Written by: Marlane Meyer
Directed by: Brian Spicer
Episode Number: 107
Original Broadcast Date: November 12, 1999
Guest Stars: Allison Munn (Gretchen), Charlie Hofheimer (Nick), Jeremy Nagel (Craig), Adam Grupper (Physician), Maria Elena Ramirez (Nurse), Bill Raymond (Rev. Miller), Ian Somerholder (Brian)

Well, here's the opposite of last week's episode: potentially hokey premise, smart and touching execution. "A Girl's Life," for all intents and purposes, is an exploration of spiritual commitment, angels, and a father's love for his child. Can you say "Touched by an Angel" fodder?

(Before anyone shrieks at me, I'm sorry. I used to like "Touched by an Angel," but I think the last few seasons were nowhere near as good as the show's early days.)

Luckily, "A Girl's Life" didn't sink to that level.

The setup, of course, was nuts: why the HELL did Dr. Morris risk Michael's life that way? They could have dropped a painted rock from a plane; they didn't have to risk their $3 billion project. However, complete implausibility aside, it made for a fast-moving and funny teaser - the best teaser, IMO, since "Over Easy." Michael's scream as he plunged towards the barrier was both hilarious and horrifying, and his protests to Dr. Morris were a riot. Of course, then Heather bails from a lousy double date, sees this light in the sky, wanders through the test area, and gets struck by lightning.

And that's just the beginning of the episode.

Unlike his unnecessarily cruel treatment of Michael last week, Dr. Morris' compromise in letting Michael see Heather made sense, and was in keeping with the character. His reasoning was sound - if Heather hadn't made it through, and Michael hadn't found out until after the fact, yes, he would resent not having the chance to see her one last time. At the same time, Morris was still being Morris; his reasons were fairly pragmatic, stemming more from the possibility of repercussions than sympathy for Michael. (Of course, that's on the surface.) His use of "existence" rather than "life" was appropriate given his push for Michael to accept his death.

The events leading up to Heather's "vision" were fast-paced and appropriately wrenching when she went into seizure. Lisa's grief over (almost) losing her daughter, coupled with Michael's anger and fear, had me in tears early on. Yes, I'm an easy crier, but Margaret Colin and Eric Close turned in great performances during that scene. The look on Close's face when he reached up to touch the glass said more than pages of dialogue.

I've got to admit that the handling of Heather's recovery from the lightning strike was all wrong. She healed too quickly and too miraculously, she should have been gasping for breath from the chest compressions, and a week and a half for her to be perfectly fine given the fact she slipped into a coma struck me as odd. Even with the fantasy element of the show, her recovery was way too unrealistic.

Up until "Nothing to Fear..." I wasn't all that impressed by Heather Matarazzo, since she really had nothing to do. Until now. There was more Heather than Michael in "A Girl's Life," but I didn't mind this time around at all. Most of this episode revolved around her, and she carried it off perfectly. From her questions about chickens and eggs to her reaction to her boyfriend's pigheadedness to the look she gave Brian (yes, it registered that he was pretty cute, and you could tell by her reaction) to her interaction with the "angel," she turned in a great performance. Thank you, thank you for finally giving her something to work with.

The scene when Michael pretended to be an angel to talk to Heather was really touching, and a perfect example of how this show can take a premise that's just loaded with potential for sappiness and take a more subtle, honest approach. The exchange was sweet, and I could see how Michael could have been tempted to hug her when she asked, "If you see my daddy, will you tell him I love him?" Could have been sappy as anything... but the way Close and Matarazzo played it, it didn't come off that way.

Ooh, Theo really ticked Michael off this time - he actually got so far as to grab the scientist by the collar. Oddly enough, the doc was right about how everything would turn out in the end, and Michael should have seen this coming, but still, it was a betrayal, and a painful one.

Some bits of the teen storyline moved slowly, I'll admit: I wanted to smack the English teacher, and Gretchen reminded me far too much of Harmony from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Why would Heather hang out with this airhead? And it's really uncharacteristic of this show to play the same song over and over, especially such a Randy Newman-esque tune.

We also got to see a character who'd only been mentioned and who only had a line or two here - namely, Nick. (Remember the breakfast conversation in "Origins?" That movie date must have turned into something steady.) For the small part he had in the episode, I liked the guy in the end. Yes, I know, he acted like a jackass initially, but let's consider this: he's a high school boy. Sorry, guys, but at that age it is really difficult to find a male who'd be totally supportive in a situation like this. When he finally stood up for Heather in the end, it wasn't overdone, but he made his point. Typical high school guy, but a decent one. Hope we see him again.

Here's the difference between the ending of last week's and the end of this week's episode. Last week was just bitter. This week's ep was a nice, bittersweet ending. Somehow, we got the feeling that everything would be fine and that life would go on. This episode wasn't quite up there with "On the Town" and "The Insurance Man Always Rings Twice," but it was a good one. I'll be looking at unusual lights in the sky quite differently now, thank you. :)

Grade: B

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