"Things Become Extinct"
Season 3, Episode 13 (28)
Airdate January 20, 1992
Writer(s) Robin Green
Mitchell Burgess
Director Dean Parisot
Guest star(s)

←   Episode sequence   →
"Our Tribe" "Burning Down the House"


A study in self-examination brings on a midlife crisis for Holling, opens up another door for Ed, and leaves Joel feeling culturally isolated.


As Ed delivers a package to The Brick, he tells Shelly about his newfound film project. He wants to capture on film some craft that is truly original; something that no one else can do. Shelly informs Ed that Holling's famous pies were actually taken from a recipe on the back of a box of Jell-O.

At Joel's house, Ed decides to film Joel who, he believes, is one of a vanishing breed of Jews. Joel is quick to inform Ed that Jews are far from being a vanishing breed and that there are plenty of Jews in Alaska. For support, he looks in the phone book for North Tongass, a nearby town. He looks up the name Cohen, which is the Jewish equivalent of Smith. After being unable to find a single Cohen, he looks in the Fairbanks phone book, where he is only able to find one Cohen and three Greenbergs. Back at his office, he looks through local phone directories for any Jewish name. He finally tracks down a town named Velachiske, which he suspects would have some people of Jewish descent.

As Ed is working in Ruth-Anne's store replacing a light bulb, Ira Wingfeather walks in to give Ruth-Anne some duck flutes that he has made. He tells Ruth-Anne that the flutes are unique, and Ed looks up, just as he turns off the light bulb above his head.[1] After Ira leaves, Ed chases out after him and they agree to begin filming the next day.

At the barber, Holling is getting a shave, when Maggie walks in to deliver a letter. Holling asks Maggie to read it to him and she reads that Holling's uncle Charlie is dead. Holling is stunned, since his uncle was only 110 years old which, according to Holling, is still relatively young for a Vinceour male. When he returns to The Brick, he looks for a jug of homemade vodka to drink to Charlie's memory. When he finds it is all gone, he is even more depressed.

Early the next morning, Ed shows up to Ira's trailer and begins filming as the two of them go off to look for a tree branch from which to make a duck flute. After they track down an appropriate branch, they return to the trailer where Ira says he will let the wood "rest" until tomorrow and Ed leaves.

The next morning, Chris is surprised to find rice being served at The Brick instead of hash browns. Shelly tells him that Holling left the night before and took all the potatoes with him. Chris realizes where Holling has gone and goes out to a run-down cabin in the middle of the woods. There, he finds Holling running a still, making a batch of "the good stuff". Holling is also drinking heavily from a jug and tells Chris that life is passing him by. Chris soon joins in the drinking and the two discuss their respective mid-life crises. For Holling, whose family members usually live beyond 110, 63 is about mid-life, while Chris, whose family doesn't live much beyond 40, discusses his own crisis at 22. In fact, Chris has aboslutely no memory of the year between 22 and 23. The entire year is simply one big blur. The two men sit alone and think.

At Ira's trailer, Ed begins filming again as Ira tells how he carves the duck flutes. After a while, Ed stops filming and simply watches with rapt attention as Ira works his craft. Afterwards, Ira tells Ed that he is the last of his line and, after him, no one will be left who can make the duck flutes. Ed is bothered by this and is afraid to see something die off completely. Ira tells Ed that things become extinct and that change is inevitable.

On a winding mountain road, Maurice drives Joel out to find the town of Velachiske. They nearly pass by the town, which consists of a few run-down buildings by the roadside. After finding that the town has been abandoned for a long time, Joel feels even more depressed and alone.

Holling shows up to The Brick, obviously drunk, and looking for more potatoes for the still. When Shelly gets mad at him for getting so depressed, Holling lashes out at her, asking her what she knows about life anyway. Shelly is visibly hurt when reminded of their age difference and tells Holling that she won't let him drag her down with him. She finds Joel in his office, and asks him what she should do about Holling. Joel promises to go talk to Holling out at the cabin. When he arrives, he finds Holling stiil at work on his vodka but Joel decides not to drink. After telling Holling what a great life he has, Holling tells Joel to look at his own life: he has no woman, no home, is stuck in Cicely, and the best years of his life are passing him by. This strikes Joel and, from some combination of Holling's speech and his own personal feelings of loneliness, he takes a drink.

As Ed sits at home, watching his films of Ira making the duck flute, he watches with respect and awe. He suddenly realizes what he must do to keep Ira's life's work from dying off and leaves to see Ira. When Ira opens the door, he is surprised to find Ed with all of the rolls of film. Ed gives him the film, and says that he wants to learn how to make the duck flutes. Ira smiles, evidently pleased, and invties Ed in for his first lesson.

That night, Joel and Holling are both asleep in the cabin, Holling with a jug curled under his arm. Marilyn shows up, awakens Holling, and tells him that it's time to go. Holling is confused, but follows Marilyn into town. When he arrives at the Brick, everying is gone, and a single chair with his name on it sits in front of a large crate standing on end. A hole has been cut in the side of the crate, and as Holling sits, Shelly begins performing a puppet show about Holling's life. She tells of how Holling met Maurice, and how he fell in love with Shelly. Through the puppets, she tells Holling that she feels like the luckiest woman in the world, and Holling is in tears when she finishes. The two of them hug, and walk upstairs to their room.


Joel: What is this?
Marilyn: Hair of the dog.
Joel: Thank you...that's very considerate. (spits it out) What is in that?! What is in here?
Marilyn: Hair of the dog.

Ira (to Ed): Every alder branch contains a flute; your job is to find it.



  • Ira is 68, was an extra in Hollywood in 1957 when he was in Wagon Train, was married four times, and has kids who live in Ft. Lauderdale.
  • Charlie was Holling's father's brother (Holling's uncle) who taught him how to tie a tie. Charlie backed up Aaron Neville at Tipitina's in New Orleans at the time of his death. His Uncle Charlie saw the world.
  • Holling had puppets as a child (Shelly presents his life in a puppet show).
  • Holling was born in 1929 as Holling Gustave Vincoeur.
  • Since the Stevens don't usually make it past 40 (Chris' dad died at 42 and Uncle Roy Bower at 43)
  • Chris had his midlife crisis at 22 in 1984 when he was just out of the joint, his back went out, lost a whole year, just woke up one day and he was 23; people told him he spent time with a hostess in Macon, Georgia; couple months in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico naked in a cave.
  • Velachiske is a Russian town where Joel's grandmother came from and everyone had sheep.
  • Holling finds out about Uncle Charlie via a letter from his cousin Celeste in Quebec.
  • Holling makes a lime chiffon with crushed pineapple pie and graham crust.
  • Arrowhead Borough is the size of Wyoming, with 1,613 people.
  • 2000 Jews in the entire state of Alaska and 50 in Juneau; 1 cemetery in Fairbanks is full of Jews.
  • Shelly refers to herself as a "chick-maiden" in her puppet show.
  • Shelly's earrings: anchovy fishing lures (talks to Ed about lost art), wooden cutting boards with vegetables (discusses rice with Chris in the bar; Holling's taken all the potatoes)
  • Goof: at the general store when Ira brings his flutes in to sell and Ed is sitting on a ladder, after turning off the lightbulb, Ira and Ruth-Anne haggle over the flute profit and then the camera cuts to a wider shot showing the lightbulb on. Then, when Ira leaves, the camera cuts to a closeup of a Ed and the lightbulb is off again.


  1. Against the conventional symbolism of getting an idea represented by a light bulb turning on.
  2. Ed looks for something to film for his project.
  3. From The Cocoanuts (musical)#Songs?
  4. Not D.C. LaRue's "The Tea Dance" (disco)
  5. Ira brings his flutes to Ruth-Anne's store.
  6. Ed and Ira talk about Ed filming the making of duck flutes.
  7. Holling talks to Shelly as he goes though a box of old things.
  8. Joel and Ed talk in Joel's cabin
  9. Also in The Sopranos episode "Cold Cuts" (2004)
  10. There is a 1951 Mexican film called Serenata en Acapulco.
  11. Shelly performs a puppet show for Holling.