The Best Episodes of Northern Exposure

Last Updated: Nov 25, 2018

Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) graduates from Columbia University medical school thanks to a scholarship from the state of Alaska. Though he was promised a placement at the large hospital in Anchorage, he is instead whisked away to the tiny town of Cicely, where he must work off his education debt as the local General Practitioner. The location is remote, the people are weird and quirky, and all Joel wants is to return to New York. The show thrived on this "fish out of water" storyline and the "will they or won't they" dynamic between Fleischman and Janine Turner's Maggie O'Connell.

Up River

#1 - Up River

Season 6 - Episode 8

Maurice sends Ed after Joel, who's moved up river; and Joel tells Ed of the few days he and Maggie spent together, where every time they got together, there was gunfire. Chris hires a contractor to improve the lot around his trailer and it turns his world upside down. When Walt goes away to check his traps, Ruth-Anne realizes that she's fallen in love and tries to fight it.

star 8.42
31 votes
Directors: Michael Fresco
Writers: Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
Mr. Sandman

#2 - Mr. Sandman

Season 5 - Episode 12

The aurora borealis causes the residents of Cicely to swap their dreams, exposing secrets. Maggie has Holling's dream about being a cab driver in Quebec, driving his overbearing father around. Ron has Maurice's dream about blue pumps. Joel sleepwalks in search of candy, having a child's dream. Holling has Dave's dream about kayaking with a spatula. Walt has someone's dream (Joel's?) about climbing a never ending tower.

star 8.26
34 votes
Writers: Diane Frolov, Andrew Schneider
Burning Down the House

#3 - Burning Down the House

Season 3 - Episode 14

Maggie receives an unexpected visit and some unwanted news from her mother. Meanwhile, Chris searches everywhere for just the right cow to fling for his conceptual art piece and Joel becomes obsessed with a local chimney sweep that he believes is a former pro golfer.

star 8.19
63 votes
Directors: Rob Thompson
Writers: Robin Green

#4 - Cicely

Season 3 - Episode 23

Joel meets an old man who's returned to Cicely after many years. The man tells him the story of two remarkable women, Roslyn and Cicely, whom transformed the town into ""the Paris of the North"" back in 1909.

star 8.16
57 votes
Directors: Rob Thompson
Writers: Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
Spring Break

#5 - Spring Break

Season 2 - Episode 5

Things get a little crazy as the town waits for the annual ice breakup and the annual "running of the bulls" down the streets of Cicely. Joel and Maggie find themselves irresistibly drawn together, Maurice is attracted to a dominating state trooper sent to uncover the villain behind the annual rash of petty thefts and Holling challenges all the customers to a fight.

star 8.15
82 votes
Directors: Rob Thompson
Writers: David Assael
Slow Dance

#6 - Slow Dance

Season 2 - Episode 7

The infamous O'Connell curse seems to have claimed another victim when a falling satellite hits Rick. Maurice has mixed feelings about selling some property for an outrageously high price to a couple he disapproves of, and Shelly becomes confused when Holling is really enjoying his reunion with an old lady friend from his distant past.

star 8.13
74 votes
Directors: David Carson
Writers: Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
The Quest

#7 - The Quest

Season 6 - Episode 15

Joel finds a map and brings Maggie with him on a quest to find a mythical city, they meet a belligerent gatekeeper, and when faced with a crossroads, Joel sees his future and departs. Phil cleans out some impacted earwax for Chris, but Chris sues him for malpractice when his inner ear is damaged. Maurice lets Holling know that Michelle is writing an article on restaurants for Alaska Highways magazine, but she can't find any good words to describe the food at the Brick.

star 8.08
25 votes
Directors: Michael Vittes
Writers: Diane Frolov, Andrew Schneider
Family Feud

#8 - Family Feud

Season 4 - Episode 19

A totem pole carved in tribute to the Raven clan reopens a bitter rift between them and the Bear clan. Shelly gets medical advice telling her that getting married may help her to get rid of the strange hallucinations with dancers that she's been having. Joel confronts Maggie about their "whatever" and her relationship with Mike; together they decide they're "mutually desirous incompatibles."

star 8.08
41 votes
Directors: Adam Arkin
Writers: David Assael
Mite Makes Right

#9 - Mite Makes Right

Season 5 - Episode 13

A musician tries to stop Maurice from storing, in his safe, a 1.6 million-dollar violin he's just bought as an investment. Maggie becomes obsessed with ridding her house of dust mites after she develops an allergy to them. Chris struggles to find inspiration for his latest sculpture. Joel and Maggie have their first date, which ends early because of talk about things microscopic.

star 8.06
35 votes
Directors: Michael Vittes
Writers: Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
Wake Up Call

#10 - Wake Up Call

Season 3 - Episode 19

As spring blossoms, Shelly suffers from a skin rash, Holling gives away eggs, Joel gets a new outlook on patient care from a tribal medicine man and Maggie experiences a spiritual and physical re-awakening with a handsome stranger.

star 8.05
58 votes
Directors: Nick Marck
Writers: Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
Our Wedding

#11 - Our Wedding

Season 3 - Episode 22

As their wedding approaches, Adam debates with Joel about women and Eve lets a gung-ho Shelly take over the wedding plans as she worries about more important matters. Maggie and Joel try in their own ways to come to grips with their experience in Juneau.

star 8.04
58 votes
Directors: Nick Marck
Writers: Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
Birds of a Feather

#12 - Birds of a Feather

Season 5 - Episode 6

Joel's parents come to Cicely and his father's know-it-all attitude gets on Joel's nerves and his mother gets back to nature. Holling's dislike of sports causes Shelly to ponder their baby's athletic future and his stature among the men of Cicely.

star 8.03
34 votes
Directors: Mark Horowitz
Writers: Mitchell Burgess, Robin Green
The Bumpy Road to Love

#13 - The Bumpy Road to Love

Season 3 - Episode 1

Maggie is devastated when the unveiling of a statue in Rick's memory uncovers his life and loves away from Cicely. Maurice stumbles in his pursuit of Officer Semanski when she learns he favors tax loopholes. Joel is kidnapped and held prisoner by the reclusive Adam and his hypochondriacal mate Eve.

star 8.01
88 votes
Directors: Nick Marck
Writers: Sybil Adelman, Martin Sage
Animals 'R' Us

#14 - Animals 'R' Us

Season 3 - Episode 4

Maggie becomes convinced that the stray dog that's adopted her is Rick reincarnated. Maurice tries to convince Marilyn to join him in a multi-million dollar scheme to produce and market ostriches. Ed looks for help in making a movie about Cicely.

star 8.00
78 votes
Directors: Nick Marck
Writers: Robin Green
Northwest Passages

#15 - Northwest Passages

Season 4 - Episode 1

Maggie must come to grips with her 30th birthday and the ghosts of her dead boyfriends by using an Indian ritual allowing her to lay the past to rest. Marilyn decides it's time to learn to drive and gets Ruth-Anne and Chris to give her lessons. Maurice drives the citizens crazy when he begins to write his memoirs.

star 7.99
70 votes
Directors: Dean Parisot
Writers: Robin Green
Mud and Blood

#16 - Mud and Blood

Season 4 - Episode 23

Spring comes to Cicely and Holling pays to get a job on a farm pulling a plow, because of his wish to sow seeds. Maggie saves Dave's life, a tape from Mike and other events get the people of Cicely thinking that she has healing powers. Maurice buys a pig for routing out truffles for the annual Mosquito Festival, but the pig may become the main course at a luau. Holling throws his back out and Shelly finds out that she is pregnant.

star 7.97
35 votes
Directors: Jim Charleston
Writers: Andrew Schneider, Diane Frolov
Blood Ties

#17 - Blood Ties

Season 5 - Episode 23

Though he promotes it on the air, Chris has reservations about making a donation for Maurice's blood drive. Ed discovers his rare blood type is shared by another person in town, so he hires a P.I., Renaldo Pinetree, to dig into her past and find out if she is her mother. Maggie's old "tiller mate" from Grosse Pointe comes to Cicely after her affections and he offers Joel the incentive to leave Cicely for good. Joel loses his touch for drawing blood as Cicely nears the amount Maurice needs to win his bet with a neighboring town.

star 7.96
30 votes
Writers: Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess

#18 - Horns

Season 6 - Episode 13

The state of Alaska admits to Joel that they were wrong in over-extending his contract, with his release secured, Joel returns to Cicely to collect his things. Phil notices there is something wrong with Maurice's new bottled water; the effect causes males and females to reverse roles. Cal escapes and becomes a fugitive in search of an audience. The area where Joel goes does not contain a village named Greenwich.

star 7.96
28 votes
Directors: Michael Fresco
Writers: Jeff Melvoin
Ursa Minor

#19 - Ursa Minor

Season 6 - Episode 21

Ed learns the responsibilities of parenthood when he begins caring for a lost bear cub. Maurice discovers that Cicely's population is declining. Chris uses a device that allows him to manipulate his dreams and work out some issues in his relationship with Maggie. Michelle waitresses at the Brick while continuing to work out her issues with Phil.

star 7.95
19 votes
Directors: Patrick McKee
Writers: Sam Egan
It Happened in Juneau

#20 - It Happened in Juneau

Season 3 - Episode 21

Joel foresees sophisticated delights when he travels to Juneau for a medical conference but winds up with good old Maggie, meanwhile back in Cicely, Chris finds himself tongue-tied with the return of Bernard, his cosmic doppelganger.

star 7.93
58 votes
Writers: Robert Rabinowitz, David Assael
A-Hunting We Will Go

#21 - A-Hunting We Will Go

Season 3 - Episode 8

Joel decides to explore the fascination of hunting by accompanying Chris and Holling on their annual pilgrimage. Ed becomes worried and over solicitous when he learns that Ruth-Anne is seventy-five years old.

star 7.93
70 votes
Love's Labour Mislaid

#22 - Love's Labour Mislaid

Season 4 - Episode 17

Maggie forgets about having sex with Joel. Holling and Ruth-Anne go out to find a Siberian Tit, a bird rarely seen in Alaska. Ed's uncle arranges a marriage for Ed; however the bride already has a boyfriend.

star 7.93
42 votes
Directors: Joe Napolitano
Writers: Jeff Melvoin

#23 - Homesick

Season 4 - Episode 20

Maggie is excited when she thinks she has "cured" her latest beau, as opposed to killing him; however she is crushed when he tells her that he leaving to work for Greenpeace in Murmansk. Holling is disgusted by Shelly's redecorating of their bed & bathroom. Maurice moves his childhood home to Cicely and it stirs up memories of his brother.

star 7.93
38 votes
Directors: Nick Marck
Writers: Jeff Vlaming
Full Upright Position

#24 - Full Upright Position

Season 6 - Episode 7

Maurice welcomes his young cousin Maurice to Cicely, hopefully to take over the family business. Charges of static electricity generate a new interest--and a new art project-- for Chris. Meanwhile sparks fly between Joel and Maggie on a Russian airline bound for St. Petersburg, where Joel is scheduled to speak at a medical convention.

star 7.92
23 votes
Directors: Oz Scott
Writers: Mitchell Burgess, Robin Green
Sleeping With the Enemy

#25 - Sleeping With the Enemy

Season 4 - Episode 24

Maurice's son comes to ask for his permission on his choice of a bride. There is a little hitch, Ron thinks that the new bride maybe the daughter of North Korean Colonel Pak Soon Ye, the butcher of Yang Dok. To help in the preservation of his native tongue, Ed decides to dub The Prisoner of Zenda. Holling's "needs" (an average of 4 times a day) are being held back and he seeks a way to relieve them. Ed runs into trouble with the star of his movie, a man with experience working in Hollywood and no time for Ed's inexperience. Maurice runs into mixed emotions on his feelings about his own personal feelings and the feelings of his son.

star 7.91
36 votes
Directors: Frank Prinzi
Writers: Mitchell Burgess, Robin Green