Season 1 | Episode 3 | “Tricks and Treats” | Aired Oct 30, 1999
What could possibly go wrong for a 14-year-old boy when he straps on his mother’s bra and clothes and goes trick-or-treating as the Bionic Woman? Well, apparently a lot, and Freaks and Geeks doesn’t ease up on the humiliations that come often with being a teenager.
In the episode’s cold open, Sam and Neal concoct the world’s worst smoothie for Bill to drink, all for the grand prize of $10. Oh, the days of youth, when idiocy was often your best way to earn an extra buck. A couple rules, though, says Bill, who’s adamant that they don’t use any furniture polish or cut-up bits of sponge. Sounds like he’s been burned before. Somehow the resulting concoction, complete with sardines, chili (for texture, Sam explains), grape jelly, and other delights, is fine by Bill. “It’s not too bad,” he remarks, smacking his lips.
Halloween is here, but Sam says he’s too old for trick-or-treating now. Mama Weir disagrees, but she’s thrilled that Lindsay will pass out candy with her in their annual mother/daughter tradition. Neither of these two plans lasts long.
The next day, Sam’s English teacher lectures his class, complaining about the juvenile topics they all wrote their papers on. The novelization of Star Wars just doesn’t cut it anymore (sorry, Sam). She gives the class copies of Crime and Punishment, half of which needs to be read by Monday. Sam’s eyes widen in horror.
“Look how small the printing is,” he complains to Neal and Bill at lunch. “She says we have to be young adults. We’re not adults. We’re kids until we turn 18,” says Sam. In solidarity against growing up, he decides he wants to go trick-or-treating again. Neal takes a little convincing (he’d rather hang out with the hot-dog-on-a-stick girls from the mall), but eventually he agrees to go.
While Sam is doing his best to hang onto his fleeting childhood, Lindsay is trying to shed any last vestiges of hers. When Nick asks her out a double date with Daniel and Kim, she unhappily explains her plans with her mom. Kim, of course, gleefully makes fun it all.
Lindsay changes her mind when she spots Millie kissing a boy in the school parking lot. You can see the impact of this all over Lindsay’s face: If Millie of all people has a special someone, then what on earth is wrong with Lindsay?
Unfortunately, she doesn’t relay her new plans to her mother. On Halloween night, she dashes out on Mama Weir, who’s spent the entire day decorating the house, baking cookies, and getting her cowgirl costume just right. We haven’t spent too much time with the Weir parents on the show, but this moment when Lindsay ditches her mom is heartbreaking.
Still, the worst is yet to come. Sam gets decked out in his Gort costume (sweatsuit plus a homemade cardboard suit), and we get a delightful montage of Bill and Neal struggling with their costumes. Neal can’t perfect his Chaplin mustache without fluctuating between Hitler and Tom Selleck, while Bill sifts through his mother’s clothes to find the perfect Bionic Woman ensemble.
The geeks hit the streets and immediately get stared down by their fellow trick-or-treaters. No longer part of the 10-and-under crowd, they look out of place, and no one understands their costumes. One particularly mean candy-giver tells them they’re too old for this nonsense. “What the hell are you supposed to be anyway, the Tin Man?” she asks Sam.
Things get worse when the hot-dog-on-a-stick girls pass by, pointing and laughing at the boys. Alan the bully comes along too, and not only steals their candy, but beats them up as well. After trudging around for hours to fill their pillowcases, the battered geeks are left dejected and empty-handed.
Lindsay, on the other hand, is having a blast. She’s initially tense at driving around aimlessly with the freaks, particularly with Kim mocking her at every interval. But when the night turns destructive, she finally lets go and has fun. They take turns smashing pumpkins and busting mailboxes before deciding to pull out the essential tool of teenage vandalizing: a carton of eggs.
Like in previous episodes, Sam and Lindsay’s plotlines collide, though this time it happens quite literally when she drives past Sam and his friends, freshly beaten up and candy-stripped, and pelts them with eggs. Once she realizes she has egged her own brother, she’s devastated.
Lindsay drives back to apologize, but Sam stares at her disbelievingly and looks on the verge of crying. All he wanted was to be a kid again, but life just isn’t letting him. As he walks home, humiliated, his Gort costume slowly falls apart in a sad piece of symbolism.
He doesn’t out his sister to his parents for what she’s done, but he does manage to hit her with the last thing she wants to hear. “No one thinks you’re cool you know,” he says to Lindsay bitterly before resigning himself to reading Crime and Punishment. Lindsay ends up donning the costume her mom got her, looking like some sort of Shakespearean nightmare, and atones for her earlier cruelty by passing out candy with Mama Weir.
Whether they want to or not, the Weir kids are growing up.
- Papa Weir: “Honey, the boy’s 14. He can miss a night of walking around the neighborhood, begging like a tramp.” Well, that’s one way to describe Halloween.
- Millie: “Tommy and I don’t even French-kiss yet. Tommy says if you do before going out six months, you go to hell.”
- I’ve always had a fear of baking something for a party and no one eating it, so I felt for Mama Weir and her homemade cookies that no one would touch. Come on, guys—you didn’t have to dump the cookies on her own lawn! Yeesh.