Northern Exposure Wiki
Northern Exposure Wiki
"My Mother, My Sister"
Season 3, Episode 18 (33)
Airdate March 16, 1992
Writer(s) Kate Boutilier
Mitchell Burgess
Director Rob Thompson
Guest star(s)

  • Wendy Schaal as Tammy Tambo
  • Sean O'Bryan as Kenny Cadashay
  • Adam Arkin as Adam
  • William J. White as Dave the Cook
←   Episode sequence   →
"Lost and Found" "Wake-Up Call"


An infant abandoned in Joel's waiting room gets plenty of TLC from Cicely residents and even stirs nesting instincts in some. But for Shelly, a surprise visit from her youth-crazed mother turns family life topsy-turvy.


Joel's rush of morning patients ends with a baby left alone in a car seat in his waiting room. Marilyn did not see the mother, and all that is left with the baby is a diaper bag. Marilyn hands the baby to Joel and goes to get talcum powder. Ed and Joel examine the baby, who appears to be healthy. Joel ponders about the kind of person who would simply abandon a baby and Ed reminds him that he himself was abandoned as a child.

In the kitchen at The Brick, Adam berates Dave for subbing pancetta with bacon on an order. Holling chastises him for yelling at Dave, saying that no one is forcing him to work there. Adam mentions that he needs the money to support his baby, but is sincerely apologetic, and goes back in to work with Dave. Meanwhile, on KBHR, Chris puts out an announcement about the baby, along with a request for names. Inside The Brick, Shelly is surprised when Tammy shows up to tell Shelly that she got engaged. Shelly looks every bit as young as Shelly and acts even more irresponsible. Holling is understandably surprised, then, when Shelly introduces Tammy as her mother. Upstairs in Shelly's room, Tammy is excited as she tells Shelly about how she met her fiance, Kenny, at a Desert Storm parade. After they get married, the two of them are planning to live in San Diego. Shelly is just as excited as Tammy. Later that night at The Brick, Maurice and Holling watch appreciatively as Tammy dances, with Holling holding the baby. Maurice had met Tammy before, as Shelly's talent coach at the Miss Northwest Passage pageant. He mentions that he thought that Tammy was her sister, as Shelly replies that they're kind of like sisters. Shelly is a bit uncomfortable at this comparison, but Holling does not notice.

Outside The Brick, Joel compliments Adam on his cooking, and Joel thanks him. Joel immediately knows something is wrong because Adam is usually rude to everyone. Adam mentions that he feels weird, and almost happy. Adam is apparently very concerned about this, for he is not himself anymore. He walks away feeling that something's wrong.

The next day, a very young-looking Kenny enters The Brick. He meets Holling, but Holling is confused when he refers to Shelly as Tammy's sister. After Tammy arrives and greets Kenny, the four of them sit down to talk. Holling talks about the natural wonder of a local sinkhole, but Tammy and Kenny look politely uninterested. Meanwhile, Tammy and Kenny talk with Shelly about Slash from the band Guns N' Roses, a conversation in which Holling is lost due to the generation gap. Later, as Tammy is preparing for bed, Shelly vents her rage, complaining that she always has to act as Tammy's older sister. She threatens to tell Kenny that Tammy is actually her mother, and then walks out in a rage.

At Joel's cabin, Joel arrives to find Adam cleaning house. Joel attributes this to Couvade syndrome, or sympathetic pregnancy, where the man experiences the same pregnancy experience as the woman during pregnancy. Adam is doubtful, but can offer no other explanation for his condition. The next day, Adam arrives again, and blends formula for the baby. Joel attributes this to the hormones released during the second trimester of pregnancy. Adam eventually leaves to see his wife, satisfied with his role as chef, husband, and father.

That afternoon, Kenny is worried when he is unable to find Tammy anywhere. Shelly finds an apologetic note left by Tammy, and eventually finds her sitting alone in the movie theatre. Tammy apologizes for never having been a real mom for Shelly but Shelly tells her that she was always proud. They finally resolve their past arguments and Tammy promises to tell Kenny about their age difference.

At Joel's office, he finds Marilyn playing solitaire. When he asks about the baby, Marilyn tells him that the mother returned and picked it up. Joel is more than a little saddened by this discovery, and finds a pacifier in his office, which he holds tenderly.

Tammy and Kenny are packing up their belongings and preparing to leave. Shelly bide her mother a tearful farewell and reminds her to wear her sweater. The two drive off happily while Shelly and Holling wave goodbye.


Joel: You're just going to leave me with a baby?! What am I supposed to do with a baby?
Marilyn: Feed her.

Chris: As Baby G came to us, today she also left. Come to find out the little "G" on here suit? A hand-me-down from brother George. "Barbara" comes from the Greek meaning stranger. She came to us a stranger, but she left with another name: friend. A lot of dichotomy in such a small package. What's the need to name but the need to claim a thing, make it your own. Angel Bailey, 6th grade, rose tattoo on her shoulder, gravity switchblade. How many times did I write here name in the margins of my notebook, over every page of every textbook? "Angel loves Chris", "Chris loves Angel". They didn't have grafitti then but, if they did, I'd have tagged every bus and bridge in Wheeling, West Virginia. What's in a name? In the case of Angel, volumes.




  1. Adam talks about food preparation and hurts Dave's feelings.
  2. Tammy walks into The Brick.
  3. Tammy dances in The Brick.
  4. Adam and Ruth-Anne chat.
  5. Holling serves Kenny a root beer.
  6. Tammy, Kenny, Holling, and Shelly eat dinner at The Brick.
  7. Tammy tells the others about meeting Slash.
  8. Shelly and Tammy talk in Shelly's bedroom.
  9. Tammy and Kenny leave for San Diego.
  10. In reality, this brigade never made it to the Gulf War (see Wikipedia article).
  11. Nothing in Google about "Kamsepset" other than in reference to this episode. This is what subtitles claim Holling says but it sounds more like "Sumpset". Is this the correct spelling? Sump makes more sense.