"An Angel on My Tree"

A review by Jenni:

I couldn't decide whether to watch this today or not as I could see it being a minefield of plot points that could set me off.  However, I really couldn't think of what else to do.  Today is John Dye's memorial service (my prayers are with everyone there in Amory) and I figured watching TBAA was a good way to remember him.  Not that my remembering him really needs any assistance.  I'm quite confident that if I never saw another image of him again, I'd still remember him for as long as I have my memories.

What I love about this episode:
This episode makes me nostalgic for more than the obvious reasons.  A thriving mall!  I remember the days!  We actually have a Crossroads mall but it's like a ghost town.  Malls just aren't a big thing here any more.

I so wish I'd watched this episode before Christmas.  I needed to hear what Tess said about getting so caught up in the trappings of Christmas.  Too many of us do.  The story of Christmas is so important to me but it seems like the older I get, the longer my seasonal to-do list becomes.  I didn't feel at all calmed down and peaceful from early December until the evening of January 10th when all that pre-, present-, and post-Christmas craziness ceased.  (And, yes, I do get the significance of that date and don't quite understand it.)

I think it's really cute when Kathy is so worried about whether or not Tess will hire her and Tess just, ever so calmly, asks if she knows what side of tape is sticky.  I love Tess in this episode.  It's also way cool that she ups Kathy's pay from $7.25 to $8.25.  (Though I have to say I was pretty impressed even with $7.25 for it being 2000).  And then when she tells Kathy "I'm a gift-wrapper, not a judge," it's really great.  I love that TBAA depicted the angels as non-judgmental.

"Ya gotta take the miracles where you can find them."  A lovely quote from Andrew.  I couldn't agree more and I love the twang.

One reason I was hesitant to watch this is I recently lost someone who had Tourette's.  So combine that with the sadness over John Dye, the talk about losing a child (I can't stop thinking of his parents), and my desire to return to a Christmas that was hectic but at least less sad and I thought this may be an awful episode to watch right now.  But, really, I did okay.  And now, more than ever, I am grateful to TBAA for doing an episode that depicted Tourette's in a non-stereotypical fashion.  Yes, some people cuss.  But that's only one of many forms.  It breaks my heart to think of some of the ribbing people with the syndrome get and I think if there was more on TV like this, things would be better for them. 

I could relate so much to Kathy's desire to wake up and have everything be normal.  I've felt that so often in the face of grief and disappointment.  There's an intense desire to hit rewind and just keep everything as it once was.

I think it's adorable when Monica does the "Who's on First?" routine with Cody.  I am glad she dropped the phony accent, though!  Still, it was cool how she bonded with him over Abbott and Costello.

"Everyone can use a friend now and then."  Right on, Monica.  I couldn't agree more.  One positive thing I can say about these past 11 days is that I've rediscovered how awesome my friends are.

When Sally talks about facing Christmas without her son, that was the first moment I thought maybe I would be in trouble.  But it went okay.  And something about Tess saying "You never stop loving them.  You never stop missing them," helped. 

"Throw love at hate, baby."  Another good one from Tess to Sally.

"Christmas is a night of miracles."  Andrew's our miracle man in this episode.  He always was.

I thought it was sweet that Cassie immediately recognized Monica and Tess as angels.  There was no awe or surprise.  She believed angels might come, she wished for them, and, of course, they did come!  I miss the innocence of childhood when an angel dropping in seemed oh-so-possible.

The following is my favorite Monica quote of the episode.  She delivers it to Cody: "God doesn't make mistakes.  What God sees as perfect is very different from what the world sees.  The world sees faces that are beautiful and ugly.  The world sees bodies that are strong and weak.  The world sees people succeed or fail.  But God sees hearts.  He sees the love in your soul.  He sees the beauty in your spirit and that's the only thing that finally matters."  Naturally, those last few lines reminded me of JD a lot.

I teared up when Cody told Monica he wanted to go up to Heaven.  It's such a relatable moment.  Sometimes faith can be painful.  We know there's better, much better, for us.  But we can't be there yet.  So we focus on what Monica tells us to: God wants to live with us here on Earth, we have things to do, and we have people to love.  Life on earth can be beautiful until it comes time to enter into even greater Beauty. 

What I didn't love about this episode:
Honestly, I feel like a lot of my cynicism and propensity to zero in on nitpicky things has just gone away.  Maybe it'll stay that way. 

It would have been nice to have more Andrew screen time, of course.

Lingering questions:
When they're watching a Christmas cartoon, Monica tells the two younger Benson children that she was "at a party like that" meaning the Nativity.  Now... was she speaking of the actual birth of Jesus or was that reference to the awesome Nativity in "Fear Not!"?

Is physical anger always bad?  Where are the limits?  Obviously violence directed at a living creature is bad.  But how is Joe punching a hole in the wall really any different from Andrew bashing the puter or even Jesus' anger in the Temple?  Or is the only difference that Andrew and Jesus would never redirect that anger at a person but Joe obviously was capable of doing that?

Parts that made me feel swoony:
I honestly considered just not watching TBAA for a while cause I knew it would be painful.  But, strangely, the weekend before John died, I'd watched the film Creation again.  And I'm really struck by the part where Darwin and Annie (who is deceased) are in his work room and he has that box that he won't open.  And Annie asks him if that's because she's in the box.  As it turns out, Darwin's notes he took as lil Annie grew are in the box.  And, thus, he can't bring himself to open it for fear his grief for his daughter will take over.  But he only begins to heal when he revisits her life and her death.  So... I'm taking my cues from movie Darwin.  I refuse to pack away everything attached to John and ignore it as if doing so will make everything better.  It will not.

That being said... I can't help but sigh whenever Andrew first walks on screen.  And it's a different sigh than on previous occasions.  (If you don't know that John Dye could easily make me sigh... you don't know me!)  Still, he's lovely and while it's painful to see him, it'd be more painful not to.  When the news first broke, I remember thinking "He helped me through every death but he can't help me through his!"  But that's not true.  And it was a disrespectful thing to think.  He can.  But only if I, and all of us, let him. 

Red was really an awesome color for Andrew.  He looks quite nice in his second scene.  I mean he looks very nice in the first, too.  Kinda studious.  But that red shirt really pops.

It's somewhat pathetic that I'd start getting excited whenever I'd see the exterior of the prison.  Here was my thought process: "Electric fence and prison yard!  Yippee!  Andrew will be on soon!  YAY!!!" 

I love, love, love when Andrew confronts Joe in his cell.  He's so freaking persistent.  And when he feigns disgust over Cody...  Not only was Mr. Dye a fantastic actor but so was Andrew!  And he never bats an eye lash, never feels any fear.  He just keeps egging Joe on until he makes him realize that his anger is really directed at his father who called him a retard.  Though, I must say, it was pretty jarring to hear Andrew use that word.  But, again, that only highlights both levels of great acting.  He's so riled as the scene progresses that I could barely look away to jot notes.

He's lovely when he tears up at the end.  Andrew's compassion and tenderness were two of the major reasons I could never let this show go.

Random thoughts:

Music: My concentration is still shot but I did pick some up.  An instrumental "Joy to the World" is played at the mall during the opening.  "O Christmas Tree" is heard at the mall, too.  Later you hear an instrumental "Jingle Bells" at the Benson residence.  Finally, the episode ends with Kenny Rogers' "All That You Could Be."  And that song reminded me of John, too.  Except I'm sure now he knows how beautiful so many people thought he was.  And we still think it.

Molly is the name of Cassie's doll.  One never knows when that may be good to know...  My Jeopardy players have hopefully caught onto the random trivia I put in this section.  Here's another: the wrapping station Kathy and Tess work at is called "X-Mas Wrap."  And this episode is set in Idaho.

This ep made me want to watch Campus Man what with the general desire to surround myself with John Dye projects and Kathleen Wilhoite guest-starring.

Someone on TBAA has it out for Christmas tree-toppers! 

Scenes Hallmark cut:
-Right after Andrew gives Joe the Angel Tree forms, they cut a scene of Joe affectionately greeting Kathy and the two younger children in the prison visiting room.  During this scene, he asks the kids what they would like for Christmas.  At first they say they don't need anything but when he pushes the boy reveals that his classmates are into baseball and that he hopes when his dad is out he can teach him and be his coach.  Cassie tells her dad that Molly needs a new dress.  It then goes to Cody watching Abbott and Costello which THC has.

-Usually THC cuts an entire scene or at the beginning or end of one.  But here they actually cut into a scene.  It's the segment where Cody tells Monica he admires the Frankenstein routine over "Who's On First?"  They get to talking and after Monica pokes at Cody to show his tics really aren't a big deal, he laughs.  She tells him he has a lovely laugh.  He tells her how he used to make the kids at school laugh.  He goes onto say it was his dream to become a comedian so people would laugh with his jokes and not at his tics.  She tells him it's a wonderful dream and then asks about decorating the tree.  THC cuts all the laughing/dream dialogue.

-Following the scene wherein Mr. Dye gives an awesome performance as Andrew giving an awesome performance as a cretin, there was originally a super-brief scene of Monica approaching Cody's bedroom door to check on him.  He repeats" Everything's okay" but comes out looking totally spaced and troubled.  He hands her the bottle of his pills and walks away.  End scene. 

Further on down the road...
So we're dealing with record heat here in Nebraska.  I guess that means it's a good time to watch a Christmas episode and stare lustily at winter wear, dreaming of the day when one can wear a sweater without passing out.

Ya know, we've had our fair share of locally high profile crimes.  I often can't remember the faces of the perps and don't have the foggiest what any of their family members looked like... even if I saw them on the news.  So am I just bad with that?  Or maybe this town just has so little crime that the manslaughter trial was pretty much all that was on their news?

I would freak out if my husband (if I had one!) punched a hole in a wall.  That's not cool.

Maybe this episode could double as a lengthy PSA on the value of crafting.  In my family, we woulda just made an angel tree-topper and wouldn't have even ended up at the store.

It still gives me chills when Andrew really lights into Joe and eggs him on.  He's shorter than Joe but in that profile shot, he looks downright intimidating!  And then by the next scene, they look like friends sitting there together.  Sigh... Lovely Andrew.

I have got to remember to try to find an Angel Tree this year.  I haven't had reason to buy for lil ones in a long time.  I miss it.  And what better way to reclaim it than by giving back?

I wonder what the angels' feelings on Christmas really were?  Was it total joy?  Or was it a mix?  For thirty odd years, they weren't going to be able to talk to Jesus.  Would it feel anything like a military parent getting deployed... but for decades?  And then who knows what they knew about what was going to happen?  If they knew even the gist... did they feel that sorrow already?  Or no? 

I miss the jacket paired with jeans look.  Is that still a thing?

It just occurred to me that this is the last "normal" TBAA Christmas episode.  Well, unless you count "Angels Anonymous."  But "A Winter Carol" and "A Christmas Watch" are both very much part of "the new normal" that came after 9/11. 

Back to the Episode Guide

(The photographs used on this page are from "Touched by an Angel" and owned by CBS Productions, Caroline Productions, and Moon Water Productions. They are not being used to seek profit.)