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Angela's World

3.16. Episode Sixteen: "Resolutions"


    Original Air Date: January 5, 1995

 

"What I was thinking, as like a New Year's resolution, is to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts, 'cuz I'm like way too introspective. I think." -- Angela

 

Synopsis


    The characters make their New Year's resolutions. Rickie finds his way to Mr. Katimski, Brian begins tutoring Jordan and Graham tells Patty he really wants to open the restaurant with Hallie.
 

Analysis

In Angela's world, New Year's Eve is not a night of raucous partying, but a time for contemplation of one's inner thoughts and feelings. The tone is appropriate for the focal point of this episode, which is Rickie's "odyssey."

WHAT DOES RICKIE WANT?


From the Beginning, Rickie has seemed to be a person out of place, and his search for a place to call home becomes a search to find a place in the world where he belongs. Rickie's search represents a larger search that nearly every character in MSCL experiences, for they are, with few exceptions, the "different voice."

As noted in "The Life of Brian," MSCL reminds us that the Angelas of the world experience the world from the perspective that they are destined to be second class citizens. MSCL is about the "different voice," the positive voice which allows those who are powerless in the world without to find their own power from within.

As must Rickie. Rickie is destined to go through life as a second class citizen both because of his race and apparent sexual preference. (That is why he feels out of place in the men's room.) Thus, when Mr. Katimski asks what Odysseus wants, we may at first answer, simply, Odysseus wants to go home, and we may easily grasp the connection between the Odyssey and Rickie. But once again, MSCL's subtle use of language tells us more than the obvious connection between the Odysseus' journey and Rickie's search for a home. Mr. Katimski's question is not directed at "Rickie." It is directed at "Enrique," the name given back to Rickie (it was always his, but never used by anyone but his late grandmother, the matriarch) because "no one should hate who they are."

Digression: Mr. Katimski as a Teacher


    The question is, "what does Odysseus want? And if the answer is, in fact, simply "to go home," why would Mr. Katimski assign a two-page essay to explain it? For two reasons. First, it's what any good teacher would do. If the question can be answered in one sentence, the teacher cannot tell whether a student figured it out from reading the assignment or just copied from a friend. By requiring two written pages, he can tell who devoted thought to the question. The second, and more important, reason for a two-page essay on what Odysseus wants, is that it is a clear sign that, at least as far as Rickie is concerned, the answer goes deeper than just "to go home." Rickie's New Year's Resolution is "to find a place where I belong." That is Rickie's odyssey, not merely to find a place to sleep, but to find his place in the world, to find the "different voice" that will give him a sense of self-worth and the ability to be comfortable with himself. He is already on his way, having found a new identity, "Enrique." End of Digression.

However, Rickie's odyssey is not easy in the mainstream world. The Chase home, although populated with individuals of a "different voice," is, as noted in "So-Called Angels," part of the mainstream. As we see, Rickie is not comfortable living with the Chases. Even in participating the most intimate of family rituals, mealtime at the Chases, Rickie seems to feel as if he must "pay his way." Thus, he assumes the role of live-in housekeeper. The arrangement echoes the makeup of the traditional television family, where the only person outside the nuclear family is the domestic help.

Having fled the Chases, Rickie turns to Mr. Katimski, who first tries to apply the "mainstream" solution. He takes Rickie to Ms. Kryzanowski, (last seen conducting a well-intended but ineffective counseling session with Rayanne), who suggests "Pride House." But Pride House has a waiting list, and in the meantime, Rickie is placed in a "facility." As Ms. Kryzanowski says, "it's not a perfect system."

If we wonder why Mr. Katimski chooses the mainstream solution, we need not wonder whether he is genuinely concerned about Rickie's welfare. When Mr. Katimski learns that Rickie has fled the facility, he first confronts Patty and Graham at their front door:

    "Don't you realize, this boy was under your roof. Now, how could you just let him go like that?"

Patty breaks down and Mr. Katimski apologizes:

    "Forgive me. I had no right to point a finger of blame at you, especially since--"

Mr. Katimski suddenly changes the subject, realizing that he has done no more good for Rickie, and perhaps less, than Patty and Graham. However, Mr. Katimski has his own reasons for keeping Rickie at arm's length. When Rickie flees the facility, he goes back to the street, and again turns to Mr. Katimski, calling him from a phone booth in a rain storm. Mr. Katimski again stops short of offering to take Rickie in, but tells Rickie that he cares; he can do no more. As Mr. Katimski hangs up the telephone, we see for the first time Mr. Katimski's male domestic partner. We now see an "undercurrent of connection" between Rickie and Mr. Katimski, but a connection that is two-edged. If Mr. Katimski's own sexual orientation connects him with Rickie, it also prevents him from reaching out to Rickie:

    "You're thinking, why didn't I tell him he could stay here," Mr. Katimski says to his domestic partner after hanging up the phone.
 
    "No, I'm not," the unnamed domestic partner replies.
 
    "Well, I am. We all know what could happen if we did take him in, if it got out. You realize what people could make of it. I'd lose my job. I'd be crucified."

However, there is a thematic reason for Mr. Katimski to stop short of inviting Rickie to stay with him: The odyssey belongs to Rickie. Mr. Katimski showed Rickie the road take when he told him, "no one should hate who they are." But once Rickie has been shown the way, and takes the first steps, Mr. Katimski, and Angela and Patty and Graham can do no more. Rickie, and only he, can take the steps to find a place where he belongs. The futility of doing otherwise is demonstrated when Mr. Katimski tries to solve the problem for Rickie and fails. However, when Rickie appears at Mr. Katimski's door, he is taken in. That Rickie has taken the right step is demonstrated in subsequent episodes, but here we are given a hint by the number "3" which is on Mr. Katimski's apartment door.

RESOLUTIONS MAKE STRANGE BEDFELLOWS


While Rickie's odyssey provides the principal focus of the episode, we see the other characters interact in unexpected ways. In doing so, the characters reflect the "different voice," albeit much less dramatically than does Rickie's story. Perhaps because Rickie's situation depends in no small part on his sexual preference, we are presented another aspect of sexuality in Sharon's dilemma. Sharon no longer loves Kyle, but remains sexually active with him. To complicate matters, Sharon enjoys the purely sexual relationship more than she ever enjoyed the personal relationship. Sharon resolves to end her relationship with Kyle completely, but cannot resist when Kyle suggests a date with the clear intention of sex. Sharon's weakness sends a clear message: The sexual drive is intense, and one cannot turn away from it, or choose an alternative means of sexual expression, merely by choice. A large part of Sharon's dilemma lies in the guilt she feels in "using" Kyle simply for sexual release. Sharon believes that sexual relations should rightfully take place only in a context of love and respect for one's partner. She expresses this belief in her resolution and in her conversations with Brian and Rayanne. In contrast, Kyle views his relationship with Sharon at first as an afterthought to spending more time with the dog. Kyle later declares his love for Sharon, and he probably does have strong feelings for her. But after Kyle has found the little teddy bear hanging from a urinal, he seems to have no qualms about saying what he knows will get Sharon to consent to sex with him.

Before we label Sharon's and Kyle's attitudes as "male" or "female," we should note that Kyle and Rayanne have the same attitude towards sex:

    "I mean, you don't have to like, be in love to have a good time."

Rayanne doesn't even believe Sharon's philosophy is possible:

    "I'm going to Kyle," Sharon tells Rayanne. "I'm going to tell him the truth. And then, I'm going to never have sex again, with anyone until I know it's absolutely the exact right person and I'm in complete and total in love."
 
    "I just hope Brad Pitt's available -- and in the Tri-State area."

However, Rayanne's attitude may be more the result of not understanding the more fulfilling goal that Sharon aspires to. Rayanne's statements imply both that Rayanne longs for a serious, loving relationship, but lacks any understanding about how such a relationship works:

    "So this is like it for you now," she says to Sharon. "'Cause you're like totally fulfilled, right? Right?"

Just as Angela believes meaningful relationships to be a sudden creation, so Rayanne thinks similarly here.

The frank friendship between Rayanne and Sharon gets reflected in the budding relationship between Brian and Jordan. Thrown together when Angela signs Jordan for peer tutoring in English, Brian and Jordan quickly develop a comfortable rapport when both realize the other can teach something that is missing from their lives. Brian and Jordan are MSCL's strongest symbols of the "mainstream," and it is no accident that their friendship begins while Rickie is struggling to find his "different" voice. Brian and Jordan, as white males, (both with ethnically European surnames), represent two aspects of the mainstream, into which both will comfortably slide in due time. Brian sits in class and speaks confidently. He is the intellect, the hard-headed logician in youth. He is Babbitt (perhaps Scrooge!) at fifteen. Jordan is the lady killer with the convertible and soulful eyes, "say no more." Both are, in their different ways, Philistines of the mainstream. Both have had their troubles communicating with Angela, the "different voice" personified, and often they are unable or unwilling to relate to her. Their common inability, sometimes unwillingness, to relate to Angela, or even string together a coherent sentence, illustrates the mainstream's inability and unwillingness to hear the "different voice." It is only when Brian and Jordan shed their usual persona that they have had any meaningful relations with Angela.

However, it is perhaps more interesting to see that Brian's relationship with Jordan, which was brought about by Angela, has the means to set him free of his obsession with Angela. It is quite possible that Brian's infatuation with Angela is at least in part the product of proximity. Angela is a neighbor, familiar and accessible when Brian enters adolescence. It is natural that he would objectify his awakening feelings in Angela. However, when a chance encounter with the Pencil Girl (as she was listed in the episode credits) gives Jordan the chance to show Brian how to relate to girls on a basic level, Brian is amazed by the brave new world, so much so that Jordan must remind him of the purpose of their tutoring session. However, in the episode, Brian speaks to Angela just once to excuse himself when Angela comes to talk to Jordan. Naturally, Brian will relapse, but for a single episode (two, counting "The Weekend"), he will not obsess over Angela.

THE RESTAURANT


Rickie is not the only character to complete an "odyssey" in this episode. Graham also reaches the end of the journey that began when Patty fired him from Wood & Jones. As the episode opens and each character recites his or her New Year's Resolution, Hallie's influence on Patty and Graham is evident, particularly Patty. She realizes that her suspicions about Graham are irrational, but she has the suspicions just the same. Graham, on the other hand, has self-doubt because he enjoys his strengthening relationship with Hallie, but has no desire for that relationship to affect his marriage. Of all the resolutions we hear, Patty and Graham alone resolve in consideration of someone else; each privately resolves to modify their behavior for the benefit of the other. However, their unselfish decisions strain the relationship both clearly value.

    "I have no desire to squander my family savings," Graham tells Hallie after a cooking class.

The risk Graham sees is the restaurant -- the actual financial risk of starting a business. But there is another risk we know he fears, the threat to his marriage. Hallie agrees completely with Graham's reasoning, but essentially ignores his statement that he will not join her with the restaurant. Graham's reticence is due in part to his tendency to gauge his self-worth from Patty. Where Patty sought public recognition for affirmation, Graham eschews it. There is an element of personal risk to Graham -- the restaurant venture puts his ego on the line. However, Patty has not been altogether cognizant of Graham's need for her approval. Patty has questioned Graham's ability to wallpaper a room, to follow Stephan Dieter, and was surprised to learn that he was asked to teach the cooking class. But it is no accident that Graham first met Hallie in an episode called "Self-Esteem." Thus, there has formed a dynamic among Patty, Graham and Hallie, but the dynamic is not a romantic triangle. Rather, Hallie sees Graham's talent without years of baggage, and believes in his ability to succeed. We should not confuse Hallie's recognition of Graham's worth with a desire to get her hooks into him.

In the scene that follows Graham's conversation with Hallie, he and Patty perform a verbal reprise of "Dancing in the Dark:"

    "Hi!"
     
    "Hi! So I guess you stayed late after all."
     
    "Yes, I--"
     
    "That's okay, really."
     
    "I got stuck talking to Hallie Lowenthal."
     
    "That's great. How is Hallie?"
     
    "Oh, she's fine. I told her I wasn't going to do this restaurant thing."
     
    "Oh, good. I mean, that's what you wanted to tell her, right?"
     
    "Well, I mean, isn't that what you wanted me to tell her?"
     
    "Well, only if that's what you really want."

The colloquy shows that Patty and Graham are out of step with each other. Both are acting on their resolutions, and in doing so, they seem to miss the essential message, that each is trying to do what they believe the other wants.

Later, Graham meets Hallie to look at the restaurant space, which Hallie has asked Graham to look at on the pretext that she is going through with the restaurant and wants his opinion.

    "I think it's wonderful," Graham says wistfully.

In actuality, Hallie is wearing Graham down, and her expression as Graham looks around, as well as her revelation of Brad's "theory," reveals her true purpose. As Hallie closes the door behind Graham, she knows she is winning him over. At the same time, Patty's latent suspicions appear to be confirmed when she talks to Neal.

    "Let's just say Graham has a little input-output confusion," Neal tells Patty, ostensibly referring to the stereo. "Want me to explain to you what the problem is?"
     
    "No," Patty tells him, unwilling to confront her suspicions.

Patty begins to tell Neal about the restaurant and Hallie, expecting that Neal knows about it, but Neal knows nothing about either the restaurant or Hallie. Nevertheless, Neal instinctively covers for Graham. When Graham enters, Patty excuses herself. What must Graham be up to that he would not tell even his brother? Later, Patty comes home to find Graham on the telephone with Hallie. As she puts away groceries, she keeps up a running dialog in which the words continue to express her New Year's resolution but her tone clearly indicates otherwise. After Graham hangs up, she asks him what we recognize to be a loaded question:

    "So um, you are considering going into business with Hallie Lowenthal or you aren't?"
     
    "I'm not. I told you that."
 
    "Okay, it's just a question, it wasn't a criticism."

Just as Graham's remark about not squandering the family savings can be interpreted as a statement about his relationship with Patty, so Patty's question can be interpreted as a question to Graham: Is Graham going into "business," (i.e., contemplating an affair) with Hallie. Patty is not convinced by Graham's response, but again, not wishing to confront the issue, she changes the subject, asking Graham about his resolution: ("Um, exercise more.") However, as we have known since the Pilot episode, Patty can tell when Graham is lying. "Mine too," she says. The moment appears to be a crisis between Patty and Graham, but if it is, it is one which the relationship needs. As Patty and Graham both lie to each other, we understand that they are beginning to think of their own interests and peace of mind.

Finally, Graham breaks his resolution and makes his own desires known:

    "Uh, listen, Patty, there's something I have to tell you. It's um, been kind of weighing on me. I haven't been completely honest about something--"

Patty braces herself, literally, for the worst.

 
    "Oh, God--"
 
    "I just like, I can't--"
 
    "Oh God. Say it. Just -- say it."
 
    "I want to open this restaurant."

Patty is utterly relieved, having suspected, and feared, that she was losing Graham. However, once Graham states his mind, Patty realizes that her fear, perhaps of abandonment by Graham, was unfounded, and vows to provide the moral support Graham needs. Patty and Graham's reconciliation provides an object lesson for relationships. Graham, by communicating his own desires and communicating them clearly to Patty, has provided the basis for renewed trust and love between them. Later, Graham meets Hallie at the restaurant. As he enters, red police lights can be seen through the windows and sirens are heard from the street. Symbolically, they signal Graham to proceed with caution, not because Graham's marriage is strained, but, as we are about to learn, because Hallie now has her own crisis.

    "Did I scare you?" Hallie asks as Graham enters. "I do have that effect on people."
     
    "You don't scare me," Graham replies.

His tone of voice is reminiscent of his statement to Patty in "The Zit" that lines in her face do not bother him. There, the statement was made in the context of a relationship where Patty and Graham were both familiar and comfortable with each other. Similarly, Graham is now comfortable with Hallie in a way in which he has not been before.

When Hallie tells Graham that Brad broke up with her, Graham is truly sorry. But as Hallie leaves, Graham understands the danger: Hallie may feel more deeply for him than he has realized, and may now need him emotionally because Brad has left her. However, we need not fear for Graham, because he entered having made his peace with Patty. Graham no longer suffers from "input-output confusion;" he will not mistake his concern for Hallie for love.

THE RESOLUTION SCORECARD


As the episode opened with a series of New Year's resolutions, it is altogether fitting that we take stock of resolutions kept and broken. Rickie resolves to find a place where he really belongs and succeeds when he finds someone who understands him, cares, and will, we may assume, come to love him. Rickie began his journey as a mere echo of the thoughts expressed around him, and, as we shall see, he ends his journey having found his "different voice," a voice of mediation and reason, a voice that allows him to be comfortable with his own identity and place in the world. Rayanne and Sharon fail to keep their resolutions, but face nearly impossible odds. Rayanne resolves to stop drinking, but we may assume she will drink again, lacking the experience or emotional support necessary to understand her addiction and combat it. Sharon's faces a similar dilemma, having resolved, in essence, to not separate the act of sex from elements that make the experience emotionally and spiritually, as well as physically, satisfying. But Sharon is finding out that sexual desire is a creature of the physical world which, once aroused, does not bow easily to moral discipline; Sharon is finding out that "nice girls do." However, in their respective dilemmas, Rayanne and Sharon have found a common ground. The "odyssey" which began with rivalry has ended in friendship.

Patty and Graham both keep and break their resolutions, but for each, keeping the resolution means denying their innermost feelings in favor of what they perceive to be the desires of the other. While trying to be true to the resolutions, Patty and Graham cannot communicate, going so far as lying to each other. But when Graham breaks his resolution, the lines of communication open. Thus, the end of Graham's personal odyssey brings the end of an odyssey for the marriage which was in progress when MSCL began.

Angela resolves to be less introspective, but, upon consideration, to stop doing Jordan Catalano's homework. Her resolution is kept due to Jordan's moral code, which prevents him from accepting Angela's help as long as they are not having sex. In a backhanded way, Angela is the most egregious breaker of her resolution. Angela enrolls Jordan in the peer tutoring program, and by doing so, gives Jordan the means to do his own homework. Thus, Angela's act of enrolling Jordan serves as the ultimate act of "doing Jordan's homework." Angela's act echoes Patty's enrollment of Graham in the cooking class, which gives Graham the means to find himself. However, by doing something for someone else, Angela has actually become less introspective. Angela is no longer a brooding adolescent with a crush. She has become a friend who takes a practical, tangible step towards improving the life of another. She is able to be the friend because she has completed odyssey from childhood to adulthood. In "Resolutions," several underlying story lines are "resolved" as characters we have come to love have reached an end to their personal journeys. We may note with some melancholy that a program we have come to love is nearing the end of its journey.

 

    Copyright 1997 William E. Blais.
    All Rights Reserved.

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“Ignore her. She got up on the wrong side of the coffin this morning.”

Enrique (Rickie) Vasquez, Episode 9: "Halloween"