“Army Wives” mini-cap: Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t say the word “lesbian”

Somebody came out of the closet this week on Army Wives.

OK, it’s not who you think it is — no matter who you think it is. The character was new this week and, unfortunately, Renée O’Connor didn’t play her. But we’ll get to that in a bit. First, let’s look at the closets our other characters went into.

Closet No. 1 — the one like on Grey’s Anatomy where sex happens

Remember last week, when Roland noticed how happy Denise was around Getti? This week, he tells her that he understands the temptation to get involved with a new person when your spouse is not meeting your needs. Denise is appalled.

But Roland, being the expert at denial, ignores Denise and advises her to walk away. Which means, of course, that Denise ends up walking right into Getti’s arms after a particularly tense moment in the ER. Getti goes into a medical supply closet; Denise follows. Getti kisses Denise; Denise kisses back. So little chemistry, so much tension.

Closet No. 2 — the one that doesn’t have any hidden war artifacts

Pamela’s suspicion of Steve, Chase’s Delta Force buddy, turns into a nightmare when Chase gets arrested. Turns out several other guys in the unit were arrested as well — and no one will tell the wives why. Pamela goes to talk to Carla, Steve’s wife, who obviously does know why, and learns that the charge is war profiteering — taking artifacts from Iraq and selling them to rich folks who, um, like Iraqi artifacts.

Pamela’s ex-cop persona kicks in and she ransacks her house, looking for clues. When she gets to the top of the closet, I just know she’s going to find something, because people on TV always hide things in the top of their closets. (The top of my closet is full of comic book action figures in original packaging, which will make me rich some day.) But she finds nothing. Eventually, Chase is freed and tells Pamela he was undercover helping the Army bust Steve. Pamela is glad he’s innocent, but she’s getting very tired of the secrecy.

Closet No. 3 — the one with the mayonnaise where Trevor passes muster

Roxy’s new waitress, Sandi, is interested in serving more than beer when it comes to Trevor. But when Sandi propositions him in the stock closet, Trevor rebuffs her and Roxy fires her.

A few days later, Roxy learns that Sandi has filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination. The resident base godmother, Claudia Joy, calls on her vast litigation experience (before she dropped out of law school) to save the day, suggesting that they find out about Sandi’s past. Sure enough, Sandi is a serial plaintiff. When Roxy and C.J. confront her, she hops in her cute car and heads back to the Ugly Betty set.

Closet No. 4 — the one where the door stays open so anyone who comes out can go back in

Roland sets himself up for trouble when he counsels a female student, Jessica, with the classroom door closed. Just as she hugs him in gratitude, in walks the principal. Can somebody say, “duh?”

But we learn that the situation is a bit more complicated when he meets Jessica at a coffee shop. What the two had been discussing is the fact that she is gay. Now she has been accepted at West Point and understands that she faces a lifetime of secrecy. At first, Roland asks her which she is more prepared to lose, her girlfriend Karen or her dream of an Army career. Then he steps back a little and tells her not to give up or make any rash decisions. She gratefully takes Roland’s hand.

Predictably, someone spots them and reports the “inappropriate conduct” to the principal, who fires Roland. Although Roland tells Jessica not to come to his defense, she goes to the principal and tells him the truth. “West Point is all about loyalty and duty,” she says. “What kind of officer would I be if I let you take a bullet for me?”

The principal, who is among the people who recommended Jessica for West Point, feels that the confession is a violation of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” and plans to report her. But Roland reminds him that Jessica is the same strong leader that she always has been. “She’s in love, that’s her crime. We don’t choose who we fall in love with, we just do. Now she won’t be able to serve her country, to die for it. Does that make any sense?” Even though I’m a little bothered that Roland, who didn’t choose who he fell in love with and committed adultery as a result, is the one who made this speech, I applaud the sentiment.

We don’t actually hear whether the principal changes him mind, but when Roland emerges, he says a few words to Jessica and she happily hugs him. (Lesbians like to hug, don’t we?) Maybe the closets at West Point have room for two.

Now obviously, I appreciate this storyline on one level. Anything that promotes understanding of the plight of lesbians and gay men in the military is worthy of praise. But allow me to nitpick a little. First, how can so much of an episode concern a lesbian without the word lesbian ever being spoken? I don’t mind being called gay and probably use the terms gay and lesbian equally in referring to myself. In this case, though, I had the sense that the writers deliberately avoided calling Jessica a lesbian. I hope I’m wrong.

Second, I’m not thrilled with the concept of encouraging Jessica to pursue a dream that means repressing who she is and hiding who she loves. I think Roland’s initial instinct was correct — she had to make a choice between a military career and a relationship with a woman.

What do you think? Was the lesbian storyline handled correctly? Could Roland have done anything differently? I’d love to hear from some women who have faced the same situation — what are the alternatives? And watch for more on this storyline in Friday’s Best. Lesbian. Week. Ever.

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