My memory of this episode is pretty fresh because I've watched it as an adult on dvd already. But I remember that when I was 12 and watching it for the first time, what stuck out to me was the "If You're Happy and You Know It" scene. And Ellen sitting next to someone else and getting Pete angry.
This episode will be hard for me to snark too heavily on since I love it so much. As Big Pete narrates that the real education on a field trip occurs on the bus ride there, we see a spinning bus wheel superimposed over a roadmap, and hey! That's a map of my home state of Massachusetts! I see Fitchburg and Leominster and Worcester (where I went to college). Anyway, according to Pete, long trips cause people to change--friends to become enemies, enemies to become friends, and a field trip to become a trip into the darkest recesses of your soul. See, this is why I loved this show. I loved how it could put a bizarre twist on mundane events that every kid could identify with.
A really fake-looking CGI moth flies by the schoolbus. A teacher is giving the kids the rules before their field trip to the Glurt County Milk Museum. (This show really loved its weird-sounding made-up words.) The most important rule is that no one is to sing "If You're Happy and You Know It," as it is disturbing to busdriver Stu Benedict. Busdriver Stu is awesome. Also insane. We see a flashback to his relationship with fellow busdriver Sally Knorp (Ellen Cleghorne) and how "If You're Happy and You Know It" was their special song. One day though, this exchange occurred:
Stu: If you're happy and you know it clap your hands. [Silence.] ...Sally, you didn't clap your hands.
Sally: I'm not happy, Stu.
Soooo awesome. So, they break up, and no one knows what will happen if Stu hears that song again.
Someone has sent Ellen a love note and promised to reveal his identity by sitting next to her on the bus. This bothers Pete even though he and Ellen are just friends. Pete wonders who the secret admirer might be: one of his best friends Bill or Teddy (I saw Teddy in a bit part on an episode of Scrubs a few years ago and was like "It's Pete's friend!!!!!!"), shy-kid Wendell Hyde, arch-nemesis Endless Mike (greatest bully name ever), or even Mark Twib, a nerd with big flickable ears who has been constantly "twibbed" since second grade.
Even though he thinks he won't do anything to stand in the admirer's way, Pete sits next to Ellen anyway. Ellen is pissed off. Stu welcomes everyone aboard the Yellow Fever, which will take them away from "the twisted wreckage of his shattered life." I love Stu. With that, the field trip begins.
Pete narrates that on bus rides, kids reveal parts of their personalities that no one was meant to see. Wendell Hyde reveals his secret ambition to become a wedding/bar mitzah singer. The kid has a pretty good Richard Cheese-esque lounge-singer voice. Just being on a bus makes Della Summ constantly have to go to the bathroom. Teddy is famous for eating his entire lunch five minutes into a bus trip and has devised a plan of taking small bites at timed intervals throughout the ride so that he'll still have half left at the end for lunch. Bill turns into a prankster, making a sign that says "HELP! Being Kidnapped! Call Police!" and sticking it to the bus window. Pete says his own mutation, however, is the weirdest. He's still in the seat Ellen needed, mocking her "loverboy," and Ellen accuses him of being jealous.
Bill's kidnapping prank works, as a cop notices the sign and pulls the bus over. Pete gives Bill a high-five, but Ellen isn't amused because she has no sense of fun. She's disgusted by Pete's immaturity and tells him he might as well go flick Mark Twib. Meanwhile, the cops put Stu through a series of coordination tests, including hitting a tennis ball into a stack of donuts. He is also made to be the bottom half of a wheelbarrow-race pair with one of the cops.
Stu hears Pete arguing with Ellen and orders him to the back of the bus, leaving Ellen the seat she wanted and Pete next to Endless Mike. Bill moves up to sit next to Ellen. Pete can't believe that Bill was the secret admirer, and Endless Mike delightedly rubs this in his face.
Stu realizes he's lost and panics. He stops by a field with a scarecrow and asks through the loudspeaker if the scarecrow knows how to get to I-87. When he gets no answer, he stumbles out of the bus saying, "Excuse me, Farmer Extremely Unhelpful... oh. You're straw." Ellen is growing sick of Bill's immaturity (really, Ellen, they're 15-year-old boys. What do you expect?) and says she doesn't think this is going to work. Bill has no clue what she's talking about, and Ellen realizes he didn't write the note after all. However, she decides to make Pete jealous and puts her arm around Bill. How non-immature of you, Ellen. During all this, we see Stu through the bus window beating and stabbing the scarecrow with a pitchfork. Endless Mike convinces Pete to get revenge on Bill. He gives Pete warmed, mentholated shaving cream (that he just happens to have with him on a field trip?) to squeeze into Bill's hand when he's not looking, which when applied to a popped zit will sting like crazy.
Pete's shaving cream prank is successful. High-and-mighty Ellen is of course disgusted, and Endless Mike welcomes Pete into his club. They celebrate by pouring bottles of Krebben Up down the bus aisle (ahh, yes, this show's love of the term "Kreb"). The rushing liquid makes Della have to go again, and the bus pulls over as all the kids empty out. Della can't go with anyone thinking about her, and Stu sees a poor random kid and says, "You! You're thinking about her! You disgust me." This is why Stu is so awesome.
Ha! I'd forgotten about this moment: just before they get back on the bus, Teddy is burying his empty lunchbag and failed lunch-eating flowchart saying "I hate myself!" This episode has way too many unbelievably great moments in it.
Endless Mike deviously tells Pete that he must also get revenge on Ellen, by flicking Mark Twib to piss her off. Pete does so, and Ellen is not happy. Pete's twib has set Mark over the edge. Back on the bus, he launches into "If You're Happy and You Know It." Stu gets this creepy smile across his face and begins to sing along. The whole bus joins in as Stu gets up and dances in the aisle. The kids start to notice that no one is driving the bus and that they're about to crash, but Stu is completely possessed and keeps singing. The cheap CGI moth flies by the bus. Wendell snaps Stu out of it with some wedding/bar mitzvah standards, and Stu hits the break just in time to stop the bus from going over a cliff.
When they finally reach the Milk Museum, the teacher says that whoever sang the forbidden song will receive an F for the project and four weeks detention. Pete feels bad for driving Mark to do it and takes the blame. Endless Mike kicks him out of his gang, but Mark is grateful. Pete apologizes for flicking his ear, and Mark confesses to writing the note to Ellen. He decides to let Pete and Ellen figure out their relationship on their own. Ellen, meanwhile, is impressed that Pete took the blame for Mark. They apologize and make up. As the crappy CGI moth flies by once more, they agree to sit next to each other on the way home.
-Best. Themesong. Ever.
-My college roommate grew up in the same neighborhood as the house in the opening theme. She was almost an extra in one episode. My freshman-year roommate went to high school with Ellen, who was three years older than us.
-yay mid-90s fashions! I am especially fond of Pete's blue plaid flannel shirt and Ellen's floppy hat.
-Little Pete is not in this episode.
-Obviously, the blog title refers to the Snick trademark big orange couch. But now whenever I go to my blog and see "Big Orange Couch" my mind automatically thinks "Big Yellow Joint."