Sunday, May 29, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 031 of 344: SQUEEZEPLAY


Episode Title: Squeezeplay

Season 02, Episode 18

Episode 031 of 344

Written by John Pleshette

 Directed by Joseph B. Wallenstein

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 26th, 1981

 The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Jeff doesn't return the kids and Abby's really worried. The FBI question Gary about Frank and Roy, and Gary finally admits his illegal dealings to Sid. Abby claims to be innocent, and Sid believes her. Gary and Sid agree to do a sting operation for the FBI, and Frank and Roy are arrested. Sid and Gary will have to testify, so the FBI guards them. One of the mechanics at Knots Landing Motors lets the brake fluid out of Sid's car. Abby receives a tape from Jeff telling her he took the kids because she is a bad mother. Abby totally flips out, so Karen calls Sid to come home to help Abby. Sid and an FBI agent get in his car to drive home. As they drive around the road, Sid realizes the brakes won't work. The car goes out of control and crashes over the side of an embankment down to the beach below.more...               

 
               QUICK NOTE: USUALLY I TRY TO KEEP MY ESSAYS FAIRLY SPOILER-FREE FOR WHAT'S ABOUT TO COME IN UPCOMING EPISODES AND SEASONS, BUT THIS PARTICULAR WRITEUP IS LITTERED WITH SPOILERS, SO IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED PAST THIS EP, YOU MIGHT BE BETTER OFF NOT READING WHAT I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THIS EP.

                It’s time for our second season finale of KL and I’m very excited to discuss it for a myriad of reasons.  First of all, unlike the finale of season one (Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two), this one ends on a real legit cliffhanger, something unresolved that is gonna totally hook us in for a third season.  If you’ll recall, season one ended with a certain sense of closure, like just in case the show got cancelled right then and there, there was kind of a feeling of ending, a resolution with Gary coming to terms with his alcoholism and saying out loud, “My name is Gary and I’m an alcoholic.”  Here, we get something much more akin to “Who Shot J.R.?” and I like it.

                Honestly I remembered this being a big episode and I remembered enjoying it just fine, but I didn’t know I was gonna enjoy the shit out of it quite as much as I did upon this most recent viewing.  A quick reminder that My Beloved Grammy and I pack in a whole disk hpr visit and so this was the culmination of a disk that began with Man of the Hour (barf).  I am getting reflective lately on how moods and temperaments affect our viewing experience, how if you’re just feeling lousy, sometimes watching TV or a movie will not be enjoyable, but if you’re just loving life (as I am right now), you sorta relish and love the shit out of everything in your life.  Whatever the philosophical reasons, I was just blown away by Squeezeplay.

                Now, before we get into the episode proper, I wanna note something that I found curious, something I didn’t notice until doing this blog and paying attention to airdates and stuff.  Note that this aired the exact same night as Designs, March 26th, 1981.  I was surprised by this and wondered if the two episodes had originally aired as a big double-whammy two hour TV movie and were subsequently split apart.  TV.com says nothing about that; it just says they aired the same night.  Now, my hunch is that they aired as two separate television episodes, based on a few things.  One is the fact that they both have separate titles (it’s not Squeezeplay: Part One and Squeezeplay: Part Two, for instance) and that they don’t really feel like they’re meant to be watched together.  Designs ended with J.R. giving his classic grin ("My real shit-eating grin," as Hagman would call it) and laughing a bit in his hotel room, but then Squeezeplay seems to pick up quite a little while later (maybe a week?  Maybe a few weeks?) and begins with Gary having a meeting with his friendly mobsters at a nice lunch place.  So yeah, if this was a two-hour episode and we just jumped from J.R. grinning to Gary and some mobsters, I’m sure the audience would be like, “Huh?”

                I’m still saying “Huh?” for one reason, however, and that’s the very unusual sight of the Seaview Circle girls drunk in the middle of the day!  I can’t recall as I write this precisely why the girls are tipsy, but I think it has something to do with Laura getting a promotion of some sort.  In any case, they have clearly had a bit too much wine with lunch, they are giggly and silly over at one table, but just a few tables down Gary is dining with Frank and Roy, and it seems like it’s been awhile since we’ve seen Frank and Roy, doesn’t it?  I took a peek at the IMDb to see how long it’s been, and we last saw them causing shenanigans with Gary back in A Family Matter, so it has been quite some time. 

                Also, I would be remiss in my duty if I didn’t point out something fascinating that my research just revealed to me.  Frank is played by William Boyett (pictured below) and, yes, you guessed it, he’s a Transmorpher, but here’s the really amazing thing; he appeared in this season finale of KL in 1981 along with the season finale for Dallas that same year (the one that ends with the body in the swimming pool).  Amazing, right?  Talk about a resume!  This guy can say, “Well in 1981 I appeared in the season finales for both Dallas and KL.”  If the guy wasn’t dead, I would hire him right away for any role based on that alone. 

In any case, here they are now putting pressure on Gary for something.  I again remind the patient reader that sometimes simple plot points aren’t too easy for me to follow.  I don’t know why, but it’s just how my brain works.  I can go on and on for seventeen days about how the director shoots Karen looking at herself in a mirror, but then when someone’s like “What do the mobsters want with Gary?” I’m like, “I dunno.”  But I paid real attention this time and I think I got it straight, so follow me here.

Gary got into business with the mobsters way back at the start of the season in Chance of a Lifetime even though he knew they were probably selling dirty cars (as in stolen, not as in they got dirty in a drag race or something) against Sid’s advice.  The reason he did this is because he believed the company (Knots Landing Motors) needed the money bad, so who cares where the car’s came from?  But then the situation escalated and the whole storyline in A Family Matter where he had to borrow $50,000.00 from J.R. and yada yada yada.  Now Gary sorta has to reap what he’s been sewing, because the mobsters won’t leave him alone, they wanna keep doing business with him, and he’s starting to get in over his head.  The ramifications of this will be huge and will bleed over into the next season and even, believe it or not, the season after that (gotta love that long KL storytelling!). 

Anyway, feeling a bit tipsy, as I noted, the ladies (Karen, Val, and Laura) come up to Gary’s table and are like, “Oh, Gary, hi, what are you doing here?”  This doesn’t really relate to the plot at hand, but I gotta say isn’t it bad form to go up and bug an alcoholic when you are clearly inebriated yourself?  All three of the girls are clearly in “Happy Drunk” mode at the moment, and I get that feeling of elation, but isn’t it just rude?  We all know Gary struggles with wanting to drink, so is it nice to walk over and breathe wine fumes in his face and be like, “We’re having such a great time drinking over there!”  In any case, this scene is not about alcoholics and ethics; it’s about how Karen notices the mobsters.  Gary is having a secret lunch with them and probably doesn’t want Sid to know about it.

I like how this builds, because then later Karen is talking to Sid and just casually mentions how she saw Gary out and about wheeling and dealing.  I like that she doesn’t mention this to Sid in any sort of vindictive way; she’s just making chit chat, not even aware that Gary is up to something.  It keeps her sorta pure in some strange way.

Maybe I should also just admit that I got so engrossed in this episode, so excited by what was going on, that I sorta neglected my notes.  Indeed, I’m looking at them right now and they are sparse; you can tell I was doing notes for the first few minutes and then I just got lost in the magic.  This is an experience I remember from many a KL episode during my days of watching them in college; where I would just power through five or six or seven episodes a day like an addict, unable to stop, hooked on the brilliance.  My point is that you should please forgive me if I neglect any important plot details or whatever; don’t take it as me slacking; take it as me being so 100% into the episode that I forgot my notes.

I also forgot to note that this is a Plesh written episode and his episodes are always so rich and amazing, so full of character moments and depth; he really goes above and beyond what is required for TV show writing, skyrocketing his episodes into the realm of high art.  Honestly, I don’t even know where to start with Squeezeplay; there’s so much going on and so many fascinating character moments (and Kenny and Ginger don’t appear, so yay!  Clearly The Plesh is smart enough to just write them completely out of the episode, knowing they are dead weight). 

Basically Karen gets rightfully suspicious about certain situations not adding up, especially based on things that happened last week (or I suppose I should just say “An hour ago”) in Designs.  She knows Gary is up to something, she knows Abby is up to something, she just knows something isn’t right.  So in a fabulous little sequence, she calls up Richard and asks him to do a little illegal breaking-and-entering with her and he of course agrees.  The two of them head down to Knots Landing Motors and sneak into Sid’s office to go over his books with a fine tooth comb.  This was one of the parts of the episode I enjoyed most, because Karen and Richard’s fascinating friendship is one of my favorite things on the entire series (and it’s so sadly shortlived when you consider that my beloved Plesh is only with the show for the first four seasons….) and I love seeing them team up here to do something on the D.L.; it’s such fun!  They are going over the books and realizing that something doesn’t add up (it’s parts like this where my brain gets hazey on plot details, FYI) when Sid comes bursting in, wanting to know just what the hell is going on here.

From here, it’s Confession Time for Gary.  Pretty much the whole cul-de-sac (sans Kenny and Ginger, since nobody cares) sit down in the Fairgate living room to discuss what’s really going on.  Gary admits his culpability and admits to getting involved with the mobsters against Sid’s advice.  At this point, he also tells them that Abby  was a part of this, too, that she helped him adjust the books to keep everything neat.  Abby of course denies this and, I think, Sid believes her.  Again, Sid loves his baby sister and can’t see through her lies and deceptions, but he has good reason to be a little more reticent with Gary; this marks the second time Gary has let him down big time.  All things considered, I’d say Sid has the patience of a, well, Saint (hah hah) because he doesn’t yell and scream at Gary.  He’s clearly mad with him, but he keeps calm and basically just tells Gary he should go home and they’ll talk about it later.

The decision is quickly made that Gary should go to the FBI and tell them the truth about everything.  By admitting his part in it and aiding them in capturing Frank and Roy, he will probably be let off the hook.  This is where the episode shifts its focus for awhile, with some lovely CIA-ish stuff involving Gary and Sid meeting up with Roy and Frank together.  Sid gets to put on a show about, “This was always my idea; I’m a real badass and you don’t wanna fuck with me” (except of course he doesn’t say ‘fuck’ cuz this is a CBS show in 1981).  Then he leaves the table in a real huff when Roy and Frank don’t wanna do business with him and Gary is all like, “You shouldn’t have you done that; now you’ve made him angry and you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.”  Meanwhile, two cheesy FBI guys are sitting at the table next to them, listening in.  It’s all part of a big sexy sting, you understand.

The sexy sting continues later with Sid and Gary meeting up with Roy and Frank in some creepy parking lot in the middle of the night to exchange stolen cars.  Obviously they are both wired like John Travolta in Blow Out, so Sid has to do the whole, “What exact illegal act are you about to do, Roy and Frank?” thing just so the FBI guys have it all on tape.  After the money changes hands, Roy and Frank hang out for a minute and one of them has a hysterical line about how they should get back to the hotel because they’re showing Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It’s nice to know what kind of films these mobsters like to enjoy together.  Unfortunately, they don’t ever get to see Marilyn because the police swoop in and arrest the two of them right then and there.

All of this is very sexy and good and I’m watching it with bated breath, but the shit that really elevates this episode up a notch is the character moments.  Gary hit a real rock bottom in the season one finale and I feel like he’s hit a new one, here.  He’s not a drunken mess like he was one year ago, but he’s gotten involved with stolen auto parts and mobsters and he’s kept Val in the dark about all of it.  The two of them have a fabulous scene together where I wish I could build a time machine just to go back in time and give them both Emmys.  It’s a very real argument where you believe this is a real couple having a real problem.  Val points out how she’s not mad at Gary for what he did but for the fact that he never told her about it.  They are supposed to be married, they are supposed to be a partnership, but when he needed money real bad, he went to J.R., not to her, and he didn’t even discuss it with her beforehand.  Gary says how J.R. was the only person he knew who could just pull $50,000.00 out of his shoe and give it to him like it was no big deal. 

See, he makes a good point there, how obviously Val would not be able to produce that much money in such a short time, but Val’s point is much more valid.  He is her husband and he needs to be honest with her and he never is.  I don’t think she mentions his affair with the dykey broad, but we the audience are certainly thinking of it, aren’t we?  We’re also probably thinking about all the little sexy and flirtatious moments we’ve witnessed between Gary and Abby through the season.  We know it’s only a matter of time before Gary strays again; in some ways he’s very weak and he simply can’t change his ways.  This is what I really admire about this episode as a season finale, too; it’s not just preparing us for a “Tune in next fall” cliffhanger, it’s also allowing us to reflect on everything that has come in the previous year, all the storylines and character dramas, and that’s something I didn’t remember at all; I thought the second season was still pretty much all self-contained and individualized, but it actually feels very thought out and pre-planned.  This fabulous sequence is  a credit to the actors who bring it to life as well as a fabulous script by the inimitable Plesh.

 There’s also a very small, very short scene in this episode that feels incredibly significant to me.  No dialogue is even spoken in it, but it’s just Sid and Karen in their bedroom, Sid staring out the window.  He looks sad, thoughtful, introspective, and Karen comes up behind him and puts her arms around him.  Then the scene ends.  It probably lasts less than a minute but as I looked at it, I thought about the fact that this is the last time we see the two of them together in their bedroom, as Sid’s headed for that damn cliff later this very day.  He’s about to leave the series and Karen’s life.  I’m experiencing that funny thing where you watch a piece of art and you know in a practical sense that these are not real people, that they are characters being played by actors, but you feel dread for what’s going to come, and you almost wish you could stop it.  There’s a fantastic sense of inevitability to this show, that something bad is going to happen and nothing can stop it.

                Amidst all these shenanigans, there’s also a really spooky looking new guy working at Knots Landing Motors.  This guy is obviously evil because he has a creepy John Wayne Gacy moustache and the camera always goes in for a closeup of him while he’s fiddling with a car.  This is the guy who’s responsible for what's gonna happen in the last seconds of this ep, because we see him fucking with the car that Sid is going to be driving, messing up some piece of wiring or, um, something (the brakes, I assume).  Now, I’m searching my brain and my memories and I do remember a storyline early in season four where Karen finally brings justice to the people who killed Sid, but does that storyline involve this man?  I’m gonna pay real close attention when we get there, because I don’t know that we see creepy moustache fuck again after this episode.  

                Abs is also having a bad time this episode, missing her kids and hanging around the house drinking like Gary or Sue Ellen would usually be drinking.  There’s a really long scene that I enjoyed and which made me reflect, as I spout endlessly in these essays, on how much damn time there was for TV back in the ‘80s.  The entire scene has no dialogue, and it merely consists of Abby sitting on her couch, drinking and watching TV.  She turns off the TV, stands up, walks across the room, and puts on a tape.  That’s the whole scene, and it probably lasts a solid minute or maybe two.  I just had to reflect that there is no way a scene like that would be on a CBS, NBC, ABC, or FOX show nowadays; those hour long shows are down to, what, 40 minutes?  Honestly, it is so nice to watch a show that clocks in at the length KL does, because it means we have time for small but important scenes like that.

                This storyline showcases why we love Abby for her entire nine years on the show.  No matter what a bitch she can be, she’s only human after all.  As she sits alone in her house, missing her kids, kids who are, no matter what, the most important things in her life (just wait until season eight and Olivia’s drug problems omigod!), we realize that she might like sleeping with married men or screwing people over in business deals or even lying to her brother, but she is human and has vulnerability and weaknesses like anybody else.  Oh yeah, and she’s also temporarily off the hook with Sid and Karen because later in the episode, Gary reneges on what he said about her and says she had nothing to do with the mobsters or the books.

                My only problem with this episode, and get ready to gasp, actually lies in Donna Mills’ acting in a certain scene.  Some FBI guy comes over to see her and deliver her mail that he personally inspected to make sure it wasn’t a bomb of some sort.  It turns out it’s a tape, so she puts it into the tape player and gets a message from Jeff about, “I have our children, they are safer with me, you’re a slut, Bob Loblaw.”  Well, I guess this scene is supposed to demonstrate that Abby is in shock, but, I dunno.  Abby just starts to moan, “Nooooooo,” over and over again, and it feels like it goes on forever and it’s just plain not good.  Sorry, Donna, and you’re forgiven cuz you’re usually so spot on, but this is one moment of just plain bad acting from the woman.  Even My Beloved Grammy said, “Ugh, I thought Donna Mills was a better actress than this!”  Well, everyone can have an off day, so she’s forgiven.

                Time for Sid to start driving off that cliff.  My sphincter was tensed up as I watched this, knowing what was to come.  Well, he’s chit chatting with an FBI man, everything seems okay (but the music is pretty scary so we all know something bad is gonna happen) then the car starts to go out of control, it heads for a ravine, it crashes through that metal barrier thing, and then BOOM, we freeze frame the season on Sid’s startled face as he heads off that cliff, oh Jesus Christ, please hold me, Mommy.

                Now, looking at this with hindsight, I recognize the genius of what we are about to see.  Naturally, if I was viewing this in 1981, I would be like, “Well, he might die or he might not, I guess it all depends on how contract negotiations go.”  But the thing is, Don Murray does not leave the show with this episode; he shows up for two more, and that’s the brilliance of it.  When we begin season three, we will see the unveiling of a brand new title sequence (the best one and the most famous one, the scrolling squares against the black background) and Don Murray is comfortably listed there IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER along with everyone else. 

                I’m excited to see how this little plot twist works on My Beloved Grammy.  We finished this episode and she’s like, “Eh, he’s the main character, I’m sure he’ll be fine.”  I was pleased to see her note him as “The Main Character,” and I do think, based on viewing just the first two seasons, that he sorta is.  Gary and Val were our gateway, our marijuana, if you will, by being introduced on Dallas and then spun off into KL, but Sid Fairgate definitely seems like the prominent male lead of the series.  So My Beloved Grammy feels pretty comfortable that he’ll be fine, and I’ll be eager to see how she reacts when he does, in fact, expire right at the start of season three. 

                Anyway, that about wraps up Squeezeplay.  Again, I don’t know if I was just in a super great and super elated mood when I watched this or what, but I really and truly loved it.  The only bad part was that quick scene with Donna Mills and the “Noooooo.”  Aside from that, what an episode, one of the best of the season and maybe even the best of the season.  I’m gonna have to think about this and I’ll figure it out when I do my writeup on season two as a whole.  I think maybe Chance of a Lifetime might end up winning the Best Episode of Season Two award, but damn was this a great episode, and what a fabulous way to end a season.  Remember that when this aired, I was negative nine years old, but I can tell you that if I was alive and cognizant and watching this on March 26th of 1981, I would be like, “Holy shit, I have to wait a whole summer for more episodes?”  It would have killed me.  This is how you do a season finale, just a remarkable achievement on all levels. 
 
                 Okay, so coming up next, we are obviously going to dive into season three of the show, but the one last thing I wanna cover is my reflection on season two, which will go up next week.  Also, a quick bit of BREAKING NEWS, due to the fact that I have an enormous back catalogue of essays already written and ready to go, and the gap from what's going up on the blog and what has already been written is getting pretty ridiculous, the blog will officially move from one post per week to two posts per week, one on Sundays and one on Thursdays, and I will start that new pattern as soon as we get to our season three premiere, The Vigil.
 
 

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5 comments:

  1. I am confused. Is the post of season three coming on Thursday or Sunday. Either way I am excited about the change.

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    1. Hello, let me give you the layout for when the switch is gonna happen:

      On Sunday, June 5th, I am gonna put up "A Reflection on Season Two of KNOTS LANDING," which is kinda my last little summation on the season as a whole before moving on to the third season. Then, the change will occur the very next week. On Sunday, June 12th, I will put up the season three premiere, THE VIGIL, and then on Thursday, June 16th, I'll put up CRITICAL CONDITION, and on Sunday, June 19th, AFTERMATH, and so on and so forth, with new posts every Sunday and every Thursday. This way, getting through a season in what would usually take 22 weeks will now only take 11 weeks, and when I hit season four, depending on how things are going, I may even move to three posts per week; it all depends.

      In any case, I'm glad you're excited and I appreciate your comments and support!

      Delete
  2. Cool. Thank you for taking the time to explain.

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  3. Awesome news, Brett. I am looking forward to reading you twice a week. You are now part of my "winding down my weekend" ritual, and I always appreciate your take on the show. Here's to a great job on the first two seasons!

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  4. In regards to airing these last two on the same night, I'm guessing the network sought to get the most out of Hagman's appearance by tying it to the big drama of the KL cliffhanger to hook some new viewers from Dallas. KL was doing ok ratings wise but had zero buzz really still at this point. People might tune in to Hagman, and then not bother to come back the following week for the cliffhanger knowing Hagman wasn't still around. And I think it proved to be a good move as the ratings started to pick up the following season. The new title sequence probably helped too. Lots of action in those squares, and Donna Mills every week, right off the bat.

    ReplyDelete