Air date: August 19, 2016
We join Riley (Rowan Blanchard) and the gang in Cory’s (Ben Savage) history class where she and Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis) are presenting a debate. This seems like it would have been more appropriate to have it in a social science class or something rather than a history class, but we’ll roll with it. The issue: the sun shines in the day. Seems pretty easy to argue right, wrong, as Riley is about to learn. Farkle, doing what Farkle does best, is able to counter argue Riley’s seemingly no-lose logic. When she loses Cory uses this opportunity to demonstrate that there are no “losers’ in debate, but merely different sides of an argument. And that it’s good to learn this in a history class (okay I guess having debates in history class serve a purpose) because a lot of world conflicts begin because people fail to listen to the other point of view.
To infuriate Riley even more, Cory gets her and Farkle to switch sides. Which one of them is able to do better than the other, demonstrating that a good debater must be able to argue both sides. While Riley sees this as being wishy washy in your beliefs, Farkle says that you can argue both sides of an issue and still have your own firm opinion. Which leads Cory to give the class its assignment, a class wide debate. The topic: are people inherently good or evil? For the affirmative, the whole history class, the negative, Riley.
So, in order for Riley to be able to argue that people are naturally evil, she turn to the most ‘evil’ person that she knows, Maya (Sabrina Carpenter). Maya’s introduction to evil mentoring session fails to sway Riley in believing that the world is evil, until Maya shows her the news headlines of what is going on in the world around them. This is the stuff that’s happening in Riley’s world, the one she’s just beginning to be a part of. Auggie (August Maturo) overhears one of the headlines, garbage on the local beach, and uses this as his opportunity to change the world that he lives in. Enlisting the help of Topanga (Danielle Fishel), they both set out to clean the litter on the beach.
When the hang gathers at Topanga’s (the coffee shop, not her house) Riley learns that she is the only one that has been turning a blind eye to what has been going on in the world. And that her friends have allowed her to do so, to shield her from the evil that inevitably surrounds them. They say that they do this so that Riley is able to be the optimist person that she it, and that they need in their friend group. But Riley feels like she can no longer be this person. She wonders that if there are such evil people out there, if she herself could also be ‘evil.’
Here enters Zay (Amit Mitchell-Townes), the best and in my opinion most underused character on this show, but I digress. Zay has just received his monthly cookie that he receives from his grandmother in the mail. He only gets one of them, so that he learns the importance of having appreciating one good thing. He explains to the group how much this means to him, and in turn how much his grandmother means to him when out of nowhere, Riley goes and eats the GOSH DANG COOKIE RIGHT OUT OF HIS HANDS!!! (this is Disney Channel remember, not HBO so this is pretty evil on their scale)
Now that Riley has gotten a taste of what it’s like to walk on the bad side, she begins to wonder if this side of her as always been with her. While sitting with Maya at the bay window, the trusty bay window, the rest of the friends join them to encourage Riley to apologize to Zay. She can’t do it, and in turn her friends leave her. She argues that although she knows that what she did was wrong there was a part deep down inside of her that enjoyed doing what she did. Maya uses Riley’s bedroom door as a metaphor of what will happen to Riley is she continues down this path. When the bedroom door is closed nothing can come in. But once it’s open, even if it’s just a crack, the door swings right open on its own. Riley has opened that door; stating that doing one evil little thing, makes it easier to do the next evil thing. Riley’s afraid that she has already done the next evil thing, by not giving the local homeless man, Two Shoes Louie, the dollar she normally gives him. Stating that she has realized that she doesn’t really know what he does with the money.
Riley turns to Cory for advice about the new evil side of the world that she is experiencing. And since he knows a little bit about the world (oh I’m so clever), that the good lessons that she has learned from the world so far have a great deal to do with the reason why she herself is good. That the evil people in the world are evil because they don’t believe the good the world as to offer anymore, they stopped believing in the good lessons the world has to offer.
When Auggie and Topanga come home from cleaning the beach, Auggie is so happy with the good work he has done. That he has contributed his part to the world. Riley, being the new sassy pessimistic teenager that she has become, begins to undermine the work that Auggie did that day. Saying that what he did would not make a difference and that he wasted his time. In order to cheer him up Topanga tells him the starfish story (I don’t feel like telling the starfish story so you can click here if you want to read it). The purpose of the story is that you may not make a huge impact on the world with your actions, but even a small impact is better than none at all.
Back in history class, it’s Riley versus the rest of the class. The class argues that the mere ability to recognize Riley’s change in behaviour is proof enough that there is good in the world. The ability to see the good in people is the ultimate confirmation of the existence of good. Zay argues that he would forgive Riley for eating his cookie because he was raised right (the sass), and he knows that what Riley did was not Riley acting like her true self. That sometimes-good people do bad things. Arguing for the existence of evil in people, Riley states that with all the evil surrounding them in the world, the presence of that evil is proof enough that people can be evil.
Riley wins the debate. But like any good debater, you must be able to argue both sides. Arguing for the side that she ultimately believes in more, she argues that the existence of people doing the right thing (like waking up early to clean garbage off the beach) is why the world is inherently good. She uses the opportunity to ask for Zay’s forgiveness, which she gets, because this is Disney Channel and everything. Cory teaches the class that in the debate of good vs. evil, that both sides have great points. And the true test of character comes with what side you choose to defend. That if you choose to believe that the world is good, then it will genuinely try to help you.
The episode ends with Riley and Maya running into Two Shoe Louis, who explains that he asked for more money the day before because he was only that amount away from being able to finally buy himself a pair of shoes. And since Riley has always been there for him, he wanted her to be the one to give him the final two dollars for his shoes. Riley notices that he still has his old, tattered shoes on. Louis asks Riley to hold onto two dollars, only to ask for it back. So Riley, the epitome of good on this show, can give him the finally two dollars he needs for his new shoes.
Best Line From the Show:
“You get this cast of characters in life, you get friends and you get family and they help you get through the day. But the world is a character in your life too, and how it treats you has everything to do with how you treat it.”
– Cory Matthews (Ben Savage)