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After several tightly-written, crime-focused episodes, we hit the mid-season finale with "Just Desserts", a messy Thanksgiving family drama.

There was a lot to like in this episode, with a focus on connections between people, gratitude, and mending fences. We got a dose of differing traditions, family bonds, and damaging secrets. We also saw what happens when we try to hold on to traditions (and memories of the past) that no longer serve us or fit who we are now.

Then there was a part of the episode that gave me heartburn. So as usual I’ll skip the recap and get to the things that stood out to me.

What I Liked

Abeline keeps calling her brother to include him in the family meal, while Cordell plans to make Stella’s favorite dessert as a peace offering. He’s trying in an awkward but genuine way to made amends. Even though Cordell, Liam and Bonham have fun racing ATVs with enough noise to scare away any wildlife in a three-county radius, they do manage to find turkeys, although Cordell misses the shot. Kudos to Bonham for having an emergency (bought) turkey on hand. Now if only he’d thought to thaw it…..

Ben and Cassie are trying to pick up on their old tradition of hitting the Black Friday sales like they used to before their rift. Ben tries to prioritize keeping his word to Cassie about going to the mall—their tradition—and still manage to fit in the Walker meal’s timing.

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Trey makes an appearance, and so does Captain James. To Cassie’s amazement, Kevin shows up despite the rainstorm.

It didn’t surprise me that the Side Step’s liquor license would be suspended after Auggie’s party. That’s a serious offense, and it can take a long time to be reinstated.

Everything goes wrong. A tree goes through the window, knocking the gravy onto the floor and breaking the bowl. The turkey is still frozen. The power goes out. Abeline spills the secret about Auggie’s party. Even the dessert fails. Roads are closed, so everyone is stuck. Abeline has a good talk with Captain James about why Cordell and Liam took over Thanksgiving (to give her a break because the day holds memories of her mother’s death). She tells him that she and her brother never patched up their differences, and her comment about not being able to put the dish together—“it’s a lost cause” seemed to describe relationships as well. (Supernatural fans who saw the Winchester brothers squabble know that siblings are always stronger together.)

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Ben and Liam decide to go to the mall, and have a great kiss. Cassie and Kevin survived the meal and the emotional fall-out, and despite Cassie’s fear that she’s bad at dating, they seem to be making progress.

Captain James tells Cordell that he wants to talk to him and Cassie when he’s back in the office. I suspect that opening the evidence box did not go unnoticed, and it’s about to bite them in the butt.

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After having told the story about her mother having a stroke, Abeline appears to have the same issue when she goes for a walk (weakness on one side of the body, dragging foot, balance problems, collapse). Quite the cliffhanger!

What Gave Me Heartburn

I’d been so happy that Stella and Auggie both seemed to be showing more maturity in their actions and decisions this season, but the last couple of episodes have undone much of the progress.

I’ll say up front that Cordell’s decision to not ask/listen to Stella and Auggie at the jail was a parenting fail, and that his choice to leave Stella overnight was highly questionable. (Although we did find out that he arranged for her to have a private cell.)

At the same time, the magnitude of what Stella and Auggie have both done—and their lack of remorse and certainty that they’re the aggrieved party—really burns my britches.

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Stella lied for two months about the damage to the Mustang and how it happened. She was behind the reckless garage meetup that almost got Auggie stabbed and led to giving away the (very expensive, vintage, family heirloom) car. She came up with the equally reckless plan to steal the car back from people who were willing to use violence, instead of getting police backup and admitting fault.

Twice Stella fell in love with the son of a family enemy—and not something as simple as a business rival or professional competitor.  In one case, she fell for the son of the man who was trying to kill her father and whose goons shot Liam and held the family hostage at gunpoint. In the other case, she chose the son of the family who took away their family ranch and tried to have Bonham falsely convicted of murder. The situation with Colton could be chalked up to a Romeo-and-Juliet trope, but the choice with Trevor was much darker.

Stella grew up in a loving, if imperfect, wealthy family where her needs were amply met. She never went without, or faced true hardship. She’s always had people who care about her, even if they don’t always show it in the ways she wants.

But she’s so offended by being yelled at and given a list of chores as punishment that when Cordell stammers through his apology and his efforts to make things right that she doesn’t know whether the relationship can be repaired? For as much as Stella has been lecturing Auggie about ‘taking responsibility’, she is completely unwilling to see the severity of the bad choices she made and own her part in creating situations that could have gotten her and Auggie killed.

I see a disturbing lack of loyalty to family and an indifference to the damage done to those around her that really bothers me. If it’s not a lack of maturity then it’s a lack of personal ethics that is a significant personality flaw. 

And then there’s Auggie. His bad decision to host an underage party at the Side Step (Supernatural fans caught the reference to the ‘Family Business’—both a nod to the show and to Jensen Ackles’ brewery by the same name) cost them their liquor license. At the very least, under Texas law this shuts the business down for a period of time (lost revenue), involves a fine of several thousand dollars, could lead to the revocation of the license and might result in criminal charges. This is a big deal, and Auggie is blowing it off like he got caught raiding his dad’s liquor cabinet at home.

Auggie was part of the poor decisions involving the Mustang, and kept the secret. His impulsive choice to go to the burned barn unearthed the lantern that led to Bonham being charged with murder and the family nearly losing their ranch. He also nearly blew Cordell’s cover on an undercover job, which could have gotten his dad killed. Then there’s his completely out of line rudeness to Abeline at dinner.

Auggie also shows no remorse. He can’t see how his actions affect anyone around him, and he’s stuck in a pity party over not getting to be the center of attention because of Stella’s choice not to go to college. The degree of self-centeredness is almost as breathtaking as Stella’s, over infractions of much greater magnitude than a normal teenager forgetting to put gas in the car or clean up their room.

Are Auggie and Stella still angry that Cordell missed graduation and the game because he was captured and being tortured and almost dying? If so, there’s a lack of perspective that defies logic. There’s also a complete lack of comprehension of what it means to have a parent who is a first/emergency responder and what the job requires. Both of them are old enough to be able to grasp this concept, so I’m very disappointed that the writers didn’t give them that.

Stella seems to believe that since apologies can’t erase/fix the past that they’re pointless. If so, nothing can ever be forgiven. She has skated by on an enormous degree of forgiveness and second chances for her own very serious mistakes, but is rigidly self-righteous when she feels she’s been wronged (even though she’s shown no remorse/understanding for her part in the situation or willingness to made amends).

I don’t like forced errors, when the writers make characters act in out of character or in illogical ways just to create drama. We’d managed to avoid that for most of this season, but now with Stella and Auggie—and the decision by Cordell and Cassie to lie-by-omission about the evidence box—we have a double dose. Surely dramatic tension could have been created in more logical, less unbelievable ways.

We’ll have to wait for the season to resume and see how everything plays out. I’ll certainly keep watching—but I might be gritting my teeth over some plot choices!

What did you think of the episode, and do you have any guesses about what’s coming up?

Find more of Gail's commentaries on her Writer's Page.

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