Without a Trace: “Miracle Worker” for your consideration


Did you see “Without a Trace”  last night? I thought it was extraordinary – about a weeping statue in a pub, the people who find it, and an authentic and touching look at sadness, faith, lack of faith, doubt, hope,  love and mercy.

Using the statue (character) of St. Therese, a French Carmelite nun  (1873 – 1897) was so appropriate because she had her own dark night of the soul and is known for this (see below for links to some books about this spiritual and mystical phenomenon that Mother Teresa also lived with for many years.)  This “Without a Trace” episode, entitled “Miracle Worker”, was a story with layers of dark nights for some of the usual characters (especially Jack played by Anthony La Paglia and Samantha played by Poppy Montgomery) and a teenage girl, her uncle and her father. The mercy and rays of light that come from faith and wanting to believe play out in very believable ways. It is a complex episode that was deftly written and rendered. I think this long-running show, now in its 7th season (CBS, Tuesdays, 10pm) deserves thoughtful attention because of its consistently human and catholic themes (little “c” and sometimes big “C”). This episode offers much to talk about around the water cooler – and in sermons and homilies, too.

“Miracle Worker”  is a perfect example of the sacramentality of television and cinema stories: the outward expression of inner realities.

A friend of mine who is a spiritual director told me back in 2002 that she thought “Without a Trace” is a Good Shepherd show: the FBI characters, despite their flaws, go in search of the lost, often at great personal cost.  As they search for others, they search for their own core self, for meaning that transcends their lives.

without-a-trace-season-2There’s one episode that I saved for a couple of years on my DVR: “Revelations” (Season 2, episode 2) , the one with Hector Elizondo as a dying priest who had been a drug addict before entering the seminary. He disappeared just when the organ he was waiting became available. He went to find a family to apologize for his role in the death of their son when they were both on the streets. The delay meant the organ went to someone else – his way of making restitution. You know the writing is excellent when a story like this can be told in 43 minutes – and remembered for years. There is so much mercy in this series. (This episode is available from iTunes (http://www.casttv.com/shows/without-a-trace/revelations/w3kuzy1)

Last night’s “Without a Trace” was Episode 12: “Miracle Worker” . I couldn’t find the entire episode online but there are clips. It may run again on Saturday: http://www.cbs.com/primetime/without_a_trace/

“Miracle Worker”:

Jack Malone: Anthony LaPaglia
Samantha Spade: Poppy Montgomery
Vivian Johnson: Marianne Jean-Baptiste
Danny Taylor: Enrique Murciano
Martin Fitzgerald: Eric Close
Elena Delgado: Roselyn Sanchez


Eddie Gilroy: Thomas Calabro
Amy Gilroy: Hayley McFarland
Angelo DiBenedetto: Tony Cicchetti
Nick: Chris Nelson Norris
Josh Gilroy: Myk Watford
Audrey Salke: Jackie Geary
Luis Ochoa: Christian Barillas
Tommy Nealon: Patrick Gallagher
Paul Shepard: Jeffrey Hutchinson
Remy: Steven M. Gagnon

STORY BY: Tom Donaghy

TELEPLAY BY: Jan Nash, one of the series’ executive producers and Bruce Rasmussen


Here are some classics about “the dark night of the soul”. You can order them from Amazon or the Pauline Book & Media Center nearest you: http://www.daughtersofstpaul.com/bookcenters/index.html


Story of a Soul: the Autobiography of St. Therese


moteresaMother Teresa: Come Be My Light – The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta


darknightjohn1The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross



  1. Rose,

    I have not seen this recent episode yet, but I hope to look at it soon. The Hector Elizondo episode is perhaps my favorite from this fine series. I wrote about it in an article I did a few years ago for a national Vocation Journal. That episode served to remind me just how powerful a tool for goodness the media can be.

    Thanks for pointing this out.



  2. Speaking of dark nights of the soul and redemption, have you seen the John Huston movie adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood”? I thought it was quite faithful to the story.

    In my opinion, an excellent candidate for a future Bible Night.

  3. I have a copy! I found the video by miracle but have not yet seen it. Flannery O’Connor is one of my greatest inspirations. Thank you.

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