Review of When Calls the Heart, Season 1, Episode 5: The Dance


As I reflect on this episode, I put myself in the widows’ shoes for a moment.  What would I do if I were in Mary’s situation? So I would like to ask you to do the same thing: what would you do? Would you be a Mary? a Florence? or even an Abigail?

There was an exciting buzz around town as new miners arrived by the wagon load early one morning.  School was interrupted while the men looked for the saloon, where they were supposed to stay. It is in this group of men that you meet three distinct characters right away. Sam (we can’t find his real name - if you know it, please tell me!) immediately says that he requires a drink after their long trip, and heads over to the bar - ignoring the fact that school is in session.  Then we meet Dewitt Graves (Derek Hamilton) who apologizes for the miners’ intrusion.  Last, you meet the most irritating character of this episode - Billy Hamilton (Andrew W. Walker), who impresses our dear teacher - much to my disbelief.

That evening we see several of the widows together in Abigail’s home, chatting away about the newcomers to town while making outfits for the expectant Carla Noonan (Jill Morrison). Florence Blakeley (Loretta Walsh) is not afraid to speak her mind when it comes to her distaste about these so called “dirty miners” that have made their appearance in town. Abigail Stanton (Lori Loughlin) is quick to remind all the women that they should not be hasty to judge, and Mary Dunbar (Laura Bertram) reminds them of her own late husband who was not perfect, but did provide for her and their son.

The next day, we see Elizabeth (Erin Krakow) posting fliers just as Mountie Jack (Daniel Lissing) is riding into town.  Elizabeth flirtatiously calls to Jack, striking up a conversation about the forty miners now residing above the saloon [note: I only counted thirteen men on the wagons]. Jack asks about the preparations for the Miners’ Dance. Being overly transparent, Elizabeth asks Jack if he is going to attend. He is quick to respond that he will be attending, on duty as a Mountie.  Jack digs a hole for himself as he tries to explain about mounties and marriage, and how some women can be “delicate” - not ready to take on the rough life that a mountie endures. Elizabeth’s facial expressions say it all as Jack realizes that he has gotten himself into trouble, and he excuses himself before more damage is done.

Following that, in my opinion, we meet one of the cutest couples in Coal Valley (other than Jack and Elizabeth, of course) who are meeting for the first time - Dewitt Graves and Mary Dunbar. After crashing through a neat stack of peaches, Dewitt helps Mary pick up the cans and then offers to pay for Mary’s groceries when he hears that she is unable to afford them, using the excuse that Mary has invited him over to dinner, and it is only fair that he help pay the bill. Vociferous Florence is seen walking behind some shelving.  We know that gossip will be on the horizon.

There is a quick scene of Caleb Dunbar (Will Verchere-Gopaulsingh) and Albert Bickley (Sean Michael Kyer) fishing in their ever-clean clothing. [I’m still wondering who “Pocket’s” parents are..?] (We must congratulate Sean on his nomination for the 36th Annual Young Artist Awards, Best Performance in a TV Series, Recurring Actor - 10 and Under!)

Billy Hamilton sees Elizabeth walking down Main Street and runs to catch up with her as he tells her tales of his childhood. From the moment I saw Billy in Coal Valley, I saw right through his facade; so it surprised me that the intelligent Miss Thatcher was so easily drawn in by his charms.  Jack, on the other hand, saw right through Billy as well. Even the man that had been known as the “town drunk” knew Billy for what he really was. Oblivious to everything, Elizabeth agrees to be Billy’s personal tour guide the next day. She is left standing in the middle of Main Street, unaware of the world around her as Billy kisses her hand and calls her professor.

Coming downstairs unable to rest due to the noise of the saloon, Jack greets Billy and immediately notices the blisters on Billy’s hands. Using his investigative skills, knowing that all miners have calloused hands, and seeing none on Billy’s hands - Jack gets more suspicious of who this man really is and why he is here.  He is distracted by a fight that breaks out in the saloon.  

On the walk to school the next morning, James Fermont (Darius Zaviceanu) stirs up trouble with Caleb Dunbar about a rumor that is buzzing around town - that Caleb is getting a new “pa.” Caleb denies the rumor as James walks away.

There is a quick scene of Jack sending an urgent telegram to the superintendent at Central Union Mine, this will become much more important later on.

Outside, we see Mary Dunbar and Dewitt Graves run into each other on Main Street.  Mary quickly thanks Dewitt for his kindness at the general store and asks if there is anything she can do to repay him. Despite the filth of the mine smeared across his face, Dewitt’s sweet smile is clear.  He shyly hesitates and then asks if Mary would be willing to make him a home cooked meal.  Mary is uncertain, because of her son Caleb, but then agrees to have Dewitt come.

…Sitting here, wishing I could skip the next scene of Elizabeth’s personal tour with Billy Hamilton in the woods… where Elizabeth does an amazing job at being overwhelmingly naive while Billy is sickeningly fantastic at being a slimy snake in a suit.  Then, thankfully we are able to come up for air as Mountie Jack trots up the path with his gun and game on his saddle.  His tap on the gun seems to be a hint to intimidate BIlly Hamilton.

Back in town, we enter the Dunbar home with Caleb as he enjoys the aroma of a roast (something they haven’t eaten in a long time), and then learns that it came from one of the miners. Caleb loathes Dewitt’s presence, even before meeting him face to face, and tells his mother that he doesn't want him here.

The viewers are then tossed back into the woods with Billy and Elizabeth, where he gifts her with a poem he claims to have written.  She again, believes everything Billy is telling her and even accepts his request to go with him to the Miner’s Dance.

Back at the Dunbar home, Caleb does an excellent job portraying a grieving young boy who is feeling forced into accepting a new pa when he is not ready to let go of the only one he has ever known.  Dewitt is very sympathetic and understanding of Caleb and Mary’s situation, but is hopeful that he can be part of their lives.  

That evening Jack comes over to the Stanton household to talk to Elizabeth about his concerns regarding her time alone in the woods with Billy Hamilton.  She asks Jack if he is jealous.  Jack seems taken back by the question and his answer turns into more of an insult than a caution.  Her response seems to cut him to the heart by his expression.

Early the next morning we see Jack going over to the general store, hoping to get a reply to his telegram. The fear on Jack’s face is immeasurable as he pulls on the locked doors.

Down the road, Elizabeth is setting up her classroom in the saloon when Caleb arrives early to talk about the new miners. The discussion is cut short when the rest of the school children arrive. Later that afternoon, Mary approaches Elizabeth on the front porch of the Stanton home to see if she can borrow one of Elizabeth’s dresses for the Miner’s Dance.  After showing her some elegant dresses that would normally be beyond Mary’s purchasing ability, Elizabeth tries to give some advice to Mary and it comes across as an insult.  During this advice, Elizabeth tries to tell Mary that she understands the situation, but Mary is quick to tell her that Elizabeth could not understand, because she was raised in luxury - not worrying about where her next meal was coming from. Mary leaves the home empty handed.  

Florence bursts into Jack’s office to report the theft of her late husband’s gold watch and cuff-links.  He requests that she keep the information a secret while he investigates.  She agrees and leaves him to his work.

Here’s where we get to see a real snake in the show, not just Billy… only, this one is a harmless gopher snake - not venomous with lies. Jack is lured to the school by screams, where he finds Elizabeth standing on her chair pointing at the snake that’s slithering across the floor. As Jack picks the snake up, his eyes fall upon a sheepish Caleb.  He tells him to pick up the snake in the mountie’s office after school.  [My question is: since Jack didn’t take the sack that the snake came in, where is he going to keep the snake until Caleb picks it up?]  After school, Miss Thatcher’s questioning of Caleb helps her understand his actions a bit more.  Caleb says that his mother won’t talk about his father, like she might want to forget about him.  Miss Thatcher shares some very special moments learning about Caleb’s pa, who he says can never be replaced.

As Mary and Dewitt prepare to leave for the dance, Mary tries to encourage Caleb to join them, but the tearful little boy declines as he stares out the window. Silence is his answer. While everyone else is arriving at the dance, Caleb goes through his parents’ trunk and finds his father’s suit.

Back in town, the saloon has been transformed and looks more like a scene from Peter Pan - as one of the ladies points out. [This is a side note: I have had many people ask me about Abigail and her standing in town, and why it is that she is dressed more elegantly than most of the other women? You will find out this answer in the season finale - so be patient!] As Elizabeth and Billy enter the dance, we see Jack glare in their direction.

The mood changes and everyone else seems to fade away as Caleb enters the dance in his father’s suit and asks to cut into his mother’s dance. Dewitt graciously backs away and Mary finally admits that she misses her late husband too as she begins to waltz with her son and the room returns to normal around them.

After the dance ends, we see Elizabeth and Billy going out into the starry night. They discuss Orions belt as he helps Elizabeth with her cape. At the same time, Ned approaches Jack with a reply from his earlier telegram - which proves Billy a liar.

In conclusion, I would have to say that we have met a snake in a fancy suit, learned more about the widows and how difficult life was as a miner’s widow, seen the love of a son for his father, and the heart of a Mountie on his sleeve.

So I leave you with the same question that we started with: what would you do if you were the wife of a deceased miner?

From IMDbPro:

Filmmakers

Director Anne Wheeler

Writers Janette Oke (Novel) | Ken LaZebnik

Producers Greg Malcolm | Vicki Sotheran

Composer John Sereda

Cinematographer Robert Brinkmann

Editor Nicole Ratcliffe

Production Designer Brendan Harron

Written by Amy J. Falk

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