"Our Tribe"
Season 3, Episode 12 (27)
Airdate January 13, 1992
Writer(s) David Assael
Director Lee Shallat
Guest star(s)

←   Episode sequence   →
"Dateline: Cicely" "Things Become Extinct"


Joel reluctantly undergoes a cultural conversion after receiving a goat as a gift from a grateful village elder who insists on "adopting" him into her tribe. A mysterious Holling shuts down The Brick, ostensibly to wax the floors.


Upon arriving in his office, Joel is surprised to find a goat in his waiting room. Marilyn tells him that it is a gift from Mrs. Noanuk, who Joel recently treated. Joel wants to return it, and offers to give it away to Marilyn, but she won't accept it saying it wouldn't be right. Later, at Joel's invitation, Mrs. Noanuk arrives at the office. Joel tells her that he has no rapport with animals, but she thinks that she insulted him and that he deserves more. She tells him that she is going to adopt him and make him a member of the tribe. After Mrs. Noanuk leaves, Marilyn congratulates Joel, who is desperately looking for a way to get out of it. Marilyn tells him that he can't get out of it and Joel is flustered.

At The Brick, Holling is in a cheerful mood, despite the fact that Shelly has gone to visit friends out of town for a few days. He is preparing to close up The Brick for a few days to wax the floors, but when Maggie delivers a package to him, she is suspicious, as Holling is evasive about its contents. That night, Holling kicks everyone out of The Brick, but Chris offers to stay and help him wax the floors. Holling refuses, saying that he enjoys doing the work himself, and quickly kicks Chris out.

At Joel's cabin, he sits watching the goat chew on one of his chairs. Ed enters and compliments him on the goat, and Joel tells Ed that Marilyn is mad at him for not wanting to join the tribe. Ed tells Joel that Mrs. Noanuk is also upset at his refusal, and Joel begins to weaken. In town, he chases Marilyn down the street, asking her why she won't speak to him. Marilyn stoically continues, and Joel admits that she has made an impression on him. He is desperate and upset, and finally tells her that he will allow himself to be adopted into the tribe. Marilyn smiles and walks off.

That night, Joel is at Mrs. Noanuk's house with Marilyn. Mrs. Noanuk informs him that, in order to become a member of the tribe, he has to give away everything. The next day, as Ed is boxing up Joel's belongings, Joel begins to see the value of such a symbolic act, to avoid rampant materialism. As Ed is about to leave, Joel asks him when he gets his stuff back. Ed stares blankly at Joel, explains that Mrs. Noanuk is in a different tribe than Ed, and quickly leaves.

Joel goes in to work to find the council of elders waiting to meet him. He is cordial, introduces himself, and is pleased when they give him a bearskin vest to wear. However, when he enters his office, he finds that his poster is missing. Angry at Marilyn, he asks her when it will stop, and she responds, "Now." Joel says he feels appropriately purged and chastened by the whole process, and Marilyn tells him that now he must fast.

Later that night, Ed visits Joel, and finds him drinking a homemade tribal tea, which is his only nourishment during the fast. Ed brings a box of stuff for Joel, but Joel soon discovers that everything that Ed brought isn't actually Joel's possessions, but poor substitutes. Joel throws a fit, and ends up sitting on the floor, finally giving up.

The next morning, Joel takes his goat for a walk and talks with Ed about tribal relations. Ed reminds Joel that he was adopted and so he got passed around a lot. Joel thinks about tribal relations and the contrast to his own "tribe", the Jewish tribe. When he returns to work, he finds a crowd of people in his waiting room, playing checkers, playing music, and recreating, since The Brick is still temporarily closed. Joel confronts Marilyn about his belongings and she tells him that she never said that he'd get the same stuff back. Over the radio, Chris expresses his support for Joel in the flesh sacrifice to come, and Joel runs in a panic over to KBHR to ask Chris what the sacrifice actually entails. Chris doesn't know but is envious of Joel's adoption. Joel confides in Chris that he's only doing it to make Marilyn and Mrs. Noanuk happy, and Chris responds, "Sometimes it's hard to avoid the happiness of others."

Late that night, Maggie enters The Brick through the back door and finds Holling studying star charts. Holling finally confesses to Maggie that he's not actually waxing the floors, but preparing to see a certain star which will only be visible once more before vanishing forever. The star was one that he purchased years before in order to name after a dear friend of his, Eleanor. She is long dead, but Holling wants to see her star one more time. However, despite his best efforts, he is unable to find it. Maggie consoles him and tells him that the present is the most important, not the past.

Chris is at KBHR late at night playing the blues because The Brick is closed. Maurice enters and asks him what's wrong and Chris decides to drive 200 miles out to The Kicking Mule, a bar in Sleetmute. In a touching moment of concern, Maurice offers to drive both of them out in his Cadillac, and says that Chris can sit in the back and howl at the moon. The two leave with high spirits.

The next morning, Joel enters town for the ceremony accepting him into the tribe. Morning Star says a few words and then Mrs. Noanuk announces that she has adopted Joel as her grandson. Joel steps up, genuinely appreciative, and for the first time actually seems happy. He thanks her and she presents him with a plaque containing his Indian name, "Heals With Tools". When the ceremony finishes, Joel is exhilerated and everyone congratulates him. Joel has finally found a place where he belongs.


Joel: What's the story here? We're talking testimonial, rubber chicken, followed by speeches, we smoke a peace pipe, I get a plaque--that sort of thing?

Marilyn: She says you look unhappy.
Joel: Who, me?
Marilyn: I told her you always look like that.

Marilyn: The richest man is the guy who has nothing.

Chris (to Joel): Sometimes it's hard to avoid the happiness of others.




  1. Ruth-Anne and Holling talk about waxing the floors.
  2. Holling kicks everyone out of the bar.
  3. Joel and Marilyn talk on the street.
  4. Joel goes to Ruth-Anne's. Everyone is waiting in line for coffee since The Brick is closed.
  5. Joel enters his office. The town has transformed his office into a makeshift The Brick.
  6. Holling tealls Maggie about his star charts and Eleanor.
  7. Chris on the radio, bummed about The Brick being closed. Maurice tries to cheer him up.
  8. Joel drinks his tea and commiserates with Ed.