The Netflix show that's equal parts heart-racing nature shots and big-hearted small-town drama is back, and in season 5, which dropped on Sept. 7, a massive wildfire threatens the town of Virgin River.
By the time the smoke clears, hearts will be broken, relationships forged and destroyed, and mud baths ruined. Let's recap!
Episode 1: "A Second Chance"
Here's hoping you remember last season's cliffhangers, because Virgin River drops us right into the thick of them.
Jack's (Martin Henderson) still reeling from the news that Charmaine (Lauren Hammersley), aka the worst person on earth, lied about him fathering her twins.
When Brie (Zibby Allen) hears the news, she declares, "I never liked her." Same, sis. And despite his assurances to Mel (Alexandra Breckinridge), Jack's not handling the news well.
Mel's dealing with her own stress and decides to step away from her job at the clinic because of her high-risk pregnancy. Cameron (Mark Ghanimé) offers to leave — remember, he awkwardly hit on her last season — but she insists that she's the one to go.
Netflix Alexandra Breckenridge on 'Virgin River'
This leaves Doc (Tim Matheson) alone with his failing eyesight and his concerns about how well Cameron fits into the practice.
At least his grandson Denny's (Kai Bradbury) fitting better into Doc's home life after opening up about his terminal Huntington's Disease diagnosis. Denny also apologizes to Lizzie (Sarah Dugdale) for being secretive about it for so long, and the two get back together.
Lizzie's working as Hope's (Annette O'Toole) post-TBI home health aid and takes all of Hope's prickly Hope-ness in stride, even when Hope learns that her alleged friend Muriel (Teryl Rothery) is helping prepare a no-confidence vote against her mayorship. It's the closest betrayals you never see coming.
Speaking of keeping the people you love in the dark, Brie's still seeing Brady (Benjamin Hollingsworth), and Brady's still working for Melissa Montgomery (Barbara Pollard), who's forcing him to help run fentanyl through the lumber yard after Calvin, her former CFO of drug smuggling, died in a boat explosion.
Melissa keeps Brady under her thumb by reminding him that bad things will happen to Brie if he doesn't obey, and she uses Jack's friendship with her brother Nick (Keith MacKechnie) to invest in his new glamping business to launder all that money.
But the fentanyl makes it onto the town radar when tow-truck driver Bert (Trevor Lerner) stops to help one of Melissa's henchmen (Darcy Laurie) fix a flat and cuts himself trying to reach the spare tire where the fentanyl's hidden.
Before long, Bert's at the clinic with wooziness and pinpoint pupils, and Doc suggests accidental fentanyl exposure.
Public health and safety message! While fentanyl can affect a person if it gets into an open wound like Bert's, it can't be absorbed through the skin, and inhaling it on accident generally won't cause an overdose. Accidental fentanyl exposure's just not as common as police reports and the news make it sound.
Cameron, meanwhile, is right that you can't ever really know if another person uses drugs. But he's wrong to get snippy when Doc asks him to make coffee now that Mel's gone.
Next, we left Preacher (Colin Lawrence) last season fighting off Vince (Steve Bacic), who's big mad that Paige (Lexa Doig) killed his brother in self-defense.
Thankfully, Mike (Marco Grazzini) shows up to arrest Vince for getting all violent and kidnappy and for being the mystery man who shot Jack last season. Better luck not having an abuser for a brother next time, Vince!
Assuming he and Paige are headed for a happy ever after, Preacher ends things with the very nice Julia (Lawrence's real-life wife, Lucia Walters). But Paige and her son want to leave the town and all its bad memories, so Preacher sadly bids them farewell. I bet he's wishing he hadn't ended things with Julia quiiiiite so quickly now.
Wanting to learn how to hand-make baby clothes like her mom did, Mel joins the town sewing circle, where she's introduced to the late Lilly's daughter Ava (Libby Osler), who's reluctantly back in town and coping by wearing an aggressively wide-brimmed fedora.
By the end of the episode, Mel — who escaped to Virgin River — is having dinner with Ava — who escaped from Virgin River — when Ava dramatically collapses. Was it toxic hat exposure?
Brie also has a scary night when someone tosses a rock through the front door of her new apartment. She assumes it's because she's going to testify in her ex-boyfriend's rape trial, but Brady has a different list of suspects.
Jack, meanwhile, has been stewing about Charmaine's duplicity for the whole episode and angrily shows up at her house to talk. If that woman turns up dead, we'll all be forced to testify against him. I mean, did you see the murderous look on his face?
Episode 2: "Songbird"
To no one's surprise, Charmaine survives her talk with Jack, although he refuses to accept her apology for humiliating him and breaking his heart. (Funny, that's how she felt as she watched him fall in love with Mel.)
She says the real father was a one-time thing and Jack was her best option to give the twins a good life. Ma'am. Setting all emotional and ethical considerations aside, it costs approximately $400,000 to raise a child to the age of 18 in California, and we're talking about two of them here. And you're all la la la forgive me??
Jack cools off by hiking to Angel's Peak with Brie, who finally tells him that she's a rape survivor. He offers to be in court when she testifies, but she doesn't want that big brother protectiveness. Besides, Brady's coming with her.
Jack doesn't love it but agrees to give Brady another chance at dinner that night. When he blames Charmaine for keeping him too busy to realize what was happening with Brie, Mel gently suggests that he might actually owe Charmaine an apology for leading her on for years.
After a pep talk from Doc, Charmaine swings by the cabin to apologize to Mel, and Jack asks for forgiveness too. Charmaine vows to build the life she always wanted and leaves with more optimism than we've ever seen from her.
I entreat you, oh god of vexing side characters, please let this be the last we see of Charmaine. (The god of vexing side characters is, of course, Ellis.)
Mel's new friend Ava collapsed from endometriosis, which has been painful for so long that her doctor recommends a hysterectomy. But Ava abruptly ends the conversation when Mel pushes her to make a treatment plan.
Listen, I hate that Hope has a TBI, but it's almost refreshing to have a woman in Virgin River dealing with a medical issue that isn't unique to people with uteruses. The CDC might want to investigate why the area's per capita incidence of pregnancy/fertility/reproductive system issues is the highest in the known universe.
Mel eventually apologizes for overstepping, and she and Ava share emotional stories about losing their mothers to cancer and how hard it is to face the thought of motherhood without them. In fact, her mom's been on Mel's mind a lot and gives the episode its name; Songbird, about loving someone after they're gone, was her mother's favorite song.
Mel tells Jack that her mother miscarried a child named Chloe, which is why she gave Lilly's daughter that name in season 1. Further, her mother's death sparked Mel's desire to work in the medical field, and she's worried that stepping away from the clinic will weaken that connection.
No surprise, the clinic's struggling a bit in Mel's absence. Cameron doesn't know how to file insurance claims online, and Doc barks at him to figure it out. (Fellow educators, did you groan and nod vigorously at that familiar advice?)
Muriel finds Cameron moping and urges him to show Doc a little backbone. Um, how 'bout you show Doc a little initiative and step it up around the office now that you're down a person?
Although I didn't think Doc's been particularly patronizing, Cameron asks to be treated like the grown-up professional man that he is, and Doc agrees. Hopefully this gets them on a better path. It helps that Muriel comes on board part-time to take care of the filing, make the coffee — and engage in surprisingly playful banter with Cameron.
Now that Paige is gone, Preacher's putting all his focus on making elevated comfort food using his mom's recipes the way he used to in Iraq. (I would pay so much money to DoorDash for a serving of his blue-crab mac and cheese right now.) While he cooks, the radio mentions a wildfire that's spreading nearby, but I'm sure there's no reason to be concerned about that. *nervous laugh*
Hope's solely focused on stopping the "ludicrous power grab" no-confidence vote and plans to deliver a speech affirming her governing abilities. She tells Lizzie and Denny that she's the town's first and only mayor, and it's the one part of her identity that her TBI didn't touch.
The teenagers agree that this should be her speech, and she delivers it with passion at the opening of Lilly's memorial garden, talking about what makes the town special and how much she still has to give.
Alas, it's not enough; she's voted out by everyone but Muriel.
At the lumber yard, Melissa forces Brady to add his friend Jeb (Sandy Robson) to the secret fentanyl crew. Brady tries to warn him off, but Jeb wants the extra money for his family.
When Brie texts to ask about having dinner with Jack that night, Jeb offers to cover the lumber/drug shift. Brady gladly accepts.
Courtesy of Netflix Martin Henderson and Benjamin Hollingsworth on 'Virgin River'
He and Jack make awkward small talk at Brie's awesome new house, and Jack says things will be cool between them as long as Brady stops doing crimes.
Unfortunately, Brady cannot stop doing crimes, and when he swings by the lumber yard after dinner, he finds Jeb dead.
That's a heaping helping of guilt he just got served for dessert.
Episode 3: "Calculated Risk"
Did any of us think Mel could stay away from the clinic for long?
One of her farther-flung patients was evacuating the wildfire danger zone and went into labor on the road. A firefighter named Kaia (Kandyse McClure), in town to fight the blaze, calls the clinic for help, so Mel and Cameron talk her through the difficult delivery over Facetime, including a terrifying round of CPR to jumpstart the baby's tiny lungs.
Afterward, Cameron rambles to Mel about how great Muriel's been. Are… are you all seeing this? You're all seeing what I'm seeing, right??
Muriel sent Doc home for the day because his calendar was light and his vision was bothering him, so he helps Hope, Lizzie, and Denny do some "spiteful philanthropy" by bringing lunch to the firefighters to show up Mayor Pro-Tem Nick.
Preacher helps them prep, and Connie (Nicola Cavendish) contributes goodies from the bakery truck. The distribution goes so well that the local media show up, and Hope gives Lizzie all the credit for having the initial idea. (Props also to Lizzie for her matter-of-fact mention that climate change is linked to the uptick in wildfires.)
This doesn't impress Lizzie's mom, who's in town to tell her daughter to get back to college or to say goodbye to mom and dad's checkbook. Lizzie asks for more time to decide.
Two more events of note come out of the feed-the-firefighters mission. First, Hope learns that Jo Ellen (Gwynyth Walsh) told her husband Nick about Hope's fender-bender when she wasn't cleared to drive, which is how he ended up as the interim mayor. Hope's livid.
Preacher, meanwhile, hands over the last foil-wrapped bánh mì to firefighter Kaia. The two are all charming and bantery, and later that night, a soot-free Kaia appears at the bar to drink tequila and use Preacher to work off the adrenaline of the day. Yes, girl. You're making good choices.
When Jack starts dreaming about his dead brother again, his therapist suggests a calculated-risk activity to remind Jack how to give up control.
Courtesy of Netflix Martin Henderson on 'Virgin River'
He agrees to let Denny take him rock climbing and struggles at first, flailing as he thinks about Adam falling off the roof.
Then Denny talks about the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or "forest bathing," which helped him come to terms with his Huntington's. He says spending time in nature can open doors of communication to everything around you.
Jack likes the idea and tells Mel that his next calculated risk will be letting Melissa invest in an expanded number of Airstreams at the glamping site. That's a mistake, Jack!
Speaking of mistakes, Brady tells Brie that he barely knew the guy who died at the lumber yard, but she later hears from Jeb's wife that he and Brady were so close that Brady delivered the eulogy after Jeb's fentanyl overdose.
Brie's already dealing with the stress of learning that her ex's attorney plans to bring up her Xanax use on the stand, so she's in no mood when she finds Brady setting up a truly dope romantic outdoor screening of Legally Blonde in her backyard.
"I can handle complicated," she tells him. "What I can't handle is being lied to."
Brady finally comes clean about being blackmailed into helping the lumber yard drug business and swears he's working desperately to get them both safely out of the mess.
Alas, the truth does not set him free. Brie tells him she needs a break and leaves him devastated under the twinkle lights in her backyard.
Episode 4: "Never Gonna Be the Same"
You know what's missing this season? Secrets. Other than Brady the reluctant fentanyl kingpin, we don't really have anybody keeping things from anybody else — or from the audience. Where's the "what's going on with Denny?" drama? The "who shot Jack?" jumpiness?
Then again, episode 4 is the calm before this season's big set pieces, so let's start with something small and cheerful: Cameron and Muriel are dorks who love singing "Good Morning" together.
Cameron talks about his high school theater background, including a fond mention of his drama teacher, and this teenage appreciation for an older woman makes my "I'm not making this up, right?" antennae vibrate even harder.
Kaia and Preacher also have a playful morning. Hannah (Clare Filipow) — the waitress at Jack's Bar and my very favorite resident of Virgin River — immediately diagnoses Preacher's good mood as the doings of the badass firefighter.
Lucky for Preacher, Kaia slinks back in the next night, telling him she wants to sip and savor the tequila this time. *eyebrows eyebrows*
While Brie ignores Brady's texts, she's having vibey conversations with Mike, who reminds her that no matter how messy her life might seem, she's a big freaking deal who worked hard to get where she is. He even makes her repeat it out loud until she believes it.
Listen, I'm an unabashed four-and-a-half-season-and-counting Brady fan, and I hate that he and Brie are on the outs. But even I can admit that Brie and Mike have great chemistry.
Brady's not out yet, though; he shows up at Brie's place with his dog tags, which remind him that he's strong enough to get through anything. She accepts them but says she doesn't want him in court with her when she testifies.
Brady then contacts Mike and offers to be a confidential informant to bring down the drug ring that he's only involved in because of threats to Brie. Once he invokes her name, Mike's all in and warns Brady that nobody else can know about this, especially Brie. I love that they struck this tense deal in front of a breathtakingly glorious view of Canada — er, northern California.
Doc and Denny are also out in nature today for a little fly fishing. As they grill their catch, Doc says he's proud of how Denny's handling his diagnoses, then shares that he's losing his eyesight and is considering a risky clinical trial. He also encourages Denny to grab Lizzie and travel the world, like he'd once planned.
In return, Denny calls him "Grandpa" for the first time, which is one of those gooey "awww" moments that Virgin River does so well.
Courtesy of Netflix Annette O'Toole and Tim Matheson on 'Virgin River'
Lizzie's spending her day with Boomers as well, having dragged Hope to a spa day with the other women in town. Hope's upset that Jo Ellen's there, and Lizzie's disappointed that she ended up in a "naked old ladies talking about menopause in a sauna"-type spa and not a mani/pedi-type spa.
Then Lydie (Christina Jastrzembska) gives a lovely speech about the privilege of aging, concluding with, "Everyone gets to be young, but not everyone is lucky enough to grow old," and the episode chalks up another poignant moment.
A visit to the outdoor mud bathtubs ends in a literal mud fight between Hope and Jo Ellen, with Lizzie caught in the crossfire. After they're kicked out of the spa, Jo Ellen says she told Nick because she was scared that Hope could've killed herself or someone else behind the wheel. And she's right! Hope shouldn't have been driving!
Then Hope gets unusually vulnerable and tells her friends that she's worried she'll never be the same again. The emotionally raw moment is broken when Connie quips, "To tell you the truth, Hope, you were never that great before." It breaks the mood and gets the hugs flowing.
When Doc and Hope reconvene that night, they're eager to exchange details about their days, which were the worst and the best that they've both had in a long time.
As always, Annette O'Toole is a rockstar in her role this season, making Hope irritating and funny and self-deprecating and scared, sometimes in the same breath. She's a consistent delight.
Lizzie tells Denny she was freaked out by all the aging talk, so he sweetly yet smoothly suggests they not waste any more time, and we get a tasteful shot of his bedroom door closing behind them.
Did you think I forgot about Jack and Mel? They're off camping, but Mel's full schedule of hiking, swimming, and sewing takes a backseat to watching the kids in the tent next door so their dads can have some couple time. But babysitting starts to stress her out when Jack seems content to be nothing but good cop.
One of the kids gets hurt as Mel and Jack are bickering about parenting styles, and after Mel fixes the kid's tendon injury, Jack admits that he didn't like growing up under his bad-cop dad. Mel promises that they'll be fine raising their kids with structure and freedom and love.
The next morning, they wake up to a burning smell and see a fire darkening the sky in the direction of Virgin River. The ominous columns of smoke are a shocking difference from the normally blue vistas, and it's only going to get worse.
Episode 5: "Trial by Fire"
It's day seven of the Grace Valley wildfires. The flames are on the other side of the river, so our town's not at risk, but the areas around it certainly are.
Jack's bar is command central, Mel's off to the clinic, Kaia's in the field battling the flames, and Hope's chafing under Nick's ruffled, panicky leadership.
Nick ignores Hope's fire readiness plan and undermines her in front of the fire chief but wisely accepts Preacher's offer to coordinate. Preacher immediately executes the important parts of Hope's plan, including sending people to check on older, vulnerable residents.
When word comes in that two unnamed firefighters are in medical distress, Preacher's clearly worried but remains focused on his job.
Doc and Cameron leave to help the firefighters, and Mel sends Muriel to triage the waiting patients. (Muriel had an under-five role as a nurse on General Hospital, so she's up to the task.) While everybody's distracted, Mel takes a second to listen to the "something's wrong" cues her body's sending and gives herself a sonogram.
There's no fetal heartbeat.
Um. Wow. I didn't think the show would go there, but it did. It absolutely went there.
Mel gives herself 20 seconds to cry, then puts the machine away, dries her eyes, and goes to treat her patients. It's heartbreaking to see the strength it takes for her to stay focused on the job, showing Muriel how to monitor a nebulizer and urging Ava over the phone to bring baby Chloe to the clinic because of the smoke.
Jack's been tasked with evacuating the drug camp, and he grabs Brady to help. Brady's good to leave the lumber yard unattended because Melissa's moved the drugs to an undisclosed, fireproof spot.
At first the campers are reluctant to leave, but when caches of unspent ammunition start exploding, everyone gets a move on.
Everyone, that is, but a woman whose 6-year-old is lost in the woods. Brady and Jack race off to search for little Hazel, but the trees overhead ignite in what I can confidently say is a backdraft. (Just kidding; everything I know about firefighting I know from the title of the movie Backdraft. I actually have no idea what that's called.)
Doc and Cameron reach the firefighters and find an uninjured Kaia sitting with her coworker Jay, whose leg is impaled on a large chunk of tree. With no clearance to cut him free, they have to lift him straight up, which is horrifying.
Hope gets word that Kaia's fine and tells Preacher, then encourages him to be honest about his feelings because, ya know, tomorrow isn't promised. He barely hesitates before texting, "Wanted you to know I'm thinking of you. You're all I'm thinking about." As feelings declarations go, that's a pretty great text.
Netflix Annette O'Toole and Colin Lawrence in 'Virgin River'
Nick's not happy to learn that Hope sent Denny and Lizzie out to check on people (even if they did make sure Lydie got in the damn car and over to safety already). Nick snaps that this is why Hope's unfit to be mayor. The nerve of that guy.
Then again, he's not wrong about the danger. A flaming tree falls into the road as Lizzie and Denny are headed to check on Bert, blocking their progress.
As the world burns around Virgin River, Brie's testifying in her ex's rape trial. It's rocky at first, and she's alone in the hallway, feeling defeated and staring at Brady's dog tags, when Mike appears. He's testifying in a different courtroom, and she's relieved to see him.
After the recess, she finds the strength to take control of her testimony and talks about the heroes who walk toward danger, face their fears, and hold on to their faith. As she talks, we see that heroism happening in Virgin River.
There's Brady and Jack finding Hazel (Ava Anton) in the middle of a burning forest. There's Lizzie and Denny, terrified but still driving through the flames. There's Doc and Cameron working to save Jay's life. There's Hope and Preacher watching helplessly as fire consumes everything around them.
Brie concludes by reminding the defense attorney that she herself could've been one of the six women who are sexually assaulted in their lives, or part of the statistic that more women in this century have been killed by their domestic partners than the number of men who have died in war.
Listen, I'm pretty sure that's not how witness testimony's supposed to go, but it's all set to Arrival of the Birds, which creates one of those emotions-trump-logic moments that TV does so well.
Anyway, Mike stuck around to make sure Brie was okay afterward, and she's so glad to see him that it probably means bad things for Brady.
Things continue to go south in Virgin River. Jay starts to code, Denny and Lizzie are trapped by the fire, and Mel goes to look for Ava and finds the farmhouse on fire with Chloe wailing inside.
The episode ends with Mel wetting a handkerchief and charging into the burning house.
Episode 6: "Heroes Rise"
Things looked dire there, didn't they?
But Lizzie and Denny are going to be okay. So are Ava and Chloe and Jay and Hazel.
Lizzie and Denny are rescued when Burt shows up in his tow truck and smashes open a path for them to follow. Denny pulls away form Lizzie once they're safely at Jack's bar and eventually reveals that their close call showed him that he's not actually prepared to die. Also he's in love with Lizzie.
Netflix Sarah Dugdale and Kai Bradbury on 'Virgin River'
The good news is that she loves him too, so they're in it together.
At Lilly's farm, Mel rescues Chloe, and Jack carries out Ava, who fell and hit her head while trying to leave the house. He sends the three of them ahead to the clinic while he lets the animals out of the barn. Mel doesn't tell him about the miscarriage.
At the clinic, Ava frets about delivering the news to Tara that the family farm is gone. Mel murmurs that there's no easy way to break somebody's heart, knowing full well that she's going to have to do just that to Jack. But not yet.
Jay, meanwhile, needs a needle decompression to inflate his lung, and we get a Doc's-eye shot of the macular degeneration obstructing his vision, forcing him to hand the needle over to Cameron.
Once Jay's breathing again, Doc tells Cameron what's going on, and Cameron's angry that Doc kept him in the dark (sorry) about his vision loss.
Also, it wasn't until I noticed Jay's clearly defined abs in this scene that I realized he's Dylan Bruce, Canadian star of Canadian films and Canadian TV. We all have our gifts, and identifying the musculature of Orphan Black stars is one of mine, I guess.
Jay can't be safely moved yet, so Doc volunteers to stay with him no matter what and asks Denny to pass along his final words of love to Hope. You know. Just in case. It's a burden to place on a grandchild, but sweet Denny agrees.
At Jack's bar, Hazel's mom Lark (Elise Gatien) thanks Brady profusely for his military-honed bravery, and when she puts her hand on his arm in gratitude, I swear he glances at it like "these biceps belong to Brie." Preacher doesn't love hearing people praise Brady's military heroism, but Preach is having a bad day, so we'll let it slide.
Unfortunately, they have to work together when the fire crosses the river and Jack calls everyone outside to help.
They race to the river to dig a fire ditch, and when Brady suggests starting a backfire, Preacher refuses to consider it. Jack shouts that Brady used to fight fires in prison, so for God's sake, do what he says.
Listen, the point is, much of the main male cast has stripped off their shirts to start digging, and when Kaia and her crew arrive, she compliments Brady on the backfire. Vindication!
Preacher is rocked by the news when another firefighter lets it slip that Kaia's partner Jay is her life partner too. Yep, she and Jay are married.
Incidentally, California has a long history of inmate firefighters, sparking (sorry sorry) debates about their exploitation and as well as their increased necessity given the recent uptick in wildfires. The state's also making it easier for these inmates to get firefighter jobs upon their release, which sounds like a great next step for Brady should he ever get free of the drug ring.
Sacramento may be free of wildfires, but the mood's tense at Mama Sheridan's house.
Brie and Mike anxiously watch the news and wait to hear from Jack while Amelia (Gabrielle Rose) goes on and on about Brie's absent boyfriend. Mike kindly says Brady would be there if he could.
At lunch, Amelia raves about Jack's strength until Mike points out that Brie's tremendously strong too. When her mother fails to acknowledge that, Brie gets upset, and Amelia calls her selfish.
Can you blame Brie for storming outside to cool off? Mike follows her and is so charming and kind and patient that yes, okay, I see that these two would be a great couple. FINE.
Back inside, Brie and her mother apologize to each other, and Amelia says it was always hard to see how much closer Brie was to her father. But if she could do it over, she'd tell Brie every day how much she loves and admires her. That's nice, I guess, but geez, that sounds like an unhappy childhood (and most of adulthood too).
By the end of Mike's visit, Amelia's all "Brady who?" and Brie tells Mike she's glad she had someone there she could trust. Then there's a hug and maybe some light sniffing of Mike's neck and a moment that almost turns into a kiss but doesn't.
Back to Virgin River! Jack and Hope convince Charlie (Patrick Keating) to let them use his crop duster. All it takes is Jack earnestly dramatically reciting, "We few, we happy few, can make the difference" and listening as Charlie complains about Hope never dating him.
The scared, exhausted residents of the town are huddled together when a plane soars overhead and drops 1,900 liters of water on the flames threatening the town. That plane's also to blame for dropping a few liters of tears in my eyes.
Jack's flying the plane, and Hope reports that they called in Charlie's crop duster buddies to keep making drops all night. With that, Nick promises to give Hope back the mayorship. All it took was a massively destructive fire!
The episode ends on a devastating note when Jack and Mel reunite and she collapses in his arms, sobbing as she shares the burden she's been carrying all day.
Episode 7: "From the Ashes"
Virgin River is full of ash, soot, burned trees, and scorched houses. But it's also full of people who'll rebuild.
Mel sleeps with the unfinished baby dress in her arms while Jack holds her.
Hope, backed up by Nick, talks to the town about their plans to set things right.
Preacher welcomes a displaced Brady to the apartment above the bar, and Brady and Brie finally sit down to talk. He's pleased that she's wearing his dog tags, but she says she doesn't feel safe with him anymore.
Although he swears he's doing everything he can to get out of the fentanyl mess, he refuses to offer up any details — remember, Mike made him swear not to tell her a thing — so she walks away. As she goes, he begs her to find someone to talk to about what she's going through since she can't talk to him anymore.
Doc and Cameron also hash things out. Doc thought he had more time before his eyesight affected his work and stepped back immediately when it did. In light of that, he asks Cameron to take over the practice and is displeased when Cam asks for time to think about it. That's a huge commitment, Doc! Let the man sleep on it!
Cameron then does an amazing double-take at Muriel's cheesy cat sweatshirt. The fire ruined her house and clothes, so she's bunking with Connie and barely surviving all her friend's rules. Cam says he'd love to have Muriel stay in his guest room, and she eventually agrees.
Y'ALL. IS IT HAPPENING?
With their mother's farm gone and a development company offering to buy the land, Tara's (Stacey Farber) taking a job in San Francisco, and Ava's ready to go back to Portland, where her failing music career and the ex-girlfriend who stole her cat are waiting for her.
Tara and Chloe bid a bittersweet farewell to Mel, and Hope convinces Ava to stay until she finds a buyer who'll be a better caretaker for the farm.
Speculation corner: where the heck was Tara this season? Was Farber busy with other projects, so the show created another daughter to carry this farm plot? Most of Ava's stories could've been given to Tara without complicating the family tree, is all I'm saying.
Courtesy of Netflix Gwynyth Walsh, Sarah Dugdale, Annette O’Toole as Hope, Christina Jastrzembska, and Nicola Cavendish on 'Virgin River'
Moving on! Hope and Lizzie pull together a food and clothing drive for people who lost their belongings in the fire, and Hope speaks to the crowd about their generosity and their strength to rebuild.
Afterward, Kaia forces Preacher to stop ignoring her texts and talk to her. She and Jay are separated, and this thing with Preacher was supposed to be easy, but now she wants to give their relationship a shot. Preacher wants that too, and they get to kissin'.
Hey, there's Jay on crutches! I'm already wondering which Virgin River lady he'll pair up with once he's divorced.
Orrrr maybe not. After Kaia leaves, Jay's friendly smile drops, and he warns Preacher that Kaia will always put her job first, and he will always be part of her job. Sorry to the single women of Virgin River! This man thinks he's still taken.
After Lizzie informs her mom she's not going back to college, she's delighted when Hope offers her the position as her chief of staff.
… come again? Virgin River has a mayoral chief of staff? A paid mayoral chief of staff? Isn't this a town of like 600? That can't possibly be an actual position, let alone a paid one. Heck, I assumed the mayorship was basically a volunteer thing as well.
Regardless, Lizzie's thrilled, Denny's job-hunting, and they're gonna be together and happy.
Cameron's also making career moves, accepting Doc's offer after deciding that small-town life makes him happy. Well sure, now that Muriel's his roommate…
Although Mel asks Jack to keep the news of the miscarriage to themselves for now, she does give her blessing to tell Preacher. Jack does and reflects on the loss of the father-daughter dances and Little League games that never were. He was angry with Charmaine about the twins, but there's nobody he can blame for this.
The next day, Jack's dumb truck takes up two spaces outside the clinic where Mel's dreading her scheduled D&C, the painful post-miscarriage procedure to prevent infection by scraping her uterus.
Jack's supportive when she doesn't want to sit in the waiting room with all those happy, pregnant people, and he promises to put Hope on the phone tree when Mel says she could use a little more support.
Back on the crime plot, Brady and Mike meet in front of another picturesque body of water, where Mike asks Brady to wear a wire. He agrees for Brie's sake.
Mike then brings Brie the news that her ex was found guilty on all counts. She's glad, although it doesn't wipe away the trauma she experienced. Still, how great that she found somebody to talk to. *side eye*
Netflix Benjamin Hollingsworth in 'Virgin River'
Earlier, Brie told Mel that Brady seems to think that if he's honest with her, she'll stop loving him, which is horribly sad. Brady's made eleven million bad choices, but he's growing into someone who wants to be trusted and valued by the people he cares about. Yet he keeps getting pulled down by the ghosts of the decisions he made when he was at his lowest. His past is costing him the relationships he's fighting desperately to keep.
Jack's still willing to give him a chance and asks if his crew wants to work on the glamping site. It's exactly what Melissa wants, so Brady accepts.
He then watches from a distance as Mike and Brie smile and flirt and make plans, and his jealousy gets the better of him when he realizes Mike's the person Brie found to talk to.
"Mike's a good cop, dependable, honest," Brie argues, and Brady loses his damn mind at hearing the woman he loves praise the man who insisted he lie to her — and who's lying to her himself.
When he lunges at Mike, Brie's had it and ends things with him.
I get it, but I also hate it.
Episode 8: "Full Moon"
Beware that Virgin River full moon. It'll put ideas in your head and might even make you run a little wild.
Mel, for example, begins the day with an energetic solo dance party to Lizzo. Then she's off to fish with Doc, hit a sewing circle lunch, and have a girls' night with Brie.
Know what she doesn't want to do? Follow Jack's suggestion that she make an appointment to see when they can start trying for another baby.
Uhhh, pardon me? How much time has passed since her miscarriage, a couple of days? A week or two? Take a seat, Jack. The woman needs time.
Fishing with Doc helps. It's quiet and there are no expectations on her. She catches a fish and agrees to come back to the clinic as part of the Cameron take-over plan.
At lunch, the gossip is all about Muriel moving in with Cameron. "I am roommates with his Peloton," she insists, but over a moonlight dinner that night, the two drift closer and closer as they discuss their strong and unexpected connection. And then they kiss.
IT HAPPENED!!! THEY KISS!! When I tell you I shrieked and did a Muppet flail alone on my couch at 2 a.m. and then looked around for somebody to celebrate with, I am not exaggerating one tiny bit.
Sadly, Cameron remembers he's promised Doc that he'll be more professional, so they slam on the brakes. Boo, professionalism! Muriel gives him a soft parting kiss, then leaves him to clean up their dinner dishes, which I applaud.
Netflix Tim Matheson in 'Virgin River'
Preacher and Kaia are also facing a work dilemma. Although they're crazy for each other, they both know she's going to be called away to her next job eventually. She also shares that Jay belittled her hopes for a promotion and expected her to stay home with their eventual kids, which is why they split up. (Preacher would never.)
Lizzie's living her professional dreams in tweed dress shorts on her first day as mayoral chief of staff. Wait, her first day's gotta be close on the heels of the clothing drive, right? If so, that's even more evidence that Jack's pushing Mel about getting pregnant again MERE MOMENTS after her D&C. Y'all, I CANNOT.
Denny's created a slogan for their partnership: "Hope and Liz mean biz." It's cute even if it does display a fundamental misunderstanding of the role chiefs of staff play in elections and campaigns and public life in general.
Denny's search for a job in Virgin River isn't going well. Despite him researching the 40 different types of wrenches — who knew? — his interview at Bert's auto shop is not a success. (At least it isn't a total loss; Bert's wife sends him home with cobbler.)
The bigger news from Denny is that Grandma Rose wants to come and visit. You know, the woman who disappeared to have Doc's child and never breathed a word about it for half a century? That Grandma Rose.
Despite Hope being ready to fight this woman in the streets, it looks like the visit is happening the following day.
Time for another cop/CI lakeside meeting! Brady takes the wire from Mike and says he's not going to keep lying to Brie and Jack forever. Mike, in turn, swears he didn't engineer that courthouse run-in with Brie. On purpose or not, the Mike-Brie ship's in the water and setting sail with Brady sadly watching from land.
Then again, Brady finds Lark and Hazel squatting in one of Jack's Airstreams, having bailed on the shelter in the elementary school. This is clearly going to become A Thing, isn't it? Sigh. I guess Brady's boarding a new ship, too.
When Jack discovers Lark and Hazel, he decides to let the displaced residents move into the empty trailers. Brady's quietly horrified that they'll be around Melissa's newest criminal enterprise, but he can't stop it.
Melissa also tells Jack that Brady's handling the bookkeeping for the glamping project, although nobody bothers to tell Brady, and he barely hides his confusion when Jack brings it up.
Friends, I'm starting to think that blackmailing a basically decent guy into playing multiple major roles in your criminal enterprise isn't the best plan. But hey, at least when the Bert-poisoning truck driver checks Brady for a wire, the only thing visible when he lifts his shirt are dem abs. We don't know when or why he decided to ditch the recording device, but whew.
With Brie ignoring him, Brady pays a visit to Lark, and the two share beers and childhood trauma stories. Lark wants her daughter to grow up around good men. "They can't all be like you," she tells Brady admiringly. He can't handle her high opinion and bails.
Brie's having more luck moving on with Mike over a Dodgers game at her place. The mood is flirty flirty, and he agrees to sub as the shortstop for her company's softball team. While he's in the kitchen freshening their beers, she ignores a text from Brady apologizing for overreacting about her and Mike.
Was it an overreaction though? Violence is no bueno, but his hurt and anger come from a completely understandable place. (If you'd like my 40-minute video essay expounding on this topic, please subscribe to my newsletter.)
At girls' night, Ava suggests they use the full moon to let go of what's not serving them. They write down what's in their hearts and take turns burning them in Brie's little fire pit.
For Ava, it's her guilt over losing the farm and for letting her endo pain get so out of control that she passed out during the fire. For Brie, it's saying goodbye to Brady. And for Mel, it's her fear of getting pregnant and losing the baby again. But she can't bring herself to toss it into the fire because she can't let herself believe that the next time will be different.
At home with Jack afterward, Mel tells him she won't survive having her heart ripped out of her chest again over one more lost pregnancy. "I think I'm done."
Episode 9: "Angel's Peak"
Life advice: if a loved one is caught in a grief/fear/guilt/anger storm, don't force them on a hike. Yes, it worked out for Mel and Jack, but with a different couple, it could've ended in a shove over the edge of Angel's Peak.
Wanting to understand why Mel's giving up on her dream of kids, Jack urges her not to go for a run but instead head into the woods with him. She agrees. Reluctantly.
Things do not improve from there. He shares Denny's embrace of shinrin-yoku and suggests Mel might benefit from the therapy of being surrounded by the forest, which is stunning even after everything it's been through. She scoffs at his unsubtle metaphor.
As Mel drags herself through the woods, Jack makes her explain her change of heart. She admits that she's always wanted a biological child who resembles the parents she lost, but four miscarriages and a stillbirth are too much to bear. So she's trying to get on board with the new plans fate has for her.
It's really lovely that Jack wants to show her this place in nature that means so much to him, but in the middle of insisting she unpack all her emotions, he gets them lost. And then it opens up and pours.
Mel snaps and screams at the heavens, demanding to know why she and Jack are magnets for all these bad things. But the rain breaks the tension, and soon they're laughing together.
Jack navigates them to the summit of Angel's Peak, where Mel is suitably impressed by the view. He tells her that in the middle of his darkest moments, he decided to keep going. And so can she. Their family might look different or be on a different time frame, but it can happen.
"I still want it," Mel agrees. Sooo… yay for hiking? Again, Jack's lucky it didn't end with a one-way trip over the summit courtesy of a pushed-too-far Mel.
Once they're home, Mel settles on the porch to work on the baby dress, which she's planning to give to a fire victim and which I swear has been 98 percent finished for a few episodes now.
A bird lands on the chair next to her as a cover of Songbird plays. Was it a message from her mom? A symbol of her renewed hope? Nature telling her it'll all be okay? Mel has an answer to that in her heart, and I bet you do too.
The visit from Grandma Rose (Susan Hogan) is even rockier than the start of that hike. Hope threatens to serve her burned scones and makes snarky comments under her breath until she and Denny excuse themselves. I, meanwhile, am trying to figure out how much money Rose makes in book publishing if she was able to decide yesterday that she'd fly to Virgin River today. What did that ticket cost??
Doc's direct about wanting to know why Rose kept his family from him. She argues that she loved him too much to let him give up his med school dreams to be the father of a kid he didn't want.
He argues back that she was the most important thing to him, and it seems to still bother him that she didn't feel the same way. Also, this is a weak argument. Why not reach out to Doc after he's done with med school and has established his practice? There were literally decades of opportunities to introduce Doc to his son, who died before they had that chance.
Despite these big feelings, when Doc and Hope are alone again, he tells her that his life unfolded exactly as it should because the two of them ended up together. And Hope reminds him that he's not obligated to forgive Rose. Fair!
With Lizzie at Jack's bar, Denny talks about how good Rose has been to him, involving him in Japanese culture after his mom died and making sure he knew about Doc after his dad died.
Rose then arrives to join them for lunch, and Denny declares that being in love with Lizzie is all he wants with the time he has left.
Doc and Hope show up next to slide into the booth, and everyone apologizes and makes nice. Doc says that Denny is all the gift he needs, and everything's friendly until later that night, when Rose tells Denny that it's a mistake for him to stay in Virgin River. Unspoken is "with that dark-eyebrowed hussy," but the implication is there.
I do not like Grandma Rose.
Leaving Virgin River's also the elephant in the room for Preacher and Kaia. They're savoring their time together before she's shipped off to her next assignment, and he labors over his epic "just like Mama made it" meal as a send-off for her.
Kaia takes approximately one and a half bites, tells Preacher his mother would be proud of him, then gets interrupted by Jay with the news that she can lead the team fighting a wildfire in Alaska. She scampers off to pack. Geez, lady, could you not take five more minutes to finish your meal? Preacher worked hard on that!
After Kaia leaves, Jay smugly reminds him that he'll be on the job in Alaska with her, but Preacher's confident she'll come back to him when she's done. I wanted to love you, Jay. Why you gotta be like this?
Netflix Teryl Rothery and Mark Ghanime in 'Virgin River'
At the clinic, Cameron and Muriel seem to be in the middle of a sexy French farce, with Muriel brushing against him as they slide past each other and Cameron walking in while she's bent at the waist looking for files.
Although Muriel's moved in with Liddy, they'd both still like to explore this relationship, especially since in a town this small, if they can't date people associated with the clinic, they won't be able to date anyone at all. The problem, of course, is Doc.
"We're like Romeo and Juliet except with the same dad," Muriel laments, and this may be my favorite line of the season and possibly the entire show.
Brie and Mike are also moving forward thanks to his performance at her company softball game. The man played varsity ball and shows up guns out in a tank top. What choice did Brie have but to kiss him when rain interrupts the game and he wraps her in a jacket to keep her warm?
Brady's also moving forward, playing a princess board game with Lark and Hazel. He's a whole different guy, easy and laughing in the plastic jewelry and tiara he's wearing as part of the game. (I love it when you can tell that an actor likes working with kids. In Hollingsworth's case, I suspect it's extra natural because he's got three of his own at home.)
With hearts in her eyes, Lark tells Brady he's good at everything, and he mutters that he grew up lying to keep him and his sisters safe from their crappy dad, but his ex didn't appreciate how good he was at that.
And again I ask, how much time has passed since the clothing drive and now? Weren't Brie and Brady exchanging "I love you's" just a few episodes ago? Take some time to be single, you two! Buy yourself flowers and hold your own hand and all that!
Lark makes it clear that she appreciates all the parts of Brady, and before he bails yet again, she tells him not to doubt himself.
Okay, it's great that Brady's got a potential love interest who genuinely likes the guy he's evolved into. But I beg you, show, make her more interesting than "Hazel's plucky mom" in season 6. Lark is… fine. I should be way more uninterested in a character whose backstory includes "stabbed my abusive dad in the leg with a hunting knife," so I'm crossing my fingers that she grows into somebody great, for Brady and for us.
After leaving game night, Brady does some CI work. While he was entering the receipts into a spreadsheet earlier — Brady's an Excel guy! Who knew? — he noticed an address for an auto shop that's retrofitting the Airstreams, and when he checked it out, he found Melissa and her goons creating hidden storage spaces in the seats.
He takes the chance now to poke around one of the empty trailers — and that's where Jack finds him: creeping around in the dark pulling baggies of drugs out of the upholstery. Not a great look for someone trying to prove he's turning over a new leaf!
Episode 10: "Labor Day"
Last episode (for a bit)! Let's gooooo!
Jack is reluctant to give Brady the benefit of the doubt, and it's not until Melissa's henchmen toss Brady into an SUV that Jack realizes that maybe he isn't selling drugs out of the trailers.
Jack follows the vehicle, calling Mike en route to the auto body shop. Brady got caught on the security cameras sneaking around earlier, and Melissa promises him a quick death if he gives up the names of the people he's working with. He declines that offer, so she tells her goons to make it hurt. Nooo! Not my curly-haired boy!
Jack creates a distraction so he and Brady can launch an attack until Mike and the cops arrive to arrest everyone. The truck driver who accidentally fentanyl'd Bert grabs a gun and tries to make one last stand. He and Mike fire at the same time, and they both drop to the ground.
It's a waiting game at the hospital, where Mike's lost a lot of blood and is unconscious. When Brady peers into Mike's room, he's hurt to see Brie holding his hand. She follows Brady into the hallway, and the two of them break up for real for real this time.
Brady feels guilty that he's the reason all of this happened, and Brie says she wishes he'd told her he was a CI. Woman! It was your new boyfriend! Who told him! Not! To! Tell!
She says she'll love him forever, but everything's changed for her after this. Brady accepts her decision and leaves.
But he's not off the hook with the FBI, because Mike truly didn't tell another soul that Brady's his CI. I dunno, shouldn't Mike have written Brady's name on a slip of paper and stuck it in an "in case of my death" envelope or something, just to be safe? Because this feels awfully haphazard.
Justice for Brady, is what I'm saying.
He and Jack jump into action when Lark tells him that the FBI's seizing the whole glamping park for their investigation. All the displaced people have to vacate, although Nick agrees to let them move into the least-damaged parts of his Airbnb.
Unfortunately Jack's investment — and the land where he and Mel were going to build their forever home — will be tied up in bureaucratic red tape for years, or maybe forever.
At least life at the clinic looks promising. New office manager Muriel brings cupcakes to the staff meeting where Cameron suggests expanding their telehealth for rural patients and Mel pitches a birthing center since every woman in the greater Virgin River area is legally required to experience some kind of reproductive health crisis at some point in her life.
Doc's silence turns out to be excitement, which is such great growth for him. He also limits his eye roll to a few seconds when Muriel tells him that she and Cameron would like his blessing to date. As long as they're profesh at work, he says, they can go for it.
Preacher gets a pleasant surprise when Kaia swaps assignments with a friend so she can spend the next few months in charge of the cleanup brigade in Virgin River. Apparently Jay went ballistic when she told him, which is satisfying to hear.
More good news: Mike wakes up, so everyone can hit the Labor Day carnival without guilt.
Everybody but Brie, that is, who spends the evening in his hospital room, calling it their first date. Mike insists that Brady's the real hero for volunteering to go undercover to bust the drug ring. Brie's all "that's cool, but it changes nothing."
Okay I guess! Brady looks like he's having a ball riding rides with Lark and Hazel. So that's great! Congrats to all the new happy couples! This is fine!
The carnival's in full swing as Ava talks to Mel about hysterectomies and freezing her eggs and selling the farm to a golf course developer. Mel gets an odd look on her face when Ava mentions in passing that the farm's tree swing survived the fire.
The look on Jo Ellen's face is even more than odd when Muriel and Cameron kiss right in front of her ticket booth, and she wastes no time lighting up the ol' phone tree. Excited for these two. Get after it, ya crazy kids!
Doc's happy to sit on a bench and watch the town flow by, and he's even happier when Hope joins him. He tells her he took a spot in the macular degeneration clinical trial despite its risks of speeding up his blindness.
Hope vows to stay by his side, declaring "Your life is my life. Your heart is my heart." Wishing nothing but the best for these crazy kids too!
Courtesy of Netflix Sarah Dugdale on 'Virgin River'
Denny and Lizzie's night goes in a different direction. He's made some decisions and is ready to grab her and travel the world, then settle in for college and med school. But Lizzie's got a bombshell of her own: she thinks she's pregnant. Wow is that not the storyline I was wanting for them. Although it does support Mel's birthing center idea, I suppose.
Preacher's happy ending also hits a snag when Kaia's boss calls to report that they found the body of the murder victim in the woods during fire cleanup. We all know it'll turn out to be Pagie's husband, whose body Preacher buried in season 2. The bigger question is how Kaia's going to react when she inevitably learns the truth.
What's that? You want a little more truth? Well Charmaine's back and in a good place… until she's confronted by the real father of the twins. And are you ready for this? It's CALVIN.
Yep, the criminal last seen dying in a boat explosion is alive and walking with a cane, ready to be a father to his boys.
Aaaaand here's where we go to the tape, and by tape, I mean my season 4 recap, where I confidently declared: They haven't found Calvin's body, and I watch too much TV not to be a little suspicious about that. (No, but seriously, I do think he's actually dead. No conspiracy theories here!)
I was wrong. Calvin (David Cubitt) is alive, and it looks like Charmaine's coming back for season 6.
After a spin on the Ferris wheel to watch the fireworks, Mel brings Jack to Lilly's farm, where they reminisce about the first time they visited the swing together.
Mel then unfurls a big, romantic idea: this is where they should build their house and raise the children, however and whenever they come. Heck, they could even get married there too.
Jack's all in.
But we're not done yet! We cut to a Christmastime phone call from Joey (Jenny Cooper), who informs Mel that their mother had a love affair with someone in Virgin River, and that man just might be Mel's father.
So the show leaves us with another paternity cliffhanger, to be resolved (we hope!) on Nov. 30, when Netflix drops a pair of Virgin River holiday episodes. See you then!
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