Episode: Killer Bee (1×05)
Director: David Trainer
Teleplay: Susan Estelle Jansen
Main Cast: Ben Savage, William Daniels, William Russ, Betsy Randle, Will Friedle, Lee Norris, Rider Strong, Lily Nicksay
Guest Cast: DeJuan Guy, Nikki Cox, Gisele MacKenzie, Branelle Dahl, Laurel Diskin, Tom Kelly, Thomas Wilson Brown
Original Air Date: October 22, 1993
Mr. Feeny is announcing who earned the highest geography grade. Before he can get the name out, Cory loudly interrupts, saying it must be Minkus. And, it was Minkus, who tells Mr. Feeny that the quiz’s bonus question was tricky. Shawn throws a wad of paper at Minkus’ head. Mr. Feeny hands back the assignments. Cory’s indignant that he got a “C” because he studied for this exam, for once, and wants to know why. Mr. Feeny points out that “East Germany,” one of Cory’s answers, no longer exists. Two episodes in a row where Cory sucks at geography, now. Cory asks if this occurred while baseball season was happening. Cory says that his textbook has East Germany adjacent to West Germany. Mr. Feeny agrees, because the textbook also says that Alaska and Hawaii will make excellent states in the future. Oh gosh, so apparently I wasn’t the only 90s kid learning about The Soviet Union from “current” maps, after all! Mr. Feeny explains that the Board of Education is not in a financial position to regularly update textbooks. Cory wants to know how he’s supposed to stay up-to-date. Mr. Feeny suggests watching the news and increasing classroom involvement. He reminds the class that he gives them mimeographs (!), and suggests that the students refrain from using them as paper airplanes. Shawn sails one into Minkus’ head. Cory asks what the point of learning geography is if it’s constantly changing, and he compares it to math (2 + 2 is constant), science (Earth orbiting the Sun), and history (Lincoln gets shot). Mr. Feeny wryly says, “Lincoln got off easy.”
Mr. Feeny is announcing the regional geography tournament, to which Mr. Feeny has sent the 1st place winner for each of the past 5 years. I am impressed at Mr. Feeny’s managing to accomplish this, in spite of the antiquated geography textbooks. Once again, Mr. Feeny announces who he’s going to send this year. Once again, Cory loudly interrupts that it’s Minkus. Of course, it is Minkus. Mr. Feeny begins talking about what this year’s 1st prize will be, and Minkus hopefully interjects, suggesting that it’s a Mercator projection pull-down wall map. No, the prize is actually a batboy gig for the World Series. Obviously Minkus is disappointed, but this prize is right up Cory’s alley. He excitedly tells Shawn that, in short, Mr. Feeny should pick him to compete because he’d appreciate the prize more than Minkus would. Shawn is doubtful, though, since Cory was unaware that the “Berlitz Wall” was razed. The bell rings, and Cory goes up to Mr. Feeny’s desk.
He says that taking Minkus isn’t a good idea. Mr. Feeny asks Cory to explain his crazy notion. Cory says that “the will to win” is more important than giftedness. Cory watches too much sports on TV, in my opinion. Or inspirational sports movies.
Apparently uninterested in disproving my theory, Cory says that he’s got heart. Mr. Feeny deduces that Cory’s spontaneous interest in the geography bee was brought on by the batboy prize. Cory unconvincingly says that he’s actually trying to win a 6th trophy for Mr. Feeny’s sake. Mr. Feeny calls him out for sucking up, and Cory readily admits this. Mr. Feeny thanks him for giving him confidence. Cory says, “In me?” Mr. Feeny replies, “In Minkus.”
At the Matthews house, as Morgan chucks newly-purchased groceries into the trash can from atop her counter island perch, Eric is deeply engrossed in doing homework at the kitchen table. I know. It’s Bizarro World. Amy comes in with more groceries, and asks Eric to babysit his siblings on Friday. Eric attempts to decline, because Aerosmith is playing that night and he promised to take Heather Ralston. Amy says that she’ll arrange for a babysitter, then, and everyone will drive there together. Eric apprehensively asks what she means. She says that she and Alan have tickets. Amy asks Morgan what happened to the broccoli. Morgan looks around and says she doesn’t see it. That’s because it’s already been chucked into the trash. Eric calls his mom “Mother,” specifically indicating the “generational chasm between us,” said chasm meaning that Amy’s too old to go. Amy asks why, and Eric condescendingly says that Aerosmith’s loud, and that she should be listening to… Amy cuts him off with a warning, but Eric ploughs onward. He ask, “Aren’t Peter, Paul, and Mary blowing wind somewhere?”
Cory, Shawn, and RBK enter the Matthews kitchen, trapping Minkus in a virtual headlock. Cory asks his mother if she’s been introduced to his “good friend” Minkus. She says it’s nice to meet him. In terror, Minkus tells her to call his mother. She’s confused at this statement, so RBK assures her that Minkus is just having a nerves attack. As they shove Minkus upstairs, he shouts out his phone number.
Amy finally sees the broccoli in the trash can. She asks Morgan what it is doing there. Morgan guiltily admits it was hiding the liver, which had also been chucked in there. Amy pulls out the liver as Morgan sheepishly hides her face.
Upstairs, Cory thanks Minkus for coming over. Minkus asks if he can go yet. RBK tells him to “chill,” and in confusion, Minkus says he doesn’t understand the word. Shawn explains that its meaning is that 1 out of 4 individuals is a nerd, so when Minkus surveys the room and doesn’t see a nerd, he must be a nerd. Cory offers to de-nerdify Minkus, but Minkus says he is comfortable being nerdy. RBK asks if he likes being made fun of, Cory asks if he enjoys being Last One Picked, and Shawn asks if he likes wedgies. Minkus responds “no” to the first two, but has become accustomed to the wedgies. The non-nerds throw their hands up in exasperation. Cory offers his help again. Minkus cheerfully asks what he’d need to do. Cory tells him not to do the geography tournament. Minkus is reluctant, for he finds the “adventure” and “exoticism” of geography to be appealing. He invites the non-nerds to join the Future Cartographers of America Club. RBK tells Minkus to move on. Minkus asks the non-nerds if they will like him if he doesn’t compete. Cory curtly answers in the negative. Minkus doesn’t see the point of de-nerdifying, in that case. Shawn tells Minkus to name his price. Minkus just wants them to not pelt the ball into his head when they play Bombardment. Cory agrees, although RBK doesn’t see the purpose of playing without that particular feature.
Alan comes into the kitchen after work, where Amy and Eric are still standing off about the Aerosmith concert. Alan sarcastically apologizes that he couldn’t get tickets to the Neil Sedaka-thon. That wouldn’t surprise me if it were actually true. Those old classic music concerts they air on PBS seem to draw quite the on-location crowd. Alan dismisses his son’s angst by stating that they’ve been Aerosmith fans since before Eric was born. Eric begs that they don’t ruin his first concert. Amy says that it’s not Eric’s first concert, and Alan recalls Madison Square Garden in 1978. Amy puts her hand over her stomach, where Eric was living during that concert. Morgan incredulously asks Amy if she ate Eric. Eric sarcastically asks if the Aerosmith band members are a million years old. Alan smarts back that yes, Eric’s parents and Aerosmith are the same age. He proudly shows off his Row C-C tickets to Amy. Eric’s in awe of the 3rd row seats, which Alan says that the elderly can actually afford. Amy smugly offers to buy him better seats near theirs, so he’ll be able to actually see the stage. But Eric says he doesn’t want to even be in the same venue as they are, much less a few seats down. He defiantly says he’s going to look into Eric Clapton tickets, and stalks outside. After he’s gone, Amy asks Alan if he wants to inform their son about their Clapton fandom.
As the final bell rings at school, Minkus resigns from the geography bee, as Cory sits alone at his desk, pleased. Mr. Feeny thinks that he’s backing out because it’s difficult to keep up with how geography changes so quickly. Minkus corrects him that the tournament doesn’t jive with his new persona. Mr. Feeny asks what the new persona is. Minkus proudly says he wants to be an average fellow. Mr. Feeny demands to know why Minkus would abruptly wish to be ordinary. Minkus says that extraordinary people are pummeled in Bombardment, while the average kids get to throw the balls. A quick camera cut back to Cory’s desk reveals that Minkus is clearly parroting Cory’s earlier words, as Cory mouths along with his speech. Mr. Feeny requests that Minkus wait until the tournament is over to begin his new journey, but Minkus believes that there’s no time like the present. Disappointed, Mr. Feeny laments that Minkus is his only student capable of locating Thrace on an ancient map. Jovially, Minkus remarks how easy it is to do that by starting north of the Aegean, but then realizes Mr. Feeny’s trying to manipulate him. He says, “it isn’t going to–ain’t going to work.” Mr. Feeny shakes Minkus’ hand in a businesslike fashion.
After Minkus leaves, he facetiously laments to the mostly empty classroom that he doesn’t know how he’s going to find a replacement. Cory, creeping behind him, points to himself. Mr. Feeny just stares, disgustedly. Cory says that he’s Mr. Feeny’s sole option. Mr. Feeny replies that there are no options, and exits the classroom. Thinking quickly, Cory says that Mr. Feeny just turned east when exiting the room. “Towards Europe, dontchaknow?” He starts begging for an opportunity. Mr. Feeny asks if he’s just trying to embarrass him publicly. Cory says he just wants to get the win for him. Mr. Feeny reminds him that he’s never been interested in geography before. Cory says that he is interested in winning the geography tournament, though, and that he’s capable of learning anything he’s interested in. Mr. Feeny asks if he’s actually saying he’s agreeing to learn from him. Cory sincerely responds that if anyone would be able to instruct him, it would be Mr. Feeny. Cory says that he’s an “empty vessel.” He reminds Mr. Feeny that he’s called him that a million times. Mr. Feeny agrees that he has. Cory asks how many times Mr. Feeny has heard him ask to be taught. Mr. Feeny admits that he’s never heard him say that. He agrees to prepare him for the competition. He acknowledges that Cory’s only in it for the prize, but he hopes that he learns something on the journey. Cory waves his hand dismissively and says that he will if it’s on the way.
Cory’s studying a map with a magnifying glass, as Shawn and RBK are begging him to come to the park with them. They hurl accusations at him, such as that the teachers now consider Cory to be a “good student,” and that the teachers say he has “potential.” Fully engrossed, Cory merely remarks on the highest and lowest points in the continental US, which are separated by a mere 50 miles. Horrified, RBK accuses Cory of being a mutant. Oh goodness, the 90s mutants craze, what with X-Men and Wolverine and there was that whole decision to adapt that Neogenic Nightmare Spider-Man saga. Shawn pelts a small ball at Cory’s noggin. Cory barely reacts.
Minkus arrives, dressed as a grotesque facsimile of Will Smith in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The studio audience cheers. RBK isn’t having any of this wack nonsense, so he and Shawn split. Minkus says that his friends asked him to go break bottles by the sewer pipes. This was an organized Thing in this decade? SNES and Sega Genesis were out by this time, remember? Minkus invites Cory to come along. Cory’s just glad Minkus came over, as he needs to pick his brain. Minkus cheerfully announces that his brain isn’t operational anymore. Mr. Feeny appears in the background, tending his garden, unnoticed by the boys. Cory says that things used to be simpler, e.g. Moscow, Russia being the only capital one had to be concerned with. Nowadays (or Thenadays, as I don’t dare consult a current world map for comparison’s sake), there’s Latvia, Estonia, and Ukraine with capitals. He begs Minkus to help him, but Minkus refuses. Minkus walks over to Mr. Feeny, complaining that “they” keep trying to get him back into geography. Mr. Feeny says that Minkus is doing a good job of staying out. Minkus thanks him, and says that he watched House of Style on MTV last night. Huh. That’s one I don’t remember–even though it apparently airs right now! Minkus asks Mr. Feeny what he thinks of the outfit. Mr. Feeny thinks western civilization is going to pot, and Minkus agrees. He says he’s going home to watch Beavis and Butthead. Ugh, that’s a candidate as one of the Top 10 Things Claudia Least Misses About the 1990s.
Mr. Feeny asks Cory how the studying is going. Cory says that he’s enjoying it. Mr. Feeny thinks he’ll be a good bat boy. Cory concurs, but says that he finds learning geography to be fun. He asks Mr. Feeny if he was aware of Hawaii’s past name of the “Sandwich Islands.” Mr. Feeny asks the leading question if they were named for someone. Cory knows that they were named for the Earl of Sandwich. Mr. Feeny acts shocked, and Cory says that sandwiches were named for the Earl. I’m hungry now. Thanks so much for that tangent? Cory returns to his studying, as Mr. Feeny smiles proudly.
At the dinner table, Alan and Amy use flash cards to quiz Cory on US state nicknames and other geographical misc., as Eric headdesks and Morgan observes the proceedings. Eric pops up his head and shouts possible musician names (e.g. Elton John, Tina Turner, Led Zeppelin). Alan tells Eric to just not go, since this is bothering him so much. Eric says he sees through their game, however, so he’s going to take Heather to the concert, 64 rows back.
After an establishing shot of an unmarked venue, we see the geography tournament contestants’ receiving shoulder massages from their parents/teachers/mentors/some random adult who should’ve had Chris Hansen called on them. After staring momentarily, Mr. Feeny asks Cory if his shoulders are tense. Cory says that they are. Mr. Feeny suggests he try rolling back his own shoulders, and demonstrates doing so. Cory reassuringly tells him that he feels good about the competition, so Mr. Feeny should relax. Cory’s eyes glaze over as he fantasizes about pinch hitting for Barry Bonds. Hate to break it to you, Cor, but you’re not nearly ‘roided up enough for that.
Quick cut to the actual competition, where Cory’s staring like a deer in headlights, clearly struggling to keep up with the rate and difficulty of the questions. For example, the moderator asks about Tierra del Fuego’s indigenous population. Contestant #3, a nerdette with giant classes, primly answers, “Who are the Yahgans?” The moderator says that it’s not required to answer the questions in the form of a question.
Oh gosh, on a related note, apparently this year (2013) was Alex Trebek’s last year of hosting the National Geography (or Geographic, because branding is important or something) Bee. This is awfully sad to me. I actually took the school-level written test for the Bee as a kid, having qualified to do that, but I did not make it to the statewide competition. So this whole geography bee thing was a significant element of My Childhood. Alex Trebek should never retire from this (or Jeopardy!). Ever. Sniffle.
Anyway, the moderator asks Contestant #4 what the Tuamotus export. Cory asks nobody in particular if these people are operating from a different globe. Contestant #4 (who has a flower dress with lace collar AND two ribbons in her hair) knows that the answer is copra. The moderator asks Contestant #5 (Cory), “To whom do they belong?” Cory asks, “To whom does who belong?” The moderator replies that she means the Tuamotus, as if Cory was supposed to easily derive this from the awfully vague use of pronouns within her question. Cory asks her if she knew that Hawaii used to be the Sandwich Islands. The moderator says that the correct answer is “France.”
After the competition, Cory is slumped in one of the empty chairs on the empty stage. He glumly drones random geographical facts. The Contestant #3 (holding a trophy taller than herself) and Contestant #4 walk behind Cory, asking each other what a bat boy does. Cory explains the whole handing the players their bats thing to them. The girls think the prize is dumb, and would prefer the Mercator projection pull-down wall map. They exit, stage left (literally!), leaving Cory to repeatedly hit his own head in exasperation. He says, to no-one: “I’m hitting my head. I’m hitting the northernmost part of my head.”
At home, Eric is pacing and relating his concert experience to Morgan, Cory, and the frequently mentioned but seldom seen Heather Ralston. He said that he did his best not to look at Row C-C during the concert, but he couldn’t help himself. His parents weren’t in those seats, though, because they were dancing in the aisle. Heather says that she finds Amy and Alan to be cool, which does not console poor Eric, who doesn’t want “adorable” parents. To further support his point, he asks Cory if he’d want “adorable” parents. Cory says he just wants them “to make me lunch and pick me up from camp.” Eric remembers that he didn’t yet tell them the worst thing Amy and Alan did. Morgan asks what, as the parents come through the door, dressed in the groupie equivalent of Minkus’ street cred ensemble. Eric tightly says, “They wore that.” Alan says, “Hot concert, huh?” Ok, I am officially siding with Eric. I would die if my parents pulled this one. Or move to the Soviet Union.
Amy is concerned that Eric and Heather didn’t enjoy themselves. Heather replies that she did, and Eric sarcastically agrees. He grumpily tells Heather he’ll take her home. Alan asks what’s wrong with Eric, who complains that he should have had a great time at a concert for which he’d waited a year. He asks Alan if he knows why that is. Cory chimes in that he doesn’t know, prompting a reprimand from Amy. Eric says that his parents were having the experience that he shouldn’t had. Alan asks why that has any bearing on Eric’s enjoyment. Eric exclaims that parents shouldn’t be having fun, and that they should’ve been at home, waiting for him to return. He points out that he was the first one home, rather than them. Amy says that they had backstage passes. At his limit, Eric tells Cory to scoot over on the “loser’s couch” so he can have a seat. Eric mopily says that Cory’s lost “that geography thing, and I’ve lost my music, my parents, my entire generation.” Cory joins in the moping, and laments the 300 hours spent studying. Eric says he stood in line all night to get his tickets, with “Sonny and Cher” as his only reward. Alan apologizes and explains that he and Amy are at an “awkward” age, since they’re parents, “but [they’re] not dead yet.” Still irritated, Eric says that he’s taking Heather home. Alan makes him and Heather go sit on the couch again, and sends Cory and Morgan upstairs. Eric nervously asks that Alan would not holler at him in front of his girlfriend. Alan says that when he was Eric’s age, his father was like Eric’s ideal father. But Alan’s ideal father was one like Alan is now. He drops a kiss on Eric’s head, tells him he’ll have to deal with it, and goes upstairs. Eric looks at Heather sitting next to him and, intrigued, asks if his parents had just left the two of them alone and together. Eric finally sees the benefits of having “cool” parents, and turns off the side table’s lamp. Alan pokes his head downstairs and yells, “Not that cool!”
The end-of-school bell rings, and Mr. Feeny comments that Minkus is back to his normal attire. Minkus says that although he doesn’t mind Cindy Crawford, he prefers Connie Chung. Mr. Feeny approves, more or less. As Minkus exits the classroom, Cory stops him, repeating the Tuamotus question. Minkus correctly answers matter-of-factly as Cory groans.
He goes up to Mr. Feeny’s desk, and sheepishly says that Minkus would’ve won the trophy. Mr. Feeny agrees. Cory wants him to know that he tried as hard as he could. Mr. Feeny asks him if he feels that he really did try his best. Cory says that he does. Mr. Feeny says that in the 15th century, what “geography” meant to explorers was to take their relatively small boats to their furthest points, until they reached the ends of the earth and fell off. He says that Cory has done that, except that he didn’t fall. In fact, they have discovered new lands together, he says as he hands him last week’s geography test. Mr. Feeny proudly says that he got an “A,” and congratulates him. He takes Cory’s exam and pins it alongside the previous years’ geography tournament plaques. “We won!” Mr. Feeny triumphantly declares, and actually gives Cory a high-five. The studio audience cheers.
Cory’s watching baseball. The announcer says that Barry Bonds is hitting, with 2 outs. The pitcher begins throwing, and– A second announcer cuts in, saying that the bat boy ts worldhas run onto the field, banner in hand. The announcers are confused at this, and are even more perplexed at the banner’s message: “Get France out of the Tuamotus.” Cory begins hitting his own head again. One of the announcers thought that the Tuamotus were located in France, and the other one is certain that the Tuamotus are the indigenous population in Tierra del Fuego. The first announcer corrects him that they are the Yahgans.
In terms of theme, this episode seems to parallel “Father Knows Best,” in that they both promote the process of learning. In “Father Knows Best,” the results of the learning process were not always tangible, as although Cory’s grades are a concrete thing which reflect the amount of study time he put in, it was also deemed important to exercise his brain in areas outside of academics. In “Killer Bee,” Cory’s grades are also strongly tied to his study habits. However, because Mr. Feeny clearly communicates that, although he values good grades, what is more important to him is that Cory would learn to enjoy learning, and that he would learn to put maximum effort in. To him, these two things are as valuable as the geography tournament victories.
Speaking of geography tournaments, I not-so-briefly touched on these in the episode recap. I also touched on the whole outdated geography curriculum thing. Fortunately, during school, I was given a heads-up that the Soviet Union was no longer a thing, so I just had to remember that (and which related country was where). Public libraries helped with this, somewhat, but even today, many of those books in the children’s wing contain out-of-date material. Nowadays, things would much easier since, yanno, Wikipedia is a Thing. Mimeographs, though… I’d read about them in old timey books, but I never, ever used one. Mimeographs! I suppose you gotta do what you gotta do, though.
Wait, that was who?!/I know them from ________.
“Heather Ralston” is played by Nikki Cox, of all people! I don’t even have to consult her IMDB or Wikipedia pages to know that she did the child actor thing in Star Trek: TNG (as this cutsey alien child with absurdly long fingers, who belonged to a doomed pre-warp civilization. Much Prime Directive Magic Meeting Room discussion ensued), and she had her own The WB shows for a few years: Unhappily Ever After and Nikki. She’s got an extensive resume, though.
DeJuan Guy is back for his final appearance as “Random Black Kid/Ellis.” His earlier BMW episode was “On the Fence,” and I’m not going to go over his rather short resume again here. I am not sure why they chose to write him out, but I think that Angela eventually filled the role of Sassy Black Friend much better.
Branelle Dahl was Contestant #5. This was her only credited role. (I am trying to figure out why they are credited thusly, when the only contestants with speaking roles were clearly referred to by the moderator as “Contestants #3 and #4. Itmakesnosense.)
Laurel Diskin was Contestant #6. Her only other credit was a 3-episode guest star gig on the Uncle Buck TV series. I… did not know they made an Uncle Buck TV series.
Thomas Wilson Brown IV returns as Ed, the baseball announcer. I went into his resume on “The Pilot,” and I haven’t discovered any new and interesting tidbits about him since I wrote that up. So yeah.
Tom Kelly was the other baseball announcer, John. Most of his other roles were as “Announcer.”
Gisele MacKenzie was the moderator. She was a violinist, theatre actor, and singer. She worked with Jack Benny quite a bit and was quite popular on the old Summer Stock tour circuits.
Continuity (or lack thereof)
Heather Ralston is Eric’s date again, and we finally get to see her onscreen. Random Black Kid is Cory’s friend again.
The wisdom (and snark) of Mr. Feeny — You receive a buy-one-get-one-free coupon!
Regarding Minkus’ homeboy outfit: “I think western civilization is in its decline.”
“Sometimes a man doesn’t know himself until he’s walked a mile in another man’s humongous pants.”