Episode: 4.23

Title: Mud and Blood

Written by: Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

Directed by: Jim Charleston

Aired: May 11, 1993

Log line: At the coming of spring, Maggie and Holling find affirmation of life in Shelly’s pregnancy.

Listen to the podcast discussion of the episode here.


In our podcast discussion of “Mud and Blood” (4.23), we focused on the themes of rebirth and death. An element of the episode that we only touched on briefly is gender. It appears in each of the storylines in different ways. In Shelly and Holling’s planting/nesting arc, we see it first appearing by the way they each perceive objects in the Brick. Shelly notices that everything around her is suddenly dirty, while Holling wants to get his hands in the dirt and get back to the earth. She even mentions him going to “play in mud,” which is a stereotypically male, boys-will-be-boys-and-roll-around-in-muck kinda thing to do.

4-23-shelly-softener4-23-shelly-holling-play-mudWe then see Holling in the throes of backbreaking physical labour while farming, a veritable portrait of masculinity. He prefers to do the plowing manually. When he hurts himself, he asks Joel to give him a shot, like they do with football players. And, really, is there a more masculine sport than football?

4-23-holling-masculinity1 4-23-holling-masculinity2 4-23-holling-masculinity3 4-23-holling-masculinity4 4-23-holling-masculinity5 4-23-holling-masculinity6 4-23-holling-masculinity7 4-23-holling-masculinity8

By contrast, Shelly begins preparing her nest, kind of like a dog she had as a child, which makes sense to her when she discovers that she’s pregnant.

4-23-shelly-nesting1 4-23-shelly-nesting2 4-23-shelly-nesting3

Even Chris’ explanation for why he admires mosquitos (er, make that “skeeters”) is that the females are the dominant sexual partner, playing the more aggressive, stereotypically male role. The female mosquito is “always,” as he says, “on top.”

4-23-skeeters1 4-23-skeeters2 4-23-skeeters3 4-23-skeeters4 4-23-skeeters5

By contrast, Wilbur the Pig seems to have some ambiguity to its gender. At first, Wilbur seems to be introduced as male. He’s “handsome” and is the “king of the forest.” (That said, it’s worth recalling that when the Cowardly Lion sings “If I Were King of the Forest” in The Wizard of Oz, he is not a portrait of masculinity with a red bow in his hair and other signs of femininity.)

4-23-wilbur1-m 4-23-wilbur2-m

When we next see Wilbur, the pig is referred to as female by both Chris and Maurice.

4-23-wilbur3-f 4-23-wilbur4-f 4-23-wilbur5-f 4-23-wilbur6-fThen, Wilbur reverts to being male for the rest of the episode, at least in the eyes of Chris, Maurice, and Maggie. Perhaps they made a discovery between these scenes? Regardless, this is an appropriate episode for a pig to have a gender crisis, even if it’s the humans who seem to be at the root of the confusion.

4-23-wilbur7-m 4-23-wilbur8-m 4-23-wilbur9-m 4-23-wilbur10-m 4-23-wilbur11-m 4-23-wilbur12-m 4-23-wilbur13-m

Maggie is at the centre of one of the most interesting gender-related arcs, especially as seen in her dream sequence. Marilyn sends Maggie an electric razor (via Ed), which she repairs. In her dream, Maggie becomes Our Lady (possibly derived from the Lady Schick brand?). The majority of the healing we see her accomplish involve domestic appliances (a toaster and a blender), which are generally associated with women (somewhat like Marilyn’s gender-specific razor). The most detailed healing she does involves a misdiagnosis of “demonic possession” that is really a matter of “poor self-image” that can be “cured” with a makeover. Talk about gender stereotypes. Even Maggie’s look resembles the Pre-Raphaelite image of innocent beauty.


Perhaps the female stereotype exhibited in her dream (and her subconscious) is one reason she responds so strongly to Joel later and calls him out on his “classic machismo” that wants to keep a woman “hobbled” and “locked in a double bind.”


However, we soon see her visiting Joel’s cabin to install better screens on his windows and to, uh, scratch his back while he soaks in a tub. It’s a peculiar scene after all that has come before it and we’re not sure what to make of her reverting to the (literal) backscratching role here.

4-23-joel-bathtub 4-23-joel-maggie-bath

Songs from the episode’s original airing:

  • Bob Wills – “If No News is Good News
    [Replaced in DVD version]
    At The Brick, Shelly delivers a garlicky plate to Chris.
  • The Mills Brothers – Glow Worm”
    [Replaced in DVD version]
    At The Brick, Maggie gives Walt advice about real estate.

4-23-ruth-anne-keg-uncorkingThemes / Recurrences: Rebirth; Death

The Good: We loved the inclusion of the classic children’s book, Charlotte’s Web in this episode. Anytime Chris reads out loud is always a good thing, in our books. We also enjoy Northern Exposure dream sequences, and this one of Maggie being the Lady of Mercy is a cute one.

The Bad: We did not particularly enjoy the Holling storyline, with the over-the-top dialogue about “broadcasting some seed.”

The Notable: It appears that this may be the first time we see Ed drinking (or at least holding on) to some alcohol at the Mosquito Festival.

On’s rating: 8.0 out of 10.

Shane’s rating: 8.0 out of 10.



3 thoughts on “4.23 Mud and Blood

  1. Hi there, just making my way through all the podcasts (great work guys!) so maybe you already found this a while ago, but the classical music in Maggie’s dream is Strauss “Annen-Polka”…

    • Hi KL, thanks for the intel on the music! It’s super helpful because we are not very good about recognizing classical music. We’ll add that to our list – and let us know if you recognize any thing else!

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