Invitations are circulating for the first seventh grade party and the hallways are filled with possibility for Riley. She and Maya could be party girls! The possibilities evaporate when Riley decides that popularity is for Maya, not her. However, just as Cory was invited to Missy Feldman’s party sans Shawn, Riley receives an invitation from a mysterious hipster, while Maya is left empty-handed.
Riley bounces into History class with her news. Cory is happy to celebrate with her until hearing it’s a boy-girl party. “You can’t go if Maya’s invited,” he declares, falling directly into the girls’ trap and accidentally giving Riley permission. This week’s class is all about Damocles, proving once again that there is no rhyme or reason to their curriculum. Everyone makes it clear to Riley that she shouldn’t change herself to be popular. “Being what other people want you to be is a sword hanging over your head,” Maya explains. Riley ignores them.
As Cory did many moons ago, Riley arrives at her party only to discover that it isn’t the hip gathering she thinks it is—IT’S A GEEK PARTY! Maya and Cory laugh hysterically as they leave Riley to her geekdom. However, rather than mourn her popularity’s demise and try to be “bad” like Cory did, Riley embraces her newfound place among nerds. “Why should I struggle to be popular when I can be these people’s Empress Fairy Queen?” Riley asks, strolling into Cory’s classroom dressed as a Harajuku girl. Personally, I think she looks more like Betty Spaghetti after a Limited Too tornado, but those are both horrifically dated references at this point. Maya is perturbed, but Cory is delighted because geeks are scared to talk to girls.
Topanga and Auggie stop by Mrs. Svorski’s Ukrainian bakery. Topanga looks incredibly uncomfortable—Topanga’s employer is representing the froyo chain attempting to buy out Mrs. Svorski. “Another day, another piece of my soul gone,” Topanga says, staring at herself in a business suit in the mirror. The mirror shimmers and reveals adult Topanga wearing one of her hippie dresses of yore. Boy Meets World throwback time! Middle school Topanga asks for Cory’s hand, curious to see if their energies converge.
This blast from the past inspires Topanga to be true to her beliefs. She and Auggie confront her boss, stressing the importance of neighborhood places. Topanga proposes that Mrs. Svorski go into business with the Matthews, demanding an advance on her salary from her boss large enough to cover the rent increase. If not, she’ll go work for the competition and destroy them. Damn, Topanga.
Topanga and Riley see each other at home, shocked by the other’s new look. Auggie declares himself and Cory to be the normal ones in the family. Topanga is showing the best part of herself—is Riley showing the best of her? “I’m very popular with five people,” she boasts proudly. “Is one of them you?” Topanga asks, concerned. The usual be true to yourself lesson was subtler here than I would have expected.
Farkle puts Riley on their team for the spelling bee in an attempt to keep her on the geek side forever. Maya storms the spelling bee to replace Riley’s given word with “Harajuku.” Cory defines it for her: “It’s a neighborhood in Japan where real girls have created a unique culture for themselves.” Riley concedes that she is not a Harajuku girl and joins Maya in the audience. She might not be popular, but it’s okay—“If you’re yourself, you’re always popular with your best friend.” Riley, please stop saying things like that out loud.
Besides the friendship between Riley and Maya, I would say that the best thing about Girl Meets World is how they reboot Boy Meets World storylines. They never rehash the same situation; instead they recognize that Riley and Maya aren’t carbon copies of Cory and Shawn and won’t respond in the same fashion. Unfortunately, each episode still has that subtle-as-a-brick lesson of the week line. I’m still hoping that gradually tapers off, but I think we’re stuck with it for awhile.