Party of Five (“Where There’s Smoke”)

Season 2, Episode 7
Date of airing: November 15, 1995 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 9.2 million viewers, 6.5/10 in Households

In which Griffin gets written out of Julia’s life and the show entirely in a somewhat weird fashion. Potential arson, grand theft, jail, the potential of prison, and then military academy — while Griffin was not at all involved in the fiery accident of the restaurant, the rest was quite the way for Griffin to take in this episode and I don’t really know why the writers decided to take this mad a route to write the character out. Not that I never believed that Griffin was a holy saint of a character (trouble was always following him around and at one point I believed he would be a criminal), but damn, the writers could have chosen to give the story at least two episodes, just to make Griffin’s fall into the criminal underworld of San Francisco a little more believable. Also, I can’t quite buy that Julia was just asking about visiting her boyfriend at his place during the beginning of the episode, and then had to say goodbye to him at the end of the hour. The writers definitely put the pedal to the metal in this story.

In hindsight though, I’m sort of happy that Griffin says goodbye. The fact that he is gone for six months only smells like a reunion later in the season, especially since Julia should be getting back with Justin, and the season finale could all deal with Julia having to make a decision between her good boyfriend Justin and her returning bad boy of a boyfriend Griffin. If I had been part of this writers room in 1995, I would have pitched that story and I would not have cared that it comes straight out of the treasure box of tropes. I did however liked that the story was connected to the fire in the restaurant and how it essentially created two strings of stories: Charlie being the suspect of an arson, and Griffin being the guilty party of a resulting grand theft. What a shame though that the writers didn’t manage to keep the stories paired up during the last two acts. It was only a problem when the Salingers learned of Griffin’s grand theft, but then the story split up entirely and became Julia’s thing again.

Ballet lessons with Jennifer Love Hewitt make everyone smile!

In the meantime, Bailey is falling in love with Sarah — four or five episodes too late, because now Will has found an opportunity to be more involved in Bailey’s life, as well as the show in general. Here is to hoping that Sarah and Will are in a relationship for longer than two or three episodes, because I wouldn’t mind if some unrequited love thing comes in-between Bailey and Sarah and the two will have problems sharing their emotions with Will in the middle, who does not want to be hurt. I could imagine that after a short while, Bailey and Sarah have a secret relationship while Will and Sarah have a public romance. That spells heartbreak when people learn of this and it would be a way to give Scott Grimes something to do, since he has been severely undervalued since the show’s premiere. Besides that, Sarah may have been retooled just slightly as a character — she became a klutz. That could have been just to showcase Will’s transformation into Sarah’s crush, but maybe it’s also her greatest character flaw from here on. I don’t know if the writers cared about that since they were only given 13 episodes (the season having been given the back-9 order after its Golden Globe win) and just decided to give Sarah a character flaw that will soon be forgotten, but it was cute to see her trying her hand at ballet and smashing her head and body into absolutely anything. I’m actually surprised she survived the experience.

I was happy to see Claudia having been given something of an important story, even if the scene of her smoking at the end of the episode smelled like another afterschool special. We’ve had one about grief and sex already, so I guess drugs and addiction is next. While I’m impressed that Standards and Practices let the scene slide (probably because they were insured by the writers that the story is going to be important and morale-heavy), it was still weird to see the very young Lacey Chabert with a cigarette in hand, even if it was a fake one. Meanwhile, I was confused over Jody, Claudia’s new best friend. When she was introduced to the viewers I already smelled trouble, and that wasn’t even the problem I had. For me Jody looked like she was portrayed by Mireille Enos when she was still a teenager, but her name was nowhere to be found in the credits. I had to type in the IMDb address to find out who Marla Solokoff is (obvious spoiler alert: This wasn’t Jody’s only episode on PARTY OF FIVE) and to calm down my mind that I wasn’t witnessing the career beginnings of Enos. But my mind could not let go of this thought and now every time Jody will appear, I will feel the urge to finally watch more than the first few episodes of THE KILLING.

Claudia’s new friend has a bit of an addiction problem here…

Back to the burned-out restaurant and how it turned into a story of Kirsten finding a liking to the more risky version of Charlie. Consider me disappointed that her believing he might have burned down the restaurant for a little extra money didn’t lead to a whole argument scene between the two, but I must say I laughed when she gave him the present of a gasoline tank and matches at the end. That is first-class trolling by Kirsten and it’s something I never knew she was able to do. All this time she is so damn serious about her relationship and life, followed by her pissed-off state when people get involved in her life too much, but then she delivers a visual joke like that and it’s perfect. How can you not fall in love with Kirsten after that? How is there still not enough chemistry between Paula Devicq and Matthew Fox for me to believe that this is a truly functioning relationship between their characters?

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