Road to Avonlea Review: A Mother’s Love

avonlea a mother's love

“Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats and we’ll be underway. Ladies and gentlemen, mothers and daughters…It gives me great pleasure as representative of Mother’s Own Magazine to announce the winner of our Mother of the Year contest for the Avonlea/Markdale area. We have received many essays from young women in this area; and ladies, they have done you proud. Some of you would blush at the glowing description your daughters have submitted to us. One girl spoke of her mother’s help with her homework. Another spoke her mother making many dresses and curling her hair. But, one essay in particular struck a chord with the judges. And I would like to read you an extract from our winning essay. I wake up in the morning and she is there. She is there as I close my eyes at night. Her presence is a comfort, a beacon, a rock I cling to when I am afraid. She is my champion. My inspiration. My guide. A mother’s love is unselfish, kind. A mother’s love is wise, full-hearted, the deepest well. And though she did not give me birth she loves me as a mother would. We, the judges and I, feel that this is perhaps the best description of a mother that we have ever read. Consequently, our Mother of the Year winner is Miss Hetty King. Would Miss King please come forward to collect her prize?”

avonlea a mother's love

Episode Summary: Mother’s Own Magazine is sponsoring a contest to see which daughter can write the best essay explaining why her mother deserves to be “Mother of the year.” Felicity is confident that she’ll win the contest. Sara believes that she should be able to write the essay about Aunt Hetty, even if she’s only “an aunt.” When Felicity prevents Sara submitting her essay, Sara decides to get revenge by forging a letter from a nurse, writing that Felicity and Sally Potts (Tara Meyer) were accidentally switched at birth. This naturally upsets Felicity. As each person involved finds out, Sara becomes more and more regretful of this joke. After chaos ensues, Sara finally admits that she wrote the letter. Hetty is quick to defend Sara, considering the other girls (and even the other mothers) had made Sara feel bad for not having a “traditional” mother. During the ceremony for the winner’s announcement, Sally thanks Sara for what she did since her mother (Maja Ardal) has been nicer to her. When Hetty is announced as “Mother of the Year,” Felicity tells Sara that she ended up submitting Sara’s letter.

Directed by Don McBrearty, Written by Suzette Couture, Music by Hagood Hardy

avonlea felicity sara hug

My Grade: About once or twice a season, there comes along an episode that’s so perfect, so well written and directed, so well acted, so well…everything!, that you can’t help but give it an “A+” The first episode like that is season one’s The Materializing of Duncan McTavish.” This is the second episode of the series that I believe is absolutely perfect. In fact, it’s my second favorite episode of the series (stick around if you want to know what’s number 1!)

The first reason I love this episode is that it’s one of those episodes that’s really focused on the family and maybe a few other recurring characters. It’s not one of those episodes that’s centered on a “special guest star,” I certainly don’t have a bias against those episodes. But since season two is when Disney started insisting that a few episodes be set aside for famous guest stars, an episode like this is absolutely precious. No guest characters in the series have ever been more interesting than members of the King family. So, an episode where we get to learn more about Felicity and Janet, her mother, and their views on family and motherhood are wonderful. I didn’t need Hayley Mills to like pop up and pretend to be some wizard or something (that could very well be what “Disney” wanted…not a bad idea for another episode however).

avonlea felix and cecily

But, the more poignant reason I love watching this episode…is that it’s so relevant to the present world. I never want to get too political in these posts (and I think I’ve stayed away from doing that so far). Avonlea is the kind of show that probably attracts many different types of people of different ideologies. Avonlea (particularly because it’s set during the turn of the 20th century in a quaint little Canadian island) is for the most part, pretty apolitical. And I don’t want to speak for the people who created this show. But…I interpret this episode as being an endorsement of the idea that family is what you make of it…and that sometimes (most times, all the times) “alternative” families can be as loving and “normal” as more traditional families.

Before the series began, Sara lost her mother. After season one, Sara lost her father. She is essentially in the care of Hetty…and regardless of what she says, Olivia as well. Sara is being raised by two women. And even though the more traditional family is right next door, and there to offer help any time Sara needs it, she is being brought up in a her critical years by two unmarried women. And Hetty’s doing a great job (not to get too emotional over a fictional character). And Hetty’s contribution to Sara’s development will be legitimized right before we say goodbye to Sara in three years. In this present day, when we have politicians act like the end of the world will be the result of an absence of a father or a mother, or a child being “forced” to be raised in less than traditional circumstances, this episode, in my opinion, absolutely destroys that notion.

avonlea felicity and sally

To be less political and controversial in my statement, this episode is also saying that parents and parent figures are the ones who actually raise their children. Like Hetty says in this episode and past episodes, technically “anyone” can make a baby; to truly consider yourself a father or a mother, one actually has to raise the child. I think this is a great episode for any adopted child to watch. It teaches them that the people who have raised them are their parents, regardless of what other people or the media says. This episode is bigger than the “switched at birth” hijinks that sort of center the episode. This episode is about what family really means.

Although, speaking of those hijinks, this episode makes me laugh and cry at the same time. Mrs. Potts is a reliable comedic foil throughout the series. And even though this is probably the most emotional we see the character, she still has plenty of moments that make me hoot. Felix is also funny in this episode, as he takes pure pleasure in making Felicity miserable. But there are two relationships that are really developed here. Sara and Felicity’s friendship is strengthened by Felicity’s selfless act at the end of the episode. And Sara and Hetty realize that they were meant to be together. And that’s all that matters. Oh…this is my grade in case you haven’t been paying attention: (A+)

avonlea sara and hetty

Spotlight Performance: Sometimes I ask myself whether this is a “Felicity episode” or a “Sara episode.” In the middle of the episode, it seems like the perspective changes to Felicity’s…but then in the end, it goes back to Sara’s. Obviously, it’s a great episode for both characters, but I’d give the edge to Sarah Polley (Sara). Although Sara never outright says “I miss my mother!,” the sadness over losing her mother at a very young age sort of drives all of Sara’s feelings and emotions and actions throughout the episode…and Polley does a great job with all that.

avonlea mothers and daughters

Favorite Scene: That entire last scene is just great, but especially the moment Hetty is named the winner. You know, when I first watched this episode about three or four years ago, I must have had the biggest, stupidest grin on my face. Let’s be real here, anyone can guess the ending a mile away. Ever since the first scene when Sara decides to submit Hetty for the contest, we all knew that Hetty would be honored some way by the end of the episode. And, yet, the ending is still completely satisfying and perfect. The speech that Mrs. Purvis gives (played wonderfully by Esther Hockin) is probably the best written “monologue” of the entire series. And then when Felicity tells Sara what she did and Sara goes “Oh, Felicity” and hugs her…how many times can I say it? Perfection all around!

Final Thoughts: Yeah, a bunch. First…near the beginning of the episode, Sara is bullied by Felicity, Sara, some random girl, and Clemmie?? When did Clemmie become a bad girl? I guess we pretty much haven’t seen her in a year. A lot can change in a year. Also, the other “random girl” is played by Amy Smith, who had a recurring role on Ready or Not. She also played a popular, mean girl on that show as well.

avonlea tara meyer maja ardal

So, a great thing about this episode is how meta it is. Sally Potts is played by Tara Meyer. Originally, before the series began shooting, Tara Meyer was cast as Felicity. But then she had to drop out due to another commitment. So Meyer was given the smaller role of Sally Potts. I really can’t see it. Gema Zamprogna’s an amazing Felicity. And Meyer is…perfect as Sally. Everything happens for a reason, right? But it’s just funny that this episode makes the claim that Sally looks more like Cecily and Felix’s sister than Felicity. Anyway, Meyer will continue to have a recurring role for the next two seasons, and then appear once more for the season six finale. She voiced Dorothy Ann for The Magic School Bus and also had a voice role in The Busy World of Richard Scarry. It seems like she stopped working after 2000, and I can’t find any more information on her.

Mrs. Potts obviously also had a major role in this episode. It’s probably most she does in an episode. It’s the one time where she’s more of a character, and less of a gossiping caricature. She’s played by Maja Ardal. She continues to appear in Avonlea until…well, the movie. She also appears in the Sullivan film Promise the Moon and the TV series Slings and Arrows. She’s more of a stage actor and playwright.

avonlea a mother's love

And finally, it is time to say goodbye to two influential people who have very much contributed to Avonlea’s success. First, Suzette Couture. This is the screenwriter’s last episode for Avonlea. Between season 1 and 2, she only wrote four episodes. Coincidentally, three of these episodes (A Mother’s Love, How Kissing Was Discovered, Proof in the Pudding) are the three highest ranked episodes among fans. Clearly, her writing struck a major chord with fans, even if she didn’t have the longevity of some of the other writers. Before Avonlea, Couture wrote for Canadian series Danger Bay and The Campbells. After Avonlea, she wrote for a variety of popular TV movies and miniseries, including Child of Rage, Million Dollar Babies, Martha Inc, Jesus, and most recently, Hallmark’s In My Dreams. 

This is also (at least according to IMDB) the final episode for scorer Hagood Hardy, who was also responsible for those famous Anne of Green Gables motifs. Much of the score we hear in this episode is also heard in the very first episode of the series, and there are even some parallels. For example, the score played during the scene when Hetty tries to lift Sara’s spirits after her prank is revealed is the same music we hear in the first episode when Hetty and Sara first find some common ground (Hetty’s sister, Sara’s mother). The relationship between those two have evolved in these last 2 seasons…and they will continue to evolve; but I like how the music reminds us of a time when it didn’t seem like Sara and Hetty were completely compatible. If Hardy had to leave the series, he certainly left on the highest note.

When I first watched this episode, I finally realized that I had discovered something special. They just don’t make “family” television like this anymore!

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2 thoughts on “Road to Avonlea Review: A Mother’s Love

  1. Pingback: Creeping Around the Picture Books #4 (Beekle, Barack, and Bunting) | Lifestories

  2. Pingback: Road to Avonlea Review: Home Movie | Lifestories

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