Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Tribute to Kevin Dobson (1943-2020)


A Tribute to Kevin Dobson (1943-2020)

                I love Mack MacKenzie and I love Kevin Dobson, the man who brought Mack to life on television for eleven years.  Like many Knots fans, I was very upset when my phone buzzed on the evening of September 7th with a news alert that Kevin had passed away the day before at the age of 77.


                Kevin Dobson was born on March 18th, 1943, in Jackson Heights, New York.  Before getting into acting, he served in the army during the Vietnam war as an MP and was very proud of his service.  His official death notice states, “In lieu of flowers, as Kevin would always say, if you love America, thank a vet.”  After his military service, he began his acting career, first appearing on One Life to Live in 1968 as Governor Harrison Brooks.  During this time, he also had a small appearance in the movie Klute in 1971 as well as appearances on television with The Mod Squad, Cannon, and Emergency! 

                Kevin’s big break came in 1973 when he was cast as Detective Bobby Crocker on Kojak.  He stayed with that series for its entire run until 1978 and I know that for lots of people, that would be the first thing they think about when they hear his name.  I feel a bit unprepared for this tribute because I’ve also never seen Kojak, although I’m familiar with it as part of pop culture. 

                After Kojak went off the air, Kevin played the lead role in a short lived series called Shannon which aired during the 1981-1982 season.  That series was quickly cancelled, but that only meant Kevin was available for the role I and most people probably associate him with, that of Mack MacKenzie on Knots Landing.  Kevin joined the cast at the start of the fourth season in 1982 and stayed with the series all the way until the final episode in May of 1993.  He ranks #4 when it comes to overall cast member appearances on the series, behind Michele Lee, Ted Shackelford, and Joan Van Ark.  According to IMDb, Kevin appeared in 291 of the series 344 episodes.  You can’t talk Knots Landing without talking about Kevin.

                For me, Kevin’s entrance onto the series marks the beginning of the good times for the show.  As those who have read through my blog will know, I love all of Knots Landing but I believe that perfect trifecta of seasons four, five, and six represent the show at its artistic peak, and Kevin is a huge part of that.  The character of Mack is first introduced to fill a hole in the series, a void that was left by the departure of Don Murray one year earlier.  The show needed a new strong male lead and a new romantic interest for Karen.  I think Mack rather quickly proved himself to be a more interesting character than Saint Sid, no offense intended to Don Murray who was also wonderful in his role.  To me, the character of Mack represents what makes Knots so special, because I really don’t believe a character like him could exist on any of the other big ‘80s primetime super soaps.  He has a realistic quality that is uniquely Knots; he seems like a guy we could all know in real life.  He provided the necessary boost of masculine energy to the series, but he also provided some fabulous humor and moments of levity, particularly when it came to his chemistry with Michele Lee.   Many of my favorite moments on the series are the moments of comedy between these two, and I think you can tell just by watching that both actors loved working with each other.  Indeed, I listened to a recent interview with Michele and when asked what her best memory of the series was, her immediate response was "working with my wonderful husband, Kevin Dobson.” 

                After Knots, Kevin continued to keep busy acting with roles in F/X: The Series from 1996 to 1997 and The Bold and the Beautiful from 2006 to 2007.  He was also the final actor to play the character of Mickey Horton in Days of Our Lives.  Kevin died on Sunday, September 6th, 2020.  He is survived by his wife of over fifty years and their three children. 

                By all accounts, Kevin was a generous man and a beloved actor.  I’ve never heard of anyone saying an unkind word towards him.  I know that I was very sad to hear of his passing and, even though I never met the man, he felt like a large part of my life because of how much I love the series and how much I love his character.  Kevin Dobson will be missed but he will never be forgotten; I believe the best way we can all honor him is by watching his work throughout the decades and appreciating his contribution to the television landscape.  


Thursday, September 3, 2020



Episode Title: The Blushing Bride 

Season 09, Episode 18

Episode 208 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 11th, 1988

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige continues to be jealous of Greg's interest in other women and sleeps with Johnny. The MacKenzies are suspicious of the Williams family and speculate that Frank and Pat don't have custody of Julie. They see a woman come and pick Pat up in the middle of the night. Karen and Mack tell the truth in their depositions, and convince Val to tell the truth, that Gary wants visitation, not custody. Charles suggests to Abby she expands the marina at Lotus Point. He loans her the money, not telling her he is the front for investors. Charles gives her plans he had drawn up, but Abby finds they were made before he came back into her life. She hires a detective to investigate him. Charles's divorce is final, so Abby wants to get married ASAP.

                Hello all, and welcome back.  Today we shall be discussing The Blushing Bride, which I am very pleased to announce is the penultimate appearance of Basil Exposition.  As has probably become achingly clear at this point, I do not like this storyline and I am ready for it to end and I have been ready for it to end since pretty much the second it started.  And while I say I am very pleased that this is the penultimate ep featuring Basil, I also can’t stress enough how tired I was of all of this by this point.  As we begin the ep, I can’t believe this is still going on and I can’t believe that we still have to suffer through an entire other episode before it ends.  With that said, let’s start exploring the ep, beginning with that storyline because I just wanna get it out of the way. 

                I’ll be honest and say that, were it not for the little description that I put at the start of my essays, I would probably just skip over this storyline and not even talk about it because I’m not really paying any attention to it.  Fortunately, the description helps to remind me of that’s going on.  So, in this ep, Abs is wanting to marry Basil or whatever, and then Basil says how she should expand the marina at Lotus Point or something like that, and he’s gonna draw up the papers, and Bob Loblaw.  Basically, he gives her these plans but then later she finds out that the plans were made long before Basil reentered her life, meaning that he’s been plotting some sort of a ruse (a cunning attempt to trick her) for quite some time.  Then Abs hires a detective to investigate him and, well, that’s about it, and it’s boring, so let’s move on.  Actually, wait, I have one more thing to bitch about and then we’ll move on.  At a certain point near the start of the ep, Abs meets with some mysterious dude who says to him, “Everything going according to plan?”  This is just the worst type of writing ever, and I’ve always mocked it whenever I’m watching a show and someone says, “Everything is going according to plan,” but says nothing else to further elaborate on what they might be speaking about.  It’s a terrible writing device and it’s terrible in everything and it’s terrible here. 

                You know two characters who I would much rather talk about?  The answer is Gary and Val, who continue to have sizzling material this week as the drama of the big court battle starts to intensify.  There’s a lot I want to address from this storyline, starting with the way that J.B. is kinda lurking in the background and pulling the strings to keep Gary and Val fighting.  Anyone who has seen the finale of season nine should have it burned permanently into their memory banks and should be able to see all the foreshadowing we are getting right now.  It’s very subtle, but it’s there to the discerning viewer who is paying attention.  J.B. has begun her transformational from the J.B. of seasons seven and eight and is turning into the J.B. we all truly know and love when we think of J.B.  It’s small at this point, because she’s mostly acting the same as ever, but it’s definitely important that she’s helping to get Gary riled up and working to move forward with all this court crap; it shows that J.B. is tired of Val and is ready to start fighting dirty with her.  At the same time, Gary is not exactly being 100% manipulated; he has agency and is a free man making his own decisions.  I think there’s a chance that all this drama would be happening with or without J.B., but J.B. is definitely working to push it further along.

                Gary is such an interesting character and with every passing ep, I appreciate him more and more.  I totally see where he’s coming from in this instance and, if I were forced to pick sides, I would be in his corner.  Ever since his season four bender, he’s really cleaned up and is a very different person now.  I can fully understand why Val would be unwilling to trust him based on past behavior, but the man really has changed and it’s merely cruel to keep him away from the children that everyone knows he fathered.  By the way, this ep is interesting because we get a Lucy shoutout, something exceptionally rare at this point in the KL saga when the show is existing in a separate universe from its parent series.  In this instance, Gary is walking down the street with J.B. and saying, “You think I don’t know how I look in all this?  I don’t want anyone’s support; I don’t expect it,” and then he says, “I had my first daughter taken away from me but I am not gonna give up on these twins.”  Both MBG and I sorta perked up at this line and she said how we never ever hear about Lucy on this show and I agreed.  Back in the early years we would get fairly frequent Lucy shout-outs and she of course crossed over for her one and only time way back in season one’s Home Is for Healing.  Since Bobby came back from the dead and Dallas turned into 100% turd sandwich, the spinoff hasn’t mentioned any characters from over in Texas, and I think this is the first mention since Bobby’s revival in the shower.  Now, if I’m remember correctly, we do actually get one more reference to Lucy in the very final season, but I think that’s it.  If we get any more mentions between now and then, I shall make sure to note them.

Meanwhile, we’ve still got plenty of mystery and drama swirling around the newest arrivals to the cul-de-sac, the Williams family (I try not to say “The Williams’s” because then I would have to add that ugly extra “s” and it would just look weird).  In this ep, we see a side of Karen that, frankly, I don’t care for that much.  See, she keeps being super pushy with Pat Williams, basically forcing her to give this interview to the local newspaper about moving into town.  This scene takes place outside, and I noted with amusement the fact that there’s a very minor amount of rain falling from the sky and yet Karen busts out a gigantic umbrella all so she can go fetch the paper and Pat is wearing a fucking poncho.  Seriously, Pat, a poncho?  It is going to take you all of two seconds to go out to the street corner and grab your newspaper, so is the poncho really necessary?  Or Karen’s stupid umbrella?  While watching this with Brother, he said how this just shows how California people behave, but I’m not sure I agree.  I’ve been to California many times, but I’ve never lived there, and I don’t know how people generally react to rain.  I do know, however, that people in Seattle act like they’ve never seen a raindrop before even though it rains nine months of the fucking year here.  I always feel insanely judgmental of the way people freak out when rain starts falling, as if it’s acid or toxic waste instead of just, you know, rain. 

But enough about my feelings towards Seattle people and their weird reaction to rain, let’s talk about the contents of this scene and why Karen is annoying me right now.  Basically, it should be very clear to anyone in the vicinity that Pat has no interest in giving an interview to the paper or having her picture taken.  She’s trying to be polite about it, starting with, “Gosh, Karen, I just don’t know that we’re that interesting,” but then Karen just keeps going, giving her this laundry list of reasons for why she should do the interview.  Jesus, Karen, the woman isn’t interested, so leave her the fuck alone.  Honestly, at this point, which is right near the start of the ep, I can’t tell if Karen is just being kinda dense and genuinely can’t tell that Pat doesn’t wanna do this, or if she’s being nosy on purpose.  I’m kinda tempted to go with the latter, and her behavior only gets worse as we move along.  See, later on Mack finds Karen crouching in, um, I think…..their bathroom?  I’ll be honest and say that I had a hard time getting a sense of the geography in this scene, because Karen is lurking in the dark by a window and then Mack walks in and heads over to a sink and mirror, so I assume this is the bathroom that connects to their bedroom?  If that’s the case, however, where did this window come from?  Have we ever seen a window in this bathroom?  In fact, how much time have we spent inside this bathroom altogether?  I have the feeling that we haven’t had a whole lot of time in the bathroom, mostly seeing it in the background during scenes taking place in Karen and Mack’s bedroom.  Okay, so anyway, Mack finds Karen lurking and acting like James Stewart or Craig Wasson and he even calls her out on it, saying that she’s acting like a peeping tom. 

By this point in the saga, I have come to understand why some fans find Karen annoying.  The subtle Karen of seasons one through four is long gone and now she’s generally much more hyperventilating and over-the-top, and this business of her being a little snoop and trying to get some dirt on the new neighbors is just….I don’t like it.  I get that Karen has lived in the cul-de-sac for a long time and feels protective of it, but do you really have to stay up late spying on the neighbors through your window?  The whole thing just gives me kinda an icky feeling, and I do wonder if some of that has to do with the Williams family being black.  Some of Karen’s suspicions towards them just feel a little weird, and I find myself thinking of how black people can’t do anything or go anywhere without snooty white people giving them the suspicious eye, something that’s still painfully clear to the present day.  So I find myself imagining how it must feel to be the Williams family and just want to settle quietly into this neighborhood only to have to play twenty questions with Karen or have her busting out a gigantic telescope to spy on them all night long.  Ugh.  However, I would like to point out that my “ugh” is more a reaction to how Karen is behaving and not a reflection on my feelings towards this storyline, which I love.  I love the Williams family and I love how they come to the show with an aura of mystery and I love everything that comes out of their time on the show.  I’m just pointing out that Karen’s behavior is, at this point, starting to annoy me. 

Let’s see, who’s next on the agenda?  Looks like Paige and Sumner, two fabulous characters whom I love.  Right now, it appears Greg is trying to wash away his grief over losing Laura by sleeping with a ton of forgettable women.  There’s some sort of Lotus Point gathering late in the ep (in which Johnny Rourke sings; more on that in a minute) and Paige has obviously got the hots for Sumner because she keeps trying to set up a date with him.  Unfortunately for her, Sumner shows up at Lotus Point along with, um, some forgettable chick.  There wouldn’t be too much for me to say about these developments were it not for the fabulously hilarious charisma of one Mr. William Devane.  See, Paige is sorta glaring over at Greg’s table, being jealous of the forgettable woman, and then Greg spots her and gives this fabulous wink that is so funny it made me laugh three times.  I laughed at the end of our prior ep when we had the “Next on KL” preview, I laughed when we started this ep and once again saw the wink in the thirty second preview, and then I laughed thrice when we finally hit the moment in the ep in question.  I love how Greg is going through something that’s really profoundly sad, the loss of his wife after only one year of marriage, and Devane is showing all those complexities and intricacies, yet he also knows how to make things funny.  As I so often do, I find myself wondering if Devane improvised this wink.  What do you guys think?  It just has that positive ring of authenticity that leads me to think Devane made this up.  Another beautiful thing worth noting in this scene?  Paige’s fabulous outfit.  See, at the Lotus Point party, Paige has chosen to come adorned in a fantastic all white outfit with a gigantic white hat.  

                But do you wanna know the fatal flaw of this scene?  If you guessed Johnny Rourke singing, you are correct, because he sings in this scene and he’s truly awful.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in the last year or so, but I really do miss Cathy terribly and think she could still be contributing good material if she were still on the show, but alas, she is not.  And while I miss all aspects of Cathy’s character, the one aspect I miss the very most is of course her singing.  Cathy (and, of course, Ciji before her) sang so well and I loved listening to all her songs, and listening to the diarrhea coming out of Johnny’s mouth as he stands up on stage only makes me yearn for Cathy more.  Jesus Christ is he bad, and he’s so bad that it almost seems like it’s intentional, like it’s a joke, like when all the nuns in SisterAct sing for the first time and Whoopi is so horrified to hear how bad they are.  I’m not very good at describing why someone is good or bad at singing, but the most I can say about Johnny is that he seems super flat.  Whenever he hits those high notes, they just fall, well, flat, and even though I think the background instruments are kinda okay, everything is ruined by this terrible singing.  I have to ask: Who’s idea was this?  Who brought Johnny Rourke onto the series and then demanded that he sing?  Was this some sort of weird contractual obligation courtesy of Peter Reckell?  Does he fancy himself a singer and did he show up on set and be like, “I’m gonna sing”?  I sure hope not, but then I must conclude that the powers-that-be ordered this singing to occur for some reason.  Anyway, it’s awful, I miss Cathy desperately, and that’s all I have to say about that.

                In fact, that’s about all I’ve got to say about this ep.  I bitched about Basil and Abs, but aside from that, this ep was solid, and I would like to reiterate that I’m thoroughly enjoying this season even if I’m not loving every single storyline going on.  This is still a huge, huge, huge step up from season eight, and I’m pretty impressed that the same creative team was able to do such a good job of damage control after things got so off the rails last year.  If I’m sounding a little more blasé about the eps or not giving them as much attention as I usually do, part of it is that we’re up to episode 208 and I am tired and another part is that, right now, the eps are sticking out as unique little snowflakes the way they used to.  In the early to middle seasons, I could kinda think back over the season and immediately remember what made this episode special or that episode special or whatever, but right now, they kinda blur.  I’m not seeing as many little directorial flourishes as I used to and they’re just, you know, a little less singular. 

                Alright, we’ve got two more eps left on this disk, so let’s move on to Lawfully Wedded.   

Thursday, August 20, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 207 of 344: IN TOO DEEP

 Episode Title: In Too Deep

Season 09, Episode 17

Episode 207 of 344

Written by James Stanley

Directed by Jerome Courtland

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 4th, 1988

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Johnny delivers packages for the shady business man and a woman accidentally sees them. Sexy Michael won't take Jody back because she's annoying, and when he sees a woman jump off a cliff to her death at the beach, he thinks it's Jody, but it's actually the woman who walked in on Johnny and The Dealer. At a gallery opening, Greg asks Paige to introduce him to a woman who catches his eye. Paige is jealous and gets drunk. She goes to see Johnny and they sleep together. Frank is super paranoid and Pat is worried that his paranoia is what will call attention to them. Karen is called to give a deposition in the twins' custody case. She tries to get Val and Gary to work it out. Val asks Karen to lie and say the twins aren't Gary's and Karen doesn't know what to do.

                Welcome to In Too Deep and I’d like to begin by discussing something I haven’t discussed in a long time, and that’s the little thirty second preview before the opening.  It’s been awhile since we’ve had a total fakeout in the little preview (the one that springs immediately to mind is Celebration, where we see a flash of Val pushing Ciji back and Ciji hitting her head on the table, leading us to think she might be dead from the impact).  In this case, we’ve got a real doozy here, because we see a flash of Sexy Michael on the phone, talking to Olivia, and Olivia is like, “How could you dump Jody?  You’re all she could think about!”  From there, we have a rapid flash to the dead body of a Laura-Palmer-looking-broad washed up on the beach and Sexy Michael being like, “Oh no!”  Well, I’ll let the cat out of the bag right now and say this dead Laura-Palmer-looking-broad is not Jody, but rather just, um, some broad.

                Actually, that connects the dots well to the first characters I wanna discuss this ep, and they would be Johnny Rourke and Leland Palmer.  We get a bit more of these two together, adding to the mystery of why Johnny is really here and what he is really up to and why we should even care.  See, we first see Leland Palmer standing around his motel room and talking to some random guy about doing some sort of drug deal or other, and he says, “You tell them that we’ll do thirty thousand; tell them that I’ll send someone out there to do the sale and if he comes back in one piece, with the money, then I’ll know we have a relationship.”  Later, Johnny takes Olivia and Jody out for the day, a walk on the beach, buying some sort of fattening food on the boardwalk, and then they end up at this restaurant called Crown and Anchor that, presumably, sells seafood, and then he’s like “Ooooh, an American jukebox!” and he goes up to the jukebox to do a drug deal with some guy.  He does a sorta James Bond esque secret exchange where he says, “Do they have any Rolling Stones?”  Then he gets a little homoerotic and is like, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” and he gets the drugs or the money or, you know, whatever.  This whole scene, he’s carrying around an obnoxiously gigantic teddy bear, and I think we all know that he shoved the goods up Teddy’s ass for safekeeping, and then he gives the teddy to the girls and heads to the men’s room for a fairly lame little fight with the dealer guy that he just did the exchange with.  The guy comes into the men’s room brandishing a knife, but then Johnny bursts out of a stall and kicks his ass and then proceeds along with his day, although he does then get attacked by like two or three more guys and there’s this big fight and Bob Loblaw.  Before moving on from this bit of business, let me just take a moment to say that I love jukeboxes and wish they were still prevalent.  I’ve also always loved the idea of having a jukebox in your home, like Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in Ghost.  I would love to have a real, authentic, old fashioned jukebox that I could play my records on.  One day when I’m rich and famous, I plan to do just that.

                Okay, so a little later, Johnny is meeting up with Leland Palmer at Leland Palmer’s little motel so they can exchange the money.  Leland Palmer is very pleased with Johnny’s work and is about to dole out his cut of the money when the door bursts open and this blonde chick comes walking in.  Yes, this is the blonde chick who is going to be buying the farm soon, and it’s all because she accidentally burst into Leland Palmer’s motel room.  By the way, the method with which Johnny chooses to make this interaction appear innocent in the eyes of this woman is a little silly.  See, as soon as the door opens, Leland Palmer pulls out his pistol and is ready to bust a cap, and then Johnny’s like, “Oh, come now, Leland Palmer, you’re gonna make the poor girl think this is real!”  I’m pretty sure this girl is not fooled into thinking that Johnny and Leland Palmer are working on a play, but whatever, Johnny had to think fast.  Anyway, later, as I already mentioned, Sexy Michael is walking on the beach when he sees this woman all dead and shit, being loaded up into an ambulance.  At first, he’s like, “Oh shit, it’s Jody!” but then Jody materializes behind him and is like, “Nah, that’s some other dead chick; unfortunately I am still alive.”  Then the camera sorta pans over to reveal Leland Palmer wearing a jogging suit and chewing on a toothpick as he watches the dead girl get loaded up.  Hmmm, does anyone else think it’s a bit cavalier for Leland Palmer to hang out in his jogging suit right next to the dead body that he made dead?  Perhaps he’s trying the hide-in-plain-sight method, or perhaps he likes the thrill of risking exposure, or perhaps he’s just so cool and calm and collected that he doesn’t care. 

                MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE ORIGINAL TWIN PEAKS SERIES HERE, but this whole business gave me a major whiff of Who-Killed-Laura-Palmer?  It’s actually kinda bizarre how similar it is, considering that series is still two years in the future and I’m sure David Lynch and Mark Frost weren’t ripping this off or anything, but think about it.  On Twin Peaks, Ray Wise plays a man who kills his own daughter, Laura Palmer, and she is blonde and looks pretty much like Jody and this dead chick, and her body washes ashore on the beach.  Well, that’s what’s happening right here.  I got this same weird feeling of strange similarities back in season four when Ciji was killed (and her body washed ashore) and then in season five when she came back as a new character, ala Laura Palmer coming back to Peaks as Maddy Ferguson.  This one is even more eerie, though, because the man doing the murder is the same exact actor.  END TWIN PEAKS SPOILERS.

                Okay, so that’s Johnny and Leland Palmer, but what about our other characters?  Gary and Val’s big blowout from last ep continues in this ep as they get ready to head to court.  Early in the ep, Val gets an order to appear before a judge.  You all know I love the small details of KL and this scene has to come to mind immediately.  One is the fact that we see the mailman leaving the letter for Val and we see Val come strolling out and telling him thanks.  She even uses his name (which I can’t remember) and it was that detail which I liked, cuz it tells us that this is her regular mailman and that the residents of the cul-de-sac know him well.  The second thing I liked is that Karen and Mack and Meg are hanging out on their driveway and they shout over at Val and ask if she wants to go to the zoo with them later.  Ugh, I love this, because I love anything that keeps the cul-de-sac atmosphere going strong.  As I said, I felt our last two seasons got too bogged down in other things like, cough, Hackney, and the focus shifted too far away from the cul-de-sac.  The series is at its best when we feel that neighborhood atmosphere, and a little scene like this, with the neighbors talking to each other about taking the kids out to the zoo, helps to keep that homey feeling going.

                Later, Karen and Val are talking in the kitchen, Karen wondering why she has been given an order to appear before a judge and give a deposition.  Val says that her lawyer says Gary has no legal right to the twins, but that anyone can file a lawsuit, which he did, and that it will most likely be thrown out without going to trial.  Then she and Karen walk into the other room and things get a little intense when Val says, “You never told Gary, did you?”  She is, of course, referring to the fact that Karen knows who’s sperm truly created those children, because Val told her way back in season five.  Karen assures her that she never told Gary anything, and then they argue a bit.  The scene concludes with Val saying, “Karen, you just can’t tell them, because I’m not going to, and if you don’t and I don’t, then no one will ever know.”  We can all tell by Karen’s face and her eyes that she is horrified at the idea of committing perjury, even for her best friend.  Karen is a woman of ethics and that’s why I love her, even when she’s having a hyperventilating fit.  I try to live my life with some sense of ethics and I admire the fact that Karen does the same.  Later, we get a phone conversation between Karen and Val in which Karen gets very serious and says, “I’m not going to lie; you’re not asking me to lie, are you?”  This is an intense scene, but I also got a little chuckle out of the way Val responds, which is, “Yes, I am” followed by a very abrupt “Bye bye,” that sounds a smidge too jolly for all the shit that’s going down.  This launches us into the final scene of the ep, in which Karen is answering the questions.  The question-asking guy (Prosecutor?  Judge?) asks her if Val ever told her the true father of the babies and Karen says yes, and then he asks, “Who did she name?”  This is worth noting, because I watched this ep twice, once with MBG and once with Brother, and both of them predicted that the ep would end without Karen giving an answer, that we would be left hanging until the next one to find out what she says.  In actuality, we hear Karen give the answer, and she tells the truth and says the father is Gary, and then we get our “Executive Producers” credits.  I could see why MBG and Brother thought the ep would leave us hanging, but I like this much better.  Ending without an answer would certainly provide impetus for the viewers to tune back in, but I think having her answer is the better choice and it actually gets me more excited for the next ep.  I have a strong feeling that all the other nighttime soaps would do it the other way, simply ending on Karen’s face as she silently wrestles with what to say.

                Meanwhile, we’re still getting to know the new neighbors on the block, the glorious Williams trio.  Now, before I get to talking about their material this ep, I fear I have to eat my words and take back some of the comments I made before about black people existing in the nighttime soaps.  See, in one of my previous essays I had an attack of Smug Liberal Douchery and went on this long rant about how only KL would have black people on their series while the other soaps ignored them.  But something has changed since then, and that is the fact that I am finally watching Dynasty (along with Brother).  So, we’ve been watching Dynasty, enjoying the trashy silliness, Bob Loblaw, and then we hit 1984 and we had not one, but two black characters added to the fact, Diahann Carroll and Lando Calrissian.  As soon as they showed up, Brother was like, “Ah hah!  You always say that KL was the first to have black people but here they are now!”  He’s absolutely right, because KL didn’t bring black people into the main fold until 1988, and here we are with some 1984 Dynasty and we’ve got two black people.  However, I want it noted that we’ve only just gotten started with that season, so I haven’t had time to see what these black people contribute to the series or how long they stick around.  Having become familiar with Dynasty’s completely trash qualities over the course of the last four seasons, I have a strong feeling that these black people will not exactly be the most progressive in their representation, just as I think the portrayal of Steven Carrington as a homosexual is abhorrent and I would probably be offended by it if the entire series wasn’t such complete tasteless trash.  I know I’m taking a detour here, but I want to note that I am thoroughly enjoying Dynasty but I am thoroughly enjoying it because it’s trash and because it knows it’s trash and so it just owns it and then throws glorious entertainment at us.  While I often call KL “trart” (trash-art), Dynasty is just-plain-trash, but I kinda love it for that reason.

                Anyway, let’s get back to the Williams family.  We first catch up with them as Frank stands in front of the window and glares and looks like a complete psychopath, an image I found endlessly amusing.  I already spoiled it and said they’re in the witness protection program, right?  So I know they’re in the witness protection program, and MBG called it immediately, but I still confess that if I had a new neighbor who just stood at his window and fucking glared like this, I would be nervous.  Frank looks really fucking scary here, and Pat is right to be like “Dude, take a chill pill.”  What she actually tells him is, “I’ll tell you what’s going to draw attention to us, and it’s you.”  More small details here, but I liked how Pat is folding towels during their conversation.  Again, it’s the shit like this that keeps the show feeling grounded; I’m pretty sure we never saw The Texas Ewings or The Denver Carringtons folding towels or doing any sort of laundry over on their series.  Later, Julie comes home from school all excited to show off her new class pictures, but Frank is not too happy about it.  He sits her down later and asks, “Why didn’t you tell us you were being photographed?”  Then Frank declares how he’s going to head down to the photographers to get the photos back and Pat tells him he’s being silly, to which he says, “Right next door is a government special prosecutor who would love a copy of her photograph.”  Later, we see Frank sneak into the photo lab or whatever and obtain the negatives, which he then burns in his fireplace.  Oh sigh, how very much I would love to have a working fireplace so that I could throw things into them. 

                I guess the last people worth discussing are Greg and Paige, who are going to prove to be a major focus of the later years of the show.  In this ep, Greg is at the art gallery Paige works at, looking at art or whatever, and he asks Paige to introduce him to some chick, and then later he dates the chick (while smoking a cigar, but I don’t have my notes with me so I don’t quite know where this brings us in The Sumner Cigar Counter).  Paige is upset, so she gets drunk and sleeps with Johnny, and that’s about it for this ep.  All this stuff is fine, well, and good, but I am just feeling lazy and don’t have too much to say about this storyline right now.

                Okay, so that was In Too Deep.  I thought it was pretty solid and I liked all the stuff with the Williams family and with Gary and Val and the big epic deposition stuff.  As usual, the bottom dweller storyline for this ep was Abs and Basil, and you can tell how much I cared becuase I didn't even bother to write about it.  I can’t wait for Basil to go away so that Abby can be given something interesting to do again.  With that said, let’s move right along to The Blushing Bride.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 206 of 344: IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

Episode Title: If Not Now, When? 

Season 09, Episode 16

Episode 206 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by Kate Tilley

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 28th, 1988

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Judith and Charles don't want to divorce until a merger goes through, so Abby enlists Greg's help to mess it up. Judith secretly tapes Abby, and tells Charles that Abby used inside information. Charles says he doesn't care - he loves Abby. Michael fends off Jody's advances and tells her he doesn't love her. She's very upset. The MacKenzies have the Williams over for dinner, and Frank acts strange. Mack is sure Frank is a cop. It's too late for Gary to appeal for paternal rights to the twins, so Jill draws up an official sounding letter for Val to sign, naming Gary as the twins' father. Val's upset and decides to get her own attorney. When Gary comes to visit, Val goes off, screaming that he is not the twins' dad, and to never come back.

                Welcome to If Not Now, When?, and I wish to begin with a quick confession, which is that I do not have notes for this episode and so I am, once again, winging it, as I did with a couple of eps back in season eight (I think the really bad one where J.B. fell off the cliff?).  I actually kinda liked those essays because I thought they sounded a little less stuffy or something, so maybe it’s not a terrible idea to try it every once in awhile.  It also kinda helps demonstrate how much of an impression a certain ep may have given me; if I can’t really remember all the details without my notes, perhaps the ep wasn’t all that great.  For instance, sitting here right now, with no notes before me, if you asked me to tell you why, say, season six’s We Gather Together is a brilliant ep, I could immediately rattle off five thousand things off the top of my head that I remember about that ep, but if you picked some random season eight bottom dweller, I might not be able to remember much about it.  With that said, let’s get started talking about the ep and let’s start by discussing, oh I dunno, how about Abs and Basil Exposition.

                I pick Abs and Basil Exposition both because it is boring and my least favorite storyline going on and I’d rather just get it out of the way upfront, but also because I think some stuff actually does happen in this ep as far as that story is concerned.  As we get started with the ep, the first scene we see is Abs in bed and Basil talking to her about how they’re gonna get married soon.  Oh yeah, did I mention that at all in the last ep?  Probably not, since I’m just glazing right over this storyline and barely paying any attention to it, but yeah, they are now engaged, which only makes it odder that Basil’s cunty wife, The Ice Queen, is still hanging around.  In this ep, Judith (that’s The Ice Queen) tells Basil that she’s been tape-recording conversations with Abs and other people, all very Richard Nixon.  These tape recorded conversations all involve boring business deals and mergers that I don’t care about.  If I wanted to hear about boring business deals and mergers all day long, I would be watching Dallas, thank you very much, and I don’t know what all this boring rich-people nonsense is doing over here on KL.  Anyway, later Abs and Basil are hanging out and talking on the bed (I think it’s Abby’s bed), and she says how she can’t wait for Basil to divorce The Ice Queen and kick her to the curb, but then he starts to act like a big pussy and talk about how he can’t divorce The Ice Queen quite yet because they’re about to acquire E.M.G. (Eastern Mining Group), which sounds a lot like a company My Beloved Grammy used to work for (E.G.& G.), which we both noted with amusement.  I confess that we both kinda just talk over the scenes between Basil and Abs because we don’t care; My Beloved Grammy doesn’t like this storyline and neither do I.  We are both just waiting for it to end.

                Anyway, later we get a scene between all three: Basil, Abs, and The Ice Queen.  See, a bit before this scene, The Ice Queen said how she thinks Abs is using the information Basil is giving her to commit insider training (which is true, as confirmed by a quick and cute scene between her and Greg Sumner).  In the climactic scene, The Ice Queen produces a tape and is like, “This tape shows that Abby’s doing really evil stuff or, you know, something,” and then Basil asks if that’s the only tape and, when The Ice Queen confirms it is, he takes the tape and hands it over to Abs.  I guess this means he’s showing his official loyalty belongs to Abs, or maybe it’s all part of some other conspiracy, or maybe I don’t care enough to keep talking about it, so let’s move on to something interesting.

                Remember a few eps back when Sexy Michael heroically saved Kristy Swanson from drowning?  Well, by this point he’s probably wishing he had just let her drown, because she’s become terribly annoying and won’t shut up about how she wants Sexy Michael to sleep with her and how she, God help us all, thinks she and Sexy Michael are ready to have a baby.  Look, I don’t judge the poor girl for wanting to have sex with Sexy Michael; I spend every waking hour wishing I could have sex with Sexy Michael myself, but I do judge her for being annoying and clingy and especially for that ridiculous nonsense about having a baby.  What are you, twelve years old?  What the fuck are you doing talking about having a baby?  Why can’t you just have sex without making a baby, like a normal person?  No wonder Sexy Michael doesn’t want to come anywhere near Jody; nothing kills a man’s erection faster than the idea of some disgusting screaming infant, especially when you are nineteen or however old Sexy Michael is supposed to be (I think he’s nineteen).  Jody also shows herself to be utterly pathetic and devoid of any self-confidence when she declares, “I love you, and I know that you don’t like to say that you love me, but you don’t have to.”  Ugh, the man doesn’t say he loves you because he does not love you.  I feel like I might be sounding misogynistic right now, so let me remind everyone that I am a good little liberal feminist and I’ve always voted for Democrats and I’m one of the good guys, and I think a lot of my rage and annoyance towards Jody has less to do with her clinginess and more to do with the fact that I wish Sexy Michael was fucking me and I’m jealous that he’s spending any time with Jody.  The fact that I continue to find myself jealous of fictional characters in an old ‘80s nighttime soap that went off the air 27 years ago probably speaks a lot more to my own mental issues than to anything going on in the show.

                Let me take a moment to tell everyone that I still love Sexy Michael.  I got a little annoyed with him for acting like a whiny little bitch throughout season eight (“Oh, boo hoo, Paige doesn’t want to sleep with me anymore"), but I still love him.  I love him not just because he’s so very unbelievably beautiful (although I confess his season nine hair, that kinda mullet look, is not doing it for me and I’d prefer he went back to the hair he had in seasons five and six), but also because he’s unbelievably sweet.  Even if I might make fun of him for putting up with Jody instead of just getting rid of her, part of my love for Sexy Michael is that he’s a nice person and tries to treat other people well, which is why he’d make such a fabulous gay boyfriend.  Oh yeah, and that brings me to a nice little detour I’ve been meaning to take, which is that I believe this would have been the perfect time for the writers to turn Sexy Michael gay.  Rather than waste everybody’s time with stories about Sexy Michael and Kristy Swanson, why not have him finally discover his true calling and become the beautiful homosexual God intended him to be?  Not only would it provide us with the opportunity for lots of locker-room hookup scenes between Sexy Michael and any number of beautiful boys, but it could also help to explore complexities within the character of Karen, who I feel has become a bit boring by this point in the saga.  I think that Karen likes to bill herself as a good little liberal and I think she would proudly brag to everyone about how it would be no problem if her sons were gay, but I think that, if Sexy Michael really turned out to be gay, Karen wouldn’t be so cool with it.  This would have been a good chance to explore liberal hypocrisy (and I’m a big old liberal but I know that we can be major hypocrites on some issues, just like I know we can be annoyingly smug and douchy) and also just, you know, deeper complexities within the characters.  Unfortunately, this never happens, and Sexy Michael sticks to the boring, square heterosexual life for the rest of his time on the series.  Oh ho hum.

                Let’s see, what else is going on in this ep, ah, Gary and Val!  As I said before, Gary and Val’s material at this point in the saga is my absolute favorite stuff going on within the series right now, and whenever we return to this story, I am riveted.  Things get started this ep when Gary pays a visit to Val, asking her to sign a paper he is planning to send her, a paper that acknowledges one Garrison Arthur Ewing as the true father of twins Bobby Ewing and Betsy Ewing.  He gives Val a really lovely speech about how he loves the kids and he has bad dreams at night about losing them somehow, and how he “just wants to know that I’m connected to them officially.”  He tells Val her permission has been on again/off again and that he’s worried Ben might come back and suddenly Gary won’t be the father anymore.  He says he’s looking for assurance, not custody, just some rights as a father.  To the surprise of Gary, Val flat rejects him saying, “No, I can’t sign a piece of paper like that; I just can’t.”  I love both characters and I understand both, so I can see where Val is coming from.  After a life of abandonment, Val is worried that, by signing this paper, Gary could conceivably show up and take the kids away from her.  She’s lost Gary twice before, way back in the ‘60s and then again in 1982, and she just lost Ben, and she just lost Lilimae (kinda) when Lilimae went running off with Red Buttons.  At this point, all Val has is her twins, so I’m sure the idea of losing them, especially after the brilliant drama of season six and the babies being taken away from her and all that, I’m sure that idea horrifies her. 

                Later, when Mack and Frank Williams (more on him in a minute) are meeting for the first time out on the cul-de-sac, they are making nice and exchanging some pleasantries about Frank’s busted couch, when suddenly Gary and Val come bursting out of Val’s house screaming at each other.  Val is all like, “You get out of here and don’t ever come back,” and Gary is like, “Those children are mine!” and then Val is like, “You are not their father; Ben is their father!” and then she physically attacks him and Mack has to hold her back while she calls Gary a son of a bitch.  I gotta say, this kinda shocked me, which is funny because we’ve heard both “bitch” and “son of a bitch” before on the series, but there was something about hearing Val say it towards Gary that was just like a major whoa, man moment.  It also caused my brain to take a radical detour and reflect on how people don’t really say “son of a bitch” anymore.  I never quite fully understood that as an insult, because are you insulting the man or are you insulting his mother?  If you’re insulting his mother, it’s doubly super offensive, right?  If you wanna get painfully literal, I’m not sure it really makes sense for Val to call him that, since I’m sure she doesn’t think Miss Ellie is a bitch, despite all their past drama.  The Texas Ewings are hardly Valene’s favorite people, but of that merry band, I’d say Miss Ellie is the one who’s nicest to Val.  She even bought the damn house for Gary and Val way back in 1979 and gifted them their own television show and she told Val how she didn’t stand up for her enough back in the ‘60s.  In any case, I’m sure Val is just angry and screaming whatever profanity comes into her head at that moment.  For the record, my go-to profanity when something bad happens or I stub my toe or whatever is, “God damn it, anyway.”  That’s what always pops out when I’m really pissed off, and it just comes out real fast before I even think about it.  Also, while on the subject of curse words, my favorite curse word is “bastard,” which I think remains the perfect way to describe someone who is just really evil.  To say that someone, “Is a real bastard,” to me means that person is truly vile.  Anyway, after the “son of a bitch” (which Val actually says twice), Gary goes speeding off and the music gets dramatic and that’s about all for the Gary/Val footage this week, but it’s obviously leading us into something new and exciting and I’m eager to get to it.

                Let’s move on over to the new folks on the block, the Williams family.  After a few eps with just Patricia and Julie, this ep we finally meet the father, Frank, played by the wonderful Larry Riley.  While at first glance this guy might seem a little scary and intimidating, I’ll just let the cat out of the bag now and say he’s not; he’s a wonderful character and a wonderful person and I just loved him for the entire time he was on the show, or at least I remember just loving him when I first watched the series.  Larry Riley is the member of the Williams family who will chalk up the most eps, even being promoted to main cast member status for seasons twelve and thirteen, and IMDb (often faulty, I know) tells me he will be in 99 eps.  Very sadly, Larry Riley died of AIDS in 1992, inbetween seasons thirteen and fourteen of the series.  He was only 39 years old which just tears at my heart, because I love him on the show and I think he’s a great actor and I also like the music he contributes to the series a little later down the road.  Also, some interesting random trivia: I just finished watching Hill Street Blues and the entire Williams family appears on that show at one point or another, so if fans wanna see more of them, there you go.  Also, that was just a really good show so everyone should watch it.

                But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.  At this moment, we the viewers in 1988 still don’t really know what’s going on with this family.  When Frank is first introduced, he is wide eyed and consistently looks like he’s going to piss his pants in fright.  Also, he gets very mad at the movers when they tell him how his couch is going to be delayed a few days, and then a little later, when the couch actually arrives on time, Frank flips it over and goes to town on it with a knife.  He slices the bottom up to shreds, desperately looking for some sort of bug or other recording device in the couch.  It’s this bit of couch dissection that leads us to his first interaction with Mack, who observes the gutted couch lying outside on the street.  Frank says how the movers were careless, and Mack is like, “Looks like they went at with a knife.”  Later, the Williams go a nice dinner at the MacKenzie house and Frank tells them that he sells chemicals like chlorine or whatever to, you know, companies.  Then he asks if the neighborhood is pretty safe and Karen delivers the ultimate lie of the 20th century with, “Well, we have to lock our doors, but it’s pretty quiet.”  She fails to mention that in the last eight seasons, we’ve had a violent biker invasion, her first husband was killed by mobsters, a crazy sociopath moved onto the block and then killed a popular young singer, who then came back from the dead as a different character who, coincidentally, also became a popular young singer; that a young son of a preacher man moved into the neighborhood and quickly went insane and tried to kill that second iteration of the popular young singer, and that Val’s husband recently disappeared to South America after becoming part of a terrible espionage plot that the very worst of the daytime soaps would never even touch, and that’s just a few of the things that Karen neglects to mention towards the new family.  I’m not so sure that “pretty quiet” describes Seaview Circle at all. 

                I think that’s about all I’ve got to say about this ep.  Did I like it?  Yes, I did, quite a bit, with the main exception being (of course) the one going on between Abs and Basil, which is pure Nyquil mixed with Enya music.  Aside from that (and the Jody-related material that I’m fairly indifferent to), I liked all the stuff going on in this ep.  I love the Williams family, so I’m excited to see them all here and to meet Frank for the first time, and I love all the stuff with Gary and Val, who, in my eyes, remain the heart and soul of the series.  So yeah, good ep, if not exactly a stunning and brilliant 48 minutes of television.  Let’s move right along to In Too Deep.

Thursday, June 25, 2020


Episode Title: Another Modest Proposal

Season 09, Episode 15

Episode 205 of 344

Written by Robert Porter

Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 21st, 1988

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): The MacKenzie's miss Meg when Greg takes her home. Later, Greg asks them to watch her again. Johnny cons his way into staying at Lotus Point, and spies on another guest. He steals money from this man, then tells him, and gives it back. The man says he'll get Johnny a job. Charles brings Abby to meet his friends, and Judith shows up. She is very snide to Abby, so Charles tells Judith he has asked Abby to marry him. Val and the twins decorate the house for Gary's birthday, but Jill has planned a surprise party for him, so Gary doesn't get to Val's until the twins are asleep. Val's furious, and yells that he has no sense of responsibility. Their argument wakes the twins, and they call Gary "Daddy." Jill's upset that Gary didn't come home with her. Gary tries to make up with her, but she tells him he has to make a choice. Later, she apologizes and says that he doesn't have to abide by Val's terms. She reminds him she is a lawyer, and says she will help him.

                Welcome to Another Modest Proposal, and as I sit here, looking at my notes, I see that the very first thing I jotted down, right after the ep title and airdate, was “Sexy Michael with shirt unbuttoned at breakfast table.”  Yes, this is easily the most important development of the ep, so let’s discuss it in great detail.  It’s even better than it sounds in my notes, because it’s not just that he has the shirt unbuttoned; it’s that he has it fully unbuttoned, like Mark Patton in Nightmare on Elm Street 2, and omigod I love it.  This is a great way to start this ep.  Aside from that, I don’t have to much to say about him right now.  I should note that I’ve been kinda ignoring the story of him and his new girlfriend, the super clingy and needy Kristy Swanson, but I’ll discuss it a little later, as it becomes a more important part of the plot a few eps down the line.

                The majority of this ep concerns itself with Gary and Val (yay!), but we also get a smidge of stuff with the MacKenzie family.  See, the main story for them right now is the whole Meg thing.  Last ep, Greg took Meg back, so we begin this ep with the family in the kitchen (Sexy Michael with shirt unbuttoned) and Mack talking about how much he misses Meg.  It should be obvious to anyone with eyes, or even people without eyes, that Mack has fallen hopelessly in love with this little girl.  It’s not hard for me to sympathize with Mack, who would now be 45 years old.  He’s getting closer and closer to 50, he never even knew he had a daughter until she was a fully grown, super sexy Nicolette Sheridan, and so he’s never had the chance to create a human being and watch it grow before his very eyes.  Of course he would be starting to feel a special kind of love for Meg, who the family has been watching for quite awhile.  I also like the sweet way that Mack’s feelings are presented; for instance, early in the ep, he’s visiting Sumner at his ranch and noting the new paintings and general look of this very white-walled and sterile living space (a quick note: I really like all white walls and sterile houses; I’m also a big fan of Miles Dyson’s house in Terminator 2).  I did notice that when Greg asks him what he thinks of the space and the general feng shui, Mack nods and says, “It’s interesting, it’s different,” which usually is a nice way of telling someone you don’t like their place without actually saying so.  Then Mack whips out Meg’s little baby bib and is like, “Look what I found around the house, her little bib.”  It’s that last part, her little bib, that I find so cute, just the way Mack delivers the line, like he’s already nostalgic for the days of having Meg in the house even though that was only something like a week ago.

                However, a little later, during one of those classically KL bedroom scenes of a couple preparing for slumber together, Karen and Mack are talking about Greg and Meg and the whole thing, and Mack tries to make pretend like he doesn’t want Meg coming back again.  When Karen says how they’ll probably be seeing a lot of Meg because of Greg being a single parent, Mack is like, “No, not in this house, I’ve reached my limit.”  I don’t think he’s fooling Karen and I don’t think he’s fooling the viewing audience; he’s only trying to fool himself.  What he really can’t handle is the idea of having Meg for awhile and then having to say goodbye again when Greg returns to get her, so he’s trying to pretend like he was just being a good sport with the baby this whole time and that he’s actually relieved she’s gone now.  If anyone had any doubt that Mack is fudging the truth, we need look no further than the final scene and the freeze frame ending of this ep, in which Greg shows up again asking for the family to take care of Meg.  Rather than reject the request the way he claimed he would to Karen mere hours ago, Mack takes the baby and starts kissing her cheek and is like, “We’d just love to have her.”  Everyone in the room can feel the sheer love pouring through Mack’s soul as he holds this little baby girl.

                Meanwhile, new arrival Johnny Rourke gets some alright material this week, including the introduction of one Leland Palmer.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Ray Wise himself, roughly two years before the mystery of “Who Killed Laura Palmer?” would sweep the pop culture.  I’d like to note that in addition to being Leland Palmer, Mr. Wise is also a Transmorpher who had already popped up on Dallas several years beforehand.  Over there, he appeared in eight eps, all in 1982, as Blair Sullivan, who was Lucy’s modeling agent.  Ray Wise is easily one of my favorite actors, and he’s one of those actors who has appeared in five thousand different things and it’s often just teeny tiny parts, but when you give him a big juicy role like on Twin Peaks, he really shows off his chops.  For those who are not Peaks fans, you may have seen this actor in Robocop, as one of the bad guys who brutally annihilates Frank Murphy at the start of the film.  He also showed up a few times on Mad Men and he just overall keeps busy.  Here, he is playing “The Dealer,” and I don’t believe we ever get a name, but he’ll be around until Bouncing Babies.  I would say that “The Dealer” is a drug dealer and we first see him when Johnny Rourke camps out outside of his little motel room and takes photos and shit.  Later, Johnny sits down with Leland Palmer at Lotus Point and exchanges random vaguely threatening dialogue and, you know, stuff happens.  I’ll return to Johnny Rourke and Leland Palmer a little down the line, when they have more scenes of consequence.

                Oh blah, Basil Exposition is still on the show (and will be until Lawfully Wedded), so he and Abs share some more generally uninteresting material this week.  Is it bothering any of you that I’m barely even attempting to write about this storyline?  I know I’m getting lazy, because if this was happening n the first batch of seasons, I’m sure I would go into great, big, agonizing detail about why I don’t like the story and why I think we need to move on.  Well, now we are past the 200 ep mark and I’ve written about all the eps before this one, and I’m tired.  At this point, if I don’t like a storyline such as this one, I’m more in the mood to just say it sucks and glaze over it.  Honestly, I’m not even entirely sure what this storyline is about.  It’s something involving big business and, well, murders and executions mostly (mergers and acquisitions), the sort of generally uninteresting business affairs that would usually occupy the Dallas plots.  In this case, I think Basil is trying to screw Abs (metaphorically) in some way and I think he’s in cahoots with The Ice Queen to do so, but again, I’m not really paying much attention.  We have Abs until the concluding hours of season ten, and with time ticking away rapidly on this character, I hate to see her bogged down in such a drivel storyline.  The interesting thing is that I don’t remember disliking this storyline much at all upon first viewing.  I again think this boils down to me watching so many eps in a single day; I would just power through so fast that if I didn’t like a story, I barely had time to notice it before it moved on.  Now, looking at each ep individually and in great detail, a storyline like this becomes far more noticeably boring.  Also, I remind you that my problems never lie with Donna and her fabulous acting; the main problem is that the story is dull and they picked a horrible person to pair her with, a person who looks like he’d really be on absolutely any other set for absolutely any other movie or TV show than the one he is currently on.  If I was running things, I would have fired Basil after one ep of him not even trying to give a performance.  If you think you’re so much better than the show just because you’re snooty and British and were in a famous Shakespeare movie, then I say take a hike and go make another Shakespeare movie.  Shakespeare is great, but we all know he’s lying in his grave bemoaning the fact that, in his entire career, he never managed to create anything quite as sublime as KL.

                So that does it for Abby’s boring storyline, but fortunately the material for Gary and Val is sizzling this week.  One of my favorite things about this season so far, in addition to an overall feeling that the show is returning to its roots and to what it is always meant to be about, is that we are getting such a heavy focus on Gary and Val.  I wonder if Ben had left in the closing hours of season seven, as originally planned, if this storyline would have come to us in season eight and saved us from the debacle of Hackney.  In any case, perhaps the pain of sitting through Hackney has only elevated my joy at getting such great Gary/Val stuff this year.  The main plot for them this ep is that Gary is having a birthday party, and yes, I have something to say about that, something I brought up eons ago and which is now finally paying off.  You all remember our backdoor pilot to KL, the Brief Dallas Interlude entitled Return Engagements?  Well, in that ep, we began with Miss Ellie being sad and mopey (so what else is new?) because it’s Gary’s birthday and she wants to see him.  Well, that ep aired December 20th of 1979 and, in my essay for it, I wrote this:

                “Let’s take a quick parlay here, shall we?  This episode aired on December 20th, right?  Now, presumably it takes place on or around that day.  Obviously the episode spans a couple of days in total (I think just two or three), but for the sake of argument, let’s just say December 20th.  I am very curious to keep my eyes open and see if Gary’s late-December-annoyingly-close-to-Christmas-birthday is ever mentioned again, or perhaps even contradicted on the KL series.  In fact, I’m thinking really hard now and I can’t even remember if Gary ever celebrates a birthday on KL.  Still, as we follow along, I shall pay strict attention to see if his birthday is ever mentioned again, and if it remains consistent with what is established in this episode, okay?”

                Well, here we are, and Gary is celebrating a birthday now, but the timeline doesn’t quite add up.  That was December 20th and this ep is airing January 21st.  Hmmm, should I just go with it because the birthdays are at least fairly close together?  Could I perhaps hypothesize that Gary is celebrating his birthday a little late now?  Or should I retroactively go back to that Dallas ep and declare that it was, in fact, not taking place on December 20th?  I don’t think I’m gonna do that, so I’m afraid I have to call this out as a flaw.  We already passed the Christmas ep this season, so we know it’s officially a new year and December came and went without a Gary birthday, which is now happening in January.  It might also be worth asking how old Gary is supposed to be by this point.  In real life, the man was born in 1946, which would make him 42 years old at this point, although I think the character is perhaps supposed to be older.  They say he was 17 years old when Lucy was born, somewhere around 1962, so actually I suppose his birthday does make sense and he’s probably playing a 42 year old character.  Probably nobody else besides me cares as much about this stuff, but it’s the little details I look for in a show, and one of my big peeves is when writers can’t even keep birthdays straight.  As you’re doing your first ep, you should write the characters down, give them official birthdays that always stay the same, hang that information on a wall in the writers room, and ensure that you will always stay accurate to what’s already been established.

                However, the age of Gary isn’t the focus of this ep, but rather his relationship to Val and the twins.  See, the twins are all excited to prepare a birthday party for Gary, only he doesn’t show up until way later.  I had forgotten the exact circumstances leading to his tardiness, but I did a quick review over the ep and now I remember what happens.  Basically, he’s wanting to head out the Lotus Point doors to get to Val’s house for the party, but it turns out there’s this big epic surprise party for him being thrown at Lotus Point, and he gets sucked into it.  We see him trying to get away, telling J.B. how he really has somewhere to go, but it’s futile and he winds up being late to Val’s house, leading to a fabulous confrontation between the two.  You could play a drinking game for every time I go on about how “both characters have valid points of view,” so take a shot now, cuz I’m gonna say it again.  Gary did try to shuffle out of Lotus Point and he did give Val a call to tell her he’d be late, but I still understand why Val’s mad.  How do you just forget your husband running off on you with another woman?  You probably can’t, not really, and so even though that was six years ago, I think the memories are still painful for Val, and she’s worried about putting trust in Gary again only to have it betrayed.  In this case, she is trusting him to show up on time for a birthday the twins are throwing themselves, and then he tells her he’ll be a little late and actually shows up tremendously late.  After the twins have been put to bed, we have the confrontation, and it’s a doozy.  If I had more energy, I would transcribe the whole thing down, because Gary gets a tremendous speech detailing all the past history.  I noticed this speech and appreciated it because I think it does a great job of keeping viewers, especially potential new viewers, up to speed on what’s been going on for the last few years.  This is the ninth season, so a lot has gone down, and while a speech like the one Gary gives, going over how he and Val split up, slept together one last time, how she got pregnant and didn’t tell him about the truth, all of that is brought up in his speech, but it’s done elegantly, never feeling like the writers being like, “We need a quick exposition dump.”  Gary makes a valid point when he says he never got the chance to be their father because Val didn’t tell him the truth way back in 1983.  One of the main takeaways of this scene is that Val still views the true father of the twins as a deep dark secret nobody can ever know about.  When Gary brings it up, she covers his mouth with her hand and tells him never to say that again.  Then Gary says how he knows for sure that they are his kids and he goes marching off, leading us smoothly into what’s about to go down in our next batch of eps.

                Meanwhile, lurking in the background quietly and growing and growing in my esteem is one J.B.  One of my favorite little scenes in this ep involves J.B. coming home, only to nearly slip on a little toy truck that certain twins left on the floor.  She kicks the truck in frustration, which I loved, and that only prompts the toy to land on the ground and start taking off driving, to which J.B. says, “Great, so now the place is haunted.”  This is, like, a twelve second scene, but what a great way to show J.B.’s growing frustrations, because not only is it kinda funny, but also good foreshadowing.  Anyone who has seen season nine vividly remembers where things are heading for the season finale, and it’s all percolating right here before our very eyes, but in small, subtle ways.  Later, when Gary returns, J.B. says how, “We are all leading the same life, one great big Gary Val Jill Bennett Ewing life and I am sick of it,” to which Gary says dejectedly, “I don’t blame you.”  Later, J.B. fucks Gary in the car, which seems to be like a method to make sure he stays in her life.  She’s getting worried about his increasing interactions with Val, his one true soul mate, and while Val is sweet and great and wonderful, I imagine she isn’t too kinky or wild in the sack, so J.B. is going to be the wild woman that Val can never be.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Seasons nine and ten are where it’s at as far as the J.B. character is concerned.  These are the seasons she truly comes alive, much as I may have enjoyed her in the past.  When any KL fan thinks of J.B., I’m sure they head straight to these two seasons.  Everything that’s happened and everything that’s going to happen is unfolding in that fabulous slow burn KL way, and it’s going to pay off big time as we finish this season and begin the next.

                Aside from the boring and stupid Abs/Basil storyline, I really liked this ep.  I possibly liked it the best of the five eps housed on this disk.  I think the stuff with Mack and Meg is building nice and slow and I’m liking everything I’m seeing there, but it’s really the Gary/Val stuff that makes this ep come alive.  Both actors are doing great work and they play off of eachother so well now that they’ve been working together for so very long.  We also got Leland Palmer and that’s pretty exciting and so, yeah, I liked it a lot and thought this was a real good ep.  Let’s move right along to a new disk, beginning with If Not Now, When?