Gail Mayron as Jill Steadman; Joseph Maher as Brendan Norris; Roberta Wallach as Megan Alexander; Cynthia Frost as Aunt Muriel; Phyllis Newman as Elaine Steadman; Anna Berger as Lotte Strauss; Douglas Dirkson as Irvin Nessel; Winnie Holzman as Sherry Eisen; Tom Klunis as Sheldon Teitler
Melissa gets a dream assignment with Vanity Fair which turns into a nightmare.
Melissa is called in the early morning by Vanity Fair magazine and immediately shares the news with Hope. She then meets her mother in a restaurant for lunch and tells her about the photo shoot. Elaine runs right over the information, saying that as long as Melissa will be in New York, she should look in on her sister Jill to be sure she's all right. She continues alternating between being happy about the shoot and asking about other irrelevant things, such as a show she's been invited to do with her old theater group. In New York, Melissa stays with Jill and is a nervous wreck while getting ready for the interview. Melissa gets to the shoot and meets Megan Alexander, the photo editor, who mentions Andy Aronson (see "i'll be home for christmas"). Megan probes how good Melissa is with working around famous people, such as Brendan Norris, the famous author who is rather prickly about publicity. In fact, everyone else has turned down the assignment. Melissa gets home and shares the good news and they agree to go out to celebrate. Jill finally remembers to mention that Elaine called because she had fallen and broken her leg while their father, Murray, was out of town. Melissa rushes back to Philadelphia to find her mother hobbling around on crutches. Elaine shoos Aunt Muriel away once Melissa returns. Melissa stays by her side, tries to understand why Elaine doesn't want to call Murray, and begins to take care of things. Elaine falls asleep as Melissa tells her the good news about Vanity Fair. Melissa goes to shoot pictures of Gary and Emma, featuring Gary as modern mother, complete with a rolling pin and an apron (see "closing the circle"). While Emma fusses unbelievably, Gary asks if Elaine was happy about the news. Back in New York, Melissa meets Brendan Norris who indeed turns out to be a very prickly character who disdains and puts down everything about the photo shoot. Jill tries to help her rationalize through it while she and melissa argue about how much Melissa should or should not be rushing back to Philadelphia to take care of their mother (Jill says that at least she sent flowers). Melissa found her mother exhausted from defrosting the freezer and trying to do too much around the house. Elaine goes on a bit too much about the flowers while Melissa tries to get her to talk about dinner. Jill calls to tell her that Vanity Fair has moved up the shoot to tomorrow morning. Elaine encourages her to leave that night, but Melissa eventually talks herself into staying and taking the early train in the morning. Melissa's train is delayed and she rushes in to Jill's and then can't find her favorite lens, realizing she left it back in Philadelphia. Norris is sarcastically furious and gives her only four minutes to take the photos. Jill tries to console her and gives a mini-lecture on the nature of fate in New York. Ethan, Nancy, and Britty are posing for pictures with Melissa and something suddenly gets to her halfway through and she calls it short. Melissa and Elaine practice the song for her show for a while and then as Melissa is taking off, her mother tells her to be careful wtih darkroom chemicals. This finally brings out Melissa's lingering resentments and she erupts about her mother not asking about how the shoot went and not seeming to care about how Melissa does. Melissa goes to talk to Michael and helps him do yardwork. Looking over the pictures, Melissa can't find any that work well and goes into a waking nightmare in which Dr. Nessel, Dr. Strauss, Ms. Eisen, and Dr. Tietler, all her therapists, show up to give her a hard time and fall to arguing among themselves. Melissa takes some initiative and goes to stake out Brendan Norris at his apartment until he emerges. She tells him the story of going to her cousin's wedding when she was eleven and her mother gave her a camera to take pictures and it helped her fit in when she was fat and unloved. Somehow it connects with Norris and he consents to let her take another round of shots. Returning to Philadelphia, Melissa finds that Jill has come to see Elaine and they talk, Jill admitting that Melissa got a raw deal soemtimes and they hug (after smoking together). Melissa takes tea up to her mother and they visit, talking about how things hadn't gone well and how Elaine felt so awkward talking about how the shoot hadn't gone well and how Melissa has felt she let her mother down by not being who Elaine wants her to be.
Based on sheer physical resemblance and the sharing of the last name, I'd say that Gail Mayron is Melanie Mayron's sister or cousin; Elaine was in a production of Gypsy with the Liberty Bell Players once; Melissa plays piano and had a lot of lessons; Melissa was born on the day of the Rosenberg execution; Elaine hates chutney; three years ago Jill purloined Melissa's favorite T-shirt with pictures of sushi on it; Melissa loves Mrs. Paul fish sticks; Nancy is wearing a wig; Elaine is more radical than Melissa politically; as a child Melissa affects an English accent but people just think she has a speech impediment; Jill smokes secretly; special note that story editor Winnie Holzman appears as Ms. Sherry Eisen in Melissa's dream sequence
Melissa's hair went flat and strange. Talk about Lords of the Flatbush. And I say that with love. Melissa bought a new briefcase that looks like it was sliced from a Western saddle. Melissa wears those dark, heavy frame glasses to the Vanity Fair interview. Several long earrings appear on Melissa's right ear.
JBrun has noted a discrepancy: "In episode 120 ("tenure"), Melissa sits at the piano with Gary and indicates that she only knows one song; something simple like "Chopsticks" or "Heart and Soul"; in 407 ("photo opportunity") Melissa can play pretty well and has had lessons."
"Let's put it this way, if this was the 70s and I was wearing a hat, I'd throw it in the air." --Melissa to Jill upon getting the job
--"My train sat in a tunnel for 80 minutes and I'm late." --Melissa
--"Fashionably or neurotically?" --Jill
"There's no fate in Philadelphia. There's just cheese steaks." --Jill
I think I liked the episode overall, but I could've used just a minute or two more when Melissa returns to see Brendan Norris and tries to get another chance from him. Maybe something just a little more gut-wrenching about her childhood with the camera, something like what we saw in "be a good girl" when Melissa recalled how her grandmother was her only friend. We've built this great curmudgeonly character and I just didn't want to see him cave quite so quickly. Cave yes, in the end, but only after a little more soul baring on Melissa's part.
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