Mark Wilding on "Where the Boys Are"
Original Airdate: 11-09-06
Mistakes. I’ve decided to talk about mistakes. My mistakes. The characters’ mistakes. And the mistakes I made which led to the characters’ mistakes. Already you’re probably thinking “What?? Can’t I just enjoy this blog without the stupid build-up?” The answer is no. Don’t worry. Read on. It’ll become clearer. Last night’s episode was called “Where the Boys Are”. Which was my first mistake.
When I suggested that song title to the writers’ room, I got a lot of blank stares. The Connie Francis song, I said. You know…Someone waits for me? A smiling face, a warm embrace? Two arms to hold me tenderly? And, pushing on -- despite all the puzzled looks from my fellow writers, the people who I thought would at least pretend to be supportive – I told them that what made the title so VERY, VERY clever is that the episode’s about where the boys literally are and where they are emotionally. See? Pretty clever, right? Right?? Again, more blank stares. Connie who? Okay. My first mistake. Pitching very old songs to a very young writers’ room.
And now for my second mistake. Or at least what I thought was my second mistake. Seattle. Yes, those pictures on your TV screen really were Seattle. That Space Needle in the background when Derek’s sticking the Chief’s suitcase in his Jeep-looking vehicle? That’s the real Space Needle. We didn’t CGI it or go to LAX and shoot that futuristic looking restaurant that may or may not revolve and that could maybe look like the Space Needle if you were flying at ten thousand feet and there was enough smog that day. And the woods? Those are REAL SEATTLE WOODS.
I know because I was there. And I insisted that we fly up a crew and they be there too. Because I thought it was really, really important that the woods look like Seattle woods – with their towering pines and moss-covered trees and mountains covered in clouds. As opposed to the eucalyptus trees and dry brush and blue skies that you tend to find in your basic L.A. forests.
On my first visit to the place, though, it rained. Hard. Really hard. And living in L.A. where you think the weather in other parts of the country must somehow be just like L.A., I didn’t exactly come prepared. I wore a cotton shirt, flimsy golf jacket (no hood) and sneakers. Yes. BIG MISTAKE. BIG STUPID MISTAKE. I was freezing cold and soaking wet before it was even 11:00 o’clock in the morning. And even though the water dripping off my face looks like it could be tears, it really was just rain. I want to clear that up because there’s a video of a soaking wet me that circulated around the Grey’s offices for the better part of a week. I wasn’t crying. Okay? Still. Letting someone film me? A very bad mistake. And the thought did cross my mind – if only for a second – is shooting in the rainy Seattle woods really the best idea? Or was it a mistake?
Then I was saved. Our extraordinary line producer Rob Corn made it all happen. We found the locations. We shot great stuff. And there was next to no rain (great job Rob!). Plus, all the outdoor stuff looks FANTASTIC (great job director Dan Minahan and great job, Director of Photography, Herb Davis!). So, to quote Ronald Reagan, “Mistakes were made.” But Rob Corn saved me from those mistakes! Thank you again, Rob.
And now onto the actual episode...
My next mistake might have been the theme of the episode. It was Outside/In. Thinking you can recognize a problem by what’s on the outside while somehow underestimating or not recognizing what’s going on inside. Yeah. That’s a lot to bend your mind around. For example – Jamie’s a healthy-looking young girl on the outside; on the inside she has a dead baby. Donna isn’t happy being a man. She wants to undergo the final step in becoming a woman so that she can finally have her outsides match her insides. And then there’s Derek, who thinks that being outside in the woods will help him with his inner turmoil.
Don’t get me wrong. Outside/In was a serviceable theme. But it might have been a mistake. A better theme might have been “couples”. Because, it turns out the episode revolves around couples and how happy or unhappy they are. I didn’t really notice this until Shonda mentioned the idea of couples while we were in editing. So now I’m running with it. Because, hey, it’s Shonda. It’d be a mistake not to.
So. In no particular order. Our couples --
Ted and Jamie -- the couple with the stillborn baby. A happy couple. She slipped and fell in the shower. She made a mistake. We never actually answer the question of whether that led to the death of the baby. Because, at the end of the day, that didn’t seem as important as what she and Ted actually have to go through.
Vicky and her transgender husband Donna. An unhappy couple. Donna thinks what Vicky’s doing is a big mistake. Deep down, she really doesn’t want her to do it. And she ends up staying with Donna because that’s what makes her happy.
Joe and Walter. Another happy couple. Although by the end of the trip, Walter clearly thinks it was a mistake to have gone camping with these guys. By the way, that scene at the river with Richard talking to Joe and realizing how much they have in common? We almost didn’t shoot that scene because we had a full shooting schedule and I wasn’t sure if we needed it. And not shooting that? That would have been a TERRIBLE MISTAKE. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the episode.
Richard and Adele. “I miss my wife”. What more do you have to say?
Addison and Callie. A surprising couple. That scene where they’re both sitting together on the floor at the end was another one of my favorites.
Cristina and Burke. Burke’s not happy with Cristina and how she’s coming to dominate his life. That’s why the camping trip. But he sees the anguish that George is putting himself through with Callie and thinks he may have been a little rough on Cristina. Which was a mistake. He returns and they’re reconciled. At least for now...
Derek and Burke. An unlikely couple. Derek thought it would just be the two of them getting away to the mountains and now all these other bozos are tramping along after them. And at the end of the day, being in the great outdoors didn’t really solve anything. Except to help him realize how foolish it was to come out here in the first place. And Burke’s not that nice to him until the end when he offers to talk about Mark Sloan. Which doesn’t make them a couple but makes them friends… of a sort.
Mark and Meredith. Mark spends the whole episode telling Meredith that they’d make a better couple than she and Derek. And Meredith’s maybe a little tempted but…talk about mistakes. That’s certainly one she’s not about to make. Is it? Which leads us to…
Meredith and Derek. Who wind up together at the end of the episode. And as much as he thought he needed space, at the end, he’s where he’s always wanted to be. Pressed up against Meredith. With next to no space between them…
As for me, the next time I go to Seattle I’m bringing layers. Lots and lots of layers. Some mistakes you only need to make once…