Daily Dose of Feelings #25

Some TV scenes will always have a special place in our hearts for reasons even we can’t explain. They’re the ones we watch over and over until we’re pretty sure our computers or DVRs (or VHS tapes of episodes back in the day) are going to break from being rewound to the same place 100 times in a row. They’re the ones that we think of first when we hear the name of a TV show years after its series finale and remember the times when we were obsessed with that show. They’re the scenes that make us cry because they remind us of just how much we can love a show, a character, or a relationship.

When I think of the years I spent adoring (aka obsessing over) Alias, one of the first scenes I think about is from Season Three’s “Prelude,” when Vaughn helps Sydney escape to Rome and tells her, “even though everything’s changed, some thing don’t.” My 15-year-old self probably watched this scene 50 times within the first week after it aired, and I cried every time.

For those of us who were emotionally invested in Sydney and Vaughn’s relationship, the beginning of Alias’s third season was a rough time. We had to deal with Sydney’s two-year disappearance, Vaughn’s marriage, and the constant presence of his too-perfect wife, Lauren. By the time “Prelude” aired, things were looking pretty hopeless for Sydney and Vaughn “shippers” like myself.

But then this scene happened, and suddenly it was like we could see a light at the end of the tunnel. Some things hadn’t changed, and the biggest one of those things was Vaughn’s willingness to do anything to protect Sydney. When Michael Vartan delivers the line, “I’m not going to lose you twice,” you can feel Vaughn’s guilt over losing Sydney the first time as well as the conviction and love that I’d hoped was still in his heart. Vartan is so good in this scene. Vaughn’s inner conflict feels so real, and I love that—for a brief moment—the conflict goes away and all that’s left is love for the one woman he’d do anything for.

And how could he keep from doing anything for Sydney when she’s as heartbreakingly vulnerable as she is in this scene? When she tells Vaughn that her life is a disaster, I tear up every time. And her reactions to Vaughn throughout this scene are so genuine and beautiful. Her tears feel earned because we’ve been through so much with this couple, and we know how much it means to Sydney to hear the man she’ll always love tell her that he still has her back the way he did so long ago.

Hope is such a beautiful emotion to feel, and that’s what this scene is all about. When I first watched Sydney and Vaughn hold each other like they did so many times before, I felt so much hope. And when I watched Vaughn lean in to Sydney—his desire gorgeously written all over his face—I felt his hope, the hope of a man who wished for one second that he could go back in time to a moment when he could kiss her. And even after Sydney pulled away—her adorable smile trying to shine through her tears—I still felt hope. If they could have this moment, then maybe they could find their way back to each other.

This isn’t the best Alias scene ever. It’s not even the best Sydney/Vaughn scene. But it’s the one that holds the most precious spot in my heart because it gave me hope as a viewer at a time when I was looking for something positive from a relationship that used to make me so happy. Hope is a powerful thing, and that’s what this scene is all about.

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Daily Dose of Feelings #24

In less than one month, Parks and Recreation will return to our TV screens, and I don’t think I’m alone in my longing for some Pawnee sunshine to come back into my life. So to celebrate the impending return of my favorite television show, let’s go back in time and remember a season premiere before Ben and Leslie were married, before they could even be openly in love, and before Leslie won the city council election.

You have to check it out on NBC’s website because apparently their video player doesn’t like being embedded here. But I promise it’s worth the extra click! 

Even this early on in Ben and Leslie’s relationship, the foundation was there for them to ascend to their current status as the best couple on TV. Ben’s unwavering support of Leslie’s dreams, Leslie’s appreciation for everything he is, and their realistically sweet chemistry were there from the start—or in this case, the end—of their first attempt at a relationship.

This scene is incredibly bittersweet. There’s sadness, but there’s no angst, which is so refreshing and also so beautiful. Your heart breaks for this couple, but there’s just enough warmth and love in this scene to keep that heartbreak from being oppressive.

This is the first moment where I really started to see just how incredible Ben Wyatt is as a character. He’s willing to give up something he wants and has wanted for a long time because he also wants Leslie to be happy—and he knows that running for city council is going to make her happy. Ben fell in love with Leslie for her passion and her drive, and he doesn’t want her to have to sacrifice those things in order to be with him. He respects Leslie’s hard work so much that he doesn’t want anyone else to question whether or not she earned everything she’s been given—because he knows how much she deserves every success she’s ever had. So he’s willing to step back and let the woman he loves chase her dream—because that dream won’t be there forever, but in this scene you can already tell that Ben will be.

Amy Poehler and Adam Scott absolutely kill me in any scene where they get to be soft and gentle and emotionally honest with one another. I love the way Poehler’s eyes have tears in them through so much of this scene because it feels real—the same way Scott’s shaky voice feels real. Those aren’t the kind of overdramatic hysterics that are going to be noticed by most people, but they’re the kind of realistic details that can make a comedy the most emotionally affecting show on television.

This is the first use of the box that has come to mean so much for this couple, and its meaning can be traced back to this scene. The box represents the leaps of faith Ben and Leslie take together and the knowledge that they will always be the other’s biggest supporter. It holds symbols of their dreams: first Leslie’s dream, then Ben’s, and finally their dream of beginning a life together.

While this scene is technically a “breakup scene,” it’s filled with more hope and love than most “love scenes” on TV today. It’s a scene about the sacrifices we make for love and for our own dreams. It’s a scene about the reality of love not always being enough to conquer all (at least not right away). And it’s a scene about a woman who makes campaign speeches in her sleep and a man who looks at her like those speeches are the most perfect things he’s ever heard in his life.

Like the opening line to Leslie’s speech, this scene is simple—but I like it.

Daily Dose of Feelings #23

I apologize for not exactly keeping up with the “daily” part of these posts. I have some great choices lined up for the next bunch of these, though, so I hope they prove to be worth the wait!

Today is a big day for Suits fans! We’re only a few hours away from a flashback episode that promises to reveal some great stuff about Donna and Harvey’s past—and hopefully their present, too. In honor of this flashback episode, I want to take some time today to talk about last season’s fantastic flashback episode, “Rewind,” and one of my favorite moments between Donna and Harvey.

Harvey Specter hates vulnerability. It’s weakness, and the one thing he never wants to be seen as is weak. But when his father dies, he’s vulnerable in a way we’ve never seen him be before—and it’s not a coincidence that the person in the room with him in that moment is Donna. He never kicks her out of the room; he never asks her to give him privacy. He simply turns his back to give himself time to process the horrible news she just told him as she stands with him, never prying or trying to push him to talk. At the end of that scene, as Donna turns to the camera while Harvey remains hidden in his grief, you can see her taking on her role as his protector. She’ll face the world while he gathers his emotions because she knows that’s what he needs. There are so many complicated emotions that flicker across Sarah Rafferty’s face in that one moment, and they’re all beautiful.

And speaking of emotions flickering across an actor’s face…This scene would not be anywhere near as powerful as it is without the talent of Gabriel Macht. When I talk about the emotional power of watching someone try not to cry, this is what I mean. Harvey always wants to appear strong, but sometimes you simply can’t be strong. Watching that internal struggle as his eyes fill with tears and his jaw muscles tremble is astounding. It’s some of the best nonverbal acting I’ve ever seen; it makes you ache for this character because you can see how much he’s hurting but trying to fight that pain.

The way Macht mouths “Oh my God” near the end of this scene is like an emotional sucker punch. For two seasons, we watched Harvey be nothing but in-control and confident. But here, he’s lost. He has no idea what to do, and that’s such a profoundly strange feeling for both the character and the audience.

And through it all, Donna is there. She’s the only person Harvey would ever allow himself to be this vulnerable in front of. She’s the only one he would want to deliver that news and to stand in that room with him while he processes it. This is such a pivotal moment for them and for their relationship. Harvey has such a pathological fear of vulnerability that it hurts nearly every relationship he’s ever had. But Donna is different. She was there for one of the most vulnerable moments of his life, and he didn’t run away from her after that. Instead, she became the person he trusts the most.

This scene is so tense, so heavy, and so brutally honest in how it treats the way we are so often blindsided by tragedy. But it’s also such a beautiful testament to the people who are with us through those tragedies, letting us grieve in our own ways and facing the world for us when we’re not quite ready to turn back around.

Daily Dose of Feelings #22

When it comes to intense emotional reactions to television shows, I don’t think there’s anything better than a moment that causes you to literally run around your house because you’re so overjoyed. That’s only happened to me twice in my life: when Ben and Leslie decided to get married at the end of “Emergency Response” on Parks and Recreation and when Alex and Izzie got married on Grey’s Anatomy.

For as much as I loved Meredith and Derek, Alex and Izzie were my favorite couple from very early on. There was something special about watching Alex—my favorite character—grow into someone who could show his true self to Izzie and love her with a sincerity that always took me by surprise. Their journey was bumpy to say the least: I had to suffer through random nurses, Denny, Jane Doe, George, Addison, and Ghost Denny before this moment came—five years after I first fell in love with what their relationship could be.

This scene is a classic tearjerker for so many reasons: It features a cancer storyline, a wedding storyline, and Ingrid Michaelson’s ethereal “Turn to Stone” playing throughout it. The way this scene is edited to reflect the musical cues in it reminds me just how good this show was at using music to move its audience.

Yes, I whimpered pathetically when George grabbed Izzie’s hand to help her down the aisle. Yes, I got chills at the certainty in Alex’s voice (and the beautiful way he used a dying patient’s final words in his vows). Yes, I actually sobbed when they kissed as the music reached a crescendo and I remembered their journey to get to this point.

But if I’m picking my favorite moment in the scene—the one that floored me the most the first time I saw it—I have to say it’s the moment when Alex appears in the hospital room doorway and Izzie finally understands that Meredith isn’t the one getting married; she is.

Put yourself in my shoes for a second. You tune in to watch the 100th episode of Grey’s Anatomy expecting to see Meredith and Derek get married, and all of a sudden you discover that your favorite couple will actually be the ones tying the knot. That surprise, coupled with the joy I felt upon realizing that I wasn’t crazy to imagine their love story as something worthy of a 100th episode tribute, was enough to make me run through all of the rooms on the first floor of my house the moment after the episode aired, with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. Five years of emotional investment paid off in a way I had never expected, and it’s still one of the best surprises a TV show has ever given me.

In fact, this moment was so perfect that I knew nothing on this show could ever top it. After it happened, I decided to stop watching religiously because I wanted this scene to be my lasting memory of Grey’s Anatomy. After hearing about how things panned out for my favorite couple, I’m so happy that I walked away from the show when I did. In my mind, the legacy of Alex and Izzie’s relationship is this wedding—and what a beautiful legacy it is.

Daily Dose of Feelings #21

Do you want to know something that never fails to make me cry? Watching someone do what they were born to do. Not just something they’re good at—or even great at—but to paraphrase A League of Their Own, something that gets inside of them and lights them up. There’s nothing quite like watching someone with a God-given gift bask in the joy they feel while using that gift. It’s a feeling of pride for someone you’ll never know, a strange sense of secondhand accomplishment.

It’s the feeling I get every time I watch a Rachel Berry solo on Glee. Lea Michele is truly a once-in-a-generation talent; she was born to sing big songs on big stages to big ovations. And I love that she has always infused her portrayal of Rachel with that same sense of devotion to performing. The stage is and always will be Rachel’s first love—her happy place, her home. And there’s something so moving about watching this character—who has dreamed of being something special her whole life—find the one place where there is no one better, no one more special, than she is.

Everyone has their favorite Rachel Berry solo, and mine is “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.” I’ve been a fan of that song since I was a little girl, and to hear it sung with such passion and such strength made me fall in love with it all over again. But this moment is about so much more than the song choice. It’s about a love story deeper than any other Glee has ever tried to sell: the love Rachel has for the stage.

Michele glows in this performance; her inability to contain her own happiness is what makes this scene so powerful. You know you’re not just watching a character do what they love; you’re watching an actress do what she loves, too.

The moment when Rachel sees Carmen Tibideaux sit down to watch her is my favorite moment in the whole scene. As soon as she sees the woman behind her rejection from NYADA, Rachel turns her performance up to another level, almost daring Carmen to continue to doubt her. That confidence is something this character almost lost after that rejection, so to see it come back in such a definite way was incredible. Rachel may doubt a lot of things about herself, but she knows she’s a great performer—and it’s beautiful to watch her prove her greatness on the biggest stage.

The joy of performing is something nearly impossible to describe. It’s something that can only be felt, and only the best of the best can translate that joy into something tangible for audiences to latch on to. Michele is so good at making you feel everything Rachel feels as she’s singing—whether it’s pain or joy. In this moment, she’s feeling a kind of joy and sense of purpose unlike any she’s ever experienced, and if that’s not a powerful thing to behold, then I don’t know what is.

Daily Dose of Feelings #20

I gave myself an extra day to pick this one, so I wanted it to be a good choice—and a happy choice. After last night’s finale of The Bachelorette and its beautiful proposal (I know this ending surprised a lot of people—myself included—but I think Chris was the perfect choice, and I think Desiree was finally able to see that), I started thinking about my favorite television proposals of all time. Of course there are the ones from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette that make me cry every season (I’m such a softie), but there are plenty of fictional ones too: Monica and Chandler, Jim and Pam, Ryan and Jenny, Chuck and Sarah, Seth and Summer, Meredith and Derek…

And Ben and Leslie.

Ben proposing to Leslie isn’t just my favorite proposal scene in television history; it’s one of my favorite television moments ever. The acting, the writing, and the element of surprise all combined to create something truly special—something that makes me cry just thinking about it (so you can only imagine how hard I still cry while watching it).

The thing I’ll remember most about this moment is just how surprised I was by it. This happened in the fifth episode of the season—not a premiere, a finale, or any kind of sweeps episode. I started crying as soon as Ben walked into the room because it meant he was choosing Leslie instead of a job in Florida, but little did I know just how committed he was to choosing this woman as his future. When he got down on one knee, my reaction mirrored Leslie’s: Oh my God, what are you doing?

At that point, I couldn’t stop crying if I wanted to. Sometimes a scene just makes you feel so warm, happy, and hopeful that all you can do is cry. From a pure performance standpoint, Amy Poehler and Adam Scott have never been better than they were here. From the little cracks in his voice to the unshed tears in her eyes, they both gave themselves over to this moment, and we as an audience reaped the benefits. Scott’s delivery of each line is filled with a kind of sincerity that makes you believe everything Ben is telling Leslie. And Poehler reduces me to a blubbering mess every time I watch the part where Leslie looks away and takes a deep breath (around the 0:57 mark in the video), as her happiness overwhelms her. Leslie’s reaction is so perfectly true to this character, and Poehler makes that reaction resonate with a kind of quiet joy so radiant it’s impossible to look at through dry eyes.

This scene is more than just emotionally powerful—it’s important. Part of the reason it makes me cry so hard is the hope it makes me feel as a young woman who believes it’s not crazy to find a man who will support your dreams and love you for being ambitious, intense, and more than a little ridiculous at times. I have always identified with Leslie, and I am forever grateful to Parks and Recreation for creating this beautiful character who doesn’t have to sacrifice one dream (love) for another (career). That a genuinely nice, hard-working, ambitious woman exists as a main character on television is a great thing in and of itself, but the fact that she is loved to the extent that she is loved by a genuinely nice, hard-working, intelligent man is incredible.

I don’t think I can articulate my thoughts on the importance of this scene and what it says about this relationship any better than I did in my review of the episode, so I’ll stop trying and leave you with these thoughts:

My favorite thing about Ben and Leslie’s relationship has always been that Ben never forces Leslie to give up any of her dreams—to curb any of her ambitions—to be with him. In fact, it’s Ben who—once again—makes a sacrifice for love because that’s the man he is, not because Leslie demands it of him, either. He loves helping other people make their dreams come true—that’s why he excels at managing political campaigns. But the person whose dreams he most wants to help bring to fruition are Leslie’s. There’s never any resentment or any indication that it’s strange or revolutionary for this male character to sacrifice so much for the woman he loves; it’s just who he is. He’s not at his happiest managing campaigns; he’s at his happiest with Leslie. She’s his future.

Daily Dose of Feelings #19

There’s no more emotionally volatile time in a person’s life than their teenage years. And no television show reflected that emotionally volatility quite like The O.C. did for my generation. Ten years ago, the show premiered as a soapy piece of summer escapism, but it ended up having a surprising number of emotionally honest moments before its run as king of the “teen soap opera” genre was over.

Most of those emotionally honest moments came from Seth and Summer, everyone’s favorite couple on The O.C. (or at least everyone with good taste). As a sophomore in high school, I latched on to Seth Cohen as my nerdy, sincere dream man. Seth was the kind of guy who wouldn’t judge you for being a virgin; he would take a relationship at whatever pace you wanted; and he would be content just to dance with you in his room because he loves you exactly as you are.

This scene still makes me cry because it’s so sweet. It’s funny and realistic and honest in what it says about sex and relationships. I love how earnest Seth is when he tells Summer that he could never think less of her upon finding out that she was a virgin before him. Seth is the kind of guy we all wish we could have found for our first love. He’s willing to take things slower because Summer wishes they wouldn’t have rushed into such a milestone, and that conversation rings with a truth not often heard on TV—and it’s a truth told with so much love and respect between these two characters.

When Seth offers his hand to Summer to dance with her (with Ryan Adams’s gorgeous “Wonderwall” cover playing in the background), I still get tears in my eyes at the simple romance of his gesture. There’s such a beautiful innocence to this moment. Rachel Bilson and Adam Brody had such a genuine, warm chemistry, and it’s used to great effect here. Bilson is especially endearing and emotionally affecting with just how vulnerable she allows Summer to be. It feels like you’re watching two teenagers fall in love in such a real way, and it resonates as strongly now as it did for me back when I watched it as a teenager for the first time.

Daily Dose of Feelings #18

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus from these posts. I was all set to start writing when I suffered a bout of narcolepsy…or just couldn’t stay awake any longer after too many days of staying up too late to write.

Sometimes emotional moments catch you off guard. They’re the ones that leave you shaking your head as the tears form in your eyes, wondering how a show or an actor can manage to surprise you after you thought you’d seen it all from the world of television.

The ending of this season’s finale of New Girl caught me off guard, and that seems fitting for a show whose best moments have come when I didn’t expect them. After the way the finale had built to Nick and Jess deciding to call off their budding relationship, I expected the finale to end with tension and angst in order to create suspense going into this coming season. Much to my pleasant surprise, however, the season ended on an incredibly happy and hopeful note, with smiles, laughter, and one hell of a kiss.

While so much of New Girl works on an emotional level because of the complexity of Jake Johnson’s performance, this scene works because of Zooey Deschanel. I love her vulnerability at the start of this scene because it feels so genuine. Her eyes are red, her nose is red, and her voice sounds like she’s been crying ever since she walked away from Nick earlier in the episode. Those little details may not seem like much, but added together they make her emotional investment in this man and this potential relationship so subtly powerful. At this point in the season, we knew how much Nick loved Jess, so it was such a gorgeous moment to finally see how much Jess loved Nick when her voice broke as she asked him to “un-call it.”

The beginning of this scene may be emotional because it’s such a realistic depiction of the vulnerability that comes with loving someone, but the end of this scene gets the tears flowing for me because it’s such a realistic depiction of the happiness that comes from loving someone. The sound of Nick’s confident steps towards Jess is such a perfect touch—it makes my heart race in anticipation. And then he kisses her in that way only Nick Miller can kiss her, and the sheer happiness she feels with him causes her to laugh in one of the sweetest, most honest moments of love I’ve seen on television in a long time.

That’s what love is; it’s happiness. It’s someone who makes you smile, someone who makes you laugh. This is one of those scenes where understanding the characters and their journeys makes a scene even more emotionally resonant. Jess Day loves to be happy—she likes happy things like singing and dancing and polka dots. And Nick Miller has trouble finding and holding on to happiness—he’s grumpy and cynical and thinks people are the worst. So it’s a beautiful, surprisingly emotional thing to see these two people find each other and make each other this happy.

Love doesn’t always have to be dramatic and angst-ridden. It should be something that brings you joy. The same can be said for TV shows. New Girl brings me joy, and I’m so happy it chose to end such a great season on such a joyful note.

Daily Dose of Feelings #17

It’s already been established here that series finales make me an emotional wreck. There’s something about that beautiful blurring of the line between characters and actors that heightens every moment in a series finale and makes every important beat resonate on a level that feels deeply personal.

Saying goodbye to a television series is like saying goodbye to a part of ourselves, like leaving home. That feeling is perfectly encapsulated in the Gilmore Girls series finale. When Rory talks about leaving Stars Hollow and leaving her mother, she speaks for us as an audience. We knew the day was coming when we’d have to say goodbye to Taylor and Luke and Miss Patty and Lorelai—but that didn’t mean we’d be able to do it without a few tears.

What makes this scene so moving is the way it gives us moments to reflect on so many of the characters we came to love over the course of the series. It begins with such a beautiful moment between Lorelai and her father, a moment that we spent so many years hoping to see. It’s not overly sentimental, but it’s incredibly heartfelt—and it was an emotional moment that felt earned rather than exploitive.

Everything about this scene feels genuine. Rory’s speech was a perfect way to give us one last look at the people and the place that made Gilmore Girls so special. I lose it every time when I look at Luke and think of how much he did for Rory—not just in this episode but throughout the series. He was more of a father to her than Christopher ever was. Luke is the kind of man who would throw together a graduation party in the middle of the night for a young woman who isn’t even his daughter. He’s the kind of man who makes a tent himself because it’s going to rain and he still wants people to be able to celebrate this young woman—and the mother who raised her.

The best thing about Rory’s speech is that it feels real. It’s not long or impossibly eloquent, but it’s filled with so much love for Stars Hollow—the kind of love a person can only have for their hometown. It’s also filled with so much love for her mother, a love so deep that even a Yale graduate can’t articulate it. When Alexis Beldel and Lauren Graham lock eyes at the end of this scene, it’s impossible to remain dry-eyed. You know those tears are real; you know you’re watching these two women say goodbye to each other as much as you’re watching Rory begin the process of saying goodbye to her mom. The love in this scene is so genuine, and that’s what makes it such a special moment.

Daily Dose of Feelings #16

There’s nothing like a scene with a newborn baby to get the tears flowing. Some sort of special magic is worked when a TV series puts a baby in the arms of a great actor and lets their reactions speak for themselves. There’s a simple but powerful kind of joy in those moments that’s unlike anything else on television.

Brothers and Sisters was a show about family, so naturally you’d expect it to have at least one great “baby moment.” And boy did it ever. The show was famous for a few things: its absurdly talented cast, its flair for the melodramatic, and the way the former often made the latter more palatable than it ever should have been. When Robert meets his adopted son, Evan, for the first time, it’s a perfect example of what this show was all about. After having a heart attack on the way to the hospital for Evan’s birth, Robert finally gets to hold his newborn son while still hooked up to machines and breathing with the help of oxygen tubes. It could have been cheesy and over-the-top, but the combined powers of Rob Lowe and Calista Flockhart turned it into something deeply moving and almost impossibly genuine.

Flockhart is so warm and natural in this scene as both a mother and a wife, but this scene really belongs to Lowe. The overwhelming love and awe in his eyes is incredible. The way his voice cracks when he says, “I forgot how little newborns are,” is one of the greatest acting moments I can remember from a show filled with superb actors. This scene is so unashamedly emotional and joyful, and it’s a beautiful thing to see. There’s so much honesty in Lowe’s performance, a kind of naked vulnerability that is a rare thing to find, even among the best actors in the medium.

I love happy tears, and this is one of my favorite scenes to watch when I want to experience them. Sometimes I forget how good Brothers and Sisters could be when it was at its best—and this scene is a fantastic reminder.