Written by: Michael Angeli
Directed by: Sandy Smolan
Episode Number: 120
Original Broadcast Date: April 21, 2000
Guest Stars: Matt McGrath (Bing), Faith Prince (Janet), Timothy Devlin (Special Agent #1), Michael Gaston (Deputy Mayor), Allison Munn (Gretchen)

(Reviewer's Note: Most of this review was written before I saw the second part, so I kept that in mind while finishing up.)

In the interest of playing catch-up, and since I'm woefully behind on synopses and reviews (and since my stepdad's watching a movie and I can't use the VCR), this will be a shorter review than usual.

My reaction to this episode was somewhere along the lines of "ehhh..." That is, I wasn't greatly impressed with it, but I didn't really dislike it, either. It was technically all right, but it didn't pack the punch other episodes have. Let me go through a rundown of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good: I found the bugs effectively creepy. Having survived a bedbug infestation in my dorm, the fire ants crawling into Shipman's bed literally made my skin crawl. Also interesting that Bing used a variety of insects to off certain corporate giants rather than just resorting to the usual mosquito. The scorpion in the toilet was just plain funny. Matt McGrath played the character as a fruitcake, of course, but he was also sort of appealing; it's not too difficult to see why Heather was interested in him. I'm a sucker for butterflies myself.

Continuity is always good, and this episode picked up a thread that went through "A Girl's Life" and then "Lizzard's Tale" - namely, Heather dumping Craig for Nick. Well, that obviously didn't pan out, and Gretchen was as bitchy as I'd expected. Yeah, Heather was whiny, and her skipping school for three days was inexcusable, but her feeling that everything's ugly was fairly realistic. I felt a little sorry for her in the museum when she was being harassed. But I didn't agree with what she did, and it was nice to see Lisa being the mom for a change instead of being the flighty one. Pity or not, Heather deserved what she got.

Amusing bits included Michael's enjoyment of the morning paper (a change I found to be surprisingly lenient). Also, Roger waiting for the red car was pretty funny, especially if you caught the in-joke to Gerrit Graham's red-car-phobic character in "Used Cars." We may not have gotten to see it, but you know that car he saw was red by the look on his face. "Purple" - yeah, right.

The Bad: All right, N&A writers, please hear me out - Roger works best as a foil to the main characters. I'm going to touch on this further when I get to my "Boy Wonder" review, but it was also evident here. His cowardice can be hysterical ("On the Town") and sometimes sympathetic ("I've Grown Accustomed to His Face"), but it also verges on annoying. Someone has to tell him flat-out what a wuss he's being here. His "relationship" with Ruth so far has been at best a caricature since we've never seen Christine Baranski. Now that it's on the verge of breaking up, do we care? I didn't. We're supposed to believe that Ruth has been fairly domineering and runs Roger's life... but there's not a lot to go on, and he apparently doesn't make it difficult for her. Roger has been in coward mode for too long. He needs to get a backbone, even if it's temporary. We've seen a little bit of that in "Over Easy" and "I've Grown Accustomed to His Face," so it is possible.

Since I maintain an episode guide and a fairly detailed character guide, I remembered the whole Gretchen/Craig/Heather business. However, since we only got tiny bits of that in "A Girl's Life" and "Lizzard's Tale," a number of viewers probably didn't understand what that was all about. That's the fault of an entire story arc, though, not just this ep.

Theo is letting Michael read the paper now? Excuse me? While the "no reading" restriction was dumb, this is taking it to the other extreme. There also could have been a bit of smugness of Michael's part since he did notice the pattern before Theo did.

Of all the villains we've seen - Spence, Lomax, Isley, Lizzard - they managed to do a two-parter with Bing? Sorry, folks, but this guy didn't come off as very threatening, despite the icky swarms of bugs. And while I could tell why Heather might be intrigued by him after the unkind treatment of her "friends," why she would skip school for three days for this guy was beyond me. Maybe he'll improve by part two, but I'm not impressed so far. Bing didn't live up to the last nutcase they had as a villain - namely, Lomax.

There wasn't a lot of action until the ending, and the episode seemed to drag a bit. Yes, "There Are No Words" was fairly slow in places, but I could excuse the pacing there because it was really all a dream and the point was to get Theo to have a change of heart. Here, we had a villain. Here, we had an actual threat. Yet the episode plodded along, and there was no sense of urgency when they finally got around to deciding how to catch Bing. (And where was the "Bugmeister" reference? Did I miss it?)

While the cliffhanger was definitely a change from the slow pace of the ep, I'm fairly iffy on how it ended. Yeah, there was some definite suspense there, but I suppose it depends on how they continue it. We know Michael's going to survive, and if he gets out of it through reflexes (catching a ledge or something), okay, but I'm afraid they're just going to make him miraculously survive that fall. And he jumped off the side of the building, for crying out loud! That was just plain stupid.

The Ugly: Roger in the shower. Gaah! (My deepest apologies to Gerrit Graham for this. He sings better than I do, but that's not how I'd want to wake up in the morning.) Heather was getting on my nerves in this episode, but it was also understandable how Roger was getting on her nerves as well.

All in all, a fairly mediocre episode. Part two might be better, but part one hasn't enticed me as much as this show usually does.

Grade: C-

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