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What Might Have Been: A Different Perspective on 'Brothers & Sisters'

January 10th, 2008 9:51am EST
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Brothers & SistersI used to think that there was no crisis facing the Walker family that they would not rise to face. I was wrong. It seems that during the circus that is the writers strike, ABC quietly ousted show creator Jon Robin Baitz from "Brothers & Sisters."

I found this out not in a news story, but rather in an article Baitz posted on the Huffington Post. In his article he described his life in Los Angeles, his work on the show, the compromises that were made and the eventual parting of ways between Hollywood and himself. What got me thinking was his mention that if "Brothers & Sisters" was on a different network or had a different set of people behind the day-to-day business, it could have been a much different show.

I won't presume to argue that it would be a better show because it currently ranks among my favorite shows on television. However, in this time when we are left with only a few scattered new episodes, I have taken this opportunity to imagine a different second season of "Brothers & Sisters." I didn't create any huge changes, but I flushed out the psychology behind these characters. Maybe this will be closer to Baitz's original plan, or maybe it's just the machinations of a depraved TV watcher's imagination. Either way, I present you "Brothers & Sisters Season 2: What Might Have Been."
Brothers & Sisters
My second season premiere begins with Justin (Dave Annable) in Iraq. He doesn't have time to write to his family, but if he did what would he say? Could he really tell them about his fears or the horrors he has faced? He decides he'd rather have Nora (Sally Field) hear nothing from her son than to have her fears confirmed that he might not make it home alive.

In the meantime, Nora has Rebecca (Emily VanCamp) in the house, which sends Nora's feelings in two different directions. On the one hand, Rebecca serves as someone to talk to, someone whose life is currently static, and someone who even if she doesn't worry about Justin like Nora does, allows a mother the chance to openly grieve. Yet even with the camaraderie, Nora does not forget that Rebecca is a living example of what she believes is her failure as a wife. As much as Nora has tried to rid herself of the memories of William Walker, she is faced with his betrayal every day. Deep down Nora thinks to herself, if she could trade Rebecca to have Justin back, she just might.

Holly Harper (Patricia Wettig) is a free woman, and any secrets she has will stay that way. Rebecca's place within the Walker family has given Holly back a piece of the guilt she had felt for over 20 years. Her relationships and lifestyle robbed her child of a normal life and sent Rebecca down the same path as her mother. This doesn't leave Holly a changed person. She is still an aging beauty who knows that it is her looks that gets her in the door, and she uses them as such. Holly's interaction with Nora has increased, not merely to keep tabs on her daughter but also to make sure Nora knows that Rebecca is not a Walker. This isn't meant in a vindictive way but more as a warning, one that Sarah (Rachel Griffiths) knows the consequences of.

Sarah and Joe's (John Pyper-Ferguson) divorce is not amicable. It isn't cut and dry and about keeping the children as a number-one priority. Divorce simply doesn't work this way. Joe cheated on Sarah, and the kiss with her half-sister was merely the breaking point. Sarah may have had a closer relationship to her father, but she and Nora share similar qualities. In order to project the image of the perfect family in the same way her own mother had, Sarah ignores Joe's indiscretions, soldiers on, even blaming herself because work left little time for her husband.

The custody battle that occurs between them is ugly and heartbreaking and leaves Sarah wondering not if the connection she had with Joe was real, but if the connection with her children will hold them together. It will not be solved with Joe offering peace, but rather Joe truly feeling, as wrong as it might be, that the Walkers are not a family he wants his children to be a part of. There won't be right and wrong answers, but rather an exploration of the devastation left behind when a family breaks apart.

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