Episode: 4.17

Title: Love’s Labour Mislaid

Written by: Jeff Melvoin

Directed by: Joe Napolitano

Aired: February 22, 1993

Log line: Maggie forgets having sex with Joel; Ed faces an arranged marriage; a rare bird is seen.

Listen to the podcast discussion of the episode here.


In “Love’s Labour Mislaid,” there is a contrast between the need to be understood by speaking and the need to understand by looking and listening. The need to sort things out through conversations is mainly seen in the Joel and Maggie (and Mike) storyline, as well as the one involving Ed and Debbie (and Craig). In the scenes between Holling and Ruth-Anne, we see more attention paid to, well, paying attention to what is seen and heard.

There are quite a few times when we hear some variation on the phrase “we need to talk.” In most situations here, it means essentially “I need to talk and you need to listen.” This is the case when Joel says it to Maggie. He needs her to understand and acknowledge that they had sex. That’s what “we need to talk” means to him in this specific situation: You need to say to me (and everyone else), “Yes, we had sex.” And he’d probably prefer that she add, “And it was great.”

4-17-talk-joel-maggie1When Maggie says to Mike that they need to talk, she corrects herself and acknowledges that she’s the one who needs to talk.

4-17-talk-maggie-mikeLater, she says to Mike and Joel that they need to talk, which is another example of her needing to talk to them, rather than the three of them having a chat.

4-17-talk-maggie-mike-joelUnlike Maggie and Joel’s use of the phrase, Debbie’s suggestion that her, Ed, and Craig need to talk is an acknowledgement that the three of them need to discuss their complicated situation.

4-17-talk-debbie-craig-edLater, Uncle Anku will say to Ed that he was simply making a suggestion when he mentioned that Ed should marry Debbie. It was just talk.


Joel is also seen coaching Ed on how to converse with Debbie when they first meet.

4-17-talk-joel-ed1 4-17-talk-joel-ed2By contrast, the conversation around the campfire between Holling and Ruth-Anne almost entirely revolves around what they are experiencing bodily. They discuss their physical pain and each offers to share the medication they brought with them (Advil for Ruth-Anne’s bursitis and Bengay for Holling’s sciatica). Holling comments on how good a sardine sandwich tastes in the outdoors and Ruth-Anne responds that bourbon tastes better out of a tin cup. In the wilderness, their senses are heightened, which we also noticed when Maurice and Holling were out in nature in the “The Three Amigos.” They savour a couple of cigars and Holling points out the bright Northern Cross constellation in the night sky. They are appreciating and apprehending the world through their senses. And they are enjoying their time together, embodying Joel’s advice to Ed that “it doesn’t matter” what you talk about; it’s simply a matter of connecting with another human being.

4-17-holling-ruth-anne2 4-17-ruth-anne1 4-17-lookie2The importance of the senses in this storyline first becomes apparent when Walt tells Holling that he glimpsed a grey-headed chickadee (aka the Siberian Tit). One of its defining characteristics is its birdsong, which Holling quizzes Walt about.

4-17-listen-walt1 4-17-listen-walt2 4-17-listen-walt3 4-17-listen-walt4 4-17-listen-walt5

When Holling and Ruth-Anne begin to approach the grey-headed chickadees, it is their song that Holling emphasizes to her. They listen attentively and both can hear it.

4-17-listen-birdsong 4-17-listen-hear1 4-17-listen-hear2 4-17-listen-hear3

They decide on their plan for approaching the birds. (It’s worth mentioning parenthetically that this discussion is steeped in the language of hunting and violence — “lock and load”; “get the first shot” — which appears throughout in the episode in discussions related to taking photos of the birds.) Once they begin tracking the birds, all conversation stops. All we hear is birdsong and wonderful Schwartz-ian incidental music. This lasts for 90 seconds, which is a fairly leisurely stretch of time on a television series. We watch Ruth-Anne and Holling looking and listening. Ruth-Anne looks particularly intently (through both her binoculars and her camera) and Holling listens so concentratedly that he seems to use his hat to funnel sound waves.

4-17-holling-ruth-anne1 4-17-holling-ruth-anne4 4-17-holling1 4-17-holling4 4-17-holling34-17-ruth-anne-binoculars 4-17-ruth-anne-cameraWhen we see them later in the Brick, they are recounting their adventures in birding. It’s seldom that we know we are making memories when they happen. This isn’t the case for the trip Holling and Ruth-Anne took into the woods to find the grey-headed chickadee. They both knew that if they located this species that the moment of spotting it (and photographing it) would become something they would look back on and would become part of the larger narrative of their birding life lists (and, by extension, the narrative of their lives). We even see Holling echo what he said when he noticed the Northern Cross constellation: “Lookie there,” which is a sense-based, self-explanatory and direct phrase, a directness that is in stark contrast with another of the episode’s common phrases, “We need to talk.”


Songs from the episode’s original airing:

  • Carl Smith – Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way
    Joel tells Ruth-Anne that he can’t believe Maggie can’t remember having sex with him.
    [replaced in DVD version]
  • The Mills Brothers – You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You
    Chris and Shelly learn that Ed is getting married.
    [replaced in DVD version]
  • Vangelis –One More Kiss, Dear” [from the Blade Runner soundtrack]
    Maggie drinks in the Brick. Shelly tells her ‘the bod has a mind of its own.’
    [replaced in DVD version]


Themes / Recurrences: Men and women; love; friendship.

The Good: We really enjoyed seeing Uncle Anku again. (Unfortunately, this will be Frank Salsedo’s last appearance on the series. He must be one of the few characters on the show to appear topless in every episode he appears in.) Both of us thought the scenes between Holling and Ruth-Anne were fantastic. There is a wonderful stillness to their scenes in nature, and the 90 wordless seconds of them tracking the grey-headed chickadee may be our favourite part of the episode.

4-17-holling-ruth-anne5The Bad: We felt that there were a couple of contrived elements to the episode: Maggie forgetting about sex with Joel, and Ed needing to marry. These aspects to the story seemed to come out of the blue, although it has to be said that both story lines were highly amusing.

The Notable: This episode marks the first appearance of Walt, who we will get to know much more in later episodes. We loved that he came into the scene pretty much fully formed and we already get a sense of what kind of character he is from the get go.

On’s rating: 8 out of 10.

Shane’s rating: 8.5 out of 10.




One thought on “4.17 Love’s Labour Mislaid

  1. I also like with Walt that, unlike so many other shows, he got to be his own character and it was not immediately obvious what direction they would take with him by plopping him in Ruth Anne’s lap in his first appearance.

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