Wednesday, December 6, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 152 of 344: HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL


Episode Title: High School Confidential


Season 07, Episode 22


Episode 152 of 344




Directed by David Paulsen


Original Airdate: Thursday,  March 6th, 1986


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Sexy Michael is booked. He denies the joint is his, but won't say who's it is. Sexy Michael tried to convince Olivia to tell the truth, but she won't. Karen suspects it is Olivia's and tells Abby, who is enraged that Karen could think such a thing. Gary is in a race car crash, and is kept in the hospital overnight for observation. Abby shows up and doesn't like that Jill is there. She tells Peter that she values her marriage and to "distract" Jill. Mack and Jill go to check water samples at Wesphall. The town doctor, who thinks he recognizes Jill, says that there has been an increase in arsenic poisoning. Mack looks through a Franklin High yearbook, and sees Jill's picture with the name Dorothy Simpkins. Greg tells his attorney to make Peter an offer, but not too big. He tells Laura it is a test. If Peter accepts less than half of the company, then he is not his brother. A guest at Lotus Point gets sick with arsenic poisoning.


Welcome to High School Confidential.  Where to start?  Hmmm, I guess I’ll start right at the beginning.  We left off Irrevocably Yours with Sexy Michael being stopped by the T-1000 while driving.  The T-1000 found two joints in Sexy Michael’s car and flipped out, leading us nicely into the start of this ep, in which Sexy Michael is enduring the humiliation of posing for a police mug shot while an overly aggressive cop acts all annoyed and says, “Come on, move; this isn’t your first time here,” although I am proud to note that Sexy Michael points out, “Yeah, it is.”  Honestly, if there’s one development that can immediately propel us back in time by 31 years to a time when the world was very different, it’s this one.  Nowadays, if a person wants a joint, all they have to do is walk into one of those legal weed places and buy it.  So long as you’re 21, you can go in and purchase whatever you want, and if you’re not 21, well, I’m sure it’s not hard to find someone to make the purchase for you.  However, back in 1986, if you got pulled over and were found in possession of weed, it could completely ruin your life, especially if you had dark skin and the police decided to punish you by twenty five years to life, all while they pocket the incriminating joints and take them home to enjoy themselves.  Watching the police treat Sexy Michael like he’s some vicious drug dealer because he was found with two lousy joints just took me back to a simpler time.



Sexy Michael’s little brush with the law is nicely crosscut with a lunch between Gary and Olivia taking place in some other area of town.  I note that this ep is directed by David Paulsen and, even if I might wind up being somewhat critical about his overall abilities as a showrunner during this particular season, I do see him doing clever things with his camera and with the overall style of the ep, starting right here.  It’s true that, at this point, the technique of crosscutting between characters is hardly new on KL, but he’s still doing a good job and it keeps both scenes extra interesting.


I feel sorry for both Gary and Olivia in this scene, a testament to the fact that I love them both.  On the one hand, you have Gary dealing with all the issues he’s been dealing with throughout the season, most notably that of the paternity of the babies.  I already discussed in my thoughts on our prior ep how I view Gary’s current emotional state.  So, at the same time he’s dealing with thoughts about Val’s babies and how they are also his babies, I can see him struggling to maintain a good relationship with Olivia, the girl he’s been a surrogate father to for years now.  Try as he might, however, he can’t get her to come out of her shell and talk about what’s bothering her, at least not yet.  On the other hand, I feel sorry for Olivia, who doesn’t know who she can trust anymore.  Throughout the course of her life, she has slowly started to see the way her mother behaves and that she may lack certain important ethics.  It’s not only that, though.  She feels she can’t trust her mother, but now she has found out that Gary impregnated Val while he was living with Abs, Olivia, and the ever-absent Brian (last spotted somewhere in season five), so does that mean Gary is inherently untrustworthy, as well? 



Olivia lets the cat out of the bag a few minutes later, after Gary attempts to soften her by giving her a nice red rose.  She brings up the trust fund and how twins Bobby and Betsy are going to have a nice chunk of change when they’re a little older, and at first Gary thinks that’s all that’s upsetting her, but then she blurts out, “How could you have babies with Val when you were living with us?”  Ah yes, the plot is thickening ever more, adding another example of my “slow burn storytelling” argument for why KL is so amazingly brilliant and good.  In our prior ep, I bitched about the writers drawing out Joshua’s death for eleven eps, which might seem strange considering what I’m now saying about Val’s babies and the slow burn, but follow me here.  There’s a real difference between the fallout from Joshua’s death and everything involving Val’s babies.  In the case of Joshua’s death, it feels like the writers just filling time until they can figure out what new stories to move on to.  It’s not like we learned anything particularly new about any of the characters as we watched Lilimae wander around the preaching district and then return to her house to declare that the twins now had “a guardian angel named Joshua.”  That all just felt like filler, and kinda boring filler, to be frank, but Val’s babies is a whole different ballgame. 


Val’s babies have been going on since way back in episode 081, …And Never Brought to Mind, when Gary and Val had their big shag and he planted his seed in her.  Then of course we had Val pregnant for the entire latter half of the fifth season as well as some of the sixth season, and then we had the glory and joy and brilliance of the entire stolen twins storyline in season six, still KL’s greatest storyline of all time (and, spoiler alert, it always will be).  Then we hit season seven and she got the twins back right near the start of the season, but through all of this drama, the issue of the twins’ true paternity has been looming in the background, a constant threat, and now it feels like that threat is being fulfilled.  Now, people are starting to find out the truth, and the more people that know, the more people that can talk about it.  When all this drama first got started, the only people who knew the true father were Val, Ben, and Mack.  By this point, it might be easier to make a list of who doesn’t know the truth.  Off the top of my head, I think the people who are aware of the truth by now are Val, Ben, Mack, Karen, Abs, Greg, Gary, and Olivia.  We’ve gone from three people knowing to eight people knowing; yikes!  How long until the bottom simply falls out on this whole thing?  Anyway, my basic point is that everything involving Val’s babies and their true father never feels like the writers drawing stuff out too long for me; it always feels just right and I appreciate how long the story spans and how it affects all these different characters.



Sexy Michael is quickly returned home before he has the chance to be locked up and made into somebody’s bitch and we get a minorly tense scene at the Fairgate/MacKenzie house in which Karen and Mack ask if the joints belonged to him.  There’s nothing particularly exciting in this scene, but I do like the trust that Karen and Mack show towards Sexy Michael, who has obviously earned that trust.  I know some fans like to shit on Karen and Mack, for reasons I’ll never understand, but I continue to think they demonstrate good ethics and integrity as parents and run a good household any parent should be proud of.  If I ever make kids of my own (which is very doubtful), I would like to create a similar household to raise them in, one where you put your trust in each other and don’t spread lies.  Oh yeah, and one last bit I noted about this scene: Mack asks Eric if he thinks Sexy Michael is smoking and Eric says, “No, I would know,” and then Mack asks, “Do you?” and Eric answers in the negative.  This is a small line, but it immediately brought me flashbacks to that season two Undisputed Masterpiece of the Television, Man of the Hour.  You’ll all recall that Eric didn’t physically smoke any pot in that ep, but he did have it on his person and bring it to that party, almost leading to the death of a character nobody remembers or cares about.  My little flashback helped me to appreciate how far we’ve come and how much better the show is at this point than it was back then.  Even if some of this weed stuff might come off a smidge overly serious to someone under 30 who is used to living in a world where weed is not a big deal, it’s still nothing compared to the high camp and hysterically over-the-top “drama” of Man of the Hour.



A little later, Mack and J.B. decide to take a little trip out to Wesphall together.  Now might be a good time to mention that the word is, in fact, “Wesphall,” as demonstrated by the sign on the clinic.  Whenever they say this word, my brain always hears “West Fall,” and indeed that’s even how the TV.com description had it before I fiddled with it.  We are firmly in an era for KL in which there are a ton of different places and weird words that we need to keep track of.  In the last three years alone, we have had Apolune, Wolfbridge, Lotus Point, Empire Valley, and Wesphall, a whole lot of different things to keep track of.  Now, if I’m not mistaken, the last time we were at this Wesphall clinic was back in mid season six with The Emperor’s Clothes, when she cut her hand and Ben took her to the Wesphall clinic and the super helpful doctor who had all the useful information.  Well, believe it or not, but that doctor is still there and still played by the same actor, Paul Comi, making his second appearance as this doctor before morphing into Ed Boyce in 1990 for the episode What If?  The last time characters visited this clinic, the doctor provided useful exposition about prior water contaminations due to Galveston Industries, and now he provides useful exposition by telling J.B., “Gee, you look familiar.”  Hmmm, why that’s the second person in as many episodes to “mistake” J.B. for another person, and both instances occurred in front of Mack.  Interesting, no?


At some point in this ep (or maybe it was the ep beforehand), we had a scene of Eric helpfully providing Mack with some exposition about Franklin High.  In a badly written scene clearly created to keep Franklin High on Mack’s brain, Eric mentions how the former coach from Franklin High is now working at some other high school.  Then he says how Franklin had an unbeatable wrestling team, but now the school is closed down.  We remember that the mysterious lady from our previous episode stopped J.B. on the street and said she knew her from Franklin High, but it takes Mack a little bit longer to realize.  However, once he does, he goes to work, getting hold of an old Franklin High yearbook and finding a nice pic of J.B. in it, with the name “Dorothy Simpkins” right below.  I like the mystery of this storyline and I am excited to see where it is leading, but I also must call out contrived writing when I see it, and I’m seeing it right here.  I’d say it’s very convenient that Mack is with J.B. when she is mistaken for someone else by a stranger, and then I’d say it’s even more convenient when Eric just so happens to be randomly discussing that exact same high school the stranger had mentioned, and then it’s super duper extra very convenient when Mack and J.B. go to Wesphall and the doctor is like, “You sure look familiar!”  Apparently everyone J.B. meets has her image firmly implanted in their brain, whether she’s going by the name of J.B. or Dorothy Simpkins.


Gary’s been enjoying racing his cars for a good stretch of eps now, so it’s about time he finally crashed one.  Pretty much at the exact midpoint of the ep, Gary is all strapped into his race car with his helmet on, ready to go, pushing the car to go super fast, and we get about two minutes of him driving around before he hits a hill or something and winds up flipping the car not once, not twice, but thrice.  The music gets very dramatic and the camera pans down to reveal his hand sticking out of the open window, but then some nice joggers come running by and help to get Gary to safety.  This is at least the second time that helpful joggers have come along to help out a main character after he crashed his car, as a very similar thing happened after Sid went off the cliff in The Vigil.  The helpful joggers are instrumental in getting Gary rushed to the safety of the hospital, giving us some interesting character stuff with Gary, Abs, and Jill.



See, Jill is the one hanging around the hospital, annoying the nurse by repeatedly asking how Gary is doing.  Then we get a nice moment of awkwardness when the doctor comes out, spots J.B., and says, “We have the results, Mrs. Ewing,” only for Abs to come out of nowhere and announce, “I’m Mrs. Ewing,” throwing off the poor doctor.  Then she asks if she can see Gary and pulls a fabulous Abs move by spinning around to shake J.B.’s hand and saying, “Thank you for coming, J.B.; I’ll tell Gary that you were here!”  One of the many things to love about Abs is her ability to be bitchy in a classy way, that she knows how to handle people with tact and grace.  Another person might be tempted to make a scene with J.B. and scream about how she’s stealing her man, but Abs plays it cool as a cucumber.  Unfortunately, it’s probably too late for her to keep J.B. away from Gary, because when she gets in to see Gary, he’s clearly disinterested in her and instead focuses on a crossword puzzle and counters Abs statement of “The doctor said you could come home in two days,” with, “The doctor said I would be released in two days.”  I don’t think it’s too shocking to say that Gary is going to split from Abs soon; any viewer in 1986 should be able to see that his loyalties are shifting from Abs over to J.B.  This is demonstrated even more when J.B. finally gets into the room to talk with him and he insists that they have a shag in the hospital bed together.  At first, J.B. says how they can’t do it because of the locking hospital room doors, but then Gary’s powers take control of her and she slides a chair in front of the door and begins to seductively undress.  Ugh, yes, just yes yes yes, and one more time, yes.  You look at a scene like this and you try to find something bad about it and you simply come up empty.  What can possibly be bad about J.B. stripping in front of Gary so they can have a hospital shag?



They’re not the only ones shagging this ep, however.  Earlier, we caught up with Abs and Peter playing tennis, since it was the law in the ‘80s that all rich white people had to play tennis at least once a week.  Peter mentions how he is getting out of shape, but then later Abs finds him swimming in her pool and she, along with the viewing audience at home, can see quite clearly that he’s having no problem staying in shape.  Honestly, Peter is bulging with muscles when he dons that Speedo and I’d forgotten what a fucking beefcake he was.  At no point am I ever attracted to Hunt Block (sorry, Hunt), although I can see why some people would be.  However, I must take pause to say I admire his fabulous muscles and the amount of effort he must have put into developing them.  What a fucking body, man!  Abs also appreciates it, because the scene quickly turns into a poolside shag, something I imagine Abs desperately needs at this point.  Let’s reflect; hasn’t it been kinda forever since Abs had a shag?  When was the last time?  I’m searching my brain and I honestly can’t remember.  Gary has been busy shagging J.B. for a good chunk of the season at this point, and of course Greg is busy shagging Laura, so Abs must be getting desperately horny by this point.  I imagine this poolside shag would be the kind of shag where you just feel sooooooooo much better when it’s over because you just needed that physical contact that bad.  Being that Abs is a nymphomaniac who needs sex to function, I imagine Peter’s peter would be just what the doctor ordered.


This leads us nicely to our final scene of the ep, which takes place between Peter and J.B. See, right before the poolside shag, Abs asked Peter to “keep J.B. distracted.”  She wants J.B. to stop hanging around Gary so much, so she presses Peter into service to do the job.  In our final scene, we see Peter stopping off at J.B.’s apartment, much to her chagrin.  He seems very calm and sorta sarcastic, but she’s angry and saying, “What are you doing here?” and “Do you wanna ruin everything?”  Peter assures her that she’ll be sending him flowers after she finds out what he’s here to tell her, namely that Abs has asked him to distract her.  Next, he drops the big bomb, which is that Abs was aware of the existence of the babies during the time that they were missing.  A second later, some gigantic flowers arrive courtesy of Gary to J.B. and Peter opines, “I see Mr. Ewing has some rather explicit plans for you when he gets out of the hospital,” and that’s how we end the ep.  I think it’s interesting to note that we still don’t know precisely what is going on between J.B. and Peter or how they even know each other.  The writers are keeping things vague, but I appreciate that it’s not in that annoying Desperate Housewives way in which people just say unclear and meaningless things like, “Everything is going exactly according to plan,” over and over again throughout the course of the year.  The only line in this scene that comes close to that is J.B.’s “Do you wanna ruin everything?” 


That about does it for the plot points of this ep, although I’d be remiss in my duty if I didn’t add a cigar to the Sumner Cigar Counter.  We are now at Cigar #12, and he smokes this way early in the ep in his office while speaking with Laura and some random guy.  Oh yeah, and then later he gives Laura a little speech about how he respects her opinion and so he speaks frankly in front of her and Bob Loblaw.  This was all interesting stuff and of course acted well, but I just don’t have the energy to talk about it right now, although I simply couldn’t conclude my essay without noting that twelfth cigar.



So that about does it for High School Confidential and, as I’ve said about quite a lot of our more recent eps, I’m gonna say it was good but not great.  I think we are on the declining end of the seventh season and I’m definitely starting to see what so many other fans complain about, although I maintain that this is still solid entertainment and not an example of bad television in any regard. I would say the show is just having a bit of a hard time finding focus at this point.  Things are happening and a lot of the things that are happening I am very fond of, yet there’s also a certain lack of pizazz going on; while storylines are moving along, you also don’t feel nearly as gripped as you have maybe gotten used to by this juncture.  Part of this could simply be having to follow the sublime work of television brilliance that was season six, and part of it might be our new Dallas seasoned showrunner, but whatever it is, the show is lacking a bit of the energy. 


Next up, we shall explore the episode entitled Distant Rumblings.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 151 of 344: IRREVOCABLY YOURS


Episode Title: Irrevocably Yours

Season 07, Episode 21

Episode 151 of 344

Written by Sara Ann Friedman

Directed by Robert Becker

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 20th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Val and Ben think Gary's gift is out of line, but he's given it to them in a trust, so they can't do anything about it. Ben's furious, and tells Gary that there's a lot more to being a father than genes, and he is the twins' father. Greg and Abby are furious when they find out Gary gave away Empire Valley. Mack finds out that Jill hounded the Governor for months to work with him, but she says it was just a career move. A woman comes up to Mack and Jill, and calls her Dottie Simpkins, and says they went to Franklin High together. Jill says she must be mistaken. Mack finds out that Franklin High is in Wesphall. Michael can tell Olivia is stoned, but she denies it. She goes out to dinner with Abby and smokes pot in the bathroom. Michael drops Olivia off at school, and is then pulled over by the police. They find a joint in his car.


                Welcome back, my dear readers.  As I get started with discussing the next five eps, spanning Irrevocably Yours through The Legacy, I’d like to take a few moments to provide some context for my viewing of these eps, as I sometimes do.  See, I understand how, to my readers, it might just seem like I’m a magical machine consistently producing essays on the brilliance of KL every Thursday, but there are some behind-the-scenes shenanigans that the reader may not be privy to.  The best example is the fact that I’ve always strived to maintain a generous back catalogue of ep essays so that I never reach a point where I’m simply out of eps to discuss, where I haven’t gotten together with My Beloved Grammy in some time and so my blog does dark for awhile.  That’s why I didn’t actually start putting up essays until My Beloved Grammy and I were just getting started with season four, ensuring that I had lots of work already written and needing only to be plugged in.  As an example, I’m sitting here now getting ready to write about Irrevocably Yours from season seven (duh), but as of this exact moment in time, the blog is up to late season five, with the next ep ready to be published being Second Chances.

                Also, as I’ve stated many times before, the general outline for how we handle watching eps is that I go over to My Beloved Grammy’s house, we watch five eps, and then I return home and start writing about them.  In the case of this particular span of five eps, however, I had some personal problems on the night of our viewing and feel they drastically effected my ability to watch and appreciate the eps, plus my notes were unusually sparse.  In addition to that, we finished the eps, I went home, and then I was so damn lazy and waited so damn long to start writing about these eps that I pretty much forgot all the details and all the things I might usually write about.  Therefore, I decided to try something a little different; I decided to rewatch these five eps all by myself and then write about them directly afterwards, refreshing my view on them and giving me a chance to better explore them.  So, this morning I acted like a completely pretentious douche by going to a Starbucks with my laptop and hijacking one of those big pretentious leather chairs and ordering a big pretentious overpriced coffee drink (actually, I just ordered a regular coffee, but I still felt pretentious) and then I plugged in my headphones, attempting to drown out the noise of spoiled entitled white people complaining that their latte wasn’t properly steamed or whatever, and watched two glorious KL eps in a row, Irrevocably Yours and High School Confidential.  Now I plan to write about these two eps, and then later I shall return to Starbucks and repeat my pretentious behavior from this morning by watching the next three eps, as well, and then I shall write about them, and then I’ll be all ready for another disk of eps.  With all that explaining out of the way, let’s now discuss Irrevocably Yours.



                In the concluding moments of A Very Special Gift, Gary gave the twins, well, a very special gift, basically leaving them half of Empire Valley in some sort of a trust, and it’s this decision that continues to brew such controversy as we begin this ep.  See, after our thirty second preview and glorious scrolling squares, we begin the ep in the kitchen of the, um, Val household (the Ewing household?  The Clements household?  The Gibson household?) with Ben and Val giving the twins their morning feeding.  Again, it’s small details that I appreciate on KL, and something I’ve been consistently appreciating this whole season is the fact that the twins are ever present.  How many TV shows have used a pregnancy and babies to create some big drama and then, once the babies are alive and well, proceeded to shuffle them offscreen for the rest of the series?  Shows do that all the time, but ever since Val got the twins back in Here in my Arms, they have always been around and we’ve always gotten the sense that Val’s house is now a house of babies.  Having this ep start with both Ben and Val in the kitchen, feeding the twins, just adds a nice touch of realism that other shows would ignore.  After all, it would be very easy to just throw in a line like, “Gee, we’d better wake the babies up soon,” or “Gee, wasn’t it nice of Cathy to take the babies out for a walk this morning?” and then have Ben and Val talk alone, but KL doesn’t do that.


                I also appreciate the fact that the babies are present because Ben and Val’s conversation/confrontation revolves around the babies.  All season (as well as the season before this one, and of course the season before that one), Ben has been dealing with some jealousy issues in regards to Gary.  This gift only reinforces that, no matter how much Ben hates it, Gary is always going to be a part of his life because he’s always going to be a part of Val’s life.  At this point, I see Ben being a little more open in his hostility towards Gary.  For the majority of his time on the show, I’d say Ben’s resentment has been sorta simmering beneath the surface, an elephant in the room that everybody was well aware of.  Now, however, he’s speaking directly to Val about how Gary’s gift is inappropriate, questioning what his motivations could have been, saying how he needs to stay out of their lives.  To her credit, Val agrees with him, saying that leaving half of Empire Valley to the twins is way out of line.



                This leads us to a fabulous Gary/Val confrontation taking place at some race track.  You’ll all recall how Gary has decided to get into racing as a sport, channeling a little bit of the grown up Bobby Brady from The Bradys, although that “drama” series is still a few years into the future.  In this scene, Val arrives with the sole purpose of giving the gift back to Gary, but he refuses to back down, saying how Val never even told him that the twins were his, or to use his exact quote, “You never even told me you were having my babies.”  Hmmm, now this is worth discussing, wouldn’t you say?  I find Gary to be an endlessly complex and fascinating character, much like all of my loved and cherished KL characters, but this is the first time I’ve really thought about the alternative possibilities that could have occurred if Val had chosen to go about her pregnancy differently.  For instance, what exactly would have happened if Val had told Gary right away, as soon as she found out she was pregnant back in season five, that she believed the babies to be his?  Gary had just married Abs a couple of eps beforehand, and so obviously that provides some motivation for Val to keep mum, but what if she hadn’t?  Would Gary have ditched Abs to go back to Val and raise the babies with her?  Would they have stayed divorced, but worked out some sort of a custody arrangement?  Or would he have agreed to leave her alone even knowing the truth?  It’s hard to say, but I guess I’d predict that he would stick with Abs, mostly because of how recent their wedding was and how, at that point in the saga, Gary was still really wanting to be a good husband and make it work with Abs. 



                In any case, it’s the fact that Gary didn’t know that is really getting to him at this point.  I try to climb inside of his brain and understand his feelings and his motivations, and what I see is a man who feels he was shut out, that he wasn’t even given the opportunity to try and be a father to these kids because nobody told him that he was, in fact, their father.  I think Gary is feeling some serious guilt about not being around the twins very much but I think he’s also feeling some anger for the fact that he was shut out and not given the full truth in the first place and this anger is fueling his decisions at this point.  Even though it’s obvious how the gift of half of Empire Valley could be taken offensively by someone like Ben, taken as an insult by another man who is handling over millions and millions of dollars to the twins and effectively undermining Ben’s ability to be a responsible parent, I can also see Gary’s perspective.  He feels impotent, unable to express love for these kids he knows are his, and so when he gives a big fat gift like that, he’s not thinking of it like, “Look at how much money and power I have!”  He’s thinking of it as something he can do to make the lives of the twins better in the future, something he can do to help.




                One last thing worth noting on this Gary/Val confrontation at the race track: Throughout the entire conversation, J.B. looms in the background, quietly watching and listening.  Hmmm, what to make of this?  The scene ends before she can come out and say hello to Gary, but what’s the significance of her seeing this little altercation?  I’d say it’s an apt demonstration of the fact that, if she’s gonna wanna be part of Gary’s life, she’ll have to accept that Val will always be there, as well.  I don’t know if this is exactly news to J.B., as I imagine she figured this out pretty right and quick upon arriving on the series, but maybe this is just a firm reminder of that fact, a demonstration of how deeply entwined the two soulmates really are in each other’s lives.  All that said, I don’t know that anything directly comes out of this; rather, we just see that J.B. witnesses their argument and that’s the end of it.


                Gary is pissing off a lot of people this week, however, because near the end of the ep, on that same old racetrack where he likes to spend the majority of his time lately, Gary has a fight with Ben.  This fight is even more intense than the one he had with Val earlier, since that was clearly a case of two soulmates having a disagreement, whereas here it’s two men who don’t particularly like each other finally having a one-on-one confrontation.  As I’ve said pretty much since day one, the beauty and the joy of KL lies in the wonderful three-dimensional complexities of the characters, so usually when I see a fight like this one, I find it impossible to pick a side and I also just sorta don’t want to, because I love both characters and I understand them.  However, in this case, if I absolutely inherently must pick a side, I’m going with Ben. 
 

See, I understand Gary’s emotions, as I just discussed, but Ben’s feelings and needs are also valid, so let’s look at it from his perspective.  He’s already gotten kind of a raw deal ever since he first met Val, since it was pretty obvious right off the bat that she would always carry a torch for Gary, no matter how much time passed or how much her life changed.  The whole time he’s been with the series, Ben has been having to compete with Gary for Val’s love, even at the same time that the dynamic duo is split up and leading separate lives and even marrying other people.  It only got worse after Val became pregnant, because now Ben is competing with Gary not only over who Val’s heart belongs to, but also who is the actual biological father of these babies.  That brings us up to date, where now, even after Ben and Val have been married and agreed to raise the children together as their mother and their father, Gary still won’t go away; he’s still showing up with big expensive gifts and sorta pissing on Ben’s efforts to create a family with Val.  If I was Ben, I can tell you exactly the way I would view Gary, and that’s basically what Ben does for us in this scene.  He points out how being a father is about more than genes, that it’s about the responsibilities and duties of looking after the children, of raising them.  Everything he says is brilliant and also very cutting, things like, “You don’t drink anymore, but that’s the only thing about you that’s not acting like a drunk,” “Your idea of masculinity might go down great with a couple of sixteen year old kids, but it doesn’t cut it with grown ups,” and “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say you never considered how this would hurt Val?”  Oh yeah, and the big piece de resistance comes with, “You’re trying to soothe your ego by calling my kids bastards.”  In my newfound role as President of the Ben Gibson Fan Club, I greatly relish all of this stuff and would say that this scene is probably my favorite of the ep.  I just love how Gary and Ben get real here, get direct, speak frankly about the problems that have been brewing for the last nearly three years.  Both actors are great in their anger and I understand both of them.  All in all, a solid little scene.


While we’re on the topic of Ben, let’s also discuss his impending affair with Cathy, which has been getting cooked up for a really long time now.  Seriously, this is going on forever and it’s not the way I remembered it at all.  In my memories, Ben and Cathy had an affair right near the end of season seven and it was really quick and it seemed to come out of nowhere.  Watching now, I realize the exact opposite is true.  The seeds have been being planted for this affair since near the end of season six, since Ben went up to Joshua and confronted him on the way he treats Cathy and then punched him.  As we’ve moved through season seven, we have seen a ton of scenes and little dropped lines indicating that Ben and Cathy are gonna shag, yet here we are in episode 21 and they still haven’t done it yet.  I mention this because we get a quick little scene between the two of them in this ep that continues to build sexual tension, at least in my opinion.  It takes place at the Ewing/Clements/Gibson household and involves Ben offering Cathy “a cup of milk,” only for her to request a “cup of beer” instead, which he promptly brings her.  Next, the two characters talk about how Cathy is considering going off on tour and Ben tells her not to, which I find a tad vexing.  How is a rising singer going off on tour a bad thing?  Isn’t that the way you build a fan-base and get your audience?  Or is Ben saying it’s better for her to stick to her little cable show (the one that used to be a religious program but was quickly tweaked and changed into a pop rock show starring a scantily clad woman baring a striking resemblance to another popular singer who was violently killed in 1983) and the fan base she’s building right there versus taking a gamble and going out on tour?  Or, let’s be real, is Ben just attracted to Cathy and considering having an affair with her and he doesn’t want her to run off on him right now?  I’d say we can safely go with option number three.


Lilimae is still on the series, although I’m not entirely sure why at this point.  Ever since Joshua took that plunge off the roof, the writers have seriously put the brakes on the very possibility of Lilimae getting something interesting to do.  This is now the eleventh episode since Joshua died and yet we are still watching Lilimae mope around and do nothing and act all sad about her dead son.  Now, some might be tempted to say I’m contradicting myself, as I am always the first one to go on and on about the brilliance of KL’s slow burn storytelling.  Why would I compliment that and then complain that this fallout from Joshua’s death is going on too long?  Well, mostly it’s because nothing is happening and nothing has been happening since he died.  Rest assured, I did not want Joshua to die and then immediately be completely forgotten about, but I certainly didn’t think we would have eleven eps in a row of Lilimae just sorta doing nothing and being sad.  Yeah, we had that little storyline about her and Cathy lying to the police, but that was way drawn out and hardly very interesting at all, and even after they wrapped that up, they still continued to draw out Lilimae’s sadness ever-longer.  Now here we are with an episode that finally decides to wrap this up, but it’s not done in an exciting or interesting way; rather, it just sorta fizzles.


Okay, so what is Lilimae up to this week?  Well, we are told early in the ep that she crept out of the house right at the crack of dawn, and then we proceed to follow her around throughout the day as she just sorta wanders through the highlight spots of Joshua’s last few days on this earth.  She returns to the preaching district and looks around and we are treated to a generous sprinkling of audio flashbacks from the last ep or two that Joshua was alive in.  We get to rehear the tremendous speech from Until Parted by Death in which Joshua describes living in a house with an abusive father and no mother, and then later we actually get to see Baldwin again when we get a visual flashback to the ending of Rise and Fall.  This is all fine, I guess, but what’s really being served in terms of story?  You could say that this is further emphasizing Lilimae’s heightened emotional state, but weren’t we viewers already well aware of that state?  Not only is this the ELEVENTH ep since Joshua died, but we’ve also already seen Lilimae, alone in her bedroom, giving that big soliloquy to, I guess, Joshua’s spirit or whatever.  In any case, Lilimae’s material this week feels completely like the writers trying to fill time.  She wanders from place to place, we rehear things we’ve already heard, we re-see things we’ve already seen, and then basically she comes home and announces that she’s finally feeling better.  Actually, saying she “announces she’s finally feeling better” is a bit of an understatement.  Instead, what really happens is that she returns home to find Ben and Val hanging out with the twins and she starts to give this great big speech about how she lost a son and she would very much like to have another one, eyeing Ben.  Now this I like because I’m ready for Lilimae and Ben to be solid friends who get along with each other, but what I find a little bit more vexing is Lilimae’s assertion that the twins “will have a guardian angel named Joshua.”  Hmmm, didn’t Lilimae see the sixth season and the first ten eps of the seventh season?  Would you want abusive psychotic demented religious nut Joshua to be the guardian angel of your children?  Well, I certainly wouldn’t, plus I would also question if Joshua wound up in the place that angels wind up and not, you know, the other place that’s a few miles below.  In any case, I’m willing to bet that Lilimae knows Joshua didn’t wind up becoming no guardian angel, but this is just a little spin on things that she needs to do in her own brain in order to move forward.



Lilimae and Cathy are both suffering from the same problem at this juncture, and that is the fact that the powers that be clearly do not know what to do with them.  Who to blame for this?  I’m tempted to blame David Paulsen, who is coming over after years of working on Dallas, a show hardly renowned for having great, complex, super interesting female characters.  The ladies of Seaview Circle have always been way more interesting than any woman over in Texas, but perhaps Paulsen just doesn’t understand how to write for them?  Perhaps his talents lie more in the big business stuff and so he’s more comfortable writing scenes of Sumner up in his skyrise, smoking cigars and making plots, versus trying to figure out how to write for established female characters like Lilimae and Cathy.  I could try to throw some of this blame around, but you know what, I’m just gonna stick to my assertion and blame Paulsen.  I remind all of you that I was not on set, that I wasn’t even alive at this time, so obviously I have no actual idea of what the hell I’m talking about, but even so, as a person who has watched all fourteen seasons of Dallas as well as all fourteen seasons of KL, I feel like I can spot some of the usual Dallas storytelling problems creeping into KL at this point, and they are displayed most significantly in the lacking storylines for Lilimae and Cathy.


In fact, having eleven straight eps in a row dealing with the fallout from Joshua’s death without really, you know, propelling any new storylines forward, well, this has made me reflect that this is the first season of KL in which I can sense the creative powers struggling to fill their entire season.  This is only the second season of KL to contain that massive episode count of thirty, but it’s already suffering in the shadow of the brilliant season six.  Season six also had thirty eps, but at no point did I feel like the series was struggling to fill time or meandering; every episode of that season was a delight and every episode pushed forth the stories and also gave us plenty of time with our fascinating characters.  Season seven is definitely lacking that grace at this point.  Instead, I’m seeing writers saying, “Oh God, thirty episodes, um, well, we just killed off Joshua, so why don’t we, um, have some sort of a police investigation into his death that can fill four or five eps?  Then maybe after that we can have a super lame storyline involving Cathy dating a saxophonist who’s really a reporter?  Yeah, that should fill up another four eps.  After that, um, let’s just sorta have Lilimae mope around and do nothing interesting for awhile, then we’ll have a flashback to Joshua’s death and then Lilimae will, um, kinda, um, you know, just get over it?”


But enough bitching about that; let’s focus on someone I love very much, and that would be J.B.  Fuck, not only is J.B. just as good as I remembered from my first viewing, but she’s actually better.  In my memories, J.B. didn’t really and truly blossom until seasons nine and ten, but now I’m loving her from the moment she was first introduced.  In this ep, the plot thickens ever more as far as J.B. is concerned, starting with a little scene in Mack’s office taking place between Mack, Karen, and, um, some guy.  “Some guy” could also be referred to as “Lou from Fight Club,” by the way, and the basic gist of the scene is that Lou from Fight Club (actor’s incredibly strange real life name: Peter Iacangelo) asks Mack how he’s liking working with J.B., Mack says something like, “Ugh, it’s terrible; all she does is whine about how she got assigned out here,” and then Lou from Fight Club tells him how that’s real strange because J.B. specifically requested to come out here and work with Mack.  Hmm, why the lies?



Later, Mack and J.B. are walking out of the office when they bump into a strange woman who sees J.B., gets very excited, and says, “Oh hi, you’re Dotty Simpkins from Franklin High!”  J.B. looks very uncomfortable at this comment and says how she doesn’t know the woman, who quickly vacates the premises.  An interesting little scene, although I would have preferred to see Mack a little more visibly suspicious of J.B. right here.  After what Lou from Fight Club told him, shouldn’t this random stranger mistaking J.B. for someone else strike him as especially curious?  Instead, Mack is shown to be distracted with something else on his mind, so this woman barely registers with him.  In any case, we viewers should be able to see that a big fat seed is being planted right in front of us.


Oh yeah, and real fast on the subject of this strange woman (who tells J.B., “It’s me, Sheree!” but is merely credited as “Woman” on the IMDb page), let’s discuss the actress playing her.  Well, her name is Dinah Lenney and, first of all, she is a Tangled Knot who will return to the series in 1988 for the episode Lawfully Wedded (season nine, episode nineteen) playing “Meter Reader.”  I’ll keep my eyes open for her when we get to that ep (watch me forget all about it by the time we actually get there), but what I found most interesting about this actress is that she played Nurse Shirley on ER all the way from 1995 to 2009, appearing in 74 eps.  This would be another one of those characters who is just sorta around for the entire run of the show, never a main character, never a huge focus of storylines, but just consistently showing up over the course of the run.  Also, earlier in this essay, I made a reference to the first episode of The Bradys, a CBS show from 1990 that absolutely nobody else in the world besides myself knows about or cares about.  Well, I made my little reference just to amuse myself, really, but now here I am looking at Dinah Lenney’s acting credits and, GASP, it says she also appeared in the pilot episode of The Bradys!  How cosmic is that?

 

Our last batch of eps demonstrated Karen having some trust issues with Mack after finding the key to J.B.’s hotel room in his pocket.  Well, it seems that the two have mended fences since then, and I think Karen’s trust issues with Mack are in the past, but now we’ve got a new problem: Karen’s burgeoning frigidity, although I suppose the two could be directly related.  See, in this ep, we see Karen and Mack crawl into bed and Mack attempt to get busy with Karen, who is simply not in the mood.  After a few awkward moments of Mack kissing Karen and her having none of it, he finally resigns himself to a night of blue balls as Karen snuggles up to him and says, “But I do feel like cuddling,” words no horny man ever wants to hear.  Once again, I love and respect both characters and can sympathize with both of them.  I’d say Karen’s frigidity is based in her still feeling hurt by Mack holding on to that room key, so she is currently unable to get completely close with him and be intimate and tender.  Meanwhile, Mack is trying to show his love for his wife and he’s trying to do it in the most time honored way, through a  healthy shag, yet she’s not on the same wavelength as him.  Will these problems be resolved?  Well, spoiler alert, but yes, they will be resolved, and it won’t take too long to resolve them, either.  I take issue with that, but perhaps I’d better save my thoughts on this for a few eps down the line.


All that’s really left in the character roster for Irrevocably Yours is Olivia, who is continuing to blossom nicely into an out-of-control teenaged rebel.  One of our very first scenes this ep is Olivia in her room, spraying some air freshener around.  As soon as we see that air freshener, we know what’s up, but I’m gonna poke some major holes in Olivia’s pot smoking habits and say that no seasoned stoner would be as obvious as she’s being.  Okay, we all know that the smell of pot doesn’t linger in the air and the walls and the carpets in the same way that the smell of tobacco does.  Even so, that obviously doesn’t mean there’s no smell.  The smell fades faster and should basically be completely gone by about 24 hours later, but during the time that you’re physically blazing up, the smell is rather potent.  Why would Olivia be so stupid as to continue smoking within the confines of the Fairgate house and then think that a measly little spray or air freshener will take care of the problem?  A seasoned stoner would know that you don’t blaze up in the house unless you are all by yourself and know that you’re gonna be all by yourself for many hours, and then a seasoned stoner would also make sure to leave several doors and windows open in order to de-smellify the house as soon as possible.  Olivia instead chooses to blaze up in her bedroom two seconds before it’s time to go to school.


Is it any wonder that Sexy Michael walks in and immediately knows what’s going on?   He walks in wearing a fabulous white shirt that somewhat shows off his neck (mmmmm, I just wanna bite his neck, mmmmm) and immediately declares, “You’re stoned, aren’t you?”  Olivia goes on about how she doesn’t smoke grass and then Sexy Michael finds himself once again possessed by the spirit of Nancy Reagan as he goes on about all the evils of pot and how Olivia will get in trouble at school just for having it.  As I said before, this is really the only flaw in the entire character of Sexy Michael Fairgate.  Absolutely everything else about him would make him the most perfect boyfriend/husband that a boy could ask for, but the fact that he is such a square as far as Mary Jane is concerned is a bit of a problem.  Fortunately, I have complete confidence in myself and my own powers and I know that, if I suddenly found myself trapped inside the television ala Pleasantville and was living and breathing within the KL world, I would immediately use my powers to turn Michael gay, then I would do things with him in a hot tub that would make Abby herself blush.



While I’m kinda making fun of Sexy Michael for being a square, he’s actually not totally out of line.  See, Olivia clearly is smoking weed too much and it’s clearly starting to affect her schooling and her general demeanor.  As we see throughout this ep, she has to blaze up several times throughout the day just to make it through, because the next time we catch up with her, she’s out at a fancy dinner with Abs, clearly yearning to be anywhere else.  Abs asks the waiter to give all the anchovies to Olivia, which seems gross and weird, saying how it’s important for Olivia to try new things.  Olivia counters with, “I hate Caesar salad and I hate anchovies,” and bemoans the fact that she even has to talk to her mother at all before quickly retreating to the bathroom.  Once again, I point out that Olivia is taking quite a risk here that a seasoned stoner probably would not take.  In this instance, she’s lucky that the bathroom is completely unoccupied and that nobody comes in while she’s enjoying her toke, but it’s still a big risk.  What if someone did come in?  What if this was one of those restaurants that has a restroom attendant?  I guess we can take this to mean that Olivia needs her weed so bad that she doesn’t care what risks she takes to get it.  Oh yeah, and one last note on this scene: I absolute adore the scary-ass electronic sci-fi music that plays when Olivia puts the joint in her mouth, suddenly making this scene feel way scarier and way more dramatic than it actually is.



Even as I bitch about Paulsen not knowing how to write for women, I see an immediate contradiction to my statement in the fabulous way that Olivia has blossomed this year.  She’s gone from being Abby’s daughter who I always liked and always cared about but who was just sorta, you know, there, and she’s turning into a rather important character in her own regard.  In fact, even though she’s credited as a guest star and is not a part of the scrolling squares, I would argue that she’s a more important character at this point than either Lilimae or Cathy.  Certainly she is getting a lot more to do and her stories are a lot more interesting than either of those two, and I again praise Tonya Crowe’s acting, which I feel is vastly underrated in the grand KL scheme of things.  She’s figuring heavily into the stories now and has to show herself as, yes, rebellious, but also as a teenaged kid confused about her own life and about the moral integrity of the people around her.  I think she’s doing a great job at all of this and it’s only going to get better as we move into the eighth season. 


Olivia’s joints propel us towards our exciting episode cliffhanger, in which Michael is driving and is stopped by The T-1000, who tells him he has a broken tail light.  Michael is apologetic, but as he’s talking, The T-1000 spots two joints lying on the floor of the passenger side, his eyes get all big and wide as if he’s never seen joints before, he orders Michael out of the car, grabs the joints, and then holds them up and asks, “Are these yours, Mr. Fairgate?”  While it’s a little bit strange and unrealistic to watch a cop harass a white person in such a way, it’s still a pretty good ep ending that leaves me wanting to watch more.



Okay, so that was Irrevocably Yours.  How did I find it?  Hmmm, it’s actually kinda hard to say.  I guess what I will say is that, at this point, at this exact juncture in the series, the eps are fine and have great moments individually, I am having some problems with the storytelling of the season overall.  What I mean is that if you watch this episode all by itself and then just judge it all by itself, it’s pretty good despite a few problems, but if you start to look at the way the stories are moving in the context of the overall season and the eps that came before this one and the ones that are going to come after it, you start to see more flaws.  I’ll elaborate on this more as we move closer and closer to the end of the season, but for now I’ll say that this was a good episode, but not great.  It had some great moments like the confrontations between Gary and Val as well as Gary and Ben, but it also had meandering parts like every scene involving Lilimae.  It had great stuff for Olivia and her grass problem, but then it had almost nothing interesting for Cathy to do.  It had great stuff involving J.B. and a possible secret identity, but then it had Karen and her frigidity, a storyline I’m not entirely sure I like or not at this point.  So overall, a pretty mixed bag, although of course I must make sure and remind you that I love KL yesterday, today, and tomorrow and I will love it until the end of time.  If I was just watching the show the way I did back in college, I’ll bet I wouldn’t even notice any of these problems.  It’s the fact that I’m going episode-by-episode in such minute detail that’s making flaws stand out to me.  They appear bigger than they perhaps actually are, and that’s totally a result of me paying such strict attention.  Also, I remind you that, even if the eps are suffering from some story flaws, it’s still good.  This is still a good show that everybody should watch and I also feel very comfortable saying I’m sure it was the best nighttime soap on TV in 1985-1986 (although I remind you that I still haven’t seen Dynasty or Falcon Crest, though rest assured that I will one day soon).  It’s just suffering from a few problems that the show either hasn’t had in years or hasn’t had at all yet, but that is simply the nature of a series that lasts so long.


Next up, we shall further explore the shock of Michael being found with marijuana in his car with High School Confidential.