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Episode: 5.22

Title: Grand Prix

Written by: Barbara Hall

Directed by: Michael Lange

Aired: May 9, 1994

Log line: Maurice brings the world-renowned sport of wheelchair racing to Cicely; Ed battles External Validation to help a patient; Ted learns of the loneliness of wealth.

Listen to our podcast discussion of the episode here.

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In “Grand Prix,” characters are preoccupied with the way the world perceives them; for example, Ed discovers that Kim needs to fight External Validation, and Ted yearns for the riches and status that Lester posesses. The storylines revolve around materialism – the idea of having things, or winning things. It is not surprising then, that this episode is focused on what characters wear (Katharine Bentley, the costume designer for the show, did great work this week).

Maurice is disdainful of Cliff’s bandana, and wants him to wear the Minnifield team colours (replete with a Team Minnifield hat), and the appropriate sponsored shoe.

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Ted gives Marilyn a bracelet, but is concerned that it looks too cheap for his new standards.

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Clothing in this episode is important; it illustrates the have-and-have-not theme, it highlights characters’ conflicts, and emphasizes alliances between characters. Let’s take a look at Marilyn and Ted. In the first scenes they are both wearing brightly coloured prints (some Native American inspired), signifying that they are getting along.

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However, in the scene where they have a fight, their costumes clash with each other. Marilyn’s pastel florals are at odds with Ted’s plaids and solid coveralls. They are not on the same page style-wise at all.

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By the end of the episode they are back in sync, returning to their colourful prints.

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In a similar way, Ted’s outfits make the audience see the difference in personality and class between him and Lester, even when Lester demands the “Native American discount” from Ted. In most scenes the quality and colour of the characters’ clothing emphasizes their differences. Only in one scene do they appear to be somewhat aligned, when at the dinner they both are wearing printed shirts.

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Ed’s style is another interesting case in this episode. For most of the episode we see Ed in a series of striped t-shirts, something that young boys often wear. This costume choice makes him seem younger, more inexperienced, and more naive than usual, which bolsters the idea of Ed having low self-esteem.

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The stripes also create a visual bond between Ed and Kim in this scene:

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It is significant that when he fights External Validation, he changes to his buckskin Shaman-Native American (?) outfit. He is dressed for a fight. Strangely enough however, his outfit clearly echoes The Green Man’s outfit. Perhaps they are more aligned with each other than we thought?

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In addition, there are other scenes where one character’s clothing mirrors another. For example, in the first scenes of the episode, Chris and the visiting doctor Grant appear to be wearing the same colour and even a near-identical jacket.

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The two richest men in town, Maurice and Lester, have a the same colour scheme and a similar suede in their jackets (in contrast to the working clothes of Ted).

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Finally, there is the puzzle of having three guest characters who look very, very similar (the same type of look, that is). In fact, the only thing that seems to differentiate them is their clothing.

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This episode is just one example of how the costumes can add to the storylines of a show. Clothing can reinforce character traits and emphasize alliances (or lack thereof). It is a great tool to aid the storytelling.

Songs from the episode’s original airing:

Themes / Recurrences: Materialism.

The Good: We both enjoyed the character of Ted, the anti-materialism theme, and the idea of having a wheelchair race in Cicely.

The Bad: We were really disappointed to see the return of the Green Man and the return of Ed’s stereotypical ‘native’ garb.

The Notable: The character Soong is played by Jacob Heilveil, who is still competing in professional wheelchair races over twenty years after this episode was filmed. Wow! (That said, we do wish his character was portrayed as less of a caricature.)

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On’s rating: 7.0 out of 10

Shane’s rating: 6.0 out of 10

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