Episode: 3.9

Title: Get Real

Written by:  Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

Directed by: Michael Katleman

Aired:  December 9, 1991

Log Line: Magic is in the air when the circus comes to Cicely. Marilyn becomes romantically involved with The Flying Man, while Holling fears his passion for Shelly may be waning when he realizes her feet are big.

Listen to the podcast of the episode here.

The Suggestion of Flight

Bill Irwin’s breakout work was called The Regard of Flight. (You can see a filmed performance of this piece on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AVifTdjtvE. Highly recommended.) While we never actually see the Flying Man (played beautifully by Bill Irwin) fly in this episode, there are references and images related to flight threaded throughout this episode, many of them cleverly obscured or barely visible. The images below highlight some of the references to birds and flight.


The troupe arrives in a Blue Bird school bus.


Shelly says her Mom’s toes look like bird claws. Behind her and Holling, you can glimpse a sign for Blue Heron Pale Ale.


Joel likens his situation in Alaska to Burt Lancaster’s character in Birdman of Alcatraz.


Besides having no flies on him, Chris also has a dart in his hand, which has feathers and flies through the air.


At his picnic with Marilyn, the Flying Man feeds these birds. We can’t tell if they’re grouse or quail.


The Flying Man (aka Enrico Bellati; aka Bob Wilson) is from Phoenix, a city that shares its name with a mythical bird that rises from its own ashes.


For some reason, Holling used to see flowers, swans, and children playing when he looked at Shelly’s feet.


In “Russian Flu” (1.5), we saw Maggie portrayed in the dream sequence as Amelia Earhart. Here, we see her pointing Shelly to the missing aviator as a possible role model.


Shelly drinks from Maggie’s seagull mug.


Chris also has a mug with a bird on it. We can’t tell what kind, but it looks large.


Holling’s robe is covered in birds. (It’s actually quite similar to the shirt Maggie was wearing near the start of “A-Hunting We Will Go” (3.8).)


We can’t read the note behind Maggie here, but we can clearly make out the second word: ‘flight.’

Framing Marilyn and the Flying Man

When the Flying Man tries to court Marilyn while walking down the street with her, the scene is shot as a long tracking shot with no edits. Its tone fits the silence of the Flying Man and the quietness of Marilyn. It is also a long shot, filmed from across the street. We are watching them from a distance, not intruding on this moment between them, somewhat like watching two rare birds interact, trying not to disturb them. The scene also has a symmetry. It opens with Marilyn walking by herself, shows them meeting (with a white vertical line between them), shows them walking down the street until a telephone pole comes between them, and ends with the Flying Man standing by himself. The camera stays on the other side of the street the entire time.

3-9-long-shot-marilyn-solo 3-9-long-shot-meeting 3-9-long-shot-telephone-post 3-9-long-shot-bob-solo

When Marilyn and the Flying Man are shown at the picnic, the camera initially seems to be sneaking around behind trees while shooting them, again trying not to disturb the couple. Eventually, the camera moves in closer and closer on them, allowing us to glimpse the relationship that’s clearly developing between them.

3-9-picnic2 3-9-picnic3 3-9-picnic-marilyn-and-bob 3-9-picnic-bob 3-9-picnic-marilyn The goodbye scene between Marilyn and the Flying Man is an unedited long take, like the courtship scene that was shot from across the street earlier. As with the picnic, the shot opens with brightly coloured leaves obscuring part of the frame. We are watching them from a distance. Slowly, the camera moves in on them, eventually ending with them holding hands. Sadness fills the screen.

3-9-goodbye-leaves1 3-9-goodbye-leaves3 3-9-marilyn-flying-man-hand-out 3-9-marilyn-flying-man-hold-hands


Themes / Recurrences: Language; physics/magic; relationships; flight.

The Good: The relationship between Marilyn and the Flying Man is told with great use of silence, visuals, music, and acting. Both Bill Irwin and Elaine Miles shine in this episode.

The Bad: The episode felt overly crammed with story lines. We would have been happy to see more of the Flying Man and Cirque du Soleil.

The Notable: Armenia Miles, previously seen portraying Mrs. Anku in episode 1.2, returns to Northern Exposure as the fictional mother of Marilyn, played by her real-life daughter, Elaine Miles.

On’s Rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Shane’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10.




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