This was the very first episode of The Wonder Years I ever saw, so it’s very special to me. When commercials for the series started airing, I had no interest in it. Even though Kevin Arnold was my exact age, it just seemed like something made for adults. But then my friend’s older, pretty sister told me I should watch it, and if there’s one thing I’ve always done and that’s take the advice of older, pretty girls.

Kevin’s relationship with Lisa Berlini is blossoming ever since their phone call. They’re joking around together in homeroom when a school dance is announced. He decides to ask her while they’re passing notes in Social Studies. I’m going to call BS on this scene a bit. During a film strip, they’re constantly tearing paper and it is just so loud. There’s no possible way they wouldn’t have been busted by the teacher by the second note. Anyway… she says yes to going to the dance with him by writing “OKAY!” and including a smiley face in the “o.” Obviously she’s really into our Kevin, right? Well… on their way out of that classroom, mere minutes after saying yes to going to the dance with Kevin, some guy named Brad (played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar) asks her to the dance RIGHT IN FRONT OF KEVIN. Kevin’s obviously confused, and confronts her. She explains that she only said yes to Kevin because she didn’t know Brad would ask her and then asks “You’re not going to be weird about this, are you?” And then comes the moment that sucked me into the series for life. Lisa Berlini tells Kevin that she “… likes [him]…” and then the screen freezes. Adult Kevin narrates that she then said the words that pretty girls would be repeating to him for years to come. “… as a friend.” 12 year old me was hooked. It’s still a brilliant scene.

Luckily Kevin is 12, so he bounces back by falling in love with Winnie Cooper again during lunch. As he puts it, “I felt a hunger burning within me.” One thing this show does great is show how intense and adorable our pre-teen romantic feelings were. He asks Winnie out, but she’s already been asked by the cool, athletic, and popular 8th grader, Kirk McCray.

Kevin decides not to go to the dance, but his mom convinces him to go with the hopes of having one dance with Winnie. He tries on a bunch of different looks (which gives me terror flashbacks to my first school dance where I opted for a grey suit jacket over a pink shirt with jeans look since Mike Seaver did it) and gets dancing lessons from his parents and siblings. At the dance, Kevin is content just to hang out with Paul, but then Carla Healy swoops in to dance with Paul. Shockingly, Paul ends up having a great time dancing and leaves Kevin all alone. The only thing Kevin can do is ask a random girl to dance to make Winnie jealous. It doesn’t work, and he ends up sitting outside by himself and having an I Dream of Jeannie dream sequence where Winnie only wants to please him. Middle aged dad Ken is pretty uncomfortable with this fantasy, but 12 year old awkward around girls Ken probably loved it. Winnie ends up finding him outside, and he ends up getting his one dance with her.

But this episode is all about that “I like you as a friend” freeze frame scene. That one hooked me for life.

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