Sunday, January 31, 2016


Episode Title: Hitchhike: Part Two

Season 02, Episode 02

Episode 015 of 344

Written by Don Murray

Directed by Edward Parone 

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 27th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): After Sid fires Richard as the attorney, Richard, in a drunken stupor, causes a scene in the cul-de-sac. Karen is angry when she discovers Richard tried to pay off the hitchhiker to drop the charges. Karen remembers a vital clue which results in getting Sid cleared. Abby decides to move to Knots Landing, and becomes a part of prime-time soap history.


“Here are some scenes from the first part of tonight’s episode,” declares the omniscient narrator right at the head of this episode, followed by about three minutes of recap from Hitchhike: Part One.  I’ll take another quick second to repeat how much I love that corny narration.  Would it not be enough to say “Previously on KL?”  I guess not; instead we must have that big, bloated mouthful to explain to the viewers at home that this is a Part Two.

After the recap, we get into the episode proper, and we have yet another ep that is ripe with talking points.  Oh boy, where to start?  I think I’ll actually start out on Richard, as one of the first scenes is him talking with Laura about how he is “invisible” down at his law firm.  This, I think, is some very vital information and it goes a long way towards helping us understand Richard Avery.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but Richard is suffering from a Napoleonic complex.  He needs to prove he’s the man, but in doing so, he only continues to dig himself into deeper and deeper holes.

After all, in last week’s show, Richard’s boss offered him a partner to work with, someone who could help him with the Fairgate rape trial, and Richard refused.  He’s gotta prove HE CAN DO IT ALL BY HIMSELF, DAMN IT!  Going down that path, Richard just made some very stupid decisions and started to bribe Pam, behavior that is going to get him into big trouble right here.  This links back to a previous episode, Courageous Convictions, where Richard refused to admit that he was in financial trouble he couldn’t handle, and by refusing to admit that, he only sunk deeper and deeper.  Finally, Richard’s comment about being “invisible” even after nearly ten years at that firm is going to be further explored very shortly in Chance of a Lifetime, but we’ll discuss that when we discuss that.

One of the highlight scenes from this episode comes pretty early on.  As you  may well know at this juncture in my writing and watching, I am not a Diana fan.  No, she’s not toxic like Kenny or Ginger, but my God is she shrill!  Here, she thinks she’s going to get to join that great, sexy band Zarris, but when she shows up to practice, she is instead dismissed.  Basically, everyone in the band is a little nervous about having the daughter of a potential rapist as a part of their group, so Diana is dismissed.  In typically mature Diana fashion, she comes barging into her house, screams a few nasty things at Sid, and then runs up the stairs to pout on her bed, clearly waiting for Sid to come in so she can yell at him some more.

Well, Sid does come in to speak with her, but I was delighted to see him being rather harsh and firm with her.  Diana is going on about, “You don’t know what this is doing to me!” and that’s when Sid finally loses his temper.  No, he doesn’t start beating Diana (although I would enjoy seeing that), but instead he tells her he has bigger things to worry about than her “Fragile little girl ego” (great great line delivered perfectly by Don Murray).  He reminds her that whatever she is going through, it’s nothing compared to what he’s going through, and then he delivers a fabulous speech about all the bad things that this experience is going to do to everyone in general.  He talks about how this will just make everyone more cynical and more jaded and less willing to help out their fellow humans.  After all, this whole thing got started just because Sid wanted to help out a young girl in trouble, right?  Now he’s being punished for this act of caring and thought towards another human soul.

This is 1980, of course, and as Sid delivered his fabulous speech, I found myself thinking of what was going on in the national consciousness around this time.  After all, this is not the first time the issue of hitchhiking has been brought up; it cropped up in a Diana-related B-plot back in The Lie.  This is also the year that Ted Bundy officially got locked up and Ann Rule published her legendary book, The Stranger Beside Me, about her experiences with Ted.  I think people’s perceptions about their general safety are shifting in America at this time.  As we get deeper into the ‘80s, people stopped being as willing to help others because of their own fears about what that person might do to them.  I’ve dealt with this paranoia myself, where perhaps I’m driving around really late at night and I’ll see a car stopped on the side of the road, broken down.  A part of me wants to pull over and help whoever might be in that car, but then a darker part of me whispers that this could be a trick, a trap, that the car could belong to a psycho who is just hoping someone will pull over to assist them.  Because of this, I understand Sid’s feelings and I agree with them.  Plus, I just enjoy any heart-to-heart scenes where Sid gets to act like a father, and I’ll send a gentle reminder that our time with Sid is very limited (as this is episode 015 and he makes his final appearance in episode 033), so we gotta soak up all the Sid-goodness we can while he’s still around.

Next up, we return to the shitty apartment complex where Pam dwells with her fat mother.  This time, they are being visited not by Richard and his surfboards but by Karen, who has only come to talk.  Now, I am no legal expert and I also generally don’t care to watch too many legal shows (because, as we all know, if I watched a couple of legal shows, I would become an expert on all things relating to American law), so I’m not sure if Karen is doing the right thing or not.  During a trial, isn’t it generally understood that there should be no interference from plaintiff to defendant and vice versa?  Like, couldn’t Karen perhaps get into trouble just for visiting Pam?  I’m not sure if it works realistically, but I do enjoy the scene and Michele Lee’s acting. 

Not just Michele’s acting, but also Conchetta Ferrell’s acting.  It’s here that I started to realize that the mother does believe her daughter.  For awhile I was wondering if maybe this was a mother/daughter scam team, that she was the one encouraging Pam’s behavior.  Here, it is shown that she believes her daughter and she really does believe they, the “have nots,” are going up against the “haves.”  She goes on about how they aren't going to hide their dirty laundry; in fact, their method has been to release multiple statements to the press saying, essentially, that Pam is promiscuous and loves to sleep around, but that doesn’t make it okay for her to be raped.  This is an interesting tactic that I could see working in real life, plus it provides an interesting statement on classism and reminds us that, while the Fairgates are not up there with the Texas Ewings over on Dallas, they are still very well off when compared to others in the community, specifically people like Pam and her mother. 

The key bit of information revealed here is that Richard visited them with a bribe.  The mother says something like, “Don’t even try to send that lawyer down with another bribe,” and at that point we see the light bulb go on in Karen’s head.  She realizes what Richard has done and she is damn mad about it.  She jumps into her car and is about to speed away when she sees, GASP, the VAN!  That’s right, friends, remember the van that was only seen for a second right at the start of Hitchhike: Part One?  Well, here it is again, that red van with the lightning bolts on the back of it, parked directly in front of Karen, with the license plate reading “Yuk.”  This scene comes and it goes, but it’s pivotal and it will end up saving Sid’s ass later in this ep.

Next up, we have Karen enjoying another cocktail (again, I think it’s a gin and tonic).  For whatever reason, this particular image has always stayed etched in my brain, as Karen is sitting quietly in the living room, sipping her drink, all the windows closed and all the shades drawn.   There’s something about this dark image of a woman drinking alone that has just stuck with me.  Anyway, Sid comes in and shit gets real when Karen tells him about the shenanigans Richard has been up to.  Sid’s temper flairs up, which is a rare sight throughout his 33 episodes, he goes marching out of the house, and he fires Richard’s ass right there in front of the Avery house.  He screams and yells and tells Richard he is off the case and it’s a beautiful thing.  I’ll again remind you that this episode, as was the previous one, is written by Don Murray.  I get the feeling that he was intentionally trying to expand his character here.  After all, in the fourteen previous episodes, have we ever seen Sid lose his temper and start yelling at someone?  I suppose he did slap Diana way back in Pilot, but he was under a lot of pressure back there and, again, who wouldn’t want to slap Diana?  Aside from that, I can’t think of a scene where Sid got really, really mad and yelled and screamed at someone.  I wonder if Don Murray was perhaps getting a little tired of playing such a wholesome, unflappable character, and was wishing to display a wider range of emotions in his performance? 

Okay, so things are not going well for Richard here.  He has to admit to his boss that he lost the case, and not only that, but that the Fairgates are taking their business to a completely separate lawyer, someone not even associated with Richard’s firm.  So, not only did he lose the case personally, but he also cost his firm (can’t remember the exact name; sorry) a big case.  Short Man Syndrome is rearing its ugly head yet again for Richard, and it’s pretty humiliating to watch him have to admit all these things to his boss.

This leads to some lovely drunken acting from The Plesh.  I have to wonder how much method acting might have been involved in this little scene, by the way, as The Plesh is very realistic as a drunken person, easily switching between happy and energetic to super angry and nasty.  The scene starts with him and Laura in the kitchen, where he is drunkenly cooking and seems, at first, to be in good spirits.  However, he quickly abandons the kitchen and runs outside to start screaming mean things at the Fairgate house.  I think this might be the first usage of “Saint Sid,” which I really enjoy (although I think maybe maybe maybe Karen might have used that term once or twice in some previous episode).  Sid comes outside and tells Richard to go home, as he is drunk and depressed and making a real ass of himself. 

Meanwhile, we have a few things going on with some of our other beloved characters, particularly the new arrival Abby.  Okay, I’m gonna do a bit of spoiling for future episodes and seasons right here, so please skip this part if you haven’t ever gone any further than season two and you don’t want things spoiled.  Anyway, Abby and Gary do, in fact, wind up getting together in 1982, right near the ending of season three, and then they eventually get married and, of course, divorced after a certain number of seasons.  For me, the beautiful thing is the wonderfully controlled pacing of all these developments.  Abby has just arrived in the show and she hasn’t even decided she’s gonna be moving in yet, but we can tell she immediately has eyes for Gary.  However, the great thing is how long it takes for any of this to play out.  I feel like another show would introduce Abby and have her sleep with Gary immediately, right off the bat.  Nope, not KL.  Instead, we’re gonna have about two solid seasons, nearly forty episodes, of pure sexual tension between the two before they finally get together, and I really like that.

The sense I get from Abby right here as she’s first introduced is that she’d be happy to sleep with any of the men on the block.  When she sees Kenny, rather than being bored by him or critical of him for being an uninteresting block of wood, she seems hot for him, wanting to sleep with him.  Same is true of Richard, and it will not be long before she starts shagging him.  However, I get the feeling that she really has her eye on the prize, and that prize is Gary.  He’s the one she truly wants, but she knows she’ll have to pace herself and be patient before she can have him.  On that note, it’s also funny to watch this particular episode and see Val and Abby being so friendly; they even go out for a beach picnic together with Olivia and Brian!  In just two years, these ladies will hardly be able to be in the same room as each other, but right here, for this brief moment, they can enjoy a lovely picnic together.

The big scene between the two characters takes place at Knots Landing Motors.  Gary is working on an engine or something and Abby comes strolling in, looking very sexy in the afternoon sunlight.  She sorta saddles up to the car, making it into a very sexual act, and she is also accompanied by this very sexy, rather jazzy little bit of music that I wish we heard more.  In her earliest appearances, this saxxy little piece seems to follow Abby around wherever she goes, but I think it’s abandoned by the time we reach season three, and that makes me kinda sad, cuz the theme is just perfect for her character. 

Oh hey, and while we’re on the subject of music, is it just me or am I hearing a lot of Dallas music in these early KL episodes, particularly in this one and the episode previous?  I noted that Jerrold Immel composed the music for these two eps; did he just borrow sounds from his stash over in the Dallas musical studios?  I can’t be specific about which cues I’m hearing from both shows, except to say that there’s one sorta ominous “Shit’s about to get real bad real fast” cue that was played a million times over on the parent series and I think I heard it a time or two in this episode.  I’m curious to focus on the music and see if/when they completely ditch using any recycled music from their parent series.  I’d say they most definitely would not use any Dallas music after 1986, but I’ll also bet they drop the music way earlier than that, like maybe around 1982 or 1983?  Well, I guess we’ll have to keep watching to find out.

The episode comes to its climax thanks to the help of Stan Lesser (that’s guest star Ron Rifkin, in case you’d forgotten).  He encourages Sid to retrace all of his steps from the night before.  Karen comes along and they wind up in the exact spot where Sid first spotted Pam hitchhiking (it’s in front of a restaurant that will serve you a steak sandwich and a steak sandwich).  Stan Lesser’s experiment works splendidly, as Sid has a flashback to the van he saw that night, all red with the lightning bolts on the back.  Now, it takes a little longer for Karen to remember that she saw the van, but eventually she has that epiphany, as well.  Stan Lesser brings up the fact that Pam never said anything about the van in her official police report, and yet she yelled and screamed about the van when Sid was leaving the police station.  Therefore, it shows she is intentionally leaving something out, and that could be a breakthrough in the case.

Later, in bed, Karen has her epiphany and realizes she saw that van right outside of Casa Del Shithole, and she even remembers that license plate, “Yuk.”  Boom, the case is almost solved, with everything being tied up in a nice pretty bow when Rodney shows up (no, we haven’t really seen Rodney yet, just in case you were wondering, and I find myself wondering if he would be called a deux ex machina) and confessing to the police that this is a scam he and Pam have been running for a long time; he acts like he’s gonna hurt her, some nice guy comes along to save her, and then she squeezes some money out of said nice guy.  It has worked multiple times in the past, but it’s not gonna work now.  With all that said and done, the episode is pretty much over.

Oh wait, I forgot one last important thing!  At the very conclusion of the ep, Abby announces that she has purchased that for-sale house on the cul-de-sac and she will be moving right in to 16969 Seaview Circle (is it a coincidence that her new address has 69 featured in it not once but twice?).  So yay, Abby is now officially the new neighbor and she will be stirring up shenanigans for years and years to come.

One thing I noted with interest is Richard’s reaction to Sid at the close of the episode.  See, while the episode’s events pretty much conclude and wrap up here, Richard is still mad at Sid, and vice versa, presumably.  I’m interested to keep my eyes open and see how long it takes before the two of them are on speaking terms again, and I note that the more serialized nature of the series is actually starting to creep in right here.  True, the show doesn’t become a full-on serialized soap until season four, but I’m seeing hints of it here.  The rape case is finished, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions from it that can carry over into the next episodes.  I’ll also be interested to see if these accusations haunt Sid throughout the course of the season or not.  Will we proceed to the next episode and find him happy as a clam and again a pillar of his community?  I’m not sure, because let’s remember that in real life, the rape accusations get to go on page one, but the revelation that the accused didn’t do anything wrong tends to wind up buried on page six.

Taking in this double episode (which, remember, aired over the course of two weeks; this did not originally air as some big fat two hour CBS event or anything like that) for all it contains, I’d say it kicks season two off into high gear pretty quick.  I appreciated that this was two episodes, not just one, because it really gave us time to spend with Sid as his life starts to unravel, and I felt like it gave the story a much more comfortable pace at which to unfold.  Also, even though these were both heavy Sid episodes, I think every character got a moment or two of interest.  For instance, we saw Gary speaking about his big bender to Karen, telling her she doesn’t have to hide the booze from him when he comes for a visit.  We also got Val’s slightly creepy obsession with Olivia (but then I remember Val’s tumultuous relationship with Lucy and I’m ready to forgive her for being a little bit creepy).  Kenny and Ginger are also, um, there.  Finally, the arrival of Abby to the block is a very exciting development that will help to improve the series greatly in the years to come.  Oh yeah, and let's note the sweet, sweet irony that the very person to encourage Abs to move into Seaview Circle is none other than poor Val!

Oh yeah, and one last thing, for real.  I guess Helen Hunt is in this episode?  Despite trying to keep my eyes real sharp for these kinds of random gonna-be-famous-one-day-celebrities, I must have missed her in this one, but My Beloved Grammy pointed out her name in the ending credits, and I guess she played “Betsy.”  I did a quick rewind through the episode and still am not sure where she is, but I’m guessing she is one of the girls gossiping at her locker about evil pedophile Sid Fairgate.  I know Helen Hunt shows up for one more episode later in this season, but I honestly had no idea she was in two, and I would have kept my eyes peeled for her had I known in advance.

Coming up next is a Gary-centric episode.  Airing just one week after our episode of discussion right now, our next show will be all about alcoholics and it’s entitled Remember the Good Times.

Sunday, January 24, 2016





Episode Title: Hitchhike: Part One

Season 02, Episode 01

Episode 014 of 344

Written by Don Murray

Directed by Edward Parone 

Original Airdate: Thursday, November 20th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Sid picks up a young hitchhiker who sets him up by asking him to give her money. When he refuses, she accuses him of rape. Diana has difficulty facing people. Sid's sister, Abby Cunningham, arrives in Knots Landing with her two children. Karen persuades Sid to find a new attorney instead of Richard.


                Welcome to season two of KL.  After those two positively delightful Brief Dallas Interludes, it’s time to get back with our old friends at Seaview Circle, including a wonderful new neighbor I am very excited to talk about over the course of the next nine seasons.  Let’s get started, shall we?

                I’ll start out with an update on the opening credits for season two.  These are virtually identical to the opening of season one with a few very minor changes.  The layout and style are the same, that being the overhead view of the cul-de-sac which opens up a bit to reveal images of the actors (In Alphabetical Order, of course).  What’s different?  Well, and forgive me for this major nerd moment, but the font is different for the title and the actor credits.  Also, we gotta make room for our new cast member, so things are a little bit sped up, particularly when the camera zooms in over the houses to reveal images of the characters (Karen and Sid making out from Pilot, for instance).  However, after we get the shot of Kenny and Ginger, we then get a fifth little house zoom in where we get a fabulous image of the very fabulous Donna Mills as Abby, toweling off a bit, showing off her fantastically beautiful body.  From there, the images of the cast are all the same as the previous season, but with the obvious inclusion of Donna Mills, squeezed comfortably in-between Constance McCashin and Don Murray.  Her little screenshot in the opening is very enticing, by the way, as she is making a wonderful face that accentuates those legendary baby blue eyes.  Mmmmm.  However, it’s actually gonna be awhile before we physically see her character.  For now, as we rev up to start season two, we see her image here in the opening but it’s gonna be maybe twenty minutes before we actually meet her, so patience! 

                We actually open this episode in a very cinematic style, which really sets a tone for this episode that I was not expecting.  As we went through this episode, I was continually surprised at how many little touches the director threw in to give it a little flair, and I was reminded again why I find KL so much better than Dallas in pretty much every way.  Especially after having watched those two Dallas episodes so close to my viewing of this episode, it’s remarkable how much better KL looks than its parent series.  Dallas, for me, generally shot everything in a very bland and unremarkable way, rarely making any efforts to look more cinematic (although I did read that when Linda Gray directed episodes, she made a conscious effort to move the camera more and keep things looking more interesting, and I do recall some of her episodes looking much better than the others), but KL does lots of small things that I really appreciate.  Again, I am not saying there is anything mindblowing visually in KL, this is not Twin Peaks or The X Files or any modern show from the last ten or fifteen years that make conscious efforts to look and feel cinematic, but there are still small touches that I appreciate and which I will take a moment to mention very shortly.

                Sid is driving along at night, clearly running a little late.  See, Diana is about to go onstage for the high school talent show, right after, um, lemme take a look at my notes here, oh yes, right after a band called Zarris.  I must say that Zarris seems remarkably professional for a high school band, although they haven’t put a lot of effort into being terribly original, as they are all adorned in obvious KISS makeup and are putting on a show that is remarkably similar to a KISS concert. But anyway, I digress, and I don't judge Zarris becuase this is 1980 and I'm pretty sure that KISS was at the absolute peak of their popularity right here.

                There’s this chick hanging out on a street corner, and she asks Sid for a ride.  At first, Sid tells her he can’t do it; he’s in a hurry and he’s got to get to the school in time for Diana’s rather horrendous little song-and-dance routine.  However, as he starts to pull away, he sees her being harassed and threatened by some sleazy looking dudes in a big red shagging wagon van.  Ever the gentleman, Sid turns around and lets the girl hop in for a ride.  This is a decision he’ll quickly regret, but it’s important to note that he does what he believes is right and, because of that, ends up in a harrowing two-part adventure, showing that sometimes, even though we wish to be nice and decent to our fellow humans, we may actually wind up regretting it in the long run.  In a way, this is sorta the sad and cynical thesis of this episode and the next one, and it’s a theme we’ll see returning again and again until this two-part episode resolves itself.

                Okay, so the chick gets into the car, and we learn who she is…sorta.  Her name is Pam and she is played by Ruth Cox.  If that name doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because it shouldn’t.  Her last acting credit is in 1986 and I saw nothing on her filmography that rang a bell.  Is she a good actress?  I guess she’s fine here, if perhaps a little hammy, but a healthy dose of ham can often be the most charming part of KL, so I won’t throw stones at Ruth Cox.  Anyway, at first she is nice to Sid, but then she asks him for a hundred dollars and he tells her nope, so she says, “I guess I’ll just have to cry rape, then.”  Sid is remarkably undeterred by this threat, merely pointing at a nearby police officer and saying, “Now’s your chance.”  Well, he shouldn’t have called Pam’s bluff, because she does immediately start thrashing around and screaming and yelling.

                Sid makes one very questionable decision here.  I maintain that, had he behaved just a smidge differently, everything would end right here and we would have the shortest hour of television ever.  What should he have done?  Well, he has a few options.  I’ll go ahead and assume that he did not expect Pam to actually start screaming and freaking out, but once she started doing so, he could have just opened the passenger door and thrown her ass out, or, if he wanted to continue calling her bluff, he could have driven his car right on over to those police officers and said, “Officers, I was trying to be nice and give this crazy bitch a ride, but now she’s freaking out and acting like I am gonna rape her.”  Instead, just as she starts screaming and thrashing, Sid immediately speeds away like a maniac, driving right past the officers and probably exceeding the speed limit by a wide margin, all while fighting this girl and trying to hold her down.  Hmmm, how do you make yourself look like a rapist real fast?  Just try to hold down a girl who is thrashing wildly and that should do the trick.  If I was one of these police officers and saw this insanity going down, I would definitely follow and pull them over, as well, and I would probably assume the man was up to something no good.

                This is where that cinematic flair I was speaking about kicks in.  See, the whole time Sid has been driving, we’ve been cross-cutting back and forth between him and the talent show.  In fact, it’s at the talent show that we learn, through very bad ADR, that Sid’s sister Abby is coming to town for a visit.  We also see the conclusion of the epic Zarris performance and then the entirety of Diana’s performance.  Basically, Diana and a couple of other girls get all nice and dressed up and start dancing and singing that super annoying song If My Friends Could See Me Now.  Okay, at first I turned to My Beloved Grammy and was like, “Ah, fuck this song, I hate it,” but then we keep crosscutting between the garish performance and Sid being pulled over and arrested by the cops.  At that point, I had a minor epiphany and I decided that the use of the song is very intentional.  The lyrics are essentially saying, “Oh boy, what would my friends think if they saw me now?”  Well, here we are witnessing Sid, a well respected man and a pillar of his community, being arrested and detained by the police, and the fact that we keep cutting back and forth from him to the talent show just underlines this.  It’s a small little touch but it’s one which I appreciate very much.

                From here, we move over to two characters who I love very much, Laura and Richard.  Laura is climbing into bed while Richard practices his ridiculous little calisthenics’ routine, which I believe we’ve seen him do a few times before this.  In this instance, he is standing on his head for some reason.  We also get some fantastic dialogue between the married couple (I don’t think I dare say “Happily married”).  See, for those who have forgotten about season one (and remember it’s been a very long summer back in 1980, as everyone had to wait eight months or more for their shows to get started up again thanks to a delay from the writers’ strike), we get a nice reminder that Laura is now transitioning into a career woman; she is positively delighted about all the work she’s been doing down at the real estate office.  Of course, Richard is ready with his acid tongue to cut her down.  When she refers to “the real estate business,” he immediately reminds her that she has nothing to do with real estate; she is merely a lowly secretary.  A little later in the episode, he also pokes a little fun at her because she spent the day stuffing and licking envelopes.  Of course, all this snarkiness stems from Richard’s feelings of inadequacy and his Napoleonic complex (the famous Short Man Syndrome), but let’s shelve that discussion for a little bit later, as we will soon be coming upon a fabulous Richard-centric episode that gives us a ton of material to pour over (it’s just a few episodes away, and it’s called Chance of a Lifetime, in case you were curious). 

                Sid is only in prison for a short time before he either gets bail or the cops let him leave or something like that.  Now, as he’s leaving, we can see that little miss Pam is getting rather chummy with one of the officers.  When she notices Sid and Karen leaving, she starts freaking out again and yelling about how Sid tried to rape her after she refused his offer of money for sex.  Now, there’s a key point of information in this scene that will not pay off in this episode, but which will be important to the resolution at the end of the next episode, as she yells something about, “He told me all these horrible things the men in the van were going to do to me!”  Well, the line comes and goes and is forgotten for the rest of this episode, but keep that line in mind, as it will be important to our next episode.

                From here, we go to our first commercial break, but I must take a moment to note the music of this particular ep.  Boy, but it sure does sound like that intentionally goofy, way over-the-top music used on Police Squad!, does it not?  Interestingly, Police Squad! is still a little ways into the future, but damn if this really heavy handed and extremely loud music didn’t sound just like something Ira Newborn might compose for that short-lived series, and I have to think that series was intentionally spoofing moments of television that were exactly like, well, this.  In fact, this episode and the next one had quite a bit of very strange musical choices, prompting me to look up who did the compositions for these particular eps.  I was rather unsurprised to see it was Jerrold Immel.  Now, I have discussed this musical genius (and I’m not calling him that with any trace of irony….well, maybe a little bit) before a bit.  Obviously he composed the legendary theme songs to both Dallas and KL, but what’s interesting is he’s never the main series composer for either series.  He pops up on both series rather sporadically to do an episode’s score, and whenever he does, I can usually tell.

                For instance, remember the fabulously awful musical score that accompanied Land of the Free?  Yup, that was pure Jerrold, and this double episode is full of his trademark wackiness.  In fact, quite a few scenes get started with this sorta musical cue that sounds like someone has just started playing an old, scratched record, right before the singer starts to sing and it’s just the instruments and stuff.  I don’t know a better way to describe it than that, but if you watch this episode, you will know exactly what it is I am speaking of.  There’s also that BLARING piece that plays when Pam is screaming at Sid in the police station, and finally there’s a cue that sounds like it came right out of Airplane!, and that’s the cue that actually sends the episode to its ending.  EDITORIAL NOTE: ONLY LATER DID I REALIZE HOW DUMB WHAT I'VE WRITTEN IS SINCE THE FIRST HALF OF THIS SECOND SEASON, MUCH LIKE DALLAS AT THE SAME TIME, WAS SUFFERING A MUSICIAN'S STRIKE AND JUST KEPT RE-USING THE SAME STOCK LIBRARY MUSIC FOR AWHILE. 

                As we move along through the episode, we quickly observe the ripple effects of a man, any man, being accused of attempted rape.  Pretty much immediately, people start to turn their backs on Sid, or word starts to spread that he’s a creepy guy.  For instance, Laura and her boss (not Scooter Warren just yet, but don’t worry, as we’ll be seeing him in just a few short episodes) are right on the verge of selling a house on Seaview Circle, and the clients are very interested in the house, but when they see that big “FAIRGATE” name on the mailbox next door, they kinda freak, and the deal is done.  Or, over at the high school, we have girls gossiping about Sid, remembering all the times he gave them a ride home or what have you (I think this might actually occur in the "Part Two" portion of this episode, but it's kinda blurring for me right now).  Finally, down at Knots Landing Motors, Sid starts to lose deals with clients there, or receive phone calls indicating that people are no longer interested in doing business with him.  It’s all very fast and, yes, perhaps a bit over-the-top, but not inaccurate to how situations like this really do play out in real life.

                Things get a bit more complicated with the hiring of Richard to be Sid’s lawyer.  Karen is immediately against it and tells Sid he needs to hire a competent criminal lawyer.   Of course, Sid being Sid, he ignores her at first.  Richard is his friend and he doesn’t want to make his friend feel like he’s not good enough.  In a fabulous scene set in the Fairgate bedroom, the two argue about who should be their lawyer and why it should or should not be Richard.

                Let’s talk about this scene real fast, because we have another little cinematic burst of artistic creativity that forced me to pause the episode and turn to My Beloved Grammy and say, “Are you seeing this shot?!”  See, as the scene begins, we have things lit in a very interesting manner, with Sid on the lefthand side of the screen, actually being reflected in a mirror as he prepares for bed.  Then there’s a big black space in the middle of the screen and finally Karen sitting in a chair on the right side, nursing a cocktail (perhaps a gin and tonic?  What is Karen’s drink of preference?), lit from above in a way that makes her actually look almost villainous.  Perhaps I can get a screen grab of this image so the readers at home can get a look at this sublime framing (except that would require effort and some basic knowledge of this blogging website which I completely lack).  Again, if Dallas was doing a scene of two people talking in a bedroom, it would certainly not look as good as this; it would just be a boring, bland shot of two people talking.  But here, director Edward Parone (who previously directed one of my favorite KL episodes, The Lie, and will be returning to direct Hitchhike: Part Two as well as A Family Matter, both right here in season two) makes the scene into something much more visually stimulating.  It’s small touches like these that I truly appreciate.

                In typical KL fashion, we also have plenty of fascinating and relevant points of view to go around.  I love both Karen and Sid and I understand both of them.  The writing is just so good because I can completely 100% see Sid’s point of view; he’s such an inherently decent person and he doesn’t want to hurt his friend’s feelings, so of course he’ll let him be his lawyer, right?  But Karen, on the other hand, is being a realist; she also loves Richard in her own special way, but she knows he’s rash and makes stupid decisions and is probably not a very good lawyer.  She is concerned for her husband and wants only the best for him and she knows that’s not Richard. 

                Spoiler alert, but Karen is obviously right, as Richard immediately proves by heading over to the super shitty residence of the-alleged-attempted-rape-victim.  Pam is home alone in this awful little apartment, just watching TV and eating Corn Flakes in the middle of the day.  Oh, did I say Corn Flakes?  I’m sorry, I meant "Flakes," as there’s a big piece of black tape slapped right over the word “Corn” on the cereal box.  There are actually a few instances of this in the ep, as we earlier saw a carton of Minute Maid orange juice in the Fairgate kitchen that was blacked out and simply read “Maid.”  Perhaps the prop guys could have tried harder with covering up brand names in this particular ep, no?

                Here’s another thing to note about this ep: Richard is smoking.  I find this very interesting as he smokes several cigarettes in this ep and is very casual about it, yet we haven’t ever seen him smoking a cigarette prior to this.  In fact, if you’ll accompany me on a quick flashback, you’ll recall that Richard was seen smoking a pipe way back in Pilot during the block party that welcomed Gary and Val to the neighborhood.  So we’ve seen him in one episode smoking a pipe and now here he is smoking cigarettes.  Is he just a casual occasional user of tobacco?  Does he only smoke when he’s stressed?  Or does he smoke to look cool and adult?  The reason I bring it up is because he is first shown smoking as he heads into the shitty apartment.  It’s a long shot and he flings the cigarette away onto the sidewalk, so it might be hard to even notice at first glance, but then he lights up when he’s inside, talking to Pam.  I will keep my eyes open over the course of the next few years to see if Richard ever smokes again, and then I’ll report back.  Oh yeah, and while we're on the subject of smoking, I remind you that we saw Laura smoking twice and then never again back in The Lie, so I've developed a little theory about the cigarettes; follow me here.  I think after what Laura went through in the ep, she decided to ditch the secret bars-in-the-daytime lifestyle she was persuing and she also ditched the smokes.  I think she didn't finish the pack and just sorta threw it in a drawer somewhere in the house, not thinking about it.  Later, I think Richard found the pack lying in a drawer and was like, "Hey, these will make me look mature when I'm trying to manipulate that Pam chick," and he snagged the pack and that brings us up to date.  What do you think about my elaborate theory of the smokes?

                Anyway, Richard’s methods of bribery are a bit odd.  He encourages Pam to drop the charges against Sid, then starts telling her about how his buddy owns a surf shop and he can get her free surfboards (he notices surfboards lying around the apartment; he doesn’t just randomly start offering the girl surf-gear and hope she’ll jump for it).  He even extends the offer to her to come and hang out at his buddy’s beach house pretty much whenever she wants.  Bad choice, Richard, but he doesn’t wind up paying for his decisions until a little bit later in this episode.

                Meanwhile, Karen is already at work getting Sid a better lawyer, so she chooses Stan Lesser, played by the immediately recognizable Ron Rifkin.  You all know who this guy is, right?  Seriously, this guy’s been in everything, particularly everything on the small screen.  I think he first caught my attention in a guest spot on E.R.., but he’s also got credits that include Sex and the City, the movie L.A. Confidential and even a few Woody Allen films (Husbands and Wives and Manhattan Murder Mystery).  The guy’s a solid little actor and I always smile when I see him onscreen.  Anyway, he’s introduced talking to Karen in his house, wearing a jogging outfit and sipping a smoothie, all very California, wouldn’t you say?  I think he might have even been munching on a stick of celery, but I could be hallucinating that image.  Anyway, not much is learned from his first scene other than that he answers some questions for Karen regarding this case.

                At the close of the episode, Richard returns to the shitty apartment to continue his acts of bribery towards Pam, but what he doesn’t expect is for Pam’s fat mother to come out of the kitchen and catch him in the middle of this bribery.  Now, as this fat, somewhat Kathy Bates-looking woman entered the scene and started to scold Richard, I found myself recognizing her and having no idea why.  Well, it turns out her name is Conchata Ferrell and she is probably busier nowadays than she ever has been, starring in the God-awful Chuck Lorre abomination Two and a Half Men  (Random aside: I truly believe there is a very special place in Hell for Chuck Lorre because of all the pure shit he has released into the universe through the medium of television).  If you think she’s fat here, add another two or three hundred pounds and you’ll have her today. 

                All fat jokes aside, however, I kinda dig this actress here.  She’s commanding, she’s authoritative, and she’s interesting to watch.  It makes you wish her talents could have gone towards something more productive than a shitty sitcom, but I digress.  I found myself wondering if she truly believed her daughter or if she was, perhaps, the instigator of the whole situation.  These are questions that will be resolved in our next episode, but Conchata Ferrell plays the small role well, and leaves kinda a big impression even though it’s just a two-episode guest stint.  For some reason, she really sticks out as very memorable within the confines of these two episodes.  Anyway, when she sees what Richard is up to, she orders him out of the house and tells him to never to come back.  The repercussions of this event will not start unfolding until our next episode, so stay tuned.

                At the very conclusion of the episode, we have Sid in court, and shit starts to get serious.  The case is not dismissed and, essentially, Sid will have to continue on to a trial.  The camera starts zooming in on Sid’s face while Karen goes on and on about how this is going to wreck their lives, that Airplane! music I mentioned earlier flairs up, and it’s all a very intense little ending (although it is lacking a cheesy narrator coming on and saying, “To Be Continued”).  Oh yeah, in addition, we also have another person to add to our list of Transmorphers.  Who could it be this time?  Why, it’s Don Starr playing the judge!  He barely does anything here; in fact, while he’s talking on and on, the camera is not even on his face, but we get a quick shot of him banging his gavel and I have to sit up and say, “Wait a minute, is that Jordon Lee?”  See, Don Starr also played Jordon Lee in a whopping 88 episodes of Dallas, spanning all the way from 1978 to 1990!  Sometimes the Transmorphers are people who just appeared in one or two episodes of each series, but this is a big Transmorpher, up there with Priscilla Pointer from The Constant Companion (bigger, really, as he was in more episodes than her over a much larger period of time than her). 

                Now, we’ve about wrapped up the episode, yet I’ve forgotten about one very major, dare I say Earth-shattering event that occurs near the middle of this episode.  What could that be?  Why, it’s the arrival of the luscious Donna Mills as Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner onto the cul-de-sac!  I guess I’m getting ahead of myself by giving her that gigantic last name, however.  Introduced here, she is just Abby Fairgate Cunningham.  Even the way she is introduced is just perfect and is another little cinematic touch I love.  See, she is introduced driving her car with her two kids in the backseat right on up into the cul-de-sac.  How would most directors of episodic television shoot this sequence?  Probably with just a simple shot of a car driving up a street, right?  But Edward Parone, that television auteur, instead shoots from the point of view of inside the car.  We don’t see who’s driving, don’t even know how many people are in the car, but we get this P.O.V. of the car pulling up in front of the Fairgate house, and it’s almost like a scene from Jaws, which is perfect considering the kind of character Abby is.  She herself is shark-like, searching out for the nearest man to sink her teeth into, so this shot immediately tells me something about her character that is important and relevant. 

                Anyway, Abby gets out of the car and we get a look at the new lady on the block (although we don’t quite know that just yet; at this point she is just visiting for awhile and not necessarily staying), and she’s stunning.  If we follow the birthdate that Donna Mills gives us (and what actress would ever have any reason to lie about her birth year?), she would be 37 right here as she is introduced and she would be 46 when she leaves the show (and then about 49 or 50 years old when she shows up for the final episode in 1993).  However, I am inclined to take actresses’ birth years with a pinch of salt (after all, Victoria Principal over on Dallas is always insisting she was born in 1950 even though most sources say it was really 1945), and Wikipedia says that Donna Mills was born December 11th, 1940, which would make her nearly 40 years old right here.  In any case, who cares?  She looks great and immediately wins the prize for the sexiest lady of Seaview Circle.  Her body is thin and perfect (readers should note that I am rather obsessed with svelte bodies that are super duper thin) and those baby blue eyes, man.  Plus, she’s introduced wearing shorts that show off her fabulous legs and it’s just all kinds of perfect. 

                In addition, Abby brings along two children who are going to be with us for quite some time.  First off (and much less memorably) we have Bobby Jacoby (also sometimes credited as Robert Jayne) playing son Brian.  He’s gonna play Brian from 1980 to 1984, appearing in a total of 26 episodes, but then his character will undergo a transformation and turn into Brian Austin Green (or BAG, as I call him) sometime during season eight. 

Much more importantly, we have the first appearance of Tonya Crowe as Olivia, Abby’s daughter who is going to be with us for TEN YEARS on the cul-de-sac.  She even gets to be a main cast member during the 1989-1990 season (ironically, probably one of the seasons where her character has the least to do) before leaving the series, showing up for about 139 episodes (the IMDb count could be slightly off as they also include episodes where she is credited but does not actually appear).  Anyway, anyone who has watched KL all the way through knows that Olivia will wind up being a very important character, particularly with her drug arc throughout seasons seven and eight, which is probably the peak of her character and her acting on the series.  However, she is introduced fairly inauspiciously; she is just a nine year old girl who Val of course gets a big maternal boner for and starts to harass.  However, one of the things I love about KL is the lack of transforming and aging children characters (ignoring poor Jason Avery and of course Brian).  Here, we have Tonya Crowe at age nine playing Olivia, and we’re going to get to watch her grow into a mature young woman for ten years and she will be nineteen years old when she leaves the series, same actress playing the same character. You gotta love that.

In truth, Abby doesn’t really do much in this episode.  My excitement at her arrival mostly comes from all the shenanigans I know she’s going to get up to throughout the next nine years.  It’s also interesting to remember how she is introduced.  Even though I am a diehard KL fan, I always tend to forget that Abby is introduced as Sid’s sister because she stays on the show so much longer than Sid does.  However, she certainly is his sister and I think we immediately get the sense that Sid sees his sister as harmless and loving while Karen, perhaps, is able to see through her a little bit better than her dear husband.  For the next nine years, we are going to see Karen go head-to-head against Abby many times, and all those seeds are being planted right here, in this small and not-that-big-of-a-deal first appearance.  I also have to love how beautifully inauspicious this debut is; it's so very purely KL.  If this was another nighttime soap, she would probably be introduced with a BANG and start sleeping with every man in sight and generally fucking shit up right away.  KL is more about the slow burn, and Abs is introduced without any big, epic music or really anything to foreshadow how devious and wicked and amazing she is going to wind up being.  I feel like KL does such a great job playing the long game while the other nighttime soaps would tend to blow their wad real fast and then run out of material.  This quiet, not-that-exciting debut of Abby to the neighborhood is the perfect example of KL's surprising subtlety. 

As we enter season two, I’d really like to make a conscious effort to get these episode essays down a little bit, to not be quite so long.  I have obviously failed in this case, but I’d say that’s only because this is the premiere of the season and a lot of things are being set up.  As a standalone episode, how do I feel about this one?  I’d say it’s pretty damn good, and I also wanna take a quick moment to note that Don Murray wrote this one and the next one himself.  This marks the second time on the series that one of the cast has written an ep (remember that John Pleshette wrote the script for Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two), and I think he does a pretty good job.  It’s another one of those things about KL that puts it high above the other nighttime soaps of the time, in my opinion.  The cast is so well linked to their characters and is given the freedom to write episodes that focus heavily on their own characters.  I imagine most shows would have the actors get a script, be told “Do what it says in the script,” and that would be that, but on KL, the cast is allowed to explore and work on their characters by contributing episodes all about them.  Pretty cool, huh?

We’ve been stuck on Part One for kinda forever now, so why don’t we move on to our next ep?  Airing just one week later, coming up next is Hitchhike: Part Two.