plants a kiss on Sam – gasp! – and the geeks find themselves on the way to a makeout party. Neal thinks he’s perfected his spin-the-bottle strategy, but in true Neal fashion, he ends up landing on Bill every time. Bill continuously lands on preppy cheerleader Vicki until they’re sent to a closet for seven minutes in heaven. Bill, clearly uncomfortable, attempts a conversation with Vicki. She tells him, “Don’t even think about it. Stay away from me. You’re not gonna kiss me.” Bill doesn’t bite his tongue. He says, “You know what? You’re a jerk. I was just trying to make small talk.” His response humbles Vicki, and they bond over The Jerk, a comedy Bill enjoys. Vicki apologizes for her behavior, then she makes out with Bill. Not only is Bill the MVP of “Smooching and Mooching,” he’s the best character of the series. He’s honest, an excellent friend, and he learns from his mistakes (in another episode he reluctantly accepts Coach Fredricks, his mom’s boyfriend, as a household guest). I love to see Bill getting a win here.
Before the episode ends Sam and Cindy retreat to a private room. Then the more experienced Cindy takes charge of Sam and treats him to some first base action. The helpless look on Sam’s face as Cindy turns off the light is hilarious. Poor kid.
Sadly, Sam dumps Cindy in the very next episode. In contrast to Vicki’s pleasant dialogue with Bill, Cindy shows no real care or interest in Sam as an individual. High school can be cruel. But “Smooching and Mooching” is all about the honeymoon phase, and everything seems more hopeful in this episode. We’ll never know what the future would look like for the freaks or the geeks (NBC, you fools), but maybe Bill landed Vicki after joining the basketball team. And maybe Nick finally unlocked some musical talent. One can hope.
Other Best Eps candidates: “The Diary,” “The Garage Door,” “Tricks and Treats”