Title: “Dreams, Schemes and Putting Greens”
Written by: Sean Clark
Directed by: Dan Lerner
Date Aired: August 2, 1990
Plot Summary: Holling and Shelly decide to get married, while Maurice and Joel try to seal a business deal.
Listen to the podcast of the episode here.
Last week, death visited the town of Cicely and we discovered the residents’ curious perspective on suicide. This week, in episode 1.4, “Dreams, Schemes and Putting Greens,” we find out about their attitudes towards marriage. The main marriage we refer to is, of course, between Holling and Shelly. There is another potential marriage in the offing though, the one between Cicely and Japanese investors.
It is fitting that an episode about unions (romantic, legal, contractual) echoes itself in its structure. We experience all kinds of doublings and re-dos of various scenes. Here are several scenes that rebound and pair off:
- Joel examines his wilderness golf course in the opening scene of the episode; later, he examines another golf course of his own making, this time made of AstroTurf.
- Shelly visits Joel in the doctor’s office and finds out she’s pregnant; this scene is later echoed when Holling visits Joel to fix his cut forehead.
- We have two scenes of Holling walking into the Brick while Shelly is upset: the first when he returns after initially learning about the pregnancy, and the other when Holling returns from standing her up at the wedding. Both scenes feature broken glass – caused by Holling (in shock), and Shelly (in anger).
- Two weddings that never happen: in the first, Holling fails to show up, and at the second, he can’t go through with it.
- Joel plays golf with the businessmen in two scenes. One game is in the pouring rain, and the other is not (but Joel loses anyways).
- There are two scenes of Maggie telling Joel about the wedding. In the first, she informs him that he is the best man while they bicker, and in the second she informs him that the wedding is back on. This time though, they decide to call a truce and find out they can’t think of much to say if they’re not fighting.
- Maurice, Joel, Mr. Chiba, and Mr. Masuto “bond” over drinks at Maurice’s home; near the end of the episode, we see the two businessmen at Maurice’s again, but this time we only get a glimpse of them as Shelly interrupts the scene. Later on, of course, the businessmen turn the tables on Maurice, revealing that they’ve been playing a ruse all along. It turns out that while Joel and Maurice were putting on an act for the Japanese investors, Mr. Chiba and Mr. Masuto are playing roles themselves for the benefit of their Alaskan hosts.
What to make of all this doubling? Well, in the story we have people trying to get together, but they fail to do so. We see this play out in the union between Maurice and the businessmen, the relationship between Shelly and Maurice (who sincerely thought she would come back to him), the failed wedding between Holling and Shelly, and even to a lesser extent between Joel and Elaine, when he gets her answering machine when he calls her back at the end of the episode.
It would be unfair to view Shelly and Holling’s unfinished wedding as a failure; instead of having Holling’s refusal to marry causing a rift, it reveals a deep understanding and love between them that overcomes the conventional route of marriage (when Maurice calls himself a better man than Holling, Shelly replies, “He’s better for me”). It’s typical of the residents of Cicely to accept this non-event, as well; as Ruth-Anne declares, “That was the most beautiful non-ceremony I ever saw.” Of course, we get other views of marriage in the episode, including, from Shelly’s father, Gorman Tambo, who declares that he’s been married four times and is a “four-time loser,” while Chris, minister of the wedding ceremony, brings up admirable people who never took the plunge (the Dalai Lama, the Pope, Mother Teresa), while contrasting this group with entertainers (Liz Taylor, Mickey Rooney), who were married multiple times.
Perhaps the most curious case of doubling/echoing is in the final scenes of the episode, when Joel leaves his office late at night only to find himself face to face with a moose (presumably the same moose as in the opening credits). It is as if Joel is being confronted with Cicely, Alaska (and really, the show), or it could be that Joel finds an affinity with the moose, as both of them find themselves in a town where they don’t belong and are the odd ones out. Either way, neither the moose nor Joel seem to want to spend much time lingering. Instead, they slowly continue on their way – in opposite directions, of course.
The Good – We see Shelly coming into her own as a character. She is refreshingly open-minded and appears to have her own distinctive voice. (Two examples: “How do you tell your old man that your pee turned blue?” and “You can’t walk around carrying a blowtorch for me when I’m walking around carrying Holling Jr.”)
The Bad – It’s unclear why the Japanese businessmen were playing along with the idea of the resort, what their intentions really were, and whether or not they were yakuza. Though they are the catalyst for much of the action, we don’t get a good sense of who they were or hear much from them, aside from the brief remark in perfect English as they leave Maurice’s house.
The Notable – The use of music related in one way or another to cultural appropriation: the Mikado (a 19th century British musical by Gilbert and Sullivan, which is set in Japan and features characters with names like Nanki-Poo, Pooh-Bah, Pish-Tush, Yum-Yum, and Peep-Bo; the play’s full title is the Mikado; or, the Town of Titipu), the King and I (a 1950s Broadway musical by Rogers and Hammerstein, which is set in 19th century Siam – now Thailand – about a governess who is invited by the King of Siam to tutor his children), and ‘Ue O Muite Aruko’ (‘I Look Up When I Walk’) by Kyu Sakamoto, which was renamed ‘Sukiyaki’ by president of U.K. label Pye Records Ltd., Louis Benjamin, after his favourite Japanese cuisine, a title that he clearly thought would be more palatable to western audiences. (On the podcast, we mentioned Mike Leigh’s 1999 film Topsy-Turvy about Gilbert and Sullivan composing and rehearsing the Mikado. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a gander, though it’s nearly three hours long and isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Needless to say, it is definitely our cup of tea.)
On’s ratings: 7.5 out of 10
Shane’s ratings: 7.5 out of 10