Last night’s 19 Kids and Counting unexpectedly focused on one of the older children who doesn’t get a lot of screen time on her own: 22-year-old Jana Duggar, the eldest girl. Of course, the only reason the cameras were following her around is because she was going to Michigan to do her missionary work for the Journey to the Heart retreat. Let’s never miss an opportunity for the Duggars to bless everyone else’s lives!
Note: This is Jill posing all saucily, not Jana as I had originally thought. It would seem my wishful thinking had me mixing up the two sisters, because as you’ll learn from this recap, Jana doesn’t actually do anything interesting.
But the whole time that we were watching Jana, who had attended this retreat as a camper, act as a counselor to impressionable young girls, I couldn’t stop thinking about how easy it would be for her to emulate the kids from TLC‘s other guilty pleasure show Breaking Amish and just peace from the Duggar compound permanently. She’d already won half the battle by actually leaving the house, and not in the Duggarmobile!
The producers of Breaking Amish want you to think that these sheltered young adults have shrugged off the constraints of Amish/Mennonite living along with their bonnets and floor-length dresses, and are now cavorting sinfully around New York City. Of course, a lot of the “conflict” on that show is probably faked, but it’s clear that even the suggestion of sheltered kids getting tempted by alcohol and sex is enough to make people tune in. And since the Breaking Amish kids have been lying to us, I want to see one of the Duggars actually go through this same transformation.
Of course, it doesn’t help matters that Jim Bob and Michelle are so encouraging of Jana spending ten days in Michigan. In perhaps the most awkward and obviously set-up shot so far this season, Jana’s parents sit her down to talk about the retreat. (Jim Bob literally opens with, “Jana, I want to talk to you about Journey to the Heart.”) Never missing an opportunity to exert his control over his daughters, Jim Bob says, ”I’m so happy that these are the activities you want to do.”
“We know you’re very capable at doing what God wants you to do,” Michelle adds, and then it gets really creepy: “We’ve trained you all these years, and it makes Mommy and Daddy very happy to send you out as a missionary for Christ.”
All during Jana’s confessionals, I kept searching for hints that she saw this as being freed from the clutches of her God-fearing family. “Going to Journey of the Heart was one of my first times to go, I guess, by myself,” she said. “I knew that I was going to miss my family, but I knew that it was something I would be able to encourage other girls and I think it really ended up working out and it was a blessing.”
Of the actual program, where Jana is counselor to a bunch of girls who come from “troubled homes,” she said that “it’s really getting to those deep heart issues in your life and then working through them step by step.” Creepily, Michelle described this as “a very special time in her life.” I’ll tell you what’s special, the fact that for the first time in 18 years, Jana gets to share a room with only one person. Only one person.
Everyone always assumes that it’ll be Jinger who leaves, especially after she made that comment about how cool it would be to go to the big city. But why couldn’t it be Jana? In my predictions for the Duggar family in ten years, I could easily see Jana playing up her reality TV pedigree to be the next Supernanny or something, but to at least make a life for herself that’s not based on how many babies her vagina can pop out.
I had hoped that some time away from her folks, and seeing that she has more privacy as a camp counselor than in her own home, would be enough to convince her that she needs to fly the nest already. Not to mention that per Michelle’s homeschooling regimen, Jana didn’t get to go to college; she must be itching for some independence, but all she gets is to train to be a midwife, hooray. Just look at that top photo, where she’s posing all saucily for Jessa—she’s having fun. So where are the camp pranks, trying on forbidden outfits, or even sneaking boys in? I’m very disappointed in Jana after this episode.
A commenter on the Free Jinger forums pointed out that we probably can’t count on the older girls to rebel and will have to wait for the middle ones to get worked up enough to leave. Another suggested that Jana’s trips out of the compound are likely more about finding a suitable husband than in quashing any sort of rebelliousness she might have. At the end of the episode, Jana seemed happy to go home. She reflected that she was so used to seeing her parents all the time that “realizing that they weren’t there and I was the only one here, made me miss them.” LIES.