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'John From Cincinnati': Faith healer

July 2, 2007 | 10:31 am

Johnc Hey Doctor Smith, welcome aboard. In Sunday's episode, Shaun's doctor from the hospital resigned his post, unable to reconcile the boy's injuries with his lickety-split healing. He was having the de rigeur crisis of faith for a man of science - did he just witness a miracle, as the newspaper proclaimed on its front page?  To try to get a better sense of what's going on with the Yost family, he headed over to the Not-So-OK Corral, the hotel where Butchie lives, and uncovered...well, nothing. Pretty much just a mess of people acting in an irrational way.

On some level it was nice to have a character who is so directly a stand-in for the viewing audience at home.

It's odd to say that nothing happened when, in fact, there were several developments in the episode: John was kidnapped and stabbed by a bunch or border thugs, and Vietnam Joe picked him up and, thanks to a touch of John's own divine intervention, healed the wounds. Filmmaker Cass slept with Mitch, witnessed him levitate, and then started having visions of her own. Linc fired her, afraid that she was buying in to all the miraculous hocus-pocus that surrounds the Yost family. Butchie and Kai hooked up in a scene that might actually have been cute and touching - the misfits finally finding each other - if both of them didn't look like they were in such dire need of soap. And Bill, Ed O'Neill's character, spent minutes (that seemed like hours, frankly) ranting to his birds.

In almost any other show, having several main characters have sex, another one almost die, and still others lose what little of their mental stability is left would be one slambang episode. But in 'John From Cincinnati,' no single action is given any more import than any other. A viewer can't tell what's noteworthy and what's gibberish. We're just along for the ride - but as any beach bum would tell creator David Milch, a wave has to crest eventually.

-- Ann Donahue

(Photo courtesy HBO)