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Army Wives: Strangers in a Strange Land

by Allison Waldman, posted Jun 16th 2008 11:42AM
army wives cast(S02E02) Army Wives is reminding me of some of my favorite TV dramas of all time, shows like thirtysomething and Party of Five. Especially this episode where there are more feelings and reactions to the bombing at the Hump Bar. How does life go back to normal after a tragedy? How do you cope?

Time has passed and life may appear to be getting back to normal at Fort Marshall, but things are still quite unsettled among the close knit coterie on Army Wives. Chief among them are the Holdens. Claudia Joy is simply not returning to normal and it become clear as the episode progressed that she's an emotional powder keg.

Roland and Joan finally seemed to finally come to an understanding about their future -- he's not going to Northwestern -- but the soldier in Joan is struggling with the choices before her. She describes her body as being invaded by the baby and calls herself a "host."

I found it a bit unnerving that Roland isn't acting more assertive. When he apologized for sharing the news about the baby with his friends -- his true support system when Joan is deployed or away -- Joan just didn't get it. Clearly, she's a character who truly more of an island, a fact reinforced later on when she learns that Roland won't leave her if she has the abortion, but goes alone on the day of the procedure. While I was emotionally moved by the moment when she showed Roland the video of the baby in her womb, I wondered if it wouldn't have been more appropriate to let Roland in on what was happening when it was happening. After all, he is the father. Yes, it's a woman's right to choose, but I think the writers were trying to have it both ways.

Trevor's okay, at least as okay as he can be in Iraq. His sending a letter home -- and the way they showed what he was experiencing compared to what he was writing was great -- with a gift of sand from the desert was a nice touch. You have to love that about Trevor, the way he makes connections with Roxy and the boys. Roxy was also in full-flower in this episode, coming to Betty's aid, standing up for her with the brass, and reaching an agreement with the older woman that will benefit them both. Of course, if Roxy's mom comes to visit again, you can bet that she and Betty will be like oil and water. Sounds like a definite plot permutation to me.

The heart of Strangers in a Strange Land, the title of the episode, are clearly the Holdens (although Trevor's reaction to Iraq also ties in to the title). As a family, Michael, Claudia Joy and Emmaline have never endured a loss like this. Amanda's death has made them feel like strangers within their own home. Michael is devastated that he watched their baby girl die. Emmaline is so traumatized that she can't stay in the house and see how her parents are being torn apart. She flees to Denice's home, a safe place where she can confess to her surrogate "aunt" that she believes her mother loved Amanda more. And Claudia Joy, who's so use to being a caregiver not a care-receiver, can't accept help. Her panic attack in the PX was a seminal moment for the character. Her gripping Emmaline's arms and shaking her is a physical manifestation of her terror at losing her family. Good work by Kim Delaney.

Pamela's life again is turned inside out when Chase appears out of nowhere. The Delta Force experience, Chase's appearing and disappearing is hard on her. "I'm pissed," she tells Roxy about her home situation, half the time being a single mom, the other half Suzy Homemaker. Chase shares his feelings about what it's like for him, not being able to call home, he tells her "You're not alone in this family." The later scene of his making dinner and caring for the kids was still a bit obvious for me, and perhaps too soapy. Would the real Chase get so Alan Alda?

Overall, this was a really good episode. When Claudia Joy says at the end, "It's going to be okay," you feel she's speaking for all the them, not just the Holdens. But I like that Army Wives is dealing with the ongoing storylines, not just jumping into new ones.

Other Points of Interest

-- Roxy's feelings about Trevor being gone, "I'm lonelier married to him than when I was single."

-- Amanda's gravestone reads, "We had the world, when we had you." It was also heartbreaking to remember that she was only 18.

-- As Michael's EX-O, Joan has great responsibility, like addressing 60 soldiers. It was a great way to illustrate the power she has as an officer. You could almost read her thoughts, "Will I be able to address these soldiers like this if I'm six months pregnant and my belly's out to here?" Then, later, in front of a mirror in her fatigues, she puts a pillow under her shirt to see what she'll look like.

-- The way they filmed the PX scene underscored how disoriented Claudia Joy feels right now.

-- Both Roxy and Trevor are shown unable to sleep. "Worse than not being able to sleep, is not being able to dream," Trevor writes to Roxy.

-- Through most of the show, Joan's all tucked in and her hair is severely drawn back. At the end, after choosing to keep the baby, she's let her hair down and looks very pretty and womanly at the Holden dinner party.

-- Kudos to Brigid Branagh especially for the scene on the porch. Pamela's revelation that her brother died as a child when shot at a gas station was intense. "The dying is bad enough, but when it happens out of order like that..." Claudia's plaintive response, "What do you do?" is heartbreaking. "You never get over it," Pamela tells her honestly.

-- "Remember your training; that's how you get through this." That's the advice Trevor gets in Iraq from a sargeant, and it's the advice the Holden's are living in Charleston.

-- When Roxy confronts hospital administrator for Betty, she has a great line, "You all keep saying that she's not army, but she had her business, her home and her heart destroyed by one of our own, that means the Army, so we gotta make it right."

-- I loved Michael's reaction to Joan's pregnancy. Maybe it was too great a reaction, like what women wish all bosses would say in the same situation.

-- Emmaline's return to the house, saying to her mom, "I want to come home," echoes back to Trevor's letter.

-- The Holden dinner with everyone around the table is a way of healing, perhaps the first time since the Hump Bar that most of them are together again.

Will Joan regret her decision to have the baby?
Yes, she's already unsure15 (16.3%)
No, once she decides, she's sure42 (45.7%)
Perhaps, especially if the bliss with Roland doesn't last28 (30.4%)
Definitely, if he negatively impacts her career7 (7.6%)

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Mark

I wonder about Army culture when I watch this show. The dinner party at the end is a good example. Would a Senior Officer, the base commander, host a dinner party in his home including a wife of an enlisted man (Roxy)? Is Chase an NCO or commissioned?

June 16 2008 at 12:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mark's comment
Bella

No normally the High Ranking one is not allowed to be friends with the lower ranking kind. Some take it too far. I think the rules only apply to those in the same unit though but some treat it as otherwise. They haven't said Chase's rank. Wives can associate with whom ever they want. Being an Army Wife I wish we could have more Tribes with Leaders Like Denise and Claudia Joy. The Roxy in me needs Claudia Joy's level head.

June 23 2008 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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