Joan of Arcadia (“The Gift”)

Season 1, Episode 22
Date of airing: May 14,2004 (CBS)
Nielsen ratings information: 7.9 million viewers 6.4/11 in Households, 2.0/8 with Adults 18-49

“Shampooing the rug” — I understood the double entendre of those words when Will was pulling those out of his mouth the second time around, and I think my childish mind was laughing his ass off about those words, and how Will was about to go berserk over those words, because he was thinking the worst that could have happened to Joan after she mentioned those words, confusing the hell out of her father. Things got a little dirty in my and in Will’s mind. I am wondering what went through the writers’ heads when they came up with the line, and how much trouble they might have gotten into with Standards & Practices, because I am sure they were a little worried about this joke-y line.

This was a good episode. JOAN OF ARCADIA being part teenage drama, it was only a question of time until the writers would come around with a plot that resembles a real teenage drama in the vein of THE O.C. or DAWSON’S CREEK, in which the characters talk about sex (or masturbating) or are about to do it, but then emotions got in the way and the writers used those to stop the sex in its tracks, because you can’t just have two major characters have sex for the first time without some major foreplay story-wise. Then again, this episode was pretty close to (being) the season finale, so it would have made sense for Joan and Adam to take each other’s cherries, especially since the aftermath of it had room to be depicted in the next episode, and the viewers didn’t have to wait for the entire summer to see whether the sex ruined Joan and Adam’s relationship. Because the fact is, the two won’t be in love with each other for the rest of eternity. These people are teenagers, they will quickly fall out of love over a stupid thing and move on to the next big thing. There is still another season in play and the writers can’t just keep the main couple together for the rest of their lives, because it doesn’t help them in the greater narrative. It’s not good for their character arcs, which is why on-off relationships are a dime a dozen in scripted television.

Girlfriends talking about boyfriends.

I was a little more interested in Luke’s dilemma this time around, as he seemed like he was in the middle of a teenage midlife crisis himself. Gone from one girlfriend, in love with the other girl, and in-between he doesn’t know what to do or say, because he obviously thinks of Glynis being a waste of time for him, while Grace is still the locked gate he is constantly crashing into, with no hope of the two ever figuring out their feelings for each other. While it is an interesting story for Luke, simply because it’s a complex one for his teenage mind, it’s also an intriguing story to make Grace a real character in the show. First, she had a memorable talk about sex with Joan in the park, during which Grace was the best girlfriend she could have been for Joan: Truthful and emotionally honest, helping Joan without actually giving her the answers Joan was looking for by telling Joan she has to come up with the answer herself. Then that scene in the library with Luke, during which she was real as well, simply because she decided not to be her aggressive, rebellious self and instead be a character who was supposed to become a regular for the next season, therefore she had to behave like such a character. As if the writers wrote this episode and Grace’s story with the fact in mind that she is a main character in the next season – a decision made before the season ended, which by itself is noteworthy.

And the rest of the episode? Well, for once one of Will’s crime stories connected with one of his kids, and it kind of looks like Kevin is about to move up the ladder of his paper, having been moved from factchecking to a specific beat, which might be something that explains why Rebecca isn’t around any longer (it’s also easy to just forget all about her, since she isn’t Kevin’s boss anymore and Kevin neglects to mention her). It’s a pretty neat story development, and one I approve of, simply because it does move Kevin along in his quest of becoming an adult, and the writers haven’t forgotten that Kevin has a job he might be able to do well. I mean, he obviously got a feature at the paper, which should help him get his name out, even if it means he has to step on his father’s toes. Also, it’s a career move for him. It’s almost like he could be a great journalist one day — he found his “thing,” which is something Joan has been looking for quite a while now.

Kevin learns what it’s really like to have a story affect a human.

By the way, I find it a little weird how contradictory Will has been on his job. The guy wants to arrest people and make them pay for what they have done (with prison time), but this time around he actually wants to help a criminal, because that criminal mastermind had a kid. And the thing is, both Kevin and Will are right. Will is reasonable in thinking that a plea deal would help the guy not losing his daughter and get his life around after these crimes, but Kevin can’t be faulted for seeing a story here, especially when it can go a little further than what the episode depicted and you compare the numbers of white criminals being given plea deals to the number of black criminals being given the same opportunity to turn their lives around. Arcadia doesn’t seem like a town full of minorities though, so I can excuse Kevin for not writing his feature about that. I could also be sure that the writers were thinking about bringing that angle into the episode, but CBS said no, as JOAN OF ARCADIA was not supposed to be a show depicting racism and bigotry — it’s a problem CBS probably did not want to look at in 2004.

And finally, there was something about how Adam saw his future as an artist, which reminded me about how Helen saw her own future as an artist very recently. He was scared that he is a nobody and he could not move forward with his artistic work, as he forced himself to do some real money (okay, his father’s illness kind of forced him as well). Helen was sort of in a similar situation, when she painted a painting that was about to sell, yet she was stuck between a rock and a hard place, as she couldn’t come up with anything artistic. I’m not so sure those similarities were put into the show on purpose, but it can be reasoned that Helen and Adam are going through the same art life crisis at the moment, and that the two may have more in common than everyone thinks. That brought me to realize that it doesn’t necessarily have to be Joan who gives Adam faith. It could also be Helen, who could push Adam back into the art ad force him to come up with something. After all, Helen understands art a lot more than Joan does.

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