Thursday, July 27, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 135 of 344: A LITTLE ASSISTANCE


Episode Title:  A Little Assistance

Season 07, Episode 05

Episode 135 of 344

Written by Melanie Mintz

Directed by Roy Campanella II

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 24th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg has an underground chamber built at Empire Valley for the communications center. Ben is depressed over whether he and Val will ever get married. Ben tells Joshua he'd better do something to get his ratings up, or he'll cancel his show. Joshua asks Cathy to sing again, but she doesn't want to and they argue. The next day, Cathy has a big bruise. Val thinks Joshua hit her. The governor decides to keep Jill at Mack's office. He's angry and he and Jill continually argue. Greg decides to hire an assistant. A man comes in and says to the other applicants that the position was filled, so they all leave. Abby is there, and he says "Didn't you hear me? I said it was filled!" Abby tells Greg she likes him. He is Peter Hollister and says Greg needs him to run his office properly and that he wants to learn from Greg.

 
 

                I do believe I declared our last episode up for discussion, The Christening, to be an Undisputed Masterpiece of Television.  After that, how does the follow up episode compare?  Well, while it’s maybe not an Undisputed Masterpiece of Television, it’s still very good and very rich and full of many things worth discussing, so let’s go ahead and get started right away.  Where to even begin?  Let’s begin with Greg.

                Again, I don’t really understand what’s going on with Greg’s storyline right now and the whole Empire Valley thing.  I’m starting to wonder, is this storyline generally considered unpopular with fans?  The reason I bring it up is because I notice a lot of fans seeming to have some rather harsh feelings for season seven, but in my memory it was a perfectly great season.  However, my memory also doesn’t include all this Empire Valley stuff; did I just forget it or was I so confused by it upon first viewing that I just blocked it all out?  In any case, one of our first scenes with Greg this ep is him unveiling some sort of secret, like, tunnel, like, lair, like, thing at Empire Valley….or something.  I’ve also heard some fans criticize this set for looking kinda cheap, but I dunno, it didn’t particularly jump out at me as too bad when I was watching.  In any case, yeah, now he’s got a secret underground lair or whatever, so I guess he can use Empire Valley to, like, spy on people, Patriot-Act-style, or whatever.  Anyone wanna help me out here?  Both My Beloved Grammy and I are equally perplexed by all these events at this point.
 
 
 

                Anyway, that’s just one small scene of Greg’s story this ep.  More importantly, A Little Assistance introduces us to a new character who’s going to be around for awhile, Hunt Block as Peter Hollister.  Okay, so I should probably discuss my thoughts about this character as we see him for the first time based on my memories.  Basically, I’ve never really thought one way or the other about this character; I don’t particularly like him or dislike him, and I just remember him as a character who is important for seasons seven and eight and, you know, he’s there.  However, this blog has shown me having several radical shifts from my original feelings on the series in so many different aspects (not the least of which is that I used to think Ben was boring and now I’m in love with Ben and want to have his babies), so my mind is totally open to the possibility that I didn’t give Peter Hollister the proper attention he deserved upon first viewing, but he’s going to be with us for 53 eps, so this time I shall pay strict attention.

                Certainly, he makes a strong first impression as he enters the picture.  Basically, Greg is having applicants into his office to be his assistant or whatever, and there’s a good big batch of people out in the hall waiting, but then in walks Peter (and My Beloved Grammy immediately opined, “What a strange looking man”; sorry, Hunt), who takes a look around, then boldly announces to all the applicants that the position has been filled.  All the people look kinda annoyed to have wasted their time coming down here, but they start filing out, and then Peter bursts into Greg’s office and announces that he’s the man for the job.  I definitely think this tremendous display of ego is what ends up impressing Greg most prominently.  It’s a tight rope to walk, but there’s something to be said for showing up to a job interview and completely taking the situation into your own hands and showing that you’re a man of action, and Greg seems reasonably impressed (in his cool, sexy Greg way) and, after getting Abby’s opinion (“Hire him”), he decides to take him on.


 

                Aside from his big introduction, Peter doesn’t do too much in this ep, but we do get our fourth cigar in the Sumner Cigar Counter, at least according to my notes (if I’ve already missed a cigar, please write in and inform me, because I really do fully intent to track how many damn cigars Greg smokes throughout his time on the series).  Greg smokes this cigar in the office late at night when things are getting wrapped up for the evening (reminding me of the glory of the 1980s when a gentleman could still enjoy a fine cigar inside a building and blow smoke rings and be all cool and sexy and not have to go outside in the rain and hide behind a dumpster every time he wanted to smoke).  Peter and Greg have a pretty cool little chemistry going on right away, where Greg is kinda like, “I like you,” but he’s also kinda sarcastic and sassy and, you know, Greggy.  For instance, he tells Peter he’ll see him the next morning at nine and Peter is like, “I’ll be here at eight,” and then Sumner says, “Just show up at nine like everybody else,” and Peter reiterates, “I’ll be here at eight.”  Again, I gotta say there’s something about Peter’s persistence that would impress me if I were a boss.  In any case, that’s about all he does this week, but rest assured he’s gonna do more; we’ll just have to wait and see what that is.


 

                Meanwhile, Bobby Ewing’s death over on Dallas that I’m so obsessed with continues to affect the stories rather directly over here on KL via Gary.  This is all very interesting to me, because in my memory, Bobby’s death was mentioned and Gary went to the funeral and all that, but I didn’t remember it being so important to Gary’s stories in early season seven, and I’ve gotta say (here comes me shitting on Dallas yet again, and maybe I should take this opportunity to mention that I do like Dallas and even love certain seasons of it, but it’s still not even worth one lock of KL’s pubic hair) that I think Bobby’s death is handled much better over here on KL than it is over on Dallas, and I’m not even talking about the dream thing; I’m talking more about the way that the death of Bobby affects stories on both shows throughout the 1985-1986 season.  I actually did decide to rewatch the dream season just for fun to try and see the Peter Dunne influences of it as My Beloved Grammy and I worked through season seven of KL, and obviously it’s completely terrible, and there are so many horrible things about it, but perhaps the most glaringly horrible thing is the “acting” of Priscilla Presley as she grieves over Bobby’s death.  Well, that obviously sucks, but over here on the way better spinoff series, we’re getting some fabulous acting from Shack as he grieves for Bobby and suffers a bit of a mental breakdown himself.  I didn’t remember all this stuff, but I’m loving it, and I’m also wondering how long it’s going to go on.


 

                Since the two shows are soon going to split off into two alternate universes, one in which Bobby is alive and one in which he is dead, it’s real interesting to note this last direct bit of linkage ("The word 'linkage' reminds me of sausage; never cared for the links, prefer the patties, but breakfast is a real good idea!") between the two series, especially considering how linked the shows felt back in the early years, when J.R. or Bobby could possibly stop by for a guest appearance at any moment.  Therefore, I like to try and view all this in the context of one great big story, so let’s reflect on the relationship between Bobby and Gary and why he’s getting so nutty right now.  Clearly Gary never got on well with J.R. because, well, J.R. is an asshole (a super charming and charismatic asshole, but an asshole none the less), but I think he and Bobby always had a special understanding of each other.  Let’s flash back to Brief Dallas Interlude Part 3, Secrets, in which Bobby told Miss Ellie, “Ever since I was a boy, there were only two people I could really talk to, you and Gary.”  Let’s also flash back to our Brief Dallas Interlude Part 4, Return Engagements (AKA the pilot of KL before the actual Pilot), in which Bobby was the one who directly helped Gary and Val get remarried and move out to California.  Heck, he even crossed over to drop them off in the actual KL Pilot.  So, yeah, remembering all that stuff, we can see that Gary and Bobby were close, which helps us understand Gary better.  To get personal for a minute, there’s probably nobody in the world I love more than my own brother (pictured below along with Sister and I when we were all much smaller) and we have a special bond and love for each other and if he died, I’d probably go way nuttier than Gary, since I’m already dangerously mentally unhinged as it is.


 

                Gary’s big emotional moment in this ep comes when he’s letting Olivia play hooky so she can learn how to break in a horse.  I appreciated this because I didn’t actually know what breaking in a horse entailed as I’ve never ridden a horse (but watching this series really makes me want to).  Gary explains to her how some horses are resistant to being ridden at first, so you have to sorta ease them into it until they get used to it, and it’s this whole art thing and Bob Loblaw.  However, when we catch up with Olivia and Gary later in the ep, he’s really overexerting the horse, overworking him, perhaps trying to get too much out of him.  Olivia says how they should probably put the horse back for the day and go inside and she says something like, “We can break him in tomorrow,” to which Gary just flips and says, “Tomorrow?  Tomorrow?!  Ask my brother about tomorrow!”  Then, if I’m remembering correctly, he kinda goes running off, leaving Olivia alone and scared.


 

                This ep served as the last of the disk of eps My Beloved Grammy and I watched upon our last visit (but rest assured we have a date in a few days to continue watching the season), so I’ll be very curious to see if/when Bobby’s death stops being so directly referenced over on here.  I get the feeling it’ll be pretty soon, but I’ve clearly forgotten so many aspects of the series from my first viewing that who knows, maybe this stuff spans the whole year; I guess I’ll find out.  In any case, I have the feeling that Gary’s gonna start to get his shit together soon, because the last scene of the ep is him announcing to Abs that he’s ready to go back to work at Empire Valley.  Yes, I feel what Gary needs is to get back to work and be busy, not just hang around Westfork with horses thinking about his dead brother all day long.  Of course, when Gary makes his announcement, Abs gets one of those fabulous looks on her face where her eyes get kinda wide but she tries to maintain her composure, yet we can all tell she’s shitting her pants and thinking, “Uh oh, what if Gary finds out about the, like, James Bond secret lair or……whatever.”

                Oooooh, wait, one last thing Gary related that’s also sorta Karen related and that’s why I bring it up.  We get a callback to Karen’s season five pill popping days in this ep, which I appreciated.  I can’t remember the exact context of why this comes up, but she’s talking to Gary and I think she’s trying to get through to him about his little mental breakdown and she says something like, “Back when I was using drugs.”  Karen stopped pill popping well over a year ago (it was near the end of season five and now here we are at the start of season seven), so other shows would probably decide to just stop mentioning this, but on KL, that’s now an added part of her backstory that gives an extra richness to her character and continues to inform her decisions today, and I like that they’ll still bring it up.  In fact, I’d like to pay attention and see how long they keep calling back to her drug problem and when the last reference actually occurs.

                While we’re talking about Karen, let’s talk about Karen’s son, Sexy Michael.  He is really blossoming nicely.  By this point Pat Petersen would be nineteen years old, and holy fuck is he just perfect now.  In doing some research on his personal life, I am saddened to learned that he is married with two kids, but I’m also still convinced that if only I could track him down and meet him, I could turn on the charm and use my powers on him and successfully have sex with him, hopefully for many, many hours.  He owns a health food store, if I’m not mistaken, so perhaps if I just took a trip to California and stopped by his store, who knows?  In any case, Sexy Michael gets to go shirtless in this ep and show off his absolutely perfect brown nipples (in case you can’t tell, I’m just gonna perv out and talk about how much I wanna fuck Michael for the next seventeen pages or thereabouts, so please feel free to skip ahead if you’re not interested in my carnal desires) and he also goes swimming in a skimpy bathing suit and gets to get all wet.  God, it’s all so good, and I maintain that the producers and writers knew what an absolutely perfect twink they had on their hands and they knew their audience was probably a bunch of gay dudes just as perverted as me, so they are totally playing into our desires by dressing up the most perfect All American Boy Twink of all time in nothing but some skimpy bathing shorts, getting him all wet in the pool, mmmm, just delicious.


 

                Eric is still dating Whitney, who clearly must be mentally ill because why the hell would you date Eric when Sexy Michael is standing right over there?  The only reason you date Eric is so you can get closer to Sexy Michael, at which point you start sleeping with Sexy Michael (foreshadowing of Linda Fairgate?).  See, in this scene, they’re all hanging out in the pool, Whitney, Eric, and Sexy Michael, and they’re having a little fun together and being playful, but I’m just thinking to myself, how can Whitney possibly look at shirtless Sexy Michael and not just immediately dump Eric to go start shagging the way hotter younger brother?  Obviously she’s got some deep issues (although I clearly shouldn't be throwing stones at anybody when it comes to deep issues).  Aside from this scene giving me a virtual cornucopia of whacking material, it also provides one of the greatest meta lines in KL history, provided by Eric (who, for the record, I do sorta like as a character; I just don’t want to sleep with him), who tells Whitney, “Living in this cul-de-sac is like living in a soap opera.”  I remember lying in my bed in college, drinking vodka, and when this line came up I actually spit my vodka out and started laughing really hard.  How brilliant is this?  Can you imagine a line this meta and self-aware ever showing up on Dallas?  This shows a sense of humor that is just so perfectly KL and it’s always stuck out to me as a very memorable line. 


 

                Let’s talk about our current most dysfunctional couple, Joshua and Cathy.  I’m gonna go ahead and blame pretty much all the dysfunction on Joshua, who is a monster, although I think Cathy is currently putting up with too much.  This is the ep where Joshua finally crosses the line and starts beating Cathy, and I remember finding this very juicy and exciting upon first viewing and, well, I still do.  Obviously I'm a good little liberal feminist and I don’t support hitting women, but this is just great drama and is exactly what you want in your nighttime soap.  Essentially, the whole quest for an apartment continues to be this dividing force for the couple, as Joshua wants to stay at Seaview Circle and Cathy wants to move away.  Of course, now Joshua’s got Cathy believing that Lilimae is dying, although he still hasn’t told her what exactly is killing her (I guess he watched Love Story and realized it’s okay to just say “She’s dying” and provide absolutely no context for this and not even name a disease and then expect people to get all upset and teary eyed over it and not pause to ask questions like, “Gee, what’s killing her?”). 


 

                I can’t remember the exact context of how the beating starts, why Joshua and Cathy are fighting in the first place, but I imagine it’s something apartment related.  It’s a scary little scene, taking place in their bedroom, with Joshua getting up close to Cathy and saying something like, “You listen to me when I’m talking to you,” something scary and abusive.  Meanwhile, Ben and Val are downstairs having some romantic time, and then they hear this loud thudding sound and they go upstairs to investigate.  I wanna take a quick moment to note something small I like that also reflects this different era of TV, when we had 48 minutes and enough time for the little details.  See, instead of just cutting to the upstairs and showing Ben and Val knocking on Joshua and Cathy’s door, we get to see them go up the stairs and stop in the baby nursery to make sure the twins are okay before moving down the hall.  See what I mean?  It’s a small little thing and maybe other viewers wouldn’t notice it, but I’m super duper smart and sexy and I notice little things like this and appreciate them.  Not only does it reflect a type of pacing that I simply enjoy, but it also gives me a good sense of place, that Val’s house is a real house with different rooms and hallways, a real sense of architecture. 

                The next morning, Cathy has a big “My husband beats me” bruise on her face and she uses a better excuse than the cliché “I fell down” that’s so popular amongst battered women.  Instead, she says how she had the mirror open in the bathroom and she leaned down and when she got back up, she smacked herself in the face.  It’s an okay enough excuse, I suppose, but I don’t think anyone is buying it, not even Lilimae.  I’ve had some problems with Lilimae (the character, to be clear, not with Julie who plays her perfectly for her entire time on the show) recently due to her being so inactive with Joshua and Cathy.  I sorta understand that she’s nervous about alienating her son whom she’s only recently had become a part of her life again, but there’s definitely a line in the sand where you put your foot down and stop putting up with this kind of crap.  I think now is the perfect time for Lilimae to start talking to Joshua directly about how, you know, it’s not okay to beat your wife, and just because lots of religious people do it does not make it any better.  Lots of religious people molest kids, too, but that’s not okay, either. 


 

                Even so, I think Lilimae is finally starting to wise up, because even though she kinda sorta acts like she believes this whole “mirror” story, we viewers can tell that she does not.  She has a private moment with Cathy where she sorta casually brings up the mirror and says how she’s smacked her own face on the mirror many times in the past, but you can tell she’s trying to sorta ease Cathy into being comfortable speaking about what’s really going on.  It doesn’t work, though, and Cathy keeps silent for this ep about how Joshua is really treating her.  This is one of the storylines I remember most vividly about early season seven, and I can assure you it’s only gonna get more exciting, so let’s all stay tuned.

                I think that’s about it for this ep.  Yeah, we got some stuff involving Val and Ben talking about marriage, and that’s all good and is gonna lead us to more material throughout the year, but why don’t we go ahead and wrap it up; how was A Little Assistance?  Well, considering it comes hot off the heels of something as stunning as The Christening, I’d say it’s pretty damn impressive how good this one is.  Is it good as The Christening?  Well, A Little Assistance does have Sexy Michael in a bathing suit with water dripping down his perfectly dark round nipples, so that might elevate it above The Christening (or any other episode of television ever made) right away, but nah, in all seriousness, The Christening is currently season seven’s best, but this is still a good one.  If I was a 1985 viewer, I’d still be hooked and watching faithfully.

                What’s next?  Well, that would be the episode entitled A Question of Trust.

 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 134 of 344: THE CHRISTENING


Episode Title:  The Christening

Season 07, Episode 04

Episode 134 of 344

Written by David Assael

Directed by Larry Elikann

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 17th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Mack decides to investigate adoptions and asks the governor to send him someone to help him with the red tape. He sends Jill Bennett. She and Mack flirt and they kiss. Greg sees Laura with a co-worker and is jealous. Greg gives Abby a phony report that says the site for the TV station is better than where Gary wanted it. Ben tells Joshua that his ratings are slipping. Joshua apologizes to Cathy and asks her to sing on his show again. Val plans the babies' christening. She asks Mack and Karen to be the godparents. Val decides to name her daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) after Ben's mother. Lilimae's shoulder hurts, and so she goes to a few doctors' appointments, but it's nothing serious. Joshua tells Cathy that Lilimae's dying, so he can't move out. Sheila Fisher follows Val and the babies around. Harry's worried about her. They go to Val's and tell her they're moving, but will always love the babies. Val lets them say goodbye to the twins.

 

                Hello my beautiful readers, it’s time to discuss The Christening.  Does anyone care if I just blow my wad right away and say, right here in the very first paragraph, that this episode is brilliant and I loved watching it and it was clearly the best of the first five eps of this season?  Well, I’m saying it, cuz fuck, this episode was good, which is exactly what I’d expect from the genius Larry Elikann, who is back in the director’s chair for the first time since Distant Locations 23 glorious eps ago.  My sphincter is tightening up a little, though, because a peek at Mr. Elikann’s IMDb page confirms that he’s only got two more eps to contribute, Until Parted by Death and His Brother’s Keeper, both here in season seven, and then he goes off to make other things that are probably brilliant and that I probably need to see right away.  I won’t cry just yet about losing Elikann, but I will cry when we reach His Brother’s Keeper and I have to say goodbye to Elikann, Sheila-and-Harry-style.

                Speaking of Sheila and Harry, we actually open on Sheila, who is clearly not coping well with the loss of the babies.  Time for an immediate compliment for KL and all its brilliance; don’t you guys think any other show would have had Val get her babies back and then Sheila and Harry would be utterly forgotten and never mentioned again?  In fact, didn’t that happen over on Dallas?  During the good seasons of that show (I believe this particular story occurred at the start of season three), didn’t some lady kidnap John Ross from the hospital and then the characters, like, tracked her down and took the baby back?  And then wasn’t she never mentioned again?  That’s all I’m saying.  Over on KL, we get to witness the ramifications of Sheila and Harry raising the babies for several months and then having to return them back to Val, and we see how difficult that must be for both of them.
 
 
 

                But wait, I kinda wanna save all that for last because the Sheila and Harry material is clearly the best stuff in this episode and it provides the best scene of the episode and, honestly, one of the best scenes of the entire series, so I kinda wanna save the best for last.  Let’s go ahead and get started by talking about Mack and Jill Bennett (who, for the same of brevity, I am going to henceforth refer to as simply “J.B.”), who is making her second appearance right here in this ep.  You might recall that she had a small but amazing scene near the end of season six with A Price to Pay.  She came to Mack’s office, she told him the governor was interested in him having a seat on the senate or something, she was sexy, she looked slightly wicked to me, and she left the office.  For all intents and purposes, I’m pretty sure that J.B. was only meant to be a little one ep character and then someone brilliant working on KL decided to bring her back for season seven and, well thank God they did, because now we get to see the amazingness and wonderment of J.B. all throughout seasons seven, eight, nine, and most of ten.  Truthfully, J.B. peaks for me (at least based on memory) during seasons nine and ten, so perhaps a new viewer watching through for the first time would spend seasons seven and eight wondering why I’m so damned excited by this character, but just wait and see.
 
 
 

                Honestly, though, and this is probably the only criticism I have about this ep (and it’s a small one), I think J.B.’s stuff this ep moves a bit too fast for my liking.  You’ve got 30 eps this season; why rush it?  See, her and Mack seem to have this instant rapport going on, where they’re sorta flirtatious and they also sorta act like they don’t like each other at the same time.  The thing that happens too fast is here is that they kiss.  Interestingly, it’s initiated by J.B., who gives this big speech to Mack about how he’s a good guy, he’s got a nice wife, a good reputation in the community, Bob Loblaw, but that his big problem is that he’s a flirt.  Then she gets up all close to him and says something about how it’s dangerous to be a flirt and one day he’ll have to act on it, or something, and then she plants a big wet kiss on him.  Yikes!  See what I mean about this being a little fast?  However, I ain’t complaining too hard, because then the music sorta swells in an uplifting tone and Mack looks super happy and puts on this fabulous Hat; God, I wanna have a love affair with The Hat.  I wanna meet The Hat in cheap motel rooms and have a torrid romance with it.  I wanna take The Hat into Abby’s hot tub and pour champagne all over it and lick it.  I fucking love The Hat.  It’s hard to describe The Hat except to say that it looks like something a gentleman might wear in the 1920s, when all the men always wore hats, and it’s just sorta goofy looking, but the goofiness is part of its amazing charm.

                Now would be a good moment to do a quick reminder of how much I adore Mack.  Already, those first three Mack-less seasons seem like this distant memory and I can hardly imagine KL existing or functioning without the shining brilliance of Mack and the insanely charismatic charm The Dobsonator brings to the role.  Part of that charm is his often strange sense of fashion, such as this amazing Hat.  Travilla is still the man behind the scenes handling costumes and wardrobe, so I wonder if The Hat was his contribution or The Dobsonator’s.  Honestly, I wanna think it was The Dobsonator, that he showed up on set with The Hat and was like, “I’m wearing The Hat whether you like it or not.”  The beauty of The Hat, and indeed any of Mack’s unique clothing choices (I also love whenever he rocks a bow tie), is the way that he just owns it; he puts on the goofy thing with such confidence that he immediately looks cool. 

                By the way, should we the audience be upset with Mack for being so pleased with the J.B. kiss?  Like I said, happy music swells and his face really lights up before he puts on The Hat, and then he walks away looking very pleased with himself.  Again, I’m gonna come at this from the perspective of an unbelievably slutty gay man and say this doesn’t bother me.  I’m sorry to let the cat out of the bag here, but all men like getting some sexual attention from other people, whether it be a woman or another, whatever’s your bag, baby.  If I was in some significant relationship and some male J.B. planted a kiss on me one day, I’d be happy about it.  One difference though (and I don’t know if this relates to me being a gay person or it just relates to me being me) is that I would go home and immediately tell my significant partner about it, “Guess what happened to me today.”  Mack doesn’t do that, and I wonder what would happen if he had.  What if he’d gone back to Karen and been like, “J.B. kissed me today; isn’t that wild?”  I wonder if Karen would be upset or if she would appreciate the honesty and the two could just share a nice laugh over the situation.
 
 
 

                Meanwhile, things are getting heated over at Val’s house.  Joshua is descending to new depths of awfulness with every ep we watch, and one of the first scenes of the ep is a rather intense family fight at the house in which Joshua declares that the babies need to have a christening and be baptized because, “They were conceived in sin.”  Val’s growing bigger balls this season, I’ve noticed, and I appreciate it, because she’s really not standing for any of Joshua’s crap at this point.  I feel like if he made a comment like that in mid-season six, Val would look uncomfortable but probably keep her mouth shut; now she yells at him and reminds him that they’re not his children, that it’s her business whether they are baptized or not.  Also, fuck Joshua and his “conceived in sin” nonsense; the babies were conceived by Gary and Val, who are soul mates and meant to be together forever and the greatest couple in television history, so fuck you, Joshua, and fuck all the religious people who act like you.  Of course, Joshua doesn’t know Gary is the father; he still thinks it’s Ben, but in any case, he’s wrong and he’s stupid.
 
 
 

                Now might be a good time to provide my readers with some insight on where I stand on religion, since I know I talk a lot of shit about religion whenever Joshua’s stories come up.  I’d like to state that I do believe in God, although I don’t necessarily believe that God is a man or a woman or any sort of physical thing; I think God is more of a spiritual thing.  I think all religions are equally stupid, so I think I can get away with talking shit because, to me, they’re all dumb.  The main thing I hate about all religions is all the shame involved; I think sex is the most beautiful and life affirming thing in the entire world (my great aunt, who is essentially the exact same person as me if I were a 60-something Italian woman, says “sex is the closest we can ever come to reaching God”), and I hate the way that religions have made people feel so guilty about their 100% normal and natural sexual urges; we are all sexual beings and it’s the most essential thing that keeps the world going on.  But I just want to make it clear that if I talk a big game and make fun of religions, I do consider myself spiritual and I do believe there is a God, so now you guys all know where I stand on that.  Okay, rant over; let’s move on to more KL.
 
 
 

                Joshua really really really does not want to move out of Val’s house anytime soon, perhaps ever.  I’m not entirely clear on why, so maybe you guys have some opinion; what is it with Joshua’s obsession with staying in the house?  Is it because he gets off on having the control and he likes being able to hurt and degrade Val?  I think that might actually be it; I think he likes being sorta in the center and able to stir up trouble with everyone around him, and that wouldn’t be nearly so easy if he wasn’t living under the same roof.  Anyway, Cathy is acting like a sane, rational person and saying how they need to find their own apartment and go off and live independently, not turning Val’s house into the fucking Camden house from 7th Heaven, but Joshua is so desperate to stay put that he works up a rather wicked plan this ep.  See, throughout the ep we get references to Lilimae having a hurt arm or shoulder or something.  At first, I didn’t know what was going on here, but it all comes together in the end.  See, she goes to the doctor, she finds out there’s nothing wrong, he tells her to take aspirin (“And for that he charged me forty dollars!” she says in her fabulously inimitable Julie Harris way) and that’s it, no big deal.  However, Joshua sees an opportunity here, so at the end of the ep (I’m hopping around, cuz this is actually the very final scene of the ep), he gets all quiet and serious with Cathy and tells her that the real reason he wants to stay in the house is because Lilimae is dying.  As he says this, Lilimae is mingling and socializing and having a nice time, looking perfectly happy, so I’m moderately surprised that Cathy buys this lie so easily, but eh, whatever.  This little development is something that’s clear flown out of my memory; I don’t remember it happening and I don’t remember where it will lead.  Let’s all stay tuned!

                The title of this episode is The Christening so obviously that event is sorta the central plot point, the nucleus of this 48 minutes.  I think I might have mixed up some stuff when writing about our last ep, because I said that was the ep where Val says they should name the girl Betsy and asks Ben if they can name the boy Bobby, but I think that actually occurs here.  In any case, one person who does not support this Bobby idea is Lilimae, who tells Val, “You can’t name him after a member of Gary’s family, and when he comes back from the dead in a year, it’s gonna really screw up our continuity from show to show!”  Val tells Lilimae that she doesn’t give a shit if Bobby is coming back from the dead in a year, that no legitimate television writer would ever write anything that stupid, that for all intents and purposes, he’s dead right now and she’s gonna name her little baby boy Bobby. 

                While all the storylines are going on, we keep returning to Harry and Sheila Fisher.  As soon as we started this ep, I immediately remembered THE BIG SCENE from it based on the title alone, but I’d forgotten how the writers do a clever job of misleading us throughout the ep.  See, we get a lot of cryptic scenes of Sheila and Harry together, saying stuff about how they’re gonna leave town, and it’s done in this tone where it seems to imply they’re gonna snatch the babies before they run off.  Also, Sheila is getting a little stalky on Val, following her around when she takes the babies out to the park or what have you.  Last ep, Karen said to Mack about the Fishers, “Their loss is like Val’s,” and that’s what I think is so interesting about this.  The show could have easily portrayed them as villains, but I feel really sorry for both of them.  They spent something like half a year loving these babies and raising them and caring for them, and now they have to give them back.  Turning them into snarling, scary villains would be one way to go on a series with less subtlety, but KL keeps it more real, presents them as real people with feelings who are hurting and suffering a loss like the one Val suffered in season six.

                The day of the christening comes and everyone’s invited.  Joshua answers the door for Laura and we have a brilliant exchange of dialogue that I immediately wrote down in my notes.  Joshua says something like, “Don’t worry, Laura, you’re always welcome in my house,” to which Laura replies, in her fantastic Laura way, “Yes, I know I’m always welcome in Valene’s house.”  God, yes, go Laura, you rock, and this exchange made both My Beloved Grammy and I laugh aloud in joy.  Anyway, Sheila and Harry show up (and I might be screwing up the flow of events; I think this might occur before the christening, but whatever, who gives a fuck, let’s talk about this scene) and we think they are probably gonna snatch the babies.  See, Harry is talking to Sheila and says how he’s gonna go up to the house and that Sheila should “wait for the signal.”  Hmmm, “wait for the signal” usually doesn’t mean anything good in a movie or TV show, so we viewers are being lead to think something awful’s gonna happen.  Instead, we get one of the most powerful and moving scenes of raw emotion ever presented on KL.
 
 
 

                See, since Sheila has been scaring Val by following her all over town, nobody is too pleased to see Harry showing up at the door.  At first, Lilimae tells him to go away, but Val lets him come in, and then Harry gives this fabulous, give-the-guy-from-Murphy-Brown-a-best-guest-actor-in-a-drama-series-Emmy-right-away speech that started to bring tears to my eyes.  He tells Val how he and Sheila are moving far far away to start a new life together, figure things out, but they just want to see the babies one last time and say goodbye to them.  His speech is very moving, and he says how they raised the babies and loved them for six months or whatever (remember continuity is weird on these shows cuz of summers not existing in TV land), that Val is going to have the opportunity to see them grow up and become adults, all that stuff.  God, this is a good speech, and the actor from Murphy Brown does a great job, but it’s nothing compared to the rest of the scene, in which he signals to Sheila that it’s okay for her to come in.  I’ll see if I can find this scene on YouTube or somewhere (I’ll bet it’s there cuz it’s so memorable and some good soul has to have put it up) so everyone can just watch it and not have to depend on me doing a shitty job of describing it.  Basically, it’s just this very tender and emotional scene, underscored by some really beautiful music, and Sheila and Harry have these two stuffed animals they give to the babies, and then they both get to hold them for a minute and kiss them on the head, then they hand them back and go away to drive off together.  Again, it doesn’t sound like much when I describe it here, but it’s a very moving scene, one of the most emotional in KL history, and it definitely made me cry; I can tell you that.  I think it made My Beloved Grammy cry but I was too captivated by the screen to turn over and look at her.  I will say that when the scene was over, she said, “Well, that was very touching,” and she sounded pretty choked up, so there you go.
 
 
 

                Fuck, this scene is so emotional.  What a gut punch, and what a brilliant ending to the whole “Val’s babies being taken” story, which I think we could say officially ends here, with this ep.  Yeah yeah, it kinda sorta ended with the second ep of the season, but this is the last we see of Harry and Sheila and this scene is really the last little button on the greatest storyline in KL history.  I’d like to take another moment to shit on Dallas and add further compelling evidence to my “KL is better than Dallas” argument by saying that I never cried in an ep of Dallas (although I do remember being moved by a really early ep in which Bobby sorta falls in love with one of the vampire boys from ‘Salem’s Lot but then the boy and his father have to move away and he and Bobby hug; I liked that one).  KL is able to make me cry, and if I’m counting correctly, this is the second time upon this rewatch that I’ve cried.  I surprised myself by not crying when Sid Fairgate went to Heaven back in Critical Condition, although that was amazingly genius and moving, as well.  My first cry (and My Beloved Grammy’s first cry) was in season six, in the incredible We Gather Together, when Val was sitting in the empty nursery and Gary came in and spoke to her.  Ugh, I don’t know which scene is more sad, that one or this one; they’re both so amazingly brilliant (and I just thought of this, they’re both directed by Elikann!  Maybe he’s the man for the job if you’re doing an ep that you want to be really hard hitting and emotional).  In any case, they’re both astounding scenes and I can easily point to both of them and say, “Nothing this good ever happened on Dallas; I rest my case.” 

                So that was The Christening.  Fuck, what an episode.  As I sat down to write about it, I knew that I loved it, but now I’m realizing how much I loved it in the greater context of the entire KL story.  Like, I think this might be a top ten episode and maybe even a top five; it’s really up there.  I love everything about it, all the stories for all the charcters, the seeds being planted as well as the stories being wrapped up, and of course the big kicker is that final goodbye from the Fishers to the babies, which is just stunning.  I think when all is said and done and I’ve gotten through all 344 eps (I’m starting to think it might actually happen!), I’ll compile my top ten or top twenty for the whole series, and I have no doubt this ep will be on it. 

                Let’s move right along now to an ep that probably won’t be as good as this Undisputed Masterpiece of Television, but which should still be really solid, and it’s called A Little Assistance.
 
 
 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

KNOTS LANDING Episode 133 of 344: WHILE THE CAT'S AWAY


Episode Title:  While the Cat’s Away

Season 07, Episode 03

Episode 133 of 344

Written by E. Jeffrey Smith

Directed by Lorraine Senna

Original Airdate: Thursday, October 10th, 1985

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Greg tells Abby he's having problems with Elliot, the construction foreman. Abby tells Elliot they had new soil samples done so he can blast. Gary returns home, and breaks down over Bobby's death. At the station, Abby promotes Ben to General Manager, so now he's Joshua's boss. Mack meets with the Fishers and says they are victims, too, and they should work together. The Fishers weren't approved for a conventional adoption because Sheila had had a nervous breakdown. Val is having a ball with the babies and doesn't have much time for Ben. Joshua does his show on how the power of prayer brought back the babies. Val's angry and tells him that SHE kept the faith, not him or his viewers. Ben finally spends time with Val, but is upset when Gary comes by and she invites him to stay. Val tells Gary she is naming her son after Bobby, and Ben is really hurt.

 


                In our previous episode, Here In My Arms, we didn’t actually even see Gary and it was, I think, the first time that Shack has sat out for an ep of KL.  I know there are one or two eps where he appears physically but doesn’t actually have any speaking lines (I think way back in season one with Let Me Count the Ways?), but I do believe our last ep marked the first time he just didn’t show up at all.  Am I mistaken?  Write in and yell at me if I am.  In any case, he’s back in a big way for this ep, so let’s get started with discussing him.
 
 
 

                There’s a lot going on with the KL characters and the KL stories, so if I seem kinda obsessed with that Dallas Interlude and Bobby Ewing’s death, I apologize, but I’m surprised by how directly it’s affecting stories over here, as well as how organic the Interlude was overall.  See, this week we learn that Gary is returning to California, but he’s doing it the slow way, taking a big road trip.  When we first catch up with Abs this ep, she’s talking to The Most Interesting Man in the World, who asks her where Gary is, what’s going on, etc. etc.  Abs tells him, “It’s really been hard on Gary since his brother died,” but assures The Most Interesting Man in the World that Gary’s gonna be back soon.  Not too long after that, we get to see Gary, apparently having some car trouble, as he’s in a shop with a mechanic fiddling with his car.  A little seed is planted here, because Gary picks up a drill-bit and looks at it like it’s the most beautiful, most wonderful, most fascinating thing in the world, and then he asks the mechanic if he can buy it from him.  At first, I was like, “Huh?”  What’s the big deal about a drill-bit?  I am not a mechanic or a car expert by any means, but aren’t these common things?  Aren’t these drill-bits the kind of material you would find lying around any auto shop or car dealership?   In any case, we don’t get the payoff to this setup until a little later in the ep, after Gary has returned to California.
 
 
 

              See, back in Empire Valley, Abs and Greg are doing, um, something wicked.  Honestly, does anyone know what’s going on here?  They’re trying to build some sort of James Bond secret lair or something so they can, I guess, act like George W. Bush and spy on everyone’s private conversations and do highly illegal things under the guise of doing it for the government…..or something?  Honestly, as I have said previously, I’m not understanding this storyline and neither is My Beloved Grammy, who is usually so sharp at following all plot machinations in all shows (whenever we were watching Dallas and there was some sort of boring business deal going on as there so often were and I would tune out for awhile, she would always help me get back on track and figure out what was going on in the plot), so I think I might have to do something I hate to do and blame the KL writing team for this being so confusing.  If Peter Dunne was still around and not busy over on the sinking ship series, perhaps this storyline would make a bit more sense?  Anyway, suffice it to say that Abs and Greg are doing something evil, something they don’t want Gary to know about, something that involves Empire Valley, and most notably something that involves blasting, um, something.
 
 
 

                My basic point is that Abs and Greg are happy without Gary around checking up on what they’re doing, and therefore Abs is not terribly pleased when Gary returns home and immediately announces that he wants to go out to the Empire Valley site.  Abs gets one of those fabulous looks on her face where you just know she’s peeing her pants but she has to try and maintain her composure, and then she calls Greg up real fast.  This is a funny little bit, because Gary’s hovering right over Abs, so she makes up some sort of fake lady name when she’s talking to Greg and then she’s like, “I can’t go out to lunch today or whatever cuz me and GARY are going to the site.  That’s right, I’ll be at the Empire Valley site with GARY and that’s where I’ll be!”  On the other line, Greg gets the message (if I’m not mistaken, I believe he’s talking on one of those amazing 1985 cell phones like William Petersen in Manhunter) and immediately orders The Most Interesting Man in the World to blast that area that he wants to blast for, you know, whatever reason.
 
 
 

                From here, Gary and Abs hop in the car and he starts driving.  Abs briefly tries to detour him by being like, “Do you wanna go to McDonalds?” or whatever (she doesn’t really say that; clearly I just can’t remember what she actually says so I’m just using that as a stupid example), but Gary is determined.  I love Shack here, because he’s got this cool, sexy look of a man on a mission, not getting deterred by any possible distraction.  However, when they get to the site, things get a little weird.  Gary’s looking around,  making chit chat, and then he finds another drill-bit on the ground.  As soon as he sees this, we go into a closeup of his face and then a very interesting audio flashback that I had completely forgotten about.  Basically, we hear some audio of Gary and Bobby as little boys, discovering a drill-bit somewhere, and they have this exchange about whether they should take it or not.  I liked this whole scene just because I liked it but also because I think it has a pretty super continuity with the Brief Dallas Interlude.  I think I forgot to mention this back in The Family Ewing, but Miss Ellie and Clayton were hanging out by this old tree house (a tree house that only exists within the confines of the dream season) and Ellie says something about, “This was always Bobby’s favorite place to go, and that’s why we’ve never ever ever mentioned it in almost 200 episodes.”  Well, during this scene right here, we hear audio of one of the little boys saying, “Let’s just go back to the fort.”  Could this fort be the tree house we saw in that Interlude?  I like to think so, and if that is the case, I like the continuity a lot; it makes it seem like the two shows are still trading notes with each other so they can flow organically, something which will obviously change very soon.
 
 
 

                Also, this audio flashback demonstrate that Gary is just not coping well, cuz he stares at the drill-bit for about seventeen days, going into a trance state, and then he tells Abs they can leave and he marches off like Terminator and he and Abs drive off together, but then it gets even stranger.  See, as they drive off, Greg tells The Most Interesting Man in the World to blast, and blast he does.  There’s a great big loud exciting explosion and Abs looks behind, all startled, but Gary doesn’t react at all.  At first I was a little confused and asked My Beloved Grammy if Gary hears the explosion but just doesn’t care, and she told me that Gary is so lost in his own head that he doesn’t even hear the big explosion.  Yikes!  Clearly Gary’s going a little nutty over Bobby’s death (and clearly it’s being handled much, much, much, much better over on this series than, say, Jenna Wade going nutty over Bobby’s death on the parent series).
 
 
 

                Meanwhile over at Val’s place, she’s real happy to have her babies back with her, but that doesn’t mean the drama is over.  See, now the problem is that she’s so busy with the babies that she doesn’t have any time for Ben (this is why you should never have babies).  Ben is a true gentleman, though, and doesn’t get angry with her or yell at her or anything like that, but we viewers can see that he’s upset.  After all, he is one of the few people to know the truth about the father of Val’s babies (it’s getting hard to remember who all knows what’s going on, but if I’ve got my facts straight, I believe the people who know THE TRUTH are, at this point, Val, Ben, Mack, Abs, Karen, and Greg), so that’s probably hurting his self esteem a bit.  Not only that, but now that the babies are returned, Val’s forgetting that she has dinner dates with him, or she’s falling asleep and not showing up at his house like she promised to, stuff like that.  I feel really sorry for Ben, which is a pretty consistent feeling for me since he’s been introduced.  Talk about a decent guy, and he really gets pissed on quite a lot due to all of this drama, yet he always handles it very maturely, one of the reasons why he’s elevated so high up in my esteem from my first viewing when, in my drunken stupor, I so callously labeled him as “boring.”
 
 
 

                Bobby’s death effects something permanently on KL, and it happens right here, when Val decides she’d like to name her baby Bobby.  Oh, how I love this (especially since, as of right now, I’ve officially decided that I recognize seasons 1 through 9 of Dallas as canon and refuse to recognize 10-14 as canon because I just hate how it fucks up the KL continuity so badly, plus those seasons are just so shitty and boring and horrible).  I love this for so many reasons, the first of which is that we are maintaining a fantastic continuity with what we saw going down in so many of our previous Interludes.  For instance, Val tells Karen, “Bobby was the only one who ever acted like he was on my side.”  This isn’t just something the writers are making up to propel a story forward; it’s actually true and we saw it way back before KL even existed, in our third Brief Dallas Interlude, Secrets, when Bobby helped Val to reunite with Lucy.  Also, Bobby came to visit Val when she had her one-episode-and-then-never-mentioned-again cancer in season two’s The Loudest Word.  So what Val is saying about how Bobby treated her holds up well under scrutiny if one were to go back and look at those eps. 

                Anyway, when Val tells Ben she’s thinking about naming the baby boy after Bobby, we can tell he doesn’t love it, but again, he handles it like a grown up and doesn’t get mad and yell.  Instead he says, “Bobby’s a good name,” and Val does work out a good compromise in which they’ll name the baby girl Betsy after Ben’s mother.  I don’t think it’s that big of a deal, really, but I also understand Ben’s discomfort.  Now, not only is Val raising two kids that Gary planted inside of her, but she’s also gonna name one after Gary’s brother.  There’s just a whole lot of Gary in Val’s life and I might be uncomfortable if I was Ben, as well.  Actually, Ben’s discomfort provides our last scene of the ep, which is fabulously quiet and subtle in that wonderful KL way.  See, Ben and Val finally have some time alone to themselves to enjoy having intercourse with each other when, wouldn’t you know it, the doorbell rings and it’s Gary coming by to say hello and see the babies.  Val leads Gary upstairs, announcing that she’d like to name her baby boy Bobby, leaving Ben all alone downstairs, looking sad.  Ah, yes, so good.
 
 
 

                That’s how the ep ends, but there are a few details I’ve forgotten.  First off, even though Harry Fisher did the decent and moral thing by giving Val her babies back in our last ep, he and Sheila are still a part of the story here, as we see them having a meeting with Mack.  I like this a lot, because another show might be tempted to just toss these characters away now that they’ve served their plot function, but instead KL shows us some follow up and, in doing so, helps to answer a few questions I’ve had.  See, Mack is having this meeting to remind them that they are, in fact, victims too, just like Val.  Neither Harry nor Sheila knew that their babies were coming to them via theft.  Yeah, they were doing some illegal stuff by looking into black market babies, but honestly lots of people have done that since adoption is so unbelievably stupid and makes it so hard for so many people (including my own people, the gays) to have kids.  It’s totally fine for some sixteen year old girl to have seven kids in a row even though she works at Burger King and can’t even take care of herself, let alone seven kids, but if some gay dudes wanna adopt a kid and the adoption agent inspects their house and finds a dildo in the closet or something, it’s all over for them. 
 
 
 

This double standard doesn’t concern me too much personally, since I don’t think I ever wanna have kids, but I feel protective of my people and I think it shouldn’t be so damn difficult to adopt a kid.  Harry and Sheila didn’t have a dildo in their house (at least not that we know of), but apparently Sheila had a bit of a mental breakdown in the past and that affected their ability to adopt.  In this scene, Sheila gets real upset and starts to go on about how they were deemed “unsuitable” by the adoption agent.  In this scene, she starts to scream and shout a bit and she messes up Mack’s desk by, like, throwing a big pile of papers down, something like that.  Again, I like the subtlety here.  If this was Dallas (and I apologize if I seem to be shitting on Dallas a lot this week, but, well, it’s just so damn easy to shit on when you’re experiencing the sheer genius and glory that is KL), I’ll bet Sheila would, like, destroy the office in a big over-the-top scene while loud, annoying music blared, but here it’s more quiet.  All she does is throw some papers, but Mack does give her a look kinda like, “Yikes,” and later he tells Karen that he can see why they were denied the adoption in the first place.

Joshua’s disgusting behavior continues to escalate.  In this ep, Pacific Cable Whatever airs a really big sermon from him in which he essentially takes all the credit for Val’s babies being returned and goes on about how he “kept the faith” the whole time.  Obviously this is crap, since what really happened is that Val’s babies went missing and Joshua gave her such comforting advice as “It was God’s plan,” or decided to go take a big piss in her face in that one ep where she was sitting in the kitchen late at night.  Fortunately, Val is really toughening up lately and she’s not putting up with Joshua.  After the program airs, Val gets angry and tells Joshua she didn’t want him to talk about that and she very directly reminds him that he did not keep the faith, nor did he have anything to do with her babies being returned to her.  Fuck yeah, go Val, I love seeing her all tough and direct, and my God is Joshua ever a creep.  I had forgotten how truly wretched he becomes in this season; it makes the last few eps of season six seem like he was a really great, swell guy by comparison.  I was also amused when My Beloved Grammy said, “What a creep, I can’t wait to see him fall.”  I thought to myself how (SPOILER ALERT!) that will be happening most literally, and not too long from now.

Let’s talk about Greg and Laura last and then I’ll wrap this up.  I don’t remember anything too exciting from the two of them this ep, aside from one absolutely brilliant scene that made me pee my pants in laughter.  See, the two are still broken up and Sumner is clearly, um, broken up about it.  Since he’s Sumner, he doesn’t cry or give big emotional speeches; we just have to pay attention and watch the subtleties and complexities of this fantastic character.  The scene in question occurs at his home or his office or some damn place, and some random call girl comes out of the bedroom, looking all sexy, while Greg is occupied with pouring himself a drink or whatever and looking disinterested.  The girl comes out and says, “You know, you were really great,” and then Greg just says, “Whatever.”  Honestly, it’s only funny if you see how he delivers the line, cuz it’s just the most dismissive, blasé, I-don’t-care-about-you delivery of a line that you can possibly imagine, and both My Beloved Grammy and myself laughed out loud.  I consistently marvel at how fucking funny KL is and how underrated it is for its wit and its humor.  I also consistently wonder which lines Devane improvised, and I really hope this was one of them.  Fuck, it’s all just so good.
 
 
 

I think that about does it for While the Cat’s Away.  Clearly it was great and, three eps deep, I’m still waiting to see why so many fans seem to consider this season to be so weak.  I remember thinking it was great and, so far, I still do.  Perhaps these feelings will change as I work my way through the season, but honestly, while this is not as good as season six (but no season of television is as good as season six of KL), it’s still super high quality, in my opinion.

I’ll kinda spoil my thoughts on our next ep real fast by saying that it’s gonna be a good one, the kind of ep that you watch and then never forget, when the genius Larry Elikann returns as director for The Christening.