“A Girl Like Maple”

25 October 1997
[Congressman Faraday thanks you for your support.] Written by Rupert Holmes.

Directed by Richard Shepherd.
MAIN Season Three Episodes: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7
8 - 9 - 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17

The show opens up with another side-splitting joke from Mr. Foley. One we, of course, aren't privy to since it completed mere seconds before we joined the show.

The jokes appear to be off-color, unless the color would be blue, because Mackie stops his as soon as Betty enters the hallway. The three, Mr. Foley, Mackie and Scott act strange until Betty has left and then immediately return to their huddle to continue.

This time they're interrupted by Eugenia. HDTV still seems a few years away from regular transmission and we're left with the 340 actual lines of transmission of NTSC (the other 185 lines are used for non-visual information). As a result, I didn't realize Eugenia was wearing a hat and I thought Halloween had came early. Her hair seemed to be sticking up on end. I kept wondering when one of the guys were going to say something. Then, as she walked past them, I realized it was a hat. Once those incredible sound-proof doors to Studio A closed, they were back to sharing the joke.

Now it's Maple's turn to turn the corner and enter the scene. The guys freeze up as normal, but then invite her to listen to the joke. However, Betty rejoins them and Maple invites her to listen to the joke. Of course Mackie hems and haws and stumbles his way around a substitute joke...well, not really a joke so much as a string of words placed together as sentences. Once Betty's gone, Maple wants to know the reason for the guys' strange behavior. It boils down to Maple being "a girl like you."

The perplexed Maple searches out Betty in hopes that she can explain her to her. Betty does her best to politely explain the bleedingly obvious to her. After years of deciding certain behaviors and topics of conversations were acceptable to her (that she was aware of not being acceptable to others), she suddenly seems surprised by it all.

Then she walks into the studio and Mackie lights the fuse to Maple's explosion. She delivers a rant stating she isn't "a girl like me" and within seconds as she addresses Mackie, completely contradicts herself by pointing out the importance of "a girl like me". Such tortured lack of logic and the way her vocabulary has been played up as lacking for the last 4 or 5 episodes causes me to withdraw the candidacy for government special agent status I suggested after "The New Actor."

Speaking of candidates, I always wondered what happened to Barbara's ("One Day at a Time") husband. Ok, I never really wondered that. But Boyd Gaines is back on TV as a Congressman running for re-election. (Apparently a Representative since Maple mentioned a period of 2 years and Farraday mentioned "district".)

Maple's still ranting, even while chewing on her gum. Betty, meanwhile, does realize that when you rely on public response (listeners continuing to listen and hearing the ads), the image you project IS important. Maple conjures up a "cultured" accent and offers her gum to Betty. Then, as she interviews Farraday, she attempts "cultured" dialogue which leads Maple to exceed her vocabulary several times:

"Very well, but I must be careful not to let friendship comprise [compromise] my work. I do try my very best at all times to remain neuter [neutral]." However, if you dig far enough into an unabridged you can find neuter meaning neutral (although I don't know what a 1940 unabridged would say). And again, she's quick to contradict herself. Mere sentences after aiming for the lofty goal of neutrality, she states, "I'll stand by you, Bob, as I'm sure all of us will."

"I think in the case of Congressman Bob Farraday, the answer to both questions is a rebounding [resounding], 'Yes!'...twice." Hmmm, answering both questions twice gives us 4 yeses. Seems to be the math motif again.

After Farraday compliments her on "being both professional and charming," she responds, "Well, that's very languid of you...Bob." I'm at a loss to realize what word Maple was shooting for here, so this brings us to...

The WENN word-of-the-week: languid, which means, "drooping from weakness or fatigue; lacking in vigor; lacking in interest." Oddly (purposefully?), the slow and easy way Maple was speaking could be described as speaking in a languid manner.

Then the interview is over and, as they begin the beguines in Studio B (sorry, couldn't resist), Farraday hears Maple's "real" voice for the first time and immediately makes the gum connection. Maple freezes as she becomes terribly conflicted on how to react to Farraday's assumption that she was adopting an accent to represent the constituents he had just described. After fuming about assumptions people make, does she correct the Congressman and risk nipping the potential for a relationship in the bud...or allow his misperception of her speaking voice continue and play to it. As he compliments her eyes and makes his attraction to her clear she is swayed to continue the charade.

I wonder what happened to what seemed to be a budding romance between Mr. Foley and Maple?

Maple details her dinner date with the Congressman the next day to Eugenia, continuing a series of vocabulary goofs: sodium [podium], bias [dais], Benedictine [bened...wait, that was correct]. Then comes the question of what's wrong with Maple's voice. "You tell me. All my life when I speak, men hear me and think I'm 'that kind of girl.' " At this point I'm lost. Maybe I'm not worldly enough, but I've never associated Maple's manner of speaking with "that kind of girl." Or rather, since I generally don't make those kind of associations, I should say that I've never been aware of that being part of the stereotype.

Being that 99% of the show takes place on the same set, it's important to maintain a visual freshness and we've seen an expansion of camera techniques this season, some successful, some less so. As Maple and Eugenia speak, the camera's view rotates around them. It's interesting to see Carolee ("Maple") Carmello walk around in high heels (?) trying to avoid the dolly tracks placed around the table. She grabs each of the empty chairs and Eugenia's shoulder to steady herself as she navigates.

The "Hands of Time" is hilarious as Scott continues (despite his denials) to try and get Hilary's goat and only offhandedly mentions the show stars Hilary. Then he decides not to wait for Mr. Foley's sound effect (?) and creates the kiss sound by planting one on Hilary's left cheek. Of course, this is 1940, and you don't just plant one on a woman willy nilly (particularly not Hilary!) and she rightfully pops him one. I wonder if it was just to annoy Hilary or if he's becoming more comfortable around her?

Of course, the far more interesting subtext here is the parallel between "The Hands of Time" and Jeff and Hilary's situation. Back in WENN's first season, "Brent" suffered a war injury causing amnesia, leading him to marry a woman who looked exactly like his wife. Jeff suffered war injuries during a bombing of London, leading him to marry a woman who looked exactly like the woman people thought was his wife...Hilary!

Now, a woman, Pavla, has show up at WENN claiming to be Jeff's legal wife. And in today's "The Hands of Time", a woman, Selma, has shown up at the cabana Brent and Elizabeth are staying claiming to be Brent's legal wife. So, of course, we must look for clues in the radio show as to what's really going on with Jeff, Hilary and Pavla.

Selma claims that Brent's unsettled mind was what got them "into this mess." The only thing I noticed about Jeff's mind that seemed unsettled was his concern about not doing enough about the war effort. This would play into some of the ideas speculated in the newsgroup for the Pavla events.

Unfortunately, the Congressman's arrival forces Maple to assume a Boothish pose, with Scott voting for Maple's Booth (if only because he realized something funny was going on). And in the resolution to the crisis in "The Hands of Time", it seems that Selma was an imposter; Brent never married her. This seems to be the most likely resolution to the Jeff-Hilary-Pavla triangle, but that remains to be seen.

[Walk Through Interruptus: Playing on the TV while I was writing this segment was one of the C|Net shows. The had a member of the Bay Area Skeptics (the president?) and the host was asking a range of stupid questions regarding the influence of accepting psychic quackery as real. She challenged him to a "show me". He hesitated, because he knew how worthless it might be. If someone is in a state of mind of wanting to believe, they'll overlook what actually happens and see what they want to see. The hostess was in the opposite state of mind, eager to have any illusion he tried fail. After the initial hesitation he asked her if she had a pack of cards (she was the one wanting him to produce a phony psychic feat on the spot, unprepared). She didn't, so he produced an "invisible deck". He had her select a "card" and place it into the deck upside down while all the other cards were facing up. Then he asked her to place the cards back into the box and return them. She really started to get into it and "dropped" the invisible box. He placed the invisible box of cards back into his pocket and then, from the same pocket, pulled out a real box. He pulled the cards out and began spreading them for the camera showing how all the cards were face up except for one. He then asked her what her "card" had been and she said the Queen of Hearts! He turned the one face down card over and, sure enough, the Queen of Hearts. Thinking about how this related to "Nothing Up My Sleeve", I decided to pass on the successful invisible cards/Queen of Hearts demonstration. And now, back to our regular post.]

During Maple's explanation to Hilary, we hear something I'm not sure if we've heard before: that Hilary had "suffered humiliation and rejection at the hands of...your producers on Broadway." I wonder if this just refers to Hilary not winning roles she wanted or if there was some big event that caused her to leave Broadway.

Only desperate begging from Maple gets Hilary to agree to playing Maple's Brooklynese as her own accent setting up my favorite scene in the episode. I love the new Shakespeare. Hilary's eyes nearly bug out when she's "complimented" as being "almost as well spoken as Maple." And she even plays with words like Maple: denunciation [enunciation]. And much to her surprise, she's told that meeting her has been "Fun? Fun! I don't think that anyone ever said meeting me was fun." She seems a little dismayed at the revelation.

Next to try Maple's accent, in an effort to help her, is Eugenia. Of course Eugenia is the pianist not an actor, so her efforts aren't quite as successful as Hilary's. But Farraday hasn't finished being assaulted yet. For reasons unknown, Scott launches into a weird, high-pitched, somewhat effeminate Brooklynese accent. Perhaps for that reason, Representative Farraday asks him NOT to support him. Scott's odd characterization also makes an impression on Betty. "I'm going to try very hard never to forget how you just sounded."

Maple finally decides to come clean with Farraday. Considering his aspirations, it's no surprise her earlier moral choices rule out any public romance. However, her code rules out being his mistress. Stalemate. End of game. However, Eugenia manages to put a positive spin on the events that helps Maple realize that it isn't such a bad thing being "a girl like Maple."

The preview is very enticing: appearances by "Victor" and "Pumpkin" as well as another rendition of "Remember When." This will be a tough week to wait through.

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