Debbie Macomber's sweet small-town romance series Cedar Cove is now a weekly television show on Hallmark starring Andie MacDowell! Check out Rachel's recaps of the 2-hours series premiere, episode 2, episode 3, and episode 4, episode 5, and episode 6. And now, onto her recap of episode 7, “Help Wanted”:
“Second chances” is the big theme of this episode, and boy do we get whacked over the head with it. It’s not enough that a convict Olivia once sentenced to prison, the misunderstood Lenny (Richard de Klerk), is back in town, looking for work and finding every door in even this cosy, pastel-hued hamlet closed to him. But romantically, second chances abound, with Olivia (Andie MacDowell) and Jack (Dylan Neal) off to Seattle for a romantic getaway, and rancher Cliff Harting (Sebastian Spence) making another play for town librarian Grace (Teryl Rothery).
We also get a second chance to wallow in the misery that is Rosie (Kendall Cross) and Zach’s (Lochlyn Munro – not appearing in this episode) divorce.
This troubled couple we met two episodes back, when Judge Olivia handed down the unusual – and wildly unfair – custody arrangement that would have their two children, big-eyed teen Allison (Matreya Fedor) and nobody-cares Eddie (Sean Michael Keyer), remain in their family home while their parents switched off living there two weeks at a time. Rosie, after fifteen years out of the workforce, has yet to find a job, so the kindly Bob and Peggy Belden (Bruce Boxleitner and Barbara Niven) allow her to stay at their B&B, much to the displeasure of their part-time chambermaid, Allison. Her parents’ constant backbiting and complaints have made the poor girl miserable, and having her mother and Bob sniping at her father not-so-discreetly gets on her nerves mightily... uh oh. Hope she doesn’t do something stupid...
Except, of course she does! It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but due to her general upset and outrage at the world, she ends up setting the town gazebo on fire – a crime for which the luckless Lenny is, naturally enough, immediately blamed.
A small-time crook with a multiple-foster-homes, fell-in-with-the-wrong-crown back story, Lenny looks like a grown-up Eddie Munster and doesn’t do himself any favors with his general air of loner creepiness. You’ve gotta be impressed with his moxie, though, as he beards Olivia in her chambers and all-but dares her to put her money where her mouth was: she had said in his sentencing that he could turn his life around if he just worked hard at it, but now no one will give him a chance, and she is his only hope.
You would have thought that all it would take was a single word from pillar-of-the-community Olivia and the townsfolk would be rushing to give Lenny one of the episode’s thematic second chances, but instead every door remains closed to him – even the door to hippy Moon’s (Timothy Webber) cafe. Everyone seems to share Moon’s opinion that bad boy Lenny would “harsh” their “vibe,” and it is only Cliff who is willing to give the poor ex-con the benefit of the doubt. The fact that he has an ulterior motive for this, clearly hoping to impress Grace, adds rather than detracts from his generosity in this regard.
Oh, how we love Cliff! (Way more than Jack, who is the one who points the finger at poor Lenny after the fire, suspicious, nasty newsman that he is.) Little does he know, however, that far from being won over by this kind-hearted gesture, Grace is immediately concerned about her non-beau’s safety, and so storms out to the ranch to check that he hasn’t been murdered in his bed by a petty thief... because, oh no, she doesn’t like him at all. Either way, this one worked out pretty well for Cliff, even if the couple still haven’t been on an official date yet.
Jack and Olivia have had many an official date, though they are apparently still not Doing It, and their one-night getaway to Seattle doesn’t appear to have changed anything in that regard. If you’ll recall, they were heading down so that Jack could cover a Mariners game, with the intent of a little hotel room dalliance afterwards, but instead the game runs into seven extra innings and Olivia falls elegantly asleep (seriously; NO ONE sleeps that pretty) before her sportswriter boyfriend can write up his report. Can we allow sexual frustration to be an excuse for Jack’s uncharitable suspicion of Lenny? Yeah, okay; especially since he and Olivia have a few hot-and-heavy make out sessions – by this show’s standards, anyway – that can only have made things worse for him. And I must admit that later, after volunteering to help rebuild the gazebo (“You can be my Jedi master.”) he does tell Bob they need to give Lenny the benefit of the doubt.
“I suppose,” Bob allows. “But you know the saying: ‘A leopard doesn’t change its spots.’” (Oh, Bob! You are a proverb-quoting machine! It’s almost a drinking game at this point.)
With Lenny the natural scapegoat, not under suspicion of any kind at all are teens Allison and Anson (Brendan Meyer), who wins the Best Boyfriend of the Week Award for taking the fall after they discover Lenny is otherwise to be blamed. It was Allison who decided to light the fire in the trashcan that led to the gazebo inferno, but Anson feels she doesn’t need any more stress added to her divorcing-parents life, and so he is the one who ends up confessing to the crime, getting off pretty lightly, with the one year probation and having to pay for – and assist in – the gazebo rebuilding. Lucky he’s a web wizard who Jack immediately hires to build the Cedar Cove Chronicle website (it doesn’t already have one? When is this show set: 1995?). Thereby bringing the second chances theme full circle.
Oh, but there is another second chance also to be had this time out! Olivia’s daughter Justine (Sarah Smyth) receives a visit from her estranged father Stan (Andrew Airlee), who has only recently decided he wants to be a father to her again. And then he goes to see Olivia – whom he was not best pleased to learn took that overnight trip to Seattle with Jack – to tell her that he is now seeing a therapist to deal with the long-ago death of their son, and we also learn that his current wife isn’t exactly supportive of this decision.
So... ooh! Could there be a second chance for Olivia and Stan in the offing, too? The episode certainly hints at such.
Well now, isn’t this a nice change? Because while there were assuredly some of the show’s hallmark (forgive the pun) Big Though Easily Resolved Conflicts this week – Olivia vs. Lenny, Lenny vs. The Town, etc. – there are also, surprisingly, more than a few plot threads left dangling, slowly but surely turning Cedar Cove into a viable series rather than just a series of interconnected vignettes. We have Olivia and Jack, Olivia and Stan, Grace and Cliff, Allison and Anson, Bob and Peggy (the latter being so much more sympathetic to Allison’s plight than the former) and, ugh, yet more Rosie and Zach. As well as the continuing concern over what dastardly developer Warren (Brennan Elliott) might be up to since he tried to close the town library a couple of episodes back, and whether or not Maryellen (Elyse Levesque) will continue to refer to her crush John Bowman (Charlie Carrick) by both his names. And, almost despite myself – and definitely despite the fact that I have read the books on which this show is based – I really want to know where all of this goes. So I’ll be back next week for more Cedar Covian hijinks – will you?
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.