Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Vincent Misiano
Episode Number: 105
Original Broadcast Date: October 22, 1999
Guest Stars: Chad Lowe (Craig Spence), Al Roffe (Sanchez)
All right, I'll say it right now: "On the Town" is no longer my favorite episode.
Yeah, I know it was stretching the limits this time, and I know it cast a lot of doubt on how serious Dr. Morris' threats really are... but I didn't give a damn about plausibility this time around. I was WAY too busy enjoying myself.
The negligible bad points: Would have liked to see Spence be humiliated a bit as well, and for the torment to have gone on a bit longer. He really was a jackass. I also think there's got to be a Heather-centered episode, mainly because the character is in some serious need of development. I know they're going out of their way to keep her from becoming this "perfect" Dawson's-Creek-type teen, but the obnoxiousness is beginning to grate. I mean, she started to get likable in "On the Town" - can we get back to that, please?
That's all. Now for the rest.
Like I said before: Spence really was a jackass, and this episode nailed that point home. Chad Lowe played him as a completely unsympathetic sleaze, and he seemed to be enjoying it; that is, while the character could have been one-dimensional, Lowe threw out some of his lines with such a perfectly arrogant glee that it didn't matter. I'm amazed Lisa had the restraint to keep from doing any worse than dousing him in the face. I would have slapped him, myself.
The training scene was absolutely hysterical, and very telling... Michael's muttered "With your body I'd like to do it" line showed that it was all just getting to him. His painful thud against the metal and the look on his face afterwards was hilarious; I was wincing at the impact, and it was apparent it had hurt like hell. In fact, the entire series of scenes building up to his discovery were wonderful. His frustration with his routine and the lack of communication haven't been touched on too much previously, but we got plenty of that here. I mean, there's the diet - okra, brussels sprouts, rutabaga, the unidentifiable root - which would drive anyone nuts. Then, of course, there's no one really to talk to; I'll bet the janitor's lack of English comprehension was a requirement for the job. And Michael sneaking a section of the Times was great, especially his reaction to the house being sold... "That's my house!" (lights go off) "Thank you."
And his reaction to the thought that there might be another man - getting out of bed, (presumably) pulling on clothes, breaking down the doors - absolutely priceless. Especially since we heard rather than saw the door go down. No, he's not jealous... :)
If he wasn't such a coward, I'd almost feel sorry for Roger by now. First he thinks Michael's reincarnated, then from the IRS (his reaction to that was great), and while he's trying to sneak a cigarette he gets interrupted by first Michael, then the helicopter, then his apparently oblivious wife Ruth. Sure, he did spill the beans to Dr. Morris... but that little grin he got on his face when he realized Michael was going after Spence makes me think he's got potential. (I think Roger needs a big dose of that fear-killing drug in the next ep.)
Character development galore here - still not much on Heather, but between Dr. Morris and Michael, there was plenty. Michael's sarcasm and habit of making jokes is becoming his major defense mechanism, something that was heavily apparent in this episode. I think this is the first time we've seen Michael actually stand up to the Doc, and did he ever stand his ground. He certainly didn't pull any punches - his threat to kill himself the moment Morris caught up with him certainly didn't seem like an idle threat. The way he said it, and the way you could tell he meant it, made Dr. Morris' willingness to bend the rules over backwards fairly credible. There was also a slight hint that Morris is becoming somewhat attached to his creation - his disappointment when he realized Michael only returned because he needed the Doc's help. It wasn't too overdone, just subtle enough, but it was there.
The best acting moment in this episode, though, belonged to Eric Close. During the office scene where a drunken Spence obliviously spouts off to Michael about his own "suicide," you could see his shock and anger start to build. Standing there, clenching and unclenching his fists, Close evoked so much contained anger - by doing so little - that I could believe his character wanted to kill Spence. Even after his protests in the previous episode, I believed it.
I keep trying to balance my reviews between the part of me that wants to see Lisa and Michael together (the wishful thinking part) and the part of me that knows they should be kept apart for the show to continue. Two scenes here satisfied "wishful thinking" wonderfully. The first, of course, was when Michael toured his old house. Close and Colin have great chemistry, and their would-be pairing seems to fit despite the physical age difference. Michael's familiarity with his home was a smile, and the piano duet was touching without being sappy.
The second? Michael's revenge, of course. Spence was such a sleaze that his comeuppance was inevitable - and was it ever fitting. Sure, it was just a tad convenient that the bank statement happened to land neatly on the ledge rather than blowing down to the street below, but the payoff was so satisfying I could overlook it. After seeing his rage at Spence earlier in the episode, I was expecting Spence to get one hell of a scare. But I was very surprised when Michael went so far as to dangle him over the ledge. For someone who was so adamantly against killing in the last episode, Michael certainly can be cold-blooded. It was right up there with any showdown he could have had with any sort of "villain-of-the week."
If you haven't deduced this by now... I loved this episode. Any nitpicks were negligible, and quite easy to overlook this time out. It's good to know that an episode that GGC didn't write could be this much fun.
Notes of Interest:
- What's with all the vegetables and fruits? I mean, even Michael's got to have some starches and proteins in his diet.
- In "One for the Money," the suit Morris outfitted Michael with looked too big for him, but the one he wore as Spence's assistant looked great. Something tells me he picked that one out himself.
- Roger's office window seems to be intact again... perhaps that window got miraculously repaired along with the Mercedes.
- Despite his photo being on the security files after "On the Town," Michael seems to have had no trouble getting in. Did Morris help, did he take the outside route, or does the suit just make the man?
- Interesting alias Michael picked - "Newman."
- I strongly suspect that Morris might have eaten that hot dog he confiscated from Michael afterwards.
- For someone who's risen so high in the ranks of Grand Empire, Spence certainly is sloppy. I suppose he only got the promotion by default because of Michael's honesty.
- Yeah, Roger may be a coward... but the look he got on his face when he realized Michael (or the I.R.S, as he thought) was out to get Spence in particular was great.
- Heather willingly goes to bed at 10 pm? When I was in high school, I routinely pushed it to 11 pm mainly because I never had everything done in time.
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