Episode Title: Scapegoats
Season 02, Episode 08
Episode 021 of 344
Written by Tim Maschler
Directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 15th, 1981
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):. The Fairgates find out that Michael suffers from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Sid hires Abby as the bookkeeper for Knots Landing Motors. Frank Kolbert and Roy Lance from "Orchid Cab Co" offer Gary a deal on cheap parts, but Sid declines, thinking it sounds illegal. Frank and Roy tell Gary they had a verbal agreement and threaten him, telling him he'd better have $50,000.00 for them by the end of the week. Abby overhears and suggests Gary ask J.R. for the money, as she read in the paper that J.R. will be in town soon.
Rewatching through these earliest seasons of KL, I am continually surprised to see so many ongoing storylines going on already, continuing and growing and evolving throughout the season. In truth, this is not how I remembered the second season of the series going, but rather I remembered it being just about as standalone as the episodes in the first season. Remember how the first season’s episodes would generally be about one subject, maybe two, and those subjects would resolve themselves when the time came for the episodes to wrap up? Well, season two also does that, in ways, and this episode specifically kind of does that, but at the same time, there are many continuing plot points that are going on at the same time, and that’s something I did not remember. I still maintain that the show doesn’t morph into a full-on nighttime soap until the fourth season, yet I’m seeing that its evolution into nighttime soap is already well underway as we go through this second season.
The reason I bring it up here is because I remembered this episode being about one thing and one thing only: Michael’s A.D.D. When the episode started, I was like, “Oh yeah, this is the one with Michael’s A.D.D. that’s really important for one episode and then is completely forgotten about.” Well, yes, that is true, but in addition to that story, we’ve got a ton of stuff going on with pretty much all the other characters, things that will grow and build and eventually culminate at the end of the season.
We begin Scapegoats mysteriously in the Fairgate house at night. Everyone is asleep except for our youngest, Michael, whom Karen and Sid find sleepwalking through the living room. To their knowledge, this is the first time Michael has displayed this type of behavior, but Eric tells them this is not abnormal, that he’s seen his brother sleepwalk lots of times in the past. Now, right away I’m noticing new details in this rewatch that went over my head the first time. The first time I viewed the series, I remembered Michael’s A.D.D. problem coming out of nowhere and then retreating back to nowhere almost immediately. Now, I might be right on that latter point (we’ll have to wait and find out), but I was wrong on the former. Michael’s strange behavior actually is foreshadowed well in advance of this episode; if I’d been paying more attention, I could have noted the exact episode where his behavior is first shown as erratic (it might even be in one of those two Hitchhike eps when he has a fight with a boy at the beach). Anyway, this is episode 21 of the entire series and it’s episode eight out of the second season's full order of eighteen, so they’ve actually been building up to this particular storyline for awhile. We’ve seen Michael spill his cereal and make a big crazy mess, and I believe it was just two episodes ago in Step One that we heard Karen remark, “I don’t know what’s wrong with Michael.” Well, finding out what’s wrong with Michael is the topic of this week’s show.
But it’s not the only topic, and that’s the part that surprised me. Remember that mobster storyline that got started in the Plesh-penned masterpiece Chance of a Lifetime? Well, that storyline is also growing as we get deeper into Scapegoats. The mobsters (their names are Frank Colbert and Roy Lance, by the way, and they are played in full-on Italian stereotype mode by William Boyett and Steven Hirsch). See, last time we saw them it was achingly clear that they were trying to sell stolen parts to Gary, and here they take him out to lunch (Gary doesn’t drink though, good boy) and start throwing vague threats at him about what they’re gonna do if he won’t do business with them. Now, Sid’s a smart man and he knows these mobsters are running a shady outfit, so he’s specifically told Gary not to go through with this, yet Gary seems lost, not sure what to do.
Let’s talk about Gary at this particular juncture in the series. Is he still a likeable character? Do you support him and wish for his happiness? The reason I mention this is because we are going through a particularly bad time for his character, arguably his second worst period since the last two episodes of season one (Bottom of the Bottle). If we’ll recall what happened last week, he is now officially having an affair with Judy Trend, committing adultery on Val, and that’s obviously pretty damn bad, but at the same time he’s dealing with these mobsters and he’s getting in way over his head. Oh yeah, and in addition to the Judy affair and the mobster dealings, it’s pretty obvious that Gary really wants to have an affair with Abby; he’s just not quite ready yet.
I will say that I still love Gary and support Gary, but remember that I am coming at this from the perspective of someone with scope for the whole series. When I look at Gary, I think of all the different ways he grows and matures throughout the entire fourteen season experience of KL. I know that he has his low points and his high points, but I also know that, eventually, much later in the series, Gary will reach a true self-actualization and be a good, decent, honest man. Since I know these things in advance, it makes it easier for me to stay with his character during trying times like these, when he’s really behaving like quite a jerk and a pretty lousy husband, to boot. Now, for someone who doesn’t have scope on the whole series, it would be much harder to support Gary right now. For instance, during our last episode (Breach of Faith), when Gary and Judy finally embraced in a kiss, My Beloved Grammy was not pleased and declared, “I don’t like Gary anymore.” We’ll see how long her not-liking of this character lasts, but I have a feeling that she’ll forgive him his mistakes as we get a few seasons deeper.
Another storyline that’s getting revved up (pun really not intended) involves Sid and this magic engine he’s working on. Keep all of this in mind since it will figure heavily into our next show as well as more shows down the line. Sid is trying to fix the environmental problems caused by automobiles, so he’s designing this, like, super engine that can get like five jillion miles to the gallon, or something. It’s barely mentioned here but, again, those seeds are being planted to grow in future eps.
Speaking of seeds growing, we also have Denise Galik as Linda showing up again. You’ll recall that she was introduced in Chance of a Lifetime as the new female mechanic that Sid had some reservations about hiring. Well, here she is again and, like I said, it’s not that she is given much to do in this particular episode, but rather that she is still hanging around and the writers clearly are planning to do something with her, just not quite yet.
And lastly, concerning storylines that will get going in future episodes, we also have the mention that J.R. Ewing will be coming to town in a week. Abs announces this to Gary after snooping on one of his conversations with the mobsters, and that helps to set up our next show (A Family Matter) where J.R. does, indeed, show up in town and start causing shenanigans. I feel like if this was being done in season one, J.R. would just show up for the confines of his one particular guest appearance (it was Community Spirit back in season one) and that would be it, but here the writers are starting to display forethought for the future and set things up an episode or two before they pay off, which I appreciate.
But for all these little tangents I’m going off on, I am forgetting about the main major storyline of this episode: Michael. As I’ve covered, he’s acting weird and freaking out and getting into fights with other kids. We have an amusing scene of him at school, working on some painting, and him and this other kid get into a bit of a rumble and have to be broken up by the teacher. At this point, the bitchiest school-front-desk-lady I’ve ever seen calls Karen into her office and gives her some lecture about, “All parents think their kids are special,” all the while answering every phone call that comes her way (this school is getting more phone-calls per minute than any business I’ve ever seen). Seriously, this lady sucks. She called Karen down to the school to talk to her, yet she is too busy with her phonecalls and her snarky comments to give Karen her full attention, and if I were Karen, I’d be pissed, too.
Anyway, Sid and Karen take Michael to see a shrink, and the shrink is actually one of the guys who tried to figure out what was wrong with Linda Blair in The Exorcist. I recognized him immediately not just because I recently saw that movie again, but also because he has a unique face and voice. The actor’s name is Robert Symonds, and he was actually in a ton of stuff before dying in 2007. In fact, I am very glad I took a peek at his IMDb, because if I hadn’t, I would have completely missed the fact that he is a Transmorpher! That’s right, he appeared in not one but two Dallas episodes, both from 1981, entitled The Split and Five Dollars a Barrel. Even more interestingly, both of these episodes will soon be covered on this blog, as they both feature appearances by Ted Shackelford as Gary and will form parts eight and nine of our Brief Dallas Interludes! So when we get to those eps, I will make sure to keep my eyes peeled for Transmorpher Robert Symonds. Oh yeah, and one last bizarrely cool bit of trivia, but apparently he was married to fellow Transmorpher Priscilla Pointer (last seen by us in the KL episode The Constant Companion).
Anyway, the doctor declares that Michael is suffering from A.D.H.D., hence all the excess energy and generally strange and unruly behavior. I did some quick research to see when A.D.H.D. was first recognized as a medical condition, because in my brain, it’s a fairly recent thing. Well, let’s just say I was surprised to see it was first discovered in freakin 1902! I thought KL was on the cutting edge for talking about it in 1981, but I guess they were actually about eighty years too late, oh well. Anyway, that’s what Michael has and it’s gonna require a lot of energy and determination from the family to keep him occupied and exhaust his supply of energy throughout the day.
Now, that little bit of information doesn’t come from the Transmorpher Exorcist doctor, but rather from David Haskell as Karl. Again, it’s small little details I appreciate, because the writers could have easily had Exorcist doctor explain to the Fairgates what they need to do to work with Michael, but instead they bring in this already established character to do that. Even though Ginger broke up with him a few eps back, that doesn’t mean he still can’t hang around to help out Karen and Sid; after all, he really is supposed to be a pediatrician, no? Like I said, sometimes it’s the littlest, subtlest things within the KL writing that I appreciate the most.
Now, there’s one little scene fairly early on in this episode that I wish to discuss because it’s awesomely moving in a sort of retroactive way. See, in the earliest stages of the episode, Sid is like, “Oh, Michael’s fine, don’t worry about it,” being naïve as he sometimes can be. However, when Michael behaves like a psycho during a beach volleyball game (again, they are always going to the beach in these early episodes), Sid has to chase him down to the tideline and talk to him. The scene is shot beautifully in silhouette in front of a real, natural setting sun over the ocean, giving it this pink colored effect and slightly obscuring both Sid and Michael; all we see are the outlines of their bodies. Michael is upset and says something like, “I just wanted to play with them,” or “What’s wrong with me?” or something, to which Sid assures him that nothing is wrong. Why is this small scene so amazingly moving? Well, get ready for A SPOILER ALERT and go ahead and skip ahead a bit if you don’t want this spoiled, but in the episode where Sid dies (Critical Condition from season three), they use a still image from this scene to close out the episode, like where they usually run the credits with a reprise of the theme song. In the case of that episode (which we’ll obviously discuss in greater detail soon), they just run this still picture of Sid and Michael in front of the sunset over a lovely and sad piano version of the theme song, and it always makes me feel emotional, and the image came out of this particular episode, which I feel should be noted.
The episode actually wraps up in a kind of abrupt way. It merely ends with Karen and Sid at their kitchen table, discussing what they are going to do to help Michael. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting the episode to be over right there, but Karen says something to the effect of how the whole family is gonna have to adjust a bit to help him out, and then the two parents hold hands and we get the “Executive Producers” credit and the episode ends. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I’m not quite sure. My memory of this Michael A.D.H.D. storyline is that it leads absolutely nowhere, and indeed I’m not even sure it’s ever mentioned again in the series except in the very next few episodes coming up. If this had really gone somewhere, and if the writers were playing the long game with it, I think I’d like this ending better, but as it stands, it’s kinda like, “Oh, that’s it?” After this episode, the storyline doesn’t do anything or go anywhere, which makes this whole story feel a bit weird and standalone.
What else is there to say about this episode? Not a whole lot. This episode is far, far better than both Kristin and Step One but it’s absolutely a step down from our last show, Breach of Faith, which I thought was a highlight of the series up to this point. I mainly have a problem with nearly an entire episode being devoted to Michael and his attention deficit problems only to then forget about these problems and sweep the storyline under the carpet. This is very unlike the KL writers and is something the folks over at Dallas would be more likely to do. I felt like that series was constantly bringing up storylines and then forgetting about them or not allowing them to lead anywhere, but KL generally had much tighter, much better writing that didn’t let storylines dangle or fall off to the wayside, so this is not typical of their quality of writing.
Aside from the Michael storyline, we obviously have plenty of stuff going on with the other characters, but even that is dominoes being set up to fall; nothing really happens within the course of this episode, but rather it’s stuff being set up to happen. That doesn’t mean the episode is boring or bad, but it does mean it’s not as exciting or as rich as many of your other KL eps. I believe the term often used for episodes like this is “Filler,” where you’re just sorta padding stuff out until allowing storylines to pay off later. Of course, it’s KL and I love KL and the episode still goes down pretty easy, even if it’s a rather unremarkable and unspectacular 48 minutes of television.
However, I have a hunch (well, more than a hunch since I’ve already watched this episode) that our next show will be better as we have the second triumphant guest appearance of Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing. That’s right, join me for our next show when everyone’s favorite bastard comes to town for a visit in A Family Matter.