Title: Jules et Joel
Written by: Stuart Stevens
Directed by: Jim Hayman
Aired: October 28, 1991
Log Line: Joel’s twin brother Jules, a charming but conniving rogue, creates a stir when he arrives in quiet Cicely to visit his sibling.
Listen to the podcast episode here.
The episode “Jules et Joel” is a strange one. It is dream-like and realistic at the same time. There are fantastical elements like Joel’s twin brother Jules appearing out of nowhere, or the appearance of Freud in a jail cell. We’ve had enough Northern Exposure dream sequences to get the feel of them, how they are visually over-the-top and fantastical, but this episode doesn’t have that same sense of oddness or surreality. That’s what makes it such a great episode. If we realized right away that the whole episode was a dream sequence, perhaps we wouldn’t be so invested in the story (“Oh, it’s just a dream,” we’d tell ourselves). On the contrary, there is a sense of realness in the episode; characters like Maggie and Chris act entirely like themselves. Everything is true to life except for the appearance of a few characters (Jules, Frank, and Freud). This line between dream and reality is pretty masterful, if you ask us.
What’s even more interesting is to look back upon the episode and compare the reality to the dream, and see things that appear in the 3 minute prologue weave themselves into the rest of the episode. Let’s examine this, shall we?
Before Joel knocks his head on the wooden beam of his cabin, he struggles with a very hot TV dinner and some wine. Now, to our eyes, it appears that Joel is eating a microwave turkey dinner (he is definitely putting a heaping fork of stuffing in his mouth). In the dream, he refuses to give Maggie a syringe for his turkey, and later enjoys a Thanksgiving rehearsal dinner with Maggie and a bottle of wine. It’s also worth noting that Jules shared an expensive bottle of red wine with Maggie, so wine appears twice in the dream (just like the turkey).
As Joel begins to eat, Chris introduces a song on KBHR, saying, “Here’s a little something for all you ghouls and goblins out there.” The song is “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo” by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, a loping banjo-driven instrumental. It will become the soundtrack to the scenes involving Jules (and later Joel) throughout the dream. And it’s a very fitting soundtrack, we might add. C’est manifique.
A strange and gruff adult trick-or-treater named Frank Watson appears at Joel’s door, demanding candy (notice the use of the word “boom” here). Joel, not willing to spare anything (not even a banana!) but one thin dime, gets attacked by Frank and a can of silly string. Of course, the character of Frank is turned into a dangerous mad bomber who threatens to blow up Chris and Cicely along with it. It is interesting how the red of Frank’s devil costume completely envelopes Chris when he is speaking to Frank on the phone in the latter scene. Joel also dreams about a darker side of himself that’s embodied by Jules, which may have been suggested by Frank’s devil costume. (We can’t help picturing Jules as a tiny devilish figure on Joel’s shoulder, goading him to give into his base instincts.)
Joel’s head trauma is also incorporated into his dream; Frank threatens, “If I see anyone else, anyone, it’s the big bang, and it’ll be on your head, understand?” When Joel finally wakes up, we see him with a sore noggin.
Then there are the little touches that appear in the prologue and get put into the dream. Chris describes Barbara as being “squired” somewhere with Maurice. It’s amusing that this tidbit is transformed into Maurice taking Barbara to the musical Camelot, which is full of knights, squires, and kings.
Barbara is characterized as an “Inspector Javert” in real life, and she does get her man when she arrests Joel (as Jules).
There are even echoes to previous images from other episodes, like how the woman from Manitoba that Jules brings to Cicely in a cab has more than a passing resemblance to Shelly, when she was first driven up to town by Maurice. Even the hair and dress are similar. Plus, Manitoba is the province next to Saskatchewan, where Shelly is from.
There’s No Place Like Cicely
Of course, we cannot write about dreams in this episode without mentioning the very obvious shout-out to The Wizard of Oz in its final minutes, complete with an instrumental rendition of “Over the Rainbow” in the background (note: this song is replaced in the DVD release). The way the scene is framed and the dialogue truly echo the last few minutes of the 1939 movie.
Take a look at these:
We can try to extend the comparison further but we’d probably be stretching it. Although, Freud does make a good Wizard, and Chris a good Cowardly Lion in this episode ….
Themes / Recurrences: Embracing your dark side / id / shadow; dreams
The Good: Rob Morrow’s performance is astonishing. Every aspect of Jules is the opposite of Joel: his voice, his mannerisms, his posture, his expressions. And the scenes where he acts against himself still surprise us (over twenty years later!) with how well they were shot and acted. It’s a delight to see parts of Jules poking through his ‘performance’ as Joel when they swap personas, and vice versa.
The Bad: We wish the actor John Procaccino had appeared in Joel’s dream, rather than during the Wizard of Oz moment. His role in 1.8, “Aurora Borealis,” was too prominent for us to forget him. (We really loved his performance in that scene.) If he had appeared in the dream, it could simply be an instance of Ranger Burns bubbling up from Joel’s subconscious and morphing into a different person in his dream. (On a side note, didn’t we have a different character named Jerry in last week’s episode?)
The Notable: Freud is played by Lou Hetler, who previously played Freud’s friend/mentor/rival Jung in 1.8, “Aurora Borealis.” Interestingly, both Freud and Jung appear in dreams of the characters who seem most likely to gravitate towards their differing theories: Freud’s repression and individual unconscious for Joel, and Jung’s archetypes and collective unconscious for Chris. (Chris and Bernard even had a collective dream … that featured Jung, no less.)
The Linkable: We played a brief audio excerpt of Rob Morrow discussing the intricacies of filming the Jules and Joel scenes. The original interview appears on Darren Burrows’ Return to Cicely DVD.
On’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Shane’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10