Episode Title: Mistaken Motives
Season 03, Episode 08
Episode 039 of 344
Directed by Jeff Bleckner
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 7th, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Ginger and Kenny argue over whether they should let Erin Molly cry or pick her up. Karen goes to a grief group, and makes friends with Bill Medford, whose wife committed suicide. Bill tries to kiss Karen, but she says she isn't ready. Diana misinterprets their friendship and is enraged that Karen is dating. Out of spite, Diana goes to a party with Roy, a biker who Karen hates. He drinks as he's taking Diana home. When a police car tries to pull them over, Roy tries to outrun them, and he and Diana are arrested. Later Karen and Diana have a terrible argument, but then begin to talk and make up.
I know I keep saying this, so forgive me, but Mistaken Motives is yet another episode of KL that I had pretty much forgotten all about, aside from maybe one or two details hidden away in there somewhere. Watching it, memories came flooding back, and I actually found this to be a pleasant surprise and one of the more enjoyable episodes we’ve seen of the third season thus far.
We begin Mistaken Motives with maybe the worst A.D.R. in KL history, and that’s really saying something considering how much bad A.D.R. we hear on this show. In this case, it’s Diana and her new boyfriend Roy riding around on his motorcycle. Now, we don’t even really get a closeup of either character to establish who we’re looking at, but rather the motorcycle is filmed from a great distance, far away so you can’t make out the riders, and the dialogue is looped in. We hear Diana saying like, “Oh gee, I sure hope my mom isn’t mad that I missed my curfew!” Then Roy is like, “Your mom’s a square, man, let’s go smoke some grass!” There is more dialogue, but I can’t remember it. What’s interesting about this first sequence, aside from the bad A.D.R., of course, is that really this is not going to be our main focus storyline this week, even though it leads us into the episode. Really, the saga of Roy and Diana is secondary to the main story, which is Karen finally going to a grief counseling session like she probably should have done way before this.
Or should she? My Beloved Grammy often helps to provide context to these shows as we watch, and during Aftermath she said how in 1981 there just wasn’t the same type of support and grief counseling available for people who had lost a loved one. Well, now it’s 1982, dammit (well, barely), so in Mistaken Motives, Karen does indeed go to a grief session, but I can believe these wouldn’t have been too easy to come by way back when, that perhaps she had to do a bit of digging before finding a place she could comfortably go.
Basically, Karen winds up at a grief session early in the episode, prompting the only scene of the whole episode I didn’t like. Now, did I not like it because of what happens in it or did I not like it because I didn’t understand it? I’m not entirely sure, so I’ll settle on a little bit of both. Whatever was intended to be displayed by this scene just does not work for me, and My Beloved Grammy also took a dislike to this sequence, as well. Follow along here.
One of the first ladies to speak at this grief session is some old lady whose husband has been dead for two months or so. She talks about how she finally gathered up the courage to go and collect his ashes, how she didn’t want him cremated, how he insisted on it, what the crematorium looks like, the little paper sack they put his ashes in, the look of the ashes, and so on. Now, I for one felt pretty bad for this old woman; you can tell she was probably with her husband for a long time and it’s probably very hard for her to accept life on her own and it takes a lot of courage for her to speak aloud about the cremation and how all that stuff looks and feels.
The whole scene, they keep cutting back and forth from the old lady to Karen, and Karen is looking mighty uncomfortable, kinda fidgeting in her seat, covering her face up, looking generally distressed. Of course, I’m watching this and thinking that she’s upset by the old lady’s story, right? It’s making her think of her own loss, of losing Sid, and it’s making her sad. She kinda gets up and excuses herself from the meeting, disappearing out into the hall. Her romantic interest for the week follows after her to make sure she’s okay, and he finds Karen laughing. See, she’s sitting on some stairs and at first we think she’s crying, but then when she reveals her face we realize she’s laughing, and she chokes out some dialogue that’s hard to understand about how the old lady kept repeating her husband’s name, Burt, over and over again, and something about that, I guess, made Karen have to laugh.
Okay, what is this? If anyone knows for sure, please write in and explain it to me, because I love my Karen, Karen is my favorite KL character and I just don’t believe she would laugh at an old woman’s grief. So why is she laughing? I wondered if maybe she was experiencing that hysterical laughter people sometimes get when they’re in intensely emotional situations, like at a funeral. This is what I want to believe, that Karen is just overwhelmed with emotions and ends up having a bit of a hysterical laughing fit, needing to leave the vicinity of the meeting to get herself together. However, the scene is shot and played so confusingly that I almost feel like Karen is making fun of the old woman, and that I can’t get behind. Even if the old woman maybe seems a little silly (I didn’t think so, but whatever), you should show proper respect for her feelings and her grief, which are a very real thing. In any case, I didn’t like this scene and neither did My Beloved Grammy, and I wish they could have found a different, less uncomfortable and confusing way to introduce Karen’s romantic interest for the week, Bill Medford.
Boy, that Bill Medford sure looks familiar, don’t he? I wonder why. Hmmm, maybe because he’s quite possibly our biggest Transmorpher ever! Bill Medford is played by David Ackroyd, remember him? He played Gary 1, Fake Gary! You remember the very first time we ever met Gary and Val, back in our first two Brief Dallas Interludes? Well, in those two episodes (Reunion: Part One and Reunion: Part Two) Gary was played by this guy. I guess when they were ready to launch KL off into its own series, Ackroyd was like, “I’m too busy for this shit,” or something like that (I have absolutely no evidence to back this up), so now here he is in a one-episode guest spot as a completely different character. The reason I declare him the biggest Transmorpher ever is because usually our Transmorphers are like, “Oh, this guy plays a doctor in one episode of KL and then he’s also some random oil dude in one or two episodes of Dallas,” or something similar. In this case, we have the man who, for two hours of television, first brought Gary Ewing to life, and Gary is one of our main, most important characters in all fourteen years of KL. So, unless anyone can think of another Transmorpher who’s even more noticeable, I’m officially declaring David Ackroyd The Biggest Transmorpher Ever.
There’s something very intense about this actor, I have to say. I noted that in the two Dallas eps, and I briefly imagined a world where David Ackroyd continued to play Gary on KL and how that might have changed the series, for good or ill. But even here, playing a man whose wife committed suicide (yikes!), the guy’s just kinda charismatic and hard to take your eyes off of. There’s a real sadness to him, just the look in his eyes, and I can believe this is a man going through a dark time in his life. Even as he does this, he’s pretty nice and decent to Karen the whole episode, and even though this is another one of those relationships that’s somewhat contrived for the purposes of one episode and then quickly disposed of, there are some important character moments in this episode all brought on by Bill Medford.
But wait, this episode isn’t all about Karen. Nope, we’ve gotta make time for my three favorite characters: Kenny, Ginger, and Erin Molly, that little bundle of joy. My God, these characters are so interesting; I’m totally not kidding. The thrilling storyline of the Wards this week involves Erin Molly crying. See, she’s crying all the time, night and day, and Kenny and Ginger are arguing about how to handle it. When Erin Molly cries in the middle of the night, should they get up and go make sure she’s okay and soothe her? Or, should they just let her keep crying and get over whatever the hell is bothering her? This storyline is so dramatic that they seek the aid of a doctor to help them deal with Erin Molly and he advises them to….oh, wait, who cares?
Seriously, who cares? Why are these two even still on the show? Why were they ever on the show?! I almost feel sorry for Houghton and Lankford because the material they get to work with is so unbelievably boring, but then I also wonder if the writers are simply writing for the people they can depend on to give a good performance (Michele Lee) and are leaving Kenny and Ginger a bit out in the cold because they are simply not good actors. It’s been a few weeks since the writers even bothered giving them anything to do, so I guess they felt they had to write something for them this week, and I guess we just have to watch it.
Everyone says babies kill TV shows. This is obviously not true in the case of KL because we are gonna see lots of pregnancies and babies as we work our way through, and the series keeps powering along just fine (Val’s babies, omigod, Val’s babies, I can’t wait to get there), but Erin Molly is the perfect example of a baby serving as an absolute dead end for plot. So Ginger got pregnant while she was separated from Kenny and Bob Loblaw, I suppose you could call that “drama.” Well, now that she’s had the baby the two characters are just kinda hanging out; they’re not really doing anything interesting, there’s nothing interesting about this baby, and the two characters feel so isolated from all the other interesting characters on the cul-de-sac; do you ever notice that?
Anyway, this story is a complete joke, so lemme just go ahead and tell you how it resolves. Near the end of the episode, after Kenny and Ginger have had a lot of arguments about what to do with Erin Molly, after they’ve visited the doctor, after every viewer in America has slipped into a coma thanks to the mere onscreen presence of these two, Lilimae pays them a visit one night and does something or other that finally soothes Erin Molly to sleep. She leaves and at first Kenny and Ginger are both like, “Boy, what a weird lady,” but then they realize their house is filled with silence and they’re like, “Wow.” That concludes the thrilling tale of Kenny and Ginger, at least for this week. Believe it or not, but later on this season James Houghton is gonna write some episodes and, if I recall correctly, those episodes actually make an alright attempt to give Kenny and Ginger something to do, so let’s all stay tuned to see how those play out.
For me, the best scenes of this episode are the ones between Karen and Bill. I might make fun of the fact that Ackroyd is such a huge and obvious Transmorpher, but I think he’s a good guest star to work alongside Michele, so in the end I’m glad he’s here (although there is a scene where him and Ted Shackelford are in the same room together and I vaguely wonder why the universe doesn’t implode). Probably one of my favorite scenes from the episode is Karen and Bill sitting in front of the fireplace, just talking. I believe this is the scene where Bill confesses that his wife didn’t just die; she killed herself with pills. This is also where we get the title of the episode, because the two share a hug which is witnessed by mega bitch Diana. She sees two people who have lost spouses and are seeking understanding with eachother, but she interprets it as her mom going after some guy, playing the dating game just months after Sid’s death.
I make fun of Diana a lot for being a bitch and a brat and just generally abrasive, but in this particular episode, her hostility is actually somewhat understandable. She is going through grief of her own, so her misinterpretation of her mother’s actions (her mistaken view of her motives omigod!) is a little easier to relate with. In her eyes, Bill is not a man who has lost a spouse; he is just some new guy infiltrating her mom’s life, tarnishing the legacy of her own father. There are episodes before this one and after this one in which Diana is just unbearable and I wouldn’t cut her a break, but this week I’m letting it slide.
The hug is clearly not a romantic thing, but later the possibility of romance looms. Bill wants to push their relationship into a more physical direction because he is a man. Perhaps you readers at home think I’m oversimplifying things, but I disagree. Us men (especially us gay men, but I digress) like to have sex and it makes us feel good. I don’t know that Bill wanting to have sex with Karen means he wants “a relationship” with her; I think he’s just a man and he needs to get laid or he’s gonna go crazy. But Karen has only had those two men in her life (Teddy and Sid, you’ll recall), so it’s a much bigger deal for her, and she has to decline. Bill almost gets rapey here, but not quite. In a sort of sad tone of voice, he’s like, “I suppose even if I forced myself upon you, you would accept it just because you feel sorry for me,” and Karen tells him no, that is not so. For the time being, she is simply not ready to have another man, as she is still grieving for Sid. Like a gentleman, Bill departs from her life.
Oh yeah, I was just about getting ready to wrap up this episode when I realized I had completely forgotten about the completely forgettable little B-storyline going on here involving Diana and Roy. I forgot to mention that Roy, despite being a complete cliché and a non-character who we will never be seeing again is actually played by a sorta real person, Michael Bowen, who has popped up in a few Tarantino movies including my very favorite, Jackie Brown. Believe it or not, but this is actually his very first acting credit ever, followed by an episode of CHiPS and then an episode of the other Lorimar/CBS nighttime soap, Falcon Crest. So there you go, even if you start off your career by playing a total non-character, you can always go on to have an illustrious career working for a great director.
This storyline is just sorta blah, although it does have some high camp value. See, Roy takes Diana out for a joyride in which he’s got the steering wheel in one hand and a can of beer (seriously, it’s just labeled “Beer”) in the other hand, when wouldn’t you know it, a cop shows up behind them and starts flashing his cherries. Oh shit, and just before the cop pulls them over, Roy hands his “Beer” over to Diana and is like, “Let’s have a high speed car chase!” Obviously things go about as we expect them to and Diana, along with Roy, winds up in prison.
I gotta take a moment to shout out some appreciation for this very over-the-top prison scene. It’s not quite up there with Sue Ellen being put into the drunk tank with the inexplicably screaming woman during the dream season of Dallas, but it’s still good camp and is worth a chuckle, as basically all these SUPER SLEAZY AND NASTY AND SUPER EVIL OMIGOD whores are looking at Diana while she’s all curled up on the ground and are like, “What are you in for, honey?” Then Diana epicly jumps up and clutches the bars of the jail cell and looks outward, as if her very life is over. It’s a short scene, but I certainly laughed and made sure to note it. In any case, Diana isn’t imprisoned for long, and Karen comes to pick her up pretty fast.
But that’s not quite the ending of the episode. Bill may be outta the picture and Diana may have gotten bailed from prison, but we’ve still gotta wrap up the tension between Diana and Karen. This scene is mostly good, serving as a bit of a catharsis, at least for the week. This is good stuff because both characters get to explain their positions, their opinions. After Diana says that she thought Bill was taking the place of her father, Karen assures her that she is mistaken, that for the time being she is still far too in love with Sid to even look at another man. The conflict for this particular week is resolved with a rather dreadful final line that I wish could have been excised where Karen says, “Now let’s go get some ice cream!” Yeah, it’s bad, and it brings everything good about this scene to a grinding halt. Since it’s the last line of the episode before we go to credits, it’s double unfortunate as it leaves a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. We know KL isn’t afraid to end their episodes a bit cryptically (witness our last ep, Secrets, with that fabulous final shot of Richard and Laura sitting across the table, not speaking at all to each other), so I don’t know why this ep had to end with such a tidy little bow wrapped around it. In this case, with absolutely no research or anything to back me up, I’m just gonna blame network suits. I’m gonna just say that some suit was on the set and was like, “This is boring, all these human emotions and crap, and it’s bumming me out, so throw in some nice little final line about something gay like ice cream.” Damn you, network suit!
But aside from that, how did I find this ep? I enjoyed it a lot, both more than I expected to and more than I remembered. It’s not perfect, and it’s not even close to Secrets, but I found a lot to appreciate in it. Again, I just need to express my respect for the fact that the show will just do full 48 minute episodes that are essentially just quiet character studies, along with the fact that they don’t just kill off Sid Fairgate for DRAMA and then forget he ever existed; instead the characters mourn his loss in a very realistic way all year. The anchor of the show continues to be Michele Lee and, yes, I do think this will probably wind up being her finest season of acting from the entire run (we shall see). There was even one great, hilarious, gut-busting line of dialogue that I forgot to mention where Lilimae assaults Kenny at some neighborhood gathering and pulls him away, saying, “I want to talk to you about my music!” I’m not quite sure why, but I laughed at this for about two or three solid minutes after it occurred; something about it just tickled my funny bone real good. Obviously the Kenny and Ginger footage is toxic and very unfortunate, but that’s just something we’re gonna need to accept as we work our way through the first four seasons of the show.
So what’s up next? We shall be in the presence of yet another Transmorpher when Lilimae makes a new friend in The Rose and the Briar.