John From Cincinnati
His Visit: Day Nine

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Mr. Sobell: C | Grade It Now!
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The End Is Here

You didn't think we would leave here without one last Bill scene, did you? He's trudging up the spiral staircase of his house, very reluctantly, and into the room we've never seen him enter before. There's a hospital bed up there that looks like it hasn't been slept in for a good long while. "Saying I'd not climb those stairs again," Bill begins. "Or come back in this room. I guess now you know I'm a fibber." He's addressing this to the empty bed; he sits down next to it. A lot of pictures up on the wall, a lot of personal touches that indicate that there was a lady living up here, and Bill's next line clinches it: "Why I came up here, sweetheart...that son of the Yost boy, Butchie, who helped you with your groceries? His son went missing. Long and short of it, Shaun -- Butchie's son -- safely retuned. Happy outcome." So why is Bill so unhappy? Well, Zippy's missing for starters. "I was remiss," Bill confesses. "Trotting him places outside the house. Although, I'll say, first excursion out, I took him to the hospital. it was a...worthwhile visit." Bill is struggling for words now. "This is why I don't come up here," he says. "Where do you start and stop? Every incident. 'Oh, if she could have only seen this.' 'Wouldn't she have laughed to have seen that?'" Bill eyes the empty bed and stands up. "If I took the mouth-harp to hand to come up with, I'd have never made it up the stairs," he says. "Or I'd play to you." He turns to go, but pauses. "God love you, my Lo'," he says. "And hold you tight." And now perhaps the best moment of the night -- Zippy flies through the window and comes to rest on Bill's shoulder. An amazed Bill turns to the bed with an expression of joy on his face: "Lois," he whispers. "Lo', look at this." Wonderful scene. A perfect ending to the episode.

Only it did not end there. We get a shot of Kai surfing, and boy oh boy, Keala Kennelly can surf. John weighs in once more with a voiceover: "Mother of God, Cass-Kai." Well, why not end things on an ambiguous note?

Well. Everyone gets the right to weigh in with their opinion about a show when it shuffles off stage right, so I suppose this ought to be my chance. There's a tendency, I think, to view shows in extremes -- either something is great and brilliant or terrible and unwatchable, with very little room for nuance in between. I suppose some of my more caustic comments over the life of these recaps suggest that I fall in the terrible/unwatchable camp, but I really don't. Some things about John From Cincinnati I liked, other things I did not. Oh the plus side of the ledger was the acting -- Brian Van Holt and Ed O'Neill in particular. The dialogue, as you might expect, from a Milch-helmed show, was lyrical, and certain imagery was truly breathtaking. And on the minus side? Well, there's that problem of coherent narrative and engaging storytelling. I don't doubt that John From Cincinnati probably struck a chord with some viewers; I just wasn't one of them. Part of the problem is that the themes of the show -- once you managed to wade through all the hoo-doo and mysticism -- were fairly ordinary. People feel better when they belong to part of a larger community. It is better to be part of some sort of family than not to be. We'd do a much better job understanding each other if we actually stopped and listened to what the other person was saying. True sentiments and all that, but not exactly earth-shattering stuff. The show always seemed to claim a profundity it never actually earned, at least from my point of view.

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John From Cincinnati

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