“Army Wives” mini-cap: the ladies won’t give up


Maybe the Fourth of July touched some kind of buried patriotic nerve, because I have to admit that the end of this week’s Army Wives, “The Hero Returns,” got to me a little.

I also have to admit that I very nearly didn’t watch all the way to the end. The episode was sort of like Readers Digest (some kids sneak porn; I snuck Readers Digest): a lot of short pieces of stories were thrown together and didn’t seem related (at least for most of the hour.)

The main event this week was Trevor’s return from Iraq, to the delight of his family.

As for Roxie, she seemed to be particularly focused on one particular body part of Trevor’s — and it wasn’t his wounded shoulder.

Fortunately, the insurance check has lightened up grumpy Betty and she arranged for Roxie and Trevor to have a night alone in a hotel. She didn’t go as far as to babysit the boys, but Pam agreed to take them in exchange for a radio interview with the hero. (Oh boy, more voiceover.) After a night of nookie, though, Trevor can’t sleep. He tells Roxy that he shot the man in the market out of instinct, not heroism, and he just as easily could’ve been wrong. Roxie’s cute when she’s being supportive.

After last week’s previews, I was relieved that we don’t have to go through PTSD with Trevor, which seemed imminent. We do, however, still have to go through Post Adultery Stress Trauma with Joan and Roland. (In case you’re unfamiliar with PAST, it occurs most frequently in couples trying to overcome the, um, past. Symptoms include exaggerated smiling, condescending laughter and a general denial that anything bad ever happened.)

This week, what Roland glosses over is Joan’s unease about her pregnancy leave replacement, Lt. Colonel Evan Connors, who has shown up to start the transition to his command. Joan understandably is concerned by Connors’ attitude — she calls him a “climber” who will do anything to ascend the military ladder despite his lack of combat experience.

We can see trouble coming, but Roland calms Joan’s fears by reminding her that she’s now a mother, the fiercest of all creatures when it comes to protecting her turf. Joan, who last season would’ve belted Roland or at least thrown up in her mouth a little, just smiles. I know pregnancy affects different women in different ways, but I’ve never seen it rob a person of her confidence and strength — until now.

Denise, on the other hand, loves her own newfound confidence. She’s lighter and happier; even her friends notice that she’s having fun. I notice she has a tattoo. Has that always been there?

As she and Pam peruse catalogs for a cute new motorcycle-riding outfit, Denise notices an admirer looking at the bike. Turns out, the admirer actually has made an online deal with Frank to buy the bike, without Denise’s knowledge or consent. Denise responds very logically, telling the soldier to get lost and promptly calling in an order for riding wear. Frank follows up with a webcam call to tell Denise how he’s afraid she’s changing and he can’t keep up. Like any man, he blames it on his wife’s cycle. (Sorry.)

Frank succeeds in making Denise feel guilty for being happy without Frank and she decides to sell the bike. Bad, bad Frank.

On her last ride, Denise does what any of us would do: she heads for the pancake house. But scandal is on the horizon. Cute Dr. Getti (he’s not all that cute, but he’s billed that way) shows up and, when Denise’s motorcycle won’t start, gives her a ride to the hospital on the back of his bike. People will notice. They will talk. Frank will hear. Whining will ensue.

Claudia Joy barely appears this episode, but she does have a role in bringing about the touching last scene. The body of Ernie, a soldier missing since Vietnam, is found and returned to the base, where his daughter is stationed. Michael informs the daughter and asks her to stand for her dad at a memorial service, but she isn’t interested, since she was born after he died. Claudia Joy, determined to find someone close to Ernie, eventually tracks down his best friend,Kevin Arnold’s dad James (Dan Lauria). James tells C.J. and Michael how much Ernie loved his daughter, even before he met her, so C.J. convinces the woman to attend the service.

As the episode ends, we see Ernie’s emotional memorial service as Trevor speaks on Pam’s radio show about heroes. He says that the real heroes are the ones no one recognizes, like the organization dedicated to finding the bodies of missing soldiers. For once, the narration works.

The soldiers present Ernie’s daughter with the folded coffin flag, she walks over to James, presents him the flag and salutes. I blubbered, thinking about my daddy’s folded flag in my trunk. He didn’t see any combat in WW II beyond the typing pool, but he was every bit the hero to me. Cue Bette Midler. Sniff.

Since this is AfterEllen.com, I would be remiss not to mention that “Say So” by Uh Huh Her was part of the soundtrack for this episode. Whatever else you may think about Army Wives — the music is awesome.

What did you think about “The Hero Returns?” Did the memorial service make you choke up or just choke? Have you thanked a personal hero lately? (Feel free to do so here.)

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