Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Episode Title: A Very Special Gift

Season 07, Episode 20

Episode 150 of 344

Written by Lawrence Kasha

Directed by Nick Havinga

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 13th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen and Mack make up. Greg asks Peter to start a social relationship with Abby. Peter tells Sylvia that Greg wants him to spy on Abby and Abby wants him to spy on Greg. Sylvia is concerned that Peter's double dealing will backfire on him. Gary and Jill sleep together. Later, they run into Peter, who asks Jill if Gary suspects anything. She says no. Mack and Ben think that the Governor must be opening the Westfall case, since Jill is so interested in it. Abby hires a detective to check out Jill. Michael finds that Olivia has a joint, but she says she's holding it for a friend. Val throws a party for the twins' first birthday. As a birthday gift, Gary deeds the twins half of Empire Valley.

Welcome to A Very Special Gift, the episode that served as the final one for another fun filled disk of KL joy that began with The Confession.  When we last left off, it looked like Karen and Mack might be suffering from much deeper problems than would appear at first glance as they had one of their biggest and most intense fights ever.  Will they be able to reconcile and make up with each other?  That’s only part of the joys contained within A Very Special Gift

I’d actually like to get started by discussing Karen and Mack, since their story captivated my interest the most in our last ep and since it reaches some form of catharsis in this ep.  See, as we get started with this ep, Karen is still being cold and doing the silent treatment to Mack.  This is another example of KL’s fairly perfect timing when it comes to how long they let stories draw out before they wrap them up, cuz I think if this went on for just one episode longer, it would become tiresome.  It’s just threatening to get tiresome as we head into this ep, but I feel like that’s probably the point, since this ep is gonna wrap that up and allow Karen to forgive Mack.  See, we start off with her still being cold and Mack asking her, “How much longer is this gonna go on?”  I’m with Mack, by the way, even though I understand both characters.  The two had their big fight last ep and all that, but if I was Mack, I would be much more aggravated by this point than he is.  All things considered, aside from smashing a lamp last ep, I think he has the patience of a saint.  After all, how much longer can things go on with Karen being all silent towards Mack over awkward family breakfasts?

Fortunately, Karen’s catharsis comes in the form of Abs, of all people.  In a scene near the middle of the ep taking place at Lotus Point, Abs is trying to be all hurtful and nasty to Karen and she says something about how Karen should be very careful with Mack because J.B. and him are having an affair, or something like that.  At first, I thought Karen would get mad and defensive with Abs and yell at her, but instead she starts to laugh openly, and the most fabulous thing is that it’s not meant to be a mocking laugh; she’s really just sorta surprised into laughter and so she laughs a big, genuine, uncontrollable burst.  This confuses and annoys Abs, who was clearly trying to be hurtful and has failed, as she just sorta marches out of the room while Karen’s in the middle of her hysterical laughing fit.  Later, Karen goes home and finds Mack and the two have a nice chat that they’ve been needing to have.  Karen explains how hearing Abs accuse Mack of cheating when Karen knows for a fact that J.B. is currently sleeping with Abby’s husband, Gary, helped her to form some release of all her anger and be ready to move on. 

I’m pleased to see Karen and Mack ready to get along again, but their problems are not entirely over, as we see within the confines of this ep.  See, Karen may have forgiven Mack for the whole hotel room key thing, but it seems that she’s starting to go frigid with him now.  We get a scene of the two of them in bed together and Karen saying something how she wants to make love, but she just can’t right now.  Later, she reiterates the same information to Val in a candid conversation they have in Val’s kitchen, telling her how she wants to do it with Mack, but it’s something about her body, that she’s having a physical problem with actually doing it.  I’ve heard about this happening, and it happens to lots of people, not just women, and I’m glad to see it happening on the show now.  I suppose some people might be annoyed with this and say they just want Karen and Mack to be happy and move on already, but I quite like this for many reasons.  One reason is that just because Karen and Mack have sorta dealt with their previous problem, that doesn’t mean they won’t have new problems to contend with in the future.  The other reason is that I like how this organically plays out from what’s happened in our prior eps.  Karen is dealing with problems of trust when it comes to her husband, so even if they’ve had a good talk and worked their problems out, that doesn’t mean these trust issues aren’t still inside of her, and I’d say they are manifesting themselves in a physical way at this point.  Just because her brain has forgiven Mack doesn’t necessarily mean her body has, if that makes any sense at all.

The Sumner Cigar Counter reaches Cigar #12 this ep when Greg lights one up in his office while talking with Peter.  And speaking of Peter, he’s a busy boy this week, because in addition to hanging out with Greg while he smokes Cigar #12, he’s also got a lunch meeting with Abs, a meeting that shows Peter pulling a duplicitous move that is right out of the book of either J.R. or Abs.  See, Abs agrees to go to lunch with him at some fancy schmancy whites-only place, and then we see Peter pick up the phone and talk to someone on the other end, but we don’t know who.  He tells this mysterious person where he and Abs are going, and wouldn’t you know it, as soon as they arrive, they are right in time to witness J.B. and Gary together, sharing a passionate kiss over an intimate lunch.  Hmmm, the timing seems rather convenient, wouldn’t you agree?  Could Peter have possibly been making arrangements with someone on the phone to ensure that J.B. and Gary would both be at the same lunch venue at the precise same time?  When this occurs, we see Abby’s eyes get all big and wide in that fabulously Donna way, which helps us to understand how much or how little she knows about this affair.  Even though I feel like Gary has been carrying on fairly openly about his relationship with J.B., I believe this ep marks the first time that Abs becomes truly aware of it.  Add to that the fact that, just a little while before this scene, we had Karen laughing at Abs and you can imagine how she must be feeling right now.

Later, as Gary prepares to slip inside of J.B., he tells her, “It’s nice being with a woman who has no ulterior motives.”  One can see where he is coming from, but we viewers should already be starting to have some doubts about J.B. and her lack of ulterior motives, and our suspicions should only grow in the last scene of the ep.  See, in that final scene, we see J.B. meeting up with Peter and exchanging mysterious dialogue about how Gary “doesn’t suspect a thing.”  Hmmm, well this is a fabulous little twist, no?  So now we know who was in on the arrangement to get Abs to that restaurant at the exact right moment, but we still don’t know why.  It’s fabulous twists like these placed at just the right moments that keep the viewer wanting to come back every week.  If I was alive in 1986, by this point I would have been long converted to a fulltime KL fan (I would say if I had been alive and watching both shows at the same time, my conversion would have become cemented somewhere around 1982 or 1983 and would have only grown stronger in the years since) and, if I was still watching Dallas this season, I feel like this would probably be the point that I would have jumped shipped on Dallas and just stuck to KL as my one show of choice. 

Sexy Michael is again rocking a pink shirt in this ep, further adding to my theory/hope that Sexy Michael is actually secretly gay and in the closet and doing all sorts of naughty things with the other closeted boys in the locker room after 1986 gym class.  While I would greatly prefer that the entire series just shift its focus to that and devote 100% of the storytelling to Sexy Michael exploring his sexuality, the writers instead choose to go another way that I also greatly enjoy, and that is in focusing on the continuing streak of rebelliousness within Olivia.  I think I was wrong in my writeup for my last ep when I said that was the ep where she whips out the makeup and lipstick and then meets up with the cigarette smoking motorcycle riding boy; it’s actually in this ep.  Okay, so we know that likes wearing slutty makeup (and there’s a hysterical scene in this ep where Abs yells at Karen, “You’re turning my daughter into a tramp!” and you can tell Karen has to hold in her acid comments about how Olivia probably got all her lessons in being a tramp from her village bicycle mother) and that she likes talking to the “cool” boys who smoke cigarettes and ride motorcycles, but the plot thickens ever more when Sexy Michael accidentally knocks Olivia’s purse off a table and, GASP!, a JOINT falls out!  The last time a joint made its way into the Fairgate house, it was way back in 1981 with the undisputed masterpiece of television, Man of the Hour, and we all remember how that joint opened a Pandora’s box of problems.  Fortunately, the writing has improved so significantly by the point in the saga that we are currently at that this joint is handled much better than Eric’s joint from way back then.  While that episode was a silly and campy anti-drug message, this ep doesn’t feel nearly the same.  Instead, I think this joint is just serving to further demonstrate Olivia’s all around rebelliousness.

I do wanna make note of Sexy Michael’s reaction to the J and say that this is perhaps Sexy Michael’s only flaw.  I believe I’ve gone on and on in the past about not only the myriad of ways I wish to violate Sexy Michael, but also how I believe Sexy Michael would probably be the perfect boyfriend (though not quite as perfect as the beautiful boyfriend I currently have and love with all my heart, currently pictured in my little "About Me" Blogger photo on the side of the screen).  Let’s go down the list, shall we?  Sexy Michael is clearly one of the most beautiful and stunning male human beings to ever be created by God.  I feel like if I was God and I created Sexy Michael, I would just stop creating people after that because I would know I couldn’t possibly top my work with him.  However, you can also tell that Sexy Michael is super humble and probably doesn’t even realize how fucking perfect and stunning his body is; he probably thinks he just looks like a regular dude.  This is attractive because you know he wouldn’t have a big head just because he’s so stunningly beautiful, so that’s a good positive attribute for having him as your boyfriend right there.  Another positive attribute is that he’s clearly just a super nice and sweet person.  He’s never mean or nasty to anyone (aside from that silly bit of A.D.D. business from back in season two that the writers just sorta forgot about right away) and he’s always sweet and caring and you can tell he has a sensitive soul.  He also loves his mom and is good to her and he was able to be patient living with mega bitch sister Diana for all those years.  There’s basically nothing bad about Sexy Michael and I wish he would be my boyfriend, but his reaction to finding the J in Olivia’s bag is a little, well, square.  I feel like he sorta turns into Nancy Reagan as soon as he finds the J, because he holds it up in Olivia’s face and says, “We don’t do this kind of thing here,” all while Olivia gives him that tired old, “I was just holding it for a friend,” excuse.  I feel like if it’s 1986 and you’re Sexy Michael and you find a J in Olivia’s bag, you don’t give her a lecture on the evils of marijuana, you get her naked and take her to the nearest hot tub and light that J up and share it together, don’t you agree?  In any case, I can’t be too critical of Sexy Michal in this scene, because he is a child of the 1980’s and Ronald Reagan (who I now love, showing how fickle my opinions can be) had launched his stupid little “war on drugs” by this point and I’m sure he’s been filled with lots of propaganda about how smoking one J will turn him into a violent cocaine dealer or something like that.  So even though I kinda wish Sexy Michael didn’t have to be such a square, I can also understand where his mentality is coming from.

This whole ep plays out over the backdrop of the twins’ impending first birthday.  I like the use of this as a story throughout the ep, although of course I wouldn’t feel like I had done my proper duty unless I pointed out that the timeline of events isn’t quite adding up.  The twins were born in Tomorrow Never Knows, original airdate November 29th, 1984, and now here we are with A Very Special Gift and it’s February 13th, 1986 and they are just turning one.  Of course, I point out these little errors and then I always have to add that headache inducing little caveat about how summers don’t exist in TV land, so the whole layout of birthdays and events like that can often get very confusing.  So anyway, the twins are now one year old and Val is getting a big party prepared for them.  At first, it might seem like this party is a bit extravagant for a couple of one year olds who won’t even remember it happening, but after you reflect on how much Val has gone through with the twins, you realize how warranted this party really is.  This isn’t just, “Oh, you guys turned one; good for you,” but rather a celebration of the fact that the twins are alive and well and living with Val by this point. 

I loved the use of the twins’ party as a way to get the characters linked and interacting.  KL is always so good at this, at finding something central to the ep that they can use to make sure all the characters are getting material.  I will point out, however, the conspicuous lack of Lilimae, who I believe does not even appear in this ep.  Hmmm, that’s odd; what to make of this?  Is Lilimae’s lack of appearance a result of the storytelling or did Julie just need to sit out an ep?  Certainly, I feel that Lilimae’s material has been lacking ever since Joshua fell off that roof; she’s either been whining about the way people remember her dead son or just kinda hanging out and doing nothing.  I criticized the writers a bit for not seeming to know what to do with Cathy post-Joshua and I fear I’m seeing the same problem right here with Lilimae.  We’ve got roughly two more years left with Lilimae, and I’m hoping to see some good, strong material for her before the sad day comes that she leaves the show and our lives forever. 

We can tell that the twins are on Gary’s mind this ep, because somewhere in the middle of the ep, he rolls up to Olivia and Val in his sexy new 1986 car and says, “Wish the twins a happy birthday for me.”  However, it doesn’t stop there, because when all the adults gather around to open the presents, they discover that Gary has left, well, a very special gift.  The gift Gary has chosen to give is not a gift certificate to Denny’s, but rather he has deeded half of Empire Valley to the twins.  Yikes!  I’m eager to see where this development leads us in the coming eps, because we can tell that this business does not please poor Ben one bit, who makes an angry face and says something like, “What the hell does he think he’s doing?”  The writing is so good and the characters are so interesting and the plots are so complicated that my mind is abuzz as I try to explore all of this.  On one hand, you can easily understand Ben, who is trying to be father to these twins that he knows are not biologically his and is constantly dealing with Gary showing up to make big, lavish gestures like this, so you can understand his frustrations.  On the other hand, you can imagine how Gary must feel looking at these little blonde twins and knowing that they are a part of him and trying to find some way to express his love to them.  Such a sordid state of affairs.

One last little bit that I especially enjoyed about this party is that we get a really lovely shout-out to the Fishers.  This is a detail I did not remember and I thought the Fishers were gone and never to be mentioned again, but I was wrong.  See, one of the birthday cards for the twins comes courtesy of Sheila and Harry along with the announcement that they are expecting a child of their own.  Yay!  I can’t even explain how happy this made me, but it really warmed my heart.  That last scene of the Fishers saying goodbye to the babies back in The Christening was so sad and I have been thinking how heartbreaking it is to imagine them just going off to be alone with no children around them, but now we see that they have successfully conceived their own child and will soon be parents.  See, it’s the little details like this that make KL so special.  Other shows would be comfortable never mentioning Harry and Sheila again after they left town, but KL lets us have some extra information about what’s going on in their lives sixteen eps later.

Overall, I really loved this ep.  Right now, I can’t make up my mind on whether I enjoyed this ep or The Key to a Woman’s Heart more.  Hmmmm, let’s think real hard.  The Key to a Woman’s Heart had that great Karen/Mack fight scene, but I really dug the overall style of this ep, courtesy of one of my current favorite KL directors, Nick Havinga.  I forgot to mention it, but this ep even starts out in a fabulous way that grabs your attention, Gary racing his new car along a deserted street to some truly fabulous new wave music while J.B. waits for him.  I also loved the backdrop of the twins’ birthday, the shout-out to Harry and Sheila, and the big twist with Peter and Jill in the final scene.  Yeah, thinking over it, I’d say this is my fave ep of the last disk watched, because it just had so much going for it, including Sexy Michael in a pink shirt.  Mmmmm, yummy.

So that does it for A Very Special Gift, which I thought was a very special episode (I’m Gene Shalit!).  Next up, we shall start a whole fresh disk of excitement and joy with Irrevocably Yours.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Season 07, Episode 19

Episode 149 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by Robert Becker

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 6th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): The tabloid has an article about how Joshua tried to kill Cathy. Ben tells her that Sonny works for the tabloid. She breaks down crying and Ben comforts her. Cathy slaps Sonny, who tells her he had to do it, to tell her side of the story. Greg tells Laura that Galveston kept a file on Sylvia, and sent her monthly checks. Greg tells Peter that he can prove his loyalty by working with him to recover Empire Valley and bring down Gary and Abby. Jill continues to investigate Wesphall, but won't tell Mack why. Mack gives her back the key and it upsets Jill. Mack apologizes to Karen and gives her flowers, but she's still angry, and he accuses her of blowing it out of proportion. Val takes Mack's side, saying he didn't use the key and that she shouldn't lose her marriage because of her hurt pride, but Karen insists she feels betrayed.

                In our prior ep, Friendly Enemies, we saw the beginnings of a serious rift forming in the marriage of Karen and Mack after Karen discovered J.B.’s hotel room key in Mack’s pocket.  This rift only grows larger as the subject is expanded upon with this week’s ep, The Key to a Woman’s Heart.  But first, let’s take some time to discuss our other beloved characters on the cul-de-sac (or off of it) and what they’re up to in this ep.

                Let’s start with my least favorite storyline going on right now, which thankfully is coming to an end in this ep.  In Friendly Enemies, Sonny bought Cathy a pizza and then immediately dropped it on the ground, which charmed Cathy enough to go out to dinner with him and confess all of her deepest, darkest secrets, even telling him the truth about what happened up on the roof with Joshua.  This all happened at the precise same moment that Ben and Val were figuring out the truth about Sonny, that he is actually a reporter working on a story about Cathy and Joshua.  The storyline comes to an undramatic conclusion this week when Cathy arrives at Pacific Cable Whatever to do a song and dance number and Ben tells her the truth about Sonny.  Cathy gets real frustrated and says, “I sure know how to pick them,” a line that makes me wonder if it’s meant to be meta.  Is this the writers saying, “Okay, we know it’s stupid to have Cathy finish up a storyline with one bad dude and then immediately give her a new storyline with a new bad dude”?  I appreciate that kind of writing or humor, but if that’s what they’re doing in this case, it doesn’t really excuse it, but only makes it seem lazier.  If you know you’re sending Cathy over the same tracks that she’s walked before in previous seasons, then why do it all?  Doing it and then throwing in a line like, “I sure know how to pick them,” doesn’t help matters.  They should have given her something interesting and new to do following Joshua’s death.

                Despite my harping, there was a small detail in this ep that I really appreciated, proving that KL is so inherently good and so inherently genius that even in the midst of a story I don’t care for one bit, I’ll find something to appreciate.  In this instance, it’s right after Ben gives Cathy the news about Sonny and she retreats to her dressing room for some private time.  As she enters the dressing room, she slams the door hard and a picture falls off the wall.  Cathy’s reaction to the picture falling feels so real and so genuine to me that I am utterly convinced it was a total accident; I don’t think the picture was meant to fall off the wall, but then Lisa slammed the door hard enough to make it fall and it did and it created this fabulously authentic moment that feels super real.  If I ever have a chance to interview her (Lisa, are you out there?), I will ask her about this scene and see if my instincts are correct and if the falling picture frame was a happy accident. 

               Also, after the picture falls, Cathy gets real angry and smashes something against the wall, I think a vase.  This method of expressing anger through breaking material things has been a popular one with the KL characters lately; I think it was somewhere on this disk of eps that we also saw Abs get mad at Gary and smash something against a door after he exited the scene.  I also flash back a few years to our season four finale, Willing Victims, in which Laura realized Richard was gone and she went to town on his kitchen, smashing everything and flinging pots and pans all over the place.  Hell, I can trace this even further back to season two with The Loudest Word; remember when Gary trashed his and Val’s bedroom in a moment of private breakdown?  Clearly the KL gang likes to smash things whenever they get too stressed out or in over their heads.

                Okay, so I really liked that photo frame falling off the wall, but this is still a crap story, and what really seals it as a crap story is the way it, um, well I hesitate to use the word “concludes,” but I guess I’m left with no other choice.  After drawing this out for four eps, the storyline comes to an unceremonious end when Cathy simply pays Sonny a visit at his stupid saxophone club where he’s playing his stupid saxophone and she hits him.  This comes after Cathy has seen the most recent newspapers and has seen that what she told Sonny has now made it into the papers, by the way, and that is part of the reason why she’s so angry.  Anyway, he stops playing his stupid saxophone for a minute so that he can explain how he simply needed to tell the world the truth, or something like that, and then Cathy punches him and walks off.  Ugh, watching this, I was not enjoying it, but I also thought there was going to be more to it than this, but only after finishing this ep and watching the next one and then peeking at Buddy Repperton’s IMDb to see if he’d be showing up again did I realize that this is the end of the story.  Talk about an unexciting way to end things, huh?  What was even the point of this story?  I think I honestly would have rather had Lisa just sit out four eps or so rather than be handed this as her follow-up story to Joshua Rush.  Pretty much nothing about this story worked for me, starting with the way Sonny came out of nowhere, going through the way that Cathy instantly trusted him way too much and told him way too much private information, and finishing up with the boring and anticlimactic way that this all ends. 

                Olivia is still living at the Fairgate MacKenzie house as a pseudo-daughter.  In our prior ep, Karen smiled at Olivia and said, “I had forgotten how nice it was to have a woman in the house,” a line that made both My Beloved Grammy as well as myself pee our pants with laughter.  In what universe was Karen living where it was “nice” to have Diana in the house?  After Karen delivered this humdinger, I said, “It was never nice having Diana in the house,” and My Beloved Grammy shuddered and opined, “No, she was awful.”  Anyway, as we open up this ep, we have a quick scene of Gary trying to reach Olivia, trying to convince her to come back home to Westfork.  Olivia stands strong that she can’t live with Abs anymore, though she doesn’t tell Gary the exact reasons why.  I wanna take a moment to talk about Olivia’s motivations here, by the way.  In another scene from the ep, we get a pretty great firsthand example of how Olivia is starting to act like a little rebel.  As Sexy Michael (wearing a pink shirt that I want to rip off of him using my teeth) drives Olivia to school, she suddenly busts out the makeup kit and starts to go to work on her eyelashes and her lipstick and all that good stuff and, if I recall correctly, she also pulls the classic trick of taking off her modest outfit to reveal her slutty outfit hidden beneath it, all before arriving at school and chatting it up with a cigarette-smoking boy riding a motorcycle.  Yes, it appears Olivia looked at every cliché for how to turn into a teenage rebel and decided to live into all the stereotypes.  I note these things because I think they demonstrate that Olivia’s desire to live with Karen is not purely based on her horror of what her mother has done; I think there’s definitely some self-interest going on here, that she sees this as an opportunity to be bad and escape from the clutches of her mother, who wouldn’t even let her wear the sexy fingernail polish she wanted to.  While I do think Olivia is legit disgusted with her mother and I do think her disgust goes beyond a simple disagreement and more towards something that offends her core being, I also think she’s cashing in on this opportunity to get away from her mother’s prying eyes and start being naughty, maybe even start smoking grass (we’ll have to wait until our next ep to see!). 

                Meanwhile, Gary is making no bones about wanting to stray from his sacred marital vows to Abs and fall smoothly into the warmth of J.B.’s vagina, and this week I think he finally succeeds.  See, Gary and J.B. have been seeing quite a lot of each other as of late, going out to romantic dinners, sitting by candlelight to discuss their lives, heading out to look at sexy 1986 cars for Gary to buy and start racing.  With this ep, they finally make out, and I say “finally” with a smidge of reticence since I’m not entirely sure if they’ve made out before or not, but I think they haven’t.  This is their first, right?  There’s been a lot of heavy flirtation and Gary tried to shag her a few eps back, but J.B. resisted.  Now J.B. can resist no longer and even though all we see is the kiss, the music swells up and it’s a very passionate kiss, so I think we can all rightly assume that Gary and J.B. had a shag mere moments after this.  I real fast wanna highlight something I’ve said before, which is that I don’t even necessarily see this as Gary “cheating” on Abs.  I think that marriage is basically dead and I think that Gary views it that way.  I think, after all the confusing Empire Valley stuff and Gary’s, “God, are we different,” comment to Abs, that he’s finally made a switch in his brain where he can’t love her the way he loved her throughout the previous three seasons or so.  I think she has finally betrayed his trust in a way that’s irrevocable and it’s only a matter of time before they get a divorce.  Because of this, I think Gary’s little affair with J.B. here is more him planning for the future, that this is the woman he might like to leave Abs for, so why not go ahead and get revved up and started with her now? 

                We’ve also got a lot going on this ep with all the drama involving Greg and Peter and Sylvia and, you know, the whole gang.  Laura really gets in on the action this week, because we catch up with her late at night at the Sumner offices raiding Peter’s desk, looking for information.  I’m not entirely sure what she’s hoping to find, but I imagine she’s looking for some sort of proof that he’s a liar, that he’s not who he says he is, maybe a Scrapbook Of Evil like the kind that were so popular amongst Wayne Harkness and Chip Roberts back in season four (although I guess Chip didn’t keep a scrapbook of evil, but he did keep an evil newspaper clipping that helped us realize he was evil).  Laura doesn’t manage to find anything, but she does get caught red handed by Peter, who walks in and calmly addresses her.  I like Peter’s ability to play it cool in any given situation.  In this instance, he could throw a big hissy fit about Laura invading his privacy, but he knows that she’s going to be an obstacle to him and he’d better get on her good side, which he attempts to do.  He invites her to dinner at Sylvia’s apartment and says how she can meet his mother and see where she lives and get to know them a little bit better. 

                Interestingly, Laura agrees to this, and the next time we see the characters, they are all sitting down to a nice dinner together.  Sylvia is serving and she goes on about her life and the dishes she likes to prepare, stuff like that.  This is a fun little scene because you get the sense that Laura is being gracious enough to make polite conversation and enjoy the food with Sylvia and Peter, but you can also tell that she still ain’t buying it.  She doesn’t believe either of these characters are who they claim to be, and she still makes that pretty clear to them in the course of this dinner, yet all without necessarily being rude.  It’s a really strange, cool balancing act and it’s played well by all the actors in the scene.  Again, I stress how much I’m enjoying this particular portion of the stories right now and what a delightful surprise it is.  I can’t put my finger on it exactly, can’t find one specific thing that Sylvia or Peter are doing that’s super compelling, but it’s just a feeling. I love Greg, I love Laura, I like Peter, and I like Sylvia and I just like where this is all going.

                Where it’s going is apparently back to Empire Valley, which is where Greg takes Peter at the end of this episode.  By this point, Empire Valley is no longer a smoking pile of rubble, but rather just a simple, non-smoking pile of rubble.  I’m not entirely sure what is conveyed in this scene, but that is probably the result of my own stupid brain and not the fault of the show or the writing.  Basically, Greg says how his end goal is to take down Gary and Abs and that he needs Peter’s help to do so.  He also continues to seem very trusting towards Peter, and I still haven’t figured out if this is based in his honestly believing Peter’s story or in something more clever and duplicitous. In this ep, he continues to defend Peter to a skeptical Laura, saying how he checked the Galveston files and that there were monthly checks from Galveston to Sylvia for years, which helps to backup Peter’s story.  Even so, I’m leaning towards Greg being clever.  I think he smells a rat, but he’s smart enough to not tell Peter that.  As Don Corelone might say, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”  If Greg can stay close to Peter and earn some form of trust, it might make it easier for him to figure out what’s really going on.

                Last thing on the Peter roster for this ep is a little meeting he has with Abs at some fancy bar.  Again, I think my stupid brain failed to process exactly the contents of this meeting or why Abs is meeting with him, but let’s just assume that Abs wants to get in bed with Peter for some sort of wicked reason.  She feels burned by Gary and left out on all things relating to Lotus Point.  She’s getting bored sitting around Westfork and she needs something to do to keep her entertained.  I do also want to note how, at least as far as this season is concerned, I’m noticing a lot more meetings taking place in big fancy bars and restaurants.  I’m wondering if that’s a Dallas influence bleeding over into KL courtesy of David Paulsen, but then I’m also wondering if I’m merely more inclined to notice these things because of his presence.  What do you guys think?  Oh yeah, and also, one last thing, I am pretty sure the piano player in the background for this scene is playing Karen’s little theme song from way back in season one.  Am I crazy about this?  If it’s not Karen’s theme, it’s some piece of the series score, some bit of music that we’ve heard more than once as part of the music of different eps.  This threw my brain off, because I knew I recognized the music in the background, and I even rewound it so I could hear it again, and at first I thought it was from some famous movie and that’s why I recognized it, but then I realized it was from the show.  I like this little touch, because it’s just cool. It’s cool that a piece of the KL score can be a canon piece of music within the world of the show, a bit of music that might be played on the piano at a fancy bar that Abs likes to go to. 

                Okay, so that pretty much does it for all of our characters except for Karen and Mack, but I’ve been saving them for last because I think their material is easily the best stuff about this ep.  Ugh, it’s all so good, and I don’t even know where to start, except at the beginning.  As we get started with this ep, Karen is still giving Mack the silent treatment in a way that I feel is a bit much.  Mack is trying to communicate with her, bringing her flowers, being loving, trying to be open, and Karen is totally shutting him out at this point.  In the previous ep, I talked about how I’m having a bit of a hard time with Karen right now, and that continues in this ep, although the writing is still so good that I of course can understand both characters.  Near the middle of this ep, Karen is having a heart to heart with Val and Val tells her she needs to forgive Mack and that the mere fact that Mack had a key to a hotel room does not justify destroying their marriage.  Karen kinda sorta agrees with Val, but then she says, “I just feel so betrayed,” and it’s that line that I was able to focus on and understand.  I think Karen knows that Mack wouldn’t cheat, but there’s just something about the inherent secrecy of the room key, of the fact that he held onto it, that is making her feel betrayed and unable to get over it and forgive him.  Perhaps this whole situation could have been easily avoided if Mack had just come home on the day J.B. gave him the key and said, “Karen, you won’t believe this, but guess who gave me a key to her hotel room and an open invite to shag her whenever I wanna!”  If it had been done that way, Karen and Mack could have laughed together about Mack’s powerful sexual charisma and Karen wouldn’t feel betrayed by Mack.  I think it’s the fact that he held onto the key in secret that is really eating at her.

                All this key drama paves the way for a truly magnificent fight between Karen and Mack in their bedroom in the middle of the night.  This is gonna be another instance where I rant and rave about how brilliant a scene is while failing to properly describe it or dictate the incredible dialogue, and that’s of course because I was staring at the screen in awe throughout the whole sequence and barely managed to write anything in my notes except for a few choice bits of dialogue that stuck out to me.  This feels like the kind of fight where the couple starts out by fighting about one specific issue, but as the intensity grows, we come to realize that they are really fighting about deeper issues, issues they’ve probably been holding in and not talking about the last few years.  I say this because Karen makes a sarcastic comment about Mack trying to be cute, “Just like your flirting is cute,” and as they start to yell and scream more, Mack throws out a few choice phrases like, “Miss Self Righteous,” and Karen tells him, “You have the subtlety of a steamroller.”  I think Mack even destroys a lamp, continuing that running theme of damaging your own property in the throes of a fight that I’ve been noticing a lot as of late.  This is my favorite scene of the entire episode, mostly because I loved the realistic way that the fight accelerated and also because I love both characters and I think both actors are at the top of their game playing the scene.  I also love how the fight can be so intense without being scary, if that makes sense.  What I mean is that, yeah, Mack yells and smashes a lamp, but we’re never afraid that he’s gonna start beating on Karen or anything like that.  I also loved how we get a sense of the deeper problems underlying this marriage.  Karen is getting fed up with Mack’s flirting and his little bits of cute behavior while Mack is getting tired of being judged and held to some impossibly high standard (a standard probably set in Karen’s mind by her long marriage to Saint Sid).  I know some fans really seem to revolt on Karen and Mack at a certain point in the series because they think both characters are self-righteous, but I think I disagree.  Doesn’t a scene like this show that the writers know their characters are flawed and are addressing it through their actions and dialogue?

                That’s another thing to love about this scene and this whole storyline, by the way.  As we got revved up with this ep and the thirty second preview showed that we’ve be continuing to explore this whole J.B. key situation, My Beloved Grammy confessed to me that she, “could use a little less adultery on the show.”  I quickly defended the honor of the series by reminding her that Dallas had constant adultery and she never complained about it there, but she did tell me that she didn’t love it over on Dallas, either.  As we got deeper into the ep and witnessed the sublime and amazing fight between Karen and Mack, I pointed out to her that the brilliance of the show lies not in the adultery or in the possibility of the adultery but in the way the characters react.  On another nighttime drama, they would probably have Mack have the affair just because it would make for good drama, but they wouldn’t get deep into his character and explore his midlife crisis in the fabulous way that KL does.  On KL, we don’t even have an affair, but just the possibility of an affair, and that is enough to have this fantastic fight and all these fabulous character moments between Karen and Mack, and that’s what makes the show have that special extra magical kick, wouldn’t you agree?

                I think that’s about all I got for The Key to a Woman’s Heart, an ep that I enjoyed very much and that might be my favorite of the five we watched on this disk (The Confession through A Very Special Gift).  While I don’t like the Cathy/Sonny story, the good news it that this ep ends it, it’s over, it’s done, and we don’t need to think about it anymore.  While I didn’t like the way this ep ended it, I’m just glad the story’s over and we can move on to something else, something hopefully better, for Cathy in her final eleven eps on the series.  Everything else in this ep was good to great, in my opinion.  I enjoyed all the stuff with Abs, Gary, and Olivia, especially the subtle ways that we are seeing Olivia’s bad side manifest itself.  I also greatly enjoyed everything with Peter and Sylvia, but the real great stuff in this ep came via Karen and Mack and their amazing fight, which is a scene for the ages.  I should take a moment to note that Lynn Latham (pictured below) wrote this one, and I continue to be impressed whenever she or her hubby contribute a script.  I know this pair is unpopular with many fans, and I plan to explore that in greater detail during their reign from seasons eight through twelve, but as of this moment, I’m impressed with both of them and think they’ve written some excellent scripts.  I also wonder if having a female writer for this ep is why the Karen/Mack stuff is so good.  Could Latham understand Karen in a special way that made their fight really come alive as it did?  In any case, all the Karen/Mack stuff is clearly the best part of the ep and is good enough that, if everything else in the ep sucked, I would still recommend it.  Fortunately, aside from Cathy/Sonny, this was a solid ep on all counts.

                Coming up next, we explore the final ep on this particular disk, the 150th ep of the series entitled A Very Special Gift. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Episode Title: Friendly Enemies

Season 07, Episode 18

Episode 148 of 344

Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 30th, 1986

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Peter tells Greg that he's his brother, and brings Sylvia to meet him. Laura thinks Peter is up to something, and is frustrated that Greg seems unconcerned. Abby overhears Laura telling this to Karen, and she asks Peter out for a drink. Gary decides to go into racing. Karen finds Jill's hotel key in Mack's pocket and confronts him with it. He tries to explain that he would never use it, but it made him feel younger, more alive, like life wasn't passing him by, and he hopes Karen will understand. Crying, she says no. Mack's upset that Jill went through his Westfall file without permission. Sonny accidentally drops a tape marked "Cathy #3." Val plays the tape, and hears Sonny's notes about his articles. Meanwhile, Sonny is out to dinner with Cathy. She tells him how Joshua tried to throw her off of the roof, and that Lilimae saved her life. Sonny says he's sorry for what Joshua did to her.

                In our last episode, Alterations, we saw some serious changes taking place in the relationship between Abs and Olivia when Olivia found out the truth about Abby’s knowledge of Val’s babies and that she kept that fact secret.  Thanks to this newfound information, Olivia is going to be staying at Aunt Karen’s for awhile, where she’ll hopefully experience a little less dysfunctional family drama, hopefully.

                That glides us nicely into the very first thing I wish to discuss when it comes to this episode, and that is the relationship between Karen and Mack.  While these two have had a few setbacks since Mack was first brought into the fold in season four, for the most part they have been a strong, stable, and loving couple, but this week, Karen finds the key to J.B.’s hotel room in Mack’s pocket and it causes a pretty serious rift in their marriage.  It should be noted that the key is discovered innocently enough, I believe when Karen is doing some laundry and emptying pockets in preparation; it’s not like she goes snooping through Mack’s clothes and belongings in an attempt to find something incriminating.  After her discovery of the key, she turns to Val for advice in a scene that I found very interesting.  See, Val’s immediate advice to Karen is to either put the key back where she found it or throw it away and to not bother mentioning it to Mack, pretend nothing happened.  Then Karen says, “Could you?” and Val gets kinda quiet and answers, “No.”  This made me reflect back to an earlier Val, a season two Val who somewhat managed to look the other way while Gary cheated on her with Judy Trent.  Do you think Val’s current advice about ignoring the presence of the key stems back to how she would ignore Gary’s adulterous romances in the past?  Do you think Karen is thinking about these past events when she talks to Val about these issues? 

                In any case, it doesn’t take long for Karen to confront Mack, and I appreciated how this scene played out.  We begin with a pretty awkward Fairgate MacKenzie family dinner (or perhaps I should say Fairgate MacKenzie Cunningham Ewing due to the presence of Olivia).  While everyone makes nice dinner chit chat, Karen just sorta sits quietly at her end of the table, not engaging with the others, looking upset.  When all the kids run off, Mack asks Karen what’s wrong and she simply gets up and lays the key on the table as the music gets ominous, all before we cut to a commercial.  I liked the silent way this played out, that Karen is able to show Mack what’s wrong all without having to open her mouth.  On another show, the writers might be tempted to make this a very wordy scene or have Karen doing a lot of speaking about the way she found the key, but here it’s so gloriously simple; she just puts the key on the table and that’s it.

                I also found the next scene very interesting for many reasons, and I must confess that I’m quite tempted to take sides in this argument, but I’ll try not to.  I’ve long extolled the virtues of KL’s ability to keep every character feeling dynamic and multifaceted, for being able to present situations of conflict without presenting one character as right and the other character as wrong.  I think they are still doing a good job of that here, but in terms of my own personal views, I’m definitely agreeing with Mack in this case.  See, basically he tells Karen that he never meant to use the key, that he never even wanted to use the key, but he needed to know that he had the key.  He tells her how he sometimes feels that life is passing him by, that he’s not young and fresh the way he used to be, and that J.B.’s attraction to him helped him to feel young again.  He concludes by asking Karen if she can understand that and she flatly says no and then walks off.  Okay, it was here that I paused the ep and pointed out to My Beloved Grammy that Karen is being quite the hypocrite here.  Let us all flash back to episode three of the entire series, the brilliant Let Me Count the Ways.  In that ep, Karen was tempted to have an affair with the sexy and exciting and unconventional new teacher from Diana’s high school.  She even got herself all dolled up and looking sexy and went to his apartment for an afternoon delight, you all remember that?  Then, when she was at his apartment, she gave a speech that was remarkably similar to the one Mack is giving her now.  She told the teacher that she just needed to know that she was still attractive to men and that it made her feel young again, but that she can’t go through with the affair, and then she returned home to Saint Sid and the kids.  Yup, I’d say it’s pretty much the exact same scenario, wouldn’t you?  Now the situation is reversed and Mack is the one needing a little boost to remind him that he’s sexy, yet Karen is shutting him out and refusing to understand his feelings.  Has she really forgotten all about her almost affair from back in season one?  Yeah, that was six years ago, but it’s still not that long ago and you’d think she’d remember a big event like that, no?  I’m quite sure that she remembers that episode just as vividly as I do, so I have to take issue with Karen being so harshly judgmental of Mack just for carrying around J.B.’s hotel room key.

                I also feel bad for Mack because I feel like he’s put up with a lot of shit since marrying Karen.  This is not to say it’s Karen’s fault or to blame her for the dramas that arise, since I still love Karen and always will until the day I die and dramas are par for the course when you live in a nighttime soap opera, but let’s just go down the list real fast.  As soon as Mack was introduced to the series, he immediately had to deal with Karen going to great lengths to get Sid’s murderers sent to prison, even putting her own life at risk to do so.  Then they dated for awhile and then they got married and Mack immediately had the joy of dealing with Hell-spawn Diana and all the drama with her and Chip Roberts.  Then, once that was over, Karen had her pill popping saga and had to be sent to rehab to detox.  After that, the Wolfbridge stuff really came to a head and lead to Karen declaring that she wanted a divorce from Mack, a story that ran through a good 1/3 of the sixth season, and that brings us right about up to date.  Through all of this, Mack has been a very loyal and loving husband, always by her side, and now I see Karen shaming him for something that is really not that big a deal.  Mack didn’t use the stupid key; all he wanted to do was hold onto it and know that he had it.  I understand his feelings completely and there’s nothing wrong with his feelings.  God only knows what a neurotic mess I will be by the time I am 43 and I am starting to show wrinkles in my face; I’ll probably have a complete nervous breakdown. 

                Anyway, all the Karen/Mack stuff this week is good and bears interesting fruit, but let’s shelve it for the time being since it’s gonna get more interesting in the following eps and lead to some really great stuff.  Let’s go ahead and shift our focus over to Peter and Greg and Sylvia.  Peter surprises me this ep by letting the cat out of the bag right and quick with Greg.  See, the two are sitting in Greg’s office, talking about whatever, when Peter starts to talk about his troubled childhood and what a rough time he had.  Greg has some funny line where he’s like, “All this personal backstory is fascinating, but why are you telling me this?”  From there, Peter just answers, “Because I’m your half-brother.”  Honestly, I was surprised to see him bring it up so fast.  It was only two eps ago that we viewers were let in on this little secret through Peter’s conversation with Sylvia, and I kinda expected them to draw this out a little longer, let the suspense build, let us wonder what Peter is up to, but I prefer it this way.  I like how Peter just gets right to it and then we get to see how Greg reacts to it.

                Let’s talk about that reaction, because it’s positively fascinating and I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it.  Basically, he believes Peter right off the bat and tells him he accepts what he has told him as fact.  My question of course is this: Is Greg lying?  Is Greg suspicious of Peter’s claims and just acting super friendly to keep on good terms with him and continue to get more information out of him?  Or does he truly believe him?  We all know that Greg has no great regard for his biological father, Paul Galveston, and we also know that Galveston was a pretty busy guy having a myriad of different affairs with a myriad of different women.  After all, Greg’s very conception and existence is based on Galveston having an affair with his mother while she was married to the fighter pilot daddy guy.  Because of this, it’s not inconceivable that Peter is telling the truth, and perhaps Greg sees it that way, as well.  Laura is immediately suspicious of this claim and makes it clear to Greg, but he continues to act like everything is fine.  Has he got something up his sleeve?  This is the stuff I probably find most interesting throughout this ep, by the way, and my love for Greg Sumner is only growing larger as I make my way through this rewatch.  I always loved the character, but God damn if he’s not one of TV’s best characters ever; what a fascinating and complicated character and played so perfectly by Devane.  Oh yeah, and while we’re on the subject, I should note that we see Greg sucking on a big cigar late at night while sitting on the couch and talking with Laura about Peter, so we all know what that means; it means we have now reached Cigar #11 on the Sumner Cigar Counter.

                The plot thickens over at Lotus Point when Laura asks to have a private conversation with Karen.  She goes into Karen’s office and shuts the door, but the two women forget to watch out for Abs, who remains posted outside of the door, quite literally listening at keyhole.  Thusly, Abs is let in on the little secret about who Peter Hollister really is, or at least who he claims to be.  Abs has been extra frustrated lately with all the different ways her life is turning to shit, including being pretty much voted out of Lotus Point and no longer getting an opinion on any matters in that department.  Add to that the fact that her daughter is no longer living with her and her husband is getting ready to have an affair and you can understand why Abs would be feeling a little unloved this week, a little eager to strike up some new connection with a new person, someone like Peter, perhaps.  Again, nothing much happens in this department within the confines of this ep, but keep watching, because it’s planting some seeds for a possible alliance between Abs and Peter.

                Let’s go ahead and talk about my least favorite storyline going on at this juncture, that of Cathy and Sonny.  Oh snore, this thing is still dragging on, and get comfortable because it’s also gonna drag on into our next episode, as well.  See, early in the ep, through some series of circumstances, Sonny winds up accidentally dropping some cassette tape on the ground that is simply labeled, “Cathy #3.”  Then, through some other series of circumstances that I really can’t remember, the tape winds up in the possession of Val. Oh yeah, actually I think I remember it now.  Ben is the one who finds the tape lying around the studio, and then later when he hears that Val is going off to run some errands, he gives her the tape and asks her to drop it off with Cathy, who is still living at Ben’s Plant House.  Okay, so that’s all fine, but the trouble comes when Val finds herself trapped in traffic and decides to pass the time by listening to the tape, probably assuming it’s some new awesome Cathy cover song.  Instead, she finds that it’s an oral dictation by Sonny discussing all the dirt he’s managed to dig up from Cathy.  Oh no!

                Meanwhile, Cathy is all sick with laryngitis or whatever.  In my notes, when Cathy first showed up and was suffering from a lost voice, I wrote, “Cathy’s voice: Plot point or real life Lisa problem?”  At first I thought maybe Lisa was just sick that week and so they threw in a quick scene about her having laryngitis so that they could shuffle her off for the rest of the ep, but I don’t think that anymore.  Her laryngitis provides the impetus for Sonny to show up at The Plant House and be “charming” with her, so I think that was always written as a part of the script as a plot function.  Anyway, yeah, so Sonny shows up at The Plant House holding a pizza and then he puts on some big production and tries to look like this great, sweet, caring guy, but then he accidentally drops the pizza on the ground.  Cathy laughs at this (and even though I don’t like anything about this storyline, I do like the way Cathy laughs and think she seems very genuine and warm) and then the two decide to go out to a restaurant for awhile.

                Ugh, I just hate this storyline, and I just hate it more the more it goes on.  How stupid is it that Cathy is so immediately trusting of this douchebag?  They go out to dinner and she continues to be completely trusting in a way that simply does not feel organic.  I maintain that the writers should have gone a whole different way with Cathy’s storylines following Joshua’s death, not just immediately repeat the storyline with her getting involved with some new bad dude.  And of course, since she’s known Sonny for all of five minutes, she lets it spill what really happened up on that roof with Joshua.  Sure, Sonny is a nothing character and he’s only been on the show for two or three eps, but he bought her a pizza, damn it, and that means she can trust him with all of her deepest, darkest secrets.  She hasn’t confided in anyone about what Joshua was really trying to do to her right before he died, not even Laura, whom she seems especially close to, but she’s ready to confide in Sonny.  Stupid stupid stupid.

                Also, in terms of basic nighttime drama, isn’t this story just kinda boring?  What is really so bad about a newspaper finding out what really happened?  It would be one thing if Lilimae and Cathy had actually conspired together to murder Joshua and now they were afraid of that being revealed, but all that happened was Joshua went psycho and tried to kill Cathy.  If a newspaper finds out about this, they will run the story, it will be a little scandal for five minutes, and then people will move on to the next exciting bit of news.  Yeah, it will suck for Lilimae to have to explain to people that her son was a psycho, but aside from that, what are the stakes?  Why should we feel nervous or in suspense with any part of this story?  This is clearly the worst storyline going on right now and I just wish the writers had killed it off before it even had the chance to be born; they should have completely scrapped the whole idea of Sonny and Cathy and tried a completely different type of story.

                That’s about all I’ve got for Friendly Enemies.  If I sounded dismissive of this particular ep, please note that it’s not the ep’s fault, but rather my own.  I’m just feeling a little tired and out of it and had a hard time remembering all the events of this particular ep, although I remembered the big stuff. I’d say I liked this ep better than The Confession but not as much as Alterations.  I’m eager to see the Sonny storyline go away but everything else about the ep was pretty good, with the best stuff being the material between Karen and Mack.  Even so, I don’t recall anything in particular leaping out at me about this ep, like I can’t remember anything especially amazing or wonderful or exciting about it, nor can I remember any cool stylistic touches, although I’m sure there were some.  So I guess I’d say that this was a perfectly easy to watch ep, but just a little ho hum.

                Next up, we continue to explore the subject of J.B.’s key with The Key to a Woman’s Heart.