Love might be the synthesis of all our greatest human qualities: fidelity, devotion, loyalty, hope, faith, charity, but, above all, trust. Without trust, what's left?
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To begin, apologies for missing the deadline for last week's blog about "Fool's Gold," an episode that served as a comic glance backward at love's illusions. I had a bout with pneumonia (almost well, thank you!), so I missed reminiscing with you about the incorrigible Flynn and Provenza before their final romp. Featuring the directorial debut of Jon Tenney, with an able assist from guest star Reg Rogers (channeling Gene Wilder), we had a laugh or two over the inability to properly evaluate our dreams, and the trouble, sorrow and downright desperation that results from falling in love with forgeries, fakes and mirages.

Now it's on to sterner stuff.

Love might be the synthesis of all our greatest human qualities: fidelity, devotion, loyalty, hope, faith, charity, but, above all, trust. Love can be watered down by the removal of anything else from this list; it can be stunted and damaged and lessened, but without trust, what's left?

Trust has been in short supply for Deputy Chief Johnson lately. Her boss and former flame has sold her out. The justice system has let her down. There's a leak in her division damaging her career. But let me ask you this, dear reader (as writers of yore would have done), because it's worth a moment's consideration. What is it, exactly, that you trust Brenda to do?

Ah, there's the anxious nerve! When the chips are down, and the game is winding to a close, and the tide turns against her, what will Brenda do? Can you be sure? Let's have a show of hands.

It has been my great privilege to examine Brenda for almost a decade, and though I have no doubt she is on the side of the angels, there are still questions about whether she will end up singing with them. "Drug Fiend" offers hints to her ultimate fate, for those willing to look beyond the plot.

And the plot, fully dramatized by the always-excellent Duppy Demetrius, features one of our worst villains ever. Imagine someone horrible enough to steal drugs from a doctor's office where cancer patients go to receive chemotherapy agents! While it's true -- and most of us have seen this in practice -- that drugs rob people of reason, and deprive them of judgment -- and ultimately make them too untrustworthy to love, I don't believe we've fully considered the depths of depravity average people can realize when drugs are involved. And if we cannot trust our own doctor's office, then what place is safe for us?

Ultimately, if you can be trusted, you can be loved. But can you be loved without being trusted? That's a good question that many people live with every day of their lives. I won't suggest a one-size-fits-all answer, nor will I condemn those who have sometimes fallen short of the mark. Love is also forgiveness and compassion! Can trust, like autism, exist on a continuum? Maybe how you feel about Brenda is part of your own answer. When it comes to trust, I have found her to be something of a Rorschach test. And even people who love her have their issues.

Next week, we are back for a final bow from Frances Sternhagen and Barry Corbin, who have been playing Brenda's parents for the last six years. I will miss Willie Ray and Clay Johnson almost as much as their daughter.

Until then. -- James Duff