Thursday, May 25, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 125 of 344: FOR BETTER, FOR WORSE


Episode Title:  For Better, For Worse

Season 06, Episode 25

Episode 125 of 344

Written by Roberto Loiederman

Directed by Robert Becker

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 4th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary tells Abby that because he bought the notes when his investors backed out, they now own all of Empire Valley. Coblenz doesn't want Gary as their landlord. Greg takes Gary to meet some of Galveston's men, and they tell him that something big is taking place, and they ask him to join them. Gary tells them to go to Hell. Coblenz implies to Gary that he is a government agent and asks Gary to infiltrate the group. Gary agrees to this. Joshua breaks Ben's Wesphal story on his show, and says that Ben is trying to make a conspiracy that isn't there. Ben is livid. Abby tells Joshua he's losing ratings. Cathy tells Joshua she's not sure if she wants to get married, and they need to decide things together, but decides to marry him. Joshua asks Ben to be his best man because despite what he thinks of him, he considers him family. Joshua and Cathy get married.




                When we last left off, Gary was teetering on the brink of a total credit score meltdown, due in no small part to Greg Sumner’s interference, but he found quick relief when he got a phone call announcing him as being the sole inheritor of the entire Empire Valley land, courtesy of the late Paul Galveston, who may have been evil, but who certainly seemed to love Gary in a special way.  That was how we concluded our last episode, A Man of Good Will, and it’s pretty much how we pick up here with For Better, For Worse.  Actually, one of the first things we see in this ep is a very amusing sequence in which Gary, Abs, and the kids are all dressed up in super fancy clothes as if they’re going to the opera, except Gary has taken them to some shitty, greasy burger place for a celebration dinner.  The image of this alone is amusing, but add in Abby’s somewhat confused and somewhat annoyed face and you have comedic gold.  She assumed that since Gary had just inherited all this land and power, he would be taking her to a fancy schmancy place with Dom Perignon and Beluga caviar, but instead he’s taken her to a place with your choice of hamburger or cheeseburger and vanilla or chocolate shakes.  The scene culminates with Gary, who is in fabulous spirits, announcing that he will pay for a meal for absolutely everybody in the place, a nice act of generosity that shows why Gary is my favorite Ewing.  I always enjoy him when he’s super happy and cheerful, and I like how he spreads his generosity around.


                Gary’s pretty busy in this ep, although I once again confess that some of these plot points are sorta flying over my head, despite the help of My Beloved Grammy.  Basically, this whole episode is set against the backdrop of Cathy and Joshua’s wedding (which should be sorta “duh” because of the title of the ep), but when Gary is on his way to the wedding, he gets intercepted by Greg, who asks him to take a ride with him.  I feel like the timing is a bit strange, as the wedding is close to starting and yet Greg takes him on what appears to be a rather far-off drive, so he can meet some random creepy men in business suits standing in front of a wire fence.  Greg’s like, “I want you to meet these men in fancy suits, cuz they’re like a big deal or something, and Empire Valley is a big deal because of some sort of Patriot Act-esque conspiracy something or other, and we want you to join us on this project or whatever.”  Gary isn’t into it, telling them to go to Hell and announcing that he will walk himself back to the wedding.


                While walking back (and, again, I found myself wondering if Gary was gonna miss the whole thing, as he already took a long drive with Greg and now he’s trying to return to the chapel on his feet), Cheesy British Guy comes pulling up in a limo or something and asks Gary to get in.  When Gary obliges, Cheesy British Guy (Coblenz, for those of you who have forgotten, the guy who likes to say “everybody” a lot) goes into this weird speech about how he’s actually a secret government agent…..or something.  This ep had a lot going on, and truthfully all the Empire Valley stuff has been a bit hard for me to follow throughout the season.  Is Cheesy British Guy really a government agent?  I’m not too sure, but I have a feeling that he’s not.  He’s just too Cheesy and too British, and I get the feeling that he must be evil.  Oh yeah, one little touch that I really appreciated about this scene was that we get a Ciji callback, our first since somewhere in season five, if I’m remembering correctly.  Basically, Cheesy British Guy is trying to throw some vague threats at Gary about how he knows everything about his life, that he’s so powerful in his secret government work that he knows all of the secrets of every person, and he says something like, “You became rather obsessed with a singer named Ciji Dunne.”  I kinda thought Ciji had been left in the past and would never be mentioned again, so I appreciate seeing that she may be gone, but she’s not forgotten, and then we also get a reminder of how Cathy is, you know, Ciji’s exact twin when Cheesy British Guy mentions how Gary started to pull a James Stewart back in season five by trying to morph Cathy into Ciji. 


                Meanwhile, over at Pacific World Whatever, Ben is getting real excited as he announces that he’s gonna do a story on Galveston and West Fall (by the way, the TV.com synopsis spells this as “Wesphall,” which just looks weird and is probably not right, and whenever they have said it on the show, I have always heard it as “West Fall” and that’s how I’m gonna refer to it from now on unless I'm proven to be incorrect) and the poisoned water and all that good stuff.  Ben says how he has been working on this story for awhile, and he feels almost bad about doing this tell-all five minutes after Galveston dies, as it will seem like he waited until the man couldn’t defend himself.  Again, it’s these small little touches that make the characters so rich and so intricate.  The fact that Ben says this aloud shows that he’s a decent dude and a man of ethics, that he feels bad about almost kicking a man after he has died, but at the same time the truth must be known.  But then Joshua does something evil.

                Before Joshua does this evil thing, though, he sucks Ben’s ass a little bit (but only a little bit) by asking him to be his best man at the wedding.  It’s sorta a weird, backhanded compliment, because he says something to the effect of how he may not see eye to eye with Ben on many things, but he still considers him family.  Ben, who is proving to be so much funnier than I ever noticed upon first viewing, has this great line delivered with his typical dry humor where he basically says that Joshua has left him no choice, so he’ll have to do it.  Still, it seems to be a small moment of peace between the two men, a peace that is abruptly shattered when Joshua goes on his little religious program and immediately uses the whole West Fall story as a part of his sermon.  So not only does he take the wind out of Ben’s sails by talking about this story on television first, but he also uses it in this weird twisted way to make it seem like nothing evil or duplicitous was going down at West Fall.  Instead, he uses it to point out, “Gee, these people had something really shitty happen to them with the poisoned water and all that, but look at the great positive attitude they all had and how they persevered!  And look at how nice Galveston Industries was for helping them relocate and find new homes!”  By doing this, Joshua has effectively sabotaged Ben’s story.  Why does he do this?  I don’t know that I’m even entirely sure.  Joshua doesn’t have any particular loyalty to Galveston; in fact, I can’t recall that the two ever even shared screen time together.  I think he really just does this to be evil, to show the power he’s getting at Pacific World Whatever, to basically just take a big piss in Ben’s face and say, “I’m doing this because I can.”  I don’t mean to get into spoiler territory (if that even applies; is there anyone reading this blog who hasn’t seen the series start to finish at least once?), but I will say that Joshua hasn’t reached the level of evil that we are going to see in the early stages of next season, but he’s getting closer.  He’s not just suffering from an inflated ego, not just getting a bit of a big head, but rather becoming a legitimate monster and very unlikable person. 

                On that subject, another good deal of the drama in For Better, For Worse concerns whether or not Joshua and Cathy are even going to have a wedding at all.  The entire engagement has been, um, rocky, to say the least, starting right away with how Joshua proposed (or didn’t propose) to Cathy, choosing instead to just announce to the television viewers that he and Cathy would be married.  After that, he managed to win her back by giving the more traditional, down-on-his-knees-style wedding proposal, but two minutes after she accepted that, he returned to being a controlling douche.  First off, he announced to everyone that Cathy wouldn’t be singing at all once they were married, which came as news to the singer in question, and then he went off to the dressing rooms of the recently cancelled Little House on the Prairie, poked around through all the old outfits, and found the most conservative, boring, and unsexy wedding dress he could possibly find, then boldly proclaimed that this would be the dress Cathy would be wearing for the ceremony.  Understandably upset about never having her opinions valued, Cathy did a peaceful protest by not showing up for the rehearsal last ep, and this ep she gets much more direct in her anger towards Joshua.

                Cathy tells Joshua that she’s no longer sure she wants to get married, and says she’d be much happier if they could postpone it for a little while.  Joshua does something that I positively hate, and the sad thing is that you don’t have to be a psycho douchebag religious televangelist asshole to pull this move, as regular human people also do it all the time and it’s severely annoying, and that is being like, “We must get married RIGHT NOW, we MUST!  Why won’t you marry me RIGHT AWAY?!”  Ugh, I hate this, and I hate when anyone does it.  Straight people obviously do it all the time, but I’m ashamed to say that my fellow gay people have started to fall into this trap ever since gay marriage became legal in all the states.  If you really believe that you are truly and 100% in love with a person, then who gives a shit when you get married?  You could get married tomorrow or ten years from now, but isn’t the whole idea that you are going to be with the person for the rest of your life?  So why all this hurry to be married as soon as possible?  It’s creepy and a total turnoff, and yet people do it all the time, and Joshua does it here.  Cathy makes much more sense as she argues that, by postponing, they will have some time to get things sorted out and see if they can truly be happy together, but Joshua pulls the guilt trip on her about how all these people are coming and are expecting there to be a wedding.  Now, for the life of me, I can’t remember precisely how Joshua convinces Cathy to marry him, but somehow he does, because the episode culminates with their wedding ceremony (although, thank God, Cathy shows up wearing the sexy dress that is way more becoming on her, not the one that Dr. James Dobson would pick out for his wife).


                Oh yeah, I was about to move on to Karen’s big story for the ep and then sorta wrap it up there, but I almost forgot of the weird little mini-storyline with Eric that’s been going for a few eps.  I think I’ve neglected to mention this at all in any of the previous eps, but for something like five or six eps, Eric has been sorta sneaking off and being weird and secretive about this girlfriend he has.  Karen and Mack have teased Eric about when they are going to get to meet this girl, and it finally happens when Eric shows up to the wedding with her and, GASP, she’s black!  Honestly, I’m not sure what to make of this.  I guess that in 1985 it would still be sorta a big deal for a white guy to date a black girl, I guess, but was it really that big of a deal?  Also, even if it were a big deal, at no point have I ever seen Mack and Karen as being racist people in any way, so I’m not entirely sure why Eric felt the need to hide this black girlfriend for such a long stretch of eps, but I remember this character (Whitney is her name) popping up in a few more eps, so perhaps it’ll be better explained there. 

                Now, I said that Karen and Mack get to meet the black girlfriend this week, but that’s not entirely true.  Mack does, but Karen’s a little too occupied with other business and isn’t actually able to attend the wedding of Joshua and Cathy.  See, she has successfully managed to track down the evil Dr. Ackerman, and it turns out he’s in Las Vegas for a big bridge tournament.  Karen heads off and we get a fabulous stock shot of old Vegas (we are about four years away from the beginning of the modern Vegas strip as we know it today being born) and then a whole lot of her hanging around the lobby of some hotel.  Which hotel is it?  I don’t think they ever tell us, and of course it’s quite obvious that no cameras ever went to Vegas for this little storyline; instead they just used some existing set or space of a different hotel and called it a Vegas hotel, but it’s not a big deal; it’s the storyline that counts.  Karen has found out that Dr. Ackerman is playing in this tournament, but then she has a hell of a time getting to him.  First, she shows up and finds out that he’s not even staying at the hotel, although the lady at the desk tells her this is hardly unusual, that lots of the players don’t stay at the hotel where the tournaments take place, and she even lets her in on a little secret by telling her that doctors are the cheapest of all and usually find some shithole to stay in during their visit. 

                Karen keeps checking every couple of minutes to see if the lady has seen Dr. Ackerman, and she starts to annoy the lady a little bit, as she keeps reiterating that she hasn’t seen him.  However, after a good long chunk of time has gone by and Karen is growing more and more impatient, she finds out that the lady made a mistake and Dr. Ackerman is inside the big secret room where the bridge tournament takes place, but that Karen can’t go in now; she has to wait for the game to end.  Now, at this point My Beloved Grammy and I started to rack our brains trying to remember if Karen actually knows what Dr. Ackerman looks like, and we couldn’t quite remember.  I feel like maybe maybe Karen saw him at some point in past eps, but I could be mistaken or remembering it incorrectly.  In any case, we were both wondering how Karen was going to recognize the man, but it turns out she has a pretty brilliant plan.  As soon as the players start filing out of the room, the game completed, she rushes to the pay phones and has him paged, asking him to come and pick up one of the phones or whatever, which he does.  He goes walking up to the big wall of pay phones, looking super evil, looking like the kind of guy who would steal your babies from you, and he answers and says, “This is Dr. Ackerman,” and then we get this image of Karen spinning around, holding her pay phone in her hand, and the camera going into a zoom in on her face, realizing that she has found him.  What’s going to happen next?  Well, I don’t know, because that’s how the episode ends, a pretty great ending that leaves one aching for more, wouldn’t you agree?


                I feel like we are now at the last lap of season six of KL, as My Beloved Grammy and I now have only one disk consisting of five eps left to watch, and then that will do it for the season.  This ep did a great job of moving us closer along to the season finale, building anticipation and excitement, and leaving me wanting to tune in for the next ep.  Everything about it was good, from the main story of Joshua and Cathy’s engagement turmoil to Gary at the burger place or speaking with Cheesy British Guy to Ben and Joshua’s rivalry and going right down to Karen’s trip to Vegas; everything works.  Coming up next, we’ll get started with that final disk of season six with the bizarrely titled, Four, No Trump.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 124 of 344: A MAN OF GOOD WILL


Episode Title:  A Man of Good Will

Season 06, Episode 24

Episode 124 of 344


Directed by Linda Day

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 28th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Joshua bullies Cathy over wedding plans, and Cathy doesn't show up for the rehearsal. Ben tells Karen to stop feeding Val's fantasy that the twins could be alive, and Mack takes Karen's side and says that maybe they are alive. Nurse Wilson calls Ackerman and tells him to keep Karen away from her. Greg and Gary argue over environmental concerns for Empire Valley. Greg changes Gary's credit report, and a lot of Gary's investors back out. Greg offers to buy Gary out. Laura finds out what Greg did and threatens to tell Gary. A lawyer calls Gary and says that Galveston left him all the land in Empire Valley. The boys want to sell Knots Landing Motors, but Karen won't as it was Sid's dream for them. They tell her it's Sid's dream but not theirs, and they don't like working there. Karen and Eric go to Sid's grave, and Karen says Sid just wanted him to be happy, so she'll hire a new manager.
 
 

Ah yes, it’s time to discuss A Man of Good Will and I have a lot to say about it right off the bat.  First off, I’d like to point out that this is our very first KL ep written by the husband and wife writing team of Lynn Marie Latham and Bernard Lechowick, and they are essentially going to become the showrunners for seasons eight through twelve, spanning 1986 to 1991.  Now, I’m gonna go ahead and do a bit of a retcon on some comments I made way near the start of this blog (I think back in the third episode of the series, Let Me Count the Ways).  Way back when, I talked about how I split the series up into certain eras and I said that the Latham/Lechowick era was my favorite of the series.  However, now that I’ve re-experienced the sheer joy and brilliance and perfection of the Peter Dunne era of seasons four, five, and six (well, most of six, anyway; we’ve still got a few eps to go and I actually believe he had stepped away from the show by this point), I’m almost certain that this is going to turn out to be my favorite portion of the series.  These three years have just been sooooooooo good and I get the feeling that, upon a second watching, seasons eight through twelve won’t hold up quite as well as I may have remembered.  However, that doesn’t mean I’m not gonnna thoroughly enjoy the shit out of them; I’m fairly confident that I will; it’s just that I doubt they will be able to completely match the utter genius of seasons four through six.  But the fact that these two people are going to have such a strong influence on the show just a few years down the line made me play close attention to this, their very first KL script, and I must say they make an impressive debut here. 
 
 

We left off last ep with Nurse Wilson trying to call Karen and then getting nervous and hanging up and tearing up the little card that Karen gave her.  We pretty much pick up seconds later here, or at least that’s the impression I got, as we open on her making a phonecall to the evil Dr. Ackerman.  Basically, the phone call consists of Nurse Wilson telling Ackerman that Karen is snooping around and making her nervous and she wants him to keep her away from her, that she feels awful about what happened.  This combined with seeing the Fisher twins back in A Piece of the Pie pretty much officially confirms to us viewers that yes, Val’s babies are alive and yes, they were stolen away from her by Dr. Ackerman.  The season finale inches ever closer.

Meanwhile, the wedding bells are still sounding for Joshua and Cathy, although one gets the feeling that it won’t be a terribly joyous occasion, as Joshua has already taken the liberty of vetoing the sexy and awesome dress Cathy wanted and replacing it with a super ugly and old fashioned thing that would be right at home on Little House on the Prairie.  The other dress is lovely and sexy and shows off Cathy’s beautiful figure, so of course that’s not acceptable for the wife-to-be of a big religious televangelist.  This Puritan-looking outfit that completely covers almost all of her body is much more acceptable, and I almost expected Joshua to bust out a burka and be like, “Here, Cathy, this really completes the ensemble!”  Fortunately Cathy is toughening up a bit, and she does not put up with this one bit when she sees this ugly old thing, and she even calls it out for the ugly monstrosity that it is and says she hates it and she’s not wearing it.  Again, you go, girl!

In my notes I wrote, “I like that Val is the one giving Cathy advice on this stuff,” and it’s absolutely true.  Honestly, I’m a little surprised that none of the other ladies are speaking up on Cathy’s behalf, because Joshua is being pretty blatantly disrespectful to her right now and way more than a smidge controlling.  It really seems like a situation in which spitfire Karen would speak up and be super direct to Joshua and tell him to stop being such a controlling asshole, but I suppose I can buy that Karen is a little busy with other matters and too distracted to speak up.  The one that I’m having a hard time justifying is Lilimae, who is really allowing Joshua to get away with way too much.  I guess you could say that Lilimae is afraid of losing Joshua since he only recently entered her life after so much time away and they have managed to patch up their past issues and get closer.  Perhaps she’s afraid that if she starts to tell him how to behave, she might alienate him and lose him again, this time forever.  However, I still think Lilimae is allowing him to get away with far too much by not speaking up and putting him in his place. 

Cathy winds up taking her stand by not showing up to the rehearsal, a rehearsal that also includes Reverend Kathryn.  This really interested me, and it makes me think I should take back that assumption I made earlier that Kathryn had gotten canned from his job at Pacific World Whatever by Abs.  The fact that he’s hanging around and helping Joshua with his wedding plans tells me that they are still on fairly good terms, and I feel like they wouldn’t be if he had been booted out the door after something like 25 years working at the station.  Of course, perhaps he was booted out and he is just that tolerant and awesome that he’s still able to work on wedding plans with the guy who got him fired.  I’m not entirely sure at this point, but I’ll pay attention to see if Reverend Kathryn is still shown working at Pacific World Whatever in the next eps of the season.  In any case, Cathy doesn’t show up for the rehearsal and I think that sends a pretty clear message that she’s not happy with the state of things right now.
 
 

Oh yes, lastly and most importantly as far as Cathy is concerned this week, we also get a fabulous cover song from her, this time of the Pat Benatar classic We Belong.  This was a big surprise to me as I was fairly confident that this song didn’t show up until somewhere in season seven, but here it is now.  I’m gonna make a prediction now and say that, of the four glorious seasons that Lisa Hartman is a part of KL, season six has to be the one with the most singing from her, even more than season four which was almost an advertisement for her Letterock album (a brilliant advertisement, of course).  Seriously, at this point I can’t even remember how many songs she’s given us throughout this year, from I Can Dream About You to Time After Time to Beat of a Heart to Jehovah and now to We Belong.  As I always seem to say when it comes to Lisa’s fabulous covers, I greatly prefer her version of this song to Pat Benatar’s even though Benatar’s is obviously much more iconic.  It’s just the sound of her voice, what can I say?  Also, I first heard this song here, in this episode, and I didn’t know if it was a cover song or, if it was, who she was covering, so I just sorta thought of it as a Lisa song for a good while until I discovered the original on the radio one day.
 
 

Meanwhile, all sorts of exciting conspiracy shit is heating up over in Greg’s part of town, as he gets more heavily involved in this bizarre Empire Valley project.  In this ep, he has this amazing techy nerd assistant guy who is, of course, not listed on the IMDb episode page.  I really wish he was listed because I really recognized this guy and I have no idea why (I get the distinct feeling that he was in a Seinfeld episode).  The guy’s look is perfect, by the way, and aptly demonstrates that the nerdy computer tech stereotype has really not changed much at all in the last thirty years.  He’s a white guy, he’s overweight, he’s kinda balding yet still has this long hair that is very unbecoming, he has a big pair of square glasses on, and you just know he’s seen all 79 episodes of Star Trek numerous times (although Next Gen is still two years in the future, but you also just know this guy is gonna get real excited when that starts up and immediately begin having violent debates with his friends about Kirk versus Picard).  Anyway, this little character is just yet another example of how everyone in the KL universe, even the most minor people who only show up to provide some exposition, are still interesting and distinctive and feel like real people.




The computer nerd basically shows Greg that, with this fancy, modern, amazing 1985 computer, he has the power to completely fuck over anyone he wants.  It all feels very James Bond-esque (but then this whole Empire Valley saga feels rather James Bond-esque to me, and I of course mean that in a good way), and it also calls back to a time when people were starting to use computers, but they still seemed like this weird, scary, science-fiction type thing.  First, the nerd demonstrates by typing in Gary Ewing’s name and then immediately getting a big list of information about him and his life and his finances and how he got a huge deal of money after his father died.  Then he reveals to Greg that this amazing 1985 computer actually has the ability to completely destroy Gary’s financial stability by fucking up his credit rating, and then Greg is like, “Hey, let’s do it.”

 

Why does Greg do this?  This is perhaps the most “evil” thing we’ve seen him do up to this point (and I put the word in quotation marks because there is just something about Greg and the way Devane plays him that, no matter what he might do, he never ever seems truly evil), and as I sit here reflecting on the ep, I can’t entirely remember the chain of events that lead to this happening.  Essentially, it has something to do with how Greg wants to do something or other at Empire Valley and it doesn’t jibe with Gary’s plans and his environmental concerns (Gary is very modern and ahead-of-his-time for being so concerned with the environment; he’s into it about twenty years before it became super trendy) and they have a bit of an argument about it.  Sorry to be so vague, but I honestly can’t remember exactly what they fight about, but I do believe this fight is the impetus for Greg to change Gary’s credit score.  It doesn’t take long before Gary is alerted to this phenomenon by his banker, and we also get a nice little shout out to J.R. over in Texas when the banker asks, “Has J.R. been up to something with those oil leases?”  I’m noting pretty much all direct references to Dallas and the characters over there right now because, at this point, we only have one more season in which the two shows officially exist in the same universe, and then of course Bobby comes back from the dead in 1986 and everything is fucked up beyond repair; after that the two shows pretty much sever ties and I don’t think we ever even hear the names of J.R. and Bobby or any of those folks after we pass season seven of KL, although I shall certainly keep my ears open.  But anyway, Gary confirms that, to his knowledge, J.R. hasn’t been doing anything with the oil leases, and then the banker tells Gary how his credit score is plummeting rapidly and he has no idea why.

We get a superbly cute scene between Greg and Laura a little later that made me beam with pleasure.  Fuck, this couple is so cute; how did I not notice it upon first viewing?  Make no mistake, I loved both characters and I enjoyed seeing them interact, but I don’t remember my heart melting and a big old smile taking over my face every time they were onscreen together, and that’s what’s happening with me now.  Why are they so freaking cute?  I think it’s just the natural, sparkling chemistry, and I have no way of knowing this for sure, but I get the feeling that Devane’s improvisations and the strange style of humor that he brings to proceedings was legitimately charming Constance and I think that shows in scenes like this.  See, in this instance, he is talking to her about how he could have the power to fuck up Gary’s money and assets and all that stuff, although he drapes it in a sorta “I could do this stuff if I wanted to, but I’m not gonna” rhetoric.  When Laura says how she wouldn’t support anything that hurts Gary, Greg makes her laugh by talking about how he could fuck up Abby’s credit score, too, and then we get a shot that I love which is actually going to make it into the scrolling squares next season.  In it, Greg is holding a cigar (this makes #3 on the Sumner Cigar Counter, by the way) and then he puts the cigar in his mouth for a second and sorta waves his hand cheerfully in front of Laura and then we cut to Laura’s face as she smiles and sorta laughs over it.  This is gonna play when we get to Constance’s credit during the season seven opening, and I always would smile when I saw it, and now I know officially what episode it’s coming from.
 
 

A little later on, through some circumstances that I can’t entirely remember (again, I’m sorry), Laura finds out what’s really going on, that Greg is using his new power to fuck Gary, not Abby, and she says how she doesn’t approve of it and she’s going to tell Gary about it.  This creates a bit of a back-and-forth between the two regarding the ethics of what’s going down, and it actually leads us to our final scene of the ep, in which Laura drives up to Westfork with the intention of telling Gary the truth.  However, just as she’s about to spill the beans, Gary gets a phone call with the rather shocking news that when Galveston died, he left all of Empire Valley to him.  Essentially, it no longer matters what Gary’s credit score is because he is the full owner of this gigantic property/secret James Bond conspiracy setting.  It’s a rather happy and joyous note for the ep to go out on, and I always enjoy seeing eps that end on really happy notes, and this is a good example of that.

However, we’re not entirely done talking about the ep yet, as we’ve still got Karen to discuss.  She’s still continuing her pursuit of the truth of Val’s babies, and we do get some dialogue this week between her and Mack in which he states how he’s starting to really believe she could be onto something, along with a more confrontational chat between her and Ben.  Similar to Lilimae in our previous ep, Ben is mad at Karen for stirring up old dramas and getting Val’s hopes up that her babies might still be alive.  I guess I kinda sorta get where Ben is coming from, but I don’t think Karen is doing anything wrong here.  She hasn’t announced to Val what she’s up to, she hasn’t been like, “I’m searching for Dr. Ackerman because I also believe your babies are alive!”  She’s kinda doing it on the D.L. and without getting Val too excited about it, without even telling her about it at all, if I’m remembering correctly, so I think she’s in the right.  However, this stuff is actually pretty minor in A Man of Good Will.  Most of Karen’s story in this ep involves the conclusion of the little mini-storyline that’s been going on with that Texan Transmorpher who wants to buy Knots Landing Motors.  While this storyline is perhaps not EXCITING the way Val’s babies are, I really appreciated this little story and found it very interesting to watch.  See, basically the Texan is aggressively continuing his pursuit to buy the garage, and whenever Karen tells him that she’s not interested in selling, he raises his offer to something even higher and says, “But that’s my final offer!”  By acting disinterested in selling, it seems Karen could really manage to get a nice chunk of money out of this guy, but she remains firm in her refusal to sell, and that’s because of her love of Sid and her memories of him and how important the garage was to him.

I find myself frequently surprised over and over again at how often Sid continues to come up in the show, and I think it’s another fine example of the show having a really rich history in which things happen and are not forgotten.  At this point, Mack is comfortably established as Karen’s husband and he’s already been in more seasons and more episodes than Sid ever was, and yet that doesn’t mean we can’t still talk about Sid and remember how important he was to the show during those first 33 episodes.  Here, Karen tells Mack that Sid built Knots Landing Motors from the ground up, that it was his baby, that he loved it, and that he wanted to turn it over to his children one day, and that’s why she can’t just up and sell it.  However, the boys, Eric and Sexy Michael, speak very directly to her and tell her that they just don’t really like working there too much.

This story culminates in a fabulous scene set at Sid’s grave, which we last visited way back in season three with Letting Go.  This scene had completely slipped my mind, as I thought Letting Go was the last we saw of Sid’s grave, but nope, here we are now, well over three years since his character died, and we get a scene of Eric and Karen visiting the graveyard and laying some flowers down on Sid’s grave.  Karen gives a nice speech in which she tells Eric that Sid just wanted his children to be happy; he wouldn’t want them running the garage out of mere obligation to him, all while feeling unhappy.  Therefore, she announces that, while she’s not going to sell, she is going to find some new management to run it.  This is smart writing, in my opinion, not just because it does such a good job of recalling past history, but also because it helps to justify why we basically never see the garage anymore (indeed, I’m gonna pay attention to see if we ever get another scene set in within the walls of Knots Landing Motors, because I have a distinct feeling that we’ve seen the last of that setting).

I think that’s about gonna do it for our story points this week, but I do wanna take another quick moment to talk about how impressed I am by this as a debut ep for Latham/Lechowick.  I know this duo remain a controversial element amongst many KL fans as well as cast members (on one hand, you have Michele Lee declaring them her favorite writers for the series while J.V.A. has been openly critical of how they treated the Valene character and The Plesh has even gone so far as to call them “awful people”), but I must say that this is ep shows great promise from them.  I am especially impressed by how they are able to do such a nice little callback to Saint Sid, a character who died and exited the series long before they were ever involved in any capacity with the show, and then I’m also impressed by the way they keep the current plot developments moving along, most especially with those involving Gary and Greg and the credit score and all that excitement.  Honestly, I would be very impressed by these two if I was working behind the scenes and I would absolutely have them write more eps and start giving them more power if they were able to keep up this quality. 
 
 

Next up, we shall discuss the final ep of this particular disk of eps watched by My Beloved Grammy and myself.  We already saw an aborted wedding earlier this season with Lead Me to the Altar, so now we will see a wedding that, hopefully, goes off smoothly (but probably won’t) with the nuptials of Joshua and Cathy in For Better, For Worse.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 123 of 344: THE FOREST FOR THE TREES


Episode Title:  The Forest for the Trees

Season 06, Episode 23

Episode 123 of 344

Written by Michael Russnow

Directed by Nick Havinga

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 21st, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Joshua apologizes to Cathy and proposes. She accepts and Abby decides to throw them a party. Karen finds out who the nurse on duty was the night Val gave birth. Karen finds Nurse Wilson and questions her, but she doesn't say anything. Karen tells Lilimae that Wilson is scared, and brings Lilimae to talk with her, too. Gary decides to go ahead with Empire Valley, but asks Mack and Ben for their reports as he doesn't trust Greg. At the engagement party, Greg warns Coblenz about Abby. Joshua announces to everyone that as soon as they're married, Cathy is going to stop singing. Cathy's angry, and he tells her she doesn't need to make scenes to get his attention. Val comforts Cathy and tells her to stand up to Joshua. Abby meets with Coblenz and pretends to know what's really going on, and Coblenz, thinking she already knows, tells her all. Greg tells Coblenz that Abby faked him out, and Coblenz tells Greg to undo the damage.

                We have reached the point where we have, at this exact point and with this episode included, eight episodes total left in season six of KL.  Now, for other shows, particularly shows nowadays where a season consists of ten to fifteen eps altogher, eight eps might seem like a lot to have left, but because of the size of this season and the fact that we have watched 22 eps out of a 30 ep season, with eight eps to go I am starting to feel like the show is really starting to power ever closer to its season finale, that things are starting to get extra juiced up and extra exciting as we began our final few laps for this brilliant, brilliant, brilliant season of television.  The fact that our last ep, A Piece of the Pie, showed us firmly that Val’s babies are alive and living with the Fishers has certainly helped add to that feeling of acceleration as we get started with The Forest for the Trees, directed by a KL director who is quickly rising in my esteem, Nick Havinga (this is his fourth ep after The Block Party, Tomorrow Never Knows, and Message in a Bottle).  Let’s dive right in.
 
 

                I talked about Joshua and Cathy last in our previous ep, so let’s talk about them first for this ep.  You’ll all vividly recall Cathy singing the amazing song Jehovah in an amazing scene in our amazing previous episode, and you’ll all recall how right after she was done singing, Joshua marched in front of the cameras and announced that he had proposed to Cathy (he hadn’t) and she had accepted his proposal (she hadn’t).  This week, we continue to explore this relationship, which started out so sweet and innocent and cute at the start of the season but has rapidly turned rather dysfunctional and disturbing.  See, as we get started with The Forest for the Trees, Cathy is still pretty upset with Joshua for, you know, announcing that they were getting married without consulting her about it.  It’s just common courtesy, really; if you are stepping out of the house to get a quart of milk from the supermarket, you let your girlfriend know, and if you’re planning to marry your girlfriend in a couple of days, you let her know.  If I was Cathy, I’d be pissed off, too, but as we’ve already established, if I was Cathy, I would have dumped Joshua long ago and started having violent sex with Sexy Michael (although I think the character of Michael is supposed to be sixteen years old, so I guess Cathy could get in trouble for sleeping with him, even though in real life the actor Pat Petersen would be eighteen at this point).  Honestly, I’m getting a little tired of Cathy being so passive; she puts up a small amount of fight every now and then when Joshua is controlling (like when he sorta tricked her into going out on a picnic with him and missing her band practice), but for the most part, I think she’s allowing way too much crap to go on, only putting up a very mild fight, even with something as important as this unearned announcement of marriage.  Even so, Joshua is able to sway her back by apologizing for his behavior, giving her some story about how he thought that spur-of-the-moment announcement would be romantic to her, how he thought she’d be pleased.  Then he gives her the standard proposal in which he gets down on one knee and it’s all very conventional and Bob Loblaw, and at this point, she accepts.  See, I recognize that perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh on Cathy, a character I love just as much as I loved Ciji (perhaps even more, honestly, but that might just be because we spend three seasons with Cathy and we didn’t even have one full season with Ciji), because when you’re really in love with someone, it gets tricky and complicated.  I am willing to say that Cathy is in love with the Joshua we met at the start of the season, the one who was sweet and gentle and cute.  Now Joshua is starting to turn into this controlling, egotistical monster, but it’s hard to really recognize that something like that might be happening when it’s happening so gradually right in front of you, you know?  Indeed, I have never experienced anything like this with a romantic relationship (and I’ve also only been in love twice), but I’ve sorta had it happen with friendships, where you like someone and they are your friend but slowly they start to change, and it’s only after a certain amount of time that you are able to realize this person is not the same person you liked originally, you know?

                But fuck, Joshua is such a dick in this ep.  Okay, he’s been a dick for, like, maybe the last ten eps that we’ve seen, but he’s really getting out of control this week.  See, after Cathy accepts his proposal, Abs decides to throw them a nice little engagement party since, you know, she’s rich now and that’s all that rich people do is throw parties and drink a lot.  Anyway, at this party, Joshua once again makes an ass of himself by boldly announcing that, once he and Cathy are married, she will of course stop singing right away and start popping out babies, since that’s of course what women were made to do.  Finally, Cathy shows some balls towards Joshua and tells him in front of everybody that that’s not true; she will continue to sing for as long as she shall live.  Joshua interprets this as her “making a scene,” but I’m totally with Cathy on this one; you go, girl! 

                Real fast, I wanna make sure it’s clear that when I insult Joshua, I’m definitely not insulting Alec Baldwin, who entered the series at the start of this season and immediately felt established as a core character and an important member of the cast.  He has played Joshua perfectly ever since he first showed up at Val and Lilimae’s door, and watching him start to change and become a huge douchebag has been rather fascinating and is a testament to his inherent acting talent, since this is one of the very first things he ever did.  Nowadays he’s more known for his comedy roles and his SNL guest spots and he’s a terrific comedic actor (I will take a moment to say that I adore him as the voice of Leonardo Leonardo on the tragically short lived Clerks: The Animated Series), but I’d say Joshua remains my favorite character he has ever played, perhaps simply because I love the show so much so I automatically choose his character from this as his best ever, but also just cuz I think he plays the part perfectly.  Also, while I might make fun of the Joshua character and call him a douchebag, please understand that I love watching him and I love seeing this drama unfold; it’s just all so very good.

 

                Okay, let’s move on to our other beloved characters.  Let’s start with Sexy Michael and a scene that I immediately put away in my Private Masturbation Files for later use.  I can’t actually remember what is discussed or established or done in this scene, except that it consists of Ben, Mack, and Sexy Michael returning from a nice California jog and they are all of course wearing shorts.  Ben and Mack’s shorts are whatever; I love both characters but I don’t want to violate them, you understand, but Sexy Michael is a whole different story, and he’s rocking a pair of short shorts so short that I kept my eyes opened real wide to see if maybe, just maybe, a little teeny smidge of wiener might pop out.  Sadly for me, nothing of the sort happened, but I still got to feast my eyes on Sexy Michael in a pair of short shorts with those perfect legs proudly displayed and that magnificent bubble butt just calling out for attention, begging me, talking to me, saying to me, “Please, Brett, please climb inside of the TV and start putting your penis in me.”  Mmmmmm, yeah, that was good, mmmmm, okay, moving on.

                The Sumner Cigar Counter rapidly escalates from one to two in this ep, as we have his second cigar during a lovely fancy schmancy dinner with him and Laura and Karen and Mack and Ava Gardner (Ruth is her character’s name, as you’ll recall, but I’ll probably just keep calling her Ava).  Ah yes, this looks fabulous, and again, this is a world I want to live in.  I can’t exactly say what character from KL I would most want to be, as I think I would just like to be myself living in the universe of KL, but if I was living in that universe, I would want to be part of the entire package, meaning that I could spend time hanging out on the cul-de-sac and having cookouts with the neighbors but also spend time having fancy dinners at Sumner’s place with Ava Gardner in attendance.  One thing I particularly liked about this scene was the way Mack asks to have one of Sumner’s cigars, as well; he’s very cute and says something like, “Can I treat myself to one of these fancy cigars, here?”  I like me a man who can enjoy the rich tobacco taste of a fine cigar without being a constant, daily, smells-bad-all-the-time smoker.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a cigar now and then and I enjoy them very much, and I like that we get to see Mack enjoying one every now and then (I can immediately think of at least one other example much later in the series, but I feel like there are a couple more in addition to that). 

Also, I love Sumner’s big open bar on one of those sexy rolling carts and I like how he knows everybody’s drink and he’s respectful of Gary and knows that he drinks nothing stronger than club soda and so he pours him a little warm Perrier.  Actually, that’s my only problem with this whole arrangement.  One of Brett’s random pet peeves that just irritates the crap out of me is when people have drinks that are really best enjoyed super cold, like Perrier (I love Perrier because I am gay and I must immediately fall into the gay stereotype of loving Perrier), yet they just keep them sitting out at room temperature and then just pour them over ice and call it good, as if that will magically change the taste of the liquid to be cold.  Sorry, but all that happens in that instance is that you quickly melt the ice with your room temperature Perrier and then you just have shitty, watered down Perrier with rapidly melting ice cubes floating around in it.  See, when I’m serving people drinks, I put the Perrier in the fridge and then I chill the glasses in the freezer and put a bunch of ice cubes in the glass and then pour the super cold and delicious Perrier over the ice cubes in the chilled glass and you have a drink that’s guaranteed to stay cold for a really long time.  I do the same with vodka and gin, but your other liquors are not meant to be served out of the freezer, so those stay room temperature.  Oh wait a minute, what the hell does this have to do with anything?  Oh yeah, nothing, I’m just babbling on about my love of cold Perrier in a glass, so let’s move on.

 

Last ep, I talked about how KL is so good at showing us those small, realistic little life moments that we can all relate to and how that helps keep the show feeling grounded no matter how outlandish the plots may become.  Well, this ep has not one but two examples of that.  I already mentioned Mack and the plunger and the broken sink last week, but I’ll bring it up again here.  See, Karen mentions how the sink is clogged or whatever, and then later in the ep, while she and Mack are discussing, I think, Val’s babies and all that drama, Mack spends the scene plunging the sink and trying to fix the clog.  When did we ever see anything like this over on Dallas?  Never, absolutely never.  Can you imagine a scene of J.R. talking about how he’s gonna fight for full control of Ewing Oil all while he’s using a plunger to unclog the sink (or, being familiar with J.R.'s less-than-healthy diet, the toilet)?  It just would never happen over on that show, but it’s common practice over here on KL.  The only other thing I wanna say about this scene is that I really hope the Fairgate MacKenzie family owns two sets of plungers, one for the toilet and one for the sink.  If Mack is using the same plunger to plunge the sink that previously was used to unclog Diana’s nasty, bitchy turds from the toilet, well I am just going to have to go off and vomit.  So let’s just assume that they have one plunger that lives in the bathroom and is used for toilet related emergencies and then another one that lives under the sink in the kitchen and is used for sink related emergencies, shall we?




The other small moment I like in this ep occurs between Val and Cathy.  See, Cathy is vacuuming the Avery living room and singing along to some music on her Walkman (remember those?) when Val comes in the front door behind her.  She knocks and shouts at Cathy, but Cathy can’t hear her due to all the noise, and then when Val approaches behind her and taps her on the shoulder, she scares her and Cathy screams out.  Then, of course, she turns around and sees that it’s only Val and is all relieved and the scene proceeds forward.  I was watching this scene and I actually paused (just like I later paused the Mack/sink/plunger scene) to share my absolutely brilliant observations with My Beloved Grammy.  I pointed out how they could have easily just done a scene in which Val walks in and Cathy is like, “Oh, hi, Val!” and then the scene unfolds in whatever fashion.  However, by throwing in this small little detail with the vacuuming and the Walkman, it just helps it to feel more real, more like a real neighborhood with real people living in it, and it’s those small details that add up to create a realistic feeling throughout the series.  Again, if this was Dallas, I feel like the scene would be shot in a very bland way and there would be a knock at the door and the camera would remain stationary as Cathy answers the door and then she’d say “Hi, Val,” and then Val would walk into frame and it would look super boring and dull and it would just not be interesting at all.

Eric Fairgate is sorta lingering around lately, not being a main cast member (he never gets to be a main cast member, actually), but still being kinda sorta important to proceedings.  Remember how two eps back he mentioned that some dude came by Knots Landing Motors wanting to purchase it?  That was put on the backburner for A Piece of the Pie, but now it has returned.  In this ep, we actually meet the guy who wants to purchase the garage, and he’s a Texan named Boots Connors (great name) and played by Don Hood.  As soon as I saw this guy, I became convinced that he must be a Transmorpher because he would have fit in like a round peg in a round hole over on Dallas; he’s Texan and he’s got the accent and the cowboy hat and the whole look and I could easily imagine him sitting down for some sort of boring business deal with J.R. over at the Cattleman’s Club or whatever, and of course, when I looked it up, I discovered I was right.  IMDb says he appears in a 1988 ep of Dallas (meaning it would have been deep into The Dark Years by that point) called Marriage on the Rocks.  He was also in the Brian De Palma movie Obsession that I sorta love as well as the infamous Brooke Shields movie Pretty Baby (that’s the one where she is twelve but shows her boobs and everything and it’s all very controversial) as well as a Tales From the Crypt I remember enjoying (it’s called The Sacrifice). 

Okay, anyway, this character doesn’t do much in this ep.  Basically he shows up at the garage because he is supposed to have a meeting with Karen regarding selling it to him, but Karen never shows up, since she is too busy with, you guessed it, investigating the truth about Val’s babies.  Karen makes major progress this week, but it’s still not quite good enough.  First she shows up at the hospital to speak with one of the nurses who was on staff the night Val’s babies were born.  Oh yeah, this scene also helps to tell us the precise timeline of events unfolding, because even though Val gave birth in Tomorrow Never Knows, an ep that aired November 29th, 1984, here Karen says it was November 24th that Val gave birth, so there you go.  Anyway, Karen has to wait around a good long while before managing to speak to the nurse, and then the nurse isn’t all that terribly helpful.  Make no mistake, she’s not mean or anything like that, just busy and in a hurry and not able to really remember that night all too well.  Karen asks her about the other nurse on duty that night, Nurse Wilson, and this lady (she’s just credited as “Nurse” on the IMDb page and I’m not sure if she actually gets a name in the ep or not) tells her that Nurse Wilson got transferred to another hospital and she might be able to find her somewhere else, or something like that.

 

This leads Karen to a trailer park occupied by Nurse Wilson.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about portraying this black character as living in a trailer park, but then I’ve never been one of those liberals who feels like TV and film need to make sure and keep completely PC at all times, since I really do hate political correctness (that’s why I say “fag” so often, by the way, as a way of trying to take the power out of the word by pointing out that it is, in the end, just a word, and it only holds the amount of power that we give it, although as of lately I have also found myself not wanting to use the word too much and send out hateful rhetoric into the world, so I think I'm officially switching to not saying it anymore), but I’m just not sure.  I recognize that all people of all colors are just people and anybody, black or white or whatever, can live in a trailer park, but I do wonder if showing this black nurse having to live in a trailer park might not be an instance of that ingrained racism that is prevalent in so many things from the 1980s.  But then, of course, maybe she’s just a regular human character like any regular human character and there is no grand meaning to where she lives; indeed, Karen speaks with a white lady who also lives at the trailer park, so I could just be acting like an overly sensitive 21st century PC liberal douche; what do you think?

In any case, Karen gets nothing out of Nurse Wilson upon first meeting her, but then she manages to convince a reluctant Lilimae to tag along later.  Why is Lilimae reluctant?  Honestly, I’m having a hard time completely understanding Lilimae right now.  Does she really and truly believe that Val’s babies were born dead and that’s all there is to it?  I know Val’s been acting, erm, a little bit nutty throughout the middle portions of this season, but she is so vehement in her assertion that she heard those babies crying that I’m not sure how her very own mother could ignore what she’s saying, but here she’s getting kinda pissy at Karen for doing her investigations, saying how she’s just gonna get Val all upset for nothing, that she needs to let it be.  Of course, I see Karen as being a true friend who would go to the ends of the earth for the people she loves, so I can’t quite understand Lilimae’s perspective here, but in any case, she does agree to go meet with Nurse Wilson later.  Again, they don’t manage to get much information out of her; mostly she just asks them to go away and leave her alone and stop asking her about dead babies and such, but I think the ladies manage to get to her when they talk about all the emotional turmoil Val has dealt with throughout the season, and then Karen leaves her with her phone number on a card. 

This leads nicely into our final scene of the ep, in which we see Nurse Wilson sitting in her lovely trailer (imagine the amazing cocktail parties you could have in these incredible living quarters!) and calling up Karen’s house.  However, when she calls, Karen is out of the house and Val answers, since she’s there for some reason or other.  After she answers, there’s this moment of silence and then Nurse Wilson hangs up without saying anything and tears up the card that Karen gave her.  Now, this is a great scene and a great ending to the ep, but I do have a question about it.  Does she lose confidence and tear up the card because she hears Val’s voice?  Or would it not have mattered who answered, whether it be Karen or Mack or Eric or Sexy Michael (if I was trying to call somebody and Sexy Michael answered, I would just be like, “Get over to my place right away so I can do vile things to your body”); did she simply lose her nerve to speak out about the truth?  I don’t know that I believe this nurse would really remember Val’s voice after all these months have passed; I’m sure she’s been in plenty of hospital situations and dealt with plenty of people, but My Beloved Grammy said that she hangs up because she hears Val’s voice and loses her nerve.  My Beloved Grammy is older and wiser than I am, so perhaps she’s correct in her assertion.

 

I guess that about does it for The Forest for the Trees, another stunning episode of this fabulously stunning season of television.  I’m sitting here trying to think if there are any last points I wish to address, and I do just have a few quick ones.  One is that we continue to see Eric being weirdly secretive of this new girlfriend he’s got that he still hasn’t introduced anyone to (spoiler alert: She’s black), and that’s gonna come back an ep or two later, and the other is that we see Olivia having a bug up her ass about Cathy’s engagement and Abs throwing her a party.  This was a rather lovely callback, because Olivia is pissed about how Cathy and Gary were shagging at the end of season five.  See, this season is so huge that season five already feels like a really long time ago, even though it really wasn’t, so I’ve almost kinda sorta forgotten about all the Cathy/Gary stuff from last season, and I appreciate that the writers have not.  I like that they’ll make callbacks to things that happened over a year ago, and I like that those events continue to dictate how certain characters like Olivia might react or behave now, at this point in the saga.  Oh yeah, and last of all, we do have a pretty key development where Abby talks to Cheesy British Guy and manages to get him to basically spill all this secret information about what Empire Valley really is, and it’s really not all that hard, honestly; all she has to do is sorta pretend like she already knows everything and then Cheesy British Guy is happy to talk.  I feel like I might be glazing over this plot point, and I don’t mean to, but I feel like it’s gonna pay off in a big way later on, so we’ll discuss it more at that juncture.


In conclusion, Nick Havinga is continuing to impress me as one of the best KL directors, right up there with the brilliant Larry Elikann and my other favorites like Nicholas Sgarro and Bill“Cooke” Duke.  His contributions to KL this season have been great, most especially the stunning Tomorrow Never Knows, and while this ep might not be quite up there with that entry, it’s still a great 48 minutes of television and I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be watching.  With this ep under our belt, we have but seven eps left in this season and I can’t wait to discuss them, so let’s move on to A Man of Good Will.