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S05E07: Baby Steps

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Vice President Teresa Hurst asks Elizabeth for help when the surrogate carrying her grandchild is arrested for human trafficking; Henry suspects Stevie is being followed; Blake deals with the demands of Japanese gardeners.

I am having serious problems with MSec and VPOTUS having a convo in defense of  the baby surrogacy "industry."
[VPOTUS] Right now the surrogate carrying my grandchild is sitting in prison.
[shapeshifter] And where will she be sitting after she gives birth? In Shangra La?

Okay. Back to the show, hoping Henry might clear up this ethical issue.
 

Edited by shapeshifter

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I really did not understand why the VP's daughter went to Laos, of all places, to find a surrogate?  I admit to feeling a lump in my throat when Stevie read the letter from Dmitri...

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5 hours ago, NUguy514 said:

I really, really did not need to see Dmitri again.  I was never into him and Stevie, and I'm way past the point of caring about him.

Yeah, the only thing duller than Stevie and Dmitri Round 1 is Stevie and Dmitri Round Two: Love Letters.

Why is it every time I see Henry sitting at the table with POTUS and the rest, I think about the little boy who is finally allowed to sit at the grown-ups table?  To me, he just looks out of place.

Kind of a blah episode overall - although it set the stage for the VP (if she hasn't done irreparable damage to herself) and Elizabeth to fight it out for POTUS candidacy.

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OMG -  This show has gotten so preachy. I'm thinking maybe they should send it over to the Scifi channel since it has become such a fantasy.  Everything works out,  everyone is happy at the end, everything is resolved (in our favor), a place has been squeezed in for Super Professor, and Elizabeth gets a yummy treat. Whatever might be left over we know is still going to be kumbaya, 'cause you know, we are the Good Guys.

Edited by Skycatcher
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2 hours ago, mwell345 said:

Why is it every time I see Henry sitting at the table with POTUS and the rest, I think about the little boy who is finally allowed to sit at the grown-ups table?  To me, he just looks out of place.

I had that same thought. I hate that Henry was sitting in at that discussion. POTUS, V-POTUS, Sec of State, Chief of Staff and Henry. One of these things is not like the others. And then the conversation between him and Bess a little later about how his contribution is almost more important then hers or something like that. I can't quite remember it, but I think it was because she was biased or it's his super-ethical powers that were needed. It may be that this conversation happened in another episode altogether, but I just want to throw something at the tv every time he's on screen with that group of people so I get distracted. 

And yeah, count me as one of those who does not want a Dmitri redux. At all. When Stevie came into that hotel room I thought sure Dmitri had given her some coded message (that the CIA couldn't figure out) in his letter and was going to meet her there, so at least we didn't have that. But really, she went there for nostalgia? 

I didn't think the politics of the surrogacy story made sense. So the VP leaked about her daughter and son-in-law's connection to one of the imprisoned surrogate? Right? Which I would think would be very bad politics, and Bess thought so too, that it would damage her chances to be POTUS. That made sense to me (not why the VP leaked it, but that it would damage her politically). What didn't make sense was that her going to Laos to talk about the situation and kinda-sorta apologize for the US bombing Laos during the Vietnam War was going to somehow make things better for her politically? 

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1 hour ago, Skycatcher said:

OMG -  This show has gotten so preachy. I'm thinking maybe they should send it over to the Scifi channel since it has become such a fantasy.  Everything works out,  everyone is happy at the end, everything is resolved (in our favor), a place has been squeezed in for Super Professor, and Elizabeth gets a yummy treat. Whatever might be left over we know is still going to be kumbaya, 'cause you know, we are the Good Guys.

I can usually overlook the preachiness because the message pretty much agrees with my own ideas, but, to me, this episode seemed like the Bizarro/mirror version of Brave New World, "where citizens are engineered through artificial wombs and childhood indoctrination programmes into predetermined classes (or castes) based on intelligence and labour" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World#Plot ).
IDK, maybe it's because I come from a family of women who get pregnant too easily, and I have long thought it's barbaric/sexist that we still don't have babies via artificial wombs.

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2 hours ago, Pop Tart said:

When Stevie came into that hotel room I thought sure Dmitri had given her some coded message (that the CIA couldn't figure out) in his letter and was going to meet her there, so at least we didn't have that.

Same. And I doubt this is the end of it; it would seem very random to bring the character back up (not to mention hire the actor) for a one-off B-plot.

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My question is, how did POTUS manage to make ethical choices in the approx five or six years his administration existed before he brought an academic ethicist on board. Of all of the bizarre uses of Henry and random tasks he's somehow been the only candidate for, this is the weirdest.

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57 minutes ago, innocuouspuff said:

My question is, how did POTUS manage to make ethical choices in the approx five or six years his administration existed before he brought an academic ethicist on board.

Or, all the previous presidents, in the 240+ years before Tim Daly needed a job, and his employers needed to reaffirm the fact that no matter how high a woman rises, her husband is really the boss?

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I hate Henry being in the meeting.  I hate Henry working at the whitehouse.  Elizabeth is Secretary of State, and she doesn't need her husband telling her how to do her job, or around to keep her in line.

Now onto the other things I hated:

Instead of gardens, how about a straight out apology from Japan for bombing Pearl Harbor?

Instead of rounding up pregnant women along with other human traffickers in a bid to get aid money from the USA, how about Laos arrest and prosecute real human traffickers because it's the right thing to do?

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20 hours ago, BuckeyeLou said:

I really did not understand why the VP's daughter went to Laos, of all places, to find a surrogate?  I admit to feeling a lump in my throat when Stevie read the letter from Dmitri...

It sounded like in Laos it is cheaper to get a surrogate, probably because it is illegal? But that is actually super sketchy. And how does that even work? Did they go to Laos to have their eggs implanted? Did she come to the US and then they flew her back? If I was going to have a baby via a surrogate, I would want the surrogate near me.

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4 hours ago, Netfoot said:

Or, all the previous presidents, in the 240+ years before Tim Daly

Thinking back over 200 years of slavery, Japanese-American internment camps in WWII, etc. etc., I think maybe the POTUSs should have an ethics adviser.
I just want them to be in line with my sense of ethics, LOL.
I was really disappointed that Henry didn't point out that the way the Veep's daughter and son-in-law were taking advantage of Alia's poverty to use her body wasn't much different than the traffickers—and that while the Laotian government may be wrong to imprison the pregnant young women, perhaps the Laotian government should have locked up the Veep's daughter. That would have been an interesting episode. I wonder how Bess would have responded.

 

6 hours ago, Emma9 said:
9 hours ago, Pop Tart said:

When Stevie came into that hotel room I thought sure Dmitri had given her some coded message (that the CIA couldn't figure out) in his letter and was going to meet her there, so at least we didn't have that.

Same. And I doubt this is the end of it; it would seem very random to bring the character back up (not to mention hire the actor) for a one-off B-plot.

Yeah, all that crossed my mind too. *plaintively* Why??

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13 minutes ago, shapeshifter said:

Thinking back over 200 years of slavery, Japanese-American internment camps in WWII, etc. etc., I think maybe the POTUSs should have an ethics adviser.

Yes, but given Henry's record (repeatedly screwing over Dmitri, etc) what makes his sense of ethics something that the administration should pay attention to?   And how is this supposed to work?  Is Henry permanently attached to Dalton at the hip now?  Does he attend every meeting, and weigh in with his tuppence every time POTUS opens his mouth to speak?

The entire Thomas Aquinas Advisor  plotline is nothing more than a very stupid mechanism for giving Daly's character social and political standing greater than or equal to The Little Woman.

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3 minutes ago, Netfoot said:

Yes, but given Henry's record (repeatedly screwing over Dmitri, etc) what makes his sense of ethics something that the administration should pay attention to?   

ITA—that Henry's treatment of Dimitri was the worst kind of ethics—but I prefer to think of the Henry who we saw in the Dmitri arc as Henry's evil twin. 
So I at least wasn't surprised when Dmitri showed up again after Henry had bupkis to say about disadvantaged young women being used as human incubators.

What did surprise me was seeing on Reddit an exclamation of delight over the return of Dmitri. It takes all kinds, I guess. And I suppose star-crossed lovers is a guaranteed fan favorite.

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18 hours ago, mwell345 said:

Why is it every time I see Henry sitting at the table with POTUS and the rest, I think about the little boy who is finally allowed to sit at the grown-ups table?  To me, he just looks out of place.

It would have made much more sense if Conrad talked to Henry after the meeting to get his ethical opinion on it, since, uhhhh, that level meeting is not something an adviser to the president needs to be in. He could get some cliffnotes afterwards from the president, but he doesn't need the full briefing

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Ethics are tricky.  Everyone thinks their ethics are the correct ones.  The President is supposed to make decisions for the good of the country.  When a country is trillions of dollars in debt, I would say they should stop sending billions of dollars to other countries because they can't afford it, and they are bankrupting their own tax paying citizens in the process.

10 hours ago, shapeshifter said:

I was really disappointed that Henry didn't point out that the way the Veep's daughter and son-in-law were taking advantage of Alia's poverty to use her body wasn't much different than the traffickers

Which is one of the many controversial things that was brought up when surrogates first started being used - poor women, being forced by circumstances, to have babies for rich couples.

Edited by TigerLynx
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I realized that one of the things that bugs me about Henry being the ethics advisor is that he is superseding Elizabeth in some ways: the reason Conrad picked her, and the reason she is now being acknowledged as a POTUS candidate is because she has a moral compass and strong ethics. Having her husband come in to validate the Right Thing to Do is once again undercutting Bess's character and agency.

And it's quite clear that people in power are drawn to her because she offers them the choice to act their best: Conrad relies on her and the VP came across as a true leader because Bess TOLD her to take responsibility and stand up. If it comes down to Bess/Hurst in the campaign, they could do some really good compare & contrast. 

And yes, there was a HUGE blind spot of white/rich people privilege in not addressing the use of foreign women as baby incubators for Americans (and well-off Europeans). Usually one of Bess's staff at least plays devil's advocate with: what about the people who are getting the short end of the stick? But not this time.

That said, I rather liked the conversation in the Japanese garden in which Bess comes up with a strategy. Henry and Bess talking like both husband and wife and best friends is definitely the best use of Henry.

And Blake rises to the occasion yet again with the Japanese billionaire. (And it was a nice moment when he saw the bench). I'm very curious to see where Blake's next role takes him. He's VERY good at protocol, and understands how it makes diplomacy work. I wouldn't mind seeing him return to that area.

Please let this be the end of Dmitri/Stevie! They've made it QUITE clear they are never to contact each other again. Let's just call this "closure." PLEASE?

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45 minutes ago, kwnyc said:

I realized that one of the things that bugs me about Henry being the ethics advisor is that he is superseding Elizabeth in some ways: the reason Conrad picked her, and the reason she is now being acknowledged as a POTUS candidate is because she has a moral compass and strong ethics. Having her husband come in to validate the Right Thing to Do is once again undercutting Bess's character and agency.

This is an excellent point. I think this is part of what annoys me about Conrad suddenly deciding he needs Henry to guide him through doing the right thing - Bess and company have all been out here trying to do the least harmful thing since season 1. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they didn't. But they were working at it. Now after all that, Henry shows up in his pontification jacket, with no previous stakes in the issues just fancy degrees, and is the one to be listened to on ethics? Come on. Bess at least was underqualified but adorably (over)invested - Henry's whole detached, I'm an expert on the troubles of poor Lao women because I studied philosophy in my ivory tower vibe I found so uncomfortable to watch this week. It was cuter when it was random bits of wisdom in the kitchen. But suddenly Conrad is particularly impressed by those degrees? *shrug*

Edited by innocuouspuff
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I realized just now that since Conrad was a Viet Nam vet, he might have fought in Laos. And it would have been particularly powerful to see him back there...but for show purposes, I guess it was better to have the character who was more invested now (the VP) to go. And I do like Jayne Atkinson in the role. She's another of the really strong NY stage actors who enhances the supporting cast. (We never did hear what happened to poor Delgado, Conrad's former Veep, who had serious health issues and had to drop off the ticket).

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10 hours ago, kwnyc said:

And yes, there was a HUGE blind spot of white/rich people privilege in not addressing the use of foreign women as baby incubators for Americans (and well-off Europeans). Usually one of Bess's staff at least plays devil's advocate with: what about the people who are getting the short end of the stick? But not this time.

I found some other blind spots as well.  Human trafficking goes on in the USA to.  Rather than actually taking action, real action, to deal with the problem, this was a publicity stunt.  It didn't help any of the women who are still sex slaves around the world.  Building gardens, and foreign aid or revoking foreign aid are optics, nothing more.

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14 hours ago, kwnyc said:

I realized just now that since Conrad was a Viet Nam vet, he might have fought in Laos. And it would have been particularly powerful to see him back there...but for show purposes, I guess it was better to have the character who was more invested now (the VP) to go. And I do like Jayne Atkinson in the role. She's another of the really strong NY stage actors who enhances the supporting cast. (We never did hear what happened to poor Delgado, Conrad's former Veep, who had serious health issues and had to drop off the ticket).

Optics, too - having the president go there when he had no personal stake in it could be a reward for Laos failing the report

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How can Blake solicit charitable donations as a federal employee?  Doesn't that violate a whole bunch of laws and regulations?  

I know that the adult child of a VP or POTUS can refuse Secret Service protection, but wouldn't any nation be aware that a relative of such a high US government official was in their country?  Or that the daughter of the US VP had entered into a surrogacy arrangement with one of their citizens?  It would have been more believable if it was the daughter of the VPOTUS's second cousin, or the daughter of her college roommate.  

I wish the show had kept Henry as a college professor.  I would find that a lot more interesting than these contrived plotlines to get him in the White House scenes.  And purely for political reasons, Henry should be kept out of Elizabeth's sphere.  Otherwise when she runs, "she can't do it on her own" will become a campaign issue.  

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"She can't do it on her own" is the agenda that TPTB have been pushing since about episode three of the first season!  Also, "Anything you can do I can do better" and "You may be special, but I am specialer."

Believe me I am no feminist, but it grinds my nuts to see the continued efforts by TPTB to drum into our brains the fact that a strong woman requires a stronger man to become a success.

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On ‎11‎/‎21‎/‎2018 at 1:46 AM, bros402 said:

Optics, too - having the president go there when he had no personal stake in it could be a reward for Laos failing the report

That's all foreign aid is anyway.  The money doesn't go to the people in the country who need it.  It goes to the corrupt governments who screwed up the country in the first place.

In this instance, the people who benefited from Elizabeth's and the VP's intervention are the rich couples in the USA who hired the poor surrogates.  Most likely the Laos government confiscated the money paid to the surrogates so they got nothing.  The people being human trafficked are still being abused.  The rich, the powerful, and the corrupt got rewarded.  The people who actually need help got nothing.

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10 hours ago, TigerLynx said:

That's all foreign aid is anyway.  The money doesn't go to the people in the country who need it.  It goes to the corrupt governments who screwed up the country in the first place.

In this instance, the people who benefited from Elizabeth's and the VP's intervention are the rich couples in the USA who hired the poor surrogates.  Most likely the Laos government confiscated the money paid to the surrogates so they got nothing.  The people being human trafficked are still being abused.  The rich, the powerful, and the corrupt got rewarded.  The people who actually need help got nothing.

yuup

even the NGOs who go to wartorn countries to help have to bribe people to get through

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On ‎20‎.‎11‎.‎2018 at 10:21 AM, kwnyc said:

I realized that one of the things that bugs me about Henry being the ethics advisor is that he is superseding Elizabeth in some ways: the reason Conrad picked her, and the reason she is now being acknowledged as a POTUS candidate is because she has a moral compass and strong ethics. Having her husband come in to validate the Right Thing to Do is once again undercutting Bess's character and agency.

That was what I was concerned about the moment I read that particular spoiler. I had hoped that it would turn out differently but unfortunately, it doesn't seem to.

 

On ‎21‎.‎11‎.‎2018 at 2:46 AM, bros402 said:

Optics, too - having the president go there when he had no personal stake in it could be a reward for Laos failing the report

But Bess said to Henry that the US can't apologize officially. I don't know how Hurst did it but if Conrad had gone, it would have been a state visit and a lot more formal and official.

 

On ‎19‎.‎11‎.‎2018 at 11:21 AM, Pop Tart said:

I didn't think the politics of the surrogacy story made sense. So the VP leaked about her daughter and son-in-law's connection to one of the imprisoned surrogate? Right? Which I would think would be very bad politics, and Bess thought so too, that it would damage her chances to be POTUS. That made sense to me (not why the VP leaked it, but that it would damage her politically). What didn't make sense was that her going to Laos to talk about the situation and kinda-sorta apologize for the US bombing Laos during the Vietnam War was going to somehow make things better for her politically? 

I thought that was a little ridiculous as well. They said it made her more likeable but a) I don't think that this one issue/performance is going to erase the negativity, b) it's not like Conrad and Russell are suddenly going to throw their support behind her and c) one leak and the world knows that Theresa Hurst did not lift a finger but that Bess was the one who did it all. As a matter of fact, I highly doubt that the US media didn't already know it. It's the kind of thing State does and it certainly isn't the kind of thing that the VP does. I find it hard to believe that anyone believes that the VP had anything to do with the negotiations.

And then we didn't even get the satisfaction of seeing Conrad find out that Hurst was the leaker and strong-armed him into making that move? I think that would have made the episode much better, if about half-way Conrad had found out (and reversed course.)

 

I really wanted to like this episode but they didn't make it easy. There were too many things that didn't work out for me. Henry being in the meeting for one thing. Henry's ethics, too. The episode felt disjointed and the A-plot felt forced. Maybe it will be better when I watch the episode again because I know what's coming but I expected Conrad to reverse course for some reason or other or the other countries to insist on going forward with the coalition anyway. I think that would have been great, if they had informed the US that they planned to go ahead. I would have loved to see the reactions to it. Conrad could hardly have said no and it would have added a whole new level of interest. 

Normally, I like the occasional episode when the cards seem to be stacked against Bess because sometimes that's just how it is (and probably more often than we see on the show) and I like how she navigates to a solution. But I didn't enjoy this episode because it seemed to designed to make Hurst a more serious challenger and not to show how Bess finds a solution anyway and that didn't work (for reasons stated above). I also don't think they needed it. I considered her a serious enough challenger anyway.

Going back to the ethics thing: Bess said the coalition seemed possible, so Henry says the more ethical thing would be to focus on 36 women instead of all of them? I'm so not buying that. Focusing on the 36 women is clearly putting one's own interest above everyone else's and last I checked that was called selfishness and neither the more ethical or moral thing to do. 

A small detail but Bess was the one who sort of pushed Henry to tell Stevie about Dmitri and he didn't bother to mention it.

And another small detail but does Bess have to wear that sweater cardigan that looks like it could be her father's rather than hers? I did like the jacket she was wearing in the Japanese Garden though.

I laughed when Henry said "once CIA, always CIA". Dude, you were CIA for like five minutes. I never thought I'd say this but could they please let him work for the NSA again? I'm sure there are plenty of religious people left that he can spy on.

That said, I did like the B-plot and I think everyone's acting was way above the writing in this episode. Even though the story didn't feel organic, I thought that the characters interactions did, especially Bess and Jay and Blake and everyone he acted with. And, of course, Bess and Henry. Those scenes saved the episode for me and they're scenes I'd certainly rewatch.

I love it when Blake finds his confidence and I loved it even better when he returned the watch. That was unexpected and awesome! And I think I only got half of what Blake said in the scene with Matt and Daisy but I loved that one, too.

I expected to see the Japanese guy meet Bess. It seemed to be important but apparently, it was only important to him.

Wasn't the Potomac Lodge a run-down motel the first time around?

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23 minutes ago, CheshireCat said:

everyone's acting was way above the writing in this episode.

I agree with this^^, but the A plot was such a total anathema to me that I almost wish the actors had not sold it.

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Ugh! I love Henry but Henry in that room was so out of place. Stay home and be the Stevie Whisperer Henry! That is what you do best!

I so do not want Stevie and Dimitri round 2 but their story did give me the cutest Bess and Henry moment so I was cool with it. That bit where Bess, being typical Bess gets carried away and asks Henry if he would try to find her if they were star crossed lovers was absolutely adorable! I have had the same conversation with my husband many times.

***

"Well that's love. It's uncomfortable for everyone who's not in it with you."

That was gold from Henry.

If anyone can get me the accurate quote I would be ever so grateful! I was going to go back and jot it down but then I accidentally deleted the ep! 

Edited by Mellowyellow
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8 hours ago, Mellowyellow said:

. . . I so do not want Stevie and Dimitri round 2 but their story did give me the cutest Bess and Henry moment so I was cool with it. That bit where Bess, being typical Bess gets carried away and asks Henry if he would try to find her if they were star crossed lovers was absolutely adorable! I have had the same conversation with my husband many times.

***

"Well that's love. It's uncomfortable for everyone who's not in it with you."

That was gold from Henry.

If anyone can get me the accurate quote I would be ever so grateful! I was going to go back and jot it down but then I accidentally deleted the ep! 

 

Actually, the "that's love" line was from Henry to Stevie:

[Stevie] Look, I know that it seemed shady with the secret Potomac Lodge rendezvous, but we had something real.

[Henry] Well, that's love.
It's uncomfortable for everybody who's not in it with you.
When I spoke to him, he basically said the same thing.
 

The Henry-Bess dialog was:

[Henry] he took a big risk to make sure that Stevie was okay.

[Bess] It's kind of sweet.

[Henry] It was reckless.

[Bess] Oh, you'd do the same.
If you were a former Russian double agent exiled to the tundra, concerned for my safety, but unable to contact me directly (LAUGHS)

[Henry] Don't make it sound like an airport novel, okay? But, yes, absolutely.

[Bess] Yeah.

[Henry] No question.

 

But, @Mellowyellow, I see no reason why you should not feel free to fan-fictionalize the dialog so that the love line is included in the lines between Henry and Bess.

Edited by shapeshifter
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I didn't catch that when I first watched the episode but apart from the fact that it's a very sweet thing to say, I think it's great that Henry, as the father, is showing so much understanding for something most TV Dads (and possibly many real world Dads, too) would only have rolled their eyes at. Part of the reason why I love this show, because they do the family/relationship so differently and let the obstacles not come from the relationship but from outside circumstances.

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