When a descision may impact your life forever, what do you do?  That's the quandry facing Lowell Mather in the season seven Wings episode, The Person Formerly Known as Lowell.

This is the first in series of my Essential Wings episodes.  The order in which the articles appear does not signify the favoritism of the episodes I write about, merely it is about what episode I decide to write about.  Enjoy!

The Person Formerly Known As Lowell is the fourth episode of the seventh season of Wings, and aired in 1995.  The episode marks the farewell of regular castmember Thomas Haden Church, who played the lovable, yet dim-witted Lowell Mather from 1990-1995.  In reality, Church had left the show at the close of season six in May 1995 for his own television sitcom, the short-lived FOX sitcom Ned and Stacey, which lasted ironically until the final year of Wings in 1997.  Haden had expressed dislike for what is probably one of his most well-known characters prior to his depature, and was threatened with legal action if he back out of his contract.  So, when it finally did expire, he left, and took the memories of this great episode with him.

Lowell Mather, upon returning from his vacation (highlighted by his visit to Dollywood), is sent to Boston to fix one of Roy’s Aeromass planes, stuck on the tarmac at Logan International Airport in Boston. Antonio insists that Lowell take Antonio with him so he can try a famous chicken wing restaurant in Boston.

This episode also features a cameo by the bust of Dolly Parton, in ceramic form.  And now that I got that out of my system...

When Lowell doesn’t return until the next morning, he has bad news…he witnessed a mob hit, and was able to positively identify the killer. He is offered a chance to testify and then disappear into the Witness Protection Program. Even the normally dim-witted Lowell realizes the gravity of his situation, and spends the episode weighing his decision.


Lowell decides that it’s his duty to testify so the killer doesn’t go free, and now must leave Nantucket…forever. At least we know he’s not going to Maui.

Lowell was so surprised as to where he was going, he couldn't even keep it a secret.  Sweet lovable, dumb Lowell.

The episode also has a clever subplot involving newlyweds Joe and Helen (Tim Daly and Crystal Bernard) and their “Public Enemy #1” siblings Brian and Casey (Steven Weber and Amy Yasbeck), fresh from Helen’s home being burned down. The group is sharing Joe and Brian’s home, and is making life difficult for each other. Joe is upset because “someone threw out his tangelo,” (a question that had me ask just before Brian, “What the hell is a tangelo?”). Brian is mad (and unshaven) because there were “little Joe hairs” in his razor. Casey has shaved legs with “Helen’s razor” (which turns out to be Brian’s “girlie” razor), but also managed to throw out “the ugly fruit,” (Joe’s tangelo!). And Helen has wet hair due to her 2-speed hairdryer (the “one she’s had since high school”) dying a death due to Casey’s hair “wrapped around the motor choking the life out of it.” She found it in the trashcan with a girlie razor and “Joe’s mutant fruit.”


So, to combat the problem, in typical “Joe fashion,” (my emphasis) Joe buys a Brother P-Touch label maker (Helen believed he rented a beautiful house that she liked so they wouldn’t have to live with Brian and Casey – it cost a fortune). Joe drives Helen nuts with his label maker, and even shows it to two FBI agents who arrive at the airport to talk to Lowell (once again, in typical “Joe fashion”), one of whom gets all excited about the label maker.

Helen thinks the honeymoon ended right when Joe bought the label maker, but it really ended when the fire burned down her house.

Why it’s Essential:

This episode marked the final appearance of the lovably dim-witted mechanic Lowell Mather, played by Thomas Haden Church, who exited Wings after six seasons (this was a “Special Guest Star” role). It also showcased, for the final time, why Lowell was so loveable – when he told the group that he was leaving in 1300 hours, he said that it was “damn near a month,” not realizing that he was leaving at 1300 hours (1pm).


The Verdict:

Overall, this is a very funny episode and a proper send-off for a popular character. Fortunately, this was the only departure (no pun intended) Wings had during its entire eight-year run. The episode blends the sadness of a main character’s departure with the comedy of both his tendency to be slow on the uptake and another character’s despair to leave his “crappy life.” And even though the climax of the plot involves a not normally somber cast, it has probably one of the more appropriate endings (seen during the closing credits) I’ve seen in a long time, and it even makes use of Joe’s label maker.

Due to continuity errors, Lowell's hat was removed from the wall.  It will never be seen again.

A must-see episode, and one of the best of the seventh season, the Wings episode “The Person Formerly Known as Lowell” earns its spot as one of my Essential Episodes.

Oh, and by the way…a tangelo is half orange-half tangerine. It peels like a tangerine, yet tastes like an orange.

Did you like this episode too?  Rant or rave all about it when you e-mail me!

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