Once and Again...Once Again


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The Top 25 Once & Again Episodes:
(One Fan's Ranking)

by The Sisko

Click to Jump Ahead:
      Scoring System Explained

25thOzymandias 2.0 20thLife Out of Balance
24thStanding Room Only
23rdMy Brilliant Career
22ndWhere There's Smoke
21stThieves Like Us

What follows are the top 25 Once & Again episodes ranked according to one fan's arbitrary evaluation system. It is not intended to be the final word on the quality of Once & Again episodes, for most us freely admit our favorites can change from day to day, or hour to hour; others of us could never bear to even begin ranking one episode over another -- how can you compare one outstanding beauty to another?

Each episode was watched one or more times for evaluation purposes, and some scenes were rewound and replayed (seemingly) endlessly to feel and understand the full impact of the scene. Ten evaluation categories were selected that meant the most to this reviewer, worth up to 10 points each, for a possible total score of 100. Those categories -- their definitions, their abbreviations, and their order of importance from most to least important -- are as follows:

1. Emotional Impact (EI):
How the episode affects us where it counts the most -- in our hearts. You might also call it the "cry factor." This category is often related to category 3, but is ultimately much broader in what it covers.
2. Importance (IMP):
The degree to which the events portrayed in an episode were major milestones, turning points, or defining moments for characters. Viewer hindsight may play a part in this score, since hindsight is available, and the category can be very subjective.
3. Romance (ROM):
Sex, kissing, hugging, lovemaking, suggestive talk, suggestive smiling, or simply anything the viewer deems to have an air of romance about it. Quite a narrowly defined category.
4. Black-and-Whites, Fantasies, and Dreams (BWFD):
A very important category, for the black-and-white "confessionals" are one of the defining characteristics of Once & Again, and for many viewers, it's just not a Once & Again episode without some B&Ws. Lumped into this category are any other alternate-reality visions, like dreams, daydreams, and fantasies. The score in this category usually indicates to what degree such scenes added emotional impact to the episode. It often overlaps with category 1, and can be very subjective. If an episode had no BWFD, it was still granted a score of 6 if the episode worked well enough without them.
5. Captivating Conversation or Witty Repartee (CCWR):
Another hallmark of Herskovitz and Zwick is the fascinating and realistic conversation we are treated to. This is a broad category which basically reflects the overall impact the characters' conversation had on the total quality of the episode. Very subjective.
6. Beauty (B):
The look and sound of the episode, and the emotional impact the look and sound have on the viewer. Slow motion, evocative close-ups, stunning composition of scenes, tinkly, dreamy, or other evocative music (Aaron would love this category), would all be reflected here. Can easily overlap with categories 4 and 10.
7. Laugh/Smile Quotient (LSQ):
The degree to which this episode made us genuinely smile, and quite possibly, laugh out loud. Bears some relation to category 5.
8. Intricacy of Design (IOD):
The fascinating way in which all the pieces fit together to make an episode, especially when lots of pieces are involved. The complexity of an episode, maybe even the genius of an episode. Has a lot in common with category 6.
9. Unity of Purpose (UOP):
Or, what Spencer might call "Unity of Effect" when studying Poe. Measures how well the title of an episode and everything portrayed in that episode work together towards making a single unified point for the characters and the viewers to understand.
10. Music, Literature, and Other Cultural References (MLOCR):
A very subjective catch-all category that covers songs used as background music or songs sung by the characters, literature being read or referred to, references to historical figures or occurrences, and other miscellaneous cultural references. Songs used prominently in an episode score big here, as do literary works when repeatedly and effectively referred to in an episode. Any episode gets an honorary score of 1, for this is, after all, an H&Z creation. Any episode featuring a scene in Booklovers/My Sister's Bookstore gets at least a 3, and some scenes at Pages Alive will garner at least a 2 for the sometime-literary-merits of Lily's place of employment. Many good episodes can suffer in this category, for not every episode can spend valuable time working in "required" cultural references. But then again, this is Once & Again....
Overall Ranking, and Adjustments --
In a few cases, the reviewer exercised Reviewer's Prerogative where it was felt an episode deserved a higher or lower placement for reasons not reflected in the scores. In those cases, an adjustment of anywhere from -2 to +3 was used to adjust the final position of the episode. Aside from such adjustments, the following ranking resulted from the scoring of each episode using the 10 categories listed above. Ties were broken by comparing category scores in the order the categories are listed above. And by the way, the lowest score for any episode (44th rank) was 70! And the highest score...... we shall see.
(Typed in early July, 2001 -- Sisko)

Wherever you see a , this represents laughter and/or smiles on the part of the author. It could imply certain insider jokes as well, or merely a play on words. People who truly study these episodes for every nuance and memorize every detail should easily relate to Sisko's comments. Feel free to smile along with him. - Editor

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25. Ozymandias 2.0

  • Emotional Impact -- 8
  • Importance -- 8
  • Romance -- 7
  • Black & Whites, Fantasies, Dreams -- 8
  • Captivating Conversation, Witty Repartee -- 10
  • Beauty -- 9
  • Laugh-Smile Quotient -- 8
  • Intricacy Of Design -- 9
  • Unity Of Purpose -- 10
  • Music, Literature, Other Cultural References -- 5
  • Adjustment: +1
  • TOTAL: 83

    25. Ozymandias 2.0 Reviewed:

    Atlantor sour balls, The Look, Roman coins and Trophies. What an episode. With what may have been the most brilliant ten minutes or so ever aired on Once & Again, Rick and Lily first float and/or stumble through the chic Corporate Wonderland that is Miles Drentell and his potential Atlantor benefactors during a Get-To-Know-Rick party. Ultimately, Rick dazzles everyone -- Atlantor, Miles, Lily -- with his inspired vision of what Atlantor Centre could be, while simultaneously, across Chicagoland, Eli dazzles us and himself with his perfectly in-the-zone guitar playing, in which he seems as utterly in tune with, and involved in, his true calling as his father is at that precise same moment across town while sketching out the seeming future of Chicago's entire West/Near North side.

  • So many highlights to mention and recall:
  • Miles: "The context is about to change...." And boy, did it.

    Rick to Miles: "You're serious."
    Miles: "Almost always."

    Dress left or right?

    Lily to Judy: "Well, you see? That's my point. I'm having dinner with a Roman coin. What's my function?"
    Judy: "I'm telling you, you're a trophy."
    Lily: "I am not a trophy. Am I a trophy?" Yes, Lily Dear, you are and always have been a trophy, and what a radiant trophy you were at the Atlantor party, in this reviewer's opinion.

    Zoe to Grace: "Is it OK for a guy to buy another guy clothes?"
    Grace: "I think it's OK, as long as it's not, like, underwear." Good call, Grace.
    Zoe: "Yuck."

    Special moments: Rick's little spin around his living room ending with "Yes!", Miles black&white (his only one ever?) of him silently, skillfully, unwrapping a sour ball, looking knowingly at US, Eli's word "Dad-O-Vision", and the final Casablanca-like scene featuring Rick and Miles walking not into the sunset, but toward the Chicago skyline beckoning to the east.

    Also -- Lily's night elves who dress her. So THAT'S how she looks that way all the time! Where do I apply?

    Sybil what's-her-name: "Remind me to marginalize you later."

    Lily to Rick: "Don't EVER give me that look again."

    And finally, Miles to Rick, at the end: "The monument will be built, and though the poets disagree, monuments are what count. This I know, because I am closer to the end than I am to the beginning. Come, let's pace off the kingdom."

    So, in Rick's B&W words, was the universe just waiting to give Rick what he wanted, to put the prize in his palm? It would be many episodes before Miles would finally speak the words upon which this episode's title was based:

    "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."

    By then, we the audience had long known that poor Rick's palm was not to be filled with any prize except an ancient bronze turtle -- not exactly the prize Rick had once visualized.

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    24. Standing Room Only

  • Emotional Impact -- 8
  • Importance -- 8
  • Romance -- 10
  • Black&Whites, Fantasies, Dreams -- 8
  • Captivating Conversation, Witty Repartee -- 10
  • Beauty -- 8
  • Laugh-Smile Quotient -- 10
  • Intricacy Of Design -- 8
  • Unity Of Purpose -- 9
  • Music, Literature, Other Cultural References -- 4
  • TOTAL: 83

    24. Standing Room Only Reviewed:

    From Rick's opening "How dare we be happy. Are we really allowed to do this?" and Lily's "Yes, it feels sooooo good" in reply, this episode never lets up in its humor and wit, with many touching scenes and some of the most juicy kissing ever between Ole R&L taking place within its confines. Only 2 other episodes out of 44 rated by this Sisko scored perfect 10s in both Captivating Conversations or Witty Repartee AND Laugh/Smile Quotient, one of which also makes it into the Top 25 later. But for me, this one was tops in its nonstop ability to engage my funnybone, my brain, and my heart all at the same time. My smile, both inward and outward, was so broad throughout Standing Room Only, that by the time Lily's and Rick's final Low Fives took place with their hands, while mental High Fives were just as surely leaping across the airspace of their final loving gaze, I was as happy as I'd ever been for the two families combined.

    Where to start? How about a few seconds later, when Lily says "Oh my God, wedding", and grabs Rick's face in glee? Or Lily's and Rick's sudden postion-flop on Lily's bed, as if bouncing energetically on some love-trampoline, when Zoe knocks and asks, "Mom, can I come in?" Or, everyones' favorite, Lily's "Girls, this is Rick in his underwear."

    For me, this was a wonderful Tiffany episode. That girl can be so lovable. Some great Tiffisms from SRO:
      "I need a trauma counselor to get through a NORMAL day."
      "No, it's okay, got to pee, anyway."
      "Answer cloudy, ask again later."
      "Only reason I told you is because I practically threw up on your shoe."
    And Jake's and Tiffany's mutual "whatevers".

    More moments: Funny-spooky music throughout the episode, Lily's and Tiffany's ultra-confused conversation at Phil's about getting married/getting pregnant (what a couple of lovable airheads, eh?), Eli's "we need the gig" -- the wedding gig, that is, some pretty decent hair flips and whirls by Lily, and the special way she says "My girls..." after they hurry out the door for school.

    And how about.....

      Rick: "It's a good bed. It's a nice -- it's a nice bed."
      Lily: "Well, okay, because we'll never have sex on it."
      Rick: "What's sex?"

      Lily, Rick, and Jake all utter a favorite word of mine: "Absolutely."

    And the WONDEFUL dinner black&whites.....

      Rick: "I love yams." (At table) "I HATE yams!" (B&W)
      Grace, about Eli: "I'm still not clear on where he's going to sleep. That hasn't been made clear to me."
      Jessie: "So now I'm going to have three more people sitting there staring at me every minute to see if I'm eating. Great."
      Zoe: "I don't care. In fact, I might even get bunk beds out of the deal." Nodding hopefully.  This following her great success in Scribbling Rivalry with her Five Years speech.

    Sorry, not done yet.  How about Jake and Rick reaching for the same strawbs at the same moment? Or the evil-little-boy gleam in their eyes when the conversation turns to collaborating on knocking out the bay window wall? And both of them fessing up to "not having done the math"?

    Of course, any episode I adore this much has to have bunches of awesome Lily-moments, and SRO without a doubt fits the bill. Besides those already mentioned, there are:

      Lily's "NOOOO!", finally erupting from her throat, when Rick touches one piece of her furniture too many.

      Lily's facial expressions and mannerisms during this wonderful conversation:
      Lily: "Oh, so no desk. Where would it go?"
      Rick: "Where do you need it?"
      Lily (holding hands out dramatically toward computer): "Well, I thought I needed it under the computer. But I guess I was wrong."

      Lily's "Now I feel like I'm spreading Mad Cow Disease."

      Rick: "Okay, I should have asked before I put a hole in the wall."
      Lily, sarcasm dripping: "Maybe!"

    And best of all, wonderful harbinger of episodes to come, Lily surprising Rick with her engagement ring on under her glove, now exposed for all the world to see.

    Near the end of the episode, Zoe mentions that she "has trouble being silent." The warmth, intelligence, and humor of this episode affected me the same way.

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    23. My Brilliant Career

  • Emotional Impact -- 10
  • Importance -- 9
  • Romance -- 7
  • Black&Whites, Fantasies, Dreams -- 8
  • Captivating Conversation, Witty Repartee -- 9
  • Beauty -- 9
  • Laugh-Smile Quotient -- 9
  • Intricacy Of Design -- 8
  • Unity Of Purpose -- 8
  • Music, Literature, Other Cultural References -- 6
  • TOTAL: 83

    23. My Brilliant Career Reviewed:

    On the strength of a single "10", in the all-important category of Emotional Impact, MBC comes in at #23. And being at #23 and having received only one 10 is a sure indicator that the episode was very strong across the board, in all categories. MBC definitely was, for me.

    From Zoe's opening words, "I need help with my globe", this episode had me.

    Then, as Lily is getting ready for her first day of work at Pages Alive---

      Lily: "Don't you kids remember your first day of school?"
      Zoe: "I do, 'cause I threw up." (I guess Zo and Tiff have quite a few things in common -- see Episode 24.)
      Lily: "Well, this is like my first day of school."
      Zoe: "Are you going to throw up?"
      Lily: "Not if my children behave perfectly."
      Zoe, quite matter of factly: "Get the vomit bag."
    And moments later, I see Lily striding into Zoe's room, her arm-swinging movements and her gathering Zoe onto her lap so Lily-like, and I just know this is going to be a wonderful Lily ep, a wonderful all-around ep. And Zoe picks up the first-day thread again with, "Mom, you should tell them that Grandpa just died." Lily: "You think so, Honey? Why?" Zoe: "Because they'll be nice to you. They'll know you're fragile." What a Zo...... And moments later, Jake finds out from Zoe that, regarding global warming, he's "in denial." 

    How about Jake's first B&W about the birth of Grace -- "I stopped breathing."

    One of the wonderful things about this episode is the dreamy music playing during the many scenes which feature Lily alone, as when she first arrives at Pages Alive, and when she arrives early another day, puttering around the office, straightening Christie's chaos and studying up on Esther Dyson. Or when she's silently doing a first editing run-through on the PA manuscripts at home. The music can be such an integral part of a beautiful O&A episode.

    Loved Lily's "AAAAH!" with her hands up in the air when she gets shot by Pages Alive firearms upon her first entrance into The Chaos. And her early response to Christie, "Blame the mother -- isn't that a little bit retro?" Way to go, Lil!

    Other good visual Lily-moments (sorry, it's me, Sisko here, forgive me ): Lily's headset (You wear it well, Lil ) and Lily picking and munching at her microwaved food with Grace at her shoulder, just being Mother and Daughter together.

    And what another whirlwind we are (officially) introduced to in this episode: Our dearly beloved Pages Alive manager. I must run through a collection of Christisms, for though many viewers could care less about her as a Once & Again character, the spice she adds to every scene she's in is for me something I never stop savoring.

      To Lily, regarding her 0 or her 6 (I forget which ): "Oh. Oh, I see it's twisted on its side. Is your hand getting tired?"
      To Lily, while Christie pecks furiously on her hand-held calendar device: "I think you've erased half a month of my life." (No harm done there, Christie. ) "Don't touch it. Don't try to fix it." Her faith in Lily is boundless.

      The scene with Christie's mystery brew, which Lily gets to do the honor of cooking up for her---
      Employee: "Ew, what is that?"
      Employee: "People gotta eat in here, you know?"
      Christie takes a big gulp, and spews it out all over Lily, her devoted brewer. Reminds me of some of the best O&A Board spewing. 

      That's when another favorite habit of Christie's kicks in -- leaving a sentence hanging sometimes in the middle of a word, the full and final enunciation of which is left to the viewer/listener's imagination. For instance -- "This is vile. Throw it all out, you know what, and turn on a fan, because--- EW!!!"

      Or, in discussing the instructions for the preparation of the "tea": "They have to be followed exactly. Exa--- OK?"

      Christie is great with noises and gestures, too, as in clenching her fists on her way out of the office after instructing/motivating Lily in Esther Dyson phone techniques, or in telling Lily she's heading out to her 'umgh' (kicking her leg high in the air) class. (That 'umgh' is my best approximation of Christie's fascinating use of language in that instance. )

      Christie's and Lily's bathroom discussion is also one of the priceless moments of the episode. Christie: "You bring a fresh element into the office culture." Lily inquires of Christie what that might be. "Look around. You're the only one here with a life." That single comment of Christie's alone brought her redemption in my book for many other not-so-nice ones. And Lily, apparently, also relents and extends the ultimate branch of sisterhood to her under the bathroom stall door moments later.

    Prior to that, we were given a preview of the fiery Lily we would later see in full fury in Suspicion, this time when Lily throws down her headset and does a mini-telloff of Christie about what's important at that single moment in Lily's life, and it wasn't Pages Alive, but Lily's children.

    We're not done yet.  This episode has what may be the only Star Trek reference ever in a Once & Again episode -- Grace's remembrance of Jake's Klingon costume. I always love Jake's and Grace's conversations in the car (hmmmm.... I wonder if the Top 25 will see Learner's Permit?). How about Jake's french fry walrus/vampire teeth? How about Jake, to Grace about Jared, "Well good, I hope you warned him, too. You know, I'm gonna be white." And Lily, to Charlotte Bronte: "Charlotte, I'm 41. What am I doing?"

    MBC features one of the most memorable scenes of both seasons (well, actually two of them, but we'll save one for last). First, Zoe and Tiffany are getting down to some funkytown music, so cool, then Zoe and Jake go at it, with Jake in the coolest shades, to the strains of Wilson "Wicked" Pickett's Land of 1000 Dances (is that right, B'Dude?  Judy? ). Finally, Jared joins in, and Tiffany and Grace are almost having as much fun watching as those actually participating. Me too.  And all of you Boardies, I know. 

    When Jake told Tiffany (in reference to Grace), "I'm going to lose her", and their following conversatin ensued, my tears arrived right on time. Despite her contribution to Jake's downfall, Tiffany seems so filled with love and care for Jake and everyone around him. Her lovingness may be the most underrated quality of any character on the show.

    Did my tears stick around for the finale? Absolutely. 

    Before that, another wonderful Jake B&W, about his Toothless Angel, Grace, flying into his arms when he arrived home from work: "I couldn't believe I was the guy that made her that happy." And Jake, what about your Zoe? At the end, Zoe, oblivious to all that's going down with Grace and her Dad, trudges out sleepily and asks Jake if they can go to Bear Lake on Sunday. Jake, knowing how he has crushed Grace's life, lovingly picks up his Noodle, his Zodiac, and carries her over and sits down on the bed with her in his arms (shades of Feast or Famine?), answering, "Sunday, huh? Yes, Sunday's very good. We'll go on Sunday, OK?" His fear of losing both daughters trust and love at that moment is palpable, and he holds his Noodle so tightly.....

    Ultimately, though referring to Lily's newfound career in the title, My Brilliant Career comes down to an episode about loss, the loss of one's innocence, potential or actual, and the ways in which those losses impact the adults and children of this world. As always, it is filled with love, and it reminds us of the shades of grey that color us all, and it begins pointing us towards a theme that will recur again in Once & Again, in Season Two. One of the most important themes Once & Again ever tackles, in my opinion. Forgiveness.

    Grace: "People who betray other people... there should be consequences."
    Lily: "Grace, listen to me. We just lost Grandpa, my father. And I would give anything to have him back for another day, even an hour. And you've got your whole life ahead of you with your father. You want me to treat you like an adult? This is what grownups -- this is what they learn. People make bad mistakes, for complicated reasons, and it doesn't mean you don't love them afterward.... You might even love them more because you see that they're human."
    Grace: "Then how come you couldn't forgive Daddy?"
    Lily: "I can forgive him. Honey, I am forgiving him. But I don't think I can be in love with him any more."

    Jake, ask yourself what has been lost.

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    22. Where There's Smoke

  • Emotional Impact -- 10
  • Importance -- 9
  • Romance -- 8
  • Black&Whites, Fantasies, Dreams -- 9
  • Captivating Conversation, Witty Repartee -- 8
  • Beauty -- 9
  • Laugh-Smile Quotient -- 9
  • Intricacy Of Design -- 8
  • Unity Of Purpose -- 8
  • Music, Literature, Other Cultural References -- 5
  • TOTAL: 83

    22. Where There's Smoke Reviewed:

    (Sisko's Apology: This review didn't get as much revision from me as the first three. I finally decided just to finish churning it out and get something out there. Hope it's still somewhat readable.)

    Where There's Smoke was the first Once & Again episode to really signal the end of one Rick and Lily era and the beginning of another. Call the first era, "Breathless New Lovers Who Would Not Be Deterred", exemplified in its purest form by the opening moments of WTS. The next era could be called "Reality Sets In" or "The Lovers Fall from Grace", and though its seeds are sown in the final bedroom moments of Where There's Smoke, its wintry chill doesn't begin manifesting itself until The Gingerbread House opens one week later. And for many viewers, it was a chill that never entirely lifted from Bedford Falls until a fine day in May, a year and a half later.

    Like My Brilliant Career before it (#23 in this list), Where There's Smoke secured its spot with just a single 10 in the all-important Emotional Impact category, and strong scores in 8 of the 9 remaining categories. Coupled with the two episodes that followed it, most would agree that WTS/TGH/Mediation rivals BMG/LSTNT/TSLJ for the strongest 1-2-3 punch in the show's 2-year history.

    The opening scene of Where There's Smoke is another great Rick and Lily scene, among so many in their history together. Rick's "Were you watching?" to a bare Lily nestled on a bare Rick's back, with Lily responding, "I was sort of watching" when she was sort-of not doing much except enjoying being a part of Rick's back is a classic. Ditto their sudden race down the stairs as the day dawns (getting in some practice for the following season's classic opening of Wake Up Little Susie), with Lily bobbing and weaving looking everywhere for something she seems to be missing, while she seems to be grabbing her chest with her hands as if to help her remember what it is, or where it is, or both. "Oh Rick, Rick, have you seen my -- um ---" "Right here, right here," cries Rick, skidding up behind her and dangling an enticing black bra in front of Lily eye's. Grabbing the garment, and finishing their goodbyes with a flurry of breathy sucking and kissing, no viewer would have then imagined that merely one episode later, such behavior would have been repugnant to Rick, and beyond hope for Lily.

    Before the seriousness of the episode became apparent, there were many random moments that gave viewers cause to smile (or at least poke fun at Grace)---

    Grace, to Jake, after the electrical outlet smoke has cleared: "Are you going to fix the house, 'cause I'm scared now to even stay there." Grace, I'm sorry, but this is one of those cases where I felt compelled to tell you to SHUT UP! Take some tips on attitude from your little Sis: (To fireman) "Oh wait, I want to play in the fire truck." And, "I'm totally open to new experiences." Come on Grace, LIGHTEN UP. What do you think houses are made of these days, gingerbread? And when your mother tells you to get Zoe down from the fire truck, would you move your butt a few inches to do it, instead of standing stock-still, yelling at your sister and breaking your mother's precious eardrums? Geez.

    Speaking of Lily, as I am wont to do, has she ever donned so many delectable outfits in one episode? I'm sure the answer is yes, but let's see:

      * The loose white turtleneckish sweater/shirt she wore early on in the kitchen.
      * Sometime later, her purple longsleeve shirt with a blackish scarf draped around her neck and down her front.
      * Her long black coat she wore on the sidewalk/in the street while talking with Rick, and earlier with Jake accompanied by her red scarf.
      * Beige shirt and black jeans later in the kitchen -- got to be one of her sexiest outfits.
      * And Lily's long lustrous hair that seems to take on a life of its own sometimes is the ultimate complement to each of these outfits.

    I'm sure this has been said in a million ways before, more eloquently than this, but Sela as Lily simply redefines so many adjectives describing the types and degree of attractiveness. Now remember, ladies, I did mention Rick's underwear a couple of episodes back, so there's your equal time.

    OK, how about some Karen Sammler equal time? This was a wonderful Karen episode. Her series of black&whites about Eli are for me probably only matched by those in a couple of other episodes.

    Karen (B&W, her voice cracking): "It's not fair, you know, because soon he's going to be going away, maybe far away, I don't know, and I only really only have him for just a little bit longer. And in some ways.... well, in some ways, he's already gone." And Karen hears Eli's voice saying "Mom", and she looks over to see her little Eli, probably no more than 10 years old, saying he's going over to Coop's to play. How can we not feel for dear Karen at that moment, no matter how many light stands she forces on Eli? And she really does say "I only really only have him" -- the two "onlies" are an extra-human touch on Karen's part.

    Also love Karen's response to Jessie's "Isn't that swingin'?", with a tinge of sarcasm: "Yeah, just swingin'."

    Back to humor, because this episode has a lot more than one might expect:

      * Rick putting his hand over the pipe leak, thinking he might be able to get away with hiding it from Karen. Yeah, right, Rick.

      * Rick and Lily peeking mischievously around their menus at each other at the restaurant. And the seating fiasco there reminds me of so many occasions involving my own family -- how about all of yours?

      * The lettuce in Rick's teeth. Both Manning girls were the coolest in this scene; Zoe did the initial zeroing in, then Grace patiently guided Rick to the right spot: "It's still there -- it's like, two over." Rick also handles the situation with aplomb, I thought, and you can see Grace just getting a little more comfy around him in this enjoyable scene. Finally, Zoe's headache that appears out of nowhere after spilling food bodes well for her blossoming mental dexterity that will serve her so well in the future -- not that she's lying or anything. In their own ways, I think Grace and Zoe are both so much their mother's daughters.

      * Lily's and Judy's conversation at the bookstore, especially Lily's "OWW!" while Judy massages her shoulder just a bit too hard.

    And some other special moments:

      * Somehow, this one just captivated me: Lily is walking away from Jake, leaving him working in the hallway after she had tried to get him to open up with her about his problems, and when she finally exits the room, getting ready to take the girls out to eat with Rick, Jake yells, "Have fun!" Lily's response is somewhat mysterious, but so Lilyesque -- silhouetted against the sunshiny window, she puts her hands on her hips, hair and face sort of dangling down, and half turns and just stares back into the room where Jake is, as though saying to herself, "How do I deal with this man?"

      * Lily's B&W, with her finger touching her mouth and a faraway look in her eyes: "Sometimes I look at Jake, and I think, we made these amazing kids together. How did that happen?" And she finishes with this cute little smile, as though it's just a little fact of life that she and Jake didn't work out together, but that the awesome thing to her is that they produced two wonderful children.

      * Magical guitar music as Lily walks in to check on Grace, whom she thinks is sleeping, though Grace is holding in her sobs as best she can, probably hoping against hope that somehow Mom and Dad can still get back together.

      * The multiple feelings and emotions that seem to cross Lily's face as she talks with Rick out in the street in her long black coat, the wind rustling her hair. The discussion that evolves is almost a repeat of the discussion in The Scarlet Letter Jacket, except with different conclusions being reached about what is good for her children. Finally, she has to break off the conversation and go back inside, but halfway up the sidewalk, she gives one last whirl to look at Rick, as though to tell him, "I just have to leave you for right now, OK?" She wants him to see it does pain her to leave him out in the street at that moment....

    Finally, for better or for worse, we come down to the most important set of events of Where There's Smoke: the Jake/Lily interactions, which I will just talk about briefly now. This episode is unique among the 44 in that it is the only episode in which we see Lily romantically interacting with someone other than Richard Sammler. And say what you will about her actions, debate how you will about whether Rick was pressuring or not, this part of the story is the heart of this episode, and I found the final moments between Jake and Lily to add a certain beauty and humanness to both their characters that we otherwise might never have seen. I saw Lily motivated by love, not by lust, and I can never hate her for that. Nor can I say that what she did was in any way close to right. That is the mystery and wonder of Where There's Smoke -- and there will probably never be another episode quite like it.

    WTS, perhaps more than any other Once & Again episode, showed us the easiness with which questionable human actions, conducted in the name of good, in the name of love, can be entered into by people we admire and look up to. The Gingerbread House and Mediation would soon show us how such actions can swiftly result in unforeseen and unfortunate repercussions, repercussions that can render all those touched by them confounded, devastated -- possibly forever changed for the worse. It would take two of the most extraordinary people we have known to overcome that fallout, to rediscover a path leading to a distant parachute.

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    21. Thieves Like Us

    • Emotional Impact -- 9
    • Importance -- 8
    • Romance -- 8
    • Black&Whites, Fantasies, Dreams -- 6
    • Captivating Conversation, Witty Repartee -- 10
    • Beauty -- 9
    • Laugh-Smile Quotient -- 8
    • Intricacy Of Design -- 10
    • Unity Of Purpose -- 10
    • Music, Literature, Other Cultural References -- 6
    • TOTAL: 84

    21. Thieves Like Us Reviewed:

    Somehow I'm always trying to find appropriate ways to link each new review to a previous one in this Top 25 listing, and in this case, the link to me is obvious: Where There's Smoke and Thieves Like Us both deal with the possible wrongs of our favorite characters, challenging us to cast a first stone, asking us if we can be so certain that we ourselves wouldn't make some of the same errors in judgment that our beloved Once & Again friends do from time to time. WTS dealt with the beginnings of a much more serious issue (most would say, in retrospect), and even there, Lily wasn't portrayed as Darth Vader -- maybe more of a Lando Calrissian, if I'm getting my Star Wars characters correct. In Thieves Like Us, the human imperfections seem so lovingly painted on the Mannings and Sammlers that we can only assume we are being told "Hey, these people are YOU. This is LIFE. Deal with it, love the GOOD in everyone, but appreciate the whole."

    Grace, partly in B&W: "I mean, I know why it started. It started because we both wanted to spend time with Carla...." Yes, I can see how that could easily disrupt the universe right there.

    And in the next few instants, we get a good dose of that universe-disrupting influence: Carla holding out her lollipop like a mini-stop-sign or a vampire-deterring crucifix to stop all traffic at her feet, Carla looking Grace straight in the face at the convenience store, asking witchily, "Do you see anything you want?" Yes, any episode starting off like this has a good chance of disrupting something, somewhere.

    This, it should be said, is a strong Eli episode. Although most of his lines are secondary to the main events happening, he's always there with the poignant or insightful remark to fit the situation, as later when he tells Carla, complaining about the nondisolving chocolate, "So stir it." Or, as in this little exchange:

      Grace to Carla: "I'm not eating stolen snack cakes."
      Eli: "Stolen snack cakes..... It sounds like a good name for something."
      Carla, to Grace: "Would you if you were starving?"
      Eli: "Like a song or something." Heck, E, Stolen Snack Cakes would almost make a good alternate title for this episode, and it would certainly be a fun title for your band. But alas, the memory of those snack cakes is probably a bit too painful for you now.

    And immediately prior to these words, the theme of Thieves Like Us, the blurring of right and wrong, the perpetrating of life's little deceptions, which many of "Us" are not unfamiliar with, comes out when Grace asks Carla "So you won't litter but you'll steal?" Carla's response: "But littering is wrong." Well, at least until she starts tossing her gum wrappers around......

    And so it goes, throughout the entire episode, netting TLU a perfect 10 in Unity of Purpose. Which fittingly happens during this episode in which Grace and Spencer (and Teach Nerolik) discuss Poe's Unity of Effect, a term I almost used as the name of that particular scoring category. Let's see......

    • Jessie, to Rosenfeld: "I've been eating. Like, a lot more. Don't you believe me?"
      Rosenfeld: "Why wouldn't I believe you?" (Maybe you have the gift of future-sight, and you've seen the stale pizza in her drawer that we've seen, Dr. Zwick.)
    • Grace, to Carla in Jessie's room when Jessie isn't around: "Carla, we shouldn't" (Grace holds up Jessie's sprayer, looking at it with interest) "invade her privacy." (Grace sprays Jessie's sprayer.)
    • Grace setting the glitter bottle down when being called by Carla to leave, then coming right back and snatching off Jessie's dresser.
    • Jessie's false sincerity to Rick (called lying, I believe) about how she's eaten several slices of pizza, AND, Rick's little performance of his own telling her he doesn't need to count the pieces to believe her, followed by, of course, Rick counting the pieces.
    • Rick digging in Karen's satchel for Atlantor dirt (this is where the episode title could have changed to Spies Like Us).
    • Eli, to Carla: "Look, I've seen you steal."

    • Carla: "From a store, not from someone's little sister." Yes, stealing from Jessie might get you thrown in the slammer, right?

    This episode also received a 10 for Captivating Conversation or Witty Repartee:

    • Carla, to Grace while leaving Nerolik's class: "Boys are definitely needed, but sometimes you just need a break from them, you know?"
      Grace, in a one-word, looking-like-Carla-must-be-retarded B&W: "No."
      Grace, out loud to Carla: "Yeah!"
    • Zoe, to Lily: "Thank God you're finally home", whispering, looking around, afraid to be overheard....
      Lily: "Why, what's the matter?"
      Zoe: "Carla's here. There's something wrong with her."
      Lily, looking through today's mail: "Zoe, shhhhhh!"
      Zoe: "It's true. She chews black gum. But like, eight pieces at a time."
      Lily: "Black gum?"
      Zoe, still whispering (Meredith is so wonderful here): "And she'll like throw the gum wrappers towards the wastebasket...." holding her hands out now, palms up, towards Lily, in combined bafflement and disgust, "....without even bothering to check and see if it lands inside or not." Arms still out, holding the gesture for effect, as Lily pats her head to send her back upstairs. I do believe this is where Lily first got the idea for the similar gesture she used to great effect against Rick in Standing Room Only (see that review). Like Zoe, like Mom.
    • Rick, to Lily after telling her about Karen's Atlantor investigation: "I better, uh, I better go."
      Lily, sarcastically: "Because there's nothing to drink?"
    • Spencer's and Grace's phone conversation also captivated, and Spencer hit a home run after Grace remarked that "there's something wrong with me." Spencer's comeback: "There's stuff wrong with everybody."
    • Rick, to Grace on phone: "Hey, look, I was wondering if you would go shopping with me tomorrow?"
      Grace, looking as though about to vomit, though perplexed: "Shopping?"
      Rick: "Yeah, you know, it's your Mom's birthday coming up."
      Grace: "Not for two weeks."
      Rick: "Well, that's what "coming up" means."
      Grace: "Oh, right." Grace's catatonic state of the next few minutes is also very amusing.

    Now, for this episode's Lily-watch, there's really only one item for commentary: The Catwomanish black outfit she wore near the end of the episode in the kitchen with Grace, with the lacey black cape-thing draping her back-side (a Lily cape, Shully?), is an outfit destined for the Lily Wardrobe Hall of Fame. That other network may have its own Dark Angel, but our LilaBeth is the Real Thing.

    Many outstanding moments of humor as well:

    • Zoe, to Jessie: "If you have anything you don't want, I'll take it."
    • Carla never once hitting the trash can, as far as I can tell.
    • Lily Manning, Amateur Sleuth, picking up gum wrappers, Holmesian wheels turning in that delightful (and occasionally brilliant) head of hers.
    • The fact that Karen even bought the glitter to begin with, setting the Sammler-Manning girls off on this goose-chase of an episode, bodes very well for Karen The Straight Arrow. Her personality-glitter's in there, deep inside of Karen, but apparently it will take someone other than Lloyd or Leo to bring it out and keep it out, and in the meantime, it might help if Jessie doesn't choose the wrong moment to start "borrowing" things. Wait, what does this have to do with humor? I guess I'm just thinking about Karen's B&W about the glitter, which I did smile warmly over.
    • Lily was strangely unaffected/untouched by the glitter tag-game, except in that one moment when the Glitter-Bug almost bit her (which was also a great Lily self-absorption moment, as she was entirely focused on something of hers on Grace's dresser, at first, rather than the glitter):

    • Lily: "What is that? Is that my garnet necklace? Do you realize how long ago you borrowed this?"
      Lily again, after picking up the glitter, and looking closely at it: "Wow, it's the really nice kind." But that's it -- Lily is not possessed by the glitter, for whatever reason.
      I was suddenly reminded of various characters coming in contact with the dangerous and powerful One Ring in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Some could not withstand its pull at all, others could do so only by virtue of keeping it away from themselves, or by virtue of letting the simple goodness in their hearts cause them to put the thing down before it could hold sway over them forever.
    • Richard Sammler, Professional Spy. As in Ozymandias 2.0, I again thought of Casablanca, this time when Rick and Miles had lunch for the second time in TLU. The music and the atmosphere were such that I could just see them standing at a Moroccan bar, circa 1940, (yeah, that's right, Rick's Cafe Americain(sp?)) discussing letters of transit. Instead, Rick comes up with, "I think I left my wallet in the car", and away he zooms to let some air out of peoples' tires before Grace scares the bejeebers out of him with her phone call. I just want to know one thing: Where in Richard Sammler's apparently fertile subconscious did he cook up this spur-of-the-moment 007 scheme? And, more importantly, was the Blonde actually delayed?
    • Grace, to Rick while on their birthday-shopping outing: "She's pretty much obsessed with moisturizing."
      Rick: "Who isn't?"

    And there were touching moments as well:

    • Zoe looking so hurt each time she tried to catch a look or feel of the glitter bottle and instead got shouted down by Grace.
    • Grace, finally realizing she has to put the glitter back, because everything has gotten so out of hand over that stupid little bottle, rummaging through her purse, and -- not finding it.
    • Jessie's words to Rosenfeld, about Karen trying the glitter: "Why did she have to wait so long?" Her unspoken thought being, if Karen had tried out glitter a few years earlier, Dad might still be around......
    • Rick and Grace walking down the sidewalk, suddenly connecting with each other about doing things that "are not you." And Rick telling Grace how important Lily was to him. Grace would remember these things later, deep down, and though her feelings for Rick would temporarily wane during events like the protest at A Better Place, this time spent alone together by Rick and Grace could only serve them well in the future. And you can tell, I think, that Grace is really supposed to adore Rick on some level. It just doesn't come out that often.
    • Zoe, to Jessie in car: "Want to see something?"
      Jessie: "Sure." Zoe pulls the bottle of glitter out of her purse and hands it almost secretively to Jessie.
      Jessie, again: "Where did you find it?"
      Zoe: "Shhhh. It's the good kind. I'd even give it to you, but I stole it from my sister. Maybe you could borrow it sometime."
      Jessie, understanding crossing her face, but not unappreciatively to Zoe: "Yeah, thanks."
      And this scene would set the stage for the final moments of TLU, to be discussed any moment now.

    Thieves Like Us scored a third 10, in the category of Intricacy of Design. The episode's ending alone probably could have snagged the 10, but how about a couple of other neat plot overlays, just to keep the 10 well-deserved......

    • Rick looking through Lily's cabinets for liquor, finding only the chocolate hideout. Carla looking through Rick's cabinets for chocolate, finding only the liquor hideout.
    • Mr. Nerolik's timely teaching of The Tell-Tale Heart.
      Nerolik: What is Poe exploring here? Why does the beating get louder and louder until it becomes almost unbearable? Is he, is he really crazy? Or is it..... something else? What dark emotion could Poe be attempting to------"
      Grace: "GUILT!!!"

    But by the end of TLU, the guilt is replaced by something stronger, an understanding passing swiftly between two girls who'd had precious little real interaction with one another before glitter came calling on their lives.

      Lily, to Jessie in the kitchen, with Grace standing off to the side: "Did it ever turn up?"
      The camera studies Grace's face in the foreground on the right side of the screen, with Jessie's face out-of-focus, to the left and behind her.
      Jessie, still out of focus, but looking directly at Grace: "As a matter of fact, it did."
      From a different angle now, Grace is shown turning to look towards Jessie, to hear and see her response.
      Jessie, happily: "It was right there all the time." Jessie briefly looks right at Grace, who has just finished turning and now meets eyes with Jessie for a split moment, before turning back, probably wondering, how in the hell did I rate that kindness?
      Lily: "Well, isn't that always the way?"
      Rick, kissing Lily: "See ya."
      Lily, to Jessie: "Bye sweetie."
      Jessie: "Thanks, Lily."
      Jessie, smiling while going out the door, and looking back: "Bye, Grace."
      Grace, turning and looking longer at Jessie this time: "Bye."
      Rick smiles and closes the door. Grace, dear Grace, turns back to herself and has this look of wonder on her face that has made putting up with her for these two years all worthwhile. A look that says a million things at once, about a wonderful girl named Jessie, about pizza not mentioned, about what life throws at you constantly but how it comes back at you in unexpected ways that indeed, make life worth putting up with. Except during The Second Time Around, I can't remember ever feeling so strongly for Grace as I did at that moment. Not to mention for wonderful Jess.

    And then, there's our Little Lady, locking the bathroom door, finally alone with the good kind of glitter. I hope I'm not repeating verbatim any of what I wrote the night Thieves Like Us aired, but let me say this: Of many of the characters on Once & Again, I have mental snapshots of each from one particular moment that is most meaningful to me in that character's brief lifetime spent with us. And this, by far, is my mental snapshot of Zoe, the young girl who will be a young lady before Lily and Rick and Jake know it, the voice of levity when all seems lost, the face of innocence when reality weighs heavily. I will always see her, gently unscrewing the lid on the bottle of that sparkling Essence she only wanted for the fleeting moments of beauty it would spend on her already-remarkable face. My snapshot is of her, seeing herself in the mirror, dabbing her finger into the Blue, gracefully applying it to her face, and, ever so slightly, smiling.

    And for the life of me, I cannot remember why I didn't give this episode a 10 in Emotional Impact.

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