Joan of Arcadia (“Requiem for a Third Grade Ashtray”)

Season 1, Episode 18
Date of airing: March 12, 2004 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 10.6 million viewers, 6.0/11 in Households, 3.0/8 in Households

This episode ended with a fart joke. The writers must have felt like they were children when breaking this episode, but who would have thought that Kevin’s farts would actually lead to a story development for him? Granted, Kevin’s nerve endings starting to regenerate is a bit of a lazy story choice, as I don’t really want him to be walking again, or ever, but there was something about Luke and Kevin having this personal moment, while no one else in the family just realized that Kevin knew beforehand that his farts were on the way and that it means his nerve endings were regenerating. Side note, I never knew that being paraplegic also means you can’t feel when a fart is coming on. Can you also not feel when a bowel movement is coming on, or is the stomach area still okay for a wheelchair-bound human being?

Even scientific geniuses can be sick every once in a while.

The episode was good enough. I loved that Joan had to be a mature Girardi in this episode, running half of the household, making dinner, caring for a Girardi kid, all while also having to deal with her own life, during which she has made dates and appointments, which essentially means she had to cancel some of them, like an adult, simply because she was too busy. That is actually a great way to depict adulthood, and how it’s a no-go for all the teenagers in the world, because maybe they aren’t ready for adulthood just yet, when all they want is study or hang with their friends. By the way, Adam wasn’t the smartest when he scheduled his little coffee shop art show on the eve of a big chemistry exam, and both Grace and Joan weren’t the smartest, as they could have scheduled their study group at Joan’s place instead of the library, including Grace bringing along the chemistry notebook for Luke. Grace was already not interested in going to Hebrew class, she could have just skipped that for her chemistry study group (and her father shouldn’t blame her for skipping Hebrew school to study for high school). I get that feeling the teens made their lives way too complicated during this episode, but that is also a way to show that they are just teens: They simply don’t know any better. Or maybe the writers just created plot inconsistencies with this episode, which is more likely.

Meanwhile, Helen’s little art project in class maybe could have had a bigger impact for some of the characters. I didn’t get the feeling that Adam was particularly impressed by smashing up things to rearrange them into a new piece, and I don’t get the feeling that Joan has learned something considerably important when giving away her handprint turtle, although the image of Joan softly smashing the turtle was kind of hilarious. It was one of those tiny moments that make Amber Tamblyn an excellent actor and perfectly cast for the show, even if some of her mannerisms weren’t really of a regular and real teenager at some points, like during those times she yells after God with a PG-13 insult, for everyone else around to hear and wonder whether this girl is nuts (the irregular running joke of the series, barely funny, but at least slightly amusing).

Talking about Gods and Jews is not easy among 16-year-olds.

I also have to say that Grace’s story seemed wasted in this episode. She obviously has a bit of a problem being hampered with her Jewish ancestry at home, while it looks like she is getting freedom to do whatever she wishes to do (except when it’s about Hebrew school), but I would have hoped the story had been placed a little bit front and center during this episode. We have already learned a lot about Adam, and that may be just because the producers knew and expected for Chris Marquette to be a special guest star after the back-9 order, and a potential regular for a potential second season, but considering how much of a regular character Grace has become during this season, and how many, albeit minor, conflicts she has carried out with some of the characters, I would have expected for her issues with her father (and I’m not even sure she really has any, because of the fact she doesn’t get that amount of screentime) to be a prominent story here. Especially when it’s all about her problems with Joan knowing about her problems.

And then there was the elevator birth. Somebody must have decided to recycle the EARLY EDITION episode “Baby,” because the setup was almost the same. Thank the heavens that the story had a bit of a twist at the end, when I was kind of in shock to hear the mother didn’t want the baby. If an hour of television had been 90 minutes long, it could have been a guarantee for the woman to have “not noticed” she was pregnant at all, and her breaking the water was an utter shock for her. With that in mind though, the story ended a little bit openly. But does Will even care about what happens after the birth? It’s not like he was particularly invested in it, and only thinking about how he could have missed the same thing happening with his wife and three kids. By the way, was he really absent of his kids’ births? I am a little suspicious about that…

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