Thursday, August 4, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 045 of 344: CRICKET


Episode Title: Cricket

Season 03, Episode 14

Episode 045 of 344

Written by Ann Marcus

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro 

Original Airdate: Thursday, March 4th, 1982

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Karen's brother, Joe Cooper, gets a job as a visiting professor at USC and moves in with them. Rusty, an old boyfriend of Val's, comes to town and abandons his daughter Cricket at the Ewing's house. Upset at being abandoned, Cricket lies, steals, and accidentally hurts Olivia. Val reluctantly takes Cricket to a shelter, but reconsiders and brings her back home. Gary finally locates Rusty, and Val confronts him, and he decides to come back for Cricket.

 


                Oh patience, gentle viewer, for you are going to be soooooooo rewarded sooooooo soon.  For those who are following along and read my Reunion writeup last Sunday, you probably remember me going on for seventeen days about how we are so close to KL exploding into a profound work of genius art and then never letting up until it goes off the air in 1993, but we are just still not quite there.  Well, I might as well copy and paste my words from last week’s ep for this one’s, because we are seeing a lot of the same problems manifesting yet again, now two eps in a row.  However, I will blow my wad right away here and say that Cricket is a huge step-up from Reunion last week, but it’s still far from a KL classic and it’s still marred by the same problems so many episodes from the first three years of KL are plagued with.  Let’s explore.

                We open up on two strangers driving in a truck.  This immediately put me on edge because I realized that, again, we would be dealing with an episodic story involving two characters who come out of nowhere and leave at the end of the show.  In this case, the characters are Cricket and Rusty (and actually, minor spoiler alert, a look at their IMDb pages shows they actually will come back for one more episode, A Brand New Day, next season), although we don’t know that yet in this first scene.  As we open, they are just two characters, one a man and one a young girl of like eleven or twelve, and they’re driving their car along and the viewer is left to wonder who they could be (or if we should care). 

                Anyway, they pull off to a pay phone and Rusty makes a quick call to the Ewing residence.  He asks if Valene Ewing lives there and when Lilimae says affirmative, he promptly hangs up.  Again, a bit of a mystery is building as we wonder who this guy is, who the little girl is, and what their connection to Valene is.  Later, Rusty ditches Cricket (and I’m just gonna take a quick moment to say I hate that name and I shudder every time they say it in this episode and now I’m gonna stop dwelling on it and I’m gonna move on) at some cheap motel and tells her he has business to take care of, and he heads off for Gary and Val’s house.

                Now, when Val sees Rusty, her face lights up and she gets all excited, so we immediately know she must like the guy and that they obviously have a past with eachother.  They share some exposition together and we learn they haven’t seen eachother since twelve years ago (1970, for those of you following along at home) and that they had some sort of relationship or other.  This never becomes entirely clear to me because later in the episode, Gary starts to get sorta jealous over this guy and sorta not-too-subtly asks Val if they were “just friends” and Val just gives him a look and never answers.  I am going to assume that Val and Rusty were strictly platonic friends, but who the hell knows?

                I’ll take a quick moment to say that Rusty is being played by Don Stroud.  I didn’t recognize the name, but I certainly recognized the face, and so did My Beloved Grammy.  I spent the whole episode wondering where I knew this guy from, and after the ep was over, I looked it up and immediately knew.  He was in The Amityville Horror as a priest and for some reason I’m kinda obsessed with that movie and have watched it on numerous occasions even though it’s not that good (I think I'm more obessed with the real life story and the whole "Is this true or not?" aspect and, by the way, I consider myself to be a believer that it is true), and even more importantly he played a bad guy in the James Bond movie Licence to Kill with Timothy Dalton (this also happens to be the same Bond movie where Big Ed Hurley also plays a bad guy).  The guy keeps busy and was even in Django Unchained playing Sheriff Bill Sharp (pictured below).

                Meanwhile, little Cricket is played by Viveka Davis and it looks like she kept acting until 2001, which, at least as of this writing, is her last credit on IMDb.  I perused her stuff and got pretty excited when I realized she played Mona in the Seinfeld episode The Smelly Car.  For you fellow Seinfeld fans, you’ll remember that she was the lesbian who Kramer managed to seduce (As George says in that ep, “I drive them to lesbianism, he brings them back”) and I was very excited to see that little Cricket would grow up to appear in that wonderful episode of television.

                Anyway, we establish that Rusty was part of the rodeo circuit and he had a wife but the wife just recently died and now he’s out looking for work and Cricket is his stepdaughter.  Okay, let’s just cut to the chase, cuz we all know where this is going.  Cricket and Rusty are having a little visit at Gary and Val’s and then he runs off to grab something and, instead, drives away into the night, prompting Cricket to dramatically scream, “Damn you, Rusty!” 

                One of the things I noted about this episode is how a story that could have easily filled an entire season later on in the series is condensed into one single episode here.  Seriously, so much shit happens so fast, starting with Rusty running off.  From there, we have Gary and Val arguing a lot about what to do with Cricket.  We all know where Val is going to fall due to her obsession with children and that big hole in her heart from having baby Lucy taken away from her way back when.  Of course she argues that they should keep Cricket and take care of her even though the kid is kinda a brat and a hellion.  Gary reluctantly agrees to let her stay with them for awhile while he does some rodeo research and tries to track down Rusty.

                Immediately Cricket starts causing trouble.  We have a flip cut and go to the Seaview Circle kids playing a game of poker, which I found to be a very cute and funny image.  At first the kids say they are just playing for fun and then Cricket is like, “Nuh uh, we’re playing for real money,” challenging Michael to a ten dollar bet and winning (now, I believe Cricket cheated just because of what we know about her character, but nothing in the episode ever directly states that one way or the other).  From there we flip cut to Olivia and Cricket dressing themselves up in Abby’s clothes, all while Olivia says, “Gee, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this,” and then we see Cricket quickly pocketing some of Abby’s jewelry.  Oh yeah, and last but not least, Lilimae’s autoharp mysteriously goes missing.  What a naughty girl. 

                At a certain point, Cricket and Olivia are arguing and Olivia accidentally falls down the stairs.  To her credit, Cricket didn’t push her, but of course when Val comes in and finds Olivia lying at the bottom of the stairs with a broken arm and Cricket standing at the top of the stairs looming down, well, you can’t blame Val for putting two and two together.  So she brings Cricket to some sort of juvenile detention center (see what I mean about things happening really damn fast?) and is getting ready to drop her off and leave her there when Cricket comes running out and is like, “No, wait, don’t leave me!”  The music swells and the two embrace and have a good cry together and Val realizes she can’t possibly leave the kid there.

                Anyway, Rusty eventually gets tracked down at some rodeo or other, so Valene comes out to see him, confronting him and telling him what a poop-head he is.  There’s some dialogue about how he can’t bear the idea of having Cricket living on some shitty farm with him and yada yada yada but, predictably, everything turns out okay in the end, as the two are reunited and Cricket hugs him all tight (after hitting him a few times) while Gary and Val look on and beam with happiness.

                That’s the main plot anyway, and I’ll get to the side stuff in a second, but I gotta say that, well, I don’t have much to say about it.  Maybe it seems like I’m losing my love for KL at the moment, but that’s absolutely not true.  I’m just anxious to get on to the good stuff, you know?  I’m ready to get to the pure soapy brilliant deliciousness that is seasons four and beyond, and whenever we come to another episode like this that is so isolated and self contained, I’m just kind bored with it.  Plus, what is there really to say about this?  It’s predictable the same way that the Reunion story was predictable, because at no point do I think Cricket is gonna become a main character and move into the cul-de-sac or anything like that, so most of the episode is spent waiting for Rusty and her to get back together. 

                I guess I can find something to say about the relationship between Cricket and Val.  I do think the writers have been doing a consistent job since season one (or, going even further back, since those four Brief Dallas Interludes that pre-dated the start of the KL series) of showing Valene’s need for, her almost obsession with, children.  We’ve heard several times on both Dallas and KL about how baby Lucy was taken away from her by J.R., and we’ve seen her develop a relationship with Olivia after Abby and the kids moved onto the cul-de-sac.  This theme was even explored in that whacko episode The Three Sisters, where Val wasn’t afraid of the three ghost girls but, rather, sorta charmed and entranced by them.  So Cricket just continues to show us that Val loves children, that she’ll defend them to the death even when maybe she shouldn’t, that she sees an inherent goodness and decency and purity in kids and, of course, that she really wants some kids of her own.  I’ll give this episode a compliment for that, but I really think it’s because I’m so excited to see Val’s issues with children and motherhood really come to a head during the brilliant sixth season and the infamous and rightfully praised “Val’s babies” storyline.  When we get to that juncture in the series, it will be so much better and have so much more meaning specifically because we have spent so much time dwelling on Val and children for so much of the series.

                But aside from that, there is some other stuff going on this week, but nothing too exciting.  Maybe the most notable is the introduction of Uncle Joe Cooper to the cul-de-sac, although I can’t say I’m particularly excited about seeing him here.  Joe Cooper would be Karen’s brother and he is played by Stephen Macht (who was in the terrible Stephen King adaptation Graveyard Shift).  I took a quick glance at his IMDb just to see how many KL episodes he’s in, and it’s not a ton, and I didn’t remember him hanging around for that long, anyway.  Looks like he is in thirteen episodes altogether starting here and spanning through early season four with Investments.  Look, I’m willing to give the guy a chance and I certainly don’t remember hating this character, but I definitely remember him being kind of a non-entity for me, someone who is rightfully shipped away when we get some truly interesting and dynamic characters at the start of season four.  However, I’ll try to sorta wash my brain out from my memories and preconceived notions and, who knows, maybe Uncle Joe can charm me.

                The way he’s introduced is annoying, though; I have to say that.  He comes in and this really dumb uppity “happy” music starts playing while he and Karen act really “cute” together and the Fairgate kids look on with faces like, “Oh gee, isn’t it great that Uncle Joe is in town?  Golly!”  Yeah, it’s a bad, annoying scene and that damn music made me feel like I was watching a sitcom or something.  For the second week in a row, we have a character coming from New York to visit Karen and the two of them sitting in the living room at night and talking about “I’m sorry I couldn’t be here when Sid died.”  It happened with Jessica Walter last week and here it is again.  I like that the writers are crossing their t's and dotting their i's by explaining that Joe was away in Europe and Karen didn’t even alert him to Sid’s passing.  Maybe it’s a little contrived and, I dunno, a bit unrealistic, but at least they make the effort to explain it rather than just have him show up and not even mention Sid’s funeral.

                Aside from the introduction of Uncle Joe, the only other thing I really noted in this ep is that we have a tiny hint of a future plot that will kick into action next week.  See, when Rusty first calls up the Ewing house and Lilimae answers, it’s because Val is busy typing up something on her typewriter (remember those?).  Now, for a first time viewer with no idea of what’s coming up in the future, we could just safely assume that Val is just, you know, working on some writing, probably for her writing class.  But I took special note of this little detail in my notebook because, starting next week with Best Intentions, what Val is writing will be very important and have repercussions spanning well into the next season and, kinda, for years into the future.  Minor spoiler for next week’s ep, but Val is working on A Family in Texas, her little exposé on the Ewing family (the Texas Ewing family, to be specific, the stars of the much less interesting parent series) with thinly veiled made up names and such.  Anyway, all this stuff with Val’s book and the Ewing exposé will really pay off splendidly as we continue to watch through the series, but for the purposes of this particular ep, all we see is a quick shot of her typing away.  I like that we see it because she could have just as easily been doing anything else but instead the writers have her typing away on her typewriter, planting seeds for next week.

                Okay, speaking of writing, I do want to note that this episode was written by Ann Marcus (pictured below) and that she is a bit of a name in the television world.  In all honesty, I might not have noticed or paid attention to her name in the credits had I not read a great blog that I want to take a moment to shout out called thatsallsiknow, a brilliant blog about television written by someone who clearly knows their shit and has great taste.  Anyway, this blogger wrote a lovely essay about KL season three (here is A Link to that particular essay and I'd highly recommend all KL fans read it immediately) and in that essay this brilliant blogger talked a lot about Ann Marcus and her contribution to KL and to television as a whole.  She was a writer on Peyton Place and actually created the show Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.  Also, it looks like she worked on the other CBS/Lorimar ‘80s nighttime soap, Falcon Crest.  Her contribution to KL has a big gap in it, as it looks like she was the supervising producer for the very final season of the show in 1992-1993 (EDIT: She actually was brought in as showrunner in the latter portion of season thirteen after things had gotten a bit off the rails and then she continued in that capacity for the final season).  As for writing credits, she only has seven for KL and while Cricket is her third, she won’t contribute a fourth until Found and Lost in 1992, ten years away from this.  Also looks like she wrote the very last episode, Just Like Old Times: Part Two, so that’s definitely a significant piece of television history right there, no?  Anyway, we’ll discuss those episodes when we discuss them (in many, many years), but for now I just wanted to take a moment to say hello to Ann Marcus and, at least as far as writing episodes is concerned, goodbye until 1992.

                Okay, so what did I think about Cricket?  Obviously not a lot, but I will say it was definitely better than Reunion.  Even so, it was just blah, just kinda okay, nothing special, and nothing in particular leapt out at me.  However, I’m willing to forgive it because I am so very excited to discuss the brilliance, the genius, the sheer artistic triumph of our next episode, Best Intentions, which I will be covering on Sunday.  Stay tuned!

2 comments:

  1. I had no idea that Cricket = Mona on Seinfeld! I had to go back and look at it so I could associate the two. The added pieces of info are what make your blogs so great! This is definitely one to put in my "learn something new every day" file.

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