Episode 406--"the guilty party"

Winnie Holzman


Norman Seef

Air Date


Guest Stars

Renee Taylor as Electra Rosenbloom; Debra Mooney as the Preceptor; Andrew Lauer as Ernest Leight; Vladimir Skomarovsky as Yanus; Heidi Wedberg as Miss Jackie; David Clennon as Miles Drentel


Hope deals with issues of perfection as she throws a surprise party for Michael's birthday.

Hope rattles on about home improvements to Michael before Nancy and Melissa come over, bearing the mail which includes a letter from Princeton, announcing Hope's 15th reunion. Hope is upset that she hasn't been doing a very good job at taking care of the wifely duties and decides to throw a surprise party for Michael's birthday. Miles pulls Michael and Elliot into the office to tell them that the Japanese investors are coming and they must impress them suitably. The new intern, Ernest, is introduced and he appears quite dorky. Hope goes to pick up Janey from pre-school and has a waking nightmare of her advisor at Princeton, a stiff, uptight woman who is extremely judgmental and who questions what she's doing with her life. Another mom at preschool recommends a fortune telling caterer for the surprise party. Miss Jackie, the teacher, is concerned with some of Janey's perfectionistic trends and asks if Hope might be contributing a little bit. While construction on the kitchen continues at home, Hope's confusion about her life and imaginary arguments with her advisor continue. The workers lose the stove and put a huge hole in the wall. In the midst of this, Elliot calls and he and Hope have to use code names to keep Michael from finding out about the party. Since she can't cook with no kitchen, Hope calls the psychic caterer, who knew that she was going to call. On the way to preschool, Hope gives Janey a big talk about not needing to be perfect. Melissa becomes uneasy with her role in the plan to help distract Michael from the surprise, despite the fact that Hope scripted it all out. Indeed, Melissa flubs all her lines and looks very suspicious. Hope tries to write her blurb for the reunion and it comes out very oddly, especially when Hope and Michael try to talk in bed while the imaginary advisor looks on. At D.A.A. there is some confusion about the date of the arrival of the Japanese and Miles continues downing painkillers for his back. Michael suspects that a party is in the works, but Elliot puts him off the track before he shows up at the Steadman's that night and tries to conference secretly on the porch with Hope. He questions if Michael will even enjoy the party but Hope insists on going through with it. In the midst of construction and more disarray, the advisor shows up again and puts more self-doubt into Hope. When Hope goes to meet with Miss Jackie about Janey's concerns, the preceptor tags along. The psychic caterer arrives and promptly mispredicts a dozen things. Miles gets a little wacky at work and it becomes obvious that he's had one too many painkillers. Everyone at the party mistakes Ellyn for Michael when she comes in and scare the crap out of her. Miles drolly announces that the Japanese will show up at any minute, which sends Michael and Elliot into a tailspin which is exactly when the Japanese arrive. Elliot gets the bright idea to pass Michael off as Miles and Ernest plays along, breaking out in Japanese and making up a fantastic cover story. Hope awaits nervously at home when the construction continues and Michael still hasn't shown up. The fortuneteller predicts a marriage for Ellyn, and she spills her guts. Elliot finally admits to Michael that there is a party and they have to get to it pronto, which is when Ernest takes it upon himself to invite the Japanese and Miles jumps into it. Michael and entourage finally arrive to be greeted by the waterpipes bursting through the ceiling, dousing everyone. In the end though, the party turns out fabulously and everyone has a great time, especially once Miles dumps the rest of his painkillers into the punch bowl. While she's leaving, the psychic gives Hope some good counsel about happiness and being content. After the party, Hope begins blaming herself for making mistakes with Janey and Michael calmly talks her out of it. In the middle of the night, Hope goes to check on Janey and dreams of walking into a room where the preceptor and a panel of young female students are gathered and they grill her about being a failure. Hope finally sees the light, tells them off, and goes to watch Janey sleep.


Ellyn's cat Sophie has disappeared; Grendel appears by name; Ernest's father worked with Miles in the military in Indochina; Janey is four and Leo three months; Hope is not a Pisces or a Scorpio; Melissa is a Taurus


Elliot wears that pink shirt with black sleeves and a jacket pin. Hope has short nails, but they are nice and well cared for. Nancy is wearing a hat, but her hair seems fine.


"He already has a hobby. Sulking." --Melissa regarding Michaael

"Surprise parties are the Vietnam of get togethers. They take everything you've got and you still can't win." --Melissa

"Chronic pain can be extremely challenging. Even educational. Not unlike public television. Now it's time to see what's on cable." --Miles, taking his pain killers


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