Episode 102: “To Whom It May Concern”
It’s the end of the month and performance review time for the Dead Letter Office’s team of Postables. During Oliver’s tenure as section leader he has consistently earned the highest scores of anyone, but this time, Theresa is determined to dig into Oliver’s mind and learn how he makes the team so effective. The end of the month is also ‘Impossibly Ripped and Mangled Day’ and this month’s most ripped and mangled letter is also postmarked 4 years ago. Having worked through lunch, Shane convinces the team that this investigation is best handled over dinner.
Grabbing a bite to eat at the Mailbox Grill, Rita brings up her utter amazement at the teams new supervisor, Theresa Capodiamonte. Despite all of Theresa’s postal accomplishments, she’s still working to pursue her dreams of becoming a stage performer. She’s even landed a small part in a local production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Rita is clearly inspired by Theresa’s moxie, but she’s not yet ready to openly share her dreams with the other Postables. Norman’s vivid dreams about cheese with feet does however provide the perfect segue for the team to get back to the investigation at hand. Oliver pulls a torn and tattered piece of paper from the equally mauled envelope and finds a letter reading:
“To Whom it May Concern,
My name is Samila I am eighteen years old and I live in Seattle, Washington. I have tried everything – I’ve called all your official phone numbers, I’ve checked all sorts of online websites and searched dozens of archives but nothing has worked, so I am turning to you, whoever opens this, and I am hoping you will care enough to help me. I am trying to find the man who saved my life and changed it forever.”
Accompanying the letter is a request for military service information along with a personal card addressed to ‘Buzz.’ The letter has piqued the team’s interest, and citing Oliver’s belief in miracles and making a difference, Shane volunteers to see the letter is delivered to the US military.
Oliver and Shane head to Ft. Platte where they meet with the Public Affairs Officer, Capt. Hopper. After explaining the situation surrounding the letter, Capt. Hopper points out that his office gets similar requests all the time from Vets looking for old buddies and ex-wives looking for money. The Captain thanks Shane and Oliver for doing their duty and throws the documents into a large stack of papers labeled “SEARCHES.” As Oliver tries to mention the personal card accompanying the letter, Shane interrupts him, sliding the letter into her bag, thanking the Captain for his time and making a hasty retreat. Oliver quickly follows, clearly disturbed at Shane’s disregard for rules and regulations. He confronts Shane about her actions to which she counters that she would rather put her faith in Oliver’s ability to find “Buzz” than leave it in a pile of bureaucratic red tape.
Back at the dead letter office, Oliver, Theresa, and the team open the letter…
“Dear Buzz. This is Samila. Sammy. I hope you remember me, because I’ve never forgotten you. I have so many things to thank you for. But first, I guess I should thank you for the socks…”
Now we learn that Buzz was a soldier serving in the Kamdesh District of Afghanistan. While opening a care package from his mom, Buzz encountered a young girl named Samila. The friendly soldier offers the little girl a pair of handmade socks to which she repays him by offering him a traditional Afghan hat. The hat belonged to Samila’s father and was the only thing she had left of him. Over the coming months Buzz taught Samila to read and even worked with her to start a small school where they taught other Afghan children to read. All that came to end however when the Taliban launched a mortar attack, destroying the school, wounding Samila, and forcing the soldiers to abandon their post. Buzz rescued Samila from the attack, staying behind while placing her into a waiting helicopter.
In the letter Samila says she remembers very little after Buzz put her in the helicopter. However, Samila did make it to America and became a student in Buzz’s home state of Colorado. A quick internet search revealed that Samila is a college senior and is graduating this weekend. The Postables take their “license to deliver” and head out to find Samila.
At the university, the team finds a Samila working in the library. She sits with the Postables and shares her memories of Buzz. Besides being kind, Samila remembers the amazing brownies his mom sent every month. Everyone loved them and gave them a nickname, “Peg’s Practically Perfect Brownies!” As it turns out, the Postables had investigated and rerouted a box of Peg’s Brownies before. The owner, Peg Parker, began her brownie company to honor her son who served in Afghanistan. And thanks to Rita’s photographic memory, the team is now hot on the trail. But there is one problem…Peg started her company to “honor her son,” leaving the team to fear that he may no longer be alive.
After tracking down Peg, the team learns that “Buzz’s” real name is Benjamin. And while she never thought she would say it about her own son, Peg has no idea where he is. Peg goes on to describe the man her son became after his tour of duty. She said he was restless and would disappear for days at a time until one day he didn’t come home. He called once for his mom’s birthday but when she asked where she could send him some brownies, he paused before saying, “Don’t. I don’t deserve them.” He hung up the phone and that was the last time Peg spoke to her son.
With some help from Capt. Hopper the team is able to track Buzz down to a ministry for homeless vets. They also learn that he was awarded the Purple Heart, but left the award in a VA hospital before falling of the grid. Feeling that they may be close to finding Buzz, Oliver and Shane head to the ministry where they meet Pastor Perry who points them toward a disheveled and unkempt man pushing a cart of flowers through the pews. When Oliver calls him Buzz the man stops moving and immediately looks up. He, Shane, and Oliver take a seat in a pew where Oliver hands Buzz the letter from Samila.
Sitting in a pew, Shane tells Buzz about the young woman whose life he saved. Buzz opens up saying he feels guilty for teaching Samila to read and making her a target. It’s than that Oliver reminds him that his sacrifice gave Samila a better life. Oliver reaches out his hand to Buzz, and after a moment, Buzz takes it.
Now that they’ve found Buzz, the Postables must overcome the problem of turning a homeless man into a cleanly shaved and well-dressed gentleman. Quoting John Adams, Theresa reminds the team “There are no problems. Only opportunities in disguise.” With moments to spare, the cleaned up Buzz makes his way into the auditorium, filled with graduates and their families. As Buzz and the team watch, Samila makes her way to the stage to receive her degree and to give the valedictorian speech. Before she starts her speech, she puts out her leg, revealing the red sock she got from Buzz. Samila delivers a moving speech, even crediting Buzz for inspiring her to teach inner-city children. As Samila speaks about the gifts and sacrifices of others she sees Buzz walking towards the dais. Samila runs off the stage and the two share a long awaited and emotional embrace.
Having reunited Buzz and Samila, the Postables rush to make the curtain call at the community theatre. Playing Glinda the Good Witch, Theresa gives the performance of a lifetime. Her performance is so well received that Theresa decides to leave her career with post office and pursue her acting dreams. And in a farewell reminiscent of Oz, the living legend Theresa Capodiamonte wishes the Postables well before taking her final curtain call.