Northern Exposure Wiki
Northern Exposure Wiki
Season 3, Episode 23 (37)
Airdate May 11, 1992
Writer(s) Diane Frolov
Andrew Schneider
Director Rob Thompson
Guest star(s)

  • Jo Anderson as Roslyn
  • Yvonne Suhor as Cicely
  • Roberts Blossom as Ned Svenborg
  • Peg Phillips as Rhoda
  • William J. White as Dave the Cook
  • Brian T. Finney as Singing Drunk
  • Sharon Collar as Thin Woman
  • Krisha Fairchild as Sturdy Woman
←   Episode sequence   →
"Our Wedding" "Northwest Passages"


A 108-year-old visitor brings to life Cicely's beginnings, circa 1909, recounting tales of what was once a cultural mecca known as "the Paris of the North," settled by a free-thinking pioneer named Cicely and her companion Roslyn.


Joel is driving home late one night when an elderly man suddenly appears by the side of the road and Joel almost hits him. The man falls and Joel helps him up and takes him to his cabin to look at the man's injured ankle. The man, who introduces himself as Ned Svenborg, explains that he moved away from Cicely back in 1909, and has not been back since. While Ned obviously has a great love for Cicely, Joel feels as if it were a hole in his life, sucking away 4 of his most precious years. Ned is disapproving of Joel's attitude and tells him a story about the foundation of Cicely.

As Ned tells the story, Joel imagines the various characters as incarnations of present-day inhabitants of Cicely. Ned describes himself as a boy living in squalor with no education or manners. The young Ned is seen as Ed, rolling in the dirt and begging for change. Mace Mobrey, the 1909 counterpart to Maurice, holds the town in his grasp and is assisted by his hired gun Kit, who appears as Chris. Mace has possession of Sally, who is a young harlot resembling Shelly. However, Sally is secretly loved by Abe, who resembles Holling. The entire town is resigned to its lawlessness, save for Mary O'Keefe, a missionary woman with Maggie's face, who attempts rather unsuccessfully to convert the townspeople.

Joel remains doubtful of Ned's story, but Ned tells Joel that two people together can work miracles. He tells of the first time he saw Cicely and Roslyn, who had just arrived in town in their Ford Model T. Roslyn is a tough, muscular woman, with an uncharacteristic kindness in her eyes. Her travelling partner is Cicely, a frial, fair-skinned figure of astonishing beauty. Roslyn is the first one to help Ed, lifting him up out of the mud, and telling him to walk like a man. The two women enter the local tavern, and Roslyn immediately establishes her authority, punching out a man who tries to stop the missionary woman from singing.

Ned tells Joel that Cicely and Roslyn were looking for an escape from society, and had a vision of a utopian society, where everyone is free to be their best. To that end, Roslyn begins work on a salon, which would later become The Brick. The salon is built to allow a place for cultural expression to take place. Since Mace and Kit are out town, Abe takes the opportunity to express his love for Sally, who learns to love herself through him. The salon opens on May 1st and the first performance is a dance by Cicely. Although the crowd is noisy and rude at first, Cicely's profound presence soon quiets them, and Ned begins to fall in love with her. Cicely takes it upon herself to teach Ned how to read, and Ned finally expresses his love for Cicely. Cicely is flattered, and tells Ned not to put himself down, but has to refuse because her heart belongs to Roslyn. It is apparent that their serious relationship went beyond mere friendship.

Seasons pass and 6 months of cold winter go by. Roslyn is strong and survives well but she is concerned about Cicely, whose health is much more fragile. As spring arrives, so does new hope for the residents of Cicely. Franz Kafka, who has the appearance of Joel, arrives in town to meet with Roslyn and hopefully cure his writer's block. With the help of Mary, he is able to establish the premise for his Metamorphosis, and the two of them begin a lasting relationship.

At another performance, Ned reads a poem he has written, entitled "Between Antigone". Although it is not a remarkable poem, the pride in Cicely's eyes is unmistakable, for Ned was her creation, and he had made her proud. However, even in that moment of joy, Cicely begins a deep and fitful coughing, the precursor to a tragic illness.

Laying in bed, Cicely's visage is pale, and her eyes are sunken in dark circles. Roslyn offers to take her to the City of Angels in California, where the air is clear and it is always warm, but Cicely refuses, saying, "This is our home." As Cicely's illness worsens, Roslyn begins blaming herself for risking Cicely's life for the sake of her own dreams of art and self-expression. Yet Mary tries to explain that, without art, life is not worth living. At the same moment, Kit returns to town, disturbed by the change which has occurred. When Sally refuses to go with him to meet Mace, he becomes angry and promises that Mace will return and kill everybody who stands against him.

A town meeting is held by Ned to discuss their options. Many want to stand and fight but Roslyn says that they should all run away and that it was a mistake for her and Cicely to come there. At that moment, Cicely walks in, pale and weak, but driven by an inner fire. She exclaims that it was not a stupid dream and that they have created a society where all people are equal and all are valued. She encourages the freedom to express their art and love, and Roslyn looks at her with a deep respect and love. Then, as strong as she is one moment, she is suddenly weak and is caught be several townspeople as she collapses in a dead faint.

As Mace and his men ride into town, Roslyn has them surrounded. Roslyn wishes to talk things out with Mace, but he will not listen. Just before the townspeople are about to fire on Mace, a lone gunner, who went unnoticed, fires a shot at Roslyn. Cicely sees the gunner a moment before, and dives between him and Roslyn, taking the bullet in her own back. As her figure lays on the ground, Roslyn pleads with Cicely not to leave her. But fate intervenes and, as Cicely looks up into Roslyn's eyes, she dies. The entire town forgets their disputes and, at that moment, the town becomes Cicely.

After the funeral, Kafka and Mary move off to Prague, and the rest of the town goes on as normal. However, Roslyn withdraws into herself and, one day, she leaves the town altogether, never to be seen again.

After Ned finishes his story, he tells Joel that this day would have been Cicely's 100th birthday and he has come to pay his respects. Joel drives him to the cemetery, where Ned asks to be left alone. In town, Joel enters The Brick after closing time. As he sits thinking, he can hear the sounds of Cicely as it was back in 1909, and a faint smile crosses his lips.


Ned Svenborg: One person can have a profound effect on another. And two people...well, two people can work miracles. They can change a whole town. They can change the world.

Cicely: In this tiny corner of Alaska, the human spirit has triumphed. We hold in our hands, the most precious gift of all: freedom. The freedom to express our art...our love; the freedom to be who we want to be. We are not going to give that freedom away and no one shall take it from us!



  • Ned was 25 when he left Cicely and has come back for Cicely's 100-year birthday.
  • Roslyn and Cicely's salon opened May 1st which is an important holiday in matriarchal pagan societies.
  • Holling has been hunting bears for 30 years and can't tell a grizzly from a Kodiak.
  • The visiting Franz Kafka met Roslyn in Vienna and is suffering from writer's block.
  • Missionary Mary O'Keefe (Janine Turner) inspires Kafka's Metamorphosis and goes to Prague with him.
  • Kit becomes a preacher and weds trapper Abe and Sally (formerly Mace's personal property).
  • The grieving Roslyn vanishes.
  • Jo Anderson (Roslyn) later plays Jane Harris, Holling's teacher in "Learning Curve" (4-15).
  • This episode won several awards:
    • Peabody Award for 'creating a show about people of diverse backgrounds and experiences striving to accept their differences and co-exist in the community'.[6]
    • Creative Arts Emmy Awards: one for Cinematography to Frank Prinzi, one for Art Direction (to set decorator Gene Serdena, production designer Woody Crocker and art director Kenneth Berg) and one for Editing to Thomas R. Moore[7]
    •  Directors Guild of America Award (1993) for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Dramatic Show


  1. Joel nearly hits Ned with his truck.
  2. David LoVine appears as an extra in about 40 episodes, including three credited (speaking) roles in 4-23, 5-5, and 5-8.
  3. The fiddlers play in the bar.
  4. Drunk men sing.
  5. Cicely dances.