"The Empty Chair"
A review by Jenni:
I will seriously spend a lot of this review talking about Andrew
in Omaha. Fair warning.
What I love about this episode:
The very title of this episode is so sad and poignant and
evocative. The idea of an empty chair just brings up so many
emotions. So I think this is definitely one of the better
I like what Tess says about how marriages end because of all the
unspoken words. But I think that's true of all
relationships, not just marriages.
I also like how Tess tells Monica that sometimes people need to
hear the truth from angels but other times they need to speak the
truth to them. I find myself really drawn to the latter
trope in my stuff for JABB where Andrew often simply listens as a
human character unloads the truth... or at least their version of
Ha!!! I totally forgot this was set in Omaha! Andrew's
been to my hometown! Why didn't I throw myself at him when I
had the chance?!?! Oh right... I was 18 and probly in
OMG! They even reference Children's Hospital! I've
been there! And, apparently, so has Tess!
Yay, comfort food! I don't much care for meatloaf but bring
on grilled cheese and tomato soup, macaroni, and... children's
"Basements are marvelous inventions." Bud says it
sarcastically but it's so true. It's also true, IMO and his,
that everyone needs one. Especially in... Omaha! Cause
ya never know when a tornado might hit and that basement becomes
the most awesome place ever. I love mine. Just spent
the morning there crafting and rewatching "Finger of God."
So yay basements! Unfortunately, he is kinda right about how
you find yourself stashing stuff there just cause you want to hang
onto it but really there's no point.
"Grieving is a very necessary process." Sometimes Andrew
says the most obvious things that, really, shouldn't need to be
said. But him saying them makes it seem somehow... more
permissible? I dunno exactly how to say what I mean.
But sometimes I just wish I knew how to grieve better or fully or
something. Cause it is necessary.
One thing I've always liked about this episode is that it's
something of a bottle episode. With the very limited set,
you could almost imagine it as being performed live on a
stage. The overlapping dialogue also makes it seem
Yay. Whitman! I like it when TBAA gets literary.
And "When Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd" and its
Lincoln-centric theme becomes especially meaningful given Andrew's
Additionally, the Carl Sandburg excerpt is cool, too. I mean
not just because of the moving words but because he spent some
time working in Omaha. Occasionally you'll find references
to him around here.
I like that this episode doesn't take any easy route with
abortion. I'm sure some people would have liked the angels
to be angry and really let the couple have it. Others might
have wanted them to tell Betsy it was her choice to make and she
shouldn't feel at all bad about that. But the show doesn't
do either. Monica and Andrew are still nice to them but
there are no pats on the back. There is a need for
forgiveness all around. I especially like that Monica makes
clear the difference between punishment and consequence because
anyone who believes that PAS is a punishment sent from God does
not share my beliefs. I may not agree with the decisions
Betsy and Bud made but I do not believe God punished them.
All that being said... Betsy's dialogue about being in the
clinic room, putting her clothes back on, and leaving a piece of
her soul behind hits me way harder than any picketer's bloody
sign. So, for me at least, this episode is anti-abortion but
I don't know that everyone would see it that way. Which is
what makes it kinda genius. It's comforting, too, for those
of us who probably wouldn't be eagerly claimed by either the
pro-lifers or the pro-choicers.
Ooh. And then Betsy talks about the origins of "Valse
Triste." I'm not sure if they're true but I like that A.
TBAA is so cultural and B. They're making it clear that Omaha
isn't just a buncha hicks who don't know opera, classical music,
theatre, art, etc.
Betsy breaks my heart at the piano. It's so well-acted but
the lines would be beautifully sad even on paper, I think.
How many of us have had days when we wish we could just live in
I appreciate how the episode brings to light something especially
awful that I've noticed about life: one loss often brings back to
mind and into your heart a prior loss. If not several.
And it can just become crushing.
I also like that when Betsy and Monica are talking, they hit upon
the "good girls don't cry" crud of a philosophy. I think, so
often, we talk about how men are taught to hide their
emotions. And I've no doubt that's true. But anyone
who doesn't think it happens to women, too, is living in a dream
world. The reasoning may be different but the message is the
I think this episode will be a lot more powerful for me if/when
I'm married. But as it is, it's definitely powerful.
I like how Monica assures Betsy that she's not tired of listening
Kudos to the writers for bringing up post-abortion syndrome.
It doesn't often get talked about.
Betsy's poem is almost nauseatingly powerful. Really hard to
hear but very well done.
"God loves you. He knows everything and He still loves
you." Andrew's spin on the classic. Pretty awesome.
"God wants you to know that He is life itself. And that He
holds all the life there was and is and is to be in His hands
already." Monica's quote to the Baxters. It's very
comforting to consider for all of us who have lost someone, no
matter how it happened.
What I didn't love about
I like the Baxters but their TV show is hokey... They seem
phony on it. I'm not sure they'd have lasted as long on
actual Omaha TV...
I wish instead of just doing the singleton disinterested nod and
eye contact avoidance technique, Andrew
said something negative about
stance that he and Monica should get married. Cause shippers
could see that nodding as assent. But, I'm sure, any of us
who have been in Andrew's position recognize it for what it
actually is. It roughly translates to "Uh huh...
That's what you think. Wow? Really? I should get
married? No one's ever told me that before! You're so
original, my friend! Thank you SO much for assuming that I
want your lifestyle."
There's something kinda ironic about Andrew and Monica helping two
people who don't communicate well... While I still like this
episode and how it's written, the fact that I believe those two
didn't communicate as much as they should makes them slightly
difficult to fully believe here. But only slightly.
And that's an issue with the larger show and by no means this
Do many cities have their own morning talk shows? I
see it often on TV but I have never known Omaha to have one.
Maybe it's not on the broadcast stations.
Parts that made me feel swoony:
When Bud comments that Monica and Andrew aren't from around
"here" meaning Omaha, I want to scream "But I wish he was!"
I could easily turn TBAA into a much cleaner, nicer version of Rocky Horror.
But, seriously, he would make a *great* Omahan!
Aww, he asks for ginger ale. Which I have... here in
Omaha. Should he wish to visit again... and stay.
Poor Andrew. Between this episode and some Dyeland stuff,
he's gonna start thinking of Omaha as the "Awkward, Heated Family
Discussions Capitol of the World." Here he has
passive-aggressively bickering spouses, in Dyeland-mode he has
know-it-all family members of a friend trying to pull her away
from him. Or get him to marry her (they don't know he's an
angel). No wonder I never see Andrew around here...
Bad memories. ;-)
Andrew matters to me!!! Tons!!! Shut up, Bud.
"Abstaining Andrew." :-) Bud's nickname for him.
I know Bud meant abstaining from alcohol but... maybe we should
start using that to ward off the shippers.
Giggle. I love that Bud quotes Andrew the statistic about
single men not living as long as married ones. I don't think
Andrew will find that to be true...
Music: There's the Baxters'
show's theme music. And Betsy plays something rather
haunting on the piano briefly before Andrew
and Monica show. After the abortion is revealed, she begins
it again and then Monica makes it easy for me by revealing that
it's Sibelius' "Valse Triste." I wish she did that every
time classical music was used...
I need to get back to writing down my dreams. I don't think
they always mean something but, apparently, when you write them
down you're more likely to recall future ones.
Yeah... So I totally know the awkward feeling of being
company when company means "distraction so I don't need to deal
with my spouse." Eek. Poor Monica and Andrew.
But they made the best of it! I escaped... To a
different part of... Omaha!
Microwaving is no excuse not to sit at the table for dinner.
I do it a lot. And I have no shame about my microwave,
either! Of course, I realize that this was only the cover
excuse for Bud.
Scenes Hallmark cut:
-There's a tiny bit cut after Monica and Andrew arrive. They
follow Betsy into the house proper and Bud lags behind. He
pretends to hold a microphone and says something to the effect of
"Tonight's guests are Monica and Andrew and we'll be discussing
the dangers of letting complete strangers into your home."
Funny. Although, of course, Monica and Andrew are not
dangerous. Well... the latter is. In the sense that
prolonged exposure to Andrew may led you to still be running a fan
site about him that you co-founded at age 15... and you're now
nearly 30. So there's that. Don't worry. I won't
formally accuse him of being a corrupter of youth. It would
just give him bad memories of poor Socrates.
-Drat. They cut an Andrew scene. In the segment after
Bud goes outside with Andrew, it starts with the sounds of Betsy
playing. Bud is outside tending to his roses, telling Andrew
that they aren't supposed to bloom as long as they have. He
finds one, perfect bloom. Andrew looks on and comments that
he bets they're beautiful in the spring. Bud asks Andrew
what he does and Andrew says "Non-profit. Long-term
planning. Short-term troubleshooting." And that's a
pretty excellent description, methinks. Bud asks how that
works. Andrew responds with "It works just fine,
actually." Then he says "Speaking of long-term planning...
how long were you planning on staying out here?" Bud says
until he figures it all out. "Haven't you had fifteen years
to do that?" sayeth Andrew. Bud counters that he only just
learned the truth. Andrew isn't buying it and says that it
didn't sound that way inside. Bud doesn't really respond but
says "Short-term troubleshooter, huh?" Which leads Andrew to
"Strangers on a train, right? Ships passing in the
night. I'll be gone in a few hours." (central tragedy
of TBAA right there...) Bud nods. Then the camera
moves indoors where Betsy is fussing over the piano and Monica is
at the oven. Monica looks over with concern and approaches
Betsy. Then THC starts the segment with the two women
Further on down the road...
I feel very overdue on this! Because of computer issues,
writing, and just plain busyness; I skipped my TBAA viewing last
week. And I felt it! So now it's Sunday afternoon a
week later and I'm finally watching. Yay!
I just realized something... This opening scene is
supposedly at 4:50 AM in Nebraska but you can see light coming in
the windows. So... unless those windows are actually
interior windows into another room that has the lights on OR
someone has a crazy bright streetlight... that doesn't make
sense. As someone currently sitting in Nebraska, I can tell
ya that 4:50 is not daylight for us. Also, towards the
beginning of the next scene, he queries who would be ringing the
doorbell at 5:30 AM. And then Bud opens the door to reveal
Tess and it's really and truly bright outside. The light
might be coming out at that time depending on when in the year
this is but based on clothing it appears to be Autumn and, thus,
5:30 would still be dark. It scares me that I notice these
things now. But I might not if not for the fact that this is
my state we're talking about. Then again, I'm also the
person who looks up sunrise and sunset times for places I'm
setting stories in... So maybe it's just a photosensitivity
thing and not that I've gone over the top on the detail oriented
I also missed watching this episode cause the story I'm working on
vaguely references it. I can just be downright mean to
myself, really. :-)
That piano piece really is so beautiful.
To think... this episode may never have happened if angels had
cell phones. ;-)
I have a beige version of Monica's shirt in this. I wish I
had a purple one... It's one of those shirts that I would
have bought in every color. It works with so much!
I think, for a time, TBAA felt to me like Bud describes "Breakfast
with the Baxters." I'd started to drift from it. I
still tuned in every week physically but wasn't exactly tuned in
always. But I liked knowing it was there. It was
comfortable. And I just felt totally off that first year or
two it was gone. Thankfully, I started to absolutely love it
again in Season 9. So it went out wholly wanted by me which
is better than developing an "Oh please just end!" feeling like I
did with ER.
In my happy
little expanded world, Andrew had a basement by this point.
So it occurs to me that this was among the last handful of
episodes I watched before John Dye passed away. I don't
think I've watched it since then. I'd like to think that, in
some ways, this episode prepared me. Grief in general, grief
over loss of a show, grief over the loss of something (or someone)
you just figured would always be there... Looking back, God
gave me a lot of help.
I wonder if this blue fire thing is why the demons had a blue glow
as opposed to the stereotypical red?
Holy cow. The episode's already half over. This one
just flies by to me.
I'm glad Bud remarks about how the roses shouldn't still be
hanging on. Cause I was gonna say that Nebraskan roses
really wouldn't be in bloom in the Autumn. But there are
always surprising exceptions.
I'm glad TBAA set a non-rural themed episode in Omaha,
Nebraska. We're proud of our farmers and agriculture.
But a lot of us don't live on farms and wouldn't have the
slightest idea how to manage one. I think some folks assume
we're all country which isn't the case at all.
I love that TBAA did this episode. Plain and simple.
Apropos. The story I was writing last week that kept me from
this has a character writing religiously themed poetry as a means
of coping with her emotions.
It's interesting to me that Monica has such a stirring little
speech about free will in this episode yet only a few episodes
before ("Finger of God") there's a huge lapse in the show's
philosophy of free will.
A Word from Travis:
I’m not sure if I’ve ever watched this episode in its entirety
but someone posted the revelation scene with Monica and Betsy on
youtube, “Titled “Abortion Regret”; what a powerful scene. The
scene expresses Betsy’s pain and I love when Monica recites a
section of Psalms 23 to her (He leadeth me beside the still
waters. He restoreth my soul.)
the Episode Guide
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