Patricia Kalember as Susannah Hart
Gary's funeral is held.
The furnace at the Steadman's is out and everyone huddles there after Gary's funeral, trying to stay warm. Melissa is in a disturbing state, shut off by herself in another room and refusing to eat. Ellyn gently asks what Susannah plans to do now and she replies that she'll be going back to New York for the time being as she has the apartment and Emma seems to like it. Ellyn asks how Emma is and Susannah says that she senses something is wrong, but doesn't understand.
While talking to Elliot about it, Nancy remembers Gary carrying Ethan into the kitchen when he had his accident with the model rocket. Ellyn finds Hope sitting alone and offers to take the food up to Melissa since it's become such a strain over the last few days. After leaving Melissa, Ellyn recalls Gary and her watching some of the babies sleeping and Gary saying that she'd be a good mother.
Susannah remarks that Melissa isn't taking it very well which leads to her asking Michael how long Gary and Melissa were together and what his relationship was with everyone. Michael offers to help her go through the things at the apartment when the time comes. Alone in the kitchen Hope remembers Gary juggling oranges sitting in the breakfast nook. When Nancy approaches, Hope shares how bitter she feels that Nancy survived, but they never got to celebrate her joy and had to turn immediately to Gary.
Michael gets calls from the office and angrily tells them to leave him alone. Michael and Elliot go down to the basement to look at the furnace, trying to make sense of it. Hope and Michael walk Susannah to her car, trying to work out when they can talk about arrangements, and she discovers that her car won't start. For some time she sits and refuses to accept this, wanting to escape more than ever, insisting on waiting in the car while Michael calls the auto club. Finally they get her back inside the house.
Melissa sits alone and remembers Gary sleeping in their bed and her taking pictures of him as he sleeps. She tells him about Ansel Adams' secret to taking pictures of the moon. Ellyn tries to sit faithfully by Susannah as she lies stiffly on the couch and stares at the ceiling. Ellyn offers that she's getting married and Susannah is genuinely happy for her and when Ellyn invites her to the wedding, Susannah embraces her hesitantly. Hope goes upstairs and remembers being tipsy at a party and meeting Gary outside the bathroom. She goofily compliments his butt and tells him that she once saw him naked out at a lake.
Michael goes to see Melissa who isn't crying anymore, but still looks odd. Michael asks her to come downstairs to say goodbye to Susannah whenever her car is fixed, but Melissa is resistant to the idea. Elliot remembers Gary playing Scrabble. Michael approaches Susannah and hands over the deed to the grave, telling her that she could see the university from the gravesite in good weather.
The auto club comes and jumpstarts the car after which Susannah goes up to Melissa's room to say goodbye. They exchange some formal niceties and Melissa mentions yet again that it was nice that Gary's students came. Susannah leaves and then comes back to tell Melissa that Gary loved her very much. Melissa doesn't want to listen to her and they escalate into an argument which culminates with Susannah slamming the door as everyone listens below. They calm down and Susannah ends up sharing how lost she feels, how she doesn't know where home is anymore. Susannah compulsively lights up again and Melissa accepts a cigarette. Again, Susannah regrets how these friends knew so much more about Gary than she ever did, how they had so much more time with him. Melissa affirms how much he had loved Susannah while Susannah wonders how she let Gary change her so much. Melissa replies that it was Susannah who changed Gary.
Sitting alone in her car before driving away, Susannah remembers Gary driving with her on a trip and getting them hopelessly lost. He finally convinces her to stop worrying, to lean against him, and trust him to get them wherever they're going. A single tear rolls down her face and Susannah drives away.
Gary and Melissa were together for four years The opening credits simply show the arrival of the casket at the cemetery as it snows while the names print quietly at the bottom and somber music plays The quiet music plays over the final credits The skid marks from the wreck were measured at 185 feet, crossing a median Gary's students came to the funeral Dairy products are bad for Melissa Susannah smokes Elliot finds some boxing gloves down in the basement This takes place in February
Melissa wears the coat with the numbers to the funeral as she hangs at the very back of the crowd. In Melissa's flashback she wears a big T-shirt with Jackie Kennedy on the front (which had already appeared in "melissa and men")
"Remember--Gary is a moon-lit object. Expose accordingly." --Gary
--"Of all Michael's friends, I find you the most tall. And you have the best butt." --Hope, about to tip over drunk
--"I chewed a lot of rubber bands in college." --Gary, trying not to laugh
"Let's all try for just two minutes here to remember who the widow is." --Michael to Melissa, who doesn't take it very kindly
"No one I've ever slept with has died before and now I feel like death knows where to find me. It makes me want to run away and change my name." --Melissa
I remember Patricia Kalember coming up to me when we were shooting “Fighting the Cold.” She pointed at a line I wrote for her when she’s getting in the car trying to leave. The line is: “Right. Right. Okay. Right.” She looked at me and said, “This is the most ‘Harold Pinter’ line you’ve ever written.” And I was happy the rest of the night.
I think Ed and Marshall always intended that somewhere along the line one of the major characters would die. It was something they wanted to explore and it was something they thought the show could handle well. I’m pretty sure Ed and Marshall discussed the Gary scenario with Peter Horton before they let any of the rest of us in on it. But for the life of me I can’t remember the precise circumstances under which we learned that was how things were going to play out.
This is the part where I say how I love all my children equally. Which I do...however, the more time passes and the more I think about it, the more I come back to “Fighting the Cold” as having more of what I wanted to do than any other single episode.
There’s so much I like in “Fighting the Cold.” Mostly because it’s so simple. It consists of the sort of scenes that were something like my signature on the series: Two people in a dim room finally telling each other the truth.
These characters had been through so much, I wanted them to be able to exchange small awkward gifts of love in the aftermath of an awful loss. So I locked them all in a house with no heat and wouldn’t let them leave until they talked to the person they were supposed to talk to.
The thing about “Fighting the Cold” that amazes me when I look at it, and I’ve gone back to look at it more than any other episode I worked on, is that it seems much wiser than the person who wrote it. I don’t know where much of it came from.
I’m very pleased with it and everybody in it. To the extent that I feel I can take conscious credit for it, I think it’s the best thing I did on the show.
As I mentioned to Ian, the book on Hope’s nightstand in “Fighting the Cold” is John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest with the bookmark set before page 322. It’s on that page Hope will read about Harry Angstrom coming home from the hospital with his wife and listening to her describe the episode of “thirtysomething” ["legacy"] she had seen the night before. I wondered what would happen when Hope got to that page and saw herself described as a fictional character on a television series.
Q: Regarding the flashbacks of Gary in "fighting the cold", while one actually referred to an incident from "elliot's dad," others didn't seem to tie into specific episodes. Were those "flashback" outtakes that never made it into an episode, or written specifically for that episode?
A: Everything in "fighting the cold" was shot specifically for the episode. I really can’t give you a reason why there’s only one specific reference to a previous show. In a strange way, we realized it was a "clip" show, but that we were creating clips from shows that never existed. Typical three-corner approach for us.
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