"Made in the U.S.A."

A review by Jenni:

What I love about this episode:
Ya know, it's kinda weird watching these episodes that I haven't seen in years.  When I see a plot element coming, is it because I know it's true or simply because I'm unconsciously remembering the episode?  Like I totally knew that those citizenship classes were free.  But did I know that from general knowledge or just because I learned it from this episode in 1999?  In any case, I'm glad Tess straightened the workers out on that point.

I like that Nick informs Monica that not every Vietnam vet came back "an alcoholic basket case."  While I think we need to support and bring positive attention to those who were so altered by that and all wars and require aid, I think sometimes TV shows err on the side of making vets look like maniacs.  Even shows I otherwise love seem to sometimes only introduce vet characters to show them as mentally disturbed to the point of being a danger to one and all.  It's not right.

This episode has lots of great quotes from Monica.  I only wish sometimes the writers had doled them out a bit more fairly but oh well...  Anyhow, this is the first one I took a liking to: "Nothing is easy but some things are right."  Later she says "Music is the universal language."  Not a terribly original line but true and it really sums this episode up.  Which brings me to...

I love how this episode illustrates the power of music.  A brief stint with his guitar soothes Nick a bit.  Tess uses music to inform.  Cadao is so touched by music and Nick's attachment to it that his daughter, Am-Nhac, bears the word in her own name.

It's so sweet when Tess brings the citizenship class to Am-Nhac.

I like how the episode shows the good and bad aspects of a workplace.  How many job sites have policies and ways of managing their staff that pit employees against each other (like quotas and encouraging spite as Nick does)?  Probly too many.  And how many places would benefit by encouraging teamwork instead?  Probly many.  How can ya not be touched when Am-Nhac's co-worker sets some of her own work in the sleeping girl's pile?

I've said some critical stuff about Monica but even I know Nick was barking up the wrong tree in asking her to lie to Andrew.  Even if there didn't exist a no lying rule for angels, I really don't believe Monica would ever lie to Andrew.  So yay Monica for putting the immediate kibosh on that plan.

I love that Tess says the best aspect of being an American is to "Stand up and stand together when it counts."  Right on!

I think I must be part evil cause I kinda laughed when Nick made the remark about "American justice" and then BOOM, he gets pinned.  That's more like karma...

"This moment is the only one that matters right now."  Another nice quote from Monica.

"For every time you stop and honor even the least of your brothers, you honor Him.  And every time you try to be a peacemaker, the world may not recognize it but God always will.  And He will honor you."  That's my favorite quote of the episode.  Once again, Monica speaks it.

I really like the idea of Nick's Uncle Joe being the voice of God.  It makes ya wonder who that voice is for you... and if you're ever that voice for someone else.

I love how Am-Nhac smiles when Nick reveals that he knows her name.  How meaningful is it simply to know that someone has bothered to learn our names?

I tear up when Cadao chokes out "My friend" when he recognizes Nick.  Geez.  Emotional wallop.

I'm so glad that Tess tells Andrew and Monica that she's proud of "all my babies" and doesn't zero in on Monica, for example.  Inclusive is best.

And how awesome that the Woodstock dove glows at the end?  Good use of a prop and very symbolic!

What I didn't love about this episode:
I get where they were going with the friendship bracelet but to me it seemed crass to have Monica ask Nick why he'd keep a friendship bracelet (and she even recognizes it as such) dating from a war he wants to forget.  If I noticed a vet wearing a friendship bracelet dating to the war, my assumption would be that it was a reminder of a friend who was lost in the war.  True, that doesn't end up being the case.  But I think it could have been and thus Monica's question just seems callous to me.  I think it would have played better and achieved the same purpose if it had been framed as an observation like "I see you're wearing a friendship bracelet.  It must be difficult to hang onto elements of a war you wished you could forget."  Then it bypasses the chance of intimating that a friend should be forgotten.

Not a complaint about the episode but I hate that I now cringe at the mention of tea parties and the Boston Tea Party specifically.  Sad but true.  And, to be fair, the Coffee Party concerns me, too.  I wish everyone would just leave caffeinated beverages out of their political entity names.  Just saying...

Lingering questions:
This episode ties into my fear that in some cases buying USA may be pointless.  I try to do that with clothing but how can I be sure that it's not the product of a sweat shop in the U.S.?

Call me naive but I couldn't help but wonder how Nick got away with the awful working conditions?  I guess I thought we had regulators to check into stuff more often...  But then I know how poorly some of those systems work so I guess it's not surprising.

Parts that made me feel swoony:
I love Andrew as an IRS agent!  It just makes me giggle (okay, more than just Andrew himself usually does).  And Nick hit the reason straight on when he makes a crack about "death and taxes."

Sadly, our boy is not in this much so I have to make the most of what we have.  And I really like that, after his massive debt is unveiled, Andrew assures Nick that they'll work something out.  That quality is one that I often draw upon in writing for Andrew.  No matter how bleak something looks and even when he's personally troubled by it, Andrew still believes that things will work out.

Aww...  Another scene of Andrew walking alone in the dark a la "Elijah."  Not as troubling as that scene but still... I want to walk with him.

And we get a glimpse of Andrew with his pocket watch.  Very nice.  I needed more pocket watch photos.

Yeah... so a T-shirt and jacket is a really nice look for Andrew.  And the T-shirt isn't even tucked in.  Very nice.  Sometimes I like the uber-casual look a lot.

Random thoughts:
Music: Tess (and later Am-Nhac) sing what I'll simply call "The Presidents' Song."  I wish someone had taught that to me.  Although there's this version, too.  A lil more complicated...  Nick plays a bit on his guitar while in his car.  It coulda just been me hearing things but it sounded like a guitar-only version of "Blowin' in the Wind" could briefly be heard during the flashback of Cadao being transported.

Speaking of music, the score in this sounds very similar to what they used in "Liberty Moon."

I like the use of rapid flashbacks when Nick is waiting for the bomb to go off.  That's something that writing just can't do.  Darn.  But if Dyeland were a TV show, I'd probly abuse that feature so good thing I don't have access to it.

Scenes Hallmark cut:
Towards the beginning of the episode (directly before the first scene of the citizenship class), we see Tess and Monica walking unseen through the sweat shop.  Tess tells Monica about the women's dreams.  One wants to design fancy clothes after learning the skill from her grandma.  Another wants to meet Brad Pitt.  A third dreams of going to the movies every night.  Monica asks Tess why they stick with Nick and Tess explains that for them it's part of the road to citizenship.  She then references the magnificent teacher they have to help them.  Cut to Tess teaching the class.

Further on down the road...:
I'm confused about this class.  It doesn't seem as if Tess just started it up.  So who was teaching it before?  And how did they not catch onto the fact that something illegal was going on?  I suppose maybe the workers just really opened up with Tess and never confided in previous teachers.

I still think it's scandalous that I never had to learn the names of all the presidents...  Nor place the States on a map.  So sometimes I play this to make up for the latter.

I don't think the peace sign is "a totally American" thing but I guess maybe it was during the Vietnam era?  Still, I thought it had a history from before that.

Andrew's first appearance... finally... at around 18:50 mark.  Yay.  Much easier to cap when I know when to start paying attention.  ;-)

I think it's fun how into their jobs the angels get.  I assume, once Nick was asleep, Andrew and Monica coulda just magicked the taxes.  But they kept on a-workin'!

I'm realizing how little I know about labor laws.  I totally get that kids can only work so many hours but I have no idea if adults have a cut-off.  I know so many breaks are required but am not even sure if that's across the board. 

"God can use someone else to speak to you."  I love that quote from Monica.  I think He does that an awful lot.  And He definitely used everyone on this show to speak to us!

"God loves you.  He loves you so much!  And I don't think there's a soul on earth who doesn't need to hear that."  Another Monica quote.  So spread the word!

Sigh...  I miss that plain white T and jacket look.

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