Written by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: Vincent Misiano
Episode Number: 109
Original Broadcast Date: November 26, 1999
Guest Stars: Chip Zien (Gerald Misenbach), Reiko Aylesworth (Taylor), Maria Cellario (Instructor), Robert Trumbull (Minister)

Want to know what happens when CBS preempts your favorite show for two Fridays in a row? Well, in my case, I ended up watching my tape of "By the Light of the Moon" over and over again like the Zapruder tapes. :)

Anyway, I've had some time to think about this episode. Right off the bat, though, I think "By the Light of the Moon" has taught me one thing: Glenn Gordon Caron has got to keep Rene Echevarria on the writing team as long as possible. The man is good. :)

I am going to get through my one real nitpick regarding this episode: the unforgivable timeline screw-up. Now I suppose it's somewhat believable that Michael could have been dead for nine months - you'd only have to ignore the fact that he woke up close to Easter, and you'd have to compress seven eps into two months - but that alone is believable. It's also believable that Michael could have spent nine months in his new body. But it's not plausible for both. The pilot established that there was six or seven months in between the time Michael got hit by the F train and when he woke up in the hospital. This episode utterly ignored that time difference, one that's too big to ignore. Way too big.

Now that that's over and done with... this episode dealt with a number of conflicts they haven't really touched on recently, and that I was glad to have showcased. Conflict number one: the fact that Michael's not much of a warrior. Somewhere along the line, they kind of had to notice that Michael's not keen on hurting anyone. So it stands to reason that he wouldn't take any combat training too seriously. And that a black belt who knew what she was doing could knock him flat on his back three times in a row.

Conflict number two: Michael's discomfort with his new body. We haven't seen much of that in recent weeks, but it was definitely visible here. The training scene brought up the possibility that Michael still thinks of himself as a 45-year-old, 292-pound man. I say "possibility" only because in previous episodes, at moments he hasn't handled himself that way. (Let's see, playing Spidey and jumping atop an 18-wheeler in "On the Town" comes to mind...) But recently, we haven't seen a lot of his adjustment to "the big makeover" - not since "Origins" has an episode really explored that at this level. Aside from the training scene, his remarks were very telling: "this thing that's supposed to be me" and "He built it; I only drive the thing." I was starting to wonder if he hadn't just adjusted, and it was apparent here that he hasn't. Good.

Of course, conflict number three - the big one in this episode. In fact, it stems from a comment I made to a friend that she didn't let me live down for months: "So they gave him the package, there's not much chance he'll get to use it." Yeah, I know, I know, but as perverted as my mind was that evening, there's some sense to be made of that. To say Michael's lonely would be an understatement, but that sense of loneliness was made even more acute here. The dream-within-a-dream sequence with first the aborted wedding and then Taylor seducing Michael was exquisitely painful (the look on Michael's face when Lisa ran from the altar), funny (Morris waking Michael and the pillow up), and believable. I have to defend Taylor for a moment - she wasn't hateful, she did show some concern for Michael, and she was attractive. Considering that it was a dream, Michael letting her have her way made sense.

Although it was an act, Morris' perceived jealousy and indignation at being replaced by a woman was a riot. The minute she walked in, his expression was priceless. It was a nice touch to the facade, making her presence there as just a trainer more believable. Especially the way he stalked out of the gym.

I haven't started in on the second plot in this episode yet. Gerald Misenbach has become a confusing and now suddenly likable character. I didn't find it hard to believe that Lisa would accept a date with him this time out. (Of course I had to echo Heather's sentiments, but we all know it's not going to happen this early on.) Makes me wish he hadn't been married; that shadow still hangs over my perception of the character. Not so much this time out, but it does. Yet it's kind of refreshing to see a recurring character who isn't all that good or all that bad (Spence was a complete and utter weasel, but it worked for him). I'm still not entirely sure about the character, but Chip Zien is an excellent actor.

Compared to "One for the Money," I didn't have the temptation to fast forward through the scenes with Lisa and Heather for a change. Yes, Heather was lapsing back into whiny mode, but not to the extreme, and she remains funny: "You've seen his insides??" Her insistence on "edge" and dislike of "the pygmy lawyer" was a little cruel, but typical. Besides, I think she did pick up on some of the familiarity that caused Lisa to buy Michael shoes in "On the Town" - it's not entirely dependent on her love of "edge." (Besides, you remember that face she made when she learned Michael had kissed Lisa in "Over Easy," right?)

Unlike "Nothing to Fear..." the parallel stories were woven together extremely well, and it came off much more smoothly than the parallel plots of "One for the Money." The best example of that was the two dates; Lisa and Misenbach ice skating and Michael and Taylor bowling. For a split second, I almost thought the two couples were going to run into each other... and then was relieved when they didn't. Both Lisa and Michael were left alone under the moon, unaware of each other's presence, and the irony worked.

Finally, the "twist" at the end, the revelation that Morris had set everything up to distract Michael from Lisa, tied everything up neatly and made Taylor's actions believable. In my case, it wasn't a big surprise; I'd speculated about this possibility earlier, and when Taylor met up with Morris at the end, I was shouting, "I knew it!" at the television. It was also something that Morris would try to do, and only emphasized the loneliness of Michael's second life.

To her credit, I almost felt sorry for Taylor hearing her last few comments. "It wasn't hard," she replied to Morris' praise of how well she played her role. I get the impression that's because she wasn't completely playing a part; she did have compassion for Michael's situation, and she probably did find herself attracted to him for reasons other than the "perfectly engineered body." Can you blame her?

All in all, a wonderful and moving episode, marred only by that timeline slip. I think the writing team needs an official continuity checker. Here's to more shows like this one in the future.

Grade: A-

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