Weaving Tangled Webs

Season 1, Episode 5


(Professional and crisp) Hello.  You have reached Samantha Hugo at the Environmental Planning Commission.  I'm out of the office right now, but please leave me your name and the nature of your inquiry.  Please wait for the beep.  Thank you.



(Sarcastic tone) Samantha it's me, Susan.  I thought you'd be in by now.  Listen I think I've found somebody who can track down that important person you need to find.  I'll be in the office later.  Save a couple of private moments for me.

Many shows begin with a “Teaser” and Milford-Haven was no exception. The way I let our audience know how the episode would begin was by using a specific outgoing announcement, then having the caller leave a message.

Telephone answering devices were ubiquitous in the 1990s, and they marked a huge societal shift: no one had to stay at the office, or stay home, to be sure to catch important calls. Eventually, we could even retrieve the messages remotely. Most people still didn’t have one of those new-fangled cell phones, so answering machines were the best way to experience greater freedom.

Recording an outgoing message became a talent of its own. If you expected business calls, of course you tried to sound professional—and Samantha Hugo certainly did. If you wanted your personal friends to actually leave you a message without hanging up, you might try something warm and friendly. I once wrote a message-machine Jazz scat song and recorded it for my outgoing message. Everyone loved it—so much so, that when I got home, I’d hear people say “You gotta listen to this” in the background, then there’d be laughter, then a hang-up. So it was fun, but not very practical.

Techniques for leaving good incoming messages had to be honed, too. And these were more difficult, because you couldn’t rehearse. You just had to leave it on the fly. People are so accustomed to this nowadays that it probably doesn’t seem like a big thing.

In this episode, Susan Winslow is, as usual, unafraid to show her snippy attitude, even toward her boss. In fact, Susan made a career of insulting people she knew, while being smoothly convincing with strangers. Ultimately, she was an asset in the office of Environmental Planning, but it was fun to hear her struggle with manners when her favorite default setting was “rude.”

Susan’s attitude, her predilection for overhearing things she wasn’t supposed to, Samantha holding a very important secret for years, then deciding to take Susan into her confidence, while keeping it from Jack Sawyer . . . all these cris-crossing storylines were part of “weaving tangled webs.”

In real life, Sally Rainer played Samantha and brought both professional coolness and emotional warmth to her character, sometimes all at once. She was a formidable boss for Susan, but also a true mentor, determined to offer her young charge opportunities. Find out more about Sally Rainer here.

Marcy McFee played Susan, bringing a haunting sense of a young woman lost and overlooked both by her own Native Chumash culture, and by the largely Caucasian culture in which she lived and worked. To cover her inner anxieties, Susan often lashed out at others, becoming a character the listeners “loved to hate” because of her annoying post-teen angst and entitlement.

But as the character developed, they also cheered her on as she discovered core values. Marcy’s character Susan interacted frequently with the character “Notes”—played by her real-life husband John McFee of the Doobie Brothers. Find out more about Marcy McFee here:

As you listen to Milford-Haven, have fun listening to both sides of the non-conversation that begins each episode.

So now . . download the episode
or purchase Season 1

Tune in to your favorite device, and join us in . . . Milford-Haven!