This week’s episode of Army Wives is entitled "Transitions," and that’s exactly what we’ve gotta be ready for. Trevor said it last year, and he reiterated it this week: two or three years is about as long as a soldier can realistically expect to be stationed at a certain post. So as we steamroll ahead toward the end of season two, it’s only fair that we begin to consider the possibility that one or more cast members may be transitioned out of the show at the end of this year. On most shows, cast turnover may just be a ratings ploy or an attempt to keep things fresh, but in the case of Army Wives, it’s just being realistic. Is the show preparing us for the possible departure of some characters? And is the show preparing possible replacement characters for the ones currently in the picture? Let’s get right to it.
In the midst of her separation from Frank, Denise has been acutely aware for a while now that she may not be an Army wife for too much longer. But in this episode, her own drama takes a backseat as Denise finds herself in the role of trying to help out a young woman who is not at all ready to possibly leave this lifestyle. At the hospital, Denise meets Renee, a young woman whose husband Ryan has been injured in battle. Ryan has suffered from a head trauma that may potentially lead to blindness, which would certainly mean the end of his Army career. Renee isn’t going to be allowed to stay overnight in the hospital with Ryan, so Denise offers that Renee can stay with her if she doesn’t want to be alone.
"Getting kicked out of the Army is gonna be like getting kicked out of a family," Renee observes. Renee has never had a career of her own, so she doesn’t know what she would do if suddenly she had to try to help provide for herself and Ryan. Denise decides to coach her through it, given that Denise herself went to school and started up her own career not too long ago.
Denise talks with Claudia Joy about the fact that Army spouses don’t have much in the way of resources for transitioning to post-Army lives. Soldiers have job training programs, but spouses don’t. Claudia Joy discusses it with Michael, and of course Michael is the beacon of purity and can do no wrong, so he immediately signs off on the idea. It turns out that such a program won’t actually be necessary for Renee and Ryan, as Ryan is told by the doctors that he will get back to 100% in time and be able to continue serving. But Renee still gets some help, as a casino night fundraiser brings in money to give her a scholarship to study to become a paralegal and start her own career.
Renee was played by Rumer Willis. I know nothing about Rumer Willis other than who she’s related to, so that’s presented without comment. But she did a fine job, and Renee was a character who I certainly wouldn’t mind having back for a longer character arc. Most guest stars on this show appear for one or two episodes, flying in and out of the picture before we can get attached to them. But given the very real possibility that one or more current cast members may exit at some point, we should be on the lookout for guest stars who could be elevated to series regulars. That’s unlikely for Willis, but this is just the type of role I would expect to see, a younger wife trying to establish a career for herself. Given that Denise’s character arc seems pretty well satisfied, you can easily picture the producers replacing her with a Denise 2.0, somebody new trying to develop a career for herself for the first time.
For today, though, the ones most apt to pull a disappearing act are the LeBlancs. Realistically, it’s hard to imagine that the show would ever jettison Trevor and Roxy, given that Roxy is such a huge fan favorite. But for the moment, Trevor’s military career is very much in jeopardy. And for the first time, thanks to the inner peace his addiction meetings have given him, Trevor is feeling ready to accept that possibility. He tells Roxy that if his Army career is indeed over, he’ll be able to accept that. In such a case, the Army would give them a nice check to help them create new lives for themselves, and Trevor suggests Wyoming.
Wyoming doesn’t sound so appealing to Roxy, though. But she really doesn’t want to be anywhere else other than here. "Trevor, I like it here," she says. "We’ve got friends here." And she also has the bar, which she is really proud of. And the bar could provide enough for both she and Trevor to make a living, such that they could get an apartment off-post and remain near their friends. But Trevor says there’s no way he’d ever be able to stay in an Army town without being able to serve. It’d just be too painful to be that close and feel that useless. You can definitely understand where Trevor’s coming from here.
Furthermore, Trevor is disconcerted that Roxy has gotten so attached to this place, when she has known all along that they might have to move some day. "I warned you about this," he notes. But Roxy rationalizes that this is different: Trevor always talked about if the Army forced them to move someplace, which Roxy would understand, but it’s a lot different if Trevor were to no longer be in the Army and they got to choose for themselves.
Roxy places a call to Betty, now totally bald from her chemotherapy in California. Roxy thinks she’s going to get support, but she gets something else entirely. Betty advises that Roxy should go with her man, wherever he wants to go, and never let that bar get in the way, as Betty states the bar got in the way of her ever having a happy family life.
After the chat with Betty, Roxy tells Trevor that she’d be willing to move, to Wyoming or wherever Trevor desires. But Trevor has also managed to have a change of heart in the interim. His love for the Army is so great that even if he can no longer be a soldier, he’d hope to help out in some type of civilian capacity. He does have the recent experience doing office work, after all. But these are all hypothetical scenarios for now. Trevor is awaiting judgment on whether or not his shoulder will ever be fully healed or not. At the end of the episode he goes to see his doctor, and we go cliffhanging for a week.
As I noted, Roxy is such a fan favorite that it’s hard to imagine the writers ever willingly writing her and Trevor out of the show. But in a theoretical world, I can make the argument for why the writers could rationalize it. At the beginning of the series, Roxy was the naïve new girl learning her way around this world, but by this point, she’s basically a grizzled veteran – and Roxy and Pamela now duplicate a lot of the same character traits. You could understand why, to keep a diverse array of personalities on the show, either Roxy or Pamela might go away and a newbie, a Roxy 2.0 of sorts, might be brought in.
As for Pamela, you never would have thought before now that Chase might ever voluntarily leave the Army. He serves in the most dangerous elite unit there is, so the possibility of Chase’s injury or death was always an option, but soldiers in his elite position wouldn’t typically be thought of as ever wanting to quit. But this episode offers the largest example to date of Chase’s unpredictable job taking a toll on his children. Chase organizes a birthday party for son Lucas, but those plans are scuttled when Chase gets an overnight call that he needs to ship out immediately. As Chase goes to kiss the children good-bye, Lucas is furious. Lucas tells Chase not to go, and Chase meekly responds that he has no choice. "I hate the Army," Lucas moans. Chase despondently leaves, but not before overhearing Lucas continue whining to Pamela. "Why does he have to leave all the time? He’s never here when I need him," Lucas follows.
Without his father around, Lucas starts acting out, faking illness at school, refusing to talk to Pamela, and sneaking out of the house and hiding in a closet at the LeBlanc house. These kids are in a terrible position. The spouses can be either worried or upset about their husbands being overseas, but at least they can have some influence in family decision-making. The kids, on the other hand, have absolutely no say in the matter. Chase does return at the end of the episode, on Lucas’s birthday, to diffuse the tension and bring Lucas back to good spirits. But with this trouble on the heels of Pamela’s recent stalker scare, Chase’s absence from the Moran household is becoming more pronounced than ever, and Chase may find himself at a crossroads at some point.
Who else might be leaving? What about Joan, maybe? Vivian Burton is still in town, and Roland’s mom is still of the mind that a man should provide for his family and a wife should be the one to stay at home. But that’s a nonstarter for Roland and Joan. Instead, the focus is on getting a nanny so that Roland and Joan can both continue their careers. Mrs. B notes that they should start looking for a nanny as soon as possible, because if you don’t, you might end up in a dreadful One Tree Hill storyline or something. But the whole nanny angle is also a nonstarter; a montage of nanny interviews is a fright to all. "No. No way. They’re not getting near our daughter," Joan says of the whole lot.
Plan B is for Roland and Joan to ask Mrs. Burton if she’ll stay in town and help out with the baby. But Vivian declines, saying that she has her own life to get back to, with friends and a job that she cares about. So it’s on to Plan C. Roland decides that he’ll be a stay-at-home dad and allow Joan to resume her career first. "Being a man means stepping up when your family needs you," he declares. Besides, "I won’t be the first Army spouse to put his professional life on hold to support the soldier he married."
So who’s definitely not leaving? The Holdens aren’t going anywhere; Michael flirted with retirement earlier in the season, but that possibility is now long gone. But though Michael isn’t going anywhere, he could always banish others from Fort Marshall with a court martial. But Michael, pure-hearted Michael, would never even suggest such a thing, right? Right?
Emmalin’s Army pen pal Logan is returning from Iraq, and wants to meet Emmalin. The first thing he says upon showing up is how pretty Emmalin is. It would be potentially creepy, given that Emmalin’s a minor and Logan is 19 – but what’s actually creepy is Jennifer Connor watching them like a hawk from the background.
Jennifer proceeds to stir up trouble. As she talks with Claudia Joy about the casino night fundraiser, she casually mentions Emmalin and her new boyfriend, much to Claudia Joy’s surprise. "I did think it was unusual for a general’s daughter to date an enlisted man," Jennifer notes, stoking the fire. Claudia Joy checks in with Emmalin, who assures her that she and Logan are only friends. Michael, furthermore, tells Claudia Joy that there’s no reason to worry. He already did a background check on Logan, and found that he’s a good guy who would never cross the line. And if he did, Michael assures Claudia Joy that he would have Logan court-martialed. It’s partly a joke … but mostly not.
Jennifer then runs into Emmalin once again, after Emmalin has gone on her first non-date with Logan and returned totally smitten with him. Jennifer once again refers to Emmalin and her "boyfriend," despite already being told that’s not the case. Jennifer can tell that Emmalin really likes Logan, and she suggests that if it’s love, Emmalin can’t let little things like military rank and the age of consent get in the way. Oh, boy. Jennifer’s a troublemaker. And I like it.
Could the Jennifer and Evan characters be promoted to primary characters next year? It’s doubtful – they’re still being depicted as adversaries of everyone else, for the most part, as Jennifer continues to squabble with Claudia Joy over FRG business and puts down Claudia Joy’s little gaggle of friends at one point. But these are interesting characters, and I do hope that we get to flesh out the personalities of Evan and Jennifer some more prior to the end of this year, because they offer such very different perspectives from the other characters we know.
I’m sure nobody wants to replace any of the characters we have now, but let’s play along anyway. Have there been any guest star characters you’d be interested in seeing as future regulars? Who’s the most absolutely indispensable character to a) the show’s dynamic; b) your enjoyment of the show? Who do you fear (or hope, if you’ve got a nasty soul) might be the most likely to leave?