“The Next Step” concludes the annoying and intolerable Ephram characterization. Ephram, near the end of season three, became a most insufferable character. He acted passively and spitefully after he learned what happened with Madison and his baby. He gave up his future to spite his father. He broke up with Amy as part of his self-destructive streak. The Madison baby arc was the worst plot choice in the series, a decision that rippled for too long and would’ve lingered into season five if The CW renewed it. It was a plot device to shake up the core of the show. Andy and Ephram finally reached the place Andy imagined they’d reach when he moved his children to Everwood. “A Mountain Town” concludes with father and son at one. Ephram found the best kind of love with Amy in season three. The characters were happy. No more drama or conflict. The Madison/Andy/Ephram plot was the worst plot contrivance too--an easy way to detonate the natural flow of Everwood’s story, because TV, for all its many virtues, is driven by advertising money. It’s a commodity.
Ephram’s still a dick for most of the episode. His insufferable characterization had to gradually disappear, even though few fans would’ve protested if Ephram returned free from what made him the worst at the end of season three. Ephram asked Andy to pay for his living expenses because Andy’s decision in “The Day is Done” cost Ephram Julliard. Andy didn’t want their relationship to begin anew with guilt. Later, Andy experienced an epiphany about finding balance in his during during his conversation with Harold about doing surgery for five hours every Monday, i.e. being the father he should’ve been, surgery and all, in New York.
“The Next Step” deals with the next step: change, moving on, and growth. Ephram and Andy can’t continue fighting. Their fighting alienates Delia. The show couldn’t continue to write them that way. It had to move away from the ripples of the Madison story in season three. So, this episode ties the last loose thread from the end of last season. Andy and Ephram find a balance. Ephram is given freedom in exchange for daily family dinners (and $50). Ephram, in a symbolic gesture that the past is the past, leaves the check Andy gave him in the refrigerator. As Andy hopes to find the balance he failed to find in New York by taking up surgery in between his role as family doctor and father, Ephram’s open to finding a balance in his relationship to Andy that won’t dismantle the Brown family. In short, Ephram’s insufferable qualities leave him at the end of “The Next Step.”
The other loose thread from season three was Amy and Ephram. They were the destined couple since episode one, the Dawson and Joey, the Matt Saracen and Julie Taylor, and destined couples don’t stay together for the entirety of a series. There’s no anguish. Their relationship in season three reminded me of Pacey’s and Joey’s. They were great together, they broke up for no reason besides plot contrivance, and then the writers needed to find any reason to keep them separate in season four. Amy explained to Ephram, in Sam’s, that she felt too hurt by how it ended between them last season to think about starting where they left off.
The Bright/Hannah relationship, in its early stage, annoys me. I never gave a whit about their coupling. They can be cute, as evidenced in some season three scenes, and in their honest conversation at the carnival, but Hannah’s neurosis combined with the neurotic hurdles in their relationship (such as the three-dates-and-out misunderstanding) grates. Bright’s easy and simple perspective of things balances the pairing, they even out, and I become indifferent about them.
“The Next Step” is better than the premiere, which means little because it’s an ordinary episode. Andy’s look after he receives the wine bottle from Ephram, and the Amy/Ephram conversation are the most touching parts in the episode.
Anna Fricke wrote the episode. Perry Lang directed.