Sam leaps into the owner of a brothel in New Orleans, Gilbert Labonte, in 1961. He learns that one of his girls, Gina, is pregnant and has run away from her abusive husband. Finding that he is powerless to do anything about the situation legally, Sam is eventually able to manufacture false but compromising evidence against the husband in order to drive him away from Gina. At the same time, Gina learns to stand up for herself.
Written by Tommy Thompson. Directed by Chris Ruppenthal
I came into Southern Comforts not knowing anything about it. From the preview at the end of the previous episode, I thought perhaps Sam had turned into some sort of Hugh Hefner-type in some sort of decadent club. The episode did have some of that vibe but I had all the details wrong, as Sam was actually a brothel owner who owned a large house full of attractive professional ladies (and one sassy black maid) who for the most part all seem pretty well adjusted and happy in their chosen profession.
The whole thing is ridiculous, of course, and cringe-worthy–I just have a hard time buying into an episode in which Sam is basically a pimp and prostitution is a fun and glamorous profession. And predictably, Al is lecherously excited, wanting to go an ogle all the women in their various stages of undress. I like this show, but I get tired of Al over-sexualized antics–it’s definitely an aspect of the show that doesn’t hold up for me.
Fortunately, the episode itself goes beyond the setting and digs into more emotional material, with both Gina and Marsha getting to talk about the way they have felt trapped in their lives. I especially appreciated it when the story moved past just Marsha making Sam uncomfortable by strongly coming onto him, and got into how broken a person she actually was. Rita Taggert as Marsha is quite good in these moments and the scene is one of the highlights of the episode.
But it’s not enough to make me like Southern Comforts. The comedic scenes of Sam trying to divert his clientele’s interest away from the brothel are incredibly awkward, and the ending is especially unsatisfying–Sam blackmails Jake into leaving them alone with manufactured evidence, and it works. It’s the sort of resolution that feels out of place anywhere but a cheap sit-com. And then Gina comes along having muscled-up at some point off-screen–a lazily written bit of character growth that is completely tacked-on and unearned.
The end result is that in spite of a few nice moments, Southern Comforts is one of the least satisfying episodes of the series for me.
• David Graf (Sheriff Nolan) appeared in various Star Trek series and video games, including Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
• David Alan Graf (Carl) is apparently not the same person as David Graf, above. He’s got hundreds of credits listed on IMDb, but nothing that I’ve seen, except possibly for an episode of Columbo.
Who and Where is Dr. Sam Beckett?
Sam is Gilbert Lacombe, the owner of brothel in New Orleans, from April 4 – 5, 1961.
What does Sam have to do?
Sam has to prevent Gina, one of the girls in the brothel, from being taken away by her abusive husband, an act which will lead to her eventual murder.
What do we learn about Sam Beckett?
There’s nothing in particular this time around for Sam.
What do we know about Al?
Al is very excited about raw fish gumbo.
What about the experiment?
The one thing of interest is that Sam seems to know that he is about to leap just before it happens. He appears to feel it coming, as if from his own body. We’ve had one or two examples of Al being aware that Sam was about to leap, but I think Sam’s sense of it is something new.
“Driven by an unknown force…” (God or Time or Something)
There are no specific references this time.
The catchphrase is heard three times–once at the start and once at the end after both leaps, but also once in the middle when Sam is attempting to deal with Marsha’s romantic advances.
Sam’s Complicated Love Life
Sam as Gilbert is evidently deeply involved with Marsha, and he must do much to fend her off. She is very aggressive which results in a lot of kissing, etc.
The Many Loves of Al Calavicci
Al spends a lot of time ogling all the women in the brothel, but he doesn’t make any specific references to anyone in his own life.
• One of the girls gives Sam a glass eye for his birthday. What?!
• Good line between Gina and Marsha. “You had every boy in town chasin’ after you.” “Yeah. And most of ’em caught me.”
• It’s not exactly a profound statement, but I like Sam’s line to Marsha: “Marsha, it’s never too late to start over again. It’s just…I’m not sure if I’m the one to start over with.”
• Al tells Sam a couple of times not to hit Jake. I thought they were building up to a moment where Al was going to tell Sam that he should hit him now. I was disappointed when that didn’t happen.
• Jake winds up in a looney bin, Al tells Sam dismissively. Harsh.
• Period / stylized music is used for the ending credits.
• Apparently the exterior of the house that is featured in the episode is the same one used for the exterior of the house for The Munsters.
Sam Leaps To
I think I like best Marsha telling her cousin Gina in no uncertain terms how she is in the wrong place.
Gina, this isn’t some dime store novel. It’s real and it’s cold and it’s no place or a kid like you. Go home.
Special thanks, by the way, to this site for the episode transcriptions.
The Best Moment
It’s not my favorite episode, as I’ve said, but I think I most appreciate the heart-to-heart that Sam has with Marsha in the middle of the story. It’s the most honest part of the episode.