Episode: Boys II Mensa (1×06)
Production Code: B607
Director: David Trainer
Teleplay: Janette Kotichas Burleigh
Main Cast: Ben Savage, William Daniels, William Russ, Betsy Randle, Will Friedle, Lee Norris, Rider Strong, Lily Nicksay
Guest Cast: Jane Carr, Marty York, Sam Horrigan, Dusty Gould
Original Air Date: October 29, 1993
TeaserMr. Feeny is handing back class assignments. This time, it’s book reports, and I can only hope that most of the class did theirs on Peter Rabbit. While Mr. Feeny is talking to the class, Cory is wearing a clown nose and pulling grotesque faces. Mr. Feeny calls him out by using a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer quip, as Cory grins sheepishly. Cory says it’s the wrong holiday for that, as Halloween is will be here soon. He explains that he was experimenting with the clown nose as a potential costume. Mr. Feeny decides to go the Shaming route of discipline and says Cory must wear the nose for the remainder of the morning. As the students giggle at their exchange, Mr. Feeny resumes handing back papers. Minkus’ featured a haiku with the subject being Captain Ahab’s preoccupation with Moby Dick. Ugghh. I’m having unpleasant flashbacks to Junior Year, right about now. Minkus emotively recites his haiku:
“The calm, blue ocean
Sun lights up the monster’s eye
He sees me–whale food.”
Mr. Feeny gives his appraisal: “It works on so many levels.” Shawn calls Minkus a “brown noser,” and Minkus calls Shawn a “troglodyte.” Mr. Feeny hands Cory’s assignment back, saying it wasn’t one of Cory’s finest achievements. Cory looks at the paper, then asks Mr. Feeny why, although he and “Rick” both got “C’s,” “Rick” got good feedback but Cory got negative feedback. Mr. Feeny asks “Bozo” to approach the “center ring.” At the front of the room, Mr. Feeny quietly tells Cory that “Mr. Lewis” put in a lot of work just to get the “C,” earning his respect. He says Cory diverts his resources into class clowning instead. Cory asks why Mr. Feeny picks on him so much, and never on, say, Minkus. Incredulous at the completely stupid question (yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question, and this is a prime example), Mr. Feeny reminds him that Minkus would earn higher than an “A,” if possible. Cory mutters that he supposes that is how Minkus gets away with everything, as he returns to his desk. Mr. Feeny asks what Minkus gets away with. I should point out that every single student is intently studying during this entire, loud, interesting, two-way conversation. And that is how you know you’re on a TV show, folks! Cory asks why he gets detention for throwing paper airplanes (as he demonstrates his prototypical triangle-shaped model), when Minkus doesn’t. Camera cut to Minkus, who has fashioned a bi-plane (I think it’s called, anyway), complete with propeller. Cory soberly says, “I withdraw the question.”
Shawn is sipping a juice container (the barrel-shaped kind with foil tops–you know the ones!) out in the school hallway, as a janitor goes about his business. This is not Janitor Bud, but an African-American fellow. Cory exits the detention door, pleasantly surprised that Shawn waited for him. Shawn rhetorically asks if he’s Cory’s best friend. Cory correctly surmises that Shawn also had detention. Shawn admits that Mrs. Engles got him. Cory asks how Shawn could possibly get detention in art class. Shawn chucks his juice container into the janitor’s wheeled trash can, then notices that the can contains a sheet of paper with test answers on it. Cory plays Jiminy Cricket, saying that they shouldn’t be looking at test answers. After skimming over the paper’s contents, Shawn figures out that it’s not for an academic test, but rather for tomorrow’s IQ test. As Shawn starts to chuck the wadded paper back into the garbage, Cory intercepts the toss. Shawn asks what the point of memorizing the test answers would be, since it obviously doesn’t count towards their grades. Cory says that it’s an opportunity to get Mr. Feeny to start treating him as well as he treats Minkus. Shawn, displaying a burst of wisdom, tells Cory to throw the paper away, as it will make his life complicated. Cory replies, “That makes a lot of sense…and if I was a smarter person, I’d probably listen to you.” Cory is determined to be considered a genius by tomorrow.
Different day, same schtick. Mr. Feeny is once again handing back exams. This time, it’s from the IQ test. Mr. Feeny tells the class that one student’s results were exemplary, receiving results that were off the charts. Minkus beams with anticipation, as Cory smirks in the background. Minkus faux-humbly tells Mr. Feeny to stop embarrassing him. Mr. Feeny tells him that he made second place. Minkus has trouble comprehending this possibility. Mr. Feeny says that one of his other students is “a junior Kierkegaard.” Cory wants to know what the heck that is. Mr. Feeny says that he was a “great mind, just like yours.” He says that he respects his intellect, and instructs the other students to applaud. They do so reluctantly, particularly Minkus who mopes at his desk. Cory tries to brush it off as being insignificant, but Mr. Feeny gravely says that it’s extremely significant. Cory turns to Shawn and says, “Uh oh.”
At home, Amy promises Morgan that they’ll buy her Halloween costume tomorrow. Morgan whines that Shelly Figus will get her costume today. Amy says that Shelly Figus’ mother must be better than she is. Morgan says that it’s an opportunity for Amy to try harder.
Eric comes through the door, and Amy asks him to babysit so she can show a house. Eric asks Morgan if she wants to learn to be a big girl. She says she does. Eric says big girls take out the trash so brothers don’t have to do it. She asks if he’d really teach her that, and Eric says he would. She rhetorically asks if she looks like a moron. She starts in on the costume spiel again, and Eric promises to help her with that if his mom can drop him off at the store on her way out, with Alan picking him up later. This settled, the three head out the door just as Cory comes home from school with Shawn. They flee upstairs, not wanting to talk.
Upstairs, Cory says that Mr. Feeny totally knows, and so he’s doomed. He shows Shawn the note that he’d sent home. He’s certain that it’s not just a thank-you note for raising a son more intelligent than “Captain Kirkaguard.” Uhhh… like, is that supposed to be hard or something? Any of the 5 series’ captains are smarter than Kirk. Even Janeway and Sisko, since even though Booksmarts are usually overruled by Crazy, that doesn’t mean the Booksmarts vanish from existence. Shawn starts pawing at the sealed envelope. Cory snatches it back, since it’s supposed to go to his parents. Shawn asks if his parents generally write letters. In 1993, yes. Shawn asks what the letters go into. In 1993, envelopes. Shawn points out that they could read the letter and put it into a new envelope. Cory likes the idea, and Shawn begins to read the letter. Apparently, Mr. Feeny intends to notify the “S.E.A.”–State Educational Authority–about Cory. Shawn says that they have special agents who deal with “intelligence fraud.” Cory freaks out that he’s in actual trouble. Shawn smirks and says he’s not in trouble if he just made all of that stuff up. Cory asks if he is. Shawn says no. Cory re-enters panic mode, but then Shawn tells him to calm down, because all it says is that Mr. Feeny wants a parent-teacher conference with the Matthews. Cory’s worried that Mr. Feeny will tell his parents that he doubts that Cory has extraordinary IQ. Shawn points out that as long as the test says Cory’s smart, then it doesn’t matter what Mr. Feeny thinks. Cory says that he knows and his parents know that he’s not smart. Shawn says that he needs to make his parents think that he is. Cory asks how, and Shawn says that he’s going to be a genius for Halloween.
Cory is upstairs in his bedroom, when he hears a car approaching. Taking this as his cue, he turns on his stereo to some classical music, and pretends to conduct the orchestra with his giant foam finger.
Amy and Alan sneak up on him through his open door, and ask him if he’s actually listening to classical music. Cory lamely attempts to pass it off as a baseball game commercial. Alan continues prodding his son, and Cory says it was only Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in “E” Flat. Amy says that they already know about the IQ test, having just met with Mr. Feeny. Cory apprehensively asks what they know. Amy says that they know he got a high score, but now she’s trying to reconcile this with his mediocre grades. Cory says that it’s an imperfection within the educational system. He says, “I didn’t fail the system. The system failed me.” Alan asks if he really thinks that. Cory asks what other reason could be out there. Morgan calls for her mother from downstairs, and Amy calls her upstairs. Amy says that after “15” years of motherhood, she wants to believe that she knows her children. Morgan enters the bedroom, with one eyeball hanging out of the socket and a butcher’s knife in her head. She announces that she’s a zombie. Eric comes upstairs and proudly asks what they think. Alan’s interested to see that she blacked out her teeth to complete the effect. Amy’s horrified, and wants to know why they chose that costume over the zillions of Cinderella costumes on the rack. Eric says that she chose it. Amy doesn’t believe this, as Morgan didn’t know what a zombie was. Morgan says that the undead are awesome.
At school, Cory confides to Shawn that he thinks he’s losing control of this scenario. Shawn tells him to chill. Cory says he could stand lying to Mr. Feeny only, but not to his parents. Shawn’s shocked that Cory doesn’t like lying to his parents, since he thinks it’s thrilling. Shawn rationalizes that Mr. Feeny is the one who said he was smart, not Cory. Cory says that the test told Mr. Feeny he was smart. Shawn says that Cory didn’t even ask to take the test. They continue this line of reasoning until they conclude that they only saw the test answers because “They” gave them detention.
Minkus approaches them, saying that he doesn’t understand why Cory tries to cheat off of Minkus’ papers if Cory’s supposed to be so intelligent. Shawn jumps in to cover for him, saying that Cory just looks over to appreciate the efforts of another genius. Minkus responds that he’ll tip his paper over from now on so Cory can see the answers better. Cory asks if he’s serious. Minkus isn’t, of course. The first class bell rings, at which point Mr. Feeny brings in a substitute teacher, Ms. Chin, who will sit with them for the first 30 minutes while he confers with Cory.
At the empty cafeteria, Mr. Feeny says that he and Cory are having this meeting in case Cory has something to say to him. Cory asks what kind of thing. Mr. Feeny tosses out athletics, the weather, and the consequences of lying as possibilities. Cory selects sports. Mr. Feeny says that’s too bad. Cory asks what that is. Mr. Feeny drops the bomb that Cory’s new school won’t have sports. Cory thinks he’s joking, and laughs, but then sees Mr. Feeny is dead serious. Mr. Feeny explains that the new school is geared toward gifted kids, and sports only detract from their academic priorities. Cory wants to know how they have fun, and Mr. Feeny answers that they study. Cory asks about exercising, and Mr. Feeny says that they study until they perspire. He says that they do have a competitive chess team. Cory’s not liking the sound of this, so he tells Mr. Feeny that the kids at that school don’t need him like Mr. Feeny and his friends need him. Mr. Feeny says that they’d be impeding his learning. Cory says that they wouldn’t, and offers to help teach a class with Mr. Feeny. No, really. He says that. Mr. Feeny says that they’ll have to get along without him somehow, because the district’s focused on giving children what they deserve. He says, “I think you deserve everything you’re going to get.” Foreboding words! Cory says that he doesn’t think he’s entitled to anything, but Mr. Feeny says that the test says that he does. Cory says that he’s intelligent enough to realize Mr. Feeny doubts his intellect. Mr. Feeny says that what he thinks is irrelevant, at this point, and Cory is no longer his student. He exits the cafeteria, gesturing toward some Halloween decorations at the door. He says that people aren’t who they say they are around Halloween. I want to know why Mr. Feeny can leave Cory all alone in the cafeteria, unsupervised and presumably without any kind of pass.
Shawn walks through Cory’s bedroom door, asking what the emergency is. Cory responds by shooting Shawn with some sort of Nerf automatic rifle. Shawn exclaims that Cory’s trying to kill him. Cory yells back that Shawn’s crime against him was far worse. Shawn’s confused, and Cory asks where he’d have his next school recess, and if he’d spend it playing sports and such. Shawn doesn’t see the big deal. Cory shouts, “I’m searching for Bobby Fischer.” Cory explains that because he’s a genius, he must attend a specialized school with kids who are basically Minkus. Cory considers his own statement, and amends it: “These kids make Minkus look like Fabio!” It finally sinks in for Shawn, and Cory explains that he asked Shawn to come over to say goodbye, since a lady would be coming over to give him another genius test and send him to genius school. Shawn calls him an idiot, and asks him if he’s a genius, and if he has the test answers this time. Cory says no to both, and asks him if he wants him to throw the exam. Attempting to stifle a laugh, Shawn says, “I want you to take the test to the best of your ability.”
Alan and Amy, and the exam lady, Mrs. Bertram, are sitting on the couch drinking tea (with saucers!), as Cory sits at the desk, taking the test. Mmmyeah, that totally seems like what the public and private school systems would consider to be a legitimate testing environment for this sort of thing. Mrs. Bertram, who is an uptight British lady with a voice to match, stiffly asks if Amy is a housewife. Alan corrects her that she’s a homemaker who manages the kids and and house in addition to selling real estate. Mrs. Bertram asks if Alan is employed in a store. Amy says that her husband manages one of the biggest grocery stores in the region. Mrs. Bertram nods with understanding, and snootily says that tradesmen are vital, yet don’t get respect.
Morgan runs into the living room, asking for cookies. Mrs. Bertram asks if Alan and Amy noticed that Morgan’s clothes don’t match. They reply that she gets to select her own clothes because they want to foster her creativity. Mrs. Bertram says that since their genes resulted in Cory, maybe Morgan would also be a genius. She invites Morgan to do a word-association problem with her. She says, “Maple is to elm as daisy is to…” “Booger?” Morgan suggests. Well, jeez laweez, I don’t get the point of the problem… or is supposed to be trying to be open-ended on purpose? Maple is a kind of a tree. Elm is a kind of of a tree. Daisy is a kind of a flower. There are many other kinds of flowers: Tulips, goldenrod, rhododendrons, daffodils, violets, Queen Anne’s lace, lilies of the valley, calla lilies, Easter lilies, lily pads. And yet, Mrs. Bertram’s “correct” answer is probably none of these. Anyway, Mrs. Bertram dismisses Morgan. Amy instructs Morgan to change outfits as her daughter goes upstairs.
Mrs. Bertram comments on the random nature of genetics. Cory’s finished, and hands his paper back. Mrs. Bertram is surprised, as the typical examinee requires at least an hour to complete it. Cory’s parents smile knowingly, and say that the test results will reflect what they already know. After going over the answer sheet, Mrs. Bertram says that if the results are accurate, he’d have average IQ for a 6th grader. Cory’s satisfied with this. Mrs. Bertram asks if Cory thought he’d actually get away with this whole thing. Cory admits that he thought he’d be busted much earlier, and his parents concur. Mrs. Bertram, oddly, proudly announces that Cory cheated. Cory confesses that he’s not smart. Mrs. Bertram says that he only wants them to think that, and he’s displaying common behavior for a genius of his age. Cory protests that the answer sheet proves his averageness. Mrs. Bertram explains to his parents that he just wants to stay at his old school. Cory says that when he cheated, it was on the original test, and asks her to shush because she keeps making him sound like a genius. Cory ‘fesses up that he found the test answers, so he’s not a genius. They knew that he wasn’t gifted already, and are happy that he’s finally confessed. Mrs. Bertram takes her leave, as she announces that she’s going off to deal with actual genius, and can’t waste any time dealing with ordinary people. Somewhat offended, Alan says that ordinary people bring up ordinary kids, and it’s okay if they don’t fit their “arbitrary intellectual standard.” Amy says that they are glad that her kids are “completely normal.” Cue Morgan running down the stairs in full zombie costume, yelling loudly. Alan asks Mrs. Bertram if she has an issue with his zombified daughter. She haughtily replies that they must feel proud, and leaves, presumably to visit with Bobby Fischer.
Cory asks his parents if they knew all along. Amy says they did, and Cory asks why they were willing to go along with all of this. Amy replies that they wouldn’t accuse him of cheating, and hoped he would tell them if he had. Alan was just waiting for him to tell the truth. Cory says he wasn’t smart enough to do that until he was desperate. They sentence him to two weeks’ groundation, effective November 1. Cory’s all excited that he still gets Halloween. Alan says he does, as long as he’s not costumed as a test cheater. Cory says that costume didn’t fit him. Amy tells him not to be someone he isn’t. Cory says that his average boy outfit fit him better. His parents like this idea a lot.
After class is dismissed, Cory hands in his clown nose to Mr. Feeny, saying he’s retiring. Since he’s no longer going to be class genius, he’s no longer going to be the class clown, either. Mr. Feeny thinks that’s a good idea. Cory says that he assumed that in order for Mr. Feeny to respect someone, they’d have to be a genius. Mr. Feeny says that the only thing students have to do is to give their best efforts. Cory correctly surmises that this is why Mr. Feeny didn’t berate Rick Lewis for flunking the most recent math quiz. Mr. Feeny says that he tried his best, but couldn’t comprehend the material. Therefore, Mr. Feeny accepts this as a personal failure, and will do his best to help Mr. Lewis comprehend upcoming assignments. Cory says that’s pretty cool of him, and heads out the door. Mr. Feeny says to himself, “I’m cool. God help me.”
The doorbell rings, so zombiefied Morgan goes to open the door. She grabs a bowl of candy on her way. A pirate and a mobster hold out their candy bags. Morgan counts out a piece of candy into each of their bags and into her own personal bowl. Mr. Feeny stands just outside the door behind them, and the pirate turns to the mobster and IDs him as the person who’d been giving out rulers instead of candy. They shake their heads with disgust and leave.
Morgan says Mr. Feeny’s too old to trick or treat. He confesses that his rulers aren’t going well, and asks her to fetch her parents so he can use some of their candy. As she is off doing that, a vampire, Robin Hood (wearing brown. I don’t get it.), and Frankenstein’s monster come to the door. Mr. Feeny promises that candy shall arrive shortly. The vampire recognizes him as Mr. Feeny from school. Robin Hood says that his brother says he’ll be his teacher next year. Uhh… spoiler alert, kid. No, he won’t. Robin Hood says that his brother said Mr. Feeny’s the best teacher in school. Mr. Feeny says, “Oh, please, Mr. Matthews, I wasn’t born yesterday.” He lifts up Robin Hood’s mask, to reveal… a redhaired kid. Jeez laweez, did this show buy stock in Red Haired Child Actors Agency or something? Mr. Feeny apologizes, and gives him all of the rulers.
Amy pokes her head into the living room, and tells Mr. Feeny that she’s got candy in the kitchen. He thanks her, and flees from the children. The vampire and Frankenstein’s monster pull their masks off to reveal Cory and Shawn, respectively. Cory smugly announces that he’s a genius.Final thoughts
I believe this is the first aired episode where Shawn is given a substantial role. In the episodes that aired prior to this one, Shawn either had to split equal time with one of Cory’s other friends (Random Black Kid, Bowlcut, Topanga), or else he was in the background entirely. I think that they intentionally beefed up his role for this episode, for narrative purposes. Cory’s desire to stay at his old school, as he said in the episode, was largely because of his friends there. Previously, we’d seen him interact with his classmates, but (except for Topanga and Minkus, for completely different and yet obvious reasons), their interactions have been pretty superficial and interchangeable. In this episode, Shawn is ever-present–without random Bowlcuts or Weirdos around. What’s more, Cory uses him as a either sounding board or partner in crime, depending on which role is needed for plot advancement. Shawn even states that they are best friends, and is evidenced by their actions, as Shawn waits for Cory to get out of detention, and as Shawn’s the friend Cory calls up to say “goodbye” when he thought he was being transferred. Showing Cory’s close relationship with Shawn helps to show how high the stakes are for Cory wanting to stay at the elementary school. And obviously the Cory and Shawn friendship ultimately becomes one of the backbones of the series, so I’m glad that The Powers That Be started to go in this direction.
Of course, many network shows, especially in the 90s, included a holiday themed show set to air at the proper times of year. Obviously, Geoffrey and I recently reviewed one such Halloween episode for Sabrina: The Teenage Witch. (Thus concludes my shameless plug.) “Boys II Mensa” apparently aired during Halloween week, looking at the air dates. For the most part, the Halloween theme manifested itself in the forms of Morgan’s zombie subplot and of decorations. Everywhere. Decorations. Skeletons. Pumpkins. Webs. At the Matthews’ house. At school. Decorations. And I thought my mother was bad with how many Christmas decorations she puts up. Anyway, I’ve noticed that a lot of shows’ Halloween episodes will surround a party (often the plot will involve romantic entanglements at the party and/or duplicate costuming). “Boys II Mensa” kept things comparatively low-key, I think. In terms of plot, it just had Morgan shopping for a costume, Cory trying on his clown nose, and the trick-or-treating itself was saved for the end credit sequence. I kind of appreciate how… normal, it all was. I also appreciate that they did bother to tie in the episode’s holiday theme with the episode’s theme, although I do feel as if they were jammed together like ill-fitting puzzle pieces. I feel like Mr. Feeny’s cafeteria speech about people putting on costumes for Halloween was kind of clunky, as was Cory’s confession to his parents/epiphany. I think that the themes were implemented a little more smoothly in most of the prior 5 episodes. But hey, at least the writers cared enough to try?
Wait, that was who?!/I know them from __________.
Jane Carr appears as “Mrs. Bertram.” She has done quite a lot of character actor and voice work, both in the US and UK, but I’ve seen/heard almost none of it. Except for her uniquely memorable turn on Babylon 5 as “Timov,” Londo Mollari’s shrewish wife (he had 3 concurrently), under heavy costuming and makeup and a bald cap. She was absolutely fabulous!
“Costumed Kid #1” was played by Marty York. He’s making his 2nd appearance, having already appeared in “Cory’s Alternative Friends” as “Larry.”
“Costumed Kid #2” was played by Sam Horrigan. He’s also making his 2nd appearance, since he was also in “Cory’s Alternative Friends” as “Student #1.”
“Costumed Kid #3” was played by Dusty Gould. This was his only credited role.
Continuity (or lack thereof)
For the first time, Amy’s shown doing work as a real estate agent.
The wisdom (and snark) of Mr. Feeny
To red-nosed Cory: “Shall I express my usual disappointment, or just ask you to guide my sleigh tonight?”