"The Occupant"

A review by Jenni:

I wasn't planning on reviewing an episode this weekend because it's my last before I head out on vacation and I'm really busy with preparations.  But I didn't want to leave off with TDDUP and have that haunt me the whole trip.  So... "The Occupant" is *much* easier for me to leave behind.  I really don't care for this episode.

What I love about this episode:

I love Carolee Mayne's "A League of Angels" at the start and end of this episode.  In fact, I think it's the highlight of this episode for me.  Or one of three, at least. 

Hallelujah!  Monica actually reached out and touched Andrew first and asked if he was alright at the beginning.  Yippee!  So, yes, she can be supportive of him and he can be emotionally open.  There is hope! 

So I just noticed something.  Even though Andrew's Halloween stance kinda irks me (see the next section), he does clearly say here that it most bothers him when he's working.  So that sounds like license to me to have him enjoy the annual Dyeland Halloween parties (where he doesn't work)!  ;-)  To me, that says he's okay with Halloween if it involves someone shoving cookies and cocoa at him and oohing and aahing over his Indiana Jones costume possibly while slow dancing to Loreena McKennitt's "Samain Night" (not that I've given this any thought...).  I love how I've begun doing episode exegesis to support Dyeland.  Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.  Long live apocryphal Andrew!

I loved the Halloween decorations in the hospital.  Some looked a lot like ones we used to have so it totally made me nostalgic and then I wanted to start decorating for Halloween.  I love my Halloween decorations.

I think it's cool that Andrew's purpose here was simply to recall a previous assignment and provide the key to help release Lonnie.  It really highlights my view that the AODs', beyond their obvious function, also serve as witnesses to our history and then can give voice to that in the present and future to help us.

"The lost can be found again."  A nice Monica quote.

Monica looked awesome in her circa 1970s gear.  Although it makes me wish we'd seen Andrew in 60s/70s apparel.  Doc Hock isn't the same.

I think it's kinda creepy-cool that Gregory first shows up in a mirror.  Just cause I used to be phobic of mirrors.  I got it into my head that spirits could come through them.  Cause it was a superstition about ghosts I saw on some show.  Ha!  As much as TBAA knocks superstition... they can't escape it. 

"God never gives up on his children."  There's a lovely quote from Monica.

As much as I don't like this episode, I do think the fellow playing Lonnie/Gregory did a stellar job.  There are a handful of moments that really get me.  When he asks Andrew to "please, take what's left"... breaks your heart.

I love what Tess has to say about how sometimes people of faith can be like a stick in the ground that props up those who are struggling with their faith.  Excellent metaphor!

I got kinda giddy watching Gregory leap around and growl.  It made me think of "Moonlight."  I don't think I was sposed to get the warm fuzzies from that...

Lonnie's and Duncan's embrace at the end is beautiful.  The expression on Lonnie's face... at last peaceful and comfortable... made it worth watching this episode for me.  So I guess that's another highlight.

What I didn't love about this episode:
Seriously, someone needed to get these people out and somewhere fun for Halloween.  Halloween makes Andrew sadder???  That just makes me sad!  God should have at least given him one year as a grade school teacher or something so he could see the kids gleefully wolf down pumpkin shaped sugar cookies while dressed up as superheroes and storybook characters.  That's Halloween to me!  Oh well.  More fun for me in Dyeland-mode.

While I've always thought Andrew's hatred of Halloween was an amusing plot point, I also find it kind of lame.  It expresses a very narrow view of Halloween, completely stripped of assorted cultural and religious associations.  And if me at not quite 28 can appreciate those elements, an immortal who has seen much more should appreciate them even more.  Hate aspects of Halloween, by all means.  I do, too.  (Although more the "Let's use it as an excuse to dress trampy!" aspect than anything gory.)  But lumping it all together is lazy, borderline offensive writing, IMO.  If Andrew is going to develop a hatred for something that sometimes causes bad effects, then he should hate computers and all alcohol, champagne included.  All that being said, I'd have bought it more if he developed his hatred for Halloween *after* this episode.  Confronting a demon would probly make me hate whatever date that fell on.

I find it a lil too fishy that Duncan's not at all thrown by his teacher not aging in 35 years.  Especially when Gregory draws attention to it.

The neighborhood kids are HORRIBLE children.  Where are the friggin' parents of these hellions?!?

I'm just not crazy about how eager TBAA always was to link anything related to magic or superstition with evil.  I mean, sure, some people who use Tarot and such are likely cruddy people.  But there are some cruddy Bible carriers, too.  Again, it's a complete failure to consider any sort of cultural element.  And, for the record, I have never used Tarot so it's not like I'm looking to defend myself.  But I know people who have and they're not evil folks.  To me, the most disturbing part of that scene is that the girl promises that the spirits will get Lonnie whatever he wants.  That sort of materialism and egocentricism IS a problem.  And let's not be naive and think that those "ideals" haven't made their way into some strains of Christianity.  But that, far more legitimate problem IMO, is left unchallenged here.

Further, let's not kid ourselves by blaming bad behavior on demons.  I'm not saying demon possession isn't possible.  I don't know.  But people do horrible, cruel, violent things.  And I think we'd do better to consider why our fellow humans embrace violence than going to "A demon made him do it."  I just have a hard time believing anyone in the TBAA viewing audience watched this and said "Wow!  I have seen the light!  I shall expel this demon and live a righteous life now!"  I guess what I'm saying is I don't feel this episode is speaking to a real issue much.

While I was amused by the possible non-deliberate play on a mirror superstition, I find the focus on midnight to be a lil eye brow raising.  TBAA knocks magic and the occult yet builds an episode around some of the very tropes they turn their noses up at.  It's like they're trading on our knowledge of these beliefs all the while scorning them.  The same thing happens with the seed.  They stress how it has no real power yet have a scene in which Gregory seems irritated ("tiresome," he says) by its presence as if it was some sort of talisman.  It reminds me of someone using a crucifix to keep a vampire at bay.  Scenes like that suggest objects do have power.  So if you're going to say they don't, don't include even a hint of the idea in your script.

This is definitely my least favorite of the episodes featuring demons.  And I think one reason is because it treats Gregory as a non-entity.  One of my favorite parts of "In the Name of God" is when Tess tells Satan that God loves him.  What an incredible thing!  And then Kathleen is portrayed as almost a tragic heroine in "Clipped Wings."  I thought the episode was holding out the possibility that she'd turn back to the light.  But here it seems like no one gives a care about Gregory.  It's wonderful that they save Lonnie but Gregory was created by God, too.  It's like they just gave him up as a lost cause.  When Gregory asks "What about me?" I can't help but want an answer.

While I appreciate that they have a scene wherein Tess tells Duncan that real MPD/DID exists, it seemed too little, too late to me.  Don't we have enough of a stigma attached to mental illness without suggesting that something that presents as MPD/DID *might* be possession?  It's the same feeling I describe above: this episode seemed not to speak to a legitimate issue.  Even if demon possession is real, I can all but guarantee that of the TBAA viewers who watched this far more are likely to suffer from a mental illness and NOT be helped by furthering a stigma than tuned in and thought "I'm possessed like that guy!  There is

Groan...  Tess uttered the angels don't need faith thing again.  If I could strike one "rule" from TBAA... that would be it.  It's such a massive over-simplication of faith.  No, angels don't need faith to tell them that God exists.  But faith is more than a question of whether or not God exists.  It also involves trusting Him to see you through, knowing that whatever happens, He's in charge, etc.  The angels clearly need that sort of faith.  If they didn't have any faith at all, if they *knew* not only that God exists but
also that He'd *never* let them down then Tess and Monica would never have gone to the Netherworld and Andrew wouldn't have sunk into his shame spiral in TDDUP.  Those certainly look like struggles with faith to me.  They may not need existential faith but they need a heaping lot of experiential faith.  It wouldn't bother me so much except sometimes this treatment of faith sneaks into their dealings with the human characters like Andrew's ill-considered jab at Elisa about her lack of faith in "The Letter."

Lingering questions:
I have a hard time following exactly who the angels are talking about/to at points: Gregory or Lonnie?  Like when Tess calls him "baby" and then he says she was like a mother to him... is that meant only to say that she and Lonnie had been close?  Or is it possible that Gregory was once a protege of Tess'?

Maybe did I just grow up with a rosier spin on Halloween than most?  That bad seed of a kid says it's when evil spirits come up from Hell.  What!?  I mean we totally thought ghosts were more prevalent at Halloween but I so do not remember an evil spirits from Hell aspect.  Where did these writers grow up!?!  No wonder their characters hate Halloween.

Where is Shia LeBeouf in this?  He must have been one of the neighborhood kids but I didn't think any looked like him.  Maybe the kid I mentioned above?

Why does the preacher Duncan greets while exiting the church post-funeral look so familiar?  Is he the deacon in the first couple Christmas episodes?  I think he was in at least one more TBAA episode and that's what came to mind but I'm not positive.

How many times will something have to happen before TV nurses and doctors learn that you NEVER turn your back on troubled patients? 

Parts that made me feel swoony:

Good gravy.  Is it just me or does Andrew look especially fetching while brooding in that hat?  That's the other highlight of the episode for me.

Kinda gets me in the gut when Andrew's clothing changes and he walks alone into the dark street...  Andrew walking alone on a dark street shots always get me. 

I want to hug our AOD!!!  He looks so scared and his voice is kinda trembly after he meets Gregory.  I think hormonal, clingy girl just might be a real good weapon against annoying, uppity demon.

When Gregory causes that earthquake, it looks like Andrew reaches over to steady Monica.  I love it when he's chivalrous...  But it makes me jealous.

Andrew was cute through out, of course, but I didn't really latch onto anything in particular after that point.  It was kinda weird seeing him come off as more clueless than Monica for once.

Random thoughts:
Music: Carolee Mayne's "A League of Angels."

Men's clothes are much more timeless than women's it seems.  You can date a scene based on what Monica is wearing often.  But if Andrew is wearing a suit in a scene, it may just as well be the 60s as the 90s.  Or think about some period pieces.  A guy wearing a tux in those typically doesn't look that much different from a modern groom.

This episode really made me want to bring Eben back to Dyeland and resolve that... but I can't, yet.

Sometimes I have a bad feeling that if a TBAA writer walked into my house they'd think I was an occultist...  Lotsa candles, incense, mystical looking stuff, etc.  Oh well.  It'd probly really throw em for a loop if they saw my bedroom with its Wall o' Jesus.

Scenes Hallmark cut:
-There are exterior shots through out that THC may have shortened.  Not sure.
-The scene with the Tarot girl goes on to show them using the Ouija board.  It spells out "Love me" and there are closeups on her
come hither eyes.  I think it just makes the character even more of a caricature (and not a very good one given this episode completely lacks any positive women- meaning human- characters)  so I'm rather glad it was cut.  When in your whole episode all you can come up with is a devilish temptress and a deadbeat mom, as a woman I'm not really pleased.
-After Gregory declares that Lonnie is fully possessed, there's another scene of him and the trio in the hall.  Gregory brags about crushing the magic seed.  Andrew stresses it wasn't magic.  Tess leaves and soon after Gregory sneaks off.  Andrew ponders how rushed Gregory seemed to be.  He and Monica conclude that he lied about Lonnie being fully overtaken.
-It then goes directly to Duncan in his office.  He calls home and tells his wife about Lonnie being there.  He asks her to pray for them both and laments that he doesn't know what to do.  Then Tess enters.

Further on down the road...
Well, I've decided this is my least favorite episode of TBAA.  But it's Friday night and I wanna watch TBAA so here goes!

Sigh... if only the whole episode coulda been as good as the opening.  Andrew looks stunning.  The music is wonderful.  It's a great throwback to Season 3. 

Sadly, Halloween has started to seem sad to me.  I don't really know why but about 7 years ago it just became melancholy somehow.  I don't think it has anything to do with evil.  Just growing up.  I still really enjoy and love Halloween.  Maybe I mean wistfulness more than sadness.    Hmm...

I never loved this episode but I really began to strongly dislike it after TBAA ended.  I think back when it first aired, it was disappointing to me but just one in an endless supply of TBAA.  But then the supply ended.  And there were still topics that the show didn't get around to.  So when the show ended with eating disorders hardly covered, bullying only treated as a side issue in a few episodes, and so on... spending an episode on demon possession seemed like a waste.  And, honestly, I still think it is.  I'm not saying it doesn't happen.  But the odds are the viewing audience was far more likely to struggle with an eating disorder, bullying, or other rather than demon possession.  Plus the mental health aspect is just sloppy.

Andrew is beautiful and lovely and loving in his first scene with Lonnie.  So that's nice. 

I was curious what the verses are that Tess has on the board.  So from NIV... Psalm 2:2-3 is "The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, 'Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.'"  Only that bolded part would have been what she wrote on the board.  Proverbs 7:2 is "
Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye."  The Proverbs verse seems good for Sunday school.  Odd bit of the Psalms, though, I think...

So today, among other topics, my Bible study group discussed how Satan can use our guilt to get us.  If nothing else, at least this episode gets that right.  But I still wish they'd left the possession element out of this.  It's overdone, over-simplified, and all too often feeds right into the stigma attached to mental illness and the misinformation that surrounds it.  Plus, how many more people might have been reached by a less flashy story in which a man fought against guilt that consumed him yet led a functional life?  People might have said "Wow.  I see myself in him.  I need to work on that guilt issue in my life so it doesn't distance me from God..."  It's kinda hard to relate to someone who keeps flashing into demonic mode. 

The sad part is the fellow playing Lonnie/Gregory does a really great job.  Some of his vulnerable moments as Lonnie are really wrenching.  But I just can't get into this episode.
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