After being away for work, Olivia returns to New York City and finds her best friend and roommate, Amber, engaged to a guy she’s only known for a few months. Olivia disapproves. Amber is a city girl and a ditz. Her new fiance is a rancher and Amber will be following him to the boondocks. Olivia thinks (rightly) that Amber does not know what she is getting into. In the guise of a “bachelorette retreat,” She takes Amber to a working Dude ranch along with their other best friend, Jason, to give her a taste of what is in store for her. Olivia selfishly does not want to lose her best friend and roommate, but she also is genuinely concerned.
What follows is kind of a hoot. First, the trio arrives at the ranch dressed in New York City’s idea of what is proper ranch wear. It is a cute visual. They are greeted by the ranch owner and his son, played by Christopher Russell. Christopher’s natural fallback position in his roles is laid-back and easy-going. He was perfectly cast in this role as the strong but silent cowboy who is unhappily roped into taking care of the “citidiots” and showing them a good time as well as a taste of authentic ranch life. The “Dude” part of the dude ranch is just until his Dad makes the extra money to pay the back taxes. It’s all wacky fun while the three take on Getting up at the crack of dawn, camping, horse riding, egg-gathering (and breaking), fence repair, cattle herding, barn dancing, wolf and bear avoiding, etc.
To Olivia’s surprise and frustration Amber is game for everything and her enthusiasm never flags. Except when she is attacked in a river by a leech. And who can blame her for that? Cowboy Travis is exasperated but is very good at hiding his annoyance at the situation, and it’s not long before the trio’s good humor and effort earn his respect and liking. The actress who played Olivia really grew on me and had great chemistry with Christopher Russell. Amber and their friend Jason were funny, and Christopher was in his element. And when CR is on point, he is the bomb-diggity.
This was a decent Hallmark script-wise and acting-wise. And it certainly was a tearjerker due to a surprise reveal at the end. But it suffered from a couple of things. First off, the character Emilie Ullerup played, Jenny, a neo-natal intensive care nurse, was naïve and closed-minded. That alone would have made her unsympathetic, but unfortunately her “nemesis” the CFO whose job it was to keep the hospital from failing by cutting expenses and laying off a few senior employees, including her mentor, Alice, was played by Kristopher Polaha. He is possibly one of the most admired and loved of the Hallmark male leads. He is very attractive and sexy as well as conveying strength and gentleness. Those eyes! That voice! Yes, I’m a fan. If the character he played wasn’t quite so likable, reasonable, and so obviously a good guy, It would have made Jenny’s belligerent behavior more relatable and sympathetic.
I also had a problem with the CFO of the hospital romancing a nurse. He is in a position of power over her. She is for all intents and purposes, his employee. He is firing people and deciding whose departments get their expenses cut. It was inappropriate and dangerous for both their careers and reputations. It would have taken one jealous colleague of either of them to cry “favoritism!” to make a whole lot of trouble. What if they got seriously involved and it didn’t go well? Once she jumps into his arms in full view of the whole hospital in the end, she has sealed her fate as far as working with him at the same beloved hospital. So not such a happy ending for one of them. Probably her.
I just don’t know what he saw in her. She was cute looking, but she came across as a spoiled teenager to his mature successful bachelor who could have had his pick of beautiful exceptional women. Why was he even single in the first place?
Trying to end on a positive note, what a treat to see some actors who are now Hallmark regulars in bit parts: Kimberley Sustad as Matt’s sister, and Brendan Zub and Chris McNally as two worried fathers. Of course, Sharon Lawrence as Alice, the focus of all of the angst, was wonderful as always. And speaking of Alice, what was up with Jenny and her cohorts diverting all Alice’s personal Christmas cards to the point she thought she’d been forgotten by all of her old patients? It was for a good cause, I guess, but not very nice in the moment. Nope. Did not care for Nurse Jenny.