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,episode 4, episode 5, episode 6, episode 7, episode 8, episode 9, episode 10, and episode 11. And now, onto her recap of the show's two-part Christmas special, episodes 12 and 13, “A New Life” and “Homecoming”:
One thing is for certain. After this two-part episode, Google-then-iTunes searches for the name “Hayley Sales” will escalate madly, as the singer-songwriter guest stars as Shelly, a pregnant vagabond who checks into the Thyme and Tide and finds a job at Moon’s Cafe in the space of about a second and a half. Gorgeous, silken-haired and golden-voiced, the lost waif awakens the curiosity of B&B matriarch Peggy Belden (Barbara Niven), whose husband Bob (Bruce Boxleitner) abjures her to stay out of their new guest’s business (“We’re a bed and breakfast, not a bed and rescue.”). He has much bigger things to be worrying over: Christmas decorations, for one.
Because, yes, Christmas comes early to Cedar Cove here, with halls being pre-emptively decked all over as our main contentious couples try to find within themselves some holiday spirit. Given that these two episodes make up what was initially intended to be a Cedar Cove Movie Event—but it makes much more sense that it is tacked onto the current season, so much there was left to be dealt with—they are replete with all the requisite schmaltz, although perhaps rather less of the Happily Ever After than might have been expected.
First up: why, hello there, Seth! Yes, Corey Sevier’s wandering fisherman returns, having hightailed it out of town a couple of episodes ago, leaving the much-desired Justine (Sarah Smyth) high and dry, and surely prey to the slick handsomeness of developer ex-fiancé Warren (Brennan Elliott). For someone so jealous of Justine’s time and attention, it does seem somewhat counter-intuitive for Seth to have stormed off without a word; Justine is disinclined to forgive him for it, either, until he reveals that the reason for his departure was to sell his boat and rustle up a loan to purchase an abandoned water-side restaurant and fish market. Then she turns all gooey-eyed and even, when it turns out Warren owns said restaurant and doesn’t accept Seth’s first offer, decides to become a partner in the venture. At which point Warren gives in, clearly conceding the field, and sells them the property—which makes for an actually quite welcome return to our usual pattern of Big Though Easily Resolved Conflicts.
Except, in the second part, it turns out that the nefarious Warren, who has long been under surveillance by a government lackey (BSG’s Alessandro Juliani), is not only a probable money launderer for various shady types but also has a history of arson—and then the restaurant is engulfed in flames! He maintains his innocence when confronted by a devastated Justine and Seth, but considering we have also learned that he is married—despite having been engaged to Justine at the start of the season—it is very hard to trust him on this one, though his arrest by the FBI does seem to suggest that of that, at least, he is not guilty.
Meanwhile, also disappointed in his hopes of reconciliation is Stan (Andrew Airlee), Justine’s father, who wants nothing more than to turn back time and rekindle his long-dead marriage to Olivia (Andie MacDowell). But Olivia is pining for Jack (Dylan Neal), who flies back into town only to retrieve his personal effects and be berated by Bob and Grace (Teryl Rothery) for letting anything stand in the way of True Love, especially pointless jealousy over a former flame. (What is it with these Lockhart women and their green-eyed significant others? Worrisome.) Olivia, who had been on the verge of flying to Philadelphia to make a grand gesture and Get Her Man, confronts him in his office at the now-abandoned Cedar Cove Chronicle—seriously, no one in the whole town could have taken over for a few weeks? And are there honestly no journalism majors applying for what has to be one of the last vacant print media jobs in the entire world?—and confesses her love for him with fearless abandon. And this, after Jack had just made a big speech about how he wasn’t cut out for this hick backwoods life and how the bright lights, big city were calling his name. (In fact, they’re not—he definitely fears for his sobriety back in Philly, as much as anything else.)
I don’t think any moment on Cedar Cove has been nearly as affecting as the one that showed a tearful Olivia dejectedly walking away, leaving a speechless, guilt-ridden Jack in her wake.
But then! The second part brings Olivia and Jack back together with matching “I love you”s as they set aside all jealousies and job opportunities to focus on their new life together – and dealing with the fact that Jack’s feckless son Eric (Tom Stevens), last seen back in Episode 5, is the father of Hot Singing Pregnant Chick’s baby! Eric, meanwhile, returns to town just in time to see Shelly—the two are clearly still in love, but broke up because he wanted to put the baby up for adoption; nice going, Eric—suffer some baby-related hospitalization, the resolution of which we need to wait and discover next season, apparently (and yes, there will be a next season of Cedar Cove, Hallmark having renewed this runaway hit for Summer, 2014).
Also left to next season is the outcome of events between the lovely Maryellen (Elyse Levesque) and photographer/chef/runaway beau John Bowman (Charlie Carrick), whom she drove into hiding two episodes ago. But when she happens upon one of his works in a Seattle gallery—and it happens to be one with her in it (except, none of his works ever have people in them; aw, that’s so sweet)—she discovers his probable whereabouts, down and out in Rain City. When she at last finds him, after two episodes of searching, he stares at her in his patented vaguely pissed off manner and ultimately confesses to caring for her, but qualifies this with: “I care about you so much that I want to keep you safe. The only way I can do that is if keep you out of my life.” Next year: the thrilling conclusion!
We don’t, happily, have to wait so long to find out what’s happing with Maryellen’s mother, Grace, and her pursuit of rancher Cliff Harting (Sebastian Spence). Taking her own advice when it comes to not giving up on love, she insinuates herself into his life, demanding twice-weekly riding lessons, inviting him to dinner and being all adorable. Cliff, who pursued her avidly until the whole Cheatin’ Will debacle, had claimed to be scared of her hussy-ish ways, but by the time this two-parter comes to an end...well, it’s early days yet, but never fear, Handsome Harting fans: it’s on.
We also don’t have to wait to see the most intriguing question posed by this two-parter answered: will Bob win the Christmas decorating award? Sadly, no, he doesn’t—because he throws the competition, allowing an off-screen lonely old widow without family nor, apparently, any other purpose in her misbegotten existence, to take the coveted prize. And by such kindness and generosity is life in a small town made worthwhile, sayeth the voiceover of Jack, and then he and pretty much everyone we’ve ever met in town (along with a few people we haven’t) show up on Christmas Day to help put Justine and Seth’s restaurant back into order.
Now, I’ll admit to more than a few questions about this act of kindness. One: insurance. Surely they had property insurance, and if so, doesn’t the coverage get negated if the damage isn’t assessed before work begins? Two: safety. This building has just been “burned down”—except it’s more “burned out,” but whatever—so surely some kind of county official should take a look at it, to make sure it’s safe for reconstruction to begin? And three: ownership. It’s already been established that the title has yet to be transferred to Justine and Seth, and that Warren’s properties could well be frozen once he’s arrested—considering that is so, surely all this work the townsfolk are planning to do will end up benefitting their nemesis rather than the intended recipients?
All these objections aside, though, it is a charming gesture – and one which, I guess, sums up Cedar Cove as a whole this past season. Charming, if not necessarily able to withstand close scrutiny. Despite—or perhaps even because of—this, I will certainly be tuning in next year to see what life holds for Olivia, Jack, Grace, Maryellen, John, Eric, Shelly, Justine and (since I suppose I must) Seth. Plus, Bob and Peggy and Charlotte and Moon and even Warren the Douche. This show has been a refreshing dose of light and fluffy in a schedule crowded with intense psychodrama and criminal elements and disturbing dystopian futures; I’m looking forward to returning to this pastel-hued idyll for Season 2, and I hope you are too.
See you next summer!
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.