NBC’s “My Name is Earl” is predicated on the spiritual idea of karma–and while it may fall somewhat short of the concept’s traditional Hindu meaning, Earl has doggedly tried, week after week, to right all the wrongs he’d done in his life. Despite the premise, the show is hardly spiritual. Except for last night’s episode.
In it, Earl and his brother Randy return to “The Right Choice Ranch,” a summer camp for troubled boys, so that Earl can make up for having burned down a barn in 1982, earning the brothers a ticket home. Earl is wracked with guilt because, with that act, he had ruined not only his own chance to finish the program and lead a better life, but also his brother’s. But it soon becomes clear that it was Randy, not Earl, who was responsible for lighting that fateful fire. Angry, Earl punishes Randy by turning over to him the infamous “list” of wrongs to be set right.
There was one item on the list that Randy couldn’t complete in his brother’s stead, however. It was a broken promise Earl had made to take his sons to Mystery Fun Land for a day of skee-ball amusement. Grudgingly, Earl accepts, loads the boys into the car, and heads out… only to discover that Mystery Fun Land is no more.
Here’s the “out of the mouths of babes” moment that was a pleasant jolt of human kindness in an otherwise hilarious show. While Earl is crushed that he can’t cross that item off the list because Fun Land is gone, his young son looks at him and says those three healing words: “I forgive you.” Earl doesn’t have to un-do, or re-do, the failed outing, his son explains–he just has to express his remorse and be forgiven. His son crosses the item off Earl’s list himself, a smile on his face.
Re-invigorated, Earl can then return to Randy and take the list back, paying forward the forgiveness he has experienced. It was a reminder that there are many ways to right a wrong.