The Prince of Slides

"I'm pregnant?! I'm not even married!" — Rembrandt.

Review by Matt Hutaff

Really Good

Rembrandt Brown is not paternal – he’s a washed-up singer whose greatest claim to fame was quitting a group that managed to chart 13 No.1 hits after he left. We have seen him step up as a father figure before, and it was a train wreck; remember when he strangled his double’s son in Summer of Love? Everything about this guy demonstrates he was disastrous in personal relations prior to sliding, particularly when it comes to kids.

That’s why I was at a loss when I first saw the promo spots for “Prince of Slides.” Aside from the very angry feeling I got I saw another B-movie plot sandwiched into the Sliders universe (this time pregnant men a la Junior), I wondered why the writers thought making Rembrandt — heck, any of the Sliders — face the burdens and joys of parenthood was a good idea.

I’m glad they did, though. “The Prince of Slides” has taken a very shaky concept and made it into one of the best outings of the show this season. Played initially for a few laughs, the idea of Rembrandt’s pregnancy turns into an evaluation of Rembrandt’s past relationships and how far he’s come since he first started sliding.

Much like in Dragonslide, Rembrandt confronts an old flame, in this case the lovely Duchess Danielle (Victoria Mahoney). On Earth Prime, Rembrandt and Danielle were lovers whose relationship ended badly for Rembrandt. Here, on a world where they’re married, Rembrandt finds himself trying to shoehorn himself into his double’s role to make amends like he did in The King is Back.

Why? Well, he has to. After the Professor’s unfortunate collision with a bee hive during a rough slide, the Sliders head to a hospital only to be swept up in a bigger medical crisis when Rembrandt becomes an unwitting surrogate to Danielle’s baby. In the right place at the right time, I suppose. The science behind shared pregnancy is laughable at best (women can’t carry a baby past the second trimester on this world thanks to a viral epidemic) but it puts the Sliders directly in the middle of a royal conspiracy (the U.S. has a monarchy) that’s killing off anyone destined for the throne. The majority of the plot then centers on the Sliders seeking to unearth the center of the conspiracy.

The chance encounter with Danielle in the hospital immediately stirs up feelings in Rembrandt; he pulls up his sleeve and offers to donate blood, knowing their types match. There’s some air of mystery as to why, but the implication is that something bad happened as Rembrandt heads into surgery without understanding the severity of the crisis.

The relationship is a complicated one. Danielle is merely grateful Rembrandt is back after their fight. It turns out Rembrandt’s double disappeared after a fight with Danielle and Rembrandt wants to make sure he doesn’t disappoint. After the initial shock of learning of the pregnancy, Rembrandt immediately becomes devoted and attentive not to just the baby, but to Danielle as well. He doesn’t know where his double’s gone and he doesn’t care; this is a chance to relive an old love and he almost hopes his doppelganger doesn’t re-appear.

While Quinn and Wade search for Duke Rembrandt (royalty by marriage), Arturo and Rembrandt hang out at the palace and crack wise. Arturo is definitely in his element as Rembrandt’s valet and soaks up the court culture with aplomb.

Things fall apart when Danielle hears Rembrandt singing a beautiful lullaby to the unborn child. Rembrandt’s double is tone-deaf and can’t sing; Danielle, aghast, confronts Rembrandt with an accusation balanced with anger and trepidation. His assurances that the baby is safe lead to a heartbreaking story about Rembrandt and his Danielle, and how his short-temper and inability to listen led Danielle to an auto accident that severed the relationship forever. It’s a great story that parallels what we’ve known with what we see, namely, a Rembrandt now dedicated to making relationships matter most to him. It’s a smart bit of character work, and it also explains why Rembrandt is so devoted to the baby and why he’s almost unable to detach himself from the situation and distance himself from Danielle. The Cryin’ Man has never felt so deep.

In the race to uncover the assassin who is killing members of the royal family, Quinn and Wade discover Rembrandt’s double, who hasn’t left Danielle in a rage but is hiding out after someone tried to drown him. They make it back to the castle only to stop someone from suffocating Rembrandt. As the killer flees, the others decide to move out to the secluded Camp Muir, a forest retreat similar to the President’s Camp David.

The killer is Lady Mary (Hallie Foote), the woman who’s spent her entire life devoted to the duchess. Her reason is simple: she slept with the king in her youth and sired a child, George (Dan Gauthier), who she wants to be king. George is the head of the duchess’ security and knows nothing of the plot, or even that Mary is his mother. Doesn’t matter, Mary is a vindictive, angry woman who feels slighted by her former paramour and uses a terror front called the American Revolutionary Party to mask her deeds. She manages to kill the king and his sons, leaving only George and Baby Brown as possible heirs.

Mary’s impatience gets the best of her and she tries to kill both Rembrandts, the Professor, and Danielle by arson. Quinn, Wade and George (alerted to the crime via correspondence between the king and Mary) stop the fire but Rembrandt must deliver… now. Arturo steps in reluctantly, and, without any medical knowledge on delivering a baby (let alone one in a man) manages to pull it off. “I’ll never forget this,” Rembrandt says, to which the Professor replies, “Neither will I.”

The emotional and physical strain on Rembrandt is visible in the goodbye scene where Duke Rembrandt thanks our Remmy while the others look on. Arturo even invites Rembrandt to land on him this slide. The end scene is a kooky bookend world — haven’t seen one of those in a while. I miss them.

There’s a lot to praise in this episode. The direction is top-notch and Danny Lux’s score brings to mind music cues from The Guardian, another  emotionally charged story. The location scout also deserves high praise; this certainly feels like a big budget episode and the manor they film in drives that idea home. Even that stupid CGI with a Big Ben-style clock at the Griffith Observatory adds believability.

The only minor quibble is this: we just had a Rembrandt-relationship-fallout episode two episodes back. Was it really wise to dip into that well again so soon? Just a small concern.

But really, the episode is all Cleavant’s and he does a wonderful job. Don’t get me wrong, this episode is a strong ensemble piece, but this is the first really significant look at Rembrandt since the first season. It looks like his interdimensional journey has made him more mature and aware, and this episode shows it very well. Eleah Horwitz should be commended.

“The Prince of Slides” shows that stupid concepts can be done well if treated with care. Too bad I can’t say the same about The Fire Within.

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