Thursday, August 23, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 184 of 344: NEIGHBORLY CONDUCT


Episode Title: Neighborly Conduct 

Season 08, Episode 24

Episode 184 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by Lawrence Kasha

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 12th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Ben is upset that Greg sent Jean to Paraguay instead of pressing charges. He is ultra paranoid and thinks he sees Jean everywhere. Greg fires Ben. Jill questions Gary about whether she comes first in his life. Olivia joins Peter's Youth Commission against drugs. She admits to Paige she has a huge crush on Peter. Abby and Paige vie for Peter's affection. To win his affection, Paige tells Peter that Sylvia gave Olivia a letter, and that he can use Olivia's crush on him to get the letter back. Peter sends Olivia flowers, thanking her for her help. Anne rents Laura's house, and hangs out at the MacKenzie's. Karen doesn't like this, and tells Anne to stop coming on to Mack because she doesn't stand a chance. Anne sends herself a package, but has is delivered to the MacKenzies. When Mack brings it over, she tells him she wants him to stay and get reacquainted.more




                Hello, all, I hope my lovely readers are still with me even after having to suffer through the 48 minute toxic fart that was Nightmare.  I also apologize for missing the last few weeks, but I'm seriously considering turning the blog into a biweekly thing because I am now a busy boy with a part time and a full time job and about 60 hours of work per week, so I'm tired.  Anyway, I have officially declared Nightmare the worst KL ep up to this point, but the good news is that I think we’re beginning an upswing in quality now, or at least I hope so.  Neighborly Conduct is far from a perfect KL ep, but at least it’s returning to characters I care about and at least it’s starting to feel a little more like that classic KL I know and love. Let me explain.

                I’ll get the stupid stuff out of the way first, and that of course is the stuff involving Hackney.  Rest assured, for all intents and purposes, this character has been retired after last week’s abomination.  She got arrested and taken away and that was pretty much the end of her story.  The only reason that “actress” Wendy Fulton is still credited with appearing in this ep and our next one is that we have a couple of microscopic flashes of her face while Ben suffers from an explosion of paranoia.  What I mean by that is that we get several scenes where Ben looks at a woman and briefly thinks the woman might be Hackney, and then the camera will cut to reveal that it’s actually just some other white chick and that Ben is going crazy. 



                The reason this is stupid is because of the sloppy writing and exposition delivery.  Our almost first scene is Mack and Ben going for a nice California jog, talking about Hackney.  Ben says something about how he’s having nightmares about her coming to kill his family, and then he says, “I know she’s dead and all that,” but then Mack interrupts him to say that Hackney is not dead, but rather she was shipped off to Paraguay.  This is dumb because it asks us to believe that, in the gap between the last ep and this one, Ben never bothered to confirm with Mack whether Hackney was killed or not.  Hackney has been making Ben’s life and the viewer’s lives miserable since the very first ep of the season, and after 23 arduous eps involving her and her ridiculous schemes, you’re gonna tell me they haul her off in handcuffs and Ben is just like, “Well, good work, guys!” and doesn’t bother to double check that they killed her?  Ugh. 

                Ben also gets fired by Sumner in this ep because, you know, he tried to kill him. Generally, I’d say it’s a bad idea to try and shoot your boss to death, mostly because if your boss lives, you can kiss any chances of promotion goodbye.  This is a small scene taking place on Greg’s ranch and occurring between just the two characters.  Really, the only reason I bring it up is because Sumner lights a cigar at the end of it, so we can now induct Cigar #27 into the Sumner Cigar Counter.  Boy, does Sumner like those cigars.  I enjoy cigars as much as the next guy, but I do think Sumner is consuming too much; maybe just one per month or something in that ballpark would be no big deal, but he’s having them every day now, and I’m worried he’s gonna gum and/or lip cancer, or that his teeth will turn brown and Laura won’t want to kiss him. 



                Also, before Ben arrives on the scene, we get a little bit of Greg and Laura talking to (get out your pillow and your nightcap) Peter, scolding him for a statement he gave to the press while Greg was “dead.”  I bring up Peter because, a little later in the ep, the character of Sylvia is finally mentioned again (remember her?).  What happens is that Olivia and Paige are hanging out, talking about how much Olivia wants to blow Peter (I do not understand this universe where every single woman wants to immediately shag Peter, who is not an attractive man by any stretch of the imagination) and then she brings up how Sylvia gave her a letter way back in the middle of the season somewhere.  She tells Paige she didn’t open it because it’s private and personal and it’s only supposed to be opened in the event of her death.  This is a major red flag to me that the writers are going to kill Sylvia offscreen, and I say blah to that.  What the hell kind of storytelling is this?  This is, like, Dallas lazy writing. It reminds me of the exact season that was going on concurrently this year (it would be season ten of Dallas) and how they spend fucking forever building up this mystery of whether Steve Forrest is actually Jock Ewing back from the dead, and they drag it on and on and on and on, and then it’s all resolved offscreen when Miss Ellie is like, “He told me he’s not really Jock,” and that’s the end of it.  In this case, we’ve had major buildup with Sylvia as an important character since the halfway point of season seven, and then she was figuring heavily into the stories at the start of this season what with Peter trying to poison her and all that, and now I can tell they are going to just kill her offscreen and then somehow have this letter business come into the forefront.  Did Ruth Roman take a walk and they had to scramble to finish this up?  Or did they just not want to hire her on to do the whole year?  This is really sloppy and I don’t understand how the writers could let it pass.



                But I am actually greatly fond of the main storyline of this ep, so let’s switch over to that so I can say some positive things.  I don’t know what the general fan consensus is on Michelle Phillips as Anne or her flirtations with Mack and this building “Will they have an affair?” storyline, but I do know that I like it.  I am an Anne fan and think Michelle Phillips brings something special to this character and I just love watching her.  Also, even if maybe the writers flirting with another “Will Mack cheat on Karen?” storyline is kinda lazy (after all, it was only last season that he was nearly cheating with J.B.), at least it feels like KL to me and at least it’s moving the focus back into the cul-de-sac and the domestic environment that’s at the heart of the show.

                Anne’s been living in California for a few eps now, and in Neighborly Conduct, she decides to rent out Laura’s house and live literally right next door to Karen and Mack.  Karen doesn’t like this and phones Laura to yell at her and ask how she could have sold the house to Anne, but Laura reminds her that she turned the house over to a rental agency and has no involvement in who decides to live there.  This is a cool little scene because Karen has some bad timing, saying something like, “I don’t even like seeing her occasionally and now she’s right next door!” just as Anne comes walking into the room from behind.  Whoops.  The scene plays in an interesting way, because even though there’s a sense of awkwardness in the air, it’s not entirely clear whether Anne actually heard Karen or not.  Anyway, Anne says how she wants to have Mack and Karen over for dinner to show off the house, and even though Karen doesn’t wanna go, Mack talks her into it.



                I like this part a lot, because, again, it’s reminding me of classic KL, and when I say classic KL, I mean really classic KL, like the first three seasons when we barely ever ventured off the cul-de-sac.  I’m just glad that we’re hanging around the cul-de-sac more and having those classic neighborly tensions and dramas that were the foundation of the series all the way from the very first ep.  Also, I just find the scene funny.  Karen wears a very strange outfit that looks like it came out of Prince’s wardrobe.  It looks like an ugly brownish reddish bath towel and it happens to have gaudy gold, like, bracelets?  It has to be seen to be believed, and it’s as ugly as any of the outfits throughout this ugly, ugly season of clothing.  Also, I greatly enjoyed a little part where they enter the house and are looking at these framed black and white nudes that Anne has hung up all over the house, and then Anne says how she did those photos, and at first Karen is like, “Oh, you’re a photographer?” and Anne is like, “No, I’m the subject!” and brags about how some super famous photographer took these nudes.  I liked this cuz it reminded me of myself, actually.  A few years back, after I lost all my weight and got emaciated and as skinny as I will ever be and I was so unbelievably thin and beautiful, I went and posed for nudes myself, and I had a great time.  I met up with this gay accountant photographer who wanted to take nudes just for practice and we took hundreds.  Since I am a huge narcissist and obsessed with my own appearance, I was totally pleased with the way this photographer managed to make me look so good in glorious black and white, with all sorts of cool arty lighting and shadows and compositions.  It was a total blast and I saved all the nudes to one day show off to my children and my children’s children and say, “Look at how fucking beautiful I used to be way back in my ‘20s!”  Honestly, if I ever am rich enough to have my own super nice house, I wouldn’t be above hanging up my nudes on the walls, just like Anne does here.  The human body is beautiful and we all have the same basic bits and pieces; why be shy?



                You can sense Karen’s sphincter unclenching after there’s a knock at the door and some boring ‘80s white guy comes in and Anne declares him to be her date.  Oh yay!  No need to be worried about Anne going after Mack if she’s got this boring ‘80s white guy to shag her instead, right?  Also, I really honestly think that Anne’s intentions here might be pure, that she really might just want to have Karen and Mack over as her friends and she got this boring ‘80s white guy as a way of showing peace between her and Karen, of helping Karen to relax.  I could be way off on this, but I think she might be being truthful, and it’s only after something happens a little later that she decides to change her game plan.  For the moment, though, she and Karen go off to talk about girl stuff and Mack is forced to interact with the date (his name is Al) and talk about what all white people in the ‘80s liked to talk about, which is their stocks and how much money they have.  I’m with Mack in this scene, because I can’t imagine being trapped in a conversation this boring and having to listen to this block of wood talk about his portfolio or whatever nonsense and verbal diarrhea he has spewing out of his mouth.

                Okay, so for a brief period of time, it looks like there might be peace between Anne and Karen, but what could happen to possibly shatter that?  What happens is that Karen gets pretty directly confrontational with Anne after Anne stops in for some coffee in the early morning in the kitchen.  This caused me flashbacks to season one’s Civil Wives, in which Karen sat down in the kitchen with Sid’s ex-wife and talked directly to her and essentially said to take a hike.  It worked in that ep, so I wonder if that’s why Karen does the same thing here, although it backfires in this instance.  She basically tells Anne that she knows what she’s doing and she knows that she’s going after Mack, and the scene concludes with a bold declaration from Karen: “You don’t stand a chance with my husband.”

                Well, the very next scene is Anne cooking up a plot that would make both Abs and J.R. smile, ordering herself a package and intentionally having it delivered to Karen and Mack’s place.  She knows that Mack will come home and find the package and be forced to bring it over to her, ooooh, how devious.  The fact that Anne enacts this plan directly after our previous scene adds weight to my theory that she was ready to be nice with Karen and was pushed over the edge by Karen’s comments.  I respect Karen for being candid and direct, as she always is, but I think she made a mistake here.  By saying what she said, she has opened up a challenge for Anne, and now Anne is thinking, “Oh yeah?  I don’t stand a chance? We’ll see about that.”  Anyway, Mack comes home to find the package and, right on schedule, takes it over to Anne’s.  She answers the door and immediately turns extra flirty, reminding him that his wife won’t be home for hours, that he could sneak on inside her house and hang out for awhile and that she’d never tell Karen about it.  I feel like you could substitute the word “house” for “vagina” and still have the same basic outcome.  She is telling Mack that whatever they may do together, she’ll keep it a secret between the two of them.  Hmmmm, how interesting.

                That about does it for Karen, Mack, and Anne, but we do get some pretty big stuff involving Gary, Val, and J.B. in Neighborly Conduct.  I’m very glad to see J.B. going in a direction that I approve of this ep, because my God has she been underutilized this season.  When she first showed up on the scene in very late season six, I immediately came in my pants and was so excited to see this beautiful and wonderful character be brought to life so splendidly by Teri Austin.  I loved her all throughout season seven and thought she was a highlight, but she’s been rather wasted in season eight and it’s a shame.  I’ve gone on about it enough, but having her fall off a cliff and slip into a coma for a few eps and then just snap out of it?  Really?  Clearly the writers are struggling this year with what to do with J.B., but I feel like she’s now beginning a path that will lead us into the J.B. we truly love through seasons nine and ten.



                I’ve kinda been neglecting what’s going on with Gary and J.B., so let’s do a quick recap.  Basically, the two got engaged a few eps back, somewhere around the time J.B. woke up from her Plot Contrivance Coma, and then they were supposed to get married in Tahoe last ep, but those plans were delayed when Gary had to go and heroically stop Val from blowing away an innocent cleaning woman.  The fact that J.B. was neglected so that Gary could go and help out his nutty ex-wife is clearly irking her, and it forms the basis for her material this week. I’d also say that Abby’s immortal line about “The first Mrs. Ewing doesn’t go away,” is eating at J.B., because she tells Gary this ep, “I’m not so sure I want to join the ranks of Mrs. Ewings.”  Later, she pays Val a private visit and gets very direct, asking Val if she’s still in love with Gary.  Of course we all know Val is in love with Gary and we all know Gary is in love with Val because they are soul mates and they are meant to be together, but Val deflects and says, “I love Gary as a friend and that’s all.”  She also deflects when J.B. repeats the question of, “Are you in love with Gary?”, because she just answers, “I am married to a wonderful man.”  Note how she doesn’t directly deny loving Gary; she just brings up Ben and kinda moves on.  J.B. doesn’t care for this, pointing out that Gary seems closer to Val than to anyone and that he’s always eager to rush out and help her when she’s in a jam, like when she goes crazy and steals his gun to go and almost murder cleaning women.  Val gets mad and tells J.B. to leave, and I’m pretty excited about this whole scene.  Hmmm, how to get into it without being too obvious or full of spoilers?  Let’s just say that the season nine finale of KL has possibly my favorite cliffhanger ever, and let’s just say that I feel like the seeds for that season nine cliffhangers are being planted right here in this scene in this ep. 

                That’s all I got for this ep. You know, I liked it.  I bitched about some bad writing in some aspects, but I was able to get on board with Karen/Mack/Anne and Gary/Val/J.B.  I liked all that stuff and I do feel like we are getting back to what KL should be.  In a way, I’m reminded of the dream season of Dallas, which I feel hits its rock bottom at around episode 24 or so (the one with the ridiculous masked ball that J.R. and boring-as-fuck Jack Ewing attend with goofy, vamping Angelica Nero) and then it actually sorta seems to correct itself in the last six or seven eps of the season and start returning to what Dallas is meant to be about.  In a very similar fashion, season eight of KL has been polluted by a terrible central storyline that ruined everything in its path, but now that the storyline is finishing up, I feel we’re getting back to what I want to see, which is the characters being interesting and dealing with domestic problems and potential affairs and who’s in love with who and all that good, soapy drama.

                Next up is the last ep of this particular disk, entitled Deadly Combination.  

  

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 183 of 344: NIGHTMARE


Episode Title: Nightmare

Season 08, Episode 23

Episode 183 of 344


Directed by Bill Duke

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 5th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jean's superior tells her she needs to kill Greg. Mack, Greg, and an agent find out that Jean and her associate are trying to kill Greg. Mack punches out Jean's superior, and he's arrested. Not knowing he's on to her, Jean invites Greg to her hotel room. Greg says he knows what she's up to and pulls a gun. Mack and the agent come in and arrest her. Mack explains to Karen that he couldn't tell Val that Ben was alive, because she would give it away. Val, hysterical about Ben, tries to buy a gun. Unsuccessful, she goes to the ranch and takes Gary's gun. Val breaks into Jean's store, and almost shoots a cleaning woman by accident. Gary finds her and brings her home. Ben walks in and they hug and kiss and cry. That night Ben dreams that Jean kills Val. Abby tells Jill, "Let the second Mrs. Ewing give the soon to be third Mrs. Ewing some advice. The first Mrs. Ewing doesn't go away - ever!" Gary and Jill decide to get married some other time.





Okay, here we go.  All of our collective sphincters should be tightening up as we prepare to discuss Nightmare, because things are going to get very rough.  We haven’t seen an ep this bad in a long, long time, and I’m already yearning for, say, A Turn of Events, in which J.B. falls off a cliff and they repeat the scene 700 times in flashbacks while Peter speeds his car along for 72 minutes.  That ep looks like it was helmed by Stanley Fucking Kubrick when you put it up against this monstrosity, and the most awful part about it is that this ep is being directed by a genius who I love with all my heart and soul. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is the swan song for one Bill “Cooke” Duke, a most fabulous actor and an even more fabulous director who has brought us so much joy throughout this time contributing to KL.  The fact that his brilliant collection of eps, which began way back in season three with Power Play and has now spanned up through season six’s The Deluge, is going to finish up with Nightmare just hurts me deep down in my soul.  It hurts me even more that has sorta been off the scene since The Deluge, not directing any eps from season seven, and that he now returns for one last ep and that the last ep he contributes is this.  Before I start shitting all over this ep, let’s make sure to put things in perspective.  Yes, this ep sucks and I’m sad that Bill “Cooke” Duke directed it, but he also directed nine other eps and I pretty much loved all of them.  He has been one of my favorite directors of the series alongside trusted veteran Nicholas Sgarro, Nick Havinga, and, of course, the amazing and brilliant Larry Elikann.  Rather than getting all upset that he directed this ep, let’s stay positive and remember he also gave us such stunning television accomplishments as Celebration, Forsaking All Others, and Out of the Past. 



I don’t think anyone comes out looking good in this ep, but the worst of the worst has to be Val.  I talked last ep about how J.V.A. says L & L turned her into “the village idiot” and that is absolutely true in every single scene of this ep.  Also, J.V.A. is giving us a pretty terrible performance throughout all of this, but I don’t even know if I can blame her or even completely understand why the performance is so bad.  We all saw season six and we all know the stunning range and depths of emotion that J.V.A. can display when she’s under the guided hand of an amazing writer and producer like Peter Dunne.  What I think is happening here is that J.V.A. is being handed shit by the writers and then having to figure out how to make it work, and she’s simply not able to.  I’m not even judging her for it; I don’t know if anyone could make this wretched dialogue sound good.  To set the stage, our very first scene of the ep is Val and Lilimae talking at the house and Val is all upset because Greg Sumner came back from the dead at the end of the last ep but there was still no sign of Ben.  She is now convinced that Ben is dead, and as she talks to Lilimae, she raises her voice all loud and she’s way over-the-top as she screams, “SHE TOLD ME SHE WAS GOING TO DO IT AND SHE DID IT!  SHE STOOD RIGHT THERE AND SHE DID IT IN GREG SUMNER’S OFFICE!  When Lilimae asks who Val is talking about, Val continues to scream,  JEAN HACKNEY, THAT’S WHO!  I COULD HAVE STOPPED HER, BUT I DIDN’T!  I DIDN’T EVEN RAISE A HAND!  I COULD HAVE STOPPED HER, I COULD HAVE…  Then there’s a short pause where we all hope Val will stop screaming, but she instead doubles down with a total Nancy Kerrigan, shrieking, “WHY DIDN’T I STOP HER, WHYYYYYYYYYYY?!  Oof, it’s bad, but it only gets worse.



Now that Val is convinced Ben is dead (Spoiler Alert: He’s not; the writers are just using the same lazy “Is this character dead or not?” device that they used one episode ago with Sumner), she decides she needs to get a gun pronto.  Her first stop is a gun shop, and this is actually one scene that I didn’t have a problem with, and let me tell you why.  We’re all watching this together (My Beloved Grammy, Brother, and myself, I remind you) and Val comes in to get her gun, and then I said how I don’t think Val should be able to get a gun because you need to wait two weeks or whatever.  My Beloved Grammy said how she doesn’t know the rules about buying guns, and then Brother jumped in by quoting Dick Miller in Terminator and saying, “There’s a fifteen day wait on the handguns, but the rifles you can take right now.”  Then a second later, the clerk says how she has to wait fifteen days, that’s the law, that the law exists to keep people from getting all angry and running out to buy a gun, but Val doesn’t wanna hear it and just storms out of the gunshop and says never mind.  So yeah, this scene wasn’t that bad mostly because at least it adheres to reality and doesn’t let her just get a gun immediately.

Oh no, wait, this scene is that bad and I almost forgot to bring it up except that I have it pulled up on the old computer as I’m typing this and I’m watching the scene again and, yup, surely enough there’s something stupid in this scene.  Right after Val tells the clerk that she wants to buy a handgun, we then do a dissolve to a flashback of her in Ben’s arms at that cheap Lotus Point broom closet party from Survival of the Fittest and we again see him kissing her and saying, “You take care of those children!” while she cries and says, “Please don’t do this.”  This scene was stupid back in that ep, so why show it again?  We get it, we’ve been watching the show, we know why Val wants to buy a gun, and we don’t need to have a flashback to that stupid scene shoved into the middle of this gun shop scene.  However, this scene is high art compared to what’s to come.



Next up, Val hits Mack’s office, not expecting to run into J.B., who’s burning the midnight oils in her own office.  The beginning portion of this scene functions to remind us that Gary and J.B. are going to get married, because J.B. tells Val how she and Gary are heading off to Lake Tahoe soon to get hitched (great place to get married, by the way, and if I ever decide to get gay married, I’d probably go do it there).  Then Val has another facepalm moment where she’s like, “Aren’t you a little afraid being up here all alone on night?  With all the things you and Mack do, with all the criminals you deal with, must make you kinda nervous.  I know it would me, but I’m sure you keep a gun up here for protection.”  In writing the dialogue out like that, it’s impossible to convey how hysterically funny J.V.A.’s acting here is, because she’s clearly trying to sound casual with, “Aren’t you a little afraid…” etc., but then as she says, “but I’m sure you keep a gun up here for protection,” her eyes get all wide and she cranes her neck up and over in another direction, essentially announcing to J.B. that she’s here snooping for a gun.  J.B. just has to be watching this crazy woman prowl around the office and be thinking to herself how much better a wife she’s gonna make for Gary than this deranged chick.


But wait, there’s more.  Val is not to be deterred, so her next stop is a late night convenience store, very 7-Eleven style.  She grabs, oh, something off the shelf, and then she goes up to the register and the guy says how much she owes him, and then, I kid you not, Val whispers, “I’ll give you two hundred dollars for the gun that you have in that drawer right there.  I know that you people keep guns there.”  The clerk doesn’t like this and says how she’d better leave or he’s gonna call the police, but Val then ups her offer to 250 dollars.  It’s only after the clerk picks up the phone and puts it to his ear that Val decides to stop embarrassing herself and take a hike.  Oh my, how this scene made us laugh.  This is another instance where I was able to have a nice time and enjoy watching because I was enjoying making fun of it with My Beloved Grammy and Brother, but when I gave it another look all by myself in order to prepare for this essay, it just made me feel sad and embarrassed for Val and embarrassed for J.V.A. for having to perform this scene and have it broadcast for all the viewers in 1987. 

But she’s still not done.  Next up, she hits Westfork to pay Gary a visit and act like she wants to talk about his engagement, but really she’s after his gun, which we learn Gary inherited from his grandfather (I did kinda like that little detail; Gary is a peace-lover and I don’t see him as the type that would want to be packing heat).  I will say that I appreciate the fact that Gary can clearly tell something is wrong with Val.  She’s acting like a fucking lunatic, of course, but the writing is so bad that I wouldn’t be surprised if she hyperventilated and paced around in front of Gary and he didn’t even notice.  Fortunately, Gary points out how weird she’s acting and says, “Right now, this moment, I’m concerned for you.”  Then Val says how if both she and Ben were to die, she would want Gary to raise Bobby and Betsy.  Then the scene explodes to new levels of high camp, because Val goes into Gary’s bedroom and just starts…..trashing it?  She’s looking for a gun, but it’s just bizarre, because the first thing she does it fling open a drawer (which kinda makes sense), but then the next things she does is pull up all the covers on Gary’s bed.  Huh?  Does she really think the gun is just, like….under the blankets?  Does Gary sleep with a gun under his pillow like James Bond?  Also, why is she making such a fucking mess?  We’re supposed to think she’s just kinda nutty from all the stress and worrying about Ben, but it comes off like complete absurdity.  Surely this silliness is over after this scene, right?

Wrong.  Val manages to find Gary’s gun and she hits the road for Hackney’s dress shop.  Again, it’s like the creative team is trying as hard as possible to make this as campy as possible, because we have this ultra-dramatic music playing as Val parks her car, then we get another dissolve flashback to Hackney threatening Val, and then, brace yourself, we hear Val’s inner monologue as she says, “I won’t let her get away with this; I won’t let her do it.”  Oh dear God, no.  Actually, the inner monologue begins even before the stupid little flashback, as we see shots of the car driving and hear Val saying, “I love you, Ben.  I won’t let her do this to us.  She can’t do this to our family!”  Who thought this was a good idea?  In what world is a big group of staff writers and showrunners sitting around and somebody says, “This scene would really be good if we pipe in some terrible inner-monologue dramatic dialogue while Val drives!”  But, God help us, and I know I keep saying this, but Val’s still not done. 

Next up, Val slips into Hackney’s stupid little dress shop, it’s all dark and there are mannequins everywhere, and she makes her way into the office, where she finds a woman with her back to her, the woman bent over the office desk.  Well, Val’s got the gun in hand and she’s ready to go, ready to blow away this woman she assumes is Hackney. Well, I’m sure you’re all not surprised at all to learn that this is not Hackney, but rather some innocent cleaning woman who just wants to get her work done (what fucking time is it even supposed to be right now?  Isn’t it like midnight?  Why is this cleaning woman working so late?).  The cleaning woman would be suffering an exploding head like Tom Savini in Maniac were it not for the intervention of Gary, who comes powering into the scene to wrestle the gun out of Val’s hands.  Then they leave together and, well, that’s it.  I do wonder what ends up happening to this nameless, lineless cleaning woman.  Do you think she just continues cleaning and going about her life?  Do you think she reports this crazy woman with a gun to her bosses?  This is a situation where something happens and then the characters just walk away and I’m like, “But, wait….what happens to the cleaning woman?”    



Do you realize I’ve been going on for fucking ever about how stupid this ep is and yet I’ve only talked about the Val portions of it?  All of those scenes are so bad that they would be the worst aspects of any other ep, but in Nightmare, they are but one facet of the ep’s extreme badness.  Let’s move on over to Mack and Karen and Sumner and, of course, the main character of the series at this point, Hackney.  Things are finally starting to wrap up in the Hackney storyline with this ep, thank Christ, but my God is it stupid.  We catch up with Mack when he attacks Hackney’s co-conspirator or boss or whatever in a parking garage.  It’s all part of Mack’s epic plan to make this storyline stop, I suppose, because as the scene begins, this car is getting towed and then the Hackney boss guy is like, “Hey, don’t tow my car,” and Mack starts screaming at him about how he parked in a handicapped zone and he doesn’t like it.  Then the guy says, “I’m not handicapped,” and Mack, brace yourself, punches him in the stomach and says, “You are now!” in a line that sounds a lot like bad A.D.R.  Oh God, no, what a horrible line, the kind of line I would love if you had Arnold deliver it in a good piece of cheese like Commando but that makes me throw up in my mouth when watching this series.  Holy shit, what terrible dialogue, and even the staging of the scene looks stingy and cheap and badly choreographed.

 

At the same time, Greg is drinking Zombies, which I had never heard, so I looked them up and discovered it’s a classic cocktail from like 1934 that consists of fruit juices, liqueurs, and lots of rum.  I was briefly tempted to try one of these, but don’t think I will, as rum is one of my least favorite types of alcohol (I’m a vodka guy), so I highly doubt I would enjoy the taste.  So yeah, Greg is drinking zombies at a fancy hotel with, you guessed it, Hackney.  If I remember correctly, the scene starts with him and Peter talking about, you know, something boring involving Peter, and then Hackney shows up and Greg is like, “Take a hike, Peter,” echoing the overall sentiments of me at this point as far as Peter’s involvement in the series.  Then he and Hackney sit and exchange bad dialogue I’m not gonna bother to remember and sip Zombies, all happening concurrently with other scenes involving Mack and Karen and, of course, other scenes involving Val.



Karen has been fretting and ringing her hands a lot because she’s feeling left out, like she doesn’t know what the hell is going on with this story (she’s not alone).  Mack is evasive when she tries to get answers out of him, but finally Karen has had enough of being ignored and so, when Mack arrives home and then receives a phonecall and immediately goes running out of the house again, Karen chases after him and announces, “I’m coming with you,” which I have so very many problems with.  There’s no way that Mack would allow Karen to come with him on this dangerous mission; I know my Mack and I’ve known him well since season four and I know he wouldn’t just let Karen hop in the car and ride with him to go bust some bad guy (or bad girl, in this case).  What Mack would really do if they were writing true to character is he’d get all firm with Karen and maybe put his arms on her shoulders and say how this is very important and he’ll tell her all about it in a few hours but he needs her to trust him and leave him alone.  The real reason this is here is so that we can have an unbelievably terrible scene in which Karen and Mack drive around while Mack takes a big exposition dump all over the viewing audience.    

Look, I get that this story has been going on forever (TWENTY THREE EPISODES!!!) and it’s long and stupid and confusing, and I get that the writers probably wanted to get viewers up to speed if they were confused, but this is not the way to do it.  We begin the scene with a shot of the car driving and bad A.D.R. from Karen going, “I just don’t know how Ben could have considered such a thing!”  Then we cut to inside of the car so that Mack can recap the entire season.  I’d type all the dialogue out, but I don’t want to, because it’s awful, and typing the words out might make my fingers bleed (my ears are already bleeding as I re-listen to the speech while writing this essay).  Basically he just explains, complete with a lot of clips from previous eps throughout the season, all the shit that’s been going down, starting with, “Ben didn’t want to kill Sumner; we had it planned for Ben and his family to escape and Sumner blew it by showing up at the club opening.” This scene goes on for over three minutes and is just oozing with clip show style footage from prior eps and awful A.D.R. from Karen and Mack.  I’m embarrassed for The Dobsonator for having to deliver the dialogue, and as I listen to the A.D.R., I can just imagine him standing in the recording booth with those big headphones on and looking at the lines he needs to read and being like, “Really?” 



I’m gonna get bold.  This is the worst scene we have ever seen on the entire series.  There are so many better ways to keep an audience up to date on a long running storyline.  L&L and the creative team should have busted out their notebooks and given a really close look to seasons four, five, and six, and studied the way those years managed to balance long, complicated arcs throughout the year without becoming confusing.  Having watched those brilliant years of television very recently, I can tell you I don’t recall any scenes of characters hopping into cars to deliver over three minutes of exposition to the audience through bad A.D.R. and clips of old scenes.  Ugh ugh ugh, this is just the worst, and it was actually during this atrocious abomination of a scene that My Beloved Grammy opined, “This definitely feels much more like a daytime soap,” and I told her of course I agree.  This kind of shitty storytelling might fly on General Hospital, but KL is a classier affair and the writing has never stooped this low before.  So yeah, truly awful, and yeah, the worst scene we have ever watched in nearly eight years and nearly 200 eps. 


Let’s speed along here so I can be done talking about this piece of crap.  Greg has been sipping Zombies (double Zombies, if I’m not mistaken) with Hackney for awhile, and then she says how she’s in room 444 and what an easy room number that is to remember and she departs.  Greg follows after her and finds her in the hotel room, having slipped into something more comfortable, her legs spread open and waiting for Greg’s penis to enter her.  Actually, she’s obviously going to try to kill Greg, but I do wonder if she intended to shag him first before killing him, kinda like Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct or those spiders that eat their mates after sex.  I bring this up because the two do a whole lot of kissing and heavy petting before the camera pans underneath her pillow to show that she’s got a knife waiting there.  After Greg starts to, you guessed it, spit out expository dialogue (“That body you followed out to the ranch wasn’t me; I went to the airport, but I didn’t take Ben’s escape route”), Hackney whips out her little knife and, I guess, tries to attack Greg in a very badly staged sequence.  Then, and I can barely type this out without groaning, Greg pulls out a gun and says, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings, but I wasn’t that glad to see you; that was a pistol in my pocket.”  Oh dear God, no, and even though Devane is weirdly good at delivering pretty much any dialogue, no matter how terrible, and even though he actually does find a way to come out of this scene relatively unscathed, this is still awful.  Anyway, then the good guys bust in and take Hackney away and, well, that’s about it.  Oh yeah, Greg also throws in some dialogue about how Hackney’s evil buddies have all been neutralized, but nobody could possibly even care at this point.

All pretty campy and terrible, huh?  And yet, God help us, there’s still one more part, a scene that I can’t believe I had forgotten about, because it’s just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen, and that’s the very ending of the ep.  Now that we’ve learned Ben is alive and well (we were all in such suspense), our final scene starts with Ben and Val in bed together, a bright new sunshiny day, and Ben declaring that he’s going to tidy up the garage.  Really stupid “happy” music plays over the soundtrack as Ben declares that he’s going to take a shower and hops out of bed.  A second later, who should come walking into the bedroom?  Why, it’s Hackney, a pistol in hand, and she shoots Val three times.  We get a quick shot of a bullet ridden Val (meaning a couple of red spots on her robe), then a very dramatic, Anakin Skywalker-esque “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” from Ben, and then of course he comes snapping awake because, duh, this was a nightmare (ooooh, just like the title of the ep, isn’t that clever?).  Then the ep ends there.  Oh boy.  Here’s another scene that, when I watch it all by myself, I’m just kinda embarrassed for everyone involved and it makes me sad, but when watching with My Beloved Grammy, it was a laugh riot. We all almost peed our pants at this; I don’t know that I’ve ever seen My Beloved Grammy laugh so hard.  In terms of scenes of high camp, this is maybe #1 out of everything we’ve seen so far.  “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIVES” looks as subtle and understated as Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II when put up against this Hackney shooting nightmare.

Oh God, there’s just nothing good about this storyline or the way they wrap it up.  In fact, I wanna talk about that, because I didn’t realize when we started this ep that it would basically finish up the Hackney stuff.  See, early in the season I did a peek at her IMDb to see how many eps we’d have to suffer through looking at her and I saw her last appearance was in the 25th ep of the season, and this is the 23rd.  That’s accurate, but all we get of her in the next two eps is quick flashes where Ben thinks he sees her and then it’ll turn out to be someone else, you know what I mean?  For all intents and purposes, this finishes Hackney’s time on the show, and I’m happy about that, yet it’s still awkward and badly done.  It’s also weird how they finish this up and we’ve still got seven more eps to go in the season.  Now, by no means did I want Hackney to span all the way to episode thirty of the season, so I’m grateful we at least get to finish up with her here, but then it’s also awkward, its placement in the series bizarre.  In fact, a little later, I mentioned to Brother how we have one more disk in the season and he was very confused and said he thought these eps were the end of the season, as the Hackney stuff gets all wrapped up.  I told him no, that there’s still five more eps (please God let them be better than this).  So, the Hackney storyline somehow manages to span on wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too long while also simultaneously wrapping up way too abruptly and fast.  It’s just fucked in every way imaginable.

Now brace yourselves, because after all my bitching and moaning, there is one good thing in this ep, maybe I would even go so far as to call it a great thing.  It’s small, just one line of dialogue, but it’s a classic exchange all KL fans should remember.  It occurs in a scene between Abs and J.B., in which Abs has stopped by Westfork to pick up some of her stuff.  She and J.B. have a little chat and Abs is sharp enough to figure out that Gary has rushed off to go help Val with something, so she says the classic line, which is, “Jill, let the second Mrs. Ewing give the soon-to-be-third Mrs. Ewing a friendly warning.  The first Mrs. Ewing doesn’t go away, ever.”  Yeah, I do love this line and it’s definitely a classic, but it’s a line that takes up maybe ten seconds out of a 48 minute ep; is that enough to give Nightmare a pass? Um, no.



Time for my concluding thoughts, and as I sit here staring at my computer and typing, I find myself asking the difficult question: Is this indeed the very worst ep of KL we’ve ever watched or even, possib ly, the very worst ep of KL ever made?  My faithful readers may recall that season three’s Silver Shadows is my current vote for worst ep, and yet I think this one is possibly worse.  I did some serious chewing on this and thought about the two eps side by side and I realized that a lot of my rage against Silver Shadows came from its placement in the season, from being sandwiched in-between two very good eps, Best Intentions and Letting Go, for interrupting that flow for a boring, shitty ep about Abs and some old guy and his stupid butler.  But, in terms of simple competency and writing, I think if I just took a look at Silver Shadows all by itself and without the context of the eps around it, it might not be so bad, whereas Nightmare……aye yai yai yai yai.  You know what, who am I kidding by even having this debate?  This is obviously worse than Silver Shadows because nearly every second is terrible.  It’s Hackney heavy, has that awful scene with Karen and Mack and the exposition dump montage, has nearly 500 scenes of Val being stupid, and then ends with an unbelievably corny and campy dream sequence.  Not only that, but it soils Bill “Cooke” Duke’s legacy.  This Green Beret who gave us nine stunning eps of television finishes his KL legacy with this turd, and that makes me sad, though I also don’t blame him.  This is television, not film, and I know the directors aren’t nearly as in control with standard network TV as they are with their own films.  In this case, I’m sure he got the job and was handed the script he had to direct and was like, “Well, this is clearly terrible,” and then just did the best he could.  The show has morphed into something much cheaper and crappier in the gap between Duke’s last ep and this one, so I imagine he didn’t have the same artistic resources he may have had when working in the glory years of seasons four through six. 

So yes, Nightmare is, of the first 183 eps of the series, the worst of them all.  I really think it might remain the worst ep of all time when all is said and done, and I truly hope this is our rock bottom and that the series never gets worse than this.  I like to think this ep is Gary’s season four bender and everything after this bottoming out with be an upward swing.  Certainly I can tell you that our next two eps, while not great, were a huge improvement over this.  So let’s be positive and assume that things are going to get better, shall we?

Next up, we mercifully start to move away from all this Hackney nonsense and focus on some characters I actually like and care about with Neighborly Conduct. 


Thursday, July 26, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 182 of 344: IN MOURNING


Episode Title: In Mourning

Season 08, Episode 22

Episode 182 of 344

Written by Alan Goldfein

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 19th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val and the kids are brought home in a catering van. Val is frantic about Ben. Mack hires bodyguards posing as construction workers to protect Val and instructs Val to say that Ben is on a business trip. Lilimae asks Karen if she knows what's going on as Ben had her close her bank account, they drove around in a stolen car, then in a catering van all night, and now there are two carpenters at the house who aren't doing anything. Karen asks both Mack and Val what is going on, but neither will tell her anything. Greg's death is in the paper. Abby rushes to Peter's and says he'd better be prepared to take over Galveston Industries and pressures him to make a public statement. Gary and Jill had planned to marry in Las Vegas, but he postpones it. Val goes to the ranch to comfort Laura, then Greg walks in, and Val suddenly wonders if Ben is dead.




                Welcome back to the total turd sandwich that is The Jean Hackney Show.  I can already tell you even before I start writing that this is going to be one of my shortest essays.  I barely have any notes on the ep, almost nothing of significance happens in the ep, and to waste my time over-analyzing it and talking about all the different aspects of it would just be silly and futile.  My notes finish up with, “Kind of a blah episode,” and I suppose that’s how I felt after finished watching it with My Beloved Grammy and Brother, but after giving it a second watch all by myself, I think it’s gone from “kinda blah” to “just plain bad.”  Let’s discuss.


You should all recall where we last left off in the climactic moments of Survival of the Fittest, with Ben and Greg sitting up in Greg’s office and Ben holding him at gunpoint.  Hackney was listening down below on a big old pair of headphones and we heard a gunshot and then the credits rolled.  Is Greg dead?  Obviously not, but we’re going to have to spend an entire ep acting like he maybe might be dead and having all the characters running around and fretting, only for him to show up in the last two seconds and be like, “Hey, I’m not dead,” and every viewer in America in 1987 saying, “Yeah, duh.”  Ugh, let’s just talk about this as quickly as possible and then we’ll move on to an ep that manages to be even worse.



                We open on Hackney driving her car while terrible synth music plays on the soundtrack.  She parks the car and meets one of her co-conspirators (I think his name is Nick) and says how she knows Greg is dead.  Obviously she doesn’t really know this, and her co-conspirator is quick to point it out, saying how she just saw a body-bag and not an actual dead body.  He says how it could have just been a sack of potatoes and he’s absolutely right.  Hackney is really, really stupid and really really bad at her job.  She’s supposed to be all wicked and evil and she can’t even manage to confirm whether a person was shot and killed or not?  She hears a gunshot and sees a body bag and is just like, “Case closed”?  And I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating; this woman playing Hackney is just about the worst actress I have ever seen.  I can’t believe she managed to squeeze out four more years of acting work after this performance.  Every line of dialogue she’s given to deliver is terrible, yet she somehow makes it even more terrible by the sheer force of her atrocious acting.  When the dude says, “You didn’t even go inside,” Hackney responds in this way over-the-top and overacted manner, “Have you ever heard of security guards?”  Oh yeah, and the scene also flashes back to the last two minutes of the previous ep, showing them to us again (ugh), only this time adding a little echo sound to the dialogue.  It’s shit like this that makes the show feel like a daytime soap.  You take the bad picture quality, combine it with the dreadful synth soundtrack, and then throw in super corny dialogue and bad flashbacks with echoes and it’s just all kinds of wrong.  There’s no way that the genius Peter Dunne would allow this kind of crap to fly, let me tell you. 

                Through the course of the bad expository dialogue, we learn that a van took the body-bag out to Sumner’s ranch and deposited it there.  Let’s take a quick detour to explore whether, if Greg was to actually be really and truly dead, he would want to be buried on his ranch.  Bobby Ewing got to be buried at Southfork under his “beloved treehouse” during the dream season, so I wonder if the same could be true of Sumner.  If you own property, can you bury yourself in that property?  Well, anyway, that’s not important, but what is important is that Hackney claims the death was legit and that they are just keeping it quiet “until the Stratadine acquisition goes through.”  I’m gonna go ahead and admit something, and that’s that I have no fucking idea what “the Stratadine acquisition” is and I’ve long ago stopped trying to pay attention to why Hackney even wants Greg assassinated.  The story is so stupid that it’s not even worth expending mental energy on trying to pay attention; all I’m doing now is waiting for it to end. 



                As I said, basically the whole ep is everyone fretting about whether Greg Sumner is dead or alive.  Laura gets a newspaper that blares the headline, “Sumner Rumored Dead.”  Mack tells Val that Ben successfully killed Greg, and also assigns two fake carpenters to come to her house and hang out with her for some indeterminate amount of time.  Lilimae goes to Karen’s and further fuels her suspicions by telling her all the weird shit going on, about how they rode home in a catering truck and now have carpenters at the house who aren’t even doing any carpentering.  As I said before, Lilimae is really getting the shit end of the stick with storylines by this point, and in this scene she’s only functioning as an exposition dump and to help get Karen further involved in the story. 

                Val tells Karen that Ben is off on a business trip and “will be gone for some time” and if I was Karen, I’d be immediately suspicious, too, because Val is really terrible at lying.  Sean Spicer would do a better job of convincing Karen that Ben is off on a business trip, because Val looks fidgety, avoids eye contact, and stammers all of her dialogue.  I reiterate that it hurts me to see Val being forced to act this way, and I can already see what J.V.A. meant when she said that L & L turned her into “the village idiot.”  I knew things might get a little silly for Val circa season twelve when she’s got that brain tumor or whatever, but this is only the first season to be shepherded by L & L and already Val is suffering tremendously under their leadership.  This particular scene is just the tip of the iceberg, because Val goes even more village idiot in our very next ep.    



                  The final scene of the ep begins with Laura and Val watching the news and seeing a press conference with Peter (yeah, he’s still on the show, and yeah, you are pretty safe running off to take a piss whenever you see his face pop up in a scene).  Peter aggressively pushes that everything is going just swimmingly with the business or whatever, then Laura says, “I just can’t handle it,” and to the surprise of absolutely nobody, Greg comes strolling into the scene and says, “Can’t handle what?”  Oh thank God, Greg is alive, I was in such massive suspense on that one.  Then Val gets this look on her face like, “Oh, shit, where’s Ben?!” and we run our “executive producers” credit over that.  So, now that we have successfully filled an entire ep with a “Is this character dead or not?” mystery, looks like we’re going to have to repeat that again, only with Ben this time.  I’m in about as much suspense about whether Ben is alive as I was about whether Greg was alive.  Good God, I've never been so bored with this show before.



                Let’s look through my notes here and see if there’s anything else worth talking about.  Oh yeah, I make mention of this really bizarre little montage that occurs at about the twenty minute mark of the ep.  Hackney is giving some sort of anonymous tip to the newspapers, and then we keep switching over to different characters reading the paper and we hear their inner monologue as they read, know what I mean?  Like, Hackney says, “Okay, newspaper, you can print that…..” and then we swish over to Peter reading a paper and hear his inner monologue saying, “…well informed sources have confirmed that Galveston Industries has been rocked by internal rumors in the last 24 hours….” Then we swish (and I do mean swish; the camera flies from one image to the next, if that makes any sense at all) to Abs reading the paper and hear her inner monologue saying, “…that chairman and chief executive officer Greg Sumner,” and so on and so forth.  We swish to a lot of characters.  What’s weird is that I’m looking at my notes and I wrote, “A bit corny, but I like it.”  What?  Why would I have written that?  This is awful!  My conclusion is that I was probably in a good mood while I was watching this with My Beloved Grammy and Brother, and I think we all had a good laugh over the corniness of this storytelling device, but watching it alone, I see how stupid and awful it is. 

                Karen and Mack go out to dinner at Lotus Point and Karen challenges Mack to answer her questions about what’s really going on.  While watching, I found myself intensely aware of how boringly the scene was shot and how much it looks like TV.  Instead of doing something interesting with the camera, they just keep cutting from headshots of Karen to headshots of Mack.  I’ll bet you a million dollars the two weren’t even delivering their dialogue to each other when they filmed this, that Michele is probably talking to nobody and that the same is true of Mack and then it’s all just edited together to look competent.  I will say that we all got another great big laugh out of this scene, and let me tell you why.  The scene begins with Karen and Mack having their dinner and there are obviously other people around, but no reason to think Anne is merely three feet away watching the whole conversation.  We have no idea Anne is even in this building when the scene starts, right?  Then Karen is like, “Fuck you, Mack, you won’t tell me the truth, this storyline sucks, I’m going home!”  She takes off and Mack sorta sighs and starts to stand up from his chair, at which point My Beloved Grammy said, “Now he’s gonna be tempted to have an affair with Anne.”  Mack walks over to the bar and Anne is just there.  She looks super duper happy and immediately saddles up next to Mack to try and seduce him and it was just hysterical how this happened mere seconds after what My Beloved Grammy said.  None of us thought that Anne would just appear suddenly in the scene, but appear she does.  Oh yeah, and she also says, “A beer for the gentleman,” and the bartender just hands over a bottle of beer since it’s Television Land where nobody needs to specify what kinds of beer they like; they just say “a beer” and a beer appears.  It's not like there’s any different types of beers in the world or anything like that.



                Looking at my notes, it looks like Peter and Paige also shag in this ep, but who cares?  I don’t even have the energy to write about them right now, so let’s just wrap this up.  I did not like this ep because it was boring, it had no forward momentum, and it was obviously just killing time until we can get to the next ep (a common theme of the season).  So it’s a bad ep and I really didn’t like it, but fuck me if it doesn’t look a whole hell of a lot better after you watch what’s coming up next, a truly truly awful ep called Nightmare.