Season 1, Episode 22
Date of airing: March 15, 1995 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 11.8 million viewers, 8.0/13 in Households
I am celebrating as well. This is the season finale number one, which means the next episode of PARTY OF FIVE will have Jennifer Love Hewitt in it, and as someone with a childhood crush on this woman (I still love her, even though her work has gotten less interesting for me), this stage of PARTY OF FIVE is more important than anything else in my life right now. Well, maybe staying up-to-date with the current impeachment inquiry against Orange Hitler Donald Trump is a thing to stay up-to-date on, but when it comes to scripted narratives, PARTY OF FIVE overcomes everything else at the moment, which is not hard to do, since the Marvel stuff on Disney+ will arrive in 2020, so I have some time ’til then.
This episode was surprisingly great. This being a mid-nineties show, it didn’t feel like a season finale, but one can say that a death among friends and an engagement in the family can be considered the closing point of the season circle, especially since it was an episode that ended like the pilot: with the family getting together for dinner, and this time around they have been joined by their closest friends. It does make me wonder though if the writers wrote a more series-closing finale because of the show’s rating and the good chances that PARTY OF FIVE was not going into a second season. After all, Ross becoming a single parent (which is weird) and Charlie and Kirsten finally having popped the question are perfect happy endings, even if one of the stories happened to be dropped into this episode without having been an issue previously, while the other has already been part of the show, but was cut out of the show an episode later. If PARTY OF FIVE would have ended right here, the characters may not have gone through major life development, since most of the stories were rather stand-alone in their structure, not necessarily helping the characters grow up, but it would have been a nice little show with grounded stories and emotions, and with a few episodes that were quite successful in pulling at my tear strings.
Anyway, Jill died of an overdose, and boy did it turn into something of a plot device here. First of all, it was kind of expected that Jill would go down this way, since I never really believed she was in recovery and rehabilitation (the writers never focused on her in the romance with Bailey and it was always his story), and secondly, consider me disappointed that the writers actually chose an overdose and not a random death that was more unexpected and shocking, even if it would not have brought the great story of angry brother Griffin Holbrook trying to get over the death of his sister in the storyline of a side character who may or may not become Julia’s next boy obsession (judging by Griffin’s looks, he will definitely replace Justin soon). It’s especially disappointing when you realize that this episode did not do a bit of an afterschool special in that regard and put Jill’s addiction front and center and how it was the addiction that killed her. And this being a television drama for the younger FOX audience, going for a small afterschool special would probably have been appropriate, but then we only get to know that Jill died of an overdose, because Bailey mentioned cocaine and Griffin was talking about being mad at his sister for doing this dumb mistake. If it had been a random and unexpected death, the Salingers could have talked about how fast life can throw you out of this world, and how you should never stop waiting for something better to happen. Okay, that sort of happened when Charlie was thinking about asking Kirsten to marry him, but Julia and Claudia could also have thought about making something more out of their lives, because they just learned it could end quickly.
Still, Bailey’s path to self-destruction was great, albeit predictable. I loved when he punched Will to the ground and drove off drunk, and I even loved that confrontational scene between Bailey and Charlie right after more. Finally, the two eldest Salinger family members went at it, and the episode was a short way away from an actual physical fight between two of the Salinger siblings — something I think will come sooner or later and there doesn’t need to be a lot between Charlie and Bailey for them to swing their fists at each other. Bailey already hated Charlie in that very moment, and he hated Charlie when his older brother took away decisions from him. And Charlie is easily down for making mistakes that could cost him, although I have never seen him in an aggressive state before. At the end of the day though, their scene in the backyard was one of the strongest scene of the entire season. Bailey is finally breaking down and Charlie is finally declaring his love for someone that isn’t his girlfriend. It was a touching scene that showed some love between some of the Salinger siblings, which is something I have missed lately.
And finally, a few words to the weirdness that was the adoption story. I cannot believe that an adoption agency would give a baby to a single parent, when there are probably a lot of childless couples who were waiting to adopt. I would love to know if single parents were ever able to adopt and, if it’s actually possible, how hard the process must be to adopt, since you would have to prove that you’re better as a single parent than couples could be. In fact, I would have assumed that the “administrative problems” in the adoption case was not about Ross’s sexuality, but because he didn’t have a partner. And besides that, I was intrigued by the notion that during the mid-nineties, you could find out if someone is gay by learning whether or not the person is having HIV tests on a regular basis. Today you go through those tests just to check if you’re healthy and disease-free when beginning a new sexual relationship, and in case you have a lot of sexual intercourse with a lot of people and like to take some drugs in-between (or do porn). But two decades and a half ago it was a way to find the gays in the healthcare system. It’s almost like that was just another way to be surveilled and oppressed by the government, especially when your healthcare provider was easily giving access to your medical records to people not involved in healthcare.