Written by: Marlane Meyer
Directed by: Jace Alexander
Episode Number: 112
Original Broadcast Date: January 14, 2000
Guest Stars: Tamara Gorski (Vanessa), Christopher McCann (Rev. Kelso), Richard Venture (Ed Delongpre), Dahlia Salem (Miss Avalone), Jack Swaltney (Investigator), Timothy Devlin (Special Agent #1)

An imaginary letter to the N&A writing staff:

I've been addicted to Now and Again since the beginning. Despite a premise that is seemingly implausible, villains that have in general been somewhat unimpressive, and commercial breaks that are long enough for me to make and eat a TV dinner, I've been fascinated by this show.

Why? Well, it's not really the sci-fi premise. It's not the action/adventure side by any means. And no, it's not because Eric Close has been either shirtless or in a tank top numerous times. (Not that I have any problem whatsoever with that, but still...) My ultimate reason is the unexpected twists of the series, focusing on the romantic and humorous instead of the sci-fi-ish. Most of this is found in the banter between Michael and Theo and the not-quite-relationship between Michael and Lisa. Now we got the Michael/Theo banter, and plenty of it, this week.

But as for the romance... let me put it this way. For there to be a romance, even a slowly progressing one, the man and the woman have to encounter each other every once in a while. And I'm getting frustrated waiting for Michael and Lisa to meet up again.

Four episodes have gone by since they last crossed paths. Thanks to pre-emption, that translates to almost two solid months that have passed. No interaction. It's not like you all haven't had the chance to get them in the same room. "By the Light of the Moon" presented the opportunity (although in the context of the story, it was better that they didn't run into one another). "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face" had Michael breathing into Lisa's answering machine, nothing more. "Fire and Ice" had them both alone on their anniversary.

I know that you're trying to take it slow. I know that having Michael and Lisa just hook up again is unrealistic, and that it would completely disrupt the dynamics of the show. But Margaret Colin and Eric Close have excellent chemistry, and I've been waiting two whole months to see some more of it. Hey, I'd just like for them to meet so she can yell at him about the Isley incident - their next meeting doesn't have to be completely cheery. Come on, I want to see if he notices she's colored her hair! :)

And now "Disco Inferno" has arrived... and there was still no interaction. Hell, this time there was no connection or parallelism whatsoever between the Michael/Theo plot and the Lisa/Heather/Roger plot. Roger teaching Heather to drive - and the fact that he picked a graveyard in the wake of Michael's death - was a plotline that showed some promise. I remember my days of learning to drive not-so-fondly myself. But the driving practice seemed like a throwaway subplot, some episode filler; we really didn't get into it, it didn't really run parallel to or connect with the main plot... it was just there.

I had a few concerns with the main plot of "Disco Inferno," so I'll get them out of the way. First off: Microwaves? My chosen major doesn't allow me to prove this, but that explanation seemed a little weak. The radiation, even used in small showoff doses during Kelso's lectures, should have had more effect than a brief feeling of warmth. I'll admit, though - of all the ways they could have tried to explain the combustion, it wasn't bad. If you'd attempted to pull an X-Files and made it either unexplained or hinted that it was supernatural or based off "psychic powers," I'd have been disappointed. I like The X-Files... but I think it should be left to Chris Carter.

It's not to say the B-plot with Heather driving wasn't funny. In fact, it was a riot; I wish we'd seen more of it. Heather was lapsing back into being a pain in this episode, yet looking back to when I had my permit, I didn't deal with the perils of my bad driving so well either. (Ask my poor mother, who had a perfectly justified habit of grabbing at the car door when she rode with me.) Her reaction to finding out that Roger was her instructor was similar to what I would have done in her place. I certainly didn't drive nearly as badly as she did, and Roger's reaction to the speed-demon driving and the damage to first Lisa's car, then his, was a riot. The character's funniest when he's scared out of his wits. I think Lisa's concerns - and her ultimate revenge - were justified.

I really did like this episode... I'm just tired of being deprived of Michael and Lisa.

Michael and Theo we got plenty of, which is what really saved "Disco Inferno." As creepy (and not-so-credible) as the teaser scene in the operating room was - with Theo casually referring to the device in Michael's head as "Radio Shack" - the outcome of the operation had hysterical results. Michael's delight in the over-sensitive hearing and how much he irritated Theo with it was fun to watch. After being deprived of radio, TV, and newspapers, I could see how he could have enjoyed the side effects so much. Can't imagine only hearing Braveheart with no picture, though. Close was in top form in terms of comedy this time out... along with the one-liners, there were a few little moments that had me cracking up. Namely, that longing look he got when they passed several restaurants by. The only problem I had was Michael's apparent insensitivity to the girl whose lover had been fried; it didn't seem in character. But that's a writing problem.

You may need to have a word with CBS about their press releases. For the third time in a row, they've messed up on episode summaries. First the nonexistent FBI agents in "I've Grown Accustomed..." then the date Heather supposedly had in "Fire and Ice," and now the bit about Michael's employment helping in the investigation. Well, actually, that one was bad wording: Michael's experience with selling insurance roused his curiosity and got him to talk Theo into continuing the investigation. It didn't help with the investigation, but it kept it going. Which brought up an interesting conflict between Theo and Michael - Theo's closed-mindedness versus Michael's curiosity, and Theo's confusion between scientific absolutes and the unexplained. Which, in turn, led to a lot of fun bickering and that trip to the mini-mart.

It did occur to me recently, also, that Michael's interest in the case might not have solely stemmed from his previous occupation. I think he had an ulterior motive: if Theo continued to pursue the investigation, that would prolong Michael's inevitable trip to the operating table.

As for villains, well, Christopher McCann was fine as Reverend Kelso. He wasn't all that memorable, of course, but of course we didn't see very much of the guy. The character came across just as he was intended - an arrogant, manipulative fake who didn't care at all about eliminating his congregation or those close to them. So Michael and Theo's little revenge was lots of fun to watch, especially when Michael threw him through the door. I just wish the bad guys could get a little more development; the whole setup came totally out of the blue.

A last suggestion. You know that agent who works for Theo? The one with the shaved head played by Timothy Devlin? I think this third appearance qualifies him for recurring character status. Give him a name or something for Theo to refer to him by.

You're probably waiting for me to get to the punchline here. First off, "Disco Inferno" did not live up to the quality of its predecessor. But that's not to say it was a letdown. The episode as a whole was lacking in cohesiveness, and the explanation seemed a little cheesy. But when it comes to the different parts of the episode, I really enjoyed "Disco Inferno." I laughed my head off at the whole enhanced hearing situation, chuckled at Heather's driving, enjoyed Kelso's last comeuppance. It didn't all fit together, true, but it was entertaining.

But it's been two whole months, and Michael and Lisa haven't even seen one another. I'm waiting for February sweeps. You still have ten more episodes this season to deliver.

In the meantime, I'm going back and watching the "Over Easy" kiss again.

Still an addicted fan,
Mandolin

Grade: C+

Notes of Interest:

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