Season 2, episode 34: "Magic Train" -Lizzie McGuire Reviewed

Season 2, episode 34: “Magic Train”

Oh snap, y’all! We made it! It’s the actual, non-finale final episode! Like the Disney Channel’s airing order and life itself, this milestone is pretty meaningless. But we’re here, and we reached it together.

Lizzie and Miranda hang out in Lizzie’s room playing with makeup and reading beauty tips in magazines. It’s extremely adorable, and exactly the sort of thing I wish the show had more of. It’s that perfect mix of realistic but aspirational – it seems like something middle school girls would definitely do if they had a best friend who lived nearby, their makeup was perfectly applied by professionals, and their clothes were cooler and more over-the-top than anything real middle schoolers would wear.

Lizzie realizes it’s time for Green Valley, which sounds like some sort of soap opera even though I think teens stopped watching soap operas in the 80s. When she turns on the TV, the kids’ show Clover and Daisy’s Magic Train is on. She and Miranda reminisce about rushing home to watch the show in kindergarten and Miranda says that it’s crazy that they used to watch kids’ shows and now they’ll be able to drive in a few years. It’s actually kind of touching because Lalaine’s Serious Acting doesn’t kick in to make the whole thing too dramatic.

They each reveal that they still love watching Clover and Daisy and crack up laughing. This cold open is delightful. I think it’s because there’s no Gordo. Usually all three of them hang out, and if Gordo had been here he would have complained about them talking about makeup, lectured them about maturity when they took a moment to realize how old they were getting, and scolded them for herd mentality when they divulged their interest in the kids’ show like it was a secret. When it’s just Lizzie and Miranda, they can actually be girly and excitable and have fun together. We never really get scenes like this, and the difference is stark.

Daisy announces that the show is doing a live tour, and Lizzie and Miranda contemplate going to see a taping of the show. Lizzie says it could be a raincheck for the taping they missed as kids when they both got strep throat, and this part is also delightful because we get a flashback of little Lizzie and Miranda. There just aren’t enough Lizzie and Miranda episodes! The reminder that they’ve been friends for so long is really sweet.

Both girls know that they’re too old for Clover and Daisy, so they try to convince Matt to come to a taping to make it look like they were babysitting. Matt refuses and goes back to his project for the week: setting up a museum of all of the McGuires’ dust bunnies and stains. Points for creativity on the subplot, I guess?

At school the next day, Lizzie and Miranda ask Gordo if they could borrow his toddler cousin to take to Clover and Daisy. The cousin was a convenient invention we’ve never heard of before, and he’s dismissed just as quickly as he’s introduced when Gordo says his cousin’s family moved to Tokyo. Gordo says they should all ignore societal norms and just go. I involuntarily physically facepalmed here, because Lizzie says that’s a very evolved position for Gordo to take and he responds, “If ‘evolved’ means that I can like Foo Fighters, vintage pinball, AND Clover and Daisy, then thank you. I’m evolved.” This fuckin hipster ruins everything.

Matt begins taking groups around the house to show off the family’s spills, mold and dirt. If this had happened in my house, my mom would have literally just actually died. Just succumbed to mortification and perished right there. The McGuire parents, though, just accept Matt’s explanation that it’s a “study group” and ignore everything that’s happening.

Matt leads his group into Lizzie’s room to show off a vomit stain Lizzie made on the rug when she was 7. It’s a throw rug, not wall-to-wall carpeting, so the idea that she just kept a vomit-stained rug for 7 years does not reflect well on her. This is particularly embarrassing for Lizzie because Ethan is part of the group, and because she and Miranda had specifically put on clothes to make themselves look younger.

They make it to the taping of Clover and Daisy’s Magic Train, and a small child who can barely handle his line screams, “MOMMY, I can’t see over the big ladies’ heads!!” I laughed out loud. The kid is terrible and the line is hilarious. He can’t even stay on his mark at all; he sort of flings his body around while he says it.

I don’t know, man. This episode keeps hitting me right where I live. Like that amazing toddler, Clover and Daisy’s Magic Train is so confoundingly bad that it’s enjoyable. Giant terrifying puppets sing a slow song in wavering, grating voices, and the lyrics are as follows:

We’re like family, no ifs, ands or buts,
I like to sing
I like to dance
Yooooooouuu weeeaaarrrr enormous pairs of pants
This poses a strange but wonderful relationship

That’s literally how the song goes and it makes Lizzie cry! It’s amazing!

Sadly, my enjoyment of this episode falls off sharply at around this point, because Clover and Daisy pull out a seat number to give a random audience member a prize, and of course it’s Lizzie. And that makes Kate notice her, because Kate is there babysitting. It’s my last episode recap, man! I gotta come up with more words about how bad Kate is?

The next morning at Lizzie’s house, Lizzie and Miranda brace for a day of humiliation at school because I guess Miranda spent the night? She doesn’t usually spend the night on school nights. This episode is making Lizzie and Miranda seem a lot closer than they usually are. It’s an improvement, but it’s definitely off.

There’s a weird moment that feels meta to me when they get to school and see no immediate backlash. “Maybe we overestimated Kate’s influence,” says Lizzie. “Yeah, maybe she’s not as popular or venomous as we make her out to be,” Miranda agrees. “Maybe she’s a badly written character portrayed by an actress who lacks the presence and composure to project the intimidation necessitated by the scripts and therefore none of the other characters’ motivations surrounding Kate will ever fully make satisfying sense,” I concur, alone in my room eating a croissant almost 13 years after this episode premiered.

Anyway, we’re all proven wrong because Kate has covered their lockers with Clover and Daisy pictures and the word BABIES. This isn’t great, but they could just rip it off, right? Instead they try to cover it up by just…standing under the word BABIES like it’s a label.

A giant crowd gathers around and starts laughing at them, even though this prank isn’t particularly funny, as it requires a lot of context that I imagine not everyone would have. Upsettingly, even Ethan laughs at them! Ethan, you’re too good and dumb for this!!

Gordo refuses to take any of it personally and is really annoying about how much he doesn’t let others’ opinions get to him. I guess this week we get dumb goofball Gordo, which is better than Gordo Being the Worst Gordo but still pretty irritating.

Jo tries to comfort Lizzie after school by saying that all the kids at school still probably like things from when they were little too. That isn’t advice I would necessarily bank on. Jo goes a step further by revealing that she still cuddles with her old stuffed animal as a grown-ass adult woman, which struck me as idiosyncratic but maybe understandable, but she follows it up with “And my blankie,” which put it firmly into weird territory to me. How bad is Jo’s life that she stays home alone all day cuddling a stuffed animal and blanket like a child? Matt brings another group into Lizzie’s room to show off the vomit stains, which answers my question. Jo’s life is pretty bad. However, Jo again accepts his explanation that it’s a study group, and that’s on her.

Lizzie and Miranda wear pencil skirts and heels to school the next day and try to appear more grown-up. They tell Kate they attended the Clover and Daisy taping as part of their “thesis” for their “pre-college” program studying “sociology and childhood development,” which is moderately amusing. Kate could have a solid comeback if she called out the fact that Lizzie and Miranda are clearly lying, as they had sputtered that they were “also babysitting” when she saw them at the taping. Instead she says, “That sounds amazing! Too bad I don’t believe it.” Her banter is always such weaksauce, man. She’ll never have a burn as harsh as “Nobody likes you, Kate.”

At lunch, Gordo offers up the same conclusion as Jo: that the other kids in school are just jealous because they can’t admit they also like Clover and Daisy. That seems like a pretty big gamble! He starts singing the Clover and Daisy theme song, which inspires Lizzie to stand up on the table and announce that she did go to a Clover and Daisy taping and that Kate could learn something from the show about being nice and sharing and helping each other. It’s way too much. If she just announced that she didn’t care that she went to the taping that’d be fine, but she seems way too into this kids’ show. It’s Brony-adjacent enthusiasm at this point.

Then she starts singing one of the Clover and Daisy songs and all of the students in the courtyard join in. This episode has gone off the rails. However, Ethan breaks out some of his signature terrible dance moves here, which almost makes it worth it.

That night, the McGuire parents answer the door for some kids asking about the dirt museum, which finally makes them realize that Matt isn’t having study groups over every day. There’s a pretty dumb scene of Matt trying to protect the dust bunny from Jo’s vacuum, and uh…that’s it. That’s how Lizzie McGuire ends. No scene at the end of Lizzie, Miranda, and Gordo saying they’re gonna keep being themselves and being there for each other even though they’re getting older. No Lizzie thanking her mom for comforting her and offering her advice. This feels anticlimactic.

But it’s the end! We did it, y’all. I’m gonna take a week off since I didn’t for the holidays this year, but I’ll be back in 2017 with some final posts – Season 2 Reviewed, Lizzie McGuire (as a whole!) Reviewed, my review of the movie, and more. As always, thanks for reading.

Unnecessary references: Matt says a stain looks like Carrot Top. This is the show’s second Carrot Top reference, which is at least one too many.

Notable fashion moments: Lizzie wears a shirt that looks almost identical to her rodeo shirt, but this one says DIAMONDS ARE A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND. Miranda wears a flight suit?

Miranda also wears a shirt that looks homemade. Her outfitting is so much more interesting than her actual canon characterization. This look makes me picture her at home, blasting Good Charlotte and surrounded by puffy paint, ripping up an old T-shirt to feel like a badass.

Why…does Kate’s hair…always look like this….

The McGuire parents wear pajamas that are so over-the-top they seem like parodies of pajamas. Who really wears housecoats like that? The director clearly didn’t think these obvious pjs or the obvious darkness outside really conveyed that it was nighttime, so Sam also has to carry an overly obvious signifier of a nighttime snack: cookies and milk. This part lasted like 15 seconds but was still jarring, because it felt like it was taken from a show in the 1950s.

Other interesting tidbits: Every once in a while there will be an alternate episode title that some sources use. This one seems like it was called Lizzie and Miranda’s Magic Train in some places, which is a way better title.

Matt’s dust bunny gets a sign that says “2000 – 2002.” But this episode didn’t air until February 2004! For context, The Lizzie McGuire Movie and Cheaper by the Dozen had already been released at this point. “Bye Bye Hillridge Junior High” aired over a year before this one.

I know why I liked this one! It was written by Amy and Wendy Engelberg, who also wrote “Scarlett Larry” (and Stuck in the Suburbs, too). Their work is pretty solid. I loved the Miranda/Lizzie dynamic here, and the central idea of giving up something you used to like because you feel too old for it is realistic and interesting. I don’t like how it was resolved at all, but this one wasn’t a chore to watch.

At one point Kate, clad in an unflattering turtleneck and fussy hairdo, greets Lizzie and Miranda by saying, “Hello, girls!” It’s so awkward and she sounds so extremely uncool. She doesn’t seem like a middle schooler at all.

In fact, this is what it made me think of: