Episode 16: Holy Strokes


Excellent episode! My immediate choice for best of the season so far -- for reasons that will soon become obvious.

The Matt Slot belongs triumphantly to ... Jo and Fashion Boy! The oh-so-painful-to-watch pair were completely AWOS (Absent Without Subplot). That alone entitles this episode to a thumbs-up. This seems to be part of the plan to "revitalize" Jane: Dump the stupid plotline and build sympathy for the character.

The producers must have paid extra money in royalties for Meat Loaf's lame tune during the credits. And what's with the exposed butt during said credits? And when does the Melrose pool cleaner get his own series?

Matt and Joe Thespian (OK, his name's Alan):

Jake is hanging out at Matt's place while Matt gets word from the hospital on Jane's condition: no change -- the hair is just as ugly. At this point, Alan walks out of Matt's bedroom with an unbuttoned shirt. He says "Hi, Jake!" and offers to make omelets. Jake is flustered! "Well, hey, look at the time -- I gotta go! It's Gladiator Night at Shooter's!" Once Jake leaves, Alan says, "Last night was great, Matt." As they move in for a prime-time sanctioned embrace, Alan notices the time. He's late for an audition -- he might get the lead in "The Adam West Story." He zips out, leaving Matt holding the eggs.

That night, at Shooter's (The Only Bar in Town, not counting The Anti-Shooter's where the hitmen and loan sharks hang out), Matt and Alan are having a few drinks. Matt is actually dressed up, wearing the Tom Jones Special: black shirt and black jacket. As Matt prepares to say something significant for the first time all season, Alan says he's decided to head to New York for a month or two to do some stage work. Matt is non-plussed, but Alan says it'll just be temporary.

Matt drops Alan off at the airport, and Alan again says this is only for a couple of months. (We heard you the first time, pal.) As Alan starts to walk away, Matt runs over to him: "Forget about New York and move in with me! New York has nothing to offer you, and between us, we can have a subplot that might last for weeks! Besides, you're my first lover in a year who's not a psycho!" Alan says that's just what he wanted to hear. He agrees.

Peter, Amanda, and Bobby:

Amanda, wearing one of her trademark short skirts, walks into the office of The Bizarre Dr. Peter Burns, who is yelling at someone on the phone. (They're cancelling his subscription to Appendectomy Monthly.) It turns out that he's being sued for malpractice, and even though there's little basis for the claim, he's worried about the damage the suit could do to his reputation, which can't be too high to begin with. Amanda tells him to relax; he barks at her. She walks out, saying "I'll do you a favor and pretend we never had this conversation." (Watch for a near-repeat of this line from Bobby to Peter later on.)

At the Dumb & Dumber agency, Amanda -- now wearing a different-colored short skirt -- tells the Incredible Bulk, Bobby Parezi, that Peter wants to get out of town for the upcoming New Year's Eve weekend; he's trying to avoid giving some deposition for the lawsuit. Bobby suggests that she and Peter come up to his cool Palm Springs estate. (Boy, for a guy who only moved to California less than two months ago, he acts fast!) Just as Bobby acknowledges that three might be a crowd, Alison walks into the office, and Amanda recommends that Newly Widowed Alison come along to be Bobby's date! Wow -- sounds like fun! Alison hesitates, then agrees.

On New Year's Eve at Palm Springs, Bobby is chatting with an increasingly inebriated Peter, and he offers Peter the services of his lawyer in handling the lawsuit. Peter is a bit annoyed that Amanda told Bobby; he rejects the offer. Amanda walks into the room, and Peter suggests that she take a hot shower with him. He pointedly looks at Bobby while saying this. (Either he's trying to get Bobby's goat, or he secretly lusts after Bobby. Place your bets!) Bobby's eyes get darker as he tries to emote. He walks outside to find Alison lounging on a chair. They attempt small talk and fail horribly. He adds to the moment by mentioning Hayley. (Smart move, chief.) He then says, "You're very beautiful, Alison." She smiles: "I'm no Amanda." Bobby's eyes get dark again. He reaches over and pinches her cheek! "How cute," she says. "That used to be Billy's idea of foreplay."

Amanda, now wearing some interesting Frederick's of Hollywood lingerie, climbs on top of the nearly unconscious Peter. As he comments that he acted like a jerk to Bobby, she says, "Show me how much of a man you can be!" Huzzah! After their passionate session of trampoline jumping, Amanda puts on a robe and leaves the bedroom, unaware that The Bizarre One is a light sleeper! She goes for a walk outside, and is joined by Bobby. As she thinks about her 1996 resolutions ("This year, I will eat a doughnut"), he says his vow is that he won't lie anymore: "I love you so much it's tearin' me apart." She seems surprised. As the fireworks go off at midnight, he kisses her passionately. She responds -- as Peter watches them from the window! Whoops!

Back in his office, a tired-looking Peter hears the phone ring and lets the answering machine pick it up. It's Amanda, wondering why he left Palm Springs in the morning without a word. "I hope you're not mad at me for some reason. I mean, I hope you don't think I've been unfaithful. After that great sex we had, there's no way I would ever kiss another man. Right? I love you!" He looks anguished! Bobby picks this moment to drop by with "good news": His lawyer has settled Peter's malpractice suit -- it's all over. Peter says, "Let me guess: You made him an offer he couldn't refuse." Bobby looks offended by the movie reference and says it's all perfectly legal. Peter responds this is just Bobby's way of getting Peter to owe him so that Peter will give up Amanda when the time is right. Bobby says, "You're starting to tick me off, doctor." "Oh, I'm well beyond Ticked Off!" "I'm gonna forget this ever happened." Peter says, "Let's see if you can forget THIS!" POW! Right cross! Bobby bends but doesn't even stagger back! Peter is ready for a rumble, but Bobby just says darkly, "That was a mistake, doctor. Do it again and it'll be your last." (Count your blessings, Peter; the guy must have 50 pounds on you.)

Sydney, Michael, Jane, Kimberly, and Jake:

At the hospital, a worried Sydney -- still in her evening wear from the Christmas party -- walks into the chapel. In a scene straight out of a bad Madonna video, she goes to the altar and asks God to not let Jane die. (The role of God is played by Merv Griffin.) Kimberly then enters like some dark angel and sits behind Syd, in a confessional pose. She says toxicology tests are being done on Jane; she can protect Syd through doctor/patient confidentiality, but only if Syd tells her the truth. Syd fesses up and, crying, tells Kim that she never meant to hurt Jane. Kim hugs her and says strangely, "You just leave everything to me." Kim looks incredibly weird here -- I like it!

Michael is informing his patient Jane that she has suffered a minor stroke, brought on partially by her terrible new hairdo. Jane tries to remember what happened -- after all, the episode was three weeks ago. She's suddenly fearful that she and Michael did the Wild Thing, but he assures her they didn't. He examines her feet for bunions and sensation: Her left side is fine, but her right side is completely numb! The truth dawns: She'll never act on that side again! Jane panics!

In her office, Kim chastises Syd, but tells her not to confess to the police. "Learn from the experience." She even gives Syd three pills to match the ones that Syd used on Jane, so that when Michael eventually interrogates Syd, he'll find the "correct" number of pills. (Michael may notice that the new pills look like Fred Flintstone, but that's a chance they'll have to take.) In the meantime, Kim instructs Syd to be supremely nice and caring to Jane, further evading suspicion.

The Bizarre Dr. Peter Burns is on the floor of the Burns-Mancini offices, sorting out sheets of paper as Michael enters. He's looking fruitlessly for info on the malpractice suit. "Sydney's filing system sucks! Heh huh huh heh!" Michael receives a fax of the toxicology report. Jane was loaded with phenobarbital!

Sydney, with a bow in her hair and a song in her heart, arrives and Michael promptly drags her into his office. He grabs her purse and empties it out. "Jane's heart was pumping pure phenobarbital, and I happen to know you are carrying that exact same prescription, prescribed by Dr. Fruitcake!" He counts her pills, and is surprised to find that they're all accounted for. Syd says, "Now that the witch hunt is over, I think it's time we both do what we can for poor paraplegic Jane." Michael smells Kimberly's hand in this "caring" attitude. Syd just says, "It's never too late to heal emotional wounds, Michael." He looks like he's gonna spew!

Jake, in a supporting role this week, visits a depressed Jane at the hospital. He gives her a pep talk, Jake-style: "When it comes to saving yourself, you're the only one who can do that. There's a light inside of you, Jane, that's always been there. Don't let it go out." All this coming from Dim Bulb Jake! OK, bye, Jake -- you've done enough damage!

Later, Michael wheels Jane toward her physical therapy session. He sees Kimberly and takes her aside. "Did you tell Syd to drug Jane, or did you do it yourself?" Kim coolly tells him that he's out of line. Michael says she hasn't changed. She retorts, "Maybe you should be the one considering a change -- after all, how many lives can one man ruin?" (Is this a multiple-choice question?) They mutually threaten each other. He returns to see Billy chatting with Jane. He pushes her along with a casual "Hi, Billy! Bye, Billy!"

Michael and Sydney bring Jane to the beachhouse on New Year's Eve. He's encouraging; Syd sits quietly and seethes. He helps Jane onto the couch, conveniently falling on top of her in the process. Syd talks to him privately: "You just want to get her in bed again. Of course, she'll just lie there limp -- but then that's probably all she's ever done!" D'OH! "Oh, you are so disgusting." (Yes, but it's so endearing.) He reminds Syd that she's the one who kept saying she wanted to help Jane, whom Michael says will stay "as long as it takes."

Syd, wearing an evil yellow outfit with matching bow in hair, complains to Kim about the current situation. (Between commercials, Kim has switched hairstyles to The Rachel.) Fortunately, Richard and Jo seem to top Jane's list of suspects. "God, I'd be so much better off if Jane had died." Kim leaps up and grabs her! "Don't you ever, ever say that!" She says, "Violence and anger only beget more violence and anger." Instead, Syd must show compassion. Syd agrees: "I need more self-control." Kimberly strokes her hair (hmmm...) and says, "Good girl." Kimberly "Svengali" Shaw is up to no good! Cool!

Billy, Brooke, and Alison:

The late Big Daddy's lawyer is finalizing the transfer of the $1 million trust fund to Billy and Brooke upon the birth of the mutant offspring. When Billy leaves, the Brookster poses a "hypothetical" question to the lawyer: "I still get the inheritance if, God forbid, I have a miscarriage and lose the baby." No, he says -- the baby must be born. Brooke Grimaces! He says, "I know that grimace! What's going on?" She tells him that she's not really pregnant, and Billy still doesn't know. The lawyer's sage advice: "Get pregnant -- as soon as possible."

At D&D, Billy tries to make nice to Alison, who is still steamed over his little stunt at the hotel. As she walks off, he gets a message from -- shock! -- a mysterious, never-before-seen employee! He says Brooke is at the hospital; "She sounded upset." Billy zips over to the hospital's emergency entrance, where Brooke is conveniently waiting. Sobbing, she says she had a miscarriage. Waaah! Billy stares into space. (Subtitle: Billy is stunned.)

The very next day, Brooke comes on to him: "Honey, I want to get pregnant again right away!" Hah? Billy thinks this is odd. Alison shows up offering flowers and sympathy, and Brooke happily blows her off. Outside the apartment, Billy confesses to Alison that he's a mess; the miscarriage has devastated him. (Well, I guess we'll just have to take the script's word for that.) He openly wonders if this involves the trust fund. Alison tells him to take care of himself -- and Happy New Year. "Yeah, thanks -- for the millionth time."

At night, Billy sits alone, attempting to communicate with the teddy bear. It's a very awkward, poignant moment.

Brooke calls him into the bedroom. She poses coyly on the bed and says, "I'm ovulating." (This is truly more than we need to know.) Billy is not emotionally ready to handle this. She wants the feeling "again" of a baby growing inside her, and she actually has the nerve to get mad at him and call him "selfish"! Whoa! She kicks him out of the bedroom and has a temper tantrum. Billy stares into space. (Subtitle: Billy looks confused.)

After his brief encounter with Jane at the hospital, he sees Brooke's doctor, who apologizes to Billy about what happened; it's such a "rare" thing. "Daah, wat's so rare about a miscarriage?" "What? No, it was a mixup of the test results. Your wife was never pregnant. Who told you she had a miscarriage?" "Daaah, da Womb Fairy?" Billy stares into space. (Subtitle: Billy stares into space.)

Big Scene: Billy tracks down Brooke at Shooter's, where she seems to be looking for (ahem) sperm donors. He drags her out into the Jess Hanson Memorial Back Alley -- and Andrew Shue EMOTES! Can it be?!? He's furious that she not only lied, but she casually left him emotionally crippled. (Who'd notice?) "It's so sick, Brooke!!" He realizes he's just been a "tool" to get her pregnant so she could collect the money. "It's over -- the whole sham -- it's over." He even smiles as he says this! He walks off. Bravo!

Alison, stuck in Palm Springs, wakes up to find an exhausted Billy parked outside in his car. (He knew where Amanda was staying.) He tells Alison what happened and says he and Brooke are through. She does a mini-Gape and wonders if Billy is handling this the right way. She offers to drive him back to L.A. while they talk.

They arrive that night back at Melrose Place. Billy thanks Alison for being there and for listening to his dull, monotone voice for hours. She again wishes him a Happy New Year. "Good luck, Billy." He enters his apartment and sees a note on the table. Has Brooke left him? He rushes over to the bathroom and with a pretty good look of horror (well done, Andrew!) sees Brooke lying on the floor -- DEAD! She's slashed her wrists and is paler than an albino at an Anne Rice convention! Yes!

Next Week: Billy scrubs the bloody tiles (yuck!) while Alison says, "I was just remembering how close we used to be." "Daah, go 'way." Sydney fears that the finger of suspicion is pointing at her. Kim encourages her to shift the blame. Syd does the Ninja stuff again and plants the pills on someone -- then snitches to the cops!

--Ken Hart

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