Episode Title: Aftermath
Season 03, Episode 03
Episode 034 of 344
Directed by Kim Friedman
Original Airdate: Thursday, November 26th, 1981
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): The Fairgates are in turmoil. Michael is terrified that Karen will die, and constantly checks up on her. Eric cries in Sid's antique car, and then is very upset when Karen sells it. Diana's upset that Karen is acting like a robot and won't talk about her feelings. Karen is putting on a strong front, but is angry with everyone. She's angry with Sid for dying on them. At work, she fires Abby and goes off on Gary and starts slapping and hitting him. Val confronts Karen and tells her she's hurting the people she loves. Karen says she is terrified without Sid, and scared that if she lets herself feel she'll just blow. Ginger has her baby- a girl named Erin Molly. Karen visits them at the hospital, and they ask her to be the godmother. As Karen holds the baby, she breaks down weeping.
You know how Francis Ford Coppola says something to the effect of how The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II are two halves of one complete story and The Godfather: Part III is the epilogue to that story? Well, I kinda feel like that might be the case here with our KL episode up for discussion this week, Aftermath. As I said in last week’s essay, I felt like Squeezeplay, The Vigil, and Critical Condition all formed together as this trilogy of greatness; I would say those three episodes are the “one complete story” while Aftermath is the “epilogue” to that story. Of course, this is just my stupid opinion and, as I get further into season three, I may prove myself to be completely wrong (as I, of course, do recall that pretty much the entire season is about Karen dealing with the loss of Sid), but that’s the whole point of Knots Blogging, is it not?
Before I get started, just to give you some sense of my viewing experience, I’ll say that this was one of those episodes where the actual viewing quality and sound quality left a bit to be desired. Again, I obtained twelve out of fourteen seasons via bootlegs recorded off the SoapNet, so it’s not like any of the episodes are exactly reference quality, but some are better than others, and this one definitely falls under the “others” category. For one thing, most of the opening was missing, we jump from the “Knots Landing” title and suddenly we’re up to “John Pleshette” in the opening credits. Oh well, that’s all that’s actually missing from the ep, so I’ll live with that. But for most of the episode, there’s a static sorta “snow” right in the middle of the screen, covering the actors’ faces, and that was annoying. I apologized to My Beloved Grammy for the quality of the print, and she of course is all positivity, which I love about her, and was like, “Well, at least we actually get to see the episodes.” She has the right attitude, and as if by some sort of divine intervention, as soon as she said that out loud, that annoying static just went away completely and the episode’s picture cleared up, so yay!
Anyway, after the thirty second preview and the opening credits, we jump right to Sid’s funeral. The priest is reading a really long passage from some famous book about a guy named God or Jesus or something, I’m not entirely sure what the plot of that book is about, but anyway, it’s a nice speech and he uses a lot of big words and stuff. It’s not really the content of what he’s saying that’s important, but rather how we get to have shots of all the different characters standing around and watching Sid be buried, most notably Karen.
Now, I’m gonna note something that other KL fans have noted in the past, and yes, I’ll admit that it bugs me slightly, but I recognize why it has to be so. People wonder where Sid’s wayward daughter, Annie Fairgate, is during this funeral. After all, he was her father, too, but she appears to have been Chuck Cunninghammed out of the show at this point. Now, using real world logic, we all know that Karen Allen was in the classic Spielberg movie Raiders of the Lost Ark right around this time (that came out June 12th of 1981 and this episode is airing November 26th of 1981), so clearly she had bigger and, well, I’m not gonna say better, things to do (just to be clear, I love Raiders of the Lost Ark and think it’s one of the greatest movies ever made, but I just have a hard time with saying anything in this universe is “Better” than KL). Now, if the KL folks had called Karen Allen up just five or ten years later for an appearance, I’m sure she would have showed up, as Raiders would prove to the peak of her acting career (and the disgusting sewage-infested bottom-dwelling depths of her career would arrive in 2008 in one of the very worst movies ever made, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Anyway, at this point Karen Allen was a star on the rise, so I’m sure that’s the real life reason for why she’s nowhere to be seen at this funeral, although it’s hard to swallow from a storytelling standpoint.
I’m probably the only person that would ever mention this, but I’m also bothered that Sid’s ex-wife isn’t here, the one we saw back in Civil Wives and played with a lovely campiness by Claudette Nevins. I’m sure she couldn’t have been too expensive to ask back, but I suppose the writers didn’t remember her or didn’t care. I know some would be like, “Why would the ex-wife show up for someone’s funeral?” Well, I just feel like Sid would be the kind of guy that everyone would show up for his funeral. I knew a mechanic who was actually very similar to Sid in all the positive ways, and when he died, there were hundreds and hundreds of people at his funeral. People just turn up when truly good and decent people die.
In any case, this is about a two minute scene and I’m clearly focusing way too much on it. After the funeral, we get something of a montage to designate the passage of time. Again, damn if KL doesn’t often feel truly cinematic. Most other nighttime soaps would just tell us time has passed in dialogue, you know? We might get some subtitle saying, “Five weeks later,” or we might have a character be like, “I can’t believe it’s been five weeks since Sid died!” KL does it with style, like a movie, though, and we get lots of dissolves and little scenes between characters to show that time is passing. We also get some heavy handed symbolism (I’m saying this with love) when Karen is sitting at a table with a huge and gawdy white elephant statue right next to her. Diana comes up to her and is like, “Mother, I’m a huge bitch and I wanna talk about something,” but then she just walks away and is like, “Never mind.” You see how the white elephant symbolizes the white elephant in the room that is Sid’s death? You see what they did there? You see how clever the writers are? Eh? Eh? Anyone? No? Okay, moving on.
This episode has a running theme about how Karen is refusing to truly acknowledge Sid’s death, that she’s trying to sorta just power through it and completely ignore the grieving process, acting like everything is fine and they’ll get over this. This is not at all inaccurate to the time, at least according to My Beloved Grammy, who had lost a son early in 1980 and said that, indeed, there were just not the same kinds of support for losing loved ones that there are now. No grief support, no meetings for other people to gather together and talk about their feelings with eachother, nope, you were just supposed to get through it and move on, MAN UP and DEAL WITH IT, DAMMIT! Again, I love watching these with My Beloved Grammy because she is able to put things into the context of the time. I was not alive in 1981 so I have no way of remembering what things were like back in that day and age.
We move on to Knots Landing Motors, and I’m starting to pay stricter attention because I know that, at some point, Knots Landing Motors is going to recede into the background and then eventually disappear altogether, but I just can’t remember when. I actually recently listened to a fascinating interview with Donna Mills (she really seemed lovely and very humble and kind) where she said she suggested to the writers ditching the garage as a setting for the show. She said something to the effect of, “People don’t want to come home from work and look at a show taking place in a garage.” I honestly didn’t give it much thought; I just figured when a show has 14 seasons and 344 episodes, you’ll get settled into a place for awhile and then eventually that place goes away (like there’s a period of time later in the series, after Sumner has become a well established veteran character, where every episode seems to take place in a high-rise and those two funny white guys, Bob and Mort, are always hanging around). But anyway, the garage is in a period of transition right now without Sid to run it, and now Karen has to take over and be the boss. We start with her giving a little speech to all the gathered workers about how nobody is going to be out of a job; she will keep all of them gainfully employed.
Next up, we have a pretty radical scene between her and Abs. I like this part a lot because Karen gets super direct, which gives me a boner, and tells Abs how she will not be working with her. “Why? Because I doctored the books? Everybody doctors books, Karen!” says Abs. A sound logic, but it doesn’t fly with Karen, who says, “No, because I don’t trust you, and I don’t think I ever will trust you.” I love it when Karen just tells it like it is, and she often manages to do it in a way that is totally 100% direct but not rude at all; she’s just saying, “This is the way I feel, this is the way it is.”
I don’t remember if this scene happens right after the Karen/Abs scene, but in any case, I’m gonna skip ahead to it, because I loved this scene. Anyone who has ever experienced a death and then had to go through their loved ones’ belongings will relate to this scene, I think, because Karen has to go into Sid’s office for something or other, some file she needs to fetch for someone. She enters the office, and you get that sense that nobody’s been in there for five weeks, and everything is still untouched. The camera glides over pictures of Karen and Sid together and a really cute one of a younger Michael, the music plays, and Karen has to walk through the office and go into the closet and look at Sid’s old suits and stuff. She runs her hand over one of the suits and we get some more fabulous acting from Michele. I believe this is the last scene before we go to a commercial, and I really enjoyed the hell out of it. I appreciated the realism of this small situation, small but very true and very relatable.
I’m watching this episode and everything is going along nice and smooth, and I’m like, “Jeez, I hardly even remember this episode existing and it’s pretty damn great!” Sadly, it can’t stay 100% good because, you guessed it, we shift our focus over to everyone’s favorite sleeping pills, Kenny and Ginger. Ginger’s really fake pillow that she shoved under her dress is getting bigger and bigger by the minute. We’re all just waiting for her to finally spew this Hell-spawn into the world already, not because we’re in suspense about the pregnancy but just because we want this boring storyline OVER. How long has she been pregnant? Seven years?! Okay, I know it’s not really been that long. In fact, as I’m writing, I’m peeking through my notes and it looks like the first episode where I noted “Ginger’s pregnancy” was #22, A Family Matter, but I feel like she found out she was pregnant a few episodes before that. Anybody remember? Well, in any case, I know logically that the pregnancy storyline has not been going on that long but it feels like forever just because of how little I care.
I feel like Houghton and Lankford must have been pissed about not being involved at all in the Sid-dying episodes (aside from one really brief but rather painful scene in Critical Condition) and demanded a bigger part in the next show, because my God is there entirely too much of them in this episode. We witness pretty much all the details of a birth, and it feels like it takes nine months to watch. First they are lying around their house, being boring, and then she says how she’s starting to have contractions or convulsions or whatever that thing is that women get when they’re gonna have a baby (babies are gross). Then we watch them leisurely make their way to the car and drive off, but they comically forget their overnight bag and then have to drive back to get it, oh how funny, why aren’t you laughing?
When they get to the damn hospital, I feel like the entire KL budget just got slashed and they had to refurbish an existing bedroom set or something, because the room looks very cheap and very small. I also don’t think they hired an actor to play Ginger’s doctor; I think they hired a drunken homeless man. Seriously, this guy comes lumbering into the room looking like Jack Nicholson after a night at Polanski’s mansion and I spit my Diet Coke out on the carpet because I couldn’t believe how haggard and unkempt this fucker looked. Just to be thorough and at least attempt to do some research (since I know I’ve been slacking in the actors department lately and I haven’t even bothered to look for Transmorphers in a few episodes), I did look him up and the actor’s name is Howard Witt. He looks like one of those guys who’s just in lots of shows, I guess, so presumably he’s not actually a homeless man (presumably). But anyway, he comes walking in looking rather frightening and the scene plays out as we expect, with a lot of “Push, Ginger, push.” It’s all rather dreadful, and what makes it worse is that we keep cutting away to interesting characters like Karen, and then just as we’re getting nice and comfortable, BOOM, we cut back to Kenny and Ginger and this stupid birth. Each time I screamed a little bit in horror.
Just to show that I’m not the only one with an agenda of rage against these toxic bores, at one point when we cut back to Kenny and Ginger, My Beloved Grammy got up and said, “This’ll be a good time to prepare my lunch; I won’t be missing anything.” Now usually I am Mr. Snooty Film and TV Watcher and believe that you sit and you watch and you pay strict attention for as long as the piece of art is unfolding in front of you, but in this case I was fine with her leaving the room for a few minutes. Why would anyone choose to sit and watch this? Suddenly I understand the ratings plummeting to #43 during this season: TOO MUCH KENNY AND GINGER!
Looking at my notes here, I realize I was at risk of glossing over a lot of great Karen stuff. We have a very good scene involving a turkey dinner where Diana has, in her own cunty words, “Slaved over a hot stove all day,” and then Eric slices the turkey less than perfectly and Diana goes into an epileptic fit about how he’s mutilating the turkey. Never mind the fact that they’re just gonna eat the damn thing and turn it into feces anyway, so who cares if its mutilated? But just when I was in the middle of a rant about what a bitch Diana is, I realized the scene is not really about the turkey; it’s about the family being thrown into turmoil. There’s a missing person at that table, and there’s still a chair placed out for where Sid should be sitting and he’s not. Since Karen has not found a way to deal with her grief, neither have the kids, and so that’s why something so small as a turkey can create such a violent reaction amongst them. Again, realistic.
There was also a small scene I appreciated where Karen snaps at Michael because he won’t leave her alone in her bedroom. This reminded me of Dee Wallace turning red and screaming “ALL RIGHT I’LL GET YOUR DADDY!” to Danny Pintauro in Cujo; that moment where a mother just cracks and has had enough and screams at her kid. Karen realizes she was wrong to yell at him, though, and quickly follows him to his bedroom to talk about it. Michael finally blurts out what’s on his mind, and that’s his fear that since his father died, Karen could die, too. She assures him she is not gonna die for a long long time (and she’s right; she’s in every episode and is still alive and well at the end of the series) and the two have a sweet little talk and it’s just a good moment.
The other good scene is, well, actually, it’s only half good. The good comes from Karen and from Michele’s tour-de-force acting, but then it’s sorta cancelled out by the awfulness of Claudia Lonow’s acting. The two have a little fight where Diana says, “You’re mad at Daddy for dying,” or something, and then Karen sorta loses it and says, “Yes! I’m mad at him and his admirable morality!” Then just as she’s acting her ass off and being awesome, Diana screams, “Stop it!” and puts her hands over her ears and runs up the stairs, all very dramatic but also very lame, sorta ruining the scene.
The last great Karen freakout I’ll mention occurs when she needs a private moment at work and darts into Sid’s office only to find Gary sitting in Sid’s chair, looking very comfortable. I can understand why this image sets her off, seeing the guy who is sorta responsible for her husband’s death just sitting there in his chair, almost like he owns the place. The genius of KL lies in the fact that we also understand Gary; he probably just came in here to look at a file or something and was only sitting down for a minute. Neither of them are exactly wrong in this situation, but Karen flips and starts to hit him over and over again and scream at him to get out. Wow, what a scene, and again, where is her Emmy? Later I’m gonna look up who won the best actress Emmy for this season and then I’m gonna track down that person and take a big piss in their face and say, “It should have been Michele.”
Something very great comes together with something very awful in the final scene of this episode, so my mind is all mixed up with how to take it. Basically, after we suffer through the entire birth of Kenny and Ginger’s demon spawn (which they give the ridiculous and stupid name of Erin Molly), Karen comes in to see the baby. Holding the baby is, I suppose, a very transcendent experience for her, although she might just be crying because she has to be in a scene with Kenny and Ginger. Now, in all honesty, I don’t do the baby thing; I think babies are gross and annoying and I hate the way they cause people to behave, and I really hate Erin Molly with a fiery passion not just because of her ridiculous name but because of the two creatures who conceived her, but I’ll still try to really focus on this scene and what it is saying. Is it that Karen, recognizing the circle of life as one person dies and a new person is born, is finally able to release the cathartic tears that she has been holding back for the past few weeks? Is it just that holding the baby is a magical experience? Is it that it shows her life does go on? I dunno, but I’ll say I like Michele’s acting here, if not the characters surrounding her. As a note for the episode to go out on, it’s, well, okay, I guess.
So that was Aftermath. In a way, it does feel like an aftermath, like the last three episodes were that gut punch of amazingness and drama and this is more of a recovery episode. At the same time, I found a lot to appreciate about it, mostly all the stuff with Karen. Michele gives it her all and turns in a powerhouse performance, and there was a real cinematic feeling to some portions, like the montage at the start or the scene where she goes into Sid’s office for the first time. I think I’d be even more praising of the episode in total if it didn’t include so much Kenny and Ginger footage, but be patient, for one day we will be rid of them both.
Our next KL episode reintroduces Julie Harris into the dynamic after some time away, and that episode is called Moving In. I’m excited to talk about one of my favorite characters on the show again, but before we go to that, we have another Brief Dallas Interlude. We are coming up to probably our strangest and most awkward Interludes, the reason being that they are two eps of Dallas in a row but, thanks to the whole following-airdates-in-strict-chronological-order thing I am doing, we will be doing a bit of hopping back and forth. Bear with me for a moment as I explain, for Aftermath aired on Thursday, November 26th, 1981, and the next night, Friday, November 27th, 1981, we had both Gary and Val popping up on Dallas. Then, on Thursday, December 3rd, 1981, we get another KL episode, Moving In, and then another Dallas episode called Five Dollars A Barrel which aired Friday, December 4th, 1981. After that, we’re back to pure KL for quite awhile.
I’m sorry if these Dallas Interludes are just annoying you at this point, but rest easy that they will soon fizzle away and be pretty much forgotten. After these two upcoming ones, we only have three left in the entire series run, those episodes being Jock’s Will (airing Friday, October 29th, 1982), The Family Ewing (airing Friday, September 27th, 1985) and Conundrum (airing Friday, May 3rd, 1991). So if you’re getting annoyed with this hopping back and forth from KL to Dallas, rest easy that it will stop very shortly as KL really starts to become its own series, no longer so firmly attached to its parent series.