Title: The Gift of the Maggie
Written by: Robin Green and Mitchell Burgess
Directed by: Patrick McKee
Aired: March 28, 1994
Log line: Maurice learns about the give-and-take of friendship; Joel is depressed when he has no one to “talk shop” with; Chris learns a life lesson from a benevolent deer.
Listen to our podcast discussion of the episode here.
We have often discussed how episodes of Northern Exposure call back to previous episodes, and these callbacks often give the episode a depth and history that goes beyond initial viewer enjoyment. Whether intentional or not, comparing two episodes allows us to look at the bigger themes employed by the show. With some episodes, the reminders are so many that they seem almost deliberate. One such example is “The Gift of the Maggie” and “Wake Up Call.”
Both”The Gift of the Maggie” (5.19) and “Wake Up Call” (3.19) include an encounter with a mythical creature. Maggie falls for Arthur, who happens to be a bear, and Chris meets a deer, who seems to leave him several gifts. Chris even muses that the deer is possibly more than a deer: “There’s somethin’ really strange about this deer- if it’s a deer at all.”
Flowers also figure prominently in both episodes, with crocuses being the focus of “Wake Up Call” and orchids in “The Gift of the Maggie.” It’s also worth mentioning that the crocuses are blooming, while the orchids are at risk of dying (and some of them do die, including the variety named after Maurice). It’s almost as if we have two sides: spring, with flowers growing, and winter, with flowers dying.
Joel also encounters another doctor in both episodes: Leonard in “Wake Up Call” and Pete in “The Gift of the Maggie.” He also mentions a surprising diagnosis in both episodes. In “Wake Up Call,” he tells Leonard about cracking the diagnostic code on a man after others had failed to diagnose him for two weeks. (He had an amoebic infection.) In “The Gift of the Maggie,” we see him diagnose Elaine as having a pancreatic tumor, and we see him recounting his medical coup to anyone willing to listen.
Oh, Chris also mentions his Uncle Roy Bower in both episodes. Synchronicity!
What do all these parallels mean, exactly? We see spring contrasted with winter; a medical doctor contrasted with a shaman; plants living, and plants dying; birth and death; and majestic animals that appears to leave gifts to two residents of Cicely.
Songs from the episode’s original airing:
- “Caminando Por La Calle” – The Gypsy Kings [replaced in DVD version]
Joel and Pete have dinner at Maggie’s place.
Themes / Recurrences: Gifts; control / power; man and nature; death.
The Good: We thought the hunting scenes with Chris in the snowy landscape was particularly beautiful, and we loved the idea of the mysterious deer (or more than deer) leaving gifts for Chris.
The Bad: The relationship between Maggie and Joel feels a bit strange to us at this point. Are they dating? Boyfriend or girlfriend? What chemistry they had in the first three seasons seems to have diminished into a comfortable friendship. We also thought “nice guy” Dr. Pete could have been more charismatic.
The Notable: Maurice’s grimace/grin is very much a highlight of this episode. Barry Corbin plays discomfort very well!
On’s rating: 7.5 out of 10
Shane’s rating: 7.5 out of 10
I disagree that Maggie & Joel’s relationship is awkward here. I take it as them dating (even though we don’t see them doing the do onscreen) and she is trying to do something nice to her. I took the conversation they had to be about Maggie trying to make Alaska better for Joel so he would be less likely to leave Alaska (and her).