Thursday, April 1, 2021

KNOTS LANDING Episode 219 of 344: THE PERFECT CRIME

 Episode Title: The Perfect Crime

Season 09, Episode 29


Episode 219 of 344


Written by Bernard Lechowick


Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan


Original Airdate: Thursday, May 12th, 1988


The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige and Sexy Michael find out that Johnny is working for Manny, and their friend Chavas is a DEA agent. They get on a bus. The Federales stop the bus and take Paige, Sexy Michael, and Chavas. Abby and Gary fill all the slips in the marina so that Manny can't dock his boat. Manny calls Karen and says she'd better do something about it if she wants Paige and Sexy Michael to return safely from Mexico. Jill, in disguise, surprises Val. She says the letters and calls from Ben were a hoax, and she had the forger write a suicide note for Val that says Val found out Ben is dead. Julie and Frank come to the door, and Val nervously says she has to stay home because Betsy's sick. Frank remarks to Pat that Val acted strangely, like she was being held at gunpoint. Jill forces Val to take sleeping pills saying if she doesn't, she'll shoot Val, and it's better if the twins find her asleep rather than with her brains splattered all over the room. Val pleads with her, and Jill says she's sick of everyone calling her "Poor Val" and as long as she's alive, Gary will always run to take care of her. Jill forces her to take more pills. David wakes up and Jill comes out of the shower saying she had a great night with him. Back home, Val's passed out on the floor with the phone off the hook in her hands.



 


                And so here we are with The Perfect Crime, our final episode of season nine, an episode I’ve been very excited to discuss since, well, pretty much since the Pilot.  I’ve always remembered this as one of the all time best eps and perhaps the very best cliffhanger of the series.  How does it look upon a second viewing?  Well, let’s explore and find out.  Oh yeah, and also one quick thing.  I have no idea why this particular blog entry has this annoying white color behind it; I tried to make it look nice and pretty and uniform the way all the other entries look and I couldn't do it.  As far as I know, nobody else on planet earth is reviewing all 344 episodes of KL in excruciating detail, so if one of those episode entries has a weird white color going on, I guess we will all just have to deal with it.  Anyway, let's start talking about The Perfect Crime.





                When we last left off, Psycho Jill was sneaking quietly into Val’s house.  As we get started with this ep, we get a fairly helpful little recap that lasts about two minutes, just kinda re-showing us the highlights from last ep.  This kind of thing is annoying when you’re doing a marathon watch the way MBG and I like to do it, but I can see why it’s necessary upon original airdate.  This ep is gonna continue from where we were with Psycho Jill’s perfect alibi, so it helps to see that alibi once again before we get to new footage.  We also start with a stock shot of the Golden Gate Bridge that I’m pretty positive I’ve seen in other movies and shows.  Also, we see a shot of a station wagon that looks just like The Family Truckster from Vacation (one of my favorite comedies).  I’m utterly convinced of this; it has to be, because the Truckster even has the exact same color bags that the Griswold’s had strapped to their car (before all Hell broke loose, of course).  In fact, I’m officially declaring that this is stock footage, because I have been obsessively going over the shot again and again, squinting my eyes really hard, and you can totally see the entire Griswold family in the car if you look really close.  Now, I know stock Vacation footage was used in the opening credits of Married With Children, but I’ve never read about it being used on KL.  Have I officially discovered something that nobody else has noticed?  Am I that brilliant?  In any case, this two second shot that comes and goes almost immediately has filled me with joy, because I’m absolutely positive we are seeing a smidge of Vacation here.





                In any case, we move on from our quick little recap and get to Psycho Jill entering Val’s house.  Val is still busy drying her hair with the leaf blower, and I again marvel at the fact that she just got the twins to bed and now she’s decided to unleash the leaf blower and possibly wake them up all over again.  If this holds up, she’ll never get over to the Williams house for that movie, and what the hell time is it by now, anyway?  It’s gotta be past midnight at this point, especially accounting for all the shit we’ve seen Psycho Jill do before arriving at the door.  Does the Williams family really want to send Julie over to babysit at midnight and then watch a probably two hour movie with Val that will last until 2AM?  Oh well, who cares about that, let’s instead focus on the fabulous Dutch angle used as Psycho Jill enters Val’s bedroom.  I’m a big Dutch angle fan, but they have to be used sparingly in order to be most effective.  Using it here is a fine choice, and one that I think Mr. Hitchcock himself would have approved of.  Since this entire ep (and the last one) have a distinctly Hitchcock flavor, I like to think this is something of a tribute.  Also, while giving this scene a rewatch to prepare for this essay, I got a distinctly Jonathan Demme whiff from the use of closeups and such.  This would actually put the series ahead of its time, because I’m not so sure what Demme was up to in 1988 (I just looked and he was releasing Married to the Mob), but when I think of his most famous movies, The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, I think of his use of tight facial closeups in which the actor speaks directly to the camera.  Everyone remembers Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling having their talks, and he uses the device there, in which Lecter looks directly at the camera and talks, and then we cut to Clarice doing the same.  It’s a very effective technique (although I’d argue it doesn’t work as well in Philadelphia, which is, you know, an okay movie, but one that I have some major problems with) because we understand that the character is speaking to another character, but we also get the feel that the character is speaking directly to us.  During this scene, we have Psycho Jill pointing the gun pretty much directly at the camera and talking directly at us.  We know she’s talking to Val, but we also get this cool trippy feeling that she’s talking to us. 





                Anyway, as soon as Psycho Jill busts in, we viewers are all in for a fabulous, fabulous treat.  At first Val doesn’t know who the hell she is, cuz she looks like a crazy woman with black hair wearing a hideously large pair of glasses and adorned in pink gloves (love those) and pointing a gun at her.  As soon as Psycho Jill is like, “Shut up,” Val realizes who she is, but she still can’t figure out what she’s doing here.  I love Psycho Jill’s immediate vitriol towards Val, how she’s just like, “You really can’t figure out what I’m doing here?  Well, try.  What would Miss Psycho Jill be doing in your house, in your bedroom, in a funny wig, late at night, pointing a gun at you?”  What follows is a very long sequence in which we stay with Val and Psycho Jill for a good long time.  In fact, I worked out the time and Psycho Jill enters the house at the four minute mark and we don’t cut away from the two of them until the 22:30 mark.  So that’s about eighteen straight minutes of Val and Psycho Jill, and I like it that way.  In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and argue that we never should have cut away from the two of them.  At some point, I am going to have to talk about the twin snooze storylines of Manny Vasquez and Mexico, because those are plots that take up time in this ep.  But Heavens to Betsy, how much better this ep would be if we just stuck to Val and Psycho Jill for 48 minutes; I would have really loved that.


                I don’t even know how much I need to describe this scene.  I think any KL fan should remember it vividly, right down to the small details.  Ever since seeing it, this sequence has burned itself into my memory and is one of the first things I think about when I think about the grand fourteen year KL experience.  Basically, Psycho Jill keeps Val held at gunpoint and announces her plan to force Val to kill herself by swallowing those sleeping pills.  We get some dialogue back and forth about how the twins are still asleep, and at first Psycho Jill doesn’t believe Val and Bob Loblaw, but let’s instead focus on Psycho Jill’s tremendous speech to Val.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the famous Poor Val Speech.  Oh, how I love the Poor Val Speech.  In fact, since I can’t possibly do justice to it by trying to remember what Psycho Jill says and how she says it, let’s just transcribe the entire speech down so everyone can study its brilliance.  Basically, the speech comes after Psycho Jill has described her epic evil plan to Val, how she’s got the gun and she bought it in Val’s name and it will have her prints all over it, all that good shit.  Then Val asks, “Why?” and that is when the speech begins.





                “Why?  Why?  What a stupid question.  You must know why.  You can’t not know how you get under people’s skin.  You’re under Gary’s skin, and as long as you’re around, as long as you’re alive, Gary’s gonna think about you and worry about you and feel protective.  That’s your gift, such as it is.  You have the gift of making people, especially Gary, but not only Gary, say, ‘Poor Val.  Poor Val isn’t responsible for the way she feels, or the way she acts, or the way she is.  You can’t blame Poor Val because she’s Poor Val.  She can’t help being just a little bit crazy.’  Well, you get enough people saying that and pretty soon they forget that Poor Val takes advantage of their pity, how Poor Val’s as self-centered as they come, how Poor Val needs them to keep saying ‘Poor Val’ because it’s her excuse to be a child and it absolves her of her absolute selfishness. POOR VAL!”  





                Ah yes, so very much to say about this glorious speech.  This speech is up there with “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” except it’s obviously better.  Again, let me throw in the caveat that I love Val and always have and always will and that I believe the journey of Gary and Val is the very heart and soul of the KL experience.  However, there is a certain relish I get out of this speech and the wonderful writing and the fabulous performance of the majestic Teri Austin.  Also, I didn’t even have to check to know that either Latham or Lechowick wrote this ep (it was Lechowick).  I’ve read that they hated the Val character and I’ve read how J.V.A. didn’t care for their hatred and felt it effected Val’s character.  But there is some truth to what Psycho Jill says, and maybe that’s why the speech is so good. Yes, every single character on the show goes through an inordinate amount of drama, much more drama than most normal people who live on a cul-de-sac experience.  Even so, some of the characters are able to handle their drama in a different way, and there definitely is something about Poor Val that can grate.  I can’t quite put my finger on it and I can’t quite explain it while also maintaining that I love the character.  It’s a balancing act; I love both Val and I really love Psycho Jill.  She is so entertaining and so clever and so funny and I just love everything about her.  The writers have done the clever thing where our sympathies lie with Val, but as we listen to Psycho Jill and as we watch her enact her master plan, we are kinda rooting for her and we are kinda hoping she will succeed.  Another glorious thing about the Poor Val Speech is that it retroactively provides something to bring us all great enjoyment throughout the previous 218 eps.  Many times over the course of this marathon, when something or other is happening to Val, MBG would say, “Poor Val,” and I would just smile and have to bite my tongue to not immediately scream, “POOR VAL!  POOR VAL!”  This glorious scene means you can go back over every episode from beforehand and insert “POOR VAL!” at any given opportunity.  When Val catches Gary cheating on her with Judy Trent?  “POOR VAL!”  When Val gets possessed by the creepy-ass triplets in The Three Sisters and almost jumps off the roof and kills herself?  “POOR VAL!”  When Val catches Gary and Abs in bed for the first time and storms out of the cul-de-sac?  “POOR VAL!”  When Val wakes up and is told her twins were born dead?  “POOR VAL!”   When Ben ran off on her to go to South America or wherever the hell he went?  “POOR VAL!”  It works consistently and brilliantly and that’s why I love it so very much.





                I also love this scene because of the way they keep the suspense ramped up.  See, just as Psycho Jill is about ready to make Val swallow the pills, there’s a knock on the door and, wouldn’t you know it, it’s the Williams family (just Frank and Julie), wanting to see if Val’s still up for that midnight movie and eager to have Julie babysit the twins all the way until two or three in the morning or whatever the hell ungodly hour this is.  Great scene in all regards, because we get Psycho Jill lurking behind the door while holding a gun to Val’s head, and then we get Val’s strange behavior towards Frank and Julie.  They can tell something’s wrong from the way she is behaving, but since we’ve also just heard the brilliant Poor Val Speech, we can also imagine that perhaps Frank is just thinking, “Damn, that bitch is crazy.”  After all, she’s done plenty of things in the past that could be construed as a trifle nutty.  Anyway, the phone starts ringing and Val is like, “I gotta get that,” so she closes the door on Frank and Julie and is alone once again with Psycho Jill.  In an example of terrible timing, the caller is Gary and he leaves a message for Val saying how, “If you’ve got the machine on, I guess you’re asleep, so I won’t come by,” the exact wrong words to say when Psycho Jill is listening.  Psycho Jill already believes that Gary is mounting Val nightly and I imagine she thinks this little phone message is just further evidence of their shagging.  Also, for all the joy we viewers get out of the Poor Val Speech, how can one’s heart not go out to Val when Gary says, “Goodbye” on the machine and then Val slouches down against the door and sorta moans, “Goodbye, Gary.”  I am pretty easy to make cry, and I confess a few tears squirted out at “Goodbye, Gary.”  I just think about how Val really believes she is going to die and she really believes she will never see Gary again and, no matter what the two characters may have done in the past, we all know that they are soul mates and they are meant to be together.  No man has ever meant as much to Val as Gary, and as she says, “Goodbye, Gary,” we really know that she believes she’s never going to see him again. 


                We cut away from Val and Psycho Jill for a few minutes, but when we return, it really does look like Psycho Jill’s plan has worked. Val is laid out on the bed, Psycho Jill checks her pulse, Val remains motionless, and then Psycho Jill sneaks out of the room, but not before pausing to deliver another brilliant line, “I’ve been trying to feel sorry for you, Val, but I don’t.”  Ugh, yes, I love the mix of tragedy and comedy here.  If Psycho Jill succeeds in her plan, it will be a tragedy.  She will have murdered a woman who is a mother to two little babies and one daughter we never see and never speak of anymore, plus she has friends and other family like, um, Lilimae (wherever the hell she is now).  However, I still laughed aloud (as did MBG and Brother) at this fantastic line, and then the ep continues that device that I love so much in which we follow along with Psycho Jill as she tries to get her ass back to San Francisco for the final part of her perfect alibi.  We get more Hitchcockian suspense as she arrives at the airport only to find that all flights to San Francisco have been cancelled.  This was extra awesome because, in our previous ep, we were talking about San Francisco and MBG was like, “It’s a great city, but it’s impossible to fly there because they’re always cancelling flights due to weather,” and then we hop into this ep and this happens.  If I was watching this alone, I just might think that this device is a smidge convenient, but it seemed totally realistic after MBG made that comment last ep.  Anyway, we cut to Psycho Jill in a rental car, driving frantically back.  If the ep was a smidge longer (or didn’t spend too much time devoted to stupid other storylines), it might have been a nice little extra layer of suspense for her to get pulled over by a cop for speeding and have to charm her way out of a ticket.  In any case, she does make it back to San Francisco in time for Moustache to wake up and see her coming out of the bathroom, at which point she declares, “After last night, you deserve to be tired.”  Ugh, it’s just all so good.  Every single thing about Val and Psycho Jill and the evil plan is just perfect, some seriously A+ material.





                Unfortunately, the other storylines are absolutely not A+ material.  If I had to grade both the Manny Vasquez story and the Mexico story, I think I’d go with a C-.  I pick that grade because none of these stories are, you know, wretched the way that the bad storylines on Dallas were by this point, but they’re both super boring.  I would give the bad Dallas storylines an F, but these are C- because, even though they suck, they’re not as totally stupid as over on the parent series.  Anyway, let’s talk about these stories because we have no other choice; they are presented in front of us and we must talk about them.  However, let me just say that it’s a horrible, horrible mistake to cut away from Val and Psycho Jill at all and return us to these Valium plots.  Everything about that story is just pounding with excitement, and we also get to linger on it until, as I said, about the 23 minute mark, so then when we cut back to Mexico and the flaming car that nobody could care about, it’s like, “Oh yeah, this stuff is still going on.”  Anyway, since it’s boring, I’ll just zoom right through it.  By the end of the ep, Paige and Sexy Michael are on a bus and Johnny is, like, kidnapped or something.  I remember him being tied up and lying on the ground, but I can’t quite remember how he got there and I also don’t care.  So anyway, Paige and Sexy Michael are on this bus, hoping to get back to California, but then the police (Federales) come onto the bus and take them away, meaning we are going to have to spend even more time over in this storyline when we begin season ten.  That is very unfortunate; if the writers simply had to put this Mexico story into this ep, they could have at least done us the good of wrapping it up so it won’t infect and bore us all in the fall of 1988, but no, they couldn’t even do that.  I have no idea how much longer this shit goes on, but if it’s not wrapped up good and quick by the opening hours of season ten, I am definitely gonna throw some feces.


                Speaking of feces, I think the Manny Vasquez storyline might be coming to some sort of a climax, although maybe I’m wrong cuz I also think it intersects with the Mexico stuff.  Basically, we have a lot of boring footage of Karen and Mack fretting and talking about Manny and drugs and just generally overacting.  Remembering that I love both of these characters and both of these actors, but let me just take a minute to shit all over their acting right now.  What the hell happened?  Both Michele and The Dobsonator are giving some of their worst performances ever at this point, as if they both decided that just screaming a lot is how you win your Emmy.  I kinda imagine Michele taking The Dobsonator aside and being like, “I find that I give my best performances when I do seven shots of espresso and then take a long jog right before we roll cameras; then I’m really cooking!”  They’re both really terrible here and it’s the thing where, if someone wandered in while I was watching this and they knew how much I loved the show and the characters, they’d be like, “Seriously, this?” and I would have to be like, “No, it’s usually brilliant, I swear!  Read my blog!”  Anyway, what happens with Manny is that the characters cook up a little plan to fill the harbor with a bunch of other boats so that his coke boat can’t dock, and Manny is damn mad.  He throws some threat at Karen about how he’d better be able to get his coke boats into this harbor or else Paige and Sexy Michael will never be able to get out of Mexico alive.  Nobody cares about this, so let’s move on.  I'll throw in a picture of Sexy Michael shirtless so we can all at least find something worthwhile within all of this, although once again this is just a random picture I found and has nothing to do with this particular episode.





                How was the ep?  Well, I spent so much time writing about the great parts and so little time writing about the bad parts that my final analysis may seem slightly askew.  Basically, while I remembered this as one of the all time best season finales, it actually isn’t, but the thing is that it could have been.  Again, if the writers and powers-that-be had been smart enough to just filter out all the boring stuff and make this a 48 minute ep all about Val and Psycho Jill, it would be perfect; it would be one of the best eps ever made.  However, that Mexico stuff and that Manny stuff is really boring, and it’s just toxic whenever we cut away from the brilliant storyline to the bores.  To continue with my current obsession with letter grades, my memories of this ep was that it was A+ all the way, but due to the boring stuff, I’m gonna say it’s a……let's say a B.  I almost gave it a B+ but then I seriously thought about my lack of interest in the other two stories and I think a B grade is the most appropriate.  B is good; it means you passed the class, it means you’ve got talent, it means you got nothing to worry about it, but it also means that, with a smidge more effort, you could really show your talents off better.  However, I do wanna say that the very cliffhanger, the final image in which the camera pans over the bed to show Val lying on the floor with the open phone sprawled out before her, this is still my favorite cliffhanger.  What I mean by that is that the very image, the very ending, just the cliffhanger isolated unto itself, remains my very favorite.  When you really look at things with an objective lens, seasons four, five, and six all had better cliffhangers cuz the seasons were so well made and had been building to those endings all along.  However, taking this one simply as it is, as the very final image of the season, it’s still my favorite.  Also, and I hate to be a glass-half-empty kinda guy, but I’m gonna say this will probably be our last great cliffhanger.  The honest truth is I’m thinking over the next five years and I can’t really remember what the individual cliffhangers are.  I know they will never reach this level of excitement and brilliance again. 


                Anyway, that’s The Perfect Crime.  I’m eager to move us along to season ten, but first we’ve gotta talk about season nine as a whole, so stay tuned for my Reflection on Season Nine.  After that, we’ll power into season ten with Suicidal.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

KNOTS LANDING Episode 218 of 344: THE PERFECT ALIBI

 Episode Title: The Perfect Alibi

 

Season 09, Episode 28

 

Episode 218 of 344

 

Written by Lynne Marie Latham

 

Directed by Kate Tilley

 

Original Airdate: Thursday, May 5th, 1988

 

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack doesn't believe Manny works for the government, and finds out he is a gun runner. Gary and Abby decide to come up with a plan. In Mexico, strange things happen on the site, so the director closes it down. Paige talks to the reporter, and as the reporter drives away, her car blows up. Pat invites Val to watch videos and says she'll send Julie over to baby-sit after dinner. Jill tells Gary she is going to a conference in San Francisco. Wearing a disguise, she buys a junket car and hides a gun in it. On the plane and at the conference, Jill introduces herself to lots of people. She seduces a man named David, and slips a pill into his drink. She takes him to her room, where he passes out. Jill undresses him and messes up the bed. She calls Gary, then tells the hotel operator to hold her calls until the next morning. Jill flies back to Los Angeles and dons another disguise. She drives to Val's in the junket car, and lets herself into the house.

 

 


Welcome to The Perfect Alibi and fasten your seatbelts, cuz things are about to get really exciting and juicy.  However, before the compliments come, I gotta get the insults out of the way, and the insults are gonna be that I’m basically having an overall problem with this disk in which each and every second with Psycho Jill is a joyful ascent into Heaven, but all the other stories are boring.  Nothing is less interesting than the Mexico storyline, so let’s get that out of the way first.

 


                I mentioned this in my last writeup, but the Mexico stuff provides us with one very important and worthwhile thing, and that is Sexy Michael walking around shirtless and showing off his perfect body to the delight of every single woman and gay man in the viewing audience in 1988.  In case anybody wants to know the exact second of this amazing television event, perhaps to make some sort of Sexy Michael Greatest Hits Compilation for future masturbatory use, the shirtless scene comes at the 10 minute and 35 second mark (though I confess I cheated and I think the picture above comes from a slightly later episode).  He comes strolling out from behind a tent wearing only a tight pair of jeans and a super sexy belt and some boots, no shirt to speak of.  Good God, his body; I wish someone could have perfected cryogenic freezing and taken 1988 Pat Petersen and put him in the freezer until this year, at which point they would unthaw him and allow me start having sex with him.  Again, Pat, if you’re out there and you’re reading this, give me a call and I will show you a good time.

 


                In my notes, I wrote, “Sumner Cigar Counter = Um, better check on that.”  I worry that I might be losing count of the Sumner Cigars, but I flipped back in my notes and the last one listed is pegged at 35, so I’m gonna say this one brings us to Cigar #36.  This is another one of those cigars that I had to have a little debate about, because Sumner doesn’t actually light it in the scene.  For context, he’s at Karen and Mack’s talking to Mack about that boring cocaine/Manny Vasquez storyline, and he’s holding the cigar throughout the entire scene, but I decided it counts cuz I think he’s also holding his lighter and so it’s obvious that he’s about to fill Karen and Mack’s house with the smell of rich tobacco.  Like I said, the reason Sumner is smoking up Karen and Mack’s house is because he came to tell Mack about boring Manny and boring Mexico (note that I’m saying the story is boring, not the country; I love Mexico).  When we cut back over to Mexico, someone has planted a snake in Paige’s sleeping bag, leading to absolutely no suspense and, so far as I can remember, absolutely nothing happening.  I think the snake just slips out of the tent at the same moment that Johnny is slipping his own snake inside of Paige’s sweet nectar.  The moral of the story is that having sex is good and will save your life when you’re at risk of a snake attack, so just keep on fucking.

 


                Okay, so Mexico and Manny and all that, who cares?  But when it comes to everything involving Psycho Jill, it’s a totally different story. This shit is gripping and just as good as I originally remembered it.  The title of this ep is The Perfect Alibi and that’s what Psycho Jill spends the whole ep cooking up.  Can I just say that I kinda respect criminals when they enact super elaborate and clever plans that work out?  Like, if someone pulls off a really great heist on a bank, something so good that they cover all their tracks, cross all their T’s, dot all their lower case j’s, and manage to get away with it, I say just let them get away with it, cuz they worked really hard on that heist.  Anyone who’s ever seen Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing probably understands what I’m getting at here; don’t you just really want Sterling Hayden to get away with everything?  In this case, I don’t really want Psycho Jill to kill Val because I love Val and always will, but I just love watching her go about enacting her plan, and she is so God damned clever that you’re just like, “Maybe Psycho Jill does deserve to get away with this.”  I like a woman who can make a plan, and Psycho Jill shows herself very capable of that in this ep.

 


                To get started, we have a fabulous scene of her talking to the twins while playing with a dollhouse.  The fact that we have a psycho playing with dolls made me flash immediately back to one of my favorite eps, season seven’s Rise and Fall (or was it Until Parted by Death?), in which Joshua had gone off the deep end and was playing with those wedding dolls.  I’m convinced this has to be a tribute to that, because it’s so similar.  In many ways, the arc of Joshua and Psycho Jill is the same, as they start out seemingly nice, with a complicated past backstory, and then they slowly go insane and become homicidal.  I’d say the writers knew exactly what they were doing by giving Psycho Jill dolls to play with.  Now, for some context to the scene, she’s sorta talking to the twins and using the dolls to ask weird questions, like she has the dolls kiss and she says, “Do mommy and Uncle Gary do that?”  Psycho Jill obviously thinks the two are shagging again (and she’s not precisely wrong, they were shagging a little earlier this season, and just happen to have stopped by this point).  This was a great scene, but it’s nothing compared to what’s up next.

 


                Psycho Jill tells Gary she’s gotta take off for San Francisco for a computer conference, which I found funny.  We are now in 1988 and I think computers are becoming standard operating procedure in all businesses.  I have no idea if people were still using typewriters/electric typewriters by this point, but I imagine some were, kinda like that overlap of vinyl and CD (before vinyl’s big return from the dead a few years ago) or the overlap of VHS and DVD.  I wonder what this computer conference will entail, probably discussions of how floppy disks work and how the internet is still one year away from being invented.  Psycho Jill really is going to a computer conference, but she’s got no interest in computers; this is all part of her perfect alibi.  First up, she dons a wig, a sorta brown wig with a different hairstyle than her usual, and picks up a temporary car from some lot.  Next, she drives that car to the airport and hides a gun under the seat.  After that, she goes to a cigarette machine (do these even exist anymore outside of Vegas?) and gets a pack of cigarettes, which appear to be Marlboro Lights, my favorite for back when I used to smoke occasionally (I love that white filter tip).  She pours the entire pack of smokes out and at first I had no idea what she was doing, but follow along, cuz she’s got a plan.  Her next step is to get on the plane and make sure to be as conspicuous as possible, talking to lots of people and telling them her name and all that.  It’s very important that she have backup, people who will say yes, Psycho Jill got on the plane and yes, Psycho Jill went to San Francisco.

 


                When she arrives at the computer conference, she makes the rounds and talks to lots of people, keeping her tracks covered, ensuring her alibi will stand up under scrutiny, then she sets her sights on a very demented looking man named David, but let’s just call him Moustache cuz that fucking caterpillar he’s got growing over his top lip puts Tom Atkins’ epic ‘stache to shame.  Anyway, Moustache is played by David Hayward and he’s been in a shitload of stuff and he’s gonna show up for six eps of KL, ending with A Grave Misunderstanding.  Probably the most notable thing on his resume is Robert Altman’s Nashville, a movie I try hard to get into and just can’t.  In fact, let’s take a detour cuz detours are fun.  I fancy myself to be a Pretentious Film Douche and I take pride in being able to enjoy trash and art in equal abundance (and why I love KL is because it’s great trash that often elevates itself to high art, which I like to call “trart”) and I take pride in being snooty and watching old movies from Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick and a whole host of guys (probably my favorite filmmakers are Brian De Palma, David Lynch, and Woody Allen).  Many times I have watched Robert Altman movies and tried to get into them, and I just can’t. I didn’t like MASH, I didn’t like Nashville, Popeye is absolutely wretched, and I had a hard time getting into Short Cuts. The only Altman I really loved was The Player.  Multiple times I’ve tried to watch Nashville and I’ve never finished it.  I understand it’s one of those movies where, if you reach the end, you see what it’s all about and the movie takes shape, but I just can’t; it’s way too boring and scattered.  So while I am a Pretentious Film Douche, I just can’t quite cotton to Mr. Altman.

 

                Moustache is very happy to be Psycho Jill’s company, probably because it’s obvious this woman is gonna sleep with him and he hasn’t seen a vagina in years, if ever.  The beauty of this is that Psycho Jill is not actually planning to sleep with Moustache; instead she pulls out her empty pack of smokes and asks if he’ll get her more (and he gives her a lecture on the evils of smoking, making him even less sexy, if that’s possible).  Moustache runs off to fetch the smokes and then Psycho Jill slips him a mickey (NOTE: TERI AUSTIN ACTUALLY APPEARS IN THE SEINFELD EP THE REVENGE, IN WHICH GEORGE DECIDES TO SLIP HIS BOSS A MICKEY; IS IT SOMEHOW POSSIBLE GEORGE GOT THE IDEA FROM THIS EPISODE?!).  After slipping Moustache the mickey (“If only you could use your powers for good; you’re like Lex Luthor!”), she takes him upstairs to the hotel room and starts undressing.  Moustache thinks he’s in for the shagging of a lifetime, but instead he passes out in the bed and Psycho Jill quickly kicks into action, making a phonecall to the front desk for a wake up call and making sure to loudly say Moustache’s name so the wake up call people will know she’s up there with someone. 

 


At this point, she dons The Wig.  God, how long I’ve been waiting to see Psycho Jill don The Wig.  As soon as she waltzed into Mack’s office back in season six’s A Price to Pay, I’ve just been twiddling my fingers being like, “Okay, how long do I have to wait until The Wig?”  The Wig is this fabulous black thing and she also puts on a wonderful black outfit and looks like she’s coming straight out of a Hitchcock film (I got a whiff of Karen Black in Family Plot).  She gets to the airport and onto a plane, and then we get, again, some terrific Hitchcock-esque suspense when she accidentally drops her wallet and doesn’t notice.  Uh oh, will she be exposed?  Well, as she’s on her way out, the flight attendant alerts her to the wallet and she does get it back, but one thing I noted is that the flight attendant opens the wallet and gets the quickest flash of what’s inside before Psycho Jill grabs it back.  Is this going to lead to something?  Will this flight attendant be around to provide valuable information a little down the line?  I honestly can’t remember, but whether she comes back or not, it’s just a good little scene, lots of tension and suspense.  Also, I noticed that she’s got a paperback on her lap, and God, how I wish the picture was clear enough that I could make out what it is.  I tried, man, I paused the ep and focused my eyes real hard, but I just couldn’t make it out. It’s a white paperback with the title written in red letters and I think the main cover might be a picture of a bell, sorta like the liberty bell, but I could be completely wrong.  I wanna know what the book is cuz the prop department is usually very clever and the books relate to what’s going on.  Wouldn’t it be cool if she was reading some sort of thriller about murdering your boyfriend’s ex-wife? 

 


Psycho Jill arrives back in wherever Knots Landing is supposed to be located and snatches that gun back out from under the seat and heads on over to pay Val a visit.  It helps that Val is busy in the bathroom using the loudest hair dryer of all time.  We’ve just watched a bunch of footage of Val fretting about how she wants to go over to the Williams house to watch a movie but the kids aren’t asleep, and now the kids are asleep, and yet she uses a hair dryer that sounds like a leaf blower and I can’t believe the kids don’t wake back up.  Anyway, it’s all terrific because as she’s drying her hair, we see Psycho Jill slipping the key into the lock and quietly sneaking in the front door, and then we just end on her slightly grinning face.  This ending is so good that My Beloved Grammy briefly thought that this was the season cliffhanger, and then I told her we have one more ep.  In a way, she’s right, because this could have served as a finale, with all of us waiting all summer to find out exactly what Psycho Jill is gonna do when she goes upstairs to get Val.  But I’m very grateful it’s not the finale and we’ve got one more ep of joy left.

 


So yeah, I’m actually very satisfied with this ep.  I know that sounds weird when I say how I don’t like the Mexico stuff and I don’t like the Manny stuff, but the Psycho Jill stuff is so good that it makes it easy to overlook the other portions of the ep that aren’t so perfect.  I love the way that the ep uses constant suspense with her, in ways both big and small, and I love how we sorta flip our loyalties and find ourselves kinda hoping Psycho Jill will get away with this.  Since my Brother is a hardcore Val hater, he really wants Psycho Jill to kill her and when she dropped her wallet, he was like, “No, go back and get your wallet!”  He really wants her to get away with this crime, and I think maybe, subconsciously, a lot of us do.  I love when we find ourselves starting to relate to the villainous character, when we watch them enact a plan and we wind up hoping they’ll get away with it.  So yeah, while it’s not one of the very best KL eps because it’s bogged down by some boring stuff, I still love it because all the Psycho Jill stuff is so compelling.  With that said, let’s move on to the season finale and see what Psycho Jill’s plan is with The Perfect Crime.  

Thursday, March 4, 2021

KNOTS LANDING Episode 217 of 344: DISCOVERY

 

Episode Title: Discovery

 

Season 09, Episode 27

 

Episode 217 of 344

 

Written by James Stanley

 

Directed by Lawrence Kasha

 

Original Airdate: Thursday, April 28th, 1988

 

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige invites Sexy Michael to Mexico. Manny instructs Johnny to send Paige home because she's causing delays, but she won't leave. The piece of art is found and declared a fake. Angry, Paige decides to go to a reporter. Manny tells his men to kill everyone at the site, and to make it look like it was done by Mexicans. The police tell everyone at Lotus Point to act natural as they investigate Manny. Then the police halt the investigation, saying Manny works for the government in covert operations. Olivia goes home, but refuses to speak to Abby. Jill calls Val and plays another tape of Ben and hangs up. Val plays "Ben's" tape to Gary, but it's blank. Jill convinces Gary that Val's probably going crazy and might be suicidal. Dropping off the twins, Jill overhears Val tell neighbors that she is so wound up about Ben that her doctor prescribed sleeping pills, but she won't get them. Jill steals the prescription and gets it filled.

              Welcome to Discovery and, well, let's just say that I already have problems with this ep.  In fact, so little of importance happens in this ep that my notes are perhaps the sparsest I have ever taken, with just a couple of notations about what's going on and that's about it.  If you opened up my little red spiral notebook and found the page where I wrote about this ep, you would only see these notes:

·         -Val plays the tape for Gary/Gets crickets

 

·         -Nice shout-out to season six Verna storyline

 

·         -Sexy Michael mentions he wants to go to Mexico/Paige says he should

 

·         -Sexy Michael tells a sob story about him and Paige/I lose some respect for him/Not his best acting

 

·         -This Mexico storyline is pretty boring

 

·         -Nice scene between Val + Pat drinking wine + talking about Ben

 

·         -Another Sid callback with reference to the stolen auto parts

 

·         -End on Manny saying something cryptic + evil.

 

 

 


Yup, and those are all the notes I got.  I told you this ep was sparse.  In any case, with my notes laid out before me, let’s go ahead and work our way through them, starting with Val playing that tape for Gary.  As you guys can probably already guess, all the stuff related to this story is my favorite portion of the ep.  When J.B. stole that key and snuck into Val’s house last ep, I think we all knew what plan she was cooking up.  She has erased the phony Ben tape and left nothing but a blank tape in its wake, leading to a humiliating scene where Val calls Gary over and is like, “Alright, I’m gonna play the tape,” and then discovers there’s nothing on it, finding herself having a sudden kinship with John Travolta in Blow Out.  I like the small details in KL, and in this scene, I like how Val plays the tape, hears nothing, and then is like, “Oh, I’d better rewind it,” but that doesn’t help, so then she plays a different tape with a message from Gary to show that her machine is working fine, and then she puts the other tape in and the tape is still as empty as my conscious. 

 

I also like Shack’s acting in this scene, which is nice and subtle, the way he looks concerned as Val fumbles with the types, the way that when Val says there was a message on the tape, he says, “Yeah, sure,” not in the dismissive way, but more in the way where he’s kinda placating her but she sees through it.  With that, Val gets kinda angry and is like, “Don’t think I’m crazy; there was a message on this tape.”  The thing is that Val does look crazy and that’s why I appreciate one of the next scenes, which is that shout-out to Verna Ellers in Shula, Tennessee, that I mentioned in my notes.  See, we cut from Val being like, “No, the message was real!” to that one wonderful and glorious character known as Psycho Jill, who is busy throwing the tape into the fireplace and saying, “Bye bye, Ben,” a fabulous line delivered impeccably by a brilliant actress.  Then Gary walks in and tells her what happened and when Psycho Jill asks, “You don’t think Val’s making this up, do you?” Gary says, “I dunno, she’s always been a little high strung,” which is a tremendous understatement.  Then he says, “A few years ago, when she thought the babies were dead, she did go a little crazy.”  Again, a tremendous understatement.  Val went totally batty and turned into another human being for something like seven or eight eps.  “Going a little crazy,” is more when you get angry and act nutty for a little while and then get over it.  Val really went deep when she went off the, um, deep end.  You all know how much I love KL’s rich character backstory and past history, and I love whenever we get callbacks to what’s happened before, especially when it helps to intersect with what we are seeing right here and right now in front of us.  In this case, I feel like other shows would maybe not mention Verna Ellers again, wanting the viewers to forget about how nutty Val went, but KL remembers what’s gone before.  I also have to wonder if this is the first that Psycho Jill is hearing about this.  In all the time she’s been with Gary, has he ever walked her through the history of the last nine seasons?  Or hell, he would technically have to walk her through a history that starts around 1962 or thereabouts, when he first walked into that diner and fell in love with Val.  But do you think Gary has ever just gone point by point through his history with Val for Psycho Jill?  Probably not, and I imagine Psycho Jill has kinda had to piece it all together from Gary’s disparate stories about his one true soul mate.

 


Psycho Jill is a busy bee this ep (though not as busy as she will be in the next two eps), because after she burns the tape (and what I wouldn’t give to have a working fireplace that I could throw things into), she stops by Val’s house for, you know, some alleged reason.  Oh yeah, I remember, it’s because the twins are staying with Gary and Psycho Jill and so Psycho Jill comes to the house looking for Binky and Boots, the twins’ beloved stuffed animals.  She arrives to find Val and Pat sipping wine in the kitchen and being cute together, which I loved.  I keep saying this because I’m like a broken record and can’t stop repeating myself, but I love seeing Val and Pat being friendly and I love the way the Williams family is becoming an established part of the cul-de-sac. I’m gonna say something probably very contentious that lots of fans will probably not agree with, but here it comes, a possible hot take.  I really am not missing either Laura or Lilimae at this point, even though I loved both characters dearly.  I think Laura’s death has opened up a box of new storytelling that I like a lot and I just don’t seem to be thinking that much about Lilimae at all; I’m just glad she’s off living happily ever after with Red Buttons, driving that big obnoxious trailer around the world and having bad A.D.R. together.  Also, my love for the Williams family means I don’t really miss those older characters because I’m glad to see these new ones getting settled down.

 


Anyway, there’s a lot to digest in this scene.  We’ve got Val and Pat sipping their wine (which looks really shitty to me; there’s something about the big, weirdly shaped bottle that just looks cheap and gross), and we’ve also got an interesting line from Psycho Jill.  Val asks her if she’d like some wine and Psycho Jill says, “I promised Gary I’d stick to water.”  This is an interesting bit of candor; is Psycho Jill basically admitting she has a problem and saying she’s not going to drink anymore?  I just think it’s interesting that she is so blunt in saying this, not caring about saying it in front of Val or Pat.  Has Gary mentioned to any of his circle of friends how Psycho Jill was drinking too much and acting really mouthy?  Well anyway, that’s not really the important part of the scene; what’s important is that Val says the doctor gave her a prescription for sleeping pills, Flurazepam, as confirmed via Pat.  At first, I wondered if this was a real pill or just something made up for the show, but Dictionary.com gave me this description when I typed in the word: “A benzodiazepine, C 21 H 23 ClFN 3 O, used in its hydrochloride form as a sedative and hypnotic in the management of insomnia and to alleviate anxiety states.”  So there you go, it’s a real pill and it’s something that a real doctor would probably prescribe.  By the way, as of this writing, I have just started a new medication to help me sleep (and it’s working, thank God), but mine is called Quetiapine.  Val says how she feels weird about taking sleeping pills and I wanna jump into the TV and tell her no, sleeping pills are great, you finally are able to sleep like a rock and you have cool, trippy dreams.  Anyway, as Val goes on about how she’s not gonna fill the prescription, Psycho Jill sips water and looks wicked and then we cut to her at the pharmacy pretending to be Val and getting the prescription.  Now this I do have to question; how does she manage to just waltz into a pharmacy and pick up someone else’s prescription?  Doesn’t the pharmacy ask for ID and stuff like that?  When I get my prescription, the pharmacist asks for my name and ID and my date of birth and all that stuff.  I can’t just walk up and ask for whatever the hell pills I want. I kinda wondered if Psycho Jill found some clever way to make a fake ID or whatever, but nah, she probably didn’t, this is probably just a writing oversight.  But then again, I was not alive in 1988 (we’re getting close; we are now negative two years away from my birth), so maybe it was easier to swing stuff like this back in the ‘80s. 

 


Okay, so Psycho Jill and everything surrounding her is brilliant, as I expected, but unfortunately the rest of the episode is a snore.  In fact, it’s a literal snore because Brother actually fell asleep and slept through the entire ep.  At first, I threw a hissy fit and told him not to sleep through something as divine as KL, but later I realized that, if you were gonna sleep through one ep on this disk, this is the one to pick, because nothing much happens.  The other stories going on are all about Mexico and Manny Vasquez, two things I just don’t care that much about.  I do wanna take a little detour and say that I was watching Basic Instinct again the other day, a movie I love (big Paul Verhoeven fan here), and I noticed that Sharon Stone’s dead ex-husband is also named Manny Vasquez.  Coincidence?  As far as I know, Joe Eszterhas has never had anything to do with KL and has never seen KL and was probably too busy throughout the ‘80s going up to women and saying, “I like your ass; call me.”  So anyway, I’m pretty sure that this Manny Vasquez business in Basic Instinct is just a coincidence, but it’s still something I noted, and writing about Basic Instinct is more interesting than writing about this storyline.  However, write about this storyline I must, so here we go.  Karen and Mack continue to fret and overact, both Michele and The Dobsonator giving some of their worst performances.  I think we’ve definitely reached the point where it’s fucking season nine and the actors are going to do what they want, damn it.  I wish someone had the balls to reign Michele in at this point, but she’s been around since the Pilot, and if she wants to scream and hyperventilate and overreact, she’s going to do all of that.  The Dobsonator is suffering a similar problem at this juncture in which he just seems to yell a lot, as if the sheer act of yelling will make this material more exciting. There’s a bad scene where Karen and Mack drive around and Mack screams, “He’s running drugs through Lotus Point!”  Why are you shouting like you’re at a football game, Mack?  Karen is sitting right next to you; talk to her like a normal person. 

 


Anyway, I wasn’t really paying that much attention to this storyline, but I guess there’s some plot twist where the feds tell everyone that Manny isn’t actually evil, that he’s, like, some sort of government plant that’s helping to go undercover and bust the drug guys or, you know, something.  Is this all bullshit?  We keep seeing scenes of Manny making evil phone calls and wishing desperately he was Don Corleone, even though he’s not worth a strand of Don Corleone’s pubic hair.  Also, the end of the ep has him making some sort of an evil phone call and telling someone to kill, I think, Paige, and make it look like the Mexicans did it, so I guess he is evil. 

 


We also get a scene I didn’t love between Karen and Abs in which Abs goes on this big soliloquy about how she wants to stop drugs forever by getting “whoever’s at the top,” and while I like that we get a callback to Olivia’s coke problem from last year, I just find Abby’s speech to be silly.  This is probably gonna sound weird and might be hard to explain, but I just kinda don’t care that much about drugs and who takes them and who sells them.  I’ve never been one of those people who thinks a “war on drugs” is necessary; if people want drugs, they will get them, and some people take them in moderation or just for occasional fun and it’s not a big thing, and some people get addicted.  It’s sorta like how there’s this idea that, say, cigarettes are inherently evil because they kill people.  Cigarettes aren’t evil; they are just cigarettes, they are just a product, and it’s the choice of individual people whether to smoke them or not.  I feel the same way about booze and about most drugs.  The whole idea propagated by cinematic landmarks like Death Wish 4: The Crackdown that drugs are inherently evil and that all the people who sell them are evil, well, I just don’t cotton to that idea.  I’m also gonna be bold here and say there’s no way Abs has never done coke.  I’m absolutely positive that, at least on one occasion, Abs snorted some coke at a party or perhaps while shagging some random guy; there’s just absolutely no way that she hasn’t at least tried one bump in her life, so this silly little speech of hers just feels disingenuous to me. 

 

Aside from that, we’ve also got the colossal snore of everything going on in Mexico.  Who in the world cares about this story?  Why do shows always make the horrible mistake of sending their characters to foreign locations and why does it almost always work out so poorly?  I read that the powers-that-be were starting to consider possibly spinning off the young cast into their own show, and yeah, now that I think of it, that’s what this story kinda feels like, cuz they’re all so isolated in their own world and it almost feels like it doesn’t relate to anything going on back in California.  I was about to write in my notes that at least this ep gives us some amazing shirtless Sexy Michael, but that’s actually the next one, so this ep officially has nothing to offer in the Mexico department.  No wonder so many fans have a hard time getting into Paige at first; she entered the series with a long, boring, drawn out storyline that went on forever and thought it was way more clever than it was, and then just as she’s starting to come into her own and be a great character, she gets shipped to Mexico with Johnny Rourke for this unbelievably boring Indiana Jones Lite story.  By the way, when I say some people have a hard time getting into Paige, I am referring to many people, but MBG is one of them.  She continues to say she doesn’t like Paige at all, but I do think her feelings will change as we get deeper into the show.  At this point, she says Paige is a conniver and just an unpleasant person.

 


I don’t talk about MBG and her opinions on things enough cuz I’m a complete narcissist who only cares about himself and his own opinions, so I decided to do a little interview with her before we watched these eps and see where she stands on characters and such.  I asked her who her favorite character on the show was and said it could be anyone, including someone who isn’t on the show anymore, and she surprised me by saying Sid.  Saint Sid (who is referenced in this ep, by the way, which I appreciated) has been dead since 1981 and it’s now 1988, plus the man only appeared in 33 eps out of 344, so I’m kinda surprised My Beloved Grammy holds him in such high esteem.  She also said that, by the time Lilimae left the show, she liked the character, and to that I say fucking finally, cuz it took her almost Lilimae’s entire time on the show to warm up to her.  Then she said how she doesn’t like Paige at all and that her favorite character who is currently on the show is Sumner, which is a fine choice. 

 

I think that oughta do it.  I didn’t much care for this ep cuz 2/3 of the storylines were boring, but at least 1/3 is devoted to Psycho Jill, which is riveting television that everyone should see and which is only going to get better as me proceed along to The Perfect Alibi.