Virgin River season 3, episode 1 recap – the opening chapter explained

By Daniel Hart
Published: July 9, 2021
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Netflix series Virgin River season 3, episode 1 - When There's Smoke


Episode 1 brings a warm return with our favorite characters returning. Despite the softness in the story, it feels like the beginning of something.

This recap of Netflix’s Virgin River season 3, episode 1, “When There’s Smoke…” contains spoilers.

Read the season 2 finale recap.

It’s only been half a year since the end of season 2, meaning we didn’t have to wait too long. Episode 1 of the third season provides calm, especially after recent dramatic events.

The opening scenes show Jack struggling in intensive care, with the medical staff desperately stabilising him. They have to perform CPR on him using a defribillator. It then flits to a surprise graduation party for Ricky, and Jack is there. He organised it all. Jack runs the BBQ, and Mel is worried about him; she wants him to take it easy. Jack brings up her upcoming birthday, and Mel states she has to work, which confuses Jack, and he insists she does something.

Doc is struggling

Doc has his own health to worry about. With Hope out of town, Muriel keeps checking up on him to make sure he’s okay. It feels like the love triangle ended but still lives in the background.

Doc learns that with his health issues, he could end up permanently blind. A doctor recommends that he starts headhunting a replacement. He’s exploring his options for retirement and is using a woman named Julia to help him. He gets into a small argument with Julia, who tells him medical professionals is a competitive market, but Doc believes the town sells itself.

You have to give it to Doc, he is stubborn, and his love for the town is endearing.

Charmaine has a new man

Charmaine turns up to graduation with her new man Todd. They only met a month ago. Jack is clearly irked by her appearance. Charmaine and Todd are also engaged, which brings a blank expression from Jack.

Low-key birthday

Despite Mel’s insistence on not celebrating her birthday, Jack cannot help himself. I mean, can we blame him? If our loving partner said they did not want to celebrate, we’d probably do the absolute opposite.

So Mel’s birthday arrives, and she isn’t celebrating it. Her mother rings her up, and Mel makes it clear she doesn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Jack shows up to wish Mel happy birthday. Mel tells him she’s going to the clinic which disappoints him — she doesn’t want to get into the reasons. Suddenly, a masseuse arrives, organised by Jack.

Jack also arranges a sushi delivery from another town and Mel is grateful. He tells her that birthdays is the biggest day of the year. Mel raises how birthdays were not big in her family.

The two young lovebirds enjoy themselves

Ricky and Lizzie’s relationship continues — Ricky is still worried about Connie and doesn’t want them to be seen. He’s worried that Lizzie is sent back to LA. Lizzie reassures him that her parents do not want her back home as they have their freedom without her. She tells Ricky if he’s staying, then she’s in no hurry to leave. Later on, Lizzie tells Ricky that his obsession with Connie is ruining everything and storms off.

She’s got a point, to be fair — Ricky frets way too much.

Calvin leaves a message for Dan

Calvin visits Dan on a construction yard and wonders if he’s responsible for flipping Spencer. Dan insists he has nothing to do with the raid. Calvin laughs that the police turned up and they were no drugs and money — he raises how when all the law enforcement leaves, he’ll still be here. Dan is in danger.

Memory problems

Jack visits Doc for a check up and he’s frustrated how he cannot remember who shot him. He’s told that traumatic experiences often cloud memories, and to give it time.

Jack finds Dan chatting up his sister Brie at the bar and tells him to leave. They talk privately in the back. Dan tells Jack that he and Calvin are done and he wants to know that he’s okay. He quickly leaves, knowing that Jack is not in the mood to talk.

The ending of Virgin River season 3, episode 1

Jack arranges a moonlight dinner cruise for Mel, but she tells him he’s done way too much. He feels he has to do something for her when she declines the cruise, so she asks him to meet him at his house.

He prepares her a bubbly bath, and brings her a cupcake with a candle on it for Mel to blow out. It’s an intimate moment for the couple as they share the bath. Jack apologises about the day as he wanted to do the right thing. Mel explains it isn’t his fault and states her mother died before her eleventh birthday, and by her twelfth, her father was so depressed, he couldn’t get out of bed. That’s why she doesn’t like celebrating her birthday.

While kissing, Mel smells burning. The house is on fire, so they both escape. Was it accidental, or is one of the gang members threatening Jack’s life?

Episode 1 brings a warm return with our favourite characters returning. Despite the softness in the story, it feels like the beginning of something.

Village whispers
  • Jack feels something strange is happening with her sister Brie.
  • Playing father, Preacher takes Christopher to camp, and he isn’t happy about it. He wants to stay in town with Connie as he doesn’t know how to make friends. Preacher reassures he will be where when they drop him off. Later, Christopher tells Preacher that he misses his mother. He then offers to get a games console so they can practice Fortnite.
  • Mel is still conflicted about her past; she remembers the family planning she went through. Every time she speaks to Lilly, who is battling life as a mother with Chloe, Mel remembers.

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