Today we take a look at the infamous 'Oil Episode,' where it's discovered that Bayside High is sitting atop a fortune in crude oil. But just as everyone gets excited at the prospect of newfound wealth, people start questioning which is more important: oil money, or animal rights? Let's see how the action unfolded...
All the kids are in class, and I do mean that when I say 'all the kids', because Bayside only had fifteen students. And only the ones who were in the opening credits are allowed to talk. They're in biology class, studying the various animals collected for the on-premises school pond. Because, you know, most schools do have ponds. It doesn't take long for things to stray: Zack rushes into the room carrying a duck, worried that it's hurt because he accidentally hit it with a baseball. Now, it's great that Zack cares about the duck, but o get suspended for wearing baseball caps in the building. We'd have probably gotten the chair if we tried smuggling a duck inside. The most amazing thing? Nobody even blinks an eye. Zack just runs into a class that isn't even his carrying a comically oversized live duck, and they act like it's completely natural. Then again, this is a school where birthday parties are frequently held in the principal's office. The teacher assures Zack that the duck will be okay, and agrees to let him care for it over the next few days until it's ready to go back to the pond with the other animals they collected. Now, if you can't put two and two together when I tell you that this episode is about oil being found and drilled on school property, you're just not thinking hard enough. There's a reason Zack's suddenly caring for a duck. And it's a reason that will make you CRY later on.
There's Mr. Belding, who has no qualms with students walking around the halls carrying giant cages with ducks inside. Maybe a psychic confided in him that Zack would someday help his wife give birth in an elevator, (in the school of course) and he doesn't want to mess with fate by getting on his bad side. Actually, it's not that -- Mr. Belding recognizes the duck, explaining that he used to live on a farm as a kid and likes to feed the pond animals every morning. If my principal ever told me something like that, I'd just assume he was wired by cops and trying to segue into nailing me on a drug charge. However, once Belding calls the duck 'Becky' and starts making quacking noises at it, we know he's legit. This segment lasts approximately eight minutes. Evidently, Bayside's students are allowed half hour breaks between classes to simply roam the halls, chatting away or trafficking fowl.
Zack brings the duck to the Max, and as they're discussing how cute it is, Slater runs in the place and tells them that the school found oil on the football field. Apparently, they're sitting on millions of dollars in oil. Now that's odd. When was this school constructed, 1850? You'd think they'd find something like that when they laid down the foundations. Unless this is miracle oil that just materializes out of thin air when Slater catches a 30-yard toss. The kids see dollar signs, as if they'd get money because the school has oil. And this is actually what the plot is about - the idea is that everyone in Bayside's gonna be filthy rich because it's got oil. This is wrong on so many levels, I don't know where to start. Okay, first off: I'm pretty sure the point of a public school is that it's not privately owned. I doubt very much that the money is going to be funneled to the staff, much less the students. Secondly, these kids have already been going to Bayside for 80 years. They have to be seniors by now. Unless they're gonna contract out a team of 20,000 to drill up that oil,TRIKE OIL UNDER THE FOOTBALL FIELD OUT OF NOWHERE. Fourthly and finally - why did the Max's owners let Zack bring in a duck? Would you eat at the table next to the duck? Would you eat the duck? I love and hate Saved By The Bell at the same time, this is such a paradoxical moment for me.
Good grief, a dream sequence. The kids imagine what it'd be like if the school was incredibly wealthy, a fantasy that consists of Zack ordering Belding to fire the teachers, Lisa buying clothes, Screech as an Arabian prince (?!), and Slater dressed as a horse jockey. Compared to other SBTB dream sequences, this one doesn't really stack up. My personal favorite was when Slater, dressed as a giant lizard, reprimanded all the other kids for killing his pet lizard. Nobody dressed as a lizard for this one, so it loses a few points right off the top. Though it's not without it's charm - Kelly wearing earrings the size of picnic tables was pretty entertaining.
Mr. Belding hosts a school assembly to talk about this oil business. Of course, while all of the other students are way off camera, our heroes are seated directly adjacent to the podium. That's almost as good as the graduation episode, where they called up students to get their diplomas completely out of alphabetical order just so Zack could be last and have a heartwarming (and ten minute long) moment with Belding. No wonder these kids never cut class, they owned the place! The guy in charge of the oil company is dressed like a cowboy, because anybody associated with oil must wear spurs and chew hay. He explains that the findings will pave the way for a bigger and better Bayside, and everyone's thrilled.
Slater: How long do you think it'll take them to drill that oil? You know...we're graduating this year.
Zack: By my estimation, it shouldn't take longer than two weeks for the oil to be collected, sold off, and the revenue distributed directly to you and me.
Slater: You and me? What about Lisa?
Zack: Oil companies are racist.
Slater: Okay, what about Kelly?
Zack: They hate tramps too.
Jessie, ever the environmentalist, voices her concerns to Zack that digging for oil within school grounds is dangerous. She doesn't explain exactly why it's dangerous, I assume that information's all in the No Oil In Bayside! newsletter she whipped up in the last hour. Zack disagrees, citing that the school will be much better off with all that cash. By the time Jessie has a chance to rebut, Zack's busy following Belding's lead by making quacky noises at the duck. Remember that, it becomes important later. The next day, all the animals are returned to the pond. It's a tearful goodbye for Zack and Becky, they've grown as close as anyone could in a relationship between man and duck.
Jessie, Lisa, and one of the throwaway nerds protest the oil drilling, complete with a giant replica oil tower one of them just happened to have laying around in storage. Mr. Belding heartily reprimands the protest, threatening suspension if they don't knock it off with the valid concerns. Jessie reluctantly agrees, because with a suspension on her record, it'd take a lot more than James the Actor to get her into Harvard. Zack is waxing philosophical about Screech's leotard when Slater runs to them in a panic, thus making that five times he's run up to someone in a panic in this one episode. This time, it's about something a little more serious - there's been a massive oil spill on the football field, and everything's just covered in black goo. Zack quickly realizes that the pond, and Becky, might be in danger. So they do what any normal students would do when oil spills - completely forget about going to class in favor of cleaning up sludge. You'd think they might get in trouble for such behavior, but really - Zack once turned the entire faculty and student roster bright red by selling toxic pimple cream on school grounds, and nobody punished him for it. Cleaning oil is a lot more productive than turning people red, so there's nothing to worry about.
OH NO! The pond indeed was attacked by oil, and BECKY IS DEAD! BECKY IS DEAD! LORDY LORD LORD BECKY IS DEAD! OFF WITH THEIR HEADS! DOUBLE YOUR MEDS! GOOD LORD IN HEAVEN - BECKY IS DEAD! Remember that scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin's mother dies in his arms? He gets 'that look' in his eyes before going outside and beheading 50 Sandpeople? And the women? AND THE CHILDREN? Well, 'that look' didn't start in Star Wars any more than any other plot derivative started in Star Wars. It all started here, in Saved By The Bell, when Zack finds out that his duck is dead. Watch out world. You've created a killer. Exxon - I hope you've got good security.
Zack pleads with Mr. Belding to stop the oil drilling, and I've gotta wonder why, since all the animals are already dead. It's crying over spilt milk. May as well cash in on the tragedy. But you're forgetting one of Mr. Belding's primary characteristics - he cannot deny these children no matter what, even if his family's lives depended on it. Even though they're the cause for everything that's ever gone wrong in the school, Belding adores the 30-year-old tykes, and will do anything in his power to help them achieve their goals - even throw away a gazillion dollars in oil money because Zack's down about a dead duck. Belding agrees to help in any way he can - but it's not up to him. The school board (who only appear in this episode and anytime a talent contest consisting of only the six title stars takes place) claims their seats in a second assembly, this time being held so that the cowboy oil director can show off the new school plans. Hey, since when do oil drillers get to change school layouts? Murphy's Law, my friends, Murphy's Law. The New Bayside will truly be an impressive sight - everything from a brand new theater to a brand new cafeteria to brand new air conditioners and beyond. Sadly, no Tilt-A-Whirl. Just as everyone seems sold on his plans, Zack interrupts the ceremony to shed a different light on this seemingly wonderful opportunity...
He explains to the school board that Cowboy Oil Louie is leaving out some of the less attractive aspects of drilling for oil at Bayside - they'll have to cut down all their trees, they'll take over the natural marsh where animals reside, and they'll fill the place up with those tall oil things which I forget the name of. Conveniently, Zack got a copy of Cowboy Louie's speech and knew the exact measurements of his school model, affording him the chance to construct cute little oil prop pieces of his own. Now, the school board was prepared to have a major overhaul with Bayside - plans for the revenue are already in the works, the story's been all over the news, and they've already gone past preproduction. For all intents, this ceremony just made it official - everything was already under way. So you know what the amazing part about Zack's little speech is? I'll tell you...
It takes him all of two minutes to completely change the minds of a hundred people who stand to be a part of a multimillion dollar business opportunity that would solidify Bayside forever as one of the richest schools in the country. Zack is GOD. We need to vote this guy into office. He makes things happen. All the kids celebrate their victory - the oil threat is relinquished. Becky is avenged, and no more ducks will have to share her fate just so the school can make a billion dollars and take the entire city into an economic boom previously thought impossible. Hooray for Zack and Becky!