10 Shows and Movies That Have Brightened Up Quarantine Life

As we navigate a global pandemic, here are 10 shows and movies that might bring some much-needed joy into the mundane.

Getting Rid of the Stigma: Mental Illness in Young Adult Fiction by Megan Mann

In this piece, Megan brilliantly discusses the stigma of mental illness in literature and how some young adult novels are helping to change the landscape for this discussion.

Jenn's Pick: Top 15 Jeff/Annie Moments

In 2013, Jenn put together a list of the 15 best Jeff/Annie moments. Revisit and discover those memories!

Monday, January 11, 2021

Julie and the Phantoms 1x03 Review: “Flying Solo” (Double Trouble) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Flying Solo”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

How long have you and your best friend been close? My best friend — my ride-or-die — and I have known each other for almost 20 years. That’s 20 years of inside jokes, milestone memories, proms, college graduations, and so much more. I love my best friend because no matter how long we’ve been apart, whenever we hang out together it’s like no time has passed at all.

Julie and Flynn are ride-or-die best friends. They tell each other everything and most important of all, they don’t lie to each other. Except that Julie is lying to Flynn in “Flying Solo” and Flynn isn’t having it. Elsewhere in the episode, Alex struggles with anxiety and being a ghost.

DOUBLE TROUBLE

“Flying Solo” picks up exactly where we left Julie Molina last episode — standing on a stage in front of her peers, awkwardly trying to explain why her band just disappeared. When Kayla (Tori Caro) asks if they were holograms, Julie blessedly finds her easy explanation. And luckily, everyone buys it without question. Julie even gets let back into the music program by the principal. There’s only one issue: Flynn confronts Julie about the band she has failed to mention, and Julie tries to lie. But she can’t. 

Flynn is floored. It’s one thing for Julie to connect with music and not be involved; it’s another thing for Julie to be lying to her about the whole thing. Flynn spends this episode hurt and Julie tries her best to navigate the situation. She can’t tell Flynn the truth because… well, the truth involves ghosts. There’s no way she’ll believe her. But she also can’t lie because it’ll drive a wedge even further in their relationship.

So eventually, Julie decides to tell Flynn that the boys are ghosts. Until she sees them with her own eyes, Flynn is ready to text Julie’s dad with the concerning news of Julie’s state. And then she meets them and realizes Julie was telling the truth. But I’m going to back up for a moment here because “Flying Solo” is rooted in Julie and Flynn’s relationship — one that Reggie and Luke learn a little bit more about when they dig through Julie’s dream box and discover a poem written about Flynn.

The boys turn the poem into the song of the episode, and Julie confesses that she wrote the poem when Flynn was helping her deal with her grief. It’s a moment we breeze past because the song itself is so upbeat. But I want to point out that Julie’s song is all about her connection to Flynn as best friends: when one of them hurts, the other does too. We saw that in the previous episode — the thought of Julie being kicked out of music made Flynn cry. It’s safe to assume that these two shared a lot when Julie grieved her mom’s death. Flynn hurt because Julie was hurt. “When I look at you, it’s like I’m looking at me,” Julie sings. 

I love this friendship. I love that “Flying Solo” includes silly inside jokes or references to gossiping together, but it also talks about how Julie’s life isn’t complete without Flynn in it.

And to prove that Flynn is, indeed, the ride-or-die best friend, when Luke asks Julie if she’s joining Sunset Curve (a thing he was trying to get her to agree to the entire episode), Julie almost says yes. And then Flynn steps in, saying: “I think you’re joining her band.” We’re going to see, in the coming episodes, exactly how much of a hype person Flynn is. She comes up with the band’s name, she works tirelessly to support Julie, and when the boys let her down, Flynn is there.

I love seeing this young but deep friendship as the focus of this episode. And I need more Flynn next season.

ANXIETY STRUTTING

This episode focuses on friendship and also gives us more of a glimpse into Alex’s anxiety. While Reggie and Luke are stoked that the school was able to see them perform, Alex is a little less excited. He doesn’t understand the logic of what’s happening in his afterlife — there’s no manual or instructions on what to do or how to ghost. (I relate, Alex. I would like a manual for how to navigate my current life.)

He nervously paces the studio, trying to verbally process why he’s struggling. The truth is that he doesn’t handle change well. I too can relate, and I think it’s really wonderful that the younger audiences watching this are seeing a character who does struggle with anxiety. Alex decides that he needs to clear his head and decides to poof to Hollywood Boulevard where he meets Willie (Booboo Stewart), a — as Avril Lavigne would say — sk8er boi. And in fact, he reveals that’s how he died. Alex is immediately attracted and drawn to Willie, who is warm and also just a very chill presence to balance Alex’s nervousness.

The two decide to have a conversation so Alex can learn everything that Willie knows about their ghostly states. Aside: this is 100% a thing that you’d do as a person with anxiety! We’re fueled by information and trying to absorb all we can to make sense of the world and control it. Anyway, back to our plot — Alex learns a few crucial things from Willie. He learns that people who are alive are called “lifers.” Willie confesses that he’s never really known any other ghosts who can be seen by lifers randomly. And Willie explains that the reason they are ghosts and haven’t crossed over into the afterlife is because there’s some unfinished business. Willie’s not sure what Alex’s unfinished business is, but he suggests that since all the boys are still ghosts together, perhaps their unfinished business is connected.

Willie calls Alex a cute nickname and skates away, but never fear: we’ll see more of him later this season!

I really do love that “Flying Solo” starts shaping our characters a little further: this episode gives us more insight into Flynn and Alex, and we’ll dive deeper into Luke in the weeks to come.

For now, Julie and the Phantoms reminded us of the power of friendship and importance of connection. That’s a message I can fully relate to and support!

Hitting the right notes:

  • “Flying Solo” isn’t my favorite on the Julie and the Phantoms soundtrack, but I fully appreciate the song’s focus on the friendship between Julie and Flynn. Plus I loved hearing Madison and the rest of the cast talk about filming in that small space.
  • “I don’t think they can see us.” “I wish I couldn’t see you.” Let’s never stop talking about how Owen has the absolute perfect comedic timing and delivery.
  • “He’s so nervous he’s almost making me nervous.”
  • “DON’T TELL ME HOW TO GHOST!”
  • Our friend Allison mentioned this in our podcast episode, but I love that Willie gets the introduction that a traditionally “hot woman” would get with the iconic hair flip.
  • “But we’re not alone. Because we always have each other.” “Ugh.”
  • I really appreciate the subtle pain we get from Carrie in this episode when she talks to Nick about how hard she worked on her routine. While she is still an antagonist, that moment was a great reminder that she is also a human who worked hard for a year while Julie was grieving. While Julie is our heroine, it makes sense that Carrie would feel betrayed and upstaged by Julie in this moment. It does not excuse her meanness, but it helps us understand her character a little more.
  • I just love when Luke jumps up on the piano and starts singing a little bit of “Flying Solo.”
  • “Wow... who’s that?” Owen coming in clutch with the perfect deliveries.
  • “When she says ‘deep dish’ is she talking about like, pizza, or?”
  • “Get woke. These are sensitive times.”
  • The fact that Flynn brought eggs to Julie’s house to egg it is so perfect.

What did you all think of “Flying Solo”? Sound off in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Never Have I Ever 1x02 Review: “... had sex with Paxton Hall-Yoshida” (Mopeds and Grief) [Contributor: Jenn]


“... had sex with Paxton Hall-Yoshida”
Original Airdate: April 27, 2020

Have you ever avoided something because it brings back bad or unwelcome memories?

For the longest time, I couldn’t go to certain bars or restaurants that reminded me of memories with ex-boyfriends. The places themselves weren’t the problem, but it felt like they were haunted by the ghosts of my past.

Never Have I Ever is, at its core, a teen comedy series about love, growing up, and making mistakes. But it’s also a lovely story about grief, trauma, healing, and family. Grief is messy. Trauma is painful and everyone handles it differently. Some people choose to avoid the things that even remotely remind them of hurt. And this is the first but not last episode of the show where we’ll begin to see how Devi and her mother handle their own trauma of losing Moahan.

TRAUMA AND RECOVERY

Devi spends most of the episode trying to avoid thinking about her father’s death and instead focus on something she wants to control: sleeping with Paxton. In a conversation with her therapist, Dr. Ryan aptly points out that while Devi is trying to avoid having to deal with the death of her father, she’s placing expectations on others that aren’t fair. Devi sees sleeping with Paxton Hall-Yoshida as a quick and easy fix to one of the problems she can easily and quickly control (being an uncool virgin); Dr. Ryan though reminds Devi that Paxton is a human not a concept or fix. He has his own emotions and baggage. But Devi is both too stubborn and young to actually hear Dr. Ryan.

And still, when presented with the opportunity to sleep with Paxton, Devi panics. She can’t go through with it. But it’s important to note what the trigger was for Devi finally confronting Paxton and going to his house — while she was in orchestra practice (her first one back since her father died at her last concert), Devi began to have flashbacks to the night of her dad’s death. The memories startled her so much that she literally ran out of the room looking for something to distract her.

When she goes into the bathroom at Paxton’s house to freshen up before their encounter, she meets Paxton’s sister, Rebecca, who’s a teenager with Down Syndrome. Devi is incredibly kind to her and even jokes with her a bit. But Paxton is thrown off by the encounter and immediately responds by kicking Devi out of his house.

Toward the end of the episode, Paxton shows up at Devi’s to explain his actions: he’s incredibly protective of his sister and always has been. Even people he’s considered to be his friends in the past have bullied her. Devi is understanding, and Paxton actually seems to start to soften a bit.

The most important part of this storyline is the idea that Devi’s avoidance of dealing with trauma will begin to snowball and that it starts with a lie. When Eleanor and Fabiola confront Devi, they assume that given the time spent with Paxton, she’s slept with him. Devi is forced with a decision: she can lie to her friends or she can come clean. She chooses the former, of course, and that’s not going to end up going over too well for her.

MEMORIES AND MOVING ON

This episode introduces us to more of Mohan and Nalini’s backstory which is both beautiful and heartbreaking. After Kamala trips over it and nearly injures herself, Nalini decides that it’s time to sell Mohan’s moped. But while Devi avoids thinking about memories of her father that make her sad, Nalini actually leans into them throughout the episode and it brings her a fresh sense of healing.

We see through flashbacks that Nalini was against Mohan purchasing the moped. Eventually we learn that Nalini suffered a miscarriage after Devi was born. In order to cheer her up, Mohan took her on a ride down the coast. And sure enough, that lifted Nalini’s spirits. In the present, Nalini recalls all of these memories and takes the moped out for a ride down the coast without telling anyone else.

I love that we get this brief side story with Nalini. We’re going to explore her character more as the series goes on, especially her conflict with Devi. This story was an amazing and subtle way to remind us that Nalini lost the love of her life and that she’s processing as much grief as Devi is, even if she doesn’t express it in the same way.

We all deal with grief. And this is just the beginning for the Vishwakumar family to unspool and process theirs.

Favorite things:

  • I do love that every episode is the last part of a sentence meant to begin with the show’s title. 
  • “You have the beauty of Priyanka Chopra with the incisive intellect of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”
  • “If you were ready to bone, you wouldn’t use the phrase ‘ready to bone.’”
  • “But let’s just say she wouldn’t get points for accuracy.”
  • “Woah, Paxton speaks Japanese? Guess his last name makes more sense now.”
  • “My mom’s super pissed at me and now she won’t make us any snacks.”
  • This episode kicks off a lie that will follow Devi throughout the rest of the series. RUH-ROH.
  • “I missed it too. I was talking to you guys!”
  • “... Okay that was dark.”
  • “You’re gross, Gross. But thanks.”

What did you think of this episode? Sound off in the comments below!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Julie and the Phantoms 1x02 Review: “Bright” (This Band is Back!) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Bright”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

What makes your life brighter? Is it a person? A hobby? A place? Julie Molina’s life is brighter when there’s music in it. But after her mom’s death, grief dimmed even the thing she loved most and gave her the most life. That is, until a few ghosts entered the picture.

“Bright” is a really solid episode of Julie and the Phantoms that sets up plots for the rest of the season and reminds us not to waste our power.

THIS BAND IS BACK

“Bright” picks up right where the pilot left off — Julie has finished playing and the boys have been behind her, listening. They poof out of the studio and discuss how impressed they are by her talent and also confused they are by why she’s hidden it for so long. We’ll talk more about Julie and her love of music in a bit, but let’s talk about Luke, Alex, and Reggie first.

Throughout the episode, they learn more about their ghost powers and abilities and sadly reflect on their lives and the current state of the world. Reggie misses his family after hearing an emotional Ray discuss his late wife, so the boys go to the beach to see Reggie’s old house. Unfortunately, the neighborhood where the boys used to live is completely demolished and restaurants have taken their place. It’s been 25 years since they last saw their families, and when Reggie and Alex vocalize this, Luke reminds him that they’re longing for families that were broken.

Alex came out to his parents and their relationship was never the same. Luke mentions that his parents regretted buying him his guitar (and we’ll see more of their dynamic later in the show). And Reggie’s parents were one fight away from divorce. While the boys watch over the lives of the living with wistfulness, Luke pulls them back to reality — what they were missing is long gone, and it wasn’t great to begin with. That doesn’t stop Alex and Reggie from feeling lost and disconnected though. Even though their families weren’t the best, they were still something real and tangible to hold onto.

Now that they’re dead, Alex makes a valid point to Luke: what do they really have, anyway? They have no lives. They have no families. They’re invisible to everyone but Julie. The world around them changed so much from 1995 to 2020 and they didn’t even get to be part of it. They’re floating through a world with no real tether. Except for one thing, as Luke reminds them: music. They have their music. They have each other. That’s all they need.

While Julie and the Phantoms’ central character is Julie Molina, Luke, Alex, and Reggie are such integral parts of the show and their character development is just as important as Julie’s. And music is something that doesn’t just connect the boys to each other and to their listeners, but to Julie as well.

DON’T WASTE YOUR POWER

Though Julie has rediscovered her spark for music, she isn’t automatically let back into the music program. Unfortunately her spot has already been filled. And even though Julie is reminded how much she loves music and is inspired by it, she’s not too keen on writing again. It still hurts too much because it reminds her of her mother.

But Luke and Flynn push Julie to find a way back into the music program. Inspired by his passion for music and Julie’s talent, Luke actually strikes up a really important conversation with Julie in her kitchen while he’s longingly looking at all the food in her fridge he can’t eat. He tells her that if Mrs. Harrison and Principal Lessa won’t let her back in the program, then she will just have to find a way to smash the rules and make them listen to her. Julie is skeptical; she’s not really the smashing, kick-the-door-in type of girl. But Luke is insistent on two things: that Julie needs to fight and that Julie needs to fight because she cannot let her power go to waste.

He’s right, too, and she knows it: music is the thing that breathes life into her. She’s not just talented, but she’s fully alive when she’s playing piano and singing. Luke tells her that he can’t watch her waste her life, especially when he’d give anything to be alive. There’s a great moment next when Luke gifts Julie a song. Even if she’s not ready to write, Luke is prepared to help in any way possible — and that’s a reason I love their friendship and relationship. Luke’s present is a song called “Bright” that Sunset Curve never got to record, and he workshops it in the kitchen with Julie. This is one of the first, but not last, scenes that proves Charlie Gillespie and Madison Reyes have such incredible and charming chemistry. When Julie sings, Luke encourages her proudly. He doesn’t need to be the star; he’s happy to give her something personal to him because he wants to watch her shine.

And truly, he continues this throughout the series. When Julie shows up at a pep rally, poised to perform “Bright,” she starts to get nervous. Very nervous. And Luke is constantly hyping her up, reminding her that she’s got this and mouthing the words along before he and the rest of the boys join her on stage to perform. I love shipping and I’ve shipped a lot of couples in my life, but what I constantly look for is a ship that’s healthy, encouraging, and brings out the best in each characters. The Julie and the Phantoms “Juke” ship certainly delivers on all counts. And I can’t wait to watch it grow in season two (yes, I’m manifesting it in my head, okay?).

“Bright” ends with Julie and her ghost boys performing the song on stage and coming to a really fun realization — people besides Julie can see the boys when they’re singing and playing their instruments. And then, after they take their bows, they promptly disappear. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn!

Hitting the right notes:

  • Musical breakdown: I think originally when I watched Julie and the Phantoms, my favorite song was “Edge of Great,” but right now it might be “Bright.” Madison’s high note coupled with Jeremy and Charlie’s harmony, and Charlie’s grit/growl makes it a pretty perfect song. “This Band is Back (Reggie’s Jam)” is so charming and fun, and I need more of Jeremy singing in season two. And if you haven’t yet tried to run to “Wow,” you’ll find it is a perfect song to run to!
  • “This is why no one hugs you.”
  • “I’m so happy for you! And me!” This is why Flynn deserves the world.
  • You know that gratuitous shirtless scene of Chris Hemsworth in Thor: Ragnarok that’s in there for no other reason than for our own personal enjoyment? I thought about that in this episode when Luke changes shirts. Really there’s no reason we need to see it, but also isn’t there?
  • I WANT MORE OF RAY AND REGGIE BONDING.
  • “Okay, how am I the emotional one?”
  • “It tingles... in WEIRD places!”
  • Everyone else caught those little smiles when Julie walks through Luke, right? We ship it.
  • We talked about this in our podcast but I’m glad the show doesn’t villainize Carrie for making pop music; Julie complimenting her was a nice touch.
  • I can’t express how happy the shot of Flynn on the trumpet makes me.

What was your favorite part of “Bright”? Sound off in the comments below!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x06 Recap: “No Time for Despair” (Winter Finale Drama) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“No Time for Despair”
Original Airdate: December 17, 2020

COVID trials and tribulations, an unwelcome blast from the past, racial tensions, and struggling to move on are the major themes of the winter finale of Grey’s Anatomy. Even though the start of the season was delayed due to the pandemic, we have seen nearly as many episodes of the show as normal. Yes, we will still have to wait the usual three months for new episodes, but the explosive back half of season seventeen will be worth the wait. 

THE CRUEL WORLD

The main medical and dramatic cases of the week started on the winter finale of Station 19 when the firefighters saved two Black teenage girls from their kidnapper and a fiery blaze, and they are now on their way to Grey Sloan Memorial. Race plays a major part again during this hour, and it’s really great to see that the Grey’s Anatomy writers are not shying away from real world issues. But more on that later. 

We get a quick peek at Tom Koracick, who is now sharing a room with another COVID patient, before checking in on our favorite COVID patient. As the scene changes to her room, Meredith wakes up with a big gasp and is immediately alert. Amelia, Maggie, and DeLuca are thrilled to visit Mer and see her awake. DeLuca tells Mer that she has been mostly asleep for eight days, and Amelia shares stories about the kids. Naturally, Mer thinks that she can leave the hospital now that she is awake, and DeLuca believes that she could be discharged in a week if her stats stay up.

Teens Shanice and Jada are brought into the ER and are examined by Hayes, Owen, and Schmitt. Shanice’s mom recounts her daughter’s tale to the doctors and the audience members who didn’t catch Station 19. The girls thought they were meeting up with another young girl to help them become social media influencers. Little did they know that they were being tricked by middle-aged white man Bob, who promptly kidnapped them and held them in a small, padlocked room of his basement. Jada’s mom, Joyce, tracked her daughter’s fitness band to Bob’s house, which neighbors Captain Maya Bishop’s home. Bishop had the crew over for an afternoon get together when they heard Joyce screaming outside and went to help. Shanice and Jada heard the commotion too and managed to set a fire, which eventually saved them. However, things went downhill quickly as several members of the Station 19 team and Joyce were arrested by some racist cops. The story doesn’t sit well with any of the doctors, who are determined to help make things right. 

Maggie video calls Winston for a short reprieve from the harsh realities of the central storyline. She is ecstatic to report that Mer is awake, and Winston is happy for her. The conversation is oddly cut very short since Winston is in his car in a parking lot and tells her he is going grocery shopping. The brief chat felt off, but it is thankfully resolved later in the episode. In another area of the hospital, Richard and Jo meet up to talk. Richard knows he has been asking a lot of Jo in helping out with Mer and Bailey’s patients, and he very much appreciates her hard work. Jo asks if they can discuss her career path, but that conversation gets stalled until after the winter break because Richard gets the last text that he wanted to see. He ominously tells Jo that no one will be leaving the hospital tonight before walking away.

We then get another brief check up on Koracick as Maggie goes to see how he is doing. Koracick looks much better than he did in the last episode and seems to be more himself. Maggie happily reports that Mer is awake, which gives Koracick a much needed dose of hope. She says that she will be back in an hour and advises her patient to rest, but a lot happens in that short amount of time. Richard has paged the staff to the cafeteria for a somber announcement: Seattle Presbyterian has hit capacity, which means that GSM will be receiving double the amount of patients per day. Richard announces that the hospital is on surge protocol and that they will need to turn the cafeteria into a COVID ward and double up patients in every room to fit the swell of incoming patients. He also proclaims that residents will now be able to treat COVID patients, which should be a big help to our main players. After his speech, Richard approaches Bailey to tell her to go home and deal with the grief of losing her mother. Bailey, who sounds a bit dead inside, refuses to leave or to go home. Richard knows his stubborn protégé won’t budge, so he tasks her with handling the patient transfers from Seattle Pres to Grey Sloan Memorial.

IF THINGS WEREN'T BAD ENOUGH...

Back in the ER, Hayes wants to order chest X-rays for the girls to make sure their lungs weren’t damaged by smoke inhalation, while Jackson tends to a burn on Jada’s hand. Owen walks back in and pulls Jackson and Hayes to the side to inform them that Bob the kidnapper is en route to the hospital. Jackson immediately says no, but Owen informs him that even though he too isn’t happy about it, there isn’t a choice due to Seattle Pres being at capacity. Owen wants both girls moved into rooms upstairs, stat — that way they don’t have to come face to face with the predator.

DeLuca pops into Mer’s room for a quick exam, and Mer is back to her usual self. She wants to know how her patients are doing and wants to start helping as a doctor again. DeLuca tries to remind her that she needs her rest and to get better first, but he gets paged away. Over in the cafeteria, Teddy is running the show like a tyrant. She is not in a good mood at all and is shouting to the rest of her helpers that the fire marshal will only let them have 30 beds in the cafeteria. Teddy goes off on Helm for not setting up the beds and supplies the way she likes them, and Richard steps in to put an end to her rant. The stress has clearly gotten to Teddy, who storms off like a child instead of speaking properly to her boss.

Things get even more tense when Koracick’s roommate crashes and begins to code. Maggie and a team of nurses rush in to try and save the man, but he unfortunately doesn’t make it. Koracick is horrified and is visibly freaking out over what just happened. He tells Maggie how his roommate’s wife tried to take care of her husband over the phone and that he would like to know the dead man’s full name in order to pray for him. In a panic, Koracick asks Maggie if Mer is still awake. Hearing that Mer is still doing well helps calm Koracick down a little. 

In the ambulance bay, Jackson tells Owen that the girls are now upstairs. Schmitt joins them to wait for Bob’s arrival, and he shares his disbelief over conducting a sex trafficking ring during a pandemic. Bob arrives handcuffed to his gurney and is causing a fuss. He claims that the girls broke into his house and started a fire. Station 19’s Montgomery hops out of the ambulance and tells them not to listen to Bob’s nonsense. As Jackson and Owen wheel Bob inside, a mysterious woman pokes her head around the corner and asks Schmitt what happened to that guy. She goes on to tell Schmitt that she was mugged and hit her head, so Schmitt tells her to follow him inside to get checked out. As he turns to walk away, the woman stops the act and looks totally fine. Could the sketchy lady be a part of Bob’s operation?

SHOWING SOME KINDNESS

Upstairs, Jackson talks to Jada and informs her that his attorney is looking into her mother’s arrest. He fully intends on righting Joyce’s situation. Jada is moved by Jackson’s willingness to help and cries about how she caused the mess by being dumb. Jackson reminds her that she is only thirteen and that it is okay to make mistakes. He reveals a story about how he stole his mom’s car and crashed it when he was fifteen before reinforcing the idea that Jada should only be mad at her kidnapper and not herself.

In the ER, Owen examines Bob and asks him to stop struggling against the handcuffs. Bob wants the cuffs off and keeps repeating how he didn’t kidnap the girls. Owen strongly says he believes both girls and is amazed by their strength. He tells Bob about his own sister’s kidnapping to drive the point home. Owen ends his speech by telling Bob that it’s his job to help his skin and lungs, but he deserves to spend his life behind bars. Bob chooses that moment to crash and pass out, which makes Owen momentarily think that he is faking. When he realizes Bob isn’t faking, Owen quickly calls a stroke alert. In another ER bay, Schmitt checks out the mystery woman, who wants to know what’s going on with Bob. She gets distracted from Schmitt’s questions as Owen goes by pushing Bob’s bed. The mystery woman becomes even sketchier when she asks Schmitt where the restroom is, and she tries to follow Owen and Bob. 

Over in the COVID ward, Koracick wheels himself into Mer’s room in a wheelchair for a visit. Mer is surprised to see that Koracick is also sick, so I guess no one told her. Koracick tells her that he wanted to see that it was possible to beat COVID, but Mer reminds him that she has almost beat it. Koracick also wanted to spend some time in a room where no one is dying because he can’t stand that everyone is dying around him. Mer reaches out her hands, and he takes them. They share a nice moment as Mer assures him that she won’t tell anyone that he broke the rules to come visit her.

We then see that Amelia has stuck around the hospital as she pops in to see how Bob’s CT is going. Owen informs her of the kidnapping situation. Amelia says she is Bob’s best chance to live long enough to rot in prison because he is having an ischemic stroke. Back in the COVID ward, Bailey is moving the new sick patients from Seattle Pres to rooms in Grey Sloan Memorial. She gets distracted when her current patient is assigned to the room where her mom died the night before. She asks DeLuca if he would be willing to take over for her. DeLuca tells Bailey that she should care for herself and either go home or go to her office for a bit. He tries to get her to understand that she needs to take more than a minute to grieve. Bailey sheds some tears over his kindness as DeLuca takes her place with the patient.

Owen and Amelia have brought Bob to the cath lab to take care of the clot in his middle cerebral artery. Amelia asks if the girls are okay, and Owen says that he hopes so. Amelia can’t wait to go home and hug Scout, which makes Owen profess how awful it feels that he can’t go home and see his kids. He feels not seeing his kids is a special kid of torture and is sort of happy that the pandemic is keeping him occupied. Owen goes on to say how not everyone is trying to help stop the pandemic when there are some people trying to hurt others like Bob. 

Back in Mer’s room, Koracick and Mer are sharing a good laugh. Koracick is cracking jokes about how neurosurgeons are the best lovers of all the surgeons, causing Mer to laugh and cough hard. He ignores the protest of Mer’s lungs and continues to talk about how he wants to create a dating app for women who want to date a neurosurgeon after he gets better. The happy moment fizzles out quickly when Koracick settles down and says, “You don’t realize how addicted you are to saving lives until you can’t.” He tries to lighten it up by wondering how the top two surgeons in the hospital caught the plague. They go back and forth on who is the better surgeon, but their ribbing gets cut short as they constantly see dead COVID patients being wheeled by outside of the room, which hits them equally hard.

THE TRUTH HURTS

Richard decides to see how things are going with Teddy and the new cafeteria COVID ward. Teddy is still in a bad mood, so Richard tells her that she can take some personal time if she wants since she has more than earned it. Somehow, this prompts Teddy to finally reveal her problem: she thought that if she could keep Mer alive, that it would mean something. However, nothing has changed now that Mer is awake. Teddy doesn’t feel that taking a break will save anyone, plus she has nowhere to go anyways. Richard gives her a dose of pure truth and tells Teddy that that’s on her and she knows it. He believes that Teddy needs to take the time to figure out why she blew up her life and clean up her messes. Teddy needs to look at herself in order to not repeat the same pattern again. Hopefully this is a real wakeup call for Teddy because she most certainly does need to clean up her life.

Maggie finds Shanice’s mom crying in the hallway outside her daughter’s room. Shanice’s mom is having a hard time with the fact that she almost lost her daughter and has to go on as if nothing happened if she wants her family to survive the pandemic. She can’t take any time off work, which is hard on her. She leaves Maggie in the hall to go back in with her daughter. In another hallway, the mystery woman is talking on her cellphone to a second mystery person about how Bob won’t talk. She wants to go talk to Bob to see how much the girls he kidnapped know. The woman rounds a corner, sees DeLuca, and stops dead in her tracks, but he doesn’t see her. Flashes reveal that she is the same lady who brought in the kidnapped girl at the end of last season. Bob is part of the same sex trafficking ring that caused DeLuca’s big meltdown. 

Back in Mer’s room, Koracick tells her that her stats are looking good, and Mer talks about how much she misses her kids. Koracick says that he used to be so angry at God for taking his son, David, away from him, but now he thinks it’s a blessing in disguise since David doesn’t have to see his father so sick. He quickly says that he is kidding and wishes there was a silver lining because there isn’t anything he wouldn’t do to have more time with his kid. Another staff member comes into the room and forces Koracick to leave. As he’s being wheeled out, Koracick wishes Mer good luck with the plague, and she says the same back.

Schmitt happens upon the sex trafficking ring lady and has brought a police officer along to let her give a statement about being mugged. She distractedly tries to give a fake story while worrying about running into DeLuca. Meanwhile, Jada and Shanice are now sharing a hospital room as Hayes and Jackson watch over them. Joyce comes running into the room, and Jana is very happy to be reunited with her mom. Hayes and Jackson give them some space, and Hayes asks Jackson if he was able to help them. Jackson replies that money got Joyce out of a sticky situation.

Outside in one of the tents, Maggie is giving COVID patient’s families calls about their deaths. Amelia sees her sister and decides to take a break with her because she is sad about saving Bob’s life when she could easily have ended it. Maggie doesn’t know how Amelia had the control to save him, and Amelia says that she didn’t hurt him because she took an oath to do no harm. Amelia isn’t the happiest that Bob will live far longer than he should even if he does die alone in prison. Maggie is sick of everything, and Amelia agrees that it’s infuriating. 

However, Amelia doesn’t understand that Maggie is talking about the monsters from the past that made the world what it is today. She’s outraged about how Black girls aren’t seen as innocent victims but instead tend to be guilty until proven innocent. Maggie discusses the same high statistics for Black girls being kidnapped that were discussed on Station 19 and says that it’s a problem that gets ignored too easily, just like how not everyone is outraged that COVID is killing Black people at crazy rates. She firmly believes if COVID was killing white people at a higher rate, then wearing masks would be the law. Amelia says Maggie is right and doesn’t know how she carries it all. Maggie replies that she does it by the skin of her teeth before walking away.

TOO MUCH TOO SOON

Schmitt finds Jo on a bench outside at the end of the day and asks if she quit yet. Jo doesn’t feel that she is quitting, rather she is choosing joy. She hasn’t spoken to Mer since she woke up because she doesn’t want to get shamed for leaving surgery. Jo knows that whatever Mer would say would be right, but she gets a lot of joy from thinking about changing professions. It seems like Jo is sticking to her rash decision, even though it seems like an odd choice.

Back inside, DeLuca is impressed that Bailey successfully transferred 27 patients to the new COVID ward in under five hours. He asks if she broke anything, and Bailey replies that she screamed into a pillow for a few minutes. DeLuca tells Bailey that he has no words to describe how bad it felt when his mom died. Bailey says it doesn’t feel like she’s in her body and doesn’t know what to do about a memorial. Her mom had big plans for a service and didn’t want a sad funeral, but none of it can happen now. DeLuca interrupts when he gets an alert on his phone to take his meds and get some sleep since it is the end of his shift. Bailey is so proud of the progress he has made. DeLuca tells her that he is lucky to be surrounded by people that didn’t give up on him.

Mer is sitting in her room and hears and sees the patient in the room across the hall coding. No one is immediately responding, so she pushes her own help button. When no nurses or doctors come running, Mer does the only thing she knows how to do: she unplugs her IV, changes her mask, gets out of bed, and goes across the hall to help the dying patient herself. Mer starts compressions, and a few nurses arrive moments later. The nurses tell her to go back to bed, but Mer says the patient doesn’t have that kind of time. Mer instructs a nurse to take over compressions, while she intubates the patient. Helm shows up and is shocked to see Mer working on the patient. Mer finishes her job and goes to walk back to her room. On her way out the door, Mer asks Helm to get her a wheelchair and promptly passes out as Helm catches her.

The next morning, Owen walks out of the hospital for some air and sees Teddy. Surprisingly, he walks over to say hi. He tells Teddy that he doesn’t want to keep punishing her or the kids and wants to talk about what they are going to do. Teddy takes Richard’s advice to take inventory of her life and reveals to Owen that she was in love with her friend Allison and that they were deeply in love with each other. She isn’t sure what it has to do with what she did to Owen, but she says it was the only secret she kept from him before she slept with Koracick. Teddy just wants to give Owen all the facts and still loves him and their family even if it’s over between them. Owen laughs hard and bitterly. He’s been trying to put it all together since their wedding day. Owen says it turns out she didn’t change; rather he didn’t really know her at all. He then gets a bit mean by saying that Teddy doesn’t know what "true" means and that they named their daughter after a lie. Owen walks away as Teddy gets a page about Mer’s declining status, causing her to rush inside.

Richard visits the COVID ward cafeteria and tells Bailey that he has never seen anything like this. He’s not sure doing his best will be enough this time. He feels that they are going to lose their own to the toll of the pandemic, not the disease itself, because it will hurt them in a way that they can’t even begin to understand. I’m putting money on Teddy being the first of those victims. Bailey and Richard simultaneously get pages about Mer too.

Bailey, Richard, and Amelia have quickly congregated outside of Mer’s room. Maggie hasn’t answered her phone according to Amelia, so she’s missing from the group. Teddy checked in on Mer, who is now unconscious, and updates the group on her declining stats. Bailey thinks the exertion of helping the other patient put Mer over the edge, but Teddy isn’t sure that’s true. Teddy thinks Mer’s lungs were already too damaged and the treatment caused a COVID high. She thinks it’s time for Mer to go on a ventilator, but Bailey is firmly against the idea. Teddy feels Mer’s lungs are at a breaking point and that more patients are surviving because of ventilators now instead of it being a death sentence. Bailey protests, and Richard reminds her it’s his call. He tells Teddy to do it, as they all look incredibly worried.

Out in the parking lot, the sex trafficking ring lady leaves the hospital while talking on the phone. She says that she had to leave the hospital because it’s too risky. DeLuca walks through the parking lot at the same moment and sees her this time. He instantly recognizes her. Carina walks up to him at the same time, so DeLuca tells his sister what is going on and needs her to believe him. She wants DeLuca to call the police, but he wants to follow the woman. They decide to follow her together and call the police at the same time. Unfortunately, we don’t know how this story will play out, and the resolution is a very long three months away.

A quick cut away shows Maggie drunk in her hotel room. Someone knocks on her door, and she drags herself out of bed. When she opens the door, she is very surprised to see Winston standing there with a bouquet of flowers. It was only a matter of time before he showed up in Seattle, and this is the perfect time for his arrival. Maggie needs some moral and emotional support and Winston is the perfect person to help her. The episode ends with Teddy bringing an unconscious Mer to the COVID ICU and putting her on a ventilator. There are some flashes between Teddy putting Mer on the ventilator, Mer alone on her beach, and Bailey, Richard, and Amelia solemnly watching from outside the room. Mer might be in a bad place for now, but let’s keep our hopes up that she will pull through. 

Hopefully we get some good news when the show returns March 4, 2021.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Never Have I Ever 1x01 Review: "Pilot" (A Coming-of-Age Comedy) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Pilot”
Original Airdate: April 27, 2020

Do you remember what your high school experience was like?

Whether you had a great one or a downright unbearable one, I think we can all agree that high school is awkward. You’re still trying to figure out who you are, what you like, and who you want to become in the future. You know nothing about love and relationships, and you don’t have that much experience in the world yet. But that doesn’t mean high school students don’t know trauma or grief. And that’s something Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) knows firsthand.

When we open Never Have I Ever, narrator John McEnroe (just go with it; it’ll be explained later on) tells us the story of Devi, a 15-year old high school sophomore who had a terrible freshman year. Her father had a heart attack and died at a recital. And then with no medical explanation apart from grief and trauma, Devi’s legs stopped working which left her confined to a wheelchair. Not the ideal freshman experience by any means.

But Devi’s a sophomore now who is no longer wheelchair-bound, and is ready to reinvent herself. She decides the first step to improving her life and the lives of her best friends Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) and Eleanor (Ramona Young) is for them all to get boyfriends. Her reasoning is that boyfriends are stepping stones to popularity. The boys don’t have to be perfect — they just have to give the girls enough credibility to get popular. Devi tells the girls she’s setting her sights on a flamboyant and not technically out boy named Jonah, but in reality she’s crushing hard for Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet). And at the end of this episode, she decides to ask him to sleep with her. 

Devi is obsessed with her plan to gain popularity and have a “normal” high-school existence. She doesn’t want to do the work to emotionally process the trauma of her father’s death — even when her therapist (played by Niecy Nash) recommends that Devi begin journaling. Instead of working through her feelings, Devi prefers to try and control her life. She prides herself on success and this area should be no different.

A PROTAGONIST WITH FLAWS


The thing about Devi is that in the pilot, and as the series progresses, we don’t always have to root for her. She’s flawed and she’s also a teenager. When she chooses to say or do things, when she makes choices that we as audience members cringe at, we’re reminded that she doesn’t know enough about life to be self-aware. It’s frustrating in the pilot to see Devi’s reaction to the news that Eleanor has a boyfriend (and that Fabiola knew). Eleanor dating a theatre tech was not part of Devi’s plan to make them all popular or cool; it was, however, something that Eleanor and Fabiola hid from Devi because they knew she would overreact. You’d think Devi would be happy: Eleanor has a boyfriend.

But it’s not about Eleanor’s happiness; it’s about Devi’s desire for control. She storms out, irate, while John McEnroe talks about them essentially both being passionate and hot-tempered individuals. 

As Never Have I Ever continues, we’re going to see exactly how flawed Devi is, how much her selfish actions and lies hurt others... especially her best friends. But for now, the pilot is an example of how Devi doesn’t have the proper perspective yet that she needs to grow.

A lot of Never Have I Ever is about Devi, her attempt to navigate high school, and her friendships. But the core of the show is family and we’ll see a lot more in the coming episodes focused on Devi’s relationship with her mother and cousin Kamala. But in the pilot, we get the chance to see their dynamics a little. Kamala is a beautiful PhD student at Caltech. There’s not clear reasoning as to why Devi dislikes Kamala so much, but we can read between the lines: she’s the perfect Indian woman. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s motivated, she’s set to have an arranged marriage, and she’s also just a perfectly nice person! She’s trying, and Devi thinks she’s trying too hard. Kamala is, in the teenager’s mind, imposing on her way of life and also setting an impossible standard to live up to in her family. I get it. And as we learn more about Devi’s relationship with her mom, we’ll discover more about family grief and trauma.

Never Have I Ever is such a delightful comedy and I can’t wait to continue to unpack it with you all!

Favorite things:
  • I love that John McEnroe is the narrator for this show. I will never NOT love it.
  • “Not a super chill time to be a brown person in America.”
  • “Sociopaths get shit done, Fab.”
  • “Your responses were very hurtful.”
  • I just love Kamala and she only grows on me as the series progresses.
What did you all think of the pilot? Sound off in the comments below!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Grey’s Anatomy 17x05 Recap: “Fight the Power” (The Ballad of Miranda Bailey) [Contributor: Julia Siegel]


“Fight the Power”
Original Airdate: December 10, 2020

Miranda Bailey takes center stage in the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy, as she deals with quite the personal dilemma. As COVID rages in Seattle, a very sick Tom Koracick is brought to Grey Sloan Memorial in rough shape. Jo has a moment of hope and bliss with a surprise assignment in an otherwise depressing episode. Let’s dive into these main storylines.

A LIVING NIGHTMARE

It is clear from the get-go that the episode will revolve around Bailey, as she gives the opening voiceover and appears in the first scene. Bailey has been sleeping in her office most nights, as she has little time or energy to make it to her hotel. We see her morning routine, including a FaceTime call with Ben. As she makes her way through the hospital, Bailey has a video call with her dad. Bailey’s dad is having a hard time with her mom’s dementia and she always tries to leave the assisted living facility they are living in. The news is very concerning to Bailey, who urges her father to not go outside or let her mom go outside, before ending the call to get to work.

A little while later, Bailey and Maggie have a conversation about the increasing number of COVID cases in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Maggie says that three new COVID positive patients have come into the hospital that day from the same home. Bailey asks which one and is surprised to hear Maggie say the name of the place where her parents live. She runs off to call Ben. A panicking Bailey asks her husband to pick up her parents and bring them to her hotel room, which she feels will be a safer place for them. Ben naturally agrees to help, but he’s in for a surprise when he gets to the assisted living facility. 

Bailey makes her way back to the desk where Maggie is working. Maggie informs her that her phone has been ringing like crazy, and Bailey sees that she has nearly 20 missed calls from Ben. Right as she calls him back, Ben comes rushing into the hospital in front of Bailey with her very sick mother on a gurney. Maggie and Bailey immediately bring Bailey’s mom to the COVID ward. They have a difficult time taking care of her because she doesn’t understand where she is or what is going on. Bailey decides to sing to her agitated mother, which helps her calm down. Mrs. Bailey calms down enough to let them help her and even starts singing along. Later in the day, Bailey checks in on her mother. Maggie informs her that her mom’s condition is worsening and that she is going into multi-system organ failure. Bailey knows that her mom wouldn’t want to be on machines or kept alive with medications, but isn’t quite sure what to do. She wants to call her dad, but she doesn’t know how to tell him that the love of his life won’t make it through the night. 

Instead of immediately calling her dad, Bailey decides to visit Meredith. Even though she is still sleeping 99% of the time, her stats have been slowly getting better since she got into the trial. Bailey tells a sleeping Meredith that she misses her. As Bailey starts talking, we see her on the beach with Meredith. Bailey describes how she’s always had big emotions and that her mom helped her manage her feelings as a kid. She goes on to tell Meredith that her mom has Alzheimer’s and never told her because she didn’t want to bring up old pain for her or Richard. Bailey says it would be a lie to say that it hasn’t been hard or painful even though she is a doctor and knows a lot about Alzheimer’s. She feels like she knows nothing and has a hard time talking about it. Meredith solemnly responds here and there on the beach, even though Bailey can’t hear her. The touching scene ends with Bailey wishing that Meredith was awake so they could really talk.

Bailey goes back to her mom’s room and has her dad video call in. Her mom is awake, and her dad is now quarantining at Bailey’s hotel room. Bailey’s mom recognizes her husband before falling asleep, leaving father and daughter to talk. Mr. Bailey really wants to be at the hospital with his wife and wants his daughter to call him back when her mom wakes up again. Mrs. Bailey has heard the whole conversation and is crying in her sleep. Bailey tells her mother that if she’s ready to go, it’s okay. She assures her mom that they will be okay and that they love her, but don’t want her to suffer. Mrs. Bailey wakes up and says that she’s not ready to die. Bailey replies by saying she understands if she is tired and that she loves her. Mrs. Bailey again says that she’s not ready to die and that she wants to go home.

Bailey takes some time outside to think. She leaves a voicemail for Ben to tell him that she thinks her mom was lucid and needs help deciding what to do next. Maggie finds Bailey and joins her on the bench she’s sitting on. Bailey explains how her mom said she wasn’t ready to go, which made Bailey feel overjoyed before feeling mad. She’s mad that no one told her that her mother was sick. Bailey doesn’t want her to suffer from Alzheimer’s anymore, but she doesn’t want COVID to be the reason she dies. Bailey doesn’t want her mom to be another statistic as a Black woman dying from COVID. She is having a hard time coping with the fact that her mother was perfectly healthy and is now struggling to breathe.

Maggie understands that it isn’t easy and that the situation is confusing and hard. She tells Bailey that with her mom, fighting at all costs didn’t give her a better peace of mind at the end and might have done the opposite. Maggie realized in hindsight that it was easier to fall back on acting like a surgeon rather than a daughter. She knows Bailey will never be ready to say goodbye to her mom and tries to help her realize how much she has done for her mom and that her mom has lived an amazing life. Bailey isn’t having any of it because she feels guilty for bringing her parents to Seattle right before the pandemic hit. She believes that if she hadn’t forced them to leave New York, they would be fine. Maggie argues that Bailey couldn’t have known any of this would happen and that she shouldn’t feel guilty about it. Bailey realizes that she needs to be a good daughter, and Maggie assures her she is doing that by giving her mom the best care possible while keeping her comfortable. Maggie wishes she could have given her mom a more dignified death.

The last scene of the episode shows Bailey and Richard watching her mom from outside her hospital room. Bailey’s mom is getting worse, and Richard tells her that she needs to go see her mom because she will never forgive herself if she doesn’t. Bailey wants her mom to be surrounded by her dad and family, but doesn’t want anyone to get exposed. She is scared, and Richard says they will go in together. Once inside, Bailey sings to her mom while crying. Mrs. Bailey wakes up and listens as Richard joins in the song. With a tear in her eye, Bailey’s mom closes her eyes and passes away with her daughter holding her hand. The loss will definitely impact Bailey, and it will be interesting to see how it will affect her work. 

NEW PATIENT

The other COVID patient of the week is none other than Tom Koracick, whose condition has gotten very critical. Helm, Teddy, and Owen meet the ambulance that brings Koracick to Grey Sloan Memorial. His oxygen levels are dropping quickly, which concerns the three doctors. Before they can bring him inside, Koracick has a seizure on the gurney. Once they get him to a trauma room, Owen kicks Helm out because residents can’t help COVID patients. Koracick wakes up in a delirium and doesn’t know where he is or who Teddy and Owen are. They quickly decide Koracick is going to need CT scans immediately.

Teddy sends Koracick’s scans to Amelia and video calls her for a consult. Amelia decides that the best course of action would be for her to go into the hospital and examine Koracick herself. She hangs up and gives Link specific instructions for each of the four kids under their care. Amelia is glad that Link wants her to go help Koracick, especially because she doesn’t want her friend and mentor to die. Koracick means more to Amelia than Link knew, and she accidentally lets it slip that she once slept with Koracick. Amelia quickly walks out the door before explaining anything to Link. 

Over at the hospital, Amelia examines Koracick and updates Teddy on his status. Koracick has neural deficits, and Teddy tells Amelia that he asked for his son in the middle of his delirium. Amelia wants to watch him for a bit and see if he responds to treatment. Teddy and Amelia then have a real conversation about life. Teddy asks how baby Scout is and complains about not being able to see her own kids before asking if Amelia knows what happened with the wedding getting called off. Amelia assures Teddy that she has done much worse than her and hurt more people. Teddy feels that everyone ignores her, which makes her feel like she is wearing a scarlet letter. Amelia ends the conversation by promising to keep a close eye on Koracick for Teddy and thanks her for getting Meredith into the COVID trial. 

Later that night, Amelia is ready to leave the hospital after triple checking Koracick’s vitals. Teddy thanks her for all the help, and Amelia leaves Teddy to visit a sleeping Koracick. Teddy talks to him and says that she isn’t sure if he was too sick to answer the door or if he was ignoring her when she visited the other day. She continues by saying that they mean enough to each other that, even though she hurt him more than she can imagine, a repair can be made. Teddy hopes Koracick remembers some of the things he doesn’t hate about her in order to salvage their friendship. She says that he won’t be able to get rid of her unless he gets better and tells her himself. Koracick squeezes Teddy’s hand and wakes up. He jokingly tells her that he was ignoring her when she came to his house and asks for a friendly sponge bath. It is good to see that Teddy and Koracick will be able to repair their friendship because they both could really use a friend.

A NEW PATH FORWARD

The last big storyline of the episode follows Jo. Schmitt tries to wake his roomie up first thing in the morning, but Jo doesn’t want to get up for work. She hates that she can’t operate and can’t stand having to see the refrigerated car of dead bodies. Schmitt needs her to get up because he needs a ride to work. Jo begrudgingly helps him out and is still looking over the patient from two episodes ago who had the liver baby. Schmitt, Jo, and new intern Khan find her labs concerning and determine that they need to do another scan. The new mom is upset that she hasn’t met her baby, but Jo reminds her that the baby is still on a ventilator and that it isn’t safe yet. 

To cheer her up, Khan goes to the NICU to let the patient FaceTime with her baby. Jo and Schmitt interrupt and inform their patient that the CT scan shows she has an abscess in one of the blood vessels in her liver. It’s causing a pseudo-aneurysm and will need immediate surgical intervention. The patient gets mad again because she has waited eight years to become a mom and feels that it will never be real at this point. The three doctors feel bad for her and bring their patient to the OR for surgery. Things don’t go as well as expected, so Jo changes the plan mid-surgery to remove part of the liver to save the patient’s life. 

The surgery is successful, and the patient survives. While scrubbing out, Khan tells Jo how happy he is to have been a part of that surgery. Jo is confused because the patient may still need a transplant and isn’t out of the woods. She also can’t imagine that Khan would find that surgery exciting when he was formerly a vascular surgeon in Syria. Khan insists that he was impressed with Jo’s skills, which brightens Jo’s day. 

Shortly after, Khan finds Jo in the hall and tells her their patient hasn’t woken up yet. Jo wants him to keep looking after the patient and sends him on his way. As Jo goes to walk away, a nurse grabs her and says she needs a doctor immediately to help deliver a baby. Jo tries to tell the nurse that she isn’t part of the OB department and hasn’t delivered a baby in a long time. The nurse drags Jo into a room and the doctor immediately jumps in and quickly delivers the baby. Jo is overjoyed to see the birth and the new family. She continues happily watching the new family until the nurse interrupts her moment and asks her to sign some paperwork before leaving.

Later that night, Jo recounts her tale of surprisingly having to deliver a baby to Schmitt. Jo liked that she was the first person in the world to hold the baby boy and that seeing the new family was the happiest thing she’s ever seen. However, she feels that the whole thing was a random fluke and that she will be back to the same old nonsense tomorrow. Jo then wonders if Carina is so happy all the time because she delivers little bundles of joy. Schmitt thinks Carina’s happiness probably comes more from her orgasm study, but Jo ignores him. Jo shocks her roommate by saying that she is considering changing specialties because she is tired of not being happy. She doesn’t think the change would be that insane if surgery isn’t bringing her joy anymore. Schmitt urges her to sleep on it before making any decisions, but it seems like Jo may have made up her mind. It’s unclear whether Jo will make her choice in next week’s two-hour winter finale crossover event, but we will soon find out what she wants to do with her life.

Julie and the Phantoms 1x01 Review: "Wake Up" (Tell Your Friends) [Contributor: Jenn]


“Wake Up”
Original Airdate: September 10, 2020

I am not the target demographic for Julie and the Phantoms, but that didn’t stop me from devouring and falling head-over-heels in love with the series. We’re talking about picking out china patterns and searching-for-a-house-together kind of love. With the kind of charm that director Kenny Ortega is known for, this teen/family show focuses on Julia Molina (Madison Reyes), a young woman who’s grieving the loss of her mom who died a year ago. When three ghost boys named Luke, Alex, and Reggie (Charlie Gillespie, Owen Joyner, Jeremy Shada) who died in 1995 show up in her house, Julie begins to find the courage to play music again.

So let’s dive deep into the show over the course of these reviews and talk about all the things that make it so endearing and important. Oh, and if you’d like to listen to two hours’ worth of a podcast about it, you can also check out our bonus episode of The Community Rewatch Podcast where friends and I covered all things Julie and the Phantoms.

For now, just sit back, relax, and grab a snack... anything other than a street dog, that is.

GRIEF AND HEALING THROUGH MUSIC

The most important thing about the pilot is that we learn Julie’s grieving the loss of her mother. She’s in the music program at her high school and since her mother’s death, Julie has been unable to play. Unfortunately, her grace period is running out and if she can’t actually perform, she’ll be kicked out of the program. When Julie sits down at the piano, she’s unable to play and runs from the classroom.

Later on, Julie’s dad confronts her about her decision to give up on the music program. He knows his daughter well enough to know that music isn’t just what bonded her to her mother — it’s the thing that makes her come alive. And that theme of music being life-giving and healing continues throughout “Wake Up.” When Luke, Reggie, and Alex realize that when they play their instruments, people can hear them, Luke is elated. He tells Julie that it’s the most alive they’ve felt since they died. They’re still able to do the thing they love and were born to do. Luke then makes a pretty poignant mini-speech to Julie about how they could never be able to give up the thing that makes them come alive, no matter what. They’re artists; it’s who they are and music is what they were born to do.

But interestingly enough, Julie lies to the boys when they ask her about the piano in the studio. She tells them that she doesn’t play and that she isn’t a musician. I think so much of Julie in the pilot is incredibly relatable for anyone who’s ever struggled with grief. She keeps her head down and a hat on in the hallways at school, preferring to be as invisible as possible to everyone besides her best friend, Flynn (Jadah Marie). Julie has lost herself. Her grief is very valid and real, of course, but it’s also trapped and immobilized her. Imagine that Devil’s Snare plant from Harry Potter. Julie’s grief is like that; she’s trying to avoid it and fight it but all it does is grip tighter and tighter. The only way to survive a Devil’s Snare, as Hermione Granger will remind you, is to do the exact opposite of what you want to do: stay still. The way we survive grief is to feel its snares tangled around us and feel the weight of that deeply, but to not let it claim us as its next victim. We sit in grief, and we let ourselves feel it. We don’t fight it; we work through it.

But Julie’s pain, like the Devil’s Snare, is squeezing the very life and light out of her. And it’s taking away the one thing in life she was born to do and loves doing: music. That’s what makes the storyline in “Wake Up” extra beautiful. Until the moment Julie sits down at the piano to play her mom’s song, she does not really know how to feel her grief while also expressing it in the art form that brings her the most joy.

Eventually, Julie recognizes the truth in the lyrics of the song her mom created: grief is a part of you. If you’ve ever lost a person you love, you know that the grief never really goes away. But the lyric: “And I use the pain, ‘cause it’s part of me” reminds us of the truth that there is power in our pain and there is purpose beyond it. Julie’s pain and her loss is part of what makes her a fully-realized human being; her grief is part of what makes her who she, Julie Molina, is. There is no one like her. And she uses pain and emotion to connect to herself and others through song. When Julie takes her mother’s advice and takes the first step — the small step on the path toward healing — she is empowered to take the next one. And then the next one. And so on.

“Wake Up” (the song, not the episode) brings Julie from darkness to light quite literally. It’s such a stunningly directed number, and I love that we begin to watch the morning light burst through the studio just like the light that had been dimmed in Julie bursts forth through her song. Madison Reyes is an incredible singer and actress already, and this number made me clutch my heart because of how deeply I felt connected to Julie in the moment.

But that’s not where we end: we end with Luke, Reggie, and Alex watching the performance from behind Julie. They’re as proud and in awe as we are; the girl they thought didn’t sing not only can sing well, but she can channel the kind of emotion and power that moves people (and ghosts). That’s why I love that we get the chance to see Julie’s dad and her little brother, Carlos, react so sweetly and softly to Julie singing again. They’re proud, yes, but there’s something else there too. They’re watching a person they love bloom and heal. It’s a beautiful sight, truly, when you can visibly see someone come into their own as a person.

The episode ends with the boys watching as Julie finishes her song, and when I first watched the pilot, I immediately went on to the next episode. I was enraptured by Madison’s voice and couldn’t wait to see where the story would go.

If you haven’t yet watched Julie and the Phantoms, please do. And then come back next week for my review of “Bright”!

Hitting the right notes:

  • Musical breakdown: “Now or Never” is really great, and I appreciate the commitment the boys had while standing under those 90s-style lights. Also I can’t wait to belt this out loudly at a concert someday. “Wake Up” stunned me in the best way possible, and now the only reason I can’t listen to it more often is because it’s my wake-up alarm. I kid you not.
  • The clever joke of the hotdog place being called “Sam and Ella’s” was not lost on me.
  • If you notice in the background when the boys are eating the hotdogs, you can see a missing poster for Luke that his parents put up. You’ll learn the heartbreak of that during “Unsaid Emily.”
  • “Hey underachiever.” “Hey disappointment.” Their friendship is everything to me.
  • “You know they’re gonna get married and have a bunch of unholy babies.”
  • “I have been crying for 25 years?! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?”
  • “You’re a good brother, but that’s not gonna work.” “I tried.”
  • Fun fact: Alex was the first character I connected with! Immediately I knew I was going to love him. Also confession time... I may have thought that the show was going to set Alex up with Julie until we learned in the next episode that Alex is gay. I still want Alex and Julie to have more scenes together as friends though. Maybe in season two, Netflix?
  • The final shot of “Wake Up” with the boys appearing in the background gave me chills. It still does.

What did you all think of “Wake Up”? Sound off in the comments below!