Episode Title: Moving In
Season 03, Episode 04
Episode 035 of 344
Written by Ann Marcus
Directed by Joseph B. Wallenstein
Original Airdate: Thursday, December 3rd, 1981
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Abby is upset and trying to find her children. She answers the phone and it's Olivia, but the line goes dead. After that, she doesn't want to leave the house in case Olivia calls again. But this doesn't stop her from dating; she just has them sleep over. Val and Gary see a newscast about Lilimae helping to stop a thief. The news says Lilimae is homeless, so Val invites her to their house. The next day, Lilimae is arrested for shoplifting, but the judge says he'll only give her six months probation if Val and Gary assume responsibility for her. Val invites her to stay with them.
Okay, so we’re back for another KL episode before we return to A Brief Dallas Interlude: Part 9. Forgive all this confusing and annoying hopping around; I promise that after our next Interlude we’ll stick firmly to KL for the entire rest of the season. However, this awkward jumping around actually gives me some relevant talking points, particularly about how these episodes do not flow well when placed together. I will probably further explore this in my next write up, on the Dallas ep Five Dollars a Barrel.
Suffice it to say that what’s bugging me is this: In the Dallas Interlude The Split, we saw Gary and Val in their kitchen, Gary hung up the phone and boldly announced how he had to head to Texas. This was definitely said with an aura of “I must be on my way as soon as possible!” However, here he is in California doing his thing, not even mentioning an impending trip to Texas or nothing. Ugh, it bugs me. I know that nobody in the world could possibly care and that nobody else in the world would even bother to be so anal and include all these Dallas eps, but I like it that way, damn it! If I do something, I do it in full! If I ever decide to watch all fourteen seasons of Dallas again (which is very, very, very, very doubtful), you can bet your ass I would include the nine eps of KL that feature Dallas characters crossing over. In this case, it is just obvious that the writers didn’t really trade notes, and thus we have this weird feeling of jumping from episode to episode. But in any case, let’s forego any discussion of Dallas/KL crossovers and just focus on the KL episode in front of us at this moment, Moving In. What’s in store for us this week? Eh, let’s just say it’s an underwhelming hour after the tour-de-force of the last few weeks.
Everything about this episode is just sorta blah. Make no mistake, I’m not gonna trash this episode like I have, say, Land of the Free, Kristin, Moments of Truth, or the much dreaded unnatural abortion known as Man of the Hour. Oh far from it; this episode is not bad at all, but it’s just sorta there. Again, this might just be the result of coming directly after the string of episodes (including the last couple of season two) that we’ve just witnessed. My God, were those epic, but now we’re just sorta having this regular, boring, not-all-that-interesting episode. At the same time, this is actually a pretty important episode in the grand scheme of things, so it certainly shouldn’t be skipped.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is when the wonderful and amazing Julie Harris truly becomes a part of KL. True, she stopped by for one episode during season one way back in Will the Circle be Unbroken? But that episode definitely felt like a one-off, as a lot of episodes during season one did, in that Lilimae showed up, there was conflict with her and Val, it was somewhat resolved, and then she left. However, starting with this episode, she’s going to be with us until late in 1987, when she finally leaves the show at the head of season nine. She spends this season as a “Special Guest Star” in the credits, but then she graduates into the glorious scrolling squares for the fourth season.
We begin with Lilimae, if I’m not mistaken. My notes are actually bizarrely scarce for this episode (maybe I was getting tired from so much television in one sitting; or perhaps I was just emotionally numb from dealing with Sid’s death), so I can’t quite remember exactly how this starts, but I think it begins with Lilimae in a less-than-amazing hotel. It’s not exactly The Hilton, but it gets the job done. We get the sense immediately that she is not exactly doing great, as she appears to be devising a clever scheme to sneak out of the hotel without losing her possessions. Actually, this scheme is pretty brilliant, in my opinion. See, she takes all of her most valued belongings, puts them in a garbage sack, and allows the garbage guy to take them away. Then she tries to sneak out the front with her luggage, where she is stopped by the hotel manager or whatever. He’s like, “I’ll just keep your luggage until you’ve paid me what I’m owed,” but then of course Lilimae walks out the door, digs through the trash, and finds her belongings, which she stashes in a shopping cart. Yes, Lilimae has become the dreaded shopping cart lady. Oh, how very sad for her.
In a not-very-good scene early in the episode, Lilimae foils a purse snatcher. This scene is just kinda awkwardly filmed and comes off kinda goofy just because of staging and blocking and such. Basically, she witnesses the guy snatch a purse from some lady, and she’s like, “Stop! Theif! Stop that man!” Then cops sorta show up out of nowhere and start chasing the dude, but he is too fast for them, the cops have eaten too many donuts, they're tired from shooting a bunch of completely innocent black people in the back five or six times, and it seems he’s gonna get away. Then Lilimae (all set to a kinda cool harmonica theme that sorta represents her theme, I suppose), pulls her valuables out of her cart and flings it forward real fast. The thief trips over her cart and goes down hard, and then Lilimae has a pretty great and funny line where she yells at him, “You should be skinned alive!” Julie Harris has a fabulous little accent and an amusing way of talking that always makes me laugh, so the scene is not worthless cuz it has that great line.
Really, this incident is just a plot point to accelerate the story, and then it actually intersects rather tidily with a teeny tiny second storyline going on. See, Gary is going to be on television omigod! He’s going to be on a TV commercial promoting Knots Landing Motors and using the word “Friends” a lot. He’s very nervous about his big acting debut, but then the entire cul-de-sac (including my three absolute favorite characters Kenny, Ginger, and that adorable baby with that great name, Erin Molly) gathers at the Ewing home to witness this incredible TV commercial.
I actually liked this part quite a bit and wanna give a shout-out to Ted Shackelford for it. Sometimes I think I don’t give him enough praise, don’t quite suck his dick enough since I’m too busy sucking Michele Lee’s dick. I once read a review of KL where someone said he is “appropriately bland,” and perhaps there’s some truth in that, but that’s not an insult. Gary has a certain everyman quality to him that Shack pulls off very well. Maybe I don’t praise him enough because I just find him comfortable to watch, but I really appreciate him and the nuances he brings to Gary’s character and I love watching him grow over the course of the fourteen years. In this instance, I found myself reflecting that it actually takes a rather good actor to play a bad actor, because when we see Gary in the TV commercial, he’s rather fumbling and looks terribly uncomfortable. It’s all very good and rang true, and I found myself thinking of the weird complexities of an actor being told, “Your character is acting in a commercial but he’s uncomfortable and he’s not a very good actor, okay? Action!” It gives you kinda a headache when you think about it, but my basic point is that Shack is good in this scene.
After the commercial, though, there’s a news stories about “Bag Lady Bags Bad Guy” or something equally stupid like that. Then we see Lilimae on the news talking about how she thwarted the evil purse snatcher, and Valene gets very dramatic and says, “Mama?” and then the music POUNDS really loud and we go to a commercial.
I feel there’s an awkward edit when we get back from commercial, because suddenly Lilimae is just there in Gary and Valene’s house. It’s not even that, not quite; instead Val and Gary are talking about Lilimae and she just sorta walks in the room and is like, “Thanks for letting me stay here!” How did they find her? How did they convince her to come stay with them? I dunno, and I find myself wondering if it was filmed and then scrapped for time or what, but in any case, here she is, and it’s helpful to provide us some exposition on what she’s been up to for the last thirty episodes or so. I’m taking a peek at my notes here to see how things line up, and it appears that Will the Circle Be Unbroken? aired January 25th of 1980, while this episode is airing December 3rd of 1981. So it’s actually been nearly two years since we last saw her! FYI, at this point I should probably mention that I’ll just ignore that weird way that network TV shows seem to never have a summer (as in Sid’s car goes off a cliff March 26th of 1981 and then he gets pulled out of that car November 12th of 1981), because we’ll all just get a big headache if we start to talk too much about that. Anyway, we learn that for the last 23 months or so, Lilimae has been in California but never made contact with Gary or Val. She’s been trying to “make it” in the music business, much as she was trying to when we first met her in season one.
Maybe I’ll just interrupt the flow of the episode here to say one thing I feel is worth noting. Over the course of Julie Harris’ time on the series, we are gonna see some truly marvelous acting from her, acting that puts all other actors to shame, really incredible stuff. I’m thinking immediately of her complex and fascinating relationship with Chip Roberts, of her INCREDIBLE scene with Alec Baldwin early in the 7th season where they discuss child abuse and the kind of father he had, shit like that. I mean, there are scenes coming up in the series where it’s like, “Just give Julie Harris an Emmy to put next to all of her Tonys!” But at this exact point in the series (and that’s what I’m trying to do, really follow the trail of the series and focus on each episode as its own special little snowflake) it seems like she’s mostly funny. She has funny lines, she does funny things, she’s cute and silly, but I don’t know when we really start to see all the intricacies and complexities of Lilimae’s character. During the course of this episode, she is mostly sorta funny, almost comedic relief after all the drama we’ve been witnessing. So, on one hand I’m watching her and thinking, “Oh, great! Now she’s a part of the show and I am so happy to have her around!” But thinking of this as only her second episode after one that was almost two years ago, she’s still not given a ton of material to work with, if that makes sense.
Later in the episode, Lilimae...tries to steal a dress? Why does she do this? I have some problems with this only because of my foresight for the character of Lilimae we get to know in the future. Maybe she wasn’t a great mother to Val, maybe she left her out in the cold when Val came with baby Lucy and J.R.’s good old boys were after her, maybe she’s hopeless as a musical star, but I don’t know that she’s a straight up thief. Now, for the rest of the episode (this is that sorta comedic relief I was just discussing), Lilimae keeps repeating over and over again, “I was just trying to see in the natural light.” Well, I don’t believe her and I don’t think we’re meant to; I think the writers are saying that, yes, she was trying to steal. In any case, she comes outside of some department store and this random white lady comes out and is like, “I’m a detective and you just stole, you old cunt,” and then hauls her off to jail. This pretty much fuels the rest of the episode, in which Richard (ah, how I love The Plesh) is hired on as her lawyer and has to represent her. We get scenes of them discussing why she did this and what their argument is gonna be and so on and so forth. Richard says how she should plead guilty because this is her first offense and at first, Lilimae is horrified (“I was just trying to see it in the natural light!”).
Anyway, Lilimae does finally agree, so they appear before a judge to plead their case. I’ve been slacking in this department lately, so let’s look up what else this judge might have appeared in. Hmmm, let’s see here….well, this guy’s name is Peter Hobbs (pictured below), and actually I’ve seen quite a bit of the movies he’s been in. Most notably he’s in the early Woody Allen classic Sleeper, which I love, but who does he play? I’m thinking back and I think he might be the guy near the start who’s, like, a doctor when Woody comes out of his coma or whatever and tells him how tobacco is one of the healthiest things in the world. He’s also listed for 9 to 5 and, get this, it appears we’ll see him two more times on KL, but playing a different character! It says here on IMDb that he’ll be back for Secrets Cry Aloud in 1983 and Second Chances in 1984, playing Ed Marcus. I’ll keep my eyes peeled when we eventually get to those eps.
This judge is kinda a judgey asshole. I guess that “judgey” is not exactly a big criticism since, you know, he’s a judge, but God damn does he make Val feel like a horrible daughter. He gives this very self righteous speech about how old people are turned away by young people and left to rot in nursing homes or whatever. I’m sure at this point, Val is wishing she had gotten a judge that was under the age of 90. In any case, he releases Lilimae and makes her pay a small fee and takes a piss in Val’s face and then everyone goes home.
Val is not happy when she gets home and gives Gary a nice speech/recap about all the bad things Lilimae did as a child, but then Lilimae materializes and is like, “I’d better be going.” She walks out onto the street and Val chases after her and pleads that she doesn’t have to leave, that she would be better off staying with them and not going to her aunt whatever her name is. After a little talk and some pretty good acting from both ladies, Lilimae agrees to stay at Val and Gary’s for awhile.
Now, in my memory the episode ended here, with the camera going up into an overhead view of the cul-de-sac as Val and Lilimae walk back. Well, that part happened just like in my memory, but there’s actually one extra little scene at the very end of the episode that’s a little offputting and odd. Gary and Val wake up to find that Lilimae has cooked them a huge and artery clogging Southern breakfast, and she’s all chipper and nice and is saying how she’s gonna fatten Gary right up. The tone seems very friendly, but then Val wanders off into the other room and sits on the stairs and looks rather upset and we just sorta end on her freeze frame upset face. Hmmm, what to make of this? It’s a rather cryptic ending that seems to be saying that Lilimae moving in with Gary and Val is a bad thing. However, unless I’m remembering very poorly, nothing bad happens from Lilimae moving in. In fact, her and Valene have a relationship that blossoms rather beautifully over the course of the next few seasons and they really bond in a new way. Perhaps the writers didn’t know what they were gonna do with the character? Maybe they were sitting around planning for this to be a really bad development? Again, I don’t know, as I wasn’t alive and I wasn’t there and I don’t know behind the scenes details, but that seems possible.
Before I wrap up this episode, I should discuss a few of the small little details going on with the other characters. Really, this episode is the Gary, Val, and Lilimae hour and you get the sense that the other characters are just making cameos, but there are some good things that I noted. For instance, Abby’s quest for her kids continues. Honestly, I feel like I’m not giving this due credit as it’s been going on since the end of season two and has been this little continuing storyline for the last few episodes, but I’ve been so caught up and distracted with the other stories. In this episode, though, we have a quick scene of Abs getting a random phone call and running out of the shower to answer. It’s Olivia on the other line, but just as she starts to say something, boom, she gets cut off.
Later on, Abs visits Jeff’s mother again, and I noted with a smile that it’s the same actress from the last time we saw this character (Carol Bruce), nice continuity being maintained there. Later, Abby is sitting around her house obsessing about when the phone is gonna ring when this hilarious random white guy shows up and is like, “Put on something sexy, cuz I’m taking you out.” This actor’s name is James O’Sullivan (pictured below), and he has an incredible resume as he also appeared in an episode of the KL ripoff Melrose Place as well as the absolutely hilarious Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (my favorite of the Children of the Corn movies). I mostly peeked at his IMDb to make sure he hadn’t been in any previous eps, and no, he hasn’t, but I don’t mind. Him popping in like this just helps establish that Abby is, shall we say, a busy woman. Indeed, the two do shag, which I appreciated, and we see them lying in bed after the shagging and then Abby kicks him out, which I also appreciated. While escorting him back to his car, the phone rings and she flips out and goes running for it, but she misses the phone call (I did wonder if perhaps, in this case, it could just be some telemarketer or something, but whatever, I still understand Abby’s concerns).
Aside from the Abs storyline (which, if I remember correctly, sorta resolves itself in our next episode, The Surprise), we also get a little Karen scene that I appreciated, as she is shown packing up Sid’s stuff for the good will. There’s a pretty great little moment where she holds one of his old outfits, like one of his things for wearing while he worked on cars, and kinda strokes it and holds it up close, but then she puts it back in the box and says to herself, “Good will.” I think little moments like these are often the best thing, because even though this episode isn’t about Karen dealing with Sid’s loss, but rather about Val and Lilimae, this quick scene just establishes that Karen is still grieving and that, unlike other shows, they’re not just gonna kill the character and then immediately forget about him. Instead, it’s gonna be a consistent running theme for the course of the season (and probably a few more seasons, as well; I’m gonna try to pay attention to see when Sid stops being mentioned regularly).
So anyway, what did I think of Moving In? Well, not much, actually. I feel like I may have been dismissive, and I don’t mean to be, but this episode was just, you know, okay. It existed, it didn’t offend me at all, it was perfectly fine, but it’s also just sorta there. Again, this functions more as welcoming Julie Harris to the show than as its own super special episode. I appreciate this episode because it means we have until 1987 to soak up as much Lilimae and as much Julie Harris amazingness as we possibly can, but as its own 48 minutes of television, it didn’t feel particularly special.
Indeed, this episode appeared to do nothing for My Beloved Grammy, and she said she didn’t like it that much. I also get the feeling that, at this moment, she doesn’t like Lilimae much, so I’m gonna pay attention to see if she starts to warm up to the character more. Again, this is just the second time we’ve seen her and we have something like 165 episodes with her, so we’re gonna get to know her a hell of a lot better as time goes on.