Freaks and Geeks told a lot of stories across its 18-episode run, but the central plot line was always Lindsay Weir struggling to find a place to fit in. At the start of the show, Lindsay (played by Linda Cardellini) had left the geeks for the freaks, abandoning the mathletes and Uno nights with her former best friend Millie to go see the Who and host a keg party. But being a burnout wasn’t really her thing, and by the finale she was still trying to find herself in 1981 suburbia.
After getting accepted into a prestigious summer program at the University of Michigan, Lindsay frets to her guidance counselor Mr. Rosso (Dave Allen), who in turn quotes the Grateful Dead to her. “When I was in college back in the 1700s,” he tells her, “I’d put their album American Beauty on whenever I was stressing out. It always helped.” He lends her the record, hoping it will guide her toward attending the program.
As she drops the needle on the record in her bedroom, she cautiously sits on her bed, soaking up Phil Lesh’s vocals on the opening track “Box of Rain”: “Look out of any window/Any morning, any evening, any day.” She resets the needle to the track over and over again, pacing her room until she slowly breaks out into a dance. She throws her hands up, smiling and twirling, completely enraptured by the song. “You finally see a moment where Lindsay kind of seems happy with herself,” her co-star Jason Segel says over the episode’s commentary. Cardellini agrees: “I think that’s when she stops censoring herself.”
At the end of episode, Lindsay says goodbye to her family and boards a bus, but she doesn’t go to the University of Michigan. Instead, she meets up with the rebellious Kim (Busy Philips) and two deadheads from school. “Ripple” plays as she hops into their VW bus and the group drives off to Houston to see the Grateful Dead perform. The show she caught very well could have been the band’s 1981 summer tour kickoff, where the Dead played two American Beauty songs: “Friend of the Devil” and “Truckin.'” Odds are high Lindsay Weir was in the crowd, singing and dancing along. She’d finally found her people.