Season 2, Episode 13: “Fountain”
Original airdate: Dec. 10, 1999
“Boo” and “Fountain” were produced in quick succession because Disney Channel recognized the demand for holiday episodes, even in a series like So Weird, where holidays often take on unconventional or lighthearted tones.
Strangely, the channel chose to broadcast “Strange Geometry,” the midseason finale, as the final episode before the Thanksgiving/Christmas hiatus, while keeping “Fountain” for the Christmas season. (By the way, “Fountain” aired on December 10. Shirley Bennett can relate to the timing.)
The issue with this airing order lies in the fact that “Strange Geometry” undeniably serves as a climactic episode, weaving together various unresolved plotlines and significantly altering a central relationship within the series.
Watching “Fountain” a month later only accentuates the manipulation in production.
To witness characters reflecting on traditional Christmas customs shortly after a life-altering revelation is a peculiar type of mood swing, reserved for viewers who revel in the extremes of television.
No, “Fountain” actually serves as an effective counterpoint to the approach taken in “Boo,” its collaborative partner in production.
While “Boo” maintained a lighthearted tone, establishing a straightforward conflict and then allowing Henry Winkler and the main cast to riff on that conflict for over 20 minutes, “Fountain” delves into the darker facets of So Weird’s core essence, injecting a sense of sorrow to balance the holiday cheer.
It, too, maintains simplicity by introducing a basic plot premise and thoroughly exploring it.
However, whereas “Boo” was intent on shifting its tone in an unexpected manner, “Fountain” embraces the elements that encapsulate the mixed emotions of winter holidays, where happiness and distress coexist.
Fi’s unwavering commitment to family traditions becomes a hindrance in “Fountain.” After ensuring she has all the presents for everyone else, she suddenly realizes her recently acquired Christmas CD is missing, setting off a chaotic hunt with Jack throughout the mall.
Meanwhile, an enigmatic individual, appearing in multiple disguises but with the same face, begins shadowing them. It’s worth noting that Fi’s annual Christmas tradition involves purchasing a new Christmas CD and then insisting on dancing with Jack.
This endearing, somewhat whimsical ritual adds a layer of complexity to the news of Molly’s unexpected departure for a charity concert in Red Rock.
Disheartened by the clash between her unyielding Christmas tradition and the irresistible force of Molly’s career, Fi stumbles upon an intriguing corner of the mall: a 1950s-style soda shop owned by the enigmatic figure who goes by the name “Nick” (a clever play on words).
He’s portrayed by Jonathan Walker, also known as Jonathan Lloyd Walker, recognized for his role as Colin in the 2011 remake of The Thing.
“Where I’m from, everyone receives a present on Christmas Eve,” he remarks as though this were the most ordinary thing to say to a disheartened stranger.
When Fi takes a sip of the soda, the plot truly springs into action. She embarks on a journey akin to Benjamin Button, where her 14-year-old consciousness is sent backward into her younger selves.
While there is some mention of time travel in both Fi’s opening narration and her attempts to send a message to her 14-year-old self in the past, the essence lies in the content and theme of the scenes.
During her journey, she witnesses scenes that unveil how the holiday season has consistently impacted her family, as well as the Bells.
At the age of 12, Ned expresses his concerns about not regaining his position on the KISS Reunion tour. Fi, at this point, tries to console him by suggesting that Molly will soon depart from her jingle-writing role to pursue a solo artist career.
As a young girl of around four or five, Fi observes her mother’s tears over the loss of Rick, insisting that, no matter what, they will always have each other.
This particular scene is particularly poignant when viewed after “Strange Geometry.” All these scenes share a common theme: the holidays have been challenging for both the Phillipses and the Bells, but their enduring bond is sufficient to weather any storm.
The most pivotal scene occurs at the conclusion of this sentimental journey. Throughout most of the episode, Fi’s consciousness inhabits younger bodies, which are still capable of walking, talking, and independent thought.
This is a surprisingly straightforward description of Fi Phillips in a few concise words. However, the final scene portrays Fi as a baby, during a time when Rick was still alive, representing the purest and most innocent phase.
During this poignant moment, Fi’s consciousness discovers something profound: the ritual she shares with Jack, the tradition of dancing every Christmas Eve to holiday music, is, in fact, a subconscious tribute to Rick.
He had performed the same ritual with a young baby Fi during the short period they were together in the realm of the living.
Upon their return to the bus, adorned with Christmas decorations as an apology for being late to the charity concert, Fi seeks confirmation from her mom: “Did Daddy dance with me when I was a little girl?”
Airing “Fountain” during Thanksgiving might have been out of season, but it would have heightened the impact of “Strange Geometry,” considering how deeply “Fountain” delves into the Phillips family’s emotional wounds for its storytelling material.
The insistence on holiday episodes and the evident manipulation of the airing sequence point to more than just typical television production; it reflects the encroachment of routine television practices on the once-unique creative essence that So Weird possessed.
As the year 2000 rolled in, Disney Channel began to exert greater control over its original content, leading to a shift away from the bold experiments that had characterized the network.
This shift favored more formulaic content that catered to the target demographic. “Fountain” isn’t the first dark episode of So Weird, and it certainly won’t be the last.
However, it may have been one of those episodes that signaled to Disney’s higher-ups that the show didn’t quite align with their vision for the 2000-2001 programming lineup.
“Strange Geometry” probably didn’t help in that regard either. But, as Ted Mosby, the architect, would say, “We’ll get to that.”