I recently received the long awaited Season Five on DVD after having pre-ordered it when its release was first announced. I enjoy the episodes on DVD because they don’t have commercials, which leaves room for the bits eliminated to accommodate television showings. Every now and then I get surprised with something I hadn’t seen before.
On Sunday, I slid in the third disc from Season Five, containing the episode,“Trust Your Hart”. In it, a young girl, Lisa Kerrigan, wakes from a coma seven years after being involved in a car accident that killed her parents. We learn that for two years Jennifer has been sitting with the girl three or four times a week while she was in the coma, so of course, Jennifer is delighted when she gets the call that the child is on her way back to consciousness. However, it is never established how Jennifer came into contact with Lisa or how she got so attached to her. Until this episode, Jennifer didn’t interact much with kids, so I was left wondering why this one?
Benevolence? Personal interest or social connection? Volunteer opportunity?
As Lisa comes to, it’s obvious Jennifer has developed a serious attachment to the girl. It would have been nice to know how she came into contact with the child and what her interest was in Lisa. It felt to me like the missing doctor detail from “Hart of Darkness”, a thread the writers kind of forgot might be necessary for the audience.
This was one of the those episodes that initially didn’t rank all that high with me due to the lack of romance between the Harts, which seems be an overall troubling factor in the fifth season. The loving relationship and affection is present in some episodes, but it’s more subtle and less pronounced than in previous seasons. I did enjoy seeing Jennifer, for once, be the one connecting with a young person who found herself in the Harts’ temporary care. In fact, it was Jennifer’s interaction with Lisa that gave me the seed for thought that led to the J.J. Hart series of stories. Took it a minute for that seed to germinate, but the Jennifer in this episode is really what got me thinking about writing a Hart daughter.
Watching “Trust Your Hart” again for the first time in perhaps several years, I now completely understand why I didn’t care for it; it was the weak plot. Had the episode been written with more attention to the details presented, it could have been quite intriguing. Instead it aired as a story line so haphazardly put together, barely dealing with reality, that it was insulting, and in some places, even disturbing. I understand Hart to Hart was fiction, TV drama produced as a form of lighthearted escapism, and not meant to be Masterpiece Theater, but midway this latest viewing of that episode, I was scribbling notes for this post while swallowing back questions I wanted to scream at the TV screen.
First of all, the girl was twelve when she went into the coma. She woke from said coma as a nineteen year old. That in itself begs a whole litany of issues she should have felt, voiced, and acted out once she realized what happened and how much time she had lost. Instead, she hopped out of bed, speaking clearly and fluently, bouncing around all happy, perky, and casual as if only waking up from an hour-long nap rather than a seven year coma.
So I needed to know how mature a twelve year old was Lisa before the accident? Had she started puberty before the coma or did that all happen to her body while she was under? Did she notice the changes in herself once she came to? What grade was she in at school at the time of the accident? 6th, 7th at best is my guess. She was nineteen upon waking, so that gap in her academic education would be a major problem in itself.
While she did experience some distress over learning from one of the doctors that the house she shared with her parents had burned down, nobody acknowledged informing the girl her parents were dead, nor did Lisa seem to have any reaction at all to learning they were even though it was implied she realized they were gone.
There were a few feeble attempts to show she had some holdover characteristics of a younger child, but for the most part, she came off more like maybe sixteen or seventeen than she did someone stuck on twelve. And how does she get released from the hospital to go home with the Harts, a couple who never had or raised kids, without medical personnel assigned to oversee her well-being after such a long ‘sleep’, not to mention without a plan for getting her caught up on her studies or life in general while she is with them?
Lisa coming back to life as a young adult would have resulted in a significant emotional and mental gap. The girl missed all of her teens, which would have been an integral part of her development, the bridge she should have traversed to segue into that young adulthood to which she had arrived without knowing it. As a female, and an attractive one, that would have created some particular complications and dangers for her. She would require a great deal of nurturing, guidance, and protection while trying to get caught up with herself.
I mentioned above that Jennifer seemed unusually attached to Lisa even though it had been established in previous episodes that her character didn’t connect much with kids. However, I did notice over the course of the series that she tended to bond more with older girls and young women than she did with younger children.
In the Happy Grams episode and the ballet episode, Jennifer is actually quite nurturing to the young females caught up in the drama. She is also close to and caring toward her younger cousin, Betsy, not to mention her affectionate concern for the young wife killed in the tennis tournament episode. Aware of how much Lisa has missed, the gaps in her mental maturity in juxtaposition to her age, and her subsequent vulnerability, I would have expected an astute woman like Jennifer to be more concerned about helping Lisa ease her way emotionally and academically from the little girl she was in her head to the young adult she had physically grown into.
Instead the writers have Jennifer taking the girl shopping for dresses, heels, makeup, and to have highlights put in her hair.
On the disturbing side, I found the doctor, Mark a bit creepy. It appeared he had been her physician for at least two of the years she was in the coma, which would have made him late twenties or early thirties in age, minimum. It’s understandable that he would have an attachment to her, being that she was under his direct care for an extended time, but Mark’s interest in Lisa felt too personal. His demeanor intimated he had feelings for her that went beyond a professional interest.
Keep in mind, she’s twelve in the head, and he has to be aware that she is.
Lisa told Jennifer the only clothes she had was the outfit she had on, which Dr. Mark had bought for her. As a woman and a mother, that raised a serious red flag for me. As a mature woman, it should have for Jennifer, even if the purchase was made solely out of platonic generosity. How does he know her sizes, or what she might like?
Then by the end of the episode, Jonathan and Jennifer have allowed Mark, a grown man, to take Lisa on what seemed to be a date to a Stones concert. If she had been a mental and physical nineteen and she was mine, I still would have been side-eyeing him, peppering her with questions about why he couldn’t get a date closer to his own age, letting her know, “I don’t care if he is a doctor.” Under Lisa’s special set of circumstances why would the Harts, particularly Jonathan, let that little girl go out, unaccompanied with a man that old? Doctor or not, he was still a man, and she was, for all intents and purposes, emotionally and mentally twelve. Well, maybe thirteen since by then she had been awake awhile.
And speaking of Jonathan. He was definitely different in this one.
The first time I saw this episode was its original television airing, and the small part where he and Jennifer were talking in the restaurant about taking Lisa home with them had been cut out. It wasn’t until several years later, when I caught it again on a copy someone made for me, that I realized that segment existed. In it, he told Jennifer when she proposed it that he didn’t mind Lisa coming home with them as long as Jennifer didn’t get “too emotionally involved.”
I was always a little bothered by the change in his character. He didn’t seem too enthused by her suggestion. That, coupled with his comment, had me initially thinking he was jealous of Lisa, and that he resented Jennifer’s attention being diverted from him. In addition, there were more than a couple places in this episode where he seemed annoyed by the distraction the girl causes, and I found myself a little disappointed with him, thinking him uncharacteristically possessive and selfish for Jonathan Hart.
Unlike with the other kids who ended up with them, this time it was Jonathan who kept a noticeable distance. He was polite and accommodating to her, but he was no where near as engaged and involved with Lisa as he had been with the others. With the other kids, especially the very young ones, he had been nothing less than hands-on while Jennifer hung back and played the more detached role. With Lisa, he came off as content to let Jennifer have at it while he kept his distance, and in some ways, attempted to limit Jennifer’s interactions with Lisa. It didn’t feel right. There was a lot that wasn’t right when it came to him in this episode.
It was also crazy to have the Jonathan so immediately accepting of the so-called professor, Jeff Brogan. The guy happened to show up in the nick of time to save Lisa from a runaway truck at the park- a truck that unbeknownst to the Harts and Lisa, he actually sent toward her.
After thanking the man for getting Lisa out of the way and then exchanging names, Jeff gets an invite from Jonathan to accompany them back to the house, which he readily accepts. While talking together there, Jeff reveals to Jonathan that he had actually been following Lisa’s case, and wanted to help her by being her teacher.
If he had been following her case, and just happened to be at the park to show up in time to ‘save’ her and make himself known to her guardians, didn’t that indicate that he had likely been stalking them, or more specifically, Lisa, at that park? That didn’t raise any flags with typically cautious Jonathan? Why didn’t he question that? I know I did.
Instead, Jonathan agreed to talk to Lisa about the tutoring.
Lisa? Really? She’s mentally twelve.
Then he called Jeff back up on the phone and invited him to come work with Lisa once she agreed to the proposition. What? It’s up to the kid? No credentials check? No background screening by Jonathan’s people?
The Jonathan we had come to know from previous seasons and episodes would have been a lot more suspicious of Jeff and his motives and a whole lot more defensive about inviting him into their circle until he was sure the man was all right. Despite any ambivalence he might have felt about Lisa, the Jonathan I had come to know would have checked him out thoroughly before engaging him to work with that vulnerable girl.
Then there’s he and Jennifer leaving Lisa in the house alone with Max and that relative stranger while they went to the movies.
So tell me, why was the man still there that late at night?
At the theater, when Jennifer became antsy about Lisa, Jonathan attempted to talk her out of going with her instincts- another departure from the Jonathan we know. She was being somewhat over the top in her concern for Lisa, but Jonathan usually trusted and indulged Jennifer in whatever she was feeling. This time, though, he seemed a tinge put off by it.
Turned out Jennifer was right in insisting they return home to check on Lisa, but it was a little careless in the first place for the writers to have them leave Lisa that soon. On her own with two grown men in the house, one of them a newcomer to their universe, and as it turned out, a killer.
I was actually pissed that the Harts did that, and that Jeff ended up in Lisa’s bedroom- twice. It was eerie that she invited Jeff to get close enough to her to dance with her. I don’t think even a genuine twelve year old would have done that with a grown man- by that time most girls are beginning to put their guards up. On the writer’s parts, that was a good indication of how much Lisa needed oversight and protecting, but at the same time, a glaring indication of how poorly the episode was written.
On Jeff’s second trip to the bedroom, I kept wondering if he only intended to kill her. You never know about people. A pretty girl, mind of a child, Max out like a light, and he had been pressed up against her not long before that. I found this detail in the writing especially questionable because I don’t think Jonathan would have left the man in his house while he wasn’t there. I don’t think any man with a young girl in his care, especially a fragile one like Lisa, would have done that. Surely, if the writers had stayed true to the characters, even if Jonathan did make that kind of slip, I believe Max would have let Jonathan know he thought it wasn’t a good idea.
After all, wasn’t Max downstairs pacing back and forth with a baseball bat while Jennifer was upstairs setting up the tennis pro in that one episode? And Jennifer was grown in every sense of the word, but Max wasn’t having it.
Reading some online posts in response to this episode, I saw I was not alone in feeling Jonathan’s behavior was off. It certainly could have been interpreted as him really not wanting Lisa to come to their home to recuperate, but agreeing to it only to appease Jennifer.
On further reflection; however, I could be wrong. Given his character’s powers of observation- and forgiving him the lapses detailed above- I think he recognized the girl was going to have a lot of problems, and that was why he didn’t want Jennifer getting too wrapped up in what was likely to be more than they could handle in the limited time they had with her. He could see Jennifer becoming strongly attached to her, but Lisa wasn’t their child. Practical, pragmatic guy that he was, Jonathan didn’t want Jennifer making that kind of emotional investment with no real guarantee on a satisfactory return. Jennifer didn’t seem to be considering the long term implications for a girl in Lisa’s situation; she only wanted to make her immediate world right. Jonathan would have considered the long term, and wouldn’t have wanted his wife to get hurt.
Now that’s the Jonathan I know.
“Trust Your Hart” remains on my “Not a Favorite” list, but it is interesting in its flaws. Who but a diehard H2H fan would spend so much time analyzing and picking an episode apart like this? Despite its shortcomings, I’m grateful for the glimpse this episode gave me of what Jennifer might have been like with a daughter, and the push I got from it to start writing some stories of my own.