"Stealing Hope"

A review by Jenni:

What I love about this episode:
I'm starting to come to the conclusion that with all its writers, TBAA actually did fairly well with continuity as far as character traits.  It was just time lines that they seemed willing to throw under the bus whenever it suited them.  I say this cause Monica's fascination with words recurs through many episodes.  Right now I am totally blanking on several examples but I clearly remember Kathleen bringing it up in one of her episodes.  And here it surfaces at least three seasons later as Monica sings the praises of the word "viscosity."  So that's good.  Later on, Andrew's punctuality gets briefly mentioned, too.

I'm with Monica.  I would not want to go into a men's bathroom.  Ever.  And definitely not at a gas station.  So that was very realistic.  Also, it was doubly icky for me to consider since I watched "Medium" last night and that depicted the aftermath of an apparent rape and a double shooting... both occurring in a graffiti-ridden men's bathroom.  Sometimes I really miss TBAA... that's just not a scene they woulda presented us with. 

When TBAA has done episodes about comedians, I've been underwhelmed by their routines.  They just clunk for me.  So I was happy to discover again that the poetry Ricky writes is actually good.  I mean if he were real, I wouldn't mind reading more of his work.  Whereas I probly would not go and see Natalie's stand-up or a Salt and Pepper routine.  So good job to whomever wrote those!  The episode was written by Jason Jersey so maybe him.

I think it's very cool that Monica gives Ricky a journal and tells him it's a "book of poetry yet to be written."  Actually, I like Monica through out this episode.  That's always nice!

Gah.  I'm a sucker for flashbacks just normally.  But here they're gut-wrenching.  Ricky scrawling "I love you, daddy" and then getting hit is just awful.  But I think it was well handled.  Especially insofar as it later ties into his poem.

I thought the scene of the mom's surprise birthday party was also tough to watch but necessary.  It really made me connect with her whereas before I'd been pretty disgusted with her.  Terribly sad, though.  It makes you wonder how many people around us are wounded in ways we can't see.

I thought it was cool that Ricky's dream girl turned out to be a "townie from another town."  And not ashamed to say so.

Ricky isn't presented as exactly an atheist.  He just says he doesn't believe in angels.  And I love the response he gets.  Monica doesn't get angry or annoyed.  She simply says that he became too afraid to believe in the good.  This is why I just can't believe that atheists are, by virtue of that alone, barred from the afterlife or whatever it is some believe.  I think God has the utmost compassion and understanding for the fact that sometimes life is so painful for some, they can't believe in an all-loving God. 

I also appreciate that Monica tells Ricky he might "lose it."  And she doesn't say that will be bad or unforgivable.  She presents it as a fact without judgment.  Because sometimes it's okay to lose it.  It's even, sometimes, a good thing.  ETA: I also like this quote from that part: "It can be very frightening to open up and let out a pain that has been locked up for years.  But God is here and you are safe."

It's nice that this ends with Marshall and Ricky exchanging words about how they wouldn't have stolen the poem and mirror if they weren't so good.  It gives ya some hope that Marshall got a much needed wake-up call and that, some day, the two may even be friends.  And classmates.

What I didn't love about this episode:

So, at first, I was like "OMG!  Not another freaking episode in which I'm gonna have to watch a gosh awful parent!"  Cause I was horrified when Ricky's mom went off at him about losing his job (as if he wasn't already hurting over it) and then accused him of not caring about her or his brother.  But I'd forgotten the whole PTSD/abuse plot so felt sympathetic towards her once reminded.  Although I can't say I think her behavior is entirely acceptable.  But maybe it's understandable.

Here's something that always gets me about these "can't get into/stay in college" shows and movies... why does no one look into loans, work study, etc.?  At least here the girl eventually mentions on-campus employment.  But generally financial aid never comes up.  And I have to wonder how much of a disservice this is to actual people in these positions.  It's not hopeless and, yes,
lots of people do have to take out loans, work during the school year, etc.  But they make it happen even if it means paying until they're 33...

No fair teasing us with Tess' statement about confronting the thieves!  It made me want to see it!

Lingering questions:
Why would they have a kid sign up for a children's contest at a college?  I've been in schools enough and known enough teachers to know sometimes the education bureaucracy is no good.  So I'm not saying it's unrealistic.  But, seriously, why would they do that?  What if some kid with deadbeat parents who won't take him or her to the college wants to join in?  Why wouldn't they have a sign-in sheet at the grade schools where, assumedly, Joey learned about it?

Am I the only one who can't remember the last time they were at a full-service gas station?  I'm not even sure we have any here any more.  The only one we ever went to is closed.

Can Andrew write a poem about a pretty girl?  I'd love to read a poem he'd write about a puppy.  I'm sure he could do that.  But "pretty girl" was another topic he suggested.  And I just wonder if he could.  I mean I'm sure the angels have some sense of aesthetics even though they're not attracted to people.  And simply being enmeshed in a culture as they are would clue them into standards of beauty.  And yet... I can name pretty women.  But if you asked me to write a poem about them, it'd probly be pretty lame.  I just don't feel it.  So could he pull it off based only on physical beauty?  Kinda doubt it.  I think he could probly write a poem about a woman, mentioning her beauty, so long as he was emotionally invested in some way and was trying to capture something else about her.  But I dunno.

Should we have an invention that makes people forget bad things?  I posed this question to the YG a while back and there were pros and cons on both sides as you would expect.  I can see Monica's view that we learn from the bad things.  I can see Joey's view that sometimes the bad memories just don't stop.  So I dunno...  One thing I do want to know: if we could erase a memory... would it be truly erased?  Cause this would be my fear: say something traumatic happened to me and I was left feeling anxious and scared all the time.  If I had the memory erased, would the anxiety and fear go away?  Or would I just be left with vague, sinking feelings and no clue why?  Cause if the latter, I think that would be worse than remembering as I would just feel crazy.

How much did Andrew know?  Like did he already suspect the poem was stolen and that's why he allowed Ricky to stay in class?  To ensure he'd hear that?  Or was that all happy coincidence aka God remaining anonymous?

What *was* Monica holding when she was taking inventory and asked Ricky what one does with it and then he pondered how she got the job?  I have no clue.

Parts that made me feel swoony:
Andrew teaches at Redding University in this episode.  Just saying cause ya never know when someone might need to know that...

I got all smiley when I saw our favorite super-adorable Literature prof.  And I needed that.  This has been a horrible week.  I wish Andrew had been in this more but I think it was good for me to see him outta AOD mode, pretty even-keeled, and just plain looking and sounding like my dream professor.  If I'd had someone like him in college... well, there may have been problems.  But I bet I woulda smiled a lot more in those days.  As it was... wow.  I'm not sure I've ever had a male Literature teacher.  That's crazy.  I'll just pretend I was in Andrew's class.  ;-)

Of course, Danika had to erupt in ear-splitting barking the minute Andrew first appeared.  (A cat was outside.)  So I had to rewind.  Love the lovely angel and didn't wanna miss a second.

I love hearing Andrew recite "She Was a Phantom of Delight."  They coulda done a whole episode of Andrew reading as far as I'm concerned.  Aloud, of course.  Also, I love him in glasses.

Kinda weird seeing Andrew as a "register or else!" college man.  But he just looked so lovely...  And, yes, I know he couldn't very well let Ricky take the class for free while others scrimped and saved to afford college. 

Since Andrew actually isn't in this a whole lot... I'll just talk about semi-related Andrew stuff.  This episode reminds me of a story I wanted to write for JABB and never got around to.  In it, Andrew was a substitute Literature or creative writing prof.  Unbeknownst to him, LJA was taking the class.  And the regular prof had told Andrew to have the students recite the poems they'd written.  And LJA, being away from Dyeland and amongst strangers, had written an emotionally raw poem about Andrew thinking no one who knew him would ever know what she wrote.  But then there she was... reading it aloud with him as the prof!  And it was clear enough that *he* would know it was about him while none of the other students would have a clue.  Sigh...  Sometimes I still wish I'd done that.  It coulda had a lot of pathos and oh-so-fun The Office-style awkward humor.  Oh well.  I spose I could always send her to night classes...  ;-)  Or save the idea for years and turn it into one of the kids writing a poem about growing up under his wing, so to speak.  Aww...  Note to self!

I think I like Andrew reading "My Heart Leaps Up..." even better than the previous poem.  Although it always gets me a bit when he talks about growing old and then invokes death as if he could actually experience it.  I think maybe I just prefer that poem.  So much to think about.  And I hope Andrew always was able to stare in awe at the beauty of creation even after everything he saw.

Ya know what would be fun?  A reel of all the times Andrew picked apart a fight during TBAA's run.  He seems to do it a lot.  At least he never gets hit!  I'd freak!  Manliness...

Andrew's so smart!  He reminds me of King Solomon.  In fact, next time I need to make up a last name for him: Solomon may be a good choice.  His recitation test is pretty ingenious.  Even though I doubt I could recite a whole poem even if I wrote it, I'm sure that what was recited would clearly give away the true author so it's sound.  It's not about memorization as much as emotion which Ricky clearly had more of.

Random thoughts:

Music:  There's classical music which I definitely recognize when the two punks pull up with the stolen car.  I spent half an hour trying to ID it with no luck.  ETA: Also, you hear, like, one bar of a song when the girl pulls up to the gas station.  I couldn't make the words out.

I am a failure as a woman.  I have never tossed my hair seductively in slow motion.  And I have a lot of it.  Boy, I'm a screw up.  ;-)  Seriously, that is like a TV staple.  It reminds me of something, though...  I can remember when the Jeremy Sisto "Jesus" movie came out.  In general, I love that movie.  But they actually had a slow-mo hair bouncing scene of Jesus in it.  My friends and I would howl with laughter when we watched.  And rewind.  Even the Son of God cannot escape TV conventions.

Marshall downgrading plagiarism in front of his Literature prof is all kinds of foolishness.  Really?!? 

Scenes Hallmark cut:
-THC cuts right to Andrew reciting "My Heart Leaps Up..." and then to another scene right when he finishes.  I'm sooo glad they didn't cut it.  But it seems odd that there was nothing else to that scene.  So I'm thinking there was originally.  Will verify.  Ha!  Nope, I was wrong.  That scene is exactly as it was.  It's just a scene that seems to exist for the sole purpose of Andrew reciting poetry.  Now I love it even more!  It's a gift!  A lovely Andrewcentric gift.

-The, I think, third segment begins with Monica and Ricky in the shop.  Monica asks Ricky if he's thought of what he'd like to do after the place closes.  Ricky says there's not much to think about, guys like him just take what they can get.  Monica presents him with A Collection of Favorite Poems saying she thought it might give him some ideas.  Ricky says ideas are dangerous, sets the book down, and then asks Monica to keep an eye on the place while he applies at Taco Town.  But really he goes to the campus and the scene moves to the first scene in Andrew's classroom which THC, thankfully, retained.

-After Marshall steals the poem from the wall, there's a brief scene of Ricky washing the wall.  He then steps outside where his no-good friends are.  He tells them there'll be no more free gas.  Then I think they offer him a job stealing cars.  Or working in a chop shop.  More or less the same thing, I guess, and I'm not sure what they meant.  Anyhow, Ricky turns them down citing that while their gig would pay more than Taco Town, it would also cost more.  They drive away.  Then it goes to Andrew and Ricky speaking outside the classroom which, again, THC keeps.  All they cut from that was an exterior shot of the college which preceded it.  No big loss. 

-Wow!  Here's something new!  THC actually allowed me to see a scene I hadn't before!  It appears that when I taped this off CBS when it originally aired, my local affiliate messed up and showed a cloudscape with the word "Easter" for several seconds.  Just frozen.  So then when they righted it, the episode was already in progress so it wasn't until I saw the THC version that I saw Ricky steal Marshall's mirror and have the brief run-in with his friends.  All I got is Ricky stepping into his car and then it cuts to Joey and his invention.

-They cut mere seconds at the convention where Monica and Joey prep his invention.  She tries to lift the sheet covering it but Joey tells her not yet.  That's it.

Further on down the road...
I'm eating an ice cream sundae for dessert!  That means it's summer.  Yay!!!

I think maybe "It might lead to something better" was spoken a little too soon.  I totally believe that seemingly negative events like getting laid off could lead to better things.  But I feel like some folks need and deserve a little time to grieve the loss of the job before moving to sunny optimism.

Ack.  "He's only nineteen... "  Monica, where you there for the past 6 years???  How, at this point, could Monica be surprised that a teenager might already feel hopeless.  Has she forgotten China?  How about the girls in "The Pact"?  The boys in "At Risk"?  And the list goes on...  It bothers me when Monica or any of the angels say anything that makes it seem like they have no sense of their own history.   

It took over 14 minutes but there he is!  Ya know, I wish Andrew woulda had to do his own assignment (writing about an emotion) and then read that.  How enlightening would that be?  But sigh...  He is lovely reading "Phantom of Delight."

I'm sad that Andrew has to be such a... something... about Ricky registering for class.  But... I love how versatile he is.  His mannerisms, his way of speaking as Professor Andrew... while still being him... are much different than the ones he had as Andrew the teacher in "A House Divided."  I like that he still gets a "pretty darn good" in there.  He's not gone too proper.  :-)

Sigh...  I really do think I like his recitation of "The Child is the Father" even better.  And I suspect TPTB at TBAA may agree cause there was really no reason for that scene beyond hearing Mr. Dye be awesome.

I think it's funny that Andrew really isn't in this episode very much and yet I still think of it as an Andrew-centric episode.  It's all about the poetry!  Oh and I do now think Andrew could quite easily write a poem about a pretty girl.  Maybe she's a friend and he could write about the softness of her hair as if brushes against his cheek when she hugs him to comfort him.  Or he could pen a few lines about the way her eyes shine as she listens to him tell about an upsetting assignment.  One can write about beauty without the focus actually being physical beauty.  And I've no doubt he is attached in some way to the physical traits of those he loves. 
Any one of us would probably be pretty upset if we woke up tomorrow and our parents or siblings looked totally different.  So you can be pulled to someone's physicality without it being a romantic thing.  Sheesh, younger me!  But, in my defense, this was the last episode review I wrote before I had one of those big, maturing experiences.

Didn't anyone think it odd that Tess saw a car get stolen and apparently didn't do anything until Marshall accused Ricky?

Actually... in some ways I think stealing a poem is worse than stealing a car.  Unless it's a car the person stolen from built or majorly worked on themselves.  Stealing someone's product of creativity is theft and something else, too.  Not sure what... some sorta other violation.  Just wrong.  I guess what I mean is if you steal a car and someone sees you with it, they probably don't attribute any truly wonderful qualities to you just cause of the car.  But when you pass off a poem as your own, people attribute creativity, depth of emotion, talent, etc. to you.  It's theft AND lying AND identity theft of a sort.

"It's okay to fight for your dreams!"  I like that quote from Monica to Ricky.

Gah.  Andrew's awesome when he's staring Marshall down as he stumbles through reciting the poem.

I still sometimes think about that "LJA writes a poem about Andrew" story.  Maybe some day I'll still do it as a flashback.

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