Inspired by my road trip to Cleveland and back with the family, I decided to put together a list of a few of my favorite television road trips. Like my own trip, these treks offered some quality bonding opportunities, as well as a snag or two to keep things interesting.
1. Wonderfalls, “Crime Dog”
This Wonderfalls episode, in which Jaye and Aaron are arrested while trying to sneak their deported childhood nanny back across the Canadian-American border, is so much fun (like most of this short-lived series). Beginning in a police station interrogation room, and telling in flashback the story of the road trip and arrest, the border arrest scene looks more like an episode of The X-Files with sister Sharon playing the Cigarette Smoking Man, “all back-lit and sinister,” according to Jaye (start at 9:15 in the video below to watch the superb arrest scene).
This show was at its strongest in the episodes with Jaye’s family – maybe because there was no weak link in its casting of the Tyler clan. This episode, which focuses on Jaye’s relationships with overprotective brother Aaron, overbearing sister Sharon is not subtle in its message: family comes first.
Jaye yells at her sister, who she believes tipped off the police:
Jaye: “You ratted out your own brother and sister! Is this because we like each other better than we like you?”
Sharon: “You actually think I tipped the police?”
Jaye: “You were there waiting with them.”
Sharon: “That’s because they tipped me. I knew you’d try to do something stupid like this, which is why I tagged your name so when it came up in the system, I’d know about it.”
Jaye: “And then you just dropped everything and came charging to the rescue?”
Sharon: “You’re my sister.”
Jaye talks to her father after he pulls some strings to bail her, Aaron, and Yvette out of jail:
Jaye: “I’m sorry I made you compromise your principles.”
Darrin: “The first principle is always family.”
2. Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Samaritan Snare”
I have a confession to make: I am a Wesley Crusher fan. I liked that there was a kid character on the show with whom I could relate. I liked that some of the time, the kid was the one who had to save the adults. Re-watching some of the Wesley-focused episodes can be more difficult as an adult, but I still appreciate the interaction between no-nonsense, kid-wary Picard and eager-to-please Wesley. Plus, they had an interesting back story – Wesley’s father was killed while serving under Picard’s command, a fact I always imagined was never far from Picard’s mind, and added another dimension to their relationship.
The Next Generation had some stellar episodes (get it?! stellar!). “Samaritan Snare” in which Captain Picard and Wesley share a shuttle to a Starfleet base, is not one of them. Still, it stood out in my young mind as a favorite because of the Pciard-Wesley interaction.
This “road” trip was probably rockier for Picard. He’s on his way to undergo heart surgery, but instead of listening to Baroque or Shakespeare on tape, he has to put up with Wesley, anxious for the Academy exams he is on his way to take. Though this may be set in a shuttle rather than a car, Picard seems to hit on some of the classic subjects for road trip chatter, gracing Wesley with a story of his mischievous youth, and a lecture or two on the meaning of commitment and the importance of the study of philosophy and art. All in all, a good road trip…even if Picard almost dies during the course of the episode
3. The X-Files, “Detour”
Only Mulder would prefer chasing a man-snatching invisible creature to a team-building seminar, but that is exactly what causes Scully and Mulder to abandon the promise of team-building exercises for the deep woods of Florida.
Mulder sarcastically expresses his disdain for the team-building seminar to the other agents carpooling with Mulder and Scully:
Agent Stonecypher: Have you ever been to a team seminar, Agent Mulder?
Mulder: No. Unfortunately, around this time of year, I usually develop a severe hemorrhoidal condition.
Agent Kingsley: Last year, I had something of a personal revelation. We were doing an exercise called Team Builders where we were given two minutes to build a tower out of ordinary office furniture.
Stonecypher: When I stood on Mike’s shoulders and I put that electric pencil sharpener on top of the pile… we both knew we could never have done it alone.
Mulder (whispering to Scully): Kill me now.
Things do not go ideally. In fact, they hit a real low point when Mulder is injured by the creature. Luckily, he has Scully (hitting on a classic road trip trope) to sing him to sleep with this amusingly unenthusiastic rendition of “Joy to the World”:
The next morning, when Scully falls into the creatures lair, it takes some fast-paced teamwork between our two favorite agents to escape its clutches and to rescue most of the captured civilians. Who needs office furniture for team-building exercises when you have red-eyed, Mothman-like forever men lying in wait?
Road trips are a great pressure cooker for television series. Stick two or three characters in an enclosed, claustrophobic location for any prolonged period, and voila! Tension, resolution (usually), and character development. What are some of your favorite television road trips?