“I have been to teacher’s college, Janet Ward.”
“And I have given birth to three bright children, Hetty King.”
“Cows and sows give birth as well, but, to my knowledge, this doesn’t qualify them for teacher’s college.”
Episode Summary: This year, Avonlea is hosting “The Provincial Spelling Bee.” Hetty’s holding her own classroom bee to find the student that will represent Avonlea in the provincial bee. Felix is a good speller, but Hetty’s strict and intimidating demeanor usually trips him up. After receiving a special crystal from the town recluse/witch Peg Bowen (Susan Cox), Felix is able to win the class bee. However, on the morning of the province finals, Felix loses the crystal. At first he feels uneasy during the bee. However, after Bowen shows up to support him, Felix becomes more confident and wins the whole thing. Although Felix thanks Bowen for giving him the magic to do well, Bowen reveals to Felix that the real magic is within him.
Directed by Rene Bonniere, Written by Suzette Couture, Music by John Welsman
My Grade: I think, overall, this is an OK episode. It’s pretty much the first episode where Zachary Bennett (Felix) is both dramatic (with this pouty little face) and likeable. But I have to knock the episode down a peg (get it?) because of the “spelling bee” scenes. It absolutely bugs me how Hetty tells a student their wrong before they get the chance to finish spelling the word. It doesn’t make any sense! She stops right at the moment when a student makes a mistake, thus giving the next student an advantage (an advantage that the student doesn’t always use…strangely). That can’t be how spelling bees were run in Canada during the turn of the century. Maybe time constraints explain why the bee scenes are written this way…but this episode is already longer than usual. I don’t see how 3 or 4 more minutes would hurt. Whatever the reason is…it bugs me every time I watch this episode. It’s not “C” territory, but it’s also not an episode I look forward to much. (B-)
Spotlight Performance: I think Susan Cox is pretty underrated on the show. She does a great job of giving Peg a nice mixture of “humanizing soul” and “weird/mysterious creature.” Peg Bowen is a great character, but she only has a few more appearances after this, and stops appearing altogether after season three. It seems like Cox has a semi-recent official site. So…yay, she hasn’t shriveled into obscurity!
Favorite Scene: I’ve already listed my least favorite scenes so…I guess I’d have to say the scenes between Felix and Peg Bowen, particularly the end. Yes the “magic is in you” motif is a little cliche. But after everything Felix has been through in this episode, it’s nice that Bowen injected Felix with a deserved sense of confidence.
Final Thoughts: This is the first episode of the series directed by Rene Bonniere. He’s had a long and prolific career outside Avonlea (most notably directing the TV series La Femme Nikita.) However, it doesn’t seem like he’s worked in over a decade. He has three episodes after this one.
The only other note I have is about Amy Stewart. She appeared in a couple episodes during the first season, include this one, as one of the school children. (She sort of gives Clemmie Ray some major shade in the last episode.) She’s had some success since her little role here, including starring in the Emmy award winning TV special Mark Twain and Me, and having a featured role in the film Ice Princess…Actually, I really just mentioned this because I love both those movies…watch them. Buy the VHS tapes and watch them!
Have We Seen This Before?: Lamest snowball fight ever.