Episode Title: Power Play
Season 03, Episode 11
Episode 042 of 344
Written by James Bonnet
Directed by Bill Duke
Original Airdate: Thursday, January 28th, 1982
The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary and Abby decide to invest in a Mexican company making methanol cars. Gary mortgages the house without telling Val. Gary goes to Mexico to work out a deal with Pete, the owner. Abby decides to follow, and Richard goes to help them with legal points. While in Mexico, Gary and Abby have their first kiss, but later he gets mad at her when she wants to cut Pete out of their deal. Richard warns Gary that Abby is trouble. Meanwhile back home, Val's upset that Gary didn't ask her about mortgaging the house or tell her that Abby was with him.
After the bizarre and random horror movie shenanigans of our last episode, The Three Sisters, returning to storylines involving Knots Landing Motors and the love triangle between Gary, Val, and Abby feels like sinking back underneath a comfortable blanket that you know well and love deeply. In fact, before I get into Power Play directly, I still need to bring up another point about The Three Sisters. Now, before you think I’m just obsessed with that episode and can’t get over how strange it was, I’ll say I’m just gonna re-explore the possibility that it was meant to air elsewhere in the season (between The Surprise and One of a Kind, I’m convinced of it!) by demonstrating how much smoother the flow of stories would be if you jumped directly from The Rose and the Briar to Power Play.
The last scene of The Rose and the Briar was Abby, Olivia, and Gary all taking off in the car together to go to Olivia’s school function. Abby smiled and said, “Don’t we look like a real family?” and then Lilimae told Valene how she’d better keep an eye on her man. Well, that episode ends there, and then our very first scene in Power Play is Gary at Knots Landing Motors being sorta talked into a new business venture by the woman he’s lusting for: Abs. When you just jump from one episode to the next, it seems like there’s a flow to the story that’s building and building and building and, we think, is going to finally come to a head in this episode. We are going from an episode where Abs used her duplicitous ways to, however briefly, turn Gary into the surrogate father for Olivia, and then we jump to here and see her using her powers to pull Gary into a potentially unwise new business venture. However, with The Three Sisters crammed in there between eps, the flow of that story is totally thrown off as we explore a haunted house with the Seaview Circle ladies for 48 minutes; that episode has no mention whatsoever of the Gary/Val/Abs triangle, nor any of the other major storylines going on during this season. Basically, my point is that it just feels off, and I am convinced, utterly and completely convinced, with no way at the moment to confirm my suspicions, that the original schedule for the season was supposed to have The Rose and the Briar followed immediately by Power Play, but someone did some reshuffling and placed The Three Sisters where it currently resides in the season.
But you know what, enough about The Three Sisters. We’ve talked about The Three Sisters, I’ve obsessed over The Three Sisters, and I think it’s time to move on from The Three Sisters. Power Play begins with the usual thirty second preview, and this one does something that is fairly typical for both Dallas and KL, where the preview shows you something occurring that looks REALLY BIG, but when you reach that point in the episode, it’s not quite as major as it looked in the preview (I’ll just spoil it right now: It’s the kiss between Abs and Gary, which is the last image we see in the thirty second preview before we go to the scrolling opening credits).
We open at Knots Landing Motors, where Gary and Abs are getting very excited about some sort of business deal involving methanol powered cars. I feel like we’ve heard methanol talked about a time or two on the series beforehand, but off the top of my head, I wouldn’t be able to name which eps. I think the gist of it is that methanol is cleaner, safer, and burns more efficiently, and could solve the oil crisis (I need to do my research to see if America was really suffering a big oil crisis in 1981-1982, as I thought that was more of a ‘70s thing). Again, I’ll confess that sometimes, when big business deals or issues with money and investors come into play, while I stay interested in the proceedings of the series, I just don’t really follow along very well. If you think I’m slacking or not paying attention to the stories enough, well, I’m sorry about that (although, to my knowledge, I am the only person on the internet who is devoting to watching all 344 eps of KL and writing about them, so you get what you get).
Basically there’s some sort of deal or business arrangement that Abs and Gary wanna be a part of, but they need $200,000.00 to invest or something like that, so they corner Karen in her office and start begging her for money. At this point My Beloved Grammy voiced her own opinion on proceedings, which I like to try and insert whenever possible, and she opined that Karen has no obligation to help Gary out with anything after his shenanigans less than a year ago in season two. After all, in a way, Gary is responsible for the death of Sid, and instead of firing him and ostracizing him, Karen has been good enough to keep him employed and in a position of some power at Knots Landing Motors. Now here he is begging for a shit-ton of money, and yes, I agree with My Beloved Grammy: If I was Karen, I wouldn’t give Gary a penny.
Karen is a good person and a smart businesswoman, even if she is still finding her sea-legs running the garage all by herself, and she points out that she has, I think, seventy employees that depend on her, and she can’t give out $200,000.00 that she might never see again and risk the jobs of those employees (many of whom have never gotten involved with mobsters and gotten her husband killed). So she declines and Gary takes it relatively well, but Abs is not happy. She attacks Karen for her decision and says how she is denying them the opportunity to do something really special and awesome and altruistic, and yes, ladies and gentlemen, she even pulls The Sid Card, saying how Sid would have done this because he cared about humanity and Bob Loblaw, to which My Beloved Grammy opined, “You are not your brother, Abby,” which is absolutely true. Abs has no interest in real world affairs or in helping out the environment; she is only using this scheme as a chance to get closer to Gary.
I should also mention the other character figuring into this drama. He’s another worker at Knots Landing Motors, Pete Dorado, and he’s played by Bert Rosario (pictured below), making his second and final appearance on the series here (his first was The Surprise). Some quick info on Mr. Rosario: He made his first television appearance in 1976 in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco and seems to still be working today. He’s been in lots of TV eps, but I note him for a 2009 ep of E.R as well as for appearing in what is, in my opinion, the worst Seinfeld episode of all time, The Puerto Rican Day (he played Man; do you remember this character?). Well anyway, this whole methanol storyline that I’m clearly not paying enough attention to was dreamed up by this guy, and if Abs and Gary can’t invest with him, he’s gonna go off and work with, like, some big evil scary oil company (not Ewing Oil from over in Texas, however; this one is, I think, called Petrolux).
Now this episode is pretty strictly focused on Gary, Val, and Abs, but there are a few things going on elsewhere in the neighborhood. My two absolute favorite characters of all time, Kenny and Ginger, actually do have a storyline and something to do this week (well, it’s more of a Kenny story, but Ginger shows up in it). There’s actually some redeeming quality to this storyline, and some good humor that actually made me laugh, maybe because it’s mostly coming from Lilimae, who can always make me laugh and smile. Basically, Kenny gets home from work and he’s like, “Oh boy, being a really boring character is hard work; I’m dog tired!” So he turns on the tape player and sits down on the couch and is all ready to relax with Ginger when he hears the sweet sounds of Lilimae coming out of his tape player. “Oh, what is that?” he asks, all angry, and Ginger is like, “Oh, Lilimae was babysitting; she must have put that in to get the baby to sleep.” Kenny takes the tape out and puts some of his Public Domain Music in the player instead (that’s more like it!), expressing some moderate frustration at Lilimae.
This is kinda the B storyline for the week, and I confess I enjoyed it, because Lilimae keeps showing up at Kenny’s work and annoying him, but she doesn’t appear to be annoying anyone else, if that makes sense. The first time she shows up, she steps into Kenny’s office (first time we’re seeing his office, by the way) and is like, “Oooooooooooh, Kenny, did you listen to that music I snuck into your tape deck?” When Kenny answers in the affirmative, she asks for the God’s honest truth about what he thought of it, and he’s like, “Well, if you really want the truth, I think you suck and you’re old and you smell kinda bad and just a few weeks ago you were a homeless shopping cart lady….” and so on and so forth. He adds how her music is too old-fashioned, but the beautiful thing is how nothing fazes Lilimae, cuz he walks out of the room and she just shrugs and is like, “Oh well, I’d better keep trying.” You gotta love her persistence, plus the fact that she doesn’t get offended; she did ask for the truth, after all.
By the way, this episode has not one but two black people in it! It’s been awhile since I’ve noted our dark skinned friends showing up on KL, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve noted before how I appreciate that black people are allowed to exist on KL (we even have a black main cast member, Larry Riley, later in the run!), whereas on Dallas it was strictly whites only. In this case, our two black characters are Kenny’s secretary, Tina, played by Carol Carrington. Her IMDb resume is not huge, and while she’s in some stuff, there was nothing that I really recognized or that leapt out. However, and more importantly, there’s also this super cool black guy with awesome glasses playing the piano. His name on the show is Charlie Hart, but his real name is O.C. Smith, and his resume surprised me. This is his only acting credit ever, but it appears that he was a real musician, a performer, and he performed songs in quite a few things, including Shaft’s Big Score. I wish there was more information on this guy, but that’s about all I got.
In any case, he and Lilimae share a rather sweet scene together where he’s playing the piano and singing “a lonely song” and she comes in and joins him. With her sweetness, she manages to charm him and they start singing together and enjoying each other’s company. I just thought this was super cute, two people enjoying making some music together. They croon together while he plays the piano and reflect on the sadness of the song and my heart melted a little bit.
Later, there’s a very brief scene that made me laugh for about seventeen minutes where Kenny is just walking down the hallway, presumably returning from getting coffee or taking a shit or something, when Lilimae just comes wandering past him and is like, “Ooooooooh, I made a special tea for Charlie Hart!” Then she walks off and Kenny has this sorta bemused look on his face, like, “What the hell is going on here?” I’m actually gonna pay James Houghton a compliment here (Hell just froze over!) and say that he’s pretty funny when just playing the character reactionary, making confused faces and being generally annoyed by Lilimae’s behavior. The dude’s never gonna win an Emmy, but he’s actually making me smile here, so there you go.
Oh yeah, on the subject of black people being allowed to exist on KL, we also have one of my favorite black people of all time working behind the camera this week. The name is Bill Duke, and if the name doesn’t ring a bell, a quick look at a picture of him should, because the guy is also an actor. In front of the camera, he has appeared in tons of movies, including a few action classics with Arnold like Predator and Commando. In Commando, as he and Arnold have an exciting fistfight, you might recall this brilliant exchange of dialogue:
Bill Duke: You scared, motherfucker? You should be, cuz this Green Beret’s about to kick your ass!
Arnold: I eat Green Berets for breakfast, and right now I’m very hungry!
The dude’s resume is huge, and as an actor he has also appeared in, oh, let’s take a look here, Car Wash, American Gigolo, Red Dragon, and X Men: The Last Stand. He also directed the landmark film, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (my second favorite Sister Act movie!) and he actually was a big character in the underrated, David Jacobs-penned TV movie from 1986, Dallas: The Early Years (I think I like this TV movie even better than any standard episode of Dallas). He also directed two eps of Dallas (they are both from 1983 and are The Reckoning and Crash of ’83), six episodes of Falcon Crest, and most importantly, ten glorious episodes of KL, and this is his very first one! He will go on to direct A New Family, Celebration, Forsaking All Others, Second Chances, Yesterday It Rained, Out of the Past, Fly Away Home, The Deluge, and then his final episode in 1987 is Nightmare. Bill Duke, ladies and gentlemen.
I mention Bill Duke here because I think his episodes tend to have a distinctive flavor, and I can vividly remember an episode coming up a little later, somewhere in season five, that has a certain classist and racial dissertation going on (I can’t remember the title of the episode but I’ll definitely remember it when we get to it), so I think he brings a certain social consciousness to episodes that you don’t always see on the series. I will spoil things a little bit and say that I don’t think Power Play is his best episode, but I note his presence because he’s going to go on to direct some episodes I really remember and really appreciate.
Let’s move back to our main story for the week and pay some strict attention to it. KL is right on the brink of turning into a full-fledged nighttime soap with the glorious, epic, and brilliant season four. After this episode, there’s a total of eleven episodes left in the season, and I feel that the writers will still do a couple more standalone episodes as we proceed through season three, but by the time we start season four, episode one, we will have arrived at what KL truly is. They’ve been flirting with that for quite awhile now, and the best example is the slow seduction of Gary by Abs. Abs moved in right at the start of season two with Hitchhike: Part One. That was November 20th, 1980, and now here we are on January 28th, 1982, and still Gary and Abs have not consummated a torrid love affair. It’s been a very slow burn and I appreciate how long it’s taken.
Now, Abs of course had that lovely and unforgettable affair with Richard during season two (I still think about the two of them having champagne in the hot tub and I smile), and that was obviously a very beautiful thing to witness as a viewer. However, I do believe that from the moment she arrived in Seaview Circle, she truly only had eyes for Gary. As soon as she saw him, he was the man she wanted. She just went after Richard as a bit of a distraction, biding her time until she saw the opportunity to get Gary; he’s the man she is truly obsessed with. Watching this episode, having only vague recollections, and particularly after that thirty second preview, I really thought this was the episode where Abs and Gary start their affair, but that’s not so. The writers are gonna stretch this out even longer and God bless them for it; I love me a good slow burn when it comes to this kind of storytelling.
Follow along with me here. Gary is very excited about the prospect of this Mexican methanol deal, and when Karen denies them the money, he decides to take a loan out on the house as a way of getting, I think he says, $150,000.00. He tries to justify this to Val by saying how the house was a gift from his mother and it’s already paid for, but Val is unhappy (and rightfully so, in my opinion) because he didn’t bother to discuss it with her. It’s her house, too, and he’s gonna go off and take a loan out on it for a deal that might very well fail miserably, all without discussing it with his own wife. Val is also perceptive enough to see that Gary is getting far too excited about this whole situation, saying, “He’s talking about billions of dollars when they haven’t even made a deal yet.” One wonders if she is perhaps worried that Gary might become power hungry and obsessed with money like his brother J.R.
Gary goes over to Abby’s house and she boosts his confidence nice and good, telling him all those nice things he wishes he could hear from Val. She’s like, “Oh Gary, Val needs to have more confidence in you. Look at you, you’re so strong and smart and you probably have a huge penis, too. You really ought to take the loan out on the house.” This puts a smile on Gary’s face and he leaves Abby's place with renewed spirits, ready to fly off to Mexico for this whole methanol deal. Donna Mills has a fabulous bit of acting where she’s all smiley and giggly as Gary leaves, but as soon as she shuts the door, her face goes, like, dead. Her grin goes away and she looks very serious. You can see the wheels are in motion in her head; she’s thinking, “I’ve just about got him where I want him.”
Gary goes to Mexico (or at least a woodsy outdoor location near the usual shooting set that we are told through dialogue is Mexico) and then, for some reason or another, Abs decides to join him. I think Gary gives her some sort of cryptic call and she’s like, “Oh, I’ll be right over!” However, when she goes to the Avery kitchen to discuss this with Richard, get some legal advice, Laura wanders in and gets a nice reading on what’s really going on. So, smart girl that she is, she’s like, “Hey Richard, why don’t you go to Mexico with Abby? Show up with a lawyer and the company or whatever will know that you really mean business.” Richard agrees and Laura can rest easy that she has, for the time being, made it a bit harder for Abs to seduce Gary.
They all get to Mexico. Richard starts drinking a lot of margaritas (yum) while Abs wanders outside to hang out with Gary. They go into this barn where there’s, like, this big tank of methanol, and then Abs gives this really hilarious performance where she starts to get all excited about the methanol. She’s like, “Touch it, Gary, it feels like my vagina! Just like my vagina, when you touch this tank of methanol, it feels warm and kinda wet!” The more she talks about it, the more excited she gets, and the best line of the whole scene (and I’m not making this line up the way I made up the “big penis” and “my vagina” lines) is when she’s like, “Oh Gary, I can feel it inside of me.” She actually says these words; I’m not kidding. It’s a pretty obvious flirtation, I have to say, but then Abs can be pretty obvious sometimes (I’m flashing back to an episode when she was seducing Richard and said something like, “I like it when the man is totally in control in the bedroom,” or something to that effect), especially when she feels she is really close to getting what she wants.
This is a big moment, because Gary starts to get excited to and he lets out this pretty stupid “Yeeee haw” sound that I could have lived without, and then the two get up nice and close, start to embrace, the music swells, and then they finally start to kiss. Oh, did I say ‘kiss?’ I meant they start to make out, and it’s wet and violent. They are just making out as much as two people can make out while the music just gets louder and louder and, with that, we go to a commercial.
However, when we return from commercial, Gary and Abby are taking a walk through the woods and Gary is justifying what happened by saying, well, nothing happened. He says how they just got a little excited in the heat of the moment, they kissed each other, it’s not a big deal, and it won’t happen again. He says it was just them “reacting to the excitement of the moment.” Now, I am trying to figure out how Abby is feeling at this point. Is she pleased because the kiss has happened and she knows it’s only a matter of time before he weakens? Or, if she frustrated because she was all ready to get laid and now Gary is taking a step back? I’m not really sure, but Abby and the viewer can rest assured that it won’t be that much longer before she can finally enjoying the feeling of Gary slipping inside of her (it will occur before we’re finished with season three, I can promise you that).
There is a fabulous scene between Richard and Gary a little bit after this where they have a small talk. Richard comes out to sit down next to Gary, saying how he couldn’t sleep because of the heat. He’s talking kinda quiet, being real honest and forward, and he says how he had the affair with Abby last year. He says how he had his reasons to justify it in his head, but Gary needs to be smart and not do the same thing; he has a good thing going with Val and he shouldn’t ruin it. This is a really perceptive scene for Richard, and even My Beloved Grammy, who is not a Richard fan, said, “For once, I agree with Richard.” Of course, this scene just makes me love Richard more than I already do. For all his faults, he is smart and he is perceptive, and he can see what’s going on and he’s gonna make an effort to put a stop to it before it’s too late.
After Gary gets back from Mexico, Val has prepared a lovely meal for the two of them complete with candlelight and fancy silverware and the works. However, Gary barely acknowledges the meal and can’t stop talking about Abby and the Mexico deal and how things are going over there. Val gets angry and is like, “Gary, look at this food, look at this table,” and then she admits, “Abby effects you in a way that really frightens me.”
Our last scene is quite an interesting one, mostly because I didn’t realize it would be the last scene when it started playing out. See, Gary and Abby are sitting in the couch in the Ewing living room, talking about the deal, and Abby starts to casually suggest that maybe they don’t need Pete in the mix at all, that maybe they should just sorta go off and do the deal themselves and screw him. When Val hears this, she explodes and starts yelling and is like, “She’s suggesting you betray your partner,” or whatever, and then Gary explodes back at both of them, which I found interesting. He’s mad at Val for having no confidence in him and he’s mad at Abby for suggesting they screw Pete. He has this good speech where he’s like, “I am a Ewing; I’m Gary Ewing, and Gary Ewing doesn’t stab his partners in the back.” Then he says how he’s gonna call Pete so he can talk to a friend, as there aren’t any friends of his in this living room right now. Then he walks out, and I’m waiting for Val or Abs to say something to eachother, and instead the episode ends there, and I’m like “Woah.” I really like it when I get all sucked into a scene and I wanna see what’s gonna happen next and then BOOM; it’s all over. This cryptic ending reminds me of the brilliant ending for the Plesh-penned Secrets a few weeks back.
Okay, so that was Power Play. How was it? Well, certainly it was a huge step up from The Three Sisters, that’s for sure. However, even though it had a lot of aspects I appreciated, like the slow burn of Abs and Gary, the humorous storyline between Kenny and Lilimae, and that great ending, I still felt the episode wasn’t one of the most impressive we’ve seen thus far. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and perhaps this summation seems jarring since I don’t think I’ve mentioned any specific complains in my write-up, but I’ll just say that before starting the episode, I had sorta forgotten it existed, and I feel that after we continue on this journey and get deeper into the series, I’ll once again sorta forget about it. Again, I’m not sure entirely why and I wish I could explain it better, but despite all those aspects to enjoy, I feel this one just doesn’t stick in the memory as all that special.
Okay, so stay tuned for next Thursday as we explore a potential new romance for Karen and an actual storyline for Kenny and Ginger with Possibilities.