In this episode we hear the backstory behind the creation of Whit’s End. It’s the first flashback episode and in it we are introduced to Whit’s late wife, Jenny. It makes sense that this story would come from Whit’s best friend, Tom Riley. After all, when Connie hears it she comes to the conclusion that Whit is an “incredible man.” I doubt Whit would have wanted to brag about how he heroically saved the Fillmore Recreation Center from being replaced by a shopping center/video arcade.
We already knew Whit was a renaissance man but now we find out he used to be teacher in addition to his many other professions. It’s nice to know there are always things we can learn about him. Mr. Glossman sounds quite slimy as he critiques Jenny’s stance on the center but, as Whit says, his arguments are sound from a business point of view. And considering Officer Harley’s hilariously weak defense of Fillmore where he says that most juvenile crime is perpetrated by young people, it’s clear Glossman is going to win the debate unless something drastic changes.
The scene with Jenny and Whit as they reminisce in the hospital is emotionally touching. From the beginning the audience knows that Jenny will die sometime in this episode but when the characters themselves discover it the sadness is compounded. In the midst of this heartbreaking news they can still enjoy their last bit of time together.
Whit’s grief really sets in after Jenny is gone and flairs up when Tom and Officer Harley visit him. He’s reminded of the very thing he believes led to his wife’s death and so he has a negative reaction to the Fillmore center. It’s an understandable and realistic response but nevertheless it sounds very different from what we have heard from Whit before. Whit says to Tom and Harley not to tell him about his wife because he knew her better than anybody else. Tom agrees, but says it’s too bad that Jenny couldn’t have said the same thing about Whit. This seems like a harsh thing for Tom to say, especially since he isn’t a close friend of Whit’s at this time. One would assume that Jenny thought Whit would eventually come around to her side and support keeping the center open. And if Whit had decided not to save the building, maybe Tom’s statement would have been proved true. But in the end Whit proves to be exactly the man Jenny knew he was.
He visits the old Fillmore Recreation Center one last time, probably to see if he’ll change his mind. Then he meets a young girl who tells him she’s sad the center is being torn down and that all the kids come there to play. Yet, wasn’t it established earlier in the episode that the center is a broken, rundown building that no one really uses anymore? If that’s not the whole story, it seems Mr. Glossman was being slightly dishonest.
After hearing the young girl’s name is Jenny, Whit comes through and purchases the center because he realizes it’s what his wife would have wanted. Glossman protests the deal at first but is forced to vote in favor of it because he based his argument on money. Profit for the city was supposedly his only objective but behind the scenes we now know he was trying to have the land sold to the Webster Development Firm on behalf of Dr. Blackgaard.
This is a touching story about the loss of Whit’s wife and the events that led him to create Whit’s End in memory of her. Some of the details, like the multiple city council meetings and the character of Mr. Glossman, may not seem very relevant to the story Tom is telling at first but they become very important during the Blackgaard saga. The transformation of Whit from a hardened businessman, or an “old grump” as Jenny calls him, to a generous and grandfatherly figure gives the show a nice arc. And any backstory about Whit’s life is always interesting. This episode gets 4 out of 5 stars.