Thursday, January 18, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 158 of 344: HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER


Episode Title: His Brother’s Keeper

Season 07, Episode 28

Episode 158 of 344

Written by Bernard Lechowick

Directed by Larry Elikann

Original Airdate: Thursday, May 1st, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby wants Karen to take Greg's deal. Gary and Karen try to figure out a way to clean up Empire Valley themselves. They turn to the EPA, Senator Henderson, and even try to get a loan, but nothing works out. Abby tells Gary that Jill's family owned Empire Valley, and that she's only with Gary because she wants Empire Valley back. Later Jill admits to Gary that when she first went out with him, she wanted Empire Valley, but then she fell in love with him. He coolly asks her "Is that it?" Senator Henderson is retiring, and Greg thinks Peter should be the next Senator. The Lotus Point groundskeeper dies of arsenic poisoning, and several people cancel their reservations. Karen decides to close Lotus Point. Val tells Ben that she senses something is wrong, and she'd like to work through it with him. He says he has a lot on his mind. Cathy asks Ben to go on the road with her and be her manager.


                When we last left off, Greg was cracking a deal with Karen in which he would be responsible for the entire Lotus Point situation on one condition, that he would get all of Empire Valley for himself.  As we begin His Brother’s Keeper, we see our beloved characters of Gary and Karen and Abs trying to figure out whether to take this deal or not.  Abs is in strong favor of taking whatever deal Sumner is offering, pointing out to Karen that “he’s offering us a way out,” but Karen is suspicious of his intentions and says she doesn’t trust him.  In lieu of doing business with him, Gary and Karen instead meet with some old, generic looking white guy that nobody could ever pick out of a lineup, and learn about how many other responsibilities the EPA has on its hands right now, something like 3,500 different locations that they need to work with.  Really random thing to note, but the scene begins with a stock shot of a huge skyscraper and then the camera zooms into a closeup of one of the windows.  Am I mistaken to say that I’m quite certain this same stock shot was used over and over again on Dallas?  In fact, wasn’t this shot used for transitions that would take us into the Ewing Oil offices?  Have those offices now morphed into a lawyer’s office located in California?  Or am I just crazy for being convinced that this is the same shot?  Someone even more nerdy and obsessive about these details oughta write in and tell me if I am correct or not.



                Okay, so the white guy is pretty much useless, but as Karen and Gary prepare to vacate his office, he suggests that they take their problem to state senator Billie Henderson, who chairs the committee on environmental protection and is a friend of Mack’s.  All this stuff is presented to us viewers in a delightfully clever and well edited way, courtesy of my favorite KL director, Larry Elikann (more on him later).  See, we have a scene of crosscutting between Karen, Gary, and the white guy along with Abs talking to some lady about the pollution.  The crosscutting reveals all sets of characters coming to the same conclusion, that Senator Henderson is the man to help them, but then we cut to Greg and Henderson together, getting some roadside hot dogs and taking a walk.  We learn that Greg has a relationship with this senator going back years, and now he requests that Henderson join his side and help him out as a consultant for the big cleanup.  When Henderson says how there’s no way he could be a consultant, Greg pulls an Abs-type move by smoothly blackmailing the senator, hardly even batting an eye as he does it.  When Henderson says, “I don’t want to leave the state senate,” Greg immediately whips out a yellow envelope and announces, “In that case, I think you should read this; it’s about your daughter.”  He adds how the information in the envelope is just between the two of them, encourages him to read it over, and finishes with, “We could use a good man like you,” before walking away.  See, now that’s how you do a bribery, remaining cool as a cucumber and keeping your language friendly and non-confrontational.  Poor Henderson looks rather put off and surprised by this revelation, and I think we all know what decision he’s going to make very shortly.



                We are seeing a darker side to Greg’s character at this time, a side that is able to blackmail senators with all the ease of going down to the market for a quart of milk.  Because of the consistently brilliant way that Devane brings this character to life, I never have any problems with him alternating between likable and even heroic to lying and duplicitous.  I wish I was a more skilled writer and could properly explain how all these intricacies come together to keep the character so interesting, but for now all I can say is that, no matter what Greg is doing at any given time and how moral or immoral the action might be, I always find him likable and fascinating and that’s totally because of how Devane plays him.  Now, while it’s easy for me to forgive Greg this behavior, it might not be so easy for his new wife, Laura, who gets a little peek at her new husband’s ways of conducting business this week when she pays him a visit at his office.  Greg answers a call from some governor or other and declares loudly, “It’s a real shame you’ll be losing Senator Henderson!”  Laura’s face gets all furrowed as she listens to Greg say, “I want to run the name of a candidate by you; we need someone to fill his seat,” followed by a rather amazing laugh that made me laugh myself.  Obviously Greg is forcing Henderson out of his senate seat not just to help them clean up the pollution, but also to make room for Peter in the senate, although I am still unsure of Greg’s true motivations for this move; we shall just have to wait and see.

                Meanwhile, it’s still a rather sordid state of affairs between Abs, Gary, and J.B.  Gary and Abs are in the middle of their divorce, which means Gary should have plenty of time to devote to shagging J.B., but the only problem is that J.B. is being weird and distant, telling Gary, “I love you but I don’t want to be in love with you.”  After Abs conveniently overhears Eric and Sexy Michael discussing J.B.’s past at a Lotus Point meeting (a scene that is very contrived, but which I’ll forgive since it keeps the story moving), she realizes the truth about why J.B. got involved with Gary in the first place.  With this new information, Abs goes to work trying to destroy this burgeoning relationship, and I have to say she does a fine job of it.  Sometimes, I think Abby’s most subtle manipulations are also her best ones, because in this case, she tells Gary how, “I guess I’m the only one who thinks you should sell to Sumner,” and then she adds, “You and Karen and J.B.”  When Gary inquires into what exactly J.B. has to do with any of this, Abs is all like, “You do know that J.B.’s family used to own Empire Valley.”  Then she asks Gary is his relationship with J.B. ran “hot and cold” after he announced his divorce and J.B. was unsure of whether he’d retain ownership of Empire Valley.  This does a fabulous job of planting ideas in Gary’s head, ideas which pay off for Abby’s intentions of sabotage a little later in the ep.

                See, the next scene we see is a little chat between Gary and J.B. in the lobby of the hotel Gary is currently living in.  J.B. arrives dressed in yellow and feeling very perky about telling Gary the truth.  She starts with, “I’ve been dishonest with you; I haven’t lied to you but I’ve been dishonest with you,” and then she tells him the truth about her family’s claim to Empire Valley.  Gary nods curtly and asks, “Is that it?”  J.B. adds how “Empire Valley doesn’t interest me anymore; you do,” to which Gary gets even more curt and repeats, “Is that it?”  J.B. concludes with an uncomfortable, “Gary, I think I love you,” and we get the third “Is that it?” from Gary, this one delivered through gritted teeth.  He walks off, leaving J.B. alone and confused and myself feeling very sorry for her.  My love affair with J.B. has only grown as I’ve embarked upon this rewatch.  What a fantastically fantastic character played to utter perfection by Teri Austin, and I love the way that she conveys all these different emotions of her character.  In this instance, I feel genuinely sorry for her.  She arrives at Gary’s hotel eager to tell the truth, hoping to clean the slate, but instead her timing aligns perfectly with Abs planting that little seed of mistrust in Gary’s head, causing him to reject her confession of the truth and, for the time being at least, to reject J.B. altogether. 

 

                The whole business about what to do with Lotus Point finally comes to a head in the last scene of this ep, when Eric arrives home and solemnly announces to Karen, “Charlie Lee is dead.”  If you’re all scratching your heads and wondering who Charlie Lee is and why we should care about him, the answer is “nobody” and “we shouldn’t.”  Charlie Lee is a character we have never seen, at least not so far as I can remember, and we are told he’s the groundskeeper of Lotus Point who has been with them “forever,” although Karen has only owned Lotus Point for a little under two years, so I’m not really sure what “forever” means; have they already lost most of their staff in under 24 months and this Charlie Lee guy is the last of the originals?  Anyway, this revelation is not coming completely out of nowhere, as somewhere on our last disk, Karen and Mack were having a lunch and she mentioned him and said how he was sick, and then I think his name came up again in our last ep.  Now the character is dead and his death provides the impetus for Karen’s decision to shut down Lotus Point altogether.  I support Karen’s decision, which is based in good ethics, but I really wish the writers had killed off a character that the audience could possibly care about.  Having a major plot point go down because of the death of a character we have never actually seen on the series seems lazy and bothers me.



                Next up on our character roster: Cathy and Ben.  The affair is still going strong this week, mostly thanks to a series of misunderstandings.  Near the halfway point of the ep, there’s this big meeting at Lotus Point (the same meeting where Abs overhears Eric and Sexy Michael talking while she’s standing at the water cooler) and, for whatever reason, Ben is a little late getting to the meeting and so he’s not around when the meeting concludes and Val needs a ride home.  This leads to a grand conversation positively dripping with love between Gary and Val.  The gist of the conversation is that Val tells Gary it’s okay with her and Ben if he chooses to sell Empire Valley in order to finance the pollution cleanup, that they won’t be upset if the twins wind up without the claim to the land that Gary gave them back in A Very Special Gift.  When Gary says, “I’ve pretty much made a mess out of Empire Valley,” Val is ready to go with some encouraging words, saying, “It’s time someone reminds you that you’ve always done a lot for people; you always have, all your life, in your, well, Gary Ewing way,” and then the two laugh and hold hands and, you guessed it, share a loving embrace.  Conveniently, this happens at the exact same moment that Ben comes strolling in, so the first thing he sees upon entrance is his wife in the arms of her ex-husband, the same ex-husband who impregnated her with the babies that Ben is now helping to raise.  Can you blame the guy for immediately sneaking off to Cathy’s house to have sexual intercourse with her?



                I’m not sure I love how Ben just happens to come walking in at this precise moment, which is a contrivance that seems more at home on Dallas.  Basically every episode of Dallas has people conveniently bumping into each other at fancy restaurants or in hotels or wherever, all to keep the drama and plots moving along, and that’s how this felt to me.  Perhaps I’m glamorizing the way events unfold on KL and perhaps we’ve actually seen this device used many times before, but if so, I’m not remembering it.  I don’t know exactly how I would have written this to play out, but I know that I would try to avoid the “one character comes walking in at precisely the wrong moment” plot device that I usually have a problem with. 

                In addition to Ben and Cathy enjoying another late night shag together, we also get to see Cathy at a big photo shoot, her fabulous ‘80s hair bigger than ever, some amazing generic ‘80s music playing on the soundtrack.  This scene is about as ‘80s as anything I’ve ever seen, and is quite possibly the very last time we ever see Cathy get all adorned in great hair and makeup and wardrobe and pose.  We also meet her new manager, a huge asshole named Dominick.  Ugh, do the writers never get tired of surrounding Lisa with asshole males who treat her like crap?  You all know that I loved absolutely every moment in the storyline between Cathy and Joshua, but that’s a different type of thing.  This Dominick character feels more aligned with Buddy Repperton from that stupid storyline of the saxophonist/reporter, a guy shipped in totally out of the blue to be a minor plot complication before being shipped back out.  I also think he only exists to make Ben look even more appealing in Cathy’s eyes.  After all, Ben is one of the only men in her life who doesn’t degrade her and treat her like constant shit. 
 


                That’s about all I have to say for His Brother’s Keeper as far as plot points are concerned, but before ending my analysis of the ep in question, I’d like to take a moment to express my appreciation for Larry Elikann, as this is his final directorial contribution to KL.  Mr. Elikann first showed up on the cul-de-sac during season four, when he directed Emergency and The Fatal Blow.  Altogether, Elikann contributed his talents to fourteen eps of KL, nearly all of which I would describe as brilliant and classic eps of television, but if I had to pick just one ep to highlight this great director’s talents, it would be the stunning We Gather Together from season six, which is an easy contender for best episode of the entire series.  After that, I’d say his best eps include Distant Locations, The Christening, and Until Parted by Death.  I feel that Mr. Elikann brought a fabulously unique style to his eps that is still on display here, in his final ep.  His most notable contribution would probably be a consistent use of tight facial closeups and his fondness for having one gigantic face in the foreground and a smaller face in the background.  That’s just one small example of his style, however, and I feel every ep he directed dripped with style and cinematic camera tricks.  I will really miss this director as we move through the second half of the series.

                Two eps left to go in the season.  Our next is gonna be a big one, as we are introduced to a new character who will wind up being very important to the series all the way until the final episode.  With that said, let us turn the PAIGE to our next ep, Thicker Than Water.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 157 of 344: A CHANGE OF HEART


Episode Title: A Change of Heart

Season 07, Episode 27

Episode of 157 of 344

Written by Parke Perine

Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 17th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg takes Laura to Las Vegas to get married at the Wedding Chapel of Joy. She's reluctant, but he tells her how much he loves and needs her. Later, Karen and Abby ask Laura if there's anything she can do to get Greg to help with the cleanup of Lotus Point, and Laura remarks that a wife should have some influence over her husband. Abby's taken aback. Laura asks Greg to clean up Empire Valley for her wedding present. Greg tells Karen he will clean up Empire Valley in four months if she will get him all of Empire Valley back, or she can kiss Lotus Point goodbye. Eric comes home from the hospital. Jill again tells Peter that she wants out, and that she doesn't care about Empire Valley anymore, she just wants to stop lying to Gary. Ben and Cathy sleep together. Cathy tells Ben she doesn't want to leave him. Ben feels guilty, but Cathy says he should let himself feel happiness instead of always putting other's first. Val invites Cathy over for a good-bye dinner.




                Welcome back for another fun filled episode of KL.  I immediately have two things to note about this particular episode we’re discussing today, starting with the title.  This is actually the second time we’ve had a KL ep with this title; our first Change of Heart (click on that title to read my thoughts on that one) was back in season five, right at the peak of all the Chip Roberts drama after Lilimae had hit him with the car.  I’m fairly certain that this isn’t the only time we’ll see an ep title being reused a few years later, although at the moment, I can’t really remember what they might be.  The second thing to note about this ep is that it starts with one of those longer recaps narrator by that cheesy narrator guy, so instead of our usual thirty second preview, we start with the narrator saying, “In Knots Landing,” and then giving us a summation of what’s been going on, all very corny and old fashioned, which I enjoy.  I always wonder why they choose to do this style of beginning for certain random eps; I don’t think we’ve had a recap in this style since near the start of season six.  When I first saw this, I assumed that there was a big gap between this ep and our prior one and the powers that be were just hoping to keep everyone caught up, but then I did some checking and it looks like this just aired one week after the last one, so I dunno.  Anyone have any ideas?  Anyone have a preference?  Would you rather see your thirty second preview or would you rather see footage from the previous ep narrated by the cheesy narrator guy, saying things like, “Meanwhile, were Ben and Val drifting apart?”



                About two eps ago, we had the brilliant exchange between Greg and Laura in which he asked if she’d like to get married and she answered, “I appreciate the offer and I’ll seriously consider it.”  In A Change of Heart, Greg finally manages to convince Laura once and for all that they are meant to be married, and I wanna start out by talking about that plot point.  All of these proceedings unfold in a gloriously KL way, very grounded and down to earth and quick.  There’s no corny scene of Greg making some big, bold romantic gesture to Laura, begging for her hand in marriage, nothing like that, but instead a fabulously, let us say, almost businesslike arrangement of their love for eachother.  We start off with a nice little scene of Greg and Laura playing with Daniel on Laura’s back patio, and then as Laura sends Daniel off to bed, Greg says they should take a trip tomorrow.  When Laura points out how there’s a lot going on at Lotus Point and Empire Valley, Greg says, “I think that they can get along without us for a couple of days,” which kinda doesn’t make sense since Greg and Laura only wind up being gone for a couple of hours, but whatever.  Greg also tells Laura that he’ll “pick out a nice dress for you; you never know who you might run into,” and when she asks him where they’re going, he stays mum, only telling her that it’s a surprise.  Through this scene, Greg is wearing his glasses, and I’d like to take a moment to note how much I like Greg’s look whenever he’s wearing his glasses.  This viewing of the series is really showing me that Greg Sumner is very sexy and charismatic, and an impressive part of that sexy charisma is his ability to look good in any attire, even a pair of glasses that are kinda made for old square white guys.

                A little while later, we cut and, boom, we’re in Las Vegas. Of course, when I say, “In Las Vegas,” I mean we see a few quick stock shots of old Vegas hotels, just like previous eps when characters have gone to Vegas.  In fact, now that I think about it, disappearing to Vegas is kinda ingrained inside the core fabric of this series, because when you think about it, we have had Karen tracking down the evil Dr. Ackerman in Vegas in season six, we have had Karen and Mack running off to Vegas to elope in season four, we have had Lilimae and Jackson Mobley (remember him?) taking Lilimae’s autoharp to Vegas in season three, and then, I remind you, we had Bobby and Pam Ewing going to Vegas in the very first Brief Dallas Interlude and that was how they ran into (Fake) Gary for the first time and we first got started with this whole epic KL adventure.  Perhaps if Bobby and Pam had chosen not to go to Vegas in that Dallas ep from so long ago, we wouldn’t even have a KL series to watch and enjoy at all and life would be completely meaningless and without worth.



                I always like to try and spot the hotels that we see in the Vegas stock footage, and we get a few in this instance, starting with The Las Vegas Club.  Now, I’ve been to Vegas many times and don’t recall everything seeing a Las Vegas Club, but according to Wikipedia as I’m typing this, the club was opened in 1930 and only shut its doors in the middle of 2015, not all too long ago. So, at this moment, there is no Las Vegas Club, but apparently it’s got new owners who are considering revamping and remodeling it.  Right next to this hotel, we have the classic Golden Goose and, well, that’s about it, cuz then we cut to inside of Greg and Laura’s limo as he convinces her to marry him.  Laura is nervous as we start the scene and asks Greg to explain why he picked this exact random moment for them to get married.  Greg says, “You want me to straighten out my life, I want to make an honest man out of myself,” which is a great line that made My Beloved Grammy laugh.  He adds, “I do love you, and you want me to be a mover and a shaker, so I think you’d better step up to that and keep me moving and shaking.  I love you and I think I fail to tell you I need you, and that’s probably the strongest drive of all.”  See how fantastically honest Greg is in this moment?  In a way, his lack of gushiness towards Laura makes all of this only more touching, because he’s being honest about his emotions in a very direct way.  Oh yeah, and he finishes up with a bit of humor that I hope was improvised by Devane in which he says, “By the way, did I fail to mention my winning smile?”  Laura is convinced and the two step out of the limo and head into The Wedding Chapel of Joy.



                My only problem with this development?  We don’t get to actually see the wedding, and that bugged me and it also bugged My Beloved Grammy.  Thinking back over all the weddings we’ve had on the series, I’m pretty sure that we’ve always been allowed to physically see them take place, jumping all the way back to our fourth Brief Dallas Interlude, Return Engagements, in which Gary and Val tied the knot for the second time and Miss Ellie gifted them with their own TV show.  Since that fateful day that launched us off into this great television adventure, I’m fairly certain that we’ve seen four weddings on the series up to this point, though please write in to correct me if my number is off.  We saw Karen and Mack get married (in Vegas, of course) in To Have and to Hold, and then we saw Gary and Abs get married at Westfork in Sacred Vows, followed by Joshua and Cathy in For Better, For Worse, and then Val and Ben earlier this season in Pictures at a Wedding, and then that brings us up to date with Greg and Laura here.  All four of those previous weddings we got to witness, but Greg and Laura don’t get the same courtesy, which bugs me.  I suppose you could say our not seeing their wedding ceremony is in keeping with the whole style of how Greg and Laura have chosen to get married, which is quickly and quietly.  On the other hand, I think this also demonstrates a problem that I have with the way the writers handle Laura’s character at this point in the series, a problem that started either in season five or six, and that is that as much as I love Laura and the way Constance plays her, she is often put on the sidelines while other characters get the majority of the focus.  Laura at this point exists more to be a part of Greg’s story, whereas I feel she got more of her own, independent stories to work with back in the first four seasons. 



                Laura and Greg do not even bother to enjoy one night of a honeymoon together, instead choosing to return to California later that same day.  Yikes, talk about rushed, right?  It’s a busy day when you wake up, fly from California to Vegas, get married, and then immediately fly back to California in order to go to work and deal with toxic waste buried under the ground and all that good stuff.  Anyway, Laura returns to Lotus Point just as Abs and Karen continue to bicker over how to handle the pollution.  In case I didn’t mention it last ep (I didn’t), it was revealed that Galveston Industries actually buried that toxic waste in sealed, lined containers, so it wasn’t leaking into the ground until Gary chose to blow up all of Empire Valley in All’s Well.  Now we’ve got a bit of a moral quandary to deal with; after all, who is truly responsible for this pollution?  The toxic waste wouldn’t have even been there in the first place were it not for Greg Sumner’s father, but the barrels would not have exploded and started leaking pollution were it not for Gary, yet at the same time, Gary was only blowing up Empire Valley after Greg allowed it to get so out of hand with James Bond villains and secret lairs and evil British people running around, causing trouble.  Gary just did what he had to do in order to get rid of all those problems. 



                When Laura returns to Lotus Point, she drops the news of her marriage in the most fabulous way possible.  See, Abs and Karen are talking about how they need Greg’s help with paying for the cleanup and asking if Laura can do something about that.  To this, Laura answers, “I’ll do my best to see that he does; after all, a wife should have some influence on her husband, right?”  This is a great little moment as we get to see the reaction of both Karen and Abs.  Karen gives her best wishes and Abs says, “Congratulations,” but she says it somewhat through gritted teeth, which made me smile, and then when Laura says, “Thanks,” do I detect a certain something in her tone?  Flashing way back to the early days of the series and Abby’s first arrival on the cul-de-sac, we should all remember how she went after Richard, Laura’s first husband.  Is Laura now boasting a bit to Abs because she has married the man that Abs clearly finds so charming and sexy?  Do you think perhaps Abs was even thinking of trying to woo Sumner now that her and Gary are splitting up?  Instead of going along with that plan, she instead has to watch Laura and Greg get married and realize that, yes, they are really and truly in love.  I like to imagine that Laura is getting some smug satisfaction out of all this.



                Even though Abs can be wicked and duplicitous, she’s on a roll lately when it comes to expressing honest emotion at unexpected times.  Near the start of the ep, she has a little meeting with Gary in which she says that perhaps they should slow down the divorce proceedings for a little while; wait until all the Empire Valley problems are cleared up before they start splitting up assets and all that stuff.  When Gary shrewdly asks, “What’s in it for you?”, Abs at first is like, “Oh, nothing,” but then she sighs and admits, “If you want the truth, I’m scared.”  I love Gary’s face when she tells him this, because he just looks sorta disbelieving and even amused.  Abs tells him, “In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve had a few things to be scared about lately.  I made a bargain for some land that turned out to be totally polluted.  I’m getting divorced.  Lotus Point is all I have; I don’t want to lose it.”  Now, on paper this might just sound like the usual Abs web of lies, precisely calculated in just such a way as to get her whatever she most desires, but I don’t see it that way.  Based on how the scene plays out and based on Donna’s acting, I think Abs is being honest here in much the same way she was honest last ep, reflecting on the death of her brother and how much she misses him.



                The only other thing Abs related this ep is a rather bizarre scene between her and Olivia.  We begin this scene in an abrupt way, with Olivia just screaming and thrashing around in her bed.  Abs comes rushing in and there’s a big hug and Olivia keeps crying and all that for a little while.  She explains to Abs that she just had a horrible nightmare involving her, um, teddy bear.  Hmmm, okay, a little strange for a fifteen year old girl to be having a dream about her teddy bear, but let’s hear her out.  She says how  the dream was about people (“everybody”) destroying her teddy bear and tearing him apart, that she tried to scream and yell at them to stop, but nobody would listen.  At first, I was going to write about how I fail to see what the point of this scene was, but after doing some double checking and watching the scene again, I noted the line of dialogue where Olivia says, “And Gary was on the couch, just watching; he didn’t do anything, he just watched.”  Now I think this scene is really about Olivia’s life being thrown into turmoil thanks to the impending divorce, as well as probably her problems with drugs.  Honestly, at this exact point, I’m not sure if Olivia is using drugs.  Not to get into spoiler territory, but her drug problems come back in a big way somewhere in the eighth season, but I don’t know if we are currently witnessing her in an in-between stage or not.  Anyway, even if I’m able to find something to talk about regarding this scene, I didn’t love it and it’s probably the second worst moment of the ep (we’ll discuss the number one worst moment shortly), mostly because it seems tonally weird for the Olivia we are currently watching.  This scene really feels like something that should be in season two or three, when Olivia was just a little girl.  Now she’s a bit too old for this sort of thing, but whatever, it’s still not a terrible scene, just kind of a weird one that comes rather out of the blue in the context of this particular ep. 



                Meanwhile, Karen is still hard at work trying to figure out exactly how to handle this pollution business.  A lot of her footage this ep is basically her and other characters wrestling with the decision of how to deal with the cleanup.  The fact that so much time is devoted to this whole environmental spill story might come off as boring to some people, but I actually like it, mostly because I’m pleased to see environmental consciousness on the series.  This relates more to my own terror and panic over current world affairs and certain “Presidents”  who clearly have no regard for our environment or for protecting the planet.  It’s rather sad to watch this episode of television from 1986 and see more environmental consciousness here than you see from your current “President” or his creepy collection of white supremacist and Neo Nazi advisors and confidantes.  As we were watching this ep and characters were talking about the environment and calling the EPA for help, I said to My Beloved Grammy, “At least they still had an EPA in 1986.” 



                Karen’s quest for a solution leads us directly into the worst scene of the ep, a scene all KL fans should remember vividly and immediately start peeing their pants with laugher as soon as they remember it.  Oh dear, what a bad scene this is, a scene that goes down like an absolute lead balloon.  The badness actually starts in the scene right before this scene, in which Eric triumphantly returns to the Fairgate/MacKenzie house healthy as a horse while really loud piano music plays dramatically on the soundtrack.  This scene has no dialogue; instead, Karen gives Eric a big hug and then we dissolve right to her walking around Empire Valley or Lotus Point or, you know, wherever the hell she’s walking (honestly, I find the geography of the exact locations for Lotus Point and Empire Valley to be rather confusing and I’ve kinda stopped trying to figure it out), wearing a red dress, shot in a closeup.  Then we cut real fast to a shot of the lake, the source of all this poison, and then back to Karen in her closeup, at which point she shouts, “DAMN YOU, PAUL GALVESTON!” and the camera does a super quick zoomout and it’s just all kinds of bad.  Seriously, what were they thinking with this scene?  How did Michele manage to film this scene without getting violently ill?  When they were filming this, do you think everyone was like, “Oh yes, this is gonna be a really good dramatic moment and Michele will finally get her Emmy”?  Obviously that’s not the case, because this scene is a joke, although its camp merits are high enough for me to still enjoy it.  This gets to join the ranks of such KL camp classic scenes as “IT’S TEA!” and “WE’RE RUINING LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVES!” 

                Karen’s absurd moment of damnation for Mr. Galveston leads her to an eventual decision to do business with Greg Sumner, um, I think.  Honestly, I found this scene (the last one of the ep) a little hard to follow, but I’ll give it a shot now.  Basically, Greg says how it would take two and a half years to clean up Lotus Point with the help of the EPA, and that’s “without litigation.”  Then he announces that he can personally clean it all up within four months, using all of his influence with Galveston Industries to call in whatever favors are necessary.  Then he reveals, “I want Empire Valley.  Your job is to get it for me.  Of course, I’d like it at a reduced price, let’s say fifty cents on the dollar.”  When Karen asks, “Why would I do anything to help you win?”, Greg answers, “Get me Empire Valley or you can kiss Lotus Point goodbye,” and yes, obviously he is sucking on a cigar while he makes this bold statement, meaning we are now at Cigar #15 on The Sumner Cigar Counter. 

                This is an interesting scene to end the ep, and after rewatching the scene and now writing about it, I think I understand it better.  It’s scenes like this that keep Greg Sumner so interesting to watch.  In a way, what keeps him interesting is sorta the influx of what keeps Abs interesting.  Abs is, for the majority of the time, wicked and up to no good, but then occasionally she’ll let her human side show and we realize how complex she truly is.  With Greg, he’s generally charming and charismatic and funny, sorta taking the piss out of everyone around him, being witty and making his jokes, not an evil person, but then every now and then he’ll pull a move like this one, which is straight out of the playbook of either J.R. or Abs or both (and I'm willing to bet this type of ep ending was a big David Paulsen influence, as this feels like it would be right at home as the ending of any given Dallas ep).  Every now and then, we’ll see how calculating he can truly be, and this is one of those moments.  It’s almost like sometimes Greg is our hero and sometimes he’s our villain, but even saying it that way doesn’t seem to do justice to the intricacies and complexities of this fabulous character.



                That’s the way we end the ep, but there’s still one more plot point worth discussing, and that’s the affair between Ben and Cathy.  Yes, indeed, the two have finally shagged, an event that’s been a long time coming, an event that I’ve seen coming since the last few hours of season six.  I repeat that this is a storyline that most fans seem to hate, but at the moment I think I’m okay with it.  Some people just really hate adultery storylines; you ever notice that?  My Beloved Grammy has already expressed that she wishes the show would have “a little less adultery,” although I fear her wish will never completely come true as adultery and affairs are just part of the series’ soul.  I think this is because I go easier on people having affairs than a lot of other people do.  I’ve just never felt as harshly judgmental about cheating because I think we are all people and we are all sexual and it’s very difficult to be 100% monogamous with one person.  I also understand and sympathize with Ben, who feels like he doesn’t have a full spot in Val’s heart, and Cathy, who I imagine is feeling confused about nearly every decision she’s ever made. 



                In this ep, Val invites Cathy over for a nice dinner as a way of saying goodbye to her before she goes off on tour.  However, Cathy finds a moment to corner Ben in a hallway when he’s all by himself and tell him, “Maybe instead of this being a farewell dinner, it should be a postponement dinner.”  See, now that she and Ben have had a shag, she’s thinking maybe she doesn’t want to run off on tour after all; maybe she’d rather stay around and keep shagging Ben.  It seemed to be this particular development that bothered My Beloved Grammy the most; she thought it was rather shameful for Cathy to accept Val’s dinner invite while she’s shagging Val’s husband in secret.  Again, I just don’t feel so judgmental.  I think Cathy is desiring to be with a nice person like Ben after years of abuse at the hands of different men (let’s not forget the freckled Ray from back in season five) and Ben is the first man to truly treat her well and act like he cares about her.  Is it kinda bad form to be trying to steal your friend’s husband at the same time that your friend is inviting you to her home?  Yeah, sure, but we all make bad choices and I can understand the wheels turning in Cathy’s head, so I don’t condemn her. 



                That about does it for this ep.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten certain details, such as Peter doing sit-ups shirtless and showing off his ridiculous muscles (he has a nice body but he's no Sexy Michael) or a small scene between Peter and Sylvia near the start of the ep (they’re giving a statement to a lawyer or something like that), but I think I got most of the big developments.  This ep was pretty good, although again lacking a certain punch, a problem with pretty much all the eps in season seven at this point.  There are only two bad scenes in the ep, one of which is merely bad (Olivia and her teddy bear nightmare) and one of which is so bad that it transcends badness to become some new form of badness never before seen on this earth (“DAMN YOU, PAUL GALVESTON!”).  Aside from those two scenes, however, everything else is fairly solid.  I’d say my favorite part of this ep is the fact that Greg and Laura get married, a development I’ve been anticipating for quite some time.  Now that I’m officially declaring Laura and Greg an even more interesting couple than Laura and Richard, it pleases me to see them finally agree to marry and settle down together.  I also liked the focus on the environment, although I remind you that this might have more to do with me bemoaning the current state of our country and less to do with the actual storytelling.  Overall, A Change of Heart is a pretty good ep of KL, but not one of its best, and it’s certainly not as good as the other Change of Heart from season five.

                We’re getting closer and closer to the end of the season, with just three eps left to go.  Next, we shall discuss the very last of the Larry Elikann-directed eps (sniff) with His Brother’s Keeper.   

Thursday, January 4, 2018

KNOTS LANDING Episode 156 of 344: ARSENIC AND OLD WASTE


Episode Title: Arsenic and Old Waste

Season 07, Episode 26

Episode 156 of 344

Written by David Paulsen

Directed by David Paulsen

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 10th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Ben's really upset about Cathy leaving. He tells her that he isn't the twins' father. He goes to the beach house with a gift for her and they make out. Val is worried because she feels Ben slipping away from her. Jill tells Gary that she can't see him because she's in love with him, but doesn't want to be. Peter apologizes to Sylvia for his threats. Mack finds out that the reservoir at Lotus Point is loaded with arsenic. Abby admits that Galveston dumped arsenic at Empire Valley. Greg tells Laura that Galveston left Gary the land because he knew it was polluted, but he wants to buy it anyway, because he hates to lose. Everyone argues over who is responsible for cleaning up Empire Valley. Gary thinks Greg should, as Galveston dumped the chemicals. Greg thinks Gary should, as his explosion started the leak.



When we last left off, Eric was deathly ill and in critical condition at the hospital after suffering arsenic poisoning.  I wasn’t particularly invested in Eric’s sickness and don’t really care all that much about the storyline, but whatever, it’s gonna keep going this ep and, I would argue, become more interesting than it was in the previous couple of eps.  Let’s just go ahead and dive right in and get started with our last lap of season seven eps.  So yeah, we open up right away on sick Eric lying in a hospital bed, looking like a wreck.  Again, I attempt to wash my brain out from all prior knowledge of what happens on the series and pretend like I am watching it for the first time and I ask myself: Would I think Eric is going to die?  I think I would stick with “probably not,” but I’d also feel like it’s not outside of the realm of possibility, as we all remember what happened roughly five years ago when Sid Fairgate checked into a hospital.  At the same time, I don’t think I would care all that much, and that just boils down to a problem I’ve had since day one in which I fail to feel invested in Eric, even though he has cool moments and I have no problems with his character. 



We can add to the Sumner Cigar Counter good at quick, as we see Sumner enjoying Cigar #14 out on the patio of his sexy office when Laura comes to visit him.  This is a lovely little scene between the two, as Laura says how she waited something like an hour for him to show up and he never did, and when he says how he got a little tied up, she says, “You’re standing here doing nothing.”  “Nothing?” Greg replies before adding, “I’m conducting, making sure the cars go in the right direction, softening up the noise of the sirens, maybe adding a crash or two.”  A funny line and good delivery, but I think we can all see that something is bothering Greg and that something has been bothering him for weeks or even months.  It’s not too hard to figure out what’s eating at him; I imagine he feels like his whole life is something of a failure.  In this ep, he sorta recaps his adventures over the last three seasons and reminds Laura about how he gave up his seat in the senate in order to work on Empire Valley and then that all went up in smoke quite literally, so perhaps he’s feeling some reticence to attempt a new project, fearing it could end up an equal failure to his others. 



Meanwhile, Abs is still debating over how to handle her knowledge of what’s infecting the grounds below Empire Valley, but she does the right thing this ep by telling Karen and Mack the truth pretty quickly.  Actually, maybe I’m being a smidge too generous with her, because I just went to double check and it’s actually at about the thirty minute mark in this ep that Abs lets it all out, so she still keeps mum for more than half the ep.  However, realizing that Eric’s health is seriously at stake and that this is not a problem to be taken lightly, she pulls Karen and Mack aside at the hospital to level with them, telling them the arsenic is coming from discarded hazardous materials at Empire Valley, courtesy of Galveston Industries.  This is an interesting scene, because Karen gets angry and says, “Why didn’t you tell us this before?” and Abs says, “I am telling you,” and Mack actually kinda comes to her difference by saying, “She is.”  Karen is still mad and points out that Abs has been sitting on this info for a couple of days, to which Abs replies, “Don’t you dare accuse me of sitting on something like this.” 

Before this scene, however, we have an Abs scene that is even more interesting.  See, there’s a scene of Karen, Olivia, and Abs all gathered together, observing sick Eric in his hospital bed, and then Abs gets reflective for a moment and says, “He reminds me so much of Sid,” and then goes on for a moment about how Michael looks more like Sid than Eric does (which I would highly disagree with), and then she says, “Maybe it’s his sweetness; Sid was always so sweet, so strong,” and she adds how sometimes, when she’s alone, she’ll find herself thinking about Sid.  Wow, do I have a lot to say about this small, quiet little scene.  First off, as I always point out whenever Sid’s name pops up, I admire that this character is never completely forgotten; he will still be mentioned in 1986 even though he died on the series way back in 1981.  Most other shows, at this point, would probably assume nobody remembers this character anymore, but he still comes up in conversation right up to this point, and I’ll keep my ears open in future seasons to see if he gets mentioned again (I read that we get a mention of Sid as late as season fourteen).  Also, I note that this ep was written and directed by David Paulsen, so I appreciate the fact that he does a good job of bringing up past histories and events that occurred well before he was ever involved on the series; this shows that he was paying attention and making sure to show respect for the stories that came before.  Finally, I just love that this is a moment of true, genuine, 100% honest emotion from Abs.  She is not bringing up the memory of her late brother for any duplicitous purpose or to try and get away with something, but rather because the memory comes to her and she starts speaking aloud about it.  I can imagine some television suit asking the writers to ditch this scene, probably saying something like, “That character’s been dead for five years and this little speech has nothing to do with the main plot,” but I’m glad the scene is here because it keeps Abs fascinating to watch.  If you removed this scene, you would lose a great look into Abby’s naked emotions, and it’s those glimpses that keep her so multidimensional and fascinating to watch.



Eric’s health eventually improves enough that he is able to open his eyes and speak to his mother.  This is an important scene, see, because for a good chunk of the ep, the characters are running around trying to figure out what’s wrong with their water, thinking that their entire supply of water, including the drinking water, is tainted.  Everyone has been assuming that Eric was swimming in the pool and that’s where he got the arsenic, so they’re confused when they test the pool and discover there’s no arsenic to be found there.  After waking up, Eric informs Karen that he wasn’t swimming in the pool, but rather a reservoir out closer to the Empire Valley area.  Hmmmm, well that certainly helps explain things, no? 



J.B. and Gary are still not seeing each other, although Gary remains confused over what exactly lead to J.B.’s abrupt exodus from his life.  Fortunately, J.B. decides to show up at his hotel in this ep just to further confuse him by saying how she was in love with him, but she doesn’t really want to be in love with him, something like that.  “I fell in love with you.  I don’t want to be in love with you.  I can’t.  I need some time, Gary.”  Gary looks confused and annoyed by this declaration, but perhaps he’s actually wondering why J.B. showed up at his hotel looking so awful.  For whatever reason, J.B. has decided to wear a trench coat that would be right at home on some fat white guy driving his van with no windows over to the local elementary school, plus she seems to have just recently showered and not dried her hair, so that’s not looking too good either.  I don’t mean to pick on J.B.’s appearance since I generally find her very beautiful and luminous to look at, but this creepy trench coat and wet hair is hardly her best look. 

Probably the last story to explore in this ep is the burgeoning romantic relationship between Ben and Cathy.  When we first catch up with Ben this ep, he’s in the shower, tuned out as Val talks to him from outside, looking distracted and upset.  He’s in a classic angry man position in the shower, both of his hands plastered to the wall directly in front of him while he stands motionless with the water pouring down over his head, not moving or speaking.  Val is standing at the sink and talking about Cathy’s decision to go on tour, how it will probably do her good to get away from everyone for awhile.  Val says something like, “She’s been through a lot and the writers aren’t giving her anything to do, so maybe it’s better that she go away for awhile; don’t you think, Ben?” and she only gets crickets from inside the shower.  When she points out how he seems so quiet, Ben attempts a bit of humor by flinging the shower door open and singing opera, or something.  I didn’t really love this moment because I didn’t find it very funny, but then I thought more about the context of the scene and whether it’s actually supposed to be funny, and now I think I like it better.  Ben is distracted and thinking about adultery, so when Val calls him out for seeming distant, he tries to act goofy and silly the way he often does, as a way of saying, “Why look, everything is so fine that I’m acting goofy and funny, just like my usual self!”  The fact that he isn’t funny really just helps to sell that he’s got a lot of stuff on his mind.



Later, Val and Lilimae have a little chat in the kitchen while Lilimae prepares something delicious for dinner.  Val is upset that Ben is busy all hours at the television station and that he hasn’t bothered to call, but Lilimae reminds her that there were plenty of times when Val got too busy and didn’t call, either.  Lilimae also lets loose one of her more laughable whoppers by saying, “You know that I don’t interfere with you and Ben.”  I had to snort at this line, because I’d say Lilimae is remembering a very different version of events concerning her behavior throughout, well, nearly every episode ever since Ben was first introduced onto the series.  I can vividly remember Val and Ben having a real hard time getting to know each other back then because of the interference of a certain mama, and I think we can all remember her screaming, “Get out of here, Ben Gibson!” at him during the sordid events of Chip Roberts’ death, and then of course she’s been a huge pain in the ass for him throughout season six and a good chunk of season seven, as well.  Is Lilimae saying how she doesn’t interfere with Ben and Val now?  I guess you could argue that’s true, since she’s been a lot nicer to him since the whole “guardian angel named Joshua” speech back in Irrevocably Yours.

Next up, we see Ben hanging around Pacific Cable Whatever on Saturday, saying something about how it’s easier to get things done on the weekend without a bunch of people around.  This is probably true, but I’d be curious to know exactly what work Ben has to do, as he appears to just be sitting around, moping.  After awhile, he makes his way to a room with a piano and starts playing a bit, only for Cathy to come walking in a second later.  I like the little detail in this scene where Cathy sneaks up on Ben and scares him; this made me flashback to her vacuuming and getting scared by, um, Val (?) somewhere in season six or so, and it’s just a nice little thing to put in the scene.  You could easily just have her walk in and be like, “Hi, Ben!” and then let the scene play out the same way, but having this little accidental scare adds a special something to the scene.  After scaring the shit out of Ben, Cathy reminds him, “You never danced with me at the fundraiser even though I was wearing that super sexy and weird looking bikini thing that exposed pretty much entire body except for my boobs.” 



This leads the two characters into a slow dance together set to soft piano music.  At first, I wondered if Ben was working with one of those self playing pianos and if this music was a continuation of that piano, but now I feel pretty comfortable saying the music we hear is the score of the show and not music that the characters can hear.  Anyway, we cut back real fast to Val and Lilimae (they’re watching TV and Val declares, “That’s a stupid program; I don’t know why you watch it,” making me wonder exactly what 1986 show they could have been watching, and then in my brain I just decided to make it Miami Vice and I’m gonna go ahead and stick to that belief) and then we cut back to Cathy and Ben dancing.  To be clear, this is definitely the dance of two people about to have an affair; it’s slow and romantic and tender and thoughtful, not just two people dancing together for a little bit of fun.  It all feels very intimate, and then it gets more intimate when Cathy brings up, GASP, Val’s babies.  She talks about what Greg said at the fundraiser, how he implied the babies weren’t Ben’s, and she asks why he would say that.  We get an agonizing several seconds of silence before Ben finally answers, “Because they’re not,” and then we go to a commercial.

Yikes!  I liked this scene and I liked Ben telling Cathy the truth about the babies, but I also felt like the punch this scene was probably supposed to provide was, um, lacking.  Part of this might be my own knowledge of events to come.  Try as I might to fully wash my brain out of future proceedings, it’s not always so easy to do.  In this case, I know that Lisa is on her way out of the series, that she just has four more eps after this one and then she will be leaving the show forever.  Also, because of my memories from my college watching, I also know that Cathy doesn’t use this information for any bad purpose and/or go around telling other people about it, so I know that this is going to lead to basically nothing.  Even so, let me try and pretend that it’s 1986 and I’m watching the series week to week and I don’t know that Cathy is about to leave the series and I’ll try to see what possibilities I might have theorized for future series events.

Well, being that Ben and Cathy are obviously about to have an affair, I would probably theorize that the truth about Val’s babies would lead them to getting together for more than just an affair, perhaps forever.  I imagine I would have a strong suspicion that Ben was about to leave Val and declare that he no longer loves her and has fallen in love with Cathy.  I would also theorize that, maybe just maybe, we would wind up seeing a more wicked and calculating side of Cathy’s character, that perhaps all this could lead to some sort of verbal showdown between her and Val in which Cathy winds up using her knowledge about the twins’ paternity as some form of blackmail against Val.  My third theory (and the one that would probably wind up being closest to being true) is that Ben and Cathy would have their affair, decide they love each other, and quietly leave town together, never to be heard from again.  Based on my own research, I think this is actually the storyline that was originally planned out, that both Lisa  and Douglas  were gonna take a hike after season seven but, for whatever reason, Mr. Sheehan decided to stick around for one more season after this.  I’ll talk more about this development as we get closer to the end of the season, especially with how this so obviously seems like what is meant to happen as we conclude season seven.



Ben and Cathy’s romantic dance made its way into the thirty second preview, but it’s yet another example of the preview kinda tricking us, because nothing sexual actually happens during the dance.  However, a little bit later, Ben pays a visit to his old Plant House, where Cathy is now living, and finds her dressed in, well, almost nothing.  All she’s wearing is what we learn is one of Ben’s shirts and no pants.  Now, I’m fairly certain that she’s wearing underwear, although I don’t recall us seeing an actual shot of it.  Perhaps we can all make this scene a little steamier by imagining that Cathy is actually going commando, sorta like Julianne Moore’s fabulous bottomless scene in Short Cuts.  Also, note the way that Ben responds when Cathy asks who’s at the door.  He says, “Your landlord,” which is sorta a funny line, but he says it super quiet, super stoical, sounding very sad.  I think what we are seeing here is two people giving in to their raw carnal desires, and I think we can tell that Ben is feeling rather shitty about that even as he finds himself helpless to avoid it.  Ben also tells a little story about how he was at work and he went to her dressing room to tell her something but, “The room was empty; all the Cathy things were gone.”  He delivers this line in the same sad tone, adding to the complexity of it all.  Maybe Ben doesn’t necessarily want to cheat on Val, but he’s feeling truly sad that Cathy is going away. I’m not sure if I believe Ben is in love with Cathy or not, but certainly they have a special friendship and have had that special friendship since late season six, when Ben first started to come to her defense against the tyrannical abuse of Joshua. 

The moment of embrace is possibly the most interesting part of this whole sequence.  See, Ben is standing off in a corner and Cathy approaches him somewhat timidly.  It’s in this part that we learn she’s wearing his shirt, as Ben observes so and says, “I’ve been wondering where that shirt went.” Then they start to get close and Ben sorta whispers, “I’m an old-fashioned kind of guy; I love my wife.”  Cathy says, “I know,” and then Ben says, “I love my children; I have a good life,” and Cathy says, “I know, you shouldn’t be here,” but it’s too late.  Ben has put his hand on Cathy’s shoulder and now Cathy is touching Ben’s arm and, wouldn’t you know it, now they are kissing, and that’s how we end this ep.

Do I like this affair storyline?  I’m actually gonna have to get back to you on that, and I’ll refrain from completely answering the question until I’ve finished talking about the whole season.  If I’m not mistaken, this storyline is fairly unpopular with most fans, yet I honestly think I might like it.  First off, I’m not one of those people that condemns other people to Hell because they have an affair or an isolated indiscretion.  I think these things are complicated and that the reason men might want to cheat usually boils down to them feeling stifled by monogamy.  Also, the fact that they have been planting the seeds for this affair for so long really help it in my eyes.  My memory was that the affair just came out of nowhere in the closing hours of the season, but really Ben and Cathy have been flirting with having an affair for the whole year, pretty much, so it feels much less abrupt upon this viewing.  Perhaps one of the reasons fans don’t like this storyline is because it soils characters who are inherently good and ethical people.  Ben is a good person and so is Cathy, so maybe people just don’t like watching two good people have an affair?  In any case, I think I actually like this storyline, but I’ll have to wait awhile before I make up my mind definitively.



Okay, that oughta about do it for Arsenic and Old Waste.  This episode was fine, but also nothing too terribly special.  I fear that I might just keep making that statement for the rest of the season, as things sorta wind down and we get ready for the start of a new era of KL, that Latham/Lechowick era of five seasons that I designated as the third era of the series, spanning 1986 to 1991.  I’m actually pretty eager to get started with season eight, since I think it will keep things into gear a little more after the somewhat meandering storytelling structure of the latter part of season seven.  Anyway, this episode was good and all, there was nothing really bad about it, but it also was just kinda there, not really doing a lot to elevate it up and make it superb.  There were plenty of things I liked, which I made sure to note, most especially that callback to Sid via Abs, but it also felt a little lifeless. 

We’ve got just four eps left in the season, so without further ado, let’s move right along to A Change of Heart.  more