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Netflix Documentary ‘Athlete A’ Review – A Difficult But Important Story

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Maggie Nichols was the 4th child and first-born girl to Gina and John Nichols of Little Canada, Minnesota.  She always had a lot of energy and her mother, who was a fan of gymnastics, decided to enroll her in the sport when she was still in pre-school.

Athlete A, a Netflix original documentary directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Schenk, tells the story of Maggie and many other gymnasts who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of coaches and more specifically, Dr. Larry Nassar, team doctor for USA Gymnastics for 29 years.

Maggie excelled at gymnastics.  She had a natural talent and was the only 10-year-old at Nationals in 2007.  She gained the attention of Bela and Martha Karolyi, famed Hungarian coaches who defected to the United States in 1981 and began coaching the US Women’s Gymnastics Team.

Athlete A is not an easy watch, but it is an important one. At times both shameful and sad, it shows what adults were willing to overlook to win and to bring gold to the United States.

Centering on the staff at the Indianapolis Star, a small local paper, who’s investigative team including Investigations Editor Steve Berta, and Investigative Reporters Marisa Kwiatowski and Mark Alesia, we see how the team broke the story.

In 2016, Kwiatkowski was working on a story about the failures to report sexual abuse in schools when a source pointed her in the direction of a lawsuit brought up against a predatory coach in the gymnastics community who, once accused, rather than being removed, was just relocated to another gym.

The investigative team got a copy of the deposition where it was indicated that USA Gymnastics had been warned about this coach and did nothing.  The story entitled “A Blind Eye” went to print while the USA Olympic Team competed for gold during the 2016 Rio Olympics, bringing the interest in gymnastics and the team itself to an all-time high.

Seeing a link on Facebook for the story, former USA Gymnastics gymnast Rachel Denhollander realized what she knew as the truth, that USAG had been burying sexual abuse occurring under their watch for years.

Denhollander reached out to the Indy Star and told them that she was a victim, but that her abuse had not come at the hands of a coach, but by team doctor Larry Nassar. Jessica Howard, another former gymnast, also reached out to the news team with the same story.

Athlete A Netflix documentary review

ATHLETE A Jamie Dantzscher in ATHLETE A. Cr. NETFLIX © 2020

Attorney John Manly of Manly, Stewart and Finaldi got a call, this one from former gymnast Jamie Dantzscher after she read the story.  He reached out to the Indy Star team and mentioned that his client was implicating Dr. Nassar and USAG.

The team at Indy Star began to wonder if there were three different women who didn’t know each other and had the same story, how many more could there be?

Dr. Larry Nassar, along with being the team doctor for USAG, was also a Michigan State University doctor, seeing athletes and students from that school.

During training in 2015 at the Karolyi’s camp in Huntsville, Texas, coach Sarah Jantzi overheard Maggie and another athlete discussing Nassar and how Maggie found some of his techniques disturbing. Vaginal entry with his fingers during one particular treatment was brought up and the fellow athlete confirmed that he did that to her as well.

Jantzi spoke to Maggie and got the information and immediately reached out to Maggie’s parents.  She also brought the information to the attention of Rhonda Gaehn, the Vice President of the USA Gymnastics Women’s program.

The next day, President of USA Gymnastics Steve Penny called Maggie’s mother and promised her that he would report the incident to the police. Maggie remained at training with the promise to her parents that Nassar would be handled.

Almost a month later, Maggie’s parent had not heard anything but were told they now were to speak to investigator Fran Sefler. Penny told them there was an ongoing FBI Investigation.

As Maggie’s parents pushed for information, Maggie was suddenly removed from events like appearing in a commercial with fellow gymnast Simone Biles. During the Olympic trials, Maggie’s parents weren’t treated like the other parents. No cameras, no reserved seats, and although Maggie finished 6th in competition, she was not among those picked for the five-member team or even as one of the three alternates.

Former USAG gymnasts describe a “fine line between coaching and child abuse” happening at the Karolyi camp and of being “beaten down” to the point where when you are abused, you think you are imagining it.

Athlete A Netflix documentary review

ATHLETE A Maggie Nichols in ATHLETE A. Cr. NETFLIX © 2020

Nassar was described by many of the gymnasts and the only one that was nice to them at the camp, with some abuse sufferers even looking forward to the treatments because he was the only one that seemed to be concerned about them.

The Indy Star team knew that USAG was aware of the abuse, but how much did they know and did they work to cover it up? They found evidence of USAG knowing and working to hide the information from the very start.

After releasing a story on the reports of Nassar’s abuse, Michigan State University Police received more than two dozen reports of abut at the hands of Nassar.

Investigator Andrea Munford of the Michigan State University Police and Michigan State Assistant Attorney General Angel Povilaitis began gathering information for prosecution.

After being fired from Michigan State, it was reported that Nassar was treating patients out of his basement of his home and abusing again. With that information, a search warrant was obtained for his home and hard drives containing more than 37,000 pieces of child pornography.

In 2016 Nassar was arrested and charged with the most serious of the cases.

In November of 2017, Nassar agreed to a plea deal on the child pornography, destroying evidence and other charges. As part of the plea deal, survivors of the abuse could make impact statements. Impact statements began in January 2018. Many women came forward and gave their statements.

Nassar was convicted and is serving two 60-year terms.

The Indy Star was not done, nor was Manly.  USAG covered the abuse and allowed it to happen. It was also found that during the FBI Investigation, Penny was discussing the opportunity for security positions within USAG with assigned FBI investigators.

A senate hearing was held in June 2018 on the Olympic athlete abuse and what USAG knew. Penny, who was removed from his position in 2017, was called to testify. He exercised his Fifth Amendment rights and would not answer any questions.

Penny was later arrested in October 2018 at a cabin in Tennessee, accused of tampering with the evidence against Nassar.

The Karolyi’s closed the training ranch in Texas in January 2018.

The US Department of Justice is currently investigating USAG, the US Olympic Committee and the FBI for its handing of the sexual abuse accusations.

Maggie has continued competing, now at the university level for the University of Oklahoma. She and her team won the National Championships in 2018. Maggie won the all-around at the 2019 NCAA Championships.

The Indy Star continues to cover the story.

Athlete A recalls the 2015 Academy Award winning move Spotlight about the Boston Globe investigative team who broke the story of the cover-up of sexual abuse in the Boston Catholic Diocese. It is hard to watch but important to see.

Viewers will be shocked that this continues to happen, everywhere, even to our most celebrated athletes.

Athlete A gives us an example of why investigative journalism and the news media in general needs to be protected, so that stories like the abuse in the USAG and the Catholic Church are brought to the public’s attention.

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Cindy Alexander, experienced journalist but new to the TV Critic game. Mother of Paul, wife to Dan. Excited to see what comes next.

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8 Questions We Need Addressed in Season 2 of ‘My Life With the Walter Boys’

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8 Questions We Need Addressed in Season 2 of My Life With the Walter Boys

My Life With the Walter Boys, starring Nikki Rodriguez, Noah LaLonde, and Ashby Gentry, hit Netflix on Dec 7, 2023, and became an instant hit, as most shows surrounding a teen love triangle (we’re looking at you The Summer I Turned Pretty). Fans loved it so much, in fact, that it received a second season renewal almost instantly, meaning we’ll get plenty more drama from the Walter family + Jackie in the near future.

And that also means we’ll get answers to some of our burning and lingering questions from those jaw-dropping cliffhangers. 

Who Is Morgan?

This is probably the top question I have in mind, but only because it seemed so out of left field. Will and Haley had a pretty solid relationship, with the only trouble in their relationship coming from their inability to see eye to eye on business. Haley wanted to live it up in her mid-20s, while Will wanted to focus on making something of himself. Will possibly took it a bit too far and extreme, but Haley should’ve been a little more supportive of his ambitions and goals to provide for their family and give them a good life. However, at no point did another relationship or romance come into play—they were both certain of their love for one another, even agreeing to get married mere moments after getting back together. Which brings me back to the question of everyone’s mind—who is Morgan and why did Haley lie about the text to Will? Is it a former fling? Is it someone she hooked up with during their break? Is it someone from Will’s past? Whoever it is, my two cents is that not every love story needs to be a love triangle, so I hope they don’t go that route with Will and Haley after they just found their footing. 

 

Will Jackie Come Back? And Who Will She Pick?

It’s pretty clear that Jackie ran off because she was scared—she was scared of hurting Alex, who just told her he loved her, she was scared of the feelings she had for Cole, which she previously repressed but could no longer deny once she saw his romantic gesture with the teapot, and she was scared of coming between them again, just like Paige did before her. Jackie’s reaction was trying not to bite the hand that feeds her, and in this case, the hand was the Walter family opening their doors to welcome her in and giving her a found family. She didn’t want to spit in the face of that by causing friction between two brothers, though it’s clear that her feelings for Cole were much more intense than anything she ever felt for Alex. Leaving was her only solution to keep the peace, but I guess that they won’t let her stay away for long. Will she come back eventually? Are her feelings too strong to stay away? Will someone go to New York to convince her to return? 

 

Piggybacking Off of That—How Did Jackie and Cole End Things?

Obviously, that hookup—initiated by Jackie—was hot and heavy (and a long time coming), but what happened after? Did Jackie just run back to her room and call Uncle Richard to tell him she wanted to go back to New York? Was she feeling guilty for cheating on Alex? Did she immediately regret it? Did they talk about it? Did they just part ways and go to their respective rooms in happy bliss? Cole seemed rather surprised that Jackie left town when Alex barged into his room, which indicates that he thought the night went well. 

 

Will Cole come clean to the kiss to Alex and Will They Continue to Hate Each Other?

Even before Jackie’s arrival, there was a lot of animosity between these two, and it’s something that they have to figure out on their own. Alex holds a lot of resentment toward Cole, mostly for being in his shadow his whole life and for Cole stealing Paige, however, it hasn’t been easy going for Cole either. As he explained, he had no idea about Alex and Paige when he kissed her, plus, he’s dealing with his fair share of inner turmoil that makes him act out and hurt those around him. They have to get over their own stuff before they can drag Jackie into this, but I will say, Alex knew that Cole was into Jackie and pursued her anyway, disregarding how it would make his brother feel, while Cole repeatedly told Jackie that he wouldn’t hurt his brother again and tried, sometimes less than more, to keep his distance and be supportive. Someone is going to walk away hurt, there’s not doubt about it, but I think that Alex’s motivations have simply been to finally win, while Cole’s feelings for Jackie have been real from the start and have only grown in size, all while pushing him to become a better man and stop feeling sorry for himself. Sooner or later, they’ll all have to face reality, and when they do, they will both have to agree not to harbor any ill will moving forward. 

 

Will Kiley Ever Tell Alex How She Feels?

It spoke volumes that the person taking care of Alex in his drunk state and putting him to bed was Kiley. The girl is in love—everyone sees it except for Alex, who is too blind to see what’s right in front of him because he’s focusing on the wrong thing. I think deep down he has those feelings too, he’s just never confronted them because Kiley’s been his BFF forever. I’m hoping season 2 will be the moment she’s been waiting for!

 

Who Will Tara Pick?

Tara may be my favorite character because she’s so unapologetically messy. She’s the school’s counselor, guiding young adults into the next stages of their lives, and yet she has no grasp on her own life. When Nikhil gets a job in London, she’s overly emotional about it, even going as far as to say she would’ve gone with him had he asked. But when she meets Jackie’s uncle Richard at Haley’s wedding, she almost immediately forgets her heartbreak and is smitten. Knowing that she’s drunk and doesn’t want Richard to serve as a rebound, she makes it back to her yurt only to find Nikhil waiting for her, explaining that he turned down the job… except her love seemingly fizzled out already after her fun night with Richard. Tara is proof that not only teenagers go through love triangles—sometimes they catch you right in the middle of your very adult life… and you’re still conflicted. 

 

Will Richard Help Will Save the Walter Farm?

George and Katherine ran into some money troubles with the farm and considered selling, but honestly, thank god Will went to business school and saw the untapped potential. The place is bursting with Instagram-approved beauty, and making it a go-to destination could boost the economy and the Walters’ bank accounts, not to mention there’s also potential to spin out a wedding business! When you have that kind of an opportunity, you better not waste it, and while George was focused on the crops, he wasn’t seeing the full-picture of what the farm had to offer in the age of social media. Maybe Richard’s interest in Tara will convince him to invest and give the Walter farm a second life. 

 

Will Erin and Danny Get Together?

After everything she put up with from Cole, Erin deserves a good guy who’ll treat her right… and that’s Danny! The two are obviously into each other, so I hope that they get their chance at romance once Danny returns from his Julliard program. In general, I hope season 2 allows Erin to be herself and do what makes her happy, not what’s expected of her by those around her. 

 

And finally, this isn’t a question, but more of a personal plea, I’m hoping that the other brothers, Nathan, Isaac, Jordan and Lee (along with sis Parker) get more screentime, and the show finally addresses why Jackie’s estate isn’t contributing some money to help the Walter’s raise her.

Oh, and another thing on my wish list is for Cole to move the hair out of his face! How can he see anything?! I’d also love to see George and Katherine get a storyline aside from being stressed-out parents, both by their children’s misbehaving and financial situations. They’re still young and deserve something else that highlights the beauty of life at that age! 

What did you think? Did you have any questions you want addressed next season? 

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Fans Are All Saying the Same Thing About ‘The Crown’s Casting of Prince Harry

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Fans Are All Saying the Same Thing About 'The Crown's Casting of Prince Harry

Prince Harry may be controversial in real life, but his casting on The Crown is catching even more heat. 

The Crown Season 6 Part 2 (also the final season and episodes) hit Netflix on Dec. 14—and one thing was made abundantly clear by viewers and fans all around the world: the casting of Prince Harry was not ideal, which was rather surprising considering the series has always been very on point with its casting of iconic figures like Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana, across multiple decades. 

In fact, viewers were pretty rattled and riled by the portrayal of Prince Harry, and they did not hold back their opinions, taking to social media and Reddit to vent their frustrations.

One Reddit thread asked why the series turned Harry into a “d**k” despite his bad boy image in the media, and while most agreed that the depiction of Harry’s attitude at the time (“he was a mess in his ’20s” someone emphasized), including the drugs, drinking, and feeling like a spare, were on point, most couldn’t get past the casting, with one person calling it “god awful” and “the worst casting in the series.”

“Their Harry looks like an AI rendering from the prompt “British redhead…MORE REDHEAD!!!” He’s unwatchable,” someone noted in the thread. 

The complaints kept pouring in on X as someone explained, “i HATE how they portrayed prince harry in season 6 of the crown. I see NO resemblance and I just felt uncomfortable watching him on scene. The casting choice itself is questionable, since the actor looks NOTHING like harry. But the way he was written just felt inaccurate.”

They nailed the young before-Diana-took-away-the-Spencer-genes Prince William. But for Prince Harry, it seems like they went with the first ginger actor they could find and called it a day,” a third user wrote, whereas someone likened him to a villain in Harry Potter, writing, “I think the Prince Harry they casted is the only person I wouldn’t say didn’t move me in this entire series. He looks like an evil kid in Harry Potter. Great actor, bad casting. #TheCrown

Another fan sent “apologies” to the actor, Luther Ford, but went on saying the casting was all “wrong” and adding “#SupposedToBeAHunk #NoWeirdFringe”

One fan of the series just wanted answers:

https://twitter.com/hisyodaa/status/1736304432034329001?s=20

Someone else found “age up” too jarring: 

Others, however,were impressed by Ford’s depiction, considering he had no prior acting credits and answered a casting call:

Another fan couldn’t understand the hate for Prince Harry’s character, noting that the actor “charmed the pants” off of her.

What did you think? Did you like the casting behind Prince Harry in the final season? Or did it completely throw you off and take you out of the moment whenever he appeared on screen?

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Virgin River Holiday Episodes Season 5 Episode 11 and 12 Review – Father Christmas

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Virgin River Holiday Episodes Season 6 Episode 10 and 11 Review - Father Christmas

Virgin River is getting into the spirit of the holidays!

While most of Virgin River, including Mel and Jack, were under the impression that this was the “best Christmas ever,” even despite a few hiccups with the “extraordinary” family dinner they planned, if you’ve ever seen an episode of this series, you were likely waiting for the other foot to drop. 

**Warning—spoilers from the episodes ahead!**

Things on Virgin River are typically perfect—until they aren’t, but it’s also a very accurate reflection of real life; it’s made up of a blend of good and bad moments, many of which help you realize just how lucky and thankful you are. 

Virgin River Season 5 Episodes 11 and 12, titled “The More the Merrier” and “Father Christmas,” gave fans the very first Christmas in the quaint and charming town, and, if you’ll believe it, Mel and Jack’s first Christmas together. Is it just me or is the timeline exceptionally slow on this show?

Then again, Charmaine made a pointed joke about the length of her pregnancy, which honestly feels like it has spanned decades at this point, so the birth of her twins, which yes, finally happens during this momentous episode, ends up feeling slightly rushed. 

The fact that she has a quick labor isn’t just great for her—it’s a blessing for Mel and Doc as it allows them to get back to all their Christmas Eve shenanigans without missing a beat. 

Despite all that transpired between Mel, Charmaine, and Jack, Charmaine still finds a source of support within them, especially Mel, who stands up for her when Calvin arrives at the clinic when Charmaine goes into labor. Mel might be the only person in town now who knows the identity of the father of Charmaine’s twins, and she’s all too content with keeping it to herself. Personally, I’d be as bad of a secret keeper as Hope, blabbing the news to Jack at the earliest convenience. But Mel is a trusted source who can keep a secret, especially with the patient confidentiality at play. Though, hopefully, Charmaine decides what she’s going to do about her little Calvin problem sooner than later because he seems adamant about being part of those boys’ lives. It’s true that parenthood changes people, sometimes for the better, but Calvin’s caused so much pain in town that I don’t know if it’s possible for him to turn over a new leaf. 

The good news is that come Virgin River Season 6, Charmaine won’t be pregnant anymore, and we can close the book on the longest TV pregnancy ever. 

Mel’s quest to find her biological father was a huge part of the Christmas episodes. Through love letters unearthed by her sister Joey, Mel found out that her mother had a secret love affair with a man named “Champ” in Virgin River, thus making her connection to the town much more significant. 

Together with Jack and her new bangs (love ’em!), she set out on a merry scavenger hunt to uncover her dad’s identity, eventually learning that he won the 1976 Lumberjack Games in town before finding his name: Everett Reid. If you’re slightly disappointed that this isn’t someone we already know, well, join the club. It feels like a missed opportunity… for now, though I’m waiting to hear Everett out fully before I officially cast my judgment. While he initially denied being Mel’s father when she first approached him, even though it was obvious that he was lying, Mel didn’t question it, simply focusing on the people who chose to be in her life—her chosen family. 

And there are plenty of them, including Doc, who agreed to walk Mel down the aisle during her wedding to Jack. 

However, at the end of the episode, Everett arrived at the cabin and changed his mind about wanting to be in Mel’s life. He explained that the initial shock of seeing her—his daughter who looked just like the woman he loved and lost—threw him for a loop. And it’s understandable considering Mel essentially ambushed him without any warning. He needed time to process and think about what it was that he wanted out of this new relationship.

Everett then says that he has to tell her something, but naturally, the episode ends right before he gets the chance, leaving fans on a cliffhanger till next season. What could it be? Is Everett dying? Has he been following Mel’s whole life from a distance? Did he know she was in Virgin River?

And how is it that there is someone in Virgin River who has managed to keep his identity a secret? Living in a secluded cabin has its benefits, but how has he managed to fly under the radar for so long? The fact that no one knows him is kind of a hard sell for me… at the moment, at least. 

Who Is Mel’s Father in ‘Virgin River’?

Jack and Brie were dealing with family matters head-on as their parents, fresh off of a divorce, came to town and immediately started bickering. Brie was running interference before Jack stepped in and basically used one of their old plays against them—sit in your room and don’t come out until you’ve talked through everything. By the end, they emerged as friends, with dad accepting of mom’s new relationship with Javi, as they both acknowledged that they needed to make an effort to bring the family back together. It was a sweet moment showcasing that things don’t always pan out the way we hope in life, but we have to be open to making things work for the sake of the children, even when they are grown adults.

In the end, the big family dinner that Mel wanted was able to happen—and everyone enjoyed themselves. 

Mel not only got the gift of jewelry this year, but Jack also went out of his way to give her the gift she’s been asking Santa for ever since she was a little girl—a pony! A dog named Pony that is. 

Maybe it was the spirit of Christmas but Jack was so fun, silly, and cheery throughout the episode. He wasn’t carrying the weight of his past and trauma, and it was refreshing to see him almost act like a little boy again around everyone he loved and trusted. I need more of this Jack in the future, please. 

The biggest mistake that the series has ever made was driving Brie and Brady apart. I mean, why? What was it for? No one benefitted from it. Brie and Mike just don’t have the same chemistry, unfortunately. They are cute, but it’s nothing compared to the electricity between Brady and Brie, even when they see each other in passing. 

Brady makes a great family man with Lark and Hazel, but I couldn’t get invested in the relationship either, and it turns out that there was a good reason for it—Lark is playing him completely. 

In the final—and biggest twist—of the episodes, Lark answers a call from Hazel’s dad, Jimmy. Yep, you know it’s bad news when Jimmy, from prison, calls to check in on how things are going and Lark informs him that “Brady doesn’t suspect a thing.” I hate everything about this, solely because of how hard Brady’s been trying to become a better man and distance himself from this life. He thought he was finally coming out on the other side after helping to take down Calvin and Melissa, but all of that is about to blow up in his face because he let his guard down.

Lizzy and Denny are expecting a baby girl, a genuinely uplifting storyline that has warmed the hearts of everyone in town, except Lizzy’s mother, who was initially distraught by the news and assumed her daughter was throwing away her life. Lizzy managed to convince her mother that this is what she wanted—to be a mom and have a fulfilling career, and from where I’m standing, Lizzy has a good head on her shoulders. She’s come a long way from the girl who arrived in town initially. And quite frankly, she cut her mother way too much slack!

Doc figured that the annual tree decorating competition was the perfect time to repropose to Hope—and their love definitely inspires everyone around. There’s so much to celebrate these days! 

Virgin River Holiday Episodes Season 6 Episode 10 and 11 Review - Father Christmas

Virgin River. (L to R) Annette OÕToole as Hope, Tim Matheson as Doc Mullins, Kai Bradbury as Denny, Sarah Dugdale as Lizzie, Martin Henderson as Jack Sheridan, Alexandra Breckenridge as Mel Monroe in episode 512 of Virgin River. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Muriel and Cameron are going strong, with everyone in town acknowledging their deep connection and chemistry. However, when Cameron’s ex fianceé blew into town as part of her apology tour during her recovery process, it forced Muriel to look at their relationship a little differently. If Cameron stays with Muriel, he’s giving up the possibility of having a family and children in the future. And while he says he’s okay with that, Muriel wants him to be sure as she doesn’t want him to resent her for it in the future. Nothing would break her heart more than taking this opportunity away from him. Cameron promises he’ll think about it, but it definitely seems like he’s made up his mind about what he wants out of life and who he wants to spend it with. The life he imagined with his former fianceé once upon a time is long gone now that he’s met Muriel—but I’m glad that she’s prioritizing his happiness rather than being selfish, proving that she’s a mature adult who just wants to be realistic about their relationship rather than allowing herself to get swept up in the moment. These are real issues that need to be addressed. 

And finally, Wes’ death is about to blow up Preacher’s life now that the body has been identified. In case you need a refresher, he helped bury the body after Paige accidentally pushed her abusive husband down the stairs in self-defense. Had they just reported his death at the time, it would’ve likely been a lot less problematic than what they are facing now, but considering that Wes was a respected cop with a lot of pull on the force at the time, the self-defense claim might’ve not held up at the time either. 

Kaia realizes something is wrong based on the call and questions him about it immediately, though it’s unclear if Preacher will come clean to her. She is the fire chief now, so it’s likely better for him to tell her upfront in the privacy of their home, but will she be receptive? This is a huge bomb dropping on their otherwise idyllic relationship, particularly after she accepted a new job to stay in town and be with him. Do you think she’ll stand by his side or will this be the demise of their relationship? 

What did you think of the holiday episodes? Did you enjoy the festivities? Do you think everything with Mel’s dad will turn out okay? Share your thoughts! 

Who Is Lark on ‘Virgin River’?

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