Hallmark's Cedar Cove, based on the sweet small-town romance series by Debbie Macomber and starring Andie MacDowell, debuted last week. Check out Rachel's recap of the 2-hours series premiere here. And now, onto her recap of episode 2, “A House Divided”:
Our second episode of Cedar Cove opens all pretty scenery and pretty Olivia (Andie MacDowell), and then hey there, important new character! Unlike most everyone in the last episode, you are given a name and a job description and a marital status all within the first few moments of us meeting you. So, your name: Grace. Your job: town librarian. And your marital status: divorced, and not at all happy about it. Also, you’re played by Teryl Rothery, the erstwhile Dr. Janet Fraiser of *Stargate SG-1, so we like you already.
Grace and Olivia clearly go way back; the former comforted the latter through her long-ago divorce, just as now the favor is returned. Indeed, Olivia comforts the hell out of Grace all over town this episode—oh, and hey there, another important new character! Except we’ll have to just call you Grace’s Daughter for the present, because AGAIN with the no names. (Damn you, show! ) We do have a couple character traist, though: constant tardiness and an aversion to kitchens being painted. Plus, there is the colt-like beauty of a nascent supermodel. The Cedar Cove gene pool is a particularly blessed one.
As further evidenced by yet more new characters, the proprietors of the local B&B, Thyme and Tide—we don’t catch her name, but he is Bob (Bruce Boxleitner), and he is outraged to learn from our exiled big city newspaperman, Jack (Dylan Neal), that Olivia’s daughter’s philandering, money-grubbing fiancé Warren (Brennan Elliot)—no, clearly no one likes Warren—plans to tear down the town’s beloved old lighthouse in order to develop the land. “So, this is a big story,” Jack is clearly astounded to learn, after Bob is all, “He’s not gonna get away with it” and talks of the historic significance of the structure. Wow, way to bury the lead there, Jack! He was gonna put this potential hotbed of controversy in the depths of the Cedar Cove Chronicle, next to a story about the town’s new Apple Store (which, adorably, sells actual apples). One really has to question how he managed to last as long as he did on that paper in Philadelphia, alcoholism notwithstanding—especially with print journalism in such decline.
By the way, Warren swiftly became Justine’s (Sarah Smyth) ex-fiance early on this episode—Olivia had threatened him with exposure of his affair if he didn’t break it off, and yet it was Justine who actually did the breaking, raising my estimation of her considerably—and then while she’s watching a local poetry slam (“The lighthouse lifts its mass of masonry, a pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day...”), a cute guy arrives, and the two immediately start having an “hey, I know you and like you” eye-conversation. But, who exactly is this guy? Why are they acting like we should already know him? I know this show is lax with the introductions, but seriously, this is…Wait. Do we have a new Seth? Why yes, we do! Last episode Justine’s former high school flame was played by Greyston Holt; now we have Corey Sevier (2030 C. E, Immortals) in the role. Why the change, we must wonder? Was it the ever-mysterious “other commitments” (Holt is currently filming Bitten, based on Kelley Armstrong’s novel), or just that Holt’s hulking, shouty Seth was a little too ferocious for this saccharine town? Regardless, New Seth and Justine flirt and she establishes that she’s just gotten out of a relationship and so doesn’t want to rush into anything, but they do go out to dinner, which is when they run into Olivia and Jack.
Jack already knows Justine, as she works at the café where he gets his daily coffee fix (ten cups a day? Jack, I worry about you), and Justine jokes “If I’d known you were dating my Mom, I’d have given you the friends and family discount.” Olivia immediately protests that they’re not dating, just having dinner—much to the dismay of Jack, who feels suddenly insecure as to the real state of their relationship. We, too, are left to ponder this—for about a second and a half, anyway, since promising misunderstandings and conflicts are resolved rather speedily on this show: “So, considering you just totally embarrassed me in front of your daughter, I assume you’re actually not into me?”/“No, I’m into you.”/”Okay, great, let’s order dessert.” We really shouldn’t have worried about Olivia’s burgeoning feelings for her new beau here anyway, since Grace knows her way better than we do and is convinced that Olivia turned down last episode’s main plot point, a Federal judgeship, mainly on his account.
Yeah, I kind of think so, too.
Of more concern to their continued courting is the whole lighthouse situation, with Bob fomenting revolution in the town and getting together a petition and an injunction in order to have the demolition stopped. Warren is a petulant asshole, so when Jack reasonably suggests he not piss off his neighbors this way, he’s all “I own the property, Jack, which means what? I can do whatever I want to do with it. Not you, me. And there’s nothing you or this town’s gonna do to stop it.” Jack gets in his licks (“You’re treating this like it’s New York City and you’re Donald Trump. You do realize this is just Mayberry, right?”), but in the end, it is Olivia who must make the call on whether to save the historic—it’s 100 years old! History is young in America—lighthouse. And according to the law, she has no choice but to allow the plan to go ahead.
Jack writes a rather scathing piece on this judgment, but again, a promising conflict is resolved almost instantaneously: “Your article sucked”/“Do you hate me now?”/”No.”/"Okay, cool.” Actually, it was rather nicer than that, quite romantic really, and definitely the stand-out moment of the episode:
OLIVIA: Your article added fuel to the fire.
JACK: Look, is that gonna get in our way?
OLIVIA: I don't know.
JACK: Are you looking for something to get in the way?
JACK: Because look, Olivia, I am just putting one foot in front of the other here, making this up as I go. Okay, so if you are scared too, I get that. Just don't give up on us. Not yet.
(Wait. Not yet, Jack? So, when can she give up on you? Next Thursday?)
So as Olivia and Justine receive constant glares and Warren’s trucks move in, the whole town stages a protest on the road, linking arms and looking likely to burst into a rousing chorus of “We Shall Not be Moved” at any moment. But Olivia has a crafty solution—she finds a charitable Trust who’ll pay 80% of the asking price for the land on which the lighthouse stands, and she promises to kick in the other 20% herself. Warren agrees to the sale, but only if the details of the deal remain a secret; he wants everyone in town to think that he stopped the demolition out of the non-existent goodness of his heart, which they apparently mostly do. (They sure are pretty in Cedar Cove, but perhaps not the brightest.) Making hay of Olivia’s secret generosity, Warren ends up giving this cornball speech about community and wholesome family values or some such, and I’ve never wanted to slap him harder. It’s easy to say “all’s well that ends well” here, but is it, I wonder? Of what use will the dastardly Warren put his new-found reputation as a town benefactor? Be afraid, Cedar Covians! He is up to something!
Elsewhere, by the way, Olivia’s chatty Mom finally gets a name—Charlotte!—and we learn that she’s a volunteer at the local aged care center, where she is given the charge of a new patient: a stroke victim with no name and no family who is unable to speak or move. “Have we met before? Because you look familiar,” she asks him, after prattling on for a bit, Queen of Exposition that she is. And then we never go back and see them again! So: HAVE they met before? And how, exactly, will John Doe let Charlotte know if they have? Way to keep us hanging, show. See you next week, where we’ll hopefully find out…
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine