Sunday, November 8, 2015

KNOTS LANDING Episode 006 of 344: HOME IS FOR HEALING


Episode Title: Home Is For Healing

Season 01, Episode 06

Episode 006 of 344

Written by Rena Down

Directed by Roger Young

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 31st, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Lucy Ewing comes to visit Knots Landing to see her parents, Valene and Gary. However, their reunion is marred by Lucy's resentment against Gary for his past neglect.

 

                Ah, now here’s something interesting to write about.  With Home Is For Healing, we have our third of what will end up being nine crossover episodes with characters from Dallas coming into the spinoff to make an appearance (you’ll remember we had Patrick Duffy in Pilot and Larry Hagman in Community Spirit; I believe our next crossover will be Mary Crosby early in season two with the episode called Kristin).  Not only that, but this episode has Charlene Tilton as Lucy Ewing crossing over, and it’s actually the only time in the entire series run that she will make an appearance, something which I find rather vexing.  Let’s discuss.

                The episode starts with Gary and Val in bed, where they receive a call from Southfork and learn that Lucy has found out about their marriage and that she is not happy about it.  Yeah, well, duh!  This is the sixth episode and we’ve now been in the wonderful world of KL for over a month and they STILL haven’t told Lucy they are married!  So of course she is mad to find out they married in secret and haven’t said one word to her about it!  You understand of course that Lucy is not unhappy with their marriage, far from it.  As soon as Gary and Val were introduced on Dallas in the two part Reunion episodes (well, Fake Gary, but I digress), we’ve known that Lucy wants to see her parents back together.  The issue here is, of course, that they chose to marry in secret and not tell her about it.  Look, I’d be mad, too! 

                But anyway, Val flies out to Texas to talk to her daughter, and she surprises her at the Southern Methodist University, the same place she surprised her for our third Brief Dallas Interlude, the episode called Secrets.  In fact, at this point I wish to ask: Was all of this filmed together?  I mean, it’s the same two actresses in front of the same place, right?  Did the producers and writers and all that just plan ahead and have footage shot for both Secrets as well as Home Is For Healing?  I’m genuinely curious and I wanna know, but there’s really no way for me to find out, aside from writing to David Jacobs or Joan Van Ark or someone (and would they really even remember something as microscopic as this from thirty-five years ago?).  Anyway, it’s a mystery, but I’m still willing to bet money that the producers cut costs by filming both scenes at the same time, planning to use footage for a future KL episode.

                Anyway, at first Lucy is all mad, but then she gets nice when Val asks her to fly out to California to stay with her and Gary for….awhile?  I’m a little unclear on what the plan is here.  After all, Lucy is, like, twenty at this point, right?  Well, anyway, she’s either nineteen or twenty, something like that, and she’s busy attending college in Texas and living her life with the rich oil Ewings.  Do Gary and Val really think it would be so simple as to just move her in with them?  And even if they did….she’s twenty!  How long is she going to stay living with them?  Or will it be like Southfork where all the kids live with their parents forever and ever, until the world ends?  But then, maybe they are just having her for a visit, I dunno.  Let’s move on.

                We actually get our first glimpse at Knots Landing Motors in this episode.  I think I forgot to mention this back in Pilot, but Gary works for Sid at Knots Landing Motors for a season or two (until he gets all rich in season four), and he obtained that job in the very first episode, but we haven’t actually seen the two men at work until now.  This is a significant workplace because it’s going to bear such rich fruit when it comes to storylines through the next few years, and we will be seeing quite a bit of it until, I think, Karen sells it?  Again, a lot of these things are hazy blurs in my memory, so bear with me, as this is a voyage for me as well as you.  Anyway, seeing Knots Landing Motors and Gary working busy as a bee at Knots Landing Motors just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside; same with hearing that “Gary Ewing, Line 1” A.D.R. that they use about five thousand times in the series.

                Oh yeah, so Gary gets the call that Lucy is coming to stay with them for awhile, and then Sid comes over to offer him some words of comfort.  In his comfort, he also mentions Annie, his wayward daughter from back in the first episode.  This is a nice call back, particularly since I don’t think she’s mentioned again, um, well ever, even when Sid’s vamping ex-wife shows up to wreak havoc or even when Sid leaves the show in the third season.  Sid uses Annie as his example of how he can relate to Gary, like “Yeah, I’ve had problems with my own daughter as well; I hear ya!”  We also get a pretty cool bird’s eye angle of Gary sitting at his desk here.  I note things like this because even though it’s a relatively simple thing and most viewers might not even think of it, it took time to do and I appreciate the fact that they have little visuals like that to keep the show stimulating to watch.  Other shows in this era would just film a guy sitting at his desk and do it in a very bland, vanilla way. 

                Lucy arrives at Gary and Val’s house and is, at first, very excited and full of joy.  Her and Val are basically ejaculating all over each other as Val shows her the room where she’ll be sleeping and some sort of article of clothing.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it at this point, but I should probably say that the combination of Joan Van Ark with Charlene Tilton is pretty much perfect casting for mother and daughter.  The two look so damn alike that it’s easy to believe they are related, plus, and I don’t know if either of the actresses are telling the truth about their birthdates, but I can believe that there’s only a fifteen year gap between them, as they both look pretty close to the same age (well, maybe that’s not quite accurate, but it definitely is believable that Valene had Lucy when she was very young).  As they stand beside each other in the bedroom, looking in the mirror, you believe in that relationship.  But who’s standing behind them, looking sad and forlorn?  Why, it’s Gary!  We the audience see Gary looking all sad, but Lucy and Val are clueless, and then he sorta walks off into the hallway, the music gets kinda louder, and we go to a commercial.  Clearly a conflict is brewing and we’re going to see it continue developing after the commercial break!

                Oh but wait, how could I spend all this time writing about interesting characters like Gary and Val and Lucy when there’s also a thrilling Kenny/Ginger storyline in this episode?!  The two dullest characters to ever move to Seaview Circle are in rare form this episode, with a story so dull it could put any insomniac to sleep for at least eight or nine hours.  What’s the unbelievably exciting storyline for this pair of young newlyweds this week?  Oh yeah, it’s that Kenny wants to have an, um, party, and, um, Ginger doesn’t want him to have one.  Yeah, that’s pretty much the entire storyline.  See, in case you’ve forgotten from the last batch of episodes, Kenny is a “hip” young record producer, despite the fact that all he ever plays on his GIGANTIC 1980 stereo sound system is the same public domain, like, big band music.  I guess the kids in 1980 were just really into public domain big band music.  So naturally, being a hip young record producer, of course parties are standard at the Ward house, no?  For whatever reason, this party is enraging Ginger and she’s getting all pissy about it.  Well, who’s right in this situation?  On the one hand you have quite possibly the most wooden actor in the entire world arguing how this is just a part of his business and his work and it’s a necessity, while on the other hand you have the big old bug eyes nagging and being a pest and probably making Kenny regret those marriage vows he took.  My conclusion?  Both characters suck, so therefore they’re both wrong!  Let’s move on.

                Oh, but wait, before we move on, I should probably note that this episode marks the first appearance of, I suppose, a pseudo-important character to the storyline, someone who will be showing up again and, I believe, be pretty important throughout the second season of the show.  This character is Sylvie, played by Louise Vallance (pictured below alongisde The Boring Block of Wood).  For whatever reason, her IMDb page lists her as “Stevie Vallance,” although she is credited on KL as “Louise.”  Looks like she’ll be in a total of seven episodes (funny, it felt like more in my memory) of this majestic series, making her final appearance in A Family Matter (that would be season 2, episode 9, by the way).  Anyway, I want to note her appearance here, because it calls into question how much the writers and producers and directors were playing the long game at this point in the series. 

As I’ve noted before, we are still very much at the start of the series, the period where episodes are self-contained and wrap up at the end of their 48 minutes.  However, at the same time, here we are introducing a character who, SPOILER ALERT, is going to start having an affair with Kenny, an affair that will span through half of the second season.  This makes me wonder if the writers were planning that far out in advance.  After all, this Sylvie character is introduced at Kenny’s party (and she’s even singing a REAL song, by the way!) and we see that she has eyes for Kenny and it’s implied, at least I think it’s implied, that the two have already slept together at least once.  Therefore, I have to wonder if the writers were already sketching out plans for the thrilling Kenny/Sylvie affair even at this early juncture in the series.  Or, on the other hand, were the writers just trying to show, as they did with Annie back in the first episode, that Kenny is a swinger and a cheater and this is just another slut for his roster?  I’m not sure, really, but it’s interesting to think about, and we are starting to see the very seeds of the show turning into a full nighttime soap like its parent series, even if it won’t make the official switch until season four.

There’s really nothing else interesting to note about Kenny or Ginger or Sylvie, so let’s return to Gary and Val and Lucy.  Conflict continues brewing when Gary gets a look at the way Lucy lives her life.  See, she shows up at the house with a bunch of new fancy clothes, and she’s very blasé about the fact that she can just use a credit card and trust in her Grandpa Jock to pay off the bill at the end of the month.  Gary does not care for this, and we get another example of the series’ strong writing and fully-fledged characters. After all, I can understand both characters, no?  Lucy is not trying to offend Gary; this is simply the lifestyle she’s used to.  At the same time, one can understand how Gary, who has had to struggle and work for everything in his life, would be upset at his daughter living in the lap of luxury simply because of who she’s related to.  But I totally understand why Lucy would get mad at Gary, who, after twenty years or so, is suddenly acting like Mr. Father towards her.  Well, where have you been since 1963, sir?  You ran off on your daughter and on your wife and went to be a drunk for fifteen or sixteen years, so who are you to suddenly come in and start telling her how she needs to behave?  Again, the writer of the episode (Rena Down, who, surprisingly, only penned just this one episode of KL, but who also wrote eight episodes of Dallas and three episodes of Falcon Crest) is smart enough and skilled enough to not present either Gary or Lucy as the wrong person in this situation.  We understand and can sympathize with both characters.


Despite the objections of Ginger, Kenny’s party commences and everyone on the block is invited, including Lucy.  This scene unfortunately reeks of some dude over the age of 40 trying to present a party that people in their 20s would enjoy and being hopelessly out of touch.  Aside from Sylvie’s little song, the music we hear is that same dreadful public domain nothingness, but of course everyone is acting like this is some swinging hot party.  In fact, in my notes I wrote that the music sounds like the same score from Vacation when Chevy Chase is walking around that bar, looking to have an affair with someone, namely Christie Brinkley.  You all remember that scene?  Well, that’s what Kenny’s super cool music sounds like at this party.

  Lucy meets up with a bunch of, like, British dudes, and they start doing this line dance, which Richard even joins in on, LOL.  Actually, this is significant and shows even more potential seed-planting going on. See, this is the first episode where we see that Richard is looking to stray from his marriage.  He’s looking to have a little affair, and he even seems to set his eyes on barely-legal Lucy, although he obviously fails at conquering her.  However, we are going to see Richard have an affair just two episodes later, in Civil Wives, and then obviously this is just going to explode when Abby moves onto the block at the start of season two.  So, even though in this self-contained 48 minutes, we don’t actually see Richard cheat on Laura, we are shown that he is working on it, and this will blossom into bigger and better storylines very shortly.

                About thirty minutes into the episode, things start to get a little, well, wacky.  Perhaps “wacky” isn’t even the right word; perhaps “fast” would be better.  Lucy comes back to the palace of Gary and Val after an entire night out without a single phone call.  Obviously Gary and Val are like, “Why didn’t you call?  You should have called!”  Once again, I see both points.  Lucy is a twenty year old adult woman, and if she wants to stay out all night partying, she can do that.  And I would also be resentful if my parents who did not raise me or have any part in my upbringing were suddenly trying to act like authority figures in my life.  Conversely, if I were Gary/Val, I would also be concerned about Lucy being absent for the entire night.  But this all leads into a big speech from Lucy about how she can’t stay here in California (what she doesn’t say is that KL is going to finish this season at #30 in the Nielsen ratings while Dallas will finish at #6 and she’d rather stay on the more popular, though less artistically satisfying, series).  She’s going to return to Texas and, get this, so is Val.


                This is what I mean about everything suddenly turning really fast, because pretty much in the next scene Val has her bags packed and is all set to move to Texas, where she has been so unwelcome previously.  This really comes out of nowhere and seems very abrupt, not to mention a little contrived.  Obviously nobody in the audience is watching this and going, “Oh boy, I hope Val doesn’t actually move!”  Duh, she’s not going to move; this is just a conflict created for the episode and it will be wrapped up quickly.  But she and Gary have a tearful goodbye in front of their new house and Val says, “I’ve never loved anyone the way I’ve loved you,” which is nice.  Then she drives Lucy to the beach, which provides a nice callback to the first episode, as the two go to look at the ocean and watch the waves come in.  Suddenly Gary comes running down the beach, yelling after the two women, and then he gives a fabulous speech about how he was wrong to order Lucy around.  He admits that, “I was a drunk and a loser and just no good,” but says how he is working to change and blah blah blah.  Time is running out, so the three characters go gloriously running through the surf, the tide coming in and washing their feet, and the theme kicks in, and then the slow motion starts (it reminds me of Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley running on the beach in the first Naked Gun), and then they all sorta jump up in the air and we have a classic cheesy freeze-frame ending and, as per usual, our “Executive Producers: Michael Filerman and David Jacobs” credit, and then the episode ends.

                This last scene and, specifically, the last shot of the episode warrant some special attention not necessarily for the 48 minutes preceding them but more for what they say about this storyline in the greater context of the KL story and how it also relates, at least for the first seven years, to the stories on Dallas.  What’s interesting is that, despite Lucy appearing as a major character in this episode and helping Gary and Val come to some better understanding of their roles as her parents, we never once see Lucy again on the series; this is her one and only appearance ever, and remember that we have 338 damn episodes left to go in this series!  I think it’s very interesting to note that, even though this series began with the premise of Gary and Val moving to California and hoping to eventually bring Lucy along, this is the only time we see Lucy and she’s barely even mentioned after this.  Every now and then Karen will ask Val how Lucy is doing or something, but it’s rare, probably only five or six more times throughout the entire series, and considering the important role Lucy plays in the lives of her parents, I think that’s kind of a shame. 
 

                At the same time, one has to watch these old TV shows with an understanding of what was probably going on behind the scenes.  Obviously Charlene Tilton was enjoying a pretty great gig over on Dallas, a series that was rapidly on its way to becoming the #1 most popular show on television (as I’ve stated before, from 1980 to 1985, Dallas always finished in the ratings as either #1 or #2), so why would she leave an established and very successful series to be a character on its new, not-getting-very-good-ratings spinoff that, for all anyone knew, might be cancelled after a season or two?  So of course it makes sense that she would stick to the parent series and never show up again for the spinoff, at least when you look at it from that perspective.

                At the same time, looking at it from a storytelling perspective, I do kinda wish we lived in a world where Charlene Tilton left Dallas and joined the cast of KL.  For me, after a couple of seasons of Dallas, it really seemed like the writers had no idea what to do with the Lucy character.  Her storylines through the 1984-1985 season (which would be her last before she left the series) are just pathetic; she’s barely even included as a part of the Ewing family.  Then she left for a few seasons before coming back from 1988 to 1990 and doing, well, nothing.  Seriously, go watch those two seasons again (except don’t, because they are terrible) and tell me one important thing that Lucy does.  You won’t find a single thing.  Mostly all she did was sit at the dinner table and make wisecracks towards J.R., and that was all.

                I don’t think Charlene needed to join KL right away, but what about around 1984 or 1985?  How about she leaves Dallas and joins KL starting with the 1985-1986 season?  This would have been perfect timing on Tilton’s part, as that was pretty much the season that Dallas started turning into a big old turd sandwich, while conversely KL was just getting better and better.  I could imagine a ton of great storylines for the Lucy character had she and Mitch (that was her husband, if you’ll recall) moved into Seaview Circle, plus she would have been close to her parents, which just would have made good sense from a storytelling perspective.  Oh well, that’s not how it turned out, so I guess I’ll have to get over it.

                Ignoring all these potential alternate universes that I’m clearly so obsessed with, how is this episode as just a single episode of KL?  Oh, pretty good, I suppose.  Of the six episodes I’ve watched so far, I’d probably put this around number five.  I liked it better than our last episode, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, but I liked episodes one through four better than it, too.  It’s a good episode, but not a great one, and it’s more interesting as Lucy’s one and only crossover into the world of KL than it is for anything else.  I enjoyed and was invested in the storyline surrounding Lucy, Gary, and Val, but I would have been fine with excising all of the Kenny and Ginger material (this is something you’ll hear me whining about constantly throughout the first four seasons, so I apologize in advance), and I also can’t even remember Karen/Sid getting any good material here.  Seriously, do they do anything?  At the same time, I do appreciate the fact that Rena Down, in her one and only KL script, manages to plant at least two seeds for the future with the affair of Kenny and Sylvie as well as the fact that Richard is looking for an affair, as well.  This shows either some fantastic foresight or it’s just a remarkable coincidence; I’m not sure which.

                So, in conclusion, Home is For Healing provides us with a middle-of-the-road episode of KL full of some decent moments but hardly a classic; neither great nor terrible.  However, I’ll go ahead and give a minor spoiler right now and say that this episode is a masterpiece of television on the level of, say, the pilot for Twin Peaks when it’s placed side-by-side with our next KL episode, very possibly the worst KL episode of all time.  Stay tuned for my write-up on episode seven of KL, the gloriously awful Land of the Free.

3 comments:

  1. Poor Charlene, she really was treated like absolute dirt by the Dallas writers. Crossing her over into Knots Landing just as Dallas hit the black ice could have been genius. I'd loved to have seen the dysfunctional generational dynamics between Lilimae, Valene and Lucy under one roof, not to mention how much she would have despised Abby. Alas!

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  2. I laughed my butt off reading your Kenny and Ginger paragraph. I am already dreading their unceremonious departure at the end of season 4 because I will miss your take-downs.

    If only Kenny had left town when Sylvie made it big! Ginger couldn't afford the house on Seaview Circle, and we would be rid of those two momentum killers a couple of years earlier! LOL

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  3. I'm gonna guess they didn't have a Sylvie long-game in mind, but liked the actress after this episode. Then, when the entire writing staff decided they didn't want to write for Kenny and Ginger anymore, they just settled on the default "affair" story line, and went with someone that already been introduced so they didn't have to bother to actually set up anything new. Everyone was home in time for dinner with their spouses and kids. Hooray!

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