Boy Meets World – 120, “The Play’s the Thing”; April 29, 1994

Awww yesss. Hamlet.

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Topanga really DOES have an awful lot of hair. What exactly did Danielle Fishel do to it to get it to be so… voluminous? I know it was a thing in the 80s and 90s to get perms and have giant hair, but it feels like with Topanga’s hair, there’s just a lot of it and not that it’s actually styled to look big. Whatever the case, I do really like her hair.

Feeny walks in with a stack of books and tells everyone to let out their most agonized groan. They do, and then Feeny tells them they’re going to put on a school play, to which everyone replies with an ever more agonized groan. Ah, but this is no ordinary play, Feeny tells them. It has skulls, sword fights, murder, ghosts! Yes, they will be performing selected scenes from Hamlet, which you already know because I mentioned it in the very first line of this recap. I’m glad Feeny says they’re doing selected scenes. It always bothers me when shows based around kids in elementary or middle school have them do a Shakespeare play. It’s one thing to have kids in, say, 7th or 8th grade just reading Romeo and Juliet, but having younger kids acting out a play where people are viciously murdered and are calling each other whores with clever wordplay, well, that always seems really odd to me. Plus, any Shakespeare play is an awful lot of material for younger students to learn and memorize and act out.

Because when you're doing
Because when you’re doing “selected scenes”, casting people in incredibly minor and pointless roles like “spear carrier” is a fine idea.

So Feeny tells Shawn he is going to be playing the most coveted role of “spear carrier”. Topanga will be playing Ophelia, because Topanga is the only female classmate with speaking parts on this show. Cory comments that it’s not going to be much of a stretch for Topanga to be playing someone who goes crazy, and Topanga tells him if she were a less-evolved lifeform, she’d tell him to “Cram it, Brillo head”.

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No really, Topanga is like 50% hair right now.

Minkus will be playing the part of Pollonius, much to Minkus’ dismay – he only has 48 lines! Minkus would very much rather play the part of the “melancholy Dane”, Hamlet. As a side note, it took me a long time to realize what “melancholy Dane” meant. I knew it referred to Hamlet, but I didn’t know that Dane = someone from Denmark for a long time. I was a very smart kid, just not all that worldly, it seems.

Feeny tells the class – none of the rest of whom will be receiving parts, I guess – that Hamlet is a tough role to cast. Hamlet makes “one stupid mistake after another, and for 5 acts, he never shuts up!” Sounds familiar.

I also like that none of the kids get any say in their roles. Feeny's just
I also like that none of the kids get any say in their roles. Feeny’s just “You’re playing this. Here’s your script.”

After the opening, Cory is outside apparently practicing for a mini-golf competition the family has every year.

It's Cory and Alan versus Amy and Eric. I don't know about Morgan.
It’s Cory and Alan versus Amy and Eric. I don’t know about Morgan.

Cory’s forcing Morgan to act as a wind mill, so that Cory won’t “get humiliated in front of the entire Jersey Shore this year”. How unusual, a line about being afraid of being embarrassed in New Jersey rather than being embarrassed BY New Jersey and its residents. [EDIT: When I was looking something up for one of the later paragraphs, I discovered there’s actually a Jersey Shore in Pennsylvania. I’m assuming that’s the one they’re going to and not the one in New Jersey. Except that makes the later plot make even LESS sense.]

Eric comes out and asks Cory for some cash. Cory is understandably puzzled – Eric’s the one with the job, Cory’s still all allowance. It seems that salaries have been cut over at the grocery store, so… Eric needs $5. He tells Cory if he lends him the money and doesn’t tell mom, he’ll throw their little mini-golf tournament. Cory is confident that he doesn’t need Eric’s charity in order to win, but Eric assures him he does.

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At school, Cory is reading from Hamlet’s most famous monologue, and stops to ask “who wrote this junk?” Feeny says that some people believe Shakespeare’s plays were written by a group of individuals. Minkus subscribes to the “Francis Bacon” theory, to which Shawn quips that he subscribes to the “Jimmy Dean sausage” theory. This is something I haven’t brought up before, but in this first season, Shawn has a lot of one-liners like this. They aren’t really funny, but he always says them in response to something Minkus or Topanga, sometimes even Cory or Feeny, say. I guess it works with his character, being that kind of slacker kid who sits in the back of the room and spouts one-liners that are sometimes kind of funny, but are mostly really annoying to people who are actually trying to learn something.

Regarding Shakespeare, there’s a character on a cartoon set in elementary school who will tell you matter-of-factly that all of Shakespeare’s plays were written by a talking cow. Personally, I subscribe to THAT theory.

Cory continues the monologue and stops again, to ask if he can shut up and kill someone already. Feeny says once he gets to the Queen’s chamber, he can start stabbing, but Cory wants Hamlet to start on the killing spree right away. He suggests Hamlet would be way better if it were set in an office building, and Hamlet was Bruce Willis.

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Topanga comes in with Cory’s costume, her father Jedediah having sewn it the night before. Cory says there must’ve been some mistake – it’s a minidress and tights! That’s not a MAN’S costume. Feeny explains that it’s authentic, but Cory is quitting unless the costume is changed.

Cory is confident he’ll get his way – he’s the lead in the play, no one else knows the lines! It’s either change the costume, or cancel the play! Except, of course, MINKUS knows all the lines. But Minkus is behaving like such a weirdo – he decides that, since Hamlet is Danish, he should do the lines in a Scandinavian accent – so Cory’s not too worried

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Cory continues being confident, telling Eric he’ll totally kick his butt at the golf tournament. But Eric tells him there won’t be a tournament this year. Apparently the pay cuts at the grocery store weren’t just for the bag boys. Alan’s pay was cut too, and now they can’t afford to take a trip this year.

I feel for these guys, I really do, but… is it really THAT expensive to drive from Pennsylvania to play mini-golf in New Jersey? It’s not like they were planning on playing the Fantasia golf course in Disney World or anything.

Okay, I mentioned a few paragraphs ago that apparently there’s a Jersey Shore (where they’re going to play mini-golf) in Pennsylvania, which is the state they live in. According to Google Maps, Jersey Shore, PA is about a 3.5 hour drive from Philadelphia. I don’t know how expensive mini-golf is, but there are THREE people with jobs in this house, and it doesn’t seem like two of them getting a pay cut should mean they can’t drive 3 hours to play mini-golf and then come back. According to this one Putt Putt Golf website, it’s about $6 per game per person. So with that, the gas, and the snacks – unless they bring food from home – it seems like it would only cost them like $50 (assuming Morgan isn’t playing). And that’s $50 in today’s money. For a once-a-year family trip.

I know when you get a pay cut, it puts a strain on things – you have to redo budgets and all, but I think they’re kind of overreacting by cancelling a mini golf trip. Especially since they all still have their jobs, they’re just getting paid less.

Cory asks Alan why he decided to give everyone a pay cut, and Alan explains it wasn’t his decision. He’s just the store manager, not the boss.

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Why the heck are they talking in the kitchen and not their bedroom? Besides the reason that the would’ve needed to built a bedroom set?

Later that night, Alan decides to man up and talk to the boss, and tell him that the pay cuts aren’t rational or fair. He practices by talking to a fruit that has less hair than the boss. Amy tells him he’s being so level-headed she doesn’t even recognize him anymore and goes upstairs. Alan tells the fruit, now that he’s got him alone, he’s going to show him what he’s always wanted to do to him.

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And then he goes upstairs and just leaves the mess on the floor to attract bugs and rot overnight.

…Shawn.

Shawn.
Shawn.

Since Cory left the play, Feeny shifted all the roles around, so now Shawn is playing Pollonius, instead of one of the kids in class who would probably be more reliable at remembering lines and… acting. Shawn doesn’t mind the role, though, because he gets to kill himself in one of the later scenes. Shawn begs Cory to come back to the play, though, because Minkus is apparently REALLY terrible.

“Shazam!”

We see Minkus in action. He’s put on this weird, overly-dramatic accent and won’t face the audience – apparently because he can’t tell where anything is, because he’s not wearing his glasses because they didn’t have those at the time the play takes place. He then brings up an article he recently read that theorized Elizabethan English was a lot similar to modern American Southern accents, and he stands on Topanga and says “Shazam!” I currently live in the American South, and no one really says that. For anything. Ever. Also, coincidentally, I recently heard a podcast or something that involved the theory that Elizabeth English was very similar to modern American Southern, and also that the New England accent is similar to Irish accents or something (the lady on the podcast demonstrated that, if you take a basic Southern drawl and speed it up, it begins to sound like a basic British accent).

Topanga – whose Ophelia is supposed to be dead at this point – tells Minkus she can’t breathe. Minkus tells her to stick to the script, and she tells him his foot is on her liver and she pushes him off.

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Feeny can’t take any more and sends everyone home. Cory, seeing just how awful Minkus is, tells Feeny he obviously needs help, and he’ll come back to play Hamlet, tights and all. Feeny tells him it’s too late, he already has his Hamlet. But there IS an opening for a spear carrier, if Cory really wants to be in the play. Cory tells Feeny that maybe he would’ve been more into the play if, instead of picking some old, dusty, boring story, he picked something cool, like “The Terminator”. Feeny’s just like ‘yeah, maybe you’re right’, and turns off the stage lights while Cory’s still sitting there.

And then he goes into a really chilling performance of Hamlet’s dad’s ghost’s monologue.

Okay it's not exactly CHILLING, but it IS really good.
Okay it’s not exactly CHILLING, but it IS really good.

Feeny finishes with the line “Of course, I’m no Steven Seagal.”

Back at the house, Eric is reading a magazine, jiggling his foot impatiently. The door opens and he springs up, thinking it’s Alan, but it’s only Cory. Amy explains that Alan is at a meeting with the boss guy about the salary cuts, and Cory is concerned – he could be demoted to box boy, or even lose his job! And Eric is concerned then, because if Alan loses his job, there’s no way they’re gonna keep him on! Before Cory can run down to the store to stop the meeting, Alan comes back.

Cory asks him if he quit, and he says even though he was tempted to, he didn’t, because he has a bunch of people counting on him bringing home a salary and whatnot. Cory says he wishes he had that sort of wisdom a few days ago when he quit the play.

After some further “you know, I learned something today” dialog, Cory says he never liked Goofy Golf anyway, and Alan tells him he better not look in the backyard, then.

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They set up a golf course in the backyard. With… stuff they obviously didn’t just have lying around the house. Instead of just taking a day trip to the golf course 3 hours away (this does indeed confirm that they mean Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania, and not the “Jersey Shore” in New Jersey).

You can actually see this kid in two of the earlier screenshots, but I don't remember seeing him at any point before then.
You can actually see this kid in two of the earlier screenshots, but I don’t remember seeing him at any point before then.

During the end credits, Minkus is delivering a monologue in a relatively normal fashion. Cory chats with another spear carrier, a classmate we’ve never seen before (I’m not even sure he was actually in earlier scenes in this episode), who says if he were any more bored, he would be dead. Cory tells him to be proud of his part, make it his own. Kid We’ve Never Seen Before takes his advice and goes over to Shawn/Pollonius and pops his stomach.

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Shawn’s stomach also deflates when stabbed, because I guess they used a balloon instead of foam padding.

Shawn shoves the kid, and this leads to everyone on stage shoving each other, until Cory goes over and pushes everyone off the stage with his spear.

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So the moral of today’s episode was, don’t quit when people are counting on you. I guess. And also that standing up against injustices (such as pay cuts), or for what you believe in (such as not wearing tights on stage) is futile.

I also want to point out that their pay was cut by 5%. I obviously have no idea how much they were getting paid before the cut, but they could’ve taken a lot worse than a 5% cut.

I know any kind of pay cut is hard to take, because it means you have to completely rework your budget and your life, but… 5% isn’t really a lot. It’s a handful of cents, unless you’re making a lot of money, in which case, sad song on world’s tiniest violin and so on.

I just really think they’re overreacting again. They really can’t make a 3 hour trip to play mini golf ONCE A YEAR anymore? Or decide to sacrifice a few things and save up to maybe take the trip in a few months?

There’s only 2 episodes of season 1 left.

And there’s a buttload of episodes left before we actually get to see Jedediah Lawrence. His second appearance is one of my favorite episodes.

Finally, on some Girl Meets World news: They’re still working on casting the boys.

Awesome Moment: Feeny’s “Hamlet’s dad’s ghost” monologue; Topanga pushing Minkus over

Awesome Set piece: In the classroom scenes, you could see there was a a map over the chalkboard, and a whole bunch of map sheets under that. That is completely accurate to my memory of school. We’d have a map of North America, and a map of whatever state we lived in (I went to elementary school in 3 different states), there’d probably be a topographical map, a map with just the cities mentioned, a map that had all the counties mapped out, a map on geographical features, a world map with all the countries, a topographical world map… Basically, once again, the set designer appears to have been in a school before, with including the detail of a social studies/history classroom having a big set of maps on a roller thing over the chalk board.

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