"First Snow"
Season 5, Episode 10 (73)
Airdate December 13, 1993
Writer(s) Diane Frolov
Andrew Schneider
Director Daniel Attias
Guest star(s)

←   Episode sequence   →
"Cup of Joe" "Baby Blues"

Summary[edit | edit source]

In anticipation of winter's first snow, Maggie redecorates her cabin for maximum coziness. Joel is afflicted with guilt and self-reproach arising from his treatment of an elderly--but healthy--patient who claims she's "winding down". Shelly's little white lie about love conjures up fears that her nose is growing.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Joel drives up to a farmhouse where he greets an active old woman (Nedra) feeding her sled dogs. She receives him warmly and presents him with a gift of Nova lox. When Joel offers Nedra her regular prescription for arthritis, she tells him that she is dying, although not right this minute, as she is waiting for her daughter and her family to arrive from Boston. Joel asks if she has symptoms she has not told him of and she responds that she is "just winding down".

Chris, on-air, anticipates the first snow of winter, cautioning Cicelians to prepare, and wishes all "bon hiver" ("good winter").

Walt and others at The Brick order an extra dessert to add calories for the winter. Joel, at the bar, overhears Ed tell Holling that Nedra is announcing her upcoming death. Holling has the civic responsibility of determining how many graves Cicely will need for the winter before the ground is too frozen to dig them. Joel is offended by their grim preparation and their matter-of-fact discussion of it. He insists that Nedra is not dying.

Maurice, in his KBHR office, presents the pregnant Shelly with an antique silver baby rattle. He explains that he is being so generous to her child because he takes comfort in the fact that Shelly once told Maurice that she loved him. Shelly, defensive, replies that she never said so, and could not have, because it was never true.

Maggie, at Ruth-Anne's store buys supplies to redecorate her cabin before winter. Joel comes in and notices a ring Ruth-Anne is wearing that Nedra gave her. Joel berates Ruth-Anne for pandering to Nedra's delusions of death. Ruth-Anne tells Joel that he is pompous and condescending to assume that he knows Nedra's body better than Nedra knows it herself.

Chris finds Maurice pouring through a box of momentos from his two weeks with Shelly, "the most beautiful time I've spent in my life". Maurice says he is looking for proof that Shelly once loved him, but does not find it in lipstick marks on a restaurant napkin. Meanwhile, Shelly tells Holling that she is certain her nose is growing, but Holling can't see anything.

Joel visits Nedra again and finds her family in town. Joel explains calmly that there is no reason for them to be here and thinks it is a mistake to encourage Nedra's belief. Joel enters Nedra's bedroom and apologizes for not taking her complaints seriously earlier. If there is something wrong with her he will find it, treat it, and solve the problem. He wants to run more tests, and Nedra asks if that will make Joel feel better, and he says it will.

Shelly, at The Brick, is distracted. She asks Holling why Maurice has not been around much and why Holling is not worried about his good friend. Holling asks why Shelly is so concerned and Shelly grows defensive at the suggestion that she cares about Maurice. Holling approaches another patron and inquires if he has been feeling well, explaining that he has to prepare enough graves for the winter. Owen says he is feeling better and thanks Holling graciously for caring to ask.

Ed delivers a new chair that Maggie has ordered. She saw it in Juneau, thought it looked familiar, and had to have it. Ed sits in the chair but finds that it is not his size.

Joel returns to his office to find Shelly in his examining room, claiming that her nose is getting bigger. Joel assures her that any change may be due to hormonal changes from her pregnancy. Shelly asks if someone's nose might grow from telling a lie, like Pinnochio, but Joel assures that is not possible.

Maurice stares blankly ahead in his gazebo, the place where he is sure Shelly declared her love to him. Chris finds him and asks if he has hit bottom. Maurice replies that he is distraught because he thought of his brief time with Shelly as a precious jewel, but now finds it only paste. He feels old and foolish because he was so needful as to concoct a fantasy romance. Chris replies that there is something to be said for self-delusion in matters of the heart.

Joel looks at Nedra's new x-rays with Marilyn and can find nothing wrong. All of the tests are normal. He tells Marilyn he must be missing an important clue and must not be a good enough doctor to diagnose her ailment. Marilyn suggests that nothing might be wrong. Joel responds that death is the enemy, what he has fought against, and has trained for years to fight against. He goes home to examine more medical journals.

Shelly visits a despondent Maurice in his study. She attempts to make small talk and acts as if nothing is wrong. Maurice ignores her efforts.

Chris visits Maggie at home and offers a wall hanging for her redecoration effort. Maggie shows off the improvements but feels that something is still missing. Chris tries out her new chair and remarks that although it looks like it would be comfortable, it is not his size.

Joel visits Nedra again in another attempt to convince her that nothing is wrong. He wants her to get out of bed and start eating. Nedra tells Joel that he is a good doctor. She shows him a picture of her mother and wonders what age her mother will be when she sees her again. Joel responds that he will not let Nedra die. Nedra tells him goodbye.

Ruth-Anne and Holling in The Brick discuss the grave count. Ruth-Anne offers actuarial tables to figure the odds of the death of certain Cicelians. They survey the patrons and figure the risk factors.

Ed comes upon Shelly alone outside and despressed. She tells Ed that she has told a big lie, has hurt someone badly, and now her nose is growing. She asks Ed if, as a shaman, which is sort of like a priest, he can offer absolution. Ed offers that Leonard sometimes tells stories to make people feel better--parables with morals at the end. Ed offers the story from the film, The Return of Martin Guerre, where a French soldier returns from war, tells a big lie, and turns the whole town against him. Ed, uncertain if his "medicine" is useful, says that there's a moral in there somewhere.

Joel returns to Nedra's cabin. Ruth-Anne meets him on the front steps and tells him that Nedra has died. Joel is utterly defeated. He says he has never lost a patient that he really knew and took care of for so long. He says "I blew it." Ruth-Anne responds, "You are only a doctor. Do you reproach yourself when winter comes, when the grass dies, when the leaves fall from the trees?" She says that Nedra died well, with her family around her. She said all her goodbyes and that, "You and I should only be so fortunate."

Maurice bulldozes the gazebo to bury the past. Shelly runs out and yells for him to stop. She admits that she said that she loved him. She only lied because she is so in love with Holling that she feels like it was another person who was once loved Maurice. Maurice thanks her. He says he'll now come back to The Brick and everything can be like it used to be.

Joel knocks at Maggie's door while she is feeding her new goldfish. He saw her light on and stopped by. Maggie says that she is sorry about Nedra and shows off the redecoration. She says it still feels like it's missing something. Joel sits in the new chair. He says he had goldfish as a kid and that they swim around in circles because they are so stupid that they reach one side of the bowl and forget that they were there. He sits back in the chair and relaxes. He says it's the most comfortable chair he's ever sat it. He feels like he could sit in it all day. Maggie notices that the snow has begun to fall. They walk out on her porch to greet the first snow.

The people of Cicely greet the snow: Ed and Holling while digging the graves and Chris reads a poem on-air celebrating the snow. Maurice and Shelly exit The Brick and wish one another "bon hiver". Maggie and Joel, among the crowd on Main Street, wish one another "bon hiver", look deep into each others' eyes, and turn and walk together down Main Street, arm-in-arm.

Quotes[edit | edit source]

Chris: "O the snow, the beautiful snow,
Filling the sky and earth below!
Over the house-tops and over the streets,
Over the heads of people you meet,
Dancing, flirting, skimming along,

O the snow, the beautiful snow,
How the flakes gather and laugh as they go.
Whirling about in their maddening fun,
It plays in its glee with everyone,
Chasing, laughing, hurrying by,
It lights on the face and sparkles the eye;
And even the dogs with a bark and a bound,
Snap at the crystals that eddy around.
The town is alive and its heart in a glow,
To welcome the coming of beautiful snow.[1]

Bon hiver,[2] Cicely."

Music[edit | edit source]

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • Shelly's earrings: diaper pins (Maurice gives her the rattle and professes his love), pink pigs (Shelly thinks her nose is growing), cutting boards/cheeseboards with an orange or cheese on them (talks to Ed about lying and her nose growing), snowflakes (admits to Maurice that she did say she loved him at one point)
  • Nedra's dogs: two are named Whiskey and Tyrone. Mush comes from the French word "march", meaning "to go".

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Bon Hiver (First Day of Winter), Chimes Freedom, 21 December 2011
  2. "Good winter" in French
  3. At the end with snow falling.
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