Season 5, Episode 7: Tender Age

Thanksgiving Dinner

The credits: scott bairstow, jennifer aspen, jacob smith, willie garson, scott paetty, and tim dekay, david hart, amanda wilmshurst, edited by stephen potter, costume designer scilla andreen-hernandez, production designer bill eigenbrodt, director of photography joe pennella, co-producer valerie joseph, producer daniel attias, producer paul marks, supervising producer steven robman, consulting producer p.k. simonds, co-executive producer tammy ader, executive producer ken topolsky, executive producer john romano, written by john romano, directed by ken topolsky.
Transcribed by Rachel

Salinger House
Bailey is on the phone with Sarah. He is trying to get her to come for Thanksgiving. He needs her to make up the list of things to be thankful for, but she doesn't feel like she has much to be thankful for. She can't come, she's just going to try to catch up on her sleep.

The Mall
Owen and Charlie are in a toy store. Owen is checking out a toy gun. Charlie calls him the Terminator, but Owen informs him that he is a Thunder Trooper. Charlie tells Thunder Trooper Owen that they are on a priority baby mission for Thunder Trooper Diana. Owen asks if he can get the gun, but Charlie thinks $20 is too much for a plastic gun. He says he'll build Owen a better one out of wood. Owen asks to go on the merry-go-round. Charlie agrees to let him go one time while he calls home to Daphne.

Charlie is on the phone with Daphne while Owen rides on the merry-go-round. She's worried about making dinner for everyone. He tries to reassure her, Julia and Kirsten will be there soon to help out. She's still unsure. He tells her he'll be home soon. He hangs up as the ride ends. Charlie looks for Owen, but he's no where to be found. Charlie finds Owen's horse with his sweater on it, but no Owen. He starts to grow more panicked as the ride starts up and Owen is gone.


Charlie searches the mall. Owen is no where to be found. He sees a little boy he thinks is Owen, but when he gets to him it is another little boy.

Ned hates Thanksgiving at his house. They go to the golf club. Julia asks him to come to her house. He thinks he should go home. Going to her house is a big step. She laughs at him. If he's worried about her brothers grilling him, he shouldn't but if he's wondering if Griffin is going to be there, he should just ask her. He does. No, Griffin won't be there. He feels as weird about it as Ned does. She asks him again if he wants to come.

Toy store
Charlie goes back to the toy aisle to see if Owen went back there. He asks the clerk if she saw him. She remembers them being there, but she can't remember if he's been back. As Charlie searches further an announcement that the mall will close at 1 pm comes on.

Kirsten and Paul's apartment
Paul doesn't want to go to the Salinger's for Thanksgiving. He thinks Kirsten spends too much time there. She tells him they needed her help with the baby. Paul wonders when they don't need her. She says if he is wants to talk about Charlie leaning on her too much it will have to wait until another day because it's Thanksgiving. He says they will definitely talk about it. Anyway, the option is bailing on the Salingers and going to Dr. Patel's and listen him talk about the article he's writing for the Journal of Dermatology while his wife sleeps in her folding chair. They'll get curry takeout, which she likes, but it is Thanksgiving. Paul agrees to go to the Salingers. She kisses him.

Security office
Charlie meets with the security officer. The officer asks if Owen would wander off, if Charlie has checked the food court. He has and Owen wouldn't. He asks Charlie what Owen was wearing. Charlie isn't sure.

Daphne is on the phone with Claudia who is in Massachusetts. She talks to Claudia while changing the baby's diaper. The call waiting beeps. It's Charlie. He tells Daphne about Owen. He says they'll find him, he just needs to know what Owen was wearing. She can't remember either. She tells him that Claudia is on the other line. Charlie tells Daphne to get rid of her without letting her know what's going on. She tells Claudia that it's the baby's doctor and gets rid of her. She gets back on with Charlie. Bailey comes into the kitchen and picks up on what is happening. The baby starts crying. Bay can't remember what he's wearing, but does come up with a striped shirt. Bailey takes off to help find him. He runs into Griffin who goes along. Daphne calls after them to bring a picture.

The announcer calls for Owen to come to the security office. Charlie watches the screens in the security office. Owen's been gone for 45 minutes. The officer said he'll call 911 in 5 minutes. Charlie tells him to call right now.

Julia and Ned bring in the groceries. Julia says not to worry about anyone grilling him at dinner, they're all to tied up in their own conversations to even listen to what he's saying. She wonders where everyone is. Daphne comes in and tells them about Owen.

Police Officer Flaherty responds to the call. Charlie can't believe they only sent over one cop. He is it, for now. He was on patrol nearby so they called him in on a tender age missing. Charlie asks what "tender age" is. It's a missing child under the age of ten. If they need more units, he'll call them. He asks if Charlie and Owen were fighting, if there was any reason why Owen would run away. Charlie says no. He asks if there is trouble at home. Charlie says no. Bailey and Griffin show up. Bailey has the picture. He asks if the officer got the description of the shirt. The officer did. He says he's calling in more units. It's past the hour and a quarter mark and if Charlie didn't think he ran away they have two options. Either he's lost or it's a worst case scenario. Bailey asks what that is. The officer says that he's been abducted.

Officer Flaherty divides the mall into a grid system. Some time has elapsed and Julia, Ned, Kirsten and Paul have joined the search. Each of them will go with a police officer and systematically search the mall in case Owen is lost. They make copies of Owen's picture and they'll show them to everyone in the mall. Kirsten and Paul go to make more copies. Everyone goes out to search except Charlie who stays in the booth monitoring the screens.

Bailey grills the Santa Claus. Bailey can't believe Santa wouldn't know if he was there or not. Charlie pulls him away and tells him to calm down. Bailey accuses Charlie of not paying attention to Owen. Charlie tries to defend himself, but Bay is too upset to be reasonable. He can't believe Charlie didn't even know what he was wearing. Bay was practically asleep when he saw him and he knew better than Charlie. Charlie says he had about 18 million things on his mind. Bay points out that Owen wasn't one of them. He stalks off.

Julia, Griffin and Ned are searching with a police officer. Julia says she has been at the mall with Owen and she knows the places he likes to go. Ned suggests the sports store, but Julia says he's too young to be into that kind of stuff. Griffin remembers that he wanted some model airplanes for his room. Griffin and Julia go off to the model airplane store while Ned goes with the police officer.

Paul and Kirsten make copies of the picture. She took the picture 3 months ago at the beach at Bolinas. She brushed his hair when they got home. She told him he had such thick hair and the girls would love his hair. She was teasing him and he got all embarrassed. She starts to cry. Paul tries to comfort her, but she says she's okay.

Charlie continues looking at the screens. Officer Flaherty offers him coffee, but Charlie feels like he should be doing something else. The officer tells him the best thing to do is to watch the screens. Charlie tells him about how he raised Owen, how he's always been there. He can't even think about if something awful would happen. He doesn't hear him saying that they'll find his brother. Flaherty says that chances are that they will find him. He doesn't know what Charlie is going through, but he has two kids of his own. He has a boy Owen's age and a baby girl. Charlie says he does too. Flaherty comments that neither one of them is getting any sleep. Charlie says he was on the phone about her when . . . he can't believe he was that stupid. Flaherty says it's a waste of time to blame himself, but he wants to find Owen in the next hour. Charlie asks why. The shift ends in the next hour and then Missing persons takes over, they have a lot of cases and with the holiday they won't have a full force. He would just rather find Owen now rather than later.

Bailey calls Sarah, but gets their machine. He leaves a message that Owen is missing and they could really use another set of eyes. They need her or he wouldn't call. He needs her.

Claudia calls again. She wonders why Daphne is the only one home. Daphne tries to make an excuse, but Claudia isn't buying it. To stall Daphne asks her for help on how to make the yams.

Bailey passes out Owen's picture. He comes across a Chinese woman and her daughter. The woman says "boy not okay." Her daughter explains that she doesn't speak English. With the daughter translating they find out that a small boy was dragged out of the mall by a man. The boy was crying, but she doesn't recognize the boy in the picture. Bailey asks what the boy was wearing. He had on a striped shirt. They take her to Officer Flaherty.

Flaherty takes her statement. They don't have to worry about the shift change anymore. Mrs. Chao's statement is a positive indication of an abduction and that buys they every cop in the town. Everyone is back in the security office. The stripe shirt doesn't tell them for sure that it was Owen, but the description of the man (Caucasian and very heavy-set) fits the description of the man they're looking for in an abduction case 2 months earlier about 1/4 of a mile from their. They will send them out, two to a unit. He tells Charlie to stay behind and he needs Bailey to search the basement with him. Ned offers to go, but Julia points out that he doesn't know Owen. Griffin offers to go as well.

The cops go out into the neighborhood searching. Ned and Griffin search a construction site. Griffin remembers that Owen has been wearing red sneakers. Ned hopes Owen isn't wandering around in the building, the scaffolding looks dangerous. Griffin asks why he doesn't think Owen was taken, he doesn't think Owen would run off like that. Ned gets defensive that Griffin thinks he knows the family so well, but Griffin points out that he is married to Julia. Ned points out that he's the guy with Julia now. Griffin thinks they should split up and circle back around.

Daphne answers the phone. It's Claudia again. She just wants to talk to someone. She can't believe they aren't there, something must be wrong. Daphne asks her how to make pie crust. Claudia begs for her to put somebody on. Daphne tells her what's going on.

Bailey is on the phone with Claudia. She wants to come home. Bay tells her not to. By the time she gets there, they will have found Owen. She can't believe that she is so far away when the family needs her. The officer asks Bay to come search the basement.

Kirsten and Paul are passing out flyers. A woman hassles Paul about handing her something. He tries to apologize, but Kirsten is irate. Paul accuses her of being hysterical. She gets upset and tells him to not tell her to calm down and to never apologize for her, ever. She storms off.

Charlie is still watching the screens. Bailey comes back and tells him that Daphne told Claudia. Charlie thinks Claudia has a right to know. Bailey can't believe that he's defending Daphne. Charlie says she screwed up, he screwed up. Does Bailey think everyone messes up except him? He tells Bay to get back out and start looking. Bailey tells him if he wants to get mad, he should get mad at himself. Charlie is. Flaherty comes in. A boy has been brought into a hospital badly beaten and in a coma. They can't ID him off the picture, but somebody who knows him could. Charlie says he'll go, but Bailey tells him to stay on the monitors. He gets ready to leave, but Flaherty tells him to take someone with him. Even if it isn't Owen, he'll need somebody there for support. Sarah shows up at the door. She'll go with him.

Bailey and Sarah go in to look at the child. There are bandages swathing his face. The nurse lifts them up. It isn't Owen. He's so relieved. He hugs Sarah. He thanks God. Sarah points out that he's somebody's Owen. Bay gets a hold of Charlie and tells him the good news.

Kirsten keeps handing out notices while they announce that the mall will close in 15 minutes.

Flaherty comes in. They have searched everywhere. Charlie disagrees. They have 15 minutes left and he's staying right there.

Julia keeps looking while the announcement comes that the mall will close in 10 minutes.

Kirsten searches cars in the lot while Paul looks in the dumpster.

Sarah and Bailey are driving back from the hospital. Bailey tells her if they had a baby, no matter when he would love the baby and want it. She tells him that they will find Owen.

Griffin and Ned come back from the neighborhood search. Griffin asks if they will keep searching. Ned and Julia find each other. She's upset and he takes her in his arms while trying to reassure her. Griffin walks up, seeing them he turns and leaves.

Flaherty comes to get Charlie. It's time to go. Charlie walks out leaving Owen's sweater on the control panel. As they leave we see them on the monitor. Charlie doesn't want to leave where he lost him. Flaherty tries to comfort him. The lights go out in the mall and the doors come down on the stores. Flaherty asks what he's going to do. He's going to get in his truck and drive around. He knows Flaherty's shift has been over for a while and the thanks him for sticking around. Flaherty says he doesn't have to be home right away, he'll drive around too. The radio comes on in his patrol car. A tender age has turned up in a homeless shelter down by Market.

Charlie and Flaherty make their way into the shelter. Charlie finds Owen and gives him a hug. He asks if Owen is okay. He says he is and asks if he can have his pie before dinner. Charlie laughs and hugs him again. Charlie asks how he got there. Flaherty says that Owen was with a street guy named Leon. Charlie gets mad at Leon, but Leon says Owen followed him. Flaherty says the doctor checked Owen out and nothing happened. Owen got off the merry-go-round and followed the guy at the construction site. He wouldn't tell Leon his name or his address. Charlie thanks the guy for watching out for him.

Owen asks if Charlie is mad at him. He asks Owen what the rule is. If he's in a big place and turns around and doesn't see Charlie he's supposed to stay where he is or ask a policeman. He isn't supposed to go looking for Charlie, that's how kids get lost. He doesn't understand how this happened, because Owen definitely knows his name and his address. He doesn't get why Owen wouldn't tell Leon. Owen says he wasn't lost. He didn't want to be on the mission, the baby mission. They always have to do stuff for the baby. She gets his room and he couldn't get his gun. They can only get stuff for Diana and Charlie called her Thunder trooper Diana and she's a baby. Charlie agrees, he's the only Thunder Trooper in the house.

Salinger house
Charlie and Owen come in and everyone hugs and kisses him.

Ned and Griffin are sitting at the table. Julia comes in and says that everyone worked, so everyone should stay and eat. Griffin makes his excuses. Julia tries again to get him to stay. Ned doesn't mind. Griffin says he doesn't like Ned. He doesn't know why, he just doesn't like him. He leaves.

While Julia, Ned, Daphne and Charlie finish up dinner Paul comes over to apologize to Kirsten. Paul feels bad about the way he acted, but if he had to look in a dumpster for his own says to him that he could never be a father. Kirsten looks disappointed.

Living room
Sarah is making her list of things to be thankful for. They have finding Owen and baby Diana. Bailey asks if they belong on the list. She asks what he's asking. She was there when he was losing it and when he turned around she was there. He wonders if they are okay. She kisses him. Ned announces dinner is ready.

Charlie asks Owen to sit next to him. Charlie asks what he's thinking about. He's thinking about Leon and the superlaser detonator blaster. Charlie says it's on his Christmas list. Owen tells him he lost his sweater. Charlie says he has it ...somewhere. The phone rings. It's Claudia. She talks to Owen, she just had to hear his voice. Owen tells her he got into trouble. But, he's definitely going to get the superlaser detonator blaster. The family calls Owen back to the table where they start to eat dinner.


This was a fine effort by new executive producer and first-time scribe John Romano. As a special treat it was also directed by executive producer Ken Topolsky. It is a mark of Ken's fine work that I can almost always tell immediately that it is his hand behind the camera. He gives the show a feel that no one else does. This episode is actually the 100th episode and I think it is a fitting hallmark.

The anxiety that Charlie and we as an audience feel is palatable. The terror of turning around and seeing Owen gone was almost horrifying. I didn't doubt for a minute that we would find Owen by the end of the hour, but I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what would happen.

So often the way we deal with our fear is to lash out at those close to us. Bailey does a fine job of this when he and Charlie get into it. He's scared that something awful has happened to Owen and so he does the only thing he can, he lashes out at Charlie. Not only does he attack his brother, but he also goes after Daphne. It is only the appearance of Sarah that calms him down at all.

I must admit that I don't have much to say about Julia and Ned. I don't get the relationship and I'm not feeling terribly invested in him. I did like seeing Griffin on the scene. He is actually the person having the most interaction with Owen these days and it was good to see his fear that something had happened to the little boy.

I appreciate seeing how Kirsten and Paul are dealing with her relationship with Charlie. For weeks we've seen Kirsten at Charlie's beck and call with nary a word from the long-suffering Paul. As it turns out it's not that he doesn't care or hadn't noticed, he's just been doing all of his complaining off-screen. His comments about Kirsten must have struck a nerve with Kirsten. We don't hear her talk about her mental health much, but it would only make sense that it is an ongoing struggle for her. Their conversation at the end and Paul's reiteration that he doesn't want children and the look on Kirsten's face tell me the tough times are not over for the two of them.

Jacob Smith did a wonderful job in this episode. I bought him as a five year old (now the fact that Owen is only 4 should bug me, but...) he looked like it, he acted like it. To me he was a five year old who has some serious issues with the person who has usurped his place as the baby in the family. It was an interesting twist to have him take off with a homeless person. Having spent a little bit of time in the Union Square/Market Street area where I think this was supposed to be taking place, there certainly would be an opportunity for that to happen.

Many times the show titles don't mean much, but I'm glad they used the "Tender Age" title. It has several meanings. First there is the legal definition that police used, but I would also argue that they are all at a tender age in their own way. Bailey and Sarah are trying to figure out how to go from high school loves to adult loves. Julia is trying to figure out what the heck she wants. Claudia is dealing with the reality of what it means to be away from her family at a time when it can be very important to be near them and Owen is trying to figure out what his place is in this new family.

As much as I liked the first 3/4 of this episode, I thought the end was pretty weak. The family's reaction to Owen's return was really trite and predictable. I would even go so far as to call it cheesy. The music was overpowering and it just seemed completely different from the rest of the show. It left me a little empty. I wish that they had gone over it one more time. [Okay, I watched this again to do the summary and I think it hangs together better than my initial reaction. I still don't like the scene where he comes in the house and they fawn over him, but the chaos of a household getting a holiday meal on the table and the phone call from Claudia seemed much better the second time.]

Happy 100th episode, Party of Five. I only wish there would be 100 more!

Copyright 1998 by Rachel Vagts. All rights reserved
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