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'Sports Night' nostalgia recap: Secrets and sunken ships

Season 1 | Episode 18 | “The Sword of Orion” | Aired March 23, 1999

In this week’s episode of Sports Night, we ask ourselves how well you really know the ones you love. There’s still Dana and her cheating boyfriend. There’s Dan and his steadily improving relationship with Rebecca, who’s got an ex-husband in her proverbial closet. And then Jeremy finds out that his father has been having a decades-long affair, much like Sam Seaborn will later do in The West Wing, and develops an obsession over a wayward sailing boat because of it. Meanwhile, everyone watching this show is swearing off all relationships.

Dan is pumped because Orlando Rojas might be pitching again for the Baltimore Orioles, Josh Charles’ real-life baseball team of choice. Rebecca has no idea who that is, and that’s okay because it took me about a decade after this episode aired to realize that he was not an actual Major League Baseball player. (I can tell you that Lee Carvallo from The Simpsons was not a real golfer, though he is apparently a Canadian musician of some sort.)

Dan doesn’t understand how Rebecca could have been married to a sportscaster for two and a half years and know absolutely nothing about sports. She claims that’s because it’s not what she does for a living, and seems miffed that he brought it up. Dan defends himself with his superior wit and guile, and tries to get her to watch the Orioles-New York Mets game with him by coming up with an interesting line about a wall. Rebecca’s response is to tell bystanders that they’re “just friends.” Why is he dating her again?

Meanwhile, Jeremy has come back from his leave of absence incredibly interested in a ship called The Sword of Orion, much to Natalie’s confusion. It’s been 10 years since the massive yacht veered off course, and he wants to piece together what happened on the ill-fated boat. Casey can sense it’s not because he’s developed a sudden interest in sailing, and gets Dana to agree to let Jeremy do a feature. This is how Jeremy takes over the editing room with a ton of paperwork, insisting that he doesn’t want to talk about anything else.

That “anything else” is revealed to be that his father has been having an affair for 27 years, and he just now decided to tell Jeremy’s mother, which is the reason behind their aforementioned divorce. For Jeremy, who’s said to worship his father, finding out what happened to The Sword of Orion is an outlet for trying to figure out what went wrong in his parents’ marriage. For Joshua Malina, it’s preparation for David Rosen’s Wall of Obsession in Scandal.

Dan’s persistence in getting Rebecca to watch the Orioles-Mets game goes as far as insisting that no one in the office tell him anything about it or mention it within a five-mile radius. He somehow pulls this off, only to find Rebecca in his office, revealing that the real reason she has no clue about baseball is that her ex-husband told her that he didn’t want her to be part of his world, and she went along with it. Between this moment and Dana allowing her boyfriend to guilt her into leaving with him last week, what is it with this show and women whose self-esteem issues turn them into doormats?

But unlike Dana, at least Rebecca thanks Dan for his effort. Furthermore, she takes a big first step by booking a hotel suite and telling him to bring the tape with them. Dan is once again pumped as we get to listen to The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B,” which music fans will know is a song inspired by The Kingston Trio’s 1958 recording of another song about a boat. Yay for on-the-nose musical selections.

In retrospect, “The Sword of Orion” comes off really awkwardly where the ladies are concerned, in part because it follows the “Dana dumps Sports Night for Gordon” subplot of “How Are Things in Glocca Morra?”. It would probably not be so eyebrow-raising if it hadn’t succeeded that episode, but it did. The result is that we have two back-to-back installments in which two otherwise strong women have stories in which the man they were with dictated what they should or shouldn’t do, and they let him do it. That’s not a great pattern, although at least Rebecca makes an attempt to change (despite the fact that during the beginning of this episode, she comes across as difficult in her own right).

On the other side of this is Jeremy, who’s just desperate for answers as to where his parents’ relationship went wrong. Deep down inside, he probably knows he’s never going to get those answers. We’ve already seen how he can get easily worked up about things that are important to him, whether it’s his monologue against hunting or how he reacted to Natalie’s hate mail; therefore, what he does here comes as no surprise. You just want to hug him and tell him everything is going to be all right—even though you can tell from the general tone of this episode that it’s not going to be, for anybody.

Sports Night is available on Hulu.

TV Families | EW.com
February 23, 1990 at 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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