Episode: Grandma Was a Rolling Stone (1×07)
Production Code: B609
Director: David Trainer
Teleplay: Ed Decter, John J. Strauss
Main Cast: Ben Savage, William Daniels, William Russ, Betsy Randle, Will Friedle, Lee Norris (credit only), Rider Strong, Lily Nicksay
Guest Cast: Rue McClanahan, Keri Russell
Original Air Date: November 12, 1993
Cory and Shawn are working in Mr. Feeny’s yard. Alan comes outside and asks what they are up to. Cory explains that they are hunting for snails to use as fishing bait on Sunday. Alan pointedly says that fish don’t eat snails. Mr. Feeny guiltily says that he made a mistake. Cory shames Mr. Feeny for manipulating innocent minds, although he doesn’t seem to mind much. The boys hop the fence to the Matthews’ side, and Alan starts demonstrating proper fishing technique to them.
Alan’s hook snags on one of Mr. Feeny’s flowerpots, making it topple over. Mr. Feeny, surprisingly, is not upset at this, and asks to give it a shot. Alan hands the fishing rod over to him, and Mr. Feeny casts the hook perfectly into a bucket sitting in the Matthews’ yard. Satsified, Mr. Feeny says that it’s just like riding a bike. Cory expresses his surprise that Mr. Feeny is a fisherman. This provides Mr. Feeny with an opportunity to tell an old fishing story (1956, small-mouth bass, Louisiana Delta). Alan half-heartedly says that this tale is incredibly interesting. Well, I’m interested! Mr. Feeny is using language that is quite descriptive and vivid. Plus, his fishing story is already at least 5x as interesting as Moby Dick is. Okay, okay, fine! It’s more like 5000x. Cory asks why Eric won’t be going along on this year’s fishing trip. Alan explains that Eric’s discovered girls, and once Cory starts liking girls, he’ll take Morgan instead. He calls it an “endless cycle of fishing.” Cory asks what he’ll do after Morgan gets too old. Alan says he’ll then be a fellow in a fishing hat who tells a lot of dull stories. He looks over the fence to his gardening neighbor, and experiences shortness of breath. Cory, concerned, asks if he just frightened himself. Alan says he did.
In the Matthews’ living room, Eric’s teaching Morgan to say greetings intended to be used to pick up random girls for him. Amy comes into the room and asks what Eric’s doing. Morgan announces that she’s helping Eric pick up girls. Eric tries to deny this. Morgan responds by repeating a coached line: “My brother thinks you are sooo cute!” Amy laughs and says that this must by why he’s been taking Morgan to the mall lately. She approves, because they get to spend time together. Eric says that since some fellows use dogs to pick up women, he thought he should try using Morgan.Outside, they hear a car pull up to the house, sounding “La Cucaracha” on its horn. Eric and Morgan excitedly run to the door, for it is unmistakably Grandma Matthews. The studio audience loudly cheers at her entrance. I wonder why they are doing that well before her face is revealed. Alan enters the room, smiling wanly. Grandma and Morgan greet each other inun unison, saying, “Where’s my present?” Grandma teases her granddaughter that perhaps Morgan would be the one to purchase a present this year. Morgan says that she’s not the grandma. Grandma fishes into her bag for a “dolly” that is actually a shrunken head from Tijuana. Eric notices the bullwhip hanging on her arm, and he admires it. Grandma gives it to him, slyly saying that she used to have a matching wagon master, but he escaped his handcuffs in Juarez. As she hugs her daughter-in-law, Grandma halfheartedly apologizes for not calling ahead, which Amy notes is her habit. Grandma reaches back into her bag for Alan’s gift: Dried cactus from Albuquerque. She says the Navajos use it, and that it “keeps you regular as a diesel.” Alan wryly says that they’ll remember her…multiple times throughout the day.
Amy asks why she’s in the area, and if her convoy happened to be passing through. Grandma, obviously hiding something, says that they did well in bingo country, so they’re going to Palm Springs to purchase new butts.
Cory finally arrives home, and says that he heard “La Cucaracha” way down at the park. He asks how long she’s staying, and she says for the weekend. She instructs Eric and Morgan to cancel all of their weekend plans, so she can shower Morgan with new clothes and take Eric to a car show. Eric, of course, likes the idea of the “hot babes” draped over the cars. Grandma turns to Cory and, handing him a baseball card, promises to have it signed “by the guy in the picture.” Cory freaks out, because it is a Cal Ripken rookie card. Cory, screaming, asks how she got it. Grandma dramatically replies that she shot a guy in Reno, in order to see him die, and retrieved it from his clammy hands. Or, she says, she bought it at a swap meet for $7. Cory gets her to reiterate her promise to get it signed.
Cory’s on the sofa with his baseball card binder, when Eric and Grandma return from the car show. Grandma excitedly recounts that Jamie Farr and Bernie Koppell were both there. Eric shows off his arm, which he’d had signed by the Lamborghini girl. The studio audience says “wooooo!” I’m not sure if they’re supposed to be excited over the arm (which is pretty average by teen heartthrob standards) or by the signature (which looks like a sloppy mess).Cory asks how the Lamborghini girl could possibly measure up to Cal Ripken, and if she’d played 1,900 games. Eric says no, but Cal Ripken never posed for Victoria’s Secret. Cory blinks and says he thinks the two of them are growing apart. Right, as if the two of them have displayed any common interests whatsoever over the past 7 episodes. Eric says he promised to take her driving once he gets his license, and said she responded by laughing, “but it was a flirty laugh.” Eric looks at his arm and reads her name, Graziella Terziana. He dreamily says that he thinks she’s French. And right here we’ve got a Dumb Eric sighting! Eric goes into the kitchen, and Grandma says that she’s tired after the long day. Cory hopes that she’s not too exhausted to do baseball cards with him tomorrow. She said she wouldn’t miss it.
Eric’s raiding the fridge for a single triangular slice of cheese pizza, when Mr. Feeny raps on the back door. Mr. Feeny says that he wanted to ask Eric a question. He asks what a young man would do while spending time with a young girl. Eric cheekily asks if Mr. Feeny’s seeing a teenage girl. Mr. Feeny rolls his eyes and says he hasn’t since Eisenhower was president. He explains that his niece is staying over for a couple of days, and he was hoping Eric could help him to occupy her time. Eric makes up a strep throat excuse, but Mr. Feeny just wanted ideas. Eric says that a girl that age is mostly looking for a senior with a car, but may settle for dragging a broke sophomore to a movie he dislikes and slamming the door in his face afterwards. Mr. Feeny deciphers Eric’s statement, and asks if dinner and a movie would be good. Eric is like, duh, it’s an integral part of what dates are. Mr. Feeny kind of derides this, and Eric asks him not to make fun of what he is.
Cory walks into the kitchen, asking Amy where his grandmother is, since her Winnebago’s no longer sitting outside the house. Instead of answering, Amy asks him to help her bake blueberry muffins. Mmm, it’s been a while since I’ve had those. I need to remedy that, ASAP. Cory says he’d rather go to Baltimore than bake. Well, gee, I’ve never been to Baltimore. Is it really that awesome?
Eric comes downstairs and, shirt sleeve raised, he asks how long he can go without showering. Cory asks Amy if he’ll act like this once his hormones hit. Eric protests that he has other things on his mind besides girls, and is about to name everything on this oh-so extensive list, when he sees a girl through the window. Since I’ve already referred to a decent number of guest stars by their haircuts (particularly if the styles are 90s-relevant) or other distinctive features, I’m henceforth going to refer to the girl standing in Mr. Feeny’s backyard with the Felicity hairstyle as “Felicity.” Anyway, Eric is shocked at what a hottie Felicity is, and suddenly feels the need to plan. He runs to the living room and comes back carrying Morgan. He asks her what they’ve been working on. Morgan mechanically repeats the lines Eric rehearsed with her earlier. Eric instructs her to come outside and say the lines in exactly 1 minute. Morgan asks how she’s supposed to know when that is. Eric grabs an egg timer and sets it, then runs outside.
He hops the fence, and, putting on his “cool” voice, asks if he could help Mr. Feeny with his garden. He hoists a bag of fertilizer over his shoulder in a display of manliness, then introduces himself to Felicity.Mr. Feeny asks how his strep throat is doing. Eric blows him off, saying he works out too much to get strep. He asks Mr. Feeny where he was going to put the fertilizer bag. Mr. Feeny replies that he wasn’t going to move it from where it was. Eric says that he’ll put the bag back with ease, in that case. He tosses it and grunts like a discus thrower.
He then leans against the fence in a modeling pose. Felicity is trying to smother her giggles throughout this entire exchange.
The egg timer dings (actual timestamps ranged from 11:04 to 11:45, which rather explains the time dilation stuff occurring around Cory’s 7th grade and in college, no?), and Morgan runs outside. She declares, “This is my brother Eric. He’s very shy.” Mr. Feeny mutters, “Speaking of fertilizer…” Morgan says that she loves her brother, causing Felicity to fawn all over Morgan. Mr. Feeny can’t believe his niece would be taken in by such blatant manipulation. Morgan tells Felicity that Eric shall take his sister to the carnival today. Eric asks when he said this. Mr. Feeny laughs and says Eric’s parrot acquired new words. Morgan asks Felicity to go with them. Eric’s down for this idea, of course, so Felicity asks her uncle if it’s okay. Mr. Feeny says it would be good manners for Eric and Morgan to invite him along, as well. Eric invites him through gritted teeth. Mr. Feeny thanks him, but he’d rather undergo gum surgery.
The Matthews kitchen is covered in muffins. Not just blueberry, either, so somebody clearly went overboard. Amy’s giving baking instructions, but Cory says he figured it out four batches ago. He, aggravated, asks if his grandmother got lost or something. Amy says she doesn’t know, but asks Cory to bake a cake with her. Cory, wise that something’s up, appreciates her attempts at occupying him so he won’t think about it, but is concerned that something serious happened to his grandmother. He suggests calling the cops, but Amy says that she’s probably okay. Cory asks why she hasn’t come back yet. Amy says that, after knowing Bernice for a long while, she’s come to understand something about her. Cory just knows that his grandmother must have a good reason for not being there. Amy just gives him a long look. Cory finally admits that she probably isn’t coming back. Amy shakes her head sympathetically.
Amy says that she knows Cory’s been let down. Cory tries to downplay his disappointment, saying that Baltimore’s merely an American League city. Amy suggests that he invite Shawn to go bowling. Cory jumps up to grab the phone (not the giant cordless one this time, but a normal wall phone), and dials his best friend. On the other end, Shawn’s mom says her son went fishing. Cory turns to his mother and says, “Did you know your husband’s cheating on me with someone else’s son?” Amy realizes that Cory forgot to call his friend to let him know he wasn’t going on the trip. Cory admits to forgetting, so now Shawn’s on the trip with Alan, doing male bonding things. Cory despondently says that he forgot to do one thing with his dad, and he’s already replaced him with a new son. He goes to his treehouse, asking Amy to put all of his incoming calls on hold.
As Cory glumly thumbs through his baseball card binder, he overhears Morgan’s Chatty Cathy routine going on at the fence. Felicity says it was nice of Eric to play skeeball for 4 hours, to win Morgan’s giraffe. Morgan declares that Eric’s going to give her his new sunglasses. Eric insists that he isn’t. Felicity says that one can gain insight into a fellow by how good he is to his sister. Eric hurriedly fishes the sunglasses out of his pocket.Cory rolls his eyes as Morgan parrots another line. She asks if they’re done for the day, and goes back into the house. Felicity says that Morgan’s cute, and Eric, seeing an opportunity, says she’s not the only cute one. Oh gosh, Eric, if she wasn’t already trying hard enough not to laugh, you just lay the straw on the camel’s back. Felicity faux-innocently asks who Graziella Terziana is. Eric feigns ignorance, but that’s hard to do when her name is on his arm. Eric lamely says he can’t fend off each girl who wishes to sign body parts. He offers Felicity a pen. Felicity says he’s smart for using Morgan as bait. Eric admits that he was being totally transparent, and that it was all a bad idea. Felicity doesn’t necessarily agree with the Bad Idea part, and they share a teen heartthrob kiss. The studio audience goes, “wooooooo!” as expected, as Cory looks on, horrified. The pair break it off just as Alan and Shawn return from fishing. Alan waits a minute or two, looks up to the sky, and comments on the nice weather. He goes back into the house, and Shawn does the same, although not before he admires Eric’s kissing prowess.
Cory makes his presence known, and Eric demands to know how long he’s been there. “Long enough to watch you swap spit with a Feeny,” he disgustedly replies. Eric and Felicity agree that the mood is deader than disco. Eric says that Morgan will be busy tomorrow, and Felicity says she’ll be sure to bring a pen. As she goes back into Mr. Feeny’s house, Alan skeptically asks if she’s actually a Feeny relative. Eric says, “Niece.” Alan says, “Niiice.” Eric begins extolling her praises, saying she’s the loveliest girl he’s kissed. Cory says that means she’s at the head of a list of, like, two girls. Eric grouchily says that making out isn’t meant to be a spectator sport. Cory, Shawn, and Alan applaud as Eric goes back into the house.
Alan asks why Cory’s back from Baltimore already, and Cory explains that his grandmother ditched him while Alan was being stolen away by Shawn. Shawn insists that he wasn’t stealing Alan, but calls him “Dad” as he leaves and says goodnight.
They return to the Grandma conversation, but Cory feels that there’s nothing to discuss. Alan disagrees, and starts to go back into the house. Cory asks where he’s off to, and Alan says Shawn ate all the food on the trip. This leads into a lovely sight gag with muffins. Lots and lots of muffins.
Alan takes a bit of one and immediately spits it out, saying that they’re a bit dry. Well, maybe he should try some milk or some tea with them? Cory complains that he slaved hard over them. Alan’s surprised that he made them, and Cory says it’s because he had nothing better to do because Grandma flaked out. Alan says he knows what he means. Cory’s surprised that he’d have been in a similar boat, and Alan said she flaked out on everything when he was a kid, from birthdays to rocket ships. Cory wants to know more about the rocket ships, and Alan recounts the story of when his class took a field trip to the Franklin Museum of Science for the “Man in Space” exhibit, but since Grandma didn’t sign the permission slip, Alan had to miss out. As they make bologna sandwiches, Cory asks if he hated her then. Alan explains that it’s hard to hate her, because a couple of months later, she woke him in the middle of the night, put him in her Winnebago, and after a 2-day drive, she took him to Cape Canaveral for to see Mercury 3 in person. He says that his mom has different ways of expressing love than normal people, and that she wants the recipients of her love to always remember that a good time was had. Cory says that he always does remember. Alan concurs, as he recalls that as every American was glued to their television sets, and as he was watching Mercury 3… his mom was watching his happy face.
The heartfelt moment is interrupted by the inimitable sound of “La Cucaracha,” and Alan opens the back door. After saying hello, he asks Grandma if she’ll ever change. She asks him if he wants her to. He decides that he doesn’t, and hugs her. Grandma apologizes to Cory, but something came up. Before she can finish her excuse, Cory says it’s no biggie, and that he knows her intentions were good. He asks her if she knew that his Cal Ripken card is his favorite. She’s obviously pleased. Cory says that his signature might have marred it like the Lamborghini girl did to Eric’s arm. Grandma promises to do something special with Cory next time her convoy passes through town. Eric comes running into the kitchen, and tells his dad and Cory that, should anyone ask, he’s been in his room for the last 20 minutes. Mr. Feeny runs into the kitchen after him, bearing a flashlight. He asks Alan to keep his hormonal son inside their house until Felicity leaves. Alan unconvincingly says Eric’s been in his room for 20 minutes. Mr. Feeny’s irritated that he’s not taking it seriously, and Grandma steps in, wielding her “matriarch” and “Kiwanis Club member” titles, and says that she’s backing up Eric’s story. Mr. Feeny says she couldn’t know that, since her Winnebago ran over his chrysanthemums just 40 seconds earlier. Grandma turns to Cory and asks who this man is. Cory says he’s his teacher. Grandma asks if he give him straight “A’s.” Any viewer who’s seen the prior 6 episodes knows the answer to that one, right? But I guess Grandma has never seen Boy Meets World, because she asks why not. Mr. Feeny retorts, “Have you talked to the boy?” Grandma announces that she’s about to run over the rest of Mr. Feeny’s mums, and stalks out the door. Mr. Feeny demands to know who this lady is. Cory says that she’s his grandma, and one couldn’t help but love her. Mr. Feeny says that he doesn’t, and runs outside. Cory turns to his father and says that he loves her, and high-fives him as “La Cucaracha” plays for the final time.
Shawn and Cory are hanging out upstairs, admiring the Cal Ripken card. (It looks like this might be the card, by the way: http://www.smalltraditions.com/LotDetail.aspx?lotid=111) Cory says that his grandma got it for $7, but Shawn says that must be $7 in dog years, as the card’s worth at least $150. Shawn remarks that his grandma must love him a lot. Cory contemplates this information, and agrees… unless she shot a guy in Reno. Shawn asks if he’s joking, and Cory’s honestly not certain.Final thoughts
So far, this show has been like a Wheel of Fortune wheel when it comes to selecting relationships for Cory to explore. This week, it’s Grandma Matthews’ turn. Once again, I must express my appreciation for the writers depicting the complexities of relationships. Cory’s right at an age where he can begin to understand how people are flawed. And gosh, not to go all therapy session or anything, but I can totally relate to how Cory, given new information about his grandmother’s personality quirks and personal failings, takes the information in… but still manages to see the love for him she tries to demonstrate. The older I’ve grown, the more I’ve learned about certain extended family members (the dirty details of why Cousin Mary doesn’t get along with Auntie Ida, for example), and have had to choose to see past many a wart (just as they see past mine). Like many of my (and and everyone else under the sun’s) family members, Grandma Matthews flaked out, and will fail Cory (and Alan, and the rest of the family) again. And Cory knows that she’s going to let him down again. That kind of thing messes up many a relationship, with all the fear of being hurt again. Alan’s already chosen to forgive her, and Cory decides to do the same thing, just like that. There’s no clean and simple hug-and-learn and Grandma promising to change and Cory/Alan promising to be more understanding (probably with some poignant backstory revelation), because, honestly, that’s not realistic at all. Cory’s end result is that yes, he’s still got to deal with a grandmother who doesn’t follow through on her word, but he can still have a pleasant and loving relationship with her.
I consider this episode to contain the first glimpse of “Eric the Idiot.” I don’t consider not being able to figure out how to program a watch (as seen in the pilot) as a sign of imbecility–I just got a smartphone, and I have no idea what to do with it. Eric doesn’t act like a total idiot throughout the episode. I’m mostly thinking of the moment where he thought “Graziella Terziana” was a French name. It’s also the first episode where he’s got a substantial role, as he’d been basically in the background for all of the episodes aired prior to this one. Also, this episode reveals that, once upon a time, Eric understood the difference between “niece” and “niche.” Nice to know.
Wait, that was who?!/I know them from ________.
“Grandma Bernice Matthews” was played by Rue McClanahan. I think she did some other TV work and theatre work at some point. I think the only thing I actually saw her in was a Touched by an Angel episode or two. Oh, and apparently she was “Anastasia Hardy” on the 1994 Spider-Man animated series. I’m usually pretty good at being a voice chaser for that show, but somehow I missed that credit.
“Jessica” was played by Keri Russell. She was on The New Mickey Mouse Club and starred in The Babysitter’s Seduction before she thought it would be a Good Idea to chop off all her hair. This was her 2nd acting role ever. Honey, I Blew Up the Kid was her 1st acting role, and of course she played herself on MMC.
Continuity (or lack thereof)
Eric says he’s a non-driving sophomore. Grandma Bernice Matthews is Alan’s mother. I still haven’t figured out where Nana Boo-Boo fits in (Amy’s side?), but I think she could possibly be a great-grandmother, as well.
The wisdom (and snark) of Mr. Feeny
Regarding the “dinner-and-a-movie” phenomenon: “A wonderfully rich tapestry of human experience.”