BREAKTHROUGH

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NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy

January 2015 – 14-year-old John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) wakes up for school. He lives in Missouri with his adoptive parents Joyce (Chrissy Metz) and Brian (Josh Lucas). He attends a Christian middle school and is well-liked by his peers, but he has always felt insecure about being adopted since he felt his birth mother did not want him, so he often acts distant and aloof.

Joyce has a worship group in the school with other women, but it is interrupted by the new pastor Jason Noble (Topher Grace). He and his group come in for their meeting, claiming to not have seen the sign-up sheet for Joyce’s group on the door. Joyce has had issues with Jason for a while, even though he means well and wants the others to like him.

John’s class has a family tree assignment that he just reduces to a few paragraphs stating how the only family he has ever known were Joyce and Brian. Later, we see John playing basketball, as he is one of the team’s MVPs. He gets into a fight with a kid named Chad (Jordan Kronis), which is broken up by the coach, who then proceeds to remind John to bring his grades up.

At home, Joyce tries to talk to John in his room, but he chooses to keep to himself. Joyce then has a flashback to a young John crying on his birthday due to his feelings of abandonment.

Come Sunday morning, the family goes to church where Jason does the sermon. He tries his darndest to appeal to the whole congregation, young and old. Afterward, he tries to talk to the Smiths, but besides Joyce finding him to be a pest, John finds him corny for trying to relate to him, but Brian is polite to him. They then go to a basketball game which is won thanks to John. He later goes to have a sleepover with his friends Josh (Isaac Kragten) and Reiger (Nikolas Dukic).

The next day, on Martin Luther King Jr Day, the boys go to play on an icy lake. The manager of a nearby diner orders them off or he will call the police. John gets a text from his mom when he suddenly falls through the ice, as do Josh and Reiger. The manager sees and calls for help. Firefighters race to the scene to rescue the boys. Josh and Reiger have pulled themselves out, but John has gotten knocked under and hasn’t resurfaced. Officers pull the boys off the ice while two firefighters head in to recover John. When it seems like they have to turn back, Tommy appears to hear a voice telling him to go back to help. As he does, he manages to pull John up. He is taken to the hospital where doctors try to resuscitate John, but they cannot detect a pulse.

Joyce is told about the accident and she rushes to the hospital. Dr. Sutterer (Sam Trammell) gives Joyce a chance to say goodbye. She wails over John and begins to desperately pray to God to save her son. And then, a pulse is detected. The doctors run in and are stunned. While this is a good sign, Dr. Sutterer recommends to Joyce that she send John to a hospital with better equipment. He then goes back home where his daughter Abby (Maddy Martin), who is John’s classmate and crush, asks about John’s condition. He isn’t sure what to tell her and doesn’t want her to get her hopes up.

John is then transferred to be under the care of Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert), an expert in cases like John’s, and the boy is put in a medically-induced coma. He tries to be real with Joyce, but she is confident that John will pull through.

Tommy is told about John waking up by his chief. He mentions hearing the voice telling him to go back and says he thinks it was the chief, but it is suggested that it was God. Tommy then admits that he doesn’t believe in God.

Other people from school and church start to show support. John’s story even becomes local news. Jason once again tries to befriend Joyce, and although she is more distressed by John’s situation, she starts to gradually soften up to him. At one point, Joyce is holding John’s hand and claims to feel him squeezing her hand. Jason takes his other hand and they start to ask John basketball questions to get responses, and they each get different squeezes. They try to show Dr. Garrett, but nothing happens. At home, Jason tries to assure his kids that John will wake up due to God’s help, but his wife worries that if John doesn’t survive, the kids will question their faith.

Joyce hardly ever leaves John’s side. She becomes hostile toward the doctors and nurses, as well as other parents, when they suggest that John may not wake up. Her behavior even makes Brian spend time away from the hospital, as he cannot cope with seeing John like that, but also with how Joyce is handling everything. She claims that if it weren’t for her, John could have died. Joyce and Brian fight before he leaves again.

Joyce then goes to the roof of the hospital and prays again. She realizes she cannot control the situation and will leave it in God’s hands, surrendering herself to His will. She apologizes to Brian, but the two then look out the window of John’s room to see John’s classmates and other citizens gathered to sing for him. His parents then see a tear rolling down his cheek.

Joyce and Brian are told by Dr. Garrett that the drugs they have been giving John to help him wake up may be doing more harm than good. The two make the decision to stop the treatment and let John try and wake up on his own. After taking him out of the coma, the doctors gather for whatever happens next. John then starts to have a violent seizure before he is sedated. Joyce speaks to John to try and get him to hear her. In John’s head, he sees himself still underwater. He swims to the surface, which parallels with him actually waking up. He opens his eyes and breathes, needing his vision to adjust. He speaks to his mom, and everyone is overjoyed. Joyce texts John’s friends, and soon everyone at school hears the news and cheers. His friends visit him at the hospital and tease him when Abby comes in.

John returns to school, and while most are elated for him to be back, he does have an odd feeling about him. His teacher tells him about how her husband died of an aneurysm in his sleep and wonders to John why God chooses to save some and not others. Other kids mock him for surviving his brush with death. He rides his bike to the lake where he meets Tommy. He thanks him for saving him, and Tommy says that he didn’t believe in God until all of the recent events.

The Smiths go onstage for the next Sunday service, where John and Joyce give tearful thanks to everyone for their support. Jason then gets everyone to stand and show that they have all prayed for John’s recovery.

The ending text states how the Smiths still live in Missouri and have a good relationship with Pastor Jason. John plans to pursue a life in the ministry while also coaching basketball. We then see photos of the real Smith family and Jason.


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In 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through an icy lake and seemingly drowned. His mother Joyce prays for his survival, and he slowly begins to recover. Joyce relies on her faith to keep John alive, while ignoring anyone who suggests that John may not make it.

Joyce realizes things are out of her control, so she leaves everything to God. After the doctors take John out of a coma, he manages to wake up. While having a touch of survivor's guilt when considering how God saves some but not others, he eventually sees that everyone prayed for his recovery and he is able to reconcile his feelings.