By Cameron White
Season 2, Episodes 25 and 26: “Transplant” and “Twin”
Original airdate: Aug. 19, 2000
If So Weird‘s first season was about laying foundation, So Weird‘s second season was about the ups and downs of evolution. As the show worked diligently over the twenty-six episodes that comprise season two, it began to explore beyond the boundaries of what the first season had allowed, while continuing to expand character dynamics despite setbacks like Erik von Detten’s departure and some unfortunate production code/air-date shuffling. (This includes “Shelter” airing before “Encore” and “Transplant” despite being made later, while “Vampire,” which was made closer to “Fall,” ended up airing closer to the end of the season.) Most importantly, So Weird had to make Rick Phillips a character, which it did in a variety of ways, from Molly’s post-Rick dating life to the Phillips-Kane Band music to divine interference in episodes like “Troll.” He’s been pushing his way into the real world ever since “Medium” introduced the signature guitar riff that signified his spiritual presence. As the show closes out its second season, the penultimate “Transplant” reemphasizes the darker themes and implications of Rick’s absence, while “Twin” plays the season finale card as if it were being made by old pros.
What’s particularly interesting about these two episodes being placed together is that they bring back two characters previously introduced in episodes that related, directly or indirectly, to the myth-arc of the series. John Kane returns from “Strange Geometry “—he’s the one who pushed Molly to tell Fi about her father’s interest in the supernatural. Meanwhile, the unseen Aunt Rachel from “Avatar” takes semi-center stage for “Twin”—as Rick’s twin sister, she becomes the catalyst for an excellent final scene.
John Kane is the focus of “Transplant” too, and Mackenzie Gray digs into the material with full force. Is he going mad because of his recent heart transplant, or just restless and frustrated because the surgery seems to have cost him something he loved: his ability to play music? This being So Weird, the answer is obviously the latter, but the episode wisely plays the situation ambiguously, a very Buffy-esque move that grounds a paranormal aspect in a very real human struggle. (Credited writer Bruce Zimmerman is clearly tapped into the Buffy vein, having previously written “Sacrifice” and “Blues”; it’s to the show’s benefit that he was boosted to executive producer for the third season.) Even better is the revelation that the previous owner of John’s new heart was obsessed with making contact with extraterrestrials. Aside from being one of Fi’s pet subjects, the fact that Ben Mansfield’s work was left unfinished parallels Rick, who has attempted some admittedly extraterrestrial parenting tactics from beyond the grave as a way of giving Fi something he could not do when he was alive: memories.
That talk of memories comes out in the stellar final conversation between Fi and Rick in “Twin.” It’s an episode that starts with what seems like a narrative convenience (Rachel and Rick being fraternal twins with a psychic link), but becomes something greater than even the most avid viewer could possibly believe. The tour bus winds up in New York, where Molly begins a new round of press with a new PR guy who insists that Molly bring up Rick’s accident as a way of drawing sympathy and interest for her new record. Meanwhile, Fi notices her Aunt Rachel (Iris Quinn) trying to scribble something with her hand while she’s sleeping.
The two threads converge in an unexpected way. Rachel heads off Fi’s investigation of ancient languages by telling her that the scribbles are a secret code she made up with Rick when they were kids, as means of communicating in, well, secret. As they follow Rick’s instructions to a building in the city, Molly receives a premonition (in TV land, brief images of future scenes cut together with dramatic sound effect) of Fi in danger, prompting her to insist she not do the interview with Greg Kincaid and find Fi instead. Jack goes in her place, but it’s the premonition, set up by Molly talking about “Love is Broken” (a song she wrote with Rick while in New York, during a happier time) at the start of the episode, that draws weight. Even Molly Phillips is not exempt from the show laying supernatural burdens on her painfully natural (as in human) body.
On the rooftop where Molly saw Fi, Rachel is separated from Fi and a portal opens up, letting loose a creature from the spirit world that nearly knocks Fi over to her death. But the spirit of Rick Phillips takes corporeal form at last and lifts her up. He then drops some exposition, but the scene between Cara DeLizia and Chris Gibson is loaded with all manner of familial subtext. Yet where Fi was so familiar with Rachel, joking about having endless late-night conversations and generally enjoying her company, she’s unable to even touch Rick, who remains dead. This contrast between siblings through Fi helps punctuate the end of the conversation. “Time to say goodbye,” Rick says. “I love you, daddy,” is Fi’s reply.
The search is over, and for the first time in a long time, Fi has a sort of catharsis, knowing that her father was trying, in his own supernatural way, to give her memories to complement those of Molly’s and Jack’s. It’s the only right way to end a season that began with Rick reaching out to her through a medium and an old guitar. The bigger issue is that, for Fi, this really is the end. The knowledge that Cara DeLizia will be departing at the beginning of next season makes this “goodbye” extra bittersweet, because it means this particular saga is over. That’s okay though. So Weird is, in its own way, a modern-day Odyssey, following the travels of emotional war veterans searching for a place to call home. Where one door closes, an Alexz Johnson-shaped window opens. In any case, “Transplant” and “Twin” remain cemented as the best possible way to close down what was an undeniably daring season of television, one that played within the limits of Disney Channel’s hyper-specific demographic while reaching so far above what most of its peers were doing. That’s an accomplishment that time, VHS degradation, and brand identity cannot erase.
Editor’s Note: So Weird is going to take a brief break as Cameron has academic obligations. We expect coverage to resume in late April or early May. We hope you’ll all come back for Cameron’s take on Season 3 then.
Cameron White is a freelance writer currently residing in Arkansas. He writes about television over on his blog, Wayward Television, and tweets new and exciting ways of reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. His obsession with television was founded in 1996 by The Disney Channel and fostered by his discovery of Firefly in the summer of 2007. He lost his mojo last week. He got it back though.