Episode: 5.5

Title: A River Doesn’t Run Through It

Written by: Jeff Melvoin

Directed by: Nick Marck

Aired: October 25, 1993

Log line: Maggie is Homecoming Queen; Maurice reluctantly admits a business defeat; Ruth-Anne is audited.

Listen to the podcast discussion of the episode here.


Sometimes, we say something but people don’t seem to understand what we say; or we mistake what someone says for another thing altogether. Telephones play a prominent role in “A River Doesn’t Run Through It.” The telephone is a technology which is supposed to make communication easier between people, but the telephone in this episode also also symbolizes a lack of connection and communication.

The episode 5.5  is curiously filled with scenes of people talking on the telephone: Lester speaks to his son and business associates; Maggie talks to Joel; Amy to her husband. There are multiple scenes where we see people on the phone.

5-5-amy02 5-5-lester02 5-5-maggie-02

It is fitting then, that this episode seems to be all about communication and crossed wires. Maurice’s visit to Lester is constantly being interrupted by either the ringing of the phone, or by the attentions of the assistant Anacleto; we later see a fundamental lack of communication here as Maurice gets confused about who gets the better of whom on the salmon property deal with Lester.


Similarly, Maggie misreads the attentions of Kevin, the high school fly fishing champion, reading his concern over her well-being as having a crush on her.

5-5-maggie-kevin04 5-5-maggie-kevin05

On the other hand, Ruth-Anne witnesses an example of the destructiveness of a telephone conversation as Amy shouts into the phone at her philandering husband. (It is also telling that Gerald, the husband, is accused of having an affair with their marriage counsellor, a person who should be repairing communication between the couple).


The communication between Maggie and Joel is typified by the metaphor of the terrible phone line; in the beginning, they bicker and fight, but by the end of the episode, the phone lines are suddenly clear, and for perhaps the very first time, Maggie actively tries to listen to what Joel is saying.

5-5-joel01 5-5-joel02 5-5-maggie-07

In an episode of misunderstandings and cross purposes, even Chris has trouble translating the youthful expression “be there or be square.”

5-5-chris-02 5-5-chris-03

Songs from the episode’s original airing:

  • Joan Jett – Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
    The youth decorate Cicely with marmots stuff.
  • Beach Boys – Surfer Girl
    [Replaced in DVD version]
    Amy talks to Ruth-Anne about her marriage at the store.

Themes / Recurrences: Relationships; power; communication; money.

The Good: It’s always great to spend more time with Ruth-Anne, and we love her ambivalence towards Amy the tax lady.

The Bad: This is not one of our favourite episodes; we did not care for most of the storylines, and we especially thought the Joel bit was baffling.


The Notable: This episode is notable for the guest appearance of Jack Black, who would become famous for great roles in School of Rock and Bernie.

On’s rating: 7.0 out of 10.

Shane’s rating: 7.0 out of 10.



One thought on “5.5 A River Doesn’t Run Through It

  1. Somebody please explain how 12% of the additional $2,700 (the calculation as explained by the auditor) results in over a thousand dollars of additional liability? It seems like Ruth Anne was rewarded for her honesty by a colossal overassessment. Or is this the “new math” I keep hearing about?

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