blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

American Gothic (1995) s01e12 – Ring of Fire

Paige Turco has been one of “American Gothic”’s more unsteady actors to this point. She’s had some good moments, but she’s had more uneven ones, and the show doesn’t seem to know what to do with her in general. She vaguely flirts with Jake Weber, vaguely hate-flirts with Gary Cole, and vaguely hangs out with little cousin Lucas Black. But her whole arc about uncovering the secrets of her parents’ deaths? It’s been stalled for ages.

Until now.

For better but really just worse, “Gothic”’s resolving Turco’s history arc. Left unresolved will be relationships with Cole and Weber—though Turco’s first scene with Weber has her tracing his hands with her fingers, which is shockingly intimate. Especially when Weber later on makes fun of her dead parents.

After discovering she’s got repressed memories—which appear in “Gothic”’s established vision visual motif—caused by tweenage trauma. There’s also the Private Ryan thing where Turco’s recovered memories include events she wasn’t present for. Unless, of course, she’s psychic and could have connections to her family home.

CBS didn’t air Ring of Fire (at all, not even summer burn-off), which means Turco’s history story was left entirely unresolved. But it should’ve come about halfway through the season, which makes sense. They’ve explored some of the other characters; now it’s Turco’s turn.

Only she’s been in the creepy little town for months. This episode, we find out she hasn’t been back to her parents’ house since returning in the pilot. She also didn’t investigate whether or not her family’s summer cottage was still around. She hasn’t even asked the nice old lady at the newspaper any questions about her parents’ death. She just tells everyone she’s investigating Cole for it but hasn’t actually done anything.

Cole’s fed up with the slander and the crimes against property—Turco breaks into his house, marking the first time we’ve seen the police chief’s mansion, and it’s pretty impressive. However, Cole’s been talking about it since the pilot, so it’s also a little late. Turco can’t find any incriminating evidence sitting out in the open so Cole offers to tell her the truth if she asks nicely.

Fast forward through some visions and nightmares—and the episode male gazing at Turco, who’s spending the entire episode traumatized in one way or another. Director Lou Antonio does a terrible job this episode, but he’s also super duper sure to peep a glance at Turco whenever possible. Antonio’s composition is occasionally shudder-worthy and causes plenty of jarring cuts.

Michael R. Perry and Stephen Gaghan get the writing credit. Unfortunately, it’s not a good script. Not just because of the nothing-burger (except maybe some kissing cousins) of a reveal for Turco’s subplot but also how the episode characterizes everyone else on the show. Weber and Black are the worst, but Cole’s a little different too. Brenda Bakke and Nick Searcy show up for the episode’s “subplot,” which has Bakke jealous of Cole and Turco and Cole supposedly unaware of it. It’s two and a half scenes. It’s nothing.

On the one hand, CBS shouldn’t have messed up the air order… on the other, it’s a terrible episode.

Leave a Reply

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: