Party of Five (“Best Laid Plans”)

Season 2, Episode 8
Date of airing: November 22, 1995 (FOX)
Nielsen ratings information: 7.8 million viewers, 5.8/10 in Households

You would have thought that it’s Kirsten who would fall apart this close before the wedding, considering she will be the one humiliated by Charlie’s antiques if he decides to live by them forever and always. But it turns out it’s Charlie who is thinking long and hard about the next chapter in life he is about to begin, and his thought process goes a little like this. He loves Kirsten, he wants to get married to her, but he cannot come up with the vows. He does not want a bachelor party, but he also does not want to sit in a dark corner all by himself, trying to come up with vows. He takes the first best opportunity to have a conversation with a person (someone who is not part of his family is sufficient for that idea) and he uses that conversation to continue his internal dilemma: Should he get married to the woman he loves, or should he free himself from these heavy thoughts and go back to where he was before he fell in love with Kirsten? And what does this whole thing say about falling in love in general? If Charlie can’t manage to collect his emotions and get himself together after realizing he is in love with this one and only woman, then we’re all kind of screwed and undeserved of long-lasting relationships under the eyes of the tax law. If Charlie thinks he cannot keep it together while he is in love with Kirsten, then why should we all be bothered falling in love with our romantic interest? Why even going through all the emotional pain of falling in love and having a relationship and getting married and having kids and growing old together, when Charlie tells us all that it’s not what he wants to take on, no matter how great it all sounds?

Miss Hawkins in a time during which she was still known to make music.

To my surprise this was a great episode. There was some interesting symbolism going on, as Charlie became something of a mature person during this episode, realizing that he can’t do any more of those mistakes, while his little brother is kind of doing them all throughout the hour, even if some of those mistakes weren’t even Bailey’s fault. For starters, Bailey didn’t listen to Charlie when the latter told the former he doesn’t want a party or a stripper — look where it brought Charlie at the end of the episode. Bailey also just stood on the sidelines when he saw his soon-to-be wed brother with another woman, thinking that Kirsten will be history pretty soon and the wedding will get cancelled. Bailey was essentially not ready to help his big brother out in not doing another mistake, begging the question how interested he actually is in seeing Charlie become the real mature person he was talking to in the hotel room. Besides that, why is Bailey planning the whole bachelor party, including the hiring of a stripper and the apparently hard buy of a six-pack of alcohol, when one of the other bachelor guests could have done that? Yes, Dudley may have sworn on his grandmother to not give Charlie this cliched bachelor party, but it’s not like Dudley and Bailey were the only guests of said bachelor party — none of the other guys of age could have at least bought the alcohol? What kind of crappy friends does Charlie have?

In the meantime, Griffin’s trip to prison means that Julia has a lot of time for Justin again, and voila, the boy needs his ex-girlfriend now, because his life is about to get upended. One can say anything they wish about how stereotypical the twist is for Justin to witness the potential end of his parents’ marriage, and it’s not like this happens for the first time to a friend of one of the central characters on this show (by the way, have Artie’s parents officially split now or is there still hope?), but I kind of adored how Julia saw this as a chance to be reminiscent about her own point of view when she was facing the split of her parents in hindsight. I’m pretty sure that Julia wasn’t just thinking about herself and Justin when she gave him hope about his parents probably still being together, because her words sounded like what she came to learn when she realized her mother was almost having an affair with her music partner and that could almost have created a whole different life for Julia. Reflecting on that while one of her greatest loves is going through a similar, if not same, situation should definitely bond them again. Besides that, it will give the two lovebirds an opportunity to get back together and continue their kissing, maybe even have a sex-related story somewhere. After all, Michael Goorjian is still a regular.

Behind this door is drama.

The episode should have focused a little more on Kirsten and Claudia though. Not only did I like seeing the two hang out and have a girls night, but I’m still missing the spotlight on the premise of Kirsten being Claudia’s impromptu mom. Maybe Claudia needs the talk at one point and I would love it for Kirsten to give it to her. Maybe Claudia actually feels like she has a real family with Kirsten in the mix, who isn’t just his big brother’s wife-to-be, but a true mother figure by definition of the term. The same can be said for the reverse premise, in which Kirsten sees Claudia as her daughter. Sure, the show already went through the adoption of Owen (apparently that happened off-screen or between episodes, or maybe it’s final after the wedding), but for someone who can’t have kids, she surely is hanging out with one who probably desperately loves her.

One final note: Does the crowd of the twenty-first century even know who Sophie B. Hawkins is? Seeing her in this episode, I realized that I never knew what she looked like, or if she ever did anything else but be part of the teenage soap opera crowd during the 1990s. It almost makes me wonder why she never broke out of the one or two-hit wonder status and if she is part of 1990s pop culture zeitgeist now.

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