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Weird Science

Season 4 Episode 5

Phantom Scampi

Aired Saturday 8:00 PM Feb 03, 1996 on USA

Episode Fan Reviews (1)

out of 10
6 votes
  • Scampi's trying to take Gary's place! Well, get ready for (as always) spoilers.

    Did you ever get the feeling that your school principal was being particularly hard on you? Would being best friends be better? Do you have to ask where this is going? Lisa zaps up a special dart gun to give Wyatt the chance to find out the answer to the second question. Having Principal Scampi as a fully devoted pal rather than a rigid authority figure seems ideal at first, but it soon goes south. That old saying about being careful what you wish for appears to apply this time. (But then that's the case with just about every episode anyway, right?)

    I gotta say, "Phantom Scampi" isn't one of my favorite episodes. (The favorites, by the way, include "Bikini Camp Slasher", "Sci-Fi Zoned" and "Searching for Boris Karloff".) It's not that it's a bad episode. I would qualify it as good overall and certainly entertaining in parts. My most recent viewing, actually, prompted me to bump my score up a bit. Still, "Phantom Scampi" seems like it could be better. I have one major problem with "Phantom Scampi", and I think that is what really holds the episode back. Said problem, perhaps unsurprisingly, happens to be the lack of a certain major character. However, before I get to the bad, I'll stick to format and get to the good first.


    - The "unholy vengeance" (per Lisa) via the Drag-O-Matic that Wyatt exacts against the three jocks that give him a swirlie. Quick and rather funny.

    - Wyatt's constantly bad aim with the dart gun.

    - It's nice to see Bruce Jarchow have a large part in an episode. He goes from the strict principal to Wyatt's friend to Wyatt's "secret friend," giving a solid effort the whole way.

    - The constant changes in Wyatt and Principal Scampi's new friendship work nicely. The situation does seem real ideal at first, with Wyatt receiving things like hall passes and a collection of stuff from a vault of confiscated items. There's even a brief musical montage as the two have some fun. (The featured song is a version of "Best Friend" from "The Courtship of Eddie's Father", I think. Something like that, by the way, was also done in "Duckman"'s "Ride the High School" and probably elsewhere, too.) However, the perks of being "principal's pet" don't make up for the social complications (such as losing a date and being kicked out of a club). The scene where Wyatt then attempts to end the friendship reminds me of your typical break-up scene. Scampi does take it hard and proves unwilling to just let it go, which becomes quite evident when he blasts "Why Can't We Be Friends" over a boombox outside of Wyatt's window. Since Wyatt is just too nice to crush his hopes, he suggests being "secret friends" like Bill Clinton and Tom Arnold. (What? Wyatt was the one that said it.) Being "secret friends" apparently includes being a twenty-four, costumed superhero protector known as the Phantom (at least if Scampi's behavior is any indication).

    - Chett was hilarious in this episode. He marvels over getting back his prized butt hat (no, really) that Wyatt got out of the vault, flashing back to when he lost it at Farber High ten years ago to a mustached (!) Assistant Principal Scampi. Other great moments come from his brief ranting about Scampi, his desire to reclaim a Mr. T. wig, the successful attempt to get said wig (which involves posing as a soldier warning of a nerve gas leak), and seeing him play with it on.

    - The Phantom playing his keyboard in his lair in the school.

    - Lisa suggests that she and Wyatt split up to search for the Phantom. However, Lisa apparently just goofed off and got some ice cream.

    - Lisa mentioning out of the blue the antidote dart in Wyatt's locker that could've prevented the ensuing nuttiness. You see, Wyatt didn't know about it one bit. Whoops.

    - The Phantom's comic book-esque speech explaining his purpose to protect Wyatt, which gets interrupted by sustained coughing. Once the Phantom's done, he has to ask Wyatt where he left off. Speaking of comic book-esque speeches, once Wyatt rejects his efforts, the Phantom gets into one about how he must live in the sewers. After getting a bit over dramatic, he then nonchalantly heads off.

    - Wyatt's disbelief over an apparently bottomless pit and a rope bridge being underneath Farber High. I gotta agree with him.

    - When Wyatt is dangling over the apparently bottomless pit, the Phantom races to save him. Just before he pulls him to safety, though, Wyatt finally makes good use of the antidote dart. That means Principal Scampi shifts from a protector to a guy that doesn't wanna get dragged down with Wyatt. Naturally, Wyatt opts to remove the dart and temporarily bring the Phantom back.


    - Gary's absence. This is the episode's biggest problem. The on-screen explanation is that Lisa gave him shrinking pills, leading to a brief (and admittedly funny) scene with the open pill bottle, Gary's clothes and a tiny voice whining. Episodes work best when both Wyatt and Gary are present and when they interact with each other, so Gary's absence is a big minus overall. I don't know how Gary could've been worked into this episode as is, though I think he would've been more likely to use the buddy darts in the first place. (Imagine Gary using them on Principal Scampi or even Chett.) I also don't know the behind-the-scenes reason for why John Mallory Asher was A.W.O.L. this week. In any case, it's still a problem. And I don't think that an episode with just Gary instead of just Wyatt would've worked out any better, either.

    - Speaking of Gary, I find it a bit odd that after the on-screen explanation is settled, he's not referred to at all. Some time certainly passed after that. Did Lisa not check up on him in all that time? Granted, this is understandable because of John Mallory Asher's absence, but it still seems a bit odd. I think it might've been better if it were just stated that Gary was out of town for some reason.

    - By the end, "Phantom Scampi" seems a bit stretched out to fill the running time. It seems the situation could've been resolved sooner than it was. I don't mean Lisa neglecting to mention the antidote dart. I thought that was funny. It's after that, though, when Wyatt misses hitting Principal Scampi with it. Rather than trying again right away (though he does later and again misses), he instead just tries to talk him out of being the Phantom and essentially gets him to run off. I figure this was done to put Wyatt in danger at the bridge, so that Scampi could then come to the rescue and get some appreciation. I guess that's a logical plot turn, but I think it could've been reached in a better way. I also have to wonder why Wyatt opted to use the antidote dart before Scampi pulled him to safety, even though I do consider the result (mentioned above) funny.


    So, that's it. "Phantom Scampi" is a good episode overall, but it just seems less than what the show is capable of. Still, I recommend it.
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