Title: The Bumpy Road to Love
Written by: Martin Sage and Sybil Adelman
Directed by: Nick Marck
Aired: September 23, 1991
Logline: Maggie discovers the late Rick was unfaithful and proceeds to distrust all men; Maurice’s tax indiscretion could destroy his relationship with Officer Semanski; while Joel is toted off to the woods to play marriage counselor to wildman-chef extraordinaire Adam and his hypochrondriacal wife, Eve.
Listen to the podcast of the episode here.
Season Two concluded with the sudden death of Rick (by satellite), and we begin Season Three with the unveiling of a memorial statue of the departed Rick, commissioned by Maggie. Everyone is gathered there and from the crowd emerges a young blond woman, who we later learn is Rick’s other girlfriend. Rick has two girlfriends (at least, anyway), and the Rick Maggie knew seems to be a much different person from the Rick that Joanne knew (apparently he had a passion for Inuit skin sewing).
Throughout “The Bumpy Road to Love,” we see scenes that parallel each other, moments that echo other moments. A very drunk Maggie is taken care of by Ruth-Anne, and here Ruth-Anne is both motherly and becomes almost an older version of Maggie (or Maggie becomes an earlier version of Ruth-Anne). Even their clothing is synched, both wearing red shirts.
With the ghost of Rick between them, Maggie and Joanne seem complete opposite: blond and brunette, soft and hard, open and defensive, Opium and Caleche. However, visually they are linked: both are wearing red shirts and green cardigans (Joanne’s is greenish blue, at least).
Characters echo each other; Shelly, as Maurice’s former flame, is extremely different from Barbara (both physically and emotionally), but both have blond hair and blue eyes, and are curiously seated opposite each other at Maurice’s dinner party (mirror images of each other?).
Of course there is also the amusing visual joke in which we see the golden statue of Rick in the first scene, then later in a dream sequence we see Rick in heaven, wearing an outfit that is head-to-toe yellow.
Scenes are also paralleled in the episode. There are two scenes of target practice: one featuring guns with Maurice and Barbara, and the other with bows and arrows with Chris and Maurice. We see near identical shots of targets in both scenes.
More than most, episode 3.1 seems to recall scenes from past Northern Exposure episodes. Bringing back the memory of past scenes reinforces the idea of parallelism in the episode, because we replay the earlier scene in our memory while the present scene is taking place.
The return of Adam leads us back to 1.8 Aurora Borealis, where Joel is also taken to Adam’s home. Like in 1.8, Joel makes the long night drive through the backroads of Cicely. We learn that Adam’s wife is named Eve, and this moment recalls the Adam and Eve dream sequence at the beginning of 2.5 Spring Break.
Joel finds himself as a couples therapist with Adam and Eve, which recalls the pilot episode of the series, when he becomes the mediator between meek Walter and aggressive Edna.
A scene where Joel is framed by Adam and Eve even echoes the scene when Shelly is similarly framed by Anita and Holling in 2.7 Slow Dance.
Even Rick’s statue is surprisingly reminiscent of Joel’s dream sequence in 1.5 Russian Flu, in which Maggie is portrayed as an Amelia Earhart-type figure (note the scarf blown back by the wind in both instances).
A couple of the most obvious links to previous episodes involve Maurice. He rushes into the radio station, and declares to Chris that he’s in love, just like Ed did in 2.6 War and Peace. Both Maurice and Ed appear vulnerable and even new to love. They also both ask Chris if he can perform their nuptials, though neither of them have proposed yet.
Just a few seconds later Maurice compares being in love with being in space, which makes us immediately remember one of the final scenes in 1.1, where Maurice, still hurt by Shelly leaving him, asks Holling if being in love feels like being without gravity in outer space. This juxtaposition is very touching because we remember Maurice’s profound loneliness at the pilot episode, and we can contrast this with his absolute giddiness at fining his “soul mate.”
We have noted before that there doesn’t seem to be huge plot arcs in Northern Exposure, but despite this, we are certainly rewarded for watching closely. Scenes return to previous scenes, moments build on previous moments; as we watch the series, we watch with the memories of what has come before in our minds and hearts.
Themes / Recurrences: Love; men and women; the truth; targets.
The Good: It’s wonderful to finally see Ruth-Anne emerge as a fully-formed character. Her discussion with Maggie about her affair with an English pilot was likely our favourite scene in the entire episode. We love Peg Phillips’ performance as Ruth-Anne and look forward to seeing more of her this season.
The Bad: The sourced music used throughout is perfectly chosen, including past-episode callback “Bon Soir Dame” by Bud and Travis to early country song “Don’t Let That Man Get You Down” by Texas Ruby, a number that was unfamiliar to us but fit perfectly with Maggie’s men-are-swine speech. That said, one of us had problems with David Schwartz’s music in the scene where Joel leaves Adam and Eve’s cabin. It just didn’t fit the mood.
The Notable: There is an abundance of food mentioned and shown throughout, from Ed’s tasty-looking fries to the feast of fruit in heaven. We see each couple sitting down to at least one meal together — or planning a meal, in the case of Maggie and Joel.
Links: Here is a link to the complete song “On the Bumpy Road to Love” as it appears in the 1938 Judy Garland musical Listen, Darling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASspWUlJnI8. It’s a pretty infectious song.
On’s Rating: 9 out of 10
Shane’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10