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Chesapeake Shores: The Royal Court

Season 2, Episode 9
Written by Nancey Silvers
Directed by Andy Mikita

“When it comes to family, there’s no such thing as normal.”

This week on Chesapeake Shores, the O’Brien family hosts a princess-themed child’s birthday party more elaborate than most royal weddings. In addition to a bouncy house, a table piled high with gifts, a maypole, and the entire cast of the Greater Vancouver Renaissance Fair, the party includes a clown, and yet no children seem to have disappeared. For a moment, I thought that Chesapeake Shores was going to morph into some sort of 10 episode limited series with moody, overworked detectives who completely lack personal lives obsessing over the case until the shocking dénouement, or at least descend into a nightmarish Stephen King-scripted horror movie exploring the simultaneous coming of age and loss of innocence brought about by the eruption of pure evil into an otherwise idyllic small-town. Alas, no such luck, for nothing so interesting happened this week. However, the most delightful moment of the series did take place, and it came from a surprising source and in a surprising way. More on that later. Otherwise, many of the things that we thought were going to happen and which were telegraphed to happen did actually happen: Mick’s deal to develop the family real estate falls apart, Trace’s career heads for new success, Connor finds the perfect job, and Kevin figures out weeks after everybody else that he’d rather be a paramedic than a doctor.

As usual, much of the entertainment comes from Jess who screws up even the simplest of tasks, then flails about uselessly while someone else cleans up the mess. Bree leaves the bookstore in Jess’s totally incapable hands for two days. She stresses the importance of two things: unlocking the store during the day and locking it in the evening; and placing the book order for the local high school absolutely positively before noon in order to get same day shipping. Jess manages the unlocking and locking well enough, but of course she mangles the book order. Flirting with David and figuring out how to progress their relationship through all the eight stages outlined in some silly self-help book distracts Jess from her (easy) all important tasks. She does succeed in placing the book order just before noon. Instead of ordering 100 books, though, she orders 1000. When the boxes start piling up outside the bookstore, in true Jess fashion, she blames David, flakes out, and doesn’t even try to fix her mistake. I’m pretty sure Amazon has a return policy. Rather than do something simple and straightforward and sensible, like call the company, she just piles the books on a sale table outside the store and hopes that somehow all the extra copies will somehow disappear before Bree returns.

Jess needs to throw out the self-help book and chain David in her basement so that he can never ever get away. That one’s a keeper. A chance meeting with Jess’s high school English teacher reveals that she would love to use some of the books in her classes, but the cost just isn’t included in the school budget. David takes it upon himself to not only pay the $10,000 bill for the unwanted books, he also delivers them to the high school himself after he donates them. He also rearranges and reorganizes the bookstore to make it more enticing and navigable. The teaser for next week hints that David’s reticence about his past stems from some great mystery about his identity; apparently he is not the person he appears to be. The resolution of that little mystery will have to wait for next week’s season finale. However, Jess being Jess, the preview suggests that rather than show gratitude for the wonderful way David rescued her from certain family shunning and Bree from bankruptcy, Jess pulls a flounce. She’s been so well behaved the past couple weeks that it will be good to see her getting back into stride again.

Bree couldn’t man the bookstore because she went on a little trip with Kevin. Kevin decides that he must speak to the mother of his best friend who was killed in Afghanistan. He feels compelled to explain how his friend died, if for no other reason than to understand it himself. As he and Bree bond while they search for his friend’s mother, Kevin realizes that he dropped out of medical school because he instinctively sensed that the profession wasn’t for him. Though returning to med school seems like a great career choice, it’s still not the right one for him. Talking to his friend’s mother helps him realize this. She doesn’t want to hear about her son’s death, because he was a person who lived life to the fullest. Though now deceased, Kevin’s friend’s approach to life helps Kevin clarify his own direction.

Once he commits to the new career choice, Kevin can focus on helping someone else. Since he will be moving out, he brings ice cream to Abby for one last late night snack. He knows that Trace’s career situation makes her uneasy. Further, Wes, Abby’s ex, took a new job in Philadelphia which is going to cause some disruption in her daughter’s lives. Not sure how the ice cream at midnight thing works, he asks Abby for a little instruction and she insists that he giggle as part of the ritual. He giggles! And thereby provides one of the most entertaining moments in the entire series. This is Brendan Penny, the same actor who does such a good job portraying his character’s struggles with PTSD. Though one may not think of Hallmark for the best acting on TV, this actor is certainly doing a great job with this role.

The success of Trace’s new song going viral should be cause for celebration, but it brings conflict as well. Leigh and John both want Trace to reconsider signing with a major record label rather than pursuing the independent route. The popularity of the single brings all kinds of attention from the big music companies, all promising complete artistic freedom. Trace consults Mick for help in figuring out how to make the best deal for himself and the band, and Mick tells him to ignore the promises and listen to what the execs are willing to give up. Mark Hall, who worked with the band in Nashville before their falling out, returns along with the other suits. He rips up the old contract and returns the master tapes to Trace. Though Trace doesn’t agree to a deal in this episode, it’s clear that he’s going to. It’s also clear that the band’s success will certainly drive a big wedge between Abby and Trace. Meanwhile, a new guy surfaces as a potential replacement in Abby’s heart should her relationship with Trace come to a close.

Bree receives a letter from a big-name publisher stating that they’re interested in her latest book. She’s so excited about the prospect of getting it published that she doesn’t realize at first that Simon sent them her manuscript without telling her. This episode makes it clear that Hallmark should consider creating a spinoff series following the much more interesting escapades of the Chesapeake Shores O’Brien family boyfriends. Between David and Simon, way more interesting things happen when the love interests show up.

Next week constitutes the last episode in this season, and will undoubtedly wrap up a few plot lines while unspooling new possibilities for next year. The show started out the season much improved over last summer, but unfortunately did not maintain that quality throughout all 10 episodes. While there is nothing wrong with any of the acting and as mentioned before some of it is quite good, the writing feels uneven and the show does little to create suspense. If Hallmark continues to work on the story arc and punches up the conflicts that form the backbone of a show like this, Chesapeake Shores could continue to improve. It clearly strives to be the TV equivalent of a summer beach read, but some beach reads are better than others. With a little more work, it might even become the TV equivalent of a page turner.

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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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