It’s kind of amazing that this writing team made a holiday episode centered around the death of both a legendary character and a beloved actor and still managed to make it more uplifting than last year’s offering. (Hey, nothing says Thanksgiving like a hit man flipping tables in a rage over his wife’s maybe rape, am I right?)
Needless to say… this was better. And not just because we got flashbacks! And Ned! Although that certainly helped:
TRACY: He was the glue that held the family together. What’s to become of us?
NED: We’re Quartermaines. We’ll survive. We always do.
TRACY: Without daddy?
NED: We’ve got you. You, the toughest Q of ’em all.
Because I am a gigantic dork, this is the point in the proceedings at which I flapped my hand tearfully at the screen and and warbled, “Oh, Ned, I’m so happy to see you!”
(Seriously, I have no idea how many hoops were involved in getting Wally Kurth enough time off from his Days schedule to make this appearance, but I want to sincerely thank everyone who made it happen. Because Tracy needed him. And so did I.)
I defy anyone — ANYONE — to watch Jane Elliot deliver this monologue in the Q family crypt with dry eyes:
TRACY: They’re all gone. There’s no one left but me to remember the, uh, Christmases in Oyster Bay. Trip to England where I pushed Alan into the lake and mother pushed me in after. Daddy teaching me how to drive… then backing the car into the breakfast room wall. Nobody but me to remember what made us laugh and made us cry. What we fought about. My family. The four of us. [breaks down] Now it’s just me.
Oh, Tracy. Oh, my heart.
Thankfully, we also had bickering Qs and my darling Heather to lighten things up a bit. The latter’s first appearance at the diner actually made me cringe a little, because I didn’t know if she’d really fit with the tone, but it turns out that was exactly the right amount of camp injection needed to keep us all from drowning in a vat of our own salty tears.
Then there was Skye! Who… honestly, I care about very little. Still, her showing up with Lila Rae was a nice touch. And her relationship with Billy Warlock’s AJ was one of the only things I ever found interesting about either of them, so watching her reunite with Sean Kanan’s version was a little strange, but ended up totally working for me.
(Also working for me? Sean Kanan continuing to seem like he’s just having so much fun being on set. His unashamed delight at Alice taking Heather out? AHAHAHAHA. His death glares to Ned? His blasé “So… that just happened,” as Heather was led out in a straight jacket, shrieking about wanting to spend Thanksgiving with Steve? THERE ARE NO WORDS FOR MY LOVE FOR YOU, SEAN KANAN!)
I also love the writers’ commitment to actual balance between AJ, Carly, and Sonny this time around fills me with such joy. None of them are getting their past actions whitewashed; everything’s being laid out — but in context, which makes all the difference in the world.
I mean, under past regimes, a conversation like this would probably have filled me with CAPSLOCK rage:
SONNY: [incredulous] You think what I did to AJ was wrong?
MICHAEL: [visibly refraining from saying DUH] To go that far, to threaten his life? Yeah, I think that was wrong, dad.
SONNY: If it meant protecting you, I’d do it again–
MICHAEL: Protect me? Protect me from what?
SONNY: From getting your head bashed into a tree, or, you know, getting shoved down the stairs? Whatever AJ would have done to you.
MICHAEL: AJ never had a chance to be my father, so you can’t say what he would’ve done.
SONNY: I believed, in my heart, that I was the better father to you. And it wasn’t easy, and yes I messed up a lot, but raising you was the best thing that I ever did. Now, maybe you wished that AJ was around when you were growing up. That’s okay! But do you wish I hadn’t been?
First of all: come on, Sonny. There is zero chance AJ would ever have pushed Michael down the stairs. Everyone knows that only happens to pregnant women. And you know, something tells me that if you bothered to ask Michael if he’d trade in a life of accidental murder, gunshot comas, and prison rape for life with a recovering alcoholic… you might not like the answer.
(Not to mention the irony of the guilt-trip he laid on Michael at the end there, while all in a tizzy about AJ being the manipulative one.)
But the thing is? This time, the show actually seems aware of what a delusional hypocrite Sonny is. And even more amazingly — so does Michael! And that’s just one of many soapy things I am thankful for this year!
Let’s all bow our heads and also give thanks for:
Quartermaines! Plural! Enough to make one room actually feel crowded!
The casting director who clearly picked Chad Duell on the off-chance that somewhere down the road, his bio-dad would come back from the dead and be played by Sean Kanan again.
The loveliest tribute anyone could have asked for.
If this isn’t an image to end an episode on, I don’t know what is. Ron Carlivati and Frank Valentini: thank you for giving me my show back.
And thanks to you all for reading! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.