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Chesapeake Shores: “Pasts and Presents”

Chesapeake Shores: S2 E2 “Pasts and Presents”
Written by Michael Berns
Directed by Sean McNamara

“Hurting helps. I know where I am when I’m hurting.”

This is Chesapeake Shores, where the women are strong and the men are strong enough (well, some of them anyway) to bend a little when absolutely necessary in the face of overwhelming evidence. In the midst of all the family drama and the icky kissing stuff this week, Hallmark’s CS brings forward the true power in the O’Brien family, moves a surprising person to the top of the favorite character list, and elicits an apology from this reviewer for prior comments.

We open with a wedding, or at least the appearance of one. Jess, who is a walking advertisement for never hiring a wedding planner, tries on a wedding dress for her client. Her assistant-cum-chef tries on the tux for the groom in the hastily arranged reception. He descends to one knee to get the pen she dropped just as Mick and Nell walk down the street outside the shop where all this is happening. Never has foreshadowing been handled in such a cute and humorous way.

This family spends more time around the breakfast table and the fire pit than all the other families in the U.S., I mean Canada, put together. At one of this week’s family breakfasts, Megan drops by to invite everyone to a dinner party at her new home. Her attempt to reenter the O’Brien circle would probably fail without the support of her former mother-in-law. Never underestimate the iron will and steadfast determination of an Irish grandma, and for “Irish” you may substitute African, Italian, Jewish, Persian, Swedish, Brazilian, Polish, Chinese, Indonesian, and Basque. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Nell tells everyone present in no uncertain terms that they will attend the dinner party. She also insists that Mick talk to his brother Tom about the 100 acre land parcel. And about whatever other bug has been up their butts for the past several decades. Tom does show up at the end of the show, and unless Nell dies or goes off on another trip, we the audience can rest assured that these two will talk.

Brother Tom was only introduced off-camera last week. This week we find out there is yet another brother, and Mick doesn’t talk to that one either. Further, in the course of doing due diligence on the potential land development, Abby comes across an old photograph which suggests that Mick and Tom and Megan were caught up in a love triangle. Megan’s exit from the family has never been fleshed out; maybe new information will be provided in the next few weeks.

Kevin, the brother who served in the military, helps Megan unpack boxes at her new house. She drops a box and it makes a clatter, which affects Kevin far more than it should. I have been hard on this show at times, but I must give credit where it is due. The actor who plays Kevin provides a sensitive portrayal of someone dealing with PTSD. He neither underplays nor overacts the effects of this affliction. The writers, too, deserve honorable mention for the way they depict Kevin’s issues.

In addition to giving kudos to the actor who plays Kevin, the character Kevin rises to new prominence this week. As he and Abby walk to their mother’s dinner party, a car speeds past them, loses control, and crashes. Kevin immediately shifts into medic mode. He instructs Abby how to do CPR and saves the man’s life. He gets bonus points for taking off his shirt to do this. He gets Extra Special Super Duper Mega Lotto Scratch off Points for then putting Abby’s ugly winter coat on over his bare chest and looking damn good while doing it. A female firefighter at the scene agrees with my assessment. If I join the fan club, do I get the poster?

Everyone loves a hero, especially a flawed one. While Kevin provides the hunk factor for the week, Connor delivers this week’s Near Miraculous Event. You might’ve thought it was the car crash and rescue, but you would be wrong. No, the miracle occurs when Connor experiences self-doubt for the first time in his entire life. Waiting for the interview at the DA’s office which he expects to ace, Connor realizes that the people sitting on either side of him are more qualified than he is. Overconfident as always, Connor never gave himself a backup plan. Luckily, his father arranged an interview at an area law firm. At the uncomfortable interview with a stone-faced corporate type, Connor experiences a realization about himself. He’s human. Well, in a corporate law sort of way.

Meanwhile, Bree engages in the battle of the sexes, which also happens to be the battle of the exes, in Chicago. Bree’s ex Martin and current theater director insists on completely rewriting her play from his own, male-centric point of view even though it makes the characters flat and the action nonsensical. At first, Bree argues with him, to no avail. Eventually Bree realizes that she must fight like a woman: if you can’t win the battle, then just win the war. The grant for the production of the play was provided by Women Write, so Bree sends them the play as it is now written by a man. They yank the funding. Though this may seem a pyrrhic victory, getting your play produced if it isn’t even your play doesn’t constitute a win.  Plus, she does it with such style! Rather than just tell Martin to take this job and shove it, she writes it. Then she has him act it out, with the actress he’s currently putting the moves on. The person who first said that the pen is mightier than the sword must have been the brunt of a writer’s revenge.

Throughout much of this episode, Mick plays Mick the Dick. He insists on going forward with developing 100 acres of pristine family-owned land despite opposition from pretty much everybody including the audience. He insists on selling the nightclub which he planned with Trace, even though it destroys Trace’s lifelong dream. Remember that Trace may just end up being the next Mr. Abby. Mick doesn’t let his daughter’s happiness get in the way of something that’s actually important, like money. Trace follows his dad’s advice by putting the project to Mick in terms of bettering Chesapeake Shores. When Mick finds out that Trace has put his handmade, labor-of-love house up for sale so he can buy Mick’s share of the nightclub, Mick sees in that determination something that finally convinces him of the value of the project to his favorite town. He doesn’t agree to sell his share to Trace; he decides to continue as a partner in the music venue.

In last season’s reviews, I may have made light of the heavy weight of Leigh’s hair extensions. I humbly withdraw those comments. The genetic results came back from the ancestry company. Leigh is 14% European, 59% Bigfoot, 37% yeti, and 2% woolly mammoth. The hair is all hers. She plays the evil woman of the ensemble by relentlessly trying to get Trace to leave Chesapeake Shores and go back to Nashville. And you can tell she’s a baddie because great villains must have great hair – it’s a Hollywood Rule.

Since no one else will do it, not even God, Jess finally relents and asks her horrible, hateful mother to help pull together the wedding at the B&B. Things go beautifully, everyone looks wonderful, Trace sings, and Nell tells Jess to pull her head out of her ass. A truly perfect wedding! And everyone knows that no wedding is complete without a tense standoff between quarreling family members, which is thoughtfully provided by Mick and Tom. So romantic!

You would think as messed up as most families are, there would be no audience for family dramas on television. But women like these kinds of shows. Unlike in real life, TV shows can take the liberty of creating families in which most people are pretty nice and the villains aren’t too villainous. And Hallmark is one of the few companies that is willing to provide female-oriented content unapologetically. Hallmark may not seem like it’s at the vanguard of feminism but it doesn’t pander, and it doesn’t add bells and whistles to attract a “real” audience (of men). I’ve never thought about this this way before. Perhaps even writers in a male-dominated profession can bend a little when absolutely necessary and faced with overwhelming evidence.

Grade: B+

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Amy Anna was raised by wolves. She spends all her time eating and watching movies while lying on the couch . Her animal totem is the velociraptor.

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