Story by: Marlane Meyer
Teleplay by: Rene Echevarria
Directed by: David Jones
Episode Number: 110
Original Broadcast Date: December 17, 1999
Guest Stars: Stephen Bogardus (Isley), William Hill (Desk Cop), Rajika Puri (Store Clerk), Gloria Sauve (Woman in Store), Tom Aldredge (Mr. Leflin), Bruce Altman (Neighbor)

Like I said before, this episode required some thought before I sat down and reviewed it. While 95 percent of the ep was delightful, the one scene where Michael and Theo confronted Leflin was just... not. But despite that scene, I couldn't bring myself to knock it down on the grading scale even though that was supposed to be a pivotal moment. But I'll get to that later. Let me try to go through my review semi-chronologically.

The teaser, like much of this episode, was absolutely delightful; first off, we got to hear Theo singing again. Guess that's a habit he's not about to abandon anytime soon. Michael's reaction this time was actually funnier than the last time we saw the doc wake him up in "One for the Money," and the entire "I'm not bulletproof!" bit ending in the gun turning out to be a paintball gun was priceless. Poor Michael. I think Theo enjoys getting on Michael's nerves as much as Michael enjoys irritating Theo.

It was also a good bit of foreshadowing; Michael got his variety, all right, and maybe a little more variety than he bargained for. For about a moment - even knowing the premise of this episode ahead of time - I thought Theo had staged the entire thing to teach Michael a lesson. Only for a moment, though. Michael's attempts to get his "jailers" to show up were nice, especially when the alarm trick backfired on him. I suppose there's more than one use for being able to hold your breath for over six minutes.

Meanwhile, we got to see Lisa studying like a maniac for her real estate test. I had just finished my last final exam of the semester when I sat down and watched this episode - and could I ever sympathize with her. My, oh my, could I ever. (I don't even want to see what I got on some of those exams...) Heather's involvement was fairly enjoyable, albeit insignificant. I wonder how she would have reacted to Isley's strange story.

As far as reactions go, Gerrit Graham was in top form as Roger this time out. I'm not just talking about his role as the comic foil - although I must admit, the bathroom scene was amusing - but as Michael's best friend. Some episodes he's just come off as a coward, and while that's worked for the storyline, it also made me wonder how Michael and Roger could be best friends.

But the interesting - and redeeming - thing about Roger is that he knows he's a coward on top of all this, and he's certainly not proud of it. We got a hint of that in "Over Easy," when he told Lisa: "I've never done anything important, anything noble, in my whole life." Here, it was fairly apparent; sure, he was his old sleazy self at times with his reaction to the offer of $3 million, but he actually behaved like a real friend. "I know you're scared," he says to Lisa in the car. "'Scared' is where I live." That whole speech brought the character up several points in my estimation.

Next to Michael and Lisa, who are both good-hearted and willing to stand up for what they believe, Roger doesn't seem like much. He honestly seems to admire that in them - his "Isn't she great?" comment at the end of Lisa's rant was so perfect. While he remains a perfect foil for Lisa and Michael, Roger got some much-needed and enjoyable character development this time out as well.

Of course, I digress. Back to the "A-plot" of this episode: namely, Michael's second outing on the town. One aspect of its premise that Now and Again most often tends to slip up on is the action part of the show. But that was not so in this episode. We got not one, but two great (albeit brief) action scenes. First, Michael takes on six armed men in a van by bending a machine gun like taffy - scaring some of the men so much that they bail out of the van themselves - knocking one out and trying to coerce info out of the driver before the van crashes. Then Michael takes off. And when I thought that was it, we got the bannister-hopping bit with Michael's mad dash out of the police station, leaping clear over a bannister and charging for the exit, knocking everything and everyone out of his way. Wow.

Compared to "On the Town," Michael's escape was a bit more intelligent; this time out, he was actually thinking things through. His solution to having no cash was priceless and so over-the-top that the onlookers had to think that it was a trick. Besides, as we've been reminded before... this is New York, after all. The police station was a fairly logical place to go - it didn't turn out great, but it made sense. When he went back to the townhouse, I wasn't sure about using the grappling hook to scope it out (how did he get that, anyway?) but it was certainly better than busting through the front door.

And it avoided something I expected to see in this episode: a confrontation with Lisa, who is probably going to have a few things to say to him the next time they meet. Her disbelief at the story Isley was trying to feed her was perfectly plausible: not only did it sound ludicrous, it made no sense. When she finally went off on him in the townhouse, I wanted to applaud. Yes, Roger, Lisa is great. Why didn't the story plant any suspicions in her head? As I said before, Isley was making no sense up until the moment he was about to tell them the whole truth. Even knowing what I did, I had to admit he sounded a little crazy. Plus, with the added stress of that test, she's more likely to dismiss it as some absurd nonsense that's not her business.

Now, finally, we get to the "climactic" moment of the episode. Up to the point when Isley pulled the gun on Michael, things were building up wonderfully. Then Leflin Sr. comes out and tells his son to stop - because he suddenly decides they were completely wrong? And after all the evidence to the contrary, Isley goes along with it? No, no, no! The reasoning was ridiculous, especially after all the trouble Leflin went to in order to obtain a chance at a second life. It would have been just as conclusive, and a lot more plausible, if Leflin had decided to let them go simply because things were getting out of hand - which they were. An attack of conscience would have worked better.

That wrap-up scene was too abrupt and too rushed, which is a pity since the explanation for who was behind everything was great. No secret organization, just a rich old man with connections who's desperate to escape the misery of age and illness. Given Michael's longing for his old life, it would have been nice if they'd gone into the irony a little more.

But then the episode turned around again. Lisa's last scene with Heather was sweet, a rare happy ending. (I know she was supposed to be at Gretchen's; maybe Lisa called her from Roger's car. That's a minor nit compared to the other conclusion.) I think the only other episode to conclude on such a high note so far is "Pulp Turkey" - the rest have been either bittersweet or sad. The repeat of "Ooh Child" in the background was a great touch, and wrapped up the episode nicely. It also alleviated some of my irritation with the conclusion of the A-plot.

So what grade can I give this episode? From a technical standpoint, the abrupt conclusion Leflin came to - since it was supposed to be the climax - should take down the entire episode several notches. But still... despite my frustration, I don't want to deduct so much since the rest of the episode was so much fun. It's quite a feat, I think, when a show goes for most of an episode without the benefit of one of its most charismatic characters and still doesn't fail to deliver.

What the heck. CBS takes up so much time with commercials, it's no wonder the ending had to be so abrupt. Unlike "Nothing to Fear..." this episode was worth the extended wait. Hey, Leflin Sr. may have taken a terminal way out, but the younger Mr. Leflin is still around. Who knows whether or not they'll follow this up? Even if they don't, "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face" was an entertaining ride.

Grade: B+

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