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216 - (AGB)     Aaron's Getting Better     03/28/01
Lily's psychologically disturbed brother, Aaron, arrives for an extended visit. Lily believes that his problems are behind him, but Judy isn't so sure.

WRITER: Richard Kramer     DIRECTOR: Jim Kramer
 Brooks-Manning Lily    Grace    Zoe
 Sammler Rick    Eli    Jessie
 Ex's Jake   
 Other Family Judy    Aaron   
 Significant Regulars Spencer   
Shelley - Winnie Holzman
The mother - Susan Savage
The girl - Michelle Schindler
The man in the suit. - Tobin Bell

Lily's house
Phil's Restaurant
Judy's car Upton Sinclair
Coffee Shop -

Comic books  

A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle

The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis

Chicago Poems - Carl Sandburg

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
They put on a Lord of the Rings show.
Aaron played Frodo and Strider;
Lily, Lady L๓rien;
Judy, the all-purpose Hobbit.

The Upton Sinclair Literary Review

The Miracle Worker
Star Wars
Lily - It's not as though we never fought.
Lily - They had Aaron for me.
Judy - Aaron was an artist.
Aaron - the Voice approaching
Aaron - They always know where you are.
Aaron - He talks about me.
Lily - I see my brother again.
Lily - Manipulative Judy.
Judy - I did the hard part.
Lily - Berries in the woods.
Lily - A bird's wing.
Lily - It's okay for Rick to just be there.
Lily & Judy - head on shoulder
Lily, Aaron & Judy - as they once were

W.G. Snuffy Walden Production/incidental music
Sisters of Mercy...Leonard Cohen

Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
They were waiting for me when I thought that I just can't go on.
And they brought me their comfort and later they brought me this song.
Oh I hope you run into them, you who've been travelling so long.

Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control.
It begins with your family, but soon it comes 'round to your soul.
Well I've been where you're hanging, I think I can see how you're pinned:
When you're not feeling holy, your loneliness says that you've sinned.

Well they lay down beside me, I made my confession to them.
They touched both my eyes and I touched the dew on their hem.
If your life is a leaf that the seasons tear off and condemn
They will bind you with love that is graceful and green as a stem


When I left they were sleeping, I hope you run into them soon.
Don't turn on the lights, you can read their address by the moon.
And you won't make me jealous if I hear that they sweetened your night:
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right,
We weren't lovers like that and besides it would still be all right.


Love is Like Snow
Aaron and Grace understand each other and each notices when the other isn't doing well. She tells him about her feelings for Spencer. He confides in her about the voices he hears. A man comes to him and tells him what to say and do.

Snow Must Melt
Grace left the phone in her bed after talking to Spencer at 11:32 pm. Grace decides they should write about the hostage-taking. Spencer is having trouble sleeping and he starts to panic when they go to Phil's. Spencer tells Grace she's too intense and he's not ready for a girlfriend.

Aaron at Booklovers
After a child on a scooter bumps him, Judy tells Lily that Aaron is more fragile than Lily thinks.

Aaron at Home
Shelley tells Lily that Aaron needs to be needed. He helps to set the table. The number of place settings increase every night, until the crowding overwhelms Aaron. Judy tries to subdue Aaron and Rick helps to restrain him as Lily stands by helplessly.

Walk & Talk
Rick and Lily discuss their problems with their brothers. Rick help Lily realize that Aaron can't give her hope; it has to come from within her.

You're a good sister.
Grace and Lily feel responsible for Aaron's episode but they reassure each other. Shelley tells then Aaron is still doing well.


Not currently available


Original sequence
This episode was filmed as #214

Alternate Naming
An alternate title is Aaron Returns.

Tormenting the little sister
Lily & Aaron teased Judy when they were children. They gave her tiny portions of food, made a cake with sand, dangled the tree house ladder and pulled it away and put her Troll clothes on a mouse.

They're spies
Aaron once convinced Judy that their neighbours, the Liebermans, were Russian spies. He still believes it.

Aunt Marian
The Brooks siblings have an Aunt Marian, who liked to centre things.

Dating History
Lily used to date Brian Garvin, who later became gay.

Aaron was a good artist.

What's in a name?
Judy's childhood nickname was Judy Doody.

The Hobbit
Judy has hairy feet.

Not on the list
Aaron didn't attend Lily and Jake's wedding.

For more information on Schizophrenia



Original episode spoilers

HERC New York Daily News Trish TVGT Robert Bianco Tunneldiver Cincinnati Enquirer From the set

From HERC at

What's TV Guide Not Telling Us?
Tonight's installment is a monster tearjerker. While the episode evokes the best elements of both 'Rain Man' and 'Charly,' Lily's brother is neither autistic nor developmentally challenged. He is nuts in a really unfunny way. He sees and hears menacing figures that no one else sees or hears. There are few things scarier in life.

Why is tonight's installment so good?
Because Aaron's sister Lily harbors great guilt over shutting her brother out of her life. Because Judy, who frequently visits Aaron, resents Lily for shutting Aaron out. Because Lily and Judy obviously love their suffering brother to pieces. Because Aaron is now SO close to rejoining the lives of his fellow Brookses, it kills you when he doesn't quite make it.

Where's that spoiler?
Teen Grace Manning, who has fallen completely in love with fellow hostage-situation survivor Spencer, learns that Spencer does not want to be her boyfriend. As she flies to pieces, it is Aaron (of all people) who provides solace.

Ep. 2.16
The Hercules T. Strong Rating System:
**** better than most motion pictures
*** actually worth your valuable time
** as horrible as most stuff on TV
* makes you quietly pray for bulletins

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From The New York Daily News:

10:00 (ABC) "Once and Again." Patrick Dempsey returns in the recurring role of Lily's psychologically unbalanced brother - who brings with him, this time, an invisible and not very benign companion.

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From Trish at the ABC Message Board:

I've decided not to do my usual teasers tonight. It just doesn't seem right this time. There was some serious stuff happening here.

No spoilers, just one O&A addict's review:

'AGB' was so intense and absolutely fantastic. The script, the acting, the directing, the lighting, the music, all perfectly balanced, everything flowing together like an orchestrated dance.

A complete change of pace again for the show, with a whole new feel to it. Another mood. Another layer being carefully peeled off to reveal the treasure beneath it. Patrick Dempsey was amazing, again, and his B/W's were so powerful. So dead on. This one hit close to home because my brother is going through the same struggle as Aaron. It sent chills down my spine.

The scenes between Lily and Judy covered so many different emotions. Their B/W's were so revealing, so painful, so brutally honest.

Pay close attention to Snuffy's music. It spoke a hundred words, at times surrounding you and pulling you into Aaron's reality. Slipping and stumbling. You could feel it drawing you in deeper, holding you there, not letting you look away for one moment.

And at the end, in those precious last few minutes, a reward for those of us who have been lucky enough to have found this show. A song, haunting, yet comforting, that will touch your soul. I had a strange feeling tonight of being 'family'. It was as if the Mannings finally feel they know us well enough, trust us enough, to let us in. To see their reality. Sadness, acceptance, but still hope.

And as if that wasn't enough, Grace was totally amazing. Both with Aaron and Spencer. WOW!

Considering this episode was R/L light, Melinda was right, the scenes that they did have together were great and they both made progress.

Trish, mindboggled, but lovin' every minute of it.

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From TV Guide's TV Highlight/Drama:
Once and Again -- Aaron's Getting Better

Mental illness is treated with insight and compassion in an episode that brings back Patrick Dempsey as Aaron, Lily and Judy's psychologically disturbed brother.

In the story, Aaron's gotten permission from the social worker at his group home to stay over at Lily's place. For a while, all's okay. Aaron feels at ease with Lily (Sela Ward) and even bonds with her restless teenage daughter Grace (Julia Whelan), who's excited to talk to her uncle about her romantic feelings for the capricious Spencer (Marco Gould). But soon Aaron begins to drift, withdraw and converse with a mysterious figure---visible only to him---whose contemptuousness triggers a psychotic reaction. Shelley: Winnie Holzman.

Tonights episode has a PG-D Rating which according to the TV Guide means "Suggestive dialogue".

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From Robert Bianco at USA TODAY:
'Once' hits high spot in poignant portrayal
**** (out of four)

No show is better than Once and Again when it hits close to home.

It hasn't always done so this season. In its efforts to expand beyond the mixed-family entanglements of Lily and Rick — so ideally played and embodied by Sela Ward and Billy Campbell — this exemplary series sometimes seemed to be going through an identity crisis. For weeks, Once was practically held hostage by that thirtysomething interloper, Miles Drentell (David Clennon), and his bog of a development project.

Tonight, however, Once is back where it belongs: in the home, and deep in the hearts of its central characters. Only Once probes this deeply into the inner workings of our families — exploring how they are both our burden and our salvation, how they bring us hope and despair, and how they make us who we are.

Written by Richard Kramer and directed by Jim Kramer, tonight's hour is built around a visit by Lily's mentally ill brother, Aaron, played with nuance and heartbreaking grace by Patrick Dempsey. Aaron has spent years in a group home, but thanks to new medication, he has improved enough to spend a few nights in Lily's home


The first warning comes from Aaron's caseworker, Shelley (amusingly played by one of the show's producers, Winnie Holzman). "Keep your expectations reasonable," she tells Lily, "and think about what you may need from him."

But, of course, Lily needs too much — which leads to a carefully balanced, painfully accurate confrontation with her younger sister, Judy (Marin Hinkle, who deserves to break into this year's supporting-actress Emmy circle). Anyone who has ever had a failing relative will recognize the battle lines: Do you push them to do more, or accept their limitations? And anyone with a sibling will understand how difficult it is for Lily and Judy to see their brother and each other as adults, and not just as larger versions of their childhood selves.

That things will go wrong is a given — and even if it weren't, the plot point has been given away in the promos. What distinguishes Once is the honesty and clarity it brings to the story. Like few other shows, Once is both willing and able to look at the issue from all sides, even if it means making its lead characters temporarily unsympathetic.

Yet despite its many strengths, there's no denying this has been a tough sophomore season for Once and Again. You know a show is stumbling when its best-rated episode of late is out of character: a melodramatic hostage crisis. (In that case, the repercussions, some of which are felt tonight, have been more interesting than the event itself.)

Still, a show that plunges this deeply and accurately into our homes is worth rallying to protect. Like the family life it so fully explores, Once is something to be treasured. Even when it's difficult. And even when it's imperfect.

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From Tunneldiver's Quotes:

"You were wrong about hope, where it comes from"

"I'm used to being the idiot, maybe you can be it for a while"

"So you made him gay?"

Q: "Do I scream?"
A: "Only when I'm really good"

"I think I should do you first"

"You are too intense for me"

"I've never been asked to do this before"

"It's OK, you can laugh, I can't laugh or the state will cut off my funding"

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From A Best Bet from
"Aaron's Getting Better"

Aaron (Patrick Dempsey) obtains permission to leave his group home and move into Lily's (Sela Ward) house. At first, things seem to be going very well as he bonds with Grace (Julia Whelan) and she opens up to him regarding her feelings for Spencer (Marco Gould). However, Aaron slowly begins to deteriorate as he embraces the company of an imaginary person whose hatred winds up triggering a psychotic reaction.

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From John Kiesewetter at the Cincinnati Enquirer:

We felt a bit like perverts, peeping through the bathroom window at Sela Ward and her TV daughter in their pajamas.

. . .

“Go to bed, baby. We'll talk in the morning,” says Lily Manning (Ms. Ward), a divorced single mother, after they share some Victoria's Secret hand lotion.

“One more thing,” says 15-year-old Grace (Julia Whelan). “You're a good sister, Mom. I just think you should know that before you go to sleep.”

Again this week, Once and Again (10 p.m. Wednesday, Channels 9, 2) tackles tough family issues with sensitivity, wit and insight.

. . .

Any mother with a teen can relate to the contempt that the brooding Grace shows Mom by rolling her eyes. Any mother will love the bathroom bonding over hand cream in Wednesday's episode about Aaron (Patrick Dempsey), Lily's schizophrenic brother.

. . .

It's Grace who first sees that Uncle Aaron isn't doing well.

. . .

You never know. As Lily says rubbing Grace's hands: “I worry about everything.”

Once and Again shouldn't be on the Nielsen's razor edge. There should be a place on TV for a mother and daughter to entwine hands during a midnight heart-to-heart.

[Information not relating to this episode has been snipped.]

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From TV
Once and Again - Aaron's Getting Better

Mental illness is treated with insight and compassion in an episode that brings back Patrick Dempsey as Aaron, Lily and Judy's psychologically disturbed brother.

In the story, Aaron's gotten permission from the social worker at his group home to stay over at Lily's place. For a while, all's okay. Aaron feels at ease with Lily (Sela Ward) and even bonds with her restless teenage daughter Grace (Julia Whelan), who's excited to talk to her uncle about her romantic feelings for the capricious Spencer (Marco Gould). But soon Aaron begins to drift, withdraw and converse with a mysterious figure---visible only to him---whose contemptuousness triggers a psychotic reaction. Shelley: Winnie Holzman.

Cast: Billy Campbell, Sela Ward, Shane West, Evan Rachel Wood, Meredith Deane, Julia Whelan, Jeffrey Nordling, Marin Hinkle, Patrick Dempsey, Marco Gould, Winnie Holzman

Rating: TV-PG Content: Suggestive Dialog Back to top
Aaron Visits Lily On "ONCE AND AGAIN" (3/21/01)

"Aaron's Getting Better" - When Aaron comes to Lily's for an extended visit, the family realizes he hasn't made as much progress as they'd thought, on "Once and Again," WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET), on the ABC Television Network.

"Once and Again" stars Sela Ward as Lily Manning, Billy Campbell as Rick Sammler, Julia Whelan as Grace Manning, Shane West as Eli Sammler, Meredith Deane as Zoe Manning, Evan Rachel Wood as Jessie Sammler, Susanna Thompson as Karen Sammler, Jeffrey Nordling as Jake Manning, Todd Field as David Casilli, Marin Hinkle as Judy, David Clennon as Miles Drentell and Jennifer Crystal-Foley as Christie Parker.

Guest starring are Patrick Dempsey as Aaron, Winnie Holzman as Shelley, Marco Gould as Spencer, Susan Savage as the mother, Michelle Schindler as the girl and Tobin Bell as the man in the suit.

"Aaron's Getting Better" was written by Richard Kramer and directed by Jim Kramer.

This program carries a TV-PG, D parental guideline.

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From TV Week:
Realistic TV: Sobering series make viewers uneasy
By Candace Havens, TVData

It's late in the evening, and Lily Manning (Sela Ward) stands at the bathroom sink washing away the remains of a difficult day. She raises her head and sees her daughter Grace (Julia Whelan) in the mirror: Grace feels the need to make a confession to her mother about her part in the day's events.

The words tumble out, and the teen tells her mother that she knew what was going on but didn't want to cause trouble by telling anyone. Lily, who feels equally guilty, beings rubbing lotion into Grace's hands and offers some soothing words. As the conversation comes to a close, Grace turns to walk out the door. She stops and turns back to her mother.

Grace: One more thing.

Lily: What's that?

Grace: You're a good sister, Mom. I just think you should know that. Before you go to sleep.

As the impact of Grace's words hits Lily, the rush of emotions plays across her face. The viewer knows in that instant exactly what she is feeling. That her own daughter is offering words of comfort makes her joyful and sad at the same time.

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From Tim Feran, Dispatch TV-Radio Critic:
Tim Feran, Dispatch TV-Radio Critic
Copyright 2001 The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus Dispatch
February 5, 2001, Monday

In the episode being shot, Lily's brother comes to visit. He's a diagnosed schizophrenic, and his arrival has created some wrenching complications for Lily and her family. The scene the cast is taping involves a quiet, late-night discussion between Lily and her daughter, Grace (Julia Whelan).

Ward wears pajamas -- "Nick and Nora"-style flannel bottoms that have names of various Chinese foods written on them, and a maroon top. It's cold on the soundstage, so the actress wears boots while she's waiting and dons slippers after the director and director of photography have arranged the camera to their satisfaction.

In the scene, Ward's character is standing in the bathroom and looks in the mirror to find that her daughter has entered the room. In reality, the angle is all wrong and Ward can't possibly see Whelan, so someone off camera will cue the actress to turn around at the appropriate moment.

On camera, the room looks as solid as if the show were filmed inside a real home. In fact, each wall of the bathroom set is propped up and can be moved away to allow the crew to set up the camera.

The irony of this intimate scene between mother and daughter is that about two dozen people are standing just out of camera range, watching the duo's every move.

Take after take, Ward washes her hands in the sink. To accomplish this, a worker has to squat on the other side of the wall and operate a small pump tank so Ward has water. After numerous takes, the tank runs out of water. But the drain is connected to a white plastic pail, so the prop man simply pours the old water back in the pump tank.

The scene will take up a couple minutes of screen time, but director Jim Kramer and company take a half day to shoot it from various angles.

Shooting the same scene time after time proves to be a test of endurance. That Ward and Whelan can deliver their lines believably every time is a testament to their talent.

Perhaps referring to common criticisms of thirtysomething, Zwick says that the dramatic ups and downs on Once and Again have purposely alternated between big complications -- the actions of Lily's brother, for instance -- and small but carefully observed moments of emotion such as the mother- daughter chat we're watching.

GRAPHIC: Phot, Jerry Fitzgerald / ABC Lily (Sela Ward), right, helps out at the bookstore with Judy (Marin Hinkle) in an episode of Once and Again

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Aaron's Getting Better

No stranger to challenging parts, he wraps up his recurring stint as Sela Ward's schizophrenic brother on "Once and Again" in early Spring.

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