"All is Vanity"
Season 2, Episode 3 (?)
Airdate April 22, 1991
Writer(s) Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider
Director Nick Marck
Guest star(s)

  • John McCann as Frank O'Connell
  • Rex Linn as Martin
  • Sharon Collar as Wife
  • O.C. "Mac" McCallum as Husband
  • Cathy Bryan as Patient #10
  • Peter Bradshaw as Man #1
  • Charles Russo as Man #2
←   Episode sequence   →
"The Big Kiss" "What I Did for Love"


Invigorated by temperatures of "aught seven" degrees in Cicely, Alaska, Holling opts for circumcision to be "more in style" for his girlfriend, Shelly. Joel plays Maggie's intended in a "web of deceit" to fool her visiting father. Townsfolk watch over the body of an unknown man who is found dead in Joel's waiting room.


After Holling impresses Shelly by throwing a man out of the bar, the two of them go up to bed. Afterwards, Shelly makes an offhand comment about Holling's uncircumcised penis, and Holling is a bit uncomfortable at the comment. He eventually goes in to see Joel, and wants to be circumcised. Joel advises against the surgery, and Holling changes his mind. Upon returning to his waiting room, Joel discovers that one of the patients is dead.

Maggie receives her mail at Ruth-Anne's store, and discovers that her father is coming by to visit that day. She hurriedly goes to pick him up, dressed in uncharacteristic pink hat and mittens. Her father arrives and it is quickly apparent that she is daddy's little girl. Her entire demeanor changes from a self-sufficient, independent young woman, to a helpless, submissive, little girl. Her father is looking forward to meeting Joel, who Maggie has said is her boyfriend.

Maurice and Joel are putting the dead body outside, where the sub-zero temperatures will preserve the body until they can decide what to do with it. Maggie and her father pass by, and Maggie quickly kisses Joel, who is thoroughly confused by her actions. He joins the two of them for lunch in The Brick, and Maggie convinces him, when her father isn't around, to play along with the charade for her father's sake. Joel agrees to play the part of the dutiful boyfriend, and decides to play it up. That night, over dinner, Joel not only discusses his hobby of luge and bungee jumping, but also tells Frank that he and Maggie have been discussing her conversion to Judaism. Frank accepts this with a nervous smile and downs his drink.

After Shelly convinces Holling to have the circumcision, he has a dream sequence where the operation is, to say the least, a failure. He wakes up bathed in sweat and, with Joel's help, is able to convince Shelly that the operation is unnecessary.

Despite Joel's overzealous portrayal of Maggie's boyfriend, her father still likes him and thinks they make a great couple. Maggie finally comes clean and tells her father that her boyfriend is actually not Joel the doctor, but Rick the pilot. She tells him that she didn't want him to be disappointed in her and Frank understands and accepts her as she really is.

When no one arrives to claim the body of the unknown person, a funeral service is held, where Chris discusses life and death and Maggie reads a Shakespearean sonnet, to which Shelly responds, "Boy, she sure can write!" After a few final words, Chris ignites the body and it burns in a funeral pyre. Through the encounter with death the characters learn to embrace life and the show ends on a hopeful note.


Maggie (quoting Shakespeare's Sonnet 116): "Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove. O no, it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wand'ring bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come. Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out ev'n to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved."

Chris (at unknown man's funeral): The fact that we don't know this man, isn't important really. Cause his experience is our experience, and his fate is our fate. 'Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas,' says the preacher. 'All is vanity'. I think that's a pretty good epitaph for all of us. When we're stripped of all our worldly possessions and all our fame, family, friends, we all face death alone. But it's that solitude in death that's our common bond in life. I know it's ironic, but that's just the way things are. 'Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas.' Only when we understand all is vanity, only then, it isn't.



  • Frank O'Connell smokes and drinks scotch.
  • Frank saw Maurice in a parade in Detroit in 1965.
  • Maggie's mother is a "lace-curtain Bostonian".
  • At five, Maggie was runner-up in the Little Miss Great Lakes contest where she sang "Love is Blue".
  • Wayne had a heart with an "S" (for "Shelly") tattooed on his arm. Bobbie Travis mooned Shelly at a homecoming and Wayne punched him in the mouth.
  • When Holling was mauled by Jesse an Indian woman sewed him up and had him bite a table.
  • Malcolm Minnifield (Maurice's brother) owed Maurice $8,000 when he died.
  • All Maggie's dead boyfriends are named, save one: Bruce, Roy, Harry and ? (that makes Rick #5).
  • Bruce wrote the book Mountain of My Misgiving.
  • Holling is 63 years old.
  • Milt Wyman is the taxidermist/undertaker of Cicely.
  • Dr. Kolatch, from Juneau, is a medical examiner.
  • Joel says, "town of 850 people".
  • Shelly's earrings: lobsters (Holling tells Shelly about his visit to Joel and the circumcision discussion), grape bunches (Shelly and Holling talk in the Brick), fish (yellow tangs?) (Shelly and Holling go into to Joel's for the procedure), red ? (the funeral at the end)
  • Maggie reads Shakespeare Sonnet 116 at the funeral.
  • The Beethoven piece Chris refers to as "Adagio" is actually the second movement of the Seventh Symphony which is called "Allegretto".
  • The unruly bar patron ("Martin") in the Brick at the beginning argues that the Labrador Retriever is a better hunting dog than the German Shorthair.
  • Snow was trucked in and otherwise faked (potato flakes and more). In some shots, there's no snow in the distance; only in the immediate shot.
  • The unknown dead man has a packet of Juicy Fruit gum (with three sticks), a nail clipper, and a note to "Pick up shirt Monday" (presumably at a dry cleaner). Joel prefers Carefree gum or Extra gum while Marilyn likes Dentyne.
  • Maggie's dad calls her "Peanut".
  • Joel tells Frank that he's into luge in the winter and bungee cord jumping in the summer (while pretending to be Maggie's boyfriend).
  • In Holling's dream sequence, his interests are swimming, photography, and fresh seafood. There's a seafood theme here: Ed's eggs taste like shrimp at the beginning and Shelly wears lobster earrings.


  1. An argument breaks out in the Brick about hunting dogs.
  2. Holling tells Shelly that he talked to Joel about getting circumsized.
  3. Holling tells Joel that he wants the operation.
  4. Holling has circumcision dream.
  5. Chris on-air
  6. Maggie tells Joel that her father thinks she and Joel are dating.
  7. Chris dedicates song to Holling.
  8. Holling is edgy about upcoming operation

External linksEdit