Two episodes of TV drama series on the same night showed a mature, thoughtful understanding of romantic relationships.

Image from 'Foyle's War: Broken Souls"

Last night two episodes of TV drama series presented the same, mature, laudable point of view on the moral way to deal with romantic relationships. In fact, one could say that each, in its own way, shows a certain tragic sensibility.

In recent episodes of the USA network show In Plain Sight, lead character Mary Shannon’s black-ewe sister, Brandi, has been hovering around Mary’s boyfriend, Rafael, while Mary is hard at work dealing with her duties as a federal marshall working in the witness-protection program. While Rafael recovers from an injury, Brandi helps him out by buying him groceries, driving him to therapy sessions, and the like.

Although she was intially somewhat hostile toward him, Brandi has warmed greatly toward Rafael as she has come to know him better, and in last night’s episode ("Don of the Dead") she pushed the relationship to become physical.

That’s when it became really interesting. Rafael does his best to deter Brandi’s advances, but it doesn’t work, and she persists and increases her efforts. Finally, Rafael tells her that they can’t see each other at all any more, because it’s just a bad idea.

His loyalty to Mary is impressive, as is his wisdom in not allowing this to go any further. One point for Rafael.

Brandi, furious, storms away and later asks her mother, Jinx (no paragon of virtue herself, but a basically kindhearted person trying to muddle through life as best she can), why a man and a woman can’t simply be friends. Jinx points out that Rafael is right: there are always those issues in the background in male-female relationships, and in a situation where one person is pledged to another, thre’s no way a third party can become close to one of them without starting trouble. That’s just the way the world works.

That’s a wisely nuanced and morally astute look at a common real-life situation, and what’s even more impressive about it is that it’s a subplot of the episode, not the main story line. The main plotline also has to do with male-female relationships and beautifully deals with the kinds of sacrifices we sometimes have to make when we truly love another person.

It is a must-see episode.

The interesting coincidence is that on that same Sunday night in the United States, the excellent BBC-PBS coproduced series Foyle’s War included a situation very similar to the nascent and barely averted In Plain Sight triangle.

In the Foyle’s War episode, "Broken Souls," a young English woman whose husband has just come home after escaping from a German prison camp finds herself troubled in trying to resume her relationship with her now disturbed, angry, injured husband. Complicating the situation is the fact that in her husband’s absence, the local POW camp has assigned a German prisoner of war to help her maintain the family’s small farm.

The German soldier, a quite pleasant, likeable fellow, inspires fierce jealousy and suspicion in the newly arrived husband. The husband is certain that his wife has been having an affair with the POW—although the narrative makes it clear (indeed, it makes it as certain as we can ever be about such things) that this is not true. After an angry confrontation between husband and wife, the woman tells the German soldier that she won’t be able to allow him to help out at the farm anymore.

He is disappointed, of course, and she is clearly both saddened and somewhat humialiated by the entire matter. Yet she recognizes—as Brandi Shannon did not and Rafael did in the same night’s In Plain Sight episode—that placing undue strain on a romantic relationship is a very stupid thing to do.

The Foyle’s War episode makes it clear that the decision is a very difficult one for the wife and brings her great anguish, but it also is obvious that it’s the right choice.

Thus two TV series on the same night depicted praiseworthy instances of self-sacrifice in romantic relationships. That certainly goes against the grain of much of what we’ve been taught by both the schools and the culture in the past three decades or so, and it’s just another small indicator of what I believe to be a true cultural tide change.