It's Your Move/Top Dog

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Top Dog
Season 1, Episode 9
Airdate December 5, 1984
Written by Pamela Norris
Directed by Tony Singletary
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Don't Leave Home Without It
It's Your MoveSeason One

Top Dog is the ninth episode of the first season of It's Your Move, and the ninth episode overall.

Guest Stars: Adam Sadowsky (Eli), Dorothy Patterson (Iris), Eve Smith (Candy), Webster Williams (Reporter No. 1), Brynja Willis (Reporter No. 2), Michael Honma (Japanese Chef), Philip Tanzini (Kid No. 1), Jim Calvert (Card Player), Chris M. Brown (Lookout), Hart Sprager (Barber), Garrett Morris (Dwight Ellis)


Plot Overview

Matt and Eli have a great situation going in their tenth grade English glass. Their teacher has run away and Matt is running the class by keeping attendance and distributing grades. Students have a barber, harmonica player, and sushi chef at their disposal. Unfortunately though, Eli has sent his grandmother to take the teacher's physical, but she falls asleep on the scale. Therefore Principal Ellis has hired a replacement teacher for the class...Norman.

After class, Principal Ellis informs Norman that there is actually one other teacher ahead of him on the waiting list, a Mrs. Rubinstein whom they have been unable to locate. Matt hatches the scheme to hire a 'fake' Mrs. Rubinstein to take over the class, so he picks out an elderly door-to-door Creamy Candy sales lady named Iris Clifford. Initially, Principal Ellis decides that she is too old to teach, so Matt organizes a protest to honor the rights of the elderly. This gets media attention and threatens to embarrass Ellis and the school, so he recants and gives her the job. Norman gets re-assigned to the tough neighboring Allen E. Howard High School - known as Hang 'Em High.

On their first day with the new 'teacher', Matt realizes that his plan has backfired when she begins bribing the class, insisting on gifts in exchange for passing grades. With nowhere else to turn, Matt confesses what he has done and asks for Norman's help. Norman has just returned from Hang 'Em High completely disheveled, spray painted, and dragging a car bumper behind him. Rough students have followed him home and are waiting outside his apartment, also throwing a grappling hook through his window. In light of this, he reluctantly agrees to help Matt.

Norman poses as Inspector Smokey Bates, 'private eye for the public schools', and confronts Iris about her misdeeds. She attempts to bribe him, but he eventually convinces her to walk away from the teaching gig. In the end Matt and Norman congratulate each other and Matt heads out with the TV that the class has just given to the teacher. He confesses that it was actually Norman's TV anyway.

Arc Advancement


  • Norman becomes a full-time teacher at Matt's high school.
  • Principal Ellis (Garrett Morris) is introduced in this episode. He will go on to appear in several of the last four episodes of the show.
  • Matt's classmate Alfred makes his first appearance in the show. He will be seen again prominently in Eli's Song


  • When Matt tells Norman how he has hired a fake Mrs. Rubenstein, he starts the conversation with the show's catchphrase: "You're gonna laugh."


Behind the Scenes

  • The name Mrs. Rubinstein is no doubt an inside joke in reference to the show's casting director Debra Rubinstein.
  • This is the first episode following Dad and Me to feature the new furniture that Norman won on the game show.

Allusions and References

  • The show twice references the 1860 George Eliot novel The Mill on the Floss as the current work being studied in Norman's English class.
  • Matt discovers the whereabouts of the real Mrs. Rubenstein. She sold her home and is following Bruce Springsteen around the country.
  • Iris tells the class that since the class has brought her a television set, they don't have to read The Complete Works of Dostoyevsky afterall.

Memorable Moments

  • Matt interviews an elderly lady who had appeared in a local doughnut commercial and she keeps botching her lines. Finally Matt loses his patience and says, "Look, you're hopeless. Please get out."


  • Eli: Matt, it's been four days since our teacher ran away. How long do you think we can get away with this?
    Matt: Well, we'll be graduating in two years. I can't see carrying it on past that.
  • Principal Ellis: I love old people! I married an old person!


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