"Russian Flu"
Season 1, Episode 5 (?)
Airdate August 8, 1990
Writer(s) David Assael
Director David Carson
Guest star(s)

←   Episode sequence   →
"Dreams, Schemes and Putting Greens" "Sex, Lies and Ed's Tape"


Flu-stricken townsfolk and the crafty Maggie unwittingly do their part to sabotage Joel's plans for a romantic respite with Elaine.


Joel awakens cheerfully to Chris in the Morning playing "Who Put the Bomp", which is dedicated to Joel. As Joel gets dressed, Chris explains that Joel's fiancee Elaine is flying in today to visit, and Joel is understandably excited. In his office, Joel advises "Red" Murphy not to go up in a plane because of his sickness, not realizing that Red was supposed to fly Elaine in. In a panic, Joel finally asks Maggie to fly his fiancee in, which she agrees, charging him double.

Maggie flys in with Elaine, and Joel is waiting impatiently. As Joel helps unload her luggage, he discovers that apparently Maggie and Elaine have hit it off, and is a little disturbed since he doesn't want his fiancee associating with someone who he dislikes as much as Maggie. However, his mood is quickly swayed by Elaine's affection. Back at Joel's cabin, they begin kissing, but are interrupted as Ed casually walks in. He tells Joel that Maurice and Chris are both sick, so Joel rushes into town, leaving Elaine to have dinner with Maggie.

As Joel enters his office the next day, he is greeted by bunches of sick people. Joel attempts to phone around to find a cure for the epidemic, when he suddenly discovers a terrible smell. Out in his waiting room, he finds Marilyn administering a tribal remedy called "Hio Hio Ipsanio", which smells like moose dung. Joel gives Marilyn a speech about administering medicine, and eventually finds his way back home, where Maggie has repaired Joel's air conditioner for Elaine. Again, Joel and Elaine begin their romantic pursuits, but Ed interrupts again, saying that Joel is needed for a town meeting to decide what to do about the epidemic. Everyone in town is angry at Joel for not curing them, and when Joel finally returns home, exhausted, he finds Elaine sick in bed.

The next morning, Elaine is crying because she feels so terrible about being sick, and points out that Joel and Maggie are the only two people in town who haven't gotten sick. Elaine also brings up the time that Maggie was hitting on Joel, and Joel feels uncomfortable (from "Soapy Sanderson"). Joel thinks that Maggie told Elaine about that night to undermine their relationship, and Elaine defends Maggie. The closeness between Joel and Elaine begins falling apart as they spend more and more of their time arguing about Maggie. Elaine begins to see the same bad qualities in Joel that Maggie always mentions.

Back in town, all of Joel's patients are gone since Marilyn administered her remedy to everyone. Joel finally gives in and uses some on Elaine. As they sleep that night, Joel has a dream that he is back in New York, running into various people from Cicely. When he returns to his apartment, he finds that Elaine is actually his sister and, in the dream, Maggie is his wife. After a passionate seduction by Maggie, Joel wakes up guiltily next to Elaine.

The next morning, Elaine is well again, and Joel apologizes for his sudden impotence the night before. They go into town, where everyone at The Brick is friendly to Joel, in contrast to the other night when they wanted to kill him. Joel is still suspicious and Elaine criticizes him for never cutting anyone any slack. Holling then shows up to take Joel and Elaine on a trip to see the waterfall. The following scene, where Holling is showing them around, is filmed very similarly to Twin Peaks and contains many inside jokes referring to the show. The scene ends with Joel and Elaine saying goodbye as Red prepares to take off. They depart with much regret, and there is a sense that something has changed between them--that something has died. Joel returns home that night, and is deathly sick. Maggie shows up with some of Marilyn's Hio Hio Ipsanio for him, says a few kind words, and leaves.


Maggie: Would you like me to rub this all over you?
Joel: Yeah, that would be... You would?
Maggie: In your dreams, Fleischman.



  • After the critics (see TV Guide article) kept trying to compare Northern Exposure with Twin Peaks, this was the nod back to them in the scene with Holling, Joel, and Elaine at the waterfall (Julee Cruise music, snapping, cherry pie, log lady).
  • Hi-oh-Hi-oh-ipsinio is an ancient tribal remedy for the flu.
  • Ed's T-shirts: Neil Young tie-dye shirt with peace sign centered on front


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