Written by: Ted Humphrey
Directed by: Vincent Misiano
Episode Number: 111
Original Broadcast Date: January 7, 2000
Guest Stars: Ellen Bethea (Dr. Rivers), Jean Debaer (Robin), Christine Jones (Melanie), Peter McRobbie (Dr. Prescott), Peter Rini (Bill), Dahlia Salem (Miss Avalone)

Let's see here. Deprived for three weeks of Now and Again, desperately in need of comedy, and already wired after watching "Enemy of the State" - yeah, I was probably going to have a good reaction to "Fire and Ice." I thought there was something missing, though, so I needed a little time to think about it. And I thought. And I thought. And I did figure it out.

So let's just get the bad points out of the way first, shall we?

As fun as it was to see Theo absolutely tongue-tied over a woman, the love interest herself was actually lacking in character. Pretty, yes, but ultimately not much else. Dr. Rivers at first seemed to have potential when she first blew off Theo in the lab, but then... I don't know. I didn't get much of an impression of her character because there wasn't much depth to it. She almost seemed simpering in that last scene with him, ready to crawl back to her husband, yet almost hoping Theo would say or do something to get her out of it. Next to a character as dynamic as Dr. Theodore Morris, I just couldn't buy Dr. Lauren Rivers as the love interest - even as a one-shot love interest. (Myself, I'd love for Theo to get into a relationship with someone he seems to despise. He needs someone to bicker with other than Michael, for crying out loud.)

As far as lead-ins to the next ep, the spontaneous combustion bits didn't work as well as the Eggman bits did in "Origins" and "On the Town." They didn't seem too well enmeshed with the episode, although they did lend a little symbolism to the title. Also, the opening teaser bothered me - Melanie's undisturbed pure-ash figure just looked so fake. I'm sorry, I know this isn't The X-Files, but it really did.

Had a similar problem here that I did with "Nothing to Fear but Nothing to Fear." That is, the gratuitous and pointless Roger/Ruth scene. Having Ruth heard but never seen is really getting old. Besides, it lent nothing to the story; it felt like they were just trying to give Gerrit Graham some screen time. Now I don't have anything against him - Roger has been a great comic foil - but here, there was no point having him involved. The scene was just thrown in. At least his tiny part in "By the Light of the Moon" was conducive to the plot.

Michael's starting to become a little too complacent. I mean, after his nose-to-nose standoff with Theo back in "The Insurance Man Always Rings Twice," you'd think he'd rebel just a little more with the anniversary conflict. He certainly seemed angry at Theo - understandably, too - over the Doc withholding the date, a restriction that seems ridiculous given that most of Michael's "work" so far has been workouts and tests. Security regulations or not, it would be better in my mind for Michael to have some inkling of what they really want him to do. I don't. And yet, contrary to his earlier behavior, he didn't do anything but sulk. I mean, he couldn't take off again and at least check on her from a distance? It just seems inconsistent to me.

And something else that's minor: While it's fun to see Michael suffer under the endless series of tests, are they ever going to have him do something major?

Now the good points.

Oh, my, "Fire and Ice" was such a riot at times. The scenes with Michael suffering under extreme weather conditions were hysterical and cleverly filmed, and ripe for some great lines ("Don't bother me, I'm trying to round up two of every species") and sight gags (that silly but still funny bit when Michael's arm sticks to the wall). Naturally, Theo seemed to delight in tormenting Michael - just as Michael delights in irritating him - which only made it funnier. On top of that, their whole argument over Michael's "suggestions" to get Dr. Rivers to talk to Theo was delightful, especially Theo's pride and Michael's reaction when Theo finally asked for help.

The best aspect of this episode was finally getting to see Theo - usually calm, collected, eloquent - suddenly becoming completely bumbling and tongue-tied with a woman he's attracted to. While I didn't think much of the woman, seeing the Doc suddenly resort to lame jokes, scramble for the right words, and even put the words in the wrong order was just great. Suddenly, Theo was the doof, and Michael was the one who knew what to say.

While the anniversary subplot wasn't as strong as the Theo-in-love plot, it at least connected well to the main story. I did like the Heather and Lisa bits, although sometimes I get the impression that Heather is doing all the mothering. There were some genuinely sweet and funny moments between them. "Only if I can dye my hair blue," huh? Go, Heather!

The ending was appropriately bittersweet and touching (although I'm not going to miss Dr. Rivers), and Theo's understanding of Michael's feelings after he had loved and lost was very well done. As for Lisa in the bathtub... everyone say it with me now... awwww. While the subplots were fairly weak for a change, and the love interest left something to be desired, "Fire and Ice" had plenty of amusing and touching moments. There was some nice development on the relationship between Michael and Theo and between Lisa and Heather, and the hair coloring was worked in surprisingly well. (I read the TV Guide article.) After another three-week wait, it left some things to be desired, but all in all, I'd watch it again.

Grade: B/B+

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