Sunday, January 31, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 015 of 344: HITCHHIKE: PART TWO


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.

6 comments:

  1. Great analysis as always Brett! With two episodes a day showing here in the UK (Mon-Fri) we are now almost halfway through Season 6 already...the Val's babies storyline is well underway. Loving it! Happy Sunday to you!

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    1. Omigod, the Val's babies storyline: Maybe the greatest storyline in all of KL history? I guess we'll discuss that when we discuss that, but holy shit, I remember that whole season being a masterpiece of television and just a complete work of art.

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    2. Absolutely agree! The Val baby storyline was going on when I first starting watching Knots. It had me hooked. Everybody was involved, and this was Joan Van Ark's finest acting in the show imo. It was a few years before I went back and watched the preceding seasons, but this got me hooked!

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    3. Dear David,

      Do you think you would have been hooked if you had watched the pilot episode in 1979? Or do you think it helped to jump into the series when it was a full on serialized story and had an amazing cast and the writing was just at its absolute peak?

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  2. Speaking for myself (who else?!) I was about 13 when KL started here...I always loved it, having been already hooked on Dallas. I loved Karen, Sid and Val and always had a crush on Ted Shackelford...Laura grew on me, Mac was a brilliant addition and then over the years William Devane became my big secret! I used to blush whenever he came on screen as Greg...his and Paife's romance was one of the best IMO. I think KL has always displayed a reality not shown in the other soaps of that era...the characters are so well-rounded and multi-faceted and you can see their motivation clearly. For instance: Abby...much as I love Joan Collins, if she had played this character she would have been purely malevolent. But in KL, Donna Mills showed clearly WHY Abby behaved as badly as she did....and you couldn't really hate her (although I do/did sometimes!) Joan Van Ark in the babies storyline was so underrated...her pain is palpable. Ok enough already! I'll have to wait until you get there!

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  3. Jerrold Immel didn't score this episode, its royalty free library music used on Dallas and Knots Landing for the early part of the 1980-1981 television season. It was due to some strike in Hollywood in 1980 I believe.

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