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- Weekend - #18 »
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3.18. Episode Eighteen: "Weekend"
Original Air Date: January 19, 1995
"Graham, no! Wait, don't leave yet! Can you just see... what else is on?" -- Patty
Patty and Graham leave for a weekend to "reconnect" while Rayanne "connects" herself to their bed.
On the surface, "The Weekend" is a light-hearted, entertaining break from the MSCL story, which has become quite serious in the immediately preceding episodes. When "The Weekend" originally aired, there was speculation that the episode had been "dumbed down" with the hope of boosting MSCL's ratings at a critical time. However, if MSCL becomes self-aware in "Betrayal," it speculates on the state of television without it in "The Weekend." Accordingly, "The Weekend" may summarized in one word: Parody.
As "The Weekend" begins, we immediately see that the narrator is Danielle, the youngest character and least able to interpret events around her. Accordingly, we immediately know that the analytic level of the show will be substantially simpler than we are accustomed to. If further evidence is necessary, listen carefully: There is virtually no music in the episode. In fact, there is no subtext as we have seen it in other episodes. Instead, we get a succession of double entendres and "cute" ironies that abound in television. For example, Patty tells Camille that she and Graham need to "reconnect," and Camille produces a pair of handcuffs. The characterization is also transparently one-dimensional. Graham tells Patty that he looked under Hallie Lowenthal's hood, and the phrase immediately becomes a shorthand for Graham paying an undue amount of attention to Hallie, although that issue was put to rest in "Resolutions." Here, with no basis whatsoever, Patty becomes the suspicious housewife. Later, Neal assures Patty and Graham that they will love Cheryl Fleck:
"Don't worry. Cheryl is incredible. You spend five minutes with her in the car, you're gonna love her."
We cut to a miserable Patty and Graham, driving through a rainstorm enduring Cheryl's nasal, hyper kinetic recitation of how she met Neal. Cheryl's credulity about Graham knowing what the note said -- Neal has no doubt been using the trick to meet girls since puberty -- tells us all we need to know about Cheryl, who is carrying "doobies" in her purse. The plot is suspended for this episode, and, in case we're too dim to get it, the characters even tell us so:
"Look, I don't want to get into this right now, alright?" Angela says.
"Get into what?"
"Some big discussion about what happened between you and Jordan Catalano, because the truth is that it happened, and nothing can change that. I don't want to talk about it."
"Neither do I."
What Rayanne really wants is a bottle to pee in. Thus, the characters have consented to set aside the most important issue in MSCL at that moment and replace it with "potty" humor. Instead of plot, we get a series of wasted scenes. For example, to get Sharon to the bedroom to join the other kids, two lengthy scenes are spent with Angela trying to flim-flam Camille. The easiest solution would have been for Sharon to have dropped in on Angela, but instead, we are subjected to the "justice" scene and the "Rayanne is sick" scene. A second series of wasted scenes involve the efforts to obtain a second set of handcuffs for a key to use. Because the attempt to unlock the handcuffs fails, the scenes actually do no more than set up the "I'll show you where the Pleasure Center is" gag and the "it's too big!" gag that Kyle and Phil overhear.
Ultimately, the handcuff affair is solved by dismantling the bed, which, incidentally, is different from the bed seen in every other episode. After Rayanne is free, the kids restore order to a trashed house in the twenty minutes before Patty and Graham arrive. While the kids puzzle over the handcuffs, the adults are dealing with their own problems. Patty has trouble getting "in the mood" with Cheryl's cackling penetrating the walls at the bed and breakfast. However, the problem with the scene is the same problem that troubles the entire premise of Patty and Graham's weekend getaway: The purpose of the getaway is for Patty and Graham to "reconnect," but, as we have seen in "Resolutions," Patty and Graham have already reconnected. Accordingly, there is no real purpose to the trip. With no true underlying purpose for the trip, events tend to lose all but their superficial meaning. When Patty's plans for the day are scotched (get it?) for an excursion to find liquor, she becomes angry at being left alone. Her anger is directed at Graham when he, Neal and Cheryl return from their outing and Cheryl is wearing Graham's sweater. At dinner, Patty abandons what she considers "adult" behavior, and, as she gets drunk, becomes a child, asking for ice cream and being sent to her room.
On the return home, Patty confronts Graham with her feelings, which turn out to be more related to Hallie than anything that has happened over the weekend. However, the problem, besides being artificial, is never addressed or resolved. Rather, the tension is relieved by a cute line from Cheryl. The plot lines of the handcuffs and the adult's weekend getaway are brought together in closing scenes, when Angela turns on a fishing show as Patty and Graham walk in. The key to the handcuffs is conveyed to Rayanne, she frees herself and the kids disappear, leaving Patty and Graham with the handcuffs, sans key, and the fishing show on the television. In short, MSCL tables its characteristic depth in "The Weekend," and instead presents characters frozen in time, dialogue peppered with double entendres, wasted scenes and a plot that centers, literally and figuratively, around a pair of handcuffs. So is that it? A hastily written, simple-minded filler episode? Hardly. The aberration is tolerable if we both recognize it as aberration and understand the motive behind it. The true subtle intelligence in "The Weekend" is the handcuffs. Unfortunately, almost all other television programs, even the "good" shows, rely on artificial events, such as a patient or police emergency, around which, or in spite of which, the generally static characters interact.
Because the plot is artificially created, many scenes are wasted. Here, the use of artifice to drive the plot is reduced to point of parody by the use of a literal artifice, a pair of handcuffs, which then become the center of action and thought. In three separate scenes, we see the kids in Patty and Graham's room, either on or around the bed, thinking about how to get Rayanne out of the cuffs. The fact that "The Weekend" seems simple-minded relative to the other episodes of MSCL does not mean it is a bad, or badly written, episode. "The Weekend" does not rely on an artificial device, or lack character development, or waste scenes because MSCL can no longer sustain its high quality. Rather, "The Weekend" is a mirror to world of television in which it exists. The self-aware MSCL has applied its analytical acumen to the world beyond, exploring through parody the state of television without MSCL: A world without music, of contrived plots, static characters, double entendres, scatology, filler scenes and boredom. It is no wonder, then, that Patty wonders, despairingly, what else is on.
Copyright 1997 William E. Blais.
All Rights Reserved.