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We had a lot of joy in this episode—long overdue—as well as some problems from the past and character insights. I’m going to skip the recap and just cover what I liked—and what made me gnash my teeth.

The Good Stuff

Bonham and Abeline are so sweet! It’s rare and wonderful to see a mature couple be so affectionate. They acknowledge that there have been hard times along the way, but also gave a wonderful acknowledgement to the importance of family, friends and community.

The big party was fun, and watching the family try to pull it off was familiar to everyone who has ever tried to surprise people who are hard to put one over on! I loved the affirmation that their family is more than their ranch or their house, that it’s the people and not the possessions or career milestones that really matter. Bonham and Abeline both gave insightful speeches, and we got to see Bonham sing and play guitar! (Go, Grandpa Campbell from Supernatural!)

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Abeline’s comment about staying together ‘through the dark and muddy and through the daybreak’ seemed both poignant and prophetic. ‘We choose each other every day’ is a truth that isn’t often stated in TV where relationships are made to appear effortless. She makes the key point that they were not uprooted, because it’s the people who really matter.

Auggie and Stella had some great moments. Stella is showing more maturity, but like a real teen it wavers depending on the situation and the day. Still, she’s really thinking about the advice she’s been given and weighing her options carefully, and her comments to Auggie have a wonderful ‘big sister’ caring to them. Watching them try to pull off their part of the con to get Abeline and Bonham to the Side Step was adorable! (Do we really think anyone was fooled?) Stella driving the very decorated Mustang with her grandparents in the back seat after the party was sweet.

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We simultaneously met a new love interest for Liam and got back story on Cassie. I really enjoyed this plot thread which required Cassie to confront her fears and the way she let her brother down in the midst of her own chaos. She and Ben finally talk it out, and end up reconciled. We get Ben’s tragic background losing a love of his own to a progressive disease. And the sparks between Ben and Liam were immediate! Kudos to Liam for taking the first step to ask Ben out!

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I’ve been Team Bret, but Bret left and hasn’t even been mentioned in a long while, and neither he nor Liam seemed to be doing much to rekindle that flame. Liam’s been understandably too busy to look for romance. If Bret is still off with his new boyfriend, or he and Liam haven’t made the effort to reconcile, then Liam has a clear shot at Ben. I loved how Ben and Liam really clicked, and their chemistry was off the charts.

Liam had a good conversation with Cassie about brothers and trauma, sharing what it was like when Cordell ‘went away’ both emotionally and undercover after Emily’s death, and how Liam was afraid he might never come back.

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Cordell helps out Twyla Jean, who is unfairly accused of theft by her new employer. Even though the company accepted her on a post-prison job program, the boss obviously has a lot of bias. Cordell rips the employer a new one, which was satisfying, although I hate to think of Twyla Jean having to continue to work there.

Some of the themes I picked up on were putting one foot in front of the other (small steps in the right direction), options and choices, and picking the right fork in the road/turning point. Bonham’s comment that ‘everything will be all right in time—enjoy the night’ was also important as an underlying idea. Those concepts—as well as waiting for a sign—were peppered throughout the conversations and interactions. The Supernatural echo I heard was ‘we’ll figure it out—we always do’ and ‘we’ll do that—together.’

As always, Jared and the cast did a great job!

There was a lot I liked about this episode—if you loved it, stop here, because there were also some things that didn’t set right with me.

The Other Stuff

Geri is still trying to get to know Gale and Denise, and ‘find herself’. She comes back from a mostly successful trip with them, and Gale invites her for some mother/daughter cooking time.

The Davidsons had a perfectly good house. Why did they move into the Walker place? Did Gale move there to give Dan, Denise and Colton privacy?

Cordell apologizes to Geri about how he acted at the concert, and that grated on me because Cordell is always apologizing for things that aren’t his fault. Geri was on a date with him at the concert and suddenly ditched him and broke up with him because Gale called in the middle of the event. That’s rude and self-centered on Geri’s part, and in my book she’s the one who owes the apology. It is completely reasonable for Cordell to feel and express being hurt, then expect acknowledgement and consideration. His feelings should be valued as much as hers and he shouldn’t have to constantly be the one giving while she takes.

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Cordell tells her that he’s committed to their ‘friendship’. He tells her about the party—how did she not know if she’s still involved at all with the Side Step? Geri is still mad about the Marv/Abeline secret and sorting out Frank’s role in Marv’s death.

All of a sudden, Gale is sweetness and light, and offers to teach Geri the secret chili recipe. Then Gale says that Geri should go to the party, and that Marv saddled Abeline with an impossible choice. How is this the same unreasonably aggressive and downright snake-bit mean woman we’ve seen all season? The woman who couldn’t have a single civil conversation?

Entertainment straddles a fine line between fantasy and insight. In a perfect world, toxic people could be redeemed by others just showing them a little love. In reality, truly toxic and vengeful people rarely if ever completely change their ways, and those they damage are either trapped by feelings of obligation to continue to take their abuse, or forced to cut ties for self-preservation.

I get the fantasy of ‘wouldn’t it be nice if everyone could change’. But I also understand the danger of feeding that fantasy and perpetuating that unrealistic expectation for the real people watching who are snared in relationships with toxic, abusive family. The build-up we’ve had in every interaction with Gale Davidson has portrayed her as vindictive, vengeful, and possibly mentally ill.

She is manipulative, rage-fueled, and unwilling—maybe unable—to let go of the past. This is not a person who is suddenly mother of the year. She’d be making all kinds of digs and passive-aggressive remarks to Geri, trying to mine her for ‘dirt’ on the Walkers, and undercutting Geri’s confidence, actively sabotaging her relationship with Cordell and his family. I’m not buying ‘good’ Gale. Either it’s poor writing, or she’s setting Geri up for a big fall.

Although Geri doesn’t really need any help. Cordell reaffirmed to her at the party that he was ‘all in’ when it came to waiting for her (which she doesn’t deserve). Then because she sees him talking (just talking) to Twyla Jean at the bar, she looks horrified and runs away.

Obviously she expects Cordell to wait indefinitely while she ‘finds herself’ and that includes not even being able to talk with someone of the opposite sex. (They weren’t dancing or doing anything that could appear compromising.) Newsflash—in the real world, people have ongoing, complex relationships with their exes. Some people cut all ties, but from what I’ve observed many people at least try to be civil and at best find a friendship that wasn’t possible under the weight of expectations within a romantic relationship.

Cordell and Geri aren’t teenagers. A nearly forty year-old man should be able to have a conversation in a public place with an ex-lover without being judged. And the thirty-something woman who just dumped him, cut him loose and set him free really doesn’t have a right to protest. Of course she assumes the worst. Of course she doesn’t bother to give Cordell the chance to explain (not that he owes her an explanation or needs her permission to talk to another adult). Of course she runs away.

As I said last week, I think Cordell has an unhealthy weakness for damaged women he needs to ‘save’. It’s part of what drew him into law enforcement and goes with having a big heart—but that doesn’t mean it’s a good way to create a stable, solid relationship. So while I’m not rooting for Cordell/Twyla Jean because I think the cop/outlaw baggage is too much, I think he could do so much better than Geri. She’s a poor friend, and an unhealthy love interest.

I’m annoyed that Geri ran off instead of using her big-girl words. But since she did, maybe she could just stay gone?

What did you think?  Please share your thoughts on the episode below!

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