Episode Title: Players
Season 02, Episode 12
Episode 025 of 344
Written by Susan Misty Stewart
Directed by Jeff Bleckner
Original Airdate: Thursday, February 12th, 1981
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):. Richard gets a job with Kippler, Janson, and Stern. He apologizes to Laura for how he's been treating her, but secretly is upset that she earns more than he does. Ginger finally tells Kenny that she's pregnant, but that they need to work out their problems before he can move back in. Karen is upset that Linda is in love with Sid, and is scared that they might be having an affair. Sid and Linda take a test drive and the car breaks down on a deserted desert road. Linda tells Sid she loves him. They kiss, but he says he can't have an affair with her. Sid tells Karen he didn't have an affair with Linda, but jokes that if he had he wouldn't tell her, because he hates to 'brag.' Karen is not amused.
Last week it was all about Abby with A State of Mind, but this week it’s all about her big brother Sid Fairgate, as his marital vows are once again severely tested, stretched to their limits, perhaps. This may have a familiar ring to it, and the reason is because we saw something rather similar back in season one with Civil Wives, when Sid’s ex-wife came to town and started stirring up trouble. However, just because we’ve seen similar territory covered before does not mean it’s not worth exploring again; after all, it was Roger Ebert who said “A movie [or, in this case, a show] is not about what it’s about; it’s about how it’s about it.”
Last week we encountered an episode I didn’t really remember at all, but with this episode, I remembered it but I didn’t remember what the title was or where it fell in the course of the season. In fact, I thought we were getting this episode a few shows back in Choices, when Linda invited Sid out to some sort of auto event (a car race?). But no, that wasn’t Choices; it’s this episode, so let’s dive right in and explore.
We open on Sid and Linda at Knots Landing Motors, working, I think, on Sid’s engine. Have I mentioned Sid’s engine yet? I really should have because it’s been a little plot thread weaving throughout most of the season, and we could see J.R. taking an interest in it back in A Family Matter. In fact, I can’t completely remember, but I think Sid’s sexy environmental engine might even be the impetus for his evacuation from the series at the conclusion of season two/start of season three. In any case, Sid’s been working real hard on this engine so that he can get, like, a hundred miles to the gallon or something; he wants to help the world and the environment by reducing his carbon footprint (a phrase that probably hadn’t even been thought up when this episode first aired). This is his passion project but, as we see, it’s hard for Karen to muster up the same enthusiasm for this engine that, say, Linda can. Because of this, we can see that Sid and Linda are, in fact, forming a bit of a bond, a bond that reaches beyond an employer and his employee. Certainly they are starting to interact like good friends, but lovers? I guess we’ll have to watch to find out.
We see a little of Karen’s jealousy right off the bat. This is perfectly understandable, as she finds Linda and Sid together chatting it up like two old buddies and drooling over Sid’s engine. However, much as she did in Civil Wives, Karen chooses to hide her jealousy by being really nice and friendly, so she immediately invites Linda over for dinner with the family that night. I think she’s plotting just a smidge here, by the way. Make no mistake, it’s not an Abby Fairgate Cunningham Ewing Sumner level of plotting, but she’s plotting, nonetheless, plotting to have Linda over and say, “Look at my beautiful house and my beautiful husband and my beautiful children,” to subtly (or not so subtly) remind Linda that Sid is a married man with three children (or technically four children if we count Annie from Pilot, whom we sure haven’t heard from in a long time). Since Abs is a sharp cookie, she sees what’s going on and is happy to tease Karen about it. First she teases her by saying that Linda is in love with Sid, then she starts to tease her for inviting her over to the house, saying how she positively can’t believe Karen would do a thing like that. After seeing Karen dish it out to Abs in A State of Mind, it’s kinda fun to watch the tables being subtly turned.
When we get to this Fairgate family dinner, it’s a positively lovely affair, but I do take issue with one aspect of it: The second completely made-up and invented character in the same number of weeks. Seriously, what is this? When Linda comes into the house, she is immediately introduced to Paul Fairgate, who we are told is Sid and Abby’s nephew. I immediately wrote in my notes, “Who the hell is this guy?” The answer is: Nobody. He was invented, just like Laura’s little real estate friend from last week, simply to serve a small plot purpose in this one episode. According to TV.com, this character is never seen nor mentioned again, and I can believe it, because I had no recollection of him at all. In any case, I’ll still be nice and take a moment to note that Paul Fairgate, amazingly unforgettable character who is so vital to all fourteen seasons of KL, is played by Kale Browne and he is, get ready for this, yet another Transmorpher. It appears that, prior to this amazing Emmy winning performance on KL, he appeared in two Dallas episodes. In Jock’s Trial: Part Two, he is credited as “Reporter #2” and in A House Divided he is “KKGB Reporter.” Hmmm, could very well be the same character, just credited differently, no? In any case, aside from those two Dallas eps, it looks like the guy is still working but he’s got no credits that I immediately recognize, aside from a lot of guest spots on TV.
In any case, who cares? This character sucks. He is only in this episode and his only function is to make the dinner party more uncomfortable for Linda, as Karen basically shoves Paul Fairgate’s cock into Linda’s mouth and is like, “This is Paul; you’ll love him!” Honestly, Karen’s not at her most subtle this week, as this little attempt to keep Linda away from her husband is painfully obvious to anyone in the vicinity. Obviously the plan doesn’t work, as Paul Fairgate is super boring and has none of Sid’s charisma. Linda hangs out for awhile and makes polite chit chat with him, but then she runs off awkwardly into the night.
The plot thickens the next day, as Sid has to cancel a lunch date with Karen because he is too busy, just booked solid down at Knots Landing Motors. The only problem is that, despite being booked solid, he still manages to find enough time to take Linda out to an arcade in the middle of the afternoon for fun and shenanigans. I can’t completely remember how all this comes about; I think an appointment of Sid’s cancels or something, clearing up his time, but this is bad news, as he should have called his wife and told her he had the time, now. Instead, Karen pops in unexpectedly for a little coffee break, only to be told that Sid is out with Linda, doing whatever it is he’s doing.
I wanna talk about a subtle little detail that I loved in this scene. When Karen goes to Knots Landing Motors to look for Sid, we see that Gary and Abs are enjoying a coffee break together. Karen goes up to them and gets the necessary information to keep the plot moving forward. It is from Abs and Gary that she finds out that Sid is not around, that he ran off with Linda. The reason I point this out is because this episode is pretty strictly about Karen and Sid’s relationship, but that doesn’t mean we can’t see things going on within the confines of the episode that relate to the other characters. Abs and Gary are not going to consummate their affair until well into the third season (I think well into the second half of that season), but right here and now we are getting hints that their relationship is heating up, all based on the way they are standing together and enjoying their coffee when Karen enters. To a person who is just watching this one particular ep and not really focusing on the over-arching storyline, you might not even notice how cozy Abs and Gary look, but it’s there and it shows foresight on the parts of the writers. After all, Karen could have just walked in and talked to only one of those characters and still received the same information, but by presenting it in this way, we are able to deduce more than is spoken onscreen.
Now, even though this is a Sid/Karen focused episode, that does not mean the other characters don’t get moments to shine. Probably the most significant other storyline in Players is the miraculous character rehabilitation of Richard Avery. This I did not recall at all, in fact, but after being dumped by Abby in last week’s show, it looks like Richard is ready to get serious, to straighten up and fly right and be a better husband to Laura. This is exemplified pretty much right off the bat. Richard comes home and announces he got a new job (remember he’s been out of work for a span of eight episodes, starting back in Chance of a Lifetime) with some law firm, and then he sits down with Laura and gives an actually rather lovely speech about what a bad husband he’s been. Now this is classic Richard, and is the main reason why he’s very likely my favorite male character in all fourteen years of the series. He is a truly complex and fully-fledged character who can be equally vile or kind depending on the situation and his own reactions to it. Watching with My Beloved Grammy, I should note that she really dislikes the Richard character; she thinks he’s just a plain old 100% jerk. But it’s moments like these (and one coming up in the start of season three, The Vigil, that I just adore) that show him to be far richer than all that. His apology to Laura feels very genuine, not at all like a guy who is begging his wife for forgiveness after repeatedly cheating on her. This speech has more the tone of a person who is truly remorseful and who truly means it when he says he wants to change. Laura forgives him, keeping nicely in line with her own speech from A State of Mind, and I do think we have a temporary bliss in their relationship. The question, of course, is how long can this bliss truly last for? In my head, it’s all a big blur, but I’m almost positive I remember Richard and Laura divorcing in either the third or fourth season of the show, but I guess I’ll just have to keep watching to find out exactly what happens.
I guess to just write off their current relationship as “temporary bliss” is not entirely accurate, as there are already storm clouds on the horizon. See, Richard is going to be making about $35,000.00 per year in his new job, which is a start, but he’s not over the moon about it. Shortly afterwards, Laura closes a really big deal on some sexy expensive house, and her commission for it comes to, you guessed it, $36,000.00, more than Richard will be making in an entire year at his new job. Should Laura tell him about her fabulous success and risk a neurotic explosion? I’m not so sure, but she does tell him, even buys him a nice, expensive briefcase. She gives a little speech about how they will share success together; her success will be his success and vice versa, and Richard smiles and nods, but when she walks out of the room, we get a lingering shot of Richard staring at his briefcase and looking rather troubled about it. After all, it is 1981 and he is the man and we’ve seen that Richard can have old fashioned scruples; his wife making more money in one day than he’s going to make in an entire year is definitely eating at his self-confidence even as he holds the beautiful briefcase.
Remember how weird it felt last week to have J.V.A. sitting out an entire episode? Well, she’s back in this one and, even though she doesn’t really get a major storyline, it’s still good to see her. I’m sure I would have rather seen her interact with pretty much any other character besides Ginger, but beggars can’t be choosers. Now, these two hardly take up a lot of the episode’s time, as all we get is a quick little scene of Val and Ginger in a doctor’s office. I think this is put in here to set up next week’s show, The Loudest Word, in which Val spends the majority of the ep in a hospital. In any case, I think she’s having an appointment right now that will lead us nicely into our next show, but I could be misreading this. The only thing we really learn from this scene is that Ginger is, of course, still pregnant and that she hasn’t told Kenny yet. Okay, that’s helpful information, but I still don’t really care. I appreciate that the writers are giving Kenny and Ginger something to do, but they are absolutely still dead last on my list of KL characters, not just for this particular era of the series but for all fourteen years. No matter what the writers give them, it seems that the inherent blandness of James Houghton and Kim Lankford simply prevents any storyline from being interesting.
Oh yeah, and then we reach a rather splendid dovetailing of two separate storylines. I love when the writers can do this (and I note with interest that this is the only episode written by Susan Misty Steward, although she did write for plenty of episodes of the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series!). See, Karen is a little concerned that Sid may have an affair, so it’s at this moment that Val chooses to announce that Gary had an affair with Judy Trent. Okay, so that affair is dead and gone since Choices (two episodes ago, to be fair, so not that long), but it’s nice that it can be mentioned here not just as a “Oh, this happened to me” thing, but as a way to connect Val and Karen, to link their two storylines together; it both reminds us of past events while also being pertinent to the current situation. Another thing, this scene is both dramatic and funny. I keep saying how seasons eight through twelve are the most humorous years, and they are, sure, but I forgot how much humor and wit is in these early episodes, as well. See, Val gives a tremendous speech about Gary’s infidelity and how it made her feel and Bob Loblaw. Things are getting nice and dramatic, heating up good, and then Karen puts a great button on the scene by getting this really flat and emotionless expression on her face and declaring, “Let’s go get a pizza.” Genius, simply genius.
Through a series of events, Sid winds up at Knots Landing Motors late at night and finds Linda there, as well, burning the midnight oils. The two talk a bit and then decide to try out the new miracle engine and take the car out for a night drive. Things are going along well, they are testing that engine out real good and nice, exceeding the speed limit by a wide margin, when suddenly the car breaks down unexpectedly! So of course Sid and Linda are now stranded out in the middle of nowhere at night in the cold. Before we go to our last commercial break, we finally have Linda confessing her love to Sid. Oh boy, is this scene uncomfortable. Maybe it’s just something about that word “love” that frightens me, I dunno, but I kinda expected Linda to say, “I’m attracted to you,” or “I want to sleep with you,” or something like that, but what’s with this “love” nonsense? Ick!
Now, let’s take a pause here to explore whether or not we actually believe Sid will have an affair. I will go ahead and say I do not. At no point do I believe Sid will go through with sleeping with Linda; it’s just not in his character. He is a man of decency, of morals, of scruples. He always tries to do the moral thing and he simply would never hurt Karen that way. That’s my belief, and it’s also my belief that Sid is so wonderfully naïve in many ways that he was probably completely oblivious to Linda’s feelings for him. In fact, I’d even venture to say that Sid almost sees Linda as “One of the guys.” The two of them can hang out together and talk about engines and cars, stuff Karen has no interest in. I don’t think Sid has been doing anything duplicitous all this time with Linda; I think he really is just very naïve and honestly thought she was just his friend who happened to be a lady. When she confesses her, um, "love" to him, I think he’s surprised; I honestly think that for him, this is coming completely out of nowhere.
So, even though I say I never believe Sid will cheat on Karen, that doesn’t mean I am not invested in watching it. I don’t think this situation is supposed to be suspenseful the way that a potential adulterous romance might be handled on one of the other nighttime soaps; I think this is more of a character study. This is just setting up a situation for Sid and then exploring the way he deals with it. This is probably why I inherently love KL more than all of its contemporaries; the writers wrote in a way that made sense for the characters; they didn’t sacrifice character integrity for the sake of a little good, soapy drama.
Linda gives a long speech about how she’ll be leaving in one week, going back to college or something. She and Sid can have sex tonight and then she’ll disappear and never see him again and this will just be their secret to take to the grave. At this point, a truck emerges in the distance, a truck that represents CHOICES! I love how this is cut, by the way, because that truck is getting closer, and Sid is gonna flag it down, but Linda wants him to let it pass, and then the truck comes all the way up to the camera, and its headlights fill the screen completely, and then we cut directly from the lights to Karen sitting up in bed. We don’t get to see what happened, but we cut in a way that is very dynamic and very stimulating.
This leads to our final scene of the ep, which is Sid coming home to an irate Karen. He slips into the bathroom for a shower, which of course bothers Karen, who asks why he needs to take a shower right now. Sid is calm and explains that he’s been out in the desert, he’s sweaty, he’s tired, he needs a shower. Karen asks him if he slept with Linda and he tells her no. I love classic calm Sid, able to deal with these questions with skill. He’s so wonderfully relaxed as he explains to Karen exactly what happened and that no adultery took place. At the same time, there’s an ominous tone to this episode ending, because Karen asks if he would tell her had he in fact gone through with it, and Sid smiles and says “No.” Then we actually go out on the image of Karen’s troubled face, which is rather strange and unsettling, honestly.
Okay, so I keep mentioning this and whenever I mention it I warn about spoilers, but it bears repeating: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS RIGHT HERE! Anyway, we only have eight more episodes with Saint Sid. He will be making his final appearance on the series in episode two of season three. Knowing that he’s not long for the series, it’s making me really want to soak up as much of him as I can; I find myself focusing heavily on every scene he’s in, because I know our time is short. At the same time, I find myself wondering about a different world where he didn’t leave the show or perhaps doesn’t leave until much later in the run. Was this ending actually trying to plant some seeds that had no time to grow since Don Murray left the show? Like I said, this is an ominous ending; there’s something almost creepy in the tone of the ending, like perhaps the writers were planning to give an affair to Sid, but not just yet. I wonder if they were planning something for further into the future and if that something got derailed when Don Murray decided to quit. Perhaps I’ll never know…END OF SPOILERS HERE
As we get deeper into the series, I am going to start taking issue with so many storylines being focused on Karen’s husband maybe having an affair. See, and here come some more future storyline spoilers, but Karen does eventually get remarried to the lovely Mack MacKenzie, played beautifully by Kevin Dobson, and the two stay married for the majority of the series (about ten years, I do believe). Now, it seems like the writers can’t get enough of testing Mack’s faithfulness to Karen; I remember thinking that it seemed like every season they’d bust out some new hoe to tempt Mack into bed. By the third or fourth time that storyline came up with him, I was starting to lose my patience. The reason I mention that is because it’s being done here not even for the first time, but the second. We’ve already had Civil Wives, and now this episode, and then I think we really do get four “Will Mack cheat on Karen?” storylines in the upcoming middle-to-later seasons of the series. While it starts to feel old for me during that juncture of the series, it is still fresh here, at least for me. I only mention this because it seems the writers must have really liked this moral quandary, as they kept returning to it time and time again.
So what of Players? Good episode? Bad episode? Middle of the road? I’m gonna go ahead and declare this a good one, though not a great one. This is no Let Me Count the Ways or Chance of a Lifetime or Breach of Faith or Choices, but it’s definitely a solid hour of entertainment and, of course, easily usurps those bottom dwellers like Land of the Free or Kristin. I enjoy watching a simple story of a man’s marriage being tempted and seeing how he reacts to it, and as usual the acting is stellar from pretty much all involved. In addition, I appreciated that this episode kept other storylines moving, or at least reminded us of their existence, even while focusing rather heavily on Sid.