Northern Exposure Wiki
Northern Exposure Wiki
"Get Real"
Season 3, Episode 9 (?)
Airdate December 9, 1991
Writer(s) Diane Frolov
Andrew Schneider
Director Michael Katleman
Guest star(s)

  • Richard Brestoff as Steve
  • Judith Kahan as Adrienne
  • Remy Ryan as Nina
  • Bill Irwin as Enrico Bellati, the Flying Man
  • Armenia Miles as Mrs. Whirlwind
  • Reginald Ward as Mr. Whirlwind
  • Dan Perkins as Handsome Man
  • Cirque du Soleil as Ludwig Wittgenstein Masquerade and Reality Company
←   Episode sequence   →
"A-Hunting We Will Go" "Seoul Mates"


A colorful bus breaks down in Cicely, carrying a traveling traveling circus whose nonverbal "flying man" takes a fancy to Marilyn. But there's heartache in store for Shelly when Holling takes note of her "inordinately large" feet. Meanwhile, as Chris becomes captivated by the mysteries of magic, Joel hits the books after deciding on a subspecialty.


On a small backwoods road, Ed is fixing a flat tire, when he spots a crowd of people trudging towards him. The group is apparently a circus troupe whose tour bus has broken down, and Ed points them towards Cicely, only a half mile away. He watches them pass in awe and wonder as a soap bubble floats by.

On KBHR, Chris announces that the Ludwig Wittgenstein Masquerade and Reality Company has made an unscheduled stop in Cicely, thanks to a broken-down 1968 Blue Bird school bus. The troupe is seen in the middle of town, gathered around their towed bus. Jugglers, children, and a bear mill around, and a young girl asks her father Steve, who heads the troupe, for her allowance. A man separates himself from the group and begins quickly following and then overtaking Marilyn, bowing his head and introducing himself to her with a notecard as Enrico Bellati. She states her name and then he gestures towards his ring finger, then her hand to mean if she is married. Marilyn replies that she's available, but not interested, and walks off, leaving the man alone with a half-smile as he watches her walk away.

At his office, Joel is gloating over reading his medical school alumni newsletter as Marilyn walks in. He tells her about one of his smug classmates who got assigned to a remote place in Alaska, like he did. Joel feels glad but then reads of another classmate who he says was not a very good student, get an upscale position on Park Avenue, causing Joel to feel jealous as Marilyn bores him with trivial office supply needs. Joel rambles on about the mundanity of his position and Enrico is then seen standing outside the office window waving to Marilyn who does not look pleased at her newfound stalker at first but, after a smile and nod from him, she smiles slightly. Joel stops rambling and asks Marilyn who the guy is, to which she responds "the Flying Man", causing Joel to wonder.

At The Brick, Steve is entertaining Chris with magic, using the Heisenberg uncertainty principle as a possible explanation for his mystical abilities. He and Chris then embark on a discussion of physics and the nature of reality. Steve, who received his Ph.D. in physics at Berkeley, is amazed at Chris' knowledge, which comes solely from personal reading. At the bar, Holling serves a beer to a man and his bear, then walks over to Shelly who is sitting down massaging her feet which she explains have been in high-heel boots that don't fit her. Holling is fixated on her feet while she tells him about her parents, then walks away after she asks for her sock.

At Joel's cabin, Ed helps him look through his medical books, and Joel expresses his desire to study for the board certification examination to gain an additional specialty in internal medicine with a subspecialization in endocrinology. Since he will have to study night and day, he tells Ed that he won't be out very much, and Ed understands.

The next morning, Enrico walks with Marilyn, trying to get her to eat with him, before Chris airs his feelings about magic over the air. Joel walks down the street, engrossed in studying as the circus troupe practices around him. As he walks into his office, Joel formally meets Enrico as he waits for Marilyn with flowers. Joel asks Enrico why he doesn't talk and then asks why he's here. Enrico points to Marilyn as she walks in and Joel goes into his office. After giving her the flowers, Marilyn says she doesn't have a vase but Enrico pulls one out of his jacket. She still refuses to go out with him but, after he refuses to leave, she finally gives in.

Chris and Steve walk down Main Street, discussing quantum physics, then Chris walks into KBHR and Holling is there who explains to Chris about his issue with Shelly's feet. Chris explains what he thinks Holling is going through but it only seems to leave Holling more confused.

Adrienne, Steve's wife, passes by Joel on her way to Ruth-Anne's store to buy a parallel interface cable and some micro disks for her daughter's laptop computer. As Maggie watches, Adrienne reads Ruth-Anne's palm, and very accurately describes past events of her life, as well as the fact that she will fall in love again. Maggie is impressed by the accuracy of the reading, as well as its hopeful nature.

As Ed is quizzing Joel in his office, Marilyn announces that she is leaving for her date.

At The Brick in their living room, Holling tries to explain to Shelly his feelings about her to the point of asking her to marry him. She questions his sudden proposal, getting mad at his previous standing up at the alter a year ago, and she wonders what else is bothering him. He eventually confesses the issue to be her feet, but when he tells her they are big, she gets upset and storms out.

Marilyn and Enrico Bellati are having dinner with Marilyn's parents, who say close to nothing. Enrico, who does not speak, merely responds with polite nods and appreciative hand gestures. Mrs. Whirlwind leans over to Marilyn, and tells her that she likes Enrico, to which Marilyn smiles.

Meanwhile, Shelly is at Maggie's house, explaining what happened between her and Holling. Maggie tries to reassure her that she is young and will find someone else, then goes on a rant about relationships and men, only leaving Shelly confused.

In Joel's office, he has dozed off after having been studying, when a soap bubble lands and pops on his mouth, waking him. He gets up to find Enrico sweeping his office floor and, in his examination room, questions Marilyn about her new boyfriend and his abilities, finding out his real name is Bob Wilson from Phoenix.

Later that day, Marilyn and Enrico are having a picnic by a pond, and feeding the ducks. The two have grown close, and Enrico asks her to marry him. Marilyn understands his complex hand gestures flawlessly and tells him that she'll consider his offer.

Shelly returns to The Brick to get some things, finding Holling in a disheveled state, and questions him about what he said about her. He tries to explain and ask for forgiveness but she leaves again.

That night, Joel walks out of his office and sees the troupe performing down the street. He walks over and seems enraptured by the performance but stays back when Ed motions him over, claiming he has to study. While watching, Enrico gives Marilyn a special performance with a scarf which seems to cause her some concern at first but then she is smiling somewhat at the end.

The next morning, Maggie enters her house with groceries, calling out to Shelly about what she can make for dinner, only to find Shelly packed and ready to leave and return to Holling. A disappointed Maggie questions her leaving but Shelly explains things and then departs.

Joel is driving into town, when he passes Enrico, who he asks to give a lift who refuses because he is going to fly into town instead. Joel laughs and drives off and resumes studying, in a long take, as he drives into town, passing Enrico again, who is now sweaty and visibly exhausted. Ed meets Joel, and asks what they're going to work on, but Joel is amused by the circus preparations going on around him and decides to take a break.

At The Brick, Shelly and Holling make up and Maggie nervously approaches Adrienne to have her palm read. Adrienne sees many aspects of Maggie's personality, and detects a long lifeline. When Maggie asks specifically about love, Adrienne tells her, rather nervously, that she will have a tall, muscular, outdoorsy husband, and three lovely girls. However, the tone of her voice leads Maggie to conclude that she won't be happy.

At Marilyn's house, Enrico shows up and Marilyn tells him that she can't go with him. He is saddened and knows that he can't stay in Cicely. Marilyn watches with regret as he departs.

After Maggie leaves The Brick, she passes by Joel who is trying to juggle and wants her to watch. She dismisses him and spots a handsome man with long blond hair ahead on the sidewalk, smiling at her as he puts something in the back of his vehicle. She looks back at Joel, who is clumsily juggling, and then approaches the man. Although he is her perfect man, she believes, and she knows that the sex would be great, she tells him that it's just not enough, and goes back to watch Joel juggle.


Marilyn: Maurice needs some more antifungal cream.
Joel: Yeah, there you go, right? Antifungal cream. That is what I do. I treat athlete's foot. I treat ringworm, minor burns, scraped knees. Every once in a while I get lucky. I mean, something really challenging like an ingrown toenail or eczema. I'm not a physician. I'm a medic.
Joel: When I finally complete this indentured servitude, no one's even gonna remember who Joel Fleischman is.

Steve: Now, think how old you are. Really concentrate. Visualize the number in your mind's eye but don't tell me. ... One of those pieces of paper has your age written on it. You are now gonna throw the dart and hit it.
Chris: Aw, come on, man. Get out of here.
Steve: No, no, no, no, no. Following the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, I use a dimensional space-time equation to figure out the intersection of the dart with the target.
Chris: Wait a second. With a dimensional space-time equation, you still only get a probability wave.
Steve: Whoa. No flies on you. ... You're right. But in quantum physics, there are no absolutes. In a space-time continuum, you've already thrown that dart.
Chris: Wait a second, man. You're still on shaky ground here. In the many-worlds quantum interpretation, there's two realities: one where I throw this here dart, and one where I don't, right, right?
Steve: It's just a trick.
Chris: Right. Incoming, Al! Woo!

Steve (to Chris): Physics always made me anxious. On the subatomic level, everything is so bizarre, so unfathomable. With magic, you have some control.

Chris: (on-air) When we think of a magician, the image that comes to mind is Merlin. Long, white beard, cone-shaped hat, right? You know. Well, in one version of this Arthurian legend, the archetypal sorcerer retires, checks out of the conjuring biz. His reason? The rationalists are taking over. The time for magic's coming to an end. Well, old Merlin should've stuck around 'cause those same rationalists trying to put a rope around reality suddenly found themselves in the psychedelic land of physics, a land of quarks, gluons, and neutrinos, a place that refuses to play by Newtonian rules, a place that refuses to play by any rules, a place much better suited for the Merlins of the world.

Chris: (to Holling) People notice things about their significant other they don't like all the time: the way they chew their food or clip their toenails; it's a necessary part of a real relationship. Personally, I'm not into that, but lots of folks seem to get over the hump and keep fueling the domestic fires. On the other hand, for me, when I begin to see flaws--chinks in the romantic armor--it's a foreshadowing; a sure sign, you know, that love's about to skip out the back door. Adios. Finito, benito.

Maggie: I mean, I'm almost 30, and I'm beginning to realize that this whole idea of the male-female relationship is inherently flawed. I just don't think it can work. ... Well, because you're either lovers or you're wanting to be lovers or you're trying not to be lovers so you can be friends, but any way you look at it, sex is always looming in the picture like a shadow, like an undertow.
Shelly: I like sex.
Maggie: Well, of course. Of course you like sex. I like sex. But is it worth it? I mean, look at what you're going through. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't have to worry about men? We wouldn't have to waste any time trying to be attractive for the opposite sex. We could wear whatever we wanted to wear. We could be fat. We wouldn't have to shave our legs.
Shelly: Why would we want to do that?
Maggie: Well, it's just an example. Well, look at me, for instance. I haven't had a legitimate date since Rick died.
Shelly: You haven't had a date since Rick ate the satellite?
Maggie: Well, I-I've had offers, but-but I just wasn't interested in any of them. Well, the point I'm trying to make is celibacy has given me a new perspective on life.
Shelly: It has?
Maggie: Yes. People think celibacy is a bad thing, but it's not. They think it's deprivation, but really it's an opportunity. It's an opportunity to find strength and self-reliance. There have been lots of women who didn't toe the traditional male-female line, and they had great lives, satisfying lives. Amelia Earhart, um, Queen Victoria, Dian Fossey.
Shelly: Who?
Maggie: Gorillas in the Mist. She didn't need men at all. She lived alone in the jungle with total purpose and fulfillment with nothing but a group of apes.
Shelly: Yeah?




  1. Also on 3-16 and 4-1.
  2. In The Brick, Chris and Steven talk about physics and do the dart trick. Holling notices that Shelly has big feet.
  3. When Holling asks Shelly to marry him, she knows something is up and demands to know what.
  4. As the circus troupe performs for the town, Bob courts Marilyn.
  5. Adrienne reads Maggie's palm in The Brick.

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