So what’s the deal with Pete and Ellen? Episode two of season one, “Day Of The Dot,” really delves into their relationship with the force of 1000 nuclear fusions. Unfortunately, like so many teen relationships — especially ones on TV — you don’t really get a sense of why they’re actually together other than, well, they’re a boy and a girl and they get along real well, and so they should kiss, right?
“Day Of The Dot” is all about love, though. Little Pete is trapped on a school bus as driver Stu Benedict gives his passengers a tour of romantic sites he once shared with driver Sally Knorp (played by underutilized SNL player Ellen Cleghorne), who Stu has just lost because he couldn’t open up and share his feelings. (“Over here on your left, that’s where Sally dropped a scoop of pistachio swirl. I picked it up, wiped off the gravel, and put it back on her cone. Coming up next, the hardware store where we used to buy our weather stripping.”)
Big Pete, meanwhile, is in danger of losing Ellen for the same problem Stu had — he likes Ellen, but he’s just not ready to do anything about it. While they’re in the running for a big regional band award, Ellen gets chosen to dot the “I” in squid and enters into an intense training program with the top of the i, the band director’s nephew, James Markel Jr. Markel Jr. sensed Pete’s weakness and swooped in, getting close to Ellen under the guise of marching band practice. Pete did everything he could do, even sabotaging band with a rousing version of the Ohio Players’ “Love Rollercoaster,” but the power of Band Director Markel was just too great. You see, back in ’67 he had a band that could have gone all the way, but he forgot to cross the “t” in “horned toads” when he planned formations and, apparently, no band members told him, so he lost it all and has never been the same since. This Wellsville fighting squid marching band is his only hope for glory.
Unfortunately for both Markels’ well-laid plans, Pete’s love for Ellen apparently knows no bounds, because he sabotages the regionals show last minute and instead of creating the word “squid” (in roman gothic instead of boring old Helvetica), he instead makes a sun. From there, he is an atom that meshes — kissing-wise — with Ellen in the middle, and there’s fusion. The announcer goes crazy. Little Pete puts on tiny sunglasses. Markel’s spell is broken over the band and, presumably, they win anyway.
There’s a commentary track for this episode on the DVD, but I decided not to watch it before I wrote this because I wanted to go in somewhat fresh. I’ve seen this episode in the past couple years, but there were still things that I really liked, and things I have big questions about. Apparently, though, some commenters have watched the commentary and noted last week that this episode was supposed to air before last week’s episode, “King Of The Road,” which explains a lot — or, rather, doesn’t explain a lot. In last week’s episode, Pete said that he and Ellen had decided to just be friends and that’s why he was chasing after that girl in the other station wagon. I mean, why? Why are they just friends if they’re creating nuclear fusion? Is it because, as lovers, Michael Maronna and Alison Fanelli have no romantic chemistry at all? Not that that’s ever stopped TV, though, especially when teenagers are involved. Is it because the show’s creators didn’t want the show to become about this romance? That’s not really explained, at least from what I know, but I will go back and watch that commentary after next week’s episode, “The Nightcrawlers,” which also has an audio commentary.
At the end of the episode, Pete does say, “We didn’t know what our future had in store for us, but what did it matter? We fulfilled our destiny.” So maybe getting together was all they had to do, and once that was done, who cares about the rest? It’s like Clarissa Darling and Sam Anders on Clarissa Explains It All. They did the date, they tried it out, and when it didn’t work, it didn’t work. It’s better to be friends for life than ruin a relationship forever, right? At least, that’s how it looks for Pete and Ellen.
• I believe this episode marks the debut of Teddy and Bill, Big Pete’s weird friends. They’re both in the band.
• This episode also marks the debut of, apparently, a lot of turtlenecks. Even Artie has one on. Was it cold when they were filming this?
• Little Pete insult of the week: “Deal with it, Dipwad. Take us home!”
• During “Love Rollercoaster,” Artie dances both the voodoo crispy and the diesel jerk before everything goes awry.
• I’ve been eying this “I am a dot” shirt for some time now online but just haven’t bought it. One of these days, though. One of these days. (That site, by the way, has a good deal of other neat bootleg P&P items.)
• There are two really, really good speeches in this episode. The first is by band director Markel before the championship. He says, “Will your future be empty or will it be filled? Filled with a nickel-plated hand-inscribed trophy? Destiny may know where you live, my squids, but will you be home when it comes over to play? Will you?”
The second’s by bus driver Stu Benedict, and, honestly, if I were bus driver Sally Knorp, I would have jumped his bones right there in the bus. Seriously, it made my eyes a little misty and is maybe one of the most weirdly romantic things ever captured on film. Stu’s big speech goes, “Did I ever tell you about the prettiest girl to ever wear a blue and grey uniform? The only girl who could ever share my life? Well let me tell you about driver Sally Knorp. Maybe somewhere in American there’s a girl better able to handle a four point u-turn, but I doubt it. Don’t make my mistake! Get good traction! Don’t let love slip away. When love comes, you better pull over to the side of the road and open your door because nothing in this world matters more. Sally Knorp, you. Are. My. World!" (That Damian Young is a hell of an actor.)
• Ellen plays the french horn in band, which is weird, because no one really plays french horn in marching band, right? Don't they play mellophones?
• Polaris’ “She Is Staggering” closes this episode, and I like it a whole lot. Let me endorse Polaris’ CD Music From The Adventures Of Pete And Pete here as well. I bought it maybe 10 years ago and I’ve never regretted it for one second.