- "Okay, pipe down, you hooligans, or you'll be in detention till Christmas yet to come!"
- ―Muriel in "Yes, Mikey, Santa Does Shave"
Muriel P. Finster, often referred to as just Finster, Miss Finster, or Muriel, is an administrative assistant (later fifth-grade teacher, previously Kindergarten teacher) who is the children's constant nemesis on the playground and is the main antagonist (and sometimes an anti-hero) of the series. She also serves as one of the main protagonists of Recess: School's Out.
She lives in an apartment, as shown in the episode "Weekend at Muriel's", in which she calls it "[a] pad". As seen in the 2003 feature-length film, Recess: Taking the Fifth Grade, she becomes the gang's fifth-grade teacher.
Muriel has a strong desire for a school in which children are not allowed to have fun or act like children. She is feared by all the children and is always closely followed by her teacher's pet, the equally nefarious Randall J. Weems, who is also largely despised by the other students. Her disposition plays an important part in maintaining stability within the society of the playground providing a common enemy for the children of Third Street School, as shown in the times when she is not fulfilling her duties and the playground devolves into a war zone.
Though she loves harsh punishments, she even has a limit to how far things should go. Such as being visibly shocked when she hears that the Mayor's Council has planned to split the gang send the children to different schools.
Despite her authoritarian nature, she has shown to be a deeper and kinder person at times. Outside of school, she has shown to be friendly, fun and supportive of others as shown with several interactions with the gang outside of school. She was even disgusted by the actions of her ex-boyfriend Dr. Phillium Benedict, and stated she could never be with a man that does not love recess as well as refusing to go back to him in their next meeting.
Muriel Finster was born in the 1930s and attended Third Street School during her childhood. When she was ten years old, she was carefree, which Finster herself recalls with fondness in her age. She also climbed the statue of Thaddeus T. Third III in the fourth grade, around that time another student Philip Fitzhugh purposely tried to break the statue, but failed to do so.
She entertained soldiers in the Pacific and Guam in 1952.
She used to have a relationship with Dr. Phillium Benedict in 1968. After he was fired, he expected her to come with him but she broke up with him after he tried to cancel recess, and she declared that she could not be with a man who does not love recess. Phillium was very shocked at her rejection and deemed her against him as he yelled that he did not need her.
She became a groundkeeper in Third Street School and had a broken hip and phlebitis in 1983.
In Recess: School's Out, when she learns that Grotke is secretly trained in some form of martial arts, this impresses Muriel, who develops a newfound respect for her. Finster even suggested a friendly match between her boxing and Grotke's martial arts--but Grotke was hesitant to accept, explaining that she is really only supposed to use her martial arts in self-defense.
She treats him like a hooligan, but according to the episode "Nobody Doesn't Like T.J.", she likes him. In the movie, while she initially believed to be up to no good, she came to his rescue when he was nearly attacked by Bald Guy, while stating she was just doing her job.
Miss Finster is a long-time family friend of Spinelli's family, specifically for her mom's side, as Miss Finster and Spinelli's maternal grandmother have been friends since at least the 1950s.
When Spinelli's maternal grandmother retired and Spinelli's went to her retirement party (which was being held out of town), Miss Finster allowed Spinelli to spend the weekend at her place until her parents got back. Though initially bored, Spinelli eventually bonded with Miss Finster and had fun with her. And in "That Stinking Feeling", Miss Finster helped cheer up Spinelli when she was getting teased for having a crush on Johnny V. by telling her that all her friends will have feelings of love.
As seen in "Recess Is Cancelled", she does not get along with her. When they are forced to be in each other's company, they bicker with Muriel suggesting it maybe was "go time" and Lemon voicing acceptance of the challenge but it did not come to pass. They got along better in Recess: School's Out, since they worked together in facing Dr. Phillium Benedict.
The two have known each other for decades and are very close friends, especially since they have been working at Third Street School since at least the 1960s.
They have a strictly platonic relationship, especially since Prickly is stated to be married, and Muriel never expresses romance in him.
Randall is Miss Finster's assistant and often does her dirty work. In "Randall's Friends", she was very disappointed in Randall for trying to bust T.J. out of detention but she decided to let him off with a warning because he has a spotless record (and it was his birthday).
But despite their friendly status, Muriel has shown that she ultimately doesn't play favorites and that she will punish Randall just like she would any other student when the situation calls for it.
As seen in Recess: School's Out, Muriel and Phillium were formerly in a relationship over three decades ago. However things turn sour when Phil canceled recess and got fired. He turned to Muriel for support but she rejected him and broke off their relationship which left him embittered.
Even after 30 years, Benedict still has a love for her telling Peter Prickly she was “the only woman he ever loved”. When the pair many children again for the first time in years Benedict called her a vision of loveliness and requested that she come back to him but she rejected him disgusted by what he became and called him a “recess hating pretty boy”. Angered, he ordered his henchmen to take her and her allies down but he was ultimately defeated and imprisoned.
- The episode "The Biggest Trouble Ever" shows a childhood photo from when she was ten years old. In it, she is shown playing on the statue of Thaddeus T. Third III.
- Miss Finster tries to hide her secret friendship between her and the Recess Gang, especially regarding Spinelli, due to her connections to Spinelli's family.
- Her surname "Finster" is a German word for "sinister".
- Her surname "Finster" also rhymes with "spinster", which means "an unmarried woman, typically an old woman beyond the usual age for marriage." Many spinsters are often portrayed as very mean, probably due to the fact that they are not married. This describes Miss Finster rather well: she presumably never married at all (since she goes by "Miss" rather than "Mrs." or "Ms.") and with her her gray hair, it may be implied that she is at least in her sixties, past the usual age when women do get married.
- Miss Finster entertained soldiers in the Pacific and Guam in 1952 (as stated by Miss Finster in "Weekend at Muriel's"), and she was displayed to be young during the 1960s in Recess: School's Out. In all considerations, that would likely place her in her sixties.
- Fascinatingly, Muriel shares the same last name as Chuckie Finster, one of the lead characters on Rugrats, another co-production of Paul Germain. This has led to many fans theorizing that Muriel is related to Chuckie in some way (most likely through his dad's side of the family), which would also mean that Rugrats and Recess take place in the same universe.
- The most common/prominent theory about Muriel potentially being related to Chuckie (which also takes into consideration on how she presumably never married) is that she's a relative of Chuckie's paternal grandfather (his dad's dad), Marvin Finster (most likely his sister or a cousin), who shares similar views as Muriel when it comes to parenting/raising kids.
- When she was younger, she was happier since at the time, Dr. Phillium Benedict was not trying to take away recess.
- She mostly allies with the children when they behave, but she was seen as an enemy to the children when they are misbehaving (but neutral).
- There are some inconsistencies of her job. In "To Finster with Love", she is shown grading papers, with Randall being in her class (and getting better grades by just a couple points). In "My Fair Gretchen", when Gretchen is walking down the hall to Prickly's office, Miss Finster and Randall can be seen watching her from one of the doors.
Characters: T.J. Detweiler | Vince LaSalle | Ashley Spinelli | Mikey Blumberg | Gretchen Grundler | Gus Griswald | Captain Bradley | Cornchip Girl | The Diggers | Hustler Kid | Erwin Lawson | Miss Grotke | Muriel Finster | Becky Detweiler | Dr. Phillium Benedict | Menlo | Brock | Peter Prickly | Bald Guy | Butch | Ashley Armbruster | Ashley Boulet | Ashley Quinlan | Ashley Tomassian | Fenwick | Brandon the Singer | Gelman | King Bob | Chucko | Jocko | Randall Weems | King Freddy II | Chewy | Spencer | Swinger Girl | Upside-Down Girl | Gordy | Hector | Miss Lemon | Lunchlady Irma | Tubby | Jordan & Jerome | Flo Spinelli | Bob Spinelli | Guru Kid