They were the words of Jonathan Walker's letter, that, coming from Oliver, sounded like a proposal to Shane that might have been if they made it out alive. Of course, we know they did, and that they were never in any real danger to begin with.
Nonetheless, the pressure cooker of potentially running out of breath in the vault pushed ShOliver's relationship into a new phase---one so subtle, that between the romance of the letters and Shane's breakdown, you probably missed.
What's even more important is that the transition was initiated by Oliver. It's in his words and his actions throughout the episode, that, when tied together, reveal a subconscious, but very obvious, shift in his views and treatment of Shane.
Befriending The Lady Lost In The Crowd-The Friend Phase
One of the brilliant things about Jonathan and Katherine's letters to each other is that they are essentially transformed and recombined reflections of Shane and Oliver themselves.
They met at a coffee cart. By fate, or by accident, Shane and Oliver's world's collided in the most ordinary of ways, placing them on an extraordinary journey. And that's not unlike Jonathan and Katherine. Jonathan had no intention of making his way to Time Square that New Year's Eve, much like Oliver's only reason for being at that coffee cart was because Andrea had stolen his coffeemaker. Yet somehow, from these chance encounters, something extraordinary began to happen over the course of a year.
It's not uncommon for the Postables to read letters without meeting their author or sender at first. So it was particularly surprising that though in a similar situation in the vault, Shane and Oliver stood in for Jonathan and Katherine, their words illustrated by Shane and Oliver's memories of time spent together.
Remember how surprised you were when Oliver thought back to helping Shane climb out the window of the retirement home as Shane read Katherine's words about Jonathan catching her "feeling beautiful?" You were surprised because Oliver had rarely, if at all, revealed any feelings towards Shane that trended towards romantic---and for obvious reasons. But as Shane continued to read Katherine's letters, Oliver continued to recall memories of Shane. Eventually their readings of the letters transformed into a montage inextricably woven together in words and in memories.
"Ladies First"-And So It Began
But it's the quiet moment after their rescue is apparent and they are preparing to leave, that the transition is officially spoken into being. As you'll remember, Oliver's letter to Holly dropped out of his suit jacket. Shane retrieves it, noting Holly's name on the outside of the envelope.
"You forgot this," she whispers. There's a double-meaning embedded in those three simple words. If you're not paying attention, she seems to only be referencing the fact he dropped it. But notice she doesn't say, "You dropped this." The word "forgot" refers to something specific.
What I've neglected to discuss so far, and intentionally so, was the fact that almost immediately after Shane and Oliver found themselves trapped, Oliver began penning that infamous letter to Holly. Throughout the series Holly seems to subconsciously permeate Oliver's thoughts and interactions. In the vault, fully immersed in those letters, Holly doesn't even seem to exist. Notice not once does he reflect on moments or memories of Holly reading those letters. That speaks volumes.
When Shane tells Oliver, "You forgot this," she's really referring to the fact he forgot about Holly during their time in the vault. If only she had known what was going on in his mind throughout the preceding time. It seems to strike a cord with Oliver.
And then he says it:
He could have used a myriad of other expressions to usher Shane out of the vault, but he chose, "Ladies first." At that moment, Oliver speaks a new phase of his relationship with Shane into being. And that change gets reaffirmed in multiple ways moving forward, even as soon as the next day!
We'll discuss those reaffirmations tomorrow. Let's be honest, you need to go back and watch "The Treasure Box" a few more times to make sure you totally follow what I've laid out here before you join me again.
Crazy how a few unassuming lines of dialogue can contain so much gravity. Just more proof of the genius that is Martha Williamson!
From Inside "The Treasure Box,"