Sunday, May 1, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 027 of 344: MOMENTS OF TRUTH


Episode Title: Moments of Truth

Season 02, Episode 14

Episode 027 of 344

Written by Rob Gilmer

 Directed by Jeff Bleckner

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 26th, 1981

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):.                The men take Kenny out to celebrate and the women give Ginger a baby shower at Val's house. Three criminals break into the house to rob the women. Diana, in the kitchen, escapes and calls police. The robbers then take the women hostage. A swat team is called. Tempers flare among the men, who are feeling helpless. After eight hours, the SWAT team apprehends the robbers and everybody is okay.

 


                Oh bleh, I knew I’d have to sit through this episode again at some point; I just couldn’t remember exactly what episode it was or where it would pop up in the second season.  What a shame, too, as the second season has really been pumping along, giving us some great stuff.  No, I maintain it’s not as great as the great stuff we’re gonna see in, say, seasons four through twelve, but there have been a lot of excellent episodes so far and only a few stinkers (Kristin, for one).  Well, everything pretty much comes to a grinding halt with Moments of Truth, an episode that exemplifies all the worst aspects of early KL episodes, all rolled up into a ball and somehow packed into the course of this one particular episode.

                As I’ve noted quite a bit throughout the season, I’ve been surprised at how many ongoing storylines really do last over the course of several episodes.  I remembered Richard and Abby’s affair, for instance, but I did not remember how early Gary’s saga with the mobsters began, or the way his affair with Judy Trent evolved and then devolved.  My memory of season two was that every episode was, well, like this.  Moments of Truth is about as standalone as it gets with KL; I don’t think there’s one single thing on display here that continues into another episode or is even ever mentioned again, and quite honestly, you could just plain skip this one and miss nothing, probably the first episode I’ve said that about since Land of the Free back in season one.  However, I am a completist, I do not skip, and in fact in the long future when I decide to watch KL from start to finish again, you can bet I will be sitting through both Land of the Free and Moments of Truth again.

                We open up on Ginger’s baby shower.  All the Seaview Circle ladies are present, including Val, Laura, Abby, Karen, and even Diana, who is going to have to heroically save the day later (well, not really).  Everything looks peaceful and everyone is having a good time, drinking it up and enjoying some cake or whatever.  I’m firmly reminded that it’s 1981 as Ginger casually drinks wine while pregnant, as well.  Anyway, we keep cutting away back from the women to the men: Gary, Richard, Sid, and Kenny, who are enjoying some beers (all aside from Gary, of course) down at a local bar.  It is interesting to note that Richard is hitting on every woman in the vicinity, but in a very corny, not-truly-devoted way.  What do you make out of this?  Is Richard already tired of being a faithful husband and he’s ready for another adulterous romance?  Or is he just casually flirting because he’s been drinking a bit and the girls are pretty and it’s fun to flirt?

                As we’re going to see throughout the course of these fourteen seasons, Seaview Circle is a rather dangerous cul-de-sac to live on.  This is our 27th episode and yet we’ve already had a violent biker invasion,  and now it’s time for some evil burglars.  See, just as Ginger’s party is in full swing, they are taken over by three burglars dressed in ski-masks, the typical burglar gear ("So he says, 'Do you love me?' And she says, 'No, but that's a real nice ski mask!'").  The logic of these three burglars is debatable, however.  After all, the entire cul-de-sac appears to have all gathered at Gary and Val’s house, leaving all the rest of the houses empty, right?  I guess the burglars couldn’t completely know this was going on, but I can’t figure out why they didn’t just hit all the other houses while the residents were occupied.  Instead, they attack the one house that everyone is gathered in, which obviously allows for someone to slip by.  That someone is Diana, by the way, who slips out a back window and escapes to safety.  I think she’s on her way to call the cops when the cops just show up unexpectedly, as well, frightening the burglars and causing them to haul up and camp out in the Ewing house.

                One of the things I love about the experience of KL is watching the times grow and change all around our characters.  I think it’s interesting to note that, in the early years, we are often still given episodes that feel straight out of the ‘70s in tone and style, episodes just like this one.  The whole obsession with home attack and particularly women being attacked by strangers feels very ‘70s to me, and watching the ladies be terrorized even made me think of ‘70s exploitation like Death Wish.  My point is that this would not seem unusual for a TV drama in 1981, but as we get a few seasons deeper, this style is going to completely disappear and become just a memory and we’re going to see the entire ‘80s come and go as we watch, even dipping into the early ‘90s before the show ends.  Of course it goes without saying that an episode with this style would just not fly during those early ‘90s years of the series.

                Okay, so we got three burglars, right?  There are two guys and one girl.  Now, the two guys are played by Glenn Withrow and Gary Graham, while the lady is played by Rita Taggart.  I really only note this because the entire episode I was like, “I recognize that lady,” but when I took the time to look it up, there’s nothing I would know her from.  Okay, she is credited for David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive but for the life of me I have no idea who she played, and she’s also credited as “Reporter” in the Steven Spielberg masterpiece 1941 (that was sarcasm).  In any case, she is certainly the most striking of the burglars, and not just because she’s a woman.  There’s something really withered and haggard and sad about her face, like she’s been through a lot and she just has no patience for the world anymore; she is a beaten down woman who is now stuck in this life of crime, and we don’t know how she got there, but we can see it’s probably been a long and hard road.

                So what do these burglars want, anyway?  Just money and expensive items, mostly.  They make the women get down on the ground and start to steal their rings and their jewelry and all that.  Karen is wily and manages to hide her ring in her mouth before the burglars get to it.  This is kinda touching, actually, that even in the height of this chaos, she won’t part with her ring because of what it represents to her.  I will take a moment to note that I just plain didn’t like….this.  I didn’t like seeing the women be terrorized in the early stages of this episode, and seeing them bent down on the ground, having their home invaded, crying, all of that gave me an icky feeling.  I can’t entirely explain why; it’s not like we get a graphically violent rape scene or anything like that, but there’s just something about watching the women be victimized that I simply did not enjoy.  These are my girls and I think of them as tough and smart, not girls to be victimized.  Make no mistake, later in the episode the women do manage to get the upper hand on their attackers, so I guess you could view this through a feminist theory lens, but the early portions still make me feel icky and uncomfortable.

                Interestingly, we do get quite a bit of backstory on these burglars.  For instance, we find out that the lady (Rose) was married to one of the men (I think the one played by Glenn Withrow) but that they are now divorced.  There’s a sense of tension in the relationship also mixed in with a certain amount of marital understanding; that perhaps even if these two aren’t married anymore, they still kinda like eachother in some strange way.

                The dullest portions of this episode all involve the men, so I’m just gonna breeze by that part of the plot.  Basically, they get back to Seaview Circle and realize what’s going on.  The cops come, then a SWAT team, Bob Loblaw, and all the men are really upset and nervous about it.  Basically anything involving the SWAT team and the men speaking to each other is the perfect opportunity to go take a nice, long pee.  This stuff is dull.  Why is it so dull?  I’m trying to figure out if it’s because I have seen this episode before and obviously know everything’s gonna turn out okay or if it’s just that the episode is lame.  I’m going with option #2, as I remember not caring for this ep even the first time I watched it.  It doesn’t grip and so all this “suspense” with the cops just falls flat.

                It was only upon watching this with My Beloved Grammy and taking notes that I realized there is one potential threat in this ep, although the writers do nothing with it.  My Beloved Grammy kept repeating how she was convinced that Ginger was going to lose her baby.  Now, I never really thought about that, but she’s right, I could see that being a distinct possibility.  Don’t forget that we just recently finished watching all fourteen seasons of Dallas and that show killed off unborn fetuses left and right; they couldn’t get enough of it.  So far, we haven’t had a lot of fetus-killing on KL (aside from Ginger’s backstory in The Constant Companion and Karen’s miscarriage in Small Surprises), but I can see why one would assume that’s what’s gonna happen to Ginger.  After all, most nighttime soaps loved getting a character pregnant for the sake of the drama and then killing the baby before it could be born just so they didn’t have to deal with any pesky baby storylines.  Even so, I’m not in any suspense over Ginger and her stupid baby as I watch this episode; if I’m supposed to be, well, the writers failed in this instance.

                Since I found this episode so terrifically dull, I found myself drifting into different types of feminist or classist theory while watching it, pulling out some of that old (and useless) criticism I learned back in college.  I think there are themes in this episode that could be explored, but please note that I’m only exploring them because there’s nothing more interesting to talk about.  Really, I think I’m kinda forcing these little theories just because the actual onscreen action is so boring and lifeless.  But here we go with some CLASSIST theory.

                The Texas Ewings over on parent series Dallas really have it made, right?  They live on a big fat ranch with tons and tons of land on all sides of them, they have a maid and a butler to cook for them and pamper them and serve them and clean for them, they get to go to work in a big office building where they are allowed to drink all the livelong day with no consequences, and of course they have their own private jets and helicopters to use at their convenience.  In conclusion, they are a very, very rich family, living in the lap of luxury and getting just about whatever they want.  Hell, just look at our last Brief Dallas Interlude (End of the Road: Part Two) in which they gave Lucy her beautiful, lavish wedding.  Do you think that big wedding was even a bit of an expense for the Ewings?  Hardly.  I imagine Jock Ewing was able to fund the whole thing with the money he found under their couch cushions. 

                By contrast, the gang over at the cul-de-sac on KL, particularly in these first three or four seasons, feel much more grounded, much more realistic, much more relatable, and finally much less rich.  Watching the series, a lot of scenes feel like things I saw or did when I was a kid, and I certainly don’t look at these characters as rich people.  However, just because they are not doing nearly as well as the Texas Ewings does not mean they are scraping for cash, you know?  All four of the couples still live in nice houses on a nice street and have enough money to support their families.  They may be middle class, and J.R. may sneer and make fun of them when he comes to visit, but they are definitely upper middle class and are doing much better than a lot of people, such as these burglars.

                The reason I bring this up is because Rose (the lady burglar, you’ll remember) gives a terrifically angry speech to Karen about how she (Karen) is a have while Rose and her buddies are have-nots.  She says how all the women are living the “Great American dream,” that they are pampered and spoiled.  It’s a notable little moment and reminds us that there are plenty of people in the world who have it bad and who would be happy to steal from those who are more fortunate.  It also gave me flashbacks to Conchetta Ferrell in the two-part Hitchhike eps, attacking Karen for having more money and opportunity than she.

                As for feminist theory, well, the women do eventually manage to kick some ass and get the best of their attackers, which feels sorta inspirational in an I Spit on Your Grave kinda way.  Abby uses her sexuality to distract one of them (the really dumb guy) and eventually manages to get him to submit through use of a fire extinguisher.  We also get one classic exchange between Laura and Abs that reveals how different two women can be.  Abs is trying to get things done by acting sexy and distracting the bad guys, while Laura prefers to just keep calm and wait for some help.  The classic exchange comes when the two women are in the kitchen together and Laura says, with the disgust really creeping into her voice, “God, you are such a slut,” to which Abby replies, “Well, it takes one to know one,” and then of course Laura slaps her, which is fabulous.  Okay, I love this scene (so there you go!  I like one thing about this episode!) and the dialogue, but at the same time Abby’s comeback is a little, um, weak.  After all, has Laura really done anything slutty?  The last time we saw her behave in a promiscuous way was way back in The Lie, and that was over a year ago at this point, before Abs was even on the show.  So I’m not totally sure Abby’s little insult actually makes any sense, but it’s still a cute little scene and it helps to demonstrate that, even though Abs and Richard have terminated their affair, Laura and Abs are never gonna get along too terribly well because of what has transpired.

                There’s nothing much more to say about my feminist theory except that the women do eventually take charge, giving it a motivational, perhaps even inspirational bent.  I love stories where women toughen up and kick some ass (most of James Cameron’s movies would apply), but this one doesn’t really get me fist pumping because, again, I don’t care.  Also, any patience I had for this ep is completely depleted by the time we reach our final scene, where the bad guys are hauled away and all the women come running out to embrace their husbands.  It’s a very corny little wrap-up scene that puts a button on all the proceedings.  Jerrold’s classic theme starts to play over footage of all the couples, together again, everybody happy, wrapping up the storyline for this week.  Barf.

                  In television lingo, this episode would definitely be called “a filler.”  I think it’s very interesting to note that, as we get deeper into the ‘80s, the seasonal episode count of KL is gonna grow.  For instance, season one was a mid season show and only had thirteen episodes, while season two only has eighteen episodes.  Our next season will leap up to twenty-two, and by seasons six, seven, and eight, there will be a whopping thirty eps per season.  The reason I note that is because those seasons are huge and have a lot of episodes, but I don’t remember them having much in the way of filler; it really feels like every episode is growing the ongoing story and keeping things moving.  So it’s funny that this season, which is one of the shortest of the entire series (it remains the second shortest after season one, followed years later by season fourteen, which has nineteen episodes) seems packed with so much more filler.  It helps to show that, even though I become something of a drooling sycophant as far as KL is concerned, we are still very early in the show’s run and the writers are still honing the style and sharpening their writing skills, getting ready for those glorious peak seasons that are on the horizon. 

                However, for the purposes of this one single episode, I have to say this is one of the worst.  In fact, I’m gonna make a shocking statement and declare that this may very possibly be worse than Land of the Free.  I think that episode is often cited as the worst of the series run, and I think I might have even declared that a time or two, but at least that one was goofy enough to keep me entertained.  It was incredibly stupid, of course, but I was never bored by it, whereas I was bored through most of Moments of Truth.  So which is the worse one?  Personally, I’m gonna declare this one as one of the worst, maybe even the worst, because it doesn’t even have that camp appeal that made watching Land of the Free relatively painless.  It is a boring and useless filler episode that can be skipped, no problem.

                My sphincter is tightening as I prepare for our next episode, which may also wind up ranking as one of the worst of the series.  Next week, we’ll be visiting with Karen’s oldest boy, Eric Fairgate, along with SPECIAL GUEST STAR Eric Stoltz, apparently playing the same character he would go on to play in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Next week we’ll be discussing the 28th episode of the series, Man of the Hour. 

6 comments:

  1. I actually like this episode. The men show such vulnerability and are scared. And then when everyone goes home with their spouse we end with Abby looking wistful and sad.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I didn't mind it either. I thought "Land of the Free" was worse, because it was such a cliche (stereotypical bikers, tipping over garbage cans, circling victims for no particular reason, the "wonka-wonka" music). But overall, Brett is correct that this isn't a highlight of the series and can definitely be skipped.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's a shame that this episode is so basic. The other home invasion/hostage situation episode in Season 13 is also absolutely diabolical, although for entirely different reasons. One of the best things about 'Knots Landing' is that slow-burn pay off that runs throughout the entire series. So when it's all condensed into a short 45 minutes it just doesn't work and, more importantly, doesn't feel like the show we love. Kudos to you for providing some interesting commentary on it though. It'll be interesting to see what you make of 'The Three Sisters' when the time comes.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh yeah, "The Three Sisters". I believe that is my least favorite Knots episode. It turned Val from eccentric to crazy in 45 minutes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Val went nuts several times through. Maybe that was the catalyst for it all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, you may not skip, but I skip. I skipped this episode because as a kid I remember hating it. CBS was just probably looking for something to promote in commercials. Anyway, I did not skip your recap.

    ReplyDelete