Season 1, Episode 14
Date of airing: January 4, 1995 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 10.0 million viewers, 7.1/10 in Households
This was another very solid episode, and I almost cried again. When Julia was all about not wanting to lose the memories of her mother and such voiced her emotional concerns, I could understand Julia’s emotions and I could somewhat connect to it, even though I have no experience in that regard at all. It was a perfectly crafted storyline that removed Julia from her efforts to quickly grow up and have life respond to her sensibilities and put her into an emotional storyline that actually has her growing up, and learning about life in the process, and for the first time Julia was really likable as a character in this show. She was part of a story kickstarted by Kirsten slowly taking over the female adult role in the house, and it was definitely helped along by the writers conveniently placing Julia in the premise she was in this episode, but the story managed to create a back story here, with Diane’s playing in New York, and the story of how she may or may not have had an affair, just for Julia to find out how much her parents really loved each other. It was great to see that Kirsten brought along a little bit of a story that could have not at all been about Julia’s fears of losing her mother, but was eventually used as a kickstarter, all while turning into its own story throughout the second half of the episode. In fact, both story potentials of Kirsten taking over the mother role (albeit unintended) were great, and I really would have loved to see the other one (in which she actually takes over the mother role, at least for Owen and partially for Claudia) played out to the fullest. And who knows, with Kirsten living in the house now, that story is still to come.
There were some great emotions behind Julia’s story, and once more I am reminded that she is actually a perfect character for a show like this. Emotionally complicated and sensitive enough to quickly grow up and collect experiences as a human being after the death of her parents, but introverted and emotional and self-aware enough to see that she will have more of life when she stays true to herself. That might contradict her character development, but the writers were smart enough to put a few episodes in-between Julia quickly wanting to grow up and Julia fearing to lose her mother for real and trying to get stuck in the past because of it (which prevents her from growing up). It’s like the writers realized what they really wanted with Julia from this episode forward, which is why her original character was toned down and the emotional side of hers was expanded. One more example of how PARTY OF FIVE seemed to have been “fixed” by the writing room during the beginning of this season. No show is perfect from the beginning.
I still have a few problems with Kirsten moving into the Salinger house though. She is cute and all, and her relationship with Charlie might be on a high right now, but I still don’t see chemistry, and I still can’t buy that these two are so in love with each other, they pretty much forget everything and everybody around them. I guess that’s how 24-year-olds were living in 1994 or 1995, but if I would have had a hand in this show back in the day, I would have waited half a season (as in, until two episodes ago) for Kirsten and Charlie to declare the deepest of loves for each other, and that without Kirsten leaving for three episodes or Charlie cheating on her. Yes, I’m saying that this relationship is going way too fast for my taste, and I’m already waiting for the unhappy end, just so I can see the story unfold the writers were probably planning to bring from the beginning. Kirsten and Charlie are in a relationship that looks like it’s intended to drive straight into the wall of unhappy ends, and the only question is how long will it take to get there?
The rest of the episode was okay. Bailey is just a teenager and does teenage stuff (stuff I partially went through myself, so here is another ay of me connecting with the show on a deeper level), and as expected, Jill is a little bit of a troublemaker. I guess Jill is the definition of just another TV trope, especially when I think of how “normal” Kate was. Kate was this perfect girl with a few issues here and there that were able to be worked out in the long run, and Bailey definitely loved her, creating a wonderful teenage romance, but here is Jill who is anything but perfect and has a crapton of family troubles and emotional issues she doesn’t seem to be dealing with, and I don’t see a lot of actual love between the two. Right now, what the two are having is basically just fun. Apparently the writers wanted to show the two sides of dating a female high school student, and they chose Bailey as the guy who dates both of these types. It’s a bit of a cliche, but Jill is still an intriguing character, thanks to the emotional ballast she is keeping instead of working through. I hope her family situation is being lit up very soon, because I get the feeling it’s what the writers were working towards, turning her life into an excruciating mess that Bailey will have to deal with in one form or another.
And then there was the topic of religion. The writers were obviously very careful about the whole thing, because I don’t believe that a meaningful story was created here with Claudia being in the center of it all. Then again, respect must be given for PARTY OF FIVE to go down that direction and give the viewers a note about religion and what to believe in when you believe your parents believed in something. I loved that Claudia was conflicted about religion, even though it was dumped into the show as a story a little too hard. She was thinking about converting to Judaism, just because she likes a Jewish boy, and she thinks about marrying and having children way too early, which is kind of a whole different story for so many reasons. I know Claudia is a child prodigy, but maybe she should have slowed down her plans of becoming Jewish, let alone thinking about her future. I mean, why the heck is she torturing herself with these thoughts right now? Is that what 11-year-olds go through when hanging out with a friend who could have been a romantic interest if they were about four, five years older?