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Tear Jerker / Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

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  • A rather humourous example as well, granted, but admit it — you had at least a small lump in your throat at John's tribute to the frozen Russian space sex geckos.
  • John noting how Sesame Street talks about kids whose parents are in jail. Sesame Street is the pinnacle of innocence and education, but it's also one of the few kids' shows that talk about the issue in a serious and heartwarming light. Thus, it's a red flag if parents in prison are more commonplace.
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  • The show's segment on drones included Congress testimony by 13 year old Zubair Rehman, whose grandmother died in a drone strike:
    Zubair: I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey, and for a short period of time, the mental tension and fear eases.
  • Many of the longer segments are either sad or horrifying when you take the comedy away. Yes, while he does make jokes to alleviate the mood, it doesn't prevent the fact that he talks about real life issues and injustices.
  • The segment about military translators features an interview with one of them named Mohammed, whose extradition process dragged on for years. During this time, Taliban agents murdered his father and kidnapped his little brother. While talking about using his life savings to get his brother back, he has a Freudian Slip and says "father" instead, then notes he wishes he could have saved his father the same way.
  • The fact that Edward Snowden was largely unknown by those interviewed on the street and that the National Security debate had to be framed by dick pics in order to get people to care. While not sad, it's incredibly depressing.
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    • The look on Snowden's face when Oliver plays the interviews showing that the average American has no idea who Snowden is or exactly what he did. At best, they think he's "the WikiLeaks guy"; at worst, they think he outright sold information to our enemies. The meaningful conversation Snowden had hoped to start has been all but lost to the uncaring of the public at large. There's a particular moment when you can see the horrifying realization that he has destroyed his life forever for what looks to him like no apparent reason at all.
  • John does a whole segment about the plights of IRS employees, including how they are unfairly hated for things that are in absolutely no way their fault at all. These poor people have to keep up with uncontrollable instances like 500 changes to the tax code in one year!
  • The clip of the eighth-grade girl from Florida who breaks down in tears while explaining that she can't continue with her favorite subjects because she struggles with the standardized tests is very hard to hear for anyone who has been in a similar position.
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    • Making it worse is that, in the clip on YouTube, there's someone in the comment section of the clip deriding her further, since the girl in question uses American slang for "good" in her speech (saying she 'did good', which is correct American colloqialism for saying she performed well), which the Canadian commenter says makes it obvious why she was kicked out of her classes and failed the state test since she doesn't use proper grammar, as the proper word to use there would be "well".
    • Another girl from Florida while her reaction is not shown also demonstrates just how unrealistic and downright impossible a lot of standard testing goals are as her predicted score of 286 was while the maximum a student can get on the test was 283. In other words she literally had to be more than perfect and as a result counted negatively towards her teacher's evaluation while still getting a perfect score! And this is what happens when you have a formula modeled after livestock reproduction.
  • In the episode on congressional fundraising, clips of congressmen describing it as degrading and embarrassing are interspersed throughout. One woman was even taken out of her first hearing to make phone calls to supporters. The room that they have make the calls in is described as having a foul odor, and the experience as draining. The worst of it is John's interview with Democratic Congressional Chairman Steve Israel, who describes the several hours each day where they have a little phone address book and someone making sure they keep their quota over their shoulder as torture. As Israel describes the little cubicle he makes the calls in, and the repetitive, mind-numbing work of calling a supporter, making polite talk, then asking for their support to several hundred people each day, with no rest, you can slowly see John get honestly upset and saddened at the horrid conditions. When Israel is finished describing it, this is all John can say:
    [beat]
    John: [in a strained voice] ... Oh my GOD that's depressing.
    • Not to mention that congresspeople are forced to do this instead of helping decide important legislation. They have the job to put laws in action, and a large percentage of their time is spent making phone calls.
  • The status of people living in the U.S. territories. Thanks to court decisions made in 1901, which were written by the same guy who wrote Plessy v. Ferguson,note  the territories cannot vote and their delegates in Congress have the same voting power as "a six year old voting on whether or not to go on vacation". In the case of American Samoa, they don't even have American citizenship,note  despite the American Samoa army recruiting station being the most successful in the US in 2014.
  • In the episode about the Brexit, John pleads to not have Britain leave the EU, pulling out all the stops and is frightened at the possibility. He doesn't show, but you can tell. Britain voted to leave the EU a few days later.
    • Even worse, lots of people on the sides of Great Britain and the EU took his jokes completely at face value, viciously insulting him, and the comments section on YouTube quickly devolved into vulgar and crude insults being thrown from both sides, both at John and each other.
  • While talking about sweatshops that The Gap has employed for over three decades and noting how America forgets because they and other companies launch glittery campaigns, John shows footage of girls in sweatshops. These girls lie about their age to get a job and are not allowed to leave until the work is done. The girls from India are no older than twelve yet they hand-sew each shirt or pair of jeans.
  • In his segment on unpaid maternity leave, John plays a clip of a woman who decided it would be best to go back to work just days after giving birth six weeks too early so she could use all of her leave time when the child was well enough to go home. The sheer sadness in her voice as she says, "It was like a piece of me got left in that hospital, and now I have to pretend that I'm okay" is simply heartbreaking.
  • The episode on mandatory minimums ends with the reveal that none of the people it focused on were part of Obama's mass pardon the previous week. While legislation to get rid of the minimums is well on its way, it doesn't apply retroactively, meaning they'll still be stuck serving their blatantly unfair sentences. One offender who had been pardoned tries reading the statement sent to him by the White House, but sobs uncontrollably while doing so.
  • The Sex Ed segment has a clip of the famous kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart giving a speech on how, thanks to abstinence-only sex education, she started to think of herself as an old chewed-up piece of gum that no one would ever want after she had been raped by her captor.
    John: Learning nothing would have been better than learning that.
  • The segment on Public Defenders shows how public defenders, due to being given too many cases to conduct, have no other option except to get their clients to take a plea bargain. What's worse is that in many jurisdictions, people are being charged for a mediocre service, which violates the Miranda Rights.
  • During the segment covering prisoner re-entry, John shares the story of one parolee who was given only a $20 gift card when leaving, which was practically used-up after just their first meal outside of prison.
  • The final two stories covered during their segment on abortion laws.
    • The first story is about a woman who, after informing her nearest clinic that she couldn't make the trip, then asked, "What if I tell you what I have in my kitchen cabinet and you can tell me what I can do?"
    • And the last story is about a hypothetical 13-year-old sexual assault victim who has to travel a long distance to her State's nearest clinic, be overtly denied treatment, and is forced to seek an abortion in a neighboring state. Then John reveals that it's not a hypothetical situation.
      Marva Sadler: In order to see her, I need to put her to sleep. And in order to do that, I need a nurse anesthetist, and because of this crazy law, it is impossible to find people to work for us... She's 13 years old, and she's a victim of rape, and she drove 4 hours from McGowan to San Antonio... and we had to turn her away. And there was nothing I could do to save her. And so now if she has a procedure... and that "if" is huge... she'll have to go all the way to New Mexico. And pay 5,000 dollars. And get there. And spend three days. It'll never happen - we know it won't.
      John Oliver: And at that point, we have sentenced a child to motherhood.
      • He then notes that this particular case is being seen by the Supreme Court in March 2016 - but due to Antonin Scalia's recent death leaving the court at 8 Justices, a 4-4 tie would result in the Texas law that permitted that situation to occur being upheld as legal, though it wouldn't be held as having legal precedent.Update 
  • Hearing the 911 call of a woman who died because the dispatcher couldn't find her despite her giving a perfect description of where she'd crashed her car.
  • "Stoplight," the spoof trailer about a reporter struggling in vain to get his hard-hitting political expose published as the newspaper turns to click bait puff pieces. It causes I Need a Freaking Drink in the newspaper movie reviewers.
  • Police brutality against black people has now become so common that high schools have classes for exactly what they should do if they get a cop's attention. We get to see a couple minutes of one, with close-ups of the students' soul crushing faces.
  • After an epic video Take That! to the entire year of 2016, John blows up a giant sign of it and walks off. Then the music cuts off and we continue watching the numbers burn with the crackling of the flames as the only sound, a spectacularly somber and poignant image to end the show's run in the year.
  • The final credits image after the 2016 election: a pair of bald eagles trapped in a sewer grate with the caption "Metaphorus Apta."
  • In the Season 4 premiere, John does a quick run through all the stuff the show missed between seasons, including that his initial reaction to Mary Tyler Moore's death was relief that the news alert wasn't yet more horrible stuff from the White House.
  • In the episode "Trump vs. Truth", John reveals to the audience that one of Trump's most trusted news sources is Alex Jones's InfoWars. The problem with this? Jones is a Conspiracy Theorist who believes that the Boston Marathon Bombing and Sandy Hook school shooting were staged by the U.S. government to push for tighter gun control laws. Judging from the audience's dead silence during this revelation, as well as the fact that they only let out a half-hearted chuckle when John ruled this impossible since it would result in massive bragging from stage moms, it's fair to say that at least some of them lost loved ones in those very real disasters, or at the very least were horrified that someone could believe something like that.
  • In the episode on kidney dialysis, John explains that when hemodialysis was first introduced to the United States, it was so hard to get a hold of and pay for the necessary technology that American hospitals needed ethics panels to decide who would get to use them. Thankfully, Nixon signing Medicare into law solved this problem, but it doesn't make it any less heartbreaking that there was once a time in this country when people had to decide who would and wouldn't get life-saving medical treatment.
  • One episode focuses on Immigration Courts and how disturbingly broken they are from absurdly long waiting periods mostly thanks to backlog, most people on trial are made to defend themselves, depressingly that includes children as young as two, and many people that desperately need asylum to escape violence were turned down after only a minute-long hearing and two questions (some of which even died after being deported back to their country!). And a lot of chief officers are pretty apathetic about it. With one dishonorable mention going assistant chief of immigration Jack Weil being disturbingly blasé about children as young as three or four being made to defend themselves with no adult help, claiming they are able to understand them... which was immediately disproven a series of YouTube videos depicting mock trials with randomly selected small children which while funny and adorable is disturbing to think would be in a real, serious court setting.
    • Later, in that same segment, Oliver mentions how a woman who fled Honduras to get away from Gang Banger abusive boyfriend, was asked if she tried to move to another town in Honduras. When she answered "no," the judge told her that she had no right to claim refugee status, and was immediately deported, where later it was revealed that she once again fell victim to her abusive boyfriend. Also, a Mexican police officer who crossed the border to avoid a hit that was placed on him by a drug cartel, was found brutally murdered months after he was sent back to Mexico.
  • The episode focusing on the drug rehab industry is both nightmarish and heartbreaking to watch. It turns out the industry is extremely poorly regulated, with no industry-wide standards for practices or quality. The patients seeking help are not the customers, but the commodities, as a big chunk of the money being generated is from referrals rather than actual treatment. It's so bad that Tom McClellan, a former deputy drug czar, could not navigate the system when his own son became addicted to heroin. And the final gut punch comes from the reveal that one particularly funny and outspoken addict featured on the show, as well as McClellan's son, have since both died.
  • In the episode dealing with sexual harassment particularly in the workplace, John Oliver interviews Anita Hill.note  During the interview, there's a moment when he admits that he, as a young man, wouldn't necessarily have stepped in to help if he had witnessed sexual harassment of a colleague taking place, given he was in a much lower position than he was today, though he readily admits that is a poor excuse. When asked how he would react now, he responds by saying he'd try to put a stop to it, only to immediately clearly feel ashamed when he realises his first instinct wouldn't necessarily be to provide comfort for the victim. Throughout this whole exchange, you can see how guilty he feels over what he feels are inadequate responses, especially considering that so much of his show is often based around trying to help people.
  • The segment on Trump's family separation policy is particularly heartbreaking:
    • The segment ends with an incredibly hard to watch video of a five year-old from Honduras who was taken away from his mother and traumatized as a result. The child cries hysterically, begs to go back to the jail he was held in, and says things like "you're not my mom anymore", "I don't want to be your son", and "you don't really love me" to his mother. Rarely have we seen John this angry and upset on the show, to the point where, when the video ends, he genuinely looks like he's about to cry.
      John: Yeah. We did that. And not because we had to, but because we chose to. [...] [Family] seperation is by far the most emblematic moment of [Trump's] presidency so far. It was cruel, sloppy, needless, racist, and ultimately, exactly what we should have expected. And I would argue that the biggest threat to our status as "the greatest nation on Earth", is not a caravan a thousand miles south from us, it's whoever thinks that doing THIS is an acceptable fucking response.
    • The mother's reaction in the clip is utterly heartbreaking as well. All she can do is rub her son's back as he's lying on a bed sobbing to try and calm him down and attempt to (apparently unsuccessfully) reassure him while he's saying these things. The sheer sense of resignation in her voice as she's describing the situation to the documentary crew who filmed the footage, saying that "the separation was too long" and that "there's been too much trauma" for her son, is absolutely awful.
    • When responding to a pundit's callous assertion that family separation is "the right thing to do" because it's an effective deterrent, John is apopleptic even as it sounds like his voice is about to break.
      John: Yeah, maybe, Tom! And you know what, if we surrounded the border with randomly firing flamethrowers and snakes that we trained to stand up when anyone approached, that could potentially drive the caravan away too but we don't do things like that, because it's not supposed to be who we fucking are!
  • The segment on psychics and the manipulative tactics they use to trick people who pay for them to get supposed information from their dead or missing loved ones, or are just cold to them in general. One notable example was Amanda Berry recounting how she watched Sylvia Brown point blank telling Amanda's mother on TV that her daughter is dead. Even more heartbreaking is that Amanda was in captivity when she saw that episode and could do nothing to tell them otherwise.
    • Not mentioned in the show but adding to how much that sucks, Amanda never saw her mother again because she died 7 years before her daughter escaped captivity.
  • Monica Lewinsky's position in the infamous Clinton scandal. While she came out strong in the end and has a good sense of humor about the situation now, gaining a perspective about just how the media unfairly scrutinized her is heartwrenching, especially in an old interview of her crying about her attackers having no idea just how much it all affected her. And the show emphasizes how it took years for Lewinsky to put it all behind her.
  • Roddy Piper, like many other wrestlers, went back into the ring well past the point he should have retired due to extensive medical problems from his career. He had no insurance or marketable skills to get another job. He said in an interview that he can't touch his retirement fund until he turned 65, which he accepted was never going to happen. John then stated that he was right; he died at 61.
  • The saddest part of the Mount Everest segment is either the late Sir Edmund Hillary, the first Westerner to summit Everest, expressing his disappointment that most climbers have almost no passion for the art of mountaineering, or the case of a very inexperienced Canadian tourist's death, or the very palpable terror and grief on the face of an Icefall Doctor sherpa about to cross a rickety set of ladders over a deep crevasse near where one of his friends died weeks earlier, or the fact that all these deaths mentioned could have been prevented, but the Nepalese government and economy are so reliant on an unregulated tourism industry because they have little opportunity to diversify.

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