Family Ties “A, My Name is Alex” (part 4 of 5)

Then it’s back to Mrs. Leahy, who wants Alex to tell the class of invisible kids what Columbus was “really trying to do” when he discovered America. Um… Two lines of blow?

Mrs. Leahy is played by Meg Wyllie, who had guest roles on pretty much every American TV series produced between the years of 1960 and 1995, but obsessed Star Trek nerds will probably know her best as the Talosian Keeper in the original TOS pilot “The Cage”.

Alex complains to the shrink about how Mrs. Leahy always did this to him. She always called on him, singled him out, set him apart from the other kids, and made them all “jealous”. Mrs. Leahy says this is the “price you have to pay” for being “special”, and tells the empty classroom they should all be more like Alex.

Alex loses it. “I was seven years old! You don’t put that kind of pressure on a kid that age!!” Jesus, Alex. She was just asking you about Columbus, not making you pretend to be trapped in a hot air balloon, or sail around the world or something.

So Alex regresses once again, which really just involves him nervously putting his hands behind his back, as he explains to the class how Columbus was just trying to find a shortcut to the Indies. He was looking for spices, Li’l Alex explains, and instead he found the New World, and “it was just an accident.”

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 4 of 5)

Then he freaks out and walks to the middle of the set. “It was an accident!” So I guess that’s another trigger phrase that’ll put him back on the Greg thing. All of this stuff just flows so naturally, doesn’t it?

He’s convinced that he should have been in the car with Greg. If he had, “Maybe he would have gone more slowly.” Or maybe, Alex says, he would have seen the other car. In conclusion, “It was an accident.” Indeed it was. I think we’re making tons of progress here.

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Mallory again chimes in from her part of the set to say there are no accidents, and “Everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen!” Why is she still talking?

In this case, it’s a cue for Steven to enter, stage left. They don’t give him any kind of threadbare set to stand in; he just walks under Alex’s spotlight with a pair of catcher’s mitts.

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 4 of 5)

Alex complains to him about Mallory, and wonders why they had to have another kid, because they were “doing so well, just the three of us.” Steven assures him he’ll appreciate Mallory more when he’s older, and so I assume this is intended to be another flashback to Alex as a little kid. Oh, look, there’s Michael J. Fox offhandedly wiping his nose, thus cluing us in to this amazing act of age regression.

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 4 of 5)

Steven wants to teach Alex to play catch, and warns him not to get discouraged, because he won’t learn to play catch in one day. Alex points out he was able to “learn algebra in one day”, so Steven quips that now that he’s “starting school”, he needs to learn how to play catch. Yeah. Alex was learning algebra in preschool. When did he suddenly become some kind of freaky genius child prodigy, again? I mean, he’s always been presented as an overachiever, to be sure, but I never really got the impression Alex was supposed to be that smart. And now, it’s like he’s suddenly Rain Man.

Father and son talk baseball, and it’s an incredibly awkward conversation. Dad says the Cleveland Indians are in “first place”, but Alex says, “Not financially,” and the Orioles are doing better “in terms of cashflow”, and the joke just goes on and on and gets well and truly beaten into the ground. Thankfully, Michael J. Fox is fidgeting and wiping his forehead the whole time to remind us that he is indeed supposed to be a little kid here.

And then Steven tosses him the ball, and Alex fakes dropping it.

Caption contributed by Albert

Bill Buckner: The Early Years

Aaaaand freeze. I’m serious. Steven picks up the ball, and then totally freezes in place in that bad community theater sort of way. He stares at the ball while Alex circles around him, talking to his therapist, saying how “supportive” his dad has always been.

Caption contributed by Albert

“No, really, I can make him stay like this all day.”

The shrink’s off-screen voice wonders if Alex considers his dad “a weak man”. But no, Alex used to think so, but now he admires Frozen Steven’s “great love” for his family and life itself, and Alex wishes he was more like him. I guess my heart is supposed to be warmed by all this, given the way Alex has insulted and generally mouthed off to his parents for the past five seasons, but I honestly can’t think of anything less interesting than watching a guy declare his love for his own family. Unfortunately, that’s about all that happens for the rest of the episode.

Aaaaaand unfreeze. Steven comes up out of his crouch, and I guess we’ve fast forwarded in time, because Alex is now upset about getting “another sister”. He says his parents should have “consulted” with him first. So I guess Alex is cool with being woken up at 1AM so he can decide if Elyse should put in the sponge in or not.

Alex learns his new sister’s name is Jennifer, and he steps over into the “Jennifer’s bedroom” set, currently lighting up. Jenn is lying in bed with a book, and dialogue reveals she’s reading Kierkegaard. So, I guess we’ve come forward in time again. Unless a lot of toddlers read Kierkegaard.

Caption contributed by Albert

I believe that’s a copy of Baby’s First Fear and Trembling.

Alex wants to know if Jenn ever thinks about stuff. You know, stuff like “Life. Death. Infinity.” If she does, it sure doesn’t come across in her music.

She says sometimes she does, and then sometimes she’d rather think about getting “tickets to a Van Halen concert”. And I’m pretty sure the line in the first draft of the script was “tickets to a [insert band that’s hip with the kidzz these days] concert”. I’d ask if Jennifer is more of a David Lee Roth fan or a Sammy Hagar fan, but after listening to her songs, I’m pretty sure she’s way into Gary Cherone.

Jennifer freezes, and Alex addresses the shrink again, marveling that Jennifer is the only teenager he knows who can “combine Soren Kierkegaard and Eddie Van Halen in her life.” Is that Jennifer’s thing? I never knew balancing heavy metal with philosophy was her sort of thing. But hell, why not? The character of Jennifer Keaton was always the blankest slate on primetime TV, and you could tell me she was secretly an astronaut and I wouldn’t really have a way to refute it.

Then Alex says he likes being in her bedroom, or bare suggestion of same, because of the “perfume-y smell”. He reminisces about buying her perfume when she was two years old because that’s what girls like, and also, “it was on sale”. The point of this story, such as it is, is that every time he smells “very, very cheap perfume” he thinks of Jennifer. How sweet. So, is this going anywhere?

Then he walks over to the classroom set, where Mrs. Leahy is still sitting at her desk with her back to the audience. Alex rhapsodizes about how memories are sometimes “more real than what we think of as reality”, and that the smell of “wet wool mittens on a radiator” will forever remind him of Mrs. Leahy’s class. On a related note, the smell of manure will totally remind me of this episode forever.

But whoa! Look who else is in Mrs. Leahy’s class! It’s Greggers! He’s standing near the chalkboard, still in his Indians cap and jeans. Alex regresses again, and I guess Greg also regresses, because Alex is yelling at Greg for trying to swipe his mittens. He knows they’re his mittens because they have “dollar signs crocheted in the palms”. And there’s your “Alex loves money” joke for this segment.

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 4 of 5)

Alex recognizes Greg as the new kid, and Greg recognizes Alex as the kid who knows everything. So Alex and Greg met in second grade, then? I know what I said earlier about Alex and his constant single-serving friends, but… they met when they were seven? The idea that we’ve never heard of Greg before has just gone from farfetched to completely fucking ridiculous.

L’il Greg asks L’il Alex how he knows so much, and Alex says he takes night classes at Ohio State. And he keeps randomly wiping at his face. Oh, right, he’s supposed to be a little kid here. Though, I can’t say I’ve ever known little kids to wipe at their faces this much. Was Alex also tweaking when he was seven? That would explain how he had the energy for night school.

Caption contributed by Albert

It’s gotta be the meth.

Finally, Greg talks Alex into coming outside for a snowball fight, and Alex is clueless about snowball fights, so Greg triumphantly points out he doesn’t know everything. Greg runs off, and Alex follows, but he stops in the middle of the set and says, “Don’t know everything? Don’t know anything!” Oy. They really gotta work on the way they transition out of these little vignettes.

Randomly, the Off-Screen Therapist asks Alex if he believes in God. Alex doesn’t answer. He walks back to the therapist’s office set, and he’s steamed because he’s paying the guy for this, and then he bags on Grant College some more. The shrink asks Alex what he wants. Just generally speaking, I guess. Alex says he wants that “feeling of security” he had when he was a little boy. And right on cue, the kitchen set lights up again, and Elyse is still standing there.

Alex talks about feeling “safe and warm” back then, and asks the therapist if he ever read Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”. But then he remembers the guy went to Grant College, so Alex puts it in patronizing terms the shrink can understand: “Remember when Batman wanted to get away from it all, he’d go down to the Batcave?” Essentially, Alex says, that’s how he felt about his house when he was a kid.

And I have to say, Alex is the only 21 year old I know who can combine Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Wayne in his life. They’re a lot alike, actually. One time, James Joyce totally hypnotized Hemingway into creating a split personality to fight crime while he was asleep.

Alex says coming home was like “walking into a hug”, and he hugs himself to demonstrate. He mentions how he used to fake being sick to get more attention, and so he regresses once again into the kitchen set to show us how that all went down. Elyse wraps him up in a blanket (monogrammed, of course) and gives him hot chocolate, and Alex lets out a fake sneeze to get Mom to upgrade that hot chocolate to hot chocolate with whipped cream. Score!

Caption contributed by Albert

“Yes! The can of whipped cream is empty! Now I can huff the fumes!”

Suddenly, Mallory is back, still in her “bedroom” set, but now she’s doing a little girl act by putting her hair in pigtails, and obsessively brushing her hair, and swaying from side to side. Unfortunately, Justine Bateman’s pokey nipples are somewhat ruining the effect. Alex tells her she has no idea how to fake being sick, because she’ll claim to have “malaria” just to get some hot chocolate. Mallory responds by sticking out her tongue. Among other things.

Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex" (part 4 of 5)

After another lame joke about Alex’s love of money, Alex and Elyse start singing the nursery song “Where is Thumbkin?”, complete with thumb wrestling-like hand gestures. Okay, I’m officially bored now. Seriously, is this going anywhere?

Caption contributed by Albert

“Where’d the plot go, where’d the plot go… No one knows, no one knows…”

Alex walks off the kitchen set, saying that was the “sweetest tasting hot chocolate I ever had in my life”. He laments that he’s never going to feel that safe again. Good to know. Congratulations, guys, this episode is actually making me miss the commercial breaks.

Multi-Part Article: Family Ties "A, My Name is Alex"

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