Season 5

Episode 503: “Only Connect”

Episode 503:  “Only Connect”
Original Air Date:October 11, 1998
Written by::Ken LaZebnik
Directed by:Tim Van Patten
Produced by:

Martha Williamson
Jon Andersen
R.J. Visciglia, Jr.

Guest Cast:
Donnie    Joe Regalbuto
Cameron    Brendon Ryan Barrett
Ferdie    Tait Smith
Harvey    Rondell Sheridan
Gloria    Marsha Kramer
Anne    Sondra Currie
Roger    Steve Vinovich

When a widower named Donnie Mancuso is having problems communicating with his son, Cameron, the angels arrive to help them learn from the least likely of souls, an autistic man by the name of Ferdie. Misunderstood all of his life, Ferdie lives in a shack on the edge of a baseball field in Cicero, Illinois. Although harmless, the townspeople are unaware of his autism and think of Ferdie merely as “weird.” Cameron befriends Ferdie, who shares his love of trains. Donnie, a former professional ball player, pushes Cameron to work harder at baseball as a way of making friends. Cameron falls prey to peer pressure and participates in a prank that inadvertently results in the burning of Ferdie’s shack. Monica appeals to Cameron’s conscience, and he convinces his father to let Ferdie live with them until his shack can be rebuilt.

While living with Donnie and Cameron, Ferdie behaves strangely but Donnie pays little attention because he seems harmless. Donnie finds Ferdie in the basement using his deceased wife’s train set and forbids him to do so again. The meaning of this is lost on Ferdie, who cannot recognize Donnie when he’s not wearing glasses, nor Cameron when he’s not wearing his ball cap. Ferdie, being Autistic, latches on to certain aspects of people’s appearance in order to recognize them. The day of the championship game Ferdie gets upset when Cameron takes his cap off, and tries to forcibly replace it, unintentionally hurting another player.

The confused and angry townspeople drive Ferdie off the field, but Cameron finally realizes Ferdie’s unique method of viewing the world. The championship game continues until Cameron, who is preoccupied with Ferdie, strikes out, losing the game. Donnie blames Cameron for letting the team down and Cameron leaves to find Ferdie, the only friend he connects with. When Donnie and the other townspeople catch up to Cameron at a train yard, he tries to explain, with Andrew’s help, how Ferdie views the world but Donnie refuses to listen. Cameron says he would rather live in a train car with Ferdie than with his father.

Monica consoles Ferdie in the train car while Tess reveals herself to Donnie who, ashamed of his behavior, is sitting alone in the dugout. Tess reminds him of how his wife loved trains and how she saw the good in him when no one else would, just as Cameron sees the good in Ferdie. Donnie understands he needs to view the world through Cameron and Ferdie’s eyes, and the three return home to play with the train set and make plans for a train trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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