Signed, Sealed, Delivered: To The Altar did this on an insane scale---even more so than Higher Ground, which until this point, held the record for integration from preceding installments. To The Altar incorporated both the extremely obvious, and nuggets for which one had to really be paying attention to dig out, but will no doubt send you back to your DVRs or digital copies to review.
Because most every installment was represented in one or more dimensions, I’m going to have a little bit of fun and “rank” them in terms of their difficulty to identify:
Intern: Easy, surface-level callbacks and references, you caught these your first time through
Mail Carrier: Intermediate, small details eventually caught after multiple viewings, requiring a little bit more thought and application than previous level.
Section Lead: Expert level, sometimes abstract concepts, situations, or lesson applications, built on obscure details or references
Over the next couple of days we’re going to have a little fun identifying all the little callbacks and easter eggs hidden throughout To The Altar. And I invite you to share your own connections and observations in the comments---and even take issue with me if you don’t like particular difficulty level designations on certain items!
Intern - The Pilot was the first time we were introduced to Rita’s outstanding memory, which Shane called on to remember what the letter said about the dress and alterations, which led them to the prayer for Annaliese in the dress.
Much of the Pilot also centered on Kelly & Charlie’s magical day in Washington Park. In To The Altar, Annaliese stated she was living in a therapeutic community in Washington Park.
Mail Carrier- It was the first time Shane pushed the envelope on mail investigations when she confidently declared “I have an idea.” to which Oliver replied, “Oh, Happy Day.” The scene is repeated in To The Altar after Shane offered to find Jessica’s mother. But, like in the Pilot, Shane’s hunch eventually panned out.
If it wasn’t for Andrea confiscating his Mr. Coffee, Oliver never would have made his way to that coffee cart, so it was a nice little callback to see Oliver utilizing a Keurig Machine during his tux fitting with Norman. Only instead of coffee, he opted for tea. How far he has come with technology!
Section Lead- Annaliese’s story of needing to go away for a while to seek treatment is essentially Kelly’s need to do the same in the Pilot, both had to have the courage to ask for help to have hope for a better future.
We’ll never forget Shane returning to the DLO with coffee for Rita, Norman and Oliver at the end of the Pilot. The toast at the end of To The Altar was almost a direct reflection of their “toast” at the end of the Pilot.
Time To Start Livin'
Section Lead- I might be the only one who made this connection, but at the end of Time To Start Livin’, Theresa sung a song that included the line “Spring Will Turn To Fall...in just no time at all.” Interestingly, after being set in Summer, Winter and Spring throughout other installments, To The Altar was the only one seemingly set in the Fall, a deduction made after reviewing the wardrobe throughout the movie. I always suspected that if the series ended, it would do so in the Fall.
While I strongly believe the series is actually a lot further from concluding than I believed even before To The Altar aired, it’s nice to see a certain era in the series simultaneously end and begin in a “new season.”
To Whom It May Concern
Mail Carrier - This was a situational callback that wasn’t lost on anyone, but when Shane “Brazenly manipulat[ed]” Oliver on the sorting floor of the Denver Main Branch by whispering in his ear in To The Altar, it had us thinking back to this series episode in which Shane challenged Oliver in the same way, but on a different subject.
Intern- Soulmates was the first time Shane and Oliver took dance lessons, and in To The Altar, Norman learned a few steps from Ramon during his surprise Bachelor Party.
Mail Carrier- “To everything there is a season...” and Oliver echoed this sentiment, first referenced in Soulmates, once more during his heartfelt toast near the end of the latest film.
Section Lead- “Something of a mysterious woman of fortune who risked her life to do the right thing,” was Mr. Fry’s description of the character Annaliese developed into as Jessica got older. And it was hard to miss the fact the camera was locked on Rita’s face at that exact moment.
Mail Carrier- Getting Norman to get to the point, so sometimes the only effective solution is to implore him to “Think, Norman, Think.” It was particularly urgent in To The Altar because NoRita needed a new florist. But Shane first needed Norman to finish his thought to make the connection between his neighbor and the owner of a local art gallery in The Masterpiece. In both instances, he was able to successfully complete his thought processes to complete the task at hand.
The Edge of Forever
Section Lead - The Edge of Forever was a particularly heavy, emotional episode about a mother and her attempt to restore the relationship between her daughters even after her death. Love was her last gift to her girls.
In To The Altar, Sunny’s last gift to Rita was the Biami Marriage Blanket, which required people to come together to complete it after her passing. Sunny’s last gift of love was waiting for Rita at the altar.
The Future Me
Mail Carrier - The Future Me was also the episode in which Norman & Rita pretended to get marriage license in hopes of tracking down Bobby & Ellie. In To The Altar, Norman and Rita weren’t pretending to get married anymore!
It was no surprise that a marriage proposal quickly followed Oliver’s declaration of “I love you” because, as Ellie so poignantly stated “If you love someone, you marry them, right Shane?” If you’ll remember, Shane replied, “Maybe..someday.” Pondering the “maybe” throughout the film, Shane’s next step to “some day” finally came in To The Altar.
Section Lead- This connection had me literally jumping out of bed on a Saturday morning to write down for fear I might forget because it was so obscure. You might remember that we first learned about Shane’s stint in Robotics Club during her encounter with Glynis Rucker in The Future Me. It seems her robotics skills came in handy once more to rig up Norman’s Bachelor Party surprise. Shane is seen, controller in hand, operating the mechanism that allowed her laptop with Ardis on the screen to rise out of the cake.
And don't forget to keep coming back as we journey through the remainder of the canon! Kind of thinking you might want to go back and review these connections and prepare for those to come. So why don't we pick this up next week?!
To The Altar Callback Challenge: Part I | Part II | Part III