- My So-Called Life (Pi... - #1 »
- Dancing in the Dark - #2 »
- Guns and Gossip - #3 »
- Father Figures - #4 »
- The Zit - #5 »
- The Substitute - #6 »
- Why Jordan Can't Read - #7 »
- Strangers in the Hous... - #8 »
- Halloween - #9 »
- Other People's Daught... - #10 »
- Life of Brian - #11 »
- Self-Esteem - #12 »
- Pressure - #13 »
- On the Wagon - #14 »
- So-Called Angels - #15 »
- Resolutions - #16 »
- Betrayal - #17 »
- Weekend - #18 »
- In Dreams Begin Respo... - #19 »
Episode Four: "Father Figures"
Original Air Date: September 15, 1994
"That's what it is to raise a girl. Walking on eggshells half the time... Come on, are you hungry? I'll buy you a piece of pie." -- Chuck Wood
"You scalped our Dead tickets?!" -- Rayanne
Angela's difficulty in trusting Graham centers around tickets to a Grateful Dead concert, while Patty's problem with her father centers around an IRS audit of Wood & Jones.
The title of this episode contains a revealing pun. The term "father figure" connotes a position of paternal authority and respect, wielded with wisdom, love, and compassion. The episode concerns how Chuck and Graham measure up as ideal fathers to their respective daughters, but the subplot concerns an IRS audit triggered by a questionable deduction taken by Chuck. Thus, if we interpret the word "figures" as a verb and not a noun (hey, if Jordan Catalano can figure this stuff out, so can you), we see the pun relating to the subplot, where conflict between father and daughter is actually articulated and resolved.
The premise is set with a flashback; where Angela once met Graham at the door with unabashed and unqualified adoration, Graham must now ask if anyone is home as Angela and her friends scrutinize him from behind a door casing. The cautious scrutiny stems from Angela's growing distrust of Graham because she has seen evidence that Graham may have been unfaithful.
Digression: Food, Glorious Food
As one might expect in an episode dealing with how fathers and daughters perceive and relate to one another, the food-as-love metaphor becomes prominent. As Graham arrives, Angela, Rayanne, and Rickie are foraging in the kitchen. After Rickie departs, we see Graham in the kitchen with Angela and Rayanne, showing Rayanne how to flip fritters. If food symbolizes family support, love, and nurturing, and eating symbolizes the operation of those values, then the teaching of cooking, (in the context of home and family), becomes important because it signifies imparting those virtues to the child, and only by knowing what it is to have the virtues signified by food and eating can the child, in turn, express them. Such education has been part of the Chase household, as a scene in "Guns and Gossip" demonstrates. As Patty regales Graham with her encounter with Amber, Graham offers Patty a taste of the food he's cooking, and while she thinks its wonderful, Graham must tell her what she is tasting. Angela enters, Graham offers her a taste and she knows immediately what she is tasting.
Graham then proceeds to explain to Angela why he has added the cilantro. (To balance the acidity of the tomatoes.) Graham's "food" education of Angela is ongoing, as we have seen since the Pilot episode:
"Con carne, 'with meat.'"
The business of tasting Graham's cooking is minor; its foremost purpose is to add verisimilitude and dynamics to an otherwise static scene. But the difference in Patty's and Angela's reactions to Graham's cooking relates to the difference in upbringing they received from their respective fathers. Patty's upbringing has been one of chili fries and diner pie, of enormous turkeys and oregano in the curry sauce. Angela's upbringing has been one of balanced meals, spaghetti reheated by father, cilantro, pasta and lemon hazelnut torts. The fatherless Rayanne has had an upbringing of frozen appetizers, desserts and things cooked in a pouch. Thus, the principal underlying metaphor supports plot and subplot, which deal with the actual relationships. End of Digression.
Patty's arrival with the news of an audit of Wood & Jones by the Internal Revenue Service brings with it Patty's realization that she has put too much trust in her father, that she never really released her childhood view of "father knows best." Patty and Angela have the same problem, and both must resolve the problem in the same way: Knock Father off his pedestal. But if Angela and Patty have the same problem, it involves different kinds of fathers. Even as Patty points out an 87 percent deduction he took on a business car, Chuck can't accept that he could have caused the audit.
"Send a girl to do a man's job," he mutters under his breath.
Patty understands the problem. She resolves to take her diabetic father to a new restaurant, ("that no-fat place with the fountain"), instead of the greasy spoon he prefers, and tell him that he must let her run the printing business. Predictably, we cut to Patty and Chuck in the greasy spoon, where Chuck is ordering chili fries and banana creme pie; Patty has lost her resolve. Angela is less able to pinpoint her problem:
"Say you're not sure you can trust someone anymore, say someone you really trusted, say your father, you find yourself wishing they would do something really wrong to justify your feelings."
Graham is as aware of the rift with his daughter as Chuck is ignorant of it.
"She hasn't said two words to me all week."
So when Patty forbids Graham from using his tickets to the Grateful Dead concert, he offers the tickets as a sort of olive branch to Angela and Rayanne. Angela scalps the tickets, ostensibly to pay Jordan for her fake I.D., but Rickie -- and Angela, too -- realizes that she sold the tickets to spite Graham.
When the auditor -- a woman, a fitting irony to Chuck's muttering -- manages to trick Chuck into revealing that his business car deduction was padded, Patty realizes that she must take control of the situation, because the problem has grown too serious and because it is the right moment to do so. Patty agrees that Wood & Jones will pay the taxes it owes. Chuck leaves, angry at Patty.
"Who the hell are you to make an agreement?"
Immediately thereafter, Graham asks Angela to return the Dead tickets.
"Rayanne has them," Angela lies.
But the fight is not solely about the tickets:
"I made a mistake! I'm not perfect!"
"Oh believe me, that's become really clear!"
Angela takes refuge in the Krakows' car, where Brian finds her and -- well, what can Angela do with Brian? They converse. Brian tries to explain to Angela that she cannot always count on him being at her disposal. His case is weak, however, because when Angela asks him what he was doing just then, he replies, "Nothing!" But the conversation is significant:
"You shouldn't act one way towards a person when you need something," Brian says, "then--"
At that moment, Graham comes out the front door of Chase house to examine a sagging gutter Chuck had pointed out earlier. He spots Angela. Both Patty and Angela have essentially solved their "father" issues, but at some expense. The next morning, Graham lavishes attention on Danielle and ignores Angela. Patty reminds her that she sold tickets she had no business selling and was less than forthright about it. Angela has been called to account by her parents, but is hurt by Graham's intentional neglect nevertheless:
"Him not wanting to even look at me is like, the worst feeling."
Patty, the authoritarian parent of a moment ago is now consoling mother, and more importantly, the daughter who has been rebuffed by her father.
"I know," she says to Angela. And she does.
Later Patty finds Chuck at the print shop and stands up for herself:
"Sometimes I miss how it used to be when I never questioned you. But I've turned some sort of corner with this, and I can't go back."
Chuck is defensive, but Patty stands her ground. Finally, Chuck moves to her and puts his hand on her shoulder. She moves to hug him but he won't allow it -- he hasn't shaved, and when Patty was little she pushed Chuck away when he hadn't shaved because his whiskers scratched. Chuck's movements explain his relationship with Patty. Clearly, Chuck's love for Patty transcends the anger he felt at being cut out of the decision-making process during the audit, and this is shown by the fact that he moves towards Patty. However, his retreat because of something Patty did not like as a child show that he still regards her as a child. Chuck may love and respect Patty, but his essential attitude towards her has not changed. What has changed is Patty's deference to that attitude. Chuck realizes the change, but does not understand:
"That's what it is to raise a girl. Walking on eggshells half the time... Come on, are you hungry? I'll buy you a piece of pie."
The scene that follows is one of MSCL's best, one which explains beyond all doubt why Graham is devoted to Patty. Patty is still feeling the effects of her meeting that day with Chuck:
"I've worked so hard to please him. He doesn't realize what this all costs me," she tells Graham.
"He's never really known what I'm worth."
"You know, sometimes I think I partly married you because I knew you'd be a really good father, a different kind of father, and you are."
But Graham doubts himself:
"I don't want to lose her."
Patty, who now understands, explains to Graham:
"But you have to, just for a little while. You have to let her push you away and not punish her for it. All she's doing is pushing you off your pedestal and she's right to do it, she has to do it, she's right on schedule... Not a thousand years late, like I was.
"So what do I do?"
"Stand your ground, and let her know no matter how hard she pushes you'll still be there."
Patty's advice to Graham creates an interesting, if not obvious parallel to Rayanne. Patty is able to counsel Graham because her own father has not always been supportive or understanding. But while Graham receives advice from Patty on how to relate to Angela, Angela receives advice from Rayanne, the fatherless girl, on how to relate to Graham. The rift between Angela and Rayanne after Angela sells the Dead tickets foreshadows the later "betrayal." Here, however, it is Rayanne who feels wronged because Graham gave her a ticket that Angela has taken away:
"He gave those tickets to both of us! Including me!"
Angela can hardly comprehend Rayanne's reaction because she does not see any connection between Graham and Rayanne, just as Rayanne later will not understand the connection between Angela and Jordan. However, when Angela apologizes to Rayanne, she realizes that she has hurt Rayanne.
"Why do I feel terrible? Because -- of what I did. You didn't get to go to the concert," she tells Rayanne.
In fact, Rayanne did get to the concert. But she is envious of the relationship Angela has with Graham, and subconsciously angered that Angela takes such a relationship for granted. Rayanne had just a "taste" of a father-daughter relationship and Angela interfered in it. Angela tries to tell Rayanne about the woman she saw Graham with the night they went to Let's Bolt. But Rayanne explains to Angela what is truly important:
"But Angela, whatever your dad may be doing with whatever girl, and you don't even know if he is, he's still the type of dad that would lay two Dead tickets on you -- like, out of nowhere. And that's what matters."
The episode ends with Graham on a ladder repairing the rain gutter. The Grateful Dead plays on a tape deck he's brought outside. At Patty's request, Angela has brought out a can of soda for Graham. Angela steps up on the ladder to look at Graham face to face. Angela has not pushed Graham off the pedestal, but has stepped up to meet him. And that's what matters.
Copyright 1997 William E. Blais.
All Rights Reserved.