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Episode: 4.16

Title: Ill Wind

Written by: Jeff Melvoin

Directed by: Rob Thompson

Aired: February 15, 1993

Log line: Drastic tension between Maggie and Joel; Maurice is unhappy when Chris saves his life; Ed is intrigued by death.

Listen to the podcast discussion of the episode here.

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Episode 4.16 “Ill Wind” is all about forces we can’t control, such as forces of nature like the Coho wind, or death. Prompted by Maurice’s near-death on the roof, Ed comes to a realization about death, saying,  “Being on that roof really got me thinking about death being all around us and how you’ll never know when your number’s gonna be up.” Throughout the episode we see a nature that’s wild and powerful; we see the town covered with snow, and winds blowing fiercely enough to nearly topple an astronaut.

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Among these large forces, we see characters try to contain the chaos of their world. This approach is exemplified through the idea of contracts and regulation, which we have a surprising number of mention of in this episode.

During the installation of the radio tower on the Brick’s roof, Maurice reveals that he’s done waiting for the FCC’s permission and is going “outlaw.” This is interesting because later on we’ll see Maurice trying to adhere to rules and law.

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When Marilyn doesn’t show up for work because of the “ill wind,” Joel reminds her about her employment contract, to which Marilyn of course replies, “I don’t have a contract.”

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Joel’s way of gaining control of the situation after Maggie punches him in the face is pursuing litigation.

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Maggie posts “a little legal thingy” of her own by nailing an eviction notice on Joel’s cabin door. Of course, Joel refers her to the lease that he signed.

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After nearly losing his life on the roof, Maurice is no longer on the side of the outlaw. Instead he tries to exert control through making business deals.

He tries to make a deal with Chris to even the score after he saved Maurice’s life:4-16-maurice-settlement

Maurice even tries to reach a deal on a sheep with Enrique, the shepherd.

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In the ultimate gesture of control, Maurice even tries to find the monetary value of life.

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Of course, all these attempts to reign in the uncontrollable forces of life and death are unsuccessful. Maggie and Joel succumb to their animal natures (and even places blame on the wind for their consummation). Maurice continues on with experiments at control, and eventually deludes himself into thinking that Chris did not save his life because there was a chance that he would have come out of the fall alive.

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Interestingly enough, Ed is the one character in our main story lines who embraces the force that is death. He even goes out into the snow and confronts death in his own way. Paradoxically, it is through following the train tracks of death that he and Shelly feel most alive.

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Songs from the episode’s original airing:

  • Carlene Carter – The Sweetest Thing
    Opening scene. Maggie and Joel argue and she punches him in the face.
    [replaced in DVD version]
  • BeauSoleil – “It’s You I Love”
    Ed discusses poisons with Dave; Maggie and Joel argue over her evicting him.  
    [replaced in DVD version]
  • Alison Krauss –That Makes One of Us
    Joel and Maggie announce to everyone in the Brick that they had sex.
    [replaced in DVD version]
  • Vinx –There I Go Again
    Final scene. Maggie and Joel walk in the streets of Cicely.
    [replaced in DVD version]

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Themes / Recurrences: Death; nature; fate.

The Good: This episode was full of wonderful moments and quotable lines (“You broke my broken nose!”). We especially liked the scene on the train tracks between Ed and Shelly and the exchange where Maurice tries to buy back control of his life from Chris, with no luck. We were also impressed with how the writers seemed to draw inspiration from Joan Didion’s essay “Los Angeles Notebook”, which Chris quotes from on air, as well as reading aloud to Ed the Chandler section that Didion quotes near the start of her essay. It’s often amazing how other sources can be intelligently folded into the show.

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The Bad: One of us thought that Ed’s death obsession could have been subtler. Also, the series has been slowly wending its way to the roll in the hay and we’re sorry to say that we found this scene to be anticlimactic. (No pun intended. Really.)

The Notable: Like The Bumpy Road to Love, the title of this episode suggests a song from an earlier time period. In this case, the song is “Ill Wind” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler.

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On’s rating: 8.5 out of 10.

Shane’s rating: 8 out of 10.

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