Bruce Davison as Congressman Mainway; Stephen Kearney as Tony Gilchrist; Talia Balsam as Paige; David Clennon as Miles Drentel; J.D. Souther as John Dunway; Tyra Ferrel as Ricky Bianca; Holly Fulger as Hollis Amato; Andra Milan as Angel Wasserman; Stanley Tucci as Karl Draconis; Dan Peterson as Faux Michael; Michael Mitz as Faux Elliot; Robert Phalen as Incinerator Booster; Luisa Leschin as Research Woman; Jordan Myers as Neighbor Man; Mark Belden, Sloan Boxniak, Paul Feig, and Shirley Prestia as Focus Group Members
Karl Draconis is forced to resign and Michael is appointed the Creative Director of D.A.A. Hope becomes even more involved with the Fairfield Incinerator Project.
Michael and Elliot come home to their wives and relate the story of what happened at work that day. The team presented an idea for advertising about retro-snacking to Miles. Miles loved it, and promptly fired Karl since he didn't support it. Hope goes to a congressman's office to fight against the Fairfield Creek Incinerator Project and meets with some stiff resistance.
Miles, Mark, Michael and Elliot, eat Chinese, and discuss how to shoot the commercial for Snap Happys. Miles pulls Michael aside and asks Michael to be the Creative Director for the agency. Elliot and the others are openly happy for him, and they continue to brainstorm about the commercial. Paige, Draconis' personal assistant, begins helping Michael move his office. Elliot wants to direct the commercial, but Michael never gets a chance to ask Miles as Miles has already pulled in a top notch director.
Hope and the Fairfield group go door to door, talking to citizens and getting nowhere, though John is fairly complimentary of her efforts. Paige and Elliot have an odd exchange about deleting unnecessary items in the Rolodex, which might include Elliot himself.
They begin to shoot the commercial at D.A.A. with two actors who look just like Michael and Elliot. Tony Gilchrist, the director, asks Michael to get Elliot to move out of the way and stop interfering with the commercial. Hope is gone a lot, which leaves Michael a lot of time to brood about the situation at work and how he's separating from Elliot. Michael and Elliot review the footage and disagree about which version of the commercial to use. Michael shows his finished product to Miles who declares it amusing and decides to show it to "civilians." Michael asks Elliot to come to the focus group, saying that he needs him, and partially apologizing for pulling rank on him.
The Fairfield open hearing is moved up to 3 P.M. Wednesday, and since John Dunaway is held up and can't make it, Hope steps up and makes a lot of tough points. The focus group hates the spot and Miles tells the team to rethink it. John and Hope have lunch, further cementing her interest in the cause. Elliot is sulking a little bit, feeling that perhaps his approach would have gone over, though he knows it probably wouldn't have. Talking as they're about to leave, Paige reassures Michael that he's doing fine because he's still willing to take chances. Michael finally sits in Draconis' chair as Hope comes to the office and she and Michael stare at each other silently, each not sure what to do with their new roles.
Opener clip of Nancy holding Elliot The complaints about the commercial sounded exactly like the kinds of problems most people had with thirtysomething as a show.
"You'd think high heels would make more noise." --Elliot regarding Paige
"I find that the man adjusts to the office more than the other way around." --Paige's extremely prophetic words
"Well, not what we were expecting." --Miles on the focus group's reaction
This episode has a series of little jokes involving the creation of the Minnesota Brands commercial. I wonder if these aren't little digs at the networks, the audiences, and the creative processes at the Bedford Falls Production company itself:
1. Miles Drentell decides that they'll use Michael & Elliot as the models for the characters in the commercial, only they'll use better looking actors. This joke is two-fold: a. Network execs are notorious for telling television producers things like "We loved your pilot, but you need better looking actors." b. Olin/Busfield ARE better looking than Zwick/Herskowitz.
2. While brainstorming Elliot suggests that the commercial's characters should eat the product, then have a flashback to when they were kids. Nah, sez Michael, that's been done to death! This, after we've been treated to umpteen thirtysomething-character-childhood-flashbacks (including the two previous episodes).
3. Later Michael & Elliot are working on the commercials dialogue. OK, Elliot sez, the Elliot guy comes in with the snack cakes and the Michael guy starts to whine..."I don't whine," sez Michael, slightly indignant. (Yep,& fish don't swim!)
4. After the commercial's been filmed Michael & Elliot review two separate versions. The first one's shot Robert Altman-Woody Allen-thirtysomething style, with a loose, almost improvised feeling. The second's shot Eight is Enough-Dynasty-the rest of television style, with the actors reading their lines cleanly and emphatically. Elliot prefers the first, quirkier one, but the ever cautious Michael favors the second, conventional version, feeling its the one that sells it to the audience. He complains that in the first version the characters overlap their dialogue and walk in and out of the frame. I wonder if ABC brass ever complained that thirtysomething was just too "arty" for its own good?
5. Finally, the focus group gets to vent a lot of the nasty things people have said about thirtysomething, a case of art reflecting real life criticizing the said art. I kept expecting Jay Leno, one of the nastiest of thirtys. critics, to show up (His line when Gary died: "One down...SIX MORE TO GO!"
Another thirtysomething convention that gets played around with in this episode is the guitar music. When Michael invites Elliot to the focus group, he's doing it as a friendly, almost apologetic gesture. The gee-tar starts a-twangin', setting us up for another scene of comraderie and unspoken reconciliation. But Elliot is still sore, and his icy "Is that an order?" cuts that guitar, and Michael, off. Later at the Steadman home, Michael is telling Hope of the day's events. The guitar starts up again, but the phone rings, and Hope, ignoring Michael, gets involved in a discussion about the incinerator project. The guitar music continues, but becomes distorted and muffled. Michael, feeling rejected, leaves the room, looking over his shoulder. The camera, taking Michael's viewpoint, pulls away from Hope; her screen image gets smaller, while the discordant guitar gets louder, eventually obscuring her dialogue. I think this may be where the episode title comes from: not only is Michael pulling away from Elliot at work, but like that camera shot, he's pulling away from Hope at home.