After her epic homecoming at the end of Higher Ground, it wasn’t long before Shane had to begin answering this critical question about the nature and trajectory of her relationship with Oliver. Always a standard by which relational health is measured, Shane’s Home Again wardrobe reflected her attempt to define and negotiate the new and complex space in which her relationship with Oliver came to exist. Appropriately, the more defined the space, the more defined the hemlines.
A New Beginning
But it was soon clear there was one area of the past poised to complicate Shane’s relationship exploration in the present---Dale. While completely comfortable calling on Dale’s professional expertise, Shane enlisted Rita to accompany Oliver for what we can only infer were personal reasons. It demonstrated an underlying insecurity with which Shane had yet to fully come to terms where Dale and her relationship with Oliver were concerned, which we got a glimpse of in several contexts throughout Home Again.
Like most abrupt wardrobe shifts, this one was tied to a sudden upset of security and confidence, particularly where Dale and Oliver were concerned.
The Dale Effect
For the good of the case, Shane was willing to utilize all available assets, including “very special agent” Dale Travers. Once suggested, however, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Shane immediately regretted it, sending Rita to accompany Oliver. Interestingly, not only did Oliver fail to clarify for Rita if him and Dale were “ever a thing,” he became extremely tight-lipped when Dale asked him about Shane directly. What’s unhelpful is that Rita chose to excuse herself from the awkwardness at perhaps the exact moment she needed to stay. If a debrief with Shane ever occurred, Rita’s report (or lack thereof) would have done little to ease Shane’s mind. Taken together, it’s plausible this set of circumstances were, in some combination, the triggering event for Shane.
Let’s remember: In moments of conflict, Shane is to modern, black, jackets and zippers as Oliver is to his suits---it's armor in whatever form it appears. In Home Again, it’s only after Dale is called on that Shane’s wardrobe abruptly shifted in a manner that satisfied these exact parameters. Once again, the transformation presented the following day.
The heather gray moto jacket with zippers was a subtle layer of protection that also tied her to Oliver to some degree, both in color and given his propensity for suit jackets. Previously Shane’s clothing would stray almost completely from Oliver’s in light of tension (real or perceived) in their relationship. In this instance, the jacket signaled an attempt to not only protect herself, but to cling tighter to Oliver.
Testing The Limits
As they walked into the office, Shane tested the waters no less than twice in the span of a few minutes. First, she asked about “ruining [Oliver’s] love affair with the English language,” to which he immediately responded, “I can’t imagine you ruining anything.” Shane clearly only meant her comments in jest, but Oliver’s response created a rather infinite “frame” in which Shane could begin to operate, being incapable of “ruining anything” therein.
Perhaps that’s what gave her the confidence to present her “idea” to help Norman. This was the first time Shane consulted Oliver where his father was concerned. Not only did Shane enlist Papa O’Toole, she indirectly drafted Oliver, who, despite his visible reluctance, did not correct or interject at the mention of a meditation space and hanging beads. If there’s one thing more sacred to Oliver than the mission of the DLO, it’s the space in which he pursues that calling. Consenting to its modification in such a manner was a major concession. Shane did, indeed, successfully employ wide powers of discretion as she set her plan to help Norman in motion.
The fact the conversation about “going steady” took place, particularly on the heels of Shane’s offer of hand sanitizer, is important. It’s notable because Oliver initiated it as a response to Shane demonstrating she “know[s] [him] that well.” Despite several attempts of her own to indirectly push the issue of definition with OIiver, it was him that proactively---and directly--- invited Shane to “go steady.” In doing so, he began to erect the structure of the “elegant frame” containing their relationship. More importantly, Oliver revealed to Shane that he “told Dale [they] were ‘a thing.’” Despite his struggle to do so decisively, Oliver indicated to Dale his relationship with Shane was evolving. And while neither Shane nor Oliver knew if being “a thing” was “different than ‘going steady,’” Shane’s subsequent wardrobe choices indicated that clarification went a long way in establishing a sense of security in the relationship on her end.
Filling The Frame
The following day, Shane appeared in a black, tweed, knee length dress with cap sleeves and featuring distinctly feminine A-line fit, an echo of the dress from two days prior, even some black heels. While monochromatic, it was a classic and elegant look. Shane was also without a jacket. In less than 24 hours, Shane’s wardrobe took another sharp shift once more in favor of structure, definition and timelessness. One can only infer it was a result of the progress, however tenuous, made in her relationship with Oliver on the Kellser farm.
“I can book you on a red eye that leaves tonight and returns…”
“As soon as I’m able.”
Shane needed the clarification more for herself than for the purpose of booking his travel. More important than establishing the yet-unnamed frame within which their relationship operated was the reassurance that both remained committed to establishing it. I can’t help but get the sense that, in light of the events of Higher Ground, Oliver was in-tune with the subtle nuance of her statement. Oliver’s quick and direct response indicated that while he initiated the departure as a necessary next step in their investigation, he was committed to returning to Denver (and to her) as soon as possible. This moment served to reinforce a deeper sense of security in their relationship beyond the simple “frame” of “going steady.”
It was perhaps out of this deepened sense of security that Shane was empowered to make an unexpected move in his absence.
Given her response a few days before, it would be hard to imagine that Shane would seek Dale out for assistance on a case. But with Oliver in New York, and the results of her extensive database search regarding the vase yielding less than ideal results, Shane needed to confirm her findings. This led to Shane proactively reaching out to Dale. To reach out was a tangible confirmation of Shane’s increasing ability to operate in her relationship with Oliver from a place of peace, rather than a place of insecurity.
While Shane’s intention was strictly professional, Dale heard the “we” in “now we have to break to the Kellsers” and responded, “You’ll find it---you and Oliver. You’ll do just fine.” While subtle, it had undertones that extended the sentiment to the personal realm in a way that demonstrated Dale’s acknowledgment of Shane and Oliver as “a thing” poised for success in the present and future, in both the professional and personal.
When Oliver returned, both Shane and Oliver did, in fact, equally bear the burden of breaking the news to the Kellsers. On this day Shane’s classic sheath dress borrowed navy from Oliver’s palette, combined with modern cream and brown color blocking from the waist up. They very much complimented each other, a trend that continued at Bistro Ramon, where they gifted Ramon the frame, now painted blue. Always a ShOliver “shipper,” Ramon reflected on the frame as “a world of possibility inside and elegant frame---So very Shane and Ovileer.”
The act of revamping and letting go of the frame can be interpreted as Shane’s acknowledgement of no longer needing to “see what [she] want[ed] to see,” but rather embrace her relationship with Oliver as it exists. Oliver’s responsiveness to her boundary testing and his own attempts to define their relationship created an increasingly clear “frame” within which Shane could begin to envision the “world of possibility” very much capable of becoming reality, no longer needing the tangible object that invoked the same. We got a glimpse of that vision when they returned to the Kellser farm.
Able to save the Kellser farm with funds from the O’Toole Foundation, and Rita and Norman off on their own, Shane and Oliver took the opportunity to continue their discussion about “going steady.” And this time, Shane was ready to make it productive.
Even if Shane hadn’t said a word, her sleeveless, navy blue (or black, depending on which screenshot you observe it in) bodycon dress spoke volumes. Hugging every curve, and requiring a considerable amount of confidence to pull off, the solid hue signaled a woman not only confident in her clothing, but with Oliver.
Fortunately, Oliver was amenable to “no hanging picture frames with anyone but [Shane]” and “no hanging bead dividers without prior approval.” And it wasn’t long before Shane stopped their walk to look Oliver in the eye and declare “when Norman and Rita get married, you have to dance the first dance with me.” Unlike the two previous “rules,” this one projected an expectation into the future and expressed a considerable amount of vulnerability, the kind only a deep-seated peace and security would enable her to speak. She was sweetly rewarded with her own words, “I only dance with you,” spoken back to her, and a kiss to seal the promise.
Determining and embracing the "frame" through which Shane viewed her relationship with Oliver was a complex and rewarding process that took on many shapes and colors. From recognizing and addressing a place of insecurity in her own way, to responding confidently to Oliver's subtle and overt affirmations, Shane turned insecurity and undefined hemlines, to strength and curve-hugging confidence. From this strength she found the words to begin proactively defining her relationship with Oliver for the present, and the future.
Ad-"dress"-ing The Issues,