Sunday, October 25, 2015

KNOTS LANDING Episode 004 of 344: THE LIE


Episode Title: The Lie

Season 01, Episode 04

Episode 004 of 344

Written by Claudia Adams

Directed by Edward Parone

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 17th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Laura is feeling unappreciated, so she goes to a cocktail lounge in the middle of the afternoon and meets an artist. The artist buys her a drink, then invites her to his studio to do a portrait of her as a ruse to rape her. She hides the truth from Richard by saying a serial rapist that is on the loose in Knots Landing had just raped her at home before Richard got home. Val knows that this is not the case, and as she goes down to the police station to identify her attacker, the police end up arresting the wrong man.

 

                Hurray, it’s time for our first Laura-centric episode!  While it’s true that we got a bit of her in all three of the previous eps, and she did get a pretty memorable storyline in Community Spirit, this is where we really get to know her and start to understand her.  Laura is played by Constance McCashin, of course, and she will be with the show for over eight years, leaving at the start of season nine in 1987.  She is a character who really grows and changes throughout her eight years, and here is our first real opportunity to get to know her. 

                I think Laura’s real arc is that of growing from a weak and fragile housewife to a smart, tough, working woman.  By the time she leaves the series, she is truly independent, strong-willed, and she doesn’t take any shit from anybody.  As such, it’s very interesting to return to the early seasons and see her as a woman who pretty much does nothing but take shit, particularly from her husband.  The Lie is a pivotal episode not just for the understanding of Laura, but for the rich themes and feminist issues it explores.  Let’s dive in, because this is another one of my favorite episodes and one that, of the first three seasons, has always jumped out at me as being particularly memorable, so let’s explore.

                I’m noticing that these early episodes generally start out by giving us a pretty clear idea of what this week’s story will be about.  Around season four, we shall switch into the official nighttime soap category, and at that point it’s more like this ongoing saga that runs from episode to episode, but these early episodes are basically little movies, almost art movies, really.  The Lie opens, like last week’s episode, in the Fairgate kitchen, with Karen reading a newspaper and bemoaning the fact that there has been another rape in the area.  Ah, so we know that this episode will probably be about the lovely subject of rape. 

From there, we can all leave the room for a minute or two, because we have a Kenny and Ginger scene.  Remember how peaceful the last two episodes were without having to look at these two?  Well, now they’re back, so get your pillow and your nightcap ready.  Kenny enters the house, presumably finishing up with a morning jog, as he is wearing the most ridiculous pair of ‘80s short shorts I’ve ever seen.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I saw his balls dangling down, rather daring for network TV.  I guess Kenny is supposed to be our “Neighborhood hunk,” because he peels off his shirt to reveal his nasty hairy chest (this was fashionable in the ‘80s, FYI) and he’s all sweaty and shit.  Naturally, Ginger is being a horrendous nag, whining about, oh, I dunno, something.  Honestly, in my notes I just scribbled, “Kenny and Ginger scene=Boring.”  Kenny has some line about, “Oooh, what Ginger wants, Ginger gets.” 

At this point, I’m about to fall asleep, but fortunately we cut to a scene with Richard and Laura and I immediately perk up as if I’ve just downed four or five espresso shots.  Now here’s a couple worth talking about.  At the head of this episode, Richard is, of course, being degrading towards Laura.  See, she’s prepared his eggs, but they’re not the way he wants them.  She assures him she can make them again the right way, but Richard gets this classic Plesh look on his face and is all like, “No, I don’t have time!”  Then he asks if she ironed his shirts and she looks all guilty and tells him she took them to the laundry, oh no!  As we can see, Laura is trying to be a good wife, but she seems to keep making mistakes.  Hmm, maybe that’s not accurate; maybe Richard is just being overly demanding.  So what if you don’t like your eggs that way?  Just fucking eat them!  And so what if she dropped some clothes off at the laundry?  You don’t have a spare set or two lying around?  The magic of KL is that we can have a scene like this, that lasts probably less than two minutes, yet it speaks volumes about the relationship these two people share.

Next up, we have Laura getting herself dressed up in a rather fabulous red dress and a classic pair of sunglasses.  As long as Constance is on the show, we will see that she has an affinity for HUMONGOUS glasses (look no further than in the opening credit scroll for season seven, where she is wearing the most hideously huge pair of Librarian Glasses I’ve ever seen), and this may indeed be her first pair.  She runs into Val, who needs a ride to the community center.  “Oh jeez, I gotta go to the dentist,” Laura says, but we can tell she’s lying.  Who gets so dressed up to go to the dentist?  But anyway, Laura is a good friend so she gives Val her ride and then she heads off to a seedy bar.

We immediately get the sense that Laura is known at this bar.  The bartender is very friendly with her and immediately knows her drink, a white wine spritzer (does anybody drink these anymore?  I’ve always wanted to try one).  We get the sense that Laura has been spending many an afternoon here, in that magic gap where the husband is at work and the kid is at school.  Laura pulls out a pack of cigarettes, and I want to make a quick note of this. Barring some sequence in the next eight years that I’m not familiar with, I believe this is the only time we ever see Laura smoke.  She smokes exactly twice in this episode and both times, the smoking seems rather significant.  I wonder if Laura is just one of those “Smoke every now and then” people or if this is another part of her little act of rebellion; that not only is she going out to a bar in the middle of the day and drinking with strange men, but she’s also going to smoke cigarettes, damn it!  Anyway, a gentleman with a classic ‘80s Rapist Beard approaches her and lights her cigarette for her (this little act of chivalry is pretty much extinct from all current movies and TV shows unless we’re talking about, like, Mad Men or something).

‘80s Rapist Beard is played by Christopher Allport, and I knew I recognized him from something.  A glance at his IMDb page shows that he’s just the guy who’s in one episode of every TV show ever made, but what I recognized him from was a very early (and not very good) episode of The X Files.  He didn’t have the beard there, but he played Scully’s ex-partner and, apparently, ex-lover who got possessed by the spirit of some evil guy, or something.  Anyway, Christopher Allport, ladies and gentlemen. 

No one can argue that Laura is not rather naïve here.  In my memory, ‘80s Rapist Beard had a harder time getting her to come to his apartment, but watching the episode again, it’s really remarkably easy.  He shows her a photo he drew of her, and she’s impressed, and then he says he’d like her to come to his place so that he can do another portrait.  We cut to the next scene and they’re in his apartment!  Wow, that was abrupt.  On one hand, this is extremely foolish of Laura.  All the women are talking about the scary rapist running around town, yet she goes right home with this stranger.  At the same time, I can’t fault her, because I understand her feelings.  When Laura is at home, she feels like she gets nothing but grief, that Richard doesn’t appreciate her; all he does is get mad at her for screwing up the eggs or sending his clothes to the laundry.  Laura wants to feel appreciated, to feel sexy, to feel desirable, and this strange man is making her feel all those things.  He’s telling her that she is beautiful enough that he felt impelled to draw her, that he wants to draw her again, that she caught his eye weeks ago when he first saw her in the bar.  It’s certainly nicer to hear someone say they appreciate your beauty then to get scolded for screwing up the eggs, no?

But anyway, it doesn’t take long for ‘80s Rapist Beard to reveal his true colors and rape Laura.  Boy, this is an intense scene, and even though we go to a commercial just as the raping is really getting started, in my brain it felt like I witnessed the entire rape, probably because of the acting from Christopher Allport and Constance McCashin.  Seriously, poor Laura, she tries to push him away, she insists that they “just talk,” but he’s having none of it.  He pushes her down onto the bed, he gets on top of her, she’s struggling, your mind can fill in the blanks. 

When we return from commercial, Val is watering the lawn (very, very, very slowly) when she sees Laura come pulling up in her car and go running into the house.  Hmmm, that’s unusual, right?  About two seconds later, Richard comes driving up, and he shouts at Val, “Would you teach my wife how to park her car?!”  LOL, classic Richard; it’s just those little comments like that which form together and cause his wife to sneak out to bars in the afternoon.  Anyway, it appears Richard is just stopping off at home because he forgot something, some files or papers or something.  So he’s rushing through the living room, looking all over, all hectic, and he’s like, “Where the hell did I put them?”  Then he goes upstairs and finds Laura in the bedroom, all beat up.

Let’s go ahead and just give Constance and The Plesh some very belated Emmys, shall we?  Seriously, both of them are heartbreakingly good in this whole episode, but in this wonderful scene especially.  I’ll see if I can get a link up to this scene so everyone can understand what true acting is all about.  Again, we see how multifaceted Richard is, because he is super concerned about Laura and he behaves very tenderly towards her for the rest of the episode.  Poor Laura is lying on the bed, her red dress all ripped, burying her face in a pillow.  Yup, it’s powerful stuff.  Also, rather than admit to Richard what she was up to, Laura lies and says that the rapist was in the house, waiting for her, when she got home, and that he left just fifteen minutes before Richard came home.

There’s a really palpable sense of 1980 paranoia permeating this episode, and I note it even in small ways, such as in the next scene.  Pretty much everyone gathers around in the Avery living room, and while they’re talking, Richard is just going around, making sure all the doors and windows are locked up tight.  Also, we can see that Richard is very upset with himself, blaming himself for stopping at the bank rather than coming straight home.  “If I hadn’t gone to the bank, I could have stopped this,” he bemoans. 

There’s one little segment of this episode that goes down like an absolute lead balloon for me, and it pretty much collects all together here near the middle of the episode.  See, Diana comes home from school and tells Karen very casually that she hitchhiked.  “I mean, what’s the big deal?” she says, delivering it with all the conviction of someone in an afterschool special.  Karen grounds her and sends her to her room and is all upset.  Okay, I guess that part’s fine, if a little bit on the lecture-y side (I remember that 1980 was a big year of “You shouldn’t hitchhike, because Ted Bundy might pick you up!”), but the truly bad scene occurs when Karen goes to speak with Diana in her bedroom.  This is after everyone’s found out about Laura’s rape, okay?  Anyway, they have a little heart-to-heart talk, and I love Michele Lee, God bless her, and she does nothing wrong in this scene, but oh boy, Diana.

I’ve mentioned it before, but Diana is played by Claudia Lonow, and she will be with the show for the first five seasons (she pops up in the first two episodes of season six and then she leaves the series, only showing up for a couple of eps in the final season).  Now, Claudia Lonow may be a very nice person (I’ve actually spoken with her on Twitter and she’s always been very friendly towards me), but a great actress she is not.  I hesitate to say this, becuase she has been so sweet and friendly to me whenever we've spoken, and also because I hope to score an interview with her at some point, but I actually don't think she'd mind me saying that she's not the finest actress; I think she actually knows that.  In the last twenty years or so, she has transitioned smoothly from acting to a pretty great writer and producer in her own right, so I think she has found where her talents lie (random: I've always wanted to watch the show she created, Rude Awakening, starring Sherilyn Fenn).  So anyway, if I'm critizing her acting here, just know that I'm criticizing it with love and Claudia, I think you're a lovely person!  Anyway, Diana and Karen talk about the rape, and Karen has a response of how rape is turning the beautiful act of lovemaking into some sort of monstrosity.  Yeah, this is the worst scene in the episode and I would have immediately thrown it on the cutting room floor if I was working on this episode.  There’s a fine line between exploring interesting and important issues and just bopping your audience over the head, and this horrible scene is doing the latter.

Fortunately, we quickly get away from that awful scene, and then we return to characters I that I love, Richard and Laura.  There’s a super scene where they are getting ready for bed, and Laura is already in bed, and Richard climbs in and is like, “Laura, you awake?”  We can see that she is awake, but she’s really quiet, and when Richard makes some efforts to talk to her about what happened, her eyes get all watery and she just sorta manages to say, “Richard, don’t talk, okay?”  Now, just written out like that, it seems like a very cold line, but the way Constance delivers it is just perfect; she looks and sounds like she’s truly in pain and can hardly even speak. 

Things start to get convoluted at this point in the episode, so let’s all pay attention.  Laura gets a call from the police that they’ve apprehended a suspect, okay?  She goes down to the police station for a lineup (bizarrely, all the potential rapers are just sitting at a table, but whatever).  Right before she goes in, another woman who got raped comes walking out and is like, “Oh yes, the one with the scar; I would NEVER forget that scar!”  So, naturally, Laura goes in there and identifies the guy with the scar, as well.  She doesn’t want to admit it was someone else, because then the police will start to poke holes in her story, and she wants to take that secret to the grave with her.

Now, as everyone’s leaving the police station, they spot Scar leaving, as well, just hopping in a car and driving away, a free man.  What’s up with that?  Richard is upset, but then the police woman says that Scar was already AT a police station during the time that Laura claims he was raping her.  Because of that, the whole case is getting thrown out, and he’s gonna walk.  So while Scar probably did rape at least two or three other women, thanks to Laura’s lie, he’s free to leave.  Now Laura has to think about just what problems her lie is causing. 

Now, remember how in last week’s episode, Let Me Count the Ways, I noted that Val often plays the role of the silent observer, smarter than she appears to be at first glance?  Well, she’s playing that role here, as well.  She knows that Laura is not telling the truth because she saw her arrive home all beat up just two seconds before Richard got there.  Val doesn’t tell anybody this, but she keeps it in her mind as she observes Laura’s behavior throughout the rest of the episode.  This all culminates in a tremendous scene that is not only a highlight of this episode, but also a pivotal sequence for the series.

The scene I’m speaking of is where Val and Laura finally sit down together, one on one, and have a true heart to heart.  It takes place with both of them sitting on the stairs, and it’s basically Val saying that she knows Laura is telling a lie.  Now, Laura never comes right out and says that she’s lying, nor does she admit to Val what she was really up to that afternoon, but she gives a wonderful speech about the life she has lead up to this point.  We learn that her mother died when she was twelve and that she basically turned herself into the woman who could hold her family together.  She found that she liked being needed, that she liked helping her father with whatever he needed help with.  She says how when she met Richard, she dropped out of school so that she could pay for him to go to law school, and that this made her happy.  Now she is beginning to feel that Richard needs her less and less.  Again, Constance is great here, and this may be the single scene where Laura is at her most weak and vulnerable.  Trying to imagine her behaving this way in seasons six, seven, or eight just boggles the mind, because at that point in the series, she has become such a full, tough woman.  Here, though, she says, “I feel so trapped,” and her voice actually squeaks.  This would almost be comical in another circumstance, but here, it is just pure real; Laura is not crying in a glamorous, "actory" way, but the way a real human would cry as she lets all this emotion out.  Tremendous scene, and one that is referenced once or twice over the course of the rest of the series.

The climax of the plot occurs when Laura finds out that Scar is actually going to jail, after all.  She calls the police woman to confirm this, and this is a very interesting little scene, as she basically tells her that this is not the man who raped her, that was someone else.  “Are you looking for that man?” she asks.  The police woman has this very interesting line where she says, “Should we be?” and Laura just says, “No.”  What to make of this scene?  I’d say that this is the closest Laura comes to confessing the truth, although she doesn’t go all the way.  At this point, I think she is realizing that she made a mistake and she needs to not make that same mistake again, but that she’d rather carry her deep dark secret with her and try to get over it, not tell anyone about it.  I also get a small sense of judgment from the lady police officer, that she’s losing her patience with Laura and is basically saying, “Do you wanna tell me the truth or not?”  She knows something is not right, and she’s probably smart enough to figure out the truth, but why bother if Laura doesn’t care to seek true justice for the real rapist? 

Richard is in a cheery mood thanks to the news of Scar’s incarceration, so he takes everyone on the cul-de-sac out to a fancy schmancy dinner (at a restaurant where, Val notes, there are no prices listed on the menu, LOL).  Here, as with last week’s show, we have just the perfect ending.  See, Laura is trying to be in good spirits, but every single thing she considers ordering from the menu, Richard swoops in and vetoes it.  He tells her how the duck wouldn’t go well with the onion soup, how she shouldn’t have the escargots because of the fact that they ordered a bottle of red wine, and so on and so forth.  Richard is being a classic control freak, but you have to wonder if he even knows he’s doing it.  Perhaps in his mind he’s thinking how he’s paying for this meal, and it’s his gift to everyone, so he wants it to be just perfect, and it can’t be perfect if someone’s ordering onion soup with duck!

Laura excuses herself from the table and walks outside, and we have the second cigarette.  She puts the cigarette in her mouth and a strange gentleman approaches her with his lighter held out.  Laura leans forward so he can light her cigarette, and as the flame touches the tip of her smoke, we freeze frame and have our “Executive Producers” credit, a truly haunting final image for the show.  I spent a lot of time pondering on the meaning of this ending, and my conclusion is that it’s meant to be circular.  Laura should learn a lesson from what has gone on, but because of the almost unconscious way that Richard speaks to her, she is going to continue finding herself drawn to the attention of strangers, potentially getting into the same sort of trouble all over again. 

I started this little blog by saying that, in my memory, the first three seasons of KL are the worst, and yet so far we are four for four on recommendations; I would wholeheartedly recommend all four of the episodes I’ve discussed so far to pretty much anyone who appreciates quality television.  Rest assured, we are coming up to episodes I truly dislike, but this is not one of them.  The Lie is a great Laura-centric episode that helps us get to know and understand her character, and it’s aided by some amazing acting and rich feminist themes.  The only flaws I can think of are the Karen/Diana scenes that border on just hitting you over-the-head with a lecture on the evils of male violence against women.  But those scenes are a teeny portion of a magnificent 48 minutes of television, and so far I would say The Lie is the second best episode we’ve seen, coming in behind Let Me Count the Ways (which, at this moment, is the crown jewel).  As a big fan of the Richard and Laura characters, I would call The Lie essential viewing for anyone interested in watching and appreciating KL.
 
Next week we are going to meet another one of my favorite characters for the very first time, Lilimae, played brilliantly by Julie Harris, in Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

KNOTS LANDING Episode 003 of 344: LET ME COUNT THE WAYS


Episode Title: Let Me Count the Ways

Season 01, Episode 03

Episode 003 of 344

Written by William Hopkins

Directed by Henry Levin

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 10th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Richard is opposed to Diana's favorite teacher, David Crane, for his unorthodox teaching methods. He decides to run against him for a seat on the school board. Meanwhile, Karen, who is going through mid-life uncertainty, decides to go to the school to find out more about this teacher, but ends up falling for him and even contemplates having an affair with him.


Oh boy, now here’s a classic episode of television.  I’ll just say right off the bat that this episode, this glorious, glorious, glorious episode, is not only my favorite episode of season one (at least as I write this; perhaps my opinion will change as I go through the season), but also one of my favorite episodes of the entire fourteen season run of KL, and remember this is coming from a guy who would easily call seasons one, two, and three the least exciting or engaging seasons of the show.  But this episode, man, I couldn’t wait to watch it again, and whenever I think about it, I just feel so lit up inside, and after watching it, I thought about it for days, seriously.  I love this episode, oh how do I love this episode?  Let me count the ways! 

Now would be a good time to discuss the various different stages of KL.  Fourteen years is a long time, but one of the things that made KL so good was that it stayed fresh and would shake it up and change its style every couple of seasons.  I’ve done some thinking and I’ve found it’s fairly easy to divide the show into different eras.  Again, everything I'm about to say could potentitally change as I might discover little nuances or things that make we see the show in different eras, but as of this writing, here's how I would divide it, okay? 

The first era, I would say, spans 1979 to 1982, the first three seasons of the show.  During this time, the episodes are highly grounded in reality (more or less, every now and then you get a ridiculous biker invasion, but that’s a discussion for another time), mostly focusing on domestic issues and things that real people living in a real neighborhood could probably relate to.  Another thing about this era is that episodes tend to be fairly self-contained, usually focusing on one character with the other characters functioning in more of a supporting role. 

The second era would span seasons four through seven (1982 through 1986) and this would be the most purely serialized, purely soap portion of the series.  During this era, there’s not really a lot of humor, but it’s soapy deliciousness you can’t compete with (even with the Dallas seasons from that same time period), pretty much as good as the entire genre of the nighttime soap could ever possibly get; I like to refer to this four year period as the "super soap era." 

The third era would be my personal favorite, seasons eight through twelve (1986-1991).  This would be the Lechowick/Latham years that are, apparently, quite contentious amongst fans and the cast members, as well, with some people thinking they are brilliant and some people not liking them at all.  This is the most humor-imbued portion of the show, and, from my recollection, is easily the highlight of the series.  I recall watching that era and just feeling that the show was still at a creative peak even as late as its twelfth season, which is very impressive. 

Finally, we have the last two seasons (1991-1993).  How would I designate these?  I guess I’d designate them as, um, the last two seasons.  I don’t remember disliking either of these seasons (including season thirteen, which a lot of fans view as the pits), but I will say they don’t strike me as terribly memorable.  I guess we’ll call this fourth and final era of the series the “winding down” period where the show is still going, but it’s maybe lost a touch of its creativity and is starting to come to its conclusion. 

My extremely circuitous and long winded point?  We are still very much within that first era of the series.  Episodes will be mostly self-contained and far less serialized, with a few little exceptions (Abby and Richard’s affair, Sid and the mafia, the continuing seduction of Gary by Abby), and generally an episode will be focused on one character.  Now, Pilot maybe doesn’t count, as it was focused mostly on meeting the entire gang, but that second episode, Community Spirit, was, I would say, highly Gary-centric, as he had to man up and best his brother.  Well, this week we have our first official Karen-centric episode, and it’s stupendous (next week we’ll have another episode I really enjoy, The Lie, focusing heavily on Laura). 

As I mentioned before, Karen is my favorite character ever on KL.  I know that some fans find her a little, um, over-the-top, and I know that some find Michele Lee a rather obnoxious presence in her real-life interviews, but I feel none of this.  I think she is brilliant and a tremendous actress and I think Karen is the heart of the show.  Indeed, she’s the only person featured in all 344 episodes, even in that final season when they were slashing the budget and making everyone sit out for two or three episodes.  I think Michele Lee turns Karen into a really full fledged and three dimensional person, and, most importantly to me, I think she always kept Karen a good person, someone who tried to be good and true and have a sense of value and ethics in the way she conducted her life.  It’s so easy for that type of character to become boring, too (not to pick on anybody, but I certainly found the character of Bobby Ewing on Dallas to be rather boringly nice and good), but Michele kept Karen always interesting.

We know straight away that this will be a Karen-centric episode, because it starts with her in the kitchen, hectically trying to get breakfast ready for everybody and keep everything in check, clearly a bit overwhelmed by everything.  Michael and Eric are talking loudly about something (some girl in school that Eric’s crushing on or whatever), everybody needs this or that from Karen, everyone’s demanding things, and right away I get a great sense of what this episode will be about.  Karen may love her husband and she may love her three children, but she’s upset about something, and as we go through the episode, we will come to understand it quite well.

Very significantly, this sequence ends with her peering out the kitchen window and seeing Gary headed off to work and Val following along behind him, ever the doting wife, wishing him a good day.  The two exchange a nice kiss and then he drives off, and everything looks so happy.  Karen sees this and, I think, she wants that.  But there are many things to be said about this little scene (which, random, I believe is the only scene in this whole ep featuring Gary and he doesn't even have any lines!).  First off, yes, of course Gary and Val look like the happiest couple in the world, but that’s because they’ve been married for, what, about twenty days now?  They’re still in their honeymoon stage (or perhaps I should say second honeymoon, although I kinda doubt they got a first one way back in the '60s) where everything is sunshine and roses.  As we will see very shortly, their marriage is not as happy and peaceful as it looks, and Gary certainly has, shall we say, an eye that wanders.

The second significant thing to note is that, quite simply, Karen is seeing the grass as being greener on the other side, that’s all.  No viewer can look at Don Murray as Sid Fairgate and say that he is not a great husband and a wonderful man, but at this moment, Karen is simply yearning for that other, the thing she feels she does not have.  Really, none of Karen’s feelings and actions over the next 48 minutes are related to a dislike of her great husband, but more of a general, existential unhappiness with the state of her life at this moment.

Lastly, it is in this scene that we get the BEAUTIFUL Karen piano theme for the first time.  Oh, how I love this piece of music, and if I’m not mistaken, it plays quite often throughout the course of the first season.  How can I even describe this masterpiece of piano composition?  Let’s just say that it’s quiet, it’s simple, it’s beautiful, it makes me want to cry, and it ends with this really lovely and melancholic last couple of notes, sorta fading out as a button on the piece.  I wish desperately there was some sort of KL nine-disk CD set with all the songs and music throughout the series (imagine having ALL of Lisa Hartman’s songs on one CD!).  Perhaps if I find a way to write to Jerrold Immel, he could hook me up with copies of the original music?  A boy can dream.

Okay, what’s next?  Well, the main gist of this episode gets started right and quick with Richard speaking about a new teacher at Diana’s high school, David Crane (this name rings a bell, and I’m pretty sure it’s the name of one of the writers or creators of, gulp, Friends).  Apparently this David Crane character is quite contentious, and Richard asserts that he had a prostitute in class, as well as a junkie who demonstrated how to shoot up to the students.  Some parents think this guy is amazing, that he is showing the students “The real deal,” and some are shocked and chagrinned, mortified and stupefied.  Obviously Richard is the latter, but Karen is the former, a true defender of unorthodox methods, and she trusts Diana and Diana loves this new teacher.  Anyway, Richard wants to organize a meeting at the school to speak out against this teacher, and Karen shows up to speak in his favor.

Now, we hear all about this controversial teacher before we actually see him, and when we do meet him, we don’t know who he is at first, you see.  Karen is at the high school (along with Transmorpher Fran Bennett; in a few moments I will explain the concept of the Transmorpher) and she needs to go use the 1980 pay phone in the lobby, but she finds this man (spoiler: The man is David Crane) already talking on the phone, and he actually pauses his conversation to ask Karen for a dime, but she only has one, so there’s this little back-and-forth, and the sparks start to fly.  Truth be told, I don’t think I like this character, but I do like seeing how Karen reacts to him, how she is so obviously smitten.  However, I personally see something rather arrogant in this man, and while I truthfully do agree with his teaching methods, the actual character leaves a bad taste in my mouth, particularly because of the ease with which he goes after a married lady.
 
A friend of mine looked over this writeup when I was working on the edit and getting ready to publish it and pointed out that I never bothered to name the actor who plays David Crane and that was a bit of an oversight, so here's some information on this gentleman.  His name is David James Carroll (pictured below) and he actually died in 1992, sadly.  According to my friend, he is a big name in stage acting, but I'm not as familiar with that stuff, so I'm just gonna take my friend's word for it.  According to his IMDb page, he didn't have a ton of movie or TV credits, but I guess if you really follow the theater, you would be familiar with his name. 

Before we get too far, let me also take a moment to explain the Transmorpher and what that means and how I define it.  I define any actor or actress who appeared on both Dallas and KL playing different characters as a Transmorpher.  This means that Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Charlene Tilton, etc., etc. etc., do not count as Transmorphers.  Why?  Because they may appear on both series, but they are playing the same characters.  Here, we have, I think, our first Transmorpher in the form of Fran Bennett. You may recognize this rather stern and authoritative black actress from such movies as, oh, I dunno, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.  Here, she plays one of the teachers at the school, but she also appears in the Dallas episode Where Is Poppa? (Season 7, Episode 19) as Receptionist. 

Not only that, but my research showed me that she will be appearing in TWO MORE KL episodes and play a different character in both!  We will be seeing her as Kimya Haman in Abby’s Choice (Season 4, Episode 11) and as Dr. Faulkner in The Legacy (Season 7, Episode 25).  So not only is Fran Bennett a Transmorpher for being on both Dallas and KL, but she is also, like, a Transmorpher within a Transmorpher because she plays three different characters on KL, so congratulations Fran!  Perhaps I have already missed other Transmorphers in the previous two episodes, but so far as I know, Fran here is the first one, and I will keep my eyes open to note as many Transmorphers as I can as we go through the series.  Now, I'm not even gonna attempt to catch all of them, cuz I'll bet there are hundreds and maybe over a thousand, since it seemed Lorimar had a little stock collection of actors they liked to use and they will inevitably end up appearing on both shows.  But when I notice them, I notice them, and I'll make sure to note it here when I can.

The first real solid clue we get that David Crane has a boner for Karen comes right about here.  He is speaking in front of the crowd at the school, insisting that his teaching practices help the students to learn as well as enhance the fun and enjoyment of school.  He says that he makes big, bold gestures in order to get their attention, and he demonstrates this by, um, kissing Karen.  Yeah, that’s pretty bold all right, and I’m pretty sure if a teacher pulled this now and kissed a married woman in front of a crowd just to make a point, well, he would probably lose his job.  In 1980?  Gee, I’m not sure, but I guess I can buy that it would slide way back then.  Anyway, he kisses her, she clearly likes it, and we’re starting to establish our main conflict of the episode: Will Karen have an affair?

Karen and Val go out to a diner for a little late night coffee (I get the feeling that we see this café quite a few times throughout the series, including when Gary takes The Other Paul Rudd under his wing for A.A.).  While at the diner, David Crane shows up, sits down, and the flirtation continues.  Poor Val (POOR VAL!) turns into a third wheel as she tries to keep up with the conversation, but it quickly becomes obvious that Karen and David Crane are lost in their own little world of conversation and flying sparks.  This is one of the earliest scenes involving Val as a quiet and observant witness to something.  She might seem like a dumb country girl, but in this episode (and the next one, The Lie), she is able to see things going on right in front of her without having to open her mouth. 

In the little B-storyline going on here, Richard is doing, um, something political.  He’s running for, like, school board president or something, specifically because he wants to get rid of David Crane.  He adorns his little van with a bunch of posters and loudspeakers and goes to work, getting all political.  As this is only episode three, I can see why new viewers might not know just what to make of Richard yet.  Certainly, at this juncture in the series he may still seem like 100% jerk, but I have the foreknowledge to know that Richard does, indeed, have good qualities; they just tend to be hidden under his control-freak nature and his own insecurities.  Richard and Karen do have a nice exchange here where she sorta puts his arms around him and she says, “You’re my neighbor, and for some strange reason I like you.”  Ah, yes, what a lovely moment.  As we go though the first four seasons, we will see that while Karen often disagrees with Richard or finds some of his behavior distasteful, she does have a very special friendship with him and the two do love each other in a special way, and right here is the first example of this.

All signs begin to point to Karen having an affair, including David Crane giving her a lovely little flower and reminding her that he’s up for it if she is.  The scenes we get here with Sid are some of the best parts of the episode, mostly because the writing is so good that we can see he is a great guy, a fabulous husband, but we also understand why Karen is considering straying.  This culminates in my favorite scene from the episode (and, frankly, one of my favorite scenes from the entire show), where Sid comes home super excited because of some new pots and pans he bought.  Karen’s in the kitchen, see, and Sid comes running in, all hyper, like “Look what I got, honey!”  He pulls out these pots and pans, talking about how they are a special design, non-stick, and nothing will stick to them no matter what.  He demonstrates by cooking up some cheese in the pan, and then he smears some cheese on a cracker and basically feeds it to Karen.  Michele Lee’s reaction here is maybe the best thing ever in a movie or a TV show, as she just sorta passively allows herself to be fed with this hilarious blank face.

Why do I love this scene so much?  Again, it’s because I perfectly understand the feelings and the actions of both characters.  We’ll start with Karen.  She is a woman who loves her husband and her family but is starting to feel a little underappreciated and is also starting to have thoughts about the different ways her life could have gone, maybe in a more of a late ‘60s activist direction.  She wants to be viewed as a full woman, and she is excited by David Crane because he makes her feel young and sexy again and he views her as more than a housewife.  As for Sid, he is excited to bring home these pots and pans because he thinks they will make a fabulous gift for his wife, and obviously it’s the thought that counts with any gift.  Sid is trying to make his wife feel loved and happy, but he just happens to have picked the wrong way to show that.  Pots and pans serve as a reminder to Karen that her family sees her as “The woman in the kitchen,” so she is unable to be happy with her husband’s gift to her; rather, the gift pushes her closer to adultery.  It is scenes like this that demonstrate what KL is all about and what makes it so special, and we will have tons more in the course of the next 341 episodes.

Okay, so Karen picks up the phone and gives David Crane a call and tells him she would like to stop by his apartment.  Next up, we have her in the bathroom (random: I love the layout and the look of the Fairgate bathroom/bedroom, and this is definitely the house I would most want to live in if I lived in Seaview Circle), getting all dressed up, looking pretty, and putting on some perfume.  I guess “some perfume” is inaccurate, as she kinda drowns herself in perfume, really overdoing it.  In real life, I’m pretty sure a spray or two on the wrists and one on the neck is about all it takes, but Karen sprays the perfume, like, five times, going all over the place.  Oh well, the perfume’s not the important part; the important part is Karen’s face and the AWESOME job of acting Michele Lee is doing here.  Look at that face in the mirror, man, and look at how her expressions tell us everything we need to know. 

She arrives at David Crane’s apartment.  This thing is about as ‘70s as you get (yeah, we’re in 1980, but just barely, and I actually think this episode might be taking place in 1979; more on that later), decorated with lots of ‘70s posters, a “Look at me, I’m an artist” guitar leaning against the wall, a general “White wall” feeling, and a tiny little bedroom that, I must admit, looks quite cozy (oh yeah, I should also mention that this place looks exactly like Cliff Barnes' apartment over on Dallas; now I wonder why that would be?).  One gets the feeling that this is not David Crane’s first time stealing a married woman from her husband; the guy is a bit of a pro and, you can tell, quite the playboy.  Anyway, he gives Karen some wine and the two sit down on the couch.  Karen tastes the wine and then says, “The wine is very good, but I don’t want to drink it right now.”  Yup, we all know what that means.

David Crane shows her the bedroom, and he has a pretty nice little speech about how he made the bed, wanting it to look nice and tidy, but then decided that seemed too pre-planned and presumptuous, so he messed it up again, and then finally returned it to being made, because that’s what he’d do anyway.  Does that make any sense?  I guess you just have to hear the way he delivers it, cuz it’s a nicely realistic moment.  Karen says how she would sorta like to sleep with him, but she can’t do it, and it’s here that we get her Emmy-worthy speech of amazingness.

I wish I had transcribed this entire speech down, or I wish I had the powers of a better memory so I could just remember how it went, but it’s awesome, and it’s long, and it’s delivered perfectly by Michele.  When I say give her an Emmy, I’m not being funny or exaggerating; seriously, GIVE HER AN EMMY!  I don’t care that the show has been off the air for over two decades or that this particular episode is 35 years old, JUST GIVE HER AN EMMY, NOW!  Seriously, this speech rocks, and she delivers it like a true actress.  She explains how she is approaching mid-life, a word she hates, and that she’s afraid, and that every time she looks in the mirror, she feels a little older, that she’ll find a wrinkle that wasn’t there a year ago, and so on.  She says how his attraction to her made her feel young and sexy again, and that was a good feeling, but she needs to acknowledge who she really is, the life she really leads, the family she loves waiting for her at home.  Oh, she’s just so good in this scene.  It’s the real test of good acting if you can just deliver a long speech with basically no interruption and keep it interesting and emotional all the way through, and Michele does it brilliantly. 

Karen returns home and has a little chat with Richard.  In a nice display of humility, Richard tells her he lost the election, that his dreams of school board president are gone, but then he says, “I’m running for President in 1980!”  I wanted to note this because this episode aired in 1980, January 10th of 1980, to be precise.  Obviously it would have been filmed earlier, but does this mean these first couple of episodes of the series are actually taking place in 1979?  I like to just sorta assume that the episodes are taking place in time with their airdates, but maybe we are slightly behind (if you think this is headache-inducing, just be glad we don’t have to discuss the “Dream” season of Dallas and question if everything after Bobby’s resurrection is actually taking place one year in the past!). 

The very last scene of the episode is the perfect cherry on top of a delicious ice cream sundae.  Karen returns home, all dressed up for her trip to “the market,” which nobody questions.  I’m willing to forgive this one because it’s KL and I love KL, but I’ll admit it’s a little silly that Karen claims to have gone down to the market but she returns with no groceries and dressed up in an absolutely stunning outfit, dripping with perfume.  She finds Sid at work in the garage, gives him some hints that she would like a little late-afternoon shag, and the two go inside the house to make this a reality.  Now, it’s the very last shot, specifically, that I love so much.  They enter through the kitchen and walk out of the camera’s path, and then the camera pans down to show the pots and pans Sid bought for Karen.  They’re sitting on the counter, super duper shiny, almost out of a pots-and-pans TV advertisement, and what’s sitting next to them?  The flower that David Crane gave Karen earlier in the episode, except it’s all wilted and dead.  This last shot confirms for us that David Crane’s affections for Karen were fleeting, not true love, but those pots and pans from Sid?  That, ladies and gentlemen, is true love, and it’s on this fantastic image that we freeze frame, get our "Executive Producers" credit, and fade out of the episode.

Let Me Count the Ways is easily the best episode of KL so far.  I know we’ve only watched three episodes, but damn, this one is just so good.  Even as we get deeper into the series, and I’m talking at the 200 episode and beyond mark, this one will always stand out as one of the series’ best.  From start to finish, everything about this works.  You have a brilliant script that shows the characters full of dimension and you have awesome acting from all involved, but especially that show-stopping performance from Michele Lee.  For me, it’s this kind of an episode that elevates KL over all the other nighttime soaps of the ‘80s.  Maybe the others had glitz and glamour and the soapy ability to make you want and need to go on to the next episode, but they didn’t have the heart and the maturity of KL, both of which are on perfect display here. 

Next week we get a little rapey and shift our focus to a different character, Laura Avery, as we discuss The Lie.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

KNOTS LANDING Episode 002 of 344: COMMUNITY SPIRIT


Episode Title: Community Spirit

Season 01, Episode 02

Episode 002 of 344

Written by Elizabeth Pizer

Directed by James Sheldon

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 3rd, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): J.R. Ewing is in town planning an offshore drilling project on the beach, which everyone is opposed to, except for Richard who asks Laura to get together with Chip Todson, J.R.'s PR man. He asks her to do this so he can get the account. J.R. has an afternoon rendezvous with Karen (big mistake!). Gary goes to J.R.'s office to steal an important file he can use against his brother. Along with the rest of the community, Gary protests by picketing on the beach.

 

                Well, it certainly didn’t take them long to cash in on the success of the parent series as they were getting the spinoff series off the ground, did it?  We already had Patrick Duffy as a guest star crossing over from Dallas in Pilot, and now, one week later, we have Larry Hagman showing up as J.R.  In the totality of the series, there really aren’t that many crossovers from Dallas to KL, with only nine crossover episodes out of 344 (and none whatsoever after season four), but as you are first getting started with the series, it might seem like the crossovers are constant.

                Not that I’m complaining.  In fact, I really like it and kinda wish the crossing over could have gone on longer (mostly because I would have loved to see Larry Hagman as J.R. cross paths with William Devane as Sumner).  I also get a boner for the idea that the two shows exist in the same world, that at the same time J.R. is doing his evil deeds in Texas, Gary and Val and the whole gang are doing their thing in California, both existing at the same time.

                This episode actually starts out in Texas with an exterior shot of the Ewing Oil building and a little bit of Jerrold Immel’s Dallas theme.  From there we go into J.R.’s office as he holds a small conversation with some lackey.  This is what I’m talking about, really; it’s cool to be in J.R.’s Dallas office here, at the head of an episode of KL, and even though it’s an extremely brief scene (less than two minutes long), it provides more of that linkage I discussed last week, keeping the two shows caught up with each other.  The gist of this sequence is that J.R. is discussing expanding Ewing Oil’s influence even more, perhaps into, dare we say it, California?

                Now what is J.R.’s motivation here?  Is it really as simple as wanting more money and having more influence?  Is it the simple fact that Ewing Oil is not doing much in California?  Or is it that he likes the idea of heading out to his brother’s new home and rocking the boat a little? Hmmm, I’m gonna go with option three.  J.R. loves to stir the pot, create trouble, and generally be a pest to those that annoy him, and he certainly holds a special distaste for Gary.

                After this brief scene, we get the episode credits proper run over footage of the cast gallivanting on the beach.  I’ll take a parlay here to say that one of the many, many things that make KL far superior to Dallas, at least in my eyes, is that setting.  Yeah, the Texas ambience is cool, too, but I would much rather live out here in sunny California on a nice cul-de-sac, going to the beach all the time and getting good and tan.  Also, I feel like there’s a lot more beach location footage in these early episodes versus later.  Yeah, the beach is always around, a constant theme, but in the first season and, maybe, the second and third, I feel like they’re going to the beach in practically every episode. 

                Anyway, while at the beach, the gang spots a mysterious sorta tanker far off in the distance.  What could this be?, they wonder, and then we get our first KL Rapid Cut.  Let me explain the meaning of the KL Rapid Cut; this is basically whenever a character says something and then we abruptly cut to another character sorta saying the same thing, you follow?  In this case, Gary is reading the newspaper article about J.R.’s offshore drilling coming to California, and then he says, “I can just hear Richard saying ‘I knew it all along.’”  From here, we cut to Richard standing out on the street, looking at the paper, and saying, of course, “I knew it all along.”  This little cutting device will be used pretty consistently throughout all fourteen seasons, although it does become much more elaborate as we go on, often cutting back and forth from scene to scene, usually for comedic effect; here, it’s just that one simple edit.

                Next up, there’s a big town meeting, and oh my goodness, are those BLACK PEOPLE I see in the audience?  This is definitely worth noting, as black people were allowed to exist on KL while they were pretty much absent from all fourteen seasons of Dallas (with the exception of, like, Dora Mae, the hostess at the bar everyone went to all the time).  These black people aren’t really doing much, mostly just sitting there and listening to a speech, but they’re there, damn it!  Later in the series, we will even have black people as full-fledged cast members; how very exciting!  Aside from the black people, this meeting’s actually pretty boring, just a not-very-crowded auditorium and a few boring speeches and blah blah blah, so let’s move on.

                Probably my favorite storyline for this episode gets revved up as Richard and Laura leave the auditorium.  If I haven’t said it yet, Richard and Laura are two of my favorite characters of the whole series, and probably my favorite “Original Couple” from the first four seasons of the show; I just find them endlessly fascinating to watch and to contemplate, as both characters are so rich and layered.  Yes, their relationship is totally dysfunctional, but that's what keeps them so interesting.  Plus, both actors are just so good that you can't help but be fascinated to watch them interact.  Anyway, in the parking lot, they run into, um, some guy, um, let’s look into this….ah, yes!  This character’s name is Chip Todson and he is played by Joseph Hacker (pictured below).  Interestingly, a quick glance at his IMDb page shows me that he will be back as a different character in a season five episode, The People vs. Gary Ewing.  In any case, he’s just sorta a generic white guy and by the time I make it to that episode, I will probably have forgotten about him here, but whatever.  See, what’s so interesting is that we get weird, random dialogue hinting that he and Laura had some sort of a thing in the past, but we never really figure out what.  See, she introduces him to Richard and says they were camp counselors together a long time ago, and then a second later, Chip is like, “Ooh, good lie!”  So what really went on?  It’s all very mysterious and it culminates in an amazing scene that has always stuck with me (more on that later).

                J.R. comes rolling into Seaview Circle in his big, fancy limo, prompting everyone to wonder who the rich guy is.  I actually theorize that he knows Gary is not at home and has specifically come at this moment just to terrorize Valene, which he does.  She is clearly afraid of him, but ever the Southern lady, she allows him to come in and have some coffee, even though she looks like she’s about to poop her pants.  Gary arrives home shortly afterward and J.R. delivers a wonderful line when he holds up his coffee and says, “You wouldn’t happen to have a drop of bourbon for a weary traveler?”  Oh, J.R., you’re so wicked and I love it.

                After leaving the Ewing house, J.R. stops to say hi to Karen, who is working in her garden.  Ah, what a delicious bit of chemistry we get between the two.  I can’t remember offhand, but I’m willing to bet that in all five of the J.R. crossover episodes, he gets at least one dynamite scene with Karen.  Since she’s obviously no fool, she knows that J.R. is bad news and when he tries to get her to take him for a tour of California, she gets a big, sexy grin on her face and says, all slow, “Mr. Ewing….buzz off.”  On paper this looks like a dumb line, but you just gotta see the way Michele Lee delivers it and Larry Hagman’s beautiful reaction.  Oh, how delicious this all is.

                The basic gist of J.R.’s visit to town concerns some files that Gary needs to steal from him, and he needs the help of Karen to do it.  This leads to a tremendous sequence where Karen comes to visit J.R. at his PALACE hotel room and basically leads him on to believe a seduction is taking place.  Meanwhile, Gary is sneaking into some offices (presumably Ewing Oil offices; are these new offices or do the Ewings just have offices all over the world? Oh yeah, and it's also worth noting that this office is CLEARLY just a redressed version of the set for Kenny and Ginger's house) and stealing this file from J.R.  He calls Karen to alert her that the job is done and she leaves J.R. hanging high and dry, which is also tremendously funny.  I think at this point, J.R. realizes he’s been tricked, but I honestly don’t think it makes him mad. I think he enjoys a clever woman who can get the best of him, and as a duplicitous person, I think he also respects when someone is able to get the best out of him (perhaps one of the reasons he gets along so well with Abby when he meets up with her later on).

                Let me return to the Richard/Laura stuff for awhile.  Basically, Richard wants Laura to get close to this Chip guy, who is some sort of an advisor to J.R.  Richard is the only person who is sucking J.R.’s dick and trying to get on his good side, probably because he believes it will benefit him in some way in the future.  Because of Laura’s bizarre past history with Chip, the past history that’s never fully explained (and I like it that way), she is reticent to go and see him or spend any time with him.  Here’s our first real hint of Laura and Richard’s tumultuous relationship, which we didn’t get a whole lot of in the Pilot episode.  As she tries to explain to Richard that she wouldn’t feel comfortable doing this, he yells, “What is the matter with you?!” at her.

                Now, this is pretty much the epitome of why I love KL and its characters.  I understand both of these characters very well, and even though Richard is behaving like a jerk and treating Laura badly, the show is not painting him as a villain.  He is a small man who wants to be a big man, a lawyer who is unhappy with his life and so he lashes out at his wife.  But he’s not a bad man, and there’s definitely heart in there, as we will see throughout his time on the show, instances when he shows real caring and acts like a real gentleman.  At the same time, Laura is (at this point in the series) a bit of a weak woman who has a hard time standing up for herself.  But my point is that on most other shows, one of these characters would be portrayed as being "the wrong one.”  Here, they are both complex and three dimensional with flaws and good qualities, like the real people we meet every day.

                I don’t know if I would go so far as to call what happens next a rape, but I do think it’s pretty close.  Laura goes to visit Chip and he takes her straight to the bedroom.  It’s basically a business arrangement: Oh yes, your husband wants something from me and he’s using you to get it; therefore, you will sleep with me and that is our arrangement.  As he leads her into the bedroom, Laura asks, “Does it bother you that I really don’t want to do this?”  Chip’s response is that it only makes it more exciting, which frankly turns my stomach.  Here’s a man who views the conquest of a woman who does not wish to have anything to do with him as a victory, some sort of a score for himself, something to feel proud about.  Maybe it’s not a rape scene like the one we will be getting in an upcoming episode (The Lie), but it is still a man having sex with a woman who has told him flat-out that she does not wish to have sex with him.

                All of this culminates splendidly on the beach near the end of the episode, when Chip starts to get a little rough with Laura and Richard comes to intervene.  Richard doesn’t seem to understand what really went on between the two, and he starts to think that Laura’s embarrassed because she had sex with Chip at some point in the long long ago.  Richard is lovely here, saying something to the effect of how “There is life before marriage.”  While he’s saying this, Laura is crying and I gotta say, Constance McCashin is one of the best all time criers.  Whenever she cries, I totally buy it; she doesn’t make it into this “actress” thing and she doesn’t make herself look glamorous; she cries the way real people cry.  I don’t believe she ever tells Richard that she actually slept with Chip the other day, but she does say, “Oh Richard, I love you,” and gives him a big hug, and it’s a very powerful scene.  It’s one of those small scenes that has always stuck in my mind, mostly because of the great acting from Constance and The Plesh. 

                I’m gonna be honest and say that, sometimes, I have a hard time following the exact outlines of a plot, so the exact very conclusion of the episode is a little hard for me to remember, just like I can’t quite remember exactly what the file is that Gary steals from J.R. or exactly how they manage to get J.R. out of town.  Basically, though, J.R. does leave town, perhaps just because he sees that Gary has grown some balls in the two weeks that he’s been living in Knots, plus there’s a bunch of angry picketers at the beach.  Anyhow, J.R. decides to leave California, but he gives a big nice speech to the crowd that makes it sound like it was his decision and not pressure from his brother.  Everyone is happy and smiling as they walk up the ramp away from the beach, and then it freeze frames (this is how many of the early season episodes will end, by the way, with some sort of super happy freeze frame shot of the gang together; I get the feeling that the show ditches the freeze frame endings around seasons three or four).

                Okay, so what did I think of this episode?  I thought it was very solid, and so far we are two for two on KL episodes (only 342 to go!).  However, much as I enjoyed this, I would still vote for Pilot as a superior episode, maybe just because of that warm and fuzzy feeling I get from seeing all my friends for the first time.  Also, I don’t recall the first episode having any scenes that were boring or dragged on forever, and the little auditorium scene near the head of this episode was pretty dull (definitely an okay time to run off for a quick pee).  At the same time, there’s just so much I love here, and I filled my notes with random stuff that delighted me.  Look at a scene as simple as Karen and Laura painting signs in the living room.  There’s just something about the simplicity of this scene that makes it feel incredibly realistic.  It’s scenes like this that I love, because it just feels like life to me.  There’s nothing on Dallas that I could really relate to, but two neighbors hanging out and working on something in their living room, painting some posters? This just feels totally true to life for me.  Also, since Richard and Laura are two of my Top Ten Characters, I was happy to see them given more of a story than they had last week, and I was also pleased to see NO KENNY AND GINGER (it’s probably a bad sign when the writers have already run out of stuff to do with characters in the fucking SECOND episode of the show, LOL).  The less we see of those toxic bores, the better, and it’s just a shame that we’re gonna be stuck with them until the end of season four, but what can you do? 

Finally, I loved Hagman’s crossover, and he played the role brilliantly, as always.  I think there are many actors who might view playing an established character in a guest spot on a new show as a mere paycheck; they might just show up, read the lines, and then cash the check, but Hagman is totally 100% J.R., the same J.R. we know and love from 357 episodes of Dallas, and he brings his A-game to this guest spot.  So, even if I wasn’t as over-the-moon about this episode as the previous one, it’s still very solid and, despite my initial reservations about the earliest years of the series, I think we’re doing really well so far, with two great episodes in a row! 
 
 However, I predict that our next episode coming up will be even better as we ditch Dallas crossovers for a little while and get to deeply explore the character of Karen Fairgate in an early season KL highlight, Let Me Count the Ways