Episode 421--"a stop at willoughby"

Joseph Dougherty
Timothy Busfield
Air Dates
5/14/91, 8/27/91
Guest Stars
Shawn Weatherly, Miss Universe 1980, as the All-American girl, invading Michael's shower
Richard Comeau as Randy Towers; Shawn Weatherly as Rita; Ken Jenkins as Durstin; Dierk Torsek as Dr. Flick; Richard Cummings Jr. as Mark Harriton; Andra Millian as Angel Wasserman; David Clennon as Miles Drentell; Dave Edison as DAA employee; Raeann Emery as Assistant to Miles
Stress from work brings Michael to the breaking point.
Michael is still having trouble sleeping and stands in the kitchen, drinking milk, and listening to television news reports of the Gulf War victory. Work is filled with a chaotic new campaign for Dursten Gold beer with the recurring message of "who deserves it more"? Michael still can't sleep and Hope stays up, worrying about him, as they watch bad TV together and he drinks more chocolate milk.

Miles returns to the office from an extended trip to the Netherlands and informs Michael that there is a problem with the campaign. He shows Michael a tape of the Dursten Gold spokesman, Randy Towers, at an anti-Gulf War protest. Michael is aghast that the beer company is so upset and that he's being asked to completely redo a campaign that took so much out of the agency. Dursten wants something new by the end of the week and Lars Dursten, the owner, is coming to D.A.A. the next day. On the way home, Michael passes an ad for the campaign and sees the woman come to life on the sign, looking at him.

Hope finds Michael asleep on the couch the next morning, surrounded by his paperwork. Michael gets to the meeting a little late and quickly assesses Lars Dursten as being fairly set in his mind about getting rid of Randy Towers, though he still makes the point that it might be morally wrong to fire the man just for viewing a different point of view. Despite his efforts, Michael is ordered to redo the entire campaign and fire Towers. Michael is forced to be a "good boss" even though he agrees with the protests of his employees who don't want to redo the campaign. After talking to Towers' manager and firing him, Michael takes a long shower and imagines that the girl from the Dursten campaign comes into the bathroom wearing a star-spangled bikini, promising him seductive visions of the all-American dream.

Michael goes to see his doctor and they talk about the stress levels in his life, including the chest pain, shortness of breath, mild nauseau, and trouble sleeping. The doctor orders him to cut back at work, which Michael doesn't seem very open to, as well as prescribing something for sleeping and giving him the number of a therapist. At work, the re-shooting of the campaign continues to have problems which leads Michael to worry excessively that night (out loud, to Hope) about the aftermath of the war. Michael and Miles have another ideological conflict about whether or not to use the war at all in the campaign. Miles delivers an extended lecture upon the nature of advertising. Michael has another attack and has a waking vision of being at a beautiful all-American picnic. The woman from his dream pulls him on to a merry-go-round that spins faster and faster until he finally slips off and snaps back to reality.

The next day, the female actress from the ad campaign comes by the office to work out the details of her being let go (because of her connection with the campaign). As she leaves, Michael asks her how she feels about doing the ads just because of her looks, and she points out that it's men like him who write the scripts behind it all. Michael goes to see Miles who is out and leaves him a note: "I quit. Sincerely, Michael Steadman." That night Michael and Hope go over their immediate contingency plans which include selling the DAA stock and relying on their savings. Miles has been calling all day, but they let the machine pick up and Michael makes plans to sleep in the next morning.

Melissa shows up for breakfast the next day and she and Hope make plans to go camping with Michael. Miles shows up on the doorstep and insists on seeing Michael who has just gotten out of the shower. Miles tries unsuccessfully to woo Michael back to the company while Michael continues getting dressed and calmly telling Miles that he's not coming back. Miles finally leaves and Hope returns to embrace Michael.

Two men in a hallway at D.A.A. and one of the receptionists are shown wearing a yellow ribbon on their jacket lapels (not very obvious, but it's there)
  • Hope wears the black and pink kimono robe thing
  • Michael's famous "getting dressed in front of Miles" scene starts wtih the blue and white bathrobe
  • Angel's hair is blond now. When did that happen?
  • Someone, yet again, attacked Melissa with the black elastic headband and Hope with the knotted headband (sorta olive green this time)
  • Quotes
    "You're a fool. And you've destroyed yourself." --Miles' last words to Michael

    Miles' infamous speech on advertising, somewhat edited for continuity:

    "I'm curious to know, Michael, just what you think this company does? On a very basic level, you seem ignorant of what you and I do for a living. Have you been sleep walking all this time? In a trance? I don't know how else to explain you coming in here with that 'I'd like to buy the world a Dursten' concept....

    The thing that most appalls me is your hypocrisy.... Do you actually imagine there's some difference between this campaign and everything else that we do? [Michael protests that there has to be] Or what? You know what I love about this country? Its amazingly short memory. We're a nation of amnesiacs. We forget everything. Where we came from. What we did to get here. History is last week's People magazine Michael. So don't pretend to cry for Randy Towers--no one really cares....

    He expressed an unpopular opinion. No one wants to be unpopular. That's why we're here. That's the dance of advertising. We help people become popular. Through popularity comes acceptance. Acceptance leads to assimilation. Assimilation leads to bliss.

    We calm and reassure. We embrace people with the message that we're all in it together. Our leaders are infallible and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong. That is what we do. It's what we've always done, and under your gifted sterwardship, what we will continue to do, onward the new millennium. In return for our humanitarian service, we are made rich.

    I'm sorry if you misunderstood the nature of this covenant, but you've done so well up till now. I thought you knew.

    The Ideal Woman's speech:

    "I'm the ideal. I'm what everyone's fighting about. Strawberry blond hair, cornflower flue eyes, and the Miss America smile. My hobbies are cooking, sewing, and helping the poor. My heroes are George Bush and Julia Roberts, but not in that order. I believe in the traditional family, old fashioned Christmases, and I'll make love to you like a crazed animal...but only if we're married." --Ideal

    "You're not real." --Michael

    "Doesn't mean you can't believe in me, Michael!" --Ideal

    • From Mollie Bermudez, our correspondent in England:
      "The all American girl was Shawn Weatherly, Miss Universe back in the very early '80's.  She was the last American Miss Universe, I think."
    • And yes, yet again, there is more sex imagery in this episode than any other--this seems to happen whenever Timothy Busfield directs.
    • Jay Hutchison wrote in to note that when Lifetime ran a marathon of episodes some time ago, David Clennon introduced this one as his favorite.
    • Michael keeps waiting for the merry-go-round to stop before he can get off, as if an addiction is going to meekly comply and cooperate with the afflicted person.
    • The title is a reference to the Twilight Zone episode "A Stop at Willoughby" which focused on the miserable life of a businessman being destroyed with stress from above. Every day on his way home, he sees a new train stop, "Willoughby", that is a beautiful all-American island of idyllic bliss. After several trips by it, he gets off at the stop and goes off to live there forever. In reality though, the man has jumped from the train and perished in the snow, a victim of his own illusions.
    Miss Universe 1980
    Shawn Weatherly, Miss Universe 1980
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    The dashed line marks the point where Lisa Stevenson Blackwell's original version of this page ended, and where Bob Fahey began adding material.
    Bob observation, 2-5-2007: The businessman in the Twilight Zone episode A Stop at Willoughby is an ad executive, just like Michael. What's more, his boss subjects him to a lecture about the nature of advertising, just like Michael's boss. Michael doesn't literally jump from a train, but you could say he does so metaphorically by quitting DAA.

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