Monday, March 7, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 020 of 344: BREACH OF FAITH


Episode Title: Breach of Faith

Season 02, Episode 07

Episode 020 of 344

Written by William Hopkins

Directed by Harvey S. Laidman  

Original Airdate: Thursday, January 8th, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):. The neighbors throw a barbecue for Laura to celebrate her new success as a realtor. At the party, Richard paws Abby and Laura overhears them planning to meet later. Laura later tells Richard she will no longer be his "whipping boy," and if his behavior continues, she is going to leave him. Ginger finds out she is pregnant and breaks up with Carl. Val is upset because Gary runs every time Judy Trent needs help with Earl. Val says she needs time with Gary too. Gary continues to comfort Judy and begins an affair with her.

 


On last week’s KL we dealt with Diana’s “first love” and her potential loss of virginity with Step One.  While that episode had its moments (Abby and Richard in the hot tub), it overall left me feeling cold and underwhelmed.  Does Breach of Faith do the same or is it an improvement from our last show?  Read on.

Breach of Faith is a real ensemble show; everybody in the cast is featured heavily and everyone has lots to do.  In addition, while all the characters are unique, there is a linkage to their storylines representing parallel themes running through the episode, starting right off the bat with the very first scene.  In it, we have Gary and Judy standing outside of Knots Landing Motors and discussing Earl (played, as you’ll recall, by Paul Rudd, and not that Paul Rudd, but rather The Other Paul Rudd).  Apparently Judy just can’t take being married to Earl anymore; he’s a drunken mess and he degrades her.  Clearly she has eyes for Gary, though, as we begin this episode, the two have still not consummated their sordid affair, and the question of whether or not they will sleep together is just one of the episode’s many storylines.

Next, we move on to one of my least favorite characters, Ginger, who has a chat with Val when they bump into each other in the waiting room of the doctor’s office.  Ginger casually mentions how she missed a period and I think we all know how this is going to turn out.  I’m gonna confess that there were moments in this episode when I actually found Kenny and Ginger almost interesting, and at least the writers are trying to give them something to do, you know?  Often in these first four seasons, Kenny and Ginger just sit out whole episodes, but at least here the writers are trying to give everyone material, even the less interesting, and I appreciate that.

Storyline C involves Richard and his continued affair with Abs.  Boy, this is another one of those episodes that just burns itself into your memory; as soon as we started watching it, I remembered which one it was and I got very excited.  See, Richard is still out of work and when we first see him in Breach of Faith, he is returning from what he says is something like his ninth job interview in three weeks.  The Plesh gives a fabulously eloquent little speech here that is wry and sarcastic and laced with bitter emotions; he’s mad because the guy who interviewed him for the job was nineteen or twenty years old.  Richard’s in a real crisis here and, as we’ll see later in the episode and in the ones coming up, he appears to be developing a bit of a drinking problem.  Right now he mostly stays home all day and pursues his affair with Abby while Laura goes out to conquer the real estate world.

We also establish that Gary and Val want to have another baby, something that I’d forgotten was discussed so early in the series.  I’ll give a quick SPOILER WARNING for a few seasons out by saying that Gary and Val do in fact end up having a baby (not just one but two) during the incredible sixth season of the show, but that’s way far off, and I was surprised to hear them discussing it at this point in the series.  Obviously they both are parents to Lucy over in Texas, but that relationship didn’t exactly work out thanks to J.R.’s evil doings, so Val seems to believe a second baby would be just what the doctor ordered. 

The majority of the action for this episode takes place at a barbecue in Richard and Laura’s backyard.  See, the gang at the cul-de-sac is throwing a little party for Laura in honor of her getting her real estate license.  The party gets started okay but then Richard starts hitting the bottles and, well, things go downhill from there.  As we’ve been going through the second season and watching Richard and Abs commence their affair, it’s very obvious that Richard doesn’t even care to hide the affair from his wife; he’s really quite blatant about it.  Here, he has no qualms about pawing all over Abby all night, touching her and generally harassing her in front of everyone.  This is what I was talking about a second ago when I said how this episode burns into your memory; basically all of the action at this barbecue has stuck in my brain ever since the first time I watched this show, particularly Richard’s abhorrent behavior.

Let’s talk about Richard for a minute, shall we?  I love this character and I love how The Plesh plays him, but I’d say this particular arc of episodes might be his low point as a character with any moral values.  Now, understand I’m not making a judgment about the character or the acting.  Rather, I am pointing out that at this point, it’s hard to find anything really likable or kind in Richard.  He’s a complex character who can often shift between kindness and decency and then back to selfishness and immoral behavior, but right here it’s all the latter and none of the former.  Here, he doesn’t care if he embarrasses his wife by groping Abby, and he has pretty much no respect for Laura’s work, as demonstrated by a fantastically uncomfortable speech he gives to the whole party (“Soon to be a major motion picture starring Joan Crawford!”).

It’s moments like this that exemplify KL at its best: Unafraid to make the audience uncomfortable with a character’s behavior.  When Richard gives his drunken speech about Laura, it’s a truly cringe-worthy scene, and we feel so bad for poor Laura who is being humiliated by her husband in front of all her friends, and all because he feels emasculated by her new career and success.  At the same time, I find myself understanding Richard.  The man wants to be bigger, more powerful, and more successful, yet at this moment in his life he is none of those things; he feels like his wife is bringing home the bacon and that embarrasses him.  I think he carries on his affair not necessarily to hurt Laura, but rather because Abby expressed an interest and made him feel like he was a man, you know?

Meanwhile over in the Ewing storyline, Gary has to miss the party because Judy calls to inform him  that Earl’s off on another crazy bender.  It’s right about here that I’d like to discuss Judy and her character motivations.  Is she really calling Gary simply because Earl is drunk again and she actually needs Gary to come and help out?  I doubt it.  I think Judy has gotten perfectly used to Earl’s behavior with the bottle, but she’s just using it as an excuse to keep Gary around for the purposes of seduction.  Indeed, Gary comes running like an obedient little puppy as soon as she calls him, and then the two spend the majority of the episode hanging out on the street corner, sipping coffee and waiting for Earl to show up, which he does in due time. 

I always smile when I see The Other Paul Rudd show up on KL, and even though he’s only in three episodes (with this being the second of those three), he leaves a very lasting impression.  Here, he comes stumbling out onto the street and starts going on and on about how Judy loves to commit adultery and that she’s a bad wife and has cheated on him a ton of times before and Bob Loblaw.  Again, as I said before with Richard’s nasty speech, this is fabulously uncomfortable.  Now might be a good time for me to mention that I like feeling fabulously uncomfortable when watching this show, or any show, really.  I love when the writers and directors and actors are like, “This is gonna be an uncomfortable scene, we’re doing it, deal with it.”  So much of television entertainment, particularly during this era, was about leaving the audience feeling happy and safe, not awkward and uncomfortable.  But here, we have drunken Earl rambling and stumbling around and insulting his wife and even shoving her down and hurting her (important plot point for later).

Is Earl telling the truth?  I am inclined to believe he is, but it’s sort of a chicken-and-the-egg situation.  While watching, My Beloved Grammy said she believes Judy really does have a long history with adultery and that’s why Earl drinks so much.  I think I agree with her, but I also think it could very well be that Earl drank too much and that caused Judy to seek comfort in the arms of other men.  Or perhaps it was fairly even and they are both at fault for the situation?  Again, as KL does when it’s at its best, it presents characters who are rich and intricate and multifaceted; nothing is simple and black and white on KL; each and every character displays many shades of grey.

The gash on Judy’s forehead provides impetus for Gary to retire to her apartment with her, and it’s here that the adultery is committed.  I really liked this scene, actually, and I thought it was filmed in a way that made it feel very ominous.  To provide some context, the two characters are hanging out on the couch, and Gary gives Val a call and tells her a blatant lie when he says he’s still out on the street, looking for Earl.  He tells her he’s calling from a phone booth and he neglects to mention the dykey looking broad who is basically sucking on his fingers while he chats.  But that’s not even the best part; the best part is right before we go to commercial.  Gary and Judy are looking into each other’s eyes, gazing longingly, and the phone starts ringing.  It rings and rings and rings and the two characters just keep ignoring it.  They slowly start to go in for the kiss and, just as they start to kiss, the phone just keeps ringing and we fade to black for a commercial, a rather creepy and spooky way to end that act, in my opinion. 

Let me tell you about one person who was having absolutely no tolerance for this storyline, and that would be My Beloved Grammy.  Now, I don’t think Judy is attractive at all (as probably evidenced by my constantly referring to her as “the dykey looking broad”), but My Beloved Grammy thinks she’s just hideous.  My apologies to Jane Elliot if she ever stumbles upon this blog, but My Beloved Grammy was just constantly going on about, “I can’t believe how ugly this woman is,” or “Couldn’t they have cast a more attractive actress?”  It’s really quite funny to listen to her; she hates this character and just finds her completely repulsive.  I agree that she is a very ugly woman, but in a way, I like that.  Other nighttime shows at this time would probably cast some STUNNING buxom blonde for Gary to have his affair with, but KL plays it a little more realistic, with a woman who is, to put it kindly, not exactly a looker.  The fact that she’s so unattractive also adds a nice pitiful note to basically all of her behavior. 

I’m going to say something rather stunning right now, so brace yourself.  I actually kind of, gulp, liked a scene in this episode featuring Kenny and Ginger.  In fact, this might be my favorite scene with Kenny and Ginger up to this point in the series (and very possibly throughout their entire four years on the show).  See, Ginger is sleeping and then she realizes there’s a shadowy figure in her room.  She turns the light on and, big sigh of relief, it’s just Kenny.  But then Kenny starts to act like a real jerk and go on about how it makes him sick to see her dating David Haskell from Body Double.  Ginger is all like, “I can date people from Body Double if I want to and you were never in a Brian De Palma movie, so there!”  The scene culminates with her slapping Kenny and then ordering him to get out and to leave his key on the table.  Again, this is hardly the greatest scene ever, but considering it featured just Kenny and Ginger, I was actually moderately interested, and that’s saying something, so kudos to the writers (William Hopkins in this case, and what do you know, my research indicates that he wrote exactly one other KL episode and it was my cherished Let Me Count the Ways, so this guy clearly knows how to write a great episode) for actually making the two toxic bores moderately interesting.

We enter act four of the episode with The Morning After.  Richard and Laura are sitting in the kitchen and having their coffee and of course Richard is acting like everything is fine.  “I think I consumed about half a case of champagne last night,” he says in a tone of amusement, and then Laura has this great retort where she says something to the effect of, “It’s always amazed me when people talk about what they did when they were drunk as though they were talking about someone else.”  Great acting from Constance, as per usual, contributing to an overall grand scene.   See, it’s also shit like this that makes KL special; they don’t just show us the juicy, saucy stuff, the people having affairs and what not, but they also show us, and in a very realistic way, that awkward morning after when a man has to face his wife after treating her horribly.  No matter how soapy the shenanigans may sometimes get (more on that subject in a minute), it’s always grounded in reality because of the way the characters respond to said shenanigans. 

The last real plot development we get in Breach of Faith is the confirmation that Ginger is, in fact, pregnant.  Bob Loblaw, I don’t really care at all about this storyline (and I know it’s just gonna lead to some sleep-inducing material in the next season or two), but whatever, at least she’s getting something to do.  Oh yeah, and she also dumps Carl (Body Double guy) and puts an end to their whole relationship.  I am sad to see her end it with him but I think he still pops up for another episode or two, so at least we don’t have to say goodbye to that beard just yet. 

So in case you can’t tell, I am sorta over-the-moon about this episode.  Kristin was a legitimately bad episode of KL, and that was unfortunate, and then the next episode, Step One, was an improvement and had a few things going for it but was also hardly anything special.  Therefore, I’m pleased to announce that Breach of Faith is a near perfect KL episode, representing the strong writing and acting that are so important to keeping KL on the air for fourteen glorious years.  Not only is the cast fantastic, but there are real themes to the episode that link all the characters together, for nearly everyone is being tempted with that potential breach of faith (the only exception I can think of for this particular show are Karen and Sid, but we all know Linda is waiting in the rafters to try and seduce Sid, so patience, dear viewer).  Think about it, though, Kenny and Ginger are divorcing because of his breach of faith at the end of season one, right?  Meanwhile, Gary is committing a breach of faith against Val by sleeping with Judy, and finally we have Richard continuing to breach any faith he might have once had from Laura by blatantly throwing his affair in her face.  So even something as simple as the very title of the episode is still important to the overall storyline; it’s not just an arbitrary title that somebody picked when they were writing a script, but rather a theme and a through line for the entire 48 minutes.

One last thing I wanna note, because I found it very interesting.  I tend to think of Dallas as the much soapier series versus KL, but while watching this particular ep, My Beloved Grammy opined that she finds this “Much soapier than Dallas.”  I thought this was interesting because, honestly, we’re not even into the “soap opera” portion of the show that commences with season four.  Yes, we are seeing quite a few continuing storylines run through the course of the season, but many episodes still feel isolated and stand-alone (“bottle” episodes, you’ll remember), so I found the comment interesting.  I can see her point though when it comes to this particular ep, however, as it is basically all about adultery.  Two out of the four couples on the cul-de-sac are committing adultery and one is going through a divorce while also pregnant with her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s baby.  Yeah, thinking on it now, that is all pretty darn soapy, so I guess I understand her comment.

One other thing she said that would have burned me if we were a little bit deeper into the series: She said the show hasn’t yet usurped Dallas for her, that Dallas is still the superior series in her eyes.  When we finished Dallas and started KL, I told her that I absolutely find KL to be the superior series with the caveat that it takes a few seasons to really hit its stride.  I’ll report back when we’re around seasons four/five/six/seven era to see if she changes her mind at all and if KL can win her over as the superior series. 

For now, however, that’s about all I have to say about Breach of Faith.  I really really enjoyed it and would put it in the top pantheon of episodes we’ve watched so far, and it’s definitely one of the top episodes of season two, as well.  After two rather rocky episodes in a row, Breach of Faith gets the show nicely back on track and represents KL at its best.  Can this grand quality be maintained throughout our next episode?  Let’s find out when we reconvene to discuss episode 021, Scapegoats.

5 comments:

  1. I think this was a a wonderful episode, just because I'm a Gary and Abby shipper, and you can see the seeds being planted. Abby was jealous of Judy when she interrupted them at the beginning of the episode and at the party Gary watches faintly annoyed while Richard paws Abby. He is relived when she comes to stand by his side at the BBQ.

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  2. Fabulous observations, Emily, both of which I didn't even notice or think about. However, I must disagree with you being a shipper of Gary and Abs; the pairing of Gary and Abs in late season three and the seasons to follow represent the show turning from Good to GREAT and launch us into an incredible golden era of storytelling and quality writing and acting, BUT I think Gary and Val are soul-mates and that if KL is about one thing, it is about their journey towards discovering that and eventually mutually arriving in the same destination by series end.

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  3. But would Gary have matured as he did without being a father to Olivia and Brian? Abby forced him to grow up. Gary had two soul mates, unfortunately Abby betrayed his trust one too many times.

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  4. I think Gary and Abby's relationship was a necessary step to Gary and Val getting back together. Abby was a woman who wouldn't put up with his bullshit. She didn't follow him around town when he was on a drunken bender. She knew he would be back...and he was. He needed to learn to depend on himself instead of Val, and it helped him become a better man. And, to Emily's point, being a dad to Olivia and Brian helped him to grow up as well...and to prepare him to become a father to Betsy and Bobby.

    And Val needed that time to grow up as well. She needed to learn she could live without Gary in order for them to be together again. She became a writer and fell in love with another man. I don't think she would have grown if she had stayed with Gary.

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  5. What is also ironic in this episode is Val comforting Laura over Richard and Abby, and in 2 years the roles would be reversed.

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