"A Winter Carol"

A review by Jenni:

A couple things: One, my computer died so I am writing this from my new laptop which has completely different fonts.  So that's why the font changed.  I'll miss Century Gothic.  Second, I think this may be a stupid idea that I will regret.  I'm already kinda weepy over lost files/memories on top of backing up what I could save bringing a lot back concerning those first days after John Dye passed away.  And, of course, 9-11 was a terrible time for us all.  And there's the terribly sad situation in Norway.  So I should maybe not watch this right now.  But I feel kinda compelled so... 

What I love about this episode:
It's not a good sign that I'm already crying over the car in the parking lot, is it?  I mean way to move people TBAA creators but... I'm clearly a wreck.  Still, it's a poignant start.  And something about Andrew's quiet way of telling Gloria about the train tracks really gets to me, too.

As much as it hurts to watch this... I don't think I can state enough how comforting it was to think of "our" angels helping people through their grief after 9-11. 

I can relate both to the mayor's reluctance to touch the car and Charlie really wanting it moved.  It can be so hard to determine whether an object causes more pain in its presence or in its absence when tied to a lost loved one.

I forgot about Victoria's throat thing.  Way too relatable.  I've learned my body does react when I'm grieving and it's not good.

Gotta hand it to her... It's blazing hot outside but Monica's shoppe is making me feel like it's Christmas.  It's a good feeling. 

I can totally remember feeling what Charlie did:"There's never gonna be another normal day."  I'm still not sure if there ever was.  I also love what he says about responsibilities not meaning that we can't be human, show emotion, etc.  I fall into that trap sometimes. 

Gah...  Benny's phone call.  So sad.  But this answering machine bit was a really good idea.  It really encapsulates so much of that time.  Something terrible happened and then... finally, some semblance of broken acceptance.

"There is someone here now who knows that your heart is broken...  It is God and He sent me to tell you that He loves you very much."  From Monica to Victoria.  "God loves you" was so important to TBAA but sometimes I think "God knows what you feel" was even more what we needed to hear.

"God loves you so much and He wants to take away your fear."  Another good one from that scene.  And shortly thereafter: "You have to get the pain out... all of it... if you're going to heal."

I *love* that they had Victoria try to play down her grief by saying others had suffered so much more.  Because I'm sure many of us felt that way as the depression and anxiety set in yet we still had our families, our unmarred cities.  And yet we were wounded as Monica said.

"No matter what happens to you, God will never leave you to face it alone."  Same scene.  Great one for quotes.

"Even if you try to put Christmas out of your mind, God won't let you.  Because that's what Christmas is: Immanuel: God with us."  I wish it was Christmas...  But He's always with us.

"Live in faith.  God cannot work in your life if you've given it over to fear."   Monica's got so many great quotes in this episode.

With my first viewing, the above is the last thing I wrote because the performance of that hymn just isn't something one can type during.  But now, after the second viewing, I agree with Monica.  It was just what we all needed to hear.  And I loved how she spoke of "we" and "us."  The angels were in this with us and still are.  The original version is even better at showing the power and comfort of unity.  I wish we could get back to that without needing tragedy to bring us there.

Beautiful episode.  Not one I can watch frequently but beautiful.  And the choir was so excellent.  It's not often I tear up during my second viewing but I did during the hymn.  And at other parts, too.  But mostly it was the hymn.

What I didn't love about this episode:

Really all I can complain about is that THC really shoulda shown a lil more respect with this episode and not had their ridiculous banners going so much.  Not to mention the terrible edit job I describe below.

Lingering questions:
How?  How did they pull themselves together enough to write and direct and produce and act in something this well done when they had to still be reeling as we all where?   I guess that's the grace of this show and the people who brought it to us.  And, of course, of God.

Parts that made me feel swoony:
I really started crying when we first glimpsed Andrew.  I can remember when that was poignant cause a viewer thought "Was Andrew there?..."  And there's still that.  But there's also this terribly sad reality that many of us TBAA fans did imagine Andrew there, in the towers or at the Pentagon or on Flight 93.  It was comforting to think those people had someone as compassionate as him to support them in their final moments on Earth.  And, if you were like me, you imagined how someone like him (but really you imagined him) was there again during the AZ shootings.  It was a comfort, too, to know that John Dye cared so much about combating hate and misuse of power.  And then two days later the man whose comforting image and voice helped us in those times of loss was gone, too.  But there's some peace to be found in the knowledge that no terror, no violence can ever hurt John again.

Andrew looks so handsome in that l
eather jacket and turtleneck.  And I love how he so expertly gets Bennie to let him step in as teacher.  He plays it so cool, like they're just two fellow musicians, doing what needs to be done.  Perfect.  He was always so wonderful in dealing with children.

When Victoria and Monica are in the former's car, she says "Mr. Harper helped Benny get over his last heartbreak.  But who's gonna help him get over Mr. Harper?"  That's so much an echo of what so many of us said about John.

I really do love Andrew's very casual clothes in this episode.  He looks especially cuddly and comfy which is important in this episode, especially.

Oh...  "It hurts to miss somebody, makes you wanna cry."  Yep, Andrew.  It does.

I *love* that Andrew tells Benny he only needs to be himself, not stay strong for his mother.  I wish I'd had an Andrew around when I was younger.  And still...  And what a hug...  He was so lovely.

He looked pretty choked up there at the end but still focused on those drums.  Good, ol', dutiful Andrew.  And lovely, lovely John...

Random thoughts:

Music: Monica has an instrumental take on "What Child is This?" playing in her Christmas shoppe.  Later it's "O Christmas Tree."  Steven Curtis Chapman's "A Winter Carol" plays over a montage that includes them going to Mr. Harper's.  They sing "Angels We Have Heard on High" at the Christmas pageant.  And, of course, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sings "Battle Hymn of the Republic."

The name of this lil city is Summit Grove. 

Scenes Hallmark cut:

- They cut a couple of Mr. Harper's messages.  After the "Mr. Harper, are you there?" message from Benny, there's one in which he calls and tells Mr. Harper that his mom wants him to get a new drum teacher but that Benny thinks they should wait until Mr. Harper returns.  Then there's also a basic one from his bank.  Then it goes to Benny's call placed on 9-11 which THC resumes with.

- In the original, after Monica disappears from Mr. Harper's place, Valerie replays part of the message from Mr. Huntsman about meeting up with Mr. Harper on 9-11.  Not a major cut as it is just a replay of what we just heard.

- Wow... new low for THC.  They cut part of the "Battle Hymn"!  Actually they completely recut it so that at times, different scenes are shown with different lyrics.  For example, in the original, as they pan the stained glass window and Monica looks down from the balcony, the choir sings "In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, with a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me."  As they do, they show the baby Jesus from the pageant and you hear a baby cry.  And it proceeds with "As He died to make men holy..."  THC cuts out the baby Jesus shot, the cry, and the lilies/transfigures part.  Why!?  It's only a few seconds!  It's awful IMO.  The images that they cut also include one of the local merchants (I believe the one who said he was the only one to put up Christmas decor) breaking down as another puts his arm around him.  Tess smiles, there's a close up of Benny.  And whereas "As He died..." in the THC version shows Monica on the balcony, the original version shows Andrew amidst the choir just as that's sung which now, of course, is even more poignant.  Especially since he blinks and then bows his head.  More close-up pans of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are cut, too.  I can't believe they'd mess with that segment... 

Further on down the road...
Happy Christmas Eve!  I started this week without having gotten around to viewing a single TBAA Christmas episode.  But since Sunday afternoon, I've snuck in the first 7 Christmas episodes.  Yay.  I feel more Christmasy now. 

For the record, I'd want people to keep on with my traditions if they felt so compelled even if I wasn't there.  I think it's a nice way to live on.

Victoria's line about wondering who will help Benny get over his heartbreak over Mr. Harper when Mr. Harper was the one to help him through the heartbreak of his father leaving still gets to me.

I think this episode captures the surreal feeling of those first months after 9-11.  Constantly waiting for the other shoe to fall.  Wondering how anything had possibly seemed so normal that morning before it happened.

Ooh.  The angel spinning thing reminds me that someone bought me a candle at work and I wanted to try it.  Gonna go light that. 

Victoria's issue with wondering what right she has to her feelings is very relatable to me.  I sometimes get that way about tragedies that I'm not directly involved with.  What right do I have to be so upset when people lost family members and mine are safe?  But I think as long as someone isn't using those feelings as an excuse to not do what they need to, it's just plain empathy and it's a very good thing.

I just realized that I don't remember this Christmas at all.  I remember Halloween 2001 but not that Christmas.  I don't even remember watching this episode although I know I must have.  Conversely, I can pretty clearly remember watching "The Christmas Watch" when it aired... well, within hours of it airing.  I was at a play when it actually aired.

I get goosebumps every time the choir starts up even though I totally know they're coming.

I noticed that above I pondered how the TBAA writers pulled themselves together enough to write this.  I still find that amazing but not really as surprising.  I think when you're someone who writes, whether professionally or just as a hobby, sometimes you *have* to write about a tragedy because that's the best way you know of for processing it and getting yourself to a more settled place.

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