"The Compass"

A review by Jenni:

What I love about this episode:

It's quite different from most other episodes in that there's no quiet, introductory scene.  It opens on the battlefield and so begins the chaotic pace of the entire episode.  Very fitting for an episode about war.

Round of applause, everyone!  The writers actually did a historical episode featuring all three of the angels and they didn't screw up their own time line!  Monica stresses that she's still in Search and Rescue.  Well done!  And her knowing Tess makes perfect sense since we know they met 6 years earlier.  Also good!  Further, Andrew is present but doesn't interact with Monica at all.  Sure, it's strange that he describes himself as a friend of Monica but I'm willing to excuse that as him just saying it to Joe to assure him and let him know he's an angel: not literally making a claim of close friendship. 

I love how this episode shows that angels were working on both sides during the War (and assumedly all wars) yet not actually on either side.  Monica tending for both the young German soldier and later Eddie drives the point home perfectly.

I was very touched by Monica's renditions of the future.  I got choked up when she told the men about how the sarge's wife would receive a telegram, call her children together, hang a gold star, etc. 

"Everyone has something to live for.  Something or someone."  Simple but profound quote from Monica to Joe.

The storytelling device of the good bye letters and resulting pact to deliver them was quite good.  Not only did it allow us a glimpse into the lives of these men but also allowed for Joe's character to really evolve.  And, of course, it reminds us of the sacrifices that were made.

Wow.  This is even more profound than I realized.  I can remember from when this first aired how moving I found Monica's recitation of the psalm during the second big battle.  I didn't realize, however, until just this moment that it was Psalm 27... the same psalm I used for "House of the Lord" and had recited twice in that.  Monica used a bit different translation.

Rupert's part was awesome.  I love how it all ties together in the end.

Monica again gives a vision of the future in the abandoned house.  Her recitation of how Stella will keep and treasure Eddie's letter made me choke up... again.

I love that Monica displays sympathy for Joe's shattered childhood yet insists he has a choice to become a good man.  I think we need to have understanding for those who had struggles in their past.  However, it's also important to realize that at some point they do need to become responsible for their own life path.  I'm glad TBAA didn't ever give people a pass out of sympathy.

"Aww!" to the shot of Joe and Rupert holding hands.

"There's no such thing as an American angel."  That quote grabbed me from the second I first heard Andrew utter it.  On the surface you almost wanna say "Well, duh..."  Yet, I think of it often.  It really is very profound.  Angels transcend every division we humans have created and that's an amazing, even radical thing.

The final scenes from 1944.  This isn't an easy ending.  It's very sad.  Yet, it's real.  It's what the ending needed to be.  Anyone who thinks TBAA always white-washed things... watch this episode.  A white-washed episode would have had Joe living, delivering the letters, consoling Stella, and living a long life as testament to his buddies.  But that's not the ending many men and women who serve get.

Joe, via the letter Monica pens, telling Rupert that he fought for him... wow.  Imagine being Rupert and receiving that.  I'm glad we got to see that Rupert grew up and never forgot the sacrifice Joe and so many others made nor lost sight of the ideals they fought for.

Finally, I like the idea that sometimes the angels revisit, on a confidential basis, past cases as Monica clearly does here by checking in with Rupert and Henry VIII.

What I didn't love about this episode:
It's horrible to watch Joe lie to Eddie and tell him that Stella was an "allotment Annie."  And it's terrible to think such women even existed.  I hope not many tried that cruel scheme.  I'm glad Monica slapped Joe.

Lingering questions:
I was going to ponder what the deal is with guys and pin-ups?  But the more I've thought about it, I guess I kinda get it.  At first it seemed weird to me that they'd bicker about who got to have the pin-up on their person.  Now I'm seeing it was more symbolic.  Rita Hayworth represented home and comfort and beauty and the hope for love and closeness, etc.  And... it made me remember a particularly rotten time in high school during which I had a photo of JD hidden in my book bag.  It always lightened my mood.  So it makes sense to me. 

Okay, as I said above, I'm glad Monica slapped Joe.  However... how does that not receive a tongue lashing from Tess and yet Andrew's impassioned pleas merely incite someone else's violence in "The Violin Lesson" and he gets cussed out???  True, Monica did apologize so maybe we just didn't see her get lectured.  But still...  That TVL scene continues to bug me.  And it sure seems
like a double standard in light of this.

Do you spose at some point Monica and Andrew went through their past cases and discovered how close they'd been on a few?  Like here and "The Sky is Falling."

Parts that made me feel swoony:
If I didn't like this episode so much, I would rant for a while about how scarce Andrew is.  But I do like it.  And his one scene contains one of my favorite quotes from him.  So while I miss his presence elsewhere in the episode, I can't complain.  Even if the entire rest of the episode was crud (it's not), then it would be worth watching just to hear/see his delivery of the "no such thing" line.

That being said, this episode makes me think how hard WWII must have been for Andrew.  We know he was in Auschwitz, took one of his beloved Masons Home, and buried bodies.  Ah, and was seemingly involved with the Battle of Guadalcanal per "Wind Beneath My Wings."  Not to mention assignments dated from that era that weren't expressly war related.  I think if I think too much about all of that, it would not be good so I'll leave it there. 

Random thoughts:
Music: "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" is sung by a trio of women during the USO dance.  Also at the dance, Tess sings Irving Berlin's "Always."  Everyone in the Underground sings "(There'll Be Bluebirds Over) The White Cliffs of Dover."

The guy playing Joe reminded me of Christian Bale in some, and only some, shots.  Ha.  I just realized his first name *is* Christian.

Hallmark Channel, in their infinite wisdom and as testimony to their artistic integrity, had a Thanksgiving turkey logo running through this episode... sometimes blocking characters' faces.  I didn't even bother taking caps of those shots.  I tried to photoshop it out of others that had it on sleeves and such but if these shots look odd... you know why.  Ridiculous.  I've had to do it with other episodes and logos, too, but this one is really vexing.

Scenes Hallmark cut:
-After the flashback showing Joe cutting in on Eddie's and Stella's dance, it goes back to the battlefield.  The men are walking and Homer asks for the picture of Rita but Joe refuses to turn it over saying that, since Eddie stole his girl, Rita is all he has.  Eddie tells Joe to hand it over but he refuses again.  Then the men move into battle.  Hallmark starts with the men already exchanging fire.
-After Joe asks if anyone wants a last smoke, the guys talk about getting to Paris.  Only a lil bit of this makes it into the episode.  The blonde guy (Nick, I think) starts talking about meeting a mademoiselle which THC kept.  But after that he talks about buying his mother Chanel perfume and shows Monica his "Mom" tattoo.  Eddie shows her a photo of him and Stella.  Nick tells Monica she smells good.  She offers to change the bandages on his arm and he consents.  Homer comments that Monica has hair like Rita Hayworth's.  Nick again tells Joe to give Homer the photo, he doesn't.  Joe mocks a photo of a woman he finds on a dead German soldier.  THC picks the scene back up with Homer calling the Germans.

Further on down the road:
Two things before I start: 1. It's after 10 PM and I usually don't start watching episodes that late but I'm insomniac right now so here I am.  2.  I am so looking forward to watching this episode without the stupid Hallmark Channel turkey.

That part still really gets to me when Monica talks about the Sarge's wife receiving a telegram and gathering her children around her...

Every time I hear Tess singing "Always" now, I think of Severus Snape.  Sheesh.

Still get goosebumps when they splice the battle shots with Monica reciting the psalm.

The lie about Stella is grotesque.  Geez.  I can't imagine saying that to a dying man.  And I'm still not sure I think Monica's slap was entirely wrong.  He needed to be shut up pronto.  But, yeah, I guess violence isn't the best way to do that.

As much as I like Monica in this episode, it is weird to me to see her so poised when she was still pretty naive and chirpy in the 90s.

As glad as I am that Joe did go get the letters... it does come off as being mind controllish.  I wish there'd been more shown to bring about his change.  As it is, it looks like Monica's stare and words are what do it cause of the look he gets before running off.  Makes the free will thing look a lil iffy.  Plus, she says it like it's a foregone conclusion and I guess God would know and could have told her but stating it that way to a human seems to limit personal choice.

I'd forgotten about that shot of Joe and Rupert holding hands.  Very sweet.

Finally Andrew...  I wish he'd been in this episode more.  Really I just wish we'd seen more of his WWII time.  Or maybe I don't.  I think he'd say I probably don't want to.  That "No such thing" line still gets me.

I think this is one of my favorite endings to an episode... I guess just because I'm a big fan of flash forwards.  Maybe also because I like dramatic irony.

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