Saturday, January 08, 2011


I'm watching Joan of Arcadia season 2 this weekend as the DVD set is due at the library Monday. In spite of needing to watch over 20 episodes in two days I just watched episode 8 for the second time in the process of looking for a specific clip from it to post.

This episode has to be one of the top three or four best of both season's so far. It was so intense with a multi-track storyline that had not one wasted word or image with a theme and a message so profound and acting so right on that I can't imagine they can top it. All that in 43 minutes!

The clip I wanted was from the very end where Joan is juggling three glowing blue balls in the dark. The theme and the message of the story is contained in this scene which is beautiful on its own but of course can't be experienced in full without the preceding story. The clip is actually in the last couple of minutes of this video and there may be enough of the story in the preceding segment to orient a newbie to the series but just in case: Joan is always encountering what seem to be ordinary people who identify themselves as God and give her advice, warnings and tasks.

If you want to watch the whole episode from the beginning you can find the first four parts on YouTube posted by the same person who posted this one.

Total spoiler below this line. Also in the clip of course since it is the last minutes of the story.

In this episode her best friend, Judith, helps her prepare for her first fancy restaurant date and while Joan is on her date Judith goes out to party with the druggie friends from her old school and is stabbed while they are trying to score. Joan's policeman father is called to the scene by his boss who believes the injured girl is his daughter as she is wearing Joan's sweater with her name tag inside.

Joan arrives home from her perfect dreamy evening to the news and her Mom drives her and Adam to the hospital where Joan has one last intense encounter with Judith who requests that Joan demonstrate that she can juggle, a skill Judith had been teaching her for their joint Physics class project. Joan attempts to juggle three rolls of bandages and fumbles them several times before finally keeping them going for a full round and the moment Judith sees the success she closes her eyes and the machines begin to howl. I was a total blubbering fool at this point and could barely see the remainder of the scenes through the tears.

There is an intense car ride home with her Mom and when they pull up her younger brother, Luke, his up to this point secret girlfriend, Grace and Luke's friend Friedman who has had a raging crush on Judith since she was introduced in S2E2, are sitting on the front porch obviously having already heard the news. The three of them had gone to a cheesy sci-fi movie marathon that night. Friedman had recently finished memorizing the entire Hamlet play after Judith had promised him a date if he did. He was ready to recite it but had wanted to go to the movie marathon so put it off. Over the next several minutes he quotes very relevant passages from Hamlet in response to the anguished questions or comments from one of the others.

Now I've simply got to find a Hamlet video!

Adam had disappeared from the scene at the hospital soon after a brief visit to Judith's bedside with Joan. He arrives on the scene in Joan's front yard an indeterminate time after Joan's arrival, early in this clip actually. Joan's paralyzed older brother, who had dropped Judith off where she was meeting up with her friends on his way to work, drives up in the last seconds of this clip. It is hard to tell if he has heard what happened to Judith yet but since he works for the newspaper I can't imagine how he wouldn't have. Not to mention that the whole family has cell phones.

OK that's the setup for this scene. You can watch it now and get most of the effect.

But in case you'd rather just read it, here's the gist. Or at least the part that is most meaningful to me. When Adam arrives he presents Joan with three balls he had made which light up when he presses a button on them. He tells Joan he had made them for Judith to use in their Physics project. As he hands them to Joan she spots one of the reoccurring characters self-identifying as God. The dog walker is walking several dogs on leashes past the yard. Joan walks over to him and confronts him with his negligence for having not kept Judith alive. Earlier, at the hospital in another guise he had talked about free will and choices good and bad and their consequences. Now he asks her to solve the riddle of the man with three boxes who must cross a bridge that will bear only 200 pounds but he weighs 190 and each box weighs 5lbs so how does he and his boxes get to the other side?

Joan knows the answer is by juggling them and always keeping at least one in the air. But she spits out the answer in anger and disgust not seeing the point until God tells her that the boxes represent her feelings: joy, pain, loss, etc. He takes the balls from her and starts juggling them and then tosses them to Joan one by one and she keeps them in the air effortlessly as he walks on with the dogs.

The last minute or so is all image with musical background as we watch the balls float up and down and the faces of her family and friends watching the balls and watching Joan.

And I'm left feeling a huge YES exactly. That's how I manage not to fall through the floor of my life each and every day. It doesn't take a major tragedy (or several in a few short years as in Joan's case) to make you feel weighed down to the point of being crushed. Even the comparably ordinary burdens of an ordinary life are too much to bear all at once all the time.

I don't think I've ever done this before--relating the entire plot of a movie or TV show in a post. I doubt I'll ever do it again. It's just that tonight I could not tear my mind off of it and thus could not imagine a post on any other topic. When I began I was going to just find the clip if I could and relate the riddle. Quick and easy see. But I should have know myself better than that.

0 tell me a story:

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