"The Invitation"

A review by Jenni:

So I rather liked watching "Legacy" late at night on my puter whilst sipping tea last week.  There was something delightfully collegiate about it.  And S7 is making me kinda nostalgic not for college itself but my college era.  So I'm going with it.  Although it seems a lil odd to watch this Halloween episode on the eve of what I hope will be an epic Christmas shopping day to end said shopping for the season...  Oh well.  And yay for cranberry tea.  Festive.

What I love about this episode:

It's cute how proud Annie is of her jack-o'-lantern.  And how complimentary Rick is.  Really, they're just an adorable couple.  I wish we coulda seen more of them and less of Damien.

Wow... recording the rent check.  Old school!  This takes me back to when I used my check book for more than just the monthly student loan bill.

I'm set in my ways with my hairstyle and the idea of a manicure creeps me out.  But I like seeing how the beauty parlor can be such a social, uplifting thing for some people.  It's cool to see the relationships between the three main women.  Again, woulda liked to have seen more of that. 

Ha.  I'm sorry but I get a kick outta Clara's near-miss with a "Lyon's Cargo" truck.  If you're going to pick a bad animal to represent evil (see below)... might as well have fun with it!

I like Annie's costume.  It's cute.  I kinda wanted to be a gypsy this year but thought maybe it was un-PC.

I like that Monica helps Annie with the Halloween party and is in really good spirits about it.  Cause Halloween can be a really positive, fun, community-building thing and mopey angels all the time on Halloween is bad.

Okay... so I think the writing in this episode takes a few wrong turns.  But I'd just like to say that I'm grateful that it did NOT take one particular wrong turn that other shows may have.  After the scene of Andrew and Monica on the stairs, it would have been really cliche to have Satan turn out to have taken on Andrew's form.  But I can so imagine
other shows doing that.  I mean, c'mon, he's talking about how Satan can counterfeit anything.  It's ironic!  And if they'd done that... that may have just driven me over the edge and sent me searching for a new Sunday evening show.  So some applause to the show for not making Andrew evil.  Yay!!!  Cause I woulda been really ticked if all these gorgeous shots of him turned out to not really be him.

I like Andrew's pep talk to Rick about not lying to his wife, doing right by his child, etc.  Andrew would be a good marriage counselor.  It might be a lil weird.  But I bet he'd be good at it.  And pretty unbiased. 

I like the smile and chuckle and "No ma'am!" Andrew answers Millie with when she talks about Monica and then asks if he's married.  It's a chuckle that says "Haha, that'd so never happen."

Annie recycles.  Yay!

"God sends me to earth to tell His children that He is real and that He loves you."  Monica basically sums up the 9 seasons in that quote to Annie.  It's a nice moment in a scene that I otherwise don't find credible.

"All babies matter to God."  Another nice one from Monica.  She goes onto say "Every child is a precious gift from God, born with a purpose and the potential to make a difference in the world."  We'll just pretend it didn't in anyway refer to Damien...

"When one voice stops, God will always raise up other voices to take up the song."  I really love that Monica quote.

So, once you read the section below, it'll be no secret that I strongly dislike this episode.  But... I do get goosebumps when Monica says the quote above and the singing gang nears the apartment then enters.  If I could erase Damien from the scene, I would love it.  (And totally no offense to the poor kid playing Damien.  He did a good job but, gosh, I think that character sucks.)

I feel like this episode would make for a good drinking game.  It could be fun!

I don't care what this episode wants me to think.  When they close up on the lion's eye, I just think of the Stone Table.  And really that's the best way to end this episode IMO... even if unintentional.  I'd rather focus on God than some cliched depiction of Satan.

What I didn't love about this episode:
Here's a tip: when cats are known to be targeted by cruel mischief makers on Halloween... do us all a favor and not make your Halloween episode villain be a cat.  At least they didn't go with a black cat but still...

Augh...  I just don't like the Satan-as-lion thing.  It's weird that a show that was obviously familiar with C.S. Lewis would choose a lion to represent evil.  I mean technically there's nothing wrong with doing that.  Clearly I don't believe all lions are Aslan or the Lion of Judah.  But I'm gonna guess a lot of TBAA viewers have those associations.  It would be like having a dove be evil.  My gut reaction is just "Aww, Aslan!  And He's walking into the night alone!  No!"  It's just that there are plenty of animals that aren't integral to major world religions... why not pick one of those?  I spose maybe they're trying to say something about how evil can be beautiful and come disguised as something we love but... nothing in this episode comes right out and says that.  So... long live Aslan, son of the Emperor Beyond the Sea!  :-)

Really, I just feel sorry for the lion.  It some scenes it doesn't even look like his growls are coming from him.  Just added later.  I start to anthropomorphize the lion and it says things like "Wait... I'm supposed to be evil here?  But I thought this was a show about God?  B-but... people use me to symbolize the Creator!!!  To quote one of my literary brethren, courtesy of C.S. Lewis., 'Did you hear what he said? Us lions. That means him and me. Us lions. That's what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand- offishness. Us lions.'  I'm akin to Aslan!!!  So why do I have to pretend to be evil!?!  Oh, screw it!  I'm walking down this alley.  Maybe someone will let me pretend to be Mufasa for a while..."  It's like the poor lion has too much pride (ha) to feed into this so phones in his performance.

I love dogs but I even woulda accepted a snarling dog of indeterminate breed.  The lion, loaded image that he is, is just distracting.

And faux Damien just seems lame.  And it just makes me feel awful that poor Annie was concerned for and cared for a demon.  This episode just makes me sad, really.  Although I just laugh a lot after Damien reveals his evilness.  It's so cheesy.  And, yeah, I know his name isn't Damien but I'm sticking with it.

And the Tarot cards again...  Of all the things in the world to be bothered about... Tarot doesn't rate with me.  At least Monica just seems disappointedly amused and not outright gripey about them in this episode.  (Andrew and Tess later irritate me... that's a switch!)  Also why does it seem like TBAA turns every hippie into an occultist?  I dress like a hippie often (bells on skirts and everything) and I'm not an occultist.  Never touched a Tarot deck.  But I know people who have and they didn't screw up their whole lives nor did they start behaving like the cards were omniscient.  Frankly, it's just disrespectful to insinuate that all people who use Tarot cards are communing with Satan.  Even the Bible can be used for evil.  It's all in the intent.  The intent is what makes Tarot evil or not.  To say otherwise implies they *do* have power which this episode is trying to say they don't.  The reasoning contradicts itself in my mind.

Along the same lines... if you're going to jump all over psychic stuff then why not target the truly damaging type?  I'm talking about the con artists who make money off of grieving, desperate people.  Realistically, some bored beautician with a flair for the Other Side is not gonna do as much damage as those cretins. 

Oh... nobody tells Andrew to shut up!  Stupid Cal.

So Tess tells the gang at the bar that Satan is using distractions to keep focus away from the evil he's working with Annie.  But that's exactly what I feel like this episode and "The Occupant" are doing!  In a world that has rape, murder, abuse, adultery... we're seriously going to sit and listen to angels talk about the evil of Tarot cards?  Really?!?  They did *one* episode that truly dealt with post-rape trauma and *two* about Tarot?  I love this show but that's all kinds of asinine.  I feel like a good metaphor for this episode would be someone going into the ER.  They have a hangnail... and also several gaping stab wounds.  And then the doctor decides to give priority to treating the hangnail... twice.

Even within the episode, it seems to miss the forest for the trees.  Rather than getting all over-excited about Tarot... why not make these people examine why they've made the mistakes they have?  Why is Clara so fearful?  Why does Rick place that bet when he has to know it's foolish?  Why is Annie so quick to believe in a bunch of cards?  Why is Millie so quick to jump to suicide?  Tarot or not, that was a huge and troubling mental leap.  Why are these people idly handling control of their lives over?  That's a bad thing to do whether you hand it over to Tarot, a loan shark, or, yes, even the Bible.  When you don't apply your God-given reason and love to any of those... the end result will be bad.

Why the bleep would Tess tell Rick not to call the police?!?  I don't care about the freaking demon.  There's a pregnant, injured woman.  Authorities need to be called!  Preferably EMT but cops are better than nothing!  I mean it's great that when they arrive at the apartment Andrew has the doctor called but still... woulda been better to have someone en route already.

Lingering questions:
Is it really a belief that jack-o'-lanterns scare away evil?  I had no idea they signified anything other than fun.

So was Andrew's suspicion on who "the enemy" was spot on or not?

Parts that made me feel swoony:
I heart Andrew...  I so thought of this episode when, on Halloween night, my kitchen sink stopped draining.  I generally want Andrew around.  But I really, really wanted him around that night.  Instead I just wound up with a cut finger, shifted sink (did not know I was that strong!), and stress.  But he was a super cute plumber to day dream about.

OMG.  I love Andrew in a hoodie.  Maybe Satan's mad because he's just not as handsome.  Anyhow, it's nice to see Andrew on some steps and not crying or looking like he's gonna cry.

Andrew talking about babies...  I love how encouraging he is to Rick.  I also like how he tries to protect him from the lousy gambler.

There are just so many adorable shots of Andrew in this.  Thank goodness cause otherwise... not a big fan of this one.  But the looks he makes after Rick loses the horse race... compassionate and adorable.

Gah.  He looks so sweet when he's listening to and comforting Millie in the ladies' restroom.  Normally a dude in the ladies' room would be freaky.  But this is okay.  More than okay.  And then he touches her cheek...  Good gravy, he's awesome.  All these very human, *normal* moments in this episode are beautiful.  I wish they hadn't gotten dragged into the same episode as Damien and the hijacked lion.

Andrew has gorgeous hands.  And the right one looks super great crumbling a gun.  He can crumble metal!!!

Random thoughts:
Music: Ms. Reese sings "God Can" in the first scene after the credits.  She reprises it later.  There's something far less moving in Annie's beauty shop.  Just some elevator music-like jazz.  During the first bar scene, there's some lady singing something with the lyrics "It's all right, you'll get by" or similar.  Later another song, kinda countryish, has a woman singing "Don't let her go" or something like that.  Later, in a scene that far outshines most of the episode, Tess leads Rick, Andrew, Clara, and Millie in singing "God Can."  It's ironic that two episodes I like the least (this and "The Occupant") are also home to two of my favorite TBAA musical moments. 

I think the following should be banned as fill-ins for Satan: lions, children, cats, and look-alikes of existing characters.  (I'm thinking of you, Monique.)  Also aye-ayes.  Those poor things have enough trouble.  Andrew should get some as pets.  Okay, so that would be illegal but...  Aww!  Look!  That is precious.  Yep, this episode officially made me go look at baby animals.  That says a lot...  Okay: my new vision of Heaven... we all get baby animals.

Scenes Hallmark cut:
-The segment after Clara is hit starts with the paramedics putting her into an ambulance.  She's weepy and says she doesn't want to go alone.  Millie says she'll go with her but the paramedic says she'll have to follow in her car.  She tells him not to mess with her and proceeds to get into the back of the ambulance with Clara.  Damien, Monica, and Annie look on.  Damien says that if Annie hadn't warned Clara, she might have died.  Monica counters that if she hadn't been looking over her shoulder for a lion, she wouldn't have been hit.  Annie, obviously stunned, just says that she saw a lion in the cards.  Annie then asks Damien to run the check to Rick.  Annie tells Monica she can go home but she opts to stay.  Then it goes to Andrew and Rick talking about the baby which is where THC starts.

-I had a feeling they cut a Tess scene.  They actually started cutting with Annie and Rick in bed.  The latter is tossing and turning and asks Annie if she's sure 3 is his lucky number.  (He's obviously anxious about the bet.)  She tells him it is.  He then groans cause Tess is singing.  So he goes to her door, pounds on it, and tells her to stop because he can't sleep and neither can his pregnant wife.  Tess apologizes and agrees.  Then she goes into the hall where Monica is crouched as before when she met up with Andrew.  Alarmed, Monica asks Tess is she's leaving.  Tess explains that she can't stay where she's not wanted and has done all she can.  She tells Monica "God bless you, baby" and reminds her not to leave Annie alone then gives her a weak wish of "Happy Halloween" and leaves.

-Okay so when Andrew tells Rick about not trusting in the cards cause they made him lie to his wife... it seems like there may be a cut during that cause on my DVD, Andrew moves in a way that is not humanly possible.  But it could just be a glitch in the DVD.  Yep, it was a glitch.  Funny, though.  He went from standing to sitting without any fluidity of movement.

-There could have been more but this just may be my least favorite episode of TBAA.  (I now realize that simply being Andrew-limited like "Venice" doesn't really make an episode worthy of disdain.)  So it was hard to pay attention watching it the first time, let alone a second time.  So I may have missed stuff.  I'm still pretty ticked about that lion.

Further on down the road...
Welcome to the re-review of what is most likely my least favorite episode of TBAA (it's between this and "The Occupant."  I vacillate on which I think is worse).  Anyhow, I'm back on land now and headed back to work tomorrow.  With 1.5 weeks of work to catch up on, this may not be a super fun 4 days.  So...  I decided I'd rather have "Restoration" to look forward to at the end of it than this.  But first to get it out of my system...  "
Did you hear what he said? Us lions. That means him and me. Us lions. That's what I like about Aslan. No side, no stand-offishness. Us lions."

Thank you, C.S. Lewis.  Let me go on record as saying that I'm perfectly aware that lions don't get a 100% positive review in the Bible.  I've read 1 Peter.  But we're talking about a creature who adorned the Temple and who has been used as an image for no less than God (Job 10, Hosea) and Jesus (Revelation).  Ezekiel attributes the face of a lion to the angels he sees.  Lions figure into Isaiah's evocative image of utter peace.  A winged lion is the symbol for St. Mark the Evangelist.  True, we have Daniel in the lions' den but does any sane person fault the lions for that and not Darius and his ilk?  So... I still think making Satan appear as a lion in this episode was needlessly distracting and upsetting.  We're talking about a creature who figures into artistic renderings some Christians display in their homes.  Personally, I think animal representations of Satan should have been left entirely out of the show.  But to choose a lion is especially ridiculous to me.  At least they didn't go with a lamb... 

Really, it's just all sorts of nonsensical.  In the opening bit, the focus is on how people don't see Satan coming.  And I believe that.  He's insidious and subtle.  Therefore, does it not make sense to depict Satan as an everyman as TBAA always had before?  There is nothing normal and unsuspecting about a lion roaming the streets!  The opening lines are undermined the moment that beautiful, misused lion walks into the scene.

And, yes, I still think that poor lion seems like he's super annoyed.  The way he kinda hangs his head when he walks away makes me feel bad for him.  Almost like he's ashamed to be there. 

Again, I feel like this lion usage undermines the dialogue.  Monica's warning that Clara was harmed because she was looking for a lion when there was real danger in the form of a speeding vehicle is almost hilarious.  "Hey, everybody, don't be fooled by the faux danger of the lions in your life when true danger exists in the ordinary!  But please watch us as we warn you against evil by using a... well, umm... a lion.  Okay, I swear it sounded better on paper."

I wish Millie's plotline could have been lifted into another episode.  Fear of a cancer recurrence is a legitimate issue and seeing more of that may have really spoken to a lot of people.  But then I know that the episode as is may have spoken to a lot of people.  Just not me, by and large. 

"There's more going on in the world than you realize.  What you see is not all there is.  There is God.  There are angels.  There is good and evil and there is a battle going on that you all don't even know you're fighting."  I really like that quote from Tess.  I think maybe that's why this episode in many ways bothers me more than "The Occupant."  There are some wonderful quotes and small moments in this episode but they're buried among all this drivel.  And it does hurt to use words like "drivel" and "asinine" about a show I do love.  But this episode is just a mess IMO.

It may seem weird that I'm more put off by Satan as a lion than as a child.  I really don't like either.  But I do think the actor playing Dennis is old enough to have some concept of what the role is and then assumedly consented.  The lion is guileless.  He's just being a lion and then some person went and used his lion-ness to make a weird statement.

It still really, really bothers me that Tess tells Rick not to call 911.  For one, what happened to letting humans use free will?  It was his will to call 911.  For another, there is a wounded pregnant woman!  It's just plain irresponsible.  I don't care what Satan's doing, if someone is harmed... call 911!  An angel can't even figure out what we teach toddlers to do in an emergency?!?!  It sends a really bad message to any children watching.  Although, personally, I hope kids didn't watch this episode.  If I have children, I very much want to share TBAA with them... but probably not this episode until they're older.

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