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.